Fandom: NYPD Blue
Rating: R for f/f sexuality
Summary: What was really going on between Kirkendall and Russell during Seasons 6 & 7 of NYPD
Blue.
Disclaimers: See Steven Bochco and ABC if you want to argue.
Spoilers: Starts roughly around the Season 6 ep "Show and Tell" and goes through the end of Season 7.
Note: Just a little one shot on my part to explain why there's always been so much chemistry between Russell and Kirkendall. If you asked me, the writers missed the boat on this one. It stands outside my little "Days and Nights" universe.
Feedback: If you shoot at me, I will duck and return fire from: sbowers@bellsouth.net

I never told her that I loved her.

Not that there was any real reason to.

Not that she would have believed me anyhow.

Jill always treated my relationship with Bobby like it was some sort of Holy Grail, something beyond what she could understand or have in her own life. But we were just like any other couple in love-- with our pain, our kindness, our scars. Bobby was the first person that I gave my heart to, the first one to make me believe that I was worth loving.

And when he was gone, it felt like something vital-- my lungs, my heart, my entrails-- had been ripped from my body. I didn't know how to survive.

Yet, I really didn't have a choice. And somehow, I found I wasn't alone.

When I wanted to reach out for a bottle, I called her to stop my hand. When I needed to cry, I sought out her shoulder to lean on. When I talked about pain, I looked to her eyes and saw it reflected there.

Blond hair. Clear green eyes. A guarded smile that never quite took hold of her face. Those became my guiding lights when it was so dark in my heart that I couldn't find my way.

No wonder-- effortlessly, unthinkingly-- I began to love her.

Touching me always came easily to Jill. Maybe it was because she was a mother-- no, that can't be right. My own mother reserved her touches, saving them for my brother alone. Dougie was hers; I was Pop's-- God help us all. She finally killed him for what he did-- although it was twenty years and too many tears too late.

A hand on my shoulder. Fingers to twine around my own. Strong arms when I was shaking so bad I couldn't stand up. It was just a part of who we were together.

But never in front of the rest of the squad. Even before-- when Bobby was so sick and I couldn't admit to myself that he wanted to let go-- she held me only when we were alone. With the rest-- Andy and James and Greg with their heavy, shuffling feet and awkward pauses-- she was one of the squad. My partner, yes, but still one of the 1-5 first. Later, that inadvertent subterfuge served us well, and we didn't have any nasty incriminating habits to unlearn.

Looking back, it seems so clearly simple now. When things began to change-- although I can honestly say at the time it was innocent.

We were innocent.

A long and hellish day... Andy was in rare form, bear-like in his anger because the air-conditioning in the squad was out. Like we weren't all just as uncomfortable as he was? Sorenson was pocketing paper clips at an alarming rate and casting nervous glances at me as if I had any control over what his partner was doing; while Greg and James seemed only wanted to keep out of the line of fire.

A small breeze ruffled by me, and I was startled by the cold press of metal against the back of my neck. Even as I jumped slightly out of my skin, I recognized the discreet scent of Jill's cologne as she leaned down. "Helps cool you off," she muttered in my ear. "But you can try it on Andy."

We shared a brief exchange of grins, and I think she winked at me before retreating the length of the squad room to her own desk.

By some miracle, Jill and I had managed not to pull the same 4-to-12 shift that the others had, so we found ourselves in the curious position of leaving soon after everyone else had arrived. As we gathered our things to leave, a playfully mischievous urge struck me. I felt like a twelve year-old hoodlum cutting gym class, and I didn't want to lose the sensation. Before-- before Bobby, before I stopped drinking, before I started caring about what happened to me-- when moods like this hit, I'd usually find a bar and see what kind of trouble I could stir up. Sometimes that was finding a guy and hitting the rack. Sometimes it was just drinking until I didn't notice I was alone anymore. Sometimes... well it wasn't sometimes any more.

It was now.

