Extended Intentions

By Jynaki

March 2007

Attention: This is a sequel to the novel, Extension 147. It is suggested that you read it first so that Extended Intentions will make sense to you as you read.

General Disclaimer: The physical descriptions and characteristics of the people in this story may remind you of someone especially when dealing with the effects of aging, Alzheimer's Disease, and Long Term Care. But they are truly all my own creations. This tale came from my own bizarre imagination. The only real character in this entire work of fiction is Thumper. She is my baby. She has signed her rights to me for a rawhide bone.

Violence/Language Disclaimer: This story does have scenes of mild violence and/or their aftermath. It does contain bad language and angst.

Hurt/Comfort Disclaimer: This story has some parts that may be deemed as such.

Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between consenting adult women and may contain scenes of explicit intimacy. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, use your back button and choose something else.

Acknowledgement: A whole lot of gratitude and thanks to Pam, the wonderful and talented beta-reader who always seems to catch me with the right questions. Thank you for your time, expertise, effort, and insight to make all my projects a realization.

Feedback: if you want to express your opinion this bard is always happy to receive comments at Jynaki@aol.com

Terminology:

CNA – Certified Nurses Aide. one who provides direct hands on care to patients.

D.O.N. – Director of Nurses. the one who manages the entire nursing department

including CNA's, nurses, physical and occupational therapist.

ARCC – Appleway Rehabilitation and Convalescent Center.

CVA – Cerebrovascular Accident also known as a stroke

*******

________________________ Chapter 5_________________

Dr. Caldwell had his arm around Pax's shoulder as they entered the reptile building. The head of the veterinary department had been hounding Pax for time over the past week to discuss his ideas for remodeling the building. Unable to avoid him or the building any longer, Pax finally scheduled some time. The Board wanted her recommendations on how to best spend the ridiculously large endowment the zoo had just received from a deceased patron. Pax had her own ideas of how to put the money to use. One of them was not in the area known as the snake pit.

Of all the areas in the zoo, the cave-like structure was her least favorite. If at all possible, she avoided the slithering creatures with a fierce passion. The small circular area was created out of a rock formation. Strategically embedded within the rocks were viewing windows into the world of more snakes than Pax cared to meet. Not only did it make her feel severely claustrophobic, but also it made her skin crawl and itch. Lest Dr. Max Caldwell think it was directed at him, she steadied her body so as not to involuntarily shake.

Max spoke to Pax and thoroughly enjoyed himself as he explained what he had in mind for the new snake pit. Most of what he said fell on deaf ears. Pax found it difficult to understand him. His words were more like the hiss of the snakes. What the hell was that kid's name in that movie that could speak to snakes? She questioned herself trying to focus on her colleague. It had to do with those kids at that magic school. I should have paid attention when I watched it with Teela. That's what you're doing Caldwell. Speak English why don't you. Her brow crunched severely over her eyes. Why the hell did I think about her? Damn!

"You don't like that idea Pax?" Max looked at her puzzled, then up to the three Enviro Techs cleaning the area. They stopped momentarily in their duties to look at the pair. "Pax?" He squeezed her shoulder jarring.

"What?" The radio on her waist squawked to like. Her hand absently moved to turn the knob for the volume.

"Something I said that you did not like about the new display?"

No, I reminded myself of someone...I shouldn't have. Her head shook involuntarily to clear all remaining traces of Teela. "No, Max. I was thinking about something else and zoned for a minute. Sorry about that."

"Are you sure?"

No, I'm miserable. "Yeah. Snakes truly are not my favorite ya know."

"Really?" he chuckled.

"Yeah, never have liked them."

"Afraid?"

"Gives me near...Well, I just prefer not to be near them if I can help it."

"That's odd."

"Not really. Some people don't like spiders. I don't like snakes."

Chuckling, "This is true. By the way, how's the leg? I noticed you don't have the cane today."

"Good." She rubbed her right thigh. "Doing real good."

"Still going to therapy?"

"Yeah." She cleared her throat. "You were saying, Max... I agree that the place should be brought forward in time." She forced herself to glance around but not focus on the sparkling clear panes that contained the snakes or the Enviro Tech's that tried desperately not to stare at her.

He clasped her shoulder in a tight squeeze. "I just knew that we would see eye to eye on this thing Pax. Now how much are you thinking of?"

"Let's see what your actual plans look like on paper Max, then we'll talk money. Nice try on bypassing the negotiations pal," she smirked.

"Oh well. Come on, let's talk."

Pax's long legs led her quickly out of the room and into the outdoors. She inhaled deeply and felt the air cool her heated damp skin. She had to wait for Max to catch up to her at the entrance.

"Pax, are you sure you are all right?"

"Yeah." She inhaled the cool crisp air deeply.

"You don't look too convincing."

"Good thing that I'm not an actress then," she weakly smiled.

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"Well let's go have lunch and talk about the plans."

The two left to have lunch.

******

Teela stepped back into Nona Reece's room and began to ask her questions for the second time. She smiled at the ninety-eight year old woman sitting in the customized wheelchair. Because Nona was a tall woman, five eleven, the standard wheelchairs would not accommodate her long frame. As a result, physical therapy became involved with contacting the right service company for one of her own. It took nearly four weeks to arrive but the wait was worth it. It fit perfectly and comfortably.

The stately dressed woman sat erect, as her posture had been all of her life. Her spectacles as she called them were in their proper position upon her nose. The large wedding ring she received on her wedding day more than sixty years ago, hung loosely about the boney finger. The large diamond was not in danger of falling off. The knuckle had become too arthritic, swollen and crooked. It would have to be cut off.

"I'm sorry about that Nona."

"That's alright. What do you want?"

"You were about to tell me what year it is before we were interrupted," Teela smiled.

"Really?" Teela nodded. Nona kept smiling at the social worker.

After a few heart beats, Teela prodded, "What year is it Nona?"

"Nineteen forty-four."

"Can you tell me what day it is as well?"

"Sunday. Went to church with Wilbur." She turned to her left and spoke, "Isn't that right dear? We went to church this morning." Teela followed Nona's gaze and spied the roommate sleeping soundly in the next bed. Wilbur was not visibly in the room at least not to Teela anyway.

"Thank you Nona. I was wondering what state are we in right now?"

"Why Florida of course. Wilbur and I always winter in Florida. Isn't that right dear?" She turned to her left again to confer with her husband.

"Nona, have you heard this phrase, 'People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones'?"

"Yes. All good Christian and god-fearing people have."

"What do you suppose that means?"

"It means, don't throw stones in the house. You'll break the glass. My Joanie and Thomas used to play toss in the house. Broke my tiffany lamp. I tell you what..." she huffed and her face shaded red, "I tanned those little behinds but good I did. Then I sent them out of house the to blow the stink off."

"Mom always threw us outside to blow the stink off," Joanie stood in the doorway laughing.

Teela turned to see a younger version of Nona standing in the doorway. Joanie was good-natured and loved her mother terribly. She visited at least three times a week and sometimes during the weekend so that they could watch Lawrence Welk together. Joanie had confided in Teela once, that she detested the show and the music. But it was something her mother enjoyed. When she and her brother were younger, they would dance with their parents in the living room of their home when the show was on. It was a good way for them to remember the men of the family who have long since passed away.

"Hi Joanie," Teela greeted.

"Hi Teela. Is mom pulling your leg again and telling old stories?"

"Just never you mind," Nona wiggled her finger at her daughter. "You have always been too big for your britches, young lady."

"Thanks mom, but I am far from young." She bent to kiss her mother on the forehead. "The other part is true," she giggled.

"Actually, I was doing her assessment Joanie. Her care conference is in a coupe of days and I wanted to see how she was. Truly." Teela raised both eyebrows hoping Joanie would understand what she did not want to say in front of Nona. Not yet anyway.

"Better than ever and ready to go home," Nona offered. "We can take care of ourselves, can't we dear? She turned to Wilbur."

Joanie looked at her mother and then back to the social worker. A slight nod towards the door and Teela knew she understood her. "Mom, I need to go with Teela and find out what day and time your care conference is. I will be right back okay?"

"We'll be here. You want me to start emptying my closet?"

"Not yet mom. We'll talk when I get back."

Teela followed Joanie out of the room and a few paces away from the door. She glanced at Joanie who showed a mixture of concern and amusement. Teela had difficulty in deciding how to tell her of her findings. Breaking news to a child that their parent had advancing Dementia was never an easy task. Most times it was met with partial understanding as the family member had most likely experienced some of the telltale signs of progressing dementia and disorientation. Other times, after informing the family, the messenger was killed.

"Okay Teela, how long has my mother been talking to my deceased father?"

"About three days now. The Certified Nurses Aides, or CNAs you know, they told me that they heard her one night having an argument with him. Since then, he's been a regular visitor."

"Ok. What does it mean?"

"Could mean several different things really... Because this is new, I most certainly have to guess that the stroke she had a week ago could strongly have something to do with it. She could have an infection of some kind going on. In that case it's what we call a delirium, a sudden onset of change mental status, or a change in personality or behavior because the infection is attacking her system."

"A delirium?"

"Yes. It's like if you or I get a cold. We definitely change right? We get sluggish, want to lie in bed. It knocks us off our game."

"Yeah."

"So something like a cold could make your mom act like she is or see those things."

"Okay. So what do we do?"

"Let me update Cassandra, the Unit Manager, and see what how doctor feels about getting some labs drawn. It's the least invasive place to start. If that's the case, and she has an infection let's say, then maybe a course of antibiotics will knock it out and she won't talk to your father anymore."

"Really?"

"Possible. Not guaranteed that's what's going on, but it's a place to start."

"Okay."

"Actually, is talking to your father such a bad thing?" Joanie asked.

"Huh?"

"She seems to enjoy talking to him, seeing him again after so long. The vision is not causing her any distress or hardship."

"Until he disappears again," Teela responded.

"Aahh good point. Either way, he is here and we will probably deal with that if she has a bad time later."

"Ok."

"We'll keep you updated," Teela promised.

"Thanks. I truly appreciate all of you people. What you do for mom. I know she can be a handful most of the time."

"Not really."

"You and I know better. I grew up with her. She can be snobbish and judgmental as well and rude. I know."

"In that case, I agree." Teel smiled and turned towards the CNA heading her way.

"Teela, they need you on South," the CNA said.

"Why? That's Nica's territory."

"Not when Belle is sitting on a visitors lap in Corrich's room. She refuses to let go. Nica sent me to get you."

Teela rolled her eyes, "Great."

Teela followed the CNA to fetch Belle and save the poor male visitor. Belle was becoming more aggressive in her affection of late. Teela had observed her over the weeks with increasing concern that she was so disinhibited that she did not discriminate with her hugging. Not caring who it was, unless she did not like you and told you so, she would walk up to the person and loop her arm in theirs dragging them on her walk where she wanted. Attempts to gently remove your arm caused her grip to tighten. If you tried to steer her where you wanted to go, she would resist and tug you on her way. Now this.

As they approached the room, Teela's mind worked quickly to come up with a way to get Belle without incident away from the visitor with the least amount of resistance and upset. She did not want Belle to be angry at her either.

Teela stopped in the doorway of the room for Mr. Corrich and his roommate Alan Fedderman. Both men were highly annoyed at the intruder sitting exceptionally close to practically sit on Donald Corrich's lap. Teela nodded to them.

"Belle, there you are!" Teela nearly shouted her surprise and smiled as broadly as she could. Hearing her name, Belle careened her neck around toward the door to see who called her name. Upon seeing Teela, she too beamed a wide smile. "I have been looking all over for you," Teela exaggerated her heavy sigh.

"You have honey?"

"I have. We were supposed to have tea right now and I couldn't find you." Teela opened her arms widely and encouraged Belle to come to her. Come on take the bait.

"I know it honey." Belle hesitated then stood and adjusted her shirt. She carefully walked towards Teela and embraced her laughing. Over Belle's shoulder Teela waved at Donald and his wife. They returned it with a wave of their own.

"Well let's go have some tea before it gets cold. I was worried when I couldn't find you."

"Well you know, we were there and went out you see."

"Well you did not ask me to go." Teela easily led Belle out of the room and turned in the opposite direction from where she and the CNA had came. She paused briefly and whispered to the CNA beside her, "Do me a favor please. Get to dietary and snag two cups of tea. Put them in my office, just in case we make it there. I'll go as slowly as I can okay?"

The nurse's aide grinned at Teela and turned back down the hall in the opposite direction. They had gone several feet when Teela noticed Cassandra coming up the hall.

"Got caught by Belle huh?" Cassandra grinned. Everyone who worked at the ARCC knew Belle and how she loved to latch on and walk.

"Something like that. Listen, we need to do a medical Rule Out on Nona Reece. She is seeing and talking to Wilbur her husband."

"She doesn't have a husband anymore."

Grinning she replied, "He's back visiting her in her room."

"Gotcha. Should I contact dietary about an extra plate for him?"

"Ha ha."

"Sorry." Cassandra looked down into the grinning face of Belle. She couldn't help but return the smile. Sometimes it was just contagious.

"And maybe a psyche evaluation on our girl here. Getting aggressive."

"Gotcha." She walked away.

"You could help you know."

"Naaww." She called over her shoulder. "That's a social worker thing."

"Ha ha. She thinks she's funny Belle."

"Yes. I know it." She laughed joyfully.

Teela and Belle had made it almost back to her office when Nica found them and joined in step. Belle reached out and grasped Nica's hand. Now she had no choice but to go along.

"Hi Belle."

"There she is." Belle jostled their entwined palms.

"Thanks for getting her away from Donald," Nica spoke across Belle.

"No problem."

"I have a favor to ask."

"Another one? What?"

"Cover my Care Conferences tomorrow."

"What about Constance?" Teela inquired.

"Connie is not ready. We've been training that girl for a month and she is still making fundamental errors with the paperwork. I'm not ready to trust her with my families yet."

Constance Barlay, the new social worker to replace their deposed and disposed former Social Service Department Supervisor, Erin Warden. When she had resigned, their administrator agreed to hire a full-fledged social worker, someone who would have a caseload and not purely administrative in responsibility. She even inherited Erin's extension number, 180.

"Ok. Tit for tat someday."

"Deal." She looked at her imprisoned hand and though of an escape that was plausible.

"Wait. How many and who tomorrow?" Teela finally asked.

"Three. Corrich..."

Rolling her eyes, Teela said, "Great."

"Donovan... Belle, honey, I have to go. I need to make a telephone call," Nica hedged and pried her hands out of her grasp.

"Alright honey." Belle released her hand and Nica did not get too far in her escape.

"That's two, Nica. Who's the third?"

"Baldwin."

"Nica...I can't."

"Teela, Felicia will be attending. She called and confirmed."

"Nica...I can't."

"Teela please. I'll double it."

Coming face to face with Felicia could be just as bad as facing Pax. She would still be nervous and uncertain how she would be received being in the same room.

