BY: A. Tietz



15 Pages

Robin woke up so woozy. Her head was spinning.

"Robin girlie. Come on now, wake up. Yeh, there ya go. Take it easy. Everything is all right Robin. Trace is fine. The doc says she’s fine."

Robin realized she was lying on a bed.

"You fainted my girl. Sure as you please, ya fainted out right. Can’t say I blame ya. It was touch and go. You had just woken up from a nap, I woke ya on a count of Trace thrashing about."

"Trace," she rasped.

"She, she was, ah Roddy…… I, it happened………right? She left. She was, g…gone?"

"Yeh, I have to admit she was," his voice was strangled with emotion.

"Did you hear her? Did you hear she said she loved me?" her voice was harsh.

"Well I, um well, she was mumbling alright, yeh she said it. Also said she killed ya, I think. She must be dreamin or somehow got it in her fool head that she got ya killed. Must be why it’s a comfort to hear your voice Robin."

Robin’s face was dark with emotion, "Don’t play dumb with me Roddy. You know exactly what she means by her mumbling. You’re afraid of what that mumbling is gonna tell me. What, What is she gonna mumble that I have a secret weapon implanted in my body that could destroy the world? Do I have some kind of Hitler order to kill off the world planted in my brain if some certain thing happens in this universe? Does my body hold some secret gene that makes people live forever? The way you’re all carrying on I’m the fucking Anti-Christ come the spell out the doom of humanity. What I don’t know might save me huh? Shit, ALL I don’t know is gonna fucking kill me. And then how is that gonna make Trace feel. Its not just a job with her and you know it. But you won’t tell me why it’s not just a day at the office, Damn it! Don’t you know that I’ve thought of everything under the sun? Even if the truth were as bad as what my crazed mind has pondered, at least I would know it. Why is it so important that I live? I kind of like the idea myself, but that’s a given. What the fuck is it to you? It’s not so much you, its her and I know it and you know I know it. It means her life. She wakes up twice and tells me she loves me, WHY? For God’s sake WHY? But you won’t tell me. She almost died today, hell she did Roddy! She was gone damn it! You saw it, she was dead! Would you tell me then Roddy, would it be okay then, or would my life become unimportant because she was dead? Cause that’s sure as hell how it felt."

"Well that was a long time coming. If ya got more in there, dish it out girl. Lay it on me, I got big shoulders. Blast away, someone deserves it and it might as well be me."

She glared at him. Not really knowing what to say, not knowing what to expect but it sure wasn’t this. She opened her mouth then shut it again.

"Naw, well, you might have more. Fact, I hope ya do and that you let it out like that. Listen Robin, what happened to you by taken your life away, that ain’t fair. Trace didn’t do that. I didn’t do that. You’re a smart girl so you know the ones in the chopper are partly responsible for doing that. She saved your life much more than once and you know that. As for the why, I can’t speak for another’s heart or mind Robin. What goes between you two is far beyond my understanding believe me. You’re right; I was there and saw what happened today as plain as you. But what passes between the both of ya I can hardly reckon girl. She’s come back cause you called her and she came, is how I see it. I don’t know what that means; it’s for you two. As to what I know, I know Trace. I may not feel whatever it is she feels about keeping you alive. But she would die to keep you safe. And that’s the best thing I have seen in Trace forever. I like it. Trace and me, we got history. She needs me to keep you alive till she can recover. I’m gonna do that for my friend. And by what I’ve seen so far, my friend has got good taste in those she chooses to shed her life for. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Trace. As to the history that I know or don’t know, as to what I could or could not tell ya, I’m still mute. Not gonna say a word girl. Now you can rant and rave all ya want about how unfair that is, and I told ya, you should do more ranting and raving. Better than keeping it bottled up. And it is ya know, it’s just damn unfair. But that’s the way its gonna be. I will tell ya this though, stop your frettin about world doom themes. You’re a much sweeter flower than that darlin. She’s gonna have my hide that you know one of her constant names. Guess I’ll appeal to her since of still breathing when we get there, but I’ll be countin on ya to back me up."

This man looked so earnest and sure of his hide getting hot, she had to laugh. Through her chuckling she managed, "Okay, I will, I’ll back you on that one. And you’re right it did feel good to let that out of my system. I can’t say I approve, or don’t question your need to keep me in the dark. But you’ve made it clear and I’ve got to live with it or just stay mad. But it’s hard to be completely mad at my rescuers. Still I’m frustrated especially at the stubborn hero in there. I don’t understand how I feel, it’s too much……...AHGGGG.

"Just take a breath and take some time. Oh and thanks for supportIn me in the name thing, I’ll need any support I can get."

There was a long pause. He looked like he was contemplating how to defuse the caustic haranguing he was in for about disclosing Trace’s name. Robin had closed her eyes again with a deep sigh.

After a moment Roddy said with kindness, "If you need to blow again, like I said, I can take it. I’ll leave ya be for now."

