Seeing Through the Ides of Love

By: Blue

Copyright © September 2000

The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA Pictures and used here without permission. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this Uber story.

This story contains the expression of love between two women. If you’re not sure this is for you or you are under the age of eighteen, please stop where you are and a guard will escort you somewhere else.

Feedback of any nature is welcome at

A special acknowledgement goes to my friend and editor without whom I would still be roaming in the dark. ;)



Ides of March


It looked as if Callisto’s mission would be victorious after all… just as she planned… Xena and Gabrielle staying behind to allow Amarice, Eli and the villagers to escape. They were sooo predictable. Unfortunately, another irritating predictability was their penchant to beat insurmountable odds. It was beginning to look as if Xena and her bitch were going to make it.

"Noooo…" Callisto screamed. She had Xena’s chakram in her hands… should she? Hmmm… I don’t see the harm in helping the inevitable along. Arrogance and petty agenda let the disk fly into the fray before her. Gabrielle was doing her best to parry sword blows ever moving toward the exit gate. Xena was dispatching Romans at will. She was almost clear when her own chakram struck her spine, severing the cord. To Gabrielle’s horror, Xena fell limp to the ground… completely defenseless. She had no choice. Gabrielle took up a sword and killed every man near her… Xena turned her head, witnessing the ensuing mayhem… "Nooooo… Gabrielle…." It was too late. By the time the Romans completely surrounded them, eight of their own lie slaughtered, their blood congealing on the sand.

Callisto looked on as the soldiers dragged Xena and Gabrielle to the cells. It wouldn’t be long now. She practically felt giddy. What rewards would await her in Hell… she was about to deliver Xena to her Lord for indoctrination. The fact that she also had Gabrielle was almost orgasmic.


Gabrielle was resting against a post in the cell, Xena’s head in her lap. The warrior had been unconscious since the chakram cleaved her spine. Secretly, Gabrielle wished Xena would not wake up and not be witness to the unthinkable horror to come. She sighed heavily and thought about what had happened in the courtyard. I know killing is wrong, but a much stronger part of me wouldn’t allow the Romans to slaughter the woman I love so deeply. She was quietly praying and crying when Xena stirred.


The bard turn her love’s face toward her own, tears escaping her eye.

Xena was disoriented, but recognized the look of despair in her lover’s face.

"Crying? Don’t cry."

Gabrielle looked into Xena’s still shining eyes, now glistening with tears. She gently kissed her on the forehead.

"I won’t… Rest."

The warrior still gazed at the woman that had so changed her life for the better and felt remorse.

"I made you leave the way of love."

The bard choked on her own grief before answering. "No, it’s my fault. I had a choice… to do nothing or save my friend. I choose the way of friendship.

Xena had so much she wanted to say. "I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t treat you right."

Gabrielle’s heart was breaking. "Xena, you brought out the best in me. Before I met you, I felt invisible, but you saw all the things I could be…." She paused and lovingly gazed into the warrior’s eyes. "You saved me, Xena."

Xena could barely get her words past her lips. "I wish I…"


"… had read your scrolls."

Gabrielle smiled slightly. "You would have liked them."

Xena smiled back. "I know."

It only seemed like seconds before the Romans entered the cell, callously announcing… "It’s time."

They dragged Xena by the arms, her legs numb and useless. Gabrielle walked into the snow filled chill unaided. Only she saw Callisto catching flakes on her tongue. The Romans roughly positioned them on the splintery crosses. It wasn’t enough to just watch, Callisto had to have one last dig at Xena.

"Don’t give me that confident look. You’re about to die like a slave and drag your friend with you, and that’s all right by me."

Xena mustered all the resolve she could to respond. "Your Lord might not feel the same way." There was a glint in her eye, the kind she always had when she was right. "He sent you on a mission, didn’t he?"

Callisto refused to let Xena second-guess her. Yes, he did, and I have accomplished my task. In fact, my Lord will be entertained that it was your own weapon that made all of this possible. Callisto reveled in her own selfish initiative just a moment longer. She inched closer to Xena’s face and casually announced, "Making Caesar dictator was his main concern, and, once he’s ruling, making him an agent of my Lord will be easy." She turned her head, seeing or hearing something beyond Xena’s failing capability. "So while you lie here helpless, he’s declaring himself emperor."

With that last statement, Callisto stood above Xena and vanished. Her mission was accomplished, or so she thought. As the soldiers positioned the nails and hammers to drive them home, Xena tenderly looked at Gabrielle. It was the exact vision and end that Alti had shown her, but she knew it was only the beginning. They would find one another again.

"Gabrielle, you’re the best thing in my life."

Gabrielle looked serenely at the warrior and plainly said, "I love you, Xena."


It wasn’t at all how she thought it would be, but then, she hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it either. She sensed that she was heavy, very heavy and fought to escape the thickness that held her. Was she still suffocating? She had no physical sensations to confirm her situation one way or the other. Her eyes were open, or so she thought; yet all was dark. She thought she was breathing, but couldn’t discern any movement of air within her.

I’m no longer here. I have no physical form. I can leave anytime.

Like a delicate, ethereal butterfly, she emerged and separated from the dense, cold form. She was filled with light… glorious light. Her "eyes" saw a spectrum that she’d never seen before. She had no desire to look at what she once was. That no longer mattered. She was drawn to another form hanging lifeless next to her. It was effortless to move in front of the form. She "talked" to the energy trapped within.

It’s easy… focus on me… trust me.

She wasn’t looking at the mortal coil, but beyond it. She was drawn to the pure spirit just out of reach. What appeared as human hands reached through the gray face and pulled the spirit toward her. They communicated on a level of absolute energy. There was so much love here, suspended in an invisible, diaphanous form. A remarkable shaft of light embraced them and drew them into a realm that no mortal could ever see….


With the Roman guards incapacitated, Eli, Amarice and Joxer reverently lower the bodies of their friends, Xena and Gabrielle, down from the wooden crosses. They had found an open cart to place them on. Initially, it was their desire to find a safe port from which to sail back to Greece. Xena had wanted to be buried next to her brother and Joxer knew she would have wanted Gabrielle placed beside her also. In a moment of rage and emotional pain, Amarice had accused Eli of killing Gabrielle’s warrior spirit with his teachings, thereby making Gabrielle vulnerable. It was this new ethic that had allowed them to be captured and then executed. Eli had no answer to give and it was Joxer that suggested they find a place for the night before venturing on a most perilous journey. Nearby were the abandoned ruins of a temple of some sort. It was here that they placed the cold bodies of the two women. Eli was so distraught over Amarice’s words he left them in the hidden room. He needed some time to sort all this out and found a spot not far from the ruins to demand an answer.

All this was but a blink in Eternity’s time. There was a war about to be waged between the forces of good and evil. From the moment that Leif and Gabrielle’s other guardian angels had been torn from assisting her accent to Paradise, all hell had broken out, so to speak.

The heels of Eli’s hands held his shaking head, his fingers digging into his scalp. What if Amarice was right and he had been the instrument of Xena and Gabrielle’s death? It was more than he could bear.

Angrily, he challenged an unseen entity.

"What good is this gift if I can’t at least protect the ones I love?"

Tears were in his eyes.

"Why did you ever give this to me? What am I supposed to do?"

He suppressed his abject pain to demand, "You show me!"

Eli finally surrendered to the silence and once again rocked his head in his hands, quietly saying, "What am I supposed to do?"


A loving voice and prompted him to raise his face toward the sound. To his bewilderment, radiance began to take form in front of him… it was an angel. He didn’t know it was Callisto calmly looking at him.

"Love is the way. Go to them."

He didn’t ask how or why but felt compelled to return to the ruins. He had faith that all would be revealed to him. All he had to do was trust the very power that he’d cursed.


The battle was fierce. Michael, Xena and the other arc angels had rescued Gabrielle from hell after she had been stripped from Leif and her other guardian angels. Xena had given her light to free the twisted, demonic Callisto, and was now herself a powerful demon. She had fought and overwhelmed Gabrielle, which was her singular objective. They would be together for all eternity and she was about to carry her beloved straight to hell to fulfill the promise. Xena had Gabrielle in her spiny arms poised on the precipice staring down into black oblivion. Michael saw them too late, but limped toward them anyway.


All three plummeted from Paradise.

Without a single word, Eli walked briskly down the stone steps to where Xena and Gabrielle rested. He barely acknowledged Joxer and Amarice. He pulled the shroud from their inanimate faces, placed his hands on the tops of their heads, closed his eyes and began to pray. A source of purity and light in the form of an angel, Callisto, floated just behind Eli. He was the vessel through which her light flowed.

Demon Xena couldn’t be more satisfied. Not only was she bringing Gabrielle back with her, but the mightiest arc angel of all Paradise, Michael, as well. She couldn’t resist stating the obvious in a mocking tone.

"Oh, no. We’re going to hellll."

Before she could fully wallow in this perverse scene, Gabrielle vanished before her eyes. She had no time to react as she disintegrated in a shower of light particles with Michael following on her hooves.

Callisto withdrew her essence from Eli, smiled and rejoined the protectors of Paradise. As the last bit of her energy dissipated, Xena and Gabrielle opened their eyes wide and took in a breath of air. Before either of them moved, Xena instinctively reached for Gabrielle’s hand to her left. Once assured that she was there, she attempted to sit up with Eli’s help. He did the same for Gabrielle. They were cold and disoriented, yet knew they were together again. Breathing was difficult as air was being drawn into once lifeless, compressed lungs. While they waited to have all their senses working again, Gabrielle was able to speak raggedly to Xena.

She looked lovingly into Xena’s eyes and promised her. "We’re going to be together for eternity."

That was all she could get out. Exhausted by the effort, she simply put her head against Xena’s shoulder.


0550 hours PST

March 15, 1999

High atop the Hollywood Hills

Will you remember me?

It wasn’t so much a real voice that wandered through her mind, but, rather, a feeling. No visual clues helped her. Only the sound of her heart, thumping in a steady, predictable manner. She was alone, or so it seemed at first.

Promise you’ll find me.

Find whom? This was annoying. At this hour, she could barely find her ass with her own hands, and now, a disembodied thought was making demands. And to further complicate the issue, there was the faintest sound, not of her making, announcing its arrival -- another heartbeat. This one was slightly out of sync but very insistent. She had the distinct impression that it was hovering just inches above her own heart and had begun to merge with her. As one to always embrace danger, she allowed the fusion to take place. It felt right and comfortable. It felt… complete.

Never leave me again.

Never, my love, never.


In the darkness, a melodic voice crept into her consciousness.

Will I remember you, will you remember me?

A strong hand escaped the warmth of the sheets to shut off the infernal warbling.

"Shut the fuck up, Sarah."

MacKenzie Myles Dearborn, Mac to her friends, was a creature of habit. It wasn’t unusual for her to rise this early but not having a structured day was indeed rare and to not awake before the alarm was unheard of. In the idleness of the moment, Mac’s thoughts reverted to her experience from the night’s REM activity. She wasn’t one to read things into dreams; they were, after all, just bits of jumping electrons creating random images and feelings but this was unlike any dream she’d ever had. She took a very deep breath trying to expel any remnants of the experience and instinctively reached for the TV remote. Mac surfed to CNN and waited for the morning stock commentary while successfully pushing the fading images and feelings out of the way. The NYSE would open on the East Coast in a few minutes and she would scan the opening quotes looking for validation that the last few months had been an exercise in good judgment. Although she rarely doubted her professional decisions, this last acquisition had been a gamble.

While she waited, an insistent paw worked at the Egyptian cotton sheet covering Mac’s naked form. The black and white feline crawled onto her human’s chest, purring and made little "biscuits" with her declawed front feet. Mac smiled warmly at this bundle and gently stroked her soft fur. She knew the routine. As soon as Cat was sated, "attention time" would be over with an irritated swish of her tail and nip at Mac’s hand. The animal was very much like her owner in that affection was offered on strict terms -- her terms. Mac seemed to not only understand this, but also admired the quality. It was so honest, and her time was up.

"Ow!" Mac winced as Cat fulfilled her part of the ritual. "I hope you come back as a human and me as the feline!" The ritual rarely drew blood, but it did signify the official beginning to the day… Cat’s day, and that’s all that mattered in the feline’s universe. Mac sat up in the bed, grabbed her robe from the bedpost and slipped her arms into the deep blue silk garment. There was a soft knock at the bedroom door and without waiting for a response, the door cracked open allowing entry of her valet, Michael, and the quick exit of Cat. He carried a silver tray with an urn of coffee, hot buttered English muffins, a small bowl of fruit and the morning’s newspapers, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. He placed the tray on the bedside table as he had done for many years. Like Mac, he never took a day off.

"Good morning, Ms. Dearborn. Did you sleep well?" The question was always the same, delivered in a quiet, respectful tone. This morning he added the weather report. "Seems we had a bit of a rainstorm last evening. Were you bothered by the thunder?"

Michael Thomas Winston was a third generation caretaker and gentlemen’s gentleman. He considered being in the employ of MacKenzie Dearborn a high honor. He had been performing his duties for nearly ten years. Not once in all that time had he addressed Mac by any other name than "Ms. Dearborn." And every morning, Mac implored of him.

"Michael, please, call me Mac. I’ve known you almost as long as any of my close friends. The fact that you are in my employ doesn’t mean we aren’t friends. Oh, and I slept like a dead dog." She raised a brow and waited his response.

"Of course, Ms. Dearborn. Will there be anything else?" A faint smile worked at the corner of his mouth.

She sighed and smiled broadly. "No, that will be all for now. Thank you."

Michael exited the room as silently as he had entered. His movements amazed Mac. How does he do that? She shook her head and poured some of the steaming brew into a mug. First order of business was skimming the papers. She was looking for several things -- the general condition of the market -- speculation on possible ripe mergers and trading figures from the overseas markets during the night. She was especially interested in her newest jewel -- GenTech Industries.


0900 hours EST

March 15, 1999

Ashwood Estates

Charlottesville, Virginia

Across the country Elaine Davis Ashwood sat quietly sipping herbal tea and watched a pair of frisky chipmunks cautiously darting from their warm hiding places in search of breakfast. She had suffered a fitful night, and, although she was still feeling uneasy, the serenity of the garden had always been rejuvenating. She loved this time of year, early spring and although there were still remnants of snow on the grounds, life would soon explode almost overnight. The air would be teeming with new life. Newborn birds would be taking furtive flights of fancy from their nests, baby squirrels following their parents in the trees, making daredevil leaps from branch to branch with no fear. Even the plants would burst fresh and anew. The very air she breathed had sweetness that signified the upcoming rebirth. Yes, this was one of her favorite seasons and times of the day. It was still very cool in Northern Virginia in March, and Davis was wrapped in a family heirloom - a comfortable, hand knit shawl. It had been passed down through the family from her namesake, Davis M. Ashwood, and showed signs of its age in many spots. The original pattern was interrupted with repair weaving throughout, but the shawl was still functional as it was always meant to be.

Davis was named for her great grandmother who had spent her youth prospecting the Alaskan wilderness disguised as a man. In those days, women weren’t expected or allowed to do anything exciting. At sixteen, Davis set out for the gold fields of the Yukon. She had cut her long hair to fit under a man’s hat, dressed in prospecting clothes and had changed her name. She picked a new first name from the storefront sign of Davis Feed and Seed, used the initial of her given name, Mabel and kept her last name, Potter. She worked three years in the gold mines without being unmasked. On a fateful day in the summer of ’99, 1899, she and another miner, a dashing fellow by the name of Theodore Ashwood were trapped in a partial cave-in. It took five days for them to be rescued and in light of the fact that she thought it was the end, she had revealed her true identity to Theo. Instead of being outraged at a woman doing a man’s work, Theo was quite taken by her spirit and determination. He never told her secret. They worked side by side for many years and after the lure of gold mining ran its course, they were married.

In her later years, she had knit the shawl for Theo to keep him warm. She told him that as a man, he would need something to fend off the cold nights. She commented that she was just too ornery for the cold to bother with her. She outlived him by five years. On her deathbed, she gave the shawl to her only child, a son, with strict instructions to seek out a strong, independent woman to marry and to pass the tradition along to successive Ashwood generations. In her wisdom, she knew those future Ashwood women would be called upon to tend the "weaker" sex. It had become a family joke of sorts. This tradition had been upheld all the way to Davis’ mother, Helen, who had received the shawl as a wedding present from her new husband, Lawton Ashwood. Davis was determined to take possession of this worn piece of family history. Even though her brother, Lyle, would rightfully be next to have the threadbare cloth; Davis was sure she could successfully orchestrate a coup. Her argument was simple… she knew that a traditional marriage was never going to happen, so, technically the Ashwood name would take ownership of the prize. Besides, she had always thought the Ashwood women should have been the guardians… not the men.

Such small concerns.

At least she would no longer be worried about the viability of her company. GenTech was in very good hands.


