For disclaimers and all that business, please see Part I.
Thanks to Ruth and Jen, who have taken the time to read this and help me through the rough spots…thanks Joanna, whose name has somehow been erroneously missing (Sorry, friend!), and Jo and Kamouraskan, for your encouragement.
And especially thanks to all you guys that have been so patient in waiting on these updates- I'm sorry it's taken so long on this one. Had a lot of changes in real life, and truly, I apologize to you folks who have waited on this…
Now, on with the story…
Andrew stared at the man who was standing by his hospital window.
He couldn't decide which pain was worse - his physical pain, which had to be from the worse beating of his entire life, or to continue to lie to this man, who had brought him to the hospital to be healed.
And asked nothing else.
He closed his eyes as his head spun.
To actually have a friend that asked for nothing but friendship in return. No drug running, no spying on people, no messing up a homeless man and having that blood on his hands forever; no taunting innocent people, no selling his soul.
The pain on Jack's face as he spoke of his friend was evident.
Andrew knew which pain was worse.
"Jack," he called out weakly. "C'mere, man."
The man by the window turned around, startled out of his own sorrow by Andrew.
"Come on, man, I gotta talk to you."
"Take it easy," Jack replied as he walked across the room. "Nothing you have to say today that can't wait until tomorrow."
"Yeah," he coughed as he fought the tears that welled in his eyes. "Yeah, there is."
Jack sat down and stared at the dishwasher.
"Your friend Mike." Andrew's heart pounded wildly in his chest as he fought to continue. "He was killed by Lita Tomlinson, wasn't he?"
"What difference does it make, Andrew?" Jack's voice was soft as he tried to redirect the conversation. The last thing he wanted was for Andrew to get upset and lapse back into unconsciousness. "It's over. It's gone."
"No," he replied hoarsely. "It ain't over."
"What do you mean by that?" Jack's eyes opened wide. "I told you, he's dead. It's over."
"Andrew." Jack could hardly contain his anger. "I said it's over."
"Jack, buddy," he continued as sweat formed on his brow. "Listen to me. She's after you."
"What?" The disbelief resounded in his tone. He struggled to keep his voice low.
"All of you."
Jack stood up as he tried to digest what he heard.
"You, that server, and Christina. She's after you." A cough racked his body as he spoke. "Gotta pay for her jail time."
"How?" Jack walked around the bed and tried to keep calm. None of this made any sense. "How in the hell would you know?"
"Listen to me." His voice faded as his strength waned. "Lita's gonna kill you guys."
"Mom." Abigail's voice was flat as her mother stepped inside the apartment.
"Gail, honey," her mother responded as she hugged her daughter and noticed the shell-shocked look on her face. "I just wanted to see how you were. I hope it's okay."
"Yeah." She followed as her mother led her to the couch.
"Can I help?" Cassandra didn't bother to ask her daughter how she was. It was obvious.
"Uh…." Her voice trailed off as Christina came in from the balcony.
"Hey, I can see you've got company," the brunette's voice cracked. "So I'm gonna take off."
"Gail, honey, I need to freshen up after that drive." Her mother stood up and went to the bathroom and left the two women alone. If she learned nothing else over the past few years, it was that she needed to let her daughter know her judgment was trusted.
Abigail absently acknowledged her mother as she left the room.
"What is it, Abigail?" Christina longed to reach out to Abigail, but kept her distance.
"Please." The emotions warred within her. She loved this woman, this woman who told her terrible things. Had done terrible things. Committed crimes, like the one that rocked her life.
But she didn't want Christina to go.
"I'm sorry, Abigail." Christina walked closer to her girlfriend and softly stroked her shoulder. "I know…"
"Please." Tears welled in her verdant eyes as she fought the memories of her past. But this woman was not from her past.
"Hey." Christina stroked Abigail's face softly. "If you don't want me to leave, I'll stay. If you want me to leave, I'll go. Your call. Please know that I love you."
