Alex could hear the rain when it began to fall. She tried desperately to keep her eyes open and stay alert to what was happening around her, but the sound of her own voice was no longer working as a deterrent. She found herself rambling and making stupid sounds to stay awake. The soft drip of water falling and trickling down the walls of the cave had become mesmerizing. Even though she propped her foot up on a large rock to keep the swelling down, the throbbing in her ankle and her wrist as well was constant.
Finally, she could no longer fight the need for sleep and allowed herself to drift into a semi-conscious state. Her body quickly relaxed into the realm of dreams, bringing with it the blessed lack of pain.
"Over here, Nairod."
The sound of a lyrical voice prompted Alex to open her eyes, and she found the room now bathed in an eerie red light with a rock fire glowing brightly. The young maiden she had seen earlier in the day was pouring water on the rocks, causing steam to rise and warm the room. Alex could smell a scent reminiscent of a mixture of pine, sage, and eucalyptus. The odor seemed to permeate her aching body and brought with it welcomed relief.
She watched in disbelief as the Indian brave she and Samantha had seen earlier joined the young maiden.
"Father's wrath will come down on us if they find us here alone," the young brave whispered, entering the cave through the exit Samantha had found earlier.
"Everyone else is at the celebration; we won't be missed until the moon is high above the horizon."
The Indian crossed to the center of the room, totally ignoring Alex as she lay there watching. He almost walked through her on his way to take the maiden into his arms.
When he did so, Alex had the distinct feeling of holding Samantha. The empathy was unsettling and comforting at the same time. As the lovers embraced, their entire story played through the mind of the wounded woman like a vision quest.
Alex immediately felt a cosmic connection to the individuals who were as real to her as if they were standing there in the flesh, even though she knew in the recesses of her mind that that was impossible.
The heritage of the brave was made distinctly clear, and she felt a stronger connection to him than to the maiden. She somehow got his history in the form of a story showing how a white man had raped his grandmother and left her for dead not far from the Indian village. When the braves of the village found her, they took her home and the shaman nurtured her back to health. A beautiful girl child with eyes the color of the summer sky was born to the maiden, and as she grew into a lovely young woman, she caught the eye of the chief's son, who was only a few years her senior. They eventually married, and the handsome brave with shocking blue eyes, hair as black as night, and skin the color of polished bronzeçthe young brave known as Nairodççwas born to them.
Alex also received the background of the young maiden, with eyes the color of spring grass, hair the color of summer wheat, and skin the color of a newborn fawn. Again, in story form, she received the information that a baby girl had been born to a white woman who had lived with a renegade brave. They had settled on the outskirts of the Indian village, between Indian Territory and a white man's settlement. During a skirmish between her lover's tribe and the settlers, the brave had been killed and she had been wounded. The Indians attempted to nurse her back to health, but she was heavy with child, in fragile condition, and she ended up losing her life in childbirth. Knowing that the child was an innocent, the village Shaman, who had lost both his wife and child in childbirth, offered to take the baby in and raise her as his own. She eventually became a very powerful influence in the village, and when the Shaman passed on, she took over as head Shamaness. Her daughter, the young woman now standing before Alex, had followed in her mother's footsteps.
Alex continued to watch the interactions of the two people. It was extremely important that she stay awake, but she seemed to be losing the battle, again. Just as she was about to give in to the desire for rest and close her eyes, the room darkened slightly, the figures faded, and she saw a flickering light in the direction of the exit.
The next sound she heard was the most beautiful voice in the world.
"Alex! Alex, are you awake?" Samantha's question was more of a plea. She knew it was dangerous for the wounded woman to sleep, but she also knew that more than likely she had probably done so. The maiden had been right in saying that the tunnel was short; she could see the flickering of light not too far ahead of her. "I'm coming, Alex!"
Suddenly finding herself quite awake, Alex knew that Samantha hadn't been gone long enough to get all the way to the Jeep and back with help. Her mind was reeling as to why Samantha would put them both in jeopardy by coming back for her so soon. As a further conundrum, she wondered how Samantha had managed to get into the room from the outer entrance. She shook all the questions from her head and cursed to herself for moving so quickly. It really didn't matter; she was sure Samantha had a good reason for the choice she made.
Alex felt her voice crack when she tried to answer Samantha's question. "I'm awake, Samantha," she muttered, keeping her eyes on the light that continued to get brighter. Her heart leapt when Samantha came into view.
The blonde hurried toward her and threw her arms around Alex's neck. "I wish we had taken the exit out of here earlier," she confided to her lover. "I could have had you half way to the Jeep by now."
"Samantha, how did you know . . ."
"It's a long story, Alex, and one that's not totally believable."
Just try me, my love; wait 'til I tell you mine!
"Wow, I didn't know a single torch could heat an area as large as this," Samantha stated. "This room has got to be 10 degrees warmer than what it was when I left here."
"You wouldn't believe me if I tried to explain to you how the room got heated," Alex replied. She wanted to tell Samantha all about the vision, but it would have to wait. "Why did you come back through the cave? How did you know wherever you entered from would lead back here to this room? Samantha, I know you couldn't have gotten to the parking lot and back already. Did the phone work? Did you call for help? How . . ."
Samantha put a finger to her lover's mouth and quietly hushed her. "No, my love, the phone didn't work, and you're right, I didn't get to the car. I'm going to tell you how I found the entrance after I take care of some of your pain."
The blonde reached into her backpack and pulled out the brown root. Peeling away the outer layer with her knife, she cut off a piece of the white fleshy center and placed it into Alex's mouth. "This might taste a little bitter to begin with, but it will alleviate the pain and make it tolerable."
"How do you . . ." Alex started to question.
"Trust me, my love, I just do."
