"Several generations ago now... back I-don't-know-how-many-greats removed, we had a grandfather who was a young merchant captain out in these waters. It was his letters that my grandfather found about fifty years ago that spurred our research." Jack paused and ran his hands over his short hair. "We've got a few inconsistencies, but for the most part everything we've researched seems to be playing out.
"I'm not sure I follow you, Uncle Jack," Hannah said quietly.
"Well, first and foremost there is Donovan's disappearance. What triggered it? We know she was able to cross to some extent, so did an overload of technological exposure close the door? And the flowers Harold left? They should have been dust." Jack blew out a breath. "Let me tell you the background and then we can worry about this. I'm getting way ahead of myself."
"It seems that our ancestor, Maxwell Reilly, was
something of a rogue when he was young.
He figured to make a pile of money as a merchant. On his very first run to the
Hannah almost smiled. "What happened?" having a very rough idea what the answer was going to be.
"He ran into a female pirate captain named Donovan Scott." This got a genuine smile from Hannah. "Max was quick to realize she would make a much better friend than enemy, and they formed a friendship of sorts. They talked occasionally, and he made friends with some of her crew. Eventually he had enough of her story to be intrigued, and he wrote it down."
"Then about fifty years ago, my grandfather, who was recently retired from the Navy, decided to go through all the things that were stored in his attic."
"Waitaminute, Uncle Jack. You mean to tell me someone had already sorted through all that stuff it took us days to go through??" Hannah's voice was incredulous with disbelief. Jack had to laugh out loud at the expression on her face. He snagged his coffee cup, then grimaced as a lukewarm swallow slid down his throat.
"Ew. I need a refill. You?"
"No, thanks. Water would be good though."
Jack stood and walked over to the bar, reaching into the fridge for Hannah's water before pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee. He began fixing his coffee to taste and looked back to Hannah. "To answer your question, no. The very first trunk he opened had Maxwell's letters about Donovan. Granddad decided right then this was a mystery he wanted to solve."
"The mystery of Green Eyes."
Hannah's mouth dropped open and the very green eyes spoken of widened perceptibly. "Excuse me?" The question came out as a garbled whisper.
"Exactly," Jack agreed as he resumed his seat. "Your eyes are a family trait, and Maxwell had brilliant green eyes just like yours. Max caught her studying him one day and he asked her about it. In a rare moment of private disclosure, Donovan told him a bit about the green eyes that were such a part of her dreams. She didn't reveal much, but it was enough to intrigue him, and he kept a record of her for years after that. Donovan never invited inquiry about it again, almost as though she regretted revealing herself to him. But he found other methods for obtaining information."
"Why would he? What made him obsess over her like that?"
"It wasn't her, as much as it was her story. Just like for Granddad... Donovan the person was secondary to Donovan the story."
Hannah rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes. "I'm getting a headache," she mumbled.
Jack patted her back. "It really is a lot easier than it sounds. Donovan was out here following her dreams, looking for the eyes that held the other half of her soul. That is what they... what we *all* found so intriguing. The story was so beautiful, and it seemed to call to us. So we followed where it led, which was to this island."
"There's more to this, isn't there?" Hannah asked plaintively. Her heart hurt, and it was becoming harder to maintain the focus she'd determined to have. Right now she just wanted to fall into her dreams and find Donovan. Maybe they could figure out how to fix what happened.
"Oh there's lots more. We just have to sort through what we have so we can fix this." He paused a moment and rose, extending his hand to her in invitation. "C'mon. I think reading Maxwell's letters may clear this up for you somewhat. I know it all makes a lot more sense to me now having heard your story, though Donovan's appearance here and subsequent disappearance is a somewhat unexpected development."
"As long as we end up together."
Jack clasped Hannah's hand tightly. "You will, Hannah. We'll find a way to make it happen."
He led Hannah into his office and seated her in his big desk chair before turning to the wall. He pressed a panel that slid aside to reveal a small safe. A twist, turn and spin later, the steel door swung open and Jack reached in to draw out a small bundle. He turned and handed the letters to Hannah.
"These are the letters that Maxwell's wife Abigail kept that had to do with Donovan. According to Granddad, they were separate from the other letters he wrote to her." He looked at her slumped shoulders and tired eyes. "Why don't you take these to your room, honey? You look exhausted. We can continue this in the morning."
She looked ready to refuse, then a tear wended its way down her face. "I am, Uncle Jack. This day has been such a roller coaster ride for me. I cannot begin to tell you."
"I can only imagine. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around the facts, and I'm not nearly as personally involved as you are. I think though, that we can figure a way out of it, because you're right about one thing... you are meant to be together."
Hannah stood with the letters in one hand and let Jack's strong embrace envelop her. "Thanks, Uncle Jack. That means everything to me. She means everything to me." She squeezed his neck. "Though you are pretty special too."
Jack chuckled, trying to keep the tears out of his voice. "Oh you sweet talker, you. You could turn a man's head with that kind of flattery." He gently herded her out the door and into her room. "Get some rest. We'll talk more tomorrow."
