For disclaimer see part one
The first thing Rachel Kendrick noticed when she pushed open the door into the ER, was the tall figure of Lauren Darkwolf, who was holding a small child in her arms. With a frown she opened her mouth to ask her friend a question, but, seeing the little girl Maureen was holding, answered her first few questions.
“Follow me,” she said curtly, stepping into an empty examination room, closely followed by Maureen and Lauren.
“I can take care of the boy,” one of the other physicians offered, but, seeing Kyle stiffen in Lauren’s arms, made Rachel shake her head.
“No, not yet, Jim. Thanks.”
She gestured Lauren and Maureen to follow her into the room.
The blonde, who had taken a seat in one of the office chairs in the nursing station, looked up and shot her lover a questioning look.
“Would you mind coming in as well?”
“Umm...,” Hannah looked a little surprised, but before she could answer, one of the other nurses stepped closer and stared at Rachel with a frown.
“Hannah doesn’t work here in the ER, Doctor Kendrick, and I...”
“Hannah has more experience with traumatized children than any of you,” Rachel interrupted. “She’s here, she’s available. Period.”
Rachel was in Doctor’s mode and Hannah suppressed a chuckle. It had been a long time since she had seen her lover pulling rank and deep down inside she cheered her on. Rachel Kendrick usually was pretty easy going, but if she put her foot down, she meant business.
“Hannah?” Rachel gestured to the blonde, who silently got to her feet and followed her into the examination room. While walking past her lover, she gave her arm a gentle squeeze, but when the door closed behind her, all her attention went to the two small children, who were sitting on a Gurney, side-by-side, with Lauren and Maureen standing beside them, both with pained expressions on their faces.
“This lady is the Doctor, Kyle, her name is Rachel,” Lauren explained, pointing at Rachel. “And the other nice lady is a nurse and her name is Hannah.” Lauren put her hand on Kyle’s small shoulder, giving it an encouraging squeeze. “Ladies, this is Kyle and his sister, Dustin.”
Hannah had worked in the Emergency Department for more than five years and had seen her share of suffering children. One look at the faces that were too pale, the hair that was too brittle and bodies that were too small and skinny told her more than she really wanted to know. But her love and compassion for children immediately brought her to her knees, mentally, when she stopped in front of the Gurney, gently covering cold, fidgeting fingers with a warm hand.
“Hello, Kyle,” she greeted the small boy with a warm smile. “How are you doing?”
“Okay,” the little boy answered, shyly staring up at her through long, blonde eyelashes. “Dustin is sick,” he added, wrapping his arm around his little sister, who immediately leaned into his body.
“I see that,” Hannah nodded, reaching out a hand and touching the little girl’s cheek. The eyelashes fluttered and slowly Dustin opened her eyes, looking at Hannah with dull eyes, before closing them again with a small sigh. When she felt a warm presence at her side, she knew Rachel was standing next to her, which gave her a sense of confidence. Rachel Kendrick was a great physician and the two little children were in the best of hands.
“Is it okay for Rachel to listen to your lungs, Dustin?” Hannah softly asked, aware of the ache in her heart when the little girl’s hands dug into her brother’s shirt.
“It’s okay, Dustin,” Kyle soothed her, gently rubbing his sister’s back. “Rachel is a Doctor and she will make you all better.”
“Kay,” was the barely audible response and Kyle nodded at Rachel, who quickly rubbed the membrane of her stethoscope to warm it up a little.
“I’m gonna put this against your chest, okay, Dustin? It helps me listen to your heart and lungs,” Rachel explained.
The little girl could only nod. She leaned heavily against her brother, too tired to keep her eyes open. Gently, Rachel used the stethoscope and her trained ears immediately noticed the rapid heart rate and the decreased sound in both of the little girl’s lungs.
“Can you take a deep breath for me, sweetie?” Rachel asked, almost wincing when the Dustin obediently sucked in a breath.
“Kyle, has Dustin been able to eat and drink anything lately?” she asked, gently probing the child’s neck with her fingertips.
“No,” Kyle shook his head. “When Kate brought chicken nuggets, Dustin didn’t want to eat. I tried to tell her she should,” he added in a small voice.
“I’m sure you did, honey,” Hannah smiled, brushing a strand of too long blond hair away from his forehead. “You’re a great brother, I can tell. Did Dustin drink anything?” she asked, knowing Rachel needed the information.
