Book 4: Rapids.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions.
Pairings: Nothing new, just revisiting some old pals.
Disclaimer: "ER", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The Division", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The X-Files", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "Xena Warrior Princess", see Chapter 4.
Disclaimer: "China Beach", see Chapter 5.
Disclaimer: "Facts of Life", see Chapter 6.
Disclaimer: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", see Chapter 7.
Disclaimer: "CSI", see Chapter 11.
Disclaimer: "JAG", see Chapter 23.
Spoilers: The healing begins.
++ Michael ++
Completely devastated from what had happened to me, I shut everyone out. Only Gabe would not be moved, resolutely waiting until the hospital released me on Tuesday and bringing the car around. Because of a horrible ice storm, we were trapped in Chicago, and Gabe would not be persuaded to take our chances. Since I had chased off the others with my abrasive agony, Gabe had not spoken a word to me, but remained close in silent understanding. Even as he wouldn't let me out of his sight.
So we were holed up with the Amazons, waiting for the weather to clear and I had to face my memories and my thoughts, racing round and round in my head.
Poor Jo had teared up when I'd snarled at her to go away. Pai and Boot were just as devastated. But one look in a mirror was proof as to why I had done it.
And to think that I had believed that I had outgrown vanity.
The gory purple completely distorted the entire right side of my head, from nose, to ear to jaw, turning a sickly blend of yellow and green at the edges. Tiny white butterfly bandages stood out against the angry mottling. It was my eyes that scared me more than just the bruising, though. The whites of my eyes were all bloody red, like some kind of monster movie effect, capillaries having burst when Snake-Eyes hit me. The dark raccoon mask wrapped around my left eye as well, fading towards my temple. My nose wasn't much better, swollen and discolored, the corner of my mouth lopsided from the puffy bruising.
The door suddenly burst open, silhouetting a tall, curvaceous figure in the hall light. "Enough sulking," Mel growled and I bristled. "You're being an ass, Fen. Now sit there and shut the hell up while I try and help." She was right and I deflated, feeling tears prick my eyes. In a moment, Mel had plopped herself in a chair and set aside the little Styrofoam cooler in her hands aside. Taking my hands, she looked seriously at me and I set aside my damned, insufferable pride. "Your pups will forgive you being an ass if you ask them to, and you know it. Gabe already has, we all have. You took a nasty shock. Dace is still out, but she's a fighter, and I think the prognosis will be good in the long run. Corday spent an entire night slaving over that mangled arm. It's a medical journal in the making. It'll be as good as new, you mark my words." That news actually coaxed a half-smile to my sore face. "Bet you still feel like hell, huh?"
"Yeah," I admitted reluctantly, and Mel smiled warmly.
"I have an unorthodox idea to help," she explained and went for the cooler, setting it in my lap. "Don't freak, because you might think it's gross, but..." From the cooler came a plastic container marked with medical symbols and jargon. There were wet-looking, dark globs stuck on the interior. "They're leeches." Despite myself, I recoiled, making Mel chuckle. "They were raised for sterile medical use and were a bitch to get in the middle of winter like this. Give them an hour or so, and all that swelling will be pretty much gone. I can't do anything with the discoloring, but I can do this for you."
It took a minute for me to swallow my natural revulsion, but right now I'd eat the damn things if it would get me home and healed quicker. I had some bridges to rebuild and in a hurry.
++ Mel ++
Go figure that humanity had come full circle to leeches again. I didn't have any of the 'civilized' squicks of most of humanity. That was Xena's doing, for she was good at keeping me level-headed. With a pair of padded tweezers, I placed three of the little slimies on Fen's damaged flesh. "Soon enough, they'll bloat up on all that useless blood under your skin and fall right off," I explained and Michael only grimaced. "You're one of the ballsiest people I know," I added wryly. "Most would have just freaked, and not listened."
"Oo-rah," Michael said half-heartedly and I grinned. The Marine chant had never sounded less enthusiastic. "You sure the pups are going to take me back?"
