Rough Draft of the Precious Trilogy......still under construction

All text, story idea and addition charactes are copyright Barbara "Lillandra" Sutherland, and may not be used, copied, or borrowed without express written consent. (copyright 2002, 2003)



Precious Time By Lillandra Thunderfic@hotmail.com "So, are you in, or out?"

Tiffany Chambers looked at the other person at the table, regarding him coolly. She thought for a few moments, weighed her options, then nodded. "I'm in," she said as she tossed a poker chip to the middle of the table. "Raise you fifty."

The other person coughed lightly. "Too rich for my blood.I fold."

Tiffany smiled as she laid her cards down and collected the large amount of money from the table. "Night's getting' late, and I'm quitting while I'm ahead."

"Hey," the other person said as he looked at Tiffany's cards. "You only had two jacks?"

Tiffany nodded. "Yeah, I bluffed."

"You bitch."

Tiffany snorted softly. "Sore loser." She got up from the table, grabbed her coat, and headed for the door. "I bid you all a fond adieu."

"Hold on," someone said. "I wanna talk to you for a second."

********

Tiffany sat on the railing that ran along the back of the house, lit a cigarette, and leaned back slightly. "What did you want to talk about?"

Detective Jason Habyre smiled at her. "During the bust today."

"Yeah?"

"When you were counting the drugs."

"Yeah?" Tiffany said as she took a drag from her cigarette. "Look, Jason.why don't you get to where you're going, and cut out the scenic route."

"I saw you pocket some of the precious."

Tiffany tensed slightly, but stayed where she was. "You saw me pocket some of the drugs?" she asked. She jumped to her feet when he nodded. "I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Cut the crap, Chambers," Jason said. "I just want to know if I saw what I think I saw."

"What the hell are you, IA?" Tiffany stabbed her cigarette out in a large ashtray. "Get a life, Jase," she said in a low voice, "cause if you told anyone what you think you saw, then I might just get pissed at you."

Jason watched as Tiffany walked to the patio door, opened it and went into the house. He then lit a cigarette, turned, and flicked the match into the back yard.

********************

Tiffany closed her eyes as the wind brushed lightly through her hair. She heard a vehicle approach, glanced over her shoulder to confirm who the visitor was, and then looked back over the city below her.

The silver pickup stopped a few feet away, and a tall man got out. He walked across the rooftop parking lot, and took up position beside Tiffany.

"Pretty impressive, isn't it?" she asked, motioning to the city below them.

"It certainly is," Texas Ranger Cordell Walker said. "Any luck?"

Tiffany smiled as she looked out at the city. "It was easier than I thought. Jason Habyre asked me about the Precious that I.uh.borrowed."

Walker's eyebrows went up in mild surprise. "That was quick. You just took that yesterday."

"I know," Tiffany finally turned away from the Dallas skyline. "I wondered why he invited me to the poker game last night. Guess he couldn't wait to see if I'm dirty."

"Are you sure you still want to do this?"

Tiffany shrugged lightly. "Well, I don't like the Internal Affairs feel that it gives me, and I'm not overly interested in being a Serpico, but other than that."

Walker took a step back from the guardrail. "If you're not one hundred percent behind this, then tell me now."

"Let's just say that I'm 95% behind this, and leave it at that." Tiffany smiled. "Besides, it might be interesting to pretend to be dirty for awhile."

********************

"Tiffany Chambers? Are you sure?"

Detective Jason Habyre nodded. "I saw her pocket it. She basically admitted it last night."

"I don't know," the other man said slowly. "Smells like IA."

Jason laughed. "Oh, trust me.Chambers is the last person that would go IA." He paused. "I think we should see if she's like us."

Detective Harry Kilner laughed. "Like us? You mean dirty?"

"Dirty.rich.ambitious." Jason said with a shrug, "take your pick."

********************

The morning sun was just peeking through the curtains when the aroma of fresh brewed coffee filtered its way into the bedroom. Tiffany sniffed a few times, inhaling the delicious scent, then rolled over and opened her eyes. She stretched lightly, luxuriating in the feel of the silk bedsheets.

She heard a small noise, and looked up to find Carlos Sandoval leaning against the bedroom doorframe. He had a mug of coffee in his hand, and he was watching her intently.

"Into voyeurism now, are you?" she asked playfully.

"You never know," he said cheerfully as he stood and walked over to her. He took a sip from the mug, then offered it to her. She took a drink, then fell back against her pillow. "Up, up, up," Carlos said. "You have a busy day."