"The boys still at soccer camp?" I remembered Jill had said something about them wanting to go, and her being worried about there being enough money-- but she had pulled about two weeks' solid overtime to come up with the extra cash so they could go, even though she hated being apart from them.

"Yeah," she said, her face twisting into that half smile whose underlying sadness I wanted to get behind more and more. "Nine more days-- but I'm not counting."

"No," I teased. "Not you."

She shrugged, a kind of helpless what are you going to do gesture that cheerfully confessed to all her maternal weaknesses. Jill adored her sons-- that was obvious to anyone who spent more than ten minutes in her company-- yet she was determined not to cripple them with her love. She always said that was what had ruined her sonofabitch ex-husband, Don, and that she'd be damned before she'd see that happen to her boys. Still, Frank and Kyle were a way into her guarded life; and over the last few years I'd noticed that squad never asked Jill about herself, but rather her sons, using them as a barometer to learn things about the stately Detective Kirkendall that she would never tell them herself.

Or else they asked me. But that came later, long after I could honestly tell them everything I knew.

Everything I felt.

This evening, however, things were still easy between us-- partners and friends with a bond that I felt comfortably sure would last well past the time I would need it so desperately. "So," I continued my bantering, "Is it safe to assume that you don't have any earth-shattering plans this evening?"

"Well, there is that reception for the President," she replied blithely. "And Mayor Guiliani's calling at nine to hear my views on crime and what we can do to prevent it in our fair city. But other than that, no-- I'd have to say that my schedule is pretty clear."

"That mean I can interest you in some manicotti at Fredo's?"

Jill arched a pale brow. "Throw in some of those garlic bread thingies they make and I'll tell Guiliani to call later."

"You're on."

Fredo's was a little hole-in-the-wall trattoria started by a weasely former-CI with a Godfather complex. A lot of cops patronized the place because it was the money he earned by diming out small-time hoods that got him started. Saying we liked the guy was a little strong, but still nobody had the heart to tell the schmo that he'd picked the wrong brother to name his restaurant after.

Breathing a sigh of relief that the ennui gripping the House's air conditioner didn't seem to be contagious, Jill and I commandeered a corner booth at the far end of the dining room, waving to the host as we sat. He was at our table with alarming promptness, speaking rapid-fire Italian and offering everything from the house special to a few things that, had I been able to translate them, might have gotten him arrested again. We declined with as good a grace as possible most of his suggestions and asked for water and a chance to peruse the menu at our leisure.

He sent the water and menus, but also a carafe of sweet-smelling house wine. Jill started to refuse the offer, but I put a hand on her arm. "Take it," I said with a smile. "It doesn't bother me." She looked at me skeptically, but allowed the waiter to put the bottle and glasses down. "Wine was never my problem anyway. Now if he had sent over a pint of Smirnoff's-- I might be in trouble."

I don't know what the particular perversity drove me to tell her to keep the wine. Looking back, mostly I think it was just a desire to see her lose some of the thready tension that kept her shoulders taut and her back stiff with its pressure.

I wanted to see what that looked like.

I think now, was it starting? even then-- even before I had a language for it. Naming, labeling-- it's all a form of possession-- but doesn't possession, or at least the desire for it, start namelessly?

Dry mouthed wanting, taking our words from us.

I watched her that night. Watched the wine touch her lips, followed its passage down her throat as she swallowed, felt an echo of the spreading warmth that I knew it created in her belly.

We started talking, some nonsense about the station, about Sorenson whom we both liked but still felt unsure about. He had proven solid so far, but gaping tear that had been rent in the squad by Bobby's death had yet to be filled. Just to show me, as if I didn't know already, that I wasn't the only one who had lost something extraordinary when Bobby left.

Two glasses of wine-- that's what it took for Jill to lean back in her chair and sigh, a deep-breathed sound that felt as if it had the weight of ten years' pain behind it.

"Talk to me," I said, not really sure what, if anything, my partner would tell me.

