For disclaimers, see Part 1

Part 21


Chapter Twenty-One

Some time later, the two women left Alex’s apartment and walked down Commercial Street to a small street side café that faced the bay. There was an eclectic air to the interior, with pastel colored murals painted on all the walls and old-fashioned ice cream parlor stools along the counter that gave the place an eccentric retro design.

Regina rubbed her nose and looked up at her companion. "Kind of bright, huh?"

Alex arched an eyebrow as she watched a waitress grab two menus from the counter and head in their direction. "It looks like the Easter Bunny nibbled on the wrong patch of grass and then came here to paint the eggs."

Regina stopped laughing just long enough to hear the waitress introduce herself as Allison. They had their pick of where to sit and the waitress guided them to a booth in the back corner that overlooked the water at Alex’s request.

"Would you like anything to drink?"

"Two coffees, please," Alex replied, as she settled into the booth.

"Certainly." She flashed them a bright smile and sauntered back behind the counter.

"Alex wouldn’t you love to have a room painted like this with all these wild and crazy colors?" Regina leaned across the table and smiled up at her.

Two blue eyes peered back at her from over the menu. "You’re kidding, right?"

Regina held the smile as long as she could and then dissolved into a fit of giggles again. "Sorry, I think this place is making me feel goofy."

"Well, if you really like these colors, I’m sure we could find some edible body paint in one of the stores and play connect the dots later," Alex deadpanned, enjoying the wide-eyed expression on Regina’s face for a few seconds. "Breathe, Reg."

"Hmm, maybe we should go check one of those stores out. That could be interesting." Regina arched an eyebrow and blew a kiss across the table at Alex.

The taller woman leaned back against her booth and groaned. "God, I walked right into that."

They carried on for a few more minutes, totally absorbed in each other, until they both ended up laughing so hard that tears rolled down their cheeks. Alex held her hands up in surrender.

"No more. Please, you’re going to kill me if we keep laughing like this."

Regina inhaled and regained some of her composure before she opened the menu and quickly read it over.

Their waitress appeared, having taken the silence at the table, as they were ready to order. "So what would you ladies like to eat?"

Alex coughed and cleared her throat as she glanced across the table at Regina. The blonde was blushing badly and trying desperately not to burst out laughing again. "Fried eggs over easy and pancakes, for both of us," she answered quickly.

"Great, thanks." Allison gathered up the menus and graced them both with a bright smile.

Regina tried desperately to keep a straight face as the waitress left to place their order and then sunk very low in her booth and started to laugh again. "Teach us to have conversations like this in public," she finally managed to get out.

"Mm and who started it?"

"Okay, okay truce. I can’t handle any more laughing right now," Regina replied, still holding her stomach. She decided it felt good to laugh and carry on like two kids.

Regina glanced out the window at the water. She was glad to be out of the apartment. After placing telephone calls to Dr. Timmons office, security, and the pediatric floor she knew no more now than she had after her brief conversation with Terry. She still couldn’t shake the haunting image her mind conjured up of TJ all alone possibly sick or hurt.

"Hey. Where did you go off to?" Alex waved her hand in front of Regina’s eyes, smiling as the blonde blinked her eyes and refocused on her.

"Sorry. I just can’t get him out of my head." Regina toyed with her fork and shook her head as she let out an exasperated sigh. "It’s like he just disappeared into thin air and nobody seems to know anything, let alone, care very much that he’s gone."

"Security filed a missing person’s report with the police department and they’ve probably checked every inch of the hospital to make sure he isn’t hiding out somewhere," Alex told her. "It’s been forty-eight hours so the police are officially involved."

Regina set her fork down and took a sip of her water. "I just hope they find him and that he’s okay. The longer he goes without his medication the more at risk he is for having a seizure."

Alex pressed her lips together and tilted her head, feeling the worry, and genuine concern Regina expressed. "I know you’re worried about him. Let’s eat and try to enjoy the rest of today." She stopped and leaned forward as Regina turned her head and looked out the window with a forlorn expression on her face.

"I just wish there was something I could do," she whispered, her voice trembling slightly.

