Trial of Conscience

by Troubleshooter

Chapter 13

Why do I keep doing this? 'What else would you do?' Anything but this. 'Excellent, well thought out choice.' Shut up. What is wrong with me? Evin looked at the wall clock before turning to stare out the window. One ten in the morning. I guess Sydney's at home. Sighing deeply, she stared absently at the lights of a freighter moving slowly down the river. I think I need a long vacation. She snorted softly. 'Yeah, like that's gonna happen anytime soon.'

A dull ache at her temples made itself known. Why can't people just follow the advice they pay for? Five hundred an hour for seven hours. This little piece of stupidity just cost them thirty five hundred, not to mention the work to be done tomorrow and the hearing Friday morning. It'll be a good ten grand before we're done, just with this little part. Then there's the defense of the suit. Idiots.

I should be at home, in bed, sleeping with Sydney right now. 'But you aren't.' Rub it in, why don't you? 'Hey, you chose to practice this area of the law. You could have done something like estate planning. How many emergencies could there possibly be in estate planning?' You know, it's really a shame the explosion didn't knock you out of my head. 'Why didn't you ask Sydney if she wanted to come back to the loft tonight?' She needs to spend time with her friends. This case has thrown her whole life into an uproar. She needs to get some sense of normalcy back.

Her whole body started at the unexpected ring of her private line.

"Evin Moran."

"'s...Evin," Sydney's panicked voice came through the handset. "There's somebody following me, I think."

Evin's entire body went rigid. Fuck! "Where are you? Have you called the police?"

"I'm at home." The tremor of fear was evident in Sydney's voice. "I already called 911."

Evin grabbed for her cell phone and keys, trying to keep the panic she was feeling out of her voice. "I'm on my way. Don't answer the door. I'll call you back as soon as I'm in my car."

"Evin...I'm scared." Sydney tried to will her body to stop shaking. "I...I think he's been following me for a while. I...I didn't realize...I mean I saw...."

"I know you're scared, sweetheart. But it's all gonna be okay, Sydney, I promise. I'll be there in ten minutes." If anything happens to her, somebody's gonna pay.

"Please hurry."

Evin hit the stairs at a dead run.

"Thanks. I really appreciate the fast response." Evin shook the officer's hand. "I'm sorry about the confusion."

"No problem, but you should have let Ms. Parker know what was going on so she didn't panic."

"Yeah, well...." Now I have to go explain all this to Sydney. "Thanks again." She turned and headed up the walk to the house. She's not going to be pleased when she hears this. She glanced to the driveway where her car was parked behind Sydney's. The BMW looked very tempting and she played with the keys in her jeans pocket. No, go face the music. You should have told her.

After Sydney's phone call, it had taken Evin until she hit the fifth floor landing for the panic to subside and to realize that the man Sydney thought was following her was probably the man that Andrew had protecting Sydney, under her orders. He was definitely following her, but it was nothing sinister. 'But she doesn't know that,' her little voice reminded her.

She cursed herself soundly for not telling Sydney about this before. By the time she reached the car and dialed the law student's number, the police were knocking on her door. Sydney hung up the phone to answer it as Evin pulled onto Tchoupitoulas Street and sped towards the small double on Magazine.

When she arrived, the police had Andrew's man in the back of the police car and were speaking with Sydney on the front porch. When those green eyes looked at her, the fear was plain to see. I caused that fear. Evin wanted to slice her own heart out. The fear had given way to relief as she pulled the law student into her arms. She ushered the small woman inside, telling her she would be right back as soon as she talked to the police.

The door flung open as she climbed the front steps. Sydney's appearance made her think of the BMW once more.

"They let him go?!" Sydney's outraged voice made Evin flinch.

"Ummm...can we go inside?" She glanced sideways towards the BMW. Suck it up, Moran. Pay the price. "There''s not...I...something I need to explain."

Sydney stepped back into the apartment as Evin followed her in. "I can't believe they let him go. I mean, at least they should take him in for questioning or something." Sydney's fear had quickly turned to anger and she was rattling on, not really paying attention to what Evin was saying. "That's not right. Can't you make them do anything? Are we going to have to file a restraining order or something? This is ridiculous. No wonder people get upset with the criminal justice system. This man's been stalking me and..."

"Syd?" She put her hands on the small woman's shoulders, stopping her. "I...uh...." Oh God, how do I start this? "I asked them to let him go."

"You what?" Sydney pulled back and looked up at the tall attorney in angry disbelief.

", you see...." Evin laughed nervously. Andrew's going to die when the sun comes up. "He, um...that man works for me. Sort of."

"What?" I can't believe what I'm hearing.

