Subtext Reports
Those crazy posts about the episodes originally posted to the nutforum and saved here for posterity in their error riddled entirety (since they were written 'on the fly'). 
Homecoming Series
A series of five (not so short) stories about Xena and Gabrielle building their life together as a couple. 
Magic Series
Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find love as they uncover more writings of Gabrielle about her warrior princess. 
Conversations by Campfire Series
Set during Season Four, parts of the episodes are worked into chats between Xena and Gab, particularly the subject of Najara and the bard. 
Changes of Heart Series
My take on what happened after Gabby got Chakram'ed upside the head by Xena in the Season Five ender. 
Bonding of Souls Series
This series picks up where 'Changes of Heart' ends with Xena and Gabby back together. Each 'episode' is an expansion of the episodes of Season Six.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
How DID Ares get stuck in that tomb from the Xena Scrolls? This story answers that question. 
The Play
Xena and Gabrielle have to play the leads in a performance for a ruthless king to save Salmoneus' neck. Unexpected consequences and confessions are the result. 
The Queen, the Regent, the Warrior
Xena leaves Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, only to have Ephiny and Gabby fall in love. Xena does return and chaos and secret confessions follow.
The Contest
Ares and Aphrodite battle over Xena's spirit. 
Loss of Virginity
Romantic musings from one of our gals. 
Moment of Truth
Gabrielle does anything it takes to keep Xena out of a battle that's foretold to take the warrior princess' life. 
Thank the Gods For Henbane
At an Amazon festival Gabrielle has one too many henbane brownies, which results in a funny and sexy night for Xena. 
As It Should Be
The Queen gets taken by the Warrior Princess at the Amazon Village.
Family Ties
Xena takes Gabrielle back to home to spend a little time with the 'in-laws'. 
Dueling Cousins
Xena's look-alike cousin, Sappho, has always been competitive but now the Tenth Muse wants the ultimate prize - Gabrielle. 
The End
Alternate 'demise' of Xena and Gabrielle based on the Season Four crucifixion. 
Truth or Dare
Sexy romp between Callisto and Gabrielle set during 'A Necessary Evil' 
November 29th, 1942
A little romance fic between Janice and Mel. 
Inside Outside
Set after the events of 'A Family Affair', it's a scene told through the eyes of four people - Gabrielle's Father, Mother, Gabrielle herself and Xena.
Something To Talk About
Xena and Gabrielle's friends are all surprised that the pair aren't lovers so they consider why not.
Henbane, Horsenappings and Other Obstacles
A 'murphy's law' comedy where everything that can go wrong for Xena and Gabby but, of course, they still end up saving the day.
All That Matters
During Gabrielle's birthday party in' Takes One To Know One', Xena reflects on her love for the bard.  
Warlord
What if Gabrielle was actually the one behind all the folks who influenced Xena's journey toward good? 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice
A little Winter Solstice tale that's available in general (not lovers) and alternative (lovers). .
Little Moments: A Day in the Desert
A tale told through the eyes of Janice and then Mel while on a dig.  
Candy or Chaos
'Classic Xena' general Halloween story with Xena and Gabby return for the Potiedaia Harvest Festival.
Conquering Heroine
Gabrielle is the Conqueror in this piece. How exactly? Give it a read and find out. 
Watching and Waiting
Set after FIN II, Xena watches from afar as Gabrielle moves on with her life. 
1971
Police Office Carol and Protestor Erin clash but find they're fighting for the same things. A short story based on my novel, 'One Belief Away'. 
March 26, 1943
Sequel to November 29, 1942. This time it's Janice's birthday and Mel has some sexy plans for her lover. 
The 10th Muse
In this traditional subtext story that's part French farce; part musical, Gabrielle has a Doppelganger, the Poetess Sappho. It's up to Gabby, Xena and Sappho's friend Aphrodite to guard Sappho during the 10th Muse Competition...Of course they must also try to repair Sappho's damaged relationship with her lover (a woman, and bandmate, who's the spitting image of Xena).

Title: 1971

Author: CN Winters (with Tonya Muir)

Fandom: Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction

Rating: R

Disclaimers: Xena and the gang aren’t mine. They belong to MCA/Universal/Studio USA and a bunch of other folks who now own them. It is the musings of a certain warrior princess and her affection for another woman. If the thought of two ladies in love is unappealing please proceed on to another story.

Author Note: Upon examining X and G's relationship I realized they are at opposite ends of a spectrum regarding their 'ideas' in life but their moral foundation is the same - the greater good. How they go about preserving the greater good has always been different. With that in mind I considered what other kinds of people would be similar in recent times. My answer - a flower child and a police officer. It should also be noted that this story was started well over a year ago and long before Gabrielle’s India trip and ‘way of love’ fetish. With that, we venture into this uber story. This short story was based on a full length novel called, "One Belief Away".

Synopsis: Flower child Erin squares off against establishment cop Carol and find love in the process. 

Feedback: Please send your gripes and complaints (and compliments too<G>) to cnwinters71@yahoo.com.

1971

Chapter 1

Carol Johnson stood tall in formation. With her gun on her right hip, and her nightstick on her left, she felt nearly invincible. This impression of strength, however, did nothing to dissipate the suffering heat. She could feel her upper lip growing heavy with perspiration.

She'd heard all the stories and seen all the news reels - Detroit, Watts, Chicago, Kent State, Vietnam. The country was at war - abroad and at home. And for what? None of it made sense.

She'd enlisted on the force to pay the bills. Simply put, being single without a man in her life or a father to take care of her, she'd needed work to make ends meet. At first it was just a job - something to earn an income and it had seemed as good as any, appealing to her stoic demeanor and solitary preferences. She had the strength and the stamina to walk a beat so the decision hadn't been a terribly difficult one in the end. Her father had been proud of her decision so she'd attacked it with a certain amount of relish.

The longer she was on the force, however, the more pride she felt in the job. It had changed from just a paycheck to keep a roof over her head to a reason to get up in the morning. Each day was a challenge she could face and win, each battle deserving of her attention and finesse. She was a guardian of order in an age of upheaval. Carol had always been a peacemaker of sorts, hating to see the senseless eruption of violence, wanting to find the middle ground for everyone involved. That's not to say she didn't understand the need for retaliation or a heavy hand and she's been trained to use the strong arm method when there was a time and a place for it. So it seemed only a natural progression that the tall woman would be standing here this day, dressed in a heavy polyester uniform, sweat trickling between her shoulder blades and plastering jet black bangs to her forehead.

With three years on the force, she wore her badge and her nametag proudly as she stood in formation, overseeing a 'peaceful' demonstration that could turn ugly - perhaps even deadly - in seconds. As with anyone who's had to stand at attention, Carol had learned long ago how to inspect her surroundings without appearing to be watching. Cool blue eyes that seemed to focus straight ahead were now sliding surreptitiously across the crowds of people in the field beyond. They were a rag tag bunch, dressed in long flowing dresses or baggy pants. Their long hair was free and blowing in the minimal breeze of the morning. The sun beat down uncharacteristically hot for the spring but, in a way, the officer was grateful. That meant the demonstrators were hot and sweaty, too, and that was just fine by her as misery does truly love company. Though their training classes suggested otherwise because in an uncomfortable situation, be it heat, rain, snow, things were more likely to get out of hand since tempers were high. Easily she recalled the air conditioned room where she'd learned that lesson and longed for the coolness of false air. Or a fan. Hell, a palm frond would be okay right now.

"Goddamn Hippies."

