Title: Stress Relief (Or how I learned to let go and love bondage)

Author: amyray

Book 7: Reverberations.

Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.

Rating: R, for disturbing content.

WARNING: In this story are descriptions of horrible child abuse. Yes, it has to do with the larger story.

Category: Part of the Light, Water and Muses saga. Takes place in 1997, and is a prologue of several characters introduced in Rapids.

Pairings: Jo and Michael.

General Disclaimer: This site contains stories between mature, consenting adult females. All characters are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Disclaimer: “Law & Order: SVU,” the characters, and situations depicted are respectively the property of Wolf Films, Universal Network Television, and NBC. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC, or any representatives of the actors.

Disclaimer: “Facts of Life,” produced by Embassy Pictures Corporation and TAT Communications Company. Created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon.

Disclaimer: “Third Watch,” A brief cameo from Alex Taylor and Bobby Caffney. A Warner Brothers and John Wells Production.

Summary: Jo and Michael get to know each other better, and Gloria gets a chance to move on. Jo and Olivia are set upon the paths that they have always wanted.

Stress Relief
(Or how I learned to let go and love bondage)
Part 3

++ Michael ++

For a long moment, I stared at the phone’s handset, before dropping it back the cradle. There was little I could do for the moment. The Amazons would find Gloria’s aunt, and my Swords were already following leads on the kiddie prostitution ring.

Damn those bastards! As a long-term sex worker, I was sickened that there were still sickos out there that would harm children so brutally. Those poor things would be scarred for life. Some would recover, and become decent citizens, like the pups, others wouldn’t be so lucky.

Sighing heavily, I rubbed my eyes and did my best to set aside all of that. Tonight, Jo was my responsibility, and I was looking forward to it!

My quiet return to the bathroom revealed a beautiful sight and I was glad to have stripped naked beforehand. In the watery tunnel of my unique shower, Jo stood with her arms braced against the wall, feet apart, and let one of the stronger heads pound away at her back. In the haze of scattered water droplets in the discrete lighting, she looked like a black-haired nymph, her beauty only marred by the bruising coming up beneath her fair skin. Lithe, curvaceous and strong, her body was a feast, and I was hungry.

The brush of my fingers on her back made Jo jump, but she didn’t turn to look at me. Her trust was a precious thing, and my ten fingertips rewarded her with the phantom, sensual pattern of seduction.


The question, toned soft in Jo’s voice, carried over the rain and I stepped in close to press our skins together.

“Why?” I echoed and wrapped her fully in my arms, relishing the curve of her belly, tracing down to comb through wiry pubes. Ah yes, I remembered that hiss of carnal reaction from that magical night when I had learned her body. Leaving off, I moved my hands, blindly feeling for the rich weight of her breasts, the chunky nipples, and licked water drops from her shoulders as though grooming her.

There was no warning, just a sharp shiver of arousal down Jo’s body and I was suddenly ambushed, pressed against the wall with her smaller frame holding me prisoner.

Fascinated by this sudden change in her, I made no move to protest, but held the fever-bright blue eyes. One fist wound into my hair, pulling tautly at my scalp and giving me a rare thrill. “Why did you come?” A caress of fingertips, more curious than loving, traced my face. “Why didn’t you just send me home?” Unable to resist, I caught one of those roving fingers, suckling lovingly at the digit. Again, that indrawn hiss of air, and the blue eyes darkened lustily. “Why am I here?” Rhetorical, perhaps? Something of my inner thoughts must have shown of my expression, for she pulled her hand away and leaned in close, so close that all I could see were those eyes. “Is this what you wanted?” She breathed against my lips before lightly kissing me.

Patience, patience, I scolded myself at the feather-light tease of that mouth I wanted to ravish. Let her lead this time, she needs it. Jo pulled back and searched my face for any signs of rejection. Finding none, she dove in for a deeper, more demanding kiss. It was well worth the wait, and I lightly rested my hands on her hips as we kissed. In time, she leaned away and searched my gaze again.

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.”

Rather than speak and ruin the strange magic brewing, I grinned and stroked her waist gently. Jo resumed her fingertip exploration, the tickly, sensual touch ghosting over my face and throat until I swallowed hard in reflex.

“Ever since that weekend you’re all I’ve dreamed about,” the whisper was like part of the spray, my slitted eyes nearly blind in the tiny drops. Those hands brushed over my chest, tracing the shape of the elongated, dagger-like spade on my sternum, following the point between my breasts. Now I was getting anxious, those coveted fingers to close to tight nipples for me to remain still and I arched into her. “You did something that night that no one had ever done before. You made me feel.” She lightly pinched my nipples, rolling them between her fingers, making me groan happily. “Just feel. I was totally there, in the moment. That’s something I’ve never felt before. No thoughts. No worries. No pressure. I just… was.”

She released my nipples and her fingers continued down my body till they reached curls. Jo stilled her hand and waited until I forced myself to look her full in the face. “Please?”

“Yes,” I hissed, groaning in tandem with her at the slide of those seductive fingers deep in the burn that had been building since I had seen her so wild and intense at the bar.

