Gather Together
By tuna.dc

Here it was late October and still unbearably hot in Palm Beach. As evening drew and the sky began to change from yellow to orange to red to pink to light blue to medium blue to dark blue, the wind had shifted, now coming off the ocean, bringing with it a cooler, fresher breeze and a slightly lower temperature. It felt good on her face, as Rita rolled down the window of the Jeep. She glanced over and saw Chris doing the same thing. You could only take air conditioning for so long before you went stir crazy. Before long, the quiet ride ended as Chris pulled into the driveway, shut off the lights and turned off the motor. Rita started getting out of the car and Chris followed behind her, a little slower. "Say Sam, how 'bout a walk on the beach?" he began, sounding the key chain alarm he had for his prized possession. "It's cooled off a bit, it might feel good," he added with a toothless smile.

Rita stopped near the front of the Jeep and rubbed the back of her neck. "Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea. Let me just dump my purse ok?" she said.

"Sure, I'll wait here," he answered. He watched her walk back toward the patio and heard the sliding door and saw the kitchen light go on. He leaned against the Jeep and took a deep breath. He glanced up at the sky, noticing that a few select stars were beginning to twinkle. He grinned.

Rita had come back out and saw him grinning and star gazing. As she reached him she slid one arm around his back, the other around his stomach, giving him a quick hug. He immediately let his arms and hands slip around her as well. "Mmmmmm, what are you grinning about Christopher?" she asked as he placed a kiss on the top of her head.

"Just thinking," he said softly.

"That's dangerous," she said jokingly and added, "about what?" she persisted.

"You know how when you're a kid and you do the old, 'star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,' thing?"

"Umhmm," she agreed, turning her head skyward to look at the stars too.

"Well, when I glanced up there before and saw that there was already a handful of stars up there. I realized that I had missed seeing the first star, missed out on the wish for tonight. I guess I grinned, because I realized that I didn't need a wish, cuz I've got everything I already want," he said and then added quietly, "you," taking his index finger and tapping her nose.

She smiled at him and hugged him a little tighter and then she laughed a little.

"So what's so funny about that?" he asked in his own defense.

"It's not about you at all," she started, "I was just thinking about today and what a disaster we made of Daniel and Susan's birthday's," she said laughing some more.

"We are never doing that ever again, for anyone, including each other, deal?" he asked. She nodded her agreement. They started walking toward the beach arm in arm. "And it's not that funny either, neither one of them were very happy or very surprised. I don't know what ever made us think we could pull that off anyway," he shook his head, "a double surprise birthday party," he mumbled.

"You know if you would have kept him at that blasted touch football game for the entire time, it would have worked," she said glancing up at his face for a reaction.

Oh, so you're blaming it all on me?" he asked pointing to his chest. "He didn't even want to be there, remember, he was supposed to be getting ready to surprise his wife, or so he thought. You're lucky I was able to get him out of the house for an hour and a half."

"I only needed another hour or so, you knew not to bring him till two," she said playfully.

"Maybe so, but don't forget the invitations that YOU sent out to their guests specifically said come at three, not two, for the surprise of a lifetime," he needled her arm.

"It was a typo," she said, pushing his arm away and slapping him in return.

"One that you should have caught," he quickly cut her off.

"Do I look like a English teacher to you?" Rita asked.

Chris laughed a little and brought her closer to him. "You don't think they really hate us, do you?" he asked with a little more seriousness.

"No," she said quietly. "We'll just never see them again, probably," she added. "And we're definitely off their Christmas card list, forget about dinner invitations, babysitting gigs," she chuckled.

They reached the beach and sunk deeply into the sand. Silence overtook them both as they headed closer to the shoreline. The pounding surf edged toward them as they strolled at a leisurely pace along the waterfront. For Rita, the sound was becoming hypnotic. She entered into her own little world, safe and warm in Chris' strong arms. She never heard him talking to her, till he finally poked her arm and used the palm of his hand to turn her face toward his.

"So where were you?" he asked.

'Hmmm?" she asked, coming back to reality, seeing his serious, blue eyes sparkle at her.

"Are you sleepwalking out here?" he jokingly asked. "I guess I've been having a one-sided conversation for the last few minutes then. And here I thought you were gonna always be there for me Sammy, listening you know."

"I'm listening now," she said returning the stare, "and just what are you babbling about anyway?"

"I wondered what you thought of asking Benny down for Thanksgiving this year?" Before she could get in a word edgewise, he continued, almost as if he had to sell her on the idea. "I know, you usually spend Thanksgiving alone, and I've never asked you why, I guess I just figured it had to do with, well, your not having a family or whatever," he said pausing and glancing at her for some sort of reaction. There wasn't one. Her face was rather emotionless, so he pressed on. "But, now that we're engaged, I guess I just kinda thought, well first I thought, you know, just you and me and we'd have our own little feast, and believe me that's ok too, if that's what you want to do. I just thought I'd ask ya what you thought about inviting Benny down. Kinda like a real family. I think Benny would really enjoy it too. Whatta ya think?" He stopped and she still didn't reply, "Rita?" he said, reaching down to hold her hand. They both had stopped walking.

"Can I think about it?" she asked.

That was a curve he wasn't ready for. He was more than a little confused. He figured she'd say yes or no, what was there to think about. Knowing Rita for as long as he had now, he knew how crazy she went over every holiday, that is, except for Thanksgiving. He never knew why, he just chalked it up to her not having much of a family. He thought now, with them close to marriage that it would change though. She went nuts decorating, buying various knick knacks and themed accessories for everything from Halloween to the 4th of July. But when November would roll around, there'd be nothing. No cornucopia, no turkey, no dressing and no pumpkin pie. As far as Rita Lee Lance was concerned, it was just a day off with pay. He had even invited her over to the loft for several of them, but she always declined and never told him why. He figured she'd tell him when she was ready too. Most of the rest of the year, he forgot all about it, now here it was just around the corner again and he started to wonder more and more about it. She seemed so distant, so detached and so unemotional about it, as if she just had deleted it from her mind and memory. He didn't want to press her about it, he just wanted to celebrate the holiday like everyone else, giving thanks for family, friends and all the gifts he had, especially her. Grandma Rose went all out on Thanksgiving, inviting friends, neighbors and distant relatives, cramming a lot of love, people and good food into a tiny little house. He loved everything about it. That's what he remembered, and that's what he wanted now. Now that they were engaged, he thought maybe she'd finally open up. Her question quickly sailed away with the cool night breeze. He didn't want to press her about giving him a definite answer. He'd give her what she wanted, time to think about it. If it was a family thing, she tell him eventually. He'd still wait and let her tell him when she was ready.

"Sure," he answered softly, giving her hand an assuring squeeze, just to let her know that he understood.

They headed back toward their house, both silent, both mesmerized in their own thoughts by the seducing sound of the waves breaking on the shore.


During the night, Rita woke suddenly, perhaps her subconscious dream had scared her. She couldn't remember. She'd had nightmares before, she was always glad when they didn't surface. What brought it on this time? She heard rain beating against the window of their bedroom. She looked over at Chris who still slept. Good thing he hadn't woken up. When she did have nightmares, he would always get so worried and he'd try to analyze everything for her. He slept on his stomach, his head facing opposite her. His arm was loosely draped over her. His breathing was so quiet it was virtually non-existent. She saw the rise and fall of his back and a wave of peace washed over her. She slid out from under his arm as quietly as possible and began to leave the room. Chris mumbled something and turned on his side. She stopped and watched him for a second and when he didn't awaken, she walked out of the bedroom, down the hallway and into the living room. She stood by the large picture window and watched the rain and the wind howl through the palm trees. Thinking......


Chris never realized that Rita was up half the night. The following morning at work, everything was business as usual.

"Lance," Cap came to the doorway of his office, "at your convenience please," he said rather pleasantly. Chris stopped in mid-conversation with her and exhaled. She smiled at him and went into the Captain's office.

"Good mornin' Cap," she said, taking a seat across from him.

"Lance, how can you be so damn cheerful on a Monday morning?" Cap asked.

"I just think of it as being just like a Friday, except it's on the other end of the work week, to me it's basically the same. And thinking that way certainly makes it go a lot smoother and faster, you should try it sometime," she explained, sipping at her third cup of coffee this morning. "So, what's up Cap?"

Cap shook his head and shut his eyes as he listened to her pollyanna attitude. "That's pretty sick, Lance, pretty sick," he said. She just grinned all the more. "Good news and bad news," he started, "The approval just came down on adding a detective to homicide. The bad news is that Commander Hess already did the selection, the good news is that it's not so bad."

Rita set her mug down on his desk and inched a little closer. "So who exactly are they force feeding us with?" she asked.

"Now, now," he said chastising her bad attitude, "It's Morgan, Geoff Morgan. According to the report here, he aced the written examination and came up with a 8.624 rating in the oral interview," Cap explained. "He'll start later this morning."

Rita smiled, "Good for Geoff. I think he'll be a great addition to homicide. And I know Chris and I can use the help. Is there any word on the other position becoming an official opening yet?" she asked.

"Hold your horses, ok....geez, no, not yet, Lieutenant, just be glad you've got one more person for the time being," Cap tried to subdue her.

"I know, I know, I'm greedy right? What, carrying three to four open homicides isn't enough of a load to warrant another detective right?" she continued. "What do we have to do, have a full scale epidemic of bodies?"

"Hey, I'm on your side in all this Lance, remember, I'm the Captain. I don't like it any better than you or Chris. But we gotta do what we gotta do. You know we work for the city and until the taxpayers want to throw more money our way via my property taxes and yours, just be content ok?" he said in a calming tone.

She nodded her agreement. "I know Cap, I apologize for my outburst. Geoff's gonna be a big help. Maybe we can start him off on the paper work that neither one of us has been able to get to," she said.

"Just remember, and make sure Chris knows too, Morgan is not your slave. I want him out on the streets too," Cap said, peering over the top of his glasses. "But he's not to go out alone, at all, for the first six months, it's part of his probationary period requirement. He has to accompany you or Lorenzo at all times, is that clear?"

Rita laughed, "I'm kidding about making him our report slave Cap, I know, and don't worry about Chris and I, we'll train him the right way," she said getting up to leave.

"Did I dismiss you?" he called out.

"There's more?" she asked. Harry nodded. Rita sat back down, now even more intrigued.

"I also got approval to construct you an office of your own. It won't be anything fancy, but there going to put it in right next to mine here," he motioned to his left. "They're gonna start this afternoon. It should be done in a couple of days," he said smiling.

She grinned in return, "Alright, now we are getting somewhere aren't we? Do you have anything else you need to brighten my day with?" she asked.

"That about covers it," he said.

She started to rise, but she spun around and faced him, "Now do you see why I like Monday's so much?"

He chuckled as she exited the office.


"So what's going on in there, we got another case or what?" Chris asked as Rita went to fill her coffee cup again. He noticed her caffeine intake this morning was skyrocketing.

"No, we actually have some good news," she said, stirring the aromatic blend around.

"Don't tell me, the bodies came back to life on their own?" he said laughing.

"Hardly! But, we are finally getting some help," she proclaimed.

"Great," Chris said, sitting up a bit straighter. "When do you start interviewing prospects?" he asked.

"Ah," she hesitated, "I don't," she began.

He looked puzzled. "Whatta ya mean, you don't?"

"The new detective has already been selected," she said.

"By whom?" he angrily asked, already letting his irritation show. He didn't let her get a word in edgewise, he just continued. "And who is it anyway, the Chief's grandson?" he added, really bothered by the bureaucracy in the department.

She smiled at his negative attitude, delighting in the fact that she pretty much had the same reaction. She watched his face tighten and deepen in color.

"So?" he asked waiting for an answer.

"It's Geoff Morgan," she started, "I think you remember him?" she said smiling, "now will you quit being so upset?" she asked.

"Morgan huh?" Chris danced the prospects of this emerging hero around in his head. "So the boys upstairs finally made a good decision?" he continued.

"I'm glad he has your approval Sergeant," Rita added.

"To be honest, anyone who can use a laptop would have had my vote. He can start on these reports right away as far as I'm concerned," Chris said, slapping the stack of files on his desk.

"Sure, no problem, right after he solves the four homicides you can't seem to figure out," Rita countered.

"Eeeww, Sam, low blow," Chris said. "So when does wunderkind start?"

"He should be here sometime this morning," she said beginning to literally clear things off her desk. Chris watched in surprised shock.

"He gets your desk?" he questioned.

"That's right!" she said happily.

Chris was confused. "So where does that leave you Sammy?"

"It leaves me in my new office, they gonna start on it today too, aren't you surprised?" she grinned. He smiled, but held back a little, letting it sink in that she was exiting the area, and that he'd remain out at his usual spot. "They're gonna put up a couple of walls right there, next to Cap's, isn't that great?" she continued.

"Yeah," he smiled, "your own office," he voiced drifted off.

She noticed it and walked around to where he sat and leaned over him, putting her hands on his shoulders. "You do realize, that you'll probably be in there all the time, right?" she began, "for one thing or another," she added whispering in his ear.

Her last comment brought an immediate and rather evil looking smirk on the face of Chris Lorenzo. "Yeah, you're right, it'll be like my second home," he said proudly.

"Now you're getting the hang of this Sergeant, it just takes a bit to sink in right?" she said smiling in return.


The workmen arrived before Geoff Morgan. They diligently began to pound and hammer some wallboard into place. Shortly after ten, Geoff came energetically bounding in to the office. "Sergeant Lorenzo, Lieutenant Lance, Detective Geoffrey Morgan reporting as ordered," he said confidently and with the seriousness of a recruit.

Rita chuckled and Chris leaned back in his chair, thinking of all the ways he could utilize the enthusiasm this kid had. This was gonna be fun.

She stood up to shake his hand and greet him. "Geoff, welcome to homicide," she began.

"I'm really happy to be here ma'am, and I'm ready to start right away, what can I do?" he asked.

"You can start by calling me Rita," she giggled, "ma'am makes me sound like a granny. Do you remember Chris?" she asked, motioning for him to stand up.

"Yes, yes I do, it's good to see you again, sir," Geoff extended his hand to Chris, who took it firmly.

"I already told you about the sir thing Geoff, and Rita's right, around here it's first names for everyone, everyone but Cap that is," Chris explained.

Perfectly on cue, Captain Lipschitz came out of his office and greeted the new detective. "Good morning, Mister, eh, er, um Sir, I mean Captain," Geoff stumbled through his introduction.

Harry grabbed for his hand and shook it. "Relax kid, no one's gonna bite you, welcome to homicide," he said, turning and heading back into his office.

Geoff awkwardly smiled, thinking he had made a bad impression already. Rita noticed it right away and said, "It's ok Geoff, everyone's new at some point, just relax, you're gonna do just fine."

"Well, I am a little nervous," he admitted, "you guys are legendary! It's a real honor just to be able to work with you," he said to both of them.

Chris laughed at the legendary comment, "Sam, I'm gonna like this guy. He's definitely a keeper."

Rita gave him the look, "Geoff, we're human just like everyone around here is, there's nothing legendary about either one of us, no matter what Chris thinks," she added giving him another look. "The point is, we're happy that you're joining us and we'll do whatever we can to teach you as much about homicide as we can. Maybe we can even pick up a few things from you too," she added.

