For disclaimers, see Part 1
Sandy pushed the privacy curtain aside and stepped into the exam booth. "Alex, when youíre done here, thereís a fifty year old in room two with bronchitis."
Alex finished stitching the laceration on her patientís forehead and then looked over at the nurse. "Have Jon take it. Iím already late."
Sandy held the chart out to Alex. "Heís tied up with a trauma in room three."
"Then page a resident," Alex replied curtly.
Sandy raised her eyebrows. "You got a hot date or something?"
Alex gave her a dour look and flicked her gloves into the trashcan beside the stretcher. "Or something."
"Ooh, youíre touchy today. Whatís up?"
Alex ignored the comment and walked past the blonde haired nurse. "Did you work a double shift last night or did you actually go home and talk with Tina?"
Sandy kicked the toe of her sneaker against the floor and wrinkled her nose. "I went home, late. She was already asleep."
Alex stopped at the sink and stepped on the floor pedal. Tepid water ran over her hands and she washed them under the stream. "Sandy, you two have been together too long to long not to be able to work this out."
The nurse leaned against the wall and folded her arms over her chest. "Alex, we want different things."
"People want different things all the time. Do you still love her?" Alex glanced at Sandy as she dried her hands.
Sandy leaned closer, as a patient was wheeled past them. "What kind of a question is that? Of course I love her."
"Then isnít it worth staying together?" Alex turned and walked toward the locker room.
"Alex, itís not that simple." Sandy stormed after her. "Who are you to ask me anyway?"
"A friend." Alex opened the door and walked inside.
Sandy followed and waited for the door to shut behind her. "Like you youíve got some great track record with relationships."
"Youíre right. I donít." Alex removed the lock from her locker door and then leaned against it. "I know Iíve got a long way to go to learn about loving another person. Regina and I donít always see eye to eye but you know what? She challenges the hell out of me. Sheís forced me to change and grow and not to run away because thatís the easy thing to do."
Sandy folded her arms and glared at the doctor. "Since when did you turn into a damn philosopher?"
"Because a month ago I had a choice to make about my relationship with Regina." Alex stripped off her clothes and changed into her pants and sweater while she talked. "It was a pretty simple decision when I thought about it. Work it out and stay together or give up the best thing I have in my life and for what?"
Sandy threw up her hands. "Youíre right she is rubbing off on you."
Alex smiled as Sandy turned and opened the door. "Go home and talk to Tina. Donít throw it all away."
Ten minutes later Alex slipped unseen out of the Emergency Department and walked to her Jeep. While she pulled out of the parking lot, she started to review the information she needed to get for Matthewís investigation. Alex guided her Jeep through the early rush hour traffic. She uttered a curse and hit the brake pedal as an oversized sport utility vehicle abruptly changed lanes nearly clipping her front bumper.
She rolled to a stop at a red light, watching the offending vehicle speed off down the road. So tonight I get a chance to trade information for my freedom. Ironic, what I found out may put someone else away. I wonder how Regina feels about that.
Her expression changed to one of pensiveness as she saw the jewelry store she had been to with Regina. She recalled the promise she made to Regina not to long ago while they were up on the Cape and a wistful smile crept over her face.
As the light turned green, Alex flicked her blinker on and pulled into an open parking space across from the storefront. She folded her arms over the steering wheel and rested her head on them. I must be crazy. I donít even know whatís going to happen tonight.
She snorted derisively and shook her head, knowing full well that she should have been going to the clinic to meet Matthew Weber. Alex lifted her head and blinked to refocus her vision. She watched as a group of teenagers jostled and shoved each other as they sauntered across the intersection.
She rubbed her face with her hands and finally got up the nerve to step out of the Jeep.
Alex waited beside the Jeep as a small, compact Toyota sped by her and raced through the yellow light in the intersection barely missing one of the kids. Must be a full moon. Several angry shouts erupted and the closest teen graced the driver with a universal hand signal.