“She had some milk, but she threw it all up,” Kyle related softly.
“Can you remember when that was?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle answered with a sigh, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Try to remember, Kyle,” Lauren urged. “It would really help Rachel a lot if you could.”
Kyle nodded and rubbed his nose. His eyes were closed in concentration and the women gave him a few moments to gather his thoughts.
“It was...it was...when the man was there,” he finally answered, not seeing the puzzled look on the women’s faces.
“What man, sweetie?” Hannah asked, having seen the look Lauren and Maureen exchanged.
“I...Kate always closed the door extra tight,” Kyle answered, looking Hannah straight in the eye for the very first time, melting her heart with his blue eyes that were too wise for his age and the dirty blond hair that kept falling over his forehead. “I think...his name is...I’m not sure,” he added in a whisper, afraid to disappoint the adults.
“That’s okay, buddy,” Lauren smiled, gently ruffling the boys hair. “Was it yesterday?”
“No,” Kyle shook his head. “I...it was the day before...I think.”
“And that was the last time you and Dustin had anything to eat?” Hannah asked in a soft voice.
“I ate,” Kyle nodded. “Dustin had milk, but it made her throw up. We had water yesterday,” he added.
Maureen’s eyes were glued to a patient education poster on the wall. They did not register the explanation about patient’s rights, but she needed something to focus on. The small boy’s simple words had touched her deep inside and red-hot anger flared up within her chest every time she thought about the people who were supposed to look after and care for innocent children, but instead locked them up and physically and emotionally abused them.
A gentle touch on her arm almost startled her and, when she looked up, it was into a pair of concerned brown eyes.
“You okay?” Lauren mouthed and Maureen nodded, slowly exhaling.
“Hang in there, just a little while longer,” Lauren whispered, very aware of the fact her words made Maureen swallow convulsively. It was clear the exhausted redhead was close to tears. Reaching out, she grabbed Maureen’s hand and gave it a warm squeeze, immediately feeling her friend’s fingers close around her hand.
“I know you must be very hungry and thirsty,” Rachel smiled at Kyle, trying her best to reassure the young boy. “And we will give you something to eat and drink as soon as we can, but first we need to run a few tests. I promise they’ll be fast,” she added, impressed by the child’s composure. “Hannah will help me, so we’ll be done in a jiffy,” she smiled.
In a language the little boy could understand, she explained to him about the chest x-rays she would have to take of his sister’s chest, the blood and urine tests and the fluids his sister would need to receive through an intravenous catheter. Kyle took it all in with a calm expression on his face, nodding every now and then to show Rachel he understood.
Within less than thirty minutes, both children had undergone all necessary tests and Kyle was sipping from a glass of apple juice, waiting for the chicken fingers, apple sauce and green beans Hannah had ordered for him. He had not left his sister’s side and by the look of determination on his face, it was clear he had no intention to go anywhere anytime soon. Hannah had changed the little girl into a pair of pink pajamas, decorated with little white elephants and she was sound asleep, not aware of the IV fluids that were rhythmically pumped into her tiny frame, nor the nasal cannula that delivered some much needed oxygen to her laboring lungs.
“DHS has been notified,” Rachel told Lauren and Maureen in a soft voice, while her eyes were glued to Hannah, who was talking to Kyle, occasionally touching the little boy’s cheek, or his hand. She had no idea how intensely her eyes reflected the love she felt for her partner. But, to Maureen and Lauren, it was clearly visible and they exchanged a smile.
“Rachel,” Lauren spoke softly, trying to catch the Doctor’s attention. “Rachel” she tried again, gently nudging her friend, who slowly turned to her with slightly unfocused eyes.
“Mmm?” the Doctor responded and Maureen chuckled when Lauren rolled her eyes. “Oh, sorry,” the doctor apologized with a small smile. “I...um...I was a little distracted, I guess.”
“Yes, that’s obvious,” Lauren responded dryly. “But it seems to be a very nice distraction,” she added with warmth, shooting a glance at Hannah.
Rachel laughed and shook her head, turning her back to Hannah, so she could focus on the two Agents.
“I am sorry,” she said. “It’s amazing how, at the weirdest and most inconvenient times I realize how lucky and blessed I am,” she added with a sigh. “Okay, back to the children: DHS is sending somebody to assess the situation and they will find Dustin and Kyle a place to stay, after they’re discharged from the hospital, that is, which will be a few days.”
