Disclaimers1: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renpic. And, this being an Uberish tale, the main characters will bear a physical resemblance to them, but thats as far as is goes. Oh, and two supporting characters will be named after them. But its meant strictly as a tribute; nothing more. J
Disclaimers 2: There will be a tiny bit of violence scattered through the story, including one piece dealing with domestic battering and attempted rape. Nothing really intense though. There will also be some swearing scattered throughout the story.
Disclaimers 3: This is an adult alternative romance, which means that there will be sex between two consenting adult females later on down the line. If this bothers you, or is illegal where you live, then please read no further. You have been warned!
Copyrights: All characters mentioned in this story belong to me. Please do not use them, or any portion of this story without talking to me first. The song "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" belongs to MCA Nashville, Garth Fandis and Trisha Yearwood.
Thanks: I would like to offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to the bestest <g> beta reader a bard could ever ask for. Thank you, Maggie Sheridan. Without your skills, patience, gentle guidance
And boundless encouragement, this story would never have seen the light of day. J
Randi grunted as she pitched the fifty-pound bag of dog food into the rear of the Jeep, then made a show of dusting off her hands. "Piece 'o' cake," she grinned crookedly at the big man who eyed her with stern disapproval.
"Look, 'Ms. Tuff-Stuff'," he wagged a finger at her. "We both know you're young, healthy-as-a-horse, and you lift weights, but it wouldn't have hurt you to let me load that for you," he mock-scolded.
Randi looked down contritely, scuffing the snow with the toe of her boot. "I know, uncle," she mumbled, using the more familiar name she always called the older man. "But I've got to show off these awesome muscles to somebody," she grinned rakishly, while curling her arm in a 'muscle' pose.
"Lord, save me from cocky little girls," he chuckled, as he placed the rest of her purchases in the back.
The tall woman was closing the car door when a sudden thought hit her, and she turned to the storekeeper. "Toby, do you happen to have a spare piece of plywood lying around? It doesn't have to be real big, maybe a couple of feet long, and about a foot wide. One of the windows in the shed is broken, and I need to board it up until I can get the glass replaced."
The storekeeper pursed his lips and pondered for a moment before smiling. "I've got just the thing," he declared, and headed back into the store. "Be right back."
Within moments he came back, carrying a length of cream-colored board. "Will this do? It was left over from the fence I put up around Kate's vegetable garden."
"This will do fine," Randi replied as she placed the board on the car seat, and closed the door. Walking arm-in-arm to the drivers' door, they stood for a moment, in awkward silence as the falling snow dotted their hair and clothing.
"Well," Randi broke the silence. "I'd better get going. Tell Kate I'll see her soon" At the older man's cocked eyebrow, she added, "I promise!"
"See that you do," the big man rumbled sternly. "I promised your Uncle Jake that I'd look after you…. Don't make me a liar."
A bittersweet smile graced the tall woman's face at the mention of her uncles' name. "I won't, Uncle Toby," she reassured, as she settled in the vehicle.
The storekeeper stood and watched as the taillights of the Jeep faded into the white curtain. His mind wandered back to the day he first laid eyes on her.
Toby was on his knees re-stocking a shelf, when the ting-a-ling of the doorbell announced a visitor. The big man turned and saw his long-time friend, Jake Oakes holding open the door and encouraging an, as yet unseen, individual to enter. "Come on, Randi. There's someone I want you to meet." And then, she walked in. She was tall, even at the age of twelve, and so gangly, but even then, she was a beauty; and nearly the spitting image of the man next to her. Jake gently took her hand, and together they approached the storekeeper.
"Toby Jenkins, I'd like you to meet Randi Christine Oakes…my niece." The elder Oakes announced.
Toby held out his hand to the girl, who stood there in shy silence studying the floor. "A pleasure to meet you, young lady."
She lifted her face to him, and Toby's heart lurched. Her silky, raven hair hung limply about her face. Her cheeks, which should have held the pink blush of youth, were pale and drawn, and lightly tracked with dried tears. And her eyes…lord; her eyes…such a beautiful, crystal-blue; and filled with so much sadness. She looked up at him, and Toby could tell she was somewhat intimidated by his size, but she gamely placed her hand in his big one. "Pleased to meet you, sir," she semi-whispered. From that moment on, the big man was hers.
