For disclaimers see part 1.
The car sped down the dirt-road, kicking up big clouds of dust that clung to the outside of the vehicle, turning the shiny, dark-blue paint into a dull, reddish grey. The occupants of the vehicle did not seemed to mind. The windows were closed to keep the dust and the heat out, but it could not contain the loud music that made the air vibrate with its rhythmic drums.
“Turn the volume down, idiot,” the driver snapped at his companion who was fiddling with the buttons of the car-stereo. “Musk said he’d call and I don’t wanna get my ass chewed for missing the call.”
“Chill, man,” the passenger drawled, “Ya know he never gets up early, anyways. We’re cool.”
“Keep it down, I’ve got a headache,” the driver mumbled.
“You’re a mess, man. It wasn’t our fault. Musk gave it to her. He wanted it this way.”
“Of course it was our fault, Ape. We’re the ones who...”
“Shut up, Squid,” the passenger yelled. “I don’t wanna hear it.”
“Cause you’re a coward, like me,” the driver spoke, increasing his grip on the steering wheel. “Damn it !”
“Come on, Squid, you’re worrying me, I...”
Ape was interrupted by the buzzing of Squid’s cell phone and, while taking a deep breath, the driver answered the call.
“Yeah?” he greeted as nonchalantly as he could. Showing signs of weakness now would certainly be suicide.
“Hey, Squid, it’s me, Musk. Are you and Ape on the way back?”
“Yup, we’ll be home in a few hours,” Squid answered.
“Did everything go alright?”
“Pretty smooth, man,” Squid answered, moistening his dry lips.
“Cool. What about your...assignment?”
“Taken care of,” Squid replied with a barely audible quiver in his voice.
“Good job,” the voice on the other side of the connection laughed. “What did you do with...where did you drop...it off?”
Squid cast a nervous look at his friend in the passenger seat, who was fidgeting with a switchblade, opening and closing the knife in rhythmic succession.
“We didn’t know...What did you give her, man? She just...”
“Doesn’t matter what I gave her, she deserved it. Don’t worry, she didn’t suffer or anything.”
“I’m not sure, Musk, I...it was like she couldn’t breathe, man. It wasn’t pretty.”
“Where did you drop her off?”
“It happened so fast, we...”
Squid swallowed hard and cast a look at his friend who winced in sympathy.
“Somewhere between Burns Flat and Elk City. No-man’s land.”
“That’s not what I...oh, well, if it’s no-man’s land she won’t be found for a while. Good job, Squid. How’s the baby?”
“The...baby?” Squid swallowed.
“Yeah, the baby. I know this girl who won’t mind looking after him and...Squid, where’s the baby?”
“I’m sorry about the delay, Maureen. I really planned on leaving a lot earlier,” Lauren cast a look at her friend who was sipping a cup of Java; she looked tired, but relaxed.
“No problem, Lauren. I understand, really. Besides, it was better to leave after the preliminary lab report came in. I still can’t believe that stuff has made it down here that fast.”
“I know,” Lauren sighed, casting a look in her rearview mirror before steering her car into the left lane so she could overtake a speeding Mack truck. She was in a hurry to make it back to the city. Not just because she wanted to go home, take a shower and sleep, but also because one look at the sky showed her Morton’s prediction about the weather would probably come true. It was three-thirty in the afternoon and ominous clouds were quickly rolling into the Oklahoma plains. Outside, it was hot and humid and Lauren knew the atmosphere was unstable. Perfect conditions for severe weather.
“In St. Louis, more than a hundred people have died of this stuff since the beginning of the year,” Maureen sighed, tapping on the lab report in her lap.
“And even more in Detroit, Michigan and Chicago,” Lauren said in a somber voice. “Heroin laced with Fentanyl, what a combination.”
“Pretty deadly cocktail,” Maureen nodded. She yawned behind her hand, desperate for sleep that would not come for hours, she knew, there was too much going on in her head.
“Do you think they’re producing it here?” she asked her friend.
