Wedding Dates and Chicken Pox
By tuna.dc

Rita pulled her car up in front of the now familiar home.  She retrieved the bag of groceries out of the trunk and proceeded to walk up the driveway.  She stopped dead in her tracks as she saw Chris' legs sticking out from underneath the Jeep.  The hood was up too.  In a flabbergasted tone she asked,  "Christopher Lorenzo, that vehicle is brand new, what in the world are you doing to it?"

Chris slowly shimmied out from underneath and reached for a rag to wipe his hands.  The first thing he saw were her ankles, one tapped the ground lightly, demanding his answer.  Instead they demanded his attention.  God, they were beautiful.  He let the question float in the air momentarily.  He eyes finally began the sensuous journey up her body.  What he was intent on noticing was the shape of her long legs and how they gave way to the tight, short skirt she wore.  She certainly was a sight for sore eyes, hec any kind of eyes.  "Well?" she demanded of him, only slightly distracting him from what he was thinking about and she knew it.

"I'm changing the oil, ok?" he replied, drifting his gaze back down to those legs.

She heavily sighed, shook her head and replied, "Why can't you just go to Quicky Lube like the rest of the free world?"

Chris cleared his throat as if that would clear his mind too.  It didn't.  He replied, not really knowing what he was even saying.  "I just saved myself at least twenty bucks here."  He watched her grinning at him so he teased,  "I was gonna do your car too, but if you want to throw  your hard, earned money away, not to mention waste your precious Lieutenant's time, hey you go right ahead."

"Fine, because I had mine changed a week ago, just like the little plastic thingy in the corner of my windshield told me to do," she answered.

"Women!" he admonished the whole species including her,  "I suppose you have some seventeen year old grease monkey fill up your gas tank and wash your windows every week too?"  he continued to badger her.  Only thing was, she was prepared to do battle.

"Only if Skyler is on duty.  He's got these gorgeous gray eyes, they look right through me, I swear.  And sometimes, when it's really hot, he takes his shirt off...Oh and the best thing is when he walks away.  I could just reach out and grab those..." she raised her eyebrows and formed a seductive grin on her lips.

Chris by now had stood up and was practically face to face with her.  He looked at her smugly and interrupted her just in time.  "Are you just about finished?" he asked.

"Are you?" she asked back.

"I'd say it's about time for a truce," he said, leaning in to her lips for a brief kiss, "and a welcome home kiss."  He grabbed the bag of groceries out of her hands and followed her into the house.  As he was walking, he peered inside the bag for anything interesting.  He spied a box of animal crackers.  He reached down and pulled them out as they entered the kitchen.  He was just about to open them when Rita snatched the box out of his hand.  "Hey, what's the deal?" he asked.

"The deal is that these are meant for someone else," she explained putting them into a cupboard.

"Yeah who?  All I see is you and me.  I haven't had those in years," he said, "they look kinda good."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," she began.  "Now I haven't said yes to anything, cuz I wanted to ask you first," she continued putting various items away.

"Haven't said yes to what exactly Sammy?" he said plopping down on a kitchen chair.  "And how do I already know that I'm not going to like this?"

"I ran into Daniel today," she said watching him and his expressions carefully.

"Yeah, so?  What?  They're coming for dinner and Daniel likes animal crackers?" he said dumbfounded.

"No, Daniel and Susan were wondering," she said slowly, "if we'd watch Melanie for the weekend?"  She waited tentatively for his response.

"Oh, no, no Sam, come on, all weekend long?  It's the only time that's really ours, just you and me, you know.  Besides, I was gonna play basketball on Friday night remember?" he whined.

"So then it's not really just our time together is it?" she asked a little defensively.

"You know I haven't played in a couple of weeks now," he said.   He stood up and walked over to the sink for a drink of water.  "Whatta we know about taking care of a kid anyway?" he said gulping down the liquid.

"You can't tell me that you never babysat?" she said with a smile.

"I never babysat," he said seriously, "that's a female thing.  I'm proud to say I've never done a diaper in my whole life!"

"Well, Melanie's not in diapers, she's going on four years old.  I used to babysit all the time.  It'd be fun," she added hoping he might change his mind.

"You already told them we would, didn't you?" he asked sensing her maternal instinct was billowing..

"No, I swear, I told Daniel that I had to ask you first.  But I did tell them I'd let them know tonight though.  Please Chris?" she nearly begged.  "Look, you can still play ball on Friday night, I'll watch her myself.  We'll just have a girls night.  Whatta say?"

He was watching her closely.  Were her hormones raging or what?  That's what he was thinking.  "I think we need to set some ground rules first," he said scratching his head.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Well, if I say yes to this, and it's still an if right now, what exactly will I have to do?" he wondered.

"You know, stuff like play with her, read to her, take her to the park, you know," Rita replied.

"Ok, so what I'm not hearing you say is that I'm not responsible for cleaning up, poop, pee, puke or burping detail right?"

"I told you Chris, she's almost four, she's not an infant, she's a toddler.  There's no diapers, no burping, no bottles.  Think of it in terms of," Rita paused and let a sarcastic smile lighten up her face, "well, she's just a little you basically," she said laughing.  "As long as she's fed and played with, she's basically happy."

"Very funny," he said.  Rita continued to laugh as her comparison.

"So, whatta think?  Can I call them and say that we'll do it?" she asked again.

Chris figured he had stalled long enough.  To be honest, he was excited about having a child around.  It'd be an experiment of sorts, he thought, to find out what being a parent was all about.  He wasn't ready to admit all this to Rita just yet anyway, so he pretended that it was an irritation and that he was saying yes just for her benefit.  "Alright, I guess, it'll be ok.  But I'm not cleaning up any kind of internal messes that may expel from her body," he said.

"She's not Damien," Rita said shaking her head.

On Friday, Rita left work at noon.  Chris was going to try to get out by three so they could both be at home when Melanie would be dropped off.  Daniel and Susan were going to visit some friends up in Tampa.  They would return sometime on Sunday evening.

Rita was nervous.  She spent her time going from room to room, making sure that things were child-proofed or that anything harmful was either locked up or out of Melanie's reach.  She dragged out the Suzy Pratt books out of the storage chest they were in along with a couple of childhood games she had saved through the years.  She hoped all the parts and pieces to Hi-Ho Cherry-O and Chutes and Ladders were still in tact.  Even though Daniel and Susan told them not to worry about toys, both Chris and Rita had each gone a little crazy during the week.  Between the two of them,  a new  menagerie of stuffed animals and dolls sat on the bed of the spare room, just waiting for Melanie.  Keeping her occupied apparently wouldn't be a problem.

The kitchen was stocked too.  Plenty of juices, fruits, candy, cookies, milk, hot dogs, spaghetti, PopTarts, Lucky Charms, granola bars, graham crackers and of course the animal crackers adorned their cupboards.  Chris joked that they were set in case of nuclear holocaust.

Chris arrived at home shortly after three only to find Rita in the spare room, surrounded by all the toys, sitting cross-legged on the bed, reading Suzy Pratt.  "Man, you are ready for this aren't you?" he asked as he walked in.  She hadn't even heard him come in.

She looked up and smile.  "I love these books, you know, I practically know them by heart, I can't wait," she suddenly stopped.

Chris leaned his head forward as if to say...can't wait for what, then he did, "What exactly is it that you can't you wait for?" he asked.

She smiled at him warmly.  "You know," she couldn't bring herself to say the words.

"I think you've been talking to Benny again haven't you?" he said smiling as he walked over to the bed and sat down beside her.  He reached down and took her hand in his.  "You know it won't turn you to stone to just say it," he said.  "I think about us having a family together too.  I want us to Sammy, and I think we'll be great at it," he said honestly and added with a smile, "I can just see our five sons now."

"Five sons?  What are you talking about?" she questioned.

"Yeah five, a basketball team, you know.  Of course, if we want them to be able to all play together in high school and college, two of them will have to be twins.  Or I suppose triplets would work too," he said matter of factly.

She shook her head and said in a serious tone, but with a grin beginning to build, "We are not having five sons.  No stop, we're not having five anything.  And I am certainly not having triplets, or even twins for that matter.  And besides, girls can play basketball too," she replied, throwing in her last comment for good measure.

He shook his head in agreement, "yeah, you're right," he began, then the silence between them was deafening.  "I don't think there's a better way for us to fulfill our love for each other Rita, than with a child.  We'll know when the time is right I think," he said.

She smiled at him and put her hand behind his head and pulled him closer for a kiss.  She broke off, but kept her hand behind his head.  "You know I've wondered for a long time what it would be like if you and I had a child.  Can you imagine what a baby of ours will look like, would be like?" she said simply glowing.

Chris grinned.  "Beautiful, for sure, just like you, and smart just like you, and funny just like you," he said as the smile disappeared from his face and he seriously added, "and parfait just like you."  This time he reached in for a kiss.

"Could you handle two of us?" she murmured between kisses.

"I would handle twelve of us," he said enthusiastically.  "You'd be all I ever need."

"Well, first things first, we still need to set a wedding date," she said changing the subject.

"Yep, we do,  maybe we can sit down with a calendar this weekend and see what we can come up with," he said.

"If we have time," she said raising her eyebrows.

"I thought you said this would be easy having Melanie here," he teased.

"I believe I said it would be fun, I don't recall using the word easy," she replied.

"Ah, you've tricked me again then, huh, Sammy?" he said diving back in for another kiss, this time a little deeper and much more satisfying for both of them.  They were quickly loosing themselves to one another when the doorbell rang.  Rita pulled away first and took a deep breath.   She smiled at Chris who had in turn began to catch his own breath too.

"That must be our weekend arrival," Rita said rising up off the bed.  Chris was quick to follow.  They both went to the front door and greeted Daniel, Susan and Melanie.  Melanie came bounding in and ran directly to a surprised Chris.

"Make me fly Chrwis, pease?" she begged trying to circle his legs with her tiny arms.

"Well hello, Squirt," he said looking down at her squeezing his legs.

Chris looked over to Daniel and Susan and then to Rita.  All of them were laughing.  He reached down and scooped up Mel and tossed her into the air a couple of times.  She squealed with happiness.

"I told you Sus, there's nothing to worry about.  I think she likes Rita and Chris better than us," Daniel said.

"She doesn't even go to daycare this well," Susan began, "she's been talking about you two all day long.  I even heard her singing about it.  Melanie, can you share your song with Chris and Rita."
Chris stood holding the little blonde girl in his arms, everyone watched her.  She started loudly and strongly, but by the time she got to the end of her little invention she shyly turned her head and buried it on Chris' shoulder.  "I'm goin' to Chwis and REEETa's house to sleep and play and fly."

Chris hugged her a little tighter and said, "That's very good Squirt, I'll have to remember that one."  She began to wriggle around in his grasp so he set her down.  Daniel had gone back out to his car to bring in a boxful of toys along with a miniature suitcase.  Rita and Susan walked into the kitchen so they could go over all the phone numbers and any last minute instructions and questions, leaving Chris and Melanie in the living room.

Melanie cautiously walked around the room, stopping to look at each table and stare at what was sitting on top.  She spotted a picture of Chris and Rita on one.  She pointed at it and turned to Chris who stood there watching her.  "That's you and Rita," she said, "in my house," she added.

"Yep, that's right Squirt, it used to be my house remember?" Chris said as Daniel came walking back in with Melanie's stuff.

"Bet you can't wait to have a dozen of your own, huh Chris?" Daniel said watching Chris watch Melanie.

Chris snapped out of the daze he was in and swung around to face Daniel.  "As a matter of fact, Rita and I were just talking about that," he said.

"I recommend you start with one kid first, test it out, you know, kick the tires so to speak," Daniel explained.  "Though, the prospects of having ones own football team, plus a spare is rather interesting."

"I was thinking in terms of basketball," Chris replied in his own sports terminology, "five might be a bit easier to handle."

Just then Susan and Rita came back into the room.  Chris and Daniel got very quiet.  "So what were you two discussing," Susan asked noticing the stillness.

"Sports, honey.  What else do guys ever talk about, right Chris?" Daniel said looking to Chris for support.

"Absolutely, Daniel thought about maybe going to a Dolphin's game sometime.  I told him that I'd rather take in a Heat basketball game," Chris explained.  Daniel nodded his affirmation.

"Somehow, I know there's more to this than football or basketball," Rita said to Susan.

"No doubt," she replied.

Melanie came running up to her mother, "Daddy says he wants a football team of kids."
"Oh he did, did he?" Susan said making eye contact with Daniel.

"Chris, buddy, here's some advice for this weekend, watch what you say and do, you won't believe what gets stored in that kid's mind.  It's more powerful than any computer," Daniel said.  "And she'll burn you with it when you least expect it."

"That sounds like Rita," Chris said jokingly.

They all said their goodbyes.  Daniel and Susan each wrapped their daughter in monster hugs.  As they did, Melanie began to cry.  Now it was hitting her that her Mommy and Daddy weren't staying at Chris and Rita's too.  They were leaving her.

"I think we spoke to soon Sus, now whatta we do?" Daniel said as Melanie clung to her father sobbing louder and louder.

"We've gotta go Daniel.  This is just another stage she has to go through.  I had a feeling it might happen.  Just set her down.  We know she's in good hands.  She'll stop crying soon enough," Susan explained trying to remain calm even though seeing her daughter sobbing was ripping out her insides.

Rita stepped forward and took Melanie from Daniel.  "You guys go ahead, we'll be fine, I've seen this before too.  I know it's hard for everyone, but everything will work out ok," she said.

Daniel stood up and shook his head, "Yeah, ok, we'll see you guys on Sunday night, thanks again."  Chris showed them to the door and closed it behind them.  Melanie turned to see this and started sobbing all the louder.

Melanie ran to the window and watched her parents leave, sobbing all the while.  Rita went beside her and tried to hug her, but the little girl just pushed her away.  Rita knelt down close by, "It's ok honey, Mommy and Daddy will come back.  They just went away for the weekend. Should we go look at your room?" she asked trying to change Melanie's direction.  Mel just turned her head away, her sobs now gave way to full body convulsions of sadness.  Chris stood in the background, never really having experienced this before.  He was wondering what exactly Rita had gotten him into.

Rita stood up and walked over toward Chris on her way to the kitchen.  Chris grabbed her arm, "you're just gonna leave her like that?" he questioned.

"She's playing a game Chris, she'll get over it soon enough.  Do you know how many temper tantrums I've seen just like this," Rita responded.

"This isn't natural," he said holding out his arm, motioning to Mel.

"Yeah, it is," Rita said.

"She thinks her parents just left her," he started then Rita cut him off.

"Maybe, but she also knows they'll return.  They told her remember?  I told her too.  She's probably done this hundred's of times already in her lifetime.  If you give in to every little cry, you spoil them, you know?" she explained as she kept going into the kitchen, "you should be storing this all away for future reference too.

Chris stood and watched Mel's little body shake.  He sat down on the sofa and just watched her.  How did Rita know so much about kids?  The stuff she knew continued to amaze him.  She would make a great Mom.

As he sat there thinking, Mel began to compose herself.  She turned around and began to watch Chris, unbeknown to him, for he was fantasizing about having a family of his own.  Step by step, she inched her way toward him, finally pulling herself up on the couch, cuddling up next to him.   He put his arm around her, drawing her even closer.  "We both got a lot to learn this weekend, don't we Squirt," he said glancing down at her.  "But I think we'll be alright," he said kissing the top of her head.  She rubbed her eyes and sniffled.  Then she closed her eyes and took a little nap.

Rita walked in from the kitchen a little while later just in time to hear Chris singing a little song to her as she fell to sleep.

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles await you when you rise,
Sleep, pretty baby, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby.

Care you know not, therefore sleep,
While I o'er you watch do keep,
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby.

Rita smiled in the doorway and came into the room.  "That was beautiful Chris, you just might be pretty good at Fatherhood after all!" she whispered to him.

He looked up a little startled at her.  "I just guess I better start getting some practice at this too, just to keep up with you."

"That song was wonderful, how do you know it, did your Mother sing it to you?" she asked quietly.