“They’re not breaking them up, are they?” Maureen asked in alarm, knowing how devastated the children would be if they would be separated.
“I’ll make sure they understand they need to stay together,” Rachel nodded. She cast a glance at Lauren, who was looking at Kyle with a pensive expression in her eyes. “Is there anything you need, or want to ask Kyle, before they take them to the kiddie unit?”
Lauren’s dark eyes traveled to the young boy, who, somehow had ended up in Hannah’s lap, looking up at the blonde with big, trusting eyes.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Lauren smiled, giving Rachel a friendly pat on the back. The tall Agent walked to where Hannah and Kyle were softly talking and knelt down in front of them.
“Is it alright for me to ask you one more question, Kyle?” she asked. When he silently nodded, she smiled at him and patted his knee. “Before, you said something about a man, who sometimes came and when he did, Kate closed the door extra tight. Can you remember anything about that man?”
Kyle’s blue eyes turned a little darker and he pursed his lips in thought.
“I...I never really saw him,” Kyle answered after a long silence. “Kate...she...she was always mad and she...they fought a lot,” he answered with difficulty.
“Did she ever mention his name, Kyle?” Lauren asked gently, afraid to pressure the little boy.
“I can’t...I believe...I think...Jake, I think,” he answered slowly, looking utterly relieved when Lauren sent him a warm smile.
“Good job, Kyle,” she commended him, ruffling his hair. “I am so proud of you.”
“Is Kate going to jail?” Kyle asked unexpectedly, having been told that his caretaker had been taken by the police.
“She might, Kyle,” Lauren answered honestly, wondering what he was thinking when she saw him nod his head.
“How do you feel about that, honey?” Hannah asked with so much kindness and compassion it brought tears back to Maureen’s eyes.
“She hurt Dustin,” Kyle mumbled. “I don’t like her.”
Lauren, who had been focused on Kyle, could feel Hannah’s stare and when she looked up, it was straight into a pair of inquisitive blue eyes.
“Was...is Kate your Mom?” Lauren asked, trying to sound as casual as possible.
“She’s my dad’s girlfriend,” Kyle answered in a husky voice.
“And where’s your dad?”
“Jail,” Kyle shrugged.
“So, where’s your mom?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle sighed. “She left when Dustin was a baby.”
Maureen was sipping a cup of coffee, waiting for Lauren to get off the phone. Her pager had beeped for attention as soon as they had left Kyle and Dustin in the capable hands of a pediatric nurse from the children’s unit. Her mind was still spinning with the events of the day and the anger she had felt over the treatment of the children was still burning deep down inside. As an OSBI Agent, she had seen her share of child-abuse, but no matter how often she was confronted with the suffering of children, it never became easier. Her thoughts returned to Kyle and the casual way he had related the lack of care and love. It had been so infuriating to realize the poor child did not know any better. How sad was it to grow up, locked away like a caged animal and only being fed and bathed on occasion?
“Dark thoughts?” a familiar voice sounded and Maureen jumped, almost spilling her coffee.
“Very,” she nodded, casting a sideway glance at Lauren, who had ended the phone call and had somehow managed to sneak up on her.
“I can tell,” Lauren responded in a soft voice. “You look like you need a hug.”
Those soft- spoken words, so full of warmth and compassion were almost the red-head’s undoing. Maureen swallowed convulsively, taking a deep breath to force away the tears that were stinging the back of her eyes.
“I need some fresh air,” she spoke hoarsely, turning away from Lauren and heading toward the exit.
Lauren’s dark eyes turned a shade darker and with a worried frown she watched her friend exit the Emergency Department. She wanted to follow Maureen outside so badly, it almost physically hurt, but she needed to finalize the paperwork from the DHS first.
With a heavy heart, Lauren walked to the DHS caseworker, who was patiently waiting for her.
“Is everything alright?” the elderly lady asked in a friendly voice.
“My partner is a little shaken up,” Lauren answered, grabbing a pen to sign a form. “We’re both very tired and finding Kyle and Dustin this morning was...too much, I guess,” she sighed, looking into a pair of warm, hazel eyes. “We need a rest,” she added with a smile.