“Pretty sure,” Lauren nodded. “This dead girl probably died of it. Unless they run the stuff down from the Midwest, I’m convinced it’s made in Oklahoma,” she added cynically. She cast a look at Maureen who looked pale and tired, but whose green eyes shone with a fire. Maureen was angry and she had every reason to be.
“We’re fighting this stuff on a daily basis, but right now it feels like we’re losing the battle,” Lauren sighed. “We finally get the amount of meth-labs down and this stuff pops up. It’s so deadly I don’t even want to think about the amount of victims we’ll see in the near future.”
“It’s a scary thought,” Maureen admitted, tempted to reach out a hand and wipe away the frown lines on her friend’s forehead. “The most horrific thought is that a lot of addicts don’t even know they’re using it, they think they’re using heroine. Talk about a nasty surprise.”
“I’d like to talk to Rachel about this,” Lauren decided. “As an ER-doctor she might know a few things that are helpful to us. She probably knows the hard-core addicts and maybe she can provide us with some leads. We need anything we can get. This stuff could spread like wildfire.”
“Talking about wildfire, did you see that lightning flash up there?” Maureen breathed. “I bet that hit something. That was a huge fireball.”
“The storm is getting closer,” Lauren nodded. “We might need to seek shelter somewhere. It looks like all hell will break lose soon.”
“I don’t like thunderstorms,” Maureen admitted in a small voice. “They scare the heck out of me.”
“We’ll find a place to ride it out,” Lauren answered in a comforting voice, reaching out her right hand and covering Maureen’s, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Could you do me a favor? Find a radio station so we’ll stay up-to-date.”
“Sure,” Maureen nodded, immediately missing the comforting warmth of Lauren’s skin on hers when the other woman withdrew her hand.
Maureen turned on the radio and only had to switch channels once to find a station that was broadcasting weather updates. Both women listened intently and Lauren nodded with a grim expression on her face.
“We need to get off the road and find shelter,” she spoke, seeing an immense wall cloud rapidly approach. According to the weatherman on the radio, they were in the middle of an area where a Tornado warning had been issued and one look at the sky that had acquired a greenish tint, showed both Lauren and Maureen that pretty soon they could be in major trouble.
Maureen had unfolded a detailed map and quickly searched for their location.
“We should be approaching the exit to Hinton,” she said in a tense voice.
Lauren nodded and bit the inside of her lip when, from the corner of her eye, she noticed an impressive curtain of red dust that was being sucked into the wall cloud. She knew that was not a good sign. For a brief moment, she wondered if it would be better just to pull over and see if the storm would miss them, but one look over her shoulder showed her that would be disastrous. The storm was huge and ran for miles. There was no way they could sit it out in the car. They needed to leave the road and find a solid structure that would provide them with shelter.
“According to the map, there’s a gas station,” Maureen spoke, glancing aside at her companion who winced at her words.
“I see what you mean,” Maureen responded with a nervous chuckle. “Gas station and severe thunderstorm slash tornado does not go well together, does it?”
“Not really,” Lauren smiled. “But it will have to do, because this is looking more serious by the second. I’ll take the Hinton exit and we’ll run into the gas station. If I remember correctly it’s fairly big with restrooms and a convenience store.”
“Good,” Maureen sighed, nervously eying the sky. “I don’t want to rush you or anything and I’m not a weather person, but I’ve been an Okie long enough to recognize rotation when I see it and that cloud is definitely rotating,” the redhead spoke, feeling her heart thunder in her chest.
“I know, sweetie, hang on,” Lauren answered, increasing speed. She knew it would be madness to try and outrun a tornado, but they were so close to shelter, she had to try. Besides, there was no tornado, yet.
With breakneck speed, they practically flew down the road until Lauren’s eyes saw the sign of exit 107. Skillfully, she steered her car down the exit, while her eyes searched for the gas station.
“South,” Maureen croaked as Lauren’s eyes fell on the building. With one eye on the sparse traffic and one eye on the sky, Lauren drove her car into the parking lot in front of the convenience store. Before it came to a stop, she already had unbuckled her own seatbelt and Maureen’s.