"I swear you owe me big for this Nica."

"Big. Gotcha. Thanks."

******

Teela had talked Belle into stopping at the Improve Program room. She led Belle to a table where the other ladies and gentlemen were busy making Christmas tree decorations and pictures. As expected, Belle took the chair next to the Ben, an unsuspecting male who immediately had Belle's attention.

Teela managed to slip out of the room and closed the door before Belle had noticed she was gone. She made it halfway back to her office before Kathryn Faullman, the ARCC's Admissions Coordinator stopped her. Teela placed a steely grin across her lips. She was about to harass Kat again and have it returned. It was one of the things she loved about the woman. She would never take offense to their bantering over new resident's being admitted.

"Leave me alone Kat and get out of my neighborhood."

"Now Teela, have I ever steered you wrong before?"

"You know you have and you enjoyed every minute of it."

"I need to get the beds filled. You know how Frank is. Besides, I have a really good one for you." She grinned evilly.

"I don't like that satanic look on your face. What are you going to do to me now?"

"Fifty-six year old, had a stroke with some weakness." Kat watched with glee at the open mouthed amazement of her colleague. Sometimes, Teela you are just way too easy. She thought and hurried on, "Coming for rehab." She glances at the papers in her hand. "His Discharge Summary from the General Hospital states that he is willing to quit smoking crack and focus on rehab. Last time he did that was the day before his stroke."

"You have got to be kidding me? They approved of that guy to come here? No way, I don't know the first thing about substance abuse, Kat. He needs to be in a detox unit not here. Besides, he's way too young. The State Surveyors will have a field day about his psychosocial needs," Teela finally inhaled for air.

Letting her friend stew just a moment longer, she then added. "Yeah, I'm kidding."

"God Kat, don't do that to me. I would have to hurt you and go to prison."

"You would make someone's nice little..."

"Don't say it, evil woman."

She burst into laughter, and then sobered almost as quickly. "Actually, they turned that guy down. They did consider it."

"So what do you truly have for me? Make it someone easy. I have had way too many difficult new cases lately."

"Seventy-five year old male from the geriatric psychiatry unit at General..."

Finally arriving at her office, Teela reached for a piece of scrap paper and began to write the information Kate revealed. "Medications?"

"Zyprexa, Depakote, Prozac, Ativan as needed and Tylenol PM at night."

"Good God, Kat. The Tylenol PM can only be for seven to ten days because it's used as a sleeping medication."

"It's a Hypnotic?"

"Yes. What did Cassandra say?"

"Haven't told her yet?"

"When?"

"In an hour."

"Kat!"

"Hey," throwing her hands out in front for defense she continued, "Frank said fill the beds and Hazel approved of him."

Huffing she sat back in her office chair and thought for a moment. I hate when the beds are empty, then they will take people without really considering if staff can handle them or not.

"Ok, I don't have a say in it anyway. When you see Cassandra, tell her to get a standing order for Forensic Geriatric Services to provide the psychiatric follow up here. If you can get a copy of his Involuntary Petition from the psyche unit, that would be great. At least we will have a head start knowing what he had done to put him there and we can monitor for those same things here. Besides, if he started again whatever it was, I can easily ask for him to be re-admitted back onto the psyche unit."

"Sounds like a plan. You're so good."

"Don't even try and kiss up."

Kat burst into laughter and left Teela's office shaking her head. Just then her telephone buzzed. It was one of the CNAs on the unit.

"Teela, Liz is bothering Edna again. She thinks she is her husband and is yelling at him to stop being so lazy."

"Great! I'm on my way."

******

Following his lunch with Pax, Dr. Max Caldwell returned to the infirmary at the zoo to complete to check on the progress of the work he was doing. He opened the door and nearly smashed into Tammy, the new Enviro Tech.

"Tammy, what are you doing here?"

"Hi Doc Caldwell, we were called in to clean stuff." She looked back t her Mentor for support. She smiled and dumps the dustpan full of glass into the brown bag near her feet.

"Someone had an accident?"

"Your assistant Dr. Caldwell," her mentor chimed. "Tammy, finish up here and meet me in the elephant area when you are done. You shouldn't be more than a few minutes."

"Sure thing." He left her alone and she grinned at her friend Doc Caldwell. "How's it going doc?"

"Very good Tammy. How goes things with you?"

"Pretty good as well." She hedged and looked a behind her to make sure they were alone. "I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions doc? It's for a paper I'm writing at school."

"You can ask. Hopefully, I can answer."

"I'm sure you can. I was wondering if you could tell me what kinds of things might spook the animals?"

He stopped and turned too her curiously. "Why would you want to know something like that for?"

"Like I said, it's for a paper I am writing for school and it would help me to be more careful not to do those things while I am working with the animals," she grinned innocently. "I want to make sure I am doing things the right way, ya know?"

"I see."

"I figured if I wanted to know something that important then I would come to you the expert and ask."

Dr. Caldwell puffed out his chest and placed his hand upon her shoulder. "You certainly came to the right person Tammy."

"That's what I thought. So like with the elephants, what shouldn't I do?"

"Oh Tammy, the elephant is a marvelous creature..." Dr. Caldwell began much to Tammy's delight and she listened very carefully.

******

Pax stood next to Felicia in the back of the room. Pax looked on as Felicia continued to talk to other members of P-FLAG about one event or another, or an article that someone may have read. She had been following closely on Felicia heels as she circled the room and introduced Pax as her lesbian sister-in-law.

Pax waited until the latest member drifted away before bending down to whisper into Felicia's ear, "How in the hell did I let you talk me into this?"

"Because you are a very good sport. Besides, this is all because of you anyway."

"For me? I don't think that 'Bring an LGBT Night' is something that is done in my honor."

"Facetiousness does not become you sister dear."

"Death may become you if you don't get me out of here," Pax warned.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pax, Zander and I became involved in this group because of you. We want to learn about gay people and have a support group for ourselves."

"I am not some puppy to be put on display, Felicia. And why isn't Zander here?"

"He is working on a case. Since that promotion he received last month, his hours have gotten longer and not shorter as he had hoped. And...you would make such a nice little Bichon," she smirked.

Pax scrunched her nose making a face at her sister-in-law. "I'm outta here."

"Pax wait," she gripped her arm. "Come on, just a little while longer."

"You have twenty minutes." Pax hated giving in, but Felicia and Zander were trying to understand her lifestyle and the organization is a reputable one. I could lighten up just a little. But I am not a Bichon.

"Thank you Pax. By the way, what are you doing tomorrow at ten?"

"Working. Why?"

"Mother Baldwin's care conference is tomorrow. I told Nica that I would be there but the boys have a dental appointment at the same time. Can you go?"

Her heart thundered at the possibility of running into Teela. "I don't think I can Felicia."

"Why not?" Pax refused to answer then it dawned on her. "It's with Nica, Pax, not Teela."

"I know this."

"You don't have to see her Pax." She hesitated, "Unless you wanted to."

"Ha! Like I'd want to see her." She huffed and shifted from one foot to the other.

"Do you?"

Part of her did anyway, the half that still held feelings for Teela. That fleeting thought was quickly lost to the half that loathed the social worker for her forked-tongue treachery.

Pax's features hardened, "I told you Felicia to don't hold your breath."

"Well I think you secretly do."

"Give it a rest Felicia."

"I know how much she hurt you and the pain is still there."

"No. Really?" Pax exaggerated, "Give it a rest Felicia, please."

"Are you going to let it control your life?" She ignored.

Pax rolled her baby blues to the ceiling and sighed in defeat. Her sister in law was like a bulldog upon a bone. "I'm learning to live with it."

"You're learning to exist with it, big difference."

"Huh?"

"Have you dated anyone lately?" Felicia asked pointedly.

"What has that got to do with..."

"Have you?" Pax glowered at her and refused to answer. "I see. Has anyone struck your fancy or interest in passing? When was the last time that you did something for fun with someone? Outside of me of course?" Felicia grinned.

She thought for a moment before smiling broadly. "Three days ago. Cloe and I hung upside down in a tree in the compound."

Stunned, Felicia mouth was ajar. "You hung upside down in a tree with a monkey?"

"Chimpanzee. Big difference."

"And that was...fun?"

"Sure. Ever tried it? Not as easy as it looks," she laughed.

Felicia shook her head sadly. "You really need to get out more."

"Hey, you did not specify fun with what species."

"I didn't think I had to. You are aggravating sometimes, you know that?"

"Yep."

"Well in case you haven't realized it, which you haven't, you are doing the one thing that you said that you would not do."

"What's that?"

"Pine away waiting for Teela, like she did for Bess."

Pax's eyes snapped to her Sister-in-law's ensuring she witnessed the sudden anger blazing within them. I am not! Am I? But that's exactly what I have been doing actually. She had not dated anyone; she told herself that she did not have time when she really did not want to think of anyone else but the blonde social worker.

Pax came out of her reverie to notice Felicia waving vigorously to someone across the room. The woman returned Felicia's wave, grabbed the arm of the younger woman standing beside her and made their way over to them.

"Hello Mrs. Rippington," Felicia greeted.

"It's Robin."

"Robin. How are you?"

"Fine, and you?"

"Terrific. I'd like you to meet my sister-in-law Pax. Pax this is Robin and ..."

"Amanda, my daughter," she beamed. "Amanda just moved back to Michigan from Seattle a few weeks ago. She works at Smith and Murphy Law Offices."

"Mom..."Amanda groused with embarrassment.

"She should make partner soon. She's extremely smart this one," Robin continued.

"Mom, please!"

"Hello Amanda." Pax and Felicia greeted.

"Don't blame Robin, Amanda. She is very proud of your accomplishments."

"Then why do I feel as though I'm in high school when she talks like that?"

"It's a mom thing," Felicia laughed. "Pax returned this past spring from California."

"Oh?" Robin mused. "Michigan must seem dreadfully slow paced compared to California Pax."

"It does sometimes," Pax replied feeling uneasy as Robin sized her up from head to toe.

Robin ignored Amanda's glare of warning. "You know Felicia, there is something that I have been meaning to discuss with you."

"Oh really?"

"Yes. Come with me and let me explain. You're going to find this fascinating." She linked her arm in Felicia's and led her away from the back of the room. Pax and Amanda twitched uncomfortably in the awkward silence between them.

"Why do I get the feeling that we have been set up?" Amanda pursed her lips as her eyes trailed her mother across the room.

"Because we probably have," Pax huffed. "My sister-in-law seems as bad as your mother when it comes to match making."

"No, this has my mother written all over it. I heard her brain clicking when we were introduced.

"Really? Is that what that noise was?"

"More like rattling and clanking." Amanda laughed and watched her mother and Felicia talking across the room to a group of handsome men.

Pax takes the moment to study her new wall hugging buddy. Her fiery red hair framed a slightly pale pace with deep blue eyes. Whereas Pax's eyes turned that deep shade when angry or aroused, Amanda's retained the same color at rest. She had to be all of five foot eight and one hundred and forty shapely pounds; she wasn't overly attractive but pleasing to the eyes nonetheless.

"Since we are here, who is Pax?"

"Just your average run of the mill female I guess." Pax knew the "Let's Get Acquainted" game and looked to Felicia so that she did not have to play.

"Female definitely. Average? I seriously doubt that."

"Pretty darn close," Pax grinned.

"Well I know I am an attorney, and you are a..."

"Zoologist."

"Never saw that coming. Very interesting."

"Can be." Since Felicia was not returning to save her, Pax had no choice but continue to play twenty questions.

As they begin to talk about trivial things Pax found that despite their obvious differences in professions, they had some things in common. Both had an unyielding love of football — college and professional, as well as a love of horrible sci-fi movies. Their conversation became animated with laughter as they found themselves comparing Japanese monsters that had graced their screens. It became slightly heated when Pax and Amanda began to argue over which was better, Godzilla of 1940's or the one of 1999 and 2000. Pax was arguing the finer points of the original monster when Felicia approached with her hand hidden behind her back.

"Ok Pax, whenever you are ready," Felicia hinted.

"Now." She turned to Amanda offering her most charming smile, "It was great meeting you Amanda."

"Same here Pax. Although, I still think 'Zilla of 2000 would beat the one of 1946."

"Keep dreaming." Pax's laughter was short lived as they fell into an awkward silence.

"Listen, if you ever want to get together sometime for coffee," she reached into her blazer pocket and removed the gold card case and matching pen. She extracted one of the thick business cards and wrote her home number on the reverse side of the card before she handed it to Pax. "And to compare movies... those are my numbers. Call anytime."

Amanda grinned with hope.

Pax motioned for Amanda to give her another card and the pen. Giving her grinning relative the evil eye, she quickly scribbled her cell number before giving it over to Amanda. "Thanks I will. Goodnight." She lightly shoved Felicia ahead of her.

Once they were buckled inside of Felicia's mini-van, Pax turned to her and growled, "I can't believe that you did that. You set me up!"

"Not me sis, Robin," she cried innocently. "She told me that she received good vibrations from you and she would like her daughter to feel the same. She thought you two would make a nice couple."

"Not interested." Pax folded her arms across her chest defiantly.

"Didn't look that way to us across the room."

"Looks can be deceiving. I don't get you. Before they arrived you were trying to talk me into giving Teela another chance. So what is with this?" She raised Amanda's card to her sister-in-law."

"Back up," she grinned.

"You're unbelievable." She turned to look out of the window.

******

After her hectic day, Teela was relaxed upon her couch talking to Thumper against the smooth sounds of jazz from her stereo. The dog flipped upon her back paws limp in the air while Teela stroked her belly. Outside her door, a sleek Mustang glided quietly down the partially lit street and slowed as it neared the social worker's home. It continued past and stopped three houses down. A lone figure dressed completely in black darted through the shadows up to her home and surveyed the outside carefully. Quietly, they checked two of the widows on the darkened side of the house and found them locked. Trying to get the third window they stumbled and lands against the house.

Thumper immediately jumped to her feet from Teela's lap on alert and barks her warning. "What is it Thumper?" Teela paused and listened but only heard the saxophone from the music. She watched Thumper careful and when the dog relaxed and jumped back into her lap. She did too. "Quit spooking me like that."

The figure ran deeper into shadows of the house next door and waited. They watch the lights of Teela's windows and did not see any movement. They listened, and the dog did not bark again. It was another ten minutes before the dark figure slunk back towards the car down the street.

__________________ Chapter 6 ____________________

Teela sat nervously behind the ten-foot wooden table with the members of the ID-Team for the morning's Care Conferences. The Dietician, Social Worker, Assessment Nurse, and Activity Director or Assistant gathered three times a week to report on specific resident's conditions and functional status over a three month period. Sometimes the team remained sequestered in the conference room for up to two hours reviewing as many as six to eight residents.

