For disclaimers see part one
"Sir, would you please take a seat. The Doctor will be with you in a moment."
"CAN SOMEBODY BRING ME SOME RESTRAINTS ? NOW?"
"I don't care what you say, I'm going. Just give me that AMA...whatever form and I'll sign it. I'm fed up with you people."
Rachel took a deep breath and shook her head. The ER was busy. She was standing in the nurses' station in the middle of the unit and all the sounds seemed to surround her like a cloud of noise. At times, it was almost deafening.
"Don't! Get your hands off me, you bitch," suddenly sounded; a voice standing out amidst the rest of the noise.
Rachel looked up, just in time to see one of the nurses jump back to avoid being kicked in the stomach by an angry looking patient. The nurse muttered a curse and rubbed her elbow, where the patient had managed to hit her. Rachel quickly stepped closer and positioned herself between the nurse and the patient. The man on the stretcher had been brought in by EMT's, she remembered. He had been found in the corner of a parking garage, underneath a stack of dirty rags and cardboard. He had been confused and dehydrated. It was obvious he was homeless, but no matter how sad his situation, Rachel could not accept the fact that he was lashing out at one of the staff nurses.
"What's the problem, Frank?" she asked, having seen his name on the chart on the bedside table.
"She needs to keep her hands off me," Frank muttered in his long, unkempt beard.
"Marion here just wants to help you, Frank. Why would you have a problem with that? Besides, I can't have you kicking the nurses. They're only doing their job."
"I only suggested to Frank, I would help him clean up a bit," Marion mumbled. "He'll be out on the streets again in a few hours and I just wanted to help. I might even find him a change of clothes."
"You don't understand," Frank raged. "You don't understand!"
"It's alright, Frank," Rachel tried to calm down the upset man. "We won't do anything, unless you agree."
"She doesn't understand," Frank kept yelling, while a few angry tears made their way down his dirt covered face.
"It's okay, Frank," Rachel repeated. "I'll take Marion with me, alright? I'll explain to her, I promise."
"Take her out, take her out," Frank mumbled, hiding his face in his hands and slowly rocking back and forth. "Take her out."
Rachel sent the nurse an encouraging smile and gestured her to follow her out of the small room. Marion obediently followed Rachel back into the nursing station, silently waiting for the Doctor to speak. When Rachel finally did, her voice was gentle and full of compassion.
"How long have you been working here, in the ER, Marion?" she asked, looking at the young, dark-haired nurse.
"A...a few weeks," the nurse stammered. "It's the first time I have gotten this kind of reaction, Doctor, I swear. The only thing I did, was offer him a shower and a change of clothes. I mean, I don't want to be...disrespectful or anything, but he had a pretty bad body odor and I'm sure he's got body lice."
"I know," Rachel smiled. "And that's exactly the problem."
Marion shot Rachel a questioning look and her face sported a small frown.
"You know, Marion, when I first started working in the ER, as a Resident, I once was assigned a patient like Frank. I wanted to help him and suggested the same thing you just did. His reaction almost knocked me flat on my a...behind," she grinned, hearing the nurse chuckle. "And I didn't understand why. But then, one of the nurses took me aside and explained it to me. It was painful lesson to learn, but that day I found out what body lice can do to a person."
"What's that?" Marion asked curiously.
"We can offer a person a shower and clean clothes. We can treat the body lice as well. But once we have 'fixed them up', we send them back on the streets. Did you know a person has to go through about two weeks of pure agony to get used to the lice again? For some unfortunate people, it's easier to accept the fact they have lice, and live with it. Cleaning them up might sound like a noble thing to do, but to them it's equivalent to torture."
Marion's eyes were huge in her face and Rachel could see her words had hit home.
"I...I had no idea," Marion stammered. "But...it makes sense now. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Why didn't I?" Rachel smiled. "I guess that, sometimes, we get a little blinded by our good intentions. That day, I learned that what might be good for me, might not always be good for someone else."
"You' re right," Marion sighed. "Thanks, Doc."
"Don't mention it," Rachel shrugged. "Besides, I know how it feels to be chewed up like that. It sucks."
Marion laughed and nodded.
"It sure does, but thanks anyway."
"Doctor Kendrick," the voice of the secretary called out.