Glancing down at her watch, Alex considered if there was any benefit in returning a day earlier than they planned. It wasn’t what she wanted to do, but if it made Regina feel better she decided it would be worth it. "It’s eleven o’clock now. If you wanted to, we could drive back after we eat. Maybe there is something we can do to help."

"You would do that?" Regina regarded the serious expression on Alex’s face as the older woman steadily met her gaze.

"Yes," Alex replied and leaned back as the waitress arrived with their plates of food. She let an easy, graceful smile cross her lips, while she was swept in by the look of quiet admiration and love she was getting from across the table.


Alex draped an arm over Regina’s shoulder as they walked down the street after they finished and paid for their meal. She felt better having food in her stomach, the dull headache she had earlier was receding and Regina seemed to be in better spirits as well.

"Ooh, how pretty."

Alex turned her head and looked over to see what had caught her partner’s attention. A wooden box supported on a sturdy pedestal, its locked glass lid, protecting a small array of sparkling jewelry. Alex glanced up at the store and saw the lights on inside. "It’s open. Do you want to go in?"

"Do you mind?" A curiously shy look crossed Regina’s features when she looked at her partner.

"I wouldn’t have offered if I did."

Regina laughed, not quite understanding the nervousness she felt in her gut as she tugged Alex’s hand and started up the brick steps.

A red-haired woman looked up from behind the counter. "Hi," she greeted them with a friendly smile and went back to her work.

After returning the greeting, Regina’s attention was immediately drawn to a glass case to the right of the door. It was filled with ear rings, specifically a beautiful set of sparkling sapphire stones that winked at her from underneath the lights.

Regina looked back at Alex and raised an inquiring eyebrow. "I’d like to see that pair, please." She pointed down at the gleaming azure jewels inside the case.

Alex’s heart skipped a beat and her throat went dry as she looked on. While the woman retrieved them from the case, she discreetly slipped over to the other side of the store and took great interest in the necklaces laid out on the white background. Her eyes strayed over to the rings and she briefly studied several of them as she took a few deep breaths, wondering why she felt so out of control.

Soft footfalls, muffled by the carpeted floor approached and then she felt a warm presence at her back. Alex shifted and turned around, her eyebrows creeping up beneath her bangs when Regina held the sapphire-blue, gemstone earrings up next to her face.

"I think they’d look beautiful on you," Regina commented softly.

Alex swallowed and ducked her head, feeling a completely unexpected surge of adolescent awkwardness. "With this long hair? You’d never see them," she replied, feigning a casual offhandedness she didn’t feel.

Regina made a clucking noise with her tongue and lowered her hands. She slipped one into Alex’s hand and laced their fingers together. "You would if you pulled it up, just like you did when you had to give that presentation at the hospital last summer."

She waited for Alex reaction, knowing she remembered exactly what she was talking about. Regina certainly did. Alex had managed to turn an incredibly hostile environment to her distinct advantage that day. "You looked really hot, um…" A blush colored her face and she shook her head. "You looked really nice in that blue pant suit you were wearing."

"You," Alex cleared her throat and looked down at the floor before she tried again. "You remember that?"

Their eyes met and Regina simply nodded her head. "So, listen…just don’t say anything right now."

"Bu…Reg, you don’t…I." Alex stammered and didn’t get to finish as two fingers pressed against her lips, quieting her strangled protests.

"Shush," she gently chided her and felt a tremor run through the hand she was still holding. Regina smiled up at the bewildered blue eyes that stared back at her, knowing she’d caught Alex completely off guard. "Maybe when we get back home, we can go out someplace nice one night and you can wear them, because I’d really be honored to get them for you."

She’d be honored? Alex met her gaze and got lost in the quiet regard, as she thought about that.

After a moment, Regina turned, but before she could walk away, felt the warm weight of Alex’s hands on both her shoulders and was pulled gently back against the taller woman, and heard these whispered words.

"Thank you." Alex squeezed her shoulders and leaned around to place a soft kiss on her cheek.

"You’re welcome." Regina closed her eyes briefly and smiled as a warm, wonderful feeling flowed through her as she walked back to the counter.

Subtle things were changing between them, Regina acknowledged; like the fact that Alex had shared some of her insecurities about their relationship with her the day before.

Even though it had been painful to hear the words, she knew it meant that some unseen barriers were finally sliding away.

