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Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and Agent 99 are all owned by others. I only borrowed them for a little while. No copyright infringement was intended. Casey and Beth (and their ever growing list of friends and enemies) sprang from my wicked mind.

Sex/Violence Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between two women. Also there is a little violence (c'mon, Xena and her future personality are here! Of course there's violence), but no where near the level of an average episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.

Any comments or questions can be directed to me at

Forever, Remember?
By Watcher

"Don't move, Scumbag!" Casey heard the low, gravelly tone of her author and took off running. "Hang on Beth, I'm coming!" The specialist growled under her breath, reaching for her 9mm.

"One more step and you're toast!" Casey spun into the room silently, weapon drawn, heart hammering. Blue eyes darted frantically then fastened on her partner, taking in the clip on the desk. "What the hell? Hope she remembered to clear the chamber." Added a second later.

"Stop or I'll shoot." Beth's tone changed, sounding even more menacing. Wide eyed, Casey silently slipped into the shadows, clamping a hand over her mouth.

"No, no, Beth. That's not right. THINK!" The author re-holstered her partner's weapon, stomping back to the center of the room. "Ok, let's try this." Spinning towards the window, Beth pulled the gun smartly. "Freeze, Dirtball!"

"No, no. That's still not right." Complaining loudly, Beth slammed the weapon into its holster. "Think! What would Casey say?"

From the shadows blue eyes tracked her loudly stomping partner, wincing at the treatment of her weapon. "Not that!" The specialist chuckled silently. "I'm glad I skipped out of work early today. Thank you, little brother, I really need this. I definitely wouldn't want to miss this! Just what is Beth practicing?" She was pulled from her thoughts by Beth suddenly crouching behind the sofa. "What the???"

"Do you feel lucky, punk?" Beth growled, popping up from behind the sofa, gun pointed dangerously at her invisible invader. A second later, she stood, stretching stiff muscles. "Well, that was better, but not quite what I want." Beth missed the muffled snort from behind her. "At least it feels," the author paused, waving the gun haphazardly in front of her. "More authentic."

Pacing sedately, Beth froze, whipping the weapon from its holster. Her voice at its deepest, most intimidating level she tried again. "Go ahead, make my day!"

That did it for the specialist: she burst out laughing.

"What?" Beth spun around, eyes blazing. "Casey!" The author dropped the gun on the sofa, raising a slightly shaking hand to her chest. "You trying to scare me to death?" Green eyes narrowed dangerously at her laughing partner. "Just what is so funny?" The author asked indignantly, eyebrow raised haughtily, hands now on her hips.

"Well," Casey snorted, moving towards her partner. "Honestly?" Blue flickered to green, gauging her lover's mood. "Here goes nothing. Hope it's the right thing to do."

"No self respecting law enforcement officer or PI would ever say any of those things." Casey finally answered truthfully, carefully watching her lover. She knew better than to say Beth looked ridiculous. The idea of her gentle lover pointing a gun seriously at someone was ludicrous. A staff on the other hand was a totally different matter. "Hmm," the specialist nervously continued, not detecting any change in her author's stance or facial expressions. "What are you looking for? Maybe I can help."

Don't I even get a 'Hi Beth, how was your day?'" The author shot Casey a menacing look, resuming her pacing. "After all, you scared ME half to death." The author spun, stomping to the window. "You know, that would have really been nice."

"Mmmhmm." Blue eyes lazily tracked Beth's movements. At one time, Beth's comments would have scared the specialist, made her think the author was really mad at her. Now they only caused a brief flicker of concern which was quickly overridden by the gold band on her finger. And more importantly, the one on her lover's finger. "I should be giving you a hard time!"

Casey hopped over the sofa's arm, landing gracefully. Settling back on the cushions, she propped her feet on the conveniently placed table. "After all," blue eyes darkened seriously for a moment. "Didn't happen, get past it. She's safe." Clearing her throat, Casey continued. "I'm the one who came home to hear 'Don't move, Scumbag!'." "Do you have any idea what went through my head? Have any idea how scared I was?" The specialist forced her face to remain teasingly neutral, not conveying her thoughts.

"You were scared, huh?" Beth asked, having covertly observed her lover during their playful exchange. "Damn. Didn't expect that. Of course I didn't expect her home in the middle of the afternoon either." "Sorry, love." The author quirked a questioning eyebrow. "Is that seat taken?" She pointed at the spot next to Casey.

"That spot's always reserved." Casey teased gently, eyes sparkling, emotions no longer masked. "For my boss." Patting the spot invitingly, the specialist turned serious. "For my love. Get over here." The last was more of a plea than command. "Come touch me. I need to feel that you're one piece, no matter what my eyes tell me."

"Hiya, Casey." Beth's gentle voice washed over Casey, driving away the last remains of her lingering tension. "Have a good day love?" Leaning down, Beth brushed her lips lightly against Casey's before sitting beside her.

"Yeah, I did." Casey wrapped an arm around Beth, holding her close. "What about you?"

"For the most part. As you could tell, I was having a little problem." Beth snuggled closer, resting her head against Casey's shoulder. Closing her eyes, the author visualized her problem and casually shut the door on it. "I'll deal with it tomorrow." She promised herself, wanting nothing more than to sink into Casey. "Damn. I didn't mean to make you worry, love." Beth thought quietly, snuggling against her lover, willing her lover's tense muscles to relax.

Casey waited to see if Beth would elaborate on her problem. The specialist could guess, given what she walked in on, but Casey didn't want to offer any advice unless Beth asked. She'd already offered once; she didn't want her author thinking she was trying to muscle in on her territory. "Time for drastic measures, Casey." The specialist told herself, feeling her lover's tense body against her own ever so slowly relax. Sneakily she released Beth's hand and pretended to turn, supposedly to scratch her nose. Blue eyes tracked Beth's interest level and then attacked. Laughing softly, long fingers proceeded to tickle indiscriminately.

"Casey!" Beth giggled, finally managing to capture those wicked hands. "If you wanted me to sit on your lap, " green eyes narrowed playfully, not surprised at all that she'd ended up on her lover's lap. It was almost a given: either Beth would end up flat on her back or on Casey's lap. "All you had to do was ask! No need to torture me."

"My method accomplished more than one task though." Casey pointed out smugly and hurried on, not giving Beth the chance to interrupt. "What, you ask? Good question." Blue twinkled merrily, not able to maintain her smugness, not when Beth was so close. "Knew I loved you for more than just your incredible looks."

"Casey!" Beth snorted in warning, moving suggestively against her now squirming lover. "I could," Beth possessively ran a finger over her lover's chest. "Remind you," she changed Casey's focus point from her teasing finger to her lips, nuzzling the soft skin under Casey's ear. "Of why," gently she sucked on Casey's earlobe, delighting in the softly exhaled breath that teased her own skin. "I let you," her hand cupped her lover's breast, caressing the cloth covered flesh possessively, while her lips barely brushed her lover's neck. "Win."

"Did I tell you today that I love you?" Casey sighed contentedly, pressing herself against her lover.

"Nope." Beth replied gravely, teeth lightly nipping Casey's neck in punishment for neglecting such an important action. "So you do, huh?"

"Very much so." The specialist shivered, but whether it was from her lover's actions or words or the feelings behind the actions, she didn't know. "It's probably all three." The specialist told herself happily.

"Good." As a reward, Beth kissed Casey lightly, then mumbled against her lips. "Cause I love you too." Putting her feelings into actions, Beth lightly sucked on Casey's bottom lip. Taking the quickly parted lips as an invitation, Beth deepened the kiss, propelling them both into a sensual haze.

"Very much so?" Casey asked breathlessly when they separated.

"Of course, silly." Beth lightly tugged on Casey's hair, not surprised to find her hand in one of its favorite places. "Was there any doubt?" Covertly she studied Casey out of the corner of her eye. "How can she still doubt how much I love her?" The author thought quickly, mentally frowning as she watched the play of emotions fly across her lover's eyes. "Guess I should be glad she knows I love her." Unthinkingly the author glanced down, the flash of gold against her lover's tanned skin reassuring. "I had hoped that would have convinced her."

