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Fanfic: Time

Chapter 1:

"And remember me tonight
When you're asleep...
Because tonight will be the night that I will fall for you
Over again
Don't make me change my mind
Or I won't live to see another day
I swear it's true
Because a girl like you is impossible to find..."
~ Secondhand Serenade

*************************

"If you don't follow me up here Micki, I'm going to be very disappointed."

"What the hell's up this hill anyway?"

"It's a surprise." He held his hand out to her, "C'mon."

"A surprise?" She wasn't sure she was going to like this. Of all the hills in San Francisco to investigate, Johnny had chosen the longest and seemingly steepest of the lot.

A hill in San Francisco is not just any hill. San Francisco hills are infamous for being the most treacherous, 4-speed roll-back collision hills in the nation. Perilously narrow streets made narrower by cars forced to street park at perpendicular angles to the curb--on roadways so steep, the narrow homes lining them are split level starting with one story and ending with two on the downhill side. And this hill was certainly living up to that reputation.

"Johnny, I'm tired."

"You won't be if you give me your hand and come on up here."

"You're not going to tell me, are you?" she asked reluctantly, trudging up the sidewalk to him and accepting his hand.

"Where's the fun in that?"

Fun indeed, Micki thought, as she let him half drag her up the hill, holding her arm up every now and again like a parent encouraging a toddler to keep up. Dammit, his legs were longer and she was stuffed. She had just finished eating about half her weight in lasagna, and polished off more than her fair share of a bottle of Niebaum/Coppola Cabernet. Hill climbing wasn't the first thing on her mind right now--crawling into a warm hotel bed and nodding off for ten or so hours before their flight back to Chicago tomorrow afternoon was.

But if she had to characterize this evening, she'd have to label it fun. Fun was a rare thing to experience with her normally laconic partner. Fanciful in wit but often distant in emotion, tonight he was an unusual blend of playful and courteous. Should she dare say even gentlemanly? He'd even paid for their dinner of all things. She supposed she should be getting wary and just call it a night before his attentions reached a dangerous level, but something in her right now just didn't care. They'd gotten back the ivory letter opener and he was her friend and tonight they were just having a hell of a good time. He was a man, why shouldn't he treat her like a lady for once. If you can call dragging a very full, slightly tipsy lady up one mother of a hill at ten o'clock at night gentlemanly.

With more than a little effort, Micki managed to reach the peak of the hill without collapsing in a panting heap. Alcohol did not do much for strengthening the physique for endurance. To her utmost dread, she realized Johnny was tugging her towards an alley-like path to the right--a path that quickly ascended into a long steep stretch of stairs up into the woodsy hillside.

"Whoa, hold on," she said as she dropped his hand and bent at the waist a bit, laying her hands above her knees, catching her breath. He turned and gave her a disapproving look.

"You're not going to give out on me now," he insisted.

She lifted her head. "Why not?"

"Because I'm counting on you."

"Counting on me for what? To train for the triathlon?"

"No, to follow me up this damn hill."

"Could we settle for a shorter hill?"

He set his hands on his hips and leered playfully at her. "No, I need us to ascend *this* hill in particular."

"I'll make you a deal. You tell me what's so great about this hill and I'll consider making an attempt to climb it for you, okay?"

"Don't you trust me, Micki?"

"No. Next question."

He laid his hand over his mouth, thinking. "All right then, what if I told you there was an amazing feat of human engineering up here that just couldn't be missed...would you come?"

She arched her back and eyed him with a dubious expression. "That's the best you can do?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

She felt her heart rate slowing back down to a more acceptable rhythm and air returning to her lungs. "Okay, if we go at my speed, I'll follow. But what do I get if this isn't the most amazing thing I've ever seen?"

"You get to kick my ass for dragging you up here."

She laughed, "For that, I'll try anything."

She entered the alley with him and at the top of a second torturous flight of stairs, the path turned into a pleasant red brick-lined walkway winding up the hillside in a long circle, past the front doors of some fine whitewashed stucco homes.

"People live here?" she wondered, amazed at the hike it would take in from the street, not to mention the perilous parking situation.