"Honey...why don't we sit on the couch and discuss this?" She wanted to add calmly and rationally, but didn't see the point in it. Sydney was anything but calm at this point.

"He works for you?"

"Um, Syd...sweetheart...please calm down."

"You have a stalker that works for you? What the hell kind of people do you employ?"

"He's not a stalker, Sydney. He, uh...." I wonder if faking a pain in my leg would get me out of this. 'Chicken,' her little voice supplied.

"Let me get this straight, Evin Moran." Sydney started pacing across the room. "A man has been following me around, scared the life out of me tonight ,and now you're telling me that he's not a stalker and he works for you, sort of. Do you mind explaining to me just what the hell is going on?"

"Please...Syd...calm down. Look, I'm sorry you were frightened. Believe me, it was not my intention...." I am toast. "It all started when I was shot at."

Sydney stopped in front of the tall attorney. "Well, I'm waiting for the explanation." Nothing in her body language indicated that it would be a patient wait.

I don't think that's a flush of desire, Evin observed as green eyes glittered angrily at her. "You know, we might look back on this one day and laugh." God, you're grasping at straws here, Moran.

"That, Evin Moran, I find very difficult to believe right now."

So do I. "I thought maybe, if they were taking shots at people walking out of that house, people they didn't even know...that maybe they'd start taking shots at other people...ones more closely connected to the"

"So you had somebody follow me around?"

Evin looked everywhere but at Sydney. "You could call it that."

" I could call it that?!" Sydney's voice rose several more notches. "Somebody's been spying on me...watching my every move. And I could call it that? What the fuck would you call it?"

"That's not what it was, Sydney." Evin was starting to get angry. "And it's not like I read the reports or anything. I didn't...I mean...Fuck! It was not spying."

"Reports?! Somebody wrote fucking reports on me? I don't see why you didn't read them." Sydney threw her arms up in disgust. "I mean, after all, didn't you want to make sure they were accurate when they reported the number of times we fucked last weekend?"

Evin froze, the blue eyes growing ice cold as the echo of steel doors shutting resounded in her mind.

"Oh, Evin...I'm so sorry...Oh God, honey, please..." Sydney reached out to touch Evin's face and saw her flinch. "I didn't mean that...I'm so sorry."

"Don't." I've got to get out of here. The tall attorney spun on her heels and headed for the door. "I've called off the spies." Grabbing the doorknob, she yanked the door open. "And as far as the fucking ...." Evin stopped and looked back at Sydney, the pain starkly evident in her eyes for a brief second. 'Don't...please don't say it,' her little voice pleaded. She turned back and continued out the door, slamming it shut, as the angry words died on her lips.

The small law student walked shakily to the couch and collapsed onto it, her head dropping into her hands. What just happened here?

Jeffrey looked up from his desk as the elevator door opened. Uh oh.

The tall attorney strode off the elevator straight to her office, snarling as she passed him, "I want Andrew in my office, now."

"I'll find him." And warn him. I wonder what the hell happened.

"No calls but Madison."

He jumped a little when the office door slammed behind her.

Dialing Andrew's extension, he breathed a little sigh of relief as he heard the investigator's voice answer. I wouldn't want to have to tell her he was out somewhere. "The boss wants you in her office. And she ain't too happy. In fact, I'd say that the words 'happy' and 'Evin Moran' may never be used in the same sentence again."

Andrew groaned on the other end of the phone. "I didn't figure she would be. I'll be there in a minute." At least I had fair warning. His investigator had called him very early this morning to tell him what had happened.

Jeffrey replaced the handset and considered buzzing her on the intercom to tell her Andrew was on his way. Nah. I'm not suicidal. He'll be down here soon enough...I hope.

Andrew knocked lightly on the door, then opened it, glancing in the direction of the desk. The only thing that was visible was the back of the leather chair. Sucking in a deep breath, he called out, "You wanted to see me, boss?"

"Fire him." The low, cold voice echoed off the glass of the window.

Her tone of voice hasn't been like that since she and Gisela broke up. Oh shit. I bet Sydney didn't react too well to finding out Evin had someone protecting her. "Evin, he didn't do anything wrong."

"Bullshit. He got caught."

"What happened?"

"Don't play games with me, Andrew. You know what happened. You didn't even ask who."

Everybody just thinks that she's angry when she yells, but she's not...well, not a lot. This... The cold rage she could demonstrate at times frightened him. The angrier she was, the calmer she appeared, projecting an attitude of indifference or boredom. When she was like this, her voice actually sounded to him like silk felt. He supposed that's what made her so devastating. You weren't even aware that she was a hair's-breadth away from your jugular until you felt it being ripped out.