++ Jo ++

If anyone had told me that I’d be ending the night in a hot tub in Michael’s private penthouse, I’d have carted them off to Bellevue. Then again, I’d hardly expected to jump the woman right there in her own shower, either.

Then again… I’d hadn’t anticipated that she would have allowed me to just take her like that. The memory of the sleek wetness of her skin and the soft burn between her thighs made me shiver. No shock that my nipples were perked up and I was aching in all kinds of vulnerable places. Pleasantly aching, sure, but aching nonetheless. Well, the shoulder wasn’t pleasant at all, but the pain was worth it. Next time, I really needed to remember to kick the door, instead of shouldering it down. Lost in the feelings and sensations, I leaned back and stared at the stars above.

As soon as we had finished actually showering, Michael pushed a hidden button opening a second door out of the shower hallway. Stepping through I found myself in yet another part of the bathroom. The walls were a soft green and there were plants everywhere, like some kind of jungle sanctuary in the middle of the biggest city in the US. Before me, in all of its decadent glory, was the most elaborate hot tubs I’d ever seen. Off to the side of the tub was a heavy wooden door and I suspected there was sauna behind it. The room narrowed into an archway across from the tub to show an alcove that held a massage table and various cabinets.

Then Michael really blew my mind. Tapping on a discrete keypad in the wall, the surfaces around the tub began to… move. With a whirr of electric motors, panels slid away from double-glazed glass to reveal a night sky full of stars and the city lights below us. She spread her arms wide and murmured, “welcome to my sanctuary.”

I could tell how proud of the room she was. Looking back the way we had come, I realized that I’d completely missed yet another shower. This one was simply mounted to the wall in the open area where, from the center of the ceiling, a single large showerhead hung down. I nearly jumped when water began falling, reminding me of gentle spring rain. A look back at Michael earned a smile at my expression before she turned the water off. A few more buttons and soft classical music filled the room.

“Why don’t you get in, I’ll be with you in a moment,” Michael invited as she walked to a cabinet off to the side. It opened to reveal a craftily hidden refrigerator as I settled into the pleasant, fragrant water and waited. It wasn’t like a regular hot tub, with the lingering stink of chlorine, but smelled like a clean bath with some light scents added.

“I’ve always loved the traditional style Japanese baths,” Michael offered with no prompting. “Where you bathe first and then soak. I always feel cleaner and more relaxed doing it this way, and I had fun doing these rooms in the jungle theme.” Materializing at my elbow, she offered a plastic cup with bubbling amber liquid in it and grinned at my hesitant expression. “It’s apple cider, no alcohol. I apologize for the cup, but it’s safer in the water.” There was a little plate of cheese, crackers and some sliced fruit in her other hand that made my mouth water. “I figured that you’d probably be hungry finally, and this shouldn’t upset your stomach.”

The tangy bite of apple and cheddar made me moan almost as decadently as feeling the woman wrapped around my fingers earlier. When was the last time I had eaten? Carefully balancing the cider, Michael climbed into the tub and settled in next to me. “You keep munchies on hand for damsels in distress?” I tried to tease, shocked to hear a faintly jealous note in my voice.

“Nothing so dramatic, I’m afraid,” was the wry reply. “I’m usually very busy and constantly forget to eat and sleep, so Pai leaves snacks wherever she can to entice me to browse.”

It was an interesting tidbit about the enigma beside me. Long moments passed in quiet while we sipped the juice, nibbled food, enjoyed the view and stewed in the chemistry between us. At least I was. Considering how wet and ready Michael had been earlier, I really hoped that she was as fascinated as I was. After all, she did come after me personally at the Jousting Club…

“So,” Michael interrupted my thoughts. “Why are you married?”

It took a moment for my thoughts to catch up to the unexpected question. “Okay, that came out of left field,” I chuckled and dared to lean a little more heavily into her body. “Why am I still married I bet is your real question. I could fill a novel with that story, but to sum it up, just never got around to it.” Michael spluttered into the cup and gave me a disbelieving eyebrow. I was rather proud of that.

“Never got around to it? I have to admit that excuse never crossed my mind.” She was thoughtful for a moment before the amber eyes focused on me again. “How long have you been procrastinating?”

“Since about a month after the wedding.” Both sculpted eyebrows climbed up at that admission. “All right here’s the Cliff Notes version.”

“I’d been out of college for a year, and I still lived with my friends in Peekskill. I knew it wouldn’t be much longer before the others left and I was afraid. I’d never been out on my own except once when I’d tried to make a go of it in California and totally blown it. Then Rick proposed. He made me laugh, he was artistic, he wouldn’t let me push him around and we had a lot of fun together. Marrying Rick meant that I wouldn’t be left alone and I did love him.”

Suddenly, I was at the bottom of the cup of cider and Michael reached behind her head to grab a bottle of water from some mysterious source. “Make sure you finish that,” she ordered quietly as she handed it to me.

“Yes ma’am.” I gave her a little salute then continued my story. “So anyway, Rick had gotten a job with a cruise line playing in the lounge band. About a month after we’d been married, he arranged for us to take a long trip for our honeymoon. It was actually two trips around the Virgin Islands and he’d have to work during it, but hey, it was free.”

