Pandoras Box
By Lisa

Part Six

She had just gotten out of the car,and was reaching in for the lunches she had brought with her, when Cindy McConnell called out to her.Turning,Rita saw her hurriedly approaching her. "Oh just great" she mumbled ,trying to hide the fact that this woman was the last person she had hoped to run into over would be more like it,she thought to herself....

"Rita....You poor dear....I heard about last night,and I just felt so awful for you...I mean it must have been simply horrible for you....Do you know who could have done such a thing?"

"No,they are still investigating that...I'm in a bit of a hurry,Cindy..if you'll excuse me?" Standing around pretending to be friendly with this person was a waste of precious time and they both knew it.

"Oh..of course. Chinese huh? Let me guess...your meeting my partner for lunch again?" Cindy stressed the word partner . Rita stopped in her tracks,despite her better judgement.She turned back to face Cindy.

"Oh..I was under the impression that the case you both were working on was over,and after tomorrow,it will be Lance and always....." Rita said this with a hint of gloating in her voice,at the same time telling herself ,she didn't need to go one on one with this woman and to just walk away. She was better then this.But damn,....this woman needed to be put in her place once and for all,and she was Rita Lee Lance...she had never before let anyone strip her of her confidence,and she was damn sure that this woman wasn't going to.

Cindy arched her own eyebrows now at Ritas words ,a mischevious twinkle coming to her eye."Oh?..Then I guess you haven't heard yet....I came into work this morning to find this on my desk. She took a piece of folded paper out of her pocket. "It's a new partnership order..from the Commishioner."

She handed the paper to Rita .Rita reached out impatiently and took it,reading over it for a moment before she could make her voice work.

"It says here that Chris requested this?" her voice cracked as she read the order."I don't understand. Chris doesn't want another partner."

"Well...apparently he does ,Lance, know as well as I do that the commishioner would have never split up the great Lance and Lorenzo otherwise...and it went through.......You'll be paired off with Hastings now..IF your reinstated that is." Cindys' voice gloated again,full of malice." Maybe you shouldn't be so shocked dear...Chris and I worked great together....he even told me I was a good cop....he said the best he's ever worked with,actually"

Her hands trembled as she held the piece of paper,unable to tear her eyes away from it,yet feeling sicker with each second she stared at the one single line that suddenly changed her life....Lorenzo and McConnell.

"I don't beleive that...he told me you almost shot him." Rita said,her voice fading.She could think of nothing eles to say.

"True...and we did have it out.He's forgiven me though and actually he has helped me to understand some things....As a matter of fact,we've been getting quite close this past week. I see what you like about being his partner...Chris is a really good friend,isn't he." Cindy smirked.

"Sammy!" a voice called .

Chris came running up to her,but he knew immediately by the look on her face,that he was too late. She was holding a paper in her hands,and was looking down at it.

" Rita." He still held out some small degree of hope that maybe he was wrong...maybe Cindy wasn't as malicious as he thought.

She raised her eyes to him now,and Chris wasn't sure what it was he saw in them, but it was a look he had never before seen,in all thier years together. She wasn't crying,but her eyes glistened as she searched his own eyes.

"Chris.....They made a mistake." she managed to speak,though her voice was barely above a whisper. She shakily brought the paper out to him now,but he couldn't bear to see it,and looked away,shaking his head.He didn't have to see it to know what it was.

"Do you know what it says?" she asked,looking back at the paper herself when he didn't take it.Then she looked back up to him,searching his eyes. "It's just a mistake isn't it?" Her voice was betraying the insecurities she had been fighting so hard not to allow Cindy see.

He didn't know what to say to her,and yet his mind whirled with a thousands thoughts. He needed an explanation...but he first needed to make his voice work. He could only shake his head no,while he tried to speak words that would only escape him. He stood there facing her, seeing her heart breaking right before his eyes,and cursed himself for it.

"It's true?" her voice suddenly grew weaker as she spoke to him,waiting for him to make everything all right again.

For a moment,that's the way it went. Her standing there,waiting for him to explain,to help her understand why and him standing a few feet away from her,nodding his head yes, it was true,but simply remaining silent because no other words would come.