A lazy drift curled her lips upwards as she looked at me. And I thought I had never quite realized before-- how beautiful Jill was. Bobby had seen it. They had dated briefly when she first joined the squad-- when he and I weren't speaking, when I was being impossibly stubborn over something no doubt or when his stiff-necked pride refused to back down. Now I had the exquisitely painful sensation of sitting where he had sat, of looking at this woman through his eyes. Hearing the deep-throated tones of her voice, seeing the undaunted clarity in her eyes-- despite the pain I suspected lay hidden there and before I had learned firsthand the crux of her anguish.

He had wanted her.

Or was that me?

"My conversational skills must be getting really bad to lose you this early." Herself-deprecating laugh was what drew my attention back to the words she spoke and away from the study of her face, the quietly powerful lines of her body and the grace with which she carried herself.

"No," I replied honestly. "It's me."

"You getting tired? We have been here a while."

To my surprise the dinner hour had passed, as had dessert. The used silverware around testified to my participation in the meal, yet I had no cognizant memory of the food. I could have eaten raw squid for all I remember, so focused had I been on the person across from me. On the startling effect I was beginning to realize she had upon me.

"Tired? No..." I was at a loss, wanting the evening to continue. Not sure how to ask.

But as ever, Jill seemed to know what I was thinking, for she called over the waiter, who was only too happy to close out our check.

"I invited you," I demurred, as she attempted to sweep the bill out from under me.

"I can at least hold up my end," she protested.

"Then invite me over for some coffee."

She eyed me speculatively a bit longer, then that ghost of a smile. "Sure. AMC's got a Bette Davis film festival showing all this week. You ever seen All About Eve?"

When I admitted that I hadn't, she pretended shock, then dismay, and insisted that I come over. I protested that it was late, that I didn't want to intrude-- but we both knew it for a token.

That was how I found myself in her home. Looking at her in a way that I had never before. And at loss for what to feel about it.

----------------

"Do I even want to ask if you've ever seen a Bette Davis movie?" but the look on my face must have given her an answer, for she could only roll her eyes at my ignorance.

"Come on, Jill, you're not that much older than I am."

"No, but you didn't have a mother who just about memorized every movie ever made in the 40s and 50s. My grandma ran the nickel cinema in the old neighborhood; and growing up, my ma had to work the ticket counter. Slow days she'd go in and watch all the movies, three four times a day. She fell in love with all those beautiful people up there." Jill shook her head, lost it seemed in some far off memory that I couldn't reach. "I think it ruined her, in the end. All that stardust-- that's what she called it. Real life never quite took with her. Sometimes I'd catch her looking at me like she didn't know who I was."

"What about your dad?" It was a conversation unlike any other we'd had, and I was fascinated-- wanting to hear more, but unsure if my questions might send her skittering away, back behind the facade of the ever-competent Detective Kirkendall.

"What about him?" The elaborate nonchalance in Jill's shrug was painful. It told me more than I ever wanted to know about the man's absence from her life-- and perhaps explained in the year to come why keeping her sons' father in their lives was so important to her, even at the cost of everything else she held dear.

"Walked out?" I asked, unnecessarily-- just wanting to keep her talking.

"Never had the pleasure of his company, actually." She paused to pour herself a glass of wine and a soda for me. "Ma always wanted me to believe that it was some great, doomed romance-- and I believed her too, until I realized she had stolen the story lock stock and dead fianc´┐Że from The Great Lie." Jill laughed bleakly. "I told you Ma was a Bette Davis fan."

Reaching out for Jill's hand, I clasped her cold fingers in my own and pulled her down on the couch beside me. "You turned out okay," I said by way of an apology that she had never gotten from her mother.

"I always watched the men in the neighborhood, you know? Just to see if any of them looked like me."

"Did they?"

She reflected a moment. "No, none of them did. They were all brown-eyed and dark."