Most of the allotted fifteen minutes allowed for resident conference was spent with each team member summarizing the resident's strengths and abilities as well as any physical mental or social changes that may have occurred over the past ninety days. It was always the hope of the team to get through a conference day without having to face a difficult family or spend the fifteen minutes getting harangued for what a relative perceived as the ARCC's pitfalls with respect to care and service.

The schedule for the day was not anticipated to be difficult. At least, Teela prayed it would not be difficult. The ID-Team was experiencing a break in the action, as the prior family has not appeared to hear the good news for a change regarding the resident. So instead, the team spent that time talking about husbands, who had the cutest haircut or wore the tackiest of uniforms. Somehow, there were always CNAs who wore thin white scrub bottoms and colored underwear. When a CNA wound up in facility hospital pajama bottoms, it usually meant that they had something spilled on their scrubs that could be unmentionable. Their scrubs may have been ripped or damaged, or they were somehow out of uniform. Teela was grateful for the temporary distraction of her team.

During such pauses, the most fruitful conversation was when someone vented their frustration with the current system, supervisor, or colleague. Depending on the combination of the three various ID-Teams, they could be loyal and trustworthy not to let what was said go past the conference room door. For other team members, it was wisest to keep your own counsel.

There was a knock on the door just as the team had burst into laughter at something Dawn Juppas, the Dietician, had said about her husband and a hammer. Evelyn Bowe, the Assessment Nurse and designated leader of the Team tamed her laughter to open the door.

"Hello, I'm here in regards to Maureen Baldwin. I'm her daughter, Pax."

"Hello, Pax. Come on in."

Teela heard the familiar voice come through the door before the body did. The knots twisted in her abdomen until they rose through the rib cage to siege her heart tighter than an engine that had run without oil. Oh my God. What is she doing here? Where's Felicia? I'm going to hurt you Nica.

As Pax stepped through the entryway, her smile dropped, not enough to be detected by the others present, but Teela the change was obvious. What game is she playing at? Where is the Veronica? To the others, it looked as if Pax drew herself to her full height. Teela knew differently and recognized the stiffened posture. Pax's protective shield was raised into place. No worries. I don't have to talk to her. All I have to do is listen to what these people have to say about mom and then I'll leave.

The Pax that Teela had loved not so long ago were gone. The irritation on Pax's face confirmed as much. The Pax before her was a total stranger; features hardened and blue pearls a reflection of something and someone different.

From a distance, Teela listened as Evelyn invited Pax in and directed her to a chair. She lowered her long frame into the appointed chair. Pax hesitated momentarily as she glanced at the faces of the four people in front of her. They sat in a row, each with a stack of papers and a cup of coffee in front of them. It was intimidating.

Evelyn closed the door and took her place across from Pax at the end of the table. "Thank you for coming, Pax is it?"

"Yes Pax."

"I am Evelyn Bowe, the Assessment nurse." She turned to her right.

"Dawn Juppas, Dietician."

"Janice Starling, Assistant Activity Director."

Teela gave Pax her most welcoming smile and said, "Hello Pax, I am sitting in for Nica today." Before she could say another word Pax turned back to Evelyn.

Pax removed her pen and a small pad from her pocket as Evelyn began with the review of Maureen's physical health and medical status. Her blood pressure had remained within an adequate range. Maureen's labs, or blood work, was very good and had not shown any significant variation. She had not presented with any symptoms of illness over the past ninety days. She did complain of a headache a few times by showing facial changes and occasionally pointing. To this bit of information Pax was impressed. Every time she visited with her mother, she did not appear as if she registered any spoken words. Her mother just stared at her.

"Maureen is able to walk with the help of two people a short distance of forty feet," Evelyn told her.

"Really?" Pax nodded her head in surprise. She had never thought of her mother being able to walk. The last time she saw her mother stand was the time she saw her at her father's funeral. Since she had returned every visit she was in her wheel chair or in the bed. "Do you think that I could walk her when I come to visit?"

"I believe so. You would need to work with physical therapy a time or two to show you the proper way to assist the CNA's with her walking."

"I would love to do that. Just tell me whom to talk to."

"Just stop in the physical therapy room any time to speak with them."

"I will," Pax beamed her brilliant smile and Teela felt her heart sink once again.

"Maureen, however, is beginning to keep her right hand closed and we are concerned with that."

"Why is that?"

"She runs the risk of skin breakdown in her palm from her fingers being closed." Evelyn demonstrated with an outstretched hand. "You see Pax, if she closes it and keeps it closed, that area gets moist and stays most because no air can flow through. Even worse possibility of getting food or something else trapped in there. That wouldn't be good."

"Why is she doing that?" Pax paused in her note taking and studied Evelyn.

"Sometimes when people don't use the fingers on a hand, it can start to draw inward or atrophy. That can happen with stroke victims on their effected side."

"Can't you stop it or what will you do?"

"We would like to start her with physical therapy to gently stretch those fingers to keep some degree of flexibility in them."

"If her hand is drawing in, won't it hurt her? I don't want her to be in pain."

"Therapy will cautiously stretch her fingers and will only go as far as she let them. They do the treatments in small increments."

"Will it stop the hand from drawing in?"

"It will slow it down considerably. Another intervention we can perform is to place a small hand roll in her palm to keep the fingers stretched as she makes progress in therapy."

She kept her eyes glued upon Evelyn but saw Teela's gaze never leave her profile. "I will tell my brother, Zander, to call you about this. He has Mother's Power of Attorney."

"That will be fine. Do you have any further questions for nursing?"

"No I don't. Thank you."

Dawn stated that Pax's mother was eating well as evidenced by her four-pound weight gain in ninety days. It was not the result of what the Dietician called edema or water weight, but Maureen's hearty appetite. Dawn suggested monitoring her weight so that she did not gain too much and jeopardize her ability to continue walking. Too much weight gain would mean more pressure on the knees and that could create pain. After Dawn's explanation, Pax readily agreed to her doing as she saw fit to keep her mother walking and avoid discomfort.

Pax calmed her racing pulse as she forced herself to listen to the lilting voice of the woman that once held her heart so passionately. Then she remembered it was the same voice that left her without answers on her own porch step. Her focus returned.

"According to Nica," Teela began, "Maureen tends to communicate on rare occasions with a yes or no response. More often they are able to tell her moods by her facial expressions. She will attempt to gesture which indicates that she is very aware of her surroundings and can make some small decisions for herself."

Mom can understand me? Pax wondered. I'll have to look into that myself.

Teela paused to see if Pax had questions for her as she had the other team members. She received only a nod and a steely gaze. "Your mom is still on her antidepressant, Remeron, fifteen milligrams daily, and her crying episodes have abated. A side effect of Remeron is to stimulate the appetite."

"That certainly could account for the weight gain," Dawn added.

"Right," Teela said looking at Dawn. She had to turn away from the cool and composed look directed at her from across the table. "Maybe one of the things we could do if she continues to gain is to adjust her caloric intake instead of looking at the antidepressant. If her depression is successfully managed, I'd really hate to try and tamper with it."

"True. We could consider that if it happens." Dawn nodded at Pax. "We can re-evaluate her in thirty days and see how her weight is then?"

"Pax what are your thoughts on this?"

Clearing her throat she said, "It sounds fine to me so long as mom does not go hungry."

"Oh, that won't happen. We can provide her with snacks throughout the day that are calculated into her daily intake."

"If it comes to that, I'll discuss it with my brothers, Zander and Damian."

Pax lost her concentration when she returned Teela's gaze. She had not heard that her mother was playing bingo and getting her fingernails painted every week with the color that she herself picked out.

"Do you have any other questions at this time Pax?" Evelyn asked sweetly as she gathered her mound of papers.

"No. I am very pleased with the care that my mother is getting. I am sure that I speak for my entire family on this. We thank you all very much."

"It's our pleasure. Maureen is a very nice lady. Thank you for coming."

"Thank you."

The ID-Team members stood and began shuffling their papers. Pax made it to the large oak door before she heard her name called again.

"Just a moment Pax, I'll walk with you," Teela called to her. I need to talk to you. "There is one more thing I want to talk to you about." I'm sorry to use you mother like this, but I want so badly to talk to you.

"Is it something that you can telephone my brother about? I really must be going."

"It will only take a few minutes." She stepped closer to Pax with her most pleading smile. "My office is this way," Teela instructed and walked ahead of Pax hoping that she was following. Okay, I have her now what am I going to say? Can't get into too much here with all of the interruptions and prying eyes and ears. It'll be a start. Oh please Pax just hear me out.

What does she want? Pax's eyes involuntarily went to the gentle sway of Teela's hips as she walked. Teela stopped and turned back towards Pax waiting for her to catch up to her. Thinking of appearances to the other staff members rushing to and from their duties, Pax decided to tolerate being next to the social worker.

Sitting in a wheel chair in his doorway one man called out to Teela as she passed, "Hey Toots."

"Hello Marvin, nice to see you." She smiled and wiggled her fingers in a wave to him.

A few steps further and the duo heard a nurse aide's voice in another room, "Harriett that was not nice. Ooww! Don't scratch me! Come on, be nice okay?"

Snippets of conversation, giggling, and a variety of sounds greeted Pax as she followed Teela to her office. She noticed the one woman sitting in a reclining chair, almost like a slim vinyl covered lazy boy on wheels. The woman's mouth was moving constantly, her tongue moving in and out or across her lips. Pax noticed that around each of her hands were strapped to something akin to small cylinders with blue padding around them. Her legs were in constant slow motion. It was her open eyes, which ripped at Pax's to the core. They were a shade of gray, vacant, lifeless, and unfocused.

As she looked upon the shell of the woman, Pax's heart went out to her. It was devastating to be trapped in your own body with no way out, no way to communicate, no idea of what is going on around you. Worst yet, to not know your own name. God mother, I pray that will not be you.

At the end of the hall Pax could see the nursing station. Two men, dressed in dark suits stood talking to the nurse. Then the nurse went around the desk and beckoned them to follow her.

Pax heard the squealing of wheels as one employee bent over small white barrels as she pushed them down the hall. They came upon a man standing behind a floor buffer machine with its whining and whirring motor. He comfortably swung the handle of the buffer left to right in a smooth experienced motion. He noticed them a few paces off and he broke his rhythm holding the buffer to one side so that they could pass. Without a word, he grabbed the long orange power chord and gave it a yank causing it to snake closer to the wall behind him and out of their way from tripping. Further up the hallway behind him where the chord plugged into the wall, was the yellow caution sign sitting on the floor.

Then Pax's nose was assaulted by an unpleasant odor. It wasn't until that moment that she realized what Felicia had told her about the ARCC was true. The ARCC did not have the obnoxious smells permeating all over. Felicia had remarked that Zander and she toured several nursing homes before selecting the Appleway Rehab and Convalescent Center. Out of the six they previewed, five of them had strong urine or other odors attacking their senses when they walked into the facility, but not the ARCC. Pax knew that some unfortunate soul was having serious digestive and bowel problems.

Just before they reached the nursing station where Teela's office was located, a woman wheeled herself into the doorframe and stopped them. "Will you put me to bed?" her voice gruff, mimicking the scowl upon her face.

"Hi Sarah." Teela smiled at her, "I can't lift you into bed, but I will find someone who can."

"You do it; I want to go to bed now!"

"Just one moment Sarah." Teela turned to Pax, "I'm sorry; it'll only be a minute."

"Son of a bitch!" Sarah hissed.

Pax's eyes widened and stared at the older woman. Did she just say that? Why is she being so mean? I don't know how Teela can deal with this everyday and keep her sanity. The noise, the people, everything no wonder she had that meltdown that day.

A CNA walked up just in time, "Now Sarah that was so not nice."

"Put me to bed."

"Okay, let me get the Hoyer Lift and I'll be right back."

"Son of a bitching bastard." Teela forced herself not to grin as she turned and started to lead Pax again. They heard the woman break into song, "Amazing fucking grace. How sweet the god damn sound that saved a bitch like me..."

Pax's mouth gaped open at Sarah choices of lyrics. She couldn't help herself and glanced back at the woman sitting in the chair belting out so blatantly. When she turned back, Pax saw the two men dressed in dark suits being led by one of the floor nurses. Pax inhaled sharply as she registered the stretcher between the men. There was a neatly folded wool blanket strapped beneath the thick black buckle. Pax stopped behind Teela and listened as she spoke to the nurse.

"Karen?"

"Mrs. Ruffin."

"Ohh, when?" Teela placed her hand over her heart.

"An hour ago."

"It was time for her. She held on for too long."

Shocked, Pax looked at the social worker, unable to believe what she was hearing. She's glad that woman is dead? What about her family? How could you think such a thing and work here? Maybe I was wrong about you? You are a monster.

 

"I know." Karen shook her head sadly, "Her family has been sleeping at her side for over a week. They are exhausted too."

"With the hard time that she was having, this is a blessing." Teela touched the nurse's arm gently and looked to the suited men who nodded their agreement. "Did everyone they contacted make it in last night?"

"As far as I know."

"Listen, I won't hold you up, but tell the family I will speak with them later. Ok?"

"They wanted me to tell you thanks for setting them up in the hotel in town."

"Yeah. Got them a good deal too." She turned to go.

"Kat is looking for you."

"Tell her I went to Hawaii."

"Can't if I am there with you," responded Karen

Teela joined in her laughter.

I stand corrected Teela. You are amazingly compassionate, Pax thought. But how can you deal with all this noise and people swearing at you and stuff on a daily basis? The flipping of emotions constantly. A blessing? How can death be a blessing?

As they were entering Teela's office, Pax overheard another nurse on the telephone at the nurses' desk asking for an ambulance. The last word Pax heard before the door closed was "fracture". Once inside, Teela closed the door and went to drop the arm full of papers onto her desk.

"Does that lady really talk like that?"

"Who?"

Pax pointed past the door. "The one in the wheel chair."

"Oh, unfortunately most of the time."

"Oh wow. I thought little old ladies were sweet and grandmotherly."

"Some are. Some aren't. Depends on the diseases they may have. They can cause their personalities to change."

"I never thought of that. Will mother be that way?" She was horrified to think that her mother would say such things especially sing a song like that.

"I don't think so." She is more likely to get combative because she is aware to a certain point and has difficulty communicating completely. But I can't tell you that, it would be devastating to you.

 

"That's a relief. Is she doing something else that you wanted to speak to me about?"

Teela came around the desk and gazed into the blue eyes that she had missed so terribly much. I have to get her to understand. This is going to be so hard. "No. Actually it has nothing to do with your mother." She swallowed so strongly she was sure that Pax heard her. "Pax, I ...wanted a chance to talk to you about what happened between us."

Pax stiffened. "I hardly think this is the place or the time for that kind of discussion."

"I know." She was unable to stop herself from wringing her hands. They were too moist and the trickle of sweat streaked down her back was uncomfortable as well. "Pax, will you come to my place so that we can talk about..."

"The time for talking was long ago Teela."

"I had hoped differently, but...remember on your doorstep I told you that I needed time to fix me? Well, that is what I wanted to talk to you about. Please, give me this chance to explain."