Rachel looked up in the direction of the sound and gave the elderly woman, who was gesturing toher to come over a quick wave. She wondered if there was a phone call for her. It had been a few busy hours, but Hannah had never been out of her mind. She knew the nurse was more than capable of babysitting her daughter, but she couldn't help worrying.
"Doctor Barrett has arrived. Right now he's getting changed, but he asked me to tell you to meet him in the dictation room, so you can transfer your patients to him."
"Alright, thank you, Esther," Rachel nodded, grabbing a few charts off the desk and walking towards the dictation room. After a few moments, she turned around and took a few hesitant steps back.
"Um...Esther, have there been any phone calls for me this evening?"
Esther Christopher looked up at Rachel over the rim of her glasses, while she slowly shook her head.
"No, there haven't been any. Did you expect a call?"
"No, not really," Rachel sighed. "I...it's just...it's nothing," she added with a small smile. "Thanks, Esther."
"Is that it?" Donald Barrett asked, unfolding his tall frame from one of the chairs and stretching to get the kinks out of his back. "Sounds like an average night."
Rachel laughed and jumped to her feet, glad she could go back home again. The thought of Hannah waiting for her to come home, was exhilarating, even though Rachel was realistic enough to realize Hannah was only in her house because she was babysitting Nicky.
"I was worried there for a moment," Donald Barrett grinned. "I didn't see your car anywhere and I was afraid Jack hadn't been able to reach you. I had visions of throngs and throngs of people waiting to see a Doctor. Your car didn't break down, did it?"
"No," Rachel shook her head, grabbing her purse and pulling out the car keys Hannah had given her. "A...friend of mine is babysitting my daughter and I'm driving her car. Actually, it's her grandmother's car. Hannah's car got totaled and I believe she is in the process of buying a new one."
"Hannah Jensen?" Donald asked in surprise. "I heard about her accident a few weeks ago. I didn't know you two were friends. She's a great nurse. We still miss her. Working here can be very confrontational and I do understand she had enough of the ER. Especially after what happened to her parents." Donald Barrett shook his head and his gray eyes were pensive.
Rachel, who had been on her way to the door, halted in her movements and quickly turned around, shooting Donald a questioning look.
"Her parents?" she asked with a frown, while her brain frantically tried to piece together fragments of conversation. Hannah had not mentioned her parents once. Why was that? She had meant to ask Hannah about her parents, Gregory and Brenda, but had not had the chance yet. Rachel swallowed hard, while a sudden feeling of dread caused a wave of nausea.
"Yeah. They were brought in here, after the accident. Most of the staff knew them and...well," Donald Barrett sighed. "There was nothing we could do and... it was so very hard on everybody. I've been here a long time and I've seen a lot of things. But when the Jensens were brought in it was the first and last time I actually saw the ER become absolutely quiet." Donald Barrett took in the strained expression on Rachel's face and took a step closer. "Rachel, are you alright?"
Rachel felt like her heart had been ripped from her chest, leaving an empty, but throbbing hole. The pain was so intense, that even breathing sent hot daggers into her chest, leaving a heaviness that settled in her stomach. Thanks to her experience in the ER, where often she had to console patients who were facing the end of their lives, Rachel was able to hide behind a mask of professionalism.
"Oh, I'm just tired," she waved away Donald Barrett's concern, although there was an audible tremble in her voice. "And I have a killer headache. Do you have everything you need, Don?" When the tall Doctor nodded, Rachel sent him a watery smile and turned around. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Get some rest, Rachel," Donald Barrett called after her. "And thanks!"
Rachel didn't know how she had reached Gertrude Jensen's car. But she had. She was sitting in the driver's seat, with her hands clenched around the steering wheel and tears running down her cheeks. Her body shook as she cried with deep, painful sobs. She cried for the loss of Hannah's parents, whom she had loved deeply. She cried for not being there when Hannah had needed her most. She cried for lost opportunities and bad decisions. But most of all, she cried for the loss of the unconditional love she had once known. And for the loss of Hannah.
If only she had talked to Hannah, before she had left on that fateful day. She sneaked out of Hannah's life without even talking to the blonde about her fears. And wants. If only she had questioned Nathan, when she had discovered he had been following them. Things could have been so different. If she had listened to her heart, instead of her mind, Hannah Jensen would have loved her forever, she was sure of that.
