Disclaimer and Acknowledgements: See Part One
Jace was trying to stem the flow of happy tears that had begun as Catherine had her pinned to the floor and had mercilessly started to tickle her feet, much as she did with their youngest daughter. It had a most interesting conclusion with the small blonde, she had laughed and protested and had screamed her happy outrage as Lisa and Jake rallied Catherine to continue her tickling campaign in earnest.
"Catherine please, I can't take much more!" Jace chuckled, her voice bubbling with the laughter of the attention she was receiving.
Catherine turned towards the direction of the children who were shouting for her to continue. "Well, kids has she had enough do we think?"
Both children laughed loudly and said in unison, "No!"
"Guess you're unlucky my love." Catherine had leaned her tall frame over her captive and whispered the words into her ear and moved quickly before Jace could pull her closer and effectively stop the onslaught of the tickle fight.
Catherine moved away so quickly Jace didn't have time to recover, before she heard Catherine tell the kids it was their turn to continue and Jace had two giggling children attempting to tickle her in place of Catherine's large hands and strength. "Catherine I'm going to pay you back for this!" Jace spluttered in short ragged gasps as her breathing was caught with the gentle tickles of the two children.
"I look forward to that Jace, if I'd know that was my punishment, then I would have thought up several other games we could all play together." Catherine's voice held a warmth and love that Jace heard, but was unable to respond to as two happy children were attacking her again.
"Jace, be right back there's the children's trivia game in the toy room and I think you might need a break when I get back." Catherine laughed and stood up to her full height and smiled towards the children and her lover as she went out of the room and walked towards the stairs. Rio had moved from his settled position at the fireplace to aid her. "Rio stay. I think I can negotiate this one myself, thanks boy." Catherine ruffled his ears as he trotted after her to the bottom of the stairs and waited below, as she walked confidently to the top and towards the toy room of the children, the dog turned back into the room they had vacated.
Earlier, she and Jace had rifled through the toys that the children had accumulated in the last year and had found the trivia game which they had placed on the small table on the right of the room. They had originally intended to bring it into the lounge with them previously, but Jake had insisted that he would fetch the games and along with Lisa they had brought just about everything you could think of except that one, including several toys to keep Elena happy. Their arms had been so full of items; Jace had rushed forward to help them both as they stumbled through the door of the lounge.
Catherine had listened in fascination as the children tried to explain why they brought so many toys and games. Although, Lisa had been sure she had brought the soft toy dog that Elena particularly liked with her, it wasn't in the handful of toys Jace rescued before they ended up in a heap on the floor. Eventually, they had worked through three board games and a session of describing objects for someone to guess. That led to a tickle fight between them all and Jace had been the last to participate and she had been definitely nailed by Catherine, as they all had at some stage, miraculously Catherine had managed to remain unscathed. Now, she had her hands on the trivia game that she could participate in easily, she also searched around for the soft toy dog that Lisa had mentioned earlier. After several attempts in the different boxes to feel out the toy, she gave up; it must have become hidden at the bottom in one of them.
Walking out of the room and with the game held securely, she went towards the top of the stairs. Whistling happily at the way her life was turning out now, everything was settling down and once the lawyers had finalised the details with the New Zealand immigration people for her to gain a full citizenship again, she could continue with the adoption of the children. That had been a bitter disappointment for her when her temporary visa was insufficient to proceed with the adoption. There had been muted negative views on her lifestyle in general. The Reverend Stott had been very supportive and along with Grace, they had worked in the background to educate some of the negative opinion into a very positive force. Things would work out eventually, she had one partner, three children and numerous friends, all willing it and so she would have the faith too, after all that's what got them this far.
Catherine had always had a sense of impending disaster in the past and today was no different. Her feet normally so sure and confident in her own home hit something that she wasn't expecting, she tried to remain upright and retain her equilibrium, but was unable to do so, and toppled forward and down the stairs at what seemed slow motion to her senses. She felt her shoulders hit a couple of the stairs as she tried to break her fall. The game flew out of her hands and became another obstacle for her to hit on the way down; unable to judge where she was or what was coming towards her, she crashed to the bottom of the stairs, firmly hitting her head on the right side, knocking her out immediately.
Rio barked loudly and headed for the partially open door of the lounge as a loud thudding could be heard from the stairs.
Jace was tickling the two children in repayment for their actions and looked towards the door with a horrified expression on her face. Jace didn't need anyone to tell her what had happened, it was clear by the eerie silence.....the resulting thuds brought in their wake. Moving quickly away from the children, who had turned to her in fear, as panic etched onto their young faces!
Jace ran out of the room putting a hand to her mouth to stifle the scream she was sure would emit if she hadn't. Catherine was lying at the bottom of the stairs totally still. Jace turned to the children and told Jake in a quiet, but firm voice to find Colin, and bring him quickly. The boy ran out of the hall without a backward glance towards the foreman's house on the other side of the drive.
Jace knelt down next to her lover and tenderly placed her hand on Catherine's neck to check for a pulse, she found one and immediately drew in a sigh of relief. Hearing muffled sobs behind her Jace turned and smiled weakly at Lisa. "Lisa she's going to be alright. How about you take Rio into the lounge and keep watch on Elena, she might wake up, okay?" Jace saw the small girl try to stop her tears, as she caught Rio's collar to drag the unwilling dog towards the lounge.