Hannah nodded and shut the door. She placed the bundle on the nightstand and pulled the covers down, then went into the bathroom. It didn't take long, and she stepped back into her room and dropped her clothes before crawling into the bed and picking up the letters. She looked at them hesitantly, then took a deep breath and untied the ribbon, opening the missive on top.
My Dearest Abigail, (it read)
Hannah skimmed the letter until she reached the name she was searching for. She read the short paragraph twice.
Captain Scott is a much better ally than enemy. I have ne'er seen a pirate the likes of which she is. I will have to learn more about her.
Hannah looked through the remainder of the note, but that was the only reference to Donovan. So she put it aside and moved on to the next letter.
Angel Abigail, (it read)
I have asked 'round about the sigil. I have never seen one quite like it. The crossed swords are not unusual, though the blue field is uncommon among pirates and privateers. What sets this flag apart are the green eyes that seem to stare from above the swords... eyes that I see when I look in the shaving glass.
I canna find an explanation for the similarity to mine own... yet, but I will. Meanwhile, I have learned that honest men respect this flag, and rogues justly fear it. The ship Ice Maiden makes her own justice.
Hannah continued reading, but found nothing else relating to Donovan and she picked up the next letter in the stack. This one went on a bit before she found Donovan's name. She noted to herself that she should take a little more interest in her heritage, and decided to be less dispassionate about it when Donovan was by her side again. Until then, history could be damned. Her breath caught when she found Donovan's name.
I have finally been invited aboard the Ice Maiden by the infamous Captain Scott, and she is nothing like I expected her to be. She is a clean ship with a sharp crew and an outstanding Captain.
I am more than a bit confused. I am almost sure there is a British Navy ship by a similar name. But she has a male captain and a regulation crew. Stranger, I canna seem to find out anything about that ship, while this one is legendary. Too much coincidence to my thinking.
"How long did it take you, Maxwell? How long before you realized they were one and the same?" Hannah muttered, blushing when she realized she'd only made the connection when Donovan explained it to her. She put the letter down and reached for the next envelope in the stack. This one was surprisingly longer and it made her sit up and take notice when she found Donovan's name.
Darling Abigail, (it read)
The most unusual thing happened today, and I feel the need to write it down before I forget any of the details.
We were in the islands again, and happened on a melee that ended with a merchant ship being taught some manners by pirates. It was of course the Ice Maiden and her infamous crew. We managed to help, believe it or not, and when 'twas over the natives invited us and the Maiden's crew to the island for a celebration.
Bear with me, dearest... this is going to be quite long, but I feel it needs be told in its entirety.
The boys and I were happy to accept. It has been a rough sailing as you know from my previous notes to you. We were looking forward to a bit of time on dry land, and I figure the same could be said of the Maiden's crew. I dunno who crossed Poseidon this voyage, but I have na seen him this angry in a while.
The natives were very kind, and offered us great hospitality, though I noted well that we were treated as honored guests while the Maiden's crew was welcomed as well-loved family.
It was still daylight when we arrived, and were told that the revelry would begin at sundown. As the Captain, I was invited to join Captain Scott and the village headman, Debendra, for dinner and conversation.
Debendra and his wife, who everyone refers to as Mama, fussed over Donovan, and having seen the haggardness in her appearance, I can certainly understand why. Mama clucked over her like a hen with a chick, and the Captain surrendered to her ministrations willingly.
For a bit, they seemed to have forgotten my presence, and I was content to watch and listen. There were a few vague references to green eyes and I noted more than one glance in my direction. Mama especially seemed insistent, but Donovan was adamant in her refusal.
Debendra engaged me in conversation, but it was clear that his attention was split, and his heart was with Donovan and Mama. When the pirate finally closed her eyes and Mama made her way to us, his attention focused on me and our talk turned toward more general topics.
When there was a break in our conversation, Mama took my chin in her hand and stared at my eyes. AT them, Abby, not into them. Almost as thought they were an answer to a question only she knew.
"MAMA!" Debendra exclaimed as he came back from the kitchen and she moved away from me. But I did wonder what she was looking for.
They offered me a room to clean up and rest, and I was glad to do so. And before I knew it, it was time for us to join the celebration. This is where it got... odd.
We went down to the meeting house where both crews and the village were gathered. Debendra said a few words and the crowd cheered, then Donovan and I were seated on either side of the headman so the feasting could begin.
Mr. Merryweather (I never did find out the man's Christian name) is Captain Scott's first mate, and he was seated to my left. We swapped several sea stories, as sailors are wont to do, but I noted that he kept looking at my eyes strangely. We were cups into our rum, and it finally bothered me enough to ask.
He wouldn't answer himself, but told me if I wanted to know I'd have to ask the Cap'n. Well, I was drunk enough to ask, and surprisingly, she was drunk enough to answer.
"Your eyes, Captain, have haunted my dreams for years. But they were not your eyes."
Abby love, I don't know what that means, but one day... one day I will find the truth. She didn't say more, and her eyes made it clear she wouldn't. Meanwhile, I have learned not to drink so much rum.