He nodded his understanding and turned his attention to the construction that was taking place. "So what's going on over there?" he pointed.

Rita gathered up some files and put them into a temporary holding box. "That's gonna be my new office, so this," she cleared off a little more of her former desk, "will be your new home away from home," she finished.

"I never had my own desk before," he said, beginning to sound more and more like Opie Taylor by the minute. Chris thought of that right away. He even had a slight hint of red hair to boot. There was something about his youthful exuberance that people just gravitated to.

The rest of the day, Rita spent with Geoff going over policies and procedures, introducing him to other people in the department, allowing Cap to scare him straight, then finally letting him help Chris get through some of the departments paperwork. All in all, it was a pretty productive day for the all new and improved Palm Beach Homicide Department.


Chris got home first and whipped up a little casserole dish for he and Rita to share as soon as she got home. Just as he was putting it into the oven to bake, the phone rang.

"Yeah, Lorenzo?" he picked it up on the third ring.

"Christopher?" the voice on the other end said.

"Mom?" Chris replied.

"Yeah," she began, "I'm so glad I tracked you down. Honey, I didn't know you moved? When did that happen?" she said.

"It's been about six months now, Mom, I told you. Where are you?" he asked back, a bit distracted.

"I'm in England, just outside of London, I've been doing a play for the last six weeks at the Royal Theatre, maybe you heard?" she said, as always turning the conversation quickly to her favorite topic, herself.

He had walked into the living room with the cordless phone and plopped down on the sofa, "No, I hadn't," he answered her shortly.

"We're doing Lillian Hellman's 'The Children's Hour.' It's a fairly large production," she kept talking.

Chris barely listened. "How's Robert?" he asked out of consideration.

"He's fine, he's directing this play. I've told him that he works too hard, he needs to slow down. Did you see the commercial I did for United Airlines? We shot that while I was in Japan," she never slowed down. Chris was rather bored with the whole conversation already.

"No, I missed that too, I don't watch a whole lot of TV, Mom," he explained.

She must have sensed the distance in his voice, because she turned the conversation back to him, "so how is work going?" she asked.

"Not bad, we're busy, the bodies are stacking up on us," he said.

"Oh, Christopher, you shouldn't joke like that," she said, actually listening to him.

"Well, we are a bit behind, but actually we added another detective to the department. He started today, as a matter of fact," he said.

"That's wonderful. Now are you and oh, what's her name again Rena or Tia or something? Are you two still partners?" she asked.

Chris shook his head, "her name's Rita, Mom, and yeah we are, in more ways than one, remember, we're getting married," he said flabbergasted and angry that she had not only forgotten Rita's name, but that they were getting married as well.

He heard her giggle awkwardly, "Of course I do sweetheart, you called and told me, her name just slipped my mind, did you get the gift I sent? Robert and I picked it out in Sydney. It'll be perfect in that huge, open aired loft of yours," she said.

"No, I didn't get it, Mom, and we moved, remember, I'm not at the loft anymore, Rita and I own a house now, near the beach. I told you this a few months back," he said.

"Oh dear, I wonder where the gift is," she said.

Chris was way beyond irritated now, "Listen Mom, is there a specific reason you called?"

"Yes, actually there is. Robert and I are flying in to Palm Beach for the Thanksgiving holiday. We're hoping to be able to see you," she let her question float in the air, "and your fiance too," she added forgetting her name again.

Chris didn't answer. Rita still hadn't talked to him about having Benny come down. "Uh, Mom, I'm not exactly sure what my plans are gonna be yet, it's kinda up to Rita. Why don't you give me your number in London, and I'll call you and let you know what's going on ok?" he said.

"Sure, honey, that'll be fine. We'll be here till mid November, so just leave a message if I'm not here ok?" Ana said.

"Ok, Mom, I'll talk to ya soon, I love you," he said.

"I love you too Christopher," she said.

Chris hung up the phone and let it rest in his lap. His Mother was something else alright. He just wasn't quite sure what exactly. He began to play the whole conversation over in his head. His Mom had the attention span of a blade of grass.

Rita came in through the back and headed into the living room. She dumped her purse into a chair and sat down beside him on the couch. "What's going on Sam?" she started, as she noticed the phone laying in his lap.

"Hey," he said looking at her, "Ana just called," he said.

She shed her shoes and curled her legs up underneath her onto the sofa. "Really? How's she doing and where's she at this time?" she asked.

"Fine, and London," he replied, debating on the inside on whether or not he should say anything to her about Thanksgiving. He opted for not at the moment. First he needed to check her mood.

"So she just called to say hello? That's kind of strange for her isn't it?" Rita asked. "She usually wants something."

"We're talking about Ana here, has she ever done anything normal in her life?" Chris offered up in reply.

Rita shook her head and smiled at him, "we've talked about this before, Sam, everyone can change, look at Benny?" She paused before continuing, "I think it's sweet that she just called to say hello," she added. "You should be thankful you have a Mother."

Chris was becoming irritated by the whole conversation by now, blurted out "yeah, well, she asked if 'hmm, let's see, what was her name,' was still my partner?" without thinking. He immediately saw the hurt in Rita's face. But before he could say anything, she replied.

"She didn't really?" Rita sat up a little straighter.

He just kept coming, "Yeah, she really did, I told her your name was Rita and yes, we are still partners, and oh yeah, that we're getting married. Somehow I don't think it quite sunk in yet though," he said. "Nothing ever does with her, unless it's about her."

Neither one of them said anything. Rita was a bit in shock and Chris immediately regretted what he said. "I'm sorry Sam," he said, both of them avoiding eye contact.

She leaned back against the side of the sofa and stretched her legs out and Chris began to give her a tender little foot massage. "I obviously haven't made much of an impression on your Mom, have I?" she said.

"The only person who makes an impression on Ana, is Ana!" he proclaimed. "How many times do I have to tell you? She is her own sun, her own moon, everything revolves around her. Take it from me and don't take it personally, it'll save you a lot of time and energy in the long run."

Rita didn't respond. Inside, she was really hurt that his Mom hadn't even remembered her name, and she was even more than a little upset that he would even tell her that. She justified it to herself by thinking that he perhaps didn't want anyone to like his Mother any more than he did. Rita really never fully understood what it was like for Chris. She knew Ana's comment bothered him probably more than it hurt her. But misery loved company. Maybe all Mom's were like that anyway. She never knew about her own Mother. She knew that Sue Lance wasn't self-centered at all. But maybe people like Ana Alexis were the norm. She didn't want to believe that either. People could change, Benny had. He was becoming a great Father, to both of them. She thought about how much she loved her own Father, who had died when she was just six. Then she was blessed with Tom Lance too. Her experience with parents was quite a bit different than Chris'. His character had been shaped in a much different way. At least he had had his Grandma Rose. She wondered though what it had been like for him being rejected time and time again by your parents, throughout your life. No wonder he was still a bit gun shy with Benny. She made a mental note to be a little more receptive to that. She knew what it was like to have parents who did care, sometimes a bit too much. Tom and Sue Lance could be overprotective at times. But they loved her tremendously. And because of their love for her, she had as normal of a childhood life as anyone could imagine. The birthday parties, Christmas, going to the beach, summer vacations, barbecue's, all of that, she had and it was wonderful. She told herself that on the other side of the canal, in West Palm, one Chris Lorenzo, was living a whole different side of life. He was left in the care of his elderly Grandmother, after years of being bounced from one place to another, being raised by no one in particular, with no love to speak of. Maybe that's why he had so much love to give now, he had held it in for so long.

She smiled at his blue gaze and closed her eyes, letting his hands work his magic. "I have to go to the shelter tonight and work a shift," she began, "dinner smells wonderful, are you making Franny's casserole?" she asked.

"Yeah, it should be ready in about half an hour," he said quietly as he looked down at her and knew that he was putting her to sleep. He wondered what she had been thinking about. Maybe he shouldn't have told her that his Mom didn't even remember her, that was pretty stupid. She was so quiet now. What got into him sometimes, that he could just spew out something so mean. Just because his Mother was virtually non-existent to him, didn't mean he had to let her drag him down to her level. And to hurt Rita's feelings to boot. He should apologize again to her for saying it. Was it to late now? She still had her eyes closed. Good going Chris, he thought. She really expected him to try hard with his parents. She knew all about not having parents around and didn't want to see him miss out. His were different though, they weren't anything like Tom and Sue Lance or even the Fontana's. They were never around, he was just an annoyance to both of them most of the time, someone who had to be picked up or dropped off somewhere. The best thing they did for him was let him stay with Grandma Rose. "I'm sorry Sam," he said softly.

She didn't bother to respond. He knew that she had drifted off to sleep. He got up carefully and reached for the afghan that was hung over the back and covered her up with it. He went back into the kitchen to check on dinner.


They had hardly talked through dinner. Now, Rita made her way back into downtown Palm Beach toward Night Moves, the center for runaways. It was going to be hard tonight, she had somehow managed to get into a bad mood of sorts, she wasn't feeling good about anything. As she drove, she wondered how many of the kids that she had tried to help over the years now had wound up worse off. She knew there were some success stories, she'd meet up with some of the young people from time to time, but there were so many more that just seemed to slip through the cracks. Tonight, their endless faces zipped across her mind. Did Night Moves serve any good whatsoever? What makes some kids live through the most horrible things and turn out ok and others can have it all and make such a mess of their lives? Those were questions she'd given up on answering a long time ago. And it's one of the reasons she worked at Night Moves, she considered herself to be one of survivor's, she made it through some devastating experiences in her life and now had a successful career and a promising personal life. She had a lot to be thankful for. She stopped thinking, there was that word again. Thankful. She turned up the radio in the car a little louder and started singing along.


Chris sat down comfortably in the chair and turned on the TV, hoping to find a game of some sort on. The house was cleaned up, nothing, surprisingly needed his repair skills, Rita was down at the shelter and there was no reason to think about work. He settled in to Monday Night Football, it was the Packers vs. the Steelers. Chris didn't have a whole lot of interest in either team, but watching Brett Favre play quarterback was always enjoyable. The doorbell rang. As he got up, he wondered if it was some kid selling something door to door, or maybe it was some political candidate stumping for his vote in the upcoming election. Whatever it was, he slowly and begrudgingly headed to the door. When he opened it, he saw Diana standing there. "Diana?" he said, a little surprised, "Come on in."

Diana came into the house without saying a word. "Rita's not here right now, she's down at the shelter, but come on in, we can hang, I'm watching the football game, wanna beer?" he asked jokingly. Diana still didn't respond. "Is everything ok D?" he asked her, finally stopping to see there was a problem.

She shook her head no. He grabbed the TV remote and shut it off. "What's wrong?" he asked again.

"The usual," she started, "Tre."

Chris' face turned to one of concern, "What happened?" he wondered.

"He found out about the new detective in homicide," she started.

Chris interrupted, "Let me guess, he wasn't really happy about being passed over again."

She nodded. "I've never seen him like this before, Chris," she said in a frightened tone.

Chris got a little worried himself, "Did he hurt you?" he asked.

"No," she said quietly, dropping her head. "But he was so upset, he was throwing stuff around my apartment, I had to ask him to leave," she explained, "now I don't know where he's at. I left messages at his place, I even went over there. I checked all his hangouts, but I can't find him. I'm really worried."

Chris made her sit down on the sofa and sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulder. "It'll be ok, D, he'll cool down, you know how he gets," Chris said.

She started to cry a little, so he held her closer. "He kept saying that Rita made a mistake with the last guy, and now she picked out some young punk over him. He asked if she had something against him," she explained.

"Diana, Rita didn't even have a choice this time. Commander Hess chose Morgan for the assignment. You know she doesn't have anything personal against Tre. You know us both better than that, right?"

"I do, but I can't make Tre understand. He thinks the whole world's against him sometimes. It really scares me," she said. "And I've never seen him be so violent before."

Chris didn't know what to tell her.

"I don't know what to do Chris," she said, breaking the silence.

"I could go help you look for him, if that would help?" he offered.

She picked her head up and smiled, "You would?"

"Of course, that's what friends are for, right?" he answered.

"He's so rotten to you guys, and you both keep bending over backwards to help him. I hope he realizes it someday," she said.

"Well, I'm not doing this for him, I'm doing it for you D," he said grabbing a light jacket. "And you're right, Tre needs to start trusting people a little more, not everyone is out to get him," he said holding the door open for her.


"Thanks for calling Night Moves, this is Rita, how can I help you?" Rita started as she picked up the phone on her first customer of the evening.

"I need help!" a young female voice screamed at her from the other end of the phone. Rita nearly dropped the phone from the loud, intense sounding plea.

"Calm down, just tell me where you are ok, what's wrong?" she asked the person.

"I'm in trouble, I don't know what to do, I just need someone to help me, please, can someone help me," the voice sobbed.

"We can help you, but you have to tell me where you are, can you do that, can you see a street sign or anything?" she asked the young woman.

"No, no, it's too dark, I don't know where I'm at. Just help me ok, please, someone help me," the voice continued to plead.

"What's your name, tell me your name?" Rita asked. Rita scribbled down a 'Trace this call' note and held it up for a co-worker to see.

It's Kerrie, that's all I know, please," she cried.

"We will Kerrie, but you have to help us. Are you near any buildings or businesses?" Rita asked trying to keep the young woman talking.

"Yeah, there's an old abandoned brick building on the corner, but no one else is around. I don't know where I'm at," Kerrie said.

"Are you injured?" Rita asked.

"Not really, but the baby is coming, that's why I called," the voice wailed.

Someone stepped over in front of Rita's desk and gave her the thumbs up sign. "She's on the corner of Wilson and Vernon," the man said. Rita scribbled down on a sheet of paper to send an ambulance over to that address, right away.

"Ok, Kerrie, we know where you're at, and I'm sending an ambulance alright, you just hang tight and stay on the phone talking to me, ok?" Rita asked. There was no answer on the other end. "Kerrie," Rita shouted into the phone. Still no reply. Rita grabbed her purse and headed for her car. She told the head counselor that she was going out on a pick-up. He nodded his approval.


"Where do ya want to start D?" Chris asked, backing out the Jeep out of the driveway.

"Maybe we should try his apartment once more," she started, "he lives over on 16th Street," she said.

"Ok, let's head over there first then," Chris said, giving her a little smile, "Don't worry D, we'll find him. 'Sides, he'd really be a fool to let you go," he added, running his eyes up and down her. Even in 'street clothes," Diana was an extremely attractive woman.

She couldn't contain a smile when she heard him say that and saw the look he gave her. "You just keep your eyes on the road Mr. Lorenzo, and your mind on your fiance," she answered.

"That's kinda hard on both accounts, when you're sitting here next to me," he kept going. There was something between these two, they loved playing with each other. Plus Chris figured it would maybe lighten up her low spirit.

"I don't know how Rita puts up with you sometimes, you are bad," she said, shaking her head at him.

"I'm so bad, I'm good," he added, turning to her and raising his eyebrows.

"Just drive, Romeo, ok?" she said.

"Sure," he said, giving up for now. They drove along in silence. "Whatta ya gonna do when we find him?" Chris asked quietly.

Diana didn't answer right away. "I don't know," she paused, "I just don't know. Maybe I'll beat the crap out of him for being such an idiot," she said madly.