"Okay Jace, but she's not dead, is she?" A small plaintiff voice asked.
Jace looked at the child with love and compassion. "Of course not Lisa, you know Catherine, she always likes to give us a scare now and again, and she hasn't for ages, come on now go and check on Elena for me please, darling."
The child nodded her head and pulled Rio along behind her and closed the door to stop the dog from going back to his prone mistress.
"Hades, Catherine! Why do you continue to try and give me a heart attack?" Jace stroked away the dark hair that had fallen over her face and noticed the dark red mark on the right temple. She gently placed a finger at the temple, which in turn brought a moan from the prone woman.
"Catherine, can you hear me? Come on love, how about you open those beautiful eyes and let me know you're going to be okay." Jace spoke inches from her left ear, which was turned to her.
Catherine tried to open her eyes, but it hurt her too much and decided the best option was to keep them tightly closed for now. "Jace give me a few minutes okay? I'll be fine," she said quietly, but clearly.
Jace wasn't convinced and heard the pounding of footsteps as Colin bounded through the house main door and breathlessly came to a halt at the foot of the stairs. Jace turned to him and gave him a tearful glance.
"How is she?" He asked, concern evident in every facet of his body and voice.
"She spoke to me, but she won't or can't open her eyes, we need to get her to the hospital Colin. She might have done more damage then we can see. I dare not move her, it might be worse for her if we did." Jace answer back, noticeable fear sounded in her tone.
Colin glanced at Jace in compassion and understanding. He knelt down next to Catherine and looked at the position of her body at the bottom of the stairs. "I'll go call the paramedics, and we'll get her to hospital."
"No!" Catherine exploded as the two onlookers watched in dismay.
"What do you mean no?" Jace whispered but loud enough for Catherine to hear, unable to understand her furious comment.
"I'm not going to any bloody hospital. Do you hear me Jace? Get me up and into bed. You can call a doctor, but that's it.....got me?" Catherine said her voice strong and demanding.
Jace looked towards Colin and he looked at his boss and her obvious determination to stay home, he shrugged his shoulders, maybe the doctor could convince her. "Catherine, if we move you, we might do some damage, we don't want to do that!" Colin valiantly tried backing up Jace's previous observation, not caring what Catherine thought, at times, she was too stubborn for her own good!
Catherine this time struggled to sit up and was stopped forcibly by Colin who looked at his boss with a grim expression on his face. "Get off me you stupid idiot. I know if I should be in the hospital or not; it's not your bloody body is it?" Catherine sparred with him verbally.
Jace heard the quick footsteps of two more people enter the house and turned her head to see Grace coming in holding Jake's hand her face showing her concern and the paleness of the boy's face showing how upset he was. "Catherine, I'll agree to Colin moving you up to our room, if you do what the doctor says and if it means the hospital, it means the hospital and that's final!" Jace stated, voice clearly upset with the situation and the un-necessary aggression from her friend.
Grace looked at the scene and shook her head. "You really shouldn't move her you know, not until we have someone here whocan say if she's broken anything." Grace said her voice carried enough for Catherine to hear the conversation.
"Shut up Grace, who gave you permission to add your crappy, sentimental comments?" Catherine bit back sarcastically.
Grace gave a tight smile to Colin and Jace and she bent her head to Jake's and smiled confidently at him to take away the sting of Catherine's barbed comment aimed at her. "Jake go and keep Lisa and Elena company will you and we will catch up once we have Catherine settled okay?" Grace squeezed his shoulder in concern; he was trying valiantly to hold back tears.
Catherine drew in a sharp breath as she realised that one of the children had heard her vicious remark to Grace.
"Okay." The boy replied quietly and threw one quick glance towards Catherine and went inside the lounge.
"You know something Warriorson, for an intelligent woman you sure are a bitch at times, it's a wonder you have anyone thatcares about you!" Grace finally replied to her earlier remark and knelt down next to the others. "Here, let me look her over, maybe some of the training I had as a rookie cop in first aid might come back to me, although she deserves to have a broken back with her stinking superior attitude." Grace moved closer to Catherine, as Colin and Jace moved away for her to examine the angry and distressed woman who lay on the floor.
Several minutes later, Grace placed a warm hand on Catherine's left shoulder and gently squeezed it and heard the sharp intake of breath at the motion. "Guess you hit your shoulder when you fell, huh?"
"Both of them and my head, I think, but I'm not too sure what happened after that." Catherine replied quietly, ashamed of her display of anger and frustration, it shouldn't be aimed at her friends.
"Right! Okay Colin, do you need some more help or can you drag this bag of bones up to her room on your own?" Grace gave her fiancé a quirky grin and touched a finger to his cheek in a tender caress.
Colin smiled back at her warmly. "I can do it on my own, she's tall, but like you say, there's not much meat on the bone."
Jace looked at them both and gave them a quizzical look, Catherine was hurt and they were cracking jokes about her as if it wasn't important. "Grace is she okay?" Jace asked tentatively, a worried frown appearing on her forehead.
"Jace have you ever known anything stop this old battle horse here?" Grace gave her a smile that indicated that Catherine hadn't broken anything, except she hoped her pride at the fall.
"Quit calling me names Grace, or I'll do something bad to you!" Catherine growled at her friend, now encouraged and a little happier with Grace's comment to Colin.
Jace gently stroked the cheek of her lover and she gave a weary smile of her own. "No, I guess not, but I wish she wouldn't keep finding things like this to challenge the status quo."
