SUGAR AND SPICES Written by Katherine Smyth, 1999. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Chapter 1: ALL THINGS COME ************ "Noooooo" she screamed "Please, I beg you". Limbs flaying in the air, sheets wrapped around the tall-framed body, sweat pouring from strained muscles trying to release a body from its capture. A loud thud and the body fell from its bed. "What? Oh damn, not again, retched dreams". Another lousy starts to the coming day. The light slowly trickled through the window, filling the room with light. A small room painted pale sky blue, a comfortable double bed opposite the window, a chest of draws on the wall near the door; a stereo and laptop were all that was to be seen in the room. The view from the window was that of English Bay, off Beach Ave. in Vancouver. The only solace of waking like that was the view out of the second story window, the tranquillity of pounding surf on the beach and gulls flying in the air. A form of peace this tired soul had long searched for. 'One day, I pray these will stop' she thought as she ran her hands through her short blonde hair. She stood and padded into the kitchen, at least this time she hadn't woken Mary up. Putting some coffee on and placing a cup on the bench and pausing in thought. The last few months had been hard, trying to adjust to a new country, new job, new flat mate, and trying to mend a broken heart. The last thing she wanted to deal with was these 'dreams'. Nightmares was a closer description, but Lian had always believed that they came to her for a reason, she just didn't know what that was, yet. Pouring the coffee and adding a generous amount of sugar and milk, it smelled terrific, 'Just what the doctor ordered' she thought. Walking back to her room she switched the light on and sat down in front of her laptop turning it on, slowly it booted up. "Check email" she commanded. "Three messages, one urgent" it replied. She scrolled down the list of senders, seeing the flashing message from her parents, "Damn it, forgot about that" she said clicking on it. (The message said) "Hi Possum, What happened to ringing us on Friday? Your Father sat up 'til nearly 2 am waiting. Well we're fine, your Father is still negotiating the deal with Hendricks but it all looks good". "Great" she thought "next thing they'll be trying to get me to come home and oversee the blasted deal, like I give a flying fignut!" "Jason has been asking for you again, please honey, get in touch with the lad, you know he misses you. Ok, well give us a ring when your able, we miss you" Mum. "Oh yeah, sure I'll let Jason know how I am" she said in a quiet voice " bet he'd love to know what I've been up to" smirking at the last remark and remembering the night before. She'd gone straight from work out to the clubs with Mary, and hadn't gotten in till early this morning, with that thought she clicked on the next message. (It said) "Hey Where were you last night? Little fink! Anyway, here are those files you asked for, hope they help. Come find me tonight ok?" Renee "Oops, damn 0 for 2 here, not a good start at all" she muttered to herself as she clicked on the final message. "Hey Lian Guess what? Give up? Ok, well after much discussion, Simon and I are coming over. So you can finally stop nagging us, and stop that grinning you big goon. Ok, well I'm off to bed, so let me know when would suit you best and we'll start planning this reunion. Always" Rox "Well what do you know, things just took a turn for the better" It'd been eight long months since Lian had seen her childhood friend, and she had missed her terribly. After many nights of chatting with Roxanne and Simon, trying to convince them to come over, Simon had finally agreed to it, not that that would have stopped them, but it was better to have him on board than not. "Ok, so when would be good?" she thought "Now.... nah, can't say that". She leaned back and looked at the screen, "hmmm, what about then.... Yeah, that'd be cool". She quickly typed off a reply. "See what she thinks about that" she uttered. Just then a head poked round the door. "Morning" a sweet sounding voice chimed "you're up early again, same problem?" Mary had woken up to the irresistible aroma of the fresh coffee; a telltale sign that her roommates sleep had been broken. "Uh huh" Lian nodded sipping her coffee "Sorry, did I wake you?" "No, I was getting up anyway, promised I'd go for a run with John this morning, you want to come?" Mary was worried about her new companion, many a night she'd heard muted cries coming from the young girls' room, not to mention the banging on the walls. Once she'd even found a gaping hole in the wall, discreetly hidden behind the door, but noticeable just the same, how it got there she dared not ask. She'd moved in with the young Australian when then they'd discovered at work that they were both looking for somewhere to live. So far it'd been pretty good, the kid was a good cook, kept the entire place net and tidy, and was a reliable sort. "Umm, where you going?" Lian wasn't to keen on jogging, as she still carried an ample portion of puppy fat on her large frame, she did enjoy some exercise, but the thought of pounding the pavement for several miles was not a big turn on. "Down the beach as it happens" Mary replied. 'Trying to get this kid out of here and into some activity was harder than a table full of bickering customers' the waitress thought to herself. "Uh, ok, why not" the thought of pacing along the sand was a decent one, at least it wasn't out on the roads. Driving on the other side of the road was enough of a hassle, trying to get around the 'driving habits' of her new countrymen/women was another. So 'running' on the road was not a thought she happily considered; keeping clear of the roads as much as possible was a high personal priority. "Give me a few mins to shut this thing down and grab a change" she said as she started closing down the computer. "Ok, meet you out front" Mary replied. ' Oh unreal, finally some progress, wonder what put her in such a good mood, usually she's cranky as, after an early awakening'. Mary thought as she walked out of the room. "No probs" Lian absently remarked, looking around to make sure she'd put everything away. Tidying up had always been a habit of hers, but it had become a necessary part of her career. "Mess means Loss" her tutor had drummed into her, she'd hated him at the time, but on reflection, she silently thanked him for the hard lessons he'd instilled in her. But becoming a qualified Cook had been her biggest thrill; she loved cooking, now she could do it for a living. Standing in the doorway switching the light off, glancing back at her room she thought 'Well it's a long way from the country farmhouse in Victoria that's for sure'. Lian had only recently moved to Vancouver from Victoria Australia, and the young Australian had found the change quite difficult at times. She didn't have many personal items 'couldn't afford to carry them' was the excuse she used, 'never know how long I won't be here for, so why bother making myself at home' and to all intensive purposes this was true. So why change now, 'I could be up and off tomorrow, don't want to get tied down here' was the closing thought. But at other times the coldness of her surroundings really hit back at her. There were no photos of friends, no knickknacks, no pictures on the walls, nothing to say she lived there. "Oh well kiddo, you chose this life. Get over it!" she said to herself as she walked through the apartment and out the door. ******* The jog had been nice, a trifle too tiring, but not too bad. They'd jogged up and around English Bay and back. Lian was relieved when they'd finally returned home, being hot and sweaty was not one of her favorite conditions to be in. Remembering that statement she blushed. In a previous conversation with Mary and John she'd voiced her opinion about being "hot and sweaty" with other people, only to have John go crimson and Mary break out in laughter, "What?" was all she'd got out before the realization of her statement got back to her. "Well how would I know anything about that!" she'd declared in her defense, Lian was not 'experienced' in any form of intimate relations, in fact she was a virgin in the truest sense. The very thought of being with someone was a scary one to her, Lian had had some horrible experiences growing up, and was now wary of anyone and everyone, 'never let anyone know you care, that way they can't hurt you with it' was her line of reasoning. 'Oh well' she sighed, that was in the past, at least she could look John in the face now, without cracking up herself. "Ugh, better grab a shower and get my butt to work" she grumbled. 'Work' now there was a thought. Her new house of employment was pretty good, she enjoyed it there, and the owner was terrific and had taken a real shine to the kid. Her boss was a top bloke too. The added bonus of meeting Mary and sharing an apartment with her was an unbelievable chance of luck. So far moving to Canada had been a good thing. Padding into the bathroom and switching the light on, Lian looked in the mirror. 'Whoa' she breathed 'damn, is that me?' she pondered 'guess it must'. Lians' appearance had altered quite a bit in the last six months, her face becoming more drawn than it had been; and she'd started losing weight, something she was greatly relieved about. Stripping off and stepping into the shower, the lukewarm water felt great on her hot sticky body. Finishing she toweled off and put her uniform on 'Well it could be worse' she thought. Actually Lian quite liked her uniform, she was proud of her chefs outfit, and her 'right' to wear the customary black buttons was a great source of pride for her. They signified her status and that she 'knew' her way around the kitchen, she'd paid her dues, had been certified and now could do as she wished. Grabbing her kit she headed out the door, "Another day, another dollar" she said as she closed and locked the door. ***** "Eating again I see" Joe remarked as he walked past. "Awww leave off Joe, you know I never get around to breakfast" Lian mumbled through a mouthful to her boss. Joe, the Head Chef at Roughton O'Keefes Restaurant; her immediate superior. He was a tall man, with thick jet-black short-cropped hair and startling blue eyes. Of medium build and in his mid thirties, a real catch to anyone who was of a mind to look, but Lian wasn't looking, not even noticing his attentions. "You need someone to take care of you kiddo" he smiled back at her. Joe was indeed curious about this new comer to the city, she was younger than he, that was true enough but by how much no one knew, but she had a purity that held his fascination. Lian wasn't a 'looker' at all; she was taller than most women were, she had to be at least 6' and that blonde hair of hers was strange. Nearly everyday it was different, the way it hung or the color, he couldn't quite place it, but he was willing to put it to further investigation. Then there were her eyes, sometimes gray maybe green, then again were they blue, it was hard to tell, every time he thought he was sure, they changed again. "I'll think about it Joe, but thanks for the concern". Lian finished the conversation and started on her daily routine. Being a Cook wasn't exactly what Lian had wanted to become. She had wanted to be a Marine Biologist, but dropping out of high school had put an end to that idea, and the fact she lived nearly 2 hours drive from the nearest ocean made it somewhat of a joke, especially in the family circle. But she enjoyed her work; it was hard, on your feet all day, dealing with the pressure of deadlines and customers demands. It wasn't easy by any means, but it was rewarding, seeing happy faces strolling out the doors at night, knowing that to some extent, she was responsible for that. Standing there peeling carrots, she was pondering on the mornings activities, going for that jog had been quite invigorating, in fact Lian had been thinking about taking up some sort of physical exercise, maybe a martial art or sport that would be a little demanding of her. At this point Mary decided to enter the kitchen. "Hey there Giant" Mary grinned at the tall woman. "Hey shorty, what happened to you this morning, lost you after the jog" she replied to the smaller woman. Mary was indeed 'short' compared to Lian; she was lucky to be 5'6" and in her early thirties. With fire red hair and deep brown eyes, she was by no means 'unnoticeable' that and her reputation of having a temper to match her hair, Lian was careful not to annoy her. "Ummm, well John and I, uhhh...." She blushed, trying to find the right words to explain just what had 'happened'. "Ahhh, never mind, should have guessed" Lian chuckled at the woman's face, 'gods, just how 'innocent' do they think I am' she thought. "Oh, right, well.... I'll be home tonight anyway, so I'll cook, I know how you dread doing the job" Mary answered "what do you feel like?" "Have we got any of that chicken stuff left?" the cook queried. "You know, for a Cook, you have a shocking choice of words for food, but yes we do, with rice or potatoes?" Mary admired the young cook, but her description of food was unbelievable. "Ok, rice thanks, many in tonight?" Lian was well aware of her 'descriptive terms' but found it amusing that people expected a Cook /Chef to use the 'correct' terminology. The fact being that most of the names that were used were so lengthy and over rated, it was nice to be able to refer to a potato as a spud and eggs as cackleberries. The last was always brought the house down when it was used in conversation. "Nope, nice and easy for a change, only about a hundred, well back to work, catch you later" and with that Mary bustled back out in to the dinning area. The rest of the day pasted in relative quietness, the lunch crowd had been pretty good, only one customer had been a pest, playing the front staff around, all over a tuna sandwich to boot. Come 10pm though Lian was ready to go home. Thankfully the apartment wasn't to far from the restaurant, only about 20 mins walk, but you wouldn't want to walk it alone, so Lian always waited for Mary, and Mary always waited for Lian, it was a deal they had. This night fortunately neither had to wait; all of Mary's tables had finished on time. "How'd you go tonight?" Lian asked. "Ugh, not bad, they were ok, did you see that one guy who kept dropping his fork in front of Liz?" the waitress responded. "Yeah, I did, what a loser, I mean I can understand his interest, but really, that trick is so old, I think my baby cousin could come up with a better plan" Lian recalled at the nights events. "Oh well, Liz got her own back. She sort of accidentally 'spilt' his hot coffee, right into his crotch. That must of hurt" she giggled at the picture she'd seen. The guy deserved it, no questions asked, luckily he was reasonably tanked, so he had thought he'd done it himself. "Well she got off lightly, that's all I'm saying" Lian thought about the look on her employers face. Afterwards Harry had been mad as hell, fortunately for Liz he'd only given her a severe talking to, and the customer had insisted that it was his fault. "Yeah, she did, glad it wasn't me. Ahh, here we are" Mary was considering getting the door, when it was opened before her. "What?" "Oh, I forgot to tell you, I finally got a key cut today, sorry" Lian stood with the door open waiting for Mary to pass through. "You little rat, you mean to tell me that you got my keys out of my purse, got a key cut and put my keys back without me noticing" Mary was stunned, 'that little fink, says a lot about my security levels'. "Yep, you've got to be more careful with your gear shorty, never know who's around. Race you!" the Cook replied, then gave the older woman a light tap on the arm and bounded up the stairs. "Awww, you little brat, you're dead when I get you!" Mary took off after the younger woman, wondering what had put her in such a good mood all day. As they reached the door, Lian unlocked the door and dashed through, barely ahead of Mary. "Ha, I win!" she rejoiced. "Not fair, your legs are longer, you had a head start and your ten years younger " the red headed woman quickly retorted. "Excuses, Excuses" Lian taunted. "Oh poor old thing, you need a wheel chair or something?" "Just you wait you little fink, I hope you meet someone younger 'en you, and they give you just as much trouble" Mary was now standing in the kitchen "you want a cold drink?" opening the fridge door. "K, just some water thanks" the ecstatic blonde answered. "WHAT? Water, that's a first, no milk or OJ, you feeling all right?" 'what had gotten into the kid today', Mary was completely baffled. "Nope, water, plain old unadulterated, non-carbonated pure H20 thanks" she cheekily replied. "Ok, just checking, what's up with you today anyway, you've been in the biggest happy mood I've seen all season?" Mary asked curiosity having finally got the better of her. "Oh, wondered when you'd get around to asking about that" Lian answered "seems you're not the only one who got lucky this morning" "Ewww, low blow kid" Mary blushing lightly at the woman before her. "Didn't think I'd pass that one up did you? Ah well never mind, anyway, my good mood is due to the fact that Rox and Simon are coming over" Lian was in a good mood, something that had been lacking lately. Normally reserved and even brisk to the extreme with people, she had been quite 'chatty' all day, a rare sight indeed. "Oh, way cool, when are they due?" Mary was interested in meeting these people, which in an instant could make her young roommates disposition change drastically. "Well I've suggested Thanksgiving, we don't celebrate it in Australia, but I figure that as I'm living here now and all of that, well, I have a lot to be thankful for these days". Lian was indeed excited about the pending travel plans, and it was only a few months off. Thanksgiving would be an ideal time for Rox and Simon to come, the summer season would be long over, she'd have been there for nearly nine months and could ask for a little time off with out a guilty conscious. It would be a perfect time for them to be here. "Well I look forward to meeting them, will they be here long?" Mary was becoming more curious about these people by the minute. "I don't know, I only found out this morning, I'll go check now if you want to start dinner" and with that Lian poked her tongue at the other woman and ducked out of the room before Mary could take a swipe at her with the tea towel. ***** Bounding into her room and flicking on the light and her laptop. She waited while it slowly booted up, clicking the mail icon, "Two messages, none urgent" it replied. Scrolling down the page to see whom they were from, one was sent by Rox, the other from Jason. "Damn, doesn't that guy ever learn", Clicking on the latter message. (It said) "Hi Lilly Your Mum and Dad were telling me this morning that you didn't phone on Friday, you should really be more careful about that, they worry about you so much. Can you please write me back, it's been ages since we spoke. All the best to you Lil." Love Jason "Oh sure Jase, just what am I supposed to tell them huh? That I didn't ring because I was out roaming the streets till all hours getting plastered. Yeah bet they'd love to hear that!" Lian was quite fed up with Jason; he had the very annoying habit of sticking his nose into Lians' business. He meant well, but the fact that he'd taken the attitude that Lian was 'his' didn't help any. Jason was a nice enough guy, certainly handsome, tall, light brown wavy hair and rich brown eyes, and he had a really good personality. Hell they'd known each other since childhood, and at one stage Lian had even fancied him. But that was a long time ago, now he was employed by her father, and felt it to be his 'duty' to see to her welfare. Lian stared at the screen trying to think of something 'nice' to write back to him, but the current thought running through her mind was to tell him exactly what he could do with his good intentions. She finally calmed down and typed off a short note to let him know she'd received his mail, that she was indeed fine and that she had intended on contacting her parents as soon as was humanly possible. "There, that should get him off my back for a few days" she muttered as she clicked on Roxs' message. (The message read) "Hey Lian Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Simon and I both agree that the end of October will be fine, and the two weeks you suggested would be great! We'll start checking for flights and pricing and let you know what we find, just think, in two short months we'll all be together again. I'm off to work, so I'll catch you later, Always" Rox Two months, just enough time for Lian to get enough hints from her colleagues on how Thanksgiving is supposed to work. Being a Cook was one thing; a hostess was an entirely different one. It wasn't that daunting a task, but to say she wasn't nervous would be a lie. Lian closed down the computer, and walked back out into the kitchen. "Okay, good news. Rox is coming for Thanksgiving and they'll be here for two weeks, not bad eh?" she was indeed in a good mood, despite the other email she'd received. "Two weeks, not bad at all! So who's cooking, you or me?" Mary beamed back. "Actually I was thinking maybe 'we' would, what do you think?" Lian had realized that maybe for her first attempts it would be wise to enlist some local help. "Oooo, I get to share the kitchen duties with the world travelling chef, you're on!" the woman replied. It was a rare day that Lian let anyone in the same space as her, let alone the kitchen. Lian had only been at Roughton O'Keefes Restaurant for two weeks before one of the waitresses had over stepped the mark. She'd walked up behind Lian and tapped her shoulders as a joke. Unfortunately for the girl it had backfired, Lian had spun round so fast, knife in hand that the girl had stumbled backwards into a stack of pots and pans, which consequently came down on top of her. The look on Lians' face had been one of pure rage, she didn't like people getting in her space at anytime, let alone playing jokes in the kitchen. She had however bent down and helped the girl up, neatly placing all the items back on their shelves, checking to see that the waitress was ok, then returning to her previous job as though nothing had happened. Since then nobody got in the Cooks way. "Yeah, I thought I'd try working with you, just this once you understand?" Lian jokingly remarked. "Okay, sure. Here's dinner, grab the cutlery will you" Mary carried the plates round to the table. They sat there in silence, neither wishing to talk, after the humming and banging of the restaurant, sitting quietly was very enjoyable, and after sharing the apt for the last 4 months they could anticipate what the other needed before they had to ask for it. Mary passed Lian the remote for the TV; she switched it on, just catching the roundup of the news headlines. "Usual stuff by the looks of it" Lian commented. "Uh huh" was all she got as a reply. "You want it?" Lian questioned, indicating the remote, "I'm going surfing". With that she passed the control back to Mary, stood cleared the plates and walked back to her room. Booting the laptop back up, she sat down on the bed, waiting to get all her connections through, then switching ICQ on, clicking on Renee's number and typing short a message. Sending it off immediately. Two minutes later a reply came. "Hey, bout time you showed up!" Renee had been waiting for her friend to log on. "Sorry about the wait, I had a few things to clear up first, you know I never get anything done once we start talking" and it was true, once Lian and Renee started they'd be there for hours. Lian had met Renee only a few months before she'd moved to Canada, and over the time period since, they'd become quite close. "Yeah well, you know I'll wait for you. So how was the grind today?" "Oh, same 'ole same 'ole, never changes. How's Amy?" Lian was sure her parents would not be happy that she freely talked to Renee, the fact that she was gay would not have gone down well with them. Lian had been raised in a rather zealous household, and whilst her mother wasn't quite as vocal as her father was, neither considered that choice of lifestyle as 'proper'. "She's fine, been working hard, as usual, I'm trying to get her to take a few days off, but you know what she's like, stubborn!" It was amazing how much they had in common, considering that they'd grown up on different sides of the world. Renee was quite stunned when she found out one night from Mary that Lian didn't talk to anyone about her past save the two of them. Lian had told her all about her past, about all the little things and she was both proud that she'd told her and also frightened. The kid had been through quite a bit in her childhood, not all of it good either, and she was determined to keep an eye on her and make sure no one hurt her anymore. "Oh well, these things happen, hey what are you doing for Thanksgiving?" "Uh, nothing, Amy isn't planning anything, and I can't be bothered this year" the very thought of Thanksgiving was cause for dread, last year she'd hosted her family, and it had been somewhat of a disaster. Mainly due to her kid brother turning the oven off so the turkey didn't cook and then there'd been the suspicious power cut to their apartment by some mysterious cause. "Huh, well, I was thinking about having one here, I know we're a month after you guys, but would you like to come? Some friends from my home town are coming and I'd like it if you could meet them". Well she'd asked, no harm in that, she doubted that Renee and Amy would come, it was a long way from MD to Vancouver and neither of them liked flying. "You kidding? Hell we'll be there with bells on! Amy will be thrilled!" Renee was surprised to say the least; an open invite from Lian was not to be sneezed at. "Excellent! So far that's 7 of us, this should be good fun, Mary and I are cooking so I can promise I won't poison you" 'unreal, they're coming, damn I am having a good day' Lian thought to herself. "Okay, well we'll be there, how's the day before suit you?" "That'd be great! Hate to say this mate but it's nearly 12 here and I've got the breakfast shift in the morning, so...." "Hey, no probs, thanks for inviting us, okay well have a good day and I'll talk to you later, say hi to Mary for me, night" "Yeah will do, night" Lian turned the box off. 'Great they're coming, Rox and Si are coming, Mary and John will be there, this should be good'. It was then that she realized that 'they' were all couples, and then there was her. 'Damn, how'd I do that? Crap I hate being the gooseberry, she began a mental check of ‘who’ she knew that might like to come. "Hey Mary, is Harry going out to Toronto for Thanksgiving this year?" Lian yelled. "Uh, don't think so, his family are going away this year, why?" Mary was intrigued as to the question. Most years Harry had traveled to Toronto to be with his sister and her family, but this year he'd made no mention of his plans, only that the family was going south for the holidays, presumably to Richard's family. "I was just wondering if he'd like to join us, Renee and Amy are coming, and there's you and John, and Rox and Si, so what do you think?" Lian was fond of Harry; he'd taken a real interest in her and how she was. Not to mention since she'd found out that his daughter had died in a plane crash a few years back, Harry had no family, except for his sisters'. So Lian had tried to be as caring for the older man as she could, always greeting him with a warm smile and making sure his favorite foods were in stock, she couldn't help wishing he were her father. Harry was the same age as her father, but their personalities were vastly different. Where Harry was kind, considerate, compassionate and emotional, her father was the complete opposite. William McGowan was a cold man, who kept his feelings to himself alone. Never sharing anything with anyone, save his criticism, that was given freely to all! Lian had a large portion of disgust for her father, especially after discovering that he'd left her mother shortly after she was born. So whenever he came at her about her 'responsibilities' it took all her self-control not to deck him. One thing Lian hated was hypocrisy, and hypocrites were on her black list. How or why her mother had wanted him back was beyond her comprehension, but Elizabeth had seen to it that Lian was raised with two shinning examples of parenthood. Elizabeth had taken care of all her domestic duties, and the secretarial obligations of the family company, never complaining about her husbands over spending and excessive tastes in 'toys' that he insisted were necessary for the company. Always juggling things so that Lian could have whatever she wanted, but all Lian wanted was a father who cared about her, instead of degrading whatever she tried to do. Eventually she gave up waiting for his blessing on her projects and did whatever took her fancy. This didn't always go well, and there had been some rip-roaring arguments between Lian and her father. And so it came to pass that Lian had finally had enough of trying to fit her fathers expectations of her and what she wanted into the same person, she'd decided to leave, and get a fresh start with no memories waiting around the corner for her. "Yeah, that sounds like a plan, I'm sure he'll be thrilled, ask him tomorrow." 'What a day indeed' Mary thought to herself. "I'm off to sleep now, so I'll see you at work tomorrow" "Well you'll find it hard to avoid me, night" Lian replied, turning her computer and the lights off, climbing into bed and going to sleep, the last thing she thought was 'please, let me sleep tonight'. ****** Swords blazing, the horrid smell of blood and burning bodies was revolting. As you looked around, all you could see were bodies in various uniforms, hundreds of them, not all were dead either, some crying out in pain pleading for help. All she could hear was the slow methodical beating of her heart as she analyzed the next attacker, a young man barely 20 with long flowing red hair and glazed blue eyes. 'Poor child’ she thought as he approached, then as soon as he had come, she cut him down with one swipe of her sword, the blood spraying across her face and hands. She looked down at her hands, seeing the blood, then noticing that they weren't her hands, these were larger than hers, not by much, but enough to indicate that they were not those of the dreamer. On closer inspection she saw that the left-hand was actually missing the little finger, it had been severed at its base. Just at that thought she felt a searing pain enter her body, shooting from her shoulder to her heart, she fell towards the ground, only just managing to turn to see her attacker, a mere child, lucky to be more than 15, "you fool" she said passing out. "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!" Lian screamed as she shot straight up in bed. Panting and trying to regain her breath and control of her quivering body. With that Mary bolted into the room, "What on earth? Are you ok?" Marys' face was pale white, waking to a blood chilling cry was not a choice way to start the day. "Uh, yeah... I'm... ok..." Lian stammered back, still feeling the pain in her shoulder. "Are you sure, you seem to be waking up like this more and more lately, and to be honest I'm getting a little worried" 'worried' that was an understatement, Mary was way past 'worried' how about consumed with concern. "Yeah, I'll be fine, just another dream, that makes what, 3 this week, geez I must be driving you nuts, it's a wonder you get any sleep at all". Lian felt quite guilty about that, it was bad enough that she had to tolerate this plague, let alone putting it on to others. "No, it's ok, I'm just a bit troubled about what to do for you" 'should I wake you, should I let you be... please kid, tell me what to do, no one should have to go through this' Mary silently added. "Oh, well thanks but there's nothing you can do. They come and go, just got to roll with it" 'yeah, I wish they'd just go' Lian thought to herself, she didn't mind the dreams to start with, they weren't that scary, but lately they'd gotten more so. The latest ones seemed to revolve around a battle of some sort, and she always woke with the same searing pain in her shoulder. "I'll just try some warm milk tonight, see if that helps". "Ok, well just take it easy today ok, you look like you've seen a ghost" Mary strolled out of the room. Wondering if the kid wasn't cracking up under the strain of living away from her friends and family. Looking at the clock Lian noticed that it was 5:30am. "Oh crap, great now I've got to get up! What a start to the day". Lian rolled out of bed noticing that the pain in her shoulder had gone. Turning the light on as she walked into the bathroom, and running some cold water into the basin, 'no time for a shower this morning, have to make do with this' she thought as she wiped over her face and limbs with the flannel washer. Putting her uniform on and strolling through the door, heading to work. ****** The mornings work had been pretty easy, few customers and even fewer hassles, just the way she liked it. Lian enjoyed the breakfast shift, it was nice and peaceful at that time of the day and the city had an appeal that was unmistakable, the day was new and anything was possible. Mary had come into work a few hours ago appearing none the worse for wear after the mornings intrusion. Lian had wanted to tell her about the dreams, but how do you tell your flatmate and new friend that your dreams are of killing people in cold-blooded murder, no she was better off keeping this to herself. Even if she told Mary, there was nothing she could do to stop or prevent them from coming and claiming her during the night. Better she just keep her mouth shut and put up with it. It was now two in the afternoon and Lian was getting ready to call it quits for the day. Having the afternoon to herself was a rare treat for Lian, and she'd planned on going round a couple of the sports buildings and training establishments to see if she could get some information about classes. "Hey, how you feeling now?" Mary asked as she came into the kitchen. "Huh, oh yeah, fine" Lian replied trying to recall what Mary was referring to. "Ok then, you off now?" she questioned. "Yep, what time you finish?" the younger woman asked. "About six-ish" Mary answered. "Fine, I'll be back before then. See you later" Lian responded. "Ok, see you, have fun" Mary was somewhat intrigued as to where the younger woman was off to, normally when she had an afternoon off, she'd stay at the restaurant and either work or sleep in the back. Lian nodded as she passed through the door. She knew Mary would be wondering what she was up to. But she didn't want to give the game away just yet, Mary had been encouraging her to 'do something' outside of working and playing on the computer, so now she was going too. She walked along the footpath heading slowly towards the local gym, that was the best place to start she believed. As she approached it, she noted that it had recently been repainted, all the signs were fresh and it was clean. That being her first impression of the establishment, she thought 'Well that's a good start' as she opened the door and stepped through. The inside foyer was all re-carpeted and had been repainted also; 'not bad at all, wonder if they've stuck the bill for this on their admission' was her instant reply to the surroundings. She poked around looking for someone to talk to, she noticed that the gyms equipment was in good shape, the rooms were nice and neat, didn't smell and there was an air of pride. 'I could get used to this place' she considered. "Can I help you?" a strange voice asked. "Huh, oh, umm, I'm interested in doing some martial arts classes, do you have any?" Lian was annoyed at being caught off guard and mentally chided herself for being so careless. "Yes, we do as it happens, we offer Karate and a basic self-defense class, they're on Monday and Wednesday nights. The charge is $45 a month and you provide your own gi" the efficient instructor answered. 'Well they certainly have their act together' Lian thought "Ok, well I might see you some time then, thanks for that". She said as she walked back out into the daylight. "One down, 10 more to go" she absently said to herself as she strode away on her quest. The rest of the afternoon was relatively quiet, the other places were by and large pretty much the same, one or two were real dives, but that was to be expected. As it got late she started heading back towards the restaurant, being sure to be there before it started getting dark, it was late September so generally it didn't, but Lian never let things go to chance, especially not with other people who were counting on her. She arrived back at work, striding through the front door, and between the tables, she noticed that some of the customers' eyes had followed her. She never did figure that one out, she couldn't understand what they were watching her for, sure she was tall, big deal, okay she wasn't from round here, but that you wouldn't know unless she spoke. As she turned round some of the people lowered their eyes if she looked at them; others openly looked back at her. 'What are they looking at?' she puzzled 'I must remember to speak to Mary about it, she's bound to know' and with that thought dismissed the onlookers. "Evening Liz" Lian greeted the woman behind the bar with a smile "the fire brand around?" "Yep, out the back waiting for you" she said as she returned the smile. "Thanks, see you tomorrow" Lian replied and walked through the doors heading to the back kitchen. "Hi, on time as always" Mary hailed the younger woman. "Har-dee-har-har, come on short stuff, my feet are killing me and I want to go home" was the quick retort. "Oh all right, come on then" Mary stood and they walked back through the kitchen, "Night all, behave". "Night" a chorus of voices sung out. "So where have you been all afternoon, you obviously didn't go home" Mary was still in full swing from riding the adrenaline of the nights service, she wanted to know what her roommate had been doing. "Well that didn't take you long, I've been out pounding the pavement as it happens, looking at some classes" Lian turned to the shorter woman, waiting for the stunned look that was sure to be there. "YOU've been looking at classes! Good lord, whatever next! So you finally took my advice huh, good for you" she was stunned, after trying with her for 2, no, 3 months now, good gracious, had it been that long, oh well perseverance pays off. "Yep, went and signed up at the local gym, I start in two weeks, they had to order in a set of PJ's for me, and I don't want to go until I've got them". Well it was a fair request, it was bad enough she was going to stand out because she wouldn't know what to do, let alone with the added pressure of being out of the expected dress code. "Oh... right.... Well, I might join you, what are you doing?" she stammered, 'damn the kid was serious about this' "Kyokushin Karate, and a few weights" there that ought to get her attention she mused. "YOU'RE doing WHAT? Do you know how dangerous that stuff is, poop kid, you're really asking for trouble, I'll come for the workout, but that stuff you're on your own with". She just went from stunned to stupefied, 'ok the kid has lost it, what on earth is she doing that stuff for, gods her build is enough to frighten most people, let alone add a deadly skill to it' "Ok, ok, calm down I didn't think you'd be up for that, but the circuit work would be good to do together. Anyway you've got a couple of weeks to think about it" she replied. "Ok, sure, the circuit sounds good" Mary breathed in relief. As they walked a long the street slowly making their way to the apt. building, they passed a hot food stall. "Have you eaten yet?" Lian asked before she could even think about whether she had done so herself. "Uh huh, got dinner from Joe and Sasha, you?" Mary remarked thinking about the 1st and 2nd Chefs; Joe was fine, a little overbearing, but basically all right. But Sasha, well she couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something wasn't right. "Nah, not hungry, I'll just grab some fruit later" was all she managed to mutter back, as she also was thinking about Sasha. One character that just got on her nerves no matter what he did. There was just something not right about him, he was very helpful, always behind you 'just incase' he said. But maybe that was it being 'behind', Lian didn't like people being 'behind' her, she distrusted people who she didn't know and the ones she did know were only treated marginally different. Eventually they got home, and settled in for a quiet night at home, just sitting back watching the TV and a video or two. Lian made herself a glass of warm milk and had turned in by 8pm, and after a long day she felt entitled to it. The nights sleep was also a decent one, no violent dreams, and just flashes of faces she didn't know and of places she'd never been. ***** The two months past in a peaceful manner, Lian started her classes and found much to her delight that she seemed to some extent a natural at it. She was well aware of her natural fighting nature, but as for trying to discipline those inclinations and use them in set patterns, well she was doubtful as to her capabilities. So she was enwrapped to discover she could do just that within a short amount time. Also her 'dreaming' seemed to have eased off considerably, much to both her and Marys' relief. They'd had a whole month of unbroken sleep and pleasant awakenings. Work had been going really well, Lian had settled into all her responsibilities as a Cook, only to find to her shock that she'd been given a raise when the 3rd Chef left. So now she was the 3rd in command, a daunting task at first, but Harrys' faith in her made her plod on through it determined not to let him down. Time ticked on and Thanksgiving slowly crept closer and as the excitement built, so did the apprehension. Lian was beginning to wonder what she was thinking inviting all these people to dinner, and for such a special occasion to boot! 