Meeting Beth's eyes questioningly when she stiffened, Casey realized her silence had been taken for doubt. "Damn! I did it again. It's not what you're thinking, I promise." Taking a deep breath, Casey forced her thoughts back to her lover. "Of course not!" Casey replied to Beth's question heatedly. "The one constant in my life is you." The specialist consciously softened her voice. "Sometimes I do wonder why, but I do know you love me, that you'll always be here for me." Blue twinkled happily. "Go figure that, huh? I think you might have finally beaten it into me." "Gotcha love! I don't think you were expecting me to say that! And I actually think I'm really starting to believe that." Grinning, Casey patted her very surprised lover innocently, masking her own surprise as she realized the truth of her thoughts.

"What? Did I just hear what I think I did?" Beth poked her lover suspiciously, eyes narrowing in not-so-mock disbelief. "What did you do with my lover?" Spoken half teasingly, the author tried to adjust the surprising revelation, to figure out what was going on in her wife's lovely head. "What's wrong?"

"I thought you'd be happy, not suspicious!" Casey pouted, stopping Beth from poking her again. "Ok...ok!" Casey gave in, turning serious, not liking the amount of confusion on her lover's face. "How could I not know? You tell me with every look, every touch." The specialist spoke softly, stroking Beth's back reassuringly. Seeing the joyous surprise in Beth's eyes, Casey cursed herself, wrapping Beth in a protective, loving hug. "Stupid Casey! Just how many times have you hurt her? Run out when things get tough for you, leaving her all alone and hurting...yet she's always here, always waiting, willing to forgive, willing to help, willing to love..."

"I do, huh?" Beth pulled Casey out of her brooding with three simple words.

"Yeah, you do." Casey confirmed, kissing the side of Beth's head. "You know it's mutual, right?" Feeling Beth nod, the specialist breathed a sigh of relief. "Good because I will always be here for you too."

"Getting lazy, Casey?" Beth changed the subject, knowing they both needed to calm down a little.

"What?" Blue glared at green in mock shock and anger. "Me??"

"Yeah, you." Undaunted, Beth grinned innocently. Unable to resist, the author slipped a hand under Casey's shirt, fingers wiggling suggestively.

"Oh no you don't." Deftly the specialist pinned the invading hand. Sighing, she answered the unasked question in her lover's eyes. "And no, I'm just not playing hookie. Well," Casey smiled rakishly. "At least not totally. Shoot me for wanting to spend time with my wife." Casey picked up the discarded weapon, handing it to Beth with an innocent grin.

Beth opened her mouth but closed it again promptly when no sound came out. Closing her eyes, she burrowed against Casey, molding as much of herself against her lover as possible. "God I love it when she calls me that!"

"You falling asleep on me?"

Beth chuckled at Casey's indignant tone. "Of course not!" Beth huffed, sitting up straight, swallowing her groan of disappointment as her body left its safe haven. "Would I do something like that?"

"Yes!" Casey arched an eyebrow pointedly, not fooled by Beth's innocent look or sweet tone. "If you weren't sleeping, what were you thinking about?"

Smiling, Beth thought quickly "BUSTED" but was saved by the timely intervention of the telephone. "I'll get that!" Getting up, she answered the phone, mentally grinning as the perfect answer came to mind. And totally ignored the knowing smirk on Casey's face.

"So, lover," Beth purred, sliding gracefully across the room. "That's it lover, don't look away." The look on Casey's face set her heart racing. "I love it when you look at me." Purposely dropping her voice lower, green eyes devoured her lover. "You wanted to know what I was thinking, right?" Beth's low tone floated over Casey, winding around her soul. The author joyfully noted the immediate relaxing in her lover's posture.

"Tell me." Casey grinned sexily at Beth, pushing her reasons for coming home early far away. "Nothing is more important that this...than us. Later is soon enough."

Straddling Casey's thighs, Beth took one large hand and placed it on her waist. The other she brought to her lips, kissing each finger slowly and released her hand gently. Leaning forward, the author captured Casey's earlobe, sucking lightly. "Let me tell you," teeth nipped the sensitive flesh, causing the specialist to groan softly.

"Just what would you do, my big strong lover?" Beth worked her way around to Casey's other ear, tongue lightly tracing the gentle curves of her neck. "What would you say?" A small hand cupped Casey's cloth covered breast, grinning sexily as her lover gasped. "I love how you sound...God, what it does to me." "How would you stop," squeezing gently, lips settled over Casey's rapidly beating pulse point. "Me?"

Blue eyes widened slightly at Beth's heated whispers. Growling, Casey rose swiftly to her feet with Beth firmly attached, trying to ignore her rapidly beating heart. Heading downstairs, Casey showed Beth her answers.


"Casey?" Beth asked contentedly, much later.


"Whatcha doing home?" Beth patted Casey's stomach, snuggling closer. "I'm not complaining, but is everything ok?"

"Want to help me go through the junk my Mom brought?" Casey spoke softly, running a hand lazily over Beth's back. "I need to get it out of the garage." "And I need to let it go."

"Only if you want me too." Beth propped herself up on her hand, green meeting blue supportively. "No pressure, love. I told you that before."

"I want you to." The specialist hid her concern, wanting Beth to know more about her, yet fearing the results if she did. "Damn, Casey! She loves you; she'll still be here at the end...this won't drive her away. Nothing from the past will do that!" The specialist knew this was true; it was the present, the here and now that mattered. And that scared her.

"Ok then, if you're sure." Compassionate eyes read her lover's tension, her heart starting hurting at the vulnerability radiating from her lover. "I'll make you a deal, 99." Beth consciously lightened her expression and tone, wanting to ease her lover's obvious distress.

"What's that, Slick?" Blue fastened innocently on green. "What?" Asked as the picture of innocence.

"What did you call me?" Beth laughed, sitting up and stared hard at Casey. "Slick??"

"Yeah, got a problem with that?" Eyes twinkling, Casey thought the nickname fit. "You're always getting me to do whatever you want, although I'll never admit that. Not in a million years. Seems to fit you."

"Hmm...well...I..." Beth stumbled, not sure what to make of the name. Shrugging her shoulders, she pushed it aside for another time.

"Good." The specialist couldn't believe her luck; it was rare she won a verbal sparring match with her partner. Not wanting to explain, she quickly changed the subject. "What deal?"

Green eyes focused intently on her lounging lover, turning serious. "You want to stop or want me to leave, tell me and I will." Swallowing her moan as Casey's lips kissed the finger shushing her, Beth smiled softly. "And next time we're up at the lake, you can help me clean out my old college stuff."

"Sounds like a plan, Slick." Jumping up, Casey avoided Beth's swat. "Getting slow there, Beth. Gotta be faster than that to catch me."

"Oh, I don't know." Beth reclined and leered at her lover, eyes sweeping over her naked body. "I've got a decent view."

"Beth!" Casey blushed, rapidly dressing.

"Ok...OK! I'll behave!" Beth promised, sitting up with a sigh. "You want a snack before starting?"

"Nope." Casey smiled at Beth, recognizing a delaying tactic when she heard it. "Come up when you're ready." The specialist finished tying her shoes and stood, stretching sensually.

"I guess you're not planning on keeping much." Beth observed a few minutes later. Casey had pulled both cars out of the garage and brought in the trash cans. Green eyes flickered over the boxes now spread out across the garage floor.

"Let's get started." Casey avoided the question. Tugging Beth gently to her side, she sank to the floor by the closest box. "This one must be books or papers, it's the heaviest."

Beth sat back, letting Casey open the box. Biting her lip, the author tried to suppress her curiosity.

"Oh God, I can't believe I saved these!" Casey moaned a few seconds later, staring at neatly stacked and separated papers.

"This has to be every paper you ever wrote!" Beth exclaimed excitedly, peering into the full box. "Can I see?"

"Sure." Chuckling, Casey removed the first stack, looking at the first paper. "These ones on top I wrote my senior year."