"I'll try not to Jace." Catherine said in a sad voice, now embarrassed at her earlier loss of control.
"Okay, let's get this show on the road shall we. Jace, you hold her head as I put my arms under her, then together, we will lift her slowly off the floor, get her upstairs and a lot more comfortable than here." Colin spoke decisively, now that the course of action had been agreed.
Jace held the dark head securely and Colin used his broad shoulders and strength to pull her surprisingly gently into his arms, then together they walked slowly back up the stairs she'd fallen down earlier. Grace had gone up the stairs first to open the door to the bedroom and ensure there wasn't any obstacles to the movement through the room. A short time later, they had Catherinem comfortably lying on top of the bedclothes and all of them sighed in relief.
"How do you feel Catherine?" Jace sat gingerly on top of the bed next to her, stroking the dark hair away from her eyes.
"I ache and my head hurts. Guess I do need to see the doctor about that, huh?" Catherine admitted sheepishly.
Grace chose that moment to comment. "I'll go and call him. I guess you want me to get someone other than Doctor Simpson?" There was no love lost between the local doctor and Catherine after his foolish remarks earlier in the year.
Jace decided to answer, "Grace we need someone now, I don't care a hoot if it's Simpson, just get someone quickly, okay?"
Catherine tried to protest, but Jace put a gentle finger over her lips to still the flow. "No, this time, I decide Catherine!" The answered response was short and to the point.
"Fine." Catherine muttered.
Grace left the room with Colin as Jace contemplated her lover.
"How did it happen Catherine?" Jace asked. She just needed something to say, to stop the tears that threatened to flow at any time.
"Stepped on something at the top of the stairs, not sure what. I lost my balance, it was an accident." Catherine alleged, her voice sounding suddenly very weary.
Jace picked up one of Catherine's larger hands and interlaced their fingers and felt the warm clasp as her lover flexed her fingers at Jace's touch. "I see. That's strange, we're really very careful about leaving things about."
"It's okay, Jace. Hell, I'm surprised I haven't done that before now, I don't exactly conform to the blind person etiquette, now do I?" Catherine said slowly, her face had a tiny grin, but she as yet had not opened her eyes and that was worrying Jace.
"No! No, you don't Catherine. How's the headache now?" Jace asked her tentatively and placed her head close to her lovers and kissed her tenderly on the side of her mouth.
"It hurts, saw lots of stars this time around. I'm sorry for losing my temper with all of you earlier." Catherine said remorsefully.
Jace smiled at her in quiet compassion, she was so independent, it was un-nerving and so totally Catherine. It was difficult to stay mad at her for long. "I think Grace will forgive you."
"Will you? And what about.....Jake?" Catherine faltered at her son's name.
Jace gave Catherine a soft light kiss on her lips, "I will always forgive you Catherine, but there's really nothing to forgive and Jake well.....he'll be cool, once he sees that you are going to be okay."
"Mmmm can you hold me Jace, I need to feel you beside me. I guess it's taken a sturdy toll on me this time around. I must be getting old." Catherine slurred as she spoke.
Jace gave her a concerned glance and slipped onto the bed and gently placed her arms around the tall woman and hugged her in a loving embrace. "How's that, feel better?" Jace asked her concern clear in her tone, she fervently hoped that the doctor was going to come soon; Catherine's sudden lethargy scared her.
Moment's later Catherine was sleeping and Jace watched her chest rise and fall evenly, and then a quiet knock at the door and Grace popped her head round the door. Walking silently into the room she gave Jace a rueful look, then looked at her sleeping friend. "I was able to reach Doctor Andrews from the hospital, the doctor who has given her the monthly checkups on her eyes and the facial scars for the consultant in Christchurch. He will be here within the next half hour, he was going to a BBQ at his daughters, but said he can go there later." Grace said quietly.
"Thanks Grace, Catherine likes Daniel Andrews at least, that's something good out of this new drama in our lives." Jace sighed heavily and looked at her friend with a worried expression.
"What's the matter Jace?"
The small blonde gently extracted herself from her sleeping partner and the other two women walked towards the door and away from the bed.
"I'm worried. She hasn't opened her eyes and she's complaining of a really bad headache and she went to sleep. Should I have let her do that Grace?" Jace asked anxiously.
Grace pulled the shorter woman into a comforting hug. "I'm worried too, but this is Catherine were talking about and she defies the norm most of the time and hopefully she will again, I know we shouldn't let her sleep, but what could you have done, I think her body was in shock."
"She's not indestructible Grace, everytime things like this happen, I die a little inside; it's like watching her dig her own grave." Jace knew she was being over emotional, but looking at the pale features of the woman on the bed, it was like watching her in a burial casket and there was nothing she could do, except cry for her and what they were losing.
"She's from strong Greek stock, that one, and didn't they mix with the god's in ancient times, maybe she's a throw back from them. Not to mention her British ancestry, which is so stubborn it's remarkable they ever lost the empire. She's a survivor Jace, she always will be and more so now she has you!" Grace saw the tears falling and wiped them away with a tissue from out of her trousers pocket.
"You make her out as someone super human Grace, she's a flesh and blood woman, nothing more." Jace replied, but gave her a tearful smile.
"I know but you have to give me credit for my imagination and anyway, I believe it at times with Catherine, and while I believe it, I know she's always going to come back to us all, no matter what happens." Grace said seriously and tipped Jace's chin back so she could see the sincerity of her words.