In front of the modest country home, the chauffeured Mercedes slowed to a stop. The gravel drive met the tires with a crunching sound. The driver quickly scurried from the cab and opened the passenger’s door, allowing the distinguished man to exit the automobile. He nodded briefly to the driver and made his way to the home’s front door, his steps having urgency about them. He didn’t knock, but let himself in.

A soft-spoken butler met him in the hallway. "Senator Ashwood. I didn’t hear you drive up. Forgive me." Jason was already relieving Lawton Ashwood of his dark wool overcoat.

"Jason, don’t fuss over me. I’m a grown man and can certainly let myself into my daughter’s house." He smiled at the caretaker who had tended his needs as a child and was more a father than servant. His main concern was for Davis. He scanned the library off the hall for his progeny and was somewhat surprised to find the room empty except for a warm fire crackling in the hearth.

Before he could inquire, Jason spoke. "She’s in the garden, Senator. I tried to persuade her otherwise, but she’s so headstrong. Very much like her..." His words trailed off.

Lawton placed a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder. "I know. Davis is the spitting image and spirit of her mother." He took a deep breath. "Don’t worry. I’ll have a word with her. Is everything else ready?"

"Yes, all is prepared. I’ve placed a call to Mr. Crawford to let him know you and Davis will be on your way to Bethesda soon. She wasn’t too keen on this, you know." Jason said.

"Goes without saying, Jason. I have no intention of being manipulated on this point. I’m having a chopper sent here for the transport. I just don’t feel it’s in Davis’ best interest to make a three hour drive to Bethesda."

Very little took Jason by surprise. This was an exception. "A helicopter? Oh, she’s really not going to like this, sir."

"Tell me something I don’t know.""

Jason nodded in agreement and said, "She said she needed some quiet time before you arrived. She seemed very tired and though she didn’t say as much, I think she’s worried this time."

"We all are."

Senator Lawton Laurence Ashwood walked a familiar path through the house toward the back area and garden. The greenhouse had been designed as an integral part of the home. His daughter was an avid gardener whose special love was propagating exotic flora and fauna. In a way, it was an offshoot of her profession. Davis was a gifted research scientist and often stated that the cures for every disease process that afflicted humans could be found in the plants. She was forever expecting to find some of those miracles. Her greenhouse was filled with her extended curiosity. Lawton looked at the lush variety of plant life and wondered which cures were lurking in which plants. He opened the insulated door and stepped into the brisk morning air wishing he’d kept his coat on. He immediately saw the form of his daughter, wrapped in that thin shawl, sitting quietly in her favorite chair.

He spoke as he neared the bricked patio. "Davis, why are you out here?" He shivered involuntarily his words coming out in visible puffs. "You’ll catch your death..." He stopped wishing he could unspeak those words.

Davis turned her head slightly and smiled at her father. Her eyes were clear and almost sparkled, but she looked exhausted and pale. The morning’s sun danced across her calm face and reflected the highlights in her hair. "Why, Dad, I think you almost made a joke."

Lawton’s face told a different story. "God… I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant."

"Dad, relax. I know what you meant. Sit down for a sec and enjoy the garden with me, okay? " Davis motioned for her father to take a seat near her.

Lawton couldn’t believe she wanted to sit and watch an expanse of snow covered mounds in light of what had happened in the wee hours of the morning. A darting chipmunk drew his attention for a moment.

Davis watched the small animal disappear into a hole burrowed in the snow. "Isn’t it amazing? All this life and renewal about to happen. I wish everyone could experience a moment like this, to actually watch nature flourish." She took a deep, labored breath. "People just don’t understand how precious life is - all life - and how we are connected and depend on each other for survival." She turned her attention toward her father’s worried features. "Dad, don’t worry. Everything is going to be all right. I just experienced an unsettling event early this morning. Jason shouldn’t have called you."

He was amazed that his daughter could see what had not happened yet in the garden. To him, the landscape was still in the clutches of winter, but it was that ability to look past the obvious that had made his child such an exceptional scientist and person. "Davis, Jason said you were very upset over that little event. I’ll not have any discussion on this. I spoke with Sandy and he wants you at Bethesda ASAP for a complete work-up."

His daughter didn’t respond directly. She sipped her tea and continued staring out into the garden. Clutching the shawl tighter with her free hand, she spoke in low voice. "Dad, something did happen, but I can’t really describe the experience. It was like my heart, no, the very soul of me joined with another and all I can remember is Jason shaking me awake. My chest physically hurt and I had been crying in my sleep. I know that sounds crazy, right?"

Lawton regained his composure and thought how well she was usually able to mask her own concerns, but this fragile side of her scared him.

"All the more reason to let Sandy have a look at you. It was probably a nightmare complicated by all the meds you’re taking." His concern for her well being prompted him to gently chide his daughter and to ease the uncomfortable tension. "And why in Heaven’s name are you sitting out here in that moth-eaten shawl? You shouldn’t even be out in this damp air."

Davis smiled at her father. "Jason told you I was out here, didn’t he?"

Jokingly, he responded. "Of course. Don’t you know that he’s my eyes and ears around here?"

Lawton took his daughter’s hand and looked into her eyes. "Jason is worried about you, too, especially after that merger business. I still don’t know why you felt compelled to carry out the negotiations personally. You could have left that to the lawyers and Ian. It just took too much out of you."

Davis took another sip of her tea, which had gone cool in her mug. "I thought we’d talked about this already? I felt it was important to conduct the turnover in person and to present a strong presence. There had to be no weakness showing in front of the woman they call The Conqueror." She chuckled at the thought of Mac as a corporate monster. "Besides, I wanted to see what she was made of."

Her father shook his head. "And what did you see?"

Davis returned her gaze toward the budding cherry trees. "I saw many things in her, Dad, many things."

Lawton knew they needed to finish preparations for the flight to the hospital , but took a few precious minutes to hold her hand and watch the morning come to life. "Perhaps someday you’ll tell me all about it."

In the distance, the unmistakable thump of helicopter rotors drew Davis’ attention. She could see a speck in the clear morning sky grow larger as it neared. She turned to her father and commented, "I’ve never seen a helicopter this far out in the countryside. Why do you suppose its here?"

Obviously, Lawton wasn’t going to be able to conceal his plans much longer. "I thought we’d go first class to Bethesda today." He fully expected Davis to voice her dissatisfaction.

Instead of her normal resistance, she quietly took her father’s hand. "I think we should hurry, Dad. I really don’t feel well."

Lawton took her by the shoulder and moved toward the greenhouse. He tried to remain calm, but this was scaring the hell out of him. He refrained from picking his daughter up and sprinting to the ‘copter’s landing site and tried to assure Davis. "Don’t worry. Everything’s gonna be OK. Why don’t you think about something pleasant."

Something pleasant. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. She nodded and let her mind float back over the events of the last few months and thought about MacKenzie.


January 4, 1999

GenTech Industries Laboratory Facility

Huntington, Virginia

GenTech Industries had started as a biomechanical research facility. Lyle Ashwood had left a respected position at the McGowan Center for Artificial Organ Development in Pittsburgh to form the company. The founding reason was extremely personal. Helen Ashwood, mother to Lyle and Davis, was slowly losing her battle with her own heart. Her children had known very early on that her condition would become critical long before age would take her away. Their lives and educational pursuits had been targeted for one specific reason… to somehow save their mother from a premature death.

Her only chance for survival was a transplant. Unfortunately, there were several factors not in her favor. First was the critical short supply of donor hearts. Secondly and probably the most damning, her blood group was extremely rare… AB Negative. Statistically speaking their mother would have a better chance of being struck by lightning than having a lifesaving transplant opportunity. She shared her blood group with less than four percent of the world’s population.

As their mother’s condition worsened, Lyle begged Davis to join him at GenTech. She had been doing AIDS research at the CD.C. in Atlanta lending her expertise to work on possible vaccines. Lyle was hoping to launch a two-prong attack. He would continue development of a next generation artificial heart that would run on a long-term power supply. Davis would lend her knowledge and experience for drug therapies to suppress tissue rejection in organic transplant recipients. He found, however, that development and testing of prototypes was time consuming and mired in FDA red tape. He was literally running out of time and energy.

Before either of her brilliant offspring could produce a miracle, Helen Ashwood surrendered to her heart and quietly slipped away three springs ago. Lyle took it the hardest. He had wanted to dissolve the company but Davis convinced him that their research could possibly help others, that they should not stop, that there was a greater good to be served. Lyle agreed to stay, but turned over the official reins of GenTech to Davis. At first she was uncomfortable with having to be so visible, but it had been necessary. Securing funding for continued research was an ongoing process. What she finally did was to surround herself with trusted staff. Her number two was Ian C. Crawford, a gentle looking man in his fifties. His demeanor was low keyed, but when it came to negotiating, there wasn’t a fiercer mind at the table. Davis had picked well. For her plan to succeed, she would have to convince Ian. She was on the phone when he walked into her office. She acknowledged his presence and motioned for him to take a seat, if he could find one. Davis had science journals, research papers and gods knows what else stacked on every available surface. Ian picked a pile that didn’t look too important and moved it to the floor. He sank into the worn chair and waited.

"Dad, I’m fine, trust me. You worry too much. " She rolled her eyes and smiled at Ian. "Yes… uh-huh… I know I promised, but I’ve got something very important to do before I leave this evening. Look, why don’t you meet me at Starbucks? You can bore me with tales of the Hill and I’ll tell you about my latest culture results over a latte. Deal?" She paused listening for a temporary cease in her father’s ongoing crusade to get her to slow down. Obviously, there was a lull in his words, and Davis took the opportunity to end the call. "Look Dad, Ian is here and I need to talk to him." She quickly glanced at her Timex. "I’ll see you in about an hour. Love you… bye." She placed the phone in its cradle before her father could get off another word. She was certain the meeting with her father would be a two-latte session.

"He’s right, you know. You should slow down, Davis." Ian’s soft voice almost had a calming effect on her.

"Oh, not you, too? Trust me, I’m planning on doing just that. That’s why we need to talk." Davis pushed away from the cluttered desk and made her way to the coffee maker. "Want some decaf? It’s practically fresh."

"Practically? By that I suppose you mean it was made sometime today?" He shook his head. "You know that stuff isn’t good for you. I wish…"

Davis held her hand to stop him from continuing while pouring some of the dark brew in her mug. "Don’t say it, please. I have one father constantly bugging me, I don’t need two."

Ian nodded as a gesture of surrender. "Okay, just doing my job as your friend. Now, what’s up?"

Davis leaned against the edge of her desk and took a sip of her coffee. She looked directly into her associate’s warm brown eyes. "Ian, I’m going to sell GenTech to the Dearborn Corporation."

The words were very clear and without flourish, as was her way, but it took Ian a few seconds to register what she’d actually said. He was stunned.

"What?! You can’t… I mean of course you can, it’s your company, but after all we’ve been through? Dammit… we’re so close. Why, Davis?"

"I know. It’s ironic, don’t you think?" Davis wearily placed her mug on the desk, picked up a folder and handed it to Ian. "I think this says it all."

He took the folder and began scanning the information. There was no mistake. GenTech was in trouble, but even with the figures glaring up from the paper, he wanted to remain optimistic.

"Okay, so we have our backs to the wall. All that will change when the FDA approves our research and gives the go ahead to manufacture and distribute. We can’t just quit, Davis. There has to be a way to stay solvent until they come through and they will. The research was impeccable and furthermore, the drug works. It will be a boon to mankind. There’s no way the FDA will screw with this."

Davis pulled an industrial folding chair near her advisor and friend. "Ian. No one wants to believe in this deal more than me, but the hard truth is the FDA could take as long as it likes to approve or not. They’ve had the data for nearly two years. I’ve done everything in my power to trim expenses within the company without laying people off. As you know, Lyle and I haven’t taken a salary in months. We’ve even shut down the artificial implant division in an attempt to stay alive. We’ve poured every cent into development and testing of this one drug. I hate to say it, but we’ve… no, I have placed all of GenTech’s eggs in one basket. Well, let me rephrase that. GenTech is relying on just one egg. We’re almost out of time."

Ian never expected to put his persuasive talents to work on his employer. "So GenTech is in a crunch. Why do you have to sell? Can’t we just reduce our liabilities to a maintenance level until the FDA rules?"

"And what if they don’t for another five years? This is the government we’re talking about. Good lord, Ian, they sat on a vaccine for AIDS for almost ten years, due to pressure from the big drug companies. They aren’t the least bit concerned with the ‘human cost’ in holding up a new therapy. It’s all about special interest and who has the power all in the guise of ‘protecting the consumer.’ Hell, the pharmaceutical firm that developed the vaccine wanted it held back so they could reduce their inventory of soon-to-be obsolete meds. All they wanted was to get as much money recouped from the development and manufacturing process. Meanwhile, thousands of people died. This will be no different."

"What about your father? Can’t he help push the FDA a little faster?" Ian’s experience told him to try another tactic in reasoning with Davis.

She stared hard at him. "No, absolutely not! That’s the last thing we want. There would be cries of ‘conflict of interest’ if he actively got involved. Believe me, I’ve already had this discussion with him and my answer is the same. I won’t allow it."

Ian didn’t usually try to latch on to something personal in his bargaining, but this was worth a shot. "Your ethics be damned, Davis. We’re talking about your life here, and I may sound biased, but you are very important to me and to your father and brother."

"I know you all are concerned, but I won’t do this any other way. It’s a trait I inherited from Mother, among other things." She smiled sadly at the thought of her Mom. "Now, we’re wasting energy here. I want you to present a proposal to Dearborn."

Ian put his arguments aside for the time being." Yes, you are as stubborn as Helen was. As you wish, but why Dearborn? Can’t we seek another potential partner in this? I don’t care for her tactics."

"Ian you don’t even know her, nor have you had any dealings with her."

Of course she was right, but industry water cooler talk often held the seeds of truth. "All I know is that dealing with someone called The Conqueror doesn’t sound very appealing to me."

Davis was just the opposite in her belief. It probably was the scientist in her and all those years of dealing with fact not fantasy. "I’d rather not to go on rumor, and besides, if I did, I much prefer the other name that’s whispered by frightened execs… Destroyer of Mergers." In spite of the seriousness of the situation, she chuckled. "I’ve prepared some information on MacKenzie Dearborn you might find um… enlightening. There’s also the outline of the proposal I wish for you to present. We need to do this while GenTech is still breathing and we have some room to maneuver."

Ian took the thick envelope and recognized the signal that he should be on his way to prepare for battle. "When do you want me to get this to Dearborn?"

Davis was collecting papers and stuffing them in her valise, preparing to leave. "Sooner the better. Read over the profiles and we’ll hash out any questions you have." She paused and softened her voice. "This is for the best, Ian. The best for all concerned. You’ll just have to trust me. And now I must smooth an old rooster’s ruffled feathers."

"I don’t envy your task. The Senator can be immovable." Ian held the office door open for his boss and waited until she had exited before walking out behind her. He still believed in common courtesy and never thought it a male—female issue in holding a door open. It was just the way he was.

As they walked the unadorned hallway, Davis put her free arm through his. "Dad will be very vocal on this issue, but, in the end, he will support me. Because he knows once I make my mind up, that’s it."


0600 hours PST

March 15,1999

Casa Dearborn

Mac absently sipped her coffee as she multi-tasked. She was scanning the newspapers and catching the rolling stock abbreviations as they scrolled on the TV screen. She was looking for the symbol GTEC. She had already circled the closing quote in the WSJ for the previous trading day, the Japanese opening numbers and now waited the American market. She didn’t have to wait but a few minutes. She smiled broadly as the numbers rolled by. "Well, it’s about time!"

She picked up the cell and dialed a familiar number. On the third ring, a voice answered groggily. "Yes… hello… what!?"

Mac nervously ran a hand through the tangle of hair cascading over her shoulders. "Nate… its Mac. Put Boris on the line."

Nate rolled on his back and placed the receiver on his bare chest. He shook his sleeping lover. "Boris… wake up. Its Mac."

Boris MacLeod groaned and pulled the down pillow over his head. "Tell her I’m not here for crissakes!"

A more insistent jab from Nate prompted Boris to peer from under the pillow. "C’mon talk to her and get it over with. Besides you know I’m a terrible liar. And like she’s going to believe you aren’t here at…" He squinted at the illuminated dial on the clock. "Gods… freaking six in the morning!"

Boris took the cordless from his smiling lover, silently mouthing; You are in such trouble.

Nate leaned over and quickly kissed the man on the forehead. "Tell Mac I said to get a life." He rolled on his side pulling the covers snuggly around him.

Boris pulled his head from under the pillow and spoke into the receiver. "Mac… not today. This is the first day I’ve had off in six months. I’ve forgotten what my partner looks like awake and upright. This had better be good. Oh, by the way, Nate sends his love."

