Indian Summer by Anne Azel
Indian Summer Part 2
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Seasons Series are the creation of the author.
As always a good deal of credit has to go to Lisa and Inga, my beta readers and friends, who work hard on these stories with me. Special thanks to Fran who fought and beat breast cancer.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
You can contact Anne Azel at <email@example.com> Anne's books are also available through Dare 2 Dream Publications at <http://www.limitlessd2d.net/>
Robbie turned off the light and gave Janet a kiss on the cheek before rolling on her side away from her partner. Janet frowned; enough was enough. "Robbie, turn the light back on we need to talk."
"I'm tired," came a pathetic moan from deep under the covers.
Janet snorted, "No you're not. You are a coward. Come out, you big suck."
There was a thrashing and mumbling in the dark and the light snapped on. Robbie sat with her back against the headboard, arms crossed and looking grumpy.
"We need to talk about my breast surgery..."
"I don't want to talk about it!" Robbie slipped down under the covers, panic written all over her face.
Janet sighed and looked at the mound of bed sheets and shook her head. This was the woman who had won academy awards and ran a film empire. She gave the mound a poke. "I regret to inform you that the problem with my breasts is not going away so you will just have to face it."
The mound didn't move. Janet's face hardened into troubled lines. She was just about to make a cutting remark when she heard a sob. "Robbie? Lover, what's the matter?" Janet slid down and wrapped her partner closely in her arms. "Robbie speak to me."
"I didn't want you to have that surgery. I didn't want to go to the hospital again and see you in pain. It was awful. It never bothered me that you'd had to have a mastectomy. Why did you do that? When I got the call I just freaked...I love you damn it!"
For a while, Janet held her complex partner tight and tried to sort out what was going on inside her. When she spoke it was quietly, tenderly, trying to make her partner understand why. "I know you never wanted me to have the corrective surgery, Sweetheart. I know that you really had a hard time with me going through the cancer treatment. Sometimes it is just as hard on the care givers as it is on the victim. I understand that. But do you think my being seriously ill so early in our relationship made you a little over protective?"
Robbie considered this. She didn't want to have this discussion but Janet was helping to make it easier. Still her answer came out between sobs. "Yes. You are the best thing that has happened in my life. I can't bear the thought of losing you. Sometimes I have nightmares...I don't mean to be over protective."
"I know, lover. It is understandable that you would feel that way because you went through a really traumatic time with me just when we our love to each other was developing. I have some emotional issues too from that time, Robbie. Do you want me to tell you about them?"
There was a moment's hesitation while Robbie fought her demons, then she rolled over and pulled herself up into a sitting position. She pulled a tissue from the box beside the bed and wiped away the tears. Then she pulled Janet into a hug. "Okay, I want to hear what you have to say."
Janet got comfortably nestled inside her lover's arms. "It's not about appearances, Robbie. You have been wonderful about that. I still get a little insecure but you have been nothing but a pillar of strength. Robbie, cancer is like a violation of self. You don't want it inside you taking over and growing in your organs. Even though I won that battle and have gone ten years, there is still that fear deep inside that it's there and I might have to go through that horror again."
Robbie pulled Janet closer into her arms as if to shield her from her memories and dropped a kiss on her wife's head. Janet snuggled closer. "Sure having a mastectomy was hard on the ego. And having to wear a prostheses is so uncomfortable and awkward. But it is so much more than that, Robbie. Every time I change, or have a shower, or have to stop to fit the damn prosthesis into place, I am reminded that I had cancer and that it could come back again. It was more than a loss of a breast, it was a continual reminder of what the cancer did to me - what it still could do to me. I needed to have the surgery so I could be whole again. Not on the outside but on the inside. I had to show the cancer that I could recover completely, that it was never going to leave its mark on me. Can you understand that, Lover?"
"If it was that important to you, I would have understood. You didn't have to have to arrange it while I was away filming," Robbie muttered in a voice laced with hurt.
Janet kissed the strong, capable hand that rested on her shoulder. "I was wrong. It was a really immature thing to do. I...I was jealous."
Robbie's head shot up in surprise and she looked down at Janet with eyes wide with shock. "What?!"
"You were acting again and with Colette Cummings. The two of you have such chemistry - passion. And she has nice breasts."
Robbie was flabbergasted. "I only took the part because my other leading lady was too banged up from her car accident to act. Time is money and I couldn't find anyone else suitable for the part on such short notice. You know I don't want to act."
Janet blushed. "I know, Robbie."
Another thought suddenly hit Robbie like a sucker punch. "You don't think I had an affair with Cummings do you!"
Janet wiggled with embarrassment. "No, not on an intellectual level, but I guess emotionally - I mean, I am married to one of THE Willams and it happens to be the one that has been voted most sexy woman of the decade not to mention your list of conquests before you met me...I can't explain it...I know you wouldn't cheat on me...I just felt so insecure seeing you act with another woman on screen."
Robbie couldn't believe what she was hearing. It was bad enough that Janet didn't trust her to be at her side while she was having her reconstruction surgery but she didn't even trust her to be faithful "You don't trust me!"
