The sound of the phone ringing woke Tom Ross first. He reached for the offending appliance blindly, knocking over a picture frame as he finally grasped the receiver. "Hello." He rasped. He listen to the voice for a moment, his eyes still shut. His eyes opened at the mention of Quinlan McKee. He rolled to his back and sighed. He looked at his sleeping wife and bit his lower lip. "Okay, I'll ask her. But no guarantees. Hold on." He pressed the phone to his chest and nudged his wife. "Ruth?"
"Ruth, Stephanie Miller is on the phone, she wants to know if you'd do her a favor."
The red head turned toward her husband, "What kind of favor?"
"She needs to you to make a house call. She's in the middle of some kind of emergency and can't go herself. She said she would make it up to you ten times." Tom held his breath.
"Fine, get the address, I'm getting up."
Tom picked up the phone again and told the young doctor on the other end that his wife had accepted the job. He hung up the phone and climbed out of bed.
"What are you doing?" Ruth questioned a she returned to the room buttoning a large white shirt. She went to her dresser and pulled out a pair of sweatpants.
"I'm going to wake up Peter; then I'm going with you. I'll drive."
"Okay, you can keep me awake." Ruth replied she was glad to have the company. The pregnancy made her tired, and with just two hours of sleep under her belt, she wasn't sure she could make the drive to wherever she was going safely anyway.
Tom woke his oldest son. The sixteen year old was trust worthy and capable, and took his father's position in his parents king size bed next to the only phone that rang at night in the house. Convinced that all was well, Tom and Ruth headed out.
With in moments Tom pulled the large passenger van that was his family car in front of McKee's house. Ruth turned angry amber eyes on her husband. "This is a joke right? You don't expect me to go in there do you?"
"Stephanie said there was a baby that needed care here. I don't know the circumstances, but for Quin to use up a favor like this it must be important. I'm coming in with you." Tom stepped out of the van and walked around the vehicle. He opened his wife's door and waited.
Quin sat in a low back leather chair holding the now sleeping baby. All the other children had been escorted to various rooms and nestled into beds. Quang was passed out on the couch in what looked to be a very uncomfortable position for which Quin was sure he would pay in the morning. The doorbell rang causing Quin to jerk and the baby to startle awake. She eased up out of the chair and made her way to the door, comforting the child as she went.
Tom stood behind his wife holding her black bag. He reached around her and rang the bell again, almost simultaneously the door opened. McKee stood on the other side talking to an infant in her arms. She waved them in without even looking up.
Ruth had a million things to say to Quinlan McKee, but they all rushed from her mind as she watched the dark woman console the whimpering child in her arms. There was something about the scene that seemed, so natural, so right. Like McKee was meant to hold a child like that. It was a picture that Ruth had never conjured, and she analyzed that for a second. Grace had seemed more the mothering type. McKee had always come off harsh and uncaring for such things. Ruth recalled the brunette treating her own children more like adults instead of the kids they were. Yet here she was, obviously in distress over this unknown baby's condition, to the point she used a very expensive favor. Ruth shut the door and cleared her throat.
Quin looked up, she was sure she looked surprised, even a little shock at the two people standing in her foyer. "I… I thought…."
Tom extended the black bag in front of him, dangling it over his wife's shoulder, "Stephanie got held up at the hospital. Ruth agreed to come in her stead."
Ruth took the bag from her husband, "He neglected to say that I wasn't completely informed of where I was going," she said a bit harshly in her husband's direction.
Quin tilted her head at the red head who was now glaring at her, "If you'd prefer I can just run him to the ER. I'll wake up Quang…"
Ruth knew she was acting the ass, but it was hard being on the same planet with Quinlan McKee, let alone in the same room. "I'm here now, no sense in taking the baby out in the cold." She gestured to the dining room door on the right of the hall. "In here is fine."
Tom pushed back the large pocket door revealing the formal dining room. The furniture was still covered in protective drop clothes. The room was probably being open for the first time since McKee had returned. He pulled back the large drape off the table making room for McKee to ease the child down on the polished cherry wood surface. She then stepped back to let Ruth work.
