Disclaimers: Mine.

Sex: If you have to ask, you must not be familiar with my work.

Note: There will be violence in this story.  Nothing gory or gratuitous, but it's in there.

Note 2: Okay, folks, this is a lovely thing called fiction.  I don't care how feasible it is or isn't.  Please don't email me with suggestions of how to make it anything than what it is - a fun piece of writing.  Enjoy!

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

Come visit me at: www.coloradobardsplace.com or my publisher at: www.pdpublishing.com

Happy Halloween!

Storm Chaser
Kim Pritekel

Some people have their futures set by their parents' station in life. Some people's futures are set by circumstances, and some people just don't have any idea what their future will be. 

I'm one of the pre - destined, though I prefer to call it pre - cursed.  My story was set, and now I get to live out the legacy my mother gave me the day she died, and the day I was reborn, before I was even born. 

This is my story.  This is her story.  This is our story.


"God damnit!"  Dale slammed her hand down on the steering wheel of her small, compact car.  Days like this she wished she had a Hummer or a tank, and could just drive over the idiots who apparently had no clue how to drive..  They stopped, or never start, because they don't pay attention to a damn thing.  Traffic had been backed up for more than an hour, and Dale Bailey was at the end of her rope, and instead wanted to use said rope to strangle the two idiots who hadn't been paying attention, and therefore caused an accident that made everyone late.

The blonde tapped her frustration out on her steering wheel, deciding that slamming her hand did nothing but make her hand hurt.  She glanced over to the passenger seat, growling in her throat when she saw the metal case that was belted in.  She needed to get the specimen to the lab before the water samples were damaged, and before anyone was alerted that she had swiped it in the first place.

"Damn it."  Never had she cursed so much in her life until she moved to a bigger city.  Growing up in Plainsville, Georgia, after earning her masters in chemistry, Dale had taken a job at the prestigious Murtz Institute in Chicago.  She'd been there for three years, and loved her job, though despised the traffic.  Some days she missed the slow, laidback life she'd left behind.  Then she remembered her father was there, so decided that maybe Chicago wasn't so bad after all.

To try and distract herself from the rigors of big city driving, the researcher turned up the radio, pushing buttons until she found a station she could live with.  Fairly removed from pop culture and all its media forms, Dale had no clue who the artist was, nor the song, but it didn't grate on her nerves too badly, so decided to give it a shot.  At least it wasn't rap, whiney R&B or twangy country.  Anything else she could stomach.
Dale's older brother often called her every parent's wet dream.  As a child and teenager, she didn't drink, do drugs, party, have sex or mouth off.  She was a perfect child - dutiful, intelligent and driven.  Unbelievably driven. 

Since she'd been a small child, Dale had been curious about the world, what made it tick, taking apart whatever she could get her hands on, then putting it back together.  Sometimes she was able to get it to work again, other times not.  But either way, her mind never stopped working.  Even now, as she sat in traffic, she was thinking ten steps ahead, to the testing of her sample.  She was trying to calculate in her head what she'd need.

Her attention was caught for a second by the rumble through the heavy, dark clouds.  A storm was brewing, and it looked like it would be a doozy.  With the holdup in traffic, it would be a long night for Dale.  She sighed heavily, resting her head against the cool glass of the driver's side window.


Randy Hobbs was chewing on three sticks of Wrigley gum, one stick never sweet enough for his pallet.  His cheek bulged out as he bobbed to the music coming out of his truck radio.  The traffic had just started moving again, which he was glad for.  It's not the he was looking forward to getting to his mother - in - law's house and fix her dryer, again, it's just that he was tired of sitting on his ass.  He was a man of action, and was quickly getting bored.

"Man, look at them clouds," he muttered to himself, rolling down his side window to stick his heat out a bit, looking up at the sky.  Blowing a whistle through his teeth, he was surprised when a sudden, massive gust of wind drowned it right out, the pressure nearly making him swallow his gum.


Dale was finally getting into a song that came on when her brows narrowed.  Up ahead, above the slowly moving traffic, she saw . . . lightning?  Almost a horizontal flash of it.

"What the hell was that?"