At least they were on speaking terms, but Rachel wanted so much more than that. She knew she had to be content with anything Hannah was willing to give her, but she could not deny the deep longing she felt, every time she was near the blonde. It was not just the need to be physically close, but the desire to feel the warmth and security of the bond they had once shared. The feeling of belonging. Of being home.
After a long time, Rachel wiped her eyes and let out a shuddering breath. She knew she had to regain her composure. It was getting late and Hannah was waiting for her. The nurse would probably be eager to go home and get some sleep and the last thing the Doctor wanted was to upset her one-time friend with red-rimmed and puffy eyes.
But how could she look at Hannah and not think about the immense grief and pain her ex-lover had gone through when she had lost her parents? How could she, Rachel, ever be free of the guilt she felt for not being there?
Rachel sniffed and searched her purse for a tissue. After she had found one, she quickly blew her nose and by the cold light of the parking garage, she checked her appearance in the small rearview mirror.
"One look at me and Hannah will know I've been crying," she mumbled, letting out a shuddering breath.
In spite of her red and puffy eyes, Rachel started the engine and slowly exited the parking garage. She took her time driving home, hoping that the few minutes that separated her from having to face Hannah, would be kind to her face. Cracking open the window, she hoped the cold evening air would cool her heated cheeks and get rid of the swelling around her eyes.
It was still hard not to cry. Rachel bit her lip when the images of Gregory and Brenda Jensen suddenly appeared in her mind's eye. They had been such a warm and loving couple, who adored their daughter, something Rachel had always wholeheartedly agreed with. The three of them had always formed a small, but very close-knit family and Rachel knew Hannah simply must have been devastated when her parents had died.
"First, she lost me, then she lost her parents..." Rachel mused with a painfully heavy chest. "And I wasn't there for her..."
Rachel drove the old Buick up the driveway and killed the engine. She half expected Hannah to open the door to greet her, but everything remained silent. Shrugging her shoulders, Rachel exited the car and headed towards the front door, which she quickly opened. As soon as she stepped inside, she was enveloped by warm air and involuntarily she smiled. Hannah had put the fireplace to good use. Somehow that didn't surprise her. How many cold winter nights had they spent in front of the fireplace ? Snuggled up together, watching a movie, playing a game, or just staring into the flames, softly talking.
Rachel bit her lip and swallowed away the lump in her throat. She didn't want to cry. Not now, maybe later.
"Hannah?" she softly spoke, while walking down the hallway.
There was no answer and Rachel frowned. She didn't hear the sound of the TV, nor any music. Maybe Hannah was so engrossed in a book she had not noticed the Doctor come in.
Opening the door to the living room, Rachel stepped inside and she was just about to call out Hannah's name again, when, all of a sudden, she stood still and sucked in a lung full of air. The vision that greeted her took her breath away.
Hannah had managed to find her artificial Christmas tree and had found the perfect spot for it; in between the fire place and the window. She had unpacked the boxes of ornaments and had decorated the entire tree with silver, blue and glass. The silver-colored angel Brenda Jensen had once given Rachel for Christmas, was carefully placed on the top of the tree. The sight brought fresh tears to Rachel's eyes and she pressed her hand to her mouth, stifling a sob.
She quietly walked towards the chair and let herself sink down into the cool leather. Her eyes traveled from the tree to the couch where a blonde and dark head were sharing a pillow. Hannah was asleep, lying on her side, with a sleeping Nicky safely wrapped in her arms. The toddler had one fist pressed against her cheek while her other hand was being enveloped by Hannah's larger one.
The combination of the sparkling, festive Christmas tree and the peacefully sleeping duo, crushed Rachel's resolve not to cry. They symbolized everything Rachel had wanted out of life: peace, harmony, light and love. A family. It had been within her grasp, but she had let it go. Never had she felt the loss more. Never had she felt more alone.
Fresh tears rolled own her cheeks, splattering on her jeans where they formed a slowly growing wet patch, but Rachel did not notice. Her eyes were glued to the sleeping pair on the couch, while every tear was testimony to the desperate, sweet pain that was filling her chest.