Much love to you, dearest.
Hannah set the letter aside and moved the rest of the letters to her nightstand. She placed the already read letters beside them, and turned off the light. With a sigh, she snuggled down into the cover, closing her eyes to keep the tears at bay.
"Oh Donovan," she whispered, "Please let me find you. I need you to be in my dreams tonight. I love you." Then she fell asleep, escaping to their sanctuary.
Donovan felt her equilibrium settle around her after what seemed like forever. She opened her eyes and looked around, realizing she was not where she'd been when she'd lost consciousness. A sound caught her attention, and she sat up, hissing at the pain that ripped through her skull. She clutched at her head and closed her eyes again, slumping back onto the bed she was laying in. Donovan winced when Mama placed a hand on her head.
"Donovan?" Mama spoke melodiously, almost as though she knew that anything else would hurt. "Donovan, do you remember how you got here? Do you know what happened, or where Hannah went?"
At the mention of Hannah's name, Donovan flinched, her head throbbing in time with the beat of her heart.
Mama felt the twitch beneath her fingers, and she moved away to retrieve the cup she'd prepared when Debendra had walked in the door with Donovan cradled in his arms. The last time that had happened, Donovan had been out for days, and Mama had feared for the Captain's life.
Now she walked back to the bedside, and spoke quietly again. "Donovan, I need to get this medicine inside you. Can you sit up on your own, or do you need some help?"
For a long moment, she wondered whether or not she was going to get a response, then the blue eyes blinked open, and Donovan reached a shaky hand out for the mixture. She lifted the cup to her lips, and drank steadily until the concoction was gone. "Thank you, Mama," she said before closing her eyes and giving herself over to the healing properties of the herbs and sleep.
It was three long days and nights of vigils for Mama and Debendra before Donovan finally shook loose of the illness that held her in its grasp. A sigh of relief was heard through the entire household when her sleep was broken.
"How long?" Donovan croaked, squinting into the murky darkness. The windows had been covered by heavy blankets, and the air in the room was oppressive.
Mama reached a hand over and felt for fever, relieved when she found none. She smoothed the dark hair back from the high forehead, and reached a cup up to Donovan's parched lips. Donovan took several small sips before easing the cup away and dropping back down drained.
"Three days," Mama replied. "How do you feel?"
"Exhausted, like I still need to sleep."
"You probably do. Your body has spent the last three days at war with itself."
Without warning, Donovan shot up then fell back down. "Oh my God!! Hannah!!"
"She has not been round, Donovan," Mama said, trying to hide the anger she felt directed at the small blonde woman. Having witnessed their interaction herself, she could not believe Hannah would be so unfeeling, but she was not going to lie to Donovan either. Surprisingly, Donovan did not show any shock at the revelation.
"She can't, Mama. She was taken from me." Not knowing how else to explain the reality of what had happened, Donovan closed her eyes. Mama misunderstood the gesture and patted her shoulder.
"Rest now, my friend. We will speak more later." But Donovan was already asleep, and searching her dreams.
Hannah was frantic. For three nights she had sought Donovan out, and for three nights Donovan could not be found. Jack was growing more and more worried by her pale, drawn features and shadowed eyes.
They had spent their days researching every bit of information they had, and had become convinced that the secret to the dilemma lay in Donovan's belief of Hannah's story. Although Hannah knew that Donovan's *heart* accepted her across time and space, she was sure the logical woman's mind was having far more difficulty with the concept, even if she didn't voice her fears aloud.
Hannah wanted to be angry, but couldn't find it in her heart to be mad at Donovan for not understanding just what differences lay between them because of the time distinction. Even she'd been somewhat overwhelmed by the reality of finding herself in the past, and she'd had an opportunity to study it and knew it had been reality at one point. The future was an unknown, and Donovan had no idea what life was like there.
So Hannah was desperate to find Donovan to explain what was going on.
Jack, meanwhile, had been keeping a close eye on the weather. He was sure now the odd disturbances were directly related to Donovan's appearances. In the three days since her abrupt departure from the present timeline, the weather had reverted to its normal patterns. But by mid-morning of the fourth day....
"Hannah," Jack said, trying to keep the hopeful excitement out of his voice. "Why don't you go lay down? You look exhausted," he added, putting a tender hand on her shoulder and guiding her in the direction of her room.
Hannah scrubbed a hand across her eyes and ran it through her hair, mussing it up nicely. Jack wanted to smile at the sight she made, reminding him very much in that moment of the five-year-old niece she'd once been. But it was an agitated twenty-five year old woman who stood before him now, and he could feel she was nearing the end of her rope.
"C'mon," he urged her again. "Who knows? You may find Donovan this time, but if not, you still need the rest. I'm getting worried about you, honey."
She wanted to argue and she wanted to cry. Instead, she dropped her head to his shoulder, and let him comfort her for a long moment. Then she sighed and nodded.
"I am tired, and it couldn't hurt. Will you wake me in a couple hours?"
Jack was fairly certain she'd kill him when he woke her in a couple hours if what he suspected was true really was the truth, so he hedged his bets. "I will check on you in a couple hours. If you are awake or restless, I will get you up. How's that?"