'Idiot what did you think you were doing, you can't pull this off, you don't know the first thing about holding one of these things, idiot!' She always did this, couldn't help but belittle her own skills, it came so naturally. But she'd go through with it come hell or high water, letting someone down was out of the question. Harry had agreed to come, Renee and Amy were ecstatic about the party and Rox and Simon were going to be here, so there was basically no getting out of it anyway. ******** "You coming or not?" Lian was standing in the doorway of the apartment waiting for Mary to get her gear together. "Yeah yeah yeah, I'm coming! Little pain in the...." She trailed off as she approached the waiting woman. "Bout time, we were late last week due to you and John insisting on a long farewell, next time I'm leaving with out you, oh and I'm not a 'little pain in the' ass either, I'm a big pain in the ass". She retorted and took off down the stairs not bothering to wait any longer. 'How on earth did she hear that' Mary thought to herself as she walked after her. The last month in particular she'd noticed little changes in Lian, the biggest being her sleeping pattern, she didn't scream out as much as she used to, there were still nights of whimpering and the odd bang on the wall, but by and large things were ok. The other things were less obvious, like her hearing range had become much larger, and her increased tolerance of others getting in her personal space, she didn't like it and was still very protective of it. But had learned not to scare the pants off any unsuspecting passerby, and the rest of the staff had also learnt not to get in her way. So as far as Mary was concerned the changes had been a good thing. They arrived at the Gym, just in time for Lian to get changed and race into the dojo without the Head Instructor noticing that she ran in just at the last minute. The class went well, and Lian enjoyed the full workout that was the standard procedure, then made her way out to the weights room where Mary was working. "Hey kiddo, how goes it?" Mary was puffing as she strode along on the easy walker. "Yeah, not bad thanks, how's it in here, not many in tonight" Lian looked around the room, instead of the usual 10 - 15 people there was lucky to be 5. "No kidding, just wait till next week, they'll all be in here trying to work off the holidays over eating" she chuckled back. "Oh but of course" she replied " you ready to go?" just the thought of people punishing themselves for their appetites was enough to make her laugh. 'People are so stupid some times' she thought. "Yep, just grab my gear, and we're out of here" she said as she hopped off the machine. They made their way through the complex and out the main doors, the fresh air hitting them in the face like a bucket of ice. "Whoa!" Lian exclaimed, "eep that's cold, forgot how warm it gets in there". "Oh yeah, what a shocker" Mary shivered in response. "You up for a jog home?" well it was a thought, and at least it would keep them from getting to chilled. "Ok" Mary replied as they started on their way home. Reaching the doors and walking up the two flights of stairs to the front door of the apartment Lian reached into her pockets to retrieve her keys and unlocking the door. They both stumbled through, completely exhausted. "Oh that feels better" Mary breathed as she fell into the sofa. "Here you go you old wuss" Lian passed her a bottle of ice cold water, "you coming with me in the morning to pick up Rox and Si?" "Thanks, damn is that tomorrow, oh yeah sure, man the time sure has flown by, seems like only yesterday you told me they were coming" Mary gratefully took the bottle from Lian. "Yep, have to be up and gone by 7, the flight gets in at 8:30, so it'll be a long day" Lian sat down on the floor just in front the sofa so she could stretch right out. "Ok, I'll be up, you still planning on putting them in your room?" she asked. "Uh huh, I don't know exactly the standing of their relationship, but 'tis better to go with the most obvious, then they have a choice. I'll take the sofa" Lian mused over the discussion, Rox would have been mortified at being spoken of in such open terms. "Ok, well let me know if it gets too rough, you can bunk in with me" Mary was not to keen on the thought of the tall woman camping on the small sofabed, how she thought she'd fit 6ft into an area that was barely 4ft was beyond her. "All righty, well I'm for bed, so I'll see you in the other side, night" Lian stood and ambled off towards her room. "Night" Mary returned. ****** "Come on, come on" Lian was impatiently pacing up and down the arrival gate watching for her friends. "Oh just calm down you big goof, they'll be here as soon as they can" Mary was laughing at the young woman's eagerness. Eventually the two weary Australian travelers strode down the line, only to be lifted off their feet by another very happy Australian. "Hey stranger, how the hell are you, you little buggar" Lian was in full 'Aussie' swing, lingo flying. "I'm good, how the hell are you, and who you calling a 'buggar' ya old fart" Rox was almost weeping with joy at seeing her old friend. "Hi Lian, missed you, you nerd" Simon walked up to her hand out expecting a shake. "Oh give me a break Si, I'm only living here, I'm not a Canadian, yet!" Lian laughed and grabbed a hold of him and pulled the pair of them into a bear hug, easily holding the two travelers in her long arms. In the meantime Mary collected the bags and stood waiting for the three to gain their composure. 'This I think will be an experience and a half' she thought. She quietly observed the two strangers, Rox was about the same height as Mary, had long deep brown wavy hair and rich chocolate eyes, she was young though, could've barely been 18. Simon was about 5'8" had light blond/ginger hair and a goatee, bright green eyes and was around 24. "Okay come on you lot, let's get you home where we can hear ourselves think" Mary had decided to take charge of the situation. "Beauty mate" three voices all said at once, then broke into laughter. "Oh boy" was all Mary muttered. ****** The drive back had been an interesting one, Rox and Simon taking everything in that they could, which after 24 hours on the plane wasn't an incredible amount, but still enough to be able to pass comment on the scenery and surrounds. Rox and Lian sat in the back talking at 100 kms an hour whilst Simon sat in the front of Mary's' Mazda MX3. "Anything you particularly want to see while you're here Simon?" asked Mary starting the conversation. "Everything and nothing, what I wanted to see most I just did, so I'm happy" he answered. "Huh, oh you mean those two getting back together, yeah that was a sight" Mary laughed as she checked her rear mirror seeing Lian and Rox still flapping their gums at an amazing speed. "Yep, those two have got to be the best example of friendship I've ever seen, through thick and thin, good and bad, they're always there for each other"; Simon spoke directly from his heart, something he prided himself on doing. "Really, that's nice to know. Lian has been kind of lost for a while, but she's better now. So you looking forward to the party?" Mary asked as she turned off the No. 99 onto Marine Dr. towards their apartment. "Oh yeah, been hearing a lot about these 'holidays', and it seems pretty fitting to be saying thanks for this" he was indeed amused at Lians' choice of timing, and suspected that it was a deeper occasion than what she was letting on. "Uh huh, I'm really glad you could make it, she was pretty stressed about the whole thing, but that seems to have gone, 'tis amazing the affect you two have on her", she responded. "Well all I'll say is, it goes both ways" and it was true, Simon hadn't seen Rox as happy as she was right now in a long time, he too missed his big burly friend, but it wasn't the same, and he knew it. "Okay, here we are" Mary said as they pulled up in front of the building, "everybody out". They all piled out of the car, and slowly climbed the stairs. Finally reaching the front door, Lian unlocked it and carried some of the bags through. "Follow me" she cried as she headed towards her room, "we decided to put you in here, hope that's ok". "Oh, umm, yeah but you didn't have to do that, I would have taken the sofa" Simon replied blushing. Rox leaping in to help their defense, "Yeah, I mean thank you, but we're not dependant on staying in the same room", that was one way of putting it she figured. "Oh, well whatever makes you happy, it's your choice" Lian answered padding into the kitchen, seeming undaunted by Rox and Simons refusal of her offer. "What would you like to drink? Tea, coffee, OJ, milk, waters? Take your pick" "OJ" they both answered. "Water thanks" Mary chimed in. "Ok two OJ's and two waters' coming up" Lian took the order in her best impression of a waitress. "You sure you're a Cook?" Simon jokingly remarked, "cause you could of fooled me" "Oh shut up butt breath, make yourself useful for once and take your drink" Lian responded passing the glass of orange juice to him. "Would the pair of you just behave, really, in front of strangers and all" Rox complained. "Awwww, all your fault" the two culprits accused each other. Mary just looked at the trio and broke into laughter. "Okay, well you two go grab some Z’s and we'll go out when your conscious" Lian said as she placed her empty glass in the sink. "No probs there mate, feel like I could sleep for a week" Simon responded placing their glasses next to Lians. "Night bud, see you soon" Rox said as she stumbled into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. Simon only a few paces behind her. "So much for not sharing the same room" Mary chuckled. "Huh, oh right, wonder if they noticed?" Lian mumbled. It had felt so good to see her friends, she had missed them both, but she'd also realized that she didn't 'need' them anymore, she had 'made it' here on her own, and she was proud of that, more so than she thought she would have been. ***** The week preceding the party was spent showing the tourists around the sights of greater Vancouver, they went to Lonsdale Quay, the Museum of Anthropology, Stanley Park, to a Canucks game, even took the ferry over to the Island and spent a couple of days looking around Victoria. "Well that was fun" Simon enthused as they entered the apt after a day at the Aquarium. "Yeah, it's pretty good, I'll grant you that, better than Sea World for sure" Rox added. "Well that wouldn't be hard, last time I went there half the attractions were closed, it was a real disappointment" Lian reflected. "I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves," she concluded. "So what's the deal with tomorrow? Any set protocol we should know about?" Simon queried. "As I understand it, the locals get to wake up any tourists in the wee small hours of the day, dousing them with ice and then throwing them into the straight" Lian was enjoying the stunned look on her visitors faces. "Oh relax, we get up, watch some TV, finish off some cooking, then stuff ourselves silly and collapse, that's as I understand it anyway". "Oh, thank goodness" Rox breathed, "cause I didn't bring my bathers". "No kidding, boy were you gonna pay if that was the drill, you know how I hate the cold" Simon was not entirely appreciative at the thought of an icy wake up. "Pair a babies, you two been going soft in my absence?" Lian was openly taunting Simon now, knowing that the ex-army trooper would bite at this accusation. "Soft! Me soft, I'll show you soft" as suspected Simon took off after Lian chasing her around the room, eventually catching up to her on the third pass of the couch and bringing her down with his best rugby tackle. Mary chose this particular moment to walk I through the door, seeing the tall woman on the floor with Simon half under half over her, and the two of them laughing, Rox standing in the corner nearly doubled up in laughter. "What on earth is going on?" Mary bellowed over the ruckus. "Oh just these two proving how macho they are, no big deal" Rox managed to get out before the next wave of giggles hit her. "Oh, hi Mary, have a good day?" Lian responded before punching Simon in the ribs, "and as for you, we'll continue this later". "Any time babe, you know that" he challenged, "Sorry Mary, we'll try and curb this desire to kill each other" was his best attempt at a semi apology. "Nah, it's fine, just don't break anything ok" Mary answered chuckling at Lian and Si trying to get off the floor. "Hey what time is it?" Lian asked as she finally stood up. "Uh, bout 4:30, why?" Simon answered. "Ah great, perfect timing, I have to go back to the airport, Renee and Amy get here at 6, anyone want to come for the ride?" she said as she walked to the door grabbing her jacket and keys. "Yep, count me in" Rox leapt at the opportunity. She had never met the two Americans, and wanted to get a good look at the people that her old friend chose to associate with. "Ok, well grab your gear and lets go" was the retort, "I'm not gonna wait for you, so hurry up slow coach" she teased. "Ah, hang about you old nag, you know I'm coming!" she teased back. "Okay, we'll see you later, anything anyone needs while we're out?" Lian asked as they headed out the door. "Yeah, a decent beer!" Simon called out laughing "this foreign stuffs no good". "Fine, anything else? No, okay, see you later" and they were gone. Mary and Simon stood there looking at each other. "Damn it's quiet when she's gone" he spoke. "Yeah, but peaceful is a nicer way to put it" Mary joked back. **** "Okay, here they are" Lian commented as she saw her other friends strolling down the gateway. The drive out to the airport had been a good run, despite the congestion of traffic and people making their way home for the holidays. "Is that them?" Rox pointed out the two travelers that were carrying a great deal of luggage. "Yep, but what on earth is in those bags, they're only supposed to be coming for three days" Lian noticed that Renee and Amy had an amazing amount of bags for only two people. Finally the two Americans made it to their eagerly waiting companions. Placing the bags on the floor, they both gave Lian a hug and warmly greeted Rox. "Been a while kiddo" Renee giggled as Lian gave her a huge bear hug back. "Too long my friend, too damn long. Hi Amy how you been, see you finally gave in and took your partners advice, you look like you need a break" she enthused. "You just watch yourself ya little turkey, or it'll be you we’re eating tomorrow" Amy teased in return. "Renee, Amy, this is Rox, my oldest, nearest and dearest friend, come all the way from Australia to spend the hols with us" she laughed back. "Nice to meet you" they all said in unison. "All rightly, lets hi-me-home eh, then we can start to have some fun" Lian said as she grabbed a handful of luggage, "what in blue blazes have you two brought, looks like you've come for a year" "We have" they both laughed, "only joking, we brought a few trinkets for you" Amy finished. "Oh, fair enough, lucky me" she replied as they approached the car. Loading up the MX3 and driving back home was a breeze; the foursome had a good time discovering the difference between Canadian, American and Australian beers. So by the time they did manage to make it home, three of the company were well on their way to having the 'holiday spirit'. "What happened to them?" Mary and Simon questioned as the group staggered through the door. "Oh well it sort of started out as a discussion about beer, then they had to prove the argument, and the next thing you know.... Anyway, I saved you a few beers Simon" Lian responded deeply amused at her guests laughing and slurring. "Awww, come on Lillycat, you know we're only having fun" Rox mumbled as she tripped over the bags and fell onto the sofa. "Lillycat? Where did that come from?" Lian was rolling in laughter now, it'd been a long time since she'd seen her dear friend inebriated, and it was truly a funny sight to behold. "Don't know, just 'POPPED' into my head, that’s all.... hic!" she replied. That then started an in-depth conversation about things that go 'pop' in the night. Which under normal circumstances would have been funny, but under the current ones it was down right hilarious. "Okay you lot, time to turn in, it's 10 o' clock and its gonna be a long day tomorrow, so I suggest we get 'some' sleep tonight". Lian was happy and enjoying herself immensely, but she knew that none of her friends would be in good moods the next day if they continued their set course. "Yes Mum/Mom" they all answered at once, and braking into another set of giggles. "Uh, children" she retorted. "I'll help you Lian, we're putting the new two on the sofabed right?" Mary asked as she stood, of all the company, apart from Lian, she was the most sober. "Yep, so we got to get the Aussies into my room, then the Yanks out of the way while we roll out the sofabed, and finally get ourselves into some sort of order. Either that or we can leave 'em here and just go to bed ourselves" She jokingly replied, but semi-considering the idea. "Okay, Rox and Si first, let's go!" Mary commented, lifting Rox to her feet whilst Lian got a hold on Si and carried him into the room. Placing the two Aussies on the bed, and walking out, carefully closing the door behind them, 'now to tackle the other two' Lian thought to herself, 'this would be fun'. Eventually getting the other two to calm down long enough to erect the bed, and getting them settled, Mary and Lian slowly crept into Marys' room, and fell on the bed. "Well that was fun. You know what we should have done though don't you?" Lian started giggling. "No, what?" Mary answered slightly puzzled. "We should have switched partners on them, can you imagine their faces in the morning, crap that would have been funny" she was now rolling in laughter. "Ooo, that's mean!" Mary replied, thinking about the look on their guests' faces in the morning had they pulled such a prank, "You wouldn't do something like that? Would you?" Lian just grinned a full toothy grin. "Poop, you would! Remind me never to get drunk in front of you again!" she chuckled, 'what a night indeed' she thought, 'I've never seen her like this before, hope it lasts for a while'. "Night Lillycat" she chirped. "Aughk! Don't you start! G'night" she replied as she rolled over. They then turned in, sleeping well into the next morning, all the occupants of the flat completely exhausted. ***** "Mmmm, that smells good" Rox commented as she walked out into the living area. Having been woken up to the delightful smells of Lian cooking a multitude of dishes for the communal breakfast. "Thought you'd enjoy one of my old style breakfasts, how'd you sleep?" Lian remarked as she stirred the scrambled eggs and checking the toast. "Uh, I slept well, don't know about Si, he ended up sleeping upside down on the bed without any covers and....." she stopped as she noticed that Renee and Amy were still asleep, together! "Oh, yeah, sorry I guess I should have told you, ummm...." Lian had completely forgotten that this sort of relationship was foreign to Rox, 'Idiot, just because your comfortable with it doesn't mean she and Si will be, you know he has a hard time accepting this sort of 'thing' she mentally chided herself for her lack of foresight. "Oh it's ok, we pretty much figured it out anyway, it just would have been nicer if you'd told us first" Rox smiled at her friend. She and Simon had suspected that there had been a lot of things change with their world traveling friend, and this proved it. Not that it bothered them too much, but it was certainly different to what they were accustomed to. "Huh, yeah, sorry about that, didn't think of it. Can you wake them up, and go stir Mary and Simon, I think Mary should be awake by now, if not give her a good kick, that should get her up" Lian said as she started getting the plates out. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather wake her, I mean you two are.....?" she trailed off. "WHAT! No, no, we're not, ummm, what made you think we.... Oh right cause of... and we're in the same room and.... Hahaha" Lian broke into laughter at the deep crimson blush that had crawled up Roxs' face. "Sorry mate, no we're not, we're just bunking in while the gangs here". "Oh, well in that case, sure" Rox greatly embarrassed at her faux pas, walked off to do the best job she could at waking the sleeping troop. Breakfast went well, everybody eating to their hearts content, the 'cook' of the house having out done herself as usual. Harry had arrived by ten and John not to long after. Mary and Lian spent a large portion of the day in the kitchen finishing up the last minute specialties. Renee, Amy, Rox, Harry, John and Simon all sat around in the living room telling stories and getting aquatinted with each other. Finally came the long awaited feast. And a feast it was, turkey, yams all the trimmings, the two workers truly out did themselves. "WOW, that looks unreal, you two should work in a restaurant" Simon chortled, much to the amusement of his companions. "Yeah, well we would, but it's quite hard to find a decent establishment round here" Lian laughed back. "I don't, I hear there's two positions opening up at Roughtons in a few days" Harry added. "Thanks, we'll keep it in mind" Mary answered as she placed the last dish of vegetables on the table. They all sat down around the table, passing bowls and platters back and forth until everyone had everything they wanted. Lian leaned back in her seat, which just happened to be in the corner so as she could see all her friends. "Well, I'm not usually one for saying grace, but sitting back here, and looking at the people who share my life, I truly am thankful to whoever is responsible for this" Lian announced. "Kiddo, I think you just summed up the meaning of this whole circus in one sentence, well done" Harry commented with everybody nodding in agreement. Lian was absolutely content at the sight before her, and in that moment anything and everything seemed possible. 'Well done indeed my child, you've done me proud' a voice echoed in her mind, 'you've still got a lot to learn, but you're getting there'. ************ Chapter 2: TO THOSE THAT WAIT "Oh man.... Morning already..." Lian stirred as the sun came creeping in her window. 'Lastnight was definitely not a good idea' she thought as she rolled out of bed and stumbling towards the bathroom. It hadn't been that long since she'd gotten home, having spent the last two nights out on the town with Mary and a few of the others from work. She turned the light on as she finally crawled into the bathroom, instantly regretting the decision. "Owwww... oh, I'm never doing this again..." she complained 'I don't care if it's the season to be merry, this is bad, very bad' was her thought as she starred at the face in the mirror. It was the week in between Christmas and New Years, and everyone was in party mode. Harry had gone to Toronto for the holidays, leaving Joe and Mary in charge of the restaurant. In the month between Thanksgiving and the present, Lian had become quite at home in Vancouver, so much so that she didn't even go home for Christmas, instead spending the break with Renee and Amy. She had enjoyed the few days off work, and it was always good to be with her friends, not to mention spending it with them she saw her first "white" Christmas ever. But work this week was somewhat of a joke, with everyone being in a party mood, trying to run the restaurant, was interesting to say the least. First day out someone had forgotten to turn the cappuccino machine off, and the next morning the back of the bar was all steamed up. On the third day the seasonal staff got the prep area all messed up, taking the wrong salads out to the display. Then realizing this they started screaming at each other about it, until Joe stepped in and demanded that it be fixed immediately or he'd be making shish kebabs out of the entire group. Then there were the last two nights' festivities after work. Both nights Joe and Sasha had managed to wangle it so that the business was closed by 11pm, and then they all went out on the town. Lian celebrating her first New Years in Vancouver was given a royal tour of the city at this time of year, and had sampled many of it's finest alcoholic offerings. Not a good idea, especially two nights running. How she'd allowed herself to be conned into going out twice, well that was going to be one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the world. Finally she turned the water on and climbed into the shower. "Augh, does this ever feel good" Lian commented as warm running water seeming to wash away the hangover. Eventually hauling herself out of the shower and into her uniform and heading out the door to work. ***** "Any news from the boss?" Lian asked as she strolled through the front door of the restaurant. "Yep, good news and maybe bad" Liz replied as she stood up from behind the bar. "Ok, good is fine, but what's with the bad?" Lian queried. "Well, it appears that we're gonna get a new recruit" Liz answered. "Oh, and that's bad, why?" Lian now completely baffled. "As we hear it, the kid is a bit of a snob, pushes everyone around, that sort of thing...." Liz had gone into full anti- newcomer phase. "Ah, well we shouldn't get to judgmental, never know, it mightn't be that bad" she didn't want to join in on the 'bashing' of the 'newbie', after all she herself was only relatively new to the team. "Yeah, I hope so, cause we're all real comfortable with how things are now, no changes no how" still annoyed with the thought of the "newcomer". They'd heard that the newcomer was Harry's niece, Sabrina, rumor had it, when she was out a few years back, and she had the place jumping in chaos within days. "Well I can't see Mary or Joe letting, is it a him or her? Get away with too much" she asked still playing the peacemaker. "Her, Sabrina" Liz said, slowly calming down. "Uh, well I wouldn't worry too much about this Sabrina, it'll be fine, you'll see" Lian said as she made her way towards the kitchen. Walking into the warm kitchen, Lian was greeted by her next surprise. Her boss, Joe, standing in the walkway with a big grin on his face. "Morning mate, how you feeling?" he asked with a cheeky smile. "Urgh, don't start with me Joe, what you did last night was not funny. " she replied " loading me up with all of that Black Jack was not nice at all!". "Well you'll live, by the way, thanks for last night too...." he trailed off. "What do you mean, last night... What happened?" Lian was now visibly confused. 'Damn, what happened, I can remember leaving here, getting to Baileys Bar, then down to Nigels' and somewhere after that, and then home'. "Oh well you were quite the entertainer.... Especially for the boys..." he taunted back at her. "Uh, come on Joe, what happened? Don't play with me here, either tell me or drop it, your choice" Lian could take the situation so far, then it wasn't funny, and if she'd done something lastnight, she wanted to know about it. Not that she could take it back, but at least she'd know. "Oh nothing much, a little dancing, and at some point you seemed a little confused as to what day it was, you kept mumbling about mistletoe... " Joe was really enjoying torturing the young Cook. "Mistletoe.... I didn't happen to.... Oh no!" Lian just grasped what Joe was eluding to "who?" was all she uttered before turning as bright as a beetroot. "Me to know and you to wonder about...." he finished. "Can you at least tell me if I know the person?" she was really embarrassed now. "Huh, people actually, and yes, you know them" Joe was having a thoroughly good time here. "Oh, people huh... ok. Well what's done is done. So long as there's no hard feelings" Lian had reasoned that it wasn't really entirely her fault. Joe and Sasha had after all been plying her with drinks all night. "Yeah, there's no hard feelings, but you might want to keep your back to the wall, you made a few promises you might not be so keen on keeping" Okay kid, if you're not freaking out completely by now, that should put the icing on the cake. "Uh, ok, thanks Joe, I'll.... Remember that." she mumbled as she glanced around the room, slowly eyeing off everyone looking for possible reasons to be embarrassed. "Anytime sweet cheeks, anytime at all" he answered. Lian slowly walked away visibly rattled by the conversation. She looked around the room again; everyone seemed normal, no blushes, or shifting of feet, just open greetings from all the staff. Finally getting to her workstation and placing her kit on the shelf above, she set to the day's duties. About 10am Mary strolled in the door, saying hello to all of the gang. Straightening her shirt and getting her apron out. "Hey Kid, see you made it in ok, wasn't sure you would after last night" she said as she walked past her roommate. "Uh, yeah, I did. Um... about last night... what, uh, happened?" Lian thought if anyone would tell her, Mary would. "Well we went out, drank a rather large amount of alcohol, and had a good time" Mary was confused, the night had been good. Everyone had a nice time, Lian was shown the up and down side of the famous Canadian whisky, they danced a bit, and came home, no big deal. "And you're sure that's all that happened? Nothing else..." Lian gently queried. "No, not really, you disappeared for a little while, but nothing much else happened" Mary was still confused. "Oh.... Um, did anyone else, disappear while I was gone?" she was getting a little worried now. "Uh, no, not that we noticed. Why are you asking all of this, you seemed fine last night." Mary had begun to suspect that her friends had been playing a nasty trick on her roommate. Sigh "ok, thanks" Well that rules out any of her immediate group. "Yeah, I thought I was too, but Joe said I put on a show for he and the boys and that I'd made a few promises, but I don't remember any of it." "Oh honey, Joe's teasing you! Yeah, you did put on a show, you were... Ah... well the dancing was quite interesting..." Mary suddenly caught on to Lians fears. "Any chance you can be a little more specific there?" she asked. "Um... well, lets just put it this way. Your choice of dancing partners was... in the line with those of the guys...." Mary suddenly finding herself feeling very uncomfortable at having to be the one to tell her friend the events of lastnight. "My 'choice' of partners.... Why do I have the feeling I just did something I shouldn't have..." she was now desperately trying to remember what happened. "Yeah, 'your' choice, seems you were quite the popular one last night, with everyone. Sorry I'll tell you what happened, I can see it's starting to really get to you". So Mary and Lian sat down to discuss just what exactly had 'happened' on their adventures. Mary told her how they'd gone down to the beach after the visit to Nigels. There is a bar there that is popular with a lot of people, mostly from the trade, but a few outsiders were there also. She told her how Joe had dared her to 'shoot' 10 Canadian boilermakers in a row, and Lian being the sort of person she is, rose to the challenge. Only to find out that the 'Canadian' part meant 'Black Jack' a vile concoction that was sold as whiskey. She had done it though, she drank the lot, and in record time too. But the after effects were to be somewhat legendary. In a semi drunken stupor Lian had roamed the bar getting quite cozy with a couple of people before she'd laid her groggy eyes on one particular person. A young girl, about the same age as herself, walking up to her, doing the whole introduction bit and talked the girl into dancing. Whilst they were occupied several other pairs of eyes followed them. The dance hadn't been much, both deciding that they weren't interested. But as Lian was walking off the floor, two guys came up to her. "None of us could hear what they said, or even what you said back, but the next thing your face went a deathly shade of white, then red" Mary was conjuring up the memory or the next bit. " Then all we saw was a blur, and the two guys went down, and you walked away". "Really, all a that happened wonder why I don't remember it..." Lian was stunned, she honestly didn't remember a thing. "Oh yeah kiddo, it happened all right, and there's more" Mary continued to explain what went on after the 'incident'. "You actually seemed all right, not fazed at all, there were no injuries and the other girl seemed quite thankful it was you they got to first". She then proceeded to tell of how Joe had been drinking whilst watching Lian dancing. And how he seemed a little too happy when things transpired they way they did. "He muttered something about 'nah, not her type' and then watched as you dumped the two guys and said ' now that's my girl" He had been very taken with the idea of her turning both suitors down. She told her about how Lian had made it to the bar, ordered a coke and sat down to drink it. And how Joe had come up along side her, placing his arm over her shoulders and laying on the charm. Then how she'd looked him square in the eyes and planted a kiss fair on his lips, then walked off, none the shaken for it. "We don't know what he said to you or you to him, but he looked so disappointed when you left, he stayed with us, and you walked out" Mary was now finishing up as she realized that they were now chatting into the busier part of the morning. "You came back in about 20 minutes later, we got our gear and went home, and went our separate ways, that's all I know". "Oh, well that isn't bad. Who were the guys do you know?" Lian was now greatly relieved at having the full story. "No, no we don't, but after what you did to them, well I wouldn't expect to see them again" Mary concluded as she stood up. "I take it I gave 'em what-for huh?" she asked looking up with a very sheepish look on her face. "Uh, yes dear you did, and if that wasn't enough to make the lot here behave, well they need their heads checked" she replied. "Oh, that bad, oh well, nice to know I can take care of myself anyway" she said as she slowly stretched out. "Yeah, but by the look on your face they deserved it" Mary responded as she recalled seeing the two 'men' in question stand up and very gingerly walk out the back way, not to be seen again that night. "Well so long as they were ok" Lian said as she picked up her knife and turned back to her work "guess we'd both better get some work done, just as well Harry's away, hey did you know he's bringing his niece back with him?" "No, I didn't, when?" Mary was instantly perturbed by the thought of the little troublemaker. She'd been there the last time this kid was in town, and she'd seen the destruction she'd caused. "Don't know, I forgot to ask" she off handily remarked "go ask Liz, she seems to know all about it". "Ok, see you later" she said as she walked into the front of the restaurant thinking to herself 'What on earth, why is Harry bringing her back here, again'. ***** The rest of the day passed in relative sanity, there were one or two minor mishaps, like when Trish the youngest of the seasonal staff described a beef consommé to a customer as a bowl of beef soup. Or when James the new barman had in his zealousness rearranged all the cocktail bottles, causing great distress to Liz and the other staff whom worked the bar from time to time. So by the time that Lians' shift was over, she was well and truly looking forward to it. She patiently waited for Mary's last table to finish so that they could walk home, it was quite cold out now, winter was definitely here, but that didn't bother Lian, she was enjoying her first 'real' winter in this country. Eventually Mary finished, and her tables had been cleared. Getting her coat and waking through the kitchen and out the back to meet Lian. "Hey kiddo, you ready to go home?" "Uh huh, been a long day, and I'll be happy to see the end of it" she replied as she stood and picked up her kit. "Yeah, I'm looking forward to a cup of hot chocolate and a nice warm bed" just the thought of that was cause enough to hasten their speed. Walking along the streets at that time of night was not generally a wise idea, especially at this time of year with the added cold, but tonight was a nice night. The air was crisp, the sky clear, and a feeling that the New Year was full of possibilities. "So did you find out when Harry is coming back?" Lian started the conversation. "Ummhmm, in four days" Mary breathed out into the still night air. "Well it'll be good to have him back, not that having you and Joe running things but you know...". Lian had enjoyed the last week, it'd been fun fooling around with the staff, 'mice playing while the cat was away' but it would be nice to have things back to normal. "Yeah, I know what you mean, it'll be nice to be 'just' a waitress again. Mind you I don't know how much of 'normal' it'll get back to, especially if he's bringing Sabrina back, she caused so much trouble last time...." she was slowly recalling all the squabbles that had arisen due to her opinions about how things should be run. Hell she was only a teenager and hadn't bothered to at least wait and see how things were run at Roughtons', she'd just started ordering people around from day one, and got progressively worse. Thankfully she'd only been there for the two months of the summer break and gone home again. "Everyone keeps saying that, just what did she do that was so terrible?" Lian now tired of everyone being vague about the subject at hand. "Well it wasn't so much what she did, just the fact the 'her' opinion was the only one we could have, she bossed us all around, and nobody dared say anything to Harry about it. She tried to reorganize the whole front service system, how we take orders, and then she moved into the kitchen. It got really intense at one stage, Joe threatened to murder her if she didn't stop. Basically a lot of little things that just added up to one big mess" Mary concluded. "Oh, well I see how that could be a bit of a problem, but that was a fair while ago wasn't it?" Lian asked still trying to get all the facts. "About two years ago" she replied. "Well two years is a long time, she's probably grown up since then, things and people change you know...." she answered hoping to be able to remain neutral in this matter. "Yeah, that's true, she'll be about eighteen now, so hopefully she's a bit more mature now" she hadn't thought about that, the girl would be older now, so maybe Lian was right. "Well there you go then, it'll be ok, you'll see" pleased with her success in that debate went on to the next subject "What are we doing for New Years, it's in two days, I mean are we doing anything for it? Or just taking it easy...." Lian remembered last years New Years Eve, she'd spent it with Si and Rox in a park in their home town, laying under a big oak tree watching the fireworks and drinking a bottle of brandy. "Well probably nothing much, just continue the last two nights expeditions, there's still a lot you haven't seen" was her comment whilst thinking of all the places they hadn't taken Lian to. "Ok, sounds good, but if that's the case, I'm not going out until then, I need the rest!" Lian chuckled. "That sounds like a wise idea my friend, New Years' will be one very busy night, and you want to be in top condition for it." Mary replied. "Great! Sounds like a plan" Lian finished as they approached the door to their apartment building, opening the door and waiting for her roommate to pass through. "So who going to make the hot chocolate, whilst the other makes sure the electric blankets have successfully warmed the beds?". "I'll get the beds, you get the drinks, that's the one drink you do make better than me" Mary answered as she opened the door to their apartment and walked in. The apartment had taken on somewhat of a festive feeling, Mary and Lian had put up some fairy lights, which shone all different colors, there was tinsel still hung from all corners of the room, and the tree was standing in its place near the window. As Lian walked into the kitchen she noticed that even though she had now lived in Vancouver for the best part of seven months, she still didn't have any personal items scattered around. Mary had little trinkets lying in various rooms, but Lian still hadn't put anything up, as though she were afraid to. Lian quietly made the two cups of steaming hot chocolate, making sure both had ample milk and sugar, even lashing out and placing two marshmallows in the cup as she poured the hot water in. The aroma from the cups was intoxicating, melting mallows, warmed chocolate and the combination of milk and sugar, all together was enough to make anyone forget their troubles. She walked very carefully around to the sofa, placing the drinks on the coffee table. Reaching over and retrieving the remote and turning on the TV. Mary strolled into the room and sat down on the sofa. Lian leaned over and passed her the cup of very hot chocolate "Here you go". "Thank you ma' dear" she replied as she accepted the vessel and it's contents. "Not a problem, don't know about you, but I'm so tired that as soon as I've had this, I'm going to bed" she sleepily supplied. "Well after last night and today, I'm not surprised, your beds all set, and as you're not due in 'til ten tomorrow you can enjoy a long nights rest" Mary commented as she noticed the younger woman starting to doze off. "Huh, what are you talking about, I'm on first shift aren't I?" Lian mumbled. "You never do check the roster do you.... No kiddo, Joe changed it this morning after he saw the state you were in, so now you don't start until ten". Seven months she'd been working at Roughtons' but the "foreigner" never checked the staff roster; this was of constant amusement to all the other members of the team. Lian was always on time, always there at the right moment, she seemed to be there a lot more than the others, in fact she probably was, if she wasn't at work, or training then she was likely to be home, doing work on her laptop. Mary never asked what she spent her spare time doing on the computer, just figured that if Lian wanted anyone to know, then she'd say so. "Oh, well that sounds good, can't remember the last time I got to sleep in.". She thought about that, it had been a long time indeed, too long in fact, "Well if you'll excuse me, I have some computer work to do, then I'm going to make full use of tomorrow's bonus". With that she stood and walked into her room, switching on the laptop in the darkness of the room, the light from the small screen was eerie, it cast strange shadows over everything, the clothes laying on the chest, seeming to give them an unnatural life of their own. Clicking on the connection and starting up the 'ICQ' program, typing off a quick message to Renee, then got changed into her sleeping shorts and T-shirt. "Hi, been a while, where've you been?" came the reply. "Sorry bud, been a little preoccupied the last two nights, the gang took me out, got me plastered and I don't remember some of the more important details" Lian answered. "Oh really, did you find out anything?" Ren was curious about this turn in events, even at Thanksgiving Lian hadn't been drinking to heavily. "Yes, I found out most of it, but there are still one or two missing parts" she commented. "So are you going to tell me, or do I have to badger Mary about?" the thought of a drunken Lian was of great amusement to Renee, and she'd love to know what had happened that the Australian couldn't remember. "Ok, sure seems everyone else knows, so why not you too" So Lian proceeded to tell the whole story to her friend, from when they left to work 'til when she got home. Not forgetting to fill in the information she herself had only learnt that day "so there you go, that I believe is all that happened". "WOW, and you don't remember any of it, not hitting those two guys, not the girl, nothing?" she asked. "Nope, none of it. Mary said she'd never seen the two goons before, and that they left and we're not likely to see them again, it is after all a big city, but I've got a feeling this isn't over yet" Lian answered. "Oh come on Lian, you've got to be kidding me, after what you did to them. Hell I hope they already had children, cause otherwise you just rendered their services useless" she wasn't surprised at learning what had happened, Renee had her own theories about Lian, but hearing about the fight had given her a suspicion that there was something shifting in Lian. "Yeah, well I hope so. Oh I forgot, by the sounds of things we're getting another recruit in when Harry gets back, it's his niece, everyone's ragging on her already, apparently she caused quite a few problems last time she was here" Lian remarked. "Oh, in the front or back of the restaurant?" Renee asked. "Front, thankfully, because if she is the terror they're all worried she will be, it'll be nice and safe out the back" Lian laughed at the thought of the front staff running around trying not put the cutlery into the newcomers back. "Ah, well you'll be ok then, just keep your head down and back to the wall" she chuckled knowing that sentence would cause Lian to blush. "Thanks Ren, I will, and just for that last shot I won't tell you any more stories, so there" she poked her tongue out at the screen as she sent the message off. "Stick that tongue back in your mouth!" was the reply. 