John woke up with a start from a sound sleep to see bright sunlight filling Evangelineís bedroom. Heíd slept so soundly and deeply wrapped around her; he realized again that was part of her impact on himóhe rested in her presence, she was peaceful on some basic level that calmed him. His inner demons backed down and let him be when he was with her. She was as good for him as she was to him. On his shoulders, chest and arms were reminders of where she had slept; tiny imprints from the necklace he hadnít wanted her to remove as they made love again and again.

Her side of the bed was still slightly warm but he didnít hear her in the bathroom. Getting up he went silently down the stairs, midway down his nostrils expanded with the scents of coffee mixed with traces of Evangeline. He came up behind her quietly and wrapped his arms around her, pressing himself into the curvy outline of backside seen through her robe.

"Morning," he mumbled, lifting her hair and pressing soft tickling kisses on her neck, "Did you sleep well?"

"Wonderfully, as always when Iím with you; do you have to rush off to work?"

"No rush, but I do have to get there."

She turned and handed him a cup of black coffee "Good, I flipped on the heat for the sunroomís porch, lets sit out there. Do you want anything else for breakfast? I have muffinsÖ"

"Low fat?" he asked making a face.

"Filled with fat and blueberries or cinnamon or cranberries."

"Great, Iíll warm up some for us, go sit."

Evangeline stretched out her legs as she rocked in her favorite rocking chair and set her coffee cup on a nearby table. Her hand went to her throat, amazed anew at Johnís gift. She heard him come down the hall and step onto the porch, then he set a tray with muffins, toast, butter, preserves, coffee, cream and sugar on the table. "More coffee?" when she nodded he topped off her cup and then his own.

Evangeline put a piece of toast on her plate and then looked over at John, "Can we talk about the feelings stuff that you prefer to avoid?"

"About us?" he asked a quizzical expression on his face.

"No, Cris and what his return means to your load of guilt."

John groaned, "Not another Natalie talk, please."

Holding her temper Van poured him more coffee and pushed a warm muffin in his direction, "Not Natalie, Cris. Have you taken even ten minutes to think and process what his homecoming means to you? Not to whatever you and Natalie shared and share, bound in grief over lost lovesóto you. You felt you had a hand in his murder and heís not dead. Gone missing for a year and undoubtly it was a terrible year for him, but Cris is alive and with a chance for a life, possibly a happy life. Not the happy life he had planned on, but still. Heís alive to have a life. You need to release some of your pain over that situation."

"I cost him a year with his family and we donít know what heís endured."

"No, Tico and Flynn cost him. Flynn, apparently out of greed, let Cristian live since he was worth more as a work slave than whatever Tico paid Flynn to off him. Tico clearly knew about Antonio being his brother at least a year ago."

She reached over and stroked his cheek, "Honey, let it go. Let go of some of it, John. It just wasnít all your fault. Tico plotted out Crisí death, destroying Antonio, and maybe even marrying Jessica. If you hadnít gotten Natalie and Cris to Vegas, Tico wouldíve found another way to get them there. All out of your control, John, and done without any hint of fore knowledge on your part. You were a chess piece, not the instigator of the destruction of the happiness of so many people. Release it, please John, you just canít carry much more of this. I know you canít." Evangeline saw the guilt reaching out for John but for the first time saw it followed by him beginning to struggle against it, a tentative resistance.

"And for the record, Iím really not fazed by this version of friendship thing you have going with Natalie. Sheís just both of our excuse to not totally lose ourselves in whatís between us. For various reasons we both resist our pull, neither of us wants to hurt or hurt each other. We use her as a friction point, we want to keep each other close but not go to the ultimate closeness. I can admit that now, can you?"

"Nothing worth discussing has ever happened with Natalie, Iíve told you that time and again." John said looking at her with a frown when she laughed outright.

"John, as far as youíre concerned nothing meaningful happened. I very much doubt thatís Natalieís view, or her familyís for that matter. The point is I know the reality of what she is in your life, and Natalie is no threat to us. Weíre just our own worst enemies to this relationship."

"Thatís because no matter how we phrase it itís not a casual, never was, never will be and to pretend otherwise isÖa lie. Or I guess itís more protecting ourselves and I donít want to mess us up, Evangeline."


They were quiet for a while when Van spoke, "Ok, yes, I have huge abandonment issues; you were right about that last night. Because of my dadís death but mostly because in my experience love doesnít last, my parents loved each other but in the end it wasnít enough, loveÖfades. Your parents were happily married, passionately in love until the day your father died and your mom continued to love him beyond death. Mine werenít and it undid my mother on some fundamental level, she was never the same after the relationship unraveled and even with his death sheís never quite regained herself."

