The crew spent the next few days transitioning from Donovan's leadership to that of John Merryweather. They arrived at the island at sundown the day after the fight, but John was hesitant to leave until he was surer of Donovan's recovery time. So they anchored out from the island to wait.
Shortly after Captain Meredith had debarked, Donovan had fallen victim to fever and it had taken Hannah the better part of the day and night tending to Donovan, removing the fever and any hint of an infection. When blue eyes had open at dawn a full day following the attack, they were clear and bright. Donovan looked lovingly at the exhausted blonde head that rested on the edge of their bed.
Gently, Donovan eased upwards, pleased that the need to scream in agony had dissolved into a mere grunt and groan as she shifted. Her movement wakened Hannah and bloodshot green eyes looked up at the sound.
"You all right, love? You really had me worried there for a while yesterday." The expression emanating from Hannah's eyes told a story that the casual sound of her voice did not. Donovan extended her good arm and beckoned Hannah to join her on the bed. Hannah did so with alacrity and curled up in her favorite spot, having sorely missed it the night before.
Donovan shifted again and hissed, wincing at the pain the movement had caused in her chest. "DAMNATION!" she growled between gritted teeth. "That hurts!"
Hannah laid a hand between Donovan's breasts, pressing gently to keep her restrained. "Sweetheart, take it easy. It's a very deep cut, and it hasn't even been two days yet."
Donovan sighed. "I know, Angel. I just... I am not a very good patient."
Hannah rolled her eyes. "Big surprise there." She felt Donovan chuckle at the irony in her voice. "Would you feel better if I told you that we are at the island?"
Donovan started to sit up, then thought better of it when Hannah pressed lightly against the action. "Why are we still on the boat?"
Hannah shook her head and laughed. "You're impossible, ya know that?" Blue eyes glaring in her direction caused the soft laughter to become an outright guffaw. "Donovan, you just woke up after a full twenty-four hours of fever. When exactly did you expect to have had time to get home?"
Donovan couldn't help but smile at Hannah's unconscious reference. Her cottage here on this island was home to her more than anywhere else and she was gratified to see Hannah felt the same way. "Very valid point, beloved." She nuzzled Hannah's hair and tried to restrain the yawn she felt upon seeing Hannah's. She closed her eyes.
"Besides," Hannah spoke again as she snuggled deeper into Donovan's embrace. "John and the rest of the crew are a little nervous about being on their own, I think. And honestly, John doesn't seem as excited about command as I would expect a Naval Officer to be. They depend on you."
Donovan thought about it for a moment. "I suppose they do, but I depend on them as well. Does that bother you?"
Hannah didn't answer for a very long time, and when Donovan craned her neck down to see what the problem was, she noted that Hannah had fallen into a deep sleep. "Rest, Angel. You have more than earned it. We can talk more later." Donovan never even noticed when she drifted off.
They spent the next several days doing drills and running the ship under Merryweather's command and Donovan's watchful eye. As John's comfort level grew, so did his confidence in himself and the crew's confidence in him. After nearly a week of exercises, Donovan and Hannah prepared to step into a small pinnace to be rowed to shore.
Just before she left, the entire crew came to attention and gave a sharp salute. Donovan gave them a crisp salute in return, then Captain Scott stepped into the small boat and signaled for her and Hannah to be lowered to the water. Their rowers climbed the nets to the watercraft, and in silence, they headed to the island without looking back.
John Merryweather escorted them to the cottage, carrying the things Donovan could not manage with her arm still in a sling. He set their bags just inside the door and turned to his Captain and friend. "Sir, we are set to leave as soon as I return to the ship, unless there is something else you or Mrs. Scott require?"
"I think we're all set, John. Thank you for your help," Hannah said, taking his hand and squeezing it gently.
"You are welcome Miss Hannah. We will miss you."
Donovan extended her hand and Merryweather accepted it, then stepped back to snap a salute. "Thank you Captain. We will be back for the Ball. That should give you plenty of time to heal before you rejoin us."
"Godspeed you, John. Good hunting."
"Thank you, sir." Then he turned and made his way down the path and back to his future.
The remainder of the day was spent settling into the cottage and reacquainting themselves with the place they considered their home. Only when they were cuddled together in bed did they talk about their prospects for their time alone together.
"Mama and Debendra do not know we are here, Hannah. The Maiden is not scheduled to arrive until it is time for the Pirate's Ball. So going to see Jack tomorrow will not anger Mama."
Hannah smiled. "Good. I'm really anxious to show you my world, but I don't wanna make Mama mad either. I have a feeling she could teach me a lot about you."
Donovan lightly stroked Hannah's bare belly, thankful beyond words that they had returned to the tropics. It was really hard to sleep naked when it was freezing cold and raining besides. "Oh, I do not know, Angel. Seems to me you know all the important things."
Hannah returned the tentative touch, lightly tracing Donovan's collarbone and down her muscular arm. When she reached the long fingers, Hannah tangled them in her own and brought them to her lips. "Do I now?" she asked teasingly, as she nipped and licked each digit slowly. Hannah felt Donovan began to squirm and shifted accordingly until she was straddling Donovan's hips.
Knowing she couldn't flip them without doing damage to her still healing arm, Donovan loosened her hand from Hannah's grip and tangled it in her hair instead. She urged Hannah lower until their lips were a hairsbreadth apart. "Yes," was all she said before she tilted her head up to possess Hannah's lips. Donovan's other hand slid up Hannah's thigh, and conversation went to the wayside until much, much later.
It was mid morning before the two of them headed for Jack's place hand in hand. They were relatively unconcerned about the doorway being opened. Their dreams the previous night had given them opportunity to explore the island, and they found Jack's house in much the same state it had been in when they'd left almost a year previously.
