Anthony knew, as the headlights of the Nissan illuminated the front of Dean's house, that things did not bode well with his friends. He slammed on the brakes, seeing through the driving rain, Dean's unmistakable bulk stirring feebly on the ground. And Ranelle's, deathly still on the porch. And finally, a third figure, standing menacingly above the blonde woman.
Anthony opened his door, unbuckled his seat belt and threw his mother the cell phone that Dean had left in the car. As he jumped down he threw over his shoulder, "Stay here, Ma. And call the cops!!"
All of this happened in a matter of seconds, and the intruder had not yet registered that the shit was about to hit the fan. The Italian took off running, oblivious to the pounding rain and slick mud, only knowing that his friends could be on the verge of dying. When he was within two steps of the deck the intruder had finally clued in and was moving back into the house. Anthony didn't even slow, just kept going and jumped right over Dean and onto the deck. He slid a bit, but it could not deter him. Anthony was a man on a mission, powered by adrenaline.
When he reached the door, Anthony executed a diving leap, reaching out his arms and bringing the attacker down. Hard.
They landed with a giant 'OOMPH' and slid slightly. It was obvious to Anthony that this person was familiar with the layout of the house when a lamp unceremoniously met his face. He shook it off, though, and came back with an elbow to the side of the attacker's head. A trick he picked up from Dean.
Thoughts of his friend served to fuel Anthony's rage even more. They tussled on the floor, throwing and receiving punches and kicks. Anthony's opponent finally pulled his gun. The Italian saw it and lunged, knocking his aim off and sending a bullet into the ceiling.
Anthony kicked out and hit the shooter's arm, watching helplessly as the gun went sliding across the floor. Taking a quick glance at his opponent, Anthony made a decision. Time was too precious to waste fooling around with a half-wit, trigger happy terrorist.
And he made one last desperate dive, aware of the intruder right at his heels. Anthony felt his hand curl around the gun. He turned, wrapped his finger around the trigger and fired two swift shots, point blank, right into the attacker's chest.
The body fell with a hollow thump, staying motionless. Anthony looked down and blinked, taking a second to let the situation sink in. And then the condition of his friend's, outside in the rain, came back to his mind. He dropped the gun and ran back to the deck.
Anthony turned the corner to see Dean kneeled over Ranelle's form. The officer was crouched over the blonde woman and it appeared, at least to Anthony, that Dean was shielding Ranelle from the rain. The dark head was bent down by the blonde one.
He slid down onto his knees, quickly taking in the bleeding hole in Ranelle's shoulder, and Dean's large shaking hands. His friend seemed completely oblivious to his presence. Anthony placed a gentle hand on Dean's shoulder.
The officer reared up immediately and turned slightly toward him, "Tony..." Her voice came out ragged and strained, and Anthony knew Dean was very worried. She never called him Tony.
"Dean what happened, exactly."
"I don't know... Anthony, I can't.... what's..."
Anthony looked up from feeling Ranelle's pulse, relieved that it was there, but weak. "Dean why are your eyes closed?"
"They hurt. Is Ranelle okay?"
He sighed and looked down at the massive amount of blood she appeared to have lost. Anthony pulled off his shirt and pressed it against the wound, trying to stop the stem of blood. "I dunno... the ambulance should be here soon."
Dean nodded vacantly and leaned back down next to where she figured Ranelle's ear to be. She had managed to stay conscious, barely. But her eyes hurt and she really didn't want to open them up and see if that helped. And her head was pounding.
So Dean settled for what calmed her the most. She whispered gently into the blonde's ear, knowing that on some level, Ranelle could hear her. Gentle things, promises, pleas. They had just acknowledged their love, this couldn't be the end. Dean wouldn't let it be the end.
And so they waited. Three forms in the rain. One barely living, the second zoned out completely, and the third worrying about the first two.
A fourth watched, with sad, apprehensive eyes, as her entire future was decided on the rainy deck in front of her. Her son was her world, and Carmen was quickly realizing that these two women meant almost as much as Anthony did.
And finally, after an endless eternity of waiting, the whaling of sirens was heard. It came closer and closer until Anthony looked up, relieved, to see the flashing red and blue lights. The ambulance screeched to a halt, the crew clambering out and over to the deck in seconds. The police cruiser that was hot on the ambulances heels soon ejected it's drivers as well.