Cassandra Thanis stood in the hallway as she heard their voices. The last thing she wanted to do was intrude on this private moment. As hard as it was for her, she forced herself to sit in her daughter's bedroom.
"I…I…" Abigail's voice trailed off as she pulled away from Christina's hand.
"I know it's hard." Hot tears burned her blue eyes as she struggled to keep her ground. I won't run. I can't. "But tell me what to do. I'll do it."
Abigail was torn.
Her heart was outraged that she could love Christina Stavros, a murderer. Like Lita Tomlinson.
Christina. Warm, kind, loving Christina.
A murderer. She gave her heart to a murderer.
But how could she not?
The restaurant teemed with life as Christina arrived. Today was her long day, working lunch and dinner.
She didn't care. She tried to dig deep inside or perhaps hide in her job, but she was too distracted.
So Abigail knew.
Christina kept up with the lunch pace effortlessly. She was grateful that at least Abigail was not scheduled to work today.
No real word from her. No stopping her, no yelling. And Abigail's mother arrived.
So Christina left. And left her heart behind her.
She talked as little as possible, just maintaining through the day. Instead of taking her normal lunch break, she continued to work, to clean and organize different areas of the kitchen. Better than being on the boat, where she was surrounded by a flood of memories of her girlfriend.
She intended to close the kitchen, to not bother leaving after the dinner rush. What was the point? She had grown accustomed to arriving home and seeing those beautiful, emerald eyes warmly welcoming her. And now, she would probably find an empty houseboat, like before, only surrounded in the scent and the memory of her love.
No one said much to Christina. No one bothered, when she was in this sort of state. Past experience warned them away.
Samantha tried to lighten her mood, but it was no use. The night ended much like the day began.
And she couldn't talk about it. Wouldn't talk about it. What was there left to say?
"Honey, you can talk to me." Cassandra Thanis held her daughter's hand as she urged her to speak. "Tell me what's on your heart."
The petite, strawberry-blonde listlessly stared into her coffee, the morning sun pouring in through the window. The pain in her heart was immense.
"Is it that girl that was here?"
"Yeah." Her voice cracked as she pulled her hand away.
"Tell me, honey. I'm here for you."
Tears filled her green eyes and silently tumbled down her cheeks.
"It's okay, honey." Cassandra pulled her daughter into a tight embrace as Abigail sobbed soundlessly. "I'm here."
"Don't shut me out, Gail. I want to be here for you."
Abigail stood up in confusion. Her heart ached, felt like a ball of cement in her chest. She was sorely tempted to talk about Christina, to try to sort out this crazy mess. But to her mother? The woman who turned her back on her?
"Sweetheart," her mother encouraged. "I understand if you don't want to talk. But I'm here for you. I love you and want you to be happy. And if I can help you by listening, I want to do that."
Cassandra felt her heart break as her daughter's voice trailed off. Not this time! An overwhelming wave of emotions engulfed her as she stood up and walked towards Abigail.
"You can talk to me, honey," she soothed as she placed her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Things are different now. I'm here for you."
"You can talk to me." The two women embraced as tears flowed freely down Abigail's cheeks.
"I don't know where to begin."
Lita stared at the four walls surrounding her. Her mind flashed to the prison dormitory, where she was housed with seventy other women. Where four walls kept her in check, paralyzing her. Once again, four walls held her captive, goaded her, taunted her to satisfy her deepest desire.
These four walls were different. No razor wire, no armed perimeter guards. Just four walls and a window without bars. She smiled.
Mechanically, she moved around the room, gathering her supplies. As beads of sweat formed on her brow, the excitement flowed in her veins.
A little diesel fuel here, a little match there - then it was all over.
No more Special K. No more Abigail.
Like a bad dream, she would wake up and they would be gone.
After all, she tracked their movements. They spent the majority of their time off on that godforsaken boat that masqueraded as a houseboat. In their little love nest.
