For disclaimers see part one
I'm very sorry for this...um...delayed... update. Between 'real life', work, work, more work and a terminally ill laptop (yes, it finally did die on me)...my writing was put on the back burner...But, I managed to write this part and I hope the rest of the tale will follow smoothly.
Thank you all, for your patience!
There was a long, shocked silence, in which Maureen, Hannah and Rachel stared at Lauren with a mixture of emotions. The red-haired Agent looked puzzled and somewhat intrigued. By the look on her face and the keen interest in her eyes, Lauren could tell Rachel's brain was already working on solving the puzzle.
Hannah looked surprised and a little shocked, but there was an open, inviting expression in her eyes, an invitation for Lauren to talk about what had happened and to explain.
Lauren could tell Rachel had trouble meeting her eyes. The Doctor looked upset and almost sick and, when their eyes briefly met, the Agent read anguish and shame for what her cousin had done to Debra, and fear, for what he could do to Hannah.
"I...am so sorry," Rachel finally spoke, her voice hoarse with emotion. "Lauren, I don't know what to say. I..."
"It's all right, Rachel," Lauren gently interrupted. "It's been quite a few years ago and it had nothing to do with you."
"He's family," Rachel had trouble saying the words. "We share the same blood."
"Which does not make you responsible," Lauren immediately responded. "You're not responsible for his actions, his thoughts and his choices. Nathan is his own man."
"What exactly did he tell you, Lauren?" Maureen asked, curious to hear the rest of the story. She had known Lauren DarkWolf for quite a while, but she had never heard anything about Nathan being responsible for the death of the other Agent's friend.
"Nathan left college, and went somewhere else and only when I started to work at the OSBI, I ran into him again. It wasn't exactly a happy reunion. As soon as I saw his face, I was reminded of what had happened to Debra. I always had a feeling he knew more about it." Lauren let out a sigh and rubbed her forehead. The memories were not pleasant, but she felt she needed to share them with the other women. "Soon after I ran into him again, he followed me to my car one evening and he handed me a picture of Debra." Lauren paused and swallowed hard. The anger was still so close to the surface that she had to take a few deep breaths to control her temper. "He told me I could have it, since he was sure I missed her. He said he had enough trophies."
Maureen sucked in some air, while Hannah clasped her hand in front of her mouth. Her blue eyes were wide with shock when she looked at the dark-haired agent.
"I asked him if he had anything to do with her death and he said 'yes'. Just like that. And then he told me there was nothing I could do about it, because there was no evidence and there never would be any, either. After that, he laughed, turned around and walked off." Lauren let out a soft, humorless laugh and rubbed her hands together. "I so wanted to pull my gun and just shoot him, but I guess I had too much sense for that. He was right, there was no evidence."
"That must have been so hard," Maureen spoke in a voice that was laced with compassion. "What did you do? Did you talk to his superiors?"
"No use," Lauren shook her head. "At first, I wanted to resign, but then I realized nobody in the OSBI knew anything about what he had done, only I knew how cunning and manipulative he was. So, I decided to stick around and keep an eye on him. I was convinced that, one day, he'd make a mistake and he has. We'll get him and when we do, he'll never be free again."
"I hope so," Hannah whispered. "When he tried to abduct me, in the hospital, I looked in his eyes and I didn't recognize him. While we were growing up, he never was like that. I know he could be quiet and withdrawn and that's why I wanted to be his friend. I never expected him to be this...this...insane."
"Don't let him fool you, Hannah," Maureen warned, closing her book and putting it on the side-table next to her chair. "Nathan is the type who tortured animals when he was a kid. A loner with a sick mind and a serious lack of compassion."
"That thought scares me," Hannah almost whispered. "The idea of him being in my bedroom, taking pictures while I was asleep is just so...so...it scares the heck out of me. Why didn't he hurt me back then? It's not like he didn't have the chance."
"Because he liked the game," Lauren answered and Maureen nodded. "He felt like he was in control, like he had power over you and over Rachel. And as long as he was in control, you were safe. Losing his power would have put your safety in jeopardy."
"So, the fact that Rachel left..." Hannah paused and put a hand on Rachel's knee, giving it a loving squeeze.