The voice of her partner hissed in her ear, breaking into her wandering thoughts. It took the tall woman a full second to reel her traveling mind back in. He'd continued speaking by the time she used her peripheral vision to survey her surroundings once again, noticing things hadn't changed in the least.

"They should just let us open fire. Might increase the intelligence of the American gene pool," he smirked, keeping his eyes forward. Even without turning to him she could easily envision his narrow pinched face, his deep brown eyes would be glaring at the people around him, the distaste for this bunch evident in every feature. She'd seen that look from him before on several occasions and still despised it. When you worked with someone day in and day out, when your very life depended on that person, you learned to respect him, understand him, anticipate him. You didn't really have to like that person, which was good, because she didn't. But he'd kept her alive and he'd watched her back and he was good at his job. So it was one of the things that Carol just accepted in her life: my partner's an ass and as ignorant as they come ... by the way, can you shoot that robber who's pointing a gun at me? It's all give and take and Carol had come to accept that fact of life once everything had been taken and she'd been forced to re-evaluate her future.

Now Carol grinned at her partner, without really doing more than slightly tilting her head. It was as a show of faith: brotherhood. It was not an agreement to his ideals. Deep down she knew this bunch had every right to express themselves as long as no one was getting hurt. Hell, most of those kids were her age, if only a few years younger. That was what made this job hard for her: she believed in their rights just as she believed in everyone else's. And, in a way, she took it as a personal responsibility to provide a safe environment for such a demonstration. Unfortunately, her companions on the force always seemed to be itching to turn a rally violent, to control these kids and their beliefs and ideals. Many of them had children who were doing the same things and protesting their parent's work, the job that put food on the table. Carol couldn't imagine going home to that kind of criticism. Sometimes being single had its advantages.

Her partner didn't speak again, his witticism already dried up for the day ... perhaps the week. The officers stood silently as a young woman with strawberry blonde hair began to approach the formation. She carried a bleached willow wood basket, the branches bending and wrapping and twining in on themselves. The handle was clutched easily in her hand and she looked like a little girl who might go skipping through the field at any moment to collect wildflowers. Maybe she would, Carol mused. It wouldn't have surprised the officer.

The blonde stopped at the end of the line, two officers down from Carol. This motion brought girl and basket out of Carol's peripheral vision and she found herself moving slightly to get a better look at the blonde and what she was doing. Several other members of the force were doing the same thing, heads tilted, eyes scanning, but the commander's voice put an end to it.

"Eyes front!" he ordered his squad in a loud gravelly voice, his own nerves strung taut. Like his force, he'd heard all the stories, read the news articles, saw the news casts. And he'd be damned if he was going to be caught up in one of those disasters. His paranoia forced him to rule with an iron fist and his troops responded readily to his snapped words. The police had enough bad press as it was, his team sure as hell wasn't going to add to it.

Carol complied readily, knowing she'd been wrong to break anyway. She even mildly cursed herself for her stupidity: she was better trained than to be sidetracked by a pretty girl. Seconds passed, though it felt almost like a lifetime with the minimal breeze and the glaring sun, as the young blonde made her way slowly past the two officers to stand in front of Carol. She was short, only reaching Carol's collarbone and having to tilt her head up to search the taller woman's face. Her aloof appearance seemed to say that she wasn't bothered by her short stature or her billowy dress or the odd way she'd chosen to spend her day. She stood close and still, as tall as she could, with a gentle air of self-confidence and a warm honest smile. She might have been in her early twenties though guessing her age was hard for Carol since the officer was unable to study her closely while keeping her bearing.

"Peace be with you," the blonde said sincerely, either not aware or not concerned about the scrutiny she'd just undergone. She placed a daisy in Carol's belt. Her voice was soft and lilting but carried a bit of a challenge and conviction. Carol registered all of this easily and tucked it away in the back of her mind for later consideration. She'd seen a hundred girls just like this one already this spring. But she felt a charisma, a magnetism from the small body in front of her.

A loud shot rang out, shattering the air around them. The chanting of moments before halted in mid-word, leaving complete silence in its wake as each person waited for someone to react. Without preamble or instruction, the formation charged and the protesters scattered. Motivated to protect those around her, Carol instinctively grabbed the golden haired girl in front of her, wrapping talon like fingers around slender upper arms before turning her and forcing her to the ground. It wasn't until after she was covering the prone body that Carol realized she needed to make an arrest. The fact that her job had come second to protecting the blonde startled the tall woman a little but she didn't have time to dwell on that. So she raised up and placed a knee in the girl's lower back, pulling her arms above her head. Carol was easily able to subdue the young woman by holding the thin wrists together in one large hand. Her ice blue eyes caught the willow basket nearby, upturned and surrounded by trampled daisies.

"You okay?" Carol's partner called as he watched the tall woman patting down her perp.

Carol gave a quick nod, feeling in control now as she subdued the young woman. "Help the others!" she instructed, giving the man beside her permission to leave her without backup. As annoying as she may have found some of his views, the man was a consummate professional and she appreciated having that on her side.

With a return nod that went undetected by Carol, he charged into battle, nightstick at the ready, looking for his own perp or maybe just a good fight. It was hard to tell. Continuing, Carol cuffed the young woman, reading her the Miranda rights in a sure, strong voice. The familiar words slipping easily from her lips as she snapped the metal rings into place.

"Why am I being arrested?" the young woman asked, growing irritated but moving minimally. She apparently wasn't dumb enough to resist arrest and risk personal injury which made Carol wonder how many times the girl had been through this already. She acted like a professional.

The blonde tried to look over her shoulder at the woman on her back but her own hair fell in her face, impeding her view. In truth, she hadn't really looked at her before. One cop's just the same as the next, what do I care?

"Obstruction of justice for starters," Carol said after pulling the girl to her feet, surprising both of them with her ability to literally pick the slight form off the ground and plant her back on unsteady legs. Lighter than she looks, Carol mused. It's hard to tell under that dress.

The girl didn't fight Carol but she was no great help either as they moved slowly towards the cruise, shuffling her feet, looking around at the foray the demonstration had become. Carol let it go, knowing they'd get to the car soon enough anyway and not eager to force a confrontation with the smaller woman. The officer saw her commander out of the corner of her eyes and moved toward him, changing their direction slightly.

He was flustered and yelling, face red with stress and rage, eyes searching the melee before him to ensure nothing was getting out of hand. "Permission to take the perpetrator to the station sir?" Carol asked formally, stopping in front of him and dragging the girl forward for him to see.

"Permission granted, Johnson. Nice job," he grinned at her quickly before scowling at the young woman. He looked her up and down briskly, trying to intimidate her with narrowed eyes and stern face but realized he was unsuccessful. He waved the two of them off and went back to surveying the scene beyond.

Carol opened the door and the young woman clambered inside without resisting, settling into the back seat as if it were familiar. She bounced slightly on the padded bench and even managed a grin of enjoyment, completely unconcerned with her situation. Carol climbed into the driver's seat and shook her head with slight amusement, somewhat intrigued by the young woman's upbeat attitude. The officer had barely made it down the block when the girl's soft voice drifted through the mesh partition dividing front and back seats.

"How old are you?"

Carol looked into the rearview mirror and raised a slim dark eyebrow, unsure of the question. "What?" the taller woman responded, not certain of the girl's motives. It wasn't the typical chit-chat of an arresting officer and a perp.

"I asked how old are you? I'd say about 25. It seems odd someone as young as yourself would already sell out to the establishment." The young woman spoke easily, meeting blue eyes with mist green in the rearview mirror before turning her head again to watch the passing scenery.

"I don't care what you think," Carol replied coldly, her icy blue eyes in the rearview mirror emphasizing her point.

