Let There Be Light

This story is more about the relationship that Chris and Rita have together, I always wondered what would happen between these two if they had a serious argument, and didn't give in, apologize to each other and make up as quickly as they did in a couple of scenes from "In Too Deep" and "Lonely Hunter."  Plus I started writing it around Christmas time during a snow storm of sorts.  The only crime in here is that this story can't go on forever.

"That's settled then," Cap growled, "Lorenzo go home and pack, your plane to Minneapolis leaves at 5 PM, don't be late, get going."  Chris looked at Rita sitting next to him, she kept her head and her eyes looking straight ahead, refusing to make eye contact with him.  He glanced back at Cap, who was sifting through papers on his desk, then back to Rita for one last chance, but nothing was going to give here.  Chris defiantly stood up and said.  "Yes sir, if you need me, you can beep."  With that he walked out of the room and out of the station.  Cap glanced up at Rita, who remained sitting, "Is there something else Lance?" he questioned.  She sat quiet for a moment, appearing to have something to say, but then stood up and said, "No sir."  "Good, you've got plenty of paper work to do, I suggest you get to it."  She nodded and left his office.

As Chris drove to the loft, he was angry.  He kept shaking his head, wondering how he and his partner had somehow traveled down the wrong path.  Over the past 5 years they had gotten to be great friends, now too, they were lovers.  Maybe it all stemmed from that change, he thought.  He just didn't understand, man could she be stubborn, what did he do to set her off?  He shook his head and sighed.  Whatever, he thought, it was done now, and maybe it was to late to fix things.  Anger and emptiness filled his heart.

Chris and females, Rita thought, sitting at her desk, pretending to be absorbed in piles of paperwork.  Whether it was a suspect, a victim, a coworker or just a pretty skirt on the street, boy his first plan of action was always the same....charm, charm, charm!  It was so aggravating.  She tapped her pen absentmindedly, thinking about him more.  This time it wasn't jealousy.  She knew things had changed between them, they had crossed the line, and she knew that being jealous was foolish, she trusted Chris.  But this, it was different,  it was out of line and she knew she had to draw it.

One week to go to Christmas, what a waste, Chris thought.  He  didn't know if he'd be back in time for the big holiday.  Two days ago he really looked forward to it, it would have been his and Rita's first Christmas together since they fell in love.  He wanted it to be special.  Now it would just be another day,  5 billion miles away, in Minnesota of all places.  Thinking about it now, it didn't really matter, things between them were through.  He had tried, God knew he had, but she, well Rita just seemed to give up.

Rita got up and poured herself some coffee.  So much for all the plans she and Chris had made for Christmas.  They were going to pick out a Christmas Tree together and decorate it, now she'd be alone again, like so many other Christmas's.  She never would get used to that.  But maybe, she thought, being alone would be better, it hurt too much to care.

Five days earlier Rita had gone to Miami to testify during a murder trial.  She had worked the case undercover and now it had finally gone to court.  Cases were slow in Palm Beach, Chris had  mountains of paperwork to get through, and though they'd both be lonely, they decided together it would be better if Rita stayed in Miami for the duration of the trial.  They were still trying to keep their relationship low profile and at most she'd only be gone 4 or 5 days.

Chris was already going nuts, and it was only 11 am on the first day.  He beeped Rita at 9:30 am and she had called in at 10 am, during the first break in trial.  Just hearing her voice picked him up a little.  She told him that this was going to be crazy if he kept calling every couple of hours.  He smiled to himself as he made a mental note to call her again at noon.  It was the only way he could think about getting through these few days without her physically with him.

 "Lorenzo, in my office now," Cap bellowed from his doorway.  Chris looked up and said, "yeah, coming Cap."  Chris got up, and paused, then decided to beep Rita again.  He grinned as he dialed up the number.  Then he casually walked into the Cap's office.  "What's up, Cap?"  "Close the door Lorenzo, sit down."  Chris obliged and slipped into the chair.  "How much do you know about this Homicide Benchmark thing that Rita has been working on?"  This came from left field, Chris thought, thinking the closed door topic would be about one of Harry's personal health matters or a hush-hush homicide.  "A little, I've helped her out in a couple of areas, but she's really the brains behind that whole thing, why?" Chris replied.   "This is why," Cap said thrusting a manila folder at Chris.  Chris opened it up and scanned the paper inside.  "So who is Lt. Kate Hansen?"  "I'm so glad you asked Lorenzo," Cap said sarcastically.  Chris tilted his head to acknowledge the humor and waited for the Cap's serious reply.  "She's from Minneapolis PD, said she read about it from Lance's web page?"  "Rita has a web page?" Chris asked in shock.  "That was my response Lorenzo.  It surprised me too, and here I thought I knew the two of you pretty well.  I figured you would know about it though, you tell each other everything, you may as well be married to each other ?" Cap asked him.  "It's news to me, Cap, you know, it's not like we live together or anything," he added with a smile, that only he understood.  "You know she gets into all that extra work, doing more on her own time, coming up with easier ways to work for the rest of us."  Chris said smiling.  "Maybe you should take a lesson Lorenzo," Cap commented.  "I'll think about it," Chris started, "in about 25 years."  "Very funny," Cap replied, "but now here's the situation.  This Lt. Hansen is coming here in about 4 hours."  "But Rita's not here," Chris started. "No, but you are Lorenzo, and she's only here for two days, Lance probably won't be back in time, so you need to  show her around town, dig out Rita's files, talk about some homicides and get her the hell out of Palm Beach, happy and informed, okay?"  Chris shook his head in disagreement and squirmed in his seat.  "Cap, I don't feel right about this, it's Rita's baby, she oughta be doing this.  And she knows a lot more about it anyway."  "Listen, Hansen is already on her way, I know what you're saying, but it's over my head, I got my orders, now you've got yours.  Besides you're not working on a case.  Your time is free."  Chris kept trying, "Cap, I have got all that paperwork to catch up on, remember this mornings order?"  "Overruled Lorenzo, you can do better than the paperwork excuse."  Chris scowled.  "What am I supposed to tell Rita?"  Cap smiled before he replied, "Ask her what her web page address is!"

Chris came out of Cap's office with a scowl on his face.  Homicide Benchmarks, he thought, why did she even want to take this on.  He already knew the answer.  Rita Lee Lance was full of ambition.  She didn't always want to be a police homicide detective.  She wanted to run the whole damn department.  This was just her most recent foray into putting some more commendations and notarizations in her already bulging personnel file.  Now all he needed to know was where she kept all her information.  He began to rummage through her desk.  Boy he felt real sleazy.  They never invaded each others space, it was one of their little unspoken, yet always abided rules.  He remembered one time when they were working on a case concerning the death of his former partner Lem, Rita had taken a look at Chris' personnel file, though she didn't see anything, he remembered how upset he'd gotten with this invasion of his privacy.  He also recalled when everyone thought Rita had been killed, that he had to go through so many of her personal things.  He hated that, it was like invading her.  That almost was harder to do, than accepting that she had died.  And now, here he was again.  He took a deep breath and scanned the files on her desk.

Then the phone on his desk started to ring, he got up and went to pick it up, "Yeah, Lorenzo," he stated.  "Chris, I thought we agreed, you weren't going to do this anymore, I am in the middle of this trial.  You know you can really be a pain at times," Rita's familiar voice called out to him.  "Sam, hey that's great you called, I need your help," Chris replied forgetting that his last page had been a joke.  "So this is for real, it's not just so you could hear my voice?" She asked.  "Well, yeah, no" he explained.  "Does the Captain have some real work for you to do, you're not making any sense, and I don't have time for games," she said.  "Listen, Rita, it was a joke when I paged, but now, it's not.  I need your files on that Homicide Benchmark thing.  Can you point me in the right direction?" he asked.  Rita didn't answer right away.  "Sam, you there?" he asked.  "Yeah, I'm here, why do you need my files?" she asked back.  "There's some Lt. coming in from Minneapolis PD, like in 4 hours.  And I'm supposed to do the briefing," he began.  "Chris, you don't even know anything about that, what are you going to say," she said.  "Hell if I know, but this order came from over Lipschitz's head, I gotta do it, so can you help me out or what?"  Silence again.  "Sammy, hey, can you help?" he asked again.  "Damn," she said, "there's no way I can even get back there tonight, this trial is nuts, we're going out to the scene later."  "Rita, I can do this, just tell me where to start, this Lieutenant's  only here for like a day and a half.  That's almost five hours of meals, eight hours of sleep, and two hours of getting to and from the airport and who talks about work then?"  He heard Rita sigh heavily on the phone.  "I won't give away any trade secrets comrade," he chuckled, "I promise, and I'll take it seriously, for your sake."  "The files are at my apartment, Chris, in the desk under the phone table."  "Oh, I thought you'd have them here at the office, now I understand why I couldn't find them in the alpha file you keep," he began.  "YOU WENT THROUGH MY DESK?" she bellowed.   Chris shut his eyes and cringed.  "I didn't find anything or read anything I shouldn't have," Chris explained, "although I never knew you got a letter of commendation from the governor, really Rita, his personal signature, not a stamp, I was impressed," he tried to joke.  The voice at the other end of the phone was not laughing.  "I'm sorry Sam, you know I wouldn't have looked unless there was a pretty important reason, but I need some help here, and I promise I won't screw up.  I know how much this means to you," he said seriously.  "You better not, this is really important Chris," she paused.  "I wish I could be there."  "Believe me, I do too," he said, "And by the way how do I find your web page?"   Rita went back into the courtroom, but she couldn't fully concentrate on the proceedings, her mind was reeling from the recent phone conversation.  Why was this Lt. coming down unannounced.  Her research and report about Homicide benchmarks were still inconclusive, she had months more of research to do.  The more she thought about it the angrier she got.  Chris just wouldn't take it seriously.  He'd try, yes she knew that, but he was great at schmoozing, not at research and worse, not at explaining it.  She was interested in making cops better, from changing attitudes, policies, and the way things were always done.  She wanted to incorporate  research and technology into the department of the future.  Chris had ambitions too, she knew that, but he dealt with people, one to one, making them individually better.  For him, it was about feelings, emotions and what went on inside a persons head.  He'd make a great supervisor some day.  He cared about people and wanting to make each person better.  It was these differences and how they approached their cases that made them such a great team.  Now this, how could he even want to take this on.  Couldn't he have somehow postponed this Lieutenant's trip.  She felt like a caged animal.  The longer it festered, the madder she got.

Chris sat in the airport, armed with Rita's files, waiting for the arrival of flight 409 from Minneapolis.  He poured over handwritten notes, newspaper articles and typed research.  He was bored out of his mind.  Rita promised to beep him the minute she could take another break.  He wanted her condensed version of all this babble.  He hated paperwork.  It was school all over again.  Give him the action, the people, conversation, that was police work.  Just then his beeper went off, he looked at  the number and quickly found a phone.  Rita stood by waiting,  the phone rang, "Chris," she asked?  "Yeah it's me Sammy, how's the trial?"  "Look I've only got about ten minutes Chris, did you find the files?"  "Yeah, and I'm up to page 6," he began sarcastically, "geez Sam, how can you retain all this, and where do you find it?"  Rita was irritated, "Listen carefully Chris, here comes the abridged version, and you better be taking notes."  Chris quickly grabbed a pen and a pad and began writing down what she was saying.  He knew the time for one-liners was way gone.  He kept writing and asking as many questions as he could, man he really admired the knowledge she packed away into that fantastic looking head of hers.  "Are you listening Sam?"
Rita was asking.  "Yeah, I am, I writing as fast as I can," Chris responded.  "You know, I'm really ticked at Lipschitz for this," Rita was saying, "this is my project."  "Rita, both our hands were tied, I told you, it's over our heads."  "That's crazy, it feels like a setup, I mean who comes unannounced like that, my report isn't even near completion," she said.  "I think it was that web page Rita, how'd you do that anyway?" he asked.  "Jim Peters in communications helped me get it set up, but you know it explains in there, that the work is not finished yet," she explained.  "Yeah, I looked at it at the station, before I left, it looks great, by the way did you know my name is on there too?"  "WHAT," she asked.  "Yeah, I don't know why, maybe Peters assumed that cuz we're partners, we were on this together too, that could be the mix-up."  "Terrific, listen Chris I'm being waved back in, I gotta go, call me if you have any questions, and I'll call you later."  "Yeah, okay Rita, take care, I love you, I miss..." he added, but she had already hung up.

