Double Dog Dare
Disclaimer and contact information in Part 1.
Paige tried to keep her breathing under control, but it wasn't working. Holding her breath for a moment, she closed her eyes, counting to ten before opening them and releasing the breath. The kitchen she was hiding in, though spacious, felt closed in and constricting. She peered out around the corner into the living room again. She had been warned that Cal was different, very different. She was told that the blonde had sustained major injuries that she had not fully bounced back from. Paige couldn't imagine what they might be, considering the shooting happened almost five years ago. But, she took it into account.
Paige's heart leapt again when she heard the front door open, and a chorus of welcoming greetings and wishes for a happy birthday. Cal turned 23. Time goes so fast. The brunette peeked around the corner again, a hand coming to her mouth with her gasp. Blue eyes immediately filled.
Cal sat in a wheelchair, easily and gracefully wheeling herself around the living room. Ty and his wife bent down to hug her, the child, Locke, climbing into her lap and wrapping his arms around her neck.
“Oh, Cal,” she whispered. Slowly her eyes traveled up the useless legs, to see a powerfully built torso and arms, the shoulders wide and defined. Her gaze continued up until she took in short blonde hair. It was shorter than when she'd seen Cal last, and far more manageable. Cal was smiling, her green eyes twinkling, though even from that distance, Paige could tell the life that was in them before was noticeably absent.
“I can't believe you guys threw me a friggin' surprise party,” Cal muttered, glaring good-naturedly at her brother. He smiled, hugging her again.
“Yeah, and I can't believe my baby sister isn't the cute, precocious 4 year old she used to be, either. And,” he said, a bit nervous, glancing at Tracy for support. “The surprises haven't stopped yet.”
Cal glanced from her brother to her sister-in-law, smile frozen on her face as she saw something pass between them. Suddenly her palms began to sweat. An uneasiness was clutching at her stomach, but she had no idea why.
“Don't be angry,” Ty began. “Come on out,” he called over his shoulder. Cal's eyes followed his line of sight toward the kitchen, her breath catching as Paige Harris stepped out from around the corner. The brunette looked gorgeous in a pair of jeans and short-sleeved tee. Her hair was down, shining around her shoulders.
“Happy birthday, Cal,” she said softly.
The blonde stared at her, then looked at her brother, eyes turning hard and angry. “I can't believe you did this,” she hissed, disengaging the lock on her chair, Ty nearly lost a toe as she wheeled around, slamming out the front door.
Ty was stunned, staring after her. “Shit.” He quickly followed, making it to Cal's car just in time to see the blonde nearly fall out as she tried to get herself arranged behind the wheel. “Cal, wait!' he called, tennis shoes pounding on the walkway as he made his way over to her.
“Get the fuck away from me, Ty.” Cal got herself settled and quickly folded her chair, stowing it. She turned venomous eyes on her brother, car roaring to life. Ty stood there, impotent to do or say anything that would make Cal feel better. He watched with a heavy heart as the car squealed down the street.
“I'm sorry,” Paige said softly, Tracy meeting her gaze. The redhead sighed.
“I figured this might happen,” she said, placing a comforting hand on Paige's arm. “Ty was determined to do this.”
Everything hit the brunette, remembering the blonde, once so confident and cocky, seeming so small and frail in that god forsaken chair. “I had no idea,” she whispered, trying valiantly to swallow down her sorrow. “Why didn't Ty tell me she was in a wheelchair?”
“Would it have made a difference? Whether you came or not.”
“No! Of course not.”
The front door opened and a dejected Ty stepped through. Expectant eyes found him. He shrugged. “She's gone.”
“Is she upset?” Tracy asked unnecessarily. Ty nodded.
“Yeah. But, she'll go home and cool down. She's always had a temper.”
“I'm really sorry, Ty,” Paige said, feeling completely out of place.
“Don't be. It was her choice to react badly. Not your fault.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Paige asked, stuffing her hands into her back pockets. She noticed a very unhappy little boy glaring at her from the corner.
“Nah. I'll talk to her later.”
“How long will she be in the wheelchair?”
Ty shrugged. “Her doctors say that it's not permanent. The bullet grazed her spinal chord, but didn't sever it. It could be ten months from now, it could be ten years from now. No one knows. Up to this point, mid-thigh down, nothing.”
Paige ran a shaky hand through her hair. “I can't believe it. I just, I can't reconcile the Cal I knew with what I saw today.”
Ty stared at her, unable to not take offense to what he knew was a harmless comment. He lashed out, anyway. “She is no different, Page. And I'll tell you something right now,” he felt a soothing hand on his chest. “If you want to get my sister back into your life, you had better learn that and learn that real quick. She's shut people out for less.”
Paige stared at him, stunned into silence. Realizing her faux pas, she nodded, contrite. “I'm sorry. You're right. I just, it'll take some time for all this to sink in.”
Cal drove around for what seemed like hours, her eyes long run dry, red-rimmed and burning. The sun was going down, and she decided it was time to go home. To say that it had been a shock to see Paige standing in her brother's living room is the understatement of the world. The blonde had been shocked, felt betrayed, and really, profoundly embarrassed. Never in a million years would she want Paige to see her as she was now.
“Damn it, Ty,” she muttered, shoving her seatbelt off as she cut the ignition. Somewhere inside the haze that was her mind, she knew Ty had only been trying to help, but hurts from long ago stopped her from seeing it clearly. Scar tissue had built. Managing to get herself settled, she made her way to her garden-level apartment, unlocking the door and letting herself inside.
The apartment was dark, and felt terribly empty. Turning on the lamp beside the door, the blonde went inside, setting her chair's breaks and heaving herself to the couch. She ran trembling hands through her hair, sniffling softly. What the hell was Paige doing back, anyway? Wasn't she in England studying to be rich and perfect somewhere?
Just about to turn on the TV, she heard a soft knock at her door. Sighing heavily, Cal cleared her throat. “Come in.”
The door softly opened, Locke just barely stepping around the threshold, walking slowly over to his aunt. He looked at her with large, puppy-dog eyes. “Daddy says he's sorry,” he said, voice just as horribly sad as his eyes. He even stuck his bottom lip out for affect. Cal tried not to smile.
“Did your dad send you in here?” she asked. Slow nod. “Did he tell you to give me puppy-dog eyes?” Slow nod. “You tell your dad that if he brings me an Oreo blizzard from Dairy Queen, and a piece of my birthday cake, we can talk.” Locke's smile brightened the room and Cal's heart. He turned and ran for all his short little legs would allow, slamming out of the apartment. Cal couldn't help but chuckle and feel better.
Within ten minutes, there was another knock on the door. At the call to enter, the door barely opened, an arm snaking through, Blizzard in the hand. “You may enter and keep all body parts attached,” Cal said, sitting back on the couch, making her eyes hard. The door opened the rest of the way, and a very repentant Ty stepped through, followed by Locke, eyeing the boxed birthday cake he carried. “Blizzard,” Cal requested, hand held out. When the cold cup was placed in her hand, she began to dig in with relish. Ty sat, groaning as he drug his son up onto his lap.
“I'm really sorry, Cal. I didn't think you'd get that upset. Surprise maybe, but not upset. I never wanted to do that.”
Cal heard him, staring into the creamy smoothness of her treat as she let the words absorb and thought of her own. “So, what did you intend?”
“To bring Paige back into your life, and you into hers. She called me several months ago, Cal.” He held up a hand, forestalling anything she may have to say about that. “She asked me not to say anything, wanting to contact you in her own way. Today was my crazy idea, so don't be angry at her for it.”
“Did it ever occur to you that just maybe I don't want to see her?” Cal asked, licking the red plastic spoon clean. She eyed Ty, waiting for his answer. He sighed, shrugging.
“I just wanted to help.”
“And for that you're forgiven. But,” she pointed the spoon at him, “if you pull any shit like this again, I swear I'll kick your ass.”
Ty nodded. “Okay. Understood.”
