by Emily Mills
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Meeting Andrew at the house went without incident, as their father had already
stumbled off to work for the day. Reese's younger brother was indeed sporting
a black eye that morning, but that seemed to be the extent of the damage. He looked
terrified though and was shaking badly. The blonde placed a comforting hand on
his shoulder and gazed sadly at him.
"Some things never change," she said quietly as the three of them headed for the
"It was so strange though, Reese. After you left, he let into me like usual but
then he got real calm and started crying, going on about how he'd lost his little
girl. I never heard him talk like that before," Andy said as he slid into the
back seat with Ione. Reese took her place behind the steering wheel and turned
the key in the ignition. She mulled that over in her head but said nothing. "But
then he worked himself up again and started yelling about why you'd be back."
He paused and took an uneven breath. "He started asking me why you'd come back.
He accused me of it having something to do with me, Reese...he..." his voice trailed
off as Reese turned in her seat, her face full of apprehension.
"He knows." It was a statement. Andy nodded his head weakly and stared at his
feet. Ione began crying and leaned her head on her boyfriend's shoulder.
"That was the strangest thing, because he got real red and angry, but then he
just turned around and went to bed. I haven't seen him since. But he knows. He
knows all about why you're here today," he practically sobbed. "I couldn't...I
had to...oh God, I'm sorry."
"It's all right Andy, we'll get this done. He's at work. He can't do anything
right now. And I'll figure something out, I promise," the blonde stated reassuringly
and then, after seeing that Andrew had regained some of his composure, she pulled
the car away from the house and drove on in the direction of the clinic.
Something unusual caught Reese's attention as they neared the building. A large
group of people, carrying signs and shouting, had formed a crowd out front of
the clinic. They were protesters.
"Shit," she mumbled to herself. "We'll just go around back like usual, I guess,
and maybe they won't see us."
"Aw crap," Andy said dejectedly when he saw what was going on. Ione just buried
her head further in his shoulder.
"C'mon, we'll be OK."
Reese parked that car in the lot out back as she had the day before and the three
got out and made there way to the door. It was locked. There was a sign on it
that read, "Please use front door, this one broken."
"Just our luck," Andrew lamented. Reese squared her shoulders and straightened
"We'll go to the front then. No big deal. Fuck 'em."
Ione chuckled half-heartedly and followed with Andrew behind his older sister
as they made their way to the front of the building. When a few members of the
crowd noticed the trio and where they were headed, the shouting began.
Ione and Andrew kept their heads down as Reese ushered them through the jeering
mob and towards the front door that beckoned to them. A man from the clinic rushed
out then and helped them make it through the crowd which was quickly growing more
and more violent. At last they made it inside with the door shut firmly behind
"Sometimes I just don't understand people. How can they be so hateful when they
claim to be 'on God's side'?" Reese asked, amazed and sad. The man who had helped
them shook his head and shrugged.
"Some people get caught up in an idea that they're damned sure is the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them God, that they start losing
sight of the real truth, I think. And they get mean and stupid."
"I guess so," Reese agreed. "And thanks for helping us out."
The receptionist spoke up then and addressed Ione, who was clutching nervously
"The doctor will see you now. You two can wait out here and make yourselves comfortable."
She seemed a little more friendly today, at least, Reese mused. Brother and sister
both gave Ione firm hugs before she went slowly through the door that lead into
the surgery area.
Reese and Andy sat down and made feeble attempts at getting comfortable. It would
be a long couple of hours.
"How has it been?" she asked quietly, after a short while had passed. Andrew looked
up from his clasped hands with a questioning look on his features.
"How has what been?"
"I feel bad having left you alone to deal with dad," Reese went on. "How has he
been? How have you been?"
"Up and down. The drinking's just as bad, if not worse. You and mom got out at
a good time, and don't regret doing it either, Reese. I was so happy for both
of you when you left. I mean, sure, I'd like to go too, but..." his voice trailed
off and he looked back down at the floor.
"You shouldn't have to deal with this alone, Andy," Reese finished for him. "I'm
sorry I left you like that." She could feel a little moisture gathering in her
eyes, but she willed herself not to let it drop. "Have you talked to mom at all?"
"A few times, when dad wasn't home." Here he looked back up, tears appearing in
his own eyes. "I miss her, Reese. I really miss her."