Janet pulled away and rolled from their bed in frustration. She paced around their room in irritation on the edge of tears. "Damn it, Robbie, listen to what I am telling you. I am insecure. You would be too if you had a disease that could kill you before you could see your kids grow up or have the life you want to have with your partner. Yes, I acted childishly in accepting a surgery date while you were away. It was stupid and unfair and I regret it. I owe you an apology but damn it I needed this breast reconstruction. I need to remove the sign of what the disease did to me. I need my confidence back that I am a healthy, whole woman. I need to be able to look in a mirror and see me not the effects of cancer. Please Robbie, I need you to understand this!"
Robbie slipped from the bed and took Janet in her arms. "I'm sorry. I was so caught up in my own issues I didn't listen. You've been trying to tell me all along but I was afraid of you being in the hospital again and I just wouldn't look past that." Shaking with emotion Robbie kissed Janet's head. "I let you down and that allowed the mistrust to grow."
Janet kissed her lover's neck softly. "I never believed that you would cheat on me Robbie. I was just- jealous. I'm sorry."
Robbie nodded. When the call had come from Janet telling her that she would be having surgery in the morning, Robbie had dropped everything and chartered a jet to get her back to Canada immediately. She had arrived shortly after Janet had been taken back to her room from Recovery. Janet had been in pain those first few days and Robbie had been near sick with worry. She know intellectually that there was very little danger in the process but emotionally she just couldn't deal with Janet being back in the hospital and having to go to doctor appointments. It brought those terrible days when they were fighting the cancer back again in a rush of emotion. Everything that was good in Robbie's life had come because of Janet. She couldn't imagine life without her partner.
For a few minutes they just held each other, glad that they had cleared the air of a few of the issues. Janet waited until she felt Robbie relax in her arms and then asked, "I want to show you what they have done."
Robbie nodded but the look on her face was so tragic and pale that Janet almost laughed. She bit her lip and busied herself slipping out of her sleep shirt. You had to tread softly with Robbie when it was her emotional side she was revealing. For all her bluster, joking, and tempers, Robbie was an unbelievably emotionally fragile person. Robbie trusted Janet with her soul and Janet did her best to protect it at all costs.
To Robbie's relief there wasn't much to see. The old scar of Janet's mastectomy ran around the base of where her breast had been to up under her arm. She had been fortunate in that her skin had remained healthy and there had not been too much scar tissue to remove before placing the expander into place. The expander, Janet explained, was placed under the pectoral muscle after the scar tissue had been removed. The expander had a small tube and a fill ball with a metal backing placed under the skin below the implant. Each week or so, Janet had to go into the hospital and have 60 ccs of saline injected into the implant through this small ball. The implant already had 250 cc of solution in it when it had been put in place and Janet thought she would need about twice that to be a B cup.
Robbie swallowed and ignored the cold sweat down her back that made her shiver. This was what Janet needed and wanted and that was all that really mattered. If Robbie had not made such a fuss about it every time the subject had come up over the last ten years probably Janet wouldn't have felt she had to accept a date for the day surgery while Robbie was out of town. Gently and nervously, Robbie reached out to caress the swelling that would be Janet's new breast. Her hand barely touched Janet's skin before it withdrew. "What if it pops or something?"
Janet laughed. "It won't. It is quite durable."
Robbie nodded. "Okay, okay, aahh, is there anything else?"
Janet knew there were all sorts of things yet to discuss including the surgery that would be coming up in a few months to remove the expander and replace it with a saline implant. Her other breast too would be reshaped to match her implant. But Robbie had handled about as much as she could. Although she was trying to put on a brave front, she was pale and shaky and cold to touch. "There is one more thing."
"What?" Robbie asked with eyes big with fear.
Janet leaned over and kissed her partner softly, wrapping her arms around her lover's neck. "Make love to me,"she whispered, as she nibbled at the soft, warm underside of Robbie's throat.
Robbie whimpered with need. "Are you sure it's safe with the expander in there?"
"I do," Robbie whispered, pulling the woman she loved down on to their bed and moving over her. Her mouth sought Janet's breast as one hand slipped Janet's sleeping shorts down off her petite figure. "You are so beautiful and I never get enough of being this close, this intimate with you. You are my passion, my desire and my home," Robbie whispered, as she slipped into the warm, wet folds of Janet's being.
The Pateases had arrived at their cottage about noon the next day and once settled, they had piled back into their van and headed around the lake to the Williams' home. It was Aliki who noted the jeep parked by the garage and walked over to look at it.
"Most be one of Robbie's new toys," Dawn stated, as she and Mac busied themselves pulling Thanksgiving baking out of the back of their van.
Aliki came over to help. "I don't think so," she said thoughtfully, and cast a sideways look at her daughter. She changed the subject then and grumbled, "How much did you guys bring?"
"Don't you give me any of that, Doctor Aliki Alberta Pateas. Most of this is your baking. We've got enough pies here to feed all of Bartlett."
Aliki blushed. She liked cooking and when she was occupied with a problem she tended to cook more. At the moment, she was worried about Mac and she had cooked up a storm the last few days.