“Good. Now get me a damn fork so I can have some birthday cake, and then you're going to tell me everything.”
Cal muttered to herself as she typed away on the computer keyboard, matching the number of books she ordered with those that arrived. Brows falling, she took the packing slip in her hands. “Damn them,” she growled, noting the five book difference. “I don't think so.” About to pick up the phone, the bells above the door rang out as a customer entered the small shop. She glanced into the main store from where she sat in the office. Her breath caught as Paige walked in, slowly browsing through the stacks. “Shit.”
Paige ran her hands along the spines lining a shelf when she heard the tight grip of rubber tires grab onto the wood planks of the floor. She saw Cal making her way to the front counter. The brunette's heart began to beat faster. It was hard not to be effected by the coldness in Cal's eyes.
“What are you doing here?” the blonde asked, her voice low and flat.
“I came to see you,” Paige answered, walking over to her. She did her damndest to keep her expression neutral, not reacting to what she was seeing or feeling.
“Sorry you wasted the trip. Unless you'd like to buy something, I'd like you to leave.”
“Cal,” Paige said softly, kneeling down in front of the blonde. “Please don't do that. Don't kick me out of your life. Not when I just found out you're alive.”
Cal's heart reached out to the brunette's soft tone, and the softness in her blue eyes. She tried not to scan the beautiful face before her, and think about how soft those lips were, or how wonderful Paige felt to hold. She hardened her heart and her resolve.
“What does it matter? I'm sure your husband can keep you entertained. You don't need me for that anymore.”
Paige was struck nearly dumb, rocking back on her heels as she almost fell back, flat on her ass.
Cal could see the shocked look, and for some reason, she felt the need to explain. “Ty told me. Said he didn't want there to be anymore surprises. I hate surprises.”
“Listen, Cal, Jimmy-“
“Paige, I don't give a flying fuck about Jimmy,” Cal hissed, backing away from the brunette, heading toward the back office. “Nor you. You've come a long way for nothing. Go back to England where you belong.” With that, the office door was slammed shut with finality. Tempted to follow, Paige noticed a customer in the back, eyeing her with hard eyes. Sighing heavily, Paige left the store.
Cal ran a hand through her hair, unable to concentrate on the reports before her. She looked up, staring at the calendar on her wall, not seeing the kittens frolicking on the page. All she could see was Paige, and that fucking rock on her left hand. It had been five years, five long, long years. How could she expect Paige to isolate herself as the blonde had done? It wasn't right, nor fair, but neither was Paige marrying some… man! So, it seemed she'd fallen right into the life her father had wanted for her all along, hadn't she?
Something Paige had said struck her, though Cal didn't want to admit it. She had just found out Cal was alive. Could that be true? Had the brunette thought Cal had died that day? No. It was an excuse. It was simply something Paige said to justify the fact that she had never called to see if Cal was okay, never offered to help, never said a fucking word!
Cal slammed her fist into the desk, her breathing hard and heavy from her upset. “Fuck her,” she muttered. “I haven't needed her in all this time, and I sure as hell don't need her now.” Resolve firmly in place, Cal turned toward the store, opening her office door, ready to face her customers.
“No, James! She made it painfully clear that she doesn't want to see me.”
“So bloody what?” Jimmy followed the brunette through the house, helping her gather laundry. “You make her want to see you, Paige. She has no right to make assumptions about you, nor your intentions. You never lied to her.”
“She doesn't know that!” Paige cried, turning on her husband. She looked away, stubbornly swiping at her tears. “She probably thinks I abandoned her.”
“Love, this is far easier than you're making it.” James smiled, taking Paige by the shoulders, staring at her until she'd meet his eyes. “Make her see, make her understand.”
“How do I handle the fact that she's in a wheelchair, James?” she whispered, heart breaking.
“You love her, Paige. No matter what. Legs, no legs, walking, dancing, standing on her head. You love her, and that's what matters. Yes, no doubt it was a shock. Anyone with a heart would have been shocked. But Paige, darling, you're better than that. I know in here,” he placed his fingers over her heart, “where it matters, you don't care.”
Paige fell apart. “I just feel so responsible.”
James held her, knowing there was nothing he could say to that one. He would, too, even though they both knew Paige wasn't. Her father had made his own choices, and the sad, sad universe saw to it that no punishment came to him for it. “Sweetheart,” he voiced aloud, “all you can do is be there for her now. Let her know that you'll spend the rest of your life making it up to her, all she's lost.”
Paige nodded, snuggling in deeper into James' warm neck. She wished it were so easy.
“I know what you're thinking,, you Doubting Thomas.” He smiled at Paige's chuckle. “Yes, I can read your mind. It'll be hard, and terrifying, and possibly painful for that tender heart of yours. But,” he pulled back, looking into brimming blue eyes. “I have every confidence in you, love. You won the heart of a rebel once. You can do it again.”
“You do realize that if I do, it means divorce?” Paige grinned.
“What?” James put a hand to his chest, mock surprise. “You mean, you don't want the three of us to live in married bliss?”
Paige smacked him on the arm. “That would be a resounding no.”
Cal smiled at Linda, a regular to the store, as she handed her the bagged items she'd just bought. “See you next Thursday,” the blonde said, turning from the counter, ready to head back over to the stack of paperbacks she had been arranging when Linda showed up. The bells above the door jingled, announcing the arrival of… Paige. The other customer in the store glanced at the newcomer.
“Excuse me,” Paige said to him, a teenager who had been flipping through the comic books. “Can you give us a minute, please?” She gave him a winning smile, and almost stumbling over himself, the smitten boy did what he could to do her bidding. Once he was gone, the brunette closed the door after him, locking it and flipping the OPEN sign to CLOSED.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” Cal asked, wheeling herself toward the brunette.
“I'm doing what I have to to make you listen to me,” Paige said calmly, though her voice was filled with resolve. She turned to the blonde, arms crossed over her chest. “I came back to the states to find you after I got word from my mother, of all people, that you were still alive. I did my research, and found Ty and Tracy. As for this,” she raised her left hand, diamond sparkling. Cal flinched. “James and I have been married for two years. He's my best friend, and is madly in love with his old college roommate, Robert.”
“Our marriage has allowed him to live the life he wants without the pressures from his family, I love Jimmy very much, but we're married in name only.” She stared at Cal, looking for any sort of response. There was none, so she continued. “I want you back in my life, Cal, in whatever way I can get you. I love you, have since the day I saw you smoking that damn cigarette in the bathroom. I don't care if you believe me, or if you're pissed at me. I've just spoken my heart, and broken it down into simple, easy to swallow pieces for you.” Silence. “Well? Are you going to say anything?”
“Yes. Could you unlock the door? I have a customer glaring at you.”
Paige glanced over her shoulder, and true enough, a woman was peering inside. Cal recognized her as a pain in the ass customer. She was tempted to leave her out there, but it gave her an opportunity to get out of the intense blue of Paige's gaze.
“Of course.” Paige turned toward the door, flipping the sign back and unlocking the door. The woman huffed in, glaring at both women. Paige turned a raised brow toward the blonde, who rolled her eyes. Paige grinned, catching the ghost of a smile on Cal's lips.
The day was long, and some of the customers unpleasant, but Cal forged on. As she closed up shop, Paige's visit popped into mind again. Again. Hell, she hadn't been able to get it out of her mind.
“She loves me,” she whispered to the shade she pulled down over the windows. The idea struck her between the eyes, yet there was a huge part of her that didn't want to care. It wanted it to mean nothing, simply words, long dead. Even so, the blonde knew that was a lie- a big fat one. “No.” Cal shook her head, not ready to deal with any of it. She had gotten Paige out of her system a long time ago, and she would stay out. So Paige wanted her in her life, fine. They'd be the best of buds, but she would not allow her heart to reach again.