Without another word, Reese moved off her own chair and enveloped her brother
in a heartfelt hug. After a moment, he returned the gesture, clasping his arms
around her, and they stayed like that for a time. Finally they pulled away and
Reese held his chin in her hand affectionately.
"I promise you, Andy, I will get you and Ione out of here. I will figure out something,
some way of helping dad. This needs to be over."
"Thank you. Thank you so much for everything you've done, Reese, I don't know
how I can repay you--" Andrew started but was cut off by a stern but kind look
from his sister.
"No, Andy, this is what family is supposed to do for one another. You owe me nothing.
I love you, I wouldn't do any less." He smiled at her, exhaustion evident on his
young face, and Reese returned the gesture before resituating herself in the chair
that had previously been vacated. "Ione's gonna need all the support she can get
from you when this is done."
"I know, and she'll get it, as much as I can give," Andrew replied with determination.
"And believe me, I've learned my lesson with this. If we're not ready for kids,
we make the precautions to make sure we don't have them."
"Or just refrain from doing what tends to result in children. You are pretty young,
Andy," Reese suggested seriously. He chuckled slightly and blushed a deep crimson.
"Yeah, that's another idea." His sister shook her head and grinned slightly. They
spent the next two hours in companionable silence, anxiously watching the clock
on the wall and trying to drown out the noise of the protesters outside.
Finally, the door to the back opened on a nurse pushing Ione into the room in
a wheelchair. The girl was flushed white, the healthy pallor gone from her skin
and a look of pure exhaustion on her face. Andrew rushed over to her and knelt
beside the chair.
"Everything went just fine," the nurse said reassuringly. "She's a tough young
woman, should be back to normal in a few days, provided she gets lots of rest
"Thank you so much," Andrew gushed as he affectionately rubbed one of Ione's hands
between his own, kissing it at intervals and staring at her nervously.
"Calm down, Andy, I'm OK," Ione insisted gently, smiling at her boyfriend fondly.
Reese walked over then and smiled at the girl.
"Can she walk?"
"Should be able to, but that's more up to her," the nurse answered. Ione nodded
and hefted herself out of the wheelchair. When she stood there was a little hesitation
in her stance but then she steadied and assured the group that she could indeed
"Everything's good then?" Reese addressed the nurse once more. The woman nodded
the affirmative and smiled, her aged face glowing with kindness.
"You get her home and to bed, you've already taken care of everything here. Go
on now," the woman replied. Reese thanked her and then helped Andrew guide Ione
towards the door. As they approached, they were suddenly reminded of the mob that
awaited them just outside.
"Let's just make a break for it," Reese suggested. "Don't let go of her." The
decision made, Reese opened the door and ushered the two out. The screaming began
immediately. People shoved them from all sides and Reese was having a hard time
figuring out which direction the car was in, so crowded were they by the mob.
Andrew clung fiercely to Ione, who was making a valiant effort at moving away
from the crowd as fast as was possible. A woman rushed forward then and shoved
Reese backwards a few steps.
"Godless heathen!" she screamed. Reese, taken off guard, tried to push away from
the woman but was soon enveloped by others who tripped her and shoved her so that
she could not make any progress. She lost sight of Andy and Ione then and fear
began to grip her.
"Andy!" she screamed out above the din. All Reese could hear, however, were the
angry shouts of the crowd. In a last-ditch effort to break free of the crowd,
and because she was growing very agitated, Reese struck out blindly with her fists
and connected with flesh a number of times. She let a satisfied smirk stretch
across her face at that, and continued lashing out as the people started to back
off. Just as she saw an opening that would allow her to slip away, there was a
loud pop just to her left. Reese turned to face the source of the sound just as
a searing pain shot through her torso. The blonde woman looked down at her left
side and noticed a red stain in her shirt. The crowd had backed off considerably
at the sound of the gun going off and there had cleared a space around the stunned
woman. Reese's glance darted around to the faces of the people in search of the
one who had shot her and came to rest on the back of someones' head who was trying
desperately to get away as fast as possible. She was about to take off after them
when a wave of light-headedness swept over her and she stumbled, then fell over
onto the ground, clutching a hand to the bloody hole in her side.
All the noise faded away from her then as her green eyes stared up at the blue
of the afternoon. She couldn't really feel the wound anymore, it was just a dull
throb in the back of her conscious mind. Her head lolled to one side and there,
standing next to her prone form, she saw Auset, smiling knowingly down at her.