She wasn't allowed to ponder that thought for long as a speeding corvette, tired of waiting in his lane, made his way up the shoulder of the road to Dale's right.  The inexperienced driver, taking his Daddy's car for a spin, hit a rut in the side of the highway and smashed into side rail, bouncing off and right into Dale's 2006, brand new Volkswagon Rabbit.  She didn't have time to react as suddenly she was viciously pitched to the left, her head slamming into the driver's side window.  The crack of the glass barely registered before her upper body was pitched to the right, her legs caught under the smashed steering column and the front of the car, smashed in when the blonde's car had been shoved into the Hummer next to her.

The last thing Dale remembered seeing was a blinding bolt of lightning, which seemed to flash right over her car, then all went black.


Her face was pale, deathly pale, as there was no heartbeat.  Her shirt was soft to the touch, except for where the wet, sticky blood was gathering.  A small push, flow of energy.  The cadence was weak, but there.


"Jesus!  I haven't seen a storm like this in years!"  EMT, George Fields complained, starting as yet another streak of lightning split the sky, followed almost immediately by another crash of thunder.

"I know.  We're gonna get fried," his EMT partner, Louis Metzger agreed.  They tried to work steadily as the fire department disentangled the mangled cars and trucks, the pileup ugly.  Louis worried there wouldn't be much for them to do, except call in the paddy wagon.  It looked like it had all been started by some impatient ass in a corvette.  The dude was lucky to be alive.  Couldn't say as much for his car, or for the lady who was still in the tin can that had once been a yellow Rabbit.

"Louis, come quick!  We got one still alive!" George yelled out, stunned, considering the condition of the blonde.  Her legs were crushed under the dash, undoubtedly her pelvis, as well.  She had a huge gash on the side of her head, and from the shattered remnants of the driver's side window, he thought he knew why.  Her shirt was quickly becoming covered in blood, the stain growing larger, telling him her heart was still beating.

Calling a few firemen over to help them pry the woman out of the disaster that was her car, she was rushed to the nearest hospital.


Jimmy Todd sighed happily, the five bucks that kid gave him earlier coming in awfully handy.  Settling himself on the park bench, his shopping cart of worldly belongings not two feet away.  Glancing up at the sky, he saw that the earlier spill apparently hadn't been enough for the rain gods.  The fresh smell of the afternoon's deluge still hung in the air, even as the night sky clouds gathered.

Ignoring the approaching storm, as he knew he'd be able to hide under the park bench, just like he always did when it stormed, Jimmy popped the top of his whiskey bottle, mouth watering in anticipation.  Humming in contentment, Jimmy glanced over at the giant statue of some dead guy, where the birds liked to shit.  Every year the parks and recreation department tried to clean it all off, only for it to turn into a shitter five minutes later.

Jimmy chuckled at his own thoughts, then took a long swig.  The night was lonely and getting cold.  Summer would be coming to an end soon.  The summer thunderstorms had been a constant for weeks now, always indicative of the changing of the seasons that was just around the bend.

As the transient settled against the seatback of the bench, bottle at his lips, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.  Lowering the bottle, he turned back to the statue, squinting up at it.  Though the statue was no more than a black object against the backdrop of an even blacker night, he swore he saw something atop it, like . . . crouching. 

"What the hell is that?" he muttered, taking a quick pull from the bottle to help clear his head.  A distant flash of lightning brightened the night just enough to see that, indeed, there was someone crouching on top of the statue.  Jimmy was trying to figure out how the hell they'd gotten there, when he knew damn well they hadn't been five minutes ago.  As he watched, a low rumble rolled through the clouds, the figure rising to their feet.  It looked to be a woman, by the shape of the body.  No clothing flapped in the rising winds, the silhouette smooth and trim.

Jimmy was enjoying his eyeful when the rolling thunder exploded into a crack of sound and light.  The figure raised her arms, palms up, head falling back.  In the blinding light, Jimmy cried out, watching as the white hot bolt of lightning came down in a smooth arch, fingers of electricity running over the woman's body, down her arms and legs, swirling around her head and mid - section.  The light intensified, the smell of burning rubber in the air.  Jimmy covered his eyes, the images before him burned into her retinas.  As soon as it started, it was gone.  When he looked again, the night was black, figure gone.  More distant lightning illuminated a scorch mark on the head of the statue.

"Jesus, God," he whimpered, sucking down a gut full of whiskey to still his frazzled nerves.