The woman behind the counter, gladly wrapped up Regina’ purchase, smiling as she handed it back across to the blonde. "You picked out a beautiful pair of sapphires."

"Thanks," Regina replied, thinking they were almost as captivating as the Alex’s blue eyes. She chuckled at the thought. No way do they even hold a candle to your baby blues, Alex.

When she was finished, Regina joined Alex over by one of the glass cases and stood beside her. She bit her bottom lip and arched her eyebrows as she looked up at the serious expression on Alex’s face. I hope she doesn’t think I got her these because she offered to go home early. Regina tossed the thought away and nudged Alex with her hip.

"You ready?"

"Yeah." Alex nodded her head and gave her a crooked half smile before she walked over and opened the door for Regina.

After walking along the street for a few minutes, Alex guided Regina down through a half-filled parking lot to a small patch of beach. There was an old sun-beaten, turquoise colored row- boat that looked like it had seen better days lying upside down, half-buried in the sand.

Their shoes crunched softly through the sand as they trudged over and took a seat on the end of the boat. Regina snuggled closer to Alex and wrapped an arm around the taller woman’s waist to ward off the chill of the damp sea air. A stiff breeze lifted Alex’s hair, blowing it back off her face while she soaked in the blissful feeling of her lover’s embrace.

Alex cleared her throat and gave Regina a nudge with her shoulder. " So, do you think your Mom is over the shock of your declaration the other night?"

"What? Oh, geez." Regina rubbed her face sheepishly. "That just slipped out of nowhere. I wanted to die."

"Mm, I think that made three of us at the time," Alex deadpanned.

"Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you."

Alex let out a soft chuckle and rubbed her temple. "You didn’t, well not too badly. Just caught me by surprise. I’m pretty sure we answered any lingering questions she had when she walked in on us kissing."

Regina ducked her head and groaned. "I’m sure I’ll hear about that the next time I talk to her. My parent’s are not big on public displays of affection."

Alex felt the slump in Regina’s posture and sensed the quiet depression settle over her partner. "Hey. What’s up?" She ran her fingers through the pale hair and sucked in a breath at the forlorn expression on Regina’s face.

The blonde shook her head. "Right when we were leaving my mother was questioning why I would want to be with you. I don’t know if she’s ever going to accept our relationship or you."

Alex drew the collar up on her coat and stared down at the sand. She didn’t worry so much about herself and what Regina’s mother thought. If the woman chose not to like or accept her, then, so be it, but she knew it was important to Regina and at the moment she wasn’t quite sure what she could do about it. She offered up the only thing she knew to be true. "Sometimes the only thing that brings people around is time."

They were both silent for a while, lured in by the rhythmic sound of the surf. There was less of a breeze today and the warmth of the sun could be felt when it poked through the high clouds.

Regina glanced up at the intense profile and caught Alex staring out at the horizon, a faraway expression on her face. "What are you thinking?"

Alex looked down at Regina and then refocused her attention out at the water. "Do you remember the fire fighter we met over at the clinic?"

"Yeah, his name was Todd, I think," Regina answered tentatively, wondering what had brought this subject up. She had a suspicion that at the time Alex had been more than a little annoyed at the innocent attentions that the young man had shown her.

It wasn’t until they finally broke past the hurt and confusion did Regina realize the extent of the emotional turmoil and stark vulnerability that haunted her partner. Little pieces fell into place and some of pain receded that night they talked, leaving them a chance to start to heal the wounds that were keeping them apart.

Alex’s voice interrupted her thoughts. "Didn’t he mention that there was a kid that got attacked right by there?"

Regina leaned back in Alex’s arms and regarded the sober expression on her partner’s face. "Yeah, he did. The night he came over with Dana’s…um…the German Shepard he rescued. Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that up." Regina smacked the side of her head. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Just what she needs is a reminder of who shot her.

Alex pulled Regina’s hand down. "Hey, don’t do that." She cupped Regina’s face with her hand and regarded her seriously. "I don’t want you to feel like you have tiptoe around that subject. It didn’t do us much good when we did before. Did it?" Her voice lowered and gentled as she rubbed a thumb over Regina’s cheek.