Cloudy blue eyes stared into clear green and she somehow knew that Samantha did, indeed, know what she was talking about.
While Alex was busy chewing on the plant that had the consistency of a raw potato, Samantha pulled out some of the leaves she had in her pack and began snapping them to allow the sticky liquid to form on the edges. Gently, she smeared the greenish goo around the swollen ankle and wrist.
"What?" Alex managed to ask and Samantha felt compelled to try to explain.
"This will help numb the skin so you won't hurt so much when we start out of here." She put her head down, afraid to look Alex in the eyes for fear her mate might think her insane. "Alex, I was starting toward the car when I saw the Indian maiden again." She stopped and waited for a response. Receiving none, she continued. "She actually talked to me this time and helped me find not only the cave entrance, but the medicinal herbs to help ease your pain so we can get out of here together. I know it sounds absolutely crazy but . . ."
"No! No, Samantha it doesn't sound crazy . . . I mean it does . . . but it doesn't. I had a similar experience but they didn't talk to me."
"Both the Indian brave and the maiden were in here with me, while I was trying to fight drifting off to sleep. I saw them as surely as I'm looking at you right this minute, unless you're an apparition as well."
"I'm not an apparition, honey. I'm here in the flesh." She gently touched the warm face of the woman she loved and smiled. "We're going to get out of here, Alex. Everything will be alright, I promise."
"Now who's the hero?" Alex asked with a weak smile.
"I'm no hero, but I'll do my damnedest to act like one until I get you safely home."
The smoke from the torch filled the room with the scent of fresh sage, and Samantha told Alex to inhale deeply. Looking around the room she found a few small branches that could be used to help stabilize the injured woman's ankle and wrist. Tearing strips of material from her blouse, she placed one branch on either side of Alex's ankle and wrapped it tightly to keep it in one position. If it worked the way she expected, Alex would be able to stand and walk with partial weight bearing. She had learned some technique from transcribing, some from watching Alex work at the clinic, and some seemed to be coming naturally to her without even thinking about it.
"How are you feeling, Alex? Any better?"
"As a matter of fact, the pain has diminished greatly, both coming from the inside and out. I actually think I might be able to walk."
"Let's not get carried away. I was hoping the medicine would be strong, but I don't know that I want you thinking everything is perfect. For all we know you may be in shock and . . ."
"Samantha, believe in your ability to help heal her."
Samantha snapped her head around to see if the maiden was visible. She was nowhere in sight.
"What is it, Samantha?"
"Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Alex cocked her head to listen.
"Nothing; it's gone nowççmust have been the wind." Samantha turned back to the situation at hand. "How does your head feel?"
"It's still pounding a little, but nothing like it was before you came back in. I don't feel as sleepy, either."
"Give her some energy."
"I didn't say anything. Samantha, are you okay?"
"Alex, I'm going to do something that might seem totally nuts to you, but I think it might help."
"Hey, I'm a captive audience." She winked at Samantha and then added in a more serious tone, "Do whatever you think might help. I'm a willing participant."
Samantha reached into her pocket and brought out the heart-shaped stone; she rubbed it vigorously between her hands. When she could feel the heat emanating from the stone and her skin, she placed the stone in Alex's lap and put one hand on either side of her lover's head.
"I can feel the heat radiating from your hands," Alex told her lover in a surprised tone.
"I was hoping you could. I'm going to concentrate on clearing your head and your vision. Getting through the tunnel will take a lot of energy, and I don't want to put more stress on your body than absolutely necessary."
While she was quietly standing above her heart's desire, with her fingers on Alex's temples, the blonde suddenly felt the unmistakable feeling of added pressure on her hands, accompanied by a whispered voice inside her head. "A little extra energy never hurt anyone. This is my final gift to you and Alex. Everything will be fine, Samantha. Once you clear the cave, Nairod will show you a short-cut back to where you need to go. May the gods watch over you. I'm glad I got to meet who I was to become; the circle of time is endless."
As suddenly as it had appeared, the extra pressure on her hands was gone. She bent down and kissed Alex on the crown of her head. "Any better, my love?"
"Much!" Alex replied, surprised. "You really have a healing touch, Samantha. I think you need to change professions."
"Alex, you do realize that the Indians are our former selves, don't you?"
"Well, she told me I . . . um . . . she . . . or . . . you know what I mean! I was a Shamaness when I was her."
"That makes sense; so you've brought into this life some of the attributes of that one. Mom says that's what we're supposed to do. She's going to love what went on here."
"I don't think she's going to be so happy about the accident."
"No, not that, but the fact that we got to have a regression without having to go through a middle person."
"I don't mean to change the subject, but time is slipping away from us here. Do you think maybe you can make it through the cave, Alex?"
"I'm ready to try."
"We'll find you a crutch once we get outside. The walls of the corridor are close enough together to be of support, and I'll walk in front of you for extra assistance."
Surprisingly, when Alex stood in an upright position, she found that her lightheadedness was gone, and so was most of her pain. She knew better than to push her luck, however, and continued to keep as much weight as possible off the injured ankle.
Progression through the tunnel was slow, but steady and they soon found themselves out in the open. The rain had ceased, and the air smelled fresh and clean. Samantha extinguished the remaining torch, and then she looked around for a sturdy branch capable of being used as a staff for Alex to lean upon. There was a felled tree not far from the entrance.
"Alex, I think I see a walking stick for you," Samantha exclaimed. "If you put most of your weight on that when I bring it back, and the rest on my shoulder, we should be able to make it to the car in a couple of hours. We'll stop anytime you feel the strain becoming too much or the pain returning. Okay?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Alex answered in an almost convincing voice. She certainly can take charge in needed situations; she's tougher than I gave her credit for being.
Sympathetic green eyes searched the depths of baby blue pools for any sign that the pain was returning and found none.