“Quick,” she urged, hearing the tell-tale roar of rotating wind. As soon as they stepped outside the car, they were hit by driving rain and a gust of wind that blew them against the wall of the store. Without thinking twice, Lauren grabbed Maureen’s hand and pushed her in front of her, while her other hand reached for the door that all of a sudden flew open.
“Hurry,” a male voice yelled, grabbing both Lauren and Maureen by their arms to pull them into the building. “To the back,” he yelled over the roar of the wind.
Lauren and Maureen ran towards the restrooms in the back of the building, closely followed by the man, while the windows of the store gave way to the violent pressure of the wind. The glass shattered and immediately the store erupted in chaos, when the wind blew its inventory around, smashing bottles and cans against the walls and turning innocent objects into deadly projectiles.
As soon as the women entered the restrooms, Lauren and the man slammed the door behind them, hoping it would provide a buffer between them and the raging wind.
“Get down,” Lauren urged Maureen, pushing her down onto the floor, in the corner furthest away from the door. Luckily there were no windows and Lauren counted their blessings. There was a good chance they would get through the storm unharmed.
“My God,” Maureen whispered, involuntarily ducking her head every time an object slammed against the concrete walls outside. The sound of tearing metal made everybody look up and, to their horror, Lauren, Maureen and the other shelter seekers saw how the metal roof was slowly lifted. It was like a giant hand peeled back the metal, neatly folding it back to get access to whatever and whoever was inside the building.
“Lauren,” Maureen whispered, feeling how the other woman’s arms pulled her closer to her chest, sheltering her from falling debris.
“Keep your head down, it will be alright,” Lauren urged, wincing when something hard slammed into her back. She pulled Maureen even closer, desperately shielding her from the violence that was wreaking havoc all around them. It had only taken seconds for the rain to drench them and Lauren could feel the water run down her back. Involuntarily, she shivered, wondering how much longer their ordeal would last. Maureen’s fingers dug into the other woman’s shoulder and Lauren knew her friend was more than a little scared.
“It’s okay, Maureen, it’s gonna be okay,” Lauren spoke with her lips pressed against the redhead’s ear. The roaring of the wind made it impossible to hear her soft spoken words, but the vibration of her voice had caught Maureen’s attention and, pressing herself even closer to Lauren’s body, Maureen buried her face in the crook of Lauren’s neck and held on for dear life.
Then, all of a sudden, there was an eerie silence and, when Lauren looked up, she noticed the violence had ended. It took a few seconds for her brain to register the fact that the roaring sound of the wind was gone, taking the rain with it.
“It’s over,” she whispered a little dazed. She used her hand to wipe the water out of her eyes and gave Maureen a gentle squeeze.
“Are you alright?” she asked in a hoarse voice.
“I think so,” Maureen answered, untangling herself from Lauren’s firm hold. “Are you?”
“Yes. I’m fine,” Lauren answered, looking around and only then noticing the other occupants in the restroom.
“Is everybody alright?” she called out.
“Yes, we’re fine,” a young woman spoke, slicking back her wet hair with shaking hands. “Oh, my God, that was close,” she shivered.
“You can say that again,” the man who had pulled Lauren and Maureen inside the building sighed. He had jumped to his feet and walked to an elderly woman who was sitting in a corner, wiping away some blood from her forehead.
“Are you alright, Mom?” he asked with concern.
“Just peachy, honey,” she nodded. “It’s just a scratch. I’ll be fine as soon as you help me to my feet. I sure hope the coffee maker survived, I could use some caffeine.”
Maureen chuckled and patted Lauren’s arms, casting her friend an inquisitive look.
“Nothing, really,” Lauren answered with a tight smile.
“You’re in pain,” Maureen said, getting to her feet. Her concern only increased when Lauren let out a soft moan when she tried to follow her example.
“It’s nothing,” the dark-haired woman said. “Something hit me in the back and I got the wind knocked out of me for a second. It’ll be a bruise and that’s it. I’m fine, really.”
“Show me,” Maureen insisted.
Lauren rolled her eyes, but obediently turned around, hearing a sharp intake of breath.