"The fact that Rachel left when she did might have saved your life," Maureen finished Hannah's sentence for her. Her blue-gray eyes traveled from Hannah to Rachel and she sent the Doctor a half-smile. Leaving somebody you loved was an incredibly hard thing to do, she knew. But sometimes it was for the better.
"Do you seriously think Nathan would have...hurt Hannah had I stayed?" Rachel asked in a voice that was thick with emotion.
"Yes, I really believe he would have," Maureen answered. "I know he orchestrated your departure, but as soon as you were gone, he left Hannah alone. I guess the challenge was gone. There was a certain dare in trying to keep you away, though. I'm sure that gave him some sick pleasure. With you gone, he could picture Hannah as his conquest, even though, emotionally and physically, she wasn't. But it was all in his mind, his own little world he had created for himself. Nathan has a lot of serious problems, Rachel."
"I know," the Doctor nodded. "You know, I thought he was 'just' a stalker, but after hearing Lauren's story, I am seriously starting to believe he's a psychopath."
"Is that a clinical opinion or a personal one?" Hannah asked with a small smile, grabbing Rachel's hand and holding it tight between her own. The Doctor noticed the blonde's hands were cold and she scooted a little closer, covering Hannah's hands with her own.
"My clinical and personal side are in consensus about this one," Rachel sighed. "I'm glad we left the city. I want as many miles between us and that nutcase as possible."
"There's a risk he'll find out we' re here, though," Maureen warned and Lauren nodded in agreement. "But we're prepared. If Nathan shows up, we have a surprise for him."
"So do I," Hannah nodded, while her eyes traveled to tile floor in front of the fire place.
"You do?" Rachel frowned, not sure what Hannah was referring to.
"I do," the blonde answered, gently pulling her hands free from Rachel's grip. She pushed herself up from her comfortable seat and walked towards the fireplace. Kneeling down next to it, she stretched out a hand, while her fingers looked for a small depression that was hardly visible in the grout between the bricks of the mantle. When she had found what she was looking for, she pushed the stone and immediately one of the tiles in the floor opened up. Lauren, Maureen and Rachel almost jumped in surprise, while Hannah reached inside the dark opening and pulled out a small, metal box. She pressed down on the tile, efficiently closing the hidden space and walked back towards the couch, where she took her seat next to Rachel, after putting the small box on the coffee table.
"What's that?" the Doctor asked curiously.
Hannah did not immediately answer. She bit her lip and it was clear to see she was struggling with herself.
"Hannah?" Rachel gently urged, a little worried about the mixture of sadness and anger on the blonde's face.
Without speaking a word, Hannah opened the small box and immediately leaned back in her seat, unconsciously putting as much distance between herself and the contents of the box.
Maureen and Lauren, however, leaned forward and the first one let out an appreciative whistle.
"Wow, Hannah. Is that a Smith & Wesson?" she asked.
"An M&P .40," Lauren added. "9 mm, if I'm not mistaken." The tall policewoman looked up and sent Hannah a reassuring smile. "They're scary, aren't they?"
"I hate guns," Hannah confessed. "I've seen what those things are capable of. But I can promise you this; if Nathan comes close, I'll be using it."
"We won't let it come that far, Hannah," Maureen promised.
"I hope so," the blonde sighed, unconsciously leaning closer to Rachel, who wrapped an arm around the blonde's shoulder and pulled her close.
"Was it your Dad's?" Rachel gently asked.
"Yes, he didn't like guns either, but he thought it would be a good idea to have one around here, because it's kind of remote, especially in the winter, when most cabins are empty. The day he bought it, he put it in that safe. It's never been out since, until now."
"Do you want us to keep it?" Lauren asked.
Hannah nodded and rested her head on Rachel's shoulder. The other woman's warm presence was comforting. It gave her the reassurance she needed and again, she realized how grateful she was for having Rachel back into her life.
"Keep it as far away from Nicky as you can," Hannah sighed and both Lauren and Maureen nodded.
"Don't worry, Hannah. I'll put it somewhere so high, only I can reach it," Lauren promised, grabbing the steel pistol and the accompanying ammunition out of the box.
"So, if anything happens and you're not around, the girls will have to wish Nathan away?" Maureen softly snorted.
