Surfacing - Part Two

By Paul Seely & Jennifer Garza

See disclaimers in Part One


Charlotte bent back onto her heels and grasped Diana's shoulders, urging her to move in closer. Diana eased one knee onto the bed, her fingers tangled in long, golden hair, her lips still welded to Charlie's from the heat of their first kiss - the first kiss that Diana administered while conscious, anyway. Agile tongues danced intricate steps in the warm space created between merged mouths, steps which were alternately quick and light, then slow and ponderous.

Charlotte's mind reeled from the sheer sweetness and ease of their kisses. She had never known herself to move so rapidly, so confidently, and she vaguely suspected that this should have been harder, more enervating. Her ex-husband - a man she married in her third year of law school because she was too exhausted and lonely to realize that she didn't actually love him - had called her frigid on more than one occasion. She never touched him in casual expressions of affection, and barely tolerated his fumbling, sloppy kisses when they made love. But this... this whole thing - asking a perfect stranger out for a drink, spending the entire evening talking her ear off, then vomiting on her (and passing out for God's sake!), then finding herself miraculously in her arms, kissing her with not only passion, but abandon - this was more than she could have hoped for, and she was wordlessly, profoundly grateful.

As Diana brought her other leg up on the coverlet, she wrapped muscled arms around the young pliant body and pulled her in tight, her hips tucked against the attorney's firm stomach. Charlotte marveled that she didn't so much as flinch at the contact. A similar embrace from Marco Falcon made her crave a scalding shower, and she was struck by the realization that this didn't feel like someone taking what they wanted from her - Diana was giving her what she wanted, what she needed. The kiss still unbroken, Diana slipped her hands from Charlotte's hair, tracing burning paths down her neck, over her shoulders, and down her back, coming to rest over the hooks of her brassiere. Deft fingers opened the hooks and eased the straps down, and Charlotte grudgingly released her hold on Diana to work the garment free. Then the phone rang.

Eyes still closed, the younger woman pressed her full, bare breasts against Diana's slip, rubbing her own jutting nipples over the soft satin and rough lace, sighing at the feel of responsive flesh rising beneath the fabric. The phone rang again. Diana's long fingers curled around the firm swell of her buttocks and kneaded the fleshy orbs with strong hands. Another ring, and the irked lawyer finally realized that some idiot was actually calling her at the most inconvenient moment in the history of the world. "Machine'll get it," she mumbled into Diana's open mouth, and she felt a nod in response. The whole damned world could hang, for all she cared. All she needed to live and breathe could be found in the harbor of Diana Starrett's arms.

The tall woman finally, reluctantly broke off the marathon kiss and drew back, breathing heavily, eyes wide in disbelief at her inconceivably good luck.  It had been far too long since she allowed herself to be intimate with anyone and even then, it had never been like this. Diana could feel these touches and kisses sinking deep into her being, sensations absorbed through her pores and coursing through her veins like the perfect drug.

She touched Charlotte's cheek, stroking the smooth skin with a thumb to assure herself that she was real. In the silvery glow streaming in through the skylight, the younger woman's full face and luminous eyes gave her a look of timeless beauty. The passion, affection and trust she found beamed at her from this woman's very soul made her feel both treacherous and unworthy for the lies she had to tell, and infallible and immortal for awakening such feelings in the young woman. Surely, making someone this happy was an act with some redemptive value, no matter how small.

The phone rang for the fourth time, and the machine picked up. Charlotte's voice echoed down the hall as her outgoing message played. Diana reached down for the hem of her slip and slowly began to pull it up. Charlotte's eyes were tied to Diana's hands by the silken threads of desire, and she hungrily took in each new sight as the garment lifted away from thighs and over hips to reveal a tantalizingly long, defined torso. Diana smiled in anticipation of Charlotte's bare skin against her own, and she flipped the satiny fabric up over her head, ready to be rid of it altogether. Then she heard the tones sounding from the answering machine speaker, and she froze.

