by LOIS KAY
Hannah's blue eyes were wide in surprise when she looked up at the dark-haired woman. She was still kneeling in front of Rachel's chair with one hand resting on the other woman's knee. A pair of brown eyes looked at her expectantly, while the blonde quickly tried to gather her thoughts.
"Granny and I are moving in with you?" she finally repeated calmly, immediately seeing Rachel nod.
"If we all stay close together it will be easier to keep an eye on each other. When Nathan was stalking us before, we didn't have a clue and if the photos he took are any indication, he came pretty close. He even managed to work his way into your bedroom while you were asleep and..."
"Rachel," Hannah gently interrupted, but the other woman did not seem to hear her.
"...I just think that if he ever tried to pull a stunt like that..."
"Rachel," Hannah repeated, a little more forcefuly this time. "Rachel!"
The Doctor paused in mid-sentence and slowly closed her mouth when she noticed a pair of blue eyes staring at her with a calm, but determined look.
"Rachel, listen to me," Hannah said, unconsciously rubbing the other woman's knee. "I appreciate the fact you want to do this, I really do, but have you thought about the practical implications?" Hannah smiled when Rachel shook her head and she slowly nodded. "I thought as much," she confessed. "I know you can't just pack up a two year old, so I understand why you'd like us to mo...to stay with you, but Granny has some issues as well. After her stroke, we had a lot of things in the house modified. Her bathroom, for example, has handlebars and a shower with a seat and all that. There are no thresholds and the doors are wide enough for her to use a walker, which she does if she has a bad day." Hannah paused and sent Rachel an affectionate smile. "We don't know when, or even if Nathan will show up. I can't expect Granny to pack up and leave, just because...just because Nathan might come back, no matter how much that scenario scares me," she added in a soft voice.
"You're right," Rachel sighed, after a few moments of silence. "I guess I...I didn't think about the implications. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Hannah smiled. "It was very thoughtful of you to offer us your home."
"I want you to be safe," Rachel replied in a somber tone of voice. "I can't bear the thought of...him...trying to get close to you. Before, he managed to enter your bedroom, while you were asleep." Rachel swallowed hard and clenched her free hand into a fist, until her knuckles were white. "When I saw those photos, I...it scared me so much, I..."
"You decided to leave," Hannah filled in, knowing her words to be true when a single tear made its way down Rachel's cheek.
"Yes," Rachel whispered, again feeling the intense pain of that heart- breaking decision.
With infinite tenderness, Hannah caught the salty drop with her fingertips and traced its path up Rachel's cheek, gently rubbing the skin with her thumb.
"I should have talked to you, before I made that decision," Rachel admitted in a sad voice. "That must have been the stupidest, most inconsiderate thing I've ever done."
"Hindsight is twenty-twenty," Hannah replied calmly, although her heart ached for the other woman. "You probably knew I wouldn't have let you go."
"No, you wouldn't have," Rachel admitted.
"So, at the time, it was the only way you knew to keep me safe," Hannah logically concluded. "Besides, you thought it would only be for a few weeks, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did," Rachel sighed. "I figured that, when I'd return after a month or so, you'd be royally pissed at me, we'd have a fight, then we'd have a good talk, we'd have kissed and made up and that was it."
There was a twinkle in Hannah's eyes when she looked up at Rachel, a sight the Doctor had not seen in a long time. It made her heart skip a beat and involuntarily she smiled.
"What?" she asked, curious to know what the other woman was thinking.
"The kiss and make up part would have been nice," Hannah replied with a soft chuckle.
"You think?" Rachel smiled, covering the hand that was resting on her knee with one of her own.
"I think." Hannah nodded.
Rachel leaned slightly forward and when their eyes met, Hannah only saw the soulful brown of the other woman's eyes that slowly, but surely, pulled her into a familiar depth.
"Do you think it's too late for that now?" Rachel asked, deliberately lowering her voice.
"For what?" Hannah breathed, aware of the pounding of her heart.
"To kiss and make up," Rachel answered, while a smile tugged on the corner of her mouth. It was good to see she still had a hypnotizing effect on the blonde.