"Dean?" Anthony spoke gently to his friend and put a hand on her shoulder. "Dean, we have to move so the paramedics can help Ranelle, okay?" The officer nodded dumbly, still mumbling quietly.
Anthony gently pulled his friend away to sit on the steps and out of the way. He was terrified. It was obvious that Dean was pretty far gone. He knew why, too. Just seeing Ranelle laying there in her own blood brought back horrific memories of their time in the middle east. It made his guts quake just thinking about it, and he had gone to a 'head shrinker', as he liked to call them. Anthony could hardly imagine what kind of effect this was having on his friend. It certainly didn't help that Dean was hopelessly in love with Ranelle, either.
Anthony knew that if the blonde died, it would break his friend.
The Italian looked up as he heard people approaching. He took in his mother's tense visage, and the form of the police officer walking beside her. "Hey, Dean?" Anthony looked at the officer and saw a flicker of acknowledgment in her eyes. "Stay here, 'kay?"
An almost imperceptible nod was his only answer.
"What's up?" He asked his mother once he was in speaking range.
The police officer circumvented any answer, "Is that the property owner?" He asked, with a nod in Dean's direction.
Anthony raised his eyebrow at the term 'property owner'. Didn't this guy have any idea what had happened here? "Uh.. yes, she is. But she really isn't in any condition to talk to anyone right now."
"Hmph." The officer shouldered past Anthony and started toward Dean's huddled form.
"Hey!" Anthony double stepped and got in front of the man. "Listen to me! Dean's hardly coherent at the moment. Now you have a dead body in that house which is much more important than talking to one of the victims of a crime." Anthony took a breath a tried to calm down. "Now, officer, I would think that going in there and doing whatever you need to do is much more important than attempting a fruitless conversation with my friend."
The officer glared for a moment and angled his steps away from Dean and more toward the door to the house. Anthony glared at his back for a moment before going back to his friend. Carmen was kneeled in front of Dean, trying to see up into her face. She looked up when her son approached. "Do you know what she's saying?"
"No... I think it's Russian."
"Rus... oh.. I keep forgetting that she's half Russian and knows the language. It's much more common to hear Italian come out of those lips."
"I know." Anthony looked around. "When did they take Ranelle away?"
"During your pissing contest with that police officer."
Carmen looked up and smirked, but it faded quickly when she turned back to the troubled Dean. The sound of another ambulance caused Anthony to raise his head and then look at his mother. Carmen shrugged, not knowing why it had arrived.
This ambulance stopped with far less urgency, it's two-people crew coming over with equipment and a single-minded intensity.
The female paramedic knelt down next to Carmen. She spent a moment studying Dean, looking speculative. "Is it alright if I check her out?"
"Um.." Anthony looked at his mother and then back to the medic. "I think so. She's kinda out of it, though. Just... be careful."
The medic nodded and gently placed her hand on Dean's chin, attempting to raise the dark head. Dean had her legs up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. Her head was buried in the long arms. She had started rocking, very gently, back and forth, not long ago. Dean looked, for all the world, like a forlorn child.
"Sir?" Anthony looked up to see the woman's partner standing above him with a blanket and kit. As the material was placed over his shoulders, Anthony realized just how cold he was in the rain without a shirt. He clutched it to his chest, gratefully. "Will you let me take care of that?" The medic pointed to an upside down V cut on the Italian's nose.
Anhtony nodded absently and waited rather impatiently for the paramedic to put a nice little bandage on it, stopping the blood from running down Anthony's face and into his mouth.
When raising the officer's head was deemed as impossible, the female paramedic got down on her hands and knees, attempting to look up into Dean's face. "Do you know what happened?"
"No... when we got here everything had already happened. She said her eyes hurt, though, and that she didn't want to open them. And I think she smacked her head on the ground."
"Yeah?" She moved from her spot on the ground and gently felt the back of Dean's skull. At one point, the officer flinched visibly and the medic's hand came back slightly bloody. "Yeah.... well, if I don't get some cooperation, there wont be much I can do. And what on earth is she saying?!"
"Why? Does that matter?"
"Well, I'm not sure. It might be helpful."