Lauren, who was on her way to the kitchen, stopped and turned around to shoot the red-haired agent an amused look.
"Let me rephrase that, please," she said with a half- smile. "I'll put it up so high, Nicky won't be able to reach it for the next ten years."
"Thanks, Lauren," Rachel said with a grateful smile, while Hannah nodded.
"Besides," the tall agent continued. "I'm planning on being around when our friend shows up, no matter where, no matter when..."
"Darn it," Mildred muttered, grabbing the bag that had slipped out of her hand and had almost landed in a puddle of water. "That was almost the end of Hannah's cashmere sweater."
"Are you alright, ma'am?" a friendly voice sounded and, when Mildred looked up, it was into a pair of friendly light-brown eyes. "Isn't Christmas shopping a curse?" he continued while reaching out a hand to help her with the slippery plastic bags.
"Sometimes it is," Mildred nodded with a sigh. "Thanks for your help, I appreciate it."
"No problem," the man smiled, stepping aside so she could open the door of the car. "Have a blessed day."
"Thank you," Mildred returned the smile, while deep down inside she felt like she had to know the man who was standing in front of her. Those eyes...and his smile...it struck a cord and Mildred frantically tried to remember where she had seen him before. And then, with sickening clarity she remembered. Mildred Jensen-Brennigan sometimes made the impression of being superficial, more interested in material things than in the world around her and people sometimes wondered how smart she really was, but in the end Mildred was a Jensen. Her parents were descendants from hard-working, level-headed Scandinavian immigrants and, in times of stress, Mildred was usually able to keep her cool.
Right now, the adrenaline was rushing through her body and she had to make a conscious effort not to scream, turn around and make a run for it. She had parked her car on the side of the store and she knew there was not much traffic. There was a security officer around, but he was inside the store and there was no way she could draw his attention. She could almost see him, the tall, well-built blonde with the crew cut and warm smile. He was only a few feet away, but there was at least three feet of concrete wall between them.
"My goodness," Mildred sighed, rubbing her forehead with her hand, wondering if she was visibly shaking. "I knew I'd forgotten something. That's what happens when you don't make a list."
She looked up at Nathan and realized the eyes that had seemed so warm when he had smiled at her before, were now cold and calculated. But, instead of letting her fear paralyze her, Mildred was even more determined to walk away graciously from a potentially dangerous situation.
"Do you work here, Dear?' she asked with an innocent smile.
The question startled Nathan and he needed a few seconds to regain his composure. Mildred immediately took advantage of his laps in concentration.
"Because, if you do, I'd ask you if you would be a darling and keep an eye on my car for me? I really have to run back in and grab one of those cute mittens for my friend's grand baby. I won't be long, I promise."
"Um...well, I...sure, of course," Nathan stammered, mustering up a smile. This woman, Hannah's Aunt was one of the stupidest people he had ever encountered. First, she didn't even recognize him and then she just assumed he worked at Kohl's and asked him to keep an eye on the car. How naive!
"I'd be happy to, ma'am," he nodded, which earned him a genuine smile from Mildred. That had been easier than she had expected.
"Thank you so much, Honey. I'll be right back, I promise," she rushed out the words, before turning around and heading for front of the building. Only when she had rounded the corner, Mildred let out a shuddering breath. That had been close! She needed to contact the police. If Nathan had followed her when she went to the store, he might know where her mother was.
"Tell us, Rachel, what is the craziest thing you've ever seen as an ER Doctor?" Maureen Rivers asked, nibbling on a piece of toast.
Rachel looked up from her plate and her brown eyes traveled to Hannah, who looked at her with an amused twinkle in her eyes.
"The craziest?" Rachel echoed with a frown. "That's a hard question, I've seen a lot of crazy things. It's hard to determine who'd get the Oscar for the craziest."
"Give it a try, Doc," Maureen encouraged with a grin. "You've worked in some big hospitals, right? I bet you have a million stories to tell."
"Most crazy things are also pretty sad," Rachel sighed, seeing Hannah nod. Of course the blonde agreed. One of the reasons she had left the ER, had been the confrontation with the never ending stream of pain, sadness and despair.
"I once took care of a man who thought he was Napoleon and he accused me of stealing his horse," Rachel mused.