She crumbled the paper up into a ball,then tossed it at him,before quickly glancing into his eyes one last time,and devastating him with the anquished look he saw in her own.

He reached out for her,almost touching her,but she took a step back.He wanted to take her away from there,hoping that somehow he could make her understand.She flung her arm ,as if his touch was venom,and the food she had been holding dropped.

"Don't touch me.....I...I" Her words faltered in between the sobs that she was still trying to fight off. She turned from him,back to Cindy,who still stood there watching the scene,somehow still finding it all very amusing.

"You two deserve each other." It was all she could manage to say without allowing herself to break down right there. When she turned her back on them,her shoulders were shaking,though she still didn't cry the tears that would so easily come once she allowed them too.

And then she was gone. A pile of spilt food now lied where she had stood. Chris took a step forward to go after her,but gave up,knowing that he had no choice but to let her go ,at least for now. At the moment,she wouldn't allow him to get close enough to even try to right the wrong that had been done.If he had any hope of it at all.

He stood watching her leave,his heart going with her.He was brought out of the shell shock that had come over him, when he heard Cindys voice.

"Well...that went better then expected,didn't it?"

Chris looked over to her,seeing her nastily grinning back at him."Why the hell did you do that?" he raged at her.

She only smiled wider at him."Oh Christopher....You really are naive aren't you ?" She shrugged her shoulders."But I suppose that's why I like's really kind of charming. I told you,PARTNER. I go after what I want."

She looked down to the mess on the ground now."What a shame partner..,you never even got your smelled so good too. Oh well." She turned her back on him and walked away,leaving him staring at the mess.

Chris tried her on her cell phone but got no answer. He slammed the phone down,and then kicked a waste can by his desk.

"That's enought of that!" barked out Cap.He had just opened the door ,wondering where the hell his lunch was. If Franny didn't want him eating that junk,she could at least make sure she had his lunch here when it was time to eat it.He was starving,and not in the mood to deal with Lorenzos temper now,but it looked like that was just what he was going to be doing,rather then eating . He had just spoken to her and she insisted she had sent it in with Rita.

"Fine" Chris said,as he grabbed his jacket and began to head toward the doors to leave.

"Lorenzo...You get back here now! That's an order!"

Chris halted,then turned around."What is it Cap?" he sighed.

"Have you seen Rita yet? She was suppossed to bring my lunch in...Fran said she sent it in with her."

"Yeah..I've seen her,Cap."

"And?" Cap impatiently snapped.

"Your lunch is in the parking lot,Cap" Chris said,before he walked through the Palm doors.

"Oh..well.then...that's good" said Harry as he rubbed at the grumbling in his stomach.He walked over to the window,expecting to see Chris going out to meet Rita,on her way up.Instead he saw the spilt mess lying on the ground.

He brought both his hands to massage at the pounding that was beginning in his temples,and shook his head. It was time to call Franny again.He needed another lunch.


She didn't know where she was going,she just drove. She couldn't go to her spot on the beach,but it was the ocean that she needed right now,and so instead of her usual spot where she knew Chris could easily find her,she went a few miles up.She had felt as if her heart were being pounded and beaten by a rock as she had stood there,waiting for Chris to say something to her,to tell her it was a mistake of some kind....but that had never happened.How could he do this to her! What had she done to make him want a new make him want Cindy instead?

But she knew she had done nothing. Times just simply changed...and now it was Cindy who Chris wanted....both on the job and in his life.Sitting there,she realized that as much as she wanted to hate Chris just then,she couldn't. He was who he was,and she had been just as much to blame. They had entered into an area either of them never should have.

How could she ever let him go though? He had become so much a part of her,of who she was....She should never have allowed things to go as far as they had....Chris had never been one to settle with just one woman,and she had been foolish to think he would be contented with her. Her instincts had told her that much,but she had chosen to ignore them,and now she would have to pay for that.Now,not only was she loosing a partner,and a lover,she was also loosing her best friend. They could never be as they once were...they had crossed that line that each of them had promised the other a long time ago they would never cross. They had broken that promise...but then again,alot of promises between them had been broken.