The investigator had witnessed firsthand the results when she focused it on someone or something. It was like a biological dissection, except the subject was generally awake and had no benefit of anesthesia, and the scalpels she used were her words. He moved to the other side of the room, trying to get an angle so he could read her expression. "Evin, you know that happens sometimes."

"Not good enough."

"Would it have mattered if it hadn't been Sydney?" He thought of adding an "I told you to tell her" but then stopped, questioning his sanity for a second that such a thought would even pop into his head.


It would be useless to try to talk her out of firing the man right now. He knew from past experience that it would only escalate the confrontation and that really wasn't something he wanted to do. Utter devastation of whoever her target happened to be was usually the only thing that resulted when she was in one of these moods. He decided he'd do some shuffling around and tell the guy to take a few days off. "Is there anything else?"

The chair spun around as ice blue eyes found their target. "Andrew, fire him. Now."

"Evin...he's a good man." Andrew's head shook slightly in disagreement. "It would be a mistake to fire him."

"Add another to my list." She spun the chair back around and resumed her contemplation of the cloudy sky. "Gone. Now. End of discussion."

I've learned a few things from you over the years, my friend, the least of which is how to take advantage of every loophole you can find. "Consider him fired." But you didn't say I couldn't hire him as an independent contractor.

He stood there for a moment more, debating with himself. He wanted to ask her what had happened with Sydney. He knew that she was in pain. That much he had learned over the years. The cold rage was born of white-hot pain. He also had learned that she was unreachable in this mood. Better to wait a little until she calms down. He headed out the door, glancing wistfully back. I hope Sydney knows to wait before trying to talk to her. That is, if she still wants to talk to Evin. God, I hope this isn't fucked up beyond repair.

Blue eyes tracked a cloud moving through the sky. He's up to something. He didn't argue enough. The sound of the door closing softly floated across the office. Her eyes closed as her mind replayed the scene from very early this morning for the thousandth time.

Sure, Sydney would be angry, Evin had thought as she was driving. But she hadn't expected it to hurt so much. 'Not all of it, just that one thing,' her little voice reminded her. The fiery flash of green eyes haunted her mind. Just go away, her mind told the eyes. 'Is that what you really want?' Yes! Her mind snarled back. ' You can't think that she really feels that way.' I can and I do. 'You're lying to yourself.' Leave me alone!

Fleeing Sydney's last night, she headed straight for the boathouse. Her only thought was of escaping the pain. The early morning light found her still curled up in the forward berth of the boat, staring out into space, as she had done so many years ago. The familiar space provided only meager comfort, but it hadn't been enough to assuage the pain or stop the memories that it had released. Neither had the anger, her steadfast companion all these years. Her one companion who had never failed her, chose this moment to do so. The anger had done nothing more than enable her to get out the door and into her car. Its usual stranglehold on the pain was gone.

Her mind had run non-stop, the thoughts never ceasing. She tried to convince herself that she didn't care about Sydney, then cursed herself for loving the small law student. In the next second, her mind raced back to not caring. Wasn't it true that Sydney was just another fuck, as Sydney herself had put it? Sure, this one had taken a little longer to bed. But wasn't she just like all the rest of them? The pain sharply reminded her that the law student wasn't, in fact, like the rest of them. And the ache for Sydney was the one constant throughout the night.

Had it really been Sydney's fault? No, her mind had argued. It was your fault. You let your defenses down. You let her in. You allowed the words to pierce the steel. Your fault. Now, all she had to do was make sure it didn't happen again. It's your fault. You can fix it. No Sydney. No pain.

The intercom buzzed, interrupting her mind's incessant replay of last night's events. Jeffrey's voice came through the speaker. "Leonard White on line three about the Madison Associates case."

You're the reason all of this happened. If you hadn't filed that damn lawsuit I would have been with Sydney last night and none of this would have happened. "I'll take it." She turned around in her chair and a long hand reached for the handset. Prepare to die, Leonard White.

The law student had no idea how long she sat on her sofa with her head in her hands. She felt numb, her mind unable to comprehend the events of the night. Slowly, her mind began to function again, but when it did, she almost wished it hadn't. An image of blue eyes gone cold, but not before a moment of shock had registered at her words. Then the flash of pain. Then ice once again. Oh, God, what have I done?

Why didn't I just listen to her explanation? Why did I have to get so angry? Her little voice answered her. 'You were angry because you were scared and it reminded you of something your father would do.'

Sydney leaned back into the sofa and drew her knees up, wrapping her arms around them tightly. She reminded me of my father. 'No,' her little voice corrected. 'The situation reminded you of your father. She is not like your father at all.'