Chris chuckled, "I'm sure you could."

"I don't know Chris. It's like I'm the one putting all the work into this relationship. Sometimes I wonder if he's worth it. I pick up the pieces everytime something goes wrong in his life. And something seems to go wrong daily with him. Do I need this?" she asked out loud.

"Do you love him?" Chris asked.

She nodded first and softly said, "yeah, I love him."

"Then it's worth it," he said and added, "You know, I don't mean to get all into your personal life, but maybe you guys should consider going to see Daniel Mattson, the Department's shrink. He's pretty good," Chris said, "maybe he could help you guys out. He's helped me and Rita with some stuff."

"I've already thought about it. Rita suggested it too, I just need to convince Tre to go," she paused, "do you have any idea how hard that'll be?"

"You'll never know till you try D," Chris said.


Rita put her siren and lights on and arrived at the phone booth moments before the ambulance pulled up. The young girl of about seventeen laid, slumped over inside the phone booth. She definitly was in labor. Rita checked her for a pulse and saw that she still was breathing, as the paramedics came up to her side and began to attend to her. "Her names Kerrie," Rita said, "she's in labor, I was talking to her on the phone and she must have fainted or something," she explained.

"Or OD'd on something, more likely," one of the paramedics said. Rita was irritated by his comment. How dare he judge someone, before he knew anything.

"That's ok, we'll take care of her now," the other paramedic said.

"What hospital are you taking her to?" Rita asked, "I'm a cop," she added.

"Is she in some kind of trouble?," the other paramedic asked.

"No, I was working down at Night Moves and she called in for help, I talked to her. I just wanna make sure she's ok," Rita explained.

"We're taking her to St. Mary's, it's the closest hospital with a birthing center. And they'll take indigents too," he added with an edge to his voice.

Rita watched them load her into the ambulance and stood there momentarily as it sped away. She hated hearing comments like that. No one should ever be allowed to judge someone who couldn't defend themselves, she thought. She got into her car and headed to the hospital.


They pulled up to the apartment building that Tre resided in. He still wasn't at home. As they came back to the street, Chris scanned the area and noticed a corner bar, down in the next block. "Why don't we go take a look down there," Chris pointed to the tavern.

"Oh, no way, Tre said he'd never go in there, he said he didn't fit in," she replied, "he said it's full of redneck's."

"Yeah, so he knows you'll never go in there to look for him, plus it's the perfect spot to go when you want to be alone, let's check it out," he said, acting like the seasoned detective he was.

The stale aroma of cigarettes, cigars and cheap alcohol hit them the minute they swung the door open to the character laden bar. A pleasant enough group of blue-collar, middle aged men eyed up the two of them. They didn't come out and say anything, but their rumblings and hushed laughter could be heard up and down the long bar. Chris and Diana ignored them all, when they both spotted Tre sitting in a booth in the corner, alone, with the remnants of two empty whiskey bottles on the table he leaned heavily on.

"Let's call you a taxi, ok first?" Chris said to Diana, pulling out his phone. He knew that this was one problem that Diana didn't have to solve. "I'll get him back to his apartment, alright?"

Diana was clearly upset by the whole situation, "we should both go and just leave him here to rot," she said angry at first. Chris didn't respond, he just held out the phone for her. Before she took the phone she said. "Are you sure you want to do this?" Diana asked him. "I think you're probably one of the last people he wants to see right now," she added.

"I'm doing it for you, remember?" he started, "don't worry I'll be ok, besides, if he's gone through two bottles of whiskey already, I'm sure he's damn near unconscious," he said with a grin.

"Ok, ok, I'll go, will you call me later and let me know what's going on?" she asked.

"Absolutely," he said. They waited near the front door of the bar until the cab arrived. Chris watched her get in, then strolled to the back of the bar to deal with Tre.


The hospital was packed as Rita entered the emergency room area. She walked up to the admission desk and asked about the young girl that had just recently been brought in.

"If she's a maternity, she's up on the third floor," a nurse said to her, "doesn't matter that she was brought in as an emergency or not, they all get shipped up there," she added.

Rita nodded her acknowledgement and headed for the elevator that would take her up to the third floor. She spied another nurses station as she got off the floor and immediately went up to it. She reached into her purse for her badge. Sometimes the gold shield really came in handy, especially when you needed to get information quick. "Excuse me," she said flashing her badge, "I'm trying to get some information on a young girl that was just brought in. She was unconscious and in labor," Rita began.

A fairly young looking nurse came up to the front of the desk, "she's in the delivery room right now, Lieutenant, but I'm afraid even you're not allowed in there right now, though," the nurse said pleasantly.

"I understand, but can you tell me how she is?" Rita asked.

"She's overdosed on something, whether it's a controlled substance or some street derivation, we just don't know yet, right now the doctors are concerned with getting the baby out as quickly as possible," the nurse explained.

"Thank you, would it be alright if I waited?" she asked, "and would you tell the doctor, I'd like to talk with him if I could, when he's got the time?"

"I'll let him know Lieutenant," the nurse said, going back to her charts.


"Tre, let's go man," Chris said, trying to get Tre to stand up. Chris was right about one thing, Tre was barely conscious.

"Oh, no, no way, man, jus lemme alone," Tre slurred, barely recognizing Chris.

"I can't do that, I promised Diana that I'd get you back to your apartment, now come on," he said, helping him stand up.

"You don halfta do dis," he mumbled, "'sides, I hate your stinkin' guts right now," he added. "And Diana dun care neither."

Chris got a whiff of what two bottles of whiskey smelled like and it wasn't pretty, "well, you're not my favorite person right now either, just hang on, you can hate me later," he said, practically dragging Tre out of there. The audience of middle aged men laughed and chortled as Chris hauled Tre's carcass out of the tavern.

As they stepped out onto the street, Tre must have gotten a bit of renewed spirit from the night air, he pushed Chris off of him and stumbled out into the street. "I dun need help, not from you, or Diana, or from that bitch of yours, jus stay away," he yelled.

A passing car swerved around him. Chris shook his head in frustration. He'd overlook the comment about Rita for now, he knew it was the alcohol talking. Chris stepped out into the street and grabbed him again. "Listen, I don't have time for this now, I"m just gonna take you up to your apartment, ok," he said with anger in his voice, "I promised Diana I would," he said again.

"She dun car no more either, jus go," he said trying to punch at him. Chris easily avoided the drunken blow.

"Why should anyone care about you, just look at yourself!" Chris said, grabbing him by the shirt collar he wore and pushing him back onto the sidewalk.

"I jus can't do nothing right," Tre cried and leaned heavily on Chris.

Chris kept guiding him toward his apartment. When they got up to his room, Chris asked him for the key. "Give me your key Tre."

Tre started to laugh and then he slumped against the wall and started to fall asleep. Chris reached down and found the key in his shirt pocket. He opened the door and dragged Tre inside. He laid him on the sofa and covered him with a blanket he found in a closet.

Chris sat down in the chair next to him. He figured he better wait awhile, just to make sure he'd be alright. He decided he'd call Rita and let her know where he was at.

The male voice on the other end greeted him, "Thanks for calling Night Moves, this is Darryl, how can I help you?"

"Hey Darryl, it's Chris Lorenzo, is Rita around?" he asked.

"Hi Chris, uh, actually no, she's not, she went out on a pick-up about an hour ago, she hasn't come back yet. Can I leave a message for her?" Darryl asked.

"Nah, I'll catch her at home, sounds like she'll be gone awhile anyway," he said, "thanks anyway," he said hanging up. He looked around Tre's apartment. He spotted the TV remote and flicked on the end of the football game. Tre was gonna sleep for days probably.


"Lieutenant Lance, is that correct? I'm Doctor Messina, the nurse said you wanted to speak to me?" the bearded doctor began.

"How's the girl, doctor?" Rita asked, standing up to shake his hand.

"She's still in a coma, the baby was delivered by C-section, it's a boy, both of them are addicted to crack. Right now, it's touch and go for both of them," he said sadly. "Is the mother in some sort of trouble?" he asked, motioning for her to sit back down. They both did.

"Not that I'm aware of doctor. I'm a volunteer at Night Moves, it's a shelter for runaways mostly," Rita explained. "Kerrie called my line earlier this evening, she said she needed help, she couldn't remember where she was at. But she knew she was in labor. We were lucky enough to trace the phone call and pinpoint her location," Rita explained.

"She took a very lethal dose, Lieutenant, it's a wonder she could even make the call. I wouldn't think she'd be able to stay conscious long enough to even dial the phone. Are you sure it was her?" Doctor Messina asked.

"No, I guess not, but who?" her voice trailed off. "Can I see her or the baby, Doctor?"

"Maybe in a few hours, Lieutenant, will that be ok?" he asked her.

"Sure, thank you," she said, watching the doctor leave. She glanced up at a clock. It was nearing eleven, she reached into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed up the house. All she got was the machine. That was odd, Chris didn't say he was going anywhere. She decided to try his cell phone.

Chris had fallen asleep and he heard his jacket pocket ringing. He reached for it, slid out the phone and picked it up, "Yeah, Lorenzo," he said still half asleep.

"Chris?" it was Rita's voice, "where are you?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," he said, stretching out his legs and glancing over at a still sleeping Tre.

"Don't tell me that there's another body?" she said, thinking he got called in to work.

"Oh, there's another body alright, it's just not quite dead yet," he added. "What about you, are you home?"

"Not exactly, I'm at St. Mary's hospital," she started.

He quickly woke up now, "are you ok, did something happen to you?" he asked quickly, his voice filled with immediate concern.

"It's not me, calm down. I had a pick-up tonight. She was in labor. So I'm here waiting to see her and the baby," she said a little sadly.

"Is everything ok?" he asked hearing the sadness in her voice.

"They're both addicted to crack, Chris," she explained and quickly cut herself off to compose herself and wipe away a budding tear.

"Do you want me to come down there?" he asked.

She didn't answer right away. "Could you?" she asked.

"Absolutely, yeah, I'll be right there, ok," he said, knowing he had to get down there for her. Things like this really ate away at her. He sometimes wondered why she continued to work at the shelter, when something like this would happen invariably every day.

"It's on the third floor, I'm in the waiting room," she said.

"I'm on my way," he said putting on his jacket. He hung up with her and quickly dialed up Diana's number. He hated doing this to her, but he had his own situation he needed to deal with now.

"Hello?" Diana said into the phone.

"Hey D, it's Chris," he said, heading for the door. "Listen, I got Tre back here to the apartment ok, he's sleeping on the couch right now. But I gotta go, I just got a call from Rita, she's at the hospital, with some runaway, anyway, she sounded pretty upset, so I'm gonna head down there. I just wanted to tell you that maybe you should head over here and check on Tre. He had a lot to drink, you just might wanna make sure he's ok, you know," he explained.

"Ok, Chris, I'll do that, thanks for everything, I mean that, and I'll make sure Tre realizes all that you did for him too," Diana said, "I'll talk to you guys tomorrow at work, ok?"

"Yeah, ok," Chris said, "D, you gotta key for his place or should I put his under the mat?"

"I've got one, thanks again Chris," she said, "now go take care of Rita."


Chris saw her off in the distance, sitting reading a magazine. She actually wasn't really reading, it was more like idlely turning pages while she waited. He approached her and set his hand down on her shoulder. She turned immediately and stood up and wrapped him in a hug. A hug, more for her own benefit, than his. He held her close and for just as long as she wanted.

"You ok Sam?" he whispered in her ear.

He could feel her nod her approval. She must be getting emotional again, she didn't vocalize her feeling, he thought. She always did when kids were involved. He felt a tear trickle through his jacket and shirt. Then he heard her sniffle. "You wanna tell me what happened?" he gently spoke into her ear.

She pulled back a little and told him the whole story.

They sat next to each other on the waiting room couch, as Rita recounted the evening's activities. She told him about the paramedic's comment about being indigent and how the doctor said that both the mother and the child were hanging on by a thread. She leaned against him as he softly stroked her hair.

"Is there's something else too?" he said, "can you tell me?" he asked. It was a feeling he was getting, like she was holding something back. Neither one of them moved. "Rita?" he questioned her again.

"You're weird, you know that?" she said.

"Maybe, but I can tell there's something else you want to say," he paused, "do you know the girl?"

She shook her head no. "You just know how I get, I want to save the world," she said.

Now it was his turn to shake his head, "nah, it's not that, somthin' else is bothering you Sam," he said again.

She knew he was right, she just didn't quite know how to tell him, or maybe she didn't understand things enough herself. "I've seen too many of these Chris, maybe I should just quit working at the shelter," she began, "I'm not doing much good anyway. Maybe I help one person, but then I turn around and there's a dozen more to take their place in line. What good is it? I feel like I'm loosing," she explained.

He stopped consoling her and stroking her hair and turned her head to face his. "You're not loosing, you make a difference, you know that," he said defiantly.

"I'm glad you think so, I'm not so sure anymore," she turned her face away from his.

"Rita, you know that you can't save everyone, neither can I, no one can. But we both can try, one person at a time, and just maybe the one person, we do save, just might be the one who CAN save the world," he said.

She turned back to him and gave him a half-hearted smile.

One of the nurses came walking into the waiting area. "Lieutenant Lance," she called out.

Rita stood up and walked closer to her, "Yes, that's me."

"Doctor Messina asked that I come and tell you," she started, "the Mother, Kerrie, she passed away about ten minutes ago," she stared at Rita's face, "I'm very sorry," she added.

Chris instantly was standing behind Rita, holding her close. Rita asked the nurse, "What about the baby?"

"He's doing better, he's got a good chance," she said.

Rita stood tensely in Chris' arms, fighting and straining to hold back the tears. "Can we see him?" she asked the nurse softly.

"I think I can arrange something, hold on, let me check," she said, exiting the area and leaving the two of them standing there.

Rita turned in Chris' arms and began to cry a little. "Ssshh, it's ok, let it out," Chris said, holding her close. She continued to cry. Chris didn't know what to say, he hadn't seen her this upset in a long time, "Sammy, are you sure you want to see this kid?" he asked, pulling back and looking deeply into her eyes, "are you up to it?" he asked.

She composed herself and nodded, "I have to Chris, I have to, he might be the one, you know?" she answered referring back to his earlier comments.

He smiled and hugged her tight.


They both put on hospital gowns and masks and entered the NICU ward and were ushered over to a warming baby crib with a little boy sleeping rather soundly. "Is this him?" Rita asked the nurse, he looked so perfect.

The nurse nodded and motioned to a rocking chair that was close by, "you both can hold him if you'd like, he's stabilized for now. The human contact might do him good too. Chris could tell that Rita was smiling broadly under the mask she wore. He was in for an incredibly long evening. The nurse continued to talk to them. "Babies that are born with an addiction go thru all the same symptoms, the shakes, the nervousness, all of that. Unfortunately, they have problems later in their lives too. This little guy seems to be doing ok right now, he's improved quite a bit since he was delivered."

Rita stepped closer to the crib and slid her hands carefully under the baby boy and picked him up tenderly. She eased over and down into the rocking chair and slowly began to move. All the while, the boy slept. Chris took it all in and hunched down next to the rocking chair beside her and reached out for the little baby's hand. The baby instinctively, even in his sleep, curled his tiny hand around his finger. "Maybe you're right Sammy, maybe he is the one," Chris said, gazing up at Rita.

