D-Day. Time to face the gauntlet. Life as Chris and Rita knew it was relying on this day. They silently watched an almost annoyingly smug George making small talk with the few people who were lingering outside the Commissioning courtroom. It didn't take long for the Sams to simply displace themselves from this reality, and choose to become lost in their own thoughts, which were nearly identical. The contemplation of just making a break for it, and forgetting about the whole hearing, and winding up in Sanibel or Hawaii were very appealing, but they snapped out of these healing paradises as a loud, Jamaican voice called them back to Palm Beach.
"Let me tell you something, Daughter, and you too, Irey, them call me Jimmi Sticks from Jamaica, the township of Kingston, of tropical breezes. I come bringing good luck, and cool runnings, Irey."
The detectives' faces broke into sly smiles, and they slowly turned around to check if they really had heard the disguised voice of their ex-Captain.
Sure enough, Captain Benjamin Hutchinson - a.k.a. Hutch and Skipper - had traveled down from Fort Lauderdale, and was standing in the middle of the Palm Beach P.D for the first time in almost three years.
"Okay you two hot shots, I can see you've stopped gunning for the DA's Office, but now you take on the Commissioner's Office instead?!" he asked in his own voice, exchanging hugs with the two officers that he himself had originally partnered and assigned to the crimes of passion detail. "You're obviously still running your engines a little too fast."
"I can't believe you're here, Skipper!" Chris exclaimed in shock.,,
"Well, I told you two a long time ago that you were the best I've ever had, did you honestly think I'd be missing this latest show of yours? These jokers are worse than the Fumble, Bumble, and Incompetent, so I want you to go in there and stick it to them good!"
"You're gonna stay around town for tomorrow, right Hutch?" Rita asked hopefully.
"You know I wouldn't miss it! Now, I'm going to go on in and sit down. They'll be starting soon - good luck."
No sooner had Chris and Rita said their thank yous, when another blast from their past walked up to them. They laughed as they began to feel their confidence rebuilding back to its normal level. Now, all three of their favorite Homicide commanding officers were in attendance, and Chris shook hands with and Rita hugged Lt. Lou Hudson.
"Rita, I know you're the leading authority on hunches, but my hunch is that this is a slam dunk. You guys go show them what you're made of. I'll catch back with you later, and if not, I'll just see you tomorrow."
"Thanks, Lt.," Rita called after him.
"Chris? Rita? I believe you remember Karen Krane," George said as he approached them.
"Karen!" Rita cried, utterly surprised.
After a fierce hug, Karen replied, "Mr. Donovan had asked me if I would be a character witness, and I told him it would be my pleasure." She kept her arm around Rita and stated with conviction, "Remember little Rita, and you too, Chris, some things are fated to disappear into time, but other things - like your partnership - will last. Are you ready to fight?"
"Yes ma'am, we certainly are!" Chris let Karen and George head toward the side entrance of the courtroom, while he held his wife back for a moment.
The instant Rita's emerald green gaze met Chris' cool blue one, the entire world slipped away, and the Sams drew strength from their silent, soulful communication. Though relatively a simple gesture, it was as essential to the two best friends as was oxygen. Side by side, the only way they ever chose to fight and take on the world, the only way they had ever known, Lance and Lorenzo joined their friends and entered the courtroom.
Nothing on this earth could have prepared them for what they saw on the other side of the door. The room was completely packed. The rows of chairs that took up more than half of the overall space were filled, and people lined the entire perimeter around the rows. Their shock continued as the detectives began to take notice of the smaller details:
Almost half of the people were fellow officers, uniformed and not.
In the front row sat Hutch, Hudson and Harry, along with FBI Agent Shelby Kelman, Chris' ex-partner Derek McNeil, and the seven Medical Examiners who had worked with the Sams.
Chris' eyes widened as he realized the basketball team he used to coach, including alums Dion Wilkes (in from North Florida) and boxing star Danny Newlin, were taking up another row. Mrs. Langford was sitting in the middle of the team because her son, Darrin, had been a member, and Chris and Rita had brought his killer to justice.
High school friends Howie and Tina were seated next to Cotton and Atticus, and Chris laughed as he saw Tia (well, "Sport" to him) exchanging volleyball techniques with Gator Ramsey.
As for Rita, she first noticed her dear Vice commander, Scotty, sitting with Victor Lazano - no doubt discussing the infamous "Jasmine" case.