Pax tilted her head with a quizzical look. "Now you have an explanation?"

"I believe so, yes. But you are right; this is neither the time nor the place."

Pax stood there and watched the woman who still held real estate in her heart asking for another chance to place it up for sale. Felicia said that Teela would be ready to talk someday. I am not so sure that I am willing to listen. Too hurt... Want to be stubborn. Don't trust her completely. She left me three times already. No! I miss you, but no.

"I believe you made things very clear to me Teela." She gritted her teeth against the dual emotions fighting for control. Angry that Teela had lured her behind closed doors to talk about her unrequited love.

"I know that you are leery of me, Pax..."

"Leery is not the word I would use for how I feel about you Teela. You have NO idea what it did to me when you left."

Teela fought to hold the silvery eye chips boring into her green melting her resolve more quickly than she had ever imagined. "I am so very sorry, Pax. I..."

"What is it that you could possibly say to me that giving me back the ring did not? Huh?" She took a menacing step toward the social worker. Pax held her lips in a tight line to keep from mimicking Sarah's uninhibited language.

"That I should have kept it and asked you to share that part of my life," she spoke quietly. "I understand that now."

The anger slowly ebbed away and she uncoiled her fists. She felt the tears starting to pool in her eyes. I won't give you that satisfaction, Teela. She softly stated, "You should have." Pax retreated a step and then turned leaving the office taking the quickest route through the ARCC to the parking lot.

Teela could do nothing but watch her leave. What more was there to say? She refused to believe that Pax was lost to her forever. The damage she'd inflicted seemed too severe to repair. If she only truly believed that, but there was something in Pax's eyes briefly that gave her a glimmer of hope. What would she do now? She was so sure that asking for forgiveness and making a new pledge of honesty and loyalty would be enough to start them on a newer beginning. Teela now knew it would take more than mere words to convince Pax. She had to earn Pax's trust. She would show her. First, she wanted to purge her demons and tell Pax what her self discoveries had been. To do that, she would need her to remain still for more than a few minutes. She had to do this.

A quick rap on her door before it opened. Teela quickly turned her back to the CNA so that the tears would remain hidden. "Teela, they need you in Nona's room," she said hurriedly. "She is arguing with Wilbur and throwing her shoes at him."

"God, not now." Teela squeezed her eyes tight sensing that that there was not an ounce of patience anywhere in her body at the moment. "Well put her shoes out of her reach."

"Tried that, she threw the remote, the Kleenex box..."

"Listen," Teela whirled on the nurse's aide. "You guys can handle this. Just this once! Go in there, move things out of her reach, sit and talk to her. If you have to, talk to Wilbur and get them to make up."

The nurse's aide noticed the reddened eyes of the social worker and decided to go back and try her suggestions. She had never seen Teela so exasperated or ever heard her raise her voice. Something is wrong, she thought. She wanted to ask but thought better of it. As she left the office, she witnessed Teela dump her body wearily into her chair and put her head in her hands on the desk. She knew then for sure that the social worker was having a bad day.

A few minutes later, there was a soft knock upon her door. Without lifting her head, Teela beckoned the person to enter. It was the same CNA from before but with a friend.

"There she is," Belle said and made her way over to Teela with outstretched arms.

Teela sat back with a weary smile. She glanced at Belle and chuckled. She stood and accepted the hug from her Belle. Over the woman shoulder, Teela caught the eye of the CNA. "Thanks. Thought I needed a hug huh?" She turned her cheek to accept the kiss from Belle.

"Yep."

"And thank you Belle." The woman beamed a smile back at her. Teela could tell she had something red to drink. Her dentures appeared a little pink. "I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier."

"No problem. Come on Belle, the music program is about to start."

With her arm firmly around Teela's waist, Belle pulled Teela along. "You coming?"

"No Belle. I have to stay here and make some phone calls."

"Well come on."

The aide walked further into the room and took Belle's other hand. "Teela needs to do some work Belle. We'll come and see her later."

"Alright. I like you honey. Come on then." And off she went.

Laughing Teela spoke to the nurse's aide again, "Thank you again. I needed that."

"We all do. I'm just glad Belle can pencil us in on her busy schedule."

"Yeah, right."

The aide closed the door and Teela returned to her chair. Slightly brighter spirits but the darker ones still lingered.

*****

Pax arrived at the Okinawian karate dojo two hours before she was to teach her class for the evening. She needed to work the conflicted emotions out of her system before she had to teach the children. Following her encounter with Teela that morning, Pax had been worse than the new mother bear at the zoo. It was even worse than being pre-menstrual. Half the time she did not know which would be better to do, cry or be angry. Her only bright spot was a surprise call from Amanda and the even bigger surprise at herself for agreeing to coffee later.

Pax suffered through four hours of seesawing between both emotions. She finally barked at her assistant, Gary Matthews, that she was leaving.

Tonight she chose to wear her black gi jacket with her favorite short-legged pants with the wide kick gusset. Tonight she wanted to kick and hit something repeatedly. Her legs felt strong enough tonight to just do that. She had been faithful in her physical therapy sessions and had exceeded their expectations. The testing that Dr. Harrison, her orthopedic surgeon put her through showed that although she occasionally had numbness in the toes on her right foot, for the most part she had good blood flow and pressure through the arteries throughout the leg. But she would continue to experience chronic numbness, tingling and cramping because of the injuries. There is still the possibility that the arteries might even begin to deteriorate and her leg might become weaker.

So to slow down that possibility, Pax was following her physical therapist's instructions. Tonight she would practice her lower body exercises and beat the hell out of the punching bag across the room.

She began with her front kicks lightly with her right leg, testing the resistance against the bag against her foot and the sensations shooting up her thigh to the hip. It was comfortable, no pangs or pinching. She continued for twenty-five straight kicks before she shifted her stance to deliver the same abuse but with more force and tenacity with her left. After that, she pivoted on her right opening her hip and began to pound out twenty-five sidekicks.

You should have let me into your life the night we slept together Teela, she smacked the bag timing its return before doing it again. You should have had more respect for me than to treat me that way. She shifted her stance onto the left leg to work the right side kicks. After a few moderate force hits on the bag, Pax was not satisfied.

You should have fucking loved me more! She threw her weight behind the right punch to the center of the bad. In rapid succession she continued to punch, rotating her stances working each side of her body equally. The sweat poured from her temples stinging her eyes.

You made me love you and then walked away from me so easily, and now you want to waltz back into my life to hurt me again. Why? She stopped her mutilation of the swinging bag listening to the squeak of the hinges. Breathing heavily, Pax paced around the floor to cool down. She stripped the padded gloves from her hands and threw them across the room.

Pax closed her eyes against the door of her minds opening to the memory to the night Bess died and they were standing in Jo and Boney's living room.

 

"I can't deal with this and you right now. Just go," she hissed.

 

"Teela please."

 

"LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE WILL YOU!!" Green hatred bored through her and struck Pax harder than Tanesha ever could.

The bile that rose from its depths that night in Pax's stomach did not threaten to spill once again from the memory. It was replaced with a maddened rage. Pax selected one of the heavier bo staffs from the rack. She thought of the times that Teela had deceived her. She had hid so many things from her even after they had called a truce and developed the "relationship rule book". Now she wants me to take her back.

She began her Katas with the staff, twirling the long implement, thrusting and emitting her karate yell of power into the empty space. Her body reacted precisely as it was supposed to, when it was supposed to. Pax felt the strength in her movement and welcomed the adrenaline coursing through her veins propelling her on to difficult movements, until the door of her mind unlocked and stopped her mid-strike toward the invisible enemy upon the floor.

She slowly made her way to the floor to sit. Legs stretched, flat upon the floor hands behind her head, she gazed at the ceiling. I loved you Teela. I still do. I just don't know that I can trust you.

Pax lay there for sometime letting her mind wander until she heard the students coming through the front door. She went to sit up and realized what a fateful mistake she had made by allowing her body and muscles to cool on the floor. She would definitely be taking something for stiffness before she met Amanda later.

Pax let the black belt students direct the evening's class, as head instructor she elected to follow behind and observe the other students as they practiced. Besides, she was starting to feel the results of her tirade against the punching bag earlier.

Standing in the corner where the mirror stopped, Pax was helping a pair of white belt students who happened to be her nephews Effraim and Luke, with the stances and other basics. She didn't notice the person standing in the lobby watching. The two students on desk duty were in the locker room making a call on their cell phone to the most popular boy in their school. They were slightly startled when they returned to the desk to see the person in all black standing there.

"Can we help you?"

"I was thinking about bringing my son for lessons, the person said in a low voice. Can you tell me who is the instructor?"

"Ma'am," the girl looked at her friend and shrugged guessing the person was female. It was hard to tell with the large coat and large hat pulled low. "That would be Pax Baldwin. She's a Former World Karate Champion from California."

"Really? How long has she been teaching here?"

"Couple months now, the second student offered. When our other instructor got sick and quit." They watch the woman shudder. "Would you like to speak with Sensei Pax after class? It should be ending in about ten minutes."

"No thank you, I'll be back later." The woman turned and walked out of the school. The student sat the desk looked at one another, shrugged and watched the solemn figure leave.

Felicia and the boys were the last ones to leave for the night. Locking the front doors, Pax went to the locker room to shower. Normally she waited until she got home, but she was meeting Amanda at The Royale restaurant for dessert and coffee. Felicia's mixed reaction confused Pax all the more when she told her about the remainder of her evening.

Now that the dried sweat was off of her body, Pax turned on the alarm system and locked the doors of the dojo. She placed the duffle bags into the back seat of the F-150 and pulled out of the lot heading towards the Royale. At a far distance, the sleek black Mustang followed.

* * * * *

Teela and Thumper were called to Jo and Boney's for dinner. Jo spoiled Thumper with a large bowl kibbles with a little of their stew mixed in. The dog was now lying contented in the living chewing on the rawhide Boney had given her for dessert.

"Teela, you took the last roll! How could you?" Boney whined as Teela grinned and buttered the tasty bread.

"Simple. I reached out and grabbed it with my sticky little paws."

"Sticky? You should wash your hands more often then."

"See I was going to split it with you now you can just sit there and watch me eat it all."

"Yeah, and watch you bloat up like a wart hog from so much yeast and carbs."

"Asshole."

"Yours is gonna get bigger." Frustrated, Teela threw the roll at a waiting Boney. She caught the buttered treat in her hand. "Thank you." She showed her bite and then returned to the stew her wife had made them for dinner.

"God, you two."

"You need to train her better," Teela pointed with her spoon.

"You know what that means, sweetheart?" Jo sighed and smiled wearily.

"Ooh, yes Mistress." Boney's spoon clanked against the bowl when she dropped it and put her hands in her lap. She bowed her head submissively.

"You two are really sick."

"Jealous." Boney raised her head slightly and winked at Teela laughing.

"Bite me."

"That's Jo's job. I'm the bite-ee."

"Arrgghh!"

"Let's change the subject from sex shall we?" Jo offered.

"But I like that subject."

"Some of us would rather not," Teela stated flatly.

"Your choice. Just make a telephone call to be back among the sexually active." Boney shoved a piece of the roll into her mouth.

"What are you talking about?"

Jo kicked her lover under the table and Boney jumped. "Ow!"

"What the...oh, I get it. A telephone call to Pax?"

"Just a thought."

"Well forget it. I saw her today and..."

"And?"

"And what Boney?" Teela grabbed her beer from the table and gulped before she spoke. "She is so angry with me that she will not listen to anything I have to say."

"Where did you see her?" Jo asked her friend.

"Her mother's care conference was today. Nica couldn't make it so she asked me if I would cover for her. I thought Felicia, her sister-in-law, was coming. She was the one who called and confirmed. I was not prepared to face Pax."

"And what happened?"

"I got her into my office and tried to talk to her. She would have none of it."

"Oh honey, I 'm so sorry." Jo took the small hand in hers and gently squeezed. "I wish we could help you with this, but I'm afraid we can't."

"I know Jo. It's just that...I felt how much I had hurt her. I was so wrapped up in my own self-pity and back then I did not realize what I was doing."

"Or didn't care," Boney added. "Either about Pax or the promise you made to her. You did not think about her or how she would feel before you acted Teela."

"But I did care. I just didn't think. You're right." She looked pleadingly at her friend. "I did love her so much that it scared the hell out of me. I wanted commitment but didn't want it. You know what I mean? It was like..." She waved the bottle in the air trying to find the words she wanted. "...I don't know, sitting on the fence enjoying both sides."

"Being indecisive is never good in any situation, whether it is professional or personal, Teela. I'm not saying that I am perfect in this regard either, as I have sat there with that piece of picket stuck up my ass as well." Jo laughed.

"Not a good visual honey," Boney admonished and shuddered.

"I know but it seemed to fit. No pun intended."

Teela chuckled, "I get the point. No pun intended." The laughter eased the tension that crept into the room. "I want her back Jo. How can I get her back?"

"I told you before. Talk to her."

"She won't hear me."

"Stop talking to her at work," Boney blurted. "The setting says you're still not sure because it limits your ability to be open and honest. Can't be free if you think someone will walk in or call. Go to her house. It's a more relaxed setting. It says to Pax that you give her control of the situation.." Teela and Jo looked at one another with mouths open. "What?" Boney grinned at their perplexed faces.

"I'm scared," Teela chuckled nervously. "That made sense to me."

"Humph!" Boney snorted and smirked. "Now you see why I don't let the true Boney out. You two can't handle me."

"Love you Boney." Jo laughed and blew a kiss to her lover. God, I love it when my hillbilly talks like that.

Boney grinned at the sparkle in her lover's eye and winked before she returned to Teela. "No. Go to her house. Tie her in a chair if you have to. She should listen to you then."

"Oh yeah right," Teela laughed. "Are you going to help me?"

"Hell no! Even with her bad leg she'll kick my ass."

"How is her leg Boney? Is she still using the cane? She didn't have it today." Teela sobered.

Glanced at Jo briefly before sipping her beer. "Well..."

"What is it?"

Boney wasn't sure if she should be telling on her friend, not certain if it was her place to say something. Jo doesn't even know what all Pax went through to get her leg working after the fight with Tanesha. Pax made me swear not to tell.

"She made it through the therapy okay." She took another drink to stall.

"And..." Teela encouraged her friend. She sensed there was more that Boney was hiding.

"Boney told me that she still has to use the cane sometimes but not often," Jo informed her. "She is in such great shape that her recovery was not as long. But you know how cold weather can make even healed injuries flare up."

"Yep," Boney hurried to agree. That sounds good. Subject change please.

Teela looked from Jo to Boney several times before she narrowed her eyes and focused on Boney. "What else hillbilly?"

"Nothing." I'm gonna burn in hell for not telling Jo everything. Who am I kidding? Jo will make my life a living hell.

"You lie."

"Jo, are you gonna let her get away with calling you lover names in our own home?"