She looked up at him then, wondering what was going on in his mind, but his eyes didn't reveal anything except for honest concern. Her shoulders slumped. "That's fine. I don't actually expect to sleep anyway."
Hannah let Jack walk her the short distance to her bedroom, then turned and kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Uncle Jack."
"What for, Little Hannah?"
He didn't answer, but gave her a hug, then gently pushed her through the open door of her bedroom. Without another word, he closed it behind her, and moved back to the kitchen to finish making his iced tea.
Hannah regarded the closed door with a raised eyebrow then shook her head. Jack had always been a good friend, and he had been like a rock for her sanity the last few days. She would have to think of something incredibly sweet to do for him in return. She yawned. But not right now. Right now, she just wanted to curl into that warm, comfortable bed and sleep... something she hadn't been able to manage much of since Donovan had vanished.
She wondered if that might be part of the reason she couldn't find her, but put the questions aside. They weren't going to help much at this point, and she was so tired right now her body ached.
Hannah slipped out of her clothes, and slid between the cool sheets with an exclamation akin to relief. Within moments, she was out like a light.
Donovan looked around, recognizing the familiar glade, and noticing she was quite alone. Her head dropped, and she moved over to the outcropping that overlooked the water to wait.
When Hannah opened her eyes, she saw that she was in their private hideaway, and she breathed in the fresh air with happiness. She looked around, seeing the broad shoulders of her lover slumped in despondency as she sat on the rocks watching the water trickle lightly beneath her perch.
Hannah couldn't help the tiny cry of joy that escaped her lips at seeing Donovan, and the dark head whipped around at the unexpected, though very welcome sound.
Donovan jumped to the ground and began running, even as Hannah began to run towards her. Observing that Hannah was coming to meet her, she stopped and braced herself for the impact of their reunion. With arms wide open, they met and hugged tightly, their momentum taking them to the ground.
No words were necessary as their bodies melded into one another, then Hannah drew back just enough to look into the blue eyes she loved. Still silent, she leaned down, and captured the lips of the woman beneath her, and long minutes passed as their mouths became reacquainted.
Finally, breathless and gasping for air, they separated enough to lie forehead to forehead breathing one another's air. Donovan rolled them over so that she lay to one side, but still on top of Hannah with their legs tangled together.
"Oh Angel!" she whispered, before claiming Hannah's lips for her own again. Hannah wrapped her hands in the thick dark hair that was shielding her and reveled in the explosion of feeling she felt emanating from both herself and Donovan.
When they pulled back again, Donovan rolled over onto her back, and pulled Hannah onto her body, elating in the weight of Hannah's body pressed into her own. Hannah rested her head just above Donovan's heart, and sighed in contentment as the regular rhythm beat a timely march in her ear.
"God, I missed you, Donovan! I was frantic to find you, but you weren't here," said with just the faintest hint of hurt and reproach.
Donovan traced Hannah's features lightly with a strong hand and the green eyes closed under the tender ministrations. "I know. I'm sorry. I was three days fighting off an illness. This is the first natural sleep I've had since you were taken from me."
Hannah grasped the hand and brought it to her lips, kissing each fingertip, and lightly licking Donovan's thumb. She smiled at the swiftly indrawn breath.
"Actually, I may have some answers to all that. But it's kinda complicated."
Donovan gave her a crooked grin. "Of course it is... we are involved in it." She tightened her hold around Hannah's body. "But it will wait for a little while longer. Right now, I just want to hold you."
Hannah's only answer was to tighten her hold.
They lay together at for the longest time, still entwined together tightly and enjoying the peace and contentment of simply being together again. Hannah squeezed Donovan's middle, smiling at the warm hug that enfolded her for long minutes.
"I could get used to this, ya know," Donovan's husky voice filled her hearing. "Lying here with you in my arms. I like the way this feels."
Hannah sighed. "So do I. But we have a lot to talk about if we want to make it a reality."
Donovan half rose so she could look into Hannah's eyes. "Have you changed your mind? Do you not want this anymore?" She didn't really believe it, not with the greeting they'd shared and the peace that surrounded them, but she was a little bewildered by Hannah's words and tone. Her confusion showed plainly in her eyes.
"You know better, Donovan," Hannah replied reaching up and bringing Donovan's lips down to meet her own. She spent some moments reassuring the Captain of just exactly how she felt, and pulled back only when she felt Donovan's hands begin to wander. "If you never believe anything else, never, ever doubt the way I feel for you. That's not gonna change. Ya got it?"
Donovan's heart leapt at the fierce love she saw reflecting from the green eyes she cherished. She nipped at Hannah's nose. "I understand, Angel."
Hannah chuckled. "I will continue to remind you of that." She slipped off Donovan's body and knelt beside her. The she riffled her fingers through the long dark locks. "I love you, Donovan Scott, and I plan on spending our lifetimes showing you that on a minute by minute basis."
Donovan's eyes widened and she sat up, cupping Hannah's face in her hand. "I love you, Hannah Reilly. Marry me."