Paige pushed her grocery cart slowly down the aisle, eyes scanning the contents of the shelves. Putting a five pound bag of sugar into her cart, she started when suddenly a little boy with dark blonde hair stood at the side of hers. Recognition set in.
“Hi, Locke. How are you, honey?”
“Fine,” he said, eyeing her with shy blue eyes. Within moments his mother was behind him.
“Hi, Paige. How are you?” Tracy asked with a bright smile. Paige returned it.
“I'm good. How are you?”
“Great. Locke, honey,” she said, turning to her son, “go grab you a box of Pop Tarts in the next aisle.” Like a shot, the boy was off, proud to be able to grab his own favorite breakfast food. Turning her attention back to Paige, Tracy rested her weight on a hip. “So how have things gone? You know, with the stubborn one?”
Paige chuckled. “That she is. Guess I just hadn't really been on the receiving end of it before now.”
Tracy threw her head back and laughed. She eyed the beautiful brunette. “Do you have anywhere to be? I was just about to take Locke to lunch. Want to join us?”
Paige smiled. “Yeah. That would be great.”
The restaurant was small and quiet, the few patrons scattered murmuring quietly. The trio found a table, Locke immediately going to work on the paper and crayons the waitress brought him. The two women got settled across from each other in the booth.
“The food here is great. Do you like hamburgers?” Tracy asked, scanning the menu.
“Well then,” the redhead grinned, “you're in for a treat.” They were silent as they decided what they wanted, and then ordered. Once the waitress had left, Tracy laced her fingers and set her hands on the table in front of her. “Have you talked to her at all?” she asked.
Paige nodded. “Yes. I've been in a couple times. The first time was ugly. She ended up kicking me out of the bookstore.” Tracy winced, knowing first hand just how vicious Cal could be when cornered. “But, then I went in again a couple weeks ago.” She grinned, blue eyes twinkling. “I kicked out the customer she had and locked the door. A captive audience. I made her listen to me.”
Tracy threw her head back and howled with laughter. Her son studied her as though she'd lost her mind. “Oh, Paige, I knew I liked you!”
The brunette chuckled, waiting for the waitress to leave their drinks before she continued. “I think she heard me. I explained James, and why I was here. I haven't been in since. I wanted to give it some time for all that to absorb into that thick head.”
“I think you're playing it very smart. I do have to ask, though, Paige.”
“What are your intentions here? What exactly is it you want from Callahan.”
“I want her heart.”
It had been stated so simply, with absolutely no hesitation, Tracy was taken aback. She studied the brunette, who met her gaze beat for beat. “Even though she's stubborn?” Tracy questioned. It was a teasing remark, but they both knew what Tracy was asking. Can you love all of her?
“Tracy, I know that Cal and I were very young when we met. Not just in age, but in life experience. I know at that time I didn't know anything about anything, yet thought I knew everything. One thing I did know, very early on, is that there was something about Cal. Something between she and I that was special. As time has gone on, and I can't shake my feelings for her, I've come to realize that it's not something that comes along every day. I'd be a fool to let that go.”
“Paige, I like you. Okay.”
“No, no, there's isn't one.” Tracy took a sip of her iced tea. “I think your heart is true, and I think Cal would be crazy to let you go. But, you have to understand something. Cal is a very, very different person now. She's hardened herself, letting very little light into a world she perceives as being dark. Pretty much Locke is about all she'll truly see.” She put an arm around her son's shoulders for emphasis. The boy gave the two women a glance then turned back to his masterpiece. “I don't want to see Cal get hurt.” She looked into blue eyes meaningfully. “Or you.”
Paige sighed, playing with her straw. “Do you think I should leave her alone?” she asked at length. Tracy shook her head.
“No, I don't. I think Cal needs this, something to bring her out of her self-imposed prison. She has this crazy notion that she's no longer whole, somehow. I mean, yes, it's obvious how she'd get that image of herself. I think someone who can come into her life, someone like you, and show her that there is still so much more to life than the loss of the use of her legs. Maybe give her hope and the determination that is such a Cullen trait, to persevere. I mean, it blows my mind that with all that she's been through, the death of her parents, which I don't know if you know this or not, but she witnessed it, and all the hands she was tossed around to… Yet this one thing,” Tracy held her index finger and thumb a hair apart, “this one tiny thing, broke her.”
All Paige could do was just stare at the woman across from her. “I had no idea,” she finally said. “She never talked to me about her parents, or what happened.”
“I'm not entirely sure she remembers. I hope she doesn't.”
Paige broke herself from her spell, glancing over at the child sitting next to Tracy, watching the quiet intensity at which he colored. It reminded her of Cal. “I really want to be there for her, Tracy,” she said, still watching Locke. “I feel such a need to protect her.”
Paige met kind eyes. “From herself. I've seen the scars of her self-destruction. I won't let her do it again.”
“No,” Tracy said, sitting back in the booth and studying the other woman. “I don't believe you will.”
“I'm telling you, Maryon- if that kid puts one more thing on the top shelf, I'll fire him myself. I don't care if he's six foot three. The rest of the world is not.” Cal listened, her eyes never leaving the box of new books that taunted her. So far from the edge, yet waaaay too far for her to reach. “Yeah, you better talk to him. If I do, blood will be spilt.” Cal chuckled, saying her goodbyes and hanging up the phone. “Alright, you bastards, you're mine,” she muttered.
Looking around, Cal tried to find something that would work to bring the box over the edge, where she could place something soft on the ground for them to fall on. Seeing the broom, she reached over for it, bringing it up, the tip brushing the underside of the stubborn box. Tongue squeezed out of the corner of her mouth, she grunted softly as she reached, trying to give a little more for the broom to finally make contact.
Paige pushed through the front door, nearly jumping out of her skin when she heard a loud crash. Her head whipped around toward the travel section.
“Cal!” She ran over to the blonde, who lay sprawled on the floor, her wheelchair thudding softly back against a display table. “Oh my god,” she dropped to her knees, heart in her chest. Cal pushed herself up on her arms, face turning away, unable to look at Paige.
“Get me my chair,” she barked.
“Cal, let me help-“
“Get me my fucking chair!” Cal was embarrassed, and just wanted to cry. To add insult to injury, they both yelled out as the box of books fell, landing not two feet from Cal's prone body.
Paige crawled over to the wheelchair, tugging it over by a foot peg. Turning back to the blonde, she laid a hand on one of Cal's arms, only for it to be snatched away, as though she had been burned.
“Please don't touch me,” Cal whispered, fighting a brave battle against her rising tears of frustration and humiliation.
“Cal,” Paige said softly, taking hold of the arm again. “It's just me, honey. Please let me help.”
“I can do it myself!”
“I know you can. You can do any and everything you put your mind to. I've seen you do it. But I'm here, and I won't feel so damn useless if you'll just let me help you.” She met the green gaze suddenly focused on her. “Please?” Cal nodded mutely. “Okay.” Paige pushed up to her knees. “What do you need me to do? And are you hurt anywhere?”
Cal concentrated on her body, making note of everything. Finally she shook her head. “I'm okay. First, we need to roll me over.”
“Okay.” The brunette pushed gently, Cal slowly falling over to her side, then her back. Lying on the floor, she closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths before nodding that they should continue. Paige moved around to the blonde's front, stepping a foot over her cockeyed legs, squatting as she pulled Cal up into a sitting position. Paige looked into Cal's eyes, her heart reaching out to the blonde. Suddenly she felt overwhelmed with great need.
Cal was startled when she found herself wrapped in a tight embrace, her head pressed to Paige's upper chest. “Paige,” she tried to push the brunette away.
“Shh, don't fight me,” Paige whispered, eyes sliding closed. “Please, just let me hold you.” She smiled when she felt Cal stop pushing against her, then relax into the hug. She almost wept when she felt arms make their way around her back. Nuzzling her nose into fragrant blonde hair, Paige sighed. Her world snapped back into place as she held Cal, all the pain and hurt from the past five years melting away. Her parents couldn't touch the beauty of that moment.