The dark-haired apparition knelt beside her and placed a warm hand to her cheek,
blue eyes gazing fondly into her own. Reese smiled, and passed out.
Andrew and Ione had made it just passed the crowd when they heard the gunshot
and simultaneously whirled around to see what had happened. When they saw the
crowd part and Reese standing there, looking down at the bullet hole in her side,
they were frozen to the spot. When she fell, Andrew turned to Ione and told her
to stay there. He rushed over, shoving his way through the stunned crowd until
he was at his sister's side. She was unconscious, a rather peaceful look on her
features. Was she smiling?
"Call an ambulance!" he screamed. Ione came up next to him and he heard her choked
sob. "Call an ambulance you fucks!"
Auset made it back to her apartment as the city was settling in for another night.
She arranged her suitcases next to the bed and looked around. Ephiny, Reese's
cat, was prowling around on the nest, mewling unhappily and eyeing the dark-haired
"Hey there," she addressed the feline and walked over to it. "Where's your mom?"
Auset glanced around the apartment. Reese had said she would be home by then.
A tiny knot made its presence known in her stomach then and she noticed the flashing
voicemail indicator on her computer monitor.
"Play," she commanded. It responded in kind.
"Auset...uh, this is Andrew, Reese's brother?" a shaky male voice began. Uh-oh.
"I, um, have...bad news. Reese took me and Ione to the clinic...ah, for Ione's
abortion..." So that was what was going on. "...and, uh, there was an incident.
Reese was shot by someone on our way out, one of the protesters. She insisted
that I call and tell you that she was, heh, sorry about not being back when she'd
said. She's stabilized, they have her at the hospital here and--" The rest of
the message fell on an empty room. Upon hearing that her friend had been shot,
Auset had grabbed her smaller suitcase and run right back out of the apartment,
leaving a somewhat confused Ephiny pacing anxiously around the computer.
She made her way down to the garage where her new car waited. The hacker jumped
inside, threw her belongings into the passenger seat, and started up the car.
There had been no decision really, she just immediately knew that she had to go
to Flora. Now. There was no other option. She slammed down on the gas and the
sports car peeled out of the garage, then barreled down the city streets en route
to the interstate that would take her south.
Auset drove all night, sleeps' enticing offers not even having half a chance at
distracting the determined woman. Again there was the disconcerting flood of emotion
that rushed over her when Reese's safety was concerned. Someone had shot her!?!
Auset's fists clenched the steering wheel tightly, tendons bunched and white.
Whoever was responsible, she decided with fierce determination, would not live
to see another day.
Reese was aware of a blinding white light shining down on her. Am I dead? she
wondered briefly before things started to come into focus. She was lying down
in a bed, Andy on one side of it and a man in doctor's scrubs on the other.
"Morning, Reese," the doctor said, smiling. Andy grinned down at her and placed
a comforting hand on her arm, which she looked down and noticed had an IV tube
running from it.
"Mfm," she grunted. Andy gave a half-hearted chuckle and looked at the doctor.
"She'll be OK, right?"
"Yep, she's one heck of a fighter." He looked down at the woman in question. "You're
in the hospital, Reese. Do you remember what happened?"
The blonde woman took a moment to assess her memory. She remembered coming out
of the clinic, and yes, being shot was definitely emblazoned upon her memory.
"I was shot."
"Yes, in your left side. You got lucky though, the bullet didn't hit anything
important, you just initially lost a lot of blood. But thanks to your brother's
quick thinking, you were brought to the hospital in time for us to patch you back
up." The man smiled, his pale blue eyes smiling right along with his age-touched
face. "I'm Doctor Bremner."
"Good to meet you," she said and smiled weakly.
"We need to keep you here a little while for observation, and there's a good chance
that the local authorities will be in to question you folks about what happened...but
I won't let them in until you think you're up for it, OK?" he continued.
"All right. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Reese. You're a strong woman. Take it easy now and I'll leave
you alone with your brother here while I go make sure everything is as it should
be. Poor guy's been driving us all crazy making sure you were OK," the doctor
finished and winked at Andrew, who gave a sheepish grin and turned back to face
"What's up?" she asked, her voice scratchy. Andrew chuckled a little and shook
"You are something, Reese, ya know that?" She laughed weakly and closed her eyes
for a moment, gathering up what strength she had left. "They operated on your
for most of last night and then you slept for a while. I was...really worried.