Tiffany took the coffee again, downed over half of the liquid, then got out of bed. "Do I at least have time for a shower?" she asked innocently.

"Oh, I think you might."

"Hey! Wait a minute!" Tiffany interrupted. "What's going on here? It's Saturday.my day off!" She headed back for the bed and climbed in under the soft sheets.

Carlos smiled at her. "Yes, it is Saturday. And do you remember what is happening today?"

"Yeah.I'm gonna sleep in.that's what's happening. Wanna join me?"

Carlos walked to the head of the bed, and crouched beside it so he was looking into her face. "What comes to mind when I say these three things: airport. Houston. 9:15 am flight."

Tiffany's eyes went wide, and she jumped out of her bed. "Damn it, Carlos! Why didn't you remind me."

Carlos sat on the bed and laughed. "Because, if I reminded you, I wouldn't get the fun of seeing you panic like this."

********************

Meet with FBI agents who originally asked Tiffany to go undercover to get bad drug steeling cops...

********************

"Your boyfriend's an ex-cop."

"Oh, for fuck." Tiffany turned away in annoyance. "Jesus, Harry," she said as she turned back. "What does that have to do with anything."

"I think you're working for Internal Affairs."

"Internal Affairs?" Tiffany glanced at Jason. "And what do you think?"

Jason shrugged. "I'm not sure yet. It is kinda suspicious." He started to count points off on his fingers. "You're sleeping with and ex-cop.who happens to be a PI now. You're chummy with Rangers. Up until three days ago, I never saw you do anything remotely crooked."

"Yeah.well, I've never seen either of you two do anything crooked," Tiffany pointed out. "How do I know that you're not Internal Affairs?"

"This is getting us no where," Harry said. "Tiffany, excuse us.we have to have a little chat."

Tiffany got up from her chair. "You two are very weird," she said as she went to the back of the bar. She smiled to herself. Those two are nearly falling over each other to get me to join them.

********************

Stereo played Thunderstruck by AC/DC, Tiffany hummed along with the hard music. Carlos winced slightly. "Uhh.could you possibly turn that down?"

Tiffany rolled her eyes as she lowered the volume. "Honestly Carlos, you need to get a broader taste of music."

"My taste in music is fine," Carlos said. "At least my music is listenable."

"Listenable? Is that even a word?" Tiffany teased. "Besides, haven't you heard? If you're ears aren't bleeding, then it isn't music."

"Charming," Carlos muttered. He reached out and changed the radio station, smiling in approval as a song came on. "There, that's music."

"Carlos," Tiffany said pleasantly. "If you don't change that station back, then I am going to slam this car into a wall."

Carlos put his hands up in mock defeat, and laughed as he change the stereo back to it's original setting.

********************
Tiffany looked at her watch as she walked out of the elevator. She bumped into someone, mumbled a sorry as she glanced at him, then started down the hall. She stopped, stood straight, then turned slowly.

"What are you doing here?!" she demanded at the same time as the other person.

Detective Jason Habyre sighed in disgust. "So you're the cop the Feds put in."

Tiffany, unsure of what to say, just continued to stare. "What?"

Jason walked to her, put a hand on her arm, and guided her down the hallway. "Relax, Chambers.I'm not the bad guy here."

Tiffany's head finally finished spinning, and she dug her heals in to the floor. "Hold on, Jase.I'm not going anywhere with you."

Jason shrugged, let go, and entered the office in front of him. Tiffany stared at the name on the door. It was the same office which she was suppose to have a meeting in.

"This is bull," Tiffany whispered as she opened the door.

********

"Internal Affairs?" Tiffany asked as she looked at Jason.

"Yep," he replied. "But don't worry, I'm not there to bust you.anymore."

"Wha?!" Tiffany sat straighter in her seat. "Bust me??"

"Well, you did steal a hell of a lot of Precious," Jason pointed out. "That made you look dirty."

"I'm getting ethic lessons from a guy who shakes down hookers," Tiffany said with a disgusted shake of her head.

"Would you two please be quiet."

They both looked at the man seated behind the desk. "Detective Habyre, I apologize for any hardship our placing an agent may have caused your case." He paused, then looked at Tiffany. "Detective Chambers.in light of recent activities, we still need you undercover."

"Fine," Tiffany said as she glanced at Jason. "Is Harry IA, too?"

Jason shook his head. "No.and he's the reason I'm there. He's dirty as they come."

