I have enjoyed this journey immensely and thank you for being a part of it. Many thanks to BlindLoveFreeSpirit, dretti, Alison, ImaginationOnTheLoose, EndlessDreamer1024, saturn567, a passer by and eveyone who has read, enjoyed, cried for, felt and lived in this story. Not only do I raise a glass to Nina and everyone she represents past and present but to the people who surrounded her, the family, friends. healthcare professionals and lovers who fight and love that much harder. Enjoy the trivia at the end. The end. God, that sounds final. Well, who knows/xxx

Hyattsville, Maryland

His eyes danced around the room then settled. "Nice place, Vision Girl."

She gave him a cold Tiger Beer that had been chilling for months. "This is the closest you'll get, Owusu. What kind of name is "Bright" anyway?"

"At least Bright connotes light, vision and intelligence. What does Jessica mean? Bimbo."

"You got me."

"I never figured you for the snow type, guess I was wrong."

"I'm not an addict."

"You just handle it better than he does."

"Hey, this is my turf. Sometimes I want to escape it all; the Bureau, the responsibility,"

"What about the man?"

"He's just like me."

"Whose fault is that?"

"What do you mean?

"Were you always like him or did you become that way?"

"I don't know and I don't know why Desirée's on his case either. Why is she running it?"

"Because she works for the Drug Enforcement Agency." His sarcasm went unappreciated. "You think she's got a grudge against you?"

"I shot her husband, I fought with her and she can't stand me. She has his kid and another coming, she has the ring; she has him. And what do I have? A coke-snorting doctor of an on-off boyfriend."

"And a co-worker to keep your secrets."

"If this is the point where you push up on me because you think I'm vulnerable you're wrong. You have redeeming qualities but you can't help."

"You want to be the best Agent you can be? Let it go. Let go of the emotions that make you weak and irrational. Let go of the love you have for Tano and Colin, the jealousy you have for Desirée, and the guilt for what you've done. Then you can move on and do whatever you want. You can endure all the horror this job shows you, you can sleep with whoever you want without leaving a trace behind and you can let me love you...or not. See? It's easy."

Bethesda, Maryland

Desirée returned home to find Colin packing Lucia's things into laundry bags. Flat, folded cardboard boxes leaned against the wall. "What are you doing, and where's Ryan?"

"He fell asleep at the food scene in Hook. You know; his favourite." She gestured towards the bags with puzzlement. "She left rehab so she has to leave here."

"You can't..."

"We need a fresh start. I found a place, a bigger one, it'll take longer to get to work but the rent is the same as here. And we'll need more room seeing as Leon got parole, thanks to you."

"Great for him. So we celebrate by kicking out your mother. This is so wrong."

"Say that when your mom's been an alcoholic for as long as you remember. I'm tired of waking up and seeing her here every day. I'm sick of it."

"Where is she?"

"Somewhere between here and Michigan."

"She'll never go away Colin. You have to face her."

"No I don't. I'm doing fine without her and she's not your responsibility."

"She'll never do this on her own."

"She'll never do it period. The worst thing you can do is hope for something when it'll never happen."

"I guess that's the difference between you and me. That hope keeps me alive."

"What if she comes back on Ryan's birthday or mine or ever and ruins everything, what then?"

"She can't take this life away from you, from us. You've got to believe that." His face went ice-white as she crouched and clutched her stomach.

"Is it...?"

Hyattsville, Maryland

The half-eaten tray of chocolates sat on the coffee table, inviting their consumers to devour more than lay before them. "Why her?" She asked, as though he had the answer.

"Because. The fact is; you choose us long before we choose you. That's how we fall."

"You don't. I've seen you at the bar with a different woman for every state."

"It's not about sex. Sex is nothing but what it represents when we're having it. It was bad, wasn't it; as incomplete as the relationship? He couldn't fulfil you anywhere unless you were out of it. Tell me I'm lying."

"I think...I've had enough wine, enough chocolate and enough you...truth, I meant truth."

"Sure you did."

"Were you serious about keeping my secrets?"

"What do you want to say?"

"I'm lost. Somewhere deep inside my heart is broken and I can't make it better. That's why you need to stop coming onto me 'cause sleeping with you would take me back. And I don't want to go back there."

"I can take the hint Jess. Goodnight."

Two months later,

Baltimore, Maryland

"Hey." Leon navigated his way around their new kitchen.

"Hey, coffee?" Desirée offered as she sterilised bottles and prepared a pot to keep up with Shawn's demands.

"Sure, night shift."

"You found something?"

"Cleaning offices downtown; the pay sucks but hey...I'm not trying to get between you and my brother."

"I know. Milk, sugar?"

"Black and strong, thanks. I saw Ryan's tractor was broken, I can have a look at it tomorrow."

