For disclaimers, see  Part 1

 

Part 20

 

Chapter Twenty

Alex strolled down the quiet sidewalk with her arm draped affectionately over Reginaís shoulders. Both of them were bundled up in layers of clothes and heavy coats. It was almost comfortable in the sun but the shady overhangs of the storefronts brought an instant reminder that winter was reluctant to let go of its hold on the region.

Alex hugged the shorter woman to her, then, turned as Regina slowed and peered into another store window. She felt her shiver slightly and brought her lips close to her ear. "Are you warm enough?"

"Perfect," Regina replied, smiling up into sparkling blue eyes. She snuggled closer within the embrace of Alexís arm and sighed contentedly.

They had lounged in bed together until late that morning after they spent a leisurely time in loving exploration. It felt wonderful and the rest of the world with all its incessant problems seemed to fade farther away, unable to intrude on their special time together.

"Anything particular youíd like to do?" Alex asked, as they resumed their walk.

The narrow street opened up as they neared a wharf. The sweet smell of chocolate and fudge filled the air around them. "Oh boy. I hear my sweet tooth calling me." Regina flashed a gleeful smile at her companion as she lifted her head and inhaled the fragrant aroma of the confections.

"I canít believe theyíre actually open," Alex replied as she trotted up the concrete steps and pulled the door open for Regina. "After you." She waved her arm in front of her and gave a half bow.

Regina winked playfully at her as she slipped into the warm, sweet smelling environment. "Wow! Look at all this candy."

Alex walked up beside Regina and rested her elbow on the glass counter top, as she eyed the trays of fudge that were arrayed in the case below. A playful smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth and she cocked an eyebrow up when Regina tilted her neck and smiled up at her. Unable to resist the opportunity she leaned closer and whispered in Reginaís ear. "Isnít chocolate an aphrodisiac?"

A blush immediately crept up Reginaís face and the blonde covered her face with a hand. "Youíre incorrigible, Alex. You know that, right?"

A middle-aged woman with her hair pinned up in a bun, turned around, leaving the taffy she was working with and smiled at the two women across from her. "What would you ladies like?"

Alex cast a quick glance at Regina and answered first. "I didnít realize you did such a big business that you stayed open all year."

A smile broke out on the womanís face. "Youíd be surprised how many people buy this stuff and have it shipped all over the states. Do you know what youíd like yet?"

Regina cleared her throat and nodded. "Iíd like a quarter pound of the dark chocolate fudge with nuts please."

"Actually, make that a half pound," Alex added.

"Oh, you have a sweet tooth. Do you?" Brown eyes regarded Alex from across the counter. "Coming right up. Do you want me to put it in a box?"

"Can you put half of it in a box and the other half just wrap up in a bag?"

"Sure." Came the reply and the woman turned away to retrieve a medium sized, white cardboard box from a cabinet.

Regina reached out and ran her hand down the front of Alexís off-white, ribbed sweater, shaking her head as she regarded the taller woman. "A half-pound? Sandy would have a heart attack if she saw the hunk of chocolate you just bought."

"Well, I thought I might give her a small bit of it when we get back." Alex brought her thumb and index finger together, indicating a very small hunk of fudge.

"I think you can spare more than that little bit," Regina teased and grabbed hold of Alexís hand playfully. She quickly found herself turned around and wrapped up in a tight hug.

A deep throaty, chuckle escaped Alexís throat as she picked up Regina and set her down, facing the doorway. The younger woman fell into a fit of giggles and walked over to the counter to pay for their purchase. She turned and wagged a finger at Alex. "You do not need anymore chocolate."

In response, Alex pushed out her lower lip in a pout and sauntered over to the door.

Regina paid the woman behind the counter for her purchase, and then followed Alex down the concrete steps. Standing on the sidewalk, she opened one of the packages and broke off a piece of fudge, which she immediately started to nibble on. "Alex, do you want a piece?" She watched as the taller woman came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the sidewalk. "Alex?"

