Rated: NC-17



Esteridge was going insane waiting for backup to arrive. It had only been a matter of minutes since he'd been forced to watch Alisha and Ryder drive off but it felt like an eternity.

He shouted orders into his radio as he paced his office; it seemed like the only place in the station that wasn't slick with blood...aside from the small puddle of it gathering around the severed hand laying in the middle of his floor.

He glared down at the dismembered piece of his Sergeant and shook his head, ignoring its presence as he continued speaking to dispatch, trying to busy his mind with protocol so he wouldn't have to think about...

Evidence collection would be a nightmare. It would take weeks and in the end it would be completely pointless. There was no way Ryder was going to live to stand trial, he'd never allow himself to be taken in.

The rounds had already been made to get a death toll and it was unsettling to say the least that he was the only one left breathing in an entire building of dead officers. When he'd reached the top of the stairs to the holding cells and shown his flashlight into the darkness he'd decided very quickly that there was no need to check for survivors, the floor all the way to the base of the steps was now pooled with blood.

He found himself grabbing Alisha's cigarettes off the desk and lighting one up out of a long-since-kicked habit to steady his nerves. The term 'Cowboy-Killers' came to mind as he took a drag on the Marlboro but he had a more immediate potential cause of death on his part to worry about. Alisha's laughter at his words 'those things'll kill you' was completely justified in his mind.

Just thinking about her made his chest ache uncontrollably, he tried not to picture where they were in that moment...to wonder whether she still had that gun pressed to her temple...whether Ryder had gotten it away from her or worse, she had been forced to use it on herself...

He ran his hand over his face roughly and rubbed his eyes desperately trying to still the memory of her walking out the door, crying and pleading with him not to follow. There wasn't a time in his life he could recall ever feeling so helpless.

The sounds of sirens approaching earned a sigh of slight relief from him. He quickly exited his office and made his way out the front door of the station.

To hell with giving his statement, screw the paperwork they'd undoubtedly want him to sign giving authorization for the massive police presence he'd just ordered in...they wanted to talk they could do it over the radio. He waited for the first five cars to skid to a halt in front of him, the officers climbing out of their vehicles before he started speaking.

"Who has the GPS for the vehicle Ryder took already linked on their laptop?" He yelled, watching as they pointed to the off-road truck that was pulling in behind them. "Good, I'm taking that one." He announced, his blazing blue eyes leaving no room for argument. He rushed to the door of the truck, opening it the second it had stopped. The officer inside held up his hands and climbed out, understanding by what he'd been told that it was best not to question the Lieutenant right then.

Esteridge didn't say another word as he climbed in and slammed the door, the massive tires of the truck kicking up clouds of dust as he punched the accelerator and peeled out onto the road.

The officers were all climbing back into their vehicles, sirens wailing as they tried desperately to keep up with him...it proved difficult, Esteridge was on a mission.

She was so utterly still in his arms...

So silent and at peace.

Pity those striking eyes of hers couldn't look up at him now.

He had turned on one of the dim lamps of the room so that he could see her better, carrying her limp body to the bed and laying her on her side, climbing up beside her and taking in the beauty of her naked form.

She had stood up to quite a bit of abuse in the past few days and his fingers traced over the wounds he'd inflicted...the bruising on her cheek, his bite-mark on her shoulder, the bruising on her ribs...she was all his...

He settled down behind her, spooning with her and nuzzling his face against her hair, letting his rough hands wander over the curve of her hips and shoulders.

The vision of her wide, terrified eyes as he choked the life from her was one he wished he could carry with him into whatever hell lay ahead of him.

She had looked so shocked, so betrayed in that moment...so beautiful in her unmasked fear as her heart stilled for him.

He wrapped his arms around her, pressing his lips to her cheek and whispering his appreciation for another emotion she'd shared with him...this one was different. This one was special. He knew she'd never been able to give it to another man, it was his alone to cherish.

Standing from the bed he retrieved his knife from his coat, rolling her onto her back once he returned and climbing over her.

A smile came to his lips as he ran the cold blade over her cheek, down her throat and over her sternum, not breaking the skin...he was waiting for something...