Donovan kept casting curious glances at Hannah, but every time she opened her mouth to speak, something stopped her. Finally her curiosity over came her, and Hannah turned to Donovan, catching her staring with her mouth opened as if to speak. "What is it, Donovan?"
Donovan shook her dark head, not having expected to get caught flatfooted by Hannah's inquiry. Hannah stopped walking and pulled Donovan to a halt by virtue of their linked hands. Hannah lifted her free hand and cupped Donovan's chin, forcing the blue eyes to meet her own. "Love, what's wrong?"
"I am confused about something, but I do not want to upset you, especially before we see Jack again. I do believe he will take me to task for it," said with just the hint of a smile.
Hannah raised a brow. "Confused about what? And why would your asking me something upset me? We agreed... no secrets. If there is something you need to know, ask. I'll be as honest with you as I can."
Donovan bit her lip and gaze out at the horizon before taking a deep breath and nodding her head decisively.
"You took the life of a man and except for your initial breakdown in my arms that night, you have shown no emotion about it, and as far as I know you have not spoken to anyone about what happened. I am concerned that... well, I am not sure what I am concerned about. I know the first time I killed, I was violently ill. And yet you...." She was cut off by the fire in the green eyes now facing her. A fire which died between one breath and another as Donovan's eyes widened.
Hannah took Donovan's hand and led her over to the edge of the beach that butted against the native trees. She'd almost forgotten the high temperatures of the tropics after the cold winter, and had spent the weeks on their return soaking the warmth into her bones. But the sheer heat made her grateful for the shade, and when they reached on of the taller pines, she eased Donovan to the ground and sat between her legs. Both of them face the sea, and she raised her voice so Donovan could hear her words.
"When you fell unconscious from fever that night, I had a lot of time to do some serious soul searching about what had happened. John came in to help me tend you and he told me that the crew was proud of me... of what I had done. He said that not a man among them would have hesitated to do what I'd done, because you would've done the same for any of them."
Donovan's arms crept around Hannah's waist and she breathed a sigh of relief when Hannah relaxed deeper into her body.
"I thought about what he had said, about what I had felt... both when I saw that bastard raise his blade and again when I lifted that gun and fired." Hannah turned in Donovan's arms and faced her. "I didn't mean to kill him, Donovan. I only wanted to stop him... to keep him from killing you. But I'd do it again, Donovan, in a heartbeat. Am I sorry I took a life? Yes, I really am. It's not something I ever thought I'd be capable of, and I doubt if the circumstances were different, I'd be able to do it. But Donovan, he threatened my heart, my home, my soul, and for that I would willingly kill again. Not something I ever had to think about before then, but when you were laying there with fever, I decided that you would always be my greater good."
Donovan smiled through her tears and caressed Hannah's cheek with the back of her hand. Before she could compose herself to answer, Hannah leaned forward and kissed her gently, then took her hand and stood.
"C'mon. I wanna go surprise Jack."
They felt the chill as they passed through the portal, and then they were taking the overgrown path to Jack's house. Hannah's brow wrinkled in concern. "I wonder if something's wrong. I know Jack was big on keeping things in as natural a state as possible, but it was never unkempt like this before."
Donovan shrugged and took the lead, more than a little concerned with the niggling feeling that was creeping up and down her back.
When they reached the end of the path, they stopped and stared. The house was boarded up as if no one was living in it, and Hannah looked at it in confusion. This wasn't what they'd seen in their dreams. The boards were gray and weathered like they had been there for several years instead of the months they'd been gone. Hannah stepped forward and grabbed a side of the wood, pulling with all her might. She looked around for Donovan, only to find she'd disappeared.
"ARGH!!!!!" Hannah screamed in frustrated confusion. Donovan came running, and wrapped her in a hug from behind.
"Beloved? Are you all right?"
"No, I'm not all right! Something is obviously screwy around here and then you up and disappeared on me too! Scared the bejesus outta me!!" She punched Donovan on her good shoulder and both of them winced. "Where'd you go anyway?"
Donovan held up the crowbar she had in her hand and pointed to the small shed beside the house. "I noticed it the first day I was here and Jack told me it was a tool shed. I thought it might help."
Hannah smiled and kissed the spot she had so recently punched. "I love you."
"I know... I love you too."
Together they managed to pull a board away from the door and Hannah was able to unlock the French door easily.
Hannah stepped across the threshold, noting the stale, musty smell of the air and wondering just how long the house had been closed up.
"Uncle Jack?" She didn't expect an answer given the state of the house, but she called out anyway, hoping that she was wrong. Hannah stepped away from the door as Donovan hesitantly eased in behind her, and together the stood looking around. It was difficult to see with all the windows blocked, and Hannah reached out to flip the kitchen light on. Her head dropped when nothing happened.
"Come on, Angel. Let us see if perhaps Jack left a note before he left."
The power was off and the phone wasn't working, and they made their way cautiously through the house. Everything was thick with dust, and by the time they reached the limestone hallway, they were both sneezing violently. Donovan leaned against the wall to breathe, and Hannah leaned her forehead into Donovan's chest.
Hannah caught her breath then eased back and took Donovan's hand in her own before crossing the hallway to stand in front of her own door.
Nothing had changed except the dust, and Hannah looked around the room that had become home to her very briefly just a few short months before. Her diary and her great-great-great grandfather's letters still rested on the bedside table where they'd been left. She opened the closet and saw the few clothes she's left. Then Hannah blushed when Donovan cleared her throat and she turned to find her holding up a pair of blue silk thong underwear.
Hannah tried to snatch them from Donovan's hands only to have them held up out of her reach.