"No one in the establishment does," the girl sighed, her voice sounding oddly defeated and conflicting starkly with her previous brash demeanor. "So why should you?"

As Carol came to a red light she turned to face the girl, "You know...you do have the right to remain silent."

The young woman chuckled heartily, re-establishing her prior confidence. "I'm waiving that right," she smiled wickedly, green eyes dancing. "So tell me...what does it take for a lady to become a cop? Were you raised republican? Did you see too many episodes of the Mod Squad? ...What gives?"

"Are you looking to join the force?" Carol replied sarcastically, starting on their way again. "Cuz I can get you some brochures that you might find helpful."

"No," the girl grinned slyly, enjoying the teasing banter. "I'm looking to change the world. Whatta you do in your spare time?"

The car fell silent for the duration of the trip as the officer elected to not answer that question, knowing it was rhetorical anyway. The words of Carol's partner came back to her as she looked in the rearview mirror at the woman in the earth toned granny dress and long tangled locks. 'Goddamn hippies'. But she couldn't even think it in the same hostile manner he'd spoken it.

 

Chapter 2

Carol brought the young woman to fingerprinting and when the desk sergeant asked her name the girl refused.

"Names are irrelevant. My friends call me Skylon and that's all that matters."

Carol and the sergeant exchanged a look of frustration. Carol pressed the issue.

"What's your real name? Ya know? The one your parents gave you?"

"Barbara," the girl replied as the sergeant began to write it down. "Barbara Eden," the girl grinned wickedly.

Carol stepped closer, towering over the girl, hoping perhaps to intimidate her. "I'm gonna ask one more time or I'm taking you to lock up ... And I want the truth ... what's your name?"

Though hardly intimidated by the tall form standing in front of her, the girl had to admit to herself there was a certain fire about this woman that made her skin tingle. Unlike many of her other friends, she had never been intimate with a woman. She'd never found a woman who attracted her sexually, but the longer she looked into those blazing eyes the more she wanted to see. She liked to play with fire. After all, It was her undeniable need to buck the status quo that had gotten her here to start with.

"Okay! Okay!" the girl said, looking away and playing with her bead necklace. "My name is Jane ... Jane Fonda," she giggled.

"That's it!" Carol howled, frustrated. She pulled the young woman away from the desk and tugged her toward the holding cell. "I'm sure you've got priors so make yourself at home. You'll be here for awhile." She turned the girl roughly and unlocked the cuffs before pushing her between the shoulder blades, forcing her to stumble into the small enclosure.

As Carol locked the cell the woman rushed back to the bars.

"What about my phone call?" she taunted. "I'd hate to see you arrested for violating my human rights."

"I'll tell you what," Carol began with a sinister grin. "As soon as I have a phone line free, it's all yours. Until then, you'll have to wait."

"Just how long?" the young woman asked with an equally powerful expression. "I'm a busy woman."

"Oh, I'm sure you are," Carol answered sarcastically. "But this could take hours ... maybe even days."

"You can't keep me here for days," the girl argued. "I know my rights." She was quickly growing angry with this little game that had been amusing only moments before.

Carol sensed it and her smirk turned into a full-fledged smile. "Don't blame me," the officer shrugged as she walked away. "You wanted to play around...besides I'm sure one of your long-haired boyfriends will be here to bail you out soon."

The woman couldn't see Carol anymore but she knew the cackle she heard had to be hers.

"Goddamn Pig," she muttered under her breath, throwing herself onto a barren wooden bench bolted into the wall.

 

Chapter 3

"Her name is O'Fallon. Erin O'Fallon," the records officer told Carol.

Carol smirked. "Oh really?" she asked.

"Oh yes!" he replied just as conspiratorially. "Would you like her rap sheet?"

Carol snatched it from his hand with a wink and began to make her way to the cage.

"Erin O'Fallon," Carol smiled in victory. "Let's see ... priors include marijuana possession and flag burning ... It appears we have a phone line free all of a sudden. Would you like to make that call now?" Carol finished, fluttering her eyelids triumphantly.

"You should have that tic looked into," Erin replied defiantly, pointing at Carol's eyes. "It could be something serious."

"Come on, funny girl," Carol said, opening the cell without further comment. Once Erin was free and the cell locked, Carol took Erin over to a phone and waved casually at it. "Call daddy or whoever it is that usually bails you out."

"Humph," Erin responded, picking up the phone.

Carol gave her some privacy and wandered across the small room to the coffeepot but she kept an eye on the girl. She didn't think the woman was a violent threat but having her slip away wouldn't look too good in front of the boys. Carol had a hard enough time proving herself as it was, she didn't need some waif of a perp making life more difficult.

As Carol watched the young woman, it was obvious to her from what she already seen and heard that the blonde was bright. How she got hooked up with these other losers at the demonstration was beyond Carol and she tried to imagine a home life or a strict upbringing that would lead to this. The girl had so much promise - she was passionate and quick-witted with a gentle demeanor and definite self confidence. And there was something else about her ... some kind of spark. Carol had noticed it from the first moment but had witnessed it again when they'd first entered the squad room. It was as if every head had turned in the room. It wasn't because the girl was drop-dead gorgeous because she wasn't. But that isn't to say she was homely either. She was ... what was the word ... cute ... attractive. She was charismatic. Carol knew the attention this 'Erin', 'Skylon', whoever - this attention was just the aura the girl projected to the room. She was a woman of natural leadership and perhaps someday, she would be a force to be reckoned with because of her attributes.

Carol watched as Erin's slender fingers worked the rotary, dialing a number of someone who would come for her. The tall officer couldn't help but wonder who that someone might be. Probably some long-haired, guitar carrying, Jim Morrison-wannabe. A pang of jealousy rushed over Carol at the thought as well as a greater sense of confusion. She wasn't attracted this young woman was she? She knew that love was given very freely between many people of her generation - regardless of gender - but she wasn't that kind of person. She wasn't that type of girl ... was she? No she decided. 'You're not. So stop thinking about it'.

She'd bet a paycheck that Erin was, though. And if the girl was willing...

Erin hung up, turning pale green eyes to the officer and, thankfully, stopping the tall woman's train of thought. The blonde tilted her head slightly at what may have been a blush crawling up the olive skinned features before Carol returned to her side.

"All set?" the officer asked.

"Yes," Erin replied. "I'll be out of your hair in a short while," she grinned.

Carol wasn't sure, but she felt a bit saddened by the fact Erin would be leaving. So she did the only thing she could think of standing here at the station outside of holding. "Would you like some coffee?" the officer asked.

Erin smiled both at the incongruity of the suggestion and the proposal itself. "Is this some sort of peace offering - cop style? Are there doughnuts too? Isn't that standard operating procedure?" But her teasing words were softened by a tilted head and a warm smile.

Carol found herself smiling as well. "I didn't know we were at war," the officer countered. "If I slapped the desk sergeant hard enough on the back, there's a good chance a doughnut would pop out. Would that do?"

Erin had to admit this woman was beginning to have an effect on her. But she pushed it back in order to keep what dignity she had left. She didn't need any of her friends finding out she was flirting with the enemy. But being one to buck the system, even the system within her own sect, the idea was exciting. What would her friends say if she confessed her attraction to the tall brunette? She still hadn't answered Carol's question and soon found herself facing a cup of joe without any idea of how it got there. "I think I'll pass on the doughnut," Erin replied belatedly.

"Cream and sugar?" Carol asked, sliding the cup closer and pulling a chair noisily over so she could also sit at the small phone table.

"No thanks," Erin said coming back from herself, abandoning her impure thoughts and returning her attention to the uniformed woman across from her.

