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 had a smile on her face as she gathered the items she would need to tend to Megan. Well, she's not blowing kisses at me, but at least she's being a little more agreeable. Maybe it's because you're not being such a jerk, Randi. The tall woman had to chuckle at the 'duh' quotient of that last thought. "Yeah, that definitely helps," she muttered aloud. Randi thought back to last night. She had lain awake for a long while after she got in bed. That in itself was not unusual; as she had lain awake many nights, her thoughts consumed by grief and guilt. What made last night different, was her preoccupation with a certain strawberry blonde. She could not, for the life of her, understand why she was so impatient with the writer. The young woman was biased and homophobic, true; but Randi had met many such people in her life, and had always been able to overlook their smallmindedness. Why was this woman different? Throughout her life, Randi had been gentle and caring. This was especially evident in her treatment of her patients, regardless of their temperament. Why did she allow the writer to get to her? Randi had no answers. All she knew was that her behavior was inexcusable. Uncle Jake would be ashamed. So the pretty Doctor came to the only conclusion she could live with; To knock the damn chip off of her shoulder and treat the blonde with the same kindness and respect that all her patients used to receive, regardless of the younger woman's ill manners. And damned if it isn't making a little difference, the brunette mused with a grin as she made her way back to her patient.
"Hi, sorry it took so long," the doctor apologized as she bustled into the room. The blonde offered no response, as she stared morosely at the ceiling. Placing her things on a small folding table she had brought along, the brunette moved over to the bed.
"Okay Ms.Galagher, we know I have to do some checking and changing, and we also know that you have to answer nature. What would you like to do first? It's your call."
The young blonde's eyes flew to the doctor's face, searching for some sign of deceit, or condescending attitude. Genuinely surprised at finding neither, and unable to deal with the sincerity in those blue eyes, the writer looked away and mumbled, "I really have to go."
"Okay, fine," the doctor returned as she moved to the closet. "There are some extra pillows and blankets in here. We can use them to raise your torso and leg a little bit, to make it easier for you to lift and situate yourself."
One and a half-hours later, Megan was in that blissfully fuzzy place between the waking world and the peaceful oblivion of sleep. Her belly was somewhat full, That broth was actually pretty good. Her bladder was empty. That wasn't anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Her bandages were changed, and the doctor had given her something for the pain. And then she rode off into the sunset…just like the hero in a bad western, the writer giggled to herself as she drifted into the realm of dreams.
Randi lay sprawled in the big recliner. The massive stone fireplace had a roaring fire going, spreading toasty warmth throughout the room. The house was clean, the fireplace re-stocked with wood, and her patient was dozing comfortably. That left nothing for the brunette to do but to curl up with a book and catch up on some reading. A course of action that lasted all of ten minutes before blue eyes drifted closed and the book dropped from limp fingers. All too soon, relaxed muscles became rigid, facial muscles began to twitch, and eyeballs careened wildly beneath closed lids.
The hallway seemed to stretch for miles as frantic feet raced along its length. The blue beacon flashed incessantly above the door. Bursting through the door, she found the room was in chaos. A cacophony of voices was vying to be heard. A willowy redhead stood in the far corner, hands covering trembling lips, tears streaming down a pale face. Machines cried out in alarm. A wiry black man in a white lab coat was on the bed, straddling a small body; rhythmically pushing on a small chest while grim faced nurse held a breather bag over an unmoving face. Moving to the bed, she barked, "What the hell's going on?"
"She started having respiratory distress about a half hour ago," the dark man responded between compressions. "She's rejected any treatment we've tried. She was calling for you. We've been calling and paging," he informed her, not unkindly. " She went into full respiratory arrest about ten minutes ago, and then cardiac arrest just before you walked in. WHERE THE HELL IS THAT CRASH CART?
As if on cue, the door burst open, as the requested machine was hustled in. Randi reached out and pulled the machine to her. Grabbing the paddles, she barked, "Get this damn thing fired up, STAT!" Turning to the tiny, pale child in the bed, she whispered, "Hang on, Casey. Don't leave me, baby."
The dark head lifted. Blue eyes scanned her surroundings as triangular ears rotated left and right, searching, listening. She heard it again; a faint, keening 'noooo.' Raising up, she cast a glance to her honey-colored companion, who was listening worriedly to the sounds of distress, and then sauntered down the hall. Striding into the livingroom, she approached the recliner and paused, observing the writhing, moaning figure in the chair. With a mental shrug, she reached up and grabbed the nearest shirtsleeve in her teeth, and began to tug.