"Duh," Gabe chimed in from the door, and I grabbed Fen's chin when she would have looked over.
"If you're going to eavesdrop, then bring your butt in here," I ordered the red-head and he did as he was told. It was a long, pregnant glance between the old friends, and I busied myself with the little container of leeches and the cooler.
"You were an ass, Grace, but we love you anyway. An apology goes a damn long way."
"I'm sorry," she whispered and I smiled.
"We can hug and get mushy after Mel's done medievaling you," Gabe chuckled, once again completely at ease. "Your old Marine cronies would be so proud seeing you like this, covered in leeches."
"Har, har," Fen mocked back. "Are the pups okay?"
"Pai and Leslie are with Ian and Ben, so don't worry about them. Dunno where Junkie vanished off to, but she mentioned something about worrying about her daughter. She's the wild card now."
"Usually is," Fen sighed. "I'll make it up to her somehow."
There was a long moment where we all traded glances. It was Gabe that finally cracked the quiet, his demeanor absolutely serious. "Now we just hope that Dace wakes up and is still her."
"Amen," I murmured quietly and Michael nodded slowly.
++ Jo ++
If I had ever been more glad to see Jamie, I couldn't remember it. At the airport, where she'd accompanied Jinny to her flight and then waited hours for me, we clung together like it had been longer than eight days. I even called her in sick to school the next day, amused that she was so shocked at my unethical impulse.
We walked the familiar neighborhood, where we had both grown up in different eras. There was rap music rumbling deafeningly from too many woofers now, where I had once heard disco as it evolved with rock into the eighties.
It was a great night out that was sobered by a call to Olivia in Chicago. Dace had yet to awaken, but was stable in the ICU.
Jamie held me while I cried quietly.
So much had happened to me, that I was left raw and vulnerable. The day of blissful normalcy with Jamie only made the contrast of my recent past more vivid. I didn't dare call Michael, not the way she had snarled at me like a bear with a paw in a trap.
With a day away from the intensity to give me some perspective, I was pretty certain that it wasn't me that had made her growl so violently. She was a woman not accustomed to being laid low, to being hurt and vulnerable. That thought kept the worst of my despair at bay, after my initial breakdown with Jamie.
We'd finished the night watching our favorite movie, Mary Poppins, curled up like we had done Jamie's whole life. Rick even dropped by, curling up on Jamie's other side, and I ruffled his hair. We might be a really strange, unorthodox of family, but it worked for us.
My 'extended family' would fall into place in time.
Or so I hoped.
++ the cat ++
This blue-tinged place of wonderful smells, of rich soil and decades of pine needles under our sensitive paws. Of dappled sun in the trees. Of the sweet scent of water and plants and prey.
Was I real to her?
This blue shaded place was the only place that I felt real.
The silence from my human part was unnerving, and I searched endlessly for her in this forest home that suddenly seemed too empty, too still...
Forever had passed while I tracked her faint smell through the trees, upward where the ground grew hard and bare, and the cold of the clouds pressed close and damp. My paws ached, my tail weary where it steered me through the brutal terrain. So cold and lonely and desolate, this place!
Nowhere left to go... a cliff dropping to swirling nothingness. The loneliness pressed against me as I pressed flat to the cold stone and peered fearfully over the edge. A quiet trill escaped me, like a mother cat calling to her cubs.
Are you there?
Again, that quiet call into the unnatural quiet of the swirling mist beneath me.
Are you there?
Here... I'm here. So lost, so cold. Come to me. Find me. Please.
Lonely, incomplete, scared to my bones, I hesitated on that precipice. What she asked of me was impossible... but I could draw on her human strength. For the first time I could truly appreciate the strengths and weaknesses that we both shared and mirrored.
And I leapt.
++ Dace ++
The soft, almost bird-like call whispered over my mind, alerting me to the pain in my body. No, no, I couldn't face it.
Are you there?
Again, that motherly note, more urgent now.