"Then I will believe it also Grace." Jace whispered and turned back to sit by the bed of her lover, who was motionless in her sleep, except for the rising and falling of her chest.
Grace gave them both another look, then preceded downstairs to placate the children. Glancing down, she noticed a small soft toy dog at the top of the stairs, tucked away in the corner, bending down she picked it up and glanced at it thoughtfully and went down the remaining stairs and into the lounge.
Doctor Daniel Andrews spoke quietly to Jace, as they both looked at Catherine, who had woken up briefly for the doctor. He had examined her thoroughly, even though she protested that she didn't need it, all she needed was sleep, but it was half-hearted and ignored.
"She's going to be sore and grumpy by the sound of it for a couple of days. I expected the headache to be bad, she's hit that head a fair few times now, and it's starting to bite her back, I suspect. I'll come over again in the morning and check up on her; perhaps we can pursued her to go into the hospital for a scan, just to make sure she hasn't scrambled what's left of that wonderful brain of hers. I believe she will be alright Ms. Bardley?" The doctor was in his late fifties and reminded Jace of her father, as he had dark grey eyes that held compassion and understanding.
"Thanks Doctor, she had me worried, especially with her headache and not wanting to open her eyes. What should I do now?" Jace asked him, he looked at her and smiled.
"Let her sleep, but I would suggest that you wake her every couple of hours, and for the next twelve hours there should be someone with her as a precaution, if she has any problems you have my number ring me and I'll be right back. Knowing Mrs. Warriorson as I do, and her bodies healing powers she should be making light of this in about twenty-four hours time I surmise." The doctor's eyes twinkling at the blonde, he could see she was clearly stressed at her friend's predicament.
He liked Catherine Warriorson strangely enough; she was abrupt and gave the impression that she didn't give a damn, but he knew differently. About a year ago a large donation was given to the hospital and the only string attached was that no one outside the board of trustees of the senior consultants knew who had made the donation, if that part was fulfilled a further donation would be forthcoming the next year. Catherine Warriorson was the person behind the donation and to say it had been a lifeline for the severely under funded hospital in the area wasn't an understatement. Rumours of the hospital closure had been imminent, until she had stepped in and closed that rumour down immediately, now they were looking forward to another donation of equal measure and the benefits that it would bring the hospital and the community in general. If Catherine Warriorson wanted anything, they would do their utmost to provide it; he had felt privileged to be the consultant on her case every month, as she had amazing recuperative powers.
He also liked her friend and although, it was fairly certain that they were lovers from all the reports around the town and the media speculation, it was never discussed and he didn't ask. But, he felt the love they had for each other as he'd examined the tall beautiful woman and she had been difficult until the green eyes had rested on Catherine and she gently reminded Catherine of a promise. It was quite something to see this gentle creature next to him tame the wild beast that obviously lurked in the background of Catherine Warriorson's personality.
"I'll be with her all the time doctor, thanks again for your quick response to our call, we thought we might have to use the local doctor in town." Jace said with a genuine smile of thanks.
"Ah, well Mrs. Warriorson is a very special patient for me Ms. Bardley and let's say, I would have been upset if someone else had the pleasure of watching you talk to her as you did. It was enlightening and educational, think you could give me some tips?" The Doctor chuckled at the blush that formed on Jace's cheeks.
"I think I could be persuaded to consider that possibility Doctor." Jace express quietly.
"I will see you in the morning Ms. Bardley good night." The Doctor went out of the door and then turned back, "She has enough pain killers already, I suspect, so I won't leave anything for her, if she complains of the headache again call me okay?" He smiled as she nodded and then said good night.
Walking back towards the bed, she sat down in the chair next to Catherine and took her left hand inside hers and stroked the back of the hand which she then placed to her cheek. "I love you Catherine. Sometimes, I wonder if you really do know how much." Jace's voice went quiet and reflective.
"I love you too, and yes I do." The slurred voice from Catherine who was held half between the light of wakefulness and the dark of sleep surprised Jace as she looked down, but Catherine had now fallen back into a deep sleep. Closing her own eyes Jace placed her head on the side of the bed and gave a heartfelt sigh, Catherine was going to be okay. That's all that mattered, all that would ever matter to her.
Grace had the soft toy in her hand as she ventured into the lounge, Lisa was being held in a tight hug on Colin's knee on one ofthe sofas. Jake was sitting with his back to the sofa with his legs drawn together and his arms around them he appeared lost in his own world. All three sets of eyes looked up at her entrance and she gave Colin a small grin at his relaxed stance with Lisa, he was going to make a great dad one-day.
"Okay the doctor's on his way and it's Doctor Andrews, so, Catherine won't be looking to start a fight we hope. Looks like she's got a lot of bruises and a headache, but hopefully that's it, she's been lucky." Grace told the two children as Colin already guessed what Grace was going to say, it had been implied earlier, as he'd been asked to pick her up to go upstairs.
"Is she really Aunt Grace, she won't die will she?" Lisa asked and cuddled further into Colin's broad chest.
Grace smiled at the child's action and thought she could do with that shoulder of comfort too about now, although she was outwardly calm, Catherine's accident had shook her up inside as much as it had Jace she surmised. "Princess, she's going to be fine, and within a day or two she'll be teasing you again just as she always does." Grace smiled warmly at the child.
