"You don't need that," Michael said quietly but angrily. "You'll only get drunk and that won't help."

Sherry nodded. "Now you sound like Doc. Do you two rehearse this stuff or what?"

Michael knew when to push and when to back off, so he changed tacks. "Tell me about Koulsen. What did you find?"

Sherry laughed sarcastically. "I see you've been snooping as well." Wanting to get this little talk over with, she obliged. "She was set up. I just have to figure out which member of the team did it."

Michael nodded. He had come to that conclusion as well, only he already knew who was responsible. "It's been handled."

She glared at him, anger sparking in her eyes. "You never learn, do you? Why do you insist on stepping in and finishing things for me? You did it when Sophie died and now you're doing it again. Do you think I'm incompetent? That I'm too weak to do what needs to be done?" She looked at him for a moment and then groaned. "Nevermind. Don't answer that. I guess I already know."

Michael sighed. "No, I don't think you're incompetent or weak. You've been having a rough time lately. I simply want to help you. I apologize. I won't do it again."

Sherry shook her head. "Come on, Michael. You don't make promises, especially ones you don't intend to keep." Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she knew she was hurting him, but she wanted him to pull back. She also wanted to apologize to him, but couldn't.

Michael took the hit and then gently squeezed her hand. "I only want to help. What can I do?"

Sherry smiled sadly and pulled her hand away. "There's nothing you can do. Just leave me alone."

Michael shook his head. "I can't do that. You're too vulnerable right now."

"Michael," she sighed as she recognized the stubbornness in his eyes. He shook his head and was about to speak when they were interrupted.

"I believe the lady asked you to give her some space." It was the smaller of the men who had followed her.

"This doesn't concern you," Michael spoke, removing all trace of emotion from his voice and face.

"That's where you're wrong," he answered. "It's always my business when a woman is being bullied by a man," he stated, moving to position himself between Michael and Sherry.

Sherry was about to speak when he turned his attention to her. "Would you care to dance?"

Sherry almost laughed at the abrupt, totally inappropriate change of subject, but nodded. "Sure, why not." As she got up she spoke to Michael. "I'm fine. I just need some space."

Michael watched as the stranger walked her over to the jukebox, picked a song and then took her into his arms to dance. After watching for a minute, he got up and walked toward Mentz and Kenny's table. As he headed in their direction, Travis entered the bar. They stared at each other for a moment and Travis finally walked over to him.

Nahla had been watching from her table. "Uh oh, DeLeah. Things just picked up another notch."

DeLeah quickly glanced around to see what Nahla was talking about. She got a wicked grin on her face. "Let the games begin."

Nahla shook her head. "Better be careful what you wish for. If they go at it, this place will erupt. I don't think Section would be too thrilled, especially if we get hauled off to jail."

DeLeah laughed. "Oh come on, girl. Where's your spirit of adventure?"

The song ended and the stranger escorted Sherry back to her table. "Thanks for the diversion," she sighed.

He shrugged. "You looked as if you needed a break. If you need another one, just give me wave," he said.

"Thanks, but I have this policy about dancing with men whose names I don't know," she stated, wondering if he would even give her that much.

"Chase," he volunteered as he headed back to join his partner.

Sherry sat down and pondered her current situation. She knew she had to do something, she just didn't like any of her options. She hadn't managed to drive away any of her friends no matter what she said to them. Michael and Travis were equally as obstinate. It was a testament to how important friendships were in CLHQ that no matter what you went through, they stood by you and did what they could to help. But that's not what she wanted. She needed them to back off.

"Can we talk?" Travis asked.

Sherry looked up at him and shrugged. "You can talk all you want. Just don't expect much in return. I believe I told you the other day that friends don't betray friends. I didn't think doctors betrayed their patients either, but I guess I was wrong there too."

"I guess you've spoken with Michael."

"Give the man a gold star."

"You know the only reason I told him was so he could help. I didn't know who Sophie was. He filled me in. I haven't told anyone else," he explained.

"Well, I'm glad to see my problem has had at least one good result. You two are just becoming the best of friends, aren't you? You're swapping my secrets with each other, and I'll bet you even searched my quarters together, didn't you?"