"Are you sweetheart?"

"No!" She crossed her legs under the table and hoped it worked the same way as crossed fingers behind the back. Since her hands were on top of the table, it would not be a good thing for her to do in front of the other two. Pax you owe me big time. If I land in the doghouse for this, I'm dragging you in with me!

___________________ Chapter 7 ____________________

Pax and Amanda sat in one of the booths at Damian's restaurant. They had hit it off instantly after meeting at P-Flag. Since then they had been out together on several friendly get-togethers. They were fast becoming friends. When Amanda called and said that she was in between court appearances, it was perfecting timing for Pax to go have lunch.

"So what is the case you are working on now?"

"Assault and battery," Amanda chimed.

"Innocent or guilty?"

"Now Pax, all of my clients are believed to be innocent until the jury finds them guilty."

"And what do you believe?"

"I believe them to be innocent as well," Amanda replied seriously.

"Sure."

"Yeah. So how is business at the zoo?"

As if on cue, the radio attached to her side squawked and they heard the voice calling for maintenance. Same old stuff, Pax reached down to turn the volume down, saying "Sorry. I forgot.

"You wear that thing all the time?"

"When on duty. I forgot to tell switchboard that I was off grounds. Then it usually comes to the cell."

"Lucky you."

"Yep."

"And how was the meeting about your mother the other day?" inquired Amanda.

Pax' eyes lit brightly. "She can walk. My mother is able to walk. Only a few steps but that is something."

"That's great!"

"I never knew she could really. I mean I though the stroke took everything away."

"Apparently not."

"And she understands what's said to her, a little bit. But she understands."

"That's even better, Pax." She tilted her head and eyed her lunch companion. "It is isn't it?"

"Yeah. It's fantastic." But does that mean she still hates me?

"Did you see Teela?"

Pax's smile faded as she reached for her coffee. "Yeah, I did."

"Did you talk to her?"

"Somewhat."

"Pax, when are you going to stop torturing yourself?"

"It's not that simple Amanda."

"Pax," she said taking her hand. "I know how much she has hurt you. Not only because you told me, I see and feel it from you; but because of what Toni did to me."

"We are a pair huh?" Pax squeezed her hand.

"Heartbreak loves company just like misery. You have a choice not to be there, Pax."

"Easier to say than to do Amanda."

"I know. I can dish it out but not take my own advice."

"Have you heard from Toni?" Pax asked, glad for the change of subject.

"No. And I don't expect to either." The red head studied her coffee and thought of her ex partner. She sighed quietly at the tiny pins pricked her heart. At least the knife was no longer wedge in there.

"I can't believe how parallel our situations are."

"It has been six months since we last spoke so I assume she is still off somewhere finding herself. Besides," she brightened. "I have met an interesting prospect or two lately. Work, however, is great temporary filler."

"Only for a little while."

"Pax? Pax is that you?"

Pax turned away from Amanda to see Caramella Pheamster coming across the dining room. "Caramella," Pax slid from the booth to stand and give Teela's mother a hug. "It is good to see you Caramella."

"Oh, it is good to see you. Sit, sit."

"How are you doing?" she asked the feisty sixty-eight year young woman. Her green eyes sparkled in the light and her smile warm and inviting.

"Good dear, and you?"

"Fine."

"Sure. You are such a liar." She eyed Pax's tablemate, blatantly sizing her from head to chest as that was all that was available for her to view. After a brief pause, Caramella stretched out her hand. "Hello, I'm Caramella Pheamster. Pax lacks proper manners on public etiquette and should have introduced us sooner." She smiled greeting the young woman.

Pax laughed and nodded her head, "I am so sorry. Caramella Pheamster meet Amanda Rippington."

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Pheamster."

Waving the hand she had just used to shake Amanda's, she said "Please, it's Caramella. The other way is for old ladies."

"Caramella it is then." Amanda grinned broadly. She liked the woman instantly.

"See Pax, your friend learns quickly."

"It is always a pleasure to see you Caramella."

"And you too my dear. Listen I can't dawdle. I am meeting a friend for lunch." She eyed Amanda and then turned back to Pax seriously. "You and I have some things to discuss. Will you be free for dinner tomorrow?"

Pax understood the statement more than the question. "Yes, Caramella."

"Good, let's meet at Mi Casa at six."

"Mi Casa's huh? I never knew you were into spicy Mexican."

"Sure. I'll just bring my little purple pill."

"Okay, six tomorrow then."

"Good. Always a pleasure to see you dear. And nice meeting you Amanda."

"You too, Caramella. Good day."

Amanda watched Caramella wave to her lunch companion and disappear to another part of the restaurant. Mouth ajar, she turned back to Pax who was both puzzled and worried at the whirlwind that blew in and out, known as Caramella Pheamster.

"Well she is an interesting character," Amanda goaded.

"You can say that."

"Are you in trouble with that woman? I surely hope not she looks like a force to be reckoned with."

"I might be. That's Teela's mother."

"Really?"

"Really." Pax sipped her coffee.

"Ooh Pax. If the saying of like mother like daughter is true, you are in for a hell of a ride my friend."

"No kidding."

Their lunch was cut short as Amanda was paged that the jury for her assault case had reached a verdict. Pax told her she would pick up the check and reminded her of the USC football game at her place on Saturday.

Pax returned to the zoo entering and headed for her office. She stopped midway down the hall considering if she should go get Cloe to help her with the paperwork for the renovations for elephant area. Pax giggled to herself and thought what possible ideas her chimp friend would devise.

I would probably get more done without her bugging for attention. Pax thought hard about what she could get for the chimp to do besides coloring. Cloe is loosing interest in that activity. She needs something new. Maybe should get her some of those blocks or those toys she can build things out of. Okay, I need to make a trip to the toy store tonight.

Pax closed the door behind her and stood facing Cloe's pictures on the wall. She glanced around her office and everything seemed to look just as she had left it. So what was causing the strange sensation that goose pimpled her entire body? She turned toward her desk and noticed the delivery box. Pax crossed the room and read the office memo from the top of the box.

"A requisition for equipment? I didn't order anything."

She continued around the desk and reached for the telephone receiver with her left hand. She punched the extension number for supply. While waiting for them to pick up, Pax placed the receiver in the space between her chin and neck. She then used her left hand to pull out her office chair to sit.

Her ears instantly filled with the angry chatter of the rattlesnake coiled on the seat of her chair. Before she could move, the snake's fangs pierced her left forearm and retracted back ready to strike again.

"MOTHER FUCK!" Pax shouted and jumped backward hitting the box and knocking it onto the floor. The top flew across the floor spilling a variety of snakes across Pax's only area of escape. "SHIT!"

Pax looked around quickly for a spot of higher ground. She glanced at her office chair and did not see the snake that bit her. She kicked the chair further away from the desk and climbed atop standing to view the floor. She reached for her belt and clicked the radio.

"Anybody there? This is Pax. Over."

"Yeah Pax, it's Max Caldwell. I have been looking for you."

"Max, listen to me!" she cut him off. "I am in my office. I've just been bitten by a pit viper." She spotted the deadly diamond back and a black mamba. Several others began to wiggle and slither freely across the floor. Instantly territorial they quickly lunged and recoiled.

Eyes never leaving the intruders she tried to concentrate. She needed to calm herself. "Get the crew and hurry Max!"

Pax returned the radio to her belt and lowered herself to the top of the desk. She was not completely out of those particular snakes' striking distance but it was better than being on the floor. Once she was seated she looked at the painful bite on her left inner forearm. She winced as the burning began. She lowered her arm to the inside of her leg willing herself not to move it and to keep it lower than her heart.

What the fuck is going on here? Where the hell did those snakes come from? Come on Max, I don't have much time to use the extractors. I just pray it was a dry bite. Pax thought glancing at her watch and removed it. Her arm burned and tingled. She blinked her eyes and looked at the fang marks. Her mind switched to the emergency procedures for such a case as hers. She cursed for being trapped and unable to do at least the minimum of field treatment for snakebite. Rendered helpless upon the desk, she would have to wait for Dr. Caldwell to bring the first-aid and extractor kits.

"Wait a minute."

Pax struggled to shift to her knees using just her right arm. She turned and looked over each side of the desk. She counted at least ten or more snakes in front of her. Pax braced her right hand upon the desk; she quickly pulled out the bottom drawer with her left, reached in to grab the roll of elastic bandage and slammed the drawer shut. Her visitors in the room hissed their disapproval at the noise. Pax settled back upon the desk and wrapped the area above and below the bite of her left arm.

Okay, I won't get excited, that would not be a good thing. I'll sit here and wait for Max and help to arrive. She told herself. Only feel slightly woozy. I have an hour to get to General Hospital. There's plenty of time.

By the time that Dr. Caldwell and the three technicians recaptured the last of twelve snakes, Pax was curled upon the desk covered in sweat and nearly in shock. The EMTs arrived and initiated emergency procedures of their own. Pax was on her way to General Hospital forty minutes after being bitten.

******

Damian met the ambulance in the E.R. bay and followed behind them until he was stopped from entering the triage area. He had telephoned Felicia once the switchboard operator had notified him about Pax. Felicia in turn called Zander at court. Now there was nothing to do but wait.

Damian paced the waiting area impatiently for nearly thirty minutes turning towards the double automatic doors each time they swung open. He peered into the faces of each hospital personnel that exited and entered through the restricted area hoping that one would stop and have news of his older sister. He approached the vending machine and debated on getting a cup of the decaf coffee the selection buttons stated he could choose.

He was about to select the hot cocoa instead when he heard his name called from somewhere behind him. He turned and saw his brother and family heading towards him. Felicia went straight into his arms and hugged him closely.

"Felicia," he smiled at his sister-in-law. "Zander, you came."

"Of course I did. She is my sister isn't she?" He understood Damian puzzlement, and tried not to take offense and feel the disappointment.

"It's just I thought you were in court today."

"Judge's chambers actually. Pax' life is more important than litigating for a criminals life don't you think?" He locked blues gazes with his brother. "So what's going on?" He asked placing a concerned hand on his wife's shoulder.

"I'm not sure really. I don't know anymore than what I've told Felicia."

"A snake bit her in her office." Felicia shook her head amazed. "What was she doing with a snake in her office?"

"You've got me." Damian shrugged and turned back towards the doors. Personally he hated the slimy creatures.

"I can't believe she would be so careless as to have the dangerous things in her office," Zander stated.

"You would think so."

"Where is she?" Felicia asked.

Reclining his head towards the automatic double doors Damian said, "In there somewhere. I've been waiting for someone to come out and tell me something, anything."

"Well let's see what we can find out shall we."

Zander straightened to his full height and marched over to the check in desk. Damian and Felicia looked at one another. They could not hear what he was saying to the nurse, but whatever it was, her face began to color as she listened to the large man speaking to her. The nurse disappeared from the window. Zander turned towards his family, nodded firmly and then back towards the heavy fiberglass window separating him from the nurse on the other side of the desk.

Felicia watched as the petite woman spoke to her husband and pointed somewhere to the side. Zander nodded his head in agreement before returning to his waiting family. Zander pointed them towards the hall area beside the double doors.

"The doctors are completing their assessment of her shortly and will come to the waiting room one to see us in a little bit. Let's go in there and wait," Zander told them when he returned.

In the small room labeled Family Room One, Felicia placed the boys across at the table in the corner. Effraim and Luke opened their backpacks and quietly began to do their homework.

"Thank you boys for being so good." Felicia smiled at her children.

"No problem mom," Luke the oldest replied. "Can we go to McDonalds later?"

"If we can talk your father into going too."

"Sure boys," he smiled. Sometimes it's so great to be a dad. "The one on Devonshire with the play arena sound okay?"

"Cool dad!" His youngest chimed in.

Zander turned back toward the cream-colored wall deep in thought. A snakebite? How in the hell did that happen? Come on Pax, you have to be okay. I've just gotten to know you again. We have a long way to go. You couldn't possibly leave us now.

"Dad?"

"Yeah, son?" He looked down upon Effraim.

"Is Aunt Pax going to be okay?"

He looked at his brother and wife for help and received supportive smiled from them. We sure hope so son. "Your Aunt Pax is a strong old gal. She won't let something like this get her down."

"That's good." Luke smiled. "She promised to take us to Cedar Point in the Spring. She said that we could ride the big roller coasters together."

"Why you'll scream like a girl," Effraim goaded his older brother.

"Na huh. You will."

"You will." He bumped shoulders with Luke.

"You can remind her of her promise tomorrow." Felicia smiled.

"You'll scream like a girl," Effraim whispered again.

The room fell silent for several minutes before Felicia decided to break it. "Oh, I had forgotten to tell you two that Pax went to Mother's care conference the other day."

"How did she say it went?" Zander sat closer to his wife.

"Very well. Mother is walking short distances with help, which is good news."

"I would say so," Damian beamed. "I didn't think she could still walk."

"Yep. And she said that they wanted to start physical therapy on her hands because they are drawing in. I called and told them to go ahead. I hope that was okay?"

"Fine with me," Damian consented and looked to his brother.

"Me too. You know what mother needs just as well as we do Felicia. I trust your decision."

"Thanks hon."

"So," Damian hedged. "Did Pax see anyone else while she was there?"

Felicia looked behind her at the boys. They were deeply engrossed in their books and solving math problems. "Yes, she saw Teela."

"And..."

"And it did not go well." Felicia shook her head.

"Oh no," Damian groaned.

"What did not go well? What are you two talking about?" Zander looked between his brother and his wife confused.

"Pax and Teela, honey. They are not talking to one another, or at least Pax is not talking to Teela."

"Teela? Mother's social worker?"

"Former social worker... She changed social workers when Mother moved to a new room. Nica Jhorgenson is in charge of mother's case. What do you make of them anyway Felicia?"

"I think it's sad that Pax is refusing to recognize that she still loves Teela. She is so angry with her that she can't see anything else."

"I mentioned Teela's name and she nearly chopped my head off at the shoulders."

"She has been moping about since they broke up and she needs to be back with her. I tested her resolve though. And she nearly bit my head off as well."

"What did you do?" Damian guffawed.

"Wait," Zander stopped them. "The two of you are trying to get our sister and our mother's former social worker together, is that right?"

"Yes," Damian confirmed. "Pax loves her but because Teela hurt her, she is refusing to give her another chance."

"Do you think we should call her and let her know Pax is in the hospital?"

"First thought would be yes, but then I am not so sure." Damian scratched his chin.

"After we find out what's going on, I'll call Jo and Boney at least and to let them know."

"She would ok that."

"Who?" Zander looked from his wife to his brother. "You two are confusing me," Zander admitted. "What I want to know is why do you want our sister to be with someone who has obvious broke her heart? That's not looking out for her you guys." Zander gave each of them a scowl. "I think you should but out myself and let her handle it the way she wants to."

