Disclaimers: Mine.

Sex: Silly goose. Of course!

WARNING: I do NOT give my permission for this story to be re-posted anywhere with change in character names, storyline or title. Parasite writers beware.

Note: This story may contain some violence, but nothing graphic.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com.

Hope you like it Wendy!

Force of Nature


Kim Pritekel

Part 5

Jamie walked through the quiet house, everything left exactly as it had been the morning before. She hadn't been home in two days, nor had she had a full night of sleep since Rory had disappeared. She was exhausted and hungry, though wasn't entirely sure if her nerves would allow her to get anything down; at least, for anything to stay down.

She made her way up the stairs and to Rory's bedroom, tears stinging her eyes when she saw his Sponge Bob pajamas lying on the floor, right where he'd dropped them when she'd come in to help him dress. Jamie walked further into the bedroom, gathering the PJ's in her arms, burying her face in them as the tears came once again. The material still smelled like her son.

As she sat there, rocking the Sponge Bob pajamas - almost as though it was Rory in her arms - her mind began to wander. How was it possible this had happened? It had taken her so long to get Joel out of her system - and ultimately out of her life - and begin anew. Her life was hard, working long hours and praying that she was doing right by her son. Even so, she'd managed to create a life for them with people who loved them and cared, such as Jamie's own parents and Eva next door. Rory adored the older woman and even seemed to truly love spending time with Kyle, regardless of what kind of uncertainties Jamie had where the blonde was concerned.

And then there was Kyle. Seeing her lying so helpless in that hospital bed, hooked up to every machine known to medical science, had been so difficult for Jamie. A need to help her and protect her had nearly dropped Jamie to her knees. She'd planned to work her shift that day and look over Jamie during her breaks, but her supervisor would hear nothing of it. She was forced to go home, her boss not convinced she could safely do her job with the stresses of her personal situation.

Twenty minutes of tears later, Jamie was interrupted when the doorbell rang. Wiping her eyes on her sleeve, she laid Rory's PJ's on his bed then headed downstairs, somewhat weary as she neared the front door.

"Who is it?" she called out, terrified it would be Joel, back to finish the job.

"It's me, Dear!" Eva called from the other side.

Almost relieved enough to cry again, Jamie quickly unlocked the front door and tugged it open, immediately enveloped in a one-armed hug from her neighbor and second mother figure.

"How are you, Honey?" Eva asked into the hug. She pulled away, looking up into the exhausted, red-rimmed eyes of Jamie.

"I don't know what to feel or think," Jamie admitted with a heavy sigh.

"I can only imagine what you must be going through," Eva said, making her way inside, the heavy pot of homemade soup hugged to her side by her free arm as she led Jamie through the house by the hand. "Come on, honey. I've made you some dinner." She glared at the taller woman. "I'm sure you haven't eaten."

Jamie smiled guiltily. "No." She took the heavy pot from Eva. "Let me carry that."

"Oh thank you, and that's exactly why I'm here, honey."

As Jamie set the pot on the counter, Eva set about pulling bowls and dipping spoons from cabinets and drawers, making sure Jamie had a good, complete and filling meal. She hovered over the brunette, ever the mother hen she felt Jamie needed until Jamie's own mother arrived the following day, her parents having been on a trip when they received the news.

The moment Jamie set eyes and nose on the potato soup she loved so much, her stomach began to growl and mouth water. "You sure know how to reach me Eva, don't you?"

Eva smiled, pleased to see Jamie dig in. "It's not only a man's heart that can be reached through the stomach, you know." Eva sat down with Jamie at the small kitchen table. Resting her cheek against a raised fist, Eva watched her eat. "What's the next step?"

Jamie finished the bite she'd just taken in before drinking from the bottle of water Eva had grabbed for her. "Well, something strange happened today, actually and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it."

"What's that?" Eva pushed up from the chair to grab Jamie a napkin from the dispenser on the counter.

"Thank you," Jamie said, taking it and wiping her mouth. "I went to Joel's house today." She saw the wide-eyed terror on Eva's face. "I know. It was crazy, but I had to see if by some chance he was there or if Rory was there. Or," she sighed with a shrug, "I don't know. Anyway, he wasn't but someone else was."