'How does she do that' Lian thought as she typed off her last message "Ok bud, well I'm going to go to bed now, I've got a late morning start, so I'm looking forward to the sleep in, catch you in a few". "Right you are, take care Hon, and I'll talk to you soon, night" Renee finished. Lian closed down the laptop, not bothering to check her mail, it'd been a quiet few days in that regard, her parents were still a little annoyed that she didn't come home for Christmas, so she hadn't heard from them for three days. Rox and Si were on holidays up in Queensland on one of the islands, so she knew there wouldn't be anything from them. Doing one last check of the room, making sure everything was where it belonged. She climbed into bed, snuggling under the warm covers and drifted off to sleep... ***** "Stay right there Paddy, I've got this one" a deep rumbling voice said as the sword fell towards it's next victim. It was dark and raining, and the sound of swords clashing, voices screaming, the over-all feeling of danger and despair was all around them. Looking around for the next attacker, noticing one assailant heading towards a group of cowering people. Running as fast as possible, swinging the sword madly at any whom dared stand in the way of this quest, finally reaching the group and the assailant. "Why are you doing this? They never did you any harm," the voice asked. "No, they didn't but you did!" was the answer as the attackers' blade ran through the nearest person. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" was the gut wrenching scream that issued forth as he dived to catch the falling body. But, it was too late they were dead… She was dead. "Whoa! What on earth?" Lian shot upright. 'Man was that one weird' she thought reflecting on the dream. It hadn't scared her like the others; more gave her an over whelming sense of loss, of uselessness, that in some way she had failed. Pushing her disheveled hair out of her face and rolling out of bed. Lian walked into the kitchen and began to prepare a pot of coffee. "I wonder why the dreams changed" she mumbled to herself as she placed a cup full of coffee grounds into the filter, "they're not really any less violent, just…. sadder… in a way". Flicking the switch on the percolator and pacing back into her room to wait. Turning to the laptop and booting it up and connecting to the net. 'Wonder if there's any mail?' she thought. Waiting while the program searched through all her addresses and downloading the messages. "Eh, not bad, only 5 new ones, pretty good considering I haven't checked in three days". Looking over them to see who the senders were she noticed that one was from a fellow classmate at the gym, "weird, don't remember starting any conversations with him". Caught in her curiosity, she selected the message. (It said) "Hi Lian, I know this is a little unexpected and all, but a few of the class are going to a competition in a few weeks, and we were kind of hoping you'd come. I spoke to master Hiro and he said you'd find it beneficial, so let me know at class and we'll save you a seat. Catch you later" Hank 'Hmm, interesting…I'll have to think about that one'. She thought clicking on the next message. "Hi Lian, How are things going? Simon and I just got back from Great Kepple Island, had a ball up there, the weather was fantastic, as usual! You'll never guess who we ran into either, one of your old classmates from college, Tessa somebody. She said to say hi and all that stuff. Anyway, I have to go, work and what have you in the morning, just thought I'd better drop you a line, let you know we’re home and ok. Take care my friend, talk to you later. Always" Rox. "Tessa? Who the?" Lian was somewhat bewildered by the name, trying to remember who 'Tessa' was. While she had gotten along with all her classmates in college, some had stuck out more than others had had, and this was not one of those people. "Tessa? Oh I remember, Boss, of course, duh", how could she have forgotten 'Boss'. Boss had been a pretty decent friend during the course, and in fact was the only other one in her class that really wanted to be a cook. How she'd ended up with the nickname Boss was still unknown, it just appeared one day and no one bothered to use her real name again. "Well that certainly was a surprise, wonder how the old work horse is?" she mumbled as she stood and walked back into to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. "I haven't heard from her for years, wonder how she ended up on the island". Fresh coffee in hand she strolled back into her room and opened the next mail. "Hey there daughter of mine, How's my girl doing? Just thought I'd drop you a line, see if you're looking after yourself. Things are going well here, your mother is busy with the vegetable garden, so there's a lot of fresh produce at the moment, all having been treated with the syrup. We're going to be using some of the fruits and crops in the displays this year as they've come up so well. Well I must be going, things to do, fertilizer to sell, deals to make, I'll talk to you later. Love" Dad "How is it one little sentence can annoy me so much?" she grumbled 'just wanted to see if my girl was looking after herself' "Ugh". It'd been funny at first, her father finding the TV commercials' lines to be somewhat relevant to their situation, but after many months of phone calls, emails and constant usage of the line, it had become very tedious. "He knows it annoys me, why can't he just quit using it?" she complained. Scanning through the other ones, a couple of subscriptions to lists of various hobbies and general notice from the server and she was done. 'Guess I'd better start getting ready for work' she thought standing up and heading towards the bathroom. "Wonder why Master Hiro would want me to go to the competition" she breathed as she turned the shower on, smiling at the feeling of the changing water temperature. From freezing cold to boiling hot in a few seconds and it could go back the other way just as quickly. "I suppose I could always ask him" she mumbled stepping into the shower sighing with relief at the contact of the warm water. "Hmph, but it still doesn't make sense… Why would he think it would be 'beneficial' to me… to ME…". Lian was now more than a little curious as to her teachers' plans. She wasn't good enough to compete; she knew that, there were no competitors from their dojo, so she could rule out moral support. So just why would it benefit her? Deciding not to think anymore about it, Lian finished showering and changed into her uniform heading out the door for work. ***** "What do you mean they're here?" the voice bellowed. "Well it's pretty straight forward Joe, what part of it don't you understand?" she quipped back. "Don't you start, I'm not in the mood to be polite, having that little shit come back here and ruin things isn't exactly what I'd call a perfect start to the day" he returned. Lian walking in the door catching the last remarks and wondering what was happening "what's going on?" she carefully asked. "The bitch is back" Liz answered. "Oh" Lian sighed "so when is she coming in?" "In about 3 hours" Joe said "so we'd all best be getting on with our jobs before that little so-and-so comes in and tells us how to do them". They all wandered off to their respective jobs, muttering and complaining about their impending doom. The next few hours passed quickly, too quickly, and before anyone had realized their time was up, the figure they all dreaded was walking in the front door and greeting them like long lost cousins. Harry followed close behind, smiling at everyone, happy to be back home. "Hi-ho all" Harry chortled. "Hi Harry, how was the trip, what did you do, did you have a good time?" a dozen voices asked at once. "Whoa, slow down you lot, one question at a time, but first I think some introductions are in order" he replied to the group of workers. Harry smiled and introduced his niece Sabrina to everyone, he or she all came forward one by one, the old regulars and the newer ones. There were no unpleasant words passed, no griping remarks, nothing. Standing last in line was Lian, finally reaching the "monster" putting her hand out to shake that of the most dreaded thing in the restaurant save Mary's legendary cocktail mess ups. "And this Sabrina, is Lian, she's from Australia and has been with us for the last 9 months or so" Harry grinned at Lian and winked. "Nice to meet you" Sabrina replied taking the proffered hand. "Likewise" Lian answered squeezing the hand inside hers, looking at the newest addition. Sabrina was a beauty, around 5'7" with shoulder length rich brown hair, eyes of the clearest blue and a smile that you could loose yourself in. "That's some grip you've got there" Sabrina responded wincing slightly. "Oh, sorry, forget that sometimes" she said letting go and stepping back, not realizing she'd been holding it so tightly "Don't worry about it, I'm sure it's useful in your trade, which what exactly?" asked the newcomer. "I'm a Cook, and yes it does come in handy" she replied. "A Cook, really…" Sabrina queried "Yes, just a lowly ole Cook" Lian said turning towards the kitchen "so now if you'll excuse me, I have some work I must get back to". "Oh yes, of course, I'll catch you later on" Sabrina answered as Lian walked away. "Ok munchkin what do you want to do now?" Harry asked now that all the formalities were done. "Um, just get settled in I suppose, nothing too much" she answered still looking in the direction that the cook had just wandered off in. Smiling that all the introductions had gone well, Harry and Sabrina went for a small tour around Roughtons, Harry showing her all the improvements and additions that had occurred in the last couple of years. Finally having shown her the ins and outs of the restaurant they headed out the door towards Harry's' to get Sabrina settled in. "Well that was fun" Joe muttered as they watched the two leave. "Yep, can't wait till Monday when she's in here working, boy is that going to be fun" Liz commented. "Eh, what will be will be, nothing we can do about it, and besides, she doesn't seem half as bad as what you all made her out to be" Lian chimed in. "Oh really, well we'll see come Monday" Joe remarked turning to a large leg of lamb he was removing the bone from, "all I'm saying is, if she's half the little shit that she was two years ago, I'm not sitting still and taking it, no way no how". "Me either" Liz added. "Ok, whatever. Joe where are the snow peas?" Lian asked returning to her tasks and trying to put the vision of "Sabrina" out of her mind. The remainder of the day passing in a flurry, Friday was always busy and by the end of the night Lian was happy to be heading home. Home to bed, home to a hot cup of chocolate and sleep. Walking along the streets, and thinking about the days events. Occasionally looking around at the other stores and cafés. "So what did you think of her?" Mary asked quietly. "Her who?" Lian mumbled back not really listening to her friend. "You know damned well who, Sabrina" Mary shot back. "Oh, her. Um… Well she seems ok" she answered. "Is that all?" Mary gently prodded. "What are you getting at Mary? What?" Lian barked back. "WHOA! Calm down kid, getting a little defensive there aren't we… All I was asking is what you thought of her, that's all" Mary quickly replied. "Mmm, sorry, just been a long day. She's ok, she's pretty and I only saw her for a few minutes, does that answer your question?" she said wondering why she'd just bitten the head off of her roommate. "It's ok, and yes, that does. Sorry, didn't mean to push, let's get home and into warm beds, this cold weather isn't good for the disposition" Mary replied trying to smooth the ruffled feathers. 'Wonder what got into her. All I did was ask what she thought and… Oh… No way, she…' the thought trailed off as they reached the door to the building. Opening the door and heading up the stairs, the warm building was a very nice change to that of the cold Vancouver streets. Unlocking the door to their apartment and unloading their jackets, making a pot of hot chocolate and heading for her bedroom. Lian was thinking about what had just happened. Why had she been so short with Mary, it was a simple enough question, and deserved a simple answer, not the beheading that she received, pondering on her actions, Lian changed into her sleeping shorts and shirt and climbed into bed and slowly drifted off to sleep. ***** People running to and fro, voices carrying in the wind. "I need help over here" one of them cries, "I'm coming, just hold on a little longer, it'll be all right" is the answer from another. Houses burning, children running in fear, women were weeping over their loss. How could anyone be so cruel as to inflict pain on others intentionally? Running to help the nearest person, the woman had been cut across her face, leaving a deep wound that would scar badly, "who did this to you?" the voice asks. "What does it matter, you weren't here to help, you can't help" she answers. The feeling of guilt that washes over is undeniable, 'I should have been here'. The body stirs, the mind slowly coming into focus. "Err, what?" Lian mumbled coming to consciousness. "This is getting weirder by the day" now completely awake and sitting up in bed rubbing her temples. The dreams had been getting more and more weird, no longer about blood and guts, being stabbed or killed. But the sense of responsibility and loss were the common threads in these dreams. Not being where you should have been when you should have been. The people's faces were familiar, and yet she couldn't place any of them. Trying to put the scenes out of her mind, she rolled out of bed and padded into the bathroom, flicking the light on and starting the shower. Pausing in front of the mirror and looking straight into her own eyes, noticing that they were slowly changing from a bright clear green to clear blue and finally into her usual gray. 'Gods above, that's weird, their not usually that color, nor change like that' she thought. 'I'm loosing my mind' she contemplated 'nah, can't be, I never had one to start with', and with that thought she chuckled and stepped into the shower, deciding not to think about either of the matters anymore than she had. **** "What do you mean it's missing?" Harry grumbled in the office. "It's gone, simple as that, we counted last night, it all tallied up, and now it doesn't" Joe replied. "Ok, well count it again, you've miscounted, it has to be there" "Fine, I'll do it AGAIN, for the tenth time, and it'll still be short" Joe barked back as he sat down for the umpteenth time to count last nights' takings. Some how between 2am and 8am a $100 had gone missing, not that a $100 was a big deal, it was only a piffling amount. But unfortunately this wasn't the first time it'd happened. Over the last four weeks $500 had been lost, and it was just a little bit annoying. "Thank you Joe, you're a good man" Harry concluded walking towards the office door "now if you'll excuse me, Sabrina should be in any second and I want to make sure she's comfortable working here". "Whatever, just don't expect too much from the older staff, we all have long memories" he absently replied now concentrating on the task before him. "I'm not, but you all do have to realize that she's changed a lot in the last two years. She's not the same girl, you'll all see that, just give her time, please" Harry pleaded, the last thing he wanted was to have to choose sides between his friends and his family. "Yeah, we'll try, just don't ask for miracles" Joe answered as Harry walked out the door and down the short passageway into the kitchen, almost running right into Lian. "Oh hi Harry, what's up?" she queried as she carried a crate of strawberries to her bench ready to make the night's special parfait. She and Joe had been working on a "welcome home" dessert for Harry, and had decided to go with a classic strawberry parfait with kirsch cream. "It goes ok Lian, but I need you to do something for me" he asked, thinking that Lian might just be the one he'd ask to keep an eye on his niece. "Yeah sure, what is it?" was her reply. "I need you to keep an eye on Sabrina, make sure she's ok, not getting into too much trouble" he simply stated, adding in his mind ' or creating too much trouble that is'. "Oh, well sure, I think that shouldn't be a problem. Monday's quiet enough. She working in the front or back?" "Mostly in the front or maybe even as the Order Manager, she's not too keen on the idea of being out there just yet" he smiled at her "you know how that is". "Uh, yes, been there, done that" she said "sure I'll keep a watch over her, I don't see what everyone's so worried about, she seems perfectly fine". "Well I'm glad to see someone has an open mind" he voiced, instantly regretting his slip-up. "Ahh, I see you're getting the "we're not having her in here" treatment too, oh don't let me forget the "that kid is more trouble than she's worth" Lian semi-jokingly said, not noticing the raven haired girl behind her. "WHAT THE HELL WOULD YOU KNOW" Sabrina yelled at the Cook. "Sabrina" Lian mumbled now faced with a very irate body before her. "Sabrina, wait, you got it wrong, Lian was just commenting on…" Harry tried to explain, but being cut off. "I don't care what she was commenting on, she's an up tight asshole, who quite frankly can just pack her bags and go back to her stupid country as far as I'm concerned" she angrily spat at the duo before her. "But… I… I didn't…" Lian stammered wondering how a perfect morning could go from serene to war like in such a short time. "I don't want to hear it, you do your job and I'll do mine. I knew it would be hard coming back here, but I didn't expect this…. "treatment" especially from a person who doesn't even know me" Sabrina said slowly calming down. "But honey, Lian was just…" Harry tried to interject again. "I don't care Uncle Harry, she doesn't know me, and the stories they've all told her are probably exaggerated as well. Why on earth did I think that this would work, coming back here was not a good idea" she said. "Look, I'm sorry if you think I was taking sides with the others that believe that, but you're right, I don't know you. But you're wrong, I'm not taking sides, I was commenting on the fact that there are others whose opinions those are, they're not mine". Lian now getting back on her mental feet and feeling a bit annoyed that she was being treated so unfairly commented. "Oh, well I'm sorry, I didn't…" Sabrina mumbled now feeling very small "I'm just a little nervous about starting back here. I know there's going to be a few walls to break down, I just didn't think it would have started so soon". "It's ok honey, I'm sure Lian won't hold it against you, but just remember, you were guilty just then of the very thing you're afraid of. You jumped to conclusions before you had all the facts" Harry gently pointed out. "Mmm, I guess you're right, sorry Lian, no hard feelings?" Sabrina gently pleaded extending her hand in an offer of peace. "Yeah, it's ok, no hard feelings" she said taking the small hand before her, trying to figure out what the sudden burning impression was that she was feeling, and the weirdest sensations running through her body. "Ok, well now that we have that cleared up, how about I leave you to your work and get back to my own" Harry grinned, happy that what could have been a very nasty situation between his niece and his favorite Cook had been resolved. "Fine by me, where am I stationed today?" Sabrina questioned, also pleased that the 'misunderstanding' was simply that. She liked the look of the Cook; she seemed like a nice enough person. "Actually I'm leaving you in Lians' charge, you'll be working in the mid-section, controlling the orders as they go out and reporting to Lian" he replied. "Sounds good, that ok with you Lian?" she asked. "Huh? Oh yeah, fine by me… but now that it's getting closer to the noon rush, can I suggest we leave the formalities until after the run" Lian remarked, being a little annoyed with herself at being caught daydreaming. "Ok by me, see you later Uncle Harry, have fun" Sabrina cheerily said heading off in the direction of the kitchen doors. "She's gonna be a handful, isn't she?" Lian said laughing. "Oh no doubt about it, good luck kiddo, try not to kill her, please," he added chuckling. "I'll try…" Lian smirked as she walked off in the direction Sabrina had taken. The lunch shift went pretty well, Sabrina and Lian working well together. Joe returning from the back office none to happy at the disappearance, but managing to concentrate on the service. The whole back kitchen were rolling in laughter at one stage, when Ben and Trish collided, Ben had been carrying a tray of Bloody Mary's, Trish a tray of soda water… So when they knocked straight into each other, tomato went everywhere, followed by the soda. "At least you had the soda to clean your shirts off with" Joe had said through the tears of laughter. Ben had been covered from head to toe in red, to the point where it was dripping off his nose. But come 5pm Lian was happy to be headed home. It hadn't been a long day, but it had been a little stressful, so she was more than happy when her shift was over and she was headed out the door. "Hey, weren't you going to say good bye?" Sabrina jokingly remarked standing up from behind the bar. "Eh? Oh, hi, umm, yeah I guess so, Good night" Lian muttered wondering how this girl could be so harsh with her this morning, and now joked with her. "Oh wow, you've got the Canadian thing happening… See you tomorrow eh?" Sabrina laughed back. "Guess I do, hadn't noticed that. Yep I'll be here tomorrow" Lian answered with a shy smile as she walked through the front door and onto the cold street. 'I hope so' Sabrinas' mind replied as she watched the older girl walk away. "You'd better watch out for that one 'lil missy" Sasha remarked as he strolled by. "Oh, and why is that?" Sabrina asked now a little confused. "Mmm, nothing, just she's a bit of a wild card. Never know what she's gonna do next" he answered. "I'm sorry, I don't follow you, she seems perfectly fine to me, kind of nice really" "Yeah, well you're not the first to think that, just be warned,” he said with a bitter tone in his voice, "just be careful, we wouldn't want anything to happen to you". "Ok, thank you Sash, I'll remember…" she trailed off wondering now on her new friend. She'd appeared perfectly harmless… a little daunting, but of no threat. ***** "Oh my god, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! How could you be so heartless?" the voice asked shakily. Taking the small body in strong arms and holding it close, rocking back and forth. "She never harmed anyone, never. What'd she ever do to deserve this?". A tall shadowy figure towered over the grieving one "she chose you, that's punishment enough" the voice spat into the cold air. "Bastard, for this you'll pay, I swear it" a miserable voice answered "besides, she didn't choose me. We were bound together, it wasn't a conscious decision, it was destiny". "That's bullshit you lying heap of pig dung, and you know it" the attacker shouted back. Looking down at the limp figure resting in the blood covered lap "no I don't, all I know is, you just took the most important person in my life from me, you killed her and for that, I'll spend the rest of my life avenging her… You will pay for this, and pay with your life". Struggling to gain full consciousness, Lian rolled over in the bed, rolling straight off the mattress and onto the floor. "Damn it, I've got to do something about that landing… this is getting way too painful". Struggling to her feet and sitting down on her bed to rest for a while, thinking about the latest dream. "It just doesn't make sense, first they're all bloody and terrifying, now it's all sorrow and heartache, it just doesn't figure out" she mumbled to herself recalling the events of the dream. 'I'm so tired of these, why are they bothering me, why? It's not fair' Lian thought to herself as she stared off into space. "Wonder if I am loosing it… I don't think I'm mad, but then how do you know you've got a screw loose… Wonder if they'll ever stop" were the silent questions she asked herself, trying to rationalize what was happening to her, "Maybe I just need a good work out. Now there's an idea, go for a run, that should help clear the old gray matter". ****** Pacing herself along the quiet streets, breathing deeply she seemed to unconsciously take in the surroundings. Dodging a car here, a pedestrian there, maintaining a constant speed she thought about how she'd grown up, recalling what little family gatherings there had been, the discussions of other family members, past and present. Her family had been one that was not close, all choosing to do what they wanted regardless of the others. A gathering was a rare sight, even for birthdays and Christmas, things were always strained and Lian had grown to despise them after a while. But the good thing about her family was this, if ever any of them were in trouble, no matter where they were, the rest would come running to help, "Pick a fight with one McGowan" her father had told her once "and you get the whole clan. We're not a close family, but we know when one of us is in trouble". Now, many years later, that began to make sense. She began to think about her parents, how they'd help make her who she was, and yet they didn't know her at all, they seemed to have skipped over the most important parts of who she'd become, and yet still held the belief that they knew everything about her. Then she thought about her Grandparents. She had spent little time with them as she grew up; her parents for some reason not letting her have too much contact with them. She had adored her Grandfather, and had run to see him whenever he did come around. She actually looked more like him than either of her parents, she remembered climbing up into his lap while he told her stories about a dashing warrior who'd tragically lost his life mate and had spent the rest of his days hunting down the killer. "WHOA! That's it, that's what I'm dreaming about. Gramps' story, no wonder it never made sense, I can't believe I've been freaking out about a childhood story, what an idiot" she laughed at the recognition of her memories, "Well at least I know I'm not loosing my mind completely". Jogging back to the apartment with a relieved grin on her face she bounded up the stairs taking three in her stride as she went, finally reaching her floor she burst in the door to be greeted by a startled Mary. "Well good morning to you too, great fool, you scared the life out of me" Mary chuckled now greatly alleviated that it was her roommate rushing into to the house and not some attacker. "Oh, sorry mate, didn't realize I'd done that. Sorry" she apologized. "It's ok, but what's put you in such a good mood. By the looks of you, you've been out running, and that doesn't normally make you happy" Mary quizzically asked. "I think I might have finally figured out why I can't sleep, so I'm in good mood now. So good in fact that I think I'll cook breakfast, you interested?" she beamed back at her confused friend. "Sounds great" Mary replied completely baffled "I'm glad you're having such a good day, and that now you might be able to get some sleep". "You and me both my mate, you and me both. Eggs? One or two?" she said turning to the fridge and beginning to prepare the breakfast items. "Umm, one I guess, thanks" An hour later the two roommates were walking the street to work, talking as they went about the way things had been going at work and the strange "disappearance" of the money. It seemed that everyone was still a little hesitant around Sabrina, but things looked like they were going to work out for the good, much to the relief of all concerned. "Yeah, I heard she ruffled a few feathers the first day, and you were one of them, what happened?" Mary gently asked remembering the last time she'd inquired about the newcomer. "Oh nothing, it was just a misunderstanding. I was talking to Harry about some of the things I'd heard, and she came in at the wrong moment, no biggie" Lian replied. "Fair enough, I know a few of the seasonals' are annoyed with her, they seem to think that she's getting some special treatment because she's Harry's' niece, but you seem to be getting along with her pretty well" she said with a well-hidden smirk. "Shut it Mary, I'm not getting into this with you, I'm not interested in her, I'm just not so don't even think about it" Lian barked back, instantly wondering why she'd been so rude, then apologizing profusely "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bite your head off". "It's ok mate, but I think you might want to try and get a hold of that temper… you're getting a little too sensitive on that point" Mary said trying to gauge just what exactly she'd said to set the Australian off. Lian didn't have a boyfriend that anyone knew about and they'd all seen her dancing with the girl at the bar a few weeks ago, so it was assumed that she was single and gay. "Yeah I know, I just, well people assume a lot of things about me, and it really annoys me that they do" she said as they approached the door to Roughtons, "You do realize that if you assume something you're making an ass out of you and me". "Oh man, that's a sick one, where on earth did you get that from?" Mary replied threw a fit of giggles as she opened the back door and stepped in, Lian following closely behind. "What, again? You've got to be kidding me, this can't be right, it can't" Harry shouted. "Yikes, what's going on now?" Mary asked. "Has something happened? Is everyone ok?" Lian chimed in wondering what they'd just stepped into. "Money stolen, yes something has happened, and yes everyone is ok" Harry responded. "Oh" they said in unison. "Yeah, 'oh' and if I catch the scum sucking butt wipe that's ripping me off, they're ass is mine" he bellowed "I pay you all the best wages in town, I treat you all well, so there's no excuse for this". "Whoa there Harry, calm down, we'll sort it out, but if you don't settle down we'll all be visiting you at the hospital" Lian said sitting the older gent down in the office and looking at the books in front of her boss. Pouring Harry and glass of orange juice and placing it in front of him "Ok, can I suggest you call the heads in get this out in the open, maybe that way it will be stopped, it won't get you the money back, but it might work" Mary said quietly. "No, I've a better idea. Mary, go get Sabrina and bring her in, I've a plan that might just work" he said with a gleam in his eye that neither of the two girls had seen before. "Um, ok, sure" she said walking out the door and down the hallway to fetch Harry's niece. "So what's the plan boss?" Lian asked, liking the intrigue. "Well I'm going to assign you and Sabrina to find out who's taking the money. I know you're not, you're a good kid and I've been around you too much to suspect you. It's not Mary, she doesn't have a malicious bone in her whole body, and it sure isn't Sabrina" he answered beginning to formulate the plan "So I'll give you two the books, you can see for yourself there what's gone missing and when. Don't forget to check the inventory as well, it's more than possible that whoever it is has been pinching stock on the side as well. Check the rosters to see who was on at what time, and where they were supposed to be working, and tally that with who had access to the safe. Ahh Sabrina sit down m'girl, I have a job for you" he said as his beloved niece came through the door. Harry explained to Sabrina what was happening to the business and what role she had to play in order to solve the problem. He gave them both the books and walked to the door. "Good luck you two, I know you won't let me down" he said passing through the opening and leaving them alone in the room to find out who was taking the money, and to set a trap to catch them. ******* Chapter 3: MANY A SLIP One body slumped over the dinning table, head resting on papers; the other slumped along the couch, arm dangling over the rest, body leaning precariously close to the edge. A slight glow oozed from the laptop screen dimly lighting the room, the occupants having long since fallen asleep. It had been yet another late night after work when the two "investigators" had started scanning papers, making notes and plotting to catch the person responsible for the disappearing monies. Two weeks of research and planning hadn't turned up many leads, in fact they only had three possible suspects. Finally rolling too much towards the edge the gently slumbering woman fell onto the floor startling her companion. "Ouch, what happened…" the now disturbed girl looked around trying to recall where she was "why'd you let me fall asleep Lian, you could have woke me up" she accused rubbing the sleeping sand from her eyes. "Huh…" Lian mumbled coming to a form of comprehension of what was going on "Oh, well I guess I would have if I was awake, guess I passed out too" she replied, looking around for the clock wondering just how long they'd been out. "Well I suppose that's a fair enough excuse" Sabrina grinned back, noticing that it was now 3am. They'd been asleep for the best part of three hours. "SHIT! Harry's going freak, I should have been home hours ago. Can you give me a lift home?" "Um, sure, sorry, err… I'll grab the keys" Lian hastily replied leaping from the table and pacing into her room, reaching over to the dresser, snagging the car keys and walking back out, "Well as it's rather late, why not stay here, save us both the hassle. You can take my bed, and I'll sleep here". "Umm… no, that's ok, I wouldn't want to trouble you any, it's ok, if you can just give me a lift home, or to the bus stop, I'll go home" she said wishing she didn't have to go out into the cold night. She was nice and warm in the apartment and the thought of trudging through the cold winter weather was not at all appealing. "Don't be silly, it's no trouble at all, in fact I'd be happier if you stayed, I hate driving in this weather, so you'd be doing me a favor, honest, please stay…" Lian gently pleaded, hoping her guest would give in. "Mmm, ok, but I'm staying on the couch, you're way to tall for this thing" Sabrina grinned slapping the armrest "one other problem, I haven't got any clothes…" "Oh, well I can lend you a shirt, or I can sneak into Mary's room and snaffle one of hers, you're about her size" she answered kicking herself for not realizing the smaller problems in having Sabrina stay over. Though she was a little surprised at how happy she was at the thought of the young girl spending the night. "As for where we're sleeping, I told you where I'm sleeping, so unless you intend on joining me, then the discussion is over, you're in my bed, and I'm here. Now I'll go get changed and leave a shirt out for you while you call Harry and let him know where you are" she finished off walking away. Thankful that she wasn't facing the girl, as a slight blush had started to creep up her neck at the thought of the two of them snuggled up on the couch. Sabrina picked up the phone, called her uncle and told him what had happened and that she'd be staying over, as it was too late now to come home. Then sat down on the sofa and waited patiently while Lian got changed, surprised when seconds later she emerged from the bedroom wearing a pair of Scooby Doo boxer sleep shorts and white T-shirt. Also feeling a slight heated flush on her neck as she looked up the tall scantly dressed form before her. "Ugh… thanks for this, I appreciate it". "Eh, no worries, happy to do it, I really don't feel like driving tonight. Did you want a hot drink before turning in, I'm having a hot chocolate, so if you'd like one…" she trailed off wandering into the kitchen and pulling a mug off the wall. "Yeah sure, that'd be nice thanks, I'll just go get dressed" Sabrina answered passing through the bedroom door, grateful to be out of sight, releasing a breath she didn't know she was holding. Lian stood in the kitchen placing two cups on the bench, thinking about the recent nights she'd spent with Sabrina trying to help Harry. But with the nature of their work, it'd been a little more difficult to get the time to do much. Then when they did get the chance more often than not they spent the time finding out about each other. Lian had learnt that Sabrina was enrolled at UBC to do a short course in Journalism, that she'd left Toronto to get away from one or two personal matters and that when Harry had suggested coming back to Vancouver with him, it seemed like the perfect solution. Sabrina likewise had discovered a few minor snippets of information about Lian, like her distrust of others she didn't know, her need for personal space and that her work/holiday visa was nearly finished. Hearing the creaking of the floor Lian looked up to see Mary stumbling into the living room "what on earth are you doing up so early?" she asked. "Sorry, did we wake you up?" she inquired in a low voice. "Actually I only just, oh hang on, make that we, only just woke up. Sabrina and I fell asleep, and she's staying in my room for what's left of the night, then I'll take her home first thing in the morning". "No, it's ok, I just got up to get a drink of water. How's the project going anyway? Any luck yet?" Mary replied taking a glass from the cupboard and pouring some orange juice into it. "Well, we've got a couple of suspects, but nothing substantial yet" she answered noticing Sabrina walking back into the room wearing the White Sox shirt she'd left out for her, also noting how big it was on the smaller woman, "Heh, cute, that one ok? Mary's up, so if you'd rather one of hers, I'm sure she can help you out". Sabrina had found the shirt on the edge of the bed, slipped into it without any problems, it being about three sizes too big. "NO! Umm, I mean no, that's ok, this one's fine, thank you though just the same" she replied wondering why she'd just blurted that out with such assertion. "Ok you two, get some sleep, you're both on first shift. See you later on" Mary grumbled finishing her glass of juice, placing it in the sink and pacing back into her room and shutting the door. Pouring the water into cups, stirring the drinks then passing one over to Sabrina "Eh, guess she's right, here's you're winter warmer, I'll see you in a few hours, if you need anything, just ask, ok?" "Thanks, umm sure, but I think we've covered everything, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, yep all present and accounted for" she grinned and headed off to the bedroom "thanks again for this, I appreciate it". "No problem, sleep well mate" Lian smiled climbing onto the couch and curling up ready to catch a few hours sleep, completely unprepared for what was to come. ***** As the two bodies slowly drifted off into the land of Morpheus one destined for sweeter dreams, the other for a ritual string of nightmares and pain. Roiling in a state of confusion Lian struggled to come to any understanding of the things flashing before her eyes; swords and battlefields of ancient times, marshes and burning cottages of a closer age. The feelings of completeness then desolation, of safety and security then of betrayal and hurt. One-minute feeling as though she was in the home she'd always known and loved the next of being lost, of not knowing where she belonged. Eventually the dreams calmed down, allowing her to focus more clearly on the settings. They all had a common thread, one person watching as another was killed before their eyes. One of a dark haired man as a woman with a golden mane was ran through with a sword. Another as a young blonde girl was made to watch as a raven-haired woman was executed before her. So much pain, so much hurt, worst of all, so much anger at these acts. Coming closer to consciousness Lian stirred, trying to focus on what the dreams were showing her, and whom they were showing. Flashes of a mans face, first at as a young man, then with a few character lines, lastly as a gentleman in middle age. This last image stayed the longest with the echoing voice rumbling through her body "you know who we are, try to remember, don't forget us, your destiny and safety depend on it". "What? Who? Huh?" Lian sat up startled by the night's dream, frantically trying to remember all that she'd seen. Rubbing her eyes she looked around for something to write this all down on, finding the note pad on the table from the last night's work, she quickly scribbled down what she remembered and added a few diagrams. Placing the pad back on the coffee table sat back and focused on just what she had 'seen'. Looking at the clock on the wall she noted it was time to be getting up anyway. Walking into the kitchen and putting the coffee on she paced back over to her bedroom door intending to use the bathroom, without thinking she opened the door and walked in. Before her stretched out on the bed was what she could only describe as the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen. Sabrina was laid from one corner of the bed diagonally across to the other. Hair fanned out, arms hugging a pillow tightly to her chest, and a dreamy smile on her face. Standing in the doorway Lian just looked on in astonishment for what seemed like an eternity, then suddenly coming to her senses she realized that if her guest chose to awake now, that it would not look good at all. "Oh man, I've got to get my head on straight, this can't be happening, I'm not… Or am I?" she queried herself, not finding any immediate answers she quietly picked up her uniform and slipped into the bathroom, closing the door and running the shower, she stripped out of her pj's and stepped into the warm water. ******* Strolling along through pastures towards a river, sun shinning down, a warm summer breeze wafting across exposed skin. It was a beautiful day, nothing could make this day better, looking around noticing that her hand was holding something warm and solid, she looked closer. Tightly holding her hand was that of another, much larger than hers, a callused hand with a touch of velvet. Following the line of sight from the hand, it ran up along a strong arm, to a pair of shoulders that were equally empowered. Looking into a pair of the bluest eyes she'd ever seen, only for them to change into a misty gray green. "Hey, how 'bout a swim?" the figure asked, taking off now running towards the river. "No fair, your legs are longer" her voice answered as she broke into chase. "Wake up, Sabrina, wake up, you have to get moving" Lian shook the sleeping girl, kicking herself for getting sidetracked in thought while showering. "Hmm, no, go away" she grunted rolling over in bed trying to fall back into the pleasant dreamscape. "If you don't get out of my bed right this instant and into that shower, I'm going to…" Lian started, then realizing she didn't have a punishment to use as a threat. 