With the slip still wrapped around her head, she grimaced and listened closely for the sequence. 2 1 2 1, 911 911,  411 411. She recognized it immediately and began cursing furiously in her mind. *Fuck! Shit! Fuckshitsuckdammit! Why NOW? How the hell am I gonna explain leaving NOW?*

The code meant that the secondary agent, Eladio, needed to talk to the primary agent. He evidently had some emergency information, and needed to talk so urgently that he tracked her down at Charlotte Browning's place and sent the code. A warm hand on her stomach shocked Diana out of her cursing fit, and she eased the slip back down over her body. Charlie looked understandably confused.

"Is something wrong? D-did you..." she stammered, visibly concerned now. "Have you changed your mind?"

The look of vulnerability and hurt on her lovely face nearly broke Diana's heart, and she realized that she felt the same way about having to leave. "No way. I have most definitely not changed my mind. I'm just... concerned that we might be moving too fast. We only met this morning..."

"Yesterday morning. It's Saturday." Charlotte pointed at the bedside clock glowing 4:08 am.

"Whatever. You know what I mean, and I think you know what I'm getting at," she retorted, studiously maintaining eye contact. To look elsewhere might weaken her resolve beyond repair.

"Diana, I do know what you're getting at, but I think you're wrong. This is as right as it gets," Charlotte said, more sure of this than the curve of the world. She wrapped her arms around Diana's waist and drew her close again. "I feel like I've been waiting for this my whole life! You could have taken me right there in the hallway at the courthouse and it wouldn't have been too soon!"

Laughing softly, Diana lighted a series of butterfly kisses all over Charlotte's face, suddenly aware how bruised and slippery her lips were from their earlier, aggressive efforts. "What a scene that would have made for the six-o-clock news, huh? The long tongue of the law..." Diana licked at an ear, and the young woman giggled in relief.

"So you still want to..." she murmured.

"Oh, yeah. I still want to. But I meant what I said about needing to think." Diana decided on a temporary retreat. "I'll just drive around for a little while, clear my head. Then, I promise you, I will come back, and we'll finish what we started. Wait for me?" She punctuated her plea with another nip of Charlotte's earlobe.

Charlotte seemed to consider for a moment, startled to realize that she felt not at all rushed, like they had all the time in the world. The hard part was finding each other. "Mmmm. I can't say I agree with your timing, but I can wait until you're ready," the attorney agreed amicably. "I should let you know though that I am ready enough for the both of us, so don't dawdle." She patted Diana's rear, then released her grip around her waist. Diana found her skirt and looked around for her jacket, then she remembered where it was. The attorney noticed her scanning the room for something and ventured a guess.

"I spewed on your jacket, didn't I?" Diana nodded, and Charlotte looked somewhat shamefaced. "I am so sorry about that."

"Don't be. If you hadn't gotten sick, I'd probably have left right after dropping you off."

"Well, then. Thank heaven for bad squid," the lawyer said with a grin. "But you can't go out in just your slip. What would Teddy think?"

"Teddy can blow me," Diana said acidly. She remembered the way the guard looked at the younger woman as they came through the gate.

"Oh, come on. I'll get you one of Richard's shirts," Charlotte offered, and headed for the dresser.

"Who's Richard?" Diana knew, of course, but had to ask.

"Ex-husband. Divorced over a year ago. I kept some of his stuff in case I felt like having one of those Angela Bassett in 'Waiting to Exhale' bonfires," she explained.

"Why didn't you burn it, then?"

She thought for a moment, then handed Diana a San Diego Chargers sweatshirt. "Dunno, really. I never felt like it was worth the effort - kind of like the marriage, I guess. I just didn't care enough to get mad."

Diana said nothing, just pulled on the sweatshirt - which was a snug fit across her broad shoulders - and hugged Charlotte as tightly as she could without hurting her. Looking down at her, she realized for the first time how much taller she was than Charlotte, the difference exacerbated by the lawyer's lack of footwear. Again she found herself feeling somewhat protective, then shook it off as being presumptuous and patronizing - she had an idea that this woman would resent those sentiments, that she could take care of herself. She turned to leave and realized that she was being followed. "Stay here, you need to get some sleep, while you have the chance," Diana teased, twitching her eyebrows. "I'll let myself out."