"They certainly do, some of the most expensive homes in the City." His voice was warm and low just above her ear. He walked close to her, his hand lightly brushing across her shoulders as they made the climb.

His faint possessive touch made the mild wine-induced buzz she was experiencing take on a whole new flavor. She supposed she should make an attempt to step away, but the notion soon lost to the pleasant awareness gathering within her. An awareness she had felt before not so long ago in a seemingly abandoned farmhouse. It had never really left her altogether, just gone dormant for a while.

Experience told her that danger lurked around every corner, but somehow wandering recklessly with him around this distant city made her feel exempt from all of that. The day to day peril of their occupation was 2,000 miles away, and tonight the still San Francisco spring air was lulling her into a protected universe where only the present mattered, not the perilous trenches of the past or the uncertain wavering future. Her mind only wanted to focus on the feel of his fingertips brushing the hair from the back of her neck as they moved along.

The path ended, opening up to a roadway lined with parked cars, lights on, people inside, all waiting to drive up the hill. Johnny took her hand again and led her across the street between two cars to a cement sidewalk circling the edge of the steep hill.

"Final climb, Micki," he said, nodding to the cars. "See why we walked?" The cars weren't the only pilgrims making the ascent she noticed, several other humans were joining the climb now, too, almost exclusively in pairs--male-female, male-male, didn't matter, all were most certainly couples.

Micki gave Johnny a wary look. "You're not taking me to a make out spot, are you?"

He did his best to look appalled. "Wha? Micki, where's your head? I'm taking you to see a tower."

"A tower?"

"Yes, in fact, there it is." He pointed to her left. Just clearing the trees was an enormous white glowing tower rising two hundred feet straight up. Tall, thin and narrow, its rounded cap was rimmed by stars flashing in the clear night sky.

Johnny stopped them a moment to fill her in on a bit of San Francisco history. "Coit Tower was built in 1933 by a Mrs. Lillie Hitchcock Coit in memory of her dearly departed husband. He was the City fire chief for 40 years. The tower is symbolic of a fire hose--see what love can do?"

Micki raised an eyebrow over her shoulder at him, "It looks like a penis," she said flatly.

His mouth dropped open. "Micki, you aren't making this very easy for me, you know."

"Making *what* easy, Johnny?"

He appeared to attempt to make a glib come back, but only his twitching lips tried to make the sound. He gave up, shutting his mouth tight and took her hand again instead. "C'mon, I'm not through with you."

"You mean this isn't the part where I get to kick your ass?"

"Not even close," he grumbled, leading her away from the glowing phallus and out toward the edge of the rounded parking lot. As they cleared the distance, Micki was suddenly overcome by the view.

"Oh my god..." she breathed, as Johnny pulled her forward toward the viewing ledge. Coit Tower sat atop Telegraph Hill, one of the tallest, narrowest hills in the City. At its peak where they now stood, one could see far into the night over San Francisco and the surrounding bay. Johnny took her hands and half lifted her up onto the wide ledge next to him so she could see from the bright pastel-lit apartment rooftops of Pacific Heights and Russian Hill, out over the Marina's sail boat slips to Fort Mason, jutting out into the water in front of the red glow of the distant Golden Gate Bridge. Panning across the bay waters to the flashing beacon of Alcatraz, they could see over to the far Oakland city shoreline and white cable lights of the Bay Bridge.

A near-360 degree view speckled with red and green port and starboard lights of freighter ships and smaller craft navigating the dark shallow waters of the bay, their lonely horns bellowing across the waves. Below them and around them, people huddled in twos on the grassy slope or sat upon the ledge, some peered into the night through binoculars. A very popular spot indeed.

Micki tore her eyes away from the view long enough to look at Johnny, her mouth still slightly open in amazement. She was about to make a comment to that effect, but instead found herself taken aback by the brilliant green glint in his sleepy eyes, lit by the white glow of Coit Tower. Johnny wasn't looking out to sea at all. He was looking at her, only her. He still held her gently by her wrists and she felt herself suddenly shook by a nervous tremble.