"Damn, Dale," Blake Jones murmured, taking in the small blonde spread out on the hospital bed.  She was bandaged on most of her body, tubes sticking out of her body.  Machines beeped her vital signs softly.  His co - worker and friend had been through hours of surgery already, her eyes puffy and back as they remained closed.  She seemed to be as comfortable as possible and hanging in there, so Blake left the room.

As the chemist walked down the hall, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his rumpled suit, sighed heavily.  He knew he should've told Dale how he felt.  His defeated form disappeared around the corner, headed to the cafeteria to get some coffee.  He'd been there half the day already, and needed a pick - me - up.

Dale continued in her medicine - induced sleep.  The dim light above her bed flickered once, then twice, then a staccato beat of flashes.  Her equipment tripped, sending an alarm to the nurse's station.

Gretchen Thomas cursed softly under her breath as she raced toward room 301 of the ICU, nearly sliding past as she grabbed onto the doorframe of the glassed - in cubical.  The heart monitor screamed its warning, as did the blood pressure machine.  The veteran nurse looked at the patient, noting as healthy a color as could be expected after such trauma, as well as could see a pulse in the blonde's throat.  Turning to the machines, she shut off the alarms, resetting them.  Taking Dale's wrist in her fingers, the nurse timed herself as she took the patient's pulse.  It was steady and strong.

"Weird," she muttered, placing Dale's hand back at her side, making sure the morphine drip was still in place and running smoothly.  Everything looked fine.  After a long day, she was ready to go home.  Running a hand through her hair, one last look at the petit body in the bed, made bulky from casts and bandaging, Gretchen headed back to her post.

Green eyes slowly blinked open, unfocused and disoriented.  She could barely make out a face, looking down into her own.  Concerned blue eyes looked into hazy green depths.  The image was fuzzy around the edges, dream - like, even.

"You're going to be fine," the dream image said, voice soft and whispered.  Dale felt herself falling further into black depths, where there was no pain, and there was no fear.


She sat alone on the roof of the building, watching far below as ambulances and police cars came and went, sometimes with their sirens blaring, other times silent and without preamble.  She loved watching the people below, like ants running around, just lacking the leaf.  She wondered who they were, why there were there, and for whom were they scurrying for.

The crash had been bad, terrible, in fact.  Like dominos, one careless driver had caused the chaos that took three lives, and injured dozens more.  There were almost four fatalities, but she just couldn't let the young one die.  Looking into her face, peaceful and smooth even in death, it just couldn't be.  She had a feeling the blonde one was special for some reason, though she had no idea why.  One touch and the blonde's heart had restarted, giving the paramedics a chance to save her.  And they had.

It had been risky to venture inside the hospital, but she needed to know if the blonde one had survived.  She guessed the injured woman to be in her early twenties, far too young for one to die so uselessly.  It was unfortunate that the others couldn't be saved, but their injures were far too severe.  One woman had lost part of her head.  There was just no going back from that.  But the blonde, she had a strong heart, and it had started to beat proudly.  She was only glad she could help.  She'd go back soon to check on her, see if maybe she'd awaken again.  Maybe this time she could find out her name.  Or at the very least wish her well.

There was nothing left on the roof, no evidence of the woman who'd just been sitting on it.  A distant rumble echoed across the night.


Dale groaned softly, wondering why the tuba section of a marching band was practicing in her head.  She squeezed her eyes shut, but that made it hurt even worse.  Finally giving up, she tapped her finger to the beat that pounded in her skull, her heart pounding in the same cadence.

"How're we feeling this morning?" a sing - song voice boomed into the room, making Dale wince.

"Wh - " the blonde cleared her throat weakly, then tried again. "What happened?"

"Oh, honey, you survived quite the ordeal."  The nurse, dressed in scrubs covered in fuzzy bunnies, stood next to the bed, a hand on her hip.  Dark brows drew. "Do you remember anything?  Nothing at all?" she asked at the slight shake of the blonde head, covered in bandages.  "I'll tell your doctor you're awake now, and he can come in and explain things to you."

"'Kay," Dale whispered.  Her throat felt like it had been given a thorough rubdown with sandpaper.  She saw a pitcher on the rolling tray next to the bed and whimpered slightly, an oasis to a desert dweller.  The blonde took inventory of her body, making sure it was all still there.  She could feel just about everything, except for her legs.  Raising her head as much as injury and medication would allow, she looked to see if they were still there.