Charlotte sighed and nodded in agreement, but forced Diana to agree to drive more carefully before releasing her from custody. Now that the adrenaline was fading away, she felt drained and exhausted, but she knew that she would be wide awake as soon as the doorbell rang and Diana returned. Hoping that the deputy wouldn't take too much time, she fell onto the bed with a disappointed groan. The bedroom door closed and the woman who should be her lover by now was out of her sight. A slight pang hit her chest, and she rubbed the skin under her left breast lightly as she curled up under the afghan and sank into slumber.

In the hall, Diana stopped and erased the message from the machine, then let herself out the front door, re-locking it on the way. She felt strange coming out the front door of someone's home in the dead of night, not having to be concerned with who might be watching, not scanning for obstacles or potential problems. It was an unfamiliar, free feeling which made her breathe a little more deeply as she made her way down Charlotte's front walk, shoulders squared, moving easily.

She savored the residual peace for one more fleeting moment before mounting up and riding out to meet with Eladio. Diana rolled down the windows to air out the Jeep and tore out of the driveway, headed for their pre-designated meeting place. *The sooner I get there, the sooner I can get back.* This trip, she was not influenced by the rotten music intentionally selected by the screening service, so she sang a favorite Cole Porter tune while speeding like a maniac through the quiet streets of Elceda.

"I've got you under my skin, I've got you deep in the heart of me, so deep, you're really a part of me, I've got you under my skin..."

Dreaming came easily to Charlotte Browning, ever since she could remember. Her childhood was filled with vivid imaginings, nocturnal adventures, and comforting voices guiding her through the night. She could slay dragons, fight villains and save innocent lives with the best of them. As she grew up, she had occasional nightmares, mostly during difficult periods of adjustment. Her first broken heart, for instance, plagued her for months with dreams of her own paralyzing weakness, leaden limbs, and a profound sense of loss and helplessness. After she recovered, she found that her dreams had changed; she came to see herself less as a hero and more as a spectator, unwilling to risk getting hurt for less than a perfect reason.

Charlotte practiced this theory in her waking life as well, and she made rational decisions based on logic and applied them to her heart, even when they did not fit. She watched from a distance as her dream self achieved good grades, made sound career choices, and married a man her parents approved of. She then made each dream a reality, and was soundly disappointed when she realized  that she was still unhappy. She shifted her priorities to focus exclusively on her career, and found an involving atmosphere in which she could bury her other concerns and be praised as an 'ambitious' woman.

Charlotte was used to dreaming in the third person, so the sight of her dream-self walking along a rocky, deserted beach was not that surprising - despite the hideous wardrobe her subconscious had selected. What she did next, however, both shocked and impressed her so much that she would write down every word, every scene of that dream and keep it close to her for the rest of her life. She knew, without understanding why, that it was very important. Nearing dawn on a Saturday morning in October, she again dreamed she was a hero. That dream would change her world.




Outside of Elceda County, Diana turned onto an old access road leading to an abandoned industrial excavation sight, the locale specified for face to face meetings between operatives. Eladio's rented, non-descript Cavalier sat along the edge of the quarry with park lights burning to guide Diana to him. She pulled alongside and climbed out of the Jeep quickly, sensing from his tense posture and pacing that something was really wrong.

"Falcon knows something's wrong, Di. I can tell he smells something hinky," Eladio began. His voice was thin and tight. "I'm not sure he trusts me so much, now that he's had a chance to think about it."

Diana tried to calm him, taking him by the arm and leading him to sit with her on the hood of his car. Facing the gaping maw of the quarry, Diana could see the smallest glimmer of light bouncing off the brackish water at the bottom. She leaned down and grabbed a stone, rolling the jagged rock around in her palm. Sometimes, tactile sensations had a calming effect on her which helped her to think. "Do you believe you're exposed? Do you want out?"

Eladio shook his head. "Not sure, but it's too late to pull me out now. I disappear, we ain't never gonna find Jamal OR Bartok because Falcon'll go apeshit and pack 'em off to Outer No-Namia, and you know it. Paranoid motherfucker thinks everyone's out to get him."

Diana laughed. "Gee, I wonder where he got that idea." She nudged Eladio's arm and smiled. "You know, you're probably just picking up on his anxiety about this meet Sunday night."

