~ Salisbury University Student #1370578 ~
by Red Hope

copyright: i own and control these characters and the world they're stuck in.
content: this is free love here, that means gay, straight, and all of the above.
violence: yea since ashley is a cop… trooper.

well i am back to the old grind stone with katia & ashley and hopefully it'll come out well. my thanks to all MST1153 fans for hanging in there and waiting for the overdue sequel. so let's get this story on a roll!

feedback: redhope@redhope.net
web page: http://www.redhope.net
SUS mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SUS1370578/

started: May 3, 2006. Wednesday.

Series 3: Putting the Puzzle Together Series Number: 22     Story Number: 57

Part I

Ashlinn K. Carver lifted her head from her paperwork and peered up as the tall blond bombshell swiftly went past her desk. She slightly turned her head and from the corner of her eye, she watched the tall trooper go into the captain's office. The captain's door quietly closed and Ashley returned her attention to her paperwork. She'd decided awhile ago that sometimes being the First Sergeant wasn't really worth it. There was just too much desk time and paperwork while being a First Sergeant and Ashley preferred the roads. She preferred preventing crime rather than pushing a pencil.

With that thought, Ashley glanced at her desk clock and realized it would be another twenty minutes before her shift was over at six. Just as that thought past her mind, she heard the front door of the barracks open and somebody approached the window. After a brief sigh, she stood up from her chair and went to the window counter. "Can I help you, sir?"

The civilian behind the window was rather young but he kept his wits about himself. He cleared his throat first and finally answered, "I need to get fingerprinted for a job."

"Do you have a driver's license?"

"Yes." The young man pulled out his wallet.

Ashley glanced back over her shoulder and called, "Tarn."

The trooper lifted her head but she remained at her desk.

The First Sergeant nodded at the counter.

Trooper Tarn now understood and she quickly got up.

Officer Carver turned her head back to the young man and said, "Trooper Tarn will take care of you." She then stepped aside as the other trooper took over the duty. Ashley then went back to her desk and tried to finish up her paperwork before she had to leave. When she was finally finished with her administrative work, she organized her desk, picked up her hat, and glanced at the clock one last time. She was going to be late, she knew it.

Ashley decided not to waste another minute and she quickly left her desk. She went through the back of the barracks where her car was parked. As she approached her car, she lifted her remote and clicked the unlock button.

The hunter green Pontiac G6 came to life, fog lights on and doors unlocked.

The trooper slightly smiled at her new car that she'd just recently leased. She knew when she went car browsing last week that it would seal her old Mercedes' fate. And to be honest, Ashley had no quarrels with that fact because her new G6 was everything she wanted and much cheaper.

Ashley opened her car door but she paused before getting into it, her left hand resting on the door. Her eyes though were focussed on the tall, blond bombshell that was coming out of the barrack's backdoor. Instinctively her eyes narrowed to slits as she watched the fellow trooper hurry across the parking lot to the few remaining trooper cars. Ashley was very curious about this new trooper that'd been transferred to her barracks. She knew little of the trooper besides her name: Alexa Haden… Corporal Alexa Haden to be exact. Ashley already had a few bad run-ins with Trooper Haden and mostly due to bad paperwork. She'd concluded that Trooper Haden was much more concerned about catching the criminals than filling out the paperwork properly. Often Ashley found herself irritated and annoyed because she had to fix it all but right now, Ashley needed to go.

Officer Carver finally got into her car and started it up. She first let Trooper Haden speed around and out of the barracks then she hurried off. She headed north on Route 13 but then made a u-turn and took the exit for Route 50 west. She made it back to her home in Mardela Springs in record time. Before she even pulled into her driveway, she spotted a familiar car parked to one side and it made Ashley smile.

As soon as Ashley was out of her car, she was greeted by her expected guest.

"Well there's the birthday girl."

Ashley laughed and scooped up Katia into a strong hug. "It's so good to see you," she whispered next to Katia's ear.

Katia's smile grew wider and she continued to hug Ashley back despite the summer sun was beating down on them. "I missed you… a lot."

The state trooper pulled back some yet her hands remained on Katia's hips.

Katia turned her focus to Ashley's car. "I see you already bought yourself a birthday present."

Ashley laughed and glanced at her new car. "I didn't tell you?"

"I can't believe you didn't," brought up the college student. "I thought you went window shopping."

The trooper cleared her throat and gazed back at Katia. "I did… it has windows."

Katia Danforth rolled her eyes. "Come on, tiger. Let's go inside before I die of heat."

Ashley released the smaller woman and followed her along the patio up to the front door. She held open the screen door while Katia jiggled the door open with her house key.