Tomorrow she would have her hearing.......and she wasn't even sure she wanted to go anymore.She just no longer cared how any of it turned out. The thought of going into work each day,seeing Chris and Cindy as partners....she knew she couldn't do it. Sure,they could try to at least continue thier friendship,but she knew she couldn't live with that alone,not anymore. She loved him ,and she knew she always would. Her mistake was to fall in love with someone who couldn't love her back the way she needed it to be.She was looking for forever,and Chris just couldn't do forever.Maybe forever just didn't exist.....She had to learn that lesson over and over again the hard way.

It was then that she decided she had to go to the hearing......She would get her named cleared,and then put in for a transfer somewhere else...somewhere where she wouldn't have to see Chris each day,living with the regret of what they had done.


Fran Lipshitz came strolling into the shop,but one could tell by her demeanor that she wasn't there for the usual gossip and chat sessions she often came for,nor was she there to meet her husband for lunch,although she carried a container of something with her.She pushed the Palm doors open now,and let them slam together,causing a whoosh of wind as she entered.

Hurricane Franny had arrived,and now she set her eyes on the one person she had come in for...the one person she would launch her force on...She found her,as she suspected she would, sitting at Rita Lances desk.

Marching right up to the desk,she pushed a surprised Cindys' chair away from the desk,and opened the top drawer,looking for exactly what she found. She took it out and placed Ritas name plate back on the desk,and took,Cindys' off,and tossed it into the waste can.

"Hey! Just what do you think you are doing?" Cindy was bewildered as well as furious.

"I am doing what I should have done awhile ago....For the past week,I have watched you worm your way into not only this desk,but into the life of the person who this desk really belongs to,and it's time to put a stop to it here and now." Fran pointed over to where Cindys' real desk was."I believe that is your desk over there ,isn't it?"

"What? You can't just tell me to move! You may be my captains wife,but you have no authority here!"

" wouldn't think so,would you? No...Your right,I don't have any authority here,but I can make life very miserable for you anyway." Fran leaned a little closer to Cindy. "It's something to think about honey."

Cindy arched her eyebrows,a repulsive look showing on her face. "Well,it just so happens that this IS my desk now...things have changed since yesterday,Mrs Lipshitz... I'm Chris' new partner now. He asked to work with me on a permanent basis. Now,if you don't mind..."

Cindy made a move to stand. Fran stepped right in front of her though,all five feet of her blocking the almost 6 foot woman who easily towered over her.

."Oh...I mind all right...You listen up McConnell. You don't need to play games with me,or with my husband...we both know the truth...we know you blackmailed Chris into doing this partner switch....and we also know that you couldn't wait to rub it into Ritas face. I want to tell you something right now,McConnell....I have always considered my husbands coworkers as part of my family...I hold MOST of them very dear....but on occassion,I will run into someone like you and when someone likes you messes with my family,I don't take too well to that.........Now,Chris and Rita,well,they aren't just a part of my family...they are my my own children. And when I see them being hurt by the likes of you,well...let's just say I'm like a mother bear,and I will do anything to protect my cubs. "

"Mrs.Lipshitz...What exactly are you trying to say.hmmm?" Cindy was beginning to enjoy this unexpected break in her work.

"Oh...I'm quite sure you know exactly what I'm saying. I do have one little word of advice for you though dear," Fran made her voice sugary sweet." You may think you have Ritas' job,but you'll never be able to take Chris away from her.....His heart has always and will always belong to only one woman,and that is Rita Lance. There have been many better then you who have tried to come between them and failed.As a matter of fact,you don't even stand a chance.Christopher likes a warm blooded heart in his woman,and that's something I don't believe reptiles have,do they?"

"Oh really...Well perhaps we shall just wait and see... especially now that Rita seems to be a bit upset with Chris today," Cindy tossed her hair,chuckling as she did."They had quite an interesting scene out in the parking lot earlier."

"Oh that?" Fran waved her hand in the air,as if to wave the worry away."Pay no mind to that...those two will work it out...they always do." She said it with confidence,though secretly she was trying to assure herself of this same thing. Fran glared at the woman before her,deadly serious now."You may think you have won this game,but just know,I will be watching you like a hawk....and I will be ready to sweep down and carry you away,the first chance I get."