"He is anxious, I know he is. And I been sending Mars my reports like clockwork. He's reviewed everything, but he says I'm imagining things. Falcon hasn't come right out and said anything, but I think what I did at the courthouse might have tipped him off. It impressed him at first, then that rat fuck Virgilio started telling him there's no way a thug from Mexicali's gonna take a bullet for him, no matter what he's paying me."

"So you're just too slick for your own good, eh?"

"Might be. Then again, I may be wrong. It's just a weird vibe I'm pulling off him since it happened. I can't explain it any better, Di." The young man shrugged and threw his hands up, open to suggestions.

"El, I won't tell you that what to do. I know I'm the primary op here, but this is your life we're talking about. If you want out, I'll get you out. Set up a 'fatal' traffic accident for you, fake him out so he's not suspicious. I'll make the operation work without you, just give me the word..."

"No. No, I don't want out. I can do this," he insisted. "Maybe I just needed to hear that I still have a way out - from you. I trust you." He sold the compliment with a sincere smile, which Diana returned.

"Glad to hear it. I feel the same way about you. I know you've got my back."

Eladio tensed visibly before continuing. "That's the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. Mars had me do something Friday morning. I gotta tell you about it, and you won't like it."

Diana closed her eyes and sighed. She had an idea what was coming, and it made her feel sick. "Salmon's kid, right?"

Eladio nodded. "Those new night specs are wired for visuals. You weren't alone in that house - Mars was watching. He had me go back and do clean-up on the wife and kid, so he could edit your  footage with mine for the bosses, show them that it was a full sweep with no exposure. The bodies are in Mrs.Salmon's car. Looks like a traffic accident on the way back to her mom's place - your second favorite method, next to that shum-shum neck-thing."

Drawing her knees to her chest, Diana lowered her head, unsure what to make of her own reaction. Why did this matter? What made this hit any different from all the others? For ten years, she had followed orders without trouble from her conscience, and it's sudden re-appearance was distressing and inconvenient. Flashing back on those inappropriate impulses to protect Charlotte Browning, she wondered if they were coming from the same place as her guilt over the little boy. Of more immediate concern was why Harry Mars was covering her ass so carefully.

Diana tossed her rock out into the quarry and waited in vain to hear a splash, but the only returning sound was the light report of stone against stone. "Why didn't Mars just have me put down? I violated protocol by letting a witness live, that means immediate termination."

"Not this time. He said do the clean up and send the video, that was all he told me," the young man answered. "But if you want my opinion, I think he has other plans for you - don't even bother calling him, though. He won't admit to anything and you know it. He just don't want you dead, Diana." Eladio reached over and rubbed her shoulder. "And neither do I."

Diana just shook her head, still puzzled. "I don't know what's going on with me, El. First I couldn't finish the job at Salmon's - that bothered me. I know I'm having the nightmares again, but the block is still in place. I can only assume that they're about the kid, since I don't remember any of them."

"Heh, well you're one up on me. I can't tell you one damned thing about what's in my head between sleeping and waking. That conditioning Dr. Mengele did on me pretty much wiped the slate," Eladio confided. "I'm lucky I still remember where my dick is."

That brought a small chuckle from the troubled woman, and she leaned back against Eladio's hand, still massaging her tight shoulders. "It's the weirdest feeling, like an unearned state of grace. These things we do should weigh on us somehow, shouldn't they? It's normal to feel some guilt, some responsibility when you take a life, but we don't feel it. Psych just wipes it off like a spill on the counter, and we don't bear the load."

"I think that's part of Mengele's trip, Di. He fixes it so you don't really remember any of the bad stuff, so it's easier to do the work. We're more effective when it don't touch us."

"His name is Dr. Mangano, El. Not Mengele," Diana corrected. "But I think you're right. The only time I even think about any of this is after I've been in the field awhile. No recent visits to psych to ward off the bogeyman, so I start feeling things I normally wouldn't." She sighed, wondering if her spontaneous attachment to Charlotte Browning was a symptom of her blocks eroding. This kind of emotional reaction was just the kind of thing Dr. Mangano deemed dangerous. Eladio's hand worked steadily on her shoulders, but her lower back was still stiff. "Could you rub a little lower?"