Regina blinked and stared up at Alex. "No, it didn’t," she admitted quietly and leaned into the caress, glad that they regained the quiet intimacy that had become a wonderful part of their relationship. "Alex, you didn’t really think I was interested in Todd, did you."

Alex darted a sideways glance at Regina and exhaled forcefully. "Blunt and to the point as usual, eh?"

Regina let her hands fall down between her knees and studied the faded and peeling paint on the boat. "Sorry, I just remember…and I wanted you to know, that was never the case."

"I know that." Came the soft, rumbling reply as Alex wrapped an arm around Regina’s shoulder and pulled her close. "I just…wasn’t feeling really very good about who I was or what had happened." Alex hesitated and then looked right into Regina’s eyes. "I couldn’t help but think that it would be a hell of a lot easier for you to be with someone who didn’t have a whole lot of baggage they were carrying around."

"It wouldn’t have been easier," Regina sighed, remembering the long, interminable seconds in the emergency department when she could feel that force, that life giving bond that was her partner’s soul slipping away. "I almost lost you once. I don’t for any reason ever want to know that feeling again. It would kill me."

Alex blinked and let the fiercely spoken words sink inside her soul. "That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to leave you, ever."

Regina studied her and then tilted her head, as she let herself drown in the depths of those blue eyes. "You mean that."

She looked at Regina and smiled. Yes. There were so many things she’d come to look forward to in their relationship and she realized that she didn’t want to have to live without them.

She loved to hear her infectious laughter and watch Regina toss her head back with a radiant smile on her face. What she had grown to like the most, was how Regina would touch her when she was telling her something, just reach out and put a hand on her arm or shoulder. They were simple gestures but they had woven themselves into the tapestry of her soul and awakened a desire deep inside that she long ago shut the doors on.

A tiny smile formed on Alex’s lips and faintly uncertain, pale, blue eyes peered out underneath wind-rumpled bangs. She could feel a moment unfolding between them, one that would forever be etched in her memory as she looked deep into those green eyes and saw reflected back a look that gave her the courage to speak what she already knew was etched forever in her soul. They were she realized, the truest words she’d ever spoken and they came from somewhere deep inside her heart in a rush of emotion.

"We’ve kind of done this sickness and in health thing already and if…you’ll have me…I’d like a chance to find out about the good times and bad times too." Alex waited, watching the stunned expression blossom over Regina’s face.

A second later, she found herself enveloped in a passionate hug that rocked her backwards over the keel of the upended boat and dumped them both unceremoniously in the sand.

Regina picked her head up and brushed her hair back off her face. "Oh, I…that was bad. I’m sorry."

"So that’s what they mean about being knocked off your feet." A low, rumbling chuckle trickled up from deep inside Alex’s chest as she peered up into the mist green eyes.

"Um, I know it’s not the most traditional way…" She glanced around her immediate surroundings with a rueful eye and moved her arm in a wide arc, enjoying the feel of the course grains on her fingers. "No ring and not exactly the romantic setting you deserve, but I promise when we get back I’ll make it up to you."

Regina shook her head and kissed the tip of Alex’s nose. "I don’t need you to make anything up to me." A serious expression took over her face and Regina sat up, straddling Alex’s hips. "In fact, if you told me you wanted to be one of those doctors who travel around the world from place to the next, setting up clinics and the like, I’d be right there with you."

"Really?" An excited fire glinted in Alex’s eyes.

"Absolutely." Regina sat back and smiled, tracing her fingers over the strong, angular planes of Alex’s face. "Do I detect a bit of wanderlust in you?"

Alex’s lips curved into a grin and she reached up lacing their fingers together. "You know what I’ve always dreamed of doing. Travel to some of these countries that don’t have a good medical system in place, teach them what we know and help them set up clinics."

"That sounds like it would be exciting."

Alex wrapped her hand around Regina’s neck and pulled her down for a kiss. It was several moments before they broke off.

Just then, Regina lifted her head and frowned. "Alex, get up." Regina leaned back and stumbled to her feet as the leading edge of the first wave washed up onto the sand.

She winced at the assortment of curse words that spouted out of Alex’s mouth as she hopped to her feet and danced away from the oncoming surf.

