I Hate It When You're Not Here
By tuna.dc

The gold shag carpet in the living room was gone. That was the most important thing to both of them on this particular Sunday night, as they lay in each otherís arms on the new carpet in the virtually bare living room. Three candles flickered from a lonely table in the darkness as the portable CD player belted out some old song. Little did they know that this would be one of the last nights they'd share alone for a while.

"Do you think we'll ever get everything done that we want to get done in this house," Chris asked Rita?

Rita giggled, "No, that's the whole point of owning a home, you never get done! There's always something you want to do or something that you have to do."

Chris wrinkled his nose, "Hmmm, that's what I was afraid of," he answered.

Rita laid her back more tightly against his, grabbed more firmly at his arms and pulled them snugly around her. He obliged her willingly and placed a kiss on the top of her head. The strength he had went so much deeper than the muscles she could feel. His was an inner strength, one that she could depend upon, through good and bad, day in and day out. It would always be there for her.

She lay there quietly thinking about him. She did that often now, at least now she did it consciously, deep down she knew that it had always been him for her and vice versa. Suddenly she felt him begin to stand up and he was pulling her up beside him.

"I love this song, it reminds me of us, let's dance," he was saying as he assumed the position for dancing, clutching her closely, inhaling the presence of her so near.

Startled as she was, she said, "Right here, in the living room?"

He pulled back and looked at her face, "Yeah, right here in OUR living room, I don't think there's a law against it, and even if there was, what are we gonna do? Arrest ourselves," he said, as he drew her back in close and again breathed in deeply. There they danced in stocking feet swaying back and forth to the brassy sounding song that began blowing in the background.

When I'm with you, it doesn't matter where we are, Or what we're doin',

I'm with you that's all that matters.

Time passes much too quickly, when we're together laughing, I wish I could sing it to you

oh whoa, I wish I could sing it to you

Mostly I'm silent....silent (never think about words to say)

When I kiss you, I feel a thousand different feelings, I'm covered up with chills all over my body

And while I feel them, I quickly try to decide which one I should put into words

Try to put into words

Mostly I'm silent......silent.......silent

Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever, Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever Only the beginning, only just the start, Yeah

I got to get ya into my life momma

Got to get ya next to me

Only the beginning only just the start

Only the beginning (repeat)

She gave in rather easily, listening closely to the words of this old song, what they meant to her and what they obviously meant to Chris. She decided to just enjoy dancing with him there in the newly redone living room. But she was ready for conversation too. When the words to the song ended she asked him, "When do you think you guys will have the kitchen floor done?"

"Ssshh," he said softly, ignoring her question, "just go with the music," which still continued to play.

She shook her head a little, bewildered by him occasionally like now, surprised by him quite often and in love with him all the time. Rita gave in to his instructions and put her head on his shoulder. Chris dropped his arms from the traditional dance stance and took her into a hug like position, wrapping both his arms around her back, rubbing her back up and down delicately, practically turning the two of them into one. She could feel his warm breath on the side of her neck. All she could think about was that her life was more than perfect.

Chris closed his eyes and let the rhythm fill his very soul as he led Rita in a small pattern around the room. He didn't think he could ever love her enough. Every new day, each minute, a new surge of love for her came bursting out of him. Sometimes he felt like he would explode from it, because it continued to grow better each day. He hoped he showed his love for her enough.

"The CD's over, Romeo," Rita was saying as Chris was still dancing with her, sans the music.

He quickly snapped out of his thoughts.

"It's not over," he said dramatically dipping her so that her head came within inches of the ground, "till I say it's over." Chris carefully lifted her back up into his waiting arms. "Had enough Ginger," he asked as she stood upright again?

"Yes Fred, I have," she answered dropping back down to the floor out of his grasp. Chris plopped down beside her and took her back securely into his arms.

"Just cuz we're done dancing, doesn't mean I want to stop holding you," he said.

She smiled at him and his sentiment. "So when do you think the kitchen floor will be done?"

Chris yawned, "I'm not really sure. Charlie said he'd call me during the week to let me know what his schedule is like, so it depends on him. I've never tiled before. I don't even know where to begin," Chris said and added raising an eyebrow, "And while we're talking about the kitchen, why are there 6 pounds of sea shells in the sink," Chris exaggerated?

Rita giggled, "I had an idea, ok?"

He looked at her, cocked his head to the side and with a slightly evil grin said, "What? You're going to start up Beachcomber Rita's in the backyard?"

"Not exactly," she replied with a smirk on her face.

"Ummhmm, well what exactly," he playfully asked?

"I just saw something in a magazine and I thought it would make a good design idea here in the living room alright," she asked, then added, "It's not like I had to buy them or anything, they are in great abundance about two blocks from here you know?"

"Vaguely. So what? You're turning the inside of our home into the beach," he questioned?

"You'll have to wait and see," she answered!

Chris laid back on the floor and pulled Rita along side of him. Rita groaned as he did this, "You know we've got so much unpacking to do, we don't have the time for this Chris," she said planting a tiny kiss on his lips in hopes of satisfying him.

He returned the kiss a little longer, a little sweeter and little softer, "you said yourself that our work in this house will never end, so how about we just keep putting it off," he said lingering his lips over her mouth.

"We can still get a little more settled first, I mean look around Chris, this room is completely empty," she said pulling away from the embrace and sitting up.

"No, there's the table over there," he motioned toward. She threw him a look. "Alright, I know, I know, but we just got the carpet in this morning. I'm planning on moving my stuff over here this week. Geez, I don't know who's worse, you or Daniel. I know that I have to get everything out of the loft. Daniel and Susan already started moving their stuff in." Chris remained laying on the floor, he put his hands behind his head and shut his eyes stubbornly.

"Then you can help me unpack all my boxes now," Rita began looking down at him trying to catch a quick nap, "Come on Sam, it's still early, let's see what we can get done." Chris made the mistake of acting like he was asleep. He didn't reply to her. She called his name out again, "Chris, come on, get up." Still not a move. Rita grinned looking down at him and decided upon a plan of action.....tickling. Instantly, Chris was rolling on the floor, curling up, trying to defend himself while beginning to inflict the same punishment upon her. They both were laughing hysterically. Finally they both began to wind down, breathing heavy, giggling and threatening to start it all over again.

Rita sat up and moved away from him and extended her arm to his to help him up as they both headed toward the spare bedrooms where Rita had all her belongings stored. "So, Sam, I've been meaning to ask you," Chris began, "what exactly did you and my father talk about during your recent phone conversation?"

"About you and what happened at his house, remember, when you were five?" She answered turning back and glancing at him following her down the hallway.

"That's it," he asked?

"Was there something else I was supposed to mention," she questioned?

"Ah, well, uh, um did you tell him about us," Chris wondered?

"Noooo, I didn't," she said laughing. "I thought I'd leave that up to you. He is YOUR father," Rita answered.

"Yeah, you're right, I guess I should call him," Chris began, "and Anna too, that is if I can find her.

You know Sam, you should be thankful sometimes that you don't have any relatives, all they do is cause you problems." They both started opening up boxes and going through them.

"You know Chris," Rita began, "why don't you go up to Philadelphia and tell your Dad in person.

I mean, you haven't seen him in over a year now and he sounded like he missed you."

"Ha," Chris let out, "Benny, missing me? Are you sure you talked to MY Pop?"

Rita threw him another one of her looks. "You have vacation time you could use."

Chris began to consider what she implied. "If I'm going, you're coming with. This IS a tag team affair anyway," Chris added.

"You need to go see your Father, Chris. You have to put some closure to what you saw when you were five and explain that to him. Daniel told you that. You know you'll feel better if you confront him with it and you can get the answers you deserve and need. Then you can tell him about us and tell him that he'll be invited to the wedding," she explained.

"It sounds like you have all the answers I need," he began. "You know I'm dreading having to tell either one of them," he said.

"Just because they're not the best parents, doesn't mean you still can't be the best son," Rita replied.

"That's already been determined," he said smugly.

Rita gave him a look and shook her head at his cockiness. "I guess we could ask Cap if we both can get away, who knows, maybe he'll let us."

Chris finally had enough of unpacking after another two hours of moving things from one spot to another. They had ended up in their own bedroom. Chris plunked down on the bed, laying on his side, with his hand propped up against his head while he awaited the next command from Rita as to what needed to go where. He watched her absently as she swayed around the room, in and out to the other rooms, up and down the hallway. She was indeed having the time of her life. When she came back into the room, she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. She knew exactly what he was up to and what he wanted. For now, she'd play along, deep down she wanted the same thing. "I haven't quite got this understood yet," he said staring at her backside?

"What's that," she said not bothering to turn to look at him?

"Are you marrying me for the house or for me?" he began playfully, "I mean, from what I can see, you're just having way too much fun moving and packing and unpacking and cleaning and arranging and designing and ordering me around..." his voice trailed off as she had turned around and was almost instantly on top of him on the bed.

"Maybe this will help you understand it then," she said lowering her voice to a seductive level. Her mouth captured his before she even finished her sentence. Chris let out a moan as her mouth and tongue were already deep inside his, while her body was instinctively pressing against his in all the right spots.

This was going to be quick and intense. Chris broke away from her mouth for a moment, "I love you this way," he said of her sudden attack, while she continued her controlling passionate assault on him. She quickly moved to strip off her clothing and intently began lifting off his T- shirt and opening his belt buckle. Rita trailed hot, moist kisses down his chin onto his throat, then lower still to his chest and farther down onto the flat planes of his stomach.

She stopped briefly and glanced up at his face, "Make love to me Chris, make love to me," she said quietly returning to the damp area she had left around his navel. Chris let his hands wander through her hair, as he threw his head back onto the bed in ecstasy with each kiss she left on him. Her hands grabbed at his jeans and pulled them off. Chris by now had enough of the preliminaries. In one athletic type, fluid motion, he took her tenderly and rolled over on top of her and entered her.

When their lovemaking had ended, Rita looked over to Chris who had closed his eyes and drifted off to a light sleep. She ran her hand over his chest and reached down and planted a delicate kiss on it. He slowly opened his eyes and smiled at her. She started to get up out of the bed and he reached out and grabbed hold of her arm. "Where ya goin'," he tiredly asked her?

"I wanna get some more work done yet tonight," she replied.

"Haven't you had enough work for the day," he said referring to their latest bout of pleasure?

She smiled, "that was not work, that was love," she began and added, "and besides, there's plenty of both of those things left to go in our lifetimes. Go ahead and sleep, you look beat, I won't be too much longer," she said noticing that he had already closed his eyes and fallen back to sleep.

The next morning at work Chris and Rita went in for a visit with Harry. "Oh, no, what's up with you two now," he began as they sat down?

"Cap, why do you always assume we're up to something," Chris asked?

"What's it been now, five years, I can always tell with you two, you're like Dr. Seuss Books, once you get the rhyming scheme down, a seven year old could figure you two out." Cap added.

Chris and Rita looked at each other, Rita giggled and Chris just shook his head. "So what is it? Or do I have to guess, come on, spit it out," Cap said acting irritated!

"Well, Cap, I know I've got some vacation time coming to me. And I'd kinda like to go see my Father up in Philadelphia, for a few days maybe," Chris began?

"That's it? That's no problem, yeah go, go," he said.

"Ah, Cap, we kinda want to tell him that we're engaged, together, you know? Would it be possible for both of us to go," Rita added?

Cap took off his glass and rubbed his eyes. "What's the caseload like?"

"We've got the Trentadue case and a couple more on the back burner, they're not going anywhere soon," Chris said.

"And when did you want to do this," he asked them.

"We were thinking maybe either leave this Wednesday or Thursday, stay the weekend. We'd be back next Monday," Rita explained.

"Alright, ok, if nothing else comes up, yeah, yeah, you both can go. Now is there anything else?" Cap asked.

"Um, yeah Cap, we thought, well maybe that you and Fran would like to come over tonight for dinner, you guys haven't seen the house yet. We know it's not quite fixed up all the way yet, but we really want you both to see it," Rita let the question hang in the air between them?

Cap smiled. "I'll call Frannie and ask her, but I'm sure she'll say yes."

"Great how about 6:30," Rita asked?

"Ok, I'll get back to you guys in a little bit." Cap said.

Even though the house was still somewhat in disarray, Chris and Rita had managed to move some of Rita's furniture into the living room area. The kitchen was still pretty much trashed. But the house was presentable, freshly painted walls and ceilings filled the air. Chris planned on barbecuing some steaks out on the patio, while Rita worked on all the extra's, pasta salad, quick drop biscuits, herbed green beans, spinach mushroom salad and for dessert, strawberry shortcake. For appetizers Chris worked on cheese and crackers, and fruit and cheese kabobs with a ginger dip. They planned to eat outside too. It wasn't too hot of an evening and the backyard offered some shade from the late evening sun.

The Lipschitz's arrived about 6:25, dinner had been moved to seven, so as to show Harry and Frannie around the house. Chris was outside in back with the grill when the doorbell rang. Rita stopped chopping up vegetables and fruits, called out to Chris through the screen door that their guests had arrived and went to answer the front door.

"Cap, Fran, hi, come on in," Rita greeted them with a smile.

"We brought you a little wine for the occasion," Cap began handing a bottle to her.

Chris walked in from the kitchen and grinned as he saw the warm gesture.

"You guys didn't have to do that, we invited you," Rita said.

"We know doll, but we wanted to. Hiya Chris," Frannie added.

"Hey Fran, welcome to our new home," Chris gave her a hug and motioned for them to come on in.

"It's beautiful," Fran began, "And this is such a great neighborhood, so close to the beach, I think it's perfect for the two of you."

"So far we like it," Rita added, "Let me give you both a tour."

"I'm gonna go check on the coals, Sam, I'll catch up to you in a few," Chris said.