Hannah woke up because of an unusual sensation. There was something warm and solid pressed against her chest. She smiled when, without opening her eyes, her sleepy mind remembered; she was holding Rachel's daughter. Before she could wonder what time it was and when Rachel would be coming home, her ears picked up the sound of suppressed sobbing. Alarmed, Hannah's eyes flew open and with a wildly pounding heart she had to give her eyes a few moments to get accustomed to the soft, dim light in the room.
Hannah's heart skipped a beat when she saw Rachel, still clad in her coat, hunkered down in the chair, with her hands pressed against her face, while her shoulders shook with silent crying. Only occasionally, an audible sob escaped her throat.
Hannah acted on pure instinct when she rose and carefully untangled herself from Nicky's smaller limbs. For a moment she cradled the little girl in her arms, before putting her back down on the coach again.
She turned to Rachel and hesitated, something her body welcomed with a stab of pain. There had been a time she never ever had hesitated when Rachel had needed her. She would have jumped over the table and thrown herself on her knees before the crying woman, pulling her in a strong hug and showering her face with kisses.
But those times were gone...
Stepping closer, Hannah gingerly touched Rachel's shoulder when she knelt down in front of her. She could feel the Doctor jerk and slowly she withdrew her hand.
How things had changed.
"Rachel?" she almost whispered. "What's wrong? Rachel?"
In between sobs, Rachel mumbled something unintelligible and slowly shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Rachel, I didn't understand that. What did you say?"
Taking a deep breath, Rachel removed her hands from her face and a pair of red-rimmed brown eyes looked at Hannah with so much sadness and despair, the blonde unconsciously held her breath.
"What's wrong?" she asked again, reaching out and tentatively touching Rachel's knee.
"I'm so sorry, Hannah. I am so, so sorry," Rachel replied in a voice that was hoarse from emotion and from crying. "I didn't know, I swear. I just...I just...Donald Barrett told me and...I didn't know..."
Understanding dawned when Rachel mentioned Donald Barrett's name. She suspected he had talked about Hannah's parents, not knowing Rachel was not aware of the accident that had taken their lives. Doctor Barrett had been the one in charge when Gregory and Brenda Jensen had been brought in.
"Are...are you..." Hannah swallowed hard. "Are you talking about my parents?"
When Rachel nodded and let out a soft sob, Hannah felt the tears sting in the back of her eyes. It was obvious Rachel was upset and in a great deal of pain. Hannah knew how much the Doctor had loved her parents and she did the only thing she could do. Reaching out, she pushed Rachel's coat off her shoulders and tossed it behind the chair.
"Come here," she whispered, pulling Rachel into her arms. Putting one hand behind Rachel's head, she gently pushed the Doctor face against her shoulder, immediately feeling the hot tears against her neck.
"What happened?" Rachel sniffed.
In a soft, sad voice, Hannah told her about the drunk driver, the accident and how her parents had instantly died when their car had landed in the storm drain...all the while she was holding Rachel, trying to comfort the other woman as best as she could.
"I know it hurts. I'm sorry, Rachel, I should have told you. I'd never expected you to find out this way. I should have told you. I know how much you loved them."
"No, it's not your fault," Rachel cried. "I was the one who left everything behind. It...it was...a bad choice, but...it was my choice, so...I'm..."
"Ssh," Hannah interrupted, cupping Rachel's cheeks and looking her in the eye. "Don't do this, not now...please. We can talk about those choices later. You've just learned about my parents and...and..." Hannah bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling. "They never stopped loving you, you know," she added in a husky voice. "Dad always claimed you'd be back one day."
Because that girl simply can't be happy without you, Hannah. That's why I believe there's a lot more going on than we know...Rachel's smart, she does things for a reason... Gregory Jensen's voice echoed in Hannah's head and she slowly nodded.
You were right, Daddy, as always...
"I'm sorry, Hannah," Rachel sniffed, pressing her forehead against Hannah's cheek. "I didn't mean to...to...break down like this. I guess it was the shock...and all the other things that are going on," she added softly.
"You didn't know and you need to grieve," Hannah answered.
Rachel lifted up her head and her eyes caught Hannah's. They were so close she could see the tiny dark-blue specs in the blonde's eyes. Her heart skipped a beat and she didn't know whether to run, or to drown in the only pair of eyes that had ever been able to rob her of speech completely.
