Part Twelve

 

Chapter Thirteen

Alexís mind slowly roused her from her slumber. Opening her eyes, she blinked and groaned inwardly as she saw the sun streaming in the through the sliding glass window. She had every intention of getting up and going running this morning, figured it would be a good way to give her some time to think before she needed to face the realities of the new day. So much for that idea, Alex thought, as she reached out and groped for her watch lying on the night table. Staring at it, she realized that it had been a long time since she slept this late, let alone through the night.

Shifting her body, aware of the comforting warmth pressed up against her side, Alex glanced down at Regina, lying nestled against her shoulder. After last night, she wasnít sure how Regina would feel if she woke to find her body draped over Alex, one arm wrapped snuggly around her waist and her leg thrown intimately over Alexís thigh. Not that she minded, Alex thought wryly; nope not one bit at all, the rest of her body gladly chimed in.

Oh quit that. She knew that her own feelings were deeper than just physical attraction. She really did like Regina. That was the problem. Hell, Regina was involved with a man before she met you. No, sheíd been with straight women before. Huh uh, no way, been there, done that, moved on. Youíre not making that mistake again. It was safer for her to tell herself that it was nothing more than a fleeting interest and the feelings she had would pass with time. Alex quickly decided as Regina shifted in her sleep that neither of them needed to deal with the fact that they had quite comfortably curled up around each other during the night. As gently as she could, trying not to wake her, Alex disentangled herself from Reginaís snug embrace and sat on the edge of the bed.

She looked over her shoulder at the blonde and shook her head, wondering what in hell it was that the younger woman saw in her. Yes, she managed to get her life back on track, barely. She knew she was a good doctor, but that certainly didnít change who she was or what sheíd done in her past. In fact, based on the little that she knew, she and Regina were about as opposite as two people could get. With a shake of her head, Alex stood up and stretched. She walked into the bathroom to take a shower - a nice, long, cold shower.

A few minutes later, Regina woke up to the sound of running water coming from the bathroom. She stretched and yawned, rolling over onto her stomach. Yesterday seemed like it happened an eternity ago. She pulled a pillow under her shoulders, crossed her arms over it and buried her face in its softness, as she stifled another yawn. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, and the scent of Alexís perfume filled her senses. The memory of sitting on the couch as Alex reached out and touched her face, her eyes looking right through her, replayed in her mind and made her shiver involuntarily.

The intense feeling that flowed through her and settled in the pit of her belly as her body remembered Alexís gentle touch and soft kisses startled Regina. Ok, obviously youíre attracted to her.

It wasnít a foreign concept to Regina. She knew that she could love a woman. Sheíd been attracted to other women in the past, and endured the usual assortment of crushes on some of her female friends growing up, but she never acted on any of the feelings that she experienced. When she thought about a relationship with a woman in the context of how it would impact her family, friends, plans for her career, indeed every facet of her life, she found herself holding back; until now, that is. Despite everything that she was afraid of and everything that she knew about Alex, Regina still found herself irresistibly drawn to the doctor.

The blonde lifted her head up and let her gaze fall outside the window, as she remembered Alex lying there beside her in the bed. It was so easy to just curl up next to her and fall asleep once she got over her initial shyness. She hadnít even given it a second thought when she felt the older woman slip her arm over her shoulder and pull her closer.

Thoughts of Alex, her now familiar gestures, the strength that carried through in her every movement, and an image of her crystal blue eyes, lit up by that dazzling smile when she let it cross her lips filled Reginaís mind. She shook her head and flopped over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. Well, you certainly donít have a wealth of experience in this department Regina, she thought wryly, and your timing couldnít possibly be any worse.

"Youíre up." Regina lifted her head to see Alex dressed in jeans and a white shirt standing at the foot of the bed, watching her, as she towel dried her hair.

Alex shook her head and draped the towel over her shoulder. Her damp hair framed her angular face and her eyes sparkled in the morning sunlight that was streaming through the window.

"Uh, yeah." Regina realized she was staring and pulled her eyes away, wondering how long Alex had been standing there at the foot of the bed before she said something. She quickly pushed herself up and sat over the edge of the bed, staring down at the floor.

"Alex, Iím sorry about last night." Regina brought a hand up to her throat and rubbed the front of her neck. It was a nervous gesture that she did automatically, but she stopped as she felt an uncharacteristic tenderness on both sides of her neck, just under her jaw. Her heart fluttered in her chest and she sat very still as her world suddenly closed in on her.

"You donít need to explain anything to me, Regina." Alex walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed. "I understand." Youíre probably the first person Iíve ever met whoís worried about that. Doesnít say much for me. With all Iíve done, you have more to worry about from me than I do you. "Listen." Alex stared down at her hands. "If you want to talk later Regina, let me know." She looked over at Regina and smiled faintly. "Hey, are you ok?" She looked closely at Reginaís face. "Youíre as pale as a ghost."

