Author's note and thanks at the end.

WARNING: smut scene halfway through. Skip if you don't like that sort of thing.

A week went by. Tess lived in a sort of daze, dealing with what parts of her life she had to. She saw the three older children off every morning to their day-camp, spend her mornings cleaning and her afternoons in various staff meetings at the college. When the children came home in the neighborhood carpool, she oversaw baths and showers as they were needed as she fixed dinner. In the evenings the children ran around outside until dark, Lena either tagging along after them or playing in the sandbox behind the house. Tess cleaned the kitchen – which meant hand washing the dishes, scrubbing down the stove or the oven if it had been used, wiping down the table, moping the floors. Normally she would leave some of these duties to Cora, but she'd given the other woman a month off in return for everything she'd done while Tess herself had been away or unable to.

After things were as clean as she could get them, she would jog for a little while. Not as long as she did before her accident, but long enough for it to count as exercise, and she was able to get a little further each day.

Once it started to get dark, the kids were called home to get ready for bed even if they didn't get into it straight away. Tess gave Lena her bath and put the toddler to bed, then read bedtime stories to those who required them, and tucked in everyone. By the time she got into bed herself, it would be full dark.

It was the nights that were the problem though. During the day her mind was kept occupied and her old discipline had returned enough that she could keep her thoughts focused on the task before her. Once night hit and she ran out of things to do, then she could no longer keep the hurt and confusion at bay. Rather than torture herself with possible excuses for why she'd woken alone that morning, and whether she'd left prematurely, she would spend the hours between dark and dawn doing anything she could to not think about Sands. Alternately, her nights passed in dreamless sleep thanks to sedatives and the desperate heights of insomnia.

The first week turned into a second, and a second into a third. Independence Day came and went with its explosive firework displays. Carlos, Lena, and René all went off to a YMCA camp for two weeks. In their absence, Tess started spending more time rewriting, reworking, and reinventing curriculum in the small office she'd made in her attic. Classes would start in six weeks or so, and she wanted to know her teaching material like the back of her hand. Thoughts of Sands still plagued her, whether they came in her own voice or in the voices of those she shared her head with. One more week, she told them. One more week and I turn away the hope of anything else. As if to convince herself that she didn't need anyone in her life, she went to a pet store and bought a small grey kitten that she named Solitude.

Five days of her given week passed. She spent all day Friday in an inservice. The State required that she attend since she had no actual teaching license. Her car had refused to start, so a co-worker had picked her up and chauffeured her around as she dropped Lena off to be babysat. Ian – her friend – had to attend the lecture as well since he was in the same straights she was, except he taught psychology and not medicine.

It was late when the inservice ended, and later by the time they stopped to pick Lena up. By the time they arrived at Tessa's house, the sun was starting to set and the toddler was getting cranky; left at an unfamiliar house, she'd declined to take a nap and needed to be put down.

"Thanks for the ride, Ian."

"Not a problem. I'm always up for helping a damsel in distress."

Oh, she was in distress alright. But not in any way that he could help her with – psych professor or not. "I can't believe that my car chose today not to work." Although it made sense with the way the rest of her life was going at the moment. "I really do appreciate the fact you gave me a ride. I wasn't looking forward to using the bus."

"I aim to please. Door to door service even." He'd walked her to her front door. Tess hesitated to open her front door, even with a half-sleeping child in her arms; after spending so much of the day with him, she had the feeling that Ian had something he wanted to say, and that she was most likely not going to like what he had to say. "Sounds pretty quiet in there. The kids home?"

"No. They're at camp until next week." Which is good, because I need the alone time. "I've got the house to myself tonight." Maybe tonight I'll allow myself to cry and not worry about waking anyone.

"That's good. It looks as if you could use the sleep."

"Yeah. I was planning on making a bit of dinner then going to bed."

They stood there silently, Tess starting to feel more and more uncomfortable. She had a feeling she knew what was coming. "You know, I make a pretty mean chicken Caesar salad. If you wanted . . ." his voice trailed off.

"I appreciate the offer, Ian, but this isn't a good time for me. I, umm ­–"

"She's seeing someone." Tess twirled to look behind her, jostling Lena into pathetic whimpers. She didn't really hear though.

