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Disclaimer: This story is written for the private entertainment of fans. The author makes no claims to the series' characters by the creation of this story. No infringement of any copyrights held by CBS, Alliance, CTV, TNT or any other copyright holders of due SOUTH is intended. No money being made here.

due SOUTH:
Lilacs and a Stolen Kiss

By: Janice R. Sager
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It was a scent that woke Ben.

He'd been dreaming of home again, of feeding the dogs and hitching them up for a trip over to the Qitsualik's. Inussiq had hurt his shoulder while hunting. Nothing too serious, but it did land him in a bed at the Tuktoyuktuk Medical Clinic, at least for the next day or so. Ben had promised to run a few supplies from town out to his family and get word to them that Inussiq would be okay. It was December in his dream, the sky overhead a dark crystal clear blue sprinkled with a scattering of the brightest stars even at mid-day. The weather was perfect and the dogs were yapping joyously at the prospect of a good run...

And then the scent of lilacs intruded.

It was a subtle scent, not particularly strong... but it certainly wasn't something he would ever associate with the barn or his dog team. The incongruity shattered the dream and he became aware of the pillow beneath his head. The scent remained, tickling his nose with its presence. It was in his apartment, but it didn't belong there either. He sat up with a jerk, his heart racing for some inexplicable reason as the perfume stirred a memory best left forgotten...

"Hello, Ben."

His eyes snapped to the bedroom doorway and the figure which stood dimly backlit by the city beyond his kitchen windows. Dream became nightmare as memories long forgotten and buried flooded his mind. He prayed it was a nightmare...

But the perfume told him it wasn't.

"Victoria..." It was more a statement of disbelief than a greeting. He sat frozen as she moved forward, only his eyes following her as she slowly approached. It had been more than three years since she'd torn through his life, leaving him shattered in both body and spirit.

His shocked and numbed mind noted the weapon she held trained on him, a 9 mm most likely - it was hard to see clearly in the darkened room. A frisson of ice traced down his spine but no fear rose to greet it. He was beyond its reach.

Then he suddenly noted a missing presence and his eyes shot to where Dief had been sleeping earlier, even as the rest of him remained unable to move.

"He's just asleep," the phantom from his past assured him, reading his mind too easily. She stopped next to the somnolent wolf, about five feet from the bed, and gave Dief a wry smile when he offered a soft snore. "A little something I put in his water bowl when the two of you went out earlier. He'll be fine."

Ben didn't bother to ask how she'd gotten in.

She glanced about the small room, without letting her aim waver. "I see your taste in apartments hasn't changed."

"It's hard to find a place that will accept a wolf." The question and his answer were completely immaterial to why she was there. He frowned at the weapon. "Are you here to kill me?" he asked, cocking his head to the side as he regarded her dispassionately. If she wanted to kill him, there was little he could do to stop her; and there was a part of him that would understand if she did.

She moved slightly and the light from the bedroom window fell across her features. She hadn't changed much in the last three years. Her hair was shorter and her make up more simple. She looked a little older, a little more tired. The cut was surprisingly effective at changing the perceived shape of her face. Only someone who knew her would recognize her. And that wouldn't be too many people down here. Her expression was carefully guarded and her hazel green depth's were just as impossible to read as always.

He had no idea what she saw in his.

She frowned at him for a long moment, as though debating the question, then shrugged lightly without dropping her aim. "I don't feel like being arrested," she answered with a mild sneer.

He nodded and frowned slightly, cocking his head to the other side as he waited. She had side-stepped the question, not really saying whether she intended to kill him or not... but he doubted it. Unless he provoked her. He wasn't stupid.

They studied each other in silence for several long moments, memories warring in both their minds. "I thought your friend had killed you," she finally offered, breaking the silence between them.

He closed his eyes against the wave of memories that her words summoned. She could have, and would have, learned very quickly that he hadn't been killed. He'd dreamt of her enough in those first few, drug-filled days that he still wasn't sure if she'd managed to slip in and see him or not. He doubted she would have risked it. He opened his eyes again and ignored the conversational gambit, refusing to let his emotions be manipulated. "Why are you here?" he asked bluntly.

"I was passing through." She shrugged again and her tone turned mocking. "Can't an old friend stop in for a late night visit?"

He shook his head. "We were never friends, Victoria." They had been a lot of things to each other, but never friends.

"Soul mates," she corrected herself, her voice cold and impartial. "Enemies. Lovers. Strangers. Opposites trapped within the same reflection... I look at you and I feel as though a part of me is missing."

"A part you tried to destroy."

"A part I asked to come with me," she corrected him.

Her gaze was cold and her grip had tightened on the gun. He didn't argue. "Is that why you're here now?" he asked, feeling his mouth go dry at the thought.

The question seemed to surprise her slightly. "And if it is?" she asked.

He glanced down and away, unable to answer. If she asked... he would have to do it. She'd go after his friends if he dared say no. That was something he could never let happen again. He glanced back up, all the hurt and confusion and fear he was feeling written plainly on his face. She hadn't asked. And he prayed she wouldn't, but there was a small part of him that still longed for... He wasn't sure even now what it was that drew him to her. It was still there, whatever it was; but he recognized it's deadly troth and was able to resist it. He couldn't play this game anymore. "What do you want, Victoria?" he asked in a harsh whisper.