"Donovan!!" she whined.
Donovan chuckled and whined back, "Hannah!" Then she lowered them into Hannah's grasp and held onto Hannah's hand. "Model them for me later?"
Caught completely off guard and seeing the utter desire in Donovan's eyes, Hannah swallowed hard and nodded her head. Donovan leaned down and kissed Hannah thoroughly but quickly, and it took Hannah a minute to open her eyes. She licked her lips, not missing the flare of Donovan's nostrils at the action.
"Let me put these things in a bag, and we'll go check Jack's room. But I think it is safe to say he hasn't been here in a while."
It took them a while to get the board back in place once they were ready to leave. Hannah had found the keys to Jack's jeep and was more than a little frustrated that she couldn't even get then engine to click. She hauled her small bag out of the back and looked down at Donovan's booted feet.
"You gonna be okay for walking a bit, love? The road isn't the smoothest."
"Has to be better than trekking through the sand," Donovan said with only a hint of irony. Hannah chuckled and nodded her head, and the two of them headed into town at a leisurely pace.
It took less time than Hannah expected before they reached the edges of civilization. She blinked. She hadn't expected it for a while longer, considering their casual stride. Donovan noted her confused expression and called her on it.
"Hannah?" Donovan waited a moment, then squeezed the hand she held until Hannah's head turned in her direction. Hannah's brow rose in mute question. "Angel, is there a problem?"
Hannah shrugged, looking around them again before coming back to Donovan's eyes. "I'm not sure. I don't remember any cottages being out this far, but maybe it's just the difference in walking and driving. C'mon." Hannah shook her head and tugged on Donovan's hand. "It's probably just my imagination."
Another fifteen minutes passed before they came to the opening in the trees, and they just stood there for a moment looking around. Donovan felt Hannah give an unconscious sigh of relief.
Hannah sighed again before turning to face Donovan. "I can't really explain it," she said, referring to the gnawing in her guts. "I was afraid something weird had happened, but it looks about the same as it did a year ago."
"That is good, correct?"
Hannah nodded. "I think so. Let's go find Merry and see if we can get some information."
They crossed the square and stepped over the threshold into the general store. Donovan looked around with bright eyes, thankful for the hours she and Hannah had spent going over the differences in their worlds. Donovan felt more secure about her ability to stay in this time now that she understood how it worked.
Her eyes looked in fascination at the light fixtures discretely tucked in the ceiling, and at the fans turning lazily beneath them. Donovan was so busy staring at the new world around her that she missed Hannah's confusion until she found her hand clutched tightly. Then Donovan focused her attention on Hannah's face.
Hannah's eyes continued to flit around the room, searching, until Donovan put a hand on Hannah's face and waited til the green eyes tracked to hers. Then she waited for Hannah to speak.
"It's... different. It's not like I remember."
"We have been gone almost a year, beloved. Things can change in that time."
Hannah shook her head. "It's more than that, Donovan. I'm not sure I can explain."
"Well, let us find your friend. That should help clear up your confusion."
Hannah searched Donovan's face and found the reassurance she needed. Then she allowed Donovan to lead her to the counter, where a young woman stood patiently watching them with curious eyes.
"May I help you?"
Hannah tilted her head to one side, trying to place the familiarity of the girl who stood before them. "Yes, could you tell me where we can find Merryweather?" Donovan couldn't stop the shudder that ran through her frame at the mention of her friend and first mate. Her mind knew that in this time, he was no longer alive, but her heart knew she had only spoken to him two days prior. Her mind started to whirl and she forcefully put the paradox out of her mind. She had no desire to be forcefully separated from Hannah as she had been before and was afraid that too much thought directed toward their situation would lead to precisely that.
Donovan blinked her eyes to find Hannah watching her closely. "You all right, sweetheart? It felt like I was losing you for a minute there."
Donovan took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes. Just a little disorientation. I will be fine."
Further conversation was disrupted when the young woman came out of the back area accompanied by an older woman. Hannah shook her head. The older woman reminded her of Merry, but she was considerably aged from the last time Hannah had seen her, bearing in mind it had only been a year.
Her raven hair was liberally sprinkled with gray, and her face was more lined. She looked at Hannah blankly for a time, then her features gained a puzzled look as she tried to place the woman who stood before her. Finally, Merry blinked in recognition and grasped Hannah's arm tightly.
"Hannah? Hannah Reilly?"
"Yes, Merry. It's me." She reached out and took the hand that was clutching her arm in her hand. "Merry, what happened to this place? Where's Jack? He knew we were coming back in the summer. We had to come for the Pirate's Ball."
Merry loosened Hannah's grasp and walked around the counter until she stood directly in front of her. She reclaimed Hannah's hands and gripped them gently but firmly. Donovan stepped up behind Hannah and wrapped her in strong arms. She had the distinct impression Hannah was going to need support for whatever news Merry was fixing to relay.
Merry shook her head and released Hannah's hands with the admonition, "Do not move. I'll be right back."
Hannah intertwined her hands with Donovan's, but they did not speak. Instead, Donovan rocked Hannah in her embrace while humming an old tune that Hannah had found a fondness for. Hannah closed her eyes and tried to relax, the roiling in her gut making it nearly impossible.
Merry came out with a letter in her hand. "Jack left this for me to give to you in the event he was not here to do so personally. I think it will explain a great many things."
Hannah accepted the missive with trembling fingers. Then she took Donovan's hand and followed Merry to the back room office area. The older woman motioned them inside while standing in the doorway. "I will leave you in privacy then. When you are finished and ready to talk, simply lift the receiver on the phone. I will come back and answer any questions you may have."