The tour was in full swing, Rita and Frannie went slowly from room to room, discussing the finer points of design and style, while Cap roamed in and out, quickly looking over things for himself. He made his way through the war torn zone of the kitchen, out to the patio where Chris was standing vigil over the grill.

"Lorenzo, you got your work cut out for you in that kitchen," Cap began motioning back toward the room he had just come from.

Chris turned around slightly surprised by Cap's appearance and greeted him with another smile, "believe it or not Cap, it was much worse. It's actually starting to take shape now."

"You've done a lot of work kid, it looks great, you two should be very proud," Cap added.

Chris nodded, "We are, thanks Cap, we're doing it together, just like everything, but you've always known that Rita and I are an unbeatable team when we work together."

"That's a fact!" Cap said walking out a little farther on the patio. "Boy, this is really a nice layout you got back here too and the bougainvillea is spectacular. I hope you're gonna take care of it, like it needs to be Lorenzo."

"You know about flowers Cap?" Chris asked.

"Are you kidding me? I was the blue ribbon champ up in New York, grew roses. No one beat me, I was king for twelve years straight. Just ask Frannie," he boasted.

No need to ask her, Chris thought to himself, there wasn't much about Cap that Chris ever doubted. He continued to be fascinated by this kind and gentleman. He could be gruff, but deep down inside he was a pussycat. No wonder Frannie loved him so much. "Cap, can I get you something to drink? Rita's got some lemonade I think or iced tea too?"

"I'll have what you're having," Cap answered, motioning toward the glass bottle that sat near the grill.

"You want a beer?" Chris couldn't believe his ears. "What about your ulcer Cap?"

"Ulcer, smulzchler, this is a special occasion right, give me a beer Lorenzo," Cap said.

"Ok, ok, a beer coming right up," Chris answered.

The dinner turned out to be spectacular. The food was perfect, the weather was perfect and the company was delightful. Cap and Frannie were so good to them and they were so full of surprises. After dinner, the biggest surprise of all came.

"Frannie, you got that in your purse," Cap began to speak in some kind of code?

"Yes, Heschy, is it time," Fran replied back?

"I think so," he said as Frannie reached down for her purse and pulled out an envelope and handed it to Harry.

Chris and Rita gave each other a peculiar look, as if to say, 'what's going on?'

"Ok, you two, we've been trying for weeks now to figure out something we could get you as a housewarming present, but you've given us no possible clues. Some kinda detectives huh?" Harry let out a little chuckle as he took the envelope from Frannie and then grabbed her hand. "So we wanted to get you something, so here, it's not too much, but you get whatever you need, for the house here ok?" he said as he slid the envelope over to Rita.

Rita shook her head, "you know you don't have to do this."

"Yes we did, so you just open it up and enjoy it doll. We love you two," Frannie said. Chris and Rita just looked at each other and smiled.

Rita began to open the envelope and saw a card that congratulated them on their new home. Chris slid his chair in closer to read the message too. When Rita opened the card, both she and Chris looked at its contents in shock. Cap and Frannie had given them a $500 check.

"Oh Cap, Fran, you guys, oh my gosh," Rita said, still obviously stunned.

"Can you find something you need?" Cap was asking them.

"Cap, this is, it's fantastic, it's unbelievable, I'm speechless, I don't know what to say," Chris began, "Thank you doesn't sound like it's nearly enough."

Rita had gotten up and went over to each one of them and hugged and thanked them, Chris followed close behind. "Thank you both so much," she said with tears of happiness coming from her eyes, "I promise we'll use it wisely."

"Thank you Cap, thanks Fran," Chris said solemnly.

"You don't have to use it wisely, just use it, get whatever it is you want," Fran added.

"I would like to propose a toast," Cap began raising up his glass of wine. Everyone joined in by holding up their glasses. "To Rita and Chris, my friends, my co-workers and best of all, like my own kids, I love you guys," Cap suddenly paused to compose himself then continued, "I see in both of you what I already have, love for that one special person. Once you've found it, never let it go," he stopped looking over to Frannie and giving her a quick kiss.

Frannie added, "To Rita and Chris, there's nothing better than true love."

Glasses clinked four ways, every one took a sip and Chris and Rita shared a tender kiss. Frannie looked on like a typical mother, Cap on the other hand acted like he was tired of showing any emotion, "Alright you two, that's enough already."

Chris was clearly moved by the sentiment held within Cap's toast. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. "I'd like to also propose a toast," he started looking over first to Rita, who smiled at him, then to Frannie and finally to Cap. "Let's see if I can put it all into words," he said with a chuckle, then the smile vacated from his face. "To Harry, the only true gentle man I have ever known, a friend, a father, a mentor, a man that I can turn to any day, any time, to help me, guide me and show me the right way and tell me honestly when I don't. For the faith and trust you put in me. And the love you give me. I know I never say this enough, I love ya Cap." Chris raised his glass and held his stare with Cap. Cap nodded in return. Then he looked to Frannie, "To Fran, the heart and soul behind this gentle man. For the laughter and love you share with everyone. I love you too, Fran." Again Chris raised his glass and held his gaze with hers. He began to smile and as he turned to Rita, it had turned into a full-blown grin. Her eyes met with his immediately. "And to Rita, my heart and soul, my best friend, the love of my life, today and always, I love you so much, Sam. I know we'll always share what these two already have," he said raising his glass one final time, then sweeping it around to Fran and Harry too. Four glasses gently collided and each of them took a long sip.

Rita set her glass on the table and stepped closer to him and put her arms around him, "that was beautiful Sam, I couldn't have said it better myself." She reached in for another kiss, which was returned in kind.

It was late when Harry and Fran had left. Rita looked beat, so Chris sent her off to bed while he cleaned up the kitchen as best he could, given the nature of the kitchen to begin with. Living with Rita was becoming quite a experience for Chris. He thought he knew her very well to begin with, but the old saying about living with someone to find out what they're really like had new meaning for him. Not that she was bugging him or anything, but things we're definitely different. The kitchen for example; Rita was a little nutso about where things needed to be kept. Certain drawers meant specific items needed to go into them. Long drawers, long stuff, short drawers, short stuff. Chris laughed to himself remembering her explanation of long vs. short stuff. Wax paper, foil, and oversized utensils went into the long drawers, while standard silverware, birthday candles and measuring spoons meant the short drawers. The same kind of scheme went into the cupboards as well. To Chris, well if something fit in one place his simple philosophy was... hey just shove it in there. He actually was getting a kick out of her rituals. Trying to keep up with them was another story. Rita also made up the bed every day. It was part of her morning routine. And it came right after she got dressed, day in and day out. Chris laughed, thinking about all the things he had recently learned about her and figured she was laughing at all the things he did as well.

He made sure all the long things were in the long drawers and all the short things were in the short drawers and turned off the lights, checked the door locks and headed back to the bedroom.

The lamp on the night stand was still on and he glanced at Rita, who had a trashy romance novel laying open across her chest. She was sound asleep. He pulled off the T-shirt he wore and shedded the jeans he had on and placed them on the chair next to the dresser. He walked back over and carefully took the book from Rita and set it on the night stand. Just as he was about to click off the lamp, Rita stirred and rolled on to her side and drowsily saw him standing there. He smiled and reached down and kissed her forehead and nose, "Goodnight Sammy," he quietly murmured. She closed her eyes and a small smile escaped from her lips, she rolled back over to the other side and curled up under the blanket. Chris turned off the light, walked around to the other side of the bed and crawled in beside her for a peaceful night's sleep.

Tuesday was a busy day. Chris had to meet Donovan in court at 10am. Rita, in the meantime had an appointment with an insurance investigator concerning the Trentadue case. From there things got even crazier. Chris worked furiously trying to arrange tickets to Philadelphia on such short notice. He finally got a flight on United that was leaving at 11am the next morning. Best of all, it was a direct flight from Palm Beach to Philly. The return trip wasn't as easy. The plane would be making two additional stops late Sunday evening before arriving in Palm Beach at 11:42pm. Monday would be hell after that, he thought. But a flight was a flight and he was happy after about two and 1/2 hours, to finally have everything arranged.

They sat at their desks at about 4:30pm, doing some paperwork, just trying to make it to 5pm. Rita's night was fully planned. It was her biweekly night of volunteering at the runaway shelter, which meant she wouldn't get home till about 2am. Chris planned on doing some quick packing for the trip and then hauling some of his stuff from the loft to the new house. Maybe he could get Daniel to help him, he thought.

At 4:44pm, Rita was going to pop her head in by Cap and ask if she could head out. If she left now, she'd be able to do her own packing for Philly and still make it to Night Moves by 6pm when her shift started. It was too late, Cap came to his doorway and asked them both to step inside. Chris groaned and shook his head, "Great, I bet it's a DB, just what we need," he said sullenly.

"Would you be positive?" Rita said in reply and added, "maybe he has another check for us...you know, traveling money."

Chris replied with a 'ha,' as they both walked in to Harry's office.

"I've got some bad news for both of you," Cap began as Chris glared at Rita and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "The Valdez trial has been moved up. It starts Friday morning up in Tallahassee. It's your case Rita," he paused, "I hate doing this to ya, but you'll need to head up there, rather than to Philadelphia."

Rita nodded, "It's ok Cap, I understand," she said looking at him then turning to see Chris' dejected expression.

"The department said they'd reimburse you for the one ticket, since it was approved vacation time, unfortunately, Chris, they'll only do the one," Cap said.

Chris nodded his understanding, "I guess that's good huh," he said looking at Rita?

"You should still go Chris, you've got the time and the ticket already. Besides it's not like I'll be home at night anyway," Rita stated.

"Yeah, you're right, I'll just go and get it over with. Man, I really wanted you to be there too," he added dejectedly.

"I'll be there in spirit," she answered, "Believe it or not, I'd rather be there with you and your Father than at this trial. I've been dreading it for months already."

"Why don't you both head out for the night? Lorenzo, we'll see you back here on Monday right," Cap asked.

"Yeah, I'll be here," he replied.

"And Lance, take the day off tomorrow to brush up on your files from this case and keep me posted on the trial ok, daily, please," Cap looked over the top of his glasses at her?

She smiled in return, "Yes sir."

Chris worked like a madman on Tuesday evening, making trips back and forth from the loft to the house. He got no help from Daniel who had been called in to work with a prisoner. By the time 11:30pm rolled around he was hauling in the last three boxes of his former life. He set them on the floor of the garage and headed toward the front door where he fumbled for the right key in the darkness. He secretly hoped that Rita would be inside waiting for him. Perhaps things were slow at the shelter and she'd been able to get away earlier than usual. Chris keyed the door and saw more darkness. Well if she were here, he thought, she was already in bed. He walked back toward the bedroom, flicked on the hall light and glanced inside the room. Nothing. He was alone. This was going to be the last chance he would have seeing her for who knew exactly how long. The Valdez trial was going to be intense. God, he hated not being with her.

For a Tuesday night, things were hopping at Night Moves. A group of six homeless teenagers ranging in age from about thirteen - seventeen came in looking for food and a place to sleep. They refused to give their names to anyone or to tell anyone where they were from. Rita hated seeing these kids be so stubborn. Maybe they all had rotten homes that they had escaped from, but she wanted them to believe that she was there for them, that they could trust her. She realized she couldn't solve all their problems in one little evening, so she'd settle for finding them some food and a warm bed for the night. Six kids were gonna be hard to place though. She glanced at her watch, 11:02pm, she had sort of hoped to maybe head out early tonight, to be with Chris, but it was going to be impossible now.

She pulled into the driveway at 2:30am. She saw the now familiar rental pickup truck that Chris had been using during the move. She wondered how much he had gotten done tonight, what with packing for Philadelphia and all. Rita was sure that he was asleep by now. Well, she could talk to him in the morning, maybe even take him to the airport, if everything worked out ok.

Chris was awakened by the headlights and the sound of the car. He sat up on the living room sofa and blinked his eyes in the darkness, quickly reacquainting himself to his surroundings. He heard the key in the lock and saw the door open. Rita flicked on the entry way light and saw Chris sitting on the sofa, starting to wake up. She turned her head on a slight angle and said, "Aaaww, Christopher, you waited up for me?"

Chris stretched his arms over his head, let out a yawn and nodded. "It sure wasn't cuz I liked sleeping on this sofa of yours," he said twisting his back and throwing his legs to the side so they touched the floor.

"It's our sofa now, not just mine and I'm home now, safe and sound, and I'm tired," she added.

"I thought maybe you'd come home early," he began as he rose to meet her with a tender kiss as he pulled her into a tight hug, "I musta fell asleep waiting for you to come home."

She smiled and closed her eyes for a moment. "I had the same thought, but then of course a group of kids came in. It just breaks my heart sometimes Sam," she explained.

He held on to her even more tightly when she said that. "When your heart breaks, mine does too," he said, "It's a matching set now."

She didn't respond, she just hugged him back with a deliberate intensity. The communication between them now was becoming so heightened. At times they no longer needed words. "Come on," she said pulling away from his embrace, but holding his hand tightly, "you look as tired as I feel, let's go to bed, we can talk in the morning."

The next morning they both overslept. By the time they woke up it was nearly 9:30am. It was a good thing that Chris had packed the night before. If they could leave the house by 10am, they'd get to the airport by 10:40, with just a few minutes to spare for Chris to board his departing flight. Chris quickly grabbed a shower, while Rita just threw on some jeans and a T-shirt, brushed her hair back into a ponytail and quickly made up the bed before the drive to the airport.

As they turned off the interstate exit to the airport, Chris said, "I guess just drop me off at the terminal, I'm sure the plane is already boarding. There's no sense in parking and coming in," he said watching her drive.

"Yeah, you're right," she said glancing over at him, "I can't believe I forgot to set the alarm."

"It's no big deal," he said with a smile, already choosing his next verbal thought, "at least you remembered to make up the bed this morning," he added chuckling out loud.

