See part 1 for disclaimers
Lucy eyed her partner with a weary glance. Trishia was tired and frustrated. The tense lines around her eyes and the occasional pursing of her lips gave it away. Their week had been full of emotion and tension. And that had just been their private life. Ever since Fiona and Robin were shot at, Trishia had been fueled by an anger that brewed deep inside. Like a smoldering fire, ready to erupt back to life.
Lucy knew Trishia was longing for some time alone with her, so they could relax and talk about the huge change their life together was about to undergo. Make plans. Enjoy each other and their unborn child.
A small smile graced Lucys face when she remembered the look of pure joy and wonder on Trishias face when they had found out she was pregnant and everything looked perfect. Of course, Trishia had immediately jumped into protecting mode, something Lucy found endearing. Until the tall police woman had been upset because Lucy insisted on carrying a bag of groceries. They had a talk then and Lucy had made sure Trishia knew she was only pregnant, not disabled, which Trishia had accepted with a sheepish grin. It was the excitement, Lucy knew, and the always present protectiveness, which she secretly loved so much.
Lucy sighed and her eyes traveled from her partner, who was making a phone call, to her sister, who was sitting on the armrest of a chair, leaning back against Sam, who had her arms wrapped around her.
Jody looked worried. Her face was withdrawn and her eyes, usually sparkling, were dark with worry.
I bet I dont look any better.
Raking her fingers through her hair, Lucy cast a look outside the window. It was getting dark. There was not much daylight left and she knew Trishia s superior officer would probably not allow them to search the forest during the night. It was simply too dark. Too dangerous. Although, that would probably not stop Yarra and Alice.
Lucys eyes fell on the young couple who were seated on the couch and her eyes softened. They were worried, like the rest of them were, but also full of confidence, because of Alices dream. It was hard for police officers, who had to go by facts most of the time, to believe in a dream and base a search on that. Still, that was exactly what Trishia was trying to convince her Inspector of; to give her permission for a search.
"Are you alright, honey?" a soft voice sounded next to her and, with a small smile, Lucy turned to face her mother. Joan McDonnell looked as frightened as she felt and Lucy reached out a hand to touch her mothers arm.
"Im doing fine," she reassured her. "Im scared and angry, like the rest of you but, other than that, I feel good."
Joan McDonnell nodded and let out a shaky breath. As soon as Jody had called her with the news of Fionas kidnapping, she had just dropped what she was doing, called her son Michael and headed to Murrook Farm.
She knew her youngest daughter could look after herself, but the deliberate, cold way in which she and Robin Adams had been taken away, made shivers run down her spine. It was still unclear who was behind the kidnapping, but according to Trishia it was somebody who had been involved in the situation surrounding The Reef, which had only been a few years ago, but was still imprinted in their memories. And right now the fear and worry made it seem like they were thrown back in time.
Trishia ended her conversation on the phone and stuffed her cell phone in her pocket. She was just about to say something, when the door opened and Michael stepped inside, followed by Ira. Shooting Sam, Jody and Joshua a warning look, she hid her own surprise well and even managed to smile at the unsuspecting young man, who had entered the room with a lot of self-confidence.
Just the person Id like to talk to. He must either be as self-assured as anything, or stupid as can be. Or innocent, although my gut feeling says he isnt.
A haggard looking Michael had taken a seat next to his mother, while Lucy and Jody quickly explained to their brother what had happened. His face was pale, making his freckles stand out and, again, Trishia was struck by the resemblance between him and his eldest sister.
Her eyes turned a few shades cooler when they landed on Ira, who was standing near the door, hands in his pockets and the shadow of a smug smile on his face. As soon as he felt Sams eyes on him, the expression on his face turned into a mixture of sympathy and compassion. But Trishia, who had seen the change on his face, was not fooled. To her, it was a confirmation of her already strong suspicion about the young man. If only the station in Brisbane would call her back with the information she needed. But the fact that the University did not know anyone with the name Ira Kinswil should be enough.
With a raised eyebrow Trishia studied the young man, intrigued when, after a little while, he started to fidget. It wasnt very obvious, but for someone like Trishia, who was trained to observe, it was clear. She was making Ira nervous.