Merry closed the door behind her and Donovan led Hannah to the big office chair. Without warning, she seated herself and pulled Hannah into her lap. Donovan didn't speak, but rain her hands along Hannah's back in an oddly comforting gesture.
Hannah leaned her head on Donovan's strong shoulder, and sat silently flipping the envelope over and over in her hands. Finally she took a deep breath and ripped it open, easing the written pages from within. Jack's bold handwriting flowed distinctively across the paper, and Hannah took a deep breath and began reading aloud.
Dear Hannah, (it read)
It has been just over a year since you and Donovan left and your absence at the annual Pirate's Ball prompted me to do a bit of research.
Apparently the portal changes the passage of time for you. What is months for you becomes years for us. I cannot be sure of the exact ratio, but I am sure that there is a months to years ratio going on here. It has made some things make perfect sense and others more difficult to understand. It is also unclear to me whether this is limited to you and Donovan, though that would appear to be the case as you two are the only ones able to cross the portal in both directions. I also do not know if your being together and crossing times is a cause or a result of your actions. I'm still researching the phenomenon, and hope to have more concrete answers when I see you again.
Before you ask, because I know you will, I am writing this down just in case. I don't know what the future holds for me, and much as I want and expect to be here when you return, I learned a long time ago to always make contingency plans. However, if you are reading this, and it would seem that you are, talk to Merry. She should be able answer any questions this has raised for you.
I am checking into the portal as well. I cannot in good faith believe it will stay open indefinitely. There has to be some clue as to when it will close again.
More to come.
Hannah turned the paper over to the next page to see another note dated six months after the first one. She scanned it with a frown and began to read aloud to Donovan again.
I have found something disturbing, and hold my breath to see if it is true.
Apparently, once you return to this area of the world, you will have until midnight the night of the Pirate's Ball to make a decision whether or not you will live in Donovan's time or your own. At that point, the portal will close forever.
I can't find what triggers it, or what triggered it open in the first place, and since I have no way to reach you across time, I have to wait and hope my warning will not be in vain.
Will you do me a favor, though? Please pass along to Donovan my thanks for the break in the weird weather. Since ya'll have been gone, it has almost been peaceful here, if you don't count the odd hurricane or two that has blown through.
That being said, I do miss having you around. I hope you are enjoying living history, and that life is being kind to you both.
Love from your favorite uncle,
Donovan sat quietly, respecting Hannah's need to process everything she'd just been told. She herself wanted to close her eyes and try to will away the confusion Jack's revelation had thrown her mind into. What he was saying sounded so impossible, but then their entire story did when put into realistic confines. There was no way they should be able to cross time and space to be together, and yet they had. Now they were faced with making a decision neither had actually expected to have to.
Hannah lifted the receiver, then replaced it just as carefully, then leaned back into the comforting circle of Donovan's arms. They waited in silence until footfalls broke it and the door slowly opened. Merry darted her head around and smiled at them, then walked in and closed the door behind herself.
She took a seat in front of the desk and regarded them, waiting for Hannah to break the stillness. Hannah looked down at her hands and laid the envelope in her lap. Then she tangled her fingers with Donovan's again and took a deep breath.
"Merry," she asked finally, bringing her eyes up to meet the older woman's. "Where's my Uncle Jack?"
Merry couldn't stop the tears that formed and blinked rapidly to will them away before they spilled down her cheeks. "Eighteen months ago, just after he gave me that second note to give to you, Jack had a massive heart attack. He died before we knew there was a problem. He missed a dinner date with us, and when we went out to check on him the next morning, we found him slumped over his computer keyboard."
"We had to have an autopsy done because of the suddenness of his death, and the doctor said his heart just couldn't stand up under the onslaught of his heart attack."
Hannah's breath caught and she bit her lip. Donovan's arms tightened reflexively and Hannah allowed herself their comfort. Merry continued to speak.
"He had told me a little about you and Donovan, and I was present as your representative at the reading of his will. The house is yours, of course. We simply barded it to keep it safe during hurricane season, and since no one was using it, we left it closed. Everything else he had put in your bank on the mainland, except the helicopter that a small co-op here purchased and now runs."
Hannah nodded and assimilated the knowledge. Then she looked back at Merryweather with a no-nonsense expression on her face.
"Merry, how long were we gone?"
"Hannah, the Pirate's Ball takes place in thirty-two days. On that day it will have been three years since you and Donovan left."
Hannah's eyes widened in shock. Hearing Jack speculate about it and coming face to face with the truth were two completely different thing, she was fast coming to realize. She took her eyes off Merryweather and turned to face Donovan head on.
"Three years? Donovan, we have to get home. Katie is gonna kill me!"
Now it was Donovan's turn to stare. "Oh boy!"
Hannah had to chuckle at the expression on Donovan's face. It was the best stress reliever she had, and it was very effective. Soon Donovan joined her laughter and before long, Merry had as well. The three women laughed for a few minutes, before stopping to breathe. Finally, Hannah turned to Merry.
"Can you get us a charter to the Big Island? We need to get home."
"Have some lunch, and the boys will take you over after that." Merry rose, and made her way to the door. "Welcome back, Hannah. It is good to know you are both okay."
"Thank you, Merry... for everything."
Merry nodded and closed the door behind her, leaving them to decide how quickly they wanted to start the final leg of their journey.
Donovan woke up in a strange room and lay unmoving as she tried to assess any threat this new environment might present her. The room was large and bright. Sunlight came in through a wall of glass and the walls were a robin's egg blue. The bed she lay on was huge by her standards... large enough for several people, though she and Hannah were curled up comfortably together in the middle.