She shook her head and grinned at him, "Very funny," she said taking her right hand and squeezing his left thigh, just above the knee.

He squirmed from the pressure she applied, "I thought so. And tell me, just why is it, you feel the need to do that every morning," he asked?

"It's just something I got from my mom I guess. I hated doing it when I first moved in with them, but she kept insisting that I make it up every day. It's just one of those habits. I'm sure it'll stay with me for life, so get used to it," she added.

"That's not a big deal either, as long as you're the one making it," he said reaching over and giving her a small peck on the cheek.

She slowed the car down and pulled into the terminal area. "This is it," she said.

They both got out of the car and Chris grabbed his bag out of the trunk. He set it on the curb and pulled her into a life saving hug. "You know I'm gonna miss you so much," he said, his voice cracking.

"I know, I miss you already. I hate when we're not together," she said.

"I know I hate being apart now too. I feel incomplete," he said

She started to pull away from him and he pulled her back once more. "Chris, if you don't let go, you're gonna miss your plane."

"I'll take my chances, sides that wouldn't be so bad," he said with his famous grin.

This time Rita reached behind her back, grabbed his hands and broke free from his arms. "Don't forget, I'm going to Tallahassee, I wouldn't be home anyway."

"Yeah, you're right," he said looking deeply into her eyes. Their eyes met for a lingering moment. They had somehow managed to begin to kiss each other even before their lips met. Chris rested his hands on her shoulders as Rita's hand fell to his waist and hips. Softly and slowly they reached in for each other. Tenderly at first, Chris brushed across her lips, with his own. He began a delicate exploration of the area as their breath intimately mingled between them. Over and over he repeated the sweeping motion. His hands trailed up from her shoulder, now sliding through her hair, her neck and her cheeks. Rita gave up any kind of control to him and slowly parted her lips. Chris wasted no time now. He centered his lips over hers and deepened the kiss. As much as Chris was controlling this situation, Rita grew stronger by the minute. Her instinct led her inside his mouth, deepening the kiss even more. They playfully battled, tongue against tongue, until Chris quickly pulled back, not far back at all, just enough to signal that this pleasure had to come to an end, at least for now. Nose to nose with her, he nuzzled against her pale skin softly, eyes closed, shaking his head in obvious mental anguish. "I gotta go," he mumbled hoarsely. "I love you, Sam," he added his voice slowly coming back.

She reached for his hand and squeezed it gently, "We definitely need to continue this, very soon," Rita said.

Chris nodded, still working on leveling his somewhat erratic breathing. "Yeah. So you got all the numbers and everything, my dad's place, his office, all that?"

Rita smiled, "Yep, and I'll call you when I get to Tallahassee and get into my hotel. If you need me before that, just use the cell phone or beep me, ok?"

"Will do, and I got mine too, if you can't get me any other way. I'll call ya later tonight too," he added letting go of her hand. "I'll see ya soon, Sam,"

"I love you Chris, give your Dad my love too," Rita said as Chris picked up his bag and headed inside.

The plane ride was the one of the loneliest things Chris ever had to do in his life. Even though he knew he'd be back at home before you knew it, this was really the first time that he and Rita had been apart for days at a time, since they had become lovers. His heart ached just thinking about her.

At the airport in Philadelphia he quickly found his bag and headed out to hail a taxi. He hadn't even called his Dad to let him know that he was coming. Benny pretty much stayed in Philly now, given that he was the senior partner in his own law firm. Chris figured he'd be at his office, so upon waving down a cab, he decided to head over to the Renfro Building where Lorenzo and Schmidt law offices were.

Chris dressed casually, he wore a pair of khaki's with a black polo shirt. As he entered the slightly familiar building, he'd only been there twice before, his eyes immediately scanned the directory. The 16th floor was home to Lorenzo and Schmidt, he barely recalled. He went around the corner and hopped on the elevator, luggage bag in tow. At the 16th floor he stepped off and headed to his right, as he recalled from the previous times. Sure enough, in elegant script etched glass were the words: Lorenzo/Schmidt, Attorneys at Law.

He smiled seeing his fathers name, his own name so elegantly displayed. He pulled open the heavy door and was greeted by a stunningly attractive older woman, probably in her fifties. The woman's smile was warm and inviting. "Can I help you young man," she asked pleasantly?

"Yes ma'am, I was wondering if I could see Benjamin Lorenzo," Chris began?

"I'm afraid Mr. Lorenzo is not in today sir, maybe Mr. Schmidt could be of some assistance, or perhaps even one of the junior partners. What is the nature of your business," she questioned in a helpful tone?

Chris grinned at her, "The nature of my business is personal," he said glancing at her name plate on her desk, "Marie. I'm Chris Lorenzo, Benjamin's son."

Marie stood up and covered her mouth with her hand, "Oh, my, dear me, goodness gracious, I apologize. I should have recognized you right off, Benny's so proud of you, he's got some picture's in his office. And he's always talking about his son, the big homicide detective. I'm so pleased to finally get to meet you. Please accept my apology again," she added again.

Chris listened to her words and had a hard time believing that the Benny he knew actually said them. When she stopped talking he put up his hand and waved her off, "It's ok, and I'm pleased to meet you too, I don't believe you were here the last time I was in town."

"No, I was having surgery at the time, we had a temp in here, in fact all she did when I came back was talk about you too, what a handsome man you were. At least she got that right," Marie explained.

Chris laughed, "Well, thank you for the compliment," he began, "And so Marie, where exactly is Benny? In town I hope?"

"Yes, he's at home," she suddenly stopped. "Did he call you Chris?"

Chris was a little phased by her question, "Um, no, I kinda came up as a surprise, is everything ok?

Just then Benny's partner, Mike Schmidt walked into the reception area. "Why Christopher Lorenzo, you're looking more like your Pop every day aren't you?" Mike said offering a strong hand to Chris.

Chris grinned and shook his hand in return, "Mr. Schmidt, it's good to see you again sir, how are you?"

"Chris, please call me Mike, it's been damn near twenty years now. What brings you here?"

"Thought I'd surprise my Pop, I've got some news for him. Didn't want to give it to him over the phone," Chris explained?

"Care to divulge it to us?" Mike asked in the voice of a lawyer.

"If you can keep a secret Counselor?" Chris asked. "I'm engaged. In fact, I was gonna bring my fiancée along, but she got called up to Tallahassee for a trial. But I thought I'd come up here anyway and give him the news."

"That's wonderful Chris, congratulations, your Dad's going to really be surprised," Mike said.

"It'll make him so happy," Marie added.

Chris sensed something out of place here again. "Mike, what's going on? Why is my Pop at home in the middle of the week? That's not like him. He's a work-a-holic"

Mike looked over to Marie, who almost looked like she was going to cry, then he looked back to Chris. "Marie, cancel the rest of my afternoon, I'm gonna take Chris over to Benny's and get him settled in, ok?"

Marie nodded as Chris and Mike left the office building and headed for Mike's car.

The afternoon sun hit Chris directly in the eyes as they walked a little way down the street to the parking ramp that Mike was in. "You wanna tell me what's going on now Mike, I'm a cop remember? We don't like surprises too much."

"You shoulda called first Chris," he said hitting his car alarm button on his key chain.

"What is it, is he sick or something, what's going on," Chris asked again?

Mike leaned over the roof of his car and looked at Chris directly, "Yeah, yeah he is, he's got cancer Chris." Mike watched Chris for some kind of reaction. Chris didn't say anything, he turned his head away, absently looking down the street, so Mike continued. "He's just finishing his treatments this week. We're hoping for some good news." Chris put his head down on the car roof and closed his eyes. "You ok Chris?"

Chris shook his head up and down without lifting it off the roof. He wasn't ready to make eye contact with Mike just yet. This news had rocked him in a place he never knew existed. Raising his head up, he nonchalantly brushed aside any tear that was forming in his eyes. He took a deep breath and looked directly at Mike, "Let's go," he said.

The drive to Benny's condo began as a quiet affair. Neither one of them knew what exactly to say to the other. "Chris, I'm sorry, I hate having to be the one to tell you, especially like this, I just don't know what to say to you," Mike began, "your coming here is quite a surprise and all."

"It's alright Mike, my Dad shoulda told me himself," Chris started, then paused, "hell, I should call him more often anyway. It's my own fault."

"Listen Chris, I'll tell you what I've been telling your Dad all along. This whole thing is all about attitude. Forget the past, don't worry about the future. Start your life from right now, be positive, don't have any regrets, live for today," Mike said.

Chris smiled at Mike's forthrightness, "You a lawyer or something Mike?"

Mike gave a first hint of a smile and looked at Chris. "Yeah, something like that," he began as he then got very serious, "and I've been through something real similar to what your Dad's dealing with right now. So you can call it experience if you want to, or foolishness. But you know what, I'm still here because of thinking that way. I stick by those words and feelings."

Chris inaudibly acknowledged his explanation and then changed the subject, "Mike, how is my Dad doing now, exactly."

"As I said to you back in the parking lot, he's finishing his chemo and radiation treatments this week. This is the second round. Hopefully next week he'll get some good news from his oncologist. I'm not gonna lie to ya Chris, cuz you'll see for yourself shortly. It's been pretty rough on him. He's lost a lot of weight and his hair of course, we've had a devil of a time getting him to eat, but now that the treatments are ending, that should improve too. He's still got his sense of humor though, that's helped a lot. And he's changed his attitude. Naturally at first he was very depressed, but now he's accepted things and he's able to move forward."

"What are his chances? I mean what kind of cancer is it?" Chris now started to open up.

"He had a tumor in his lung. They did surgery on it about two months ago, got most of it, then started on the treatments to eradicate it," Mike began, "but you know what Chris, I think you and your Dad should be discussing this. I don't really feel right about it," Mike said as he glanced toward Chris who nodded his agreement. "He's gonna be really happy to see you."

"I hope so Mike, I sure hope so," Chris said beginning to wonder himself.

A nurse came to the door and opened it to let Chris and Mike inside. "How's the patient doing today?" Mike asked Megan, Benny's private live-in nurse.

"A little weak and tired from this morning treatment, that's natural, he's resting now in the living room, but I believe he's awake. I heard the Cubs/Phillies game on the TV just a while ago," Megan replied.

"Oh, Megan, allow me to introduce Benny's son, this is Chris Lorenzo, Chris this is Megan McDonald, she's been with your Dad the whole time. She's a terrific nurse. She keeps him in line," Mike said.

Chris held out his hand for her to shake, she reciprocated. "If you can keep Benny in line, you oughta be getting a medal. I believe that's a first," Chris said smiling at her, "It's nice to meet you Megan," he added.

"It's so nice to meet you too, I just wish it were under pleasanter circumstances. May I call you Chris?" she asked, "your Dad talks about you all the time, he's very proud of you," she added.

"Please do," Chris said, his mind shocked again by hearing that Benny apparently spoke about him so often.

"I guess I'll take your bag up to the guest room Chris," Mike started. "Why don't you go in and surprise your Pop?"

Chris nodded and started toward the living room.

"If you need anything Chris, I'll be in the kitchen," Megan called out to him.

The room was darkened by closed curtains even though it was the middle of the day. Even so, things seemed rather pleasant, there was no pungent odor or eerie quietness about the room. It was as if a child was just playing hooky, pulling a fast one over on the parents. The baseball game on the TV was actually quite loud. Benny lounged in a recliner calling out to the TV when he disagreed with the umpires or the announcers call of the game. Chris stood in the doorway and took it all in.

"Oh for crying out loud, what kind of slide was that?" Benny was saying in a disgusted tone.

"You bums aren't even fit to call yourselves ball players," he continued his tirade.

Chris walked in closer now and called out to him, "Hey old man, you're sittin' in my seat."

Benny turned suddenly, immediately recognizing the voice he heard. "Chris is that you?" then playing along he changed his questioning tune, "This is my seat, the usher put me here, move along sonny boy."

Chris now stood over him and leaned down to give him a hug. He was glad that his Dad couldn't see his face. Benny's appearance was startling. Chris barely recognized him. The voice was the same, but his father had aged tremendously. He was entirely too thin and the hardest thing was the bald head. The embrace was long and heartfelt for both men. Chris felt tears wallowing up in his eyes and his throat tightened up. Benny gently tapped Chris' back and said, "That's enough big guy, let's get a look at you now?" he added gently pushing Chris away.

Chris stood up straight and held out his arms, "Whattaya think?" he asked him, quickly composing himself. Mike was right, the humor was still burning brightly.

"You're looking fit and fine, we just gotta do something about those clothes. What's this look today supposed to be?"

"Khaki's and a polo, Pop, everyone's wearing this stuff now?" Chris explained. "Did you ever hear of casual days?"

"That's for losers. Listen, I'm gonna have to take you down to Maurice's while you're here, he'll fix you up with some tailored suits. It'd do you a lot better than most of the stuff I've seen you in," Benny explained, "first your mother used to dress you up like Little Lord Fauntleroy and now this."

Chris just stood and shook his head. He sat on the sofa nearby. "Enough on my clothes Dad, what's the big idea here, why didn't you call me?"

"It's the big 'C' kid, what can I tell you, I didn't want to worry you," Benny started.

"Pop, I'm thirty-three years old, I can take it, you don't have to protect me anymore," Chris answered.

"Look, it's not like you could have done anything anyway, why drag you all the way up here?" Benny replied.

"I coulda been here Pop, for you, you know, I care about you, I" Chris paused. His emotion overtook him, tears began to fall, "I love you Dad."

Benny watched Chris break down in front of him. "See this is what I don't need," Benny began.

He raised his recliner to the upright position, got up slowly and sat down beside Chris on the sofa. "I'm the same sonofabitch Father you always had Chris, you're just seeing this shell withering away. In here," he grabbed his heart, "and up here," he tapped his head, "I'm the same guy."