Before long, flight 409 was announced as an arrival.  Chris gathered up his files and casually walked toward the gate.  A tall, slender blonde woman walked right up to him, "Are you Sergeant Lorenzo?" she asked.  Chris nodded, "Lt. Hansen?" he asked extending his hand to shake hers,  "and please call me Chris. Welcome to Palm Beach," he added.  "Thanks, it sure beats the Minnie Apple in December," she said with a  warm smile of her own, "And please, call me Kate, I hate the formality, but you never know who or what is going to meet you."  Chris laughed.  Maybe this wouldn't just be a "research" project after all.

"I am on loan to you for the duration of your stay here in our warm little town," Chris began walking toward the luggage collection point.  "Hotel first, then maybe a  little dinner, how's that sound," he asked.  "Sounds great, then maybe we can even talk about the Homicide Benchmarks too."  "Sure, that's why you're here right, I tell you everything I know about it," he replied.   "Great, you know I really loved your web page.  It had a lot of useful information, and I got so interested, I knew I had to come and meet you to discuss it in person," Kate said.  Chris looked  at her and shyly smiled.  "Listen Kate, I gotta tell you the truth, right off, most of this research, heck, all of it, it's my partner's, she's down in Miami this week on a murder trial, giving testimony, but she's the brains behind it all.  I'm just pinch hitting for her.  You're only gonna get the bare essentials from me, but I'm sure she'll be glad to go into a lot more detail with you, when she's got the time," Chris explained.  "There's my luggage, would you mind grabbing it for me?" Kate asked, almost as if she didn't hear a word Chris had said.  He picked up her bag and led her out of the airport.

Chris' plan seemed to be working fairly well.  At the hotel and even through dinner, he and Kate discussed their jobs, some interesting cases and just the ups and downs of the job.  They had hardly even brought up the Homicide Benchmarks.  In fact it seemed that Kate wasn't even that interested in discussing it, each time he tried to bring it up, she would somehow manage to change the subject.  Perhaps she just was tired, wanted to just relax a little after the flight.   Kate was one of 4 supervisors in Minneapolis Homicide and while she didn't necessarily due all the leg work on cases anymore, she had certainly paid her dues on the street, four times shot in the line of duty, 18 commendations, two for saving the lives of other officers and so much more.  She was a lot like Rita, he thought, a little older and not nearly as attractive.  She knew her stuff, Rita and Kate would get along great.  Although he thought Rita was a better listener.

The trial ended at about 7:45 PM.  Actually things there seemed to be going good.  Rita's testimony portion would be done by noon tomorrow, which meant she could theoretically be back in Palm Beach by 2 or 3 PM.  Then she could get to the bottom of this Lt. Hansen thing.  She got back to her hotel, ordered some room service and decided to beep Chris.  Her dinner came and went, and he had still not returned her call.  She then tried him at the loft.  His answering machine came on, she was a little frustrated, but figured she would leave a message.  "Hey Chris, it's Rita, listen, I'm back at the hotel, we're through for the night, and I think I'll be back in town tomorrow by 2 or 3 at the latest.  How's everything going?"  she paused, "hey call me when you get in, no matter what time, I need to talk to you okay?"  She had started feeling a little guilty about treating him coldly all day.  The more she thought about it, she realized he was only trying to help, orders are orders, she knew that, now she just wanted to apologize to him and tell him how much she cared for him.

"Well, I'll take you back to the hotel and then, how about if I pick you up about 9 am tomorrow," Chris began.  "I thought maybe we could discuss the benchmarks tonight yet, for a little while," Kate replied.  Chris nodded, "Sure, there's a bar in the lobby of the hotel, how about over a drink.  We're both off duty."  Kate nodded, but then asked.  "I don't want to be forward Chris, but maybe, we could go to your house, it's not quite so formal."  "Yeah, I guess we can, I've got a bottle of wine, I guess it'll be relaxing."

Chris and Kate continued to talk, this time in more detail about the benchmarks.  Every time Kate would question Chris, he'd look to his notes and respond, also trying to impress upon Kate that this all came from Rita.  She almost seemed oblivious to it, asking him, what he meant by  such and such a point.  He didn't give it much thought though as the conversation again turned away from the benchmarks to a more personal note.  It was getting late, Chris thought, maybe he could take her home now, since they had stopped talking about homicides.

Rita had dozed off in front of the TV, they were showing one of her all time favorites, "Double Indemnity."  When she woke up, the movie was over, she looked at the clock, it was 11:44 PM and Chris still hadn't called.  Maybe he just went to bed without checking his messages, she thought, so she tried calling him again.

The phone rang in Chris' loft, Kate had excused herself to the bathroom.  Chris got up and glanced at his watch.  Geez, quarter to twelve, who's calling now?  "Yeah, Lorenzo," he said.  "Hey Sam, it's me, did I wake you up?"  Rita said.  "No, I'm still up, how's everything going?"  "Pretty good, I think I'll be back tomorrow afternoon, didn't you get my message?"  "No, I didn't check, you know I always forget."  "Well, I beeped you too, you must have been working hard with Lt. Hansen, did you just get home?"  "Not exactly," he began, "we've been here working for about 3 hours I guess."  "Did my notes help?"  "They always do," he said, "you're the best."  "You know I miss you," she started, "and I want to apologize for today too,"  "For what?" he asked.  "I just thought I was kind of rude, maybe a little mad or jealous or both, I'm sorry Chris."  "It's okay, I understand, I certainly won't steal your thunder on this, even though your research is good, actually it's great, I wouldn't mine taking the credit, I just gotta keep convincing Hansen here that it's yours."  After he said this, he realized he made a mistake, "Whattaya mean, convince?" Rita asked.  Just as she asked that, Kate came back into the main area and asked Chris for more wine.  Rita heard this through the phone.  "Chris, what's going on there?" she asked.  Chris pointed toward the bottle and stammered to Rita on the other end of the phone.  "That's Lt. Hansen, Sam, we're just finishing up for tonight."  Chris again realized he had said the wrong thing.  Rita, by now, was in shock on the other end, "Lt. Hansen is a woman?"  "Yeah, Kate Hansen, I told you that this morning!"  "Ah, no you didn't mention that Chris."  Chris turned his back to Kate and softly said, "It's not like we're making out Sam, she's a lot older than us, and no where near as attractive as you."  "Oh, so if she were younger and prettier, what would you be doing now?" Rita replied.  Chris rolled his eyes, he almost wanted to laugh, but thought better of that.  "We're working, I swear, that's it."  "Most people don't take their work to their home and discuss it over wine Chris."  Rita said.  "We always did," Chris answered seductively.  "Oh, that's a great comparison," Rita responded.  Chris was starting to get a little irritated by now, after surviving her day long wrath and now this.  It was late, and he didn't want to be doing this anyway.  "Look, Rita, I'm doing this for you, do you think I want to be doing this?"  There was a heavy silence between them.  "Well it sounds like you're doing exactly what you always want to do Chris," Rita said angrily.  Chris was stunned.  "Do you really believe that?" he asked hurtfully.  The silence was deadly.  "I don't know what to believe right now Chris,"  Rita said.   Chris tried one more time, "You know I love you and only you, why can't you trust me?"  "This is different Chris," she began to try to explain, but paused, "I can't talk anymore, I'll see you tomorrow okay?"  "Yeah," he said softly hoping to hear some hint of love in her voice.  He was dazed when he only heard the dial tone.

"Is everything okay Chris," Kate was asking him.  Chris still held the phone in his hand.  As he heard her, he quickly placed it back into the receiver.  "Yeah," he said softly, "listen why don't I take you back to the hotel now, it's getting late."  Kate nodded and the rest of the night was pretty quiet, very little conversation, Chris seemed like he was in a daze.  As he dropped her off, she asked, "Still gonna pick me up at 9 am, Chris,"  Chris looked at her sadly and said, "Yeah, I'll be here. Goodnight."  She smiled at him and closed the door and went into the hotel.  There must be more to these partners than just being partners, she thought.

Rita sat on the floor at the foot of the hotel bed.  The phone rested in front of her.  Part of her wanted desperately to call Chris back, but now she was mad all over again.  What was going on.  This whole thing seemed so strange, why did this Lt. Hansen come down with no warning and why didn't Chris bother telling her that it was a woman.  The madness won out and Rita left the phone in its cradle.

Chris got back to the loft, checked his answering machine and listened to Rita's earlier message.  Damn, he thought, why hadn't he listened to it sooner.  He was hoping she'd call again, he sat on the coach and started reaching for the phone to call her.  Then he thought he better let her cool off, she'd be back tomorrow, Kate would be gone and he and Rita could have a quiet dinner and get everything worked out.  He tried to sleep, but for some reason he kept tossing and turning all night.

The morning went by quick for both Chris and Rita and their unrelated situations.   Rita was still upset with the whole turn of events, but once again, time had begun to work its magic and heal the wounds.  She was ready to listen and give everyone and everything another chance.  It was early afternoon, almost 2 PM, when Rita got back to Palm Beach, she decided to head straight to the office, and see what was going on there.  That was the first mistake.

As she walked through the Palm Tree doors, she couldn't believe what she saw.  Some woman sat at her desk, looking at her files, very comfortably,  and behind her, and very closely leaning over her was one Detective Sergeant Christopher Lorenzo.  They both were laughing and talking, obviously enjoying each others company to the fullest.  Rita froze in her tracks, and stood observing all this.  Just then, Chris sensed her and quickly stood up and turned and looked at her.  He smiled and said, "Rita, hey you're back.  Did you come straight here?"  She walked over to her desk and angrily grabbed a file, just to have something to hold.  "Yes, I got done with testimony at noon."  Chris felt the cold front moving quickly through the room.  He cleared his throat, looked down and nodded.  "Uh, Rita, this is Lt. Kate Hansen, from Minneapolis PD, Kate this is my partner, and the sole author of Homicide Benchmarks, Sergeant Rita Lance," Chris said emphasizing Rita's total involvement with the project.  Kate stood up and put out her hand to Rita.  Rita professionally grabbed it and shook it.  "It's nice to meet you Sgt. Lance, Chris has told me so much about you and the project, I feel as if I've known you for years," Kate said.  "Well, unfortunately, I can't say the same," Rita responded coldly.

Chris could only imagine what was going through Rita's mind, what she had seen.  And he heard the anger, fear and disappointment in her voice.  He didn't know what to do.  Mistake number two loomed... "You know, this is Rita's project," Chris began, "I'll just let the two of you take it from here, use my desk or whatever you need, I'll just let you two ladies get to it."  Kate looked at Chris with a puzzled look, while Rita simply glared.  Chris simply grinned and walked out of the department,  as the palm tree doors swung behind him, he let out a deep sigh, and wondered what was coming next.