Her mind recalled the memory and she could feel the anger rise again. Her grades had dropped after Jennie had died and she was having trouble paying attention at school. A session with the school counselor, the same one who had done nothing to help Jennie, had resulted in the recommendation to her parents that she attend counseling to deal with what had happened.

The school counselor couldn't look her in the eyes during that session. Sydney couldn't even take satisfaction in knowing that she was right and that he had been wrong. How do you take satisfaction in knowing your best friend had to be murdered to prove you were right?

Her father had arranged for her to see a psychologist. She hadn't liked the man at first, but eventually she started opening up to him. Her grades improved rapidly and it seemed like she was well on her way to dealing with the tragedy. Until she walked in one day from school, surprised to find her father sitting at the kitchen table, a neatly typed document placed squarely in front of him.

"Sydney, have a seat please. There's something I need to speak with you about."

Always so formal, Sydney had thought as she dropped her book bag on the table and took a seat next to her father. Her eyes wandered to the stack of paper, her mind registering the name of her psychologist at the top. It became painfully clear what the document was with her father's next words.

"This report from the psychologist contains some very disturbing information, Sydney," he stated evenly.

Report? From my psychologist? But... "What?" she had asked in a small voice, her mind reeling from the revelation that everything she had said was now neatly typed on several sheets of paper and had been read by her father.

"You're not to see him anymore. I disagree with his opinion," he stated resolutely. "I've found a psychiatrist who will help you get over this...this phase you're going through."

"But Dad...I...I...." she stammered.

"There will be no discussion, Sydney. I know what's best for you."

Sydney had seen the psychiatrist, as her father decreed. What a waste of money that was. He had finally discontinued the sessions after the psychiatrist pronounced that Sydney had made it through her 'phase.' She had told the man what her father wanted to hear, knowing that another report would be generated, and thanked him each time she left the session. She kept her grades up, but only because to fail to do so would send her back to talk about lies with a man she despised.

Why did Evin have somebody following me? The lawyer's words came back to her. "It started after I got shot." Was she worried about me? That was before we even realized we liked each other. Why would she worry about me? Why didn't she just tell me, if that was the case? If she had just told me.... 'You what?' her little voice inquired softly. I wouldn't have said what I said.

She took a deep breath and stood. I need to make some coffee and think this through. She walked to the kitchen and went through the familiar routine of making coffee without thought. She's the only one that can answer some of my questions. She pulled the vacuum canister towards her and popped the lid open, absently inhaling the fresh grounds. 'What if she won't talk to you? She's not the easiest person to get to talk about personal stuff anyway. And you've hurt her.' I'll figure something out. I've got to talk to her. 'You know it won't be easy.'

A quote from her namesake, Sydney Smith, an 18 th and 19 th century clergyman and essayist, ran through her mind. "A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort." It was one of the things she had latched onto in her readings that inspired her to take her first steps away from her father. Effort. Some things took courage and effort. She's worth the effort. And I will not go to my grave being timid.

The tall attorney leaned against the back of the elevator as it descended. Her stomach ached and her head pounded. Not from the case she had been working on all day, Wall & Kroll, LLC, versus Madison Associates, Inc., but from the persistent ache for Sydney and the internal struggle to quash it.

Leonard White had, indeed, died today, as she had vowed. It was a professional death. No blood was shed, but if you were to ask Mr. White, he would have probably told you that a nice gash requiring thirty or so stitches would have been preferable to the fate he suffered at her hands.

It was nothing personal against him. He had just been unlucky enough to have filed suit against her client, Madison Associates, accusing them of hiring away a key employee and stealing clients. A lack of experience on Mr. White's part and a client whose fact interpretation was less than realistic resulted in a settlement being reached around eight o'clock this evening.

Evin had shoved the settlement down her clients' throat. "You pay them now, or you keep paying me, and then maybe you still pay them when the trial's over. Your fucking choice." Her client wisely chose to accept the settlement. White's client received a nuisance payment of five thousand dollars and Mr. White received a lesson in lawyering and a very bruised ego.

Never, ever trust what your clients say. Always check out the facts and the law very carefully. White had, in his enthusiasm, made several fatal errors. He failed to verify certain key facts and missed a recent state Supreme Court decision that clearly was not in his client's favor. He also had assured them of complete victory. Big mistake. The negligible payment ensured that his clients would spread the word that he was a pitiful excuse for a lawyer. He'd be lucky anyone hired him to fight traffic tickets after this fiasco.

At least there's no fucking hearing tomorrow morning. The elevator's descent halted and the doors opened into the garage. She stepped off the elevator and turned towards her car, coming to an abrupt halt as she spotted the law student leaning against the BMW.