"Why did he accuse you?" Hannah asked curiously.
"I have no idea," Rachel sighed. "Maybe because I was trying to assess his mental state of health. I'm sure I posed a threat to him. Maybe he translated that as me stealing his horse."
"What happened to him?" Lauren asked.
"He was admitted, because he threatened to hurt some people. That's the last thing I've heard about him. And then we had the lady who had a bead stuck up her nose."
"A bead?" Hannah chuckled. "How did that happen?"
"She was a Mom, trying to show her three year old what would happen if he'd put a bead in his nose."
"You're kidding?" Maureen laughed. "She did it on purpose?"
"Yes, she did," Rachel grinned. "When I was done lecturing her, she burst out in tears and then her husband accused me of being 'less than empathic'."
"Idiot," Hannah mumbled, which earned her a warm smile from Rachel.
"In the end, I wondered who was crazier; the wife or the husband," Rachel grinned. "Oh, and then there was this guy who'd fallen in love with one of the nurses and he managed to come back to the ER with all sort of emergencies, just to get her attention."
"What a nutcase," Maureen muttered. "What kind of emergencies did he come up with?"
"Once he cut his finger, almost to the bone," Hannah answered, remembering the situation, because she had been working in the ER at the time. Rachel had been a resident. "Then a couple of days later he came back, because all the stitches had disappeared. He said he didn't know what happened. He woke up and found a bloody mess."
"Then he came in with unspecified abdominal pain," Rachel continued, smiling at Hannah. "We ran a bunch of tests on him and eventually found out he had been taking an enormous amount of laxatives."
"Eeew," Maureen responded, wrinkling her nose in disgust. "He sounds like a real weirdo."
"He was a little strange," Hannah admitted. "Especially when he showed up with a second degree burn on his shoulder and a Henna tattoo on his chest that read: 'Marcia, will you marry me?'"
"I'll never forget poor Marcia's face," Rachel laughed at the memory. "I thought she was going to choke him."
"Her husband almost did," Hannah chuckled. "Boy, Grant was fuming."
"What happened to him?" Lauren asked from her seat near the window.
"He disappeared after Grant had a...talk...with him," Rachel related. "I'm sure he fled town," she added with a grin.
"I'm sure he...," Lauren paused when he cell phone started ringing and with an apologetic smile she flipped the device open.
"DarkWolf," she spoke, frowning when she listened to the person on the other side of the connection. Her face grew serious and aware of three pairs of eyes that looked at her intently, Lauren stood up and walked towards the kitchen window.
"Yes, of course," they heard her say. "And they...oh, they didn't? That's very...unfortunate...yes, sure, no, I'll tell them. Alright....thanks, Inspector. Bye."
Lauren closed her phone and slowly put the device back in her pocket, before turning around and facing the questioning gazes of the other three women.
"That was Inspector Wilson," she spoke softly. "First of all, I need to say that everybody is alright," her brown eyes looked for Hannah's blue ones and held them effortlessly while the blonde swallowed hard and quickly nodded in understanding.
"Nathan followed your Aunt to the store and they think he tried either to get into her car or make her go into his. Anyway, your Aunt was very cool and collected and she managed to go back into the store and alarm a security guard, who immediately called the police. Unfortunately, Nathan was probably on to them and when they arrived, he had disappeared. As a matter of safety, Inspector Wilson has decided to relocate your Grandmother and Aunt."
"Relocate?" Rachel frowned.
"Yes, relocate," Lauren nodded. "For their own safety they'll be placed somewhere safe, where Nathan can't find them."
"Are you sure?" Hannah asked in a little voice, wishing she could be with her Grandmother. She knew the elderly lady was tough, but there had been a lot of fear and tension lately and Hannah could not help wondering how that would affect Gertrude's health.
"I'm positive, Hannah, trust me," Lauren added with a warm smile.
But the blonde had jumped up from the couch and was restlessly pacing the room. It was obvious she was worried about her Grandmother and Rachel wished she could say or do anything that would make her feel better. But the Doctor had her concerns as well. Obviously, it had been easy for Nathan to find Mildred and follow her to the store. Or had it been a coincidence? Knowing her cousin, Rachel doubted that. One of the most dangerous things about Nathan, especially in his deranged state of mind, was that he was thorough.