"Huh? What?" A stricken expression crossed Alexís face and she swallowed nervously. Her breaths came in short gasps and her stomach tied up in knots. She swallowed and clenched her jaw as a tide of guilt, remorse, and a deep sense of loss filled her soul.

She wasnít prepared for the visceral response at seeing Lanaís store a mere fifty feet away in the distance and could barely contain the tears that unexpectedly brimmed in her eyes.

A hand touched her side and she closed her eyes before she looked into the green ones that she knew were watching her.

"Alex, whatís wrong?" Regina asked, as she looked into the tormented blue eyes.

Alex raised her arm and then let it drop limply back to her side and shook her head. What a blubbering idiot I am. Come on get it together here. "Nothing. Itís okay."

Sheíd been so engrossed in their walk a few minutes before she hadnít even realized how close to the store they were. Irritated with herself, for letting her emotions get the better of her, Alex turned away from Regina to collect her thoughts.

Regina could tell by the clipped response and the rapid darting of Alexís eyes that she wasnít telling her everything. She reigned in her initial response to pepper her with questions, knowing that if she gave the woman some space she would eventually get around to telling her what was wrong.

Instead, Regina slipped an arm through Alexís and turned her so they were facing the bay. "You asked me what I wanted to do earlier. I want to take a walk by the water."

"Thatís easy enough," Alex replied in an oddly subdued voice as she stepped down off the curb.

Regina glanced back over her shoulder as she fell into step beside her partner. There was no one in the street behind them and she wondered briefly what Alex saw that caused such an intense reaction.

She glanced off to her left and spied a small wharf with its boat slips and something came to her in a flash of memory. Regina tightened her grip on Alexís arm and snuggled closer as they walked. You were so worried about how I would feel coming back here that you didnít stop to think about how it would affect you. Did you, Alex?

The wind blew at their backs as they walked along the sidewalk and approached the jetty.

Regina tilted her head and closed her eyes for a moment while the wind to lift her hair from her face. She soaked in the rhythmic rumble of the waves as one after the other, they swept in from the depths, gathering strength, and speed only to crash into the sand and resume their journey back out to see again.

"I love to listen to the sound of the ocean," Regina remarked, breaking the silence between them. "Itís soothing."

"Soothing," Alex repeated, shaking her head in wry amusement.

"You donít think it is." Regina blinked as the sun peaked out from behind a dark cloud.

"I guess. I donít think of one of the most powerful forces on earth as being soothing." Alex shrugged indifferently.

Regina regarded the sad expression on Alexís face for a moment and then straightened her shoulders before letting go of her arm. "Come on. Letís walk out on the jetty." She held her hand out to Alex and then hesitantly let it drop as her companion made no move to take her hand. With an exasperated sigh, Regina turned and stepped up onto the rocks and began carefully picking her way across them.

After walking for several minutes, Regina finally turned around and scanned the distant shoreline for Alex. She was surprised not to see her anywhere. She ran a hand through her hair; a mixture of disbelief and anger running through her. "Dammit, Alex. Where the hell did you go?"

She toyed with the idea of walking back in to find Alex, but her stubborn nature won out. With a grim expression on her face she turned and continued to walk farther out on the jetty.

She tried to think about everything that they had done today and pick out what it was that caused Alex to be so upset. The only place that managed to get her was mad at herself for not asking the woman what was upsetting her when she saw the change in the expression on her face.

Had she done something to upset her? Regina didnít think so but, at this point she wasnít sure anymore. She cupped her hands together and blew on them before she jammed them back into her coat pockets and resumed her lonely walk away from shore.

******

Alex watched Regina for a moment and then looked over at the small diner. She frowned not quite understanding why she was feeling this way now, after all this time. I have no right to this, not after everything Iíve done. Frustrated, Alex bent down, picked up a medium sized stone off the ground, and tossed it in her hand before she threw it out into the waves. A plume of water shot up as it plunged into the water.