An uncomfortable silence washed over the small space the two women shared. Erin sipped her coffee slowly, avoiding eye contact with Carol. She couldn't take those blue eyes watching her, they seemed to burn her skin as the coffee scalded her tongue. There was too much power in that gaze, the sapphire flames too much for her to take right now. Her self-confidence faltered at the reality of her attraction to this woman and what it might mean.

Carol, for her part, sensed the uneasiness that claimed the young woman. She watched her small companion fidget nervously with the cup and refuse to meet her eyes. This wasn't the same brash girl she dragged across a field and put in a squad car. This wasn't the young woman who'd teased the sergeant and made inprocessing difficult. This girl seemed older, calmer, quieter ... yet she also emanated awkwardness.

Carol wasn't sure what had brought this new facet of the girl to the surface but she found it endearing. She realized she needed to say something - anything - to break the growing, agonizing silence.

"Can I ask you something?" Carol began after enduring the stark silence as long as possible. She would have liked to study Erin's features and those peculiarly green eyes but she was only privy to the top of the blonde's head.

Erin rolled her eyes, waiting for the smart comment she was sure would follow Carol's question. When she finally did look into Carol's eyes she saw a sincerity that caught her off guard. Carefully she nodded her assent.

"Why?"

What kind of question is that? Erin's mind raced. "Why?" Erin repeated dumbly as she waiting for an explanation.

"Yeah," Carol nodded. "Why do you do this? Why do you put yourself at such risk? I could have killed you today, my partner might have," she said matter-of-factly.

Erin smiled grimly. "Lots of Americans die on a daily basis - here and abroad. If I have to give my life for the greater good then so be it."

"The greater good?" Carol asked, raising a dark eyebrow to dance with her disheveled bangs. It sounded a little too grandiose to her. "What do you mean?"

Erin didn't have a chance to respond though she appeared ready to launch into a well-rehearsed spiel. The desk sergeant walked over with a young woman.

"Minos!" Carol's slight companion said, rising to meet the stranger. She sounded thrilled to see this other woman and that tone in her voice caused Carol's stomach to clench.

Carol rose as well and the desk sergeant turned to her. "I just spoke with the Captain. The department is dropping the charges against Miss O'Fallen and several others."

"What you mean?!" Carol exclaimed.

"Means my friend is free and clear to go, right sergeant?" Minos interrupted.

Carol paused in her tirade long enough to get a good look at this woman, Erin's friend and apparent savior. Minos was a tall woman, almost as tall as Carol, with flowing brown hair kept in a long braid behind her back. Her dress was similar to Erin's in style but psychedelic in color. She returned the officer's searching gaze with light hazel eyes, which revealed no emotion.

"That's right," the sergeant agreed with disappointment though Carol barely heard him. She was growing increasingly less concerned with the outcome of this case except it would mean Erin's departure with this woman.

The officer finally remembered to question the Captain's decision. "What about-"

Carol didn't finish as the sergeant interrupted. "The 'shot' y'all heard was some kid with a firecracker. He thought it would be fun to see what happened if he let it off today. He's damn lucky he didn't get anyone killed. The department has decided to press charges against only those who assaulted officers. And since Miss O'Fallen didn't assault you ... Captain said she's free to go."

"Well, Officer Johnson," Erin turned to the tall woman, wanting to tease her and boast but finding herself unable to when she met those sapphire eyes. She found herself not really wanting to leave with Minos and briefly considered her options. I could assault her now and I'd get thrown in the slammer. Or maybe she'd reciprocate, she thought wickedly before shaking herself back to her senses. "Looks like I've gotten my 'walking papers' ... I'll probably be seeing you around," she grinned weakly, hoping Minos would accept that as boastful since it was the best she could muster..

Apparently it was good enough because Minos took Erin by the arm and the two walked from the stationhouse before Carol could reply. She left, Carol thought. Just like that. She left.

"Are you okay?" The sergeant asked. "You don't look so good."

Carol had collapsed in the chair next to her, seemingly deflating with each of the small woman's steps away. She tried to shake off her feelings of abandonment, startled by the clarity of them. "Yes I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I'm just ... disappointed." No kidding.

The desk sergeant grinned. "Well don't worry too much about it, kid. There will be much bigger perps than this one to catch believe me," he said, laying a large hand on her shoulder in a show of support. Then he turned and walked away, leaving Carol alone with her thoughts and two cups of coffee.

Perhaps, Carol thought silently. But none of them would be quite like her.

 

Chapter 4

Several days later, Minos and Erin entered the coffee shop, chuckling as they slipped past the heavy metal and glass door. The two young women were wrapped up in their conversation, discussing the entertaining plight of another comrade during the recent demonstration. As Minos continued her side of the story, the tall woman studied the chalkboard outlining the available selection. Listening absently, Erin's attention wandered through the coffee shop until something caught her gaze. Her stomach flipped and she felt her face warm in a blush but she pushed it aside and shrugged into her bravado like a well-worn coat.

 

"Look at what we have here," Erin announced. "A cop in a doughnut shop ... if that isn't a tired cliché."

Carol had to chuckle as she let her gaze wander up and down the small figure several yards away. It was a good shot she had to admit. "I'm here for the coffee. The doughnuts are for my partner." She'd been standing on the far end of the counter, watching the server fill a box with pastries. She'd seen Erin just a split second before the young woman had noticed her.

"Oh, sure. Sure, they are," Erin nodded in agreement but her smirk and her casual stance playfully mocked the officer.

Carol shook her head with a grin, welcoming this self-assured version of Erin. She'd still like to explore the other side of her some time, she realized with surprise.

"So what brings you out this early?" the officer asked after many long moments of silence. She discovered herself wanting to continue this conversation regardless of topic. "I figured you'd still be worn out from all the orgies going on at that big community home of yours."

It was Erin's turn to chuckle. "Not bad," she complimented, nodding her head, raising a honey colored eyebrow. "But you realize that's not what goes on at the house ... well at least not on Thursdays anyway. Orgy night is Saturday," she said, maintaining a straight face for several long beats before cracking the tiniest of grins. Her green eyes sparkled with merriment and made her all the more attractive to Carol's approving gaze.

"Is that so?" the dark-haired woman asked, taking a sip of her coffee, sparing a minor glance at the young blonde's companion before returning to evaluate Erin's wardrobe choice. Today's outfit was much like the one she'd worn their previous meeting except there were new ribbons braided into sections of her long blonde hair.

"Yeah," Erin smiled. She wasn't sure why but the next words escaped before she had a chance to pull them back. "Why don't you come visit sometime? See what my world is all about?" She could almost swear she heard crickets chirping as all three women stood silently. She felt Minos's stunned stare aimed her direction and knew she was going to have to answer some pretty pointed questions. Though she'd surprised herself with the offer, Erin didn't regret it.

Carol was taken aback by the request. The hippie wanted her to hang out? She even wondered for a split second if the smaller woman had actually asked the question or if her own mind had simply projected what she wanted to hear. The blonde's expectant gaze implied the former. Minos's hazel eyes were luckily unarmed though they certainly appeared dangerous. "Why?" Carol asked, finally, having decided the offer was sincere and not a figment of her imagination.

Erin smiled and felt her earlier discomfort wash away in the blue of Carol's eyes. She pulled out a pen and scribbled on a napkin. "Here's my address," she said handing it to Carol. "You asked about the greater good and I really didn't get a chance to finish our conversation ... Consider this your chance to be enlightened."

Both women were interrupted by a stern voice behind them. Minos had apparently grown tired of looking dumbstruck and tossing evil glares about the small room.