"You cold?" he asked quietly, his careful gaze unrelenting.

"No," she managed.

"Well, come here anyway," he said, pulling her into his arms, wrapping her inside the edges of his leather jacket. He held her close to him and she let herself be surrounded by his welcoming warmth, her arms circling around his waist. She felt her trembles ease and her nerves calm. It was so easy to be in his arms. She had certainly been held by him before and she realized now how much she had missed it. But again, this was a very different situation--they weren't in danger or afraid they were about to lose each other. She was just here with him sharing an evening, and for once really genuinely enjoying his company. Why shouldn't she enjoy being close to him as well? She sighed quietly and relaxed even further against him, allowing herself to revel in the mild musky scent of him intermixed with the thick essence of leather. She closed her eyes.

For several long minutes they stayed like that. His hand gently stroking her back in lazy circles. She didn't move, but presently he lowered his head and she imagined she could feel him smiling into her hair, planting a gentle kiss there.

"Still feel like beating the crap out of me?" he asked, his voice muffled by her hair.

"Hmm, thinking about it..." she answered, her voice taking on a drowsy quality that had nothing to do with tiredness.

He pulled back from her slightly, and lifted his hand to tip her chin up to him. She met his deep gaze, watching his eyes dance across her face with expectation. He was going to try that kiss again she mused, a strange calm taking her over. He'd been trying all night she realized--dinner, wandering about North Beach in and out of absurd novelty stores, fumbling through Washington Square Park in the dark, and finally climbing the ridiculous hills to this place--all a plot to get her close enough to kiss.

She wasn't about to disappoint him. The curiosity was too much to bear another near-miss. She held very still and let him guide her lips gently against his, warm and soft, just a glancing touch that didn't pull back but hovered, just a fraction from contact before moving in again to gently press against her. Hardly a kiss at all, she dimly thought, but somehow appropriate. His hands were cupped about her face, his thumbs brushing her cheeks lightly. After a few moments he pulled back to gauge her response.

The newly awakened part of her wanted to slug him for being so damned reserved, but she knew the insecure percentage of his character was waiting for her to give him further instruction as to what direction this little experiment should take. She gave him his answer in the form of a warm smile and a verbal gibe.

"Is that the best you can do?"

He pursed his lips in annoyance. "Yeah, that's what I thought," he murmured low, as he pulled her to him, burying his hand in her hair and bringing her mouth to his.

His second attempt was better--much better--as his mouth came down on hers with a considerably less-guarded touch. He pressed and moved deliberately against her, separating her lips and moving to envelope her top lip between his before making a clean sweep of her lower, plumper lip, pulling it into his mouth, running the leading edge of his tongue across it, getting a good taste of it, before ending with a tiny nip.

He tipped her head back to look at her, still holding a palmful of her hair, his expression more assertive. "Better?" he asked.

They were suddenly startled by a blaring horn not six feet away. Turning, they saw a pile of young adults bouncing out of the back of a pickup, running toward two twenty-somethings embracing in the blaring truck's headlights.

"Hey everyone," one of the gang was yelling between horn blasts. "Our friends just got engaged!"

A number of couples paused in their own romantic endeavors to applaud the starry-eyed duo still held close to one another in the glare of the lights.
Micki gave a little laugh, shaking her head. He held her close, chuckling himself.

"I think this place might be a bit *too* romantic," he admitted.

"Well, subtlety was never your style, Johnny," she said, giving him a squeeze.

"Maybe we should go," he decided, and pulled away from her. He jumped down off the ledge and turned, motioning her forward. He grabbed her at the waist and lifted her down. She took the opportunity to circle her arms around his neck, planting a kiss on his cheek, not yet ready to separate for the evening.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were getting attached to me," he teased, returning the kiss on her forehead.

"Don't piss me off, Johnny," she reminded him, blithely.

"Don't worry," he said, gathering her arms gently from around his neck and taking her hand. "The night's gone pretty well so far..."

So far? she wondered, eyeing him carefully, walking with him back across the lot toward the tower path. There was going to be *more*? She felt her breath catch in her throat as it constricted. She looked sidelong at him and he must have been reading her thoughts because he was giving her a smug grin.