After a few minutes, she gazed back out across the rocks and was surprised at how far out Regina had already walked. Great, now Iíve gone and pissed her off.

This was not how she envisioned their day and Alex sank deeper into her sullen mood. She ducked her head and walked over to the diner. Inside, she walked up to the counter and ordered two hot chocolates. Disgusted with herself, she leaned on the counter, waiting for the waitress to finish filling the two Styrofoam cups with the hot beverage.

Ten minutes later, carrying a cup of hot chocolate in each hand, Alex walked back out to the jetty. She stepped up onto the mile long outcropping of rocks and frowned when she spotted the dark silhouette of her partner standing off in the distance.

She called her name out but the wind carried the sound back towards the shore and she knew unless Regina turned around she wouldnít know she was there.

******

Regina was cold, angry, and upset as she hunkered deeper into her wool jacket. She walked out as far as she felt comfortable going and now was trying to decide if she wanted to start the equally long walk back in towards the shore. The wind had kicked up again and the dark waves sent a cold, salty spray up over some of the rocks below her.

She scuffed the toe of her shoe against the rock and turned around. She let out a startled gasp when she saw Alex walking towards her across the rocks.

The taller woman stopped a few feet away and just looked at Regina. After a momentís hesitation, she set the two cups down on a flat rock and stepped closer, her gaze settling on her partnerís face.

"Iím sorry." She glanced down at her sneakers and sighed.

"You should beÖsorry," Regina answered shortly, still confused, and hurt about what happened.

Alex darted a quick surprised look over at the fiery, green eyes. "I donít know what happened back there." She shook her head and stuffed her hands in her coat pocket to keep from fidgeting. "I mean I do, butÖdamn, this isnít coming out right."

A gull squawked as it flew in for a landing a few feet away from Alex and hopped around, searching for the odd scrap of food and any shells that might have lodged between the rocks.

Regina looked away from her. "I stood out here trying to figure out what I did wrong."

A gust of wind whipped the hem of Alexís coat whipped around her legs and she turned her head against the chill. "You didnít do anything wrong, Regina. It was me."

When she got no response from the blonde, Alex stepped closer. "Please look at me." She expected to see tears brimming in her eyes when Regina finally turned her head and looked at her.

There were none.

"IÖI," she coughed and cleared her throat, then tried again to put into words the private, inner feelings she seldom acknowledged to herself, let alone to another human being.

Patient green eyes met hers when she hazarded a glance over at Regina.

Alex ducked her head and frowned as she stared down at the rocks beneath her feet. "I donít know why it happened, but I felt it when we came out of the candy store. We were down the street from where Lanaís store used to be." She took a step and turned, putting her back to the wind.

Now, facing Regina she continued haltingly. "I felt guilty about being hereÖwith you." Alex saw the look of bewilderment and hurt in Reginaís eyes and cringed, wondering if she was making things worse by telling her the truth. "I donít know if I can explain this."

"Try," Regina answered over the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks.

Alex shook her head and looked out at the dark clouds gathering on the horizon. "You know what happened the last time you were here."

"Yeah," Regina drew the word out slowly, trying to figure out where Alex was going with this.

"Before you called me that night, I came out here and spread Lanaís ashes out over the water." Alex pressed her lips together, remembering the moonlit night and the quiet sense of finality sheíd felt standing out here alone. "At that moment, I never planned to come back here. I told myself I didnít deserve to have that kind of happiness ever again after everything that happened." Alex let her voice trail off and stared down at the water lapping up onto the rocks. "Now, here I am with you." Alex spread her hands in defeat and hung her head.

Regina stared in disbelief at the bowed head. She had no words to answer what Alex just told her. Not knowing what else to do, she walked the short distance to where Alex had set the Styrofoam cups down and retrieved them.

"Here." She pressed the now lukewarm cup into Alexís hands and stood next to her. A shiver passed through her as another cloud passed in front of the sun, blocking the warmth of its rays again.