Regina glanced up at Alex, watching as sand and droplets of water exploded from her hair as she shook her head vigorously. Her quick reflexes allowed her to avoid most of the water but her sneakers and upper half of her coat were soaked.

Casting an annoyed glance at the incoming tide, Alex muttered under her breath and then turned to look at Regina. "Oh, so you think it’s funny. Huh?" A rakish grin spread over her face.

Regina shook her head and stepped back, doing her best to stifle a giggle. "No, no…but you have to admit it was…Alex," her voice lowered and she started to backtrack up the sand toward the pavement. "Alex don’t you dare, that water is freezing."

"It is, is it?" A diabolical grin crept over Alex’s face and Regina shrieked as the taller woman darted after her.

She managed to duck under the outstretched arms once and then realized as she whirled away that Alex was chasing her right back to the water’s edge. Regina closed her eyes and huddled down waiting for the inevitable…that never came. Carefully, she peaked out from one eye and sucked in a breath when she saw blue eyes peering at her from very close range. Oh damn, she cringed.

"Gotcha." Alex winked and hopped back a step when Regina swatted her arm at her in mock annoyance.

"You’re a brat."

Alex arched an eyebrow and pulled Regina closer to her as another wave swept up over the sand, leaving a sweeping arc of foam only inches from where they were standing. "I am no such thing, but I will be an ice cube pretty soon if I don’t get out of these wet clothes."

Regina fell into step alongside Alex and sighed as she eyed the water dripping from her coat and the puddles forming around her sneakers with each step. "Sorry about that. I looked up and the wave was right there."

Alex snorted and nudged Regina with her hip.


They enjoyed a long hot shower that culminated with Regina pushing Alex onto the queen size bed and settling against her warm, naked body. It was nice, she mused, just to lie there afterwards in a contented haze, her fingers idly tracing the contours of her lover’s body.

Later, after Regina’s stomach had made itself known she had run out to the store to gather a short list of supplies that Regina wrote down while she was still lounging in their bed.

Alex purchased everything that Regina requested and even managed to find a kit of multi-colored threads that she used to make bracelets with when she was younger. Alex snorted and shook her head at her childish indulgence as she tromped up the stairs to their apartment.

What would Regina think? Sorry excuse for anything after what I said earlier. With a disconcerted grunt she opened the door to the apartment and stopped, her jaw slackening a little as she took in the sight of the flickering candlelight that was illuminating most of the apartment in a soft yellow glow.


"Hey." The smaller woman stepped up beside her and smiled shyly. "I hope you don’t mind, I rummaged through the storage closets and found all these." Regina waved her arm around the room. "Guess you like candles, huh?"

Alex felt one of the bags lifted out of her arms and she blinked as she looked around the apartment that had been transformed in her absence. "I forgot I had all these candles."

"Is it okay?" Regina asked quietly, trying to judge her partner’s muted reaction.

"Okay? Regina, it’s more than okay." Alex set the bag she was holding down on the table and took the younger woman in her arms. "It’s beautiful."

"I’m glad you like it," Regina whispered, against the leather coat.

"I love it." Came the quiet reply. Alex closed her eyes and hugged the smaller woman to her.

They held each other for a few more moments and then Regina peered over into the bag. "Ooh, you got wine."

"Well, I thought it was appropriate for the occasion." Alex let her arms drop to her side and she regarded the contents of the bag with a suspicious eye. "You want some help with the cooking?"

Regina shook her head, pulled the still damp coat off her partner’s shoulders, and set it on a hook behind the door. "No. Go sit over there and relax."

Alex eyed her for a moment and then sauntered over to the leather couch and flopped down. She drew the small kit out of her pocket and peeled the plastic off with her fingers. Her eyes darted over to where Regina was busily chopping something up by the sink. Satisfied that she was engrossed in her task, Alex selected the colors she wanted and started to work on her project.

It was a comforting feeling to sit here in Regina’s presence Alex mused, as she stole occasional glances at the younger woman while she worked on the bracelet. She suspected that all the talking they did over the past few days had brought them closer and the possibilities of where there relationship was going intrigued her.


Regina’s voice caught her attention and she looked up. "What?"

"What made you think of that kid getting attacked by the clinic?" Regina glanced over and then went back to chopping up the vegetables for the stew she was making.

