Disclaimer: The TV show, Xena, Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and some of the characters in this story are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. Les MisÚrables, the musical, is copyrighted, but I'm not sure by whom? I Will Always Love You, I Will Remember You and My One True Friend are also copyrighted. This story, all other characters and action sequences are the sole property of the author. Any mention of actual people living is for the authenticity of this story and no encroachment is intended. This story may not be sold and is not for profit.

Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence along with very strong language, and describes the two main characters as more than just "friends".

Many thanks to my two beta readers MaryD and L.Fox. You're the best!!

 

I Will Always Love You
by
Marcella R. Wiggins

For those of you who have made friends via the Internet fan fiction and for my wonderful Internet buddy, my hero and best friend, Leonard Fox (thanks for the inspiration!), this story is humbly dedicated.

 

Prologue

"This is Delilah, and you're listening to Love Songs to Live By, what can I play for you tonight?"

"Would you play 'I Will Always Love You' by Whitney Houston?" the caller on the other end asks.

"And what's your name?" "My name? It's Sydney."

"And Sydney, is there someone special in your life that you want to play this for?"

"There was, someone very special to me, but she's gone now."

"I can hear the pain in your voice, would you like to talk about her?"

"Well, she was killed a year ago today, and I...I..."

"Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. How did it happen?"

"A God d(BLEEP) drunk driver lost control of his car and hit her."

"Oh my God. I hope they caught him and he's in jail now?"

"No, he got away, but I won't give up looking for him."

"Good for you. Now tell me about her. Had you known her long?"

"Seems like all my life. She was the reason I got up in the morning and rushed home at night."

"Sydney, what about her made you smile?"

"Everything! She was so mischievous and had a wonderful sense of humor. She had a glow about her, you know, that you just wanted to spend the rest of your life exploring."

"How have you been getting along this past year?"

"Well, I force myself out of bed every day and just try to go through the motions."

"And sometimes you just have to remember to breathe, right?"

"Exactly, nothing seems to come naturally anymore."

"Sydney, you are not alone, our listeners out there know what you are going through. Just focus on today and let tomorrow take care of itself. I will pray for you Sydney, that God eases your pain and helps you move on with your life. I will also pray that that drunk driver is caught and punished for his actions. Here's that song especially for Sydney and her partner."

If I should stay I would only be in your way...

 

"Dyane, I need your signature on..." And I, will always love you...

Dyane Hollingsworth, President and CEO of St. de Paul's Hospital, the south's most prestigious health system, sat at her very large desk, in her very imposing, immaculately decorated office, clutching a photograph of a child, crying. The tears in her eyes spoke volumes to her secretary, who hands her a Kleenex and backs out of the room.

"Is she in Yvonne?" Yvonne looked up to see Greg Handle, Senior Vice President of Finance, walking toward her. She quickly closed the door.

"I'm sorry, Greg, Dyane is in conference right now. Check back a little later, I'm sure she'll be free soon."

"But I thought I heard music?" Yvonne interrupted him with a slight edge in her voice.

"I'm sure it has nothing to do with her. If you'd like, I'll call you when she's available?"

"Yeah, sure, fine" came the perturbed reply.

"Thank you, Greg." Puffing his chest out, Greg turns to leave as Yvonne returned to her desk.

"You let me know the minute she's free, understand?"

"Oh course, Greg, the minute she's free." Yvonne replied, "The second Tuesday of next week, you prick!" she mumbled under her breath.

Behind the safety of her closed door, Dyane slumped back in her chair and closed her eyes while the tears continue to stream down her face. Whitney's lilting voice swirls around in her tear soaked memory, I will always love you…

 

Chapter One- Eleven months later

To: ME@e-mail.com

From: Lucy

Good morning, M.E. Just wanted you to know you are thought of today. I haven't heard from you in a while and am starting to worry. E-mail tends to feed one's imagination when you are use to receiving them on a regular basis. It is so important to me not to take for granted those that are dear to me. You have been such a good friend to me, allowing me to cry on you shoulder, figuratively speaking of course.

If truth be told, I have taken to rereading our earlier mails just to draw you closer or watching reruns of Xena that I know you're fond of. I know that's pretty silly but there you have it. I don't want to lose you.

Please, let me know you are all right. :c)

Love,

Lucy

 

To: Lucy@dialogue.com

From: M.E.

What a wonderful way to start my day, an e-mail from Lucy! How I love to see that addy in my in-box. I apologize for not staying in touch more. I just don't want to wear out my welcome. I know how the newness can fade and you're left with the real thing and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, ha!

I do appreciate your friendship more than you can know and I always look for your e-mails first. I don't think you're silly at all, in fact I am deeply touched. I don't mean to ignore you Luce, it's just that it's a kind of a difficult time for me right now and I'm not very focused at the moment. I'll do better by you I promise.

M.E.

 

"Sydney, get in here!"

In a sparsely lit, musty smelling office where paperwork has overthrown its boundaries, Christina Marie Sydney, Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, looked up from her laptop to see a large, rotund man waving at her.

"Yes sir, boss. Anything you say, boss!" she retorted as she hit the send button on the e-mail and closed the laptop. And with a leisurely gate that suggested she was not in the least intimidated, Sydney strolled into her boss's office.

"You summoned me, master?"

Sitting down on the corner of his desk, Sydney picked up his name plaque and playfully pretended to polish it. "Leonard F. James, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Arkansas Division." She put the plaque back on his desk. "There ya go Leonard, now you can read it better."

"Sydney, will you cut the crap and get down to business?" He pointed his pen at her and with a stern voice demanded, "And stop calling me Leonard damn-it."

But Sydney was not one to resist a good tease so she egged him on; "I've always wanted to know, why do you go by Jim when your name is Leonard? Is that some kind of code name?"

She already knew the answer of course. Sydney learned it the hard way the first day she walked through those doors, some ten years ago. Fresh out of college and eager to prove herself, she naively trusted her mostly male colleagues.

"So, what's the boss like?" she asked.

"You haven't met Leonard yet? Oh he's a lamb, a puppy dog really", one of the detectives volunteered.

"Sounds great. I've got a couple of ideas I want to run past him."

"Well Leonard's in his office, go introduce yourself." Sydney didn't notice the winks between her cohorts as she boldly walked into the director's office.

"Leonard, my name is..."

"Jim"

"Jim?"

"Don't ever call me Leonard, call me Jim damn-it!"

"Okay, Leon--" Back then Jim was just beginning to develop his girth and was in fact a very imposing figure when he wanted to be, and right now, with this college educated upstart, he wanted to be. He stood up and threw his pen on the desk, effectively unnerving Sydney.

"O…, okay, Jim. My name is--"

But again Jim cuts her off, "Christina, right?"

For a brief moment, Sydney thought about giving in to whatever this domineering man wanted, but her pride just wouldn't allow it, no matter the consequences, so she arched her broad shoulders back and said,

"No, it's Sydney, don't ever call me Christina damn-it!"

She held her breath and waited on his response. But she didn't have to wait long, for she had sufficiently impressed her boss enough to cause a faint smile to appear on his lips. That was the beginning of a strong bond between the two that would stay the course of time, and the reason that only she could get away with teasing him now when no one else dared.

"And you're suppose to be a detective, humph. It's no great mystery; I simply don't like my first name, okay? Are you happy now, can we get back to work please?"

Jim had an edge in his voice but as hard as he tried to hide it, Sydney could see the smile in his eyes. She knew he was enjoying the banter. Jim was the only man, the only person for that matter, which she was completely relaxed with. He was the father she'd always dreamed of, the friend she could rely on, and the man who changed her perspective on few things.

For his part, Jim couldn't help himself, when he looks at her he still sees the little girl he took under his wing some ten years ago. Someone who was ready to learn and he was the one to teach her. A girl that over the course of time wedged her way into his heart and became the daughter he never had and the student who would make him proud several times over. A girl, a woman now of 35, who taught him a thing or two about tolerance, understanding and love, changing his perspective on a few things.

"Okay, Jim, what have you got for me?" Sydney moved to a chair in front of his desk, ready for business.

He tosses a folder across to her. "We've got a CEO of the largest hospital in Arkansas who's become the target of a stalker. There's been several threatening letters and a few phone calls but nothing concrete."

"Oh God. Let me guess, you want me to baby-sit the suit, right?"

"Right, she's also a personal friend of President Clinton's and is hosting a fund raiser for his library which he will be attending. It's in a couple of weeks so we need to clean this mess up before he gets here."

"Jim, you know I don't like these high society cases. Anyway, why me, why not one of the other guys?"

"Because you need this challenge right now. You've been a royal pain in the ass here lately, Sydney, and I'm tired of overlooking it. So, I've decided to give you the hottest case we've got, maybe that will keep you busy. I know you're not particularly fond of corporate America, but this woman needs help and you are the perfect one to give it to her."

"Yeah, uh huh, sure. And does she know I'll be moving in?"

"Uh, no, not yet." Jim replied.

"Damn it. It's not bad enough I have to be her shadow for God knows how long, but I have to be the one that informs her she has a new room mate as well?" The frustration ebbed and Sydney sulked back in her chair, apathetically thumbing through the file.

"Go at it easy, Sydney, this woman has been through hell and back."

"Says here that she's 28, that's pretty young to be the President and CEO of a hospital, isn't it?"

"Yeah, she's kicking ass with the Fortune 500, that's for sure."

"Any indication as to who is stalking her or why?"

"Nope, nothing. That's what you're going to find out for us Sydney."

"Does she have any family?"

"Her husband and daughter were killed in an accident over a year ago. The report indicates she was thrown from the car, but she is unable or unwilling to recall any details. Hysterical amnesia they call it."

Sydney's eyes softened ever so slightly as she came to the photograph of Dyane Hollingsworth with her husband and daughter.

"And now her own life is threatened?"

Sydney had the feeling that she was being watched and as she read a little further, she understood why, Hit by a drunk driver. She looked up at Jim,

"You son of a bitch!"

"Sydney, calm down. I know what you're thinking, but I assigned you to her because you of all people know what this woman is going through. Look, I know you're hurting, I'm not blind you know?"

Sydney looked back at the file, avoiding his concerned eyes and said nothing.

"You can help her, Sydney, and she can help you."

"I'm doing just fine thank you. I don't need anybody's help."

"Well, be that as it may, she is your new best friend until the stalker can be caught. End of discussion."

There was no playfulness in his voice this time, only a finality that said the meeting was over. Sydney knew it, she knew there was no way to persuade him now, so she threw the file back on his desk and left.

><><><><><><><><><><><

 

St. de Paul Hospital

"I'm here to see the CEO."

Yvonne looked up from her work to find a tall, slender young woman in her mid 30's, wearing pressed black slacks, a pressed white blouse and a pressed black jacket that cut her just above the hips. She noticed that the woman's chestnut hair was pulled back in a braid and that her eyes were cold, green emeralds, almost as if there was no soul behind them. This one's going to be trouble she thought.

"And you are?"

Sydney pulled her jacket back, revealing her Sig Sauer 228 nestled securely in its holster, and reached in her pocket for her badge.

"I'm with the FBI and I'm here to see Mrs. Hollingsworth."

Yvonne looked at the badge then back at Sydney. "Follow me" was all she said and led the way to Dyane's office.

Tapping lightly on her door, Yvonne escorted Sydney in. "Dyane, may we disturb you for just a moment?" Dyane looked up and could tell from Yvonne's face that this was important. She indicated for Sydney to take a seat and returned to her conversation on the telephone. Yvonne cast another glance at Sydney before returning to her desk.

Typical suit, typical suit office, no surprises here. As Sydney does with all her cases, she form's a mental analytical profile on her subject. Small in stature, blond hair with a round, childlike face- just beginning to hardened around the edges, her cobalt blue eyes are luminous, and yet, there was no sparkle to them. She obviously has her suits tailor made, and no surprise, she wears her hair pulled back in a tight business-like bun. She also has a nervous habit of tapping her pen on the desk. But she's more than nervous; she's scared. She's darting her eyes about, as if waiting for something to happen.