Tiffany parked her car in front of the old warehouse, got out, and went to the door. She tried the doorknob, and finding it unlocked, entered the building.

"Hello?" she called out. She jumped as a shadow passed in front of her. "Okay, this isn't funny," she said as she reached for her gun. She pointed it at the shadow. "Move out into the light, nice and slow.hands where I can see them."

The shadow moved into the light, and its features became recognizable.

"Jesus," Tiffany said as she lowered her weapon. "You damn near scared the life outta me."

"That was the idea," the man said, and instant before he reached behind him and pulled out a small gun.

Tiffany raised her own gun quickly, and fired, but she was a fraction too late. Pain erupted in her shoulder and her body swung back from the impact. She straightened, put her hand over the wound, and looked at him with surprise as she sunk to her knees.

"I can't believe you shot me," she whispered as she tried to raise her gun. The man reached out, took the gun from her useless hand, and stepped back. "Fuck."

"Nothing personal," the man said as he aimed again, and fired. The bullet entered just below her ribcage, causing her to scream out in agony.

Tiffany fell to her back, and stared at the ceiling of the warehouse as her brain tried to catch up with what was happening to her. Somewhere, behind her pain, she could hear Carlos' voice telling her to close her eyes.play dead. She willed herself to obey.

She was vaguely aware that no important, life-altering thoughts passed through her mind as she gasped for air; no regrets, no wishes, no 'if onlys'. In fact, the only thought that actually occurred to her was that Carlos had been right.she should have backed out of this long ago.

The man crouched by her still body and put two fingers on her neck. He felt a faint pulse, shrugged, and then got back to his feet. Tiffany cracked an eye open, and watch as the man went to a corner, picked up a large can, and started to pour the liquid contents over the floor.

"Oh, shit," she whispered and tried to get up. Come on, body.MOVE! Panic started to overtake the pain when she realized that her body would not comply with her wishes.

The man turned, lit a cigarette, then flicked the match onto the floor. Flames sprung up, and quickly spread throughout the area. He took one last look at Tiffany, and then walked out of the building.

********************

Carlos turned away from the office window and went back to his desk. He looked at a few papers, sighed, and put them away in a folder. He stared at his computer screen for a few minutes then logged onto the Internet. Carlos checked his e-mail, and not finding a letter from Tiffany, logged back off. He looked up as the door opened and Trent entered.

"Any word?" Trent asked.

"Nope," Carlos replied. "No messages, no e-mail, nothing." He stood again. "This isn't like her."

"Maybe she couldn't get to a computer," Trent offered. "Or, it might be too dangerous for her to contact you right now."

Carlos nodded slightly. "That must be it. Man! I hate this case Tiffany is working on .it worries me sometimes."

"Oh, before I forget," Trent said, "Alex invited Jenny and me to dinner tonight.and she wants you to come too."

"Sounds like you're trying to change the subject."

Trent nodded. "Yep, I am. So.?"

"I don't know."

"Alex insisted."

"Oh, well, if she insisted, then that's different," Carlos said. "Wouldn't want to piss off and Assistant D.A."

********************

********************

Cordell Walker held the phone in his hand, stunned by what he had just heard. He put the receiver down slowly, then turned to the group behind him.

Trent stood straight, concerned by the look on Walker's face. "What?" he asked, not really knowing if he wanted to hear the answer.

"There was a fire in an old warehouse downtown two days ago," Walker said slowly. "There was a body found." He trailed off, not wanting to complete the sentence.

Jenny closed her eyes and turned away. She put her hand over her mouth to stop the protest that she was about to say. Trent put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. He looked at Carlos, saw the worry on his friend's face.

"Tiff?" Carlos asked in a soft voice.

"I'm sorry, Carlos," Walker said.

"Fuck," Jenny whispered. She turned to Trent, welcoming the feel of his arms around her. "No," she said into his chest. "It can't be."

Carlos was silent as he stared at the Texas Ranger. His mind reeled, and it took all his will power not to sink to the floor and cry. "Are you sure?"

Walker nodded. "We just got the identification from her dental records." He took a step towards the other man. "I'm really sorry, Carlos. If there's anything I can do."

"Maybe later," Carlos answered, then turned and walked out of the room.

"Carlos," Jenny called after him.

"Let him go," Trent said.

********************

Carlos leaned against the side of the house, staring at the star filled sky. "We just got the identification from her dental records." The words echoed through his mind. That means she was burned beyond recognition. He shut his eyes tight against that image, but it assaulted him anyway.