“What?” she asked, looking over her shoulder.
“This is more than just a bruise, Lauren Darkwolf,” Maureen chided. “You’re shirt is ripped and there’s a deep gash just below your shoulder blade. It’s bleeding,” she added in a voice full of sympathy. “And you need it looked after,” Maureen quickly added before Lauren could say anything else.
“Alright,” Lauren sighed. “I’m sure I’ll live, though.”
“You’d better,” Maureen replied in a soft voice, reaching out a hand and gently patting Lauren’s side.
“Was there anyone else in the store?” Lauren asked, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in her back.
“No, thank goodness,” the elderly woman sighed. “My daughter-in-law had to take the kids to the City for a dental appointment and I think most people on the road either managed to miss the storm or ran into town.”
As if on cue, the man’s cell phone started to ring and he quickly pulled it out of his pocket. Before answering the call, he sent his mother a radiant smile.
“Thank, God,” the elderly woman sighed, sending Maureen a grateful smile when the redhead helped her bypass some of the debris on the restroom’s floor. “Thank you, honey. How’s your friend? Will she be alright?”
“Lauren’s tough,” Maureen replied, casting a look at her friend who sent the elderly woman a sheepish smile. “But I’ll have that cut looked at just the same.”
“Good for you,” the woman nodded. “She seems the stubborn kind.”
Maureen chuckled and had to make a conscious effort not to reach out a hand and wipe away the smudge of mud on Lauren’s cheek. In spite of everything, she thought the dark Agent looked incredibly cute.
“I wonder if my car’s still where I parked it,” Lauren muttered in a somber voice. Looking around at the destruction around them, she pulled a face. “I don’t think it is.”
“Probably not,” Maureen agreed. Not able to resist, she reached out and rubbed the damp skin of Lauren’s forearm. “We’re here and we’re safe,” she continued in a soft voice. “That’s the main thing.”
“I know,” Lauren nodded. “I was just wondering how we’ll get home.”
“We’ll find a way,” Maureen spoke in a voice full of self-confidence. “Let’s have a look outside.”
The interior of the convenience store was almost unrecognizable. Boxes, jars, cans and bottles were scattered all over the place, their contents coating every available surface. Maureen and Lauren carefully made their way through the debris, very aware of the fact that the front wall of the store had been completely ripped away.
“Careful,” Lauren warned, pointing at some electrical wires that were dangling from what had once been a ceiling but was now reduced to a damaged frame.
They managed to reach the parking area without a problem and with wide eyes they looked around. Except for the back part, where the restrooms were, the convenience store had been destroyed. But the gas pumps, only a small distance away, looked unharmed.
“It’s like the tornado dropped down on the roof of the store and then just bounced off it again,” Maureen whispered. “This is amazing.”
“It sure is,” Lauren nodded, eying her vehicle that was buried under a pile of wood, bricks, a part of a tree, a billboard and a ‘No Left Turn” sign. “My car’s toast.”
“It looks that way,” Maureen agreed. “I’m sorry, Lauren.”
Lauren shrugged her shoulders and tried not to wince when that move reminded her of her injury.
“It’s just a car and it’s replaceable. I’m just glad we weren’t in it.”
“So am I,” Maureen sighed, wrapping an arm around Lauren’s waist and giving her a one-armed hug. “Thanks for keeping me safe.”
Lauren smiled and slid her arm around Maureen’s shoulders, answering with a hug of her own. Before she even realized what she was doing, she bent her head and dropped a kiss on the windblown red hair.
“You’re important to me,” she spoke softly, smiling into a pair of green eyes that looked up at her in surprise. “Besides, you owe me dinner.”
Lauren shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on the backseat of the black Ford Five hundred. Every time she leaned back too far, the pain in her back increased. The wound had been cleaned by an EMT only because Maureen insisted. Lauren would have been happy to have it looked at in the City, not wanting to waste the precious time of Hinton’s medical personnel. The brief tornado touchdown had not only destroyed the convenience store, but it had also torn up a handful of houses. Nobody had been seriously injured, but there had been quite a few cuts and bruises.