Rita had a million thoughts going through her mind while she held the baby. At the top, was, what was going happen to this sweet little boy? The state of Florida, had no doubt already been notified. To her, it just seemed so unfair. Here was this little guy, fighting for his life, only to already have it being taken away from him. Would he end up being another customer for Night Moves someday. Chris never left her side. He sat down on the floor beside the rocking chair and just watched the two of them. Rita started to cry a little and Chris rubbed her arm tenderly. She looked down at him, sitting their patiently, more concerned with her, than with himself. He looked exhausted. She realized she hadn't even asked him what he had been doing before she called him. She gazed at his blue eyes and could see the smile he was putting on just for her. "Do you want to hold him for awhile?" she asked.

He shook his head no at first and pulled his hand away from her, to also say no. She wasn't gonna take that for an answer. She stood up with the baby and motioned for him to sit down in the chair. "Come on, it'll be good practice for you," she was being re-energized. He tossed his head from one side to another, till she gave him a 'get in that chair right now Mister,' look. He rose up from the floor and sat down in the chair.

"I don't really know how to do this Sam," he said, already beginning to feel like he was all thumbs.

She was already leaning down and setting the newborn in his awaiting arms. "Just make sure you support his head," she began, "there, you've got it. Now just rock a little, I think he likes that," she was saying.

Chris' eyes were the widest and bluest that she'd ever seen them. He kept glancing at her then back to the baby, finally he held his gaze on her and she could tell he was smiling from ear to ear. "He's so tiny," he said, barely above a whisper.

"Babies usually are," she said with a laugh.

The nurse came back toward them and began to speak, "this little guy needs some rest now," she said as she lifted him from Chris' arms. They both walked over to the little crib and said goodbye to him. As they walked out of the NICU unit, Chris asked Rita, "whatta ya think will happen to him?"

"If he's lucky, he'll have some family who'll find him, otherwise, maybe he'll get adopted, or there's always foster homes. It'll be hard," she said, leaning against him for support. He put his arm around her shoulder and kept her close.


Chris and Rita walked out of the hospital together. Rita finally asked Chris where he had been this evening when she had called.

"Ohhh," he groaned, "do you have time for yet another sad story tonight?" he asked.

She looked at him slightly perplexed. "Just tell me ok?"

"Tre went off the deep end," he said.

"What? Why?" she asked.

"He heard about our new homicide detective. You know, the one whose name isn't Treveon Thomas?" Chris explained.

Rita blew out an exaggerated breath. "Oh man, I didn't even think about Tre. I should have called him and told him personally. What did he do?"

"He trashed D's apartment and then he decided to drink himself into oblivion," he explained. "D came over and was pretty upset, so we went looking for him and found him in a bar, just down the street from his apartment," Chris explained.

"He didn't hurt her, did he?" she asked.

"Not physically, mentally, yeah," he paused, "I told her they oughta go see Daniel. Maybe he could help them."

"Really?" she said, surprised by his advice.

He grinned self-consciously, "yeah, I did," he said, gaining confidence.

"That's great Sam, I really mean it," she said, slipping her arm around his and giving it a squeeze.


It was past 12:30 when they arrived back at their home. Things were quiet between the two of them. A lot had happened, and neither one of them really knew what to say to the other. Something was also not being said between them, maybe they just didn't know what to say or how to say it.

They moved around the bedroom, independently of each other, getting ready for what would probably be a restless night for both of them. Rita sat down on the bed and pulled the blanket up over her waiting for Chris who was brushing his teeth in the bathroom. He flicked off the bathroom light and came into the bedroom wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Rita sat forward as he came back into the room, the small, dim light from her nightstand gave the room a warm glow. He pulled back the covers, just enough to crawl in underneath. He slid close to her and reached up to give her a tender good night kiss, then began to lay down. She kissed him in return but didn't move. "You gonna read or something Sammy?" he asked.

"Hmm?" she replied, having heard him talk, but not listening to what he said.

"I asked if you're gonna read for awhile yet?" he said, laying down and stretching out now.

She glanced down at him, "no," she said quietly. There was a long pause, "Would you just hold me for a little while Chris?" she asked.

"Sure," he replied. He immediately popped up and had his arms around her, leaning her back against him, both resting against the headboard of the bed. He held onto her for an eternity. The longer he held her, the more he began to feel like she wasn't telling him something. "Sam, do you wanna talk," he said nuzzling near her ear, whispering. That baby must have really gotten to her, he thought.

Her head leaned down, he knew right away she wasn't going to tell him what was bothering her. It was like a sixth sense he had. What she said, came from left field, "You know I love you, don't you? More than anything," she said, "I never want to loose you, or hurt you."

He nodded, even though she couldn't see him, "I love you too," he said a bit surprised by this conversation. Maybe, she just needed to hear it from him again, he thought, thinking of all the things she had been through tonight. "I know you do Rita, I'll never doubt it, I promise," he added. "I can't imagine that you'd ever hurt anyone, let alone me and you'll never loose me, we'll be together forever." He couldn't see her reaction.

The scent of her perfume drifted up and filled his nostrils. She began to shift and turn in his arms, leaning in toward him, "I love you so much Chris, and I need you right now," she said seeking out his lips. He put up no resistance. She laid the tenderest, most softest kiss she could muster up on his waiting lips. He was a more than a little surprised by her actions, but content to let things proceed forward on her terms. She had begun to bare her soul to him, and now this? Why would she think he'd leave her or that she'd ever hurt him? He barely had time to think about it and analyze it before she kept continuing these soft kisses. His mind and thoughts blurred quickly. The blood began to circulate warmly through his body, he moaned a little as her tender assault began. All he could think about was her. This night was calling out for agonizing gentleness. Both of them were more than willing to give in to that urge.

Chris closed his eyes as Rita began, slowly and passionately brushing her lips softly against every part of his face. With no particular rhyme or rhythm, she created her own unique pattern, along his jawline, over his cheekbones, skimming his eyelids, softly blessing his forehead, with a kiss, unconsciously thanking the Lord for him. One hand reached up and found his cheek and stroked it, while she kissed it. His slight beard tickled below her lips and hands. His face was warm to her touch. She could feel him smile under her loving assault. She pulled back knowing that as she did, he'd open his eyes. She waited and when she saw the glow in his eyes, she returned the smile. He wanted to kiss her desperately, but he held back, a seriousness, yet loving look, filled his blue eyes as he waited on her. This was going to be all for her, for her needs tonight. The look in his eyes reassured her and the look in her eyes said thank you.

She leaned back in and sought out his lips. Converging together lightly, her satiny lips grazed against his. Pure pleasure passed between them as they shared these first tender minutes locked in this calming, loving pursuit of each other. He let her lead all the way, she treasured his approval. She focused in on his bottom lip, driving him mad, by taking it deeply between her own lips, holding it there, then slowly and methodically rolling her tongue along it, nibbling at it fullness. Skimming her lips over his slightly opened mouth, she journeyed to his top lip, where she parlayed the same kind of tender torture. Inch by tender inch, she sucked softly and slowly along his entire lip. Her tongue dipped below and took a painfully lengthy and lingering excursion. She briefly pulled back and ran her index finger over his flushed lips, where her own lips had just been. He yearned to nibble at her finger, but he held back again, as she quickly pulled her hand away and began to kiss him again. This time, a little deeper and more fulfilling for both of them.

Chris fought the urge to simply take her, though his body already ached for him to do so. She was beautiful in every way. He knew deep down, that she needed this gentleness, so he continued to hold back, allowing her the kind of control she craved.

Together now, they had begun to deeply and affectionately kiss each other. Both giving and taking equally. Rita's hands were everywhere, tracing his jawline, outlining his features, his cheekbones and chin, holding his face in her caring hands. While one of her hands held his cheek, the other combed through his short, cropped hair, reveling in it's softness, the other hand followed and delved into his hair too. She leaned back in and kissed him tenderly.

Being patient could quite possible kill him tonight, he thought. Chris longed to touch her and take her into his own arms and hold her forever, thinking that his embrace and love would be all that she'd ever need. It was enough for him. But as he looked into her eyes, he saw a need and desire in the green mist, that he had never seen before. He let her continue.

She wandered under his chin, along his throat, sweeping back up along the side of his neck and around his ear. She was retracing, relearning, re-loving every wonderful part of his body. She was so soft and tender, a slow burning fire was igniting from deep within him. He couldn't contain it, nor did he want to. When she came back to capture his lips, he exhaled and murmured, "oh God Rita, you are incredible."

She smiled and breathed, "I love you," before claiming his lips once again.

As much as he tried to relax, he could feel his heart race faster and faster. She had begun all over again. Trailing down and over his chin, kissing his Adam's apple and moving slower and painstakingly methodically toward his chest. First she kissed him right through the t-shirt he wore. Then she carefully reached her hand in through his neckline and lightly caressed his bare skin below, moving from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. She could feel his neck muscles tighten as he jerked his head backward against the pillows. He quickly sucked in some gulps of air. "Relax, Chris," she whispered, bending her head down and alternating electrifying kisses with the tender massage she had started.

She continued nibbling softly along his neckline. Her other hand reached down and began sliding the t-shirt up, finally getting it near the top of his chest, he eagerly raised his arms up as she slid it over his hand, tossing it on the floor. Her hands moved in and rubbed his chest up and down and around. All the while she kept up her lip attack too. Now her hair sprinkled over his chest. The feel of it over his bare skin, along with her moist lips sent a wave of electrified nerves coursing through his system. His arms fell rigidly back to his sides, his hands clutching at the bed sheets, still aching to hold her, knowing that it wasn't quite his time yet, but understanding he'd have his turn as well. She passed delicately over the scar on his chest, where Debra Bouchard had left her mark. She was excruciatingly tender here, Chris knowing at once where she was at and understood her loving care when she there. That was the beginning for them, they both had finally realized it, it was there that their real love for each other had blossomed, under that painful scar. Her moist, full lips dipped and played into every crevice and fold and over every rise.

If there was ever a sweeter, more gentle or tender torture, Chris could never even have imagined it. Rita could do so many things to him, stir up so many feelings, take him places he'd never been, she could become so many facets of herself, his mind was whirling just thinking about her. He could feel his blood surging through every portion of his body. She was everywhere on him, exploring, touching, kissing, nibbling, seeking out any spot that caught her interest. Which meant she left no spot unexamined. Chris watched her confident demeanor, she was an adventurer on a mission and even though she made it appear new to her, she was assured and poised with every movement she made. Chris smiled over and over again as she moved over him from side to side. He closed his eyes, enjoying her adventuresome spirit.

For what seemed like an eternity to both of them, she sashayed her way from one of his hard nipples to the other. Running it between her index finger and thumb at first, then moving in to tease it first with a slight brush from her lips, then releasing a painfully long, tender kiss over and around it, finally opening her mouth to first taste it, then finally nibbling on it for an extended period of time. When she had her fill on one side, she moved to the other in the same fashion.

She wandered lower still, first her lips rambled down his midline, kissing feathery soft, then lifting off, leaving his skin hot and moist at first, then cooled and aching for more. She paused to look up at his agonizing face. She loved knowing that as much as he wanted her right there and then, he was willing to let her have some pleasure of her own. He noticed her stare out of the corner of his eye and realized that now it would be alright to join in this seductive game a little more. His right hand came up and cradled the back of her head and brought it closer to his stomach. He didn't want her to stop and his action sought out to reiterate how her felt. She immediately went back to her moist trail, feeling his fingers caress and stroke the back of her head and mingle through her hair, as she moved even lower. He let out a moan of pleasure.

Her hands were everywhere on his chest, upper arms and shoulders. She loved the feel of his chest as it rose and fell, nearly heaving with desire. Her hands ran down along the side of his body as she moved her mouth upward again. His stomach was hard and muscular, his chest was firm, she delighted in his well-developed body. Below her lips she felt his thundering heart beat. One of her hands slipped even lower inside his boxers, taking him and caressing delicately as she trailed her kisses back toward his navel. She felt him take in a sharp breath of air, the minute she took him and glanced up to see him smile broadly. "Do you like that?" she asked, herself breathless too, continuing to pleasure him.

He groaned and shook his head in agreement through heavy lidded eyes, but the delight on his face never faded, "Sammy, I love all of it, you amaze me," he managed to choke out. He let out a laugh as her tongue had begun to invade his navel, traveling around it in a circular motion, then dipping in and out. He knew it was ok now to have his other hand come up and sift through her shimmering hair. He was simply overjoyed by what she was doing to him, by what she was giving to him. "Don't ever stop Sammy, this is fantastic," he said continuing to grin devilishly. She proceeded to 'deliver' just what he kept asking for. Then she began to rev down, running her hand up and down his heated chest, she started to move off to the side of him, letting her hand rest on the inside of his thigh. He still was on a high he couldn't quite believe, "Oh, Rita, where is all this coming from? Please don't stop," he begged her.

"It's from me," she kissed his chest tenderly, "to you," she kissed him again and traced it on his chest, "and now, just maybe, from you," she nibbled the side of his body, "to me," she said, letting her finger drift up by his mouth. She laughed low and deep. This time he nibbled at it as she slid away from him and laid on her back beside him, her arms outward parallel to her head, waiting for him. He began to move as she did, onto his side, then leaning over her, reaching his hand down to cup her face and brush her cheek with his thumb.

"I think I can follow your lead," he said, leaning in to nuzzle nose to nose with her, he knew he had to be as gentle and tender as she had just been.

"So far, so good," she said, returning the nuzzle, and locking him into a full-blown kiss. Then she let him work his magic. He pulled away and started at her chin, noticing that her abandoned lips were ripe with color. She could tell his mouth formed a smile as it kissed her chin. He ran his lips along the curve of her jawline, then farther back dipping in below and behind her ear. He let his tongue tickle her. She let out a little gasp of pleasure and wriggled a little under him. He nuzzled along the side of her neck, breathing in deeply. He loved the way she smelled, clean and sensuous. She felt his warm breath on the side of her neck, hypnotizing her and seducing her slowly. He was definitely ready to play this game.

Chris was already in a fog, a haze of desire. All he knew was that he needed to rein in his urgent desires and slow down. This is what she wanted and he needed to give it to her. He moved down her neckline, open mouthed, leaving a trail of moist, fervid kisses all the way to her soft shoulders. There he stopped to take his time, devour her pale skin and leave her craving for more. As he nibbled on her shoulder, his hand swept down her extended arm, softly caressing the inner fleshy part of her upper arm. His mouth was soon to follow, skimming his teeth along the sensitive, milky white, skin. He decided to head to the other side. As his head rose, he glanced at her face. A contented smile painted across her lips , he couldn't just pass them by, he bent down and placed not one, not two, but three tender, considerate kisses, just to say a quick 'I love you.' When he finished mimicking the movement on her other arm, he headed back to her waiting lips. At first they were warm, safe, patient kisses. He kissed her slowly and thoroughly, sapping her of any mind control she still retained. Her arms felt like dead weight along side her now. He was a professional at playing this particular game.

Before he could thrust his tongue inside her as he intended too, she opened up. He pulled back and grinned, "Ah Sammy, you're not playing fair, this is my turn," he said.

