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The shock that Sidney was feeling couldn't be overridden by the happiness that filled her. Tatum held a place in her heart but the last memory she had of her was at her funeral. Before that, the image of Tatum's crushed face and dangling body was burned into her mind. Now, she was on Sidney's couch wearing a smile and her favorite cloud print pajamas. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied up in a sleek ponytail. With her hair off her face, her porcelain complexion, chocolate eyes and delicate features were on full display.
"Is this real?" Sidney asked after she sat down next to her. She felt her eyes welling up.
The smirk on her face matched her tone, "Come on Sid, you really thought death could separate us?"
Sidney smiled then hugged her best friend. She felt soft, solid and warm, just like she remembered. Her familiar scent of lavender and honey tickled her nose.
Tatum rubbed her back before gently pulling away, "I missed you too."
Wiping her away her tears of joy, she asked, "Not that I'm complaining, but what brings you here?"
"I'm your best friend; it's my job to check up on you, especially now that you've rejoined the living!"
"It's only Dewey, Gale and-..."
She wiggled her eyebrows, "And the very sexy Detective Mark Kincaid. LA's finest indeed."
A brief laugh left her lips, "You noticed?"
"I'm dead not blind. Hell, even the blind can see how fine he is!""
They both giggled.
In a rueful tone Sidney shared, "Yeah - well, I screwed up with him tonight."
Tatum lightly gripped her shoulder, "No you didn't. You had a brief moment of hesitation and he understood."
"I saw Derek, I wasn't even thinking of him but then there he was!"
"Because he was the last guy you were with. Again, it's totally understandable."
"But Mark doesn't know that Tatum."
"Then tell him. You've already let him into your home and life, why not your heart?"
A slow sigh came from her, "Because look at what happened to Derek."
"That was terrible, he was a great guy. But Mark's already encountered Ghostface, he survived and he still wants you to be with you."
Tipping her forward, she replied, "I know; the feeling's mutual."
"Well duh! He's a hot hero, what's not to love?"
"He could have any woman, why would he wait around for me?"
She let go of her shoulder and held her hand, "Because you're amazing Sid. And you're a badass too. Remember, you're Super Bitch!"
They shared another laugh and sighed.
"He is pretty patient and understanding," Sidney admitted.
She listed his qualities on her fingers, "He's also funny, charming, caring and brave. And, I can say with the utmost confidence that he and his penis do deserve you."
Sidney couldn't help but chuckle, "Tatum, he's injured!"
"I know…But when he's fully healed you better jump his bones, OK?! Because if you don't I will somehow resurrect my deadass and bang him myself, that's a promise."
Smiling she said, "If anyone could carry that out, it'd be you."
Her grin was smug, "You know it. Seriously though, don't let get him away. He's a fighter with real heart, just like you."
She nodded then gazed at her, "I love you Tatum."
"I love ya too Sid."
They embraced one another, neither one wanting the moment to end.
With Sidney still asleep, Mark quietly left his room and went downstairs. Not wanting to wake Sidney or Cherokee, he decided leave the lights off. It was a little past midnight and the full moon's light shone through the first floor's windows. The refrigerator's light illuminated his handsome face. He tried his best to be quiet as he poured himself a glass of water and headed to the sofa.
"Hey, couldn't sleep?" Sidney asked once she reached the bottom of the stairs and turned on the lights.
An apologetic sigh came from him, "I didn't mean to wake you up."
Waving him off, she sat next to him, "You didn't, Cherokee did and now she's just snoring on my bed."
"At least someone's getting sleep tonight."
She turned to him, "Yeah..so, earlier tonight, I froze and you deserve to know why."
"Sid, you don't have to explain yourself."
"I want to. I need to."
"All right, I'm all ears."
She glanced at her lap then met his stare, "I saw Derek. He's the last person I was with. I didn't mean to think of him but I did."
He tilted his head to the left, "That makes sense, he meant a lot to you."