"I'm sure Uncle David will show up with boxes of treats too. We'll be so fat after this holiday they'll be able to roll us down the 400 highway back to Toronto," Mac laughed. The laugh stopped suddenly and Aliki and Dawn turned to see Ryan standing behind them.
It was Dawn who recovered first. "Ryan! Oh Ryan, it is so good to see you, Sweetheart!" Dawn stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the tall, lanky figure. Ryan hugged her back. She had always felt close to the Pateas clan.
When Dawn released Ryan, Aliki extended her hand, a cautious smile on her face and then, forgetting her concerns, she drew Ryan in for a hug too. "I am glad you are here."
Mac stood totally still, shock and uncertainty written all over her face. Ryan had gone from a cute devil-may-care teen to a beautiful, confident woman. Even in her old blue jeans and military sweat shirt, Ryan reeked or raw strength and sexuality. This was not going to be good.
It was Ryan who walked over to her, taking the bags from her hands and placing them back in the van. She looked down at Mac with that crooked, sexy smile that had always sent arrows of need deep into Mac's being. "Hi."
"Hi" Mac answered, with a nervous smile.
Dawn grabbed Aliki's arm and pulled her reluctant partner towards the house quickly. "Leave them alone,"she whispered.
Ryan and Mac stood there, looking at each other, eyes sending messages that neither one of them could find the words to express. Finally, Ryan took the last step closer and wrapped Mac in her arms. Her head bent and she captured the smaller women's lips with her own. It was not a kiss of welcome. It was a kiss of passion, need, and ownership. Mac gasped and Ryan's tongue entered her being, curling, caressing with her own. When finally the kiss ended, they were both shaken, clinging to each other for support.
"This can't be happening," Mac groaned, clinging to Ryan's shirt. "Not now. Not after all these years."
Ryan lifted her head from Mac's hair and kissed a soft, warm ear. "I love you."
Mac pulled away instantly. "Don't talk like that! A...and don't kiss me like that again. I....I'm in love with Stewart. You know that. We're going to be married this spring."
Ryan stood legs apart and arms folded. "No, you are not."
Mac's eyes flashed and her jaw clenched in anger. She reached for the bags that Ryan had taken from her and placed in the van. "Oh yes, I am!" With a toss of her hair, she went to walk past the tall, arrogant woman.
Ryan reached out and grabbed her arm in a strong grip. She leaned close. "You didn't kiss me like you were in love with Stewy Fart-on."
Dawn pulled her arm free and glared at Ryan with contempt. "His name is Stewart FarTON. I am marrying him and you can just go fuck yourself, Ryan Williams!" She stormed off and Ryan watched with eyes filled with hurt and worry.
After the initial family greetings, Aliki pulled her half sister, Robbie, into the back hall for a talk. "What's Ryan doing here?"
Robbie's face hardened. "She's come home. She doesn't have to give any reason for being here. I'm her mother and this is her home."
Aliki was not to be sidetracked. "Is she here because Mac is planning to get married? Because if she is I don't want your daughter fucking with my kid's head and messing things up for her."
Robbie couldn't quite make eye contact with her sister, no matter how good an actor she was. She tried evasion. "I think we should let them sort it out for themselves."
Immediately Aliki's suspicions were confirmed. "She is, isn't she. She's here to cause trouble. Mac is engaged and Ryan needs to back off. If she really cared for Mac she wouldn't have gone away."
Two mothers protecting their own is never a good thing. The famous Williams' temper rose to a boiling point in Robbie as Aliki dared to lecture her on good, moral behaviour. "Don't you go down that road, you damn hypocrite. Who was kissing my wife while I was in prison, damn you?!"
Aliki snorted in frustration and met Robbie's stare with equally cold eyes. "I didn't know you then and I barely knew Janet. It was a kiss, a mistake, and past history and you know it. Don't you fling that crap at me. It is not fair to Janet."
Robbie, stiff with anger, felt her hands ball into fists. "Don't you tell me..."
"What's going on here?"
Both women started and turned to see Janet looking at them with worried and annoyed eyes. It was Aliki who first recovered. "Nothing. We were just discussing Ryan being home. I'd better go see what my family is up to." Janet watched Aliki walk off, her body language tense and hostile. Her intelligent green eyes swung back to Robbie. Robbie squirmed. The eyes narrowed. "Well?"
"She wanted to know why Ryan is here. She thinks Ryan is going to mess things up for Mac and Stewart."
Janet folded her arms and looked at her partner. "And is she?"
Robbie felt the heat of embarrassment and frustration creeping up her neck. "Yes. She doesn't want Mac marrying him."
Janet nodded. "And you told Aliki what?"
Robbie now blushed a deep red. She didn't want Janet to know that she had brought up the night when Aliki, who had been supporting Janet and using her police skills to help prove Robbie innocent of murder, had made a play for Janet. "We argued. I told her to let the kids sort it out for themselves."
Janet looked at Robbie thoughtfully for a few seconds. She had heard her name mentioned and she was worried as to why. Better not to push she concluded and moved forward to hug her partner close. There was no hesitation this time. Robbie returned the hug with need. Janet snuggled close. "I know we haven't seen eye to eye this last few months but you do know I love you, don't you, Robbie?"