He put his hands over his eyes and slowly sank to the ground. "Damn it," he whispered. "Damn it.fuck." He put his head back against the wall and closed his eyes as he suddenly became angry.

"Why did you have to do it, Tiff?" he asked. "You could have backed out, and let the Feds handle it. But no.you had to be the hero.and now you're dead!" He swung his arm back, pounding his elbow against the hard wall. "How could you be so fucking stupid!!"

He pulled his legs up, so that his knees where almost to his chest, and hugged them tightly. He rocked slowly back and forth as his anger eased. "I'm sorry, Tiff," he whispered. "Oh, God, please.make this just a bad dream."

But, he knew with certainty that this had not been a dream. Dreams were never this painful. Part of him wanted to just crawl into some crevice and die, but another part, the part that he now turned his concentration to, wanted to end that pain. That part wanted vengeance.

The End
Thunderfic       Lillandra's Page! Precious Memories By Lillandra Thunderfic@hotmail.com Sitting through the funeral was one of the hardest things that Carlos had ever done.

He stared blankly at the closed coffin, not really hearing the Priest as he spoke. He stood with the rest of the congregation, and closed his eyes as the casket was lowered into the ground.

"Goodbye," he whispered as it disappeared from site. He turned and walked away from the crowd.

*************** Trent Malloy walked into his Thunder Investigation office, and stopped when he saw the figure sitting behind the desk.

"What are you doing here?" he asked slowly.

Carlos Sandoval smiled up at him. "Uh, I'm part owner, and I work here, remember?"

Trent went over to his desk and stood just in front of it. "That's not what I meant. I mean, you don't have to be here."

"Trent," Carlos said with a sigh. "I want to be here. I'm sick of thinking about things, and that's all I do when I'm alone." He leaned back in his seat. "I close my eyes, I see Tiffany.I go to sleep, I see her. I just want to do something to keep my mind off of her."

Trent smiled in understanding. "Is it working?"

"No."

********************

Trent opened the front door, smiling at the visitor. "Hey, come on in."

Carlos tried to return the smile. "Actually, Trent.Is your mom home?"

?????Malloy sat silently as Carlos talked. "I mean, I don't know what to do. At times I feel like I'm going crazy."

??? smiled sympathetically. "Oh, there will be days like those. At times I still imagine hearing Thunder's voice, and when I turn, he's not there." ********* ******* *********

Carlos rolled over, and put his arm on the bed beside him. He felt around sleepily, then opened his eyes. "Damn," he whispered as the images of the dream stayed with him.

He got up, turned on the water for the shower, then stripped out of his clothes. He stepped into the water stream, involuntarily shivering against the coldness.

Another dream, another semi awake hope, shattered by the cruelness of reality. Carlos sighed as the water ran down his body. His favorite time of day had started to become that little moment between sleep and wakefulness. In those brief moments, everything was fine with the world. In those moments, he wasn't alone.

Carlos grabbed the soap, not really wanting to wash.not wanting to face the world. Not today.

He sighed, annoyed that he had made his friends the promise that he wouldn't shut himself off for life. I mean, did it ever occur to anyone that maybe he needed to feel sorry for himself for a while. Maybe that was the only way that he would get over Tiffany's death.

******************

Precious Fate By Lillandra Prologue:


Sitting through the funeral was one of the hardest things that Carlos had ever done.

He stared blankly at the closed coffin, not really hearing the Priest as he spoke. He stood with the rest of the congregation, and closed his eyes as the casket was lowered into the ground.

"Goodbye," he whispered as it disappeared from site. He turned and walked away from the crowd.

*************** Two Weeks Later:

Trent Malloy walked into his Thunder Investigation office, and stopped when he saw the figure sitting behind the desk.

"What are you doing here?" he asked slowly.

Carlos Sandoval smiled up at him. "Uh, I'm part owner, and I work here, remember?"

Trent went over to his desk and stood just in front of it. "That's not what I meant. I mean, you don't have to be here."

"Trent," Carlos said with a sigh. "I want to be here. I'm sick of thinking about things, and that's all I do when I'm alone." He leaned back in his seat. "I close my eyes, I see Tiffany.I go to sleep, I see her. I just want to do something to keep my mind off of her."

Trent smiled in understanding. "Is it working?"

"No."