While his eyes darted between Sam and Jody, Ira wiped his sweaty palms on his immaculate cotton slacks and mustered up a small smile.
"Could I please use your restroom?" he asked politely and Trishia was certain she detected a hint of tension in the smooth, polished voice.
"Sure, Ira," Jody answered, sending him a smile while she pointed out where to go.
Immediately after he had left the room, Trishia turned to Michael.
"Whats he doing here, Mike?" she asked in a no-nonsense voice.
"He was hanging around when mom called," Michael explained. "He offered to drive me up here, because he felt sorry for me and he wanted to be a friend."
"Is he your friend, Mikey?" Sam asked sharply, relieved when Jodys brother shook his head.
"Not really, Sam. I dont want to speak bad about him, but, I dont know. Theres something about him thats a little strange. I guess I feel sorry for him, because he doesnt have any friends."
"Must be the charming personality," Lucy mumbled cynically and it sounded so much like something Fiona could have said that everybody fell silent.
"I...I really didnt feel comfortable about the way he kept asking about Fiona," Michael continued after a brief silence. "I told him she wasnt interested in him, but he just kept asking stuff."
"Like what?" Trishia asked, very interested in the answer.
"Like who she hangs out with and if she ever goes to any pubs or clubs in Brisbane. Stuff like that. Like he wanted..." Michael paused and his eyes went wide, while all blood suddenly drained from his face.
"Like what, Mikey?" Jody asked softly, but the tension in her voice was clearly audible.
"Like he wanted to meet her," he answered in a hoarse voice. "He kept asking me and I ended up telling him about Fi going to Brisbane for the beauty pageant. I knew what time she was leaving, because she e-mailed me. We were supposed to meet at Alice and Yarras..."
"Did Ira read your e-mail?" Trishia asked in a low voice, keeping her eye on the door, not wanting Ira to hear their conversation.
"He didnt have to," Michael groaned, feeling utterly stupid. "He was there when I received it and since Fi cracked a few jokes, they made me laugh and I told him."
All the information suddenly became too much for Joshua. He had been quiet all day, nervously pacing the kitchen, veranda or living-room. Every time the phone had rung, his face had been a mixture of hope, fear and anticipation. He had not eaten all day and when Jody finally convinced him to eat half a sandwich, he had only taken a bite. The nervous ball in the pit of his stomach simply made him too sick.
"Hes involved," Joshua suddenly spoke, his voice was quivering with anger.
"We dont know that for sure yet, Josh," Trishia had to remind him. "But it looks that way," she couldnt help adding.
Suddenly the door was thrown open and the subject of their conversation came stumbling in the room, closely followed by Peter Jones, who had a grim look on his face.
"Look what I found snooping around in your office, Sam," he spoke calmly, pressing Ira down in a chair. But the young man jumped up again and faced Peter Jones. His hands were clenched into fists and his face was red with anger.
"You have absolutely no right to treat me like this. This house is unknown to me. I was looking for the restroom."
"Which is the complete opposite direction," Peter remarked dryly.
"Wait until my lawyer hears about this," Ira fumed, not aware of the sudden interest in Trishias eyes.
"You have a lawyer?" she asked, deceptively friendly.
"Well, I dont, not really, but my brother does," Ira muttered, flinching when he realized what he had just said.
Trishia and Sam exchanged a look and the police woman nodded.
"I guess he needs one," Sam remarked casually. "Gerry Wilkins is a crook."
"No, hes not," Ira spat. "Youre just jealous that hes..." Realizing his mistake, Ira fell silent, trying very hard to come up with a way to talk himself out of his predicament.
"Where are Fiona and Robin, Ira?" Trishia asked calmly.
"I dont know what you re talking about," Ira replied, staring at the ground.
"I think you do," Trishia answered. "I want some answers and I want them now, Ira. Unless you want to visit your little buddy, Kevin, who we decided to keep around a little while longer, after I had a nice visit with Fred. I cant tell you how happy I am to have been able to lock him away with the big guys. I guess theyd love your company as well. I heard theres a shortage of cute blondes. No offense Alice," Trishia added with a wink.