Are you there?
Such a plaintive call, so lonely and scared. I knew her, that tawny strength that made me greater than the throngs of humanity around me, even as she kept me separate from them. We needed each other, I knew that.
Here... I'm here. So lost, so cold. Come to me. Find me. Please.
Warmth flooded through me, returning strength to my damaged body, blazing like healing sunlight over the pain and lethargy. Heartbeats passed as my senses returned to me, soft cloth against my torso and legs, something hard and agonizing locked around my burning right arm, my head bound snugly. The antiseptic smell of hospital in my nostrils, on my tongue, dry as sand. Humming machinery, the distant babble of voices, the push-pull of the respirator and the beep of a heart monitor, keeping time. With the greatest of efforts, I peeled open my swollen left eye, the room an over-bright blur of geometric shapes.
The heartbeat monitor's tempo was picking up, there was an annoying buzz I would bet was bringing a nurse running. The retort of the door made me wince, the pain flash-firing across my skull. A man entered my field of vision, spoke soft words that were a jumble to me.
Welcome back to humanity...
++ Jinny ++
In the nearly forty hours I'd been in Chicago, I'd gotten to like Olivia, Zo, Monica and the staff at Cook County. The time had passed in conversation, games and sleep, interspersed with random meals. The whole, sordid story fell from the lips of my new pals, and I had a feeling that this was more forthcoming than New York's finest normally was. I knew now from personal experience that Monica was positively loquacious, especially for a Fed.
Just as I was set up to knock down Olivia's queen on the battered chess set Zo had brought us, Abby trotted over, happy and breathless. "She's awake." We were on our feet, the game forgotten, hearts pounding. "You have to stay quiet, and keep it brief, but I'll smuggle you in. C'mon."
Through the catacombs of the hospital we wound, until we slipped through the double glass doors of the ICU.
CD looked like hell. Actually, that was the nicest thing that passed through my mind as Olivia and I skirted the bed to approach the one uncovered, bleary and bloodied blue eye. The cage-like contraption holding her right arm ran from wrist to elbow, a platform for the thick pins that thrust inward like nails in wood to vanish beneath the bloodied bandages. The knowledge that they punctured her flesh and into the shattered bones to hold them still was too horrific to contemplate for long, so I concentrated on that one eye.
"Hey," Olivia purred softly and perched on the stool beside the bed, taking CD's left hand. "He's dead. Cath's a dead-eye shot. We all did good."
CD's hand tightened with surprising strength, the knuckles turning white. Wearily, CD cleared her throat. "Liv," she whispered in a tone like driving in gravel. "God, I'm glad to see you. The others?"
Yeah, go figure that it was the first thing she asked. "They had to go home, Dace," Liv explained in a voice so gentle it brought up a lump in my throat. "Their daughters needed them."
The blue eye, white now colored bloody crimson, closed for a moment, opened awash with tears. "Okay. You staying?"
"As long as you need me."
++ Olivia ++
I meant it, giving Dace's fingers an empathetic squeeze to emphasize my vow. Quickly, I stood and yanked Jinny into my spot, so that she could say hello before we got thrown out. While they caught up in very short sentences, Dace wasn't caught off guard that it was Jinny and not Jo, I eyed the doctor's work. Like a starship loading dock, there was a contraption of metal circles and struts holding that arm immobile. At least a dozen thick spikes vanished beneath the heavy bandages, and I shuddered to realize that they were pinning her broken bones in place from the outside in. Blood stained the loosely-wrapped fabric all the shades of red. The bandages on Dace's face were still white, the blue oxygen tube taped beneath her nostrils livid against her ashen skin.
"We'll come back as soon as we can," Jinny was assuring Dace, who blinked in resignation.
"Soon," I promised softly and the cat flashed in that reddened eye. She wasn't alone at all. The realization made me feel much better. After all, I'd grown rather fond of the blonde woman and her strange cat spirit, personality, whatever the hell it was.