"Yeah, I know you do, Lover."
"Good. And you and Aliki stay out of the kids' problems."
"I didn't start it!" Robbie protested, leaning back in Janet's arms to see her face better.
Janet reached up and kissed her partner's lips. "Good, and now it is finished."
While Dawn and Mac were sorting things out in the kitchen, Reb gathered her courage and tackled Janet. "Mom?"
"Mmm?" Janet replied, her head inside the freezer as she looked for some ice cream.
"Looks like there is going to be a good size gathering of the clan tonight. Ahhh, Ian has asked me to the Community Centre Dance and I didn't want to say yes until you had a chance to meet him. So I was wondering if I could phone him and invite him for dinner tonight."
Janet crawled out of the freezer, ice-cream in hand, and smiled at her daughter. She hoped her nervousness did not show in her voice. Reb dating both pleased and scared the hell out of her. "Yes, of course you can, Sweetie. Aah, better warn him about your Obbie."
Reb smiled with relief. Her mom was one cool lady. "I already have. And mom, don't call me Sweetie while he is here, okay?"
Janet tried to look serious. "Okay, Rebecca."
Reb nodded and then went in search of her big sister. She found her outside, throwing a stick for Dufus. "Mom said I can bring Ian to dinner."
"Great, kid," her sister replied without much interest. Her mind was on deeper, darker thoughts.
"Ryan, don't pick a fight and don't wear army boots okay?"
Ryan looked at her little sister in surprise. "I know how to behave! And I don't clump around in army boots."
Reb smiled, gave her sister a hug and went to find Obbie. This was the one that was going to be tricky. Obbie was in her study looking stormy and preoccupied. Most people would be reluctant to disturb T-Rob when she had that look on her face but not Reb. She went in and flopped into a chair.
Robbie looked up over her glasses. "You can't have an advance on your allowance or the keys to the car."
Reb smiled. "We are not in negotiation here. I have already won. Mom said I could invite Ian to dinner."
Robbie went still and her expressive eyes flashed. "I think that is a good idea. I think I should meet this guy and talk to him. His name has come up once too often around here."
Reb rolled her eyes. "Ian Fraser has asked me to the Thanksgiving Dance and I'm bringing him to dinner so you guys can meet him."
Robbie felt her stomach twist into a knot. Reb had a date. She remembered Ryan's first date and "The Talk". The memory still made her break out in a sweat. "Aah, Reb, aah..."
Reb held up her hand. "Don't say it! Promise me you will be good and not give him the third degree or insist on a blood test before he kisses me again."
Robbie crossed her arms and looked at her younger daughter with stubborn defiance written all over her face. Reb quickly went on. "Obbie, he is a real gentleman. He has taken a year off and is up here working with Forestry to earn money for university. At the moment, he is planting trees in the burnt-out areas. He wants to be a vet too. Please give him a chance. No rehearsing science fiction scripts on the railing and banishing a stick around threatening to slice him through, and no kissing mom in front of him."
"You do hold a grudge. That unfortunate incident was years ago. And why can't I kiss your mom? He does know that we are gay, doesn't he?"
Reb ran her long, graceful fingers through her hair in frustration. "Obbie, the world knows about my famous family. I'd just rather he get used to you all - slowly. Just behave, please!"
Obbie rubbed her temple. A headache was coming on. So far this holiday gathering was not off to a great start. "If your mom has okayed it then I will be all charm and grace,"she promised and smiled weakly.
Reb got up and came around the desk to give her other mom a kiss on the cheek. "Just don't scare him off. Meeting this family is hard enough without any of you acting more weird than you already are."
Robbie waited until Reb had disappeared and then made a bee line to find Janet. She was with Dawn in the kitchen, Mac having been sent to cut some fall leaves for the table centrepiece.
"Who is this guy Reb is inviting?"
Janet looked up to see her partner in the doorway. "He's an older man."
Janet shrugged unhappily. "He's eighteen and just finished his first year at Guelph University."
"And you said she could go to the dance with this guy?! She's just a kid."
Janet turned from preparing the roast and looked at Robbie with annoyance. "Reb will be seventeen in a few months, Robbie. And I don't think forbidding her from going to the dance is a good idea. We'll set some guide lines and curfews and trust Reb to be responsible. As she often points out to us, my Olive, she is the only sane one in the family."
"No teen is sane. They are not genetically programmed to act normal," protested Robbie, flopping down on a kitchen chair and watching Dawn shell peas. Quick as lightening her hand shot out and scooped a few from the bowl to eat.
Dawn raised an eyebrow but said nothing. She didn't want to get caught up in this discussion. She remembered vividly when Mac had started to date. She had practically had to hold Aliki down from tailing Mac and her date and she had a sneaky suspicion that Aliki had run police checks on some of them. The two sisters were very much alike in many ways.
"I don't like it," Robbie grumbled.
Janet came over and kissed Robbie's head. "Olive, don't judge all suitors by your wild behaviour at that age. If you had your way neither of our girls would have had a chance to date until they were thirty."
