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Thread: Pieces of My Heart

  1. #1
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    Post Pieces of My Heart

    Pieces of My Heart: or The True Story of What Happens When Two Stubborn People Fall in Love



     
     
    ~1~
     
     
     
    Title: Accidental Babies
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: mild swearing
    Characters/Pairings: past Sheridan/Other, pre-Sheridan/Luis
    Summary: prompt: pregnancy test. “You’re late.”
     
     

    “You’re late.”

    Wincing at Luis’s choice of words, Sheridan eased the door to his office shut and slowly turned to face him. Taking a deep breath, she decided to make a concession in the hopes of lessening his anger, “I know. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

    If anything, Luis’s anger seemed to grow, and he stood up from his seat, tossing a file onto the desk that seemed to take up all the available space in the small room (the space that wasn’t occupied by Luis anyway).

    Sheridan’s blue eyes narrowed in recognition, her own name scrawled boldly across the top in Luis’s hand. She looked up to find Luis’s dark eyes boring into her, and it spoke to the day that she had already had that she didn’t meet the challenge in those condemning eyes head-on, launch into a spirited defense of herself. His greeting words echoed again in her ears, only this time she heard them in Gwen’s sympathetic voice, and in Dr. Russell’s detached, professional tone, and feeling unsteady on her feet, she leaned back heavily against the door, uncaring as Luis railed at her, the floor seemingly tilting and spinning beneath her feet.

    “You’re damn right it won’t happen again,” Luis vowed. “Nobody is above the law. Not even a Crane like you. Community service is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t report you to the judge right now and have your spoiled little behind carted off to jail.” His tirade finished, Luis swore beneath his breath. “You’re not even listening to me.”

    Sheridan was disconcerted to discover he was less than a foot away from her when she opened her eyes, staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face, like she was some puzzle he couldn’t figure out. “I’m listening,” she insisted, sweat beading her brow as she tried to swallow back the rise of bile in the back of her throat. She didn’t realize she was swaying on her feet until Luis’s large hands reached out to steady her. He couldn’t possibly be concerned about her, a Crane, could he, hater as he was of all things Crane? “I had an appointment. It took a little longer than I expected. It won’t happen again, okay? I give you my word.”

    Luis didn’t scoff at her as she expected. A hint of kindness, a glimmer of the decent, upstanding man she knew him to be (to everyone but her, Ethan, Cranes in general) shone through, softened his hard expression as he let go of her, stepped back slowly. “Are you…is everything…”

    Sheridan felt unexpected laughter bubble up in the face of his uncharacteristic concern, and a smile tugged at her lips as she reassured (or let the wind out of his sails, truth be told) him, “Sorry to let you down, but I haven‘t been diagnosed with a terminal illness.”

    Her needling irked Luis and he frowned at her. “Too bad,” he snapped. “For a minute there, I thought I had cause for celebration, getting rid of your pain in the ass self. I don‘t care if you‘re contagious. If this is the way you think you‘re getting out of your community service, you‘re dreaming, Crane. Now go home. You‘ve already made me late to the station as it is. And if you‘re late again tomorrow,” Luis trailed off in warning.

    Sheridan clutched her purse to her side, a secretive smile on her lips as she replied, “Don’t worry, Supercop. I’ll be here.”

    Baby on board.
     



     
     
    ~2~
     

     
    Title: D is for Dangerous
    Rating: PG-13
    Warnings: off-screen use of alcohol, swearing, sexual situations
    Characters/Pairings: Sheridan/Luis
    Summary: prompt: alcohol. “It’s 3 a.m. Normal people are in bed right now.”



    “Crane!” Luis bellowed, leaning heavily against Sheridan’s door. “Open up.” Pounding on the door some more, he yelled, “Open the damn door!”

    Tugging the belt of her robe tighter around her waist, Sheridan hurried down the stairs of her otherwise quiet and dark home, turning on lights as she went and wrenching the door open when she reached it. She hissed her displeasure at Luis. “It’s 3 a.m. Normal people are in bed right now.” Her words didn’t seem to register with Luis, and more than just his unexpected presence on her doorstep, his demeanor, and the
    wild look in his dark eyes as he crowded past her taking up space in her narrow foyer (and not just encroaching on, but obliterating her personal space), unnerved her.

    Impossibly, Luis stepped even closer to Sheridan, an unsettling, unreadable expression overtaking his handsome face as he barked out the obvious, “You’re not in bed.”

    For the first time, Sheridan smelled the alcohol on Luis’s breath, the heavy stench of cigarette smoke that clung to his rumpled clothes, and her heartbeat picked up with the realization that this wasn’t the Luis she knew, this wasn’t him at all. She swallowed hard against a throat that was suddenly dry. “I was.” She could feel the solid, powerful heat of him through the thin silk material of her robe, and feelings she’d thought she’d successfully buried (deep) started to make a traitorous resurgence. His harsh demeanor made her bristle. Yet, she couldn’t help but think his anger was nothing more than a mask of his real feelings, emotions he obviously didn‘t welcome, equal parts worry and want. She quickly shut off that train of thought and deftly sidestepped Luis, ready to throw him out, when he stopped her in her tracks.

    “You should be.”

    Her hand, white-knuckled, on the door knob, Sheridan refused to rise to his baiting tone and pointedly reminded him, “So should you.” Sighing when he showed no indication to leave, she went against all her reservations and pushed the door shut, lifting searching blue eyes to his familiar face, tonight wearing an expression so foreign to her beneath the
    belligerent façade, she wouldn’t, couldn’t, believe it. Sure, they’d left full-out antagonism behind a while ago, but this? Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald didn’t want her, Sheridan Crane. It was unfathomable, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that something momentous had to have occurred for him to look at her the way he was looking at her now. Shaking her head at him, she walked past, intent on retrieving sheets and a pillow from the linen closet. “Make yourself comfortable on the couch then. I’m going back to bed.”

    Luis snared Sheridan by the hand before she could get far. “I’m not drunk,” he insisted. His fingers gentled around her wrist at her sharp intake of breath, and he reeled her closer.

    Sheridan’s blue eyes considered him, her mind revisited their brief but eventful history, from outright adversarial, forced co-existence to reluctant, earned respect, and her response was weighted. “You’re not exactly sober either.” Still, she didn’t stop him when his other hand settled low and with bruising possession on her waist, and he eliminated the space between them in two deliberate steps. There was a rough desperation in his touch that rendered her powerless to resist him. Something wasn’t right here, and she wanted to call him on it, but she settled for light condemnation, “This isn’t you, Luis.” Her breath stuttered past her lips when the hand on her wrist migrated to her waist to join its twin (taking a few interesting scenic detours along the way). His long, blunt fingers tangled in the belt of her robe, and his dark, smoldering eyes stared at her mouth as she rambled on in increasingly nonsensical words. “You don’t want me. You don’t even like me. You only put up with me because…” she trailed off as her back met the wall with a thud, momentarily knocking the breath out of her, and she could only stare at her own hands in their newfound position on his chest. “Luis, what happened tonight? Was it a case? Is that what’s bothering you?”

    Luis’s hands had loosened and untied the belt of Sheridan’s robe as she’d been speaking, and they parted the silk material, stealing inside to settle low on her hips. His thumbs dipped just below the elastic edge of her underwear and stroked the warm skin there. “Who said anything’s bothering me?” he dismissed her concerns with what amounted to a low, forceful growl. “I‘m fine.”

    Through sheer force of will, Sheridan kept her voice steady as she answered him, her touch light on his worry-furrowed brow as her fingertips sought his face. “You wouldn’t be here if you were fine. You can talk to me. I’ll listen,” Sheridan’s promised. For the first time, she saw hints of the real Luis in the man that stared back at her with tortured dark eyes. Her relief was short-lived though, when his hands slid around to cup her backside and pull her into him as her fingers threaded in his hair.

    “I don’t want to talk, Sheridan.” Luis ground out, resting his forehead against hers. “I want…”

    “What do you want, Luis?” Sheridan pressed on, growing ever more aware of her half-naked state, and the growing evidence of just what he wanted. Her hands trembled and curled around the nape of his neck when he answered her not with words but by closing the miniscule distance between them and capturing her bottom lip between both of his own in a kiss that was surprisingly gentle given the dark place from which he wouldn’t let her draw him out. Sheridan felt herself growing warm, liquid, and compliant to the demands of his insistent mouth and body as he kissed her into a sighing response.

    One kiss became two, three, a kindling fire gaining force and intensity, and Luis chased Sheridan’s robe from her shoulders with his desperately seeking hands. His mouth mapped her lips, her neck, her shoulders, and the full curve of her breast where he’d pushed the thin spaghetti strap of her camisole down with urgency. It took Sheridan’s soft, hesitant touch over his pounding heart to slow his frenzied movements, calm his mouth on hers to a gentle clinging and reluctant release of lips, and he pulled back to stare into her blue eyes, filled with desire but also with questions he couldn’t answer, at least not tonight. “Sheridan.” He looked down at her hands, that had finished unbuttoning his shirt and now rest on his bare shoulders beneath his parted shirt. “Sheridan,” he repeated, his own dark eyes turbulent with emotions he didn‘t dare lay name to. “I…”

    Impulsively, Sheridan hushed Luis with a kiss, unconsciously offering him the comfort of her body, and her arms wound around his neck, hanging on for dear life as the kiss sparked and blazed out of control, an inferno of years’ worth of repressed feelings. She moaned into Luis’s mouth when his big hands slipped beneath her thin night shirt, skated across her ribcage, and cupped the sensitive mounds of her breasts in his palms. Her nipples tightened under the teasing stroke of his thumbs, and they broke apart, Sheridan panting lightly against Luis’s mouth. This wasn’t the Luis she knew, but she was powerless in that moment to willingly deny him anything he wanted, and they both knew it. A question was asked, and answer received, from blue eyes to brown, and Sheridan started to lean back in to kiss Luis again, only to have reality come crashing down harshly around them with the sound of one voice, one word.

    “Mama!”




     
     
    ~3~
     


    Title: Goodbye Time
    Rating: G, PG tops
    Warnings: character death
    Characters/Pairings: Kay, Jessica, original character
    Summary: prompt: funeral. “Nemo was a good fish. He lasted a record three months.”


     
     
    “This is nuts,” Kay grumbled beneath her breath as her knees pressed into the soft, damp earth. “We should have just flushed Nemo down the toilet when she wasn’t looking.”

    “Kay,” Jessica chastised beside her, wearing the appropriate mournful expression when the honey-curled toddler turned her huge, wet blue eyes and irresistible pout on them, cradling the small pink box that held the late, great Nemo the Third inside.

    Kay rolled her dark eyes at her sister and inspected the dirt beneath her fingernails, but she melted into a ball of soft, gooey mush when two (and an all-important half) year-old Emma Crane tucked her tiny self trustingly underneath Kay’s arm and sniffled into her shirt.

    Jessica gently took the box holding Nemo from the little girl’s hands, tucked the leftover pink, sparkly princess birthday napkin around the goldfish’s lifeless body and rest the wilting dandelion Emma had picked herself on top. Closing the box with a quiet snap, she scooted forward on her knees and started scooping handfuls of dirt in her hands to cover it. When she was finished, and the dirt was packed down, Nemo the Third’s small mound stood with his predecessors. Standing up and brushing the knees of her jeans off, she held out her hands for Emma, and Kay (reluctantly) relinquished her.

    Kay stood up beside them, dusting the particles of dirt and blades of grass from Emma’s clothes and retying the loose yellow ribbon clinging for dear life to one curly pigtail. She hesitated to wipe Emma’s tears from her cheeks with her own grimy hands, but Jessica solved that little problem by patting the evidence of the toddler’s grief dry with the hem of her pink and yellow tee-shirt. She shared a frown with Jessica when the action only seemed to breed more tears, and in an effort to console the emotional child, she tried to entice her with one of her favorite treats. “Why don’t we go see Mrs. Grace for some cookies and lemonade?”

    Emma shook her head, further tumbling her curls in disarray, and pressed her tear-dampened cheek against Jessica’s breastbone. “Nemo need pray night-night.”

    “She’s right,” Jessica pressed a kiss to the glossy crown of curls, ignoring her sister’s incredulous glare. “It’s your turn,” she reminded Kay, tamping down a smile lest Emma catch on to the silent argument that passed between both sisters with nothing more than a curling of lips here, a glare there, and a conversation that was all in the eyes (a talent bred from birth).

    “You’re much better at it than I am,” Kay insisted mockingly. Silently, she tacked on Goody-Two-Shoes, but somehow, Jessica knew anyway and merely chastised her with a downward glance at the disconsolate toddler they were both way too attached to (babysitting for Sheridan Crane had seemed like a good idea at the time, easy cash, and since she’d moved in just down the street, prime locationthey were both suckers, really, she and Jessica, as the kid had wrapped them and almost every other taller human being within the Harmony city limits around her cute, chubby fingers). “Okay,” Kay finally relented with a groan. Her brain scrambling to find the appropriate words, she began, “Nemo was a good fish. He lasted a record three months.”

    “Kay,” Jessica reached out to pinch her sister’s side.

    Kay’s answering glare melted into shame with one look into those sad, but adoring, blue eyes, and she launched into a tried and true childhood staple. “Now I lay me down to sleep…”

    Emma chimed in with a sniffly, “So to keep.”

    Kay knew it wouldn’t be the last burial they’d oversee, and nearly two months later, she was proven right when they regretfully laid to rest Dorie the First.

    At least Sheridan got to lead the prayer that time.




     
     
    ~4~


     
    Title: Fairy Tales and Castles
    Rating: G
    Warnings: cotton-candy fluff count? Nah? None, then.
    Characters/Pairings: pre-Sheridan/Luis, Pilar, one-sided Theresa/Ethan
    Summary: prompt: puppy love. They were dealing with one of the most expansive cases of puppy love she’d ever seen, and Theresa, with her wide open heart and head filled with dreams, would be too easily hurt, even with the most innocent of intentions gone wrong.
     



    The house needed a lot of work, but Sheridan had fallen in love with it as soon as she’d seen it, and it had been a no-brainer, really, signing that dotted line, making it hers.

    Luis, of course, had another opinion, one he reminded her of every trip up the creaky steps he took, boxes in his arms that made up her life as the newly independent Sheridan Crane, exiled (through her own choosing) from the Crane way of life, and the Crane fortune. “This place should be condemned. I should haul you to the station right now for child endangerment.”

    “Ignore my brother, Sheridan,” Theresa appeared behind her brother at the top of the stairs, her brown eyes lively and dancing as she teased, “he’s just being a grouch. I love it. It has possibilities.”

    “You think everything has possibilities,” Luis muttered as he stomped back down the way he had come. Passing his mother on the way down, he grumbled, “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

    “Mi hijo,” Pilar chastised.

    When Luis reached the bottom of the stairs, he glared at the sight of Ethan’s car pulling up behind his police jeep and quickly detoured to the kitchen.

    When Sheridan heard him emphatically unpacking the meager amount of groceries she’d managed to bring along with her from the cottage, she shared a smile with the other two females in the room with her and shrugged as she picked up a pillow and held it against her chest, just above her burgeoning belly. “He’s trying.”

    “Really hard,” Theresa agreed with a giggle.

    “Really, really hard,” Sheridan found herself joining in Theresa’s infectious laughter. She leaned into the arm Pilar briefly cast around her shoulders and accepted the motherly kiss to her temple when the older woman decided to go rescue Luis from himself.

    “I’ll go make sure he doesn’t over-exert himself,” Pilar volunteered, straight-faced. Only her twinkling brown eyes belied her helpless amusement.

    When she had gone, Theresa decided to do a little exploring, and her journey found her in the room that had single-handedly erased the last of Sheridan’s doubts and launched her into making the first measurable effort into putting down roots for her unborn daughter. Though she herself had fallen in love with it at first sight, Sheridan had always known unequivocally she wouldn’t rest her head here. “Wow,“
    Theresa turned to her, “Is this…”

    Nodding, Sheridan joined Theresa at the window that looked out on the once lovingly kept yard with its abundance of colorful, fragrant flowers and the peaceful neighborhood she’d chosen to bring her daughter up in, storybook in its comparison to the impersonal mansion she’d lived in as a child. A cozy window seat lined the impressive panes, and Sheridan could picture, in her mind’s eye, her young daughter curled against a bed of fluffy pillows, book perched on her knees, sun spilling onto her hair as she read, completely enthralled in the magic of the book’s pages. “This is her room,” Sheridan confirmed.

    “It’s like Rapunzel’s tower,” Theresa remarked. Belatedly, she rushed to add, “Without the whole captivity thing.”

    “Without the whole captivity thing,” Sheridan agreed with a fond smile. Placing the pillow in her hands behind her back, she lowered herself to the window seat, Theresa following her, and listened as the teen dreamt up a room that was a virtual fairy tale for the little girl she carried, safely tucked close to her heart.

    “A room fit for a princess,” Ethan remarked from his position in the doorway, his dear, handsome face sporting a happy smile at seeing his aunt, more happy and carefree (even with her entire life in major upheaval) than he could remember seeing her.

    “A room fit for a princess,” Theresa echoed, blushing and ducking her head under the force of Ethan’s easy charm. Combing a heavy strand of dark hair behind her ear, she looked up again when Sheridan spoke.

    “You should do it. Give this little girl her own castle,” Sheridan placed Theresa’s hand low on her belly, where the child inside her was kicking enthusiastically. “I think she likes the idea,” she smiled.

    “But I wouldn’t even know where to start,” Theresa protested.

    “That’s easy, Silly,” Sheridan teased. “From the beginning.”

    Ethan left the doorway to join them, his blue eyes sparkling down at them. “Like Aunt Sheridan says, start from the beginning,” he encouraged. “I’ll even help.”

    The adoration in Theresa’s large brown eyes was plain to see, at least to Sheridan, and she finally understood Luis’s ardent reservations where Ethan was concerned. They were dealing with one of the most expansive cases of puppy love she’d ever seen, and Theresa, with her wide open heart and head filled with dreams, would be too easily hurt, even with the most innocent of intentions gone wrong. “I don’t know, Ethan. You’re not much of a painter,” Sheridan hedged. Spying Luis in the doorway, standing over his mother’s shoulder and frowning at them, she suggested with a sly smile and a wicked twinkle of her own eyes, “Maybe you should get Supercop to help you. He’s an expert at staying between the lines.”

    “You’re really milking this whole saving my life thing, aren’t you, Crane?” Luis glowered, while somehow, impossibly, looking pleased.

    “As she should,” Pilar was quick to put her son in his place. “Mi hija,” she addressed Theresa. “Come. Help me with dinner.”

    It was Sheridan’s turn to protest. “Pilar, you don’t have to…”

    “I know,” Pilar cut her off. “I want to. I owe you. Theresita and her brothers and sister owes you. But mostly,” she raised a hand to touch Luis’s face, “this stubborn one owes you. In my son’s own words, milk this for all it is worth.” Pilar’s lips twitched at her son’s incredulous expression as she, Theresa, and Ethan vacated the room in quick succession.

    Sheridan’s blue eyes widened in delighted surprise, and she found she could do no more than laugh while Luis looked on, stunned.

    “I’ll help,” Luis gruffly agreed. “But you,” he pointed at her, waving his hand around the room, “can sit this one out. You don’t need to be around the paint fumes.”

    “Careful, Supercop,” Sheridan bit her lips to contain her smile. “You actually sound concerned.”

    “Yeah, well,” Luis answered. “You wouldn’t have had to save my life if I hadn’t had to save yours first, Crane. Somebody has to look out for that future spoiled little princess you’re carrying. I wouldn’t be surprised if she came out wearing a tiara.”

    Hearing him say such a thing, Sheridan finally allowed her smile to escape. “You know what they say…if the crown fits.”



    ~5~


     
    Title: Love Comes
    Rating: G
    Warnings: none, that I can think of
    Characters/Pairings: mentions of Sheridan/Other, Sheridan, Eve, brief mentions of Gwen, Ethan, Luis
    Summary: prompt: gloves. It seemed Jean-Luc had left behind more than just the knowledge that another man had used her for his own nefarious purposes, exploited the family name.
     
     


    Sheridan donned the thin hospital gown with a mixture of fear and anticipation and climbed atop the uncomfortable examining table to wait for Dr. Russell. She didn’t have to wait long.

    Eve entered the compact room with nothing more than a knock and the echoing click of her heels on the floor. Along with her white lab coat, she wore an expression of reserved professionalism, but she was not unkind, smiling to put Sheridan more at ease when it became apparent that she was alone. “The blood test already confirmed pregnancy,” she spoke. “I’m going to do a quick pelvic, and then we’re going to do an ultrasound that is going to allow me to see an image of the fetus and check its heartbeat. Understand?”

    Biting her lip, Sheridan nodded, trembling within as Dr. Russell powered on the machine that was going to show her the first image of the life she carried inside her (it seemed Jean-Luc had left behind more than just the knowledge that another man had used her for his own nefarious purposes, exploited the family name). She thought of Gwen, who’d first dared to broach the possibility. She thought of Ethan, who, even now, waited for her outside, lovably clueless as to the real reason he was here. She thought of Luis, the man who’d alternatively made her return to Harmony a living hell and the invigorating challenge that kept her honest, encouraged her everyday to fight on. And she thought of her mother, whose hand she ached to hold, whose calming, lovely smile she remembered only from fuzzy photographs as she briefly let herself imagine what kind of mother she would be. She was jerked from her erstwhile thoughts when she heard the snap of latex.