Her front door was wide open and there was a man standing in the doorway. A man she thought was long out of touch.

Sands eyed Tess and her companion with a critical eye, as if he didn't even think enough of the little scene to dislike it. Tessa was standing with a look of shocked disbelief on her face and her friend was definitely not happy. "What's wrong, conejo? You look like you've seen a ghost." Tessa's look of shock was quickly absorbed by a mask of indifference and he held back a wince. It took a lot to get Tess to make that look. Eh. He switched his gaze to Tessa's male companion. "Who're you?"

Ian bristled at the man's tone. Whoever this was, Tessa hadn't looked happy to see him. "I think the more important question is –"

"It's alright, Ian. I can defend myself." Tess broke in before anything that might lead to blows being exchanged could be said. "Again, thank you for the ride home. I really appreciated it." The man knew from the tone of her voice that she was ready for him to leave.

"Well. It was my pleasure." Ian reached out and squeezed Tessa's elbow, giving Sands one last dark look before heading back down the walkway.

Tess turned her back on Sands and watched her friend leave, composing her heart. He'd left. She'd told him that if he wanted to hurt her, he could leave, and he had. They hadn't spoken for nearly a month now. She'd gone and changed the locks because he'd gotten in so easily that first time. She'd been planning a night alone to get over him, and here he was. Well, if he thought she was going to welcome him in, then he had another thing coming.

Once Ian's car was out of sight, Tess turned back to Sands. Without saying a thing, she brushed past him, into her house, and put her briefcase down by the door as she always did, getting as comfortable as she could before going into battle. Taking a deep breath, she turned to Sands with her arms protectively wrapped around her charge and looked at him, not saying a thing. What did she have to say? Nothing, or at least not anything that wouldn't incriminate her.

Sands stared back at her for a moment, eyeing the set of her shoulders, the blank look on her face, and the aura of pain surrounding her. He'd seen her like this once before, back before things had gone to hell again in Mexico. "Neither of us said that we were committing to a monogamous relationship, did we? And since we didn't, then I have no real right to be upset, do I?" She'd been furious and hurt despite her words. She'd held herself the same way then as she was now. Looks like I have some work to do. "Go upstairs and put the kid to bed. Dinner will be ready soon."

Tess watched as Sands left the room, going into the kitchen. She sighed and went upstairs. She'd tuck Lena in, but because she wanted to, not because she'd been told to.

After settling the girl in for the night, Tess made a conscious effort to relax. To that end, she went into her bedroom to change. The lights were lowered and there was a set of sweats on her bed. Damn him. She ignored the fact that she had been planning to change into sweats in the first place, and went into her closet.

He'd pulled out new clothes; she went for her rattiest pair of flannel pants she owned. She slipped out of her skirt, pantyhose, and blouse, putting everything in the laundry basket out of habit. Then she donned the pants and a soft cotton t-shirt, pulling on a heavy wool cardigan over that. Then she found a pair of ratty socks and put those on. Having done all this, she went into the bathroom and pulled her hair back in a sloppy ponytail and took out her contacts. There, that should kill anything he has planned. The sooner he leaves, the better. I think. As she left the room, she grabbed her glasses and put them on.

Once back downstairs, she went into the kitchen, ignored Sands as she took a bottle of water from the fridge, then went into the living room. She plopped onto the couch, pulling a cashmere blanket over her lap and hugging a pillow to herself. Sands watched as she turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels. He fought down his irritation, biting back several rude comments. So Tess had her panties in a bunch. He had set out months ago to achieve that very goal. It wasn't his fault he'd gone and changed his mind so late.

If it's not your fault, then whose is it, fuckmook?

Shut the hell up. Sands went back into the kitchen and started dishing up the food. The entire point of tonight was to . . . to what? Earn forgiveness? That made him sound like a wuss. As did 'trying to get her to take him back.' Reconciliation? No, that didn't sound right either. Settling matters of mutual trust to his benefit and her pleasure? He might be able to live with that definition.

When he'd left his apartment a month ago, it'd been to take a walk and order his thoughts. Every night for the following few weeks he did the same, but never seemed to make any headway into controlling the chaos that was inside his head. The only thing he did manage to do was work up a healthy appetite, and a desire to see her again.