They had zigged and zagged all the way from the parking lot to the bottom of the ledge on their hike the day before, and Samantha was hoping that they could find a path that would lead them directly to the car instead of traveling back the same way. It was no longer a pleasant excursion, and the sooner they got to the car, the quicker she could call for help or drive Alex to a hospital.
After stepping away from the entrance to the cave, Samantha started to leave Alex's side to get the staff. Simultaneously, both the women felt a tingling sensation, and the hair on their arms raised up. Directly ahead of them stood the semi-transparent image of the Indian brave they had come to know as Nairod. He was beckoning to them to follow where he was pointing.
An almost melancholy feeling washed over the blonde, as she realized that this mystical experience was about to come to an end. She only wished it had occurred under less stressful and detrimental circumstances. Mentally, she said her farewell to her former self.
"Looks like he's pointing in the direction of the creek," Alex informed her lover.
"Well, you know we never did actually follow the creek; we stopped and played in it but then crossed it."
Samantha hurried to retrieve the stick and handed it to Alex. "Here this should make a strong crutch, and you can lean on me."
"I don't want to go putting all my weight . . ."
"Don't be ridiculous, Alex! If you don't lean on me, neither one of us is going to get anywhere." Samantha gave Alex a determined look and put her arm around the taller woman's waist. "Come on, the sooner we start following the Indian's lead, the faster we'll arrive at the car."
Alex found that the pain in both her ankle and wrist were still quite diminished. The root she had ingested and the gel Samantha had put on her skin had obviously been given enough time to secrete their medicinal properties. She leaned hard on the makeshift crutch and as softly as possible on Samantha as they carefully made their way toward the creek.
Samantha could tell that Alex was feeling better as they inched their way forward. The taller woman seemed to be picking up the pace, and as long as the blonde could not feel Alex's muscles tightening or see any grimacing on the injured woman's face, she would continue to allow Alex to control the speed at which they traveled.
Minutes later they were standing beside the creek; the water level here was low and in some areas nonexistent. The bed was layered with a sandy loam, which turned out to be much softer to walk on than the rocks they had just left.
Once again, the brave appeared, and Samantha watched Alex tilt her head, as if she were listening to a voice meant for her ears only.
Alex placed her arm around Samantha's shoulders so as not to put pressure on her injured wrist. "He said to follow the creek and that it would take us where we need to be." With an almost sorrowful look she continued, "I think that will be the last time we see him, Samantha."
"Yeah, I think they know we can make it the rest of the way on our own."
They continued on and stopped only for an occasional drink or to add more of the pain relieving gel to Alex's wrist and ankle. Within less time than either of them had imagined, the welcomed sight of the parking lot greeted them.
"Sit down, Alex. I'll go get the car."
"I can make it the rest of the way; I've made it this far," came the reply.
"No, you sit; I'll go!"
"We're not even off the path yet, Samantha," Alex countered.
"That's the beauty of having a Jeep. Isn't that what you told me the other day?"
Alex nodded and smiled at her Destiny. She seems to enjoy being in control of the situation.
"So, you stay right here! I'm going to run ahead and drive back here." The inflexible look in the verdant eyes left no doubt as to the blonde's intentions. Gently she helped Alex to a sitting position on a large rock. Once the brunette was seated, Samantha ran toward the parking lot and salvation.
"Not so fast, Samantha. We've already arrivedççno rush now," Alex called after her to absolutely no avail. The blonde was racing toward the vehicle at as much of a full clip as she could muster. She was limping slightly but was determined not to let that slow her down.
Tears of happiness flowed down the small woman's face, as she opened the door and jumped into the driver's seat. Thank the gods we're back and safe. It was hard to believe that civilization was finally within their grasp. Alex would be fine now, and all the worrying was for naught. Get a grip, girl! You can't be crying like a baby when you get back to her.
Wiping her face she choked back the tears and replaced them with a smile. Earlier, when she first left Alex sitting alone in the cave, her body had been racked with the fear that she wouldn't be able to get help in time, or that if she got help, she wouldn't be able to find Alex again. She knew it was silly, and in the light of all that had transpired, it was down right ridiculous, but the relief of sitting behind the wheel of the Jeep with Alex just yards away was monumental. After one final sigh, and she started the vehicle; within minutes they would be at a hospital, getting Alex the medical attention she needed.
The transition from blacktop to dirt was an easy one for the 4-wheel drive vehicle, and Samantha had no difficulty driving to the spot where she had left her lover.
Alex heard the Jeep before she actually saw it approaching, and before it came to a complete stop, the dark-haired beauty attempted to get up from the rock.
"Wait!" Samantha shouted at her from inside the car. "I'll come help you. No sense compounding the injuries at this point." In a puff of dust the vehicle was halted and Samantha hopped out. "For a physical therapist, you surely are one lousy patient," she scolded as she approached the injured woman.
"That's the way it's supposed to be," Alex retorted. "I'm the one that should be doing the treating, not the one being treated."
"Well, this time it's the other way around, so you had best take advantage of the pampering while you can." The small blonde grabbed the larger woman around the waist and offered Alex her shoulder to lean on as they began to walk toward the car.
"Do you want me to call the hospital and tell them we're coming?" Samantha asked as she helped the tall woman slide onto the front seat.
Alex laughed, which received an acrid look from the woman helping her.
"What's so funny? We're on our way to the hospital, right?"
"Wrong," came the unexpected reply.
"What do you mean, wrong? Alex, you have to have those injuries looked at . . ."
"I know, Samantha. But we don't have to go to the hospital. We'll go back to Gary's. He has all the equipment we need to see what the damages are."
"Do you want me to call and tell them we're coming?"
"No, honey," Alex replied. "No sense in getting everyone all riled up and waiting for us. We'll be fine until we get to the Center."
