Chapter 7

What had started as a bad morning only promised to get worse. Carol had been late getting up, a brief power outage causing her alarm to reset. So she felt half-ready when she walked into the middle of roll call, her hair still wet and pulled tightly into a thick braid. She smoothed her uniform self-consciously as she sat next to Randell in her appointed seat. He cast her a sideways glance that was a mixture of amusement and consternation. Carol ignored him and the other glances she received.

Thankfully, Randell held his tongue when they hit the road in their patrol car. Carol had been prepared for a verbal berating about looking bad in front of the men but she was rewarded with no such discussion. For that she was grateful.

It was a slow morning as they drove their beat with little interference and no radio calls. Towards lunchtime they agreed to stop for some doughnuts. Though the pastry was Randell's delicacy and not Carol's, she felt justified in giving in since he'd spared her a tongue lashing for her tardiness.

They stood in line quietly, not speaking while they watched the patrons in front of them. Carol wasn't paying too much attention until a black kid standing at the counter started raising his voice at Eddie, the shop's regular cashier.

"Ya can't charge me more for my doughnut than you did for his," the kid raised his voice, shaking his head. "I only brought what the doughnut costs."

"Then you can't have a doughnut, boy. Move a long, I have other customers." Eddie was not impressed by the young man's display and quickly moved his attention to the next person in line.

"Don't blow me off, man! I'm a paying customer!" the kid was outraged, stepping forward. "Dr. King gave me the right to buy a damn doughnut and you sure as hell aren't going to take that right away from me!"

Carol grew uneasy, watching the crowd as their attention was riveted to the display. Eddie shook his head, a smug grin on his face. "I don't have time for your nigger garbage. Move along."

The dark-haired woman cringed and evaluated the situation. It was bound to get out of hand rather quickly. She checked out the rest of their patrons, tried to determine everyone's position and what kind of role they may play. She needed to get the kid out of here and calmed down. Later she'd come back and read Eddie the riot act. The asshole's narrow-minded view needed a good shaking up.

The one part of the equation she'd not seriously considered in her layout of the small shop was her partner. Though often an idiot, Randell was a professional and she'd assumed his mind was following the same tract hers was since their training had been the same. She was mistaken.

Randell swaggered forward and rested a hand on the butt of his weapon. "You heard him, move along, boy."

"No sir!" the kid shouted, dancing from foot to foot. He was either high or nervous or a little bit of both as he watched his new adversary with slitted dark eyes. "Martin Luther King died for my rights! You're nobody! I deserve to be treated equally." Angrily he shoved his hands in the pockets of his ratty red hooded sweatshirt. Carol recognized it for the frustration it was, Randell saw something else there.

"Knock it off, kid," the male officer growled, his voice low and threatening, his hand flexing on the handle of his service revolver though it was still holstered.

"Calm down, Randell," Carol stepped forward, touched her angry partner's tense shoulder, "He's just a kid. He wants a doughnut for God sakes. I'll buy him his doughnut." She turned to Eddie. "How much?"

"You ain't buying a doughnut for that nigger," Eddie shook his head, his lip curled in a smirk.

"Knock it off, Eddie," Carol said, her voice low and dangerous, her blue eyes glinting like ice. "I want a God damned doughnut for the kid. My money's just as good as his money ... same as your money."

"Carol, get a grip," her partner scoffed. "Kid doesn't need a doughnut."

The kid in question shook his head in exasperation and started backing up, hands fidgeting in his pockets still. "Forget it, lady. I'd sooner cut y'all to pieces than take your damn charity."

Carol sighed, defeated. She was disappointed that the boy had misinterpreted her actions. While rotating on her booted heel away from the counter and towards her partner and the frustrated teen, she heard a reverberating crack. With utter shock she watched as the boy fell to the floor, a red blossom growing at his stomach on the white T-shirt revealed between the unzipped front of his sweatshirt.

She paused just long enough to stupidly register that his blood was almost purple compared to the bright red of the sweatshirt. Then she sprinted across the floor and fell on her knees at his side. "Call an ambulance right now, dammit!" She turned to look at her partner. "Put that away, Randell!"

The rest was a blur until Carol stood outside their boss's office where Randell was inside discussing the shooting. She leaned her head back wearily against the wall and reconsidered the day's events. The kid had made it to the hospital but was in intensive care listed in critical condition. Carol had ridden in the ambulance with him, leaving Randell behind to talk to the officers newly arrived on the scene to question the witnesses. She could only imagine what they'd said.

Carol sighed. She was confused and angry and sad. The whole scene played over and over in her mind and she was weary of the obvious conclusion. Randell had no reason to open fire. It was a kid, wanting a doughnut. She could see his lithe body crumpling to the linoleum floor and swimming in blood. His blood. As red as hers and Randell's. It had drained from him like a fountain, seeping between her long fingers as she'd tried to staunch the flow of it, hot and sticky, from his body. But there was so much of it and it was so warm, she swallowed back tears, blinked her eyes at the fluorescent lights lining the ceiling. Oh God, what had she done?

Randell emerged with a slight grin and a confident step. He nodded once to his partner before making his way to the locker rooms to prepare himself to go home. Carol sighed, part of her wishing she had gone home already, putting off the interview, but she'd wanted to get it over with while it was still fresh in her mind. She rose to her full height and turned to the gruff man who stood in the doorway of his office, eyeing her.

"Listen up, Johnson. I don't want to talk to you tonight-"

"But the shooting board?" Carol interrupted, confused.

He raised a hand to stall her, the look on his face was obviously annoyance. "I want you to have the whole weekend to think about this. I want you to consider your fellow officers and our mission to uphold peace ... and that lippy kid who threatened your partner. Your partner, Johnson. Think long and hard and I'll talk to you first thing Monday morning." With that he slammed the door in her face.

She blinked. Surely he hadn't just told her he expected her to lie. Had he? He wanted her to cover for Randell? Didn't he care that Randell had shot a kid, regardless of skin color, and left him in the hospital?

She turned on her heel and headed towards the locker room to find her partner.

"Wanna tell me what happened?" Carol asked once she and Randell were alone in the back.

"You were there, you saw it."

"But I'm thinking I saw something different. All I saw was a kid wanting a damn doughnut, Randell. I didn't see anything warranting the use of a weapon.

"What's one less nigger kid in this world? I'm sure his momma's got a tribe more at their house."

Carol's lips and vocal cords refused to move. She couldn't believe what she had just heard. Randell began to make his way around her but she stopped him by grabbing his arm before he got away.

"Hold on," she replied. "I'm your partner and I have a right to know what happened especially when the reporters come beating down our door ... For the last time ... what happened in that doughnut shop this morning?"

"You heard him, Carol. He threatened to cut us up. He had a knife in his pocket. I had no choice," Randell said innocently, turning away to finish organizing his locker before slamming the door closed. He sat on a rickety wooden bench and began tying his shoelaces.

"He said no such thing, Randell. I was at the hospital with him and there was no knife in his pocket," she stared at the man before her with nothing less than astonishment on her features. Surely she would have remembered if he'd threatened them.