Kate tried to break the ice, not knowing at all what was going on here.  "Your partner is great, he's been really helpful, the work that you've both done is outstanding," Kate said meaning being partners and the homicides they'd worked on.  Rita took it to mean her research project.  This whole thing was avalanching out of control.  Rita decided to approach this from another angle.  "I was really surprised when Chris told me that someone was coming to town to learn more about my research.  I think you would have called first, or even perhaps e-mailed."  "Actually I did both.  I tried e-mail three or four times, but I never got a reply.  So then I went through proper channels, my head supervisor to yours," Kate responded justifying her actions.  These two were really headed in opposite directions.  "Well, what can I tell you about my report?" Rita asked.  "You know Chris has done a very good job of filling me in, I think I have a good grasp of it," Kate said.  "I bet you do," Rita answered, "and a good grasp of other things as well."  The hate between these women began to grow at atomic levels.  "You know, you're partner is a very intelligent man, I don't think you give him enough credit," Kate began, "partners are supposed to trust each other."  "It's not Sergeant Lorenzo that I don't trust," Rita said, "and I know my partner is very intelligent, I'm sure he saw right through you, why exactly did you come here, Lt. Hansen?"  For exactly the reason I told your Captain and your partner, to learn more about the Homicide Benchmarks, we're thinking about putting something similar in place in Minneapolis.  And now, I think I have learned all I'm going to need.  Please thank Chris for me," she said packing up the things she had on Rita's desk.  Rita nodded, underneath she was still fuming.  There was more to this lady than just research.  She needed to find out.

Chris came back into the office a little after 4 PM.  He had seen Kate leave about 2:30 and had gotten a taxi to take her first to her hotel and then to the airport.  What a snowstorm that lady was.  He gave himself the extra time to cool off and clear his head, and thought it would do Rita some good too.  As he walked back in, she was at her desk, sorting through files.  "Hey Sam," he said softly, "you know, I'll be glad to help you there, since I made the mess in the first place."  He was trying to get a positive reaction from her, but she was not going to budge.  The time alone had only made matters worse.  It was like a festering sore for her.  "No thanks, I think you've done enough already," she said.  Chris shook his head in disbelief at her comment.  "Rita, come on, it's just you and me, can we just talk?" he asked.  Rita continued shuffling files from one spot to another.  Chris tried again.  "How about some dinner, we can go to my place, I'm sure the Captain'll let us go now, come on, we need to talk."  Rita stopped for a moment, and looked at him.  He was very serious.  She was just angry.  "I don't think that's a good idea Chris, you know,  mixing business with pleasure at your place, and what that leads too.  That's how it all starts, remember?" she said sarcastically.  Chris closed his eyes, he couldn't stand the fire he saw coming from her green eyes.  Now he was getting mad too.  He had done nothing wrong, no improprieties here, he was given an order and he did his job, nothing else.  Why was she so bent on this whole thing.  He had never seen her act this jealous before.  "Listen Rita, I don't know why you're thinking like you are and why you're acting so crazy jealous, I don't know what else to say to you, I'm trying here, what about you?"  "You think I'm jealous, that's all?" she asked, "how can you be so arrogant?"  "Are you kidding me, that is what this whole thing is about isn't it?" Chris retorted.  Rita scoffed at him.  "You know what Chris, you don't know me at all."  By now there words had attracted the rest of the office including one Harry Lipschitz, "Lance, Lorenzo in my office now."  Chris immediately went in and sat down, Rita gathered her composure and followed behind.  "What the hell is going on with you two now?" he asked.  "I'm not really sure Cap," Chris said.  Lipschitz glared at Rita waiting for her response.  "I'm waiting Lance." he said.  "I guess I'm just being jealous, right?" Rita said throwing a look at Chris.  Chris angrily chuckled out loud in disbelief.  "Would you two like me to leave so you can settle this privately in here?"  Cap stood by waiting for a response.  "Actually Cap, if its okay, I'd like to take off early, can I use some personal time?" Rita asked.  Cap looked at Chris, who just had put his head down.  These two had a serious malfunction going here, maybe some time apart for both of them would be good.  "Okay listen, the both of you go home, take the rest of the day, not that there's much left of it, but maybe it'll do you both some good.  Go on, get out of here."  Rita got up right away and quickly left.  Chris remained in Cap's office for a moment, with his head in his hands.  "You okay Lorenzo," Cap asked.  Chris stood up and shook his head, "No sir, not at all." With that he left his office.

Each of them went to their respective places of residence.  Chris to the loft, Rita to her apartment.  Chris changed into some sweats and put on an old Michigan T-shirt.  He looked around for his Michigan hat, but he hadn't seen it for awhile, he figured he'd left it somewhere. Just his luck, it was his favorite hat, now that was gone too.  Things just weren't going well for him.  He began to pick up things around the loft, including the wine bottle and glasses from the night before.  He better get those cleaned up pronto, he thought.  After cleaning, he plopped down on the couch and turned on his TV, a college basketball game was on, he tried to act interested, but all he could do was think about Rita.

Rita walked into her quiet apartment.  It was still as clean as when she left.  She walked over to the fish tank and picked up the fish food and carefully spread it on the top of the water.  As she set the container back down, she saw a note from Chris.  He must have stopped at her apartment while she was in Miami.  She picked it up and read it.  "Hey Sam, I didn't forget your fish, they're all fed and cleaned, okay, just fed.  I think Alfred misses you a lot, he looks at me with those big fish lips of his and its just not the same.  I know how he feels though.  I miss you too.  See you soon, love Chris."  She crumpled the note and set it back by the fish tank.  Then she decided to take a walk down by the beach.

It was dark when she got back to her apartment.  The walk didn't do her any good.  Her thoughts weren't clear.  She just felt so angry over this whole situation and she didn't know what to do.  She sat down on her coach, frustrated by the whole crazy thing.  Was she just acting jealous?  She didn't think so, she was more hurt by the whole turn of events, and no one seemed to care.  Tears formed in her eyes and slowly she drifted off  to sleep.

Meanwhile, at the loft, Chris sat in a daze, watching the beginning of third game of a triple header on ESPN.  He certainly didn't care if Fresno State beat Santa Barbara.  All he cared about was Rita.  He was ready to give her another chance.  Something had gone totally wrong, and he had to find out what the problem was.  It certainly was worth another try.

At 12:35 am, Chris pulled up to Rita's apartment.  There still was a light on, he noticed.  He turned off the ignition in the Charger and sat quietly for a moment.  He said a silent prayer, "God, help me help her."

Rita was still asleep on the couch when she was awakened by the sound of a muffled knock at her door.  It was still dark outside, but she didn't know what time it was, because the clock was hidden by a chair.  She quickly sat up on the couch, and felt the dried out tears on her face.  Slowly she got up and went to the door.

The knock sounded again.  She peered out of the door hole and saw Chris, standing head down.  She knew it was him by the Michigan T-shirt he wore.  She stood quietly for a moment, watching him.  He lifted his head and knocked one more time.  She opened the chain and turned the lock, then opened the door.

Chris looked at her sadly and she stared back at him.  "Can I come in?" he asked in a hushed tone.  She moved away from the door and back into the apartment.  He followed in behind her and closed the door.  She sat down on the couch.  He walked over towards her, just looking at her and how miserable she appeared.  He was going to say something, but instead took his hand and rubbed his chin, then looked down.  He didn't know where to start.  She didn't look at him once, as she took her hands and ran them through her hair.

"Rita, I don't know where to begin," he started, "I don't know or understand what's going through your mind, I want to.  I want to be here for you, like it's always been.  I love you, I can't stand seeing you going through this," he paused, "alone.  Help me understand, I'm sorry for whatever, if I upset you."  Rita sat unfazed by what she had just heard him say.  She didn't reply.  "God, I hate this, what is going on?" he said loudly.   Finally she lifted her head and stared him directly in the eyes.  "I don't think I can explain it to you Chris, not now, not yet."  Chris shook his head in disbelief, his mind racing with thoughts of what he wanted to say, yet carefully searching for the words that would touch her in some way.  He turned around, not looking at her, he put his hands over his head.  "When then, and what do we do in the meantime?"  Again she didn't answer.  He spun back around so he could see her face.  She closed her eyes and brushed a tear away from her face.  "I don't know Chris, I don't know," she said with her voice trailing off.   "I can't believe this, you're just gonna sit there and not talk, this isn't like you at all Rita.  You gotta try here, I am, I want to get this straightened out," he waited and went closer to the couch and squatted down in front of her, "please Rita, talk to me, I love you."  He put his hand on her leg.  She brushed it off  and looked away.   Chris turned his head away too, and stood back up.  He was hurt deeply, no longer angry, just empty and heartbroken.   "So this is it then, it's over, right here, right now.  Cuz if you're not even willing to try to talk about it, then," he stopped and lowered his voice, "then I guess we're through," he said, his voice quivering.  Rita couldn't even look at him.  She heard his words, but the finality of them didn't sink in.  She still hadn't gotten past the sorrow from earlier.  Chris waited for anything, just a glimmer of hope in her eyes, but she avoided him.  It seemed like he stood frozen in time, his legs unwilling to move, his eyes fixed on her slumping body.  Nothing.  He turned and walked out, not even saying good-bye.  As he closed the door behind him, he began to cry.

The next morning at work was pure hell for both of them.  Rita had arrived well before 8 am.  She hadn't slept after Chris left, so she decided just to come in to work and do something to keep her mind occupied.  It seemed to be working until Chris showed up at 9:10 am.

Chris came in unshaven, looking and wearing some clothes that certainly didn't fit the workplace.  At least not  his workplace.  He wore a pair of black jeans, with a plain olive colored long sleeve T-shirt.  He carried in a cup of coffee and went right to his desk and immersed himself in some paperwork.  The Cap, who had come in slightly after Rita, took in all of this and wondered, as he felt his heartburn flair, what was going on now.

The silence between the two of them hung heavily  in the air and everyone in homicide longed to get out, hoping the stagnation would somehow quickly blow out.  It didn't.  It only got worse.

At 10:10 am, the Cap received a phone call from one Lt. Kate Hansen, Minneapolis Homicide.  This scenario just got weirder by the second.  The female voice on the other side of the phone was now asking if one the Cap's homicide detectives could immediately fly up and discuss the benchmarks in more detail with her and her supervisors.   Specifically, she asked for Sergeant Lorenzo.   Cap tried to stall it till after the holidays, and knowing that something had gone terribly wrong between Chris and Rita, his gut and his heartburn, also told him that this Kate Hansen had something to do with it as well.  His stalling did no good, her superiors got on the line as well as the Cap's and ordered Harry to get one of his detectives up there right away.

Harry hung up the phone and sat thinking momentarily.  He decided to take the gruff approach, it had worked before with these two, it could work again.  "Lance, Lorenzo, get in here now," he said yelling so loud that the burglary division down the hall probably shook in their shoes.

Rita went in first, with Chris following close behind.  Both chose to remain standing.   This made Harry real nervous.  "Sit down, this might take awhile," he began.  Rita sat down first, followed by Chris who just slouched in the chair.  "Not enough sleep last night Lorenzo, and did you forget to do your laundry," Cap groused, not taking a breath, commenting on the appearance of him.  "Something like that Cap," Chris responded with no emotion.  "Okay, look you two, I'm going to lay this out on the table and let you decide," he said motioning to both of them.  Neither one said anything or showed any emotion.  "I just got a call from Minneapolis, they want one of you up there, right away.   Specifically, they want you Lorenzo, I told them I'd let the two of you decide though," Cap began.  Rita closed her eyes for a few seconds and heavily sighed, this thing just kept zooming out of control.   Chris continued his slouch and heard Rita's sigh, and started shaking his head in a vehement no.  "It's about that Benchmark thing," Cap finished, noting their frustrations.  Still no response from either one.  "So who's it gonna be?" Cap questioned.  Chris shifted in his chair and spoke first.  "It's Rita's, Cap, it's her work, she knows it inside and out, she oughta go.  I was just covering for her all along," he replied angrily.   "Lance, how 'bout it," Cap asked.  "Chris started this Minneapolis thing Cap, it should be him, he's familiar with all of it and he knows Lt. Hansen," she said hurtfully. "I think he oughta go this time and finish what he's started."  "Why did I know this was going to happen," Cap said raising his hands to God himself.  "Do we have do draw straws here, flip a coin, what? what?" Cap said in a tantrum.  Chris looked over at Rita and asked softly, "Is that what your really want?"  She nodded and said, "Yes, Chris, that's what I want."  Chris shook his head slightly in protest  and said defeatedly to Cap, "I'll go then."  Cap looked at the both of them puzzled by this lack of feeling between them.  He had never seen it before.  He certainly didn't like it.  "That's settled then, Lorenzo, go home and pack, your plane to Minneapolis leaves at 5 PM, don't be late, get going."

