The Road Back Home
by Lynne Norris
© February 2001
Alex leaned in close, brought her lips to the back of Regina's neck and gently nibbled the silken skin as she waited for the blonde to unlock the front door of her condo. She chuckled, enjoying herself for the moment as her younger companion squirmed and pushed back against her.
"I'm never...going to get this door unlocked if you keep...oh, doing that." Regina protested as her body reacted to Alex's playful teasing.
Alex sighed dramatically and straightened up, allowing Regina the opportunity to unlock the door without any further distractions. She followed the blonde inside; watching curiously as Regina tossed some mail on the table and then glanced over at the blinking light on the message machine.
Regina felt her companion's gaze penetrating her back and she turned, giving the woman a quizzical look. She waved her hand at the phone. "Ah, I'll listen to that later." Regina gazed up at Alex and smiled warmly. "Thanks for helping out today."
Alex shook her head and stepped up to Regina slipping her arms around the shorter woman's waist, pulling her close. She intently studied the sea green eyes that looked back up at her and lit up when a smile touched her lips. "Mm, you already thanked me once."
"I know, but to that girl, you were a hero today. She was terrified when she got stuck in that machine."
Blue eyes blinked and Alex ducked her head, hiding her discomfort with the label before she answered. "I'm not a hero, Regina." I wonder how you would feel about me if you saw the way I ran out of the ER like a coward the other day.
The blonde snorted and ran her hands up over Alex's shoulders, feeling the strength still evident there. "You think what you want, but I know better." She silenced the protest rising on Alex's lips with a gentle kiss, enjoying the soft, fullness of her lips as they returned the steady pressure in turn.
Since the accident neither of them had pushed the issue of being intimate with each other, they held hands, kissed and hugged often but that was the extent of it and Regina sorely missed the physical part of their relationship they had yet to regain. She knew part of Alex's reluctance was because she was still in considerable pain at times, but there was so much going on behind those turbulent blue eyes that made the young doctor believe it was much more than that alone. What her dark haired companion wasn't willing to discuss with her left Regina feeling anxious and unsettled about their relationship.
The taller woman slowly opened her eyes, pulled back from the kiss and then briefly brushed the back of her fingers over Regina's cheek. "You must be hungry. Do you want to order something to eat?"
The blonde frowned and shook her head. "No, no more take out food. I can whip something up for us," Regina replied, before she walked into the kitchen. "Let me see what I've got."
Alex followed the blonde into the kitchen and casually leaned against the wall, watching as Regina rummaged through the cabinet and pulled out a box of linguine, followed by several cans of clams.
"Linguine and clam sauce, sound good?"
"Sure, but won't that take awhile?"
The blonde's shoulders shook as she snickered at the concerned expression on Alex's face. "You really don't cook very much do you?"
Dark eyebrows furrowed and Alex folded her arms over her chest. "Hey, I'll have you know I can cook..."
"Yes." Regina leaned against the counter and folded her arms waiting for Alex's answer."
Alex's frown broke into a sly grin. "Do hard boiled eggs count?"
Regina tilted her head back and let out an exasperated sigh. "You are too much."
"So, I took wood working and metal shop in high school," Alex protested good-naturedly.
The young doctor rolled her eyes, pulled a large pot out from inside the cabinet, and set it on the stove. "Well, get over here and fill this pot with water, Ms. Butch."
"Hey," the taller woman grumbled and then gave up, knowing she'd been pegged as Regina just smiled impishly at her and pointed to the pot. "Watch it. You are treading on thin ice, here," Alex warned as she turned the water on in the sink and nudged the blonde with her hip.
"Ooh, I am so scared." Regina waggled her eyebrows and tried not to laugh again. It felt good to tease each other and laugh like this; releasing some of the tension they both were feeling around each other of late. So many things had gone unspoken since the day Alex was shot and the more time that passed the harder it was to talk about what was bothering her. "Aah, hey," she puttered as cold droplets of water suddenly splashed on her face. "Stop, that. Alex!"