Cal could hear Paige's heart beating, and she couldn't help but close her eyes and allow herself to absorb all that was Paige, all that she had known as the ultimate good in her life. At one time. Starting to feel a little too comfortable back in Paige's arms, Cal slowly pulled away. “I'd like to get in my chair now,” she said softly.
“Okay.” Paige helped as best she could, amazed at the strength Cal possessed as she heaved herself back into the chair. She made sure the blonde was secure, then smiled. “Are you alright?” Cal nodded, feeling very shy all the sudden. Paige was utterly charmed and shocked. Definitely not the cocky, self-assured girl who took far too many chances for anyone's good. She kind of liked this quiet, vulnerable Callahan.
“Um, I need to get back to work,” the blonde muttered.
“Okay. Can I gather this stuff up for you?” Paige asked, indicating the scattered books and ruined box at their feet. Cal nodded, turning away to wheel back behind the counter. She needed some space between her and Paige, some sort of barrier so she could lick her wounds.
The brunette quickly stacked the heavy atlases, carrying them to the counter. Breaking the box down, she set it beside them. She noted Cal refused to look at her. Making sure there were no customers, she made her way around to the blonde, behind the counter. Green eyes narrowed. Ignoring the glare, Paige knelt down, placing her hand on Cal's knee. She noticed the blonde flinch, but Paige refused to remove her hand.
“Thank you for humoring me, letting me help you,” she said softly. “I'm glad you're okay.”
“The new kid,” Cal began, shrugging, fingers fidgeting with a pencil. “He keeps putting things really high…” She had no idea why she was explaining, but felt compelled.
“Well, then he's an asshole.”
Cal chuckled, nodding. “I already told the owner that if he does it again, he's fired.”
“Good for you. Listen, the reason I came in today was because I want to know if I can take you to lunch. Seems like you've got your hands full today, but some day soon.”
Cal met hopeful blue eyes, and though her first instinct and thought was to decline, meeting that gaze, her lips began to move before she could think. “Okay.”
Paige's smile was swift, and it was overwhelmingly beautiful. “Fantastic! How about tomorrow? What time? Where do you want me to pick you up?”
Cal chuckled softly at the other woman's enthusiasm. “One-thirty. I'll be here.”
“Okay. Will that kid be here? I can kick his ass for you if you want. But then again,” she eyed Cal's newly developed upper body. “I somehow don't think I could put a dent into what you can do to him.” She saw the first genuine smile cross Cal's lips, however brief. “I'll leave you to it. See you tomorrow, okay?”
Cal nodded, watching as Paige stood. Though she saw the brunette squeeze her thigh right above her knee, she couldn't feel it. Looking away, she sighed. “See you.”
Cal kept her gaze in the menu, her fingers clenched around it, knuckles white. She felt eyes on her. Glancing up, she met Paige's amused blue eyes. “What?”
“You're not on the menu, Cal.” She chuckled softly at the menu that suddenly acting as barrier again. Reaching over the table, she gently pushed it down. “Relax.”
“Easy for you to say,” Cal muttered, tossing her menu to the end of the table. She'd known for ten minutes what she wanted anyway. She decided on conversation “So. How is work? You do work, right?”
“I do.” Paige sipped from her coffee. “I'm a broker. I love it, and often work from home.” Cal nodded. “And you? How do you like the bookstore?” Paige was surprised when she saw the blonde's face light up.
“I really like it there. I've been running it now for a couple years. Maryon plans to retire, I think” She shrugged. “Just hope she doesn't sell it and leave me out of a job.”
“I hope not, either. Do you like California?”
Cal shrugged, noncommittal. “It's okay. I miss snow.”
The brunette nodded. “I understand that one. Been a long time for me as well. We certainly didn't have a great deal at school, and then we moved straight here. So,” Paige shrugged.
“Why did you cut off your possibilities by marrying a gay guy?” Cal asked suddenly. Paige blinked at the non-sequitor.
“I didn't. James and I have an understanding. If either of us were to fall in love, or decide that we wanted to pursue other things, we divorce.”
Cal looked down into her Coke, for some reason, that information made her feel… intrigued. “I see.”
Paige leaned forward slightly, finally getting into some territory that she was interested in, and Cal had brought it up! “So, what about you?”
“No, I'm not married to a gay guy.”
Paige chuckled, balling up the paper from her straw and tossing it at the other woman. “No, you nut. Have you been dating anyone?” Paige waited with almost baited breath for the answer, one of which, she wasn't certain she truly wanted.
Cal scrunched up her face, thinking of the disaster that was her short-lived relationship with Laura. “Kinda.”
“There was a woman. It didn't last long. She just… wasn't right.”
No, because I am. The brunette nodded her understanding. “I'm sorry.” Though it was more than obvious she was not. Cal snorted.
“And what about you? Got any tail on the side?” Cal leaned back in her chair, playing with a fork in her fingers.
“No,” Paige shook her head. “No one since you.”
Cal was shocked by that for some reason. All she could do was stare. “Oh.” For a moment she thought about telling Paige that other than some kissing, she hadn't either. She clamped her mouth shut, turning instead with grateful eyes to the waitress that had suddenly appeared at their table.
Paige watched the blonde as she ordered, given full opportunity to stare and take in the face that had haunted her for years. So much was the same, yet so much was drastically different about Cal. Her eyes were different. More depth, yet even more sadness. Paige was awed and inspired as she studied her companion. All that Cal had survived, and yet she kept going. Suddenly her life didn't seem so bad. Not at all.
“What?” Cal asked, catching the intense blue gaze.
Paige shook her head. “Nothing,” she said softly. Yet again, she found herself longing to take the sadness away, and fill it with happiness and stability. “So, how has the reunion been with your brother?”
“It's been amazing. And Locke, oh man, he is the greatest kid. The only person in the world who can make me do anything with just one look.” She shook her head with a chuckle. “He's my little boy.”
“He's adorable. I can tell he loves you very much.”
“Yep. And it's much returned. Ty and Tracy have date night every week, so I get to keep him Friday nights, and he usually just stays for the weekend, too. He's got his own room at my place, loaded to the ceiling with toys and crap to do. Hell, I think I enjoy his toys almost as much as he does. Last summer we built a castle with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. It was very cool- moat, the whole nine yards.”
Paige rested her chin in her palm, listening with a content smile on her face. “Imagine if you had some of those more modern toys today, you now, the kind that move or light up, whatever.”
“Oh, yeah I want to get him some sort of cool erector set for his birthday this year. Watch out world, then!”
Paige laughed, warmth suffusing her body. The love of her nephew shone from Cal's eyes, making her entire body seem to just vibrate with it. It was a special thing to see. She couldn't wait until she could witness the magic between aunt and nephew first-hand. She could only hope she'd find a place that close in Cal's life.
As she studied the blonde, who continued to regale her with tales of her nephew, Paige decided, with heavy resolve, she would get Cal back, and it didn't matter what it took. She needed the blonde in her life, and wanted her in her heart. And she wanted to be in the blonde's heart. Smiling to herself, she nodded, decision made.
Cal cursed softly as she tried to get dressed as quickly as possible. She called out, “Coming!” The knocking stopped. She loaded herself in her chair and hurried over to the door. The delivery guy stood at the stoop, expecting someone to be standing at his eye-level. “Down here, big guy,” she drawled.
“Oh. Are you Callahan Cullen?”
“These are for you.” He handed her a long, white box and a clipboard to sign. She quickly scrawled her signature and handed him the form back. “Thanks.” Absently the closed the door, popping a wheelie in the chair to get turned around, then tugged the small card off the top of the box, which was taped down. Flipping open the flap, she pulled out the card within:
TO BRIGHTEN YOUR DAY- PAIGE
Despite herself, Cal smiled, stuffing the card between her thigh and the side of the chair so she could open the box. Inside three red roses were carefully displayed to full effect, their strong fragrance meeting Cal's nose.
