"Hold still!" Reese chuckled as Auset jerked her head away when the antiseptic that was being applied to her wound stung. "This can't hurt any worse than that cut."
"Ungh...true...I guess I should be thankful that you're going to all this trouble. Which, by-the-way, isn't necessary." At this, Auset tried to sit up in the bed she had been laying in and was again struck by a severe dizzy spell.
"Ah ah, stay down. You got knocked around pretty good back there and there's no concussion so I'm thinking it would be best if you'd just get some rest," Reese said as she finished applying the bandage to the dark haired woman's jaw and lip.
Auset mumbled some sort of agreement and then fell quickly into a healing sleep. The last thing she remembered before surrendering to that was the sight of Reese kneeling next to her and grinning ever-so slightly, a vision that she decided she less-than minded falling asleep to.
After seeing that Auset had drifted off, Reese settled herself down into her favorite chair and simply watched the rhythmic breathing of the woman in her bed until she herself nodded off.
Auset slowly opened her eyes, blinking several times to clear the blurry vision and to allow her pupils to adapt to the dark room. For a minute she forgot where exactly she was, but upon seeing the blonde-headed form curled up in a chair next to the bed, she remembered quite clearly. The girl's face looked totally relaxed and innocent in sleep and Auset caught herself staring, shaking her head to bring a still slightly foggy mind back to reality.
Reese stirred, her eyelids scrunching up and mouth opening into a yawn. Auset watched her eyes open to reveal dazed green orbs that peered around the room and then came to rest on the woman in bed.
"I...uh....hi," Reese muttered as she sat up in the chair and stretched a little.
"Um...what time is it?"
Auset and Reese both glanced over at the clock on the night stand. 11:34. Reese moaned and clasped a hand to her forehead. Auset smirked and hiked an eyebrow.
"Not so late. The night is still young," she offered. Reese sighed and grinned in agreement.
"Yeah, I guess I just didn't expect to fall asleep for that long. By-the-way, how's your head feeling?" the smaller woman asked and reached out to touch the spot on Auset's jaw that, she noticed after lifting the bandage up, now sported an ugly bruise.
"Eh, not so bad. I'll live after all," Auset replied lazily, secretly enjoying the woman's attentions.
"Mm, yeah it looks better," Reese said absently and then went to retrieve some ice in a towel. Auset took the opportunity to fully take in the loft. It was a nice little place, sparsely furnished with the comfortable bed she was laying in and the chair Reese had used. There was a desk with a decent-looking computer hiding amongst the clutter of paper and other debris that had accumulated there. The far wall of the room, where Reese currently was, was equipped with a kitchen of sorts. A few posters decorated the walls; some not-so mainstream but very good female musicians and then some with foreign alphabets or quotes from well-known authors printed on them. She noticed that there was no television, but instead an extensive collection of books that seemed to have claimed an entire corner of the room as their own.
Reese returned with the ice and sat down on the edge of the bed. She gently placed the towel against the bruise on Auset's jaw and then sat back as the woman held it there herself.
"What do you suppose that guy wanted with you, anyway?" Reese inquired. Auset shrugged and adjusted the ice on her jaw.
"Not sure, but since that was the second attempt on my life in a few days, I'm guessing they may be related."
At this, Reese's eyebrows about shot past her hairline and she sucked in an angry breath.
"Wait, what? The SECOND attempt on your life?" she stood and began pacing. "Good gods woman! What do these assholes want? That's not right! You should report this stuff to the police!"
Auset chuckled at how adamant this all had made Reese and sat further up in the bed.
"Hey, calm down," she laughed. "I appreciate your concern...really it's quite flattering," she went on as Reese stopped pacing and stared at her, hands on hips. "But I can't go to the cops. I know what the first guy wanted, so I'm just assuming that the second guy was just an aftershock of that. It's...nothing really...I don't want you worried about it," she finished and looked down at her hands.
Reese crossed her arms in front of her chest and sighed.
"Don't worry about it? I'm sorry Auset, I can't not worry when people are trying to kill a friend of mine," she paused as a thought occurred to her. "Why can't you go to the police?"
Auset shifted uncomfortably. Tell her? Something inside wanted desperately to tell the girl what she was, but was that smart? Just tell her enough for it to make sense. For now.
"I...well...my job...some people don't like what I do and...well, they just really don't like it. So, I guess some of them decide...well...it's just not such a friendly line of work that I'm in, OK?" Well that was pathetic. She sighed and looked up at Reese nervously.
"It's OK, don't worry about it. You don't have to tell me if you don't want--"
"It's not that I don't want to....it's more that I can't," Auset cut her off. "It wouldn't be the best idea right now because I don't want you involved in all this."
Reese sat back down on the side of the bed and looked right at the woman.