    Eve was efficient in her examination, confirming her prior diagnosis and advising Sheridan on her choices of local OB-GYN’s in and around Harmony before washing her hands and changing gloves. Grabbing a tube of lubricating gel in her steady hands, she dimmed the lights and placed a sheet over Sheridan‘s lower half before helping her push her gown up above her abdomen.

    Still blinking to adjust her moist eyes to the newly dimmed room, Sheridan barely had time to absorb Dr. Russell’s soft words of warning before sucking in a deep, startled breath at the cold gel squirted on her abdomen. “You warned me,” Sheridan apologized. “I just wasn’t expecting…I’m sorry.”

    “It gets better,” Eve reassured her. She picked up the wand to the machine and explained what Sheridan could anticipate. “You’ll feel a little bit of pressure while I try to locate the fetus’s position. It might feel a little uncomfortable but it won’t hurt. Ready?”

    With effort, Sheridan managed to stay still, her eyes peeled on the grainy black screen in front of her. She gasped when the grainy image took on another, faint dimension, and a rapid swooshing suddenly filled the silence of the room. In awe, she murmured, “Is that…that‘s my…”

    “That‘s the heartbeat,” Eve spoke the words Sheridan struggled to form. “Clear and strong and just as it should be. That‘s your baby.” She smiled reassuringly and twisted in her seat, dropping a box in Sheridan’s lap a few seconds later. She turned off the ultrasound machine, brightened the room with a flick of a switch, and paused at the door. “I’ll give you a few minutes to compose yourself, and then I’ll help you get an appointment set up with one of our OB-GYN’s here at the hospital.”

    Sheridan nodded in acknowledgment and stared down at the box of Kleenex in her lap. It was only in that moment she realized her face was wet with tears.




     
     
    ~6~


     
     
    Title: Your Head Holds Gold, Your Heart Holds Diamonds
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: I do say ass (as in smart-ass, lol), and there’s some light innuendo
    Characters/Pairings: pre-Sheridan/Luis, original character
    Summary: prompt: evidence. What happens after D is for Dangerous. She had all the evidence she needed. Not only could the man set her body on fire with his touch, he could easily steal her heart if she wasn’t looking. Maybe he already had.



    Retying the belt of her robe, Sheridan entered the nursery to find her daughter standing, little fingers of one hand wrapped tightly around one of the bars of her crib, the tiny thumb of her other hand firmly rooted in her pouting pink mouth.

    The baby’s thumb fell from her mouth as soon as she spied her mother. “Mama,” she cried tearfully. Both little hands wrapped around the rail of her crib, and she tottered unsteadily on her feet in anticipation of being picked up. “Mama,“ she cried mournfully, letting go of the rail to reach for Sheridan and falling on her diapered bottom.

    Scooping the tiny child up, Sheridan cradled her close and soothed, “Mama’s here, Emma-bug. She’s got you.”

    “Mama?” Emma babbled.

    “Mama’s here,” Sheridan continued to croon, pressing kisses to the tear-sticky little face.

    Emma soaked in her mother’s comfort and affection, tucking her sleep-rumpled honey curls beneath Sheridan’s chin and cramming her fingers into her mouth. “Mama,” she sighed, her tension and fright draining from her little body and leaving her limp and pliable in Sheridan’s arms. Her thick eyelashes fluttered against Sheridan’s skin like butterfly wings, and she started to drift, until a creaking board startled her back into alertness, and she lifted one glistening, damp hand to pat her mother’s face. “Ees.”

    Sheridan slowly turned around to find Luis lingering in the open doorway, his shirt still unbuttoned, and his cuffs rolled up, exposing his powerful forearms. Emma’s sticky fingers had found their way to her mouth, touching and probing with curiosity as she was prone to do, and staring into his unreadable dark eyes, Sheridan felt her skin flush with the realization that her mouth still felt bruised from his kisses. Finding her voice with difficulty, she said, “You’re still here.”

    Luis left the doorway to find his way to her side.

    Sheridan felt shivers run up and down her spine at his nearness, the air between them still crackling with electricity. She held her breath as he reached out his hand, winding a softy, springy honey curl around his index finger as he smiled at her daughter. In a low voice, almost so low she had to strain to hear it, he made an admission.

    “Maybe I had a little more to drink than I originally thought.”

    Sheridan felt both relief and disappointment flood her system. “So I was right?”

    “Not about everything,” Luis told her in an intense whisper. “May I?” he held out arms for Emma. “It’s the least I can do, seeing as I’m partially to blame for her being awake.”

    Sheridan lifted a brow at his remark. “Only partially?”

    “Choose your battles, Crane,” Luis warned, a playful glint in his dark eyes that dared her not to press her luck. “Now, can I have the kid or not?”

    “Give it your best shot,” Sheridan declared, transferring the sleepy bundle in her arms to him. “She’s half-asleep again anyway. Even you can’t mess this one up.”

    “Do I have to remind you who showed you how to change a diaper?” Luis came back strong, reminding her once again that he had been there, almost from the very beginning. “Go,” he insisted. “Get back in bed like a normal person,” he said, recalling a conversation that seemed light years away now. “I got this. Right, Emma?”

    Her daughter responded by tucking herself deeper into Luis’s strong arms and snuggling close, making Sheridan’s heart twist painfully in her chest. “If you’re sure,” she finally managed.


    “I’m sure,” Luis declared, folding his large frame into the cozy little window seat like an accordion and tucking a pink pillow behind his head as he readjusted Emma in his arms.

    The ridiculous but endearing sight brought a smile to Sheridan’s lips, and she felt the stranglehold on her heart relax enough to allow her to tease him. “Just to be sure, I’m closing this door. You have had a little too much to drink tonight.” A slow grin came over Luis’s lips, and Sheridan felt her heart start to pound beneath her rib cage once more.

    “Not that much, Crane,“ Luis told her meaningfully. “Now, am I going to have to tuck you into bed myself or not?”

    Sheridan smirked, and despite Luis begging her not to answer what was supposed to be a rhetorical, harmless question, she couldn’t resist one of the smart-ass retorts that had made her famous around these parts, at least in a conversation with the man currently giving her an embarrassed smile. “Don’t worry, Supercop. I’m a big girl. Maybe next time?”

    “In your dreams,” Luis had one last parting shot.

    Sweet dreams, Sheridan thought as she eased the door shut. She had all the evidence she needed. Not only could the man set her body on fire with his touch, he could easily steal her heart if she wasn’t looking. Maybe he already had.

    The newspaper delivered to her doorstep the next morning with its heartbreaking headlines (a single mother, her baby daughter, twisted metal and glass and skid marks on Coast Road) convinced her maybe she and Emma had wormed their way into his heart too.




     

    ~7~
     


    Title: Tidal Wave
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: slight language, off-screen violence, other character death
    Characters/Pairings: pre Sheridan/Luis, mentions of Roger and Pierre, mentions of Sam, original character
    Summary: prompt: hero. I won’t let anything else bad happen to you, he promised.
     



    “Is he…” Sheridan’s blue eyes were wide with terror and her hands had a death grip on the railing as she leaned over, staring into the dark, craggy abyss that plunged below the lighthouse. Pierre’s body, limp as a rag doll, had landed at a crazy angle, and she knew the truth even before Luis confirmed it. There was no way the French thug could have survived a fall like that. She caught a glimpse of Luis’s dark eyes, bright in the flashes of light provided by the rotating lighthouse lamp, and watched him search out the man that had held her prisoner for three exhausting, trying days amidst the whitecaps, and her hand sought out his and held on.

    Luis pulled Sheridan into the protective circle of his arms when she began to crumple into tears. “He’s not going to hurt you anymore. Not him or Roger.” His arms tightened around her momentarily before he gently propelled her backward in order to get a better look at her.

    Blood dripped from a small cut over Sheridan’s eyebrow, and an ugly bruise was beginning to form on her cheek from the French lowlifes’ first attack on her, but she was alive and breathing, and she had Luis to thank for that. Supercop had come through for her, big time. “Luis,” she tried as Luis run his hands over her gently, experimentally, cataloguing all her potential aches and hurts. “Luis,” she finally captured his hands and his attention again as they came to rest on her taut belly, beginning to tighten with the onset of another contraction, and his dark eyes flew to her face, for the first time noticing its pallor, the dampened hair at her temples.

    This time, Luis’s own eyes widened with fright, but he only allowed Sheridan the briefest of glimpses of it. “You’re in labor.”

    Through teeth gritted against the pain, Sheridan gasped out a confirmation. “My water broke a couple hours ago. I think…” a guttural moan tore from her throat and she blindly gripped the hands he helplessly offered. When the worst of the intense pain had passed, and she was able to form coherent thought again, she told him, no longer in doubt, “They’re getting closer together.” Glancing around at their surroundings, a sneaking suspicion began to dawn on her and she pleaded with Luis to put her at ease, “Please tell me you brought back-up.”

    Luis didn’t say anything, merely tugged at her hand and led her back inside the small interior room, where the air was still cold, but the worst of the frigid wind was blocked. He shrugged off his jacket, spreading it out on the floor, and unbuttoned his cuffs to roll his shirt sleeves up.

    Shivering from the cold and the pain that seemed to have set up permanent shop in her consciousness, Sheridan looked at Luis incredulously and began shaking her head. “No. No,” she snapped, teeth beginning to chatter. “You’re crazier than I thought if you think I’m having this baby here.”

    Grimly, Luis removed his battery-depleted cell phone and tossed it aside in disgust. Moving around the small area, he discovered a scratchy wool blanket of sorts and offered it to Sheridan. “I don’t see that you have much choice. I like our chances better here than the stairwell, don’t you?” Softening with one look at the scared tears welling up in Sheridan’s blue eyes, he told her, “Sam’s a good cop. It shouldn’t take him long to figure out our location.” When Sheridan still didn’t look convinced, Luis grabbed onto her hand and squeezed it tightly. “I found you, didn’t I?” He combed her messy blond curls back from her face with a tender hand. “I won’t let anything else bad happen to you,” he promised. “To you or your baby. Now take your pants off.”

    Her hands shaking, Sheridan struggled to do as he asked, her bloodless fingers making it difficult. When Luis pushed her hands away to take over the job, she tried to smile, but she was shivering too hard. “You’ve been dreaming about this moment, haven’t you, Supercop?”

    “Since the day we met, Crane,” Luis quipped, tugging her zipper down and kneeling to push her pants the rest of the way down her long legs. His dark eyes never left her face as he removed her dampened panties, and he stood back up, his arms going around her as he helped ease her to his jacket below. “I’m sending you my dry cleaning bill when this is all over,” he told her.

    “You’ll never have to do your own laundry again if you bring my daughter into this world safely,” Sheridan vowed.

    “When,” Luis corrected her, arranging the blanket over her knees to give her as much modesty as they could afford.

    Properly chastised, Sheridan nodded, biting her lip against the building pressure she felt in her lower region. “When.”

    Fumbling for Luis’s offered hand, she struggled to breath like she’d practiced in all those stupid classes (not a single one of them had covered giving birth during hostage situations at heights many would consider not merely frightening but terrifying, forget the extreme weather conditions). Finally, crying out, she swore, “Dammit! I think I need to push.”

    “Not yet,” Luis advised.

    “Excuse me, Dr. Lopez-Fitzgerald,” Sheridan panted out (with sarcasm, no less), “but I…seriously doubt…you’re in…a posi…tion to tell…me otherwise.”

    She was screaming by the end of her pissed off statement and she‘d flung his hand away, but Luis was really in no position to stop her or her body’s natural response. All he could do was hold on tightly to her trembling knees and offer his strong, mostly silent, support. By the end of the contraction, he had to admit she’d been right. “Sheridan,” he ran his hands up and down her calves comfortingly as the residual tremors seemed to seize her from the inside out. “I see her head.”

    Her back pressed against the wall behind her, Sheridan struggled to catch her breath for the next contraction, and her blue eyes glittered feverishly at Luis. “You can?”

    “She’s got a head full of beautiful hair,” Luis smiled. “Blonde. Like yours.”

    Tiredly, Sheridan teased, “I think you just gave me a compliment, Supercop.”

    “If anybody asks me, I’ll deny it,” Luis joked. He felt the tension rebuilding in her body, and he offered his hands to her again. He helped her through the contraction with tried and true distraction, and when it was over, Sheridan dropped back against the wall again in near-exhaustion, sweat beading her brow.

    “I can’t believe this is happening. Why can’t I ever do things the normal way?” she lamented.

    “It isn’t in your DNA,” Luis grinned at her, the knowledge real and deep and true, despite the relatively short time he’d known her. “Not in hers either. Look on the bright side,” he rubbed his thumbs idly across her kneecaps. “She’ll have a really cool story to tell all the other kids at school whenever it’s her birthday.”

    “A cool story, huh? And what part will you play?” Sheridan began to bend forward, stifling a scream in her throat as the next fierce contraction ravaged her body.

    Luis’s hands cradled the fragile head that had emerged, tufts of wispy light curls tickling his fingertips, and he chanced a glance up at Sheridan as soon as she was sufficiently, though temporarily, recovered. “The part of the hero, of course.”

    “Where does that leave me?” Sheridan searched his handsome face, alert to the myriad of emotions at play there but in the dark as to most of their meanings.

    “Every good story has to have a heroine too,” Luis answered her distractedly, sliding his fingers around the tiny shoulders and readying for the next contraction. Looking back up at Sheridan, he encouraged, “Listen. On the next push, I want you to really bear down, okay? I’ve almost got her shoulders out. It shouldn’t take much more to get the rest of her.”

    For once, Sheridan followed Luis’s orders without complaint, and she wrapped her hands around her knees, giving it her all.

    Luis’s hands closed protectively around the slippery little body, and with one last, determined, decisive push from Sheridan, he was holding the most beautiful little thing he had ever lain eyes on, and he felt a swell of emotion toward the little being the likes of he‘d never felt before. Cloudy blue eyes blinked up at him in confusion before he heard a most welcome sound. Shrugging his outer shirt off and wrapping it around the crying infant, he shared a smile with Sheridan. “Listen to that. No doubt about it. She inherited your lungs.”

    For once, Sheridan didn’t even mind Luis’s wisecracks. Her arms outreached, she gratefully took the gift Luis gave her, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Oh, Luis. She’s so beautiful. Hi, baby. Hi, Emma.”

    “Emma?” Luis looked to her questioningly, remembering a silly little game Theresa had insisted on (“Let‘s name Sheridan‘s baby“), a couple months ago at the Youth Center, and the tiny scrap of paper he’d slipped into the jar when no one had been looking, at least he thought no one had been looking. Something in Sheridan’s eyes told him differently.

    Sheridan laughed at his own dumbfounded expression. “Over a hundred hours of community service, and you thought I wouldn’t recognize your handwriting? Besides, what better way to honor the man that’s a hero to both her and her mama? Luisa doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.”

    “Yeah, well,” Luis gruffly rediscovered his power of speech. “If you weren’t so pigheaded, I wouldn’t have had to play hero again.”

    “Don’t let Luis convince you otherwise, Emma,” Sheridan murmured into her baby daughter’s ear. “He likes us. No matter what he says.”

    “Is that so?” Luis asked, a traitorous smile playing at his lips. From below, he heard the shouts of Sam and the rest of his men and knew reinforcements were near. Sheridan simply nodded, giving him a radiant smile, and he found he didn’t have it in him to argue a false cause. Rising to his feet, he instead told her, “Don’t move a muscle. I’m going to go make sure they have a doctor with them. You keep an eye on your mama okay, Emma?”

    “We’re not going anywhere,” Sheridan promised. “Luis,” she called before he could disappear, and Luis turned back to acknowledge her.

    “Yeah?”

    “Thank you,” Sheridan uttered sincerely.

    Luis took her gratitude in stride. “We’re even now.”

    “Uncle Luis is wrong,” Sheridan pressed a kiss into her daughter’s soft hair when he had gone. “We still owe him one.”



     
    ~8~
     
     


    Title: Three Wishes
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: some language, adult topics
    Characters/Pairings: Kay, Sam, original character, pre-Sheridan/Luis
    Summary: prompt: magic. “I see that,” Sheridan answered, smiling down at the three sprinkles, red, blue, and yellow, that Emma had managed to rescue and held cupped in the palm of one sticky hand. “Why don’t you make a wish?” she suggested.




     
    Emma burst through the doors of the Harmony PD, tears streaming down her cheeks, curly ponytail streaming behind her as she made a beeline for Luis’s office.

    With one look at the four-year-old’s flushed face, Luis quickly dismissed the caller on the other end of the phone, hung up, and stepped out from behind his desk just in time to catch the little girl as she flung herself into his waiting arms. Kay skidded to a stop in the open doorway of Luis’s office, her concerned father behind her, and could only shrug her shoulders at Luis’s inquisitive look.

    Still catching her breath, Kay’s explanation was spotty at best. “Her teacher said she was fine before snack time, but she’s been crying ever since. If you ask me, that Tucker kid had something to do with it. He’s nothing but a…”

    “That’s enough, Kay,” Sam took his daughter by the shoulders and started to steer her in the opposite direction. “I think Luis can take it from here.”

    “Sheridan’s not home yet, and she wanted you anyway,” Kay said.

    Nodding, Luis offered, “I’ll take her home.” He looked to Sam to make sure it was okay for him to cut out early, and finding no objections, with Emma still tightly clinging to his neck, he shouldered the sparkly pink backpack that Kay held out to him.

    “It’s a pretty light day,” Sam agreed. “Why don’t you take Miss Emma out for an ice cream?” he suggested, pulling out his own wallet and withdrawing a handful of bills. “It’s on me.” To Kay, he voiced a reminder, “Don’t you have a paper due tomorrow? Last I checked, you hadn’t started it.”

    “I work best under pressure,” came Kay’s rapid-fire response.

    “Kay, your mother and I agreed to let you take these online courses, provided you stay on top of the work. If you’re not…”

    “Dad, dad,” Kay groaned, effectively cutting off her father mid-lecture. Tugging on Emma’s sneaker clad foot, she leaned over to whisper in the little girl’s ear.

    It was Sam’s turn to groan when he heard just what she had to say.

    “Next time Tucker’s mean to you, you stomp his foot like I showed you and tell your teacher it was self-defense.” Shrugging off Luis’s wide-eyed, skeptical response, she huffed, “It’s never too early for a girl to learn to take care of herself. I’m sure Sheridan would agree.”

    Luis left the station behind to the tune of father and daughter arguing the merits of teaching a four-year-old how to skirt the system. He had to smile when he heard her ask Sam a tricky question just before he closed the door and stepped out onto the sidewalks of Harmony.

    “Where’s my ice cream money?”

    It was a beautiful day outside so Luis decided to forego the jeep in favor of taking an afternoon stroll. He felt Emma’s little fingers playing with the collar of his shirt and knew it was only a matter of time until she felt comfortable enough to talk to him about what had her so upset. It wasn’t until they were seated on a park bench, however, Emma’s colored sprinkles floating in her melting vanilla ice cream, that the tight-lipped little girl finally blurted out a question that floored him.

    Her dangling feet kicking back and forth restlessly, Emma ducked her honey-gold head shamefully and refused to meet Luis’s eyes. “Was I a bastard baby, Uncle Luis?”

    “Emma-bug,” Luis lapsed into Sheridan’s endearment for the tiny child, reaching over and pulling her into his lap so that he could look into her glistening blue eyes, so innocent and full of hurt for something she still couldn’t quite grasp. “Who taught you that word?”

    Ducking her face from Luis’s view again, Emma pressed her nose into the crook of his neck, inhaling the comforting scent of him, and mumbled, “Tucker.” Folding and unfolding his collar between her small fingers fretfully, she turned so that her lips brushed against his neck with each word she uttered. “Tucker’s daddy says I’m something ugly, and the only reason Teacher is nice to me is because of Mama being a Crane. Only Mama ain’t a real Crane no more cause she made her daddy so shamed of her he don’t want nothing to do with her or me. And that nobody’s ever gonna marry me or Mama cause we’re nothing but trash dressed in fancy clothes.”

    For several long seconds following Emma’s tearful monologue, Luis was so angry he found he couldn’t talk. He wholeheartedly shared Kay’s opinion of the preschool terror that had dared to hurt the precious little girl in his arms, but he knew he had to rise above the sentiment. Mean-spirited or not, the boy was still just a child, and someone had to be the adult here. He guessed it had to be him. So he gathered up his thoughts and attacked the boy’s (father’s) ugly message, point by point. Combing his large hand through Emma’s thick, curly hair, he pressed his lips to her forehead and told her, “You, Emma Katherine Crane, are beautiful, inside and out, and don’t you ever let anyone else tell you anything different, you hear me?”

    Emma lifted her head to look at him, teardrops clinging to her lashes. “As pretty as Mama?”

    “Even prettier,” Luis affirmed, earning himself a small smile. “And your teacher’s not just nice to you because of who your mama is. She’s nice to you because you’re one of the prettiest and smartest and most polite little girls there is.”

    Emma’s flicker of a smile grew with each lovingly spoken word, and she sniffled, rubbing the tears from her blue eyes with her fists as he continued.