"You still ain't found a bone-cracker to fix your back? Baby, they're gonna stick you behind a desk, you don't watch out. Here, get down a minute." Eladio jumped off the hood and Diana followed. He wrapped his arms around her middle and whispered, "Don't take this personal." Then he lifted her off the ground and twisted suddenly to the side, wincing at the sound of her vertebrae wrenching back into place. Diana sighed in relief as he set her down on her feet, and she did a few gyrations to test his work.

"Ahhh, thanks a heap. I feel a difference already. You're pretty strong for a skinny little runt."

Eladio made a muscle and pulled back his t-shirt sleeve to show off. "I ain't skinny. I'm wiry." His face then screwed up in disgust as he finally noticed her outfit. "What the hell are you wearing?"

Diana smiled indulgently and turned in a circle to model her duds. "You like? It's the latest thing: old, borrowed sweatshirts with designer skirts."

"Where's your jacket?"

"It's got lawyer pyuch all over it," she revealed, smiling suddenly. "I feel like wringing your neck, by the way. For the first time since I've known you, your timing absolutely sucked."

Eladio grinned broadly, white teeth showing in the moonlight. "You and Falcon's attorney. Man, that threw me for a loop when I got a fix on your Jeep. I had to double check the address just to make sure I wasn't wrong."

"You got a problem with anything, junior?"

"Naah, just be careful around her. Sometimes you can't tell the players without a program. Falcon likes her a little too much, if you know what I mean." He shook his head and ran a  hand through his thick, dark hair. "You know you're breaking my heart, Diana." He comically clutched a hand over his chest and reeled backward.

Diana waved a finger at him. "If I thought for one minute that you were serious..."

"You'd have to kill me, I know, I know," he interrupted. "I'm only half joking, though. I do care about you, Diana. I think about you a lot. In fact, I was staying in this motel room in Queens during the setup - "

"I don't think I want to hear this, Eladio." Diana made a discouraging face.

"No, no. Just listen, it ain't nothing bad. Anyway, I was watching this nature show on the t.v. and they showed these animals that live at the bottom of the ocean, down where there's no light, no sound." Eladio's voice lowered as he realized Diana was now listening intently. "These divers took cameras down there and showed where the creatures live. It's pitch black and colder than a well digger's ass, but the animals have survived and adapted. But that ain't the best part," he assured her, smiling like a schoolboy. "They glow, Di. They got this chemical in 'em that makes their skin, their eyes, everything, just glow bright blue, white. It's beautiful. Reminded me of your eyes when you smile."

In spite of herself, Diana was moved. She cocked her head and considered all the times she and Eladio had worked together, spending long hours in each other's company, joshing and kidding around to make the time pass, sharing confidences. He had never once put the moves on her. She didn't get the feeling that was what he was doing now, either. He was merely letting her know that she was in his thoughts, and that he cared. She smiled at him as if she was seeing him for the first time in ages - a brother in arms, a friend.

"That's it, that smile. 'Luciferin,' they called that glow-stuff. There's something like that in you, Diana. No matter how dark it gets down here where we live, I can see it glowing in your eyes. Lets me know I'm not alone."

Diana moved to him and took his arm. "You're not alone, El. I'm gonna keep my cellular with me. If you change your mind about staying under, you bolt and call me afterwards. We'll figure something out."

Eladio pursed his lips and nodded, taking her hand and planting a quick kiss on the knuckles. "I gotta get back, and you got somebody waiting for you, so as much as I hate to break up our little party, here..." He backed away and opened his car door. "I'll be okay, Di. And I'm sorry about the kid. Had to be done."

"I know. Be careful, El." Diana stood back and watched him drive away, hoping against hope that his cover was still tight. She knew now that there was more at stake than the success of the operation. Diana felt an unfamiliar fear gnawing at her gut - the fear of losing a friend. Still shaking it off, she got in the Jeep and started back toward Charlotte Browning's place. *Still have a little time left before dawn. Maybe I can get back before sun-up.*

Through a great exercise of will, Diana resisted the urge to sing Golden Earring's "Radar Love" as she predictably stressed the Cherokee to its limits on the ride back to town.