"They're still attached," a soft, male voice said from the doorway of the glassed in room.  Dale was shocked to see her entire lower half in traction, though could feel none of it.  "Your legs were caught under the engine and dash.  The entire left front of your car was pushed in on you," the doctor explained.  He pushed off the doorframe and stepped into the room, arms crossed over a lab coat - clad chest.

"How?" Dale wasn't sure what she was more terrified at - the fact that her entire lower body was apparently crushed, or that she couldn't remember any of the reason why.

"There was a pile up, and you were in the middle of it.  Your injuries were substantial, Dale.  You were extremely lucky to have survived it.  In fact," the doctor sighed, clasping his hands in front of himself. "I'd say it was pretty much a miracle."

"Why can't I feel my legs?" The blonde wasn't sure if she were happy about her miraculous survival, or wished it weren't so.  She was starting to feel a dull the practicing marching band march down into her neck and shoulders.

"Right now you're on a great deal of medication to stop the pain.  Your pelvis was broken as well as your femurs."

Dale tried to take in everything that was being told to her, her cloudy brain barely able to concentrate on the words or comprehend the scale of destruction that had rent her body.  Another question managed to get through the medicated haze.  "How long have I been here?"

"Two weeks."

She groaned, her thoughts lamenting the fact she'd lost her window to study the water specimens she'd taken, before drifting off into peaceful blackness.


She tried not to be noticed, though wasn't sure exactly how successful she was.  She drifted down the long, sterile halls, trying to appear no more interesting than the cheesy, motel room artwork that adorned the walls.  She hated wearing clothes, but had no choice in this case.  They were uncomfortable, and horribly restricting, although some may be want to argue her regular attire was more so.  She didn't think so.  To her it was like a second skin.  Though, in many ways, it was.

Stealing clothing sure sounded easier than it actually was.  She had tried to find an errant clothesline strung between buildings, as she'd seen in Chicago before, but unfortunately, with all the rain they'd been having, laundry had been brought in.  She had to resort to going into an actual store.  The temporary power outage perfect cover.

She headed into the ICU, smirking when she heard a rumble behind her, the soda machine in the waiting room surging, cans of Coke products shooting out of the slot to the delighted shock of those waiting for loved ones.

The nurse's station was darkened, just a couple reading lamps turned on so as not to disturb sleeping patients in their glassed in cubicle - like rooms.  A Hispanic nurse smiled at her from where she sat at the desk, her attention returning back to the novel she had been reading.  Glad the nurse hadn't bothered to question the lab coat and stolen nametag, turned backwards, she headed into room 301.

She knew she had to be careful, so strayed clear of the small army of machinery that was attached to the blonde, who was deeply asleep.  Her face looked better, her eyes not so bruised and swollen.  She could almost imagine what the small woman looked like in the real world.  Her hair, which at the time of the accident, had been long and tangled with blood, was now cut very short.  The bandages had been removed, leaving an angry looking wound on the blonde's forehead and a smattering of healing cuts and bruises on her cheeks and jaw.  Her legs and hips were still in extremely uncomfortable - looking equipment, almost as though it were holding her together. 

She was surprised to feel tears sizzling her cheeks.  Reaching out, long fingers barely stroked the softness of the blonde's cheek, mindful of a large bruise there.  To her surprise, green eyes opened, yet again, looking up at her.

"Sleep now," she whispered, hoping the young blonde would listen and obey, perhaps thinking it a dream that she had a midnight visitor at all.  She was not so lucky.

"You've been here before," Dale whispered, her words thick from sleep and heavy medication.

"Yes.  Sleep now."

"Who are you?"  Dale barely got the question out before her eyes betrayed her and slid closed.

She felt relief when once again the blonde slipped back into peaceful slumber.  She looked down into the sweet face, that had started to haunt her dreams.  She'd helped people before, and certainly had checked back on them to make sure they were okay, never finding anymore interest in them than simply a fellow human being whom she had helped.  But this one, this one was different somehow.  It made her heart hurt, knowing that she was so young, yet everything had been stripped away from her - including almost her life.  She wanted no thanks, no tribute or gratitude, just simply to know the injured woman's name.

Glancing toward the wall by the door, she noticed a holder, the blonde's chart tucked safely inside.  Taking one last peak at the patient, making sure she was still asleep, she grabbed the chart and flipped through it until she found what she was looking for.