Lauren let out a deep sigh and became aware of a pair of concerned green eyes looking at her from the passenger seat in the front.
“I’m fine,” she said quickly, before Maureen could even open her mouth. She sent her friend a small smile and shrugged her shoulders. “I guess working for the OSBI has its perks, don’t you think? When was the last time you were taken home in a car with a driver?”
“I can’t remember, I’m too tired to think back that far,” Maureen sighed, smiling when she heard Lauren chuckle. “But we’re not going home,” she continued, immediately seeing the dark woman’s eyebrows rise. “We’re going to the hospital. I want Rachel to have a look at your back and...”
“I’m sure Rachel has better things to do,” Lauren interrupted. “Besides, by the time we get back to the City, Rachel might already have left for the day.”
“No, she’ll be there,” Maureen spoke with confidence. “I called her,” she added with a smug smile.
“But...” Lauren started, until she noticed the look of determination in her friend’s eyes. “Alright, alright, I’ll go see Rachel, but after that I want to go home and take a shower. I feel like I’ve been drug through the mud.”
“You look it, too,” the driver replied, casting a look at her in his rearview mirror.
“Thanks, Tom,” Lauren answered dryly. “You always make me feel better.”
“That’s my job,” the young man grinned. “Ever since you kicked my ass in that self-defense class, I’ve been waiting to get you back .”
Lauren laughed. She had known Tom Baker for quite a few years and considered him one of her friends.
“That class was years ago, when we were in training,” she reminded him. “Don’t tell me you’ve been waiting that long?”
“He’s a patient guy,” Maureen chimed in, winking at the blond driver. “Talking about patience, Tom, how’s Marcy?”
“Oh, ouch,” Tom laughed. “It’s definitely not good to use the word ‘patience’ and my wife in one sentence. She’s sick and tired of being pregnant and lately she’s been shooting me dirty looks when she runs back to the bathroom, ten minutes after she’s just been.”
Maureen chuckled and knew exactly what kind of look Tom was talking about. Marcy was Jack Wilson’s secretary and she and Maureen had always gotten along really well. Marcy was pregnant with twins and had needed an early maternity leave, because she had developed high blood pressure and the gynecologist had ordered her to stay home and rest.
“When is she due? Next month?” Lauren asked.
“Three-and-a-half weeks,” Tom answered with a grin. “Part of me is glad it’s going to be a C-section. It will be a lot easier on her.”
“And on you,” Maureen said dryly,
Tom grinned and stopped the car in front of a traffic light. He half-turned and cast a look over his shoulder.
“Office or Hospital?” he asked Lauren.
“Home,” the dark haired woman answered, which earned her a long-suffering look from Maureen.
“Alright, hospital,” she sighed. “I’d hate for Rachel to wait for me for nothing.
“Hospital it is,” Tom nodded, taking a right turn. “Wise choice, Agent Darkwolf.”
Lauren nodded and stared outside the window, where the busy afternoon traffic rushed by. She was so tired, but she knew Maureen was in no better shape, so, if her friend was willing to take her to the hospital, who was she to refuse?
As usual, the Emergency Department was bustling with activity but, as soon as she set foot inside, Lauren and Maureen were whisked away into a small corner room. Immediately, the door was closed behind them and when they looked up, it was into two pairs of concerned eyes.
“What happened?” Rachel asked, while her eyes scanned Lauren’s face, searching for any visible injuries.
“We had a close encounter with a tornado,” Maureen sighed, sinking down on a chair. “Very close,” she added softly.
“So I heard,” Hannah replied, taking a seat next to Maureen. “But we thought you guys were heading to Grand Lake today?”
“Work happened,” Lauren answered with a shrug of her shoulders. Her tired eyes looked from Rachel to Hannah and back again. All of a sudden realization set in and she let out a soft groan. “You’re both in street clothes. You’re supposed to be off today.”
“Oh, crap,” Maureen responded with her hand pressed against her mouth. “I completely forgot. Rachel, I’m so sorry. I...”