"Mason Watson."

"Why on earth was Kyle's brother at Joel's house?"

"I wondered the same thing. Turns out, he knows who did this and how to find them. Well, how to find Rory, anyway."

"The biker gang," Eva said softly.

"How on earth did you know?"

"Mason and I spent a very somber few hours in Kyle's room the night it happened. He told me his theory."

"And what do you think?" Jamie asked, taking another bite of the thick, hearty soup.

"I think it's dangerous."

Jamie took a moment to eat and think, finally sipping some water and speaking. "My gut tells me it's my only chance, Eva. If you could have seen the look in his eyes today… Kyle must mean a great deal to him. I actually take pity on whoever did that to her, because I think if Mason finds him, he'll kill him."

"I hope not, but I'd wager you're right. Kyle is all Mason has, Jamie. I don't think I've ever seen such close siblings before."

Jamie was quiet for a long moment before she studied the older woman for a long moment. "He mentioned something that disturbs me. Do you know about Kyle doing time in prison?"

Eva nodded. "I do."

"And you didn't tell me?" Jamie exclaimed, trying to keep her anger down. "She's a convicted felon and yet she was allowed to watch my son?" Irrational fear for the situation began to steal away Jamie's rational mind. "Maybe yesterday wasn't an accident at all, huh? Maybe Joel doesn't have a thing to do with this and it's all about Kyle. Maybe they're killed my son to get back at her, Eva!"

Eva stared at Jamie, stunned. It took a few moments, but she was finally able to get her composure back. "How can you say such a thing?" she whispered. "Kyle could very well have given her life to try and protect that little boy. She could die Jamie, do you understand that? And, what need was there for me to air Kyle's past out for the world to see? She paid the price for her mistake and lives in my house because she's trying to start over, start new." She studied Jamie, who refused to look at her. "Without judgment," she added.

Jamie sighed, pushing back from the table. "I've lost my appetite, but thank you so much for bringing my food, Eva." She needed to be alone and mull over all that had happened and all the evidence before her.

Understanding, Eva also got to her feet. "You just bring this crock back when you've finished, alright?"

Jamie nodded, meeting Eva's gaze as the old woman walked over to her and gave her a tight hug. "Thanks for everything, Eva. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

Left alone, Jamie cleaned up her mess, putting the covered pot into the fridge then heading up to her bedroom - after triple checking every window and door, even on the second floor. She lit a fire in the fireplace and tugged off her sweater, feeling as though she could fall over, she was so tired.

With a heavy sigh, she flopped down on the bed, not even bothering to remove her boots or pants. As she stared into the flames, her thoughts drifted off to her conversation with Eva. Guilt racked her, as she knew she'd allowed her fear and frustration to take hold of her. She saw Kyle's eyes on the golden flames, thinking back to their time in her bedroom. Would she ever stop thinking of that night? It seemed to take nothing at all to bring it all back, each time sending a shiver down Jamie's spine.

"Damn it, Kyle," she sighed, eyes closing as sensory memories of Kyle's lips and body against her own flashed through her. The image quickly changed to Kyle lying in that hospital bed, no one sure if she'd survive her injuries. "Damn it!" Jamie cried out, slamming a fist into the mattress underneath her.


"You sure 'bout this?" Digger asked, pouring himself another glass of Jack, topping Mason's off after. He poured in a generous amount of cola into his friend's glass then dropped a few drops into his own. He liked it a little stronger.

"Never been more sure, man," Mason sighed, snuffing out the butt of his latest cigarette before nervously lightly another one. "Joey said it was Big Red, and I believe 'im."

"Not much known to be a liar," Digger agreed, sipping from the strong drink. He tucked his grimace from the bitter taste inside and grabbed his own cigarette. "What's the plan, Big Hoss?"

Mason blew the smoke out through his nose and took a swig from his drink. "We go in, guns blazing and get the kid. Personally, I say we don't leave a single fucking soul alive when we leave."

Digger shook his head, his shaggy hair falling into his eyes. "Ain't worth it, man. We both been there, and I for one don't wanna go back. Hell, just listen to the shit Kyle says about the inside these days."