"You cant threaten me," Ira responded, lifting his chin in a defiant gesture.
"Maybe she cant. But I will," Joshua suddenly growled, jumping up from his chair and practically leaping on top of Ira, knocking the surprised man to the ground. Straddling his chest, Joshua grabbed Iras shirt with both hands and shook him violently.
"Wheres my sister?" he hissed through clenched teeth. "Tell me, you bag of crap!"
"Go to hell," Ira managed to croak.
Without warning, Joshua slammed his fist on the ground, a hair breadth away from Iras face. His eyes shone with venom when he looked down at the squirming man on the floor.
"You tell me, right now, or I swear to God Ill rip out your throat with my bare hands and feed it to the worms. Tell me!!"
Peter glanced at Trishia, who was looking at the scene in front of her with clinical detachment. There was even a hint of amusement in her eyes when she looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"Help me," Ira coughed. "Please, help me."
Reluctantly Trishia nodded at Peter, who grasped Joshua and pulled the teenager off the other man.
"Calm down, son," he spoke calmly. "Ripping out throats wont help us to find out what we need to know. Its kinda hard to talk that way," he added dryly.
"If anything happens to Robin, anything at all, I know where to find you!" Joshua spat, before he let go of Ira and slowly got back to his feet.
"Drop dead!" Ira shot back, rubbing his neck where Joshuas hands had left red marks. His eyes were full of hate when he looked at Sam, who, instinctively, draped an arm across Jodys shoulders in an unconscious gesture of protectiveness.
"I hope youll get what you deserve," he growled. "You filthy dyke."
"Excuse me?" Yarra suddenly said in a dangerously low voice. She got up from the couch and would have walked over to Ira if Alices hand had not stopped her.
"Let it go, Yarra," Alices voice sounded tired. "He doesnt know any better. Dont waste your energy on him."
"Yeah, please dont," Ira mimicked her voice. "Save it for your little bitch. I bet she..."
He didnt get any further, because Michael had jumped up and with a well-aimed blow he knocked Ira back to the floor, where the young man squirmed in pain, looking up at his attacker with frightened eyes.
"Nobody talks to my family like that and nobody talks about my family like that," he said calmly. "You make me sick, Ira."
After having said those words, Michael turned around and walked back to take his seat next to his mother, who sent him a small smile and lovingly patted his hand. Joan McDonnell loathed violent behavior, but in this case she was proud of her son for standing up for his friends and family. Besides, the thought that Ira Wilkins had anything to do with Fionas disappearance made her tremble with anger and she would have loved to walk over to the man and shake the truth out of him.
"This is your last chance, Ira," Trishia said coolly, secretly amused by Michaels action. She would have loved to throttle the arrogant, obnoxious man, but in her position as a police officer she could not allow herself to vent her frustrations like that. But it had been nice to see Michael do it and she shot Lucys brother a respectful look.
"You still dont want to talk? No? Fine. Peter, get him out of here and make sure one of the teams outside accompanies this young man to the place where he obviously belongs."
Peter Jones nodded and grabbed Iras arm to pull him to his feet. Wiping away a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth, Ira shot Trishia a look full of hate, but the tall police woman was not impressed. She answered his stare with a raised eyebrow and an ice-cold look.
"Youll never find them," Ira said with a voice full of anger. "You need me and you know it."
"Im afraid youre wrong, Ira," Trishia replied calmly. "We have a trump-card. I dont need you. At all."
"Youre bluffing!" Ira shouted, frightened by Trishias cool and calm demeanor. What if she was right? What if they really didnt need him to find Robin and Fiona. There would be no chance to escape and he would be the laughing stock of his friends. Not to mention his brother.
"You must be bluffing," he repeated, this time his voice was a few pitches higher.
Leaning forward, Trishia brought her face closer to that of Ira and looked at him intently.
"Try me," she said in a voice so low it was hardly audible. Straightening back up she looked at Peter and nodded. "Take him away, Pete. He makes me nauseated."
As soon as the door closed behind them, Trishia turned to Alice and sent her a warm smile.