Anhtony bowed his head and squinted, thinking. "Cell phone!" Carmen's ears perked up at that as she handed her son Dean's cell phone. He flicked it on and cruised through the numbers in the phone book, finally deciding on one. "Come on... pick up.." he murmured, listening to the faint ringing.
A sleepy "Hello" finally answered him.
"Rachel! Rachel, it's Anthony."
"Anthony... what..." suddenly, Rachel's voice came through stronger. "What happened?!"
"Um.." How to answer that? "We had some problems... listen, I need you to translate for us."
"Yeah.. Dean's not making much sense. Just listen, 'kay?" With that, Anthony moved the phone close to Dean's mouth, hoping Racehl would be able to hear. And make sense of it all. And snap Dean back to reality.
After several long moments of silence, Anthony pulled the phone back to his ear with an impatient, "Well?"
"It's nothing much.... sounds like she's pleading, you know, stuff like 'Don't let this happen again' and whatnot. Now what happened, is Dean alright!?!"
Anthony sighed, "To tell you the truth, I don't know. We can't seem to get through to her, she's totally zoned out on us."
Rachel was silent, her breathing coming over the line loud and clear. Anthony waited anxiously, his mother and the medic both staring at him.
The rain continued to fall, the wind howled. An eerie background for the muted hum of police officers. And then a quiet command came, whispered in the ear of a young Italian man, "Lemme talk to her."
Anthony put the phone up next to Dean's ear with little hesitation. Frankly, he was out of ideas and if anyone had a chance of breaking through, besides Ranelle, it was Rachel.
The Italian winced as he heard shouted words in another language come from the phone. There was no reaction from Dean. The officer continued to sit there, gently rocking, softly muttering, her mind a million miles away and in a better place. Or maybe not, maybe her mind was in the worst place possible and that was part of the problem.
With aching slowness, Dean's head turned to the left and lifted ever so slightly. Her brow puckered, her eyes fluttered, the muttering stopped, and hope soared up in the hearts of the watchers.
And the only testament to returning clarity was a hoarsely whispered, "Rachel?"
Rachel's breath caught at the sound of her big sister's voice. For one instant she choked on her tears and then managed to force out some words. "Yeah Dean, it's me. Listen, you have to focus, let Anthony and Carmen and the paramedic help you. Let them take care of you. Once they do you can go see Ranelle. That's what you want, right? Well the only way it's going to happen is if you stay strong and focused. Do you hear me?" She finished in a strained and tearful voice, praying that she was heard and understood.
Dean's dark head nodded slowly before she realized Rachel couldn't see her. "Yeah, I hear you."
Anthony took back to phone and quickly gave Rachel the name of the hospital they would eventually end up in. He hung up and then turned his attention back to his friend.
"Okay," the paramedic scooted forward and got her first good look at her patients face, "What the hell?" She got closer, gently placing her hand on Dean's chin to guide the officer's face into the light. She felt the slight flinch at the contact and apologized quietly.
As she studied what looked like mild burn marks around Dean's eyes, a low voice above her head startled her. "What's your name?" Dean was still whispering and the medic felt inclined to whisper back.
"Hello Wendy. Do you know how my friend is?"
Wendy smiled and looked at the noble face above her. "You're more worried about your friend that yourself, aren't you?"
"Last I heard everything was fine. She lost a lot of blood and gave the doctors a scare once they got to the hospital, but they stabilized her and sent her up to surgery."
The dark, wet head nodded slightly.
"Can you open your eyes for me?"
Wendy watched as Dean's eyelids raised slowly, eventually revealing hazy looking blue eyes. The paramedic saw the confusion and brief flash of fear cross the officer's face. "Dean, what do you see?"
Wendy nodded slightly. "Absolutely nothing? No shadows, no gray areas, no outlines. Nothing at all?"
Dean's head shook. "Nothing."
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure, yes."
"Alright. What about the rest of you. How do you feel, otherwise?"
"My head hurts, but that's all."
"Okay, lets get you to the hospital, then. I can't really do anything."
Anthony helped Dean to stand up on wobbly legs and guided her toward the ambulance, throwing worried looks to his mother who was on Dean's other side. The two friends settled in the ambulance, Dean adamant that she would not be left alone when she couldn't see.
Carmen decided to follow in Dean's SUV, knowing that having a vehicle at the hospital would be a good idea.