"Hey Roddy, you’re a good man Roddy. No matter how much I yell at you, Thank you," she smiled.

"And I don’t think I want to stay here. She’s probably asleep. I want to just sit with her a while. But I’m not certain I won’t faint again. Will you walk me back in there? "

"I reckon that’s not too hard a job," he offered her his hand as he got up off the bed.

After Roddy left, Robin sat down beside the woman, took the strong hand in hers again and cried. She didn’t know how long she cried, she just cried. She cried about all of it. She felt much of the last 4 days weight and she just let the tears fall. The tall raven haired beauty moaned a few times. Robin panicked and checked vitals quickly. When Trace was quiet again, Robin felt the stab of pain in her heart return, the anguish she had felt when this woman died, and she cried. She wept tears of unknowing, of confusion, but very real feeling. It wasn’t as bad this time, but it was a pain she dreaded that she would truly know and understand some day in her life.

True love is worth the pain.

She wondered about that thought. Where had it come from, did she believe that? True love, was that what was in those beautiful blue eyes. And how could it be from someone she did not know. It was confusing because even now she had the feeling she had known this person before. Robin closed her eyes, she was exhausted.

The moaning woke her up. Everything else in the house seemed quiet. The moaning wasn’t loud, it wasn’t urgent, but Trace was moaning. Robin knew that sound. Trace was in physical pain. Some of it was getting through the medication. Robin didn’t like the thought but she knew it might help the woman come to wakefulness. So she spoke to Trace, "I’m glad I know your name Trace. Don’t be mad. It helped save your life I think. Is Jessie a common name for you too? Whatever your real name is, I want you to know you’re not alone. I’m here. It must hurt. You’ve been wounded. But you need to wake up soon."

The moans increased a little, and Robin continued talking, "Why did it feel like I knew you in the garden? You’re a puzzle Trace. Your mumbling just makes my head spin. No one has ever looked at me that way before. I keep thinking I knew you in my childhood or something."

She stopped to check the IV and kept talking as she did, "It’s probably just my imagination. You were so kind as the doghouse mover. You seemed to care. My husband always hated my dog. Said I loved her more than him. He was so self-centered."

Robin paused, looking at the heart rate feeling poorly about speaking ill of the dead. Her husband wasn’t someone she wanted to think of. She pushed that away. When she looked back at the tall woman’s face those blue eyes were open inspecting her right hand as she was holding it over her face.

Robin was gentle and didn’t want to alarm the woman. She took the left hand tenderly and massaged it slightly. She moved slowly to where Trace could see her. The blue eyes widened. She wanted to speak but it obviously hurt.

"Hello Jessie. Its okay don’t talk, I will. You’re safe and so am I. Your mouth hurts cause there’s a wound there. But you’re okay. The chopper exploded, do you remember the chopper?" The blue eyes had a dim recognition there.

"Whoever you were fighting is gone. We’ve been in this place for about 4 days now," Robin explained glancing at the clock displaying 1:30am.

"You were injured quite a bit Jessie."

The pain on the woman’s face was a testimony of her understanding she was injured.

"You’re being cared for by a good doctor, but we are not in any type of hospital or clinic. We’re with Roddy," Robin hastened to explain as she saw true worry flicker in those eyes.

"He is monitoring everything, we’re guarded and very safe. No trouble at all since we got here. I don’t want to leave you but I do want Roddy and the doc to know you’re awake okay, so I am gonna almost yell for them, R o d d y, R o d d y."

She was taking a breath to say his name again and he was there.

She smiled at his concerned expression and hurried to say, "Its okay, she’s awake. She needs more meds probably. Stay with her and I’ll get the doc."

She turned back smiling to the beautiful woman, squeezing the hand gently, "I’ll be back in a snap."

Robin and the doctor returned as Roddy was saying, "So it’s been quiet for two days now. I’m on it, so you rest."

The doctor spoke to Trace about the amount of pain, where, what type of pain. There was nothing the woman seemed to be experiencing that was unusual. The doctor had lowered the pain medication to see if that would bring her around and possibly stop the nightmares. It had worked to bring her around, but the pain was evident in her labored breathing. He upped the pain meds slightly but not as much as before. It was enough to help the woman rest.

Robin went back to the patient who was almost passed out again, I’m here Jessie. I’m alive, so you rest. All is well."

"Speaking of rest, why don’t you get some." Roddy jerked his head in the direction of the bedroom.

"I’ll take you up on that," she said as she walked to the bedroom.

Robin was tired but exhilarated too. She had seen those blue eyes again in the here and now, no dazed nightmare. Trace had really come back. Robin had to admit to the scary fact that her heart wanted to hope that Trace had come back for her. But logic was intervening where emotion had been the rule of the day when the woman’s life was in peril. Sometimes, it takes a few moments for the heart to begin beating after its been shocked to silence. Her emotions were probably reading too much into the whole thing. But whatever the case, Robin was deeply hoping this was a turning point for the injured woman. She needed Trace to recover, she didn’t understand all she felt, but it was real.