Reaction to the tugging was almost immediate, as the raven-haired woman bolted up, ramrod straight, wide-eyed, and gasping. Her disorientation faded quickly as she looked down at the ebony canine that sat there staring at her. The strong, angular chin quivered as she looked into patient blue eyes. "I did it again, didn't I?"
In answer, the dark canine reached over and lightly nibbled the length of her arm until she hit a spot that made the tall woman jump. "Aahh, you little shit!" Randi was on her feet now, rubbing the sensitive spot and glaring at the arrogant beast who was now sitting on the other side of the room, wagging her tail and looking at the tall woman with, what Randi would swear, was an evil grin.
Woman and animal locked stares for a long moment, before the woman gave in. "All right, Ze, you win. I'm better now. Although," she chuckled as she squatted down, "I like your partner's remedy a lot better." The raven-haired canine moved closer to the squatting woman, until they were almost nose to nose. "You are such an asshole," she grinned to the animal. And had absolutely no chance to dodge the sloppy, wet, pink tongue that slapped her nose.
"Rise and shine, Ms. Galagher. A bright, new day beckons!" the brunette announced cheerfully, as she strode into the room carrying a large tray. It was a cheeriness that was decidedly unappreciated by the woman in the bed.
"I've no intention of rising or shining," the blonde grumbled as she reached for the blanket with her good hand, "and the 'bright, new day can kiss my dull, old…" The last word was muffled by the blanket that the small woman threw over her face.
Randi was hard-pressed to contain a chuckle at the unknowing cuteness of that act. Setting the tray on the dresser, she walked over to the bed and squatted down by the bunched up blanket that had blond hairs sticking out.
"Aw, c'mon now," the brunette cajoled, "surely you don't want to miss out on some nice, hot, fluffy scrambled eggs." The doctor grinned to herself as she watched the blanket creep down, revealing a bleary green eye.
"A thick slice of tender, juicy ham." The blanket moved down further.
"Fresh, hot, buttered sourdough bread." The blanket moved down even further, revealing two wide-open green eyes, and a pert nose.
"Scrambled eggs?" a muffled voice inquired hopefully. The tall woman nodded.
"Ham?" Another nod.
"Hot bread and real butter?" A smile and a nod.
The green eyes narrowed. "This had better not be a trick to get me up, so you can poke and prod."
Randi feigned a shocked expression. "Me?"…. Never!"
A snort was the response as the blonde drew down the covers and sighed. "Okay, what do I have to endure in order to eat?"
"Well," the doctor responded as she stood up, "we have to do the usual checks, check and change your bandages, and you probably have to use the pan, but…." She paused at the crestfallen expression on the young woman's face. "Why don't we let you eat first, so your breakfast doesn't get cold." Randi was rewarded with the first genuine, open smile she had seen since meeting the writer. And it warmed her immeasurably. The tall woman decided, as she helped her patient sit up, that some way…somehow…she would see more of those smiles.
"Mmmm," the blonde hummed delightedly, as the slightly cheddary flavor of the eggs caressed her palate. This was the first truly solid food she'd had in days. And, while the broth and soups she had been given were good, her stomach was getting really pissed at not being given regular food. Now, as she sat munching contentedly, she would swear she could hear her tummy chanting a litany of 'thank yous'. God, who knew she could cook like this? the writer mused as she speared a piece of pre-cut ham. Actually, she does a lot of things good; you just refuse to see it, her small voice reprimanded. "Don't start!" she warned the small voice. She's only doing this because she has to. Keep telling yourself that, the small voice sneered. Trying to quiet her conflicting thoughts, the writer's mind drifted back to the night before.
"Grayson," the gravelly voice barked into the phone.
"Don't you ever just say 'hello'?" the amused blonde inquired.
"Galagher?!" the publisher shouted. "Is that you? Jesus Christ, woman, where are you? Are you all right? I've been worried sick about you!" Where in the hell have you been? "The older woman ranted, clearly pissed, but near tears in relief at hearing her young friend's voice.