Toby would later learn that Randi's parents, Jake's brother and sister-in-law, were killed in an auto accident. Randi's mother had no living relatives and the authorities had misplaced Jake's address information. So a grieving Randi spent weeks being shuffled between courts and foster homes, lost and alone, until Jake's' address had been found. Jake and Randi barely knew each other, as Randi was a toddler the last time he saw her, but their mutual grief became the foundation for a bond that even most fathers and daughters never shared.
Randi flourished under Jake's' care. Her outgoing personality and gentle, caring spirit made her the darling of Cutters Gap, and the center of Toby and Kate Jenkins' world.
Now the center of their world was lost and alone again…for entirely different reasons. Only this time, there was no one that would come and rescue her. Jake had passed on years ago, from a massive heart attack, while the young woman was in her final year of medical school. Back then, she had a town full of friends and adopted family to see her through her heartache. Now, with this latest tragedy that befell her last year…well, the town was still here…but, in her grief and self perceived guilt, Randi had cut herself off from everyone that would help her through it. Toby knew in his heart, that if the gentle-hearted woman didn't end her self imposed exile soon, she would never come out of the well of despair she had fallen into.
"We'll be here for you honey," he whispered to the falling snow. "Don't wait too long."
Randi breathed a huge sigh of relief as she traveled the snow-packed highway. That wasn't so bad, she half smiled to herself. Thank you, Uncle Toby, for not pushing. I just need time. Satisfied with her self-deception, the dark-haired Doctor's thoughts turned to a certain strawberry-blonde writer. God, what a pill! The tall woman grimaced. Still…she had some lovely green eyes. Hell, she had a lovely everything. It's a pity. I'll bet when she's not being hateful, she's pretty darn nice to be around. "Heh," Randi snorted. "Not that you'll ever get the chance to find out."
The tall woman turned onto the road that led to her house and turned on the radio, hoping to hear the latest on the storm that was assaulting the area. Trisha Yearwood was belting out 'Ribbons and Bows.' Ooohh, I love this song. Randi leaned back and let her rich contralto voice accompany the country diva. Her voice trailed off, as she noticed bright beams of light branching across the road up ahead. What the hell…?
Randi wasn't sure what to expect, and slowed her approach accordingly, craning her neck and following the path of the lights back to their source. "Son of a bitch!" The tall woman exclaimed as her eyes fell upon the broken and dented mass of metal that used to be Megan's Lexus. Pulling her Jeep to the side of the road, Randi reached down and turned on the CB radio that hung below the dashboard. "Breaker, breaker…Cutters Gap Rescue, this is Randi Oakes. Come in please." She barked into the handmike. Hearing no immediate response, she tried again. "Breaker…Cutters Gap Rescue, please respond." Getting no response, the Doctor growled and threw open her door. She had one foot on the snowy ground when the radio crackled.
"Cutters Gap Rescue, responding. What's the problem Randi?" Chet Masters' voice sounded a little harried.
Randi grabbed up the Mic. "We've got a vehicle crash, Chet. About a mile and a half up my road. The driver's still in the car, and I'm on my way down to assist…but she's going to need transport ASAP." Getting no response, Randi tapped the button. "I need transport Chet, do you copy?"
"No can do, Randi," the medic sighed. I'm down here at old man Cuthbert's place. He and his car got real familiar with a tree. He doesn't look to be too bad, but we're having a bitch of a time prying him out of this hunk of scrap he calls a car. And this damn snow ain't making it any easier. Any way you can get the patient up to your place?"
Shit, shit, shit! "That's an affirmative, Chet…I'll find a way," she gritted as she dropped the Mic and climbed out of the cab.
"Sorry, Randi. Keep me informed."
"Yeah, right," the tall woman grumbled as she threw open the back door and reached for the snow broom and the 'First Response' First Aid Kit that her uncle always kept in the Jeep.
Stumbling and sliding through the snowy brush, Randi made her way to the stout, aged Maple that cradled the silver Lexus in it's bosom. Impact with the tree had loosed the snow that clung to the branches above, effectively covering the vehicle in a pristine blanket. Shit, if it hadn't been for the headlights, I would've never known it was here. Setting the First Aid kit on a nearby stump, the tall woman quickly brushed the snow away from the door and part of the roof. Time was of the essence now, and she didn't need packed or falling snow to impede her efforts. Having cleared the door, she reached for the door handle and pulled…only to have the door open about an inch before locking in place. Randi cursed and pulled again…without success. The door was stuck. Grabbing the brush, she pushed more snow away from the bottom of the door, working her way back toward the front of the vehicle, and groaned in frustration when she saw the crumpled metal where the door meets the side panel. "Goddammit," she growled. "I don't need this right now."