"Greg, let me call you back in a little while, will you? Something has come up. Thanks." Hanging the phone up Dyane walked around her desk to greet Sydney.

This was not the reaction Sydney was expecting and even though it put her on edge, why she didn't know, it also impressed her.

"What can I do for you, Ms?" Sydney took her extended hand, noticing how small it was in comparison to her own. In fact, Sydney observed that the petite young woman only came up to her shoulders and felt that Dyane might be the slightest bit intimidated by her height. That might come in handy real soon.

"Sydney. Chris Sydney."

"Dyane Hollingsworth. It's good to meet you Ms. Sydney. Now, what did you need to see me about?" Dyane asked as she sat beside Sydney.

She was warm and unassuming and this was a new experience for Sydney. In her tenure as a FBI agent, she had never met a suit that would leave the safety of their oversized desk much less sit side by side with you.

"Mrs. Hollingsworth, I'm with the FBI and I've been assigned to your case." Sydney again retrieved her badge and presented it to Dyane.

"Oh, is that it." Dyane acidly responds

Sydney immediately sensed the atmosphere in the room abruptly changing. The smile that had so warmly greeted her just a minute ago was gone. In its place was a hard, perching frown that could only mean one thing, and Sydney was ready for it.

"Thank you for coming Ms. Sydney, but I don't require your services. It was just a couple of letters, nothing to call out the troops for."

Dyane moved toward the door, her friendly demeanor dissolving into a stern, stiff, businesslike persona. This must be the tough, no nonsense, businesswoman I've heard about, Sydney thought, I hate to do this, but it's for your own good

"Look, Mrs. Hollingsworth, we feel that this "stalker" is building up to something more serious. He says point blank in those letters that he intends to kill you. The way I see it, you only have two choices here. You can wait for him to carry out his threats, in which case my job is done, or you can let me do my job and protect you until we can catch him."

Crude though it was, it worked, she's shaking

"Ms. Sydney, I simply..." But the bravado was gone and the words strangled in her throat. She walked to the window trying to compose herself and finally, with her back to Sydney she asked, "What do you propose?"

"That I move in with you and be your shadow for as long as it takes to catch this guy."

"My shadow?"

"Everywhere you go, I go."

Turning around to look up into Sydney's face, Dyane asked, "Everywhere?"

"Everywhere!"

Shyly, Dyane cast her eyes away, "Oh, I see." Struggling to find a way out of this nightmare she asked, "And how will I explain your presence in meetings and the like?

"That I am an intern from UALR and I'll be your personal assistant."

"You're a little beyond the age of most interns aren't you?"

"Not at all, I'm on my second career. You've made the right decision, Mrs. Hollingsworth."

"Not like I had much of a choice is it, Agent Sydney?" The question was rhetorical and the sign of compliance that Sydney was hoping for.

"I assume that your secretary knows what is going on?"

"She intercepted the letters."

"All right then. Will you ask her to come in please?"

Dyane picked up her phone and a moment later Yvonne entered with her pad and pencil.

"Yvonne, this is my new, uh, intern, Chris Sydney."

"We've met." Yvonne levitates.

"Mrs. Hollingsworth will fill you in on the details, but first there's a couple of things you'll both need to do. Yvonne, I need you to intercept all incoming telephone calls, mail and visitors, even if they are staff. And Ms. Hollingsworth, I want you to cease all outgoing communication, e-mails, letters, that type of thing for the time being."

"Is that really necessary, Ms. Sydney?" Dyane asked

"Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid it is. And I'm going to need to meet with the hospital's security chief and I want an interview with each of the senior staff as well."

 

 

Chapter Two

"And this is my bedroom." Dyane watched as Sydney walked from room to room, looking under the beds, in the closets, outside the windows.

She has immaculate taste, I'll give her that. Very feminine and delicate, not business like at all. It has that homey feeling that invites you to be a part of it. Hm, something seems to be missing

"And this room is my daughter's."

To Sydney, the room appeared to be frozen in time. Obviously well kept, with every toy in its place. She watched as Dyane straightened the stuff animals sitting on the bed. Why does she hang on to this dream, it must kill her every time she looks in here.

"Mrs. Hollingsworth, how old was your daughter?"

"She would have been ten years old last February. She was my one true Valentine you know." Sydney had hoped for more details but Dyane closed the door behind them and moved on.

"And last but not least, this is the guest room where you will be staying. It has all the amenities you'll need. Bathroom and a shower, TV, telephone. If you need anything else, please let me know."

"You have a beautiful home here Mrs. Hollingsworth. I'm sure I'll be quite comfortable, thank you."

"Well then, I think I'll turn in, that is if you are finished with your inspection?"

No girl talk tonight I guess "I'm afraid you'll have to get used to it, its part of the package deal."

"Good night then."

"Good night."

 

Later that night:

Dear M. E.,

How are you today, my friend? I hope you're relaxing, taking it easy. It was so good to get your e-mail. You could never wear out your welcome so don't even go there. As a matter of fact, I just wanted to tell you that yesterday made 6 months since you first returned my e-mail and I want you to know how glad I am to call you friend. What a stroke of luck it was, or was it fate, that I wandered onto MaryD's site and found your brilliant story. It is so fulfilling to be able to converse with someone about Xena and Gabrielle. It would be unthinkable in my position to reveal my love for that show. My part of the world is simply not ready for it and unfortunately I'm no Madeleine Albright.

I've not been so lucky in the friendship department. In my line of work there's never enough time to cultivate a relationship let alone find a partner. Oh how I ache to be held again, to make love again. I wish that you, well anyway, it doesn't look like that will happen as I rarely ever have a moment to myself.

Lucy

P.S. Did you see the show? Xena really isn't afraid of anything, is she? She'd make a good insurance salesperson.

 

Sydney thought, God love her, how sweet that she thought of the anniversary. Reminds me a lot of Emie. Oh Em, I miss you so All right Sydney, no pity party tonight.

 

Hi there, Lucy,

That was really nice of you to remember the first time I e-mailed you. Pretty sharp, I must say. I'm going to have to stay on my toes around you. I rather think it was fate that brought you to that web site. Both of us have such hectic lives that about the only time we do have for socializing is to check our e-mail. And what a delight it is to see your name in my in-box.

Well, I'd better get back to work on my story. I left poor Gabrielle in dire striates and Xena is no where to be found.

TTYL

M. E.

 

 

"Xena? Xena, where are you?" Gabrielle tried to rise up but the boulder had her legs pinned beneath it. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she coughs and sputters instead, the pain emanating from her cracked ribs was to much to bare. "By the Gods, Xena, where are you?"

"Is that you, Agent Sydney?" Sydney quickly closed her laptop and turned around to find Dyane dressed in oversized slippers, wearing a long flannel pajama top.

"Yes, I'm sorry, did I wake you?"

Dyane noticed that Sydney has yet to change clothes except to take her jacket off. She also noticed how the black holster and gun stand out more prominently against her broad shoulders. But the sight of the weapon caused concern for Dyane, reminding her of why Sydney is here.

"No, not at all, I've been having a little trouble sleeping lately. Are you still working this late at night?"

"Yeah, well I like to write and this seems to be the best time for me to do it."

"You're a writer too? Would I know of any of your work?"

"Not likely. Listen if this disturbs you, I'll be happy to move back into my room." Sydney replied.

Dyane was not surprised that Sydney changed the subject. You're a mysterious one, aren't you? Most people would jump at the chance to talk about their writing.

"No, please stay where you are. I'm only getting a glass of milk and some aspirin, I won't be but a minute."

Sydney watched as Dyane shuffled off to the kitchen. Her slippers seem to be trying to escape her feet and it caused her to walk with a little wiggle. Sydney couldn't help but chuckle at the sight. She even looks good in flannel, must be one of her husbands shirts. Wait a minute, that was it, that's what's missing. There were no visible signs that a man had ever lived here. The living room is effeminate, the bedroom, and the bathroom. No pictures of him unless it's with her daughter, and no shrine to him like she has for her daughter. Obviously there's more to her story than meets the eye. I'll just file that away for further study.

"Now, back to poor Gabrielle." Sydney mumbles to herself. "Whoa, what the hell?! Where did you come from?" Sydney was caught off guard by a fat, gray tabby jumping onto her lap.

Peeking around the corner, Dyane said, "Oh gosh, I forgot about poor Puzzles. I hope you're not allergic to cats?"

"I don't think I am. I've never had a pet so I wouldn't know."

How sad, to have missed out on such a wonderful gift to humans. "Sydney, meet Puzzles. I got her when my daughter was about two years old, so that would make Puzzles eight years old now."

"How nice." Sydney tried to persuade the cat to get down while the cat tried to persuade Sydney to pet her. Not being one to show any kind of affection easily, she stood up, causing Puzzles to jump down. Sydney hitches her gun back to a comfortable spot on her shoulders and returned to her computer.

"Do you have to wear that gun in my house? We are safe here aren't we?" Dyane asked.

"I'm never off duty and I'm never without my weapon, but if it bothers you, I'll put on a jacket."

"No that's all right, I want you to be comfortable. Do what you need to do. Well, I'm off to bed then."

"Good night."

 

"Gabrielle, Gabrielle where are you. This is no time for games!"

"I'll tell you where Gabrielle is Xena, she's dead! Ahahahaha"

"What are you talking about, you asshole?"

"I'm talking about that irritating little blond that follows you around like a servant. She's squished under that pile of rocks over there. Flat as a pancake and good riddance to her."

"Sorenison, what have you done?" For an instant, Xena's eyes mist with concern, but her focus quickly returns and her cold steel blue eyes flashed red with fire.

"The same thing we're going to do to you Xena, get her boys!"

"Xena, help me!" Gabrielle cries weakly.

Xena jerks her head toward the familiar voice, and with a sigh of relief she calls out, "Hold on, Gabrielle, hold on."

"Don't worry Xennnna, you'll join her soon enough."

"You haven't got the guts." she hisses, and she draws her sword, assuming the position. Xena unchained the anger that she had struggled so hard to restrain since Gabrielle came into her life. Anger that boils with rage at the thought of her beloved in harm's way, rising like steam to the surface and the fates have mercy on those who get in her way.

She easily relieved two thugs of their lives and turned her attention to Sorenison. In order to reach her goal though, Xena must battle her way through three more warriors. A battle she would welcome in normal circumstances, but today, she was in a hurry. "This is taking to damn long" she mumbled to herself. But her focus was momentarily shaken when she saw Sorenison make his way over to Gabrielle. The scream came from deep inside her heart

 

"NOOOOO!"

The sound of Dyane screaming startled Sydney from her writing and she immediately pulled her weapon and rushed to Dyane's room. Quietly, she eased the door open and felt for the light. With her Sig Sauer 228 leading the way, she scanned the room for intruders. A sudden noise from the bed caused her to quickly, cautiously approach. With her gun at the ready, Sydney carefully pulled back the comforter to reveal a sleeping Dyane in obvious distress.

"No, please, oh God, no!" Dyane was in the throws a violent nightmare.

"Dyane, Dyane, are you all right?" Sydney tried to wake her with a gentle nudge.

"The car, the car, it's coming straight for us!!" Dyane screamed.

"What car, Dyane, what do you see?" leaning over the bed, Sydney tried to probe Dyane's subconscious, "Tell me, Dyane, let it out." But Sydney's encouragement could not penetrate the nebula of this nightmare, that would have to come from Dyane.

"NO!! Oh God, NOOOOO!" This time Dyane's screams penetrate her nightmare and freed her from its bonds. Disoriented for a moment, she realized that Sydney is standing over her with a gun.

"My God, Agent Sydney! What are you doing?" Dyane bolted up in bed, pulling the covers around her for protection.