********************

********* ******* *********

Carlos rolled over, and put his arm on the bed beside him. He felt around sleepily, then opened his eyes. "Damn," he whispered as the images of the dream stayed with him.

He got up, turned on the water for the shower, then stripped out of his clothes. He stepped into the water stream, involuntarily shivering against the coldness.

Another dream, another semi awake hope, shattered by the cruelty of reality. Carlos sighed as the water ran down his body. His favorite time of day had started to become that little moment between sleep and wakefulness. In those brief moments, everything was fine with the world. In those moments, he wasn't alone.

Carlos grabbed the soap, not really wanting to wash.not wanting to face the world. Not today.

He sighed, annoyed that he had made his friends the promise that he wouldn't shut himself off for life. I mean, did it ever occur to anyone that maybe he needed to feel sorry for himself for a while. Maybe that was the only way that he would get over Tiffany's death.

*********** ********* ******** Trent opened the front door, smiling at the visitor. "Hey, come on in."

Carlos tried to return the smile. "Actually, Trent.Is your mom home?"

?????Malloy sat silently as Carlos talked. "I mean, I don't know what to do. At times I feel like I'm going crazy."

??? smiled sympathetically. "Oh, there will be days like those. At times I still imagine hearing Thunder's voice, and when I turn, he's not there."

******** ******* ******* Five Months later:

Carlos looked across the courtyard. And that was when he saw her.

She was walking with two men, heading towards the elevators. Her hair shimmered in the afternoon sun, and it was shorter than it had been the last time he saw her. He watched, slightly confused as she stopped in front of the elevators, put a set of headphones on, and stepped in with the men as the doors opened.

Carlos snapped out of his shock and nearly ran to the elevator. He wasn't positive of what he was seeing, not sure if she was the person he thought it was.

She looked up just before the doors closed, and he knew, without hesitation that it was her. He saw the recognition in her eyes as she noticed him, and he watched as she tried to hide it. The doors closed just before he reached them, and he slammed a fist into the hard metal in frustration.

He spun, headed for the stairs, and took them two at a time. He burst through the doors on the second floor, looked up and down the hallway, then ducked back in.

He searched the next two floors before he saw them walking around a corner on the fourth floor.

"Hey!" he yelled after her as he exited the stairwell. The two men with her turned, but she kept on walking. He could see the headphones on her as she walked out of sight.

"That woman," he said as the men approached him.

"What woman?" one of the men asked.

"This is a restricted floor," the other man told him. "Go back to the elevator, and leave."

Carlos stared at them. "If I could talk with that woman, then I'm sure that."

"This is a restricted floor," the man repeated. "Go back to the elevator, and leave." He pulled back his jacket to reveal a gun in a holster.

Carlos turned slowly and headed towards the elevator. He pushed the button, and got in under the watchful eyes of the two men. He rode down in silence, his mind reeling over what he had just witnessed.

He pictured her again as he remembered the last time he saw her. The woman in the courtyard had the same walk.the same body language.the same beautiful brown eyes. Before today, it had been nearly seven months since he had seen her. But, there was no mistaking those eyes.

No, it was her.

She was here.

She was alive.

********

Trent Malloy yawned as he leaned back in his chair. He rubbed his eyes wearily, then went back to the papers in front of him. He jumped slightly as the door to the office flew open and his business partner ran in.

"I saw her," Carlos said. "I saw her, Trent."

"Saw who?" Trent asked.

"Tiffany."

Trent tried to stop the frown that threatened to appear on his face. He stood slowly and walked around the desk. "Carlos," he said kindly. "Tiffany's dead."

"I saw her," Carlos insisted. "Today. At the courthouse."

Trent sat on the edge of his desk as he looked at his friend. It had taken a long time for Carlos to come to terms with Tiffany Chambers' death, and had taken him even longer to finally accept that he had to move on with his life.

"Carlos."

"Trent. Honest." Carlos sat on the desk beside his longtime friend. "I saw her." He stopped as Trent went to talk. "Please, let me finish. This isn't like I was after she.after she." he swallowed hard. It was still difficult for him to talk about that night. "This isn't like after the explosion.I'm not imagining things. I was at the courthouse, and I saw Tiffany. She got on the elevator, got off on the fourth floor, and two guys with carbon copy suits and big guns told me the floor was restricted, and asked me to leave."

Trent leaned back slightly, grabbed the telephone, and dialed. "Alex?" he asked. "It's Trent. I need a huge favor."