"We've got to get going, Skylon or we're going to be late."

Erin replied without turning to face her. "Go on. I'll be there in a minute," she urged her friend gently. Minos didn't move so Erin turned imploring eyes her direction. C'mon, Minos, play along, she plead silently. Give me this and I'll tell you everything.

Reluctantly, Minos nodded slowly and stepped away from the two women, coffee cups in her hands. "I'll be outside. Scream really loudly if she arrests you."

Erin gave her friend a grin before turning back to the dark woman in front of her. Carol had watched the exchange with mild interest but now was easily sucked back into those jade eyes. "So what do you say, Officer Johnson? By the way, do you have a first name or should I just call you Officer Johnson?"

Carol could tell Erin was playing with her at this point. Was it flirting? Was she simply issuing a challenge and the hippie really thought Carol didn't have the courage to meet her on her turf? If so she was sadly mistaken. The reason for the invitation didn't matter as much as the invitation itself and Carol realized she would have accepted it scribbled on an elephant's butt. The napkin was better, the dark paper scratchy as she accepted it and slid it into her pocket.

"Carol," the officer answered. "My name is Carol."

Erin couldn't understand what possessed her to step even closer to the cop but she did. "That's a beautiful name. It suits you." Again, the wall of apathy had come down, revealing a warm smile and gentle eyes that seemed full of emotions. Carol smiled back softly, wanting to reward the gift. "So what do you say, Carol? Think you're up to seeing what the hippie lifestyle is all about - well, at least my hippie lifestyle?"

Carol swallowed so hard it was audible. And it took everything she had to keep eye contact with the young woman. Finally she cleared her throat. "I'll think about it."

"You do that," Erin smiled.

Without further comment, Carol watched Erin quickly make her departure and head towards the microbus parked outside. The feeling of abandonment seemed to get worse with each parting and the dark woman absently rubbed above her breast before turning back to the counter to pour herself more coffee. Suddenly, her partner's voice boomed from the entrance.

"Is that kid still hassling you? Why don't you run her in?" he asked.

"She's not a problem," Carol assured him, trying to hide her grin. "Just young and idealistic but I'm sure you're too old to remember being that way Randell," she prodded.

"Ha. Ha. Very funny," he replied with a grimace and a wrinkled nose. Carol realized he had never been like Erin, his heart was cold and his eyes were dull. "Can we get going now?"

"Sure," Carol smiled making her way past him, coffee and doughnuts in hand.

XXXXX

Minos drove down the street in silence for as long as she could stand to. But the strain of keeping her mouth closed was beginning to show and her blonde companion was diligently waiting for Minos to burst. You wanna know, you gotta ask, my friend.

Finally, it was too much. "What's with the cop?" she blurted, the words tumbling past teeth and lips and falling with a tinge of defensiveness between the two women.

"What do you mean?" Erin asked, innocently, all waif smile and wide green eyes.

"Don't play dumb with me, Skylon. You know exactly what I mean," Minos insisted, sparing a glance from the road to observe her companion.

Erin reflected a moment, trying to put her tangled thoughts into a string of words which would properly convey her feelings. "I think she's ... interesting," was the best she could come up with after several long moments of consideration.

Minos shook her head, rolled hazel eyes. "I don't believe it. You're falling for a cop! And a lady cop at that!"

"Oh come on," Erin found she wanted her friend's support in this. It was all new to her but the emotions were so intense she didn't feel she could ignore them. "You've had women in your bed."

"Yeah," Minos agreed. "But never a woman cop! Have you completely lost your mind?!"

"No! I have not! Besides, what business is it of yours whom I find interesting?"

Minos looked seriously hurt by the comment and turned wounded eyes from Erin to the road. The young blonde quickly made up for it, reaching over to place a warm hand on her friend's arm. "I'm sorry. That was a terrible thing to say and it goes against everything I stand for. I don't want to fight about this. Besides at this point she isn't even a friend so I don't think you have anything to worry about."

"If you want a woman I can set you up," Minos offered, glad for the subject change. Erin was her dearest friend and the thought of her free spirit with that rigid cop was more than she was willing to handle.

"I don't want to be set up," Erin replied. "Besides the last time you set me up was with that peace corps volunteer who didn't believe in shaving. God Minos, if I wanted hairy I'd date a man."

Slowly both women began to chuckle before it turned into rolling laughter. Minos calmed down first and looked at Erin as they reached a stoplight. "You really do like her ... don't you?"

Erin looked out the front windshield as she spoke, unable to meet her friend's searching gaze. "I don't understand it. It's like I'm drawn to her." She shrugged slim shoulders helplessly.

"Like a moth to a flame huh," Minos nodded, twisting her lips into a wry expression of defeat. "I don't need to tell you what ends up happening to the moth?"

"You know, for a flower child you really are ill-mannered," Erin jibed Minos gently but preferred this approach to the previous outburst of raised voices and accusing words.

"I'm sorry, I just ... "

"Just what? Always hoped you'd be my first?" Erin teased, not expecting the reaction she got.

Minos smiled at first but the smile began to fade and she nodded her confession. "Your first time should always be with someone you love and who loves you."

"You know I love you, Minos, but-

"See, there's that word ... 'but.' I know. You and I have been through this lots and lots of times before I just ... I always wished I could be the one. But all I care about is your happiness - even if that someone you choose isn't me."

"Even if that someone I choose is a cop?" Erin asked softly, tilting her head towards the brunette slightly.

Minos nodded, a weak smile playing on her lips. "Even if it is a cop."

Erin didn't know what to say but after a few moments she found her voice. "You're my best friend, Minos."

Minos nodded but it seemed to Erin that she still had a quiet defeated air about her. She was going to press the point some more but Minos stopped her. "No, it's groovy. I understand. I do. You're my best friend too, Skylon ... I don't want anything to come between the love we do have ... ya dig me?"

"Yeah, I dig ya," Erin grinned.

"So," Minos sighed. "Tell me about this cop."

 

Chapter 5

Carol checked the fraying napkin again, comparing the number she held against the number on the house. Or rather, comparing it to what was left of the number on the house. The building was in an obvious state of disrepair, needing some minor work to doors and windows and several years past a paint touch up. But otherwise it seemed sturdy with a large wraparound porch and well-landscaped yard.

The porch was filled with blankets and cushions, various benches and chairs littered the vast expanse of painted wood. There were shelves of books, potted plants, musical instruments. Carol examined them all with minor interest before stuffing the tattered paper back into her pocket. Now that she'd selected her wardrobe carefully and made her way here clear across town, she was having second thoughts. What did she see in this slip of a girl? And better yet, why was the flower girl interested in a cop?

She stood casually in her jeans, sweatshirt, and jean jacket, an outfit chosen specifically to not make a statement of establishment, rocking back on sneaker heels, tilting her head in consideration. She was still deciding whether or not to leave when the door opened and searching hazel eyes pinned her where she stood on the top step of the porch.

"Look, cop, you gonna stand there all day or come in?"

Carol recognized Minos's piercing gaze and disdainful voice. She shrugged her shoulders as if she didn't care one way or another but the woman at the door smiled slightly, letting her know the act was seen through.

Minos opened the door wider, tilted her head slightly in invitation as if it was given reluctantly. Carol surmised it was.

"I'm here to see Erin," the tall dark woman said at last, finally making her decision and taking the few steps that brought her across the porch to the front door.

The other woman snorted. "No kidding," she said as if Carol were an idiot. "Figured that out."

The cop chose to ignore the tone of voice and stepped into the house anyway, biting her tongue on a harsh retort that would get her nowhere.