"And look at you-- all green eyes and blond hair. That is natural, isn't it?" I teased gently. "In fact, I'd have to say that you turned out pretty damned terrific-- Jill Kirkendall-- father and mother be damned."

"You trying to boost my ego or something?" She glanced at my wryly, before averting her gaze. Jill had never been comfortable in personal conversations where the person involved was her. She was much more accustomed to taking the role I found myself in now, comforting rather than comforted.

"I'm trying to tell you something you should already know," I replied, keeping my voice light.

She acquiesced to the compliment as gracefully as she was able, with a slight dip of her head and the barest hint of a blush rising on her cheeks. "Thanks," she said softly.

"Don't mention it, partner." I resisted the urge to brush my fingers through the thick tangle of golden hair on the crown of her head and settled instead for chucking her gently on the chin. She narrowed her eyes briefly at me, but there was a glimmer there whose origins were either in mischief or tears. I wasn't sure which.

"The movie's starting."

And that was the last conversation we had for the next two hours.

At least it was, verbally.

Sometime, during the movie-- I'm not quite sure when-- I shifted towards Jill in order to see the screen better, accidentally brushing her legs. "Sorry," I muttered and moved to put a little more distance between us. To my surprise, she tugged me back, pulling her knees together and forming a backrest of sorts for me to lean against.

"That better?" she murmured when I had situated myself.

"Perfect," I replied, just as quietly, not sure why our voices were so hushed. It might have been simply an old moviegoing custom to observe the silence-- but looking back, I realize instead it was our unknowing wish to not disturb the intimacy just settling over us.

"My knees not too bony?" Her voice a low husk near my ears.

"Not at all," I reassured her, as the length of her legs pressed against the muscles on either side of my spine. Neither Jill nor I were prone to wearing skirts-- the day-to-day vagaries of our job prohibited it-- but I had seen her bare legs enough to now be uncomfortably reminded of their strength and grace.

I can't honestly say I remember too much about the movie-- though I do remember nodding appropriately to things that Jill pointed out; but my concentration, if not my vision, was devoted to the woman behind me.

Too soon the Warner Brothers credits began to roll, yet Jill showed no inclination to move. My breath unaccountably short, I remained where I was-- wondering what would happen next.

And wondering what exactly it was I wanted to happen.

"Did you enjoy the movie?" Her voice was low and reassuring just behind my ear.

I shivered.

"Did you?" she prompted again.

"It was terrific," I replied with as much conviction as I could summon on the instant's notice.

"You sure?" A teasing, chiding question.

"Absolutely," I affirmed.

"Cause you seemed kind of distracted there for-- oh, I don't know-- about the last three quarters of the movie."

Busted.

Her hands brushed my shoulders then lightly danced away. "Whatever's on your mind, Diane, you know if you need to talk..."

She didn't finish the sentence. She didn't have to. Jill had unequivocally been there for me during the worst time of my life-- offering a hand, a shoulder, an ear.

How was I supposed to tell her, then, that she was what was on my mind?

A quiet sigh.

A subtle shift of her legs, and I found myself surrounded by the silent strength of her arms and legs as

she gave me a soft hug.

"I know you miss him, Diane."

No no no....

I couldn't let this go on. I couldn't let her think that my life was still consumed by mourning. By grief. By him.

I was moving on. Slowly and agonizingly, but surely. And she was a great part of the reason why.

Jumping off the precipice of my indecision, I pulled her arms tighter around me, settling deeper into her embrace.

"What would you say..." I began, then faltered. Her attention was riveted on me, the rhythm of her heart thrumming beneath the skin that enveloped me. "If I said what was on my mind was you?"

Was it my imagination or did that pulse skip a beat, then resume its course at a much elevated pace?

"What do you mean?" Her words hoarse, ardent, for my ears alone.

I was on the verge of making a grand fool of myself-- counting on the fact that I hadn't been alone in attributing something more than partnership to the changes in our relationship. But I couldn't remain silent with my musings. I had to know. No doubt, if I were wrong, Jill would be generous in her forgiveness and attribute my misguided notions of blind grief and loneliness.