Alex watched the group congregate on the corner, still angry at the recklessness of the driver. First there are diapers, then, they go through the terrible-twoís and then the dreaded teenage years. She shuddered at the thought.
She cast a cursory glance in either direction of the street, stuffed her hands into her coat pockets, and trotted across the street. Alex shook her head in mild disbelief at herself when she finally stepped into the store. My god, am I really going to do this? Alex almost spun on her heel and left in that instant.
"Hello there." A warm cheerful voice called out from behind the counter.
Alex recognized the older gentleman who sold Regina the necklace for her motherís birthday the last time they were in the store. "Hi." She stepped closer and glanced down at the glass cases.
"Can I help you find something?" the jeweler asked, as he moved closer to her.
Unused to feeling so unbalanced, Alex stammered as she fumbled with her words. "The last time I was here, there was a ring, downstairs."
The older manís blue eyes twinkled as he watched the dark-haired woman. "I remember you and your fair haired friend. It was a Celtic design the young lady fancied."
Alex stared at him as her heart bounded in her chest. "Iíd like to see the ring if you still have it."
A gentle smile touched the manís lips and he moved from behind the counter. "Certainly. Come, Iíll show you."
Alex followed him down the carpeted steps as her mind raced in half a dozen different directions. I must be half crazy out of mind. She wants to have a baby.
The jeweler looked over his shoulder as he swept back the heavy velvet curtain and stepped into his small back workroom filled with the tools of his trade. "Every now and then thereís a piece that comes into the store that is just waiting for the right person to come along."
Slowly, he knelt in front of a safe, and spun the dial several times and then opened the door. "Now, it may look a bit different from the last time you saw it."
Alex frowned as she watched him pull out a black box and slowly straighten up. "I donít understand."
He set the box on the table and turned to her. "The vines that form the bands of the ring signify the never ending circle of our lives and the ones we love." He opened the box and slipped the gold ring from its velvet nest.
Alexís eyes widened as she studied it. Perfectly imbedded into the smooth intertwining bands were three, sparkling diamond chips nestled into the spaces where the vines curved around each other. "Itís stunning."
The jeweler beamed as he turned the band around for her to see.
Alex brushed her palms on her coat. "Can I?" she asked, reaching for the ring.
He nodded and placed it in the palm of her hand. "Whatís your name? If you donít mind me asking."
Alex glanced at him from beneath her bangs. "Alex Margulies."
"Iím Vincent Falco."
"How long have you owned the store?"
"Itís been in the family for fifty years. Iíve worked here for the last thirty."
"So why did you hold onto this ring?"
Joseph chuckled at the quizzical look on Alexís face. "After working in the business this long, I can see when two people are in love with each other."
A shiver ran up Alexís spine and she stared down at the ring. She swallowed nervously, feeling suddenly like all the air had gone out of the room. "It does make everything else seem pretty insignificant."
"Itís the reason why weíre here on the planet."
Alex laughed and looked back down at the ring. "Can you clean it up so I can take it with me tonight?"
"I certainly can."
It was five oíclock by the time Alex arrived at the clinic. Alex opened the door and stepped out of the Jeep. She pulled her dry cleaned suit out of the back and walked up the concrete steps. Alex stopped on the landing and looked up at the sky. Iím not very good at this God. Iím not even sure I know how to do this or if youíre listening up there. If you are, please let this work out tonight.
She entered the front entrance and smiled when a door opened to her right and Regina stepped into the hallway. When their eyes met, a feeling she couldnít even describe settled deep inside her and she stood where she was until Regina walked up to her.
"Hey. Where have you been?" Regina clasped her hand over Alexís arm and pulled her closer as they walked over to the reception desk.
Alexís eyes darted nervously over Reginaís face as she leaned against the counter top.
"I had a couple of errands to run."
Regina frowned and rubbed her arm. "You okay?"
"Yeah, Iím fine." She moistened her lips and forced a smile, despite the nervous flutter she felt in her guts. "Is Matthew here yet?"