“Then get some,” the caseworker smiled. “What you two did for those two poor children is pretty amazing. I know your job is not an easy one, Agent Darkwolf. But you’ve made quite the impression on that little boy, he can’t stop talking about you.”
In spite of her fatigue and her concern for Maureen, Lauren smiled at the caseworker’s words.
“Would it be alright to come see him and Dustin, later?” she asked quietly.
“I’m sure it would. Those poor little souls need a friend, right now,” was the answer and Lauren smiled. She quickly signed all the appropriate paperwork, waved at Rachel, who just came back from lunch, letting her friend know she would call her later and headed toward the exit, looking for Maureen.
She did not have to search too long. As soon as she stepped outside, her eyes fell on the form of her friend, who had taken a seat on a bench, underneath an old Pin oak tree. Maureen had wrapped her arms across her chest and her long legs were stretched out in front of her. Even from a distance, Lauren could see her eyes were cast down, giving the impression she was asleep, but the Agent knew her friend wasn’t.
With long strides, Lauren crossed the distance and took a seat on the bench, close to the red-head, who did not immediately acknowledge her presence. But then, after a few moments of silence, a warm hand found its way to Lauren’s, entwining their fingers.
“Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?” Lauren gently teased, giving Maureen’s hand a loving squeeze.
“It’s the perfume,” Maureen sighed, opening her eyes and glancing aside. A tired chuckle escaped her when she noticed the twinkle in Lauren’s eyes. “You goof,” she smiled, nudging the taller woman with her shoulder.
“How are you doing?” Lauren asked, not able to hide the concern in her voice.
“I’ve been better,” Maureen sighed, wanting to be totally honest. “I’ve seen a lot of misery, Lauren, but...this...today...somehow it got to me and I...,” the red-head let out a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry,” she ended, her voice barely audible.
“Don’t be,” Lauren replied, wishing she could pull Maureen into her arms and hold her close. She knew a hug would do wonders, not just for her friend, but for herself as well. She craved to be physically closer to the other woman, but the small park-like area across from the hospital Emergency Department was not exactly the right place for such a display. Inwardly, Lauren sighed. For the first time ever, she felt like neglecting her job and running off with Maureen.
“I guess we need to get going. Duty is probably hollering at us again,” Maureen muttered. “Where are we heading to next?”
Lauren did not immediately answer. She pondered over Maureen’s question, having wondered exactly the same thing. There were so many things that had to be researched and she knew that, at some point, to get an answer to certain questions, they would need to travel back to Elk City, to talk to Morty. But what good would it do to push themselves to, and maybe over, their limit? The DHS caseworker had been right; they needed some rest.
“We’re going home,” Lauren finally answered, smiling when she noticed the look of surprise on the other woman’s face.
“Going home,” Lauren sighed. “We’re both exhausted and in desperate need of a rest. I’ll call Jack Wilson and let him know. Being worn out doesn’t really help the case,” she added, aware of the warmth that settled in the pit of her stomach when Maureen sent her a grateful look.
The red-head did not immediately answer, but for a very brief moment, she pressed her face against Lauren’s shoulder.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Let’s go,” Lauren answered equally soft. “I don’t know about you, but I hear a cool shower and a soft bed calling my name.”
“Oh, you’re speaking my language,” Maureen smiled warmly. “Are we really going to take the rest of the day off?”
“Really,” Lauren laughed at the childish joy in her friend’s voice and jumped up, pulling the red-head with her. “Come on. Let’s pick up a light lunch somewhere and head to...my house?” she asked. “I’m sorry, I should have asked if...”
“Your house is perfect,” Maureen interrupted. “Besides, I left my toothbrush in your spare bathroom.”
Jacob Mannen frowned and muttered a curse when the car in front of him slowed down. The traffic had been unusually heavy and when he was forced to come to a complete stop, he wondered if there had been an accident. Tenth street was not exactly the safest street in the area. It was narrow for a four-lane road, with many side streets and businesses. The recent rain had wreaked havoc on the clumsily repaired potholes, making large areas of the road treacherous.
Casting a look at the clock on the car’s dashboard, Jake, or Musk, as he was known to his friends and business relations, shifted in his seat, trying to look past the car in front of him. He had almost reached his destination and was impatient to pick up some of the merchandise for a new client.
“What the...?” Jake mumbled, when he caught sight of the police-cars and hazmat truck that were parked alongside the road.