"Am I supposed to consider that as a threat...a warning,?...what?" Cindy snickered at her.

"Take it to mean whatever you want McConnell,...what goes around comes around,remember that."

Fran looked up as the door to her husbands office opened up. "Franny...what are you doing?"

"Oh,I was just having a little discussion with Cindy here,Heshy...Oh,here is your OTHER lunch" she stressed the word other,looking in Cindys' direction as she did " I brought something for Chris as well,though I don't suppose he is here,is he?" She asked,though she knew, he wouldn't be."I'm sure Rita is all he had on his mind." She smiled at Cindy again.

"Franny..Get in here." Harry ordered in his captains voice.His voice softened then as he glanced irritatedly at Cindy, and then back to his wife."We need to talk. "

As Fran entered her husbands office,Cindy heard the concern in his voice before he closed the door"Have you heard anything from Rita?"

She sat back and smiled. Working around here was sure getting to be very interesting lately. Never a dull moment.


Chris felt as if he would go insane any minute if he did not find Rita soon. He had looked everywhere that afternoon,checking with all her friends,and the place at the beach where she usually went to think.He was on his way to Cap and Frans again,hoping she had at least returned there ,when he got a call in his car that he was needed to arrive at yet another crime scene.

Groaning,he turned his car in the opposite direction,and headed back down Shore Drive,where the body of a twenty -six year old had been found in her car.

He was glad to see Cap there when he arrived."Hey Cap!" He was glad that Cap hadn't sent Cindy to the scene. "I'm glad you came....thanks." He said it in passing ,knowing his captain had understood his meaning. He knew he would have had no choice but to team up with her to work this case if she had been sent,and right that moment,he wasn't in the mood to be as professional as he was suppossed to have been." What have we got?" he asked.

Cap shook his head disgustedly."Yeah,well,,I figured you might need some help.He looked a little guilty revealing his secret to Chris. " I never even told her about the call...she doesn't know about this least not yet.." Cap shrugged indifferently,but he caught the grateful look in his seargents eyes,and he was glad he hadn't sent Cindy."You know,I sometimes miss being out here... then I'm reminded by things like this,and I remember why I was so happy to get away from the streets." He nodded his head in the direction of the body."It's pretty cut and dried though...she was strangled."

"You got a name?"

"Yeah...her drivers license says her name is Stacy Ann Bauers."

Chris walked over to the girl now,shaking his head. It was hard to believe that even as early as four o'clock in the afternoon someone could be killed in broad day light,and in a fairly busy area.

Checking over the girl,he noticed that aside from the ugly strangulation marks on her neck,the woman was beautiful. He couldn't see any sign of drug or alcohol abuse,and her clothes looked as if they had been bought in the citys upper scale stores.Taking her hand,he saw her watch had stopped,the glass that protected the face had been smashed.

"Cap...this only happened about two hours ago" he remarked as he pulled out an evidence bag.As he slid of the watch off the girls wrist,something fell from her hand. It was a tie clip.

"JSM...Cap,we got someones initials here." He slid the tie clip into another bag.

They spent the next several hours at the shop,readying the case for investigation. A call to the girls mother quickly told them who the initials stood for.Stacy had been having an affair with a married man,James MacKenzie,and she had recently discovered she was pregnant. It seemed a simple case,and Cap handed it over to Tom and Cassy who had just wrapped up a previous case.It wasn't until eight-thirty when Chris had any time to start looking for Rita again. A call to Franny ,who by now was worried herself,told him she wasn't there.He checked in again with Taylor and Diana ,and again,they couldn't give him any news.

"Go on ,Lorenzo...Go find her..I'll finish up here,we're almost done anyway. Chris could hear a trace of worry in his captains voice. No one had seen Rita since lunch. Chris jumped in his car,deciding to again head on back to her spot on the beach,when his cell phone rang."Yeah,Lorenzo" he answered.

Hey! It's the jabeep himself... so where are you,Lorenzo...I have a little problem I need to speak to you about." Chris sighed as he heard the voice,knowing just who it was. Donnie Dogs Dibarto.

"What do you want,Dibarto...I'm not in the mood,and I'm very busy."