Hannah reached her own hands to tangle in Donavan's hair, urging her lips closer. "Yes," she whispered. "Oh, Donovan, yes!" Then their lips met, and the world faded from their reality for a very long space of time.
"Ya know, "Donovan stated as she trailed her hands up and down Hannah's back. "We are not getting much talking done." She watched as goose bumps followed the path that her hand took.
"No, we're not," Hannah sighed, "and we need to if we are ever going to get to have a life together outside our dreams."
"What do you mean, beloved?"
Hannah rolled up and stood, reaching down a hand to help Donovan stand. "C'mon. Let's go sit on the outcropping and talk."
Donovan allowed herself to be pulled up, then she held tightly to Hannah's hand, wondering what obstacles lay ahead of them.
"Donovan, do you remember the other day when we went to the Maiden?" Hannah asked when they were seated side by side. They were facing each other and holding hands, and green eyes looked directly into blue as Hannah spoke.
Donovan nodded slowly. "When you mentioned the twi... twi...."
"The twilight zone, yes... exactly. Do you remember what I told you about myself?"
"Yes, you said you were from the future. That you had not been born yet."
"Did you believe me, Donovan?"
Donovan nodded, but averted her eyes. Hannah gently grasped her chin and brought their eyes level again. "Donovan," Hannah asked again. "Did you believe me?"
"My heart knows you are not lying to me Hannah, but my mind cannot seem to wrap itself around that truth. I cannot understand how you can be here with me if you have not been born."
"Well, that is the root of our problem."
"What do you mean?"
Hannah sighed. This was the hard part. "Jack and I have spent the last three days researching ... geez, everything. The door worked for us because we were ignorant of the time difference between our two lives. We didn't realize we were from diverse lifetimes."
"Until you crossed the threshold and saw the ship." Donovan's brow crinkled. "But that did not close the door, because we crossed back through to your time."
"Right, but it was easier for me to accept being in your time because it has already existed for me. I have read and studied history, and I know about the things that exist in your world."
"I see," Donovan drawled thoughtfully. "So once my mind was presented with actual evidence of the truth...."
"It shut down, effectively closing the door between us."
Donovan was silent for a time after that contemplating the bitter truth of Hannah's words. "I am sorry, Angel. I never meant...."
"Shh, love. Hush. I know you didn't. It's really not an easy thing to comprehend, and getting hit in the face with it, so to speak.... You say you've been ill." Hannah waited for Donovan nod affirmatively. "Does this illness resemble in anyway the illness you had when you found Michael, my father?"
Donovan's gaze turned introspective, and she cast her mind back. Finally she looked squarely at Hannah. "It is almost precisely the same thing. My head hurt so badly, and according to Mama, I was in and out of consciousness for nearly a week. I do not remember much." She shook her head. "How are we gonna get around this?"
Hannah pressed her hands together and lifted them to her lips. "I still need to do some more research, but maybe educating you about the future slowly is something we could try. I don't think it is me making you sick... maybe it is being hit so hard by the radical changes of the future."
"That makes sense. It cannot hurt to try, because I am not going to let anything come between us, especially not my own doubts of what the future really is."
"You don't seem to have a problem being *in* the future... just a problem with the future itself. Am I making any sense at all here?"
Donovan chuckled. "Yes, beloved. You are making perfect sense to me. Shall we get started on my education?"
"Sure. Let's start with something easy, like plumbing. You already have a rudimentary understanding of that."
Sometime later, Hannah leaned back and watched the smile draw across Donovan's expressive features. "That is astounding. So I really am on the right track then. I just need to... mmph?" A dark brow rose into an equally dark hairline.
"You just need to shut up and kiss me. We can worry more about the future later. I want a little now time, now please."
Blue eyes twinkled rakishly, and Hannah felt a wet tongue glide across her palm. She jerked her hand away reflexively and Donovan wiggled her eyebrows. "I am happy to oblige, Beloved." And without warning, Hannah found herself covered in six feet of sexy sea captain. "Is this a better now?" Donovan purred. Hannah just pulled the taller woman into herself and began to kiss her senseless.
She awoke with a smile on her face, then punched the pillow. "Dammit! We were just getting to the good stuff!" Hannah turned her head and looked at the clock. Surprisingly, two hours of real time had passed for her, and she wondered what had wakened her. Then a knock sounded on her door, and realized what had brought her back from the lands of dreams.
With a growl, Hannah flung the cover back, and crawled from the bed, snatching up her robe and throwing it on. She opened the door and scowled at Jack.
"Yeeeeesssss?" she said with exaggerated sweetness. The fire in her eyes made him take a step back.
"I just thought you should know that the odd weather pattern seems to be back, and a storm seems to be brewing. I was just wondering, um... that is... I thought maybe... uh well...." He scratched his head thoughtfully. "I don't suppose you, um... found Donovan, did you?"
She actually growled at him this time, and it was followed by a crash of thunder that seemed more than a little coincidental. Jack studied her a bit more closely, and noticed beyond her sleep tousled look, she had a twinkle in her eyes and lightly swollen lips. He grinned nervously and backed away another step.