"If she can." Mason bore a hole into his friend's eyes with his own. "She may die, Digger," he reminded. "And if she does," he said, pointing his cigarette tucking fingers at the big man, "every fucking one of them will see the end of my gun. You got me?"


Joel slammed the door of his truck shut, the two bags he'd packed earlier slung over each shoulder as he made his way towards the log cabin. He rolled his eyes when he realized that every single damn light in the place seemed to be on as his boots made heavy thuds on the wood porch. About to unlock the door with his key, he could hear raucous music and laughter coming from inside as well as realized the door wasn't locked.

Inside, his two buddies, Big Red - so named for his mane of red hair and mustache and beard as well as his six foot-six height - and Ronnie giggling like school girls or two faggots as they drank booze and puffed on joints. Ronnie was getting a spirited blow job from the two-bit whore who knelt between his spread legs.

"What the fuck you guys think you're doing?" Joel barked, throwing the two packed bags to the floor and slamming the front door shut, startling the two men and woman. "Where's my fucking kid, and why the fuck didn't you lock the fucking door!?"

The woman between Ronnie's legs returned to her task, quickening her pace as she wanted her money and wanted to get the hell out of there, as the new guy seemed even crazier than the original two.

Joel nearly blew his top when Ronnie groaned obscenely, the woman's head bobbing like an oil rig until finally he blew his load, all over his pulled down jeans, the woman's face and the La-z-boy beneath him. "Christ!" Joel yelled out, disgusted and frustrated.

"Sorry, man," Ronnie giggled, the drugs, booze and sexual release making him feel like he was flying.

"Fucking idiot," Big Red muttered, pushing to his feet. His huge frame lumbered across the room - the drugs and abundance of alcohol hitting him square between the eyes, making his movements slow and measured. He led Joel to a back room in the cabin, marked by a door planted in the floor.

"He's down there?" Joel asked, his anger once again rising.

"We didn't know what to do with him, dude," Big Red defended, grabbing the steel loop and tugging with all his strength. Light was shed on the five foot by five foot space below, the small body of a terrified five year old boy revealed.

"Daddy's home, Rory."


The morning staff were just beginning their rounds when Jamie walked through the doors that led into the ICU. She wore bags under her eyes and slowness in her step as she made her way into Kyle's room. There was no change in the blonde from the morning before, though Jamie checked her chart anyway.

As Jamie stood there, reading through Kyle's medical file, she was relieved to see the note that the swelling had gone down significantly, and that drugs were being administrated that would slowly pull Kyle from her sleep and back into the world of the living. It was still a crap shoot on whether or not Kyle would be whole mentally. Either way, Jamie was thrilled.

Putting the char back in its holder, Jamie walked to the side of the bed and looked down at Kyle, whose bruising had become more stark and striking as time passed. She knew that if Kyle were in a conscious state, that day the bruising would be the most painful: the third day, after all was the most painful of any injury.

"So, here we are," Jamie sighed, grabbing the same chair she'd been sitting in earlier that day and tugging it beside the bed. But, before she sat down, she stood next to the bed, looking down into Kyle's beautiful face.

Though she knew the severity of the situation, there was a part of her that was momentarily lost in the absolute beauty of the moment: despite the bruises, Kyle's face was pale like ivory, her expression relaxed and peaceful. Jamie couldn't decide whether she looked dead or like a work of art, carved in marble.

"You are truly lovely," she whispered, bringing up a hand and gently caressing the soft skin of Kyle's cheek. "So, so lovely." Before Jamie knew what she was doing, she leaned down and placed a soft - almost chaste - kiss on Kyle's lips. "Please don't leave," she said, her voice soft yet filled with unshed emotion. "Please. I need you now, Kyle. I need your strength in this."

She sighed and walked over to the one window that was in Kyle's glassed-in home. Looking out over the late night, she marveled at the bright city lights she could see beyond; a world at rest yet so alive.