"She looks surprisingly good," Abby noted idly as we retraced our tracks to the main waiting room.
"Good healer, tough woman," I noted, smiling slightly. Monica was fretting in the waiting room, frantic that we weren't there, and unable to call because all mobiles had to be shut off on the hospital grounds.
"She's awake?" the tall agent marveled when we explained where we had been. "That's excellent! Can I see her?"
"Better not push it," Abby discouraged gently and Monica's face fell. "But, if she's as stable as she seemed, a regular room is in her near future. Why don't you three go get some lunch. I'll call if anything changes."
We all hesitated, but my stomach snarling, echoed by Jinny's, made up our minds.
I was asleep before we were out of the parking garage.
++ Gloria Perkins ++
It wasn't easy for me to return to the Big Apple. After what happened to me the last time I was here... Shoving the thought away, I hunched down further into my coat and checked the address that Archangel Gabriel had given me. Nice guy, and desperate for his best friend to get out of her funk. Maybe he told me a bit more about them than he should have, but it sure as hell strengthened my resolve.
There it was. Sonny's. Oh, how original.
Inside the ratty-looking store front was a bad movie set from a 'Rocky' flick. Sweaty men and a few women pounding away at boxing equipment from the last ice-age. Oh well, to each their own. The looks I was receiving made me grin wryly. Hope she liked how I turned out...
There was my quarry, laying into a battered old punching bag that was probably older than she was. Wait, that didn't come out right. Shoving away my babbling inner voice, I screwed up my courage and moved to stand near her.
"You're a hell of a hard woman to track down, Officer Polniaczek," I said in my calmest, warmest voice, like the one Aunt Kali used when I would get freaked. Instantly, Jo Polniaczek froze, her back still to me. Wisely, I swallowed nervous anticipation and stood my ground.
What did she see? Calm brown eyes, butch-shorn black hair capped with a mop of unruly curls, a young woman's body wrapped in club gear and off the rack military surplus. In five years, she had hardly changed, except for the pain and fatigue etched deeper into her face. Damn, I think that old crush of mine might not be as over as I thought. Damn.
Clearing my throat, I stepped a little closer, awkwardly flapping the trailing edges of the heavy, oversized pea coat.
"I recognized you that very first night, y'know," I said quietly in my gentlest, most empathetic voice. "When you hooked up with Leonacouer. I just didn't say anything until after the shit hit the fan. It's taken me this long to convince Tarzan that I wasn't yanking her chain, and then I had to come here and talk to Archangel Gabriel and convince him too."
"Who are you?" I heard her voice grate out hoarsely and my heart went out to her in understanding.
"Not many kids get to meet their knights in shining armor again." With a whoosh of air, the heavy coat dropped to the dirty floor and I thrust out strong, muscled forearms as though in offering. "I never had a chance to thank you for saving me."
++ Jo ++
Scars traced up the girl's arms, spidery lines from wrists to elbows, and I was suddenly transported back five years to the hellhole that earned Olivia and I our gold shields. Children held in a filthy hovel, raped and beaten by perverts that paid money to do it. A shattered window and a fire started by one brave little girl with black curls and soulful brown eyes. A charm bracelet that still haunted my dreams glittered at the scarred wrist and my eyes flew disbelievingly to the face, seeing the little girl in the wizened teenage face.
"Glor... Gloria?" I whispered in total disbelief and she smiled a sweet smile that showed me the girl she had been before those bastards had kidnapped her and ruined her life.
Somehow, I found myself in a coffee shop I'd never been in before, with a strong, hot mug of some exotic java in my cold hands. Gloria Perkins, the girl I had bonded with on possibly the worst night of both our lives chattering happily at me. "See?" she was saying warmly and gestured airily. "I came out good, thanks to you and Officer Benson."
Hardly daring to believe the incongruity of the woman-child seated before me, I reached out and tentatively traced the scars where the broken window had ravaged her tender skin. There had been no attempt to disguise them.