After transcribing every moment of the most incredible dream she could ever recall having, Charlotte was unable to get back to sleep. She paced the bedroom like a caged cat, anxious beyond conveyance to share the details of this startling, disturbing dream with Diana Starrett. Her legal pad lay on the bed, covered in fevered scrawlings ready to be repeated for and, hopefully, interpreted by the woman who had as much at stake in this dream as Charlotte herself.

She soon tired of the scenery in the lonely bedroom and sought the more hospitable confines of the kitchen. Just as well, because her stomach rumbled more than once since waking to remind her that it was without suitable content since the previous tenants had been so rudely evicted. Mumbling something about never eating squid again, she donned a plush white bathrobe and set about making breakfast. Thoughts of the exceptionally vivid dream kept coming back to her as she busied herself grinding coffee beans and halving grapefruit.

*Maybe 'dream' is the wrong word -'Vision' is more like it. Everything seemed so clear, so real. I could feel the warm sun, the gritty sand. I could taste the salt of the sea water when I jumped in and swam out to her, felt her weight as I pulled her to shore. But the other part... all that blood, where did it come from? Why was Diana covered in blood?*

That sight, the fearsome vision of Diana Starrett bathed in red, had nearly shocked her to death. The strange costume of leather and armor she had chalked up to some kinky little dominatrix fantasy, but the blood was not at all what she had expected. Neither was her reaction to it. Charlotte Browning was notoriously squeamish, but her dream-self had lunged at Diana and embraced her tightly, heedless of the gore. She recalled looking into those fevered blue eyes and assuring her that this blood did not belong to her, that it was someone else's fault, that the bloodied woman in her arms was not to blame. Nearly in tears, she had thwarted the tall woman's escape and pushed her into the surf, calling her by another name - calling her 'Xena.'

This part confused Charlotte greatly, and the meaning escaped her. She had an idea about who to ask for help in that department, but she would need Diana's approval. Her mind drifted inexorably to the conclusion of the 'vision,' which was quite self-explanatory. *Then came the washing, and the kissing...*

Charlotte's hand drifted perilously near the heating element of the coffee maker as she drifted between memories of dreams and realities, then the doorbell rang and she jumped clear of the counter, nearly toppling a chair as she headed for the door. Tripping through the house like a kid headed for the tree on Christmas morning, she was nearly bouncing by the time she looked through the peephole to find an extraordinarily beautiful woman standing on her doorstep, smiling crookedly under a raised eyebrow. The sun was rising over Diana's shoulder, bathing her in a vermilion glow which caused the attorney's breath to catch in remembrance of her dream.

"Please let me in, Charlie. Don't let Teddy's death be for nothing," Diana said in a faux menacing tone.

Charlotte opened the door a crack and peeked out cautiously. "You couldn't have just roughed him up a little? He did have a family, you know."

"He was trying to keep me from you. He had to go," she replied matter-of-factly. Really, Teddy had opened the gate after getting a good look at her badge, although that didn't keep him from glaring at her jealously.

Smiling eagerly and opening the door wide, Charlotte reasoned, "Well, I can't argue with that logic. Get in here, deputy."

Two steps into the foyer, Diana wrapped her arms around Charlotte's waist and lifted her off her feet, kicking the door closed behind her. She started walking toward the bedroom as her mouth again sought the company of the attorney's full lips, then Charlotte mumbled something into her mouth The word sounded like 'kitchen,' but Diana knew that couldn't be right. She drew back and shook her head.

"No kitchen. Bedroom. Us. Now." She moved in again and took Charlotte's lower lip between her teeth, licking along the edges, sucking it into her mouth like a sugary treat. Slow, steady steps were carrying them closer to the bedroom door, when Charlotte suddenly pulled away from the insistent, intoxicating kiss. Her face flushed and eager, her hands wound tightly into Diana's hair, there was no doubt that she was willing to continue into that room and do whatever occurred to her as soon as the door closed. But she had to get that dream off her chest first.

"I need to talk to you about something," she pleaded in a breathy voice.

