She couldn't say what exactly woke her from the deep warm sleep she had been enjoying. There didn't seem to be any noise except for the soft whisper of the ceiling fan above. Quin stretched her limbs one by one then she had herself a languid body stretch that was topped off by an enormous yawn. As her muscles contracted and relaxed her eyes took in the room around her — her own bedroom, in her own house. She remembered arriving, and she remembered the chicken broth that had been expertly warmed in the microwave by Vivian. After that everything became kind of fuzzy. She sat up slowly on the side of the bed and was pleased at how little pain she experienced. A pair of sweats and a t-shirt was folded neatly on the nightstand. She stood and grabbed the clothes on her way to the bathroom.
Vivian peeled a green apple, one of ten large green apples that she would need for the apple pie she was making. She heard the soft thumps come from the room directly above the kitchen, and the shower start. Part of her wanted to go up the stairs and get into the shower with the brunette. Then there was the part of her that was still a little mad at the PI, and that part was going to stay right where she was, peeling and slicing apples for her first ever apple pie. She had just finished her last apple when the shower was turned off. The crumpled and now wet directions she was trying hard to follow were once again queried. She never imagined that a pie had so many steps, and was regretting the decision. Ruth had been very patient on the phone giving her the secret family recipe, but Vivian was pretty sure that the pie crust was supposed to stay together. What lined the pie pan in front of her was more like a dough patch work quilt from hell. Her blue eyes tracked back to the ceiling as soft thumps indicated more activity from the room above then the eyes landed back on the recipe in her hand. She was rolling out the top crust just as Quin's wet head poked around the kitchen doorjamb. "Do you know how hard it is to keep pie dough together?" She asked as she took a deep breath and prepared to top the heap of apples that were waiting patiently in the pan.
Quin edged into the room, "I've never tried to make a pie."
"Me either until about an hour ago." Vivian's tongue slipped between her lips as she tried to move the quickly deteriorating rough circle of dough. A slow growl passed her lips when it fell apart in her hands, leaving two ragged pieces that mocked her in a silent rebuke. She looked up at Quin expecting to see that smug grin the PI flashes when she's amused by something. Instead she found gray eyes contemplating her hands with thoughtfulness. Then if by magic Quin's smaller hands joined her own, together they reworked the dough in a new ball then rolled it into a new flat top crust. Quin maneuvered her smaller frame to stand with in Vivian's longer arms as their four hands gently picked up the crust. With their joint breaths held, they moved the crust to drape the apples and then exhaled softly as it settled into place without so much as a tear. Vivian took Quin's hands into her own and smiled. "Wow." She felt Quin shrug her shoulders.
"We make a good team." The brunette offered in way of explanation of their success. Silence from the woman behind her made her look up and over her shoulder. "Or maybe not."
Vivian's smiled faded as she released Quin's hands allowing the woman to turn and face her. "I think we could make a good team."
Quin's heart just about stopped in her chest and her limbs became heavy with dread of what was about to come out of the blonde's mouth next.
Vivian noticed the change immediately. Quin looked defeated. She looked resigned. A decision need to be made at that moment, and it was easy for her to choose. She raised her hands, even though they were covered with flour and dough, and framed Quin's face. "I think we can make a good team. With practice." She leaned forward and gave Quin a reassuring kiss. "And communication." Another small soft kiss. "Lots of communication."
Quin accepted the third kiss and felt the sense of darkness lift. It was her turn. "I'm sorry. I should have called."
"You should have stayed your scrawny ass in the hospital." Vivian countered.
Quin's dark head nodded slowly, "I should have stayed my scrawny ass in the hospital, and I should have called you with the information I had."
"And?" Vivian urged.
"And I… " Quin paused thinking of what else there could be and decided to just pick something from the last forty-eight hours that was inconsiderate, "… I shouldn't threaten reporters, and I should turn over guns that I acquire through less than proper channels to the police at the station instead of mailing them fed-ex to the Captain."
Vivian blinked several times, shook her head, and snickered. "You're kidding me right?"