As she was about to reply, he cut her off by pushing his tongue inside hotly and slowly. He could hear her make a noise deep in her throat. He broke off again and moved up, kissing her nose and forehead. As he did, she couldn't resist nibbling on his shoulder. This time he started to laugh, "Sammy, that's two strikes now," he said jokingly.

He rose up completely off of her, looking down on her body, partially hidden by a silky nightie she wore. His eyes focused on her breasts as he slid out of the boxers he wore. Slowly heading back in toward her breasts, his hands arrived first and massaged them right through the silk. She sighed. As his head got closer, he ran his lips along the silky fabric, teasing and nipping at the hardening peaks, suckling on them right through the material. She gasped her happy consent. First one, then to the other. His hands ran up and down along side of them, finally reaching down and sliding the garment up and over her head. She rose up off the bed and stole a brief kiss as he pulled off the nightie. His hand held her back as he laid her back down in the soft bed. For a moment, he just stopped to look at her there, slim and white, perfect for him in every way, his equal, his best friend and the love of his life. He could feel the heat and sweat surge through his body, just from looking at her. Immediately he began to touch, kiss and caress her breasts. First he dragged his teeth along the sides of them, followed by his tongue, at first avoiding the distended nipples, only to tease them first with a brush of his lips, finally devouring them, fingering them softly as his lips played.

She was the one who was now desperate for him. He was certainly a willing and able participant in this game she had created and it was driving her wild that he was able to play so well, so quickly and so by the rule book. Her whimsical thoughts were quickly banished as his mouth and tongue roamed down between her breasts and onto her stomach. His hands kneaded her breasts, slowly, softly and with tender care. It seemed like he never took a breath. She was breathing rapidly. His hands gripped firmly around her slim waist, kneading his fingers into her soft skin. Lower still they went, caressing her legs, dipping in between her thighs, she was ready.

Her hands knew to join in now. Just as he had done, she reached down and held onto the back of his head, running her hands through his hair, as his kisses circled around her stomach, swirling closer to her navel. He pulled back, "that's strike three Sammy," he whispered seductively.

"So I'm out then?" she asked playfully.

"Not by a longshot," he said grinning as she leaned up and let her arms cling to his back, stroking him up and down. They were in this thing together now, kissing and touching with the gentleness and tenderness that had started the evening off. He rolled over and laid back on the bed, Rita took her cue and hovered over him and straddled him. Her smooth thighs rubbed against his, sending a deep, needful charge of electricity clear through to every part in his body. He ran his hands up and down her breasts, along the sides and then between them, as she grinded her hips against him. Her hands joined with his, twining their fingers together, she began to lean down holding his arms out to the sides. She sought out his mouth, plunging inside, battling with his. He uncoiled his fingers from hers and hugged her close, pressing her body into his. He could feel her firm nipples brush against him. She hungrily nibbled on his shoulder. Now, the gentleness began to fade, giving way to desire and fulfillment. Rita sat back up and Chris followed, leaning in and grazing her nipples with his thumbs and pressing his palms against them, just before he ducked his head down and let his mouth feast on them. He knew she liked it, he could tell by the way she moved and arched her back, how her muscles flexed as he sought to please her. She let her head drop back in delight. He fell back into the bed as she took him inside herself in perfect, refined, increments. He held onto to her hips, clutching them, alternating that with running his hands over her breasts, onto her stomach. He rose and fell with her as sensation overtook them both. She cried out her satisfaction and collapsed against his waiting arms, both of them falling back to the present.

Chris kept his arms wrapped around her for a long time, remembering her earlier plea, tenderly running his fingers through her hair, lightly, soothing her. He thought she had fallen to sleep, so he closed his own eyes and slowly drifted off. Little did he know that she was still wide awake and almost afraid to fall asleep. When she was certain that he was soundly sleeping, she crawled out of bed and went into the kitchen. She made herself some coffee and sat at the table idly waiting for the dawn of another day. Thinking.....


The next day finally came, Chris woke up to a partnerless bed, he scowled his face momentarily, until the scent of coffee filled his lungs, as Rita came back into the bedroom carrying two cups of java. She slid on the bed beside him, handing him a cup, while she schooched her feet under the blanket to warm up her toes. "Good morning, Sam," she kissed him and greeted him with a smile.

He sat up a little on the bed next to her and looked her over, she appeared tired. He glanced out the window and saw the sun shinning. "Well, it is a good morning, but Sammy, you don't look very rested. Did you get enough sleep?" he asked, wrapping his free arm around her.

"Mmmmhmmm," she replied, enjoying his touch, but telling him a white lie. "You're the one who should be tired," she tried to joke.

He grinned at her as she turned to look at his expression. "You're worried about that baby aren't you? You let it bother you all night long, huh?" he asked.

"Not all night," she said, glancing at him again, raising her eyebrows.

"You can't fool me Sam," he said sipping his coffee. She let him believe what he wanted to believe, for now anyway. "You wanna talk about it?" he was asking.

She decided to talk about the baby, he was partly right, she had been thinking about him in a round about way and what would happen to him, but her thoughts were consumed by something else. Something else, she just wasn't prepared to tell him yet. "I just wonder what kinda life he's gonna have. Does he have any family? What's gonna happen to him, you know," she said leaning forward.

He leaned with her and kissed her on her back, through the robe she wore, "Is that everything?" he asked, still feeling like she was holding something back, like maybe did she want to adopt the kid? He didn't think he was ready for something like that. Hec, they weren't even married yet. He just felt like that's what she was thinking, being an orphan herself. He wondered if her conversation from the night before had anything to do with what was on her mind. Did she think she'd hurt him or loose him by telling him she wanted to adopt the child?

"Yeah, that's all," she said softly, hating that he knew her so well that there was something else too, "it just makes me sad, you know," she added.

He set his cup down and hugged her from behind. He knew there was more, but forcing her to tell him wasn't the answer. She'd tell him when she was ready, whatever else was on her mind, she always did. He just wanted to let her know that he understood that too. Plus he just loved to hold her close. It was the best thing about the morning, waking up to her, he thought After a few minutes, he began to talk again. "Did you think anymore about Thanksgiving yet, about Benny?" he almost immediately regretted asking. She practically shrugged away from him, getting out of the bed and heading toward the bathroom.

"Do you need to know right this minute?" she called out from the bathroom, acting like she was in a hurry. He knew she was just avoiding the whole situation. He got up from the bed and followed her.

"Well, actually inviting someone a few weeks ahead of time, is the polite thing to do, especially if he needs to make flight arrangements," he said, as she started to brush her teeth. She spit out the foam emphatically.

"Just let me think about it for a few more days, please," she batted her eyes a little. He gave her a half grin.

"Alright, but you know, we played this three strikes game last night," he was quick to remind her. "Right now, you're at strike two," he added.

"Ah, and doesn't that make the game a whole lot more interesting," she said, quickly changing her mood and pushing him out the door, closing it behind him. He didn't have a chance to respond. Something was definitely up with her, he just didn't know what exactly.


Later that morning, Chris and Geoff went out on a routine investigation call. They had to go to a bank and check the financial records of a deceased victim. Everything was pretty standard and Chris let Geoff handle most of the questioning. He merely went along for the ride. Geoff did a great job too. It was a shame that he had to be on probation for six months. He was pretty much set to go solo if he needed to. He fit into homicide perfectly. Being a detective came pretty natural to Geoff. Chris really enjoyed working with him too. He started to call him Opie and Geoff didn't mind at all, he just laughed. Then Chris told him how the nickname Sam came about.

During the ride back to the station, they began to talk about their personal lives to each other. Geoff was just 27, one of the youngest cops ever to get his gold detective's shield. He'd been married to his wife Connie for seven years already. They met in the 7th grade and had been high school sweethearts. Getting married was really just a formality, according to Geoff. He and Connie knew that when they were twelve that they would be husband and wife some day. What surprised Chris the most was that Geoff and Connie had five foster children and one of their own. Sometimes even more foster kids, depending on the situation. They ranged in age from two to sixteen. Chris was in awe. Geoff took everything in stride, he was very logical, his emotions ran fairly steady and he seemed very calm for the Father of six children. Chris had no idea he was such a family man. Connie worked out of her home as a syndicated columnist for a women's magazine, as well as writing articles for other publications. According to Geoff, things were pretty good for both of them and their extended family.

Geoff noticed that Chris looked a bit drained and asked if he had had a long night, and Chris starting telling him about the events that took place, including the birth of the baby. Geoff's eyes and ears perked about as he heard Chris relate the happenings, especially the part about the baby.

It was just before lunch when they got back to the station. Rita was busy bustling in and out of her nearly finished office, moving in files and folders as well as pens, pencils and other supplies too. Her new desk and chair had arrived as well. It was time for her to get settled. Chris motioned to Geoff to follow his lead as the two of them proceeded to 'harass' Rita in her new office.

"So, Sam," Chris began, deliberately standing in the doorway, allowing no one to enter or exit, "how's the move coming along?" Rita glared at him, with a box full of paperwork in her hands, trying to get past him into the office.

"Do you mind?" she said, only slightly irritated that he continued to stand there. Geoff stood behind her smirking.

"Do I mind that you're moving? Not at all! In fact, I was just telling Geoff how much I didn't mind that you were moving, isn't that right Geoff?" Chris said dead serious.

Rita turned a little to see Geoff. When he saw her look, he started to mumble a bit, "Uh, yeah, uh, no, uh, I'm not sure exactly," he said.

"Good answer, Detective Morgan," Rita smiled at him and pushed her way past wincing Chris. "Don't you have some work to do?" she threw back at Chris. Chris through Geoff a look now, of 'come on man, us guys gotta stick together.' Chris turned and went into the office and sat down on the corner of the desk. He started nosing through everything that was on the desk. Geoff walked in behind them and sat down in one of the chairs.

Rita was busy stacking boxes and putting folders into some file cabinets, when she turned around to see Chris rummaging through her desk. "Christopher Lorenzo!" she said watching him. He kept on going, till she came over and swiped what was in his hand. "That's none of your business," she said. Geoff was enjoying watching this. He knew they were both teasing each other.

"I thought you were going to have an open door policy Lieutenant?" Chris asked.

"The key word there is DOOR, not DESK," she replied. Geoff actually clapped a little when he heard her comeback. Chris scowled. "Did you two find anything out on Sheldon?" she changed the subject.

Chris got up and started heading out, "Listen, I'll let Opie here tell you, if that's ok. He can hang with you for a while," Geoff didn't mind the nickname, he chuckled when he heard it again. "I'm gonna go see Diana and see how she's doing today ok?"

Rita smiled and nodded, "Ok, we'll see you later," she said watching him leave. "So what did you guys find out? And why is Chris calling you Opie?"

Geoff laughed again, "he thinks I look and act like Ronnie Howard, I think it's the hair, I think it's kinda funny," he said shaking his head.

"Well if it bothers you, please tell him or me," she said smiling, "what about Sheldon?"

"Well, there's nothing really out of the ordinary," Geoff said pulling out his notepad and going over the facts he had written down. "There was one unusually large deposit though about a week prior to him turning up dead. We asked the bank to trace where or who the deposit came from. They said it might take the rest of the day."

"So how do you think it plays in to the murder?" she asked, sitting down behind her desk, rolling her neck. It was her first break all morning, and she was tired to begin with. Geoff noticed her tired demeanor.

"It certainly could have a part, Chris and I think that maybe his wife has some kind of access to the account. We're checking on that too," he paused, "but part of me thinks it may be tied to this insurance scam that keeps popping up. They send the insured their policy money in full, after so many months. I heard about it from the Special Crimes Unit. See, some of these people then wind up dying shortly thereafter," he explained thoughtfully.

"That's very good Geoff, I remember that memo, but I wouldn't have even thought to tie it to this case. Did you share that with Chris?" she asked.

"Yeah, he said the same thing," he smiled, knowing he had done well in both their eyes. She looked really tired though. He decided to change the subject. "Chris told me about the baby last night," he began, "it's hard to take, isn't it?"

She tilted her head a little, surprised by his comment, but also touched by the sentiment. She nodded, "yeah, it is, he's a little sweetie too, I'm gonna head over at lunch and see how he's doing," she said.

"Mind if I come along?" he asked.

She was startled by his question, "not at all, are you sure?" she asked in return.

"I'm sure," he said.

By the time they reached the parking lot, Geoff told her about the five foster children and one of his own and was now opening up his wallet with the most current pictures. "This is Jake, well last week it was Jacob, but he decided he likes Jake better. He's sixteen and I think it has more to do with his current girlfriend than anything else. And then there's Tommy, he's twelve. This is Annie, toothless at seven. Lydia is five, and she's a handful. Her and Annie share a room, I swear the two of them never fall asleep, they're always chattering. Peter, here is four, and this is Zachary, Connie and me's first, he's two and he's not terrible at all," he said laughing.

"Geoff, I had no idea," Rita said amazed and impressed by his revelation. "Your wife must be something else, I can't wait to meet her and all the kids too," she said. "I bet there's nothing like instant Parenthood, is there?"

"Well, we started out with Jake, and about three months later, we just figured we could handle another, so we got Annie, now, it's like Social Services calls us and asks us to take in another. It is great though, best thing I've ever done in my life. I come from a large family, Connie's an only child. She says she always wanted a big family and I loved all my brothers and sisters to death, so I had no problem with it. I was adopted," he admitted.

"I was a foster child," Rita said back.

"So we have something in common then huh?" he asked. "I knew my parents," he offered, "well I was pretty little, but I remember them. My Dad was killed by a thief, he was in a grocery store and the guy came in waving a gun and he shot him. After that, my Mom, well she was never the same, she finally gave me up for adoption and she died in a mental hospital. My adoptive parents are still alive, they live down in Boca, they're great. What about you?"

"My Mom died when I was just a baby," she paused, "and my Dad committed suicide when I was six," she stopped and he put his arm out to console her. Geoff was one of the few people who Rita ever told about how exactly her Father had died. It surprised her a bit, that she had just blurted it out.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't pry," he began, "I just thought, well, something in common, you know."

"My foster parents were great too," she composed herself and continued, "they died a few years back in a car crash."

"And now you have Chris! You two are great together, everyone can see it!" he said lightening up the conversation.

She smiled brightly, "Really? Everyone?"

"Oh yeah, are you kidding me? You two are like a perfect match. When's the wedding anyway?" Geoff asked.

"February 13, next year," she said.

"You guys want a family?" he asked, not holding anything back. She enjoyed his straight forward attitude. He wasn't being rude, he just had a genuine interest in knowing.

"Eventually," she paused, "you always this inquisitive Detective?"

"It's my job, ma'am," he replied smiling, getting into the car.

They drove to the hospital.


Chris walked down to the morgue and found Diana in her office, just about to open a sack lunch she had brought to work. He knocked loosely on the door and said, "uh, uh, uh, I do believe you and I have a lunch date there, Darling, put that cold food away," he walked into the office with a big grin on his face.

She smiled when she looked up and saw that it was Chris. "Well if it's not my Knight in Shinning Armor," she said.

"Damn right, but actually I'd settle for friend, I think YOUR own Knight probably has one hell of a hangover right now," he said, sitting down across from her.