And so Dean sat, tightly clutching Anthony's hand with her own, a comfort she normally wouldn't allow herself but could not go without at that moment in time. She needed something to ground her, both physically and mentally. Having Anthony's hand in a death grip seemed the most reasonable way to keep her mind from drifting back to the horror of the Middle East.
All the while only one thought ran through her mind, above all the other chaos and worry.
"Okay, that's about it." The doctor stepped back from his large and dour looking patient sitting on the bed. "There really isn't much I can do about your eyes, especially since I don't know exactly what happened. You may get your sight back, or not. You'll just have to wait."
Dean nodded dully and hopped off the bed. She had no concussion, which was good. All she wanted to do was go see how Ranelle was doing. "Can I go?"
"Yes, yes. Go ahead." The doctor moved out of Dean's way and watched as the tall woman started cautiously moving out of the room, one hand trailing along the wall.
The officer stood still for a few moments once she was out in the hall, trying to cope with everything. She only had her hearing to rely on and at the moment her mind was far too stressed and tired to sort out the influx of sounds.
Ah, that voice she knew, and was overjoyed to hear.
"Rachel." Dean turned her head toward her sister and held out an arm. It was grasped tightly, followed by her sister's familiar form. Dean wrapped her long arms around Rachel and just held on for several moments, taking great comfort in the contact.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm better than I was."
Rachel pulled back and looked up at her sister. Dean looked horribly unkept, with blood still staining her clothes that found a reason to continue dripping. Her eyes, once sharp and intelligent looking were now dull and lifeless. Rachel reached up and gently ran her fingertip across one of marks just below Dean's eye.
"I thought they would have wanted to wrap 'em up or something."
"They did, I didn't let them."
"Alright, lets go see Ranelle." Rachel grasped Dean's larger hand in her own, surprised when the officer allowed the contact to continue.
They snaked their way through the corridors and crowds of people, finally arriving in a small waiting room already occupied by Anthony and Carmen.
"When can I go see her?" Was the first thing out of Dean's mouth once they stopped walking. She felt a slight pang in her chest when she realized that she would not actually get to 'see' Ranelle. "Is she okay?"
Anthony came forward and pushed a bag into Dean's hands. "She's going to be fine. Her surgery went wonderfully. They figure she'll be in the hospital for a week or so, she'll need some physical therapy for her shoulder but other than that she'll be fine. You can see her in about half an hour. She probably won't be very coherent, though." Anthony finished repeating what he had just recently been told by the doctor. "Now go change so that when she sees you, she won't flip out."
Dean nodded and turned as Rachel pulled her away and toward a bathroom. Ten minutes later, Dean was dry, changed, clean, and according to Rachel, looked presentable. Now all they could do was wait.
Rachel sighed as Dean shifted restlessly once again. She leaned over and whispered, not wanting to disturb a few other people who were sleeping in the chairs. "Is something wrong?"
There was a long silent pause and then a sigh.
"I hate hospitals. I especially hate waiting in them."
"Is it bothering you that much?"
Dean shifted uncomfortably and pulled at the material of her sweat pants. Carmen had grabbed some clothes for both her and Anthony before she came to the hospital. The woman knew just what to get. A nice soft pair of sweat pants and a sleeveless sweatshirt.
"Sorta... when I had something to do it didn't bother me, but now all we're doing is waiting." She shrugged and sat back.
Rachel put her head on Dean's shoulder and stared at the wall in front of her. What a horrible day.
Finally, the doctor came in and repeated almost to the letter what Anthony had said. Dean sighed in relief, her mind more at ease now. Ranelle was in a regular room by herself and they were allowed to go in.
The foursome departed the waiting room and quietly entered. Dean walked over to the bed and sat down on a chair beside it, very gently placing her hand on the side of Ranelle's face. The officer really wished she could see Ranelle's face. Wished that the later part of this day had never happened, or at least that the blonde had never been shot.
A thought occurred to her and Dean turned her head. "Anthony?"
"What happened to the..."
She nodded and put her head down on the edge of Ranelle's bed, silent tears running down her face. A whispered 'I love you' floated into the air as Dean fell into sleep, content now that she was in the presence of her heart and soul.
Green eyes fluttered and then blinked open. She didn't hurt that much and she suspected that was due to the drugs more than anything else. She hardly remembered what had happened. She cast her mind back and thought long and hard.