The doctor found nothing serious wrong with the child. He was simply teething. That caused fussing, and extra acid in the baby's stomach caused the vomiting. She looked over at the woman leaning against the wall, "He's cutting teeth and a little dehydrated."
"I picked up some juice and pedolite on the way here…"
"Pedolite is better than the juice. If need be, cut the juice with water."
Quin nodded her understanding.
"Do you have a crib?"
"Upstairs, across from our room." Quin said then corrected herself, "I mean my room. Quang got it ready."
Ruth picked up the baby and made her way up the stairs without replying to the brunette. She just wanted to get the baby settled and then get on her own way. She knew the inside of the big house as well as she did her own and had little trouble finding the correct room. She was surprised to find a complete nursery set up with every convenience a new baby could ever need. The Doctor was always amazed at Quin McKee's ability to have exactly what's needed when its needed most. She nestled the child down into the crib and waited until she was sure he was asleep. She heard someone enter the room and instinctually knew it was her husband.
"Everything okay?" Tom asked as he stopped beside his wife looking at the now sleeping baby.
"He's fine." She brushed straight brown hair from the child's face letting her fingers luxuriate in the softness of the baby's skin. "Did you talk to her?"
"She went out to the porch. I um… talked to Quang for a bit. It's kind of complicated."
Ruth nodded her head and frowned, "It usually is with McKee involved."
The couple left the room silently. Tom glanced at the master bedroom as he walked down the hall. It was in much the same state as the dinning room. Its furniture covered in heavy drop clothes to protect it from settling dust. He continued down the stairs with his wife.
Quang stood at the bottom of the stairs and gave a small smile at Ruth and Tom as they descended. "Hey Doc, is he…."
"Just fine Quang, but you look like hell."
Quang shrugged. "Been a busy couple of days, but it's better now."
Ruth took a close look at the man in front of her. He showed signs of exhaustion, but there was a smile in his eyes. She wondered at the details of this latest McKee adventure. She would extract them from her husband later. "Tell that slave driver to give you a break. She owes me big time, and I'm starting to call in my favors." Ruth said as she closed in on Quang and hugged him tightly to her. "Be careful." She said into his ear as she ended the hug.
Quang stepped back and looked at the doctor, "I'm always careful, if I'm not McKee will kick my butt. Besides, she is giving me a break on this one. It's kind of my fault." He shrugged his narrow shoulders.
"I'm sure that's what she told you…"
Quang stood straight and rolled his shoulders back, "Listen up Doc, I know you and she have issues, but she's doing right here. She doesn't have to do anything, but she's helping me." He poked a thin finger at his chest. "So lay off for tonight. Maybe you can pick up the hate fest tomorrow." He turned and left the hallway, disappearing into a doorway off to the left.
Ruth stood speechless. Her mouth gaped for some retort as the man exited. But there was nothing to say Quang spoke the truth. She closed her mouth and looked at her husband. "Am I that transparent?"
Tom encircled his wife with his arm. "Like crystal my dear, let's go home. Maybe things will be better in the daylight."
Quin had heard the three people's discussion from the other side of the screen door. She knew she had amends to make with the Ross', but she was having a hard time taking action to make them. She moved back into the shadows of the porch and watched her former friends leave. Quin swung her legs over the low banister that framed the porch, and sat on the rail as the van pulled away from the curb. It had been a long day, and night. A new day began as she watched the eastern sky lighten behind the mountains.
The cry of a baby brought her from her sunrise gazing. She sighed and stretched. This was going to be a definite learning experience. She quickly ran through names of people who might owe her a favor that could nanny the brood of children. She needed to get back to work, and needed Quang to help her. As she ascended the stairs she had a short list to start calling as soon as it was polite enough to call and wake normal people up.
After calling nearly twenty people Quin had hit pay dirt. There was just one problem. The twenty something black man in front of her didn't fit her definition of a nanny. He came highly recommended by a trusted associate, but it didn't seem normal for someone so young and male to want this job.