Alex stopped the motion of her fingers and sighed. "I don’t know. I guess you got me thinking about your patient." Alex regarded the green eyes thoughtfully for a moment and gnawed on her lower lip before she spoke again. "Do you still want to drive back? We could leave tonight after we eat."

Regina stopped what she was doing and looked over at Alex. "No, but thanks for asking. I appreciate it. I’ll call security later on and see if they’ve heard anything. Maybe they’ll have some good news."

Alex watched as Regina dumped several handfuls of vegetables into the pot and then opened a package of meat and started chopping it up into neat cubes. The sound of sizzling reached her ears and the sharp tang of garlic and onions tickled her nose. She glanced down at her handiwork and tied a final knot to secure the bracelet together.

After stretching, Alex tucked the bracelet into her pocket and stood up. Her nose twitched as she inhaled the smells of vegetables sautéing in the pot.

"Wow, that smells great," she offered, as she walked up behind Regina and peered into the bubbling mixture.

"Good. I hope you like it." Regina glanced back over her shoulder. She added the cubes of meat and stirred them around in the mixture.

"I’m sure I will." Alex leaned closer and dropped a soft kiss on the side of Regina’s neck. She smiled when she saw the smaller woman shiver and nibbled her earlobe.

"Hey, no fair. You’re distracting the cook."

Alex chuckled, and stepped back a little and continued watching the younger woman with interest. "How about I pour us some wine?"

"Mm, good idea." Regina wiped her hands off on a dishtowel and turned to face her taller companion. There was something she’d been meaning to do for quite a while now and an opportunity never seemed to present itself at just the right moment, but tonight things were falling into place nicely.

She accepted the glass of wine Alex handed her and sipped it, her eyes twinkling gently as she looked back at her lover over the edge of the glass. "Come with me." Regina reached out and took Alex’s hand, leading her over to the sliding glass door.

Alex reached out, and unlocked the small latch and slid the door open. "It’s a little cold out, don’t you think?"

Regina, not to be dissuaded, handed Alex her glass of wine and stripped the blanket off the bed.

Alex raised an eyebrow. "Are you planning on being out here for a while?"

"Well, the stew does need to cook and I thought it might be nice…" Regina draped the blanket over Alex’s shoulders and then set the glasses of wine out on the rail of the deck. "…If we stargazed for a bit." With a smile, she slipped herself underneath the warm folds of the blanket and wrapped her arms around her lover.

Alex stared at her for a moment before she closed her eyes, tilting her head, as a memory jogged bits and pieces of a simple request made through a haze of pain all those months ago.

Regina waited for Alex to refocus on her and tugged her out the door onto the small deck. "So, I was telling you about Orion’s Belt the last time we did this."

Alex grinned and wrapped her arms around Regina’s middle, pulling her close in front of her. "I remember." You were standing so close to me, my insides were all tied up in knots I was so nervous. I should have known then what was happening to me then.

"Did you know that in Greece, Orion was the son of Neptune?" Regina tilted her head and looked up at the shadowed face behind her.

"He was a hunter and Diana’s lover, right?"

A delighted smile broke out on Regina’s face. "Ah, you remember a bit of Greek mythology, too!"

"I used to read some books about it when I was a kid, yeah," Alex admitted quietly, enjoying the warmth of her lover’s body pressed up against her in contrast to the chill of the night air around them.

Regina reclaimed one of the glasses and took a sip of wine, then offered it up to Alex who willingly obliged her. The taller woman leaned over, cupped Regina’s cheek with her hand, and pressed their lips together, sharing the berry tasting liquid with her.

Alex lifted the glass from Regina’s hand and set it back down on the railing before she reclaimed her lover’s lips in a long, leisurely exploration. Her hands wandered over the soft curves and firm muscles, building a fire in her belly that extended outwards until her breathing became ragged.

She felt the smaller woman tremble against her and eased off, resting her forehead against Regina’s. "We’d better stop that or I know we won’t be eating any dinner. Do you need to check on it?"

"Nah, it’s on a low flame, so we have plenty of time to snuggle," Regina replied, running her hands over Alex’s back. That was another thing that was different between them now she realized. After her injury, Alex had quietly rebuffed Regina’s tentative advances at intimacy, but now that they gotten past that rough spot, it was like they both craved the security of each other’s touch.