“Wow,” she murmured, noting the brilliant red of the lush flowers. “That little shit.”
About to head into the kitchen to put the roses in water, she was stopped at another knock on the door. Turning her chair around, she found another delivery boy on the stoop. She signed his clip board, and took the white box from him.
JUST TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE STILL SMILING- PAIGE
“Jesus! Am I stuck in Bed of Roses or something?” Cal marveled at the gorgeous white petals. “I can't believe her.” Stacking the second box on top of the first, she turned around again when a knock rang out once more. “Jesus.”
“Sweets for a sweet,” the delivery girl said, handing over a basket of goodies- cookies, candy, packets of hot cocoa and a stuffed bear.
Cal waited after the girl left, making sure there were no more. Everything seemed to be safe, so she wheeled to the kitchen, unloading her bounty onto the kitchen table. There was no card with the basket of goodies, but she had no doubt who it was from. She studied everything, trying to clear her head of surprised cotton.
“What is she doing?” she muttered, fingering the satin ribbon tied around the Teddy bear's neck.
“Okay, wait. Hold on, slow down,” Tracy switched ears with the phone, continuing her list for the grocery store. “Okay, what happened?” As she listened, her smile grew. “So, she sent you half-dozen roses, three red, three white, two different carriers, and a basket of goodies? Is that what you're munching on right now?” Tracy burst out laughing. “A snickerdoodle? Yes, that is fun to say. Okay, so what's the problem? What the hell do you mean, what do you do? You call her up and thank her, then ask if you can take her to dinner.” She paused, listening. “Cal, this isn't brain surgery! The woman likes you, you like her, so, go out, fall in love and have lots of babies.” The redhead pulled the phone away from her ear, her sister-in-law's voice screeching on the other end of the line. Waiting till she was done, Tracy brought the phone back to her ear. “No, I'm not kidding. Besides, I think you'd have a hell of a fun time trying.” She grinned, then sobered. “It's your turn, Cal. She's put the ball in your court. That's entirely up to you. My suggestion was dinner. But, you do whatever you need to.”
Cal looked up expectantly at every customer that entered the bookstore. It had bee three days since her deluge of delivery people, and Paige had yet to make an appearance. She had the brunette's phone number nor address to thank her, so instead, she'd had half a week to stew in her juices and decide what to do.
“That looks painful. I'm expecting smoke to come out any moment.” Cal looked up to see a grinning Paige leaning against the counter. “You're thinking so hard, I figure maybe I best go.”
“Funny. Well, it's about time you come in. You kinda got me in a hit and run situation. And now I'm utterly addicted to snickerdoodles, thank you.”
Paige laughed, nodding. “Sure.”
“Look, Paige, thank you, it was all beautiful and very sweet, albeit unnecessary. Let me pay you back by…” here she faltered. Swallowing, she tried again. “Let me pay you back by taking you to dinner.”
The brunette studied her for a moment. “You don't need to pay me back, Cal. That's not why I did it. I'll go to dinner with you if you want to take me to dinner, but if it's paybacks, I'm sorry, but I must decline.”
Cal sensed she had slightly hurt the beautiful woman's feelings, so she backpedaled. “Go to dinner with me.”
“Yes. I accept.”
Paige's smile left the blonde momentarily dumb. Shaking herself out of it, she continued. “I need an address to pick you up at, or will the little hubby get pissed?”
“James? Uh, no. He wants to meet you, actually.”
“Yes. He does. Here.” Paige grabbed a bit of register tape and jotted down her address and phone number. “How about seven? Is tonight too soon?”
Cal felt her stomach drop. She swallowed… hard. “No. Tonight is fine. Okay. Tonight at seven.”
“See you then.”
Cal felt downright nauseous as she pulled up to a modest sized brick house. The two-story was situated in a well-kept neighborhood, manicured lawns and flowerbeds abounding.
”Very nice,” she said, making good time of getting her chair out and set up, heaving herself into it. Relived there were no stairs at the front door, Cal made her way up the path. Before she even reached it, the front door was pulled open, Paige waiting for her. Cal waved in greeting, her stomach churning once more as she realized she was about to meet Paige's husband.
“Hi. Find it okay?” the brunette asked, stepping aside so Cal could enter the house.
“Yeah. My thanks go out to mapquest.”
Paige chuckled. “Well, welcome.”
The foyer was small, but well appointed. The wood flooring throughout the house were polished to a shine. The furniture was nice, elegant yet functional. A few magazines were scattered on table tops, giving the beautiful home a homey, lived-in feel.
Cal's attention was moved to the stairs when she heard galloping footsteps. An extremely handsome man appeared, his brown hair cut stylishly short, blue eyes twinkling and mischievous. His smile was large and welcoming.
“Callahan,” he said, walking over to the blonde. “It is truly a privilege to meet you at last.” He took Cal's hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles. The blonde glanced at Paige, wondering what the hell the chivalry was about. The brunette chuckled, pushing James playfully away.
“Don't frighten her, James.”
Paige's husband grinned with a wink. “So, you two lovely ladies will be gone a good while, yes?” He turned to his wife. “I expect you no earlier than midnight, do you understand?”
“Jimmy, stop.” She gave him a quick kiss then turned to Cal. “Ready?” Cal nodded, feeling strange. She liked James, his first impression most favorable, though she felt slightly creeped out at the fact that James was married to Paige, yet he was urging their evening together.
“Yes, I'm ready,” she said at length, then spun her chair around and headed for the door, Paige walking just behind her. Once they were both loaded into her car, she turned to her passenger. “I hope you enjoy Greek food. The place I've got in mind is fantastic.”
Paige nodded vigorously. “Absolutely. It sounds wonderful.”
“Okay. Well, here we go.”
They were seated at a table, the second chair removed to make room for Cal's. She cleared her throat, looking over their surroundings, making sure it was to her liking. Why did she feel so damn nervous? She finally met the blue gaze that was focused on her. Clearing her throat again, the blonde spoke.
“You look really beautiful tonight, Paige.”
“Thank you. As do you. I love the way you have your hair now. Not so wild, but it suits you all the same.”
“Guess I'm not so wild anymore,” Cal smiled ruefully.
“Oh, I don't know about that. You can take the girl out of the wild haircut, but can't take the wild out of the girl.”
Cal chuckled. “I suppose. I'm still a pain in the ass, I guess.”
Paige rested her chin in her palm. “I don't think so. You've just always had your own will.”
“Yeah,” Cal smirked. “We'll just see what you say in fifty years.” Realizing what she was implying, the blonde snatched her menu and began to trail green eyes restlessly over the choice. She saw fingers grab the center of the menu and pull it down. She was forced to look at Paige.
“I certainly hope so.”
Cal couldn't respond, so instead poured herself a glass of wine, as well as one for her companion. “What say you we just concentrate on the right now?” Cal asked, a blonde brow raised.
The dinner went well, Cal finally managing to relax and enjoy herself as conversation moved away from them, and into more neutral topics. As they drove, Paige asking for a tour of her new city, Cal turned to the brunette.
“So, tell me about James. How did all this happen?”
Paige chuckled softly. “It's kind of funny, actually. My friend Susan introduced us at a disco one night, and he and I just hit it off. We became fast friends, then one day we were dating. Didn't discuss it, really. Just… was.” Cal smiled at the story. “So, anyway, one day we started to get into it, you know, kissing on the couch and everything, and suddenly Jimmy stopped. He came out to me, and I to him, and that day we decided to get married to save us both a lot of grief.”
“there's a nice story for the grandchildren,” Cal chuckled.
“Hmm.” Paige placed her and on the blonde's thigh, which at first Cal didn't realize was there. She looked down and saw it, then looked over at the brunette, incredulous. “You're incorrigible!”
“I call it determined,” Paige grinned. The blonde looked at her with sad eyes.
“Paige, what would you want with me? I can't even feel your hand. Don't you want someone who's whole?”