Chris couldn't stop now, seeing his Father like this and hearing what he was saying, it tore away at him, everywhere, his heart, his mind, his throat and his eyes. Benny put his arm on his back and rubbed it up and down. "Ok, just get it out of your system then, I'm way beyond that stage myself," Benny said, "I got no time for tears anymore." This just made things all the worse for Chris, hearing Benny talk like this. He put his head down, wiped some of the tears away and tried to catch his breath. He was a mess and Benny finally sensed it and pulled him into another hug. Chris readily accepted his Father's affection for the first time in a long time. "Come on now, Christopher," Benny began in a tone of voice that Chris had almost forgotten ever existed and using his full name. It was the calming voice of a caring Father. The Father who sometimes would tuck him in at bed at night and read stories to him about brave young knights or courageous soldiers. It was the tender touch of a Father's hand as he led a little boy through the masses of people at Phillies or Eagles games. Chris' mind raced with thoughts about his Father. Amazingly, to him now, he only remembered the good times they shared. In his head he could hear his Father's voice asking him, despite the phone distance between them, how his grades were, who he was dating. He could see his Father teaching him how to throw a baseball and he could see his Father's face, at his high school and college graduations and again in the back row of the Police Academy Theater, as Chris walked across the stage and received his badge. His Father had shown up on those important days in his life, his Mother hadn't. How could he forget that his Father was there and more importantly how could he forget the look of pride on his Father's face those days?

He had stopped crying.

Benny started, "You ok now?"

Chris nodded his head on his father's shoulder. Benny pulled back. Chris quickly wiped his eyes of any remaining dampness as his father looked him in the eye. "It's not so bad, kid. The doctor's say I actually got a real good chance here," Benny explained.

Chris swallowed hard, "Tell me from the beginning, please Pop," he said almost begging?

"I went in for a routine check-up. The doc, he decided to take some x-rays and before you know it, I was getting called at home telling me I needed to get back to the university hospital for some more tests," Benny said. "They told me that I had a tumor in my right lung. They wanted to operate right away. They said they thought they caught it in plenty of time. They'd cut it out and give me a few treatments and hopefully I'd make a full recovery. They said my chances were about 85% successful, that there'd be no recurrence. So I had the surgery and the tumor was malignant, then these rotten treatments started. It's worse than having the disease, Big Guy," Benny said with a smile. "I had the last treatment today, I hope. I go in for some more tests on Friday and I should get the results back sometime next week."

"Well, when did all this happen," Chris asked?

"A couple months back I suppose," Benny said.

"Why didn't cha call Pop," Chris asked him again?

"I told ya, I didn't want to worry you Big Guy. I mean look what just happened now," he said laughing?

"His comment made Chris smile at first, then he turned serious. "You're not alone Pop, I want you to know that, I'm here for you, whenever you need me."

"I know, now I know that," Benny said reaching in for another hug. "So where the hell is Schmitty and why the hell did he call you," Benny hollered for the whole house to hear?

Benny and Chris broke apart from their embrace as Mike Schmidt came bounding into the room.

"I heard that Benny and I didn't call him, he's got some news of his own for you."

Benny glared at his law partner and best friend, then turned back to look at Chris. "You telling me you just came up here on your own? Nobody called you and told you to come?" Benny began. Chris noticed an honest, surprised smile forming on his father's lips.

Chris nodded as a crooked smile painted over his face, "Yeah, something like that."

"So what is your news? It's better than mine I hope?" Benny chuckled.

Chris shook his head at his Father's wisecracks, "Yeah, it is better."

"Tell me then, I'm not gettin' any younger here," Benny said.

Chris cleared his throat, "I'm gonna get married Pop!"

Benny let loose of the patented Lorenzo grin. "You? You're getting married? Who's the gal?"

Chris nodded to his Father's questions, "It's true Pop. I'm marrying Rita, I think you should remember her, she's my partner?"

"Remember her? Hell, I wanted to marry lovely Rita myself. She is one fine looking dame," Benny said gleaming from ear to ear.

"Pop, come on, she's my fiance," Chris said slightly embarrassed.

"I'll be damned," Benny said looking over his son, "I was wondering when you were gonna finally figure it out."

Chris looked puzzled, "Figure what out?"

Benny started laughing and got up off the sofa and walked to the doorway of the living room, "Megan, can you bring in the whiskey please, we need to celebrate in here," he called out. Then coming back toward Chris, he stopped when he got close to Mike and put his hand on his friend's back. "What is it Mike? Huh, kids seem to think their parents don't know anything?"

Mike shrugged, "If I ever come up with that one Benny, I'll retire and live off the wealth," he said with a laugh.

Benny made his way back to the sofa. "Are you gonna tell me what you're talking about here, I don't speak cryptic too well," Chris pleaded?

"Chris, how long have the two of you been partners for now," Benny asked?

"Six, six and a half years or so, I guess," he replied.

"So for the last six and a half or so years do you know that's all I've heard about from you is about this 'partner' of yours. Every phone call or card or letter, it was always Rita this and Rita that. You never told me about your job, about any cases, hell you never really even mentioned any other women. That's why the whole Julie thing just threw me way off," Benny explained.

"Her name was Jillian Pop," Chris said still amazed by his father's words.

"I knew she wasn't right for you, French women and all," Benny said as Chris just shook his head.

Megan came in with a bottle of whiskey and three shot glasses. "Here ya go Benny, what's the celebration?" she said setting the tray on a table.

"My boy here is getting married, you need to get yourself a glass too, we're not toasting without you," Benny said noticing the glasses.

"Benny, I'm working," she said.

"Not now you're not, you're celebrating, now come on, we're waiting," he chided her. She went off to find herself another glass.

"You really knew Pop," Chris asked still surprised?

"Chris, even Schmitty here knew," he said chuckling. "And Anna did too, in her infinite wisdom, she said she realized it that time you were in the hospital after you got shot. She said Rita wouldn't leave your bedside for a second. She went on and on about how you two were looking at each other. You know it makes me wonder if you're really even my kid, cuz if I were you, I woulda jumped her the first day I met her," Benny said smugly.

Chris threw up his hands in embarrassment as Megan came back into the room, "Pop, come on," he said with a smile and a laugh.

Benny quickly poured the four shots and raised his up, "To my kid, may he always have true happiness and love," Benny said, "Now that he's found the right woman."

They all drank down the shot. "So why didn't you bring her with Big Guy," Benny asked Chris.

"She was going to come Pop, but she got called up to a trial in Tallahassee. She was the primary officer in the case," Chris explained.

"Tallahassee, that's state court huh? Must be a juicy case," Benny added?

"Yeah, it's more than just one murder, there's drugs and racketeering going on too. Almost like a mini-mob I guess," Chris said thinking about Rita.

"Maybe you should've gone with her," Benny suggested?

"Rita can take care of herself Dad, she'll be alright," Chris replied.

It was about 8:30pm that evening when Chris decided he better give Rita a call and fill her in on his latest saga with his father. Benny had tired out about an hour earlier and had gone off to bed.

The condo was rather quiet. Megan took advantage of Chris being there and decided to take the evening off. Chris went to the guestroom and placed the call to his new home. At first there was no answer, after the sixth ring, he wondered why Rita didn't have the answering machine on if she wasn't at home. He was just about to hang up, thinking maybe he had dialed the wrong number when she picked up. Her voice was friendly and rushed, "Hello?" she breathed into the phone.

"Hey Sam, it's me," Chris said softly.

"Hey there you!" she started happily out of breath, "you got there, huh," she asked?

"Yeah, I'm here. What are you up to? Why are you out of breath," he asked back?

"I was out front, talking with some of the neighbors. I heard the phone, so I ran in to get it, I forgot to put the machine on," she paused, allowing him to reply, but when he didn't, she continued, I gotta tell you Chris, I really love this house," she said happily, but began to sense something wasn't right with him. "What about you? How was the flight?"

"The flight was fine, on time and everything," he said with little emotion.

This was going to be like pulling teeth for her, she thought, "So what's going on Chris, you sound different? Is everything all right?"

"I just wish you were here," he said almost whispering, his voice full of sadness.

That just about broke her heart, "I wish the same thing. How's your Dad?" she asked changing the subject, thinking maybe that he was just lonely. There was an eerie silence between them. Rita became frightened. "Chris, what is it?" she asked sitting down now on a nearby chair.

"I guess there's no easy way to say this Rita, my Dad's got lung cancer," Chris blurted out.

"Oh my God, Chris, how is he?" she paused briefly, "how are you?"

"He's actually doing ok. I mean, he looks like he's about ninety-five, real thin, he's bald, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor through the whole thing," he explained.

"Is he at home," she asked?

"Yeah. Apparently he had the tumor removed a couple of months ago and now he's been having chemo and radiation treatments. This morning he had his last one. On Friday he's gonna have some more tests and next week he should get the results. Hopefully it'll be gone. From what he's told me, the doctor's seem very optimistic about his chances," Chris said stretching out on the bed now. Just hearing Rita's voice was a calming reassurance for him.

"Well, how about you, how are you doing," she was asking him? There was that silence again between them. "Chris, what about you? Are you ok?"

"Yeah, I'm, I'm alright, just," she could hear him take a deep breath, "just surprised, shocked I guess, you know, by the whole thing," he took another breath, "maybe a little scared too," he added. He was opening up to her and telling her things he never thought he'd be able to tell anyone. His deepest feelings and emotions. She was so much a part of him now, he held nothing back from her. It was truly as if they had become one. The real miracle happening here was that by talking with her and getting it out, he actually started to feel better himself.

Rita took her thumb and brushed away a few tears that were falling from her eyes now. She knew she needed to be strong for Chris, so she tried to hide her sadness from her own voice.

"Well, maybe I still can get away and fly up there?" she said not really thinking, just blurting out something to say.

"But you've got the trial and all," Chris said, "and I think I'm gonna make it through this ok. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. I wish he woulda called or something, I coulda been prepared maybe," he tried to explain, then he added softly, "what if he woulda died Sam, what if..." she interrupted him.

"You're there now Chris, that's what matters. Your Dad knows that. That's the most important thing. Anything else isn't worth even thinking about," she tried to explain to him.

"I know you're right," he paused and she was unsure about what to say, then he continued, "Just seeing him Sam, God, you wouldn't even recognize him, I almost didn't," he said as another wave of silence hit, "I see death damn near every day Rita, but this," he stopped again, "this is my Dad Rita, and there's nothing I can do about it," he said quietly, close to tears again. She was just about to say something, but he started talking again, she decided to let him get it out. "I wanted to call you all afternoon, to talk, you know, God this is so hard," he shook his head.

Rita wanted desperately to reach through the phone line and take him in her arms and just hold him forever, she needed to find some comforting words for him now though and fast, "We can get through this Chris. It might not be easy, but we will, we'll do it together, I'll be there right beside you all the way, I promise. We'll both be there for you Dad."

"Thanks Sam. I pretty much told him the same thing," Chris began as his mood began to lighten, "and I told him about you and me too."

Rita smiled just thinking how Chris may have told him. "What did he say?" she asked.

"You're not gonna believe this, but he claims he knew that you and I were meant to be years ago.

Apparently, you're all I ever talked about in letters and phone conversations I had with him. So he drew his own conclusions," he replied. He could hear Rita laughing in the background so he decided to keep going on this same train of thought, "he said that Anna knows too. She figured it out when you supposedly sat by my hospital bed and wouldn't leave after I got shot. She could tell from the way we look at each other. Did you really do that" he questioned?

Rita was hysterically laughing by now, "Did I what?"

"Sit by my bedside day and night" he asked?

"I thought you were going to die Chris, yeah I guess I did, why," she asked quieting her laugh?

"How come you never told me that before," he asked?

"I guess I thought you knew, or that I already did tell you, why," she queried again?

"Sammy, that's important stuff to know, like right away," he said, his voice cracking.

"How is that important? I mean, wouldn't you have done the same thing for me?" she threw back at him.

"Yeah, of course, that goes without saying. But Sammy, if I had known then that you sat there day and night, well, maybe the whole Jillian thing would have never happened," he explained.

"Chris everything happens for a reason. You and I, we just weren't quite ready yet at that time. I think it's cute that you're parents both realized it though. That's pretty funny," she said.

"Yeah, they're a laugh a minute these two," he added.

"Are you still gonna stay thru the weekend?" she asked.

"Actually, I think I'll call Cap in the morning. Pop's not getting the results back till like mid week next week and I think I oughta be here for that. Maybe Cap will let me stay a little longer, whatta think? And is that ok with you too?" he added.

"It's fine with me. I wish I could get out of this trial and be with both of you. And I'm sure Cap will understand. Do you want me to call him tonight? It's not too late yet?" she added.

"Nah, I'll try him at the office in the morning. I don't think it'll be a problem either," he paused.

"I guess I should get going, it's been a long day. I miss you so much sunshine," he said.

"I miss you too and I love you," she answered back.

"That goes double for me. Call me tomorrow from Tallahassee ok?" he said.

"You can count on it, I love you," she said again.

"I love ya Rita, bye," he said.

"Bye, bye," she answered.

The long trip to Tallahassee was now going to be even longer for Rita because her mind drifted constantly to thoughts about Chris and Benny and what they were going through and what lay ahead for all of them. Chris had sounded so down on the phone. She understood what it was like to loose a parent, but this was somehow different. Maybe because this disease could be so drawn out, it could last so long, putting not only the victim through hell, but those around him through hell too. Seeing someone waste away to nothing was like a torture, she thought. Maybe the suddenness of death, like she had experienced was better....if there ever was a better. She didn't really know. Tears fell from her eyes as she drove just thinking about it. She wanted to be with Chris so desperately right now, she just ached. She really wished she could be there for both of them now, instead she needed to get her head on the trial that lay in front of her. She had read and reread all the file notes and reports that had been compiled on this case, so that she would be thoroughly familiar with everything and everyone.