The younger woman nodded and pointed toward the back of the clinic. "Heís in the back room with all his high-tech gear. You better go back because Iím going to have to cause bodily harm to him the next time he comes out and asks me if youíre here yet."
An evil smile appeared on Alexís lips and she leaned closer to the Regina. "Now that Iíd like to see."
"I bet you would."
"There you are. You were supposed to be here a half hour ago," Matthew called out and flung his arms up in agitation as he walked towards the pair.
Alex met Reginaís gaze and rolled her eyes. "Come back when youíre done out here."
"You bet I will." Regina reached out with her hand and touched a wisp of Alexís hair before she walked away.
Halfway down the hallway, Alex turned back around and held Reginaís gaze for a moment. She pointed to herself, then placed a hand over her heart and pointed at Regina.
Regina hugged her arms around herself as a warm tingle ran up her spine and mouthed the words ĎI love youí back to Alex.
Behind her, a door opened and her patient, six-year old girl with straight brown hair and gentle brown eyes walked out, clutching a teddy bear in one hand. An older, grizzled looking man shuffled along next to her, holding the girlís hand.
"Thank you," he rasped and nodded at Regina as he walked past her.
Regina grabbed a prescription pad from the counter. "Here let me get the door for you." She jogged across the room and pushed the door open. "Donít forget this." Regina tore a page from the stack of bound paper.
The man reached out and took the piece of paper. "Thank you, doctor. Say goodbye, Becky."
Regina waved as the girl forced a smile and then ducked her head against her grandfatherís leg. "Remember to have her take the pills with food." She stood on the landing and watched as the pair walked down the steps.
The man hunched forward against the breeze that stirred up around them. He directed the young girl ahead of him as he walked along the sidewalk. Regina watched them disappear into the dark before she stepped back into the clinic and shut the door.
After filing her charts away and locking the cabinet she walked to the back of the clinic. She knocked lightly on the closed door, waiting until she heard the sharp acknowledgement from inside to open the door.
Regina stepped into the stark white room and stood off to the side, watching quietly as Matthew went about his work.
Inside, Alex sat on a treatment table half dressed in her black linen pants and bra. Next to her on the table was an open briefcase with several small devices sitting inside, which looked similar to the pagers they used for work. The doctorís face was set in a stern and somber expression as she allowed Matthew to tape the wire to her skin.
"Um, IÖ" He motioned with his hand where he needed to tape the final length and Alex rolled her eyes.
"Here," she grumbled and grabbed the wire from him. She slid it up underneath her bra and affixed it between her cleavage with a piece of tape. "Good enough?" She glared at him from beneath furrowed brows.
"Yeah." Matthew averted his eyes and fiddled with two of the devices in his briefcase. "You, um, have quite a scar there."
"Gee, thanks." Alex leaned toward him. "Would you like one too?"
Matthew startled at the ominous tone her voice and his body stiffened. "Iím sorry. I just meantÖ" his voice trailed off as he met Alexís stony gaze. He decided it was better not to pursue his present course and instead went back to studying the receivers in the briefcase.
He selected one and inserted the lead hanging at Alexís side. "You donít need to do anything special when you talk. This little microphone can magnify your voice to ten times its normal volume so Iíll be able to hear you from the car." He cleared his throat and stuffed his hands into his pocket. "You know what information I need you to get."
Alex picked up the small, black instrument, looked at it for a second, and then clipped it to her belt. "Did you talk to the District Attorney?" She boosted herself off the table with her arms, flexing well-toned muscles that despite the two and a half months of little exercise still maintained some of their sleek definition.
"I spoke to him yesterday and theyíre willing to make a deal based on the information you get for the investigation."
"Whatís the deal?"
"They would agree not to bring any charges against you."
Regina tilted her head and watched as Alex slipped her high-collared shirt on and started to button it. She pushed off the wall and approached her. "Can we have a few minutes together?"
Matthew glanced at his watch and started to protest.
"Alone," Alex growled as she pinned Matthew with her eyes.
"Uh, sure. Iíll meet you outside." He grabbed his briefcase and closed it, then, ducked out of the room and shut the door behind him.