“The first trip around, his friend Gil was our personal tour guide. It wasn’t hard to figure out that Gil had a major ‘thing’ for Rick and after awhile I noticed that Rick enjoyed the attention and even seemed to be encouraging it. It finally dawned on me that not only did my husband seem to enjoy Gil’s flirting, I really didn’t mind, in fact I was actually happy for them. Rick had someone that adored him and I really liked Gil.”

“I ended up spending a lot of time alone, re-evaluating my life, thinking about the boys and about what I wanted in my life. One thing I realized for myself was that I needed something more hands on than just being a social worker; I just needed to figure out what that was. I also decided that there was no way I was going to stand in the way of what Rick and Gil had. About a week before the trip ended I cornered the boys and we had it out. I told them that they’d better take care of each other or they’d have to answer to me. Rick had the hardest time believing that I didn’t have a problem with him and another man, so I had to explain why that would be hypocritical of me. The only thing left was trying to figure out how to break it to the folks.”

Gently, Michael had maneuvered me until I was leaning heavily into her, and she stroked my wet hair as the memories made me laugh softly.

“Ahh, the best laid plans. I’d been sea sick on the trip so much that Gil, drama queen that he is, was afraid that I’d caught some tropical disease or something so he dragged me to the ship’s doctor and had him check me out. Two days before we hit New York, the doc dropped a bombshell. I was pregnant.”

A soft, ‘hmm’ of encouragement relaxed me further.

“After a lot of talking, the three of us decided to live together. Ya see, with them out on cruises half the year, it didn’t make sense for them to get their own place. The only sticking point was our small apartment; there wasn’t enough room for the three of us and a baby. In a bit of good luck, it was Pop who gave us the solution. He’d somehow managed to make some money investing.”

I stifled a chuckle at the thought that my petty thief, swindler father had finally made it.

“So he got himself a partner and they bought a building. The lower floor they turned into a bar and the top floors are apartments that we all moved into. He’d even managed to talk my mother into moving. We got Pop to let Gil take one of the apartments even though he wasn’t technically family, and it was easier for Rick and him that way. By the time Jamie was born, we’d figured out how to make it all work and we just never got around to divorcing. We really didn’t see the point. That, and none of us could bear to have Jamie only part of the time. It works out, Rick and Gil get to be together and I’m free to do what I want. It also gave me, and now Rick, a cover for any of the closed-minded assholes at work that would have a problem with our preferences.”

Completely lost now in the memories, I was totally unaware that I was now rambling.

“The problem was that with the whole family living in the same building, it was impossible to hide the guys’ relationship. I’m not sure who was more shocked, my parents when they finally figured out why Rick was constantly up in Gil’s apartment and why I didn’t mind, or mine the day I walked into Mom’s and found Pop there wearing nothing but her robe. He’d finally shown some responsibility and won her back. Most men turn fifty and have a mid-life crisis; my father turned fifty and finally grew up.”

The gentle stroking on my scalp paused as I pulled myself out of my past to look at what I desperately hoped was part of my future. Those captivating wolf-eyes danced with fond amusement and I was again struck by the oddness of this pairing. This woman was high-class and I was a product of the rough streets. And yet… it seemed to work.

“Sorry to ramble,” I apologized softly, lost in the magnetism of the woman, and her smile deepened.

“Not at all, Jo. I’ve been wanting to get to know you better. Maybe someday, I can be as frank.” Shadows darkened her eyes suddenly, making the mood shift and I felt a stab of pain. What was she hiding behind that gaze? The quick flash of pain was as intense as if it were my own, and I cupped the back of her head to invite her into a kiss. It worked, and I was lost in the delicious distraction of her full, sensual mouth as it danced with mine.

++ Michael ++

A most profitable night, I thought to myself and stretched languidly in the cooling bath. A most profitable night indeed. Jo was calming, even as I continued to stroke her lightly with the fingers still trapped in her wet. She was far from completely satisfied though, and this relaxation was a temporary state. To really get the stress out of the system, I was going to need my beloved big bed and some time to really get her high on the feeling.

So I pressed her back, enjoying the glazed look in her eye, and at last withdrew my fingers from the clutch of her body. Enjoying the familiar hiss of reaction, I stood and let the water sheet down my curves. The Aphrodite impersonation worked, as the burn rekindled, making her face stark and hungry. “Story time is over,” I purred and offered a hand. “Time for bed.”

From the linen closet came baby-soft linen towels that left us warm and dry. “These are amazing,” Jo marveled and I chuckled.

“A girl has to have her indulgences. Come to the bed, Jo.”

The bedroom was indulgence and simplicity. A great bed, with a deceptively delicate-looking, aged-brass frame, swept up into a sprawling canopy draped in mosquito netting in diaphanous, near-pastel colors. This room was more about the stark lines of Africa or the American southwest than the bathroom’s humid jungle. The walls were subtle shadings of deserts and plains in the magic twilight of dusk and dawn. That was when the predators ruled.