"You didn't return my phone calls." Sydney said evenly, as she struggled to control her rapid heartbeat. She had finally called Andrew, her suspicions confirmed that the tall attorney had that man assigned to her for her protection the day after someone shot at Evin. I was right, she's not like my father.

The low voice responded flatly. "I was busy."

"I bet you didn't eat anything all day." Sydney straightened, observing the tall form in front of her. Blue eyes stared coldly at her, every muscle tense, her feet spread slightly apart as if she were expecting to defend herself against a blow. After last night, I don't blame her.

Courage, Sydney, courage. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

Evin snorted. "You have to care about someone for them to hurt you."

The words stung, but Sydney concentrated on what she didn't say. Ah, but she's so good at these word games. "That's mostly true. I'm sorry I hurt you."

"Like I said...." The cold sarcasm chilled the air around her.

"You have to care." Sydney finished. "You'd like for me to assume that your statement means you don't care."

A glint of anger flashed in the blue eyes.

This is good. At least it's some emotion. "We need to talk about what happened, Evin."

"There's nothing to talk about. I did what I did. You said what you said." Evin's voice was full of anger now.

"Would screaming and yelling at me help?" She paused, waiting for some sort of response. She got none. "Do you want to scream and yell at me? Tell me what an asshole I am? How much I hurt you? Come on. You can do it. I know you've got it in you. You've told me so yourself," the law student taunted. "You want to tell me something that will hurt me like I hurt you? Give it your best shot. I can take it."

Evin stared at her mutely. Her mind warred with itself, the need to lash out and inflict pain clashing with the need to hold the small law student in her arms to soothe the same pain. Her heart and soul had made it abundantly clear to her throughout the day that the cause of, and the cure for, her pain were one in the same. Sydney. "I...I won't do that."

Sydney felt her body relax a little. "Good." She smiled tentatively at Evin and took a step closer. "It's not something I was looking forward to," she said ruefully.

"Why?" All night and all day, it was the one question her mind raised over and over, and the one she couldn't answer. She could understand Sydney being angry at her about being followed. She could understand the young woman being even angrier that Evin hadn't told her what was going on. But making it so personal? When Sydney lashed out with those words, it had shocked her, loosening a flood of memories that she hadn't been able to stem, and they had overwhelmed her. She felt herself drowning and had to get out of the water. Her hand reached out for Sydney's of its own accord.

"That, my love," Sydney responded, reaching out to grasp Evin's hand, "Is a long story. You sure you're interested?" Green eyes looked searchingly into blue.

So much meaning in those words. The contact with Sydney electrified her, her heart and soul recognizing the soft skin and warmth as the balm she needed to soothe her pain. You'll just get hurt again , her mind screamed. Her heart and soul overpowered her protesting mind. "Always." The word slipped out gently, lovingly.

A small hand, trembling slightly, raised to touch the cheek of the tall attorney. A knot of fear twisted Sydney's stomach. Will she flinch like she did last night? That had been the worst part, she had decided. What if Evin feared her touch?

Pale blue eyes closed as she leaned into the small hand touching her cheek. Her mind sighed and she felt the tension that had gripped her like a vise since last night start to drain away. A soft, gentle voice floated to her ears.

"Come on, baby. Let's go to the loft." A small hand tugged, pulling the tall woman along.

Those were about the sweetest words Evin thought she had ever heard.

The fire crackled and snapped in the fireplace, its light bathing the two women in dancing shadows. The tall attorney lay on the floor, her head comfortably nestled in Sydney's lap as she leaned back against the couch. An overwhelming need had come over Evin when they had arrived at the loft to have some sort of constant physical contact with the law student.

After changing into some of Evin's sweat pants and a t-shirt, Sydney had given her lover a knowing look, commenting, "I bet you haven't eaten since Meredith's." A nod of the dark haired woman's head sent Sydney into the kitchen to prepare food. A teasing admonishment from the small woman about terrorizing the cook had finally caused Evin to take a seat at the breakfast table in the kitchen, silently watching as Sydney scrambled some eggs. At some point during the meal, Evin gave in to the need to touch the small woman and switched her fork to her left hand, grasping the law student's free hand with her right, holding it until they were finished.

The sense of peace that she always felt in Sydney's presence had returned. It amazed her that she could feel that, despite the anxiety still present from the events of the last twenty-four hours. She knew that they were going to talk about that damn "f" word...feelings. But she had managed to get through several of these discussions before, with plenty of prodding from Sydney, and without suffering any adverse, lasting consequences, so she resigned herself to the fact that it would happen. She just wished it was already over with.