But I called Auset and left a message for her, like you said."
"I said?" she questioned, not remembering having been awake since being shot.
"Uh, yeah, you were...um...having a nightmare earlier this morning and when we
woke you up you insisted that I call Auset's apartment and let her know that you
were sorry about not being back yet. Really sis, if she's a decent human being
she'd be more concerned about you being shot than not being back to water the
plants on time," he chided good-humoredly.
"I guess...I don't remember that," Reese replied quietly.
"Understandable, I guess you weren't really with it at the time. Some nightmare
you were having too. But you're OK now. You should sleep." He grinned down at
her and then moved slowly towards the door.
"Thanks Andy," she said. He smiled again and then went out the door, shutting
it quietly behind him. Reese lay back again and stared up at the pock-marked ceiling
with weary eyes. The drug-induced cloud still swirled around her head and she
decided that it would be best to try and get some sleep. Sleep would also relieve
her from the soreness in her body where the wound was.
The dream started off well enough. She was sitting in the middle of a small clearing
amidst a vast forest. Legs crossed, eyes closed, breathing deep. A barrage of
stimuli hit her senses then--she could clearly hear a bird singing in a tree to
her left, the wind rustling leaves in the canopy above, some small animal dashing
through the underbrush and her own breathing, quiet and relaxed. A single beam
of sunlight broke through the foliage and warmed the skin on her thighs. At that
moment she was fully apart of the woods. She had no thoughts other than those
of the nature that she was within.
And then there was a presence at her back. A gentle hand, callused and warm, pressed
down lightly on her bare shoulder. She raised her own hand to cover the one on
her shoulder, keeping eyes shut, and smiled. There was no question as to who it
was--she knew--and the peace she felt increased at this persons' arrival; the
final part of the whole come sliding home. Complete, at last.
But then there was another sound, foreign in the woods, that forced its way into
the space. A loud bang, and then screaming, and her heart was filled with panic.
She reached a hand out for the person who had been behind her, the person she
needed, and felt only empty air. Jumping to her feet, she made to look around
but was suddenly incapacitated by a sharp pain in her side. She clutched her hand
to the pained area and when she brought back up it was covered in her own blood.
Her mouth opened in a scream but nothing came out but a rush of deafening wind.
The presence returned at her back then and the panic left momentarily, but soon
was replaced by complete and total fear and sadness as she felt herself being
pulled into the now dark woods by some unseen force. She tried to run to the dark-haired
woman, but her feet would not move and she could not break free from whatever
was pulling her away. Auset's figure grew smaller and smaller as she was dragged
further into the dark and then, just before she lost sight of the woman, she was
sucked forcefully back into consciousness.
She was struggling, trying to get free of the thing that had been dragging her
away, but someone was holding her limbs down.
"Reese! Calm down, it's me!"
Awareness dawned on her then, the distinctive voice finally registering in her
muddled brain. She blinked her eyes open and tried to bring the fuzzy images into
The hacker placed a warm palm on Reese's sweating forehead and smoothed back the
"Yeah, it's me."
"But how did...?" the question fell unsaid from her lips, amazement showing across
"I got your brother's message and drove out right away," Auset stated simply.
Reese remained silent for a moment, letting everything sink in.
"You...drove? All this way? What time is it?"
"A little before noon," her brother's voice piped up. Auset saw the question in
Reese's eyes and answered before she could give voice to it.
"I drove all night."
"Oh," was all the blonde woman could manage to say. "Wow." Auset chuckled and
sat down in the chair next to Reese's head.
"You were having another nightmare when she showed up. Quite a doozy too, but
she helped calm you down," Andrew added, grinning happily at the tall woman who
had suddenly burst onto the scene as he and some of the nurses had tried to get
Reese to snap out of the dream.
"Thanks...I mean, for everything. For being here. You didn't have--"
"No, I did," Auset cut her off, giving one of her trademarked lop sided grins.
The two just looked at each other for a silent moment, letting their eyes get
reacquainted with the others' color. Andrew grabbed the hint that had been flying
around the room and excused himself and the other nurses from the room.