I'm not ashamed to say that I relied upon Jill's largesse of spirit to shelter me were that to be the case.

Her arms remained securely about me, even as she asked me what I was talking about; and I counted her lack of retreat as a point in my favor.

"Close your eyes," I ordered softly.

"Diane..."

"Just do it."

An exasperated sigh and the minute shift of her body signaled her compliance.

"Does it feel like you're holding one of your children?" I asked.

"Diane..."

"Does it?"

Another sigh. "No."

"Does it feel like holding your sister?"

A pause. "I don't have a sister."

We had both been cops long enough to know an evasion when we heard one. Her statement fooled neither of us. I tightened my grip on her arms, more sure now than ever that I hadn't been wrong.

We were at a crossroads of sorts. What she answered here would, in effect, determine the course of our future relationship. Were we just partners and friends...

Or something more?

"If you had a sister," I began. "Do you think this is what it would feel like to hold her?"

The silence that ensued was perhaps the longest of my life. Longer than mine when Bobby first proposed. Longer than his shock when I told him I thought I was pregnant.

But this wasn't Bobby. It was someone else.

"Does it?" I prompted.

Her answer was a breath, an exhalation, and silent surrender to a struggle I had been unaware of in her own heart and body. I learned of that only later.

"No..."

As if the answer to the one unlocked thousands of others, questions flooded my thoughts randomly, crashing in upon one another with less than elegant precision-- until the barest brush of her mouth against my neck stunned the cacophony into silence.

A low moan reverberated between us, whether from my throat or hers, I neither knew nor cared. Of its own volition, my head fell back against her shoulder, revealing more flesh down which she traced a leisurely path that sent tiny darts of pleasure shimmering through my body.

Her touch was sure, gentle-- her lips and tongue delicately acquainting themselves with the flavor of my skin. And though she had just begun her exploration, I longed already to turn and do the same, to delve into the secrets that she kept so close inside. She was wrapped so tightly around me now, in a binding of my creation, that I couldn't turn. Couldn't touch. Couldn't taste.

I groaned in frustration-- and the caress was gone. In an instant she had uncoiled her length from me, and I was cold with her sudden absence.

"No..." I murmured, my eyes following her as she stood over me. The flickering blue light of the now-muted television cast an unearthly glow along the angles of her face. I could see her jaw working, as if she were trying to say words that just wouldn't come out right.

In that instant, I knew she was going to send me away and was only searching for the way that would best salvage both my now-tattered pride and our partnership. Her eyes were filled with an inscrutable longing that I identified as pity.

"Come on then..."

My shock was such that all I could do when she offered her hand was silently take it, rise, and follow her into the bedroom.

She turned on no lights, lit no candles; but the moon had kindly blessed us with its full light. Jill didn't object when I pulled the curtains open to enjoy its beneficence.

I reached for her, but she stood slightly out of my grasp and motioned me to the foot of the bed.

Her voice was rawer than I had ever heard. "Sit down."

She stood in front of me, kicking off her shoes and unbuttoning her blouse with trembling fingers. I was transfixed, simultaneously dry-mouthed and sweating-- as inch by inch-- Jill Kirkendall was revealed to me.

"Is this what you want?" she asked when the last silken undergarment had slipped easily over her hips.

"I want you," I said by way of answer and was pleased to see that the subtle distinction wasn't lost on her. She smiled crookedly and stepped a place closer.

She was within my reach now; and as I raised my trembling hands to her, she calmly took them in her own and led me to her skin. I traced the curve of her body, from those long, elegant legs-- the center of her grace-- over the curve of her hips, across the gently rounded plane of her belly, to the generous swells of her breasts.

Standing thus before me, Jill Kirkendall was absolutely the most exquisitely beautiful human being I had ever seen in my life.