"I don't know," Hannah swallowed hard, not willing to give in just yet.
"Do you want to find out?" Rachel whispered, bringing her face so close they were breathing in the same air.
Hannah did not immediately answer. Her body, heart and soul were soaking up Rachel's closeness and the sweet, playful mood that had suddenly steered their serious conversation in a totally different direction. She reveled in the tingling sensation that ran down her spine and the butterflies that made her stomach do flip-flops. It had been so long since she had experienced something like it and she wanted to enjoy the moment as long as she could, knowing it would even get better if she would respond to Rachel's challenge. The only thing she needed to do was to lean forward and capture those familiar, soft lips.
With her eyes locked into Rachel's, Hannah started to lean forward. Their faces were so close, she could feel the heat radiating off the Doctor's skin and, when their lips were almost touching, she whispered:"Oh, yes," immediately jerking back when, all of a sudden, the door was opened and Gertrude's voice filled the silence.
"I thought you two wanted some iced tea, I...," the elderly woman paused in mid-sentence when her eyes fell on the two woman in the room and a knowing look crossed her face.
"Oh," she spoke with a gleeful smile. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you two were...um...in the middle of something...intimate. I guess I could take it back into the kitchen. It's there whenever you're ready..." Gertrude added, turning around to head back for the kitchen.
"No, Granny, don't worry about it," Hannah sighed, getting to her feet and walking towards her grandmother. She took over a small tray with two glasses and tried not to blush when Gertrude gave her a saucy wink.
"I'm glad you two are...talking," Gertrude said, not able to hide the mirth in her voice. "Although it might have been better to have this type of... conversation at a later hour, when there are no annoying grandparents or toddlers around."
"It's alright, Gertrude," Rachel replied with a twinkle in her eyes. "Our...conversation...was interrupted before it had even started."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Gertrude smiled, giving Hannah an affectionate pat on the back. "But I'm sure there will be another opportunity very soon."
"Most likely," Rachel responded with confidence. Her eyes lost their amusement when she gestured Gertrude to sit down.
"Believe it or not, Gertrude, but Hannah and I were in the middle of a serious talk and it involves you as well. There's something I need to tell you."
"Are you going to try and kiss me as well?" Gertrude teased, making Hannah hide her face in her hands with a heartfelt groan.
Rachel just laughed and sent the elderly woman an appreciative look. Leave it up to Gertrude Jensen to lighten the mood.
"On second thought, I'd better leave kissing you up to my granddaughter," Gertrude chuckled. "I don't want to risk her wrath. Did you see the look she just gave me?"
"You're a troublemaker, Granny," Hannah smiled.
"I know," Gertrude nodded. "But I'm not the only one. Did you know, Rachel, that your daughter wolfed down two animal crackers in less than a minute?"
"Cwackew?" Nicky suddenly sounded next to Rachel's knee. The Doctor grinned and lifted her daughter into her lap, where the little girl contentedly snuggled into her arms.
"No more crackers for you, Miss Nicky," Rachel said, dropping a kiss on the toddler's dark hair. "You need to eat dinner later. Alright?"
"Ahwight," Nicky replied, playing with the wristband of Rachel's watch.
Hannah looked at the scene in front of her with a mixture of sadness and joy. From the first time they had met, she and Nicky had taken an instant liking to each other, but every time she saw the toddler and Rachel together, it confronted her with the fact that, in the last few years, a lot of things had changed. It made her realize how much Nathan had taken away from them. And how much she despised and hated him for that. At one time, they had been childhood friends. When had his friendship turned into an obsession and why had she not noticed that? Had there been things she could have influenced? Why had he done those awful things? Had it been something she had done to him? Maybe, if she had picked up on his behavior and thoughts, she could have prevented his escalation into threats and, possibly, violence. Maybe, if she had been a better friend...
"Hannah, sweetie, what do you think about all this?" Gertrude's voice slowly penetrated Hannah's thoughts and a little dazed she looked up.
"Are you alright?" Gertrude asked with a frown. Hannah still looked pale and tired.
"Yes, yes, I'm fine. I'm sorry, I was just thinking about something. What do I think about all what?" she asked, sending her grandmother a questioning look.