It was that unfading desire simply to see her that had eventually forced him to face facts. Yes, they had a volatile relationship, but then he'd started it with the intention of hurting her. Of making her change from a woman who'd left him, to a woman dependent on him. Well, he couldn't make that happen, and trying to force the issue only made the both of them uncomfortable. Tess had made many concessions already because of her circumstances in Mexico, but he hadn't been satisfied with them. Now he knew he wasn't satisfied with the way things currently were between them either.

That's why he'd taken some time off and made the trip to Fairmont. Things had been more comfortable between them before he'd regained his eyesight. He simply wanted to see if they had any sort of connection if they were both free from outside pressures. What he wanted couldn't quite be put into words, but Sands knew that it was something, and that he couldn't find it if they were in two different states – geographical or mental.

Versions of these thoughts ran through his head as he surveyed the tray of food before taking it out to the TV. I guess I'd better hope this isn't too good. She's already on the edge of using me for target practice. He took the food out.

Tess didn't look away from the TV as she heard Sands come up behind her. She'd found a channel playing a Johnny Depp movie-marathon. At the moment, the last half hour or so of 'Blow' was playing, and then 'From Hell' was going to be on. She still intended on ignoring Sands throughout the entire night until he left. Again. He'd made his choice nearly a month ago. Let him live with it like she'd had to.

You've missed him.


I'm proud of you. For not giving in to him. I know how much you want to touch him.

I want to throw him out.


He hurt me. He left. He left after I told him it'd make me hate him.

But you don't hate him.

I want to.

Sands came and sat on the couch, on the other end from her, but on the same piece of furniture nonetheless. He set the tray on the table and Tess looked at it out of the corner of her eye: there was a green salad, a fruit salad, warm garlic bread, and chicken alfredo. Why did he have to go and be nice?

He just wants into your bed again.

If that's all he wanted, all he would have to do is kiss me into submission – which we all know wouldn't take long – and take me wherever he wanted. He wants something else.

Tess ignored the food for several seconds before her stomach growled. The food at the inservice had been completely unappetizing, not to mention she hadn't been eating much lately. Reluctantly, she reached for the salad, eating it quickly enough. Tess eyed the rest of the food – to eat it, she'd have to let go of her pillow. Sands hadn't said anything to her yet. Carefully, she set the pillow on the floor and took a plate of food and a slice of bread, then settled back down into her seat. She took a bite – even worse than the fact that Sands was being nice was the fact that the food was actually good.

Sands watched as Tessa ate. Her body language indicated that she was as skittish as a wild animal. He cursed his own delay and impatience – it was going to take some time for her to settle down. Women really were nothing but trouble. Especially this one. Because this one meant something.

The two finished their meal quietly. Once she was done, Tess picked up her pillow again. The next movie started. They watched it silently. About fifteen minutes in, Tess heard Sands curse. She looked over dully, sick of all the emotions he was raising in her. Then she saw the small ball of fluff in his lap. Sands, for all his objections, was doing nothing to remove the small cat, who had seemingly taken a quick and strong dislike to him as well.

Tess rolled her eyes as she reached over to take the small grey tabby from him. "Com'ere, Solitude." The small ball of fluff let Tess pick it up, although it kept hissing at Sands. Tess was glad to see that the kitten had some sense. Once she had the cat in her lap, it stopped its antics and started purring. When Tess looked up to see if Sands had recovered, she saw him giving the small cat a very evil look. "Is there a problem?"

"You mean apart from the fact that your cat wanted to castrate me?" Sands shrugged. "When'd you find time to get a cat?"

"I thought all crazy women kept cats." Tessa's voice had more bitterness in it than she wanted to show, so she went back to watching the movie.

I don't know if you've noticed, but he's not going to leave. Even that incident with your cat didn't upset him enough for him to leave.

Yes, thank you, I did notice.

I could make him leave.

There's no way in hell I'm giving you that opportunity. "From hell. At least they got the address right."

You're not saying something.

I don't know what you're talking about.

I know you don't want to let me out . . . but you don't want him to leave either. Do you?

Of course I do.

Right. And that's why you haven't done so much as ask him to leave.