“You are whole, baby,” Paige said softly. “Your heart, your mind, it's all there, and all beautiful. As is your body. All of it,” she said at the doubting glance she got. “I don't care if you walk tomorrow, or never again, Cal. That's not what's important to me.”
Cal stopped at a traffic light, looking over at the brunette, afraid to believe. Her eyes slowly slid shut as a soft kiss was placed on her forehead.
Cal moaned softly as feather light touches brushed across very hard nipples. She kept her eyes closed, allowing her other four senses to take over, taking in the smell of soft perfume mixed with mutual arousal. She could feel a tingling run up the outside of her left thigh, sighing softly as it intensified then was gone. Bolts of electricity crashed over her sex in waves, making…
… Cal wake up with a gasp. Her crotch still pulsing, she looked around the darkened bedroom, realizing that she was indeed alone.
“Jesus,” she breathed, the orgasm subsiding, leaving her tired yet thrillingly alive. Forearm over her eyes, Cal thought back, trying to think of the last orgasm she'd had- in the old mill, with Paige. Groaning, she squeezed her eyes closed. In the years since her injury, Cal had not given thought to sex, or her bodies natural needs. She had been ashamed at her body, and far too bitter and angry to give thought to self-pleasure. Her body even made her disgusted, let alone what it would do for someone else.
She gasped as her sex pulsed again, leaving her breathless as her long-dormant body came to life. Blowing out a breath, she ran a shaky hand through her sleep-tussled hair. She thought back to the dream, seeing Paige's face all over again, hovering over the blonde's body. She could still feel the softness of the brunette's body atop her own, feel her fingers running all over her body, down her legs-
Green eyes popped open. She went over that last thought. She specifically remembered the tingle of what had felt like Paige's fingernails running down the side of her thigh. Cal lifted the covers, looking into the dark depths. Reaching a hand down, she placed a hand on the cool skin of her left thigh- nothing.
“God, that was weird,” she breathed, dropping the covers to land just above her t-shirt covered breasts. “Wow.” Her body seemed to be settling down again, but she couldn't help the satisfied smile that curled up the corners of her lips. The release, regardless of it being fro a phantom dream lover, had felt good. Raising her arms above her head, Cal stretched languidly, purring slightly. “Maybe I need to get laid,” she murmured, eyes sliding shut again with a sigh.
Paige walked into the kitchen, noting a cup of coffee waiting for her. James sat at the table, hands folded in front of him. He looked up at her with slightly guilty eyes.
“Hey. What's up? I got your message on the way home from the office.” The brunette sat down, taking a grateful sip from the strong brew, made just how she liked it. James cleared his throat before starting.
“Well, I've been doing some thinking,” he began, briefly meeting Paige's concerned blue eyes. “I've been thinking about us, about this situation.” He gestured around the room. “I'm wondering if we shouldn't divorce.”
“Okay. Why are you thinking this now?”
“Well, you've started to make things right with Callahan, and honestly, Paige, I've started seeing a chap I met at the pub.”
“Uh, no. But what a lovely bum he had.”
“Michael, the cop,” James said, sipping from his own coffee. He saw the confusion on his wife's face. “I've not mentioned him till now. I don't know, somehow I felt he was perhaps… different.”
“Oh my god,” Paige said, hand going to her mouth. “You're getting serious about this guy, aren't you?”
“Possibly. I just feel that our marriage has served its purpose, and I think that perhaps we should both move on. From that.” He placed his hand over the brunette's. “You're still my best friend, Paige. Always will be. I just don't get that lovin' feeling from you, anymore.”
Paige laughed, interlacing their fingers. Grinning, she nodded. “Okay. Let's get the paperwork started. Do you have an attorney in mind?”
“No. But we'll find one.”
“Um,” he cleared his throat again. “We should discuss who gets what.”
“Right. Okay.” Paige was surprised that part of her felt very sad, as she loved living with James. Yet, the other part of her, the bigger part of her was happy, as it now left her free to completely pursue Cal, no entanglements.
Paige stepped into the bookstore, automatically looking around for Cal. It didn't take long. She watched her as she gently explained the virtues of Dr. Seuss to a rather enthralled 7 year old. The brunette leaned back against a fixture, almost as into it as the kid was.
“Now, see if Dr. Seuss made any sense whatsoever, then you might as well be listening to your mom tell a story, right?” Cal made a face, which the little girl copied. “See, in the world of The Cat In the Hat, everything is funny and sideways. Fun, right?” the girl nodded sagely. “So,” Cal handed the child the blue and white volume. “This is far more the better choice.”
The little girl snatched the book and ran to her mother, begging her to buy it so she could read about the “sideway world,” too.
“Nicely done. You had me sold.”
Cal looked up, an instant smile coming to her face when she saw Paige walking toward her. “Yes, well, you have to start young. You know, point them in the right direction with the good authors.”
“Oh, I see. A big Dr. Seuss fan, are you?”
“Isn't everyone?” Cal grinned, turning her chair so she could look up at the brunette. “So, what are you doing out and about?”
“Well, I came by to ask if you'd like to help me move.” Paige crossed her arms over her chest.
“James and I are finally going to divorce. He has his eye on some guy, and I have my eye on some girl, so… we figured it was time. I'm moving out.”
Cal stared up at her, heart fluttering mysteriously. “Oh,” was all she could say. Her dream of a week ago came back to her, not that it ever really left. Looking away for a moment to hide her slightly colored grin, she turned back to Paige. “Sure. When?”
“Next weekend. I figured I could use you to buzz around with the heavier boxes, since you've decided to become Arnoldette, and all.”
Cal chuckled. “Hardly. But okay. I'll do what I can. No promises.”
“No expectations.” Cal returned Paige's smile. “Well, I'll let you get back to work warping young minds about sideways worlds.” The brunette leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Cal's cheek. “I'll come by a little later in the week. Maybe we can have lunch?” she asked, slowly back away, her blue eyes hopeful. Cal nodded.
“Yes.” Her heart melted at the smile that appeared on the gorgeous brunette's face before she turned and left the store. Cal felt like she was sitting on a cloud, her grin unstoppable, heart still pounding. “Damn her,” she muttered, wheeling back to behind the counter.
“Aunt Cali?” Locke said, carefully shaping his ‘lion' in small hands. When he felt his aunt's eyes on him, he continued. “How come I don't got grandparents?”
Cal studied the boy for a moment, stunned by the question, seemingly coming from out of nowhere. “What?”
“Wayne has grandparents. Why don't I?”
“Oh.” Cal put her own creation down for a moment, trying to think of the best way to answer her nephew's question. She had no idea what Ty and Tracy had told him about death. “Well, do you know what Heaven is, Locke?”
The sandy-haired boy nodded. “Where God sits in a big chair and dogs with wings fly around.”
“Dogs, right. Okay, yeah. Well, okay, see, all of us have a clock with us our whole lives, always ticking, ticking, ticking. Like your dad's noisy clock on the mantel.” Locke nodded with understanding. “Well, at some point everyone's clock stops ticking, and then it's time for you to leave earth and go play with the angel dogs in Heaven.”
“So, my grandparents are with the dogs?” Locke asked, brows drawing in thought. Cal nodded, her heart heavy.
“Yes. But,” she brightened. “they're looking down at you right now and thinking what a wonderful little boy you are, and how much they love you and just how proud of you they are.”
The boy's eyes widened. “Really?”
“Yep, really truly.” Cal turned back to her own creation, not wanting Locke to see the slight sadness that shadowed her face.
“Look, Aunt Cali!” Locke exclaimed, the gift of the child to be able to jump from one topic to the next. Cal raised her head, amused at the creature of green, yellow and red Play-Doh that Locke had made. “It's a tiger!”
“I thought you were making a lion?”
“No,” the boy drawled, shaking his head vigorously so his too-long bangs dropped into his twinkling eyes. He eyed Cal's own creation, then with a roar and a lunge, he was almost in the blonde's lap as his tiger/lion attacked her hand, jamming both hands into Cal's knee.