Samantha was settled in behind the wheel, and Alex reached over and touched her hand. "Whatever it was you did at the cave, Samantha, my head still doesn't hurt. If I believed in miracles, I would say we witnessed more than one today."
"If you would say that, Alex, don't you think you ought to drop the 'if I believed' part?"
"I suppose I should." Taking the small hand in her own she brought it to her lips.
Alex began giving directions, and they headed back toward The Center for Healing on the Rocks.
After driving for a few minutes in silence, Samantha verbalized a question that had been running around in her mind during their trek back to the car.
"How are we going to retrieve the stuff we left on the ledge, Alex? I pushed it all inside the cave entrance before I climbed down so it wouldn't get ruined."
"I guess we have three options, Samantha. We can leave it out there for any lucky campers who happen to come across it; we can try to explain to someone where it's located and let them have it when they find it, or we can let it stay until the next time we come back. Now that we know the short cut to the cave, it won't take us long to get there. Do you really want to let someone else know about our little secret?"
"When you put it like that, no. I would rather no one else found the place unless it was by accident. It's kind of special, even if it does have a slightly bad memory attached to it." Samantha looked over at Alex's wrist and then down at her ankle.
"Think of it this way, Samantha. If we hadn't fallen through the floor, the extended experience with our former selves might never have happened."
"You're right, but I hate that you had to go through so much pain to realize that what your mom has been telling you your entire life is the truth." Samantha chuckled, and Alex could not help but smile at the reasoning.
Since they were nearly back at Gary's, Samantha started to relax a little and felt her tension easing off the steering wheel. Alex seemed to be quite lucid, even after the long trek and kept assuring the blonde sitting beside her that she didn't feel all that bad.
"I don't think I ever totally lost consciousness, Samantha. The only symptoms of a concussion I have are blurry vision, which only lasted a short period of time, and a headache, which is very minimal at this point. I promise to have Gary give me some neuropsychological and reaction time tests, but I'm sure they will all pan out as just fine. Please . . ." she reached her uninjured hand over and touched the blonde's thigh. " . . . stop worrying. We're almost there."
When they turned down the road that led to the clinic, involuntary tears of relief again streamed down Samantha's face. "Thank you," she whispered to no one in particular as the now familiar buildings came into view.
"Everything's going to be alright, Samantha," Alex reassured her. Samantha pulled into a parking space and stopped the Jeep. "Thank you for rescuing us."
Moisture filled sapphire eyes focused on the tear-streaked face of her lover, as Samantha opened Alex's door.
"Look who the champion is today," Alex chided, stroking the freckled face before her with her good hand. "We're both okay now, Samantha. Why don't you go get some help? I'll wait here."
Almost before Alex finished her sentence, Sam turned and hobbled away in the direction of the main building. Within minutes Gary came running toward the Jeep with two employees close behind, one with a wheelchair in tow.
"I thought you knew better than to end up like this, Wonder Woman," Gary muttered as he neared the Jeep.
"Where's Sama . . ."
"She's fine. I made her stay back in the building. She looks exhausted, Alex, and she needs that limp of hers checked out."
Gary slid his arm around her back, and the brunette put her arms around his neck, allowing him to lift her up and then down into the chair that now resided at the side of the vehicle.
"That was a lot easier than anticipated," the man stated. "I half expected you to fight and refuse the ride."
"Nope, I was ready for the help this time, my friend. I'm a little too humbled to balk at assistance."
"Then let's get you inside and see what kind of damage you did to that beautiful body of yours."
It took less than an hour to thoroughly check out both the women. Samantha demanded they work on Alex first, even though Alex expected them to do quite the opposite.
Before doing anything else Gary insisted on x-raying Alex's wrist and ankle. They had a radiologist on-call for just such situations and he arrived about the time the films were finished. The wrist was definitely just a bad sprain, but the ankle showed a small hairline fracture. What the radiologist couldn't understand was the fact that it looked like it was already well on it's way to being healed. He told Gary that, in his opinion, it didn't need to be cast; it merely needed stabilization, and that could be accomplished with wrapping and a cold gel splint.
Because of the pain in her knee, they also x-rayed Samantha's leg and were relieved to find that it was just bruised and strained.
Since Alex experienced some visual instability that had lasted more than 15 minutes but no loss of consciousness, Gary concluded that she probably had a Grade 2 concussion. Before having her soak her wrist and ankle in ice water to get the swelling in check, he wanted to give her a neuropsychological exam to test her strength, coordination, and sensation. He also did a Standardized Assessment of Concussion and some reaction time tests. By the time he was finished, he was satisfied that it was an uncomplicated concussion, and he had one of the aides bring over two buckets of ice water, one for each injured appendage. Normally, they would have had a medical doctor confirm the findings, but Gary knew Alex well enough to know that her allowing him to even run the tests was about as compliant as she was going to get.
With Alex sitting looking pitiful, ankle- and wrist-deep in ice water, Samantha came over and sat by her side. "I imagine we could have both ended up a lot worse off," she whispered into her lover's ear. "I could hardly believe what the radiologist said, Alexça partially healed fracture. Do you suppose . . ."
"Definitely, Samantha." Alex nodded and touched her lover's face with her good hand. She slowly tilted the blonde's face until she was able to stare into incredibly green eyes. "You truly possess the gift of healing, my love."
"It's so strange, Alex. Never in all my dreams would I have ever imagined me being able to do something like that."
"Well, now you can focus your life in another direction, if you're ready to take on that kind of responsibility."
"I am, but I have so much to learn."
"We both do, Samantha, but let's get over this adventure first, okay?"
"Definitely!" The blonde smiled and gave her mate a kiss on the cheek.
The brunette lifted her hand out of the cold water and immediately received a reprimand.