Enrique, 'KiKi,' Valdez was a Cuban refugee. He had drifted over to Florida with his mother and aunt when he was just three years old. Today at just twenty-six years old, he headed up one of Palm Beach's Latino criminal communities. If you weren't with KiKi, and you were Latino, you had better get out of his way, or he'd get you out permanently. Recently he had moved operations South to Fort Lauderdale and Miami as well. Rita and Chris had arrested him on Murder One charges in the death of a nineteen year old woman named Sylvia Devonstra. They had folders and files and computer disks full of evidence on KiKi. They even had his voice taped from a phone conversation in which KiKi took sole responsibility for the death of Devonstra. The only thing their evidence lacked was a key witness, someone who might have actually seen Valdez pull the trigger. The case was being tried in Tallahassee because of the number of charges against KiKi and the fact that he was charged in several Florida counties for violating various laws. There were dozens and dozens of witnesses and evidence to plow through in this case. The attorneys were estimating it could go a week to ten days to get through it all.

Rita's mind floated from the case to Chris. She remembered how they had arrested KiKi. It was a wild pursuit. Chris was driving. The speed of his car went in excess of 100 miles an hour.

Eventually KiKi crashed into a parked car, but managed to get out and start running. They followed him on foot and in a manner of minutes, had him pinned to the ground. That is, she had him pinned to the ground. She grinned thinking about it. It happened about a year before, just shortly after Chris returned to active duty after the Debra Bouchard shooting. He was still recuperating from the injury. Rita actually beat him to the suspect and used her own form of a flying tackle to take KiKi down. Chris, heavily winded, came up just seconds later. She had a good time teasing him about outrunning him for weeks after that, despite his pleadings that he was not 100%.

She heard his voice then, telling her that his Dad had cancer. Without even seeing him, she could see the look on his face and the sadness and loneliness in his eyes. His silent pauses spoke volumes to her. More than anything, she wanted to be with him.

Sometime in the morning, Chris called up Cap at the cop shop. He filled him in on all the latest details about his father and asked sheepishly if he could have some extra time. Without hesitation Harry told Chris to take as much time as he needed. Harry sat down in his chair as Chris described the whole situation to him. He could hear the sadness and fear in Chris' voice.

Harry kept asking him over and over if he was ok. Chris assured him that he was doing alright, that he was learning how to deal with it on a day to day basis. If anything, he said he just missed Rita and wished she was with him, he told Cap. Cap believed him, knowing that his two detectives were indeed closer than most people, but he still knew that Chris was taking the news of his father's illness very hard. He knew that even though Chris didn't outwardly admit to caring for his parents, he really did deep down. This was going to be hard.

He just asked that Chris keep him posted on the situation. Chris thanked him immensely.

The phone was oddly enough becoming a life line for Chris and Rita. Without fail, the phone rang at Benny's condo on Thursday evening at about 7:10pm. Chris picked it up and heard the most wonderful sound he knew.

"Hi Chris, how ya doin," Rita said recognizing his voice right away?

"Hey Sam, I've been expecting your call," he replied, "I'm ok, how about you?"

"A little tired from the drive," she began, "that's why I called so early. I thought we could talk for a while, then I'm gonna take a shower and hit the sack. I am beat. Hopefully I'll be ready for tomorrow," she explained.

"The shower sounds great, I'd love to join you," he said with a grin.

"I'm sure you would, I'd love to have you," she answered back, relieved to hear his playfulness back a little. "So how is everything today," she continued?

"About the same I guess," he said exhaling just enough so she could hear that sadness, "he had a little bit of an appetite today, so that's good. His nurse says it's cuz the chemo is over. I guess that's what causes that," he said pausing. "I've got a lot to learn here Sam," he added.

"That's encouraging that he's eating, maybe he'll get his strength back then, it'll help in the fight," she said.

"That's what the doctor's want I guess. It's so weird, it's like you need the drugs to kill the cancer, but they also make you weak so your own body's defense won't work to fight it. It's crazy," he paused again, "I got some books on it from Megan, that's his nurse. The recovery rate is pretty good, especially for the type he has and how early it was detected," Chris explained.

"Well, it sounds like you've been busy today," Rita said.

"Whatever helps, you know," he answered? Just then Benny walked by the guest room. He had heard the phone ring and stuck his head in to see who it was.

"Who's on the phone?" he asked Chris in a hushed tone.

Chris covered the receiver with his hand and said, "It's Rita."

Benny nodded and smiled and walked into the room, "May I?" he pointed to the phone, asking to talk to her.

Chris smiled reluctantly and said to Rita, "Benny wants to talk to you."

"Well put him on," she replied.

Chris handed the phone to Benny who eagerly took it and sat down on the bed, "Hello, lovely one," he began.

Rita smiled ear to ear just from hearing his warm greeting, "Hi, Mr. Lorenzo," she said out of respect.

"Please, Rita, it's Benny or Dad, no need for such formality anymore," he said.

"Ok, well I'll try Benny for now, once we get married I'll switch to Dad ok?" she asked.

"That'll be fine sweetheart. So I hear we both kept a secret from each other the last time we talked this way?" Benny asked her referring his cancer and her engagement and to the phone conversation they had a month prior about Chris' past.

"Yeah, I guess so," she began, "I'm sorry, I just thought Chris should be the one to tell you about us getting married. Will you forgive me?" she asked.

"Absolutely, darling, but I want you to know that you can tell me anything," he explained.

"That goes both ways now Benny," she began, then very lovingly asked "how are you doing?"

"Me? I'm as snarly as ever, didn't Big Guy tell you that?" he questioned. Chris watched Benny as he chatted with his fiance. In these two days, his Dad simply amazed him. Here his Dad was chatting with his fiance as if they'd known each other forever, rather than a brief, one time meeting. And better still, Benny's carefully chosen words, like sweetheart, darling and lovely one, and his easy way had made Rita an immediate member of their small family. Chris watched in awe.

"Actually, yes he did, I'm glad. You'll need to stay that way, to keep fighting this all the way," Rita said, gaining strength from him as he spoke to her.

"Damn right Rita," he answered looking over at Chris and winking. "I'll give you back to Chris, just tell me one more thing though, you're sure you want to marry this guy? He's not forcing you or anything is he?" Chris smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

"I am very sure and no, he's not forcing me. Besides from what I hear, you already knew that we were a match," she fired back.

"You're damn right about that too," Benny said, "You take care, sweetheart, I want to see you soon, here's Chris," he said handing the phone back to Chris.

"You still there Sammy," Chris asked? Benny walked out of the room as Chris waved to him

"Yeah, I'm here. Your Dad sounds great!" she said happily. "I can't wait to get up there and see him," Rita said honestly. "He made me feel like I really belonged."

"I told ya, his humor is still in tact," Chris replied, "maybe that's the best thing for a recovery.

And as far as belonging, well, you do, you're all mine, but I heard what he was saying, he definitely has a knack for words, must be the lawyer in him, but I know he meant what he said."

"I'm sure he did," Rita said, "listen, Sam, I think I'll be checking out the shower now and the bed here. I am so tired all of a sudden, must be from the drive."

"I wish I was there to take care of you," Chris said a little sadly.

"I wish I was there to take care of you," Rita said in turn.

Chris let out a 'ha,' "we are both just too pathetic, don't you think?"

"No, were just in love," Rita answered.

"You're damn right about that too Darling," Chris attempted to imitate his father.

Rita laughed, "I gotta go, I love you."

"I love you back," said Chris. "Alright, I'll let you go. Listen call me tomorrow after the trial ok?" he asked.

"I will, I promise. I love you Sam," she said.

"I love you too, talk to ya tomorrow," he replied.

Friday was a long day for both of them. Chris sat with his Father for hours at University Hospital waiting for a battery of tests. Blood, urine, x-rays, etc., from one department to another they went, sitting and waiting for test upon test.

The trial got under way promptly at 9am. Opening statements by both attorneys took up the morning and a good hour and a half in the afternoon. By three o'clock the first witness was taking the stand.

Chris and Benny finally got home about 5:30pm. Megan was there and was graciously making up some dinner for them. Benny ate a little of it and almost fell asleep at the table. Chris watched him carefully and suggested that maybe he should head up to his room to get some rest.

Benny reluctantly agreed and Chris helped him up to bed. He promised Benny he'd have Megan fix up a hot beef sandwich for him, if he woke up later and was hungry. Chris decided he wasn't really hungry either. He apologized to Megan and excused himself to his room where he decided to place a call to Rita, just to see if she were through with the trial for the day

There was no answer in her hotel room. She probably had gone to dinner. He left a message at the hotel's front desk for her to call him when she got in. He absently turned on the TV that was in his room. Chris flicked around the channels, not even remotely interested in anything that was on. All he could think about was Rita. He closed his eyes and dreamed that she was beside him, holding him.

He didn't even hear the phone ring, but rather was awakened by a muffled knock on his bedroom door. "Chris, it's me Megan, are you awake?"

Chris sat up quickly in bed and called out, "Yeah, what's up Megan, is something wrong, come on in."

"Nothing's wrong, it's the phone, it's Rita," she said motioning toward the phone.

He nodded, gave her a small smile and picked up the phone. "Hey Sam," he said drowsily.

"A little early for bed there isn't it, Sam?" Rita asked him.

Chris chuckled, "I suppose it is. I'm not used to all this sitting around."

"How did the tests go today?" she asked him.

"We got through them all, it only took about 9 1/2 hours. We must have sat in twenty different departments. Do you know he actually had to have blood drawn twelve different times? I'll tell ya Sammy, Dracula's got nothing on these bloodsuckers," he explained. "His arm looks like he's a junkie."

"Well, let's hope everything just turns out ok," she began, "how's Benny today?"

"All the tests wiped him out. He's been sleeping longer than I have. But he's doing ok. He's definitely accepted whatever is going to happen. And he's fighting it too, with everything he has," Chris said.

"So how are you doing through all of this," she asked him?

Just hearing her ask, her carefully chosen words and how she accentuated each one melted his tense emotions. He wasn't really surprised by her concern and care. But just how she said it made him silent and unable to respond.

"Chris, you ok," she asked again?

"Yeah," he said clearing his throat, "I'mmmm, alright," not quite knowing what exactly he wanted to say to her.

"You can talk to me, just pretend I'm sittin' right next to ya, what's on your mind," she persisted?

"Believe me, I've been trying that all night, it's not working so good," he began.

"So what is it, still feel bad about your Dad," she asked?

"Uh huh," he said agreeing with her, "I know he's taking it so well and I want to be up for him, it's so hard Rita. I never thought I cared about him this much," he paused, "isn't that a rotten thing for a son to say," he questioned?

"Given the circumstances, probably not. I think what you're going through is pretty typical though. Maybe Megan can suggest a book or two on dealing with illness," Rita said confidently.

"I already asked her, I started reading one last night. Apparently, relatives go through very similar stages as the actual person with the illness does. So naturally I'm in the first stage. Benny's like beyond the book at stage 808," Chris explained with a joke.

"I think you're doing just fine. You've gotta let whatever's gonna happen, happen Chris. You know, just being there, I still think that's the main thing. I'm sure Benny realizes that. Now you have to too," Rita said.

"I know, you're right. You are just so right for me period," Chris said, "so how was the trial today," he asked changing the subject?

"Standard stuff, opening statements, then they got to the first witness," she started, "but I've heard a rumor that they found a secret witness to the murder. If they have one, they're keeping things pretty tight. It could prove to be very interesting."

"So what are you going to do all day tomorrow," Chris asked knowing it was Saturday?

"I am going to be in trial prep most of the day, they think I might be on the stand Monday or Tuesday, so they want to prepare. Other than that, I may do some shopping. Or maybe I'll try to find some handsome man to sweep me off my feet," she said kiddingly.

"Some handsome man already did that, remember," he chided her?

"Yeah, I do, I love you Chris, talk to ya tomorrow ok," she said?

"I love you Sam, see ya soon," he replied.

The next several days passed in much the same way. Rita and Chris kept in contact via the phone, each filling the other in on every little thing that happened during the day.

By midweek things at Benny's condo were getting a little strained. They had not received any word yet from the doctor's as to what the results were of Benny's battery of tests. He was tense, nervous and angry over the whole situation, which of course manifested itself inside Chris too.

There was no doubt that Benny was improving. He was eating quite normally again and his strength was returning as well. It was the waiting and wondering that was getting to both of them now.

At the south end of the country the Valdez case took a very unexpected turn. A young man was called to the stand. The rumor about a secret witness was now confirmed. The tough-looking, angry young man took the witness chair and quietly announced that he had witnessed KiKi shoot Sylvia Devonstra in the head, shortly after raping her. The courtroom gasped. KiKi stood up and screamed at the young man, "You'll be dead for this amigo, you will die!" He was quickly restrained and escorted from the courtroom by security. The judge dismissed the jury and gave the court a recess, as he called the attorney's into his chambers.

Later that night, the phone began to ring in Rita's hotel room. She was just finishing up taking a shower when she heard it. She walked out of the bathroom and looked at the clock. It was only 5:30pm, it was a little early for Chris to be calling her. Unless something was wrong. She took a deep breath and answered the phone.

"Hello," she said into the mouthpiece.

"Detective Lance?" a male voice began, "this is State District Attorney Morris," the voice continued to say.

"Yes, Mr. Morris, what can I do for you, and please call me Rita," she said.

"I hope I haven't disturbed you Rita, and thank you," he started, "we have a big favor to ask of you?"

"I'm listening," she replied.

"We need you to escort our witness back to Palm Beach," he said.

"You mean the young man from today?" Rita asked.