Why bother? He won't leave until he's ready to. It was getting hard not to look at him, hard not to touch him. She'd missed him. And he was back. No one who'd ever left her had come back. But he'd left to make her hate him. So did his being back mean he didn't want her to hate him, or did it mean that he wanted her to hate him more? It doesn't matter. I won't give him the opportunity to do that again.

Right. As long as we're trying to honest here, can I point something out? You're going to keep giving him chances to hurt you, and you're going to keep doing that because you were stupid enough to fall in l –

NO! I didn't. I couldn't. I told myself I wouldn't. As long as I never say it and he never says it, then nothing exists between us. Things only exist if you say them out loud.

How do I fit into that equation?

I talk to you out loud.

You're becoming an excellent liar, Teresa. Must be his influence.

I'm not lying. Solitude had crawled from her lap some time ago, and she wrapped her arms around her knees still hugging the pillow.

Sands watched as Tess folded in on herself. At first he thought that the end of the movie was getting to her – that perhaps it was too similar to something she'd seen in Guevera's workroom as a young woman, but when tears started running from her closed eyes he realized that something else was getting to her.

As he kept watching, she started rocking back and forth, shaking her head from side to side. Apparently her other side was beating her up over something. Or perhaps the stress of having him here was getting to her. It certainly wasn't the cheesy ending of the movie with the sexually repressed inspector 'sacrificing' himself for the woman he loved. She'd missed all that. "What's wrong, custida?"

His eyes widened as she jumped from the couch like a startled doe. "Don't call me that!" she yelled, holding her blanket around her shoulders. She was trembling with pent up emotion and exhaustion. Her tears didn't show in her voice although they kept trailing down her face. "Keep your pet names to yourself." Her voice was calmer which gave greater impact to her tears. "I never asked for them. I never asked for any of this. I never asked to find you, I never asked for you to find me. I never asked for anything between us, I never asked you to leave, and I sure as hell didn't ask you to come back. So don't pretend that nothing happened between us, because everything that did was instigated by you."

"If you wanted me to leave, all you had to do was ask, niña."

"You'd like that, wouldn't you? You'd like me to ask you to leave so then your final departure would be my fault, so everything could be laid on my shoulders. Well I'm not going to give that to you, Sands. If you want to leave, go right ahead, but don't expect me to . . . to . . . ." She tried to take a breath, but her tears seemed to be blocking her lungs themselves. "I hate you," she whispered. "I hate you."

Ah . . . la señorita is mad because she's found out the same thing I have. We came to mean something to one another. "I know. That was the point, wasn't it?"

She nodded. "Why are you here, Sands?" Her voice was defeated. "Do you find it amusing to torture me? Are you afraid that some other woman will throw you out on your ass if you treated her the same way you treat me?"

Sands got up from the couch. "How is it that I treat you, pequeña? What's so horrible about the way I act around you?" With each question, he came a step closer to her. "Do I point out the fact that you're mad every time I feel like it? Do I hit you? Do I curse you on a regular basis? Do I rape you? Do I use you?"

"Yes, you use me. Do you enjoy wrapping me around your little finger? Do you enjoy pulling on my emotions like a mad puppeteer?"

Sands was silent. He couldn't answer that one. "Let me ask you something, conejo. If we put aside the fact that I left, what would we be doing right now? If I hadn't left and we had the house to ourselves, what would we be doing?"

"It doesn't matter. You did leave. That changes everything."

"I came back. I'd say that changes something too. I'm not used to finding myself so involved with a woman that I come back when part of me is screaming to leave. And since you refuse to answer the question, I will. We'd be upstairs in your bed, or we'd be on the couch, and we'd be tripping the light fantastic." Tess shuddered. "You know we would, don't you?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Why aren't you touching me, Teresa?"

"Because then I'd want you to stay." She almost felt as if she were in a trance. What could she do but answer? It's not as if she could get any more pitiful.

Sands reached over and removed her glasses. "Why are you dressed in so many layers, Teresa?"

Why grandmother, what big ears you have. "Because I don't want you to touch me."

"Why aren't you moving away, Teresa?"

Why grandmother, what big eyes you have. "Because I don't want to leave you."

"Teresa, do you want me to stay?"