Robbie eyed the bowl of peas gloomily and Dawn, feeling sorry for her, pushed the bowl closer. "Thirty is a good age to start dating." She smiled, picking out a few more of the tender, sweet peas to eat.
Ryan had watched Mac from a distance. She had loved Mac since she was a kid. She just hadn't been ready to make any sort of commitment. She had needed time and space to prove herself and she still needed time to finish her last goal before she was prepared to think about raising a family with someone.
The trouble was she wanted that someone to be Mac and it didn't look like Mac was prepared to wait. Then there was this Stewy Fart-on. Was Mac really in love with him? Was she straight? Ryan's jaw set in a determined line. One thing for sure was she meant to find out one way or the other.
By seven everything was in place for a nice family meal. The table was set for ten and sparkled in the candle and fireplace light with silver and glass. Most of the family were on the porch watching the last rays of light settle on the lake with before dinner drinks. Mac had disappeared into the kitchen on the excuse of checking on things as she was not feeling very sociable and Reb had gone to pick up Ian for what Robbie was calling the family inquisition.
After a few minutes, Ryan quietly slipped out too and followed Mac to the kitchen. She stood in the door way watching Mac fed Dufus a piece of turkey. "Just as spoilt as Rufus was, eh?"
Mac looked up in surprise then forced herself to relax. "Dufus isn't too bad. Reb has a way with animals. Our Mopy, Dufus sister, was well trained by Aliki but she's a terribly dumb animal, much to Aliki's disgust. She's so sweet though. Now the spoilt one of the litter is Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle David's Quasar. That animal has no idea it is a dog. They have raised it as a spoilt child.
Ryan smiled, glad that Mac was not going to hold a grudge about the fight they'd had earlier. "I'd like a dog but it is just not possible at the moment."
Mac nodded. "So now you have your doctorate what is the next step?"
Ryan looked over her shoulder to make sure no one had followed them. She had to pick her time carefully in telling her moms what she planned next. It was one of the reasons she had come home. There would be no keeping this quiet. "I am in the Canadian Space Program. I am training now for a shuttle flight and stay at the space station to do some research in two years' time."
Mac looked up with startled eyes, making eye contact with Ryan for the first time. Ryan could see the pride there but also the fear. "How long will you be gone? I mean, up there?"
"Probably three months."
Mac smiled and nervously ran her hand through her hair. "I guess a dog isn't a good idea. Another Williams about to make a name for herself, huh?" The laugh showed her nervousness as she turned to busy herself pouring the creamed peas into a china dish to place on a warming tray on the kitchen table. Elizabeth and David had arrived from their cottage about half an hour ago and Reb should be back any minute with Ian. Then they would eat.
"Mac, I am on leave for a month. I want to spend some time with you. You can't deny that there was at one time something there between us. I think we need to be sure. I won't push you..."
"Won't push me!" Mac snorted, turning around with the bowl in her hand. "I have a month to fall in love with you and then you are going to take off to parts unknown to prepare for a trip into space, but no pressure here. Just fall in love with you and then step aside so you can get on with your life."
"That was NOT what I meant!" Ryan hissed.
"It was just what you meant. Face it, Ryan, you are not capable of a meaningful relationship. It is all about proving yourself."
Ryan felt her temper rising. Somehow Mac seemed to always get under her skin. She couldn't think rationally when the woman was around. "Who made you the fucking wise woman on the mountain? You don't know what I am capable of in terms of a relationship. I can tell you one thing for sure, I'll give you a life of more passion and fun than Stewy Fart-on will ever be able to provide."
Blue eyes sparkled with ice-fire as Mac ground her teeth in anger. "I told you not to call him that!"
It is not wise to bait a Williams. They can never let a challenge lie and Ryan was no exception. "What? Stewy Fart-on? That's his name isn't it?" The creamed peas came back at Ryan as fast as the words had left her mouth and she stood there in shock, dripping in the hot white sauce and peas.
There was a moment of shocked silence and then Ryan reached for Mac with lightening reflexes. She had meant simply to wash Mac's face with the sauce that dripped down her but Mac danced away and slipped on the now pea and sauce splattered floor, fell, and crashed into the kitchen table that held two large warming trays laden with food. Things shifted and rattled and a plate of turkey went flying along with a bowl of roasted potatoes. Ryan went to help Mac who by now was so angry and embarrassed that she swatted Ryan away.
Janet walked in at that point with Dufus at her heel to see what had happened. "Okay, that is enough. You two are not tracking right."
Dufus, who was on overload with the wonderful smells, had been nearly bouncing with excitement. The word "tracking"was all the excuse the dog needed. It was the command word that Reb used with him. With a bark of glee, the big dog leaped forwarded into the kitchen mess, sending the already wobbly table flying. Dishes crashed in all directions. The family came running in from the verandah.
Robbie was the first to arrive and saw the tea towel that Mac had dropped carelessly close to the burner smolder and flare. She hopped across the room and stamped it out. A cloud of smoke spread out and hung at shoulder level in the room. Meanwhile, Janet had tried to pull Dufus away and had slipped and fallen. Aliki, arriving next, had helped her up out of the mess and was holding her until she was sure she was alright. Robbie, who had been busy with the tea towel, turned to see Aliki holding Janet and in three steps was across the room. She pulled Janet away and sucker-punched Aliki with ten years of smoldering anger. Aliki, caught off guard, went sprawling, landing on Dufus, who in surprise snapped at Ryan. Ryan gave a howl of pain.