Travis shook his head. "No, I didn't search your quarters. And no, we aren't friends - far from it."

"Could have fooled me," she retorted. "You're even spouting the same tired advice."

"Maybe because we're worried about you and it's the best advice. We have to get through this. The longer you put it off, the longer you're going to feel this way. Don't you want to get back to yourself?" he demanded, anger slowly entering his voice.

Neither one of them noticed the handsome man dressed in black leather pants and motorcycle jacket walk into the bar. He stood in the doorway, his mirrored sunglasses shading his eyes. He took in everyone and everything before he made a move. He saw his men and nodded to them. He saw Sherry giving some guy a hard time. He quickly went through the list of people he had studied before coming and knew it was Dr. McAllister, the psychiatrist. He smiled. If anyone could aggravate a psychiatrist, it would be Sherry. As he walked passed his friends' table he said "Thanks," and then proceeded toward Sherry's table.

"How do you know this isn't the real me?" Sherry challenged Travis. "How do you know that other person you think you know so well isn't someone I made up to appease all of you?"

Travis was ready with an answer. "Because all of these people wouldn't care about you so much if this were the real you. We wouldn't be wearing ourselves out worrying about you if that were the case."

Sherry shrugged. "No one asked you to. And I'll ask you again. How do you know that "Sherry" isn't someone created to infiltrate and get to know all of you. Maybe that's my real purpose. To get inside CLHQ and Section, keep an eye on things, make sure things are running the way they should. How do you know that's not the real me?" she challenged.

"I know," came the answer from above their heads. Neither had noticed the man walking up to their table. Sherry recognized the voice immediately. Her head jerked up and she couldn't believe he was standing there.

Part 6

"Lance!" She almost knocked over her drink in an effort to get up and throw her arms around him. He returned her hug with a huge smile on his face. While still holding her close, he gently chided. "You never write, you never call. And now I find you in a place like this," he motioned around the bar. Then he whispered in her ear, "I've missed you kiddo."

Holding him tightly, she answered just as quietly, "I've missed you too."

Travis sat at the table watching, wondering who this man was. Whoever he was, it was obvious that he meant a great deal to Sherry. He glanced at Michael and the others who were watching with equal interest. It didn't appear that any of them were familiar with this man either.

"What are you doing here?" Sherry finally asked, pulling back and wiping at a stray tear as it made its way down her cheek.

He shrugged. "I needed a little R&R. Just got on my bike and started driving." Sherry knew better, but also knew to play along. Lance finally turned back to Travis.

"Sorry to interrupt, man. It's just been so long since we've seen each other. I can wait over there with my friends if you need to finish this," he offered.

Travis nodded and Sherry shook her head no. "That would be nice," Travis answered. Lance wanted to laugh because he knew who was going to win this little argument. He had tried to outlast her in arguments many times, and had yet to best her, unless she had wanted him to.

"That won't be necessary, Lance. Travis and I are ..." she deliberately hesitated, knowing that she was going to hurt him, "completely finished."

Travis stood up so that he didn't feel at such a disadvantage. "If you would excuse us...." Travis hesitated because he didn't know the man's name. Lance studied him for a moment and then stuck out of his hand.

"Lance. And you're Travis," as the two men exchanged handshakes.

"Nice to meet you, Lance" Travis politely continued, "but Sherry and I really aren't finished."

Sherry took Lance's hand so he wouldn't walk away from her. "Yes we were. Lance, what do you say we move to a less crowded table," she suggested.

Knowing they needed to get away from here as quickly and quietly as possible, he made a different suggestion. "How would you like to go for a ride?" he asked.

Sherry's face lit up. "I'd love it. Let's go." Lance took off his jacket and gave it to her to put on as they started toward the exit. "You'll freeze in that outfit," he chided.

"Well, I wasn't exactly expecting you, now was I?" she snapped back. 'Okay, Lance, my man' he told himself, 'time to back off.'

Once they were outside, she pulled him to a stop. "He sent you, didn't he?" Lance pulled out his sunglasses and put them back on. "Yep. You and I are taking an extended vacation. We're paying a visit to the old man," he answered.