Donovan smiled. It was a blur as to how they had gotten from the Island to Hannah's home where they were now. They had gone back to Jack's to give Hannah a chance to say goodbye. Then Donovan distinctly remembered the rather unpleasant sensation of the bottom falling out of her world, and then... nothing until she had awakened as the sun made itself known to her rather forcefully. But she had to admit she liked waking up with Hannah in her spot and the bed supporting them so firmly.
Slowly, Donovan edged out from underneath the warm body that enveloped hers, substituting her pillow for the body that Hannah grumblingly searched for. Donovan smiled at how cutely Hannah settled her face into the pillow, and began a quiet investigation of her new surroundings.
The first thing she did was move to the windows, spending a long moment just looking out over the busyness of what Hannah had simply referred to as the city. Donovan couldn't believe some of the things she was seeing, and felt reality begin to slip away from her again. Hastily, she paid attention to her body, and decided that finding the bathing room in this home should probably be the next order of business.
Donovan went into the bathroom with a look of total wonder at the opulence, and a feeling of despair washed through her. She would never be able to equal this in her world, and why would Hannah choose to leave all her conveniences behind? It made no sense.
The feeling passed when she realized that they might decide to live here in this time, and with a more lighthearted outlook, decided to clean up and start her day in earnest.
Donovan used the toilet, then spent several moments marveling to herself of its technology. She studied it from every angle, determined to be able to recreate this bit of modern plumbing should she and Hannah decide to live in the nineteenth instead of the twenty-first century. Donovan walked around the room several times, eyes brilliant as she noted more and more of the room's engineering.
"I can do this," she murmured to herself. "I could make our bathing room nice," fighting the irrational stab of jealousy she was having concerning the bathroom. She walked over to the shower and turned the handle, pulling at various knobs until the water began to spray from the wall. Then Donovan jerked her head back and shook it violently to rid it of the water.
She stepped back and shed her robe then stepped back into the shower, not realizing that the water had gone from cold to scalding. She screamed and fell out of the shower stall, laying on the floor dazed when Hannah slid into the room.
Without a word, Hannah cradled Donovan in her arms, gently checking her over for signs of serious damage. Seeing nothing but pink skin that the hot water had briefly touched, Hannah clasped Donovan's face in her hands and forced eye contact with her.
"Donovan, love? Are you all right?"
Donovan concentrated on listening to the sounds coming from Hannah's mouth, and drew a deep breath when she felt herself returning. Apparently, maintaining her hold in this world was going to require some extra effort on her part. She was going to need to let Hannah take her around and teach her.
Finally, she realized what Hannah was asking her and nodded. "I am fine, beloved. Just a little startled by the change in the water. What did I...?"
Together they stood, and Hannah reached in and adjusted the handle so the temperature of the water was merely warm. Hannah stepped in first and pulled Donovan in behind her.
"You see, this handle controls the temp... temperature," she said, stuttering when Donovan's hands slid around her middle. "Right makes it... <ahem> um, cooler and...." She stopped again as Donovan's hands moved upwards to cup her breasts. "Um, a... and left, left...." She tilted her head back and found herself in a lip lock that was quickly negating any sense of rational thought from her mind. She turned in Donovan's arms, moaning when Donovan's hands slipped down to knead her firm ass cheeks.
Donovan pulled away from the kiss and began an assault on Hannah's neck. "We can figure the rest out later," Hannah murmured as her own hands moved down Donovan's shoulders and to the front of her chest to start her own teasing offensive. They never even noticed the water had grown cold until they were clean and pruney.
Hannah led Donovan out to her living area and into the kitchen. Again Donovan felt overwhelmed by the technology surrounding her, and simply marveled at the ease with which everything was done here. The flip of a switch, the press of a button and voila! It was somewhat unnerving.
Hannah cooked them both breakfast, and Donovan ate quietly trying to absorb everything she could about her environment. She noticed it was a lot noisier here than she'd expected. There was a very loud hum that seemed to permeate everything, and Donovan wondered that mankind had not driven itself nuts with the sound.
When they were done, Hannah turned to Donovan and twined their fingers together. "There are some people I need to see. Would you like to come with me, maybe?"
"I would like that, Hannah. I would like that very much."
While they dressed, Hannah said, "I need to get you some new clothes."
Donovan looked down at her leather trousers and silk shirt, suddenly self-conscious about how different her clothing was and wondering if perhaps Hannah was embarrassed by her. Hannah saw immediately the conclusion Donovan had jumped to, and rushed on to reassure her.
"You are beautiful, love, and I adore having you in leather and silk. But you will need more than one set of clothing while you're here. And besides, leather gets very hot in the heat and humidity of mid-summer without the sea breeze you are accustomed to for staying cool. I can't give you as nice as what Satosh created for me, but perhaps you will be able to find something modern that appeals to you."
Donovan thought about everything Hannah had said, and saw the logic behind it. "Yes. Let us see what we can find. I would like to look nice for you."
Hannah consciously dragged her eyes slowly from Donovan's boots to her face, letting her eyes linger in several places long enough to make the blood start pounding in Donovan's body. "No worries, sweetheart. I love the way you look for me."
An unaccustomed blush raced across Donovan's face and she stood open mouthed at the sensuality Hannah was emanating with a single look. "Um, well... um...."
Hannah took pity on Donovan's flustered state. "C'mon, love. Time to go see how hot the water has gotten for me around here." She snatched up her license, work badge and credit cards, thankful Jack had had the foresight to put them in the safe for her til she came home.
They went to the newspaper office first, and Hannah couldn't help but notice the stares she got as she crossed the lobby. She walked to the security desk and flashed her badge, indicating to the woman seated at the desk that she wanted to sign Donovan in. The security officer asked for her badge, and noting the name on it, immediately called upstairs to the human resources department. After a brief conversation with them, she turned back to Hannah.