"Skylon's room is on the second floor, second door on the left." The fact that Minos had over emphasized Erin's hippie name wasn't lost on the nervous officer.

"She has her own room?" Carol asked, surprised.

Minos shook her head. "No one has their own anything here. We all share." Then the tall brunette left, leaving Carol to her own devices.

Hands still stuffed in jacket pockets, Carol made her way carefully up the stairs to the second door which stood wide open on broken hinges. She studied the scene first, looking at the small blonde who lay curled on a mattress on the bare wood floor. She was reading something in a tattered notebook, occasionally making scribbles, often chewing on the end of her pencil. After a long moment of observation, Carol cleared her throat slightly, watching the green eyes leave paper and look up.

Erin was shocked to see the officer standing in the opening to her room but she tried not to show it. She felt a warm sense of joy crawl through her belly and rest heavily in her throat, causing her to cough a couple of times and blush before she spoke. "Hi," she said softly, allowing Carol once again to see the delicate side of her instead of the outspoken brash person she often seemed to be.

"Hi," Carol smiled gently, trying to offer the woman comfort, not wanting to make her awkward or nervous.

The young blonde set aside notebook and pencil and stood up slowly. Today she was dressed in tattered jeans and an over sized T-shirt with a huge peace symbol emblazoned across the front.

"I didn't think you'd come," Erin spoke at last, both women still standing the length of the room apart.

Carol shrugged, broad shoulders lifting and relaxing under the denim of her jacket. "You invited me. I came."

"Why?" Erin asked suddenly, surprising herself by her insecurity and the flutter in her stomach.

Carol grinned slightly and thought of a hundred smart retorts or teasing comebacks. Instead, she decided on honesty. "It was an offer I couldn't pass up."

"Fair enough," Erin grinned back, feeling some of her composure return when presented with the officer's relaxed demeanor. "Come in, I'm sorry," suddenly realizing her manners, she stepped forward. "Let me take your jacket and we can leave it in here while I give you the grand tour. Who let you in?" she asked curiously as she took the extended jacket and tossed it on her double mattress.

"Minos."

"Ah," Erin nodded, looked back to her guest with an inquiring jade gaze. "Was she nice?"

Carol shrugged.

"Was she mean?"

The dark woman laughed softly, shook her head. "No, she wasn't mean. But I wouldn't have used nice as a descriptor."

The young blonde nodded her agreement. "She's ... ah ... not fond of cops. Policemen ... um ... police women," Erin fumbled.

Carol smiled. "Cop is fine, Erin. And you aren't too fond of us, either."

The younger woman shrugged, tilted her head, "You're different."

"You don't know that."

"I do," Erin nodded though she didn't know from where she got the conviction of those words. Something about this dark woman called to her and she knew that under the tough exterior, the gun and the uniform, was a gentle person she wanted to get to know better. The attraction she felt was new and intriguing. And she'd be damned if she let it slip away without further exploration. "C'mon," she reached out to gently tug at the woman's sleeve. "Let's go see who's around to meet."

Erin offered a quick tour, showing Carol the common rooms, waving to the shared bedrooms. They ended up in the kitchen with two long haired men and cups of coffee. Erin introduced the men as Bill and Stanley, telling them that Carol was her friend that she'd met at the demonstration they'd all attended. She left out that the dark woman had been one of the uniformed attendees. Carol noticed the absence and raised an eyebrow questioningly. Erin smiled, patting the older woman on the arm and letting that touch linger a little longer than necessary.

"So what are your plans for today, Skylon?" Stanley asked, standing to rinse out his coffee cup.

Erin glanced to her companion quickly and was met with inquisitive blue eyes. "No plans. Maybe go for a walk, do some talking."

Stanley nodded. "We're going to go down to the pharmaceutical company and sit on the steps," he grinned, teeth barely showing beneath his beard. "We're pretty sure they're supporting the war efforts so we're going to go make their lives a little more difficult." He placed his wet mug upside down on a towel covering the counter. "Wanna come? The more the merrier."

Erin looked to her hands, then her friend's blue eyes, before turning to Stanley. "Not today, Stan. But good luck to you."

"Suit yourself," the tall man shrugged and patted his silent companion's shoulder. "Let's go, Bill. Places to go ... people to see."

Their departure left the two women alone in the kitchen.

"If you want to go," Carol said at last, after a very long moment of silence, "I can come back another day."

Erin smiled in that over-confident manner she must have perfected years ago. "Not up to it? We could both join them."

Carol returned the grin. "I can't, Erin. You know that."

"Yeah," the young blonde's countenance turned more wistful as she looked away to study the kitchen. The water stained wallpaper curled away from the walls, the Formica counters were chipped and damaged. She tapped her toe on cracking green linoleum. "I know."

"You didn't tell them what I do," the dark woman observed, watching her young friend with gentle eyes. She sensed a conflict in the other woman she could neither define nor understand.

Erin shook her head, traced a crack in the table with a blunt-nailed finger. "I wanted them to like you."

"You don't think I'm likeable in uniform, Erin? It's part of me."

"I know," she shrugged her shoulders and sighed, able to meet the ice gaze only briefly. "But we kinda don't look past the clothes to the person. Ironic, isn't it? That's what we claim the establishment is doing to us."

Carol nodded silently, agreeing with her observation. She wondered why she'd looked past the granny dress and the flower basket to the charming woman beneath. She also wondered why she was here and where this could possibly go. "Two different worlds," she muttered.

Erin looked up from her diligent tracing. "Yeah. But is that okay?"

"Whaddya mean?" the dark woman asked, rising to pour herself some more coffee and bringing the pot over to fill her friend's mug as well.

"Can we get past that? If I don't judge you by your uniform and you don't judge me by mine?"

Carol smiled, regaining her seat. "I think so."

"I'd like to."

"Me too," the taller woman agreed, sipping from her mug, watching the features before her. Erin was a beautiful young woman without make-up or a pretentious hairstyle. Her charm and looks were natural and Carol found herself drawn to them. She'd never considered herself attracted to women before meeting the blonde. Now she guessed she may have to redefine that part of herself because she could easily picture romantic moonlight strolls with this woman. She could almost feel the gentle caresses and the warmth of lips. She shook her head.

Erin noticed her blush but kindly declined comment. "You up for that walk? There's a park nearby, we can take Rainbow."

"What's Rainbow?" Carol asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Four legged roommate. Catches a mean Frisbee."

"Sounds like fun," the older woman agreed, downing the rest of her coffee in a few short swallows. "Let's get out of here before my true identity is revealed."

Erin laughed, finishing her coffee as well and rinsing out both mugs to set them beside Stanley's.

 

Chapter 6

"So what do you do?" Carol asked as she tossed the Frisbee. Rainbow ran with all he had to keep up to the flying disk. He was a large black mutt of some sort, probably had Lab and Shepherd in him. His breed was really irrelevant as it was impossible not to love him for his gregarious attitude and his large flopping tongue.

They stood in the middle of a large park near campus and had claimed a shady spot under a tree as well as a field for Rainbow's activities. The afternoon sun was warm and bright, the rays chasing filigreed clouds along the sky's blue expanses. It was a wonderful day for outdoor activity and pleasant company.

The walk over had been enjoyable, Rainbow had remained on a leash until they'd reached the edge of the park where Erin had turned him loose to bound across the manicured grass and hunt for butterflies or dandelions. He found the latter in much greater numbers than the former but it made little difference to him in his world of pure enjoyment and sensations.