The hockey game with Dean, going home, and then.... something had been wrong. Dean had told her to stay back. She had, only to see the officer's tall body go stumbling back out of the house.
That's where it stopped. She thought she remembered a few things, but it wasn't anything concrete.
Ranelle turned her head to the right, taking in the dark one that was laying on the bed beside her. "Dean?" Her voice sounded quiet and hoarse to her own ears. She tried again with the same lack of results.
Ranelle wiggled the fingers of her right hand, fishing around for what she was looking for. Her hand finally wrapped around Dean's bare forearm and squeezed. That did the trick.
Dean jerked up off the bed and shook her head. "Ranelle?"
Dean grinned and turned her head slightly. There were other people in the room, that much she knew. What she couldn't figure out was who those people were. "Rachel?"
Ranelle's brow puckered. She thought Dean was acting awfully strange.
Rachel stirred from her position on the floor and sleepily got up. She stumbled over to the bed and shook herself out, trying to wake up some more. "Dean what... oh!" Her eyes took in Ranelle's face, awake and alert. "You want some water?"
Rachel moved and got a little cup with a straw. She kicked Anthony in the shin on her way back to the bed. "Oww! What was that for?"
He grumbled and stood, stretching his back out. "Wake up... she says. I feel like we just went to sleep." The Italian looked up and smiled. "Ranelle! You're awake! Wonderful, I'll go get a doctor and some," he looked at the people in the room, "coffee. Definitely gonna need some coffee." With that he turned and left.
Ranelle took a drink and then turned her head back toward Dean. Despite having an extra hole in her body she felt pretty okay. But that was probably the drugs. "Hey, Dean? Would you look at me please?"
Dean sighed, aggravated. She turned her head and aimed her eyes to where she figured Ranelle's head was. Ranelle studied the officer, knowing that something was off. It only took a moment before it clicked. "What happened to your eyes."
"I don't know what happened, but I know the result."
Ranelle lifted her right arm and waved her hand in front of Dean's face. "You can't see."
A nurse bustled in at that moment, and Dean turned away, glad to have a reprieve from this conversation. She stepped out into the hall, followed by Rachel and Carmen.
"You're gonna have to face it eventually, Decano."
"I know. I just.... I don't want anything getting in the way of her getting better."
"Well she knows something is wrong now. The only way you'll keep her from worrying is telling her everything."
Dean nodded. "You always have to be right, don't you Rach?"
They all stood leaning against the wall, the hospital surging on around them. Until a female voice broke the tableau.
"Hey Navy guy!"
Dean stepped away from the wall and turned her head toward the voice. "Stacey?"
"Navy guy!" It came again, this time followed by the definite skid of shoes on the floor. Dean sensed a body stop in front of her and put out a hand, steadying the out of breath person.
"Stacey... that you?"
"Of course it's me! Who else calls you Navy guy?" And then the curly haired woman looked up at her friends face, saw the marks around the unfocused eyes and she caught a clue. "Oh, Dean." Stacey tenderly ran her fingers down Dean's cheek and sighed. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine Stacey. How did you know that Ranelle was here. None of s called you..." Dean trailed off as she realized that no one had called any of Ranelle's family. Aww shit! She shook her head slightly and muttered a few choice curses. That's being responsible and considerate, you big lug!
Her internal berating was interrupted before it could go too far. "Joanna called us."
"Yeah. You know, Brock's girlfriend? A nurse? Works at this hospital?"
"Ohh... right. I'm sorry that no one here called. I mean, I would have except..."
Stacey broke in, "Except you were hurt yourself, very worried about Ranelle, probably dead tired and it completely slipped your mind. Of course, if you had remembered you probably would have had a problem getting the phone number. Am I right?"
Dean looked a little stunned and only nodded slowly.
"Good. No one blames you, Dean. You are human, after all. So don't blame yourself."
"Alright. Who else is here?"
"Just me, Brock, Amark, and Amanda." As she as she finished listing, the aforementioned people meandered over.
Amark looked at the woman he knew his niece liked very, very much. She looked like shit. All mussed up, and pale and shaky looking. Amark wouldn't kid himself. He'd been in the news business long enough to meet and get to know all different kinds of people. When he had worked as a reporter it surprised him to discover he had a knack for sorting out the facts of military stories.