Randell shrugged, finishing with one foot and raising up the other. "That's cuz the knife was on the scene. Found it on the floor."

Carol's eyes widened.

"Yep. That's what happened, kid had a knife. Now the captain tells me I have to go before the review board. I guess the reporters were raising a stink - race issues and things like that. I didn't shoot that kid cuz he's a nigger. After I told the story to the captain he agrees with me and doesn't think it will be a problem."

Carol teetered on the edge of giving the older man a piece of her mind and backing away to consider his words. She really didn't get far in her decision making as he stood up and stepped around her. When he was next to her, he spoke very softly. "Partners support partners around here, Carol. They'll be looking to you to confirm my story." With that he left the room.

She took Randell's spot on the bench and covered her head in her hands. She thought of the kid in the hospital. She thought of the implications for Randell that lay ahead. But she also wondered just what Erin would say or more importantly, how she herself would justify it. She was pretty certain she couldn't lie for Randell, consequences be damned.


Chapter 8

"Is ... Skylon ... here?" Carol asked casually once Minos opened the front door.

She stressed Erin's hippie name, waiting to see if Minos would have any disputes with her presence this time around. The name didn't help. Minos still didn't seem very impressed with Erin's outside interests.

Minos didn't take her eyes off Carol as she yelled, "Skylon your c- ... friend is here."

Minos had agreed to keep Carol's police identity a secret from the house and she'd had to catch herself from calling Carol a cop and breaking her promise. Carol could hear Erin's racing feet making their way downstairs and she had to smile at the thought of seeing her young friend. After such a bad day, she'd been looking forward to spending some time with the gregarious blonde tonight.

"Thanks, Minos," Erin said arriving at the door, almost winded from her quick journey. Minos stood still, sizing the two of them up. The younger woman realized that Minos wasn't about to give them any privacy so she pushed her way between the doorway and her friend so she could slide onto the porch with Carol.

"I'm not sure how late we'll be so don't wait up okay?" Erin told her.

"I'm not your mother, Skylon," Minos grinned.

"Oh yeah?" Erin responded, returning the teasing smile, "Then why have you stayed up every other time I'm out after dark, huh?"

"All right, all right," Minos confessed. "So I worry about you."

"Well don't worry tonight," Erin said wrapping her arm playfully around Carol's. "I'm quite well protected."

"You better be," Minos said in a warning tone that wasn't lost on the dark cop. She grinned sheepishly, still wanting to be friends with Minos if for no other reason than the older woman was obviously important to Erin.

"She will be," Carol said sincerely, nodding her head for emphasis. With a slight tug, the two left the house and proceeded to walk down the street.

"It's a nice night out tonight. Care if we just walk a ways?" Erin asked.

"No," Carol answered with a smile, secretly grateful that the younger woman had left their arms hooked. "Fine by me. Any idea about what you want to do?"

"The local theater is putting on a production of 'Hair.' Did you want to go?" Erin asked.

"Have you seen it before?" Carol questioned, not knowing much about the play except it seemed to be popular with those of Erin's lifestyle.

"Yeah," the blonde nodded in response. "But I don't mind seeing it again. Besides I get something new outta it every time."

"Sounds good to me," Carol agreed despite her misgivings. She figured she might learn something as well and it could distract her from today's events. However, she really didn't want it to spark another argument between her and her young friend.

A small silence fell between them until Erin asked, "So what's the story on that shooting I heard about today?"

Though Carol had known this was going to come up, she'd really hoped it would be later rather than sooner. "You mean the kid in the doughnut shop?" Carol asked just for clarification, knowing that was exactly what Erin meant.

"Yeah - Jimmy Robbins," her companion replied.

"You know him?" Carol asked with a raised eyebrow. She'd only gotten his name once they were at the hospital and she'd had to dig through his pockets for information to give the nurses.

"Sure, I've seen him at the student union once in a while. Nice kid. Can't imagine him giving anyone a hard time."

Carol shook her head and chuckled grimly. When Carol didn't voice her thoughts Erin dragged them out of her.

"What is it?" the flower child asked.

"You know the victim," Carol began.

Erin simply gave a nod.

"I know the cop."

"Well it was your precinct after all," Erin remarked. "I figured that."

"No, Erin, the shooter - I mean the cop ... is my partner."

Erin had to take a moment for the implication to sink in. Now she was kind of wishing she hadn't smoked that joint before Carol's arrival. Slowly her mind turned - it wasn't just someone in the squad Carol knew. It was someone with whom she worked quite closely.

"What's his story on the shooting? Were you there?" Erin asked softly, trying to stay neutral and give her friend some room to discuss the issue.

"He said the kid was mouthing off and then he started to threaten him. So he shot him," Carol answered, avoiding the last part of the question though she knew any attempt to evade it completely was a waste in time and effort.

"You were there?"


"What did you see, Carol?" Erin prodded gently, sensing both from the arm she held and the taller woman's stature that she wasn't comfortable with the topic.

"I didn't see what he saw," she said simply, glancing to the young woman at her side. She thought the blonde's eyes looked a little unfocused and the realization made her grin slightly. "I'm not sure what else to say, Erin. Or should I call you Skylon?" she said jokingly at the end, to ease the tension, hoping for a subject change.

Erin considered the options of her name. No one had called her by her actual birth name since high school. She was getting ready to graduate with her political science degree this spring and she was going to be an adult. For some reason her hippie name just didn't fit when Carol said it. Besides she liked the sound of her actual name from the other woman's lips.

"Erin is fine," the honey-blonde grinned but she began to digest Carol's words, not letting the dark-haired woman sidestep the issue. "Mouthing off doesn't seem like Jimmy's style, Carol. I'm not saying that he's an angel or anything, I don't know him that well, but he was always very mild-mannered when I saw him."

Carol shrugged, averted her eyes. "I think he was on something, maybe. Blood work'll tell that. He was pretty worked up over something, talking about his rights and Dr. Martin Luther King. I had my back turned right before the gunshot, I didn't even see Randell pull his weapon. But it's not his style to fire for no reason. Maybe I missed something."

"Carol," Erin began gently, able to tell even through her high that Carol had doubts about the story she was telling. Her ice blue eyes were evasive as they studied the street around them. "You don't believe that. If you'd really thought Jimmy was a threat, your back wouldn't have been turned. You didn't miss anything."

"He's good at what he does," Carol said faintly, knowing that her argument was weak but not having the energy to stand up for a point she didn't really believe.

"So he's a defender of human civil rights? Lobbying for you to join the baseball team?" Erin pressed with a wily grin, trying to ease the pressure though dying to get the entire story out of her somber companion.

"I didn't say that," Carol responded with a very slight smile, hoping that this was a sign Erin was ready to let the topic go. She hadn't sorted it out in her own mind and wasn't prepared to analyze it out loud yet.

"Well you would know him better than me, right?" Erin asked flippantly.