"You were my hero, y'know," she said quietly and my eyes filled with tears. "Thinking about how brave you were that night, to save all of us kids. That gives me strength, when the nightmares come. I'm even thinking about being a cop myself someday. Y'know, maybe. Me and Aunt Kali moved to Chicago to start over, y'know? And I hooked up with the Amazons almost four years ago. They've been teaching me job skills, y'know, 'cause I turn sixteen in March and I can get my license. And then," an all-encompassing gesture took it all in. "The sky's the limit."
She'd come out okay. Despite the unspeakably horrible crime committed to her young body and soul. Gloria had come back from that and was okay. Suddenly, hope began to dawn over my battered heart. A sunny grin swept over her pretty face in response to my own.
"Y'know," I began hesitantly and she inexplicably grabbed my hand in hers. "I can't believe you're here. This is possibly the nicest gift anyone's ever given me, just know that you came out okay."
"Yep," Gloria beamed happily, and she was miraculously back in her coat, I was in mine, and we were headed out the door. "Now I'm going to return the favor and help you get Michael back."
++ Dace ++
Two days passed in a blur of painkillers and shifting light in my window. The pain was too constant a companion to speak more than the few random words. Olivia, Jinny and Monica took turns sitting with me, and I was never alone. Grateful was an inadequate word, but they waved off my poor attempts at thanks. Each of them had different things to say to me, when I was awake. Monica told me about New Orleans, and bits and pieces of information that Mulder had told her about Sentinels. She talked about the visions that had plagued her all her life. Seeing events in metaphor behind her eyes. Of the nice people who had adopted her so young that they were all she knew. Olivia told me about New York, about her mother and the bastard rapist that had fathered her. Of her partner and his wife and kids and the pretty lawyer who had her feelings all jumbled. Jinny told me about Jo's daughter, Jamie, and their big clan in New York, where she was considering returning to once all this was over. She talked at length about her mother, who she found dead in the bathroom when she was sixteen, her father's service pistol in the pool of blood.
Why they confessed these things to me, I didn't know, but I was moved by their trust.
Elizabeth couldn't get over how fast I was healing, and scheduled my second surgery for late the next day.
Every step brought me closer to health, every step brought me closer to following my heart south to where the desert beckoned me.
I would have expected the strangely existential Monica to have been my greatest confidant about the strangeness of the Cougar and Coyote. But it was Olivia that was the one I connected with the most powerfully. Her calmness was an oasis, a safe place for me to unload. She neither believed me or disbelieved me, she just... listened. With Monica, she wanted to figure out the whole puzzle, and I just wasn't up to that kind of effort yet. I might never be. And Jinny was skeptical, no matter how hard she tried to hide it, bless her.
Anesthesia fell away in layers, like swimming up to the surface from deep water. Senses booted up like computer programs and the cat purred hello in my aching head.
"How are you feeling?" Olivia asked quietly and my stomach growled in irritation.
Her chuckle warmed the room as I chanced opening my eyes. "Another eight hours in surgery, and all you can think of is your stomach? You crack me up, Dace."
There was just a plain old cast on my arm now, and my right eye was uncovered, but reluctant to open more than a watery, near-blind slit. All in all, I felt better than I thought I would. "So feed me, wench."
I had to chuckle wearily at her laughter.
++ Monica ++
"I'm kinda surprised that you're still here," Dace remarked idly, having come awake from her nap while I was engrossed in the report that Mulder sent me this morning. Grinning wryly, I flashed the woman a teasing grin.
"I can't get away from you," I teased back, never looking up from the folder in my hands.
Our lives had become a waiting game, as there was very little, if anything, that Dace could do for herself. So, we three were her voice to San Francisco, New York, DC, and Las Vegas. Still too doped up to understand fully what was going on around her, Dace kept her sanity by flashes of half-hearted humor and retreating into her own mind. Talking still caused her immense pain, as muscles shifted across her skull and neck.
"Autopsy revealed nothing to explain his behavior," I noted idly, and felt the weight of her fuzzy gaze.