As she lay down the weariness was quickly taking her, but she wondered if those wakeful blue eyes would ever hold the love she thought she had seen on the brink of death. She didn’t want Trace to have to be on the brink of death to be able to feel that kind of love. But the sinking feeling in her heart told her; it might still take such a great extreme with this stoic warrior.

The next several nights were plagued with the same dream. Robin had dreamed of this blue-eyed warrior woman, wearing a suit of armor, like those worn in King Arthur stories. She was dragging a ball and chain. She was also bleeding. The woman was climbing up a hill, away from her. No matter how hard Robin ran, the distance was never lessened. But the warrior was only a 4th of the way up the hill that got steeper as it got higher. Though the dream left her sad and puzzled she was pleased that the blue-eyed woman was awake.

When Trace was able to stay conscious for several hours at a time, the doctor had explained the injuries thoroughly to her. The two bullets that hit her left thigh had made muscle wounds. One was a shallow wound and would be healed over in 3 to 4 more days. The other would take longer but there would be no permanent damage. Her right leg was a different story. A bullet had snapped her tibia in half. It was a ragged snap. He wasn’t a bone specialist. She would have to have considerable surgery to repair the bone once she was healed from the other wounds. Add to that, another bullet had fractured her femur bone, it wasn’t as bad, it seemed to be a clean fracture that should heal well. Her left arm was also broken, the humerus bone had been snapped in her forearm, but his opinion was that it wasn’t as bad as the right leg. There were two other wounds on her left arm, but these were muscular. Her right arm had only scratch marks where bullets had just missed entering her body. Finally, her mouth. It was a mess. A bullet had entered her apparently open mouth, hit the tongue, taken out three of her teeth and fractured the jawbone. Another bullet had hit her front tooth, fracturing it, pierced her tongue and had lodged itself near her windpipe. That bullet had proved to be almost too much for the doctor to retrieve, but it had been withdrawn at a painful price to her muscles. She would be on an IV nutrition method for at least three weeks and then puréed food for months after that.

Their group had visited with a weary patient. There was mostly yes or no question type communication due to the woman’s inability to use her mouth. The doctor had remained on a steady course of physical caregiver and factual information provider. Roddy had sneaked away the last several days to attend to things at home, while Trace was sleeping under the Doc’s watchful eye. No one told Trace cause even in her weakened state she was still unwilling to let him leave due to a need for protection. The 5 rotating hidden guards outside where not enough for Trace. But Roddy knew he needed his life to look a bit more normal. So know one told and they held their breath that all was well, until Roddy returned from each outing.

At first Trace seemed to not mind Robin coming in and lovingly care for her. Robin would hold her hand and tell her stories of playing with her brother as a little girl. Said she wasn’t crazy about her dad. He was very demanding always wanting his kids to work hard. Very business like. He was in real estate. Robin would look outside of the kitchen window and report on what a beautiful day it was, mentioning how much she liked flowers and wished she could see more of outside. She told Trace she liked camping. Her favorite holiday was a tie between Christmas and the 4th of July. Christmas was fun because of being able to give. The 4th was fun because of camping and fire works. She promised Trace she would bake holiday goodies for her this year is she wanted. She fed Trace, she washed Trace as much as the woman would allow. Robin didn’t know yet, that though Trace was not refusing the attention because she was too weak, that would change soon.

"Jessie I don’t know why you saved my life. But I wanted you to know how grateful I am to you for all you’ve done," Robin looked at the injured woman with true gratitude and warmth.

Trace only briefly looked into Robin’s eyes, nodded and kept starring at her hands. Robin wiped away the tear on the woman’s cheek. Trace was obviously embarrassed.

"Hey now, no crying allowed. You did save me and I’m grateful. Hey let me tell you about my dog Daisy. Even though you’re not a doghouse mover, I’m still gonna tell you about my four legged friend," Robin smiled and related many lovely memories she had of her dog.

Trace slept often and still had some nightmares, but nothing like before. She did seem to need to see Robin after those nightmares. It seemed that was the only time Trace would look directly into Robin’s eyes for any length of time. Those moments were so sweet Robin wished they happened more often. The woman’s eyes were intense and often tender in those cases. But they never held the love Robin had seen on the day Trace’s heart had stopped. Robin was disappointed, but reasoned that whatever words had been spoken in Trace’s semi conscious state were drug or nightmare related.

Robin’s own dream continued. At this point the armor-suited woman was still heavily burdened, bleeding and half way up the hill, with Robin still no close, the gap almost broadening.

"I don’t know much about you. I wish I did. I wanted to know you when I thought you were a doghouse mover and I still want to know you. I wish you would tell me if you do know me Jessie. It’s hard to believe that you don’t know me somehow. I know you want to protect me but would it be so bad if you just told me yes. Yes you knew sometime ago. You don’t have to say more than that. I would accept just that. Its something."

Trace’s face was saddened and sullen. She reluctantly shook her head indicating that it was not wise.