"Thank you," she spoke with a watery smile. "I...you've become so..."
"Mature," Hannah filled in with a sad smile. "I had to grow up in a hurry."
"It pains me I wasn't here for you, when...when..."
"I know, I can see it in your eyes," Hannah interrupted gently, while her thumb wiped away a tear that was clinging to Rachel's cheek. "And it did hurt me you weren't here." Hannah noticed Rachel flinch and she knew the Doctor was genuine about her feelings. "But, you know what? That's all in the past and yes, if we knew then what we know now, things would have been different. But, as my Grandfather always used to say:'Don't beat a dead horse.' Should have...would have...could have...it doesn't get us anywhere, does it?"
"When did you become so wise?" Rachel asked, but there was a smile in her eyes.
"It's amazing how much soul-searching and reflection is involved while decorating a tree," Hannah smiled.
"I see you had help," Rachel's eyes traveled to Nicky and back again.
"Oh, yes, your daughter is a great help," Hannah nodded. "But she does have the attention span of a...let's say..."
"Two year old," Rachel smiled, all of a sudden feeling her heart soar when Hannah chuckled.
"Yup, a two year old," the blonde agreed. "She's a wonderful little person, but I'm sure you'll have your hands full with her. Probably, sooner than you think."
"I'm sure,"Rachel mumbled. "When did she wake up?
"Just after you left," Hannah answered, "I was finishing my sandwich when I heard her call out. It was more like a humongous yell, by the way." Hannah smiled and slowly shook her head in disbelief. She was still amazed at how well she and the little girl got along. "I went into her bedroom and she was sitting up in bed. At first she looked like she was going to cry, but then she just stretched out her arms and ordered a 'dwink'," Hannah relayed with a twinkle in her eyes. She was still kneeling in front of Rachel, with her hand resting on the Doctor's knee.
The other woman was fighting the urge to cover the nurse's hand with her own, not wanting to scare her off, but it was hard. The faint scent of Hannah's perfume filled her nose, bringing back memories of moments of tenderness and love. If she would close her eyes, she could almost feel Hannah's soft skin against her own, her heartbeat underneath her ear, while her breath tickled her arm and bare shoulder...
Rachel swallowed hard and shook her head as if she was chasing away an annoying fly. She could not think things like that. It was too hard and too complicated. And if Hannah would look into her eyes and see what she was thinking, she would be mortally embarrassed. What was happening between herself and the blonde right now was something unexpected and very welcome and she did not want to jeopardize the tentatively growing threads of trust. Deep down inside she secretly hoped that, maybe, one day, they could build something solid on the ruins of their shared past. Rachel would settle for friendship, even though her longing went far beyond that. Hannah's decision to come over and talk had been a huge step in that direction.
Rachel raised her eyes to meet Hannah's and gently cleared her throat.
"So, you and Nicky decided to decorate the Christmas tree?" she smiled.
"After we had some apple juice," Hannah nodded. The blonde sighed and leaned back against the low table. "There's something magical about seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child. Nicky had a great time. And so did I," she added softly. She cast a look at the couch, where the toddler was still in a deep sleep and Rachel noticed the softening in the blonde's clear, blue eyes. Or was it longing?
"You wore her out," Rachel concluded gently. "Thank you."
Hannah softly chuckled and turned back to face the Doctor, who looked absolutely drained. Her eyes were less puffy, but still a little red and there were dark circles underneath her eyes.
"You look like you could use some sleep yourself," Hannah said, giving Rachel's knee a gentle pat, before withdrawing her hand. "Are you going to be okay?"
Touched by Hannah's concern, Rachel nodded and mustered up a small smile.
"Yes, I'll be fine. I'm sorry I was so late and I'm sorry I..."
"Don't, Rachel," Hannah interrupted. "I meant it when I said we won't talk about that now. We' re both tired and I don't know about you, but...there are a lot of things to think about and...I feel like I'm on anemotional overload. I don't know how much more I can take."