It would take a while, he knew...but he'd let go just in time, had prolonged his pleasure until another second without air would have stolen her life. Her eyes were moving beneath their lids now, small murmurs coming from her lips as she tried to climb back out from the dark hole he'd plunged her into.

He bit his lip letting the blade wander over her stomach, his arousal to have her all to himself was overwhelming. No one could take her away now, she belonged to him.

He broke just enough skin with the tip of the knife to ensure a scar as he carved a heart...his heart...into the flesh of her hip. She would have it to remember him by long after he'd gone, but then he'd left it with her the day he met her anyway. She had many tattoos on her body, as he'd learned while she slept, he doubted she would mind one more...especially one so personal.

His breathing quickened in anticipation, it would be soon now...

Contemplating the level of anger she would show once she awoke sent a thrill through him, that primal rage she had deep inside of her that had caught his attention from the very beginning was about to resurface.

He leaned down to her, kissing her mouth and waiting...

In an instant she was fighting against him, screaming into his kiss as he quickly pinned her wrists beneath one of his hands and held them in place over her head. Her entire body was writhing in fury for what he had done to her, her eyes glowing with violent intentions as he smiled and kept his mouth pressed to hers.

He watched that rage quickly reach a boiling point and pulled away from their kiss, smiling and letting her go...

She was so strong despite her size. He marvelled over the force she was able to muster as she attacked him, her fists connecting blow after blow as he lay back against the headboard, letting her climb on top of him, not wanting to miss a moment of the assault she was dishing out.

Her makeup was streaked down her face from the shower, those severe black lines streaming over her porcelain skin as if she'd been crying...and her hair was different now, he noticed...no longer poker straight and restrained from its natural form...having dried on its own it was wild and wavy, adding to the feral allure of her appearance in that moment.

The actual attack was irrelevant to him, he simply wanted to watch her doing it. Eventually she would notice that her actions were serving no good, but until then he could enjoy the view as she worked off some of her anger.

After several moments she began to cry as she hit him, the tides of rage waning in the presence of that damnable adoration in his face. It was so difficult to keep up the fight when there was such admiration in his eyes for it, the fact that he was completely unphased by the abuse wore down on her resolve.

Like cursing the sun for being too bright or the seas for being too rough, this punishment she was giving him only wasted her energy...she couldn't beat the psychotic tendencies out of him. It served no purpose to abuse him in hopes of changing him, to chastise him for simply being what he was.

She couldn't make him understand that what he had done was wrong because in his world it simply wasn't.

Eventually he was reaching up to her, and after fighting his hands off several times, hearing herself screaming disgust for it, she finally submitted, letting him pull her down to his chest and hold her as she sobbed.

Her body ached terribly, her head was pounding and she was exhausted as she cried and held on to him. The fact that she was seeking comfort from him only made her cry harder.

He had just tried to kill her...or at least that's damned sure what it had felt like when it happened...

The fact that she was still breathing made it clear that it simply was not the case, she knew full well that if he'd wanted her dead she most definitely would have been.

It did little to comfort the aftermath of such terror, though.

His rough hands were wandering over the bare skin of her back, mimicking the soothing touches she'd given when he had been the one upset.

With a whimper she realized that here she was...totally naked...straddling Ryder...while he was touching her...in bed.

She leaned back away from him, eyeing him fearfully and he brought his hands down to her hips, lust for her burning in his eyes as he bit his lip and let his gaze wander over her body. She shuddered in terror at the insinuation...and something else that all sanity dictated shouldn't be present in her mind.

Her body seemed to disagree.

She felt the muscles of her back instinctively trying to arch, to surrender to his dominance and she hated it.

He'd somehow managed to break her sanity to the point where she was becoming steadily more aroused by his hands and eyes wandering over her body.

She was becoming more aware of the hardness inside his pants that was settled between her thighs. She knew she couldn't get away even if she tried, this was going to happen whether she liked it or not...but did that make it acceptable to do what her body was now begging for?

Ryder was still leaning back against the headboard, watching the thoughts swirling behind her blue and yellow eyes.