"Ana sing a lullaby? No way," he said surprised she'd even associate his Mother with singing a lullaby.  "It's on some Beatle's album somewhere.  I remember hearing it in high school.  I think I was dating some cheerleader at the time.   She played it over and over.  You know how sappy girls can be!"

"Yeah, and I know how sappy boys can be, you big softie you," she said kissing the top of his head.

Dinner time proved to be another interesting endeavor.  The menu, picked out solely by Melanie, consisted of hot dogs, mac and cheese, frozen french fries, broccoli and for dessert, animal crackers and banana's.  They were surprised that she chose broccoli, but she loved it and told them quite proudly that she had for her 'whole, entire life.'

After supper, Mel and Rita went into her bedroom to play.  Chris went into his bedroom to change for his basketball game.  He came into Mel's room wearing shorts, one of his many Michigan t-shirt's and his trademark Michigan hat, spun around on the back of his head.  "So I'll see you ladies later ok?" he started.

"Alright, have fun," Rita started.

"Where's Chrwis going?" she asked of Rita.

"He's going to play basketball, sweetie," she answered.

"I want to play too," she said jumping up and running over to Chris.

"Not this time, Squirt.  Maybe we can shoot hoops tomorrow ok?" he said picking her up and giving her a sloppy raspberry kiss.  She quickly wiped her face and returned an equally moist one on his face.

"No, I wanna go now, with you" she said hugging him tightly.

"Mel, come here sweetie," Rita started.  "Let's finish our game ok, Chris is going to play with the big kids now, come on," she motioned for Chris to set her down.  He did so tentatively.

"Melanie is a big girl too," she said sadly going toward Rita.

"I know honey, but you can't go with Chris right now, ok?  You and I will have lots of fun tonight," she said.  Melanie trodded back toward Rita, saddened again by not getting her way.

"Bye, bye Chrwis," she said waving briefly but not even turning back to look at him.

Chris watched how disappointed Mel was and though he went off to play, his heart just wasn't in the game.

About an hour later, Rita and Mel were sitting on the couch together watching 'One Hundred and One Dalmatians' when Rita heard the Jeep pull into the driveway.  Melanie was intent on watching the movie, but when Rita shifted a little toward the noise, Mel quickly became uninterested.  "I think Chris is back, should we go see?" she asked.

Melanie popped off the couch and ran into the kitchen, colliding with Chris' legs again, almost knocking him over.  "Hey Squirt, you're gonna have to stop doing that to me," he began.

"You're back Chrwis, now you can watch Dalmations with me and Reeeta, ok?" she begged.

"Hmmm, well, how 'bout we spoon up some ice cream first," he said pulling a bag out from behind his back.  Melanie jumped up and down.  Rita walked in to see his latest little spoil maneuver.  She shook her head.  Chris caught her look out of the corner of his eye.  "Uh, uh, no, you got her the animal crackers, remember?" he added.

"Ice cream?  She'll never go to sleep tonight.  And I suppose you bought C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E too," she said spelling it out so that Melanie wouldn't understand.  She was wrong.

"I like choc-late," she said hugging Chris' legs again.

"What is it about my legs, Squirt?  You know I can't walk when you do that," he said.  "And how did you know I got chocolate?" he asked to both of them.

"That's what you always get, you know it's my favorite," Rita said.

"It's mine too, my favrit," Melanie said.

"Mine three," he said getting a laugh from Melanie and a smile from Rita.  That's settled then, three bowls, three spoons and three servings of the finest chocolate ice cream in Palm Beach coming right up."

"What happened to basketball?" Rita asked.

Chris began to spoon up the ice cream.  "I decided I'd rather watch the Temptations," he said bending down and making a face at Mel as he said it.

She giggled and corrected him, "DALmations Chwis, you know, all the black and white spotted puppy dogs," she tapped his cheeks.

"Ah, I don't think I've ever seen this one then,  I'd say it's SHOWTIME, ladies," he shouted out as he handed each one a bowl and spoon.

Melanie mimicked him, "SHOWTIME," she screamed.

Chris had drifted off to sleep during the movie with Rita laying in his arms and Melanie laying in hers.  It was about 9:30pm, almost two hours past Melanie's bedtime.  Rita carefully tried to usher Melanie, who was still wide awake, going a mile a minute, into the bedroom without waking up Chris.   It was too late.  "That was a good movie, wasn't it Reeta," she said loud enough to wake the dead.  Chris abruptly opened his eyes and saw them heading past him, for the bedroom.  "Did you like it Chrwis?" she asked not realizing he had slept through most of it.

"Best movie I ever saw, Squirt," he said giving her a tickle as she brushed past him.

She giggled and reached back to tickle him under his chin.  He smiled.  "Me too, can you read me a storwie now Chrwis?" she asked.

"How about if I do?" Rita asked seeing Chris stretch out on the couch.

"Both, two storwie's, pease?" she stretched out the please.

"Let's see how well you can put your pajama's on first," Rita suggested.

"Ok," she said running down the hall to her bedroom.

"Thanks Sam," Chris said closing his eyes for a moment.

"For what, you need to wake up so you can read her a story too.  I just gave you a few extra minutes," she explained.

"Oh," he said sitting up, "you don't think she'll forget huh?" he asked.

"She's a female silly, we never forget, remember?" she said tousling his hair.

After two stories Melanie eagerly jumped into the bed, all set for sleep.  Chris and Rita were surprised how easily they got her to go to bed.  Finally they had some quiet time for themselves.

"I'm glad that you came home early from basketball," Rita started as Chris hugged her from behind as they walked down the hall.

"Me too," he said as he kissed her neck,  "I shouldn't have even gone, my head wasn't in the game," he explained.  "I don't think I hit a shot.  I finally realized that I should leave when someone chucked me a pass that I wasn't paying attention to and it smacked me in the back of my head."

"Oh no, poor baby," she said reaching back and caressing his head.   So where was your head at, Mr. Lorenzo?  That is, besides stopping basketballs," she asked.

"Thinking about you as per usual," he said.

"Just me?" she questioned, wondering if it was about Melanie too.

"Yeah, just you.  Who else would you think I'd be thinking about?  We need to set a wedding date and start planning the big event.  I want it to be special and I want it to be official," he said confidently.  " you know, Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Lorenzo."

"I thought you weren't gonna rush me," she replied.

Chris stopped both of them from walking.  He was dazed. He couldn't believe his ears.  "I thought you were ready.  What is it?  Did I do something?   Say something?"  he asked spinning her around.

"Hold on," she said laughing, her fingers fumbling over his chin.  His face was distraught.  "I'm just kidding you.  Yonks!  You must be serious, if you want to finally set a date though.  Is Melanie being here getting to you?" she asked.

"That's not funny Sam," he said exhaling a ton of worries and shaking his head.  "This has nothing to do with Melanie.  It has to do with you and me.  I just think it's time.  Don't you?" he added softly.

"Yeah, I do," she nodded and looked deeply into his serious eyes.  "We just got a little sidetracked, first with the house and then with your Dad, and me being Lieutenant for a day,  but I think things are normalizing," she started, "and we should probably move forward.  Mrs. Christopher Lorenzo huh?" she said aloud.

"Sounds good huh?" he asked boasting.

"Sounds like I'm loosing my identity," she said smiling, "maybe I'll go with Rita Lance, hyphen, Lorenzo," she replied tapping his nose.

"You can't be serious?" he asked checking her eyes for sign of a sparkle.  He couldn't spot any.

"Would it bother you if I did?" she teased.

"No, I guess not," he began thinking it through, "it just seems a little long-winded to me personally, but whatever you want to do is ok by me," he said seriously.

"Wow, you really have an open mind to this, don't you?" she asked as they both sat down on the sofa, arm in arm.

"I'm trying to," he began, "I mean this whole marriage thing is about compromise isn't it? he said explaining his theory.  "Besides, I take one look into your eyes and I am completely at your mercy.   You want both last names fine, you wanna get married at the North Pole, it's cool."  She laughed at his slightly, unplanned pun.   "Tell me you want the moon and I'll figure out how to get it.  Ask me for the world and I'd wrap it up with a ribbon.  My whole future is right there in those gorgeous green eyes of yours, I can see forever, crystal clear," he said lightly touching her eyes.  "Nothing else matters.  When I look there, I see how much you love me and I see how much I love you reflecting back at me," he said reaching in and softly kissing her eyelids.

"I'm not even gonna try to top that," she began, "but I do think I'll stick with Mrs. Lorenzo," she replied touching his face with her hand and delving in for her own kiss, "It is a very nice name." Chris quickly began to lose himself to her, intent on watching her, he pushed her back onto the sofa and eased himself on top of her.  At other times as he made love to her, he'd close his eyes and succumb himself to how she felt under his touch, how she'd move, the sounds she'd make, how she tasted and the sweet fragrance that emanated from her.  Every sense but sight.  This night was different.  He was engrossed by her beauty and he needed to see how she reacted to him.  He wanted to see her eyes and the love they shared reflecting in them.

As he leaned her back onto to the sofa, his hand clung to the back of her head.  Weaving his fingertips through her hair her, he brought his hand along side her cheek and lightly ran his fingertips down her neck and over to her throat.  His eyes followed the movement of his hand.  As he passed her cheek he watched her, she smiled and exhaled.  As he neared her neck and throat, she turned her face toward his touch and he felt her relax underneath him.  His other hand rose up and joined in on the gentle touch on the other side of her face.  Her head swayed from side to side in response to him.  He loved knowing that his touch alone could do so much for her.  Reaching up with her own hands, she opened her eyes and sought out his face to bring it close to hers.  Their lips met delicately at first, hers skimming against his back and forth.  He could feel the heat rip through his body as he parted his lips and she plunged inside for a preliminary battle.  He broke off and brushed a strand of hair away from her face using his thumb.  He trailed it back onto her cheek, turning his hand over, gliding the back of his fingers back down to the base of her throat.  This was just the beginning for him, he told himself, trying to keep his composure and maintain his patience. His lips soon followed in that same area around her neck and throat, finding the little recessed area and diving in for a swim.  Soft and tender at first, he brushed over her skin, pulling up to watch her contented face, while his hand stroked the area, then returning with moist, nibbling kisses, letting his tongue torment her slowly and combining it all with the gentle torture of his touch along the sides of  her neck.   She let her hands wander up the sleeves of the t-shirt he wore, tenderly squeezing his biceps. She didn't mind if he spent a lifetime there, touching her and kissing her like this.  It all felt so good to her.  She reached up with one of her hands and searched for his neck.  She found it easily and ran her fingers up and down it while he playfully continued to seduce her.

He turned her head slightly to one side and wandered up by her ear.  Around it, over it and behind it, he delighted both himself and her with his every touch and every kiss.  Taking his hand, he turned her head the other way and delivered the same sensation to her other ear.  Rita was quickly and completely lost to him now.  He knew just where to start.  Just as he was about to kiss her on her mouth, she reached up with her hand and placed her fingers on his lips,  he opened his mouth for a little taste, "Maybe we should take this into the bedroom for a little privacy?" she suggested.
He stopped dead in his tracks and scowled his face, "I knew there was something about parenthood that didn't appeal to me," he said gazing down at her.

"Well, if you'd rather try to explain what exactly is going on here to a three year old, please, by all means proceed," she kidded as she pulled his head close to hers and locked him in another blistering kiss.  She wasn't helping get them to the bedroom any time soon.

He pulled back, out of breath, "Nah, we better not," he gasped.

"We better not what?" she asked concerned that he wouldn't finish what had been started.  She clung to him even closer.

"We better not stay here, and we also better move to the bedroom soon," he said sensing her concern, rising and taking her with him, "I think I could explain it to Melanie, it's her parents I'm afraid of, after she gets done telling them what she saw."

"I think they'd understand, that is how she came about, right?" Rita replied suggestively, running her lips along his cheek and pressing her body tightly against his.  Chris didn't want to move when she began doing what she was doing to him, but the image of a little, blonde, three-year-old crept back into his head.

He pulled back and simply gave her an 'I am not believing what you're saying' look.  "The bedroom and hurry," he said leading the way.

Down the fairly long hall they proceeded.  The master bedroom of course, had to be the furthest one from the living room.  Rita couldn't resist keeping her hands off of him as they went.  She grabbed his t-shirt from behind, slowing him down, drawing him closer to her and let her own hand painstakingly run under it, while the other ventured down along his backside for a playful squeeze.  Her playful movements prolonged their arrival to the room to a snails pace, Chris laughed as he started to spin around to remind her about Melanie being in one of the bedrooms, but before he could say anything,  Rita used it as an opportunity to continue what she started on the sofa.  She pulled him by the front of his t-shirt, so that their chests were touching as she drove her tongue deeply into his open mouth.  "You are playing with fire, tonight," Chris murmured, barely being able to pull his head away, his heartbeat racing, as her hands and lips seemed to be everywhere on him.

"Mmmm hmmm, you're right" Rita said, "I am burning up," she added seductively capturing his mouth again for another mind-numbing kiss.  Boldly again she pressed against his body, swaying slowly from side to side, grazing that certain area under the front of his shorts.  She had lit a match on him too, that was quickly turning into a four-alarm fire.

Chris groaned and knew if he didn't act immediately, they'd loose themselves right here in the hallway.  That little blonde image popped back in his mind.  Through sheer instinct, he swept Rita off her feet and made his way to the bedroom.  She reached up and locked him in another embrace as he carried her.  Chris thought, fire hell, she was a damn out-of-control inferno right now.

The room was dark as they entered.  Rita reached back and quietly closed the door as Chris eased her feet down onto the floor.  "What has gotten into you?" he asked gasping for breath, as they pulled apart from the marathon embrace that she had placed him in.  He was certainly thoroughly enjoying this wild side of her.

"Nothing.....yet," she said almost purring, once again moving in and swaying against his highly aroused body.

He looked at her longingly for a brief second.  His blue eyes seemed to almost glaze over.  What she had just said made him mad with desire.  Those two words were like a starters gun.  Hungrily he grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled back her head exposing that beautiful neck of hers, "I can take care of that right away," he murmured.

She let him wander, explore and stroke her for a minute or so, then began her own little plan.   "Oh, no, no, not if I take care of you, first" she said breaking out of the kiss and placing her hands on his legs, rubbing up and down on his thighs, coming ever so close to his groin, then heading back down toward his knees.  Teasing him over and over this way, she watched his face carefully for his reaction.  He inched his body in closer toward hers as she did this.  She felt the strength in his legs as his thigh muscles tightened and tensed under her sensuous touch.  Her touch was tender and sweet and soft, but for every tender, sweet and soft movement she applied, his mind and body began to blaze, burning so hot....he already had stopped thinking coherently.  All he could do was surrender to her.  She was taking so long, he was sure he'd die along the way.  His patience had taken a leave of absence, he needed to touch her, to take her, but she wouldn't let him.  His hands caressed her neck and soothed the delicate skin behind her ears.  For every ounce of torture he was enduring, he was loving every second of it.

Her hands wandered up and lifted up the t-shirt he had on.  She didn't even take it all the way off, rather, she just pushed it up as her head instinctively burrowed and clung itself onto his bare chest trailing kisses lower and lower till she reached his exposed stomach and left a wet, openmouthed kiss right in the center.  She continued swirling her lips around the area.  Chris unknowingly shed the t-shirt off himself and engulfed her head in his hands, keeping her close against his stomach, letting out a low moan of pleasure.

One hand of hers worked upward over his chest, rubbing his nipples into hard nubs.  Her lips, tongue and teeth soon followed.  The other hand reached down, beneath the waistband of his shorts and briefs, finding the sensitive skin of his belly and then lower...

He closed his eyes, held his breath for an eternity and clenched his teeth, the things she did to him.  And then, that was all he could take.  He pulled her head up and crushed his mouth against hers for all he was worth.  Her hands, still tenderly agonizing him with their special touch.  Backwards he pushed her, toward the bed, quickly helping her shed her clothes as well as the rest of his own, leaving a pile here and there along the way.  She fell backwards onto the bed as her legs bumped into it, Chris landed between her legs.  His hands started along her thighs, then up and around gently squeezing her bottom.  She laid back on the bed at first, as his touch now began to incinerate her, but the moment his lips and tongue began to slide up from her stomach onto her breasts, she rose up and arched herself firmly against him, wanting him even closer.  She threw her head back and closed her eyes.  Together here, his hands, fingertips, lips, tongue and teeth delighted over her.  First through his touch, he worked the rosy centers firm, then leaning in, he took first one, then the other into his warm mouth for a delicious taste.  Over and over he gently suckled against her as she held him close, absolutely loving every minute of it.