“Don’t worry about it,” Rachel interrupted. “I’m glad you called, I really am.”
“I am too,” Hannah nodded with a smile and a wink at her partner. “You deserve the best.”
“I’m not sure if that’s me, but I’ll have a look anyway,” Rachel replied, motioning Lauren to take a seat on the examination table. “Ladies?” she spoke over her shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah, we’re going,” Hannah chuckled, standing up and pulling Maureen with her. “Come on, I know where to find some good coffee.” In passing Rachel, Hannah put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a quick kiss on her cheek.
“You know where to find us,” she said, gently squeezing the Doctor’s shoulder.
“We’ll be there before you know it,” Rachel promised. “Don’t eat that brownie all by yourself.”
Hannah stuck out her tongue, making both Rachel and Lauren laugh, before she and Maureen left the room, carefully closing the door behind them.
“Does it hurt?” Rachel asked, pointing at Lauren’s shoulder.
“Kind of,” the tall woman answered.
“Would you mind taking your shirt off?” Rachel asked, holding Lauren’s eyes with her own compassionate, brown ones.
Lauren smiled and shook her head, unbuttoning her shirt and slowly sliding it off her shoulders. Rachel stepped behind her and carefully examined the injury just below Lauren’s shoulder blade. With gentle, but experienced fingers she probed the skin around the tear, careful not to hurt her friend.
“Do you know what it was, that hit you in the back?” Rachel asked after having removed the dressing the EMT had used to cover the wound.
“I’m not sure,” Lauren sighed. “It all happened so fast. We ran into that convenience store and went straight for the restrooms, because they were in the back of the building. I pushed Maureen down on the floor, in the corner and a split second later all hell broke lose. All I could hear was the roaring of the wind and then I noticed the tornado had started to peel back the roof. I leaned over to try and shield Maureen from the flying debris, when I felt something hit me in the back. It was like a real hard punch and for a couple of seconds I could hardly breathe. Only when everything was over, I started to feel pain. I didn’t realize it was bleeding, until Maureen told me it was.”
“It’s a ragged looking cut,” Rachel explained, turning on a bright lamp to illuminate the wound better. “That EMT did a pretty good job cleaning it out, but I need to have a closer look to see if there’s any metal or wood splinters in there. And it does need a few stitches.”
“It does?” Lauren reacted in surprise.
“Yes, it does,” Rachel nodded. “I could clean it out better and dress it, but it would leave an ugly scar.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lauren mumbled with a shrug.
“Yes, my friend, it does matter,” Rachel disagreed. “That’s your fatigue talking.”
The Doctor patted Lauren on the shoulder, knowing her friend was close to exhaustion.
“Why don’t you lie down, on your stomach and make yourself comfortable? I’ll examine and clean this cut, numb up the skin and stitch it back up. In the meantime, you can relax. How does that sound?”
“Pretty good,” Lauren smiled, looking up and catching Rachel’s eyes. “Thanks, Rachel.”
“No problem,” the Doctor smiled. “Go ahead, make yourself comfortable, while I get all the stuff I need.”
“You might find me asleep,” Lauren warned, suppressing a yawn.
“All the better.”
“Oh, Hannah, this coffee is divine,” Maureen sighed, taking another sip from the hot beverage. “That certainly hits the right spot.”
“Mmm, it’s nice,” Hannah agreed. “Their brownies are to die for as well, but I’m not giving into the temptation,” she sighed, patting her belly.
“Hannah, I’d hate to tell you this, but you’ve lost weight,” Maureen chuckled.
“And I’d like to keep it that way,” the blonde nodded with a wry grin. “Between Rachel and my Grandmother, I’d double in size within months.”
“Gertrude is a great cook,” the red head smiled. “Dinner the other night was great.”
“It was,” Hannah nodded, while her clear blue eyes looked at Maureen with a pensive expression. “Granny really likes you and Lauren,” she added.
“She does?” Maureen asked, glancing up at Hannah over the rim of her cup.
“Yes, she does,” the blonde smiled. “She’d love to see you and Lauren get together,” Hannah added, wondering how Maureen would react to those words.