"Right," Carol nodded, relieved that the hippie was willing to drop it after all. She was also a little surprised that Erin had sensed her awkwardness and willingly backed away. Perhaps tonight wouldn't be a night of fighting.

"Here we are," Erin announced, going to the ticket window and propping her elbows on the wooden counter. "Two please," she told the clerk.

"No, Erin," the officer insisted. "Let me get it."

"Think I can't pay my own way? Is that it?" Erin prodded, a glimmer in those green eyes that Carol was growing so fond of.

"No," the taller woman argued, drawing her voice out slowly with the explanation. "But I do know I make more than you so it's only right that I pay."



"Take your ticket."

Carol didn't quibble further as they made their way inside. She did however whisper into Erin's ear, "I am going to buy dinner later - no arguments."

The blonde couldn't help but love that protective, forceful nature of Carol's. She nodded silently, taking the other woman's large hand in hers, using the dark as an excuse to guide her.


"How can you say that?!" Erin asked before sticking another french fry in her mouth, chewing quickly. "It was a remarkable play. A landmark in our own time!"

Carol smiled and shook her head sadly, blue eyes twinkling in the artificial light of the burger joint Erin had chosen. It was far enough away that they'd gone back to the house to retrieve Carol's car and driven here but the cop was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food and had already told her companion so. "It was a bunch of people running around on stage ... naked ... singing about masturbation."

"You got something against masturbation?" Erin joked. Her resolve fell apart and she found herself grinning with embarrassment from asking such an impulsive question. The flush from her cheeks, however, came more from the standpoint of imagining Carol masturbating than from the assertiveness of her words. Now that had possibilities. "I'm sorry. Really I am," Erin said turning twenty shades of red and studying her plate with infinite concentration.

Carol realized this was the first time they had even come close to discussing sex so she didn't want to just drop it. She wanted to plunge deeper into it and explore her friend's thoughts a little more closely. So she answered Erin's question and posed one herself. "In response," Carol said smugly, "I have nothing against masturbation. I think fantasy is healthy. Would you agree?"

Erin wasn't quite sure where this was going but she nodded slowly and cleared her throat, risking a brief glance at Carol's probing eyes. "I ...would ...agree," she answered straining, to get the words out.

"So tell me Erin ... between you and me, no holds barred, who do you think of?" Carol asked mischievously, warming to the subject readily. She'd never been this invasive before and had she stopped to consider it, the audacity would have startled her.

"What do you mean?" Erin asked slowly, raising her head only slightly. She tried to nonchalantly chew a fry but she nearly gagged on it.

Carol smiled. She was sure the hippie was aware of exactly what she meant but if she wanted it spelled out ...

"When you're alone, and your fingertips are working your body into a frenzy, who do you think about? Is it you in your fantasies? Or do you close your eyes and imagine someone? Or maybe you're a good girl and you don't do that kind of thing, huh?" Carol hadn't noticed how husky her voice had gotten but she did feel the temperature in the room go up considerably.

Erin grinned nervously, "I'm not a good girl," she admitted not looking at Carol but giving up any attempt to finish her food.

"Well then," Carol said before pausing to drink more of her chocolate malt. "Who is it? Lemme guess ... some big rock star right?"

Erin listened to the words but her attention was focused on saying what needed to be said. Saying what she had wanted to say for quite some time as she'd been getting to know this dark woman better and better. "No," she answered when Carol stopped and waited for some sort of response. "I don't think of rock stars. It's usually people that I know."

"Okay, lemme guess again. Bill?" Carol said with a grin, hoping her attitude of levity was taking some of the seriousness away from her inquiry.

"No," Erin said with a small shake of her head, finally looking up to meet Carol's eyes, seeing in them a mixture of gentle humor and sincere affection. That look gave her a little courage.

"Stan?" Carol tried again.

"Nope," Erin shook her head.

"Minos perhaps?" Carol smiled flatly as she tried to disguise that this was the answer she most wanted to know. Was Erin attracted to women? Was this even possible? The name made Erin look away again.

"You," Erin said just above a whisper. She didn't look at Carol, she couldn't. The embarrassment of admitting the truth was almost too much. Instead she watched her fingers as her french fry made lazy trails in the puddle of ketchup on her plate. "I think about you," she said a little more loudly when Carol hadn't responded.

"I heard you the first time," Carol finally acknowledged, trying to shake herself out of the shock from her friend's statement. It was ironic, really. That was exactly what she'd been fishing for but she hadn't thought the blonde would come right out and answer her unspoken question.

"Maybe you should drive me home now," Erin offered, sullenly. She'd gone too far. For all of Carol's brazen teasing, the reality really was more than she was ready for. Erin regretted the silence across the table and her own admission, which had ended their blossoming friendship.

Erin nervously wiped her fingers in her napkin. It felt like forever but finally Carol answered.

"I think that's a good idea," the officer agreed. She had to think about this and here really wasn't the place to do that. So lost in her own emotions, she didn't notice how glum Erin appeared as she stood and waited for the blonde to rise from the table and turn towards the door.

They drove in absolute silence. Erin still hadn't met Carol's eyes. As the car pulled to a stop in front of the house the young hippie watched Carol put the car in park.

"What are you doing?" Erin asked, finally looking over at the object of her fantasies.

"This," Carol whispered as she leaned over and kissed Erin gently on the cheek. She stroked the other cheek with her fingertips. Reflexively Erin closed her eyes, soaking up the tenderness. "Would you tell me your fantasies some time?" the cop asked cautiously. "I'll share mine if you'll share yours."

Erin didn't know how to respond so she nodded mutely, overwhelmed by the move that Carol had just made and how closely it matched her own desires. The dark-haired woman pulled away and started to laugh softly, feeling nearly giddy with her admission and Erin's warmth so close to her side.

The younger woman tensed. Had Carol been playing with her feelings? Was she now going to kick her out of the car shouting a few unpleasant names at her in the process? Surely she hadn't misjudged the other woman so completely.

"What is it Carol?" Erin asked confused, not sure she wanted to hear the answer but needing to know just the same.

Carol paused a moment and saw how nervous Erin had become. The young woman looked like she was on the verge of tears. Carol quickly explained her change in behavior.

"Oh sweetheart, it's not you. It's me," Carol smiled, bringing the back of her fingers up again to stroke Erin's face. That helped the young woman relax somewhat. "I wish I had some way of telling you how you make me feel. I'm not good with words - never have been. And for the first time in my life it truly feels like a deficit because ... there's so much I'd like to express. You make me feel so many things. Things I never felt before. I'm not a lesbian. I've never been interested in a woman ... until now. I - I'm rambling now so I'll just shut up." The officer shook her head weakly, frustrated at her inability to share her feelings with the one person that needed to hear them.

Erin paused and took a deep breath. "When you wake up do you think of me?" she asked. Carol nodded silently. "Am I the last thought you have before bed?" Another nod. "Do you see things or hear things and wonder what I might think about them?"

"Yes," Carol finally said aloud. "All those things. How did you know?"

"Because I feel them too. You're in my thoughts constantly, Carol. It scares me because ... oh man," Erin paused she wasn't sure how much to confess and it showed. But Carol gently prodded her to go on.