Hannah, unaware of Rachel's dark thoughts, stared out the window, suppressing a shiver when she saw how the wind whipped the branches up and down, like a cold hand rattling the trees.
Her blue eyes reflected the gray clouds in the sky and, with a deep sigh, she realized it was not exactly weather to go out for a walk. She knew she was worrying too much, especially about her Grandmother, but it was hard to have faith in the skill of some stranger to keep Gertrude safe. If only Nathan would realize he had no chance and give himself up to the police. If only they could return to their lives, so she and Rachel could continue to develop and cultivate their feelings for each other. If only...
All of a sudden, Hannah sucked in a breath and her body went completely still. From the corner of her eyes, she had caught a movement between the trees and with her heart hammering in her chest, she stood motionless.
"Maureen, Lauren," her voice was soft and hoarse when she finally dared to speak. "There's...there's somebody out there and..."
Immediately, Maureen jumped to her feet and with a few long strides she had herself positioned at the door, her gun in her hand. Lauren on the other hand, stared at her co-worker with something that resembled amusement in her eyes.
"Chill, Rivers, it's my brother," she spoke calmly.
"What?" Maureen Rivers exclaimed, annoyed with her partner's calm demeanor.
"Your brother?" Hannah echoed with audible relief in her voice.
"One of my brothers, actually," Lauren explained. "Tall, long braid, green camouflage outfit and chewing on a toothpick?"
"I think so," Hannah smiled.
"That's Chuck. If you look to your right, towards the lake, you'll see a shorter green-clad guy, wearing a green bandana."
Lauren watched Hannah's eyes stare into the distance for a few seconds and she smiled when the blonde chuckled.
"Brother Joe. They can't help it, they need to keep an eye on their little sister."
"Little?" Maureen muttered, before she let herself fall back down into her chair. "When did you call in the troops?"
"I didn't." Lauren answered softly. "They were there this morning and they're here to stay. That's how that works. I'd do the same for them."
"Does the Inspector know?" Maureen wondered, knowing Jack Wilson's affinity for protocol.
"Not yet," Lauren replied dryly, making Maureen laugh.
"Don't worry, DarkWolf, he won't hear it from me," the red-head promised.
"I know," Lauren nodded, resting her dark eyes on her partner for a brief moment. It was long enough for Rachel to see the flash of pain though, and the Doctor was intrigued. What was it that caused such an anguish in this confident, strong woman? Maybe she would be able to find out, although she hoped she would not have the time for it. She wished the police would find Nathan and arrest him so they could go home again. She had been so looking forward to spending Christmas with her brother, his wife and the children. Rachel thought that, with a little luck, she might have been able to talk Hannah and Gertrude into spending Christmas with them. And then there was Gary's and Jake's party, no doubt organized in their behalf. Rachel smiled when she remembered the devious looks her friends had shared. She knew they had been up to something; matchmaking, no doubt. Her dark eyes traveled to Hannah and her smile deepened, making the dimple in her cheek appear. Maureen, who saw the look in the Doctor's eyes, had to turn away her gaze, because she felt like she was prying. If only someone would look at her that way.
Maureen let out a sigh and tried to push away the dark thoughts that were trying to emerge. Her husband, ex-husband to be precise, had left her for another woman. One, he had said would be able to be there for him completely. It hurt her deeply, he had not allowed her time to work things out for herself, even though, deep down inside she already knew the answer to a lot of the questions that had plagued her for a long time. She knew she never should have married Robert, but she had been so young and, at the time, she had believed he was the one who could chase away her shadows. She had been so wrong. If only she had known then what she knew now...
Again, Maureen's eyes traveled back to Rachel, who had managed to catch Hannah's eyes. There appeared to be so much love and trust between the two women, it was heartwarming. All of a sudden, Maureen could feel somebody's eyes resting on her face and when she looked up, it was in Lauren DarkWolf's friendly, but inquisitive eyes. Immediately she turned away her face, afraid to show any of the vulnerability she was feeling. She had to keep up the facade of being the tough, indifferent Agent, it was the only way to keep her sanity.