"Ya know," he said, backing further away. "I think this will wait til later." He made shooing motions with his hands. "Why don't you just go back to bed and I'll... whoa!!"
He got his arms up to catch her just as she jumped at him, and he held her in a firm hug for a very long minute.
"I am so happy for you, little girl," he whispered into her hair as he felt the wet warmth of tears against his neck.
"Thank you, Uncle Jack," she said in return. "I can't tell you what all your help means to me... what it could mean to *us*."
"I've got a real good idea, honey." He slowly released her and gently shoved her towards her door. "Why don't you just get back in there and see if you can get some more sleep? It looks like the storm and the weather pattern may be here to stay for a while. I'll just go... do... something."
Hannah gave Jack an all-out dazzling grin and kissed his cheek. "I love you, Uncle Jack."
"I love you too, Little Hannah," he replied as he closed the door behind her and went back into his study to resume his work. He had a feeling his research might be necessary now more than ever.
Hannah actually took a couple minutes to use the bathroom, splashing water on her face, running a comb through her hair and brushing her teeth. She knew it didn't make a difference in the dreamscape, but it made her feel better taking the time to do it. Then she climbed back into the bed, curling herself around a pillow and closing her eyes. She wondered if she could will herself to sleep faster, not even realizing when she dozed off.
When she awakened this time, Hannah found herself wrapped snuggly next to a warm, breathing body, and she kissed the shoulder beneath her lips contentedly. Then she closed her eyes again firmly, luxuriating in the total satisfaction she found in simply being with Donovan.
The third time she opened her eyes, she found her head pillowed in Donovan's lap, and the pirate captain was gently stroking her hair. Hannah stretched and purred like a relaxed, happy kitten, and she felt the belly at her cheek bounce slightly at Donovan's soundless laughter.
"I like waking up here, in your arms. Was I asleep long?"
"Minutes, as far as I can tell. I do like waking up to find you in my arms or me in yours, as the case may be," Donovan smiled down at her, remembering Hannah's body wrapped around hers.
"That's good," Hannah said, "because it's going to be a rest-of-our-lives kinda thing."
"You think we can get past the time difference, then?"
Hannah looked at Donovan with a serious, quizzical gaze. "Do you want to?"
"With my whole heart and soul," Donovan answered with equal sincerity.
"Then we will. When I awaken in my time, I'll try the portal and see if it works. If not, we will meet here and work on it until we get the breakthrough we need."
The dark head nodded, and they sat in silence for a bit, each lost in their private thoughts. Donovan continued her light stroking, and Hannah was lost in a comfortable half doze when the Captain spoke.
"You know, I have studied a bit of science. It is exciting to know that so much of what I have read about is not only possible, but very successful. It is almost like living another dream."
"It's no dream, love. It's real, and we are going to make it possible for you to understand and believe."
When Hannah awoke again, she was alone in her bed and groaned. Their knowledge of the truth made things a little more difficult to manage. Knowing that Donovan was waiting out there for here, alive and real, just in another time... Hannah rubbed her throbbing temples. It gave her a headache if she thought about it too long. She smiled. She didn't need to think about it. She simply had to make their being together a reality. Piece of cake, right?
Hannah swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up, scratching her hands through her hair, then rubbing her face. She looked at her clock, doing a double take when she saw it was late afternoon. Hannah rose and walked to the window, realizing that the storm outside made it seem later than it actually was.
She paused to watch it for a long minute, noting the beauty and majesty the fury created. She wondered if her separation from Donovan had anything to do with the ferocity she was witnessing, and made a mental note to talk to Jack about it. Then she walked into the bathroom, and shut the door.
Jack was sitting at his desk, much as he had been since early afternoon. The storm's intensity seemed to be linked to Donovan's reconnection to Hannah. He decided it needed more study, and wondered how Hannah would feel about sharing the dates of her dream rendezvous with Donovan from her diary. He decided it would do no harm to ask, and put a note on his monitor to ask her when she woke up.
He heard the shower running, and moved into the kitchen to begin preparing supper. He had a feeling Hannah would need to talk about a few things at least. He knew he sure had some questions.
Jack smiled when Hannah crossed the threshold into the living area. There was a sparkle in her eye and a bounce in her step that had been missing.
"You've got the answer," he said calming, continuing to chop the vegetables in front of him. She took up a knife and bumped him slightly, until he was sharing cutting board space.
"I think we were right. If we can educate her to the future, she should be able to cross the portal again without incident."
"Do you have enough time? The ball is only a few days off, and historically, the Warrior Maiden leaves for Britain right after the party is over."
Hannah lifted a bite of celery to her lips, adding a little cream cheese to it and chewing thoughtfully. "I have to believe we do, Uncle Jack. I think I only need to convince her of enough to open the portal. Once that happens, we'll have plenty of time."
Jack looked at her seriously, considering her words. "You're going with her," he said flatly. "If you get the portal opened, you're going to go back in time with her."