Regina nodded her head absently, dropping her hand down into her lap. "Yeah, yeah Iím fine," she said, glancing quickly up at Alex.

"Ok, well," Alex stood up and turned around, "I have to go over to Danaís store."

Regina shifted her attention outward and looked up at Alex. "Why?"

"Regina, I told you what I have to do." Alex looked down at her. "Iím probably going to be gone most of the day." She dug into her pocket and held out her hand to Regina. "Iíll leave the keys to the truck, if you want to go down to the beach or something today."

Regina stood up from the bed. "Alex, let me come with you."

"No." Alex shook her head and stepped back. "Youíre not coming with me Regina, so donít even try and argue with me about it."

"But-" Regina tried again.

Alex cut her off. "No. You promise me you wonít go there today. I donít want Dana to be able to hurt you Regina."

"What about you, Alex?" Regina asked, suddenly wondering if Alex just didnít want her around because of what happened between them last night.

"Iíll be fine," the taller woman assured her, before she left the apartment.

******

Regina sat in the silence of the apartment and stared at the wall. After Alex left, she took a shower and forced herself to eat something so she could take the AZT and 3TC that she was taking in the hopes of reducing the chances that her body would develop the HIV antibodies. She tried so hard not to be angry with Marcus, realizing that it was an accident, but right now she wanted to scream at him and if he had been standing in front of her she would have beaten him senseless with her fists.

She walked out of the bathroom and grabbed Alexís keys off the table. Running down the stairs, Regina hopped into the truck and squealed the tires as she pulled out of the driveway. In a daze, she followed the signs to Race Point Beach.

There were a fair number of people at the beach already, so Regina walked for a long time until she found a deserted place far away from the sounds of people playing touch football and generally having a good time. Regina slumped down on the sand and leaned back against a large piece of driftwood and stared out at the waves, watching them swell and curl, breaking on the beach in a wash of foam. So this is how it starts. If she ever felt lower in her life she couldnít remember.

"Son of a bitch. I canít believe this is happening," her voice cracked and the tears started to fall. She covered her mouth with her hand and rocked back and forth. The raw emotion passed after a time and she wrapped her arms tightly around her body. Maybe Iím just getting a bad cold. It was possible, right? Yeah right, Regina. Seven years of college, three years of residencies and you havenít missed one goddamn day because youíve been sick.

All right, come on, be rational. Youíre a doctor. So what! Youíre twenty-nine years old, her mind screamed back. This canít be happening, oh god, please donít let this happen!

Regina pulled her legs up to her chest and closed her eyes. Twenty-nine and it felt like her world was spinning wildly out of control. Her life was completely out of balance and there wasnít one facet of it that she felt she was in control of right now.

Her family? If they were still talking to her it would be a miracle. Sheíd left in the middle of the night after an ugly fight with her mother, leaving a note, telling them that she couldnít stay. Who knew what her mother told to her father. She hadnít meant to say anything to her mother about her feelings. There was no reason to, except that she was tired of living up to her motherís expectationís of who she thought her daughter should be.

Professionally, she was standing on a tight rope until Monday. It was anybodyís guess what the board would decide. She hoped Jeffrey was right about the hospital not wanting to make them into scapegoats.

She stared out at the water as another sudden realization came to her making her heart skip a beat. Derrick. He had been driving up to her parentís house and that meant he knew she had left there. Would he try and find her here? Could he find her?

Regina looked up, realizing for the first time that the sun was beginning its descent into the western sky. Sheíd been at the beach for hours and run the gamut of emotions, which left her exhausted as she walked back to Alexís Jeep. She slid into the driverís seat, settled back into the leather and closed her eyes, wondering if Alex was back at the apartment yet. She said if she wanted to talk to let her know. Regina shook her head. She did, but she wasnít even sure she knew what she would say to Alex, knowing what she did.

******

Alex walked along the street heading toward the West End of town. She needed to make one stop before she went to the store. Even though it surprised her that Regina didnít put up more of a fight, she was glad that she hadnít. The truth of the matter was she couldnít bring herself to do the things she would have to do if Regina was with her. She didnít want her to have to see that side of her. It was bad enough that Dana slipped something into her drink the other night. No, she couldnít let Regina get any closer than she was already. Maybe it was better that nothing happened, leaving no tangled emotions to deal with later. Best to just get the kid home.

Alex turned down a narrow side street and stopped in front of the gray two-story cape that sat at the end of the cul-de-sac. She walked up the worn concrete steps to the front door. The doorbell was broken and exposed wires poked through the faded shingles. Alex knocked loudly on the door with her knuckles and waited. When there was no answer, she banged on it again with her fist. She stepped back off the front porch, and looked up at the second story window; frowning, she climbed the steps again and turned the doorknob. It was unlocked so she pushed the door open.