The red head’s eyebrows rose into her hairline and for a few moments there was a silence in which Hannah carefully observed her friend, who was trying to come up with something intelligent to say.
“Together, as in...together?” Maureen finally asked, missing the twinkle in the blonde’s eyes.
“Yes, like that,” Hannah chuckled. “As in: relationship together, like Rachel and me.”
Maureen shook her head and chuckled wryly.
“I see where you get your...directness from: Gertrude.”
“That’s what I’ve been told,” Hannah nodded with a smile. “Although I do hope I’m more diplomatic. But then, Granny keeps telling me she doesn’t have time to be diplomatic, she’s too old for that.”
“I’ve heard her say that,” Maureen laughed. “She’s something else.”
“She really is,” Hannah nodded. Her blue eyes reflected warmth and compassion when she leaned forward a little. “If you don’t mind me asking; how are things between you and Lauren?”
To win a few seconds, Maureen took another sip of coffee, enjoying its rich taste before swallowing it. Her green eyes were captured by a pair of blue ones, but what she saw in Hannah’s eyes had nothing to do with curiosity and everything with compassion.
“There’s nothing,” she finally answered in a slightly hoarse voice. “I was hoping that, maybe, a weekend at the Lake would have...given us the opportunity to...evaluate our friendship and...”
“Evaluate?” Hannah echoed with a twinkle in her eyes. “Maureen, now you sound like a real cop.”
“I am a cop,” the red head smiled. “But yes, I admit it sounds a little clinical.”
“You wanted a quiet weekend at the Lake, so you’d have Lauren all for yourself and maybe would have the chance finally to ambush her and kiss her senseless, among other things,” Hannah calmly continued.
Maureen almost snorted out her coffee and when she had finally stopped coughing, she cast her friend an accusing look.
“I survived a tornado today and now my friend is trying to kill me.”
“Sorry,” Hannah chuckled, but it sounded anything but remorseful. “But, I’m right, right?”
Maureen cast down her eyes and let out a deep sigh. It was obvious Hannah could see straight through her. On top of that, the exhaustion had lowered her defenses and she could not come up with anything to avoid having to give her friend as answer, so, she decided to be absolutely honest. Besides, maybe Hannah would be able to give her some advice.
“Yes, you’re right,” she finally answered. “And it’s driving me nuts.”
Rachel worked quietly, cleaning Lauren’s ragged cut by rinsing it with a saline solution. She had numbed the surrounding area, making sure the dark- haired police woman would be comfortable while her wound was being seen to. Lauren was lying absolutely still and the Doctor had noticed the Agent’s breathing was deep and regular, making her believe her friend had fallen asleep. Her thoughts went back to the previous night, when they had all been sitting around the table together, enjoying dinner and each other’s company. And now, less than twenty-four hours later, Rachel was suturing a wound in Lauren’s back, caused by debris from a tornado. Life was fragile, the Doctor knew. It was something she was confronted with on a daily basis and it had made very aware of her own life and the lives of the people she loved.
“I’m very sorry you had to come in, Rachel,” Lauren spoke so unexpectedly, Rachel almost dropped the tweezers she was holding, while removing a tiny piece of something that looked like metal from Lauren’s wound.
“I thought you were asleep,” Rachel sighed with a chuckle.
“I almost was,” Lauren admitted. “But there’s something about being in the Emergency Room, on my stomach with a Doctor standing over me that sort of makes me feel....helpless,” Lauren said dryly, making Rachel laugh.
“I’m cleaning it out,” the Doctor explained. “I found another tiny little piece of something while I was irrigating the cut, but it’s cleaned out now. I can start putting in sutures.”
“Great,” Lauren replied. “I can’t wait to go home and sleep. I know we’ll have to do some paperwork, but you know what? I’m tired.”
“I’m sure your Boss will understand,” Rachel mumbled, concentrating on her job. “Even Special Agents need to sleep every now and then. Maureen looks like she could topple over.”
“She’s exhausted,” Lauren admitted with sigh. “And to think we were looking forward to spending some time at the Lake. So much for rest and relaxation.”