"Yes ma'am, Little G needs to stay in some form of protective custody. We think driving back with you would be a perfect cover. If you can deliver him to our office in Palm Beach you would be a lifesaver," Morris explained.

"What about the trial?" Rita said, "and my testimony?"

"You're scheduled up tomorrow morning, we're hoping we'll have you wrapped up by early afternoon, we'd like you and Little G on the road by four or 5pm at the latest," Morris said.

"I suppose I could, how safe are these arrangements?" she asked.

"Glad you asked. We have Little G scheduled to come back to the stand for re-questioning on Friday, late in the day, but we have another witness scheduled that will make his further testimony unnecessary. No one will suspect that he's left Tallahassee. That's why getting him back to Palm Beach with you will be perfect. We do need him down there this coming weekend for his help in another case," Morris said.

"Just how dangerous is this Little G?" Rita asked.

"He's never been arrested, never been in any real trouble Rita. He just has a knack for witnessing a lot of criminal activity. Now, I'm not saying he's an angel either. But you shouldn't have any problems with him, he's always been helpful to our office, he poses no threat as a runner. He knows he needs to get back to Palm Beach. In other words, you'll be the designated chauffeur, that is if you agree to help us?" he questioned.

"I think I can handle it," she said confidently.

"There is one other thing, Rita," Morris began.

"What's that?" she asked.

"We don't want you to take the main interstate. In fact, we don't even want to know the route you'll take, just in case, it's better that way if we don't know. We'll give you a cell phone and a tracker, but we'd prefer that you chart your own course, and we'll insist you not tell anyone either," he said.

"Not even my fiance? He is a police officer too," she asked.

"I'm sorry, but no, believe me Rita, you can tell him what you're doing, but not the route you're taking ok?" Morris insisted.

There was a bit of silence between them. Rita was working things out in her own mind. "Ok, I'll do it," she said matter of factly.

"Great," said Morris, "we'll get together first thing in the morning and go over everything."

Rita knew before even hanging up with Morris that she'd be in hot water with Chris. He hated when she took on something even remotely dangerous. The way she looked at this was that she was going home a lot sooner than planned, plus she'd have some company for the long ride.

Tonight's phone call was going to be intense.

It was almost 9pm when she placed the call. She was surprised when Benny answered. "Hello," he said.

"Benny, hi, it's Rita, how are you," she started?

"Well, good evening darling," his mood brightened considerably, "I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to hear your sweet voice," he doted on her.

"It's good to hear yours too, how is everything today, any news yet," she asked biting the inside of her cheek?

"Nothing yet, hopefully tomorrow. I'm just getting nastier by the minute though, taking it out on everyone around me, including Chris," he confessed.

"I'm sure he understands Benny, it's the hardest on you. To be honest with you, he's told me that your positive attitude has really been helping him a lot," Rita replied.

"I don't think I've helped anyone today. I really hate all this waiting, it's worse than the damn disease," he said.

"Maybe you'll have some good news tomorrow," she said hopefully. "Is Chris there," she asked?

"I think he's just finishing taking a shower. We had some words before and he went out for a long run, just to get away for a while. I think the water stopped now though. I'll go call him for you," Benny said placing the phone down.

Benny walked up the stairs and knocked on Chris' door. He heard Chris mumble something and he opened the door slightly and said, "Chris, Rita's on the phone,"

Chris looked up from where he sat on the bed towel drying his hair. "Thanks Pop, and I'm sorry about what I said before," Chris said looking at the opening of the door.

Benny poked his head in all the way, "I am too, Chris, I am too. Now pick up the phone and talk to that beautiful woman ok?"

Chris smiled and reached back and picked up the phone.

"Hello sunshine," Chris began.

"Hiya Sam, how are you," she asked?

"Drip drying right now as a matter of fact," he said seductively.

"That sounds wonderful," Rita replied, her interest peaked.

"Yeah," he said distractedly, "What about you? How's the trial," he asked?

"The good news is I'm leaving for home sometime tomorrow," she began excitedly!

"That's great! So what's the bad news," he questioned?

"I'm gonna be bringing a protective custody witness back with me," she said calmly and added, "and it's not really bad news."

"What's the catch Sam," he forgot her last comment on purpose?

"You know you really can sound like a detective, detective," she smiled.

"Sammy, what's up with this? Who exactly are you bringing back and why?" Chris was not amused.

"Someone named Little G, he witnessed the murder of Devonstra. It's all set up," she proceeded to explain the whole situation to him.

"I don't like it Rita, we don't even know this Little G. And I wanna know which route you're taking," he said protectively.

"Chris, it's all set, Little G is only seventeen, he has no priors, no wants, he's just a witness. The District Attorney's office has it all set. At least I'll have some company on the drive. And I'll have two cell phones and the tracker they're gonna install. I'll be fine," she tried to reassure him. "I'll call you every hour on the hour if you want me too."

"Make it every half hour and it'll be a deal," he said.

"Let's not get crazy here ok? It'll be ok. And I'll even beat you home," she said knowing that he couldn't talk her out of doing this.

"Be careful Sam ok," he pleaded?

"I will," she answered

Early the next morning Rita met with Morris and his staff to go over all the details of her upcoming excursion. The trial went on as planned that day, with Rita giving her testimony. At 4:42pm she met Morris in the parking lot of her hotel. He trotted out Little G and turned him over to Rita for safekeeping.

They placed his bag in the trunk of her car, said goodbye to Morris and began their long journey back to Palm Beach.

"Would you like to listen to the radio," Rita began looking over at the young man who gazed out the car window?

"Whatever, lady," he said not bothering to turn and make eye contact, maintaining a monotonous tone.

She flicked on the radio to hear some afternoon trio giving news, weather and traffic updates.

She left it on to hear what kind of music they'd be playing. "You can call me Rita, ok," she said to Little G?

She noticed that he shrugged his acknowledgement.

"So did you grow up in Palm Beach," she asked him?

"Do we gotta play twenty questions RITA," he said sarcastically? She laughed. "What's so funny," he added?

"You're right, I'm being a little ridiculous aren't I," she stated?

"Whatever, you're an adult right, a cop, ya always gotta pry, you're all da same," he said still holding his eyes fixed at some point out of the car window.

Oh, did this kid have a major chip on his shoulder, she thought. "Listen, Little G," she laughed as she said his name, which finally caused him to turn and look at her.

"What is so god damned funny," he said angrily?

"I'm sorry," she began, still giggling, "It's just, is there something else I can call you besides Little G. I feel silly," she explained. "It's like you're one of those dancers from Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' video."

"Well I ain't. That's my name," he said turning away again.

"Are you telling me your Mother named you Little G," Rita said?

"No, I don't go by that name anymore, my family is different now, I go by the name they give me," he said.

"Was it that bad," she asked?

"My name," he said back?

"That," she paused, "and your family," she asked him?

"No," he said softly. "My Mom lives in Miami, she works really hard, my Father too, I got eleven brothers and sisters. I just got tired of living there, I was the oldest, so I left," he said.

Rita listened to his story and left a little silence between them after he finished. "So is your new family any smaller," she said smartly?

He didn't answer for a long time. After a while he said, "My name is George."

It was becoming another long day of waiting for Benny and Chris. They'd done nothing but speak shortly to each other or ignore one another for nearly twenty-four hours now. Chris came down to the living room where Benny sat watching some afternoon talk shows.

"Pop, you feel like taking a walk maybe," he said coming in and sitting down on the sofa?

Benny kept watching the TV for a moment, then he pressed the off button on the remote, stood up and said, "Yeah, let's get the hell outta here."

They walked a couple of blocks to a nearby park. It was a gorgeous summer early evening. The sky was brilliantly blue with a few billowy white clouds off to the west, slowly drifting by. They found a bench and sat down.

"Listen, Dad, I'm really sorry about all the stupid stuff I've been saying," Chris started.

"Ah, it's not you Chris," Benny interrupted, "we both know it's me. I thought I was beyond this stupid anger, but I guess I'm not."

"Dad, you've got every right to be angry, this is a crummy thing to have to go through," Chris started again.

"But I don't have to take it out on you, here I'm doing what I've always done to you, I'm driving you away," he said, "I'm hurting you again and I don't even realize it till it's too late."

Chris lowered his head, not knowing quite exactly how to reply. He started to speak several times, but at the last minute, he'd pull back his words, then softly he began, looking his father right in the eyes. "Maybe that was true Dad, before, I don't know, I wasn't inside your head then, and I'm certainly not in there now. But I do know that this is different. You're not driving me away, you're sick, and you don't know what's waiting out there. You said it yourself, you're angry and upset, and I'm betting you're scared too. I know I am. As stupid as it all sounds, it's natural, everyone going through this disease goes through the same thing." He paused and reached for his father's hand, "I'm here for you Pop, for as long as you need me, for as much as you need me, you're not driving me away this time, I promise. I love you."

"What the hell did I ever do to deserve a kid like you," Benny asked him, squeezing his hand back in understanding?

"You know I wonder that all the time!" Chris said with a laugh.

Rita had found the oldies station on in her car. Strains of "All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley filled the car. Little G rolled his head in obvious disgust and reached over and pushed a preset button.

Nothing but static came out.

"Those are preset for Palm Beach, not for Tallahassee," Rita explained.

George stared her down and punched the scan button. When some loud thumping, nonsensical noise came on, he nodded his head in time with the rhythm, set the station, turned up the volume and sat back coolly, listening to the music.

"Do you mind if I just turn it down, just a bit, George," she started, "I like it, I just don't like it quite that loud?"

George stared her down again. Rita took that to mean yes, so she reached in and turned the sound down to a better listening level. "You know it makes life easier when two people talk to each other, rather than just look at each other. It's called verbal communication," she started.

The stare was back, "Look, Rita, you're a ride, that's all, you don't know me, you don't give a shit about me, you'll never see me again after you dump me off. Believe me, it's better without verbal communication, see," George asked?

"I don't see it that way George. I'd like to get to know you, maybe I can help you..." she said as he interrupted.

"I don't need any help, all I need is a ride, ok," he had cut her off?

"George, all I meant..." she started again.

"I already said that you're all the same, you all say you care for the 7-hour ride, then you dump us off and you go. Bet you got some slick looking dude all waiting on you hand and foot when you get back don't ya? Like he's gonna let such a good-looking lady like you 'help' some greasy punk gang banger like me, right?" George lashed out.

"Well, thanks George, for the compliment, and yes, as a matter of fact, I do," Rita began thinking of Chris and remembering that she needed to call him, "he's a cop too George, we'd both help you if you'd let us," she said!

George just shook his head, "I don't need no Big Sister or Big Brother, I told you I got a family now, Little G can take care of himself ok," he said?

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself," Rita asked?

The answering machine had one message blinking on it when Chris and Benny got back to the condo. Chris silently hoped that it was from Rita, just saying that she had begun her trip back to Palm Beach. If it was other news, he didn't know if he or Benny were adequately prepared for what it would be.

Benny hit the play button.

"This is Doctor Conrad's office calling. It's 6:30pm. The Doctor would like to speak with Benjamin Lorenzo, regarding some tests from last week. The Doctor has asked that you call him yet tonight. He will be at the office until 8pm. The number is 555-3491, or after 8pm please call him at his residence. The number there is 555-1200. Thank you," said the recording.

Benny took a deep breath, glanced at the clock, which read 7:03pm, picked up the phone and dialed 555-3491. Chris stood close by.

"Hello, this is Benjamin Lorenzo, I have a message from Dr. Conrad. He asked that I call him.

Yes, I'll hold," Benny began. There was an entirely too long moment of silence. Benny avoided any eye contact with Chris and actually turned away from him. "Yes, Dr. Conrad, this is Benny Lorenzo, you have the results of my tests?" Benny stood firmly, nodding his head, avoiding looking at Chris. "Yes, I understand,...... uh huh,........... ok then,............... yes, I'll do that in the morning. Thank you for calling doctor, goodbye." Benny hung up the phone and stood perfectly still, not moving a muscle. Chris took a few steps closer and put his hand on Benny's shoulder.

"What'd the Doctor say Dad," he asked? Benny turned around and had a peculiar look on his face. It was neither happy nor sad. "Pop, what is it, what did he say?"

Benny started to nod affirmatively. "He said that it's gone, all the tests were negative. He said he's very pleased with the treatments."

"That's great Pop, that's wonderful," Chris said engulfing his Father into a bear hug, while both of their eyes began to fill up with tears of happiness.

Benny pulled away, "All I have to do is call tomorrow morning to make another appointment in two weeks. They want to repeat the tests, but they think I'll be ok. It's more precautionary than anything else."

"Oh, Dad this is such great news," Chris said hugging him again. "Let's go out and celebrate, huh? Whatta think?"

"I could go for a steak dinner and all the trimmings," Benny said.

"My treat, let's go," Chris said.

About an hour into the drive, Rita decided it was time to give Chris a call. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed up Benny's number. All she got was the answering machine. She left a message for Chris to call her, or that she'd try back in another hour and said that she and her witness were on their way back to Palm Beach.

She looked over to George, who appeared to have fallen asleep. Rita reached over to the radio and started scanning to something more to her liking, when George shot up straight as if he'd heard an alarm. "Sorry George, I thought you were sleeping," Rita said fumbling with the radio knob.

"It's your car," he mumbled trying to get comfortable again, resting his head against the window.

"I can put it back to your station, it's no problem," she said trying to find the one he had been listening to.

George sat back up, "It's no big deal, put on whatever you want," he said now fully awake.

"Where are we anyway," he asked her?

"Oh I think about 95 miles outside of Tallahassee I think. Only about five more hours or so to go. Are you hungry or anything, there's one of those quick marts coming up, I saw the sign a few minutes ago," Rita said cheerfully?

"Nah, I'm fine, lets just git where we're goin' ok? I hate these lousy back roads, I've been seeing way to many of them lately," George said. "Who picked this route anyhow?"