"Its up to you now, Alice."
Alice nodded and grabbed Yarras hand for support. Deep down inside, she knew she could trust her intuition, but still, her worry and fear over Fionas kidnapping made her doubt herself. What if she was wrong? What if her dream had been just that, a dream?
Alice moistened her dry lips and swallowed hard. What if they would be too late?
"I know its dark already," she spoke in a soft, hoarse voice. "But I feel we should go to Booyong mountain now, Trish. Dont ask me why, but..." Alice paused and looked up into a pair of warm, understanding emerald eyes. Immediately, she relaxed. Jody had faith in her, she knew.
" Time is important."
"Then well go now," Trishia decided. "Lets get our stuff together. Sam, you think Kurt would...?"
"Yes," Sam answered full of confidence. "If theres one dog who can find Fiona, its Kurt. Im definitely taking him."
"Did we lose him?" Robin whispered after what seemed hours.
They had been trying to get away from their kidnapper as fast as they could, but the forest was so dark, they could not see more than a meter in front of them. There was no path, just trees and ferns and bushes. Tree stumps and roots. Rocks and boulders. And somewhere in the distance the familiar sound of a creek.
"Ive no idea," Fiona whispered back, tilting her head and listening intently. The only sounds her ears picked up, were Robins suppressed panting, the distant sound of running water and the occasional call of a night-bird. And her own heartbeat.
"I cant hear a thing," she spoke after listening for a while. "I guess its safe to rest for a few minutes. How are you feeling?"
"Like a hunted animal," Robin sighed, rubbing her ribs and shoulder. "But I feel a lot better than when we were locked up in that cave."
"I do too," Fiona answered, swatting at an invisible bug that was flying around her head. "I wish I could see where we re going though. For all I know we could tumble down a steep hill or something."
"Optimist," Robin replied softly, hearing the photographer chuckle softly. "Any idea where we could be?"
"Not really," Fiona admitted. "Although I remember Yarra telling me about some caves on Booyong Mountain. Her father used to take her and her brothers there on camping trips. I know she wanted to show Alice and me the area, but for some reason we never got around doing that." Fiona swallowed. Her throat was dry and she knew they had to get something to drink. "I wouldnt be surprised if were there right now."
"Well, at least that would be something," Robin nodded. "That means we re not all that far from a road."
"But the tricky thing is to find it," Fiona said. "I dont want to be a pessimist, but we could be heading in the wrong direction."
"I know, Ive been thinking that as well. Daylight would be helpful," Robin mumbled. "Maybe we should get down to that creek, get some water and wait until first light. The idea of one of us falling and getting seriously injured is not appealing."
"Not really," Fiona admitted. "Its a good idea, but to get to the creek well have to walk downhill. Well go slow, alright? I need both hands to hold onto things, so I want you to stay close behind me and hold on to the waistband of my shorts. Dont pull them down," she added with a grin. "I had a green ant bite my butt once and that was painful, believe me."
"I believe you," Robin smiled.
"Dont let go of me, Robin," Fionas voice sounded softly and seriously. "I dont want to lose you in the dark."
"Dont worry, Fiona, Ill be right behind you. Just be careful."
And I would be a fool to let go...in more than one way...
Tantalizingly, slowly, the women made their way down the hill. Fiona had to use both arms to feel her way around, while her legs carefully took each step at a time, searching for solid ground. It was frightening not being able to see and knowing that a loose rock or a deep gully, carved in the hillside by raging waters during a rain storm, was only a step away.
Trying to concentrate on the treacherous descent, Fiona also kept close attention on the woman behind her, determined to shield Robin from anything that could harm her.
"Ouch," Fiona mumbled when her face came into collision with a branch. Carefully rubbing the painful spot, she could feel Robins right hand gently pat her side.
"Are you alright?" the husky voice sounded and Fiona nodded, mentally slapping herself when she realized Robin could not see her face.
"Just a minor disagreement with part of a tree," she replied casually. "How are you doing?"
"Fine," Robin sighed, ignoring the trembling of her muscles. It was hard to walk down the steep hill at such a slow speed, straining their legs to keep their balance and she knew she would be sore later. But the main concern was to get away from whoever it was had held them captive. As far away as they could.