Quin bit her lower lip, and thought for a moment she should say yes that she was kidding, then thought better of it, remembering the bit about communication and assuming that meant truthfully communicating, she sighed and said softly. "No."
Vivian started to say something but paused, then began to speak again and failed. She grinned outwardly and then smiled as she realized that Quin was serious and that she was really trying. She could either make a big deal of it or quietly accept this offer of candor she was being gifted with. "Okay, umm… I agree that perhaps those things could have been handled differently, and I don't want any details." She held up her hand as if to ward off any explanation the PI might give. "Let's call a do-over then."
"Yeah, a do-over. You know, we forget about everything that has happened, except the lesson learned, and we start over." Vivian explained and moved to finish the pie now that it was topped. She glanced at the well abused recipe and added sugar and cinnamon to the top of the crust.
"So where do we exactly start over from?" Quin asked as she leaned on her elbows against the counter watching Vivian finish the pie and place it on a cookie sheet. She casually rubbed her finger together dislodging the flour and dough from them into a fine dust on the counter surface. She was intrigued by this do-over concept, especially since it would save her a considerable amount of time trying to apologize for all the idiotic insensitive things she had done in the last month. It wasn't that she was not sorry for these infractions of behavior. It was the simple fact that there were so many she might actually do more harm than good by confessing them all.
Vivian placed her pie in the preheated oven and set the timer. She closed the door with a simple satisfaction that she hadn't felt in a long time. She turned and answered Quin's question. "Dinner." She moved to the sink and washed her hands, "I think we should start over from our dinner in L.A., and we'll start tonight." She looked at the timer on the oven, "So that gives us about an hour to get ready."
"We're going to dinner?" Quin asked unsure.
"Yup. I've already picked the place and made the reservations."
"Yup. The dress is casual, but neat, no ripped jeans and no leather jacket."
"No T-shirts. I know you have other clothes Quin McKee, so go put your self into them." Vivian shooed in the direction of the kitchen door at her, "I need to clean up here and get ready too."
Quin's lower lip pouted out for a moment then acceptance graced her face. She had promised to behave and cooperate with the beautiful detective. Quin kept her promises. It was her code of life. Her departure from the kitchen was not swift. She snuck a bit of left over pie dough and rolled it in some sugar. She wondered to herself as she climbed the stairs why Vivian was making an apple pie. Perhaps dessert for later she mused as she stopped in the hall bath to wash her dusty hands. Her next stop was the closet.
Vivian had just finished putting the last dish in the dishwasher when she heard the too loud thump from above. Then the quiet that followed was suddenly punctuated with a painful sob. Her long legs took her up the steps and into the master bedroom of the old house in seconds. Quin wasn't immediately visible. She had to pause for a moment to orient herself to the sounds of the woman who was steadily crying now. She found Quin on the floor of the large walk in closet. By the time she came to settle on the floor next to the brunette the crying had turned to a soft weeping. Vivian scooted until she was able to wrap Quin in her arms and rock her gently. She waited, silently supporting her lover. Letting her work through the grief that had suddenly overtook her, for there was little doubt to Vivian that it was grief that consumed the brunette. She need to only look up at the long row of clothing to understand. Quin must have not taken care of this detail after Grace's death. The tailored suits and dresses all hung silently waiting on cedar hangers for someone to put on. Only the person they had been so carefully made for would never return to claim ownership of the fine clothing.
Quin sniffled and became nearly silent. She acknowledged Vivian by closing her arms over the strong long arms of the detective holding her. She took a deep shuddering breath, "I've forgotten to do so many things for her."
Vivian didn't know what to say so she just tightened her grip a little more to reassure Quin she was there.
"I… would you help me with this?" Quin asked softly, almost ashamed of her weakness.
Vivian kissed the dark head that rested against her chest, "Yes."
Quin took another deep breath, "Thank You." She said exhaling. Maybe this communicating thing had merit.
"We're going to make a good team." Vivian reminded the woman in her arms as she gently rocked from side to side.
"I believe you." Quin confirmed and accepted.