"I'm uh, I'm okay, Charly." The blonde was clearly struggling to keep from breaking down. But it was so hard. She was so scared…and so alone…and the familiar, caring voice threatened to destroy what little control of her emotions she had left. "I was in an accident." At the quick intake of breath on the other end, the writer hastily reassured, "But I really am okay. I've got a broken arm, and a broken leg, and a mild concussion, but that's all."
"That's all!? Goddamn it, Megan, that's enough!" the distraught publisher bellowed. "What? hospital are you in? What room? Who's your doctor?" The older woman was rattling off questions faster than the bemused author could answer them. Before she could respond, she heard footsteps coming down the hall and stopping at her door, followed by a light tapping.
"Hold on a moment, Charly," the blonde instructed before laying the phone down and bidding Randi to enter.
The tall woman strode into the room with an apologetic grin. "Sorry to bother you," she offered, "but I figured you might want these." She handed over a sheet of paper, accompanied by a legal-looking document and two laminated cards. Megan briefly examined the items in her hand. The sheet of paper contained, in neatly typed order, Randi's full name, address, phone number, vehicle make and license number. The document was her medical certification, and the laminated cards were her driver's license and hospital ID badge. At the blonde's questioning look, the doctor explained, "These are the things I would need to know, if my friend were injured and in a stranger's hands." And, with a gentle smile, the tall woman left the room, leaving the young woman thoroughly flabbergasted by the wisdom, and unexpected kindness of that act. Megan was brought out of her consternation by a muffled shout, as she hastily picked up the phone.
"Sorry about that," the blonde apologized.
"Who was that?"
"That was just the doctor."
"Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine, Charly. She was just dropping off a couple of things. Now, as to your questions, I'm not exactly in a hospital."
"Whoa," the older woman interrupted, "what do you mean 'not exactly in a hospital? You just said that was a doctor in the room. What the hell's going on, Meg?"
"I'll be happy to tell you, sweety, if you'll quit interrupting," the young woman chuckled, earning her an impatient growl. Once the older woman quieted down, the writer filled her in on the events leading up to the present conversation. The publisher's reaction was a long silence, before inadvertently putting her foot in her mouth.
"Whoo, talk about sleeping with the enemy," the older woman blurted, then quickly clapped her hand over her mouth in belated recognition of the ill chosen words.
"That wasn't even close to funny," the icy voice responded.
"You're right, Megan. That was an extremely poor choice of words," the publisher apologized, mentally kicking herself. "I'm really sorry."
The writer chewed on her lip for a long moment before sighing; "it's all right, Charlie. I just…"
"I know, baby," the older woman responded maternally. "But really, personal bias aside, is she treating you okay?
"I suppose," the younger woman allowed. "What choice does she have?"
The older woman frowned in puzzlement. "What do you mean?"
"I won't be trapped here forever, Charlie. She knows that. She's taking care of me so I don't have her ass thrown in jail when I get back." The writer paused as an evil thought brought a catty smile to her lips. "Of course, with what goes on in those places, she might feel right at home."
The publisher dropped her head and scrubbed her eyebrows with the fingers of her free hand. "Oh, Megan." "Honey, if she were really worried about you having her arrested, don't you think it would have been easier to just leave you in your car?"
"She's a pervert, not a murderer," the younger woman huffed.
"Thank you for clearing that up for me," the publisher chuckled, amused at the petulant distinction. "Seriously, Meg, I would like to find out a little more about this doctor; can you ask her for her full name and perhaps her address? I'd feel a lot better if I knew a little bit more about her and her medical credentials. I've got a few friends in the medical field who can provide me with the information I need."
The blonde glanced at the papers in her hand and smirked. "Got a pen?"
The older woman gazed at the wealth of information that she had written down in front of her. "Jeezus, this is damn-near everything but the color of her underwear."
"Um, just out of curiosity, how did you get your hands on all this information?"
"Do you remember when she stopped in here earlier?"
"That's when she just handed me all this stuff. Her hospital ID, driver's license, AMA certificate and personal info. I asked her why, and she just said something like, she'd want to know this stuff if she were you."
"Well, that was certainly nice of her," the publisher commented, duly impressed by the doctor's proactive response.
"If you say so," the younger woman shrugged.
"Megan, honey, from the sound of things, you're going to be there awhile. How pleasant or unpleasant your stay will be is going to depend on you as much as her. Now, it really looks like she is trying to do right by you." Hearing the indignant snort on the other end, the older woman rushed on. "Look, I know how you feel about gays, lesbians in particular, but I also know that you are an extremely fair and level-headed young woman. I'm not asking you to become best buddies with her, or start putting rainbow stickers on your car. All I'm asking you to do is try looking at her as a person, and not as a symbol. Accept the help she's trying to offer, gracefully. And when the road clears enough for you to get out of there and come home, you won't ever have to see her again."
