by Cheryl B.

It was 1985, and Richard was just wrapping up his last "Family Feud." Ever since the news had come down from ABC about their impending cancellation, the set was permeated with bittersweet emotion - everyone was grateful for 9 incredible, successful years on the air, and the love of millions of viewers, yet sad to think that this show, which had become such a big part of their lives, would be no more.

Despite their differences and even a few honest-to-god shouting matches on the set, there was a sense of family and brotherhood amongst them all. And those conflicts arose, not from ego and power trips, but from a deep and genuine desire by every person there - Richard most of all - to make the Feud the very best it could be. In the end, just like brothers and sisters, they would always make up and come out of it closer than ever.

And today, as an emotional and teary-eyed Richard looked into the camera and gave his final speech, Victoria sat in the fourth row and fought back her own tears. Normally, she would have been watching from her usual spot in the control room, but on this special day, everybody who didn't absolutely need to be in there was in the audience, giving Richard all their love and support.

Victoria had joined the staff two years earlier as a writer, coming up with many of the questions and even an occasional joke for Richard to tell. Although he normally came up with his own material, he liked her clever, sly sense of humor and encouraged her to bring him any good jokes she thought he'd like, and she wasn't very often off the mark, usually scoring a hearty laugh from Richard, which to Victoria was a high compliment, as she was constantly in awe of his intelligence and devastating wit.

Whenever Richard scored with one of her lines, with a big laugh from the audience, he would bring her a bouquet of roses, with a big smile, a hug and a quick kiss. And he always spoke highly of her to the ABC execs, making sure that she was remembered often with generous bonuses and raises. Even more importantly to her, he would often take her aside and tell her just how much he appreciated her great work. His genuine kindness and thoughtfulness always touched her deeply.

She enjoyed just being in his warm, powerful presence, and appreciated the opportunity to work with such an amazing man who, even in the midst of his own emotional whirlwind of leaving behind his beloved show, had taken it upon himself as a personal mission to make sure that all of his "people" would receive a very, very generous final bonus check. Victoria would later discover that he'd spent over two hours debating with the network suits, emerging from the meeting with an agreement for double what they'd originally planned to offer the crew.

And now, as Victoria sat and watched the final show being taped, the realization that she would never see Richard again, made her realize somethng else - she had fallen for him. Hard. But it was silly, she thought. He had never once asked her out, so he obviously wasn't interested. Besides, this was the end, and there was nothing she could do about it...

A big wrap party followed immediately afterwards on the set, and after hugging her fellow crew members and sharing an obligatory glass of champagne, Victoria slipped off to her favorite secluded, quiet corner of the control room, far from everyone else in the main studio.

Tears began to well up in her eyes, thinking of all she was losing today. She felt guilty about leaving her friends behind at the party, but she was too overcome with emotion to socialize. She wiped away a tear as she looked up at the sound of the door openng. There stood Richard, two glasses of champagne in his hand.

"I thought you might be here," he said softly with an understanding smile. "You look as if you could use one of these."

Victoria looked up at him. "I could use both of them, actually, and the bottle, if you've got it," she said, with a quizzical look on her face. "But how did you know I was here?"

Richard chuckled softly. "I've passed by many times during a particularly hectic day, and saw you taking a little solace and comfort here in your little corner." He took her hand, and she stood up. "I have my own little sanctuary as welll, may I show you?" Victoria nodded and she took his hand, letting him lead her to his dressing room.

It was surprisingly small, considering his status, but cozy and comfortable, filled with photos and mementoes. It was definitely a man's room. "Sit down, please" he offered as he waved a hand toward the black leather sofa.

"Thank you," she said, sinking down into the comfortable seat. He handed her a glass and sat beside her.

"I'm sorry," Richard said softly, taking her hand. "I know this is a hard day." Seeing the tears welling up again, he put his arm around her.

"Oh, come here, angel." he said with great sympathy. "I've got a drip-dry suit and a shoulder with your name on it, darlin". Let it out..."

In a torrent of relief, she buried her face in his shoulder and wept, as he held her and soothed her flushed forehead with a cool, gentle hand.

"It's alright," he whispered sweetly, reassuringly, "Don't you worry."

After a few moments, Victoria regained her composure and dabbed her eyes with the linen handkerchief that Richard offered with a smile. "Thank you," she said, somewhat embarrassed, "I'm sorry about that." She looked into his sparkling eyes. "It has to be even harder for you today, I know..." She squeezed his hand.

"You've nothing to be sorry for," he assured her, squeezing back with a small smile, "we're all feeling it today." He sighed. "But it has been great fun, hasn't it?"

"Oh yes, the best," she agreed, "the very best..." She looked down, feeling a great sadness wash over again.

"What is it, angel?" he asked. "Was it something I said?"

She looked at him. '"No, no, of course not. It's just that...I'm just going to miss you."