Vivian smiled, "Lets get ready. These lovely clothes will wait another day." She helped Quin to her feet and turned to face the long line of clothes on the opposite side of the closet, "I suppose that I will need to be thanking my predecessor often for her taste." She fingered a vibrant blue raw silk blouse.
Quin grinned and rolled her eyes, she used the sleeve of the t-shirt she wore to wipe her eyes. "I picked out her clothes. Grace was hopeless when it came to fashion." Quin smiled as she pulled the blue blouse and a pair of black trousers from the rod below and exited the closet leaving Vivian a little confused as she considered the possibility that Quin McKee could dress anyone else let alone her self in such finery.
Vivian had been wrong. She admitted it to herself rather reluctantly, she hated to be wrong. The specifics were that either Quin McKee cleaned up nice out of luck, or she really was able to dress herself elegantly and possibly dress others thusly as well. There was a gentle sophistication to the end product that had descended the stairs and walked out to get into a rather cherry Thunderbird, on which the black finish was so shiny that it looked wet. Vivian didn't dare question where the car had appeared from as the keys were pressed into her hand by an ever vigilant Anthony who also informed her that the pie was in the trunk safe and cozy. She marveled at how well she fit behind the wheel of the classic 1955 car. The leather seat seemed to hug her hips as she settled in. When she cranked the ignition a thrill passed through her as the rumble of the engine hinted at something other than stock under the hood. The competition shift that boasted five speeds on its chrome knob caused a raised brow in the brunette's direction. There was a slight shrug of shoulders and a mumbled, ‘It was too slow.' Vivian could accept that, sometimes a person needed to tweak a few things in life to get a good fit. She placed the car in first and released the parking brake. There was just a little discomfort as she adjusted to the unfamiliar clutch, but by the time she came to the end of the residential street she had it down and was eager for a little drive on the highway.
Quin was content to doze in the passenger seat. She was in no hurry. It was nice to be going she decided where ever it was they were going. It was all too soon though that she began to notice a familiar building here or fast food restaurant there. She made a prediction to herself where the reservations had been made for this ‘date'. Quin shifted in her seat and turned to look at the blonde who seemed to be enjoying herself. She wanted to be uncomfortable with this, but something inside begged that she give it a chance. What harm could come from letting go for one night. Let Vivian have her way. The Thunderbird exited the highway. Quin shifted back into her seat and patted her pockets for her cigarettes. She must have left without them. Damn. Damn.
Vivian noticed the pat down with a frown. She pulled into the next gas station and silently got out of the car. She returned in a few moments dropping a pack of cigarettes and a lighter into Quin's lap before closing her car door and once again entered traffic.
Quin picked up the pack and looked at it in horror, "Ultra lights?"
"Until you get back on the patch." Vivian said as she negotiated the lighter than usual weekday traffic toward their destination.
"Stop at the next drug store." Quin urged. "At least I'll be getting some nicotine that way."
Vivian chuckled and did as requested. She watched as Quin exited the car and disappeared into the 24-hour drug store. She returned a few moments later and rapidly applied a patch to her shoulder.
"All set Detective."
Quin thought for a moment and nodded, "Yes."
Quin wasn't surprised when Vivian pulled into the long drive of the Ross' house. She had a feeling that was their destination. "Was it hard to get reservations here?"
Vivian shook her head, "Not if you know to whom to talk."
"I feel like I'm missing something." Quin said as she opened her car door.
Vivian had already exited and retrieved her pie from the trunk, it was still warm enough she needed to use the towel wrapped around it to carry the dessert to the front door. "Do you know what today is Quin?" She asked using her elbow to close the trunk lid.
Vivian blinked a few times then smiled, "No. Tuesday was two days ago."
"But you took me home Monday."
"And you ate some soup and passed out."
"I did not sleep for two days." Quin insisted as they made their way to the porch where She pressed the doorbell and slung the doorknocker for good measure. She began to get nervous, her lower lip suffered as she externalized.
"You slept for two days, almost three days actually." Vivian shifted the pie a little in order to grab hold of some cooler towel surface. "I drugged your soup."
Quin was about to say something she would regret when the front door opened and a jovial Tom Ross wrapped her in a hug.
"Happy Thanksgiving Quin!"