His editor had, of course, taken advantage of that and Amark soon found himself dealing with lots of different soldiers and sailors. Out of them, Dean was one of the most formidable people he had ever met, not only in stature, but in the power and confidence that rolled off the woman in waves. In a world that was historically dominated by males until only recently, Amark was glad to see a woman who obviously commanded great respect and admiration in the profession.
It had impressed him to a degree, and he didn't consider himself easily impresses. So he found himself liking this woman who he had only met once before now. What he had seen during that one meeting had only served to solidify his high opinion of the woman.
Dean, quite simply put, made Ranelle glow with happiness, something he had longed to see return to the woman he considered a second daughter. And if this tall, stoic, and sometimes dour Naval Commander brought that out in his Ranelle then who was he to stand in the way?
There's always a but, huh Amark? His mind mocked him. But he wouldn't kid himself. Dean was not, despite outward appearances, the most stable person in the world. And Amark thought that maybe Dean was aware of that herself. It made him feel slightly better, in a strange kind of way.
Amark stopped his minds rambling as he halted in front of the tall woman who was once again holding the wall up. "Dean."
The dark head cocked for a moment, the keen mind trying to place a voice heard only once before, and that seemed like so long ago. "Amark." And she inclined her head slightly in greeting.
"How are you doing?"
"I thought you'd be more concerned for Ranelle than me." There was no hint of anything in her voice except gentle questioning.
"Well, I got a rundown on Ranelle from the doctor, no one could tell me much about how you were. Besides, a nurse is in there now, poking and prodding. I don't think she'd want any disruptions."
The officer nodded slowly and remained silent for a moment. "I'm as good as can be expected, I guess." The dark head thudded back against the wall as Dean sighed and closed her eyes. "Hopefully, this is temporary."
"And if it isn't?"
The skin around Dean's eyes crinkled up in thought for long minutes. "If it isn't.... then I guess I find a way to live with it."
"You'd have to, um.. retire." Amark continued, knowing this really was none of his business but also not being able to stop himself from asking.
They both fell silent, their minds working over different things. Something else occurred to Dean as she slid down the wall to sit on the floor. "Anyone call Scott?"
"I did." Rachel kneeled down in front of her sister. "Just got back, actually. He's on his way."
Rachel sat down next to Dean and looked at the group of people that had accumulated outside Ranelle's door. Thankfully, this was a lightly traveled hallway and they weren't in anyone's way.
Anthony strolled around the corner and stopped as he took in the hall. He sighed and continued forward. "I should have brought more coffee," he griped quietly, causing tired chuckles to float into the air.
The door closed behind the last person as the kindly looking nurse, a squat black woman, approached the bed. "Hello there."
"Hello," Ranelle answered back, a little miffed at having her conversation with Dean interrupted but glad that she would be able to ask this woman about her condition.
"Well, you sure have a lot of visitors."
"I know. I can't believe you guys actually let them stay in here all night."
"That wasn't the plan, dear, it just kind of happened. They all came in to see you and then they fell asleep. Nobody had the heart to wake them. Especially that real tall one. She was a real sight last night."
"Really?" Ranelle perked up with interest, wanting to hear more of Dean and what had transpired last night.
"Oh yes, indeed. She was all shaken up and the only thing she could think of was you. The doctor had a real time of it, trying to get her to stay still long enough to be examined. When he finished she was out of there faster than you could believe. Not being able to see didn't seem to slow her much, but I could tell it was bothering her."
"Oh yes. I've been a nurse for longer than I can remember. I've learned how to read people like you wouldn't believe." The nurse finished whatever it was she was doing and stepped back. "Now, young lady, how do you feel?"
"Not that bad, considering. Sleepy, and my minds kind of off."
"Yes, that's the drugs. Now don't you fight it. If you have to sleep you go right ahead, it'll help you heal. If all goes well I suspect you'll be out of here in about a week. So you take it easy, no gymnastics!"
Ranelle smiled slightly, as her eyelids drooped. "I never did like gymnastics." She murmured as she dropped into a healing sleep.
The nurse smiled and backed out of the room, greeting the hoard of concerned family and friends with warm smile and all the answers.
Days passed, it seemed slow at first, but as Ranelle got better time seemed to speed up. As she regained her strength and was able to stay awake for longer periods of time, it became obvious to the blonde that Dean was being elusive.