“Like the safari look,” Jo commented and dropped her towel to sprawl out on my bed.

“I like you in the safari look even better,” I chuckled and climbed in with her. Sensing my mood, Jo lay passively while I ran an exploring hand over her curves. She was sturdier than I, less lanky and borderline skinny as I was prone to. Wonder if she could wrestle me down? Shaking my head, I used Jo’s passivity for more creative uses than collecting wool. Mapping her warm flesh, tasting her skin and the mild bath oils, I massaged away the negative stress of the day with mouth and tongue and probing fingertips.

With no words, only the primitive sounds of our lovemaking, I did my damnest to reassure her of the goodness still in the world and in her own strong soul. With a growl of energy I thought I had depleted, she pounced on me in return. Laughing and moaning, I once again let myself be vulnerable to her, amazed at the unexpected trust we had woven.

++ Jo ++

Despite Michael’s best efforts, I was still wired with energy, though it certainly burned at a much more mellow temperature. Gloria’s face wouldn’t leave me. Grinding the heels of my hands into my eyes, which burned with fatigue, I rolled to my side and traced a hand over the relaxed length of Michael’s fine back and ass. The tattoo of a sultry cartoon blonde in a nurse’s uniform that wrapped around the curve of hip made me grin again. It was a beautiful piece, and subtly naughty as befit the woman who bore it. The US Marine symbolism carved sloppily into her upper right arm made me grin, a close match to the cheesy demoness head and crossbones from my early life on the rougher side.

Mildly disgruntled at my continued wakefulness, one amber eye opened to regard me lazily. She muttered something that sounded very close to, “stubborn.” She certainly wasn’t wrong.

“How did you know about the charm?”

The one eye focused more and Michael propped herself onto her elbows. There was something in her expression that reminded me of the dangerous, powerful woman I had met, not this softer, more sensual creature I’d gotten to know this night. Mimicking my pose, she rolled to her side and watched me carefully.

“How much to tell you?” She mused more to herself than me. It was a longer internal debate than I expected, and I was starting to regret bringing the subject up. Though the cop in me was getting more and more curious. Finally, Michael sighed heavily, and gave me a flat stare that I was forced to admit was intimidating. It seemed that I had stepped into something deeper than I’d intended. “Because my organization has similar ones, only they’re dark, military green spades.”

Interesting. “Organization? Which one?” Hmm, I’d surprised her with that observation. If she could be honest, I could do the same. “You looked into my background, I looked into yours. Although I’m pretty sure you found out more about me than I did about you. I obviously know about the clubs and I know about your security firm. Then there are the rumors about the other services you provide.” Now I knew that she was debating how honest she could be to me as a cop, not as the woman sharing her body and bed. “Off the record,” I added dryly and earned a faint smile.

“Okay, you win. Some of what you’ve heard is true. We run a top of the line security company using ex-military and police officers, we call ourselves the Swords. We also run a variety of nightlife venues ranging from your basic bars, to nightclubs and raves and the like, to some of your more… interactive forms of entertainment.”

“You mean sex,” I had to comment in that same dry tone.

“In most, if not all, of its forms,” she chuckled warmly and sprawled out on her back to stare at the sunset painted ceiling. “The clubs only provide the play areas. No one that works for us is allowed to play while they’re on the clock. Prostitution charges are a constant thorn in my side. As for the rumors, well, it depends on which ones you’ve heard.”

“And how do these charms fit in?” I asked again, trying not to be too cop-like, but filing away the information nonetheless.

“They mark the children of our members. It means that a child that holds one can come to any of us for help or protection.” She sighed again. “The club from the playing card deck tells me that Gloria’s aunt works for an associate of mine.” A wave of exhaustion rippled up from my toes at the mention of Gloria’s name, escaping me in a yawn that made my eyes water uncontrollably and my jaw ache. “Why don’t you try and get some sleep?”

If only I could. Again rubbing my burning eyes, my voice started talking with no input from my common sense. “I’m afraid. Every time I close my eyes, I see those children. I see Gloria lying there…” Horror blinded me, all I could see was the images that haunted me. “I blink and Jamie’s lying there instead.” Shuddering at the admission, I curled up into a ball and willed the images away. Gentle hands on my shoulder and crown gentled away the cold terror. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“What do you need?”

“I need to forget,” I begged hoarsely and reached for her again. “I need you to help me forget.”

++ Nicole ‘Kali’ Parkins ++


After months of desperation and worrying, I finally had my beloved niece back, but unmerciful God, what she’d been through…

When Tarzan, the future Queen of Clubs herself, had called to let me know Gloria had been found, I couldn’t believe it. Looking back, I wished with every fiber of my being that I had been able to get poor Gloria to memorize my phone number, but her thrice-damned mother always interfered. My sister was in the worse kind of trouble if she ever showed up in our lives again.

If it weren’t for my housemates, I’d have left without anything. Jill took charge and made sure that I had the essentials before driving me to the airport. Rosa, the head of the local Clubs, and a tall dark Sword who introduced himself as Ian, met me in New York. “I’ve been instructed to make sure you knew that if you need anything from the Suit of Spades to just ask,” the man said with quiet strength, before showing me to the car.