"I fight for the betterment of mankind," Erin answered, tilting her head up to regard her dark companion and squinting against the streaming sunlight. She sat in the grass at Carol's feet, her bellbottomed legs stretching outward.

Carol grinned. Always about the movement, she thought silently. "No," the dark-haired woman corrected, taking a seat next to Erin. "I mean for a living. You must eat. Buy clothes. What do you do for money?"

"I'm an artist," Erin replied, watching her companion for any sort of negative reaction. She'd found that a lot of the establishment wasn't impressed with artists or their works and dreams. "I paint. I sculpt," she continued softly, seeing nothing in the other woman's countenance to frighten her off. "Sometimes I write. About once a month I go to the village or Soho to sell my work. All the money the house brings in goes into a large fund. That way we always have electric and a fridge full of food," she finished with a smile.

"What about if you wanted to go to the movies or something? Don't you have spending money?" Carol asked nonchalantly, stretching out her long legs and watching Rainbow. The dog dropped the Frisbee halfway across the field and was now busily trying to scoop his nose under it and pick it back up. It was outsmarting him and he barked at it, scratching helplessly with large paws.

"I'm usually too busy for things like that. And I rarely eat out. So it's not that much of a burden. But yes I do have some spending money," Erin acknowledged softly, hoping that Carol was asking for another reason besides trying to understand the joint household living situation. She glanced sideways at her companion, enjoying the slope of her sharp cheekbones and the olive hue of her skin. Her long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, revealing dainty dangling earrings in her lobes. Erin found her breathtaking: her eyes matching the sky and her hair darker than night. The artist in her began to plan a sketch that might reflect the other woman's beauty. She blushed at the thought and looked away again before Carol could notice.

A silence filled the space between them until Rainbow recovered the toy and made his presence known again by leaping from woman to woman hoping someone - anyone - would throw his prize again. Carol took the not-so-subtle hint from the canine and rose to her feet once more, throwing as far and as hard as she could. She brushed off the seat of her pants while keeping her attention on the bounding dog and the way his ears flopped with each great leap. She grinned at him and envied him his simple pleasures.

"You've got quite an arm there," Erin complimented, smiling up at the officer, shielding her eyes from the sunlight so she could see Carol's reaction. She was surprised when she saw the blush rise to the other woman's cheeks. If anything, she was more attractive with the added color.

"Well, I played softball for a lot of years when I was younger. The force has a league but I don't play now," Carol responded, rolling her shoulders with the memory of a good day on the field. She'd been the best on her team in high school. She'd even practiced with the boy's team from time to time though she was never permitted to play a game with them.

"Why not?" Erin asked, honestly confused. The other woman's voice indicated it was something she'd enjoyed. And her posture and stance seemed to prove she was more than capable. "They are obviously losing a great outfielder with that arm."

Carol was both surprised and pleased that Erin knew something about the sport and she paused a moment before answering. "Ohh ... I ... the force doesn't let women play on the team. It's only recently that they allowed women on the force itself. Maybe in a few years that will change," She replied reluctantly, knowing she was cracking the door for an argument. Thus far the day had been pleasant and their time together enjoyable. She didn't want to ruin it with an abrupt reminder about how very different they were.

"So you're good enough to wrestle flower children to the ground but not good enough to catch a grounder to third?" Erin teased gently, sensing the other woman's tension but also angered at the obvious discrimination she faced.

As Carol began to laugh, Rainbow took a flying leap at her, sending her flat on her back. Erin scolded the animal who was now busy licking Carol's face any place she could find. "I think I made a new friend," Carol said between laughs and dodging a long seeking tongue. She put her hands on the dog's broad chest and shoved at him weakly. Erin tried in vain to pull Rainbow off of her friend, her feet planted on either side of his body and her hands wrapped firmly around his collar. But no amount of tugging was lifting the eager dog away.

Giving up on the brute force approach, Erin released her hold on the dog and tossed the Frisbee, sending Rainbow on the chase again. She knelt down beside the tall officer and helped pull her into a sitting position. "I'm sorry about that," Erin apologized. "He's a little overzealous now and then." She grinned ruefully at the understatement as she helped Carol pick blades of grass out of her hair. The strands were silky against her fingertips and caused Erin's heart to flutter slightly. Her attraction to this woman was absolutely unnerving.

"No need to apologize. I love animals," Carol smiled in response, evidently oblivious to the effect she was having on the smaller woman.

"Even ones that plant wet kisses all over your face?" Erin questioned as Carol wiped her cheek with her sweatshirt sleeve.

"Well, that depends on the animal. There are some kisses I like more than others," Carol bantered easily, trying to reroute the conversation and embarrass the brash young blonde.

"Is that so?" Erin replied with her eyebrow arched, considering possibilities, feeling her face warm again. The twinkle in the dark woman's eyes told her that she'd fallen for Carol's gentle ploy.

Carol's mind went blank except for two thoughts - one, Erin definitely had accepted the flirting and two, she really wanted to find out what Erin's kisses would be like. Though brave a moment before, the reality of it was a little more than she was ready for so Carol visibly shook the images out of her mind and moved to her feet, mumbling something about the returning dog.

Erin, for her part, stayed still a moment, soaking up what had just transpired. She knew Carol had initiated the playfulness and the flirting and she knew now by the other woman's reaction how awkward it felt to her. What she didn't know was how much Carol was playing and how much of her was seriously interested in pursuing something further. And even if she were interested, would the officer have the courage to explore it? She was reasonably certain Carol didn't have a lot of experience in pursuing romantic relationships with women. The dark woman's rigid, up-tight attitude left Erin little doubt Carol would not be making any bold moves. That would have to be Erin's task but she didn't want to rush into things either. Given time, perhaps the officer would come to her.

Carol threw the toy again as Erin came to her feet, dusting off her pants and raising her face to the sunlit sky. The officer wanted to find a topic of conversation that might ease the awkwardness they'd settled into. She could think of one that would make the silence go away.

"So what's the greater good?" Carol asked slowly. "You said you would explain it to me if I stopped by."

"Where to begin ..." Erin pondered. "It's a theory. A way of life ... It says that our own existence isn't as important as the living condition of man. I would sacrifice my own life, if need be, for something I thought would be best for mankind."

"I'm not sure I follow you," Carol confessed, glancing away from Rainbow's continued antics to meet the gentle green eyes of her companion.

"Okay, lets take that peace rally where you ran me in," Erin smirked and waited for Carol's reaction. When Carol grinned too she continued. "I could have been killed by being that close to your force. But I had a message to present - violence is not the answer to maintaining order, be it here or in Vietnam. If I died by trying to get that message out then so be it. My death would result in people taking notice - maybe ten more people would have taken up the cause as a result. And from there perhaps ten more. And ten more. And ten more -"

"Okay," Carol interrupted, pretty sure the blonde would continue in her present phrasing for quite awhile. "So if you'd been killed it would have drawn attention to your cause. I understand," she agreed, seeing a huge flaw in the plan. Her grin and shaking head illustrated her unspoken words.

"But it's not just that. I would have given my life for something I believe in. I would have made a difference unlike the soldiers in Asia now. All they know is death and destruction. They kill innocents in the name of 'Old Glory' ... That's not the America I know and love," Erin responded, warming to the subject and wanting her companion to understand just how much she was willing to give.

"So you're telling me you're a patriot?!" Carol laughed, the imagery not quite fitting. "It doesn't look like it to me."

"Why? Because I don't agree with the course America's taken? I think I'm more American than anyone who sits in congress. I know I'm more American than Tricky Dick who sits in the White House. I don't have to like what my country is doing but I'll always love what it stands for. It's just that right now I think we are getting off course from what we stand for."