Carlos put his hands over his face and exhaled deeply. He listened as Trent asked Assistant District Attorney Alex Cahill-Walker a few things. He stood, walked around the small office a few times, then sat on the huge couch.

----------- Protective Custody---testifying against drug cartel dealing in "Precious", a stronger crack-like drug----finally comes face-to-face with Carlos----comes back to Dallas. Alex Cahill-Walker dropped her pencil when the woman entered her office. She stood so quickly that her chair fell back against the wall. The man with the woman walked to the desk and offered his hand.

"Special Agent MacDowell," he said.

Alex shook his hand blindly, her eyes never leaving the other woman's face. "You're suppose to be dead," she finally said.

Tiffany Chambers frowned. "Uhh.not to my knowledge." She looked at Agent MacDowell. "Why does she think I'm dead, Tim?" She turned back to Alex. "Didn't you get the letters for Carlos from him?" she motioned to the Agent.

Alex shook her head. "What letters?" She finally noticed her chair against the wall, and bent down to straighten it. "Seven months ago you were killed in a warehouse fire. We had to identify the body by dental records."

Tiffany stared at her. "Everyone thinks I'm dead?" she whispered. "And you were never given anything from me to give to Carlos?" She sighed when Alex shook her head. "Alex, could I borrow your office for a few minutes?"

"Of course," Alex said kindly. She walked to the door. "I'm glad that you're still alive."

Tiffany turned to the man after the door closed, anger burning in her eyes. "You promised me!" she hissed. "You promised that you would get Carlos the letters."

The man shrugged lightly. "Sorry, but there was nothing that I could do. You're under protective custody, and I had to make sure that everyone thought you were dead. Besides, he'll get the letters.eventually."

"You fucking son of a bitch."

The words, laced with venomous hatred, caused the man to take a step back. "Now, listed here," he began.

"No!" Tiffany approached, and stabbed a finger to his chest. "You listed to me.I want to see Carlos, right now. I don't give a fuck about your case, or about you. I want to see him, or I am outta here."

"You leave, and you're good as dead."

Tiffany took a step closer, so she was less than four inches from the man's face. "I'm already dead.remember?"

-------

"I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I wrote you a letter, and explained everything. I wrote letters to you every week. I was told that they would give them to Alex, and she would pass them on to you. If I had known they lied, then I would have found some way to contact you."

Carlos stared at her, not sure of what to say. He had spent the past seven months alternating between missing her so badly that it hurt, and hating her so much that he felt ashamed.

Carlos closed his eyes briefly. "I'm sorry, Tiffany." He opened his eyes and looked at her. "I thought you were dead. They found a body, and matched it to your dental records."

Tiffany sat on the arm of the couch. "I'm not really sure what happened, Carlos. I remember being shot, and the next thing I remembered was being in a hospital."

"Shot?" Carlos echoed. He vaguely noticed that he was keeping a distance between himself and her.

She nodded. "Uh, I had an appointment to meet with Agent MacDowell at the warehouse that night. When I got there, someone else.I can't remember who.was there. He shot me, and left me to die." She looked down at her hands. "Uh, Tim arrived a few minutes later, found the building in flames.found me, and dragged me out of there."

"But, the body."

Tiffany looked up at Carlos. "I have no idea where that came from." She stopped, breathed deeply, then stood. "I'm sorry, I thought that you had been given my letters, and I explained everything to you."

"I never received anything," Carlos said, annoyed that his voice was getting angry. "Why don't you explain it to me now."

"Fine. I was told, in the hospital, that I was going to be held in protective custody. And that I could have no contact with the outside world, in case whoever tried to kill me found out where I was. I agreed to that, but only under the condition that I could write to you, and explain what had happened."

Carlos looked at the floor, deep in thought. His memories of that night, and the weeks that followed collided with the truth that he now knew. He tried to make sense of the facts, but found them difficult to accept. But, he knew that somehow he had to accept them.

"And now?" he finally asked while still staring at the floor. He didn't want to look at her.not yet, at least. If he did, then he knew that his anger would melt instantly. He wanted to hold onto that anger for a little while longer, wanted to make these past months of pain mean something.

"Now," Tiffany said with a sigh. "Now, I have informed Agent MacDowell that I hate him, and that once I give my deposition to the courts, I will be returning to Dallas."

"Will you be safe?"

"I really don't care anymore," Tiffany said wearily. "At the least, I've lost seven months of my life. I've lost my house, my job, my identity, and worst of all, I've lost you."