Mac raised her brow unseen by anyone. "Yeah, I heard." With sarcasm aside, she continued. "Today’s the day, Boris. We need to get together to prepare for the ruling."

"Day for what?! What the hell are you talking about? Trust me, Mac, you really should take a day off or at least find a diversion." Boris was trying to quell that feeling in his gut that signified his ‘day off’ was now history.

Mac was pouring more Jamaican Blue into her mug, her senses buzzing on caffeine and sheer adrenaline. "The FDA is going to announce approval soon, perhaps in a week or two and we will need to prepare a statement. You get started on it and I’ll be over in a bit. We need something low-key. No sense starting a run on the body farms for parts."

Boris sat up in the bed, his heart racing. "Your sense of humor at this hour is unnerving. The FDA? How do you know that? No one knows when that will happen. How do you know that?"

Mac smiled. She took delight when Boris lost it. "Boris, dear, you’re repeating yourself. Trust me, it has already started. Besides I’ve checked the opening in Japan, and our stock is being traded in larger blocks. We’ve had a ten-percent increase since yesterday. In addition, units in competitive arenas are being dumped just as fast. Our friends in the East can smell a winner. Turn on CNN."

Boris reached for the remote on the bedside table and clicked the TV on. Nate rolled over at this intrusion. He sighed heavily. "Good God… no day off, huh?"

Boris smiled weakly. "If Mac is right, and Lord, the woman is never wrong, we’ll have plenty of time to take a day off. Hush." His eyes focused on the commentator as she finished the morning weather report.

The woman’s even tone flowed from the screen.

"This morning’s opening bell saw trading in medical technologies and pharmaceuticals extremely active. A spokesperson for Pfizer said his company was not concerned with the initial numbers but would keep a wary eye on the day’s trading. Pfizer is but one of the big manufacturers whose shares seem to be in a downward spiral. Its much too early to speculate where this will go, but there are some nervous investors pacing the boardrooms this morning. The major concern is that there will be a hysterical dumping of shares if the big players start to significantly slip. Not all med-tech companies, however, are being affected. Several are enjoying this momentary trend in a positive way. One of these is GenTech Industries. There has been much speculation surrounding an impending announcement from the FDA. This is possibly approval of a new drug therapy used in transplant surgery. The drug, NoRject, is used to block tissue rejection in transplant recipients of non-compatible organs."

In the lower corner of the screen a picture of Mac in full corporate drag appeared.

"Dearborn Corporation recently acquired GenTech Industries, the developer of the drug, at the surprise invitation of GenTech’s CEO, Elaine Davis Ashwood."

Another small inset featured a picture of Davis.

"Neither Dearborn nor Ashwood have been reached for comment, but this could be truly a significant breakthrough for the transplant business."

The commentator smiled benignly at the camera. "We’ll be right back after these messages."

Nate’s attention was still on the screen as Boris turned it off. Puzzled, he asked, "Did she say ‘transplant business’?"

"Yes, honey, it’s all business and we’re going to be rich beyond imagining." He turned his conversation back to Mac. "My God! How did you know?

"Instinct Boris and the Japanese rarely react without very good information. I need you to call Aoki in Tokyo to confirm the information. Mac paused and her voice became softer. "This is what we’ve been waiting for. I’ll be over soon. I need to call Ashwood… um, Davis and inform her. You and Nate have a good hour or so before I ruin your day. Um… ask him if he’ll whip up some of his special Belgian waffles to celebrate. I’ll make it up to you both… I promise."

Boris heard a distinctive click and the line went dead. He replaced the handset in its cradle.

The full impact of the announcement was lost on Nate. "I don’t get it. So the FDA approves yet another drug, what’s the big deal?"

Boris grabbed his lover’s head and kissed him, hard on the lips. "Honey, you didn’t pay attention. This isn’t just another drug. It’s the drug. And we own it, or at least fifty-one percent. It will allow transplants of any organ to any donor. In other words, a recipient won’t necessarily need to be organically compatible. It’s the beginning of a new path in human survival." Playfully he wrestled the lithe body next to him into a position of surrender and lowered his warm body on top of his lover whispering into Nate’s ear, "Mac said she’d be over in an hour or so. Shall we find something to occupy us meanwhile?"

Nate put his arms around his lover’s neck and playfully taunted. "Are you sure we have enough time? I wouldn’t want Mac walking in on us and getting freaked out."

Boris pressed into Nate’s firm body and informed him, "Trust me, if she sees anything she hasn’t seen before, she’ll throw something at it. Now shut-up and kiss me, Lucy, or there’s gonna be some ‘splainin’ to do."


Mac pulled out her appointment book and found the home number for Davis. She hardly needed to look up the number. She had reached for the phone countless times since returning from her meeting with Davis, but had talked herself out of actually dialing. It was so stupid. She was a mature woman and what’s the worst that could happen? She and Davis could talk about the weather? But this morning was different. She would have a concrete reason for dialing those numbers, and, well, if the conversation got sidetracked, so much the better. This merger had been anything but run of the mill. There was something about Davis that had connected with her. Any other time she would berate herself for displaying weakness to the enemy, but Davis never felt like the enemy. She genuinely liked the feisty, strong woman, and now that the business of conducting business was done, perhaps they could tenuously explore a friendship. She had been delaying a personal pursuit for reasons she couldn’t even recall, but something definitely had passed between them. If she were able to sit still and recall her morning’s experience, that connection would be very clear. But Mac was a very pragmatic woman, having no time to chase dreams. She dialed the Virginia number. A man’s voice answered.

"Ashwood residence. May I help you?" His voice was steady and firm.

Mac cleared her throat, feeling somewhat light headed. "Yes, MacKenzie Dearborn calling for Ms Ashwood."

"Concerning…???" Jason was so good at his job.

Concerning? Gods… concerning I want to ask your employer out on a date. Those were her thoughts. Her words were different. "Um… concerning our mutual interest in GenTech Industries." Mac winced at her words no matter how true they were. How lame.

The sheer transparence of her words didn’t phase Jason. He was quite used to Davis having female suitors. This one, however, was very high profile and he was surprised at her complete incompetence at sounding more convincing. But, it was not his place to pass judgement. If the immediate circumstances weren’t so serious, he’d run the head of Dearborn Corporation through a few hoops. "I’m sorry. Ms. Ashwood is unavailable to take calls, but I’ll make sure she gets the message." He was very terse in his reply.

"Well, when will she be available? This isn’t a sales call to change long distance carriers. Her company just merged with mine, Dearborn Corporation." Mac was actually feeling anxious and couldn’t believe the small knot forming in her gut. Christ! All she wanted was to hear the woman’s voice and now she had sounded like a complete moron to the butler.

"As I said, Ms. Dearborn, Ms. Ashwood is not taking calls this morning. If you’ll leave a number where you can be reached, I’ll give it to Mr. Crawford." The voice went silent indicating no further pleading would get her anywhere.

Mac gathered her composure and dignity speaking in a controlled voice across the miles. " I see. Well, please have her call me at her convenience then. She has the number."

Mac slumped to the edge of the bed still holding the handset. She didn’t really want to think the worst, but she had a bad feeling about this. Damn! Why didn’t I get more information concerning her health that day? Boris was right. I should have just asked her instead of trying to be so cautious. Fuck! What if she is sick? The sheer high of the announcement seemed hollow now. She barely knew the woman, and yet, she felt like she knew everything about her. Her mind thought back about the incredible series of events that led her to meet Davis Ashwood.


January 11, 1999

Dearborn Corporation Building

Downtown Los Angeles

The corporate boardroom was filled with smartly dressed executives. Sessions had been ongoing nearly nonstop for the last two weeks. On one side of the long mahogany table were the legal eagles and contract experts for the embattled company, WebServe. Sitting across the modern battlefield was MacKenzie Dearborn and her second, Boris MacLeod. To an unpracticed eye, they looked pitifully outnumbered. The truth was, WebServe was about to go down without much of a fight. Boris had done his preliminary job of researching the potential acquisition’s weaknesses and now Mac was about to deal the deathblow. She was very good at her work and thrived in the corporate trenches. She had been called The Conqueror behind her back and quite relished the moniker. In her early years, the name was well deserved and struck fear into any company she dealt with. Although her focus was much different now, she still allowed her former reputation to precede her. It had proved very useful and advertising like that couldn’t be bought.

Standing at nearly six feet, she was an impressive woman. Her physical stature was only surpassed by her intellect and business acumen. There had been only one merger that she had failed to complete in all the time she’d done business. The night before consuming a communications company, she’d felt that something wasn’t quite right. The next day she’d ‘allowed‘ the company to slip away, quite infuriating Boris. It wasn’t twenty-four hours later that the FCC brought charges against the company and all its holdings for serious infractions. If Dearborn Corporation had acquired the company, it would have been very messy and very expensive. Mac told Boris that it was a gut instinct that alerted her. He never questioned her judgment after that.

In a bored manner, Mac peered over the top of her glasses. The collection of poker faces staring back almost made her laugh. She’d had enough of this. Time to finish the deal. She carefully removed the Versace frames from her face and laid the gold wired glasses on the table. Pursing her lips, she scanned the merger documents and then closed the thick file. She looked squarely into the eyes of WebServe’s CEO. He was a rather annoying little man with weasel-like characteristics. Mac disliked him from their first meeting because he refused to keep eye contact while talking. She didn’t trust him. But this would soon be a moot point. Boris could barely keep a smile from forming on his lips. This was the part he really enjoyed the part where Mac went in for the kill. He’d seen her do it hundreds of times, but it still mesmerized him. Once she had set her sights on an acquisition, nothing would dissuade her. She was relentless in the pursuit of her goal. Many times he wanted to tell whatever poor bastard was across the table to just sign the papers and save his dignity. Casually, he glanced at his Rolex and was already planning his evening. Mac took control of the room from a very relaxed position. She had eased back in the leather chair, her eyes never leaving the weasel’s. The man was pouring sweat and reached for the water carafe. Mac finally spoke.

"Gentlemen. I think we’ve covered every possible angle and argument that is relevant. I have consulted with my team of experts and have concluded that my counter offer stands…" She paused and sipped from her water glass. She timed her words with the placement of the glass on the table, "…as is."

Her opponent was incredulous. He sat erect in his chair and tried to argue the point. "That’s ridiculous! You’re offering a fraction of what my company is worth. I’m insulted! You must think me a fool to agree to this charade!"

Mac coolly raised her brow and stared even harder into his eyes. Yep, there was a squirming weasel in there all right. Her next maneuver was flawless in execution. She simply put the hard facts on the table.

"Charade? Believe me, I have much better things to do than tap dance with you over this, so I’ll be blunt. Through gross mismanagement you and your board have almost driven WebServe into Chapter 11. On a grand scale, your company ain’t about shit…" Pausing for effect, Mac looked apologetically at the CEO. "If I may be direct in saying that, and furthermore, my offer is the only one you’re going to receive. There’s not a single player out there that wants a thing to do with WebServe." Mac poured some of the spring water into her glass, not missing a beat. "This… um… little charade, as you put it, will be your only offer. Take it or leave it." She took a long sip of the sweet fluid and drove the sword to the hilt. "You have five minutes to sign." To emphasize her seriousness, Mac removed the stainless Brietling, turning the face toward Mr. Weasel. "Time is money gentlemen. Both are about to leave the building."

WebServe’s CEO watched the hands sweep around the face of the timepiece. Without a word, he produced the silver Mont Blanc and began signing the merger papers, passing copies to the lawyers and his partners to initial. The deal was done and so was Mac. After she signed her copy, she and Boris stood to leave. On a practiced cue, the legal team for Dearborn entered the room to complete the minute, boring details. Once outside the boardroom, Mac ran her hands over the back of her neck trying to loosen a familiar knot. The discomfort always started in the middle of her back as a sharp twinge and finally settled in her shoulders and neck. It was annoying to be reminded that she wasn’t young anymore. Boris could tell when the pain was plaguing his friend. He made a casual comment as they walked the hallway toward the elevator bank.

"Got that pain again, huh?"

Mac shot him a practiced look. "Don’t start with me. I’m not in the mood."

"Oh, c’mon, you’re always in the mood after gobbling up another company." Boris had a way of making her smile even when she wasn’t feeling A-one.

Mac punched the call button and waited for the cab. She shrugged her shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tension in her neck. "Normally, I’d agree, but this deal was a bore. No challenge, you know? But we needed to buy the entire outfit to get what I really wanted."

The conversation halted as the soft tone signaled arrival of the cab. Silently, the brass doors slid open allowing Mac and Boris entry. They were the only occupants and Boris did the honors of touching their destination floor number. He rarely questioned Mac’s reasons for going after a company, but this one had mystified him. Since they were alone, he had to ask.

"Mac, why did you expend so much energy in buying WebServe? The damn thing was probably a few weeks away from the auction block. We could have saved ourselves a lot of money by waiting."

"Yes, probably, but it would have meant possibly losing the one part of WebServe I wanted in the first place." She paused to allow Boris to solve the great mystery.

He was drawing a blank. "I’m sorry, I’m lost here, but I’ll take a guess. Their equipment and technology?"

She shook her head. "Lord, Boris. After all the deals we’ve orchestrated I’m surprised that you don’t know. WebServe’s quality assets weren’t in the equipment or technology, although they did have some very state of the art material, but nothing we couldn’t live without. What I wanted were the minds behind that technology. Even though the company was a pimple on the ass of the communications industry, they managed to have several brilliant people working for them. If I’d let the company get to Chapter 11, we would have lost them. By buying the whole mess, we can salvage the usable commodities and sell off the rest. They will be a very welcome asset to our knowledge base."

Boris thought a second and nodded in agreement. The elevator had reached the top floor of the building, Mac’s executive suite. When the doors opened she and Boris stepped silently onto the deep purple carpeting. Throughout, the fabric was oriental in design, woven in gold thread. The cost of the carpeting alone would boggle one’s mind. Mac had personally seen to nearly every detail in her business surroundings. It suited a woman of her stature and intimidated the Hades out of any would be business threat. The entire suite simply oozed of unlimited wealth and power. She had done this on purpose. There was nothing like severely humbling an opponent subliminally. Mac was an expert at this tactic. It had been part of her modus operandi in her early career. She had taken evil delight in reducing corporate players to puddles of indecision by merely walking them through the suite toward her inner office. All that was a memory now, but the surroundings still pleased her in an aesthetic way. She and Boris stopped at her admin assistant’s desk.

An older well-dressed woman casually looked up from her workstation, obviously comfortable with the industry icon standing before her. "You’re finished with WebServe already?"

Boris took the liberty of helping himself to a piece of hard candy from the crystal bowl on Mary’s desk. He popped the sweet into his mouth and couldn’t resist commenting on this latest deal. "Well, we would have been finished a week ago, but Ms.Dearborn was in the mood for a little sport." He rolled the tart candy over his tongue and added. "Um… I believe it was open season on weasels, correct Mac?"

Mac attempted to look innocent by turning her head slightly and shrugging her broad shoulders. She looked at Mary who smiled with amusement at this little in game that they played. "As usual, Mr. MacLeod is hallucinating. I just wanted to make sure all the bits and pieces were in place. Besides I’ve been very bored lately and was wishing for some excitement."

"Of course, Ms. Dearborn. " Mary winked at Boris and moved on to the business of her job. She handed Mac half dozen yellow post-its with phone numbers written clearly and the caller’s name.

Mac scanned the slips and inquired about her afternoon. "What do I have this afternoon?"

Mary focused on her workstation screen and read off Mac’s appointment calendar. "As you were still in contract negotiation this morning, your afternoon is clear save for one caller at 2… a Mr. Crawford representing GenTech Industries."

Boris was helping himself to another sugar morsel, his mind trying to rifle his stored wealth of information for a reference to GenTech. He shook his head. "Sorry, I haven’t heard of this company. It’s probably some failing nothing of a business looking for a quick bailout from us. You want me to hang around?"

Mac looked at her watch and noted that it was already near one o’clock. "No, go ahead. I’ll handle this and let you know if we’ve got something to work with." She plucked a gem out of the dish and headed for her office, her mind racing, as it always did. Before her lean body had settled in the hi-back leather chair, she had arranged the post-its in order of importance. There wasn’t anything of significance in any of them. They could wait until after her two o’clock.

She took a rare moment to turn the chair toward the windows behind her desk. Her office suite occupied the top floor of the building and had she been headquartered in different city, the view would have been incredible. But this was LA and on a good day, you could just barely see the mountains that encircled the basin. The nature of the geography held the ground level impurities in place and the population’s overt compulsion with the auto ensured things would not get any better. Mac knew she didn’t help the environment either. She had this intense desire for anything that flew like the wind, be it on the ground or in the air. She acknowledged her part in the smoggy vista before quietly reducing the hard candy to a mere shadow of its former self. She took note of the fact that the candy had remained tart and robust to the very last, and even as it vanished on her tongue, the flavor had a lingering good-bye, as if it couldn’t let go. A slight shiver went across her body thinking about that, but it was more than an innocuous random thought. It reminded her of something or someone, but like the now melted sweet, the thought also escaped. She was deep into the science of sugar overload, when Mary’s soft voice intruded on the speaker.