"I guess you had to write lots for psychology, huh?" Beth flipped through the first stack, grinning at the ever practical, unimaginative titles. "The Psychological Consequences of Rape, Murderous Impulses, What Drives a Serial Killer, The Poems of...WAIT!" Stopping at the unusual title, Beth sat the papers to the side.

"You took a lit class your senior year?" Beth interrupted Casey, who was busy with another box, flipping through old text books once thought important before tossing them into the trash. "I'm surprised, considering your double major."

"Yeah, I needed it to graduate." Casey grumbled, still somewhat sore about the matter. "I fought with my adviser about the relevance of Emily Dickinson to my chosen profession. It was the only class available in the time I had open."

"Why didn't you get it out of the way earlier? From these papers, it seems you had quite a load your senior...wait, I get it!" The author sat back, reading something other than dislike for a course in Casey's posture. "You thought you could talk your way out of it, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Casey grinned at Beth, wrapping a hand in her long hair and tugged gently. "Guess you know me pretty well." Her grin softened as Beth patted her leg reassuringly. "I'm actually surprised Dr. Rowe didn't tell me some criminals found motivation in literature. I would've been chomping at the bit to take the class then." "God, I was so young, so impatient...I had no idea what I was getting into. If I had known, I might have done things differently...not true, Casey! Nothing short of the actual experience would have changed your mind. Or Beth." The specialist admitted to herself, instinctively knowing that her feelings for her lover would have calmed her raging blood.

"What is it love?" Beth carefully set the papers to the side, reaching for her silent, frowning, lover's hand. "You ok?"

"Hmm?" Blue eyes focused on her author's concerned face. "I'm fine. I was just thinking about how young and brash I used to be. How eager I was to get out into the world, determined to prove myself. I was so sure I could really change things, make a difference in people's lives."

"You did make a difference, Casey." Beth replied hotly, turning to face her partner. "You made a difference in a LOT of people's lives! How many 'monsters' did you stop? How many people were not killed or drug through Hell because of you?"

Blue eyes widened slightly, listening to her protector defend her. "Do you know how much it means to me when you do that? Leap to my defense instantly?" Then a depressing thought hit her hard. "Does Beth think less of me because I quit? Because I walked away? I don't know if I could stand that. Her acceptance, her support, her love means everything." The ex-FBI agent decided she needed answers and lifted her free hand, noting abstractly that it was shaking...rather badly. "Do you," she cleared her throat and tried again. "Do you think I shouldn't have quit? That maybe it's my fault...I could still be stopping them...I..."

"Casey!" Beth rose to her knees, hugging her lover fiercely. "What kind of question is that?" She exhaled softly when Casey shakily returned the embrace. Whispering "I love you," the author thought furiously, searching for the right answer.

"Help me Beth...pull me from this darkness...I need you..." Casey closed her eyes, burying her face in Beth's soft, fragrant strawberry blond hair. Images assaulted the ex-agent, pulling her farther into the darkness. Erupting from the depths of her mind, bloody, battered, sometimes hardly recognized bodies called...weeping victims pulled at her, asking why...leering, jeering, laughing monsters tormented, taking with pleasure, leaving destruction in their wake.

"Love," Beth spoke calmly, evenly, hand rubbing her partner's back soothingly, not letting on how much Casey's loss of control scared her. "From what you've told me, you had to walk away. If you stayed, you would have lost yourself." The author hurt for Casey; the rigid tension in her body spoke eloquently of her pain. "You did what you had to, to survive."

"But was it fair?" Casey whispered, arms tightening around her anchor. Without a hint of self importance or ego, the specialist admitted one of her deepest fears. "I was good...hell, I was the best. Given enough time, I worked my way through every sick problem thrown at me. But I was afraid...sitting in the hospital, looking, thinking, dreaming of Hamilton, I was afraid of my reaction to him. I was afraid if I stayed, I'd become like him."

"You listen to me, Casey Michelle Bennett!" Beth pulled back, forcing herself to meet Casey's anguished gaze. "You weren't ANYTHING like him! Not then, not now!!"

"How can you be so sure?" Gulping nervously, the ex-agent concentrated on the love in Beth's eyes. "Oh god...that horrid, terrifying feeling...almost one of liberation as I kicked Hamilton across his campsite. It still scares me that I could feel such pleasure from his pain. I wanted him to hurt, to feel the terror, the mental anguish his victims felt. I. Wanted. That."

"I told you what I did...what I felt like." Casey pushed the issue. "Please convince me I'm wrong...that you're right...please! Make me see what you see when you look at me."

"Because I know you. Know your heart. You aren't capable of that, love." Beth spoke strongly, firmly, totally convinced in her position. "You were...are a good person. Believe me Casey." She repeated the words aloud, staring intently into anguished blue.

"You really believe that, don't you?" Casey asked wondrously, willingly following her lover back into the light. Pulling Beth's hand to rest over her heart, the specialist slammed the door on her fears. "Disappear! As long as Beth's my light, you don't stand a chance. Leave me alone!" Thought forcefully, even while a smile started to spread across her face.

"I really believe that, with all my heart." Breathing a sigh of relief at Casey's smile, Beth leaned forward, brushing her lips against her lover's. "Believe in yourself, I do."

"Lets get this finished, then I want to take you out for dinner." Casey stole a brief kiss before sitting back. "You want to keep that?" She indicated the paper that started the conversation.

"Nah, I don't like Emily Dickinson anyway." Beth tossed the paper decisively into the trash, not wanting to keep something that caused Casey painful memories. "So what other 'unnecessary' classes did you suffer through?" Changing the subject, Beth sat back and watched, listening to Casey expound upon the horrors she suffered to get her degree.

Four boxes later, they reached the end of the papers and textbooks. "I can't believe I saved all this crap." Casey rose, stretching her back, wincing as it popped back into place. "All the other boxes are lighter, hopefully that's the end of the books and papers."

"Four boxes is nothing compared to what I saved." Beth shot back, loving the mock look of horror that crossed Casey's face. "Be very glad we're not going through them now!"

"I am, trust me." Folding the last of the book boxes, Casey reached for the next one. "Wonder what 'treasure' I thought was so important I had to save it in here." Grinning wryly at Beth, the specialist slit open the top of the box, then groaned, loudly.

"What?" Beth hobbled over to the box, peering at the contents with interest.

"Looks like nothing but clothes." Pulling out several musty smelling, faded shirts, she started tossing them immediately into the trash. Feeling eyes boring into her back, Casey turned around, raising an eyebrow questioningly. "What?"

"You had an Air Supply sweatshirt?" Beth couldn't help herself, she started laughing. Somehow Casey and Air Supply didn't go together. Now Aerosmith or Pink Floyd was another matter.

"What's wrong with them? They had some GREAT hits!" Casey huffed, snagging the shirt from Beth. "I have no intention of telling her I wore this because Mark wanted me to...just keep your mouth shut, Casey! Ignore those puppy dog eyes softly pleading...ahh, hell."

"All right! Stop looking at me like that!" Casey caved in. "I took Mark to a concert and we got matching shirts. Whenever he came to visit we HAD to wear them. Just drop it, please?" The specialist blushed, thinking quietly. "I still have no control over my mouth, not with Beth! Thank god it wasn't more embarrassing."

"I think that's sweet, Casey." Beth stepped close and hugged her briefly. "You're a good big sister." "I wish I had one...wish I had been a better big sister...just stop Beth, the past is just that...the past." Grinning, Beth released Casey and took the sweatshirt, throwing it into the trash can. The contents of two more boxes were thrown in the trash. Casey slit open the last box, groaning at the top layer of clothes until she picked up something familiar.

"Danny Miller...I haven't thought of him in years!" Casey exhaled loudly, smiling softly. She shook out a letterman's sweater and held it up, turning to face her partner. "Something wrong?" Beth had the strangest look on her face.

"Hmm, no. Who's Danny Miller?" Beth asked in what she hoped was a calm, even voice. "I've never seen that look on her face before, except when she was looking at me...I can't believe I'm jealous over someone long forgotten." Beth frowned mentally, not liking how much the sweater seemed to delight Casey OR how quickly her heart was pounding. "Get a grip, Beth! It was a long time ago."