"Dale Bailey," she whispered, blue eyes scanning the pages. "Twenty - five years old."  With a heavy sigh, sadness in her heart, she replaced the chart, starting when she heard a loud beeping.

Maria Ortega almost threw her novel when she saw the red flashing light on the control panel before her, the light flashing next to the numbers - 301.  Getting to her feet, she hurried into the room, noting the low hum of fluorescent lights about to die, though they weren't on, as well as the machines attached to Dale Bailey's vital signs were blaring their warning of impending heart failure.  Switching off the alarm, she turned back to her patient to see her staring up at her.  Maria crossed herself, whispering a short prayer in Spanish. 

"I'm okay," Dale whispered, just as startled by the alarms.

"Where did the doctor go?" the nurse asked, resetting the machines.  She had been told the same thing had happened once before, a week ago.

"She left," the blonde whispered, almost wistful as her eyes closed once again.  "Pretty blue eyes," her words were almost unintelligible as she drifted off, leaving a baffled nurse standing next to her bed.


If Dale thought she knew boredom, she was sadly mistaken.  She'd been in the hospital for a month, and was finally able to move around a bit.  The only good thing about her stay was that she had been so doped up through the majority of it, she could barely remember her name.  Even so, the last week they'd been easing her off meds, and now she felt the endless hours in all their endless glory.

Pulling herself up into a sitting position, grunting as her lower half, still encased in plaster, was heavy and still ached, she finally got settled.  Always purely anti - soap opera, the blonde clicked to CBS, curious to see what her new favorite characters were up to, and what ridiculous situations they'd gotten themselves into since Friday afternoon.

"Which one is this?" Blake asked, walking into the room as he tossed his overcoat onto a chair.

"Young and the Restless," Dale answered, smiling up at her co - worker, thrilled to have company.

"You know last time I was here, it was As the World Turns."

"I know.  I think it's the medication they have me on."

"Uh huh."  Blake sat down, blowing out a breath after a long Monday.  He'd taken up Dale's work load, so had been putting in twelve to fourteen hour days.  He'd gone into the lab at five - thirty that morning, and at one o'clock, he was already exhausted, especially since he knew he had another nine or so hours to go.  It was a nice break, though, to stop by on his daily visit with the blonde.

"Yeah, well I don't exactly have the History Channel to tune into right now," Dale sighed, tossing the remote to the bed.

"Don't get pissy, Dale."

"I'm sorry."  She rested her head against the pillows, looking at him.  "Break me out of here."

Blake chuckled, shaking his head. "No way.  The doctor said soon, right?"

"Another week!"

"Dale," Blake said, taking the blonde's hand in both of his.  He looked into miserable green eyes. "You've been through hell and back, your body broken and put back together.  It's a miracle you're still alive.  Just be patient a little longer and you'll be home.  Okay?  In celebration I'll take you out for steak."

"Really?" the blonde brightened.  Her co - worker, and one of her only friends, nodding with a chuckle.  "This is so hard, Blake.  I have truly never been so restless in all my life.  Cabin fever can't even begin to describe how I'm feeling right now.  I'm so tired of being drugged up.  Did you know I had that same strange hallucination again the other night?"

"The blue - eyed midnight visitor?" Blake smirked, clearing his throat at the green daggers thrown his way.  "How long will you be stuck in a wheelchair?" he asked at length.

"I'm not sure."  Dale glanced woefully at the devil chair that was folded against the wall next to the bathroom.  "I dread it.  I can't even fathom how I'll manage in my apartment."

"I've told you, Dale, I'm more than willing to let you stay with me for awhile.  It's an old house, and the doorways are wider, rooms are bigger . . . "

As Blake's voice trailed off, the blonde studied her friend.  She had known for some time that he liked her, but had ignored it.  The look of hope in his dark eyes made her sad.  How could she tell him she had no interest in him whatsoever, other than as the good friend he was?  She didn't want to hurt his feelings by turning him down outright. "Thanks, Blake.  Be careful, cause I may take you up on that.  If my place is too small . . . " she shrugged.

"Fair enough.  The invite is always open."

"Thank you."  She smiled, taking his hand in gratitude, squeezing it before letting it go.  The man cleared his throat once again, getting to his feet.