"Your voice," Erin continued, "is like a siren's call and those eyes are the bluest blue I've ever seen. You keep me centered by questioning my direction in life and I light up when you're near me. I miss you when you're gone and I count the minutes until I can see you again. So I'm scared, Carol, because I've never felt like this before. Nothing was this important to me before."

"Nothing?" Carol teased, knowing how much the greater good meant to the young woman.

Erin's face held no laughter, only sincerity. "Nothing," she replied honestly and hoped the earnestness showed in her features and in her eyes. "The way I feel about you ... lets just say it's pretty far out."

It was Carol's turn to feel nervous. She wanted to kiss Erin but she didn't know what to do. Erin didn't recognize the look on Carol's face but it made her grin foolishly, the tenseness of the situation lending to her silliness.

"What?" Carol asked tilting her head against the headrest of her seat, a lazy smile on her lips.

Erin just shook her head and shrugged, "Nothing really. You just looked perplexed there for a moment."

"Oh that," Carol's smile grew. "I wanted to kiss you but I didn't know how to go about it. I mean should I just kiss you and hope I don't get slapped. Do I ask first - very friendly and very politely. I mean what's the proper etiquette when it comes to two women?" she finished with a chuckle.

"I wouldn't know," Erin confessed. "You're the first women I've wanted to kiss. But -

"Really?!" Carol asked her head shooting up from its resting spot. She'd assumed that Erin had been with other women because of her cavalier attitude. She'd even gone so far as to assume Minos had been one of them.

"Well yeah!" the blonde said in mock defense.

"I'm sorry. I just thought you were ... experienced," Carol finished for lack of a better word.

"I'm not a virgin," Erin laughed. "But I've never fooled around with a woman either."

Carol looked a bit concerned as she considered her smaller friend's words. "Well if you've never been with a woman and I've never been with a woman ... how are we going to know ..."

"What to do?" Erin finished.

Carol grinned and nodded.

"I'm sure if we put our heads together as well as a few other body parts we can figure things out."

A small rumble of laughter filled the car but quickly died down. Carol gently cupped the back of Erin's head and brought her closer. Both women felt the explosion go through their bodies at the impact of the kiss. It was soft yet searching. Both wanting to know if the depths of the other's desire was real. Once Erin was satisfied that the other woman's intentions were true, she moaned. The vibrations it sent through Carol evoked a similar response. When they finally did separate, both women seemed to be gasping for air. However, the blonde soon found Carol's neckline and began planting little nips and kisses along a path up to an enticing earlobe.

"Why don't you stay tonight?" Erin whispered in Carol's ear, licking where her breath had warmed. She thrilled at the shudder than ran through her companion's body.

Carol's desire to take the young woman was unbearable. Gently she grasped Erin's shoulders and disengaged her from her activities. The cop still held the younger woman in place as she rested her forehead on Erin's.

"I ... I have never been this turned on in my life, but I ... I need time, Erin," Carol said sincerely, hoping she didn't hurt the girl's feelings.

"I understand," Erin confessed honestly. "I'm not sure if I'm ready yet either. I just have a habit of letting my emotions get the better of me."

"That's not a bad trait," Carol replied with a very tender grin. "A few minutes ago it felt pretty wonderful," she chuckled dryly again before growing serious. "Honestly though, I think we both need more time before, well, you know."

"Yeah I know," Erin grinned. She kissed Carol delicately on the forehead though she had to restrain herself from doing more. "See you again this weekend maybe?" Erin asked hopefully, knowing her voice sounded nearly pleading.

"Count on it," Carol answered soundly, nodding. She was glad to hear that Erin wanted this as much as she did.

"I should be here so just drop by if you get the chance," Erin said calmly with a shrug of slim shoulders. No big deal, right?

"Hey Erin," Carol caught her attention. "No more playing it cool and casual. I'll be here this weekend. Tomorrow at six sound good?"

"Sounds great," Erin answered with relief, a gentle grin playing at her lips. She got out and closed the door. She blew a kiss to Carol, which the officer caught, making her smile. Watching the Mustang pull away, Erin almost ran right into Minos.

"I thought I told you not to wait up?" Erin teased and avoided her friend's inquisitive gaze. She knew the look in her own eyes would reveal everything.

"Is that lipstick I see on your collar?" Minos teased back, having no intention of letting the small blonde off the hook so easily.

Erin didn't reply immediately. Instead, she asked simply, "How much did you see?"

"Enough," Minos was smiling and put her arm around her friend. She closed the door behind them. "But you gotta tell me who made the first move."


Chapter 9

Carol stood on the dilapidated porch again less than twenty-four hours later. She stuffed her hands in her sweat jacket and rocked on booted heels, lips pursed, glancing at her surroundings slowly. She'd already knocked twice and checked her watch three times, she was beginning to get a little worried that she'd been confused.

Suddenly the front door swung open a crack and Erin shimmied out, pulling the door immediately closed behind her. This action didn't permit Carol to see anything going on inside though she had heard music and laughter.

"Hey," Erin said softly, running a tender hand down Carol's arm. "It's good to see you." She felt a little awkward, torn between kissing the older woman or moving on with the conversation. This confusion wasn't abated when Carol tilted her head sideways, allowing her long raven hair to drape over one shoulder.

"You okay?" Carol asked curiously, glancing at the closed door and her nervous friend. One whiff of the air that had escaped the house with Erin gave her a clue as to what was going on.

"Yeah. Good," the blonde replied with a tight grin, giving up on the welcome kiss and trying to edge her way around Carol and towards the walk, hoping her tall companion would follow.

"Am I interrupting something in there? Did you want to stay?"

Erin eyed her friend cautiously, unable to tell from the stoic expression and shadowed features what she was feeling. "No. I want to be with you."

They stared at each other in silence for a long moment until Carol sniffed dramatically.

The blonde dropped green eyes to study her companion's polished boots. "I didn't, Carol. I swear." She looked back up, pleading this woman to believe her.


"Tonight," Erin clarified, her heart thumping double time. Though she certainly didn't have a problem with recreational use, her tall companion was an officer of the law. And she so much wanted Carol to like her. The blue eyes revealed nothing.

"I see."

"Carol? I ... let's not talk about this, huh? Let's just go somewhere and they can do whatever they're doing."

"Why didn't you join them? You did last night."

Erin closed her eyes, remembering well the smoke she'd had just before meeting Carol the night before. But that had been different, she was just going out for a good time. Now she knew she wanted more and Carol had admitted to the same, she didn't want to mess it up by advertising the differences between them. She shrugged, answering her friend after a long silence. "I knew you wouldn't approve ... I ... I wanted you to like me." This time when she studied the face before her she thought she might have seen a twinkle in those icy eyes.

Carol decided to let her fidgeting friend off the hook. "Relax, Erin," she whispered gently, allowing a smirk to claim her lips. "I'm just teasing you. I'm not gonna run you guys in. You can do what you want."

Erin studied the features silently before releasing a nervous chuckle. "Don't worry me like that."