"Actually, love," Casey dropped the sweater and moved to take Beth's hand, irrationally tickled that she was jealous. "It's not what you're thinking." "And I'm eternally grateful that there's nothing of her in these boxes. I'm not ready to deal with that yet." Looking deeply into green, Casey leaned down and kissed Beth thoroughly. "I love YOU...totally, without reservation...that's all that's important. Let it go, Casey. Let it go..." "Danny transferred in at the start of second semester my junior year of high school. We had third period English together." Casey squeezed Beth's hand reassuringly, breathing easier when Beth returned her smile. "Danny was a good friend, nothing more." Now for the hard part. "We pretended to be going steady. It kept the others off our backs."

"You didn't want anyone questioning your lack of interest in guys." Beth reasoned logically, green eyes softening in understanding. "God Beth, control yourself!" The author berated herself, wincing at her rapidly beating heart.

"And Danny didn't want anyone questioning his interest in guys." Casey reached for Beth's other hand, lacing their fingers together. "She's really jealous!" Casey thought quickly, immediately noticing her slowing heartbeat. "There's no reason for you to be jealous of anyone from my past. Even her. I've never opened myself up so fully before; never loved anyone like I love you. C'mon, Casey, tell her why."

"Anyway, Mom was ecstatic. I was finally doing something 'normal', like the other girls my age. I'll never forget the day Mom came home to find me wearing Danny's sweater." Casey frowned at the past, glancing down at their linked hands. With a deep breath, she willed herself to calm down. "I remember it so clearly, standing there in the kitchen, her arms around me, telling me she was happy for me, that she was proud of me for finally lowering my guard to trust someone enough to let them get close. I felt like such a hypocrite...because it was all based on a lie. Sure, I trusted Danny, but not for the reasons she thought. He accepted me for who I was, didn't pressure me to change. If only Mom had done that." Casey sighed softly, telling herself that it was all in the past.

"I'm sorry, love." Beth gently squeezed Casey's hand in support and sympathy. The author was well acquainted with having non-supportive, non-accepting parents. Her partner was so deceptively sensitive, fragile almost, that the author could easily imagine how hurt and betrayed Casey felt by her Mom's actions.

"It's ok, it doesn't matter now." The specialist shifted, leaning against her author, drinking in the unquestioning acceptance and love. Beth's earlier words struck a cord deep inside; she wanted...needed Beth to understand. "I wasn't interested in anybody that way, male or female."

"Really? You weren't attracted to anyone during high school?" Beth found that idea quite appealing, not wanting to picture Casey with anyone other than herself. Even though the author knew it wasn't realistic, both she and Casey had previous lovers, she couldn't deny the idea's appeal. "Why not? Guess you just didn't meet the right person yet." The author couldn't stop herself from exploring this surprising side of her lover. She knew someone had hurt Casey deeply, but she admitted silently to herself she wasn't sure if she could deal with a friendly lover right now, let alone that. "I just want to think of us," Beth thought wistfully. "We've been through enough this year."

"C'mere." Casey wrapped her arms around Beth, sighing contentedly. "I didn't take the time to be interested in anyone. I thought it was a waste of valuable time. What was important was practicing and studying. I knew exactly where I wanted to go to college and it was expensive. Mom was quite clear on the point of only paying for normal university tuition. If I wanted to go to a private school, that was fine, but I had to make up the difference in cost myself. At least for the first year, until I proved myself. All modesty aside, I knew I could make enough money teaching karate and kung fu, but only if I stayed in top form. Anyway," the specialist kissed the top of Beth's head lovingly. "Pretending to go steady with Danny kept Mom off my back for a long time. She was so worried that I wasn't 'normal' that she had tried to restrict my practice time before I started going out with Danny, saying I also needed more friends to be well rounded. Luckily for me, Master Hung convinced her I was needed at the dojo since he wasn't feeling well. Then I met Danny. Having Danny hang around proved to her at least, that I was 'normal'. We'd say we were going to the movies or the library to study and then we'd go to the dojo instead. Or I'd practice in the school gym while he drew."

"To make a long story short, we used each other so we could both do what we wanted." Casey tried to make short work of the long complicated relationship. Closing her eyes, bittersweet images flashed through the specialist's mind. She and Danny at the senior prom they'd been pushed into attending, them at a nearby lake doing what they loved to do, chasing down the punks that had humiliated their friend, lying to both their parents when they were late coming home, their silly graduation pictures, climbing chain fences in the middle of the night, long intense conversations over coffee during one of their visits during college, their last meeting, when Danny said he couldn't continue living the lie anymore. "I think that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. You forced me to admit to myself who I was, to admit to myself that if I wanted my Mother to accept me for who I incredibly driven kid who was determined to make a difference, one who had no need for lasting relationships outside of friendship...I had to be honest with her. But that didn't stop myself from using you old friend to explain my lack of interest. Wherever you are, I hope you're happy." Casey grinned mentally, picturing her smiling friend as he waved goodbye for the last time.

"What happened to Danny?" Beth asked softly a short time later when it became apparent Casey wasn't going to say anything else. "I'd like to meet him someday. Bet he'd have some good stories." "Yeah, I want to meet the guy who still rates 'my look'." The author guiltily thought, unable to stop herself.

"Sorry, love, I don't know where he is. My junior year of college we parted, much to the surprise of both our parents. Mom was heartbroken. I think she was already planning our wedding for after college." Casey chuckled softly, thoughts of her mother pushed to the background, remembering Danny fondly. "I think I'm glad you're not around. Some of the stunts we pulled would scare Beth something fierce. Like that time we decided to stop the local gang from picking on the younger kids..."

"That's an evil smile, Casey. Just what did you two do that you don't want me to know about?" Beth's voice interrupted the specialist's thoughts.

"Hmm, wonder what else is in that box?" Turning away so she wouldn't see the eyes that always loosened her lips, Casey reached in the box. And sat down abruptly, holding a black wrapped object in one hand. "Oh God..."

"Are you alright?" Beth knelt in front of her pale lover, laying a supportive hand on her arm. "Casey?" Nothing. "C'mon, you're scaring me." Lightly caressing Casey's cheek, Beth breathed a sigh of relief when her lover noticed her.

"Hmm?" Blue eyes slowly focused on the concerned face in front of her. "Yeah, I'm ok. I didn't expect to find this in there, that's all." She raised the object in question. "Thought I'd lost it. Sit down." Casey patted the cold concrete beside her. "You've never asked me why or how I got into kung fu and karate. Why's that?" Turning a curious eye on her partner, Casey concentrated on breathing evenly, not the object in her hand.

"I don't know." Beth thought a moment, remembering all the conversations about her staff training, about how she wanted to ask, but something held her back. "I guess I just thought if you wanted me to know, you'd say something." The author shrugged, wondering if her not asking had been perceived as a lack of interest. "You're so closed about some things, especially your past. I didn't want to push. You've had a hard enough time without me adding to it."

"You didn't want to pry, did you?" Casey snorted softly, easily reading her partner's expressive face. "Next time you want to know something, ask me Sweetheart."

"Ok, Love. Why did you start your martial arts training and how's it related to that?" Beth carefully watched Casey's face, intending to withdraw the question if it caused her lover any pain.

Unwrapping the package, Casey gingerly unwound a white belt from around a wooden picture frame and held the picture out for Beth to see. "It's me and my Dad our first day of practice." Casey spoke softly, blue eyes glued to the smiling man standing proudly beside his daughter. "For my fifth birthday, Dad gave me karate lessons. Said it was something he and I could do was our thing." Tears ran unnoticed down her tanned cheeks. "Every Monday and Thursday, for the next three and a half years we went to the dojo for karate practice. The first Monday after he, after he...died..." Breaking down, Casey sobbed quietly. She was vaguely aware of Beth taking her in her arms, whispering words of comfort, of the soothing hand stroking her hair, of being gently rocked.