"Hey, you." Sydney smiled gently at the tall woman. "You ready to talk about what happened?" The flickering light of the fire cast ever-changing shadows over the angles and planes framed in dark hair. A finger traced cheekbones and ran lightly along a forehead. Evin had been quiet all through the quick dinner Sydney had thrown together. Quiet, even for her. And what was with the holding hands? Not that I mind it...I love it, but....

"No," came the honest answer. "But I know we need to. I...I...." Gonna have to put it out there, big girl. "I've been thinking about what you said...a while ago...if we can't talk about something...then we've got a problem." Evin took a deep breath and paused a second. "'ve got enough being thrown at us. We don't need me causing problems for us."

"Talking's not always easy." She acknowledged. "But we've managed." A pause. "Last didn't cause this problem, we both did."

Dark brows furrowed. "I took an action. I didn't tell you. It scared you half to death. The result is a problem. I took the first action. The problem was caused by my action, therefore I caused the problem."

A logical discussion about feelings. Can you have one of those? "We're talking about something personal here, Evin...not a case that you can apply cold logic to. If I hadn't said what I did, you wouldn't have gotten upset."

"But if I hadn't done what I did, then you never would have had reason to say what you did."

"Honey...we could logically extend this argument back to our births." How do I put this? "We both did things that contributed to our being angry and upset with each other. What's important to me is that you hear why I said what I said and that I know why you did what you did. I'm not looking for excuses or who's to blame...just a little better understanding of why things happened."

Evin looked at the beautiful face above her, bathed in soft firelight. So like her. Nothing harsh. Smooth. Gentle. Just enough shadow to belie the naïveté you think is there. She's so beguiling. "Understanding...okay, I had him assigned to you for protection."

The redhead smiled softly. "I know...and I appreciate that you were concerned for my safety." Which of course makes me want to ask other questions about the case, but that's for later. "What I don't understand is why you didn't tell me."

'Good question. Why didn't you just tell her?' "I...I really don't know. I had him start the day of the hearing. I didn't want to scare you. There's something...this's a bad feeling I've had since the beginning." Evin sat up and turned to face Sydney. "And's...things started happening so fast...between us...I didn't even think of it most of the time. Andrew...he told me to tell you and I was going to...and then I just never get around to it."

Plaintive blue eyes looked at Sydney as she continued. "I'm so, so sorry that you got scared...that I didn't tell you about it. There's a lot of things that I do, Syd...that I just do. And I don't think about the impact on the other person. Please believe me when I tell you that I wasn't spying on you. I even had him back off when I was with you. He definitely didn't follow us last weekend."

That got a small smile from Sydney. "I know that you're used to operating by yourself, making decisions...taking actions. When something has to do with me, I...I need to have input into that decision. That's really important to me."

A concerned look came over Evin's face. "I don't know how good at that I can be...I'm not sure that I'm what you would call trainable."

"Oh, honey...." Sydney laughed. "Trainable? I don't want you trainable. I love you just the way you are." A small hand reached out and stroked a smooth cheek. "Just promise me that next time there's a decision involving me, that you at least try to involve me in that decision, okay?"

"I can do that." I think.

Sydney patted her lap. "Come lay back down here."

Turning and stretching out again, Evin complied with her request. This talking stuff isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

The small woman ran her fingers through the tangle of black hair, scratching Evin's scalp lightly. A memory of the pain in Evin's eyes from last night flashed in her mind. "I'm sorry for what I said. We...for me, I make love with you. It's not fucking...not just physical. Do you know that? Really know that?"

Her mind acknowledged what her heart and soul knew. "Yes, I really do know that." Blue eyes gazed openly into green eyes, flecked with gold reflecting the firelight. "After I got to think about it for a while," Twenty hours, her mind supplied. "I realized it's not what you said that hurt so much. It was what it brought back that...I let it overwhelm me and I can't do that." You're not them. God knows, you've proven it to me, if not by anything else but the fact that we're here, together. I need to remember that.

"That's kind of the same reason I let my mouth overload my brain."

"I was also thinking about how much we know about each other. I don't mean in the here and now. you don't know...well, lots of things about me. And I think that not knowing things sometimes hurts us because then just doesn't make sense."

Chuckling, Sydney replied, "You've done a lot of thinking today, haven't you?"

"Of this kind...yeah, probably more than I've done in the last eight years or so," she acknowledged wryly. "I'm pretty rusty at it...hell, I never was that good to begin with."

"It took me a few years to figure out that, as hard as talking about some of this stuff is, as painful as it is at times, that the pain won't just go away by itself." Green eyes tracked to the logs in the fireplace, watching the flames dance as her fingers idly played with the tall woman's hair.