"I'm sorry, Ms, um... Reilly, is it? You're not listed as an employee. I'm going to have to ask you to come with me please, until we can get some confirmation of your status here. This way."
The woman started to leave until she realized that both Hannah and Donovan were making no move to follow her. "This way, Ms. Reilly, or I will call the police to help sort it out."
Hannah sighed deeply and started to follow, pulling Donovan docilely behind her. The security officer halted again. "No ma'am... just you."
Donovan growled low in her throat and stepped in front of Hannah. "No ma'am. We go together. Where she goes, I go."
The woman looked back and forth between the two of them and noted the rings on their fingers. "Newlyweds, huh?" She relented the least little bit, glancing to her own finger. "All right, your husband can come along, but no monkey business."
Hannah nodded around Donovan's body, and they took hands and began to follow the woman once more. Hannah marveled to herself at how people could see what they wanted to and not what was so plain in front of them. Of course, she had never seen Donovan as anything other than a woman, so she couldn't picture why everyone saw her as a man with such ease.
They were led to a tiny room off the lobby and asked to wait. "If you will let Charlie Jones know that I'm here, I'm sure it will clear up a lot of misunderstandings," Hannah said confidently.
The woman nodded to them, but did not answer. She simply closed the door behind them, then lifted the receiver of the house phone right outside the room. Since security had tightened so drastically, she couldn't afford any screw-ups, and she put in a call to the big chair.
Donovan sat calmly at the small table with her hands folded on top of it while Hannah paced around the room. The reality of her situation was hitting her in the face in a very real, very big way, and she was trying to cope with several realities she hadn't been prepared for.
The fact that she'd been gone so long as to have been forgotten... the fact that Jack had died and she hadn't been able to say so many things to him first. She quickly switched from that train of thought. Once she and Donovan had settled down, she would sit down and maybe write him a long letter. She felt he deserved to know how things had turned out, even if it was only in retrospect.
She stopped at the small window and stood looking out, allowing her mind to leap from subject to subject. She made a mental note to check her bank account. All of her bills and deposits were handled electronically, and for that reason alone, she'd had power in her penthouse when they'd returned the previous night. She also noted a need to check on Harry before they left to go visit Katie and Frank. She'd decided that needed a personal visit, just like this did, and hadn't called. There was just too much to try to explain without trying to do it long distance over the phone.
Hannah hadn't realized how her anxiety level had risen until a pair of arms wrapped around her and she allowed herself to melt into Donovan's strong hug. There was just something so comforting about that embrace, and Hannah floated in peace for long minutes as her racing heart calmed and she accepted that no matter what else had gone wrong... no matter what else was screwed up by the whole time issue linking them, this one thing made everything all right.
No words were needed between them and they were still standing silently wrapped together when the security officer returned with another woman following right behind her. "Ms um, Reilly? Ms Jones would like to speak to you."
Hannah and Donovan turned as one and Charlie's hand came up to cover her mouth. She looked to the officer. "It's all right, Ms Weinmann. This really is Hannah Reilly, and she really does work here, or she did until she disappeared from the face of the earth."
Charlie's head whipped back around to face Hannah. "Where have you been? Do you know who worried we've all been? How anxious? What the hell...?" But she got no further as Donovan stood to her full height and stepped forward one pace.
"I am not sure who you think you are, madam, but you will speak to my wife more respectfully or we will take our leave of you immediately."
Charlie's eyes widened and she turned her attention back to Hannah and swallowed forcefully before speaking. "Wife? You got married? But when? Where? I don't...."
"Take a breath Charlie, and have a seat. I'll tell you what I can."
An hour later, Charlie held up her hands in surrender. "Okay, so you're not gonna tell me everything. Am I at least gonna get a novel out of this?"
"Well, all my notes are hand written. I will turn them over to you to transcribe, and you can tell me if it is worth making into a novel. How's that?"
"And why am *I* transcribing *your* notes, hmm? Aren't you supposed to do that? Isn't that part of the author's code or something?"
Hannah dropped her head and nodded. "Yeah, usually it is. But I am running real short on time right now, and if you want it, that's how you're gonna get it. It may be years or never otherwise."
"You're serious." A flat statement.
"Absolutely. I have found something else that consumes my time, and I have never been happier."
Charlie accepted the declaration with a graceful nod of her head. "I can see that." She turned and looked at Donovan who had sat quietly holding Hannah's hands in her own during the entire proceedings. "You sir, are one very lucky man."
"Madam, you have no idea, but I must agree. I am very, very lucky."
Charlie watched them together for a moment longer, then nodded her head as though making a resolution. "All right, Hannah. I accept your terms. How quickly can you get me your notes?"
For answer, Hannah opened the small briefcase Donovan had carried for her, and lifted out several old-fashioned tablets. Charlie's eyebrows rose to her hairline and she gingerly took the first one from the stack and opened it. Inside were lines upon lines of Hannah's neat script, and the pages were filled front and back.
"My God, Hannah! This will take me a year just to get to first draft form." Her eyes continued to skim the words.
"That will be all you need, Charlie. All my books and articles have been published in their original written form. It was printed just like I wrote it out."
"Think about it Charlie. The only editing you or Anita ever had me do were for spelling and grammar mistakes. I never rewrote any of the actual work."
Charlie's eyes took on a shine then. "This is fabulous!" Her excitement was palpable and she jumped up from the chair. "How long will you be here?"
"We are driving down to see Katie this evening, but we should be back by the end of the week or the first of next."
"Wonderful! I should have the first read-thru done, and will know what we're looking at. You'll be in touch then?" she asked, scooping the papers in her arms.