"I am involved, whether either of us likes it or not. If you can't tell me, that's fine, but I'm in this now whatever it is. I'm not going to stand by while you get attacked."
"I got that impression when you nailed that wanker in the crotch earlier," Auset chuckled, almost relieved. Tough girl. Reese blushed and glanced down.
"I don't normally resort to...that. But so long as it kept that guy from hurting you any more."
Auset smiled calmly and lifted the smaller woman's' chin so that their eyes met. "Thanks for that, by the way."
There was a pleasant silence for a moment while Reese lost herself in the brilliantly glacier-coloured pools that faced her. There was definitely a calming familiarity in that gaze, something Reese couldn't quite put her finger on, but it was there sure enough. She reluctantly looked away and blushed again.
"Wanna grab a bite to eat?" she offered.
The night air was cool with a fresh breeze coming in off the lake. Some far-off siren was wailing through the evening like a derranged banshee, but it's cries were unheard by the two women sitting inside a warm little coffee shop.
"So, to start with the predictable, what brought you to Chicago?" Auset asked and took a tentative sip of her gently steaming coffee.
"School and this crazy idea of freedom," Reese began. "I've been living here since January, biding my time until school starts in the fall."
"And where is school?"
"Colombia. I somehow managed to score a scholarship there for writing," Reese said rather bashfully. The dark-haired woman sitting across from her looked intruiged.
"You graduate early or something? At least, that's what I'm gathering from you having been 'ere since January."
"Eh, yeah," Reese continued. "I worked my ass off so I could get out of town sooner. Town being Flora, which is in way south Illinois. Nothing but corn for miles. I hated it."
"I can imagine. So you write?"
"Eyah. I guess you could call it that," she looked down at her hands that were cupping the mug of tea she'd ordered. "I've done it since I can remember. I guess the school thought maybe I had potential or something, but I don't think my stuff is all that great."
"I bet it's very good. Colombia doesn't just toss scholarships around," Auset offered with a wink. "But how'd a nice girl from Flora decide on Chicago?"
"Easy," Reese chuckled. "It wasn't Flora. It's a big city, lots of people with different ideas and different things to do. I was going to go for the school furthest away from my dad as possible, but it turned out that I really liked Chicago, a school was going to give me money, and it was in-state tuition," Reese finished and sighed quietly.
"Fair enough. I take it you and your dad don't get along so well?"
There was a pause as Reese stared into her tea for a second before answering. "Not so well, no."
Being tossed against a wall like a rag doll takes a lot out of a nine-year-old. This was the worst fit since the time Reese had come home from playing with her friend, covered in mud and torn clothes. Her father had taken one look at her and gone into a blind rage, slapping her across the face and shaking her until she couldn't see straight. This time it wasn't even her offense, but simply dad taking out his anger towards her mother on Reese. She laid, curled up on the floor next to the wall, and stared silently at her father's figure pacing back and forth through the room. He stopped and looked at her, and she saw immense pain there. At least it was daddy again and not the crazy monster that had been there only moments before. She wasn't sure exactly why daddy hurt her, but she figured that he must have his reasons. He always apologized to her and her mother later, so she figured that maybe this time he really wouldn't ever do it again. It was just that this time, she wasn't so sure she could get up. Andrew, one of her younger brothers, found her in the same spot an hour later and told their mom, who immediately took Reese to the emergency room where she told doctors her little girl had merely fallen down the stairs. A fall that gave her a broken leg, two fractured ribs, and a concussion.
Auset took the lengthy pause and a far-off look in Reese's eyes as a hint that maybe this wasn't something to be discussed...at least not yet. She smiled as she made an attempt to change the subject. "So how'd you come to meet Dade? Cute guy."
"Oh Dade," she gladly went along with the new conversation. Thinking about her father was something she usually avoided at all costs. "I met him at The Omega, oddly enough. I'm not usually one for picking up people at clubs, but it just sorta happened that way."
"I know how it goes. He seems pretty cool. I'd seen him at Discordia a few times before the night I bumped into you there."
"So," Reese smiled impishly and sipped her tea. "Now that I've divuldged all this 411 about myself...it's my turn to ask the predictable and corny pick-up line-ish questions."
Auset chuckled and sat back in her chair. "Not much to know. I was born in London, like I've said, and then moved to just about every contintent over the following years until we settled in Brisbane, Australia so I could go to high school. That's where I graduated from. I came back stateside to go to university and all that 'cos I have dual citizenship in the US and the UK."
"That's handy," Reese said.
"Indeed. I'm thinking of living in London for a while sometime. But I digress," at this she waggled her eyebrows. "I dropped out of uni shortly after starting and I've been doing my own thing since."