'Oh great one Einstein, what are you gonna do, threaten to kiss her' "whoa, where'd that come from?" she asked herself. "Come on sleepy head, time to get up, or a certain Uncle of yours is going to be VERY angry". "Mmm, don't care, not moving" the slumbering form answered. 'Ok, come on Lian, think of something to get this kid out of bed before we're really late'. She looked around the room, noticing that Sabrina's legs were sticking out from under the sheets, two very exposed naked legs. "Oh yeah, that'd do nicely" she mused to herself, walking out to the kitchen and returning moments later with two very cold small objects cupped in her hands. Striding round to the edge of the bed nearest to the targets, she took a cube in each hand, leaning in and placing the ice right on the back of Sabrina's knees and dragging them quickly down to her toes. "YEOOOOOWWWW! What on earth, who? What?" Sabrina shot up in bed, now fully awake, spinning around she spotted Lian laughing at the end of the bed, and glared right at her. "That was not nice at all, you could have just shook me awake you know". "Well I tried that, but you wouldn't get up. That and as we're running out of time, this seemed a pretty good chance of getting a result" Lian managed to answer through the huge sobs of laughter 'not to mention I got to play a small prank on you for the same price' she thought to herself. "What do you mean time, it's only…" looking at her watch Sabrina saw that it was now 7:30, they were due into work at 8:30 "holy shit, we're late!" "I told you so…" Lian chuckled at the expression on her young friends face. Extending her arm and jerking her out of the bed with such force that she came face to chest with her, then becoming acutely aware how close they were standing muttered "Come on, there's fresh towels out for you, and I'll have your breakfast on the table when you're out". Also noting that they were very close, Sabrina kept her eyes focused on her feet, only looking to her hands when she realized that Lian hadn't let go yet. Staring at her hands, she couldn't help but have a feeling of déjà vu, that she'd felt and seen this before. Slowly looking up into the face that was before her, lips moving, saying words she wasn't hearing. Focusing more closely on her eyes, she suddenly gasped 'those eyes… they're… they're… those eyes' was all she could think as she came crashing to the ground, pulling Lian down with her. Asking if that was ok, that she'd left out the linens and would get her breakfast Lian was beginning to wonder if the young girl was hearing anything that she'd said. The girls' eyes were glazed over and distant. Just then she began to slip to the floor. "Good lord, what…Sabrina?" was all she managed to get out before tucking herself around the girl and fell to the floor with a deafening thud. Unwrapping her prized possession and looking onto the face, she gently called to her, shaking her "hey there, come on, my cooking isn't that bad, come on, wake up". Within moments the smaller woman came too, opening her eyes and looking straight into two very concerned mist colored ones, "oh, I'm so sorry, I, umm, sorry". "Ah, it's ok, but if you didn't want me to fix breakfast for you, you could have just said, my cooking is not that bad" Lian joked wondering just what had happened. Giggling at the implications Sabrina stood dusting herself off "Umm, well I'll be sure to do that next time. Sorry about that, I don't know what happened, I guess I passed out" "So'k. As long as you're ok. Now we'd better get moving before your Uncle has both our heads" she replied standing up and walking towards the kitchen. "Yeah, I'm fine, I'll be out in a few minutes" she answered padding into the bathroom, glad to be alone to think about what had just happened. ****** The lunch session having finished thirty minutes ago, Lian was resting against the back wall of the kitchen sipping a very cold glass of lemon water, pondering on the mornings events, the plans they'd been making to catch the thief, and the general meaning of life. This mornings events were a constant agitation to her mind. It wasn't often that someone stayed over in the apartment with Mary and her, and when it someone did, it was a close friend or family member. The funniest part was, it seemed quite natural that Sabrina was there, and Lian was not at all surprised to find herself a little disappointed at the thought that she wouldn't be there tonight. She had in fact become rather fond of Harry's niece, "the little trouble maker", they'd gotten along pretty well from day one, a couple of things bugged her though, like Sabrina's incessant babbling, it seemed that the girl could talk about any and everything. Sitting there, mentally miles away from the busy restaurant she hadn't heard Liz calling her from the front of the kitchen. Suddenly snapping to when Liz and one of her karate classmates Hank were leaning over the top of her. "Yo! Lian, anyone home?" Hank asked nearly shouting at the seated woman. "Ugh, yeah I'm here, sorry, I was thinking about something" Lian answered slowly standing up. "Well that's evident, gods girl you were miles away. Anyway, your friend here wanted a word, so I'll leave you to it" Liz chuckled as she strolled back to front service area. "Well it's a nice place to holiday, but I'm not sure I should spend so much time there. Now what can I do for you mate?" she asked. "Well actually it's what I can do for you. Did you get my email?" he prodded. "Mmm, yep, think so… Oh no, I forgot, shoot when is it?" Lian instantly remembering the karate competition and that she was supposed to be going to it. "It's ok, I took the liberty of holding you a seat, besides which there's plenty of room in the bus. It's this weekend. I'll pick you up at 8am, that ok?" he laughed noticing his young friend taking in all the information whilst mentally kicking herself for being caught off guard. "Yeah, that's fine, thanks Hank, I appreciate it" she answered. "No problem, look here's my number, let me know if anything changes or if you can't make it, otherwise I'll see you Saturday morning at 8" he replied turning and heading out the way he'd come in. "Thanks bud, I'll see you then" she returned watching the big burly man leave. Hank was at least 6'6", deep brown hair in a crew cut and hazel eyed. How he'd become involved with the karate class she didn't know, but he was a good fighter and an honest guy, that going a long way in her eyes. 'Hmm, a day of watching others sparring and testing their limits, could be fun' she thought walking round the corner and bumping into Sabrina. "Oh hey, I was just coming to look for you" she grinned as the cook shook herself out thought. "Well I guess you found me then huh, what can I do for you?" Lian replied. "I was wondering what time you were going home… I'm nearly finished here, and I thought maybe we could go grab a drink or something" she asked, shocked at how nervous she was at asking such a simple question. "Yeah, why not, I'm almost done here, should only be another half hour or so. Umm, where'd you want to go?" she answered having the strange feeling that something between them was changing, but not knowing what it was. "Cool, how about Ryan's, down on the beach front, I've heard it's pretty good down there" "Okay, sounds good to me… Uh" Lian answered trying to remember which bar it was, then realizing there was only one bar down that way, and that it must be the same bar that her and the others were in a few weeks back, "Um, actually, maybe another one would be better". "Why, from what I've heard from Joe it's a nice spot, plenty of things happening there" she queried wondering why Lian had had such a sudden change in mind. "Oh, nothing, sure if you want to go there, that's fine" she answered not wanting to have to explain exactly why she didn't want to go back there, 'Well it's not like you're going to be remembered or run into that girl, whoever she was' she thought to herself. "Great, I'll meet you here in a half hour, it's a date" she enthused, suddenly catching on to what she'd said, "Umm, well you know what I mean" Laughing at the small slip up and wondering just what Joe had told her, Lian nodded and returned to her duties, looking forward to being finished and headed out. ***** Taking their time walking along the streets, enjoying the afternoon, passing some of the local stores, stopping to look in this one and that, eventually reaching Ryan's. Standing back on the sidewalk memories started coming back to her of the last time she was there, and looking around at the beach behind her, she remembered the missing part in the story, she remembered exactly where she'd gone when she walked outside and exactly what happened. Sabrina stood at the front door, waiting watching her taller companion, watching the changing of emotions as they flickered across the normally masked face. Relief, humor, shock, bewilderment and finally a smirk of self-assurance. 'Wonder what all that was about' she thought to herself opening the door and passing through as Lian approached. Stepping inside Lian remembered the bar quite well now, the wooden walls covered with cola and beer signs, the dance floor, pool table in one corner and of course, the bar itself. A very long wooden one it was, probably hewn out one tree trunk, painstakingly carved out and set in place. The surface was smooth, so smooth you could easily slide a drink from one end to the other without fear of it gliding out of place or being nudged in the wrong direction. "What's your poison?" the bar tender asked stepping over to the two women standing there. "Boilermaker and the lady will have a…" Lian answered as though she'd done it a million times before. Looking at her with quiet amusement, Sabrina ordered a vodka and coke, smiling to herself that Lian had referred to her as a "lady", something no one had done since… She shook her head and moved the thought along, which was in the past, and best left there for now. Picking up the glasses and moving to a quieter table in the back, Lian gently placed them down and held out the nearest seat for her friend, waiting while Sabrina sat down before seating herself on the opposite side. "So, any more ideas on how to set up our friendly neighborhood thief?" she asked shooting the whisky and chasing it with a mouthful of beer. "Yuck, how can you do that, and no, only the one we thought of last night, do you think that'll work?" Sabrina replied pulling a face as Lian shot the vial spirit. "It's easy, pick up the glass, open your mouth, tip the contents in, and swallow" she laughed "and yes I do think it'll work, we've just got to make sure it's set up properly, you got any bets as to who it is?" "Oh very funny. Yeah, I think it's Joe, he's been here the longest, he'd know all the routines, he'd have the most opportunity and being one of the most trusted no one would suspect him of being the culprit" she replied taking a long sip of her drink. "Mmm, maybe, but we've still got Eric, he's the one always looking guilty, and Sasha. But I guess we'll find out soon enough…" she trailed off as a strange woman walked up behind Lian motioning Sabrina to be quiet. Just then the new comer pounced on Lians shoulders, wrapping her arms around tight and talking into her ear "hey you, wondered if you'd ever show up again" Lian caught off guard leaping and spinning from the table, lifting her assailant clear off the ground, having completed a 180 she was now face to face with the woman, how she remained able to not throw the woman to the floor or worse she'd never know. "Umm, I… Who are you?" she spluttered. "Oh gods, you don't remember me huh, well lets see if this refreshes your memory" the girl answered by leaning up and kissing Lian gently on the lips, then taking a firm hold and deepening it. Slowly breaking it off looked back at a now very red and surprised face. Turning away from the sight before her, Sabrina tried to focus on the beer sign on the wall, 'Labatt Blue, Canada's own', eventually turning back around when she deemed a safe amount of time had passed. To say Sabrina was shocked would have become the dictionary definition of the word, along with surprised, embarrassed and jealous. "Ugh, yeah, now I remember, but I still don't know who you are. I'm afraid until this afternoon, I didn't have much of a memory as to the nights events, only what friends have told me" she replied trying to force down the rising heat in her neck, and her need to apologize to Sabrina. "Well that's fair enough, I'm Lisa, and you're Lian. But I'm afraid I don't know your friends name…" she answered now turning to the very quiet woman in the corner. "Um, well it's nice to meet you Lisa, this is my Boss's niece Sabrina, would you care to join us?" Lian replied. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance Sabrina, and yes I'd love to join you, but you could let me down first" she joked noticing that she was still dangling off Lian's neck. "Oh shoot, sorry there you go, what can I get you to drink?" Lian answered blushing at the picture of the small blonde woman hanging off her. Sitting down between Sabrina and Lian's seat she extended her hand towards Sabrina "just a bourbon and coke thanks babe" Hackles rising at the endearment Sabrina took the proffered hand and shook it gruffly before returning to her drink "nice to meet you too" Lian having paced back over to the bar to wait to place the order, Lisa looking over the young woman next to her and deciding she'd test the waters a little. "So how long have you two been going out?" Spitting her drink across the floor, turning bright red at that and being asked such a personal question by a complete stranger Sabrina looked at Lisa with a somewhat confused look on her face, "I beg your pardon?" "How… long… have… you… two… been… going… out?" Lisa asked again, wondering just how far she'd get to take this before it was stopped. "I heard what you asked, I just didn't believe that you asked it. We're not going out, Lian's straight" she replied looking into her glass with a small feeling of regret. "Um, I hate to burst your bubble, and I doubt that this will, but she's definitely NOT straight" the stranger chuckled back as they young girl looked up with a look first of joy, then confusion, then of doubt. "How… How do you know?" she stammered afraid of the answer, but wanting to know just the same. "Um, well, as much as I hate discussing meat while it's still walking the fields, I don't know if she's 'out' yet or not, but she sure knows what to do with her hands. And something tells me, you'd like to know first hand, if you'll excuse the pun" Lisa returned. "I… err… how'd you… umm" once again having great difficulty in finding the right words "well, yeah, but, well do I want to know 'how' you know about her?" "Oh no, for that you'll have to ask her, and if you're lucky, you might just get a few demonstrations" Lisa said noticing that Lian was now returning to the table with fresh drinks for everyone. "So what are you two talking about?" she asked putting the drinks down and taking up her seat again. "Oh just trade talk, you know, fruit, veg, meat, that sort of thing" Lisa quickly shot in before Sabrina could let anything out that shouldn't be. "Yeah, that's all" Sabrina joined in thankful that the answer was provided without her having to think too much, especially now she had another line of thought she wanted to pursue. "Oh, fair enough, I take it then that you're in the hospitality industry then?" Lian queried taking a sip of her beer and settling back into her seat. "Nope, used to be, I worked a few years as a kitchen hand, busser that sort of thing. I'm actually off duty right now, I'm doing law of sorts" chuckling she continued " I'm studying to be a cop". "No way! Well I guess that makes you one of Vancouver's finest then" Lian replied. Laughing Lisa looked at Lian and replies "no, I think that would be you" Once again hackles risen at the blatant flirting before her Sabrina sat in her seat and quietly downed the remainder of her drink, then started in on the second one. 'Why on earth should it bother me that they're doing this, I'm not involved with Lian, and they obviously have some sort of history. Why is it annoying me, because… because they're flirting like I want to be with her, and Lisa knows it too!' she thought to herself as she listened to the conversation as it went around all sorts of topics. Eventually looking at her watch Lian saw how late it was getting, they'd been in the bar for the best part of the afternoon and well into the night. It was now 8pm, not that there was any rush to get home, but she knew by the look on Sabrina's face that the young girl was tired and needed to get some rest. "Well it's been a blast Lisa, but I've got to go, got to get this youngen home before she's asleep in her seat" Lian said motioning towards the slowly nodding head of her young friend. "Oh sure, like you said, it's been fun, hope to see you soon, you might want to be careful with her too, she's had a few to drink" Lisa said standing up and stretching her arms and back, "did you walk over or drive?" "Walked" She answered looking down at the number of glasses Sabrina had consumed during the time they'd been there 'funny, I didn't think she'd be the type to drink that much' she thought to herself. "Ok, I'm calling a taxi for you, see if you can get her up" she answered walking over to the bar and asking for the phone. "Thanks" Lian replied standing and pacing round the table and putting her arms around the girls shoulders and trying to lift her up "Come on girl, time to go home" "Mmm, home, bed, lovely" the groggy voice said. Getting her on her feet, Lian managed to look into her eyes, well what normally would have been a beautiful sky blue were now very dilated pupils and a glazed blue hue surrounded by blood shot veins. "Oh good grief, you have had a skin full haven't you, come on, you're staying with me again, no way am I taking you home like this" "Whoa, she has had a bit to drink huh" Lisa chuckled coming up and seeing the bleary eyes trying to focus on anything that would hold still, "need a hand getting her outside?" "Um, yeah, once I get her in the car it'll be ok, thanks" One pair of shoulders either side of the corpse, Lian and Lisa carried her out to the fresh air where they waited for the taxi to arrive. "Thanks for a great night, I had a good time" Lian said as she saw the lights pull up to the curb. "My pleasure, look here's my number, maybe we can do it again sometime" she replied looking semi hopeful. "Maybe, thanks once again, night" she answered lowering Sabrina into the back seat and climbing in next to her. Giving the address the car jerked off as Lisa stood on the pavement chuckling at the thought of how Lian was going to cope when she got home, this part was easy, there were two of them, but when she got home… ***** Hurtling through the streets the city took on a whole other life, buildings that in the daytime look quite plain and warm took on an the appearance of a sinister life form looming above the inhabitants of the street, daring them to defy it. Looking down to her lap where Sabrina was asleep, peacefully laying there she looked so happy. It wasn't till they reached the apartment building that Lian realized that she now had to manage to get Sabrina up the three flights of stairs. "Did you want a hand miss?" the kindly gentleman asked noticing the dilemma. Slowly pulling a now mumbling Sabrina out of the car and standing her on the street, "No, it's ok thanks, we can manage, here you go" she replied handing him the money and bidding him farewell. Taking one of Sabrina's arms across her shoulder Lian tried to walk to the front door, only getting a few feet before realizing that due to their height differences that it wouldn't work. "Ok, now what, it's not like I can just carry you" she mused to herself knowing that her companion would be of no help in this state. 'Well why not, it's not like she's weighs a lot, in fact she'd be lucky to weigh as much as some of the boxes I shunt around' Testing the theory Lian wrapped one arm around Sabrina's shoulders, and the other under her legs, then tilted her backwards. Finding her to be quite light she placed her back on the ground, thinking that for the moment, carrying her on her back would be the best plan. So slowly turning around she lifted the girl off the ground and paced towards the front door of the building. Eventually reaching her goal she tugged out her keys and opened the door. It was at this point that Sabrina decided to regain some sort of consciousness, noticing she was riding piggy back through the building she joined in the game and slapped Lian quite hard on the backside "Hiddy up gorsey" Biting her lip as a way of clamping down on yelling out in shock and discomfort Lian stopped dead in her tracks. Adjusted her load so that her parcel was now facing her, and starting up the three flights of stairs. "You know, you're cute" Sabrina managed to get out as she breathed a rather boozed filled breath right into Lian's face. "Yeah, well you're drunk, so I guess we're even" Lian laughed trying not to choke on the smell assaulting her nose. Reaching the door to her apartment, Lian put Sabrina down and opened the door, "Well come on, in you come" "What, aren't you going to carry the bride over the thresh hold?" the stumbling body protested refusing to budge past the doorway. "Oh for goodness sake" Lian huffed stomping back over towards the door, sweeping Sabrina off her feet, kicking the door shut and carrying her through to the bedroom, "is that better oh dearest wife?" "Yes, much. Now how do I get this lot off?" she mumbled tugging at her tie and pants, wishing to remove the offending garments. 'Careful Li, we're treading on thin ice here' her mind chided her as she leaned in to assist her guest. "Well one would assume that you untie that one, and tug like this on that one" The feeling of Lian tugging at her clothing was too much, Sabrina couldn't help but let a small groan slip from her lips as she reached out and took hold of Lian's face, bringing it level with hers. "You know, I wasn't joking before, you really are cute" "Um, thanks, but I think you've had a little too much to drink, and need to rest" Lian replied, heat rising up along her neck, amongst other places. 'That sound, god I think that kind of sealed it, I've never felt this was about any guy I've ever met, but one look from her, and I'm liquid' she thought as she backed away, her body protesting against what it wanted. Leaning in closer to the lips she wanted to taste, only to have them taken from her sight, 'what happened, where'd she go?' Sabrina tried to find her target, then looking up along the midsection of the body before her, slowly gazing over the body that she wanted to hold close. "If you say so, but you could at least help me into something a little more comfortable". "Yeah, I could, and I will, hold still" Lian chuckled at the pouting face below her, as she took the tie off, and undid the buttons of the dress shirt she was wearing and putting the White Sox shirt on in its place. 'I shouldn't be enjoying this… Not at all… Lian behave, the girl's had too many drinks and has probably lost all sense of what she's saying and who she's saying it to'. "Thank you, aren't you going to help with these though, I'm not sure I can do them" Sabrina grinned looking down at her pants and shoes. 'Why is it this all seems a little too convenient?' She thought to herself bending one knee and undoing the shoe laces, then standing up and pulling Sabrina to her feet, "hold still while I… while I take these off" she stammered now very aware of exactly where her hands were and what she was about to start doing. Trying to balance on her feet, Sabrina grinned at the blush that was creeping up Lian's neck, not prepared for the touch that was to take over her soul. Placing her hands ever so lightly on the waistband of the pressed slacks Lian began to gently pull them down, reaching just past her hips she realized that in order to get them any further she'd need to part Sabrina's legs a tad more than they were. "Err… could you, um, just… CRAP, can you just shift your feet a bit, I can't get your pants down" she blurted out now feeling very self-conscious. Giggling Sabrina did as requested only to go toppling backwards as they were finally pulled from her body. Falling onto the bed she wriggled under the covers and waited for Lian to finish folding the clothes before saying anything further. "There you go, not that you'll remember this in the morning, but your clothes are over there, and I'll leave a light on in the bathroom incase you need to… well just incase. Goodnight" Lian grumbled, annoyed that this whole event had happened, true some parts she had enjoyed, but it wasn't right, Sabrina was drunk and had no control, unlike herself. "Goodnight Lian… Hey don't I get a kiss before you leave?" Sabrina mumbled already drifting off to sleep. "Yeah, of course you do" Lian replied leaning down, brushing away the silken bangs on the girls forehead and placing a gentle kiss in their place. Lingering in the doorway Lian looked back at the now heavily slumbering waitress. 'Wonder if she'll remember any of this in the morning' she thought as she closed the door and went into the living room. ***** The apartment was dark when Mary came in a few hours later, only the TV was flickering lighting up the couch and a slumbering body. Walking over to the couch she picked up the remote and turned it off, hoping not to wake the form laying there. "Oh hey, good to see you're home, what time is it?" Lian mumbled slowly waking up. "Only 10:30, it was a slow night so some of us came home early. Why are you out here?" Mary replied walking back to the kitchen and flicking the light on. "Owww, um, Sabrina's in my room, she had a bit too much to drink, so I brought her back here to sleep it off. Speaking of which, I think I need to speak to you about something, sort of a hard subject though" Lian said now fully aware of everything happening around her. "Sorry Hon, forgot" Mary chuckled forgetting that the bright kitchen lights were a bit of a shock after the blackness of slumber. "Well you know I'm always here for you, what's wrong?" "I… Well I ran into the girl from the bar the other week" "Oh" "Yeah, and well… Mary, I think I'm gay, but I don't know". There, she'd said it, it was finally out there and for better or worse she had to finally confront it. "Ok… well what's the problem?" "I… I… I don't know, it's just that, well, the girl, Lisa, she kissed me again, right in front of Sabrina. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but it was kind of one sided. I mean…. SHIT! It was nice, but I felt like I was kissing the wrong person" she confessed. "Well is it possible that you were? And if you don't mind me asking, what took you so long in coming out?" "Huh? Well I… I don't know, I mean I know why it's taken so long with 'coming out' but as to the other, I don't know. I mean, I… I was wishing it was her" Lian mumbled pointing towards the closed bedroom door. "So what's the problem?" "Well I don't think… I mean… Oh damn, why is this stuff always so hard" taking a deep breath, clearing her head and continuing. "I like her Mary, I really do, she drives me mad with her babbling, but she's a good person and I'd like to get to know her better on all levels, but I'm not sure she if she likes me in that way". "I see, well what brought all this on, I mean this morning you two were fine, and now you're a nervous wreck and she's passed out in your bed" "Well this is what happened after we left work" Lian answered as she began to recall the afternoon's happenings and then the evenings. Finally finishing and walking around into the kitchen and setting the coffee pot up ready for some fresh java. "Oh dear, I see you two had quite an eventful day… Has it occurred to you that maybe she drank too much because she was interested in you, and you were flirting with Lisa. Did you bother to explain to her 'how' you know her?" "No, on both accounts. Like I said, I'm not even sure if she's gay, and if she is and she was interested in me, why didn't she make the first move?" Lian shot back now a little annoyed at being accused of not handling the situation properly. "Whoa, easy there tiger, I was just asking. She doesn't know you as well as the rest of us, she probably wasn't sure about you either, like you just admitted to me, YOU only just came out, don't forget it takes two to tango" Mary gently said not wanting to anger her roommate. "I guess so, I just… I guess I'm just not real sure about anything right now, between the money going missing, now finally kicking the door of the closet wide open, it's all just a bit much" Lian finished. "Okay, well do you want my advice?" "Yes" "Don't do anything till you are sure. She probably won't remember much of this tomorrow, and for now, you're best off trying to forget it as well. Just concentrate on your work and let nature take it's course" she said, placing an arm around her troubled friend's waist. "Now, why at 10:30 at night are you drinking coffee?" "Huh, oh, well I was thirsty, and I usually drink coffee when I'm thinking… Just habit" Lian chuckled pouring a mug full of the black substance. "A likely story… Anyway, I'm off to bed, don't stay up too late ok, night Lian" Mary said walking through bedroom door and closing it. Now awake and alone in the apartment Lian looked around as to what she could do to occupy her mind while she rambled through her various thoughts. Glancing over to the table she saw the pad she'd placed there this morning with the notes from her dreams. 'I wonder' she thought walking over and picking up the pad, reading over the lines and deciding to play her hunch. Clicking on the power button she booted up the laptop, thankful that she'd left it out there and didn't have to go into her room to get it. Once it had finished powering up she connected to the Internet and started up the search engine. Search Topic: "Dreams" Sipping her coffee she was astounded at how many sites were found 'idiot, need to make it a little harder' she thought Search Topic: "Genetic memory dreams" Two minutes later the search was complete, 2009 sites. 'Ok, now what' she thought. Custom Search: "Genetic memory dreams, swords" Five minutes later the results were back, 25 sites. "Yes!" she cried, instantly clamping her hand over her mouth hoping she hadn't woken anyone. Slowly scanning over the sites one by one she was surprised to see how many useless pages there were, just dead ends, not that the pages weren't interesting, but the last thing she wanted to be bothered with was a false trail. Finally clicking on the fifteenth site it opened up a network of links and information services on the subject. Scrolling down the page she came across a page with the link "Need help with a dream? Think you might be a descendant? Drop me a line or contact me on ICQ" "You little ripper!" she exclaimed 'guess not all my Australian attributes have fallen away'. Clicking on the ICQ number she sent a message off requesting a chat if the site owner was interested. Having sent the message she remembered she'd best be turning her own ICQ on, 'idiot, how else are they going to reply'. While waiting for a response she scrolled over the rest of the page looking for something that didn't quite make sense to her. "Descendant" 'what descendant?' she thought. "Uh oh" ICQ beeped minutes later, clicking on the message: "Hey, what's up?" "Well I was looking through your page, and saw the ICQ option, thought I'd give it a go" "Fair enough. Anything in particular on your mind?" "Um, yeah actually. What's the deal with the 'descendant' thing?" "Ah, well that's a long story, one that spans many centuries, best thing I can do is give you a site or two, and you can read them, then if you're still in need of an ear, feel free" "Oh, well thanks" "No problem, here they come, it was nice meeting you, my name's Jo by the way" "Great, tah, I'm Lian, nice meeting you too" Clicking on the first link she was taken to a site where there was an explanation of dreams and what they mean. "No, not quite what I'm after" Second link hit the jackpot: "This is the story of an ancient warrior and bard, and how their lives changed the future" 'Now why is it I have a sense that what I'm about to read is going to change everything forever'. She thought to herself opening the page up completely and beginning to read the story about a mighty woman warrior and the bard that would steal her heart and complete her life. "Some say the story is merely a myth, handed down from generation to generation, a seed of hope when times are bad and a means to encourage children into behaving. Others hold that these two individuals did indeed exist and that the legends are true, tales of heroic feats and a love so strong that even in death their souls could not be parted" "Sounds interesting enough, but why should it matter to me, myth or fact, what's it matter" she questioned herself, deciding to get up and pour another cup of coffee. "Well I guess there's one way to find out, I just have to read the story and see if I can learn anything from it" was her line of reasoning. Sitting back down in front of the laptop and pulling out her glasses, 'Think I'd better put these on for once, I reckon I might be here a while'. Starting at the top of the page she learned how a once fierce and evil warlord held a nation in the palm of her hand, and how the fates had seen to it that things would change. How a small village girl would defend her family and friends from attackers, and in turn endear herself to a wandering warrior. And by making the choice of walking away from everything she had known and following the warrior that it was the start of the reformation of a complete soul. She read how that through their travels and adventures the two seemingly opposites would compliment and complete each other. But it wasn't until she read their descriptions that things started slipping into place. "The warrior a tall woman, taller than nearly all others, dark haired and eyes of ice blue. She could be hard, unforgiving and relentless, some say she wasn't fully human, that she was indeed part god. But her warrior mask, kept in place would deceive many. Only her closest friends and loved ones ever saw the softer, joking nature of this proud being. The bard in contrast was smaller, barely to the chin of the warrior, golden red locks and eyes of misty sea green. A smile that could charm any person who saw it and a nature of purity". "WHOA! Ok, well there's no way the descriptions are dead accurate, but they're not far wrong" she said to herself "something tells me I'd better keep a copy of this". Clicking on the save button she continued to read how through their lives they shared many experiences and how their children were left to follow the roles set before them. "Well that tells me some things, but I still don't see the connection" she thought to herself, "it's just not piecing together yet, that is set in Greece and my family are from Scotland and Ireland, a long ways off from there". "Uh oh" Clicking on the flashing message: "Hey, sorry to interrupt, I forgot to give you this link, let me know what you think, bye" "Thanks, and I'll let you know as soon as I'm done" Opening the last page she read how some of the descendants of the original children drifted off to various parts of the world, to Europe, the Americas, even to the South Pacific, and of course, to the Celtic lands. She read how there were legends about strong warriors and intelligent bards that followed them, then in later years they seemed to vanish into the mists of time. Still the lines were there, but the warrior became less inclined to fight, and the bard settled into a role of pacifistic support. Looking at the clock on the wall Lian was stunned to see it was now 4am. "Damn, didn't mean to stay up this late". Clicking on Jo's ICQ she typed off a quick message. "Hi, thanks for getting back to me, and sure, I'd be happy to meet you at another time, just let me know". "Terrific, I'll see you later then, night, or morning, or whatever, *lol*" "LOL, same to you" Closing down all the windows and shutting the computer down Lian staggered round onto the couch and got comfortable. It wasn't long before she was fast asleep. Thoughts still flying at a million miles an hour trying to sort everything out in her head, descendant or not, gay or not, how to set the trap, it was all a blur as she slept. ***** Mumbling into a semi wakeful haze, Sabrina raised herself into a sitting position and looked out the window onto the bay, remembering yesterday's events. "How on earth could I be so stupid" she groaned as bits and pieces came filtering back into her mind. She remembered sitting at the table, glaring at Lian and Lisa, she remembered drinking several glasses of vodka and coke, then a few glasses of plain vodka. 'God, she must think I'm a complete dweeb'. Deciding to finally get up, she rolled over on the bed and onto the floor and stood up, having forgotten that such quick actions bring a heavy price under these circumstances. "Aughk" she moaned stumbling into the bathroom and peering at a very red eyed and pale faced reflection, "no wonder they say jealousy is a horrid trait, look at what it does to you…" she commented. After having a quick shower, washing away as much of the general grime she could feel from the previous days events she decided to wander out into the living area and see how bad the damage was, worrying as to whether or not Lian would even talk to her now. Stepping through the door and into the lounge she looked around for her friend, "hmm, wonder where she is…" Taking a closer inspection of the apartment she noticed that Lian's work clothes and tools were gone, and it appeared the same with Mary's. "Oh no, don't tell me they left already…" she muttered to herself, instantly looking to see what time it was, "DAMMIT!" It was now quarter to twelve; she'd been out of it for the best part of eighteen hours. "Crap, why didn't they wake me, I could have gone to work, I'm ok" she started complaining to herself. Walking into the kitchen and fixing a cup of coffee she decided to sit down for a while and at least think about whether or not it was worth going in now, she'd already missed five of her six hour shift, so there didn't seem much point. Sitting down at the table she shuffled some of the notes she and Lian had made for their plan and came across a note left for her. "Hey Bright eyes, Guessing you're at least semi awake by now if you're reading this, if you're not, well I guess it doesn't really matter. Sorry for not waking you this morning, but both Mary and I thought you'd be better sleeping it off and not letting your Uncle see you in that condition might also be a wise move. Like you really need him worrying about you or giving you a hard time, sounds a little unfair to say that, but hey, us youngen's got to stick together right? Ok, I don't know what time I'll be home, Mary should be back around 5 or so, if you want something to eat, help yourself, but PLEASE take it easy, ok. Umm… I don't know if you're interested or not, but some of my karate class are going to see a tournament tomorrow and I thought maybe you'd like to come with us, it's no big deal or anything, but, well, just let me know ok. Right well I think that's it, have a good day, take it easy, and we'll see you when we get home. L. "Hmm, well I guess they did have some points for not getting me up, I'll give them that" she thought to herself looking around to see what she could occupy herself with for the next few hours. Deciding that a bit of music was in order she strolled over to the entertainment cabinet and looked in at the choice of CD’s. "Wow, talk about diverse tastes" she thought as she read through the names "Melissa Etheridge, Bach, Nirvana, Debussy, Phil Collins, Indigo Girls, Matchbox 20, Silverchair". 