"Grace, where did you get Elena's dog from? I was looking for it." Lisa asked her and gave her a grin, as Grace was turning the dog around in her grasp.
Jake looked at the toy and he then looked suspiciously at Grace who gave the soft toy another concentrated glance. "Yes, Grace where did you find it?" Jake said his hazel eyes looking deep into brown ones.
Grace knew that both children were waiting for her answer; it would have been so easy to say the truth, but that wouldn't help the situation at all. There had been enough traumas today. And if either of the children had been responsible for leaving the toy on the stairs and it had caused Catherine's fall well...... "Actually, I found it on the floor next to Elena's crib, thought she might want it when she wakes up." Grace gave them both a smile and both children seemed to let out a breath that had been held in anticipation of her answer.
Walking over to the travel crib that Elena was asleep in, she placed the soft toy at the bottom of the crib, then looked at the peacefully sleeping baby. At least there was someone in the household who wouldn't be upset about the events of earlier; she fortunately would never know. Then there was her mother and Judy, who had gone to the local town hall to participate in the line dancing evening, having found a mutual interest, the two went twice a week and enjoyed the break from the ranch.
"Okay, what are we going to do until you two have to go to bed, huh?" Grace asked in a jovial tone.
"Can we play Monopoly Grace?" Jake asked quietly, he was sure that Grace hadn't said the truth about the dog, because he'd seen Lisa with it in the toy room earlier, but surely Grace knew where she found it, she wouldn't lie to them he didn't think, or would she?
"Okay Junior Monopoly it is then, you playing Lisa? Colin?" Grace asked the two snugglers on the sofa.
"Yep, count me in." Colin said, as he tried to extract himself from his redheaded limpet.
"Me too, if Colin is playing." Lisa piped in and held onto his hand as they went over to the table in the room and began to set up the game while waiting for more news when the doctor had seen Catherine.
Catherine was floating between waking up and continuing down the dark path of sleep. It was peaceful and she felt warm, loved and content in the dark cocoon that surrounded her. She knew that the possibility of waking up could mean pain in some for or other and at the moment, she was content to glide between the two plains and leave the pain behind for a little while longer. The only thing she sorely missed in this twilight world she wanted to remain in was Jace. She knew in her subconscious, Jace was close, she could feel the small blondes presence as clearly as if she was a physical entity in the twilight world with her. Catherine believed that in some form or other she was there beside her. It was a feeling of well being that only Jace could bring her, and which she couldn't live without, even in the lonely places that her mind drifted to on occasion. Fortunately, Jace was placing far more good memories in her mind these days that replaced and kicked out the old demons she had fought with for years. When people talked of a rock against the storm, Jace Bardley was hers, without a doubt, her lifeline to the world of happiness and love. Something she had convinced herself it was impossible to achieve and in walked a woman who not only broke every fence and every barrier that had been erected, but also knew her heart as if it were her own.
Catherine tried to open her eyes and found that her right eye smarted and she immediately closed it in a sensitive reaction. 'God that was strange.'
Trying again as her other senses picked up the even breathing of a body close to hers, her left hand clasped tight by another, which she knew by it's size and texture and the essence of the woman beside her, was Jace.
She tried once again to open her eyes, this time she kept them open, but was shaken to the core by the kaleidoscope of colours and bright light that permeated the open orbs. The cloudy shadowy vision she had become used to was being replaced by a wonderful and miraculous clearing of her vision in her right eye. The darkness of her left making her feel disorientated as her right eye began to quickly take in the images before her. Catherine felt as if she were falling again as her body senses tried to compensate for the recall of vision in her right eye. She tilted her head slightly in the direction of the blonde head lying on top of the bedclothes next to her left hand. Catherine was amazed at the myriad of feelings that just the top of the head of her lover created within her heart. The most profound of which was the wonder, awe and implicit love she felt for the smaller body close to hers. Catherine's view of the woman became a shimmering vision as her eyes filled with tears at the miracle bestowed on her at a freak accident. Although, her head still pounded with a dull ache, the pain became almost pleasurable, due to the gift that it was working on her eyesight.
Catherine sensed the changing tempo of the breathing of Jace, who moved cautiously and straightened up her back from her bent position over the bed. For Catherine watching the fluid movements of her lover it was like being behind the glass wall of an aquarium; she could see everything and was tempted to reach out and touch the image that appeared before her and surprise the younger woman at her side. This feeling and announcement was something she wanted to savour and reveal in a slow awakening and with shared joy at the miracle having been wrought upon them.
"Catherine, how are you feeling?" Jace placed a gentle hand on Catherine's head and close to the bump and bruising on her right temple.
Catherine wanted to capture the small hand and put it to her mouth and kiss away the worry that was shadowing Jace's eyes. "Better." Was all Catherine replied, words drying up at the pleasure of her first sight of Jace since their altercation in the UCP offices!
"You had me worried darling, I thought we might be taking another trip to the hospital and we both know how you love that." Jace moved closer and placed a tender kiss on the bruised temple.
Catherine reacted to the sentiment in the only way she knew how and brought her hands up and placed them around her lover's face. "I love you Jace Bardley and I think it's time you made an honest woman of me." Catherine had the secret pleasure of seeing the surprise flash across Jace's serious countenance, but watched as it quickly turned into an elated expression as the meaning of the words hit her squarely in the chest.