"If he's smart, he's sleeping through it," she muttered.

He reached out and grabbed her hand, "And just how is my friend doing?" he asked.

"Better, actually. I stayed at Tre's all night long. We even talked a little this morning," she paused, "I think he's gonna go see Daniel with me," she said confidently.

"That's great, things are always better in the morning aren't they?" Chris said.

She nodded, "So how's Rita and that whole situation?"

"The young girl died, but the baby is alive, he's addicted to crack. It was a long night," he paused, "and Rita," he stopped again, "I don't know D, I think something's on her mind about this whole situation with this baby, but she's holding it in. I think she wants us to adopt the kid or something," he blurted out.

Diana was a little amazed, "are you sure, what makes you think that?" she asked.

"I don't know, maybe I'm just thinking too much," he said, "so how about some lunch, my treat?" he asked.

"Now I know you're not quite right in your head if you're offering to buy me lunch. Quick, let's go, before you change your mind," she said, ushering him out of her office.


Geoff and Rita walked up to the NICU ward and were given permission to see the baby, whom Social Services had named Joey. Joey had been having a bad morning, but was beginning to calm down a little. As soon as Rita picked him up, he quieted down completely and fell to sleep in her arms. The woman from Social Services came in to the unit and started to talk with Rita.

"I'm glad you're here Lieutenant Lance, I was going to try to call you later. I was wondering if you could give me any details about the mother, or last night in general," the woman began.

"Sure," Rita replied quietly, handing the baby to Geoff, who stood by eager to take him.

The two women went out to the hall and discussed the events of the night before. When they came back in, Geoff handed the baby back to Rita and asked the woman from Social Services if he might have a word with her. He came back in a few minutes later and Rita asked him what he wanted to talk to her about.

"I just offered our home for the little guy," he said, tickling the baby's feet, "once you see 'em, you get attached. I know Connie won't mind, and there's always room for one more" he explained.

"It's that easy?" Rita said, wondering about the foster program.

"Usually. I've never met Clare before though, so she's a little tentative, but she said she'd go back and check our family status to see if we qualify," he explained, "I'm not too worried, we just had a baby girl about a month ago."

Rita smiled and rocked the baby, she didn't know what to say.


"So can I ask what you and Tre talked about this morning, or is the subject off limits?" Chris said as they both plunged into the greasiest cheeseburgers they could imagine.

"Believe it or not, he did most of the talking, that hasn't happened in a long time," she began. "He apologized, he actually kept on apologizing. I think he's finally realizing what an idiot he's been. And he admitted that he's just burned out from working in vice. He said he's gonna request a transfer. He'd rather be back on the streets on patrol. It's eating him up Chris," she explained.

Chris listened seriously, "yeah, I know the feeling. It's a good move. You know, Vice is ok at first, especially if you're single and uninvolved. But the minute you start a relationship, you gotta get out. You start thinking that everyone's out to get you, that the whole world is filled with criminals. You wanna protect everyone who's helpless. It eats you up, morning, noon and night. You go for days without sleep, it's a thrill and it's depressing all in one," he said shaking his head.

"Don't hold back, Chris, tell me how you really feel," she said, laughing a bit, then listening to him describe his experience in vice. "How long were you in vice?" Diana asked him.

"Six long months. I was never happier when Hutch pulled me off and put me in Homicide. And to get Rita as a partner to boot. What can I say?" he replied with a smile, "I'm a very lucky man!"

"Tre's been doing it for almost two years now," she said sadly.

"It's way beyond time for him to make a change. But they're not gonna put him on patrol. He's a good cop, they'll find a detective's spot for him somewhere. And Rita's still got the request in for another cop for homicide. Maybe his decision to transfer will open up that path a little quicker," Chris said, trying to cheer her up.

"I hope you're right," she paused as a secretive grin started exploding across her face.

Chris chomped away at his burger and quickly glanced at her to see why she had stopped talking, he noticed the grin right away. "What? Do I got mustard on my face?" No response, "My tie?" he said looking down at it. He didn't see anything. "What D?"

"He asked me to marry him too," she said raising her eyebrows.

Chris put down his burger, "What'd ya say D?"he asked.

"I said I'd seriously consider it," she said, "besides, I knew you were already taken."

"Ha," he laughed.

"I really love him Chris. And I know he loves me too. I think he's right about wanting to get out of vice too, especially after hearing what you said about it. It's what we both want, to be together, have a family, you know, the works. We'll go see Daniel and go from there right?" she said.

"Follow your heart D, just follow your heart," Chris said.


"Rita, can I see you for a minute?" Cap stuck his head in her office as she was going over some computer files with Geoff.

Rita looked up and said, "Sure Cap, let me just get Geoff started on this and then I'll be right in." Cap smiled and went back to his office. "So, you find the case name that coincides with the case number here, double click and it loads it in and then you can just follow along and fill in the info. Any questions?" Rita asked.

"And I find the case numbers out on the dry erase board right?" Geoff asked.

"You got it, I think you can handle this. And I'll be right next door, ok?" she replied.

"I'll be here," he answered.

She sauntered over to Cap's office and entered, "You know, I really love this 'whole my own office, being in charge' thing," she began with a grin.

"Rule number one Lance, don't let it go to your head," Cap said, doing a bit of filing himself.

"So what's up Cap?" she asked.

"It's personal," he said spinning around with a smile. "Franny and I want to invite you and Chris over for Thanksgiving this year, that is if you don't already have plans," he was saying. Rita had already begun to tune him out. "Rita?" She heard him say her name.

"Uh, I'm sorry Cap, Thanksgiving, uh, I think Chris and I have plans already," she said very vaguely.

"Whatta ya mean, you think? You either do or you don't?" he said.

"Well, I think his Father's coming down," she said, continuing her ambiguous ways.

"You could all come over, there's no need to go through all that cooking, besides Franny's already begun I think. In fact, we still have leftovers from last year and the year before that too! We'd love to have you guys over," he kept at her.

"Let me talk to Chris about it, ok Cap?" she said, now getting jittery, just wanting to leave his office.

He noticed it and held back, "Sure Rita, that'll be fine." Something a little weird was up with her, he thought as she exited the office.


Just as Chris was coming back from lunch, Rita was on her way out, they collided with each other at the swinging palm tree doors.

"Hey Sam, what's up," Chris said, nearly hugging her.

"Ah, Chris, glad I caught you," she began, "I'm not feeling really well, so I'm taking the afternoon off, I just told Cap. Geoff's working on updating the latest homicides into the computer. You can either let him continue or take him out if you're going anywhere, ok?" she said rubbing the back of her neck.

"You ok?" he asked with concern.

"Yeah, just tired," she said with a forced smile.

He wasn't buying it. "Did you go see the baby? Is everything ok?" he asked.

"Yeah, I did and he's doing fine, they named him Joey as a matter of fact," she explained. "Look, I'm ok, I just didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night, you know?" she smiled again.

He nodded and pulled her close for a quick hug and kissed her forehead. "Yeah, I know," he said, "listen, I'll be home by seven, I promised Daniel I'd play a little one on one basketball with him after work, is that ok with you?" he asked.

"Sure, I'm glad to see that we're still their friends. It was touch and go for awhile," she laughed, "I'll see you later then."

She walked out and Cap came out of his office and saw that Chris had arrived. "Lorenzo, did Rita ask you about Thanksgiving?" he began.

"No, what's up Cap?" he said, checking his desk for messages.

"Well, Franny and I want to invite the two of you over, I understand your Dad's coming down too possibly. So unless you have some other plans, you could all come. We'll have plenty of food," Cap explained.

"Rita told you that?" he said looking straight at Cap.

"Yeah, isn't that right?" Cap replied.

"I don't know Cap, I'm not sure, we'll get back to you ok?" he said.

Cap again stood stupefied by both their responses.


Chris headed into Rita's new office and saw Geoff plunking away at the keyboard, one key at a time, while he was talking on the phone. Geoff looked right at home in the office and when he saw Chris enter, he quickly straightened up and typed a little bit faster and concluded the personal phone call with his wife.

"I'm sorry Chris, I, uh, I just had to talk to Connie for a second. I'm working on these reports though. I'll finish them up before I leave today, I promise," he said apologizing.

"Take a pill Opie, I'm not gonna report you. What's up?" he asked.

"Good news! I think Social Services is gonna let Connie and me have baby Joey. Temporarily at least. They're supposed to send someone over to the house for an interview in the next few days," Geoff said. Chris wondered if that news had anything to do with Rita's not feeling well.

"I was actually asking about work, but that's great Geoff, have you told Rita yet?" Chris asked.

"I told her we were interested, but I just got the call from Social Services a few minutes ago, Connie's pretty excited too. She's gonna try to get up to the hospital later to see him. I'm really glad I tagged along with Rita at lunch today," he said. "We'll have a lot to be thankful for at Thanksgiving this year," he added grinning from ear to ear. "Maybe the two of you would join our family for dinner?" Geoff asked.

Chris again, didn't know how to respond. "I'm not exactly sure what our plans are gonna be yet Geoff, but let me talk it over with Rita ok?"

"Sure, that's fine, we'd really like you guys to be a part though, you've both been so great!" he said.


Daniel and Chris met in the police gym after work. Melanie was with Daniel, he had picked her up from daycare. Susan's job was keeping her late, so Daniel had the parental duty. He situated her in the bleachers, along with crayons, coloring books, dolls and legos. There was also juice and cookies for her to snack on, while the two men planned on playing a little one on one. The rest of the gym was empty. Chris had changed first into his traditional Michigan attire and now Daniel headed for the locker room to change, while Chris kept an eye on Melanie.

"Can I play, Chrwis?" she asked, setting down her crayon.

Chris trotted over to her dribbling the ball, "Well I was just gonna come over here and ask you if I could color?" he said, leaning in and giving her arm a raspberry kiss. She quickly pulled her arm away and giggled. "What are you making Squirt?" he asked her.

"I'm dawing a tukey for you and Riiiita, for Tankgiving," she said.

He looked at the abstract drawing and noticed that the turkey did have the little red gobbler skin flap, other than that, it looked like a brown blob with sticks. "That's great Squirt," he said with a grin, casually bouncing the ball on the floor, while waiting for Daniel. Melanie got up from the bleachers and ran onto the court. Chris laughed and got up and started bouncing the ball, she started chasing after him. Of course he let her catch him as she held the ball, he picked her up and held her high and threw the ball up to the hoop. She missed and the ball ricocheted and hit Chris in the head. "Ow," he said, setting her on the floor, rubbing his head. She chased after the ball giggling all the while.

Daniel came out seconds later wearing a Duke t-shirt, loudly proclaiming that his alma mater had the greatest college team in the world.

"Don't tell me you went to that sissy school?" Chris asked, beginning a game of taunt.

"You better believe it Officer, and they'll kick your little wimpy Michiganders all the way back to that big lake you're so famous for," he said egging Chris on. "They are ranked number one you know?"

"Big deal, they haven't even played a game yet," Chris groaned a little, "I gotta feeling this is gonna be a long season of college basketball," Chris said with a grin.

"Mel, honey, give Daddy the ball, I need to teach Chris how to play this game," Daniel called out to Melanie. She quickly obliged, running past Chris, sticking out her tongue and delivering the ball to Daniel. "Ok, honey, you go over to the bleachers and color now, while Daddy beats Chris," he said. She obeyed him right away.

"Whatta we playing to?" Daniel asked, starting to dribble.

"Whatever it takes," Chris said reaching in and stealing the ball. "I'd say it's more like, whatta we playing for?" Chris asked, throwing up a perfect three point shot. Melanie clapped from the sidelines.

"Hey, you're supposed to cheer for Daddy," Daniel called out.

She stopped clapping, "I sowie, Daddy," she paused, "yeah, Chwris." She quickly got bored watching them play and turned her attention to her coloring. The two guys also got caught up in the intensity of their own little battle.

After about an hour and a half, they declared a draw, both of them were exhausted. They collapsed in the stands near Melanie, both reaching for their water bottles, dripping with sweat.

"You play a lot better than those Wolverine's," Daniel began, sucking in deep breaths.

"Yeah and you're just as pathetic as your Blue Devils," Chris replied, gasping. They both were ribbing and taunting each other something fierce. It never stopped.

"Daddy, what's a Boo Devil?" Melanie asked.

"It's the greatest thing in the world sweetie, just don't tell you Mommy, she thinks you're gonna be a Tar Heel," he explained.

Chris groaned, "Don't tell me Susan went to NC?"

"Baby Blue all the way Chris," Daniel said.

"You two are unbelievable, ha!" Chris started and paused, "Listen, Rita and I are still feeling pretty bad about the surprise party thing," he said.

Daniel shrugged it off, "Forget man, I shoulda realized that we'd do something stupid like try to do the same thing to each other. It's funny it hasn't happened sooner. From now on, we're sticking to gifts," Daniel said. "Which leads me to another invitation though," he paused, "you guys doing anything for Thanksgiving?" he asked.

Chris wiped his dripping face with a towel. "Not sure yet, why?" he said.

"Well, Sus just wanted me to ask you guys, it's just gonna be the three of us, seemed kinda small to make a whole turkey and all, especially with Melanie, she doesn't eat much anyway," Daniel said.

"I like tukey Daddy," Melanie popped in again.

"I know sweetheart, but can you eat the whole bird yourself?" he teased.

"It's not a bird," she giggled.

"Oh yeah, then what is it?" Daniel asked.

"It's a tukey!" she shouted.

Daniel and Chris laughed. "You guys let us know, the more the merrier I guess, huh?" Daniel asked.

"Yeah, sure, I'll let ya know," Chris said, his voice trailing off.

"Is there something bothering you Chris?" Daniel asked.

"It's that noticeable?" he asked in disbelief.

"Well, it is what I do for a living, you know? What's up?"

"Rita works at this center for runaways and the other night some kid calls up and says she's having a baby. Rita goes out and finds the kid, gets her to the hospital, all that. Turns out the girl OD'd on crack, she died, and the baby is in intensive care," he explained.

"So, what? You're upset cuz Rita cares?" Daniel asked with a smile.

"Nah, not at all, that's one of the reasons I love her so much," he began, "I just think she might want to adopt this kid or something, and she's afraid or unsure of whether or not she should tell me. She's got it locked away. At least I think that's what's going on," he said with a chuckle, "or maybe I'm way off base, I don't know."

"Do you want to adopt the baby?" Daniel asked.

Chris didn't respond right away, "to be truthful, I have thought about it," he paused and shook his head no, "I'm not ready for that yet. He took a deep breath, "I mean, me a Father? We're not even married, it just doesn't feel right to me. Pretty selfish huh?"

"Not when there's someone else's life on the line," Daniel began, "that baby is gonna need someone who wants him and someone who loves him, right away. And if you're not ready for that, then you just made a good decision. One that all three of you can live with."

"Now I just gotta tell Rita," Chris said.

"Open your mouth and start talking," Daniel said, scooping up Mel and heading out.

Chris sat there for a minute and wondered just how he was gonna tell Rita, the woman he loved with everything he had, that he wasn't ready to be a Father yet. What would she think of him? Maybe that's why she was afraid to tell him, because it would hurt him that she wanted the baby and he didn't. Maybe she thought she'd lose him too. He headed for the showers.