'Wonder which ones belong to who' she pondered on selecting the Nirvana disk and putting it on 'pity I can't have it loud, seems a waste really, but ain't no way am I turning that up right now' she grinned. Muttering to herself about her next activity she crossed back over to the dining table and sat down in front of the computer. "I could do a bit of surfing" she pondered, wondering whether it'd be ok to use the laptop, "Well she did say to make myself at home, so I guess it'd be ok with her" she answered her mental questioning. Opening up the computer and switching it on, waiting for it to come to life she went and organized a fresh pot of coffee, 'plan on being here a while don't you' she smirked to herself. Sitting back down in front of the laptop she dialed up the Internet and closed off Lians ICQ and other chat programs. 'Even though it would be fun to talk to some of her friends, I'm not going too, that's a little too mean, even for me' she thought to herself. 'Well I guess here's as good as anywhere' she beamed selecting Lians Favorites folder and scanning down her folder listings. "Wow, guess she does a fair amount of surfing" was her amazed response. Looking over titles like "Computer Hard, Soft, Progs", "Research", "ICQ, Links, Cards", "Tests, Misc & Fun", "S's, PP, CR's" and "Addys". "Hmm, wonder what the "S's, PP, and CR's is" she said aloud scrolling down through the extensive list of marked pages. They appeared to be a collection of people's pages, a chat location or two, and some other names that didn't make a whole heap of sense. Deciding to take a chance she clicked on the first link, it instantly taking her to a page of categorized stories by various people. Most based on a popular cult TV series, others of a spin-off nature. Opening the first story she began reading. "Oh my good, she reads fan fiction" she exclaimed completely surprised. As she kept reading however she became acutely aware of what sort of fan fiction her tall blonde friend reads. "Oh man, she's an alt reader… Boy oh Boy, does she ever have good taste too, these stories are really good, I'd forgotten how good they can be" she mused to herself recalling her memories of spending lunchtimes in the school library reading some of the more engrossing tales. ***** By late afternoon Sabrina had managed to read about ten of the stories that Lian had saved on her laptop. Amazed firstly that her 'straight acting' friend read fan fiction, and even more stunned when she discovered that apart from one of the series the other stories were all of the explicit nature. 'Wow!' She thought having just finished one of the stories that had been in a folder dubbed "ICE". 'Wonder how long she's been reading them? Man, it's amazing she can sleep at night, those stories are…' she stopped thinking about that as various scenes flooded back through her memory causing a rush of blood through her body. At that moment she heard a key turning in the front door lock. Unlocking the door and stepping through with an arm full of groceries, Mary stumbled into the hall mutter some rather colorful language under her breath about stubborn locks and doors. "Oh hi, you're back, hang on I'll give you a hand" Sabrina bubbled leaping out of her seat and racing over to Mary and taking several of the bags out of her hands. "Ah, you're a saint, thanks" Mary enthused, glad to relieve some of her burdens, and asking "so, how was your day? Feeling any better?" Placing the bags down on the counter top and starting to put various items away in the refrigerator. "Yeah, pretty good. I think I spent most of the day on Lians computer reading, some rather" pausing while she swallowed, then continuing "interesting stories on there". "That doesn't surprise me, she's a pretty complex person" deciding to take a stab in the dark Mary went a little bit further with her thoughts, "she doesn't always display the emotions she's feeling. I've seen her do some amazing things, be pretty angry, but still keep calm and deal with the problem." "Um, yeah, I guess…" she replied, wondering just what Mary was trying to tell her. Putting some cans of fruit and vegetables in a lower cupboard Mary continued, "She deals with things her own way Sabrina, we all do, but don't ever count her out or think that she doesn't care, just because she hasn't done anything to show you that she does". 'Is she saying what I think she is…' Sabrina started to ponder. Not hearing Lian silently open the door and sneak in, both women were fully engrossed when she bounded into the kitchen scarring both of them into the next millennium. "LIAN!" Mary bellowed gathering her scattered wits, while Sabrina tried to steady her thoughts. Standing in the middle of the kitchen laughing Lian slowly stopped her merriment and began apologizing for her prank. "I'm sorry guys, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up". Getting her breathing under control Sabrina began giggling and thinking that it must have been a pretty funny sight to anyone but her and Mary. "Oh come on Mary, it was kind of funny" she mused walking round the bench to slap Lian in her midsection "not that I'm condoning what you did, and if you ever do it again you're in BIG trouble, got that!" Feigning mock terror Lian held her hands up before her and then grinned "You have my word, no more surprises… Like that one" she finished then bounded off into her bedroom to change. "And you were saying what about her and emotions?" Sabrina said beginning to laugh. "Oh shut up" Mary answered throwing a tea towel at the girl and beginning to laugh herself. ****** Chapter 4: TWIX CUP AND LIP "Come on, kick the bastard" A voice shouted out as two fighters slowly danced around each other, assessing their opponent. "Oh shut up dickhead, just watch and learn for once, you couldn't even beat that kid from Langley, so what would you know" his companion leered, only to receive a swat over the head for his efforts. "Wow, there's a lot of people here" Sabrina commented quietly to Lian as they followed the group into the stadium. "Yeah, little bit scary, you ok?" Lian answered not really paying attention as she scanned the crowds for faces she knew and unconsciously searching for any possible danger. "Um, yes, just a little bit… Overwhelmed I think" replied the smaller woman moving a tad closer to her friend, thankful that she could hide behind her. Walking slowly around the mats and watching the competitors as they warmed up. Eventually making their way into the stands to find seats and watch the tournament. Round after round they sat there, watching, soaking in the atmosphere, and hearing the spectators cheer and cry as one by one the fighters either won or were dismissed. The champion to continue into the next round, the vanquished to retire for the day. "Hey Lian, you up for something to eat, you've been sitting there for the last three hours" Hank was standing out in the isle that Sabrina and Lian were seated in. "Huh?" Lian broke her gaze from the combat to see who was beckoning her attention, "Oh, yeah I guess" turning back to take another glimpse of the fighters just in time to see one of them send a quick succession of jabs and light kicks to his opponent. Standing up and beginning to walk towards her friend Lian turned sharply to address Sabrina, "What would you like for lunch, I know for a fact you didn't touch your breakfast?" "Can I just have a salad roll and an orange juice, thanks" she answered retrieving some coinage from her pocket and handing it to Lian. "Ok, but I don't need that just the same" she said refusing the money "You're my guest, I won't hear of that, so put it away" Lian responded bounding down the stairs. The two classmates headed towards the canteen leaving the girl alone in the stands to watch the next contestants. 'Well I wasn't expecting that' thought Sabrina now sitting alone with her thoughts. The last eighteen hours had been interesting to say the least. After Lian had returned home they'd returned to the city in fresh clothes, "Where are we going?" she'd asked, only to be answered seconds later as they walked into an electrical store. "We are going to pick up some 'stuff' to put our plan into action" Lian had answered looking amongst the shelves of equipment. "Oh" Sabrina had answered, as if that had revealed everything to the waitress. They spent the next half an hour filtering through various items and gadgets, eventually selecting the desired components and leaving. Going straight from there to a disposal store and getting a few more packages and headed home. Once again by the time they'd finished plotting and planning it was late, Lian had offered to drive the girl home, but upon remembering then that she'd have to pick her up early in the morning to go to the tournament Sabrina had suggested staying over again. "Yeah, you may as well, save everyone the hassle" Lian had said handing her the phone to call Harry. So yet again Sabrina had been privileged to be witness to Mary and Lian fussing around the apartment, but both for separate reasons. "Um hello, anyone home?" Lian gently called trying to snap the young woman out of her daze, "did someone belt you over the noggin or have you just fallen asleep out of sheer boredom". "Uh, sorry, what?" she mumbled coming back to reality, "Oh right, food, sweaty males and violence, what's not to like?" Sabrina chuckled back taking the proffered food and beverage. "Yeah, I know, you're bored, I'm sorry, it must be hard on you" Lian said resuming her seat and opening the packet of crisps and bottle of Mountain Dew, "we can go in an hour, I just have to see Hank go up, then it's safe to go". "Oh no, that's not what I meant, I'm having a great time" she lied. Watching a bunch of egotistical guys wantonly belting the crap out of each other was not her choice idea of entertainment. But it was one way to spend some time with her new friend, so she'd agreed to go along. "You didn't tell me Hank was going to compete," she asked trying to change the subject. "Yeah, he didn't tell me either, till this morning when he picked us up. I'm gonna throttle him for not telling me" Lian answered biting into a mouthful of a chicken sandwich. 'Why on earth did she come, this has got to be the most boring thing you could do for a day if you're not interested in the sport' she thought half watching the fight and half keeping an eye on the girl next to her. "Well I'm sure he'll be fine, he looks like he can handle himself pretty well" she bubbled trying to be enthusiastic and supportive. "Oh, he can, you see that at class, easily kicks the butt of just about everyone there" Lian chuckled remembering the first time she'd practiced with the big man, only to be dumped very quickly on her butt. "That's good, but I'm sure you could take him" Sabrina cajoled. "Uh, don’t know, never tried, he's my mate, so there's no competition between us" she answered focusing in on the fight as it was nearly finished, the champion sending his remaining moves down in a blinding flurry quickly dispensing the now beaten body. "Is that him?" the girl asked pointing towards a figure slowly moving towards the ring. "Yep, sure is" the Cook retorted wondering if yelling out would be totally distasteful. Hank made his way to his boundary and waited to be waved in. Finally getting his call and stepping up to eye his challenger, both bowing to the referee and each other, then taking their stances ready to begin the fight. "Has he ever competed before?" she softly whispered as if a normal tone of voice would have shattered the world. "No" Lian answered, totally focused on the fight, hoping and praying that her friend wouldn't be hurt too much. 'Wonderful, I see where I stand. I'm only here for backup, incase Romeo over there gets busted up' she thought, then mentally slapping herself for being so callous. 'Get a grip girl, if backup was all she wanted there's a hundred others she could have chosen for the job'. ***** The fight hadn't taken long; Hank had taken a few heavy blows early in the match and just hadn't recovered. His attacker easily finishing him off in a only minutes. Luckily he hadn't been hurt severely, only sore ribs and a bloody nose where he'd collapsed on the mat. "Shit, he's down" Lian bellowed leaping out of her seat and bolting down the stairs to aid her friend. 'Yeah, and just like that I get left for a guy, again' Sabrina thought slowly standing and pacing down the stairs towards the pair. ***** "Come on mate, we're going home, you've had enough I think" Lian said getting her shoulder under the tall man and helping him down onto the floor. "I'm ok Lian, honest, just a little sore" he answered batting the woman away. "Look you great oaf, I don't care if you just took on Hulk Hogan and won, you're getting my help, like it or not. Now let me see your wounds" she retorted glaring at him. "Ok, ok, fine, have it your way," he said opening the jacket to display already bruising ribs. "Ow, man that's gonna hurt tomorrow" she breathed taking in the sight. "Tomorrow, shit Lian it hurts now, buggar tomorrow" Hank spat out deciding he'd had enough of being subjected to his friends inspection. "Shut it Hank, and sit down, I'm not finished with you yet!" Lian shot pushing the man who easily over shadowed her, "I said sit down, NOW" half wanting him to defy her so she could clobber him. Watching the fights all morning had had one small side effect, she now had a desire to fight, to win at all costs. Looking straight into the flashing eyes before him, Hank swallowed at the sight. Something in Lian had changed, her eyes growing wild and seeming to thrive on the energy around her. "Ok" he ushered, half-afraid of what would happen if he refused. Slowly approaching the pair from behind Sabrina had time to see this little display and begin to wonder what was going on. "Ah, perfect timing" Lian said sensing someone behind her and turning to see who it was, "can you stay here with dufus while I go get some bandages, don't let him move ok". "Yes ma'am" Sabrina answered saluting Lian as if she were commanding an army. Two seconds after Lian had walked off Hank stood up and began moving off. "Um, where are you going, Lian said to stay here," she said taking a hold on his arm. "Look she means well, but there's nothing she can do that I can't do myself, now you can stay here and wait for your girlfriend, but I'm going home" He snapped back, annoyed that this little bit of nothing had dared try to stop him. "Oh well listen to you, mister mighty warrior who's wallowing in self pity, isn't that just typical" she snipped back. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe she's doing this because she cares and that you ARE hurt and need help". "Well looks like I know who wear's the pants between you two" he mumbled hoping she hadn't heard. She had. "That's it you great fucking idiot. Look I don't know whether you got hit harder in your balls or what little gray matter you consider a brain. But she's not my girlfriend, but even if she was, I'd still do this" Sabrina shot back slapping him hard across the face, sending a cracking sound into the crowd around them. "Get one thing straight jerk, she cares, why I don't know, cause you're acting like a complete jerk, but she does, so sit down, shut up and wait for her". Looking on the small woman in front of him and wondering about what had just happened Hank slowly sat back down on the stool he was seated on and closed his mouth. He'd obviously over stepped the mark and would now have to apologize and hope he could make it up to both of them. Lian fetched some bandages and ointment and made her way back to her friends to find them exactly as she'd left them, both a little bit quieter than she'd expected. "Did I miss something?" she queried undoing the lid on the sports liniment and opening Hanks shirt. "No" they both answered. "I see," she said rubbing some of the ointment into the abused body and wrapping the bandages around them. "Ok tough guy, come on, time to go home" she said standing and offering him a hand up, helping the bulky man to his feet, the three set off in silence towards the car-park. 'Geez, wonder what happened, feels like someone died' she though trudging along towards Hanks car. "Awww, what's a matter newbie, need ya woman to take ya home, what a fucking wuss" a voice leered from behind them. "Why I oughta" Hank started to say only to be silenced "YOU, ought to just shut up and keep walking, you're in no condition to fight, and even if you were, it's better to walk away than act in violence" Lian finished. "Yeah, listen to ya woman lil boy, you couldn’t beat a fucking child, let alone either of us" the other voice spat at them. "Lian, can't you do something?" Sabrina whispered becoming a little bit more afraid. "Yes, but what would be the point. By turning around and fighting I'm just giving them what they want. I refuse to do that" she answered as they approached the car. Opening the back door of the aging Pontiac Lian lowered Hank into the back seat and shut the door. Walking round to the passengers' side and opening the door for Sabrina and ushering her into the seat. Just as she was closing the door a hand grabbed hold of her arm, "I thought it was you, fucking bitch, you broke my nose". Spinning around and looking squarely into the face of the person who'd dared enter her personal space, "Yeah, funny that, cause it looks better now. So let go". "Oh no babe, we owe you," the second voice said coming up on the other side of her and fencing her in. "Look, I don't remember who you are, but if there's something you're after, you're barking up the wrong tree" she said beginning to place the two men who had encircled her. "I dunno Steve, whatta ya think, should we let her off, or… Take our payback out on her" the first assailant said leaning in and blowing softly in her ear. "I say take her Brad, she's just another fucking whore" Steve answered running his hand up her arm. 'Oh wonderful Li, you just jump from the frying pan into the fire don't you' she thought to herself trying to squirm out of their reach. From the seats of the car both Hank and Sabrina could see what was transpiring and only faintly heard the voices. "I've got to do something" Hank mumbled rolling over to the other door and starting to open it. "No, Lian told you not to do anything, if anyone is going, it's me" she said scooting over into the drivers seat and opening the door, 'yeah, you're the one that asked her to do something aren't you' she thought just as she opened the door. "Right you are Steve, and if I'm not mistaken, a fucking lesbian too, wouldn't that be great, take out two causes with one blow" Brad sneered beginning to pull Lian towards the hood of the car. "Look guys, you're doing the wrong thing here, please stop, I'm sorry for beating you up, but you…" she never finished as Brad slapped her across the face. "Shut up bitch" he barked at her, "You're gonna pay for that night". 'Ok Lian, you tried talking, you tried apologizing, you tried reasoning, NOW KICK SOME ASS!' her mind screamed, "Ok, but I'm sure you're not gonna enjoy this" she chuckled as she began to feel her blood pumping. Just at that moment Sabrina opened the car door and hopped out, temporarily distracting the two men, "Lian are you…" she never got to finish the sentence. She had become witness as the tall blonde woman she had considered a friend quickly wrenched one arm free, head-butting one of the men and spinning back around to slam a fist right into the bridge of the other man’s nose. "What do you know, now you have matching noses, but you're still ugly" she jibed waiting for either of them to attack again. Brad was quickly coming back to his senses and focused in on his target "You slut, you're gonna pay for that" he yelled racing back towards her. "Oh, silly boy, I'm not paying for anything, you were damaged goods before I broke you" she laughed as she deflected his punches, managing to take a few minor jabs to his ribs and then landing a blow to his jaw, knocking him straight to the ground with a thud. "Now, Steve I believe was your name, can I make a suggestion…" she started as she walked towards the other assailant. "Back off bitch, you might have gotten lucky with him, but I'll wipe the floor with your ugly ass" he spat back straightening and tensing ready for the attack. Laughing as she watched him go on the defense, "You idiot, you attacked me remember, not the other way round" she said as she kept walking towards him. "Look, I'm warning you, back off" he sneered as he stepped a little bit closer getting ready to strike. "Uh huh, sure you’re gonna hurt me, that's why you're just so ready to pound me but can't even tie you're of damn shoelace" Lian threw back at him laughing when he actually looked down to check his shoes. "Whatta ya mean, I'm wearing boots" he said slightly confused, 'why hasn't she gone for me' he thought as she now stood only a meter away. "Man, you really are dumb" she said laughing at the look of bewilderment on the want-to-be thugs face, "and I bet you're trying to figure out why I didn't send you into the next millennium when you so stupidly looked away" 'Ok Steve, this one's a lil too psycho, get out of here' he thought staring straight into the eyes of the woman who had confronted him. 'Fuck, would you look at those eyes, she's… insane' "I'll tell you what little boy, I'll let you live if you get your friend out of my face and never, and I mean N. E. V. E. R. get in my or any of my friends faces again. We got a deal?" she asked leaning in close enough to be inches away from his face, but still at a distance where she could jump back if he decided otherwise. All he could manage to do was nod his willingness to co-operate, knowing that had he refused he would surely have ended up in a worse state than his companion. Steve slowly backed away and quickly walked over to pick Brad up off the ground, "come on mate, we gotta get outta here, she's fucking nuts". Watching as the two men stumble off into the car-park, Sabrina came round the back of the car to see if Lian was all right. "Lian… Lian, are you…" she asked reaching out her hand to touch the tall woman. Feeling the weight on her arm, Lian swung round ready to hit the person behind her, her fist racing towards the girls' face. 'Oh Christ, it's her' was all she thought before she'd sent her clenched hand smashing into the beautiful face. Wincing instantly on contact both women crying out, one in shock and pain, the other in anger and grief. "Oh God, Oh God, Sabrina are you, SHIT!" Lian bellowed as she reached out to check the young woman as she fell to the ground. Looking up into the looming figure Sabrina's head began swimming from the impact. "I don't think I…" was all she got to say as she passed out and collapsed onto the concrete. "Oh for the love of God, NO!" Lian yelled diving to the ground just catching Sabrina's head before it could hit the hard surface. 'Great, well you just fucked that one up sunshine. That's got to be an original way of losing a girl before you get her. She's really going to want to go out with you now' Picking up Sabrina's limp form and kicking the front door to indicate to Hank to open it Lian gently placed her into the seat and put the seatbelt on and shut the door. Walking round and hoping into the driver's seat she looked at Sabrina and the huge bruise that was forming on her chin. "What happened to her?" Hank asked not quite sure what had transpired, as he'd double over in pain having stretched the already exquisitely sore ribcage. "I punched her" she answered starting the engine and heading out of the car-park. "You what?" he stuttered completely confused. "She grabbed me and I punched her. It was an accident, I didn't do it on purpose, she just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time" she spat out already starting to beat herself up over the incident. "Shit Lian, is she all right?" the big man asked now looking around from the back seat trying to see her. "Yeah, she'll be fine, I think it's more shock than actually injury" Lian mumbled looking at the pale face sitting opposite her. "Ok, so long as she's gonna be all right" he mumbled leaning back in the seat, "look, just go back to your place, I'll drive home from there, you need to get her inside". "Thanks mate, I think you're right about that," she said heading onto the expressway and planting her foot on the gas. ***** "Can you just help me get her into bed, please" Lian muttered to Mary as she staggered through the livingroom carrying Sabrina in her arms. "But what happened?" Mary questioned as she nudged open Lians bedroom door. Not ten minutes ago Lian had turned up at the front door pounding on it, when she opened the door and saw her standing there with Sabrina's body in her arms, she didn't know what to do. "Look I punched her, she fell, passed out, Hank and I got her home, now I just want to get her into bed and see that she's alright" Lian shot out becoming more irritated by the minute. "YOU WHAT?" she cried standing stock still starring at Lian as she lowered the girl into her bed and pulled the covers up. "It was an accident, I got into a fight, she came up from behind, I punched her, she fainted, passed out, whatever. Now go and get me a glass of lukewarm water please" she replied avoiding looking at the older woman’s face, knowing the look of shock and disbelief that would be there. "Um, ok… shouldn't you take her to hospital or something, I mean she is unconscious" she asked heading towards the kitchen. "Maybe, she was alright when I hit her, I think it's more shock than the actual injury that got her…" Lian answered walking over to the bathroom and getting a hot water bottle out of the cupboard, "She'll be ok, it's not serious". "Ok kiddo, whatever you say" she said padding over to the bed and placing the glass on the bedside table. "She'll be fine" Lian replied walking back to the bed and sitting down next to Sabrina and tucking the hot water bottle inside the covers and gently shaking the girl, "Hey…. Wake up Bri… Come on…" "What'd you just call her?" Mary chuckled noticing that Lian had dropped her usual formality. "I don't know what you're talking about" she retorted whilst blushing and shaking the slumbering form, "Sabrina, wake up, you have to get up now". The body stirred a little bit, rolling over and snuggling into the blankets. "Come on kiddo, time to get up" Lian cooed hoping that everything was indeed going to be ok. Grumbling as she began to regain consciousness, Sabrina finally cracked one eye open and glanced around the room. "Oh thank the gods,” Lian cried looking into the beautiful blue eyes. Jumping back a little as she slowly came to, Sabrina looked firstly at Lian then at Mary, regaining some form of memory of what had happened, "Um, what… I mean how… what happened?" she asked. "I think I'll leave you two alone now,” Mary said walking to the door, looking back at Lian and giving both of them an understanding smile. "I'm so sorry Sabrina, I didn't mean to hit you… I just… and you… I'm so sorry" Lian mumbled reaching over to hug the girl. "Whoa, easy there, just tell me what happened" Sabrina replied trying desperately to remember what had happened. "I hit you" Lian mumbled. "Uh, that I remember, what a left hook" she gently laughed rubbing her jaw, "but what happened afterwards?" "Oh, um… I put you in the car, we drove back here, Hank dropped us off, I carried you up the stairs, and here you are" Lian answered looking at her hands in her lap, wishing it had been anyone else she'd hit and not Sabrina. Placing a hand over Lians, and lifting her chin with the other one she softly spoke, "You're really starting to make a habit of carrying me up those stairs you know". Taking a brief second to look into those two clear blue eyes, smiling back at her, she couldn't help but wonder 'I just hit you, you were unconscious, why are you speaking to me? Hell I wouldn't be'. Casting those thoughts aside she replied, "Yeah I am". "It’s ok Lian, it wasn't deliberate, I shouldn't have crept up behind you like that, especially after you'd just been fighting, I knew better than that" Sabrina responded trying to convey to her friend that it was truly alright, that she was ok. "Mmm, maybe... but I should have had better control… I lost it… you shouldn't have been hurt… it’s not good enough…" she retorted beginning the telltale berating she gave herself whenever she made a mistake, no matter how small it was. "It's ok, I'm fine" Sabrina said softly trying to get her friend to calm down. Refusing to look at Sabrina, Lian continued to mentally beat herself up for her indiscretion and stupidity. 'Stupid stupid stupid… Jesus Lian, just how dumb are you? You hit the poor woman, then sit here expecting her to talk to you, you really are an idiot' she chided herself not noticing that Sabrina had lent closer to her and that she had her hand on Lians jaw. "Lian, look at me" she softly called, closing in on the face before her, until they were scarcely a breath apart. Lifting her eyes Lian saw straight into Sabrina’s, her heart lurching as she saw all the emotions behind the words, 'we're too close… I'm too close' she thought trying to pull back, but Sabrina wouldn't have it. "Lian, I'm ok, you're ok, I presume Hank's ok, so there's nothing to worry about. What happened, happened, it was an accident, pure and simple" she said leaning in closer to the other woman, pausing only a breaths distance from Lians lips. 'I don't know what to do… I… I…' her mind stuttered, one half wanting to lean in and kiss her, the other screaming to run as fast as she could in the opposite direction, never looking back. 'Why hasn't she kissed me… Do I have to make it any clearer that I want her too…? Can I make it any clearer for her' Sabrina thought as she looked up into the gray eyes above her, rubbing her thumb across Lians jaw. 'Argh… Someone, please help me!' Lian began to back away, torn between the two desires, one beckoning almost irresistibly, the other seeming to welcome her like an old friend, "Um… Did you want anything… another glass of water maybe?" she quickly replied reaching for the glass on the table and offering it to Sabrina. "Ugh, yeah, that'd be fine, thanks" she answered, starting to question her own actions. "Ok, I'll be right back" Lian said standing up and walking into the kitchen. 'Maybe she doesn't like me, maybe she didn't want to kiss me but didn’t know how to tell me' she began to think. Softly crying to herself and touching the now very bruised jaw, wincing at the pain that went shooting through her body as a result. "So how is she?" Mary inquired as Lian stood at the fridge pouring another glass of water. "Um, she's… fine… yeah, that seems about right" she mumbled turning around and facing her roommate. "What's wrong Lian, is there something wrong with her?" she asked, then looking closer to the fallen face of her young friend, "or, is there something else wrong?” "I think it might be the latter… um… she wanted to kiss me, and I… god, I've totally fucked this up, I insult her, I hit her, when she forgives me I make an ass of myself and run as fast as I can in the other direction…" Lian blubbered standing at the edge of the sink and hanging her head. "Oh honey, it's ok… I'm sure you didn't do anything of the kind. Now what are you talking about, she wanted to kiss you? Is that what you said?" Mary replied standing next to her and putting an arm around her friend. "Yeah" "Yeah? That's all you're going to tell me?" "Um… we were sitting there, and I was talking, then she was there, and... and… and we almost kissed" "Almost? What happened?" "I froze…" "WHAT? You froze, I thought you wanted to kiss her?" "I do… it just… I… God Mary, it just seemed wrong" The duo stood there in silence, one trying to get up enough courage to walk back into her bedroom and face the invalid, the other trying to think of something to say that would ease her friends discomfort. "Oh that reminds me, your police friend called this afternoon, said to tell you that she has what you were after" said Mary thinking back to the last time Lian had kissed someone. Lifting her head and looking at Mary, "she did huh… great, I'd better get over there then" she answered grabbing the water and walking off towards the bedroom and pausing at the laptop, noticing that it hadn't been shut down properly. Raising the screen it leapt into life. Opening up to the last page of one of the stories she'd read, Lian quickly scanned the paragraphs as a deep burning sensation flew up her neck, "Um, Mary, have you… I mean, I don't mind if you did, but… did you have my laptop on lately?" she queried. "Nope, not me came the muffled reply from one of the bottom cupboards, "but I believe Sabrina did, why?" 'Oh boy… That's gonna be fun to explain, unless…' her mind said "Oh, no reason, just it'd been left on, no worries" she answered picking the item up in her other hand and walking back into the bedroom where Sabrina was lightly dozing in bed. Stirring to consciousness Sabrina looked up at the form towering over her, "uh hi" she said. "Hi yourself… um, were you using my laptop yesterday by any chance?" 'Uh oh, now you've done it kiddo' Sabrina's mind chastised her. "Uh, yes… Did I forget to shut it down?" the young woman replied. "Doesn't matter though, didn't do any harm" Lian said placing the glass down on the bedside table, "I have to go out for a while, here's the laptop, you might as well fool around on here till I get back and we can talk… about what happened". Putting the laptop on the bed beside her and watching Lian walk out the door, Sabrina couldn't help get a feeling that there was a deeper meaning to Lians statement. Opening the screen up she saw a scribbled note laying on the keys: - "If you thought this was good, check out my "5Stars" folder, when you need ice to cool your skin, the story's good, but if they leave you seeing stars… then you know it's good. Enjoy Sabrina" "Oh man… she knew I'd read the stories… she… oh man…" she sighed as she started looking for the folder in question. ***** Several hours later Lian stumbled back up the flights of stairs to her front door, having spent the last four hours trying to get the trap for the thief set up in the restaurant. Finally getting everything perfect and giving way to fatigue Lian headed home, to what she was sure would be a very interesting night. Noting that the apartment was in total darkness and creeping in the door, hanging her hat and coat up, Lian walked quietly through the lounge room and into her room. "Hey stranger" a soft voice called from the bed as the warm glow the lamp suddenly oozed over the small room. "Hi" she called back, swiftly changing into her pj’s. "Did everything go ok?" "Yeah, like clockwork, once I figured out all the bugs that is" she quietly chuckled walking back towards the door, "good night Sabrina". "Wait!" she cried, "I… I wanted to talk to you, if that's alright" "Sure… Just give me five minutes to get a hot chocolate and I'll be back" she muttered passing through the door. Returning only minutes later with a huge cup of steaming chocolate, "Now what's on your mind, and why aren't you sleeping yet?" she asked sitting down on the side of the bed. "Um, thanks for those stories… they were… well worth the five stars" she blushed finishing the sentence. 'Damn, she's so cute when she blushes' Lian thought to herself nodding while taking a sip of her drink, "I'm glad you liked them, didn't think you'd be interested in that sort of thing to be honest" "Oh yeah, I used to read fan fiction all the time in High School" she blurted out, 'oops, softly softly here Sabrina' her mind called out to her, "look, Lian I think there's something I should tell you". "Mmm, and what's that, that you're not really a beautiful woman laying in my bed, but really a man?" Lian laughed, surprised at her own forwardness. 'Whoa, what'd she just say?' Sabrina looked at Lian as she took another sip of the hot drink, "no, that you forgot to ask if I wanted a drink… you'll never be a bar attendant if you keep forgetting the guests" she jibed jokingly. "Eh, just as well I'm a Cook then" she chuckled handing Sabrina the mug, "sorry, share mine?" "Ok, I guess that will suffice… this time… but seriously, I do have to tell you something" she answered taking the cup and inhaling the sweet perfume. "Well I'm listening" "Right… Did Uncle Harry tell you why I came back to Vancouver with him?" "No" "Fine, right well here's my story, why I'm here" Sabrina began to tell her about the last two years, from the respected daughter of a Toronto restaurateur, to being shipped to the other side of the country to live with her Uncle. Sabrina told Lian how she'd finished High School with honors, how through most of her last year she'd spent her breaks in the library reading fan fiction off the net. How when it came to the summer holidays, she and her family had gone up to a lake for a couple of weeks. It had been a favorite place of her parents and siblings, and that she'd met someone there. "We became very close, very quickly. We'd stay out late, walking in the woods, sitting by the lake, mostly just talking. But a few nights before I was to leave Shannon kissed me, and it felt great, I'd never felt anything like that before, so soft, so sweet, it totally blew my mind" "The next night we tried to figure out some way that we could see each other again, but neither of us could come up with anything. We resigned ourselves to the fact and enjoyed the time we had together" "At least that's what I thought… When I left I gave Shannon my address and phone number, and vowed to keep in touch… We did… two weeks later I received a letter from Shannon demanding that if I wanted to keep our relationship quiet, that I'd leave $1000 at an assigned place. I didn’t. Then Shannon turned up unannounced at our front door, spoke to my Father, the next thing I know I'm being hauled down the stairs to 'discuss' my actions. Shannon had told my Father that we'd slept together, and that the media would be all over us if we didn't pay up". "I was only 17 at that stage, not exactly what you'd call legal… We never did anything other than kiss, but that was all it took for my Father to turn on me. He paid off Shannon and I was basically sentenced to house arrest… I couldn't go anywhere nor do anything for months. After about three months I was allowed some sort of social life, permitted to go our with some of my friends and have a good time". Lian sat listening to Sabrina's story, growing madder by the minute at this "Shannon" person, 'Geez, what a bastard, if I ever get a hold of that guy, I'll make him regret he ever figured out how to pee standing up' she thought and grinning with evil delight. "I turned 18 in December and my friends decided to throw me a party, which was really nice of them, but of course being who we are, we all took off onto the streets and stumbled into some bar… Well we all had a good time, but as irony would have it, my Father turned up and caught us all drinking…" Sabrina paused in thought. Lian took the pause in the story to resettle on the bed, so that she was now stretched out alongside Sabrina, "man that really bites, I'm sorry". "It's ok, I got grounded again for another three months, but by then I'd well and truly settled into my first year of college, and didn't want much of a social life, exams were looming in front of me and all I really wanted to do was study. The rest of the school year passed without too many hassles, and I made it into my second year. That years summer vacation we went to Florida… And what a trip that proved to be. I met Jodie there, and that was the start of trouble all over again" Sabrina went on to explain how she and Jodie had met in one of the boutique stores in the town they were staying in, and that they'd gone out one night and had too much to drink… "We woke up that morning on the beach… naked… needless to say I wasn't a virgin anymore either". Lian tried not to look stunned, as she imagined Sabrina laying on a beach, naked of all things, and having sex with someone else… 'Whoa, easy there girl, you didn't know her then, and stop looking so stupid, you haven't blinked in the last thirty seconds' her mind verbally slapped herself. "I can see that caught you off guard… anyway, Jodie and I dated for the rest of that holiday, and even now we still keep in touch, but as luck would have it, my Father once again had perfect timing and walked in on us one night… Man was that embarrassing" she chuckled at the memory, "we got away with some lame excuse like we'd been studying and were on the bed where it was comfortable. I thought he'd bought it, he hadn't. When we got back home he let me have it, and without too much of a warning, I was back to being grounded… again". "The school year started again and I settled back into it. I met a few friends, and became active in a few clubs… one of them being a little more anti-conformist than the others. By the time December came I was getting pretty fed up with my Father treating me like a child, and decided a little discussion was in order. We talked a fair bit over the choices I'd made in the past with people I'd dated, and he didn't like it at all, but said so long as it didn't affect him or the family that it would be ok. But as life would have it, it did affect him, one night my new friends having heard about what had happened to me stormed into the restaurant and tore half the bar apart before I could stop them. That was the final straw. On my 19th birthday my Father gave me some money and told me I was going to stay with Uncle Harry until I graduated, after that I was welcome to come back, so here I am, for the next three years" she finished up and looking over at a very drowsy Lian. "Uh huh, did you ever hear from Shannon or Jodie again? Shannon sounds like a real asshole, you're better off without a guy like that" she mumbled into the pillow she was now hugging as she drifted off to sleep. "Lian, Shannon and Jodie were women, I'm gay" Sabrina softly said tracing Lians jaw with one finger. "Oh, ok" she breathed as she finally succumbed to sleep. "Well that was one of the better responses I've had" Sabrina thought to herself, pulling the blanket up over Lians tall frame as the older woman slept. Deciding there was nothing more to be said or done for the moment, she too rolled over and went to into the land of Morpheus. ****** Peaceful fields, green pastures with long blades of grass, crisp cool air. A sky of pure blue, so bright it hurt your eyes to stare into its depths. Sounds of running water beyond the next hill. Strolling along in these tranquil surroundings was an amazing feeling, but not nearly as fulfilling as the feeling of completeness she felt when she looked at her side and saw the smaller woman. With long flowing hair, eyes so clear and sparkling, with a smile that would bewitch any who saw it. "Hey, how about a swim?" the older woman said smiling at her companion. "Sounds wonderful to me" the smaller woman said with a grin as she slapped her friend on the butt and took off running, "you're it". "Oh you're gonna pay for that one lil missy" she replied taking off after her, easily catching up and pulling her into a tight hug. Looking into her very soul and softly kissing her tender lips, " I love you…." "Mmm" a soft voice mumbled as she slowly woke up, one eye opening as the sunlight softly cracked through the blinds. Trying to remember where she was, Sabrina opened both eyes and took a quick glance around the room, immediately noticing that she was indeed sprawled all over Lian, and that Lian had both of her arms wrapped around the smaller woman holding her in place. 