"Catherine do you know what you implied with that statement?" Jace wondered if perhaps the fall had scrambled Catherine's mind a little and she was disorientated after her fall and would perhaps regret the words later. They had never discussed a recognised public commitment to their relationship, knowing that to them both it was enough they felt as they did and nothing was going to come between them except death; even that was debatable in Jace's mind! Now hearing Catherine speak about the possibility, brought to mind her own needs on the subject and the question she had wanted to ask Catherine around the time the baby had been born, but other circumstances had foiled her plans. Now, was obviously a very good time, but it puzzled Jace enormously.
Catherine recognised the tension she had just created with the simple words and placed her lips against Jace's eyelids, which closed at the tender gesture. "I know what I implied my darling, and if you look into my eyes tell me what you see reflected back at you, that will be the answer you seek?"
Jace expression became momentarily startled at the words; they seemed like words out of a fantasy novel they might read to the children.
Gazing into the ice blue sightless eyes, her own widened as she saw the pupil of the right eye dilate and look back at her in a measurable gaze green on blue. The warmth and love she saw reflecting back at her caused Jace to hold her breath at the miracle they had prayed for, and yet never expected to happen. It must all be a dream she was going to wake up from in a moment, Jace was sure of that. Jace hesitantly touched a featherlight finger in front of the right eye and watched in fascination as the pupil tracked the movement, her heart spinning out of control at the simple display. "Catherine can you see me? Can you really see me?" Jace sobbed out her emotions now completely swamped that caused tears to flow.
"Yes! You've grown even more beautiful than the day I last saw you and that was an awesome experience my love." Catherine smiled broadly at her recollection of their first evening of shared passion and waking up to find the smaller woman held in a close embrace in her arms. It was a moment to cherish and she had when her world had crashed unceremoniously into darkness of both the heart and the mind.
"The last time you saw me Catherine was in anger." Jace stated sadly her own memories sharp and clear of that last time.
Pulling Jace completely into her arms and holding her as tight as she could against her own body Catherine kissed Jace with tender concern and a deep love. "No, Jace. The last time I saw the woman I loved, she was dressed in a large T-shirt with our favourite cartoon character emblazoned on the front and she had just given me the greatest gift of all, her complete love both body and soul. The other woman I saw later that day never stood a chance against the image I held in my heart, how could she?" The words spoken held a deep understanding of the rift that had severed their relationship for months and yet the connection according to Catherine had always remained true and strong, no matter the obstacles that had transpired.
Jace cried, her happiness and joy overwhelming her. Having suitably soaked Catherine's night attire, she pulled away a little and looked into the most wonderful ice blue gaze she had ever experienced in her life or would ever she was sure. "Catherine would you like to see our daughter?"
Catherine gave her a grin. "Try and stop me!" moving with Jace to get up and out of the bed.
"No! Catherine stay in bed please, you do need the rest. I'll go and collect her and bring her here, what about Jake and Lisa, they're pretty shook up at the accident?" Jace gave her a beseeching look.
"Great the more the merrier, bring all my children in Jace; I'm going to love teasing them about this anyway." Catherine said with a wicked grin forming on her face.
"You're bad Catherine. I've a good mind to set Grace on you for that remark." Jace chuckled as she moved towards the door.
"Where is Grace, I thought she'd be having a field day watching me wake up with a headache, she probably thinks I deserve it?" Catherine asked it was going to be good to see her best friend again, she'd missed that infectious smile that Grace produced at some of Catherine's worse times.
"Earlier she was with the children and playing Monopoly, but I think Faith has cornered her to discuss the fitting of the wedding dress." Jace opened the door and in rushed Rio, who had been patiently waiting for a chance to see his mistress. Jace smiled as she watched the dog pound over to the bed, it was charming to see Catherine laugh at the dog's obvious agitation. "Guess you won't mind Rio's company while I go and retrieve our brood, see you shortly." Jace left the room her smiled set to stay there for some time.
"Rio come here boy." Catherine laid a hand on the bedspread and watched as the golden Labrador jumped effortlessly next to her on her command.
Catherine looked at the dog for the first time and it brought a lump to her throat to think that he had been her eyes to the outside world for over a year. She let the tears fall unashamedly down her cheeks as she hugged the dog to her, smiling as Rio thumped his tail excitedly on the bed as he revelled in the unexpected show of affection from his mistress. Suddenly, the crashing footsteps could be heard on the stairs as she waited for the emergence in the room of the children. Catherine wondered if Lisa would ever walk anywhere softly. The door swung open and Catherine was once again overtaken with emotion as she saw her eldest daughter waltz in and rush over to her.
"Catherine you're awake? We were worried about you." Lisa swooped on to the bed without a second thought displacing Rio and placing her arms around Catherine's neck.
"Yes, I'm awake Lisa, but if you keep a hold of me that tight, I might faint from the lack of oxygen." Catherine chuckled happily as the child reluctantly released her death grip and placed a sloppy kiss on her cheek instead.
"You have another bruise on your face Catherine, can I kiss it better for you?" It wasn't really a question as the child did just that!
Discreetly Catherine saw Jake move towards the bed cautiously. "You going to strangle me too Jake?"
"No! I will kiss you better though, like Lisa." The boy replied and turned shy hazel eyes towards Jace as he said the words and blushed engagingly as Jace gave him a wide grin. The boy proceeded to place a light kiss on Catherine's cheek. At his action Catherine placed a hand gently on his head and whispered to him. "Don't look so worried Jake, I'm going to be better, much better than before." Watching his expression change as he deciphered the meaning in the words and he turned to gaze at her in wonder.