On the way to the hospital, Rosa gave me all the details that they knew so I wouldn’t be shocked by what I saw. Despite the warning, I couldn’t suppress a sob the first time I saw her through the ICU window. My poor, sweet baby was covered in bandages and plugged into multiple machines. Her face had several little butterfly strips over bruises and scratches alike, and a great square of gauze protecting her temple. Both arms where wrapped from hand to elbow and I could see that the left arm was in a sling. Before they let me in to see her, the doctor warned me to be careful of her ribs and to expect her to be out of it due to the concussion.

I pray that her mother is dead, because if she isn’t, I’ll kill her myself for letting this happen to the best thing in my life. Pulling myself together for the sake of this child I love like she was my own, I squashed down the pain and pushed into the room.

Her beautiful little face lighting up was the rising of the sun in my dark world. “Gloria, baby, oh I’ve been looking so hard for you!”

“Aun’ Kali,” she blubbered like a child half her age and I rushed to the bed and gently hugged my niece for the first time in three months. “I’m sorry, Aun’ Kali, I tried, I really did,” she sobbed into my shoulder and held me with more strength than I expected. That was my girl! Always stronger than she looked.

I pulled back from her only far enough to look into those expressive eyes. “Sorry for what honey? You have no reason to be sorry.”

“I couldn’t stop them. I tried to do what you taught me but I didn’t do it right,” she bawled and I reached deep to find the strength to be the rock she needed right now, even as my heart was breaking.

“Ria, some people I trust here in New York told me more about what had happened here and none of this is your fault.” I put every ounce of reassurance into my voice, gave her my most serious look. “I know you did everything you could. And you were so brave. You still are.” For an endless moment, Gloria searched my gaze, and I poured out my heart into the quiet. When the tears came again, they felt different, like my poor baby was letting something go, even just a little. For a long, long time, I simply held my young niece while she wept wordlessly. In time, she wound down, not shuddering so hard in my embrace and the door opened quietly.

“Excuse me,” a soft voice came from the door and I looked at the pretty female doctor there. “I’m Dr. Hendricks. You’re her Aunt Kali?”

“Yes,” I replied almost warily, even as Gloria grew more limp towards sleep.

“I hate to interrupt, but can I see you outside for a moment? There are some things we need to discuss.” Her gaze dropped to Gloria and her smile gentled even further. “We won’t be far. You’ll be able to see us through that window, okay?”

Gloria nodded and allowed me to settle her back into the bed before following the doctor out. Turns out Dr. Hendricks was a psychiatrist that was working with my niece. She took the time to explain some of what I could expect from Gloria. “She’s a strong girl, but what she’s been through will be hard for her to get over. Right now she’s feeling guilty for letting this happen to her and she feels that she let you down.”

Now, hours later, I’m sitting watching Ria sleep. All I can think of besides, how I can help her, is, that whomever it was that did this to her is going to die. Someone at the door brought my eyes up to see… Holy shit! What the hell is she doing here? The Archangel Michael held up an imperious hand as my mouth fell open to speak. I can’t believe that the heir apparent to Suit of Spades is standing in my niece’s room! Beside her is a dark haired woman that hesitantly entered and walked to the bedside to gaze at the sleeping angel there. Dark eyes fluttered and Gloria lit up with a sunny smile, crying, “Jo!” It’s the happiest I’d seen her yet.

“Hey kiddo, how ya’ doin’?” She asked Gloria before turning her attention to me. “Jo Polniaczek.”

Ahh. Officer Jo. This is the woman that helped pull Ria out of that hellhole. My girl had gone on about the cop when we spoke earlier. On impulse, I ignored the outstretched hand and hugged her to me. “I can’t even begin to thank you,” I mumbled into her ear and pulled away, noticing a faint flush on her cheeks. Spotting Ria’s grin, I couldn’t resist. “Lord Ria-child, you weren’t kidding. She is cute.” I was rewarded when the blush deepened and the Archangel chuckled throatily.

“Kali!” Gloria scolded me, but her voice carried laughter.

“I just wanted to see how you were doing,” Jo directed to Gloria, pointedly ignoring me, and leaned over to hug my niece. “And I wanted to give you this.” Pinched between her fingers was a little baggie containing a silver charm in the shape of a police badge. “I can’t think of anyone that deserves this more.”

Abruptly, Gloria started crying again, and I forced myself to stay put and let the officer speak with my baby. “Hey, hey. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t deserve it,” Ria sobbed.

Before I could change my mind and move to comfort her, the Archangel grabbed my arm and gestured to the door. Reluctantly, I followed her out into the hall.

“Please, let them talk, they both need this,” the striking woman asked me quietly, and I could see that she had an emotional investment here too. Then she gentled, and put both hands on my shoulders. “How are you holding up?”

How was I holding up? Rubbing my eyes wearily, I tried to take strength in another human being’s kind touch. “As well as could be expected, I guess.” Taking a deep breath, I met the pale brown eyes. “Have you found anything on the animals that did this to her?”