Before Felicia would respond, the door opened and all eyes turned to the man in the green scrubs. The paper scrub cap barely hid the shoulder length brunette hair. He took in the family seated in the room and smiled as convincingly as he could. He closed the door behind him and waited for their full attention before he began to tell them of Pax's condition.

"Hello. Are you the family of Pax Baldwin?"

"Yes we are. I'm her brother Zander; this is my wife Felicia, and my brother Damian."

"I'm Dr. Thomas Griffith. I treated Ms. Baldwin when she arrived here this afternoon."

"How is she?" Damian asked.

"She is doing much better than we had initially expected when the ambulance call came through. She received a rattlesnake bite in the left forearm about here." He indicated the area on his own arm to demonstrate. "First and foremost, we believe that it was a dry bite."

"A what?" Felicia looked to Damian.

"Venom wasn't injected into her system. We did give her a tetanus booster and a dose of antivenin just as a precautionary measure. We will be keeping her overnight and possibly through tomorrow to make sure she does not develop complications."

"Complications?" Damian shifted and stared at the doctor. His fear level increased tremendously.

"Well she already has pain and swelling at the bite location. We need to monitor for secondary effects such as paralysis, fever, chills, and problematic breathing."

"So she is really going to be all right?" Zander queried further.

"We think so," Dr.Griffith reassured. "But sometimes, the symptoms can take several hours to develop."

"But you said she was not injected with venom," said Felicia.

"That we could detect... There still a chance a small amount could have gotten in."

"But so far she is fine?"

"Yes. She is one lucky woman."

"That she is," Felicia agreed. "When can we see her?"

"We'll move her up to a room in about an hour. You can see her then. I did give her something for the pain so she will be groggy and drift in and out probably."

"Thank you doctor." Zander stood and shook his hand firmly as did Damian.

The Baldwin's finally got a chance to see Pax after she was transferred to a double room. Once she was settled, Zander had insisted that Felicia take the boys home. He told his brother and wife that he would stay and watch over their sister much to the shock of Damian and Felicia. He was really trying to make up for not being the older brother Pax should have had.

Damian needed to get going as well as he needed to check on the new cook that was starting later that night at the restaurant. Before she left, Felicia made her way down to the hospital cafeteria and purchased her husband some lunch as he had missed the opportunity being first in the judge's chambers and then in the hospital waiting room.

Pax had a more peaceful sleep than her older brother folded in the uncomfortable straight-backed chair at the foot of the bed. Throughout the night, Zander slept very little as he attempted to find a comfortable position in the torturous chair. Several times he got to his feet and went for a short walk in the hall to stretch his tall frame from being knotted and twisted. He located one of the public restrooms and entered to splash water upon his face and the usual routine. He missed the chance to speak to his sister as the nurse and lab technician entered to check her respiration, to draw blood, and to check the machinery. Pax looked at the nurse briefly through glassy eyes before she returned to sleep.

Pax lay upon the couch wrapped in the loving arms. Her head upon the bosomy chest, her breathing matched the one below her ears. Together, they watched the old black and white film. She hadn't felt this content in weeks, months even. She was delirious that she let her back in. Before she knew it, she and Teela were in the middle of a tickle fest and then...Pax had reached consciousness again during the night. Blue unfocussed eyes blinked at the figure at the end of her bed, "Teela," she whispered and slipped into the darkness.

 

"Pax?" Zander stood and went to her bedside. He peered into the still face and sighed heavily.

Pax did not fully awaken until nearly eight the next morning. The first thing that she noticed was the burning in her left arm. She raised the wounded limb in front of her and inspected the damage. From her wrist to the elbow, her forearm was wrapped in the clean white gauze. She did not see any drainage from the puncture wounds seeping through.

Lifting her right arm revealed the presence of the IV, and the small white clip on the edge of her index finger. Her hand went to her chest and felt the small round discs in strategic places connected to the heart-monitoring machine. Lowering her eyes, she noticed the lean figure folded into the chair feet up on the end of the footboard.

What's he doing here? Pax maneuvered her foot until it met his and she was able to tap it with her own. "Hey, sleepy head." She watched a smile slowly spread across the face of her older brother.

"What you want Red Lion?"

Pax grinned recognizing the nickname that he had given her as a kid. The three Baldwin children would watch the Voltron cartoon religiously. Before the world of Transformers, there was Voltron, the mighty robot defender of the universe. Five individual lion robots; red, yellow, green, blue and black, would morph together to become one giant robot – Voltron. Because she had loved the color red, Zander called her the Red Lion, or right hand of Voltron. Damian was the green lion, the left arm of Voltron.

"Waiting for you Black Lion," she responded using Zander's nickname, which stood for the body and head of Voltron.

Pax's heart clenched with glee as visions of her and her brothers running wild through the yard fighting the Roebeasts that the evil King Zarcon, the ultimate enemy of Voltron, would frequently create.

"We gave those nasty Roebeasts a good fight." He grinned, "but we were never able to defeat King Zarcon."

"We never had enough Superforce fighters to man the other lions. We couldn't form Voltron."

"But we lived to fight other battles."

He sat himself upright and gazed into the blue mirrors reflecting back on him. He saw them just as she was seeing them. He assumed the identity of Batman, Damian as Robin and Pax as the infamous Cat Woman. Just as they were getting the drop on the Joker or the Riddler, their mother would burst through the backdoor screaming and yelling for them to take her good towels from around their necks and bring them back into the house. More than once, she sent the superheroes to fight crime without capes.

"That we did Superman. That we did." We had such fun then Zander. We were all so close. Then...then we started to grow up. The lightness she felt fluttering in her heart suddenly replaced by a longing, a melancholy for a past that only lived in their memories. Childhood in the Baldwin home was a fun, exciting time. A new adventure to be had everyday with her the brothers she adored. Until...they grew up.... "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in court or something?"

Zander felt them come a little closer but quickly distanced again. I am so sorry, truly I am. I miss you, sis. "Guard duty. And I've called in a family emergency."

"You didn't have to Zander."

"Yeah, I did. We're still family Pax." He paused hoping to convey his heartfelt emotions through the gaze bearing back at him. "So how are you doing?"

"Hurts."

"I bet. You had us all worried."

"Wasn't on purpose I assure you."

"S'right. What happened?"

"Rattlesnake in my office chair. Can I get some water?"

"You gotta push the call button. They want to know when you're awake anyway." Pax looked at the side rails of her bed taking a moment to figure out which button would call the nursing station.

"Yes, can I help you?" came the nurse's voice through the tiny speaker.

"Can I have some water? No make that coffee."

"I will be right there."

"Better yet, a caramel latte, extra whip cream." She licked her lips and her brother chuckled.

"You'll be lucky to get ice chips."

"Anything right now. My mouth feels like the Sahara."

"So why would you put a rattlesnake in your chair Pax?" asked Zander.

"I didn't. Someone put it there along with a box full of snakes on the desk." She was afraid too think too much about it. There was no other explanation for it, however. Why?

"What ass would do something like that?" After looking at his sister's raised eyebrow, he felt his own right one arch high. "What are you thinking?"

"Not sure. Not yet anyway. Those things were deliberately placed there. Someone wanted to put me in harm's way. But who? I really don't have anyone who...Her eyes narrowed. Tanesha. Then just as quickly dismissed the possibility. Nah, I haven't seen or heard from her since I kicked her psychotic ass. Besides, how would she get a hold of the vipers? "So what are the doctors saying?"

"You didn't get a lot of venom in you. You had some breathing problems early on, but it seems to have cleared. Dr. Griffith said he would be in later today to check on you."

Nodding Pax asked, "Any tissue damage?"

Zander shook his head and hunched his shoulders. "I am not sure what you mean?"

"Where the damn thing bit me is the skin and tissues okay?"

"I...I don't know. I don't think he mentioned it."

"S'kay Zander." Her head fell back onto the pillow just as the nurse entered the room. She checked Pax's tubes and machinery as Zander looked on. She deposited a white styrofoam cup with a half-covered straw in front of Pax. Without hesitation, Pax nearly drained the cup before the nurse left the room.

"Take it easy. No one is going to take it from you."

"When can I get out of here?" Then I can find out who the hell wanted to hurt me.

"When the doc says so..."

After a small silence Pax said, "Thank you for being here I know that you are very busy."

"Not for family." Zander returned her smile.

Later in the afternoon, Amanda was keeping Pax company while her brother Damian went for latts. Pax was having a temper tantrum because of the hospital food and lack of caffeine. They were laughing uproariously when through the open door walked Jo and Boney.

"Hey you. How ya doing?" Boney marched in and hugged Pax tightly.

"Good Boney. Hi Jo. What are you guys doing here?"

"Felicia called and told us what happened." Jo hugged her.

"She shouldn't have done that."

"Why not? Aren't we friends? Do you not have visitations with my wife on the weekends?"

Laughing, "Yes you are, and yes I do."

"She wasn't sure if there was anyone else you would want her to call." Jo looked deeply into the sparkling blue eyes ensure that Pax understood her meaning.

"No. No one else..." Pax relayed her own non-verbal message to the psychiatrist. She received a slight nod in understanding.

"Since this is your visitation weekend, dada, where are we going?" Boney chirped to lighten the simmering tension from Pax refusal to allow Teela to be called and informed.

"Home I hope. I'm sorry," she said turning to Amanda. "Amanda this is Johanna," she pointed to Jo and then smiled evilly. "This is her wife, Augusta Jean." On cue, Boney hissed like the evil cat she could be and drew her hands into claws aimed at Pax. Boney truly hated the sound of her given name. Pax held her side while she laughed.

Jo playfully slapped Pax's good shoulder. "Must you do that to her?" Then Jo turned to Amanda she said, "Hello Amanda, nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you both." I think, she thought eyeing Boney skeptically.

"So do you always play with dangerous animals, Pax?"

"Whenever Boney comes over."

"Hey. I am not dangerous," Boney pouted. "I am as tame as a kitten."

Pax looked at Amanda and responded, "A kitten with rabies." She laughed.

"Hey! I came here as a friend to see you and you beat me up like this?"

"Quit taunting the hillbilly Pax, or you two can't play together anymore. Now tell us what the devil you were doing with snakes."

"I do work in a zoo, Jo. I come in contact with all sorts of animals."

"Should live there," Boney mumbled from behind her lover.

As Pax and Jo talked, Boney secretly studied Amanda. She noticed the way that the red headed woman looked at her friend and the sly way that she touched Pax's hand and arm. She watched as Amanda hurried to get Pax a refill of water in her cup and return to the bedside to assist Pax in drinking.

Pax looks healthy enough to me to hold her own cup, Boney thought. But then again, she does make a mighty fine looking nurse. Boney nonchalantly turned to watch the figured backside of the red head as she bent over. She noticed the light sway of the full breasts beneath the sweater. Oh God, Jo would kick me to the curb for sure if she knew what I was thinking. Teela, Teela, Teela looks to me like either you're too late or you've got some competition.

______________________ Chapter 8_______________________

Emily turned the TV off when she heard the sound of the front door close. She rubbed her hands together and roughly scooted out of the bed. Not as careful as she should have been, she bumped her right leg. She swore under her breath and gritted her teeth so hard she thought that they would shatter and break from the pressure. She grabbed her bandaged thigh and moaned softly as she rolled back onto the bed. That was fucking stupid!

"Honey, are you in here?" Harley asked coming through the bedroom door. "Emily!" She screamed seeing her lover writhe on the bed in silent agony. She panicked, dropped her leather case onto the floor and ran to her lover's aid. "Honey what's wrong?"

"Harley..." she croaked.

"Oh God, I'm calling the ambulance. I knew it was too soon for you to come home from the hospital."

"Harley...don't need...ambulance. I'll be okay honest." She sniffed back the tears. "I wanted to get up and greet you and I just moved the wrong way. Honest."

"I don't think so." She turned to go call for the EMTs.

"Honest honey. Please, I am fine." She took deep breaths. "Harley...." She stretched out her hand.

Reluctantly, she turned back towards Emily and made her way to the bed. She helped her lover upright. "If you are fine, Emily Oliverez, then why do you have tears in your eyes?" She surveyed the baby blues she loved so much. Sitting gently upon the side of the bed next to her, Harley wiped the sweat from Emily's damp brow. She cupped the high cheekbone in her palm feeling their unusual warmth.

"Because I am happy to see your beautiful face and have your arms around me." She smiled through the intense pain in her thigh.

"You are a smooth one, but it is not going to save you this time."

"I have missed you Harley, kiss me." It's the only way that I can stop you from worrying too much.

Emily pulled her close and enveloped her lips around Harley's. They lingered and siphoned her sweetness and infused it with the passion she knew her lover held beneath her anxious facade.

"What am I going to do with you?" Harley sighed feeling calmer and more serene.

Emily smiled with her achievement. "Give me another." She puckered and tugged her Harley closer.

"Oh no." She moved off the bed. "You are not healthy enough for that."

"Ooh hoo yes I am." She reached for Harley who jumped out of her reach.

"Catch me and you can."

"Harley..." she whined. "You are not playing fair."

"And you are not being a good patient. Are all cops this bad as patients?"

"Only the good ones... You've said it yourself I am gooooddd." She wiggled her brows in a dastardly fashion.

"Emily be nice. You need to heal." She pointed her finger and made her way back to the bed. She began to check the bandaged thigh for drainage from the wound beneath. Her hand suddenly reached behind her and slapped the one that was accosting her behind.

"Honey...I'm lonely."

"You have your mother. Where is Babbs by the way?"

"You know that she hates it when you call her that." She chuckled. "She went out to get a few things."

"I am surprised that she left you here alone and helpless." Her irritation swelled immediately.

"Honey, I am not helpless. I'm quite capable of..."

"Not yet you are not. She could have left you in the living room with things around you or called in Sarah from next door to help prevent this...this..." she spread her hands out towards Emily, sort of thing from happening.

Uh oh, she's getting worked up. We don't want that do we Emily? "Sweetheart, calm down. It could have happened anyway. You know me. I can't just sit still."

"That is not the point Emily!" He voice rose. "She is supposed to be here taking care of you and she left you here alone."

"I have been home alone since I was fourteen, Harley."

"You didn't have a gunshot wound then did you?"

"Harley, come to me." She commanded softly. Come on baby, we both know that you're headed for a melt down unless you help me here. Struggling to pull herself to the middle of the bed, she kept her eyes trained upon her lover. She rested her back against the headboard and held her outstretched arms open, waiting. "Harley come on. Let me hold you."

Emily needed Harley in her arms not so much as to caress her body, but to divert the anxiety that plagued her lover. When Harley became negatively excited, she could put herself into a panic attack quickly. Emily knew the signs the crying, the wringing of hands, talking very fast and constantly moving without a goal in mind. When this happened, unfortunately, it also caused her to hyperventilate which eventually exacerbated her asthma. More occasions than she cared to recall, Harley's hyperventilation and asthma attacks landed her lover in the local E.R. during their first two years together. It had not taken Emily that long to discover what not only precipitated the attacks but how to prevent them as well. During that time, she learned how to calm her beloved and how to make her relax.