Why grandmother, what sharp teeth you have. "Yes." She held back a sob. "Yes, damn you." She lashed out with one hand, hitting him over the heart with her fist. Sands grabbed both her wrists before she could hit him again, and she felt all her barriers fall. She started crying in earnest, strung out from all the emotion.

Sands, being a typical male, didn't like hearing a woman cry, so he hushed her by placing his mouth over hers. She tasted like tears.

Tess kissed him back, pouring all her anguish into it. She fought to free her hands, then grabbed his upper arms, remembering a time when there'd been a hole in one and a gun in the other and yet she'd supported him. She hated him, hated the way she reacted to him. But she couldn't give it up.

The two reunited lovers stumbled over to the couch, Tess never letting go of Sands as he lowered her to the cushions. Her body was begging to stay in contact with his, her brain having shut down entirely since she didn't need its direction for what they were doing.

Sands straddled Tessa's hips, kneeling above her, still not releasing her mouth as he fumbled at her clothes. Finally he pulled away with a low growl, needing to see what he was doing to get her clothes off. Even with his eyes to guide his hands, it took him some time to get her naked, especially since she insisted on doing the same to him.

Tess noted with some part of her unoccupied mind that the TV was still playing. She glanced at it briefly – some guy in a Zorro outfit. Whatever. Then Sands was on top of her again, and he was touching her skin everywhere, and she was still crying but neither of them seemed to mind. Sands seemed intent on sucking every tear from her skin and she let him, grasping at his back as his hands teased her breasts, and sides, and hips, and legs.

Sands left Tessa's salt-stained cheeks and returned to her mouth, either trying to delight, or consume, or console her but unsure of which it was. Perhaps all three. He'd never made love to someone who was crying before, and as much as he'd like to deny it, what they were doing was closer to that than to having sex. Sex was planned and things went smoothly. Making love was messier and more awkward.

Tess gasped into Sands' mouth as his thigh parted her legs. "What's your name?" she asked urgently. "You've never told me your name."

"You know my name." His lips traveled down her neck to her collarbone and she arched beneath him.

"I heard other people use your name. You never told me." There was a difference, she knew there was. She wanted him to tell her his name. "Please."

Sands groaned as her body writhed underneath his, as her legs parted for him. The woman got the strangest ideas into her head . . . but that was part of what fascinated him. "I'll tell you, but you have to promise never to use it."

"Ok." Her legs were creeping up around his waist. If he didn't get inside her soon, he was going to explode. If he didn't get inside her soon, she was going to scream.

"Sheldon. Sheldon Jeffery."

Tess pulled away to look in his eyes. She was nearly panting for breath and tears were still trailing down her face, but she managed to say, "Sheldon Jeffery Sands, if you ever do this to me again, I will kill you. Very slowly."

Sands growled as she disregarded his request and called him by his name anyway, just as he got turned on by it. It was the first time he'd found his full name even slightly arousing. He kissed her brutally, then entered her, filling her completely and faster than was comfortable. She whimpered but lifted her hips to meet him anyway, accepting the pain along with the pleasure. Things could only get better from here on out.

Tess shivered as the sweat on her skin dried. As her body cooled, she shifted to take advantage of the warm body next to her and nearly on top of her. "I'm cold," she murmured, her lips brushing against a strong throat.

Sands groaned at having to move, but reached behind him to pull the blanket from the back of the couch. By the time he had it in hand, Tess had slipped into sleep with dried tears still on her face. He looked at her for a moment before spreading the blanket over them both and following her example. The TV buzzed in the background.

It was morning before either of them knew it. Tess had woken with the sun to find herself on the couch with Sands of to the side and slightly on top of her. We've never . . . It was the first time she'd awoken to find him so close to her.

Not long after she opened her eyes, Tessa heard Lena fussing upstairs. She knew it was time to get the toddler a bed instead of a crib, but she hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Without waking Sands, she moved off the couch and dressed herself. Once covered, she went upstairs to retrieve Selena. The toddler was happy to see her, crowing in her own mixture of Spanish and English. After changing diapers and clothes, the two went downstairs where Tess poured a bowl of Cheerios for the girl. As she fixed her own breakfast, Lena insisted on eating on the floor near Tessa's feet. Listening to the odd chatter, she sliced a grapefruit in half and made herself toast. Along with a glass of orange juice, she sat at the table and ate her breakfast, toddler on her lap.