"Ms. Dearborn, your two o’clock appointment, Mr. Crawford, has arrived. He’s a bit early. Shall I have him wait?"

Mac moved the chair around silently and responded. "No, go ahead and show him in, and…"

She didn’t even get the words out when Mary completed her sentence. "I’ll have the service bring up some fresh coffee and spring water. I’ll show Mr. Crawford in."

Mary had been with her almost from the beginning and Mac had scored a real coup early on in building her empire. She had spirited Mary and Boris from under the nose of a very prominent industry big wig. Long ago her fledgling company was fending off a very hostile takeover attempt by the pompous ass, and Boris was leading the assault for the enemy. Unfortunately for the enemy, they had underestimated Mac’s instincts and she outflanked the takeover by securing 51% of the voting stock on the Q.T. She was merely trying to save her company from unwanted advances. It was her first taste of corporate blood and well, it took hold of her. She wanted more, but knew little of raping and pillaging on that level. While she possessed many abilities, she lacked hard experience. She boldly offered Boris a position with her company not really expecting him to leave his cush job and perks. To her surprise, he accepted saying anyone who could stand toe to toe with Bill Gates was worth pulling up stakes for. He brought Mary Sinclaire with him. The ensuing years saw the Dearborn Corporation rise to the top of the heap, feared by all that found them ripe for consumption. Boris and Mac cut quite a path on their way to the top and Mary had witnessed every nasty moment, never judging, always remaining loyal to the ones she came to the dance with. She was also present when the ‘change’ in Mac started flourishing. Many things had changed… from within.

"Ms. Dearborn… this is Mr. Crawford."

Mary’s smooth voice drew Mac’s attention from her musing. She focused and stood to greet the neatly dressed man, taking his hand in a firm, but equal handshake. Her eyes immediately locked on his. Crawford merely stared back confidently. Before Mary exited the suite, a service cart was silently wheeled in, the aroma of strong coffee filling the room.

"Ms. Dearborn, a pleasure." There was steel beneath the warmth of his brown eyes. He completed his introduction. "Ian Crawford."

Mac sensed a very intelligent man. She didn’t know why he was here, but she was certain it wouldn’t be some whiney pleading for help. She released his hand and motioned for him to sit.

"Ian… MacKenzie Dearborn. Coffee?" She settled in her chair and went straight to the heart of the matter. "How may I help you? "

He didn’t waste any further time with chitchat. Opening his valise, he pulled the bound document out and handed it to Mac. "No thank you on the coffee. Actually, I believe we can help one another." He sat back in the less than comfortable chair, noting the subtle message it sent to the occupant. He remembered the file Davis had given him on Dearborn and smiled. The slip in his façade wasn’t lost on Mac, but she chose not to comment. She placed the unopened folder on her desk.

"You’ll forgive me, Ian, but I’m not familiar with GenTech Industries." She sighed audibly. "I just can’t remember all the companies out there. Please tell me why you’re here."

Nice touch, he thought. Make the enemy feel completely unimportant.

Any other person would have been reduced to a child caught peeing in his pants, but thanks to his prep work, Crawford knew all about Dearborn’s tactics and more importantly, the way she conducted business now as compared to ten years ago. He knew her reputation, but also knew that her agenda was much different. He was amazed that most of the industry still saw her in that old way, but it had served her, he supposed. Davis was right. This had to work.

He ignored her first attempt to undermine him. "I think if you’ll look at the document, you’ll save both of us useless posturing. Time is money, Ms. Dearborn."

Mac arched a brow at her personal catch phrase and opened the folder. She began scanning the particulars, her heart accelerating as she read.

It was nearly a full hour before the door to her office opened and Crawford stepped from the inner room. He nodded to Mary as he walked by her desk on his way to the elevator bank. It wasn’t till the doors had firmly shut that Mac’s came out of her office. She stopped at Mary’s desk, the blue bound document still in her hand. Calmly she searched the crystal dish for a particular flavor.

"Mary… I want to know everything about GenTech Industries and especially the CEO, Davis Ashwood. See if there’s a recent picture of her on file." She handed the proposal to her. "And find Boris."

Mary picked up the thick folder and questioned Mac. "Her? Davis is a ‘her’?"

Mac took a very deep breath. "Oh… yeah."

"You mean you want this information right now… today?"

Mac wasn’t usually short with her assistant, but something was twisting inside her and her skin was on fire. "Is this a problem?"

"No, not at all. You’ll have the preliminary report within the hour and I’ll page Mr. MacLeod." Mary paused and then asked for clarification. "I assume you want more than just the standard info on Ashwood?"

Mac eased a bit. "Yes. I want to know all about her including what she had for breakfast this morning. And speaking of food, tell Boris to bring dinner. It’s going to be a long night."

Without further instruction, Mary launched a full search and began compiling the requested data. Another deal was in the making.


The GenTech first lieutenant checked his watch. It would be well after seven in the evening in Virginia. From the comfort of his suite, Ian Crawford dialed the private number of Davis Ashwood at the GenTech lab. On the second ring a familiar voice answered.

"Hello, Ian. How did things go?"

Unfazed by the intuitive powers of his friend and employer, Crawford gave his report.

"It went well, I believe. I told Dearborn exactly what you instructed, not too much but enough. I left the proposal and dry facts with her to go over. I suspect I’ll be hearing from her hatchet man sometime this evening or tomorrow. " He shook his head thinking about the lair he’d been in. "No doubt she is researching GenTech and you this very minute."

On the other end of the wire, Davis smiled. "She wouldn’t be an effective commander if she wasn’t." There was a short pause as she chose her next words. In a somewhat softer tone, she asked," What did you think of her?"

Ian was a bit surprised at the subtleness of the question, but tried to remain blindly respectful in his answer. "I think she’s very good at what she does, Davis. If you hadn’t briefed me in such detail with her file prior to my meeting with her, I wouldn’t have known what hit me. She’s everything you suspected and more, if I were to guess. This will be very interesting. Um…what I mean is that I have a feeling she will be more than interested in our proposal once the implication of what’s at stake hits her."

Davis knew him so well, and apparently the opposite was also true. "I understand what you mean" She didn’t linger on the obvious and began planning the next step. "When you’re contacted to start negotiations, we can probably take care of the prelims by phone and fax. There shouldn’t be too much to this. I’ve cleared the sale with the board of directors. It will probably come down to a few "power points." I don’t want to traipse across the country for reasons we need to keep to ourselves, understood? And let them know the final signing will be in D.C."

"No problem. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything further and Davis, please go home and get some rest. I can handle this. That’s what you pay me the big bucks for… remember?"

In a playful tone, she answered. "Uh-huh and I’ve been meaning to talk to you about all that. Have a good evening, Ian."

"You too, Davis." Crawford heard the line disconnect. He dialed room service and ordered a generous dinner along with an urn of coffee. He would be sketching out possible counter measures to deal with whatever Dearborn threw at him and he was sure she would. The battle was engaged.


The sky had gone black early as it did in January. Mac had been so engrossed in the GenTech document she hadn’t noticed the day’s surrender. She did make a concession to the long hours by removing her Armani suit jacket, which she casually tossed over one of the functionally uncomfortable "client" chairs. She was kicked back at her desk; bare feet propped on the inlaid top completely spellbound by the words on the document page. So rapt was her attention, that Boris entered the suite unheard. It was only the smell of dinner that alerted her of his presence.

"I hope Thai works for you. It was the nearest food stop on my way back here." He began taking little containers from the paper bags, placing the square jewels on Mac’s desk. "Your choices are spicy and very spicy. Oh and Mary said to give you this and she said, and I quote, "blueberry bagels," whatever the hell that means. I’m not even going to ask. That woman scares me sometimes." Boris placed the additional folder on the corner of Mac’s desk.

A smile creased Mac’s features, taking her concentration away from the words before her for a second. "Nevermind, just some background info I asked her get." Mac made no attempt to make a dinner choice. She placed the GenTech proposal aside and picked up the file that Mary had compiled. The first thing she saw was a headshot of Ashwood. It was obviously one of those corporate publicity photos, which were usually not very flattering, but this one took her breath away. There was something in her eyes… a look. It was unnerving that she looked so calm and serene. "She must be new in the corporate trenches… experienced execs look completely wrung out," she noted.

Boris knew by the intensity emanating from her, that she would need something in her stomach. He picked up a container and pulled one of the more humane chairs to the desk edge. After consuming a few bites, he finally inquired about his reason for missing yet another dinner with Nate. "Okay, I take it the GenTech meeting was of some interest?"

Mac closed the file and removed her glasses, rubbing her eyes. "Boris, you have a flair for understatement." She pushed back from the desk, placing the personal file on the burled walnut top. She would know every inch of Davis Ashwood before this deal was over. But for now, she focused on the proposal.

Boris was in mid bite, but that had never stopped him from talking before. "Well, are you going to make me buy a vowel? What the hell kind of company is GenTech and what were they hawking?"

Mac helped herself to one of the cartons. She didn’t realize how hungry she was until the first explosion of spices filled her mouth. "Oh, gods, that’s good!"

Boris was nearly finished with his first choice. "Yeah, it’s called "eating" and I highly recommend it. Now stop stalling and spill."

"Okay, but you’re not gonna like it." She opened a bottle of spring water and washed down the savory concoction.

Boris stopped eating and a chilling thought flashed over him. "Oh, please don’t tell me GenTech is in the food industry. You know we don’t do perishables. Please, Mac… don’t tell me you’re gonna bail a high tech grocery chain."

"Nope." She smiled. "Pharmaceuticals."

Boris almost spit out his chicken. "Christ! Even worse! How many times have I told you to stay away from any company whose watchdog is a three-letter agency? That would include the FDA, IRS, FCC, EPA and SEC and MOUSE. Sorry, couldn’t help that last one. Good lord. So what was the gentleman from GenTech putting up as bait?"

"Do you know the story of Ponce de Leon?"

Boris swallowed the spicy chicken before answering. "I knew I should have taken a vowel." He wiped the stinging sauce from his lips before answering. "Okay, let me recall my high school history. Juan Ponce de Leon, born 1474. Spent his adult life seeking the fabled "Fountain of Youth", of which he never found, but traveled and conquered numerous Caribbean locales before finally landing in the Florida Keys. On his final excursion to what he thought was surely the site of the fountain, he was severely wounded in a skirmish between his men and the locals. He died in 1521 in Havana." Smugly, Boris selected another container and checked the accuracy of his account. "Well, how’d I do Ms. Dearborn?"

Mac smiled. "You pass. Remind me to team with you for Trivial Pursuit."

Boris was expecting an explanation. "And??? What’s that got to do with GenTech? And please don’t tell me they discovered the Fountain of Youth."

"Not exactly but they have developed something just as valuable." Mac could play as well as Boris. "Say, anymore of that spicy chicken left?"

"Oh for heaven’s sake! Here!" Boris handed the container to her. "Now stop making me beg. What the hell are we dealing with here?"

"Longevity, Boris. The next best thing to a fountain of youth."



January 29, 1999

Ashwood Estates

Charlottesville, Virginia

The morning was crisp, and snowfall the night before had transformed the countryside into a surreal vista. Jason was busy directing the kitchen staff in preparation of the morning’s repast for Davis, Ian, Lyle and Senator Ashwood. It was a mini-board meeting and from the amount of activity that had ensued the previous week, he knew something very important was afoot. Davis had asked breakfast be served informally in the windowed nook off the kitchen. She actually preferred eating there instead of the formal dining room. From the nook she could view her beloved garden and watch the winter birds gather at the feeders. Sometimes Jason wondered why she hadn’t become a naturalist allowing her to work among the things in which she found so much joy. Oh, he knew the reasons and was awed that Davis had set aside most of her personal enjoyments in the quest for salvation for her mother. He wasn’t surprised that she had stayed in the field to possibly benefit others. He didn’t have the same respect for her brother, Lyle, who had wanted to dump GenTech altogether after his mother’s death. It was Davis that had refused to quit.

"Good morning, Jason." Davis had a way of sneaking up on the man that always amazed him. As usual, he took it in stride.

"And the same to you, Davis. Did you sleep well?"

She poured steaming decaf in her favorite mug. "Pretty good last night, thank you. I’m sure I’ll sleep much better when all this business is over." She smiled and picked a few of the fresh blueberries from the fruit bowl, popping the succulent orbs in her mouth. "Have you heard from Lyle this morning?"

Jason playfully slapped her hand a way from the bowl. "No eating all the berries before breakfast… and Lyle just called. He said he trusted you and Ian to make the right decision. In other words, he’ll go along with whatever you want to do and doesn’t feel the need to be present."

"Typical." Davis sighed. "I’ll be in the nook waiting on Ian and Dad."

She grabbed a few more berries on her way out of the kitchen and away from Jason’s half-hearted reprimand. In a few days, Lyle would be finally freed from GenTech and she would have a much-needed vacation. But first, she would have to deal with Dearborn. There was some final strategy to be worked out before the actual meeting. She took advantage of the calm before the storm to read through the dossier on Dearborn. The woman was an enigma and was strikingly beautiful. Her eyes, at first, seemed cold; however, if one looked long enough there was a hint of smoldering fire lurking beneath. MacKenzie was a very dangerous woman and Davis suspected it went well beyond her business dealings. She let her mind wander a bit and wondered what it would be like to know her personally. Of course, she’d never admit to Ian or her father that she found her attractive in "that way." She shook her head and could imagine the complications that would ensue a dating scenario. Besides, a woman like Dearborn would surely have a significant other or "others." Davis pushed the ridiculous idea from her head. She had to remain tuned in to the project at hand. There was more at stake than her longing for companionship and conversation that did not revolve around lab results. Still, she couldn’t help thinking of how her life had gotten to this point and the decisions that had been made keeping her personal pleasures at bay. All in the interest of the "bigger picture." In some ways she felt like George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life, with the exception of having a warm, intimate relationship. She had always thought that someday a wonderful woman would enter her life, and she could pass the right of caste to another, freeing her to focus on other, less scientific things. Fate was a cruel mistress, however. It now appeared that "someday" would never arrive, and being the grounded, practical woman she was, she accepted the reality. The merger with Dearborn Corporation would be her best step for winding down. She had gotten her wish concerning relinquishing control, but not in the manner she expected.

"I should have been a little more specific." She finally said aloud.

"Specific about what?" Ian’s soft voice startled her.

"Gods, Ian. You scared the bejeezus out of me! Were you a cat in a former life? You have all the qualities of feline stealth."

Ian helped himself to some fresh orange juice. "Well, I’ve been accused of many things, Davis, but, being a pussy is new."

Davis smirked, pushing her disturbing thoughts about Dearborn to the side. "Sorry. I was thinking about this deal and you startled me." She peered around Ian in the direction of the front hallway. "Is Dad with you?"

"Yes, he’ll be right in. I think he’s on the phone with some people on the Hill." Ian shook his head. "I swear, I wouldn’t be in politics for all the gold in Fort Knox. Your father doesn’t have any time to himself. Why has he stayed in this rat’s maze all these years?"

"I suppose its because I keep getting re-elected." Senator Ashwood’s deep voice filled the nook. His tone was a product of years of giving speeches and being heard above the din of the Senate floor. He went straight for his daughter and gave her a paternal peck on the top of the head. "Forgive me for not coming right back. There’s a vote coming up on the floor Monday and my intern was giving me an update." Lawton took a seat facing Davis and motioned for Ian to take a chair. The meeting was officially underway. He noticed they were one short at the table. "Where’s Lyle?"

"He called to say he wasn’t coming, and gave his blanket support for any decision we come to. He’s been out of the picture pretty much since Mother died." There was a very obvious sadness in Davis’ voice when talking about her brother. Although he hadn’t contributed very much of late, he was still family, and Davis loved him all the same.

Lawton’s primary concern, however, was for his daughter, and the idea of her conducting the upcoming negotiations with Dearborn worried him. "Let me say, for the record, I’m still against you doing this."

Davis just looked impassively at her father. "Duly noted, senator."

"Davis, you know what I’m talking about! There’s no reason that Ian can’t handle whatever particulars need to be ironed out. You don’t… " Lawton couldn’t even finish his entreaty.

Davis set her jaw and spoke in very clear language. "Dad, we’ve had this conversation already. Not to sound disrespectful, but if you came here trying to talk me out of attending the meeting tomorrow morning; you’ve wasted a trip. This is going to happen, and in just the way I want it. There will be no further discussion on this topic." She paused to let her words settle, and then continued in a less severe tone. "Dad, it will be all right. This deal between GenTech and Dearborn Corporation is not a hostile bloodletting. We approached her, remember? I’m hoping for something mutually beneficial for us and Dearborn."