Elizabeth stopped in the doorway with David behind her. "Oh dear. David stop the family fighting while I let Dufus outside, "she ordered, totally confident that her David would sort things out. She carefully navigated around the debris to Dufus and grabbed the beast by the collar. David for his part, was wading through the smoke trying his best to separate the various warring fractions and calm everyone one down. Mac and Ryan were on the floor yelling at each other while Mac tried to stop the bleeding where Ryan had been nipped on the wrist. Janet was yelling at Robbie and trying to stop her from taking another swat at her sister. Dawn was helping Aliki up and trying to stop her from going after Robbie, and Dufus, having got over the shock of being landed on, was wolfing down slices of turkey before he had to give in to Elizabeth's pull on his collar.
The door opened and Reb and Ian entered. Everyone froze and looked in their direction. There was a moment's awkward silence. Then Reb said quietly, "Ian, this is my family - not necessarily on one of their better days. We don't usually eat this informally." At that point the smoke detector activated the kitchen sprinkler system, soaking everyone.
David had taken charge. The sprinkler system was turned off and the window opened to air the place and Dawn, Janet and Elizabeth were sent to get dry clothes for the family from the other houses. Ryan and Robbie, who could clean up and change at the house, were sent to do so and once Ryan's wrist had been bandaged to cover the minor injury, they were ordered outside to chop enough wood for the next two years. Reb and Ian were dispatched to get enough pizza for ten and Aliki and Mac were left to help David clean up the mess.
"I didn't mean to wreck everything," Mac muttered. "I'm sorry."
Aliki shovelled food onto a dustpan with a spatula. "I still don't know what the hell happened. I think we really messed things up for Reb."
David was busy picking up broken crockery and dropping it into a box. "I am not sure but I rather suspect that Reb enjoys complaining about the crazy nature of her family." He looked with dismay into the box. "It is a shame it is the good set of serving dishes. I hate to see waste."
Mac sniffled as she mopped the counters dry with a rag. "It's just that Ryan won't leave me alone. I am so confused!"
Aliki left what she was doing and came over and took her daughter in her arms. "Hey, don't try to solve the issues before you have time to sort out your feelings."
"What would you do, Aliki?" Mac asked, holding onto her aunt and adopted mom with need.
Aliki thought back to the discussions she'd had with Dawn and paraphrased as best she could. "I guess I'd have to decide what was more important: an unconventional and sometimes difficult life with someone I felt was my soul mate or a comfortable, secure life with someone I respected and loved because he loved me."
Mac moaned in frustration. "I thought I had everything worked out."
Aliki looked surprised. "Did you? It has been my experience that love is almost impossible to work out even after years of marriage. It is a totally irrational element that coexists in what is generally a very rational and conservative society."
Mac giggled. "You sound like an anthropologist."
Aliki laughed. "No, just a woman who has made all the mistakes in the book on her way to finding a wonderful partner and love. Look, Mac, Ryan is here. Don't cut off your feelings because you feel you have made a commitment to someone else. Leave the door open and know for sure what you want, then you will have no regrets no matter what your decision is."
"I feel I would be betraying Stewart if I did that"
Aliki considered this. "In a way, I guess, but better that than you marry him and then discover that your unhappiness is going to spread and destroy all of you. You don't want to go through your life with a "what if". You want to take your vows having no doubts that you are doing the right thing. Now come on, we have to get this mess cleaned up before the pizza arrives."
Ryan stacked the wood as her mom chopped the cords into kindling. "We're in big trouble,"she sighed.
"No, you are in trouble. I'm as good as dead."
"Is Aunt Janet that mad at you for suckering Aliki?"
The axe shattered the wood with about twice as much force as was necessary. "She did mention something about me completely humiliating her before she stormed from the room."
Ryan smiled unsympathetically. "You're right, you're dead. You won't get any until you are too old to care."
Robbie shot her daughter a dirty look. "Thanks. I knew I could count on you for understanding. So what is going on with you and Mac?"
Ryan sat down on the wood pile with a groan. "I am getting nowhere. The truth of the matter is Stewy...Stewart holds all the cards. He's got a good job, he's responsible and reliable, and he can provide her with children." For a minute neither one of them spoke. Children were always a touchy issue in a lesbian relationship. "All I can offer her is my love and a promise that someday I'll settle down in some sort of research job."
Robbie tossed the split wood to Ryan, who caught it easily and placed it on the stack beside her. "You're an officer, don't you qualify for housing?"
"Yeah, but it isn't as easy as that." It was time to be completely honest with her mom. "I'm in the Canadian Space Program. I'm training for a mission that will be flown in two years' time. I'll be travelling back and forth between here and the United States training and then my mission will entail me staying at the space station for about three months."
Robbie put the axe down and looked at her daughter. The silence was filled by the hammering of a woodpecker on a far off tree and the gentle lap of the lake at the shore. "You had this planned right from when you went away to university didn't you?"
