Lilly stumbled into the alleyway just as her sister came out of one of the back doors of a business. She had come straight from her home, leaving her squad at the scene of the crime. The people who had vandalized her house might have gone after something more precious.
"Where were you?" Lilly grabbed her sister's arms, whirling her around to face her on the darkening Philadelphia avenue. "They could have hurt you!"
Christina Rush stumbled back from her sister. "Who?" She tugged away from Lilly. "I've been at work! Proving to you that I'm responsible! That I'm grown up so you don't have to chase me down in the street!"
"I'm sorry." Lilly inhaled. "I'm sorry." She looked around the vacant alleyway outside her sister's workplace, and realized the ridiculousness of coming all this way. The danger that had driven her seemed to have evaporated like the snowflakes that tickled her face but were gone when she tried to brush them away.
"Who was it? Some drug dealer? Some thug who doesn't like Lilly Rush Feminazi breathing down his neck?" Christina folded her arms and sneered. "I don't cause problems like that."
Christina frowned. "Not anymore." She tilted her head, watching Lilly's pale face change expression. "What happened?"
"Cold cases, you know... They're dead. Gone. Forgotten. Sure, I step on a toe now and then, but there's no danger. There's no...presence. But there was a presence today. In our house. Not a ghost. A living, angry person."
Christina stepped back. "What?"
"They came into our house." Lilly's voice shook. "They might have hurt you. Or--"
Lilly looked down. "Taken you into a cult."
Christina threw back her head and laughed. "Me?"
"You're disaffected, you're guilty, you--"
Christina grabbed Lilly's shoulders. "I promise. I will not join a cult."
Lilly giggled, a hysterical noise, a release of tension. She pulled Christina into a hug. "Good."
Christina's voice was muffled against Lilly's shoulder. "You're so bossy."
"I'm older." Lilly pressed her lips against Christina's hair.
"Don't say wiser. You know I can beat you up."
Lilly chuckled. Her voice tickled Christina's ear. "You can. But I'm a cop."
"So together, we can take on a cult."
Lilly smiled. "Together."
They held each other, until Lilly began to cling tighter. She sucked in her breath, and released it in a sob.
"Lilly? What is it?"
"Scotty?" Lilly heard the catch in her voice.
"It's Elisa. She's...she's dead." Lilly drew back and cupped Christina's face. She saw the shock in her little sister's expression, but talked over it, kept babbling. "He never knew how much time he had. If he had squandered it. If..."
Christina reached up and covered Lilly's hands with her own. "Oh God. It's okay."
"It's not okay. It's ten years, Christina."
"Then let me tell you...I love you."
Lilly leaned forward to press her forehead against her sister's. Her lips curled into a smile. Tears dripped down her cheeks and fell onto Christina's. Christina lifted her chin. Her lips found Lilly's, and they kissed, tasting salt and the sweeter, purer snowflakes that floated between them.
"It's snowing," Lilly said.
"So let's go home."
* * *
The graffiti had been cleaned off the walls. The windows had been locked and the heat turned high. Lilly sat on the daybed--that was their place--and sighed. Her shoulders slumped forward. "I'm sorry," she said. "It's just--Scotty. God."
"It's okay." Christina rested her hand on Lilly's forearm. "It's okay to cry. Just let me take care of you." She studied Lilly's stubborn, red-rimmed eyes. "The world's done fucking us over today."
Lilly forced a laugh. "It better be." Her sister sat next to her on the daybed and took Lilly's wrist gently into her lap. She unbuttoned the cuffs of Lilly's shirt. Lilly stared straight ahead and ignored the tears dripping down her nose. The cats appeared and jumped onto the bed. Lilly automatically reached out to bury her fingers in soft white fur.
When Christina had loosened her cuffs and had started on the buttons holding her shirt together, Lilly had stopped crying. Her expression was blank and her skin cool to the touch, and she stayed still as Christina pushed her shirt off her shoulders.
Christina slid her hand up Lilly's arm. She thumbed the white bra strap with a hesistant gesture, and Lilly finally looked at her. "Come here." She pulled Christina into her lap. Christina wrapped her arms around Lilly's neck and found the clip that held Lilly's hair in its haphazard ponytail. She released it and tangled her fingers in blond locks that fell across Lilly's bare shoulders.
"So..." Lilly said, holding Christina's waist. "How was work?"
Christina laughed. "The same as always. Four guys asked for my number. One girl who looked like she wanted to. It's a dangerous city."
"Home sweet home." Lilly looked up into her sister's face. "Hey. You're crying, too."
"I can't help it." Christina laughed again and reached up to mop at her face. She gripped Lilly's shoulder with her free hand to steady herself. "I empathize."
Lilly offered a thin smile and worked Christina's blouse free from her skirt. She slid her hands underneath the loose fabric. Christina arched into the fingers that slid across her bare skin. She shifted to let Lilly pull her blouse over her head. Lilly tossed it onto the floor and gave Christina a rakish grin.
Christina grinned back, and bent to kiss Lilly, capturing her lower lip between her teeth and tugging until Lilly growled against her lips. Lilly's fingers were like claws in her back as Christina seized her mouth with kisses. Lilly's tongue, demanding, pushed between her lips and she sucked on it to elicit another growl. Lilly's slippery heat, what she had wanted for so many years, what was becoming familiar in stolen nights, made her breathless.
Lilly's hands slid higher. Her fingers found the clasp of Christina's bra and unhooked it. Christina's breasts fell forward against Lilly's chest. She shrugged out of the straps and the bra tumbled somewhere between them. "You got the body," Lilly commented. She cupped one of Christina's breasts, squeezing gently. Christina squirmed deliciously against her. No tears, now.
"You've done more with yours," Christina said in reply. She pressed herself against Lilly's hand. Her nipple hardened. She moaned when Lilly rolled the stiff point between her fingers and offered no protest when Lilly twisted to guide her down onto the daybed. Cats scattered as Christina stretched out on her back. Lilly sat up and took off her own bra, then took in the sight of her sister lying before her, with lips swollen with kisses and clear eyes that matched her own.
"I love it when you wear skirts," Lilly said. She crouched over Christina and slid her hand up her thigh. Christina hissed. "And no hose."
"Never could get them on right." Christina pulled Lilly on top of her. They kissed again, as Lilly's hand found her center, stroking her through lace panties. Christina licked at Lilly's upper lip. She could feel the damp heat through the slacks where Lilly pressed against her thigh. She could smell Lilly's arousal. The scent intoxicated her as much as Lilly's hand moving between her legs. Lilly knew just how to touch her. She came, shuddering in Lilly's arms and pulling away from the kisses to gasp for breath.
"I love the way your face changes when that happens," Lilly murmured. Her tone was reverent as she pushed sweaty curls of hair away from Christina's face.
"Yeah?" Christina slid a hand between their bodies. She found the zipper of Lilly's trousers. "You should see yours."
* * *
They were spooned together, Christina behind her sister, closer to the wall, and half asleep. "Lilly," she called softly. Her breath tickled Lilly's spine. "When you look at other peoples' pasts... see other lives... Does it change your own? Does it make what happened any different?"
"Hm?" Lilly rolled over. She slung an arm over Christina's shoulders, and looked into her eyes. "I--." She hesitated, pursing her lips, pressing them against Christina's temple.
Christina closed her eyes. It wasn't Lilly's case, and Lilly didn't have any answers. "It's okay," she said, and then mouthed the words, not quite giving them voice. "Scotty'll be okay. I'll make sure of it."