Oh, the little lovers would perish together. Two birds with one stone.
"Sam?" Christina's voice wavered as she clutched the telephone.
"Yeah," she responded weakly. "Yeah, it's me."
"What's wrong?" Samantha groggily focused on her alarm clock. "Damn, you still at work? It's damn near quarter 'til one."
"Look, I'm sorry…" She took a deep breath and attempted to complete her sentence. "I'm sorry, Sam. I know it's late. I shouldn't..."
"What is it?" Samantha kept her voice calm. "You call me when you need to, right? Haven't I called you?"
Her questions were met with silence
"What's going on?"
"I think we broke up." Her voice was flat, unemotional. She tried to push the mental images of Abigail swiftly from her mind. "Or something like that."
"Oh, Jesus." She remembered the last time, when Christina was breaking up with Gwen. Where are you?"
"You stay there. I'll be there in five minutes."
Jack sped along the quiet street, his mind vacillating between anger and fear.
Lita was out to get them. Lita wanted them dead. He knew it was Lita who vandalized Abby's apartment.
Images of the past flooded his mind. He vainly tried to push them aside and focus on the road.
He could see the small, dead-end alley where he and Abby found them. Even with his radio blaring, all he could hear was Lita's laughter, mocking him, as it had so long ago.
Jack couldn't get to her apartment fast enough. What if that crazy bitch is there, right now? I gotta do something. Can't let her get Abby. Not this time.
He found himself unable to concentrate on traffic. Flashes of his life, the life that Lita destroyed the day she murdered Mike, filled his eyes, weighing down his heart. So much of him died that day - any notions he had of being a hero, any hopes he entertained about one day winning Abby's heart - all came thundering down. Jack tried to shake off the defeat. He couldn't let her win.
Not this time.
This time, it had to be different.
Because if it wasn't, Abby was dead.
And he let it happen.
The Dodge Charger increased in speed as he ran more red lights in total disregard. As he glanced in his rearview mirror, he noticed flashing lights.
Shit! I can't believe this!
Slowly, he guided his car to the side of the road. He fumed as the policeman parked behind him and walked to the Charger.
"I need to see your license and your registration, son."
Abigail walked slowly towards Christina's houseboat. Her stomach erupted in turmoil as she thought of talking with her girlfriend. But she remembered her conversation with her mother.
"If you really care about someone, Abigail, how can you not hear what they have to say?"
"But Mom," she defended weakly.
"Abigail Thanis, the only butt you have is the one on your body!" Cassandra stared at her daughter. "Don't you remember how bad it hurt you, this fallout your father and I had with you?"
"Well, I thought you said you loved this girl."
"I remember very well one of the things you said to me while we were in therapy. Do you?"
"Mom, I said a lot of things." Abigail rolled her eyes at her mom in frustration.
"Yes, you did. And one of those things you said was to the effect of 'How can you turn your back on someone you love like you did?'"
Abigail winced at the words. They were truly hers. She remembered the pain intermixed with relief at finally being able to confront her parents.
"I see you learned well from us. That's a shame." Cassandra put her arm around her daughter. "Now I don't know what kind of trouble you're having with that girl, but surely, you can hear her out. Afterwards, you can decide if you want her in your life. But don't do to her the pain done to you."
The words rolled around in Abigail's head as she drove her mother's car to the marina. The smell of smoke jarred her from her reflective haze. Afraid the car was overheating, she quickly glanced down at the gauges on the dash.
The smoke smelled…like gas. And wood.
She parked the car and searched for signs of the offending smell.
"Come on, girl," Samantha urged Christina. "Let's go make some coffee and talk."
They walked silently through the kitchen when the smell of smoke hit them.
"You smell that?" Christina looked around the Cooks' Line as she spoke.
"The circuit breakers are all off. I turned them off when the crew was finished cleaning."
"Must be outside. Let's see what's going on."
"Alright. Let me grab my phone."