It seemed like hours had passed to Rita, when she suddenly felt the loss of contact with him.  He had stopped to look up at her immensely satisfied face.  She raised her head to look back at him.  "I know you're ready," she said deeply, running her fingers through his hair, knowing by now she was indecently beyond ready.

"Ah, but are you?  I believe you told me in the hallway that you didn't want to be rushed?" he asked letting his hand reach for the spot where he would find out just how ready she was.  He knew what the answer would be.  His touch now made her crazy with desire.  She knew it and he knew it.  As his hand found the answer, she let out a moan of pleasure and let her head fall backwards.  Chris naughtily smiled watching her joyful agony.  She drew in an expectant breath as he continued what he had started.  Rita knew she was soon going to explode.

"I need more, Chris," she said almost begging, "I'm ready, now" she added grabbing a fistful of his hair with one hand, while the other dug into his back.

"I don't think you are ready yet," he teased, "not quite yet," continuing this massage of sorts, his eyes staring down at the area that he would know intimately soon enough.

She pulled his head up so that she could she his face, and looking into his eyes, "Oh, Chris, I have to have it,"

"What, what is it that you have to have?" he asked wickedly turning back his attention lower.

"You, I need you," she said pulling his face up again, "now, inside me," she moaned once again and with what remaining strength she still had, she managed to roll over on top of him.    She was ready to match his aggressive actions with her own.  She  threw one of her legs over his thighs to hold him in place underneath her.  Then she straddled him.  It was only a second before he was inside of her.  He slid into her easily, knowing she was indeed way beyond ready.  He froze again now, to watch her and to allow her to adjust.  Her head lazily came forward and he studied it.  The sweetest, contented smile he ever saw danced upon her face.

Rita began moving slowly in a steady rhythm at first.  The smile never left her face.  Up and down she moved, then side to side and around and around.  The pace quickening with each new movement.  Once more, she groaned and sucked in another breath.  Chris rolled her onto her back and plunged into her again.  Over and over, each thrust harder, faster and deeper than the previous.  She clung tightly to him and wrapped her legs around him.  She wanted this magnificent feeling to go on all time.  She couldn't hold on to it any longer.  Chris followed her a moment later.

They had closed the door to their bedroom, but they hadn't locked it.  By now, both of them were fast asleep.  Both facing outward in opposite directions.  About four in the morning, Melanie lightly tiptoed in to their room and crawled in the bed next to Rita.  Rita woke up instantly and whispered, "What's wrong sweetie?"

"I'm ascared," Melanie whispered back.

"Scared of what, honey?" Rita asked.

Melanie twisted a strand of Rita's hair around her finger, "cuz Mummy and Daddy are gone and I'm all alone," she said now hugging Rita.

Rita sat up  and hugged her back.  She looked over at Chris who was still soundly sleeping.  "Would you like to stay with us?" Rita whispered.  Melanie nodded as a tear fell from her cheek.  Rita brushed it away.  "You don't have to cry, honey, it's ok, you can sleep here," Rita added.

Melanie crawled into the bed between them.  Rita put her head next to Mel's.  "Be very quiet, because Chris is sleeping alright."

"Ok Rita," she said.

"Now you have to go to sleep too, ok?" Rita said quietly as she gave her a kiss on her cheek.

Before long, Rita had drifted off and rolled back over, facing away from Melanie, who was still wide awake.  Chris, now stirred and turned over.  Melanie watched him, his mouth slightly open, softly snoring.  She was definitely intrigued.  After studying him long enough, she turned on her side and reached out her hand.  Afraid at first, she placed it as close as she could to his mouth, without actually touching him.  She'd quickly pull back ever time he'd take a heavy breath and close his mouth momentarily.  But then she'd start all over again as his snoring began.   She couldn't resist any more,  as she set her hand down across his chin and mouth.  Chris, who was laying on his stomach, with his head to the side, opened up one eye and saw Melanie grinning away at him.  "Hi, Chrwis," she whispered.  He closed his eye and then opened both.  She still lay there grinning at him.  "You snowring," she said.

Chris rolled onto his side and wiped his face.  "Squirt, what are you doing here?"

"I can't sleep," she whispered.

"Oh you can't, can you," he said tapping her nose.  She tapped his nose the same way in return.  He couldn't help but smile.  "You know what I do, when I can't sleep?" he asked.  She shook her head.  "I go into the kitchen and look for something to eat and drink, and I try not to wake up Rita," he said holding his finger up to his lip asking her to be quiet.  He slid out from under the sheet and she followed.  Before her feet could touch the floor, he picked her up and carried her out in his arms.  Rita slept all the while.

The two of them made their way to the kitchen.  Chris set her down in a chair and walked over to the refrigerator.  "How about some grape juice to start with?" he asked her.

"I like gwrape juice," she said.

"Me too, especially at.......4:52am," he said a little sarcastically glancing at the clock on the stove.  He began to talk to her as if she were an adult.  "So Mel, why is it that you can't sleep?" he asked as he grabbed two glasses and poured out some juice.

"Cuz, you were snowring Chrwis," she answered truthfully.  "I twied to stop you," she added.

"I noticed that," he replied.  They both took a long sip from their glasses.  She was copying every move he made.  When he drank, she did.  When he set his glass down, she did the same.  When he scratched his chin, she scratched hers.  When he exhaled, so did she.  He finally caught on and grinned at her.  She grinned back.  "How 'bout some animal crackers?" he asked.

She nodded and as he got up, she followed behind him.  "So is insomnia a big problem for you Mel?" he began.

"What's somna?" she asked as he handed her an animal cracker.  She bit off the head of a giraffe.

"That's when you can't sleep," he explained, popping two crackers into his mouth.

"I can't sleep," she replied finishing the giraffe.

"I know.  Do you do this every night to Mommy and Daddy?" he asked.

"Only when I can't sleep," she said reaching in the box for another cracker.  This one was a bear.  She showed it to Chris and said, "Gggrrrrr, that's what the beawr says."

Chris was too tired to do anything but laugh.  They proceeded to go through the box and pick out the different animals and make sounds for all of them.  Chris tried to make up noises for the giraffe and the buffalo, but Melanie wasn't buying his sound effects.

"They don't sound like that," she said.

"And just how do you know that?" he asked.

"Mummy and Daddy took me to the zoo.  The giraffe don't make no noises," she reasoned.

"Did you see the BUFFALO?" Chris said a little louder, deepening his voice, sounding like some odd cartoon character.

She giggled and nodded, "I don't think he makes sounds either, and he doesn't talk like that either," she said thinking deeply.  She started to yawn.

Chris watched her closely.  "How 'bout we go read a story about the zoo?" thinking maybe a story would put her out again.

"Ok," she said getting up from her chair and grabbing his hand to lead him down the hall.  He willingly followed.

He tucked her in under the sheet and found the book about the zoo and began to read it to her.  She finally fell back to sleep about half way through.  Chris quietly made his way back to his own bedroom and crawled back into bed next to what he thought was a sleeping Rita.  He hugged her close from behind and as he did, she turned her head and softly said, "Did you see the BUFFALO," trying to imitate him.

He rose up a little and saw that she was awake.  "Sorry Sam, I thought we were pretty quiet."

"It's ok," she paused, "I think you're gonna be a great Dad some day," she added.

He let out a breathy laugh, "you think so huh?" he asked.

"Yeah, I do," she said, "and you didn't think you'd have any fun this weekend," she added.  She couldn't see the grin that was on his face.

Saturday morning began very early.  Rita, however was somewhat prepared.  She was in the kitchen at about six am, starting a pot of coffee.  Melanie woke up and went strolling back toward the master bedroom where Chris still slept.  She pounced on the bed next to him and he began to wake up.  She smiled at him and rubbed his cheeks.  "You're not snowring Chrwis," she began, "and your cheeks feel like my Daddy's," she said feeling his whiskers.

"That's because I have to shave, Squirt," he said gently giving her a whisker rub on her own tender cheeks.  She giggled with delight.

"Daddy does that too," she squirmed as he continued to play with her.  Rita had come in and was standing in the doorway with two cups of coffee.  She was enjoying this side of Chris.  She had never really seen it before.  Neither Chris nor Melanie noticed her standing there, as Chris now began to tickle her.

"I want to shave too, Chrwis," she said still laughing up a storm.

"I don't think so, little girls don't have whiskers to shave," he tried to explain as he glanced up and saw Rita.  He smiled at her.  "Good morning Sam," he said.

She smiled back and walked in.  "Good morning you two."

"She's not Sam, she's Mel and Rita," Melanie said.

Chris looked at Melanie, "No, she's my Sam,  your Rita and you are Mel," he started to explain to her.

"And she's Mel too," she said, "You got thwree names," she counted proudly.  "I have thwree too, Melanie, Mel and Squirt," she added.

"Very good Mel," Rita said sitting down on the bed and handing a cup of coffee to Chris who quickly sat up and started to drink it.  "How high can you count?" she asked.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten," she replied and added, "and I am three and one half.  How old are you Sam?" she asked Rita, delighted that she had yet another name to call her.

"Old enough to not have to answer that question," she reasoned.

"Mommy never does either," she said, "Daddy says he's nine hundwred.  That's old."  Chris and Rita both laughed.  "Can I watch cawrtoons now pease?" she asked politely.

"Absolutely," Chris jumped in and swept her off the bed and flew her toward the living room and turned on the TV for her.

He came back into the bedroom rubbing his head, "Whew, six am on a Saturday, I'm thinking we oughta be re-visiting this parental thing?" he said plopping back down on the bed and reaching for his coffee.

"You can't fool me anymore Sam, you are having the time of your life with her around," Rita said looking directly at him.

"Who me?" he asked pointing to his chest.

"Yeah, you, Mr. Buffalo," she chuckled imitating him again.

"You think I enjoyed having to move our little romance off the couch last night?" he asked.

"Our LITTLE romance?" she teased.

He exhaled and revisited his semantics, "ok, your torrid, fiery, scorching, wild, passionate, love-crazed sex?"

"Didn't you enjoy it too?" she asked.

"Every damn molten piece of it," he said shaking his head affirmatively, "it just was a bit inconvenient, I guess."

"That's what happens," she said, "so why exactly did you leave your basketball game and bring her home chocolate ice cream and watch the movie with her and read her a story and sing her a lullaby and eat animal crackers with her at 5am?"

"It was 4:52am," he answered avoiding eye contact.

"I'm waiting tough guy?" she said looking right at him.

Well, you bought 'em for her," he tried to ignore her question, but allowing himself to grin from ear to ear.

"That's ok, you don't have to answer, I already know, it's written all over your face," she said, "you're loving every bit of this as much as I am."

They both took a sip of coffee.  "How 'bout we set a wedding date, since we can't do much else at six am?" he asked.

"Ok, let's narrow down a month first.  You've got twelve choices, you pick first," she said.

"Alright, June," he said, "beginning of summer, love is in the air."

"That's like a year away," she said, surprised he'd want to wait that long.

"Ok, then September," he said.

"That's next month, we do have to make some plans you know,"

"Ok, then it leaves us with October, November, December, and five more after that, you pick then?"

"December's out cuz of Christmas right?" she said.

"December's out," he repeated.  "January?"

"Boring," she answered.

"February?" he asked.  She didn't say anything.  She got up and went to her purse and pulled out her calendar.  "Ok, so February is looking good huh?" he wondered aloud.

"Darn," she replied.
"What?" he asked.

"I thought maybe Valentine's Day would be on a Saturday next year.  But it's a Sunday.  Why couldn't we have gotten married this year?" she said slapping his arm.

"Sammy, I would have married you ten years ago if you would have had me," he kidded while glancing at the calendar.  "So we get married on the 13th and continue celebrating right through the 14th.  It'll be a regular lovers holiday for the rest of our lives," he said with a grin.

"I like it, I really like it," she said happily circling the date in her calendar book.

"So are you gonna forget or what?" he said noticing the heavy circle she was making around the date.

"No,  I won't forget," she paused, "ever," she reached over and gave him a kiss.

Melanie trotted back into the room, "Mommy and Daddy do that too when I'm watching carwtoons," she said.  They broke apart and saw her standing near the doorway and laughed.

Saturday, they soon found out was one very long day in the life of a three year old.  There was the park, the beach, shooting hoops, Melanie had remembered Chris' promise from the night before,  playing games, reading books, playing with dolls, taking a walk, eating, going shopping and about a million other activities.  Melanie never slowed down either.  She laid down and took a brief nap for about an hour around four in the afternoon.  Rita sat down on a comfy chair beside Melanie who was curled up on the sofa.  Before long both of them were lightly snoozing.  Chris decided he'd whip up some spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and surprise both of them.

Rita woke up first  as Chris began to boil the water for the noodles.  She smelled the aroma of the sauce and walked into the kitchen to see him cutting up some vegetables for a salad.  "Not only are you gonna make a great Father, you're quite a Mother too," she said startling him with her presence.

He looked up and let out a 'ha.'  "You know, this is like the only meal I know how to make," he said.

"Oh hardly, you're probably a better cook than I am," she replied walking over to the counter where he stood and began to help him chop.

"That's not saying much," he teased.

She held up the knife she had grabbed and said, "excuse me?"

"I said quit saying so much and get chopping," he replied.
"Sure you did, so when are we eating?" she asked.

"Just as soon as the noodles are ready," he said pouring them into the water.  "Is Melanie awake?"

"I will go check, then we'll set the table," Rita said popping a piece of cucumber in her mouth and heading back toward the living room.

A short nap was all Melanie needed to have her motor revving again.  She chattered up a storm all night long and ended up going to sleep way beyond her bedtime again.  She also ended up sleeping with Chris and Rita again, coming in to their bedroom sometime during the middle of the night.  Only she didn't get up early on Sunday.  In fact by about 9:30am, she still hadn't woken.  Rita went in to see if she was ready to get up.

"Melanie, sweetie, it's morning, rise and shine," she said reaching down and kissing the child's forehead.  It felt fairly warm under her lips, so she immediately placed the back of her hand on her forehead.  Melanie had a fever.  She drowsily began to wake up.  "Melanie, how do you feel honey?" Rita asked.

"I'm all hot," she said rubbing her forehead.

"Yeah, you feel a little hot, does your tummy or head hurt?" Rita asked.

"My head does," she answered.

"Let me go bring you some oatmeal, ok sweetie, it'll make you feel better, alright," Rita began, "you just stay under the covers."

"Ok, Rita," she said turning over and falling back to sleep.

Rita went out back toward the kitchen, past Chris who was kicking back reading the Sunday paper in the living room.  Rita breezed past him so fast, he wondered what was going on.  "Rita?" he called out to her.  She didn't respond.  "Rita?" he tried again.

"What Chris?" she answered in a slightly bothered tone, from the kitchen.

He got up and walked into the kitchen.  "What is it, what's going on?" he asked as he saw her fumbling through the cupboards.

"I'm looking for oatmeal, don't we have any?" she asked distracted.

"Who wants oatmeal?  Melanie?  Wow, that kid really likes some weird food.  First broccoli, now oatmeal.  Are you sure she's only three?" he asked happily.

"I think she has a fever Chris.   Oatmeal's one of  those foods to eat when you don't feel well, you know.  I can't believe we don't have any," she said rummaging through the bottom cupboards too.

"Does she have a cold or something?" Chris asked ignoring to help her look for oatmeal.

"I don't know Chris, I'm not a doctor, but she feels warm to me and she says she's hot and her head hurts," Rita said flustered.  "I know we had some.  I brought it from my apartment," she said banging one of the doors closed.

"It's no big deal, I'll just run to the store and get some.  I'll be right back ok," he said going over to her and rubbing her shoulders.  "It's probably just a cold, kids get 'em all the time.  We didn't do anything wrong," he added.

"I know, but everything was going just great," she said a little sadly.