    “And this business about being a real Crane…your mama was so proud to know she was having you, she wanted to be the kind of Crane she knew your grandmother would have wanted her to be. That‘s why she left and moved into your house with you, and anybody would be lucky to marry you or your mama.”

    “He’s right, Emma-bug,” Sheridan voiced her agreement behind him. “Especially about you.”

    “Mama!” Emma launched herself into Sheridan’s arms, toppling her forgotten ice cream and scattering stickiness and rainbow sprinkles all over the park bench, forcing Sheridan to sit a little closer to Luis than she normally would have.

    Luis looked deep into Sheridan’s grateful blue eyes, felt the brush of her hand against his own, and couldn’t help but wonder. “How much of that did you hear?”

    Sheridan answered him with a non-answer and a tease of a smile. “You think I’m pretty?”

    Luis groaned. “Don’t let it go to your head, Crane.”

    “Mama,” Emma interrupted. “Look! Colored sprinkles!”

    “I see that,” Sheridan answered, smiling down at the three sprinkles, red, blue, and yellow, that Emma had managed to rescue and held cupped in the palm of one sticky hand. “Why don’t you make a wish?” she suggested.

    Emma’s blue eyes widened with pleasure, her earlier tears a thing of the not-so-distant past. “Three wishes!”

    “Now I’ve heard of everything,” Luis shook his head.

    “You did say she was smart,” Sheridan’s eyes twinkled back at him as Emma screwed her eyes shut tight and made her wishes, in quick succession, ending with her grabbing both adults’ hands in her own (sticky) hands and giving them a secretive smile that had both of them squirming slightly in their seats. “Emma,” Sheridan asked nervously. “What did you wish for?”

    Emma shook her head, her ponytail whipping back and forth behind her. “I’m not telling.”

    “Maybe she’s not the most polite little girl I’ve known,” Luis was forced to concede.





     
    ~9~


     
    Title: A Beautiful Mess
    Rating: PG (tiptoes around the boundary with PG-13 with a wild imagination like I have though, due to the characters’ lustful thoughts, lol)
    Warnings: fluff and naughty thoughts
    Characters/Pairings: pre-Sheridan/Luis, original character
    Summary: prompt: clean.
     



    Luis’s eyebrows shot to his hairline as soon as Sheridan opened the door.

    Arms full of wriggling, giggling little girl, Sheridan didn’t question why Luis was standing on her doorstep (in her limited experience, the man wasn’t much for social calls), she merely stepped aside to allow him entrance.

    “Oo-ees,” Emma squealed, gleefully clapping her little hands together and launching her strong upper body toward Luis as he slipped inside.

    “Oh, no, you don’t,” Sheridan managed to haul her back just in time, averting, for the time being, likely disaster.

    A thin, snaky spaghetti noodle dropped from Emma’s bare foot as she squirmed for freedom in her mother’s arms, and the glare she gave Sheridan for denying her that freedom was something fierce (tomato sauce covered cheeks and all, which was all the more impressive). “Mama,” Emma cried in frustration. “Me, down. Down,” she insisted.

    “She wants down,” Luis helpfully told Sheridan, brown eyes twinkling at her predicament. Reaching a hand out hesitantly, he gestured at her own tousled blond hair, just a shade lighter than her daughter’s honey curls. “You have, uh….let me just…” No longer able to restrain his own laughter, he extracted a long string of noodle and inspected it. “I’d ask what was for dinner, but I think I have enough clues to make a likely deduction. Spaghetti?”

    “Your intellect astounds me, Supercop,” Sheridan rolled her eyes, turning from him and taking a sharp left turn toward the kitchen.

    Luis whistled through his teeth when he saw the state of the kitchen. “Don’t you think you’re taking free expression a little far? It looks like she painted the walls with it.” His dark eyes landed on ground zero, Emma’s Princess high chair, and his amazement grew. “I didn’t know they put that much sauce in a jar.”

    Sheridan didn’t even bristle at his subtly veiled jab at her (lack of) culinary skills, merely transferred the hyper-active toddler in her arms to her hip and began emptying the kitchen sink with her available hand. Surprisingly, she didn’t protest when Luis moved forward to help her. She studied him with insomnia-bruised eyes as he worked methodically to clear the sink, and without asking, began to fill it up with lukewarm water, adding just a drop of gentle detergent for good measure. It finally occurred to her to ask him just what in the hell he was doing here, at her home, going on 8:30, on what most definitely was a work night (he hadn‘t been there since that night, at least not alone, anyway). “Did you say what you’re doing here already? Maybe I missed it.”

    “Not yet,” Luis put her off, shrugging off his jacket and draping it across the back of one of her kitchen chairs. He did the same with his over-shirt, leaving him clad only in his thin white wife-beater, and he turned to her, arms outstretched to receive his prize--a happy, shrieking (almost) 18-month-old girl covered (perhaps painted was a better word?) head to toe in her favorite dinner. “Hand her over.”

    Sheridan lifted a regal brow at him. “You’re going to need a shower too.”

    “We can take one together,” Luis told her with a twitch of his lips. “Work with me here, Crane. I’ll hold her. You strip her down. Or do you want to wrestle with a baby all night long when you could be in bed asleep? Your call. While you’re thinking it over, just remember, that water’s not too toasty to begin with.”

    “Fine,” Sheridan replied, thrusting Emma at him and smirking when he wisely kept her at arms’ length.

    “Oo-ees!” Emma crowed with pleasure, kicking her little legs in the air as Sheridan made short work of her soft pants and diaper and went for her shirt. “No, no, no, no!” she cried out when her mother whipped the shirt over her curly head, only relenting in her outcry of independence when Luis’s face was again before her, and she was naked as the day she was born.

    “Incoming,” Luis warned, pushing past Sheridan and quickly plunging Emma in the warm, sudsy water.

    For her part, the distraught little girl looked momentarily startled before she started slapping her hands in the bubbles, sending water flying everywhere.

    Working together, Sheridan and Luis soon had Emma looking presentable again (it was frightening, the places spaghetti noodles could hide), at their own expenses, and it was Sheridan‘s turn to burst into hysterical laughter when she finally took the time to really look at Luis, in his water-drenched shirt and one lone renegade noodle caught in his spiky hair.

    “Like you look better,” Luis growled, before lightening up enough to enjoy the joke. His smile faded, however, as his eyes drifted downward.

    The dark smolder of his eyes set Sheridan on a slow burn, and she ducked her head, her cheeks flaming, to check out what had captured his attention. It was only in that moment that she remembered she hadn’t changed from work; she’d merely been too tired and ready to spend time with her daughter over a simple (deceptively so) dinner. And now that shirt was stained and translucent with water, gaping open halfway to just above her navel to show the impractical Victoria’s secret number she’d splurged on with her last paycheck. To add to her humiliation, it seemed like they hadn’t vanquished the last spaghetti noodle yet. Dying of mortification, she extracted the pasta from her cleavage and forced herself to meet Luis’s eyes when he cleared his throat uncomfortably. Biting her lip, she murmured, “Don’t ask me how that got in there.”

    Luis had no reply to her statement. He was lost in thoughts of another late night (early morning) and the too-clear memory of just how her skin felt beneath his hands. He shook his head to clear it of his not-so-innocent thoughts when he realized she was speaking again.

    “You need a towel. Just let me…” Whirling around and putting her back to Luis, Sheridan yanked the first drawer she came to open, her frustration growing when she realized she’d opened the wrong one (in her own home, of all places). Finally, she got it right, and she turned around, only to find Luis already standing there, dish towel draped over his shoulders and her pink-skinned, naked daughter cuddled in his arms. Moving closer to him on lead feet, she tucked the towel in her hands around Emma’s shivering little body and found herself following him out of the kitchen and to the stairs. Reading his intent, she protested weakly, “Luis, you don’t have to…” But Luis was already mounting the stairs.

    Emma’s blue eyes were heavy with hard-fought sleep by the time they reached the nursery, and she only whimpered slightly when her mother dressed her for bedtime while she was still safely ensconced in Luis’s arms.

    After allowing Sheridan to flutter a kiss across her brow and sneaking in one for himself, Luis lowered Emma gently to her crib, and he didn’t let go of the tiny fist clenched around his fingers until it relaxed with sleep. He turned his head slightly to discover Sheridan regarding him with heavy-lidded eyes of her own and decided it could wait, his news, his reason for dropping by. She looked like she needed good news to brighten her morning. For now, she needed sleep, almost (probably even more) as much as the little angel that had him wrapped around her heart, and if he stayed, he might do something stupid (that’s what he specialized in when it came to this crazy Crane lady)that included a bed, but sleep? Not so much. So he sighed and gave her a gentle push toward the door. “Go take that shower before you fall asleep where you’re standing.”

    Sheridan didn’t put up much protest, only reminded him with a furrowed brow as they entered the hallway, “You had something to tell me.”

    “It’ll keep,” Luis answered. “Now go. Showering half asleep is a good way to drown yourself, and I can think of better ways to die.”

    “Are you coming on to me again, Supercop?”

    “Trust me, Crane. There’d be no doubts in your mind if I was,” Luis promised, carrying them both back to that dark night, that now felt so long ago, when he’d shown up on her doorstep with a need to feel her living, breathing, giving him hell like always. “I’ll see myself out, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”

    “Tomorrow,” Sheridan sleepily agreed. “Luis?” she called before he could disappear down the stairs.

    “Yeah?”

    “Thanks.”

    “Thank me tomorrow,” Luis shrugged off her gratitude, resuming his descent down the stairs without another word.

    The next morning, Sheridan found her kitchen clean and a note lying beneath her car keys in Luis’s familiar handwriting. Later that day, following the hours she put in at the Harmony Herald , she and Emma started their new job(s): new co-director and mini-co-director of the Harmony Youth Center.
     



     
    ~10~



     
    Title: Crazy for You
    Rating: PG, tops
    Warnings: off-screen violence, some angst
    Characters/Pairings: pre-Sheridan/Luis, original character, Sam, Pilar, Theresa, Miguel, minor character
    Summary: prompt: secret. “I’m still not following here,” Sheridan threw up her hands. “Could someone please just cut to the chase?”



     
     
     
    Her cranky toddler daughter hanging heavily from her neck, Sheridan burst through the emergency room doors on a mission. “Where is he?”

    Pilar and Theresa sprang from their seats to meet her, and someone, maybe Miguel, took Emma from her trembling arms.

    “Oh, mi hija,” Pilar cried, clenching Sheridan to her in a crushing hug. “You’re here. Who told you?”

    Sam had been the one to break the news, gently and with compassion, but hours too late (she wasn‘t family, wasn‘t even a professed friend) in a vigil that had already been long and on-going. When this whole ordeal was over, Sheridan knew she owed the man an apology, but she couldn’t think of that now, not when her thoughts were solely focused on a man brought down in the spray of a madman’s bullets. All while she was agonizing over how many children to invite to Emma’s third birthday party in a matter of weeks. In hindsight, debating the merits of store-bought cupcakes with sprinkles over one of Grace‘s homemade cakes was a monumental waste of her time, especially when there were more important things to worry about, like living and dying and the serious stuff in-between. Sam appeared as a wall of support behind Pilar’s back, and his blue eyes were not judging, were nothing but kind as he spoke, and for that, Sheridan was forever thankful.

    “I told her, Pilar. I didn’t want Luis to be in any more trouble than he already is, playing the hero again.”

    Theresa and Pilar, even Miguel, smiled at the implications of that statement. Only Sheridan didn’t see the humor in it, her blue eyes darkening with worry.

    Theresa pulled Sheridan down into a hard, plastic chair beside her, and Sheridan searched Pilar’s troubled brown eyes for answers. “What happened? The Chief here,” she nodded in Sam’s direction, “wouldn’t tell me anything except that Luis had been hurt.”

    Glancing at Sam, Pilar began a halting explanation. “There was a robbery. On the far side of town, just outside of Castleton, actually. Luis was already off-duty, but he was the closest one when they got the call, so he…he…” Floundering for words, she looked to Sam, and nodding, gave her permission for him to disclose the details only the authorities and Luis’s family were privy to.

    Sam took over where Pilar left off, a kind of quiet pride in his voice when he spoke of Luis’s bravery. “Luis was the first responder on the scene. He was too late to save one of the victims, but he negotiated with the perpetrator to let the other injured party go so that she could receive medical treatment.”

    “What happened to her?” Miguel joined the conversation, Emma in his arms, her honey curls disheveled and wild as her head lolled heavily against his strong shoulder.

    “She’s being treated by doctors here at the hospital. Anything more than that, I’m not at liberty to say,” Sam told them apologetically.

    “What I don’t understand is what he was doing all the way over in Castleton,” Sheridan remarked with a troubled frown. “What?” she asked when she caught a glimpse of the looks passed between Pilar and her children and Sam.

    “Do one of you want to tell her or should I?” Sam finally spoke up.

    “I’m not ruining the surprise,” Theresa replied, standing up and walking over to meet her brother. With a gentle, affectionate hand, she smoothed Emma’s hair back from her face, only to reveal that the irritable little girl had fallen fast asleep and was none the wiser to the underlying turmoil each of the room’s older inhabitants were trying so desperately to suppress.

    “What surprise?” Sheridan glanced around at Luis’s family in bewilderment. “Pilar?” she finally questioned. Pilar acknowledged her with what Sheridan thought was a strange statement, true but hardly having any correlation to the night’s events. Or so she thought.

    “Emma’s birthday is soon.”

    “Less than three weeks,” Sheridan nodded. “Forgive me, Pilar, but I don’t understand where you’re going with this.”

    Sam stepped in again, telling Sheridan a story that simultaneously made her heart melt and her anger build. “There’s a man over in Castleton. Luis helped him out a time or two with some trouble he’s had in the past, nothing serious, but important enough to this man that he felt like he owed Luis something.”

    Sheridan found herself nodding along as Sam continued to speak.

    “This man, he breeds dogs.”

    Sheridan frowned again in confusion while Pilar and the rest of the waiting room’s occupants kept quiet (Theresa with admittedly more difficulty than the rest).

    “Dogs that he trains, and that we use for our K-9 unit.”

    “I’m still not following here,” Sheridan threw up her hands. “Could someone please just cut to the chase?”

    With her mother’s implicit permission, Theresa left her brother’s side and crouched down in front of Sheridan, offering her a soft smile. “The man repaid his debt to my brother by giving him one of the puppies from his latest litter for Emma, Sheridan. For her birthday.”

    Sheridan’s blue eyes filled with horrified tears. “That’s…that’s the reason why?” She blinked against the stinging moisture when she felt Pilar’s hand squeeze her own.

    “Mi hija, my son, he worries,” Pilar said with a fond smile. “About all of the people that he cares about,” she stressed. “He worries about you and Emma all alone in that big old house, and he thought a dog would be good for you both, as a companion and a protector.”

    “A dog?” Sheridan repeated, dumbfounded. “He got my daughter a dog, when her mother, me, can’t even keep a fish alive for longer than three months. And then proceeded to get himself shot because he just happened to be in the neighborhood, and he can’t resist playing the part of the damned hero. If he makes it through this, I’m going to kill him myself,” she ranted, raking her hands through her short blond hair. “Where is the dog now?”

    Pilar remained her usual tight-lipped self, Theresa looked almost afraid to answer her, and Miguel obviously didn’t know all of the details.

    Sam, apparently, was the only one with those. “I’ve got Quinlan keeping an eye on her for the time being. I know Luis wanted to surprise Emma on her birthday, and Marty didn’t mind helping out.”

    “This is unbelievable,” Sheridan muttered, her anger suddenly flooding out of her body in a rush. “Just you wait until I get a hold of that man.”

    Her comment brought a smirk to Theresa’s lips, and the young woman couldn’t resist adding her two cents. “Maybe we should let Sheridan go in first, Mama, talk some sense into Luis for the rest of us.”

    Pilar surprised Sheridan by agreeing. “It would do your brother good.”

    They traded comments like that, back and forth, into the wee hours of the morning. Sam eventually left, taking Emma with him, promising Sheridan that Grace and his girls would take good care of her. Theresa finally fell asleep, slumped against her dozing brother. And Pilar, well, she never, not once, let go of Sheridan’s hand. Not until a harried-looking young doctor in wrinkled scrubs appeared before them and told them the good news.

    Luis had successfully made it through surgery and was expected to make a full recovery.

    As his family left to visit him, grateful and relieved smiles on their faces, Sheridan sat there in that empty waiting room, the rising sun spilling through the windows, and contemplated the next biggest step in her life thus far, behind choosing to have and love Emma, but not that far behind: telling Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald that she was unequivocally, one-hundred percent, in love with him.
     
     
     
     
     
     






    Thoughts, anyone?

    Any favorites?

    Feedback is much loved! I'd love to read your comments. I might even be convinced to do this again, albeit it on a smaller scale. With characters other than Sheridan and Luis even, if the prompts catch my fancy.

    Provided you guys post prompts for me.

    LOL!

    So, give it your best shot. If you're so inclined, give me anywhere between 5-10 one-word prompts, the pairing you'd like me to write them about, and I'll see what I can cook up.

    Thanks for reading!!!

    Hope you guys continue to stick with me through the rest of these ficlets (there are 30 total).

    And remember...mistakes are all mine.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    Forgive my impatience. One of my prompts is giving me a little trouble, and I was just itching to post something, so here you go.

    The next five ficlets of Pieces of My Heart.

    Hope you enjoy.




    ~11~
     
     
     

     
    Title: A Baby Changes Everything
    Rating: PG, if that
    Warnings: I think there might be one (count ‘em) swear word
    Characters/Pairings: pre-Sheridan/Luis, original character, Pilar, Theresa, mentions of Miguel, Grace, Sam, Bennett girls and a jolly fat man, lol
    Summary: prompt: superstition. Beaming at the two clueless adults exchanging wary glances between themselves when they thought she wasn’t looking, she lifted a finger to point overhead and hastily stepped from harm’s way. “You know it’s bad luck if you don’t kiss under the mistletoe.”
     
     


    “Emma-bug, look at the pretty lights on the Christmas tree.”

    Standing tall and proud in the middle of Harmony, the decadently decorated tree shone like a beacon, drawing the citizens of the small New England town outside to enjoy the season. Children were lined up with their parents to visit Santa and tell him their most secret wishes, volunteers from the Church (including Grace Bennett and her daughters) were offering steaming cups of cocoa and cider, and Bing Crosby was singing about a white Christmas.

    Sheridan and her infant daughter were just two among many, many that Sheridan wasn’t entirely surprised to discover included the Lopez-Fitzgerald family. She barely had time to wave to Pilar before Theresa was standing before her, smiling up at her with shining brown eyes and holding out her arms for Emma.

    “Look at you,” Theresa cooed to the tiny girl. “You look just like a little snow angel.”

    Emma’s honey curls peeked from beneath the brim of her snow-white hat, and her little hands patted curiously at Theresa’s face from beneath mittens that were soft and pristine. White tights stretched over her chubby legs, and the tiniest pair of black, patent leather shoes kicked back and forth excitedly when she spotted one of her favorite people, lurking in Theresa’s diminutive shadow.

    Sheridan’s heart did a little flip within her chest at the easy smile Luis so freely bestowed upon her daughter. She covered with a little good-natured teasing about Luis’s understated apparel (he looked disturbingly delicious in charcoal gray but red and green and gold and white seemed to be the order of the day). “What’s up with the dreary duds, Supercop? You look more cat burglar than Santa’s elf. Where’s your Christmas spirit?”

    “Theresa used up my quota and hers,” Luis quipped with a quirk of his lips. When Emma reached for him with a happy gurgle, he stole her from the disappointed teen’s arms and cradled the wiggling baby against his strong chest, her red skirt draped over his arm. With his free hand, he made sure Emma’s coat was buttoned against the chill in the air and nodded at Sheridan’s own attire. “You don’t look so innocent yourself, there, Crane. I hope you‘re not planning on sitting in Santa‘s lap in that get-up.”

    Looking back and forth between the two of them, Theresa rolled her eyes and giggled.

    “What?” Sheridan inquired self-consciously.

    “Oh, nothing,” Theresa stayed mum with a barely suppressed smile. Her brother’s black scowl didn’t even dampen her building giddiness, for she’d made a goldmine of a discovery, and she was fairly bouncing in her excitement. Beaming at the two clueless adults exchanging wary glances between themselves when they thought she wasn’t looking, she lifted a finger to point overhead and hastily stepped from harm’s way. “You know it’s bad luck if you don’t kiss under the mistletoe.”

    “Theresita,” Pilar lightly scolded as she joined them, plucking Emma from her son’s arms and fussing over her. “Leave Sheridan and Luis alone.”

    “But Mama,” Theresa’s cheery mood deflated somewhat.

    “Theresita,” Pilar repeated warningly, dropping a kiss to the baby’s forehead and snuggling her close against the cold.

    Emma’s large, dewy blue eyes focused on the evergreen scarf wrapped around Pilar’s neck, and her thick lashes fluttered against her rosy cheeks as dainty white snowflakes started to fall.

    “Yes, Mama,” Theresa dutifully obeyed. She kissed Emma’s pillow-soft cheek and said her goodbyes, seeking out her younger brother and the Bennett girls.

    They joined a growing group of young people chattering amongst themselves, and Sheridan looked questioningly to Pilar.


    It was Luis that answered. It seemed he wasn’t immune to the catching Christmas spirit after all, for he was wearing a smile as he teased her, without rancor. “They teach you any carols in your fancy boarding schools, Crane?”