The dark-haired woman laughed out loud this time, her face appearing less angular when making the sound. "Didja really think I'd draw my weapon and bust in there?"

Erin shrugged sheepishly because part of her had thought exactly that. "Not used to dating a cop."

"Not used to dating a hippie," Carol returned gently, twining her arm through the smaller woman's. "We'll have to play it by ear."

They strolled down the walk towards Carol's waiting car. "Did you bring your gun?" Erin asked as Carol settled her in the passenger seat. The young blonde's nose was wrinkled in distaste at the thought.

"No gun, no badge. Just you and me, Erin," Carol responded gently, closing the door and trotting around to the driver's side.

The dark-haired woman had been nervous the entire day, discarding outfit after outfit and finally deciding on something daring like jeans and a black T-shirt. Erin wore bell bottoms and a colorful sweatshirt. Her blonde hair was pulled back into several thin braids, revealing perfectly sculpted ears and freeing her pale features of cumbersome wisps. Carol admired her quietly.

"Where are we going?" Erin asked at last. It had taken her several minutes to even come up with the question. It seemed right somehow to just be riding in a car with this woman, enjoying companionable silence.

"Movie okay? Then I thought maybe some ice cream and a walk in the park?" The officer sounded hesitant, unsure if her young friend would approve of such a plan.

Erin smiled, reached over to lay a warm hand on her companion's well-muscled thigh. "That sounds great, Carol," she nodded. "What movie?"

In the end they'd skipped the movie altogether. Standing outside and reading the information on the ticket window proved only how very different these two women were. They decided against Patton and MASH because of the war theme. Across the street from the first movie house, the second offered Clockwork Orange which appealed to Erin but Carol had seen and had no desire to watch it again, especially with Erin, imagining the conversation that might follow. That left Dirty Harry. With quick looks exchanged, both turned on their heels and headed back to the Mustang.

"Ice cream, did you say?" Erin asked gently, humor in her voice.

Carol nodded, pursing lips that poorly disguised a wry grin.

They sat silently in the park not too far from Erin's home, relaxing on a small hill that allowed them to recline slightly. They'd left the car outside the rundown building, ignoring the loud music and waving crowd now settled on the porch. Erin had blushed fiercely as she tilted her head away from her friends and followed the dark woman down the street. It was a pleasant night, chilly enough for the sweatshirts they each wore but warm enough for the cool tang of ice cream to provide a soothing sensation.

Erin finished her cone first, then settled back on elbows to watch the starry night sky. "Orion," she said gently.

Carol had been too busy examining the young blonde to notice the stars. Now she directed her attention upwards and saw the sparkling jewels. "They're beautiful," she acknowledged.

"So are you," Erin whispered, pulling the dark woman's gaze back. Carol finished her cone and stretched out next to her young companion.

"Thank you," she smiled slightly, leaning in close, her face inches from the blonde's perfect ear.

Erin felt the hot breath on her lobe and it sent shivers through her.

Carol's grin turned slightly evil. "You, on the other hand, are gorgeous."

The blonde blushed, tucking her chin into her left shoulder as she turned her face to observe the woman beside her. Carol was smiling easily, her ice blue eyes dancing with merriment and deepening with desire.

It took only a moment of silence to lead to the inevitable. They met somewhere in the middle, tasting soft lips with velvet tongues, exploring, teasing, wanting more.

Slowly Carol moved closer, reaching her arms under Erin's raised back and lowering her gently to the grass beneath them. The change in position allowed Carol to kiss the young woman more deeply, one large hand tangled in blonde braids, the other between the girl's lower back and the ground. Carol's long hair draped over both of their faces, closing the world down to several inches and hot breath.

Erin moaned, feeling her body react. Her hands wandered over broad shoulders and muscular back as she sought more from the woman above her, pressing her tongue deeper, involving teeth and lips.

The taller woman withdrew first, breathing hard. Erin chased her still, raising up to reclaim those lips.

"Easy," Carol whispered, her voice dark and husky, her desire clearly evident.

"Oh God," Erin moaned, still searching. Her small hands applied pressure at the back of Carol's head, tangling in raven tresses, trying to bring her target closer.

"I know," Carol chuckled softly. She stroked the flushed cheek in front of her and waited for those sparkling green eyes to blink open. "I want this so much."

The blonde's brow wrinkled. "Then why stop?"

"Not here, please?"

"People do it here all the time," Erin grinned rakishly, sliding her hand down to cup the dark woman's jean clad cheek.

She shook her head slowly, completely uncomfortable with it. "Come home with me."

"To your home?" Erin seemed surprised.

"Didn't think I had one?" Carol teased, brushing at the blonde's lips with one of her own thin braids.

Erin laughed softly. "Sorry ... no. I knew you did. I just didn't ... didn't think you would want to take me there," she admitted sheepishly.

"Why not?" Carol raised herself higher, lifting her upper body off of the smaller woman. "Maybe I'm sending mixed signals here, but I'm pretty serious about you."

"Not mixed signals, no," Erin grinned wryly. "I just wasn't sure you wanted ... well ... more than this," she blushed. "Do you?"

Sex just for release hadn't really crossed the taller woman's mind. She wanted a lot more from this vivacious person before her. She wanted to get to know Erin better, to understand her, to find out what was in her mind and in her heart. It wasn't until this moment that it dawned on her that Erin might only want a roll in the hay. The young hippie lived in a world where sex was exchanged freely, where one's body was an expression of life. Maybe this was all the blonde had intended. "I ... I think so. I mean ... yes. Do you?"

Liquid green eyes peered at Carol for a very long time before the girl nodded slowly. "Yeah. Not just tonight, not just sex."

"No," Carol responded, dropping her lips back down for another warm kiss. "Come home with me," she repeated, her lips brushing seductively against the blonde's.

Her answer was given when Erin pulled back from the kiss only to hold the dark woman more tightly. Her embrace was steady and sure, as was the whispered agreement when it reached Carol's ear and traveled right to her heart.


Chapter 10

Erin managed to survive the teasing of her friends as she bid them goodnight and then allowed herself to be tucked into Carol's car. The blonde remained silent for the trip, so involved in her thoughts of what they might do once reaching their destination that she wasn't sure how long the vehicle was stopped before she noticed.

"This it?" she asked, peering into the darkened driver's seat.

"Mmm," Carol agreed softly, nodding.

It wasn't what the blonde had been expecting. It was a quaint cottage-like home with white picket fence and intricate latticework adorning the shuttered windows. Even in the pale moonlight, Erin could tell it was well kept, the lawn neatly manicured.

"C'mon," Carol said at last, breaking the silence. "You get the nickel tour."

Erin felt oddly out of place as she entered the neat home and stood in the entryway, waiting for Carol to close and lock the door behind them. Sensing the other woman's distress, the officer leaned forward and kissed Erin's lips gently. "S'okay," she assured her, reaching for her hand and squeezing it.