“Damn,” he exclaimed when he saw the door of the house he was heading to was wide open, with two police officers standing in the doorway. They were talking to a neighbor who, Jake knew, would recognize him without a problem.
Immediately, Jake’s brain kicked into high gear and he quickly decided he had to leave the area as soon as he could and as fast as possible without drawing any unwanted attention. He knew there was one more side street between him and the police officers and he knew turning there would be his only chance to avoid an encounter with the police. It seemed to take forever for the cars in front of him to move forward, while in reality it was less than five minutes. By the time Jake was able to round the corner, he was perspiring profusely. His heart was pounding in his chest and he had to make a conscious effort not to drive away with breakneck speed.
“Damn, what a mess,” he mumbled, casting a look in the rearview mirror. “I need to pull over somewhere and make a few phone calls. See where Brain’s at...”
Only when he was a few blocks away from Tenth Street, Jake dared to pull over into a small parking lot, where he grabbed his cell phone and speed-dialed a number. Impatiently drumming the fingers of his right hand on the steering wheel, he waited for an answer.
“Come on, Brains...come on,” he mumbled, staring in his rearview mirror. When the connection finally came, it was his business partner’s voice mail. Jake knew better than to leave a message and, frustrated, he raked his fingers through his hair, weighing his options.
If Brains had been caught in the lab, he, Jake could be in very deep trouble and it probably would only be a matter of time before the police came looking for him.
“I need to leave the city,” Jake decided, putting his car in gear and heading back to the street. “And I need to leave now.”
“What did Jack say?” a soft voice startled Lauren out of her reverie. She had been standing in front of the window, staring into her backyard where one of the neighbor’s cats was clumsily stalking a bird. The red robin, however, was a lot smarter than the feline and gracefully flew away, landing in a nearby willow, where he observed the scene below him with curious eyes.
“Good job, my little feathered friend,” Lauren smiled, turning around so she could face Maureen. Her smile widened at the sight in front of her. Maureen was barefoot and clad in a white bathrobe that fell just below her knees. Her hair had been blown dry and she was raking her fingers through the thick, red tresses.
“Jack said he’ll call us tomorrow morning with an update. Not earlier,” Lauren answered, chuckling when she saw the relief on Maureen’s face. “He told me to make sure we get a good rest.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” Maureen sighed, leaning her hip against the back of a recliner, looking at Lauren with tired eyes. “Who knew the Boss was so human?” she added with a wry chuckle.
“His wife,” Lauren quipped and Maureen laughed. She stepped closer to the taller woman and reached up to cup a dark- skinned cheek. While her thumb caressed the soft skin, her green eyes turned a few shades darker.
“You’re so beautiful,” she whispered with an audible touch of wonder in her voice. “And so incredibly sweet.” Maureen leaned forward and brushed her lips against Lauren’s in a gesture that was barely a kiss. It made the other woman smile and a pair of warm dark-brown eyes shone with affection when they looked into Maureen’s green ones.
“That hug you were talking about before, can I have that now?” Maureen asked softly, letting out a deep sigh when a pair of arms were immediately wrapped around her, pulling her close against Lauren’s taller frame.
“This feels so good,” she mumbled, feeling like she could finally relax. With her head pressed against Lauren’s chest, Maureen listened to the strong, steady heartbeat of the woman who was holding her and it made her relax even more. All of a sudden, the events of the past few days faded away within the circle of Lauren’s arms.
The dark-haired woman’s cheek rested against Maureen’s hair that still felt a little damp. She breathed in the scent of shampoo and shower-gel and felt the tension leave her muscles.
“It feels more than good,” she mumbled. “Holding you feels like...home,” she added in a whisper.
Maureen did not respond but she pressed her face even closer, tightening her grip around Lauren’s waist. She only became aware of the tear that was rolling down her cheek, when it left a moist track that quickly dried in the air-conditioned room. Her feelings for Lauren were so intense that, at times, it almost took her breath away. Like now. A wave of emotions crashed over her, flooding her senses and sweeping her away into unexplored and uncharted territory. It was frightening, but Lauren’s arms supplied the support she needed. So, Maureen did the only thing she could do; she held on for dear life, blindly trusting the dark-haired woman to be her anchor.
“Are you alright?” a soft voice sounded close to her ear and Maureen nodded.
“It’s...a lot,” she answered, not able to phrase her answer any better. Reluctantly pulling away from the other woman, she looked up into a pair of concerned eyes.