Her initial response to Alexís words was to be angry and then resentful. How could she compete with Alexís feelings of guilt and remorse for what happened in the past?

Then she had another thought that tempered her raw emotions. Six months ago, you would have never told me that, Alex. Regina sighed to herself as she pulled open the lid on the cup and inhaled the pleasant aroma of the hot chocolate before she sipped it.

Her eyes roamed cautiously over the grim countenance of her lover. I guess this is something weíre going to have to work on together, because I donít think either one of us can do it alone.

"I donít want you to believe that." Regina reached out and touched one of Alexís arms.

"Believe what?" Alex blinked and turned her attention back to Regina.

"That you donít deserve to be happy." Regina reached up and ran the back of her knuckles against the soft skin of Alexís cheek. "I donít choose to believe that."

The taller woman closed her eyes and exhaled softly. "Your hands are freezing," she commented gruffly, as her larger hand covered Reginaís. "Iím sorry." Alex turned her head and pressed her lips into Reginaís hand before she pulled the smaller woman closer, and tucked her hand into the pocket of her coat.

Regina tilted her head to look up at Alex. "Letís walk back so we can find someplace where we warm up and get something to eat."

******

They were both cold and hungry by the time they reached the center of town. The sun had begun its descent towards the horizon and the sky was painted in brilliant shades of burnt orange and reds.

Alex felt the smaller woman shiver against her and she pulled her underneath an awning out of the wind. "Do you have any preferences where we go?"

Regina shook her head and pressed her hands up between their bodies, warming them between the layers of Alexís coat. "No," she replied, fighting not to let her teeth chatter. She looked across the street at the restaurant on the corner. Through the windows she could see dim lights and the outlines of tables and a bar. "What about over there?"

Alex looked across the street and shrugged. "Okay." It wasnít what she had in mind, but then again she had no one to blame but herself for ruining her own plans for a romantic dinner and evening.

She let the door shut behind her, shutting out the wet, damp wind that was beginning to blow in off the bay. Alex blinked as her eyes adjusted to the dim light. She looked around the rustic looking establishment. Fishnets, spears, and other whaling implements adorned the planked walls and ceilings above.

A haggard looking man with his hair pulled back into a ponytail, sat by the jukebox, staring intently at his drink. Behind the bar, stood a young man with curly, black hair and a nose ring, looking expectantly at Regina. Except for the four of them the establishment was otherwise empty.

Regina looked over from her perch on the stool. "What do you want to drink?"

"Whatever youíre having is fine." Alex walked over, pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of her wallet, and set it on the bar. "Itís quiet in here," she commented to the bartender.

"Itíll fill up later. Weíve got a band coming over to play tonight," he replied and then retrieved two frosty mugs from inside a freezer and poured their drinks. He set them down on the counter and looked over at Alex. "You want to just keep a tab running?"

She shrugged a shoulder indifferently and pocketed the bill. "Sure." She glanced outside where large, fat raindrops were starting to spatter on the windows and then looked back at Regina who stared at her over the brim of her frothy mug. "We might be here a while." Alex sipped her beer and rested an elbow on the edge of the bar.

"Letís go over there." Regina tugged Alexís arm and pulled her off the stool. She directed her companion to a dimly lit corner of the room and settled comfortably into a chair.

Alex draped her coat over the back of a chair and reached for Reginaís as the blonde shrugged out of it. Quietly, she settled into the chair opposite her friend and focused on her drink.

They were both quiet for a few moments until Regina cleared her throat and leaned forward, resting her elbows on the wooden table. "What was Lana like?"

The question caught her completely off guard and she missed the edge of the mug with her lips and sloshed the amber liquid on the table. Alex muttered a curse and quickly grabbed for some napkins to clean up the spill. Her eyes flicked over at Regina who was watching her intently.

"Sorry about that." Alex set her mug down and took a breath.

Regina shook her head and looked away, her fingers fidgeting nervously on the tabletop. "I justÖobviously youíve been thinking about her andÖwell, I was curious."