Sands silently entered the kitchen, watching woman and child. Tess had her back to him, but he could tell that she was preoccupied. It made sense. He'd been preoccupied since he'd heard her go upstairs. The only difference between them was that he'd come to a decision of kinds weeks ago; Tess still had to process all this.

"Mañana," he greeted the kitchen's occupants as he went to the refrigerator to get his own orange juice. This early in the morning, he would have preferred coffee, but Tess didn't have any in the house.

A pair of small arms wrapping around his leg interrupted him. "Aren't you friendly?" he asked, looking down into a pair of mischievous dark eyes. "She didn't tell you to bite me, did she?"

Lena laughed, and ran back to Tess, looking over her shoulder and running into her tía's knees as she did. Tessa didn't look nearly as amused as her charge.

"When are you leaving?" she asked quietly as he reached for a glass to pour his juice into. It was the topic forefront on her mind, and what she needed most to know. If he'd just come up for a few hours of fun, she'd have to turn him away. That was no kind of life to live.

Sands froze for a moment, but then continued his task. Only when he'd poured himself a drink and brought it to the table did he say anything. "I –"

"You left the orange juice out." Her eyes clearly communicated that she expected him to do something about that.

With a sigh, he got up and put the carton away. "I don't have to be back in D.C. until the 28th."

"That's ten days away," she murmured, looking down at her breakfast.

"I can leave earlier if that's what you want."

Her head flew up. "What I need hasn't changed, Sands." The honest words spilled out of her mouth before she could stop him. "Sex has never been something casual in my mind, and I need more than a lover who only inserts me into his life when the need to have some fun strikes him."

"So what? You want all or nothing? The ring, dress . . . the whole nine yards?"

"No. No that's not what I'm saying." No, marriage wasn't for her. It would bind him too tightly to her if her condition ever worsened. "With what my life is, I just need stability."

"Then we're talking cohabitation."

How can he be so calm?! she wondered as she watched him sip his juice. What they were discussing was not something to be taken lightly.

You think he hasn't lived with women before? I bet Inge would say differently.

Inge isn't me. "I'm not leaving Fairmont. I will not live in a big city. Things are too noisy."

He shrugged. "I don't have to say in D.C."

"What?" He wasn't talking about quitting his job, was he? She certainly wasn't going to support him.

"I've been offered a consulting job of sorts." Sands shrugged again. "I'm getting too old to be shot up every year, or so my doctors and my body tell me. Basically they want me to work for the foreign policy departments. I'll have a hand in choosing new recruits for foreign undercover and black ops, along with looking over intelligence and reconnaissance information to form strategies."

"You don't like field work?" This was all too surreal. Better to settle things before she really got the chance to think about them.

"It's more of a case of it not liking me." He sipped his juice. "It was the chessboard element that really interested me. I'd be free to manipulate on a bigger scale than I can now."

"But are you going to take the job even if we decide . . . relocation . . . isn't what's best." If he was taking the job solely to move to New York, she'd tell him no.

"I'm leaning heavily in that direction." Sands answered her questions without taking offense. He knew – or thought he knew – where most of her hesitation was coming from. "We've cohabitated before, niña. This wouldn't exactly be something new."

"And if things . . . if I . . ." Tess wasn't sure how to phrase her question. But apparently Sands didn't need to hear it.

"You don't scare me, Teresa." He watched as Lena clambered onto the table and waddled over to him.

Tess watched the girl too, remembering that she wasn't the only one a decision like this would affect. "The children –"

"The kids know me. And if you're worried, let me just assure you that they are just as unscared of me as I am of you."

"But what about you?"

"I suspect its something I'll have to learn how to live with." Wrapping an arm around Lena's waist as she made a concentrated effort to climb onto his shoulders, he reached across the table with the other and touched the back of her hand. "You don't have to make a decision today. You don't even have to make one in ten days."

"You're not going to wait forever," she whispered, looking into his eyes.

"You're right. I won't. But I don't think you need forever."

He was right. She didn't. She didn't even need the ten days as long as she was sure he understood that he couldn't just call quits in a year. "You understand what I need?"