“I’m fine,” she smiled. “Honestly,” she added when she noticed the doubt in the warm brown. “Sometimes I feel like I am on a roller coaster and...Kyle’s and Dustin’s situation was the last straw, I guess. When he was answering Hannah’s questions I...it...it just cut through my heart and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to take anymore.”
Lauren nodded and her eyes were serious when she looked down at the woman in her arms.
“Do you think...?” she swallowed hard and involuntarily the arms around Maureen tightened. “If it’s too much...you’ll let me know, right? Maybe we’re going too fast and...”
Lauren was interrupted by a finger that was firmly pressed against her lips.
“Hush,” Maureen whispered. “That’s not it, Lauren. You and me, our relationship is something....so precious to me, I...,” the red-head took a deep breath and swallowed hard. “Please, don’t think it’s too much for me. I admit it’s pretty intense at times, but...I want this. I want us, Lauren. So much,” she ended in an, almost desperate whisper. “I guess my senses were on overload today, that’s all. I already feel a lot better.” She smiled and brushed her fingertips across Lauren’s cheeks. “Your hug was the best medicine.”
“I’m glad,” Lauren smiled. “And I have to admit I needed it as much as you did.”
They smiled at each other and, deep down inside, Maureen felt something shift and fall into place. It brought her a sense of belonging and all of a sudden Lauren’s words hit home with absolute clarity. It was a profound feeling that filled her with a mixture of warmth and giddiness and the desire to bury herself in Lauren’s arms and stay there, for a very long time. But the dark-haired Agent looked exhausted and Maureen did not want to keep her awake longer than needed. They both needed a good rest. Later, they would have time to talk and, hopefully, to snuggle up together and just relax.
“You need a shower,” she spoke with a smile, patting Lauren’s side. “You look tired.”
“I am tired,” Lauren confessed with a sigh. “And yes, I need a shower,” she added, pulling a face. “Especially after having been in that awful, sorry excuse for a house.”
“Go shower,” Maureen encouraged her friend. “I’ll be here when you’re finished.”
“You’ll probably be asleep,” Lauren objected, but there was a twinkle in her eyes.
“I might be,” Maureen nodded, suppressing a yawn.
“What if I need another hug?” Lauren asked with a smile.
“Wake me up,” Maureen immediately answered and Lauren laughed.
“I might just do that,” she promised, leaning in to give the red-head a quick kiss. A small glimpse of insecurity crossed the taller woman’s face, but did not go unnoticed by her friend.
“What?” Maureen asked quickly.
“It’s nothing,” Lauren shrugged, feeling silly about her unexpected insecurity. “I’ll go shower and I need you to relax.”
Lauren wanted to turn around, but Maureen had grabbed her hand to stop her.
“Lauren?” Maureen asked. “What’s wrong?”
“There’s nothing wrong,” Lauren hurried to answer when she saw the look of concern on the red-head’s face. “It’s just....” Lauren looked so uncharacteristically shy it was almost amusing. “I was thinking...I thought...maybe, if you...After yesterday and today I just don’t want to...Maureen, I sound like a babbling idiot,” Lauren said, rolling her eyes at herself. “All I wanted to suggest is for you to sleep...with me, and I mean sleep,” she quickly added. “I want to hold you until we fall asleep.”
“I’d love to,” Maureen answered with a warm smile, giving the dark woman a quick hug. “Thanks for having the courage to bring that up. I thought about it, but I was too chicken to ask you.”
“You can always ask me anything,” Lauren promised. The sudden twinkle in Maureen’s eyes made her add a quick reply. “No, I don’t feel like going dancing right now,” she chuckled, playfully shaking the red-head.
“Me neither,” Maureen sighed. “Alright, Wolfie, get your butt in gear, because I’m about to topple over and I so want to snuggle first, before I fall asleep.”
Lauren did not need anymore encouragement. After one more quick kiss, she turned and left the room, heading straight for the bathroom, leaving Maureen staring at the door with a soft, wistful smile on her face.
Hannah Jensen was sitting on a bench, outside the Emergency Department, unknowingly occupying the same spot Maureen had earlier that day, She was waiting for Rachel to end her shift, so they could go home together. A small smile appeared on her face when she thought about her partner. Life with Rachel was good. Hannah let out a happy sigh and her blue eyes traveled to the sliding door that lead into the hospital. Her heart skipped a beat when her eyes fell on the familiar form of her partner and she softly laughed to herself.