Ex-cop and one of Rita's training officers, Dan Keaton, was talking with Judge Wheaton, while Officer Jenny Swift (making a rare appearance without her headphones) was chatting with tennis pro, Alexandra Walsh.
Donnie "Dogs" DiBarto, with Dutchie on his right arm as usual, seemed unfazed as always to be surrounded by cops, and he was deep in discussion with Suzanne Rickers of "Night Moves."
Jack Duvall and Savannah Smith were going about their normal teasing of each other, and Rita's longtime friends Linda Kirkland and Liz Reston were reminiscing the ol' high school days.
A waving hand caught Rita's attention, and she suddenly realized that the young woman was Nicole, a runaway Rita had taken into her home. Now twenty years old, Nicole pointed to her University of Miami T-shirt, and then to her foster parents who were seated on either side of her.
"I'm so proud of you!" Rita mouthed, absolutely beaming.
"It's got a certain 'this is your life' kind of feel to it, don't you think?" George mused.
"I'd say you've been busy George!"
"You're darn right I've been busy Lorenzo, but you haven't seen anything yet."
eorge's smug attitude was becoming contagious, as the shock wore off and Karen, Rita, Chris, and George all filed in behind the long table that was placed next to a wooden podium. The podium was facing a large, oak bench that regally occupied the majority of the front wall. Seven microphones lined the bench's desktop, as well as seven black and gold nameplates, which announced the name and position of power for each panel member.
The loud echoing of the chamber door opening alerted the crowd to silence, though several muffled laughs were heard as all eyes focused on the board members - and the visible glitch each had in their step as they realized just how much support they were up against.
Filing to their respective chairs, they took their seats and Commissioner Donahue began to speak. "This board will come to order. The Commissioning Review Board will convene to determine status of Homicide team Lieutenant Rita Lee Lance and Sergeant Christopher Lorenzo. Mr. Donovan, if you are ready, let's get started."
"Yes sir, we're ready," George said, moving to stand behind the podium. "We come prepared to prove to this board through character witness testimony, presentation of past cases, and the personal testimony of Lt. Lance and Sgt. Lorenzo that this partnership will not be hindered by the officers' married status and should not be divorced. We appreciate the opportunity for the Commissioning Review Board to hear this case, and I will now turn the floor over to the FBI." George held open the gate that separated his table from the audience, and sat down as Shelby went up to the podium.
"Special Agent Shelby Kelman, FBI. The Bureau wishes to offer its support for Lance and Lorenzo as a return for the exemplary service and expertise they provided us in November of 1993. Following the murder of Agent Tiffany Bowling, these detectives were temporarily reassigned to the Bureau to take down a Miami modeling agency which was the front for an international sex slavery ring. The models, referred to as "units," were sold by auction to off-sea buyers, and usually sold several more times once they left US soil.
Without the assistance of Sgts. Lance and Lorenzo, Matt and JoJo Cardell would have gotten away with the murder of a federal agent - and my best friend - and we would not have been able to locate 83 women they had sold into slavery.
I must convey to you all that Sgt. Lorenzo's main concern was the safety of his partner, and it was clearly evident that no collar was worth taking unnecessary risks where his partner was concerned. I have worked with many teams of officers in my career, and I have never witnessed such a perfect balance of commitment to duty and caution for one another. It is the recommendation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that this team should remain intact, due to the fact that these detectives are among the few who could handle their married status and still conform to police regulations in the everyday dangers of police life. Thank you for your time."
George waited until every board member had finished jotting down their notes before taking out a small stack of papers from a file he had in front of him, and returning to the podium. "Lt. Lance and Sgt. Lorenzo have been an active part of Palm Beach's Homicide Division for five and a half years now. Each has worked a Vice detail, and Sgt. Lorenzo has also pulled a Robbery beat. What I wish to present to this board now, is an official petition stating that two hundred fellow Palm Beach officers are putting their badges on the line to ensure that this particular partnership is not divorced."
The dumbfounded and slightly uncomfortable glances the board members exchanged with one another paled in comparison to the looks of sheer shock that Chris and Rita whipped at each other. They were stunned beyond belief. How could one comprehend such support? This gesture extended far beyond the code that exists between officers, and it placed the Sams at a total loss for words.
George handed the petition to Comm. Donahue, and looked each panel member in the eye as he stated, "I believe this should dispel any doubts that this team is legendary."
Walking back to his seat, George once again opened the small gate. It was Taylor's turn at bat.