"Relax, you were having a nightmare and I just--" Sydney holsters her gun and continued, "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I guess so."

"Do you remember the dream?"

"No, no it's just a blur. I remember thinking I was screaming, but I don't remember at what."

"Have you had many of these nightmares?"

"I don't think so. Maybe a few I guess."

"Dyane, I think you were dreaming about the car accident. If you could remember what happen that night?"

But Dyane cut her off with a wave of her hand. "I'm sorry, I've tried, it's just not going to happen." And with that, she laid back down, pulling the covers over her head.

"Please shut the door on your way out, Agent Sydney."

Sydney briefly considered pursuing the subject but thought better of it. Turning off the light, she shut the door behind her. All right. I'll let you have this one, but sooner or later it's going to come out. It has to. A sudden chill caused Sydney to pause, rubbing the back of her neck. She looked around, but for what she was not sure.

As soon as the door was shut, Dyane got out of bed and walked over to the window. The moon illuminates her tears, now freely streaming down her cheeks as she peered out into the night. Lost in thought, she didn't notice the shadow that quickly darted behind the tree.

 

 

Chapter Three

"Good morning, Yvonne, what's on the agenda for today?" Dyane breezed into her office and Yvonne quickly fell into step between her and Sydney.

"You have a meeting with the board this morning at 10 o'clock, but that shouldn't last more than an hour and then you have a meeting with the physician's board to discuss HMO's"

"Screw HMO!"

"Yes ma'am, then you have a luncheon with the Auxiliary and following that it's the lawyers at 2 about that malpractice suit, and..." Sydney looking under Dyane's desk temporally distracted Yvonne, "...and then you meet the Bishop at 5 for dinner."

"And when does she get a break to use the bathroom, for Pete's sake?" Sydney barked sarcastically from under the desk. But Yvonne didn't miss a beat as she quips, "Oh that's half past 7 tonight."

Chuckling, Dyane said, "Sounds like it's going to be one of those days. Are you sure you want to tag along, Agent Sydney?"

"I'm your new best friend remember? Where you go, I go. And I've noticed that you address your subordinates by their first name. Perhaps you should do the same with me." Dyane looked at Yvonne, who smiled.

"All right, Agent Sydney. Shall I call you Christina then?"

"No, um, call me Sydney, it's what every one calls me." Everyone but Emie that is. She wouldn't fit into someone's idea of the normal. In fact, she'd break the norm every chance she got. Starting with calling Sydney by her first name. And the amazing part was, Sydney actually had liked it.

"Well, Sydney, my "subordinates" here address me by my first name, Dyane. Now that we have that settled, Yvonne, if you would please call the Bishop's office and let them know there will be one more joining him for dinner."

"Of course, Dyane."

Hearing this, Sydney had the suspicious feeling that she was the butt of an inside joke, but she couldn't be sure.

"Thank you. Now if you both would kindly leave and let me have a moment's peace, I'd appreciate it."

Sydney did one last check of the window, then pulled the curtains closed and followed Yvonne out.

"How long have you worked for Dyane, Yvonne?"

"Six years now. Why?" Yvonne positioned herself back at her desk as she answered.

"Then you know what kind of people she has to deal with?"

"Oh sure, mostly business people and doctors, of course."

"Has there been any disgruntled employees or patients that you know about?"

"There's always someone like that, but none of them were directed at Dyane that I know of."

"Tell me about this malpractice suit?"

"One of our doctors did emergency surgery on a minor without the parents consent. But it was a do or die situation, there was no choice in the matter for the doctor."

"And did the child live?"

"Sadly, no."

Sydney knew this was probably unrelated to the stalker but she'd have to check it out just the same.

"Is she seeing anyone right now?" She could see Yvonne was uncertain so she reworded the question. "Has she recently broken up with anyone?"

"No, she's still in mourning."

"For her child?" What a strange question for her to ask, Yvonne thought.

"Her husband and child were killed over a year ago. She still grieves for them."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be insensitive. I was under the impression that they were separated?"

"Well actually they were divorced, but she still grieves for him."

"How long had they been divorced?"

"Five years. Look, I don't see what that has to do with the stalker?"

"Everything's relevant in these kinds of cases. Listen, I'm going to need your help. I need you to let me know Dyane's every move. If she leaves that office just to go to the bathroom, I need to know it. If someone comes in who wants to see her, I need to know first before you let them in. Get the picture?"

"Even if it's a staff member?"

"Especially if it's a staff member. No one is without suspicion until we catch this guy."

"And am I one of your suspects?"

"Everyone's a suspect, but I've had you checked out and you're ok."

"Well thank you for that much I guess."

"Don't take it personally, Yvonne, it's strictly by the book."

"All right then, how will I reach you?"

"Cell phone." Sydney pulled out a small, hand held flip phone. "Just punch this button and it will automatically ring my phone. It's a dedicated line so I will get it on the first ring."

"And do you have some sort of code name I should use?"

Sydney chuckled at her sarcasm. "No ma'am", she deadpanned in her best Jack Webb voice, "that's the CIA, I'm with the FBI."

Yvonne watched as Sydney walked back into Dyane's office. Hm, might be hope for you yet.

"Dyane, one more thing" Sydney walked in to find the curtains open and Dyane standing in front of the window, her head bowed.

"Dyane, please, don't make an easy target of yourself." she admonished. Dyane quickly turned away and wiped her eyes with a tissue. Not oblivious to the moment, Sydney allowed Dyane some measure of privacy.

Smoothing her hair back, Dyane arched her shoulders and turned back to Sydney, "I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't thinking."

"Don't worry about it, that's what I'm here for. I came back in to ask you to stay put until I get back."

"Where are you going?" she timidly inquires.

Sydney thought to herself, this woman's on the verge of losing it. I hope she can hold on until we catch this guy. But I have to admire the way she's handled the stress so far.

"I'm on my way to see a doctor about a malpractice suit."

 

><><><><><><><><><

"Excuse me nurse, where can I find Dr. Preston?" The nurse indicated the doctor bending over a sink, cleaning his hands. "Dr. Preston, have you got a minute?"

"Only a minute, I'm due in surgery." He replied as he rinsed his arms.

"This won't take long. My name is Special Agent Sydney and I am with the FBI." Sydney flashed her badge at him, "I need to ask you a couple of questions about Dyane Hollingsworth."

"Dyane? Sure, fire away."

"How long have you known her?"

"Oh, let's see now, just a few years I guess."

"Have you ever socialized outside the hospital?"

"No, the woman was married for Pete's sake!" Sydney noticed the subtle elevation in his skin tone.

"Surely you see her at some of the hospital functions, that sort of thing?"

"Oh well of course, I thought you were asking...say what's this all about anyway?"

"The family that is suing you, did you know them before the surgery?"

"No, it was an emergency surgery, they weren't anywhere to be found at the time."

"Was Dyane involved in the decision to do the surgery?"

No, we don't usually ask the CEO's permission to do our job."

He's an arrogant son of a bitch that's for sure. "Thank you Doctor, you've been most helpful. Good luck at the hearing, I mean meeting."

She's an arrogant son of a bitch, I don't care if she is with the FBI.

Sydney's intuition told her that this was not her man, but she would keep her eye on him. Can't arrest a guy for being a horse's ass, mores the pity, she thought.

Sydney spent most of the day asking questions and attending meetings with Dyane. In every meeting she would ask herself if he was the one or she was the one. She searched their eyes and dissected their conversation, fingerprinting their body language for any discrepancies. And during this "mundane" detective work, Sydney was also subconsciously creating a mental picture of Dyane. Her mannerisms, her social graces, and her southern charm were not lost on her. She is a real lady who wins them over with her charm, unlike the cutthroat business tactics most suits use. With them, it was easy to understand why someone would want to kill them, but not Dyane. She's very warm and friendly, very demonstrative, and everyone genuinely seems to like her. This will make my job harder.

And it was during one of these dull meetings that Dyane learned the level of Sydney's tolerance. One of the board members, Dr. Cliff Vanderburg, asked Sydney to get him a cup of coffee and Dyane could tell she was livid. Surprisingly though, Sydney quietly got up, picked up the coffee pot and went from person to person, pouring them coffee, such as a waitress would do. But what amused Dyane the most was the way that Sydney would interrupt each time Vanderburg began to speak, asking him if he was ready for more coffee. She took on the persona of an over eager intern, trying to score points. Little did she know that she was scoring points, with Dyane.

Dyane allowed Sydney her fun for a little while, knowing full well what a pompous ass this man was. As for Vanderburg, he was obviously becoming antagonistic, until finally, Dyane had to take control of the situation by placing her small hand on Sydney's arm and assuring her that everyone had enough coffee. That the rest of board members where smirking was not lost on Dyane, who fought to control her own.

Vanderburg was the type that liked to take center stage and so as to reclaim that spot from Sydney, he focused his attack on a weaker member at the meeting.

"Greg" he huffed at the SVP of Finance, "what's the projected spread on the HMO's for Y2K?"

Greg was completely caught off guard by the question and fidgeted with his papers, "Um, I'm sorry Cliff, I wasn't informed that--, I don't have the--"

Seeking to rescue him, Dyane interrupted, "Cliff, I'm afraid the agenda does not allow time for this discussion. Perhaps Greg can get those numbers to you tomorrow. Is that doable, Greg?"

"Yes, of course, Dyane." Greg replied, relieved for the delay. To Sydney he looked like a whipped puppy.

"Thank you, Greg. Well if there is no further discussion let's adjourn." Sydney watched intently as Greg gathered up his papers and hurriedly left the room.

As people were leaving, Sydney overheard Vanderburg strongly suggest to Dyane that she get rid of her. "Dyane, that one is trouble, I'm telling you."

"No, you're wrong Cliff, she's just a diamond in the rough, that's all."

"She's a little old to be starting over, don't you think? Just don't say I didn't warn you." he huffs and leaves the room.

Sydney was about to send him off with a wave of a particular finger when Dyane shut the door behind him and stated, "What an asshole!"

Meanwhile in the hallway, Cliff had caught up with his pigeon, "Greg, I'm sorry Dyane did that to you."

"Did what?"

"Embarrassed you in front of the board. I don't know how you put up with it."

"She-- she was just trying to help I guess." Greg lowered his eyes, ashamed of the conversation, of himself.

"Well, if it's any consolation, you were in the lead to take her position back when she considered leaving us."

"Yeah, I know, but she changed her mind when her family was killed."

"Just a friendly word of advice, if you ever hope to be in the CEO's chair you'd better fight your own battles and not let Dyane or anyone else bail you out."

The disdain in his eyes was intense as Greg watched an exalted Cliff walk away.

 

><><><><><><><

 

 Dear M. E.,

How's your day going, well I hope. My day has produced new possibilities. There is a new person at work that is intriguing to me and although she has the personality of a rock, I've decided to make it my personal mission to crack that armor and see what's inside. I'm sure there's life in there somewhere. Who knows, maybe the fates will be kind to me.

TTYL

Lucy

 

Hey Lucy, I'm on my way out and saw you mail! Just had to stop and respond. :o) Lucy, I envy you your enthusiasm and wish you luck with your "mission", but tread lightly, there may be a reason for that armor. As I've said before, some people just can't love or don't want to be loved and I have to admit, I'm one of those people. Love is not for me. It's to damn hard to allow it and to damn painful to lose it.

Gotta run, take care.

M.E.

 

"Your Grace, how nice to see you again?" Dyane gave the Bishop a warm hug.

"Dyane, how are you?"

"Fine, thank you for asking. John, this is Christina Sydney; she is my personal assistant. I hope you don't mind her joining us?"

"Of course not. Welcome, Miss Sydney." He extended a handshake to Sydney.

"Thank you." She replied.

"Please sit down won't you? I'm sure you've been briefed as to why I called this meeting?"