"I did, don't you approve," she said with a smile?

"Whatever gets me there the fastest and safest is the way I want to go, I hope you're not going way out of your way or anything," he answered.

"Believe me George, I want to get back as quickly as you do," Rita said.

"You're not driving like you want to," George said nastily.

Rita's patience was running a little thin now. It seemed to her that George just wanted conflict or tension. Or maybe she was just use to seeing the same traits in so many kids who came in to Night Moves. George was basically a good kid, she could sense it. He knew right from wrong, he'd been avoiding getting in any kind of real trouble. This tough act of his was just that....an act, she thought. "Alright George, why don't you just get it all out, then maybe you can be done being so angry and mean," she said.

"What the hell are you babbling about now," George said still disgusted?

"THAT! That is what I'm talking about. Your crummy attitude. You know George, you're old enough to make changes to your life if you're not satisfied with it. You can stop taking things out on everyone else. If your life isn't what you want it to be, change it. Cuz being nasty all the time is certainly not getting you anywhere," Rita said speaking her mind.

George was glaring at her during the entire time she spoke. "Whatta you know?" He just shook his head and went back to staring out the window. After some silence he spoke again. "Do you want to know how many times I have had to go through this? Listening to cops who just want to 'help' me," he said sarcastically? "Why do you think I need help?"

"I'm not like other cops, for one thing," she started, "and being a witness to six different murders George, suggests that you are not hanging out with an upstanding kind of people," Rita explained.

"But I am helping," he said in his own defense.

"Yeah," she said stretching out the yeah, "but why are you witnessing them at all? You need to find some better people to be with, rather than murderer's," she paused, "or one of these days you'll wind up dead yourself. There's got to be something you want to do with your life, something you like or that'd you'd be interested in."

George was going to speak, but Rita put up her hand to silence him. She looked out the rear view mirror and saw a car coming up behind her very fast. "What? What's going on," George asked?

"Sit tight George, hopefully it's just someone who's in a big hurry," Rita said watching both what was behind her, what was in front of her and who was beside her.

The car was almost instantly on their tail and kept right there whether Rita tried to pull away or slow down to let them pass. George glanced back trying to make out who might be in the car. "Damn, they're after me, that sonofabitch said he'd kill me, you heard it," George began in a tough tone.

"That's exactly what I was just talking about George, do you enjoy being in danger all the time? I certainly don't," Rita said, barely thinking about what she was saying now!

"I don't recognize anyone, can't you just let them pass, like pull back and swing around or something," George was getting a little scared now.

"I'm not Dirty Harry, George. Besides if I do that they may just do the same thing and keep following us anyway. I think our best bet is to keep moving forward," she explained.

Suddenly the car behind them came up and smacked the bumper of Rita's car sending it sprawling off the road into a ditch. The other car proceeded to drive off.

When Rita's car came to a complete stop, it was a good distance off the highway. Both of them had been wearing their seat belts. George was ok, fully conscious and aware of what had happened. Just shaken up by the whole thing. And frightened to think that whoever caused the accident might come back to make sure the job was complete. The rear impact must have knocked Rita forward into the steering wheel for she was slumping over on it and unconscious.

George loosened his seat belt and glanced over at Rita. "Hey Rita, come on, are you ok? Hey, can you hear me?" he asked in a scared voice, gently lifting her off the steering wheel and leaning her back against the seat. "Don't do this to me lady, come on now," he added.

Rita mumbled something but she remained unconscious. George got out of the car, searched the area for anything unusual and then popped the hood. Nothing seemed to be damaged, or in danger of blowing up. He told himself over and over that he needed to act calm, getting all scared and jumpy wouldn't do anyone any good. He thought for a moment about what he should do. George walked around to where Rita was. He carefully checked over her body for any type of injury. Aside from a bump on her head, she seemed to be uninjured. He opened her seat belt and gently lifted her out and set her down on the ground. He grabbed the car keys and opened the trunk and found a blanket and a first aid kit. George took off one of the shirts he was wearing and put it under her head and covered her with the blanket and found a nearby rock to put under her feet to elevate them. He remembered hearing about shock and how deadly its effects could be on an injured person. He took one of the first aid bandages and covered the bloody spot on her forehead. Then he sat down, waited and began to pray.

Chris and Benny got back to the condo after a relaxing, joyful dinner. Another message waited on his machine. This one was for Chris. It was from Rita saying that she had left Tallahassee and was on her way back to Palm Beach. Chris tried her cell phone number, all he got was a busy signal. He blew it off as her just being out of range of a cell tower. He'd try her again in a little while.

Rita started coming to. She looked around and saw that it was becoming darker outside. Must be almost 9pm, she thought as she attempted to sit up? She reached up and grabbed her head and felt the first aid patch. Aside from the lump that had formed, she felt ok. No dizziness or nausea nor even a headache. Her left arm hurt a little. She noticed the blanket, the shirt and the stone and remembered the bandage. He really had things under control. But where was he?

"George," she called out.

George popped his head out from behind the hood of the car. "Yeah, what is it," he asked?

Rita stood up and saw him checking the car over. "What is going on," she said leaning on the car?

"I'm just checking over the car. I'd like to get out of here today yet if we can," he said bending over and replacing something that he had been looking at. "Are you ok," he asked?

Rita nodded, "just a bump on the head I think, thank you for pulling me out and taking such good care of me, I owe you," she said sincerely. She saw him shrug it off. "Where did you learn about first aid anyway?"

"I just did what I've seen on TV," he reasoned.

"You know what you're doing in there," she asked walking over to him by the car hood?

"My Dad runs a gas station, I was practically born under the hood of a car," he said continuing to do his work without acknowledging her presence.

"Ah, finally your true talent comes to the surface, you mysterious man you," she said with a smile?

"Actually, I'd like to be lawyer," George said coolly, now admitting to what he was going to tell her before the accident. Rita simply stood in shock by what he had admitted to. "I think that's probably why I keep getting in these murderous predicaments. I love being in the courtroom. Attorneys' are awesome."

"Are you kidding me George," Rita said still stunned? "You know there's better ways to get inside a courtroom, like maybe starting in a classroom?"

George stood up straight and smiled at her for the very first time. She returned the smile. "No, I'm not kidding you. I thought about being a cop for a while, but stuff like getting shot at or run off a nearly deserted road is definitely a turn off for me. Besides, no one hardly ever goes after attorneys. And the bucks they haul in, damn, that's the life I want."

"That sounds just great George, but what are you waiting for?" Rita wondered.

He smiled again, two for two she thought, maybe she was helping him. "The attorney fairy don't come to my neighborhood, remember?" he said.

"Have you finished high school?" she asked.

"Yep, I got my GED in January. My grades were alright too. I'm saving up to take the SAT's," he offered.

"That's wonderful George, I'd really love to help you, will you let me?" Rita said. George continued to fiddle with the car, not answering her latest question. "Whattaya think George? I'm serious. I think you'll make a great attorney," she continued, "and I'd like to see it happen, happen too. Whattaya say?"

"How are you gonna help, you gonna tutor me? Give me a place to live, help pay my way, what?" he asked beginning to wipe off his hands on a rag.

"How about all of the above, if that's what it takes. I'm serious George. My fiancéís Father is a lawyer, I can probably set you up with an interview with him, so you can learn more about it. All you have to say is yes, and I'll be there for you, I promise, in anyway I can," she replied.

George looked at her, still not knowing whether to believe her or not.

Chris had tried reaching her cell phone what seemed like at least a dozen times. There was still no answer. He was driving Benny crazy. Just as he was about to call again, the phone rang, Chris anxiously picked it up, "Hello," he said.

"I'd like to speak with Detective Lorenzo, this is District Attorney Morris," the voice said.

"This is," Chris answered shortly.

"Detective, we believe that your fiancée, Detective Lance, may be in a bit of trouble. We've been tracking her car, and about three hours ago we lost the signal. Have you been in contact with her?"

Chris' blood began to boil. "Three hours ago? And you're first calling me now? What is wrong with you people? Do you have anyone looking for her?" Chris was beside himself. Benny had heard Chris blow up and was now standing near his son.

"Detective, we're doing all we can. We starting from her last known location. I need to know if you have heard from her?"

Chris ran his free hand through his hair and shook his head. "She called and left a message just shortly after she left Tallahassee. I wasn't here at the time. I've been trying to reach her now, but her cell phone's apparently not working either. What's the last known location?" Chris asked.

"Just north of Ocala," Morris replied.

"Alright, I'm gonna catch a plane to Palm Beach and start looking for her myself. What's the number where you're at?" he asked. The two men exchanged phone numbers. "I'll keep you posted with my flight information," Chris said hanging up the phone. Without looking at Benny he said dejectedly, "I shoulda never let her do it. I shoulda insisted she stay in Tallahassee.


"That darlin' future daughter-in-law of mine is just fine, I can feel it. She's one smart cookie, she decided on you didn't she?" Benny started. His words didn't make Chris feel any happier. "Let's get packed up and head to the airport, I'm going with you."

"I can do this alone Pop, I mean thanks for the offer but I don't think you coming with me is such a good idea," Chris explained.

"I can't just sit around here worrying, besides I'm fine remember?" Benny asked. Chris shook his head in disagreement. "I want to be there for you son, ok? We're starting over right?"

Chris didn't respond right away, then said, "alright Pop, let's get going."

"I think the car is ok to drive," George began, "are you ok or do you want me to drive it?"

"You can drive, if you have a license," she questioned?

"Yeah, I do," he said, flipping out his wallet with his driver's permit. Rita walked over to the passenger side and noticed that George hadn't moved.

"What's wrong George," she asked?

"Do you think they're out there waiting for us," George motioned to the darkness?

"There's a lot out there waiting for us George. Some of it's good, some of it's bad. Staying here means were probably gonna die. Going backwards just means we're scared. The way I see it, going forward is the best plan. What about you? Are you ready for the future?"

George scanned the darkness one last time, then got into the car and started driving home to Palm Beach.

Rita checked over both cell phones. They both seemed to be working ok. Hers had somehow managed to power down during the car collision, she hoped Chris hadn't tried to reach her while it was off. She dialed up Benny's number and once again got the answering machine. She left another message.

Chris and Benny in the meantime had gotten to airport and began to frantically search for the next available flight to Palm Beach. There was one leaving at 11:10pm. They got the tickets and sat down and waited. As they waited, Chris got out his cell phone and tried her number again. He must have called her as she was leaving a message at Benny's. He got another busy signal.

Next, Rita called DA Morris and told him what had happened, gave him the license plate of the car and said that she and George were again on their way. There were no immediate connections between the car that ran them off the side of the road and KiKi. The DA didn't seem too concerned about the incident. They'd continue to monitor the situation. Morris told her about the call to Chris and that he was going to fly back to Palm Beach to try to find her himself.

By the time she tried to call Chris again, his plane was already in the air and his cell phone was disabled. She called back Morris and asked that he keep trying to contact Chris and let him know that she was alright, she'd continue to do the same, but with Chris on a plane.....it would make him hard to reach.

Rita was becoming more and more amazed with George. His ambition to become a lawyer was very real. Not only was he street smart, he was book smart too. He had taken his education very seriously. Even now he still studied, unbeknown to his gang friends. During the day he'd hang out at the library, devouring book after book in preparation for his college entrance exams. He even admitted to her that he had his own protégé, a fourteen-year-old boy named Marvin, that followed him to the library and was secretly working on his GED.

She touched the bump on her forehead and winced a little. George noticed it and asked her if she were ok, or if she needed to stop at a hospital. Since they had started the trip again, George now was talking nonstop. "I'm ok George, just keep on driving," she replied, "And what's gotten into you anyway, do you have a head injury too, you've just told me more in five minutes than you did the whole previous four hours?"

George glanced over at her and this time not only smiled but laughed as well, "I guess I'm just scared," he explained.

"Scared of what George," Rita didn't quite understand?

"That whoever ran us off the road before is gonna come back and finish what they started," he said, "this has never happened to me before."

"I think it was just a prank George, probably just some kids out for a joy ride, besides, I called it in and by now that car has probably been picked up. If someone was really out to get us, they already would have. I can check with Morris again and find out, would that make you feel better," Rita tried to calm his fears?

"I'll be ok as long as I just keep driving and talking, ok," he said?

"Sure George, whatever works, just keep doing it," she answered.

The plane ride was quiet, tense and long. Benny kept trying to break the ice, to lighten up Chris' mood, but nothing was working. Somehow their 'discussion' and 'words' from a few days earlier surfaced again. The topic turned to the incident that took place when Chris was five. "So we're back to that again, huh?" Benny started, "How many times do you need to hear it from me?

I should have believed you then. I've said that before."

"Why couldn't you have said it then, why didn't you listen to me then?" Chris began, then paused and let his father hear what he really needed to ask him, "why don't," he paused, "didn't you love me?"

Benny was prepared to answer a different question right away, not this particular one. It stunned him to think that Chris didn't know he loved him. He stopped dead in his tracks as he heard something he had never heard before come out of his son's mouth. "Is that what you thought?

Or still think?" he asked softly.

Chris nodded. "You never wanted me around and every time I came out, you'd send me back right away," he said, "what would you think?".

Benny began to shake his head, slowly at first, then more pronounced as Chris got out his words.

"You don't really believe that do you?" Benny asked him again.

"I didn't want to, for a long time I didn't, I just told myself that you were busy and you had to be a lawyer, but I guess over time I did start to believe it. You never really showed me that you did," Chris started, "That's why I can't believe all the people in Philadelphia, when they all tell me how proud you are of me and that you talk about me all the time. You're so nice to all of them, but what about me? I don't think you even know me Pop, you never have," Chris asked?

"Of course I love you. I've loved right from the start. It's been that way since the day your Mother told me that she was pregnant with you. I've always loved you. You are everything to me," Benny said, "I mean ever word of it, I'm so damn proud of you and what you've accomplished."