The brunette stepped inside, shutting the door quietly behind her. She looked warily around the first floor of the house. All the shades were pulled down and the downstairs was hidden in a blur of gray shadows. She wrinkled her nose as stale beer and the heavy scent of marijuana reached her nose as she walked through the living room. stepping over a pile of dirty laundry.

Damn it Richard, why did you have to tie one on last night? Well, I hope youíre not too hung over because Iím coming up there anyway. Alex checked out the rest of the rooms on the first floor. They were all empty. You must be getting old Richard. In earlier years, it wouldnít have been just dirty laundry lying scattered on your floor.

Quietly, Alex walked up the darkened stairwell to the second floor. There were two bedrooms at the top, one to the left of the stairs and the other to the right. Both the bedroom doors were closed. She opened the door to the one on the left and looked in. Empty. Come on Richard. Be here.

She turned the knob to the door of the other room and found Richard sprawled naked on the bed. Alex shook her head and walked over to him. She clamped a hand on his shoulder and shook him roughly.

"Wake up, Richard."

He grunted and rolled away from her. "Come on, Richard. I donít have time for you to nurse your damn hangover." Alex nudged him roughly in the middle of his back.

The sleeping man moaned and rolled onto his back, his hand reaching up for her. She slapped his groping hand away. "Open your eyes you idiot. Iím not your damn boyfriend."

"Jesus." He blinked his eyes open and realized he wasnít alone. "Donít you knock, Alex?" Richard scrambled up in the bed and pulled the covers up over his waist.

Alex folded her arms over her chest. "I did. You were passed out, so I let myself in." She watched as he fumbled around for something else to throw on his naked body. "Do you need a moment to uh, get yourself together, Richard?" She couldnít keep herself from smirking at his obvious discomfort.

"Youíre such a bitch, Alex," he whined.

"Really, and youíre just figuring that out now? Iím disappointed, I thought you were quicker than that, Richard." She pulled out a piece of paper from her pocket and shoved it in his face. She waited as he read the words scribbled on it. "Do you have it?"

He looked up at her and tilted his head. "I didnít think you were into that kind of stuff, Alex."

She ignored his remark and repeated her question. "Do you have it?"

"Yeah, yeah. Give me a minute to put something on. Iíll meet you downstairs." He pulled the comforter off the bed and wrapped it around himself as he stood up and walked over to his closet.

Alex rolled her eyes, walked downstairs and waited in the kitchen, staring out the window into the tiny yard; as Richard entered the room, she turned her head, pushed off the wall and walked over to him. She reached her hand out to take the glass ampoule and the syringe he was holding.

"How much?"

"A hundred dollars."

Alex pulled her wallet out and handed the money to him.

"So, what are you doing with this Alex?" He asked, as he tucked the money she handed him into his pocket.

"None of your business, Richard."

His eyes gleamed and he leaned closer. "Whatís wrong, the little blonde one not submitting to your charms, Alex?"

Alex carefully set the vial down on the table and slowly turned around. Her eyes were dark with anger when she faced him and instinctively he stepped back. "You pathetic, piece of shit." She grabbed him around his throat and shoved him up against the wall. "Donít you ever talk about her that way."

Richardís eyes bulged and he clutched at Alexís fingers trying to pry them away from his throat. "I was only joking," he croaked, as she let him go. He slumped against the wall, gasping for air and rubbing his throat.

"You would joke about it, Richard. Sex is just a game to you, it always has been." Alex grabbed his shirt and pulled him to her. "Regina knows more about caring for someone than youíd figure out in three lifetimes."

He stared at the dark-haired woman for a minute and then smiled. "Go to hell, Alex. Youíre no better than I am."

"I didnít say I was." She pushed him away from her, picked up the vial from the table and walked out of the house, slamming the door behind her. She could hear glass shattering against the door as he threw something after her.

******

It was late afternoon by the time Alex walked down the alley that bordered the store Lana had left to her. The brunette leaned against the side of the building, hidden in the shadows, waiting until several couples that had been walking behind passed her by. Nervously, she slipped the syringe and vial out of her pocket and twisted the cap off, holding it between her teeth as she tipped the vial and filled the syringe with the clear fluid. Alex recapped the syringe, slid it into her back pocket and walked up the alley.

The store was empty when Alex opened the door and slipped quietly inside. She immediately spotted Dana perched on a stool behind the counter, reading a paperback. A pack of Marlboros lay open on the glass counter top and several partially burned cigarette butts already littered the ashtray.

Alex let the door shut behind her, not bothering to keep it from banging as it did. "Slow day, Dana?" She asked, walking slowly over to the counter, keeping her eyes trained on Dana the whole way.

Dana looked up over the cover of her book and raised an eyebrow. "Well, well, look at what the cat dragged in." Dana tilted her head to the side and peered behind Alex. "So, whereís the little blonde?" She asked, setting the book down on the glass counter top, regarding Alex with feigned disinterest.