Lawton sat back in his chair, relaxing his defensive posture. "I know. Its not the selling of GenTech I object to, it’s the toll it might take on you physically. I just don’t want to lose you."

Davis realized her father was genuinely scared. "Dad, listen to me. I can’t spend the rest of my life being so afraid that I stop living. I’m not a fragile child. I’m all grown up and I know what I’m doing. No one is forcing me to meet with Dearborn. I can’t explain it, but I just have to. Now, can we get on with it?"

Ian took advantage of the rhetorical question to stop Lawton from launching another fatherly attack. "Okay, let’s do it. I’ve prepared copies of the proposal Dearborn Corporation and GenTech have agreed upon in principal." He passed the stapled preliminary documents to Davis and Lawton and tried to put the senator at ease. "This meeting will be a mere formality, nothing more than everyone looking at the final paperwork and signing. If it were a complicated fight, we wouldn’t be meeting on a Saturday in her hotel for breakfast." He smiled at Davis as he added his favorite phrase, "Trust me. This will be a piece of cake. I’ve been in constant communication with Boris, her second, over the last few weeks. He’s actually quite a pleasant chap. Everything is ready."


January 29,1999

Dearborn Corporation Building

Los Angeles

Mac was on the phone when Mary entered the inner suite. She had several copies of the meeting agenda with GenTech in D.C. and stood patiently at Mac’s imposing desk waiting for the woman to end her call. She was uncharacteristically lost in thought when Mac spoke to her.

"Something on your mind?"

Mary shrugged her shoulders, handing the meeting documents to Mac. She was staring at the desk. "I was just wondering if size really matters?"

"Oh, you mean the desk?"

"Well, it is a bit, shall we say, overstated."

Mac eyed the expanse of expensive walnut. "I suppose. But you have to understand it was just a subtle business tactic. In those days I was practically the only female going the distance with the "boys." It was essential that mine be bigger than theirs, if you know what I mean."

"I know exactly what you mean. I saw a lot of that when Mr.MacLeod worked for Mr. Gates. Honestly, men!"

"Why, Mary, one would think you have a low opinion of the male gender in business." Mac enjoyed urging her stoic admin on these rare flights of whimsy.

"Not at all, but I do recall something I heard a female comedian say once. It went something like… ‘Behind every successful man, you’ll find a surprised woman.’"

"Truer words were never spoken." Mac picked up the folders from her desk and changed the subject. "I suppose all is ready. Did Boris call in?’

"Yes. He said he’d meet you at LAX."

"Good." Mac looked around the desk for any item she might need on the jet, which was ridiculous, because her life was practically duplicated in all her working spaces, be it on the ground or in the air. It was an old habit from the days when she carried everything of value in one worn valise. Satisfied she had all the essentials; Mac closed the leather attaché and made for the door.

Mary followed at a discrete distance like a mother hen seeing her chick out of the coop. "I have the numbers at The Madison if anything important comes up here. It must be very convenient owning that little bit of downtown Washington real estate."

Mac felt a sense of pride associated with the mention of The Madison and it’s adjoining office complex. "Oh, I’d say it was a very good investment. Got it for a song." She smiled warmly at Mary. "Guard the assets till we get back."

"Good luck, Ms. Dearborn."

Mac stopped and looked at Mary. "Luck? You know ‘luck’ has nothing to do with business."

"I wasn’t talking about ‘business’, Ms. Dearborn."

Mac felt a rush of warmth flood her body. Could her personal interest in Ashwood have been that transparent? Gods, she was losing her edge. She only hoped Davis wouldn’t read her as easily.

"Thanks, Mary, I hope I don’t need it."

Without another word, Mac stepped to the elevator and Mary picked up the phone to call for the corporate limo. The well-oiled machine was humming. In a matter of a few minutes, Mac had exited the elevator to a waiting car in the basement of the building. She sat in the back of the stretch Mercedes pondering the upcoming meeting. She had been to hundreds of mergers and thousands of meetings. She had gone toe to toe with some of the most financially powerful people on earth. She’d dined with the President of the United States, had high tea with Britain’s Prime Minister, thrown back a few with Trump, but the prospect of meeting Davis Ashwood had her sweating like the town virgin at sacrifice time. What was it about this woman, a woman she hadn’t laid eyes on and didn’t even knew existed until a few weeks ago? She would make sure she had absorbed as much personal knowledge about Davis as possible from Mary’s comprehensive search. Mac didn’t like surprises very much. Unknown to her, the wheels of fate were already turning and she was headed for one of the biggest surprises of her life.

She was so absorbed in her thoughts it took the driver speaking to get her attention. They had arrived at LAX and the car was on the tarmac along side the gleaming Gulfstream IV jet.

"Ms. Dearborn?"

Mac shook her head and refocused on her surroundings. Boris did the honors of opening the car door and the sounds of a busy airport brought her firmly back to earth.

"Glad you could make it." He chided.

She stepped from the limo and moved toward the jet. The whine of the turbo at its warm-up level was almost comforting. Mac loved flying and it was a good thing. She spent a lot of time in the air traveling to all points on the globe. She looked at the waiting marvel.

"When are we getting the new one?"

Boris was amazed at the woman’s need to have the newest and most expensive toys on the block. "Lord, Mac, what’s the problem? You tired of the color or sumptin?"

She smirked at her second in mock disappointment. "Fine. I was going to let you and Nate have this one, but nevermind. I’ll just sell it back to Grumman."

Boris laughed. "You do that. Now, let’s get this show in the air."

Mac and Boris climbed aboard the craft and were greeted by the pilot, Melinda Patroni. Melinda had sharpened her aviation skills as a Navy pilot during Desert Storm flying support helicopters She was presented a commendation after the war for her bravery under fire. She avidly sought a commercial certification after retiring from the military. She absolutely couldn’t imagine not flying every day. She found the road a rocky one in private industry. Even with her impressive resume, her more than competent skills were overlooked due to her gender. Mac was looking for a replacement pilot with high tech skills, and Melinda filled the bill perfectly. The head of Dearborn never treated her with anything but the greatest respect. In fact, she was in awe of her military service and enjoyed hearing stories of flying and encounters over the desert. It was Melinda she consulted on replacing the aging Gulfstream IV with the newest V model.

"Morning, Captain. How’s the weather today?"

"Should be smooth sailing. There’s nothing of any consequence between here and National. In fact, there’s a tailwind aloft… right in our neighborhood. I suggest we get underway."

Mac saluted and moved toward the interior cabin. "She’s all yours, Melinda."

Melinda reached for the panel door, pulled it securely and locked the exit with an audible, hydraulic hiss. Without further ado, she took off her deep blue jacket and settled into the captain’s seat. Her co-pilot was an older man and a very competent pilot in his own right. He’d been flying for nearly thirty years and was more than happy to turn the controls over to the next generation. Mac had managed to have only the best and brightest in her employ. She paid handsomely for the quality, but she’d have it no other way. Employees of Dearborn Corporation were fiercely loyal and petty ego was practically non-existent. She had learned the hard way that people treated badly will eventually turn on you no matter how afraid they are.

The twin engines revved higher and the jet began its journey from its docking slip into the main flow of traffic. Melinda positioned the Gulfstream between two Delta 767’s which were loaded to the hilt with crying babies, overworked business travelers, pissy passengers and a flight crew of male pilots and mostly female attendants. These poor souls would make three or four flights out and back, same cities, same food, same complaints. They would endure union strikes and picket lines. She grinned broadly and thanked the gods Mac had found her. The feeling she had was almost sexual in its power. She loved her situation and chuckled to herself wishing that Mac would agree to have some firepower installed on the next plane.

Her steady voice came on the intercom. "Ms. Dearborn, we’re next in line for departure. Would you and Mr. MacLeod please buckle up till we’re at cruising level." She couldn’t resist saying the next line. "And make sure your tray backs and seats are in their upright and locked position."

Boris closed his eyes and shook his head as he relaxed in the large leather seat. "Where do you find these women?"

Mac sighed and pulled out the info on Davis. "Um… I have many skills."

In a matter of a few minutes, the jet had cleared the runway and was gaining altitude. It took perhaps fifteen minutes for the nose to level out and the ‘fasten seat belt’ light to go dim. Boris undid his belt and began moving about the cabin.

"Want something to drink?"

"Sure, as long as you’re up. I’ll have a vodka tonic with a twist."

"No problem, Mac, I always wanted to be a flight attendant. Would you like a packet of six peanuts to go with that?"

"Very funny." Mac released her restraint and opened her attaché to retrieve several folders. "Oh, while you’re up, check on our flight time into D.C.."

Boris bowed at the waist. "I’m here to serve."

"Yeah, whatever."

Mac began to read over in earnest the file on Ashwood. Mary had prepared the file in separate sections. The first part dealt with the dry educational facts, appointments, and figures on GenTech from its conception, yada yada. Mac quickly scanned the first section and was reading the meticulous info that her admin had compiled on Davis Ashwood, the woman. She was genuinely impressed with the woman’s credentials and thoroughly amazed with her personal stats.

"Truly remarkable."

"Why thank you, and you haven’t even tasted it yet." Boris placed the filled glass on the small, integrated table. "Melinda says we’re five hours, twenty two minutes from National."

Mac reached for the glass without taking her eyes off the folder, taking a sip of the cold libation. "Uh-huh… I was talking about Ashwood. Have you had a chance to read any of her personal bio?"

Boris shook his head. "Uh, lessee, and when would I have had time, in the shower? I’ve been a little pre-occupied with chatting back and forth with Ian. Now, if you want to know something about him, I’m a well of knowledge."

"Jeez, a simple ‘no’ would have sufficed."

"Of course, now I’m intrigued. What’s so special about Davis Ashwood?"

"Well, for starters, got her MBA from Harvard at twenty two and then pursued a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry."

"Wiz kid, huh?

"Yeah, but she turned down all the high profile offers to do her research at the CDC in Atlanta. Not a very glamorous position for someone with her academic credentials and family tree."

"You’re talking about Senator Ashwood?"

"Yes, and I thought you said you didn’t have time to read her bio?"

"Not all of it. Besides, Mary sent me a thumbnail summation in case I ran out of things to occupy my time." Boris drained the last of his Black Jack and got up for a refill. "You want another?"

"Not right now." Mac continued absorbing the information on Davis. All the facts of her education, awards, professional affiliations, and even a list of the scientific papers she had authored were neatly printed. All of that was indeed impressive, but the family history, particularly the information on Helen Ashwood was bizarre. Reading further, her interest really piqued.

"Good lord! I can’t believe this." She blurted.

Boris had seen many sides to Mac, but rarely astonishment over a merger client. "What?! Is there a serial killer in her family tree?"

Mac looked up from the folder and paused to take a long draw from her glass.

"Boris… what do you know about blood groups?"

Boris knew not to even ask why she wanted an answer to this question. "Well, I know they are all red, some compatible with others, some not. Why?"

"This is very strange and the odds of it happening in the same family in successive generations, well, are astronomical. It says that Helen Ashwood was AB Negative and was in need of a transplant but died from complications before a suitable donor could be found."

Boris injected. "That would explain the work GenTech was so focused on. I believe before the current singular project, there was an artificial organ department. Once their mother started to become more gravely ill, GenTech lit the afterburners under the tissue rejection research. Too bad it wasn’t completed in time to save her. But you said something about successive generations… ?"

Mac had the 8X10 photo of Davis in her hand trying to peer into the locked secrets behind the face. "Yes, that’s the amazing thing. Davis is also AB Negative, but there’s no information as to whether she has the same congenital condition as her mother. Hmmm… I wonder what she’s hiding?"


"Ashwood. Someone has gone to a lot of expensive trouble to keep a portion of her medical history under wraps. Believe me, if Mary couldn’t dig it out, we’re talking A-1 influence to suppress information… like, maybe, a powerful US Senator."

"Good grief, Mac, you’re trying to make all this sound so… um… sinister. So what if Senator Lawton pulled some strings to keep his daughter’s personal life protected? What does this have to do with anything?"

She looked up from the photo and smiled. "You’re right, I’m being too suspicious, but let me ask you something. If you owned a company that had developed a huge breakthrough in the science of tissue rejection, why would you sell that company in the shadow of making an enormous amount of money? There’s something that isn’t right about this."

Boris felt his gut twist. "Oh, no. Mac, don’t go there, okay? Who knows what’s behind this deal, really? They came to us, remember? Maybe the woman does have failing health and just wants out. And its not like Ashwood will completely lose. The outline of the merger still gives her input and forty-nine percent of the stock. Please, let it be and don’t screw this up. We stand to be wealthy beyond all reason. You can analyze all this after the ink dries on the contracts." He paused for a second and had one of those ‘slap to the forehead’ moments. "Omigod, I remember you telling me way back that you had a very rare blood type. Please don’t tell me it’s…"

Mac drained the rest of her vodka and casually said, "Yep, AB Negative. Weird, huh?" A glint of mischief was evident in her eyes. "You know that means we could swap organs. Obviously, the down side of that would be the fact one of us would have to be dead."

"Christ! Don’t you even say that!" Boris was about to totally flip out.

"Oh, lighten up! I just find the whole thing so ‘out there.’ Who knows, maybe we were destined to meet."

Now Boris was concerned hearing his very realistically grounded boss spout fruitloop nonsense, but he didn’t say it. He did notice, however, Mac’s unusual attraction to Davis Ashwood, the woman. He had never seen her so captivated by someone she’d never met. He reached over to take the photo out of her grasp, wanting to see for himself what was so intoxicating. He was a bit surprised when Mac’s fingers refused to release the picture.

"Really, Mac, I’ll give it back to you!" He chided. He sat back in his seat and looked at the image. It took him a minute to comment. "Oh, my. She’s beautiful. I can see why you are taken aback."

Mac raised a brow and took the photo away from him. Defensively, she stated. "I am not ‘taken aback’ as you put it. I simply admire her apparent intelligence and perseverance." She quickly placed the photo back in the folder and closed the cover.

Boris almost laughed out loud. "Mac… please. This is me you’re talking to. There’s nothing wrong with admiring a beautiful, intelligent, single woman, especially one that shares your blood type. Lord knows you’re due."

"Oh, very funny. Boris, you know I don’t mix business with pleasure. And even if I did, it wouldn’t be with her."

He couldn’t let it go. "And just why not? Is she not attractive enough, smart enough, available enough? You just said that perhaps the two of you were destined to meet, did you not?"

Mac was inching toward true irritation with him. "I was just making a casual statement. You know I don’t really put stock in that crap. Besides, I don’t know if she’s available or even if she’s family. All I know is that there is no mention of a husband, children or partner, but for the sake of argument, let’s say she is available. This would be a very unprofessional course to even entertain… and we live a country apart for starters."

"And you have money out your ass and a private jet at your disposal. As for being unprofessional, well, after the merging of our companies, we will be just one great big family. That’s hardly a problem as I see it. I think you’re afraid."

"That’s ridiculous. Afraid of what?"

Boris knew he must choose his words carefully. "Where shall I start? I think you’re scared to let down your barriers, to let someone in." He softened his tone. "Mac, we’ve known each other for a long time. I know you’re lonely. For once, take a chance if it’s offered. Life is too short to be snuggling up with your 401K every night." He added one last plea. "Just stay open to the possibilities. Besides, if you’re that concerned about her current medical situation, why not just ask her?

"Oh, right. I can just imagine how one might segue into to that arena. ‘Gee, Davis, you wouldn’t happen to be on the verge of dropping dead, would you?’ Really, Boris!" She paused a second and offered a compromise, "Okay, if conversation ventures in that direction, I’ll take advantage of the situation. Satisfied?"

Boris just smiled.

Mac looked at him for a moment then turned her head toward the cabin window, staring at the surreal cloud formations.

Just stay open….


January 29, 1999

Ashwood Estates

Early afternoon

Davis had finished conferring with Ian and her Dad. They had gone over the final proposal for the meeting with Dearborn the next day, and everything was set. Ian would pick her up very early in the morning and together; they would make the long drive from Charlottesville to D.C. She didn’t mind the drive. In fact, it would be somewhat relaxing just watching the landscape roll by. She was moderately impressed that Dearborn owned The Madison. She had driven by the structure many times, but had never actually had a reason to stop and go in. It looked very posh and somehow suited a woman like MacKenzie Dearborn. It was elegant and made no apologies for its station in life. It simply was what it was… just like Dearborn, she supposed. Davis took advantage of the calm to relax in her reading alcove. She had the file on Dearborn in her lap and was deep in concentration when Jason entered the room.

"Can I bring you anything, Davis?"

She smiled and glanced out the windows at the winter landscape. "Yes. An early spring would be nice."

"Well, I was thinking more along the lines of something to drink, but I’ll place an order for an early thaw."