"Rita?" Chris hollered through the darkened house, "Hey Sam, I'm home!" He said sliding the patio door behind him. The kitchen was almost dark, except for the light above the sink. He saw a plate of food sitting on the counter, alongside a note.


I went out for a run, there's some left over beef roast for you, just pop it in the microwave, I'll be home soon.



It was pitch black outside. He hated when she went off and did that. He knew she was a cop and was trained for any sudden surprises, but she was also his fiance, and her being out alone, in the dark really irritated him. He thought about trying to go out and find her, but he knew that'd be next to impossible.

He grabbed the plate and thrust it into the microwave. When it was sufficiently scorched he sat down at the table and perused the mail. Most of it was political junk mail. But there was also the phone bill and the electric bill, plus his weekly edition of Sports Illustrated. He started to read the magazine, brushing the other stuff aside, when the screened patio door slid open and a exhausted Rita stepped inside.

"Hey, I thought I'd beat you home," she said panting a little.

"I just got here about ten minutes ago," he said glancing up from the article he was reading, while shoveling some food in his mouth.

"I'm just gonna grab a shower then, kay?" she said walking past him. He surprised her by reaching out and grabbing her as she tried to get past him. "Chris!" she said a little amazed. He leaned in and kissed her cheek. "Chris, I need a shower!" she said, squirming out of his embrace.

"I need you," he said, reaching in for another kiss.

"I'm all sweaty," she said.

"I am too, NOT," he said, "but that's ok, I'll just grab another shower too."

"No, you just finish your dinner, I'll be back in a couple of minutes," she said, standing up.

He watched her walk away.

She was right, in a few minutes she came back, wearing a pair of jeans and one of Chris' many Michigan sweatshirts. She went to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water. "So who won the game?" she asked.

"I think we declared it a draw. Two old guys playing like two old guys you know, it's not much of a contest," he said closing the magazine.

"Oh, you're not so old," she said, running her hand through his hair as she sat down in the chair beside him.

Neither one of them said anything. Silence overtook them both. Rita had her head down. Chris watched her momentarily and then began to speak. "Did you give any more thought to Thanksgiving yet?" he asked softly.

Her head perked up right away. "Why?" she asked.

He kind of smiled at her, "well we had three invitations today. Cap and Franny, Geoff and Connie and Daniel and Susan have all invited us over. And according to Cap, you said that we're having Benny come down?" He stopped right there.

Rita had an angry glare going as she twisted off the water bottle cap and took a long drink. "No, I said he might be, but I really haven't had time to think about it yet," she said shortly.

He watched her minor outburst and wanted to say something, she noticed it and dropped her chin as if to ask him, 'what Chris, what?' He held up his hand, bit his lip and drew his hand over his mouth, "Nothing, whatever, it's not brain surgery though, you either want to go or not," he said, opening his magazine back up and acting as if he was reading. Rita got up and went outside onto the patio.

There they were, so close, and yet so far away from each other right then. He couldn't stand it anymore. He got up and went to the screen door. Staying inside he began to speak to her quietly. He knew she could hear him. "Rita, whatever it is, whatever's bothering you, I'm here, I'll listen and I'll find a way to understand." He just couldn't bring himself to talk about the baby. He didn't want to hurt or lose her either.

She didn't respond, so he turned and went off to bed.


Her moodiness continued. And now, Chris, rather than continuing to confront it, just decided to ignore it, hoping maybe it would all just blow away. It didn't.

At work, Geoff and Connie found out that they'd be able to become little Joey's foster parents. As soon as he overcame his crack addiction, they'd be able to take him home. In the meantime, Rita continued to go visit him daily. A few times she took Diana with her. Tre even tagged along during one lunch period. Diana and Tre had also started going to see Daniel for a few sessions and Tre had requested and been granted a transfer out of vice. In the interim, he was assigned to the Metro Drug Unit. They both seemed a lot happier.

The caseload continued to be heavy. One evening, Rita and Geoff were heading out to pick up a suspect. They had received a tip that he was holed up in a dingy apartment on the outskirts of town. One of Geoff's informants had spotted him in the neighborhood at a convenience store, buying some groceries. They decided to pick him up for questioning. Chris was occupied in interrogation of another witness in another case.

It was dark outside as Rita pulled up the unmarked squad car to the front of the building. The place looked like it should be abandoned. A few lights twinkled from the windows. They both got out and headed inside. What was about to happen would leave a lasting impression on both of them.

They got to the apartment and knocked. Geoff identified them as police officers and asked for the door to open up. They both heard some scrambling coming from inside, so Geoff kicked the door in and entered. The suspect stood in the room, holding a young woman in front of him with a gun.

"Put it down, now," Geoff said with his gun trained on the man. Whether he was going to shoot Geoff or give up the gun was unclear. The woman somehow managed to get control of the gun, as Geoff instinctively shot and wounded the man. The woman now trained the gun on Geoff and shot, as Rita came in and shot the woman dead. Geoff lay writhing on the ground, clutching his leg, where he had been shot. Rita quickly handcuffed the man, checked on the woman and retrieved the weapon. She went to the phone and called for backup and two ambulances.

They were on their way to the hospital, when Chris heard the call on his radio. He had been on his way home. He knew that the unit number was Rita and Geoff. He headed toward the hospital, fearing the worst.

He ran in from the parking lot to the emergency room and spotted Rita sitting in a chair. His racing heart began it's descent back to normal beating and slid back up from the pit of his stomach to its normal place. When it started beating regularly again , he really wasn't sure. People moved by him in a blur as he reached Rita and pulled her up into a hug. "I heard the call on the radio, on my way home, you ok Sam?" he asked.

"Yeah, it's Geoff, he got shot in the leg, it's pretty bad, they're gonna take him to surgery just as soon as Connie gets here," she explained pulling back and sitting down. He sat down beside her. That silence was back again.

"Did a doctor check you out Sam," Chris said.

"Nothing happened to me Chris. I let Geoff go in first, which was stupid," she began, "he shot the suspect, then this woman hostage grabbed the gun and shot him and I shot the woman. We should have been a little more cautious. Now we've got another dead Mother and who knows how bad Geoff is?" she said, confusing Chris.

"What are you talking about? Who's a dead Mother?" he said.

"I mean a dead women," she said changing her wording. Chris instantly started to worry about her.

"I think I better take you home," he said, "come on!"

"No, we have to wait and talk to Connie, please Chris?" she said.

He reluctantly nodded. They waited in silence.


Rita seemed to bounce back a little to her usual self. In the next few days that passed they found out that Geoff was going to be ok, though he'd have a long road to complete recovery. And one more homicide case was solved and put to rest. Tre finally got assigned to homicide. It was a temporary assignment, till Geoff would come back, but there was hope that he'd be permanently assigned sometime soon down the road.

Something still bugged her, ate away at her and both Chris and Rita tried to avoid the subject of Thanksgiving. The mood between them was strained at times to say the least.


She came home from work to find him outside in the garage. There was such a silence between them, there had been for practically weeks now. Neither one knew what it was about or why their was such a lack of communication.

"Whatcha doing?" she asked walking into the dark and moody garage. The sun had set a few hours ago already, so the only light came from a dim work bulb that hung from the ceiling. Shadows and darkness filled every spot in the cool structure. She noticed he was putting on a pair of boxing gloves. He just looked up at her. She scanned the garage and saw his heavy bag hanging down from the rafter. "Ah, I was wondering when and where you were gonna find a spot for that," she tried to add happily.

"I figured it'd be ok out here, and we can still fit in a car if we want too. Is it ok with you?" he asked, pulling the glove string tight in his mouth.

"Yeah, it's fine," she said, walking over to it and tapping it gently. "So, your own personal gym huh?"

"Something like that," he said, coming over to it, taking a few warm up shots at it. She got the feeling he wasn't in the mood to talk, so she began to walk away, heading toward the house. She stopped when she stepped out of the garage and turned to see him smacking the daylights out of the bag already. The noise was deafening. He was prowling around the bag, stalking it and beating it madly. She took a few steps back inside. He caught her out of the corner of his eye and grabbed the bag. "Was there something you wanted?" he asked.

She shook her head and went into the house. She changed into some jeans and a sweatshirt and headed back into the kitchen. Throughout the house she could hear the thumping that Chris was delivering to that poor punching bag. She was glad it was just a bag. It was nearly an hour later and he hadn't let up. The noise was really starting to get to her, plus what would the neighbors be thinking. She headed back outside. As she did, the thumping stopped. She peered in the garage to see Chris leaning against the old workbench, which had been left in there by the previous owners. He gulped down a bottle of water.

"Are you just about through?" she asked.

Startled by her presence he quickly turned and saw her shadow. The light from the kitchen glowed around her. "No, actually, I'm just taking a break," he said, turning back and staring at the ground.

She walked in the garage. The scent of heavy perspiration hung in the air. He had to be exhausted. "Wouldn't it just be easier to talk about it?" she said.

He set down the water bottle and went back to the bag, "it would be if I knew what was bothering you," he said, beginning his tirade with the heavy bag all over again.

"Chris, we do have neighbors, don't you think you've done this long enough for tonight," she said, trying to change the subject.

He rubbed the sweat off his forehead with the back of his arm, "see, there you go again, changing the subject," he said bashing the bag.

She stepped in even closer. "No, this isn't about me, it's about you. What is it that's eating at you?"

He stopped and went back to grab his water bottle, "Fine, you wanna know what's bugging me, I'll tell you. For starters, this whole Thanksgiving thing is bugging me. You avoid the whole subject, you keep telling me you're thinking about it. You get upset or angry or distant whenever I bring it up," he began, "Look Sam, all I wanna do is invite my Pop down. He's been through a lot this year and he's been really good to both of us, I'm really thankful for that. I thought you'd be too. I don't think it's that big a deal, but it'd mean a lot to me. And beside that, all these other people are asking us over too. Is it so hard to make up your mind?"

"Fine Chris, invite him down, I'll roast a turkey and we'll be a happy family, was that so hard," she stated coolly. She began to head back toward the house.

He followed behind her and grabbed her, she tried to shake him off, "No, nah, see that's it, that's what I'm talking about. You don't want to do this, do you? Why? I can't figure it out. And you're just shutting me out. What is this, I don't understand Sam," he said. "I've been waiting for nearly two weeks for you to say something. Am I that hard to talk too, do I need to listen better, what's up?"

She knew he had her there. She calmed herself within, "Look, I'm sorry, it's been a long day, we'll invite your Dad, ok," she said a bit more pleasantly. He wasn't buying it, plus he had all the other issues in mind that Thanksgiving Day offered, and she still avoided telling him what was bothering her. "What Chris, what now?" she asked.

"My Mom's gonna be in town then too, I've been afraid to tell you," he began, "she wants to come over too," Rita shook her head.

"And you're first mentioning it now?" she asked appalled. "Ok, so, your Mom and your Dad will be here, this oughta be fun," she said, her voice filled with sarcasm.

"Robert will be with her," he answered.

"Dinner for five, ok," she calmly replied. "Is Benny bringing anyone?"

Now Chris was getting a little upset. He turned away from her.

"I'm sorry Chris," she said, seeing how much she hurt him. That's the last thing she wanted to do, "that was very rude of me."

He turned back around. "I was thinking that there's also Cap and Fran, they really wanted us to come by their house, but I thought since we'd be hosting five, why not seven?"

She let out a puff of air, "Let's not stop there," she said becoming agitated again.

"Ok, good," he shot back, "cuz I think we should also invite Daniel, Susan and Melanie too, maybe even Tre and Diana," he said.

"And what about Geoff and Connie and all their kids," Rita added.

"I think that would be great," Chris said seriously, knowing that Rita was being sarcastic.

Rita was so angry she couldn't even respond at first. "Fine Chris, you go right ahead and invite the whole world if that's what you want and be thankful for it till you're blue in the face ok, just count me out," she said storming off into the darkness.

He watched her meltdown. He had no clue as to what was eating away at her and no way to find out what Thanksgiving Day ever did to her to turn her into this moody, volatile woman that he barely recognized, unless she wanted to tell him. He went back to the heavy bag and smashed at it for a little while longer.

He couldn't even do that anymore. He held the image of her holding that little baby boy in the hospital. She never came out and said anything about it. Now with Geoff and Connie's offer to become the foster parents to the little guy, it was almost as if she wiped it from her mind. It was the only thing he could think of that would be eating away at her. And the fact that the baby's mother had died as well as the woman that Rita had shot and killed in self defense. He knew how she felt about being a foster child herself. She lived with those memories and feelings day in and day out. She never felt very thankful about that. It had to be that baby. He took a few more shots at the bag and then headed out to find her.


She had gone somewhere on foot. He figured he'd try the beach first. Even though it was dark, he already knew that was where she'd be. Every since they moved in, hec, before they even had bought the house, she had fallen in love with the beach that was so close by. Sometimes he thought that's why she really wanted this particular house. A light, cool breeze blew threw the sweaty t-shirt he wore. It gave him a chill. Damn, Rita, he thought for a brief minute, hell, damn himself for going off to chase after her before properly cooling down himself, or grabbing a sweatshirt or jacket. He made out her figure sitting close to the shoreline, knees up, hugged tightly by her arms. He shook his head as he watched her. He lightly jogged over to where she sat. He dropped to the sand beside her and gave her closest kneecap a little squeeze. "You interrupted my workout," he said pleasantly, almost as if to say, 'I'm sorry.'

"You're interrupting my space," she fired back, ignoring his sentiment.

He pulled his hand back quickly and held it up, "Sorry," he paused, "and I was just kidding," he added, trying to lighten up the mood.

"And I wasn't," she answered back, staring straight ahead.

"Then I'll leave you alone," he said starting to get back up.

She knew she was out of line. "Chris?" she called out.

"Yeah?" he answered, waiting.

"How'd you know I was here?" she asked.

He blinked his eyes and looked at her puzzled. He thought about his answer momentarily, "Cuz I know you," he said. "This is like your favorite place, right?"

"You think so huh?" she asked. He had walked back toward her and stood beside her.

He nodded. "Yeah on both accounts." The silence between them expanded. "Look, I'm gonna head back to the house, grab a shower, just be careful out here ok?" he said with love and care in his voice. "Maybe we can talk later," he added. He began to walk away. He didn't want to force her into telling him, and he didn't know how to get her to talk to him anyway.

"Chris?" she called out again, turning in the sand to see him.

He stopped and spun around, "Yeah?" he said.

"I need to tell you something," she said, not able to hold eye contact with him.

"Now?" he asked.

She nodded this time. Why was this so hard for her to talk about, this was Chris, she could tell him anything, he always understood. It was time to stop being afraid and time to start being truthful.

He saw her nod faintly and walked back and sat crosslegged beside her once again. He dropped his head and waited for her to begin. She didn't know how to start or where to even begin to tell him.

There was that deafening silence again. The sound of the tide rolling in was as loud as thunder. He couldn't stand her quiet demeanor any longer. "It's that baby isn't it?" he said.

"What baby?" she asked.

"Joey," he said softly.

"What about him?" she wondered.

"Come on Sam, I can see it in your eyes, from the minute you saw him and held him in the hospital, I could tell that you wanted to keep him. I just don't understand why you've taken so long to even talk about it."

"Chris, what are you talking about?" she interrupted him.