Carlos finally looked at her, still desperately trying to hold onto the anger. It disappeared, in an instant, when he saw the pain in her eyes.

"I should go," she said. She grabbed her purse and jacket, then headed for the door.

"Stop," Carlos said as her hand landed on the doorknob. He waited until she turned to face him. "I have a few things to say first."

Tiffany nodded. "Okay."

Carlos inhaled deeply, exhaled, then began. "Just who the hell do you think you are? You disappear for over half a year, make everyone think that you are dead, then waltz back into our lives." He held a hand out as she started to protest. "Just shut up and let me finish. Okay, you wrote letters that some ass never delivered. Okay, you didn't know that you were declared dead." He paused slightly as he tried to get his thoughts in order. "You have no idea what you put your friends through.of what you put me through."

"Are you done?" Tiffany asked.

"No, I'm not," Carlos informed her. "I have just one more thing to say."

"Then, by all means, go right ahead." Tiffany tried to quell the sick feeling that threatened to overcome her.

"Please don't leave."

*********

******

"Damn it, Carlos!" Tiffany yelled as she slammed the door shut. She turned to face him. "I can't do this by myself."

Carlos folder his arms across his chest, trying, once again, to hold onto the anger.

"I'm sorry you thought I was dead. God.I'd do anything to make that lie go away." She put a hand over her eyes. "But I can't!" She took her hand away and stared at him. "So, you're just going to have to stop punishing me for it, and accept it."

Carlos blinked. "You're right," he whispered. "I'm sor." He stopped, and swallowed, not knowing if a 'sorry' would be enough.

"Don't you dare apologize," Tiffany said. "Just.don't."

Carlos reached out and took her hand in his. "Okay." He realized her hand was shaking, and he squeezed it softly. He looked at her hand in his, his mind whirling at the contact.a feeling he thought that he would never experience again.

Suddenly, it was clear to him. It wasn't her fault. She didn't cause the last seven months of pain to him.someone else had. A smile slowly spread across his lips.

"What?" she asked, worried.

"I missed you," Carlos said as he pulled on her hand, propelling her towards him. His arms closed around her, and he held her tight. "God, I missed you," he whispered into her hair.

*********

Trent stepped back as the door opened, and he looked at Carlos. "Uh.it's 3 in the afternoon."

"So?"

"So, shouldn't you be dressed?"

Carlos looked down at his housecoat. "Come on in.I'll be a few minutes." He turned and headed back to his bedroom.

Trent entered, then looked to the bedroom door when he heard Carlos talking to someone. Huh?

Carlos walked out of the room, closed the door, and headed for his kitchen. "Just wanna grab a coffee, then." He stopped, and looked at Trent. "What?"

Trent blinked a few times. "What?"

"That's what I asked," Carlos said with humor.

Trent glanced back at the bedroom door. "Uhhh."

Carlos sighed. "Trent?"

"Yeah?"

"Mind your own business."

********

"It just sort of happened."

Trent glanced at Carlos, then went back to driving. "What just sort of happened?"

Carlos shrugged. "Well.ya know." He sighed. "Tiffany came over.we talked.argued.talked some more.argued some more." He trailed off and looked out the window, not really paying attention to the houses going by.

Trent sighed to himself in relief as what Carlos was trying to say dawned on him. "So, what happens now?"

Carlos put his finger on the passenger window, drawing an invisible image. "I don't know. I mean, I know that we can't go back to what we had seven months ago. That relationship is over." He tapped the window softly. "I hope we can start something new."

***** ****** ******

"My house."

Jenny shook her head. "Uh, the Feds said that it was part of a crime scene, and that they would need it until after the depositions.." She stopped and smiled. "I never knew why they wanted to keep it.until now."

Tiffany sighed in relief. "Well, at least the Feds did something for me. I still have my house."

***** ****** ******

"What now?"

Tiffany looked up from the floor. "Pardon?"

Carlos sat beside her, tried to adopt her crossed leg pose, but soon gave up. He put his hands on the floor behind him and leaned back. "What now?"

"What now what?"

"What happens to us after the deposition?" he asked simply.

Tiffany nodded as she stretched her arms over her head. "I really don't know.I mean, I've spent the past seven months thinking that we were still.well.us." She looked at him. "You've spent the last seven months thinking I was dead.and thinking about us."

Carlos sighed, and laid back against the floor.

"And," Tiffany continued, "part of you hates me for making you think I was dead."

Carlos sat up quickly. "No. Part of me hates the fact that I thought you were dead."