"It's hard," the young woman responded, her voice cracking, "I look at Dr. Oakes, and I think of 'her'. She wanted me to think she cared for me too, but she didn't. If she did, she never would have left." The young woman's voice was a bare whisper now, and the publisher had to struggle to hear her. "She never called, she never wrote. She had her 'girlfriend'; she didn't need me or daddy anymore."
The publisher's heart hurt at the pain in those whispered words. "Oh, honey, I know. But this woman isn't your mother. She's just a young woman that came to your rescue and, in spite of your differences, is trying to take care of you. Let her out of your mother's shadow, and I promise you, your 'forced vacation' won't be half so bad."
The writer bit her lip and sighed deeply. "I'll try, Charlie."
Now, in the cold, clear light of day, she wasn't sure she could do as her friend asked. It was good advice, to be sure. But the writer wasn't sure she could look past the tall woman's lifestyle and see the person underneath. Especially since that lifestyle was responsible for the years of pain and feelings of abandonment that she had endured. Megan's introspection was interrupted by a soft knocking on the door.
A sable-crowned head peeked in the door, wearing a toothy grin. "All done?"
The writer looked down at her tray, which was cleared of everything but random crumbs. I ate all that!? God, I must have been hungry. She looked back to the expectant face at the door; you can do this, Meg. "Yes. Thank you."
The lanky physician opened the door wide and walked in, carrying her necessary medical items, and something else that Megan couldn't see, because it was mostly shielded by the woman's body. Placing the unknown item in the deep chair, and the other items on the small table, the doctor approached the bed.
"Breakfast was okay?" The doctor inquired, as she removed the tray to the dresser.
"Very good, thank you."
"You're quite welcome," the doctor responded with a warm smile that the young woman found hard not to return. "Okay, we've got breakfast done," she announced as she returned to the bed. "Now we have to do a check and change, and you, I'm sure, have to answer nature's call. Again, Ms. Galagher, the choice is yours. What would you prefer to do next?"
Megan again searched the tall woman's face, searching for something…anything…that would reveal the insincerity she was sure the doctor possessed. But all she found was an open and honest warmth that, on some deep level, shamed the young woman. "I, uhm, I really have to go," the writer responded.
"No problem," the doctor reassured, as she moved to the closet for the items she would need.
Charlotte Grayson picked up her private line for the tenth time. And for the tenth time, she paused. She would kill you if she found out, her head shouted. But she's worried sick, the heart argued. It's not going to kill you to let her know that everything's all right. You don't have to write her a book. Just give her the basics and ease her mind. She deserves that much. "Arrghh, I hate this!" the publisher growled, as she dialed the memorized number. She listened to one-and-a-half rings before the other end picked up. "She's all right," the publisher announced briskly. "She wrecked in the snow up there, and broke an arm and leg, but she's being taken care of." The older woman listened for a moment, then resumed speaking. "No, she's not in a hospital. The woman that found her is a retired doctor who lives up the road from where she crashed. The ambulance was tied up, and the roads were too bad to try and get to the hospital, so the doctor brought her to her home. The downside is that they are snowbound. It'll be weeks before she can get out of there." Charlie listened to the voice on the other end for a moment, and with a mirthless chuckle responded, "It's a downside because the good doctor just happens to be gay." The silence on the other end was long and deafening before the publisher heard a muffled sob. "Look…she'll be all right," the editor consoled. "This may be the best thing that could have happened to her. This may force her to look at things through eyes that have been closed for years. Yes…..I'll keep you informed." With that uttered assurance, Charlotte Grayson hung up the phone. Forgive me, Megan.
The doctor briskly dried her hands as she exited the bathroom. "Well, that didn't take long," she commented cheerfully as she moved about the room gathering her things. "The stitches are healing quite nicely, and the bruising pretty quickly. I was pleasantly surprised that you didn't suffer any internal damage or develop an infection." Randi paused and met the green eyes that had been surreptitiously watching her as she moved about the room. "All things considered, Ms Galagher, we were pretty lucky."