"I am Dr. Taylor Hodge. As Palm Beach's Chief Medical Examiner for most of 1994, I worked many homicides with Sgts. Lance and Lorenzo, and assisted in many of their earlier cases under the direction of Dr. Diana Roth.
n August 1994, Lance and Lorenzo brought an end to a seven year run of gruesome serial murders which had plagued law enforcement agencies from Maine to Florida - including the FBI. I would like to call to your attention that the 'Seaside Strangler' was the first case this team took on, following the near fatal shooting of Det. Lorenzo -"
Rita unconsciously sucked her breath in, and visibly stiffened as an uncontrollable wave of painful flashbacks slammed her mind back to that awful night.
"Christopher, don't you leave me!"
Rita sank into a chair in the waiting room of the ER. Her tears hadn't stopped flowing since she was forced to leave Chris' gurney as he was whisked off to surgery. "I thought I lost him, Cap," she sobbed, "I mean, I really thought he was dead!"
"Rita?" Rita awakened to the sound of her name, and afraid it was only a dream, she hesitated to move. But Chris' raspy voice kept coming, and Rita realized that she really was looking into the opened blue eyes of the partner whose side she hadn't left in three days. She carefully picked up his hand, while moving to sit on his bed and kiss his forehead. She silently thanked God that he had pulled through, that she had reached him in time, and unconsciously let "I love you" slip out loud before she could catch herself. Luckily, it had been in the softest whisper imaginable so Chris hadn't heard her, and Rita was quick to recover with the threat, "if you ever do that to me again...I will kill you."
When the doctor came in with the prognosis of a long recovery time, Chris tightened his interlaced grip with Rita's hand. In no uncertain terms he was mad. Rita quickly countered this with the perspective which had haunted her throughout his whole ordeal, using his full first name to show just how serious she was, "We're not talking some flesh wound here, Christopher, you almost died..."
"You almost died..." The words echoed in Rita's mind as loud and clear as they had on the day she had originally spoken them.
"Are you okay?" Chris whispered with concern, placing a hand on her back.
Rita closed her eyes as she shook her head affirmatively, and then tried to refocus on Taylor's testimony.
"Even though these detectives were dealing with the complications of a nightmare that every cop fears, they were still able to carry out their duties. Sgt. Lance was able to put her personal turmoil aside, and conduct the preliminary investigation and initial groundwork of this serious case without the professional physical and emotional aid of a partner while hers worked on his recovery.
Sgt. Lance had aided in saving Sgt. Lorenzo's life, and he in turn has always held his ability to keep her safe as the center of his job. When he felt that that ability was compromised by his injury, he turned in his badge. Had it not been for the persuasion that only his partner of four years could provide, Det. Lorenzo would not have returned to the force, and Sgt. Rita Lee Lance would have become the 14th victim of a serial murderer.
As a team, these officers have been able to perform their duty to serve and protect in the most adverse of conditions, and it is the strength, trust, and ability within that unity that has kept them both alive and their record perfect. If their status as husband and wife has any impact whatsoever on that ability and unity, it will be to enhance it, not hinder it. Thank you."
Taylor closed her file and returned to her seat, receiving an undetectable squeeze to her right hand by Diana and a similar one on her left hand by Keisha.
Harry stood up, ready to give his all for his two young friends, and to keep the best team he had ever worked with together.
"Captain Harry Lipschitz. I became Lance and Lorenzo's superior officer two and a half years ago when I transferred to Palm Beach from the NYPD's 4th Precinct.
As with any new command, I received and reviewed the service records of all the officers in the Homicide Division, along with the personal logs of Lt. Lou Hudson and Capt. Benjamin Hutchinson regarding those officers. Apparently, Lance and Lorenzo had made quite an impression on their previous commanding officers, and I was interested yet skeptical. How good could these detectives be? Well, they have astounded me time and time again with their abilities, and their individual talents combine into a team that has probably the most outstanding record in the entire history of the Palm Beach Police Department. That cannot be overlooked, undermined, or ignored.
Look, no one here needs to be told that cops have a connection with their partners. We've all been there. We would know our partners better than we'd know ourselves and we would be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice without a second thought. That's generic for all cops. It's mandatory. It is not sufficient grounds to keep a team together. What is sufficient grounds, is when the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two hundred fellow officers, a Chief M.E, two Captains and a Lieutenant can all attest to the fact that the team of Lt. Lance and Sgt. Lorenzo has a bond like no one has ever seen before. As it is highly unlikely that all of these people are wrong, this partnership must be exhibiting a connection that goes above and beyond standard partnerships.