Reese shifted in her seat and finished her tea off. She eyed the empty cup, remembering something Auset had said, and then decided to be bold.
"I wanna meet this friend of yours, Ash."
The club wasn't as crowded as it had been the last time Reese had been there. Auset had gotten them in for free and was now leading them toward the bar, where Ash stood absentmindedly polishing a glass and staring at the two as they approached.
"Well I'll be damned--" he started with a smirk. "This has got to be a record! Auset, I'm worried, you've been out more in one week than you usually are in a month! Are you feeling okay?" the bartender teased as he noticed a mildly menacing look creep over the taller woman's features.
"Very funny Ash," Auset said and raised a mildly amused eyebrow at him.
"Actually," Reese interjected. "It was my idea. I wanted to meet you."
"Well then! I am honored to meet the girl who can get the old stick-in-the-mud out of her Pit! I'm just hoping that it didn't require force?" he asked, staring curiously at the bandage on Auset's jaw. She merely scowled at him and shook her head. Reese looked slightly insulted.
"Uh, no. This came courtesy of some nice fella who came at me earlier on my way to meet Reese--who was actually the one who helped me by kicking his ass," Auset said with a sideways glance to Reese, who had taken to looking at her feet with a touch of embarrassment.
"Oh really? Came to her rescue, eh? This story just gets better and better!" Ash beamed. A girl who could get Auset outside and kick some ass when asses needed kicking? And to top it off, a girl that Auset will actually accept help from? A miracle indeed.
"It wasn't much of anything really," Reese began timidly. "I don't normally resort to violence."
"Nonsense! You deserve a drink girl!" Ash proclaimed and grabbed a glass from the shelf, tossing it into the air with a flourish and than catching it and placing it on the surface in front of Reese. "What'll it be, honey?"
The blond woman giggled and shrugged, then gave in easily and replied, "Ah...how about bourbon, straight up."
Ash paused for a split-second, sizing up the small yet sturdy woman standing before him who was ordering a rather stiff drink. "Hard hitter! Bourbon it is!" he finally said and with a chuckle of disbelief, lifted a bottle and poured the amber liquid into the glass. Auset stared at Reese and grinned.
"Bourbon?" she asked.
"Heh, yeah. My drink of choice, but I don't get to have it very often what with my waitresses wages and all," Reese replied as she took the glass and downed the liquid in one gulp. Auset continued to stare in disbelief as Ash smiled and poured her another.
A few hours later, the trio sat around a small table near the back. Ash and Reese were knocking back drinks and telling stories in between fits of boisterous laughter while Auset contented herself to just sit back, watching and listening to the goings-on with a faintly amused look on her face.
"I'm telling you, I'd never seen a grown man soil himself in fear until that night. I don't think he ever got the urine stains out of those slacks!" Ash burbled with delight and slapped Auset playfully on the shoulder. "You sure taught him a lesson, eh killer?"
The taller woman scowled at her drunken companion and shook her head. She was a little tipsy herself, though she's never admit that to everyone else.
"Really?" Reese slurred happily. "There is just no end to these stories! Auset, you are a interesting character if I ever did meet one! You..are my hero," she continued, pointing a shaky finger at the woman seated across from her. A voice somewhere in the back of Reese's head was telling her that she was extremely drunk and that she should probably feel bad because this was happening more often now, but she was very determined to ignore that voice. The stories that Ash was providing about her new friend were just too rich.
"I wouldn't go that far," Auset muttered and took another sip of her beer.
"No, no really! You are my hero!" Reese insisted as her head lolled dangerously to one side. The steady progression of her drunkenness had not gone unnoticed.
"Well, I'll do something to live up to that and get you a cab so we can get you home," Auset suggested as she slowly got to her feet.
"A good idea, judging by the state of our blonde-headed friend here," Ash said and then turned to the girl in question and continued in a conspiratorial tone. "And I can tell you some more stories later."
Reese giggled and nodded in agreement before allowing herself to be helped to her feet by Auset. They hailed a cab outside of the club and Auset helped the very tipsy woman into the back seat and told the cabby the address for Reese's loft. The ride back was spent in relative quiet, save the occasional grumble or moan issued by Reese as she unconsciously snuggled up to Auset's side. Upon reaching the apartment, Auset handed the driver his fare and carefully extracted a dozing Reese from her lap. They maneuvered their way up into the loft and Auset carefully lowered the shorter woman into her bed.
"Mffmfgph. Thanks," Reese mumbled as she collapsed easily onto the mattress, forgetting to let go of Auset's arm and effectively pulling her down with her. Taken off-guard, Auset tumbled over into the bed in a position so that Reese had her head resting on her outstretched arm. She blinked a few times, stunned, and then gave in to the part of her brain that was clouded with alcohol and wanted nothing more than to get some sleep. Reese wriggled further into the taller woman's form and issued a contented sigh that smelled strongly of bourbon.