The cold and gray of Minneapolis in December fit Chris' mood perfectly.  Over the next several days he immersed himself in Homicide Benchmarks and the Minneapolis Police Department.  There was a lot of work to do and a great many people to enlighten with the benchmarks.  The homicide department in Minneapolis was huge compared to Palm Beach.  Thirty two detectives, 12 sergeants, 4 lieutenants, 2 captains and 1 Department head.   Chris was shuffled around from person to person, place to place, chatting with everyone as well as becoming familiar with Minneapolis.  The nights went late, with him going out with the group, discussing and talking.  By the time he'd get back to his hotel, he's make notes for the following day while vegging out in front of the TV.  His thoughts would wander to Rita.  His heart ached, but he began to convince himself that he had to move on.  If she had wanted to  resolve this, she certainly would have called.  Hell, they would have worked it out before he left, he gave her so many chances.  She just didn't seem to want to make things work.  Three days had passed, no one stayed that angry, that long, she must really want it to end, he thought.  Tossing and turning  replaced normal sleep.

In Palm Beach, the weather was unseasonably hot.  Rita spent her time away from the office in constant tears.  Her heart told her over and over again to call Chris, but her stubborn head told her no.  Why did her head always have to win, she thought.  Her head also told her that this Minneapolis thing was a cover up for something else.  Why couldn't Chris see that?  It all happened so quick, it didn't make any sense.  Why didn't Chris see that too.  Her head told her heart to let Chris go, it told her to remember her mom, her dad, the Lances, Michael, Tyler, and even Eric.  It always hurt, it still did, just thinking about all them.  Her head knew the right answer, that way she wouldn't hurt ever again.

At work, Rita seemed to be in a daze.  Her eyes were red and swollen, her mood, short and curt.  At 2 PM on day four, Cap couldn't take it anymore.  "Lance, get in here!"  Rita looked at him without expression and quickly went into his office.  "Yeah Cap?" she asked sorrowfully..  "Look Rita," Cap began gently, "I don't know what happened between you and Lorenzo, but I can see it's eating you up inside, and before he left, he looked pretty miserable too.  You wanna talk about whatever here?"  Rita looked down and shook her head no, "Cap, I know I've been a bear lately, but I will be okay."  "What about with you and Chris?" Cap asked.  "I don't think so Cap,  I think its over between us, it hurts too much" she replied sadly.  Cap just stared at her for what seemed like an eternity.  She had to look away, because it began to scare her.  "Okay, listen to me Lance," Cap started forcefully,  "tomorrow's Christmas Eve, it's also Hanukkah, which I know more about than Christmas, so I want you to go home, and think about what that all means, its the festival of lights, a savior is born, we're all supposed to be happy now, and you're not hearing that message.  Listen to your heart, with your heart.  The light lives there.   You need to keep that light glowing, and you do that by loving.  Don't let your light go out Rita, look at your heart.  Your answer is there, no where else, do you understand?" he asked her.  By now she began to cry, "Cap, it hurts so bad, I couldn't even tell him, I couldn't talk to him, I just shut him out.  He tried, but I wouldn't listen, he said it was over, our friendship, everything between us.  I broke his heart Cap, because I'm afraid."  Cap took her in his arms and hugged her tightly.  "Rita, I'm glad you admitted it to yourself, but now you need to tell Chris this," Cap said, "right away."  The tears flowed again from Rita's eyes, but this time, underneath the tears, she began to smile.  "Yeah Cap, I think I do, thanks" Rita said as she hugged him back.  "Now, go, go, this thing cleared up, quit thinking so much and start feeling," Cap said as he pulled her close.  "Merry Christmas," he said.  "Happy Hanukkah," she replied back.

Back at her apartment, Rita called the airline.  "I need a ticket to Minneapolis please, round trip, but with an open date for the return," she said.  "It leaves when?" she asked the phone voice.  4:43 am tomorrow, I'll take it," she said confidently.

Chris was getting frustrated.  These people seemed more interested in hearing him discuss old homicide cases than the benchmarks.  And quite frankly, he was getting a little tired of rehashing those old stories over and over again for everyone.  At dinner of the fourth night, he confronted Kate,  "What exactly is going on here, Kate?" Chris began.  "Whattaya mean?" she asked.  "This department doesn't care about homicide benchmarks, I'm not really sure why I'm here," Chris said.  Kate's face brightened with a big smile, "well, we weren't sure till tonight, but I just got done talking with my Captain, and it's all settled."  Chris looked puzzled.  "I'm not following Kate, what is settled?"  Kate giggled a little, "For a such a great detective, you're not doing to well at solving this."  Chris just stared at her seriously waiting for a response.  "What Kate, what is settled?"  Chris asked impatiently.  "We want to offer you a job," she began.  "What?" Chris said in disbelief. "You're recruiting me?"  "A promotion if you will," she continued, "you'll be a lieutenant, just like me, we'll double your salary, better working hours, the whole thing.  See we want the best.  We've been checking you out for months."  "Checking me out?" Chris questioned, "you know that's against department policy.".  Kate nodded, "That's why the Homicide Benchmark thing is perfect, we get to meet you and see what makes you tick, and only you and my department know about the recruiting.  We figure you'll be so impressed by us that you'll inquire about a position and low and behold everyone is happy," Kate continued to explain,   "See, we're in a unique position, we have our EEO limits, you know, so many women, so many minorities that we have to have in the department, well believe it or not, we need a white male.  So we've been checking police departments across the country.  When we found you, I knew we had the right one," Kate said running her hand through his hair.  Chris jerked away from her and chuckled softly.  "A job, that's what this is all about, this whole benchmark thing was just a charade?"  Kate nodded and again tried to get close to him.  Chris thought seriously for a moment, "Kate, I'm flattered, really, I am, and I will honestly think about your offer, but," he paused before continuing, "there's nothing between us, personally, I mean, you're nice, and I guess, well I guess I like you as a friend, that's all."  The smile disappeared from Kate's face.  "Look, I'm sorry, I'm just not ready, I just broke up," Chris said quietly, "But maybe this position would be great, a new change, if you're serious about the offer," Chris asked excitedly.  Kate smiled hopefully, "Yes, we are serious, we want you to be part of our team."  Chris nodded and grinned.  "I'll let you know, soon," he said.

As he left the restaurant, to return to his hotel across the street, snow flakes flew furiously and pecked him coldly on his face.  "Man, I'll have to get used to this real quick," he mumbled to himself.  He told Kate and the rest of the department that he was going to head back to Palm Beach for the holidays.  After the 1st, he'd have an answer for them.

Chris couldn't believe the amount of snow that was piling up as he put his suitcase into a cab to take him to the airport.  To him, it was getting nasty.  "Think the planes are still leaving okay?" Chris asked the cab driver.  "Oh yeah, this is nothing, you oughta be here when there's a real blizzard coming.  This city looks like a ghost town, nothing moves.  Where you from anyway?"  "Palm Beach, Florida," Chris responded.  The cab driver chuckled, "Yeah, this ain't like getting frost on the peaches hey."  Chris nodded.

Meanwhile at the airport, the time was 12:24 am and flights were indeed being delayed, canceled and rerouted.  This storm was paralyzing the Midwest, and it was only going to get worse.  Chris stood anxiously at the counter awaiting his turn.  He just wanted to get home and think.  When he got up to the attendant, he smiled, and gave the ticket to her.  She began looking things over and checked his ID.  "Mr. Lorenzo, your direct flight has been canceled," Chris' smile turned into a frown, "But I can get you to Milwaukee, the airport there is taking the overflow and the good news is they're still open and most everything is on time.  From there you should be able to catch a flight into Palm Beach, or Miami.  How does that sound?" she asked pleasantly.  Chris nodded in agreement, "I'll take it."  "Very well then, your all set, have a nice flight and Merry Christmas."  Chris smiled again, Christmas he thought, yeah Christmas Eve was today

When Rita arrived at the Palm Beach airport at 3:30 am on Christmas Eve, she learned that her flight was going to take a few stops.  Namely Atlanta, Nashville, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, before finally getting into the Twin Cities at 6:14 PM.  She shook her head in frustration, but pressed on, knowing that Chris was in Minneapolis, and she desperately needed to get to him.

Chris arrived in Milwaukee late, bad news had also arrived.  Since he was delayed four hours on the plane in Minneapolis, because of snow on the runway and deicing the wings, the airport in Milwaukee was now coming to a complete halt.  So many flights were being canceled that the PA announcer couldn't keep up with it.  He was now indeed stranded.  Chris found a seat, and began to wait, it couldn't snow forever, he thought.

By the time Rita's plane touched down in Detroit, distressing news come blaring over the speaker.  A blizzard was hitting the Midwest, many flights were being delayed or canceled.  This can't be happening, Rita thought as she got off the plane.  It was just around noon when the plane had landed in Detroit, she checked right away about the status of the next flight.  It was canceled, nothing going in or out of Chicago, but an attendant told her there still were a couple of seats left on a flight to Milwaukee.  They still had one runway open for landings, though not much of anything was leaving from there.  Quickly Rita's mind raced,  Milwaukee was closer to Minneapolis than Chicago was, she nodded, figured she'd take her chances and told the attendant to save her a seat.

Chris gazed out the window at Mitchell International Airport and was temporarily snow blinded.  It was a white oblivion out there with no end in sight.  Down the terminal, he saw a local television news crew, interviewing stranded passengers, and looking around the waiting area, he saw many unhappy faces.  Behind him he heard a small group of people singing Joy to the World, he spun around and saw a young man and woman with three children, the woman held a baby.   That brought a smile to his face.  Over the loudspeaker he heard that flight 1210 from Detroit had landed and that would be the last flight coming or leaving Milwaukee until the snow ceased.

Chris decided to get up and walk around for awhile, the TV news crew was coming closer and he really didn't feel like being on the 6 o'clock news anyway.  He bought himself a beer and began chatting with a man from Denver, who was trying to get to Baltimore for Christmas.  They shared a few laughs and shook hands and departed amicably.

Rita continued to pursue a flight to Minneapolis.  She strode from ticket counter to ticket counter trying to find a way, to find a plane to get her there.  "Ma'am I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do, you'll just have to wait for the snow to end.  It's already begun to taper off in the Twin Cities, we're hoping by tomorrow morning we'll be back in the air," a young man explained to her.  She ran her fingers through her hair and turned and walked to the next counter to begin the same line of questioning all over again.  By the time she reached the 7th counter and the same explanation she was going to go crazy, she got louder and started to cry.  "You people don't realize what you're doing to me, I need to get to Minneapolis, right away."  People around her began to stare and the inexperienced clerk didn't have an answer for her.  "There's plenty of planes out there, it can't be that hard to take off," she continued her tirade.  Another clerk stepped in and offered his assistance, "Listen Ma'am, it's for your safety, everyone's safety, I'm sorry the airport is grounded, you'll have to wait."  "I can't, I need to get there, right away," she said sobbing.