"You know," she began, voice soft and wistful. "When I was younger, I had so many dreams for myself. I wanted to be a doctor at one time. Did you know that?" She glanced back at the bed, not getting a response. "I sure did." She turned back to the window. "I guess now I'm kind of glad I didn't go that route: not sure if I have the patience for that much school." She smiled at her own insight. "My mom always used to tell me I was in too much of a hurry. I started walking before the age of 1, I started talking long before the age of 2." Jamie sighed and turned back to the bed, lowering one of the side rails and perching on the edge of the mattress. "Guess that's how I ended up with a husband and son, too, huh?" Jamie brushed her fingers along Kyle's cheek. "Maybe I should've waited where Joel was concerned; waited until someone right came along."

Jamie sighed again, her head falling in exhaustion and resignation. "But then, guess I wouldn't have Rory." She studied Kyle's face for a long time. "I wish so bad you could talk to me, Kyle. I wish you'd open those amazing green eyes of yours and you'd look at me and tell me everything is going to be okay." Nothing, not that Jamie expected anything. "Will you do that for me, sweetheart? Just look at me? Reassure me? Comfort me? Kiss me?"

Jamie groaned, burying her face in her hands. "I'm terrible," she muttered into her palms. "You're lying there half-dead and my mind goes to the gutter." Rubbing her face, she ran her hands through her hair, her gaze focused on Kyle once again. "Why do you do this to me?" she wondered softly. "What is it about you that I can't seem to stay away from? And more importantly, why am I waxing philosophical when I haven't slept in two days, my son has been kidnapped and you're lying in ICU?" She giggled, the heft of the situation and exhaustion catching up to her. "Probably because I haven't slept in two days, my son has been kidnapped and you're lying in ICU."

She took one of Kyle's hands in her own, looking down at the fingers she entwined with her own. "No matter what happens, Kyle, I do hope you knew - know - that I care. About you."

Kyle could hear a loud, fierce wind, though where she stood on the brink of a cliff, overlooking an endless sea of possibility, she felt only the steady calm of salt-scented air. Even so, the free-flowing white material that covered her body floated ceaselessly on the unseen breeze.

She felt as though she were just becoming aware of herself for the first time in a lifetime, yet had no clue where she was or why she was there. She turned away from the imposing drop to the sea to see what stood behind her on solid ground. To her surprise, it wasn't a what but a who. She recognized his face from the pictures she'd seen during the trial. All she could do was stare, unsure if words would even comply.

"I forgive you, Kyle," he said, a soft smile on a grizzled face - ever the biker. "You need to forgive you, too." He walked towards her, holding both his hands out, Kyle laying hers in them. He gave her the look of someone at peace. "Don't let it go."

"Don't let what go?" she asked, afraid to hear the answer.

"You'll know when the time is right."

Jamie glanced out the window again, noting that the horizon was beginning to glow with light blue. Soon, the sky would be painted with pinks and oranges as a new day was born. Deciding it was time to finally go home and face the emptiness, Jamie turned back to Kyle. She leaned down once again and kissed her lips.

"I should go," she said softly against still, yet soft lips. "I need to get to bed. Tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow I will get my son back."

Kyle suddenly felt strangely alone even as he still stood with her. She looked around, seeing endless sky and grassy field all around her. She felt cold, somehow: not cold on her skin or in her body, but cold in her soul.

"She's leaving," she breathed, panic filling her, even though she had not a clue who she was or she should care. "No! Don't go!"

Jamie shrugged into her jacket and grabbed her car keys before turning and walking out of the room. What she didn't notice was two of Kyle's fingers twitch: once, twice, a third time, then all was still again.


Mason held on to Martha for dear life, her head cradled against his chest. Her eyes had finally dried, though it had taken a long time for that to happen, as she was terrified for him. "Please be careful," she begged, not for the first time.

Mason pulled away just enough to give his wife a deep, meaningful kiss. "I will."

Foreheads pressed together, Martha asked, "Are you sure you don't want me to call your parents?"

Mason sighed and shook his head as he stood to his full height. "No. In truth, they'd snatch Kyle and put her in some institution somewhere led by the Church. They don't need to know." Mason pulled on his heavy leather jacket and grabbed his keys and his smokes. He was at the door when he stopped, looking over his shoulder at his beloved Martha. "I'll be back, baby. I love you."

"I love you, too," Martha whispered, her heart aching as she watched him go.