"I can hear the creek a lot better now. I think we re pretty close," Fiona whispered. "Are you ready to continue?"
"Lead on," Robin replied a lot more cheerful than she really felt. She was tired. Bone tired. And she wished she could just sit down somewhere and go to sleep. But she knew that was not an option. In the first place, they had to stay away from their pursuer and, secondly, Robin didnt want any insects crawling over her body, while sitting on the forest floor. The thought alone made her shiver.
"Are you cold?" Fiona asked immediately.
"No, I was just thinking about all the bugs that could crawl up our faces if wed sit down here somewhere and go to sleep."
"Taryn would probably love it," Fiona replied dryly, hearing Robin chuckle. "I saw her catch a praying mantis once, in mid-flight. Poor bug didnt know what happened and probably thought one of his engines had failed," Fiona related, smiling when she remembered the look of delight on her nieces face. "Jody saved the poor little creature before Taryn could do any damage."
"She sounds like a handful."
"Who? Jody?" Fiona asked dryly, which earned her a playful swat on her arm.
"No, goof, Taryn."
"She is," Fiona grinned, temporarily forgetting the situation they were in. If it hadnt been so dark and if they had not been so tired and thirsty, it would have been a nice hike in the forest.
"They re both great kids," Fiona continued and Robin could hear the warmth in her voice when she talked about the twins. "They were born on Christmas Day. Did you know that? Of course, it wasnt just a standard, normal delivery. It was such a different, but happy day. I think it was also the day Yarra and Alice kissed for the first time. Do you want to hear about it?"
"Im a sucker for a good story," Robin smiled. "Go ahead."
Making sure to keep her voice down, Fiona told Robin about the events that one special Christmas day, when the twins were born and both Yarra and Michael had to face some serious challenges in order to find their way home. Every now and then she had to pause, either to catch her breath or to feel around carefully for a safe place to hold onto and, just when she was wrapping up her story, her feet touched the rocky bank of the creek.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Fiona noticed there was an opening in the canopy of trees, which made it possible for a few soft moonbeams to illuminate the rapidly streaming water.
"We made it," she said, turning around to Robin. For the first time in hours, she was able to see the other womans face and, for a moment, they just stood there, smiling at each other.
"Thirsty?" Robin asked, seeing Fiona nod. "Lets get a drink of water then."
"Is it safe?"
"Yes, I think it is. The only bad thing that could happen is to swallow a bug, or something."
"Yuck. Listen to you," Fiona chuckled. "Whos the optimist now?"
Robin, relieved to have made it down the steep hill in one piece, just chuckled and grabbed Fionas hand, pulling her towards the creek. Every now and then their feet slipped on some wet stones, but they reached the water without incident. Kneeling down, they cupped their hands and scooped up the cold liquid, drinking it greedily.
"When youre thirsty, theres nothing better than cold water," Robin sighed, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
"And a Fosters," Fiona added.
"And a Fosters," Robin agreed with a laugh, having seen the familiar blue beer cans in Fionas refrigerator.
Looking around, Robin could make out the shapes of some big boulders alongside the creek and she wondered if it would be safe to stay where they were. Maybe, if they could hide behind of those big rocks.
As if Fiona could read her mind, the photographer pointed towards a huge boulder, surrounded by a few smaller ones. It was close to the creek and, behind it, the tree- covered hill rose steeply. It would be a good hiding place.
"How about that spot?" she asked.
"Looks good to me," Robin answered. "My only concern is that the water will mask any other sound."
"Which would be his problem as well," Fiona remarked.
"Yes, you re right," Robin nodded, wishing she could give into her bodys craving to get some rest, maybe even some sleep. "Lets go."
They quickly made their way to the hiding place of their choice and after they crawled behind the huge boulder, Fiona and Robin used their feet to move around some twigs and pebbles that had ended up in between the stones.
"Well, I guess its a decent backrest," Fiona mumbled when she lowered her body to the ground and leaned back against the cold, hard stone. "Its a pity it doesnt recline, though," she joked.