“Ow, Locke! Careful.”
The boy quickly jumped back, eyes huge, mouth hanging open. His gaze flickered from Cal's face to her knee. Cal tried to fix her smooshed figure.
“Aunt Cali,,” the boy breathed, awe in his voice. Cal looked up at him.
“You're not s'posed to feel that,” he murmured, looking up into her face again. Confused, Cal looked down to where Locke's eyes were once more riveted. “I hit your knee.”
Gasping softly, Cal realized that sure enough, Locke was right, and it had hurt. It had hurt a lot. Feeling her heart skip, breathing slowly as she tried to control it, she looked back to her nephew. “Come here, Locke,” she said quietly. The boy walked over to her, sensing his aunt's tension. “Poke me in the knee.”
Locke nodded solemnly, seeming to understand the importance of this request. He reached his small hand out, extending his index finger as he did. Both holding their breath, he gently poked at the blonde's knee. Cal didn't look, closing her eyes to make sure it hadn't just been a visual reaction before. Sure enough, like a dim light in the night, she felt pressure. Gasping, her eyes opened and she looked at her nephew, who looked up at her with expectant eyes.
“Oh my god,” Cal whispered. “Do it again. Harder.” She grinned when she felt it again. “I feel it!” Locke grinned from ear to ear, moving closer and looking at Cal's knee in awe. “Try somewhere else, hurry!”
Ty thanked the girl behind the counter, huge tub of popcorn in the crook of one arm, two big sodas in the other. He followed closely behind Tracy as she weaved her way through the throngs of Friday night movie-goers.
“You have our tickets?” he asked, nodding toward the ticket taker girl at the mouth of the hall that would lead toward all the features.
“Yep.” Tracy took them out of her back pocket, handing them to the girl with a smile. They were directed toward their theater and given ticket stubs back. Again, Tracy led the way.
“Shit, honey, my phone's ringing. Can you grab it out of my pocket?” Ty asked, his hands far too full.
They moved out of the middle of the hall, the redhead snagging the small phone and flipping it open. “Hello? Hi, honey. Are you and Aunt-“
Ty watched as his wife listened to who was obviously their son. He tugged Tracy further out of the way as a large party headed their way. Tracy absently stepped to the side, her mouth slowly falling open as Cal took the phone from her nephew. The phone slid off her ear to rest against her neck. Turning filling eyes to her husband, Tracy spoke.
“She can feel her legs.”
“This is wonderful, Cal! Truly wonderful.” Dr. Steven Hanes stood, a smile on his grizzled face. “From here it should only get better and better. Is there much pain?”
The blonde shook her head. “Not pain, exactly. More like my skin feels ultra sensitized, like I can feel the slightest thing.”
The doctor nodded, hands going into the deep pockets of his lab coat. “Everything's waking up. The MRI looked fantastic, very promising. I want to see you in here one week from today. If there is any change for the worse, you come in immediately.” He looked to Ty and Tracy to make sure they heard and understood. Throughout the entire process with Cal, who was horribly stubborn, he had relayed everything to the couple, knowing they'd make Cal comply.
“We'll be here with bell's on,” Ty assured.
“Alright. In the mean time, I want you to set up an appointment with Janice Hill, she's a physical therapist. We need to get those muscles back into working shape. I think at this point, it'll also speed up the process to get you back on your feet, albeit, you'll undoubtedly be with cane for some time, Cal.”
Cal was left alone to get dressed while Dr. Hanes spoke with Ty and Tracy outside. “This is terrific folks, but you guys are really going to have to be there for her. This will be a slow, painful, process. Physical therapy won't be easy on her, and those muscles are going to have something to say about their vacation being interrupted.” He made sure he had both their attention. “Make sure she goes. She must do this to heal properly.”
“We'll keep on her,” Tracy said, then turned to her husband. “Or Paige will.”
He chuckled, nodding.
Paige removed her sunglasses as she knocked on Cal's door. She waited, hearing the blonde called out, welcoming her inside. Pushing the door open, she entered into Cal's apartment for the first time. Not bothering to look around as she spotted Cal sitting on the couch. The message on her phone had sounded urgent.
“Hi. Are you okay?” she asked, sitting next to the blonde, placing a hand on her shoulder. Cal nodded, trying to suppress her smile. Without a word, Cal took Paige's hand from her shoulder and placed it on her thigh, by her knee. Paige looked at her with questioning eyes, not understanding. Hand still on top of the brunette's, Cal squeezed gently, causing Paige's hand to squeeze her thigh.
“I feel that,” she whispered, looking into the brunette's face, grinning when she saw comprehension dawn.
“You can feel it?” Paige asked, voice soft with shock. At Cal's nod, she looked down at her legs, squeezing again. She moved her hand a little lower, covering the blonde's knee. Looking up into green eyes for confirmation, she moved her hand again at Cal's nod. “Oh my god, Cal, when did this happen?” she asked, scooting closer, checking the other leg. “Can you move them at all?”
“This afternoon. We unwittingly found out when Locke smacked me with a Play-Doh tiger/lion thing. And, no. Not yet. My doctor said the muscles aren't strong enough yet.”
“Yet? They will be though, right?”
Cal nodded. “Yes.”
“Oh, Cal!” Paige threw herself into the blonde's arms, hugging her almost painfully tight. She felt Cal relax into the hug, a small sigh brushing the warm skin of her neck.
Cal closed her eyes, absorbing the feel of Paige against her. She tightened her embrace, feeling the soft caress of the brunette's hand against the back of her head. She couldn't get over how good it felt to hold Paige, and never wanted to let go. In that moment, she felt it in her bones- Paige was her heart, always had been, no matter how much she had tried to deny herself for so long. Her emptiness was gone, the void filled.
Paige was surprised as she felt a soft kiss placed on her neck, then she was gently pushed away, a hand coming up to caress her cheek. She looked into Cal's face, sucking in the breath at the love she saw shining in those green eyes. Cal brushed long strands of mahogany hair away from Paige's face, the brunette's eyes slipping closed at the soft gesture. When they opened again, she saw Cal close hers, leaning in.
Cal sighed softly at the feel of soft lips, so much softer than she remembered. She slid her hand from Paige's cheek to cup the back of her head, bringing her further into the kiss, tilting her head slightly as it deepened. She smiled at the sigh she heard. Paige's hand moved from where it had been resting on Cal's thigh, moving up over narrow hips and a strong side to wrap around Cal's shoulder, pulling her in closer to the brunette's warm body. Cal deepened the kiss, sitting back as she felt Paige crawl onto her lap, a knee on either side of Cal's hips.
“What?” Paige said into the kiss when she heard the soft chuckle from the blonde.
“Nothing,” Cal said, amused that the last time she'd been in this position was with Laura, and she had freaked. Now, all she could think about was the best way to get those clothes off the brunette. What she didn't take into account was that Paige would want hers off, too. She stiffened as questing fingers began to unbutton her shirt.
“What is it?” Paige asked, pulling away from the kiss, her fingers frozen on Cal's buttons.
“I've not… no one…” She sighed, looking into concerned blue eyes. “No one has seen me since the shooting. I'm nervous.”
“Why? You're so beautiful, Cal, what could you possibly be nervous about?” Paige asked, running her fingers through soft, blonde hair.
“I'm not beautiful anymore, Paige,” Cal said, shaking her head sadly.
“Let me be the judge of that.” And with that, Paige leaned in, taking Cal's lips in a soft, gentle kiss, her fingers resuming their journey. One by one the buttons gave way, the cool air brushing Cal's skin where the material began to part. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the gasp of horror from Paige; it never came. Opening her eyes, she saw Paige looking at her chest, gently pushing the material off Cal's left shoulder.
Paige schooled her reactions. She knew it wouldn't be disgust, but she didn't want her pity or sorrow to show, either. Cal's left shoulder had a deep dimple marring the perfect flesh, a roadmap of scar tissue running out from it. More scarring brushed her left collarbone.