"We're so different," Erin whispered, as if her normal speaking voice might break something. This was nothing like her busy old house with people crawling out of the woodwork and someone always up and about. Her home was filled with laughter and music, it smelled of pot and incense, not wood polish and bleach. She felt horribly out of her element here, as if she weren't upper class enough to stand on this wood floor and be encased in these shining white walls. She tugged at her sweatshirt.

Carol nodded, smiling encouragingly. "Doesn't matter." She turned on the hall light and guided the small woman with her. She showed her everything, turning on all the lights as they moved deeper into the small square home. "Kitchen, dining room, living room. Those stairs go down to the basement. That's where the television is. And there's a bathroom down there. Down this hallway," she tugged the small form behind her. "This is my dad's office-" she pushed the door open to reveal walls lined with bookshelves and a large roll top desk.

Erin froze and started to back pedal. "Your dad? I shouldn't be here. How will you explain-"

"Shhh," Carol wrinkled her brow slightly. Whatever false bravado this young woman had been parading around in had all but disappeared when she was removed from her own environment. "No one's here, Erin. Just you and me. My father's gone."


"He died two years ago. My mother died when I was born."

"I'm sorry," Erin dropped her eyes. "You must miss him."

"I do," Carol smiled gently. "I keep this room as he left it. I couldn't bear to not come in here and feel him. Are you close to your parents?"

The sudden question startled the blonde. She smiled self-deprecatingly and shook her head. "Nah. I don't need them."

"Where are they?"

"Probably where they were when I left."

"Did they kick you out, Erin?" the dark woman asked gently, studying her smaller companion's profile in the poorly lit hallway.

She shrugged one thin shoulder. "It was by mutual agreement. There's not much to tell. Minos took me in and helped me finish high school and apply to college."

"I'm glad," Carol said softly, brushing soft lips against softer blonde hair. "C'mon. Tour's almost over."

She led her to the back of the hallway, showing her another bathroom, the unused bedroom of her father, and her own room. Erin stepped through the open door without prompting and grinned suddenly. It was as if the atmosphere changed in this room, it felt warm and safe and smelled of the dark woman at her side.

There was a queen-sized bed covered in a beautiful hand-stitched quilt whose bright colors matched the blues twisting through the fabric of the curtains. There was a well-used desk in a corner, covered with loose papers and writing utensils. A bookshelf proudly displayed a myriad of reading selections along with several Police Academy awards. The long low dresser was covered with framed pictures of a dark man and a little girl. Erin stepped forward and examined them more closely.

"He loved you very much," she said softly, fingering a large photograph of the man lifting an obviously squealing girl above his head. Carol was all pigtails and smiles.

The older woman simply nodded.

"How did he die?"

"Killed in the line of duty," Carol answered, her response automatic as if she'd said it a hundred times before. "He was an officer, too. He was killed in a riot downtown, trying to help a young black couple and their baby make it to safety when a racial mess broke out. He was shot."

Erin wrinkled her brow and turned to observe her friend. "I remember that. That was your father?"

Carol nodded silently.

"He was a very brave man, Carol," the blonde whispered gently. "He believed in the greater good."

Carol grinned and laughed. "Yeah ... he did. Boy, he would have liked you."

The smaller woman returned the grin easily, grateful she could give some honor to the memory of her companion's father. They were interrupted by a loud knocking on the front door. Carol scowled.

"What time is it?"

Erin looked to the clock at the bedside, it was almost ten and she told her friend that.

"Let's go see what's up."

It was with poorly disguised dismay that Carol opened the door and let her partner and another man step into the house.

"Randell? What can I do for you? It's late," Carol said quietly. She nodded her head towards the other man. "Will."

Erin stood at the end of the hallway, very much wanting to slip back into the officer's room and wait for her there. She didn't like the looks of this. But Randell glanced down the corridor before the blonde had the opportunity to enact her plan. She couldn't read the look on his face as anything but a sneer.

"You have company," Carol's partner said slowly.

"Yeah," the dark woman acknowledged, holding her arm towards Erin. "This is my friend Erin. Erin, this is my partner Randell and another officer, Will."

"We've met," Randell replied, tracking his eyes from the blonde, to Carol, and then to the man who'd accompanied him. "Carol arrested Erin at that demonstration last week."

Will smirked. "Sleeping with the enemy, huh?" Though his comment was meant more as a joke than anything, Carol paled slightly at the near accuracy of his words.

"What can I do for you guys?" Carol asked softly.

"Oh," Randell brushed by the tall woman, obviously having been in the house before. He walked into the living room and planted himself on the couch, Will followed suit. Carol motioned with her head that Erin should follow but the smaller woman shook her head.

Carol went down the hall and took her hand. "C'mon," she whispered. "They're all bluff and blunder. You'll be fine."

"They already hate me and they don't even know me," Erin continued to shake her head, walking reluctantly behind the dark woman as Carol tugged her along. "I don't want to be a target for their hatred."

"Then let them see you and not what you wear or what you represent," Carol said reasonably.

Logic won out and Erin entered the room slightly in front of her friend, crossing over to the fireplace and sitting on a large wing backed chair tucked into the corner. Carol smirked at her companion's choice of seats which was farthest from the men, then sat on the loveseat beside them.

"We want to talk about the shooting," Randell said immediately.

Carol blanched. Maybe having Erin hide out in the bedroom wasn't such a bad idea after all. But one glance at the small woman let Carol know her interest was piqued and she was here to stay. The dark woman grimaced inwardly, she hadn't thought of the shooting all day. She'd been too preoccupied with looking forward to her date with Erin and then Erin herself once they'd met in the evening. She certainly didn't want to think about it now.

"I meet with the big man on Monday," Carol offered, shrugging one shoulder. "What is there to talk about?"

"What did you see?" Randell asked, trying for levity but not quite getting there.

"You know what I saw, Randell."

"The kid had a knife," he smiled. "You know that. Every cop on the scene knew that."

"What did the witnesses say?"

"That I was an officer of peace doing my job," the smile was more plastic than the deck chairs Carol could see through the sliding glass door in the dining room.

The dark woman sensed her young friend bristle at the obvious lie and wished these men away and for her evening to continue without their annoying presence. She stood up. "I'll only report what I saw, Randell," Carol said softly. "Now if you'll excuse us?"

The men stood slowly and reluctantly. Then they turned towards the hallway, followed by Carol and a lingering Erin.

Will's hand was resting on the doorknob when Randell turned around, raising himself to his full height. "True officers stick together, Carol," he said precisely, his eyes saying more than the words. "There's no room on this force for hippie-lovin' women who don't have the guts to handle a tough situation properly."

The words angered Carol visibly. Her shoulders tensed and her ice blue eyes seemed to shoot flames to the man who was no taller than she was. "I won't be a party to a murder," she said through gritted teeth.

"If I were you," Randell said over his shoulder, following Will out onto the front step. "I'd think long and hard about what's going to happen Monday." He pulled the door closed behind him.

Carol locked it then leaned forward, her forehead on the cool wood. She took deep calming breaths and jumped at Erin's presence when the young blonde touched her hunched back gently.