For the first time in three days Jamie felt complete comfort as she held onto her mother for dear life. The hug lasted well past five minutes, both mother and grandmother terrified for what could be or what may never be. Finally, the two separated, Jamie's eyes closing as she accepted a loving kiss on her cheek.

"Come on, sweetheart; let's join your father and Eva for dinner."

"Sit down, ladies," Eva commanded, her formal dining room set beautifully by Jamie an hour earlier, her parents arriving nearly half an hour ago. Eva scurried around, excited to play mother of the heap, placing steamy and fragrant dishes on the table, taking drink orders. Within moments, everyone was settled with hands joined. Eve closed her eyes and bowed her head. "Lord, bring our Rory home safely to us and bring Kyle back from the brink. In your name, Amen."

"Amen," Jamie murmured, her heart going out both to her son and Kyle.

"So," Jamie's father, Jim said after a few moments. "What has been done about getting my grandson back?"

Jamie and Eva shared a glance before Jamie turned to her father. "They're doing their best, Dad," she said, deciding not to mention Mason and his friends. She herself wasn't sure about it, let alone her parents.

Jim met her gaze, his hard and concerned. "And what have they said? Do they have any leads? Do they have a clue where that son-of-a-bitch is?"

"We always knew Joel was a mistake," Jamie's mother added, her focus on her dinner.

"Nothing we can do about that now, Lana," Eva defended. "No need to cry over spilled milk. Now, we just gotta upright that jug and make it right."

"Then I want it right, right now, dammit!' Jim demanded, a fist pounded onto the tabletop. "Apparently leaving any sort of decision to this one -" he pointed an accusing finger at his daughter "isn't such a great idea!"

"Dad!" Jamie exclaimed, upset. "Isn't this hard enough without your temper?"

Lana glared at her husband, turning to her daughter, who had begun to cry. Contrite, Jim returned his focus to his food.


Jamie and her mother sat downstairs in her living room, a cup of coffee in both their hands. Jamie's father had already gone up to bed in Jamie's guest room. Lana studied her deeply troubled daughter for a long moment.

"You know he doesn't mean to get so upset, sweetie," she said softly.

Jamie looked at her mother and sighed with a nod. "I know. I love Dad, you know that. Sometimes I just wish he'd think before he spoke."

"Believe it or not, I think Jim has taken this situation with Rory harder than just about any of us." She sighed, sipping her coffee. "He's distraught."

"Aren't we all?"

Lana gave her a small smile. "So, tell me about this Kyle Watson woman. Who is she and are you close?"

Jamie nearly choked on the drink of coffee she'd just taken, which sent her into a coughing fit. After a moment she got herself under control, using a napkin to wipe the coffee that had been spit down her shirt. "Well, as you know she lives with Eva as her tenant and has always been really good with Rory. In fact, he adores her." Jamie couldn't keep the smile from her lips.

Lana smiled in return, though it was short lived. "What is going to happen, Jamie?" she asked quietly.

"I don't know, Mom. I don't know where to turn or who to trust. The police don't seem to have the slightest clue. Nobody knows anything, apparently." She snorted bitterly. "Hell, even I had to give them their suspect, but they can't find Joel."

"So, you mentioned something about Kyle's brother?"

Jamie nodded, finishing off her coffee and setting the cup aside. "He claims to know these people. I guess they left some sort of 'calling card' by destroying Kyle's motorcycle." She met her mother's concerned gaze. "I don't know, Mom. It's as good a lead as any, I guess. The police don't seem to want to hear anything about this supposed biker gang. It's like they won't even look in that direction."

"Don't you find it somewhat coincidental that this woman, Kyle would have family members involved in all this?"

Jamie felt a mixture of the need to rise to Kyle's defense, but also the need to express her own doubts. Instead, she decided to speak on neither. "We don't have much choice here, Mom. I have nothing, so it's not likely this is some sort of kidnapping plot where I'll find a ransom note on the porch tomorrow." She shook down a chill at the very thought. "I think Joel is completely behind this, and I know he's ruthless."

"I just pray he won't hurt Rory," Lana whispered, her emotions beginning to rise.

Jamie said nothing, as her mother had just put voice to what Jamie couldn't dare let herself think about. Instead, she pushed up from her perch on the couch and grabbed her empty mug. "I'm heading to bed, Mom." The two women hugged and kissed goodnight.