"You didnít tell me you were wearing a tux to this thing." Regina ran her fingers over the black three-quarter-length coat and smiled up at Alex.
"Well, it is a formal affair." Alex finished working on her cuff links and glanced at Regina. "You didnít honestly think Iíd be wearing an evening gown."
The younger doctor wrinkled her nose and pretended to think about that. "Uh, no, but then again youíd look incredible no matter what you had on."
Alex raised both her eyebrows and pointed at the tiny microphone. "Iím quite sure the heís already listening."
Regina rolled her eyes and stepped closer. "I donít give a crap. I hate that he manipulated you into doing this." She tugged on the tails of Alexís shirt and kissed her lightly on the lips.
Alex sighed and rested her chin on the top of Reginaís head. "I got myself into this, Regina." She stared at a crack in the floor, thinking about how one moment in a personís life could change it all forever. "Itís justÖI have a chance to change something that can ruin the rest of my life and everything I care about." Alex lifted her eyes and looked at Regina. "I donít want my past ruining what we could have together."
Regina tilted her head up and smiled sadly. "Come here. I want to give you a hug, but I donít want to get your shirt all wrinkled. Youíll get to this stupid cocktail party and everyone will be wondering what you were doing and with who."
Alex snorted and stifled a laugh. "Or I could just bring you and thereíd be no question."
"Youíre bad." Regina undid several buttons and slipped her arms inside. "Mm, thatís better." She nestled her head against Alexís shoulder and hugged her tightly.
Alex closed her eyes and slowly wrapped her arms around Regina. "You okay?"
"Iíll be better when youíre back home safe, with me tonight." Regina lifted her head when she heard a muffled cough from the other side of the door. Her lip curled and she pinched the top of the microphone with her fingers. "Do you think heíll hear this?" She flicked her middle finger hard against the tip.
"Ow! Shit, dammit! What did you do that for?" Matthewís aggrieved voice filtered through the closed door.
Alex tilted her head back and her body shook as she laughed. "Excuse me, one second." She slipped from Reginaís grasp and opened the door.
Matthew was leaning against the wall, still rubbing one ear as she descended upon him. He shrank away from her as she invaded his space and towered over him. "Listen you little shit. You pull another stunt like that and Iíll shove this receiver so far up your ass youíll be able to pull it out your throat. Turn it off and get lost."
He fumbled with the device for a few seconds. "Okay, itís off," he whined and then slunk past her along the wall towards the front door.
"Stupid piece ofÖ" Reginaís hand clamped over Alexís mouth as the taller woman turned around.
"I think you just scared the crap out of him."
Alex stared at Regina and then nibbled at the palm of her hand.
"Brat." Regina poked her in the stomach and then backed up as the taller womanís eyes glinted with a predatory gleam.
Regina yelped and half-heartedly skipped back a couple of steps as Alex playfully advanced on her. The next step brought her back up against a wall and she found herself pinned against it with Alexís outstretched arms on either side of her head.
She stared into eyes that seemed more gray than blue in the fluorescent light. Regina watched the corners of Alexís lips twitch into a smile and then felt the soft touch of strong fingers running through her hair.
"What are you going to do while Iím gone?"
"Mm." Regina pressed into the caress that enveloped her senses. "I um," she cleared her throat and continued. "Iíve got some paperwork to finish up here." She heard Alex exhale.
"Donít stay here too long by yourself. Okay?"
"I wonít." Regina wrapped her arms around Alexís waist and pulled her close. "Please be careful tonight."
"I will be." Alex ducked her head and pressed her lips against Reginaís in a slow, gentle kiss. When she pulled away she kept her eyes closed while she savored the gentle strength of Reginaís arms and the warmth of their bodies where they touched. "Regina," she whispered and opened her eyes.
"What?" Regina started to re-button Alexís shirt from the bottom up.
"I love you."
She stopped what she was doing, rose up on her toes, and kissed Alexís lips. "I love you, too."
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