Ryan squirmed with guilt. "Pretty much."
Robbie nodded. "I'm proud of you." She went back to chopping the wood. She was proud of Ryan. Proud and scared of what the kid had planned but there was no way she was going to discourage her daughter in any way.
Ryan beamed. "Thanks."
"Does Mac know this?"
The gloom returned to Ryan's eyes. "I told her in the kitchen."
Robbie tossed the pieces of kindling one by one and Ryan caught them, again placing them on the growing pile. "Is that why you got anointed with the creamed peas?"
"That started the argument. She feels I'm just taking a brief holiday from my life to fuck up hers and then I'll be off again."
Robbie frowned. "I can see why she would think that way. So why did she throw the peas at you?"
Ryan slipped from the wood pile and dusted off her blue jeans. "For calling her fiancé Stewy Fart-on."
Robbie chuckled. "Dumb move kid."
"So I discovered."
As they drove, Janet had been venting about Robbie's temper, her fear of Janet's breast reconstruction surgery, and her ridiculous jealousy. She finally wore down as they arrived at her former home and now Elizabeth and David's cottage. "I'm really sorry about going on and I feel terrible about Robbie hitting Aliki, Dawn."
Dawn smiled and patted Janet's knee. "It looked good on Aliki. The only thing hurt was her ego. Those two are so damn competitive. Don't worry about it, Janet. There is no harm done. They are very close and love each other very much. They are just too pig-headed to admit it."
Elizabeth blinked several times, still feeling rather dazed by the turn of events. "I don't think I have ever witnessed a brawl before. Isn't it amazing how quickly they can erupt. Thank heaven David was there. He is so good and can turn his hand to anything."
Janet and Dawn looked at each other and tried not to smile. Dawn turned off the engine and opened her door. "I don't know if that could really be classified as a brawl, Lizzy, more of a food fight."
Elizabeth got out and nodded her understanding and Janet slid out after her. "It was another Olive event,"she sighed, "And my Olive is going to be paying big time for it."
Reb drove and Ian sat beside her in shock. "What do you suppose happened back there?" he finally asked.
Reb shrugged. "Hard to say, no doubt we'll hear the whole story over pizza, that is if you still want to have dinner with us." She had asked casually but to be truthful she was pretty worried about how Ian was going to take this.
Ian laughed. "And miss the next exciting instalment? Not on your life!"
Reb frowned. "Ian, aahh, the family does not like publicity, at least not that kind. We are private people although you wouldn't know that by the press coverage. I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone about today."
Ian looked at his girlfriend in surprise. "I wouldn't gossip about your family, Reb. I haven't even told my parents who you are. I have to admit it was a bit of a shock to discover that you are one of THE Williams. To be truthful I am not sure what you see in me."
Reb took her eyes off the road for a second to flash him a smile. "Well, for one thing I've known you over two months now and you haven't started a food fight yet."
They laughed and some of the tension vanished. "So who were all those people?"
"Hmmm, lets see. The one wearing the creamed peas was my sister Doctor and Major Ryan Williams. The one bandaging her wrist calling her names was my cousin, MacKenzie. Her mom, the author Dawn Freeman, was the one holding onto the woman with the black eye. That's her partner, Doctor and Inspector Aliki Pateas of the RCMP. The tall angry one, I am afraid to admit, is my mother the actor-director Robbie Williams, and the woman wearing the smashed potatoes on her back side trying to talk some sense into her is my other mom, Janet Williams. She's the president of the Bartlett School of Film and Animation. The woman battling with the dog over the remains of the turkey was my aunt, Doctor Elizabeth Williams, the physicist, and the man trying his best to bring order to the chaos is my Uncle David. He's married to my Aunt Elizabeth."
"Yeah, but a great tracker if there are no squirrels about."
"An amazing family."
"They're all nuts."
By ten o'clock, the kitchen had been cleaned, everyone had showered and changed into clean clothes and Thanksgiving pizza had been eaten. Ian had survived Robbie's third degree and seemed to have got a temporary Good Housekeeping seal of approval. He had formally asked Janet if he could take Reb to the dance and she had agreed on the understanding that he have her home by eleven. Most of them were now lounging in various places in the livingroom in front of the huge stone fireplace catching up on family news.
Robbie had followed Aliki into the kitchen on the pretense of getting more beer. " Aaah, I shouldn't have hit you. Is your eye okay?"
Aliki pulled some cold beer from the wine and beer cooler that Robbie had in the pantry. "Yeah, it's okay. So what the hell is the matter with you?"
Robbie blushed. "Janet and I...well, we haven't seen eye to eye on this breast reconstruction thing. She doesn't trust me. She doesn't think I understand."
Aliki twisted the top off a bottle and handed it to her sister then opened one for herself. "Do you understand?"
"I understand why she feels she needs to go through this process - I guess. I just can't handle it very well. If anything happened to Janet..." Robbie swallowed and couldn't go on.
Aliki frowned. "Dawn and I have been in a similar situation. My work can be dangerous and as you know I've been hurt and Dawn and Mac have been in danger more than once."