The blonde grimaced and turned her face toward the blinds-covered window. "Forgive me, Dr. Oakes, if my interpretation of 'lucky' differs from yours," she replied hollowly.
Randi pursed her lips for a thoughtful moment. "Yeah, well, I can see as how it would. But I guess it all boils down to perspective. You look at it as what has happened, and how perfectly miserable you are right now. I look at it as what could have happened, and how perfectly miserable many people would be, at the loss of such a great storyteller." Randi finished with a crooked grin.
Megan stared at the brunette with narrowed eyes. Every nerve in her body screamed She's lying! She's just saying things she thinks you want to hear! But another voice penetrated the cacophony. But what if she's not? What if she's really sincere? The writer closed her eyes and sighed. A decision had been made. What do I really have to lose right now? But she had just one question.
The tall woman was confused. "Why? Why what?"
"Why are you so nice to me?"
The smile returned with a playful arch of her eyebrow. "Why not?"
Two words, agonizingly simple, but complex enough to leave the wordsmith floundering for a rejoinder that never came. The tall woman didn't give her time to fret over the verbal inadequacy though, as she began speaking again.
"You know, it occurred to me that you sit in here, day in, day out, with absolutely nothing to do but stare at the walls. I don't have a TV for this room, and I don't think you'd care for the books I have." This last part said with a guilty grin that earned her a withering glare from the blonde. Ignoring the look, she continued. "I'm still working on a way to get you out of this room for a while. But, until I do," the brunette stopped talking momentarily as she walked over to the big chair and picked up the item she had laid there earlier, "I figured you might occupy yourself with this for a while."
Megan gasped as the doctor gently placed the laptop computer in her lap. "Oh, God."
The tall woman made quick work of connecting the modem line to the wall outlet. Then, reaching over, she lifted the lid and tapped the power switch.
The absolutely joyful smile on the younger woman's face as the darkened screen came to life made Randi's heart do cartwheels. Houston, we have liftoff.
"I've got MSN as my service provider," she explained to the blonde, who was already tapping keys, "but I also have access to AOL and Netscape. You can 'surf' to your heart's content, check your email, find some fanfic sites if you want to do some reading, or…" she held up the floppy discs she'd removed from her back pocket, "do some writing. It may be a little awkward with your bad arm, but I don't think that will stop you."
Seeing that the writer's attention was already riveted to her new toy, the doctor chuckled to herself. I guess it's time for me to stop babbling and make my exit. "Well," the doctor began, as she placed the discs on the folding table, "I guess I'd better…" She was stopped cold by a tentative hand placed briefly on hers.
Startled blue eyes collided with green for a fleeting instant, before the green moved down swiftly to the keyboard.
"I…" Nervous fingers caressed the keyboard, "I…um…thank you. You didn't have to do all this, but I really appreciate it."
"I know I didn't have to," the tall woman responded, smiling warmly, "but I wanted to. And you're very welcome."
A comfortable silence settled between the two women as they absorbed the comfort of a moment that, for once, was not clouded by fear, mistrust or defensiveness.
The furry blonde head appearing in the doorway broke the moment. "It looks like you have a visitor," the tall woman chuckled.
"Or two," the writer added as a larger, midnight-colored head joined the first. "Hello, ladies," she greeted, as the two canines cautiously entered the room.
The tall woman squatted down and stroked a golden head with one hand, while reaching her other hand out in anticipation of the large black paw that settled in it; an apparent ritual that the author observed with an expression of bemused curiosity that did not go unnoticed by the doctor.
"Miss 'Attitude' doesn't seem to like being petted," the doctor offered in explanation. "She'd rather do the handshake thing." The blonde rolled her eyes, and the doctor just shrugged, "Hey, who am I to argue?" The tall woman rose to her full height, "Well, I've got some shoveling to do." Heading to the door, she noticed she had only one shadow. "Are you coming?" she inquired of the smaller canine that sat placidly by the foot of the bed. The lack of movement by the little one gave Randi her answer. "She seems to want to keep you company for a while," she announced to the blonde. "Is that all right with you?"
The young woman looked down at the hopeful little face. "We'll be fine."
The doctor nodded. "If you need anything, Ms Galagher, just tell her to come get me. Believe it, or not, she'll understand." As the tall woman turned to exit, she was halted by a single word.
The blonde's eyes stared fixedly at the computer screen, but her voice was soft.
"My name is Megan."
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