"Carol?" Erin whispered, realizing now how little her friend had revealed the night before and how desperate her situation might be.

"M'okay," Carol responded with little conviction.

"You're gonna lose your job, aren't you?"

Carol shrugged, turned around to lean her back against the door. "Prob'ly," she sighed. "My Dad would be so disappointed."

So much was revealed to Erin in that one sentence. Carol was proud of her job and the ability it gave her to legally help others. Carol made a difference to at least one person every single day, just like her father had before her. She'd likely joined the force so he'd be proud of her, show her around, talk about her fondly. Now she was in danger of losing that tie to him and a job that had become a large part of her life. "No, no, Carol," Erin whispered softly, sparing a smile for her friend. "He'll be so proud of you for doing what's right. So proud of you for being stronger than them."

"I hope so," Carol's voice was strangled.

"I know so," Erin encouraged, reaching out a gentle hand to rub the taller woman's side affectionately.

"You never knew him," Carol disagreed, confused and frightened, unable to let the younger woman's words penetrate.

"But I know you, Carol. And it takes a great man to raise such a wonderful woman all by himself."

Carol grinned weakly and pulled the small blonde in for a tight hug.

"Do you want to tell me the whole story?"

The dark woman took a deep breath, letting it shudder out of her. "Can we not do it as cop and hippie?"

Erin pushed back to peer at her friend's face and appeared slightly wounded. "Who and who?" she teased gently. "I was thinking we could talk about it just you and me."

The officer smiled gratefully. "How 'bout some coffee?"


Chapter 11

The table in the well-lit kitchen was green Formica banded around the edge with ribbed metal. Erin ran her finger's idly along the cool raised surface, shifting to get more comfortable in the matching green vinyl chair. There was a more formal wooden table in the next room but it seemed cozier here in the gentle colors of the kitchen, listening to the coffee percolate.

Carol hadn't said a word since pulling out the chair for her young companion. She was lost in replaying the scene of the shooting so she may better be able to explain it to the attentive blonde. The fact that she hadn't been prompted into beginning her story slightly surprised the dark woman and she turned around and rested her eyes on the small figure sitting at her table. The blonde grinned at her gently, nearly oozing support.

"Coffee smells good," Erin spoke softly, breaking the tension around them. She could feel the awkwardness and uncertainty in the tall figure across the room. Though they'd argued before about Carol's profession, and though the small blonde didn't agree in any way, shape, or form with the establishment that had sucked up her friend, she knew this was not the time to raise those points again. Carol was worried, confused. She needed a friend who would hear her out and help her reach a life-altering decision. Erin prided herself in her ability to be a friend to this woman who was her absolute opposite.

"Did you decorate the house?" Erin tried another conversation starter, letting green eyes wander across the wallpaper border and eggshell paint.

"No," Carol said, turning her back again under the ruse of searching for something in the cupboards. "My mom did. My dad kept the place up as she'd designed it. The picket fence, the shutters, the wallpapers."

Erin nodded, then vocalized since her companion was still facing away. "It's nice."

Carol shrugged. "It's all I know her by ... her decorating tastes. Isn't that funny?"

"No," Erin disagreed, finding it more sad than funny, but knowing the dark woman would bristle at her sympathy. "You can tell a lot from a person by the way they dress or how they surround themselves."

"Yeah?" Carol poured the mugs and sat in the chair opposite her friend.


"What can you tell about me?"

"You wear a uniform," Erin grinned recklessly. "I sense some sort of authority about you."

Though she tried not to, Carol grinned as well. "No. This me," she indicated herself with a wave of one large hand.

"Ah. You're a strong person with independent thought. You don't love often, but you do it deeply and remember it always," Erin whispered, reaching a hand out to squeeze the other woman's muscular forearm. "You're lonely sometimes, you feel you don't fit in at the station or here. This place is more your parents and very little you, but you feel like it would betray their memories to change it. In fact, I bet you'd rather live somewhere else entirely."

Carol's sapphire eyes widened with surprise. "Wow," she stammered. "You're pretty good at that."

Erin smirked, shrugged a slim shoulder. "What can I say? I'm gifted."

"And humble."

"Artists rarely are."

Carol smiled and nodded, dropping her gaze to the slender pale fingers contrasting against her tanned arm. "I'd love to see your work."

"We can arrange that," the blonde said softly, withdrawing her hand to wrap it firmly around her mug. She took a sip, let the biting warmth course easily down her throat. It felt right, somehow, to be here with this woman, sharing their souls.

"So what's your story? If I were gifted, what would I see in you?" Carol asked at last, letting the silence string between them for several long seconds. It was a bold question, really. People didn't like to evaluate themselves, it was hard enough to hear what others saw in you, let alone admit your weaknesses yourself. She thought Erin might decline. She should have known better.

"I run a lot. From my family, from my past, from things that scare me. To escape that part of me, I grasp onto ideals and don't let go. I'll fight to death for what I perceive as another's rights but I won't pick up the phone and call my mother," she shrugged sheepishly, her voice low and rich while unraveling the tale. "I believe in what I stand for ... but I don't quite fit in either. Not in that big loud house with the peeling paint and the crumbling people. Half of whom don't even know or care about the cause they fight for ... as long as they get to fight. I like a lot, love very little ... am afraid to let go." She finished her assessment and glanced to the searching blue eyes before her. She saw undeniable affection in them.

Carol smiled. "You are gifted."

Erin chuckled, drank more coffee. "Now tell me, Carol," she prompted gently, feeling the time had come.

The dark woman sighed deeply and rotated her shoulders as if warming up to pitch a fast ball. Maybe she was, maybe she needed this to be quick and dirty.

When she started to talk, Erin realized that's exactly what she'd planned. Though absolutely factual and riveting, the dark woman's depiction held little emotion. Erin let it go, recognizing it for the distancing it was. Carol finished in a few scant minutes and studied the swirl in the Formica table top.

"There was no knife in Jimmy's pocket?"

"No," Carol whispered. "I know there wasn't."

"He didn't threaten to hurt anyone?"

"No. He said he'd rather kill us than accept my charity. Or something like that ... he'd cut us ... or something."

"It's hard to remember now exactly what happened," Erin acknowledged softly and the dark head nodded.

"But I know there was no knife. I know Jimmy was frustrated and frantic and felt cornered. He was arguing and talking big, about his rights and how we couldn't deny them."

"He's right," Erin said before she could catch herself. She'd not intended to mount the soapbox during this discussion. The blonde grimaced, emerald eyes shining with apology.

Carol offered her friend a reassuring smile. "No, you're right. I knew that. I could have done better."

"No," the smaller woman shook her head fiercely. "No, Carol. You tried harder than any of them. You probably saved that boy's life."

Carol sighed, silently reminding herself that Jimmy could still die. "I don't know what they'll do when I turn on them," she whispered, swirling her coffee by moving the mug. The rippling motion seemed to have her full attention.

"Sometimes it's harder to do the right thing, honey," Erin said gently, the endearment slipping off her tongue with amazing familiarity.