Hannah returned his gaze evenly. "Yes, I am. And when she has learned enough, accepted enough, we will come back here."
Jack smiled with sad understanding reflected in his eyes. He knew the likelihood of that happening was nil, and he would be losing his niece to a fate decreed long before her birth. Still, he knew from her expression that Donovan was what she needed, so he nodded his agreement. "I believe you, little Hannah. If anyone can make it happen, you can."
She grinned at him enthusiastically. "*We* can, Uncle Jack. I never would have gotten this far without your help."
He dropped the chopped vegetables into the skillet, turning the heat down and stirring as her faced her direction again. "Would you be willing to return the favor... help me with my research a little?"
Hannah wiped her hands on a towel and crossed to the fridge to fix them each a drink. "Sure, Uncle Jack. What can I do for you?"
"Could you list the dates of your dream meetings with Donovan? I think they coincide with some of the more spectacular storms we've had here. I know her presence in this timeline makes the weather go wonky. I just think ya'll's, um... reunions and separations affect it in another way all together."
Hannah blushed slightly and nodded. "Sure. Let me go get my diary."
They sat down to dinner with Jack's notes and Hannah's diary between them making comparisons. There wasn't much conversation except to point out similarities and slight differences between dates and occurrences.
"It's almost like there is a lag," Jack commented absently.
"Time for the portal to open and close, perhaps?"
"Very possible." Jack looked directly at Hannah now. "Are you going to try to see her tonight? In her real time, I mean."
Hannah nodded. "I've been waiting for the storm to clear," she said, regarding the clearing skies that reflected back to her in the setting sun. "I think our encounter earlier may have been enough to open the door."
"And if it wasn't?"
She shrugged. "If it wasn't, we'll try again. I'm not giving her up, Uncle Jack."
He smiled at the fire in her eyes and voice. "I am proud of you, Hannah," he said unexpectedly. "Never forget that, okay?"
She looked at him quizzically, then stood and wrapped her arms around his neck. She planted a kiss on his relatively unlined face. "I won't, Uncle Jack. I'm pretty proud of you too."
"Donovan, are you sure about this?" Mama asked again. The Captain had wakened from her rest with the color in her face restored and her spirits high. Mama secretly wondered if perhaps the illness had gotten to Donovan and given her a touch of madness. It was the only explanation she could find for Donovan's odd behavior.
"Yes, Mama," Donovan answered patiently with just a touch of humor in her voice. "I am sure. I need to get home so I will be there when Hannah comes back."
"I do not understand, but I can see this makes you happy."
"It does, Mama. It does very much. And I promise, if we can, we will come back and explain it all to you later."
Mama nodded, accepting that. "You are still coming to the ball, yes? The celebration is in two days."
Donovan smiled rakishly. "Yes ma'am. It is tradition, you know, and I think Hannah is looking forward to it. She has sent for a special costume for the masquerade."
Mama smiled at Donovan's enthusiasm. She hoped Donovan was correct in her reasoning for Hannah's absence. She had really liked the young writer, and knew without doubt that Donovan's future was tied to Hannah. She just wished she understood why Hannah had disappeared when Donovan had needed her the most.
"Have you seen it?" Mama picked up the thread with no outward indication of the thoughts that were running through her mind.
"No. It had not arrived when we got separated."
"No peeking, then," Mama said, shaking a finger in her direction with a smile. "You know the rules, Captain."
Donovan shook her head. She knew the rules, and so far, she had chosen no one by the unmasking. She'd been hoping to escort Hannah, but maybe this way would be better. It would settle the rumors and the speculation once and for all.
"I know, but I will be with her at the unmasking."
"You are so sure then?"
"Good," was all Mama said as Donovan stepped out the door.
Debendra made sure Donavan got back to her cottage safely, then Donovan shooed him out of the house. She was anxious to take a look at her bathing room to see if she could incorporate some the knowledge Hannah had imparted earlier. Strangely, since meeting with Hannah in their dreams, Donovan felt no residual sickness.
She smiled, reliving the time they had spent simply holding one another. That intimacy was something she found she craved more than she'd ever thought possible, and she hadn't realized it until it was nearly taken away from her forever. Donovan shivered suddenly at the agony the mere thought left in her heart.
She sat down, staring at the painting of herself and Hannah and trying to catch her breath. She wished Hannah had not asked Donovan to wait for her to try the portal first. She had an impulsive, overwhelming need have Hannah here and in her arms.
Donovan stretched out on the couch, closing her eyes and wishing for Hannah's presence.
Hannah stood for a moment at the end of the path watching as the sun slipped beneath the horizon. Then she took a deep breath and turned her steps towards Donovan's cottage.
She didn't feel the coolness she had come to associate with the portal, and her heart sank. Still, she continued on her way to the bungalow.
Hannah turned into the pathway, and felt her spirits pick up when she saw the building was once again in good repair. She made her way up the steps and rapped lightly on the door before pushing it open and stepping across the threshold.
She looked around and noted with satisfaction that the room had been restored, and the painting was back to its original design.