Parts of her were reacting to him in ways he'd never dared to hope for, he could feel her pulse quickening beneath his fingertips as he watched her nipples harden, could smell her heated arousal as her breathing started to come in short, fast bursts. He looked up at her, locking his eyes with hers as he licked his lips.

Her body was already acknowledging that it belonged to him, now her mind had to follow suit.

A small moan fell from her lips, her eyes closing as he lifted his hips beneath her just enough to make her to lean forward, her hands went to his chest to catch herself as she struggled to keep control of the primal needs coursing through her veins.

Ryder watched her with amusement, just as starved for this as she was and enjoying the hell out of watching her fight it.

Her breathing was becoming more labored, her lips parting despite her best efforts and soft little sighs were escaping her; her fingertips were digging into his chest as her surrendering mind began to paint vivid images of what it was after.

She was losing this battle miserably, but managed to rationalize it to herself like this: she had two choices, be raped by someone she was attracted to and run the risk of further injury, or submit to her own desire for him and make the best of it.

Ryder groaned and panted as she leaned down and took his mouth in a starved kiss, her hands quickly getting to work on ripping open the front of his shirt.

He sat up and smiled as she pulled the material away from him, seeing her eyes wander over the wounds she'd given him with her knife the day they'd met. She held him close and his body trembled uncontrollably to have her bare chest pressed to his.

He was keeping his thoughts on what she was doing, the way she felt, the way she tasted, desperately avoiding thoughts that would stir his violent tendencies.

It surprised him to realize he didn't want to hurt her in this...he actually felt honest fear that he might lose control and take her life and was working to avoid it.

This wasn't his normal release, this was what had been promised by her touches that day he'd found her on the side of the road. He usually needed the screams of unadulterated terror, the fighting...but she just felt so damned good, her hot little mouth against his jaw...the sound of her breathy moans in his ear...her hands in his hair as he dipped his head down and kissed her breasts.

She was grinding against him through the material of his pants and he'd had enough of the torture already, taking her with him as he stood from the bed. She smiled as he let her down to stand on her own two feet and kissed him teasingly as she unfastened his belt and left a trail of hot kisses down his chest and stomach.

He eyed her in disbelief as she knelt before him, her mouth and hands suddenly providing a blinding level of pleasure as he grabbed a handful of her hair. She let her eyes flutter closed and it was all he could do to keep standing as she took him to the back of her throat.

The guttural sounds coming from him left her panting and soaked, he just didn't hold back...didn't care what sounds he made, just let loose whatever growl or groan her touches inflicted on him and it was intoxicating.

He grabbed her by the back of her arms, pulling her up the front of him until she was standing and pulled her body flush with his, staring at her in that pained pleasure she'd grown so addicted to.

His eyes were like bottomless pits, his entire body so hot and hard as he panted, his rough hands sending fire through her every time they made contact with her flesh.

She kissed him hungrily as he lay her back on the bed and positioned her right where he wanted her as if her weight were meaningless, spreading her legs and giving a twisted smile as he moved between them.

She stared up into his eyes as he inched his way inside of her, watched his face agonize over the pleasure coursing through his body and wrapped her legs around him, keeping him linked to her...reminding him with her hands in his hair and kisses on his jaw that this was different, that he was welcome, that he didn't have to hurt her...

Part of her was terrified that he'd slip over the edge at any moment, that he'd fall into old habits and she'd be dead before he even realized what he was doing. The fact that she knew he was terrified of the exact same thing...that he would grieve for it so completely made her sympathy for him stir. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he slid his arms beneath her to hold her closer.

It wasn't something he did because he wanted to, it was just something he did. Nothing would make him stop and he knew that. He couldn't switch it off, he couldn't just decide to be sane...it was for this reason he wanted someone to end it, and his decision that he needed to be stopped was the one redeeming quality he had, it was what drew her to him...the reason why she couldn't get herself to see through him like everyone else did.

His was a painful, miserable and deadened existence. He brought no good to the world and the world, in turn, offered no joy or warmth to him.