Chris had continued his walk and saw a commotion near one of the ticket counters, he decided  to get closer to see what was going on.  As he got near, he couldn't believe his eyes, "Rita," he said, grabbing for her arm.  The clerk was trying to comfort her, but as she heard Chris' voice she turned around, and looked at him surprised.  "Chris!" she said reaching out to hug him.  He pulled her away and said, "What are you doing here?"  She smiled and replied, "I'm trying to find you."  The crowd around them began to cheer and clap, they both were embarrassed and the ticket clerk who was trying to comfort her said laughingly, "I guess getting to Minneapolis isn't that important anymore huh?"  Rita turned around and thanked him for his concern.  Chris in the meantime, grabbed her arm and began to pull her away.  The crowd began to disperse as they made comments and tapped the two on their shoulders as they walked away.

"I mean it, what are you doing here?" Chris asked impatiently.  Rita was hurt by his tone, but this time she wasn't backing down, she was going to talk, "I needed to see you, to talk, face to face."  "Don't you think it's a little late, remember we agreed, it's over," he said shortly.  Rita looked at him, his beautiful blue eyes, now filled with anger.  "No, it's not over, we need to talk," she replied.  "Well I guess we have plenty of time, we're not going anywhere, anytime soon, in case you can't tell there's a blizzard out there and we both agreed that it is indeed over, or now besides not talking, you're not remembering either," he said.  "Okay, Chris, get it all out, get out all the anger now, and then when you're through I'll talk and you will listen," she said.  "No, now its my turn, you know what, I don't feel like listening or talking anymore either," Chris said.  "Alright, fine, we'll just sit here and wait, cuz you're right about one thing Chris, we are definitely stranded," Rita said with a smile.

Meanwhile a man about 58 was watching the two of them.  Must be in love, he thought, he'd witnessed the woman going berserk at the ticket counter and even had seen Chris' face light up when Chris first saw that it was Rita.  That look couldn't be mistaken, it was love in any language, any person, any animal alive.  Maybe another Christmas miracle would be taking place.  He felt a little weird as followed them and watched them sit down and begin to talk.  They must have had one hell of a blowup.  Now they were just sitting in silence.  The man looked at his watch, it was 3:30 PM.  If he left now, he'd be home by 4 PM or 4:15 at the latest, depending on the roads.  He had dropped off his last lodgers for the Christmas vacation, now it was time for his family.  But there was something about these two, something that cried out to him to lend a hand.  He shrugged, why not, it was Christmas.

The man walked up to Chris and began, "Uh, excuse me sir," Chris looked up and the man continued, "look I don't mean to be forward," he continued stumbling over words, "listen I'm Matt Larsen, and I couldn't help but notice that you two are kind of stranded."  Rita perked up and smiled at the man, who continued, "well anyway, you know it's Christmas, peace on earth, goodwill towards men and all," he stopped.  Chris looked at him puzzled, "Mr. Larsen, is it," Larsen nodded, "please call me Matt."  "I'm not sure where you're going with this here," Chris said.  Rita elbowed him in the ribs, and he gave her a look.  Matt laughed, "Yeah, um, well, see I run a little B&B, about a half hour from here."  Chris interrupted, "A B&B?" Rita chimed in, "A bed and breakfast."  Chris shook his head to show that he understood.  Matt nodded and smiled at her.  "See I normally close for the holidays, in fact I just dropped off my last guests, I was heading back, then I saw you two by the ticket counter.  Thought maybe, since you're not going anywhere soon, maybe you'd like to stay at my place.  I can bring you back to the airport tomorrow when things clear up."  Rita had a huge smile on her face, she looked over to Chris who seemed to be in shock.  "Whattaya think Chris?" she asked him.  "I think we oughta just wait here, maybe we still can get home tonight."  Matt shook his head, "Look mister, this thing isn't gonna end anytime soon, watched the weather report before I left home, I don't think you'll get a better offer, sides, if you don't mind me saying,  it looks like the two of you could stand some privacy, to talk."  Rita had heard enough, "Mr. Larsen, it sounds great, we'll take you up on your wonderful offer."  Chris looked at her, not believing she was agreeing to all this, who was this guy anyway.  "I'm Rita Lance, this is Chris Lorenzo," he heard Rita say to Larsen.  "Nice to meet you both," Larsen said shaking her hand and reaching out for Chris'.  "Listen Mr. Larsen," Chris began, as Larsen interrupted him, "Please, call me Matt."  "Okay, Matt, you got a business card or something, you know, you tell us this story, you've been watching us and I'm not real sure I want to hop in a car in the middle of a blizzard with you," Chris said as the detective in him was now on alert.  Rita glared at him and said to Matt, "Forgive him, we're police detectives, it comes with the job."  Matt nodded and produced a business card for Chris, "No problem, I understand, can't be too careful, you're right about that," he began, "and the lady over at United can verify who I say I am, her and her husband come to my place once a year."  Chris glanced at the card and over at Rita, who continued to smile.  They followed Matt out of the airport.

As they walked from the airline terminal into the parking ramp, following Matt, Rita reached out and put her hand into Chris'.  He grabbed it back.

"So Matt, if the planes can't fly, is it safe to drive?" Chris began asking.  "Well, I've lived here in Wisconsin all my life, this ain't no blizzard, if you keep the rest of the crazies off the roads, we'll be just fine, anyway, I got myself one of those Jeep four wheel drive things, never had a problem yet.  Besides, this is just a little snow storm.  We don't have to far to go either."  They reached the jeep and saw the magnet sign on the side, Wind Point Inn, it read, with a logo of a beautiful lighthouse.  "How long have you had the inn Matt?" Rita asked.  "The inn, oh I guess about 3 years now.  See, it's actually a lighthouse, the coast guard used to tend it, and my family and I lived in the house and took care of the grounds and the building.  And then, 4 years ago, they wanted to close it, the town took over for awhile, giving tours and the like, but it wasn't profitable either, so they sold it to me.  We've got three little cabins and 4 more rooms in the keeper house.  It's a pretty nice set up, if I do say so  myself.  And nothing compares to the beauty of the lighthouse itself.  She's one of a kind, oldest on the great lakes don't you know."  Rita smiled at him, "sounds wonderful," she said in reply.  "Which way we heading Matt," Chris asked.  "We'll be going south Chris.  Actually the place is in Racine County, just south of Milwaukee.  Going to my place is actually closer to the airport than downtown Milwaukee is."  Matt spoke to them as if he'd known them both for years, "Where are you two from, Minneapolis, I heard you say?"  "No, we're from Palm Beach, Florida.  Chris was on business in Minneapolis," Rita replied  Matt laughed merrily, "No wonder you questioned the snow, Florida huh, if I lived there, no way would I ever come up this way for business, unless it was July."  "I'm beginning to agree with that," Chris said as he looked out the window, trying to make out anything in the blinding white.  "You're sure this is safe?" Chris asked again.  "Positive, just sit back and enjoy the view.  Chris and Rita looked at each other in disbelief, view, what view?

The snow continued to whip around as they came around a curve, you could make out a few houses, spread pretty far apart, and then Matt slowed down the Jeep and made a left turn down a very narrow road.  Rita looked out the passenger side and fist gazed upon the lighthouse.  "Hey, I can see the light going around," she commented.  "It's all automated now, goes on a half hour before dusk and a half hour after dawn."  "It looks beautiful Matt, can  people still go up?" she asked.  "They're not supposed to, insurance reasons, but I have a key, maybe if it clears up later, you'd like to go up."  Chris now was straining to see out the window to get a look at this unique structure.  Rita said excitedly, "That's be great, Matt, we'd love too."  Chris scowled at her enthusiasm.

They grabbed their bags out of the Jeep and followed Matt inside his house.  "Let me just grab the keys, I'll give you guys one of the cabins, I think you'll be more comfortable out there, there's plenty of food for dinner, breakfast, snacks whatever and there's some wine out there too, if you'd like that.  There's a heater out there, and a fireplace with plenty of wood.  All the comforts of home.  And it's private," Matt said looking at the two of them with a smile.  Just then a young boy of about 12 came into the entry way, "Dad, you made it back," his voice stopped as he saw the two strangers.  Rita smiled at the boy.  "David, these are some guests, they're going to stay with us probably overnight, will you grab sheets and towels and bring them out to number 1,"  The boy smiled  back at Rita and Chris and replied, "Sure Dad, I'll take care of them, why don't you go inside, Mom's been worrying, with the snow and all."  Matt tousled his hair and nodded at David and turned back to Chris and Rita saying, "he's a good boy, he'll take good care of getting you set up.  If you need anything please ask him, or later, just pick up the phone and dial 1, it rings in here."  "Matt, how can we ever thank you?" Rita started and Chris joined in, "This is great Matt, in fact, I apologize for my behavior at the airport.  I was way out of line.  You've been very kind."  "No need for that for thanks or apologies, Merry Christmas," he said.  "Merry Christmas," they replied.

They followed David out to the cabin number one, as they passed the lighthouse they both gazed upward at the 188 foot structure.  It was pretty impressive all lit up as the snow swirled around it.  In the distance they could hear Lake Michigan waves crashing against the shore.  David opened up the cabin door and turned on the light.  "This is the best one," he began, "people tell us all the time they wish they could stay here forever."  Rita gazed around the room in wonder, the boy was right.  It was small, but it was absolutely charming inside.  "I can see why David, this is terrific," she answered back to him.  "Do you think you need anything else," he started, "I...I can make up the bed if you'd like," he said nervously.  "No, we'll be alright, go ahead, and Merry Christmas to you and your family," Rita said with a smile.  The boy nodded, "Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too," he said as he turned and ran back towards the house.

"This is really great," Rita said, turning back around to face Chris who had seated himself on the couch.  Chris' mood had changed again.  He still was not prepared to talk, or even to listen.  He nodded at her solemnly, then put his head down.  Rita ignored it momentarily as she walked around the cabin, checking out the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen before coming back into the living room area.  She looked towards the door and noticed the bags weren't there.  "Where'd you put the bags Chris," she asked.  He lifted his head up and glanced by the door and grumbled, "I think I left them inside the house, I'll go up and get them," he said as he began to rise.  "Can you start the fire first?" she asked him.  He looked at her and replied, "and how would I do that, I'm from Florida remember, there's not a big demand on fireplaces there.  We don't need a fire, just turn up the thermostat," he said motioning toward the wall.  "Oh come on Chris, it would be fun."  Chris looked at her expressionless, "We're not here for fun Rita, we're here so we wouldn't have to wait in an airport," he said as he opened the door and left to get the bags.  Rita's heart was breaking.

Rita went into the kitchen and found the wine and two glasses.  As she opened the bottle, she looked out the window and saw Chris in silhouette, making his way back to the cabin with the bags.  The clothes they both had on and with them weren't really sufficient for this weather.  He must be freezing she thought.  She heard the door open and listened as Chris stomped his feet, drop the bags and shook off the jacket he had on.  Then she heard him rub his hands together for warmth.  She smiled to herself at the thought of him in real winter weather.  She walked back into the living room with the wine and glasses, and saw him shaking the snow out of his hair.  She laughed aloud, "Dandruff problem huh," she asked.  "Yeah, I forget to use my Head and Shoulders today, didn't think you'd notice though," he said with the slightest of smiles...the second hint of a positive expression she'd seen coming from him all day.  "Matt says it's getting colder out already, the temperature will probably drop another 10 or 15 degrees overnight, after the snow ends, and then it'll get windy," Chris explained.  "This weather takes some getting used to, doesn't it," she asked.  "That it does," Chris said, "I guess they're predicting about 810 inches,. before it all stops."  Chris walked over to the thermostat and turned it up, the heat kicked on immediately.  "I'll put your bag in the bedroom," he said grabbing in and walking out.

When Chris came back into the living room he said, "This is a real nice place, that bedroom and bathroom are great."  Rita nodded as she sat on the couch.  "Would you like some wine," she asked him.  He ignored her question, "You can have the bedroom, I'll sack out here on the sofa, okay?"  Rita sighed and shook her head,  "No one is going to sleep, we need to talk," she began.