"I'd better get back."  Dale accepted the hug he offered, then he grabbed his jacket. "Take care.  I'll be back tomorrow."

"Okay.  Thanks for coming."

"Anytime."  He looked down at her for a long moment, seeming to be memorizing her features before turning away and disappearing out into the hall.

Dale sighed, boredom setting in again quickly.  It was nice to have a disruption to her day, even if it was only ten minutes worth.  She'd been moved into a private room a week ago, which was nice in some ways, but more lonely.  There wasn't the constant sound of nurses and doctors running around, responding to alarms.  On the fifth floor, the nurses came in like clockwork, but that was it.  Dale was starting to feel itchy, like she was ready to burst from her own skin.  She needed mental stimulation.  Blake had brought her some paperwork to do, but even that wasn't enough.  She wanted to be in her lab!


The Kansas skies were alive tonight, the clouds pregnant with impending rain, the drums of nature pounding to the dance of lightning.  She sat atop a rock overhand, legs pulled up to her chest, arms clasped over her shins.  With her head thrown back, she smiled at the force of nature overhead, waiting for just the right moment.

She had left Chicago earlier in the day, the pulse of Kansas' storms racing through her blood, a charge that sizzled through her body.   She was not disappointed, awed again and again by the brilliance of the storm.  Soon her chance would come, and, like a surfer, she would find her perfect wave, her perfect time.  She was patient.


"You can put that over there, thanks."  Dale wheeled herself over to the living room, trying to get out of the way of the cabbie who had offered to help.  She knew Blake would be angry with her for not calling him, but she wanted to get home on her own, tired of depending on everyone for everything, including taking a damn dump!

"Okay, lady, you're set."

"Thank you."  She paid the grateful man handsomely, then cursed as she banged into the hallway wall as she wheeled her way toward the front door, intent on locking it behind him.  It took her a few minutes to un - wedge herself, trying to not cry at the pain that shot through her hips at the jarring of the crash, though she couldn't say if the tears would be more from the pain or the frustration of her predicament.  She wondered if maybe she should have taken Blake up on his offer after all.  "No," she whispered, running a hand through her hair, which had started to grow back.  She hadn't had her hair this short since she'd been a teenager. 

Dale couldn't help it as the tears began to trail down over her cheeks, part anger, part pain, and part plain old fashioned feeling sorry for herself.  Her life was fine, it was good, even.  She had a job she loved, a nice apartment, and had even managed to make a friend in Blake.  Then one minute, blink of an eye, gone.

Wiping a hand over her eyes and nose, Dale decided it would do her  no good to sit and stew.  She had a life to get back together, and had to do it quick.  She intended to be back at work Monday morning.  That gave her three days to get used to her chair.

Gathering her resolve, Dale turned her chair around, taking several deep breaths as she prepared to face her day in her new, front row seat.  She stopped short when she heard a soft knock on the front door.  Groaning deep in her throat, preferring to be left alone, the blonde made her way back down the hall.  Figuring it was Blake, she mentally prepared herself to send him away, but was surprised to see no one there, though on the ground, leaning against the doorframe, was a single white rose with a small card taped to the stem.

Dale frowned, wondering who could have left it, especially since she saw no one at either end of the hall, trying to escape detection.  Picking up the gift, she saw her name written on the outside of the envelope.  Her curiosity got the best of her as she slid a finger under the flap, ripping it open.


Now truly baffled, Dale's brows drew, re - reading the simple message written in bold, block letters - a steady hand.  She brought the rose to her face, closing her eyes as she inhaled the fragrance.  It smelled wonderful.

Figuring it must be a well - wishing neighbor, who had been able to quickly escape back into their apartment, Dale decided to take the rose and card at face value, closing and locking the door as she got her wheelchair turned back around, narrowly missing the wall with the edge of her chair's tire.  As she made her way into the kitchen, she was surprised to see the clock on her coffee pot blinking.  She noticed the clock on the microwave and stove were also blinking.  Odd, but they had been having lots of storms lately.  But what was most odd was when she looked at the time, the clocks were only ten minutes behind, compared to her wristwatch.  But then again, it could mean 2:32 a.m. and not p.m.

It didn't matter, she decided, as she made her way deeper into the apartment.  What she craved right now was peace and quiet, surrounded by everything that was familiar to her - no hospital food, smells or personnel waking her up at ungodly hours of the night to check her vitals.  Maybe tonight she'd actually have a full nights rest.