Once upstairs, Jamie shrugged out of her shirt, her gaze catching the window across the way. The room was dark, the blinds open, and it seemed terribly cold and lonely. She grabbed her shirt and put it back on, flicking off her bedroom light as she headed down into the darkened house.


Mason sat cross-legged on the floor, his Desert Eagle lying next to him. Flashlight in hand, he sorted through Joel's records and notes of any and all interactions over the past three months. The guy was stupid enough to leave everything of importance behind. Not far away was Digger, who was listening to every message on Joel's answering machine, trying to see if any of them would give any sort of clues as to Rory's whereabouts.

The two men froze, both placing a hand on their nearby weapons when they heard the sound of a car approach then idle outside the darkened house.

Jamie sat behind the wheel of her Kia Sorento, her gaze fixed on the house. She was praying that by some stroke of luck Joel - or somebody - would be there. There wasn't a car parked in the driveway, nor the circular drive behind the house. There were no lights on, and the house looked like it hadn't been disturbed since she'd been there days before.

With a heavy sigh, Jamie put the small SUV into drive and headed further into the dark night.

If Mason could perk his ears he would have. He and Digger both shut their flashlights off as they listened. Finally, the car drove away, leaving both men to continue on in silence for long moments, making sure their coast was clear.

"We gotta hurry, man," Digger said unnecessarily, returning to the answering machine.


Jamie entered the hospital room, the familiar beeps and sighs of machinery meeting her ears. "Hey," she said, her voice soft as the grave as she stepped up to Kyle's bed. "Sorry I wasn't here today. My parents came and it's just been a really long day." She looked down at Kyle's body. "You look so thin. I know that's a crazy thing to say, considering you've only been here for three days. Three very long days. But," she sighed. "You do look thin."

Jamie pulled up a chair to sit next to Kyle's bed, her hand immediately taking Kyle's. "You're pretty lucky to be gone - wherever you are - and not having to see what's come of this situation." Jamie smiled and shook her head. "Your brother is quite the tiger." She looked into Kyle's pale face. "Much like you, I'm sure: from what I've seen, anyway."

Kyle looked out over the edge of the cliff she stood at, seeing the white-capped waves below. Suddenly, she felt the comforting presence with here that she'd felt off and on for what seemed an eternity. She had no idea where she was, nor how long she'd been there. But, during her time on the precipice, she had felt the strength and courage to carry on from this unseen presence.

Turning away from the sea beyond, she saw something in the distance, though couldn't quite make out what it was. Walking towards it, she saw that it was a… door?

Jamie dozed lightly in her chair, her head resting against the wall the chair rested against. Though it was the middle of the night, a hospital was not a quiet place, and the slightest words spoken outside Kyle's room or moan of a patient would jar Jamie back into the world of the living, only for her to immediately rest back into a world of sleepy darkness. The times she'd worked double or triple shifts at that very hospital had taught her well how to deal with interruptions during sleep.

Even so, something happened that snapped her awake almost instantly. She realized she was feeling pressure around her fingers - though slight - it was pressure. Her gaze scanned her hand, which had become entwined with Kyle's, though not of her own doing. Realization dawning, Jamie jumped up from her chair and hurried the short distance to Kyle.

Standing over her, she looked into her face, her heart rising and breath catching as she saw subtle movement in Kyle's face: the twitch of her upper lip and then movement beneath closed lids.

"Kyle?" she said, bringing their joined hands up to her chest. "Honey, can you hear me?" For a moment her heart sank as there was nothing, but then Kyle's head moved just the tiniest bit, her fingers tightening around Jamie's. Jamie nearly cried out in excitement. "Oh my god!"

Kyle felt as though her entire body - especially her head - was made of lead, and that she was being weighed down, barely able to move. She knew someone was with her, though could hear nothing, everything muffled as though she were under water. One thing she did know, her hand was held, fingers entwined with this mystery person.

"Oh baby, please wake up," Jamie begged softly, her free hand coming up to brush against Kyle's jaw. "Please wake up."