Against her will, she felt the fear once again whispering to her, breaking up her otherwise pleasantly contented demeanor. What was he up to? Certainly he didn't presume he'd be taking her back to the hotel and getting her in the sack that easily? Well, maybe he could, she admitted to herself. But, *still*. She must have been tensing up because he now looked concerned and shook her arm by the hand he held to loosen her up.

"Hey Micki, don't lose me here. We're just going for a walk, okay?"

"We've been going for a walk all night," she said, her voice sounding tighter than she wanted it to be.

He squeezed her hand gently, "Walking is okay isn't it? Maybe another kiss or two if I'm lucky?"

She relaxed then. This was Johnny after all, not some gropey blind date. He'd been perfectly behaved with her for almost two years now, what on earth did she think she had to worry about? He was certainly going to behave if she asked him to. The real problem was she wasn't sure she wanted to have the option. A large part of her just wanted him to pounce and have it done with already. He'd been driving her nuts for far too long with his little off-color comments and long soulful looks. She was in love with him, she knew that--had been for a very long time, too long. Then why did the thought of giving herself up to him terrify her so much? Was she afraid of disappointing him? Maybe, maybe that was it. Or maybe it was the thought of stepping ahead before either one of them was fully prepared to deal with it.

They walked in silence for a while back down the hill. Downhill was certainly more manageable than uphill--and easier to think, more oxygen going to the brain. His expression was unreadable now as he strolled along beside her, giving her some mental space. The only difference from their trek up was the way his thumb was gently caressing the back of her hand as he held it, swinging his arm a bit. He certainly seemed relaxed. Maybe he was faking it.

"Johnny?"

His eyes dropped to hers again. "Yeah?"

"You okay with this?" she asked, for nothing else than just to feel him out a little. To see if he was experiencing any of the same confusion she was.

"Yeah Mick, I'm okay with this. I'm *very* okay with this," he answered her steadily.

"You don't think we're going to regret this tomorrow?"

He gave her the same look he had a minute earlier to loosen her up. He shook his head. "Taking you to dinner and dragging you up Telegraph Hill for a little smooch? No...I'd never regret anything about tonight; you know that. We're not breaking any laws here...it was just our time, that's all."

He certainly had a way of summating everything so simply she thought with envy. Why did it have to be so much harder for her? She couldn't be nearly as complacent about this whole thing, her mind working overtime to try and suppose the whole thing out.

"Well, suppose this evening winds up being, well, more than a...more like a...*situation*," she finished with a frustrated release of breath.

"You propositioning me, Micki?"

"Dammit Johnny, stop being so..."

"What?"

"So sure of yourself." She stopped then, hands crossing her chest, glaring at him.

"Whoa woman. Get a grip. You're going rabid on me here." He took her hand and brought it to his lips. She immediately loosened and felt herself calm a few pegs.

"I think I've got something figured out," he said, dragging her knuckles across his lips. "You're fine as long as I'm touching you."

She sighed and let her hand smooth over the side of his face. "Touch me, then," she said softly, and he obeyed. Taking her by the waist, Johnny pushed her gently back against the brick wall and with full intent, proceeded to indulge himself in her mouth. Long, slow, delicious open kisses, his tongue sliding against hers, tasting her, brushing his fingers over her face, slipping an arm low, drawing her closer to him. His lips played against hers in a teasing rhythm for a while before pressing hungrily to her again, exploring the soft recesses of her mouth. His kisses tasted pleasantly of mint and dry wine and something else altogether uniquely him. She was enthralled by it--by discovering him this way.

Micki felt her hands rising up around the back of his neck, encouraging him in his endeavors, freely releasing the confines of her mouth to him. Everything within the reach of his lips was his for the taking. She was losing her fear quickly as the deep pull of lust began to take over her trepidatious mind. She soon felt herself issuing a pleasant hum, lost in the play of his lips to which he responded fervently.

After a dizzying length of time, he released her, letting them catch their breath. "Feel better?" he murmured, rubbing his forehead against hers, his mouth moist and beautiful, still just a few inches from her lips.