"Of course, and I want to allay your concerns about that. The doctor has told me what happened and I feel she had no choice but to perform that procedure." Dyane said.

Sydney's alarm bells go off, "Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt, but what procedure are you talking about and what doctor?"

"I'm sorry, how rude of me." Dyane exclaims, "Let me backtrack for you. Dr. Pulaski had a case last month where she did a tubule on a patient. You may not know this, but any form of birth control is contrary to the Catholic faith and the hospitals mission."

Turning back to the Bishop, Dyane presents her case, "But John, I want to assure you, it was not a planned operation. The Chief Medical Officer and his committee have reviewed the notes on the surgery and concluded that it was necessary. The patient almost died giving birth to her fourth child. You must understand that it was a tubule breech and the doctor had no choice but to remove most of the tube and tie off the rest."

"And what of the child?"

"She was not able to save the baby." Sydney noticed that Dyane's eyes filled with concern, the underlying pain evident in her quivering lips.

"And now the mother is not able to have anymore children?"

Quietly Dyane replied, "No, she's not. But she's alive, surely that must count for something?"

"Dyane, please don't think me heartless, I'm sure it was as you said. I will counsel with the mother and her husband and assure them that no contempt was found."

"Thank you, Your Grace."

"Now, if you would do me the honor of joining me for dinner, I'm sure we can find much more pleasurable things to talk about."

><><><><><><><><><

It was an easy click of the lock and he was in. Taking a moment to adjust his vision to the darkness, he made his way slowly around furniture and through the rooms, briefly panicking as headlights caught him in their beam. But as the car moved on, so did he, making his way into the main bedroom, where his prize awaited him. There she was, sleeping contentedly, oblivious to what was about to happen. He reached out his hands, stealthily approached the bed and grabbed her

><><><><><><><><><

"Some day, wasn't it?" Dyane asked as she sat down on the couch, pulling the pins from her hair, she shook her long blond tresses free. "Ah, that feels much better" she cooed as she propped her feet up on the coffee table.

"I'll say. What a balancing act you have to play. Are all your days jammed together like that?" Sydney joined her on the couch.

"Pretty much. By the time it ends it's time to begin again. But that's all part of the game I guess."

"Thank God tomorrow's Saturday, right?"

"Right, set your alarm for 6a.m. by the way." This should really get her goat Dyane mischievously thought.

"Now what in the hell kind of meeting would you have to get up at 6a.m. on a Saturday for?!"

"Breakfast with the Sister's of St. de Paul of course. And then I'm starting the 10K race for a cure for Cancer, then there's a press conference at 11 to kick off the new Labor and Delivery Unit we're opening up and later that day--"

"Uncle, uncle already!" Sydney grinned in spite of herself.

Wow, she can laugh. I think that's the first time I've seen her teeth. "Sydney, you should really smile more, you have a beautiful face when you do."

Sydney shifts uncomfortably at the compliment, though she wasn't sure why. "Ah, thank you. Ah, well I guess we had better turn in then. We certainly don't want to fall asleep on the nuns, do we?"

Dyane noticed her discomfort, Hm, she's blushing, maybe those walls aren't as high as I thought. "You're right, of course. I'll just feed the cat and call it a night."

"Sounds good. I'm going to check the house out and make sure we're locked in tight."

Dyane went to the kitchen while Sydney went to the back end of the house where the bedrooms are.

"Here kitty-kitty, come on puss, supper time." Hm, that Sydney's an odd one. She's built up this wall and locked herself inside. Why? It's obvious she needs a friend but yet she fights it tooth and nail. Sydney, my dear, you have met your match. I'm going to find out what makes you tick if it kills me

In the back bedroom, as Sydney was checking the window a blood-curdling scream sends her running toward the kitchen, her weapon drawn.

"What is it Dyane, what's the matter?!" She visually swept the room as she approached to find the refrigerator door open and Puzzles lying in a bed of lettuce, a note lying on top of her. "This could have been you, bitch!" was all it said.

"Shit!!" Sydney exclaimed and demanded, "Get back", pushing Dyane behind her.

Sydney quickly holstered her gun and carefully inspected the bowl for wires. Then, she searched the cabinet drawers for a pair of tongs and moved the terrorist note to one side. Satisfied that it was safe, she grabbed Puzzles out of the bowl and laid her on the counter.

"Is she--is she dead?" Dyane whimpered.

"Not if I can help it, damn-it!" Sydney placed her mouth over the cat's nose and mouth and gave it a little puff. She repeated this action several times while compressing the cats' stomach.

"Come on, baby, you've got nine lives, now act like a cat, damn-it. Breathe!"

One more puff and Puzzles kicked her feet and gave a little growl.

"That's it, baby, come on, come on!!"

Dyane was beside herself with relief and grabbed Sydney's arm to steady herself. They stood side by side; the tall defender and her petite charge, watching as Puzzles slowly regained her strength and tried to stand. A little wobbly at first, the cat soon enough regained her stamina as Sydney scooped her up and placed her in Dyane's arms.

"I'll get a towel to wrap around her. We need to warm her up."

But as Sydney was about to leave, Dyane stops her with a touch of her hand, "Thank you." she choked back the tears and looked up into those concerned green eyes, "thank you so much."

Sydney is perplexed by the tenderness of the moment and the fact that she actually feels for this woman, "You're welcome kid", she said. "And you too, Puzzles."

 

><><><><><><><><

"Let me know the minute you find out anything and I want to see those photos first thing in the morning. Got it?" Sydney asked as she gave instructions to the forensic team.

"Got it. Sign this and we'll get right on it." She signed the evidence collection form and handed it back to the officer.

"And get somebody over here to watch this house. I want around the clock surveillance, damn-it, no more fuck ups!"

Watching as the agents' leave, she then locked and secured the door. No more fuck-ups, you got that Sydney!

Later that night, as Puzzles and her master lay sleeping arm in arm; Sydney again faced a night of insomnia, this time laced with a nervousness that tormented her. She sat up her laptop in the living room and fidgeted at trying to write.

Let's see, when last we left Gabrielle she was-- damn, what's wrong with me, why can't I concentrate? All right, let's check the e-mail, maybe the distraction will help.

Come on Lucy, just one e-mail, I really need one tonight. Bingo! "You've got mail"

 

Hello M.E.

There's really no reason for this e-mail, I just wanted to say hello and hope that your day went well.

You know, I think we both work too hard. We need to get out and as they say, get a life! It's too short to waste it all alone. Look for the possibilities, if you open yourself up a little, love will fall right into your lap. At least that's what I think is happening to me. Remember that woman I told you about? There's something there, something underneath that draws me to her. Can I tell you something deeply personal and risk your getting upset? I see a lot of you in her and I think that has a lot to do with these feelings. I understand that it's a transference, and even though I've never met you, I feel I've known you all my life and that feeling has to be taken to the next level somehow, perhaps by transferring it to this woman. I hope that I have not offended you and that you can understand?

Good night, M.E.

Lucy

 

Sydney sat for a long time, sorting her feelings before she replied to the e-mail.

 

Hay Luce,

I really appreciated your last e-mail, really. I'm amazed to be saying this, but it warms my heart on such a devil of a day to receive you mails. There's such comfort in them. Please, please, don't ever worry about upsetting me, it's not possible when it comes to you.

Luce, I can't love, I can not allow it, I'm sorry. I understand completely what you are talking about and what you are going through and I am so sorry that I am the cause of some of that. You understand don't you that it took me a lifetime to find my mate and then she was gone in an instant. It will not happen again because I won't allow it. This pain I feel, the nothingness inside of me is all I want out of life. If you can find it in your heart to accept me as I am and allow us to continue as friends, I would be so very grateful.

TTYL

M. E.

 

Sydney re-read Lucy's e-mail one more time before returning to her writing. She stared at the laptop for a long time until finally she got up and began to pace the room, finding herself back in the kitchen. "Shit!" Sydney looked at the empty refrigerator where the cat had lain. "Shit, SHIT!"

"What is it, Sydney!"

Startled, Sydney jerked around to find Dyane standing in the doorway, the fear evident in her face. "Oh God, I'm sorry Dyane, did I wake you again?"

"No, I couldn't sleep, big surprise, huh? What are you so upset about Sydney?"

"I fucked up. I let down my guard and that mother fucker got inside." Sydney turned away in self-disdain, effectively closing off any recognition of compassion from Dyane.

"Sydney please, don't do that to yourself. You can't possibly be every were at once."

"But I should have had the house covered while you were out. Damn-it, that's rule number one, cover all the bases. Shit, my boss was right, I'm been a real fuck up lately."

"Sydney, please," Dyane began to lament, "don't do this to yourself. Please, you're scaring me."

"Don't worry, I'm taking care of the problem. Tomorrow there will be a new agent here to shadow you. Someone who knows what the fuck they're doing." Sydney's response frightened Dyane even more.

"No Sydney, I don't want a new agent. You've done nothing wrong. No one was hurt and-- and I'm just getting use to you. If you don't stay then I'll-- I'll refuse to cooperate, that's all there is to it." Dyane turned away from Sydney, trying to maintain her bravado, but her sniffling gave her away.

Oh shit, here I am, ranting and raving when she's the one who should be upset. God, what an asshole I am! Sydney lambasted herself. Looking down at Dyane's small, trembling frame, she said,

"Dyane, please don't cry, I'm sorry, really." She instinctively moved to put her hand on Dyane's shoulder, but stop short, "Dyane please, I won't let anything happen to you."

Dyane turned to Sydney, "Then you'll stay?" she asked meekly. Sydney nodded her head.

The relief on Dyane's face was evident as she reached out to embrace her, but Sydney stopped her at arm's length.

"Don't cry" she seemed to command, "It'll be all right, you'll see."

She led Dyane to the living room, "Here, why don't you sit on the couch and try to relax, okay? I know just the thing that will help." Sydney went to the liquor cabinet and retrieved a bottle of brandy and a couple of glasses. As she turned around, Sydney noticed that Dyane was about to look at her laptop. Oh God, I forgot all about it. Shit, I can't let her see that!

She quickly maneuvered in front of the computer and shut it, pushing it to the side. "Here, drink this" Sydney poured a generous helping of brandy into a glass and handed it to Dyane. Then she poured one for herself.

"Sydney, why is this happening? Why are they trying to kill me?"

"I don't know yet, Dyane, but I promise you, he will not succeed. Not as long as I have a breath left in me." It was bold talk, and Sydney was surprised to realize that she meant it with every fiber of her being. "Right now, they are just trying to scare you, to intimidate you."

Dyane choked down a big mouthful of brandy, "Well they're doing a pretty damn good job of it!" she exclaimed, gulping another swig of brandy.

"Whoa, slow down there, you don't want to face the nuns with a hangover do you?" Sydney teased as Dyane finished off her drink and poured herself another one.

"I don't want to face anybody, ever again" she stated.

"You don't mean that. Listen, you can't let this bastard scare you into submission."

"Too late." She retorted, sloshing her drink in the air for effect. "Ha, get it, too late, that's funny." The warmth from the drink was lulling Dyane's shattered nerves into a numbness she so desperately invited.

"No it's not and I think you've had quite enough brandy for one night. For a hard edged business woman you sure can't hold your liquor." Sydney knew it was more the emotional state that fermented the brandy so quickly than the amount that was actually drunk.

"Christina, I'm so scared" Dyane whispered.

"I know you are Dyane, but it's going to be all right, you'll see." She tried to reassure her as she took Dyane's drink and set it on the table. "Maybe we ought to call it a night, I'm sure you are exhausted..." But Sydney stopped in mid-sentence as she saw that Dyane was out like a light, her chin drooped on her chest.

Well, at least you won't be in pain for a couple of hours, but I don't envy your waking up in the morning. Sydney thought.