Married or not, these detectives get the job done. And the fact that they finally did get married came as no surprise to anyone in this station. You didn't have to be a cop to notice that to begin with Chris and Rita were closer than most married people. That bond has never stopped them from doing their jobs and having a perfect arrest record, and it's not about to start holding them back now."
When Harry was seated, it was Karen who stood up and went to the podium.
"My name is Karen Krane. I am the granddaughter of Governor Joseph Krane, the daughter of Governor John Krane, and the niece of Senator Philip Krane. As a civilian, I am afraid that I cannot offer much insight in regards to complicated police regulations and this husband and wife team. But as a citizen in their jurisdiction of Palm Beach, I am able to stand before you today for the simple reason that these detectives saved my life. I was able to witness firsthand the competency Lt. Lance and Sgt. Lorenzo exhibit in dangerous situations, and for their ability to work as a team and their brilliancy in even knowing I was in trouble, I owe them my life.
Knowing Lt. Lance personally, and in coming to know Sgt. Lorenzo, I can tell you that these officers love what they do. They are able to continue excelling in their chosen profession and protecting citizens such as myself because this work is important to them. Depriving us, the citizens of Palm Beach, of such a phenomenal law enforcement team would be a very grave injustice.
You have heard for yourselves that this set of partners has a very special bond, and you have also heard that they would sooner quit the job they love than risk each other's safety. You have shown your previous trust in their judgement by allowing Lt. Lance and Sgt. Lorenzo to be licensed to carry a badge and a firearm in the state of Florida. Now I implore you to trust their judgement that their married status will not impede their safety or their ability. I thank you."
George turned to Chris. "Alright, big guy, this is it. Just relax, and let 'em have it."
Chris glanced quickly at the Commissioning Review Board before focusing his attention on his partner, and a renewed sense of clarity convinced him that this board was going down: she was Rita…his Sam.
Said partner did her best to smile reassuringly, and she gently placed a hand on Chris' arm as a silent reminder for him to keep his cool. Chris winked in response; of course he understood her message. Looking to Comm. Donahue again, he arose and walked to the podium, never breaking the steely eye contact.
"Rita Lee Lance has watched my back for five and a half years. We've been through a lot of situations where there was a pretty good chance that one of us, or both of us, might not make it out alive. When a deal like that is going down, you don't have the time to talk out a strategy. You're ready to knock the whole place down, and you know there are bad guys in there with guns - guns bigger than you've got - but you don't care. You're gonna go in anyway because it's your job. You start pumping those shallow breaths and you've got adrenaline flying through your veins. And that's when you look to your partner. You look to the one person who's in charge of keeping you alive, and the one person whose life is riding on your every move. In a situation like that, where the slightest sound could mean the difference between life and death, all my partner has to do is blink a certain way, and I'll know exactly what she thinks we should do. I can read as much in one look from Lt…"
Chris flashed an arrogant smile as he announced his wife's rank. That's right, his Rita was a Lieutenant. Not missing a beat, he continued with his testimony.
…Lance, as I can in hours of spoken conversation with her. Communication like that can only happen because I am closer to her than I am to anybody else in this whole world.
I know what it's like to almost lose my partner. Two years ago when I thought she had been murdered in her apartment, my whole world blew up. Lt. Lance is my best friend, and I thought she was gone. And what happened when I found out she wasn't the one who had been murdered? We went straight into regulation-mode, found out who the actual victim was, and brought the killer to justice. We're cops…that's what we do, that's who we are. Yet through it all, I got a second chance at life because now I had my partner back.
And you wanna know why my partner and I make such an effective team? It's because our partnership is built on rock-solid trust. And when you're a cop, that ultimate trust is the key to staying alive. You start doubting your partner, and you're dead. Just because Lt. Lance and I are now married doesn't mean we've stopped trusting each other out there on the line, and it doesn't mean we can no longer do our job. 'Serve and protect'…we do our job right, we do it together, we do it as partners."
Chris continued his hard stare before turning toward the table. He remained standing, and his glare softened as he watched Rita rise with an almost feline grace. Her determined, high-heeled steps echoed through the silent courtroom, and the torch of strength was passed to her when Chris squeezed her arms from behind as their paths crossed and they exchanged places.