Alex shrugged her shoulders, stopping on the other side of the counter directly in front of Dana. "Not here." She leaned an elbow on the glass. Alex picked up the pack of Marlboros and shook one of the cigarettes out into her hand. "Youíre smoking again."

"Yeah. So what?"

"You shouldnít be, not after Lana."

"Give it a rest Alex, you are not my keeper." Dana snatched the pack of cigarettes back from her.

Holding the cigarette between her lips, Alex lit the end, and took a drag, slowly exhaling the smoke into Danaís face. "You didnít need to slip that pill in Reginaís drink the other night. That was a pretty stupid thing to do."

"Like I give a crap, Alex? Quit the lecture, already." Dana waved her hand in irritation. "Why are you here?"

Alex leaned forward, resting her elbows on the counter and tapped the ashes from her cigarette into the ashtray. "I was thinking that maybe we could discuss the store." She ran a finger up the bare skin of Danaís arm. She lifted her head and looked into Danaís eyes. "See if we could come to some sort of anÖequitable solution."

Dana eyed her suspiciously. She pulled her arm away from Alexís touch and slid off the stool. "Donít bullshit me, Alex. The only person you were ever good about looking after was yourself." She looked Alex over and crossed her arms in front of her.

Alex pushed off the counter and walked over to the shelf at the back of the room. "Well, you did extend the offer of a private party, Dana. So, Iím taking you up on it." She picked up a book of matches, ripping one off from the cover and dragging it across the black strip. It flared, and the smell of sulfur dissipated as the small flame sputtered to life. Alex turned, casually leaning back against the wall and looked at Dana with a smile on her face. She twirled the lit match back and forth between her fingers. "Or did you change your mind?"

She waited as Dana walked out from behind the counter. "Business is slow. Why donít you lock up for the day?" Alex turned back to the shelf and lit the second candle from the left. She smiled to herself as she heard the latch click in the lock and the lights dimmed at the front of the store. Now weíll see how you like it when the tables are turned, Dana.

She was aware of Dana walking up behind her, as she pursed her lips and blew the match out. Alex turned around and looked at her for a moment. Dana was a good-looking woman, but the years of abusing her body were beginning to show. Short, spiky blonde hair framed her small face and green eyes sparkled back at her, as the candlelight flickered from behind Alexís shoulder. Alex took Danaís hand and led her up the stairs to the small apartment above the store.

Dana slipped the key into the lock and opened the door; Alex let her walk past her and followed her inside to stand in the middle of the small kitchen. The brunette slipped her jacket off and hung it on the back of one of the chairs. She watched as Dana walked over to one of the kitchen cabinets and fished around in the back of it, pulling out a mirror and a razor blade. The woman then sat down at the small table and poured some of the white powder onto the mirror, efficiently cutting a few lines of cocaine.

"Come on, Alex, you know you want it. Go ahead, take it." Dana slid the mirror over to Alex and smiled up at her. "I wonít tell."

The doctor recognized the look as one of those sexy and seductive smiles that Dana used on her so many times before when she let herself be lured in. The line was clearly drawn and Alex could feel the old demons rising and tugging at her, inviting her to cross over again. For a few seconds, she held Danaís gaze, then slowly reached a trembling hand out and pushed the mirror away from her.

"No, thatís not why Iím here, Dana." Alex leaned away, closing her eyes, forcing herself to breathe slowly. You donít need this. Just get done what you need to do and get the hell out of here.

"Oh what Ė is the good doctor all reformed now? Maybe itís just all an act for Regina to buy until youíre finished with her," Dana sneered, enjoying the fact that Alex was still tempted by the lure of the drugs.

Alexís eyes snapped open at the mention of the blondeís name. "No. I donít need that stuff anymore, Dana. It almost killed me last time."

"Yeah, whatever, Alex." Dana pulled the mirror back to her, bent forward and quickly snorted the lines of crystalline powder.

Alex felt like someone hit her across the back of the head with a two by four as memories flooded her mind. She stared at Danaís face, seeing the white powdery residue around the outer edge of one of her nostrils.

"So why are you here, Alex?" Dana leaned forward on her elbows and stared at the woman sitting across from her. She sniffed and wiped her nose with her fingers; reveling in the intense high she was experiencing.

"I already told you." She stood up and walked around the table toward Dana. Reaching for her hand, she pulled Dana to her feet and slipped a hand behind her neck; she pulled her mouth to hers and kissed her roughly. Dana moaned and pressed into Alex, responding to her own bodyís rising desire.

The doctor led Dana down the short hallway and into the bedroom, where she wrapped her hands around the blondeís waist, turned her around, backed her up to the bed, and let the mattress buckle the smaller womanís knees. She lowered the woman onto her back and pinned her underneath her weight, as she continued to kiss her.