Retrieving the afghan from the armrest, Sydney covered the sleeping Dyane with it. Then she sat down with her drink and opened up her laptop. Tucking the afghan around Dyane's feet, Sydney suddenly realized something; She called me Christina. Hm, it didn't sound bad either.

"Xena! Help!" By the Gods, I don't have time for this- Xena reached deep within herself and pulled out the warrior strength she commands. Her sword become a blur as she sliced her way through first one thug, then another. "Revenge is sweet" she taunted Sorenison even as her sword sliced through another man's throat. Before he could hit the ground she tossed her chakram at the other one. All the while, she never took her focus off of Sorenison. Finally, with the flick of a wrist the third man falls dead and the only one standing between her and Gabrielle now is Sorenison.

"Your turn to die," Xena hissed, crouching like a cat ready to strike. To his benefit, Sorenison was visibly shaken, but he wouldn't have time to worry because Xena was on top of him in an instance and he was dead before the scream could leave his throat.

"Gabrielle, Gabrielle speak to me."

"Xena?"

With a sigh relief, Xena looked around, "Hold on, I've got to get something to pry this off." She used her chakram to slice through a tree branch and quickly, picking up the fallen limb, she carried it back to were Gabrielle lays trapped. Propping it against another rock she easily tumbled the boulder off of Gabrielle. Xena sweeps her bard up into her strong warrior arms and brushed the hair from her cherished eyes. "Gabrielle, are you all right?"

"I'm sorry, Xena..."

 

"I'm sorry Sydney." Sydney looked up from her computer to find Dyane coming towards her.

"Sorry? Sorry for what, Dyane?"

"Sorry I got you into this mess." came the slurred reply.

"It's my job, Dyane, I want to be here." Whoa, where did that come from?

"What a nice thing to say" Dyane groggily worked her way onto Sydney's lap.

"Uh, Dyane--" she lifted her computer up to keep Dyane from hitting it, "What are you doing?"

"I'm so tired." Dyane drowsily replied. Sydney watched as Dyane fell asleep again. Asleep in her lap!

An eternity passed as Sydney sat, holding her laptop in the air above Dyane's head. The defiant, decisive FBI agent was at a loss as to what to do next. No one but Emie had taken such liberties with her and that was only after a long courtship.

But Dyane's distress brought Sydney back to reality.

"Please, don't" she muttered.

"It's okay, Dyane, I'm here, I'll protect you." Sydney sat her computer down and contemplated her next move. Should she allow this? Can she afford to? Did this widow, asleep on her lap, even have a clue as to what she was doing to her?

Dyane groggily looked up at Sydney; "That feels so nice" she purred and she snuggled her head into Sydney's lap. It was at that point that Sydney realized she had been stroking Dyane's hair, something that she use to do for Emie.

Could Lucy have been right, will love just fall into my lap? No, I don't want to do this; I will not allow it! Focus, damn-it, focus!

Sydney maneuvered her way out from under Dyane, and leaving her asleep on the couch she retrieved her laptop and left the room.

 

Chapter Four

 

To: ME@e-mail.com

From: Lucy

Good morning M.E., and what a wonderful morning it is!! I wanted to let you know that I understand completely where you're coming from. You are very special to me. That will never change. But I must tell you that I think I am falling in love with that woman at work. I saw a different side to her that has changed my whole perception of her. She is so strong and confident and caring, though I think she would scoff at that. I want so much to have her friendship, but there are a few walls I have to knock down first. Remind you of anyone? <beg>

M.E. never doubt my friendship and love for you as I travel this new path down lover's lane. Always remember, I am your number one fan!!

Lucy

 

To: Lucy@dialogue.com

From: M.E.

Luce, you are the best!! Really, thank you so much for your understanding and friendship. It means the world to me to know that there is someone out there in this foul world that cares about me! A concept I yearn for and yet find so hard to believe. Lucy, you are a good influence on me and regardless what path we take, please, please remain my friend. I will abide by whatever conditions prevail, but your friendship is very important to me.

And remember, this woman you speak of is the lucky one and if she has any sense at all will see what a wonderful, giving person you are and not allow you to get away.

M.E.

 

"Good morning, Sisters."

"Good morning, Dyane", they replied in unison.

"I'd like you to meet my friend, Christina Sydney. Sydney, as she prefers to be called, is an intern who will be with us for a few weeks. Sydney this is Sr. Joseph Marie, Sr. T. J., Sr. Earline." And as Dyane introduced her to each of the nuns, Sydney was impressed with the outgoing warm reception she received.

"Sisters, it's a pleasure to meet you." Sydney offered after the introductions were complete. Reverting back to her FBI persona Sydney studied the nuns for any clue of resentment towards Dyane. But they all seemed very affectionate with her and when the meal was over, blessed her and agreed that they'd see her in church tomorrow. Church! Oh God

"On your mark! Get set!" With a loud bang from the starter's pistol that Sydney noticed somewhat intimidated Dyane, the race was off. Through a serious of changes in wardrobe, Dyane made her obligated appearances and met and greeted people from all walks of life. Sydney, for her part, stood in the background, observing unintrusively. Still on edge from the scare of the night before, Sydney never diverted her eyes far from Dyane and never allowed anyone to distract her "focus".

After the runners crested the hill and disappeared, the crowd began to break up and the cars were allowed to proceed along their route. One of the cars passing by backfired, causing a loud gunshot sound that instantly sent Sydney into action. Grabbing for Dyane, she roughly pushed her to the ground while at the same time pulling her weapon and searching the crowd for the perpetrator. The people standing nearby were horror stricken at the display and scramble to get away from the crazy woman with a gun. It was not until the car backfired again that Sydney realized what has happened.

"I believe it's all clear now, you can get up," she stated matter-of-factly.

"Um, Sydney, perhaps if you were to get off of me, I might be able to." Came Dyane's saucy reply. Realizing her position, Sydney jumped up and extended a hand to Dyane.

"And you can put your gun away, I think we're safe now." Sydney's aggravation gave way to compliance.

"You're a little jumpy aren't you?" Dyane teased with a wink, brushing the dust from her clothes, "Come on Rambo, on to the next event."

But Sydney hesitated, feeling as though something was out of place she rubbed the back of her neck.

"Sydney? Are you all right?" Dyane ask.

"What? Oh yeah, I'm good."

"Then let's go, okay?"

"Right behind you." Sydney replies as she scans the people one last time. As the two pass by, a man steps out from behind the crowd and watches them walk away.

After that affair, things proceed without incident and soon it was on to the grand opening. That too was uneventful and Sydney watches as Dyane shook hands with the last of the well wishers and walks over to her.

"I'm starved, how about lunch?" she asked.

"Sounds good, you name the place." Sydney responded.

Twenty minutes later Dyane and Sydney were sitting in a restaurant about to place their order. Five bucks says she orders one of those unpronounceable salads with a lot of green things sticking out. Sydney smirked to herself.

"I'll just have a hamburger and a Diet Coke, thank you." The look on Sydney's face must have been obvious for Dyane commented, "Oh, don't tell me you're one of those lettuce eaters whose taste-buds wouldn't know a hamburger from a T-bone steak?"

"No, not at all, in fact, I'd like the same thing please."

The waiter scurried off to place their order as Dyane began polite conversation. "Well, how are you holding up on the fast track?"

"Just fine thank you."

Sydney noticed a frown developing on Dyane's face and waited patiently for her to say what was on her mind.

"Christina" With one look at Sydney, Dyane realized she had used Sydney's first name again.

"All right, what if you called me Chris, anything, just not Christina, okay?"

Dyane smiled at her, "Chris it is then." Sydney grunted her acceptance. "Chris, thank you."

"Thank me, for what?"

"You thought I was in danger and you put yourself in the line of fire."

"Oh yeah, that car's muffler might have done serious damage all right." Sydney satirically replied.

"You didn't know it was a car, you were protecting me and I appreciate that." Dyane's sincerity echoed through.

"Nah, I was just doing my job, nothing more."

"None the less, I thank you."

"All right then, you're welcome. But now I'm afraid I need to get down to business."

"You mean we weren't?" Dyane chuckled. Even though she knew this would spoil the festive mood that had prevailed most of the day, Sydney felt she had no choice. The subject had to be broached sooner or later

"Dyane, I need to know a couple of things about your daughter's death." A momentary silence told Sydney that this was going to be very hard on Dyane. "Can you talk about it?"

"I'll try."

"I just need to know about the accident. The police report indicated that your husband was driving and--"

"My ex-husband" Dyane pointedly corrected her.

"Your ex-husband was driving, you were in the passenger's seat and your daughter was in the back seat behind him."

Dyane's eyes misted over as she struggled to hold back the image. "Dyane, look at me!" Alarmed by her demand, Dyane does as she was told and discovered real concern and empathy in Sydney's eyes. "Good, now focus on the car that hit you. Do you remember anything about it?"

"I don't know, it all happened so fast. This car came barreling across the medium and smashed into us. I was knocked unconscious before I knew what hit us." Dyane again shudders at the memory and sought to distract herself with a sip of her drink.

"I'm sorry to be so rough on you, but any little detail could help this investigation." Sydney assured her. "The report said eyewitnesses saw a red convertible BMW with a smashed hood leave the scene. Do you remember seeing the driver of that car?"

"No, no it's all a blur."

"Anything, anything at all?"

Dyane stubbornly shook away the memories, "I told you, I can't remember anything!" Seeing the pain in her eyes, Sydney realized it was futile to probe any harder. "Now, can we just enjoy our lunch please?" And as if on cue, the waiter brings their order and for the rest of the meal the two sat quietly, avoiding eye contact.

Sydney felt a twinge of guilt at having finished her hamburger when Dyane had barely touched hers. But her training won't let it go, so she changed tactics,

"Dyane, would you agree to be hypnotized? I believe it will help you emotionally and quite possibly lend evidence to this case."

"I--I don't know. What has the car accident got to do with this case anyway? What do you think you'll find?"

"It's just a hunch right now, nothing I can put my finger on, but my gut tells me there's a connection. Listen, you can have anyone there during the session that you want. It will only take about 30 minutes."

"Will--will you be there?" Dyane shyly asked.

"If you would like," came the relieved reply.

"When do you want to do this?"

"This evening, if you're up to it?"

"Oh, so soon?"

"Dyane, I wouldn't ask if I didn't think it important."

"I know, Chris. It's all right." Good Dyane, we've reached a level of trust that will help me save your life. Sydney breathed a quiet sigh of gratitude.

The afternoon progressed quietly as Dyane fulfilled her presidential duties. Finally, they returned home and while Sydney got the report from the agent on duty, Dyane rushed into the house and immediately kicked off her shoes and striped down to her slip. Finished with the report, Sydney walked in to find her in the kitchen, retrieving a Diet Coke. "Want one?" she asks.

"Oh, uh, no thanks, I'm good." Sydney stuttered.

Sydney's reaction did not go unnoticed by Dyane. Hm, interesting reaction "Be out in a minute." She called over her shoulder as she walked toward her room.

Shit, shit, shit I have got to get control of these damn hormones!!! The doorbell rang and Sydney laid her hand on her weapon as she approached the door.

"Special Agent Sydney? I'm Dr. Westbrook. I was asked to meet you here?"

"That's correct, thank you for coming. You've been briefed on what we're needing?"

"Yes, repressed memory trauma due to a car accident, right?"

"Right. Dyane, are you ready for your session?" Sydney called out but no answer was forthcoming, only the sound of a radio playing. "Just a minute." Sydney told the doctor. She went to Dyane's bedroom door and knocked. "Dyane, can I come in?"

Not waiting for a reply, Sydney entered to find Dyane sitting on the bed. "I can't do it, Sydney, I just can't. Please don't make me go through that again." Whimpering like a small child, Dyane clutched her knees to her chest for protection.

Sydney's focus completely washed away as her heart melted. "Dyane, I know it's hard, I know it's going to hurt like hell, but you've got to get past this or you'll never be able to move on."