Dropping the brush, Randi straightened to full height and took a deep breath. "Getting mad isn't going to help," she reminded herself. "Just get the damned door open." With that, she planted one foot in the snow, one foot on the car body, and both hands on the doorframe, counted to three…and pulled. Sinewy muscles strained and pulled, as flesh battled metal; and with a long, dull groan, metal yielded. Pushing the door back as far as it would go, the Doctor peered into the dimly lit interior, and groaned.
The blood-matted blonde head rested on the expended air bag that covered the steering wheel. Her limp body held in place by the shoulder harness. A blood caked arm hung limply between unnaturally twisted legs. Jesus, The first thing the tall woman did was recline the drivers' seat back a few inches, to give herself a little more room. Then, reaching in, Randi gently grasped Megan's head in her hands. "Megan, this is Dr. Oakes…can you hear me?" Receiving no response, Randi continued speaking aloud. "Still not talking to me, huh? That's okay. I need to check your breathing." Unwilling to remove her hands from their supporting positions; the doctor leaned in further, until her cheek was within an inch of the unconscious woman's lips. Almost immediately, she felt the warm breaths against her skin. "Well, you're breathing okay. Now I have to move you away from this wheel, so I can see how badly you're injured." Keeping the blonde head as straight as possible, Randi lifted her away from the steering wheel, and lay her back on the seat. Next, Randi needed to stabilize the neck. And as much as she hated to do it, she would have to release her hold and step away. "Okay Megan, I need to move away for a moment. I'll be right back." Releasing her hold and backing out of the car, Randi lunged for the First Aid kit. Please god, let there be a collar in here. I can't remember the last time I've looked in here. Placing the suitcase-type kit on the ground, she unsnapped the latches and laid it open, doing a quick visual inventory. Thank you! Grabbing up the stiff, molded collar, she reached back in the vehicle and carefully fastened it around the writer's neck.
With the most critical task completed, the raven-haired doctor began a swift inventory of the small woman's injuries. The physician worked quickly and efficiently, verbalizing her actions, in the off chance that the unresponsive woman could hear and feel what was happening. "Your pulse is pretty fast, Megan, but that's 'cause you've lost some blood. You're breathing kind of fast too, but that's to be expected. I'm going to open your eye and shine a light in there for just a moment, okay?" Shining the penlight in the young woman's eyes, the dark haired woman noted a sluggish reaction from the pupils. "Hmmm, looks like you may have a concussion too. Don't worry, we'll take care of it."
The one-way conversation continued as the tall doctor pressed, probed, and examined as much of the limp body as she could reach; applying temporary dressings and bandages as she went along.
A long twenty minutes had passed before Randi was finished with examination and treatment. She stood outside the damaged vehicle, pondering her next course of action. The snow was getting deeper and Megan's chances of becoming hypothermic increased with every passing moment, in spite of the rescue blanket that Randi had covered her with. Now what," her mind screamed. No backboard, no stretcher, nothing to immobilize her with, so I can get her up to the house…DAMMIT! Running a frustrated hand through her hair, the desperate doctor searched her mind for an answer. Looking up at her Jeep, and down at her patient, Randi decided on a course of action. It was risky, at best, but it was the only chance the younger woman would have.
Scrambling up to the Jeep, Randi grabbed the piece of board that Toby had given her earlier, and carried it back to the Lexus. She then grabbed the remaining roll bandage and elastic bandage; sliding the board down and behind Megan's head, Randi used the remaining bandaging to secure the blonde's head and upper torso to the board.
Randi sighed as she looked down at the tightly wrapped writer lying in the car. This solution was about as far from perfect as she could get; and risky as hell for the patient, but it was the best she could come up with. Now she would have to get the injured woman out of her car, and into the Jeep that waited for her at the top of the incline, about twenty yards away. Thank god, this didn't happen further up the hill, where the woods really drop down from the road.