"Same as alwaysI see ,Lorenzo. Well,no matter...we got bigger fish to fry right now. Do you know who I just ran into?"

Chris was too annoyed by the conversation to be playing guessing games. His mind was only on Rita,as it had been all day long."Donny...what's going on...can this wait until tomorrow. I don't have the time right now."

"You don't have time to help your best friend out? " Donny asked.

Chris quickly brought his car to the side of the road and a stop. "You have her...where is she?"

"She's down here at Society. She's been here for quite awhile,I'm told. My guys,they knew who she was and so they were watching out for her until I came in....I've never seen her like this before,Chris. I asked her what was wrong,and all I could get out of her is something about some woman having her claws into you, a fire killing her fish,and a death threat in the bathtub? She has been drinking,but my men say she hasn't had that much.Of course it probaly wouldn't take many drinks to get to a lady like Rita doll.Anyway she was getting a bit rowdy,yelling at the bartender for not giving her anymore to drink....and I didn't want her to regret anything tomorrow......I had my men take her up to my office and take away her keys. You want to come get her?" Donny asked. He didn't know what was going on,but he knew Rita Lance wasn't the type to go out and drink herself drunk...something had happened and Lorenzo would know what was going on.

Chris couldn't believe what he was hearing. Rita drunk? His Sammy? He ached just hearing that. He knew that she had to have been hurting alot to try and deaden the pain with alcohol.

"I'll be right there,Donny. Keep an eye on her."

"I already am,Lorenzo."

When Chris arrived at Society,he was taken upstairs to Donnys office. Inside,he found Rita,sitting in a chair in the corner,half way passed out as Donny tried to force her to drink some coffee. Chris went over to her.

"Sammy...what did you do,honey?" he whispered,as he wiped some hair off her face.

She looked up at him,and smiled brightly,apparently forgetting that she was supposed to be mad at him just then. "Chwis!"

Chris nodded. " Yeah,it's are you feeling?"

"Pwetty wonerful" she slurred."I feel happy you feel happy now too,Chwis?"

"Now that I found you,yes,I guess I'm happy.

"I founded you too Chwissy...we founded each ovver. We looovvveee each ottter,right?"

"I love you Rita."

"You do?" she asked him,now getting a little emotional.

He pulled her to a stand,steadying her on her feet." Always Sweetheart.You ready to go home?"

She looked shocked at him,shaking her head."Cant go home to go home again,'s all gone now.She wobbled,a little"cus, burnded in a,...burnded all my wittle fishies. Ain't dat so sad...all my fishies..."She began to whimper .

Donny was watching,and he was confused."Lorenzo....what the hell is going on? Why is Rita Lance drinking like this...what's this about a fire?"

Chris didn't have time to explain,nor did he want to go into all the details of the entire long story. He gave him the short version instead. "Donny...she's just going through some tough times right now....her apartment was destroyed in a fire last week,she was suspended at work,and,....and some stupid shmuck broke her heart."

Donny nodded,"We'll talk later...get her home,wherever that is and take care of her. She's gonna have quite a hangover in the morning.I hope that whoever drove her to this is worth my Rita dolls love."Donny had heard Ritas part of thier conversation,and he thought he knew just who that shmuck was."And Chris....make sure that shmuck fixes her broken heart quick,or he'll have me to deal with. You got that?"

Chris nodded,then turned back to Rita,and just in time."Whoa" She sat quickly down,holding her head.

"Rita?" he asked worriedly.

"This room is spinning too fast."

Chris smiled. He leaned down and lifted her into his arms. "That's okay,Sammy...I got you." He carried her down the stairs and out the back door,settling her into his car."Let's get you back to Cap and Frans."

By the time he had come around to the drivers side,she had fallen asleep. He took her hand and held it in his own as he drove her back home."I'm so sorry,Sammy " he whispered to her.

He pulled in the drive way to Fran and Caps house,and went around to help Rita out of the car.

"Come on Sammy" he said trying to wake her up.

She opened her eyes slightly,shaking her head "No." before slipping back to sleep.

"Rita...let's go! Chris pulled her arm gently,and helped her to a stand. She opened her eyes,glaring confusedly at him." I don't want to ...I'm too tired."she yelled.