"It would make sense for us to be closer, at least until the police have found Nathan. It would be good to keep an eye out for each other so, I suggested Rachel stay with us. We have enough room for two more. What do you think?"
"W...What do I think?" Hannah repeated dumbfounded. "I...what does Rachel think?"
"I think it's a good idea," Rachel calmly answered. "Like I told you before, I'm more concerned about your safety than mine."
"So am I," Gertrude added in a very serious tone of voice.
"Great, two mother hens to hover over me," Hannah mumbled, partly annoyed by her grandmother for teaming up with Rachel and partly exhilarated for the chance of having Rachel and Nicky close by.
"I don't mean to 'hover', Hannah," Rachel responded, slightly hurt by Hannah's words. "I..."
"I know and I'm sorry," Hannah immediately said, wishing she could reach out and wipe away the hurt from the Doctor's eyes. "I didn't mean it like that. It was a poor choice of words. I know you only want me to be safe, I'm sorry."
Rachel nodded and, over Nicky's head, sent Hannah a warm smile, which was immediately answered.
"A lot of things have happened in a short period of time," she said. "Every now and then I have trouble wrapping my mind around it as well."
"Not all those things are bad," Hannah smiled. "I think having you and Nicky here is a wonderful idea."
"Good, I'm glad we have that settled," Gertrude spoke with a curt nod. "I guess I'll have to dig up your Grandfather's old Winchester and have it cleaned and oiled."
"What?" Rachel asked in shock.
"Ignore her, Rachel, she's joking," Hannah chuckled, knowing her grandmother's dislike for guns.
Gertrude grinned and slowly pushed herself up from the couch.
"I invested in a good security system," she told Rachel. "I feel pretty safe here, even without a shooting apparatus. Although I don't think I would mind if somebody would puncture a few holes in that Nathan," she added with uncharacteristic venom.
With the help of Gary and Jake, Nicky's bed and most of her toys were moved into the house of Gertrude and Hannah the next day. Rachel figured it was important to make the little girl feel at home in the new environment and having her own toys, bed and stuffed animals would hopefully contribute to that.
They had transformed Hannah's grandfather's old office into a cozy room, suitable for a toddler. Jake had visited some of his brothers and sisters and had arrived with enough colorful posters to cover every inch of the walls, donated by his many nieces and nephews. A huge poster of Nicky's favorites, Nemo and Dori, had been pinned on the wall over her bed.
"The boys", as Gertrude lovingly called Gary and Jake, had been shocked when they had heard the entire story about Rachel's disappearance and the role Nathan had played in it. Jake had been furious and Gary had been on the verge of tears when Hannah had told them in a calm and soft voice what Rachel's reason for leaving had been.
"I wish I'd have known," he had said with tears in his eyes. "Hannah, sweetie, I could have been there for you."
"You were," Hannah had answered him, wrapping her arms around her friend to give him a comforting hug. "You've always been such a good friend to me, Gary, you and Jake both. You've no idea how much you've helped me through the years, but you have, believe me."
Jake had thrown his arms around both Gary and Hannah and the group hug had ended in laughter when Jake had asked Gary if they should call off the Christmas party, now Rachel and Hannah were at least talking to each other.
"Are you kidding?" Hannah had answered, playfully tugging Jake's ear. "Rachel has asked me to be her date that evening. Don't you dare call off the party!"
"Oh, really? Do we need to reserve the backroom?" Jake had teased her, laughing when she had shot him a dirty look.
"I'm sure we'll manage to restrain ourselves for a few hours, thank you," she had haughtily answered, before turning on her heels and walking away. But before she had left the room, she had stopped and had looked over her shoulder. "Just make sure you have plenty of ice," she had added, before continuing on her way. Gary's laughter could be heard throughout the entire house.
That had been Friday afternoon. A few hours later, the temporary move had been completed and Hannah had to lie down to take a nap. Her grandmother and Rachel had warned her not to do too much, but she had wanted to help Gary and Jake, something she did not regret, although her body felt like she had been run over by a truck.