"I know, I feel it too," Rachel admitted. "A few days back, no, yesterday even, I could not have imagined this happening." Rachel could not help herself, she had to touch Hannah. She reached out a hand and let her fingertips gingerly touch Hannah's cheek. The blonde did not pull away. For a brief moment, she closed her eyes and let the familiar touch soothe her soul. Hannah was tempted to stay where she was and revel into the warmth that Rachel's touch evoked. But even though a few bridges had been built that day, there were still a lot more to cross. They both needed some time and distance.
Opening her eyes, Hannah's gaze was caught by the intensity in Rachel's and involuntarily she was drawn closer.
"I missed you," she whispered, before she could stop herself.
"I missed you too," Rachel answered. "I can't begin to tell you how much."
Hannah nodded and swallowed hard, making sure to keep some physical distance between herself and Rachel. It would be too easy to give into her body's melancholy and lose herself in familiar warmth and softness. But too many things had happened and there was so much to think about and sort out.
"I need to go," she whispered. "Now."
"Of course," Rachel answered hoarsely, letting her hands fall into her lap. "Thank you, Hannah, for babysitting." Her brown eyes traveled to the lit up tree and back again. "And thank you for the tree," she smiled.
"I've always been a sucker for Christmas," Hannah gently joked, before pushing herself to her feet.
"I know," Rachel smiled, rising from her seat and stepping towards the couch to pick up Nicky and cradle the toddler in her arms. In her sleep, the little girl sighed and snuggled closer to her mother, as if she knew it was the safest place in her world. Rachel dropped a kiss on the dark, tousled hair and walked to the door, closely following Hannah. The blonde opened the door and, before stepping into the cold, night air she turned around and shot Rachel a look that was a mixture of warmth, insecurity and fear.
"Have a good sleep," she spoke softly.
"You too," Rachel replied.
Hannah nodded and cast a look at the sleeping child. She reached out a hand and tenderly brushed some silky soft hair away from the toddler's forehead.
"Goodnight, Nicky," she whispered, before turning around and disappearing into the night.
Rachel waited until Hannah had pulled out of the driveway, before closing the door and locking it.
"Goodnight, sweet Hannah," she sighed. "You know you still have my heart."
Gary yawned loudly and stretched his body, kicking off the duvet in the process. A quick glance at the clock showed him it was almost eleven and he wondered what Jake was doing. Was he still on the phone?
The door opened and the subject of his thoughts came almost dancing into the bedroom, jumping on the bed and crushing Gary in a bone-shattering hug.
"What are you doing?" Gary laughed, pushing his partner away from him, so he could look him in the eye.
Jake sported a big grin and dove underneath the covers, which made Gary yelp in surprise when, all of a sudden, Jake slid his cold feet underneath his legs.
"What has gotten into you? Have you been on the phone all this time?"
"Well, yeah," Jake shrugged. "I was talking to Gertrude and you know how she is," he explained with a beaming smile.
"I swear, between the two of you, you could start a talk-show," Gary mumbled.
"I'm sure we could," Jake agreed cheerfully. "But we won't. Not yet, anyway. First we have other things to plan."
After that remark, Jake suddenly had Gary's undivided attention.
"Plan? You and Gertrude are planning something? What?"
"Oh, no, no, no, I can't tell you that right now. First you need to hear the rest of the story."
"Which is?" Gary sighed. This could become a late night.
"Hannah and Rachel are on speaking terms."
Gary looked up, not impressed at all. Hannah had told him about her talk with Rachel in the parking garage.
"Well, they' re both sensible adults. I hadn't expected anything else and..."
"Hannah went to Rachel's house this evening," Jake gloated.
This was new. Gary's eyes went wide and unconsciously he leaned closer to his partner.
"She did?" he asked, clearly surprised. "Good for her! Hannah needed some closure..." Gary paused and frowned. "And Gertrude told you all this?"
"Sort of. At first it was like pulling teeth, but she told me anyway."
"You're bad," Gary responded while shaking his head. "Hannah asked us not to get involved in this, Jake. Don't you remember? I don't think that..."
"Listen, you worry-wart. Nobody will be butting in,but sometimes the people you love just need a little...incentive," he added with a smug smile.
"And what might that incentive be?" Gary snorted. "You do know that, if Hannah finds out, I'll be the one to take the brunt of her temper, don't you?"
"Won't happen," Jake shook his head. "All Gertrude and I are doing, is organize a party. If both Rachel and Hannah will be there and if they will talk and maybe even visit, well, that's not something we'll be planning. Not exactly, anyway. We'll just leave that up to chance."