Evin looked at her seriously. "I thought, um, well that you just knew how to do that stuff."

"Oh, no, sweetheart, unfortunately I didn't. If I had, it would have saved me a lot of heartache." Her hand stilled in the thick dark hair. "That''s part of what triggered my anger last night." She looked down at Evin. "I was really angry last night. Part of it was that I was scared to death, and that came out as anger. Another part of it was that I felt like you were spying...."

"But..." A finger over her lips silenced Evin.

"Shhh...I understand that you did it for my protection. I didn't know that then, and it felt like you were spying on it was something my father might do."

Shit! She thinks I'm like her father. That can't be good. The only thing she's really said about him was how he didn't believe her about Jennie. Evin started to squirm a little bit. "You...I'm not really like him, am I?"

"Oh, God, no," Sydney laughed. "You did what you did to protect me. My father does what he does to control try to get me to be his definition of me. I'm happy to say that if you looked in his dictionary next to the definition of me, you would not see my picture."

That got a full grin from Evin. "So what kind of picture would I see next to his definition?"

"You wouldn't be on my lap, that's for sure. Hmmm...let's see," Pale brows furrowed in thought. "I think I would wear pastels and my nails would be painted and my hair would be cut in a different way...much more conservative. I'd be a dutiful wife and mother."

Evin raised her eyebrows. "Mother?"

"Oh yeah." The fair head nodded vigorously. "At the tender age of twenty four, I'm sure I would have been married for a couple of years and diligently working my uterus off to provide suitable offspring to my already semi-pot-bellied, fine Republican husband. I'd live on Classic Drive, eat lunch at the country club with all the other wives and I'd have no opinions of my own." Her body shook in revulsion. "That would be so disgusting."

"I can't see it," Evin stated, her brow furrowed as she tried to conjure up an image of the woman she loved in that situation.

"Neither could I." Her voice softened. "I would be dead inside."

"Why did it remind you of your father?"

The petite redhead stared into the fire. "After Jennie...died, I got depressed. My grades dropped and I had to go to the school counselor's office. To make a long story short, he recommended that my parents send me to therapy...hence, my initial, and very unpleasant, introduction into therapy. A psychologist and a psychiatrist later, I emerged cured of the "phase" I was going through."


"My dad...he had them give him reports on me...written reports...on what I talked to them about. The first guy, the psychologist, Dr. Gregg...I actually got to the point where I liked him, and really started talking to him. Seems like Dr. Gregg put in the report that I had "lesbian tendencies" and that I was angry with my dad for not doing anything about Jennie and her family...for him not believing me about what happened." Her eyes closed as long fingers caressed her cheek. "That's when my father made me go to the other guy...when he read the report. He, um, he didn't like what the first one had to say. Dr. Gregg said that there wasn't anything wrong with me...that it was.... My dad told me that I was going through a phase, and he...he said Dr. Gregg was wrong...about everything." Her eyes opened and she smiled gently at Evin. "So when you said reports last night, I, um, I kind of went off the deep end. It's no excuse to say what I did."

A surge of anger rose. Reports? What kind of fucking father does that to his daughter? Evin sat up again, looking at Sydney intently. "I...can understand wanted to hurt me like you were hurt." She looked down and picked at the fibers of the carpet. "That's my modus operandi. It's my a threat on a personal level. I...I think that's why I was so shocked when you said that. I never thought...expected...."

"What? You thought I wasn't capable of being a bitch?" Sydney laughed a gut deep laugh.

"Ummm...yeah?" she offered with a sheepish grin.

"Oh...honey...I'm no saint. I am very capable of being nasty and mean. I just...I don't like that about myself. I'm...I react like that when I'm really scared. And I was really scared."

Evin shifted her body and leaned towards Sydney, the backs of long fingers reaching out to stroke a cheek. "I...that's how I fought...fight. When you all came back.... I can't...won't do that with you."

The law student captured Evin's hand in her own and traced the long fingers. "Who did you fight with like that?"

"Mostly Gisela...." The questioning look from Sydney prompted her to explain. "I went out with her when I was in law school. It wasn't a...there were a lot of things that happened. I was really angry back then. She hurt me. I'd hurt her back. It was..." She shrugged. "Like a competition...who could inflict the most damage and stay standing."

"Who won?"

"Neither of us." A rueful smile crossed her lips. "It's still an ongoing competition."

Sydney silently studied her. "I won't compete with you like that," she said finally.