"And what the hell would you know about it?" Dyane barked, puffing up to resemble an angry child.

"More than you can imagine. I know what you are going through, Dyane. I've been exactly where you are now." Sydney replied.

Tears that were restrained from falling earlier now welled up freely in Dyane's eyes, so that the harder she fought to control them, the easier it were for them to escape. "You mean--?"

"Yes, to a drunk driver. Just like you." Sydney responded as she handed Dyane a tissue.

"Oh Chris, I'm so sorry I had no idea. What pain you must be in." Now it was Sydney who fought to maintain her composure.

"No more than you. But, Dyane, I've been able face my loss. You are still in the past. You need to do this, more so for you than for anything else." Dyane's hesitation told Sydney just how scared and mentally frail this diminutive young woman really was.

Sydney held out her hand to Dyane, "Come on, I promise, if it gets to rough, I'll make him stop. Deal?" Through the blur of tears in her large blue eyes, Dyane accepted Sydney's hand and Sydney knew she had Dyane's confidence. I won't let anyone hurt you kid, don't worry.

"Here, put on something comfortable" she handed Dyane a sweatshirt and pants. With trembling hands Dyane removed her slip and put on her sweats. "Ready?"

Sydney tries to convey self-confidence to Dyane, who takes a deep, ragged breath and replied, "Ready."

><><><><><><><

"Just relax, lean back and get comfortable. That's it, feel yourself relaxing. Good, now, your legs are starting to relax. They're getting too heavy to lift, don't try, just let them grow heavy. That's it, your doing fine, Dyane. Now let your arms go limp, just let them lie there, to heavy to lift. That's good, Dyane, can you feel it? You're floating in a warm, safe place. You're swaying in a hammock, floating on the clouds. You want to sleep, Dyane, don't fight it. Your eyelids are heavy, let them close, let them sleep" Dyane drowsily complied. Sydney turned on the tape recorder and stood beside the doctor, who then continued.

"Dyane, can you hear me?"

"Yes" came the husky reply.

"Dyane, you are perfectly safe, nothing can hurt you, do you understand?"

"Yes," she replied again.

"Good, now I need you to go back, back to the night of the accident."

"No, uh no, I can't, please." Dyane struggled to fight the suggestion. She reached her hand out, searching for security. Without hesitating, Sydney sat beside her and placed her wondering hand in her own. Dyane instantly calmed down and Sydney indicated for the doctor to continue.

"Now, Dyane, tell me where were you going the night of the accident?" he asked.

"We were on our way to meet Senator Lonoke and his family for dinner." Dyane's eyebrows form into a deep furrow as her grip on Sydney's hand intensified.

"What's happening, Dyane, what do you see?" Dr. Westbrook questioned.

"It's a car, a car coming right at us!" she cried. "Oh God, no, no!" Sydney is amazed at the strength Dyane possessed in her tiny hand as it squeezed hard into hers.

"It's all right, Dyane, you're safe, nothing will hurt you. Now I want you to focus in on the car. Can you see it? What color is the car Dyane?"

Meekly Dyane replied, "Red."

"Good, now look inside the red car. Look at the driver, tell me what the driver is doing, Dyane?"

"He threw something in the backseat. Now he's reaching for something, something, oh God, oh God he's coming straight for us!"

"Dyane. Dyane, it's all right. Focus, Dyane, zoom in on his face, can you describe his face?"

"No, I can't, I can't see his face. Something's in the way. Oh God, he's drinking!! He's drinking from a can or something. Why can't he see us, oh God, he's coming straight for us!"

"That's all right, Dyane, can you see anything else.?"

"I don't know, everything's so blurry, something's in my eyes." Sydney indicated to the doctor for more information.

"What is it, what's in your eyes?" With her free hand, Dyane wiped her forehead and as if looking at her hand, whispered, "Blood"

"Dyane, where are you?" Dyane looked around and replied, "I'm--I'm in the grass."

"Tell me, what do you see?"

"A man, I think it's the driver of the red car. He's--he's walking away from me."

"Describe him, Dyane."

"He's wearing shorts, and a yellow shirt."

"His face Dyane, what does he look like?"

"I can't see his face, I can't."

"That's all right, Dyane, tell me, what's he doing now?"

Dyane wiped her forehead again, but this time she took Sydney's hand in both of hers.

"He's looking at my car. Oh God, my car, Lucy! LUCY!!!"

"Dyane, I'm going to bring you out now." The doctor replied.

But Sydney interrupted, "No let her finish." she demanded. Dyane, I am so sorry for this, but you have got to see it, you have got to face the pain. It's the only way you can move on. Please, please forgive me.

"My baby, oh God, my baby!" Dyane cried hysterically.

"What do you see?" the doctor asked.

"My daughter, she's lying across the windshield. She's not moving, she's not-- oh God!" Dyane sat up, reaching for her daughter, then swooned back into her chair as Sydney nodded to the doctor who immediately calmed Dyane down enough to bring her out.

Disoriented at first, Sydney watched as Dyane's face morphed from shock to terror. She looked first to the doctor then to Sydney and as the realization came into focus she bursts into tears, covering her face with her hands. "Oh my God, my God" she cried, rocking forcefully back and forth.

"It's all right Dyane, it's going to be all right now." Sydney tried assured her as she pulled her into her comforting arms and allowed her to cry. "Shhh, you're past the worst of it." The doctor packed his things and quietly left Sydney holding Dyane, rocking with her, permitting her to release all the sorrow she had held back for so long.

Dusk began to fuse its way through the sun to find Sydney still holding Dyane as her tears finally yielded to exhaustion.

"You were very brave, braver than I could have hoped for." Sydney softly said, but when Dyane did not respond Sydney realized that she had mercifully fallen asleep.

"You poor thing, you're exhausted." And without a second thought, Sydney scooped Dyane up into her powerful arms and carried her to the bedroom. "No couch for you tonight kid." Dyane mumbles something incoherent as Sydney placed her gently in bed. Removing her shoes, she covered the exhausted woman with the comforter and turned to leave.

"Please. Don't go," Dyane drowsily murmured.

"Ssh, go to sleep now." Sydney scolded.

"Please," Dyane whispered.

"All right, I'll be right here. Now go to sleep."

"M'kay." She watched as Dyane snuggled down under the covers.

Sometime during the night Dyane rolled over to find Sydney asleep in the armchair beside her bed, Puzzles purring contentedly in her lap. "Chris," she huskily whispered, "you saved me" and then she drifted back to sleep. Sydney opened her eyes, a mixture of worry, concern, and confusion in them. She watched as Dyane's breathing became even and regular again. Then she quietly picked up Puzzles and placed her beside her master and with a final look back, left the room.

 

Chapter Five

"Jim, what are you doing here on a Sunday?" Sydney burst into her boss's office without knocking.

"And a very good morning to you too", he playfully responded, "I had some paperwork I needed to pick up. Say, you look nice, new dress?" He teased her knowing full well how much Sydney loathed dresses.

"I'm going to church this morning, all right. Somebody has to pray for your sins!" came her retort.

"Going to church? Then why are you here?"

Sydney turned serious, "Jim, you've got to take me off this case."

"Why in the hell would I want to do that?" he barked.

"Because I can't do it justice. It's like you said, I've been fucking up here lately and I don't want to cost a life in the process." Sydney sulked back into the chair and awaited his agreement.

"First of all, I did not say your were fucking up, I said you are a pain in the ass, but then, when are you not? So what is it really, Sydney, what are you afraid of?"

"I'm not afraid of anything, I just feel that someone else would be more-- detached."

Jim looked at her for a very long time before responding, "Sydney, it's not like you to walk away from a case and I'm not going to let you do it now. Not when you have garnered her trust and her confidence; those are her words, not mine."

"Her words, what are you talking about?" she asked.

"She called this morning to rave about how grateful she was for all your help. Oh, by the way, here's the file on Senator Lonoke. This time I hope your hunch is wrong. After all, I voted for the guy."

Flipping through the Senator's file Sydney remarked, "Nothing out of the ordinary here, is there?"

"I didn't find anything, but then I didn't put that much effort into it. What do you think you'll fine?" Jim questioned.

"I don't know, probably nothing. Dyane was on her way to dine with him when the accident happened, so I just thought I'd finish the trip and see if anything connects. Hm, that's interesting--"

"Did you find something?"

"I'll let you know."

"Sydney, don't go off half cocked on this. Not if it has to do with a very powerful Senator who could easily have your career on a plate with one call if he wanted. Tread lightly, you hear me?"

"Yes, Dad, I'll be careful, don't worry" she teased.

"So, does this mean you're staying on the case?"

Sydney looked at him with a twinkle in her eye, "Guess so."

 

><><><><><><><

 

"Are you all right, Dyane?" Sydney caught up with Dyane at the steps of St. Edward's Cathedral.

"I've never felt better. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders," she replied.

"That's great, Dyane, I'm glad for you."

"Wow, Sydney, I'm impressed. You look great in that suit. That's a pretty skirt and the jacket fits you perfectly. You should dress up more often."

"Ah, I don't think so. I'm more of a casual kind of person and besides, I hate dresses."

"You were out of the house pretty early this morning. Everything all right?" Dyane whispered as they enter the church.

"Everything's fine, well except for one thing."

"What's that?" Dyane anxiously asked.

"I'm not Catholic."

"Well for goodness sake," she chuckled, "I won't hold that against you."

"No, I mean you're pretty much going to have to overlook my ignorance."

"Oh, is that all. Well just follow my lead and you'll be fine."

"Thanks."

"Good morning, Sister's." Dyane warmly greeted the Sister's as Sydney also extended her hand in greeting.

"Ms. Sydney, may I ask a question?" Sr. Joseph Marie interrupted.

"Of course, Sister."

"Why do you bring a gun into the house of the Lord?" Suddenly everything stood still as all eyes turned to Sydney. Shit, shit, shit!!! I've screwed up again! SHIT Her mouth opened, but no words come out.

"Sisters, as you have sworn to uphold the laws of God, so to has Christina sworn to uphold the laws of the nation. She is an Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I'm sorry for the subterfuge, but..."

"It's I who should apologize to the Sisters. I asked Dyane to tell people that I was an intern in training. I thought it would be simpler to secure her safety, than to make a target out of her with my presence. I must trust that you will keep our secret for Dyane's own safety. Any more than that I can not tell you." Sydney buttoned her jacket, effectively covering her gun.

"Dyane, are you all right my dear?" The sound of concern was evident in Sr. Earline's voice.

"Of course, Sister. Please don't worry about it, I'm perfectly safe with Chris around."

"And please don't let it go any further than us, all right, Sister's?"

"You don't have to say another word, Ms. Sydney. Dyane's safety is our main concern. May we light a candle on your behalf, Dyane?" Sr. Earline asked.

"I would be most grateful, thank you." came the earnest reply. Sydney watched as the Sisters go to the altar and kneel before going on to the candles. She noticed that Sr. Joseph Marie kept looking over at her. Damn, another fuck up!! Now my cover's blown. I hope those nuns have a vow of silence

Sydney followed Dyane to her choice of pews and waited as she knelt in reverence to the altar and then sat down. "Dyane" was all she could get out before Dyane pulled the kneeling bench down and knelt to pray. Peeking up at Sydney, Dyane took her hand and pulled her into a kneeling position beside her. Sydney watched curiously as Dyane closed her eyes and moved her lips in prayer. Sydney followed suit and bowed her head, but did not close her eyes, instead casting a glance over at the Sisters who by now had found their seats and were also kneeling in prayer. Sr. Joseph Marie was startled when her eyes met Sydney's and she quickly diverted them back to prayer.

As Dyane ended her prayer and sat back in her seat, Sydney joined her. "Now, what were you about to ask me?" Dyane asked.

"When was the last time you saw Senator Lonoke?"

"A couple of weeks ago I guess. Why?"