"That’s very accommodating of you and I’m gonna remember you said that."

Jason smiled warmly at the woman he’d known since she was a wee babe. He had watched her grow up to be an extraordinarily strong willed person. Davis wasn’t perfect, but she had high standards, not only for herself, but also for those around her. It was only recently that she had begun to accept that some of her expectations might be unrealistic. It had been a hard decision to consider relinquishing control of GenTech, but in doing so, she would free herself of some very confining tendrils. Jason saw this move as a growth spurt. Her decision to approach Dearborn, however, was a mystery to him. He felt close enough to her to ask about the upcoming deal.

"Davis, do you mind if I ask you about Dearborn?"

"You mean why did I opt to enter the den of the lioness?"

"Well, yes, I suppose that’s a good analogy. From what I know about such things, the Dearborn Corporation is somewhat ruthless in its dealings with merger opportunities. Why seek out this solution?"

Davis thought for a second. "When I decided to do this, there were a few factors I considered. Historically, acquisitions by Dearborn were simply gobbled up and dismantled, the wheat separated from the chaff, if you will. There was no empathy for the human face behind the business numbers. She, Dearborn, was a very cold, precise hunter, and for many years, it served her well. The company exploded and was on the verge of being unstoppable. I don’t know what happened, but about four years ago Dearborn changed the way she conducted business. Instead of completely cannibalizing the companies she took over, she allowed them to become partners in the corporation. She wouldn’t immediately clean house, but tried to instill a better work ethic, thereby creating a bond of sorts with a new group. Of course, there were those she removed, but she was generous in compensating them. What resulted was a stronger, more dedicated workforce."

"That seems like a very dangerous way to do business… giving your newly acquired underlings run of the palace." Jason chuckled at the very idea.

Davis pulled the photo of Mac from the file and gazed intently at the woman’s face. "Yes. It was a gamble that paid off. Dearborn’s empire is stronger now than ever. Seems if you don’t have to worry about mutiny in the ranks, life is much easier."

Jason raised a brow and nodded. "I see. I’m surprised she didn’t come to that realization sooner. I understand now why you selected Dearborn. You know she will maintain the integrity of the company."

"Yes and that’s a huge relief." Davis resumed going over the file in her lap, her attention obviously turned inward.

"Well, thanks for satisfying an old man’s curiosity. I’ll leave you to your quiet time. Let me know if I can bring you anything."

"Umm… okay, I will." Davis murmured in a distracted tone. She ran a finger over the colored pixels that comprised the photo of Dearborn. She tried to peer into the woman’s soul. "What’s in that head, MacKenzie? Who are you?"


January 30, 1999

0945 hours EST

The Madison Hotel

Presidential Suite

Mac was up and posed on the over stuffed sofa, dressed casually in faded Levi’s and a dark blue silk shirt. She was scanning the Washington Post when Boris entered. He was pushing a serving cart and the aroma of food filled the air.

"Morning. Room service. May I offer you a cup of joe?"

"Sure. Black please, and make it leaded."

Boris filled two of the fine china cups with the hearty brew. He placed Mac’s on the low table in front of the sofa. Before taking his, he did a survey of the breakfast selection hidden beneath shiny silver domes, and raised a brow at the sight.


Mac lowered the Post and parried with another raised brow.


"Oh, nothing. I just wasn’t aware of your craving for blueberry bagels and muffins. That’s all."

Mac chose not to make eye contact. She sipped her java and casually commented. "I’m just being a good host. Hasn’t Nate taught you anything about entertaining? I believe it’s polite to have something your guests enjoy eating when extending an invitation."

Boris replaced the top on the platter of warm breads. He took the opportunity to tease his long time friend. "Oh, that’s right. I forgot about your Martha Stewart alter ego. For your information, Nate uses a caterer." He paused and then added, "Hmmmm, if I were a betting man, I’d think you were trying to impress GenTech’s beautiful CEO."

Mac finally peered at him sternly. "Give it up, Boris."

He picked up his cup and moved toward the large window behind Mac’s position. He looked out on the crisp, clear Washington morning. The city was still quiet. There was so much history and beauty in the capitol; he forgot how awe inspiring this place was.

"It’s going to be a gorgeous day." He paused and added, "Almost as gorgeous as Davis Ashwood."

Mac sighed. "You’re impossible." She changed the subject. "What time did you tell Ashwood and Crawford to be here?"

He checked his Rolex. "I told Ian anytime after nine this morning. It’s about a three-hour drive from Charlottesville. Why? You getting antsy?"

Before he could continue their duel, there was a soft knock on the suite doors. He turned away from the window and walked to open the door. "Relax, Martha, I’ll get it."

Mac’s line of sight to the door was obscured by Boris’ back. She was surprised that she felt a little nervous. In fact, it was disconcerting to feel what could only be described as anxiety anticipating the close of a business deal. Excitement, lust, greed were all emotions Mac felt doing business, but, anxiety? This was a new one for her. She pushed herself off the sofa, checked her shirt for errant lint and moved toward the door.

She heard Boris greeting Ian and was straining to hear Davis’ voice. Her heart almost sank thinking perhaps the woman had decided not to attend after all. She wanted to physically shove Boris aside, but tried to retain some semblance of civility.

"Ian, good to finally meet you. I feel like we know one another already. Let me take your coat."

Boris moved slightly to allow Mac access to Ian while he gathered his topcoat. She tried to be cool and nonchalant in her greeting, extending her hand to the man. "Welcome, Ian. It’s good to see you again. I’m glad we could work this out so quickly." Her eyes darted toward the door for a sign of Ashwood. Dammit, where was the woman? "Is Davis with you?" She blurted out impatiently.

The sound of a soft, velvet voice gently filled Mac’s ears. "Right here, Ms. Dearborn. I was admiring the stunning interior of the building on my way up. I hope I’m not holding this up."

Davis was calmly standing in the doorway, almost asking permission to enter the room. Boris couldn’t believe Mac’s near frozen condition. It was comical to watch. The great MacKenzie Dearborn reduced to a nervous schoolgirl. Oh, he was not going to let her hear the end of this. Finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer, and intervened. "Ms. Ashwood. Do come in. May I take your coat?"

"Yes, thank you." She slipped the heavy coat from her compact frame, handing it to Boris. She turned her attention to the tall woman gazing at her. "And you must be MacKenzie Dearborn." Davis took Mac’s hand in a warm, soft grasp.

Mac couldn’t take her eyes off Davis. "Yes, and please, since our companies are soon to be family, call me Mac." She released the woman’s hand reluctantly and tried to gain some composure. "If you’ll come into the sitting area, we have a light breakfast ready. I trust your drive was pleasant."

Davis smiled warmly and nodded. "Yes, the drive was beautiful. The Virginia countryside is still blanketed in snow. It’s very peaceful. And I hope your flight out was comfortable."

"Well, it was boringly uneventful."

Davis had a puzzled look on her face.

Boris took the woman by the arm, leading her to the front room and translated Mac’s attempt at conversation. "She means we didn’t crash, ergo – uneventful."

"Oh, I understand. It must be California humor." Davis said playfully.

Mac sighed and followed the duo. "Whatever."

Ian had already filled his plate with fresh fruit and warm bread and was seated comfortably sipping strong brew from his cup. "If the three of you would join me, we could get the preliminaries out of the way and still have most of Saturday to play."

Boris snickered, prompting a glare from Mac. The exchange wasn’t lost on Davis.


Against the silent wishes of his employer, Boris took an opportunity to join in. "Um, Mac isn’t much for playing."

Davis broke off a bite of warm bagel, spread a generous amount of soft cream cheese on the morsel, and put it in her mouth. It was a very seductive visual and Mac was staring.

Get a grip, Mac!

She chased her unprofessional thoughts away. "As usual, Boris is uninformed. If I’m not mistaken, we’re here for a rather important business deal, correct? I suggest we get to the matter at hand."

For the moment, Mac had taken control of the room. She noticed that Davis looked a bit deflated and for some reason, this bothered her. This wasn’t the first impression she was hoping to make on the woman. Perhaps Mary’s wish of "good luck" should have been taken more seriously. But she couldn’t go back now. They should just tend to business and part company before she appeared even more foolish. She waited until all were seated and passed out copies of the merger agreement. She took a seat opposite Davis and gave all the parties time to scan the summary page. She tentatively glanced at Davis. The woman was absorbed in reading the figures, and Mac was absorbed in staring…again.

Is it hot in here?

She cleared her throat and took a sip of hot coffee to help her focus. "Now, if you’ll look at the merger snapshot figures, I think you’ll see we’ve met all the conditions GenTech requested." She paused to wait for questions and then turned it over to Ian. "Okay, since there are no obvious objections, Ian, do you have anything to add?"

Ian ran over the figures quickly but closely. "It all looks in order. I believe we can live with this."

Davis looked up from her copy of the document. "When will the change over be official?"

Mac responded. "The moment we all sign. All the legal changes are in place and will be filed ASAP. In essence, Dearborn Corporation will take over the primary operation of GenTech immediately. As specified, you retain input but Dearborn Corp owns the rights to any and all future research discoveries. Is this amenable to you?"

Davis looked at Mac. Her heart was racing but her voice remained calm. "Yes. This is what we agreed upon."

Without further conversation, she neatly signed her name on the dotted line and passed her copy to Ian for his signature. In just a matter of minutes all the parties had inked the documents and the deal was sealed. It almost seemed anti-climatic. Davis felt a huge weight lift from her shoulders. What apprehension she’d had during her long decision process was now dissipated. It had taken barely thirty minutes to relinquish control of a company she’d paid dearly for physically and emotionally. She felt energized and free.

She inquired. "What will you do with the rest of your day, Mac? When do you need to return to the coast?"

Mac had to think for a moment. What day was it? Time had seemed to stop for some reason. "I’m sure we have business to deal with on Monday so our return will be almost immediate."

"Oh." Davis was obviously disappointed with this news. "I was hoping I could show you around D.C. before you had to leave, but business is business."

Boris couldn’t believe this BS. He casually refilled his cup with coffee and glanced at Mac. "If I remember correctly, we don’t have anything really pressing so it’s not imperative we leave right away. I think a few hours sight seeing will do you good. And what better guide than a native." He paused to gauge a reaction from Mac. He then solicited further support. "Right, Ian? Davis would be the perfect choice."

"Oh, absolutely. She loves this city and knows every sight to be seen." He smiled at his friend and employer.

Davis took up the call. "C’mon Mac. You said we were family now. Besides, have you seen much of D.C. before?"

"Well, I’m usually here on business so I suppose the answer is no."

"Great. The matter’s settled." Boris was smiling broadly. "You two get the hell out of here and Ian and I will finish the boring stuff. I’ll give you a call on the cell when all is complete. I can pick you up on the way to National. I think Melinda is spending some time with her Navy buddies this morning. You wouldn’t want to piss off your pilot would you?"

Mac gave in. "Heaven’s no. She was too hard to find." She arched her brow and looked at Davis. "Madam, show me D.C."

Boris couldn’t help them out of the suite quick enough. Ian was already on the house phone alerting the doorman to have the limo waiting. Mac and Davis eyed the duo suspiciously as they donned their coats. It was Mac that spoke in a hushed tone. "Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing. I believe those two have been talking about more than mergers the last few months."

Davis’ eyes sparkled and she smiled broadly. "You could be right. We may as well humor them. After you?" Davis held the door open for Mac to pass into the elegant hallway. The solid door silently shut behind them. She almost swore she heard the sound of a "high five" being executed.

Men, she thought.

In keeping with the five star service of The Madison, the limo was waiting as Mac and Davis stepped into the crisp morning. In short order, they were settled in the spacious backseat and the driver awaited destination instructions. "Where to Ms. Ashwood?"

Davis looked at Mac and was taken with the angular features of her face and how the light made her eyes more penetrating. I’ll be lucky if I can keep myself from staring at the woman long enough to give a tour. Davis regained enough momentary control to ask, "Well, what would you like to see?"

They were seated very close and Mac wanted to be closer. "Um, the only thing I’ve seen in D.C. are board rooms, hotels, the airport and a few restaurants. I leave my education in your hands."

"Ah, a virgin. No problem. We’ll start easy." She winked at the corporate magnet and spoke to the driver. "The Lincoln Memorial."

"Yes, please be gentle with me." Mac said softly.

Davis felt her cheeks flush.

Slowly, the Mercedes pulled away from the curb. The city was still in Saturday slumber and the streets were not yet bustling. The drive was punctuated with points of interest that Davis commented on. She was indeed a well of information. Mac was content to just sit back and take in the sound of her voice. She hadn’t felt this relaxed in a long time. It was almost hypnotic. The drive to the Memorial was short or so it seemed to Mac. The limo slowed at the intersection and pulled to the curb to allow Davis and Mac to exit.

"Shall I wait?" The driver inquired.

With no hesitation, Davis answered. "No. You will need to collect Mr. MacLeod when he is ready to leave. We’ll let you know where we are."

The driver nodded and steered the limo away. Mac was so used to giving the orders, she felt like a three-legged cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She couldn’t help commenting. "You’re pretty bossy for a short woman."

Davis looked up at Mac, squinting in the bright sunlight. "Uh-huh. I guess I am, however, wasn’t it you that said we were like family now?" She pursed her lips and turned her head in a thoughtful manner. "I suppose we’re like sisters or sumptin."

Mac laughed out loud. "Right…sisters." She winked at Davis and let her mind roam freely.

Sisters my ass! Lord, I could be put in jail for what I’d like to do right now to my sister.

Davis interrupted her thoughts. "C’mon, time’s a’waistin. The tourists will soon converge on this place." She playfully tugged at Mac’s coat sleeve.

For the first time, Mac really looked at the Memorial. "My god, that thing is huge."

"Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until you get a peek at Abe." Davis was obviously having a great time as the official guide.

They walked the short distance to the foot of the Memorial steps. The outline of Lincoln could plainly be seen. He was almost like a god peering down on his human charges. Mac was nearly speechless. The vista was humbling.

"I had no idea it would be like this." She quietly said.

Davis agreed with her. "Yeah. I’ve been here a number of times and I still find it a very unique experience. There’s a certain reverence about this place." She watched Mac’s face and eyes as she scanned every inch of the façade. Playfully, she challenged Mac. "I’ll race you to the top." Without waiting for a response, she took off, leaving a surprised corporate leader behind.

Davis was nearly to the first landing before Mac reacted. "Hey! No fair!" She bounded after her prey, her long legs taking two steps at a time. The two reached the landing almost together. They were even by the time the next tier of stone steps greeted them. Mac had her in her sights and offered a smug, but premature, warning. "Give up. You can’t beat me, Davis."

To her surprise, Davis not only was keeping up, but also had breath to taunt the woman next to her. "Oh, yes I can. I’m younger and in better shape." With that she gleefully threw her head back and laughed while increasing her effort and pulling slightly ahead of Mac.

Gods, she’s incredible.

Mac’s many years of concentrating on nothing but work was turning her legs into burning pillars. She wasn’t ready to concede even though she was now looking at Davis’ backside. "Better shape my Aunt Hilda, and age is just a number."

Davis was now clearly ahead, but took no pity. She looked over her shoulder into the face and eyes of a very determined woman. "C’mon, Grandma. You want me to slow down?"

Mac wanted to stop but refused to give up. "You wait, missy. Paybacks are hell."

"Oh, puh-leeze. I’ll be up top when you finally drag your butt up here." Without another word, Davis turned it on and left Mac like she was standing still. She completed the sprint into the large atrium in front of Lincoln’s massive statue. Her heart was pounding wildly and she thought how freaked out Ian and her Dad would be at this sight. She actually hadn’t felt this alive in a long time. By the time Mac appeared in the entrance, Davis had caught her breath and walked toward the heaving woman. She almost pitied her. Mac was bent over, hands on her knees obviously in some discomfort. She patted her on the back and then placed an arm around her waist leading her toward the stone ledge at the base of the statue. Mac didn’t resist. There was a low rope barrier that they easily stepped over and, they finally sat down.

Davis was concerned that she had pushed Mac too far. "Are you all right?"

Mac tentatively placed her hand over Davis’ and smiled. "Yeah, I’m fine. A dose of humility is good once in a while." She looked into her eyes and had a strong desire to kiss her. She held her hand tighter, her fingers feeling a gentle, warm return of pressure. Mac wanted to give in to the impulse and began to lean closer to Davis. A kiss would have been assured if it weren’t for the sound of people coming up the steps, their voices already echoing in the atrium. Quickly, they released one another and cursed the intrusion. As they did three youngsters ran into the area, making a huge racket. The moment was temporarily lost.

Davis leaned to Mac and commented. "See? Tourists. Now aren’t you glad we ran up here?"

They stood and stepped over the rope. Mac gave her a quick hug. No way was a minor thing like a vacationing nuclear family going to stop her. She looked back at Abe sitting majestically on his throne. "Yeah, I am."