"God, Dad, why did you have to die? Why did you leave me all alone?" The childish thoughts demanded to be heard for the first time in almost twenty-eight years. "You knew how Mom would react...why else would you of mentioned in your will specifically that if I wanted to continue with our karate, Mom had to let me. Just like David and Stephanie could their activities. You knew I would force the point, didn't you? I enjoyed karate even more than you did, but the time we spent together was priceless. It still is. And looking back now, I realize that you never were far from my thoughts. Every day for the next twelve years, I started with thoughts of you as I tied that belt around my head. I converted my corner of the basement into a mini dojo...I practiced every morning before school. Mom didn't say anything because each of us had our own corner to do with as we saw fit. Our picture was the only one on my walls. And you'd be proud of me...the practice mats, the weight bag, the towels, I paid for them myself with Christmas and birthday money and finally with the money I made at the dojo. God, I wish you could have seen it. Do you know how much I miss you, even now?" The softly spoken words in her ear slowly filtered through the specialist's mental anguish, giving much needed support. It had been so long since she'd given in to her feelings, that she was loath to stop. Another lesson learned from Beth.

" I so wish you were here. You would love Beth. Not because she's a fantastic, gentle, caring person...Not because she's completely in love with me...Not because she'd do anything for me...Not because she's the light of my life...But because I love her, completely, without reservation. That would have been enough for you. I don't know why I never mentioned you to her before, but I will now. I guess I didn't want to think about it, want to deal with these emotions. I turned into an emotional coward for awhile, Dad. Sometimes I used to wonder what you'd think of my actions. Of my intended career. Of my quitting. It took Beth to make me see that life was worth the effort, worth all the pain. Because if I don't feel the pain, then I can't feel Beth. The day she walked into my life I started to feel again. One look and I was hooked. One word and my priorities changed. When she told me she loved me, my entire world was transformed. It hasn't always been easy, nothing ever is with me Dad, as you well know. No matter what I've done, how I've hurt her with my insecurities and bullish behavior, Beth has been here, stuck by me no matter what. Without her, I wouldn't even be having this conversation. Beth's taught me not to be afraid of my feelings. Taught me not to bury them. Taught me to let them out, even if I am the only one who knows. Because of that, I feel Beth, her compassion, her desire, her love. And that is something I've found I can't live without." With a mental start, Casey realized how long she'd been silent. "I'm sorry Dad, I've got to go; I'm worrying Beth. I promise to tell her about you."

"I love you." Casey whispered, leaning against Beth for a moment longer before sitting up straight. "I didn't think I'd lose it like that. I'm sorry." Not surprising herself, the specialist remained in one place. Her normal desire to flee from painful emotional scenes was strongly tempered by her promise. That along with the ring on her finger froze her in place. "Leaving would hurt Beth and I'll be damned if I do that now." This was one time the specialist's heart and head were in agreement.

"I love you too, Casey." Reluctantly Beth sat back, worried green eyes flinching in sympathy at her lover's pain. She had no idea how long she held Casey, but from the looks on her lover's face, she was ready to least a little bit.

"This is my first belt." Casey fingered the smooth, faded white cloth lovingly, laying it over both of their thighs. "After successfully passing to the next level, Dad suggested we wear these to keep the hair out of our eyes. Said it would not only remind us of our progress, but also of our painful beginnings." Looking up from the belt, Casey smiled tentatively at Beth, grateful for her silent, yet ever present support. A gentle nudge brought Beth's hand to the belt too.

Beth remained silent, reading much in her lover's posture and tone. It was clear to Beth that Casey needed to, wanted to talk. So the author did the only things she could do: smile lovingly, hold her hand with the belt between their fingers and be there for Casey.

"Dad died in a plane accident when I was eight and a half years old." Casey closed her eyes, saying the words aloud for the first time in longer than she could remember. "God, it still much!" The constant, never wavering gentle pressure of her lover's hand on her's caused her to genuinely smile despite the pain.

"I'm so sorry, beloved." Beth swallowed silently, heart breaking for the pain her lover suffered. "That explains so much...why she's afraid I'll leave, why my words of reassurance aren't enough...god, I never even guessed."

"Beloved?" Blue eyes popped open, focusing on the feelings coursing through her body. "One word and my world changes." Casey thought gratefully, sinking into the support radiating from Beth.

"Why karate?" Beth changed the focus of the conversation, trying to ease the pain in her lover's heart and eyes. "Maybe a direct question will help."

"It was something different, something Dad had always wanted to do. Neither David nor Stephanie were interested in it, but when he showed me the cool uniforms, told me that it could be something we did together, I jumped at the chance. David and Stephanie each had their own things they did with Dad and I wanted that too." Casey chuckled, leaning against Beth, feeling warm and safe. What she'd told her father was true, Beth was her safety net.

"I never once wanted to quit. The look on his face during our first practice when I took my first hit and didn't cry," Casey swallowed emotionally. "I'll never forget it. He was so proud of me, I knew I never wanted to look at his face and not see it. Whenever it hurt, god did it ever those last years when I reached the final level, I'd close my eyes and picture his face. Sprained ankle, pulled muscle, it didn't matter. The pain was inconsequential compared to the look on his face during our first practice."

"Mom and I had many fights about karate and kung fu over the years. Mom never actually went so far as to try and forbid me from pursuing them, but she made it damn hard at times. She felt I was hiding it in, using it to mask my pain." Casey groaned softly, past fights filling her mind with loud yelling, hurtful phrases and finally the painfully silent looks.

"Why didn't your Mom want you to continue?" Beth asked softly, hoping that talking about the painful memories would help purge them from her partner.

"She didn't like the time and energy I put into practicing. I think a large part of it was that she never really approved of Dad encouraging me to continue, to compete. Karate was good for self defense, but she never could understand my desire to compete, to be the best. It helped me build more than just my body. I also learned to focus, to control myself and my impulses, to work for what I wanted. That with enough hard work and effort, I could accomplish anything I wanted. It taught me to never give up on myself, to not accept failure. But those aren't what she objected to; I don't think she thought it was appropriate for a female to be so physical, to want to compete physically with males. And that's funny, since she always fought against that very thing when she took over the running of their stores. But in her eyes, fighting with your mind was one thing, but with physical strength and skills another." Casey shifted, pulling Beth a little closer, returning to the subject foremost in her mind.

"Shortly after Dad's funeral, I started getting up an hour early to practice in the basement. The difficult moves required me to concentrate, to remain focused and in control. I never could make Mom understand that when I practiced my forms, I felt closer to Dad...I wasn't avoiding dealing with anything. Just the opposite in fact. A couple of years later, I had advanced to the point where Master Hung let me help teach the beginning classes in exchange for kung fu lessons."

"By the time I was twelve, I was spending every afternoon after school at the dojo in addition to my morning workouts. Mom made it crystal clear that if my grades dropped below a B or I didn't do my chores, I was grounded from the dojo and from practicing. I knew not to push her on this point. How could I argue with her reasoning? I knew Dad himself would have put his foot down if my grades suffered. I just had to make sure that didn't happen."

"And it never did, did it?" Beth asked needlessly; once Casey set her mind on something, its completion was a forgone conclusion. "Do you know just how much I admire that trait in you love? How you never give up...unlike me, who'd give in just to avoid an argument."

"No, it never did." Casey grinned wryly. "Although I pushed Mom to her limits on more times than I could count. Danny talked her out of grounding me on more than one occasion." Laughing softly, the specialist didn't see the momentarily flicker of jealousy on Beth's face. Nor did she know it was only through the author's own remarkable willpower that kept her perfectly still, showing no other outward sign of her emotions. "Never on grades though. There never was a need. All my studying paid off and I skipped from the seventh grade to high school."

"I looked and acted like I belonged." The author interestingly noted that Casey didn't say emotionally she belonged. "I already knew that I wanted to go to college and study psychology. By the end of my second year, I knew where I wanted to go and after listening to Stephanie and David's encounters with Mom, I knew I'd need to come up with part if not all of the money myself. And because of karate, I had a way to insure that I could go wherever I wanted."