Katia sighed in absolutely relief when the cool air conditioning hit her hot body. "So much better," she murmured.

"Almost," countered Ashley, who was closing the door behind her.

"You're right about that." Katia turned around but Ashley was already in the motions too. Katia wrapped her hands around the back of Ashley's bare neck and she was met halfway. She slowly kissed her girlfriend because it'd been just about a month since her last one.

Slowly Ashley broke the kiss but her lips shaped into a warm smile. "I'm glad you came down."

"Why wouldn't I?" countered Katia, "I wouldn't have missed your birthday."

Ashley still held her smile as she lowered her forehead against Katia's. "I can't believe how old I am."

That made Katia laugh, her eyes closed for a second. "Yup… you were born twenty-five years ago. Are you going to have a quarter-life-crisis?"

"I think I might," admitted the trooper.

Katia rolled her eyes but then lifted her head to steal another kiss. When she pulled back, she asked, "You hungry?"

Ashley finally straightened up to her full height. "I think so… I know we have dinner plans."

Katia smirked. "Always but we're going to your favourite restaurant… Chickfila." She grabbed Ashley's closest hand and turned on her heels.

The older woman felt herself being tugged along so she followed behind Katia. "As I recall, that's your restaurant." She reached behind her head with her freehand and pulled her hair bun free, her midnight hair flowing down her shoulders.

Katia had an amused expression. "You've told me in your sleep that you love that place."

"Oh god… here we go," sighed the trooper. She now found herself in her bedroom and she knew she needed to get cleaned up. So she released Katia's hand and went into the bathroom to get started.

The college student took a seat on the foot of the bed. "So what took you so long? You were a half an hour late or so."

"I know. I'm sorry about that," called Ashley from the bathroom. "I was doing a lot of paperwork."

"You seem to be doing more and more of that as time goes on." Katia was staring at the empty doorway of the bathroom.

"Yeah, I didn't realize how much administrative work there is with being a First Sergeant."

Katia frowned at the news. "How often do you get to patrol?"

"Only like once a week if I am lucky."

Katia sighed at Ashley's response. She listened to the distinct sound of Ashley washing her face, the faucet continuously running. "I thought you said that you were going to be a detective or... in training."

"I thought so too," called back Ashley, "but with this new captain I'm not sure what's going on right now."

Katia slid off of the bed and went to the bathroom doorway, she leaned against it. "What's her name? Captain Jonson?"

Ashley was topless except for her bra and she had her uniform pants still on while her shirt rested on the toilet seat. "Yes." She picked up her toothbrush and toothpaste and as she squeezed the paste onto the brush she continued to speak. "I think there may be something going on right now." She snapped the cap back on her toothpaste tube and set it down. Before she began brushing, she also added, "There's a new trooper that was transferred in recently."

Katia dropped her head against the doorway and she had a curious look. "How do you like the new trooper?" The only immediate response she received was a death look from her girlfriend. "That bad huh?"

For another response, Ashley only grunted. After she finished brushing her teeth, she put the brush in its home and faced her girlfriend. "Just today this trooper… Trooper Haden went into the captain's office."

"You know what about?"

Ashley shook her head, picked up her uniform shirt, and headed out of the bathroom with Katia. "I'm really not sure." She took off her heavy belt as she went to her dresser. "I did realize one thing though."

The younger woman sat back down on the foot of the bed. "What's that, Ash?"

The state trooper had somewhat rolled her belt up and tucked it in the third drawer in the far back side. "I realized that a First Sergeant is higher rank than a detective."

Katia opened her mouth to ask something but she didn't despite her puzzled look.

"I know," quietly agreed Ashley, who had her back to Katia but already knew what Katia was thinking. "Actually the proper rank title is Detective Sergeant."

"Huh," muttered the college student. "So does that mean you can't become a detective since you're already a First Sergeant?"

"I'm not sure," confessed Ashley. She'd pulled out a pair of khaki shorts and was starting to put them.

"Wait, baby," urged Katia, "Don't put that on."

The older woman was slightly caught off guard but she paused then pulled the shorts back off. She glanced back at her girlfriend in question.

"Something a little nicer." For further emphasis, Katia pointed at her own self to demonstrate how she dressed.

Ashley lifted an eyebrow but decided not to question her girlfriend's motives. Instead she tucked the shorts away then went to her closet and pulled out her khaki linen pants. She adored wearing them when she could because they were so comfortable from being made of linen.

"You should talk to your captain, you know."

Ashley had zipping her linen pants up and was retrieving a white blouse next. "I've thought about it but I just haven't had a chance."

"You think all of the… confusion is happening because of having a new captain?"