Alex pressed her body into Dana, spreading her legs and sliding her thigh up against her. She felt Dana clutch at her shoulders and rise up against her body, and in response Alex ducked her head and nipped at the skin on her throat.

Alex quickly tugged Danaís shirt free from her pants and without hesitation ran her hand up the soft skin of her stomach and over her breasts, eliciting a moan from the woman. Dana tried to reach down to pull Alex up to her for another kiss, but the brunette grabbed her hand and pushed her arm back down to the mattress roughly.

"No."

The blonde growled in frustration, bucking her hips as Alex reached down to undo the buttons on Danaís pants, bending over her and kissing the sensitive skin beneath her navel. Dana moaned and rolled her head back and forth, clamping her hands down on Alexís shoulders in response.

Alex ran her hand down Danaís thigh. Then calmly, she reached behind into the back pocket of her jeans, pulled out the hypodermic needle and twisted the cap off easily with her fingers. She distracted the woman easily by ducking her head, to kiss her neck again, pressing her thigh up in between her legs and rubbing against her.

Alex raised her body up and looked down at Dana Ė the womanís eyes were closed and her neck was arched, burying her head back into the pillow. It was so easy.

The doctor ran her palm up the inside of Danaís arm, stopping at her elbow and circling the sensitive skin with her fingertips; Dana grunted as the small needle penetrated expertly into the vein. Alex smoothly depressed the plunger, then watched with satisfaction as Danaís body relaxed into the quick effect of the drug.

Alex carefully pushed herself back off the bed, picked up the cap from the sheets and quietly replaced it on the used needle. She slipped the hypodermic into her jacket pocket and scowled at Danaís prone form. Thatís for Regina, you bitch.

The dark woman walked out of the bedroom and over to the sink in the kitchen where she leaned heavily against it, her legs trembling from the adrenaline running though her system. She turned the cold water on and cupped her hands under the stream to bring a drink to her mouth; instead of drinking it, however, she sucked the water into her mouth and spat it back out into the sink, attempting to spit out Danaís taste. She then washed her hands and her face, trying to rid her skin of the stench of Danaís perfume. But she curled her lip in disgust when she raised her arm to her nose and smelled the perfume clinging to her clothes, assaulting her senses and refusing to let go, just like Dana.

The brunette turned and walked back to the bedroom, to stand at the door looking in at the woman sleeping obliviously on the bed; Alex studied her briefly, watching her chest rise and fall in a normal rhythm. Now, all she needed to do was find the book that she knew Dana kept hidden in the apartment.

It took her most of the afternoon and early evening to find what she was looking for: the little black book filled with all of Danaís contacts. One thing about Dana was that she always had connections, and apparently, they had broadened significantly since Alex worked for her years ago. When she finally uncovered the book, she ran her finger down the entries and found a familiar name. Picking up the phone, she dialed the number and listened to it ring three times before the answering machine picked up.

The message was simple and Alex desperately hoped as she set the phone back in the cradle that Dana still set her drug deals up the same way. She walked back to the bedroom to check the passed out womanís pulse and breathing - she would be fine, if a little groggy when she woke up, and completely devoid of any memory of todayís events.

Alex bent over and untied Danaís shoes, pulling them off and dumping them on the floor. Well Dana, when Tommy comes to pick up his stuff tomorrow, the cops will be right behind him. They always knew you were dealing drugs out of this store, but could never prove it. One more phone call and itís all over. Hope you enjoy the accommodations in the state penitentiary.

Alex sat back down at the table. She looked down at the bag of cocaine lying there and picked it up, quietly fingering the plastic baggie that held it. That very subtle base craving nudged at her seductively.

"Come on, Alex you know you want it. Go ahead, take it." She could hear Danaís voice tempting her and she gripped the bag, throwing it angrily down on the table. Alex stared across the room, wondering if it really was ever going to be over. She lifted her body out of the chair and walked out of the apartment.

As she shut the door behind her, she felt an overwhelming urge to get back to Regina. The thought of just being with her made some of the pain Alex was feeling inside fade away. She ran down the steps and headed back to the apartment.

******

Regina returned to an empty apartment. Still feeling emotionally dragged out and tired, she collapsed on the bed and fallen into a fitful asleep. It was dark out and raining when she woke hours later, finding herself still alone in the apartment. Regina felt a vague, unsettling feeling that something was wrong as she sat up from the bed.

The young doctor stood up from the bed, walked into the bathroom, and turned the light on. She looked at her face in the mirror and leaned heavily on the sink. "Shit." She could feel fever attacking her body; her face was flushed and she felt like her movements were slow and clumsy. Oh Alex, please get back here. I need you. Iím scared.

Regina gave up trying to be patient, telling herself that Alex would be back anytime now. She paced anxiously back and forth across the wooden floor, then stopped at the sliding glass door to stare at her reflection. She listened to the rain as it pelted the ground outside and watched it run down the outside of the glass.