“We’ve got some leads,” was the vague answer, and something dangerous lurked in those pale eyes. “We will find them. All of them.” It wasn’t an empty promise.

Turning away, I let the fierce agony of what had happened bubble to the surface. Ria was talking animatedly to her new hero. Those bastards had brutalized that sweet soul and they deserved no better than death! “I want in when you find them.”

“No,” was the quiet, implacable reply and I whirled angrily.

“What do you mean, no?” I growled angrily. “I have every right to…”

Michael’s face hardened and her eyes turned to ice. Despite myself, I shrank back in fear. “The only thing you are going to do is take care of that girl.” Instantly, she softened again. “You don’t need to do anything that might jeopardize that.”

I wanted to yell in denial, but I realized that she was right, so I hung my head and took deep, cleansing breaths. Gentle fingers under my chin lifted my gaze to meet hers. “They’ll pay for what they’ve done. You have my word. The Suits are a family, and we take care of our own.”

That would have to be enough, and I nodded my acquiescence to this powerful woman. Nodding decisively at my compliance, she reached into a pocket and pressed a small baggie into my hand. It was another charm for Gloria’s bracelet. An olive green spade, the symbol of her house. “But...”

“We take care of our own,” she vowed again, and I was reassured by her intensity. “You’ll make sure she knows what this means?”

There was only one answer. “Yes ma’am.”

++ Jo ++

“Gloria, you saved not only yourself, but all those kids with you and more,” I said again and she looked at me as if I was crazy. “Kiddo, we had no idea what was going on. If it hadn’t been for you, we probably wouldn’t have found any of you.” Taking a steadying breath, I continued on. “Did you know that they found another group of kids just like you? Because of your bravery, those kids are safe now.”

I could tell that she wanted to believe me, but it was still too soon for her to see it from my point of view.

“Jo? What are you doing here?” A new voice interrupted my thoughts, and I’m surprised to see an old friend standing there in doctor drag.

“Hey Rebecca,” I greeted the woman with a weary grin. “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“No, I’m still over at General. They put out a request for extra help to deal with all the kids.” Rebecca Hendricks had gone through the academy with Liv and I, but a few years ago she decided that police work wasn’t for her and had thrown herself into becoming a psychiatrist. Liv hasn’t forgiven her for that yet.

Kali and Michael followed her into the room and Rebecca addressed Gloria’s aunt. “I just came down to let you all know that they’ll be moving Gloria to the third floor in a bit.”

Right on cue, the ward nurse bustled in and shooed us out of the room so that she could get Gloria ready for the move. In the hall, Michael was talking quietly with Kali again, leaving me with a curious Rebecca.

“So, Jo. What are you doing here?”

For a moment, I debated telling her the truth, leery of her new occupation. But common sense won out. “Liv and I were the first on scene yesterday.”

A touch on my arm warmed me. “Oh damn, how are you doing?”

“I’m dealing with it,” was my honest confession, and I looked over at Michael. “With help.”

She looked around. “Where’s Liv?”

“Not sure. At home I guess. I wasn’t handling it well yesterday and I kind of blew up at her.” The confession reminded me that I had some unfinished business, and made Rebecca wince. “I’m heading over there next to apologize,” I assured her.

“Don’t forget the mint chocolate chip,” was the advice doled out with an understanding grin.

“I think it’s gonna take more then that.”

“Jo,” she winced. “What did you do?”

Ah man, did I have to confess to my stupidity? “I kind of brought her mother into it…”


I found myself staring at Michael again and Rebecca followed my gaze. Her expression turned sly and teasing and I braced myself “So, who’s this?” A nod of Michael’s dark head towards the exit signaled an end to my conversation with my old academy buddy. “I’ll tell you about it later. Listen, I gotta go. Take care of yourself.”

“You too,” Rebecca told me with a grin and watched me walk away to my… lover? What exactly were we anyway? I sighed in resignation to the mystery for the time being.

“Don’t forget the fudge and whipped cream,” Rebecca called after me with laughter in her voice and I scowled half-heartedly over my shoulder. Heat crawled over my face and scalp as Michael cocked her eyebrow at me and I flashed Rebecca the bird behind my back.

Her laughter followed me down the hall.

“Fudge and whipped cream?” Michael asked drolly.

“For Liv,” was my sheepish explanation and her eyebrows arched up. “Fer cryin’ out loud,” I growled mockingly, “it’s for ice cream. Get your mind out of the gutter.”

Michael was still chuckling as we entered the parking garage and I was surprised to see my bike sitting there. Seeing as I’d left it back at the Jousting Club the night before and all.

“I took the liberty of having it delivered here for you.” Michael said simply when I looked to her in question. “Give Olivia my best, won’t you?”

Dammit, so this was goodbye. What the hell could I say to her? What does a body say after the intensity we’d shared? “So… Um… See ya later?” I finally stuttered like a complete idiot. Nice moves, Polniaczek. I had no idea where I stood with her and I was scared to death that I would never her again.