Her body wasn't perfect by any means. Forty years of life, two kids, and a high stress job with unstable hours will guarantee that. But it was supple and curved, and rich with a beauty the likes of which I had never encountered.

Silently, I encircled her waist with my arms, resting my head on her stomach. Her fingers raked through my hair, tangling in the thick curls and tugging my eyes upwards to meet hers in the dimness. "I don't know where this is going," she said quietly, smiling wryly, as though not quite believing what was happening. "The boys..."

"Shhh...." I placed a silencing finger on her lips. "This has nothing to do with the boys, or the squad." Or Bobby, I wanted to add, but was afraid that the mere mention of his name would remind her of the uncomfortable pedestal on which she had placed me. Now that I was finally down, I had absolutely no desire to be put back up there.

"But..."

"Shh..." I urged her again, this time silencing her with my lips in a first kiss that wasn't so much explosive or incendiary as revelatory. Her mouth was warm and sweet, tasting faintly of the wine she had been sipping during the movie, as it opened to me in an intimacy that made me weak in the knees. Her tongue slipped softly against my own, teasing me gently, knowingly.

I moaned quietly-- I must have-- for I felt the reverberations deep in my own throat. My fingers brushed through the smooth cap of her hair, its fine and delicate texture so different from my own. I marveled at my own boldness, my hands now roaming at will across the breadth of her shoulders.

She seemed larger now, in her skin, than she ever did in those sensible twill trousers and blazers. In her professional life, Jill cultivated a quiet demeanor-- comfortable in the shadows until the moment came to make her presence known. I had seen her tune a perp up once-- backhanding him so hard he sprawled backwards across the room. Her strength had seemed shocking to me then-- now, with the hard coil of her muscles beneath my hands, such power didn't seem so unimaginable.

All the while we were kissing, but her hands hadn't been still either-- and I smiled as the blouse fell from my shoulders and the slacks loosened from around my waist. I waited paitently while she removed the rest of my clothes-- though I could have done it in a fraction of the time. I had never been so acutely aware of the press of cloth against the tiny hairs on my skin or its weight on my body until I stood released to the unflinching scrutiny of Jill's green eyes.

Though I reveled in the caress of the moonlight over Jill's body, I was suddenly shy when the tables were turned. Wanting desperately for her to find me a tenth as beautiful as I found her, knowing there was no way I could be.

Her fingertips traced the outline of my face, as if committing each line to memory. Then she smiled in the dimness. "You are lovely," she murmured so quietly it could have been only the sound of her breath on the air.

I ducked my head, still abashed, and brought her hands to my lips, pressing a tiny kiss of thanksgiving there. "Not like you."

She only shook her head softly and leaned in to kiss me again. Bolder this time, more certain of what we both wanted.

It wasn't unerring instinct that led us to the bed, but simple gravity, as we let our legs fall out from under us. She guided our path, stretching herself beside me and running the length of our bodies against one another.

I gasped at the new sensation, even as the cool sheets comforted me with the reassuringly familiar smell of my partner. Her hands smoothly stroked the shyness out of my body now, replacing it with a thready tension in my spine and a ready heat at the back of my legs.

I knew I spoke, but I had no idea what I had said-- Jill only laughed, a deep rich contralto the likes of which I had never heard from her before-- and lifted her head. "Patience..." she counseled.

"Patience my ass..." I growled in reply. "Touch me..."

I was obliged by the first, aching touch of her mouth to my breasts. My back arched in response, offering her more-- of what I'm not sure. Of me, of evidence of my desire, of my need for her. One of my legs drew up alongside hers, and I was surprised by how easily one of her thighs slipped between my own. As if we had been lovers for far longer than these few moments. As if we would be for even longer still.

An eternity stretched out before us in that instant-- the moment when her hand glided between my legs, unerringly finding the swollen center of my arousal. I groaned, murmuring unintelligibly. Begging, pleading, urging her on-- unsure of where she could, or would, take me.