Alex stared at Regina from across the table. She saw the blush color Reginaís fair-skinned features and reached across the table to clasp her hands inside her larger one. "Itís okay. I just wasnít expecting that particular question," she assured Regina with a squeeze of her hand.

So, what was Lana like? She felt a pang inside as she recalled the pictures she kept in her nightstand and realized they were the only two she had of the woman.

"Lana was a brilliant doctor." Alex trailed her fingertip down the side of the mug. "She was compassionate and dedicated." She looked over at Regina and tilted her head, knowing that wasnít what Regina really wanted to hear. "What do you want to know?"

"How did you meet her?"

A wry grin crossed Alexís face and she sat back in her chair. "We were in medical school together. We ended up being lab partners in gross anatomy."

Regina wrinkled her nose at the memory of that particular class and the stench of formaldehyde that clung to their lab clothes for an entire year.

"Actually, it was pretty funny," Alex continued. "It was one of the first days in lab and we were all standing around waiting for the professor to unzip the body bag. He was an egomaniac and loved making a big production of it." Alex shook her head in disgust. "You remember Richard?"

"The doctor who treated me up in Boston?" Reginaís face brightened for an instant.

Alex nodded. "He brought a bag of Granny Smith apples with him each day. I guess he thought it was a good way to get everyone to loosen up," she chuckled at the memory of loudly munching on an apple and the looks the two of them were getting from their colleagues. "Anyway, this blonde-haired woman is standing in front of me during one of the lab sessions. I remember the professor unzipping the black bag in front of us and all of a sudden she leans back against me."

Regina raised an eyebrow and leaned forward again. "What do you mean?"

"I mean her whole upper body." Alex patted her chest and smirked. "I look over at David and heís laughing. So, I nudge her and the next thing I know sheís on the floor out cold."

Regina covered her face with her hand. "Oh no. She passed out."

"Cold." Alex grimaced. "David never let either one of us live it down. He said it gave new meaning to having someone throw themselves at my feet."

"So, did you two start seeing each other after that?" Regina tilted her head and gazed over into Alexís face.

A flicker of emotion showed in the blue eyes and Alex cleared her throat. "I guess you could say that."

"Whatís that supposed to mean?" Regina cracked a smile at the older womanís evasive response.

Alex sat back in her chair and folded her hands on the table. "I donít know that youíd call it dating, Regina. Things were alwaysÖintense between us. It was either good or it was bad. There wasnít much room for anything in between."

"Oh." It was Reginaís turn to sit back. She studied the grain of the wood, her fingers idly tracing the whorls as she considered what Alex told her and how it made her feel. It felt weird and she was a little surprised at the unmistakable sense of jealousy that reared its ugly head. Stop it. Regina chastised herself. You asked her, so deal with it.

Alex finished drinking her beer and set it back down on the table. She nodded when the bartender walked over and asked if she wanted another drink. "Do you want another one, Reg?"

Regina jerked her head up at the sound of her name. "Uh, yeah. Thatís fine and can we get some menus too?"

The curly headed man nodded and strolled back to the bar to refill their mugs.

"This time Iíll try not to spill half of it on the table," Alex offered jokingly as she watched Regina warily from across the table. "You okay?"

"Yeah, Iím fine." Regina tucked a few strands of hair back behind an ear.

Alex leaned forward and she slid her hand underneath Reginaís to still the nervous tracing. "You know, for all the things we were to each other, Regina." Alex focused on the startled green eyes and continued. "Lana and I were never best friends."

"You loved her though," Regina replied, looking down at the thumb that was massaging her hand.

"As best as I was able to back then." Alex sat back as the bartender returned with their drinks and menus. She waited to continue until after he left. "I was a different person when I met Lana, and you know what medical school was like. Weeks at a time would go by and we would hardly see each other."

Regina offered a knowing smile as she recalled the endless hours spent researching and studying. It all seemed like a blur with classes, labs, and examinations that left little time for the normal things in life like eating and sleeping.