She sighed heavily. Alex did say she would be gone most of the day. Well the day had come and gone, and she still wasnít back.

"Damn it Alex, where are you?" Regina asked aloud. Decision made, she turned and grabbed the spare keys off the kitchen counter.

She locked the apartment door behind her and walked down the narrow hallway to the stairs before she heard the hinges of the screen door squeak open and the sound of a key turning in the lock. Thank god. Turning the corner, Regina stepped down onto the small landing.

"Alex, what took you so long?"

Regina stopped dead in her tracks, feeling her heart jump up into her throat. She froze, staring like a deer caught in the headlight of an oncoming car.

"Hello, Regina." Derrick leered up at her from the bottom of the steps. He was a terrifying sight. His hair was plastered to his forehead with rain and his blue sweatshirt from the police academy was soaked and clinging to his muscular shoulders. "Sorry to disappoint you, Regina, but Alex isnít with me," Derrick drawled, slowly climbing the stairs toward Regina, pinning her down with his eyes.

Reginaís body finally responded to her brainís frantic message to take flight and run. Pivoting on her feet, she fled back down the hallway toward the apartment door. Her hands shook and she cursed herself as she fumbled for the right key. She finally got it and put it in the lock just as she heard Derrick reach the top of the staircase and call her name out in a singsong voice. Pushing the door open, she stepped quickly through and into the kitchen.

She turned to close the door, hearing the pounding footfalls of Derrick sprinting down the hallway after her. Regina felt the rush of air behind her, just before he tackled her through the open door. The impact against the molding cracked her chin, splitting the skin open; blood welled and began to ooze out. Her legs turned to jelly and she crumpled to the floor, gasping for breath. Rough hands grabbed the keys away from her and tossed them across the room, far out of reach. Regina watched helplessly as they clattered across the wooden floor and slid underneath the couch. She grunted, struggling against Derrick as he pinned her, face down, on the hard floor.

"Did you think I couldnít find you, Regina? You used your credit card to buy the plane tickets to get here. Stupid, very stupid." Derrickís breath was hot on her face, as he straddled her body, pinning her arms painfully behind her back. He hauled her to her feet and spun her around, slamming her up against the wall. "You should be thankful I didnít tell your parents where I found you. Youíre mother would be devastated. Is that what you want?" He yanked her face to his.

"Derrick, let me go." Regina struggled against his grip. She winced as his hands clamped painfully down on her wrists in a vice-like grip. Biting back tears, she slammed her foot down onto his instep. He immediately grunted and loosened his grip, just enough for her to wrench herself away from him. She staggered backwards, putting the kitchen table between them.

Regina held onto a chair and pressed the palm of her other hand against her bloody and swollen chin. Dazed, she stared incredulously at the blood on her hand.

Derrick curled his lip menacingly as he advanced on her. "What did she do to you? Give you drugs or something to get you to come to her? What spell does she have you under, Regina?" Derrick asked, as he stepped forward, slowly closing the distance between them.

Reginaís eyes darted to the door. "Stay away from me, Derrick." Her voice trembled, her terror betraying her. She needed to get to the door, but the space between her and Derrick was too narrow for her to get by him.

He edged closer, watching her eyes and laughing as he realized what Regina was thinking. He lunged at her quickly and Regina ducked to avoid him, but got caught as his arm snaked out and wrapped tightly around her waist.

"Not so fast, Regina." Despite her struggles, he was dragging her back to the couch and she knew with frightening certainty what he intended to do to her.

He pushed her roughly onto the couch and pinned her down with his hands. "You never complained when we were together, Regina. Did your tastes change or do you just like it both ways now?" he asked, leering down at her.

"Go to hell, Derrick," Regina snarled back at him, struggling against his weight. A wave of anger washed over her as she saw him working his belt buckle loose. Regina braced her heels against the couch and slammed her knee up between his legs with all her strength. She felt her knee catch him high up on the inside of his thigh.

Derrick yelped and folded over, crumpling to the floor, moaning in pain with his hand clutching his crotch. Reginaís mind screamed at her to move. Pushing off the couch, she stumbled over his grasping hand toward the door.

Fear and adrenaline pumped through her veins, propelling her forward. She ran down the hallway, grabbing the wall and whipping around the corner. She almost lost her balance as she missed the first step, except that she clutched desperately at the railing, catching herself and wrenching her shoulder painfully in the process.

"Regina! Get back here." She heard Derrick shouting from inside the apartment.

Move! Regina found her feet and fled down the steps, slamming the screen door open against the side of the house. She barreled headlong into Alex, knocking her off her feet and into a puddle, onto the rain-soaked ground.

"Hey!" Alex rolled over and scrambled to her feet, catching Reginaís arm and spinning her around. "What the hell is going on?" Her voice trailed off as she saw the fear etched on her face and heard the angry voice from inside the apartment.