"You don't have to do that."

"Let me?"


"I heard about Mom leaving rehab and going back to Michigan. You tried. We've all been there but Colin's right; she always crawls back into the bottle."

She sighed and sat down at the card table. "I couldn't live with seeing my mother like that. Then again, I've never had to; the most frivolous thing my mother did was marry an Army man."

"You moved around a lot?"

"Yeah, but we were together."

"We weren't. Physically maybe, but a family is the last thing I'd call us."

"Then why did Colin go so far to get you out? There's no other feasible reason."

"I should've seen that coming."

"Believe it or not, I don't have a problem with your being here. My problem is with what you did. But I'm not judging you and you have a home. So maybe you shouldn't judge Lucy because she doesn't."

"I've been alone for a long time and the only reason I'm here is to feel a fraction of what he's been feeling. And I'd like you to tolerate that, even when you don't like it. By the way, she drank that '94 Napa Valley you were saving." He kissed her cheek and took the coffee with him.

Chevy Chase, Maryland

Chloe wasn't surprised to see Janice at her father's house because she knew she had to come back for what she had taken. "Are you home alone?"

"No, Dad's putting a slide in the backyard for Joshua."

"Good. We can talk."

"Can we?"

"I'm not here to argue."

For once, she saw the house on the inside. "Why didn't you tell me you're getting married? And you're pregnant Mom, you're pregnant."

"Chloe, I'm not. I'm not getting married and I'm not pregnant. It was a false positive and a huge wake-up call."

"What do you mean?"

"I've made a lot of mistakes and the biggest of all was you. I let you go away because you're the truth and I'm sorry. I wanted and needed to prove I could do this alone, that I could move on, and I never thought I should be holding on to you stronger than ever. And here you are, at arm's length. I'm so sorry."

"I only moved here because you didn't need me anymore; Dad needs me."

"No, I need you. I forgot that your happiness is mine and we'll never be happy until we're together again. Come home."

"What about Calvin?"

"Calvin is...someone I need fit into this new life of ours but not until it's better. I jumped the gun on that."

"What about Dad? If I go, if I leave him, what would he think?"

"You can't leave him; you're his daughter and he won't think any less of you than he does now."

"I don't want to come home to be part of a broken family."

"We may be apart..."


"Okay divorced, but we don't have to be broken. Not when the love is so strong."

Alexandria, Virginia

Toussaint walked through the open glass sliding door to find Nicole fighting to close the not-so-small suitcase that was supposed to be a trolley dolly. Sitting on it and zipping one stubborn corner, she looked up at the man Nina christened Chocolate Ken after a Living Single marathon. "Phones don't work from Honduras, huh?"

"Glad to see you too, Nicole. Finally, the workaholic becomes her mother's daughter. Life is for the living." He helped her up with his right hand. "How are you?"

"I'm...pretty good. It's our fifth anniversary the day,"

"...after tomorrow. I know, Nina called it 'the day you became mortal and finally let God do his thang'."

"Yeah, that's her."

"Where are you going?"

"Costa Rica."

"Then let me leave you with a parting gift."

"You don't have to give me anything. I only wanted you to love her."

"Take it all the same. I'm moving back to Cameroon, to work within my own border. And if you ever need or want anything, it's never hard to find me."

He left the same way and she finally overcame the suitcase and then, her curiosity overcame her. She unwrapped a well-worn vinyl of Regina Belle's 'If I could' and didn't have to play it to know the words or to hear the rasp of Nina's former smoker's voice again and smile.

Again if you need a link for the music I mention, PM me.

Toussaint, the name I got from Toussaint L'Ouverture and Toussaint Jones from "For Colored girls who have comsidered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf". I wrote him because I wondered what would happen if Nina met her match and yes, I can see how you could fall in love with him BlindLoveFreeSpirit. One of my favourite original characters ever.

So many doctors in this. Janice, Nina and Jess are all involved with them, why? Because they're so revered in society but usually live unexpexted lifestyles. In a way there's only so much they can do, and dealing with life isn't as straightforward. Maybe because of the notion of a doctor being a catch and my desire to play with that. You decide.

Jess and Colin - I find it hard to write them as a couple becuase I don't believe in it. There, I said it. The relationship seemed one-note to me.

I made up the novela A.J.E. because that's what I do. It means Love Never Ages. You can dispute that all you want, I never said it was true.

What else? I get really annoyed with people who don't know the difference between HIV and AIDS. Or those who think people die of AIDS. You don't. Like Nina and Javier, people die of AIDS-related illnesses or other life-threatening illnesses that the immune system is too weak to fight. tibotec dash hiv dot com folks, it's just a starter. We all have so much to learn.

Thank you all so much for being a part of this. Much support to whatever fics YOU come up with.