She was breathing as if she had just climbed another hill, nodding she answered, "Much better. What took you so long?"

"What took me so long?" he asked, pulling back and smiling at her. "It was you giving me the look of death."

"The what?"

"You heard me, a guy knows better than to try and shag his business partner nowadays."

"Are you saying the thought's crossed your mind before?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Yes."

"Okay, yeah, I always thought you were pretty hot."

"Always--you're saying from the beginning?"

"Sure, from the beginning."

She dropped her eyes then and began to giggle, shaking her head. He reached out and touched her chin, raising it to look at him again.

"What?" he asked, trying not to laugh.

"Oh no Johnny, you don't get it. You could have had me so easily back then."

"Excuse me?"

"That night we, um, first met at the Silver Dollar. I found myself, well, very attracted to you."

He crossed his arms and dipped his head to her, incredulous. "You've *got* to be kidding."

She opened her mouth as if to debate him, and then snapped it shut. "Afraid not."

"Jesus Micki, I was an ass back then. If that was a turn-on, well then how do I rate on the Micki Foster desire scale now?"

"Who said this has anything to do with desire?" she asked, batting her eyes at him. Baiting him was becoming much too enticing right now.

"Sometimes I think you deliberately try to make me crazy."

"Well, then maybe you should do something about it."

"Like shutting you up? I can handle that." He bent down and before she could get away, grabbed her below the waist, unceremoniously throwing her up and over his shoulder and trudging down the hill toward the private walkway.

She squealed, bouncing half upside-down, his shoulder digging into her abdomen, suddenly exasperated by her predicament. Thrown over the shoulder like a sack of potatoes, indeed.

"Shit Johnny, put me down!" she yelped, slapping his back as the brick walkway bobbed perilously several feet beneath her.

When did he get so tall?

"What? Can't hear you."

"Johnny, you heard me, put me down!"

"Sorry, can't do that."

Dammit. This was worse than a blind date. Definitely entering strange waters here.

"Johnny...I'm serious," she said lower, in an attempt to actually sound serious.

"So am I," he replied, sliding her back onto her feet and pulling her into one of the whitewashed Telegraph Hill doorways--right onto someone's front porch. There was a bench in the arched alcove in front of the heavy oak front door. Johnny took a seat and reached out to her. "Sit down," he commanded, with an alluring mix of mischief and desire in his eyes.

"Johnny, we can't stop here, this is someone's house," she whispered.

"So?" he argued, looking up at the front door. "Looks pretty quiet to me. Have a seat."

"You're taking up the whole bench," she whined, looking over her shoulder back toward the brick path in time to see two people walk by, oblivious to them in the shadows.

"That's the whole idea..." He took her hand and gently eased her down into his lap, settling her legs across his.

"I still don't think this is a good idea," she said, despite the fact her traitorous hands were winding their way up his neck and back into his hair. It felt just as silky and wonderful as she ever imagined now that she was able to really get her fingers into it.

His eyes, darkened by the shadows, were busily scanning her mouth as his hands came up from her waist and slipped up into the back of her loose sweater, sampling the smooth skin of her back. She issued a little moan and her lips parted as she leaned forward into his kiss.

God, he felt good. A little too good for her calculated and controlled sensibility. She couldn't remember the last time making out with someone felt like this. Or even the last time she'd been kissed properly, or if she had *ever* been kissed properly. The muscles in her limbs were already turning to mud, not to mention the alarmingly advanced condition between her thighs. What the hell was he doing to her? Maybe trust had something to do with it. This really was spinning out of reason a lot faster than she had ever anticipated, but it wasn't something she wanted to let go of either. She was in too deep now to call it off. Front porch or not, she fully intended to see this through to the end--her passion-starved body wasn't going to have it any other way. Good Lord, was she actually considering fucking him right here in his lap, just inches from where these fine folks picked up their morning paper? Johnny was right, where's your head?