Rachel had not been able to take the day off, but the previous evening she had packed Nicky's things and some of her own clothes. It was not as if she couldn't come back later to get the things she needed. Before going to work that morning, she had handed Gertrude a key to her house and the elderly woman had taken care of the rest, knowing she could always count on 'her boys'.
"Are you staying for dinner?" Gertrude asked Jake, who was stretched out in front of the fireplace, staring into the dancing flames.
"You' re not cooking, are you Granny?" Gary asked with a frown from his place on the couch. "You need to sit down and rest. I'm exhausted and you make me feel like a weenie."
Gertrude chuckled and took a seat next to the young man. She lovingly patted his hand and cast an affectionate look at Jake, who was suppressing a yawn.
"As a matter of fact, no, I won't be cooking," she answered with a grin. "Rachel called me and told me she's taking all of us out for dinner. All we'll have to do, is to come up with a decent place to eat."
"Oh, the Doctor's treat," Jake said with delight, pushing himself to a sitting position. "What do you feel like, Gertrude? Mexican? Italian? Chinese?"
"Yes, Granny, your pick," Gary agreed. "Just make sure to pick right," he added with a smile.
"Well," Gertrude drawled. "I haven't had Italian in a while. What about Olive Garden?"
"Sounds like a plan," Jake grinned, feeling his appetite spontaneously increase. "When will Rachel be home?"
Gertrude smiled at his choice of words and cast a look at the clock. Rachel had told her she would probably make it before six. It was five-thirty and the Doctor had to pick up her daughter first.
"She'll be here soon," Gertrude answered with confidence.
"So, how are things between Hannah and Rachel?" Jake asked. "We know they're on speaking terms, but is there anything else we need to know about?"
"Nothing you need to know about," Gertrude replied with a wink. "But, to tell you the truth, things are going well, really well. So I'd suggest we let things take their course. I have faith in a good outcome."
"Really?" Gary smiled.
"Absolutely," Gertrude nodded. "I think that..." she paused when she heard the front door close, followed by little, running feet.
"Gwanny?" Nicky's voice sounded from the hallway.
"In here, pumpkin," Gertrude smiled.
The door, that had been ajar, was pushed open and a yellow-clad Nicky came running into the room, skidding to a halt when her eyes fell on the two men. Gertrude could tell she was about to turn around and run back and she chuckled.
"Come here, sweetie," she encouraged the little girl. "These two boys are Gary and Jake and they are your Mommy's friends. You'll see a lot of them, I promise."
Nicky did not move, she just stood there, looking at Jake and Gary with one finger stuck in her mouth. The expression on her face was a mixture of curiosity and shyness and as soon as Rachel stepped into the room, she turned around and wrapped herself around the Doctor's legs, much to the amusement of the adults.
"Hello everybody," Rachel smiled, immediately noticing Hannah was not in the room. "You look ready for a nap, Jake," she teased, taking a seat next to Gary.
"Too much hard work," Jake quipped.
"I'm sorry," Rachel answered and Gary knew she genuinely felt bad about the whole situation.
"He's fine, Rachel, just ignore him," he said, patting his friend on the hand. "By the way, your daughter is gorgeous. She looks just like you!"
"Thank you," Rachel replied with a chuckle. "On both accounts. I never knew you thought I was gorgeous."
"Oh, ha ha," Gary snorted. "You're on a fishing expedition. I might be gay, but I'm not blind, Doctor Kendrick. But I guess I'll leave it up to Hannah to whisper all those sweet compliments in your ear," he shot back with a twinkle in his eyes.
"I'd like that better," Rachel agreed. "Talking about Hannah; where is she?"
"I sent her to bed, to take a nap," Gertrude answered. "She did too much, of course."
"Of course," Rachel muttered.
"Somebody better wake her up, because I'm starving," Jake spoke from his comfortable position on the floor.
"Where are we going?" Rachel asked, putting Nicky on the floor, before standing up again.
"Olive Garden," Jake and Gary answered in unison and Rachel chuckled.
"Good choice. Come on, Nicky, let's wake up Hannah," she said, ruffling her daughter's hair.
"Hannah?" the little girl answered with a bright smile.