Sydney looked at her, "And was there anything out of the ordinary about the meeting?"

"Meeting? No, Sydney, here, in church. Bob goes to this church. In fact, I'm surprised he's not here yet."

She looked around for the Senator and saw him walking through the door and over to where the Sisters were. "Well, speak of the devil. That's him, over there with Sr. Joseph Marie." Sydney turned to see a medium size, hefty man in an expensive suit, embellishing his greeting with his animated hands.

"And who's that with him?" Sydney asked.

"That's his wife, Margaret and their son, Webster." Sydney also scrutinized Webster with a suspicious eye. He was wearing a white shirt with the sleeves folded back, a pair of khaki slacks and brown loafers. He looks every bit the Senator's son.

"Do you know them very well?"

"Bob, Marge and I go way back, but I'm sorry to say I've never gotten to know their son except to say hello in church, that sort of thing. Why do you ask?"

"Just curious that's all."

"Oh, Chris, this is church for God's sake. Can't you turn off the detective work for awhile?" Sydney gave her one of those stern disapproving looks and it cut Dyane to the quick because for some reason, above all else, she wanted this woman's approval.

For her part, Sydney felt like a jerk when she saw the pain in Dyane's eyes. She stammered to alleviate the tension she's caused.

"Remember, Dyane, I am always on duty. If God herself told me to take a break I would have to refuse." The hint of a smile on Dyane's lips lightened the guilt Sydney was feeling.

"Herself? Sydney, is that what you believe?"

"God is all things to all people right? And are we not made in her glory? Of course God is female." Sydney replied.

"That's an interesting perspective, but ah, how would you explain the curse?"

"Huh?"

"If God were a female, would she not have made man to suffer monthly with cramps and weight gain. Or had man to carry an eight pound baby for nine months and--" The twinkle had return to Dyane's eyes producing great relief for Sydney.

"Okay, I give, you have a valid point there, Ms. Hollingsworth!"

"And don't you forget it either missy." Dyane chortled.

"On the other hand, you presume that it is a curse for women, when yet I would think it an honor to be chosen to carry on God's miracles." Sydney's smug attitude left Dyane chuckling out loud.

"You surprise me" Dyane laughed.

"Am I interrupting?" Senator Lonoke approached, effectively cutting off the playfulness Dyane was enjoying.

"Not at all, Bob. Let me introduce you to my friend, Christina Sydney. Chris, this is Senator Robert Lonoke."

"It's nice to meet you Ms. Sydney. I don't believe I've seen you here before." The two eyed each other with a suspicious scrutiny that was both intimidating and challenging.

"Actually I'm not from here, I'm from Chicago." Dyane looked at her somewhat surprised, which does not go unnoticed by the Senator.

"Dyane, how are you feeling. Have the nightmare's gone away yet?" The question caused the tiny hairs on the back of Sydney's neck to stand on end again and she rubbed it away as she waited for Dyane's answer.

"To be honest, I'm not sure." She looked warmly at Sydney and replied, "But I've had sort of a break through and I don't think the nightmares will be back."

"That's great, Dyane. It's good to just put it all behind you and let it rest," Bob replied.

"Oh I disagree, Bob. A good friend of mine has convinced me that the best thing to do is to face the pain." Dyane beamed at her "good friend".

"Do you think that you're strong enough for such a horrific memory, Dyane?" the sincerity in the Senator's voice did not ring true to Sydney, who answered for Dyane,

"Of course she is."

The stern disapproving look was back on her face and Dyane noticed that this time there was an edge of anger with it. But the situation quickly diffused itself with the entrance of the Priest.

"Well I wish you luck Dyane, you're braver than I would be. Good day to you both." And with that the Senator joined his family.

"I don't think I like that guy," Sydney quipped. Dyane looked up at her protector with a gleam in her eye.

After church was over Sydney again remained in the background as Dyane greeted some of the congregation. She noticed the lively conversation between Sr. Joseph Marie and Senator Lonoke. I think I'll have to pay the good Sister a visit she said to herself.

"Sydney, Sydney are you ready to go?" Dyane's call broke through her concentration.

"Sure" she replied, and with a couple of easy strides she quickly caught up with Dyane.

"What else is on the agenda for today?" Sydney sarcastically questioned.

"We've got the whole afternoon off. What would you like to do?"

Not believing her, Sydney threw out the first thing that came to mind, "I'd loved to have a beer and catch the game on TV."

"The game?" Dyane cautiously asks.

"Yeah, the Cardinals are playing the Mets this afternoon. McGwire against Sosa, who could ask for more?"

"Baseball right? How boring can you get?" But even as the words came out Dyane could see the disappointment in Sydney's eyes, though she tried to hide it.

"Baseball isn't for everyone. What would you like to do, Dyane?"

"I'd loved to watch the match between Agassi and Sampras."

Sydney chuckled at her, "Tennis, right? Hm, how do you feel about football?" The banter between the two of them felt so comfortable to Sydney and her teasing was intriguing to Dyane.

"College or professional?" They both laughed as they reach Dyane's car.

Seeking to continue the bonding Dyane joked, "And I suppose you're a country and western fan?"

"Oh yeah, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, they're great. But I like rock and roll too!"

"Led Zeppelin no doubt," Dyane smirked playfully.

"Ah no, more like Bette Midler or Celine Dion."

"Oh my God, really? I have every single Bette Midler album ever made."

"No kidding? Have you got her latest, Bathhouse Betty?"

"Absolutely! My favorite song is My One True Friend."

"Oh yeah! That's a great song and it even reminds me of you now that I think of it." Sydney realized too late what she had just revealed, but Dyane was overjoyed. Desperately looking for a way to change the subject Sydney said,

"Hey, hold on a minute. You said afternoon off. Dyane, what are you not telling me?"

"Sydney, you are such a--a detective. All right, if you must know, we are going to the theater this evening to see..." with a wink in her eye Dyane finishes, "...the ballet." But Sydney doesn't notice the guileful grin on Dyane's face or that she awaits for the tantrum she knows will come, and sure enough;

"Here, here's my gun, just shoot me now and put me out of my misery," Sydney pantomimes.

"I was kidding you, it's not the ballet, it's Les MisÚrables."

"And the difference would be?"

"For your information Sydney, it just happens to be the best musical ever produced. You'll love it trust me."

"Dyane, it's not a matter of trust, it's a matter of staying awake!"

"You are impossible, Christina Sydney! Just try to look interested tonight, will you?"

"I'll try, but no promises." In spite of herself, Sydney was enjoying this. From somewhere deep inside her came the wish that it would never end.

Unlocking Dyane's door, Sydney walked around to the driver's side. "But what about your car?" Dyane asked.

"I let the agent who brought you here take it back." As Dyane climbed in Sydney took out her flip phone and punched in a number.

"Dyane, just give me a minute to make a call, ok?"

"Sure, go ahead, I have to make one myself."

"Hey, this is Sydney, I need a file pulled. I need everything you can get on Sister Joseph Marie of St. de Paul. Yeah she's one of the nuns there at the hospital."

Dyane used her car phone, "Nancy, how's the pizza business? Listen, I need a huge favor from you."

"I need to know if there is a connection between her and Senator Lonoke ok? Thanks." Sydney put her phone back in her jacket and climbed into the driver's seat. "Ready?" she asked as Dyane put away her phone.

"I'm ready." She replied.

In the process of pulling into Dyane's driveway Sydney noticed a small pickup truck and a woman holding a large object. "Were you expecting company?" she asked Dyane who remained unusually quiet. It was then that Sydney noticed a sly grin on her face. Bringing the car to a stop in front of the pickup, Sydney hopped out before Dyane could get her seat belt off.

"What's going on here?" she yelled at the agent who was holding the pizza delivery woman at bay.

"Chris, I ordered a couple of pizza's for the game. I didn't think you'd mind." Dyane explained breathlessly as she caught up to her.

"Do you know this woman?" Sydney suspiciously asked.

"Oh yes, Nancy and I are old friends. Thank you Nancy for getting them here so quick. I really appreciate it." Dyane took the pizzas and gave her friend a warm hug.

"No problem Dyane, glad to help." Nancy replied.

"You're a dear. And you'll put this on my tab right?"

"Don't I always?"

"And be sure to give yourself a big tip okay?"

"Here, let me take care of the tip." Sydney pulled out her wallet and handed the woman a twenty-dollar bill.

"Wow, thanks a lot. You can call me any time, Dyane, anytime." Dyane smiled at her friend who proceeded to stuff the bill in her jeans then reached into the cab for something. "Almost forgot this." She handed a six pack of beer to Sydney. "What's pizza without beer?" she laughed.

"Exactly." Dyane responded. "Come on Chris, the games about to start!"

Dyane scurried up the steps and through the door, but Sydney remained behind until the truck had driven away. Then it dawned on her, "Which game?"

Sydney walked in to the living room to find Dyane stretched out on the couch, her feet on the table and a beer in her hand. She handed it to Sydney and reached for a slice of pizza. The large screen TV is tuned to the Cardinals/Mets game. "It's the bottom of the fourth and McGwire is up to bat." the announcer reported in surround stereo.

There's a new gleam of respect in Sydney's eyes. "Dyane, we don't have to watch--"

"Shut up and sit down will ya, I'm trying to watch the game!" Dyane jokingly demands in her best southern slang.

"Why?" came the humble request from Sydney.

"Because it's something you like and I want to know more about the woman who puts her life on the line for me every day, okay?"

"Dyane, you don't have to do this." Sydney insisted.

"I know I don't have to Chris, I want to. Now, explain to me why all I see is a man scratching and spitting. Surely there's more to baseball than that?" Her impish giggle doesn't escape Sydney who smiles at her effort to suppress it.

"All right Ms Thing, you asked for it." Sydney bounced on the couch beside her.

As they spent a very relaxing afternoon talking and eating, Sydney seemed oblivious to the bond that was pulling them closer, but Dyane was very aware of it and absorbed it with all her being, fearing that soon the euphoria would end.

"Look, the ump is wrong, he was safe." Dyane whined playfully.

"Girl, you need glasses, he was out by a mile."

"All right, Chris, I'll bet you our last beer that he was safe."

"You got it. Hold on, there's the instant replay. Out!! What'd I tell you, ha! Sydney is always right. Come on, say it! Sydney is--"

"Always right, yeah, yeah. All right, you win, here's your beer."

But before Sydney can get it, Dyane shook the can up and then opened it, effectively dousing Sydney with the beers foam. "Oh man are you in ever trouble now!!" Sydney threatened and wrestled the beer from Dyane's hands and then proceeded to tickle her unmercifully until she squealed with glee. The two slump back on the couch, happily exhausted.

"Well, there goes this outfit." Sydney quipped, looking at the beer stains forming on her skirt.

"Yeah, I think maybe we should have changed first." Dyane agreed.

"Nah, I don't want to ruin my good jeans." Sydney's retort caused them both to laugh again.

Settling back down on the couch, Dyane asked, "Chris, will you tell me about yourself?"

"There's nothing much to tell, Dyane. I'm nobody special."

You are to me! Dyane whispered to herself. But to Sydney she said, "Tell me, did you always want to be in the FBI?"

"Yeah, I thought I could make a difference, you know. I thought all it would take was guts and a gun. Ha, little did I know." She wisecracked.

"But you are making a difference Chris. You are very much needed here."

Sydney looked into Dyane's sincere blue eyes and smiled. "And what about you, kid? Where would that hospital be without you?"

"Oh no you don't. We are talking about you Christina Sydney, not me."

"Oh yeah, right. Okay, let's see. I was born in California, then we moved here to the Air Force Base, then to Germany, then to Colorado, then to Indiana, then to Chicago and now I'm back here in Arkansas."

"Why so many moves?"

"Air Force brat. My father was in the service and we transferred a lot. And when I joined the FBI the transfers continued. But it's kinda getting old, all this traveling."