"My beeeeaaauuutiful hero," she mumbled happily and then passed out. Auset shook her head in amused shock, and then took a moment to listen to the rhythmic breathing of the smaller woman who was curled up next to her. As she contemplated the fact that this was the nicest way she had gone to sleep in ages, she did just that.
Morning light streamed in through an open window and directly into the faces of two soundly slumbering forms that were curled up, quite cozily with each other, on the bed in the middle of the loft. The taller, dark-haired one of the duo stirred slightly and yawned. Sleepy eyelids fluttered open to reveal astoundingly blue eyes that began peering cautiously around the room.
At first, Auset was very alarmed at her unfamiliar surroundings, but the previous nights' events slowly made themselves known to her memory and she gazed down at the disheveled blonde head that was resting in the place where her upper arm met her shoulder. Apparently, if she remembered correctly, they hadn't moved all night.
It then occurred to Auset that upon waking up and realizing how snuggled up they were, Reese might be a touch embarrassed or even angry, seeing how drunk she had been the night before. Auset decided to carefully disentangle herself from the sleeping form of Reese, but as she began to stir, two deep green and sleep-clouded eyes peered up at her. The blonde looked startled for a moment, apparently realizing that she basically had Auset pinned down.
"I...uh...oh man, I'm sorry. I didn't realize..." she began drowsily.
"No, it's okay."
"I practically have you trapped! Could you breathe? Could you move? I'm sorry--" Reese started to ramble nervously.
"Really, it's all right!" Auset chuckled. "I slept fine, it's no big deal."
Blushing quite deeply, Reese rolled away (reluctantly, as what she really wanted to do was just curl up again in the nice warm place she had been in all night and go back to sleep--if it weren't for the splitting headache and the extreme embarrassment). She glanced over at the front door and noticed that a note had been slipped under it and was lying on the floor, waiting to be read. Auset looked over at what had captivated Reese's attention and frowned. She knew immediately who the note was for and who it was from.
"It's for me," she said simply and walked over to retrieve it. The message was indeed for her, as "Auset" was written in stylish cursive on the front. She had received a number of notes in this manner, but felt slightly unnerved by the fact that the sender had found her here, at Reese's loft. The last thing she wanted was for her writer friend to become involved in the more unpleasant details of her life.
Reese had now gotten to her feet, quite carefully, and ambled over to stand beside the dark haired woman.
"You're getting messages at my house?" she asked, trying to laugh but feeling a little unsettled by the fact. Auset nodded absently and unfolded the note. Reading to herself, it said:
"My little Hawk has found a new nest? I'm glad to see that the peon that made a feeble attempt at offing you was unsuccessful--not that I have any doubts in your ability to deal with such things. I have a job for you. The details of which are waiting for you at your home. I suggest you put aside personal pursuits for now and concentrate on this.
Auset stared at the note for a moment after she finished reading and then slipped it into her pocket.
"Anything important?" Reese asked curiously. She hadn't read the note, as snooping over people's shoulders into their personal mail was not her style.
"Kinda. I need to get home to follow this up," she paused and stared apologetically at Reese. "Work stuff." The blonde nodded in understanding and walked over to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water to down some aspirin with.
"I'm...sorry...about last night--" she began, as she struggled with the child proof lid on the pill bottle. Auset held up her hand and grinned.
"Really, there's nothing to be sorry about. I had...a really...um...nice time," the hacker finished awkwardly. "I'll call you?"
"Yes. OK. Yeah, today's my day off, I'll be around."
At that, the taller woman nodded and smiled, a genuine smile, and walked out the door.
The cap of the bottle suddenly decided to surrender the fight and jerked open, causing pills to fly across the room. Reese let out a soft shriek and chased the runaway medicine down. "This hangover business is getting silly," she thought as she returned most of the aspirin to their home in the bottle, save two which she promptly tossed into her mouth and washed down with some water. "She's getting mail at my house," she said aloud, a touch amazed. The writer's thoughts then turned to her rather embarrassing sleeping habits from the previous night. She ambled over to the desk with the computer and plopped down in the chair, still clutching the glass of water in one hand. With a jiggle of the mouse, the screensaver disappeared and the familiar desktop appeared with an open document containing the story she was currently working on in the foreground.
So you snuggle up to warm bodies in your sleep. Big deal, right? It's excusable; you were sleeping after all. Yeah, but if you care to remember any of the details from last night, fuzzy though they are, you did pull her down into the bed with you. Can't I just blame that on being drunk?
Reese gave up on the subject and focused her attention on the story in front of her. No use worrying much over it now. It was done and she wasn't angry. And it certainly was nice....
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