"You know," Gary shouted from across the room, "that has to stay in there longer than that, Alex. Ice is your friend, remember?"
"Fuck the ice! You get your sorry ass over here and put your hand in this bucket of . . ."
"Whoa there, girlçbackup," Gary ordered. "Sounds like you're feeling better, but you're extremely lucky that neither of those sprains are swollen beyond recognition, especially after walking on that ankle. Now be a good little patient and put your hand back into the ice. It's only for a little while; I have a gel splint cooling in the freezer. "
Samantha smiled at the thought of someone bullying Alex and then chuckled to herself when she saw the usually stubborn and self-confident woman obey the order to reinsert her hand into the cold liquid.
"Don't you think Samantha needs some ice on her knee?" Alex asked sarcastically.
"As a matter of fact, I've got a wrap around cooling for just that purpose. She'll be joining you in just a bit." Gary smiled over at Samantha who was now grimacing in his direction.
Attempting to take Alex's attention from the present situation, Samantha asked what they were going to do about flying out of Sedona.
Before the brunette had time to answer, Gary, who had been bringing the two of them something to relax their muscles, answered for her. "There is no way Alex is flying out of here tomorrow, not with those injuries. I think you should either change your plans and extend your stay for a week or call your mother and Kelley and have them come fly you home."
"Oh, that sounds real grown up, now doesn't it?" Alex's eyes practically threw daggers at her friend. "Call my Moms and have them come rescue us."
"You know both of them love Sedona. They could fly here tomorrow, stay a day or two and then Kelley could fly you all back. Alex, be reasonable; there's no way you can fly with either that wrist or ankle in the shape they're in. You know better than to think any different."
"I don't know that I couldn't . . ."
"I don't think so, Alex," Samantha joined in.
"Think rationally, Alex," Gary reiterated. "Even if you don't want to think about yourself, do you want to put Samantha in jeopardy by trying to fly when you're injured?"
The ice that was gathering in her sapphire eyes melted when he mentioned putting Samantha in harm's way. The injured woman looked over at her lover and thought more about what the consequences of her being stubborn might bring.
Samantha looked from one to the other, not sure what to make of the situation, and hoping that Alex would soon cease being so obstinate.
Finally, Alex grudgingly agreed, "I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask Mom and Kelley if they'd like to take a short vacation. I really didn't plan on being away from the Center for another week, but I'll call in the morning and see how things are going." She turned to Samantha and smiled weakly. "Is that okay with you, Samantha?"
"Whatever you decide is okay with me, Alex. Like Gary said, you can't be flying the plane yourself right now, and you know you probably shouldn't be up walking around on that ankle a whole lot, either. If everything is going smoothly at the Center without us, it would probably be better to stay here, until you're better. Since Mom and Kelley are expecting us back in La Jolla on Monday, you have to call them anyway. What you decide about them coming or us simply staying here longer is entirely up to you."
Shaking her head, as though she had just lost a major battle, Alex confirmed she would think on it and call her parents in the morning, one way or the other.
Gary walked over to the small refrigerator and then back to Samantha carrying a knee wrap that contained a cold gel insert. He motioned for Samantha to sit down while he put it on her leg. Then, deciding it was time to change the subject, he made a suggestion. "Listen, why don't we go down to the dining room and get the two of you something to eat? You must be starving by now."
He received a huge smile from Samantha before she verbally responded. "Actually, for the first time since I can't remember when, I forgot I was hungry. But now that you mention it, food sounds marvelous." She turned to her lover, who was still in the process of pouting. "How about you, Alex; think some dinner might improve our state of mind?"
"I don't know about state of mind, but it surely will improve my state of physical stamina," Alex answered. "All of a sudden, with the mere mention of food, I find myself hungry enough to eat a horse." She laughed when she spied the look on Gary's face. "Well, that statement sure got a rise out of you, now didn't it?" she asked.
"Never thought I would hear that particular phrase coming from your lips, Alex," her friend teased back at her. "I don't know about horse, but I know we have a large choice of food items to wet the palate of any non-meat loving vegetarian."
Samantha clung to the back of the wheelchair that Alex was coerced into getting back into, and Gary didn't try to offer to do the pushing. He realized that she probably needed the chair as much for support, as for the comfort of knowing that she and Alex were both back and as safe as could be expected, after the ordeal they had just been through.
Neither of the women had mentioned the past life experience they had encountered to any of the people present in the clinic. Although they hadn't really talked about how they were going to handle confiding in anyone else, it seemed to be an unspoken pact between them that tonight was not the time to try. Before talking freely about the experience, even with people as open-minded as Gary and his crew, they needed to talk about it privately.
After dinner Gary went up to the rooms with them to say goodnight. He handed Samantha a single crutch for Alex to use if she insisted on hobbling around and made Alex promise to use it. He placed the muscle relaxants, analgesics, and an extra gel insert for the splint in the kitchen area. "Try to get her to keep the ice on for a while tonight, Samantha," he whispered to the blonde. "The longer she can keep it on the less she'll swell and the quicker the healing process can begin. That goes for your knee wrap, also."
Samantha nodded that she would do her best.
"I know she's stubborn," he affirmed loud enough for both women to hear. Then his voice softened, "I'm glad you two got out with as little damage as you did. Things could have been a lot worse if Alex hadn't been able to hobble along on that ankle." He gave both of them a hug and kiss and was on his way back down the hall before it registered to either of the women that the glistening in his eyes had been tears.
"He really is just a big, old teddy bear, Samantha." Alex half-mumbled to herself.
"I know, and he thinks the world of you, Alex."
"I think he's grown rather fond of you, too," Alex countered.