The arrival of Olivia interrupted whatever else we would have said, and she handed me coffee from the lobby downstairs with a sigh. "They're going to throw us out of here pretty soon. The staff is having a harder and harder time diverting their chief of staff. Kerry's getting stressed because she's still on probation for some snafu awhile back, and wants to keep her nose clean." The brunette's expression went sunny all the sudden. "Maggie told me that she found out that your Navy doppelganger woke up this morning."
"That's good?" Dace asked as a question, not a statement, fishing for more info and Liv's expression collapsed.
"She's paralyzed, just like the staff here feared. There seems to be some brain damage too, but at least she made it."
There was a moment of silence among us, our hearts aching for the stranger that had tried to help. She was paying for that with her future. Scrubbing her watery eyes, Olivia tried to brighten the mood again. "Dace, there's a few people who'd really like to see you, when you're up to it."
"Sandy Lopez, and her girlfriend, who's an OB here, a Joan Golfinos. Nice women. Silver Dale is still out, but her brainwaves are getting slowly steadier." I remembered clearly that Sandy and Silver were Snake-Eyes' original victims that had set all these events in motion. "I hope she wakes up soon, Zo tells me that her daughter isn't taking any of this well." We all winced at the thought. "Not that anyone expects any more from an eight year old. Oh, and Gramps and the Amazons tracked me down and were asking after you."
The mixed-bag of news both pleased and disturbed Dace, that much was obvious.
++ Kerry ++
Getting Romano away from Dace's pals was getting harder and harder, as he was growing more curious by the 'miracle healer' and wanted to keep an eye out on her. Dace glowering and even growling at him like a wounded and dangerous animal didn't even faze him. The bastard. The staff was invaluable in the game, running a Pony Express of sorts to let the girls know when he was coming so that they could hide.
This shift, I was the one to take responsibility for our special project. Checking the hall, I pushed into Dace's room, startled to find my girl sitting with Olivia, playing checkers. "Hi baby," she greeted me cheerfully, and I took the rare opportunity to steal a kiss on the clock. Olivia grinned warmly. I liked the New York detective, she was a good soul.
"Hi guys. Keep on your toes. Romano is due on shift soon, and is perverse enough to show up early to see if he can figure out what we're up too." They saluted me in tandem and I went to Dace's bedside. "I see night shift uncovered your head." Gingerly, I brought her chin closer to me, and eyed the angry bruising and the caked stitches. "Looks good, though I'm sure you could hardly agree, hmm?"
"I've been better."
"We need to get you on your feet today. You've been bedridden for nearly a week. You up to it?"
Mixed emotions flashed in the reddened eyes. "Bring somebody really strong to help, I get... well, really strong under stress. And Olivia stays. Period. It's gonna be hard to control the cat. She'll help."
Olivia looked startled and I tried to come up with a reason to keep her close by without making Robert suspicious. "We'll tell Romano that you're here as part of the FBI investigation. No news has leaked about the case, except that something big went down in the club district, so he's got no way to tell if we're telling the truth or not."
"Monica can cover that," Olivia agreed.
"Good." After checking over Dace's vitals and ensuring that she had gotten good sleep recently, I sent for Malik to help out. Getting into a sitting up position after extended convalescence was the worst, I had seen it a million times. However, I had underestimated Dace's strength, as she tore the heavy fabric of Malik's wool coat. He looked spooked, glad that she hadn't gripped flesh.
By the time Dace was seated on the side of the bed, her feet on the floor, she was shaken and flushed. The growling was disturbing, a low, rolling sound like a hungry cougar. Or a cornered one. Olivia spoke softly to her, coaxing the tall woman into trying.