These were his final minutes and they were filled with the first real pleasure he'd ever experienced in his life.

He kissed her hair and let her moans wash over him, his body tensing as she rocked her hips in time with his.

There was a sadness filling him along with all the rest of it as he realized that he didn't want this to end. If he wasn't so broken he would have given anything to stay there with her, she calmed his soul and soothed his shattered mind with her touches...but it wasn't to be. He was what he was and nothing would change it.

Tears were streaming down her face when he looked down at her and she brought her hand to his cheek, caressing it as tears of his own fell in her palm.

He kissed her so sweetly then, the way she'd shown him, letting her taste all of the pain and joy and pleasure and sorrow that was storming inside of him. They were both crying as they reached their climax, holding onto one another and calling out in ecstasy and grief that this was all there was for them.

Moments passed after it was over and neither of them could bare letting go, this was where it ended and they both knew it.

The sounds of sirens far off in the distance broke the silence and Ryder sat up in the bed, pulling her along with him and looking down at her sorrowful eyes with his own.

"Time to go..." He whispered and she nodded as she fought back a sob.

He stood, motioning for her to get dressed and she noticed that he had washed the blood from her clothes in the tub, they were now hanging up to dry and she gave a weak smile. It hadn't been nearly long enough and the material was still damp but at least they weren't bloody. She pulled them on and watched him pull on his pants and sit on the edge of the bed to wait for her.

Her heart was breaking inside her chest as she approached him, seeing the gun in his hand and sobbing as he held it out to her.

She knelt in front of him and he tilted his head to the side, his sad face forever burning into her memory.

He asked the question he needed to ask, the one from his dream. "Why are you crying?" He whispered and she hugged him, letting him kiss her forehead as she cried harder.

"Because I don't want you to die. Because I love you." She choked out and he took a deep breath, holding her closer as he closed his eyes.

The sirens were getting closer, they didn't have much time. He held her at arm's length and whispered softly to her. "What does it feel like?" He asked, studying her tear-streaked face.

She struggled to find words, her voice barely audible past the lump in her throat. "It hurts...but it's a different kind of pain..." She whispered and he smiled, putting the gun in her hand.

"I really wish I could have felt that for you." He said honestly as he caressed her cheek with his hand and leaned forward, kissing her lips sweetly.

She couldn't contain the sob that formed in her throat at his words and held on to him desperately, knowing it would be the last time.

He urged her to stand and looked her in the eyes. "Time's up." He whispered, waiting for her to take a deep breath and nod.

"Where?" She asked through gritted teeth and he smiled that she'd asked.

Did he want it to be quick or slow? That was what she meant.

If it had been someone else pulling the trigger he would have said slow, would have wanted to experience every second of his own death in one last hope of understanding the fear and pain he inflicted. But for her he wanted this to be over quickly, knew she would stay with him after he was gone and wanted to spare her watching him suffer.

He guided the gun to his forehead, looking up at her one last time. "Thank you..." He breathed as his face relaxed and eyes closed.

This was the only way, she had to do it...but it didn't make it any easier.

He listened to her take a deep breath to steady her nerves and smiled in relief at the sound.

"Goodbye, Ryder...I'll miss you..." She whispered.

That shot echoed through her mind long after the sound had faded away.

She lay down on the bed, curling up beside him and weeping uncontrollably, touching his still smiling lips and wishing things had been different, part of her wanting to take it back, to relive the past few minutes and not pull that trigger...but it was a selfish wish. He wasn't suffering any more and the world was a safer place...even if her heart ached every day for the rest of her life it had still been the right decision.

There were vehicles skidding to a halt outside now, a chorus of sirens wailing their arrival and she leaned down to him, kissing his lips and sobbing before forcing herself to stand and walk away from him. She knew she'd left a piece of her heart by his side, it would never leave him.

She exited the room into the blindingly bright sun of mid morning, her ears barely hearing anything as she slipped into shock.

The officers were swarming the main office and she walked across the parking lot toward them in a daze. Her feet felt heavy and her eyes were struggling to stay open, she just wanted to go back and lay down in that bed and cry forever but she knew she needed to keep moving.