As time progressed it seemed that Robin’s visits with Trace became less welcomed. Robin was really getting an education in the stubborn stoic hero type. Much more than she wished. Roddy took pity on the sweet nurse. Though he knew Trace would really be mad at him he had explained that the self sufficient woman was loathe to allow herself to be helped, especially when she could not help herself. That Trace was very intense about the turn of events. She brooded, that was her nature, as he knew her. He had neglected to add that likely she felt so completely unworthy of help, but he knew that was the real reason. Trace hated Trace.

"Good Morning Jessie, do you mind if I sit here for a while?" Robin sat down even though she saw the smirk on the woman’s face.

"Did you sleep well last night?" This produced and uncommitted shrug from the patient.

"I wish you could eat. I enjoy cooking as much as doc will let me. You still haven’t tasted my cooking you know," Robin smiled cutely.

To Robin’s delight, the woman actually looked disappointed.

"Healing is slow, but you’re doing well, doc told me at breakfast. You know……… it’s not exactly fair to keep me…….so much in the dark don’t you. I mean you saved my life and I am grateful, but I know nothing. You were so committed to saving me, I just don’t understand. Even now you’re protecting me against information. I’m breathing but my life is essentially gone and I would like to know something. Anything. "

Trace looked like she wanted to crawl under a rock. She refused to look at the woman and Robin saw a tear roll down the woman’s face. And Robin felt her heart clench. Her emotions were so intensified in the presence of this woman. She couldn’t handle holding back.

"Jessie, why, why did you save me? Why can you communicate nothing to me? I certainly don’t blame you for anything. I’m not happy you won’t give me information. But I know you’re doing it cause you think it’s so necessary to my safety. You’ve given so much to keep me safe Jessie. You almost died. You came from nowhere and you took every bullet that seemed to be intended for me. Now you can hardly look at me. You look at me so intensely after you have a nightmare, but then you won’t meet my eyes other times. Jessie, this is all such a puzzle. It’s so frustrating. I know you are doing what you think best, but damn it I want to understand, " she felt the tears falling from her own eyes.

The voice was a whisper, " I’m sorry. My fauk you here. But I can’k……..we can’k tewl you. No fair bu…..sorry, you yife, I didnk wan dis happen, I jus……" There were many more tears on the woman’s cheeks. It was obvious she was in great pain from talking but the tears weren’t from the physical pain.

Robin moved closer and touched the woman’s hand. This somehow caused more pain as she felt Trace flinch, "Forgive me Robin………I wishhhh…..I, can’k tewl you, my fauk, no fair, you shouwd no hav go drough dis, bu I, no good, can’k, forgive meeee, I…." This injured soul was trying not to sob, trying to fight the tears and obvious pain.

Robin wanted to comfort this mysterious conflicted person, but Trace couldn’t allow it. Her head was bent, her breathing was labored and she was trying to wipe away the tears with angry strokes.

"I, just, sorry, I need be ayone pease."

Robin had left so dejected. Trace seemed to be fighting demons and was determined to do it alone. Robin was watching that self-loathing become deeper and deeper and more corrosive that any physical wound. She was starting to really hate this whole thing.

It was after this exchange that the next several days were not a good experience for Trace or anyone around her. She refused to see Robin the next day. And after that, she only allowed brief visits. When Roddy saw her, he was very concerned. Something had happened. Trace was despondent, empty. Roddy had never seen nor expected to ever see such a thing in this guarded person. She always held herself tightly like a spring ready for action. She had always seemed so controlled. Granted it wasn’t real natural, but it was Trace. The woman he was seeing wasn’t strong. She was just horribly withdrawn. The only anger she showed was at being visited. Roddy brought her intelligence reports and she barely seemed to register the information. She would stare at nothing for hours and hours. Just stare. There was emotion on her face sometimes. He caught her crying a few times. Those two times, the look she gave him could have killed him dead. So he had retreated. But mostly she looked like she just wasn’t at home upstairs. Her fits of occasional anger at everyone’s concern were the only reassurance that Trace hadn’t completely lost it. Gone GAGA. Checked out.

One the 10th day, Trace wanted more paper and pencil. Roddy had seen much more anger in the previous day and he suspected that her request meant she was ready to make her demands. He knew it would be about Robin. The beautiful red headed woman was now a gorgeous blonde with a short haircut. Roddy had explained to the woman that she needed to steal herself for a drastic change. The days to come would be loathsome to her. Roddy had been feeling it build. Robin would sometimes emerge from Trace’s room with tears in her eyes, sometimes with bewilderment, sometimes with mild anger and often with great frustration. She had just done this hair treatment the night before after Roddy had explained that she needed to begin the head toward that drastic change.

She had looked him straight in the eye and said, "You’re talking about the witness protection kind of thing right? No more mommy or daddy, no brother, no cousins, not one soul who will ever know the real me. Robin Trenton died the day the doghouse mover came right? That’s what my mom thinks, they had the funeral. I sneaked a look at the Docs daily paper. I’m buried."