Gary frowned and Jake could tell his partner was not convinced.
"Chance, huh?" he echoed.
"Come on, honey, where's your sense of adventure?" Jake laughed, giving Gary a quick kiss. "Our Christmas parties used to be the talk of the town!"
"Only the gay part of town," Gary mumbled. "How did you get Gertrude involved in this? I mean, I..."
"Gary, honey, stop it," Jake sighed, pressing his hand against Gary's mouth. "You know what Gertrude is like. She's so cool. Sometimes I think she's more out of the closet than we are."
Gary laughed and turned on his side, supporting his head with his hand, while he stared at his partner, who was almost bubbling over with enthusiasm.
"I guess you're right," he smiled. "So, what's the plan and how are the two of you going to make sure both Hannah and Rachel will show up. Voluntarily," he added with a wink. "Oh, and, of course, there's the minor detail of Rachel's schedule. She might have to work, or be on call."
"That's where you come into the picture, sweetie," Jake answered with a broad smile. "Tomorrow, you'll pay a visit to Rachel's nurse, or secretary, whoever keeps an eye on the schedule and you'll find out which day she'll be off. And make sure she'll be off at least two days in a row, because we won't know what will happen during and after our party," he added with a smug smile.
Hannah stared at the ceiling, while her eyes followed dancing shadows, painted by the light of a street lamp. She had been in bed for hours, but could not sleep. Her body was tired, but her mind was still busy processing the events of the day.
Rachel's voice still echoed in her ears and it was impossible to get rid of the image of the Doctor's dark, soulful eyes. There had been such sadness, so much pain and longing in them.
She had felt it, too, the urge to seek a closeness they had once shared. And it had been so tempting. Especially when Rachel had been so close, staring at her with those beautiful, dark eyes. It had almost been Hannah's undoing. After all the Doctor had told her about her reason for leaving and the role Nathan had played in it, Hannah had been dumbfounded as well as relieved and angry. Although she quickly realized she could not be angry at Rachel anymore. True, Rachel had made a few bad decisions, very bad, but deep down inside Hannah had to admit her anger had dissipated so fast, it had been confusing. It had left her with an emptiness that had quickly been filled with sadness. And a little bit of hope.
Hannah sighed and turned on her side, looking at the pictures on the wall. Her parents were smiling down at her, so was Rachel, from a picture she had not dared to look at for years. It had been hidden away in one of her drawers, covered by t-shirts and socks. But she had always known it was there, it had just been too painful to look at, until this evening. As soon as she had come home, she had pulled open the drawer and pulled out the photo. The enlarged image of Rachel stared at her with a radiant smile that made Hannah's heart skip a beat.
"What are you doing, Hannah?" she whispered. "Why is all of this affecting you so much? What is it Rachel does to you, after all those years?"
Hannah groaned and pressed her face into her pillow. She wished she could just fall asleep and wake up with a clear head, having an answer to all the questions that played through her head.
What does Rachel do to you, Hannah? How does she make you feel?
"I can't think about that," Hannah answered herself. "Not now. There's so much to think about, I don't know where to begin."
She still loves you, Hannah, you know she does. You saw it in her eyes. You know that look. You've seen it before...many times...
"I don't know," Hannah mumbled, shaking her head. "I don't know what to think, or what to feel, not anymore."
What does she do to you, Hannah? The voice in the back of her mind repeated. Do you still love her, too? What are you afraid of?What did you feel when you were around Rachel and Nicky?
Hannah squeezed her eyes shut, but she could still feel the tears make their way down her cheek. She could not make sense of what she was feeling. Her mind told her she was supposed to keep her distance from Rachel. She needed a lot more answers. When she thought about Nathan, she felt a deep, burning anger. Shouldn't she feel some sort of anger towards Rachel as well?
"I must be going insane," Hannah muttered. "Why does being with Rachel make me feel so at home?"
The words that played through her head were too frightening to say aloud and Hannah quickly turned on her stomach, pulling her pillow over her head, just as she had done when she was a little girl. It had always helped her to scare the demons away. Maybe it would still work.
That's it, Hannah, hide...
To be continued in part 7
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