"He did, he was the last person I was with. The last person I let get close to me.."
With an empathetic nod, he answered, "I get it. It's going take some time for you to adjust and I'm fine with that Sid."
She appreciated his answer and spoke, "Mark, this is new territory for me. I can't promise that there won't setbacks or false starts but I'm willing to try."
His mouth curled into a grin, "Like I said earlier, you set the pace and I'll follow your lead."
She moved closer to him, "Thanks, I appreciate it."
After a brief silence fell between them; he spoke.
"Since we're sharing things, I thought you should know who called me."
"All right, but you don't have to tell me."
"I need to. It was Sophia Cortez, she was involved in a case that I worked on."
"Oh, is she OK?"
"Yeah, she just got engaged and she lives in Texas now. But her fiancé has family out here and they're coming next week to celebrate. We're having lunch, to catch up."
"It is, especially after what happened."
She noticed him clearing his throat and a shift in his shoulders.
"It uh-..It was my second year as a detective. Her family had been murdered by a former employee, Asa Williams. They owned a restaurant where my old partner and I were regulars. Oscar and Elena were good people. But Asa…was the laziest and whiniest person. It didn't matter what he did; he always saw himself as the victim. Elena, she only hired him as a favor to an old friend. One day, he caused a minor fire because he talking on the phone and wasn't paying attention. She had to let him go."
"Of course, anyone would have." she commented.
He nodded and set the glass on the coffee table, "His parents were paying his bills but after his firing, they cut him off; he snapped. He stabbed them both to death and then set their house on fire."
"Jesus…" She leaned forward and searched his face.
He cleared his throat, "Then he went to the Cortezes'. He shot Oscar in the leg and pistol whipped Elena. But-uh..that wasn't enough for him. He then - he then stabbed their six-year-old son, Aaron; four times. He made them watch their child bleed out before he shot them to death."
Horrified, she cupped her mouth and felt her eyes become wet, "Oh my God..that's awful."
A lump came to his throat, "Sophia only lived because she had snuck out to see her boyfriend. In one night, her whole world was shattered. She was only 17, a kid."
Sidney threaded her fingers into his.
He welcomed the gesture; his thumb stroked her hand.
"What happened to Asa?"
"The sonofabitch tried to do the same thing to his older brother's family. We contacted San Francisco PD and they caught him just as he pulled into his brother's driveway. They were lucky, Asa's brother and his sister-in-law, they just had a baby girl."
She exhaled, "Thank God.."
"The coward tried to shoot himself but the gun jammed. He's spending the rest of his life rotting in a cell."
"As he should be," she said.
His eyes became flooded and his voice shook, "I-I know that I talk about being haunted by ghosts..But I didn't want to put the horrible image of a dead kid in your head. You already have so many ghosts, you don't need another one. But then I felt like a hypocrite for thinking that way. And it felt wrong to keep it from you."
She held his face with her free hand, "Hey, you're not a hypocrite, all right? You wanted to protect me because it's what you do. Don't be so hard on yourself."
"You're too kind. But you're strong; you're not some flower that will easily wilt. I shouldn't have treated you as such."
"Mark..it sounds like we both need to forgive ourselves."
"You're right, but I stand by what I said. You not only fight yourself but you fight for others, even if they're strangers. That's one of the many reasons why..I want to be with you."
Seeing how sincere, kind and vulnerable he was being with her; it was moving and enrapturing. Her mouth pulled into a wide smile before she seized his lips with hers. The feel of his supple warm mouth and strong hand on her face enveloped her. She relished the sensations and parted her mouth allowing him to deepen the kiss. His talented lips and tongue didn't disappoint. After tracing his strong jaw with her fingertips, she ran her hand through his thick soft wavy hair. He reluctantly pulled apart from her to get some air.
His face wore an enormous smile as he cupped her face. She kissed the pad of his thumb and briefly closed her eyes. Without hesitation, he fervently brought her lips to his and felt triumphant when he heard her moan.