When they'd gone, Reese tried to sit up a little, grunting as a sharp pain shot
up her side. Auset helped position a pillow so that she could sit up, a little,
"Take it easy. You're shot, remember?" the hacker joked. Reese snorted and shook
"How could I forget?" She paused, still staring at and not believing that Auset
was really there. "I can't believe you're here."
"Believe it. I was finished in Dallas anyway," she said and shrugged. "I couldn't
very well not come and make sure for myself that you were all right. That and
the fact that some bastard is gonna pay for this and I plan on taking care of
"Auset, the police--"
"No, the police never get anything done. Whoever the sonofabitch is, I'll find
out and make sure they never hurt anyone again," Auset growled, her eyes gone
icy with malicious intent. Reese took one of the dark-haired woman's hands into
her own and squeezed it as she stared intently into the blue eyes.
"Auset, I can't tell you how much it means that you've come all this way...but
if you think I'm going to let you do something that might mean you being taken
away from me..." she stated firmly, not really caring how it might sound. Auset
was at a loss for words. After a moment of the battle between two very stubborn
wills, she finally gave in, shoulders slumping in defeat.
"OK, I won't do anything, for now."
"Good enough," Reese said and allowed herself to relax a little.
"I was so...worried...when I got the message," Auset began clumsily, gazing down
at their still grasped hands. "I didn't know...I thought...I just got here as
fast as I could. I'm so glad you're all right."
Reese smiled happily and brought Auset's hand up to her lips and placed a brief
kiss there. Had Auset been the blushing type, she would have been bright red then,
but as it was she tried not to choke and focused her eyes on something very captivating
on the floor. Deciding to grab the proverbial bull by the horns, Reese placed
a finger to Auset's chin and gently raised the woman's face so that the suddenly
timid blue eyes were on a level with hers again.
"I missed you," the blonde said quietly.
"I missed you too," Auset replied, her mind lost in the deep green gaze that had
locked onto her own. Something passed between them then, something unseen but
very much understood by both. They could see it in each other's eyes. It was very
much like the thing Reese had felt in the beginning of her dream, that same peace.
Before either parties involved were really aware of it, they had brought their
faces closer together, barely an inch apart. Apprehension dawned on Auset's face
but then disappeared in a flash when Reese closed the remaining distance between
them and pressed warm lips against her own. A wonderfully calming sensation flooded
through their senses as the kiss lingered, both lost in the overwhelming emotion
that was conveyed through such a simple action. It was not fiery and did not leave
either Reese of Auset hungry for anything else. It was simply a single action
unto itself, something that was given and received with no strings attached.
As they each pulled away slowly, Auset opened her eyes to see that Reese still
had hers shut, a magnificent smile affecting her entire face. The sight was infectious
and Auset found herself smiling giddily in reaction. When the blonde finally opened
her eyes, she just shook her head in amazement.
"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that for."
Auset chuckled. "Really," she replied sardonically. "Right back at ya."
Before anyone could say more, the door opened and Doctor Bremner entered, clipboard
in hand. He looked up and paused for a moment, then continued forward until he
stood on the opposite side of Reese's bed from Auset.
"Your tests show that everything went according to plan. Like I said though, you'll
need to rest quite a bit for a while, take some medication that I'll prescribe
for you, and come in after about a week so we can check the wound and redress
it a few times."
"I need to go back to Chicago though," Reese interjected. Auset raised an eyebrow
at her but remained prudently silent.
"Oh, I wasn't aware of that."
"I live there now. I was just in town to visit my brother."
"Well, you need to stay here in the hospital for at least a day, and then if all
looks well I can discharge you and transfer your files to a hospital nearby to
where you live up there," he offered, flipping through the pages on the clipboard.
"Thank you, Doctor."
He nodded and then walked over to the drip bag that was hanging nearby. The doctor
replaced the near-empty bag with a new one, checked the tube that went into his
patient's arm, and then exited the room again.
"Nice fella," Auset said. Reese smiled and turned her gaze back on the woman next
to her. There were raised voices coming from the hallway all of the sudden, and
then the door flew open again. Reese's eyes grew wide in recognition.
Auset reacted immediately, her body growing tense and her steely gaze immediately
fixed on the large man that hovered in the doorway. Reese's father stood, flanked
by two other men, all of them in uniform. He glared at his daughter and took a
"What the HELL is going on?"
Continued in Part 6...
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