"Possibly," admitted Ashley. "But it has been several months since she's taken over."

"Well she came in when? It was in December when all that… stuff was going on with Bobby."

Ashley sighed at just hearing the boy's name from this past winter. "That idiot," she muttered.

Katia lifted an eyebrow slightly but she decided not to comment and not that Ashley was wrong either. "So let's see… its July sixth now so it's been about seven months."

"Yes, which is plenty of time," declared the trooper. Now she came closer to her partner and stood with her hands slightly held out. "Is this okay?"

Katia bounced up to her feet and grinned. "Perfect." She grabbed Ashley's hands and laced their fingers together. "You look beautiful."

Ashley was smiling as she leaned down closer to Katia. "So I take it we're not going to Chickfila then?"

Katia laughed and smirked. "No, this is a golden Chickfila."

The trooper now had the smirked face. "I prefer platinum."

Katia sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes. "You're so damn picky, Ashlinn Carver."

"I am," agreed Ashley. "Why do you think I'm dating you?"

Katia licked her lips and had suddenly had a cocky expression. "Because you like what I do."

Ashley finally laughed and gently teased, "I sure do." She finally closed in the distance and received a warm kiss in return. "I love you," she whispered at the end of the kiss.

"I love you too, Ashlinn." Katia smiled but it slowly shaped into a grin. "Come on, I'm starving… we need to get your birthday rolling here."

Ashley laughed and followed after her girlfriend out of the room but not without getting her wallet from the dresser top. She hurried down the hallway, on Katia's heels and asking, "So where are we going?"

The college student laughed as she headed out of the house. "You will see, tiger. Just come on." She waited for Ashley to come out of the house then she locked up the front door. "We're taking my car."

"Good because I didn't bring my car keys."

Katia rolled her eyes to herself and headed down the patio while watching her girlfriend get in her car. When she got into her car, she found her skin didn't stick to her car seat as bad as it did earlier today. That meant things were beginning to cool off some.

Ashley glanced over at her partner and noted exactly what Katia was wearing; a pair of white capris with a slim fitting light green top that had several buttons that stopped just between her breasts. Ashley really liked the top since it was relatively revealing and she knew that was exactly Katia's intent tonight. That notion made Ashley secretly grin as she relaxed back into her seat.

Part II

Katia put her car in park, turned off the engine, and looked at her partner.

Ashley stopped studying the familiar, busy area and turned her head to Katia. "Rehoboth huh?"

"Yeah." Katia had a grinning smile on her face. "We haven't been here since this past winter."

The trooper slowly nodded her head. "It has been awhile." She now smirked. "So where's dinner?"

Katia laughed and opened her door while saying, "Come on, birthday girl."

Ashley didn't need another invite; she quickly opened the door and got out of the car. She then met Katia up on the busy sidewalk. "Where to?"

Katia Danforth smiled warmly at her girlfriend, took her larger hand, and began walking down the sidewalk towards the boardwalk. "You remember when we were here last?"

Ashley's muses came to life and she searched through her memories. "Just before Thanksgiving." She took a moment to study their hands interlaced, which was a rare public event between them because Katia tended to be more self conscious about being public. It must be a mix of her birthday and being at well-known gay beach that made Katia feel comfortable.

"You remember when we went to the Frogg Pond afterwards?" Katia peered up at her girlfriend for a second but her attention went back to where she was walking. She noted the boardwalk ahead and made a right onto it.

"Yes… Danielle."

The college student laughed and shook her head. "God. I could not believe you with that woman."

"What?" countered Ashley.

"You know what," threatened the grinning Katia. "You were testing me."

"So were you," reminded the trooper.

"That's beside the point."

Ashley chuckled and simultaneously rolled her eyes. "I forgot, it doesn't work both ways does it?"

Katia licked her lips, a smirk covering her face. "I'm glad you're figuring this out now." She paused while she considered a few other memories from that day. "You know… I always meant to ask you about that."

"What's that?" Ashley stole a quick glance towards the Candy Kitchen as they went by it. She made a mental reminder to stop there before they left.

"You remember how the server was flirting with us and I made that joke. You-"

"I almost choked on my beer," finished the state trooper.

"Well you remember how you yelled out my name. You said my entire name."

Ashley now had the most confused look as to what her girlfriend was trying to point out now.

Katia squeezed her girlfriend's hand. "I never told you my middle name… so I always wondered how you knew it unless you did some… homework." She shrugged but she was scanning the various people on the boardwalk. "I contributed it to when you wrote that citation up from that party. But I remember my middle name was never on the citation… just my initial."