Anthony Davis squirmed a bit under the brunette's intense gaze. He knew what the problem was the moment he had introduced himself. "I assure you Ms. McKee, I'm not a child molester."
It was Quin's turn to squirm as the man spoke what she was thinking. "I'm sorry, but it's just odd," she tried to explain.
"I understand." Anthony said as he stood, "You have my references. If you change your mind, call me." He nodded to the seated woman and turned to leave.
Quin sighed. "Wait. It'll take some getting use to, and since Pete Sacks says you're okay, then I can at least give it a go."
Anthony suppresses a gleeful smile and a relieved sigh of his own. He really needed the job. It was live in and the promised wage would pay for one more quarter of school. He turned and extended his hand.
Quin stood and shook the offered hand and smiled for the first time at the man, "Welcome to the mad house Anthony. When can you start?"
"My stuff is in my van."
A dark eyebrow raised, "That sure of your self?"
"No ma'am, homeless as of noon yesterday. I couldn't pay for the new semester and an apartment." Anthony explained.
Quin smiled, "Then we are both fortunate this day."
Ruth sipped at her decaf coffee and regarded her husband across from her. They had made the short trip home in silence. Both too wound up to return to sleep, they decided to have some coffee and talk. Problem was that neither had said a word so far. Ruth sighed and looked at her reflection on the dark surface of her coffee. "I suppose I can go first."
Tom looked up from where he to was gazing into the clouds of cream in his coffee. "I would, but I don't know where to start. There's things you don't know."
"Things? Things about McKee?" Tom's silver head nodded. "Start with anything honey. How bad can it be compared to what she did to us three years ago."
Tom shifted in his chair, "Some of it is bad… Ruth. You'll have to listen okay, once I start…"
Ruth raised a hand and got up from the table. She left the kitchen but soon returned with a folded piece of paper and a pen. "I promise. I'll just jot my questions down as you go and ask when you're finish. Is that okay?"
Tom smiled and nodded. He rose and refilled their cups before settling down once again. "All right, Grace told you how she met McKee." Ruth nodded, "Well it was more than good girl meets bad girl and falls in love…."
Vivian climbed the few steps to the large concrete porch. It had been several days since she had spoken with the PI. They had played a good game of answering machine tag, and rattled each other's cells phones. It seemed easier just to try and catch the woman at home. She pressed the doorbell and knocked on the colorful stained glass for good measure.
A high squeal and giggling came through the heavy glass and wood. A blonde eyebrow slowly raised at the sound and made her step back to check the address on the house to be sure she was at the right place. The door opened as she peered at the four numbers on the pillar of the porch.
"May I help you Miss?"
Vivian's head snapped back to the door at hearing the male voice, "Ummm is Quin home?" She asked cautiously.
"Ms. McKee is in her office. Is she expecting you?" The black man adjusted something under his arm.
It took a moment for Vivian to discern the shape of a small child who wiggled and giggled as the man tried to hold on to him. Now she was concerned, she did not recall Quin having any children. And who was the man answering the door? No one ever mention him either. He wasn't here last week, and neither was the kid. The blonde frowned to herself.
"Miss?" Anthony called to the woman who looked perplexed.
Vivian shook her head, "Ummm she's probably not expecting me, but she might want to speak with me."
Anthony weighed this answer. McKee had said she wasn't to be disturbed. She and Quang had disappeared to the basement early that afternoon after helping him unload his van into the garage apartment in back of the house. He was then introduced to the children who were due for lunch and then some games to help with their cabin fever that was carried over from being cooped up in the small apartment for the last week. He looked closely at the tall blonde woman. The gold badge at her hip made up his mind for him. "If you'll come in I'll tell her you're here. Who should I say…."
"Detective Walsh." Vivian supplied as she passed by the man and giggling child into the house. Two more children sprinted across the wide hall from one door to the next. Vivian stopped and looked at the man who let her in with a tilt to her head.