"Come this way. I want to show you something." Davis hooked her arm with Mac’s, not caring a wit for the people taking the obligatory snapshots of the kids in front of the statue. Mac placed her hand on her forearm and let Davis guide her. They stopped at the entrance. "To me this is one of the most beautiful sights in all of Washington."

Mac looked out at the scene. The day was pristine…not a cloud in the sparkling blue sky. She saw the elegant expanse of the reflecting pool decorated with ducks. At the end was the Washington Monument. A surreal inverted copy of the obelisk seemed alive on the water’s surface. It was indeed beautiful and even the metal and glass scaffolding surrounding the monument couldn’t detract from its beauty.

"You feel like a walk or would you rather race?" The impish glint in Davis’ eyes had a childlike quality.

"Walking is good. We can save racing for another day." Mac could hardly suppress a smile.

The two women disengaged from their physical contact and began descending the steps. They were passed by a busload of Japanese tourists all armed with cameras and talking excitedly. It was like a living cliché. Mac and Davis finally reached the bottom of the steps where Davis pulled her coat more snugly around her. Even though the day was sunny, the temperature was still in the 30’s. Involuntarily she shivered slightly. The event didn’t go unnoticed by Mac. "Are you all right? Perhaps we should cut this short and seek warmer surroundings." Mac’s concern was genuine.

Davis shook her head indicating that wasn’t an option. "Nope, I’m fine." She turned the focus away from herself in a well-practiced move. "C’mon. What kind of tour guide would I be if I bailed so soon?"

Mac was unconvinced that Davis was indeed okay, but she let it slide for now. "Okay. Where to next?"

"Oh, I thought we’d stroll up toward the Monument. We can chat along the way."

Mac raised that brow of hers. Unfortunately, she had a very suspicious nature. It was automatic and at this moment annoying. "Chat? About what?"

Davis once again took Mac by the arm and guided her toward the steps leading to the reflecting pool. At the bottom she veered to one side of the pool along the worn pathway, heading to the Monument. There were usually a fair number of runners and cyclists to be avoided, but this morning the path was almost vacant.

Mac could guess what Davis wanted to ‘chat’ about and started the conversation. "Look, about what happened in the Memorial… I don’t know what I was thinking and I sincerely apologize. I’m usually in better control than that. Forgive me."

Davis smiled. "No apology needed." She mused for a moment and then laughed out loud. "Good grief! Is that what you thought I wanted to chat about?"

Mac was now completely embarrassed. "Well, yeah. It wasn’t?"

"Goodness no. In fact, I thought it very sweet." Davis realized that her companion was uncomfortable. "I’m sorry if my comments have upset you."

Mac actually felt relieved that her brash advance hadn’t offended Davis. "I guess I was concerned that you’d think me some kind of weirdo or worse."

"Hell no. We’re sisters, remember?" Davis winked at Mac and felt the tenseness ease from the taller woman. "Now, where was I? Oh, yeah… chatting."

"Okay, chat away."

Before Davis could utter a word, a voice called out. "On yer left!"

Mac turned her head to look in the direction of the insistent warning. It was just in time to see a cyclist bearing down on them. Instinctively, she put her arms around Davis, pulling her close in a protective embrace. The cyclist barely missed hitting them and zoomed behind Mac’s turned back yelling an apology. "Sorry…" Davis pulled Mac even closer. She looked up at the woman securely holding her and completely relaxed in her arms. It felt so natural. She could stay here forever. After a few moments, they reluctantly pulled away from one another. Davis looked intently into Mac’s eyes. Without thinking, she proclaimed. "Seems like we are destined to be close to one another today."

Mac stumbled over her reply. "Um… yes it does." She recovered her composure and turned the conversation back to Davis. "You said you wanted to talk… so, what’s on your mind?"

"Actually I thought you might have some questions, yes?"

"What makes you think that?" Mac tensed a bit wondering if Boris had shared her concerns with Ian and then they filtered to Davis.

"Well, if I were in your place, I’d want to know why someone would sell a company on the brink of one of the most significant announcements in recent history. Um… am I close?"

"As a matter of fact, you are." Mac steered Davis toward one of the worn benches along the path. "Let’s have a seat, shall we?"

"Sure. You probably should rest those tired legs of yours." Davis said playfully.

Mac laughed out loud and settled comfortably on the bench with Davis and began the conversation.

"Since you brought the subject up, yes, I would like to know what prompted you into selling GenTech." Mac’s inquiry was to the point. She waited for a response.

"Well, where should I start? Actually, it’s not at all complicated. I assume you knew about my mother’s condition, right?"

For some reason Mac felt embarrassed to be confronted with her nosiness. All she could do was nod yes.

Davis continued. "After she died, Lyle and I continued research on the tissue rejection drug. We worked very long, hard hours and days on that project and when a real breakthrough was near, we were low on resources to finance the final push. We shutdown all the research divisions except that one in an effort to complete the final testing and get the research to the FDA for approval. Things were down to the wire and I just didn’t want the company to go into receivership. I’d had it in my mind, for a while, that we might have to seek partnership and I had profiles run on a number of suitable companies. Yours came out on top and that’s why we’re sitting here having a conversation."

Mac’s inquisitive nature wasn’t satisfied.

"I can understand the financial aspect of your reasoning, but you seem like you don’t want to be so actively involved in running the company." She was fishing for the hard truth without posing the question. Sometimes the backdoor approach was most effective… let the facts spring from the other’s mouth, thereby making them feel it was their decision to spill.

Segue? We don’t need no stinkin segue. She’s gonna do it all by herself.

Davis looked straight into Mac’s eyes and lied, or omitted some of the facts, as she was prone to say. "I admit I’m tired physically and emotionally from all this. Intellectually, I embraced the challenge, but I really need some time off. Don’t you ever feel that way?"

So much for that plan of attack. Whatever. Mac scrunched up her face trying to remember the last vacation she had taken. None in recent history came to mind. Boris is right. I need to get out of the boardroom more. She confessed. "Business has always been my entertainment, too."

Davis shook her head. "Well, I have places I want to go and things I want to do before…"

Mac was ready for her to spill about her health. "Before?"

Davis just smiled. "Before I get too old."

Damn, she’s good!

Before she could dig deeper, her cell phone rang. She was genuinely disappointed that Boris and Ian had completed their business so soon. She wasn’t, however, going to express her feelings openly.

"Boris? Are you two through nit-picking?"

"Yep. Everything is done on this end. Are you and Davis having a good time?"

Mac just rolled her eyes. "Yesss… we are. Your point being?"

"You sound a bit testy. Things okay there?"

Mac regained her composure. "Yeah…" She stole a quick glance at Davis and sighed. "You ready to pick me up? What about Melinda, is she ready to head back?" Secretly, she was hoping her pilot would be delayed, but sometimes Mac just didn’t get her way.

"Yes, she just called and said she’s on her way to National. She’ll be ready to leave upon our arrival. Where should I pick you up?"

"Ummmm… just a sec." She turned to Davis for some help. "Boris and Ian have completed their business. Where shall I tell him to pick me up?"

"So soon? But I haven’t begun to show you the sights. Too bad."

"Yes, it is. Guess I’ll just have to come back so you can finish the tour." Mac smiled warmly.

In a low voice, Davis said, "It’s a date. Tell Boris to instruct the driver to meet us at the Monument. We’ll walk the rest of the way up."

"Boris, did you hear that?"

"Got’cha, boss. Be there in a jif."

Mac replaced the phone in her coat pocket and stood, extending a hand to Davis. She took it willingly. The walk toward the Monument was silent, neither quite knowing what to say. They walked hand in hand and awaited the arrival of the limo. It seemed like only a second before the car pulled to a stop at the curb. The driver stepped out and dutifully opened the door for Mac to enter. Boris leaned toward the open door and spoke to Davis.

"I believe Ian is right behind us, Davis. You want us to wait till he shows up?"

Mac was hoping she’d say yes, but, again, she didn’t get her way. It was beginning to really irk her.

Davis stooped over to see Boris while speaking. "No, I’ll be fine. Ian will be around shortly. It was nice meeting you Boris. I hope we have the pleasure again." She extended her hand and Boris did the same.

"Same here." He pushed back and settled in the seat.

The only thing left was Mac’s goodbye to Davis. She was determined not to give too much more away. She clasped Davis’ hand in both of hers not wanting to let go. "I hope we have more opportunities to talk…" She hesitated just a moment choosing her words carefully, "…even if it’s not about business."

Davis was feeling a bit more demonstrative. She lightly embraced the tall woman, speaking softly while pressed against her. "Oh, I’m sure we will."

They separated and Mac saw Ian’s car just pulling up. "Um… right. Look. Here’s your ride. We’ll talk soon."

Davis watched her disappear into the back of the limo and then closed the door. The smoked windows kept her from clearly seeing Mac’s face, but she did see the outline of her hand against the glass. She was tempted to put her palm on the window, but the limo pulled away. She watched it until it rounded the curve and disappeared. When she was settled in the seat next to Ian, she let go a deep sigh. "Well, we did it."

Ian knew the sigh wasn’t because of the closed deal. He took a second before putting the car in gear and looked at Davis. She was positively beaming. smiling. "Yes, we did. I take it your little tour went well?" There would be time later to discuss her feelings concerning The Conqueror, but he was concerned about one thing. "Um… Did Mac ask anything about your physical condition?

Davis looked puzzled. "Well, not directly. Why?"

Ian gently patted her hand. "Boris was asking a lot of questions about Helen and was wondering if you had the same problem."

"What did you tell him?"

Ian was about to omit some of the truth. There was no sense in stirring things up unduly. He and Boris had, indeed, discussed more personal things. He was astounded that Mac was AB negative but more uneasy at Mac’s casual remark concerning swapping organs. It was just too macabre to tell Davis.

"I told him we’d talk later. I got the impression that Mac was very interested."

A slight look of concern came over Davis. "I’m hoping we never have to tell her."

Ian pulled away from the curb and headed for the route back to Charlottesville. "Me, too."


Mac was quiet during the short ride to National. Boris couldn’t stand it any longer. "Well?? Did you ask her?"

"Ask her what?"

Usually, Mac’s little games amused him. This was not one of those times. He lowered his voice to make sure the driver wouldn’t report back about their conversation. "You know… her… er… condition."

Mac shook her head. "No, the subject didn’t really come up to where it would be comfortable to ask."

Boris rolled his eyes in frustration. He wanted to tell her about his conversation with Ian but was sure she’d be very unhappy with him. It really would be best is she asked Davis personally. For the moment, he was keeping this to himself and played along.

"Well, what did happen?"

Mac was peering into the dark window. "I’m not sure, Boris."

Just stay open….


0630 hours PST

March 15, 1999

Dearborn residence

Mac had been lost in her thoughts since her unsuccessful attempt to reach Davis. She was beginning to feel a knot of apprehension forming in her gut.

Gods, I can’t stand this! I need to talk to her. "Wait a minute. The butler said Ian would be taking the message. That’s it!" A spark of optimism re-energized her. Mac started going through her personal phone directory looking for Ian’s cell number. She congratulated herself prematurely. "Of course, I can call Ian. He’ll know what the hell is going on." She was totally focused when Michael entered.

"Can I bring you anything else, Ms. Dearborn?"

Mac jumped at the sound of his voice. "Dammit, you scared the crap out of me!" The tone of her voice was uncharacteristically sharp.

Michael shifted uneasily. "I didn’t mean to startle you."

For some reason, she felt off balance and had an irrational feeling that Michael knew exactly what was going through her head. "No. I’m sorry I snapped. I was looking for something and just didn’t hear you come in."

Michael let his employer’s momentary lapse roll off his back. He continued as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "Will you be leaving for Mr. MacLeod’s soon?"

Mac still seemed distracted and answered while she continued looking for the cell number. "Um… yes, as soon as I can."

"As you wish." Michael slipped out of Mac’s room and closed the door behind him.

Mac continued to rifle her day timer. "Damn! Where did I put that frigging number?" Frustrated, she plopped down on the edge of her bed. It was then she had a ‘light bulb’ moment. "Boris! Boris has the number!" Without further hesitation, Mac headed for her closet and began to get dressed. Since Boris and Nate lived a very short distance from her, she decided it would be best to call from there… just in case.

In short order she headed downstairs stopping at the coat closet to grab a well-worn black motorcycle jacket. She was in the process of pulling her long hair free of the collar when she breezed through the kitchen.

Michael was sitting at the kitchen island having a cup of Earl Grey and a scone. His first instinct was to stand and offer assistance. "Shall I ready the car, Ms. Dearborn?"

"Nope. I’m taking the Harley this morning."

Michael never cared for her love of motorcycles and especially this latest toy. It was loud and very fast… too fast. He couldn’t help but voice his concern. "Are you sure you want to take that beast out this morning? The streets are still very wet and slippery. Wouldn’t the Z-8 do just as well?"

Mac pinched off a piece of his pastry and continued toward the garage. "Michael, you worry too much. The Harley is a very stable ride and I’m very careful." She smiled and entered the heated triple garage. Past the four-door Mercedes and the gleaming Z-8 sat the Harley Fat Boy. It was a very compact bike with over/under shotgun duels. She had chosen a basic color – vivid black. It was simple and it suited her. The machine sat very low… 5.1 inches from the pavement. Mac was able to comfortably straddle the bike, her long legs providing perfect balance. One didn’t just ‘sit’ on a Harley; one ‘became’ the Harley, rider and machine in a symbiotic relationship. Mac loved this complex combination of chrome and steel alloy, but the thing that really gave her gooseflesh was the throaty rumble of the engine. There was no other sound like it. Of all the features that identified a Harley, it was the engine voice that was the most distinctive. It could not be duplicated.

Mac pulled her hair back and secured it with a very worn leather headband. She positioned her dark Ray-Bans and inserted the key in the ignition turning it to the ‘on’ position. Holding the clutch lever in, she brought the Boy to life with one efficient kick of her booted foot. She never tired of feeling the pulse of the machine between her legs. Yes, it was very sexual and empowering. She hit the opener for the garage door and inched the bike out into the morning air. In an instant she turned it out on the main street and gunned it, quickly moving up the winding canyon road.

Michael entered the garage, as he always did, to close the door. Mac was forever forgetting to close up the castle. Once her passion was engaged, all else was forgotten. He could hear the bike fading quickly up the road. The sight of her motorcycle helmet still resting on the shelf concerned him greatly. "Careful my ass! Damn, Mac! You’d better not fall off that abomination with no head protection, or there will be hell to pay!" He hated it when she was reckless and would remind her of such when she returned. For now all he could do was lower the door.


"Christ, I hate this piece of shit!" The tall, young man was in the process of kicking the bumper of the kiwi green Boxster. Steam was pouring from the engine and the car was sitting lifeless in the middle of the road. He continued berating the expensive ‘piece of shit’ as he waited for his cell call to the dealer to ring through. "What!? I pay 75 grand for you and you have the fucking nerve to throw a rod!?"

Before he could spout other colorful phrases, the dealer picked up. He turned his anger to the poor soul at the other end. "This is RJ Tappis Jr., you know the RJ Tappis Jr., Yeah, that’s the one. I’ve got a pile of junk on Laurel Canyon that needs to be hauled away!" He paused for the other person to ask for details. "I have no fucking idea ‘exactly’ where I am on Laurel… the north end somewhere." Again he paused and then really pitched a fit. "I can’t wait that long! I swear, when I get this thing back, I’m buying something reliable - a Jag…" He stopped talking and strained to hear a rumble approaching. He turned his attention back to the phone. "I hear a vehicle coming up the road." Sarcastically, he spat, "Maybe I can get them to help me since you seem incompetent." He defiantly shut the phone off. Of course, it wasn’t the same as slamming the receiver onto a cradle, but satisfying just the same.

Mac was in cruising gear, deftly moving the bike into the curves, leaning the steed at the perfect angle to ride the perfect line. She was trying not to think on what might or might not be happening on the other side of the country. She was in a rhythm now and began singing… "Born to be wilddd… born to be…" She rounded the next blind curve. "What the fuc…" Instinctively, she tried to steer to the left of the object in the road, but her momentum had already taken control. She and the bike were committed. The last thing she remembered was the weight of the bike on her right leg, the sound of her jacket being disintegrated against the pavement and the quickly approaching rear end of some pile of shit. There was an instant of searing, white light…

I will find you again…

… then nothing.


1000 hours EST

Approaching touchdown

Bethesda Naval Hospital

The med-evac crew on the Navy Bell 230 consisted of three members… the pilot, a med tech, and the doctor, LT.Cassandra Alexander USN. They had taken control of the situation the instant they arrived at the estate. Davis was feeling so bad they had hooked her up to a monitor, O2 and an IV. Their actions were SOP, but her father was trying to keep from showing fear in his face. He wasn’t doing a real good job and sat as close to Davis as the cramped interior would allow. His warm hand held hers. It was so very cool.