“How are you guys doing?” Rachel asked, pausing a moment to grab a clean gauze and wipe away a trickle of blood. “I mean, is there any...are you...?” She took a deep breath and shook her head. “I sound like an idiot. What I mean to ask is...”
“Have Maureen and I made progress in the love and dating department,” Lauren interrupted in an amused voice.
‘Exactly,” Rachel nodded with a grin. “Thank you.”
“To be honest, we haven’t,” Lauren answered somberly. “At first, I wanted to give Maureen some time and space to deal with her divorce. No matter how long she’s known she’s gay, breaking up with Robert was a major change in her life and if we ever get a chance to date and maybe even...more...I want her to be able to do so without any major issues.” Lauren shifted a little and sighed. “Who knows, she might even meet somebody she likes better than me. I...”
“For an OSBI Agent as sharp as you are, you’re pretty blind when it comes to personal issues, aren’t you?” Rachel interrupted her friend. “She only has eyes for you, Lauren, trust me.”
“She does?” Lauren asked in a small voice, after a brief moment of silence.
“Yes, she does,” Rachel answered with confidence. “So, how do you feel about her?”
Lauren Darkwolf was a very private person, but from the first moment she had met Rachel Kendrick, she had liked the Doctor. In the months after their hunt for and arrest of Nathan Kendrick, Rachel’s cousin, the two women had become friends. Lauren trusted the calm, level-headed Emergency Room Doctor, who radiated a mixture of warmth, compassion, intelligence and professionalism. On top of that, Rachel was gay as well and had gone through all the ups and downs of a developing relationship.
“When she’s not around, I wonder where she is and what she’s doing,” Lauren started in a soft voice. “And I want to be with her. She makes me laugh and she makes me feel good about myself, although I can’t help wanting to keep her from harm. I worry about her,” she swallowed and moistened her lips, while Rachel kept her focus on her busy hands. “Our jobs can be pretty dangerous at times and I often have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that Maureen can take care of herself.” Lauren sighed again and let out a soft chuckle. “I probably sound like a confused teenager, but often when I think about her, at the most inappropriate times and places, my heart skips a beat and my stomach starts doing somersaults. And then, when we’re together, I’m so happy. Just seeing her, being able to talk to her, hear her laugh...it makes up for everything else.” Lauren glanced over her shoulder and her eyes were caught by a pair of warm brown ones. “So, what’s your diagnosis, Doctor?” she gently joked.
“Sounds to me like you’re in love,” Rachel answered undisturbed. “But you didn’t need my expert opinion on that,” the Doctor smiled. “I’m pretty sure you’re aware of that yourself.”
“Yes, I am,” Lauren answered. “The only thing that eludes me is how to deal with it.”
“Kiss her,” Rachel suggested in a calm voice, chuckling when Lauren’s entire body jerked.
“You heard me, Lauren Darkwolf. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.”
“Is that how you won over Hannah?” Lauren asked with a smile.
“Actually, yes,” Rachel nodded, laughing at the memory. “I knew I was in love long before Hannah realized she was. I had taken her to countless movies and dinners and weekends to the Lake, while I patiently waited for her to make up her mind about us.”
“What happened?” Lauren asked in a curious voice.
“I got caught up in the moment and ran out of patience,” Rachel explained. “We were at the Lake and it was a beautiful night. We had taken a walk and were standing on the porch, ready to go back inside, when Hannah turned around and gave me this...look, like she was trying to ask me something personal, but was afraid to.” Rachel’s hands stilled and she smiled. “I just thought: ’To heck with it’, pulled her in my arms and kissed her.”
“How did she react?” Lauren wanted to know.
“It was a mind-blowing kiss,” Rachel answered with a smile. “When we finally broke apart she said: ‘I’ve wanted you to do this for a long time now,’”
Both women laughed and Rachel continued her work meticulously stitching up the wound in Lauren’s back.
“Who knew it could be that easy?” the dark haired Agent mused. “Maybe I should give it a try.”
To be continued
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