"Yes, sweetie. It's time for her to wake up."
"Don't take too long," Jake called after them in a sing-song voice.
Rachel slowly opened the door to the bedroom and motioned Nicky to be quiet. The little girl looked up at her mother and mimicked the shushing sound she made. Rachel suppressed a chuckle, which made the toddler giggle.
"If she wasn't awake yet, she is now," Rachel mused, almost laughing out loud at the way her daughter tip-toed through the room.
Hannah was lying on her side, with one arm stuffed under her pillow and the other one tucked under her chin. It was a sleeping position Rachel was very familiar with. She had watched the blonde sleep like that on many different occasions , but she knew it was a vision she would never get enough of. It had always filled her with a sense of peace, to watch the relaxed features and hear the deep, regular breathing when Hannah was asleep.
Nicky was standing next to the head of the bed and cast her mother an expectant look. Rachel smiled and stretched out her arms in invitation, lifting the toddler into her arms. She took a seat on the edge of the bed and, with her free hand, she gently brushed a strand of hair away from Hannah's cheek.
"Hannah sleeping," Nicky whispered so loud that Rachel winced.
Glancing down at the blonde, Rachel noticed the small smile that tugged on the corner of her mouth and involuntarily she chuckled.
"So much for waking you up gently, huh?" she softly snorted.
Hannah slowly opened her eyes and blinked a few times. Her sleepy eyes traveled from Rachel to Nicky and back again. Her smile had grown into a full-fledged one and, with a contented yawn, she pushed herself upright, pulling Nicky out of Rachel's arms, into her own. The little girl squeaked in delight when Hannah tickled her and quickly tried to worm her way out of her grip.
"Oh, no, little one, you're in for it now," Hannah laughed, completely enamored by a pair of dark-brown eyes that looked up at her pleadingly.
"Oh, alright," she grinned. "I'll stop tickling, but I do want a hug."
"Hug," Nicky repeated with an enthusiastic yell. She did not need more encouragement and the little girl threw herself in Hannah's arms, wrapping her arms around the nurse's neck, giving her a sloppy, but heartfelt kiss on her cheek.
"Wow," Hannah breathed. "That was a nice hug."
"Mommy hug too?" the little girl asked, looking at her mother with questioning, brown eyes.
"Mommy is patiently waiting her turn, Nicky," Hannah teased.
Rachel just nodded, but Hannah noticed the twinkle in her eyes and she could not help smiling. It felt so good to be around Rachel, to see her and even touch her, if she wanted to. And she did want to. To be honest, she had to force herself not to reach out and pull Rachel in her arms, holding her close and losing herself in the Doctor's close presence.
The other woman must have read the longing in her eyes, because she shifted position and enveloped both Nicky and Hannah in her arms, pulling them close and dropping a kiss on a dark and a blonde head.
"Mommy might be patient, but she's also very human," Rachel mumbled in Hannah's ear and she pressed her lips against the blonde's cheek. "Am I allowed to kiss you before our first date?" she added in a whisper.
"You almost did yesterday," Hannah replied amused.
"I thought it was you wanting to kiss me," Rachel replied in an innocent voice.
"It was more like a mutual thing," Hannah quipped, without missing a beat and Rachel laughed. "But to answer your question: yes, you may."
"May what?" Rachel asked.
"Kiss me before our first date," Hannah explained with a smile. "Because, technically, it won't be. Our first date, I mean."
"I know. But it feels like it, though," Rachel replied in all honesty. "It's nice," she quickly added. "I love the thrill of anticipation."
"In that case, I'll let you anticipate a little longer," Hannah decided with a wink, very aware of Nicky's presence. "We can continue this conversation later."
"I'm looking forward to that," Rachel smiled. "Did you have a good nap?"
"I did, thank you," Hannah nodded, nuzzling Nicky's hair, while glancing up at Rachel. When their eyes met, the expression on her face turned serious and she let out a small sigh.
"Rachel, what do...what...I can't help wondering what will happen...if...Nathan shows up. I...," she paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "I can't seem to shake that nightmare I had last week and...it's a little scary."