“I guess I’m still having butterflies,” she said softly, smiling brightly at the dark-haired woman who was quickly crossing the street.
“Hello there, pretty lady,” Rachel greeted her as soon as she had reached the bench. “You look like a nice person. May I offer you a ride somewhere?”
To Rachel’s delight, Hannah laughed which caused a dimple to appear in her cheek. A pair of twinkling blue eyes looked up at her and she chuckled when Hannah wrinkled her nose.
“I don’t know,” the blonde drawled. “Are you a reputable person?”
“I am a Doctor!” Rachel answered with feigned hurt.
“So was Hannibal Lector,” Hannah quipped and Rachel laughed, offering the blonde a hand-up.
“I’m not interested in eating liver,” the Doctor answered with a chuckle, when the blonde grabbed her hand and let herself be pulled to her feet. “I am more into taking you home and having a relaxed evening.”
“Watching Dora the Explorer again?” Hannah laughed, referring to their daughter’s favorite movie.
“I was thinking about...after spending time with Nicky and Dora,” Rachel chuckled. “How about...a cup of something...a movie? Some music? Snuggling up on the couch?”
“Ooh, I like that idea,” Hannah smiled. “Count me in, Doctor Kendrick.”
They casually strolled to the parking garage where Rachel had parked her car that morning, enjoying the mild Spring temperature.
“How are Kyle and Dustin doing?” Rachel asked, knowing her partner would have checked up on the siblings before she left the hospital.
“They’re settling in,” Hannah nodded. “Dustin’s perking up a little, but she’s so not happy with her IV.”
“She needs the meds and the fluids though,” Rachel sighed. “She was pretty dehydrated.”
“That’s what Kyle keeps telling her,” Hannah smiled. “He’s such a sweet, caring, big brother. You know, honey, the reason I left the ER was because of cases like this. I couldn’t stand it anymore,” the blonde explained. “I don’t understand how people can treat children like that.”
“It’s because they were either treated like that themselves, or because they have an addiction that numbs them completely. It’s sick, I know.” Rachel glanced aside and wrapped her arm around Hannah’s shoulder, giving her a quick one-armed hug. “You did great today and I am so grateful you were there. It did bring back a lot of memories.”
“About the time you were a resident and I bailed you out every time you had to stick a needle in a poor, little kid?” Hannah smiled.
“Among other things,” Rachel admitted with a chuckle. “You are naturally good with children. For some reason they all love you.”
“I don’t know about that,” Hannah replied, wrinkling her nose. “But it’s nice you think that.”
They had reached the car and Hannah had opened the door, but, before getting in, she shot Rachel an inquisitive look.
“You’re not trying to recruit me back, are you?”
“No, I’m not. I promise,” Rachel laughed. “No matter how much I love working with you, I’m afraid constantly having you around would be entirely too distracting.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult,” Hannah teased, while getting into the car.
“A compliment, trust me,” Rachel answered with a warm smile.
As soon as they were both within the privacy of the car, Rachel leaned over to give the blonde a kiss. It had been her intention to be quick, but Hannah’s response made it impossible to withdraw and, for a few precious seconds, the intimate contact lingered.
“We’re in a public place,” Rachel whispered, after they broke apart.
“In a car, with tinted windows,” Hannah added with a smile, using the tip of her finger to trace an imaginary line from Rachel’s forehead all the way down to her lips. “But, I guess we can’t stay here, making out, huh?”
“I’m afraid not,” Rachel answered with an amused smile. “No matter how much I’d love to.”
“Just...hold that thought,” the blond sighed.
“Absolutely,” Rachel nodded, reaching for her seatbelt. “By the way, I don’t know if you have noticed, but...”
“Somebody is keeping an eye on us?” Hannah interrupted. “Yes, I’ve noticed. Do you think we’re imagining things?”
“I’m not sure,” Rachel frowned, casting a look in her rearview mirror. “He’s been hanging around the place all day. And he seems way too interested in you. But I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
“How?” Hannah asked with curiosity.
“Because I’m not going anywhere,” Rachel answered, putting the car in reverse and backing out of her parking spot. “I’ll drive up to security and point him out to them. They can take it from there.”
To be continued in part 10
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