The evening was still young, but after the ordeal of the afternoon, all the two women wanted to do was relax. Gary had warned Alex to follow protocol, but as usual, Alex had other plans in mind. She wanted nothing more than to sit in a warm Jacuzzi with Samantha and wash off the layer of red dust that was still clinging to them and their clothes. When she looked into the mirror, the coloring on her face brought back vivid memories of the visions they had experienced just hours ago. She started to make the suggestion about bathing, and then thought better of it. She shook her head and let her physical therapy training kick in; she knew that that hot water could totally reverse all the good the cold had done. Instead she requested that Samantha start the water for a shower.
There was a seat in the stall, and after the blonde helped her lover undress with as little discomfort as possible, she helped her over to the seat.
Minutes later they were both enjoying the warm liquid as it covered their tired, bruised bodies.
"Well, my Destiny, you will never be able to say that your initial visit to Sedona was dull or ordinary."
"That's an understatement if I ever heard one," Samantha agreed as she picked up the sponge and began washing the stubborn red dust from Alex's back. "You look more like your ancient self right now than your present," the blonde chortled as she brought the sponge around to draw a streak down her lover's face.
Trying to avoid pressure on sensitive areas made the bathing and drying a bit more tedious than usual, but they finally finished and were soon lying side by side on the bed. Alex had allowed Samantha to put the wrist splint on but told her lover there was no need for the sling while she was sleeping and that she wouldn't need the ankle splint again until morning.
Alex was glad that it wasn't her right wrist she had hurt, because it would have caused some major problems getting into their usual sleeping positions. With everything else that had happened today, she didn't want to not be able to hold Samantha in bed. With her arm around the smaller woman's shoulder and the blonde's arm around Alex's waist, it was the first time since their plunge through the floor of the cave that the two truly felt safe.
"I don't know about you, Alex, but between the pills Gary gave us to help relax our muscles and the physical exhaustion my body is finally giving in to, I'm going to sleep like a log tonight." She cuddled closer to her mate and squeezed her gently. "I love you, Alex. I'm so glad we got out of there okay today. I hope you feel better in the morning."
"I'm sure I will, Samantha. I hope you do, too."
"Sweet dreams, Alex."
Samantha smiled when she felt the mesmerizing touch of her lover's hand upon her head. It had become like second nature nowçAlex running her fingers through Samantha's soft golden locks, while the two of them drifted off to sleep.
The blonde sighed deeply when her lover placed a final goodnight kiss on her crown and then whispered, "I love you, too, Samantha. Any adventure that ends up with me holding you in my arms is successful, in my book. Sweet dreams, to you, my Destiny. See you in the morning."
Early morning sun trickled through the windows and danced on the walls, but it went quite unnoticed by the lovers still locked in each other's arms. Even Alex continued to sleep peacefully past her normal wake-up time. When she finally did awaken, she wondered whether it was the pills, the exhaustion of the experience, or the security of being close to Samantha that had allowed her the luxury of "sleeping in."
"Good morning, Samantha," she whispered as she kissed the head nestled beneath her chin.
"Hmmm," replied the sleeping blonde. "Is it really morning already? Can't you turn the clock back a few hours?"
"I do believe we already did that. You don't have to get up yet if you don't want to." Alex removed her arm from around the smaller woman's body and started to get out of bed. She slowed her movements, as injured areas that had felt good lying still began screaming at her. She had been in one position all night long, and her body was not at all happy at being moved. An involuntary groan escaped her lips, and the exclamation shook the sleep from Samantha's head. The blonde propped up on one elbow.
"Are you okay, Alex?"
"Just a little stiff from lying so still all night, sweetheart. Go back to sleep."
"Uh huh. You just wait here until I go get the crutch."
"I can get the crutch myself, Samantha," Alex started to argue.
"I don't think so; we left it in the living room, and I don't want you putting full weight on that ankle. Gary also said soççand you know better."
Reluctantly, Alex remained seated on the bed, while Samantha rolled off on the other side and limped into the other room.
"Doesn't look like your body's doing exactly what it's told, either," her voice trailed after the blonde.
"Yeah, well, at least it's moving, and I'm thankful for small favors," the reply filtered back from the direction of the kitchen. "You just stay there; I'm going to put the tea on while I'm out here. I'll just be a minute."
Alex threw her body backward on the bed with a disgusted "Humph!" She absolutely hated feeling helpless and that was exactly how she was feeling right now. After lying quietly for a few minutes, she sat back up. "Samantha, I'm getting up; I have to pee."
Before she was finished with the sentence, the blonde came through the door carrying the crutch. "My, my. Aren't we testy today? I have to pee, too, and guess what? I'm going to beat you to it."
"But here, I'll give you this to get started, and meet you in the bathroom." She handed Alex the walking aide, and then ran toward the bathroom door.
Alex gave a painful sounding groan as she placed her weight on the crutch and rose to a standing position.
Hearing the exclamation, Samantha turned around and started back to help her mate, until she saw the gleam in Alex's eyes.
"Alexis Dorian, you're playing me for a sucker!"
There was now a full smile radiating across the brunette's face. She maneuvered herself up to stand in front of the smaller woman.
"That's not funny!" Samantha protested. "Didn't you ever hear of the boy who cried wolf?"
"Of course I did, silly, but I don't think he needed to go to the bathroom as much as I do right now."
Samantha couldn't help but give in when she saw the look of real anguish on her lover's face. She might be a physical therapist, but she was certainly a lousy patient. At least she was in excellent physical condition and knew how to maneuver the crutch to her advantage, but she was used to moving with the speed of the hare not the tortoise.
"You go ahead, Alex. I'll go check on the tea and be right back."
"You do that," the brunette smiled as she took her position on the seat of honor.
Although Alex was moving slower than usual, Samantha felt that her eyes looked a lot clearer today than they had the day before, and there was normal color in her face again. Alex's recuperative abilities amazed her, but she was determined to make the stubborn woman follow Gary's orders and wear the gel splint whenever she was up moving around.