Oh, she was incredibly attentive and caring, but Ranelle noticed that whenever she tried to steer the conversation back toward Dean's own blindness, which hadn't gotten any better, or her feelings about the entire event, that the officer found reason to retreat.
Ranelle was never alone, and it seemed to her that despite being skittish, Dean hardly ever left the hospital either. Which meant Rachel was there a lot as well. Ranelle enjoyed the time spent with Dean's sister, getting to know the woman who stubbornly lurked around the hospital, claiming that someone needed to look after Dean.
And Rachel was, of course, correct. Dean needed looking after. She also needed to talk to someone about what had happened. Ranelle had forced the story out of a reluctant Anthony and had then become even more determined to talk to the officer.
But something always seemed to get in the way. First it had been doctors and nurses and then the police. That had been a productive meeting, the police hadn't known a thing and had come looking to them for some of the holes to be filled in. Between questioning Ranelle, Dean, Anthony and Carmen they had learned everything that had happened. Right from the start. From the attack in the parking lot, to the trip to San Diego and their suspicions, to the fire in Portland and back here to Dallas. Their meeting with Cooper and their renewed suspicions.
So now the police knew everything they did and they couldn't do anything more than what Dean and Ranelle had been doing. Wait. Except they had a dead body as evidence, which they were so far unable to identify.
Ranelle couldn't figure out why none of them had been asked if they knew the attacker. That seemed like a logical course of action to her. But she wasn't about to tell the police how to do their jobs.
The blonde shifted in her bed. She was waiting for Dean. Everyday, just like clockwork, the officer had come into her room to visit at precisely 2 o'clock. Ranelle had decided to force the talk. Rachel was posted outside the door and had explicit instructions not to let them be disturbed.
So Ranelle waited and, just like clockwork at precisely 2 o'clock, the door opened and Dean carefully slunk in and sat in the chair beside the bed. "Hi."
"Hey." Ranelle spent a moment looking at her friend, knowing by the shift of her strong body that Dean was aware of the scrutiny. The officer seemed to have adjusted rather well to being sightless. She moved with careful, measured motions, born out of stumbling over too many things and almost falling flat on her face. Every so often she would stop to listen, processing the sounds around her and deciding on her next course of action. "You all right?"
Dean sighed, "You know, everyone keeps asking me that. I'm fine, I'm not the one who was shot, Ranelle."
"I know that, Dean. But you are the one who has gone through a lot of crap in your life, you are the one who was hurt seriously enough that it may have a dramatic effect on our life, you are the one who is blaming yourself for this, and you are the one who had to witness the woman you love almost die! Don't you dare sit there and tell me that none of this is affecting you, I know better. The fact that you have been avoiding me is proof of that." Ranelle leaned forward as she started to make her point. Dean shifted uncomfortably. "Anthony told me what happened with you, that you were so far gone it was like you weren't even in your own skin. And don't you even think of denying that, or the fact that you need help. You want to sweep this all under the rug, pretend it never happened, just like last time. But you can't, Dean. The dam has broken and you have to start dealing with this before it rips you and everyone around you apart. You don't have to do it alone, I'm here, I love you and I want to help you. So do Rachel and Scott, you aren't alone this time. Please, let us help you."
The officer got up swiftly, knocking the chair over backwards. She started pacing around the room, erratically. Ranelle watched, concerned that Dean's inattention would cause her to walk into something. The blonde woman saw that Dean had started muttering quietly. "Hey!" Dean stopped in her tracks and cocked her head, listening. "Talk to me Dean."
Dean continued pacing, wringing her hands, putting them into her pockets, taking them out. And she started talking, very slowly and very quietly. "When I got to you... there wasn't anything I could do." The dark head shook. "Just like before... you were going to die and I couldn't do a damn thing to stop it. Useless." She stopped pacing and turned toward the bed, her eyes staring blankly over Ranelle's head. "It terrified me. I could feel my heart breaking..."
Dean trailed off and Ranelle watched as the strong body collapsed into itself and fell to the floor. Ranelle leaned forward and carefully, using her good right arm, threw the blankets off. She gingerly put her feet on the floor and teetered over to where Dean was curled up. The blonde put a hand on Dean's back and lowered herself to the floor. She got right down there with the officer, putting her face up against Dean's. "Sweetheart, it's alright. I'm okay and you did everything you could. No one blames you except yourself. Shhh..."