Tears were flowing freely. She had known this was coming. But she had kept pushing that knowledge away. And now Roddy, good man that he was, was trying to get her to look at it a little.

"I’m only asking you to give yourself a new hairdo. Lets not Barbie the whole pig yet girl."

She tried to stifle a chuckle unsuccessfully. She squared her shoulders and said, "So what color am I gonna be sporting then."

"I hear blonde’s have more fun. What—d-ya say then?" the man asked hopefully.

He hadn’t asked her to cut it short, but she had. And now she was coming out of Trace’s room with a hurt and puzzled expression. Roddy tried not to interfere with these two emotionally. He was trying to keep the show moving forward however. And that meant the show down scene was coming. Trace’s demand was that Robin start preparing to leave. As soon as she saw that adorable small woman with the gorgeous blonde hair, Roddy was willing to bet Trace’s mouth had fallen open despite the pain. Her heart had probably melted a little at the courageous sight of this sweet woman having to walk away from all she knew and start over. Leaving a family to greave a daughter’s loss that wasn’t really dead. Trace hating feeling any emotion for this woman, especially desire, or worse, love and admiration. Trace was placing the responsibility for this all on her own shoulders. Roddy knew most of this because she had come right out and wrote it down, committed it to paper.

The scrawled writing of the right hand from a left-handed woman, said, "I killed her husband. And I only regretted it because of her. I liked killing the bastard. And now she tells me everyday, thank you for saving her life. I saved her breath and only her breath. She hasn’t got a life thanks to me. She needs to hate me. But I can’t even have the freedom of telling her that I killed him. We both know that’s dangerous. She still haunts my dreams. She’s right in front of me and I still dream about her. I still dream about running, about trying to keep her safe. And I’ll be damned she is so caring, I can hardly take it."

The blonde did need to leave. Time was an enemy. She needed to walk away from everything and start new. Roddy had been working on a social security number and a new ironclad identity. It took time to build the kind of everyday mundane life history that could stand up to the scrutiny of the CIA looking for the one that got away. It would be another week at least before the lovely Robin could leave this house to go to another of his contacts for some major training about starting over.

Roddy was standing in the living room dreading what he knew he needed to do next. He had to look for the pretty petite woman and ask her for an extremely painful favor.

"Hiya Blondie, come here often?" Roddy quipped to the lady at the kitchen table.

The blonde looked up from her journal writing and smirked, "Oh yeah sailor, it’s a favorite haunt of mine."

"Well now, can I buy ya a cool one then love?" the man asked keeping up the game.

She had an inquisitive smile on her face so he said, "What’s you’re pleasure then, Ginger ale or some of American football’s famous ale, the genuine draft?"

"I have a feeling I’m in for a big hit so let me lean on a draft."

Roddy had to smile at how transparent he must have become in such closer living quarters with this bright beautiful woman. She was reading his discomfort well despite the word game.

"Shall we retire to the living room My Lady," he employed his best mainland British brogue for this line.

"EE Gods, I’m gonna need a whole case of this aren’t I Roddy? You’re offering me spirits and allowing me into the somewhat forbidden zone."

"Well, Ms. Blonde and Beautiful, those desperate times, they are a comin," he said as he offered her an arm and glided into the living room. The curtains were closed of course.

Roddy sighed and looked into two of the prettiest eyes in the world. No wonder Trace was scared to death of the woman, she was irresistible in every way.

"I’ve noticed you journaling much more lately. Lots to think about, huh?" It was a lame start but it was a start.

"I’ve been working on a new you. It’s coming along. But its gonna be a lot of work Ellie."

He had tried the name out on her before a few times. Last night he told her that her new name was Eleanor Meredith Hunter. She didn’t like Eleanor but she could live with Ellie.

"Okay, no easy way to say this. I need to hurt you."

Ellie’s face clouded over with bewilderment.

"What I’m going to ask has to do with Trace, well you and Trace. You were greatly affected by her comment about loving you Ellie, when she was mumbling, in her dream state. I saw it in your face in all that happened after that. I know it’s not truly any of my business, but I would ask if you would consider talking to her about it. You don’t have to mind me. You can tell me to pull my bloody nosey honker back onto my own face and leave you alone. But all I ask is that you hear me out."

At the woman’s very guarded nod he continued, "I have no doubt that Trace will recover somewhat. But I’ll have to keep her hidden for at least a year and help arrange these surgeries without anyone knowing who she is. That’ll be a challenge to say the least. She’ll never go the distance this will take Ellie. She’s too angry and still believes herself a bit indestructible. And if she doesn’t do this, she won’t heal enough. She needs to heal physically because she needs to be sharp. She’s still in danger and so are you. She needs to be desperate to get better. Soooooooo I need to shock her. Trace needs to know she died, and it needs to be a graphic description from the doctor. But the most important thing is that you need to be right in plain view. As the doctor goes over the details, you will likely feel the words again. If I’m right about what I saw, you will feel the pain you seemed to experience or some of it from that day. I need to ask that you not be brave. Show Trace just how gravely this had affected you, allow her to see you hurt, hurt because of her possible demise. If anything were going to get to her, this would do it. She needs to see that her pain has hurt you, she needs to face that, consider it." The tears were flowing silently down the pretty woman’s lovely face and Roddy hated himself. But it had to be done.