"A little?" Rachel repeated gently. "Now, that's an understatement."
"Alright, I'm petrified," Hannah admitted. "Today, I couldn't help wondering if he had followed you to work, or maybe show up in the ER, or here." Hannah brought her hand up to push a strand of hair away and Rachel saw her fingers tremble. "I don't really know if I can handle this."
Rachel nodded, understanding why Hannah was feeling the way she did. She was struggling with the same issues. Every time she had looked over her shoulder that day, she had wondered if she was being paranoid.
"I'm not sure if I'd be able to handle this by myself," Rachel confessed, reaching out a hand and grabbing Hannah's. "But together with you, I can,"she added. "And I'm ready to show that to Nathan. I want him to know we' re here, you and I, together, in spite of his efforts to destroy what we had. He might have succeeded for a little while, but that's in the past. He'll find out that what he did to us, has made us grow stronger."
Rachel paused and looked down at Hannah's hand that was captured between hers. With a small smile she leaned forward and kissed the blonde's fingertips. When she looked up again, her dark-brown eyes shone with determination.
"Together with you, I can handle anything," she softly added.
When Rachel's lips had touched her skin, Hannah had swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat. If she had not been holding on to Nicky, she would have reached out and buried her fingers in Rachel's thick, dark hair. Instead, she briefly rested her cheek against the Doctor's, needing to let the other woman feel how much her words were appreciated.
"Thank you," she whispered.
It was almost nine o'clock when Rachel killed the engine of her car, in front of the house that would be hers and Nicky's home for an undetermined amount of time. Casting a look aside, she smiled at Gertrude, who gave her a wink.
"If I carry Nicky inside, will you carry Hannah?" she asked with an amused voice.
"I'd love to," Rachel replied dryly. "But I'm afraid both Hannah and I would end up in the rosebush, if we would make it that far," she added with a grin.
"I'm awake, you two," Hannah's sleepy voice sounded from the backseat. "So stop making fun of me."
"You don't sound very awake to me," Gertrude teased, opening the door and stepping into the cold night air.
"Whatever," Hannah mumbled, untangling herself from the quilt somebody had draped over her and Nicky, who was sound asleep in her car seat. "I might have dozed off, but I'm awake now."
"The cold air will do that to you," Rachel muttered, shivering as soon as she stepped outside. She opened the back door and quickly released her daughter from the seat. Holding the toddler close to keep her as warm as possible, she walked around the car, waiting for Hannah to appear.
"You don't have to wait for me, Rachel," Hannah spoke, eying the shivering form of the Doctor. "I wouldn't want Nicky or you to catch a cold."
"Nicky is fine," Rachel answered, noticing Gertrude had opened the front door and was impatiently waiting for them.
I'm not letting you out of my sight. Call me paranoid, but those last few days I've had a feeling somebody was watching me...
"Come on, sweetie," she gently encouraged Hannah. "It's nice and warm inside."
Hannah obediently followed the small path to the front door, closely followed by Rachel, who resisted the urge to turn around to scan the street. She did not want to make a fool out of herself. And she certainly did not want to scare Hannah.
So, without looking back, Rachel stepped inside and closed the door behind her. Silently, Hannah slid the deadbolt in place and keyed in the code for the alarm. After she was done, she glanced up at Rachel and shot her tired smile.
"It's not just you," she softly spoke. "I felt it too."
Rachel's eyes were wide with surprise when she turned to the blonde and she was about to reply, but Hannah gently pressed her fingers against the other woman's lips.
"Not now, later," she whispered.
Even though she felt like she was bursting with anxiety and curiosity, Rachel nodded and gestured towards the hallway.
"I'll put Nicky to bed. I'll be right back."
"Do you want some hot tea or decaf coffee?"
"I'd love some coffee," Rachel answered.
"I'll make some," Hannah promised. She stepped closer to Rachel and tenderly pressed a kiss on the sleeping toddler's cheek. "Sweet dreams, Nicky," she whispered.
Rachel could not help it; the moment was perfect. Hannah was so close, she only had to lean forward to steal a kiss. And without giving herself the chance to change her mind, she did. If Hannah was surprised by Rachel's actions, she did not show it. For a split second only, Rachel could feel her jerk at the unexpected contact, but then Hannah leaned into her body and the soft, almost playful kiss, became a lot more solid.