The fire of Rita's spirit flashed in her eyes. She took a deep breath to center herself, and slowly exhaled her tension. Chris had been the only constant presence in her life in a very long time, and she was willing to do everything in her power to keep them from being separated.
"A young civilian enters the police academy. She puts her trust in the law enforcement system that she holds in such high regard. She knows she has something to offer it, and she is prepared to give her life, if necessary, to protect the innocent who also put faith that system. As time passes, she becomes the youngest woman to get a gold shield in Palm Beach. She comes to realize that she can never quite turn off 'the cop' in her, and no matter what she says, the job always comes first. For the most part, she doesn't care. All she wanted to do as that young civilian was make a difference…..I know I did. I thought offering my life would be enough; I never thought that after being promoted to Lieutenant, I would be forced to defend my marriage and my job qualifications to a board of my superiors. This isn't what I call making a difference.
My partner and I are by no means rookies. We have lost friends, almost lost friends, and have almost lost each other in the line of duty, and no one needs to tell us the risks. We live them daily.
You ask those officers who have families what they're thinking about when they find themselves in a deep situation, and they'll tell you they're thinking about their spouse. They're thinking about their children, and they're focusing all of their ability on making it out of the situation alive so they can go back home and be with the people who mean the most to them. Just like Sgt. Lorenzo and myself, they know what's at stake with every collar they attempt, and they know the risk they take in making the streets safer for their families.
You ask these officers what one of their greatest fears is, and they'll tell you it's being called to a scene where someone in their family or someone on the force has been involved. Like my partner and I, they know that possibility is always present, and yet something still keeps us all coming to work each morning.
And you see, cops are allowed to have families. The Department allows them to be married - allows them to marry other cops. No one ever questions whether or not an officer who is married to another officer will be able to handle the danger aspect of the job, knowing the risk to each other's safety, and no one ever questions if they will be able to follow procedure if the unthinkable was to happen. None of these officers can tell you how'd they react in that situation, but then again, they're never asked. I cannot see why it has to be different for my partner and I."
Rita stopped to keep the anger and the sarcasm, which was simmering just below the surface of her calm exterior, from seeping into her testimony. She gave herself a mental shake and the same warning she had given Chris. No one was going to tell her she couldn't do her job with Chris as her partner, but now more than ever she needed the professional demeanor she always prided herself on maintaining.
"In other words, like any other cop on the force, we know that there is always the chance that a situation may arise that one of us might not walk away from. But you see, we took an oath when they gave us these badges. We are to serve and protect…and nowhere in that oath did it state 'except when your partner's life would be on the line.' It makes no difference now that Sgt. Lorenzo is my best friend and my husband; I want to be the one watching his back and I want him to continue to watch mine, just as we have done for the past five and a half years.
The trial progressed slowly. Several other past cases were presented in depth, as well as a greater evaluation of those reported by Shelby, Taylor, and Karen. Other co-workers and civilians were interviewed, and Chris and Rita each underwent a grueling and thorough inquiry that could best be described as an interrogation. Both were careful to keep their tempers in check, despite the feeling that they were talking to a wall when forced to answer all the various "what if" questions that no cop could answer with any degree of certainty. Their only break came in the form of a half an hour lunch, and though neither of them felt much like eating, Rita made sure she gagged down a little something for the baby's sake. Finally, nine long and emotionally draining hours after Commissioner Donahue had called the proceedings to order, he dismissed the Review Board to deliberate on their verdict, and George was instructed to report back in two hours.
Rita hadn't uttered a single word in several hours, mainly because she had been the first to be grilled, and moreover because the day had ultimately depleted her energy reserve.
Still in her pensive state, she trudged along behind Chris and George as they exited the courtroom.
"Don't be so hard on yourselves; you guys were great. It couldn't have gone any better than it did. You should be proud of yourselves."
"Yeah, right George," Chris mumbled, forcing a smile and trying to sound optimistic.
"I mean it, Lorenzo. You and Lance have the best record in Palm Beach; they won't be splitting you up. They won't take that chance because let's not forget…two hundred officers will be walking if they were to divorce you."
"Yeah, that thought had crossed my mind," Rita absentmindedly spoke up, basically offering a sign of reassurance to Chris and George that she was still on the planet.