'Ok… what to do, get out of this, or…' she thought looking at the face buried half in her pillow, half on Sabrina's hair. Eyes closed, nose a little crinkled and a soft smile upon her lips, 'I wonder, if I could just…' she thought as she lightly leaned up and touched her lips to Lians for only the barest of seconds. "Oh my God" she breathed as she put head back down on Lians chest, a tingling sensation still running through her body. Lians lips curled up into a full grin as her eyes gently opened to see the black head retreating back to her chest. 'Oh boy, she just kissed me, mmm, nice too', she thought looking at the long strands of hair that fell over her. 'Umm... hey this isn't half bad actually, pity I have to stop it though ' her mind started after taking in a long look at the form laying on top of her, 'not too mention that dream… hang on, dream, no violence… now that's weird'. Laying there thinking about how to try to roll Sabrina off her, Lian couldn't help but smile. Deciding the best course of action was probably just to unwrap her arms and pretend to be asleep as she rolled over. ' Yeah that ought to work' she grinned as she put her plan into effect. 'Uh oh… she's waking up, I'd better move' Sabrina thought cautiously moving from her comfortable position, still smiling after stealing a kiss from the dozing Cook. "Time to get up" Lian mumbled as she re-opened her eyes, delighted to see that Sabrina had repositioned herself on the other side of the bed. Grunting as some form of answer Sabrina opened her eyes and turned to face Lian, happy to see that her friend was oblivious to had happened mere moments before, "ugh, do we have to?". "Well no, 'We' don't, 'I' do, I have to go in early and make sure everything is still set up for tonight" Lian replied lifting the covers and hopping out of bed. "Sorry about falling asleep in here too, I'll make sure I pass out in my own bed next time" she grinned waking to the bathroom. Laughing Sabrina couldn't help but chuckle, "well actually this is YOUR bed… and it's ok, it didn't bother me any" the younger girl answered. 'Didn't bother me at all… what a laugh, it was a dream come true… almost' she thought, smirking at what might have been. "Yeah, I guess that's true" she said passing through the door, "oh, and about you being gay, it doesn't bother me at all" she finished as she closed the door. Sabrina just sat there stunned, 'she heard me? And still stayed…' ***** "No, what I'm saying is, leave that stack of notes on top, that way when whoever it is takes them, they're going to get the dye pack" Lian said sitting down in the office and grinning at Harry. "Ok, you're the boss kiddo, are you sure this is going to work though?" he queried looking at the small bundle of notes in his hands. "Yeah, it will, so long as NO one touches it, or makes a big deal about it, that's why I want Liz on check-out and Sabrina as Maitre d', that way we should have all the bases covered" she answered feeling like the bird who'd swallowed the canary. "But how are we going to know who it is?" Harry asked putting the money back in the cash register draw and placing it on the bench near the door. "Ah, that's the nicest part of this, we bought some surveillance gear, there's a tiny little camera set up just above the register, that's hooked up to this" she replied pulling out a small screen TV from under the desk and handing it to Harry, "we'll be able to see exactly who it is, and catch them red-handed". "Oh wow, you have gone all out haven't you,” he said, looking at the high tech gear and then at Lian, "thank you for this, I really owe you one". "Don't mention it mate, I'll just be happy to catch the scum that's ripping you off" she finished as she stood, taking the camera and placing it back in its safe place. Walking back into the kitchen Lian ran into Joe who was setting up the last of the entrées and appetizers, looking around the kitchen Lian was a little surprised at how much work had gone into the nights function. 'I've worked them before, but it never ceases to amaze me how much detail and planning goes into these things. Let alone actually doing all the work for them' she thought looking at the ice sculpture, shaped into that of a goldfish standing upright on its tail. "Joe, what's the deal with tonight anyway, so far no ones told me what we're doing other than shipping in a lot of salmon, trout and prawns for some party?" she asked fingering some of the pink salmon mousse that would be used on some of the hors d'oeuvres. Sabrina choosing this moment to walk in through the back door and creeping up behind Lian to give her a hug. "It's a fish mongers something or other, anyone would think it was some sort of dyke gathering, this great fishy smell emanating through the restaurant" he laughed turning around as he spoke to see Sabrina wrapped around Lian, "oh, um, never mind". Both woman looking at each other and breaking out into hysterics at the look of shock on his face. "Well, that was… geez anyone would think he'd just caught us kissing or something" Sabrina said laughing as she backed away from the embrace. "Yeah, like that'd ever happen" Lian smirked as she dabbed her finger back into the mousse and putting a drop of it on Sabrinas nose and walking away, "ok mate, I have a lot of work to do today, I'll talk to you tonight before the function starts". "Sure thing" she called out as Lian vanished into the cool-room. Wiping the mousse from her nose, she began to smile, 'yeah, like that'd ever happen'. ****** Stacking glasses in the washer, Sabrina reached up to put the bottles of brandy, sherry and whiskey on the top shelves. Standing on the very tips of her toes as she strained to place the last bottles on their shelf. "Whoa, easy there babe, keep reaching like that and you're going to pull something in the lovely body of yours" Sasha purred as he came up behind her, reaching up to help put the last bottle away. "Um, thanks Sash, I, err, thanks" she replied, her skin instantly crawling as he leaned closer to her. "Looks like you've been in the wars lately there sweetie, what happened?" he gently queried as he turned her face towards him, noticing the dark bruise that had started to cover the lower half of her jaw. Shaking off his hand and answering, "it was an accident, Lian and I were out the other day, and, well it was an accident, she didn't mean to hit me" she said walking over to the trolley to pick up the next case of red wine bottles. "SHE WHAT? She hit you? Is that what you just said?" he bellowed storming over to her and grasping her upper arm, twisting her to face him. "Yes, that's what I said, but I also said it was an accident, I crept up behind her, it was my fault" she replied in a calm manner even though the grasp he had on her arm was starting to cause a lack of blood to the limb. "Well we'll just have to see about that now won't we" he spat out dropping her arm and storming off in the direction of the kitchen, "I told you to stay away from her, she's too goddamn dangerous" "Wait, Sasha…" she called out running after him. Kicking the kitchen door open and startling one of the kitchenhands, Sasha glared at any who dared to look upon him, choosing only to yell out, "where is she, I want Lian out here, NOW!" Grabbing hold of the nearest body and staring down at the quivering form and getting the answers he wanted, Sasha walked off in the direction of the back kitchen. Wrenching open the door and walking in, not even bothering to see who else was in the room, Sasha began ranting, "you total and utter bitch, how could you hit her? She's just a kid" "What are you talking about?" Lian shot back, trying to gather in as much information on the situation as she could. "You HIT Sabrina, what hell is your problem?" he shot back, picking up a sharpening steel and walking towards the Cook. "Ok, firstly, put that down, NOW, secondly, yes, I did hit her, but it was an A.C.C.I.D.E.N.T. I'd just finished taking care of something else, and was distracted, she crept up behind me and startled me, what happened was pure reaction to a possible threat. Which is also what's going to happen if you don't put that steel down right now" she explained backing away. "Sasha, please, she didn't mean it" Sabrina cried out running into the back room and coming face to face with Sasha holding a steel towards Lian. Turning and looking at Sabrina’s face, "how can you say that, she hit you" he said as he took in the looks that were flying between the two women. "Like she said, Sasha I didn't mean to hit her, it was an accident, you have no idea how sorry I am that it happened. There's nothing I can do about it now, what's done is done, if she can forgive me, that's all that's important" Lian said reaching out and quickly snatching the piece of steel while he was distracted. "I… I… I guess so, I mean I guess… I still can't believe you hit her" he said turning around and walking back through the kitchen, "it's up to Sabrina, but if you ever hurt her again, you'll be in so much crap, you'll need more than a shovel to dig your way out of it". "Whoa, that was… close" Sabrina breathed pacing over to Lian who was now leaning against the back wall. "Oh yeah, hey next time you decide to tell someone that I beat you up, would you mind giving me a head start on running for my life" she chuckled back, glad that the ordeal was over, but having the feeling that it had only just begun. "I'm so sorry Lian, I didn't mean for that to happen… forgive me?" she quietly asked reaching out and touching Lians arm. 'Ok, this is, what, the third time she's touched me today, and it's still not bothering me… guess I really am mellowing out' she thought as she smiled at her and answered, "you're asking me, to forgive you? I'm the one that hit you, so I think I'm the one that should be seeking forgiveness here". "Um, well how about we call it even then, because I'm sure you didn't do that deliberately" she replied. "Sounds good to me" Lian laughed, now that it was all over and the humor behind the actions becoming apparent, "you do know he likes you" "Oh yeah, I've known that for ages" "Ok, just becareful, please, I don't trust him at all" Lian said picking up her small paring knife and resuming her work, "don't forget what tonight is, expect anything" she warned as she started slicing into the next punnet of strawberries. "Yes dear" Sabrina laughed back, snatching one of the sliced berries and skipping off in the direction of the bar, "you've got half an hour before the first guests arrive too, have fun tonight warriorbabe" 'Warriorbabe?' Lian thought placing the finished garnishes on a fresh tray and putting them in the cool-room ready for the desserts, 'man that girl's got a weird-ass imagination at times'. ***** Wine, women and song. Fresh food, great company and plenty of good spirits. It was a complete success. The dinner had gone off without a hitch, no mistakes being made for once, all the experienced waiting staff being on the floor for such an important occasion. So far the party had managed to go through 2 boxes of oysters, roughly the equivalent to 10 dozen trays of mixed platters, Kilpatrick, Mornay and natural. With canapes of shrimp, avocado, and thinly smoked salmon, bruschetta's of rye or soda bread topped with salsa and fresh basil leaves. The kitchen had managed to pull off a main course selection of beef tournado's, lamb souvlaki and of course in the tradition of the evening, smoked trout with asparagus. Strawberry parfaits and an Australian classic, pavlova topped with whipped cream, passion fruit and a red berry coulis were the final piece de resistance. All the cooking staff feeling mighty proud of their efforts, even though there was a lot of dishes to be done, and mess to be cleared away before the night would be over, there were satisfied smiles on all those working in the hot room. "I think it went pretty well huh Joe?" Lian chortled, looking through one of the portholes in the kitchen door, into the restaurant. "Yeah, we did good kiddo, real good in fact… Have a drink with me to celebrate?" he smiled looking at the tall blonde peering through the glass, smiling as she watched the guests dancing. "Why not, we're almost done here, not long and we can all go home" she said walking away from the door and picking up a glass of soft drink. "No no no, not that stuff, this is what I meant" Joe snorted with glee as he produced a bottle of champagne, "it's a party Lian, we pulled off a damn good function, and everyone's still alive, there's reason to enjoy this moment!" Laughing Lian jumped up on one of the benches and sat down, taking the sparkling glass and choosing not to ask where or how Joe had procured it, 'sometimes its safer not to know' she thought taking a sip. "Mind if I ask you a question Lian?" Joe gently prodded, smiling to himself as he drank his 8th glass of booze for the night. "Nah, go ahead, can't promise I'll answer, but you're welcome to ask" she replied smiling at two of the kitchenhands as they began a towel snapping contest. "What's the deal with you and Sabrina?" he quickly shot out, looking into his glass not wanting to see her face as she answered, or vice versa. Spraying her drink over the immediate area Lian looked wide eyed at Joe and broke into laughter, "oh gods, no Joe, there's nothing going on between us, we're just friends, that's all" she answered, choosing also to ignore her mind as it screamed the complete opposite. "Oh, ok… So you… what I meant was… could I… um…" he spluttered trying to figure out some way of asking the young woman out. "What Joe, what's on your mind?" she asked, taking another sip of her drink and hopping back on the floor and walking over to the porthole again. "Um, would you maybe go out with me some time?" he murmured in a soft voice. "I'm sorry, what was that, I didn't hear you?" she said back, too busy watching Sabrina through the window as the younger woman chatted to guests, making sure everything was in order. "Would you go out with me?" he asked again, louder this time, now feeling very self -conscious. Spinning around and looking straight at him, her face redder than it had been for a very long time, mind racing trying to think of anyway to let him down gently. "Ugh, I mean, um, Joe, I… um…". "You're not interested are you?" he answered looking back down at his feet. Nodding at the admission Lian continued, "I think you're a great guy Joe, you're smart, talented, but I'm not the girl you're looking for" she said, hoping that he'd understand. "Yeah, it's ok, I figured I wasn't your type anyway" he muttered walking towards the back of the kitchen. "I'm sorry Joe" she gently called after him. 'Damn I hate that… not that it's happened a lot, but it still sucks' she thought turning and looking back at the dance floor where one of the company executives had Sabrina and appeared to be having a good time. ***** Sitting in silence, waiting for some sign of life in the restaurant had to be the worst part of the job. Waiting, for hours they'd been sitting there hoping that the thief had taken the bait of a successful function with plenty of money paid out as a prime target. The bulk of the profits had been transferred to the safe in Harrys office, the remainder left in the till, amongst the bundles of decoy cash was one marked with a pink dye, that once the seal was broken would spray the thief with a luminescent paint, staining their hands for weeks. "Oh come one, hurry up" Harry softly mumbled, having sat in the locked office for the last three hours waiting. "Yeah yeah yeah, geez Uncle Harry, anyone would think you wanted to go home" Sabrina chuckled as she teased her Uncle. "I do" Lian chuckled, "sitting in a dark cold office, on a Sunday night is not what I'd call a good night out" she finished picking up a stray pen and twirling it in her fingers. "Well thanks a lot, you're a wonderful date too!" Sabrina replied swatting the cook across the stomach. "That's not what I mea…" she started to say, only to be stalled as Harry signed to both her and Sabrina to be quiet. "Shhh, listen" he said. Footsteps quietly yet quickly pacing along the back passage could be heard. The sounds of keys in the door lock, twisting of the handle and the creaking of the hinges as the door swung open. "Looks like we have a visitor darling" Lian said softly in a joking manner. "Hmm, think they'll want a cup of tea?" Sabrina returned, trying to use the joke as a way to keep her butterflies under control. The footsteps came up the hallway, pausing outside the office door, the handle twisted, both women took a breath and hoped that the intruder would not pick the lock and attempt to try the safe. Trying the door several more times the thief gave in and continued on their way. "Phew" they all breathed as they heard the robber pass the door and walk through the kitchen to the dinning room and into the bar. "Ok, unlock the door, it's time to kick this thing into gear, Bri, would you pass me the screen please" Lian asked as she swiveled her chair around and picked up the remote for the camera and pushing the activation button. "Sure thing…" she answered passing over the small box, "hey, what did you just call me?" "Huh, um, I dunno, can we talk about it later?" she mumbled trying to buy some time. 'Oh that was smart, let your pet name for her slip out while you're trying to catch a robber, well done idiot' she chided herself. "Yeah, we'd better concentrate on this for now" Sabrina answered turning the screen on and focusing in on the cash register. They sat there, peering at the screen, the robbers' back to the camera. Watching as one by one the thief pulled out each packet of money, inspecting it quickly and depositing it into a small bag he'd produced from a side pocket of the dark jacket he was wearing. "Come on you bastard, gives us a look, just one little glimpse of who you are" Harry murmured as he grew impatient. Placing a hand on his arm, Lian grinned at her boss, "It's ok Harry, we've got him, don't worry about it" Nodding in recognition Harry returned his gaze to the monitor and tried to focus on who it could be. They didn't have to wait long; the thief was winding up his work when Harry leant back in his chair, forgetting that it was an old metal one that needed oiling badly. Before anyone had chance to stop him, Harry had leant back, the chair making a very high pitched squealing noise. The robber pausing mid-motion and turning back around to face the kitchen, the camera taking a full shot of his face. "It's Sasha!" Harry yelled trying to straighten his chair up but failing miserably, instead the seat tipping over and plummeting to the floor, throwing him onto Lian. "Shit" Sabrina bellowed as she heard the start of running footsteps, "he's going to get away, we've got to stop him" "Wait…" was all Lian managed to say before the eager young girl had wrenched open the office door and gone bolting out into the kitchen, "fuckit all" she muttered climbing out from under Harry and running after her. Running down the hall and skidding into the kitchen, Sabrina ran right into Sasha’s arms. Looking up into those cold eyes she shuddered as she realized just how much trouble she had gotten herself into. "Well hello there gorgeous, what a pleasant surprise" he laughed grabbing hold of her tightly. "Sasha, let Sabrina go, I'm warning you" Lian said calmly as she pounded into the kitchen, rounding the corner and stopping mere feet away from them. "Oh yeah, who says, you, and what army?" he taunted back, shifting his bounty, "I dunno, I kinda like her right here" "I don't need any army, there's just me, and that's more than enough" she answered back, taking a step towards the tall man. "I'd stay right there if I were you girlie, seeing as I have… well, everything I guess" Sasha laughed back mocking her. Sabrina squirmed in his grip, trying to break free from the vice like hold he had on her, "please Sash, let me go, please" she begged. "Oh lucky me, she's begging already, not yet precious, plenty of time for that my dear" Sasha chortled as he flexed his grip on her arm and pulled her back in closer to him. "Sasha, I warned you once, this is twice, now let her go" Lian said again taking another step towards him. "And now I'm warning you, you little upstart Canadian-wannabe, fuck off. I've got the girl, the money, and if you don't back off right now, I'm going to make sure your pretty little friend here sheds her crimson blood all over this floor," he spat back suddenly producing a flick knife from under his belt. Having grown tired of the negotiations and wanting to get out of there. Staring at him in disbelief Lian backed away, not wanting to aggravate the already unstable man. Looking at Sabrina, being held to him like he owned her, with his grip so tight upon her arm, Lian started to grow angry of her own accord. Trying to catch Sabrina’s eye Lian smiled at her and winked and shook her foot, hoping that Sasha wouldn't see the small flicker of hope. The pain in her arm was beyond any she'd ever sustained before; even when she was six and had fallen off her bike, breaking her arm was nothing compared to this. She was sure that Sasha was indeed cutting off the flow of blood to the limb and that if he were to squeeze a little harder would in fact break the bone in half. Looking away, trying to focus on anything but the pain, she looked right at Lian, and saw the smile that was meant just for her, then in a twinkling movement she saw her wink. A simple gesture that for some reason gave her hope. "Ok Sasha, you're the boss, whatever you say" Lian said taking another step backwards. "Sasha?! Sabrina?! Lian?!" Harry said surprised as he stumbled into the kitchen and seeing the stand off. "Now!" Lian cried out as she took off running and leapt into the air, hoping that Sabrina had understood the silent message. She had. Sending her booted foot as hard as she could into Sashas shin, Sabrina had kicked him as hard as she physically could, as soon as he'd loosened his grip in shock she quickly darted out of the way, barely seconds before Lian came flying through the air and took both herself and Sasha to the floor. Landing straight into his chest, Lian had enough momentum behind her to push both of them crashing to the floor where she quickly sent a series of blows to his chest and jaw. Sasha now becoming aware of what had happened and shaking some sense back into his head lashed out with the knife. Catching Lian on her arm. "Argh" she cried out as the pain shot through her arm. Dropping the knife and pushing the woman off and jumping to his feet, Sasha was off and running before the others had chance to stop him, "this isn't over yet Lian" he shouted as he darted out the back door and into the dark street. "LIAN!" Sabrina screamed as she saw the pool of blood seeping onto the floor where the taller woman lay. "It's ok, it's just a cut, but I think you'd better take me to the hospital just the same" Lian said, trying to smile at her friend to relieve some of the worry. 'Just a cut, you bullshit artist, that's more than a damn cut and you know it' her mind snapped back at her. "Right, Uncle Harry, can you get my keys, they're in my jacket" Sabrina said shakily quickly grabbing a wad of dishcloth from the sink and applying it to the gash on Lians arm. "Thanks, ok let's go" Lian replied putting her hand over Sabrina's as she got up off the floor, "it'll be ok Bri, you have my word" **** Chapter 5: EVERY CLOUD HAS "Look I'm fine, yes it hurts a bit, but I'm ok," Lian said for the tenth time as Sabrina fussed around the injured Cook. Sabrina had taken Lian straight over to the ER at the hospital, where they'd spent half an hour waiting to see a doctor, only for him to take one look at her arm and stitch it up and give her some anti-biotic. After that they'd driven home where Lian had sat down on the couch and flicked on the TV, only for the worried waitress to immediately start fussing around, offering to get her drinks, food, basically anything the wounded woman wanted. "Is there anything at all I can do for you, maybe a heat pad will ease it a bit" she offered looking at her tall friend. "No, I'm fine, it doesn't hurt, just sit down and stop buzzing around like that, you're making me dizzy" Lian laughed as Sabrina stopped in mid-shuffle of some magazines and looked at her. "Fine, if there's nothing at all I can do for you, then I'll go" she said with a slightly dejected appearance. Trying to think of anything that would allow Sabrina to stay a little while longer, "Um, well actually a cup of coffee would be nice" she replied smiling as Sabrina leapt up and raced off into the kitchen. Returning a few minutes later, Sabrina carried two steaming cups of coffee, placing them on the table and sitting down on the couch near Lian. Handing a cup over to the reclining woman, "Here you go, how many stitches did you end up getting anyway?" "Um, about 15 I think, it was so cool watching as he threaded the needle with the stringy stuff, then pushed and pulled it through my skin… stung a bit, but man was it cool" Lian chuckled remembering the experience. She'd sat up on the bench and watched the whole procedure. "Ewww, Lian that's gross! How could you do that… that's… that's… ewwww!" she answered screwing up her nose and pulling a face to show her disdain. 'She's so cute when she does stuff like that' Lian thought as she took a sip of the hot drink and grinned as she slowly formed a plan in her mind, "but it was interesting, did you get to see the cut at all? I know they wouldn't let you through to be with me" "No I didn't… I...ugh, well… I usually pass-out at any sign of gore, so it was probably better that I didn't see it" the younger woman said putting her cup down and watching the TV. "Uh huh, so if I did this…" Lian said laughing and spinning around, pulling her shirtsleeve down where the large gash was, "you'll probably be sick" "Argh, Lian that's cruel!" Sabrina shot back going pale at the sight of the still bloody and fresh cut. "Aww… poor lil baby" she giggled back pulling her arm right out of the shirt, so that her whole bare arm was exposed. Staring at the gash, Sabrina started to cry. "Whoa, whoa there kiddo, what's wrong?" Lian stopped fooling around, now sorry that she'd started such a sick game. Huddling up on the couch Sabrina started sobbing uncontrollably, "you… got… that… because… of… me…" she spluttered out between sobs pointing at the injury. "Oh babe, no, it's ok, really… It wasn't your fault, shhhh now, it's ok" Lian cooed as she moved over towards the blubbering woman and wrapping herself around her and gently stroking the long strands of dark hair. Sitting at the end of the couch, with Lian wrapped all around her, Sabrina had a feeling of complete safety, that no matter what the world threw at her, she could handle it. Lians strong comforting arms holding her close, gentle hands moving across and through her hair, their bodies rocking in a slow soothing rhythm. "I… you… you're injured, and yet you're comforting me, stupid me who got you hurt in the first place" she murmured feeling better for the support of her friend. Tilting Sabrina's chin up, Lian looked down into the red rimmed blues eyes, tears staining her cheeks, body convulsing from the deep crying, "babe, it's not your fault, don't you ever think that this is your fault, because it's not and never will be. Hey…" she paused while she waited for Sabrina to focus on her face as well as her voice, "Hey… would I be speaking to someone who'd hurt me? Would I be holding someone who'd hurt me? Would I be kissing someone who'd hurt me?" she finished, leaning down and pressing their lips softly together. Warm soft lips against hers, strong arms holding her close, hands and fingers gently massaging her back and neck. 'Oh god, I can't believe this is happening' her mind raced as sensations flew through her body. A tingling feeling ran her entire length, and heat oozed through her body as the kiss continued. But it was the bolt of lightning that shot to her center as Lians tongue gently pleaded for and was given entry that caught Sabrina completely by surprise. 'Oh… Oh… Oh man…" Lians mind yelled, trying to focus on what was happening, all she'd meant to do was give Sabrina a quick kiss, instead something else had happened, something primal had taken over, it now controlled her, and she was powerless against its force. Before she knew what was happening, her mouth had opened completely, their tongues touched and the sweet taste of Sabrina had filled her senses, driving her on and encouraging her every move. Moments passed as both women were caught up in what had started out so simply, and yet had turned into something much more. One simple kiss had indeed become the start of something so deep, heart touching and soul melting. One kiss had literally changed everything. Lian eventually breaking off the kiss and leaning back to look at Sabrina's face, eyes still closed, a soft smile slowly spread across her face. "You are so beautiful, do you know that" she said tracing Sabrina's jaw-line with her thumb. "You just… and… Oh Lian" Sabrina mumbled falling over onto Lian and burying her face in Lians shirt. "Shh, I know… It's ok…" she answered still stroking the young woman's head. 'Well, that was certainly… yes well, cold shower time I think' Lian chuckled to herself, 'it was just so… so… right' "Do you have any idea of what you just did?" Sabrina said softly looking up from where she was leaning against Lian. "Uh huh" she replied. "Uh huh, is all you can say? You just… Lian, you, YOU just kissed me!" she cried out wondering if Lian did have any idea of what she'd just started. "Yes I do know what I just did, I just kissed a young woman who's been slowly working her way into my heart since the day we first met. The woman who I hope will go out with me?" Lian replied also hoping that Sabrina picked up the hint. 'WHOA! That's… wow… Did she just ask me out?' Sabrina's mind was in a whirl, her body still tingling from the kiss, her senses reeling from everything that had happened so quickly, "Um, are you asking me out?" she queried, looking into two gray eyes that were watching her every move. "Yes" came the simple answer. "Oh" she replied, her mind jumping up and down in joy. "Um I can wait for answer if you're unsure…” Lian said hoping she hadn't scared her friend off. "What? Didn't I say yes? Oops, um, YES!" Sabrina yelled out, leaping up and giving Lian another quick kiss, "I'd love to go out with you" "Ok, glad we got that settled then" she replied, returning the gentle kiss and then deepening it again. Breaking off from the kiss for a second time Lian leant back on the sofa to catch her breath, "you keep this up and I'll never let you go to bed" she grinned, then blushing at the thought of how that could have been taken, " I mean… I… oh man" "It's ok, I knew what you meant, but I think you'd better take the bed tonight, I don't think sleeping on the sofa with that shoulder is a good idea" Sabrina replied sitting back against the couch, laying her hands in her lap. "Hmm, I'll think about it" Lian replied, "but firstly, if I go and get a flannel, can you just wipe some of the stains off my skin, this looks a lot worse because of them" she finished standing up and walking towards the bathroom. "Of course, anything you need, just let me know" she answered, still trying to come to terms with what had just taken place. 'She gets a dozen plus stitches in her shoulder because I mess up, then she kisses me… like that… then asks me out… man, this is one day I'll never forget' her mind giggled. Lian returned a few moments later with a lukewarm flannel in one hand, sat down on the couch and turned sideways, "here you go, just try to get as much of it off as you can. I don't think I need to tell you to be careful of the cut" she laughed. "Uh huh, um, why don't you roll over and lay across my lap, it'd be more comfortable for you, and easier for me" she said indicating what Lian was to do. Then wincing as Lian turned around and laid down across her, giving Sabrina an unobstructed view of the wound, "Oh Lian" she breathed. "It's ok, honest, it doesn't hurt too much, it's more of a surface cut, it's not deep, don't worry about it" she replied turning and looking into the two blue eyes that threatened to burst into tears again. Nodding and beginning to wipe away some of the stains on Lians skin, Sabrina relished the closeness between them, noting that Lian appeared to be completely comfortable in her presence, contrary to everyone's opinions of the Cook. "Lian, can I ask you something?" she queried. "Sure" came the reply from the drowsy body. "This isn't exactly the time I thought I'd be asking this, but I thought you didn't like people getting close to you" she asked wiping away a long run of dried blood. "I don't. I don't like people much, they get in my way, they get in my personal space and interfere with things that don't concern them" she answered. "Um… am I… I mean, am I annoying you?" Sabrina softly asked. "No" Lian replied. "Why?" "I don't know. True you bugged the hell out of me at the start, rambling on, but that's kind of cute, just one of the many things I lo… um… like about you" she finished noting to herself what she'd almost said. 'Did she almost say what I think she said' Sabrina thought to herself as she took in what Lian was saying, "I had the weirdest dream last night" she rambled on, giving credence to Lians statement. "Oh yeah? What was it about?" Lian asked turning her head from left to right, now able to look up at Sabrina's face. "I think I was walking through a field of grass or something… then we, me and someone, came to a river, ended up going swimming in it, but it was really strange, I don't normally have dreams that vivid" she muttered, not noticing the widening of Lians eyes. 'Oh shit… that was my dream… Should I tell her…? Yes, you owe her complete honesty' her mind commanded. "Um, Bri, there's something I need to tell you…" Lian murmured rolling off her friends lap and sitting up. "What?" "I had that dream too, last night… I… that's completely different, almost the opposite of all my dreams actually… I… do you remember what happened before you went swimming in the dream?" she asked, as the dream came flooding back to her. "Yes" "Ok… there was a kiss, correct?" "Uh huh" she replied, now becoming a little nervous. "Sort of like this…" Lian said leaning down and kissing Sabrina exactly as she remembered it in the dream. Lips touching, arms wrapping around each other. Two halves of a broken soul coming together, each claiming the other completely. Long minutes of thorough exploration passed, both women breaking off the kiss, both hearts racing and struggling to inhale enough air to satisfy starved lungs. "Whoa…" Sabrina exhaled as she looked back a Lian. "Uh huh" Lian breathed returning the look. Both women sat there, each looking at each other, both wondering about what had just happened. "Do you think they're connected?" Sabrina finally asked. Shifting her gaze to her folded hands Lian answered, "I'm not completely sure, but I think so, yes" "Hmm, well maybe we should… ugh, try again… just to be sure" Sabrina giggled leaning back in towards Lians lips. "Yeah, best to be sure" Lian replied lowering her head and taking possession of Sabrina's mouth. On one hand time seemed to race by, on the other these moments were timeless. Both women completely focused on the sensations coursing through them. Tender touches, soft sounds as first one, then the other would release small cries of pleasure and desire. Hands and mouths exploring each other, tentatively at first, then with greater need as blood began pumping harder. Neither noticing the sounds or movements at the front door as Mary and John opened the door and walked into the apartment. Coughing to alert her roommate that they had returned, Mary called out "Uh… Lian…" then with a little bit more force, "Lian! We're back" she finished closing the door and starting to laugh with John. Breaking off from the kiss Lian looked up from the couch where she was now laid across the surface with Sabrina positioned atop of her, "Oh… um… uh… hi guys" she managed to mumble out as the now furiously blushing younger woman buried her head on Lians chest. "Having fun?" John quipped, only to be swatted by Mary, "Don't listen to him… How was work?" she said trying not to make it painfully obvious that they'd walked in on a very personal moment. Sitting up and pulling Sabrina in closer, Lian answered, "Uh, good and bad I'm afraid… We know who the thief is, but he got away… It was Sasha". "Damn… but Harry can still press charges, right?" Mary questioned as she took hold of John's hand and gently squeezed it. "Oh yeah, we'll get him yet" Sabrina replied stroking Lians thigh. "So what's up with you two?" Lian asked noticing the two new comers were constantly looking at each other and smirking. "Well we have some news of our own… John asked me to marry him tonight,” Mary said smiling as she hugged John. "WHAT? That's fantastic!" Lian burst out, leaping from the couch and running over to congratulate the happy couple, "when's the big day?" "In a few weeks, we don't want to wait, we figure after dating for three years, that's kind of redundant" John answered, laughing as Lian picked up Mary and swung her around, then hugged John, and then the both of them. Forgetting about her arm entirely, Lian began bouncing around the livingroom, running back over to Sabrina and picking her up off the couch and kissing her again, then bounding back over to Mary and swinging her around before hugging John again. It wasn't until John wrapped his arm around her and hit the wound that she remembered the cut. Howling in pain before she could clamp down on it, Lian stumbled backwards and bumping into the wall and collapsing onto the floor. "What happened?" Mary and John both babbled as they leapt to help their friend. "Sasha cut her" Sabrina mumbled running over to Lian and wrapping her arms around the injured woman, beginning to comfort her and retelling the story to the other two. "So when he grabbed me, Lian rushed him, they both went to the floor, Sasha lashed out at her, then ran out the back door" she finished. "Wow… that's one hell of a night you had… how bad is the gash?" Mary asked, helping Sabrina get Lian back to the couch. "It's not too bad" Lian answered sitting back down, "mostly just a flesh wound, no biggie" "Yeah, that's what she said to the Doctor too, until he looked at it. I swear I didn't know who was going to pass out sooner, me or the medics" Sabrina laughed as she curled up next to Lian and whispered "is this ok?" Looking into her friends eyes, Lian smiled and answered "no…" pausing for effect she continued "I want you closer, scoot up a bit", doing so Lian put her arm around Sabrina and held her close. "It wasn't that bad… honest, it just looks bad" she muttered, wondering why they were making such a fuss over the cut. "Uh huh, and how many stitches did you end up getting?" Mary prodded, grinning as she looked at her young friend who was so obviously happy, even though she was injured. "Only 15, see no big deal" she answered stroking Sabrina's hair, "But I think I'd best be taking this young lady home… unless…"she trailed off looking sheepishly at Sabrina. Looking up into the two gray orbs, Sabrina smiled softly and nodded her approval. Pulling back from Lian she stood up and offered her hand to the older woman, "I think it's time I tucked you into bed" "Uh huh" Lian smirked as she was hauled to her feet and tugged towards her room, "night John, night Mary" she muttered as the bedroom door clicked shut. Staring at each other, both John and Mary burst out laughing, "You think they'll get any sleep?" John smirked as he began a similar procedure with Mary. "Oh I'd say more than we will love" she finished pushing him through the bedroom door and shutting it behind her. **** Laying there, in the still hours of the morning, the sun faintly coming in through the window and illuminating the intertwined bodies. Dappled light falling across blonde and brown hair, fingers wrapped in bed sheets. Lians arms wrapped tightly around Sabrina, hugging her closely. Slowly her mind roused itself to a conscious level. Opening one eye and looking down on the body that she was holding, Lian smiled, last night had been wonderful, the injury she'd sustained was more than worth it. Just being able to hold Sabrina in her arms, to kiss her had been a dream come true. Her mind could only imagine what the future could possibly be like. Murmuring as she started to stir, Sabrina cracked one eye open and looked up into Lians gaze. "Morning" Lian mumbled as she leant down and softly kissed Sabrina. "Morning to you too" she replied returning the kiss, "did you sleep ok?" "Uh huh, like a babe, I'm sure it has something to do with my new sleeping arrangements" she smirked as she snaked a hand around Sabrina's waist and up under her shirt to gently tickle her. "Hey, no starting things you can't finish young lady" Sabrina giggled as she tried to squirm out of her friends reach. "That's ok, I'm neither young nor a lady" she retorted tickling her companion with more enthusiasm. Rolling off Lian, Sabrina began a gentle attack of her own, "and just how 'old' are you my charming knight?" Bursting out laughing, Lian replied "I'm 21, not terribly old, but if you keep making cracks like that, I'm going to die from laughter and won't have to worry about old age" Smirking Sabrina continued her attentions, switching from tickling her friend to softly stroking. Gentle touches gave way to more intense ones, light kisses becoming deeper and longer, until both women broke off panting, looking at each other with huge grins on their faces. "Uh, well, that's one way to wake up" Sabrina chuckled as she gently patted Lians stomach. "Yeah, one way I'm certainly enjoying…" Lian grinned at the attention she was receiving, "but unfortunately, both you and I are supposed to be at work… in approximately one hour" she finished as she gently stroked Sabrina's hair and placed another kiss on her sweet lips. "Mhmm… and if you keep this up, we're not going to make it" she mumbled as she returned the kiss deepening it. 