"So you made the connection between Bobby and me knowing your middle name?"

"Sort of." Katia started to direct their path closer to the road side of the boardwalk as they were coming close to where she wanted to go. "I noticed you were really desperate on keeping me with Bobby for a certain time. Then when you knew my middle name, I knew you'd looked up my information. There had to be some reason… some connection between them. I was just never sure."

"Until later," concluded the trooper.

"Yeah," quietly agreed Katia. She then pointed with her free hand at the sidewalk on the next road intersection. "We have to go down Baltimore."

Ashley led them onto Baltimore Avenue and she knew of a few restaurants down this way. "We're going back to the Frogg Pond?" she teased.

Katia huffed. "I am not taking you there for your birthday when we're dressed like this." She listened to her girlfriend quietly laugh at her response. "Something much nicer." She stepped off the sidewalk, between two parked cars, and Ashley right behind her. When she was across the road and on the sidewalk again, she was standing before several steps up into an unusual restaurant.

Ashley slightly tilted her head back and read the name of the restaurant. "Katia?" When her girlfriend's attention was on her, she continued talking, "The Blue Moon is an expensive restaurant."

"Well you said platinum," chided the teasing young woman.

Before Ashley could further debate with her girlfriend, Katia was already heading up the steps.

"Come on, Ash... we have reservations."

The state trooper stood there for a second with a surprised look on her face. She quickly glanced around at all the people waiting for seating and she decided it was best not to argue. She hurried up the steps and went through the door to be greeted by the cool air conditioning.

Katia smiled at the host, who was clearly gay by his flamboyant demeanour.

"Hi, welcome to the Blue Moon." The host smiled at both Katia and Ashley, he could easily tell they were a couple. "Did you have reservations?"

"Yes we do," answered Katia, "it's under Katia Danforth."

"Ooo yes." The host brightly smiled. "Right this way." He already had two menus and began leading them.

Now Ashley was very curious as to what else her girlfriend had up her sleeve. She hadn't expected the fine restaurant, Katia had reservations, and that recent look on the host's face made her even more suspicious. And all she could hope for was that none of the servers were going to come up to their table at dessert time and sing happy birthday to her.

"Here you are, ladies." The host made sure to push Katia's chair in first then helped Ashley next. He then handed them each a menu and quietly added, "Your server, Jarred, will be with you shortly."

"Thank you," replied Katia with a smile.

After the server left, Ashley peered over her open menu and asked, "What else are you planing?"

Katia smirked over the rim of her menu. "I forget, baby."

Ashley's tongue ran along the back of her molars for a brief instant. "Mmmhmmm," was her only response.

Highly satisfied with herself, Katia thoroughly studied the menu and picked out her appetizer and entrée.

It wasn't long before their server showed up and he took their orders. Ashley decided on a Caesar salad with seared sea scallops while her girlfriend also got the same salad but with pan seared halibut instead. The rest of the dinner was light conversation but the couple enjoyed themselves. It wasn't until the end of the entrée that Ashley curious waited to see what was in store for the dessert. She realized that their server, Jarred, was gone a little longer than he had on all of the other previous intervals.

"How'd you enjoy your meal, baby?" quietly asked Katia, her hand came across the table.

Ashley smiled, her hand met Katia's halfway, and she answered, "It was really good. How about yours?"

Katia's head bobbed a few times. "Really good. I've always wanted to come here too."

"I have too."

Katia smiled at her girlfriend's agreement. "I was hoping so." She winked but then her attention was drawn away by Jarred reappearing. She broke her contact with Ashley and gazed up to him.

"So I hear it's somebody's twenty-fifth birthday," declared Jarred as he lowered a small, dark cake between the pair then two small plates. "Now I was told," teasingly started Jarred, "that you like to be sung to."

Ashley slightly sunk in her seat as the server grinned at her.

Jarred chuckled at Ashley's reaction. "But unfortunately for you we're not quite allowed to sing here." He now bent over the table some and placed a few candles into the cake then lit them. As he tucked his lighter away, he quietly added, "So instead we made, what we hope, is your favourite type of cake."

Ashley slightly lifted an eyebrow.

"Chocolate peanut butter cake."

Ashley sighed very contently at hearing the flavour of the cake. "I don't know how you knew," she joked.

Jarred laughed. "We have our sources." He then straightened up. "Enjoy, ladies." He quietly left to attend to his other tables.

"You know how long it's been since I've had one of these cakes?"

Katia grinned at her girlfriend. "You now how fat free these things are?" She then directed at the candles. "Blow them out, tiger."