Anthony shrugged, "I've been trying to get them rounded up for a nap for about thirty minutes. They have me out numbered and the house is rather large. My hope is they will drop from exhaustion and I'll gain the upper hand." He shifted his load under his arm, the child enjoying the game with a squeal. Anthony nodded down the hall, "Do you know the way to the…."
"Bat cave?" Vivian offered with a smile.
The young man laughed, "That's exactly what I thought when I saw it too."
"I know the way," another child scampered by, "I think you have your work cut out for you here."
"If you feel like lending a hand after your talk with Ms. McKee…"
Vivian shook her head as she retreated down the hall, "no way mister, I'm a cop, not a baby wrangler."
McKee sat in front of her computer entering another stream of words in hope the search would come back with something that would help her and Quang head in the right direction.
Quang snoozed happily away on the couch. The man was exhausted after his four-day ordeal. The girl named Laney was his. Her green eyes a dead give away. Quang seemed attached to the small five year old. He had even threatened Anthony with bodily harm if anything should befall the girl. Quin thought Quang was going to be a good father. He certainly had the protective streak for the job.
Quin stretched in her chair, reaching her arms for the ceiling palms up. She gave a satisfied groan that turned into a menacing growl as smoke rose from the monitor in front of her. She scrambled under the desk to unplug the device.
That was how Vivian found her. She quietly stood admiring the view of the PI's rear and smiled at the stream of profanity that came from the small space the brunette had wedged herself into. She broke out into full laughter when Quin ran out of English words and moved onto what sounded like German.
Quin looked behind her and saw the tapered dark green slacks and low heel shoes of the person who was being entertained by her. She hoped it was Vivian Walsh as she backed out of the hole she was in. She waved away the smoke in the air and smiled at the detective, feeling as though a wish had been granted.
"Trouble?" Vivian asked with a bright smile. Her arms were across her chest, long fingers on one hand drummed on a white linen covered arm.
Quin shrugged and grinned, "Nothing I can't handle detective." The words were barely out when flames leapt into the air from the back of the aged monitor. "Whoa!" Quin shouted and dashed for a small fire extinguisher mounted on the wall above the couch. She scowled at her friend Quang who slept merrily on, then dashed back to douse the flames. "See, all under control," she said as she once again waved smoke away and set the spent extinguisher on the floor.
"I see." Vivian said barely controlling her laughter.
Quin in an effort to take the focus off herself ambled over to the tall blonde. "Do you find me entertaining Detective?" she said as low and menacing as she could.
Vivian couldn't hold it any longer and busted out into full laughter. She nearly doubled over with the effort. Tears ran from her eyes as she tried to catch her breath, but every time she looked at the brunette a new round of laughter would start.
Quin stood with a straight face and a blush. She didn't see what was so funny. After nearly two minutes of the detective's laughter she had enough. On the next clear breath the blonde took Quin moved forward and up onto the tip of her toes to deliver a heated kiss to unsuspecting lips.
Vivian's body leaned into the sensation, her lips almost immediately opened at the brunettes requesting tongue. Every nerve in her body came to attention and her knees threatened to collapse. In an effort to give as good as she got she stepped forward, forcing Quin back against the edge of the desk, her lips pursued the PI's, her hands taking hold of Quin's and pinning them to the edge of the desk. A deep throb started between her legs, a sensation she wished to increase.
Quin kicked off her loafers, and extended her legs onto either side of Vivian. She wrapped her legs around the taller woman's thighs, crossing her sock covered feet and pulling the woman closer to her. The deep moan the blonde made was repeated by herself as the kiss continued.
Quang rolled over and opened his eyes. A lazy smile graced his lips as he watched the two women. Then his eyes popped completely open as he realized he wasn't enjoying a dream but reality. He lost his balance and ended up on the floor with a thud. He scrambled to his feet and scurried for a pillow to cover his obvious arousal. "Damn McKee, sorry." He backed toward the stairs.
Quin's eyebrows drew together, then her eyes opened and widened as the words and who had spoke them finally penetrated her pleasurable haze. She reluctantly ended the kiss and rested her head against Vivian's shoulder. "He can sleep through a fire, and you laughing hysterically, but can't manage through a kiss." She said as she burrowed deeper into the blondes embrace.