"Hey." Casey rose to her feet, extending a hand to her author. "It's getting kind of late and I'm getting hungry."

"I thought you wanted to finish this tonight?" Beth questioned, grinning as Casey pulled her smoothly to her feet. "We're almost finished."

"You're hungry." Casey accused gently, wrapping an arm around Beth's smaller, yet muscular shoulders. "Your stomach's been growling."

"So, I can wait." Beth resisted the impulse to give in totally, aided by a mental picture of a young Casey and Danny. The author wanted this behind them; she didn't like feeling jealous. Didn't like the unfamiliar feelings coursing through her blood or the desire to pummel Danny senseless. Telling herself to lighten the mood, she continued. "It won't kill me." The teasing backfired and the author found herself swept up in a tight embrace. "Hey," the author spoke gently, returning the emotional embrace. "It's ok. I was only teasing. I'm right here."

"Sorry." Casey hiccuped, embarrassed by her emotional lack of control, head still buried in Beth's hair. "I remember now what's in the rest of the box. Am I strong enough to tell Beth?" That thought stopped the specialist, her mind suddenly filled with light. "I said am I strong enough, not is Beth strong enough to hear it...YES! I am starting to really believe!" The loud rumbling of Beth's stomach was music to her ears and cause for a much needed break. Casey needed time to pull her thoughts together; dinner would be the perfect distraction.

"Where do you want to eat?" Casey straightened up, but carefully kept as much of their bodies in contact as possible. "Don't let go of me...I need to feel you, feel us. Keep me grounded."

"C'mon." Beth headed purposefully towards the kitchen, ignoring Casey's half-hearted complaint. The author had no intentions of letting Casey out of arms reach. Not in the mood to cook yet not wanting fast food, Beth made an executive decision. Snagging the phone off the wall in the kitchen, Beth punched in the number of their favorite pizza place and ordered their usual large pizza with the works with a large side of cheese sticks. "Maria said it would be about forty-five minutes." Beth informed Casey as she hung up the phone. Still holding hands, Beth tugged Casey towards the upstairs living room.

Pausing to click on the stereo, Beth gently pushed Casey into the corner of the large sofa, settling comfortably in her arms. "Comfortable?"

"Yeah," Casey spoke softly, willing the soreness from sitting on cold, hard concrete out of her muscles. Relaxing against her lover, the specialist felt her mind relax along with her body.

"Casey?" Beth asked quietly, not wanting to disturb her partner is she was sleeping.


Since Casey's voice sounded alert, Beth continued, paying close attention to the relaxed arms around her. At the first sign of tension, the author was planning on backing off. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, I didn't think I had to say it, but you can ask me anything." Casey squeezed reassuringly, wondering what Beth would ask. "Trust me enough to ask." The surprising thought shocked Casey, causing her to lean forward and kiss Beth's head. "I think I actually want you to know."

Of the many questions Beth had, the author asked what she thought was one of the easiest. "Why did your Mom want you to go to a state university? Was it the expense of private schools?" Before today, Beth hadn't known much about Casey's parents. She was well acquainted with her siblings, especially Mark. The author was aware that Casey and her Mom weren't on speaking terms and that whatever caused the rift still hurt her lover. She was slowly starting to see the pieces of the puzzle, but only a small part of the picture was visible.

"It wasn't the money; Dad's family built a very successful, but small chain of grocery stores. When his parents died, he and Mom inherited them. Under their management and later Mom's, they continued to grow. When Mark decided he also wasn't interested in running the stores, Mom sold them." Casey snuggled closer, pulling Beth back at the same time. "What's funny?"

"I keep picturing you in one of those white aprons." Beth chuckled, bumping Casey's shoulder with her head. "Did you like working in the stores?" The author couldn't see her impatient lover putting up with screaming kids at the checkout line.

"Never did. I think Mom thought what you're thinking and didn't want any dead customers on her hands." Casey joked, easily reading her partner's thoughts. "Seriously though, Dad's experiences while growing up convinced him that his children wouldn't be forced to work at the stores. Hmm, that's funny." Casey broke off, suddenly seeing her parents in a new light.

"What's funny?" Beth prompted when Casey didn't continue.

"Dad was very modern about some things, like letting Steph and I get involved in 'non-traditional' activities and insisting that Mom be shown the same respect at the store as he was since they were doing the same job, but when it came to the house, he was a strict traditionalist. It caused a lot of fights and hurt feelings."

"Mom cooked, cleaned and took care of the house and Dad did the outside stuff." Beth rephrased, wondering if that was why Casey was so adamant at times about pulling her share of the housework and cooking, even if all she did was chop vegetables, open boxes and do the dishes.

"Yeah." Casey confirmed, kissing Beth's ear gently. "C'mon, we need to go get the pizza."

"Already?" Beth squinted at the VCR, trying to see the time. "There's no way it has been thirty minutes yet!"

"Yup." Casey nudged Beth to her feet, taking her hand upon standing. "I think we both dozed for a bit."

"Anyway," Casey buckled her seatbelt, glancing at Beth wryly. "You asked about college and I went off on a tangent."

"That's ok. Whatever you want to tell me, I'm here for you." Beth turned, watching Casey seriously. The understanding, acknowledging twinkle caused Beth to smile gently.

"Mom said state universities were the best choice for continuing our education. She felt there were just so many more opportunities at a big school. Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that she met Dad there. In some ways, Mom was very old fashioned; she was convinced that we'd find our future spouses there if things didn't work out with our high school sweethearts." Casey flashed a grin at her lover. "I would have changed my mind if I'd known you were gonna be there. You wouldn't have heard any complaints from me about poetry either if you'd been in my class." Stopping at a light, Casey grinned sexily at Beth, loving the deepening blush that spread across her face and down her neck. "Seriously though, I think she was afraid of us becoming snobs or something. Like that was going to happen as soon as we were out from under her direct influence. Growing up, she stressed the point that hard work and intelligence mattered. So when David announced that he wanted to go to a private college, Mom rebelled. Oh she was fair about it, but she wanted us to understand the costs of our actions. She never once made David or I feel like we couldn't come home." Casey shifted, feeling the unusual wisps of guilt settle around her. "Even when I did the unthinkable and disappointed you so deeply, you always were there at every break. I still don't understand why the FBI was so different, but it was. Then I wasn't there for you."

"How did your parents meet?" Beth didn't like the guilty look on Casey's face, so she gently changed the subject. "We can talk about that later, when I can hold you." She promised herself.

"They met during Dad's junior and Mom's freshman's year in a one hundred level business class. Over the course of the semester, they got to know each other through their study group. Mom was a business major and Dad majored archeology of all things. He made a deal with his parents; he could major in whatever he wanted and they would pay for it, with the stipulation he come back and work at the stores for two years. I guess they thought that would give them the time to change his mind. Anyway, after Dad met Mom, he informed his parents he wanted to get a minor in business. They didn't care that the reason for his change of heart was Mom. In fact, she got along well with his parents. Better than he did at times." Casey pulled into the parking lot, opening her door. "Want anything else?" At Beth's shake of the head, she leaned over and kissed her. "I'll be right back."

"This has certainly been an enlightening day." Beth exhaled noisily, leaning back in her seat, green eyes following her graceful partner as she entered the building. "I've never heard Casey talk so much in one afternoon, especially not when she's the subject being discussed. I wonder if she knows how much this means to me, that she finally trusts me enough to open up. Before today, I didn't know much about what happened to Casey before she joined the FBI. The one and only time I asked her about her parents, I got the distinct impression I was being told, ever so politely, to back off. It's like she was holding part of herself back, afraid to let me in all the way." The author cracked an eye, checking to make sure Casey wasn't sneaking up on her. Something the specialist had done on numerous occasions.

"It's funny how our early lives were so different, yet we fit together perfectly. You had to fight to go to a private school; my fight was to attend a university. Your Mom let you continue with your karate even when she didn't really approve or understand; the only reason I was allowed to practice my staff was because my grandparents held the majority of the financial strings. You had a close relationship with your Dad; I barely saw my father when I was a child, unless it was politically expedient or proper."