"Do you have any doubts about what you'll say? Do you think you might ... um," the blonde chose her words carefully, "see their side of the story?"

Carol glanced up immediately, narrowing those blue eyes as she surveyed her companion. "I won't lie for those bastards. I just don't think it'll make a difference."

"Don't know until you try."

"S'pose not," Carol agreed reluctantly, knowing her ethics would never have allowed her to relay a different story from the one she'd just told. Her boss would get the same one in a little over 24 hours. She glanced up at the round clock hanging on the kitchen wall. She hated that clock with the silly goose wearing a bonnet as the face decoration. It was nearing midnight.

Erin took the hint, knowing Carol was all talked out and there really hadn't been a decision to make anyway. She finished her coffee and stood to rinse out the cup. "I should go ... I'm sure you're tired."

Had she been facing the dark woman she would have seen the wrinkled brow and confused expression. "Do you want to go?" she asked hesitantly. Had she frightened the smaller woman off? Was the reality of being with her suddenly too much?

Erin took a breath and turned to face her friend. "I'd like to stay," she said softly. "But I'll understand if you need me to leave. I can get back to the house on my own."

Carol rose from her seat with confidence, reaching around the smaller woman and depositing her mug in the sink as well. She made every effort to touch Erin with her arm in passing. Then she leaned forward and pressed her forehead to the fair one before her. "I would love it if you stayed with me tonight. No strings, you're not promising anything by staying."

Erin sighed and closed her eyes, feeling the heat of the woman's breath and the warmth of the skin of her forehead. "I wouldn't mind."


"Promising," the blonde whispered.

"Let's go to bed," Carol tugged gently at Erin's hand, leading the smaller woman through the house and turning off lights as they went until they were back in the raven-haired woman's room.

They changed quietly, Carol turning her back to undress and slip on a nightshirt. Erin slid off her jeans and replaced her sweatshirt with the T-shirt the dark woman had provided. Then they slipped into the bed and Carol flipped off the lamp on the nightstand. The silence was nearly deafening.

"Can I hold you?" Erin whispered at last and Carol chortled softly, scooting closer and gathering the smaller woman in an embrace.


"Yeah." Erin turned into the older woman's arms, resting her head on Carol's shoulder and her arm across a well-muscled stomach.

Carol could feel the hot breath on her neck and realized her heart was pounding and she wasn't nearly as sleepy as she thought she was.

The blonde took a deep breath and resituated, her legs rustling faintly against the sheets as she tossed her right leg over her companion's thigh.

Carol jumped slightly at the warm sensation.

"Sorry," Erin whispered and began to withdraw but Carol stopped her with a large warm hand on the small woman's thigh.

"S'okay," she murmured. "I like it." She dipped her head and was not surprised when Erin lifted up slightly to meet her seeking lips.

It started chaste, just as it had before. Slowly, it turned into something more with each shared breath, exploring more deeply.

"I can't believe how you make me feel," Erin murmured between kisses. She shifted her weight so she lay more fully atop the longer woman.

"Mmm," was all Carol could manage but it was obviously agreement. The T-shirt Erin wore was too big and canted off one shoulder at a pleasing angle, giving the dark woman easy access to the smooth fair skin just above the blonde's breast and towards her collarbone. She kissed there lavishly, applying tongue and teeth until Erin was moaning and squirming restlessly. Then Carol returned to the tempting open mouth to kiss her again.

"Carol," Erin muttered and it was more of an affirmation than a plea or a query. The confidence of it allowed Carol to gain the nerve to run a large hand from where it had been resting at the small of the blonde's back, up her side, and towards her front where she cupped Erin's breast.

The hippie gasped, arching her neck back and giving Carol access to the column of her throat. The dark woman took the invitation gladly, sucking on the throbbing pulse point.

Carol savored each moment. She relished the salty taste of Erin's skin, the musky scent that was part her, part laundry detergent, part arousal. The breast in her hand was pliant and warm, the tip of the nipple screaming forth into the T-shirt fabric and wanting more attention. She'd never imagined making love with a woman, in fact hadn't really put much thought into making love at all. Her attention had always been on doing well in school, and then at the Academy, and then proving herself to her father. But now, suddenly, holding and touching this woman was all that she'd hoped for and more.

For her part, Erin was lost in sensations and emotions, melting into the warm body beneath her, getting lost in the delicate touch. She slid her hands down Carol's front and under her shirt to rest on the well-muscled abdomen she found there, the heels of her palms laying lightly on the elastic waistband of the other woman's underwear. The dark woman's skin was warm and soft, the muscles twitching under Erin's searching fingertips as they ventured upwards to stroke the underside of Carol's breasts.

First the covers were too restricting and were discarded to expose their intertwined bodies to the slatted moonlight coming in through the blinds and curtains. The pattern was delicate on the fair blonde's hair, striping her with gold-laced silver. Then clothing became too much and Carol tugged at the T-shirt, broke away from her partner with a raised eyebrow, requesting permission.

Erin hesitated just long enough for the answer to be clear to the officer. They had wanted to slow down. They'd both agreed to that only the night before. Carol smiled warmly, not wanting the young woman to feel awkward even though this reaction was somewhat surprising after the blonde's readiness in the park only hours before. The cop smoothed the shirt back down and tightened her embrace, settling Erin snugly against her. She tucked the blonde head into the nape of her neck and stroked golden hair as they both fought for breath.

"I'm sorry," Erin murmured, her lips moving against Carol's neck, pausing to place a kiss there.

"Shhh," the dark woman countered, squeezing her young friend even closer. "Nothing to be sorry for. We agreed to slow down, right?"

"Yeah," Erin whispered. "God ... it's so much. Feeling you, touching you. Like I'm alive for the first time."

Carol chuckled softly, bouncing the slight body on top of hers and parting blonde tresses with the snort of air. "Me too. I never thought I could feel this way."

"Can you sleep with me here?" Erin queried softly. Her small body was only touching the bed at her legs, one between the dark woman's silken thighs and the other on the outside. The rest of her weight was wholly supported by the lengthy body beneath hers.

Carol considered the question, finding the firm weight quite comforting. She felt safe here in this small woman's arms, felt the world couldn't touch them here where their differences were irrelevant in the darkness and the warmth each provided the other. In that respect, she would have no trouble sleeping with the blonde's slight weight on top of her. However, the fact that her blood was singing and her body incredibly sensitized to the woman's touch assured Carol she would remain sleepless for quite some time. The longer she stayed awake the more she could relish this gentle girl's presence. "Yeah," she said at last. "I've never been more comfortable."

"Me either," Erin murmured, snuggling more deeply into the arms surrounding her, inhaling great breaths of Carol-scented air.

"Sleep, sweetheart," Carol crooned, stroking the woman from the top of her blonde head to her lower back. The motion was completely soothing to both of them. After several long moments, Erin's breath evened in sleep. Carol sighed and pressed warm lips to silken hair. "Good lord, I think I love you," the dark woman murmured, surprising herself both with the emotion and the admission.

Continued...Part 3


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