"She'll probably be up and around by noon.  I thought you said you've done this before," Chris said trying to get her to smile.  "You know how kids are," and he added, "it's not your fault."

"You're right, deep down I know that," she paused, "I just hate seeing her not feel well, she's so little, it just kind of gets to me," she answered and began to smile, but it quickly turned the other way.  "Why don't you pick up a thermometer while you're out too, just in case."

"Not a problem, anything else you think?" he asked.

She shook her head.  "No, but take your cell phone, in case I think of something, ok?" she said with the worry coming back to her voice.

He noticed it right away, "you gonna be alright?" he asked looking right into her eyes.

"Yeah, I'll be fine," she said.  "You better get going though."

Sunday became an even longer day than Saturday.  Melanie did indeed have a fever of about 100 degree's.  Fortunately, she slept most of the day.  When she did wake up, she was quiet and sullen.  She'd cry a little until Chris or Rita would go in and hold her for awhile.  Mostly she was miserable.  They all were miserable.  By the time  Daniel and Susan arrived on Sunday night, they found two very stressed adults and one fairly sick little girl.  Rita had called Melanie's pediatrician early in the afternoon and had followed her instructions of what to do and what to give her.  Chris made another trip to the pharmacy.  The doctor said the best thing was rest.  Daniel and Susan gathered up all of Melanie's things, told Chris and Rita not to worry,  suggested to them that she probably just picked up a cold at daycare like she had many times before.  They'd been through all the symptoms before.  They thanked them immensely for taking such good care of their daughter all weekend.  After they left, Chris and Rita collapsed on their bed out of exhaustion.

Things went along rather smoothly and quietly at work for the next week or so.  Chris and Rod had time to catch up on some paper work, seems the would-be murderer's had taken some time off for a change.  There was still something about Rod that Chris didn't particularly care for, but things were going along ok for the time being.  Rita still continued to adjust to being Lieutenant Lance.  She was getting better at it every day.  Cap was still up in New York with his family.

On August 31st, Reginald Clarence Vortack III was found dead in his 'playboy' mansion.  Reginald's parents, both deceased had left him their fortune, somewhere in the tune of 24 billion dollars.  Reginald's tastes ranged from the exotic to the eclectic.  He was the president of the Palm Beach Polo Club, he hunted and collected wild animal trophies, he'd often spend months at a time secluded in his mansion, while other times he'd have parties for weeks.  He often frequented dance clubs in town and was seen in the company of expensive women and expensive men.  Not too many people admitted to liking Reggie, but many people claimed to be his friend.  Reggie's last known playmate, the person to find him dead and the recently named benefactor to his billion dollar estate was a two time ex-convict named Patrick McGlorn.  McGlorn was also at the top of list for homicide suspects in this case.  His alibi was air tight though.

Chris flew solo on the initial call.  Rod was in court and Rita was tied up with the chief on a budget meeting.  The cause of death was from a deadly jolt of heroin.  The injection looked self-inflicted to Diana's preliminary investigation.  Death occurred approximately two days prior to the body being discovered.  Patrick McGlorn was out of town, in Memphis, at a convention for Jaguar car dealers.  Reggie Vortack dabbled in the overseas auto industry and had placed Patrick in charge of his holdings.  McGlorn had witnesses, hotel records, plane records and just about any other information that Chris had requested of him.

Vortack had no servants in his fifty four room mansion.  He had fired them all at the beginning of August for what Patrick had described as 'mutiny.'  His mansion did have a state of the art security system that had been intercepted and unauthorized sometime on the day before Vortack had been killed.  Chris still had his money riding on Patrick McGlorn, he just had to prove it.  McGlorn wasted no time moving in to his new mansion and taking over the 24 billion dollar fortune.  He showed little emotion over the death of his 'friend' and he claimed to have no sexual relationship with Reggie.  In fact, his most recent girlfriend, Tara Buckley, was moving into the mansion during the next few days, to offer comfort and just to be there for Patrick.

Chris, Rod and Rita gathered up in her office late in the afternoon to discuss a plan of action in the case.  Patrick McGlorn stood out as the obvious suspect.  Reggie had to die for Patrick to inherit the fortune.  And knowing Reggie's quick turn-around for friends, Patrick McGlorn had to move fast if he really wanted the money.  Together, the three of them decided that Rita and Rod would go in undercover, since Chris' cover had already been blown.  They'd try to get the truth out of Patrick one way or another.

Going undercover in Palm Beach was a bit tricky.  One had to set up an extensive resume and or portfolio in order to play the part.  Rita was going in as Quinn Applegate, a Montreal native and a self-made billionairess at the age of thirty one.  She was the creator of some important computer software for the supermarket industry.  She had already sold off her company and was comfortably living off the profits.  Rod's cover was somewhat similar.  He too, was from Montreal.  His name was Conor O'Donnell.  His wealth would someday come from his parents, in the meantime, he pursued Quinn.  Since he was supposed to be the son of someone very wealthy, it was natural that Conor and Quinn would meet, just from being in the same circle. Their story was that they came to Palm Beach for Quinn to work with Spinnaker Incorporated, a Vortack holding company,  to develop some new software, Conor tagged along for a vacation and to be near Quinn.  Together, they'd cozy up to Patrick McGlorn and try to get to the bottom of Reginald's demise.

"What is it Chris?  I've been undercover a thousand times before," Rita started sensing Chris' frustration at home that evening.

"And every time you've been without me, you damn near end up getting killed.  Those frat boys wanted to drug to rape you.  That time with Derek you almost got shot in the parking garage, and remember the Michael Price fiasco, you got blown up.  Or has it all slipped your mind?" Chris said pacing.

"You need to relax.  Besides I won't be without you, you're the primary on the case," she said in a soothing voice.

"I mean beside you, not behind the scenes.  There's still something about Hot Rod too," he said shaking his head,  "I don't trust anyone else covering your butt," he said, "and it's a beautiful butt to cover, I might add," he said grinning.

Rita gave him a look, "thanks, I think.  Listen Chris, I know what I'm doing, Rod's all set, you'll be nearby.  We're ready to do this, so don't go getting all protective on me.  It's just gonna make me nervous too and I don't want that feeling," she explained.  "What is it with Rod anyway?"

"Something I heard, something I still feel," he shrugged it off, "probably my over-active imagination."

"What did you hear?" she asked.

"Nothing, really," he said not wanting to upset her.  For now she bought it.

She watched him sit down in a chair.  He obviously was not happy.  She tried to read a little more of the trashy romance novel she had begun.  But she kept reading over the same sentence, occasionally glancing over the book to see Chris sulking as he fidgeted nervously watching TV.  "You're not helping," she finally said.

"You know I also thought maybe, that you being a Lieutenant, would mean you wouldn't have to do this kind of stuff anymore," he blurted out, trying anything to keep her from this assignment.

"I'm still a cop Chris," Rita began, "you know, I thought you got over your cave man mentality a long time ago, but I guess I was wrong.  My training was the same as yours, remember.  I am a cop, I am a good cop.  We're still low on female cops too, and this case needs a female cop to go undercover."  She paused and watched him turn away,  "And why is it that you feel you need to protect me all the time?" she asked.

Chris looked at the floor for a few moments and didn't answer.  She went back to reading her book.  He stood up ready to exit the room and cleared his throat which caused her to look at him, standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.  "Cuz I love you," he said softly, "and if the tables were turned, I'd expect you to have the same reaction."  Then he walked into the kitchen.

That was the final straw.  She set her book down and followed him.  He was already out on the patio, which was quickly turning into their therapy center.  The air outside was hot and muggy.  A typical summer night in South Florida.  "There's more to this than love Christopher Lorenzo," she started.  "Are you gonna tell me what's going on?"

"If something major goes down, I don't want Rod watching my back. I've had this feeling all along. And I certainly don't want him watching yours either.  Someone warned me...," he started but cut himself off.

"Someone warned you, who?" she asked turning him around to face her.

He looked right at her, "Tre told me, and I know what you're thinking, sour grapes and everything, but it was how he looked at me when he told me," he continued to say as she turned away and shook her head, not believing this conversation.  "Sam, come on, I'm serious."

"I suppose it was right after I 'picked' Rod and not Tre right?" she said spinning around and waiting for his reaction.  He nodded.  "I wish Tre would grow up, this isn't kindergarten.  Bad mouthing someone else isn't the way to get ahead.   He needs to move on and get over it.  And how can you even believe it?" she asked a little disgusted.

"I believe it, because it's true," he began.  "I've been out there with this guy now for three weeks.  My first instincts were right, he's a charmer Sam.  He gets by on his ability to schmooze.  And it's worse when he's near women."

"Whatta mean exactly?" she asked now slightly intrigued, not having heard him say this before.

Chris sat down on a patio chair.  "You don't want to hear this," he said.

"Yes I do," she said very seriously, "and I'd like to know why you haven't told me before this."

She stood their looking down at him.  "I was hoping that I was wrong.  You know how I get," he said pre-analyzing himself.

"Yes I do, but that's beside the point.  You better start talking now," she said pulling over a chair and sitting in it.

"I've seen him come on to women, suspects, other female cops, women on the street," he explained.  "They open up to him right away, it's pretty freaky.  And if it's not a woman, it's like he lets someone else do the dirty work, you know, and he smiles and people just do stuff for him.  I've seen it about a dozen times already.  It's almost like he's an actor or something."

Rita smiled at him, "ah, now I see, and you think he's gonna try something with me?  Well, don't you worry Sam, you're the only cop for me," she said playfully pushing his head.  "I love it when you get jealous."

Chris wasn't laughing back.  "That's not what I'm saying Rita," he started, "he's outta line, and these women get taken in by it and he gets out his information or whatever it is he happens to need and he's on his way.  He's not doing it to get a woman, he just does it for kicks I think, he gets what he wants and moves on.  He's a user.  I don't think these women know what hit them."

"So do you have any proof of any indiscretion?" she asked.

"No, I haven't seen him diddle anyone, if that's what you're asking," he said a little irritated.

She gave him a stare, "hey look, I'm on your side here, but I can't do anything on your word and some hear say alone."

"I know that too, just watch yourself Sam, I guess that's all I can ask," he said looping his hand behind her head and pulling her toward him for a kiss.  He couldn't see her worried face as he did.

The undercover gig was set to start the following night.  At lunch the next day, Rita and Chris planned to meet for Chinese takeout at home, since they'd be working at night.  It would give them a little time to themselves.

Rita was already at home taking out some plates and silverware when Chris came in carrying entirely too much food.

"It is just you and me, you know?" Rita said seeing all the food he brought.

He grinned.  "I'm hungry, and you know you always say you're not, until you see it, and then you eat more than I do."

"Did you get those special egg rolls?" she asked peering into one of the bags.

"Yep, half a dozen of them.  Wang Loo said they're great warmed up in a microwave," he said.  "But I told him that you'd woof them all down in one sitting," he said handing them to her.

"What else is on today's menu?" she said as she removed container after container.

"A little of this, a little of that, let's see, we have chicken fried rice, sweet and sour pork, that's a double order, chicken low mein, chicken chow mein, broccoli chicken, a pork and chicken stir fry, that's something new, oh and the chicken pox too," he said out of left field.

"Chicken pox, what's that?" she asked.

"It's what you think it is, you know, those little red splots that itch like crazy when you're a kid?" he said diving his fork into some noodle type concoction.

"You have the chicken pox?" she asked a little bewildered.

"Not me," he said as he swallowed.  "I ran into Daniel at Wang Loo's.  Melanie has the chicken pox.  They spotted them, so to speak, on Monday," he said laughing at his own joke.  "She didn't have a cold like we thought.  I guess it tore through their pre-school.  But better now than when she'd have to miss a bunch of school I guess.  Poor kid."

Rita suddenly was lost in thought, "huh?" she asked thinking she missed something.

"I missed two weeks of school in second grade because of them.  At the time, I thought it was pretty cool.  But I did miss out on sitting next to Katie Hazen because of it.   By the time I got back to class, the seating assignment had changed and Toby Brillion was the lucky guy.  She became Miss Florida when she was 17 you know?" Chris said, "What about you?"

"I must have had them in the summer, I don't remember missing any school," she said, her mind was in a daze all of a sudden.

"Rita, hey," Chris said taking a break from eating and looking at her, "earth to Rita, I thought you were hungry.  Quit worrying about tonight, everything will be ok," he said.  She smiled at him and began to eat.

Club Groove was where Patrick and Reginald had hung out and so that's where Quinn and Conor began their own version of partying.  Along about midnight, Patrick showed up with Tara hanging from his arm throwing money around like the lottery had come to town.  And for him it indeed had.  Tara didn't last long on his arm, once rumor that he was inside the club got around.  Women were on him like mosquitos on hot, sweaty, summer flesh.  Rita knew that Patrick had noticed her, but he made no attempt to approach her.  She figured it was because every woman in the club was throwing themself at him, he needn't take the time to do any pursuing.  Or perhaps it was because Rod was practically crawling on top of her.  She'd have to talk with him back at the station to discuss how he should behave undercover.  But she also heard Chris' voice telling her about Rod and his schmoozing.  She hated the extra burden of 'worrying' about what her 'so-called'  partner was trying.

In the van outside the club, Chris was going nuts.  He could barely hear anything above the sound of the live band.  He wanted to be inside beside Rita.

Nothing happened that first night.  In fact, the first few nights were quiet on both accounts.  That is until Rod and Rita were leaving the club on day number three.  Chris heard Rita say they were leaving for the night, her key phrase was, 'I don't want to dance anymore,' Chris smiled when he heard her say that, thinking how much he loved to dance with her, in more ways than one.  Chris began packing up the audio equipment inside the van and had lost visual contact with them as well.  As they came out of the club, Rod pulled Rita closer and locked her in a kiss.  She quickly pulled away.  "Rod, what the hell was that?" she asked pushing him off of her.

"I thought some of  Patrick's friends were out here, I just wanted to make it look realistic.  Did it work?" he asked stupidly.

Rita looked around, no one was on the street.  Only the bouncer stood behind them at the door.  "There's no one out here," she said waiting for him to reply.

"Well, there could have been," he said putting his head down like a berated child.

"Rod, that was out of line, look at me," she demanded.  He raised his head.  "You shouldn't have done that.  I'll let it go this time, with a warning.  Don't let it happen again.  Do you understand?" she asked, inside praying that Chris had not seen or heard any of this.

"Yes, yeah, I do," he said walking over to the car they had come in.  He held the door for her.  She grabbed it herself and got in.  He walked around to the other side with a sly grin on his face.  Chris came up front to the drivers seat of the van and followed them back to headquarters, not having witnessed any of it.

The three of them quickly wrote up a detailed report of the nights activities.  It was all business and for a change it went rather quickly.  Rita worked quietly sitting quite a distance from both Chris and Rod.  Chris sensed that something had happened, but didn't want to bring the subject up in front of Rod.  He kept looking at Rita, who seemed intent on finishing the report, then to Rod, who was naturally in his free spirit, dopey looking mood.  Something had definitely happened, he just didn't know what.

Rita could feel Chris' stare and tried to ignore it.  She just wanted to go home and forget about this whole night.  She glanced at him a couple of times and smiled, just to calm any suspicions he was having.  Maybe he hadn't seen or heard anything.  If he had, he would have confronted Rod right away, she thought.
Chris waited till they both got into the Jeep and began the fifteen minute drive home.  Rita put her head back on the seat and closed her eyes.  Chris watched her for a few moments and decided to pursue the inevitable.  "Long night huh?" he asked, knowing that she wasn't sleeping.

"Umhmmh," was her only reply.

"Did you want to stop for coffee or something to eat maybe?" he asked.

She opened her eyes and turned her head toward him.  "Not really, but if you do, that's ok."

"Nah, I'm fine, I just thought maybe you did," he started, "Do you think Patrick is ever gonna make a move on ya Quinn?" he asked of her character.  Maybe everything was ok and she was just tired, he thought.

"I wish he would, I'd like this to be over, soon," she emphasized.

He heard the stress in her voice now, "How's Hot Rod doing in your opinion?" he asked hoping he didn't jump the gun too soon.