"We were two ambitious people and there was little room inside our egos for each other. Looking back now, I think I knew then, that our relationship wasnít going to last."

"Why do you say that?" Regina asked and then sipped her beer, peeing over the rim at Alex cautiously. "You took care of her right up until the very end."

Blue eyes met hers and then looked away, staring out the window at the pelting rain. "Guilt is a strong motivator." With that last remark, Alex slid a menu across the table and opened hers, signaling that the conversation was over.

******

Regina skipped along every few steps to keep up with Alexís brisk pace. "Youíd think the devil was hot on your tail the way youíre walking."

Alex snorted and pulled her keys from her pocket as she rounded the corner from the street and walked over to the door to her apartment. It wouldnít surprise me if he was, she brooded silently. She unlocked it and held it open for her companion to pass through.

Regina started to say something but stopped and simply trudged up the stairs when she saw the grim expression on Alexís face. Over the past few months, sheíd gotten better at reading her companionís moods, knowing when to push and when to back off and give her time to herself.

Alex followed Regina up the stairs and stopped short when she realized she was about to plow right into her.

"What are you doing?" She tried to step around Regina.

Regina stepped sideways and blocked her path. "Iím waiting for you to stop your self-flagellation."

Despite her bad mood, Alex had to bite the inside of her cheek to fight a smile from forming. "Is that what Iím doing?" she asked, her eyes level with Reginaís as she stood a step below her.

"Ha, ha." Regina took the keys from her partnerís hands and walked toward the apartment door. She unlocked it and waited for Alex to join her inside before she spoke again. "Iím not sure whatís going on in that head of yours, but you need to stop and listen to me," Regina said, as she shut the door and then faced her lover.

Alex folded her arms across her chest and pursed her lips together as she met Reginaís defiant gaze.

"Iím glad I talked to you about Lana."

Wordlessly, Alex dropped her arms to her side and turned away. She shed her coat and walked over to couch where she sat down and tucked a leg up underneath her. She wasnítÖtalking about that time of her life dredged up all kinds of bad memories.

"Why?" Alex asked quietly, without looking up at her.

Regina joined her on the cushions and leaned back. She could see the strain on Alexís face as the dark-haired woman stared down at her hands that she had linked together in front of her. She willed her stomach to stop churning before she reached out and touched Alexís hands with her own.

"I needed to know if there was still room enough inside your heart for me."

Alex stared at Regina in wide-eyed disbelief. "YÖyouíre kidding, right?" she managed to get out around the lump that suddenly formed in her throat.

Regina lowered her gaze and shook her head. "After what you said earlier, IÖI wasnít sure," her voice trailed off and it was her turn to stare down at her hands, clutched together so tightly the skin over her knuckles turned white. Self-consciously, Regina loosened her grasp and flexed her hands.

Alex looked away sharply and clenched her jaw, fighting the sudden wave of heart-breaking pain in her chest. It was another lesson about how very fragile everything was for them still.

Very slowly, Alex raised an arm and rested her wrist on Reginaís shoulder. She curled her fingers around the smaller womanís neck, and lightly grazed her thumb against Reginaís cheek. "I guess what I said didnít leave you much reason to believe otherwise."

A tear splashed down on the back of one of Reginaís hands. "Oh, Reg," Alex whispered, as she inched closer. She wrapped an arm around the younger womanís shoulders and pulled Regina to her. Alex pressed her lips against the top of the blondeís head and held her close. "When Iím with youÖthe rest of the world could fall apart around us and it wouldnít matter as long as weíre together."

Regina let out a strangled cry and snuggled her body up against her partnerís sturdy frame. She gazed up at the chagrined expression on her face. "IÖitís just you donít say what you feel and sometimesÖI just need to hear you say that."

Alex tilted her head back and exhaled, feeling very far out of her element. "Iím sorry. IÖumÖIíll try to be better at telling you from now on." Her heart slowed its wild beating and she rubbed her hands over Reginaís back. "Iíd be lost without you, Reg."