Kyle tried to open her eyes, but it felt like ten pound weights were loaded onto each one. She relaxed, concentrating on what she felt and heard, which was a soft voice speaking to her and an even softer touch upon her face. She decided to try again. This time, she saw the most beautiful angel looking down at her, blue eyes the color of the sky where she'd just been. All Kyle could do was stare in awe.

"I've been praying to see those beautiful green eyes again," Jamie whispered, tears in her eyes as Kyle blinked at her. "Can you hear me, Kyle?"

Kyle nodded, not quite able to speak just yet. Instead, she tugged their joined hands towards her - which seemed to take every ounce of strength she had - and rested Jamie's hand against her lips, but wasn't able to control her lips enough to kiss it. Jamie seemed to get the idea, as her tears finally fell, a soft sob escaping her throat.

"Hi," Jamie whispered, an unending smile spreading across her lips. "It's so good to see you."

Kyle weakly raised a hand, waving her fingers one slow wave at a time.


Jamie stood back, watching as Kyle's medical team looked her over, checking her vitals and motor and brain functions. She knew it would be a matter of short time before the small room became even smaller as she'd made the necessary phone calls to let everyone know Kyle had woken up. Jamie couldn't help but smile, a wave of relief washing through her.

"She's come through this remarkably well," Kyle's doctor commented, jotting some notes on her chart.

"When can she go home?" Jamie asked.

"Well, " the doctor said, signing off on the chart and tucking it back into its holder. Hands on hips, he glanced at Kyle then to Jamie. "I want to move her out of ICU tomorrow and keep her for at least a day of observation. We can renegotiate then. Okay?"

Jamie nodded with a smile. "That sounds good. Thank you, Doctor."

"In the meantime, young lady," the kind and elderly doctor scolded Kyle, "you get some rest."

"I've been asleep for three days," Kyle muttered, her voice quiet and hoarse from disuse.

"Yes, well you need more."

Left alone, Jamie hugged her arms across her chest and walked to the bed, looking down at Kyle, who was now reclined against the raised back of the bed. For some reason she felt shy and unsure. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I've been run over by a truck," Kyle croaked, meeting Jamie's gaze. It was amazing to be looking at Jamie again: it was strange, as in some ways Kyle felt she'd just seen Jamie moments before but in other ways it felt as though she hadn't seen her in months. Even so, she noticed something different in the blue eyes, and that different alarmed her. "What happened?"

"What do you remember?" Jamie asked, sitting in the chair beside the bed.

Kyle sighed as she thought about that question for a moment, her thoughts fuzzy and tangled. "We were playing video games," she recalled, brows drawn as she tried to pull up the visuals. "Rory and I were playing video games and I was going to make him lunch. I think." She brought up a hand, scrubbing it over her face. Her fingers came into contact with the bandage on her head. She sent a questioning look over to Jamie.

"You have a fractured skull. The police think you were beaten with the butt of a gun."

Kyle contemplated those words for a long moment, fuzzy images running around her brain, but none that she could fully put together. The doctor had warned her there may be some memory problems, either permanent or temporary. She didn't have to contemplate it long as suddenly someone rushed into the room.

"I was just here earlier today, you little shit!" Martha Watson exclaimed, hurrying over to her sister-in-law.

Kyle's grin was ear to ear as she accepted Martha's enthusiastic greeting. "Sorry," she muttered. "Guess I needed the special touch."

Jamie blushed and looked away.

Missing the quick interaction, Martha was beside herself to see Kyle awake and talking and alive! "Mason's gonna be so happy to know you're okay, sweetie. That is, you are okay, right?"

"So says the doctor," Kyle said, sipping from the plastic cup of ice water with straw that Jamie had gotten for her. Her throat felt so rough and dry. The water was like a cooling balm to the Sahara. Kyle looked up at her sister-in-law and Jamie. "What happened? There were two of them, but I can't remember anything else."

Martha turned to Jamie, able to see the sadness in the mother's eyes. Turning back to Kyle, Martha sighed. "They attacked you and took Rory, honey."