Alex let go of Reginaís arm and turned, cocking her head as she recognized the now familiar male voice. She was edgy and in a foul mood anyway. Now, she had an excuse to vent her frustrations.

Alex heard Derrick running down the stairs and slipped up beside the door, standing in the shadows. As he burst through the screen door, she stuck her foot out, sending him crashing headlong into the fence. Alex let out a deep laugh as she watched him roll over and climb unsteadily to his feet. He staggered as he turned around to face her.

"You know, youíve got to watch that last step, Derrick." Alex smiled wickedly at him. "It really is a bitch." She caught Regina standing on the outskirts of her peripheral vision, clutching the mirror of her Jeep, and breathing heavily. The light from inside the stairwell reflected off Reginaís face and Alex could see the blood staining her chin and the front of her shirt. Her eyes flicked back to Derrick and she clenched her fists as anger welled up and boiled over. "You bastard. What did you do to her?"

Derrick growled and lunged at her. Alex easily sidestepped him and hooked him under his arm, using his momentum to slam him into the side of the house. Derrick pushed himself up and swung blindly, catching Alex by surprise and cracking his fist into her jaw.

She shook her head to clear her vision and blocked his next punch with her forearm. Countering, she punched him hard in the side, doubling him over. Alex smiled as she heard the satisfying crunch of ribs breaking. He grunted and stumbled back, clutching his side. Alex stepped forward without hesitation, unleashing a powerful sidekick into his chest. Derrick stumbled backwards as she planted her foot, pivoting her hips and slamming her heel into his jaw, snapping his head backward.

"You can end this now, Derrick. Just walk away and leave Regina alone." She stood with her hands hanging loosely by her sides and bounced on the balls of her feet. Her nostrils flared and she inhaled the scent of rain and blood.

Derrick lifted his head and glared at her. "Go to hell, you bitch. I donít know what you did to her, but Iím taking her back home."

Lunging forward, he dove at Alex, tackling her around her ankles and driving her back against the side of the house.

The impact knocked her down, slamming her head to the ground. Derrick picked himself up and looked down at Alex, lying sprawled out on the ground. "Bitch." He kicked her hard in the stomach, before he turned around.

He walked around the Jeep. "Regina?" He said her name, listening for her as he walked on the gravel.

"Iím not going anywhere with you, Derrick. Not now, not ever." Regina walked out from behind the Jeep, having retrieved the baseball bat from inside it.

Derrick turned around and took a step back. "Regina, put the bat down." He smiled at her. "Come on Regina, what are you going to do? Hit me? You wouldnít do that," he laughed, lifting a hand up to reach out for the bat.

Regina edged back, gripping the bat tightly in her hands. Derrick just smiled and kept advancing on her. "Back off, Derrick. You tried to rape me, you bastard." Regina shifted her hands on the bat.

"Come on, Regina. You wouldnít hit me. Oomph!" Regina swung the bat down, clipping his ankles and neatly sweeping his feet out from underneath him.

"You bitch. Youíre going to pay for that." Derrick started to scramble back up to his feet, but Alex tackled him to the ground. They rolled over each other, with Derrick finally pinning Alex onto her back. She planted her feet and pushed her hips up, knocking him off balance. Using her arms, she shoved him to the ground and pounced on top of him.

"I donít think so, you bastard." Her fist sailed in, catching him across his face, knocking him senseless.

******

Regina sat on the bottom step, resting her head in one hand and holding a small icepack against her mouth that the police officer gave to her in the other hand. Her head was pounding from the collision with the kitchen cabinets and her lip felt like it would burst if she stuck a pin in it. The flashing lights from the police cruiser alternately bathed the house in red and blue, making her already pounding headache that much worse.

She watched as Alex talked to the officer who arrested Derrick. The woman wasnít much taller than Regina, but she easily hauled Derrick to his feet and read him his rights as she stuffed him roughly into the back seat.

"This isnít over, Regina," he shouted as he struggled against the handcuffs. The door slammed shut, silencing his angry voice.

Moments later an ambulance rolled up behind the police car. She shuddered and glanced up as a shadow moved in front of her and blocked out the flashing lights. "Let me take a look at that cut." The paramedic stooped down in front of her and examined the jagged cut.

Regina winced and pulled her head away as he pressed a wad of gauze against the broken skin to stop the bleeding.

"Here, let me do that." Alex reached down, grabbed the gauze from his hands and motioned him to move out of the way.

"BÖbut," he protested.

"Just go," Alex growled at him. He hesitated and the taller woman curled her lip. "What didnít you understand? Go, we donít need you."

Regina watched as the young man backed up and walked away. She looked up at her friend standing before her with a worried expression on her face. "Alex, whatís wrong?"