"All right, Ms. Megan, I have to get you up to my truck. And in order to do that, I'm going to have to move you out of the car, and on to the ground for a moment. Now I'm going to have the thermal blanket under you, but you'll still feel a few moments of cold; but it'll be over quick, so don't worry." The tall woman bent to her task, but paused, as she remembered something. With a muttered curse, she ran back to the Jeep, whipped open the passenger door, and laid the seat back to a nearly prone position. That'll make things a little easier when we get up here.
Back at the wreck, Randi placed the blanket beside the car and began the arduous process of removing the unconscious woman from the vehicle, and repositioning her for easier pickup. Having done this, the dark haired physician squatted down, and carefully gathered the smaller woman in her arms. God, she's so light. Shaking off the thought, the tall woman made her way up to the Jeep with her helpless burden.
It was slow, awkward, and more than a little frustrating, but Randi finally had the writer tucked into the passenger seat of the Jeep. The motor was running, the heater was on, the patient was firmly strapped in. The only thing left for the weary physician to do was gather up the remains of the First Aid kit.
Short moment's later; fingers nearly numb from the cold, shifted the Jeep into drive and headed home.
Randi pulled up and positioned the Jeep parallel to the front steps of the sprawling ranch house that she called home. Throwing the vehicle in park and setting the emergency brake, Randi turned and addressed her unconscious passenger. "All right, Megan…we're at my house. I've got to run up and open some doors, so I can carry you in. I'll be right back." Leaving the motor and heater running, the tall woman bounded up the snow-packed steps. Propping open the door to the screened-in porch, she stepped quickly into the house, side-stepping the happy canines that came to greet her. "Not now, ladies…we've got company, and I've got to get her in here and settled ASAP." As if understanding, the furry pair wandered out to the porch and sat down, silently observing the large, humming creature that sat in front.
Randi's mind was racing as she traveled down the long hallway, toward the back half of the house, pausing in front of the powder-blue door that she hadn't opened in months. Sighing, Randi opened the door and turned on the light, battling the waves of melancholy that washed over her as she stood in the small treatment room and office of Dr. Jacob Oakes. Even though he was retired from practice, the elder Oakes insisted on keeping a well-stocked office in case his farming neighbors needed assistance. The nearest medical facility was in Knox, a full thirty miles away; much too far away for some injuries that came with using heavy farming equipment. Over the years there had been more than a few ranchers, farmers, and pregnant mothers that were thankful for the old man's foresight. Just as Randi was thankful for it now, as she jogged out to the Jeep.
Within moments, the raven-haired doctor had the petite writer lying on the examining table. "Okay, Megan, the first thing I have to do is take care of that nasty head wound of yours." The tall woman continued her one-sided conversation with the patient, no longer sure if it was for Megan's benefit, or her own. "This is going to need some stitches. I'm pretty sure you're not feeling anything right now, but, just in case, I'm going to administer a local anesthetic." Moving to the locked cabinet, she pulled out a disposable syringe, a bottle of Lignocaine, 1%, and a pack of Ethilon suture. Snagging the rolling stool with her foot, she settled beside the blonde head and began her work.
Randi stood and stretched, groaning as stiff and aching muscles protested the action. A full two hours had passed while she reset bones, splinted limbs, stitched and bandaged wounds, and performed a more thorough examination of the unconscious woman. Her vital signs were greatly improved, and another check of the pupils showed them to be slightly more reactive, much to the tall woman's relief. An injection of antibiotics finished the treatment.
"Well now, I guess the only thing left to do is to get you into a bed and sit and wait for you to wake up. I'm going to throw some sheets on the bed in the spare room. Be right back."
Randi hastened to the spare bedroom, grabbing sheets and a blanket from the linen closet on the way. As she began to make the bed, a sudden thought made her pause. Better to be safe than sorry, she decided, as she went back to the linen closet and pulled down a plastic fitted sheet. Upon completion of the bed, the brunette returned to her patient.
"All right then, Ms. Megan, let's get you settled into a real bed." The doctor gently lifted the strawberry blonde into her arms, being mindful of the splinted limbs, and carried her to the other room. Once she had the smaller woman settled, the dark-haired doctor decided she would have some time to tend to her own needs before her patient regained consciousness.