Not being able to move and act as quickly as the event called for, Emily tried again to coax her lover to lie down beside her. Eyes locked upon Harley, she observed the heaving chest, and noticed the raised coloring across her nose and chin and the fists opening and closing. Damn, she's close to an attack. I can see it.

 

With robotic slowness, Harley approached the bed, climbed on and settled in the detective's protective embrace. Harley closed her eyes against the thundering of her heart desperate to focus on the gentle hand moving through her hair, the strong kisses to the crown of her head and the firm breasts beneath her cheek.

"It's okay love." Emily kissed her head again. "I'm all right," she stroked her back. "Feel me." She squeezed her partner. "I'm here in one piece, safe within your arms. I love you so very much, my love. You complete me."

Harley buried herself deeper within the embrace surrounding her. Emily kissed her forehead and fortified her beloved with all of her strength and love. The week's events had accumulated and were about to take their toll on her Harley. The normally docile and painfully shy OB-GYN Assistant had suddenly threatened to be the polar opposite.

Facing the doctors, Harley was borderline belligerent in her demand of answers and accountability. To Emily's captain, her boss, Harley uncharacteristically was accusatory and unforgiving that he placed her lover in harms way needlessly.

Not one tolerant of homosexuals to begin with, Captain Jenkins had been surprisingly quite calm and understanding he had not uttered a single word during Harley's unabashed tirade of fury. At that moment, Emily had imagined he called upon his vast experience of dealing with fallen comrades spouse's shocked responses. Gay or straight, the potential loss of a significant other did not discriminate. The look upon his face told Emily that he did not have a reference for dealing with a five foot six one hundred and thirty-five pound Asian hornet whose sting was about to be unleashed and land him in the in the hospital bed next to her.

Emily had learned the hard way that when extremely angry and emotional, Harley's tongue could be sharper than any sword or Ginsu knife and slice you to ribbons without you even knowing it. Worse still, with the slightest inflection in her voice, she could say it with such sweetness and diplomacy or sarcastic maliciousness. Captain Jenkins had received the latter with the addition of a lone finger poking him in the abdomen of his hulking six foot six frame. He merely looked down upon the small woman and then to his detective with eyebrows raised curiously.

"Come back to me love." The sounds vibrated through Emily's chest into the ear pressed so closely. "I need you," she whispered. "I need you Harley." She rubbed her back in small circles.

The couple remained on the bed unmoving for some time. They had not talked about the shooting. She could tell that Harley was not ready for that kind of a discussion. For nearly a week, Harley had been unusually possessive and anxious. She nearly smothered Emily. As annoying as it was for the detective to be waited on and pampered, she knew that her love needed to act that way for her own peace of mind.

They had not talked about where they were going from here. Emily was uncertain about what she wanted to do. Although the wounds were not life threatening, the circumstances surrounding the shooting were. She had career decisions to make. She hoped she could talk to her beloved very soon.

For the moment, she was content to hold her lover of five years within her arms, helping her to relax. Emily waited until she felt the tension leaving Harley's body and her breathing return almost to normal. She shifted so that she could look upon the face of her heart.

"Are you with me?" Harley nodded sheepishly and began to cry. "Sshh baby, what's the matter? Everything is okay," Emily cooed.

"I'm such a freak," she hiccupped through the tears. "You must hate me."

"Hey, hey now." She shifted to lift the damp face toward her own until she saw the large brown eyes meet her darkened blues. "Don't ever say that. You hurt me when you do that sweetheart. I love you so much. Never doubt that I do."

"I don't."

"You do when you say things like that." She stroked the moist cheek feeling her own heart breaking. "I love you."

"I'm sorry. I feel so... it's just..."

"I know," she whispered and kissed her forehead, touched her lips to the tip of Harley's nose, and then a whisper of a kiss upon her lips. "How did I get so lucky for you to fall in love with me?"

"I think I am the lucky one. For a cop you sure do talk sweet."

She scrunched up her face, "Don't let that get around the station. Okay? I've already lost my reputation for as a playgirl the night you captured me."

Harley gasped and her mouth open, "I captured you? You threw yourself at me."

Grinning, "Yeah, but you caught me before I hit the ground anyway."

"Oh you!" Harley smacked her arm playfully.

The front door slammed followed quickly by a bellow, "EMILY, I'M BACK!"

"Grrr!" Harley clenched her fists at the voice of Emily's mother.

"Honey, relax. Come on now." She pulled her lover back into her arms whispering to her once again.

Not bothering to knock, Babbette walked into the room and stopped at the sight of the women upon the bed. Babbette bristled and straightened to her full five foot seven height. "Are you alright dear?"

Emily tightened her arms around her lover and made small circles on Harley's waist where her hand once rested. "Wonderful mom." Emily kissed her wife's forehead and watched her mother turn sharply on her heel and leave the room.

Ten minutes later the two emerged from their bedroom. Emily hobbled on the crutches Harley insisted that she use instead of the cane. Emily had been using it everyday when Harley left for work. She returned to using the crutches only when she was at home. She had been in the doghouse one too many times and hated the stuffiness of the place. She did not feel like returning.

The couple made their way into the kitchen as Babbette Oliverez unloaded her plastic grocery bags upon the counter. The sixty-two year old woman with white blonde shoulder length hair gave her daughter a large toothy smile and a kiss upon the cheek.

"Hola mi estimado." Hello my daughter, Babbette spoke in the language of her husband Fredricko Oliverez.

"Hola momma. Whay es t espaol de discurso cuando no lo hace Harley." Hello Momma. Why are you speaking Spanish when Harley does not? Emily asked pleasantly but the scowl on her face let Harley know she was not happy at the moment.

 

"Porque Puedo." Because I can.

 

They'd had this conversation more times than she cared to count and she chose not to rehash it again. Emily reached out to take Harley's hand in hers for strength. "Do not be rude to Harley momma. I will not have it!" Lips drawn tight across her face, Emily bore her eyes into her mother

"Estoy apesadumbrado, yo no puedo ayudarte." I am sorry but I cannot help it. She returned the steely gaze she had taught her daughter to use on others. She was not about to cower because her child was trying to intimidate her own mother.

"Try or leave our home," Emily hissed. Harley stared at her lovers profile and felt the love swell within her heart.

The two locked glares in a test of wills. They had tested one another's resolve since she was a teenager. It was a characteristic Emily learned from her father of standing her ground. After several moments of awkward silence, Babbette gave in to her daughter. In my home you would be a more respectful child, she grumbled silently. "Well, I hope you are very hungry Emily. I'm making your favorite tonight, meatloaf."

"Babbette, we are having bake cod and salad." Harley's gaze did not flinch as she held Babbette's. "I mentioned to you this morning before I left for work that I would be cooking tonight."

"You can have that tomorrow night dear. I'm sure that Emily would want her momma's meatloaf." She forced the smile to her face waiting for her daughter to side with her.

"Emily does not like meatloaf."

"Nonsense, she has been eating it since she was a child," Babbette sparred indignantly challenging the woman next to her daughter.

"Actually mom, dad liked your meatloaf, not me." Harley held her snicker behind her poker face. She pictured Emily sneaking the meat to the family dog under the table.

"Fish and fresh vegetables are better to help her heal." Not some greasy ketchup-smeared concoction.

My daughter loved meatloaf until she got with you. Babbette maintained her poker face behind the steely smile. "A meal cooked by her mother is what she needs to heal not some half..."

"Mother!!" Emily warned.

"Cooked fished." Babbette finished indignantly.

She looked from her mother to her lover and back again. Either way, I'll get this wrong. "Mom, you have been fussing over me for a few days now. Why not let Harley pamper us with her fabulous cooking? You'll love it, really." Please mother please be nice and relent. One of you has to give in. This bickering back and forth is killing me.

Babbette studied her daughter and knew she was trying to appease the smaller woman beside her. For a partner as you call it, you could do better Emily. "Well," she hedged. "I have been working hard to clean up around here. I could use a night off." She promptly grabbed the meat packages and placed them in the refrigerator.

Emily's hand tightened around the fingers in her grasp. She watched the creamy skin of her beautiful lover's face burn scarlet as if she had horrible sunburn. She pulled Harley into a hug and closed her eyes. It's going to be a long night.

* * * * * *

Among the shattering sound of bowling pins being crushed, Boney whispered seductively in Jo's ear. Jo ignored the raised brows that watched them from the other female bowlers in the alley and smirked at the men who watched with smiles and jabbing one another in the ribs as they assumed their fantasy was occurring before their beer bellied eyes.

Jo knew that they should not be appearing so intimate in a public place, especially a bowling alley. For some unexplained reason, she could not resist her hillbilly or the feel of her warm breath across her ear as she whispered. Before she could continue her contemplation, the moment was broken when Boney moved away and yelled.

"Way to go Teela! That a girl." Teela returned to the table of the Mentals giving her two teammates high-fives.

"You are on a roll tonight," Jo indicated the three consecutive strikes of her friend.

"Thanks. Have to make extra pins for Harley isn't that what you said?"

Harley chose not to join them to bowl, as she wanted to stay home with Emily instead. It was Jo's fault they were a player short. She had neglected to find a sub for the evening.

"That we do girls. That we do." Jo left her seat to take her turn. Her luck was not as consistent as Teela's so far this evening.

"So how are they doing?" Teela asked Boney whose eyes were glued to her lover's backside as she approached the lane.

Damn Jo, I want to bite into your butt like a caramel apple and you know how I looovvve those. Boney grinned lustfully.

 

"Boney!"

She jumped and gave her friend an evil glare for disturbing her reality. "What?"

"How are they?"

"They who?" She turned back to watch her wife.

"Harley and Emily you goof."

"Harley's still a little shook up," she forced herself to turn her eyes to Teela.

"I don't doubt it. Wouldn't you be if your lover were hurt?"

"Absolutely! If anything happened to Jo, I'd lose it Teela. I know I would."

"Me too Boney... That goes for either of you." She looked into panic stricken eyes, reached across the table and took her friends hand. "I wouldn't know which end was up."

She shivered visibly, "Too uncomfortable to think about." Boney raised her hand and moved it from left to right as if clearing a screen. "Subject change."

"So now I guess you believe that Emily is real?"

"Maybe," Came the childish reply to Teela's rolled eyes.

"Boney, you two saw her when you stopped over there tonight before coming here."

"We went, we didn't see. Harley said that she was napping before dinner."

"Even still..." she shook her head sadly. "I called and spoke with Harley. She said that Emily's wounds are coming along fine."

"We met her mother, Babbette Oliverez."

"Babbette? That's an old name." Teela was always fascinated by the names of her resident's at the ARCC. Unlike today's outlandish names and odd spelling, Teela rather liked the traditional names like Olga, Ruth, Anna, Ilah, and Sarah.

"For an old broad," Boney snorted.

Teela slapped her friend's arm with some force. "I don't believe you Boney."

"What kind of stupid name is Babbette?"

"It's French I believe."

"Then where did Oliverez come from?"

"Her married name hillbilly."

"That's an odd combination isn't it, French and Latino?"

"What is it with you and names?"

"Look at what my parents punished me with."

"Be thankful. They could have named you Clarabelle. Then your nickname would be Mooo," Teela imitated a cow and roared unable to contain her laughter.

"That's not funny Teela. Don't make fun of the South." Boney warned and pointed her finger.

"You do."

"That's different. I'm from there I can. Your Yankee ass can't!" Boney stuck out her tongue at her friend and went to take her turn on the lanes. Teela held her side and laughed even harder.

"What did you do to her now?" Jo sighed at her pouting lover then looked to Teela.

"Nothing."

A few moments passed and Teela got up to bowl her ninth frame. Boney's hand snaked under the table to pat Jo's knee and gave it a questioning squeeze.

"How are you doing sweetheart?"

"Wonderful baby." Jo replied.

An evil grin spread across Boney's face and she gave the knee a squeeze once more and leaned over to whisper, "Can I bite you?"

"Ooh baby. Later, in private."

"Promise?"

"Have you had your shots?"

"No." Boney smiled at their old game. "Want me to bend over so you can give them to me?"

"You are so not right?"

"There you go, the shot will fix me."

"Stop that," she laughed and reached for the glass of beer. Boney had refilled their pitcher in the sixth frame and neither of them had drank very much of it. Boney had a half glass in front of her and Teela her full one.

"Okay until later then." Boney settled back in her chair looking out across the busy lanes. "Did you tell her yet?"

"About what?"

"About Pax or the dinner?"

"No. Besides, we don't really know if those two are involved or anything."

"I think they are." Boney replied with finality. "And it's best that she knows so that A- she doesn't make a fool of herself when she finally decides to talk to Pax; and B- she can think about whether or not she wants to come and spend the evening at our place in Pax and company's presence.

"I guess you're right. I don't know why I am being a chicken about this. You tell her."

"Not on your life... You are her best friend sweetheart and better at that sort of thing."

"We are both her best friends, you coward."

"Yep on both counts and so are you."

The Mentals lost their first game of the evening and by the fifth frame it looked as thought they would lose the second as well. The lane had a mechanical break down and they were waiting for the people behind the scenes to fix whatever needed fixing so that they could continue. Jo took the opportunity since she would have Teela's undivided attention and Boney was seated beside her.

"We are thinking of having a Christmas dinner Teela," Jo began.

"Sound like fun. You're cooking is wonderful, so when and what time should I be there?"

"Quite sure that you're invited huh?" Boney smiled.

"Better be or you will feel my wrath hillbilly."

"Yes you are. But so are several other people."

"Oh?"

"Harley and Emily, Deanna if she is able to get free, and Pax."

"I see." She sipped her beer.

"And company," Boney murmured and lowered her eyes.

"What does that mean?"

Jo gave her lover a withered looked. "We went to the hospital to see her the other day and..."

"Wait. Hospital? Pax was in the hospital? Why?" She felt the panic instantly rise and her heart thundered at the thought of Pax being injured in any way. An eerie chill of dj vu crept up her spine.

"A rattlesnake at the zoo bit her."

Teela gasped. "Oh my god. Is she alright?"

"Yeah, she's a tough one. It just knocked her down for a few days. She should be home by now."

Teela looked with disbelief to the women she called friends. Her anger rose to the surfaced and colored her cheeks and ears. "Why didn't you tell me when it happened?" She saw the couple glance at one another. She knew the reason it hurt all the same. "She didn't want me to know right?" Like bobble head dolls, Jo and Boney sadly nodded in unison. "S'okay you guys." No it's not damn it! She swallowed the truth. "I can handle her...decision." No I can't. I want to be with her. I should have been there at her bedside. I should be the one taking care of her at home. God Pax, I hope you are all right.

"I'm sorry Teela. I know this is tough for you to hear." Boney reached across and squeezed the hand resting on the glass of beer.

"How did she let herself get bitten?"