"Donovan? Donovan?" Hannah called out as she entered the kitchen. Her heart dropped again as she made a quick tour of the house and realized that she had not crossed into Donovan's time, but she was encouraged by the state of her surroundings. Things were looking up, and that was a good sign.
She traversed the small space back to the couch and lay down, hoping to find Donovan waiting for her in their dreams.
Donovan opened her eyes at the light stroking of her face. She smiled when she saw Hannah, and pulled her down for a welcoming kiss. They were slightly breathless when they separated, and Hannah withdrew just enough to rub noses with Donovan.
"It did not work, did it?" Donovan asked, seeing tears pool in Hannah's eyes. Hannah bit her lip and shook her head negatively.
"Not completely," she answered quietly, "but we have made progress. The cottage has been restored in my time to resemble what it is like in yours. Maybe you should try it. Since the door closed on your side, you might have to be the one that has to step through first to reopen it."
Donovan nodded thoughtfully. "In a peculiar way, that makes perfect sense. Shall I try it now or...?"
"That is up to you, love. I am here in the cottage in my time."
"Very well. Let me wake up and see if I can cross the barrier." Hannah leaned down and brushed Donovan's lips with her own before the dreamscape began to fade.
Donovan woke with a smile of her face, relishing the lingering scent of Hannah she could still smell from the dreamscape. She stretched a bit and rose from the couch, running her fingers through her hair to order it somewhat. Then she stepped out the door, and headed down the beach.
This was the tricky part, Donovan mused as she walked steadily and with purpose. She had to cross the barrier and then return to the cottage where she would hopefully find Hannah waiting. The question was would they be in Hannah's time or Donovan's.
The Captain shook her head. Circular thinking like that could give her a serious migraine. She decided to just go with what she knew, and hope for the best otherwise.
About halfway between the cottage and Jack's place, she felt the familiar, welcome chill. With a brief grin and a triumphant look, she turned and headed back to her bungalow at a run.
Donovan slowed as she reached the path, uncertainty clenching her guts almost painfully. She wanted so badly for this to have worked that she could almost taste it on the back of her tongue. Hesitatingly, she took the stone steps and gradually eased the door open.
She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath then stepped across the threshold.
Hannah twitched at the tickling sensation on her nose and swatted at it half heartedly in hopes it would go away. She rolled over towards the back of the couch mumbling incoherently. The tickly feeling followed, only it transferred its attentions to her now exposed ear. The warm air caused her to shiver, but the nip caused her eyes to pop open.
Hannah swung around swiftly, nearly clocking Donovan in the face with her head. Donovan snapped upright, keeping her hands lightly on Hannah's shoulders. Hannah looked hard at her, then gently raised her own hands to tenderly trace the planes of the now flesh and blood face before her.
"It..." she squeaked, then stopped to clear her throat. "It worked?" she whispered, not needing an answer as she continued to touch Donovan, but getting one just the same.
"It worked," Donovan grinned, leaning down to kiss Hannah again. She could very easily get used to this, and knew without a doubt that she coveted the feeling for eternity.
Hannah responded enthusiastically, wrapping her hands in Donovan's dark hair and pulling her closer still. After a long moment, she released Donovan's lips but not her head and she touched their foreheads together. "Let's not lose this anymore," she instructed. "The dreamscape is nice, but it so pales in comparison to the real thing."
"I concur, Angel. What is our next step?"
Hannah loosened her hold with one hand and leaned back slightly to scratch her jaw. "I think we should try a practical test."
"Tomorrow, I'd like to take you inside Jack's house. Wait..." she added holding up a hand to forestall the argument she could see coming. "A controlled test... one where I control what you see." She chuckled at Donovan's raised eyebrow. "Trust me."
"I do," Donovan answered immediately. "Implicitly."
Hannah kissed Donovan on the end of her nose. "Good, because I do you too."
Donovan got up and lit the few candles in the room and they sat for some time cuddling and just basking in one another's company. Finally, Hannah looked up at Donovan's profile from where her head rested on the Captain's shoulder and sighed. "I don't want to, but I need to get back. There are some preparations I need to make before tomorrow."
Donovan brushed a kiss on Hannah's forehead and sighed, releasing her and standing beside her. "I will walk you home."
"Only partway," Hannah cautioned. "I haven't explained everything yet, and I don't want to take any chances on losing you through that doorway again."
Donovan nodded her acceptance. "Very well." She took Hannah's hand, and the two made their way up the beach back to Jack's place.
Just before they reached the pathway, Hannah turned and Donovan took her in her arms. "I love you, Hannah. I will see you tomorrow."
Hannah wound her arms around Donovan's neck and lowered her lips down to meet Hannah's own. "I love you, Donovan, and you will see me in our dreams."
Donovan captured Hannah's lips, and they took long minutes to leisurely explore one another. When they separated, breathing sporadically, Donovan smiled, and gently pushed away from Hannah. "Good night, Beloved."
Hannah walked backwards slowly away from Donovan. "Happy dreams, my love," she said before turning and making her way up the darkened pathway. Donovan watched until she passed from view, then spun on her heel and raced for home. She had a lot to look forward to.