They stayed on the floor like that for a long time, Dean eventually gathered herself together and returned the hug that Ranelle was bestowing on her. Eventually, Dean stood with Ranelle in her arms and carried the blonde back to bed.
Just as Dean was about to lower her friend, a gentle hand on her face stopped her. "Wait."
And Ranelle raised her head up and they met in a kiss. She pulled back and sighed. "Okay, you can put me down. I missed that."
"Yeah. I wish I could see you." They quieted, and Dean appeared to be thinking. "I think... I think I.."
"Should go see a ps... psychiatrist... or, something."
"That might be a good idea."
The dark head nodded a few times. "I'm sorry Ranelle."
"For being a jackass."
"You were not being a jackass.. it's completely understandable. I just wish you felt like you could talk to me."
"I... I do. I mean, I'm not uncomfortable talking to you, I'm just not used to it and kinda try..."
"To avoid it?"
"Well, we'll just have to get you used to it then, huh?"
"So, are you happy to be out?"
"God yes." Ranelle said as she carefully climbed into the Nissan. She'd never had a sling before and found that she didn't like the decreased mobility. Dean climbed carefully into the back-seat with the blonde as Anthony started up the engine.
The drive home was relatively silent, the threesome wrapped up in their own thoughts. They walked into the house where Carmen was waiting with coffee and something that smelled really good to Dean. Just as they all fell on the couch the phone rang.
"Awww... go away, we just got home." Dean groaned.
Carmen looked at the three young people across from her and decided to answer the phone. They didn't look inclined to move.
"Is Dean there?"
"May I ask who's calling?"
"Just a second." Carmen walked into the living room and placed the phone in Dean's limp hand.
"Who is it?"
"What?" Dean sat up and pulled the phone up to her ear. "Jack? Is everything alright?"
"What? What happened? Are you and Shelley okay?"
"I'm fine, but Shelley isn't."
"What do you mean? What happened?"
"She's in the hospital, real bad shape." His voice broke and it sounded to Dean like he was crying. "She said to tell you that they found out what she was doing, didn't make much sense to me."
"Well is she going to be alright?"
"It doesn't look good."
"I'm coming down."
"Alright, if you want. Bye Dean."
Dean hung up the phone dully. She couldn't believe it. After everything that had happened, after all the shit they had gone through, Shelley had been found out. Dean had almost forgotten that her friend was involved. And they had gotten to her. Jack sounded horrible. She couldn't blame him, though. They were supposed to get married soon.
"Dean?" Ranelle sat down beside the officer. "What's happened?"
"Shelley's in the hospital."
"Oh God... you're going down, right?"
"I'm coming with you."
Dean just nodded and then stood. She walked carefully out of the room, trailing her hand along the wall.
They watched her go, their hearts aching. "This sucks!" Anthony fumed. "What the hell is going on!? How much can one person stand! Whoever's responsible for this better give her a break real soon or I swear I'll.... I'll do something!"
Anthony fell back into his chair, his anger short-lived. Carmen sighed and rubbed her eyes. "I suspect you'll be leaving as soon as possible."
"Uh.. Ranelle. This probably isn't a good time to bring it up, but you should know before you leave."
"The cops called the other day. They identified the body. It's our terrorist friend, the guy from Dean's memory and the airport."
Ranelle sighed. "Okay... well, at least we don't have to worry about him anymore." The blonde woman stood and made her way slowly down the hall to Dean's room. She knocked gently and opened the door.
The officer was sprawled out on her side on the bed. She looked like she just lost her best friend. And Ranelle decided that that was maybe halfway true. Dean and Shelley were great friends, and from what she heard of Dean's side of the conversation, Shelley wasn't in the best shape.
Ranelle walked over and climbed up onto the high bed. She snuggled up against Dean's back and put her arm around the officer's waist. She felt a gentle squeeze on her hand and smiled, just a little.
Whatever happened, they'd get through it.
To be continued....
I apologize for the lateness of this update. Last week was busy for me and writing took a back-seat to life stuff. Hope this was worth the wait. Questions, comments, concerns, suggestions?? E-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading, SB Zarben