"Why do I need this? Well, I’m afraid if something doesn’t get to her, she is gonna go and get her flippin head blown off. She needs to know that if she goes off in anger, caring not what happens to her, it will affect you. I suspect her getting hurt or worse would be a deep wound for you whether you understand why or not. Plus, I know this, if she gets sloppy, doesn’t care, it could get me killed. If she goes out in anger she wouldn’t be as careful as usual. And if she isn’t back on the top of her game, my whole house of cards could be in danger of falling down. I’ve already lost one good fella over this. And if we get found out, its not just my life, it’s a lot of lives. The scum she saved you from isn’t dead, I don’t think. The chopper killed some of his lackeys. She knows that. I’ve been talking with her lately. And I don’t like what I see. She wants you safe, but it almost seems like a part of her want to roll over and be done with life. That’s how I see it anyway. I ain’t seen her that way before. You seem to be the only thing that can reach her. I can do a lot for you. I can make you a new person. Plant you somewhere’s that’s boring and ordinary and you will slip under the radar for quite a while, maybe for good. But my gut tells me this, that the only thing that saved you from your death a few days ago and the threat of it in the future is that woman. And the only thing that will save her is you in my opinion Ellie."

He hurt at the sadness and pain flowing down those cheeks and the haunting in her beautiful eyes. It was obvious that she knew, that what he had explained was not a surprise to Ellie. This confirmed it for Roddy. Without a history, somehow this woman was connected to the beautiful blue-eyed Ice Queen on a level maybe know one else could be. Some things go beyond explanation. Some things are just meant to be.

"You need to know that me and the doc are gonna tell her some of what happened whether you’re there or not. She needs to know. We won’t betray the stuff that belongs between you two. But she’s gonna know she died and she’s gonna know that we all hurt greatly over it. Can ya let me know how ya feel about this tomorrow sometime?

"I, well I can I guess."

"I’m asking a lot here Ellie. It’s more than I should ask. Its another thing that ain’t fair. But you can tell me tomorrow how much you hate me for this." He got up, and she barely noticed.

Ellie was lost inside herself. She had stopped asking for answers about the events that had stolen her life. They would never tell her the truth. Convicted deeply that it was a danger to her, she would never be told. Still she was trying to wrap her mind around what had happened. Her life was gone. Everything she had known was no longer available to her. The family she had known was still grieving. The marriage she once had hopes for but also had wanted out of was gone. She knew Doug was into something. She knew her fate in this had something to do with Doug. With Shannon and with Viet Nam. She hadn’t looked too closely, but she knew he was up to something. She had found that bankbook in his fishing gear. And she was convinced he and Shannon were having an affair. The infidelity hadn’t angered her as much as the bankbook. She knew love wasn’t there. She had cared for him a lot once. But even that was gone. No, she didn’t feel empty about her husband being dead. She hated to think she felt relief.

She did however feel empty when those pretty blues refused to look at her. She felt empty when she admitted to herself that the love she thought she had seen that night, was not real. Would she ever know? She knew she would never stop asking why. Regardless of what happened now, she would never forget the raven hair warrior that had saved her against all odds. She would never shake the suspicion that the woman desperately needed to save her. And she knew that she wanted to be loved, deeply, soulfully loved. Her husband hadn’t. Her mom hadn’t. She had never known that kind of undying, enduring love. She believed for most of her life it did not exist, it was just romantic fantasy. She thought herself weak because she wished it could be real not just a fairytale from when she was younger. By college, she hadn’t even looked for it. All grown up, and practical, she had married a nice guy. Doug had loved her once. She loved him or at least truly cared for him. They had given it a try, but Doug wasn’t trying anymore. It was always an effort.

What had she seen in those blues eyes that night? It made her wonder about love; the kind she knew didn’t exist, and was afraid to hope for. She didn’t see it anymore. Those blue eyes were cold now. Only occasionally, she caught Trace looking at her with such intensity. Sitting here pondering Roddy’s words, she knew that she wished it were longing she saw in that intensity. Ellie believed he had shared his honest thoughts with her. But Ellie was tired and she suspected Trace could never be reached in her protected armor of anger and self-loathing.

Ellie didn’t want to open herself up to feel that pain. Why it was so deep she would likely never understand. It wasn’t like Trace welcomed friendship and kindness. Ellie hadn’t gotten to know the woman and care for her because of that. Trace was too closed. And now Roddy was asking her to let herself hurt in front of the distant hero. She didn’t think she could do it. Life was going to change. She wouldn’t be here very much longer. Ellie was tired and would need to use what energy she could muster to face leaving. To face the unknown that was coming. She was definitely sure that Trace wouldn’t be coming around for friendly chats over a warm cup of coffee. Ellie would probably never see the blue-eyed mystery again once she left this house. But tomorrow was another day. She would sleep now and talk to Roddy tomorrow.