"Youíre already hurt. He didnít have to be that rough with you." The taller woman frowned as she tilted Reginaís head back. "I can use a couple of butterflies to close that up."

"Shit," Regina groaned.

Alex stepped back and held out her hand. "Come on doc, we need to take care of that."

Regina followed Alex up the stairs and into the apartment. She found herself being led over to the couch. "Sit down." Alex disappeared and returned with a wet washcloth and a tube of antiseptic.

"Oh no, you are not-" Regina backed warily away from her.

Alex raised an eyebrow. "What do you think Iím going to do? Scrub it? Come here." She held the warm cloth in her hand and laid it over the cut on Reginaís lip. "Just hold it there. Itíll loosen the blood so I can clean it."

Regina closed her eyes and tilted her head back on the couch. She felt Alex get up and then return several minutes later. The warm washcloth was lifted off her mouth.

"Cold," Alex warned her, as she touched an ice cube around the edges of the cut. Regina opened her eyes and watched as Alex rubbed the ice cube over her chin and caught the water with the washcloth.

She sat up off the back of the couch and pushed Alexís hand away, taking the bloodied washcloth from her. "Donít. Iíll do that," Regina said softly.

Alex frowned as Regina took the bloody ice cube from her. "IÖIím sorry, I didnít mean to make you feel uncomfortable." She went to stand up, cursing herself silently, until a hand on her forearm stopped her.

"You didnít Alex. Itís just, we donít know." She lifted the bloody washcloth in her hand.

Realization dawned; and Alex looked down at her bruised hands; turning them over, she looked at the bloody cuts on her knuckles. She looked back down at Regina. "Iíve got some gloves in my bag."

Regina shook her head and smiled faintly. "Alex, you donít have to."

"I know that." She walked away and rummaged through the small kit she carried with her and pulled out a couple of latex gloves. Pulling them over her hands, she sat down next to Regina and took the ice cube back. "Here," she said, and moved the ice over Reginaís lip and chin again. "I doubt anything would happen though, even if you were."

"You donít know that, Alex."

"Youíre right." Alex concentrated on moving the ice over Reginaís lip, avoiding the eyes she knew were watching her. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she struggled to maintain control over her emotions. If I was any later getting back here, God knows what Derrick would have done to you. "Iím sorry, Regina."

"For what?" Regina stared incredulously at the woman sitting beside her.

Alex stared over Reginaís shoulder a far away look in her eyes. "JustÖeverything. You didnít have to be here at all."

"No, donít say that, Alex." Regina shook her head. A hand against the side of her head stopped the movement.

"Did he hit you?"

"No. He tackled me into the cabinets. I didnít get my hands up in time." Regina cringed as she remembered the sound of the impact.

Alex shook her head, feeling anger course through her once more, wishing sheíd done more damage to the bastard when she had the chance. She touched Reginaís lip with her thumb. "Numb?"

"Yeah, I canít feel anything," Regina stopped talking as Alex applied the salve to her chin and then covered the cut with two sterile strips of tape to hold the cut closed. She watched as the dark woman peeled the gloves off her hands.

The young doctor was aware of Alex shifting her position so that one leg was curled underneath her on the couch. Regina sat very still, running her finger back and forth underneath her chin.

A hand reached up and gently pulled her fingers away from her face. Alex frowned and lifted her hand to Reginaís face. "Youíre hot." She shifted closer and looked at Reginaís glassy eyes.

Regina pulled her eyes away and tilted her head back, unable to look at Alex. She swallowed a lump in her throat and sank back into the couch.

"Regina, youíve got a fever. Whatís going on?" There was concern in Alexís voice.

Regina shook her head and folded her arms over her chest. "My lymph nodes are swollen in my neck." She choked on the words. "The fever started this afternoon."

Alex sat frozen for a moment as her thoughts raced haphazardly in her head. She could see the fear in her eyes and she took Reginaís hand, gently squeezing it.

"Listen to me." She slipped an arm around Regina and pulled her close to her as she saw the tears rolling down the womanís face. "This could be a reaction to the medication or it could be the flu, or mononucleosis. You need to get it checked. The sooner the better."

Regina nodded her head. "I know," she cried through the tears.

Alex looked at her watch. "We could get to Boston in about three hours. You can sleep while I drive."

Regina looked up at Alex. "Boston?"

"I know a guy, heís an infectious disease specialist."

"What about Dana?"

Alex closed her eyes and held onto Regina giving herself a chance to calm her racing thoughts. She hated leaving loose ends. She did what Lana asked her to do in the letter, setting Dana up to fall hard. It was a payback for ruining the store with her vile and reckless habit of selling drugs. The store was the one thing, outside of practicing medicine, that Lana loved to do and for Alex it was a chance to put behind her the anger and hate she felt for Dana for having given Lana the injection of morphine that ended her life.

Alex shook her head. "Whatís done is done. This is more important."

Part 13

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