Harry had come outside by then,noticing Chris' car." that Rita?" he asked shocked at the sight of her leaning onto Chris. He knew right away that she was drunk.He came over to help Chris ."Hurry,let's get her inside."

Frans reaction was the same as her husbands."Oh...the poor darling. Oh,take her upstairs Chris,and I'll get a tray of coffee for her."

"I don't think she's up to drinking anymore coffee,Fran.She doesn't look like she can even open her eyes.

The brightness of the kitchen and the shrill voices around her somehow brought Rita around a little,and hearing Harrys remark,she opened her eyes."I can so...see" She blinked them open and closed a few more times for them, acting as if it was quite an accomplishment for anyone..

Chris chuckled at her,despite the fact that he was more angry at himself then he had ever been before."Very good Sammy...We're proud of you."

It may have been that the coffee she had at Donnys' was beginning to work,or maybe the well it kitchen had done more then to just wake her up a little,because suddenly Rita could remember a few things that she had forgotten earlier that night.

She leaned towards Chris now,wagging her finger at him, still very much lost in the alcohol she had consumed that night."Don't you talk to me any..." she woblbed a bit again. " no more ...Chwis...I stills very mad at you."

Yeah,I know Sammy....I'm very mad at myself too."

She looked at him,as if what he had said confused her. "No...I'm mad.... at you....."She pointed at him"You can't be mad you cus ....cus.......cus I'mma.. mad you" Her words were coming more slurred,more slowly,and required more work of her tongue.That being said,she gave into the pressure that seemed to be making her knees want to stop working,and she let them buckle.She passed out cold, and this time it was for good. Chris and Harry caught her,and Chris then gathered her into his arms and carried her to the bedroom.

Fran followed them ,and quickly dashed over to the bed to turn it down for her. Chris placed Rita on the bed,and that Fran could get Rita undressed and settled in. He went downstairs for awhile with Cap,and they talked.Both of them were worried about what would happen tomoorw at the IA boards review.

When Fran came back downstairs,Chris went back up,to kiss Rita goodnight. Seeing her tucked into bed,sleeping soundly,he curled some of her hair around his finger,and played with it."Sammy....I promise you...I'm going to fix everything for you....all of it. I'm not going to let this hapen ever just got to trust me on this."He had no idea of where he was going to start,or what exactly he would do,but he knew that he could never allow her to be so unhappy again.He realized that in all of the days commotion,he had never gotten the chance to speak with the commishioner about fixing the mistake he had made that day...the mistake that he had made in trying not to cause her any more sorrow.

Now,seeing her,sleeping off the alcohol she had drinken too much of so that she could dull the pain he had caused her ,he was glad that he hadn't said anything after all. He had already lost her,he was pretty sure of that,but he wasn't going to let her go through everything else that would result if word of thier relationship,a relationship that no longer even existed,were to come out. What would be the point of it? At the very least,she would have her job back,and the way things were between them now,she would probaly be very grateful that Hastings would be her partner.

He leaned over,and softly kissed her lips,believing that he would never get the chance to get that close to her again."Goodbye, my Sammy love" he whispered to her,before he quietly left the room,dreading what the next day would bring.


Chris arrived thirty minutes before the hearing was to start,hoping to speak with her . He had called her earlier that morning,but Fran had told him she wouldn't come to the phone,and that at the moment she wasn't feeling very well anyway. He had started to worry when she still hadn't arrived five minutes before the meeting was to start but then she walked in,with Cap by her side and sunglasses covering her eyes. He knew that by the way she was carrying herself, that she was indeed suffering from one hell of a hangover,and it caused him to again feel a pang of guilt.

She never once looked his way,looking down most of the time while the chairman spoke.Then charges were brought by Cragos lawyers that Rita Lance had fired her weapon unneccesarily at Lawrence.When it was her turn to make her own statements,she looked the members of the board in the eye,and told them the truth,that Gina Lawrence had been about to plunge a knife into her partners chest where she had landed after knocking him down.