"Same difference," Tiffany said with a shrug.

"Big difference." Carlos stood slightly, moving to sit in the chair beside her. "I don't hate you for what happened." He stopped and leaned back. "It's very hard to describe what I mean. I thought some not so nice things over the past seven months."

"Such as?"

Carlos held out his hand, she took it, and he pulled her onto his lap. She leaned against him, her head on his shoulder.

"I.When Walker told us about the body.I can't really remember how I got outside, but I ended up in his yard. I was so angry at you for letting that happen to you." He stopped, and exhaled as the now all too familiar feelings started to surface. "I was angry at you for trying to do it all yourself.for not handing it over to the Feds when you should have.for getting killed."

Tiffany kissed his neck lightly. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

"I hated you for letting yourself get into that situation." He paused, acutely aware of the warm breath on his neck. "Then, one day I woke up, and realized that the funeral had been three months before, and that I still had this.hatred in me."

"It took me a long time to get pass that point.but, when I saw you again, it came back slightly." He looked down at her. "When I saw you at the courthouse.I was so damn happy that I thought I was dreaming again."

He bent forward, and kissed her gently. "I want you in my life." *********

Tiffany watched in confusion as Jason Habyre lit his cigarette, turned, and tossed the match into the large ashtray.

The memory hit her like lightening as her mind pulled her back to the warehouse: the man lit a cigarette, turned, and threw the match to the floor. She looked up as Jason leaned against the wall, and pictured him as he had been on that night, seven months ago.pictured him as he raised a gun and shot her twice.

"Tiff?" Jenny asked with concern. "Are you all right?"

"You son of a bitch," Tiffany hissed as she stormed towards Jason. "You fucking bastard!" She pulled her arm back, ready to pound him.

"Trent!" Jenny called, and motioned to Tiffany.

Trent reached her in two steps, and put a hand on her arm. "Stop."

"Trent.not now," Tiffany said as she lunged towards Jason. Trent put his arms around her from behind and held on.

"What the hell is her problem?" Jason asked as he backed away.

"I remember," Tiffany said dangerously. "It was you in the warehouse. You shot me."

"You're crazy."

"You left me for dead.you destroyed my life!" She lunged at him again, but Trent held tight. Jenny appeared in her peripheral vision, and Tiffany looked at her.

Jenny struck out suddenly, connecting with Jason's chin. His head whipped back, and he staggered to the wall. Jenny jumped on him, knocking him to the ground, then started to pummel him.

Trent paused for a few seconds before he reached out and pulled his girlfriend off of the hapless detective. "Power down, Jen," he said.

Jenny kicked at Jason a few times, then broke free from Trent's hold. She stormed away, muttering under her breath.

******

"What happened?" Walker asked.

"She attacked me!" Jason said as he pointed at Jenny and Tiffany.

"Which one attacked you?"

"They both did!"

"I did not!" Tiffany claimed. "Trent stopped me before I could punch your face in."

"Watch it, Chambers," Jason warned. "I could have you arrested."

Tiffany jerked like she received a shock. "Have me. Why you fucking little prick!" She side stepped around Carlos, and lunged at Jason.

----- "Control your woman," he told Carlos.

Carlos held onto Tiffany and whispered into her ear. Tiffany relaxed slightly, but her fists stayed clenched.

Walker stood between them. "Tiffany?" He waited until she looked at him. "Why do you think that Detective ???? was the person who shot you?"

Tiffany inhaled a few times, forcing herself to calm down. "Because I remember what happened now," she said in forced calmness. "It came back to me when I saw Jason light his cigarette and flick the match away."

All eyes turned to Jason. He took a step backwards. "She's wrong," he said.

"Is she?" Carlos asked in a hard voice.

"I don't have to stay here for this." Jason turned and headed for the door.

"Are you just going to let him go?" Trent asked as they watched Jason leave. "After Tiffany identified him?"

"It's not enough proof," Tiffany answered bitterly.

DEPOSITION- ".and my assignment was to make it look like I was dirty, and get in with those who actually were." Tiffany leaned back slightly, bracing for the questions.

"You were shot, and presumed dead, correct?"

Tiffany nodded. "That is correct."

"Yet, you do not remember who shot you?"

"Not yet.no."

"So, how do we know that your recollection of certain dealings with these so called dirty cops are correct?"

Tiffany tried to keep the smile from her face. "Because I documented every transaction, and taped most conversations."