Rita sat up straight now, almost as if she had awoken from the dead, "You know don't you?  Gah, I can't believe it, so you what?  Saw it?  Heard it?  Both?" she rambled.  "I tell you, if he does it again, not only am I writing him up, I'm gonna gift wrap my knee in his groin."

Chris pulled the car over to the side of the rode and glared at her.  "Do you want to tell me what you just were talking about?"  "What do I know?  I didn't see or hear anything.  What the hell happened?"

"I'm talking about that partner of yours.  What a slimeball.  First he climbs all over me the first night and tonight he kissed me," she stared out the front window, her words coming out a mile a minute.

Chris grabbed her arm, which along with her other upper appendage, were both flailing, as if to help her get her anger out even harsher.  "Sam, whoah, start over," he quieted her.  "Are you saying that Rod kissed you, not Conor?"

She was so angry now, "I'm saying, ahhh," she paused and exhaled, "yes Rod kissed me, are you telling me you didn't see or hear it?"

"Are we talking inside the Groove or what?  You know I'm having a hard time hearing you on that wire," he said remaining relatively calm for the time being. "I heard you say the dance line, so I shut everything down.  Tell me what happened?"

"We were coming out, and he grabbed me and kissed me," she explained.

"That sonofabitch," he said in an amazed tone.  He paused looking out the drivers side window, "he kissed you?" he said now looking right at her.  She nodded.  Chris started immediately putting the Jeep into drive.  Rita reached for his arm and stopped him.

"I handled it Chris and where were you anyway, you're supposed to be surveilling us?" she asked.  "I figured you were watching and listening.  I couldn't believe how calm you were at the station."

"Believe me, if I would have seen or heard that, I would have taken care of Hot Rod long before the station."  He stopped talking momentarily and kept explaining,  "I was packing the stuff up, I heard you say that you were leaving for the night," he said with fire in his eyes.   "Now do you believe me?" he said hotly before continuing his tirade, not waiting for her to answer,   "And I'm gonna handle him too, in my own way,  and this time not as Sergeant Lorenzo, but as Rita Lance's fiance," he answered ignoring what she had said.

"No, you're not.  Let's just go home," she said reaching for his hand to try and calm him down.

Chris wasn't ready to go home.  Rita refused to make eye contact with him, even though she knew he was staring at her.   They were both totally upset and speechless about the whole thing.  Chris finally broke the silence,  "I told you, this guy was a creep, what are you gonna do about it?" he asked.

"I gave him a verbal warning and told him that he was out of line.  If it happens again, I'll write him up," she said.

"Write him up?" he asked shaking his head, "what the hell is that gonna do?"

"That's procedure Chris.  I'm his supervisor, I have to follow it, you have to follow it and he has to follow it.  I can't just get rid of him even though I want too.  He's not worth me loosing my career for.  I'm gonna do this the right way.  He's apparently stupid enough to continue trying anyway, I'm sure it'll just be a matter of time.  Now can we just get home, please?  I have got a humdinger of a headache," she replied putting her head back on the seat and closing her eyes, while holding his hand.

"Procedure," he mumbled as he started to drive, " I'll show him procedure.  I'm just supposed to wait till he tries something with you again?  I don't think so."

She opened her eyes again and squeezed his hand.  "Promise me you won't do anything crazy or foolish?"

"Does kicking his ass fit into one of those categories?" he said as his temper flared.

"Yes, both," she started.  "It was a kiss Chris, that's all.  I took care of it for now, like I said, he'll probably try something again, now I'm ready ok?  Let me handle it, ok.  I know you trust me.  I can do this and I will do this.  I just don't want it to jeopardize either one of our careers alright?  That's why I have to follow procedure, understand?"

He let out a sigh and refused to look at her.  "Well after you fire him, I'm gonna kick his ass."

Things went from bad to worse.  The undercover gig was practically dead in the water.  They'd spent an entire week's worth of nights at Club Groove and had gotten nowhere.  Rita was exhausted.  Chris worried about her.  So far, Rod had kept his hands and anything else off her, but the whole situation was stressful to both of them.  Sexual harassment was a hard case to prove and what made it even harder for them was the fact that this undercover work actually 'required' that they appeared to be a couple.

George Donovan came in one afternoon and dropped a file on Chris' desk as he sat there on the phone following up a lead on Patrick.  He ended the conversation and picked up the file.  "What's this George?" he asked.

"Pack a bag, you're going to Miami in the morning," he said sitting on a corner of the desk.  Rita walked out of her office and heard the tail end of the conversation.

Chris opened up the file, started to read it and groaned, "Tino Escuela?" he said.  "What's this all about George?"

"Escuela's finally out of the hospital, his doctor says he's fit to stand trial and you're one of our witnesses.  You and Treveon Thomas, that is," George said.

"Well in case you don't remember George, I was such a zombie during that whole thing, how can my testimony even matter?  I was unconscious during most of it," Chris asked, glancing at Rita who looked worn out.  She rubbed the back of her neck.  "And why Miami?"

"Hey listen, I'd rather take Rita, but Chief Sondheim says she's too important on this undercover thing right now, so I'm stuck with you.  Besides the whole scenario of you being drugged should play a huge sympathy card with the jury," George explained.  "And it's in Miami, cuz Tino didn't think he'd get a fair trial here in Palm Beach.  His lawyer was granted a change of venue."

Chris couldn't believe his ears, "Sure let's make it convenient for poor, little Tino.  Glad I could suffer for something then, I really enjoyed overdosing and almost getting killed,  at least it wasn't a total loss huh?  I can still testify," Chris said sarcastically shaking his head.  "Tre's the primary anyway George.  I really don't understand what I'm gonna be able to say to help you," he tried to get out of it.

Rita watched him doing his darnedest to get out of going and knowing exactly why, "Chris, you have to do this.  I'll be ok," she said.

George wondered what was going on.  He noticed that Rita didn't look all to well.  "I promise, two days at the max Chris," he was trying to help.

"If I gotta, I gotta," he said looking at both of them.

"Good," Rita started, "why don't you go home for awhile to pack and maybe we can get somewhere tonight on this McGlorn thing."

"Yeah ok," he said watching her head back into her office.  George was getting set to leave.  "George you got a sec?" Chris asked.

"If you can walk, I gotta be at court in thirty minutes," he answered.

They walked outside and Chris began to tell him about Rod and his advances toward Rita and what he had heard and seen for himself.  "Chris, that's a hard one to prove in court.  And by the time it all plays itself out, the one who's being harassed usually ends up without a job and being labeled a troublemaker for the rest of their life.  It's not pleasant at all," George explained.

"So, we're supposed to let this creep keep doing this?  Something's not right about that George.  You just saw Rita, she can barely concentrate on the case, cuz she's worrying about what that clown might try next," Chris said.

"She looks tired," George began, "you know if you can get some of the other women to come forward, that would probably expedite things.  You've said this guy has bounced around a lot right, maybe that's why," he paused.  "Tell you what, I'll have my paralegal run his name and see if anything pops up ok?  Will that help?"

"Yeah, it's a start," Chris said as they arrived at George's car.

"I'll see you in Miami tomorrow ok?" George said.

"I'll be there," Chris answered dejectedly.

It was another long, useless night at Club Groove.  They got done working at about four am.  Chris figured he'd just drive to Miami then, get a room and maybe get a couple of hours sleep before he had to be in court at ten.  He dropped Rita off at home.  She said she had another headache and that it kind of hurt to breathe, like her chest was tight, she told him.  He hated more than anything to leave her, he even suggested that he take her to the emergency room before he left.  She passed it off, saying she probably just was catching a bug, from the long hours and the stress.  She told him that she wasn't going to work till tomorrow night, that way she'd be able to sleep and rest most of the day, perhaps she could shake whatever it was she had.  He told her to call him, day or night, whenever, he'd have his cell phone and beeper, and he wanted to know if she was alright.  She nodded.  They kissed each other goodbye.

She woke up at about 11am the following morning.  Her headache was still pounding and she ran her tongue along the inside of her mouth in her right cheek and felt like what appeared to be a group of cold sores.  She got up and went to look in the mirror.  Some blisters were also forming on the outside of her cheek.  Her face felt warm and feverish.  She decided she better call her doctor.

She called Chris about 7pm that night.  Her doctor had instructed her to take some Tylenol and stay in bed and rest.  She probably had contracted some type of viral infection, which was causing the cold sores.  He didn't seem to worried especially after she told him about the long hours she had been putting in.  He told her that she was run down and that she needed to take better care of herself.  If it didn't clear up with rest, she was to call him again for an antibiotic.  Chris would be glad to hear that she was following her doctor's advice.  "Hey Sam," she began.

The sound of her voice brightened up his spirit immediately, "Hey, I've been thinking about you, how ya feeling?" he asked sprawled out on the hotel bed.

"A little better I think, I called the doctor, he told me to rest, so I'm not working today or tonight at all.  I've been sleeping all day, I just can't shake this headache though," she said holding her head.  She didn't even bother telling him about the cold sores, thinking it would just worry him even more.  Besides, she was following the doctor's orders.

"Well, I'm glad that you're listening to his advice.  If you're not feeling better tomorrow, stay home again and call him back and tell him ok?" Chris said like an overprotective Father.

"Yes, Dad, I will," she said with a little smile, "How's the trial going?"

"Slow, I didn't get on the stand today, Donovan's hoping for tomorrow.  I'd like to home tomorrow night," he said longingly.

"I'd like that too," she said.

"I love you, talk to ya soon, ok, take care of yourself," he said.

"I love you too," she answered.

The next day, Rita didn't feel any better at all.  In fact, the headache and the fever remained and now she noticed some of the blisters were forming on her chest.  The tightness in her chest still lingered and now she had developed a cough.  It really hurt to take in a breath.  She was still exhausted.

Chris was wrapped up in the trial all day.  By the time court had ended, he found out he'd have to return again tomorrow to finish up his testimony and by the time he returned to his hotel that evening, he decided to try Rita first at home, then at the office.  He was wondering about her all day.  If she was really sick, she would have called him.  And she had called the doctor, he reasoned.  He still needed to hear her voice.  He was out of luck.  There was no answer at home and when he called the office, he got Mary Trinkus, the dispatcher/receptionist, who said that Rita and Rod had just left with Geoff Morgan, another detective that had been called up to work the sting while Chris was gone.  He left a message for Rita to call him as soon as she could.

Just like every night had been going at Club Groove, this night was headed in the same direction.  The only thing different was that Rita was sicker than she'd ever been in her life.  In addition to all the other symptoms she was having, the severe headache, fever, cold sores, blisters, the tightness in her chest and the cough, she now started feeling nauseous too.  It took all she could muster to get through the night.  It was hard to keep her mind straight.  The last she needed was Rod to pull anything out of the ordinary.  He noticed early on in the evening that she seemed to be in some kind of a daze.  Geoff Morgan noticed too.  He asked if she wanted to proceed with the operation.  She said she did.  He had no idea of what Rod McLeish had in mind.  Neither did Rita.

Patrick McGlorn had been eyeing up Rita or Quinn all week long now.  Rita thought maybe this was the night.  Maybe since she had not gone to Club Groove the previous night, that Patrick was wondering what happened to her.  He stared at her from across the dance floor.  She sat at the bar, next to a standing Rod/Conor.  Patrick made his move toward her.  Rita noticed it and told Rod to be ready.  Rod decided that being ready meant that he should start kissing her immediately and feeling her up.  Geoff Morgan couldn't believe what he was hearing, Rita was telling Rod to back off, that he had gone to far.  McGlorn has stopped about halfway across the dance floor and decided to head in another direction.  He didn't need to get involved in some sort of lovers spat.  Even though he was attracted to the woman, he knew he didn't need that kind of trouble.  Geoff Morgan sensed their was a problem and shed the headphones he wore and headed inside.  When Rita saw Geoff coming in, she lunged toward him, hoping that he would help her.  He caught her in his arms and asked, "What's going on?"

"Just take me home, please Geoff," Rita said holding onto him tightly.  She felt like she was going to fall over.

"Sure, what happened?" Geoff said as he held on to her and led her out, Rod followed behind.

"He's out of line," she said to Geoff, not making much sense to him.  She nearly passed out and started to viscously cough.  Geoff glanced back toward Rod.

"I don't know, McGlorn was coming toward us and all of a sudden she went a little nuts," Rod said.

"That's not what it sounded like," Geoff said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Rod said angrily.

"Figure it out, Rod.  I heard her tell you to back off.  What were you doing to her?" Geoff asked as they got to the door of the club.  Rita tried to talk, but she just ached all over.

"Look, something's wrong with her, you can see that, she's all mixed up," Rod explained.

Rita mustered up some strength.  "No, Geoff," she said grabbing his arm and stopping him from walking any further, "I want him on report, write down exactly what you heard and make sure you log the surveillance tape ok?" she said pointing toward McLeish.

"Yes ma'am, Lieutenant," Geoff said trying to get her into the car, "I will, you can count on me."

"I'm going home," McLeish said, as Rita got into the undercover police van.

Geoff closed the van door and pushed Rod against the side of the van, "you better fill out your report first, and it better match mine," Geoff said toughly.

"Yeah or what?" Rod pushed him off and walked away.

Geoff wondered what was going on.  He, like just about everyone in the department, knew about Rita Lance's reputation.  He respected her immensely and was flattered when he got the call the other day to help out for a few days while Lorenzo was out of town.  He knew it was good experience to just work with her and for her if only for some 72 hours or so.  He didn't know a lot about McLeish, but what he just witnessed didn't put him at the top of his list.

"Lieutenant, are you ok?" he asked getting in and starting up the van.

She managed a weak smile, "Yeah Geoff, I just have some kind of infection, I probably should have stayed at home today too.  I just need to go home and rest, I think."

"No, I mean, about McLeish, did he...?" his voice trailed off.

She nodded, "he tried, I think.  Thanks for being there," she said.

"How can I guy like that ever get to where he's at?" Geoff asked out loud, glancing over at Rita, who had put her head down between her knee's as a wave of nausea came flooding over her.  Geoff noticed it, stopped talking and stepped on the gas a little to get her home quickly.

As he helped her inside, he asked if she perhaps wanted him to call her doctor or if she'd maybe want him to get her anything.  "Nah, I think I'll just go to bed," she said holding her head.  "Thanks for being there tonight Geoff, I won't forget."

"Maybe I should try to get hold of Detective Lorenzo, Lieutenant.  He's in Miami right?  I could just call him for you, if you'll give me the number," he hoped she would say yes.  She looked terrible, especially in the soft light of her home.  He hadn't noticed anything earlier, probably because of the multi-colored light inside the club and the darkness of the night, but she had some kind of blistering on her face.

She wasn't prepared to deal with Chris.  If he wasn't here yet, it meant he was still needed in Miami at the trial.  And she did not want to tell him about Rod, not yet, not when she felt this miserable.  She couldn't stand him having a tirade over the phone.  Who knew what he would do, if she wasn't around to make sure he kept his cool.  She just wanted to sleep.  "Listen Geoff, I'll be ok, I just need some rest.  It's late, I don't want to wake Chris up, and get into the whole situation with him now, I just want to sleep.   I'll be fine ok?" she said leaning against the doorway.

"Yes ma'am," he said, "I'll see you tomorrow, hope ya feel better."  He turned, walked out and closed and locked the door behind him.

"Me too," she said coughing and holding on to the wall as she made her way to the bedroom, "me too."

Rita had never gotten the message from Mary Trinkus about Chris' call, likewise she never bothered to check the answering machine at home either.  Chris had waited up for what seemed like a long time, he had called the house for the last time at about 1:30am.  There still wasn't an answer.  He figured she must be working.  Shortly after that he fell asleep himself.

Rita collapsed on the bed and unconsciously dragged the comforter around her to keep her warm.  She knew she had a fever and now as she quickly began to drift off, she felt the inside of her mouth, the sores had spread throughout it.  As she felt them, she got sick to her stomach and managed to pull herself up to the bathroom just in time.  When she had finally stopped, she stood up and clutched onto the sink and slowly raised her face to look in the mirror.  What she saw looking back at her was horror.  Her cheeks were full of blisters.  She turned on the faucet and ran the water so that it was ice cold.  She took her shaking hands and ran cold water on her face.  For a moment she felt a little better.  She trodded back to the bedroom and covered herself up and drifted off to a delirious sleep.