The stark look in the blue eyes when they focused on her, said it all. Regna leaned in and touched her lips to Alexís mouth in a reassuring gesture of tenderness. "I would be too."

Regina closed her eyes and the last thing she felt before she finally drifted off to sleep was the pressure of Alexís strong arms as they wrapped around her and the whispered endearments that made her want to believe that everything would be all right.

******

Alex woke first and blinked her eyes in confusion as she looked around at her surroundings. Guess all that talking wiped us both out. Regina was still asleep with an arm wrapped tightly around Alexís waist. She watched the tiny muscles twitch as the younger woman smiled peacefully in her sleep.

Cautiously, Alex ran her fingers over Reginaís cheek and brushed her hair back behind her ear. She had never been very good at verbalizing her emotions and it grieved her to know that what she shared with her yesterday caused Regina to doubt her love.

Alex shifted on the couch and gazed down at her still sleeping lover, then, whispered softly. "Donít give up on me, Regina. I promise I wonít ever make you doubt my love for you again. You mean too much to me."

Alex lay quietly for as long as her body would bear and then gave into her bodyís need to stretch. She grunted softly as a vertebrae popped in her back. Thatíll teach me to fall asleep on the couch, Alex chided herself.

Across the room, a shrill beeping broke the silence and she muttered a curse as she glared at the two duffel bags that were lying on the floor at the foot of the bed.

Regina grimaced in her sleep and reached up with an arm in a feeble attempt to stop the noise. Alex caught her arm before it collided with her nose.

"Reg, wake up." She massaged the younger womanís back and shoulders with her hands as she whispered to her.

The only response she got was a low groan and then Regina burrowed her face into Alexís sweater before she stretched and lifted her head.

"Morning," Alex said, as one green eye stared up at her and then closed.

"What is that god awful beeping?" Regina mumbled.

"Itís one of our pagers." Alex shifted and struggled to push herself up as she extracted herself from Reginaís grasp. She stumbled across the floor and then cocked her head as she knelt beside their bags.

She unzipped Reginaís bag, pulled out the offending item, and switched it off. "Damn thing," she muttered. She studied the backlit display and turned back to the couch. "Reg, itís your beeper."

"Throw it out." Came the grumbled response.

Alex rolled her eyes, walked back to the couch, and stood beside her with a sympathetic expression on her face. "I donít think I can do that, love. Here." She held the black pager out to Regina.

"Ugh, I canít even open my eyes yet," the blonde complained as she took it from Alex and attempted to read the number.

"Need the phone?" Alex held out her cell phone to Regina.

"Thanks." Regina rested her head against Alexís thigh as she typed in the numbers and waited for the connection to be made. She tilted her head up to gaze at Alex and smiled at her rumpled appearance. "You look cuteÖhello? This is Dr. Kingston. Someone paged me."

Alex reached down and offered a friendly scratch between Reginaís shoulder blades while she spoke.

"Uh, Iím sorry," a meek voice replied on the other end. "I didnít mean to bother you."

"Wait, who is this?" Regina frowned, not recognizing the young voice.

"Itís Terry."

Terry? Who do I know named Terry? Then, Regina recalled the young girl who she had given her pager number to before she left for the weekend. "Terry, whatís wrong?" she asked, her voice tinged with concern.

"I wasnít sure I should call you."

"Itís okay. I told you to call me if you needed to. Tell me whatís wrong." She glanced up at Alex and smiled apologetically.

"Itís TJ. He left the hospital."

Regina ran a hand through her hair and suddenly sat up straighter. "What do you mean he left?" Her voice rose an octave.

"He ran away the other night. The nurse told him they found another foster home for him to go to."

Regina rubbed her face, wondering what she should say to the girl. "Terry, Iím sure the hospital has people looking out looking for him. He couldnít have gone far."