The taller woman cupped her hand under the stream of water and flashed an evil grin. "Don't mock my skills."
"Ok, ok. Truce, please?" Regina pled as she wiped her face with her hand.
"I'll consider it," Alex mused, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips as she set the pot full of water on the stove.
Alex retreated back to the doorway and watched with interest as Regina quickly went about creating her clam sauce while the pasta cooked on the stove. Her talents certainly did not lie in this area and a rueful smirk crossed Alex's face when she thought that most of her dinners consisted of cereal and milk when she was alone. It felt nice to have someone want to do this for her, but there was also another part that railed against having to depend on anyone for anything. She sighed inwardly knowing that the last two months she felt like she'd done nothing except rely on Regina for everything.
"You want any help?"
Regina shook her head, glancing up at Alex. "No, why don't you go relax. This won't take long."
"Ok." Alex disappeared into the living room and settled herself onto the couch. She let out a quiet sigh and pressed her hand against her chest, the contact offering a different sensation than the pain that seemed to be more pronounced when she wasn't distracted. The brunette sorted though her experiences over the past two days searching for why she was having such a hard time adjusting to being back at work. Alex you're a jerk, you get shot, almost die, have major surgery and are back in less than two months. She shook her head, slightly disgusted that it was affecting her this much. Get past it, dwelling on it isn't going to help any.
She glanced down at her leather bag and then reached inside it, pulling out a folder. Work had always been a distraction for her and it was no different now as she opened the file and sifted through a pile of papers until she found the equipment list she was working on for the clinic and started reviewing it.
Alex made a note in the margin to ask Dr. Matthews for a requisition order to get equipment out of the warehouse that the hospital owned. It was convenient for the hospital to store old or unwanted equipment since the warehouse was located right next to the clinic, which was minutes away from the hospital. Once she found what she needed it would only be a matter of scheduling the movers to transport what they needed over into what would hopefully become the new community health center.
"Alex, come on it's ready."
"Oh, sorry. I didn't hear you." Alex pulled herself out of her thoughts when Regina set a steaming plate mounded with pasta and sauce down on the table a few feet away.
"Thanks," she offered quietly and slid into the chair opposite Regina.
As the blonde haired doctor ate and watched her friend sitting across from her she sensed the dark cloud of uncertainty and doubt that seemed to plague Alex ever since the shooting, descend once again. Regina winced inwardly at the memory of it, all too aware that the outcome could have been unthinkable given a slightly different set of circumstances. They had been lucky that day.
"This is really good Reg," Alex remarked in between bites.
Regina watched Alex quietly finish the food on her plate, her eyes hidden by the dark bangs. She thought of everything they had been through and all the things they had yet to experience and share together.
It came without warning and she found herself consumed by a flood of grief that choked her throat and brought stinging tears to her eyes. Without a word, the blonde shoved her chair back, fled into the bathroom, quickly shutting the door behind her. Her chest heaved as she covered her face with a hand and fought back a sob that threatened to burst out.
"Oh God," she uttered and leaned heavily against the door. Through the tears blurring her vision, Regina studied her hands and clenched them tightly into fists to stop them from shaking. Images flashed through her mind and she pressed her clenched fists against her eyes trying to block them out.
******There was blood everywhere and it quickly soaked through the front of Alex's faded blue scrub top. "Oh God, Alex...Sandy! I need help in here, now!" ******
Her voice echoed in her mind, starting a cascade of memories she couldn't control. Regina could see herself clamping her hands over the bullet hole in Alex's chest and with a detached sense of horror watched as the blood stained her hands red.
Maybe if I listened to Alex when she ordered me out of the room that night, none of this would have happened, Regina thought and shook her head, staring up at the ceiling. "This is all my fault."
Behind her came a soft knock on the door and she cursed softly, knowing she left Alex at the table wondering what in the hell was going on with her.
"Regina, are you ok?"