In her delusional sleep, she began to dream and have nightmares.  Some from things in her past and some things in her present.  Now they all ran together into one horrid blur of surreal reality.

It all started peacefully with Chris.  he softly bent down and kissed her tenderly on the lips.  When he pulled back he smiled at her and brushed some stray curls off of her face, using his palm to caress her face.  She could feel him so near.  His lips seemed to cool her fever.

His lips pulled away and he said, "Sam, we shouldn't do this, it's a mistake, we should stop."

She heard herself say, "It was a mistake."

"Yeah, just not us."

"We should end it."
Then the sound of a gunshot rang out, she saw him laying on the bed, his blood soaking through the undershirt he wore and onto the bedsheets.  She screamed in terror.  She went to help him and felt his skin, it was ice cold.  "I thought I lost you....lost you....lost you."   She backed away and felt someone's arms around her.  As she turned toward the warmth, she looked up and saw Eric's face.  She took her fists and pounded him on the chest until he released her.  As she ran through the house she came upon the bathroom and peeked in.  She saw her Father again, laying in the bathtub, reaching out to her.  The closer she got, her Father turned into Tina Maxwell  and then into Jasmine.  "I can't help you.....I can't help you.....I can't help you."   Again she screamed and ran, this time in the woods.  When she came upon the clearing, Chris stood in front of her and held up his gun and shot at her.  She fired in return and dove out of the way and when she stood up again, she saw Melissa, Annie and Jillian all standing there with Chris in their midst,  laughing at her. "I thought he was dead Cap....I thought he was dead Cap....I thought he was dead Cap."   Immediately she turned and started to move away from them.  The sound of their laughter echoed throughout her throbbing head.  She felt so tired from all the running.  She heard herself saying, "It's not gonna stop, it won't stop."  She was back in the house, only it wasn't her house, it was Chris' loft, someone was grabbing her from behind.  It was Tino Escuela, he dragged her out of the kitchen.  She looked in horror again as she saw Chris stumbling up the stairs of his loft.  His eyes were full of tears and his hand shook as he reached out for her to help him.  She couldn't reach him.  When she broke loose from Tino, she ran to Chris, and again when she touched him he was ice cold. "If you ever do that to me again, I'll kill you....I'll kill you.....I'll kill you."   She heard his voice, he was saying, "you'll never have a normal relationship Rita, you'll always be'll always be alone.......alone."   That's not what he had said that time in her apartment, after the case with the twin sisters, but now she couldn't remember what he had really said.  Maybe he did say that.

She tossed and turned on the bed, sweating profusely.  Her fever soared.  And the things she kept dreaming scared her even more than the sickness that consumed her.

"That's right, you have a life, don't you?" Chris said hurtfully knowing she was not seeing anyone.  She hadn't remembered it quite that way then, but now, could he mean that?  Then she heard herself saying to him, "You know I love you right?  But I'm not in love with you."

"I'm not in love with you either," he answered back.  It couldn't be true.

Then she heard herself again, "We love each other, but were not in love Sam, that's what I've always told all the men in my life."

"That's what we've always told each other, and I think that was the truth," she could hear Chris saying the words, she knew there were more, but her head was so foggy, she couldn't remember.

Next she was at the old Fontana homestead.  Out on the swingset, Chris pushed her.  She smiled for a moment.  Then she heard him say, "You're not gonna find him here...... here........ here..... here.  He's gone....He's gone......You have to look somewhere else.....somewhere else."

It all was turned around.  Eric was back, they were at a bar.  He coldly said, "I don't have to tell you how rigid she is."  She watched Chris.  He stood their laughing, agreeing with Eric.  Her father stood there too, joining in, as did DJ Martin, Tyler, Bob and Paul Clifton.   No, that didn't happen, she didn't understand.  She started to run again.

She began to smash dishes in her apartment.  Chris looked on in shock.  He finally grabbed her and held her close, she said sobbing, "I think I'm going crazy, I think I'm going crazy, I think I'm going crazy.


"No, you're not crazy, you're just very sick, just relax, we're gonna take care of you," the voice said.

Someone was holding her, she came to long enough to realize that someone was beside her in her home.  She drowsily opened her eyes and saw someone, she couldn't tell who it was.  "Chris?" she weakly said.

"No, it's Detective Morgan, ma'am.  But hang on, Detective Lorenzo's on his way.  We'll get through to him right after we get you to the hospital.  Just rest now, you're gonna be fine."

"Chris, we set the date, remember, I love you.  You said it too, I heard you, don't leave me.  You know I love you too," she coughed out, not hearing a word that Morgan had said.

Detective Morgan tried to comfort her while the paramedics came in and placed her on a gurney.  She quickly lapsed back into unconsciousness.  "Let's go you guys, she's really sick," he said worriedly.

The trial in Miami began early the next morning.  The judge's only daughter was getting married the following day and the judge needed to be fitted for his tuxedo.  He talked both sides into beginning at seven am rather than the usual nine am.  That way he could wrap up the days proceedings by three.  That was good news for Chris.  According to Donovan, he'd be off the stand by eight to finish up his testimony and on his way back to Palm Beach no later than 8:10am.

He tried calling the house from his car phone.  Still no answer.  Sometimes she could really be a work-a-holic.  She tried her cell phone and left her a message on her beeper.  When he tried the station, he got a busy signal.  He gave up, by the time he got hold of her, he'd be back in town.  He got into the Jeep and headed north.

He walked through the Palm Tree doors into the homicide department.  Cap was coming out of his, er, Rita's office, putting his suit coat on.  "Cap, you're back!" Chris said excitedly, "Does this mean I get my partner back?" he added grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of working with her again.  Cap looked up.  Chris saw that he had a worried look on his face. "Cap, you ok, what's going on?"

"Chris, where have you been?" he asked.

"Driving, I was at the Escuela trial down in Miami, why, what is it?" he said.

Cap put his arm around him, "I gotta get you over to the hospital.  It's Rita, she's very sick.  I just got back myself, we've been trying to reach you all morning."

Chris shrugged loose and stopped walking with him, "Whatta ya mean, what happened?  What's going on Cap?"

"Chris, I don't have any answers for you, I honestly don't know, she's been there for about an hour, let's just get over there and find out ok?  Come on kid," he said.

Chris practically ran through the doors of the emergency room.  He came up to the nurses station and held on to the counter, motioning for a nurse.  Cap was right behind him.  "Excuse me nurse, I need to find my fiance, Rita Lance, she was brought in this morning."

The nurse looked quickly punched in some keys on a computer.  "Yes, she is here, the doctor is still in with her, please have a seat, we'll be with you just as soon as we can," she tried to say pleasantly.

Chris remained and began shaking his head, "No, I need to see her, please, I have to see her," he pleaded.

"The doctor is still examining her sir, as soon as he completes his assessment, he'll come out and talk to you, I promise," she explained again.

Chris dropped his head and pounded his fist on the counter.  Cap put his arm around his shoulder and called the nurse back over.  "Nurse, could you tell us anything, her condition or what happened, we've both been out of town, we're just a little in the dark," Cap said calmly.

"You're her father?" she asked Cap.

"No, her Captain, she's a police officer, her parents are deceased, but we're her family if that's what you're asking," he said.

The nurse glanced at Chris, who still leaned over the counter and then back to Cap.  Her compassion was overflowing.  "Let me go check and see what I can find out, there's nothing on the computer yet.  I'll be right back, I promise," she said.  Cap smiled and nodded.
Chris looked up at her, "Thank you, thank you very much," he said, his voice breaking.

Cap pulled Chris away from the counter, "Let's sit down, it's gonna be a few minutes, come on," he said leading him toward some chairs.

"Cap, you don't know anything about what happened?  Did you hear anything?" Chris asked.

"I told ya, Chris, I just got back this morning too.  Then I got a call she was here.  I've been trying to call you, I was just heading down here when you walked in.  I don't know any more than you do."

Chris put his head in his hands and shook his head from side to side.  A young man came up to them, "Captain Lipschitz, Detective Lorenzo? I'm Detective Morgan.  I brought Lieutenant Lance to the hospital this morning," Geoff began.

Chris stood up immediately, his heart began to beat rapidly,  "Was she shot?  What happened?" he asked.

"No sir, I'm not really sure what exactly is wrong with her,  she's just very sick, she has a high fever and she was complaining of terrible headache.  I dropped her off early this morning after we ended our assignment at Club Groove and she was also feeling nauseous.  She told me that she'd be alright.  So I went home.  I told my wife what happened and she insisted I call the Lieutenant this morning.  I got no answer at her home and so I called the office.  They said she hadn't been in yet.  I kept worrying, so my wife told me to go check the house.  I'm glad I listened to her.  The Lieutenant's a great cop, and,"  he said sadly, "and she's really sick, I should have insisted she come here last night.  I'm sorry, but she wouldn't let me bring her.  I didn't want to upset her and disobey her orders and all. I should have done more.  I'm really sorry."

Cap stood up now and shook the young officer's hand.  "You did just fine Morgan, Lieutenant Lance will be very pleased with your initiative.  Thank you," Cap said.

Chris reached over and also started to shake the officer's hand and instinct told him to pull this hero into a brief hug.  He whispered into his ear, "Thanks man, I owe you big time, I won't forget this, ever," he said deep from his heart.  As he released him, Geoff Morgan nodded his gratitude and understanding of the situation.  Just then the nurse came up to them.

"Sir, the doctor says that you can see her for a moment.  They're still evaluating her, but they're waiting for some test results, before proceeding.  She's stabilized for now.  Please follow me," she said to Chris.  Chris let go of the hand of Geoff Morgan and turned to Cap, who nodded.  Then he followed the nurse toward the ER room.  "Sir, may I ask what your name is for our records?" she asked as she turned over the clipboard and chart she carried.

"Chris Lorenzo," he said quietly.

"And you said that you're Miss Lance's fiance?" she asked writing down his name.
"Yeah, we're getting married next February," he said, his mind flashed to Rita heavily circling the date in her calendar book.

They arrived at the swinging doors, Chris glanced in and saw Rita lying there, she looked like she was asleep. Doctors, nurses and technicians moved around the room and around where she lay. "Mr. Lorenzo, we need you to put on a gown, gloves and mask for right now.  Your fiance has some type of skin infection and we're not exactly sure what it is just yet, so for your protection and hers, please," she said reaching for his arm and handing him the apparel.

He looked down at it, away from Rita, and nodded, "ah, yeah, sure, I'm sorry," he said for his momentary lack of listening.

"It's ok," she said helping him put on the gown.  "She's in a coma right now, but you can talk to her.  We believe that even in a coma, patients can hear what people around them are saying.  It's important to try to be positive.  She needs you to be strong for her right now," she said with a smile.  "Do you understand?"

"Yeah, yeah I do, I will," he said taking in a deep breath.

"Doctor Figueroa can be a little abrupt at times.  Don't let him scare you or intimidate you.  When it's all said and done, he's the best doctor here in the ER.  She's in very good hands.  The doctor said he'd give you a few minutes alone.  As soon as he gets these results back, he'll come talk to you, ok?"

"Ok," Chris said a bit overwhelmed, "thank you," he paused, "I don't even know your name either, you've been so kind," he said.

"Ellie Harmon, and there's no need to thank me, that's my job.  I think you're all set, do you have any questions?"

"No, I don't think so," he said.

"Alright, follow me," she said pushing open the doors.

The six or seven people in the room seemed to clear out right away as they say Nurse Harmon and Chris enter.  Nurse Harmon went right up to Rita and began to talk to her, "Miss Lance, your fiance is here.  And he's a mighty handsome fiance too," she added.

As Chris approached Rita he now could see that she was a ventilator.  The sound of blips, beeps and mechanical noises roared in his head, as his nostrils filled with the smells of alcohol, blood and the hospital in general.  He looked down at her, then at Nurse Harmon.  "Can I hold her hand," he asked.

"Absolutely," she said smiling underneath her mask, "you can even give her a little kiss if you'd like.  I'm sure she would want you to."
Chris picked up her limp hand in his gloved one.  Then he bent down and kissed her forehead through his mask and barely whispered, "I love you Sam."

"I'll be right outside, if you need anything," Nurse Harmon said exiting.

Chris scanned the room, he didn't know why.  There wasn't much to see.  The only thing that mattered to him in the entire world was laying there, unconscious.  He was never so scared in his whole life.  His other hand moved down and surrounded her hand now too, carressing it softly between both his hands, it felt warm.  He bent his head down and put his cheek beside it and then placed a kiss on it.  He cleared his throat.  "So, I go away for a couple of days and what happens?  You wonder why I want to protect you all the time," he began, "Cap's outside too.  Yeah, he just got back this morning too, so that means we're partners again.  And it's gonna be for ever now.  You and me all the way Sammy," he said as a tear came rolling out of his eye.  He took his shoulder and brushed it away, not letting go of her hand.  "No one or nothing's ever gonna take you away from me again, I won't let it," he added as he kissed her hand again.  "I'm, uh,  gonna talk to the doctor in a bit, to find out what's going on with you.  They just did some tests and they're waiting for the results, so they let me come in here to see you.  But you're gonna be fine, I promise.  You got a lot of good nurses and doctors that are gonna fix you right up.  You know we got a big day to plan.  And I'll make you a deal, you plan the day activities and I'll plan the night ones," he said trying to smile for her.  "I know you won't let me get off that easy, will you?" he asked, hoping to God that she'd answer or awaken and give her that look of hers.

Nurse Harmon came back into the room and said, "just another minute Mr. Lorenzo, the doctor wants to come back in."

Chris turned and nodded, "I gotta go now Sam, the doctor wants to come in.  I'm gonna be right outside, I'm not leaving you, I promise.  I love you," he said bending down and kissing her forehead lightly again.  He reached down with one of his hands and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.  As he did he said a silent prayer for her.  He put her hand back down at her side, "I'll be back really soon Sammy, real soon, I love you," he said as he turned and began walking toward the swinging doors.  As he exited, the room this time immediately filled up with the six or seven people again.  He stood on the outside, peering in, wishing that she would somehow come to life, right then and there.  He closed his eyes for a moment, when he opened them, nothing had changed, Nurse Harmon stood beside him, helping him take off his hospital garb.

He went back towards the waiting area and saw Cap sitting with Morgan.  Geoff spotted him instantly and got up and asked, "How is she sir?"  Chris shook his head in despair.  The young detective dropped his head too.  Cap stood up and helped usher Chris over to a chair to sit down.  "Can I get you some coffee Detective Lorenzo?" Morgan asked.

"Yeah,  sure,  that'd be nice, thanks" he answered out of habit.  Detective Morgan trotted off in search of some coffee.

"Did you talk to the doctor yet Chris?" Cap began.

Chris was having a hard time finding words, he just shook his head no.  "They're, uh, still waiting for some test results.  She's in a coma," he said sniffling hard.  Cap tucked his arm around his shoulder again for comfort.

Detective Morgan came back with the coffee.  He brought Harry a cup as well.  "Thanks, Geoff," Harry said taking the cups and handing one to Chris.

"I hope last night didn't have anything to do with the Lieutenant's being sick," Morgan began, feeling the need to say something.

Chris looked up sharply at him as if a time bomb had been set off.  "What are you talking about?"

"Well, I've been working the Club Groove scam with her and Detective McLeish and last night we were all at the club," he began a little nervous.

"Listen Morgan, if you know something here, you better tell us now," Cap said his mood becoming a bit upset.

"The Lieutenant and Detective McLeish were inside and the suspect, Patrick McGlorn was moving in toward Lieutenant Lance.  I heard her on the wire, she told Detective McLeish to get ready, cuz something could be going down," he paused.

Chris stood up and got in Geoff's face, "then what?"

Morgan didn't back down, he just kept explaining, "I heard what I guess sounded like some scuffling or something, and then Lieutenant Lance was telling Dectective McLeish to back off."

Chris glanced at Harry.  "That piece of garbage, I should've ended that last week when I had the chance," he mumbled.  He had pure hate in his eyes.  Harry studied Chris' face and wondered what exactly  had been going on since he was gone.