"I thought," he paused and stumbled a bit, "that you wanted us to adopt the baby right? And you just don't know how to tell me?" he answered.

"Where did you come up with that?" she said. "I'm not ready to be a parent yet, and neither are you," she paused, "we're not even married yet," she said looking straight into his eyes, waiting for him to explain.

"I just thought," he started to say, "I don't know what I thought," he exhaled, "I didn't know how to tell you that I wasn't ready yet either. When you told me that you didn't want to hurt me or to lose me, I thought it had to do with the baby. You've been so distant now, it seems like ever since that night with the baby. I don't know what to say or what to do, and you get upset everytime I bring up Thanksgiving, I guess I figured it had something to do with you thinking about the kid being without parents and you being without parents," he said, his voice trailing off. "You didn't seem too crazy about Geoff and Connie taking him in, and now with Geoff," he stopped looking at her and stared off into the ocean. "Now, I'm not even letting you tell me, I'm sorry Sam," he added.

Now she felt really terrible. She leaned over and hugged his arm. He turned his head a little. "What did I ever do to deserve you?" she asked.

"I think that's the other way around," he replied. She gave him the look for interrupting him again, especially after interrupting her a second time. "I'm sorry, go ahead," he said.

"It's not you at all Chris, it's me. I never told anyone this before. It has to do with Thanksgiving and me," she started. He reached down and grabbed her hand between the two of his. "My Mom died on Thanksgiving Day," she practically blurted out.

"Ah," he sighed, "God Sam," Chris shook his head, "I didn't know," he added, "I'm sorry." He pulled her close to him and drapped his arm around her shoulder and rocked her a little. She felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off her. "You shoulda told me, ah Sammy," he said softly. "I've been such a jerk," he started, "for years. I'm sorry."

"When I was with the Lance's, we always celebrated Thanksgiving, all the holidays, you know how I love them?" she said with a smile.

"I know, we still have Halloween Decorations up, remember?" he said.

Another look from her was headed in his direction. "Thanksgiving was one of the best," she began, "I loved everything about it, the food was wonderful! I got to help my Mom all the time, baking pies and mashing potatoes. I even said a special prayer, I learned in school." She paused and was quiet. "And I was so thankful that Tom and Sue took me in, and Michael too, later on. We were like a family," she explained.

"I'm not following this then Sammy, you haven't liked Thanksgiving since I've known you," he said. "What happened?"

"I never knew much about my Mom, Chris. My Dad never really told me, and I was so little too. Tom and Sue never knew that much about either one of my parents. Sue told me as much as she knew, especially when I got older, when finding out really mattered," Rita explained.

"So she told you about your Mom then? When you got older?" Chris asked.

"No, see, I never understood this, I don't know why she never told me. I didn't find out till after they died in the car crash. I had to go through all their stuff, Michael wasn't around. And I came across some articles from the newspaper," she suddenly stopped talking.

"Rita?" Chris could feel her emotion growing. "What is it? What did the article say?" he asked.

She sniffled and his hand reached up to the back of her head, hoping to console her in some way. This had to be something horrible for her to have this kind of reaction. "Ahhh," he took a deep breath, "It's ok, Rita, you tell me whenever you want, I understand," he said, not really knowing if what he was saying was what she needed to hear.

"It said she was indigint, that she was an alcoholic on a binge, for days she was a Jane Doe. My Dad finally identified her, nearly a week later," she said.

Chris closed his eyes and held her tightly. Why did Rita have to go through such terrible things, all alone most of the time. He never wanted her to feel that way again. "I wish you would have told me sooner," he whispered in her ear, "years ago, you shouldn't have had to go through this alone Sammy," he continued softly. "I'm so sorry," he added.

She was crying uncontrollably now, he gently rocked her and held her tightly. He kissed the top of her head over and over, trying to calm her. "I wanted to tell you for years, Chris, I just," her voice cut off. "I think I was ashamed, I just wanted to forget it, my Father committed suicide and my Mother was a drunk. Why would anyone want to get mixed up with me?"

"Hey, you're talking to 'pass the kid' here, remember?" he tried to lighten the mood. "I can't even imagine it Rita, what you've been through, and I've been such a jerk lately, bugging you with Thanksgiving. I didn't even think about you, I was being selfish," he said. "And besides, that's your parents, that's not you. I wouldn't ever judge you based on them. I love you. You're filled with so much love Rita, it overwhelms me, I wonder if I can ever give you all the love you deserve in return. You're funny, smart, gentle, kind, caring," he paused, "oh and sexy too," he added grinning. "The way I see it, the only thing you got from you're biological parents, is your life, and to me that's all I need. Cuz you are definitely a keeper, you're perfect in every way for me," he explained, turning her face and tapping her nose, just before he leaned in for a kiss. "You thought that you'd lose me or hurt me by telling me didn't you?" he said, realizing where that all stemmed from now.

She nodded. "Rita, I love you, there's nothing you could ever do or say to make me leave you," he said, pulling her close again.

They sat there holding each other for a long time. "Can I tell you more?" she said quietly.

"If you want too," he said.

"Daddy always told me that my Mom died when I was born, so I thought that meant in childbirth. And Tom and Sue never told me anything different either. I was actually nearly six months old when she died. According to the newspaper articles, I was in the hospital at the time, I had developed pneumonia. Daddy was with me. He didn't know where my Mom was, apparently she had been gone for several months already. So when they found her, Daddy hadn't seen the paper, since he was with me, day and night. All he ever told me about her was that she was beautiful, and she was an angel watching over me, up in heaven," Rita explained.

"You don't know how they met or anything?" Chris asked.

"He never told me, but they were married, I still have their marriage certificate," she said.

"Did the articles say what happened to her or anything?" he asked, a little curious, but not wanting to open up a new wave of sadness.

"She," her voice started out shaky.

"Rita, it's alright, you don't have to tell me," Chris interrupted.

"No," she said, gaining strength, "I have too and I want too and I need too," she began, taking in a deep breath. "She was so young, just 18, like I said, she was drunk that night, according to the report. I guess someone felt sorry for her on Thanksgiving Day and either gave her some money or some bottles. That night she stumbled into a phone booth and tried to call for help. She got the police, but when they arrived they found her in the booth, slumped over, she had choked to death on her own vomit. She had no id, no driver's license, nothing, but the clothes she wore. When Daddy finally identified her, he said that she had left him and me right after they brought me home from the hospital. She was scared that she was so young, she didn't know how to raise a baby. He tried to find her, but she seemed to just vanish. Her parents were dead and she had no siblings. He didn't know where to even look for her, other than the spots that he knew from them being together. After a month, he gave up, he filed a missing person report and went on with his life. He had a new business that was just starting and a baby to take care of," she paused, "that's all it really said."

"That's why you volunteer at Night Moves, isn't it?" She nodded. "You're helping people like your Mom?"

"And that's why when I have to deal with people like Kerrie and Joey, and the lady I shot, I die a little bit inside. It's like happening all over again," she explained.

"Joey's got a good chance now," Chris was quick to interject.

"He won't be with Geoff and Connie though," she said.

"You don't know that," he added in return.

"Chris, they've already got a houseful of foster children. And now with him being shot, who knows how long he'll be out for. I just thank God he's gonna be alright. Joey needs to be adopted. He just needs a chance," she said sadly.

"He'll get one," he said confidently.

"I hope so," she answered.

They sat there awhile longer listening to the waves roll in and out, and taking with it, their problems.


Chris dropped the whole Thanksgiving plan. He let everyone know that he and Rita were not going anywhere, nor were they planning to have anyone over. Without going into a long explanation with anyone, he just told them all that it was personal and that he apologized for ruining a lot of people's plans. And he asked them all to not say anything to Rita about it at all.

It was a cool, gray Thanksgiving morning. Chris woke up first and saw that Rita was still sleeping. It was the first time in weeks that she had gotten some sleep. It certainly was something for him to be thankful for. He kissed her forehead and decided to go for a run.

The beach was empty as warmed up and stretched out a little in the sand. He started to run and kept on running for nearly two hours. By now it was nearly ten am, and he remembered hearing the touch football league talking about playing the 'turkey bowl' around eleven at the park near his house. He started to walk over, stopping at the neighborhood Quick Mart for a cup of coffee. By the time he got to the field, he saw Daniel and a few of the other guys tossing around the football. He started playing catch with them. Before long, enough guys showed up and the game got underway.

At 1:30pm, the game broke up and Chris decided he better walk home. He could always just get the Jeep and maybe drive into the office and do some paperwork, there was plenty of that to catch up on. He wanted Rita to have the space she needed.

He opted to go in the front door, the coast was clear, Rita wasn't in the living room. He headed down the hallway to the bedroom, grabbing some clean clothes on his way to the bathroom. He needed a quick shower. When he came out, he glanced out the window to see that the sun had come out, it was turning into a gorgeous day in South Florida. He almost thought he could smell pumpkin pie too. Must be the neighbors he thought. He grabbed his keys off the dresser and started down the hall, combing his hair.

Out of nowhere, Melanie came bounding up to his legs, squeezing them and preventing him from moving. "Squirt, what are you doing here?" he asked.

"It's Tankgivin, Chrwis," she said.

"Yep, I know it's Thanksgiving," he said picking her up, so he could walk. When he got to the living room, he saw Daniel. "Daniel?" he said, wanting to ask him what he was doing there.

"Hey, Chris, I need to use one of your showers ok? I brought some clean clothes, can I just grab a towel, alright?" he asked still wearing the football clothes he had on from the game.

"Um, yeah, I guess," Chris said awkwardly, "does Rita know you're here?" he said glancing around.

Daniel was already brushing past him and all but ignored the question. "Hey big guy, where ya been, Happy Thanksgiving Son," Benny's familiar voice proclaimed, coming from the kitchen.

"Pop?" Chris asked stunned, setting Melanie on the ground, as Benny engulfed him in a bear hug.

"Yeah, it's me, great day isn't it?" Benny replied.

"Pop, what are you doing here?" he asked just as the there was a knock at the front door, "and where's Rita?" He walked over to answer it. As he opened the door, Harry and Fran stood holding, quite possibly, the world's largest turkey that Chris had ever seen. He was speechless.

"Happy Thanksgiving kid," Cap was saying, as Franny pushed past him on the way to the kitchen. Harry followed close behind. He followed them into the kitchen and saw Susan busily cooking at their stove. Just then, the sliding door to the patio slid open, as Connie pushed Geoff in, in a wheelchair. Their six children followed in behind, all carrying mounds and plates of food.

Everyone started doing something, taking control. Daniel came strolling in and he began to help Harry and Benny set up some extra tables and chairs. The doorbell was ringing again.

"Does anyone know where Rita is?" Chris asked. The crowd just kept going about their duties. He went to answer the front door. It was too late, Rita had beaten him to it. She opened it to Ana and Robert.

Ana greeted her with a warm hug and a very loving, "Happy Thanksgiving, Rita, love, I'm so glad this all worked out. I really wanted to see the both of you," she added glancing over to see Chris, giving him a little wave. Robert came in behind, carrying a case of wine to go with the upcoming dinner.

Before Rita could close the door, Michael, her step brother came strolling up, also carrying some food. Rita gave him a big hug and kiss and welcomed him into their home. "It's just like the good 'ole days sis, with Tom and Sue, thanks for asking me," he said.

"I'm glad you could make it," she answered.

Chris now was greeting his Mother. "Mom, just what is going on? I called you on this last week," he began.

"It's Thanksgiving Christopher, that's what's going on, Rita called back and told us everything was on, so here we are," she said smiling up a storm.

Rita took it all in and said to Chris, "Now I know where that grin of yours comes from."

He shot a look back in her direction, trying to get closer to her was next to impossible. Their modest living room was filled with seven children and several tables and various mismatched chairs, along with about eight additional adults. It was just like Grandma Rose's Thanksgiving's, Chris thought. People moved in from room to room, setting the tables, placing food on the tables, pouring wine into glasses, lighting candles, laughing, talking and sharing their love.

Chris finally made his way over to her. She looked so happy, so content, so at peace. "Sam, you did all this, didn't you?" he asked, hugging her close and tenderly giving her a kiss. "Are you ok?" he whispered.

"Yep, I'm fine," she said with a smile and a returning kiss. "I realized that I am thankful for everyone of these people in my life, they're my family now. Most of all, I'm thankful for you, and it's about time I started showing it," she explained. "I'm not gonna live in the past anymore. I love you, Chris."

"I can't believe you pulled this off, I'm in shock," he said, watching the movement around him, the love that filled their home. "I love you so much Sam," he added. "But you promised me no surprises, or did you forget already?"

"I didn't think you'd mind," Rita said, kissing him back.

"Actually, I don't. I love it, thank you," he said, kissing her again.

Well, now I realize how much Thanksgiving means to you, and to me, we're gonna do this every year, promise?" she said.

"Absolutely, done deal!" he said happily.

People were beginning to sit down at the tables, when one last final knock came at their front door. Together they went to answer it. Standing before them this time were, Tre, Diana and little Joey. Both Chris and Rita were a bit surprised by this.

"Come on in," Rita said, ushering them into their home.

Everyone stopped to see the three of them. A bit of a hush fell over them all. Diana started to talk. "Happy Thanksgiving everyone, Tre and I have got some news," she said, holding up her hand to expose the wedding ring on her finger.

"We got married yesterday," Tre said.

A chorus of 'oooh's' and 'aaahh's' went up. Rita went to give Diana a hug, followed by Chris, who also shook Tre's hand.

"And, we're gonna try to adopt Joey," Diana said.

"Right now, we're his foster parents," Tre added.

Most of the women had tears coming from their eyes. Everyone started hugging and kissing. Chris couldn't have scripted a better Thanksgiving if he tried.

They all sat down around the tables, holding hands. Cap looked down to Chris and said, "How 'bout it Chris, will you say the blessing?"

Chris gazed around the table at everyone, finally coming around to Rita, who sat beside him. "I've already said mine, and it's been granted," he paused, "you're all here," he said sincerely, "but, I think Rita has a prayer," he said, squeezing her hand and smiling.

She smiled back at him and began remembering the childhood prayer she learned, "We gather together, to ask the Lord's blessing...."


The End.


copyright November 1998

Special thanks again to Lisa & Linda for posting my stories!

The cast that we all know and love....Chris, Rita, Harry, Franny, Benny, Ana, Robert, Diana, Michael, Grandma Rose and Debra Bouchard all belong to Stephen J. Cannell and Stu Segall. No infringement is intended.


The other crazy people, Daniel, Susan, Melanie, Tre, Geoff, Connie, Jacob, Tommy, Annie, Lydia, Peter, Zachary, Kerrie, Joey, Darryl, Commander Hess, Dr. Messina, the two paramedics and the nursing staff are all my little creations. Hope you like 'em like I do!

Brett Favre is a 3 time MVP... GO PACKERS!

Ronnie Howard and Opie are used without permission...but I loved that little guy. It was a Desi-lu production.


I apologize ahead of time for any irregularities concerning babies that are born addicted to crack. I don't know what exactly this is by no means medically accurate.

Thanks to everyone who continues to read these little ditties and reply. It makes my day! Keep the comments coming! Especially the initials, S, J, T, all know who ya are!

Write to me at


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