“Jo,” purred that seductive voice, the tone laced with an implacable, irresistible will. A long moment passed while she waited patiently for me to acknowledge her. At last, I found the courage to look into those wolf-like amber eyes and shivered pleasantly. A business card materialized there, in the electricity between our eyes. “Next Tuesday. Be there at 9 pm sharp. Don’t worry about clothes, I’ll provide the appropriate attire.”

A promise of the future made it easier to watch her turn and walk away with that loose-limbed, arrogant stride. Fingering the stiff cotton paper, I felt much better and turned to my beloved bike to go apologize to my partner.

++ Olivia ++

Re-run. News. Baseball. Seen it. Seen it. Not on your life.

Five hundred channels and nothing on. Settling on the Yankees game, I curled into my chair and yawned mightily. Sure, I’d slept last night, but the sexual calisthenics the boys and Pai had put me through this morning had left me tired again. It felt good, to let them ground me into my own body, leaving me relaxed and pleasantly sore. Hunger was becoming an issue, but I was feeling far too lazy to go get the leftovers Leslie had left me. Eventually I’d get to it.

In the middle of the third inning, there was a knock at my door. Grumbling, I finally uncoiled from the chair, wincing as muscles protested. A glance through the peephole showed my partner standing there twitching nervously. So I leaned my forehead on the door briefly and took a deep breath before yanking it open.

“Hey,” was the simple greeting and I stepped aside so that Jo could walk in and set down her grocery bag. From the paper sack came an assortment of ice cream and associated paraphernalia. Silence ruled until the bag was empty she finally looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes. “Liv…”

It wasn’t worth hashing over and I snapped up an open hand to halt her apology. “Forgiven and forgotten. But if you ever say something like that again I’m telling your mother.” Yep, the look of confusion was worth it. “October nineteenth, ninety-four,” I explained with an evil grin and watched her figure out what I meant. Blue eyes rounded in horror

“You wouldn’t.”

“Try me. Now hand me the mint.”

We dished out the ice cream and sat in front of the TV and watched the Yankees spar with the Mariners in rainy Seattle. “So where have you been? Rick called earlier looking for you.”

Jo studied her bowl and flushed rosy. Yep, I was right again. “With Michael,” she mumbled and I grinned smugly. Seems like Cupid’s arrows were working! Settling into my comfy chair for a much more pleasant evening than planned, I prepared to tease my partner unmercifully.

++ Jo ++


“Benson. Polniaczek. Captain wants to see you before you change,” the desk sergeant called as we walked in the door. Our return to work had been a relief and sheer torture all in one package.

“God, what now?” Liv groaned and slumped off towards the captain’s office.

“Beats me,” I shrugged and followed her. “I just hope it’s not more debriefing. I’m getting tired of repeating myself.” That and I’d spent the last day putting up with the boys as they gave me shit for running off and worrying them and I wasn’t really in the mood for any more questions.

Liv knocked on the door and we entered our precinct captain’s office at his gruff holler. It was a bit a surprise to see that he wasn’t alone. A tall brunette in business drag stood off to the side of his desk, eyeing us with an enigmatic smile.

“You wanted to see us?” The question came out just on the abrasive side of professional as I eyed the woman. Please, let her not be a shrink.

“Good, they caught you before you changed,” was the captain’s greeting. “Hand over your badges.”

There was a stunned silence where I was torn between trading horrified looks with Liv, staring at the captain like he was an alien and wanting to wipe that smirk from that woman’s face. Our badges? What the hell? A look over at Liv and I could tell she had no idea what was going on either.

“Come on, come on, hand ‘em over,” he scowled, but I could swear he was hiding a smile. Was that why the strange woman was smirking? Glancing at her, the feeling that something was up deepened. That Mona Lisa expression was threatening to become a real grin.

Reluctantly, the pair of silver badges were dropped on the desk. I felt like I was giving up my armor, and a whole chunk of my identity. Liv cracked before I did, growling, “what’s going on? Are we being suspended?”

“Calm down Benson. You’re not being suspended; you just don’t need those anymore.” A raised hand stalled the questions and accusations ready to tumble from both of us. “You normally wouldn’t get these until the official ceremony, but this is a special occasion.” Shiny new squares of black leather landed on the desk with a thud and the captain leaned back with the smuggest grin I’d seen since the day Rick first held his daughter. “Congratulations.”

No way. No fuckin’ way. My hand shook as I reached out and picked up the one in front of me. Some part of me hesitated a moment until Liv picked up hers. As one, we opened them and I had to stifle a yell. A gold badge. A detective’s badge. Holy shit, we made it.

“You two were in the top five so you’ll get first choice of what’s available. After you get back we’ll go over your options. Oh, and you won’t get paid for it till the ceremony next week.” The captain rattled off in his usual businesslike manner. “Until then you’ll be helping upstairs. Now, on to why you’re getting those early.” He gestured to the brunette. “Detectives,” I couldn’t help but grin hearing that. “This is Assistant DA Abbie Carmichael. Go with her and pick up a prisoner from the Feds. Check out a car from the pool and she’ll brief you on the way.”

Carmichael stepped forward and offered her hand to us. “I just want to be the first to congratulate you.” There was a soft southern accent, Texan, I guessed inanely through the lingering shock. We mechanically shook her hand before our captain shooed us out the door.