Soft fingertips brushed over the old injury, making Cal gasp in surprise. She saw Paige lean down, placing a string of gentle kisses along the ruined tissue. “Does it hurt anymore?” Paige asked, the kiss slowing, becoming wetter. Cal's eyes slid shut, her breathing hitching.
“No,” she whispered, feeling deft fingers brushing the shirt completely off both Cal's shoulders, the warm touch grazing over her sides, making her shiver.
“You're so beautiful, Cal. Even more so than you ever were before. I'm so sorry for what Douglas Harris did, Cal, but I'll be forever grateful that he wasn't able to take you away from me permanently.”
Cal gasped as her breasts were palmed, Paige's lips finding her own. She returned the kiss more than willingly, her own hands coming into play as they grasped Paige's ass through her jeans, pulling the other body closer into her won. Paige whimpered softly, her hips adjusting against Cal.
She deepened the kiss, exploring the inside of Paige's mouth with abandon, the brunette reaching around the blonde, fidgeting with her bra strap before it finally came loose. Cal shivered as her breasts were released, the air caressing her skin, making her nipples harder than they already were.
“Oh, Paige,” she whispered, feeling soft hands and fingers cup and touch her.
“It seems like forever since I've been waiting to do this again, Cal,” the brunette said, her mouth finding Cal's neck, the blonde lifting her head, giving her all the access that she wanted. “I've dreamt of it, wanted it, wanted you. I want you so bad.”
“I'm here.” Cal reached frantic hands to the hem of Paige's shirt, tugging until Paige lifted her arms, the shirt flying off onto the middle of the living room floor. “Jesus, you are gorgeous, Paige. I have truly never seen another woman who can come close to you.”
Paige felt her heart melt as her bra fell from her body, warm lips encircling a rigid nipple. “Oh, god!” she gasped, holding the blonde head to her chest. Her head fell back, her hips moving in a constant rhythm now. “Jesus, I've forgotten how good at that you are,” she breathed.
Cal grinned against the flesh in her mouth, redoubling her efforts. Paige's hips were moving so hard, Cal was afraid Paige would come before she'd even gotten a chance to touch her. “These off, now,” she demanded, tugging on a belt loop. Paige nodded, and on shaky legs, she stood, shoving the jeans down over her hips until they puddled at her feet. Stepping out of them and her shoes, she climbed back onto Cal's lap, the blonde in lustful awe of the goddess kissing her.
Cal's hand wandered down over Paige's side, squirming its way between their bodies, and into the inferno that was between the brunette's legs. Paige gasped, her body automatically lifting to allow more room. Cal groaned at the feel of Paige's slick folds, her fingers sliding easily through them.
“God, you're so wet,” she moaned. Paige kissed her, chuckling into her mouth.
“What do you expect? It's been five years.”
Cal chuckled, though it fell short as Paige gasped, two fingers sliding inside her. Paige bit her lower lip, hands resting on Cal's shoulders as she concentrated on what was happening to her body. She moved her hips slowly, her body tight from such long disuse, other than her own quick ministrations. She felt Cal's lips on her neck, the hand that held her hip squeezing with comforting pressure.
Cal was in awe as she watched Paige ride her hand, her heart swelling with the joy of giving the beautiful brunette pleasure. She wanted so badly to make her come, and from the look on the brunette's face, that wouldn't be too far in coming.
Paige found Cal's mouth, needing that extra connection to her as her body began to convulse around the blonde's fingers, her sex lurching, sending jolt after jolt throughout her entire body. Finally she cried out, Cal's thumb pressing down on her rock-hard clit. She buried her face into the blonde's neck, panting as she tried to get herself back under control. Cal's arms tightened around her, the fingers slowly removed, before Paige was brought in close.
“I love to be touched by you,” she said at length, lifting her head and kissing Cal, the kiss soft and languid. With her own appetite curbed, she wanted to savor Cal. She moved off the blonde's lap, a soft whimper of protest from Cal. “Lie back, baby,” she instructed. Cal used her powerful upper body to move herself, finally stretching out on the couch, Paige putting her legs in place for her.
Cal was still nervous as Paige unbuttoned her pants, gently tugging them down her legs. Cal couldn't look, hiding her face in the cushion next to her.
“Don't Cal,” Paige said softly, tipping the blonde's chin with two fingers. Cal looked into loving blue eyes. “Don't hide yourself from me. I told you I think you're beautiful, and that means all of you.” Paige gave her a quick kiss, then turned her attention back to what she was doing. She was mildly surprised by the look of Cal's legs- shriveled and deathly pale. She had expected it, however, having done her research on paralysis.
Cal moaned softly as a hand slid down the entire length of her right leg, the feeling dull, yet exquisite. She lifted her hips as best she could so Paige could drag her underwear down her legs, then off to the floor to join the rest of their clothing. Fully naked, Cal watched Paige carefully, looking for any sign of disgust. There was none, just a hunger that matched her own.
Paige crawled up Cal's body, lying her own atop it, both moaning softly at the wonderful contact. It was strange to feel Cal's legs stay as they were, when normally the blonde would have wrapped them around her, but she pushed it out of her mind. Soon. Very soon. She kissed the blonde with all the love and desire she felt for her, hands beginning to explore Cal's every curve. She smiled into Cal's neck when she cupped a breast, the nipple still painfully hard. Soon her mouth found it, tongue exploring the softness of the entire breast.
“Oh, yes,” Cal moaned, head arching back as she buried her fingers in Paige's hair, encouraging her to continue the bliss. After worshipping at Cal's breasts for long moments, she began to slowly move her way down. Cal gasped as her leg was moved, bent.
“Are you okay? Tell me if you need me to stop,” Paige said softly, gently bending Cal's left leg. Muscles began to scream that hadn't been used in half a decade. When Cal cried out, Paige immediately stopped, kissing the soft skin of the inside of Cal's knee. “I'm sorry, baby. I'll stop.”
Cal took several deep breaths, the pain beginning to ease and fade away. She reached down to pet thick, dark hair, letting Paige know it was okay to continue. The brunette slowly moved Cal's right leg, just enough so she could fit her shoulders between, gently lifting the leg just enough so she could put it over one of them.
“Are you okay? Are you comfortable?” Cal nodded, so Paige turned back to her most joyous task.
Cal nearly shot off the couch at the first touch of Paige's tongue. Her groan was long and deep, her sex immediately jumping to life, the juices flowing hot. She could hear Paige humming as she licked from Cal's opening to her clit, then back again.
“You taste so good, baby,” Paige whispered, entering the blonde with her tongue, moaning at the sensual cry she heard above her. She brought a hand up, using her thumb to gently massage the blonde's clit as she pushed and sucked into Cal's opening. Quickly, and without warning, she switched, pushing deeply into the wet heat, her mouth closing around the engorged nub and swirling her tongue over it.
“Fuck, Paige!” Cal cried, her hips jerking, stomach muscles clenching as she tried to hold her climax back, to no avail. The room was filled with her cries of release, her hands pushing Paige further into her, trying to ride out the rest of the pleasure wave. She was panting, chest heaving as she tried to regain control. She felt Paige crawling back up her body, lying soft kisses the entire way. She kissed her deeply, pulling her to lie atop her. “I love you, Paige,” she whispered.
“I love you, too.” Lifting her head, she brushed a few sweaty strands of blonde hair out of Cal's face. “So, have I won you over, yet?”
Cal grinned, nodding. “Oh, yeah. You do that again, and you can have anything you want.”
Paige pushed her hips suggestively against the blonde, making her gasp. “How about your heart?”
“You've already got it,” Cal whispered, kissing her softly, hands holding Paige to her. They were both panting by time Cal let her go.
“Okay, then how about the rest of your life?” Paige murmured, resting her forehead against the blonde's. She felt Cal nod.
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