"What else is there left to say?" Chris asked her.  "I think there's a lot," Rita began, "First of all, I'm sorry Chris, I know I hurt you badly, I know you're upset and angry, but I'd like you to forgive me."  Chris rubbed his head in his hands and sat down in a chair.  "You're right, I am all those things and believe it or not, I have even begun to forgive you," he said, "but that doesn't mean I can go back to how it was, I'm not even sure I want to."  "You can't really mean that Chris," Rita replied.  Chris nodded, "Yes I do mean that.  Maybe it was too perfect Sam, you know, being best friends, always being there for each other, putting our lives on the line for the other, even when we were involved with other people, we'd put each other before we'd put our lovers.  That's not right."  "That's what love is Chris, it just took us a long time to realize it, we were really meant to be together.  I know that now.  And you know that too, we can't just throw it away."  He shook his head in disagreement.  "It's not that easy for me now Rita, I don't understand why you treated me like...like I didn't even exist.  You gave up, I didn't, remember, I tried and tried and tried, you turned your back on us."  Rita looked sad and she stared into his blue eyes, "I was wrong Chris, now I know that, don't you see."  "I hear what you're saying Rita, but why couldn't you give us this chance a week ago, why did you just shut me out," he said pausing, "that's what I need to know, why?"

Rita reached for a Kleenex and gently wiped her nose, and sniffled.  "I hope I can explain it to you, I'm not even sure I understand it myself," Rita started.  "I guess it looks like jealousy and in some ways that is part of how I felt.  Chris, it hurt so bad when you told me on the phone about  someone coming in to discuss my work.  And I wasn't there.  Do you know how much time and effort I've put into the benchmarks?"  she asked him.  "Not exactly," he answered.  "I do, exactly 339 hours Chris, not time at the office or solving a case or being with you, my own time, sometimes at 3 or 4 in the morning or even all night, after you'd gone to sleep.  And it's not nearly completed yet, this is something that is so much a part of me.  I know it sounds crazy to be so attached to something so ridiculous, but Chris, in some crazy way, it has a piece of my heart and soul.  Can you understand?"  Chris looked at her seriously, "You could have told me that, I had no idea of the time and what it did to you.  I would have tried to understand."  "Chris, I tried, but you laughed at me and made fun of what I'd be working on, remember?  When my laptop crashed, you said that you'd buy me a new one, right after the basketball game.  I lost over a months worth of work when that happened and a stupid game was more important to you."  Chris threw up his hands, "I didn't know Rita, I didn't understand."  Rita looked at him and continued, "that's why I knew you wouldn't take it seriously, having to explain everything and first trying to understand it for yourself."  "But I did Rita, I tried, I read everything and I took notes from everything you said, I learned a lot," Chris said interrupting.  "I know you did, but its like raising a child for five years and sending them off to kindergarten, but not being able to  witness it, the actual event for yourself."  "You know I had to do it," Chris explained,  "it was an order."  "Did you even try to stall it, or have her stay till I could get here."  "Yes and no, I tried to get out of it, or to postpone it, but Cap wouldn't let me.  It was weird."  "And why couldn't you tell me it was a woman Chris?" Rita asked, not wanting to look in his eyes.

Now it was Chris' turn to explain.  "I don't know Rita, maybe I was afraid of what your reaction would be, and look what happened."  "Chris, you've worked with other women before, you've dated other women, haven't I always understood and given you my trust?" Rita asked him.  "But it was different now," Chris started, but Rita interrupted him, "Why Chris?"  Chris didn't answer right away, he stood up and went over to the window and looked out.  "Because we were different, I guess," he paused, "I know that sounds stupid, but with you being gone, and upset over the whole thing already, I figured if I told you that it was a woman, it would have crushed you."  "So you were what, protecting me?" she asked him.  He turned around to face her and saw the fire in her green eyes.  "Maybe, isn't that love too?" he asked.  "I can take care of myself Chris," she said coldly.

"Maybe that's our problem then," Chris began, "we're both too independent.  Maybe that's why this won't work."  "Maybe we can't be honest with other," Rita said.  "Just because I didn't tell you she was a woman Rita, doesn't mean I can't be honest, speak for yourself," Chris said hotly.   The tension was beginning to explode between the two of them, things were zooming way out of control and definitely not in the direction that Rita had wanted.  In fact, she couldn't believe the mean things that were not only coming out of Chris' mouth, but out of hers as well.  "Oh sure, maybe you're too honest Chris, the only things that matter to you are the things you want, that's pretty selfish."  "That's not true," he said softly.  "Yes it is Chris, it's always been that way, think about it, a compromise for you is when the other person gives in to what you want."  "You don't mean that," Chris said.  Rita nodded her agreement, "Yeah I do, and I'm being honest right now," Rita said sarcastically.  Chris stood stunned by her words.  "I can't believe you can say that I am selfish after all I've done for you, just in the past week."  "Oh, I get it, I'm supposed to be grateful that you took credit for my work?  Is that what you're thinking," Rita questioned.  "You know what, you believe what you want to believe, I've told you what happened, this whole thing is crazy, I just don't know why it got so out of hand, but I guess we're both seeing the truth now," Chris said loudly.  Rita realized this was crazy, they both were saying mean and hurtful things to each other, things probably the two of them didn't even mean.  She took a deep breath and calmed down, then stood up and went over by him.  "I see the truth now too, I'm not giving up on this, I know I've made a lot of mistakes, a lot of them today, but I know that I love you and I know that you love me too," she said attempting to put her arms around him, but he pulled away.  "That's why this isn't easy," Chris started.  Rita looked at him puzzled and questioned him, "What isn't easy Chris?"  "I've been offered a job up in Minneapolis."

Any number of tortures or pain couldn't have hurt Rita more than those words that Chris had just spoke.  She turned away from him and went back to the living room and sat down in a chair.  She looked at him, he still stood looking out the window.  She could make out his profile, he appeared so sad.  "What did you say?" she finally had the courage to ask.  Chris turned his face directly out the window, now Rita couldn't see him, and the tears that formed in his eyes.  He gazed out into the swirling darkness and replied, "I told them, I'd think about it, and let them know after the holidays," he paused and Rita wanted to interrupt, but Chris began talking again, "but I think I'll take it, it would be a great career move, you know the opportunity of a lifetime, I could make a real difference up there. "Rita didn't know what to say now.  She was stunned and in shock by this turn of events, never had she even imagined that this could happen.  She stood up and walked into the kitchen, just wanting to forget what she had just heard.

Rita began to look through the refrigerator and the cupboards for food and supplies.  Her first reaction to Chris' news was to act like nothing had happened or that the whole thing was no big deal, so she set her mind to cooking.

Chris hadn't even heard Rita leave the room.  The silence finally hit him and he turned around to face her and then noticed that she had went into the kitchen.  He could hear some plates being rattled around.  He went and stood in the kitchen doorway and just watched her gain control.  He smiled to himself and thought how much she loved being in control, she craved it, sometimes lived for it.  For her it was instinctive survival.  "Did you hear what I said," he began, wanting her desperately to fight for him.  Rita froze, "Yes Chris I heard you, it sounds wonderful, I'm sure you'll be happy," she said without turning around.  "Well, you know I'd be promoted to Lieutenant, they'd double my salary, and I'd have regular working hours, I wouldn't be doing the legwork anymore," he said trying to be happy.  Rita's mind was headed in another direction though, she spun around to face him, "So, let me get this straight Christopher, you go up there to discuss my benchmarks and somehow end up getting a job offer?  I'll say that lady is one hell of a detective," Rita said with a disdainful laugh.  Chris' defenses shot back up immediately.  "And what is that supposed to mean?" he asked.  "Tell me Chris, did the job offer come before or after she had you?"  Rita asked looking at him directly.  Chris glared right back at her.  "You're not going to give up on that are you.  Nothing happened," he shouted as he walked out of the kitchen.  Rita followed him and grabbed his arm, and spun him around to face her, "The minute I heard her laughing on the phone in your apartment, I knew what she wanted, she was recruiting, wasn't she, it all makes sense now, she got your name off the web page, she was after you all along.  I'll give her credit though, not only does she get a new partner at work, but maybe for all time.  She must be feeling pretty lucky these days."  Chris pulled his arm away from her,  "It is all about jealousy as far as your concerned, you just can't stand it to see me get ahead.  Yeah, she was recruiting me, but for a job Rita, she looked at my record and what I've accomplished.  You just can't stand the fact that it's me they wanted and not you."  Rita laughed out loud.  "I hate to tell you this Chris, but I'm a woman, make that a female homicide detective, remember.  I usually get job offers twice a week.  The demand for someone like me is very high."  Chris sat down on the couch, "Then why..." his voice trailed off.  "I like what I do, with whom I do it with and where I get to do it, and not necessarily in that order," Rita explained.  "You know I ought to report her for recruiting, the nerve of those people, and the fact that you fell for it," Rita continued with a laugh, only Chris wasn't laughing along.  "It's a serious job offer, and I'm still going to take it," he said going into the kitchen to make some dinner.

Dinner was a rather quiet affair, both of them seemed to turn off their lasers for an hour or so.  Conversation was polite, brief and only dealt with the passing of condiments or dishes.  Chris offered to clean up, while Rita decided to venture outside and experience the snowstorm close up.  They both realized they needed some time alone to think.

The blast of cold air immediately slammed into Rita's face.  It was indeed a wake up call.  If only she had talked to Chris all along, why did she just shut him out, that really wasn't like her at all, now he was going to leave.  Inside her heart felt like it had again been ripped out whole, she feared this time it might never return.  It scared her and she was afraid she didn't know what to do.   Would she ever get over being jealous and just tell him she needed him?

In the meantime, Chris tried to occupy his time by keeping busy and cleaning up the kitchen, but the thoughts in his mind kept wandering to Rita.  Why couldn't she just say she needed him?  She was always there for him, and he was always thankful to her for that, and now he needed her to tell him the same thing.

Chris was laying down on the couch, slowly drifting off to sleep, when Rita came back inside.  The blast of cold air jolted him awake and he turned to see her brushing the snow off her clothes.  They both looked at each other, waiting for the other to speak, but neither said a word.  Finally Rita spoke, "I guess I'll just go to bed."  Chris watched her for a moment and said, "Why don't we try talking once more."  Rita stopped and glanced back over her shoulder at him.  "I think we've both said enough."  With that she closed the bedroom door behind her.

Rita plunked down on the bed, grabbed a pillow and began to cry.  She had just done it again, she shut him out.  What was she afraid of, why couldn't she just talk to him.  She laid back on the bed and slowly, between the tears she drifted off to sleep.

Chris watched her close the door and slammed his fists down on to his legs.  He let her slip away again.  There were times he needed to play hard ball with her, to see what he wanted her to see, but this time, things were just sliding further and further away.  He looked around the empty room, searching for an answer or a sign, something he could do or say to make her see.  Then he spotted the fireplace.

Rita rolled over on the bed and reached for a blanket, this sudden movement caused her to awaken, slowly.  She glanced around the bedroom, realizing where she was.  As she pulled the blanket around her, she heard some strange sounds coming from the other room.  Now, fully awake, she sat up in bed and listened intently to the sound.  She couldn't figure out what it was, then she heard Chris' voice mumbling quietly.  She got up and softly walked to the door.  She still could hear both Chris' voice and some strange noises.  Carefully she slowly opened the door and peered into the living room.  There she saw Chris, sitting on the floor, with some paper, some matches and a log.  Nearby him on the floor was a poker.  Chris grabbed it and tossed the log into the fireplace.  "Alright now, lets try this again," he said in a whisper.  Rita smiled to herself at his serious attempt.  She watched him as he carefully lit the paper and placed it under the logs, then using the poker he jabbed at the small fire that he had started.  Then he leaned back against the couch, put his hands behind his head and watched the glow in great satisfaction, his handiwork.