Richard smiled warmly and embraced her tightly. "I'm going to miss you too, you've been so wonderful."

"No," she whispered, "You don't understand." She swallowed hard. "I think I'm falling in love with you..." She blushed and apologized again.

"Will you quit apologizing?" he grinned, caressing her hot cheek.

"Although it truly is an unspeakable horror to have a charming, beautiful woman tell me that she loves me, I'll forgive you...just this once." He kissed her cheek softly.

She laughed as Richard took her hand gently in his, and looked at her with kind eyes and a warm smile. "Victoria, I've liked you very much from the first day you walked onto the set. It's just that in the early days, I dated a girl on the crew a few times and we later broke it off. Although we parted amicably, it was still terribly awkward, she ended up leaving the show, and I still blame myself for putting her into an impossible situation."

He looked down with a trace of regret crossing his gentle face. "I swore after that fiasco that I'd never again date a coworker." Seeing the compassion in her eyes, he softly smiled. "But now, I suppose there isn't anything standing in our way, is there?"

Victoria touched his face. "Richard, you are very sweet, but you don't have to say that just to make me feel better."

"I know I don't have to, but I want to... because I mean it," he whispered. "Oh, I do care for you, Victoria, so very much..."

He softly kissed her ear, sending a ripple of excitement through her as he stood, taking her hand to help her stand before him. Gazing helplessly into his penetrating grey eyes, she arose, then looked at him with an approving glance, reaching out to run her finger lightly across the thin chain that ran across his belly on his vest. Victoria heard him gasp softly and felt a twinge in his stomach.

"Have I told you how handsome you look in your suits?" she purred as she slipped her arms inside his jacket, feeling the satin lining smooth across her skin as she embraced him.

Richard took her mouth in a sudden, passionate kiss, which caused a soft moan of delight to escape her lips. "And you are so beautiful," he said, "So very beautiful..." as he continued to kiss her deeply.

Then, finding a perfect spot upon the heated perfume of her pulsing throat, he began to suck, gently, firmly, slowly, as she closed her eyes and surrendered with a sigh to the pleasures of his gentle attack, raking her fingers through his coarse greying hair and tilting her head to allow him more access to her neck. After a few glorious minutes, he stepped back to admire his handiwork with a mischievous grin, leaning back in to softly run his warm tongue across the love-mark upon her ivory skin, like crushed violets in the snow. She shivered at the sensation.

"There, you're branded," he grinned, kissing the tender spot gently, "Now you're mine..."

Victoria kissed him, and slipped off his jacket. "Sit down, R ichard" she whispered, "and take off that tie..."

He obeyed willingly, and she stood in front of the chair, unbuttoned his shirt collar and kissed him again before beginning to mark his neck in return.

"I'm too short to do this while you're standing," she laughed softly, continuing to suck on her chosen spot.

He smiled and she felt his breath growing more rapid as he held her tightly around her waist while she finished, finally touching her lips to the mark upon his neck.

"And now," she whispered in his ear, "You're mine too."

Richard's eyes flashed darkly as he seized Victoria, pulling her down onto his lap and burying his face in the other side of her neck, overwhelming her and leaving behind another sweet bruised spot as a remembrance of this memorable evening. He held her there in his arms for a long while, kissing her and stroking her hair, whispering lovely words in her ear.

They arose, and he placed his mouth on hers for another sweet kiss before putting his jacket and tie back on.

"Thank you for making this difficult day a much lovelier one, my angel. You made me forget all the tears and brought me a lot of warmth and happiness in their place."

He touched her cheek. "I very much would like to see you again, if I may?"

Victoria merely leaned in to kiss him passionately, her arms inside his jacket again, holding him tightly.

"Does that answer your question?" she smiled.

"I didn't quite catch that," he whispered, "could you repeat that, my darlin"?" Victoria grinned and happily complied.

"Have you forgotten so soon?" she playfully scolded him between kisses, "We're marked, remember?" She looked into his eyes. "You are mine, and I am yours...."

Richard smiled. "Can't argue with that..." he said softly as he tenderly touched his finger to his lips, then to the purplish spot. "Quite the possessive one, aren't you?"

"Yes I am..." she sighed as she claimed his honeyed lips in another deep kiss.

They sipped their neglected glasses of champagne, and Victoria noticed a brown leather scrapbook on the small coffee table. "May I?" she asked.

"Of course," he agreed, and they sat, each with an arm around the other, as he showed her years of happy memories from nine unforgettable years on the show. There was a photo of each and every family who had appeared, candid backstage snapshots, many of which made Victoria laugh out loud, and many others, as well as newspaper clippings, reviews, articles, etc.

After the last page, Richard closed the book with a sigh. "Well, all good things must come to an end, they say."

Victoria looked tenderly into his eyes and kissed him. "But more good things are just around the corner..."

"Indeed they are, " he whispered with a sweet, seductive smile, returning her kiss, "indeed they are...."

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