"That would have been heaven," Robin admitted, sinking down next to the photographer. "But this will do me fine. Im just grateful to be off my feet for a while," she added, stretching her legs out in front of her and groaning when she could feel the tired muscles pull in the back of her legs.
The cold stone at her back added to the agony in her shoulder and ribs, but Robin gritted her teeth. Anything was better than being in the clutches of a madman.
"So, do you have any idea who he was?" she asked after a brief silence.
"The boogie man? No, Ive no clue," Fiona shook her head. "Of course, the mask didnt help. Im sure its the same bloke I took a picture of, though."
"Why would he want to kidnap us?"
"Good question. He wasnt exactly talkative, was he?"
"Not really. But we cant blame him," Robin dead panned, seeing, from the corner of her eye, how Fiona turned her head to look at her. Which was hard in the dark.
"No. First we fell asleep on him and when he came back for a visit, we knocked him in the head."
"We sure did," Fiona chuckled. "Id never considered the multiple functions of a can of beans, but they pack a mean punch."
"Depends on the one wielding the can," Robin said dryly. "You did good."
"So did you," Fiona replied softly. "He didnt stand a chance."
"I guess we make a great team," Robin smiled.
"As long as we can avoid rolling down the hill," Fiona added with a soft laugh.
"That was scary," Robin sighed. "But your reflexes are great. By the way, thanks for catching me. That was a soft landing. I hope I didnt hurt you."
"No, Im fine," Fiona shrugged, feeling a tingling warmth travel through her body when she remembered how good it had felt to have Robin in her arms. Soft, warm, safe. Exciting.
Lost in thought, Fiona did not notice how Robin wiggled and squirmed to get comfortable on the uneven, rocky ground. Only when she accidentally nudged Fionas side, the photographer looked aside with raised eyebrows.
"Are you alright?"
"No," Robin groaned in frustration. "Im sitting on something that is slowly starting to feel like Mount Kilimanjaro and I cant seem to get rid of it."
"Want to sit here?" Fiona offered, knowing that was the only option. Their hiding place was barely big enough for the two of them to sit down with their legs extended in front of them.
"Thats sweet of you, but no," Robin sighed. "Im sure Ill be fine...eventually," she added.
"Come here," Fiona suddenly said, tugging Robins arm. But the other woman tried to pull back.
"I cant take your place, Fiona. Ill be fine, really. Im just whining because Im tired and cold and sore and I..."
"Come here," Fiona interrupted her in a gentle, but determined voice. "Sit in front of me. The ground is pretty flat there and you..." she swallowed. "You can lean back against me, so youll be warmer."
Robin suddenly stilled and she felt a rush of blood travel through her body. For the first time since they escaped the cave, she was grateful for the darkness that hid her blush.
"Ill be squashing you, Fiona. I cant do that," she hesitated.
"Sure you can. Im fine, really. Now, scoot over and sit down. Theres no need to be embarrassed about it. This is a simple survival technique."
"Oh, it is?" Robin asked and Fiona was sure she could detect the hint of a smile in the other womans voice. "Did Yarra teach you that as well?"
"She sure did," Fiona nodded.
But she was holding Alice at the time. Still, it worked, because Alice warmed up pretty fast. I guess the little kisses and nibbles had something to do with that as well.
In spite of her aching body and her fatigue, Robins body tingled with the prospect of being so close to Fiona. She did like the idea. Too much. When they had ended up on the forest floor, Robin firmly planted on top of Fiona, the biologist had to use all her strength and willpower not to lean over and kiss the photographer senseless. Would she be able to be in Fionas arms again and not make a fool of herself?
Ah, well, this time Ill be facing the other way...
"Alright," Robin sighed, knowing she was too tired and uncomfortable to fight Fiona. Before she could change her mind, she crawled over one of Fionas long legs and took a seat in front of the other woman. The hardest part would be leaning back, she knew, and Robin gave herself a few seconds to muster up some courage. But when she felt two warm hands on her shoulders, she finally gave in and she leaned back, letting out a small sigh when she felt a pair of arms settle around her body, enveloping her with a soft, living, breathing blanket.