"So do all you flower power types think this way?" Carol asked with condescension in her voice, regretting the tone immediately but unable to stop it from creeping in.

"Most do. Yes," The blonde responded with a raised eyebrow. Aside from general good-natured teasing, this was the first time she'd felt that Carol didn't approve of her or her lifestyle.

"So tell me ... do you go to airports and spit on the soldiers who come home? I mean, after all, they're the key element in what the country is doing wrong in your eyes," Carol replied sarcastically.

"I would never do that," Erin said, growing angry and taking a step away from Carol so she would be better able to look at the woman's expression without bending her neck backwards.

When Carol didn't look at her, Erin put her hand on Carol's arm for emphasis.

"Honestly," she said calmly, controlling her rising emotions. "If they chose to serve this action then that's their choice. I don't agree with it, I think every young man should burn his draft card. But I can't blame those who go if that's the right decision for them. It would make me a pretty damn big hypocrite, don't you think?"

"Preaching about people doing what they think is best then chastising those who do just that would make you a hypocrite," Carol agreed, the smaller woman's touch warm on her arm. "But if that's the case, what are your options?"

"I'm not sure what you mean about options," Erin tilted her head slightly, confusion showing on her wrinkled brow.

Carol had to think a moment to collect her thoughts. She was more a woman of actions than words and she had to admit this little blonde had her on her toes. It was obvious that Erin had a lot more experience in verbal debates and in expressing her beliefs and feelings. "What I mean is: if you don't hold the soldiers accountable for what's going on then who do you blame?"

"That's easy. The lawmakers. They-"

Carol held her finger up. "Then why aren't you working within the system for change? Let's be honest. The lawmakers see you as nothing more than pot addicts making a lot of noise."

Erin smiled and nodded in agreement. "Yes. I think that's exactly how the establishment views us ... and for that very reason I don't want to be a part of the 'ole boys club'," she retorted.

Carol felt the jab, she scowled slightly. "But you think I do. Is that it?"

"I didn't say that," Erin replied evasively, though she did see it a little bit. Carol was trying to do the right thing, trying to make a difference in her own way, but she was wrapped up in a machine that was confining and restricting and belonged to the brash men of society. She was shunned for her gender and her skill overlooked. Surely she could see that?

"Not in so many words," Carol argued, fidgeting, refusing to take the Frisbee from a frantic Rainbow. She didn't want Erin to see her that way; she didn't want to be that way. "But that's what you meant. You have no idea why I joined the force. So who are you to judge me?"

"I'm not judging you, Carol," she began gently, sensing the other woman's quick temper and defensiveness. "But you are right when you say I have no idea why you joined." Erin could feel her blood getting warmer - her own anger rising. "How could someone who's so bright, intelligent, strong and sometimes witty want to be part of a machine? A machine built on the WASP philosophy of life? A machine that says if you're not the right color, sex, age or education you're not worthy? Forget about me spitting on soldiers. How many times have you detained a black man a little longer just for kicks?! How many times have you pushed a beatnik off a street corner for a laugh?!"

Carol lost what little control she had on her emotions and bent down so she was mere inches from Erin. Her steel blue eyes bored into the young woman's misty green. She held her there in a silent glare for several long seconds, wanting to impress upon her these next words which were absolutely true. "Never," Carol whispered, her hot breath brushing across Erin's face and moving blonde locks of hair. "Never. I have a sense of honor despite what you may think of me."

"Oh, really?" the blonde answered quickly, her own anger dancing like flames in those emerald eyes. "Maybe you haven't," she nodded smugly, not backing down in the slightest. "But I bet you know people on the force that have."

Carol flinched and turned away, backing down from the fight, knowing there was truth in the young woman's words. She had seen it although she was never a party to it. At least that's what she told herself as she began to walk away, the uncertainty warring with her anger for control of her emotions. She left the young blonde standing in the shade of the tree, green eyes watching her every move. Erin's voice stopped her steps before she'd gotten very far.

"You know it happens, Carol. And you do nothing to stop it. And whether you choose to believe it or not, you're a good ole boy, too, because you turn the other cheek," Erin called. But her voice was gentle and pleading, the anger having drained away. She wanted Carol to see the whole picture, to see the role she played in it.

Rainbow sensed the tension between the women and wisely stayed down in the sunny spot he had picked in the grass moments before. The animal watched and whimpered as Carol slowly walked back to Erin.

"I joined the force so I could make a difference," Carol announced slowly, believing it to be true. "I'm trying to open doors for women that have never been open before. I'm trying to keep order in this unruly age. Don't be a hypocrite, Erin. I'm doing it my way; just like you're doing it yours." Her voice was soft, urging the smaller woman to understand. She'd wanted so badly to make a difference, to provide people like Erin a fair and honest counterpart on the force. She wanted the young blonde to see her that way and not as an uncaring member of the establishment.

Erin sighed along with Rainbow who now had his chin on his paws, eyes flashing between his two friends.

"I'm sorry," Erin apologized sincerely, reaching a hand out and laying it on Carol's muscular arm. "I didn't want to fight. That wasn't the intention of my invitation."

Since Erin had opened the door, Carol walked on through it. "And just why did you invite me?" she prodded, relaxing inexplicably at the younger woman's gentle touch. This was the answer she really wanted. Was Erin as interested in her as she was in the hippie?

"I ... uh ... I just thought ... I thought maybe there was more to you than most folks see," Erin stuttered, uncertainly, being put on the spot. That was NOT groovy, Erin thought silently, kicking herself in the butt. So much for being suave and seductive. She didn't add anything more for fear of shoving her foot any farther into her mouth.

Carol wasn't sure what to make of Erin's sudden lack of grace. She was very eloquent, well spoken, she appeared to always have a solid handle on things. The innocent question left the young beatnik nearly tongue-tied. Carol had to smile as she assumed the other woman's behavior answered her biggest question.

"Well, whatever the reason," Carol said trying to lighten the girl's discomfort, "I'm glad you did."

Erin knew this was the only opening she would get. She had to take it now. "Would you like to do it again sometime? Minus the arguing ... well, maybe not as much arguing. I don't like to make promises I can't keep," She grinned faintly, her stomach tied in knots waiting for the taller woman to respond.

Carol saw that angelic grin and agreed immediately. "Sounds great ... but I don't want to take up too much of your time."

"No!" Erin regretted her desperate reaction instantly. "I mean ... It wouldn't be a bother at all. I could use some time out of the house anyway. That's if you're interested. I mean you are interested aren't you?" She stuttered stupidly and then decided that closing her mouth would be the best approach.

Carol swallowed hard. Was she interested? She was, she realized but at this point she couldn't tell just how much. Or more to the point, she wasn't ready to admit to herself just how much. Outwardly, she grinned slightly and took a step closer, letting her body language imply as much as the young blonde was willing to read in it.

"How about this Friday?" the dark-haired officer asked casually. "I know you're not big into movies but maybe there's something playing you might like to see."

Erin grinned and nodded in agreement, not trusting her voice. With a whistle to Rainbow, they were on their way.

 

Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You were there, you saw it."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carol's eyes widened.

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

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

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

 

Chapter 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yeah - Jimmy Robbins," her companion replied.

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

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

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

"What is it?" the flower child asked.

"You know the victim," Carol began.

Erin simply gave a nod.

"I know the cop."

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

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

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

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

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

"You were there?"

"Yeah."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Carol?"

"Hmm?"

"Take your ticket."

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

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

XXXXX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Stan?" Carol tried again.

"Nope," Erin shook her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What to do?" Erin finished.

Carol grinned and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued

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