Abigail couldn't believe her eyes.
The fire was the Lessie Mae, burning in the water.
"So glad you could make it, my dear," Lita drawled as reflections of the flames from the burning houseboat danced in her eyes.
"Too bad you weren't in there with your girlfriend." Lita kept herself at a safe distance from Abigail. "What happened? Too hot to handle?" She circled her prey, intent on enjoying the moment. "I had hoped to catch you both at home. Oh, well. At least this gives us a chance to catch up on old times."
Abigail stared blankly for a moment, unable to move.
"I owe you so much, my dear. And I have every intention of repaying that debt," she calmly said as orange flickers from the burning wreckage lit her face.
Christina stared at the Marina in shock.
Her home. Her boat. Her life, in flames.
How in the hell did this happen?
"Chris!" Sam grabbed her by the shoulders. "Look down there!"
The brunette wrenched her gaze away from the burning wood, too painful to see.
"Isn't that Abby down there?"
"What?" As Christina focused in, all she could see was two women struggling.
"Down there! Come on, she's in trouble!"
Christina raced down to the Marina. Abigail landed a right sidekick into Lita's midsection and backed her off. Lita recovered quickly, launching a left backfist into Abigail's head, sending her reeling.
"ABIGAIL," Christina screamed, as she watched her lover fall backward.
"Well, well," Lita said smugly as she turned her head. "If it isn't Special K." Lita sauntered to where Abigail lay. "She isn't dead. Here, I'll show you." She kicked the strawberry-blonde in the abdomen, causing Abigail to gasp for breath.
"Get away from her!"
Lita laughed and grabbed Abigail by her hair with her left hand. Abigail winced in pain, her eyes beginning to focus. She struggled to get her footing as she Lita produced a knife. Lita forced Abigail back to her knees and held the knife at her throat, playing it along the muscles.
"What do you want?" Christina held her ground, not advancing for fear of her girlfriend's life.
"Well," Lita began lazily, "I want you to pay for your crimes." Lita sat on oyster crate behind Abigail continued to hold her by her hair. "You owe me a life."
"You owe me a life." Lita kept the knife at Abigail's throat as she spoke. "At first, I thought to take your life, but I've changed my mind. I'll take hers instead." She nicked Abigail's skin as she spoke, drawing blood upon the blade.
Abigail forced herself to block out the pain and to think. As she kept her body as limp as she could, focused on Lita's breathing. She winced as the she felt the knife prick her skin, but reassured herself it was only a scratch.
"What are you talking about?" Christina demanded as she struggled to control her temper, blind rage threatened to overwhelm her.
"Timmy Tomlinson, the Tomlinson Terror." Her grip on Abigail's hair tightened. "You killed him. My brother. Do you even remember him?"
Abigail noticed the rapid change in her captor's breathing and repositioned herself slightly. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Lita's left arm exposed her side. As the bleached blonde continued talking, Abigail rammed Lita's side with an elbow strike and painfully wrenched herself free, leaving Lita with a patch of hair in her left hand, her knife flying free from her right.
As Christina approached Lita, the sound of sirens filled the air. Lita started to run away, with Christina on her heels.
"Oh, no you don't!" Christina leapt at the running figure to close the gap. She caught her by her long legs and tumbled downward. Her face changed into a maniacal grin, as Lita's left food caught her squarely in the nose. She struggled to see through the onslaught of blood, covering her forehead as she struck at the woman underneath her. Something snapped inside her. She became more focused as she started to choke the woman, oblivious to anything but killing her opponent.
"Christina!" Abigail cried as she tried to stop her. "Christina, stop it!" Tears swallowed her face as she tried desperately to bring her lover back to sanity. "Don't," she sobbed, "Don't let her win. Don't be like her. You're not, I know you're not."
She continued to throttle Lita, unable to hear Abigail's pleas. Totally unaware of who touched her shoulder, she kicked backward with her right foot, knocking Abigail to the ground, momentarily loosening her hold on her opponent's neck.