Dale knew there were few who would be calling her, so she'd assured Blake and her boss that she was fine, was at home, but wanted to be left alone on her voicemail, asking them to not come over.  She refused to answer the phone, instead wanting to fall into the solitude she craved, and had not been able to enjoy for more than a month. 


Dale woke up to a terrible neck kink and her back screaming at her.  Not to mention her entire lower half.  She groaned as reality slowly beckoned.  Blinking several times, she saw the sun shining through her living room windows, the TV quietly hissing snow at her.

Confused, she pushed herself up in her wheelchair, trying to figure out why she still sat in it, and why she was waking up in her living room.  It all came back to her with startling clarity and returning frustration.  The night before, almost falling ass over appetite when trying to transfer herself to her bed, the blonde had decided to take a deep breath, and step back from the situation, as it were.  So, she'd wheeled herself into the living room and had slid a DVD into the player.  She figured she must have fallen asleep, as Dale ran a hand through her hair, which made it stand up at crazy angles.

Deciding that coffee was a must, Dale released the chair's break and wheeled herself in the direction of the kitchen.  Carefully eyeing the counter the coffee pot sat on, she chewed on her bottom lip, trying to decide how well she could reach it.  Wheeling up to it, she was relieved to find that, though a slightly uncomfortable reach, it was definitely doable.  Water poured from the carafe into the reservoir on the machine, she was all set.  Except for the coffee itself.

Looking up at what seemed endless cabinet space, and made for a  giant, Dale tried to visualize where exactly her can of Folgers was.

"Shit."  It was in the cabinet above the microwave, second shelf, behind the sugar.  "Shit, damnit, fuck!"

Grimacing as she rested her hands against the arms of her chair, Dale pushed herself up as high as she could, lowering one leg, testing the slightest bit of weight on it, wincing, but pushing on.

"Okay," she breathed, blowing out a long breath.  "I can do this."  She put her other foot down, testing a little more weight, then cried out, flopping back into her chair, which jarred her body even more.  Sobs of frustration tore through her, pouring out in an all out tantrum.


Blake, hand poised to knock, froze, leaning in toward the door until his ear was almost pressed against the cool surface.  Sure enough, he heard a loud crash.  Worry filled him as he imaged a horrid scene inside.

"Dale!"  He pounded on the door, waiting to see if there was any response.  He was relived when he heard another crash.  That meant that the blonde wasn't dead.  "Dale?  Open the door."

Dale stopped her fit, canister of tea bags in hand, ready to be chucked against the same wall her coffee carafe had met its end on.  She looked toward the front door, tears still sliding down her cheeks.  "Shit, Blake."  She got herself turned around, banging into the cabinets as she hurried out of the kitchen.  She felt her anger spark further into flames when the front doorknob rattled.

Blake stepped back from the door, surprised when it suddenly opened, and he was met with a less - than thrilled little blonde scientist.

"Do you have any idea what time it is, Blake?  Do you have any idea how many of my neighbors you probably just pissed off by banging on my door?!"

"Uh," Blake's mouth fell open then closed, words escaping him.  Finally he got his voice back as he followed the irate little blonde back into the apartment. "I was worried about you, okay?  I heard a loud crash . . . " the words died on his lips when he saw the shattered remains of some sort of glass and ceramic object, strewn about the kitchen floor.  "What happened?"

"I couldn't reach my coffee, that's what happened."  Dale rolled to the center of her living room, crossing her arms over her chest.  She knew she was acting like a petulant child, but she hated the fact that the self - reliance she'd always worked so hard to attain had been stripped from her.  Growing up with an abusive father who needed to control her every move, had pushed her to break away from his every move, every hate - filled word and look.  Now she felt like she had been transported back to that time of helplessness, and she was goddamned pissed about it!

"So you tore up your kitchen?"  Blake had to take a step back or risk losing a shin as Dale whirled her chair around to face him.

"I don't want visitors, Blake.  I thought I made that abundantly clear on my voicemail."

"Yeah, you did, but damnit, Dale, I was worried, okay?  You just take off from the hospital, don't tell a soul, trying to get used to your life after you almost died, and just expect everyone to say, oop!  Dale doesn't want company right now.  Think I'll let her attempt to live a life in a wheelchair when her life isn't exactly ready for one!"