Kyle's blood froze in her veins, her eyes wide and stomach falling. "What?" She turned to Jamie for verification, only to find Jamie had turned away, obviously wiping at her eyes. "My god…"

"You have no idea how wonderful it is to see you, honey," Eva said softly, walking into the room. She wasn't sure what had just happened, but a tense pallor hung in the air. She turned from Jamie to Martha to Kyle and back to Jamie, who had tears in her eyes.

"We just told her," Martha said quietly.

Eva made her way to the bed and sat beside Kyle, taking her in her arms. Kyle was still, still deeply shocked as Eva petted her hair and her back. "You did all that you could, sweetheart," she whispered into the hug. "Your brother Mason is on the hunt now."

"What?" Kyle asked, confused. She pulled out of the hug just enough to look at Eva's face. "Why him?"

"Because he feels this is gang-related. They destroyed your bike, honey. Mason feels by horrible coincidence, some of the guys from the Devil's recognized either you or that your bike was affiliated."

"Oh god," Kyle whispered, unsure what to think or say.

"I think we should let Kyle get some sleep, ladies, "Martha suggested. "She's been through hell this week and we need to give her a chance to get better."

Jamie gathered up her coat and keys but stopped at Kyle's quiet plea. "Stay for a moment, Jamie?"

Jamie nodded, accepting a belated introduction to Martha and then a warm hug from Eva. Within moments, she and Kyle were left alone, Jamie standing next to the bed. She wasn't sure what Kyle had to say, but was worried about what she might have to answer.

Kyle looked away from Jamie, focusing on the wall across from her bed. "I don't know what to say, Jamie," she finally said, her voice breaking.

"About what?" Jamie asked, bringing a hand up, wanting to touch Kyle's face as she'd done the past few days, but didn't think now - with Kyle awake - it was appropriate.

"About Rory." Kyle studied her hands, which fidgeted in her lap. "You must really hate me."

"What?" Jamie put the side rail of Kyle's bed down and sat next to her on the bed. Using two fingers under her chin, she urged Kyle to look at her. "No," she said, shaking her head. "You almost gave your life to protect him, Kyle."

Though Kyle knew Jamie's words were true, still something inside her wouldn't allow her to take it in or forgive herself. "Yeah." She gave Jamie the bravest smile she could, but it didn't fool either of them.

Suddenly filled with a fierce protectiveness, Jamie took Kyle's face in her hands, as gently as she could, shook Kyle to make her truly hear her. "This is not your fault! Trust me, I went through that, too, but it's not, Kyle. You did all that you could. My gut tells me that your heart is pure and so have been your intentions towards Eva, my son and myself."

Kyle smiled, though it was weak. "Well, my intentions towards Eva and Rory were pure."

Jamie blushed and looked away, finally smiling at Kyle. "True, but I still trust you and thank you." She brushed a thumb under one of Kyle's eyes, as a single tear threatened to fall. "You'll feel better once you're out of here and then we'll have Rory back." She cupped Kyle's jaw. "Okay?"

Kyle's eyes closed as she leaned into the touch as she gave Jamie a slight nod. "Okay."

Jamie brought her other hand up, fingertips caressing the side of Kyle's face. She wished she could run her fingers through Kyle's hair, but not only was her head covered by a bandage but the hair had been shaved so the doctors could see the extent of the damage from the beating. She wondered how Kyle was going to deal with that. Even so, her gaze fell to Kyle's lips, remembering their softness from the stolen kisses while Kyle had slept. She felt so drawn, almost as though a string attached her and Kyle together, and something was tugging on the other end.

Kyle felt the tension in the air grow and was surprised at what she saw in Jamie's eyes when she opened her own: her heart leapt and stomach dropped. She felt the same pull, but her guilt and the fact that she was in pain made her turn away, feeling like she had nothing to offer, and certainly that she wasn't good enough for someone like Jamie.

Jamie was snapped out of her daze when Kyle gently pulled away from her hands, head falling to study her lap. Not sure what had just happened: both with herself and then with Kyle, she decided it was best for her to go.

"Try and get some rest tonight, okay? Eva and I will be back tomorrow and maybe they'll let us take you home."

Kyle nodded and looked at Jamie, giving her a weak smile. "See you then."

Left alone, Kyle finally let her tears come. She felt utterly alone and confused and wished that she could close her eyes and never wake up again.


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