Vivian laughed softly, "Who are all these people in your house McKee? I thought you were a solo act?" She caressed Quin's back holding her close, unwilling to let go of the wonderful feeling of having the compact body next to hers. She felt Quin's lips smile against the skin of her neck.
"Quang kind of works with me, and the others are a long story." Quin sat back and looked into Vivian's blue eyes, "I assume you're here for some reason other than to laugh at me and get me all worked up."
Vivian loosened her hold on Quin, but couldn't help the soft smile that seemed plastered to her face, "Well I was going to inquire if you had any idea where Justin Downs had got off to. He seems to be missing."
Quin sighed and looked at the remains of the computer monitor, "That's what I was doing when the damn thing decided to go up in smoke." She turned back to the blonde, "I just need to switch out the monitor." She raised her hand and caressed Vivian's cheek. "This is such a bad idea," she said softly.
Vivian's smile twitched, "Why's that? We seemed to be doing okay." She moved forward and confirmed her statement by giving Quin a soft lingering kiss.
Quin's eyes closed and she melted into the sensation, only to shake her head and gently push the detective away from her. "I'm sorry, as much as I'd like…."
The blonde backed away giving Quin the room to move, "Hey, you started it."
"And I'm ending it." Quin said as she slipped on her shoes. "I shouldn't have done that in the first place."
Vivian reached out and stopped the brunette's retreat, "Hold up, what exactly is the problem McKee?"
Quin spun to face the detective. "I just can't."
The words were clipped, precise and final. All Vivian could do was watch as McKee climbed the stairs two at a time and disappeared.
Ruth knew her mouth was hanging open, but she just couldn't believe she was the last to know what she had just been told.
"Are you okay?" Tom asked his gaping wife.
Ruth blinked, "She was pregnant?"
"And she didn't tell anyone?"
"I didn't know until last year. I didn't think to tell you, and since McKee up and disappeared, it seemed trivial." Tom shrugged his shoulders.
"Trivial? Christ Tom this explains why she went off the deep end. I mean imagine it. Grace was carrying McKee's child, right?" Ruth got up and refilled her mug. "McKee's egg and Grace's cousin's sperm. That's smart."
Tom ran his fingers through his hair, "I don't understand. Why was it smart?"
Ruth retook her seat. "They would both have parental rights — Grace as the surrogate mother, and McKee as the biological mother." She said as she added sugar to the decaffeinated coffee. She made a face as she took the first sip, "I'll be so glad to have my premium back."
Tom reviewed the last of the conversation. Ruth had listened pretty well up till now, he still had one bit of info that he was sure she wouldn't believe but was true nonetheless. "Remember the night she came here?"
"McKee? To kill you? Gee Tom I don't know. It's not like I have a reoccurring nightmare about it," Ruth replied harshly.
Tom rolled his eyes, "Fine. What you don't know is that her gun wasn't loaded."
"What?" Ruth asked loudly her coffee cup hitting the table hard and a small tsunami of the dark liquid spilled over the edge to pool around the base of the mug.
Tom hung his head, "It wasn't even loaded. She came here to commit suicide I think, not that she didn't have it in her mind that somehow I was responsible for Grace being killed. I think she really counted on me being ready for her and ending it for her."
Ruth was silent for several long minutes.
"I know I've held some things back…"
"Some." Ruth agreed quietly.
"I just think that now is the time…"
"To let go of the past because it's eating me up?" Ruth offered.
Tom shook his head, "Ummm, yeah." He reached across the table and grasped her small hand, "I love you Ruth."
This created a smile on the red heads face, "I love you too Tom. No more secrets okay? I feel like an ass, something that could have been minimized by understanding the situation a bit more." She was silent for another long moment, and then her head bolted up, "Oh my god, the nursery, at the house. It was for their baby." She unconsciously rubbed her stomach in slow circles. "She was all alone, we left her all alone." Ruth whispered as a lone tear streaked her face.
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