    Sheridan found herself smiling back at him. “I might have picked up a song or two. What about you, Supercop? Can you carry a tune?”

    “Carry a tune?” Luis scoffed at her. Unconsciously, he moved closer to her, and the pair of them didn’t notice Pilar slip away, Emma safe and sound in her arms, as they verbally jockeyed for the upper hand.

    Finally, Sheridan conceded defeat, laughing, her cheeks flushed against the cold and blue eyes bright. She looked around, belatedly noticing the absence of her daughter, and finding her, holding court with Pilar, Sam, and Grace several feet away, relaxed enough to meet Luis’s eyes again and admit, “I never went caroling as a child.”

    Luis wasn’t surprised, and he made her an offer she couldn’t rightly refuse, complete with a charming smile. “We’re going to have to change that. Think of it as your duty as Emma’s mom.”

    “My duty?” Sheridan asked softly, lifting a hand to straighten the collar of Luis’s turtleneck without thinking. She brushed melting snowflakes from the soft material, unable to meet Luis’s eyes, and his equally soft voice sent a shiver traveling up and down her spine.

    “Caroling’s a Christmas tradition around these parts.”

    “Just like mistletoe?” Sheridan felt her eyes drawn to Luis’s own by some force she couldn’t resist, and the blinking twinkle lights cast a rainbow glow over the two of them as they stared at each other for several long seconds. The silence between them stretched and yawned, and Sheridan blurted out an apology when the intensity in Luis’s dark eyes continued to grow and she no longer recognized the man she thought she knew, “Listen, Supercop. Forget I said anything. I was just being…”

    Without warning, Luis leaned forward, pressing his mouth against her babbling lips, and the kiss was gentle but insistent, hinting at carefully restrained passion but chaste, and when it was over, he brushed his thumb over her quivering bottom lip, his dark eyes glittering at her.

    Shaken, Sheridan could only breathe out his given name, unable to muster any other sort of response. “Luis?”

    With a shrug of his shoulders and a gleam in his eyes, Luis quietly shushed her, “You don’t mess with tradition, Crane.”

    “Tradition?” Sheridan dumbly repeated.

    Luis’s answer was a sharp, decisive nod. “Now get your ass in gear. Wouldn’t want you and Emma to miss your hot date with the fat man in the red suit.”




     


     
    ~12~
     
     
     


    Title: The Planets Bend Between Us
    Rating: PG, maybe
    Warnings: Cuteness and angst, all in the same chapter
    Characters/Pairings: Sheridan/Luis, original character, mention of Hank
    Summary: prompt: piggybank. Luis looked down at the words he’d written and never had the courage to say and decided the time for bravery had come and passed him by.
     


     
    “Emma,” Sheridan gently pushed her daughter’s bedroom door open. “You have a visitor.”

    “Who is it, Mama?” Emma called, unaware of the two adults standing frozen at the threshold of her bedroom, their eyes locked on each other, only hinting at the words their mouths longed to speak. She gave her teddy bear Buttons one last glance and straightened the floppy pink bow drooping from Lucy’s collar before turning around.

    Sheridan felt a fierce pang seize her heart at the way her daughter’s big blue eyes lit up upon seeing Luis, and she swallowed against a sizable lump in her throat before dismissing herself from their company. “I’ll be down the hall if you need me,” she told Luis.

    “Mind if I join the tea party, Emma-bug?” Luis lingered in the doorway uncertainly.

    Emma patted the small chair beside her in welcome and waited patiently for her favorite person in the entire world (barring her mama, of course) to fold his large body into the seat before offering him a tiny tea-cup filled with Kool-aid. “Careful, it’s hot,” she warned when Luis hooked his pinky finger in the handle and started to lift it to his lips. “Cookie?” she asked, small fist striking out to grab a chocolate chip cookie from a plate in the middle of the table and holding it out to him. “Don’t let Lucy have none, though, ’cause dogs aren’t supposed to have chocolate,” she reminded him helpfully.

    Luis took the cookie from her with a smile and set it down on the little plate patterned with pink flowers before him. He watched her play in silence for several long minutes, in awe of how much she’d grown up since that first moment she’d taken breath, when he’d held her in his arms and fallen into a painful kind of love that he’d never felt before. He smiled when she huffed a breath in exasperation at the honey curls tumbling over her shoulders with each move she made and reached out a hand to stroke over her soft hair.

    Emma began humming under her breath, the tune known only to her, and she slid from her chair to offer a sip of tea to Buttons and Lucy in turn.

    Luis opened his mouth to tell her dogs shouldn’t have tea/Kool-aid either, but he needn’t have worried. The German shepherd sniffed experimentally at the cup and disinterestedly turned up her nose with a whine.

    “You’re not drinking your tea,” Emma noticed with a frown. Without preamble, she crawled into Luis’s lap, wrapped her small arms around his neck, and stared at him with worried, adoring eyes. “It’s not really tea, you know. It’s only grape Kool-aid.”

    “I like grape Kool-aid,” Luis soothed her frown with a smile and a sip from his teacup. Setting the cup back down, he wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug that made her giggle softly into his neck and dropped a kiss on top of her unruly hair. “You’re getting so big,” he murmured into her temple, not without a little bit of wistfulness.

    Emma pulled back and beamed at him, her eyes bright with excitement. “I’ll be five soon.”

    “Practically an adult,” Luis teased gruffly.

    “I know!” Emma exclaimed, scooting from his lap and scampering over to her big girl bed. “Mama says next year I go to kindergarden.”

    “I think it’s kindergarten.” Luis’s correction fell on deaf ears.

    Emma picked up a piece of paper and walked back over to Luis, glancing down at it and looking back up at him. “I made something. Just for you.” With shy pride, she presented the piece of paper in her hands to Luis.

    It was a drawing, a masterpiece in intent if not in results, and on it were five figures, one of them furry and obviously the hapless Lucy. Luis’s brown eyes snapped up to meet Emma’s earnest face as she started pointing out the figures’ identities.

    “The prettiest is Mama, the short one is me, and the one with the sticky-up hair is you,” she grinned.

    His heartbeat picking up speed, Luis forced himself to ask, “And this guy over here?” He pointed at the last, as yet unidentified figure, with brown hair and a lopsided, easy grin. “Who’s he?”

    “That’s mama’s friend Hank,” Emma divulged matter-of-factly. “You know him. He’s her boyfriend,” she spoke the word like it was taboo (boys and their cooties and all that) and her nose scrunched up in slight disgust.

    Her innocent words hit their target (his stubborn heart) with unerring accuracy, and Luis thought again of the decisions he’d made and the decisions he’d been too much of a coward to make, and he decided he might not have made the easiest choice, but in the long run, it was the best choice for the people he loved, all of them. Clearing his throat, he said, “You know Hank’s my friend too. What do you think of him? Do you like him?”

    “I guess,” Emma finally nodded. “He’s funny, and he makes Mama smile.”

    “Your mama’s real pretty when she smiles.” The words slipped out without Luis’s express permission, but Emma didn’t seem to mind and neither did she comment on it.

    The little girl continued to flit around the room, humming a new song under her breath, and she returned before too long, her piggybank under her arm. When she shook it, the coins inside it rattled and tinkled satisfyingly, and she let him in on a little secret of hers. “I’m saving all my money for a present for Mama.”

    “It sounds like you got a lot of money in there,” Luis stated. “Can I make a donation?”

    Emma’s eyes grew wide when Luis reached inside his back pocket and, withdrawing his wallet, pulled out a crisp bill. “Is that a lot of money?” she asked with awe.

    The five-dollar bill was chump change to a former Crane like Sheridan, but to a kid, to a kid it was a lot, and Luis liked the symbolism of five dollars and five years of sharing a person’s life. It could never be enough, not really, but to Emma, all he said was, “It is.”

    “Wow,” Emma breathed, staring down at the bill intently as Luis scribbled something on it with one of the pens she wasn’t supposed to have (from her mama’s purse). “What’s it say?”

    Luis looked down at the words he’d written and never had the courage to say and decided the time for bravery had come and passed him by. Still, his well-intentioned lie left his lips with some difficulty. “It says Happy Birthday.” Folding the bill, he placed it inside the slot and watched as Emma stowed the piggybank back in its safe place. When she came back this time, Luis pulled her back into his lap, and the little girl seemed to sense the pensive turn of his thoughts.

    Resting her curly head against Luis’s shoulder, Emma grabbed one of his large hands between both of her own and squeezed and stroked it comfortingly. She accepted the kiss he placed atop her hair and tipped her head back to stare up at his much beloved face. Pouting, she said, “You seem sad.”

    “I am,” Luis admitted. “Just a little.”

    “Why?” Emma poked her bottom lip out even further.

    Luis smiled slightly at the action, and Lucy stood up and padded closer to them. The dog rest her head in Emma’s lap and stared up at the pair of them with mournful brown eyes, sniffing and licking at the little girl’s restless hands.

    “Is it something bad?”

    “It’s nothing bad, Emma-bug,” Luis was quick to reassure her. “I got a new job.”

    Emma instantly brightened, her blue eyes shining happily for him. She’d inherited her mother’s intelligence though, and Luis’s influence in her young life had helped hone an already keen sense of intuition. The smile on her pretty mouth faded and the light in her eyes dimmed. “If it’s not bad, why are you not smiling? Why is he not smiling, Mama?” Emma asked when she noticed her mother had returned.

    “My new job is not in Harmony,” Luis told her.

    Emma was smart, sometimes too smart for her own good, but in her youth, her world still centered on the close-knit group of friends that loved her and her mama and the small town she‘d lived in her entire short life. There was only one other place she knew of that didn‘t seem like some far-off, magical place. So her assumption was a natural one. “Is it in Castleton?”

    It’s not in Castleton, Sweetheart.”

    Lucy lifted her head as Sheridan approached, her tail thumping against the floor as she wagged it.

    Emma sat up straighter at her mother’s reply and she regarded Luis with wounded blue eyes (mirror images of her mother’s in that exact, unguarded moment). “Where is it then?”

    One of them giving him that injured look was all Luis could handle, and he focused on the little girl in his arms, her big blue eyes starting to well with tears. Regretfully, he murmured, “I can’t tell you.”

    Emma’s lower lip quivered, “You said we don’t have any secrets.” One fat tear fell and slid down her cheek with a brand-new realization. “You’re not coming to my birthday party? Or Mama‘s? You have to come.”

    Luis couldn’t lie to her, but he couldn’t give her false hope either. He settled for a quiet, “I don’t know.” The words felt like a betrayal coming from his lips, especially when Emma’s tears started falling in earnest.

    “Is it because I‘m not always a good girl?” Emma lifted a small fist to her eyes, knuckling away her tears. “I promise I’ll eat all my broccoli. And I won’t ever stick my tongue out at mean ole Tucker again.”

    “Oh Emma,” Sheridan sighed, kneeling between Luis’s open legs and placing a comforting hand on her daughter’s back. “Nobody’s asking you to be a good girl all the time. Luis isn’t leaving for good, and he’s not leaving because of something you did or didn’t do.” Luis’s hand covered hers over Emma’s back, and their eyes connected and held.

    “Your mama’s right,” Luis punctuated his words with another kiss to the top of Emma’s curly head. “Grown ups don’t always get to choose where their jobs take them, and this is a job I have to do.”

    “But why?” Emma stubbornly pressed.

    “Emma Katherine Crane,” Sheridan scolded.

    “But Mama,” Emma responded with a subdued pout. “I don’t understand.” Looking up at Luis with big, wet blue eyes, she asked, “Why can’t you just keep your old job? Why can’t you stay with us?”

    “That’s enough questions, Emma-bug,” Sheridan decided, standing up and lifting her growing daughter into her arms with a small groan. “Luis can’t stay here just because you want him to. He has his own life, his own family,” she gently reminded the little girl.

    “You want him to stay too,” Emma sniffled into her mama’s shoulder.

    Sheridan didn’t answer her, didn’t look at Luis as she announced it was Emma’s nap time.

    “But Mama,” Emma cried heartbrokenly.

    “Luis isn’t going anywhere yet,” Sheridan murmured against the damp, fevered cheek. “He won’t leave without saying goodbye,” she spoke the promise without fully believing the words (because one time he had). Thankfully, though, she was just convincing enough for her daughter. Still, she wanted to offer a little extra reassurance to the child, and she forced herself to meet Luis’s eyes again. “Will you?”

    “I’m not going anywhere without saying goodbye,” Luis gave his word. “To either one of you.”

    Sheridan watched him leave and ease the door shut, and she carried Emma over to the little window seat where she rocked her and sang to her until she’d cried herself to sleep, all the while wondering how she was ever going to be able to let Luis keep his promise.





    ~13~
     


     
    Title: Nothing to Lose
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: angst, mention of past sexual situations, tiny amount of language (maybe one swear word)
    Characters/Pairing: Sheridan/Luis, Hank, original character.
    Summary: prompt: jealous. Recalling a night-time vigil that seemed a lifetime away now, Sheridan knew they’d passed the point of no return a long time ago, and with tears brimming in her eyes and nothing left to lose, she told Luis just that. “Yeah, you did, Supercop.” Her voice cracking slightly, she whispered, “You made me fall in love with you, dammit.”
     


     
     
    Sheridan jumped as the door slammed behind her, and Luis rounded back to face her, looking angrier than she could remember seeing him in a long time.

    “Hank, Sheridan? You’re dating Hank?”

    “Not that it’s any of your business, but yes. I am dating Hank.” Proudly and without fear, Sheridan lifted her chin in defiance.

    Luis had no reply to that, at least not right away. She was right; he didn’t have any say in who she chose to see, who she chose to bring into Emma’s life. Any influence he might have had was a thing of the not-too-distant past, and Sheridan was quick to remind him of that fact.

    “One night doesn’t make us lovers, Luis,” Sheridan threw his hurtful words back at him, the memory of that one night still too fresh in her mind, even more than a month later. “What else was it that you said?” she looked at him with blue eyes glittering with hurt and resentment. “We’re not even really friends.” She folded her arms defensively across her chest and dared him to make an attempt at denial.

    Luis barely suppressed a flinch, allowed himself only a world-weary sigh and a shake of the head. “We are friends, Sheridan. You and Emma…”

    Sheridan cut him off. “Are none of your concern. Nor is it your concern who I choose to spend my time with outside of this place. We work together, nothing more. That’s how you wanted it to be.”

    “You know that’s not what I meant,” Luis snapped. “I was in the wrong, Sheridan, that night. I took advantage of you in a moment where I should have been your friend, and I didn’t want to force us into something neither of us were ready for. I wasn’t a friend to you that night. I wasn’t a man deserving of having a place in Emma’s life.”

    More softly, and with less bite, Sheridan said, “I don’t remember you holding a gun to my head.”

    With tormented eyes, Luis retorted, “No. That was someone else.” If he closed his eyes, he could still remember it so clearly, too clearly, just outside the door from where they were standing. The gun, the tears in her eyes, the too-loud click of the gun being cocked in shaking hands, and the blood on her face afterward.

    I kissed you, Luis. Not the other way around,” Sheridan attempted to relieve some of his guilt, but she could tell it wasn’t working, and he was back in that dark place, that place where she couldn’t reach him, maybe she didn’t want even want to, not anymore. Sheridan wasn’t sure, not of anything. She’d been out of sorts since that night, since she’d given him her heart and her body, and he’d given her so little in return.

    “I never should have kissed you back, Sheridan,” Luis stubbornly insisted. “I let things go too far.”

    Recalling a night-time vigil that seemed a lifetime away now, Sheridan knew they’d passed the point of no return a long time ago, and with tears brimming in her eyes and nothing left to lose, she told Luis just that. “Yeah, you did, Supercop.” Her voice cracking slightly, she whispered, “You made me fall in love with you, dammit.”

    Luis reached for her, but she stepped back, forcing him to keep his distance. “Sheridan.”

    “Don’t, Luis,” Sheridan wiped at a traitorous tear that had slipped free. She froze momentarily when she heard her daughter’s happy chatter nearby, then hastily started to wipe away the evidence of her sadness. “I was stupid to ever think you could learn to feel the same about me.” She frowned at the smudges of mascara on her fingertips. “Maybe you were right.”

    Luis looked at her questioningly (right? He’d been so wrong, on so many things he couldn’t, wouldn’t admit to).

    “We’re not lovers,” Sheridan told him. “And we’re not friends, not anymore. We can’t be. I want something you‘re not capable of giving me, and I can‘t pretend anymore, Luis. I‘m not deserving of my place in Emma‘s life if I do. Can you understand that?”

    Almost against his will, Luis found himself nodding. He grabbed a handful of tissue from the box on his desk when they heard the knock, and Sheridan barely had time to make herself presentable before Emma spilled inside the suffocatingly small office, Hank not far behind her.

    “Mama! We’re going to the movies! Me and you and Hank!”

    “We are?” Sheridan gave her daughter a watery smile. Glancing at Hank, she asked, “Are you sure I’m invited? I don’t remember anybody asking me if I wanted to go to the movies.”

    “Of course, you’re invited, Beautiful,” Hank turned on the charm.

    Luis felt himself tense with his friend’s words, and it was only when he felt Emma’s small hand fit into his own that he was able to force himself to relax. He looked down into the little girl’s trusting, innocent face.

    “You can come too if you want,” Emma generously extended the invitation with a beaming smile.

    “Sure, Buddy,” Hank didn’t miss a beat. “We’ll double up. You can be Miss Emma’s date.”

    Luis’s gaze drifted from Hank to Sheridan, who had her head down, and her words came back to him, and he realized with sinking clarity that this was it, this was all his doing. He’d sent their lives down this track the morning he’d left her bed, warm and smelling of the two of them. He’d locked their course down with lies he hadn’t meant, and Sheridan had just taken the brakes off, and there was no going back. He rest a hand on Emma’s soft tangle of curls and smiled to soften her disappointment. “Maybe some other time, Emma-bug. Just me and you.” He knew he’d done the right thing when Hank looked at him with gratitude in his brown eyes. Sheridan looked back up at him, and Luis added, “As long as it’s okay with your mama.” He found himself unable to look away from the blue eyes that still shone with the faint sheen of tears, and it took Hank clearing his throat to break the moment before it grew awkward.

    “Just give me a call first,” Sheridan softly said.

    Luis squashed the disappointment he felt and smiled down at Emma. “It’s a date.”

    Emma’s blue eyes lit up with pleasure, and she wrapped her small arms around Luis and squeezed. “I can’t wait.”

    Hank made a show of glancing down at the watch on his wrist. “We better hurry if we’re going to make the show.” Holding out his arm, he gestured for Sheridan and Emma to precede him out the door. “Ladies first.” When they had gone, he smiled at Luis and in a low voice, said, “Thanks, Man. I owe you one.”

    Luis waved him off. “Don’t mention it.”

    The next day, Sheridan officially resigned from her position as co-director of the Youth Center.





     
     
    ~14~
     

     


    Title: Calendar Girl
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: nothing more than naughty thoughts on our heroine’s part, lol
    Characters/Pairings: Luis, Theresa, Ethan, Sheridan, Gwen, original characters, mentions of the Russells and Sam Bennett
    Summary: prompt: tease. “The proceeds from this calendar are going into a scholarship fund for underprivileged kids.”
     
     
     


    “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Luis grumbled as he followed his kid sister up the stone walkway to Sheridan’s door.

    “Don’t be such a baby, Luis. It’s for a good cause,” Theresa cheerfully reminded him. “Besides, Chief Bennett and Coach Russell said yes, and Quinlan was here just yesterday.”

    Luis, however, was still focused on one thing, one particular part of Theresa’s statement he found hard to believe. “T.C. Russell agreed to let Sheridan Crane take his picture? He can’t stand the Cranes.”

    Theresa shrugged. “Whitney says her mom can be pretty convincing.” Glancing back at him, she remarked, “I hope you don’t plan on making that face.”

    “What face?” Luis frowned as Theresa lifted her hand to knock on the door, and the door eased open.

    That one,” Theresa shook her head in admonishment, stepping inside when a voice called out, giving them permission to enter.

    “She lives alone with her two-year-old daughter,” Luis wouldn’t be made to feel guilty. “Would it kill her to lock the door?”

    This time Theresa wore the frown. “She was expecting us.” She sent Luis a warning look when they spied Ethan in the living room, bent at the waist picking up various scattered toys.

    Straightening, Ethan offered them a pink-cheeked smile. “I hope you’re not too fond of that shirt.”

    “What do you…” Luis started to ask, but Theresa was pulling him along, toward the kitchen and an unholy racket. He forgot all about his unfinished question when he noticed Emma seated on the tile floor surrounded by just about every pot and pan he was sure Sheridan owned. Her partner in crime, or more aptly, her accompanying percussionist, was seated across from her, banging a wooden spoon on every available surface his short, thin arms could reach. When the little girl saw Luis, she scrambled to her feet, and he knelt to accept her excited hug.

    “Lu-wees,” Emma breathed into Luis’s neck. She cuddled into his side as her cousin, Spencer, pushed himself to unsteady feet and toddled over to join them.

    “Wee,” Spencer attempted to mimic, his brown eyes wide and curious as his small hands reached out for Luis in his desire to be held as well.

    Theresa giggled at her brother’s side.

    “Knock it off, Theresa,” Luis warned, holding out his arm for the curious little boy and letting him pat and probe at his face with the fingers he’d just been gnawing on.