"Can you see us now, Catherine?" he asked in a surprised voice.
"Yes, I can Jake, so there's going to be no more secrets like the basketball in Lisa's room huh?" Catherine laughed softly as she saw the two children look at each other in astonishment 'How had she known?'
Jace moved closer to the bed and brought their six-month-old daughter closer to the bed. Elena was wriggling about and had been watching her brother and sister with her other mother wanting to be on the bed too!
"I think Elena wants to say hello also, Catherine." Jace saw the emotion in the sighted right eye and she couldn't stop her own tears flowing as she placed their squirming daughter into Catherine's arms. Lisa moved over to Catherine's left on the bed and began to stroke Rio as Catherine drank in the first sight and images of their youngest child.
For Catherine this was a momentous occasion, she saw with wonder all the facial features that belonged to her mother. Taking in the snub nose, green eyes that looked up at Catherine in innocence and love a positive reminder of who her mother was. Catherine was amazed at the dark hair, which did indeed look the shade of hers; the baby could easily have been taken for hers, with the long body certainly not from Jace's side of the family, she was sure. Having met both her parents who had medium to small frames and Adamson hadn't been tall either. Gently tracing her fingertips delicately over the baby's chubby cheeks Catherine grinned as she thought, 'that's a sure Jace sign must eat well too.'
The baby took that moment to grasp one of her hands and started to chew on a finger, as if she hadn't been fed. Catherine looked in surprise towards Jace. "She has a tooth?" wondering how she'd missed it before.
"Yes, I found it this morning, must have come through during the night. As you know she's been cranky lately. I was going to tell you later when we put her to bed, guess you now have first hand experience in every way of the tooth Catherine." Jace answered her with a smile.
Catherine returned the smile with a brilliant one of her own.
"Well kids, how about you both go and rescue Aunt Grace from Grandma Faith, she'll want to come and see Catherine now that she is awake." The children immediately shouted their acceptance of the task and as they were about to leave the room Lisa shouted back.
"I know you just want to kiss her Jace, but we don't mind if you do that with us in the room, you usually do." Jake immediately grasped Lisa's hand and pulled her through the door muttering, "do you ever shut up Lisa?" there was a muffled retort as the door closed behind them.
Catherine turned her attention to her lover and gave her a sultry smile. "Was she right?"
Jace went weak at the knees with the smile added to that she could feel the emotion in the glance from the ice blue eyes. Sitting down heavily on the bed, Elena happily playing with the edges of the bedspread, but held safely by one of Catherine's hands. "Oh yeah, that kid is never wrong when it comes to you and I Catherine." Jace moved closer to demonstrate.
Surfacing gradually from the passion filled exploration, they glanced down at their daughter, who was now chewing the edges in earnest. "She's beautiful Jace, just like her mother." Catherine replied softly her gaze concentrated on their daughter.
"Thank you darling, but today all I want to do is drink in the sight of your eyes and lose myself in their depths and know that you can see the love I have for you, without words." Jace said quietly.
"Jace Bardley are you going to answer my earlier question?" Momentarily stunned into silence, Jace's mind trying to grasp the significance.
Jace suddenly starred wide eyed at Catherine and moved to where her lips reached Catherine's earlobe and as she gently bit down and heard the low throaty growl she loved, Jace finally asked the question she's been holding back since their child was born. "Catherine Devonshire Warriorson will you commit to me your body and soul forever in the sight of our family and friends."
Catherine had thought about how she would ask Jace that very same question, but her friend was far more eloquent with fewer words than she would have been. The simple statement so utterly encompassed everything about their relationship and what it meant to them both, was forever long enough? Hell, they would see. Whatever sacrifices she had had to make in her personal life to allow this woman in had been compensated a million times over in the glorious life she had every waking moment knowing Jace was there with her. Whatever else happened, or how long they shared this gift together, in the years to come, it would never change the spirit of the emotion they had, it would only enhance and enrich them further and their family and friends as well.
"I love you Jace Bardley and the answer is simply, yes!" Catherine said huskily and they shared a deep, meaningful kiss to seal the words etched in each other's hearts.
Jace smiled in complete joy and wished she could take a picture that would capture the moment forever but her memories would do that and it would never fade. "When?"
Catherine held Jace's face between her hands and gave her a grin. "No way are we having the problems with Faith that Grace has had to endure, I was thinking about a small service here in the New Year. Then you and I take a holiday to any spot in the world you want. What do you say?"
"I say, roll on New Year and I know just the place." Jace gave her a saucy smile, which Catherine proceeded to remove with a satisfying kiss.
"You do, do you? And would I by any chance know the destination?" Her lips curved in a knowing smile.
"Well, as you know, the owner, one Ms. Devonshire, yeah, I think you might just know of it." Jace replied her voice held laughter as she noted the left eyebrow raise and she was given a quizzical look.
"Tell me more....." the door to the room was discreetly opened and a chuckle came from the door.
"God you two, do you ever take a rest?" Grace laughed from the doorway. "Want me to come back later?"
Catherine looked at her friend and a happy smile graced her lips as she saw her friend for the first time in over a year. "No, we don't and long may that last and secondly get yourself here, so I can give you a hug."