The scene at the Palm Beach Police Department's Homicide Division was one of uncharacteristic inactivity. The Captain was leaned up against the outside wall of his office with his arms folded across his chest. Rita was perched on top of Chris' desk, nervously tapping a high-heeled foot as she stared down at nothing in particular, and Chris, with his hands in his pockets, was wearing out the tiles in front of Rita. The room served as a gathering place for the massive Lance and Lorenzo support system as they anxiously awaited the decision of the Review Board, and the atmosphere practically hummed with anticipation and tension. At each slightest sound all eyes would focus on the swinging palm tree doors, willing for them to open and for George Donovan to appear with ruling in hand.
After what seemed like an eternity, George finally did make his entrance, not revealing any information in the blank expression he wore. Rita hopped off the desk and took her place next to Chris. The Captain soon joined them, and the rest of the crowd moved in around Donovan.
George still hadn't spoken as he placed his briefcase on Chris' desk and took out the official letter.
"Well?!" Chris asked impatiently, speaking for all those present.
George stared at the letter, and replied, "Well, it's a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo..." He held up his hand before Chris or anyone else could protest. "But seeing how the majority of you people are armed with at least one weapon, I'll just skip down to the bottom and read you what it says there."
The politician in George was enjoying the fact that everyone was hanging on his every word, but he convinced himself not to let it show. "Regarding the partnership of Lieutenant Rita Lee Lance and Sergeant Christopher Lorenzo, in view of their married status, the Commissioning Review Board hereby rules against termination by order of Section 5-21 The Sexual Dispensation Rule."
Rita jumped into Chris' arms, and as he held her tight, he spun her around. The division had exploded in cheers, but it barely registered with the Sams. Their eyes and souls were locked; they were partners again. Finally separating from each other, they turned to George, accepted the letter from him, and took turns throwing their arms around him. They moved around the crowded station, thanking and embracing all their friends.
Just as everyone was giving thought to dispersing, the swinging doors opened again. Commissioner Donahue walked into the room, setting off another round of cheers. He shook his head from side to side, and tried to quiet the crowd.
"Sir, we really cannot thank you enough," Rita exclaimed, before he could speak.
Chris continued, "She's right, Sir, we really don't know what to say...thank you."
Again Donahue shook his head. "In all my years as Commissioner," he began, "in all my years on the force, I have never witnessed such stationwide - and communitywide - support for any given pair of officers. Every division you two have ever served with rallied its support for you, along with some of the most influential members of Palm Beach. Beyond that, you have touched many everyday-civilian lives, detectives, and the amount of people who packed that courtroom today was unprecedented. Lieutenant, Sergeant, your reputations as officers and as a team reaches many corners of this great state, and it is my opinion that separately and collectively you personify everything that the badge stands for. You already know the official ruling of the Board, but the unofficial ruling is that the city of Palm Beach would suffer greatly if your partnership was divorced, and it would be exceptionally foolish of me to allow such an inequity to occur. Congratulations, detectives, you deserve this."
The applause was thundering as he finished and shook hands with Chris, Rita, George, and Captain Lipschitz. Rita's heart sang, and she knew there was only one more obstacle to hurdle.
"Rita? Is something wrong?">
"Ah, no Cap, there isn't."
Harry's concerned expression didn't change. Everyone had already gone home for the day, yet his lieutenant was waiting for him in his office. The verdict was in, today should be a day of celebration, and beyond that, it was a rare occasion that Rita Lee Lance showed such signs of apprehension. So, as he took a seat at his desk, he awaited her explanation.
Rita was now pacing nervously back and forth in front of the desk, gathering her thoughts and her courage. When she finally spoke again, she asked, "you know that I consider you and Fran family, don't you, Cap?"
"Rita," Harry said quietly, "you and Chris mean so much more to me than just my officers, you know that. You're my friends, and - you're the children Frannie and I never had."
His simple declaration warmed Rita's heart. She stopped pacing, and turned to face him. Although the smile she offered him was a shy one, the familiar and confident glint had returned to her eyes as she inquired, "then would you give me away at my wedding, Cap?"
Harry was speechless. He looked on in awe at the incredible young woman who stood before him, knowing full well how hard it must have been for her to even make this request, and how much it meant to her. All the recommendations, all the merit awards, and all the service medals he had ever received in his twenty-five years on the force, could never begin to compare to the pride Harry felt at that moment. Regaining his composure, he quickly nodded, moving around the desk to embrace her. "Rita, I - I would be honored. Thank you, Rita."
"No, Cap," Rita exclaimed, as she hugged him back, her eyes radiating happiness now that everything was perfect, "thank you."