    “I just think Wee would make a great stage name is all,” Theresa smirked.

    “It does have a certain appeal,” Sheridan joined in on the teasing. “I almost like it better than Supercop.”

    “Not you too, Crane,” Luis growled in greeting, standing up with a toddler in each arm.

    Theresa went up to Luis and relieved him of half of his burden, grabbing Emma and tickling her sides and her tummy and causing her to squeal. “Come here, you little monkey.”

    “No, no, no!” Emma breathlessly giggled, making a desperate but futile attempt to squirm away. “Eza!”

    “I’ll take him,” Gwen held out her hands for her son, his bright eyes starting to dull with drowsiness.

    Spencer tucked himself close to his mother, winding a strand of her blond hair around his tiny fingers and pulling it toward his face. He brushed it against his cheek and yawned into her shoulder.

    “Told you it’d work,” Sheridan grinned at her friend, stroking a finger across Spencer’s soft cheek and leaning in to kiss it. “Bye, Spence.” Hugging Gwen, she suggested with a twinkle in her eye, “You should let him give Grandpa Julian a concert. I’m sure he’d enjoy it.”

    “Grandpa Julian?” Luis remarked with a raised brow when Gwen had gone, taking her son with her, Theresa following to decompress Emma with some pre-bath-time cartoons after seeing Gwen and Ethan and their son out.

    “What do you suggest? Papi Julian?” Sheridan’s lips twitched. “Grand-pere?”

    “Sir?” came Luis’s smart-aleck reply.

    “Why, Supercop,” Sheridan tossed back over her shoulder as she led Luis back toward the sun-room where her camera and the rest of her equipment was set up. “I didn’t know you held that level of respect for my brother.”

    “Drunken Master?”

    “You’re stalling,” Sheridan said, her blue eyes twinkling with helpless amusement.

    Luis glanced around at their surroundings, the different props, and the lone kitchen chair sitting in the middle of the room and fixed his gaze back on Sheridan. “Remind me again why I agreed to this?”

    “The proceeds from this calendar are going into a scholarship fund for underprivileged kids.”

    “Kids like my sister and brother, you mean?”

    Luis’s eyes grew dark and stormy, and Sheridan knew she’d offended him despite her best efforts not to do such a thing. “Kids that work hard and do all the right things but need just an extra little bit of help to make their dreams come true. There’s no shame in that, Luis.” In an effort to lighten things back up, she said, “Besides, you get to be Mr. December. That’s not something you do everyday.”

    “No,” Luis finally agreed. “There isn’t, and that’s not.” His shoulders relaxed, and he turned to her for instruction. “So, where do you want me?”

    Color suffused Sheridan’s cheeks as a million and one not-so-innocent thoughts flooded her brain, and she grabbed her camera without meeting Luis’s eyes. Clearing her throat, she told him, “By the windows first.”

    “Easy enough,” Luis muttered, pausing in his tracks and looking at Sheridan aghast, Ethan’s earlier off-hand comment making much more sense, when Sheridan dropped a figurative bomb on him.

    “Oh, and Supercop? Lose the shirt.”





     
     
     
    ~15~
     


    Title: Hold My Heart
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: hints of angst to come for our gal Sher, stupidity/stubbornness on Luis’s part
    Characters/Pairings: Pilar, Luis, original character, mentions of Bennetts, Miguel, Theresa, Sheridan, allusions to Beth/Luis (don’t throw tomatoes; toss me cookies instead, lol).
    Summary: prompt: storm. When another flash of lightning lit up the interior of the house, and the three-year-old ducked her curly head beneath her blanket in abject terror, Luis stroked one big hand comfortingly up and down Emma’s small back. “Nothing to be afraid of Emma-bug,” he crooned, oblivious of his mother’s watchful smile. “Just God upstairs putting on a fireworks show for us. You like fireworks, don’t you?”
     
     
     


    Lightning cracked outside again, and Emma shivered against Pilar’s side, knotting her little fingers in her blanket. Rain beat in a staccato rhythm against the window panes, and a pair of headlights cutting through the darkness had Pilar standing up from the sofa, the frightened little girl clinging to her neck.

    “Mama?” Emma murmured into the crook of Pilar’s neck.

    Pilar didn’t have time to answer the little girl before Luis had pushed the door open.

    In her crate, tucked within the shadows of the living room, Lucy whined in recognition.

    “How many times have I told her to lock the door?” Luis muttered, shrugging off his wet wind breaker and carelessly wiping a hand across his face. “Mama?” Luis’s eyes widened in surprise when he looked up and spied his mother standing not two feet in front of him. “What are you doing here? Where’s Sheridan?”

    “Mi hijo,” the worry in Pilar’s dark eyes was evident even with the dim light afforded by the flickering candles strategically placed around the otherwise pitch-black house. “She called to say she would be late over an hour ago. Some kind of deadline with the paper.”

    Luis swore beneath his breath. “That boss of hers takes advantage of her, treats her as nothing more than a glorified personal assistant. I’ll bet he’s at home right now, with his family, which is where she should be.”

    “Mi hijo, Sheridan enjoys her job. She enjoys taking her photographs,” Pilar stepped in to defend the young woman she’d cared for as a child. “Mothers sometimes do worse things for their children.”

    “You could quit the Cranes tomorrow,” Luis told her. “We’d be okay, Mama. Really.”

    “I did not mean to make you feel guilty, Mi hijo,” Pilar smiled. “I merely wished to point out to you that parenthood is made of many sacrifices, some great, some small. I think Sheridan would tell you staying late at the paper occasionally is preferable to the many alternatives out there.” When Luis seemed to accept her words without further comment, she kissed Emma soundly on the forehead and placed her in her son’s capable hands.

    “Want Mama,” Emma pouted, bringing a fistful of blanket up to her face and cuddling into it.

    When another flash of lightning lit up the interior of the house, and the three-year-old ducked her curly head beneath her blanket in abject terror, Luis stroked one big hand comfortingly up and down Emma’s small back. “Nothing to be afraid of Emma-bug,” he crooned, oblivious of his mother’s watchful smile. “Just God upstairs putting on a fireworks show for us. You like fireworks, don’t you?”

    Thunder roared and rumbled, shaking the old house on its foundation, and Emma clapped her hands over her ears. “Too loud,” she protested.

    Luis was inclined to agree, but he wisely bit his tongue. Watching his mother don her own jacket and retrieve her umbrella, he tried to talk her out of leaving, at least until the worst of the rain had passed, but she wouldn’t be deterred.

    “Miguel is with the Bennetts, and your sister is at home, alone. I’ll be okay, mi hijo. I’ll drive slowly,” Pilar promised, zipping her jacket and letting her son fold her into a one-armed hug. She combed back Emma’s tumble of curls fondly and smiled knowingly up at Luis. “You don’t mind staying with her, just until Sheridan gets home?”

    Luis half-shrugged, a chagrined smile turning the corners of his mouth up. “You caught me. I was coming to check on them anyway.”

    “Sheridan is very lucky to have you as a friend,” Pilar remarked.

    “We’re not friends, Mama,” Luis’s attempt at denial sounded weak to his own ears. “We’re just…we just work together is all.”

    Pilar lifted a skeptical brow. “And Emma?”

    “Emma defies categorization,” Luis grinned, hitching the tiny girl up higher against his chest. He felt a pull in his shoulder, an aching, phantom burn from where a bullet (just one of many) used to be, but reminded himself that the residual pain only meant that he was alive. “Emma’s special.”

    “Her mama had a lot to do with that, mi hijo,” Pilar said, pointing out the obvious to her thick-headed son.

    “Mama,” Luis groaned. “Sheridan defies categorization too, okay?“ he relented. “But not in the good way. She drives me crazy. You know that. Beth is so much easier to be around.” Which was why, newly released from the hospital and leaving death’s bed behind, he’d brought his old high school girlfriend and a squirming, trouble-magnet puppy to Emma’s third birthday party (pushed back a week, just for him), to fortify the walls he’d felt Sheridan and her daughter pulling down, brick by brick.

    “The easy choice isn’t always the most rewarding one,” Pilar told him before twisting the doorknob, opening her umbrella, and dashing to her car.

    Luis watched her back out of Sheridan’s paved driveway before looking back down at Emma, her eyes squeezed shut tight against the storm still having its way with Harmony outside and fingers clenched, white-knuckled, in the soft material of his black tee-shirt. “What do you say we go break Lucy out of jail?”

    The energetic, clumsy puppy proved to be a welcome distraction from Emma’s natural fear of storms, and long before the wind had died down and the rain slowed to a steady, less threatening drumming on the roof, Emma’s little arms and legs had relaxed until she was warm and boneless, resting against his chest and drifting slowly toward dreamland.

    Lucy lay at the opposite end of the sofa, blanketing Luis’s socked feet and staring at him with her large, expressive brown eyes. With a sigh, she flopped her head down between her paws and stretched, sprawling out against the length of Luis’s legs.

    Luis could swear the puppy gave him a lazy, canine smile before her soft, chuffing snores filled the room, chasing the quiet whistle of Emma’s breath as she dozed in his arms, but he wrote it off to the flickering candlelight, feeling his own eyelids growing heavy. Lulled by the rain on the rooftop and the sweet, warm weight of the little girl in his arms, he nodded off himself, never hearing the slam of a car door or Sheridan’s key fitting into the lock. He thought he felt fingertips brush lightly against his mouth, but something soft and warm settled across his shoulders and Emma exhaled against his neck, and the sensation was fleeting and gone before he could work up enough initiative to drag his eyes open and check it out. And so he slept, until morning, his dreams filled with blue eyes and caring hands.

    Brilliant sunlight painted the living room in warm, welcoming tones, all evidence of the storms of the night before vanquished in its wake.

    Emma still heavy in his arms, Sheridan’s sweetly fragrant perfume the only sign she had, indeed, come home, and Lucy, wagging her tail and staring at him with love eyes, Luis fished out his cell phone from his jeans pocket and scrolled through the address book until he found Beth’s number. His selection made, he listened as the phone rang, and rang and rang, until finally, she answered.

    That weekend it was Beth he danced with, Beth he held, Beth he kissed, but it was blue eyes he dreamed about as another woman slept in his arms.
     






    So...questions, comments, flames?

    Favorites?

    LOL!

    I'd love to read your thoughts.

    Hopefully, I'll have the next set of ficlets up soon. 5 is actually more manageable than doing 10 at once. At least I gave it a try.

    Unfortunately, for readers of my other fics, I'm now convinced I have to get this story out of my head before I can get anything worth reading done on my other fics.

    Sorry.

    The good news is, though, other than a small hang-up with one of my prompts, this fic has been really easy for me to write (as long as I've had the actual time to sit down, hehe). Bad news is, that time I've had? It's rapidly running out. Duty (in the form of work) calls, and I only have a couple more days before this little writing spree is over.

    Another piece of good news though...I do have another long weekend coming up.



    As always, thanks so much for reading.

    Feedback is loved and adored.

    P.S. Check out my updates thread and give me some feedback on some more UA kids, including my ideas about what Emma looks like.

    P.P.S. Mistakes are mine.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    I'm cheating.

    Again.

    But this time you only get 2 instead of 5 ficlets. Otherwise, I'd have to make you wait until Friday at the earliest, and I didn't want to do that.

    Hope you enjoy.

    And Tracey?

    Thanks for the super lovely feedback!

    You don't know how much I truly appreciate it.

    On to the story.



    ~16~



    Title: Hometown Glory
    Rating: G
    Warnings: None that I can think of.
    Characters/Pairings: slightest of slight Kay/Miguel, original character, Eve, Sheridan, Luis, mentions of Sam and Coach Russell
    Summary: prompt:strawberries. “Your brother’s going to kill me, you know.”



    In the Harmony ER, Kay hung her head in misery, Miguel ever-steady and stoic beside her in one of those awful, uncomfortable plastic chairs that seemed to be in every hospital she’d ever visited (granted, her experiences were limited, thankfully so) and knotted and unknotted her fingers nervously. She didn’t realize she’d been bouncing her thigh up and down until Miguel placed a careful, calming hand on it, and she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as she stared into his dark eyes. Finally, she blew out a breath. “Your brother’s going to kill me, you know.”

    “You didn’t know,” Miguel consoled.

    He had a point; Kay would allow him that, but still…she was dead meat if anything happened to Emma and they both knew it. “I shouldn’t have fed them to her anyway. She’s too little. I just figured…they’re soft and squishy. What could it hurt? She started crying and then she was quiet and I panicked and you were there. Thank you for being there, Miguel.”

    Miguel covered her agitated hands with one of his own and squeezed reassuringly. “It was an honest mistake. How were you supposed to know Emma was allergic to strawberries? I bet Sheridan didn’t even know.”

    “Still…” Kay slid her hand free to cover her face and groan. “You’ll come to my funeral, right?”

    “There isn’t going to be a funeral,” a voice said, a familiar one, filled with humor and patient understanding. “Emma’s going to be just fine, Kay,” Dr. Eve Russell told the worried teen. “Sheridan’s with her right now, and she’s breathing and resting just fine thanks to the medicine we’re giving her. Now, if you hadn’t have acted so quickly…” she trailed off significantly.

    “Miguel called 9-1-1,” Kay shook her head. “I didn’t do anything.”

    “She saved her, Dr. Russell,” Miguel wouldn’t let Kay sell herself short. “She breathed for Emma when she couldn’t just like we learned in class,” he said, referring to the course Luis and Chief Bennett himself had taught to their entire class just last month, hijacking Coach Russell’s block and demonstrating to a gymnasium full of half-interested teens just what to do in case of an emergency.

    “She was so quiet,” Kay muttered to herself. “She’s never quiet. At first I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to do something,” she explained. “She started choking and turning blue, and I grabbed her and started breathing into her mouth.”

    “Miguel’s right,” Eve smiled down at the young girl, being so hard on herself. “Another minute, and it would have been too late. You saved that little girl in there, and Luis isn’t going to be anything but grateful.”

    “Thanks, Dr. Russell,” Kay attempted a smile, still not so sure as she saw Luis enter the emergency room, wearing an expression of carefully controlled panic as he started asking the whereabouts of Emma Crane, despite the fact that he held no familial affiliation with the tiny girl, and it was no police matter. “I hope you’re not offended if I find it just a little hard to believe you. In fact, I think I better find my dad, see what he can do about getting me into the witness protection program.”

    Eve and Miguel shared a smile that went unnoticed by Kay, and Miguel held fast to Kay’s hand when she would have made her escape, tethering her to his side as a tearful Sheridan made her approach.

    Seconds before Kay could babble out an apology, Sheridan smothered her with a crushing hug. “Thank you. Thank you for saving my baby.”

    The next day, Kay’s picture was in the Harmony Herald, front page so everyone in Harmony could see it, a happy, forgiving Emma smiling up at her from her hospital bed.

    Luis gave her a framed copy and firm handshake when he presented her with a commendation from the Harmony Police Department for her bravery and quick thinking a week before the prom.

    Kay’s prom queen crown found a permanent resting place of honor in Princess Emma’s pink dream of a nursery; those things were lame anyway.








    ~17~




    Title: Russian Roulette
    Rating: PG-13
    Warnings: violence, language.
    Characters/Pairings: Sam, minor character, Luis, stronger hints of Kay/Miguel, Eve, Simone, squint and you’ll see it Ethan/Theresa, original characters, Sheridan, Jessica
    Summary: prompt: weapon. A single shot rang out, and the gun clattered to the floor below as blood spread and bloomed like a crimson rose.





    The Youth Center was surrounded with emergency vehicles and frightened parents huddled together in the cold, demanding answers that nobody had.

    Luis had barely braked his jeep to a stop before he was shoving open the door and pushing his way toward the front of the crowd. Spotting Sam conferring with Quinlan beside one of the cruisers, its lights blinking strobe-like in the wintry night, he impatiently interrupted them, his hand unconsciously gravitating toward his gun in its holster. “Sam, what do we got?” He turned his attention to Marty when he starting running down the bare facts of the case.

    “Nathan Wexler, 14. Quiet, middle of the pack, not so much the class outcast as the class ghost,” Marty reeled off. “Only child, mom died last year of cancer. Dad got laid off at Thanksgiving, super’s threatening to evict them from their one-bedroom apartment if he doesn’t get the next couple of months’ rent to go along with last month.”

    Sam shook his head. “Tough break.”

    Luis wasn’t so understanding, “But not enough to justify taking a building full of hostages. Children,” he emphasized.

    The raging look in Luis’s dark eyes didn’t escape Sam’s attention, Quinlan’s neither. Sam dispatched Marty, told him to bring the rest of the guys up-to-date on the situation, and took Luis aside. “Listen, Luis,” he began, only to be cut off.

    “Spare me the lecture, Sam,” Luis grit out. “Sheridan and Emma are in there.”

    “So is Jessica, so is Kay, so is your sister, Luis,” Sam revealed, grabbing hold of the other man with both hands when that additional bit of news literally made him stagger momentarily on his feet and go ashen in the winter moonlight. Splashes of color from the leftover, jeweled Christmas lights chased away the pallor of his skin, and the cruiser’s lights did a macabre dance in the reflection of his dark eyes. Luis looked like was staring Death in the face, not his superior.

    “Theresa? What the hell…she’s not even supposed to still be here, Sam,” Luis scrubbed a rough hand over his face. Shrugging off Sam’s attempts to calm him, his hand went back to his gun and he made a move forward, one that Sam effectively blocked. “Dammit, Sam,” Luis swore. “Why are you trying to stop me? He’s a kid, a stupid, scared kid. I’m going in.”

    “No, you’re not,” Sam stayed firm. “He’s not just any kid, Luis. He’s a kid with a gun, with nothing left to lose, and I’m not about to let you go in there, guns blazing, and jeopardize innocent lives. Your sister, my girls, they’re smart, Luis. And I shouldn’t have to tell you…Sheridan’s one helluva tough lady. You have to believe they’ll be okay. We have to believe it.”

    The fire in Luis’s dark eyes flamed then went to a slow, flickering burn. “What about Emma, Sam? She’s nothing more than a baby.”

    Sam didn’t have an answer for him, but he held firm to his friend’s arm, even as the Youth Center’s doors burst open, and screaming, frantic children rushed down the front steps, some falling to their knees in the snow, others running straight for their parents, spotted in the crowd. It was madness, complete and utter madness, and in all the distraction, Sam forgot the man by his side, forgot everything as gunshots rang out in the frigid December air, and he shouted at Quinlan and the rest of his men to draw their weapons, take cover where they could. Belatedly, he realized his mistake. Sam caught just a glimpse of Luis’s lone, dark figure sprinting in the direction from which everyone else was fleeing. When he would have gone in after him, he caught sight of his wild-eyed daughter, tears streaking her pale face, Miguel literally dragging her away from the chaos, and time slowed to a dead stop. Sam wasn’t a Police Chief in that moment; he was a father, nothing more, nothing less, as he captured his daughter, cold and clammy with shock, in his arms. “Kay, sweetheart…Kay, talk to me,” he pleaded as she pushed and struggled to break free. “Kay,” he shook her roughly when she wouldn’t listen to reason, rattling her already chattering teeth. “It’s me. It’s Dad.”

    Recognition lit Kay’s crazed eyes, and she seemed to collapse in on herself, causing Sam to fall with her to his knees in the biting cold snow. “He shot her, Daddy.”

    Miguel returned with Simone and Eve, who draped a blanket around Kay’s thin, shivering shoulders.

    Sam distantly heard Eve confirm to Miguel that Kay was in shock; he was more focused on the words spilling forth from his daughter’s mouth, over and over, in bubbling hysteria.

    “He shot her, Daddy. He shot her. She was just trying to talk to him, and he shot her.”

    Tremors racked Kay’s thin body, and Eve helped her to her feet, tucking the blanket more snugly around her shoulders. “Come on, Honey. We need to get you someplace warm. Help me, Simone.”

    Sam grabbed Miguel by the arm before he could follow in their wake, demanding answers and receiving them. “Who did he shoot, Miguel?”

    “Jessica, Sir,” Miguel gravely admitted. “He shot Jessica.”

    Sam’s legs threatened to give out beneath him, but somehow, he stayed standing. “Is it…is she…”

    “I don’t know, Chief Bennett. I had to get Kay out of there. I couldn’t…he had a gun, and he was pointing it at her, and I had to get her out of there. My sister’s still in there, Sir, and Sheridan and Emma, but I had to get her out of there.” Miguel’s dark eyes glittered in the darkness as Sam clapped a firm hand over the back of his neck. “My sister…”

    “We’ll take care of Theresa,” Sam promised. “We’ll take care of all of them,” he said, with more conviction than he felt. “We’re going to get them someplace safe, just like you did for Kay.”

    “Thank you, Sir,” Miguel nodded. “Just…thank you.”

    Sam let the boy go, and he watched him climb into the back of one of the cruisers, he and Simone on guard on either side of Kay, and he said a silent prayer blessing Luis’s young brother for keeping at least one of his daughter’s safe from harm, hoping Luis was preventing anymore additional harm from coming to Jessica. He watched them, and then he went in search of the rest of the best of his men.