++ Olivia ++
"Almost there, c'mon," I murmured softly, glad and ashamed at Dace's weakness. Once she'd caught her breath, I looped her arm around my neck as Kerry settled the cast in a sling. "If we can get you walking halfway decent, you can get the catheter out. Is that a good incentive?" A glare and stubborn jaw signaled Dace putting out a terrific effort, and before we knew it, she was on her feet. I stood chest-to-chest with her, arms wrapped around her waist and grinning proudly. "Damn nice job, Lioness." The cast was a rock-hard reminder, the devastation of her face stark souvenir of what she had been through. "Damn nice job."
Breathlessly, Dace stood quietly while Kerry removed the catheter. Shuffling backwards, I helped her through those first few shaky steps, and something clicked. Before my eyes, strength flooded her lanky body, and into her dull eyes. The woman I had grown to really like was suddenly looking into my eyes and I was awash with happiness. "Missed you."
The warm smile was the best thing I'd seen in a very long time.
It took some effort to get Dace settled onto the toilet, and I left her in peace for a few minutes. Then it was back into the bed and a long nap. But she did something that caught me completely off guard, as she settled back into the bed that the staff had speed-changed. "Liv," she rasped and for the first time I truly understood how deeply she needed that certain someone and something in her life. "Liv, I have to get to her... I have to. The intensity of the sounds and smells and stuff'll drive me mad." Her grip intensified, twisting my shirt, and I was caught up in her desperation. "Please, don't let me end up like him, alone and insane. Please."
"I promise," I whispered hoarsely, meaning with every fiber of my being.
"Promise," she whispered, eyes filled with tears, fighting her fatigue as though afraid to sleep, afraid to let me go.
"I do, I promise, Dace. Next stop, Las Vegas. We'll get there as soon as we can." Nodding, as frightened as a traumatized child, she was succumbing to sleep again, leaving me shaken by the incident. "I promise."
It took long minutes for her grip to loosen, and I straightened up slowly.
"She needs you," Zo spoke up quietly and I jumped. In all the intensity, I had completely forgotten the woman was here! "Hell of a responsibility." That earned a glare.
"I know," was all I could think of, sounding petulant even to my own ears.
++ Dace ++
Very reluctantly, Kerry had agreed that I could travel, but with provisions. So I had spent the day saying my goodbyes, making Zo and my fiery red-headed doc promise to visit Las Vegas soon. Maggie and Liz each gave me gentle kisses on the forehead, complimented me quietly and left me feeling warm and fuzzy. The nurses brought me a card and a stuffed lioness I was mad about. My new cast was already a scrawled mass of well-wishes that I suspected I would keep long after it was off my arm.
As Liv helped me into sweats and a button-up shirt, the door banged open and a small figure framed herself in the doorway.
"Dana!" We all yelled happily in unison, except Jinny, who just looked confused.
"Rumor has it," the red-head drawled with a half-grin. "You need a mobile doctor."
"Your provision," Kerry chuckled as she stepped in beside Dana. "The rest is the specialized transportation waiting downstairs. Thanks for coming and helping out, Dana."
"My pleasure. We'll get the hero here to Las Vegas in one piece or die trying."
We all laughed and I swear I heard Kerry mutter something about 'cops' and 'sick sense of humor'. She was right, of course, but no more so than doctors.
The wheelchair made me growl, but none of them needed to tell me how lousy my stamina was right now. While I settled between the wheels, I watched the FBI agents embrace for a long moment, and a discrete kiss swapped. Good for them.
"C'mon, hero," Liv mocked lightly and pushed me towards the door while the others gathered up our combined luggage and crap. Many people wished me well, and I was feeling good by the time Chicago came up and smacked us with winter.
"Yikes," I grumbled and only Jinny agreed with me. Damn east coasters...
Transportation was a big van bus, converted on the inside like a traveling ambulance, including two full beds with triple seatbelts. Well, that explained where I was spending this trip...
After final farewells for Kerry and Zo, my pack settled into the bus and we were away.
I had to admit that I wouldn't miss Cook County General, but I would certainly miss the staff inside. So much had happened in this Windy City of ice and tall buildings. The winter-gray scenery moved by as we headed south.
South, where the future awaited.