"Oh gosh, I think that's probably my favorite thing to do, travel, see the world. Adventure, that's what I love. That's what I see in you as well."

"Well, I don't know about that, but it keeps life interesting I guess." As usual, Sydney downplayed herself, but Dyane would have none of it.

"Ha! I can't imagine life being dull with you around Chris."

The laughter emanating from Dyane's lips was contagious so that Sydney joined in. "Cute kid, real cute."

"I like that."

"What?" Sydney asked.

"Your nickname for me. I like it." Dyane said.

Unaware that she was doing that, Sydney found the realization a pleasant one, but it was also a signal to her, "Look, Dyane, I can't--"

Again, Dyane cut her off, "Look, it's my favorite show." Sydney looked up to realize that the ball game was over and another show was coming on. They had talked the afternoon away without realizing it. "What?"

"Surely you've heard of Xena, Warrior Princess. I know it's not your regular TV fare, but I like it." Sydney was stunned and yet assuaged at the same time. And somewhere in the back of her mind, she is a little bit weary, almost as if Dyane had somehow gained access to her private thoughts. It is was a bit disarming for her.

"Don't look so shocked Sydney. Who do you think turned the President on to it?" Dyane teased.

"It's just a little hard to believe that someone like you could be a fan of Xena's."

"Fan?! I'm going to New Zealand the first chance I get!! Say, what do you mean, like me?"

"I just meant that you don't seem the type. I mean people who go to the ballet don't usually watch that kind of..." The harder she tried the deeper the hole became.

"Why, Christina Sydney, what a biased thing to say. And it's a musical, darn it!"

"Calm down, kid, you might not believe this, but Xena is my favorite show as well."

"No, really?"

"Honest, I've watched it from day one."

"Why?"

"Huh?"

"What is it about the show that you like, Sydney?"

"Oh well, uh, I guess it's the bond between Xena and Gabrielle."

"You mean the way Xena protects Gabrielle? That makes since considering your line of work."

"No, uh, it's more the unconditional love between them. No matter what happens, they are soul mates, you know. It's something I've always looked for, I even thought I had once, but was unable to protect..." Sydney cast her eyes down, leaving off the sentence. She mentally chastised herself for revealing so much.

"Chris, tell me about the accident?" Dyane almost whispered.

"The accident?" Floored by this sudden U-turn in the conversation Sydney was at a loss for words.

"I want to know." Dyane placed her tiny hand on Sydney's muscular shoulder, "I need to know."

Looking into the tender eyes of her petite charge, Sydney buckled. Okay, Sydney, now's the time. Get it out in the open and if she accepts you, great, and if not, then you'll know for sure, right? "Right"

"Well, uh, it was close to the same time that you lost your daughter. Emie, that was her name, Emie Duggan-Sydney, she was on her way home from a convention up north." Sydney stopped, not wanting to proceed until she got the signal from Dyane that she knew of whom she was talking about. She looked at Dyane, waiting, until finally Dyane let her off the hook.

"Emie Sydney, she was your significant other, right? Tell me about her." The sincerity in Dyane's request caused a rush of relief for Sydney.

"I was talking to her on the cell phone when it happened."

"Oh my God, Chris." She stroked Sydney's forearm, "How horrible for you."

But Sydney did not notice the affection being shown her. She was being pulled into those dark memories she tried so hard to forget.

"I heard the squeal of the tires, the blaring of the horn. I heard her scream, then, then I heard...nothing."

"What did you do?"

"I freaked. I called headquarters and had them calling every cop shop between here and where I thought she was at and finally got the dispatch call that told me where to go. By the time I got out there they had her on a stretcher and were putting her in the hearse. She was in a body bag, a damn garbage bag, like so much trash." Sydney trembled at the memory.

After a very long moment of silence, Dyane timidly said, "Sydney?"

"I'm all right, really. I've faced that nightmare already. But you know they never did catch the drunk who hit her and I think that's what hurts the most now. I can't close this chapter until I get that asshole behind bars for life!! And by-God, I'm gonna do it if it takes my last breath!" Sydney stood up, allowing her frustrations to come close to a boiling point so much so that her posturing intimidated Dyane.

But, fortifying her resolve, Dyane quietly walked over to her tall defender and timidly placed her hand on Sydney's trembling shoulders. The tears in Dyane's eyes easily escape their barriers and unabashedly stream down her face. Sydney looked at her for a long moment, allowing the loving sight to sink deep in her heart before her iron will cast out the tenderness and threw up that impenetrable wall again. She stepped away, rubbing her eyes with her shirtsleeve and stated,

"I guess I'd better change and check the perimeter."

Dyane can only stand there, watching her hero walk away. Everything in her tells her to call Sydney back, but common sense prevailed and she gave in to it. God, can you hear me? Again I repeat the prayer from this morning God because this woman needs you. She needs your love, your strength, your forgiveness Lord. Please guide her toward her destiny and along the way, end her pain and her torment. Let her find love and be loved again and if it be your will, let it be me.

An hour later, Sydney knocked on Dyane's bedroom door. "Hey kid, are we going or what?"

"Sydney?" Dyane opened her door to find her guardian angel standing there in a dress and high heels, a wry smile on her painted lips. Wow! Dyane can't believe her eyes for standing before her was a goddess. Lavished out in a dark green dress with a long jacket contoured to accentuate her athletic shape, (while it hides her gun) Sydney had taken out her trademark braided ponytail and brushed her hair into a cascading scarlet mane that brought out the jeweled emeralds in her eyes. Drinking in the sight of her hero, Dyane realized, God, I love this woman, look what she's doing, just for me! But her relish was interrupted when Sydney asked,

"Hey, what gives? I thought we were going to the theater tonight?" She waltzed in and primly sat down on the edge of the bed.

"The--the theater? Oh I thought maybe I should call it off." Sydney distracted Dyane by satirically embellishing on her posture, genteelly crossing her legs and adjusting her dress.

Laughing, Dyane exclaimed with glee, "Give me twenty minutes" and dashed into the bathroom.

"Humph, it took me twenty minutes just to get these damn shoes on." Sydney quipped as she walked into the living room and characteristically slumped down on the couch.

True to her word, twenty minutes later Dyane sashayed into the room. "Ready?" she asked, putting on her earrings. Wearing a black dress tailored to emphasize her pert breasts and firm hips, Dyane had also brushed her long golden hair into a soft frame around her cherub face, enlarging her blue eyes to pools of sparkling champagne. At least that's how Sydney perceived it, as evident by the stunned look on her face. Her own eyes grew large with appreciation as the smile on her face conveyed to Dyane that the effort was worth it. But of course, Sydney being who she was, downplayed her admiration,

"You clean up real nice there, kid."

"Uh, gee, thanks, Syd." But this did not put off Dyane, for she is well aware that her sentinel is enamored with her appearance and it is enough for her that Sydney continued to look at her with impassioned eyes.

"Thank you for doing this, Chris."

"Don't worry about it. If you can watch a baseball game for me, then I can sit through a musical for you."

"Well then, let's go, shall we?" Dyane almost giggled with excitement.

 

><><><><><><><><><

 

At the end of the first act Dyane noticed that Sydney's head was resting on her chest and she poked her in the ribs just as Sydney was about to start snoring. "What, what's the matter?"

"I can't believe that you would fall asleep during this," came Dyane's tort reply, but truth be told, she loved it. It felt so right, the way it was suppose to be, knowing Sydney as she did.

"Hee-hee, I wasn't asleep, though it sure wouldn't be hard to catch 40 winks with all this singing going on."

The mischievous twinkle in Sydney's eyes produced a laugh from Dyane. "Come on sleepy head, time to mix and mingle."

"Oh boy, this just gets better and better," came the snide reply.

In the main lobby of the Robinson Theater, standing under the plush paintings of an unknown artist, the upper echelon of Little Rock's high society gathered to rub elbows and enhance their happiness with a few drinks.

"Dyane. Dyane how exquisite you look tonight my dear." Senator Lonoke made his way over to Dyane.

"Oh, why thank you Bob, that's very kind of you to say. And where is that wife of yours?" The Senator pointed out his wife, who was standing next to Governor Huckabee.

"And what of your guest, did she not come with you tonight?" As if on cue, Sydney made her way through the crowd to hand Dyane a drink.

"Senator Lonoke, wasn't it?" she asked as the stare-off begins.

"Yes, Ms. Sydney, good of you to remember." He replied.

"I never forget a face."

"Nor I a name. Sydney, Chris Sydney from Chicago."

"Well, I can see why the good people of Arkansas voted you into office," she lied as the duel with words fast became too much for Dyane.

Not wanting anything to intrude on her perfect day, especially business, Dyane interrupted, "Sydney, I'd like you to meet the Governor. Bob, if you would excuse us, there's so little time before the second act begins."

"Of course Dyane. It's been a pleasure, Ms. Sydney."

"Likewise." Sydney retorted.

"Sydney, this is Governor Mike Huckabee. Governor, I'd like you to meet my very good friend, Chris Sydney." Sydney exchanged pleasantries with the Governor, but all the while she remained focused on the Senator. His arrogance has spurred her determination to find out what lies behind it. Was he just so much pompous hot air or something more tangible? Her hunch was there's something more tangible, but what? The dimming of the house lights brought Sydney back to real time. She followed behind as everyone made their way into the auditorium. Stopping long enough to down her drink, Sydney noticed that Senator Lonoke and his son were having a heated discussion over something. The young man threw up his hands and left, while his father continued inside. Hm, wonder what that was about. The kid obviously was not dressed to attend this thing, so why was he here and where is he going now?

"Sydney" Dyane called, "hurry up, it's about to start." One last look at the departing son of the Senator and Sydney rejoined Dyane.

Sometime during the second act Sydney became cognizant of the closeness of Dyane. Her senses were discerning as she observed with ardor the way Dyane tucked a soft strand of arrant hair behind her ear. And the way Dyane's petite slender fingers lingered on her cheek, slowly tracing her jaw line, coming to rest on her chin. That was fascinating to Sydney. And though she would vehemently refute it, her emotions were being heightened by the seductive lyrics emanating from the stage; to love another person is to see the face of God. She watched in awe as Dyane's emotions ebulliently surface while experiencing the powerful drama unfolding on stage. The act became more intense during the revolution battle, for with each crack of the cannon firing, Dyane would jump and grasp Sydney's arm. This went on for quite a while, to the point that Dyane finally gave up and held on to Sydney with both hands until the scene was over.

This passionate young woman holding on to Sydney's arm was completely unaware of the effect she was having on the thick-skinned detective. Had she known Dyane would have been quite please for unbeknownst to Sydney, her unpenetrable wall was beginning to crumble. And it was Dyane's romantic side that produced the warmest glow in Sydney's heart, for when Jean Valjean died in Cosette's arms, Dyane dissolved into a mass of tears and tucked her head into the detective's shoulder. Sydney was somewhat surprised and yet, delighted as the softness of Dyane's hair; the smell of it filled her senses with abandon. All too soon though the curtain closed the lights came up and the spell was broken.

"Wasn't that wonderful, Sydney?" she cried excitedly.

Perhaps to hide her feelings or just to tease, Sydney asked, "Then why are you crying?"

"Because, it was just so, so beautiful and so heartbreaking and so, so--"

"Musical?" Sydney quipped.

"Christina Sydney, don't you dare sit there and tell me you weren't moved by it all."

"You're right Dyane, it was beautiful", she replied with a smile. "And very well done."

Dyane looked up into Sydney's beaming green eyes and placed her hand on Sydney's arm asking, "You did like it, didn't you?"

"Yes Dyane, I have to admit, I've never been so moved at something like this in all my life."

"Oh Chris, thank you. Thank you for coming with me tonight."

Dyane's breathless appreciation warmed Sydney's heart, "You're welcome kid. Anytime."

 

Continued in Part 2


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