Sands sighed. "I won't pretend that you're not asking a lot, but we've know each other for going on two years now. After all the hell we've seen – or not seen as the case may have been at times – I think that if we don't hate each other, than this won't be impossible."

"No. I suppose not."

It wasn't until that evening after her jog that he broached the topic again. They were sitting next to each other but separated on the porch swing with Lena half-asleep between them.

"Been thinking?" he asked, blowing a cloud of smoke out through his nose. Without having made a conscious effort to do so, he'd bought a pack of lights.


"Ready to stop thinking?"

"I suppose so." Once she voiced a decision, there'd be no going back and she could let the matter go.

"Want to tell me?"

Tess nodded. "Yes."



Author's Note: Well. Here it is. The end – for now – of a wild ride with these two. The ending was meant to be ambiguous and meant to set the tone for what I imagine their life together would be like. Whether or not I ever get to writing that remains to be seen.

First I just want to thank all of you who read, and even more, all of you who reviewed. These two stories really have been for the readers, and I know that you've enjoyed them, which is what makes it worthwhile for me. For those of you who've never dropped me a note, why don't you take the time and tell me whether you enjoyed it or not. I always love hearing from readers.

Second, before you ask, I just want to say that at this time I'm not really planning to write another story in the 'More' series. I do have a glimmer of an idea involving Tess and Sands, and I also have an idea for a new OUATIM story for me, not necessarily involving who these two people have become. Before I get to either of those though, I'm writing a Secret Window fic called Fractured Secrets about what might happen if the movie had ended the same way as the novella, excepting that Mort didn't die. There's murder, mayhem, and psychiatric hospitals, so if you haven't checked that out, I hope you will soon. Also, by the end of the month I hope to post a new story based on the movie 'From Hell' called Post Script. The idea is based off the line in the movie where the dear Inspector Abberline says that his wife died delivering what he was told was a son. No one ever made mention of that son's fate, and the idea intrigued me. Also coming – hopefully – will be a PotC fic (tentatively) called The Life and Death of Captain Jack Sparrow. So far I have nothing but ideas for that, so I can't give you a summary of any kind.

Anyway, thanks for reading all.

Quotes: From Hell; Little Red Riding Hood

Author Thanks: first, many thanks to any and all who did any sort of beta work for me, whether I asked you, or whether you caught something that needed to be fixed. Thanks to all who read, to those who read and reviewed, and for the last chapter à Merrie (Well, I'm glad to know what sort of responses I was getting from you. SJ understands Tess quite well, perhaps more than he really wants to. Donnie Brasco – well, I'd glad you knew where I was coming from. The epilogue is now up, and don't even think about nagging me for a new chapter of something else. :P); Shannon (Mushy is good. Thank you so much for your compliments. Sometimes I feel as if my plot gets lost in with all the nitty-gritty feelings, but at least I never lose track of it. I wish I could write something that was straight action – like the CIA taking down a cartel in Mexico – but that would require more research than I want to put into something that is essentially a hobby. Yes, this is the end and I'm sad too, but if you managed to identify with one of my characters, then that's all the praise I need.); quick29 (There isn't much I could add to this anymore, you're right about that. I'm not so much tired of Sands and Tess as I am ready to let them go. They've grown up and I'm ready to write something new.); Raven (haven't I already said that running into walls is bad? I agree totally with you when you say that Sands and Tess aren't meant for happily ever afters, and I don't ever see one for them, but I do think they belong together for the time being. They'll never have children because Tess is more aware of her responsibility than that, and I don't see them ever getting married, but with work I think they can carve out some kind of life together. They already have in a way. "I love you." For some people that works, but not for these two. I see it taking years for them to actually say that to one another, and even then it would be rare. Yes, yes, yes, new fanfics coming. For now, go read my Secret Window fic. Fractured Secrets. I promise that its good. You're not a freak. You're a reviewer. There's a difference. ); SS (s'ok. I got teary-eyed myself. I hope that this ending is just as good as the one in the last chapter.); Dreamgirl21147 (Here it is, the end. I hope it was everything you were hoping for and more.)

I just want to take this tiny space and thank everyone who reviews this chapter. Like I said, it's been a wild almost year writing 'More Than Eyes' and 'More to Life.' It wouldn't have been done without all of you.