    Inside the Youth Center, all was eerily quiet, except for the faraway hum of music still playing, its volume so soft, so low, it was almost like it wasn’t playing at all. The Christmas tree that Luis hadn’t gotten around to taking down still resided in the far corner, its paper angels with needy children’s names and homemade (by some of the children, Emma included) ornaments a reminder that childhood was supposed to be innocent, sweet, not filled with guns, violence, and helpless despair. Luis cringed when a plastic cup rolled underfoot, and he flattened himself against the darkened wall of the Youth Center, waiting and listening for any indication that he’d been discovered.

    The door to his office (Sheridan’s office) creaked slightly, and a pair of wide blue eyes peered out.

    Luis had never been so happy to see Ethan Crane in his entire life. Holding up a finger to his lips, he continued to creep along the wall, slipping through the partially ajar door and crouching down beside the younger man. He asked one simple question, nothing else. “Where?”

    Ethan nodded toward the door. “Out there,” he replied. “The kid’s pretty messed up. I told Aunt Sheridan to leave him be, but she wouldn’t listen. She wouldn’t leave Chief Bennett’s daughter alone with him.” Grimly, Ethan informed him, “There was a lot of blood.”

    Fearing the worst, Luis asked, “Sheridan’s?”

    Another voice answered, one near and dear to Luis. “Not Sheridan’s. Jessica’s.”

    “Theresa,” Luis hissed into the darkness. “Is that you?” Following the sound of her voice, he found her crouched beneath the cavernous safety of his desk, Emma and Spencer curled tightly against each side, Emma hiding her face in the crook of Theresa’s neck and Spencer with his thumb firmly rooted in his mouth, his straight, dark blond hair damp with sweat and his large dark eyes round and frightened. A wet patch bloomed on the seat of the toddler’s pants, and his cheeks were feverish with shame and embarrassment.

    Emma’s own large eyes, blue and glittering like moist sapphires, sought out Luis in the darkness, and she unnecessarily explained, “Spencer peed his pants like a baby, and I want my mama.” Letting go of Theresa’s neck, she crawled over to Luis and threw herself into his arms.

    Luis kissed the soft hair, inhaled the sweet fragrance he’d come to associate with the little girl, and murmured against her brow when she started to cry, softly, “I know you do, Emma-bug, but you have to be brave.”

    “Like Mama?” Emma sniffled.

    “Not just like Mama,” Luis answered her wryly, his eyes connecting with Ethan’s over the top of the little girl’s curly head. “Be brave like Emma. I know you can do it.” He combed the child’s hair back from her pretty face and smiled encouragingly at her.

    “Mama’s out there, with that mean boy,” Emma told him. “He hurt Jessica.”

    Theresa quietly scooted forward, Spencer’s skinny arms roped around her neck in a death grip. “Your mama’s going to be okay, Emma. Luis will make sure of it. Isn’t that right, Luis?”

    One look into those trusting blue eyes recalled another pair of blue eyes, so similar but not as willing to believe, and Luis knew he wasn’t going to let them down, either of them, at least not if he could help it. “That’s right,” he solemnly vowed. Emma’s short arms curled around him in a tight embrace, and he held on, just as tightly, before he gently held her at arms’ length. “I need you to listen to me, Emma-bug, and do exactly as I say. You understand?”

    Emma nodded solemnly, and Theresa reached out to grasp Luis’s hand.

    “Ethan’s going to get you and Theresa and Spencer out of here, okay?”

    “But what about you?” Emma pouted.

    “I’ll be right behind you,” Luis promised, “with your mama and Jessica.” Handing over the protesting little girl to Ethan, he stared deeply into the other man’s eyes. “I’m going to create a distraction, and when I do, I want you to take them and run for the door as fast as you can. How fast are you?”

    Ethan swallowed then offered Luis a wan smile. “Fast enough.”

    “You hold on tight to Ethan’s neck,” Luis told Emma, “and don’t let go. Not until you’re outside.” Pulling Theresa close, he hugged her as best he could and jokingly told Ethan, “My sister’s a klutz. You better not let her trip.”

    “Luis,” Theresa half-laughed, half-cried.

    Luis kissed Theresa’s forehead, ruffled Spencer’s hair, and slowly stood up, giving Ethan a thumbs up. Calmly, he stepped outside of the small office, and suddenly, all he could see was blond hair, tear-filled blue eyes, and a gun, pressed right up against Sheridan’s temple. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Nate.”

    “Don’t call me that,” a teenaged kid with acne scarring his face and brown hair falling into his eyes shouted. “Nobody but my mom gets to call me that.”

    Ethan hit the ground running behind Luis, Emma’s face buried in his chest and her short arms and legs clinging to him for dear life. Theresa cried out as she nearly fell to the floor, but Ethan hauled her back to her feet, pushing her in front of him and toward the door that seemed miles and miles away.

    The Youth Center’s doors banged closed behind them, and the gun in the boy’s hand shook. Luis’s brown eyes slammed shut before jerking open again, the cocking of the gun too loud in the echoing room. Somewhere, Luis couldn’t figure out where, the CD that had been playing, quiet as a whisper, skipped, and he could pick out Jessica’s labored breathing if he strained his ears. Everything slowed down in that single, terrible moment, but it happened in the uncontrollable blink of Luis’s eye.

    A single shot rang out, and the gun clattered to the floor below as blood spread and bloomed like a crimson rose.

    Then the CD picked up where it had left off, and Sam and the rest of the Harmony PD’s finest swarmed the room.








    Mistakes are all mine (let me know if you see any distractingly, glaring ones).

    Feedback is much adored.

    Thanks for reading!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    Sorry so much for the delay.

    RL hasn't been kind to me lately, and my motivation suffered from it.

    It's only one measly ficlet, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.





    ~18~


    Title: Heaven Help
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: allusions to an adult relationship
    Characters/Pairings: Beth/Luis, original characters, Gwen/Ethan, Sheridan/Luis
    Summary: prompt: beach. “You don’t have to stay away from her just because we’re together.”





    “You can go say hi,” Beth said as she handed him his soda. “You don’t have to stay away from her just because we’re together.” Easing down onto the blanket beside him, she tucked her hands around her knees and propped her chin against her shoulder, studying him. “I know you’re friends.”

    With great difficulty, Luis managed to tear his eyes away from Sheridan and Emma, just a few feet away, laughing and enjoying themselves with Gwen, Ethan, and their young son.

    The littlest member of the Crane clan was wearing nearly an entire bottle of sunscreen and currently burrowing his still clumsy, short limbs underneath the sand like a tiny, human bulldozer, much to everyone else’s amusement, particularly Sheridan’s, it appeared.

    Beneath the brim of a ridiculous-looking straw hat, Sheridan’s wide-open smile was still plainly evident, and Luis pushed back the pang he felt in his gut when he realized he hadn’t seen that smile, hadn’t been the recipient of one of those sucker-punch smiles since he’d woken up, groggy and disoriented in the hospital to find her crowded next to his bedside, her blond hair flattened against one side of her head and the imprint of her wristwatch on her cheek (she’d stayed there through the night, Mama admitted to him later, sending them all home—with Emma in tow—to get some much-needed rest once it’d become clear that he was out of the woods). He popped the tab on his soda, bringing it to his mouth and taking a long, slow drink before acknowledging Beth’s words (or denying them). “Crane and me? Friends?” Luis scoffed. “We can barely tolerate each other on a good day. She’s nothing but a pain in my ass. Someone’s got to look out for that kid of hers.” The lie (half-truth if that) settled, heavily, like a stone in the pit of Luis’s stomach, and he set his soda down, taking Beth’s hand. “I don’t want to say hi. I just want to spend some time with you. It’s not every day that both of us have the day off.”

    Beth’s eyes shied away guiltily, and she withdrew her hand. “About that…”

    “It’s Independence Day,” Luis frowned. “Surely the demand for coffee…” he trailed off, afraid that Beth would somehow find his words offensive.

    Far from offended, Beth simply laughed and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “The Book Café sells more than just coffee, Luis. You know that. Besides,” she drew her legs up underneath her, “pretty lights up in the sky just aren’t as impressive to me as they used to be. Now Emma over there…” Just the mention of the little girl’s name brought a smile to Luis’s face, and Beth left the rest unsaid as she followed Luis’s gaze to the precocious three-year-old with her curly pigtails shining in the July sun. In that moment, she came to a realization: she could keep his bed warm and count on him to be loyal and steadfast in his friendship while he kept himself in denial about his true feelings for Sheridan, but she could never compete with his love for that little girl. It was a battle lost before it ever began, and Beth found she didn’t want to attempt it. Still, she wasn’t a saint. She’d take what she could get, not asking for anything more, until Luis finally woke up to the truth staring him right in the face. Laying her hand on his strong shoulder, she pushed herself to her feet and slid her feet into her sandals. When Luis started to follow her, she shook her head and cupped a hand against his cheek, offering him a wistful smile. “Stay. Say hi.”

    Long after Beth had gone, Luis was still frowning over her stubborn insistence that he speak to Sheridan. The sun beat down upon his shoulders, and around him, he could hear the sounds of the waves crashing against the sandy shore, the gulls flying overhead, happy laughter and chatter. The scowl on his face deepened when a shadow fell over him, and he looked up to find Sheridan had taken the decision out of his hands, venturing across the short distance that separated them and seeking him out.

    “Careful, Supercop,” Sheridan teased lightly, adjusting a sleepy Spencer in her arms. “Don’t want your face to freeze like that.”

    Luis opened his mouth to respond to her, shoot off something sarcastic, something off-putting, but all that emerged was a startled groan when, out of nowhere, Emma’s little body plowed into his side, and he found his arms full of her warm weight, salt water dripping down his back when she threw her arms around his neck.

    “Lu-wees,” Emma practically vibrated with pleasure as she squeezed his neck tightly. Her short, chubby bare legs were gritty with drying sand, and she smelled like the sea water she’d splashed and played in with her young cousin.

    Luis barely suppressed a wince as he settled Emma in his lap, tucking her against his other (uninjured) shoulder, and he quickly looked away from Sheridan when he found her watching him with that aching softness in her blue eyes. “Easy there, Emma-bug.” Emma’s honey hair tickled at his chin as the toddler curled into his safe embrace, and Luis allowed his eyes to meet Sheridan’s again (up shapely long legs, past a sheer black cover-up that teased him with its hints of a baby blue bikini underneath, lingering on her sarcastic, sinful mouth, and finally traveling to concerned eyes the color of a Caribbean ocean). “It doesn’t hurt,” he assured her.

    Sheridan raised a brow at him when Emma squirmed again in his arms, and this time he failed to hide his tiny wince of pain.

    “Much,” Luis amended, waving her off when she moved to take Emma from him. Nodding toward the little boy drifting away to dreamland against her shoulder, he couldn’t resist needling her, and some of the old edge returned to his voice as he said, “The nephew got you playing nanny to his kid now?”

    Color suffused Sheridan’s cheeks, but before she could formulate a witty, biting retort (so this was the way they were going to play things…not quite back to square one but close?), Luis apologized.

    “I didn’t mean that.”

    “Sure you didn’t.” Sheridan wasn’t immediately forgiving, but she did finally relax enough to explain, “Ethan and Gwen are going to a party. The Seascape’s not really the greatest environment for kids so I volunteered to take him for the night.”

    “Sure you can handle two of them?” Luis’s lips quirked with a smile.

    That comment brought the twinkle back to Sheridan’s blue eyes. “Well, when one of them is asleep, Supercop, I think the odds are stacked in my favor.” She lowered herself to the blanket beside him, beneath the shade of the umbrella Beth had left behind, and pushed her naked toes into the sun-warmed sand as she regarded him out of the corner of her eyes. “Besides…I’m not going to be handling them alone.”

    “Who…” Luis started to ask, until comprehension dawned. “And here I thought you just wanted to enjoy my company.”

    “Enjoy?” Sheridan laughed. “You have an umbrella. I don’t.”

    “Who needs an umbrella when you have that stupid hat?” Luis responded with a sneer.

    “I’ll have you know,” Sheridan retorted. “Your mother gave me this hat.” When the little white lie did the trick, and Luis looked appropriately chagrined, she dissolved into girlish laughter, and Emma lifted her head from Luis’s shoulder to look up at him with a sunny smile.

    Luis found himself helpless to resist that smile, and his lips twitched when Sheridan made an admission.

    “Relax. The hat’s actually Ivy’s.” Pushing it back off of her head, Sheridan let it fall to the sand below. Her arm brushed against Luis’s side when she lifted her hand to comb Spencer’s damp blond hair back from his forehead tenderly, and she looked to Luis curiously when he drew in a sharp breath.

    “Shoulder,” Luis claimed, when really it was the touch of her naked skin on his sending tingles shooting up and down his nerve endings. He said nothing more, but all was not quiet.
    Sheridan filled the silence with soft humming, something like a lullaby on her lips, and Luis felt the breath stall in his lungs as he watched her rock Spencer gently in her arms. His gut twisted with longing, and his dark eyes glittered at her with unspoken emotion when she looked up at him uncertainly.

    “What?” Sheridan murmured softly. “Luis?” she tried again, shifting next to him to get more comfortable when Spencer let out a soft snore.

    The ever-present tension between them flared back to life. The brick wall Luis’d used to keep Sheridan out was crumbling to dust on its foundation, and not even thoughts of Beth and she’s a Crane were enough to dispel the sudden, overwhelming urge he had to kiss her, tunnel his fingers through her blond curls, and draw a different sweet sound from her lips.

    Thankfully, Emma saved Luis from acting on his baser instincts. She released a timely exhalation of breath that alerted them both to the fact that she had followed Spencer’s example, and the tension-fraught moment passed.

    Folding the little girl more securely in his arms in a much more natural, relaxed position, Luis couldn’t resist teasing, “Looks like your odds just improved, Crane.”

    “Watch it, Supercop.” Sheridan’s warning held no heat, and a companionable, peaceful silence soon fell between them.

    The hour lengthened and the sun swooped down to kiss the horizon. Twilight crept upon them, and they witnessed the first fireworks burst against the velvet sky with two wide-eyed, sleep-renewed children tucked safely between them.

    Heaven help me, Luis sent up a silent prayer as he watched the play of the pretty lights across Sheridan’s face, childlike in its wonder as she shared the joy of the evening spectacular with Spencer and Emma. He was on the edge of a precipice he didn’t want to fall down, and only the comfort of his rekindled relationship with Beth was keeping him from venturing into dangerous waters. Heaven help me, Luis prayed again as he helped Sheridan strap the children safely away in their car seats and found his fingers brushing lightly against hers (like an electric shock) as he placed that ridiculous hat back in her safekeeping. “I won’t hesitate to pull you over if you go one mile over the speed limit,” he warned her gruffly.

    “You? Abuse your badge like that, Supercop?” Sheridan’s blue eyes twinkled at him in the darkness. “No,” she breathed out, settling in her seat and drawing her seat belt snugly across her hips. Growing more (at least a little) serious, she told him, “I’m sure my brother knows plenty of places to hide my body if I let anything happen to either one of these children, Luis.”

    Luis allowed a small smile to form at her comment. “Good to know.” Pushing her door shut, he gave it a light slap. “Go home. You’ve got the early shift tomorrow.”

    Sheridan turned the key in the ignition, and the car rumbled to reluctant life. “Luis,” she called out as he turned to walk to his own car.

    “Yeah.”

    “I had a good time. Emma and Spencer had a good time.”

    “I had a good time, too,” Luis told her. “Now go home before I give you a police escort home.”

    “Promises, promises,” Sheridan laughed, rolling up her window and backing out into the winding coastal road.

    Luis watched the taillights of her car fade into the blackness of the night before he climbed into his own car and repeated his earlier prayer.

    Before the summer was out, Beth broke things off with him.








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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    I present to you the next two installments in the Pieces saga.

    Only 10 more to go.

    Enjoy and read responsibly (heed the warnings at the beginning of the chapters).

    Without further ado...
















    Title: As She’s Walking Away
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: angst, brief (very brief) language
    Characters/Pairings: original characters, Kay, Jessica, Hank, mentions of Sam, Grace, and Pilar, minor character, Gwen, Sheridan/Luis
    Summary: prompt: lost. “I won’t wait for you forever, Luis. Not without a reason.”




    “Blow out your candles, Emma,” Kay encouraged once everyone had finished singing, and Emma was looking, wide-eyed, at the five candles flickering atop the pink frosted (not strawberry) cake.

    Carefully maneuvering herself closer on her crutches, Jessica joined her sister at the little girl’s side and leaned down to whisper into her ear, “Close your eyes and make a wish.”

    “If it’s not really my birthday, will it still come true?” Emma worriedly whispered back, planting her small hands on the table in front of her. “Mama?” she questioned uncertainly.

    “Blow your candles out, Munchkin,” Hank stepped in to answer for Sheridan (and cutting off any words about to leave Luis’s mouth in the process). “The wish fairies don’t care if you’re a week early.”

    “Seriously, Uncle Hank,” Kay rolled her eyes at her uncle later as he helped himself to some cake. “Wish fairies?”

    “Cut me some slack,” Hank shrugged with a grin. “I only speak tomboy.” Spooning another piece of cake into a different princess (or was it fairy tale?) themed plate, he called out over his shoulder to Jessica, reclining against a sea of pillows with one of the guests of honor (it was, after all, a joint birthday/bon voyage party before Luis caught his red-eye flight out of Harmony). “Hey, Jess. What’s your poison?”

    In deference to Emma, there’d been no strawberry ice cream (or strawberry anything) on the menu, so Jessica settled for the next best thing. “Vanilla.”

    “Don’t forget the colored sprinkles!” Emma chimed in.

    Sticking her own spoon into her mouth, Kay took the prepared plate from her uncle’s hands and delivered it to her still recuperating sister. “You should live a little dangerously sometime,” she teased, more gently than she would have in the past. “Eat chocolate.” Jessica merely smiled at her, and Kay positioned herself on the arm of the sofa, casting a glance around their crowded living room. The other guest of honor (not to mention Sheridan) was noticeably absent, and Kay’s eyes slid down to Jessica’s again to see if she had noticed (she had). Before she had a chance to comment on that coincidence, though, Spencer decided it would be a brilliant idea to dive-bomb his Spiderman action figure into his ice cream, have him wade through the chips and dip, and launch an attack on his cake.

    “Spencer Crane, what do you think you’re doing?”

    Spencer giggled as he eluded his mother’s attempts to shepherd him to the kitchen and the nearest available sink.

    Hank finally came to Gwen’s rescue, scooping up the little boy, lifting him into the air like an airplane, and making him squeal in surprise.

    Kay smirked when a sticky, melting glob of chocolate ice cream fell from the child’s messy hands, hitting her uncle Hank square in the eyes. When he feigned an indignant glare at her, she was unfazed. “Why are you looking at me? You two speak each other’s language.”

    Jessica gingerly scooted over to make room for Kay beside her on the sofa, and the two sisters sat in silence for a while before Jessica quietly made a revelation. “Upstairs.”

    Kay jerked her gaze away from Emma, unusually subdued now that Spencer wasn’t by her side and his antics had ceased, and searched Jessica’s face with narrowed eyes.

    “He followed her upstairs.”

    Pilar appeared before them, coaxing Emma into her arms and brightening her mood (temporarily) with the promise of presents, while across the room, Kay distantly heard her dad asking Quinlan and some of the other guys from the station if they had a clue where Luis had disappeared to since the cutting of Emma’s birthday cake. Something in the way her mother grabbed her father’s hand told Kay that she and Jessica weren’t the only ones privy to Luis’s location, and Kay knew they had to do something before the rest of the guests (most importantly, her uncle Hank) started putting two and two together. But how? Thankfully, Jessica solved her dilemma.

    “Kay,” Jessica announced, just loudly enough for their mother to overhear, “I left Emma’s present upstairs in my room. Do you think you could get it for me?”

    It was the perfect excuse, and though her mother surely saw through it, she made no move to stop Kay as she got up to do Jessica’s bidding without complaint. She left the animated chatter of the party behind, creeping up the stairs carefully. Kay found Sheridan and Luis, strangely enough, in Jessica’s bedroom. She pressed her back against the wall and melted into the shadows cloaking the hallway when she heard Luis speak.

    “This isn’t what I wanted, Sheridan. This isn’t how I wanted us to end up.”

    Sheridan answered him, sounding tired and more than a little upset. Kay could hear the suppressed tears in her voice, and she crept forward to a better vantage point outside of Jessica’s bedroom, one where she could barely see the arguing pair inside, through the thin sliver of visibility afforded by the crack in the partially ajar door.

    “How did you envision this going, Luis?” Sheridan lifted her hands to her face, covering it briefly then lowering them down. “Tell me.”

    Luis had only one answer he’d admit to. “Not like this.”

    Sheridan grew angry then (rightfully so, in Kay’s opinion), and Kay watched her advance on Luis, fire flashing in her moistened blue eyes.

    “Emma adores you. She looks up to you as the father she’s never had. Why do you think Hank engineered this whole party tonight? Your leaving is breaking her heart.”

    “I love that little girl like she were my own,” Luis shot back, his own voice tight with emotion. “You know that.”

    “But she’s not,” Sheridan quietly reminded him, regret coloring her words. “She’s my daughter, and I’m not even your friend.”

    Luis’s eyes slammed shut and he shook his head. “I already told you I was wrong. You are my friend—my best friend.” And it was true (how else could he explain the fact that he missed her like a part of himself that had been ripped away unexpectedly?). It’d just taken these last few months without her for him to realize it.