In the dream, the armor-clad soldier was almost at the top and the distance between them had grown so broad Ellie could hardly make out the figure upon the hill. She felt herself sobbing, running as fast as she could run and sobbing. The distance was too great and she thought of just stopping. When she woke up suddenly, it took her a minute to get her bearings. She was in the doctor’s house. Her face was wet with tears. Her heart was heavy and she sobbed herself back to a dreamless slumber.

"Roddy, I don’t know what you see between Trace and me. I’m not sure the meaning of what happened the day Trace’s heart stopped. I care about her, its true. But she will go on. I really don’t want to feel that hurt again. I don’t even know why I did. I won’t lie, it was painful, the anguish was real. But it was feeling without understanding. You both have refused me information that could lead me to better understand. I’m about to start a new life. And unless you are really gonna surprise me, it doesn’t include Trace. I know you’ll take care of her. And I believe that you believe what you told me. But Trace has made it clear she doesn’t want me too close. I can honor that Roddy. I must. This new life will take all the energy I can give it. So I’ll be there today when you tell her your information. But I don’t know how I will react, if I’ll react. There are feelings there but there is nothing to hang it on. I hope my presence will help, but I don’t want to talk to her about anything really. And she certainly doesn’t want me to. It’s a mystery that will never be solved by her wishes. I don’t want anything to happen to you or your friends. But I can hardly believe more pain today will stave off anything."


"Well I asked ya to listen and ya did. You have more power over her than you know. But you’re right, you don’t know because she refuses to tell ya. You did get the raw end of things Ellie. Thanks for being honest. I appreciate you being present today. I’ll go get the doc if you’re ready."

"Yeah go ahead," Ellie sounded very down.

When Ellie, the doc and Roddy had come into the room Trace’s eyebrow arched, then she looked rather sternly at Roddy. Ellie saw the intelligence flash in the woman’s eyes. She knew she was being set up for something. And though Trace’s face held a solid stoic expression, Ellie felt that the woman was scared.

Though Trace was looking at Roddy, it was the doctor her spoke, "Trace, I didn’t think you would be alive right now. I almost wished they had left you in that truck and walked away. Trying to save you wasn’t impossible in a hospital, but here, with just one nurse. I did this for Roddy, but had no hope. You pulled through the first three days. I thought you would make it then. Roddy had told me how tough you were. But then the fourth day came. I noticed your vitals weaker. So did Robin. But it wasn’t any more than I had expected in the first three days. I hadn’t given her hope, but she hoped anyway. I told Robin, that you might only be responding to pain. But she knew, she knew you could be slipping. She was extremely worried. Robin is a fine nurse you see but she’s an even finer human being. She stayed by you that one. Almost never left. But I insisted on her resting as well. You did better when she was with you. You had nightmares. You almost tore out your IV once. But she calmed you Trace. I don’t know if you remember any of this, but her voice would bring you to her. You would look at her as if in a dream and be calmed."

Trace’s face was a mask as she turned her look upon the doctor. Her eyes never met the blonde’s. Her hands were clenched upon the guardrails of the bed. Ellie was concerned that the woman’s intensity would strain the wounds too much. Ellie didn’t want to care but she did.

"On the fourth day you woke up screaming. You were in a nightmare again. She came to you Trace. You looked deeply into her eyes, I saw you. You were mumbling, but she understood you. Your dream had put an extreme strain upon your body. You died Trace. Your heart stopped, you weren’t breathing. We tried the paddles, and Ellie tried CPR, but you were dead. I shocked you one last time, but you died."

The pain of it flashed through Ellie’s mind again. For the first time ever, she hoped Trace would not look at her. If she did, Ellie knew the anguish would take her again. Trace looked down at her lap. Her breathing was heavy, but she was in no physical danger.

Roddy continued, "I saw it Trace, you died. I saw you look at Robin as if to say goodbye. That’s the way it looked to me. I couldn’t believe it girl. I knew it was possible even if you didn’t. But you were always so confident and so tough; I just couldn’t believe that this time you couldn’t beat it. I was so stunned I didn’t feel nothin really. There was dread far off in the distance like. But I couldn’t wrap my mind around that you were gone. Only you were Trace. You died. It wasn’t seconds, no you were gone like two minutes at least. But she brought you back Trace. She refused to let you go. Robin leaned down and spoke in your ear. Only she can tell you what was said, but it brought you back. Not the paddles, not CPR. We all saw it. You came back for the girl Trace, and only for the girl."

There was a long pause. Ellie was softly crying now. Trace was obviously in pain, especially upon hearing that she had returned for Robin. When she looked up, her glare was mixed with tears but still as cold as death. She was looking directly into Roddy’s eyes. Trace’s tongue was only a tiny bit improved, and her throat muscles were still a mess and terribly inflamed. Still her diction was as clear as the wound would allow.