"Better?" Fionas voice sounded in her ear and Robin could only nod.
Im in soooo much trouble.
Robin felt Fiona brush away a few wayward curls and she smiled when she heard the other woman chuckle softly.
"Whats so funny?"
"Your hair tickled my face, its all over the place," Fiona explained. "I bet we both look like a pair of scarecrows."
"I dont care," Robin mumbled, relaxing into the body behind her. Fiona was so warm and soft in all the right places. "Its not like Im...Oh, Fiona, I completely forgot. Your beauty pageant!"
"I know," Fiona nodded and she let out a small sigh. "Therell be some very pissed- off people, but its not like I can help it. I didnt ask to be kidnapped. Im sure Sam or Jody called and explained the situation." Fiona paused a moment, fighting the urge to bury her face in the unruly curls in front of her. "You re missing out on that exhibition. This was its last weekend."
"I know, but thats alright," Robin replied. "Its not the end of the world. I am sorry I didnt get the chance to have dinner with Yarra and Alice. Id have liked to get to know them better."
"Youll get another chance," Fiona promised, feeling a bubble of happiness in her chest after Robins words. Maybe, if the biologist became friends with Yarra and Alice, she would be able to see her on a regular base. Fiona knew Robin wasnt interested in her, but maybe they could be friends.
"And I havent been to a club in ages. I was looking forward to that."
"They would have taken us to The Other Side of the Fence," Fiona casually remarked, referring to a very popular gay-bar in Brisbane. "But youve been there, havent you?"
"Yes, I have," was the soft reply.
Robin could feel Fiona nod behind her and she patiently waited until the other woman would speak. She couldnt see the photographers face, but she knew there was something brewing. The slight tensing of the body behind her and the suddenly sweaty palms had given it away.
Dont make this too hard, Fiona, please. I dont know if Im ready. I dont know if Ill ever be ready...
"Can I ask you a question?" Fionas soft voice finally broke the silence. "Its rather personal."
"Go ahead," Robin answered, glad for the darkness that, in combination with Fionas arms around her, provided a warm, safe cocoon.
"Who is Abby?"
Of all the questions she could ask me!
"History," Robin answered immediately. "Ancient history."
"Like in pre-historic?" Fiona quipped dryly, smiling when she felt a chuckle ripple through the body in her arms.
"Absolutely," Robin nodded, wondering where Fiona had heard that name when suddenly she remembered. "Have I been dreaming again?"
"Not today," Fiona smiled. "A few days ago, after you fell down the hill and I had to wake you up every two hours. You mentioned her name in your sleep and I just wondered who she was." Fiona took a deep breath and decided to grab the bull by the horns. The only thing Robin could do was to bite her head off.
"Did you go to The Other Side of the Fence with her?"
"Yes, I did," Robin answered softly, knowing in which direction Fiona was heading. "I met her just before I went to the university. We were lovers."
"Oh,"Fiona responded, not surprised by Robins admission. Still, the idea of Robin with another woman, or just with another person, was a little unsettling.
"You said you were lovers. What happened?"
"I lost my parents and had to look after Joshua and Abigail practically demanded he be put in foster care." Robin let out a soft, humorless laugh. "That was the end of it. I dont understand what I ever saw in her."
"That must have been hard though."
"It was," Robin admitted. "But, those first few months, all my time was invested in Joshua. He needed me. It was only after...a year, or so, it really sank in. That was when I ran into Abigail and her new lover." Robin sighed and unconsciously snuggled closer to Fiona, seeking some warmth and comfort, which was freely given. "I came home and, for the first time, I cried. I dont know why, because she certainly wasnt worth my tears, but thats what happened. Ive no idea why I dreamt about her the other day."
Maybe because Abby killed something inside of you that Fiona is waking up again?
"Im sorry you had to go through that," Fionas voice sounded gently and again Robin wondered why the photographer wanted the world to think she was cool and cynical. Self-protection, no doubt. Fiona was sensitive and would probably get hurt easily, although she would most likely die first rather than admit a thing like that.
"Are you familiar with the term quid pro quo?" she asked after a brief silence.