    “Best friend?” Sheridan scoffed. “Right. Best friends don’t leave without saying goodbye.”

    “Why do you think I agreed to this party?” Luis asked her.

    “That’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it.” Sheridan lowered her voice. “Did it mean anything to you, Luis? Was it anything more than a mistake to you?”

    Kay’s eyes widened at the implications of Sheridan’s question, and she found herself waiting for Luis’s answer. When it came, it felt like a giant weight crushing down on Kay’s chest. She watched as Luis snared Sheridan by the hand, lifting one of his own large, dark hands up to comb a strand of hair back behind her ear.

    “Do you really have to ask that?” Luis’s hand tightened around Sheridan’s when made a move to pull away. “Don’t,” he pleaded.

    His voice dropped so low Kay had to strain her ears to hear what was being said.

    “I did everything wrong, from that first moment I kissed you back to walking out on you without saying goodbye, but I never once, regretted the closeness I shared with you that night. I regret the way I mishandled things. Not you. So, yeah. That night was a mistake. It cost me my friend.”

    “She’s still here,” Sheridan tearfully told him, “standing right in front of you.” Her free hand found Luis’s face, and she leaned her forehead against his, their breath and tears mingling together. “She’s been waiting for you, for a long time.” Her thumb caressed his soft, full lips, and she pulled back to look into Luis’s dark eyes. “But she wants more, Luis. She wants it all.”

    Kay knew the moment when she got the answer to her unspoken question, the answer she’d been both expecting and dreading.

    A blank mask fell over Sheridan’s face, only her glittering blue eyes hinting at the turbulent emotions she was experiencing, and she dropped her hands to her sides in resignation. “I won’t wait for you forever, Luis. Not without a reason.”

    “Hank’s my friend too,” Luis told her. “I can’t hurt him that way.”

    Sheridan opened her mouth to respond, but a stair creaked underfoot down the hall, and the moment had passed, like water through her fingertips. She turned to go, knuckling the evidence of her tears away, and Luis made no move to stop her.

    Kay sucked in a painful breath at the expression he wore, lost and full of unspoken (perhaps still undiscovered?) love, and her heart knocked frantically at her ribcage when her uncle Hank stepped from the shadows to meet Sheridan halfway, sliding a friendly arm around her waist as they made their way downstairs, back to the party (back to the land of pretend) still going on down below. She startled when Luis appeared before her, holding out a small, brightly wrapped gift in offering.

    “Looking for this?”

    Kay took the present from his with a trembling hand. “Luis, I didn’t mean to…I…”

    “Kay,” Luis cut her off in warning. More softly, he told her, “There’s a little girl down there, expecting that present. Don’t disappoint her. I’ll be down there soon.”

    Kay paused at the top of the stairs, looking back at him and finding him a broken man. “Luis,” she waited for him to look up, to look at her.

    “Kay,” Luis answered.

    “I know it’s not much, but I’m sorry.” Her words brought a sad sort of smile to Luis’s lips.

    “Me, too.” Luis stayed true to his word, rejoining the party later as if nothing had happened, watching Emma open her presents, going through the motions for his friends and family. But sometime later, when nobody else (save Sheridan and Kay) was looking, he quietly slipped outside without a word.

    Uncle Hank proposed to Sheridan two months later.

    More than a month later, when the last in a long string of letters Emma had written to Luis turned up in Sheridan’s mailbox marked Return to Sender, Sheridan accepted.

    As she soothed away Emma’s tears and tried to convince her how much fun it was going to be being cousins, Kay couldn’t help but recall that night, his face, and Sheridan’s resolve to stay strong.

    Damned useless wish fairies.








    ~20~


    Title: Don’t You Want to Stay
    Rating: R, soft or hard R, you decide; I’m no good at these things. I think it’s safe to say don’t read if you’re not old enough though (lol).
    Warnings: angst, sexual situations
    Characters/Pairings: minor character, mentions of original characters, Sheridan/Luis, Pilar, Theresa.
    Summary: prompt: cry. Luis hadn’t said goodbye.





    “Thanks, Quinlan,” Luis shook his colleague’s hand in gratitude before he crossed the threshold of Sheridan’s open door. “Keep me updated.”

    Quinlan let go of Luis’s hand to turn the collar of his jacket up against the arctic blast that whistled right through him, swirling a blur of dancing snowflakes past, and cut his eyes toward the stairs Sheridan had immediately mounted the moment Luis had entered the house. “You sure she’s going to be okay?”

    “She will be,” Luis spoke with more confidence than he felt. Though he’d never admitted as much to her, Sheridan was one of the strongest people he knew, with an iron-clad will and an inner strength that was unmatched. That steel and mettle, however, had never been tested quite this way; still, Luis was determined to help her see this trauma through. “She’ll be okay. I’ll make sure of it.” Reaching down to absently pat Lucy between the ears when she planted herself at his side, Luis thanked Quinlan again. “Thanks for watching over her while I grabbed a few things from home. She doesn’t need to be alone tonight, and she’s definitely not in any shape to be near Emma.”

    “Damned kid,” Quinlan swore under his breath, speaking not of Emma, but of the desperate teenager that had brought a terrifying end to the month of December and ushered the New Year in quite literally with a bang. “Damned, stupid kid.”

    Luis clapped a strong, comforting hand over the other man’s shoulder when the emotions of the night seemed to rush up and overwhelm him all at once, and he offered a firm yet gentle suggestion. “Go home to your family, Marty. Don’t worry them any longer.” He waited, until Quinlan had backed out of Sheridan’s driveway and his tail-lights disappeared down the street, before shutting the door against the January chill. Lucy padded ahead of him up the stairs, and Luis followed her and the sound of the running shower down the hall. Pausing just outside Sheridan’s open bedroom door, he took in the trail of blood-stained clothing leading to the adjoining bathroom and felt his throat grow inexplicably tight. Clearing it of its lump, he called out to her. “You okay in there, Crane?” He waited for her to answer him in that same teasing, sarcastic manner they’d perfected over the years, but he was met with only silence. Driven by his worry for her, he crossed the invisible barrier that had kept him from this room since that day (so long ago now) that he’d painted it under her watchful instruction. Mama and Theresa had stolen three-month-old Emma for themselves, and it was a sunny, crisp day in early summer, perfect for painting. He could still remember the warm, gentle breeze washing over him as he’d teased her about abandoning the perks of being a Crane princess and pretending to be a pauper like him. Her serious answer had left him speechless, and he knew that day that his eyes had been opened to the real, flesh and blood woman who no longer fit any of the labels he’d assigned to her when they first met (It’s just a room, Luis, that I lay my head down in. Emma’s room is her sanctuary). “Sheridan,” Luis called out again.

    Sheridan finally answered him, in a tear-roughened voice. “I’m not drowning myself if that’s what you’re afraid of, Supercop.”

    The fact that she was even making the effort to banter with him made Luis smile to himself, and when Lucy whined at his feet, he leaned down to scratch between the dog’s ears. “I’m going downstairs to feed, Lucy. You want anything?”

    “I’m not particularly fond of Alpo, no,” Sheridan called to him, over the pounding shower spray.

    “Cute. Real cute, Crane,” Luis preceded Lucy out of the bedroom. Pausing again at the threshold, he told Sheridan, “Yell if you need anything.” Sheridan didn’t yell, didn’t even drift down the stairs to join them, and once Lucy was fed and safely squared away in her kennel for the night, Luis climbed the stairs with a mug of steaming hot cocoa in hand.

    This time, Sheridan wasn’t in her bathroom; she’d long since abandoned it in favor of Emma’s little window seat, overlooking a panorama so pristine, it was hard to reconcile it with the scene back at the Youth Center, the blood, the sweat, the terrified words.

    The motion lamp at Emma’s bedside twisted slowly, shadowy shapes of fairies and innocent children dancing along the bedroom walls, and in the pale reflection of its light, Luis saw the sparkle of tears on Sheridan’s clean-scrubbed cheeks. “Cocoa?” he offered softly.

    Sheridan wordlessly accepted the mug from him, and her glistening blue eyes stared intently at him as his touch lingered longer than was necessary.

    In her eyes, Luis read the need she wouldn’t voice, and he lowered himself to join her, scattering pillows in his efforts to create more room. It was still a tight fit, one that Sheridan solved by curling into his side, much like a frightened little girl. No words passed between them, only comfort offered through closeness, and when Sheridan lifted her head from his tear-dampened shoulder and tilted it up to press her mouth to his, Luis could do nothing more than let her. Reason reared its insistent head when he felt the first tentative tug at his belt, and he pushed her away from him gently but firmly. “Sheridan,” Luis rasped out her name.

    The hand at his belt lifted to cup his jaw, and Sheridan’s blue eyes glittered at him in the darkness of the room. Her kiss this time was more insistent, and a broken whisper fluttered from her lips. “Luis, please.”

    Luis followed her when she stood, his hands going to her hips and resting there as she leaned forward, nuzzling his jaw, coaxing his own lips to action. He cursed inwardly when she pulled back again, looking at him with those wide-open, wet blue eyes, and he was hit again with the horrifying image of the gun pressed to her temple.

    “Please,” Sheridan repeated, holding out her hand.

    Her hand was smooth against his rougher palm when Luis took it, smaller, more fragile. He used it to pull her toward him, to capture her mouth with his own and remind himself she was here, really here, in his arms and breathing, warm blood coursing through her veins alive. “Not here,” he panted against her mouth when they broke apart. He lipped the inside of her wrist before lowering her hand.

    Sheridan’s bedroom was dark, but for the slant of light spilling out from her bathroom. She froze at the sight of the blood-stained reminders littering the hardwood floor, but Luis’s strong arms encircled her from behind, pulling her back into a solid wall of muscle and tender protection against her fear. When she lowered her head, Luis moved in front of her and tilted her chin up.

    “It’s just you and me in this room, Crane.” He pressed his mouth to hers in a gentle, almost childlike in its innocence, kiss. “Nobody else.” There was nothing innocent, however, in the tangle of his fingers untying the drawstring knot of her pajamas. Neither was there innocence in the way his hands slid below the waistband of her pajamas when they were loosened, cupping her backside and fitting her body against him as he backed them both toward her bed.

    Her hands on Luis’s shoulders, Sheridan pushed Luis to a sitting position on the edge of her unmade bed. Stepping inside the welcoming vee his open legs made, she combed her fingers through his dark hair and marveled at the hint of stubble shadowing his jaw.

    Luis’s hands did their own exploring, teasing and stroking along the edge of Sheridan’s lacy underwear, tickling over the pearls of her spine as they burrowed under the soft cotton camisole she wore. His dark eyes watched her intently, catalogued her responses to each increasingly daring touch, and he brought both of his hands around to cup her waist, his thumbs disappearing beneath the front of her pajama pants. Holding her eyes with his own, he slid from the edge of the bed to kneel at her feet, dragging the pants down her long legs.


    Sheridan breathed in sharply at the cool air meeting her skin, but it was Luis’s hands that left gooseflesh in their wake. From her instep to her calves to the back of her thighs, Luis’s hands traveled, and she felt her body turn liquid when he paused to press a kiss to the triangle of black lace that remained. Her fingers trembled as they reached for the buttons on his shirt, but Luis calmed them, helped them, and soon, his shirt gaped open on both sides, his thin white undershirt the only barrier between her hands and the naked skin of Luis’s taut abdomen.

    The shirt slid to the floor, and Luis sat back down on the edge of the bed, scarcely able to breathe as Sheridan lowered herself to his lap, banded her arms around his neck.

    Sheridan felt the mattress give beneath her knees, but between her legs, Luis was nothing but solid, hard, quivering (with restraint) muscle. Her fingers played with the thick hair at the nape of Luis’s neck as she whispered shakily, “This okay?” She felt the ripple and flex of Luis’s strong shoulders as he adjusted his hold on her, tightened his arms around her waist, and Luis answered her not in words but with action. Her mouth fell open in a gasp, her heart fluttering wildly in her ribcage, when Luis lowered his head to mouth her nipple through the fabric stretched taut across her (desire) heavy breasts.

    It wasn’t enough, touching her through the barrier of clothing. Luis’s hands were restless (just as restless as the rest of Sheridan), sweeping up and down Sheridan’s smooth back, skating across her ribcage, surrounding and cupping her full, sensitive breasts. He followed the trail of a slipping spaghetti strap with his mouth, tugged with his teeth, nuzzled her, kissed her, held her until that too wasn’t enough. Then he took her mouth again, in a kiss of pure carnality, breathed her breath, felt her pulse pounding beneath his lips at the sweet, fragrant juncture of her neck and shoulder until Sheridan turned the tables on him.

    Divesting Luis of his shirt, Sheridan pushed at Luis’s shoulder, following him with her body and her lips as he braced himself against the mattress with one powerful forearm, the other carding through her hair. She sipped at his lips, pulling back and denying him what he wanted most (her lips, her tongue, control) when his mouth grew demanding, grew impatient. Her arm braced beside Luis’s as she lowered her head, outlined each muscle, mapped and soothed each scar. Tears pricked her eyes anew as she met the puckered wound at his shoulder, followed the weaving map a madman had left behind on his body, thanking him and loving him with her mouth until she reached the last scar, disappearing beneath his belt. Her hands shook as she pulled it free, and they hesitated at Luis’s zipper.

    Cupping a hand around her slender neck, Luis reached out for Sheridan with his other hand, falling back to the mattress below. Her legs fell open on either side of his waist as she crawled up his body to meet him, her nose bumped his as she sought his mouth. It was awkward, messy, and the most honest kiss they’d shared since she’d taken his hand. When they pulled apart, Sheridan was wearing a tiny smile. Luis soon saw to it that she was wearing little else, sweeping her camisole over her tousled blond curls and tossing it in the general vicinity of the rest of their clothing. Endearingly, Sheridan seemed to grow shy.

    “Hi.”

    “Hi yourself,” Luis whispered back, trailing his knuckles up and down her unmarked back. “Don’t,” he protested when Sheridan reached for one of the blankets, Luis’s discarded shirt, anything to cover herself up. Following her when she would retreat from him, he blanketed her body with his own, kissed the corner of her mouth when she protested. “You’re beautiful.”

    You’re beautiful. I’ve got stretch marks.”

    Luis’s dark eyes did a slow, heated perusal over her body, lingering on breasts, still pink and flushed from his handling, traveling down her narrow waist, coming to a rest at the tiny scrap of black lace that made his blood start a slow burn in his veins. One big hand curled around her waist, thumb dipping teasingly in her belly button, and Luis quirked a teasing brow at her. “Where?” He grinned when she gave his shoulder an annoyed shove and dipped his head to kiss a trail down her body, connecting her chin to her sternum, wandering through the valley between her breasts, and coming to a final stop just above the place he wanted to kiss most.

    Shakily, Sheridan insisted, “They’re there.”

    “Here?” Luis mouthed a faint scar above her right hipbone. “Or here?” he asked, easing the edge of her underwear down to follow the trail of another faded line and kissing her there, too. A sudden, unbidden thought (he wanted to fill her belly with babies) softened his dark eyes as he looked up at her.

    Sheridan couldn’t answer, could only stare at him with glazed blue eyes. Her legs fell open for him of their own accord as he settled his lean, aroused body beside her and started to peel her underwear off her hips and down her legs, leaving her bared before him.

    “What about here?” Luis’s breath gently stirred her curls before he made a last-minute detour and pressed a kiss first just above her navel, then above her fiercely beating heart, and finally her willing mouth.

    Sheridan wrapped her arms around his neck, opened her legs to welcome him to settle between them, and poured her heart and all the love she’d stored up for him since that first moment (the first teasing word, the first time he held Emma in his strong arms, the first time he kissed her under the pretense of tradition) into the kiss. A little sob of disappointment left her lips when it was over, and she clung to Luis, reluctant to release him from the embrace.

    “You’re beautiful,” Luis told her again, kissing her temple as he stole a hand down her body, stole the breath from her lips when that hand took a forbidden path (warm and wet and wondrous). “They’re beautiful. Because Emma made them.”

    Sheridan’s body felt heavy, languorous yet tight with unreleased tension. Sweat formed and beaded on her skin as she abandoned herself to the feelings of intense pleasure Luis’s skilled touch created. She forgot all about guns and tears and blood (too much blood, too much) and thought only of life and lust and love. When she was senseless (yet sensitive beyond bearing) with desire and weak with a want that was almost too much, Luis stopped, leaving her trembling on the brink of (in)sanity. Before she could mourn the loss of his touch, he was back, heavy and hard and holding back nothing.

    One corded arm sliding beneath Sheridan’s sweat-slick back, Luis gathered her close, crushing her soft breasts between them. His other hand clasped tightly to hers before letting go and pulling one of her thighs high across his hips. He kissed her as he reclaimed her hand, ravaged her mouth sweetly as he sheathed himself inside of her welcoming heat.

    Sheridan moaned into Luis’s mouth, breaking the kiss and breathing hard as her body adjusted to accommodate him, and she tightened her fingers around Luis’s hand. Overwhelmed with emotion (from the shooting, from this, from feeling his heart beating right next to hers), her face was wet with tears as she pressed her lips to Luis’s jaw, and slowly, he began to move. She made love with Luis, heart, body, and soul until he was all she saw, he was all she thought of as morning dawned on a new year. She fell asleep in his arms—and woke up alone.

    Lucy stared up at Sheridan with mournful brown eyes when she awakened, and Emma’s little feet pounded against the stairs in their rush to get to her, Pilar’s more reserved approach a few seconds behind her.

    Sheridan turned her nose into the pillow that still smelled like him (like them) and pushed back the tears that threatened to close her throat up completely.

    Luis hadn’t said goodbye.









    Feedback is much adored.

    I look forward (I'm actually a little anxious re: 20, lol) to reading your thoughts.

    Thanks so much for reading!!!

    Until next time.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    489

    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    So...we're back to PG territory.

    But never fear...our hero and heroine can't help thinking somewhat naughty thoughts.



    Hope you guys enjoy the new chapter.





    ~21~





    Title: Falling Slowly
    Rating: PG, maybe.
    Warnings: unresolved sexual tension.
    Characters/Pairings: pre-Sheridan/Luis, mentions of Pilar, Paloma, Ethan/Gwen, original character.
    Summary: prompt: freak out. She felt so helpless, so utterly useless in the face of her baby daughter’s obvious pain, and not for the first time, she wondered if she’d made the right decision, the fair decision, in deciding to bring such a beautiful little soul into the world with little more to offer her than love.




    Emma was screaming when Sheridan answered the door. Face red and little fists clenched as they waved in front of her, she wouldn’t be consoled, and she continued to howl when Luis crowded close to her mother, carefully shifting her onto his shoulder.

    “How long has she been like this?” Luis asked as Sheridan pushed the door shut behind him, looking near tears herself.

    Raking her fingers through her unwashed hair, Sheridan blew out a shaky breath then bit her lip in consideration. “I don’t know. An hour, maybe two.”

    Luis took in her harried expression, her unkempt state, and lifted a disbelieving brow.

    Sheridan quickly folded under the pressure of his intense stare. “Going on three hours,” she reluctantly admitted. “I’ve tried everything. She’s not hungry and she isn’t wet. Nothing works. She won’t stop crying, and I know your mother offered to help any time I needed her, but I don’t want to take advantage of her generosity like that.” Her lips trembled with emotion as she finished on a whisper. “I’m so sorry to drag you out here like this in the middle of the night, but I didn’t know what to do. Ethan and Gwen are spending the weekend in New York, and there wasn’t anyone else I could think of to call.”

    In that moment she looked terribly alone, and Luis felt a wave of protectiveness swell over him, not too unlike the feelings Emma so effortlessly aroused within him, and he shifted the wailing three-week-old to his other shoulder so that he might take Sheridan by the hand. He didn’t know who he surprised more, himself, or Sheridan, with the tender gesture. “Don’t do that, apologize. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes.”

    Sheridan smiled at him then, nearly sagging with relief, tears of gratitude shimmering in her blue eyes, and squeezed the fingers that had snaked around her hand. She lifted her free hand to knuckle away a few renegade tears, her breaking heart in her eyes when Emma let loose another ear-splitting scream. She felt so helpless, so utterly useless in the face of her baby daughter’s obvious pain, and not for the first time, she wondered if she’d made the right decision, the fair decision, in deciding to bring such a beautiful little soul into the world with little more to offer her than love. Watching Luis cradle Emma close, she felt selfish and small for ever being fooled into believing she could do this, and do this alone. Emma needed a father. Emma needed a mother who didn’t feel overwhelmed and inadequate and unfit (for God’s sake…she hadn’t even known how to change a diaper until Luis had shown her how). Sheridan didn’t bother to stop her tears this time. As Luis looked on in concern, her brave smile crumpled. “I don’t know if I can do this, Luis. Not by myself.”

    Stripped of all her bravado, her sarcasm, her pride, she looked young, helpless, achingly vulnerable, and Luis knew then, Sheridan Crane was so much more than the spoiled princess he’d labeled her as in the beginning. She was human, just like Theresa, just like Mama, just like him. He let go of her hand to palm her damp cheek. “Stop selling yourself short, Crane, and look around. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

    “Luis, you don’t have to…”

    “I’m not going anywhere,” Luis repeated firmly, removing his hand from her face and rubbing it in gentle strokes up and down Emma’s tiny back as she drew her short legs tight to her body. “Now, when was the last time you took a bath?” Luis bit back a smile when some of the old fire returned to Sheridan’s blue eyes, and he didn’t have long to wait for her indignant response to his question.