Not taking her eyes off of Roddy Trace whispered harshly, "Did ik happen as he says Ewie?"

Ellie wasn’t expecting Trace to address her so her answer was stammered and simple through more tears, "Yes."

There was a long pause again, still Trace’s eyes were boring wholes through Roddy, but he hadn’t backed away. Without lifting her gaze Trace said, "Den is my kurn ko dhank you Ewie. We are even, I save you, you saved me. Pyease give me an Roddy a moment ayone."

"Whak did dac prove you assho? You made her cry damn you. She’s yeaving in 5 days. She’s going ko anoder life. She can pu aw dhis behind her and you bring up somedhing painfuw," Trace had to take a breath, because speaking still hurt. If she had had her voice she would have skinned him alive with her words.

Roddy jumped at his chance. "You’re the one that made her cry. Its you she cares about, and you push her away. What happens to you matters to her? You came back for her Trace. You were dead and she reached you with what she said. I can’t tell you what it was, that is up to her. But she reached your soul. Maybe you don’t want to let her in; maybe you need to keep her at a distance. You’re scared of her, Fine. But don’t put those tears on me. They were shed long before today. Like it or not she cares about you."

Roddy’s voice hadn’t been soft, and he was sure Ellie and the doc had heard all that, so he toned it down some, "Now you can squash that if you want, in a blasted effort to protect her. But if you want her alive, you have to stay alive and healthy. I don’t know where Crab is exactly as I told you before. He wasn’t in the chopper. He hasn’t surfaced back at Langley yet. But he’s made contact like I told you yesterday. That explosion and this whole thing is gonna cost him. He’s got explaining to do and he’s putting it off. It will take time for him to get his full power back. I told you a few days ago I think he’s hurt. I think he was in that first black van you wrecked on the road. So he’ll still be looking. I know you’ve heard a lot of this before but that means I need to hide you until you are full strength. You won’t have a prayer of full strength unless you have at least that surgery on your leg. So you can’t just shoo her away into the life I’ve created. She’ll be safe for the time you need to heal, I hope. But after that, you have to be back. And if you go off half-cocked, it’s not just her you’ll kill. Maybe we don’t mean much, but I’ve got a lot of people on the line here."

Trace’s glare was less intense; she was tired from all the effort.

"Why’d you have cho kell me all dac abou her anyway. I’m trying be srong and no kell her aw abou me dreaming abou her for mosh my life. No easy, I know hurchs her. I hake dac. Bu she no need care abou me. She has go her new life no yook back," Trace rolled her eyes at how ridiculous she sounded with her wounded tongue.

"You know as well as I do that you were slipping. Sometimes I thought you were gonna come out of this bed and start looking for Crab hoping on your best leg. And sometimes you looked so despondent that you could hardly lift your head. And you know it wasn’t from injuries. I needed to shake you. You need to care about this damn it. I lost someone because of this. Suz is healing, but her heart is broken. She loved Cade. And I’m not usually this rattled cause I’m not usually still hiding away from a CIA operative. I’ve usually taken care of things by now. Plus, it’s usually an agent, not one of the higher ups like Crabtree. And there really is something between you two and you won’t even give it a chance, stupid."

Trace was glaring hard again.

Roddy threw up his hands, "So shoot me cause I care. I know, your feelings are none of my business. But you’ve sort of made it my business this time Trace. I’m in the middle here."

"I know Rod. I’m sorry. I dhoughd I be dead or bedder dhan I am now. Bu I care. I know da leg needs surgery. As long you promise me keep her safe, I wi have da surgery. Bu you hav pu someone you krus on dis. She has be wached and no ever reawy be ayone."

Trace paused a moment then added quickly, "And you and I wi chalk abou da name, you all call me Krace no Jessie, don’ dhink I didn’ nochice."

Choosing wisely not to defend the name thing at this point Roddy replied, "She won’t be alone, not really. It’s a pretty good life. Fairly plausible. But you have to talk to her before she leaves. If you don’t she’ll be really hurt. You don’t need to impose that kind of hurt Trace. She gets that you’re distant and you don’t want to be close. You are a protector that she’ll never understand or really know. She gets that. She told me. I don’t see her loving that fact, but she’s resolved to it. She knows that is what you want and she’s gonna give you all the alone you can handle. But you need to at least talk to her a little. Let her know she’ll be okay. And we have very watchful eyes. She needs to hear that from you I think."

Roddy was trying to help his friend not completely crush a beautiful heart.

"I wish I could acdually chalk Roddy. Lisen cho me. I’s a wonder dac you all have kep your composure. I sound like a kwo year old with a lisp from hewl."

If Roddy had been able to bet anything today, it would have been that Trace would definitely not smile. But here she was, almost laughing at herself. Roddy couldn’t hold it back, he just cracked up.

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