"Having a lover's quarrel, sweetie?" Lita pushed the brunette off of her as she continued. "She didn't quite do it for you, did she? Not enough of a fight." She inhaled deeply as the flames from the Lessie Mae continued to dance in the air. "I just love that smell!"
Christina glanced backward, her attention drawn back to her houseboat. But on the ground, not four feet from her was Abigail. Omigod, I hit Abigail! Her deep, blue eyes went wide with fury. For the first time in her life, her overwhelming rage was focused. "You!" She cried as hatred flooded her senses.
"No, honey," Lita purred sweetly as she grinned malevolently. "I think you had that dance." Steel glinted in her right hand as she recovered her knife.
Filled with a cold, calculating rage, the world seemed to move in slow motion as she approached Lita. An image of her brother Lenny, dying on the ground flashed in her mind. No longer could she see the woman in front of her; all she could see, through her steel blue eyes, was someone trying to kill her family. But not this time. She could stop it. A determined, ferocious grin slowly played across her lips.
She leapt to close the distance, nailing Lita with a flying sidekick. Lita's stomach collapsed around Christina's left foot as she fell to the ground. Reflex and muscle memory from those long-ago fights, Christina instinctively pummeled her fists into her opponent's face.
Abigail sat up and tried to clear her head. She opened and closed her eyes several times, certain her blurry vision was deceiving. It hurt as she shook her head, trying to see the true picture. But the scene didn't change.
She stood up, prepared to stop this insanity. And fell down dizzily.
Not to be deterred, she stood again, as she looked for something she could use to get Christina's attention. She grabbed a broom and steadied herself as she approached the apparent death scene. "Christina," she called out, the pain in her head quieting her voice. "Baby, please."
Lost in an uncontrolled rage, Christina could not hear her lover's pleas. She continued to strike, Lita's blood staining her knuckles.
"Stop it." She inched closer and hoped that somehow, Christina would hear her.
The brunette kept pounding away. The uncomfortable sound of breaking bones filled the air.
Her heart heavy, she knew what she had to do. It might cost her her life, but it might save Christina's. She loved her. It was a chance she was willing to take. Abigail struck her lover's back with the broom. Hard.
Christina whipped her head around in fury. Then confusion. Abigail? Abigail hit me?
The strawberry-blonde stood as still as her wobbly legs would allow.
"Abigail?" The brunette stood, slowly becoming aware of the woman underneath her. And that her hands were soaked in blood. And whatever just happened, happened in front of Abigail; there was nowhere to hide.
"Christina," she cried.
"Oh, no." Christina could not stop looking at her blood-soaked hands. "Not now. Not this."
Sirens blared as they inched closer. Christina's first thought was to run, but she knew better. Not if she wanted to stay sober.
Abigail reached out for Christina's hand as she tried to offer comfort. Her lover flinched at first, afraid of getting the shameful, spilled blood on the woman she loved. Abigail tightened her hold on the bloodied hand, unwilling to let her other half pull free.
"I'm sorry." The brunette's voice broke as she fought for strength. "I really thought I'd changed."
"Baby, she tried to kill us."
She stared with hopeful eyes. She really needed to believe that.
"Down here, officers," Sam directed as she arrived with the police. Hard-soled shoes trampled the wooden deck of the marina as they swarmed the scene.
"She's gone," Christina stated as she stared at her burning boat. There was so much more she wanted to say to the woman of her dreams, but fear trapped it in her vocal cords.
"I'm sorry." She momentarily let go of the brunette's hand to give her a hug. "Not just for the Lessie Mae." She took a deep breath and continued. "I'd like to try again. You need a place to stay. Wanna come over?"
Christina smiled at the beautiful woman in front of her.
"Come on," Abigail said as she took Christina's arm. "Let's go give our statements and go home."
"Yeah," she replied, her voice almost a whisper. "Let's go home."
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