    “Excuse me?”

    “Relax, Crane,” Luis could no longer resist cracking a smile, even as Emma continued to cry. “I’m not making a comment on your personal hygiene. Emma’s colicky. Warm baths seemed to help Paloma when she was little. And since you look like you could use a Calgon moment, I thought two birds, one stone.”

    A warm bath actually sounded wonderful to Sheridan, but there was one problem: she was exhausted, dead on her feet, and she feared water and fatigue weren’t a good mix (and adding Emma…). “What if I fall asleep?” she worried as she fell into step behind him, following him wordlessly up the stairs.

    Ahead of her, Luis pressed his lips to Emma’s fuzzy curled head in lieu of making a sarcastic comment, and offered Sheridan a solution to her problem (that would later spell trouble for him). “What if I promised to sit outside of the door? As long as you keep talking, I’ll know you’re still awake.”

    “So door open then?” Sheridan couldn’t resist asking as she caught up with him at the top of the stairs and reached out a hand to Emma’s cotton-covered back.

    Their hands met, fingertips kissed, and Luis was hit with a frisson of awareness that the woman staring into his eyes so intently was wearing next to nothing beneath the ratty-old robe tied loosely around her waist, and he felt a tiny shift in the air between them when Sheridan realized that too. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, he told her, “It doesn’t have to be all the way. Just enough.”

    “Just enough,” Sheridan agreed. Turning down the hall toward her open bedroom, she hesitated to leave his side. “I’ll just…do you mind staying with her until I run the bath?”

    “We’ll be waiting for you,” Luis said, inwardly cursing himself for his poor choice of words (and the images that accompanied them). “I meant Emma will be waiting for you.” Sheridan’s smile made heat lick and curl at Luis’s nerve endings, and the soft timbre of her voice did funny things to his equilibrium, made him feel as if the ground beneath his feet was giving way and he was falling, slowly, from a deceptively gentle slope.

    “I know what you meant, Supercop.”

    “Get moving, Crane, before I draw the bath myself.”

    “Not tonight,” Sheridan called over her shoulder. “Maybe next time?”

    “Is that a promise?” Luis all but growled.

    “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

    Luis kept his promise; he didn’t go anywhere, sitting outside her bathroom door and listening to her sing lullabies (and shift in the tub, all naked skin and curves), even enduring her endless questions about his childhood, hell, his whole life, until the hour grew even longer, and he felt his own eyelids start to droop heavily. He drifted off around 3 a.m., only to wake a few minutes later, and realize all was blessedly quiet, Emma’s crying had stopped, and Sheridan…it seemed she had run out of inane questions to ask. “Sheridan?” he called softly. Sheridan didn’t answer, and Luis nudged the door to her bathroom open with a hand that felt like pins and needles, a guttural curse building in his throat at what he found.

    The next time Emma had colic, Sheridan couldn’t help blushing (from the memories of waking, alone, naked, in her bed, with only a blanket to cover her) when Luis suggested a midnight drive around Harmony. Sheridan told him all about her childhood spent in fancy foreign boarding schools as his jeep ate up the miles of Coast Road.

    By the time Emma was four months old, those restless nights were a thing of the past.

    Luis couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.








    Feedback is adored.

    Thanks so much for reading!!!

    Mistakes are all mine; be sure to let me know if there are any particularly glaring ones.


  7. #7
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    Oct 2000
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    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    Finally!

    A new chapter!

    LOL!

    So sorry for the delay, but RL felt the need to re-establish itself lately.

    Hope you enjoy!








    ~22~




    Title: Before It Breaks
    Rating: somewhere between PG and PG-13, methinks
    Warnings: angst, some language, little bit of gore (I don’t think I’m that descriptive, but you be the judge), and character death
    Characters/Pairings: Sheridan/Luis, mentions of original characters, mentions of Jessica, Sam, Theresa, and Gwen
    Summary: prompt: blood. The next time Luis saw Sheridan, he did something bullets and blood hadn’t managed to do; he damn-near broke her completely with his false words.





    “No,” Sheridan shook her head, scrambling on her hands and knees to reach the fallen boy’s side. “No,” she repeated, her voice growing high-pitched with hysteria as her fingers hovered over (what remained of) Nathan Wexler’s face, and Luis’s hand gripped her arm, gently but firmly, trying to draw her back.

    Jessica was sobbing (with relief when her father reached her side, with horror when her pain-clouded eyes took in the terrible scene) in the background, and the music continued to play on as half a dozen uniformed men milled about, but Luis’s primary focus was Sheridan and getting her to safety, back to her frightened daughter. “Sheridan, don’t…”

    A scream bubbled up from Sheridan’s throat as her blood-slick fingers sought a pulse at the boy’s neck (his face was half-human, nightmarish, raw tissue, shattered bone, too much blood for one person to lose). Finding one, faint and feeble, she shrugged off Luis’s touch, grasping for Nathan’s still sweaty palm and squeezing it frantically. “Don’t you do this. Don’t you give up.”

    Eve’s face remained impassive as she mirrored Sheridan’s position on the boy’s other side, but Luis read the horror in her expressive eyes before she lowered her head and spoke to Sheridan in soft tones, many of her words undecipherable to Luis underneath the roar of his own frantic heartbeat. A couple of the paramedics Luis had seen outside arrived and set to work, efficient (but frenzied with immediacy) and authoritative, establishing an IV line in one of the boy’s veins. Luis sank back on his heels, one large hand resting protectively against the small of Sheridan’s back while she continued to talk to Nathan as he drifted deeper into unconsciousness and oblivion (of approaching death?). The medics worked swiftly, and with Marty and Eve’s help, they carefully loaded the boy onto a stretcher to transport him to the waiting ambulance. Sheridan’s hand fell limply to her side as they pulled Nathan and the stretcher away, and Luis covered it with his own.

    Sirens wailed outside and snow had started to fall again when Sheridan emerged from the Youth Center’s doors with Luis shadowing her (behind them, Marty and a couple of more uniforms unwound spools of yellow tape, cordoning off the crime scene).

    Emma wriggled free from Theresa’s arms, breaking into a sprint to reach her mother. She stumbled to a stop not even a foot from them, her pink bow of a mouth open wide in a silent scream of terror at the blood that covered her mother’s clothes. She finally rediscovered her voice as Theresa captured her little hand in her own, then hefted her back into her arms. “Mama,” she fretted. Her pretty face was flush with the cold and tears as she cried out into the frigid night, “No! I want my mama.”

    Emma continued to sob as Luis covered Sheridan’s hand with his own (it was trembling, she was trembling) and steered her toward Sam’s cruiser. Fumbling to open the door with one hand, he let go of Sheridan’s hand long enough to gently push her into the back seat, and immediately crouched down in front of her. Distantly, he was aware of the hubbub of activity around them, his friends and colleagues shepherding the curious onlookers and traumatized children and parents to their various cars, away from what had turned into a crime scene. Car doors slammed, familiar voices floated to Luis’s ears (Gwen’s voice had joined Theresa’s in comforting Emma), and sirens flashed and wailed. Someone placed a blanket around Sheridan’s shoulders, and Luis made a soft noise of thanks as he tugged it high and tight. His fingers sought out her face (beautiful and bloodied), and his thumb lingered on her full, quivering bottom lip as she struggled to stifle the building sobs.

    “I…I can’t,” Sheridan shook her head, gripping his free hand painfully tight when Emma’s tearful voice again pierced the walls of the nightmarish haze that fell like a cloak around them, and her blue eyes looked at Luis beseechingly. Luis nodded and stood up, and she watched as he collected Emma’s tears with his gentle hands and then simply held her, quietly, for a (what seemed the longest) time. Then he whispered something in her ear, relinquished her to Theresa’s capable arms, and Gwen ushered them all, Theresa, Ethan, Emma, and Spencer into the safety of her waiting car. When they had gone, Luis returned to her, his dark eyes intense and probing, and Sheridan found she couldn’t breathe under his watchful stare as his hands again found her face (the same hands that had comforted and soothed her little girl’s tears).

    Luis slid his hand down from her cheek, the movement a faint whisper across her chin, then a warm, gentle, reassuring weight brushing against her throat before it wrapped around her neck, pulling her forward and folding her deeply into the safety of his embrace. The blanket tickled against his skin as it fell to pool around Sheridan’s back, and he felt the harsh bite of winter’s indifference soaking into the knees of his pants as he knelt before her, her face pressed into his neck, her hot tears coming hard and fast. He simply held her and stroked her hair back from her feverish face, allowing her the release of her grief (to bend but not break) as the snow drifted down around them, restoring a certain (tainted) purity to their surroundings.

    The clock in the town square chimed, loud and clear, and the muted pop of the fireworks (like falling stars streaking across the midnight sky) at The Seascape brought reality crashing back all too soon, and Sheridan pulled back to gaze into Luis’s glittering dark eyes. A single, matching tear snaked down his cheek, and Luis went completely still at the gentle whisper of her lips against his skin. “Take me home, Luis,” Sheridan breathed into his neck (gooseflesh pebbled in the wake of her exhalation), sliding her arms around his neck and holding him close.

    Luis tightened his arms around her, stood up and slid them behind her knees, lifting her and cradling her close, all in one fluid motion, and did just that.

    The next morning with Sheridan’s scent still clinging to his clothes (his skin), Luis took down the Christmas tree with Quinlan’s help and boxed up all of the ornaments save one (Emma’s found a home in his own wallet) while a couple of the guys worked with the crime scene investigators to finish gathering evidence for a case that wouldn’t come to fruition (Nathan Wexler’s father would take his boy off of life-support later that evening; it would never be clear to the rest of the department why none of the parents would seek retribution in their children’s names, but Luis, Sam, and Marty all had their suspicions).

    The next time Luis saw Sheridan, he did something bullets and blood hadn’t managed to do; he damn-near broke her completely with his false words.






    Feedback is loved and adored.

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    Thanks so much for reading!!!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    489

    Post Re: Pieces of My Heart

    ~23~



    Title: Here Comes the Sun
    Rating: PG, tries to tiptoe toward PG-13 with (tame-ish) naughty thoughts, lol
    Warnings: aforementioned naughty thoughts, UST, tiny bit of language
    Characters/Pairings: Sheridan/Luis, original characters, Sam/Grace, Ethan/Gwen, Theresa, Pilar, Miguel, Bennett girls, minor characters
    Summary: prompt: vacation. Luis ended his vacation four days early, donated his time.




    “You have the time, Luis. Take it.”

    Luis had protested but Sam had insisted and, in the end, won. That much he understood. How he’d ended up on Sheridan’s doorstep (for the third day in a row, no less), he was having a harder time understanding. At least this time, he wasn’t alone. He lifted his hand to knock, but Theresa, in her impatience, ducked beneath his arm and nudged the (unlocked—as usual) door open with her shoulder.

    “Sheridan,” Theresa announced herself brightly. “We’re here.” A little squeak of surprise left her lips when Grace appeared before them, wearing a welcoming smile, and held out her hands to help with the bags in Theresa’s hands.

    “She’s out back with Sam and the girls.”

    Luis frowned slightly when he realized Grace was talking not to Theresa, but to him, and his attempt at a token protest quickly died on his lips with one glance at Grace’s observant smile. Shaking his head at them both, he left the kitchen (and his sister’s girlish laughter) behind for the sun-room. He stepped aside as Jessica flung one of the French doors leading outside open, her sneakers making a wet slurping sound as she walked past him with a brief smile of greeting, her hair hanging limply around her face and dripping wet, and the seat of her cut-off denim shorts completely soaked. Shaking his head, Luis stepped out onto the cobbled, sun-warmed stone of the patio and retraced Jessica’s watery footsteps around the corner. Sam’s clothing was similarly sodden when Luis’s searching brown eyes found him standing over the smoking grill, and Luis belatedly remembered Sheridan’s (odd at the time)insistence that he bring his swim trunks and a towel with him when she had issued her invitation to him, only yesterday. “I thought this was a barbecue.”

    His long-time friend (boss) merely quirked an amused brow at him, and, after a short pause, issued a bemused, “Me too.”

    “Look who I found.”

    Luis turned around, following Sam’s smiling gaze to Grace, who had her arms full of the littlest Crane Prince.

    Spencer’s fine blond hair stood end on end, and one tiny fist rubbed at a sleepy brown eye as he looked at Sam suspiciously.

    Luis chuckled at Sam’s raised brow of disbelief (that look on a career criminal’s face, his boss was used to—on a toddler, not so much), and looked past Grace, only to discover his sister, chattering happily away, flanked on either side by Gwen and Ethan. He hardly had time to scowl at the trio before something small, cold, and wet wrapped itself around his knee. His big hand found Emma’s crown of damp honey curls as a familiar voice teasingly chastised him, whisper-soft over his shoulder.

    “Don’t be such a wet blanket, Supercop. Vacations are for fun. Try smiling.”

    Luis groaned (who had told her? Sam? Kay? More likely it was Theresa) and turned around, Emma still attached to his leg, ready to launch a sly, sarcastic response. His questionable intentions failed when one look at Sheridan stole away all his words.

    Emma let go of Luis’s leg to seek out her still sluggish little cousin, and Grace knelt to welcome both children into the circle of her motherly embrace, sharing a knowing look with an equally amused Sam.

    Luis’s glittering dark eyes finally found Sheridan’s (laughing, hopeful, hesitant, insecure) blue gaze, and his mouth (totally abandoned by his brain) worked futilely to find a response, finally sputtering out incredulously, “Crane, what the hell are you wearing?”

    “It’s called a bathing suit,” Kay stepped in to answer with a well-timed roll of her eyes. “Didn’t you get the memo?” she asked with a shake of her head as she reached past Luis to take a towel from her sister’s hands. “Don’t feel so bad. Jessica didn’t either.”

    The corners of Jessica’s mouth curled into a self-conscious smile in response, one slim shoulder lifting in a shrug before she walked off to join her mother and the children, tousling her dripping hair dry (or dry-ish…the day was young, after all).

    “He acts like he’s never seen a bikini before,” Kay muttered in Sheridan’s ear (just loud enough for Luis to hear).

    Luis felt the sting of embarrassment linger in his cheeks long after Kay had left them alone. With some difficulty, he swallowed, and awkwardly said, “I’ve, uh, seen a bikini before.” Just not on you, came the mental reminder. Averting his eyes from Sheridan and glancing around at her backyard, he noticed for the first time a sprinkler that looked like a bouquet of fuschia-pink flowers releasing a steady spray of water, a long, yellow slippery mat (that made him recall his childhood, before…), and an inflatable wading pool of considerable size partially tucked beneath a wide brim of shading tree leaves in the far corner of the yard (call it a gut feeling, but Luis felt Nemo the Third was not long for this world, and would soon be joining his compatriots underneath the soothing shade of that old oak). Luis’s practical side wanted to comment on the wisdom of making her backyard a mini-water park for the afternoon (she wasn’t a Crane princess, not anymore; her combined wages at the paper and the Youth Center sometimes barely covered the upkeep on this old place), but he recalled that little hint of closely-guarded vulnerability that had peeked at him behind her blue, blue eyes and told his practical side to take a hike, for at least the next few seconds (it came roaring back when Kay invited him to take a turn on the Slip-n-Slide). Finding Sam again, he questioned, “You sanctioned this?”

    “Dug the old thing out of the attic myself,” Sam joked.

    “Actually,” Grace informed Luis, returning to the thick of things balancing a tray of lemonade instead of children in her arms, “he picked that one up at the store this morning. The kids’ old one was a little worse for wear.”

    Luis shook his head at the trio of adults surrounding him. “That thing’s a death trap.”

    “Way to be the life of the party, Supercop,” came the soft, breathy whisper again as Sheridan slipped around him to go greet two latecomers (Pilar and Miguel) to the little gathering.

    Luis inwardly cursed when Sheridan turned around halfway to her destination point, catching him in the act of tracking her progress. When a backward glance at Sam found the older man not bothering with any attempt to hide his smile, Luis defended himself with a grumbling, “I wasn’t watching her. I was just…”

    “Making sure she reached Pilar safely,” Sam helpfully (mockingly) supplied before ostensibly returning his attention to flipping burgers.

    Over the course of the afternoon, Luis managed to lighten up a little bit, due in equal parts to Emma’s infectious joy and excitement and the good company and tasty food. He even cracked a smile when Ethan ended up in an undignified heap at the end of the yellow mat and gave new meaning to the words slip and slide. By the time the sun was lowering in the sky in preparation for the approaching evening, Kay, Jessica, and Miguel had wedged themselves into the kiddie pool, Gwen and Theresa were sipping lemonade on the patio and discussing Theresa’s (lofty, in Luis’s reality-based opinion) career aspirations, and Sam had left to take care of some minor business down at the station (but not before lightly threatening Luis about even thinking about joining him). Mama and Grace had volunteered to go inside while Emma and Spencer napped, and Ethan was having some difficulty moving about, so that left Luis and Sheridan to clean up. They tackled the Slip-n-Slide first, working in silence until Sheridan spoke.

    “I’m glad you decided to come.”

    The sincere sentiment pulled a reluctant admission from Luis’s lips as he moved closer to Sheridan, the edges of the yellow mat grasped within his hands. “I had a good time.”

    “Did you now, Supercop?” Sheridan scoffed. “You didn’t even get wet. Afraid you’d melt?”

    “Me? Afraid of a little water, Crane?” Luis answered in kind, his dark eyes glittering at her. This close to her, he could feel the heat from her body, count the striations in her pale irises, see the slight flare of her nostrils as she reacted to his proximity, and his mind’s eye traveled back to the few other moments when he’d allowed himself this freedom, to really look at her, drink in her beauty, admit to himself (almost against his will) the damnable attraction that simmered on a slow, smoldering burn between them just waiting for one of them to throw down that inevitable match. “Not even,” he said lowly, a tiny smirk twisting the corners of his mouth upward. With that gauntlet thrown, he only had about a millisecond’s notice (he’d seen that same impish twinkle in an identical pair of blue eyes, partially obscured by a mop of disobedient honey curls, before) before ice-cold water jetted down across the front of his tee-shirt, saturating it and making it cling to his upper body like a second skin. The Slip-n-Slide was forgotten, along with any other notions than revenge, pure and simple, and Luis gave chase to Sheridan across the expanse of her backyard, the garden hose she’d flung to the ground in her efforts to make a mad dash to escape secured in his grip. He finally cornered her on the patio (Gwen and Theresa were wise to put some distance between themselves and the little scuffle and were watching, open-mouthed, from the relative safety of the sun-room steps), and a wolfish grin tugged at his mouth when her mischievous laughter died down and she held up her hands to defend herself from his clearly evil intentions.

    “You wouldn’t,” Sheridan swallowed convulsively as the back of her knees bumped into Theresa’s abandoned chair.

    “Wouldn’t I?” Luis advanced on her like a dark, predatory panther, his eyes gleaming at her challenge. Anticipation made his breath grow short, and his heartbeat thunder in his ears, and he recognized the exact moment that Sheridan surrendered to her fate (but not without taking him down with her) because she pushed forward, laughing again, and began to actively wrestle him for the garden hose, thoroughly drenching them both in the process. The struggle was wet, slippery, and playful before it morphed into something else altogether (icy-cold water dripped from the edges of their hair, into their eyes, but heat was arcing between them, straining and building toward an inferno that begged for release), and the world melted away beyond the two of them, until someone, Grace, shattered the moment, and brought Luis racing back to reality, and all of the reasons taking the woman he held pinned against his body down that particular road would be a very bad idea indeed. His hands gentled around Sheridan’s wrists, his thumbs sweeping across her lifeline (was his pulse racing half as badly as hers?) before letting go, and he stepped back, putting some head-clearing distance between them.

    For a long moment, Sheridan simply stared at him, her eyes searching, probing his unreadable gaze. Then she shifted her attention to Grace and quietly left Luis to go inside and tend to her daughter.

    Luis ignored his sister’s gaping expression and Gwen’s knowing smile, the teens’ watchful, curious regard, and set about repairing the damage wrought by their ill-advised romp. Ethan soon joined him, and Luis welcomed the younger man’s quietude in the face of his own internal chaos of emotions, even if he didn’t actually extend open arms to his offer of help. By the time Sheridan had lulled Emma back to sleep with sweet lullabies and soothing whispers, Luis was entering the Harmony Police Department’s doors, retreating back to the more manageable chaos of the unlawful sort, his hair still damp but his uniform worn crisp and confidently.

    Sam opened his mouth to argue, but one look with his laser-sharp blue eyes told him the gesture would prove fruitless, and he beckoned Luis forward, holding out the police report he and Quinlan had been studying. “Luis, take a look at this. See if there’s anything we’re missing.”

    Luis ended his vacation four days early, donated his time. When Quinlan returned to work the following week, he brought a homemade pound cake and a card as a token of his wife’s appreciation. Luis slid the card inside his desk drawer, beside a picture of Emma at her first birthday party, springy honey curls in disarray and chocolate cake-covered hands extended toward the camera (him), and accepted Marty’s own thanks. Later that morning, Luis cut the cake, fixed himself some coffee, and offered the rest to the guys.

    It was bitter where it should have been sweet; it tasted too much like guilt on his tongue.













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