Harry looked at Geoff, "then what happened Morgan?"

"I took off the headset and sprinted inside.  The Lieutenant sounded upset and I figured my first responsibility was to her.  I guess it was just a gut feeling I had, thinking back.  I just knew I had to get inside to see if she needed some help.  I already knew that she wasn't feeling very well and all.  And....." his voice drifted off.

"And what Morgan," Cap said.

"And I had heard some locker room talk about Detective McLeish.  If that's what you want to call it.  I didn't want to believe it when I heard it, but when I heard the Lieutenant tell him to back off, I guess it just triggered in my head," Geoff explained.

Chris turned and walked away from them.

"It's all in my report sir, on the Lieutenant's desk, honestly," he said watching Chris move away.

Harry shook his head in agreement with Morgan, "I believe you, it's ok, you've done everything by the book."

Geoff walked back over toward Chris, "I'm really sorry sir, I wish I'd done more, I feel responsible here," he said.

Chris turned around and faced him, "Geoff, it's ok, it's not you at all.  I've known about McLeish too,  I've heard the same stories.  And Rita knew too, I don't think it had anything to do with what's happened to her though," he said eyeing up the young officer, "Cap's right, you did great, I don't think I'll ever be able to really thank you, but I'm sure gonna try," he said holding out his hand to shake Morgan's.  Geoff took it firmly and smiled.  "And please call me Chris, save the sir stuff for guys like Cap over there."

They were still waiting about thirty minutes later for the doctor to come out.  But before he did, one Detective Rod McLeish came sauntering in to the waiting room.  Geoff was the first one to spot him and as he stood up to confront him, Chris looked up and noticed him as well.  He shot up immediately and pulled Geoff back.  This was his concern now.

"Christopher, you're back in town huh?  How's that beautiful boss lady anyway?  I just heard she was...." McLeish said right as Chris'  right hand met him flush on the chin and sent him sprawling across the tiled floor.  "What the?" McLeish said rubbing his chin while he sat on his butt.

Chris wasn't done yet.  And he didn't even let the size and stature of his 'opponent' matter.  Rod loomed at least four inches taller than Chris and probably outweighed him by seventy pounds.  He went over and picked him up off the floor and punched him again.  "You sonofabitch, I oughta just kill you now, you rotten piece of slime.  Did you think I didn't know?  Or that I wouldn't find out" Chris shouted as he connected with blow upon blow.  "I should've done this a long time ago."  By now Geoff and Cap were trying to pull Chris off him, they were having a hard time though.  Orderly's and security guards quickly came into the area and tried to separate the two men.  Hot Rod wasn't backing away, in fact he started to defend himself and  punch back at Chris.  The hospital staff grabbed McLeish and subdued him, while Cap and Geoff struggled with Chris.  He finally started to relax a little and Geoff let go his hold and grabbed McLeish by the collar.  He flashed his badge to the hospital staff and took control of the situation by leading McLeish out of the hospital for the time being.  There'd be time to press charges later.  He just needed to clear him out of the building.

Chris started after him as he was being escorted out by Geoff.  Cap grabbed him by his shoulder and made him sit back down in a chair to cool down.  "Stuff like that won't do Rita or you a bit of good right now Chris, you know that," Cap said out of breath.

"That creep put his hands and God knows what else all over her.  He's way out of line.  I'm not letting him get away with that and I'm not gonna wait for the courts to decide either," he said standing back up holding his hands above his head.

"Yes, you are gonna wait for the courts to decide.  You need to be here for Rita right now, not sitting in some jail cell.  We'll deal with McLeish in time.  Do you understand?"

Chris threw his hands down in disgust and sat down.  "God I hate this, I shoulda been here, I shoulda never let her go undercover..." he trailed off.

"Listen, don't let this eat at you.  You had the trial and she would have gone with or without your permission.  You know that.  Right now, she's getting the best care she could be getting.  You need to focus on the present and on your future.  What's done is done," Cap said.

"My present and my future are lying in a coma right now," he said sadly.

A man in a scrub suit walked up, "Mr. Lorenzo," he waited for Chris to look up.

"Yeah, I'm Chris Lorenzo," he replied.

"I'm Doctor Figueroa, I've got the test results back on your fiance.  Would you follow me please?"

Chris followed Dr. Figueroa into a small conference type room.  The doctor motioned for him to have a seat and Chris did.  "This is a highly unusual case," the doctor began.  I ran a few extra tests just to confirm my suspecions," he began.

"What is it Doc?  Is she gonna be alright?" Chris asked concerned.

"Mr Lorenzo," he began, "your fiance has a form of chicken pox."

Chris listened closely to what the doctor had just told him.  As he heard the words, he let out a small smile and a little chuckle.  "Chicken pox?" he asked.

The doctor remained serious, "It's a form of the virus.  It's also actually pneumonia.  She's a very critically ill woman right now," he explained.

Any amusement Chris had at hearing the words chicken pox had now vanished.  "I, um, uh, I thought chicken pox was something kids got.  I've never heard of this before.  I didn't think it was a serious illness," he said trying to understand.

"When children have it, you're right, it's not usually too bad.  Although some children, who may already have some other medical problems, tend to have a harder time than others.  You don't often hear about anything occurring other than the outbreak of the sores," the doctor said.

Chris interrupted him, "But if you've had them, I thought you couldn't get them again, it was like some kind of immune system thing?" he asked.

"That's correct too," Doctor Figueroa said.

"Well, Rita told me that she had them," he said trying to think back to their conversation.

"So she's been recently exposed to someone who has them?" the doctor searched for answers.

"Yeah, we babysat a little girl last weekend, the last day we watched her, she had flu-like symptoms and then a few days later we found out from her parents that she had chicken pox," Chris said.

"And you're sure your fiance had them as a child?" he asked.

Chris put his head down now remembering the conversation more accurately.  "I guess she said she couldn't remember having them during the school year, cuz she didn't miss any classes, she figured she must have had them in the summertime," he said thinking deeply, "but most kids remember having them at some point, like I did," he paused, "so maybe she never did, I guess she never really said if she had them or not," he finished.

"Perhaps we can get a look at her records,  but regardless of that, as I said the virus has turned into pneumonia as well.  When adults contract chicken pox, it can potentially become very dangerous," he said.

"It almost looks like blisters on her cheeks, is that the sores?" Chris asked.

"Yes, and actually she has more sores in her mouth and down her throat.  That's why she was having such trouble breathing and that's why we've placed her on a ventilator for now.  It's almost as if the virus spread internally, rather than externally.  Do you understand?" Doctor Figueroa asked.

"Yeah, I think so.  She probably had no idea that she had chicken pox, right?" Chris asked back.

"You're probably correct.  I understand she had been complaining of headaches?" he asked.

Chris nodded, "Yeah, she was, she just thought she was getting a cold or flu or that she maybe was working a bit too much.  Stress, you know?"

"Sure, many of the symptoms would be the same, tight chest, hard to breath, coughing, headache, nausea, fever," he began, "we ran a chest x-ray which confirmed the pneumonia, and there's also a slight inflammation of her heart.  Her spinal fluid was ok.  We've started her on acyclovir, that's an antibiotic.  The coma has me a bit concerned right now.  We're going to keep her in ICU and continue to monitor her," the doctor said.

"Is she gonna be alright?  I mean," he stopped what he was thinking, and the doctor noticed this and stepped in.

"I believe that we got to it in time, but the next twenty four hours or so are critical.  She's young and she's strong, and that helps in the long run.  We'll have to wait and see," he said with hope.  "As I've said though, she's a very sick lady, you need to understand that."

Chris sat stunned trying to soak in all the information the doctor had given him, his mind was swimming with all kinds of thoughts,  "Can I stay with her?" Chris asked.

Doctor Figueroa nodded, "I'll have Nurse Harmon get something set up for you.  Do you have any other questions?"  Chris nodded no.  "Please have me paged if you need anything or have any questions ok?" he said reaching for Chris' hand.  "Stay positive, that's so important.  I know it's hard to do when it's the person you love, but I've seen it both ways, and staying up works, believe me," he added.

"Thanks Doc," Chris said shaking his hand.

Chris slowly walked back out toward the waiting room.  By now Franny had joined Cap and they both sat tensely awaiting for any news.  He saw them both sitting there from a distance and stopped in the hallway to try and collect his thoughts.  He ran his hand over his face and proceeded down the hall to where they were.

Franny saw him right away and popped up to give him a hug.  He reached down and held on to her for a little longer than usual.  Cap stood up too.  "What did the doctor say, Chris?" Cap asked.

Chris stayed in Franny's embrace a bit longer.  She whispered in his ear, "It's ok Chris, let it out,"

He felt his eyes well up with water.  He sniffled hard.  She hugged him even tighter.  He finally pulled back and composed himself.  The three of them walked back over to the chairs and sat down.

"They're," he sniffled, "uh gonna let me go back in and stay with her," he began, "so I don't want her to be alone for too long.  I should call Benny too and let him now, he's been like a real Father to her lately, he'll want to know," he added, his mind a little disoriented.

"I can do that for you," Cap offered, "what is it Chris, do they know yet?" Cap asked.

He nodded, "It sounds crazy," he said wiping away a budding tear,  "she's got the chicken pox, and I guess it developed into pneumonia, she's really sick," he added.

"Didn't she have them as a child?" Franny asked.

"I don't know Fran," he answered.

"How'd she get them now?" Cap asked not knowing about Melanie.

"About ten days ago, we babysat for Daniel and Susan's little girl and she got them," he said becoming frustrated, "It's all so crazy, I can't even believe it all.  She could die from this."

"Is that what the doctor said?" Cap wondered.

"He said she's in critical condition, I already told you that she's in a coma.  He said the next 24 hours are critical.  It's up to her I guess," he said, "that's why I want to be with her," he said searching the hall for Nurse Harmon.

"If it's up to her, she'll be alright," Franny began, "she loves you so much Chris, she's no where near ready to leave you, you know that."

Chris tried to smile through another round of tears and he nodded, "we, uh, we finally set the wedding date, February 13th, I need to tell Benny that too," he said.

"See, that just means she's gonna be fine," Cap started, "I don't know a woman out there yet, who would ever pass up on a wedding date.  Wearing that white dress and walking down the aisle is more important to them than breathing.  That and watching their husband to be squirm and fidget in those monkey suits they make us wear," Cap said trying to brighten the mood.

"Oh Harry Lipschitz, that's not true!" Franny said.

"Tell me it's not!" he demanded.  "Listen kid, Rita knows she's got so much to live for, and if it's up to her, I'm telling you, bet the ranch, cuz she'll come true, just as sure as the sun rises and sets every day," Cap explained.

Chris nodded and said quietly, "I believe that.  Thanks for being here for us."

Rita had been admitted into the ICU unit.  She was placed in a private 'room' so to speak.  Two walls were plaster, so that their was privacy from the other patients in the unit,  the outside wall was solid glass, so the nurses and doctors could see in from their station.  Eight of these rooms formed a circle around the center station.  The rooms were large and sparse, set up this way to accommodate a fairly large group of people in an emergency situation, as well as a lot of medical equipment.  Chris was given a chair near her bedside.  That was the best they could do for him.  He didn't care, he wasn't concerned with his own comfort in the least bit.

He held her hand tightly and talked to her softly, constantly, telling her about the trial he was just at, what a hero Geoff Morgan had been, how he cherished the friendship of Harry and Fran, about telling Benny about their wedding date and anything else he could think of, just so she would here his voice and know that he was there.  The morning and afternoon brought no change at all.  It was turning into the longest 24 hours of Christopher Lorenzo's life.

Early in the evening, his frustration and emotion with the whole situation began to show a little.  He began to think about Rod McLeish, wondering what actually happened between Rita and him.  It started to make him a little crazy.   "Sam, I warned you about that guy, I don't understand why you wouldn't listen to me.  As soon as you pull out of this, I'm gonna take care of it myself this time.  Maybe he didn't give you this directly, but I'm not gonna let anyone come near you like that again, ever."

As he was saying this, Daniel quietly walked into the room, "Chris?" he said barely above a whisper, standing near the open doorway.

Chris turned abruptly and saw that it was Daniel.  He nodded.

"Mind if I come in for a sec?" he asked.  Chris shrugged as if to say he didn't care.  He turned his attention back to Rita.  "How's she doing?" Daniel asked.

"No change yet.  They keep coming in ever fifteen minutes poking and prodding," he said not loosing his eye contact with her.  "How'd you get in here?  They told me immediate family only, they didn't even want me to be in here."

"I'm a doctor remember?  Sometimes it carries privliges," he said trying to lighten the mood. Chris didn't react at all.  Daniel sensed that perhaps Chris was mad at him and his family perhaps for the whole situation, after hearing the end of Chris' conversation as he came into the room. "Listen Chris, I'm terribly sorry.  I mean, if we knew Melanie was gonna be sick, and that Rita had never been exposed, well Susan and I just feel terrible, if there's anything we can do, please just ask ok?" he pleaded.

"It's not your fault at all Daniel, it's just one of those freaky things I guess.  There's no need to apologize," Chris said glancing at him.

Daniel spotted a doctors stool off to the corner and grabbed it and wheeled it over.  He sat down.  "Are you sure, I mean, well I heard what you were saying when I came in.  I just thought..." his voice trailed off.

"I wasn't talking about you man," Chris was quick to explain still intently gazing at Rita.

"Listen," Daniel interrupted, "let's take a break ok?  The nurses told me you've been in here all day, let me go buy you a sandwich or something."

Chris nodded negatively.  "I'm not leavin' her."

Daniel reached out and touched his arm, "Chris, come on, we'll only be gone twenty minutes or so.  You need a break and she needs some rest, right?  You've been chattering at her all day.  She's gonna be upset with all the noise you've been making when she does come too," he said trying to convince him.  Chris gave the first hint of a smile.   Daniel stood up and waited for Chris to follow.

Leaning down to her ear, he whispered, "Sammy, I'm going to grab some dinner with Daniel. I'll be right back, before you know it.  You just rest now.  I love you," he said kissing her softly and placing her hand carefully at her side.

"Harry told me about that partner of yours," Daniel began as they walked to the cafeteria, referring to Hot Rod.

"My partner's back in that room," Chris said angrily pointing back to the ICU.

Daniel put his arm around his shoulder, "It's ok Chris, she's gonna pull through," he said trying to calm him down.

"I wish I was as sure as everyone else seems to be," Chris said.  "It just scares me to see her laying there like that.  Now I think I know what she's been through when it was me laying there.  I'd give up my own life for her right now if it meant she'd be ok," he closed his eyes and stopped walking for a minute.  "I don't know what I'd do without her," he added.

"I understand what you're saying.  I'd do anything for Sus and Mel.  That's what love is all about my friend," he said as they continued to walk.  "So were you talking about McLeish when I came in the room then?" Daniel did his own form of prodding.

"You always have the meter running don't you Daniel?" Chris asked with another smile.

Daniel scratched his forehead.  "It's my natural born curiosity I guess," he explained with a grin of his own, "plus you might feel better if you talk about it."

"I know, that's why I was talking to Rita, just knowing that she's able to hear me, to know she's listening, it helps," Chris replied.

"Yeah, but she might be worried to hear you talking like that.  She wouldn't want you to go after the guy, am I right?" Daniel asked.  Chris hesitated momentarily and then nodded in agreement.  "Can I give you a little piece of advice Chris?"
"Sure," Chris said.

"Concentrate on the good stuff right now,  that's what she needs to hear from you now, keep telling her over and over again what she means to you, remember the good times and write it down too, so when she comes back, you can share it with her all over again.  That's what's gonna get YOU through this, the love between you guys.  Let the hate go.  McLeish will get what's coming to him.  You know that too," Daniel said.

"You know Daniel, I'm really glad that Rita's got a friend like you," Chris said.

"I'm glad she finally found you Chris.  You guys are great together.  And, I hope you know that I'm here for you too," he added.

"I know that," Chris replied.

Chris stayed awake holding Rita's hand through the long night.  He continued talking to her, telling her how much he loved her and how he looked forward to the day when they would be husband and wife.  About three am, he stood up and moved around to work out the stiffness that was forming in his body.  He walked over to the nurses station and asked for a pen and paper.  He walked back to the room and began to pour out his heart on paper.  When he got finished, he folded it up and tucked it under her pillow.