'And this is bad why?' Lian's mind sang out as she broke away from Sabrina. "As nice as this is, we really need to get going here, or neither of us are going to have jobs" "Yeah, I know… You taking the shower first or am I?" she questioned pulling away and climbing out of the warm bed. "Hmm, decisions decisions…" Lian laughed as she clambered out after her, "how about you go first, I'll go get some breakfast organized" "Ok, sounds good to me" Sabrina finished walking off into the bathroom and shutting the door. "Or the third choice being we share a shower" Lian mumbled to herself, then breaking into a fit of laugher as she strode through the bedroom door into the livingroom. "Morning Lian… Sleep well?" John chuckled as the tall blonde started blushing. "Oh John, leave her alone… Morning Lian, Sabrina coming?" Mary asked pouring some more coffee into John's cup. "Yeah she will be, she's taking a shower, then she'll be out" Lian replied walking into the kitchen and getting some cereal and bread ready for their breakfasts. "Ok, she's taking a shower and you're out here… Why?" John chuckled as Lian started going crimson from the neck up. 'Oh man… how am I gonna get out of this… ' She thought as she sat down at the table peeling an apple, "Well I offered to get breakfast for her, seeing as we're both due into work soon, so it would save time this way" she mumbled inhaling the apple, "and how's the newly engaged couple this morning?" "Fair enough" John answered as Mary sat down in his lap, "Oh I'd say we're doing pretty well thanks" "Uh huh, perfectly happy" Mary chimed in before giving him a quick kiss. "Oh that's it, I'm going to throw up! Excuse me if you will, I think I hear the shower calling" Lian snorted as she left the table heading back to her room and a nice hot shower, 'and one wet, cute and irresistible Sabrina' her mind added. "Was it something I said?" John laughed as he picked Mary up and carried her back to their room. "Right now, I don't really care" Mary answered kicking the door closed as she started nipping at Johns throat. ***** Sitting in the office, Lian turned around and surveyed the remnants of the previous night's efforts. The video camera sat on the desk, along with some of the money Sasha had dropped as he'd fled the scene. She turned around as she heard the door open, surprised to see Sabrina walk in, followed by Harry and two police officers. "Uh, what's going on?" she asked. "Lian, we've got some bad news. Sasha… he's…" Harry broke off, unsure how to tell his young friend the bad news. "He's what?" "You're Lian McGowan, correct?" the first officer questioned. "Yes" she replied. "And you were injured in this building last night?" he continued. "Yes" "Would you be willing to sign a formal complaint against Sasha Cochrane?" the second officer questioned as she looked at Lian and grinned. "Lisa! Uh, sure, why? What's going on?" she asked, happy to see the familiar face in the strange uniform. "Oh Ray, enough with the formality, Lian, Sasha has a record…" Lisa started to say, "He's… he's a real piece of work" "What are you trying to tell me" Lian questioned, becoming increasingly uncomfortable. "He's got five previous convictions for GBH, and another ten that weren't proved" Lisa answered as she leant against Harry's desk, "you could have been seriously hurt last night". Lian sat there, trying to come to terms with what the officers were telling her, and her own thoughts as she tried to rationalize out her thoughts, if she'd known about this last night, would it have changed her actions, would she still have reacted the same way. 'Yeah I would have. Sabrina was in danger, I had to do something' she thought looking back up at Lisa and Ray. "Ok, so what do we do now?" she asked, turning to see Sabrina sit down next to her and put a hand out on her knee. "Not much we can do. We have to wait until he's either found or is seen and reported" Ray said. "Great, so basically we just sit here, while he escapes, wonderful" Sabrina shot out, beginning to get angry at the whole situation. "It's ok Bri, we'll get him" Lian whispered as she stroked Sabrina's hand, "Well there must be something we can do?" she asked Lisa. "Nope, not a thing. You can press charges against him for that" Lisa answered pointing at Lians shoulder, "but otherwise there isn't anything anyone can do" "Ok, well that's a start" Lian replied, "shall we get started then?" They spent the rest of the morning filling out papers and signing documents. The amount of red-tape that was covered shocked Harry, Lian and Sabrina. "It's no wonder there's so many crimes going on, you guys are too busy trying to pull yourselves out from under all this" Sabrina said indicating the masses of paper scattered around the office. "Oh don't we know it" Lisa chuckled as she finished stacking the papers and putting them into a crisp manila folder. "So we'll see you guys later, if we hear anything, we'll let you know" she finished as Harry escorted her and Ray walked out the office and through the back door. "Well that was a fun morning" Lian smirked as Sabrina jumped up and into Lians lap. "Uh huh, but can we just not talk for a few minutes… Harry will be back soon and…" she trailed off as Lian captured her lips and started sensual assault on them. Breaking away for a split second to mumbled something before Sabrina could silence her again, Lian muttered "I really don't think this is the time or the…" she was cut off as the younger woman took control again. "Shh, no talking" Sabrina breathed as she deepened the kiss, drawing Lians tongue into her mouth and gently sucking on it. 'Oh god, this is…' She was the last coherent thought she could muster. Her mind was reeling, one part begging that these sweet sensations that were flooding her mind, body and soul would continue. The other scared to death that Harry would open the door any second and find them. Pulling back and stifling a moan at the loss of contact, Lian looked down into Sabrina's face, taking in the green eyes that had deepened into a dark jade, a lecherous smile spread over those sweet lips. "You… I… look we have to stop… I'm…We need to talk" she finished lifting Sabrina off her lap and putting her back on the seat. "Did I do something wrong?" Sabrina asked, now confused and scared. "No, oh gods no, it's me… Look I'll see if I can get us the afternoon off, my shoulder's hurting and I'd like to go home anyway" Lian answered as she walked out the door in search of Harry. ***** Forty minutes later the two women were back at Lians apartment, seated opposite each other on the couch, hot cups of coffee in their hands. "Look, about before… Please believe me, it wasn't you, what you were doing was incredible. I've never felt anything like that before. But I… I can't… I mean I haven't… I'm…" Lian mumbled breaking off, putting the coffee down on the table and walking over to the window. "It's ok. Look we'll just play it by ear. I'm sorry for coming on so strong, I… I just couldn't help it. It's like I've been waiting thousands of years to kiss you again,” Sabrina said hoping that would ease her friends' anxieties. "Yeah, but… Bri, you need to know this. I could kiss you from here to eternity, and that doesn't bother me. Every time you touch me, my skin burns, and when you're near I can't keep my hands off you" she confessed with her head hung down as she looked at her feet. "Ok" she answered. "But… but after that I…" stopping and turning around to look her in the eyes Lian went on, "Sabrina, I'm a virgin, I've never been with anyone" 'Whoa… Okaaaaaay… Well I didn't see that one coming' she thought to herself. It had never occurred to her that she would be the more experienced of the two. Sabrina sat on the couch, trying to think of anything that she could say to reassure Lian, or to at least make her feel better. "Li, it's ok, we don't have to do…" she started to say. "NO! Wait, you don't understand" Lian jumped in, afraid that Sabrina was getting the wrong message. "It's not you, I mean it is you, but… How to explain this… I've been waiting for the right person. The one special person" she said walking back over to the couch, sitting down next to her. "That's ok, like I said, we don't have to do anything you don't want to…" she tried to say again, but was cut off as Lian sealed their lips together and kissed her. Breaking off and looking intently at the young woman before her, eyes shinning brightly even through all the stress from the last forty-eight hours. A smile that could brighten the darkest of days, "no, Sabrina, listen to what I'm saying… I was waiting for… you" she said lowering her mouth back to the other woman's, softly kissing her, then deepening it as she tried to show her just how much cared about her. 'Oh man, she's full of surprises, I'll give her that… WOW!' She thought as she felt Lians hands slip under her shirt and start stroking her stomach. Pulling away she looked into two gray orbs that were intently focused on her, "I… uh… wow, thank you… But look, we don't have to do anything that you're not comfortable with or don't want to do" she said as she ran her fingers through Lians hair. "Uh huh" Lian mumbled as she started nibbling her way along Sabrina's neck, "What'd you say before… something along the lines of… no talking" she chuckled as she felt the younger woman gasp as she started sucking her pulse point. "It's ok babe, I just… you had a right to know, that's all" she finished as she raised her head to kiss Sabrina on her lips. "Ok" she replied as Lian softly kissed her, "now, what are we going to do about Sasha. We can't let him get away like this" Nodding her head in agreement before resting it on Lians chest, she replied, "but there’s nothing we can do. You heard Lisa, it’s out of our hands" "Nothing is ever ‘out of our hands’ there is always something a person can do" Lian answered before placing a kiss on her head. The pair sat in comfortable silence. Both thinking about the various problems that they had to over come. The kitchen clock ticking away, hypnotically sending both women into slumber without too much trouble. ***** "What’s going on Harry, why were the cops here, and where’s Sash?" Joe asked as both he and Harry walked through the hallway towards the kitchen. "I’ll explain in a few minutes, please go and round up everyone, I need to speak to you all in the kitchen, now" he replied, as he turned off into his office leaving Joe to gather the other staff as requested. Minutes later everyone was gathered in the quiet kitchen, all looking at each other in the hope that someone knew what was going on. Harry walked from his office, into the crowd of people. Some who had worked there for many years, others only new that season, but all of them were friends, people he thought he could trust. Not liking what he was about to do, but seeing no other option, Harry cleared his throat and looked onto the many faces. "Everyone, I have some disturbing news. As some of you may have heard, we had a small incident here last night. For some time now, there has been money slowly disappearing from the daily takings. At first I thought it may have merely poor book keeping, unfortunately it wasn’t" he started as he walked over to one of the benches and sat down on it, not something he would normally do, but these were not normal times. "Who was it? What happened? Where’s Lian and Sabrina? And Sasha?" a dozen voices called out, wanting answers to the many questions running through the now buzzing room. "All in good time, let me finish" Harry shouted over the bellowing voices, "We weren’t sure who to suspect, but after much planning we attempted to catch the thief last night. Unfortunately for us he escaped" Around of cries went up, "He, so it was a guy" one of the waitresses was heard to say amongst the noise. "Yes it was a man, before you all get too carried away, please be quiet and hear what I have to tell you, it may indeed save us all a great deal of time, if not our lives" he said waiting for the noise level to drop down before continuing. "It was Sasha, he has been stealing considerable sums of money over the last few months, but please, no one get any hair-brained ideas of trying to catch him. We did that last night, and found out today that he has a very serious criminal background, had we known this at the time, we wouldn’t have acted so hastily" Harry went on, scanning the room, noticing the shocked look on many of the faces. "We had a surveillance camera set up over the register last night, we have filmed evidence of him taking the money. But when we attempted to stop him he attacked my niece and Lian, Lian was injured as she battled to protect Sabrina. He escaped and is being sort after by the police, if any of you know where he may be, or know how to find him, please tell either myself, or the authorities" He finished, sliding off the steel surface. "But surely there’s something we can…" Liz said over the top of the voices as she made her way towards the elderly man, "and how are the girls, are they all right?" "No, listen everybody, if you see him, DO NOT try to do anything, just make you way to a phone and call the police, please don’t try to stop him yourselves" he answered, making sure the group of people heard him over the racket. "Yes, they’re both ok, a little bit rattled, but ok" he said to Liz as she put her arm around his shoulders, "they're at Lians getting some rest and trying to recover from the ordeal" "Good, so long as their all right" she said, noticing that Joe was slowly walking out the back door, ‘wonder where’s he off to?’ she thought. Harry also noted the head chef disappearing out the backdoor. ***** ‘Damn, that was too close’ Sasha thought to himself as he ran down the dark street, thinking about the night before and how close a call it had been. Jumping over another fence he continued running as fast as he could away from the restaurant. ‘Too close Sash, too damn close’ Feet pounding the cement as he ran, space and time passing by, carrying him further and further from the crime scene, ducking down through shadowy passages. Dark, stinking alleys, rotting garbage lay in the gutters, the smell was nauseating, add to it the odor of urine and alcohol, and it was a wonder he hadn’t passed out. ‘I gotta get out of here, down to docks where I can hide, yeah, that’s the ticket’ his mind raced as he tried to think about how he was going to get out of this mess. Running down the streets he finally reached the Maritime Museum. Pausing to catch his breath he sat down on the pavement and looked around. Not noticing anything out of the ordinary in the middle of the night, he stood up and pushed on, knowing he’d be happier once he’d reached the waterfront. Finally getting to the bank on the south side of the waterfront, he sat down to think about his next actions. Stay down here and hide, try to find some of his old contacts. He did after all still have the money he’d stolen, a little over $3000, not a huge amount, but it’d taken him the best part of 4 months to get it, now he had to decide how he was going to ‘invest’ his takings. "Time to think Sasha me boy, time to think" he muttered to himself as he looked around for somewhere he could sleep for the night. The cold ground in mid winter just wasn’t on the list of acceptable beds. ***** He woke a few hours later, quickly looking around he remembered where he was. He’d been wandering pretty aimlessly the night before, and before he knew what had happened, he’d ended up back at Ryan’s, the bar in which he’d seen Lian quickly dispense of two unwanted admirers. Yet again they’d been there, and after a few beers, he’d spilled his story, the three of them then deciding that the blonde was in need of a serious lesson. It was perfect, between the three men, they could all take out their revenge on her. Sasha then went back to the thugs’ house and passed out on the couch. Looking around the room, Sasha took in the surroundings, or where they should be he thought. The room was very sparse, there was a couch, on which he’d spent the night, a coffee table made out of a couple of old milk crates and a piece of wood. A threadbare rug on the floor that looked like it had more holes in it than a tea strainer and an old black and white television in the corner. Rolling out off the couch and standing, he could see a doorway leading he presumed to the kitchen. Walking round to the opening he peered through. It opened into a hallway, straight ahead was the kitchen, to the right appeared to lead off to two other rooms and to the left was the bathroom. ‘Perfect’ he thought, as it suddenly hit him how many drinks he must have had the night before. "So what are we going to do?" Steve asked as he sat down at the table. "I say we wait till ‘what’s his name’ surfaces, and leave it to him, he knows her, his call" Brad replied as he sat down opposite his friend, "but one thing’s for sure dude, she’s gonna wish she was never born!" Sasha could only grin to himself as he walked through the doorway and looked at his two new allies. "Morning gentlemen, are we all up to a bit of revenge?" he chuckled pouring a cup of coffee and sitting at the table as well. "You betcha pal, but it’s up to you, your call, we just want to see her in pain" Brad answered as he rubbed his still sore nose. "Yeah, like he said,” Steve said nodding in agreement, "she’s gotta pay for what she done to us" "Ok, well leave me to think this out, then we’ll get even with that bitch" Sasha answered. ‘This is too good’ he thought, ‘another two guys who hate her as much as I do, excellent’ ***** Joe walked out the backdoor, and stood just outside in the delivery area, thinking about what Harry had just told everyone. ‘He didn’t know it wasn’t me… I’ve been working here for this many years, and he didn’t know… I can’t believe this’ he mused as he kicked an empty barrel against the wall. "Of all the lousy things to happen… this is totally unfair…" he said sitting down on another barrel and lighting up a cigarette. "What’s on your mind Joe?" Harry inquired as he came to the door. "Nothing" he replied curtly. "Right, you’re just sitting out here, kicking the crap out of barrels and muttering to yourself. Sure I believe you" Harry said as he sat down next to his head chef. "You… after all these years, you thought I could have done that to you… how? Why? Surely you know me better than that" he spat as he looked the old man square in the eyes. "I didn’t think it was you, but I couldn’t be sure" he answered looking away from the mans steely gaze. "But you didn’t think it was Lian, that’s obvious" he shot back. "I… I… that’s different" Harry said feeling wounded by Joe’s attack. "Different? How the hell is it different? I’ve worked for you since I finished my apprenticeship… that was six years ago Harry… why is it different… cause she’s screwing your darling little niece?" Joe yelled at the old man, only to feel Harry’s fist connecting with his jaw. "YOU… WATCH… YOUR… MOUTH... YOUNG… MAN!" Harry yelled back as he stared down at Joe’s prone form on the ground. "That’s my little girl you’re talking about, and I won’t stand for it!" "Sorry… I didn’t mean it Harry… It just doesn’t seem right. You’ve known me for six years, and yet you trusted her more than you did me" he said softly picking himself up off the ground and sitting back on the barrel. "Apology accepted. I know it seems different, but it’s not. I didn’t think you had done it, but I knew Lian couldn’t have, she never works the really late shifts. She always leaves straight after, she’s never had the opportunity to access the register or even the safe" Harry answered as he rubbed his knuckles, slightly amazed at how hard he’d hit the young man. "Yeah, I guess, it just… It hurt Harry, it hurt to think that you suspected me, even for an instant" Joe replied, "nice hook by the way, that hurts!" Chuckling a little bit and rubbing his knuckles Harry said, "yeah well, teach me to hit such a hard object. Sorry about that… and I’m sorry for making you think I didn’t trust you, I do, so please, come back inside and we’ll get some ice for that… can’t let the others think you’ve had your butt kicked by an old man" Laughing at the thought both men stood and walked back into the restaurant. ***** Yawning as she woke up, Lian opened her eyes and looked around to see where she was. Momentarily feeling lost, she realized that she was indeed in her apartment, on the sofa with Sabrina still laid across her softly sleeping. ‘Poor kid, she’s been through one hell of a week’ she thought, ‘hang on… she’s only a few years younger than I am… sheesh’ her mind chuckled as she thought about the young woman lying on her. ‘What am I going to do… Sasha’s out there, somewhere, with Harry’s money, and there’s nothing I can do to catch him. Not to mention my visa runs out in three weeks, and I have to leave, which is just wonderful now I’ve not only met Sabrina, but don’t want to leave her. Geez, it never rains when it pours’ "Hey you… what’cha thinking about babe?" Sabrina called as she waved one hand in front of her friend’s face, "yoooohoooo, Lian" Still staring off into space, Lian never saw or felt Sabrina creep up her chest. Looking down into the pools of pale green, Sabrina leaned down and kissed Lian. Gently parting the other woman's lips with her tongue and starting a teasing exploration. ‘Whoa… Earth calling all space troopers’ Lians mind chuckled as she started to comprehend what was going on. ‘Heh, I could get used to this… Uh huh, I sure could’ Lian thought as she leaned up into Sabrina, sending her hands around the girls’ back and up under her shirt where she started to massage her shoulders. "Hi there, enjoy you’re little nap?" Lian smirked as she broke away from the kiss. "Ugh, yeah, but I’m enjoying this more" Sabrina replied seizing mouth again with her own. ‘Oh yeah, this is way more enjoyable than sleep’ Lian thought as she felt her tongue being sucked back into Sabrina’s mouth, where the younger woman was nibbling on the end. 'Come on Lian, time to work, not to play' her mind chided her as she recalled her previous thoughts. Breaking off from the kiss, she looked into Sabrina's eyes, "Sabrina, there's something else we need to talk about" she said stroking the long black silken locks. "What about?" she answered enjoying the soothing feeling. "About the fact that my visa runs out soon" Lian stated not relenting in her ministrations. "Your what? When? Why didn't you tell me?" Sabrina shot out as she quickly pulled away from Lian. "I...ugh... it runs out in three weeks, I can't renew it, it's non-renewable, I have to be out of the country the day it expires" Lian answered as she pulled the young woman back towards herself, "besides which, up until a few days ago, telling you didn't really matter" "I guess... What are we going to do?" she asked laying her head back down on Lians chest. "We? I... Well there's not much 'we' can do... I have to leave, I'll try to apply to come back, but I don't know how long that will take, it could be weeks, or it could be months" Lian replied as she snuggled back down into the warm couch. "Ok, well I'm coming with you" Sabrina stated as she curled back up into a tight ball on top of Lian. "But you... Bri, you've got classes, you can't come" Lian objected, half wishing it wasn't the case. "Don't you want me to come?" she said with a dejected tone, setting Lian up for the fall. "No, of course I do, but that's not the point! You have class, you can't just up and leave because of me" Lian objected, feeling like she was losing a battle she didn't realize she was fighting. "But you'd like me to come, if I could, right?" Sabrina pushed. "Yes, but that's not the..." Lian started to say before being cut off. "So it's only because of my classes, otherwise I could come, right?" Sabrina said lining up the final nail to Lians coffin. "Yes, but that's impossible, it's not going to happen" Lian said, feeling sad at the thought of leaving the young woman. "Nothing's impossible Lian, just improbable, never impossible" she countered as she placed a quick kiss on the cooks lips, "so you just leave that to me, ok" Holding her hands up in the air, Lian nodded before putting them down on Sabrina's shoulders and rubbing slow circles down her back. "Ok, you're the boss... How about we go grab some dinner? Hmm, eat out for once, maybe take a walk? How's that sound?" "Sounds great, I'm starved" Sabrina replied jumping off Lian and hauling her friend to her feet. "You're always hungry,” Lian retorted before she thought about what she'd said. 'Hang on, where'd that come from?' she thought. 'Huh! I am not... Well not always anyway' Sabrina chuckled as she slapped Lian across the stomach, "har har! Come on O'Chef of mine, let's go" ***** "Come on Brad, we’re gonna be late, hurry up" Steve called as he walked out the front door. "Yeah yeah yeah, you’re nothing but an old woman!" Brad chuckled as he bolted out after his buddy. "I am not!" Steve said back, feeling a bit hurt, "I just don’t wanna miss any of them girlies down at the bar" "Not like it’d make any dif pal, they never look at you anyways" Brad shot back as they walked down the street headed towards Ryan's Bar, their favorite place to hang out and try to pick women up. "Yeah yeah yeah, we'll see who gets lucky tonight mate, just you wait and see" he replied with an evil grin, "got a feeling I'm gonna get lucky tonight" Laughing, Brad slapped Steve on the back and kept walking, it was going to be an interesting night. ***** Stepping out onto the cold night's air, Lian shivered as the cool air hit her in the face. Once again thanking Mary silently for thick wool lined jacket; so far the Christmas present had turned out to be very useful. Shuffling behind her, Sabrina walked up to Lians back, pausing just inches from the older woman, she sniffed the air, her nose tingling at the cold air, picking up the scent of Lians perfume, deciding that she liked it, Sabrina stepped in closer and hugged her tall friend. "Hey shorty" Lian chuckled as she felt Sabrina wrap her arms around her waist. "I am not short... I'm only a few inches shorter than you" Sabrina said as she pulled Lian in tighter. "Yeah, and I can't say that I'd have it any other way" Lian replied, turning and placing a kiss on Sabrina's forehead, "now, is there anything you'd like to do?" "Mmm, yeah.... But I'd settle for a walk on the beach" she answered tugging Lian off towards the beachfront. Minutes later they were walking down along the water's edge, laughing and carrying on. One second just peacefully strolling along, talking about work and what they would do on the weekend, the next Lian would be tickling Sabrina after she'd made some smart aleck remark. "I told you before... I am not.... ugh.... ticklish" Lian shot back as Sabrina once again tried to find Lian's most responsive spot, instead her hand found a nice warm pocket when it slipped underneath Lians jacket. "Hey... You've been holding out on me... you're all warm, that's not fair,” she said pouting and pulling on the buttons. "I wasn't... I just know when to keep my mouth shut" Lian chuckled as persistent fingers fumbled with the jacket, "geez Bri, anyone would think you wanted me to freeze" "Ugh, sorry, it's just you're nice and warm, and I'm kind of cold" she answered, 'liar liar pants on fire, Sabrina, you are the worlds biggest and worst liar, you just want an excuse to get close to her' her mind teased her. "Right.... and this isn't in any way an excuse for you to snuggle with me" Lian laughed as she saw the recognition that she'd been busted go flashing across her girlfriends face. "Ugh... caught in the act I guess" she chuckled as Lian undid the last few buttons and pulled her into a big bear hug. "But sometimes it's worth being caught doing the crime" Lian said as she leaned down and kissed Sabrina, nibbling on Sabrina's lower lip as she broke off, Lian continued, "not to mention the suitable punishment for the crime" 'Oh yeah, I've never been this happy about being in trouble before... definitely a good thing" Sabrina thought as she felt Lian bite down gently on her lip, "hmmm, yeah... that could be a good thing I suppose" she mumbled not really thinking about what she was saying. "Yeah" Lian groaned as Sabrina seized her mouth again, kissing her furiously, her tongue being quickly sought out and sucked on. Hands roaming under her shirt, starting a hypnotic motion that stole any conscious thought from her mind and body. **** "Ahh, stuff you dubby, we're no dunk" Brad babbled as he fell out the bar doors onto the footpath, falling over onto his knees and staring at the cracks in the cement. Two steps behind him was Steve, in a very similar mental and physical disposition. "Nope, not drunk, just happy" he chuckled at finding Brad looking around on the ground as though he'd lost a contact lens. "Stevie, help me up, pweeeeease" Brad called up from where he was, which was now flat on his back looking up into the night sky laughing like a child that’d had too much sugar. "Geez you’re a cheap drunk… How many drinks did you have? ‘Bout 10 shots and that many beers wasn’t it… That’s bad man, really bad" Steve chuckled as he hauled his bestfriend up, "come buddy, let’s go home" "Mmm, home… gooooood" Brad muttered as his eyes came level with Steve’s. They started walking slowly along the waterfront; occasionally stopping to allow Brad to heave up some of the alcohol and nachos they’d been partaking of in the bar. All in all they’d had a good time. There weren’t many women out at the time, but that minor detail hadn’t stopped their gallivanting around Ryan’s as though they were God’s gift to society. The only thing that had spoilt the evening was that damn woman copper that’d had them thrown out. Truth be told it was probably their fault for harassing the woman she was with, but that was no reason for her to threaten to run them in, they hadn’t done anything really wrong. One foot after the other they made their way closer to the basement apartment they rented, walking along the footpath with the cool breeze blowing in their faces was really quite refreshing, especially after the smoky bar. Pausing as they rounded the second last corner before turning into the street they wanted, both Brad and Steve looked out onto the beach, semi-amazed at what they saw. Sitting not 50 meters away were a couple, not that that’s terribly unusual, but as they kept watching they realized who the couple were. "No way" Steve mumbled as he pulled Brad into the shadows of the nearby buildings. "Whaaaa? It’s just some‘un gettin lucky ain’t it" Brad slurred as he threw up for the third time. "No you fucking drunk, it’s not some’un, it’s that damn whore, the one that got us, and her bitch, oh this is too good" Steve sneered as he looked intently on the two women as the smaller one pushed the other backwards onto grassy bank. Snapping to attention at the memory of their encounter, Brad turned and glared towards the two women, "We gotta get ‘em Stevie, we gotta get ‘em now!" "For sure pal" the man answered looking around for something to use as a weapon, "but she ain’t getting off lightly this time, this time I’m going armed" "Hey, whatta ‘bout me? That slut broke ma nose" Brad cursed as the two men set off towards the women. "Don’t worry about it, she ain’t even gonna see us coming" Steve said as he went racing at the two figures rolling around on the slope before him. **** ‘Oh good god, I have got to get us back to the apartment’ Lian tried to think as she felt Sabrina slide both her hands up under her shirt, reaching round to the clasp on her bra. "Bri… we… ugh, oh god… we have got to stop" she mumbled trying to think and speak at the same time. "Don’t want to" Sabrina answered pushing Lian backwards until they bumped into the grassy slope, falling gently to the ground she quickly repositioned herself on top of Lian. "I… oh… ugh… I…" Lian muttered, having completely lost all speaking capabilities when she felt one small hand creep around to her breasts, lightly touching and teasing the left nipple. "Uh huh, me too" Sabrina smiled as she inched her way up underneath Lians shirt, kissing her way up her stomach towards Lians now very sensitive breasts. Rolling over slowly, Lian extricated herself from Sabrina’s deliciously torturous touch, pinning the girl with one hand, sealing their mouths together in a long sensuous kiss. She sent the other hand down the plains of her thigh, only to bring it very slowly back up the inside of her leg, stopping just below her crotch. Pulling back and looking down into the normally clear blue eyes that were now a cloudy violet hue. "We have got to stop,” she said as she softly kissed the tender lips below her, "we can’t do this here" "Yeah, I guess you’re right" Sabrina smirked as she leaned up stealing another kiss, "even if it would be…" She never got to finish the sentence as two men suddenly loomed up behind them, one with an empty beer bottle in his hand. All she had time to do was scream as the closest man sent the bottle smashing into the back of Lians head. "NOOOOOOOOOO!" Sabrina screamed as she heard the glass shatter into hundreds of shards, Lians body slumping to the ground with a thud, "what the… Lian?" Lian lay on the ground, perfectly still; to anyone else it would appear that she was no more than in a deep peaceful sleep. The only sign that things were not as they appeared was the slow trickle of blood seeping from her skull. "Yes! Ya got her Steve, well done, that’ll teach the cow" Brad bubbled as he looked down on the deathly still body. ‘Shit, what do we do now’ Steve's mind suddenly yelled. It had been all very well to get back at the woman, but now that she was unconscious and seriously wounded, that was another matter. "Shut up Brad, we’ve got a minor problem now… We got her all right, only now what are we gonna do with her?" he muttered looking at Sabrina’s face as she leapt to attend the side of her friend. "You bastards, if you’ve hurt her…" once again she was cut short as Brad sent his fist into the side of her jaw. "God she’s annoying" he laughed as the younger woman fell on top of the other body, "Well I guess we can take the big one back to Mr. Stuffy pants" "Actually, that’s not as dumb as you sound" Steve chuckled as he bent over to roll Sabrina off Lian, "Give me a hand Brad, this one’s a big’un" Eventually they managed to haul Lian from under Sabrina and into a semi standing position. "What about the other one?" Brad asked looking back at the form lying on the grass. "What about her?" Steve sneered as he looked back. "Good point" he replied focusing on the job at hand, "told ya I was gonna get lucky tonight" Laughing both men started walking towards their apartment, and a nice warm bed that awaited them. **** Chapter 6: A SILVER LINING 'Oh man... where the hell am I' she thought looking around the room. The walls seemed to fade in and out, the edges blurring into oblivion. Faint shapes of a doorway, shadowed by candlelight. She was lying on a hard mattress, somewhat reminiscent of a school camp bunk bed. Taking a better look at the room she was in, noticing that the walls were now melding into wood paneling, the ceiling being whitewashed, a single candle serving to light the area. Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she stood up, instantly collapsing back onto the mattress, clutching her head. "Crap that hurts" she muttered standing up again, this time taking it slower. Getting to her feet, she stumbled towards the doorway, reaching the opening and walking through. The next room was very well lit, with dozens of candles illuminating the chamber. Surveying the decor, or what little there was of it, she noticed that there was a table with two bench seats to the left, an open fire to the right with two armchairs and another doorway directly opposite her. 'Well this just gets weirder by the minute' she thought stumbling over to the table and sitting down on one of the benches, a figure immediately looming up in the door. "Well well... You're up already, that's a good sign at least" the figure said walking into the light. "You! Who... Hang on..."she said looking up at the stranger, "Yeah, it is you... You've been in my dreams, you and some tall woman" "Very good, you did remember" he said walking over to her and sitting down, "so Lian, have you figured out who I am yet?" "No, well not really... I'm guessing that we're related somewhere along the lines" she answered rubbing her temples, "man I've got a headache" "Yes we are related, Lian, I'm you're great Grandfather, my name is William, you were named after me, take a good look at yourself, then at me" he said standing up again for her to inspection. She took a long look, from the crown of his head to the tips of his toes. Admittedly there differences, they were after all four generations apart and of the opposite sex, but there were definitely similarities. Between the deep gray eyes that sparkled in the candlelight, the same sandy blonde hair that curled up at the front, their arms were almost identical in their length and muscle disposition. Shoulders both broadly set, sloping down to their respective waists and into strong legs. "Wow... but hang on, you're dead... Ahhhhhhhhhhh" Lian yelled as she was suddenly hit with the possible reality, "if you're dead.... then... then I'm.... oh no" "Wait" William called out, placing both hands on her shoulders, trying to calm her down, "No, you're not dead, don't worry, but you might be soon if you don't wake up" he replied as both he and the room faded out. ****** "Kick her again, maybe that'll wake her up" Brad bellowed as he walked out of the livingroom towards the kitchen. Again Steve kicked the lifeless body in the stomach, the only response being an unconscious groan, "Nah, nothing, hang on, I'll try something else" he said, leaning down and pulling her into a sitting position. Having gotten her stable he then plucked her eye lids open, looking to see if there was any signs of life, "nup, forget it, she's way out of it bud" "Damn, knew we shouldn't have kicked her around last night" he cackled with laughter at the memory. They'd managed to drag her body all the way back to the apartment, not bothering to carry her down the stairs to the basement, choosing rather to kick her down to the doorway. "Yeah, but it was fun, watching her go tumbling down those stairs" Steve chuckled. The only thing they hadn't bargained on was that Sasha wouldn't be there when they got back, instead they found a note saying he'd gone to organize something, and would return later or the next day. "Guess we just wait till Sasha gets back... what time is it now?" Brad called out from the kitchen we he was getting a couple of beers from the fridge. "It's only 2am, he could be back soon... hopefully" Steve muttered as he punched Lian in the ribs, "that'll teach you, fucking whore" **** Lying on the dew soaked grass, Sabrina slowly began to regain consciousness. At first opting to stay in the position she was currently in, rather than try to move. 'Oh god, what happened?' she thought as her mind tried furiously to recall the preceding events. 