My climax was so swift, so unexpected in its arrival that my entire body was shaken by it, the intensity convulsing my muscles beyond anything I could hope to control.

"Jill..." was all I was able to cry, helplessly.

I shook her in her arms, my heart thundering in my chest, my breath roaring in my ears. She was still touching me, and I was still so swollen that I swore I could feel even the whorls and ridges in her skin that made up the prints of her fingers. "Don't stop," I whispered. "Don't stop touching me. Please."

"I won't," she assured me, the same quiet intensity burning in her eyes as when she had held me at

Bobby's death. Only this time, her own desire was betrayed by the ragged hoarseness of her voice and the unsteadiness of her own breath.

Sleep found us only when the sun was threatening its arrival over tenements and rooftops-- when we couldn't give into it and could only stare in disbelief at the insistent and whining alarm clock. I showered in her arms that morning, borrowed a laundry-shrunken shirt-- and if Lt. Fancy noticed I was in yesterday's clothes, he had the discretion not to mention it.

Neither of us said anything about the night we has just passed, but more than once I found myself

glancing across the squad room and blushing violently at the knowing smile that curled my partner's lips. By some silent accord we returned to her apartment that night, as we did for the next seven nights that followed.

Eight days. Of making love and laughing and telling each other things we never dreamed of sharing with anyone else. When Sorenson invited us to join him and Greg and James for a beer-- we declined with almost indecent haste, losing ourselves instead in a far more heady concoction of our sweat, our skin, and the taste of our pleasure in each other's mouths. I curled around Jill's body, climbed over her like a cat-- she just laughed and held me with an easy abandon that I hadn't seen in her before.

That I was never to see again.

When her boys came back, things changed.

It wasn't exactly like she wanted to pretend that those eight days-- that lost time-- hadn't happened, but rather as if it were a glimpse of something she couldn't have. Maybe she thought so because of the boys, maybe it was because Danny had-- impetuously and uninvitedly-- kissed me. Maybe it was because I told her I thought he was sweet.

Whatever it was between us, however, didn't die; and there were some days electricity sparked between us so strongly that I was surprised no one noticed. Some people did, I think-- I know our PAA did. John was never one for speaking out of school, however, and although I know he was dying to say something to one or both of us-- he never did.

I don't know how or why Don came back into her life. He was just... there... one day, leading her back down a path of bleakness that I had hoped I wouldn't see in her eyes anymore, that I had hoped to replace with laughter and joy.

She reached out to me once, after a horrible case where an abusive husband had murdered the wife

whom Jill was trying to help. She showed up at my apartment, looking as if she had gone ten rounds with Sonny Listen himself, and fell into my arms. I took her to my bed and tried to talk to her, comfort her the way she had comforted me-- but she only reached for me, the way only someone blind and starving can. I opened myself to her mouth and hands willingly-- joyously, even. Not ashamed to have her back in my arms again, even if she had been driven there only another unspeakable pain.

She was only there less than an hour before Danny showed up unexpectedly, drunk and looking for

comfort himself-- if only of the verbal kind. She waited until he had passed out on the couch before slipping away wordlessly. I swear I saw a birthing light in her eyes die that night.

Looking back, I wonder if that's when things changed irrevocably. If she already knew Don was alive or if when he resurfaced she made her decision to help him. In the weeks that followed, my heart broke as I watched Jill methodically throw away everything she held dear-- and almost lose her sons' lives in the bargain.

She's gone now-- Don's in jail and she and her boys are someplace where he can't find them. I gave her Bobby's wedding ring. "Remember," I told her. "Remember everything." And I think she will.

I got a postcard in the mail from her the other day. She's helping run a women's shelter and getting her Master's in social work somewhere down South. "You wouldn't believe how much the boys have grown." she wrote. "You'll have to come see them one day."

Not "You have to come see me one day..."

Jill would never presume.

But I would.

And I will.

FINIS

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