"You got a funny way of showing it Pop," Chris butted in.

"I guess I deserve that," Benny said. "You know Chris, it's taken me a lifetime to learn that you just can't say the words I love you to someone, you have to show it, you have to make it real by the things you say and do. You're right, I never did that for you, maybe I was just scared that I was a crummy Father. Now I know I was. And that's what I became in your eyes. I'm sorry for that. I can't change it now, God knows I wish I could do it all over again, but I can't. I want to start over, right now, right here, if you'll let me. I figured by saying I love you and coming with you now, well that'd be showing you as well. It's a start for me, whatta you think?" Benny explained. "I'd like another chance son, can you give me one?"

Chris listened intently to every word his Father said. At the conclusion he broke into a grin and said, "I'd love to Pop, I'd love to."

By the time Chris and Benny's plane would be landing, Rita and George had gotten back safe and sound to Palm Beach and decided to stop at the airport to pick up Chris. She had been in contact with Morris who had Chris' flight information. He still had no word that she was ok. Rita had no idea that Benny would be with Chris.

As Chris and Benny made their way off the plane, Chris pulled out his cell phone and immediately started dialing Rita's number. Benny glanced around and spotted his future daughter-in-law, Rita and waved to her. Turning toward Chris, he tapped his shoulder and motioned for him to look at Rita. Chris looked up, slightly bewildered and noticed her standing there, smiling at him. He absently handed his cell phone to Benny and pushed passed some people to get to her. When he reached her, he put out his arms and enveloped her into his loving grasp. Rita returned the gesture in kind. Passengers', flight attendants, onlookers and pilots all passed by with smiles on their faces as they watched this display of love.

"Are you ok Sam?" Chris whispered into her ear, softly placing a kiss behind it.

He felt her nod and heard her say, "I'm just fine," as she kissed the side of his neck, "what about you?"

"I'm alright, just worried about you," he said hugging her tightly again.

"What about Benny?" Rita asked seeing him standing nearby.

Chris pulled away from her slightly, remembering that they were not alone. "He's fine too, we found out yesterday. It's gone for now at least," he said taking her hands in his and moving the two of them closer to his Father, "Pop, you remember Rita right?"

Benny held out his arms to give her a hug as well, Rita readily accepted his affection. "Remember her, Son, how could I forget this beautiful woman? She's the best looking thing we'll ever have in our family. I'm really happy that Big Guy finally figured it all out," Benny said.

Rita grinned from ear to ear, "Benny, I'm surprised to see you, how are you?" Rita asked still locked in the embrace.

"I'm fine, and getting better every day. Doctor gave me the all-clear sign for now," he explained.

"I so happy, I really am," she said noticing George was still standing off to the side. "George, hey George come here." George shrugged a little and put up a hand as if to say, you go ahead, I'm ok. "George come on, come over here," she said again. George walked closer to the three of them. Chris looked a little puzzled. "George, this is my fiance, Chris Lorenzo and his Father Benjamin Lorenzo," and to Chris and Benny, "this is George, my friend," Rita said.

Chris smiled and stuck out his hand, "Hey, George, pleasure to meet you." George shook his hand and smiled. Benny did the same.

They caught up on things very quickly and as they headed out to the airport to the parking ramp Benny said, "Listen Chris, I'm going take George here out for some breakfast and I'll drop him at the District Attorney's office after that. Then I'm gonna find a hotel room ok. I'll call you later alright?"

"What? No way Pop, we got room at the house for both of you," Chris tried to reason.

Benny looked at George who knew exactly what was going on, "Whattaya think George?" Benny asked him.

George grinned, "Breakfast sounds great Sir. By the way, I understand you're a lawyer, fascinating career isn't it?" The two of them walked off in search of a cab.

Chris stood dumbfounded watching them stroll away. Rita slipped her arm through his and said, "I'll tell you later, let's go see if our home is still standing Sam."

It was nearly 6am when they got to their now familiar home. Everything seemed ok, quiet and peaceful. Rita barely got the door closed behind them when Chris took her into his arms and held her closely for what seemed like forever. They drank each other in. Their emotional needs had been satisfied all along, now their physical needs needed to be taken care of. Chris began gently, slowly, he wanted this to last. He ran his hands through her hair. "God, Sam, I've missed you so much," he said, "I've missed everything about you," he said looking deeply into her eyes.

"I know, me too," she said, her hands clinging to the waistband of his jeans, drawn to his warmth and solidness.

Cupping her chin with his own hand, he tilted up her face toward his, slowly bent down and tenderly pressed his lips to hers. Chris kissed her with such devotion and reverence that Rita was momentarily devoid of any senses at all, she was weak all over, yet somehow electrified by his touch at the same time. It had been absent for too long. She simply craved him and wanted him more than ever. He continued placing warm, moist kisses on her cheeks, her nose, her eyes and her forehead. Rita closed her eyes, still mesmerized by his gentle, yet growing pleasure.

Her body changed directions on her too. What first had completely seemed to turn to mush, now wanted, no needed more. She was suddenly more alive and felt a simmering fire slowly glowing through her entire body. She began returning the same kind of soft and gentle, nibbling kisses along his neck, along his throat and behind his ears. Chris' hands were now on her shoulders. They both returned their kisses to each otherís mouths. His hands moved up to stroke the sides of her face. Now as he kissed her, she parted her lips with a soft sigh. He wasted no time in finding them open and moved his own over them, tasting and caressing them. He slid one of his hands around the back of her head, supporting her neck, the other moved lower, holding her waist, he drew her nearer to him. She opened her mouth more, beneath his lips, inviting him to deepen it. He readily accepted and let his tongue make its way slowly, first across her lips feeling the satiny warmth, then the inside of her lips and then dipping in to the deep insides. Every move he made was slow and deliberate. She welcomed it, letting him play, finally meeting it with her own tongue to play together. They finally broke apart in need of air, Chris watched her face break into a smile, "Do you know how long I've been wanting to hold you and kiss you like that?" he asked.

"About as long as I have, probably," she said out of breath with a laugh, running her hands and eyes up and down his arms and shoulders. He couldn't just look at her any longer, he reached out behind her and pulled her tightly against him again and breathed in deeply. He lowered his head and kissed her again, leaving his body pressing against hers. Chris held her like that and pulled back his face to place a soft kiss on the tip of her nose.

He took her by the hand and led her down the hallway to their bedroom. He released her only to turn back the bedspread and sheets on the bed. She dreaded the small time apart from his touch and watched him longingly. His eyes followed hers and sensed her despair. He walked back to her and took her into his arms. He placed a kiss behind her ear and whispered, "I love you," then he went around to her other ear and gently nipped at her ear lobe and again said, "I love you," then coming around to her mouth he kissed her softly and said, "I love you." Rita giggled in delight beneath his announcement.

His hands began to wander over her body and explore her sensuous curves while he continued to kiss her mouth. His hands found the buttons of her blouse and began to undo each one, as their mouths battled for fulfilling pleasure. When his hands finally found the last button, he reached inside and found one of her breasts. He ran his hand around it. He felt her exhale heavily into his mouth, knowing that he had brought her more joy. Chris opened it up the garment and pushed it off her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor. He stopped for a moment to drink in her gorgeous body, "Sammy, you are so beautiful," he said staring at thin but firm, pale skinned body. He lowered his head down to kiss the swell of her breasts. He reached back around and released the catch of her bra and removed it and let it drop, meeting the blouse on the floor.

Rita's hands were on his shirt now, unbuttoning it as quickly as she could, while Chris ran his hands up and down her arms and cupping her breasts lovingly, feeling her nipples harden as he brushed his thumbs over them. She pushed off his dress shirt and reached down and tugged at the undershirt he wore beneath. He instinctively raised his arms over his head as she pulled it off and tossed it on the floor. She placed delicate kisses on his chest and sought out his nipples, where she ran her tongue over and gently nipped at them. His hands went back to her breasts, while hers ran up and down his smooth chest. Their lips sought out each other again. It seemed like an eternity passed as they enjoyed their time together after being apart. The fire that started out as a warm glow was now beginning to burn hotter inside both of them. Her hands moved around to his back, caressing him, trying to pull him near.

They broke apart slightly as they stripped off their remaining clothing, Rita again ached to be closer to him. This brief break left her feeling in need. Chris saw her desire and picked her up into his arms, cradling her, lifting her onto the bed, "We'll get there Sammy, I promise, we'll get there," he said trying to satisfy her every desire as well as his own.

Rita reached up and tenderly kissed his chin and stroked his jaw, "I know, I just love you so much Chris," she said wrapping her arms around the flexing muscles of his firm back, drawing him as close as humanly possible.

Chris continued his slow, methodic way, touching her ribs lightly with his hand, while bending down and seeking out her mouth yet again. He wanted them both to feel everything that they had both missed for so long. He brushed his tongue over her lips and the second she opened her mouth, he thrust his tongue inside. His hand continued to wander up, cupping her breast, while the other caressed her thigh and hip. The feel of his lips beginning to meander down her chin, over her throat, onto her chest, then finally to the nipple of her breast, only meant that she wanted more. She sighed and kissed the top of his head. He lingered on her breast, teasing with his tongue, hearing her pleasure and feeling her breath and lips in his hair. His mouth traced the shape of her body from one breast to the other, leaving a trail of moistness between them. She arched her back to offer herself more fully to him His other hand came up and caressed the breast where his mouth had just been. Rita let out a satisfied moan. He glanced up at her face and saw her happiness and let his warm mouth wander farther down on to her stomach, leaving his hands to rove upon her breasts.

She ran her fingers through his hair, back and forth as he delivered pleasure upon pleasure to various parts of her body. Rita felt his hands move down along the sides of her body, first past the sides of her breasts, sweeping circular around them, between them and on them, further hardening her nipples, over her soft, warm stomach, then along sides of her curving stomach, around her hips, onto her thighs where he turned inward and found her warm and ready. She gasped as he had his way, and arched toward him again as she felt the pleasure his fingers gave her.

Their love gained momentum. His hands and lips were everywhere, all at once, it seemed to Rita. She groaned at the impact his touch had on her body. He stroked her shoulders, arms, hips and thighs before returning to her breasts. Rita ran her hands along his chest, along the smooth texture of his skin and the hard warmth of the muscles he had that she loved so much. She lifted his face and sought out his mouth, reaching in for her own control, she found his tongue and slowly began to suck on it. He pulled away and found her eyes, "I love you so much Sam," he said covering her mouth again.

When he released the kiss, she said, "I love you too." She saw the adoration for her in his eyes and she closed hers in confidence.

With even more intensity, they began again, touching, kissing and teasing each other from head to toe. She called out his name and he knew she was ready. He eased into her. Together they reached a blinding, shuddering explosion. Chris nearly collapsed on top of her. He unconsciously slid off to the side, leaving his arm between her breasts and a leg between hers.

They both stole a few minutes of sleep, not realizing that in their heated passion, their shedded clothes had been tossed upon the portable CD player, that was now in the bedroom, causing it to play. Their quiet sleep was awakened by another familiar song. The Chicago CD was still inside and now it began another selection.

You are my love and my life
And you are my inspiration
Just you and me, simple and free
Baby you're everything I've ever dreamed of Yeah Yeah

Give me your own special smile
Promise you'll never leave me
Just you and me, simple and free

Life is so easy when your beside me
Oh girl

Come hold me close
Never release me
Oh, baby don't release me
Open your arms let my love in
Let me in
Let me in
Let me in
Love me tonight
Love me forever and ever
You know I can't forget ya'

Just you and me to carry on
Simple and free, my lovely
To go as one is loves reward
Loving you girl is so damn easy
Yeah Yeah

You are my love and my life
And you are my inspiration
Just you and me
Simple and free

Oohhh baby you're everything I've ever dreamed of Yeah Yeah

After the song ended, they cuddled together even closer. Chris watched Rita intently and said, "I couldn't have said it better myself." Rita smiled and giggled. Chris reached down and kissed her softly and asked, "Have I told you how much I hate it when you're not here?"

She smiled again, turned over on him, kissed him back deeply, wanting more, "I think so, but tell me again."





So what is the verdict? Is five enough or would you like to read more? Anyone wondering what may happen next? So am I! Please let me know. I love hearing from everyone. Whether it's good or bad, if you have suggestions, comments or questions, I'd be happy to chat with you. I will answer all.

I would like to thank everyone who has written to me. Hearing what you have to say is what keeps me at it. So a major Graci to you all.

Thanks goes out to Linda & Lisa for posting my story on their site.

Samy...thanks for your help, (You know I had to say it) thanks for your ears, and 'specially thanks for your humor.

As for Chris, Rita, Cap, Frannie, Benny, Anna, Donovon, Debra Bouchard and the usage of the word 'Jillian' (and I apologize for bringing her up again) twice, well they don't belong to me, they belong to Stu and Stephy baby and the USA Network. I just love using them for I want to use them for. I certainly mean no disrespect or infringement.

All the other characters from Daniel and Susan to Little G, Morris, Megan, Mike Schmidt, Marie, KiKi, Sylvia and anyone else you've ever read about in this story and never met before.....are all figments of my imagination. I'm happy to introduce them to you.

Beginnings was written by Robert Lamm of Chicago Just You and Me was written by James Pankow of Chicago

Both songs can be found on their Greatest Hits -1975 As well as on... Beginnings - Chicago I and Just You and Me - Chicago VI (What can I say....I was listening to it while writing part of this story and both songs fit perfectly to Chris and Rita....I couldn't just pick one...so I used 'em both)

The recipes for the cookout menu can be found in Betty Crocker's cookbook (I believe its the 1987 version)

Thanks for reading.....Again, send me your thoughts..... tuna.dc@mailexcite.com

copyright 1998 (July)


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