Evangeline looked out through the porch windows at the dead remnants of flowers and plants once so bright, full and alive just a few short months ago, "Iíd like to say my loyalities swung back and forth but really they didnít. I was always my fatherís girlóbut in the end it wasnít enough and he left me, too. I know, I know, not by choice but emotions arenít always rationale and controllable; abandoned is how I felt and how I feel to this day. I thought I did everything right and perfect for him and if I did then why did he leave me? I donít EVER want to feel that pain again or anything even close to it. Iím a coward, I know."

Evangeline felt Johnís hands on hers and realized heíd left his chair and was kneeling in front of her. Looking into his eyes she thought she saw a promise of forever, an understanding of her fears and a willingness to share and shoulder her pain. Maybe they would free each other.

"Damn, two pockets on this thing and not a tissue to be found," she said starting to rise, "Evangeline, donít run from this, from me." She folded onto the floor and surrendered into his arms and cried and cried and cried, "Why? Why? Why? He still left me and I was perfectÖjust to please him."

John rocked her until he felt the force of her tears subside and still holding her he stretched out on the carpet and enveloped her, his arms and body making a protective cocoon. John was aware of time moving when he thought he heard his cell ringing upstairs but nothing was more important than helping her.

Evangeline finally pulled away and rolled over on her back, throwing her arm across her eyes to block the now-painful sunlight on her face. She felt John leave and was alarmed but then heard him return in moments, "Tissue box, look at me sweetheart. Itís alright, everything will be fine." John scooped her up and sat in the rocking chair holding her in his embrace while she dabbed at her eyes.

"Good thing I havenít put on my makeup. Even better that youíre not dressed or your shirt would be ruined from all these stupid tears. All theseÖfeelings."

"Donít put on your game face with me now, counselor."


"Come on, John," she made an effort to stand up but he held fast to her, "Itís more than silly for me to bemoan my fate. He got sick and died. It happens. I wasnít that close to my mother and his death didnít bring us closer." Evangeline exhaled and ran her fingers through her hair, "I want everything with you but I donít want to love someone so much Iím destroyed when itís snatched away for whatever reasons. If youíre willing to face the pain of loss again, youíre so much braver than I guess Iíll ever be."

Shaking his head he replied, "Not brave, just holding on to the most unexpected and incredible gift. Weíll falter from time to time, it happens, but I wonít let us fall and you wonít either. How many times have you tried to walk away but turned back to me, to us? Evangeline, fight with me, for whatís possible if we both want it, if we work at it and try not to take what we have too much for granted."

Rubbing her back he felt the final release of the tension brought on by her tears and past pain. Then he grew alarmed feeling her shake and tried to lift her head to see what was wrong. When Evangelineís eyes met his he realized she was choking on painful laughter, "Honey? Uh, are you okay?"

Nodding she tried and failed to speak then finally, "Arenít we a pair? I mean, really!" and she let him fold her in his arms again. He knew she felt exposed and weak and realized that soon sheíd fight to slip back on the mask of perfection; he didnít want that. He needed her raw, open and vulnerable so they could continue to say what needed to be spoken between them.

"ÖItís poignant and sad how I was back then/I tried to keep my emotions in control/Even tried to imprison my soul/I was afraid to take a chance/Afraid to take a risk/I guess thatís why Iím sitting here wondering/What if and where would I be/If you loved another/I donít know why you bother/Cause the one thing I know is true/Is my love for you/Just supposing is a waste of time/A play on wordsÖ"

"I have to go to work," she said struggling to get up and to regain full control. "So do you."

"Not yet, can we make use of those fancy jets and turn your bathtub into a hot tub? Soak out all the tension?"

"Then weíll never get to work, weíll just luxuriate in the tube, making love."

"Iím not feeling any downside to that scenario. Youíre wound up, bordering on over wrought," John squeezed her to stop her indignant outburst at the term Ďover wroughtí. "Hereís a thought: youíre in private practice, Iím in charge of a department lets make an executive decision to work at home. I swear on my badge Iíll let you get as much work done as you would if I werenít here; if we do this right you can work as hard as you want to and we can still play."

"Why do I feel certain this is the beginning of a set-up? How is it I just know my case files wonít be touched and neither will yours? Why donít I think thatís a bad, slacker thing?"

John watched her tentative smile grow wider and made a mental note to shut off his cell and hers, and to conveniently knock the receiver for her landline off the cradle before they hit they tub. Work could still be doneÖin the wee small early hours.

"Come on Williamson, Iíll give you an exquisite work out in the tub." pressing his lips to her ear he dropped his voice to an even sexier, deeper tone than usual saying, "I promise, youíll be sooo relaxed when Iím done pleasuring you."

"Promises, promises, actions speak louder than words." Evangeline said as she tossed off her robe and raced for the stairs with John in quick pursuit, their laughter filling her house with the assurance of a future together still to come.

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