Grace glanced at Jace in surprise at the mention of a hug, but moved closer to the bed as Jace stretched and got up taking her daughter up with her and towards the bathroom to change her.
Jace left the two women in privacy.
"You don't really want to hug me do you Catherine?" Grace was surprised and a little daunted by the suggestion, which was clearly out of character. Maybe that fall had done more damage than the doctor thought?
"Not if you're a chicken no!" Catherine smirked, as Grace noticed the enthusiastic exuberance from her friend and sat down on the bed and was engulfed in a gentle hug.
"How are you feeling Catherine, the kids said you looked great and had a secret to share with me?" Grace asked her eyes roaming her friend's face to try and pick up any idea of what was going on.
"I feel wonderful, and Grace you're looking haggard." Catherine said softly, noticing the temper flare slightly in her friend at the comment.
"Yeah? Well, you would also, if your mother was here hounding the hell out of you about a wedding dress and .....did you just say, I looked?" Grace had started her tirade and then realised what Catherine had implied.
"Yes, dark shadows under the eyes you better get rid of those before the wedding or you could be in trouble with your mother over that too." Catherine smiled and it lit up her eyes particularly so the right that now had sight.
Grace put her hands around Catherine's face and starred brown deep into ice blue and her face became wreathed in a grin that almost split it in its intensity. "Oh! Christ, Catherine this is great news and what a thing to happen just before Christmas and the new Millennium. I can't believe it I....." tears stopped Grace from saying more, as she just looked at her friend in shared happiness.
A door opening brought Jace and Elena back into the room. "Any chance I get to join in the group hug?"
Placing Elena in the crib at the side of the bed, she walked over to the other two women and they all shared the joy that the miracle of sight had been restored to their friend and loved one.
Catherine looked back on the last few hours and realised there were elements to her life, that she had had to do without, that she hadn't noticed until they had been restored. Small inconsequential things really, like watching the expressions flit over Lisa's features, as she became engrossed in the story Jace told them at bedtime. Then there was the scowl that was never far from Jake's profile, as he muttered something about going to bed too early; and as Rio who licked Lisa as she hugged the dog goodnight, or of Jake balancing a football on his toes in practised ease. Then there had been the cute expressions from Elena, and now the noises she made had been given another dimension for Catherine as she watched the expressions that went with each of them, she was indeed her mothers daughter as her face became as expressive as Jace's. Catherine could have spent the whole night watching her children, but for the fact that there was another person in the room that she couldn't take her eyes away from. Jace Bardley looked to Catherine exactly the same as she had done all those months ago and except for the maturity motherhood had bestowed on her, that Catherine found becoming, Jace enchanted her all over again. At times Catherine wasn't sure if this was a dream she was going to wake up from, where the darkness would invade her waking hours again, but she was prepared to relish every single second, if that turned out to be the case.
Catherine looked at Jace asleep in their bed and turned and watched the rise and fall of her chest, breathing a sigh of relief in many ways that she had the opportunity of seeing her lover again and taking delight in the simplest of observations.
Padding silently over to the window Catherine watched the moon burn brightly in the inky blue night sky and the stars shining throwing their light into all the dark places of a children's fantasy story.
The shadows the night sky passed through the window, as they presented Catherine's silhouette up for inspection by the very gods themselves.
To anyone observing the woman at the window, they would have seen someone who had made peace with herself and the world around her; she was simply happy with her life. Whatever else happened in the future, she knew that she had a partner for life, who was going to be beside her no matter the struggle or the pain that might transpire. Because they shared a love that transcended the bounds of the physical plain, they quite simply shared a soul, one to last through eternity!
Catherine silently walked back over to the bed, glanced at the baby fast asleep in the crib, then towards her mother, who had a similar if a little older contented expression on her face. 'Damn, I love you to distraction Jace Bardley.' Cautiously getting into bed and avoiding waking up her lover, she was surprised when the smaller woman turned to her and pulled her into a hug, holding her securely.
"I love you." Jace mumbled as sleep regained possession.
Catherine smiled at the mumbled comment and placed a tender kiss on her head as she closed her eyes; knowing that tomorrow, she would wake up and start a new phase in her life. Catherine would see the Christmas Eve wedding, Christmas itself, the Millennium party, Jace's parents visit and the most important thought to sleep happily with, a public commitment to Jace and a long holiday to celebrate the event.
Catherine's body gently slipped into the arms of Morpheus in a very welcome sleep and as she did so words from a song drifted into her semi-conscious.
If this is eternal love, please count me in.
When struggle and pain have the stage, remember what we share, an eternal love never to throw away.
As jealousy strikes and others interfere, Im here for you and youre there for me, who can thwart our love?
If we have to walk away and part our ways, never forget the thread that weaves us together in an eternal bond, unbreakable and sound.
With my arms around you and your head on my shoulder, theres a gift we posses that cannot die, my love is eternally yours as yours is mine.
Now here you are sleeping beside me, I wonder if you know what you mean to me and how you make me feel, how can you not when our love shines bright and true.
Waking up to find your eyes glowing into mine, you smile; I do too. For eternal love is the key and youve never forgotten which lock it fits as our hearts move together and we unlock each others desires.
Our hands fit together, our bodies meld, will you look to the future and beyond, with our love theres nothing, but happiness to greet each day that transpires.
No matter the problems, together we are one that will be our goal, living our lives with love to last eternally.
Continued in Part 3
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