The young doctor swallowed the lump in her throat before she spoke. "Yeah, I...I'm fine. I'll be right out." She moved to the sink, turned the faucet on and splashed water on her face.
When she emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later, she glanced over at the table to find it empty and cleared of dishes. Across the room, Alex was standing by the window with her arms folded over her chest, staring into the darkness, a pensive expression on her face. I'm so sorry, Alex.
When the brunette heard Regina's footsteps she turned her head and watched her approach warily. She spoke first, breaking the heavy silence between them. "You know if you want to talk about anything, I'm here, right?" Alex asked in a neutral voice, trying to mask the hurt that lay just beneath the surface.
Regina started to say that everything was all right, but something in the way Alex's penetrating gaze captured hers broke the blonde's resolve. In two steps she was wrapped in the taller woman's embrace and holding onto her with all her strength.
"I can't lose you, Alex. Please, not again," she whispered into the fabric of her shirt.
The brunette tipped Regina's head back and studied her face intently. "You're not going to lose me, Regina. I'm staying right here." Alex sensed Regina's anguish and squeezed her tighter, whispering quiet reassurances in her ear. "Talk to me, please. Whatever it is, we'll work it out. I promise."
Regina closed her eyes unable to look at the pained expression in Alex's eyes. I'm sorry, Alex. I just don't know how to tell you that I just stood there and watched you slipping away. Everything I learned, everything you taught me, just flew out the window. I almost let you die in there.
"Hey, come on. It can't be that bad," Alex joked; Regina's uncharacteristic silence unnerving her.
The younger woman sniffed and wiped a hand across her eyes. "I don't even think I can put it into words right now."
Alex frowned and tilted her head. "Why? Just tell me what's wrong." She glanced over at the couch, deciding that it might be better if they both were sitting because this sounded like it was going to be one hell of a conversation. "Come here." She tugged the reluctant blonde over to the couch and sat, pulling Regina down beside her.
The younger woman curled her legs underneath her and leaned back against the corner of the couch, studying her hands, acutely aware of Alex watching her.
"Regina." Alex turned and rested her arm on the back cushion, waiting. "Did I do something?" She felt her heart jerk erratically in her chest when she heard a muffled sob.
Regina shook her head vigorously, several strands of hair falling over into her face as she fought back the tears. "No, Alex. It's not you. I mean I am worried about you. I know it's got to be hard going back to work."
The taller woman pursed her lips and then leaned closer to her younger companion. "No. This isn't about me, Regina. You didn't just bolt into the bathroom before because you're worried about me. Maybe you don't remember you're dreams but I hear you every night. Something's been bothering you and it's eating you up inside."
Regina's eyes widened and for a moment she worried that she said something in her sleep that Alex might already know. "I...I don't remember them," her voice faded away as the pale blue eyes watching her darkened and Alex's jaw muscles clenched briefly before she stared straight ahead.
"I don't understand. Why won't you tell me what's wrong?" Alex asked in a small voice. Behind them on the table the phone rang shrilly. "Don't...answer it,"
Regina pulled her hand back and cautiously glanced up at the dark haired woman sitting rigidly beside her. How did this conversation end up like this? We're practically arguing with each over something I don't even know how to explain. Then she heard her father's voice over the speaker. Shit, this can't get any worse, she thought and then it did.
"Hi, uh Regina, it's your father. I guess you're still not home." Regina wrinkled her nose, realizing now who had left the message before. "Your mother's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and um, I thought you might want to come up for the weekend. It might be a good way for us...I called your brother, Jeff and he's uh, well, he's thinking about it. I'll tell you the same thing though. If you decide to bring your...friend with you, you should plan to stay elsewhere than at the house. I think it will be better..."
Completely mortified, Regina reached out and grabbed the phone from the cradle. "Dad, shit," she cursed when she heard her voice on the speaker and turned the volume off on the machine. "Hi, yeah, I'm home. No, I wasn't screening calls."