"Hey, I don't want to be putting that on before I even have a cup of tea," Alex whined when Samantha came back into the bedroom carrying the splint.
"Do you realize you sound like me?" Samantha replied. "Gary said ice was your friend last night and today."
"Don't you think I know that?"
"Alex don't get nasty, please; I'm only trying to . . ."
"I know, hon. I'm sorry. Give me the damn thing." Alex sat back down on the bed and reached for the splint. Taking it from Samantha, she grumbled again about having to wear it. Samantha reminded her that she was lucky she wasn't in a full cast.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," came the sarcastic comment. "On a more serious note, do you have any more of the leaves you used in the cave? You know, they really took the pain away. Besides, I hate relying on pills."
The blonde smiled and went to retrieve her backpack from the floor. "Actually, I do. I grabbed a handful. I even have some more of the root. You know, Alex, I should really try to find the names of the leaves and the root. Where do you suggest I start? "
"There's a Hopi trading post on the outskirts of town. We can drive out to it and ask someone there. If anyone knows the indigenous plants in the area, it would be the local Indians." She smiled at her lover. "After all, it was a very special Indian who led you to them in the first place."
Samantha walked back into the kitchen area ahead of Alex, poured their tea, and set the cups on the table before sitting down next to her lover.
"So . . . what are we going to do?"
"Let me give Kim a call at the Center and see how everything's going, before we decide on that, okay?"
"Sure, but you have to call the Moms either way, right?"
"Right, Samantha. I'll call and tell them what happened and why we won't be home tomorrow. But let me call Alternative Paradise first. In fact, I'll do that right now and get it out of the way." She started to get up from the table but felt a small hand on top of her own, as it gently kept her from rising.
"I'll bring it to you."
"Samantha, I'm able to get up and get the phone," Alex protested.
"Why can't you just let me do the little things and stop fighting? If you insist on getting up every time you want something that ankle is never going to have the opportunity to heal properly. I know you don't like feeling helpless, Alex, but you've got to think about the outcome. Isn't it better to let me do things now and have you get better sooner?"
"Okay, okayççthat's enough of the lecture. You're right. I'll try to stop letting my ego get in the way and let the body heal. So . . ." Alex shrugged her shoulders and pointed in the direction of the telephone.
"Good girl." Samantha picked up the receiver and handed it to Alex. "I'll go use the bathroom while you make the call. I'll be right back."
"Take your time. I'm not going anywhere."
Samantha walked into the other room, and Alex dialed the familiar number. Minutes later the blonde came back into the kitchen area to find her lover sitting pensively, looking out the window.
"So . . . what's the verdict?"
Without turning around Alex began softly, "You know, Samantha, I don't know whether to be pleased or disturbed. It's either that we did a damn good job in picking and training the personnel or we're just not that important."
Two small arms draped themselves around the tall woman's shoulders. "Are you jealous of the monster you created, my love? I guess you're trying to tell me that the show is running along quite smoothly without us?"
"Exactly! And I'm not sure how I feel about it." Glistening sapphire eyes searched those of emerald green for understanding, and she was not disappointed.
"Alex, you told me yourself this was part of your plan. You said you wanted to build the Center and then be able to take off and travel and know that it would operate at optimum efficiency even if you were not physically there. You accomplished what you set out to do; you should be proud of yourself."
"I am. I'm proud of both of us for hiring the right crew and teaching them to work as a team. It's just that I feel . . . "
"Well, I wouldn't go quite that far; I feel helpless right hereççI don't need to feel useless, too." She chuckled and grabbed one of Samantha's hands, bringing it to her lips for a quick kiss. "I guess I didn't expect it to all gel so quickly. They're doing fine with the clinic patients, the doctors are being kept happy, and all the classes that have been scheduled are running smoothly. Of course in another week an entire new set of lectures will be set into place and no one really knows enough about that aspect of the Center to set them up, so we will have to be back by the first. It seems you're more indispensable than I am."
"Uh, huhççdon't go there, Alexççno pity party here. You're the coordinator, for gods' sake; don't go getting ridiculous on me."
"Okay." The brunette nodded in agreement and then continued. "What do you think to giving the Moms a call and inviting them to come spend a few days with us here and then letting Kelley fly us all home?"
"Sounds like a great idea to me; that way, I don't have to worry about you overdoing any of your injuries. Remember you have to be in perfect condition by the end of October when we go up to visit Sonny and Ray."
"How could I forget that planned occasion?" She turned around in the chair and pulled the smaller woman close to her. "Guess we get an extended vacation. The only problem is I'm really not in much shape to be amorous, what with two limbs swollen and painful."
"I'm into snuggling. You can still snuggle can't you?"
"And kiss? You're lips didn't get bruised did they or your . . ." She started to giggle and Alex aided in the process by tickling her with an uninjured hand.
Samantha took advantage of the fact that Alex could not hold onto her easily with her left hand in a splint. She stepped away from the seated woman and shook her finger in Alex's direction. "No fair tickling! Besides, you're just going to get yourself hurt. I think you're not the only one able to take advantage of this situation.
"Okay! Truce." Alex agreed. "What do you say to going downstairs and having a pancake breakfast?"
"I say it's time to get dressed!"
"Want to ask Gary to join us?" Samantha queried.
"Sure, but be prepared to get the third degree," her lover warned.
It took longer than usual for the two women to get dressed and maneuver themselves downstairs to the dining area. When they finally reached the dining room, Gary waved them over to the table where he had been sitting, anxiously awaiting their arrival.
"Time to fill me in on all the gory details," he blurted out.
"And a good morning to you, too, my friend," Alex responded, slowly lowering herself into the chair next to him.