"Yet I think inside, we really weren't that different. Neither of us felt accepted for who we were...we both hid our true selves from the world...friends were a scare, rare commodity...we both rebelled against the constraints placed on us..." Green eyes opened, studying the still empty parking lot. Groaning, Beth stretched sore muscles, not used to sitting for hours on the ground. Lightly slapping her traitorous legs, Beth sighed and got out to stretch properly after visually searching the parking lot for possible trouble. Mumbling under her breath, she cursed her wayward limbs as they slowly responded.

Climbing back in, Beth frowned, once again thinking of Danny. "God, Beth, grow up!" The author spoke aloud, thinking maybe hearing the words might make them sink in. "What is it that you don't like about him? The fact that he was there for Casey when you weren't?" Beth's frown deepened, growing angrier with herself each second. "Is it the fact that he knew her for longer? That he knew her Mom and siblings much better? You should be grateful," the author slapped her thigh hard. "Grateful that she had one person she could trust enough to be herself. You better than anyone knows how that feels. But no," Beth's voice dropped dangerously low, unconsciously hitting her thigh again. "You sit here jealous! Just who doesn't believe in us, huh ,Beth? God, you're such a hypocrite. Deal with it! Someone else helped Casey when she needed it. Just because she looked like..." She broke off when a car door slammed, startling her. "Good timing." Beth closed her eyes briefly, forcing her own insecurities down, for once not watching her partner approach. "Casey doesn't need this, especially right now! Deal with it." Muttered quietly as Casey opened the door, praying silently for a calm, expressionless face. "So much for that idea."

"What's wrong?" Casey set the pizza down, turning back around so she could clearly see her partner. Concerned eyes swept over her lover's tense form, unable to forget the haunted look she'd seen in Beth's eyes moments before.

"Nothing." Beth lied, summoning up a smile she didn't feel. "How's Maria and her family?" "That's it Beth. Change the subject."

"Liar." Casey shot back, refusing to listen to her hurt feelings. "You were doing some heavy duty thinking, weren't you." It wasn't a question. "What about?"

"You know how much I love you, right?" Beth sighed mentally, unable to not respond to her lover's quiet, burning look. "Sometimes I just have to remind myself that you love me." The author appeared absorbed in her loosely clenched hands.

"What the hell?" Casey thought quickly, reaching over to lace her fingers with Beth's. "Of course I love you. Very much so." "Where is this coming from? Beth knows I love her, doesn't she?" Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she continued. "Tell me what's wrong."

"It's stupid." Beth replied, feeling her depressing thoughts flee in her wife's presence. "Lets go home and eat." The loud growl earned a big smile from her lover. "That pizza smells great!"

"Ok, but only if you tell me on the way home." Casey waited for Beth's nod before she released her hand and started the car. "Beth?" The specialist waited until she was out of the parking lot to press the issue.

"I was just being stupid." Beth repeated, not sure how to tell Casey she was jealous. "It's stupid really."

"It's not gonna work." Casey shot back, growing more worried with every evasion. "What can't or won't you tell me?"

"What?" Sidetracked, Beth stared curiously at Casey. "I wasn't aware I was doing anything. Do tell, this is definitely more interesting."

"Just tell me, please?"

The soft, hesitant tone intensified Beth's guilt. Now if she avoided replying, the author knew she'd purposefully hurt Casey. "Damn. I can't do that."

"You really are gonna think it's stupid." Beth hurried on, not wanting to hurt Casey. "I was just thinking about how different yet similar we were when we were kids, then wham, out of left field it hit me." Green eyes ashamedly noticed her partner's twitching cheek muscle, a sure sign Casey was wound tightly, holding onto her control by a thin thread. "I can't believe I'm jealous of a boy you knew twenty years ago." Beth blew out a disgusted breath, mortified at her self-perceived lack of trust and faith in their love. "Yeah, but she used 'my' look when she saw his sweater." Her heart wouldn't let the matter drop.

"Want to know something?" That was not the response the author expected. "I kinda like it." The shy words were a total surprise. "For a long time I never thought anyone would love me enough to be jealous. Want to know something else?" The author nodded, for once speechless. "You're doing much better than I would be if the situation was reversed." "Just the mention of it and I'm ready to go knock heads. Don't even mention the thought of someone else touching you...don't go there, Casey!"

"You must have gone out with stupid people, Casey!" Beth finally found her voice, not quite believing what she was saying. "How could anyone not be jealous if you looked at someone else? You're gorgeous! Not to mention incredibly intelligent. Then throw in your caring, supportive nature...what's not to be jealous of?"

Casey's agile brain froze on "if you looked at someone else". "If I look at someone else...oh, duh, Casey! What did my face look like when I pulled out that sweater?" Belatedly she realized that Beth finished speaking, hearing the words filter rapidly through her mind. "Well," Casey grinned wryly. "I happen to think you're a little biased, love." Casey turned from the busy road, heading into the residential area, watching Beth out of the corner of her eye. "You have no reason to be jealous. Not now, not ever; certainly not of someone from my past. Forever, remember?"

"I remember." Beth reached over and squeezed Casey's thigh, fingers moving sensually. "Sometimes I just get stupid, I guess." "I really do wonder what someone like you sees in me."

"Hey!" Casey covered Beth's hand with her own. "Are you getting fresh with me?" The twinkle in her eye contradicted her gruff tone. Not to mention her thumb which was gently stroking the back of Beth's hand encouragingly.

"What if I was?" Beth sassed, gratefully leaving the painful subject of her jealously.

"Just checking." Casey chuckled, turning onto their street. "Hey!" Louder this time as she remembered something. "Guess what's on tv tonight?"

"I have no idea." Beth cocked an eyebrow curiously. They didn't watch much tv; both preferred movies or reading.

"T-2 and it's just about time to start!" Casey grinned, thinking there was nothing quite like holding Beth while she watched her favorite movie. She ignored Beth's groan, secretly tickled that her wife would watch a movie she disliked, just because Casey asked her to. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that there was enough time to eat before the movie started. The specialist didn't want anything to interrupt her evening. "Guess that means I better ask her about tomorrow."

"Are you at the point where you can take a break and go somewhere with me tomorrow? It might take a couple of days. I mean, if you're busy...and you sounded busy earlier before I interrupted you...we can always go another's not really important..." Casey uncharacteristically stuttered and rambled at the same time.

"Yup, I'm all yours." When that didn't elicit a response, Beth tried again. "As long as that cute butt's in front of me, I'll follow." Swallowing her worry, the author stopped teasing. "Of course, I'll come with you. Where are we going?" Beth punched in the security codes to open the house, giving her lover the time to compose her thoughts and face.

"Hmm, ask me tomorrow, please?" Casey sighed at her lack of courage. "Just how hard is it to ask?"

"Sure. C'mon, the pizza's gonna get cold." Smiling, Beth jumped out of the car before Casey could open her door.

"I'm coming!" Casey laughed, heart feeling lighter than it had for most of the afternoon. "The movie's gonna start soon; lets eat!" Heading towards the living room, Casey forced all thoughts of her past from her mind, intending to concentrate solely on her lover. And oh yeah, the movie.


Glancing over, Casey smiled softly, blue eyes lovingly caressed her dozing partner before returning to the highway with a sigh. "You've been so patient with me. You even got up before dawn without a complaint. Wonder if my face was as expressive as I think it was. All you did was tell me that you loved me, would be there for me...God! Listen to me. 'All you did'...that was and is everything I could ever hope for from's all I'll ever need."

Casey fell silent, watching the miles disappear. Then her brain kicked in again as the landmarks became to familiar to ignore. "I felt your curiosity and concern all morning, yet you didn't say a word. Didn't push for any explanations. Guess it's time to stop avoiding it and tell you."

"Beth? Sweetheart?" Casey flipped on the turning signal, heading for her past; towards somewhere she had consciously avoided for more than fifteen years. "Time to wake up, love." Touched beyond words, Casey had watched Beth struggle to stay awake after they'd been on the road for several hours. Feeling very loved by her lover's gesture of support, she softly sang her to sleep.