She received a wet kiss on her cheek which she promptly wiped off with the back of her hand as Vivian was being accosted in the same manner she wiped the back of her hand off on Tom's shirt. Then it dawned on her. He had said Happy Thanksgiving. "It's Thanksgiving?"
Tom and Vivian looked at her.
"It's Thanksgiving." Quin stated then looked thoughtful. "I slept for two days." Another statement. Then her eyes narrowed at the buxom blonde detective. "You drugged my soup."
Tom licked his lips then gestured at the pie in Vivian's hands in hopes to change what seemed to be a worrisome subject. "That looks great."
Quin moved him aside and stepped closer to Vivian who held out the pie in front of her to ward off her advance.
"Thanks Tom. Quin helped, didn't you honey?" Large blue eyes smiled at Quin.
And Quin melted under that gaze. "Yes. I helped. A little." Her intent was forgotten. She was whipped and knew it.
Tom smiled at the two. "Let's get inside, we'll be eating soon."
Ruth was in ‘Holiday Mode'. There was no room for error. Failure was not an option.
Vivian eased into the kitchen and placed her apple pie on the large wood topped island in the middle of the room. She had to nudge over a plate of deviled eggs to the right and a bowl of coleslaw to the left. It amazed her the amount of food Ruth Ross prepared for a holiday dinner. The matriarch was standing at the sink washing dishes.
"Need help?" Vivian asked while sneaking a green olive off a plate full of savory goodies. Ruth turned toward her with a smile.
"Just about done. Is Quin with you?" The doctor turned just in time to see a cookie disappear into the detective's mouth.
"Hmmm mmmm." Vivian nodded then swallowed her sweet treat and eyed a piece of fudge, "Tom has her." She reached for the dark chocolate morsel only to receive a slap to her hand.
"That's for later, if you eat all of your real food." Ruth smiled at the disappointed groan. "Now if you want to help, you can start carrying this stuff to the table." She put the deviled eggs into Vivian's hands and waved her toward the dining room. She bellowed for two more helpers, and her oldest children appeared. It was time to set the table. It was almost time to relax, but not quite. The buzzer for the oven sounded for what would be the last time this Thanksgiving Day.
Quin was in a word uncomfortable. The last two recent times in the Ross house had been relatively quick stays. This was different. This was a holiday meal. She was going to have to interact with people — with the Ross children. She found the living room empty, which was to her liking. There were new family pictures everywhere mixed with the old images. She wasn't surprised not to find any of the photos with herself and the kids that once occupied the same space that new pictures now occupied. Quin paused in her perusal as she came across a photo of a pile of kids. Immersed in the pile was a laughing Grace.
Tom's soft voice called her from her examination. She turned to see him approaching her with a bundled baby.
"Will you hold her for a minute? I need to run upstairs to get a diaper."
Quin smiled and nodded holding out her arms to accept the precious new life. Tom settled them both in an overstuffed chair with a promise to be right back. The PI caressed the soft cheek of the infant girl with a single finger and whispered soft words of praise to the baby while tickling a tiny lower lip to produce a very tiny pout.
Ruth stood in the doorway observing Quin for a moment. Her heart sank a bit, she had spent the better part of two weeks explaining to her children that she was wrong about Quin McKee. She found it was a hard task admitting that. She was amazed at the maturity of her children. The three year old was just happy he had another Aunt. "I see you've been charmed by our little Grace."
Quin's heart nearly stopped. "Grace?" The name was a strangled whisper. She had barley spoken the name in three years. It had become a thought to her.
Ruth sat on the wide arm of the chair and smiled softly.
Quin thought about how she felt holding her dead lovers namesake. She wondered how Grace would have felt about having a child named after her. Her finger stroked the soft cheek of the sleeping infant. "I think she would have been elated." She looked up as she felt the weight of Ruth's hand on her shoulder. "I think she would have been proud." Quin looked down upon the infant in her arms again, "Welcome to the world Grace Ross." She pressed a kiss to the baby's forehead. Everything is just how it is suppose to be, Quin thought as she enjoyed holding the new life in her arms.
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