If Maureen had looked up, she would have been able to see the small smile tugging at the corner of Lauren DarkWolf's mouth. And she would have been shocked if she had been able to read her mind. Even though the tall Agent usually made quite an impression with her wits and strength, many would have been amazed at her sensitivity. One look in the unguarded eyes of Maureen Rivers had told her more than words ever could have. With a small nod she stared out of the window, hoping Jack Wilson would call her soon with the news of Nathan's arrest.
"I tell you, Inspector, this guy not only knows the system better than anyone else, he's also as slick as a stick of butter on a hot potato."
"I know, believe me," Jack Wilson sighed, rubbing his tired eyes.
"Tell me again where you lost him."
"On the corner of Penn and 10th street. He just took off like a madman, almost hitting a pedestrian and two cars. He must have known I was following him. He went South."
"He could be anywhere by now," Jack Wilson nodded somberly. "Do we have people on the main roads?"
"Yes, sir, but...," the younger Agent paused, before saying the dreaded words. "He knows his way around town. He could have taken any side street and leave the area. He might even be on his way South."
"No, I don't think so," Jack Wilson shook his head, staring at the State Map on the wall. "If he has left town, he's going North, towards Grand Lake."
"Are you...do you think he knows where they are?"
Jack Wilson tore his eyes away from the map and cast a look at the sandy-haired man who was sitting at the big conference table. All of a sudden an idea struck him and he cursed under his breath.
"Did they sweep the building?"
"You mean, looking for bugs?"
"Yes," Jack Wilson sounded a little impatient. "Did they find anything?"
"No, they didn't."
"Did they check outside as well?"
"Outside?" the Agent echoed. "I don't know if...I don't think so. Do you really think...?"
"Yes, I do," Jack Wilson answered with a raised voice. "Have you any idea what kind of equipment there's available to eavesdrop? With the right stuff, you can sit across the street and literally hear what's being said. Damnit! I should have known. Get me a phone. I need to call Rivers and DarkWolf."
The dark car sped through the night, its driver carefully taking the back roads. Nathan did not want to run the risk of being pulled over. Especially not after getting so far. Leaving Kohl's unseen was something he was still gloating about. When Mildred had not returned within a few minutes, he had started to worry. He had been inside the store before Hannah's aunt had showed up and he knew the mittens she had talked about were close to the checkout registers. After she had left him near her car, he had realized it was impossible for Hannah's aunt to be so trusting toward a stranger. Mildred had even left the car unlocked. Nathan had not hesitated; he had turned around and headed towards his car, quickly leaving the area. After aimlessly driving through town for a while, he had noticed a police car that seemed to be following him.
With a smug smile, Nathan turned right on a rapidly darkening farm road. Idiots. Did they really think they could catch him? From the very beginning, he had practically known their every move. It had been so easy to lose the police cruiser. And the look on the pedestrian's face he had almost run over had been priceless. It was a pity Hannah had not been there to see it.
Nathan pursed his lips. He knew Gertrude had been staying with Mildred, but he had also realized that the elderly lady would never tell him where Hannah was. Mildred would have been a better chance, but she had proven so much smarter than he had anticipated.
"Stupid Jensen women," Nathan mumbled to himself. "But I'll get them. They'll find out they messed with the wrong person. And as for Rachel," Nathan let out a short laugh. "I'm going to make my dear cousin suffer. By the time I'm done with her, she'll curse the day she was born. Better watch your back, Kendrick."
"You know, Hannah Jensen, you do have the best ideas," Rachel sighed contentedly, stretching her legs and burrowing closer into the soft pillows behind her back.
"Thank you," Hannah smiled, accepting the Doctor's compliment with a twinkle in her eyes. "But I meant it when I said I was really tired. This last week has been...insane. Right now, I feel like I can sleep for at least two days."
"Don't talk about sleep, it makes me yawn," Rachel protested, covering her mouth with a hand.
"I don't want to talk about sleep," Hannah chuckled. "I actually want to do it. It's so sweet of Lauren to babysit Nicky."
"Nicky really seems to like Lauren, but I hope she won't wear her down. We need her for protection," Rachel joked, turning on her side so she could watch the blonde who had slid underneath the cover beside her.
"We have Maureen for back up," Hannah said, letting out a sigh of pleasure when she could feel her entire body relax.