There was silence on the other end of the phone and then Terry quiet voice came through the line. "I know. Iím just scared for him. Iím sorry to bother you, Dr. Kingston."

The line went dead and Regina groaned, as a feeling of helplessness overwhelmed her.

"What was that about?" Alex draped an arm over Reginaís shoulder and sat down beside her, studying the anguished expression the blondeís face.

"Do you remember the code six from the other night? It was one of my patients."

"Ah, Iím sorry, Reg." Alex squeezed her shoulder. "Who was that?"

"One of the kids I was treating on the pediatric floor. You must think Iím really stupid for giving the serviceís number out to one of my patients."

"No, itís just not something I would do. So whoís this missing kid?"

"A teenage boy who came in with a head trauma a couple of weeks ago. I guess he didnít like the idea of going to another foster home." Regina stared down at the phone and shook her head. "How can a kid just walk out of the hospital without anyone seeing him?"

"Probably not as hard as you think, with the way staffing is on the floors at nights."

"I feel awful. Terryís upset and I think she expected me to be able to do something." Regina frowned and stood up suddenly. She pressed a hand to her temple and closed her eyes in concentration. "Wait, oh, whatís radiologyís number?"

Alex rattled the number off and watched uneasily as Regina paced.

"I need to speak to Dr. Summers, please. This is Dr. Kingston." Regina stopped and stood in front of Alex as she waited. "I ordered a CT scan of his head. His white blood cell count was slightly elevated and psych was trying to delay his discharge. I thought that if there was something that could justify keeping him it might help."

Alex raised an eyebrow but kept silent, knowing full well that Regina was taking a risk ordering a test under these circumstances. She watched as Regina turned away from her as she started talking into the phone.

"Hi, Dr. Summers," Regina answered as the doctors voice came over the line. "I ordered a CT scan on a sixteen year old boy who was a John Doe."

Regina frowned and shook her head. "No I donít know his hospital number but he was on pediatrics. Sure Iíll hold."

While Regina waited, Alex took the opportunity to dig her toiletries out of her bag and headed into the bathroom.

"Dr. Kingston?"

"Yes, Iím here," Regina answered, smiling briefly, as she watched Alexís shirt fly out onto the bed followed by her jeans and then undergarments.

"I have the results of the CT scan. Everything is fine."

"So thereís no evidence of any new bleeding from the original injury to the brain?"

"No, he just needs to be kept on his anti-seizure medications for the time being."

She knew this, but the doctorís re-affirmation brought the seriousness of the information home to her. "Unfortunately, our patient happens to be the one they called the code six for the other night," Regina replied. "Iím away and just found out today."

"Oh, yes, I remember hearing the code called. Well, letís hope they find the boy soon. I know I donít need to tell you, but without them heís at serious risk for complications."

"Yes, I know. Thank you, Dr. Summers." Regina shut the cell phone and tossed it down onto the couch with a sigh. "Now what do I do?" She had a sudden vision flash in her mindís eye TJ, standing on a street corner lost and afraid.

It was a few minutes before Alex emerged from the shower with a towel wrapped around her lithe body. Her skin was tinged a healthy pink from the hot water. "Hey, whatís the long face for?" She strode over to where Regina was sitting on the couch and cocked her head.

Regina dropped her head into her hands. "The CT scan was negative, but I know heís not taking his seizure medication. Heís at risk, anything could happen."

Alex stared down at Regina and considered what they could reasonably do. "Why donít you call Dr. Timmonís office or the Pediatric department and see if theyíve heard anything about this kidís whereabouts."

She turned to walk away when she saw the doubtful expression on Reginaís face. "Hey, Iím sure theyíre doing everything they can to find him."

Alex crouched down in front of her, tilted Reginaís chin up and pressed her lips to Reginaís mouth in a soft, reassuring kiss. Her eyes twinkled softly after she pulled away and spent a moment just looking into the green eyes before her. "You know something. That kid is very lucky heís got you to worry about him."

Part 21

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