"She walked into her office and there they were. I plan to find out more when I see her this weekend."

"You're going to see Pax?" Jealousy tinged her voice. She wanted to see Pax more than ever now that she was hurt. Snakebites could be fatal. Oh God Pax. If only the zoologist wasn't so angry with her.

Boney glanced at her lover and then reluctantly replied, "We are getting together to watch football this weekend."

"I see." No I don't. You are willing to see my friends and won't give me the time of day.

"Teela, she is seeing someone else," Jo stated quietly.

The slump in Teela's shoulders as she sat back in her chair told her friends she felt defeated at the moment. Her hands became interesting and she fiddled with the hangnail on her thumb. "Pax is?"

"We think so. There was a woman visiting her in the hospital when we stopped in the other day."

"I see. Does she seem happy with this person?" Teela managed with casual restraint.

"Don't know. We didn't stay very long." Jo watched the frown deepen and cover the social workers lovely features. Her heart went out to the woman. She knew Teela had worked hard with her therapist to get her issues with Bess understood so that she could present to Pax a new and different Teela than she had shown her last summer.

Boney paused with her glass of beer midway to her lips. "I'm sorry Teela."

"No, no that's okay. I ahh..."

"Hello Jean." The sweet voice came from behind Boney as fingers caressed the back of her neck. The unexpected touch caused Boney to jump and spill the glass of beer she held into her lap.

Boney cursed and quickly scooted away from the table; legs wide open to protect her shoes from the beer. "Autumn, I told you not to call me that!" Boney replied nervously and reached for the napkins upon the table.

"I am so sorry." Autumn reached for more napkins and bent over to begin dabbing them directly between Boney's outstretched legs. The tight low cut sweater provided Boney a direct view of the round tops of large breasts threatening to tumble free. Boney couldn't control her eyes from targeting the view.

Jo abruptly snatched the damp napkins out of Autumn's hands with an explicit glare and hissed, "That is not your place to be."

Autumn did not change her position as her smiling eyes locked upon Boney's. "I am terribly sorry. I did not mean to get you wet Jean."

"Good-bye Autumn." Jo was direct, not leaving room to question her intentions.

Autumn placed her hand upon Boney's shoulder giving it a light squeeze as she righted herself and walked away with an extra sway in her hips. Boney made her eyes stay lowered and immediately started to dab at her wet pants. Jo threw the useless napkins upon the table and glared at the back of Autumn as she sauntered away. It was some time before Boney cleared her throat and barely whispered that she was going to the bathroom.

"It wasn't Boney, Jo," Teela carefully stated as she watched her friend seething quietly in her chair. It was not a good sign for Jo to be silent when she was mad. Silent meant she had crossed far over the line for reasoning. Even psychiatrists had their own demons. Jo's rarely surfaced but when it did, it was frightening to think of what she may be capable of.

Boney came out of the stall in the women's bathroom after drying her skin beneath the soaked jeans. She was stunned by Autumn's blatant disrespect of her wife. Boney had not told Jo of the woman's constant flirtations with her while they worked on the dock at the warehouse. She thought that by telling Autumn again that she was happily married and not interested would have sufficed. Apparently, she was wrong.

It was good and bad that Jo saw what happened. At least she knows I am innocent and I won't get in trouble over this one. Thank god! But she would need to have a serious talk again with Autumn preferably when one of her dock buddies was around as a witness.

Boney tried blotting her private area with the paper towels and she was not getting any dryer. Soon, she would start smelling like a brewery and they had another full game to bowl. Looking about the room, she spied the automatic hand-drying machine. Her brows raised into her hairline. Worth a shot, she reasoned.

Boney threw the useless towels into the trashcan and mover it out of the way of the machine. She pushed the round silver button and the device whirled to life. Boney angled her body awkwardly so that her wet groin aimed directly under the machine for the full effect of the heater. This ain't bad, she thought feeling the bizarre arousal from the heat upon the cool jeans. Maybe I do need help. She laughed aloud at herself.

Suddenly the door opened and Boney jumped erect embarrassed that someone walked in and caught her awkward position. She turned and frowned.

"Now Boney," Autumn cooed entering the room. "Why do you want to be dry," she walked until she had backed Boney into the wall. "When being wet is so much better."

Autumn seized Boney's lips with her own and took the kiss she had been wanting for weeks. Boney's hands fumbled to push Autumn away from her.

"I can make you hotter than any old machine." She wrapped one hand around Boney's neck and massaged one of Boney's breasts with the other.

Boney managed to push her away, but Autumn kept her hips pressed into Boney's. "Autumn, I told you that I am married. Happily. Now get off me."

"That kiss didn't say so." She replied seductively.

"Oh really Boney?" Both sets of eyes spun towards the open door. "What kind of kiss was it?"

"Jo," she squeaked.

"You remembered me, how lovely." Boney tried to move from under Autumn but was not having success. Jo spun on her heels and left the bathroom.

Teela was about to sip her beer when Jo came to a frantic halt at their table. She grabbed her purse and her jacket mumbling and crying to herself. "What's wrong Jo?" Teela felt herself begin to panic.

"I'm leaving." She angrily shrugged into her coat.

"Jo wait, what happened? What about the game?"

"Forfeit. I DON'T GIVE A SHIT!" She turned and ran out of the building without changing her bowling shoes. Teela looked from her running friend back towards the women's bathroom.

"Autumn this is not funny, let me go," Boney struggled.

"No reason to now that she knows." Autumn tried to capture Boney's lips once again.

I hate to do this but you asked for it. Boney brought her knee up with moderate force and connected with Autumn's groin. She released a small howl that echoed in the riled room and dropped her hold upon Boney. "There is nothing to know." Boney shoved the doubled over woman further away from her. "I am going to tell you this for the last time, Stay the hell away from me! I am not interested in your slutty ass. My wife is ten times the woman that you can ever hope to be!"

"You bitch!" Autumn hissed both hands remains clasped over her center.

"Yeah, Yeah, yo' momma." Boney ran from the bathroom. She came running to the table and looked upon and down the lanes. She did not spot her wife anywhere. "Where is Jo?"

Seeing the panicked look upon Boney's face. "She left Boney. What the hell..."

She did not finish as Boney followed the same path as Jo and ran from the building. Teela was lost and afraid. A horrid sense of dread filled her with the scene that she had just witnessed. She turned to her opponents and shrugged her shoulders.

It wasn't very long before a haggard and tearful Boney staggered to the table and slumped in her chair. She was not surprised that the bitter cold could not freeze the hot tears that streaked Boney's face. She absently wiped her eyes to whisper solemnly, "I'm going to need a ride home Teela."

* * * * * *

Teela barely had a chance to bring her car to a complete stop before Boney flung open the passenger door and bolted from the car. She fumbled with her keys at the front door before she found the right one. Boney slammed the door shut and ran to the living room.

"Jo?" She bellowed into the empty room and made her way into the kitchen. It too was empty and she returned to the living room. "Jo, where are you?"

Boney took the stairs two at a time to reach the top floor landing. She came to a stop outside of their bedroom, she grabbed the knob and turned it but the door would not budge.

"Jo?" She rattled the handle. "Jo let me in please." She pushed and the door would not budge. "Jo honey, let me in." She waited without receiving a response. "Come on Jo, honey, let me explain. It wasn't my fault." No response again caused her frustration to overtake her and she hit the door soundly with her fist. "God damn it Jo open the fucking door!"

Boney turned away from the door and took several deep breaths. "Jo, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so angry. Please, please honey. Let me in." She placed her ear against the door away from the small dent she had created. She heard her beloved crying on the other side. "Aahh Jo." She felt her own tears scroll down her cheeks uncensored as she put her back to the door and slid to the floor. "I hate the fucking couch."

* * * * * *

After she had left Boney at home, Teela drove back into the city but did not head for her home. The green number eight on the dash clock told her it was still early. She made a detour to the other side of town. She inched her car along quiet Dover Lane until she came to the home with the soft gray siding marked with 7892 in white large numbers. She turned off the headlights and killed the engine. She stared at the white porch light glaring against the dark night.

What would I say to her? She would probably throw me off of her porch. She could do it easily. Who is it that she is seeing? Does she love her?

 

The inside of her car was bathed in headlight beams coming from behind her. She scooted down in the driver's seat hoping to not be seen by the driver of the luxury car pulling into Pax's driveway.

Teela watched as the driver's door opened and a figure clad in a padded vest, hat and scarf scurried around to the passenger side to open the door. Teela recognized the tall lean figure of Pax being helped out of the car by the tall driver. The driver wrapped her arms around Pax waist and guided a stumbling Pax to her front door. Pax leaned against the side of the house while the driver fumbled with the keys and unlocked the door. Pax and the driver entered the house, closed the door, and turned off the porch light.

So it's true. You have moved on. Teela gunned the engine to life and pulled away from the curb to head back across town to her home to find out what the pet nanny had to say about her time with Thumper's day.

* * * * * * *

 

The explosion made the ground tremble and the car that Emily hid behind shake against her back. Gunfire rang in the air finally shattered the bullet-riddled glass. The sound of loud pings rang as bullets hit the other side of her protection. Emily ducked her head and glanced to her left. A few feet behind another car was her partner Randy.

 

"So this is the dance you wanted?" Emily spoke into the headsets small microphone in front of her lips.

 

"I requested less percussion," Randy guffawed and ducked.

 

There was a brief lull in the firing upon them. Emily gave her partner a questioning look. She gave him the hand signal that she was going to take a peek. Randy shook his head violently. Slowly she got to her knees, gun in hand she inched her way until her eyes barely cleared the passenger window. It was quiet, eerily quiet. Suddenly, a figure came running out of the building across the street toward them.

 

"Its Jimmy," Emily's voice rose to a higher pitch than she intended. The lone figure pointed his weapon behind him and fired in the direction he came from. It happened so fast that Emily did not have a chance for another reaction. Only three shots responded to Jimmy's fire. Two landed in him and he went down roughly in the street mid-way to safety. "Damn, he's hit Randy. Cover me."

 

"EMILY NO!"

 

Emily darted out from between the bumpers of the cars where her and Randy were positioned.

Her eyes snapped open and her hand grasped the shoulder it held tightly. With a start, Emily inhaled deeply and waited for her eyes to focus. With her free hand she wiped her eyes free of the grittiness from dried tears and sleep. Inhaling twice more as she grasped at the pounding organ in her chest to keep it from bursting through. At the very least she tried to slow it's thundering beat for fear it would echo too loudly in Harley's ear and wake her. She tilted her head and glanced down upon her sleeping lover. The nightmare of the drug bust gone bad replayed without warning. She was awake; Harley did not need to be.

Emily debated on whether to take the chance of moving and waking Harley. That would not be a good thing. Harley would start to worry and panic. Harley had become increasingly more possessive and hesitant to leave her side over the past few days since returning from the hospital. Although she never spoke it, Emily knew that Harley was on the verge of asking her to quit vice and drugs. Emily had been asking herself the same thing for the past several months. The opportunity for a different career was there had been there for months. She would be surrounded by people that she knew and could trust. All she had to do was make her final decision.

I'll call the guys tomorrow and go check it out while Harley is working. It will give me a chance to get out of the house, to stretch and to get away from mom.

"You are thinking so hard you woke me up," a sleepy whisper filled the air.

"I'm sorry love," she snuggled her closer to her left side.

"What has you awake?"

God I'm not ready to tell when I haven't even decided yet. "Ahm, the right side of the bed. I haven't quite gotten used to sleeping on this side." She was chagrinned by her ability for quick thinking. I'm not an undercover cop for nothing. Until this case, my actions had never been called into question.

"I know what you mean." Since her return home, the two had changed sides of the bed so that they could snuggle without a risk of hurting Emily's thigh. At any rate, she snuggled closer, "I love the feel of you. I have missed your warmth," she stroked her lover's bare torso. "And these." She spread her fingers across the small firm breasts beneath the comforter.

Emily sighed and planted a kiss upon Harley's crown. "Watch those fingers young lady."

"Or?"

"Harley, don't tease."

Harley sat up and leaned on an elbow to look down at the chiseled features. She gently brushed the stray raven strands away from her face and hinted a smile "Who says that I am?"

Harley closed her eyes and slowly lowered her head until soft pink lips met her own. She pressed her upper body along her lovers and enveloped the kiss both delivering and receiving. Their mutual moans fell into the silence of the room and Emily let her hands to embrace her lover, pulling her all the more tighter. She loved the silken feel of the breasts pressed against her own swollen nipples. Soft hands moved along her spine and caressed the downy hair beneath her fingertips. Emily had missed her lover terribly. The three weeks since they had last touched had been too long.

The need for air was the only reason a space came between their meshed bodies. Emily's finger stroked the swollen lips of her Harley. She was too moved for words, for English, and spoke to her beloved in the language of her youth.

"Benecirme Harley, hacer el amor." Bless me Harley make love to me.

 

Harley kissed her tenderly, lips barely a wisp across her eyes, her cheeks. Her tongue snake out and brushed across Emily lips. She smiled at the shuddering body beneath. Harley knew very few phrases in the Mexican Spanish that Emily spoke. She knew this one for it always caused her heart to leap against her chest wall. Emily humbled herself to the love for her Harley.

"Come to me Harley," Emily panted.

Harley slowly dragged her body atop of Emily. She purposefully pressed her wet center along the taut stomach muscles leaving the wet trail of her arousal the length of her lover's body. Emily groaned at the readiness of her lover. She felt the blood rushed between her own legs at the thought of tasting her beloved.

She loved the exotic essence that Harley created. Each time they made love, Emily reveled in devouring her lover until drunkenness claimed her. She could smell the wine she yearned for as Harley paused to lightly sit upon her chest. Emily inhaled deeply. She felt the sensation of floating, set adrift among the slow moving current at the end of twilight.

Harley leaned over just enough to dangle the tip of a hardened dark nipple out of reach of the detective's lips. Her hair was draped to the side of her face as their eyes met in the understanding Harley tainting. Harley also knew that if she were not careful, her lover would latch onto her nipple with a fierceness that had sent her over the edge more than once.

Their groan mingled into the silence of the room as Harley ground her self upon Emily and moved with ease where the wetness pooled and spread across her chest.

"God Harley," she panted. "Come to me. Let me give you pleasure."

Harley lifted her self and Emily could saw the cord of wetness glisten between. She licked her lips as Harley ended her climb and perched her center just out of reach of the awaiting lips.

Harley reached down and opened her lips for Emily and slowly lowered herself down. The detective's hands were cupped and held the firm buttocks of her lover in place. Harley hands gripped the headboard and her knuckles popped. She threw her head back and arched. Her small frame tightened in the grasp of her orgasm. She heard the sound of

joy from her lover below. In one motion, Harley grabbed her pillow and shoved it over her face as the scream broke through her lips.

Continued in Part 3

Extended Intentions comments to the bard at Jynaki@aol.com

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