"Yes.  That's exactly right."

Blake looked into those fiery green eyes, and for a moment, completely lost himself in them.  He saw so much in that one look - determination, fear, pride and deep embarrassment.  He knew nothing of Dale's past, where she came from, or how a woman so young, only twenty - five, had managed to accomplish what she had.  All he knew was that he respected her above all others, and had lost his heart to her somewhere over the past three years.  Taking a deep breath, he decided to change the subject and clear his own head.

"Coffee, you said?"  When Dale didn't answer, Blake ran a and through his dark hair. "I'll make you some."

"I broke my damn carafe," the blonde muttered, turning her chair back to the window, staring out over the new day.  Blake was glad she'd turned away, as he knew he'd lose more than a shin if Dale saw him smiling at her predicament. 

"Okay.  I'll run down to the corner and get you some.  Okay?"

Dale could only nod.  She didn't want to be a bitch to Blake, as she knew he was only trying to be a friend.  "Large."

"You've got it."

Dale sighed heavily as the front door closed.  All she wanted was a nice, hot bath, candles lit all around the bathtub, and an issue or two of Scientific American.  Looking down at herself, she realized she was in the same scrubs the hospital had given her, as her original clothing had been ruined in the accident.  She hadn't brushed her teeth or her hair.  Hadn't touched a stick of deodorant.  And, to top it all off, she had to pee like a race horse!

"Can this get any worse?"


It was getting late, and she really ought to be heading out.  After all, the lure of a thunderstorm bundle in Colorado called.  Even so, she stayed, perched outside, watching.  The blonde had returned home, had been with the guy she'd seen at the hospital before, and right now they were settled on the couch, and apparently talking.

She moved to the other window, mindful of the ledge.  Gloved hands grabbed onto the moulding around the windows, peering around the curtains on the insides of the tall windows.


Blake was trying to find some sort of topic, any topic that would keep him in Dale's apartment.  He was cursing himself, having already played his ace by catching her up on everything work - related.  He had lowered himself to talking about his pet Beta, Fosco.

"Blake," Dale rubbed the bridge of her nose with her fingers, doing her damndest to be nice.  "Listen, I'm grateful for your help today, the coffee, making me lunch and all that, but I'm really tired.  I'd like to go to bed."

"Oh!"  Blake hopped to his feet. "I'll help you."

"No!  Thank you."  The blonde tried to hide her growing irritation behind a smile. "I really just want to be alone now, okay?  I'm feeling better, feel strong now, so, you can just head on home.  Okay?"

Blake felt his hopes shatter, but knew there was nothing he could do except nod and grab his keys.  "Alright.  Listen, if you need anything, anything at all - "

"I'll know who to call."  Dale smiled sweetly.

Blake sighed, about to turn around when something caught the corner of his eye.  Looking at the window, he started.  "Jesus!" 

"What?"  Dale tried to follow him over to the window, but was having a hard time getting in her chair fast enough.

Blake stood pressed to the window, hands on either side as he stared out into the night.  He saw nothing.  "I think I just had a John Lithgow, Twilight Zone moment," he muttered.  He turned back to Dale, who was trying to get into her wheelchair.  He hurried over to her, easily lifting her from the couch cushions and settling her on the padded seat.

"Thanks.  What's wrong?"

Blake shook his head, not wanting to freak out the blonde.  "Nothing.  I think I just saw a bird take off and it startled me."

"Oh.  Okay."  Dale was a little surprised, considering Blake was pasty pale.  She rolled after him as he made his way to the front door.  Wishing him goodnight, the blonde was shocked all over again when her co - worker bent down and placed a lingering kiss on her lips.  He scurried out the door before she could respond.  "Lovely."


She closed her eyes, body pressed against the cold brick of Dale's building.  She couldn't believe that guy had spotted her!  But, he had, and it had frightened him badly, though why wouldn't it - seeing a woman peering inside a tenth floor window.

Chancing another peek inside, she was glad to see that he was leaving, though felt her blood boil when he stole a kiss.  Blue eyes studied the blonde, who didn't look thrilled at the kiss.  She got herself turned around at the entryway of her apartment, and looking as though she were muttering to herself, headed out of sight, disappearing down a hallway.

Part 2

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