"Are you joking? I saw Silence of the Lambs," Fiona chuckled.
"In that case, can I ask you a personal question?"
"Go ahead," Fiona answered, suddenly feeling a little nervous.
"Have you ever been in love, Fiona? And I mean in love, not the occasional crush on teachers kind of thing," Robin took a deep breath before continuing. "The kind of love that takes your breath away, that makes your heart skip a beat and your palms sweaty. The kind..."
"The kind that makes you feel sick and happy at the same time," Fiona interrupted. "The kind that makes you think you have the flu, or something, because you cant eat or sleep and only when youre with the person youre in love with are you really happy. The kind that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. The kind that makes you want to offer your love the world on a silver platter. The kind that confuses the heck out of you ," Fiona moistened her lips. "The kind that aches," she added in a hoarse voice, feeling her heart clench.
Oh, Robin, if only you knew.
"I guess that answers my question," Robin breathed, surprised by Fionas answer and, especially, the intensity of it.
"I guess it does," Fiona replied, equally soft.
"What happened?" Robin dared, unconsciously holding her breath. She expected Fiona to crack a joke or even to clam up after her question, but to her utter surprise that didnt happen.
Fiona leaned her head back against the rock and closed her eyes. She could feel the tears sting and the last thing she wanted was to break down and cry. She had to keep a tight grip on her emotions and not let Robin know anything about the turmoil inside.
"Nothing happened," Fiona finally answered and even though her voice was calm, Robin could hear the sadness. "Its still unwritten," she added, barely audible.
Robin had heard the whispered words though and she gasped softly, pressing a hand against her mouth to stifle the sound. Her heart was slamming against her ribs and she wondered if Fiona would be able to hear the fast, rhythmic thumping. A flash flood of memories; words, sounds and images assaulted her senses and suddenly everything became so crystal clear, it was almost painful.
Before she realized what she was doing, Robin grabbed Fionas hands and pressed them against her chest, melting her body against the photographers taller one. Joy, hope, fear and frustration fought for dominance and for a brief moment, Robin felt like the whirlpool of emotions would drag her down and drown her. But then she became aware of a thumb, gently rubbing the back of her hand, and she took a deep breath, suddenly feeling grounded again.
She wanted to turn around and look at Fionas face, but the darkness and the arms that were tightly wrapped around her, prevented that.
"Fiona?" she whispered, with so much emotion in that one, single word, she heard the photographer gasp softly, before she let out a shaky breath.
Robin could not see Fiona bite her bottom lip, to prevent it from trembling, nor the moist track on her cheeks, created by a few silent tears that had escaped against her will. The only thing she was aware of, were the arms around her and the warm body that was pressed against her back.
"Fiona?" she repeated in a strangled voice.
"Not now, Robin, I cant," Fionas voice sounded so close to her ear, she could feel the warm breath stroke her cheek. "Im just...I need some time. Could you, please...?"
"I can," Robins answer was warm and gentle. "Whenever youre ready."
"Thank you," was the grateful whisper and Robin felt a pair of soft lips fleetingly touch her cheek, before Fiona leaned back further against the rock, never losing her grip on Robins body.
They sat like that in total silence, both completely absorbed by their own thoughts, until the sky lost some of its darkness and the forest around them slowly woke up for yet another day.
Still, they did not move, both reluctant to interrupt their closeness, no matter how cold and uncomfortable the ground beneath them had become. The constant sound of running water had been soothing and both Robin and Fiona smiled when they heard the morning song of the birds. Until, all of a sudden, an unfamiliar sound reached their ears and they both jerked upright.
Robin cast a look over her shoulder and was finally able to see Fionas face that looked pale in the bleak light of the early morning, with dark circles underneath her eyes.
"What was that?" Robin whispered, her body roughly awoken from its relaxed state in Fionas arms.
"I dont know. Maybe..."
There it was again and this time there was no doubt. Somewhere near the creek, somebody was rushing over the bank, not caring if the loose rocks and pebbles were kicked up, creating a loud noise when they rolled and bounced down the bank, landing in the water.
Someone was in a hurry. And that someone was heading their way.
To be continued in part 12
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