He'd asked her that once before, he remembered, and she'd been lying to herself as well as him when she answered.

"You," she said simply, echoing her words from years before. It was strange Ben thought, as he winced and closed his eyes again, how much such a simple statement was still capable of hurting him. "But I can't have what I want," she added quietly, surprising him into looking up again.

He saw the sad confusion in her eyes. "It was never me you wanted." Not all of him, not the part she couldn't control and dominate.

She studied his face for a long moment, reading his own regrets and heartaches, and then slowly nodded. "Yes," she claimed quietly. "Once, long ago, when we were the only two people in the world and you stole a part of my heart..."

She stepped forward once more, the gun trained squarely on him. He froze as she sank smoothly onto the side of the bed beside him and pressed the gun against his jaw. There had been an instant as she moved toward him where Ben could have disarmed her, where he could have risked batting the gun aside and grabbed her wrist in a nerve lock... He never even twitched. And he didn't know why.

"I've learned to live without that part," she told him quietly.

Ben stared into her eyes, feeling the cold promise of the barrel pressing against his throat just below his left ear. He was reminded of the last time she'd drawn a weapon on him, in the car after she'd forced him to deal with the diamond fence. There was no confusion in her gaze this time, only a sad kind of regret.

She was going to kill him.

He wasn't surprised when she leaned forward and kissed him first. He didn't dare move, but he didn't respond either. The love he'd once felt for her was truly gone. All he felt now was his own sad regret: regret that things hadn't worked out differently between them, that her time in prison had only taught her how to hate, that he hadn't met her before Jolly and Eddy, that fate had conspired against them from the very first. Two more opposites could not exist, and they certainly couldn't co-exist.

She pulled away at last and he fully expected to feel a bullet tear through his neck and brain for that instant before death would claim him. He wondered what evidence, if any, she might have left in his apartment and if anyone would ever know what had happened here tonight. He felt sorry for his friends, knowing they would take his death very hard.

The gun left his throat and she stepped away. He blinked his eyes open, watching her, still waiting for the shot that he knew was coming. She probably didn't want to get blood on her clothes.

"I'm getting married," she told him quietly.

He blinked in confused surprise, knowing he had to have heard wrong.

"I came here to say good-bye, Ben," she told him simply. "And to see if..." She shook her head with a sad little smile. "You haven't changed. If I asked you to come with me... you would, wouldn't you." It wasn't a question. She read his mind as only someone who had touched his soul could. Her smile disappeared, replaced by that cold darkness Ben had recognized in her so long ago. "To protect your friends."

He didn't deny it and after a long moment she nodded again.

"In a strange way, that's part of what I love about you the most. It's both your greatest strength... and your greatest weakness."

"I doubt your fiancé wants me to join you on your honeymoon," he dared comment.

She offered him another small smile, acknowledging his courage more than his sarcasm. "That would put a bit of a damper on things," she agreed.

Did she think that by killing Ben, she could rid herself of his memory as well? "Who is he?" he asked, stalling. Why, he didn't know. He wasn't expecting anyone else to come by at two in the morning.

"Someone who tried to rescue me, just like you," she answered. "I had a flat. He offered to help." She offered a wistful smile at the memory, telling Ben that there was more to the meeting than she was willing to share; and then she shrugged, letting the smile die. "I won't tell you more. You might get it in your head to try and rescue him. He doesn't know anything about me, who I really am or what I've done. I don't love him, but I think maybe some day I can... It's my chance to start over, to live a normal life and be happy. And I'm going to take it."

She frowned at him, almost as though she expected him to protest. He didn't. A part of Ben feared for this unknown man, but another part envied him.

"I won't say I'm sorry for what I did to you," she continued, still frowning. "That would be as empty as if you were to apologize for arresting me at Fortitude Pass. But I will wish you well, and hope that somewhere in your heart you can do the same for me." She rose and moved swiftly away. She paused at the door, turning back as she slipped the handgun into her pocket and turned up the collar of her coat. "Don't try to follow me, Ben," she warned him seriously. "I'll kill you and then myself before I go to prison again."

And then she was gone.

Ben continued to sit and stare at the empty doorway of his bedroom, badly shaken and somewhat confused as silence returned to his small apartment. Dief broke it with another soft snore and Ben realized he had only the presence of her perfume to tell him her visit had been more than a dream.

His sense of duty finally reared it demanding head, urging him to jump up and stop her, no matter the danger. She was a wanted felon and she'd killed at least one person, maybe more, in her attempt to destroy him those three years ago... but he knew he'd waited too long. She would have planned her escape as she planned everything else. He wasn't surprised to find the lock on the front door jammed and the phone cord cut. By the time he could get down the fire escape and to a public phone, she'd be miles away.

He leaned his forehead against the cold glass of the bedroom window and offered the dark night beyond a wry smile, daring much to relive the memory of her lips upon his and knowing without doubt that he would never feel them again. It was a bitter sweet thought into which the memory of his father's words from years before returned to haunt him: 'Sometimes all it takes is a second chance...'

Apparently, Victoria had decided to make her own second chance. He could only hope she used it wisely.
The end...

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