"Sorry, Alex, I'm just curious as to how you got back to the Jeep without totally fucking up that ankle of yours."
The women seemed to dance around the events that had taken place after Samantha climbed out of the pit. They continued to exchange glances throughout the conversation, each taking a turn telling bits and pieces of the story. Gary kept looking from one to the other, trying to follow the tale being told in some semblance of sequence. Finally, with an incredulous look on his face, he sighed deeply and shook his head.
"Can you give me a reason for all the evasive chatter?" he pleaded.
Alex couldn't keep from grinning when she looked at her friend. "Oh, the hell with it," she mumbled and proceeded to blurt out the story in its entirety.
Alex did most of the speaking, with Samantha occasionally interrupting and adding her own take on the experience.
In a most unusual manner, Gary didn't utter a word until the vocal re-enactment ended.
There was an uncomfortable silence, and Alex was going to change the subject when Gary found his voice.
"That's the most incredible story I've ever heard, and living around here I've heard some tall tales, believe me. Damn! I've been through my own regression and found the experience thrilling, but to actually see a vision of your former selfççeven with the aches and pains you'll be dealing with for a whileççI'd consider that excursion into the canyon a success."
"We kind of feel the same way," Samantha agreed.
"Wait 'til your parents hear about it, Alex. Aurora's going to be exhilarated; it proves some of the theories she's been postulating for years." Gary turned to Alex. "Have you decided what you're going to do about getting home?"
"Yes, I'm going to call Mom and Kelley when we're done here and fill them in on what happened. I think I'll leave out the revelations until they arrive."
"That sounds practical enough; otherwise, knowing Aurora, you'll be on the phone for hours," Gary agreed. "Also, I want the two of you back in the clinic before you leave for town. I'd like to put some magnets on your knee and wrist, Alex, and a couple on Sam's knee."
"Magnets?" The blonde gave her friend a skeptical look. "I thought we were weird, talking about reincarnation," she giggled.
"They're special magnets used to help speed up the healing process."
"Oh. You know, I have read about them, in one of the sports magazines at the Center," Samantha countered, looking pensive.
"We've found them to be quite an asset, in most cases, sometimes the bruising even disappears overnight. It never hurts to stack the odds in your favor," Gary reassured her as he got up from the table and kissed Samantha gingerly on the cheek. "I'd like to see the two of you leave here in good condition, after all this is a healing center. I'll see you before you go in town, but I'm running a little late for an appointment. See ya soon."
They left the dining room soon after Gary. Alex wanted to avoid having to ambulate anymore than necessary, so she used the phone in the lobby to call California, while Samantha busied herself with some of the literature on the tables.
When Alex finally returned the phone to its cradle she was sporting a look of satisfaction.
"That was actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be."
Samantha scooted closer to her lover. "Whatdaya mean?"
"Well, I thought I might get a lecture about hiking in unknown territory and being unprepared, but Mom was just concerned that we were both okay. Kelley said there was no problem with them coming here and flying us home. She said Mom deserved a little time off anyway. She's been working hard on her new book and could use a little change of scenery. Of course, I know we'll have a lot of explaining to do once they do arrive, but I know Mom will get so caught up in the past lives experience that she'll probably forget all about us getting hurt."
With her right hand she tenderly brushed a strand of hair from Samantha's forehead. Her demeanor had changed and her brow was furrowed. "We were really lucky, you know?"
"Yes. We were." Samantha agreed. "But getting back on a lighter subject, when should we expect your folks?"
"Hopefully, Tuesday sometime. Kelley's going to let me know this afternoon, after she calls for reservations. So, are you ready to go get tortured?"
"Not me. I only have a few aches and bruises; you're the one he really wants to see." She helped her lover up off the couch and slowly the two of them headed in the direction of the therapy room.
The next hour was spent with Gary fawning over them like a mother hen. He wanted to make sure that Alex didn't have any additional problems from the concussion, so he went ahead and did a few more tests.
Alex trusted Gary almost more than she trusted herself when it came to the process of healing. He had been working in the field for more years than she had and had delved deeper into the spiritual aspect of recovery. By the time he was finished, he had talked them out of leaving the Center and going into town for the afternoon. He had counted on Alex's professionalism to kick in and make her realize that walking around on her ankle would only slow the mending process. She agreed to give the injury an extra day or two to heal, stating that they could go to the trading post when they went to pick Aurora and Kelley up at the airport.
Gary promised that if they would behave themselves and relax for the rest of the afternoon, he would send someone over to the video store to get them whatever movies they desired. To make the compromise even sweeter, he told Samantha he would make sure the kitchen made pizza for dinner and have someone bring one up to the suite.
With the promise of one of her favorite meals and the aspect of sitting around watching movies all day, Samantha was in her own little heaven. Alex, on the other hand, felt less thrilled at the prospect of having nothing to do all day but watch videos, but when she saw the look of elation on her lover's face, she gave in to all the stipulations Gary had laid before them.
"What movies would you like to see?" the blonde leaned over and asked her partner.
"I don't really care, Samantha. You go ahead and pick whatever you want." She smiled sweetly into the angelic face. "I'm a captive audience today."
In all honesty, Alex was glad for the chance to just sit and relax; she didn't feel as chipper as she was letting on. She realized that it would do her good to not be limping around on the wounded ankle. Samantha promised to repeat the hands on treatment she had performed in the cave, and the brunette was anxiously looking forward to that aspect of the afternoon.
After Samantha put in her movie order, the two women returned to their rooms. Samantha made some popcorn and poured them both a glass of tea. "At least we'll be ready when the munchies hit," she stated, as she brought the refreshments into the living room and placed them on the coffee table. A knock on the door soon heralded the arrival of the entertainment, and the two settled in for a sedentary afternoon.