"Listen Lance, you know I love you and I'd love to spend some time with you, but I can't just leave. Operations will go ballistic, not to mention Michael. They'll be hunting me down within twelve hours if I don't go back. Besides, what about clothes?"

Lance shook his head, grinning wryly. "Leave it to you, cuz, to be so practical. It's been taken care of. You know everything you need is there. And Operations has been notified." With that statement, he handed her a helmet, put on his own, and motioned for her to get on the bike.

Back inside the bar, Travis walked over to Michael's table and sat down.

"Who is he?" Michael demanded immediately.

Travis shrugged. "I don't know. He said his name was Lance, he was on vacation, and that they hadn't seen each other for a long time. He didn't seem too thrilled with the fact that he found her in a bar. And, as I'm sure you could tell, he's important to her."

Michael nodded. "I don't like it. Someone she knows, someone none of us have ever heard of, simply shows up out the blue? Not likely. We have to find out who he is."

Just then he noticed the two men who had been "guarding" Sherry all evening standing by their table. Chase, the one who had danced with Sherry, spoke. "Don't bother, Michael. You won't find him and she will be fine. Let it go."

Michael stared at him wondering how this stranger knew his name. "You know I can't do that."

Chase grinned. "I didn't think so. Just thought I'd try and save you the time and energy." Then he turned back to his partner and they left.

"Do you want us to follow them, Michael?" Kenny asked.

Michael shook his head. "No. They'll expect to be followed. They won't lead us to her."

The next morning Michael entered Sherry's quarters. He knew she wasn't there because he had listened for her return all night. On the slight chance that she had gotten back without him realizing it, he wanted to check. Of course, he found nothing.

He called North, Aries, Rita, and Nahla to find out if any of them had seen or heard from her. No one had, but they would ask around. Michael then went next door to Travis' quarters and knocked. It took only a few seconds for him to answer the door. "Michael. She's not back?"

Michael shook his head. "Obviously you haven't seen or heard from her."

"No," Travis said. "So what do we do now?"

Michael studied him for a moment and then answered. "We report it to Operations."

That was the last thing Travis had been expecting. "You're going to tell him she took off? Michael, you can't do that. He'll hunt her down and cancel her."

Michael was glad that the man was beginning to think like an operative, although he had a long way to go. And in this case he was wrong. "We have to tell him. But we tell him she was abducted. This Lance could be working for anyone. For all we know, she has been abducted."

Travis nodded in understanding. "But what if she really did just leave? Won't that get her cancelled once we find her?"

Michael sighed. "She didn't. You should know that."

"I do," Travis bristled, "but right now I wouldn't put anything past her."

The two men made their way to the Perch. Operations and Madeline were together, as usual. Michael waited by the door until their presence was acknowledged.

"Do you two need something?" Operations finally asked. The duo moved further into the room.

"Sherry's missing," Michael announced.

"What do you mean, missing?" Operations questioned.

"She left with a man at the bar last night. She hasn't come back to her quarters."

Madeline smiled. "Don't you think you might be overreacting a little, Michael? Perhaps she simply decided to spend the night with this man. It happens."

"You know as well as I do that she's not like that," Michael responded without emotion.
Madeline nodded. "There's always a first time. She hasn't been herself lately."

Travis decided to intervene. He didn't care for the current direction of this conversation any more than Michael did. "She met someone at the bar last night. They were old friends. He said his name was Lance. He said they hadn't seen each other for a long time. Not long after that, they left."

Madeline smiled. "My point exactly."

Michael chose to ignore Madeline and spoke to Operations again. "She may have been abducted against her will. He could work for anyone. I haven't been able to track him down or find anything on him."

Operations finally gave in. "And you won't."

"You know who he is?" Travis demanded, earning him a look of annoyance from Operations.

"No. I know who he works for. Sherry is fine. She had been temporarily transferred."

"Transferred where?" Michael challenged, noting Madeline's look of surprise as well.

"I'm sorry, Michael. That's classified. She'll be back - eventually."

The End

This story ©copyright Sherry, May 20, 2001

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