"That's true," Rachel nodded, stretching out a hand to brush away a strand of blond hair that threatened to fall into Hannah's eyes. "You need a hair cut," she smiled.
"I know," Hannah answered in a tired voice. "It's one of the million things I need to do as soon as our lives will be back to normal."
Rachel nodded and leaned over to softly kiss Hannah's cheek.
"I know this might sound a little silly," she hesitated. "Don't get me wrong, I don't like the situation we're in with Nathan chasing us, but...," the Doctor paused and took a deep breath, trying to collect her thoughts. She wanted Hannah to understand her feelings. "I do enjoy the time I get to spend with you," she continued. "Even though, when I think about it, it's all pretty scary and intimidating. But, right now, lying with you in a comfortable bed, in a lake cabin, makes me the happiest woman on the planet. Even with Maureen and Lauren ten feet away from us, and even with Nathan trying to destroy our lives. I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
While Rachel was softly talking, Hannah's blue eyes had never left the Doctor's face. They took in the other woman's features with a loving, peaceful gaze and, when Rachel fell silent, she grabbed the other woman's hand and brought it up to her lips, gently kissing every knuckle.
"I feel the same. I'd rather be with you in the situation we're in, than be without you. Rachel?" Hannah cast down her eyes and nibbled on her bottom lip, all of a sudden looking very young and insecure.
"Yes?" Rachel answered, suppressing the urge to lean forward and kiss the blonde senseless.
"I don't ever want to be without you again," Hannah continued in a hoarse voice. "So, if getting away from Nathan means moving to the other side of the country, or even to the other side of the world, I'd do it, as long as I can be with you."
"Oh, honey," Rachel sighed, no longer able to resist the urge to pull Hannah into her arms. She tucked the blonde's head under her chin, wrapping her arms tightly around the other woman's body, burying her face in the unruly blond hair. "That's an incredibly sweet thing to say. And brave, too." Rachel dropped a kiss on Hannah's head and gently stroked the cotton- clad back. "Thank you," she whispered.
"I mean every word."
"I know," Rachel smiled. "That's what makes it so special. Let's hope we don't have to do that though, leave Oklahoma and make a home somewhere else. I'm pretty fond of this place."
"So am I," was the muffled response. "Besides, I'm addicted to my Grandmother's brownies."
"They are good," Rachel admitted with a chuckle.
"Yes, as you can tell by looking at me," Hannah sighed. "I must have gained at least twenty pounds since the last time you've seen me, before you left, I mean."
"I think you're exaggerating," Rachel chuckled.
"I gained weight though," Hannah sighed somberly.
"So?" Rachel responded. "You look great, Hannah. And even if you had gained twenty pounds, that wouldn't change my feelings for you. I'd still love you, even if you'd gain fifty or a hundred pounds."
"I know, I'm just being silly," Hannah admitted, raising her head so she could look up at Rachel.
"Yes, you are," Rachel smiled, kissing the tip of the blonde's nose. "Besides, I like a woman with some meat on her bones."
"You do, huh?" Hannah grinned, wrapping her arms around Rachel's shoulders and pressing her forehead against the Doctor's. "You're an amazing woman, Rachel, you know that, right?"
The Doctor shook her head and Hannah laughed when she saw her roll her eyes.
"I love you, Rachel Kendrick."
"And I love you, Hannah Jensen," Rachel smiled, her dark eyes shining with warmth and adoration. She noticed the dark circles underneath the blonde's eyes and gently rolled her on her side.
"No matter how much I'd want to cuddle and kiss, I think you need to take a nap."
"I agree," Hannah mumbled, feeling loved and protected as Rachel's arms slid back around her body when the Doctor spooned up against her.
"Rest, Hannah. Close those beautiful blue eyes and sleep."
"Will you stay here with me?"
"Absolutely," Rachel nodded, smiling when she heard her daughter's delighted laugh from the room next door.
"Nicky's having a good time," Hannah's voice was soft and warm. It was silent for a few moments. "I would, you know," she sleepily continued.
"Would what, sweetie?" Rachel asked, sounding a little puzzled.
"I hate guns, but if he'd threaten you, Nicky or my Grandmother, I'd use it. I think I would shoot him, Rachel."
feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
To be continued in part 14
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