Diana had relocated her mouth to the smooth skin behind an ear, and was not responding verbally. Her lips and tongue teased and sucked at the tender patch of flesh, and Charlotte got a little dizzy.

"Whoa. Please, Diana..."

"Please, what?" A soft murmur, then her earlobe was under attack.

"Unnhh... I need to tell you about this... dream I had... while you were out." Charlotte felt one of Diana's arms ease from around her waist to move under her bottom, supporting her weight easily as the other hand drifted into the folds of her robe. As incredibly warm as she felt at the prospect of what that questing hand might discover first, she realized that if she didn't talk about this blasted dream soon, she would worry at it like a dog with a bone when she should be concentrating on other things. Her reserves were galvanized by the time they reached the bedroom door - then Diana's cool fingertips grazed her left nipple and gave it a light squeeze.

"WHOO! Okay! Time out, please!" Charlotte cried, tugging her hands free from the dark, silken locks and bracing her hands against the doorjamb. "I'm begging you, deputy, please let me get this off my chest." Diana started to withdraw her hand from beneath the robe. Charlotte frowned and said, "No, not that. Leave that right where it is. I was speaking figuratively."

Smiling with equal parts lust and mischief, the dark woman replied, "I know that, counselor. What's so important about this dream, anyway?"

"I was hoping you could help me with that, since it was mostly about you." Charlotte wiggled her feet, which were still about ten inches from the floor, and brushed her toes against Diana's calves. "Could you put me down for a minute? I know you must be getting tired."

"Nahh. You're light as a feather. Plus, my back hasn't felt this good in a while." Nonetheless, she lowered her precious burden to stand on her own dainty feet, then moved both hands off of the attorney's body - an act which prompted another frown. "Well, you said you needed to talk. It might be easier to concentrate if I don't touch you. Don't pout, I'm trying to help."

"Oh, thank you so much," Charlotte sarcastically replied. "Another example of your stunning will power."

"The faster you talk, the sooner we get back to where we left off," Diana reasoned, surprising herself with her own patience. She was eager to be with Charlotte, but not at all rushed. Raising one sculpted brow to emphasize her statement, she smiled as Charlotte stopped frowning and got down to business.

"Right. Kitchen, coffee, food, dream, then... other stuff." She straightened her robe and headed back down the hall, stopping suddenly as they passed the foyer. She backtracked and bumped into Diana, who asked her what was wrong.

"I just remembered something. Was the alarm set when we got here last night?" She walked over to the panel and looked at it curiously. The display read 'Clear - Ready to Arm.'

Diana did not hesitate. "Nope. Do you usually set it everyday?"

"Yeah. Old habit since Richard broke in and stole my CD collection right after we separated."

"Hmm. Maybe you were just distracted yesterday, with the big case and all. You want to set it now? Just to make sure it's working?"

Charlotte regarded Diana a moment then punched in her code, 7371, which Diana recognized as the young woman's birthdate. She tried to stifle a snort of disgust at the commonly used code.*Oh, man. That's too easy. Anybody could figure that out... so why were you in here stripping wires with your teeth, smartass?*

"It's not working," Charlotte said. Diana snapped to attention and peered at the panel over Charlotte's shoulder.

"Let me take a look at it. I did some security work before I got this job," Diana lied. "Do you have a small Phillips-head screwdriver?"

Charlotte nodded and went to retrieve a pouch of tools from the hall closet. Diana worked quickly, popping off the panel face and restoring the wires to their proper positions. A sharp beeping sound rang out as the alarm was re-activated, still with an alert pending. She replaced the plastic cover panel and punched in the code, silencing the racket just as Charlotte wheeled around the corner.

"What happened? What did you do?" she questioned, approaching Diana and looking skeptically at the panel, which was slightly askew. Diana smiled innocently and straightened the plastic facing. "I just gave it a whack. These things get a little bug in them from time to time. It should be fine now."

The display once again read 'Clear - Ready to Arm,' and Charlotte punched in her code. The function lights changed from green to red, indicating that the alarm was now armed, and Charlotte gave Diana a peck on the lips in thanks. Resetting it to standby mode, she turned and headed for the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, "Where did you learn to do that?"

The tall woman shrugged and said simply, "I have many skills."


Part Three
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