"Johnny...?" she breathed, trying to gather a cohesive sentence as he went to work gnawing her neck, his warm hands lushly kneading the flesh on her back. "Um, I think we need to...uh, wait...maybe take this somewhere else."

He mumbled something against her neck...it sounded like an annoyed groan.

"I'm serious, I think...oh god, don't...I think we're going to need a bed." There, well-said. Jesus, he was running his tongue under her ear. "Johnny...?"

He was in no mood to talk and stole her next words with a rough and thorough sweep of her mouth, pressing his lips tightly against hers rooting for the closest fit, one hand escaping her sweater to tangle into the back of her hair. He drew her even closer to him, pressing her tightly into his lap leading her to discover *exactly* how okay he was with this. So maybe sex in public wasn't such a bad idea after all? She made a reach for his fly.

That, for some odd reason, stopped him cold. He took her hands and gently held them together against his chest. He surrounded her with his arms, tucking her under his chin and began rocking her, shushing her, stroking her hair. She was still wiggling in his embrace as he tried to bring her back down a little, kissing the top of her head. Calming her.

"Micki, I want you to listen to me for a moment," he said, with a rough edge to his usual throaty half-voice.

"Hmm...?" she murmured, swiveling in his grasp, trying to free herself to get another taste of his mouth.

"Listen to me," he said beseechingly, holding her shoulders and dipping his head to look closely at her. The normally soft hazel of his eyes were drenched into deeper hues by the pull of his arousal. "I need you to make a decision for us."

She stared back at him, dazed, taking a minute to try and shift gears. First he wanted her to let go of reason, now he wanted her to stop and think in some kind of rational manner while her thigh was taking a perfect reading of his pulse through his jeans? What the hell?

"Okay...what?"

"I need you to think very carefully and tell me if this is what you really want."

Her sharp and somewhat hurt intake of breath forced him to rephrase his question.

"I know you want this--believe me, I know. What I need you to realize is that if we let this happen tonight there's no going back. We...*I* can't pretend like it never happened."

She opened her mouth to try and make a statement, but words escaped her right now. Yes, there would be no going back. She was sure she knew that.

"I don't think I want you to leave this all to me," she said.

"I'd agree, but we both know between the two of us...you're the more sensible one."

She sat still for a moment and let her mind begin to ponder the significance of this night. He'd been playing it nonchalantly only to put her at ease--now she understood his stakes were much higher--he was much more terrified than she was. "I see," she said, and sat up straight, moving out of his lap and taking a close seat next to him, wiping her mouth dry with the back of her hand. His eyes followed her, desperate but committed to whatever response she would give him. "I suppose we should think about what happens when we go back to Chicago," she said, coming more fully into control.

He took her hand suddenly and held it firmly in his. "No, not that. I'm not asking you to rationalize this or analyze the details. Don't let your mind or body decide--neither one is very reliable about these things. We've let our rationalizations bury us long enough--don't listen to the reasons, listen to your feelings. What is Micki Foster telling you to do?"

She closed her eyes and just breathed slowly, trying to find herself deep down under the hurricane of lust raging within her. This wasn't exactly the best time to bring this up. Still, she did know the answer, she'd known it all along. She opened her eyes and began to speak, staring at the swirling patters in the white stucco wall.

"I believe I'm telling myself what I've always known from the beginning. That I'll follow you into whatever danger or challenge might present itself to us. I know my place is with you--it's where I belong; it's where I feel right, complete." She turned to face him directly.

"The truth is Johnny, the farther and harder I've tried to distance myself from you, the more miserable I've been...we've been. I know we belong to one another--I've always known that and I don't, I can't believe that expressing this connection we have is in any way going to change that. If death, separation, suffering, insanity--if none of these things has broken us--how could love possibly break us? How could love ever come between us? That doesn't make any sense to me.

"So to answer for you, yes--I think you were right--there is nothing wrong with what's happening between us tonight--it was just our time."

His face, which he had been patiently holding very still for her to finish her thoughts, softened then into something one could only describe as utter adoration--if an expression taken from so close to the heart could possibly be conveyed in this manner.

"Well come on then," he said standing, taking her hand. "Let's let this happen."

 

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