Rita had seen enough, she knew exactly what she wanted to do now.  She opened the door all the way and began to quietly walk towards Chris.  He had closed his eyes and a smile of a job well done was painted across his face.  As she got nearer, she said quietly, "I thought you didn't know how to do this?"  His eyes slowly opened as he saw her leaning over him.  "Easy to follow directions, courtesy of the management," he replied, waving a sheet of paper with "how to do it" instructions, "don't you just love it?" he continued asking.  "Almost as much as I love you," Rita answered sitting down next to him on the floor.  "Listen Chris, I..." Rita started to say, but not really knowing how to say it.  Chris looked at her lovingly, she waited, hoping he'd say something to get her started,  "go ahead, I'm not going to help, tell me what you've needed to say all week, in your own words, your own way," he added.  She met his gaze with her eyes and then looked down and reached for his hand.  Still looking down at their hands and fingers locked, she began, "This is so hard, I don't think I've ever said this before, to anyone,  not my dad, or Tyler or even Eric, and most of all never to you, although I've wanted to."  The silence between them was chilling.  Rita looked up and with all the determination and spirit she could muster.  Her green eyes met his blue eyes and he patiently waited for her to continue, she finally let it out.  "I need you, more than anything, or anyone, I'm not going to let you go, not over this, not ever.  I need you Christopher, that's all and I need to know that you feel the same about me."  As she finished speaking all she could do was to reach for him and hug him tightly.  And she began to cry.  This time Chris didn't pull away, he held her close, caressed her and softly stroked her hair.  "Sshh, Sammy, it's alright, I'm here, I'll always be here for you,  I need you too, forever, I promise, I love you," he said as her crying began to subside.  They sat there, in front of the fire, holding each other, not wanting to let go.

Rita's crying finally began to subside, but each time Chris started to pull back, he felt Rita hold him tighter.  He decided just to let her have her way.  It had been too hard of a time over the past few weeks for both of them and it just felt good to be in each others arms.  He began to talk to her softly, "are you feeling better now, everything's alright, I'm here," he said.  She didn't reply at first, but he felt he head nod up and down on his shoulder.  "Sam, I'm sorry," he continued, "I let this thing get totally nutso, can you forgive me? I am a total jerk sometimes."  Rita shifted her head and body so that her head now rested on his chest, he continued to hold her close.  "I think it's the other way around," she replied, "I need you to forgive me, I don't know why I did this to you, I never wanted to hurt you, I'm so sorry Chris," she began to cry a little again.  He rubbed her shoulder and kissed her hair, "why don't we just call it a draw," he said.  "And promise to never let anything like this ever happen again," she added.  "Parfait," he said with a smile rocking her back and forth gently.

"I guess we'll just have to enjoy this Christmas after all, I mean, it is a real Christmas, a blizzard, a warm fire, the woman I love and I even have a present for you," Chris began.  Rita looked up at him puzzled and his face was grinning broadly.  "You got me a present?" she asked surprised.  "Yes I did, and it was hard to pick out, I hope you like it," he said getting up and going over to his bag.  He brought back a mid-sized box, wrapped in gold paper with a red ribbon.  He sat down beside her and handed her the box.  "Go ahead, open it, you know you want to, besides its past midnight, so its officially Christmas, let the opening begin."  Rita smiled at him and began to tear off the paper and open up the box, when she looked inside she began to laugh.  "I hope you like it, there were so many colors to choose from," he said smiling.  She reached into the box and held it up, it was a pink T-shirt and the front said, my boyfriend went to Minneapolis and all I got was this T-shirt.  "Weeeelllll," Chris asked.  "It's stunning Christopher, I'm sure it will make a lovely nightshirt," she answered.  "A nightshirt?" he questioned, "I thought you could wear it out?"  Rita gave him one of her looks.  "Okay, okay, okay, so that was just the first present, I think you'll really  like the next one," Chris said as he dashed back over to his bag.  "I can't wait to see it," she said sarcastically, "just don't tell me you stole something from the plane?"  "The plane? You know I never thought of that, but does the hotel count?"  "Chris, you didn't?" Rita said seriously.  "Well, I had to, cuz you're not going to believe this," he said as he handed her a pair of towels.  "Oh, no, Chris, towels, how could you?"  "Now wait, check 'em out, they had me staying at this place called the Regency Chalet, they're monogrammed RC, get it, Rita and Chris, I just had too," he said trying to be straight, but breaking into a grin.  Rita started to laugh, she didn't see Chris reach into his pocket and pull out a small box.  She looked at him and how serious he had gotten.  "What, what now?" she asked.  He reached out and pulled out her right hand and placed the box in it, "here, this is what I really wanted to give you, for a long time, and tonight, I know, it's the right time and place.  I brought it along with me, hoping, well, this is it.  Go ahead, open it," he said looking deeply into her eyes.  She met his eyes and looked down at the box, it had to be jewelry, it was that size box.  She opened it and saw a beautiful gold heart shaped locket on a fine chain.  Chris kept staring at her eyes and saw them start to shine, he knew it was right.  "It was my grandma's, she gave it to me the day before she died, she had me bring it to the hospital and told me, that I should give it to the girl I was going to marry.  I know that's gonna be you, Merry Christmas Rita, I love you," he said.  She looked into his eyes and reached over and softly kissed his cheek.  "I love you too, Chris, and I love this, are you sure?" she asked.  He nodded, "absolutely, aren't you?"  She nodded in agreement, "yeah, I am too."  "Let me put it on then," he said as she turned around and lifted her hair up.  Then she spun around so he could see.  "From the first, first great lady to the second first great lady," he said.  "Thank you Chris, it's beautiful, I'll treasure it forever," she replied.  Then she remembered she too had a present for him,  she looked at him and said, "You know, since it is Christmas, I guess you should get some gifts too, you have been a pretty good boy."  Chris was stunned and excited.  Rita got up and went into her room.  "Unfortunately, I didn't have time to wrap them, so do you want to wait, or just get them now?" she asked from the room.  "Well, I could wait, but why," he said trying to peer into the bedroom.  She came out with her hands behind her back.  He tried to peek around, but she made him sit back and wait.  "Okay, you know this actually worked out well, see I had a layover in Detroit of all places," she started.  She reached around and pulled out a box and set it on his lap.  "I've never seen these before in Palm Beach, but I guess they're popular in Michigan, being the Motor city and all."  Chris looked at the box and at her and smiled.  He looked like a little boy, "this is great," he said.  "I'm sure it'll run better than the real Charger," she said.  He couldn't believe she had gotten him a radio controlled model of a '66 Dodge Charger.  "You know, I have always wanted one of these," he said seriously.  She smiled, laughed and added, "For some odd reason I can believe that.  And also, being stuck in Detroit, means that I was able to pick up one of these, which as I'm sure you know, are impossible to find anywhere in the state of Florida."  Rita said as she held up a brand new University of Michigan  hat.  Chris grinned from ear to ear.  "You took my old one didn't you?" he asked.  "You know I haven't seen it for weeks," he said smiling at her.  "Well, if you'd rather have the old one back, rather than this stylish, nice looking new one, I guess I could keep it for myself," she said.  "No way," he said as he snatched it from her hand as she twirled it around her finger.  He quickly placed it on his head and began to open up the model car.  Rita watched him play for a moment, and then quietly slipped back
into the bedroom.

She came back out wearing the pink T-shirt over a very smooth, silky, tight fitting, cream colored, lingerie.  Chris still was absorbed in the making of his model Charger that he didn't see her come back into the room.  She cleared her throat and he looked up, seeing her grabbed his attention.  She was beautiful.  She smiled at him and said, "I still have one more present for you, would you like it now?"  Chris set down the model and just continued to stare at her.  "I'll take that as a yes," she answered.  She walked slowly back over to where Chris sat, and slid back down next to him.  "Merry Christmas, Sam," she said.  "This is definitely the best one of all time," Chris said as he picked up her hand and began to kiss it.  "Merry Christmas Rita, I love you so much."

They sat in front of the fire and Chris put his arm around Rita's shoulder.  He slowly let his nose nuzzle her and let his mouth explore the side of her neck.  She softly slid her hands around his and closed her eyes as he began to show his love for her.  He took his hand from around her shoulder and gently caressed her face and turned it lovingly toward his.  She opened her eyes and looked deeply into his blue eyes.  There lips met, first in a soft kiss, then building each one deeper and more powerful than the previous.  Rita let one of her hands touch his face and slide through his hair.  It felt so good to finally be back in his arms and his love.  She never wanted to leave.  They broke apart for a moment and smiled at each other, "Chris, I love you so much, I've missed you," Rita said.  "I've missed you too, I hate being apart, I hated us fighting, I'm never gonna let you go, ever Rita."  He took her hand from his face and kissed the palm of her hand.

Slowly Chris reached down and lifted the T-shirt off of her, revealing the spaghetti strapped negligee in all its glory.  His hands drifted up the sides of it, feeling its silky coolness, and beneath that Rita's lovely body.  Rita kissed his face tenderly and carefully laid  back in his lap, so that she could look up at him.  He stared at her, so seriously, almost if he didn't know how or where to start.  She took her arms, wrapped them around his neck and raised herself back up to his face, she felt his warm breath on the tip of her nose and asked him breathlessly, "What are you waiting for?"  Then she began to kiss him deeply, their mouths open to each other, tongues battling for ultimate control, and not stopping till they were nearly out of breath.  Chris pulled away and gasped, Rita relaxed again and drifted back into his lap.  Chris raised up his knees slightly bringing her head closer to his, he bent down and continued the passionate kissing they had just earlier begun.  This time, his hands glided over the creamy, silk that was molded to Rita's body.  The coolness of the material combined with the warmth of Chris' hands were electrifying for Rita.  The calculated, intimate stroking that Chris had started left Rita feeling full of desire.  One hand reached up and touched the side of his face, while the other lazily ran up and down the front of his shirt.  Slowly, she used both her hands to untuck the shirt from his pants and pulled it over his head.  The whole time, Chris didn't break his rhythm, up and down, he continued running his hands down the sides of her breasts, onto her stomach, and turning back up and around the insides of her breasts.  She in turn started the exact rhythm on his chest.  They smiled at each other and reached for each others mouth, to add more passion to the mix.

Finally Chris slid up the silk and let his hands find their way to her uninhibited breasts. Gosh, she was a work of art, he thought.  His mouth slid down from her mouth, kissing and nuzzling down her neck, onto her chest and then, taking deciding to take a long detour at her breasts, he began to nibble and kiss each one back and forth, while caressing the other with his loving hands.  Rita placed kisses in his hair, then tossed her head back, arched her back while raising her arms over her head.  Chris shifted his body and hers, as she did this. Now she was laying on the warm rug, in front of the fireplace, and he, leaned over her, never stopping with his massaging assault on her breasts.  She closed her eyes and enjoyed his tender touch, then, taking her hands, she reached down and ran them along his shoulders and threw his hair.  He glanced up at her and shifted his kissing back up to her mouth.  She hungrily opened up to him and  ran her hands up and down his firm, muscular back.

Usually after having been apart for any length of time, things always went quickly, this time however, neither one was in a hurry.  They happily enjoyed exploring each other's beautiful bodies.  The gentle, passionate massaging between them unlocked all the love they both had for one another.  The recent weeks pain and anger was forever gone and banished.  Chris could never imagine leaving her or letting her slip away for any reason.  Without her, he was empty and incomplete.  Now this was his turn and his way that he could show her how much she meant to him.  Rita saw the love in Chris' eyes, there were times, before they became lovers, that she saw this look, and it scared her.  Now, she knew she couldn't live without it.  She'd gladly die for him if she had too, she knew he would for her as well.  No one ever made her feel like Chris did.