It was then that Chris was asked to give his statement,and he also told them exactly what had happened,that Crago had already shot at the dummies that had been in the bed,that Gina Lawrence had knocked him over and was withing seconds of stabbing him with the knife she held when Rita shot at her to save his life.Everything had happened so fast and she had no time to yell a warning,or to even aim . She just simply did what she had to do.

Chris felt good about the way things were going,and even better when he glanced over to her,and saw her looking back. She was remembering that she had felt,how grateful she had been that Chris hadn't been killed or hurt....and what had happened later at her apartment between her and Chris. That had been the night she had broken down and told him how she felt,that she loved him. That had been the night that he told her he felt the same way....the night that they had first made love. It had been beautiful then....but it had been a mistake,she thought. She turned away from him,unwilling to let him see what she had just been thinking about,though she knew he already knew. She could tell he was thinking about that night too.

If Rita had thought that night was a mistake ,those beliefs were confirmed when suddenly Crago leaned over and whispered something into his lawyers ear. Mr Gallow then stood up smiling,and announced the clincher that would help him to win his case. Mr Crago had some crucial evidence that Detective Lance had in deed fired her gun wrongly on Gina Lawrence. He opened an envelope that Crago gave to him,and pulled out a picture of Chris ,his arms wrapped tightly around Rita,thier heads closely together. It had been taken the day after the fire,when he had come to be with her when she saw the results of the fire on her apartment.

"It appears that Detectives Lance and Lorenzo are very intimate with each other,more then this departments allows them to be. It is clear that because Seargent Lance is involved with Seargent Lorenzo in a physical sense, her judgement that night was incapacitated....and that she did not act as an officer of the law....but rather, that she acted in the personal intrests of herself instead. He passed the photo around to the members of the board."My client has others photos that will confirm this claim about thier relationship."

Chris watched as the photos were passed around,astounded that they hadn't even been aware of someone taking these pictures of them,and mad that they had been so vulnerable and exposed in thier personal lives.He saw Ritas eyes follow the photos around the room,and then look over to him. The look he saw in her eyes confirmed his worst fears...that she was giving up in this fight.He knew if she gave up in this ,that would be it.....she would give up on herself as well.

The chairman of the board nodded his head and turned towards the others,quietly discussing something. He then turned back towards Chris. " Seargent Lorenzo... As you know,detective Lances career rests on your answers right now.Please answer the next question truthfully and honestly. Are you and Detective Lance involved in a physical relationship with each other.

Chris stood up,looking at Rita who was now looking at him,and he could see that apart of her was begging him to lie,to save her job.He couldn't bear for her to feel that hopeless.He would do anything for her,he knew that,and it seemed to be the only thing he could do that would take that look he saw in her eyes away. However he could also see deeper down,and he knew what she needed to hear,and he knew what he needed to say,no matter what the cost. This was the one thing he would not do. He was not going to deny his love for her.

He talked to a room filled with other people ,but he spoke only to her,looking directly into her eyes,that were focused now on him,and he could see tears pooling in them,as she sat fighting two contrasting emotions.

"No...My partner and I did not have "physical relations"...I have made love to her though,yes....I am so much in love with her,and I always will be. Rita,I'm sorry...but I will not deny my love for you...I can't."He tore his eyes away from her,back to the members of the board."However...I would like to add that at the time of the Crago case,we had not yet been together in "physical relations" as you all call it."

He saw Rita looking at him with surprise,and a softening came over her face now.It was the way she was looking at him that told him that maybe all was not lost. He wanted so badly to go over to her and explain everything to her,to tell her why he did what he did.If Cindy,or anyone else wanted to shout thier relationship from the roof tops,let them. He might not like the consequeneces,but if he had Rita by his side,he knew any trouble they went through would be worth it.

The board members sat,mostly of them in shock that he had spoken so openly and honestly with them,not expecting to get the answer he had given them.They came together and quietly discussed the case,looking over the excellent records that the PBPD had on Seargent Rita Lances career with them. Turning back to the room,the chairman announced a break of a few minutes was needed,and excused everyone.