Robbie nodded. This was an understatement. There had been a number of close calls for all of them. She remembered vividly sitting with Dawn while Aliki's life balanced on a thread and dealing with Aliki's breakdown after. "Yeah, I know."
Aliki blushed, still embarrassed about her emotional breakdown even after ten years. "Dawn and Mac came to terms with the danger much more quickly than me. I felt I had to go it alone and protect my family at all costs. I was wrong. You want to protect the ones you love but you also have to give them room to take chances and do what they feel is right. This partnership thing, I've discovered, is all about love and commitment without boundaries or ownership."
Robbie ran her hand through her hair. "Janet and I haven't talked about it yet but I know there is more surgery to come. I don't know how I am going to get through it."
"Is there any real danger?"
"No, not really. It's just that I can't stand the hospital. Knowing Janet is vulnerable again..." Tears welled up in Robbie's eyes and she wiped them away with annoyance.
Aliki came over and wrapped an arm around her sister. The fear of cancer had always been there for them right from the start of their relationship and that must be hard. "Janet's going to be fine. You gotta believe that just like I have to believe that my family will be able to handle any danger that my job might bring their way. There are enough problems that we all have to face without looking for more."
Robbie swallowed hard and then revealed a big part of her soul to Aliki. "Janet made my life work. Before her I was so unhappy. I can't go it alone again."
Aliki felt for her sister and pulled her in for a quick hug. "First, that is not going to happen. Janet is well and strong and will out live you for sure considering the way you abused your body in your wild days,"she teased. "Second, you are not alone anymore. You have family and we are all here to get you through the rough times. Now come on, people are waiting for their drinks. And Robbie?"
"Hit me again and I'll knock your block off."
Ryan had stayed on the edge of the group talking quietly with Elizabeth about her research until David had come to get his wife to show her how much Dufus had grown compared to their beloved Quasar. Then she had just sat quietly in the shadows, enjoying being near her family again but feeling embarrassed about ruining the Thanksgiving dinner.
After a while Mac came over and sat near her. "Hi."
Mac wasn't sure how to approach this. "Did you really come back because I got engaged?"
Ryan looked away but nodded. "The time was right. I'd achieved what I felt I had to achieve to prove myself and I knew I had to tell my family about the mission before they heard it on the news. I knew you'd all be here...the time was just right. I'd put it off because I didn't know what sort of a reaction I would get coming home after all this time. But knowing you were engaged...I just had to know."
Mac couldn't look at Ryan. She stared over at her family. "I have always loved you, Ryan. I think of you as my soul mate but you went away and you were gone for so long."
Ryan's voice sounded hurt and bitter. "I wrote and emailed you all the time!"
Mac snorted. "About work, not love. And I could read between the lines; you had some relationships."
Ryan blushed. "Nothing serious." She swallowed hard. It was none of her business but it was eating at her and she needed to know. "Are you sleeping with him?"
"No. I haven't slept with anyone."
They sat in silence after that and after a while Mac reached out and took Ryan's hand. Their fingers intertwined but neither of them said anything or went any farther.
Reb was sitting on the couch with Ian, a jealous Dufus wedged between them on the rug. "Uncle David, we were talking to Ted about the old mine shaft down lover's lane. Do you know anything about it?" Robbie shot Ian a murderous look and Reb quickly went on. "I haven't been there but Ryan told me about it."
It was Janet who answered. "Oh God, not the old mine shaft again!"
David chuckled. "Go on, Janet, you are in a better position to tell them."
Janet rolled her eyes. "Reb as you know your great grandfather was a gambler. He and Ted, that was David's grandfather, were good buddies and the town con men. Whenever they were down on their luck they would spread the rumour about a meteorite hitting up there and the river running gold after. Then they would sell shares in the mine. There must be hundreds of people with shares in that worthless mine."
"So what sort of a mine is it?" Reb persisted.
Janet shrugged. "Granddad always said it was an Algonquian First Nations' site."
Mac looked up with sudden interest. "We have to go."
"I'm in," Dawn said, having had an interest in First Nations' folk lore and particularly an interest in the Salish because her adopted daughter, MacKenzie's natural mother had been a Salish woman.
"Caves, cool, I'm game." Robbie beamed, always ready for an adventure.
Mac looked at Ryan who smiled and nodded. "We're in on the expedition."
"I have tomorrow off. If you are going then I'd sure like to go along," Ian said a little nervously.
"Oh course you are welcome, Ian," Robbie said smiling, and saw Reb beam with delight.
David made things easy for Elizabeth. "Well, you lot enjoy. Lizzy has a paper she needs to be working on and I plan on doing some repairs around the cottage. Pop by on your way out tomorrow and I'll have a picnic lunch for you to take and we'll see that there is a dinner for you when you get back."
"Thanks, David. Could you take Dufus and Moppy for the day as well?" Aliki asked.
"No problem. Quasar will enjoy the company."
The only one who looked worried was Janet. She didn't say anything but she wasn't sure about the mine at all. Her granddaddy had always said it was haunted. Not that she believed in any of that stuff but childhood beliefs can often haunt an adult.
Continued in Part 3.