'Ok, what can I remember... We were lying here... ugh, yeah that's pretty clear' she thought as a blush crept up her neck, 'what else... oh god... where's Lian?' she suddenly realized that her tall friend was now missing. "Those guys... Oh shit!" she yelped as she leapt to her feet, slightly tensing at the pain shooting through her head, "damn it, bastards hit me where Lian got me... Geez!" Now running towards the bar, frantically trying to think of all the details she could tell the police when she could make the call. "Ok, well one was called Brad, the other Steve... Yeah, hmmm, description... Ugh, tall, ugly, both with broken noses" she half mused as she quickly covered the ground, sprinting towards the nearest source of help. Rounding the corner she saw what was now a very welcome sight, "LISA!" she screamed as the off duty officer walked out the front door with her arm around a tall blonde. "Whoa, Sabrina, hey where's tall light and lethal?" she chuckled as the shorter woman started gulping in air. "She's been... we were... they've got her" Sabrina mumbled in between deep breaths. "Hang on, slow down, what happened, who's got who?" Lisa replied in a serious tone, now aware that there was something wrong. "We were attacked, by two men, they hit Lian, then me, I think they've taken her" she cried collapsing into Lisa's arms. "Ok ok, what did they look like?" she asked as she slowly passed the girl over to her date, "Brandy, can you take her, I have to call in, this isn't good" "Yeah sure hon" the good looking blonde said taking Sabrina into her arms and setting them both down on the nearby railing, "Ok babe, now take your time, and tell us what happened" "Lian and I were over on the slope, fooling around, the next thing I know, I see these two figures come up behind us. One... ugh Steve I think his name was, hit her over the head with a bottle..." she recalled breaking into tears again. "Ok, anything else?" Brandy urged. "Yeah... he had a partner, Brad... I think Lian knew them" Sabrina murmured, as her body was shook from the emotional strain. Brandy and Lisa looked at each other, 'Nah, couldn't be... Could it?' Lisa thought as her mind started filing away the information. "Sabrina, I need to go call in for back-up, but can you tell me, were these two men drunk?" she asked as she began to walk towards the bar. "Yes" she answered, starting to sob all over again. "Ok" Lisa said as she reached the door, 'dammit, bastards, now this is personal' she thought opening the door and walking in. The two women sat talking, Brandy trying to calm and reassure Sabrina, while Sabrina tried to think of anything that might help catch the men responsible. Minutes later Lisa returned, having called in for back-up. "Ok, we just wait here, some of the guys are on their way" she said sitting down on the other side of Sabrina and speaking to her, "hey, it'll be all right, I think I know the guys that did this, so don't worry about it, it'll be ok" "I hope you're right" Sabrina mumbled as she started hiccuping. "I'm telling you it will" Lisa reaffirmed, not letting Sabrina have any doubt in the matter, "so I take it you two... well you know" she asked deciding a positive subject change was in order. "Yeah, well, yes and no... We're together, but not 'together' if you see where I'm coming from," she said looking at her feet to hide the blush that threatened to break out across her face. "Uh huh... But I'm guessing you already know what I meant about her hands?" she replied noting the loss of eye contact. "Ugh, yeah" Sabrina said softly, the blush exploding this time. Chuckling Lisa told Brandy the story about how they'd met, and about Lian, "so are you two living together?" she asked returning to her conversation with Sabrina. "No... No... We're just" she paused, 'hang on... I'm supposed to be staying at Uncle Harry's, and yet I can't actually remember the last time I slept in my bed' she mused, "No, I've been spending a lot of time with her, but we're not living together" "Fair enough..." Lisa answered as the squad car pulled up across the street from them, "Brian, Eric, over here" she called. The two officers crossed the road and came over to Lisa's side, "What's the emergency?" Brian asked looking at Sabrina. "Right, here's the rundown, this is Sabrina, she's a good friend of mine, and a friend of hers has been abducted we think. Now I suspect a couple of guys, I've made enquiry's here at Ryans, and I have a good idea where they live. Now the only evidence we have is Sabrina's eye-witness account, and the whopping great bruise they've given her,” she quickly said. "Right, do we want more back-up, or just us?" Eric asked. "No, just us, there's only two of them, three of us, I figure that's fair" Lisa grinned, "Brandy, I'll come by on my way home ok... So shall we get going, I don't want to wait any longer" she said waving her girlfriend off as she went to work. The officers broke off from their conversation and headed towards the squad car, Sabrina slowly standing up and starting to follow behind Lisa. "No, you stay here Sabrina, it's safer" Lisa said putting her hands on the girls shoulders and making her stop. "NO! Those bastards have MY girlfriend, I am not standing here waiting, not knowing if she's all right or not. I'm coming with you!" Sabrina said shaking off Lisa's grip and walking towards the car again. Reaching out and grabbing hold of the girls arm, Lisa spun her around, "You cannot come, we can't protect you and get her out, it's not safe" she stated matter of fact. "I.... AM.... COMING!" Sabrina replied removing Lisa's hand and storming off, "end of discussion" 'Oh boy, hope you know what you got yourself into Lian' Lisa thought to herself as she ran over to the car, waving off the looks from Eric and Brian, "I'll explain later" ***** Opening the front door and walking in, Sasha was somewhat surprised and then delighted to see what lay on the livingroom floor. Padding over to the body and Steve, he looked at one and then the other, sneering at the possibilities. "Seems you boys have had an interesting night... This your new play toy?" he asked sinking a boot into Lians ribcage. "Yeah, thought you might want to play with it yourself... We can't seem to get any life outta her though" Brad smirked as he handed Steve a beer and gave the other to Sasha. "Oh that I do boys, that I do" he said grinning as he bent down to take a good look at the unconscious form, noting the injuries and asking, "what the fuck have you two been up to?" "Awww, nuttin much, ain't nothing there that's serious,” Steve said as he gulped down a mouthful of beer. "Nothing serious... She's bleeding from the back of her head, judging by the look of her shirt I'd she's been kicked more than once, so she's probably got broken ribs. Her leg's bleeding on the thigh, and... Oh for Godsake" he paused looking at her left arm, "guys, you've not only broken her arm, but pushed the bone right through her forearm" Both men now looking at the lifeless body, with its various trails of blood, they both looked at each other before replying, "Sorry" "Sorry... Goddamn, sorry for what? I couldn't have done better myself" Sasha broke out into a fit of laughter that seemed to rein through the apartment. Laughing nervously the two men sat back down on the couch, relieved that they hadn't messed up. "So what are we gonna do with her?" Steve asked as Sasha walked around Lian's body. "Do, we ain't gonna do anything with her, it's what we're gonna do to her that you wanna know" he answered as he returned to the couch, signaling to Brad to get off. "Ugh, yeah" they both answered as Sasha began to outline his plans for Lian's future. ***** "Lian" William called as his great Granddaughter seemed to lose focus, "Lian, you must listen to me. You're in grave danger, you must wake up, if you don't, you're going to lose the one you love, this cannot happen" Slowly shaking her head, Lian tried to look at William as face faded in and out, "why?" she asked. "You're a descendant of an ancient warrior, a lineage that's so old not even the historians of old can trace it. This is your heritage, your destiny, but you must choose which path you take. If you don't fight back, you will lose the other half of your soul for another generation, if you do fight, your life will be full of many challenges and much heart break. There is no simple answer to this decision" he answered taking her hand in his. "Great so either way I'm up shit creek... wonderful" Lian answered letting a small piece of sarcasm escape before she could stop it. "No, you're not, but this is a serious matter, and you're running out of time" he stated as he turned them both towards the fireplace, where the flames suddenly became a window into her life. "You've been through a great deal already my child, but there is so much for you to accomplish, so much more you're meant to do, don't give in because it's hard" Looking into the flames she saw herself as a child, with her best friend only weeks before he died, then as a young teen, standing up against a group of others, seeming to protect a smaller girl. Then in college, where she'd had to face off against a system that threatened to disallow her to follow her heart. "I'd forgotten all that...,” she said watching the flames flicker as they showed the present. Her, lying on the floor in an apartment, three men looming above her. "Is that what's happening now?" she asked. "Yes" William answered, shaking his head. "What?" she asked again. "Keep watching" he replied as the vision showed two men and two women walking into the apartment. She instantly recognized both the women, one was Sabrina, the other Lisa. Then she saw two of the men that were standing over her spin round and attack the two officers, the third man turned so she could see his face. "Sasha!" she cried out jumping to her feet and running over to the fire. "Stop! Don't touch it! Just watch" William called out as she neared the edge. Once again she halted and looked into the flames. Sasha turned as the two officers and attackers started fighting, he then took steps towards the two women. Reaching into his pants he drew a pistol and aimed it at Sabrina and Lisa. There the vision stopped, and the fire resumed its normal appearance. "What happened? Why'd it stop?" she yelled looking intently into the flames, trying to see what was happening. "That is not yet seen Lian, what happens after that is up to you" he said turning and walking towards the door that he came through. "I'm sorry Lian, but our time is up, you must choose now, face your future, or...." he trailed off as he faded through the doorway and into oblivion. Turning to see the last rays of her great Grandfather, Lian knew what she had to do. Her choice was made, her fate sealed. For better or worse, she had to go back and save her friends, she had to do something. **** The car pulled up silently at the curb, the engine being shut off and the occupants opening the doors and getting out. The driver and front passenger signaling to one of the rear passengers to come around to the front of the house. Together the three stood talking in low voices. Minutes later they broke away, the two men leading while the fourth passenger along with the third followed in the rear. "Right, Eric will just do a quick sweep, make sure there's no back way out, then be back to come with us" Brian said as Eric started the mission at hand. "Ok, so what do I do?" Sabrina asked now feeling much better. They'd run a check on the two suspects as they drove along, finding out exactly where they were supposed to be living; they'd only had a few minor charges, like parking fines, and broken traffic laws. "Nothing, you stay outside and wait while we go in and get the two of them" Lisa answered, "and before you can argue, NO, you are staying out here, no if, buts and or maybes!" Pouting and scuffing her feet, Sabrina sat back down on the trunk of the car, "Fine, but the minute they're out, I'm coming in!" "Whatever" Lisa retorted as Eric returned, signaling that the coast was clear, that there was only one way in or out. "Ok, let's go" Brian said as the three of them set off towards the front door, creeping down the stairs and approaching the door. Knocking on the door Eric called out, "Open it, it's the police", there was no answer so he knocked again, "It's the police, could you open the door please" ***** Sitting on the couch and looking at the body, the three men were discussing their plans when they heard several knocks on the door, and the announcement that they really didn't want to hear. "What do we do?" Brad mumbled as he started squirming. "I'll get rid of them,” Steve said jumping up and racing over to the door, opening it before Sasha could stop him. "Noooooooo!" Sasha screamed as both Eric and Brian stormed in the door, easily pushing Steve backwards, Eric chasing after Brad. "Freeze POLICE!" Lisa yelled running through the door as Sabrina came racing down the stairs behind her. On the floor Lian slowly cracked an eye open, seeing two officers come racing through the door and capturing Steve and shortly after Brad. Looking over towards Sasha, she saw him starting to walk towards Lisa and Sabrina. 'Oh god, here we go, need to get into action now' she thought as she started to haul herself up off the ground, instantly feeling the broken arm and laceration on her thigh. 'Oh shit... this is gonna hurt' she thought getting to her feet. "Stay there bitch, I'm warning you" Sasha ranted as he reached into his pants pocket, pulling out a colt .45 and aiming it at Lisa. "Sasha" Sabrina cried looking at the man who now had a gun pointed at her. "Don't make me use this,” he said cocking the pistol. "Put the gun down Sasha" Lisa said stepping to her side, trying to cover Sabrina. Stumbling towards Sasha, Lian only having enough time and energy to aim her attack once. "LIAN!" Sabrina called, Sasha turning to look straight into Lians eyes as she sent a punch flying into his face. The impact making him stagger backwards, Lisa coming towards him. Spinning around he looked right at Lian. "You, I thought you were dead" he spat aiming the gun at her, "never mind, you will be soon" Pulling her piece from under the back of her shirt, Lisa quickly aimed it at Sasha and gave him one last chance, "Sasha, put the gun down NOW!" Turning to look at the female officer, Sasha winked and squeezed the trigger, "over my dead body bitch" Lians body chose that moment to collapse, she went thudding to the floor again, narrowly escaping the bullet that was aimed at her. The last sounds she heard were that of two gunshots. Lisa aimed the trigger at Sasha's shoulder and pulled the trigger, sending a bullet flying into his shoulder-blade, causing him to drop the weapon and fall to the floor in pain, "I told you to drop the gun.... jerk!" she spat as she walked over and kicked his firearm away. Sabrina raced passed Lisa, jumping over the howling Sasha where Lisa was now reading him his rights as she handcuffed him. Dropping to her knees she looked at Lians body, searching for the gunshot wound, not finding it she rolled the body over, gasping with shock at the appearance of her friend. She was black and blue, from her head to her waist. Bleeding cuts and broken bones, torn clothing and dirt staining otherwise creamy white skin. "Oh god, no... NO!" she screamed clutching at the body that was no longer making any movement. Eric and Brian taking the opportunity to remove the other two, calling for an ambulance. "Hey Brian, next time Lisa says there's an easy job, how about we give it to someone else" Eric said trying to lighten the air that was running thick with tension. "Uh, sure buddy, that sounds like a great idea to me" he replied as they shunted the two captives out the door and up the stairs. "Is she ok?" Lisa asked having secured Sasha and placed him on the couch. "I don't think so... These wounds look pretty bad" Sabrina answered as she pulled Lians body into her lap. "Ok, just stay with her, keep talking to her, we'll get an ambulance" Lisa assured her, taking a quick look at her unconscious friend, and not liking what she saw. Nodding in recognition, Sabrina started smoothing away Lian's hair, softly singing to her. 20 minutes later an ambulance had arrived, the paramedics treating Lian and placing her in the back of the vehicle, then tending to Sasha, loading him up they drove off to the nearest hospital, both Lisa and Sabrina accompanying them. ***** Opening her eyes and looking around the room, she noticed that she was once again back in the wood paneled room, laying on the pallet again she wondered just what was going on this time. Propping herself up on the mattress, Lian focused her eyes clearly on the doorway where a figure now. "Hey, you're awake, good" the figure said as he uncrossed his legs. "Ugh, Grandfather?" Lian asked as she swung her legs round, wincing at the pain the shot down her left leg. "Whoa, easy there kiddo" he answered walking into the light, "yes it's me" "Cool... So why am I back here?" Lian asked as she looked at his face. "You're back here because right now you're body is too abused to deal with real life, but don't worry, you'll be going back soon" he said sitting down on the bed and looking at Lian. Lian sat looking at the man seated next to her. Taking in his features, he seemed older somehow. Laughing he looked at Lian, "Yes, I'm older, grayer, but it's still me, Oh and there's someone I'd like you to meet" he chuckled as a short raven haired, blue eyed woman walked into the room with a mug full of steaming liquid. "Here, drink this, it'll help with the pain" she said. "Lian, this is my wife and soulmate, Caitlin" William said holding out his hand, it being eagerly taken up by the other woman. "Um, nice to meet you" Lian said holding out her hand and firmly shaking it. "Wow, that's some grip you've got there" Caitlin said shaking Lians hand before leaning into William. "Ugh, so when do I get to go back?" Lian said looking around the room, noticing the room beginning to fade. "Soon, very soon. We just thought we'd come and sit with you for a while" William said, "I just wanted you to meet a very special person. If I had done what I was supposed to, at the right time, we would have been able to live out our lives together. But I didn't, and we were separated for many years" "I'm sorry, that really bites" Lian said smiling at the couple and wishing for all the world that Sabrina was there. "Thank you, but it's ok, we're together now, and have been for a long time now. But there's something you must understand before you go. Lian, no matter what happens, your life will be alright, you and..."William trailed off as an apparition of Sabrina glimmered into sight, "will be fine" Leaping off the pallet and walking over to Sabrina, Lian wrapped her arms around her and kissed her, "Gods I've missed you" she said holding the young woman tightly. "I know baby, I know, it's time" Sabrina said holding Lian close and waving to William and Caitlin. "Hi Sabrina, take good care of our girl, ok" Caitlin said smiling at the young girl. "Don't worry, I'm not ever leaving her side, never again" she replied taking Lian's hand and pulling her towards the doorway. "I guess this is good bye then" Lian called as they passed through the opening. "For now my child, only for now" Williams voice echoed in her mind. **** "What? Where am I" Lian called out as she opened her eyes, jerking upright. "Whoa, easy tiger, settle" Sabrina cried leaping out of the nearby seat and racing to hit the nurses button and to her friends side, "thank the gods you're all right, you've had me so scared" "What, what are you talking about, where am I?" Lian asked again as she looked around the room, taking in the surrounds. She was in a hospital bed, tubes poking into her body, pumping in who knew what and draining out liquids she didn't even want to think about. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Sabrina stroked Lians arm, "you're in the hospital baby, you've been unconscious for a week" she said starting to cry. "I've been what?" she repeated, "a week, are you sure?" "Yes I'm sure, I've barely left your side, the doctor said if you didn't wake up in the next couple of days, that... well it wasn't good" she answered pulling the covers straight and fussing around Lians bed. "Would you please stop that" Lian called, "I'm fine, don't worry" "Fine? How can you say that, do you have any idea what's wrong with you?" she shot back, the emotions becoming too much for her. "Oh, I'd say I've got a fair idea" Lian chuckled, immediately regretting the action as it sent shooting pain through her body, "would you just shut up and come here so I can kiss you" Sabrina walked over and hopped up onto the bed, leaning into Lian as the cook reached up and pulled her head down. Their lips touched sending other sensations shooting through both their bodies simultaneously. "Ugh hummm" the nurse coughed at the door startling to two women, "Sorry to interrupt, but I believe I need to check this young lady out" "No, that's all right, I think my girlfriend is doing a good enough job thanks" Lian said smiling sweetly at the nurse. Laughing Lian and Sabrina parted, allowing the nurse to look over her patient. "Ok, well everything looks okay, we'll just keep you in over night to be sure" she said turning and walking back out the door. Both women looked at each other and broke out into laughter. ***** Two weeks later Lian was lying in bed, looking out across English Bay, waiting for Sabrina to return from running the days errands. 'Wow, well I can honestly say that the last month has been interesting' she thought as she pulled the covers up a bit further. The last week had been full or rest and recuperation, Sabrina not letting her lift a piece of paper unless she was sure the cook could handle it. But having to stay in bed had certain advantages, especially when Sabrina would snuggle up to her at night, not even leaving her side at nighttime. "Ok Lian, time to get your butt out of bed and stretch these legs" she said to herself, still not budging from her warm position, "eh, maybe I'll just wait for Bri" Looking down at her legs, Lian pulled part of the bed covers back and looked at the wound. The cut was nearly all healed up now, where there had been a long thing slice, sown up with 30 stitches, there was now only a faint pink line. Her arm on the other hand had been another story. It had been broken in three places, with part of the Ulna bone being pushed through the skin, leaving a very nasty wound. It had been put in a plaster, but it left her needing help doing many menial tasks, like showering. Not that this was a great hard ship, as she'd had an immediate volunteer. Sabrina deciding that in order to make it fair on Lian, she'd 'help' Lian wash, and in return, Lian could help her. Thinking about that, Lian started to blush, 'being injured had never been so much fun' she thought as her mind played back over the last couple of weeks 'bath time' activities. "Oh yeah, I think I feel a shower coming on" she chuckled to herself. Her ribs were healing up nicely, there only being three broken ones and a few fractures. All the minor cuts and scrapes having healed up had begun fading away already. Sasha had been charged and incarcerated, due to face court in a few months, and it appeared that this time he'd be put away for a very long time. The police had managed to recover the bulk of Harry's money, the restaurateur being most happy about its recovery. John and Mary were taking over the lease on the apartment when it came up for renewal; he'd already moved the bulk of his belongings into Mary's room and the living room. Lian had checked with Immigration, and it was confirmed that she did have to leave within the next few days, she could apply for residency, but it had to be done from outside of the country, the obvious choice being America. So she'd planned on taking a bus down to Seattle and applying through the nearest office. Walking into the room and jumping onto the bed, Sabrina bounced over to Lian, not waiting for her to open her arms for a hug, choosing rather to kiss the cook right there and then, "hey stranger, how you feeling?" she asked settling down into Lians arms. "Much better now babe, where'd you go?" she answered slipping a hand through Sabrina's sweater and shirt to her stomach where she started tracing soft lines across her belly. "Mmm, good... Ugh, don't be mad, but I went to school, to speak to my professors" she answered returning the favor. "Riiiiiiiiiight...." Lian purred before continuing, " and what did they have to say?" "He said yes" Sabrina answered leaning up and kissing Lian again. "Yes? That's pretty vague" she mumbled pulling the smaller woman on top of her, tugging her sweater off over the top of her head. "I asked him if I could do the last bit of my course via the internet" Sabrina replied pulling at Lian's shirt, being careful as she slide her left arm out and lifting it over the blondes head. "Ok..." Lian answered as she started undoing Sabrina's shirt, opening it up and taking in a deep breath of skin scented air, "hang on, the Internet, what are you up to?" Leaning in and kissing Lian again, Sabrina slid her hands around to unfasten her bra. "Babe, I'm coming with you, if I use your laptop to email him my essays, I don't have to attend class, I'm already passing all my subjects for the year, it's February now, there's spring vacation coming up, then only a few more weeks. I don't have any exams to sit, only papers to turn in, which I can do via the 'net'. So, I can come with you to America" Sabrina said as she tugged the offending garment off, taking a deep breath as she looked down at the milky white breasts in front of her. "I have a feeling I've been set up" Lian answered removing Sabrina's shirt, quickly followed by her bra. Sighing deeply Lian slowly reached out and traced a line around the edge of Sabrina's right nipple, "so, have I been?" "Yesssssss..." she groaned, in answer to both the question and the touch of Lians hand on her skin, "but in a good way" "Ok" Lian murmured as she pulled Sabrina down on top of her, starting a long sensual kiss, "no more talking, not now" "If you're sure you want to do this" Sabrina breathed as she trailed kisses down Lians throat and onto her breastbone. "I've never been more sure in my life" Lian answered silencing Sabrina as she slipped her hands underneath the waistband of her pants. Running her hands round to the back, Lian slowly slid the material down. Bringing her hands back up along her thighs and cupping the two firm cheeks and starting to knead them. "Ugh" Sabrina moaned as she felt strong fingers start plying her flesh, molding and kneading. She ran her hands over the surface of Lians shoulders, noticing the small scar from Sashas first attack amongst others, leaning in and softly kissing each of them. Looking into Lians eyes she saw a sparkle there that seemed to draw her in closer, closer until their lips met, tongues touching, sighs of contentment escaping both their mouths, "I love you Lian" she said as the taller woman rolled both of them over in the bed. "I love you too" Lian answered as she began trailing kisses down her neckline, hands slipping down Sabrina's thigh, slowly creeping back up along the front of her leg, past the dark curls and onto the soft skin of her stomach. Tracing patterns across her skin, Lian edged her way down towards the swell of Sabrina's breast, nipping at the sweet tasting skin, cupping one breast and flicking the nipple with her tongue. "Uhhh" Sabrina panted out, leaning into Lian, her other breast begging for attention, "you sure you're a virgin" With a soft snort Lian answered, "hey, I read a lot, what can I say". Switching to her other breast Lian began softly suckling, drawing as much of the tender flesh into her mouth as she could. One hand manipulating the bud of the now unattended breast, while the other massaged her stomach. Leaning her head, and bending her body upwards, Sabrina kissed Lians head as her new lover continued her ministrations, feeling Lians mouth leave her breast she whimpered, it was quickly replaced by her other hand as she felt a fiery trail of kisses start descending along the center of her body. Slowly but surely Lian worked her way towards her goal, pausing just above the damp curls, she looked back up into Sabrina's eyes, the look of total devotion on both their faces reassuring them of their love. Leaning back into the downy hairs, Lian softly kissed the patch before diverging off to the inside of her thighs, placing small kisses so close to Sabrina's center that it made the young girl twitch in anticipation. "Lian... please" she begged as her hands clenched hold of the bed sheets, not wanting to force her friend to go where she desperately needed her. Smiling Lian released her breasts where she'd never stopped her actions, pulling her hands down along the girls' body with slow precision, she brought her hands around to Sabrina's folds, and parting them slowly Lian leant in, 'no backing out now kiddo, you got the girl, you got to here, now enjoy this' she thought as a fit of butterflies suddenly hit her as she realized what she was doing and about to do. Dipping her head, Lian leant in, her tongue running around the edges, teasing Sabrina's body with every pass as it neared her opening, only to just as quickly retract. Softly sliding her tongue up, Lian lightly flicked the now swollen nub, smiling to herself as Sabrina's body suddenly jerked, 'heh, well I guess that was a good reaction' she thought as she began to lightly suck, 'hmm, wonder what this'll get me'. "Oh godsssssss...." Sabrina cried out as her body started quivering in response to what Lian was doing to her. Removing her mouth from Sabrina's center, Lian placed her hand at Sabrina's opening, she crept back up along the girls' shaking body, slowly kissing her way up as she approached the now extremely sensitive breasts. Lian slowly pushed one finger in as she took a breast in her mouth, beginning a slow and purposeful rhythm, 'oh god I hope I'm doing this right' she thought increasing the depth and speed of the strokes. Sabrina's body shaking violently and her groaning as she neared her climax, reassuring Lian that she was. Panting in between groans, Sabrina quickly climbed towards the edge, Lian delicately pushing her over and cradling her descent into oblivion as Sabrina called out Lians name. Bodies soaked in sweat curled up into a heaving mass as they both lay in silence. Chuckling lightly, Lian looked intently into Sabrina's eyes, "So, did I do ok?" "Uh, yes, you did more than ok babe" Sabrina replied rolling Lian onto her back, "now it's my turn" she finished leaning in and starting a long sensual kiss, the was to lead to a very thorough exploration of her lover. 'Heh, not bad Lian, not bad at all for a first time' she thought to herself before Sabrina's touch claimed her mind, body and soul. ***** Lying in bed with her body wrapped around a dozing Sabrina, Lian watched as the sleeping woman's chest rise and fall as she slept. Thinking back to the night before, 'wow, that was... wow' she thought. It hadn't been all smooth sailing, but it was definitely well worth going back for, time and time again. Stroking Sabrina's hair, Lian looked at the luminous numbers of her alarm clock as they slowly ticked over, approaching the time where she'd normally be getting ready for work. Stirring as she woke up, Sabrina sleepily opened one eye before the other, peeping up and seeing two gray orbs watching over her, "hey stranger" she murmured snuggling in closer to the body she was already covering. "Good morning beautiful" Lian smiled back, placing a kiss on top of her head, "you sleep ok?" "Mhmm, like a baby. Had a really weird dream though... Something about an old man... he was smiling at me, told me to take good care of you... Funny thing is, he looked a lot like you" she answered as she hugged her new body pillow. "Really?" she smirked, "remind me to tell you about that later" she finished starting to trail kisses down her neck. "Ugh, ok" Sabrina mumbled as Lian began sucking on her pulse point. " I think I'd better stop... I need to get out of bed today, I... We leave day after tomorrow and I need to go run a few errands. So it's shower time my dear" Lian answered pulling away and kissing Sabrina on the lips before sliding out from underneath her. "What? You start something like that, then walk away, I don't think so!" Sabrina bellowed leaping out of the bed and pulling Lian into a hug. "Hmm, me, start what?" she replied getting out of the hug, gathering up a change of clothes and walking into the bathroom. "Why, you... Oh no you don't" she retorted running after the cook, shutting the door as she passed through it. "I don't know what you're talking about" Lian said turning the water on, stripping off as it quickly reached an appropriate temperature before stepping in. "Yeah right, you're gonna regret starting that, then leaving me" Sabrina snorted as she hastily dispersed her clothing and followed Lian into the shower. "Oh really?" Lian countered as she pinned Sabrina to the cold tiled wall, at the same time kissing and sucking her way down the girls' throat. "Ugh" Sabrina groaned as Lian slid a wet thigh between her legs. "So how do you like being set up?" she asked, not waiting for an answer, silencing her with another kiss, preferring to focus on the intermit dance they had begun under the warm running water. ***** Walking hand in hand slowly back towards the apartment, Lian and Sabrina occasionally looking at each other and smirking, both lost in their thoughts. The shower had turned out to be very interesting, at least until the water ran cold on both of them. That had not been fun, even though it did add to the overall sensations. They'd managed however to make get out without freezing too much, helping to dry each other off and get dressed. Lian had to decided to go down to the bank and organize to get a credit card so that she could access her account easier from America. Having done that, they walked round to Roughtons and said hello to all the staff, most of them hadn't seen Lian for quite some time and had missed the Aussie cook's antics. Lian had also been informed that there was a special farewell dinner prepared for her the following night, and the she was expected there no matter what. She and Sabrina having already decided not to tell the others that Sabrina was leaving as well, opting only to ask Harry if it was ok with him. Receiving his blessing the two had left the restaurant and headed home. They'd made a few plans about where they were to go. Lian wanted to go up into the woods and mountains in Washington after she'd put her application for residency in, maybe follow the train tracks through the Rockies. Sabrina for her part was happy just follow wherever Lian went. She could happily write about the places they went, the people they met and the adventures they had. "You just about packed?" Lian asked as they approached the front door. "Yeah, one or two things left, but otherwise it's all done, what about you?" she answered opening the door helping Lian hobble through. "Thanks, yeah I'm done, the only thing left is the laptop" she replied starting on the stairs. "Lian, I've got one question... You've lived here for so long, climbing these stairs everyday... Why? There's an elevator right there" Sabrina pointed chuckling as Lian looked where she was directing. "Well what do you know, I never noticed that... I'd probably still have taken the stairs anyway, but it would have been nice to know about when I was carrying a certain drunk damsel up to my apartment" she smirked nudging Sabrina as she came level with her. "Now why doesn't that surprise me" she laughed as the pair climbed the stairs. ***** Walking to the door, Lian paused to look back at the restaurant filled with staff and friends, she waved good bye, trying not to cry at the sight. The others had obviously spent the entire day setting up the room with streamers, balloons, party lights and confetti filled bags set to fall on her when she walked through the front door. They'd had a really nice dinner, nothing too fantastic, simple and sincere, Joe using his talents to make some of the Aussie's home favorites like garlic prawns and pavlova. They'd even managed to import bottles of the best beer Australia had to offer, Victoria Bitter. She'd had a really good time, not one who usually enjoyed parties, but this one was different somehow, it was a farewell of sorts, even if she came back to Canada, she wasn't coming back to Roughtons, it was in all effects, the end of an era, and they all knew it. To top it off, Harry had let slip that Lian wasn't the only one leaving, the gang had finding out that Sabrina was to accompany the cook on her travels, so everyone was making sure that they had a memorable farewell party. Liz having organized two cakes, with inch thick frosting, which as irony would have it, soon became airborne in a tame food fight. Fortunately for Harry and whoever the lucky cleaners were, it didn't last long. "Hey, you never told us why you're going?" Liz called out to Lian and Sabrina as they opened the door. "Oh, didn't we... Ugh, go figure" Lian smirked as Sabrina took her into a tight embrace. "I guess you guys hadn't heard... Lian and I are..." Sabrina started to say, but being silenced as Lian leant down and sealed their mouths together, deciding to find out that if a picture was worth a thousand words, just how much was a real life scene worth. Breaking away and looking back at the slack jawed crowd as they stood watching, "we're TOGETHER, she's my girlfriend" Lian said dragging Sabrina out the door after her. "Well I never" Liz and Joe said in unison before Liz turned to Joe saying "I told you she was gay, pay up sucker!" Handing over ten dollars, Joe grumbled and walked off, being heard to say, "well I guess you would know". Liz just stood there smirking, she'd always thought that Lian had been gay, as a memories faded into her mind, a line from a movie she'd seen some time ago came unbidden, 'Like speaks to like'. Snorting to herself she began clearing up some of the mess, content in the knowledge that the Cook was happy. ***** Stepping outside into the cold night air, Lian took hold of Sabrina's hand as they began walking home, only to get to the corner of the street and stop where Harry was waiting for them in his car. "Hold up you two, I've got something for you" he said climbing out of the 96 Jimmy. "You gonna give us a lift back to my place?" Lian chuckled as Sabrina came round in front of her, and wrapping Lians arms around her, "cause I think this one's having a bit of trouble with the cold" "Close" he answered laughing, "actually, this is for you" he finished standing back from the driver’s door and opening it up for her. "Huh?" they both said looking at the older man. "You're taking the car, I'm not having you using buses and god's knows what transport, you'll take the car, and that's the end of the matter" he said walking over and pushing the couple towards the open car. "Hang on, what, I ... Harry I don't understand, why are you doing this?" Lian asked standing her ground, refusing to be pushed or pulled along any more. "I'm doing this because I want to, because you're in love with my niece, and after all you've done and been through for me, it's the least I can do. So stop arguing and get in the car, it's getting cold and I want a lift home" he laughed as he pushed a stunned Lian into the car. Climbing back into the car, starting the engine and driving off. "Uncle Harry, I have a question" Sabrina piped up from the back, "what are you going to do for a car while we've got this one?" "Oh that's easy, I'm going to get one of those sports cars your mother hates, the one she's been nagging me not to get since I was a young man" he chortled as they drove along. "Oh yeah, Mom's gonna love that" Sabrina laughed as she imagined her mothers' response to her Uncles' actions. Pulling up out front of his house, the three of them piled out, hugging Harry goodbye, Lian whispered in his ear, "Bye Harry, and thank you, for everything, I'll never forget you" "No, thank you Lian, and I expect an invitation to the wedding" he whispered back laughing at the stunned look on Lians face. "What'd you say to her Uncle Harry?" Sabrina asked as she hugged him. "Nothing, just that I wanted to hear from you both" he said patting her on the back as he broke away, "If you two need anything, you call me, you hear?" he stated finishing up. "Yes Sir" they both said saluting him. Both looking at each other and bursting out laughing, "Great minds" Harry muttered turning and heading towards the front door. The happy couple got back into the car, Lian insisting on driving, "I'm not totally useless you know" she said putting the seatbelt on. "Yeah, I know, but I get to drive tomorrow, ok" Sabrina countered. "Ok" she relented; knowing there was no point arguing with the girl. Waving farewell they drove off, a touch of sadness over coming them both, as their future together seemed to loom up in front of them. "We're going to be ok" Lian said taking hold of Sabrina's hand and squeezing it. "Yeah, as long as we're together" she said returning the gesture. ****** Waking early the next morning, Lian rose and wandered out to the laptop, opening it up and quickly connecting to the Internet. 'Time to deal with the farewell emails I guess' she thought opening her mail program and downloading the latest amount. "Oh goodie" she said sarcastically, "only 20 there, guess I should have kept a better eye on this, oh well". Scanning through the relevant documents and deleting the others, she quickly typed out a letter to Rox and Si, one to her parents, and a final one to Renee and Amy. "Hmm, I wonder if Sabrina would like to go visit them" she said thinking out loud. "Go see who?" a sleepy voice said coming from behind her. "Morning blue eyes" Lian said turning to welcome her into a bear hug, "I was just wondering if you'd like to go and visit a couple of friends of mine in America" "Sure, that'd be nice" Sabrina answered hugging her, nuzzling Lians chest and placing a kiss where the sleeping shirt sloped away on her shoulder. "Ok, I'll let them know" she said releasing Sabrina and returning to her mail. "Cool, when do we leave?" she asked sitting down on Lians lap. "Um, well it's 6am now, how's 7 suit you, I'd like to get and early start" Lian replied hitting the send button and closing down the program. "Sure, guess I'd better get in the shower then huh" she said getting off Lians lap. "Need a hand?" Lian smirked as she shut the computer down and started unplugging the cords. "Hmmm, decisions, a quick shower on my own, or a longer way more enjoyable one with you" Sabrina muttered as she pretended to weight up her options. "Scamp!" Lian smirked as she slapped Sabrina on the backside and limped off towards the bathroom. Laughing Sabrina bounded after her, she grabbed hold of Lian just as they reached the bathroom door, "I love you, you know that?" she said pulling the older woman into the room. "Yeah, I had a faint idea that you did" Lian replied pushing Sabrina up against the tiled wall and kissing her, " I love you too babe" ****** An hour later the happy couple was in the car, having loaded up the back with their bags and any other items that may prove useful. They were about to get in and leave when Mary and John came racing down the stairs, shouting at them to wait. "Lian! Sabrina!" Mary cried out running into the parking lot, waving frantically. "What?" the both answered as the short redhead reached them. "What's up?" Lian asked as John loped over, joining his fiancée. "We just wanted to say goodbye, and to give you this" Mary answered taking Lian into a big bear hug and pressing a small rectangular object into her hand. "Ugh, thanks, I'll miss you" Lian said looking at the package that was wrapped in blue paper. "I'll miss you too Aussie, you take care, ok, and look after the kid, she's a handful" Mary smirked winking at Sabrina before giving her a big hug. "See ya Lian, take care pal" John said putting his hand out to shake hers. "Bye John, be good to her, or I'll come back and whomp your butt!" Lian joked, "Nah, we'll do this the Aussie way,” she said taking him up in a big bear hug and bouncing him up and down. Stumbling backwards, John burst out laughing, "Christ if that's an Aussie hug, I'd hate to see what you do to her" he smirked looking at Sabrina. "JOHN!" Mary cried, a little shocked that he'd said that. "Don't worry about it Mary, he's just a dirty old man" Sabrina said climbing up into the Jimmy. Hugging Mary one final time, Lian looked into her eyes and smiled, "Thanks for being there Mary, I'll always be here if you need me" she said getting into the passengers side of the vehicle. "Bye Lian, Bye Sabrina" Mary and John called out as the car pulled away from the curb. "So what's in the package?" Sabrina asked turning onto the interstate and heading southwards. Opening the gift, Lian burst out laughing as she looked at the cover, it was a tape of Melissa Etheridge songs. "Well I guess she got us on that one" she smirked placing the tape into the player, listening to the music as the first song started to play. Looking at each other and smiling, Sabrina and Lian just listening to the music as they drove along. "Come on baby let's get out of this town I got a full tank of gas with the top rolled down There's a chill in my bones I don't want to be left alone So baby you can sleep while I drive" The End. Any song lyrics were not used with the permission of the author, they're from Melissa Etheridges' song, "You Can Sleep While I Drive" from the "Brave and Crazy" album.
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