Rachel, who was still holding Nicky, let out a soft whimper when Hannah's arms slid around her waist and the blonde pressed herself against her side without breaking the contact.
When they finally broke apart, they looked at each other and smiled.
"That was nice, thank you," Rachel said, kissing the bridge of Hannah's nose.
"It was," Hannah nodded with soft, blue eyes. "I've been wanting to do that ever since yesterday."
"When we almost made it?" Rachel chuckled.
"Yes, before Granny walked in on us," Hannah nodded, rolling her eyes.
"It was worth the wait."
"Yes, it was," Hannah smiled warmly. She patted Rachel on her side and gently pushed her towards the end of the hallway. "Go, put your little girl to bed. I'll be in the kitchen, making us some coffee."
"I won't be long," Rachel promised.
"I'm counting on that," was the playful answer and with a happy grin on her face, Rachel walked towards Nicky's temporary bedroom, opening the door with her hip. She gently lowered the toddler on to the bed and expertly changed the little girl into her warm pajamas. Nicky, who was worn out by all the activities of that evening, never woke up and, with a last kiss, Rachel tucked in her daughter and quietly left the room.
She smiled when she headed for the kitchen, already looking forward to spending a few quiet hours with Hannah. She knew they had agreed to take it slowly and she certainly wanted to honor that, but she couldn't and wouldn't ignore the tingles that traveled through her body every time Hannah was near. She knew the blonde was experiencing the same sensations. She had seen it in her eyes. On more than one occasion, the familiar blue had darkened in a very familiar way and Rachel was grateful for that. It gave her faith and hope, feeling with every passing minute that the odds of restoring their relationship was in their favor.
Rachel rounded the corner to go into the kitchen, when a soft sound drew her attention to the front door. It had been the rustling sound of paper. With a small frown, Rachel stepped to the door and peered through the little peephole. The driveway was lit and even though the view was limited she could see there was nobody in front of the door or on the driveway. Curious, she disabled the alarm and opened the door and immediately a cream-colored envelope landed on the doormat, in front of her feet. Kneeling down, Rachel picked up the envelope, when she noticed the neatly printed name on the paper. Immediately, she dropped it, as if burnt.
"Oh, my God," she whispered in horror, feeling sick to her stomach. She had recognized the writing instantly. A tidal wave of emotions flooded her senses and Rachel did not realize she had made a sound, until the door of the kitchen was thrown open and Hannah came rushing out. Her eyes were dark-blue in her ashen face and she hurried to the place where Rachel was leaning against the wall for support.
Without saying a word, the blonde stepped past Rachel and closed the door, making sure it was locked and the alarm was back on, before turning around and facing the Doctor.
"Are you...?" her breathing hitched when she noticed the envelope on the doormat and with a soft moan she sank through her knees, staring at the paper that had her name on it.
"Is it...is it...him?" she whispered.
Rachel had to pull herself out of her near state of panic and her dark eyes traveled from the envelope to Hannah.
Get a grip, Hannah needs you!
"I...I recognize the writing," Rachel answered in a hoarse voice. "I think we both had the same gut-feeling."
"That he was around," Hannah nodded in a quiet voice. She picked up the envelope from the ground and, with Rachel's hand supporting her, got back to her feet.
"I don't think I want to open this. Maybe we're wrong," she said. "Maybe it's something else, like a Christmas card, or something."
"Maybe," Rachel echoed in a toneless voice. "Do you want me to open it?"
Although Hannah would have loved to leave that difficult part up to somebody else, she did not want Rachel to be the one to open the envelope and, after letting out a shuddering breath, she quickly ripped it open and pulled out its contents.
With trembling fingers she turned around the white piece of paper and she sobbed when her eyes fell on the picture. It was a photo of her and Rachel entering the house after they had come home from dinner, less than thirty minutes ago.
"Nathan," she whispered, feeling Rachel's arm slip around her shoulders. "You freaking jerk."
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To be continued in part 10
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