The state trooper had a faint grin but she leaned forward and blew the candles out. She knew she was excited to have a slice of the cake since it'd been so long. She made sure though to cut the first slice for Katia then her own piece.

"I think some milk would be good for this," declared Katia.

The birthday girl laughed while taking her first bite of the rich cake.

After Katia had her first mouthful down, she began humming to the rest of the slice. However she was just as quiet as Ashley, both enjoying the rich cake. Katia finished hers after Ashley's and slumped back in her chair. "Wow… that was good."

"Mmmmm," agreed the state trooper. She was leaned back too and her hands over her full stomach. "So what's next?"

"The bill," reminded the college student, who sat up just as Jarred returned. She picked up the check from the server and looked it over before inserting her card.

Once everything was paid for and the remaining cake boxed up, the couple left the Blue Moon and began their stroll down the boardwalk towards the car. However they decided on one quick pit stop at the Candy Kitchen to pick up some of their favourite sweets for later on. They were certainly too filled by the cake to want anything else sweet but there was always later this week.

When they came to Katia's car, Katia took a moment to unlock her car and carefully placed the cake in the backseat. She noticed her girlfriend was about to get in the car. "We're not leaving."

Ashley already had the door somewhat open but she closed it. She said nothing but had that inquisitive look about her.

Katia merely grinned as she closed the backdoor and opened up the trunk now. She pulled out two large beach towels from the back of the trunk and slammed it shut.

Ashley figured out what Katia's general plan was but she asked, "Did you want to leave your purse in the car?"

The college student glanced at her small black purse on her side then back at Ashley. "No." She then locked her car again and went up onto the sidewalk. She then led the way to the boardwalk and onto the beach.

Ashley felt very content and was enjoying her birthday even though she had to work today but she figured it was a fair trade off. She would have the rest of the week off plus the weekend and the entire time with Katia.

The couple were on the beach and rather close to the shoreline. Katia carried the beach towels while her girlfriend carried both their pairs of sandals. When Katia was satisfied that they were far enough from most of the groupings of people, she unfolded the towels and lowered them onto the cool sand. Together the pair settled down on the two towels, their backs into the towels, hands on their stomachs, and their eyes focused on the starlit sky.

"Thank you for dinner, Katia."

Katia smiled. "You're welcome." She now turned on her right side. "Thank you for taking the week off so we could spend it together."

Ashley turned her head to her best friend. "You had to take time off too."

"I know but it's different when your parents own the business."

Ashley quietly laughed while smiling to her girlfriend. "It still counts."

Katia's smile only deepened and she leaned over to meet Ashley's lips with her own. She softly moaned when her tongue grazed across Ashley's and as she pulled away from the kiss she made sure to nip Ashley's lower lip. She then laid back down but this time adjusted her body so that her head rested on Ashley's shoulder and her right arm tucked between their bodies. Ashley brought her arm around her girlfriend's shoulders.

"So do we have any plans for the week?" inquired the trooper.

"I didn't have anything exactly in mind." Katia moved her left hand off of her stomach and felt around until her hand met her purse. "You know I enjoy doing anything with you."

"Anything anything?" suggestively asked Ashley.

Katia laughed. "Especially anything anything." She carefully unzipped her purse and quietly rooted through it with her fingertips. "You remember when we started dating?"

A low chuckle escaped Ashley. "It wasn't that long ago."

"I know but still…" Katia turned her head to her girlfriend. "It's been roughly nine months that we've known each other." She now contained her grin when she felt the item she was looking for in her purse. She manoeuvred the small item out of its soft felt bag "It's been two months we've been dating but sometimes it seems longer that we've…." She trailed off, not sure how to exactly explain her feelings in word.

"I understand," quietly whispered Ashley.

"Yeah I know," murmured Katia. She knew lifted her left hand from the purse with the round item being held between her fingers. "You've helped me get past a lot, Ash and realize a lot too." She knew her left hand was close to Ashley's own left hand but she waited for a second.

"I told you I'd always be there for you."

"I know," whispered the young woman. Now Katia carefully and cleverly slipped the ring onto Ashley's left ring finger. After it was slipped on and before Ashley could say anything, Katia rolled onto her right side again and her soft lips seal over Ashley's in a long kiss. At the end of the kiss she whispered, "And I'll always be there."

Ashley had realized the new weight on her ring finger so she brought her hand around between them.

Katia smiled as she too peered at the ring.

The sterling silver ring brightly shined from the lights on the boardwalk. It continued to reflect as the couple studied its symbolic shape; two bands that overlapped as one.

Katia enjoyed the surprised look on her girlfriend's face and she leaned in close to Ashley again. "Happy birthday," she whispered before kissing Ashley once more.


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