Rita enjoyed his touch and his kisses, her eyes closed to the rhythm and heat she felt surround her.  Suddenly it stopped.  She opened her eyes startled to see Chris' face over her.  He stared deeply into her green eyes and her back to his blue eyes.  Finally she had to speak, "What, Chris, is anything wrong?"  He lifted his hand and slid it through her hair, brushing it slowly off of her face.  "It's just, you....you're so beautiful, I wanted to just hold this moment," he said shrugging and looking away.  "That was pretty ridiculous sounding, wasn't it," he added with a smile and again staring into her eyes.  She raised her hand and stroked his chin and then along his cheek, she smiled, "not ridiculous at all, I wish it could last forever too."  "Let's make it," Chris said reaching down to kiss her again.  It was like beginning again for the two of them.  This time, much quicker, their fire for each other now deeply fueled.  Quickly they joined together, in perfect unison, reaching for that perfect moment they would become one.

Deep into the night, their lovemaking continued on, finally falling asleep in front of the dancing fire and securely in each others arms.  Chris woke up first as the room began to lighten.  The sun hadn't risen yet, but it soon would.  He looked at Rita sleeping peacefully beside him, hoping all along things would work out this way and now they had.  For him, it certainly was the best Christmas ever.  He kissed Rita's forehead and she stirred.  Before long she began to awaken to Chris watching her.  "Hey you," she greeted him.  "Morning sunshine," he said back softly.  "We definitely need to get one of these fireplaces back in Palm Beach," she said curling up closer to him.  Chris laughed, "yeah, just what every Floridian needs, and just where are we going to put it,"  "Okay, so it's not practical, but it's sooo perfect," Rita said kissing his chest.  "So's having a million dollars, and that's not gonna happen either," Chris replied.  "So maybe, we...." Rita began but stopped herself.  Chris looked at her puzzled, "We maybe what?"  "We come back here every year at Christmas," she smiled.  "Now that's parfait," he grinned.   They held each other closely without speaking.  "Listen, if geography serves me correctly, Wisconsin is on the west side of Lake Michigan out there, which means the sun should soon be rising up over the lake, so why don't we go watch," Chris began.  "And leave the warmth we have here," Rita questioned, snuggling closer to him.  "Well, you see, that's the fun part, we go out there, and get all cold, then come back in here and warm back up, together, you know?"  Chris explained.  "Umhmm," Rita replied smiling and not totally buying his explanation, but finding it fascinating nonetheless. "Okay, lets do it," she said jumping up and heading for the bedroom.  "I didn't mean right away," Chris called after her.

They each practically put on all the clothes they had, layer upon layer.  Inside the cabin, they were lucky to find some woolly hats, gloves for Chris and mittens for Rita.  As Chris opened the door, the bitter cold air bit their faces.  "You sure you want to do this?" Rita asked again.  "Yeah, now that we're dressed for it, we have to," Chris replied, dragging Rita by the hand outside.  They walked down towards the water and saw the sun, misted by clouds, cold and vapor just beginning to edge up on the horizon.  The sky began to put on its show of pale pinks, violets, oranges and reds.  Steam rose up from Lake Michigan, giving everything a surreal feel and look.  Rita smiled and watched Chris' face, he put his arms around her and held her close.  "This is really beautiful huh, Sam," he asked her.  She hugged him back and whispered, "Yeah, it is, great idea Sam, but I'm starting to get a little cold."  They stood and watched a little longer.  "You're such a southerner," Chris began mockingly, "but I think the show is over for today anyway," as the haze began to lift and the sun became more of its usual yellow.  "Me, I'm a southerner, huh," Rita asked him as she reached down and picked up a handful of snow, and held it in a manner prepared to do battle.  Chris grinned and shook his head and a finger at her in disbelief.  "Don't even be starting something like that, unless you want to get hurt," he said playfully.  Before his sentence ended, he was wearing the snow she had in her hand as part of his winter ensemble.  Chris laughed and immediately went for some snow of his own.  Rita began to run, but Chris nailed her with a snowball to the back.  She stopped, picked up more snow and spun around, aiming to get Chris again.  It was too late, Chris was already right next to her, shoving a handful of snow down her back.  Rita shrieked at the frozen cold, Chris stood back, laughing so hard, bending over, that he didn't see Rita come after him, tackling him into the snow.  Chris fell backwards, momentarily stunned as Rita sat on top of him and began to wash his face with the snow.  He tried shouting, "Okay, that's enough, I give, uncle, already."  But Rita continued her assault, then Chris shifted around and tossed her off and pinned her arms into the snow.  "Alright, I told you if you started this, I'd finish it," he said jokingly.  Taking both her hands and holding them over her head with one of his own, he used his other hand to tickle her.  Rita laughed uncontrollably.  Just when she thought she had enough, she wriggled one hand out of his grip, reached to her side, picked up a chunk of snow and whipped it at the side of Chris' head.  The surprise  caught him off guard and he let her up.  Rita now, grabbed at the snow as fast as she could and continued to plummet him.  Chris too, began his all out barrage of snow on her as well.  Finally the battle came to an end, with both of them collapsing in the snow, wet and cold through to their skin, shivering but smiling and laughing at each other, trying to catch their breath.  "I hope you have had enough, little miss," Chris said panting.  "I have, if you have," Rita replied.  "Truce?" Chris asked.  Rita nodded and tried standing up.  Chris jumped up immediately and helped her up.  They walked back towards the cottage, first arm in arm, then playfully scooping up more snow and continuing their little war, giggling all the while.

Back inside the cabin, they quickly began to shed layer upon layer of clothing, shivering and teeth chattering.  "That was fun," Rita began, as she continued to play by shaking off her snowy hat in Chris' face.  "It was, and that's enough," Chris said, trying to show he was annoyed, but loving every minute of it.  "To think we have to leave all this and go back to Florida," Rita continued.  "Bummer," Chris said sarcastically.  "I guess we should put our clothes by the fire.  I kept another outfit to wear, did you?" Rita asked.  "Uh no, I didn't want to freeze out there, maybe I'm not soaked all the way through,"  he said as he continued to shed clothing, checking to see if anything was dry.  Then with a smile he added, "Or I guess I'll just have to run around here buck naked."  "Cute Christopher, very cute," Rita replied, not even looking at him.  He came up behind her and put his arms around her, "I'm not kidding, and thank you very much" he said as he began to kiss the side of her neck.  "You mean to tell me you don't even have some shorts you can slip on?"  "No, I don't, hey I'm not used to this kind of weather stuff, and don't forget you started the snowball fight," he said pulling away from her, "You're freezing by the way."  "You're not exactly a toasted marshmallow either," Rita added turning around and facing him.  "I think a hot shower might warm us up," he began, giving her a puppy dog look.  She smiled at him, "Why do I let that look of yours get me every time?"  "Maybe because you love me?" Chris asked continuing the look and reaching for a kiss.  "Maybe," Rita replied, kissing him back.

A satisfying shower began to warm the both of them up in more ways than one.  Coming out of the shower, Chris grabbed the comforter off the bed and wrapped it around Rita and then himself, holding her close.  "Christopher," she quizzically asked his name, unsure of his motive.  He kissed her passionately, "What?" he replied.   "What are you up to?"  "Nothing, I'm not ready to let go of you just yet, that's all."  She smiled back at him and kissed his nose.  "So now what?" she asked.  "I think we should test out that fire again, and see if we really like it as much as we did last night," he said suggestively, nuzzling her up and down her neck.  "I think we could check it out," Rita barely got out as Chris swept her off her feet and headed into the living area.

"I never want to leave," Rita began as she watched the fire, feeling Chris' breath on her shoulder.  "Hmmhm," he replied slowly waking up from a quick nap.  "I said I never want to leave here, and I thought you said you weren't tired?"  "I agree and I take the fifth," he said quietly, kissing her softly behind the ear.  She grinned at his response and at the warmth the kiss brought her.  "I love you," she said in a whisper.  Chris pulled his hand out of the comforter and reached for her face and turned it toward him.  Looking into her eyes, he could see forever, "I love you too, for ever," he added.  She bent closer and kissed him, what they had was as close to perfect as anyone could imagine, she thought.  And now, given the circumstances of the last few weeks, she knew their love could withstand many problems they may have to face.

After  awhile of sitting silently and holding each other, Rita began to talk again.  "You know Chris, Cap really helped me out,"  "Whattaya mean, how?" he asked.  "He told me a little bit about Hanukkah and Christmas, about the light that lives inside us, and that it's up to us to keep that light lit, for everyone to see.  That light is love.  When we love each other, it burns so bright, and that's what Christmas is all about."  "The Lip said all that?" Chris asked.  Rita nodded, "Yeah, and he's right, you know."  Chris shook his head,  "He usually is," he added with a laugh as he rocked Rita back and forth.  They sat quietly again for a short time, then Chris began to speak again.  "So, do you think the Cap knows about us?"  "I think he probably has an idea or two," Rita said with a smile.  "How come he doesn't say anything?" Chris asked.  "Well maybe he's waiting for us to tell him first, in our own way."  Chris sat in silent thought.  "Maybe we should," he began.  "Maybe, are you sure?" Rita asked him.  "I don't know, but I think he deserves to know, he's been so good to us."  Rita nodded, "Yeah, we can deal with whatever will happen, right?"  Chris grinned, "I think we can, no, I know we can.  Together, you and I can do anything."  Rita turned and gave him a quick kiss, as she did, they heard a knock on the door.  Chris broke away, grabbed a T-shirt and a pair of shorts and shouted, "Coming."  Matt was at the door waiting.  "Hi, Chris, hope I'm not interrupting anything,"  "Uh, no Mr. Larsen, come on in," Chris began, looking back, and seeing that Rita had grabbed her clothes, scampered into the bedroom and closed the door.  " Please, it's Matt.  Well, the weather has cleared as you can see and the airport opened up about an hour ago, so if you two want to head back up there, I'll be glad to take you whenever you're ready, now there's no rush, I just wanted to give you the update."  Chris smiled at the kind man, "Matt, I uh, we, well Rita and I had a great time here, I just want to apologize for my behavior yesterday, I was really out of line."  Rita came out of the bedroom, dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt.  Matt glanced at her, nodded and smiled.  She returned the gesture.  Then Matt turned back towards Chris, "Don't even let it bother you, I'm glad everything's seemed to have worked out."  "It has, it's been a great Christmas, thanks to you," Chris answered.  Rita, by now had walked over to Chris and put her arms around his waist.  "That thanks goes for me too, Matt, this place is wonderful, and for you to let us stay here, over Christmas, how can we ever repay you?"  "Seeing you two happy is enough thanks for me, remember this, and maybe you can help out some other couple in some way some day too, okay?"  Rita smiled, "At least join us for a cup of coffee?"  "Sounds good," Matt said following them into the small kitchen.

Three hours later, they hugged Matt Larsen and continued to thank him and offered him an invitation for him and his family to Palm Beach any time they wanted to come down. Chris and Rita boarded the plane together and headed back to sunny Florida.

The following Monday morning Chris and Rita bounded through the Palm Tree doors and headed toward Cap's office.  Harry saw them coming, something about them looked different.  They both seemed to be glowing.  He smiled to himself and thought, that his speech about lights and Christmas and Hanukah had worked, he'd never let on though, besides those lights had been glowing for quite some time already. The End

Chris, Rita and Harry are creations of Stephen J. Cannel (love that typewriter shot) and Stu Seagull Productions (fancy film bird thing)  Everyone else is completely and utterly a character of my own creation.  The Wind Point Lighthouse does actually exist, though not as a B&B, although it would be pretty cool if it did!  I solely did this cuz I love Chris and Rita, and I, like so many of you, miss them terribly.  Special thanks goes to Linda & Lisa for posting my story.  I welcome any comments or suggestions, good or bad, and whether or not you'd like to read any more of my stories.  Please send me any comments to tuna.dc@mailexcite.com.

 

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