As she turned to leave the room, Randi noticed, with no small amusement, two furry heads peeking around the edge of the doorframe. "Well, aren't we the nosy ones," she chided.
The little golden one had the grace to duck her head, as if in embarrassment, while her larger midnight companion merely cocked a triangular head; a gesture that was clearly doggie language for 'and your point is…?'
Randi chuckled at the furry pair as she moved past them and down the hall. "Keep an eye on her," the doctor called back. "Let me know if she starts to wake up." The two canines looked at each other, then to the unmoving human in the bed. With a mutual sigh, they curled up in the doorway, facing the bed.
Randi finally felt human again. A quick, hot shower and warm, dry clothes had done wonders for her aching body. Now, she sat in her kitchen, munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and listening to the latest weather reports. Not much had changed from the first report she had heard this morning. The falling snow would vary in intensity, but would still continue until at least Thursday evening. The exhausted woman sighed and hung her head. Great! It'll be a month before they can clear the road leading up here. And I get to spend that whole month with the delightful Ms. Galagher. Maybe I should just shoot myself now and get it over with. "Oh, well," she muttered aloud, "at least it won't be boring." Picking up the phone, she dialed a familiar number. "I'd better let Toby know what's going on up here, in case someone comes looking for her."
A short while later, armed with a paperback book, a thermos of coffee, and a comforter, the tall woman padded back to the room where her patient lay. She would be keeping a vigil over the injured woman until she awakened. The woman stopped short as she approached the doorway and chuckled as she looked down at her appointed 'watchers.' The big black canine was sprawled on her back, snoring contentedly. Her golden companion lay horizontally, with her head resting comfortably across the black's neck. "Damned if you two aren't named right," the woman grinned as she stepped over the cozy pair.
Laying her things at the end of the bed, the tall woman went back into the office to fetch several items that she would need close-by over the next few days. Returning to the bedside, she placed them neatly on the nightstand next to the bed, then proceeded to do a quick check of the blonde's pulse, respiration, blood pressure and pupils. Finding them all satisfactory, she gathered up her things and ambled over to the big, overstuffed armchair that was located by the window. Randi sighed as she curled her tall frame into the inviting softness. She had always loved this old chair. Growing up, it was her fortress, her cocoon…a warm, quiet place where a teenage girl could sit and dream and ponder the mysteries of life as she gazed at the stars through her window. Nothing's changed Uncle Jake…I'm still pondering. Only now, it's not so much the mysteries of life, as the unfairness of it. She shouldn't have died, Uncle Jake…I should have been there…but I wasn't…and she died! I'm sorry, Uncle Jake. Her throat burned with the sob that she was trying to suppress, as a lone teardrop escaped her tightly closed eyes. I'm so sorry, Casey.
The heartsick woman was startled from her grief as a small, leathery pad touched her hand. Watery, blue eyes flew open and were captured by soft brown orbs that gazed up at her with almost human compassion. Then the small golden creature that more closely resembled a fox than a dog, gingerly crawled up into her lap; a soft, little tongue snaked out, snatching away the errant tear, before the petite head lay gently upon her shoulder. "Thank you, baby," the tall woman sighed, as she buried her face in the sweet-smelling fur. This scene was not new. It had been played out many times over the last several months. Her silent companions always seemed to know when the guilt and pain would overcome her…and they would be there. The little one would offer her best canine imitation of a heartfelt hug; and the beautiful black would sit beside them, silent and unmoving, as if offering comfort by the mere strength of her presence.
And she sat there now, once again, offering support in the best way she knew how. She would remain here, a silent sentinel, keeping watch as Morpheus lured her two companions into his realm.
She was tumbling, falling. Flashes of white and green and brown filling her vision like an insane kaleidoscope. And then, mercifully, oblivion. Now the world outside was pulling her from her cozy darkness…and she really didn't want to go…it hurt too much. "Oh, God," she croaked in a voice she barely recognized as her own. She wanted to move…. she really did, but even a little stretch of stiff limbs had hurt. "Owww," she said through clenched teeth, as tears leaked out of tightly closed eyes.
"Easy," the silky, deep voice cajoled her, as a cool hand brushed wisps of hair from her eyes.
Who…? Why does that voice sound familiar? Unwilling eyelids fluttered, finally giving way, as bleary green orbs brought into focus the face behind the voice.
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