She glanced over at the brunette and cringed inwardly when she saw Alex slumped back against the couch with her head tilted back and eyes closed. "What weekend? Oh, ok." Regina pushed several flaxen strands of hair back off her face and rested her elbows on her knees, wanting nothing more than to just crawl into a hole somewhere and hide. "Is Mike going to be there with his wife? Ah huh, yeah, great." Her voice sounded more resigned now. "Yes, Dad, I'll switch my schedule if I need to. I'll talk to you later."
Quietly, she hung up the phone and rubbed her face before she looked over at Alex and noticed her eyes were still closed and could tell from the erratic rise and fall of her chest that she was breathing irregularly, obviously more upset now than before.
"I'm sorry," she breathed out, wanting nothing more than to reach out and touch the woman but the pang of her upset prevented her from doing so.
"What are you sorry about? It's you're parents prerogative who they want staying in their house." Alex started to say more but bit back the sarcastic remark about knowing how Regina's parents felt about her now. It wasn't Regina's fault and it would only serve to distance them further from each other, which they didn't seem to need much help with at the moment.
She hadn't meant for the conversation to go this way, but it seemed that no matter what she said only made Regina more anxious and determined not to tell her what was troubling her. The taller woman sighed, seeing the unhappy expression on her partner's face. "Listen, it's late and we're both tired." Alex reached over and tentatively brushed a lock of hair behind Regina's perfectly shaped ear. "Why don't we call it a night? When you need or want to, you can talk to me." The brunette stood up and ran a hand through her hair, not sure of what else to say or do that wouldn't make the situation worse.
She turned around looking at Regina uncertainly. "What?"
"I was thinking that maybe it would be nice if we could get away for the weekend. You know, just so we could be together."
The tall, dark haired woman pressed her lips into a thin line before she answered. "I wish I could Regina, but I planned to start work on getting the clinic set up downtown."
"Oh, I didn't realize it was going to happen that quickly," Regina replied, trying unsuccessfully to hide the dejection evident in her voice.
Ah shit. Alex hesitated before she walked back over and sat down on the couch. "We'll do something, I promise. Maybe after you go visit your parents we can take a few days off and go somewhere. Ok?"
Regina rested her elbows on her knees and stared off across the room. "I um, I was hoping that maybe, you would come with me...if you want." She nervously clasped her hands tightly together, her knuckles turning white from the pressure while she stumbled over her words. "I...I'll understand if you don't want to." She wanted Alex with her but the prospect of her mother meeting her lover, the same woman Derrick had badly maligned to her, was enough to make her stomach start doing back flips.
"Oh." Alex coughed and cleared her throat, floundering in deep water at the unexpected invitation. "Of course, I'll come with you Reg. I just wasn't sure if that was what you wanted."
"Why wouldn't I want you to come with me?"
Alex blinked and looked back into questioning green eyes before she answered. "I know your parents gave you a hard time when you told them about yourself. I'm sure they think that I'm stealing their daughter away, corrupting you or something." Alex tried to keep her voice light as if joking about it, but realized there was more truth in that statement than she cared to admit. "I...I just don't want to make things any more difficult for you, that's all."
"Oh." Regina sat back, considering this for a second before she glanced back over at her companion. "Alex, it would be more difficult if you weren't there with me."
"All right, then," Alex responded still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of not just meeting Regina's parents but being there for a weekend. No problem, right? You've been up to your ankles in blood and gore I think you can handle a weekend with her parents, Alex thought wryly. "I guess we'll have to plan to take some time off then."
A smile broke over the younger woman's face and she leaned into Alex, placing a feather light kiss on her temple. "Thanks, Alex."
"Your welcome." Alex turned to face Regina. "Do you think you can get the time off so we can spend a few days together after we leave your parents?"
"I can switch some shifts around with some of the other doctors. It shouldn't be a problem."
"That would be nice. You're right, we do need some time for just the two of us." Alex slid her arm around the Regina's shoulder and pulled her closer, wishing that for tonight both of them would sleep without dreams.
Continued in Chapter 6