A full twenty four hours later, there still was no change in her condition.  She remained in a coma.  The doctor was optimistic now though, saying that the antibiotic treatment was indeed working and that her breathing was improving.  They'd be able to take her off the ventilator perhaps sometime this morning.  Chris continued his vigil at her side, only taking a break when Cap and Franny came by to see how she was doing.  Chris relayed the news to them and they were all encouraged.  Cap told him that he had talked with Benny.  He was going to try to fly down to be with them, but he had closing arguments in an important fraud case, so he'd keep in contact via the phone till he could get down there.  Cap said he'd try calling him again today with the latest news.

While Chris was out discussing the situation with them, Doctor Figueroa did take the ventilator out, so that when Chris returned, Rita looked a hundred times better to him.  Now, she just appeared to be asleep.  He sat down beside her again and poured out his heart and soul to her just as he'd been doing for the last twenty four hours or so.  By mid-afternoon he was exhausted himself, he'd only had the sandwich with Daniel sometime last night and he'd not gotten any sleep.  The nurses tried to get him to take a break, but he wouldn't leave her side.  He laid his head against the side of her chest, feeling her heart beat in his ear, like he had done countless times before.  "God, Sammy, I love you, please don't leave me," he whispered as he kissed her hand.  He closed his eyes as the rhythm of her heart softly soothed him off to sleep.

Around supper time Rita began to stir, slowly her eyes began to flutter open.  She could feel someone holding on to her hand and leaning against her body and as she turned her head slightly she saw that it was Chris.  Nothing else looked familiar to her as she glanced around the room, where exactly were they?   She closed her eyes for a second, trying to remember what had happened, she began to recall that she felt very sick and that her head had been pounding, she remembered the horrible nightmare she had.  Hadn't he died?  Hadn't everyone in her life that was important to her?  And why was everyone laughing at her?  But that was just a dream, she thought, now it was time to shake the cobwebs loose.  Her head felt so much better, it wasn't pounding any more, though it still ached a bit.  She recalled that the inside of her mouth had been covered with sores, her tongue cautiously ran along the inside of her cheeks, they still were there.  And it hurt to swallow.  She lifted up her free hand and saw that there was an IV connected to it.  What could possibly have happened.  Was she in the hospital?  Wasn't Chris in Miami and she was working on a case?  Some things remained a mystery.  She looked down at Chris again.  She could feel his breath against her.  She could tell he was sleeping by how even and regulated it was.  Slowly she picked up IV'd hand and wriggled her fingers through his hair.  He turned his head a little as if to resettle himself, but she continued to run her fingers through it lightly massaging his scalp, he began to awaken.

Through sleepy eyes and a day and a half growth of chin stubble he turned to see that Rita had woken.  He didn't know what to say, as her hand delicately rubbed the back of his neck and swung around to touch his whiskers on his cheek.

"You're going for that Mr. Buffalo look too, huh?" she asked softly, as a smile started to form on her lips.  A tear rolled down his cheek as she took her thumb and brushed it away.  "What's wrong?" she asked as her smile faded away.

"Nothing, nothing anymore," he answered hoarsely,  picking up the hand he had hold of, placing soft kisses all over it.  His other hand moved up to caress her face and his mouth quickly followed it's lead.  He tenderly kissed her forehead and placed a feathery kiss on her lips.

"Can you tell me what happened?  Why am I in the hospital?" she asked looking into his blue eyes.

"You never did have the chicken pox did you?" he said back.

She looked slightly stunned at him, "maybe you should be in this bed instead of me," she said holding her hand against his forehead to see if he had a fever, "what are you talking about?"

He grinned, "you have the chicken pox," he said matter of factly.

"I have the chicken pox?" she said looking over her arms for any sores.

"You're not gonna find any sores on your skin, they're inside you actually," Chris tried to answer her question, "see I guess when you get them as an adult, they're pretty serious.  You should have told me that you never had them Sammy," he chastised her.
She crinkled up her face, "So what happened?  I can't remember a thing," she still wanted to know.

"You've been in a coma for almost two days now.  Thank God for Geoff Morgan, he came to the house the other morning to check to see how you were doing.  He got worried about you, cuz you had been so sick at Club Groove.  And it's a good thing he did, you were delirious and had a high fever, so he brought you to the hospital.  I came home later that morning and learned that you were here.  You actually have pneumonia too, or some form of it.  You're very sick," he said quietly brushing against her cheek with the back of his hand.

"You've been here the whole time, haven't you?" she asked.

He nodded, "yeah, I've been talking to you, begging you not to leave me, ever, praying that you'd come back to me."

She squeezed his hand a little tighter, "You know I won't leave you, I love you."

"I know, but seeing you like that, I guess I just got scared, God I love you Sam," he said.

"No wonder my head still aches though, you've been talking for nearly two days straight.  Didn't you think I needed some rest Chris?" she chided.

He gave her half a smile, "Let me get the doctor, maybe he can give you something for the pain," he said starting to rise.

She wouldn't let go of his hand, "No Chris, please, not yet, just stay here with me a little longer please?" she nearly begged.

He sat back down beside her and gave her another kiss as they quietly shared these first few, new minutes together alone.

Two days later, Rita was ready to be released from the hospital.  She still would need to rest and recuperate at home, but she had come through the worst of it and had bounced back from the seriousness of the illness very quickly.  As they were packing up her things to go, Cap walked into the room.

"Alright you guys, I have got some bad news, some good news and some great news for you.  Chris and Rita stopped what they were doing and looked at each other shrugging.

"Let's start with the bad and work up to the great," Chris said with a grin.

Rita sat down on the hospital bed, while Chris continued to gather up her belongings.  "McLeish is gone," Cap said.

"He's been transferred?" Rita asked.

"He's in jail?" Chris wondered.

"No, I mean he's gone, vanished, disappeared," Cap explained.

Chris' movements came to a halt.  "What?" he almost shouted.  "He should be in a cell somewhere, I thought IA was handling it?"

Rita watched how upset he got, "Chris come on now, calm down, just listen to Cap," she said reassuringly.  "How do you know he's gone?"

"Apparently he never existed," Cap said.  Chris and Rita were stunned.  "DMV, FBI, CIA, OCB, DEA, virtually every major organization as well as most of the minor ones, no one has this guy listed as a person.  We've run him through every computer across the country.  His fingerprints aren't on file.  All of the other living 984 Rod McLeish's are accounted for, the majority in Scotland.  Miami's never heard of him.  His last known address is an empty field in West Palm.  And his locker at the station has been cleared out, cleaned out and wiped clean, as well as his desk.  He's gone," Cap finished.

"I can't believe it.  What's this guy a con man or something," Chris said looking at Rita who nodded affirmatively as he asked, "you checked him out right, his references and his record?  That must still be on file in your office."

"It's all gone Chris, all the paperwork, all the computer info.  It's like he wasn't here. It's like he never was anywhere," Cap reiterated.

Chris shook his head in disgust.  Rita turned her attention back to Cap, "So what's the good news?"

"Tara Buckley turned herself in for the murder of Reginald Vortack.  She got access to Vortack's mansion by dismantling the security system, with a little help from McGlorn.  Initially the plan was for Tara and Patrick to run off together and live happily ever after.  But I guess that Patrick's been having quite a run of women of his own lately and Tara got a little greedy.  So in stepped McLeish.   Apparently Rod McLeish's last bit of dirty work was her.  Before he disappeared he turned in a taped confession of hers to the night officer.  She hasn't admitted to it yet, but the story goes that McLeish slept with her the other night and coerced it out of her.  We don't even need it in court though, cuz she came in and turned herself in.  We picked up McGlorn too.   She also admitted that she was plotting the death of Patrick McGlorn.  She was after the money," Cap said.

"Aren't they all?" Rita said.

"So what about McLeish?" Chris was still ticked off.

"It's like one of those what, 'unsolved mysteries,' that Robert Stack talks about.  He'll get caught someday.  Probably after he makes a million dollar movie deal," Cap said.

"So then what's the great news Cap?" Rita asked, as Chris closed up Rita's overnight bag.

Cap grinned from ear to ear, "I have found a way to keep the two of you partners, regardless of your marital status, that is pending your approval of course," he said seriously.

"Done deal," Chris said without even hearing what Cap had to say.  Rita gave him the look.

"Ok, here goes," Cap began, "Rita, you'll keep your rank of Lieutenant.  The Chief has been very pleased with your work, as has most everyone in the whole damn building.  And since Captain Vargas is leaving next month, that means some other lucky Lieutenant will be moving up internally to his spot.  That leaves a Lieutenant spot open for you.  And I'm keeping you in homicide.  The Chief agrees."

"Wait a minute, where does that leave us as partners?" Chris interrupted.

"Hold your horses Lorenzo," Cap said sarcastically, "It means that officially you won't be partners, you'll be both classified as singles, because a Sergeant can't be partnered with a Lieutenant,  however, we all know that detectives work better in teams right?" Chris and Rita nodded their agreement.  "So unofficially, you will still go out and solve crimes together.  You just may have to ride in separate cars that's all," he jokingly added.  "Everything has cleared channels already, so whatta you two think?"

"That is great Cap," Rita said standing up to hug him, "How can we ever thank you?"

"That's a start," he said with a smile, "but there's no need too, call it selfishness on my part, I don't want to loose you guys," he added giving Chris' hand a shake.  "We'll pull in a third detective too, maybe even a fourth, I'm not sure on that yet.  We'll wait and see how it goes.  Plus Rita, don't forget, you'll still have some administrational duties as Lieutenant.  You sure you can handle it?"

She smiled at Chris and reached for his hand, "As long as my partner's beside me, I can handle anything Cap."

Later that night at their home, Rita had gone to bed to sleep shortly after they ate a light supper. Chris busied himself cleaning up the kitchen and straightening up around the house, before he went and peered inside their bedroom.  She was indeed sleeping.  He let out a contented exhale as he watched her for a few minutes.  He never wanted to go through anything like that again.  He decided to go outside to their patio for awhile and relax himself, maybe even say a prayer or two to God for allowing Rita to remain with him.  He sat down on the chaise lounge and stretched out his legs and looked up at the dusky sky.  He didn't even hear the sliding door open as Rita stepped out and inched her way toward him.  Leaning over, she hugged him tightly and kissed his lips upside down.  His arms reached up in return to hug her back.  "I thought you were sleeping," he began, "that's what you're supposed to be doing, remember?  Resting and recuperating?" he leaned up for another kiss.

"I was, I just woke up and wondered where you were.  I called out for you, but you didn't answer.  I figured you came out here," she explained.

"You know, this is quickly becoming my favorite feature of this house.  Every time I'm out here, I learn to love you a little more," he said.

She smiled and held onto his hand as she came around and sat down between his legs, leaning back against his chest.  He overwhelming welcomed her.

"Sam, something's been bugging me," Chris began.

"And that is what?" she asked.

"What happened at Club Groove, between you and McLeish?  I mean did he?" his voice got softer, then stopped.

"No, he didn't diddle me if that's what you're asking," she said using his terminology.

He had to grin at that, "well what exactly happened?  Morgan said that you told him to back off, and then he heard a scuffle?" he questioned.

"That scuffle was me kneeing him in the groin, I told you I would if he tried anything again.  Remember, I CAN handle myself, even if I was sicker than snot," she said proudly.

Chris grinned again, "yes you can, I don't think I'll doubt you ever again Sam."

She smiled and changed the subject, "it was really nice of Benny to call before huh?"

"Yeah, it was, he really cares about you," he said.

"And you too," she began, "I'm kind of surprised you told him about the wedding date already," she added.

"I'm telling everyone, are you kidding?" he said happily.

"Don't be thinking it's gonna be easy for you.  I am not doing all the planning, for your information," she laughed, "I can't believe you'd even suggest that.  And then think you could simply plan the night time activities, like that's gonna be hard?" she recounted what he had said in the hospital when she was in the coma.

"Who said they'd be simple?" he asked and added, "Sam, you remember that?  You were in a coma, how could you know?" he looked at her strangely before giving up, realizing what Ellie Harmon, Doctor Figueroa and Daniel had all tried to tell him.

They sat silently for a few minutes until Rita reached into her pocket and pulled out a slip of paper.  Chris recognized it immediately.  It was what he had written down in the hospital.  "Now where'd you find that?" he asked a little surprised.

"Ellie gave it to me yesterday morning while you were at work.  They found it when they changed the sheets.  It says in here that you were gonna give it to me yourself," she said.

"I was," he started, "I slid it under your pillow and then I must have forgotten about it when you came out of the coma and when I went to look for it this morning before we left, it was gone, I swear," he said turning her head so she could see the sincerity in his eyes.

"I believe you," she said giving him a kiss, "I'm just glad I got it, it's so beautiful Chris," she explained,  "I would've regretted not having it."

"I meant every word of it, I love you Sam," he said pulling her closer.

"I love you too," she said as she held it up for both of them to read it again.

My dearest Sam,

I talked to Daniel earlier tonight and he suggested I write a few things down on paper, my feelings for you, how much I love you.  I'm gonna share it with you too, I know you're gonna be alright, cuz I know you and I know how much you love me too.

This is how I feel,

love always,


Just to look in your eyes again
Just to lay in your arms
Just to be the first one always there for you
Just to live in your laughter
Just to sing in your heart
Just to be every one of your dreams come true

Just to sit by your window
Just a touch in the night
Just to offer a prayer each day for you
Just to long for your kisses
Just to dream of your sighs
Just to know that I'd give my life for you

For you
All the rest of my life
For you
All the best of my life
For you alone....only for you

Just to wake up each morning
Just to you by my side
Just to know that you're never really far away
Just a reason for living
Just to say I adore
Just to know that you're here in my heart to stay.

For you
All the rest of my life
For you
All the best of my life
For you alone, only for you

Just the words of a love song
Just the beat of my heart
Just the pledge of my life, my love for you.

The End

September 1998

And so ends yet another fanfic!

As always thanks goes to Linda & Lisa for posting my stories.

So here are some questions for you to ponder and comment upon....

Should the evil Hot Rod make another appearance?  (He's soooooo creepy!)
Who should be moved up to Detective?  Old, reliable Tre?  Or cutie pa-two-tee Geoff Morgan?
Or both?  Or neither?

I hope February isn't too long for ya all to wait till they get married.  Cuz that's when I'm shooting for.  (What a shindig it will be!...ok I hope it will be)  Of course, they'll continue to have some adventures along the way, if you'd like!

Many sincere thanks to everyone who reads and comments on these little ditties.  I love hearing from you, so keep it coming!  It makes me write even more!

The word 'YONKS' is used with permission.  Thanks 'T'

'Golden Slumbers'  is an actual lullaby and it was written by Thomas Dekker, a very long time ago.  However a more recent version of it can be heard in a Beatles tune.  Though I'm not sure which album

'For You' is a song and it  was actually written by John Denver.  (Believe me....I'd love to have had Chris Lorenzo really be that romantic...and personally, I'd love to have really written those words myself...but I must give proper credit.)  If you'd like to hear it, you can find it on the 'Higher Ground' CD.

'One Hundred and One Dalmatians' is a Walt Disney creation.

Chris, Rita, Cap, Frannie, Benny, Ana, George  & Diana  (All the familiar good guys!)   Derek.....Michael Price.... Eric...Jillian....Melissa...Annie....Bob....Tyler....DJ Martin....Paul Clifton... (all the familiar bad guys!  GAH...I think that's it on the pukey sorry)  are all the creations and belongings of Stephen J. Cannell and Stu Segall and the USA Network.  (And they better bring back Classic Silk soon!)

Robert Stack appears as Robert Stack.

Everyone else, Daniel, Susan, Melanie, Hot Rod, Reginald, Patrick, Tara, Dr. Figueroa, Nurse Ellie Harmon, Geoff Morgan, Katie Hazen, Toby Brillion, Mary Trinkus, Tino Escuela and Skyler...the hot gas station attendant,  et al are all mine.  Hope you enjoy them!

Once again thanks and please write if and let me know what ya think.

Write to me at


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