"Yes, as soon as we get back."
"Cool, then. I'll be ready." She gave the blonde a one-armed hug. "I missed ya, Reilly, but it was worth it if this turns out as well as I think it will." She looked to Donovan. "And it was nice to meet you, Donovan. You take care of your wife here. She's one in a million, and if you mess her up, I'll have to kick your ass." She crossed to the doorway and started out before turning back. "Let's plan to get together for dinner when you get back. I want to get to know this man who stole your heart."
Then Charlie was out the door before either of them could say a word.
Donovan stood still for a moment, not sure if she'd been complimented or insulted. Finally, she looked at Hannah. "She loves you," stated matter-of-factly.
Hannah shrugged. "She was attracted to me. Probably one reason she sees you as a man so easily. It's a smaller blow to her ego that way."
Donovan chuckled. "I guess your world is a lot more like mine than we realized. People see what they want to see regardless of when in time you are."
They walked out the door, and headed for the nearest department store.
Donovan's eyes were huge as she looked around what Hannah had referred to as a mall. Never in her life had she seen so many merchants under a single roof. And she'd never, ever thought to see so many different things and so much of them in one store. She looked around again, wondering vaguely how long it must take someone to do all the sewing and crafting that was available just in this one store they were standing in. Then Hannah was leading her in a specific direction, and Donovan concentrated on not being separated from her.
By the time Hannah got them to the section of casual clothing, Donovan wanted nothing more than to cover her ears. She was ready to scream at the sheer amount of noise she was surrounded by, and she looked at Hannah miserably.
"What's wrong, love?" Hannah asked, tightening her hold.
Donovan pointed to her ears and shook her head. Hannah pulled her head down until her lips were even with Donovan's ear. "What's wrong?" she asked again, concern tingeing her voice.
"It is very loud here. It hurts my ears."
Hannah's brow scrunched up in thought, listening carefully to hear what exactly was causing Donovan so much grief. All she heard were the normal sounds... the air conditioner clicking on and off, the background music that flowed from the store's speakers, the chatter of patrons as they shopped, and their footsteps as they walked and the occasional announcement coming across the loudspeakers. She didn't hear anything out of the ordinary.
Then it dawned on her that ALL these sounds were out of the ordinary for Donovan, and remembering the peace she was accustomed to on the Island understood her problem perfectly. Not that it wasn't noisy there, or that being on a ship was deafening at times. But those were sounds Donovan was accustomed to and she was prepared for them.
"I'll make this quick, sweetheart, and then we'll go home and pack to go on to Katie's okay?"
Donovan nodded, then watched in fascination as Hannah fell to her task with a will. Amazingly, the salespeople left them alone, and in short order, Donovan held two pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, two white oxford shirts, and five colored T's. Hannah snagged a package of white socks, and began searching for comfortable underwear. She grabbed up several very feminine articles as well as several pairs of boxers. She wasn't sure which Donovan would prefer, never having tried either before, but this way she could choose something besides wearing long johns or going commando.
Finally, Hannah led them to the shoe department and stood looking for a long time. She was approached by a salesman, who tried to steer her towards lady's shoes. She shook her head and pulled her arm from his hand. "No, I want these in a size nine," holding up a pair of short hiking boots.
He looked like he wanted to argue, but changed his mind at the low growl that emanated from the tall, muscular figure standing behind her. He nodded and found the shoes, happy to hand the correct size to Hannah to avoid the fiery gaze that was coming from the blue eyes behind her burning a hole through him.
They went to the register, and the woman behind it rang up their purchase and gave them the total. Donovan nearly disgraced herself by fainting at the amount. Hannah didn't blink though, and merely handed her credit card to the woman at the counter.
"Can I see some ID, Ms Reilly?"
"Is there a problem?" Hannah asked, taken back by the suspicious look the woman was giving her.
"I need to verify your name and identification, please." She waited patiently while Hannah dug for her driver's license. Hannah reluctantly surrendered the bit of plastic and the woman accepted it with the instruction, "Wait here, please."
Donovan looked confused by the entire proceeding, and Hannah wasn't far behind her. After several minutes, Donovan found a chair near the counter and took a seat, pulling Hannah into her lap. They sat that way, giving silent comfort to one another until the saleswoman returned with a manger in tow. Hannah eased up and Donovan stood behind her, neither aware of the formidable picture they made.
The manager extended is hand and Hannah automatically reciprocated, accepting the handshake as the man introduced himself.
"I apologize for the delay," the man gushed, "but your card came up as inactive and we had to verify a few things." He continued to hold her hand, and Donovan glowered at him.
"Did everything check out all right?" Hannah asked, feeling the jealousy growing behind her and easing her hand from the manager's with a gentle tug.
The man seemed flustered by this and mumbled, "Beg pardon." But he failed to say anything else until Donovan stepped into his line of sight. Hannah laid a hand on Donovan's arm, and Donovan moved back reluctantly to let Hannah handle the man. She made sure to stake her claim however, by casually putting possessive hands on Hannah's trim waist.
The man noted the hold and the wedding bands and realized where Donovan's thoughts were headed. Before he could speak, Hannah interposed again, "Sir, is there a problem?"
"Huh? Oh no. Everything checked out fine and Ms Browne should have your sale completed." He turned and looked at the woman, receiving an affirmative nod. "I simply wanted to apologize for the delay and to mumble, mumble, mutter."
"I'm sorry. What was that last bit?"
He looked at her red-faced, knowing he would probably never get another chance like this one, and swallowed what was left of his sense and his pride. "I was hoping you would sign this for me," he said, taking a worn copy of her very first Trudy and Evan story from his pocket. "My daughter got me hooked years ago, and I became a big fan."