Above all other sounds, all of the background noise, she heard him.

Her anchor, her blue eyed angel.

He raced toward her and she stood still, breaking down completely at the sight of him and collapsing into his arms once he reached her. She held onto him like life itself, hiding away from the world in the safety of his arms. Those eyes were frantically searching her for injuries as he hurriedly carried her away from the rooms, unsure if Ryder would be coming out any time soon. He was kissing her face, telling her that he was so relieved that she was safe, tears in his eyes as he held her to his chest protectively.

But she just couldn't stop crying, through the ride in the ambulance or the days that followed in the hospital. Her family had flown in, finally made aware of what was going on by Esteridge while she was too stricken to protest him calling them.

Everyone just assumed she was traumatized by her time with a killer and offered their support, her room was filled with flowers and weak smiles, teary eyes and hands squeezing hers in reassurance. None of it could stem the pain. None of them knew what she was going through...

But Esteridge knew.

He was the only person who understood that she wasn't dealing with some traumatic event, she was grieving.

The fact that he knew this, had come to terms with the fact that something had happened between her and Ryder that no one else had seen and still stayed by her side was incredible.

His hand was molded for hers, there wasn't a moment when he wasn't there with her, she wondered if he ever ate or slept in the days...the weeks that followed as she struggled to come out of her shell.

Three months had passed since that gunshot and she still heard it in her dreams. The pain hadn't lessened at all, but at least she was learning to function despite it.

She had moved in with Esteridge and her mother was positively thrilled, he was like a flesh and blood character out of a John Wayne movie that her little girl had set out on a trip cross country to land.

He had informed her that she needed to stop calling him Esteridge, it wouldn't work since very shortly it would be her own last name as well.

And so he was her "Michael" now, fittingly enough since the man was her angel, and the love she found in those blue eyes still astounded her.

Nothing had been able to stress her out since he'd stepped in. He'd taken care of every detail as she 'recovered', right down to having all of her belongings shipped to his house within a day of her accepting his invitation to stay with him. He'd even asked her mother to come stay for a few weeks, not wanting to leave Alisha alone once he eventually had to return to his duties. To say her mother was tickled pink would be putting it mildly.

She wasn't accustomed to having a man take care of her as he did, and if she wasn't so thoroughly mentally exhausted she figured she would have done something to mess it all up. But for the first time she felt a sense of contentedness, like she could breathe.

Or at least she had felt that way, until just a moment earlier.

The cloud free sky outside was a brilliant blue, birds chirping happily in the cool morning air. Michael was downstairs in his office filling out paperwork and she had slipped up to their room, unable to put this off any longer.

Who would have thought two little pink lines on a strip could have such an effect on a woman? She stared at it as she sat on the edge of the tub, terrified and excited all at once.

Her hand wandered to her belly and she chewed the inside of her cheek, letting her fingers dip a little lower to Ryder's heart on her hip.

She knew this should be a horribly tough decision to make, but her mind instantly refused to consider putting an end to it.

It could be either of them, after all...and even if it wasn't Michael she couldn't stomach the thought of killing Ryder twice.

Movement caught her eye and she turned to see him standing in the doorway, watching her with those loving eyes.

"Was wondering when you were gonna take one of those damned things." He said with a smile and she forced one in return, watching him approach and kneel down in front of her. He sighed and took her hands in his. "Look, I know..." He trailed off, giving her that half-smile he used when he didn't want to say something and she nodded.

He sat down beside her and pulled her up into his lap, kissing her cheek before continuing. "But it doesn't matter because we're together and even if..."

She laughed softly as this time the half-smile was paired with an arched brow.

"I'll love you both just as much, got it?" He asked and she grinned and nodded excitedly.

He chose to keep to himself the reasons why he'd never had children with his ex-wife, deciding that this child was his no matter the blood that would course through its veins...

"So we're having a baby, huh?" He said, his smile widening as he bounced her on his knee.

She burst into laughter and tears, hugging him and shaking her head that she was actually saying the words. "We're having a baby!"