The tall woman's head turned to the fire, her eyes searching as if some truth were hidden there. "I haven't...I've only ever seen two women in my life for any length of time." Like more than one night. "Before you, that is. When you walked into my life...I felt things I hadn't felt in years. Some I had never, ever felt before. I don't want to lose" She turned back to Sydney, the flame in the blue eyes rivaling that of the crackling fire. "I'm happy, Syd. I never thought I would be like this. That loving be like this. The the morning...when I wake up, and you're there...I want to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. I couldn't...I don't think I could stand it if I was."

"I know that feeling very well. I've been pinching myself since the first hour I met you." The depth of the emotions Sydney could see in the eyes...the face...of her lover brought home the reality of the relationship. "I...." This isn't just a fling for her. You don't need to worry about that any more. "I love you, Evin...on so many levels. I'm not going anywhere."

Relief washed over the tall attorney and a bone-deep weariness settled in. No sleep and the emotional roller coaster of the last two days had taken its toll. "I love you, too, Sydney Parker, so very much," she whispered intently.

A fair head tilted up slightly as Evin leaned forward, her lips seeking Sydney's. Large hands found soft skin, cradling the fair face. Lips brushed, the touch as soft as a feather's.

'Show her how much you love her,' the little voice urged in a whisper as Evin pulled back slightly, her breath catching in her throat as the feelings the small woman stirred in her crashed through her heart and mind and soul. Foreheads touched for a long moment as she struggled against the tide of emotion. 'Don't fight it.'

Her lips sought out Sydney's again, brushing them tenderly. Don't think I can...don't think I want to. The struggle ceased and the tide swept her out. Seconds turned into minutes as soft kisses were exchanged. Hands moved unhurriedly, slipping under cotton to find soft, warm skin as bodies stretched out in front of the fireplace. Limbs tangled after clothes were shed, minds reveling in the tactile stimulation as the warmth of the fire paled in comparison to the heat rising from their skin.

Time had no meaning as long fingers and hands mapped the small body tangled with hers. Flickers of light and shadows alternately revealed and veiled the places she touched, her eyes occasionally glancing up to engage and hold green in wordless communication. Rolling onto her back, she carried the small body with her as she once again tasted soft lips and explored a warm mouth.

Hands went to hips, urging the small body upwards. Blue eyes closed as the velvety skin of inner thighs brushed her cheeks, the scent of Sydney's arousal eliciting a small moan. Lips and tongue caressed the velvet skin of inner thighs. A slow, tender lap of the tongue up the length of the small woman's sex wrung a guttural moan from the depths of both their souls, the sound mixing with the crackling and snapping of the fire. The small woman leaned back onto her hands, her hips and the mouth on her moving in adagio tempo.

To Sydney, the feeling...the movement was an eternal truth their bodies spoke...of love, of desire, of need...timeless...perfect. She felt no need to increase the slow movement of her hips as Evin's mouth feasted upon her, content to take the staircase, one step at a time, to the summit of that plain she existed on when the tall woman pleasured her.

The long red tongue, wielded as delicately as an artist's brush, painted a picture on the canvas presented to her. The velvety folds and sensitive bud grew more sensitive with each movement of the lips and tongue, the cadence rewarding Evin with an opportunity to fully appreciate the changes in the body above her...the gradual acceleration of breathing, the slow building of tension in the muscles, the swelling of the sensitive nub and the folds that surrounded it, the flow of wetness from the opening her tongue penetrated at intervals, the salty sweet taste satisfying an intense craving in her soul.

A long moan escaped from the small woman as the summit came into view in her mind's eye. Savoring the feel of the brush strokes against her sensitive sex, it seemed as if every blood cell in her body were being coaxed down gently by that mouth that was now surely as much a part of her as one of her limbs. The tightness below her belly increased more than she thought possible as she resisted the urge to increase the rhythm of her hips and seek release, her mind telling her that the reward would be worth the wait.

Long, broad brush strokes were applied to the canvas, the slow rhythm never faltering, the body above her growing tauter with each movement. A moment's loss of contact as Evin drew back and admired her work, then she resumed painting on her canvas. Full red lips finally captured the sensitive protrusion and sucked gently as her tongue bathed the swollen nub with swirling strokes.

A low keening started in Sydney's soul as she reached the summit and beyond, the sound making its way out through her lips as each movement of the lips and tongue pushed her further over the edge. Her world narrowed to a focus so pinpointed that she swore she could feel each soft ridge of the tongue as it brushed across her sex. Each nerve ending throbbed in succession, the domino-like effect starting again each time the tongue reversed directions, sending wave after wave of delicious sensation up through her gut and out along every nerve ending in her body.

Tongue and lips finally ceased their movement as the small body collapsed. A low voice whispered, "I love you, with all that I am."

It was enough.