Alex hugged Regina against her, nestling the blonde head beneath her chin. There was a contented, peacefulness about standing under the stars like this, something she’d never felt before, but yet somehow familiar and comforting at the same time.

"Give me your hand."

Regina frowned but lifted her right hand and Alex grasped it gently in her larger one. She watched with shy interest as Alex drew something from her pocket and wrapped the finger wide band around her wrist.

"You made this." Regina’s voice faltered, as gentle fingers brushed against her wrist, tying the ends into a secure knot.

"Yeah, I wanted to give you…something today. I mean…" Alex exhaled, but didn’t let go of Regina’s wrist. She stepped around, drawing Regina into the light that filtered through the sliding glass door from inside the apartment. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest she was surprised that Regina couldn’t hear it.

Regina wasn’t sure but she thought she could see a faint blush covering Alex’s features as she stumbled over her words. Why are you so nervous?

"See, I used to read these books about the Middle Ages, too. My brother and I would pretend we were knights, and plan elaborate battles and rescue people from the evil warlords."

"Who were you rescuing?"

Alex sucked in her lower lip and closed her eyes. "My mother." It was an admission she never made to anyone before and had only recently allowed herself to open those doors to the painful childhood memories she kept tightly locked away. "We weren’t very good at it and most times we just pissed my old man off with all our running around and hollering."

Regina rested her head against Alex’s chest. "I wish I knew you when I was younger. We would have made great friends."

Alex snorted and wiped her eyes, grateful that Regina wasn’t looking up at her. "Regina, I was bad news back then and everyone knew it. Your mother would have taken one look at me when I was a kid and chased me off with whatever she could get her hands on."

"I would have found a way to be with you."

This brought a smile to Alex’s face, knowing that when Regina decided she wanted something she usually got it.

"The um…knights," Alex continued. "They used to paint designs on their shields so they could identify their allies in a battle."

"Like a coat of arms," Regina offered, staring up into Alex’s face with a look of wonder in her eyes.

"Yeah, something like that." Alex’s finger traced the braided lengths of the bracelet. "The colors all meant something. The red symbolizes someone who is brave and strong, the blue is for loyalty," she hesitated, swallowing nervously before she continued. "The gold symbolizes generosity and the green is for hope, joy and love."

Regina started to say something and Alex shook her head, covering her lips with two fingers.

"Let me finish or I won’t get this out. Remember when you asked me why I got into Emergency Medicine last year?"

"Yeah, you said that way you didn’t have to get involved with the patients. Just sew them up and ship them out." Regina recalled the stilted conversation clearly.

"I didn’t give you the whole answer." Alex inhaled, fighting back the hoarseness in her voice. "It was a way for me to try rescue people in trouble. Growing up, I could never do that for my brother or my mother. The funny thing is, after all this time I never realized that I needed somebody to save me too."

"That’s not true."

Alex shook her head. "You were brave enough to stand beside me regardless of the consequences last year. You stood up for me when I couldn’t do it for myself and despite everything you found out about me, you still loved me. Nobody has ever done that before." She hooked a finger under the bracelet and looked into Regina’s eyes. "I just want you to know how much I love you."

"I love you, too." Came the quiet, sure reply. Regina laid her head against Alex’s chest and closed her eyes. Warm tears trickled down her cheeks as she soaked in the meaning of everything that Alex told her.

They stood beneath the starlit sky and watched as it filled with the evening stars. Alex hugged Regina one last time before she reclaimed their wine glasses and guided her back inside.

She refilled their glasses and set them on the table, all the while thinking about how much each of them had changed since they first met. Alex straightened and regarded Regina as the smaller woman walked over to her.

Regina clasped Alex’s hand in hers and kissed it. Her eyes twinkled as she pressed her body against Alex, enjoying the tingle of anticipation that ran up her spine.

Alex chuckled softly and wrapped her arms around Regina. "I guess you’d like to eat later." She gasped softly on the last word, as her belt buckle was unclasped.

"Much later," Regina purred, as she tugged the belt from Alex’s waist and walked slowly backwards towards their bed.

Chapter 22

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