"Beat it or I'll call the Brute Squad," a wizened midget declared to the two men before him.

"I'm on the Brute Squad," a giant with a body slung over his shoulder protested in a thick voice.

The old man looked the giant up and down. "You are the Brute Squad."

A Spaniard standing to the side interrupted them both. "We need a miracle. It's very important."

The sound of a ringing doorbell interrupted them all, and Lisa sat up, pushing the blanket off. "I'll get it," she said, pausing the movie.

"You sure?" Susan asked.

Lisa nodded. "You stay here."

"M'kay," Susan said sleepily.

Lisa scooted over to her wheelchair, lifted herself into it, and then rolled over to the door, leaving Susan warm and comfortable on the couch.

Susan heard Lisa open the door, heard complete silence, and then a man's voice, too low for Susan to make out what he was saying.

Then more silence, unaccompanied by the closing of the door. Susan got a little worried.

"Hon, is everything okay?"

The open doorway beyond Lisa's chair was empty, and her lover just sat there in the doorway, looking down at something in her lap.

Susan drew up behind her, looking down at Lisa. "Hon?"

The handicapped woman had something clenched in her hands, and her knuckles were white. There was no sign of a man in the hallway.

"Lisa?" Susan asked.

Without saying anything, Lisa passed her the piece of paper and what--a coin--a token?

The piece of paper--which it wasn't all it was--turned out to be a check. A check for a pretty significant amount.

It was signed Jeremiah Storr.

Nine thousand, one hundred, and twenty-five dollars, the amount line proclaimed.

Under the For line, the man had written, Five dollars per day is what I could put aside from my child support and alimony checks. But the cost of five dollars a day can never fix what I did.

The two sentences barely fit on the line. The writing was crunched together, and the i's weren't dotted, but the meaning was clear.

Payment--restitution--for what he'd done.

And the token wasn't a token at all, but a gold coin the size of a poker chip.

On the front of the coin, in the center of a raised circle was the Roman numeral V inside a triangle. The AA logo triangle on the chip was surrounded in raised gold letters with the slogan: To Thine Own Self Be True.

"Clean for five years," Lisa muttered, pulling Susan from her scrutiny of the coin.

"Huh?"

"He's been clean--nonalcoholic for five years in jail," Lisa explained. "AA meetings give you chips when you hit a certain amount of time being clean. I guess Boonville Correctional has an AA."

Susan blinked. "You mean this was his way of telling you--"

"Sorry," Lisa murmured. "That he's sorry for ruining my life."

A tear splashed into her lap, and Susan hugged her from behind. "It's okay," she murmured into her partner's hair.

Shit, she thought. Lisa had been right; Storr had come to visit, and Susan hadn't listened; hadn't done anything to stop him.

And she murmured useless platitudes into Lisa's hair as the other woman sobbed and broke down in her arms like a child.

--+O+--

Three days later, Susan was watching the local evening news when a familiar name splashed across the screen.

"And in local, recent prison parolee Jeremiah Storr committed suicide this morning," the newscaster proclaimed, looking utterly calm and unruffled at the news, and her telecast shrank to fill only one half of the screen as footage of the aftermath of Lisa's accident dominated the rest.

"Storr was recently released from the Boonville Correctional Facility after serving the minimum sentence for a drunk driving offense that resulted in the permanent injury of Osage College student Lisa Lanel five years ago."

A picture of Lisa flashed across the screen, and it was matched up with a picture of a man that Susan had never seen before. Underneath the unfamiliar face, a caption named him as Jeremiah Storr.

His deep-set brown eyes looked surly in the mugshot, and the skin was discolored and ruddy. Dark, heavy eyebrows under a low forehead and hairline gave the impression of stupidity, and the drunken, confused scowl on his face didn't help the overall impression.

That's the man who hit Lisa, Susan thought, and then the meaning of what the anchor had said actually hit her.

Storr was dead.

"Lisa," she called. "Honey, come see this!"

"What is it?" Lisa asked, stumping out of the bedroom on her crutches. She was clad only in boxers and a wifebeater, and Susan thought she looked adorable. But now wasn't the time.

"Um," she began, pointing at the TV.

Lisa took it all in in a glance. "Oh my god," she mumbled, eyes widening as the newscaster let loose the words, "gunshot to the head from an illegally obtained weapon. He was pronounced dead at the scene."

She turned white as milk, and alarmed, Susan jumped forward and grabbed Lisa she sank to the floor.

"I hated him," the woman was mumbling as she stared at the TV. "I hated him, but I didn't want him dead. I didn't want him dead."

"I know."

"I hated him."

"It's okay."

"No it's not. I didn't want him dead."

"Storr leaves behind an ex-wife and a daughter," the newscaster added, and Lisa lost it.

The scream tore from her throat. "I DIDN'T WANT HIM DEAD!"

Harsh, racking sobs shook her, and Susan pulled her into her lap.

All through that day and into the night, Susan listened to a litany of "I'm sorrys" and "I didn't want him deads."

"I know," she would whisper. "I know."

"I didn't want him dead."

--+O+--

Demiches was one of the nicest restaurants in the city, and also one of the most expensive.

Reservations were usually placed weeks in advance, and it had taken a fair bit of wrangling to score a table there.

But it was worth it, Susan knew as she watched Lisa's face light up when they walked through the door.

The entire restaurant looked like an outdoor garden, and eldritch lights glittered everywhere, lending the atmosphere an almost fantastical tone, and talk was muted and quiet, with tables separated by wide distances and short, delicately wrought iron screens.

As Lisa bent over the menu, studying it with an intensity that Susan found lovely, she knew she'd made the right choice in coming here tonight.

She watched as Lisa reached over to signal a server, and she smiled.

They'd both come a long way from a bitter, disabled college student and shy waitress.

And maybe it was time to take another step up.

Susan reached into her pocket and fingered a slim velvet box, quelling her nerves.

Oh, yes, tonight is the night.

They placed their orders with the maƮtre d', and then Susan stood up. "Lisa, would you like to dance?"

The other woman smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."

Lisa still couldn't and would probably never be able to do a foxtrot, so they just stood in the middle of the dance floor, swaying together, much to the chagrin of a few other couples on the dance floor, who were obviously uncomfortable at the sight of two women so obviously in love with each other.

Neither Susan nor Lisa cared.

They returned to the table when the food got there; shared a lovely meal, and at the end, when they were both sated and happy, Susan knew it was time. She reached across the table and took Lisa's hand.

"Lisa, to be your friend was all I ever wanted. To be your lover was all I ever dreamed. And for the past year and a half, I've been both. Now--" she took a breath. "Now I'd like to be one more thing."

She stood up, walked calmly around the table, and knelt down in front of Lisa's chair. She pulled the box from her pocket and flipped it open, showing Lisa the ring inside.

"Lisa Lanel, will you spend the rest of your life with me?"

She didn't want to breathe, didn't dare hope that Lisa would say--that she could want to--that love could overcome all boundaries--

And a single word defined the rest of their lives. "Yes."


Author Note: I thought this would be a good place to leave Lisa and Susan. They were really fun and romantic to write, and I'm gonna miss them. I do have another story that shares some elements with Fire, which is Science Fiction Facial Features, and may at one point cross over with Fire.