As he filed out into the hallway,he wondered what she was going to say,if she even said anything at all to him.He stood ,quietly chatting with George about what the board might be discussing behind doors,though his eyes watched for her to appear in the hallway. There she was.....and he saw her eyes searching for him. Fran had told her about Cindy ,and about her blackmail,and though she was annoyed that he thought he had to protect her,she was also touched that he had cared so much for her happiness.Seeing him now,she quickened her pace until she stopped short when she stood a foot or so away.

"Chris...I....I.." She didn't know what she could say. She was ashamed of herself,of the way she had behaved and she had no real excuse for it. She had lost the faith she had in not only thier relationship ,but also thier friendship.

" Rita....I'm sorry...I know you wanted me to just tell them that those pictures away as friendship,to act like that's all you are to me...but I can't do that...I don't know why...I would do anything for you,and you know that." I know how much being a cop means to you,'s your life.....but I just couldn't Sammy.....I love you."His voice pleaded with her to understand.

She heard the pain in his voice,and she knew that he was feeling horrible for what was going on with them now.She reached for his hand and,led him over to a corner where they could talk privatlyThey both sat on a bench,and she hushed him when he began to speak with her,placing her finger on his lips.

"'s my turn now,okay. Chris...When I came in here today, all I could only think about was being reinstated...and I wanted you to lie to them,I did....but then,when you stood up,and refused to lie about us...even for me,...then I knew. I knew what mattered to you most,and I knew then what mattered to me also.....,what I wanted...and that was us....that's all I need,Chris."

"So it's okay mean your not mad at me anymore?" Chris asked,pleased as punch over this. He hadn't expected her forgiveness to come as easy as it did....he hadn't even explained to her about Cindy yet.

"Rita wrapped her arms around his neck" No,Chris...I'm not mad....I never was,not really.It hurt,yes,but at the time,I think I was just dealing with my own insecurities.....and now...I understand what happened Sam." She laughed " Franny came down hard on me this morning...and she told me everything you should have.....and I know why you did what you did.....just promise me you'll never hold out on me again, you got that?"She pinched him playfully.

He smiled"Yeah,Sammy...I think I learned that lesson well enough...I promise...from now on,no more secrets,okay....and that goes for you too,Missy" He grew serious again" Rita,I want you to know that you should never doubt my feelings for you. I have never felt for anyone the way I feel for you...they way I have always felt for you the minute I first layed eyes on you. Rita,you are my life..the the part of me that makes me tick...and ,sunshine, believe me...I will never let you down..No one can ever come between us....I would never let that happen. It's you and me forever... I promise..okay"

She saw that he knew everthing that she had been coping with lately,and with just a few sentences of assurances from him,she felt immensley relieved,and confident again. Chris saw the weight of her burden being lifted,and he silently swore to himself that he would not let a day go by without making her feel his love for her. It was his love that made it easier for her to allow herself to love him so completely.

The two friends,and lovers smiled at each other,before coming together in a hug. Chris closed his eyes,thankful that once again another crisis was behind them,though they still faced the decision of the board. Somehow,now,thier decision just didn't seem to matter as much as it had earlier.

Ten minutes later,they were all called in again. Rising,Rita took a deep breath and gathered her courage for what was to come.

"I'm right by your side the whole way,Sammy,no matter what comes." Chris said,as he took her hand and led her back in.This time he sat proudly next to her,taking Caps place. Cap and Fran didn't seem to mind however. They sat in back of thier kids,both of them leaning forward to whisper thier support. The four of them seemed so much happier then they had been just moments before,and even Cindys' sudden and unexpected presence didn't seem to bother them. They only wondered why she was there at all,though Chris had a feeling she only wanted to watch Rita fall.

Aside form Cindy,there was another person who wasn't happy as he watched the glowing couple.Glaring would be the better way to describe him just then. He had been watching them as they had talked in the hall....seeing that the two seemed closer then ever. They both looked happy,though he didn't see why they should be.....They had killed his Gina,and now they sat there,even on the day of thier judgement and whispered to each other,giggling and touching all the time.How dare they.......she would pay....and so would Lorenzo...and soon...very soon.In the mean time,he would see the smile wiped off her face . His lawyer was positive that they had a case against her.She would be found liable for Ginas' death,and she would pay for it. He would sue her and the city . Soon she would have nothing to be happy about.


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