“Go on, I got work to do,” the captain smirked gruffly and I had to resist the uncharacteristic urge to hug him.

It was Carmichael that waved off the cheers and catcalls of our fellow officers. Trading barbs and greetings with the boys, she covered our asses as the shock began to fade and we got our heads back in the game. By the time we’d checked out an unmarked sedan and I’d snatched the keys from Liv’s hand, I felt almost normal. The world was my burrito now!

++ Federal Prosecutor Kevin Richardson ++

There were days, weeks, years, that I hated my job. Right now I was praying for something that could break open this kiddie sex ring case. Our only lead was a bastard that I would just love to lock up and throw away the key. But I had orders to make him a deal. The last set of arrests failed to produce anyone who would be willing to talk and this piece of slime was all we had to go on.

Exiting the elevator, I almost ran into my assistant and she was nearly vibrating with happy energy. “Kevin. You won’t believe it.”

“Wha…” was all I could stammer before the boss bellowed.

“Kevin! Get in here.” When I had complied, I was struck by the sultry beauty standing at his desk. Damned if she didn’t look familiar. “This is New York Assistant DA Carmichael.”

“Good to see you again, Kevin,” she smiled and offered a hand. Then I suddenly remembered her from a banquet I’d been forced to attend a couple months before. How the hell could I forget such a knockout? Bad dog, Kevin, I admonished myself and shook her hand.

“Good to see you again Abbie. What can we do for you?”

“This time, it’s what I can do for you. I’m the bearer of good news.” The smile grew dangerous, and I was damn glad it wasn’t aimed at me. A thick file was held out as though it held the secrets of the universe.

A quick scan of the papers within had me suddenly grinning as I scanned the paperwork. What the hell? “When did this happen?”

“Last night. The local police received a 911 call from the location. When they arrived there to investigate, that is what they found.” A long-fingered hand gestured lazily to the file I held. “Our bosses decided that you had all you needed and you could cut him loose. All we need is your signature.” A pen materialized from nowhere, held in those fingers.

It had been a damn long time since I had been so happy to jot my John Hancock down, finishing with a flourish. There were days that I loved my job.

++ Jo ++


Looking back four years later, the events set in motion that fateful night remain as vivid to me now as they were when they happened.

It still brings a smile to my face when I think about that day. I will forever cherish the look on that bastard’s face when Carmichael told him that not only had his deal with the Feds fallen through, but that he once again faced a multitude of charges from the great state of New York.

It turns out that the night before Liv and I had received our new badges, a 911 call had been made from an upstate phone. What the local police found when they investigated blew the case wide open.

Seems that a random bean counter that worked for a drug cartel had seen an opportunity in all the kids of addicts that fell through the cracks. Seeing the chance to make a few bucks, he had some dealer buddies keep a look out for likely candidates, preferably from out of state. When one was found, he paid the dealer top dollar for the kid. The children were then moved to an estate outside the city where they were ‘broken in’. It had taken years of careful work by the bean counter and his cronies to recruit the perverts that wanted kids in inappropriate ways, and to kidnapped the kids. It was a rare fetish, and it was rare that any sicko could make such an elaborate scheme work. What a waste of talent…

When the police showed up at the upstate address where the 911 call originated from, they found the house wide open. Hanging from the second floor banister by their feet, were several half-dressed, bound and gagged men. Taped to their cooling bodies were pictures of each of them sexually abusing children. Beneath the hanging men were several boxes, each neatly labeled as to what type of evidence was within them.

They also found several children sleeping peacefully in the rooms upstairs. The men that guarded the house were never found, although they did find the bean counter that started the whole thing cowering in the kitchen. He kept babbling that ‘ghosts’ had taken his men, and willingly spilled the whole sick story to anyone that would listen. Whoever, or whatever his ‘ghost’ had been, he was much more afraid of that than anything law enforcement could threaten him with. After confessing everything to the proper ears, he seemed happy for the dubious safety of a federal jail cell

They found him hanging in his cell before they could take him to trial. Somehow, it seemed that he hadn’t done it himself, as the look of terror etched into his face almost made a body feel sorry for him.


Law enforcement never did find out who made the call, or tied up the men, or meticulously collected enough evidence to close down the whole operation. Some called them vigilantes and wanted them found. Personally, I’d love to give them a medal if I could.

Liv got the assignment to Special Victims that she wanted. I ended up back home in the Bronx working narcotics, although I’m seriously thinking about asking for a transfer. They’re converting the Vice Unit down in lower Manhattan into the Sexual Exploitation of Children Module. The SEC will be specializing in the sickos that prey on kids using the ‘net. There’s no way I would have been able to handle it years ago, but now, after everything, I think it’s something I need to do.

“What are you thinking about?” That beloved voice interrupts my reminiscing and Michael runs a finger lightly over the intricate tattoo she lovingly, painstakingly, placed along my spine. It’s astonishing how sensitive my skin is there even after all this time.

I can’t suppress the low moan as I arch into her touch. One look into her bedroom eyes and you know… I honestly can’t remember.

The End… for now!