"I'm awake." Beth mumbled sleepily, using the confined space to her advantage, stretching lazily. "Where are we?" Blinking rapidly, Beth gazed out the windows, not recognizing where they were before her eyes landed on her partner curiously.

"Come with me while I visit my Dad?" Casey winced as her voice wavered. "Please?" "I don't think I can do this without you."

"Of course. I'll go anywhere with you, anytime, wife." Green eyes watched delighted as the scared, hurt look faded. "Did your Dad have a favorite flower?" Beth spoke gently, touching Casey's arm lightly. "Help me God," The author silently prayed, remembering visiting a different cemetery with her own grandparents, never empty handed. "I have no idea what I'm doing here. Don't let me hurt her."

"I don't know. He always got Mom roses." The specialist frowned, realizing that was another thing she didn't know about her dad. "Guess we should get something to take."

"Love." The constant, gentle stroking soothed Casey, helping ground her raging emotions. "You don't need to take anything; it will be alright, I promise. Your dad would be proud of you. That I guarantee." "You're the only gift he would want, love. Trust me."

"Dad was buried near his family about a half hour from town." Casey changed the subject, telling herself if Beth still loved her after this trip, it would be a miracle. "I once asked Mom why," Casey cleared her throat, battling down the rising panic with a hard fought for ease. "It was important to Dad that we all be buried together. He bought as many lots as he could the day before Mom and he got married. Said he wanted his family together no matter what. He wanted his kids and their own families to come back and be together in the end. The small town cemetery was the only one that would sell a large block of lots at one time." The specialist glanced at her silent partner, not sure of the reaction she'd get. She wasn't prepared for tears. "Beth?" The thumping of her heart sounded loud in Casey's ears, a common occurrence when her lover cried.

"I think that's," Beth paused wiping away her tears and gathered her scattered wits. She hadn't expected that explanation. "I think your Dad really cared a great deal about your Mom and their future children. What a loving gesture." Swallowing emotionally, Beth found she had trouble speaking. "So are you going to do it?" At Casey's questioning look, Beth elaborated. "Do you want to be buried in your family's plot?" This was one subject they'd never talked about, although it had been on her mind recently. When Beth ordered their rings, she'd also called her attorney and changed her will, planning to tell Casey when the time was right. But it never came up. "I think it's time to tell you. After this, I will." The author promised herself.

"I guess it depends on your wishes." Casey headed back from the two lane highway, understanding her Dad's reasoning for the first time. "I mean, it never really mattered to me before, but I want to be with you." Not giving Beth time to respond, Casey hurried on, almost as if she expected her lover to decline. "Would that be OK with you?" The silence in the car was deafening.

"It's OK if you don't want that. I know your family wouldn't like it. You probably want to join them." Casey felt her heart fall, landing painfully at her feet. "Do I ask if I can join her? I really do what to be with her. Oh God, I never expected her to say...why's she looking at me that way?" Before her brain could follow, her heart leapt joyously.

"Of course it's OK with me!" The pleasantly shocked author finally found her voice, even if it was husky and full of emotion. "Was that an invitation?" Beth told herself firmly to calm down; she'd never expected to hear those words come out of her practical lover.

"Yeah." Casey uncharacteristically shy, answered softly. "When I said 'forever', I meant it. Does that mean yes?"

"Yes!" Beth closed her eyes briefly. "Tell her now! It's the right time." Green eyes opened, focusing on her lover's incredibly beautiful face. "I meant forever too. When I got these," the author extended an astonishingly steady left hand, clasping Casey's muscular arm, wanting...needing the physical contact. "I changed my will too." Seeing Casey's intense reaction, Beth decided it was time to lighten the emotionally charged conversation. "Don't go getting any bright ideas, 99. Wait a bit to plan the parties."

"I love you, you know that?" Casey managed to drag a smile out for her lover, hiding the storms raging inside. Or so she thought.

"I love you too." Knowing eyes narrowed, searching her partner's face with a much used practiced skill. "What are you thinking? Does that really surprise you that I changed my will?"

"No, it doesn't." Sighing, Casey tried to make sense out of her thoughts. Finally she settled on her most prevalent thought. "I guess I can't believe how much you're willing to give up to be with me. I know your family doesn't approve of me." Out of the corner of her eye, the specialist watched her protector coil and prepare to deliver a stinging reply in her defense. Casey couldn't help it; she laughed softly. "Some things never change!" Thought happily as green eyes bored into her.

"My family doesn't approve of you." Beth confirmed, green eyes sparking a resulting blaze in her lover. "I wouldn't let it worry you, love. They don't approve of me either. And I'll have you know," fingers dropped to pinch Casey in mock punishment. "That I'd give up anything to be with you and consider myself lucky."

"I assume I was written out of my Mom's will when I joined the FBI. Shortly after I joined, Mark called and asked me a couple of questions about what Mom wanted us to sign. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I hadn't heard from her. I don't have much, but what I do have is yours." Casey grabbed Beth's hand, preventing her from speaking. "I'd give up anything to be with you too." Drawing in a shaky breath, the specialist pointed out the window. "Almost there."

"All I want is you." The answering growl of agreement caused Beth's heart to pound, forcing her to ignore her suddenly rising desire. As soon as they stopped, Beth jumped out and flew around to get Casey's door, wanting and needing to hold Casey before they went any farther. "What?" Green twinkled innocently at sparkling blue; the author was well aware how her actions would affect her lover.

"That's my job." Casey grumbled, taking her author's offered hand. A gentle tug had Beth in her arms, head nestled against her shoulder. A soft, loving kiss later, Casey reluctantly stepped back, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "C'mon. It's this way."

"Casey?" Beth questioned softly. "Can I ask you something? No pressure, love."

"Anything." Casey answered distractedly, picking her way back to her father's grave.

"Why now? I mean," Beth managed to snuggle a little closer. "If your Mom hadn't brought your old stuff to the house, uh...would you have...uh, I mean, would you have told me?" The author stumbled along, ashamed of herself for asking such a question of her lover, for giving into her insecurities and fears. Irrationally hurt at how long her lover, her wife, avoided such a personal issue. Slapping herself mentally, Beth berated herself when Casey didn't answer. "Way to go, Beth! Pick on her while she's at her most vulnerable. Why don't you just run over her? That would hurt less. After what happened to her dad, can you blame her? You know how hard this is for her. You should be proud of her for facing her feelings and emotions, not questioning her motives! Just who is the insecure one? Sometimes I even amaze myself with my stupidity!"

"Hey!" Belatedly Beth realized she'd missed what Casey said, finding herself facing a very concerned lover. "Where did you go? You OK?" Blue searched green intently, not at all liking the self loathing in her lover's eyes. "You didn't hear what I said, did you?"

"Sorry." Beth groaned mentally, not believing Casey was worried about her...not now. "Which way?" The author smiled gamely, trying to change the subject, not realizing how easily Casey read her emotions.

"Not so fast." Watching the emotions flow across her beloved's face, Casey realized how her silence had been perceived. "How can I tell her? How can I make her understand it's not that I didn't want her to know. It was just easier to not deal with it. Yet she's blaming herself for hurting me...God, Casey, just grow up!" "Sometimes I'm stupid. I don't think." A finger prevented Beth from leaping to her defense. "I never meant to hurt you. Part of me," Casey sighed emotionally, drawing comfort from Beth's embrace. "Part of me wanted to tell you about all of this. Let you help me deal with it. Every time your parents came up, I could see the unspoken questions in your eyes. But I just couldn't make myself tell you. I was a coward. I convinced myself that not dealing with it was better. Why put myself through all that pain? I had you and my brothers and sister are my family. What I forgot, what I refused to see, was my silence was hurting the one I swore I'd never hurt. I'm sorry. Forgive me?" Blue eyes begged forgiveness.

"Of course I do." The words of denial died on Beth's lips. It wouldn't do either of them any good to deny their feelings. "You in the mood for silly questions today?" Beth teased, bumping against her partner, changing the subject.