Hannah smiled at him compassionately, having been in his shoes once upon a time. It was hard to remember sometimes that the person whose work you admired was still a human being and usually only wanted to be treated like one.
She took the book from his hand and rummaged for a pen. Then she opened it to the dedication page and asked him his name, writing for a full minute before handing him the book back. He opened the cover and read, smiling so big Hannah was afraid his face would split. She patted his arm and hefted her bags, only to have them gently but firmly removed by the presence that stood faithfully behind her.
Hannah looked up into Donovan's eyes and smiled her thanks, noting the melancholy and wondering at the cause of it. Then she took Donovan's arm, which got her a genuine smile back, and they headed for the car.
Donovan flinched perceptibly at the noise level outside, and even Hannah found it disconcerting after the quiet peacefulness of their beach.
"Noisy out here too, huh?"
Donovan nodded, concentrating on blocking out all the extracurricular sounds. She continued to look at her surroundings, amazed that buildings could be built so high and made of glass. She looked down as well, wondering why the ground was so hard and even, and how one could possibly stand the heat coming up from the ground as well as pouring down to it.
She was sweating liberally when they reached Hannah's car, and opening the doors only seared her with more heat, making the situation worse.
Hannah started the engine, letting the air run at full blast. After a few minutes, she motioned Donovan into the car. Donovan ran her hands over the vents in rapture, still not used to the fact that one could force cold air into the atmosphere. There were so many things here to get learn about, and she wondered if they would be here long enough to experience them all. Then she wondered if she really wanted to. It was an interesting place to visit, but Donovan has serious doubt she could ever live here. It was just too... too.... She rested her head against the window and let the artificially cold air blow in her face. It was simply overwhelming... just too much.
Hannah noticed the miserable look on Donovan's face as she sat leaned against the window with her eyes closed. She gripped the steering wheel tightly. She knew just how Donovan felt, easily remembering her own anxiety and displacement just months prior. She had the distinct feeling it was harder for Donovan though, because there was less way to prepare oneself for the future than there was for the past.
Hannah sighed and pulled the car into her building's garage, wishing there was something she could do to ease Donovan's unease. She popped the trunk and opened the door, only then seeing the blue eyes open. Donovan scrubbed her face and yawned.
"Sorry, Angel. I think I fell asleep with the heat."
Hannah smiled. "It's all right. Many is the time I have come home and taken a nap after being out in it for a while. The concrete and lack of vegetation only make it hotter."
Donovan nodded her agreement. "I believe it."
"C'mon, love. Help me get the bags upstairs, then you can take a nap while I pack and check on Harry. We can't leave til later anyway."
Donovan, who hadn't napped since she was in diapers, nodded her head. She was drained and though she put it all down to heat and her still aching wound, she wondered in the back of her mind if it had more to do with the stress of being out of her time.
It didn't take long, and they were upstairs. Donovan allowed Hannah to tuck her in with the promise that she would be back as quickly as she could. Then Hannah went down to the front lobby area.
She walked to the front door, expecting to see Harry standing in his usual afternoon post, and was surprised to see a young man standing by the door. He saw her and hastened to open the door, her forehead scrunching in thought as he tried desperately to place her in his mind.
"Excuse me..." looking down at his nametag. "Matt, but where is Harry?"
"Harry, ma'am? Harry hasn't been here in almost two years. He passed away."
Hannah couldn't stop the sob that caught in her throat, but Matt didn't notice and kept talking.
"He was coming in to work one afternoon and collapsed. Doctors said it was a stroke or heart attack or something. I don't rightly know what, but it happened mighty quick. Mrs. Padulous still came around every week for a while. Then she passed on about six months after Harry did."
Hannah held her head in her hand just breathing for a while. That bit of information explained so much, and she took a moment to absorb it all. Finally she noticed that Matt had stopped talking and was looking at her funny.
"Miss, I'm sorry, but do you belong here? I know everyone who lives here, and I don't recognize you."
"Yes, Matt, I have the penthouse. My name is Hannah Sc... Reilly and I have just returned from an extensive sabbatical."
"Harry talked about you. Do you have some proof of your ID?"
Hannah rolled her mental eyes and whipped out her wallet once again to prove she was who she claimed to be. Satisfied, Matt nodded and stepped back from her. "Thank you, Ms Reilly. We do have to check."
"Not a problem, Matt. Better safe than sorry. And thank you for telling me about Harry. He was a good friend, and I'll miss him."
She'd pushed the up button for the elevator when she remembered her other reason for coming downstairs. She turned and walked back to the doorway, and Matt looked at her questioningly.
"I'm sorry, Matt. I forgot to ask. Can I use the house phone to call the corner deli? I have a craving for a Reuben sandwich."
Matt scratched his head in thought. "Corner deli? You mean the Thai place? That's the only restaurant on the corner hereabouts."
"No, the deli, at the end of the block here," Hannah answered, pointing in the direction of the restaurant.
"Huh? Oh!" Matt exclaimed as what she meant occurred to him. "It's not a deli anymore. The deli went under a couple years ago. Not enough business. The Thai place moved in last year."
Hannah's shoulders slumped. "Oh. All right then. Never mind then. Thank you, Matt."
Hannah went back upstairs and walked into her bedroom to find Donovan still curled up in the same position Hannah had left her in. Hannah stripped out of her clothes and crawled in beside Donovan. Donovan mewled in her sleep and wrapped reflexively around Hannah, sighing in contentment before slipping into deeper sleep.
Hannah let herself relax into the embrace and let her mind wander to how much had changed since she'd been gone. With those not-so-happy thoughts, she fell asleep, knowing that her biggest hurdle was yet to come.