Davis looked at him and tried to speak. It was difficult to make herself heard with the oxygen mask covering her nose and mouth. The sound of the rotors on the Bell created quite a din. With her unrestricted hand, she pulled the mask down low enough to speak in a strained voice, "I finally get to go up in one of these contraptions, and I can’t see a damn thing. This is so unfair, Dad." She smiled weakly.

The doctor reached over to replace the mask, but Lawton stopped her. "Give us a minute, okay?" The Lieutenant nodded her head and let the senator have his way. She focused her attention on taking Davis’ blood pressure.

"Davis, you need to rest. We’re nearly there. Once Sandy and the staff get you settled we’ll talk. We have plenty of time." He was trying to believe his own words.

"Don’t worry, Dad, I’m gonna be okay." As the words slipped from her mouth, she closed her eyes, listening to the rhythmic thump of the rotors. I’m so scared, God. I didn’t finish Mac’s tour… I promised her…

"Shit!" LT. Alexander was watching the erratic blips on the heart monitor. Her worst fear was about to happen… a full-blown arrest at thirteen thousand feet. "She’s crashing! Ensign… get the scope, tube and ambu ready." Cassi began administering the first level of drugs.

The tech reached into the cabinet above Davis’ head and assembled the requested equipment. Lawton had been pushed away from his daughter and sat in frozen terror watching the surreal activity before him. God, please… don’t take her from me!

The heart monitor looked like the path a roller coaster might take. It was all over the screen. Cassi yelled forward. "ETA?"

"Three minutes, ma’am. I’ve radioed the ER team. They’ll meet us at the pad. Any further instructions?"

"Tell them we might have to crack one." Cassi knew the Senator didn’t need to hear this, but her only concern was for her patient.

The pilot called back, "Aye, ma’am."

The monitor went flat. Cassi and the tech worked together flawlessly. No instructions were necessary. The tech started bagging Davis and Cassi began compressions. Quickly, the tech intubated Davis and continued breathing for her. After three cycles, they looked at the monitor. It was still flat. They repeated three more cycles.

"Time?" Cassi asked.

The tech glanced at his watch. "Three minutes."

"Shit!" She knew they were perilously close to brain death.

They continued CPR as the ‘copter neared the landing pad. Lawton tore his eyes from the scene and looked out the window. There was a small army of doctors and nurses waiting… waiting to save his daughter. Why didn’t he feel more optimistic?

The helicopter touched down and immediately the ER staff swung into action. No one missed a beat. LT. Alexander was giving her report, the meds administered and the amount of time Davis had been flatlined. "Near four minutes now. We’ve gotta hurry."

The entire team and the gurney with Davis moved as one off the pad and through the double doors of the ER. Lawton followed. He was in shock.

Davis’ primary physician, Captain Sandford E. Schwartz, met him just inside the doors and took him aside. "Lawton, listen to me, we’re going to do everything we can to save her. I know you’re frightened out of your wits, but try to hold it together. I’ll let you know ASAP how we’re doing."

With that he walked quickly through the doors to the treatment rooms.

"What am I going to tell Lyle and Ian?" He was mumbling to himself, preparing for the worst.

"Tell me what? Where’s Davis?" Ian’s voice interrupted Lawton’s macabre mutterings.

Lawton embraced his dear friend, and tears began falling from his eyes. He couldn’t speak.

Ian pulled him off his shoulder, looked into the old man’s eyes, and fearfully asked, "Dear God, no. Tell me she isn’t…."

Lawton shook his head indicating this wasn’t the case. He finally gained enough control to speak. "She’s in critical condition. She had a massive heart attack on the way here. I don’t know if she’s going to make it. I don’t know what to do."

Ian was shaking, but tried to provide a strong front. "First, we’re going to sit down and then I’ll call Lyle. He should be here."


The activity in the room was extremely focused. Everyone knew what they were responsible for and did it without supervision. LT. Alexander was hooking Davis up to a respirator, and nurses on both sides of Davis were inserting another IV and CVP for blood gas analysis. The attending physician, Cmdr. Jones, and Sandy Schwartz were donning gloves and preparing to open Davis’ chest for internal heart massage. Time was on everyone’s mind and Cassi called the numbers.

"Nearing five. Pressure is dropping." A quick look at the monitor revealed told everything. "She’s still flat."

The tech doing external compressions moved quickly out of the way. Sandy and Cmrd. Jones quickly stood over Davis’ bare chest. Deftly Sandy made a midline incision just over the breastplate.

"Splitter and mallet." He ordered He quickly hooked the stainless steel end under the sternum and rapped the instrument sharply with the mallet splitting the bone.

"Spreader." Before the word could get past his lips, the rib spreader was handed to him. In short order the quivering organ was exposed.

"Paddles." He placed the spoon-sized ends of the charged paddles on the heart.

"Clear!" Everyone stepped back and a jolt of electricity danced through the heart. There was no response. "Again…" He began massaging the heart with his gloved hand while he waited.

"Charging…," the tech called. "Go!"

"Clear!" Delivery of the charge lifted Davis’ body slightly. Still, there was no change. Seven minutes had passed.

At this point, she was clinically dead and a voice called out. "Time of death 1034 hours."

Sandy refused to stop. "No!! Again, dammit!"

Even Jones looked at him sympathetically. "Sandy… let her go."

Tears were in Sandy’s eyes as he glared at the Commander. "I said again! God dammit! Do it!!"

Jones nodded at the tech.

"Charging… Go!"

Please Davis. C’mon. Don’t you dare leave me, you hear?

A stream of voltage again surged from one paddle to the other. Sandy looked at the monitor… the first seconds were flat and then a slight blip, and then another.

Jones called to the group. "We’ve got sinus."

Sandy removed the paddles and just looked at the beating organ. He knew this tiny miracle would save her for now, but for how long? His elation began fading. There were some hard decisions to be discussed with Lawton. He wasn’t looking forward to this. He stepped fully away from the table and let the staff continue their duties. Pulling off his blood stained gloves, he went to look for the senator.

Ian and Lawton saw him come through the doors. They couldn’t tell from the expression on his face whether it was good or bad news. Both held their breath as he approached.

Lawton couldn’t wait any longer. "Is she all right?"

Sandy ran a hand through his silvered mane and let a sigh out. "I won’t lie to you. She’s very critical. We were able to restart her heart, but I’m afraid there’s a lot of damage to the organ, and…."

"And what?" Ian asked.

Sandy felt his mouth go dry and he tried to lick his lips before speaking. "Lawton, Davis experienced clinical brain death before we could get her heart going again. I’m afraid if she survives; she might be brain damaged. I don’t know how much."

Lawton put a hand over his mouth and weakly sat down. Ian sat with him and asked, "What are our options?"

Sandy pulled a chair up and sat, facing both of them. "I fear our list is very short. Right now we have her on an internal pace maker as a stop gap for any minor fluctuations, but in the event of another big failure, it won’t help her."

"What about a transplant?" Lawton needed some hope.

Sandy placed his hands over the older man’s. "I don’t think we’ll be able to find a donor because of her being AB negative. I’m sorry."

"But… whaaat about the new drug? It works and it will work on Davis. She doesn’t need a compatible donor."

"Lawton, we can’t use the drug yet…"

Ian cut him off. "Why not? We have production samples at the lab. Don’t tell me we can’t do this."

Sandy shook his head sadly. "You don’t know how much I want to, but it hasn’t been officially approved by the FDA, and we are banned from using it like everyone else."

Lawton was angry and it showed in his voice. "Don’t you tell me that Davis is like everyone else! She’s my daughter for crissakes." His voice cracked as he pleaded. "Please… she’s my daughter…" He couldn’t go any further.

Ian held Lawton for a moment and then stood. "Lawton, sit still for a moment, okay?" The senator had his head in his hands and said nothing.

Ian pulled Sandy aside. "How long does she have?"

"I’m not sure…depends on her will to live and at this point I’m not sure she has much brain function. We got an EEG right after her heart started back. It was active, but I can’t say that it looked normal. I’m afraid unless we can find an AB negative donor soon, she will die a second and last time." Sandy put his hand on Ian’s shoulder. "I wish I could offer more. What we need is a miracle… a really big miracle." He paused a second. "You might want to notify the people closest to Davis."

In the confusion, Ian hadn’t thought about this. God! I need to let Boris and Mac know… especially Mac.


March 15, 1999

0720 hours PST

St. Joseph’s Hospital ER

Burbank, CA.

It was unusually quiet in the ER with only a few non-critical patients waiting treatment. The staff welcomed a respite from the all too frequent mayhem. The first response radio crackled to life.

"This is responder team one. Over"

The nearest nurse picked up the mic and answered, "Go ahead, one."

"We’re five minutes from base and have a possible harvest situation… AB negative. Please alert the team."

"Roger that, one, incoming in five. Base out."

The nurses and ER resident sprang to life. An organ harvest opportunity had to be acted upon quickly, before the tissues became useless. Usually the major organs were the most critical… heart, kidneys and lungs. Other opportunities such as corneas, bone marrow and skin could wait a bit. It all depended on the injury and when death had occurred. The harvest team was a specialized group including two surgeons, an anesthesiologist and transfer personnel. While they assembled in a special OR room, the head nurse was already running the national database for recipients.

Exactly five minutes later, the ambulance backed into the ER bay. The vehicle had barely come to a stop before the back doors were wide open and the first response team exited the cab. The accident victim had fluids running, was intubated and had O2 connected to a portable respirator. The features of the still body couldn’t be seen. The head was wrapped in a blood soaked bandage with only the intubation tube visible. Quickly, the gurney was met by the ER staff and seamlessly moved toward the waiting elevator. It was tense in the cab. Everyone was mentally preparing for the explosion of activity that would start once they entered the OR.

One of the EMS team shook his head and remarked, "This one should have been DOA at the scene. I don’t know how the heart is still pumping. Most of this poor soul’s brain got left on the pavement."

He was stating the obvious. Sometimes, the heart just refused to stop. The cab came to a halt and the stainless steel doors slid open. Immediately, the atmosphere was charged. All members of the team had a specific job to perform. At first glance, it looked like chaos, but it was controlled chaos.

The ER team was met by the OR staff. Immediately, questions were asked and orders were given.

"Anyone know the next of kin?"

The medical tech responded, "Got a number and a name from the victim’s effects."

"One, two, three."

The team lifted the body onto the OR table. The anesthesia doctor took the place of the EMS tech and started monitoring the patient’s vitals. The tech waited for more instruction. This was his first experience with this type of situation.

The nearest surgeon spoke sharply, "Well, what are you waiting for? Call ‘em and get verbal OK."

The tech was slow on the uptake. "But the driver’s license indicates ‘organ donor’ already."

The anesthesiologist motioned the tech away from the table before he became a "harvest opportunity." He spoke in a low, controlled voice. "I know what it says, but the family needs to be notified anyway. Now go do it."

The tech scurried out of the room to find a nurse to make the call. Meanwhile, preparations continued for the harvest.

Scissors cut away the clothing, revealing the sex of the victim, though it hardly mattered at this point. Pouring a Betadine solution over the chest and abdomen prepped the skin. Sterile drapes cordoned off the primary sections. If it weren’t for the fact that the form under the drapes was being administered only O2 by the respirator, it looked like a normal surgical procedure in progress. This wasn’t the case. The accident victim’s heart was still beating, but due to the catastrophic cranial insult, all hope for survival was gone. The team waited for the heart to catch up with the dead brain.

All was ready. The surgeons held scalpels and were poised to open the near lifeless body. The room was very quiet. The only noise was the beep of the heart monitor and the whoosh of the respirator. All eyes were on the monitor. Slowly, the blips became more erratic with longer intervals between. Somehow it seemed wrong not to be trying to keep the heart beating. The team was witnessing the cessation of life on the monitor screen.

Beep… beepbeep…….beep..beep………beep……..beeeeeep_________________________

The anesthesiologist noted the time on the table sheet and gave the nod. All attention was focused on a twenty-four inch strip of exposed skin. With deft precision, one surgeon made a long, midline sweep with his blade. Even though the victim was dead, there still was blood in the tissues from the heart’s circulation. Since there was no longer a mechanism to deliver oxygen to the cells, the stains were dark. The body was weeping its last offering. Swiftly, both surgeons entered the cavities that held the organic prizes.

"Looks good down here John. I don’t see any blunt trauma to the spleen or kidneys. This part is a go. How about you?"

The thoracic surgeon answered as if he had all the time in the world. "Heart is good… no damage to the major structures. I’ll be able to get a generous resection. Seems like the massive head injury did the job."

As each organ was liberated from its deceased host, a special group prepared the unit for transfer and hopefully a life-saving transplant. In less than twenty minutes the organs were on ice and ready to be jetted to any part of the country. Time was essential, but they would have to wait for next of kin approval to transport. The surgical assistants closed the incisions and the anesthesiologist extubated the donor and shut off the fluids. He transferred the time of death from the green OR sheet to the chart… 0734 PST.

The harvest team waited at the nurse’s station for the word.

Dr. John Westley picked up the data printout of possible recipients. He nodded approval. At least two souls would get a miracle. He pulled off his glasses and vigorously rubbed his eyes, waiting for the final piece to fall into place. "Any word? We can’t wait much longer or we will lose our window for the heart."

The nurse covered the phone’s mouthpiece to answer. "It’s ringing now."


March 15, 1999

0800 hours PST

Boris and Nate’s residence

Nate looked up at his partner, holding him close, nibbling on his ear. He glanced at the bedside clock and chuckled. "I know I shouldn’t complain, but does it seem strange that Mac hasn’t interrupted us yet?"

Boris cocked his brow in mock anger. "Yeah, she’s got some nerve waking us up so early and then taking her sweet time getting here. I’m gonna give her some shit over this." He thought for a moment and looked into Nate’s eyes. "Ummm… maybe I won’t get too pissy with her." He took Nate in a very deep, passionate kiss. They were about to commence round two when the phone rang.

Boris couldn’t believe the timing. He groaned and reluctantly rolled off Nate’s warm body. "I’m not going to let her get the first lame excuse out of her mouth." He picked up the handset and began talking right away, "Please don’t even start, Mac, I’ve heard them al…" He stopped his rant in the middle of a word. "Yes, this is Boris MacLeod. Yes, I know MacKenzie Dearborn."

Nate saw a look of concern on Boris’ face. He sat up and moved close to him.

"Consent? Consent for what?" There was a short pause. The color drained from his face. "Oh my God! When? Yes, of course. I’ll be down right away." He clicked the handset off and just stared at it.

Nate’s hand on his shoulder drew his attention away from the inert object. "Honey, what’s wrong? Has something happened to Mac?"

Boris took a deep breath before speaking. "There’s been an accident… she was on that damn bike! I hate that thing."


March 15, 1999

1100 hours EST

Bethesda Naval Hospital CCU

The cardiac care unit was bright and cheerful. Most of the patients could have cared less. Many were recovering from or awaiting heart surgery. Some wouldn’t make it. The only sound at the central station were the beeps of monitors on a large screen. From one point, the nurses and doctors could watch all their charges without having to actually get up. It was efficient, but cold and sterile. Sandy sat at the desk updating notes on Davis. He looked up and could see her cubical. Lawton, Lyle and Ian were sitting around the bed. She was on a respirator and was sedated just enough to keep her from struggling with the endo tube. She had not regained consciousness. He drew his eyes away from the scene, for it just hurt too much to look. The phone at the station rang abruptly, startling him. The nurse answered.

"CCU, Nurse Johnson. Yes, as a matter of fact he’s right here. Hold on." She put the call on hold and motioned to Sandy. "It’s for you doctor."

He closed Davis’ chart and hit the blinking light. "Sandy Schwartz here." He sat silent, nodding and writing hastily on a pad. "Uh-huh, I understand. How long?" He paused again and then spoke quietly into the receiver. "Thanks. I’ll get things started on this end." He replaced the phone onto the cradle, made a tight fist and said to himself, "Yes!" He got up and walked into the cubicle and calmly announced. "We have a heart. It will be here in four hours."

Ian and Lawton looked at one another in disbelief. Ian spoke before the senator could get a word out. "How and from where? A compatible donor? How is that possible?"

Sandy shook his head. "I don’t know all the details right now. I think they are getting the heart from an accident victim on the West Coast. It’s the miracle we needed."

A chill went over Ian as the memory of his conversation with Boris flashed before his eyes.

What are the chances that it could be Mac? Get hold of yourself old man. There have to be other people on the coast with AB negative blood type, not just Mac. No! I don’t even want to think about that possibility. It has to be someone else… it just has to be.

Ian was trying to control the bile that was rising in his throat. His main concern was for Davis.

All of them looked toward Davis. She looked serene. The respirator was assisting her breathing and there was no sign of the pain that was tormenting her sedated body. Images real and surreal assaulted her unconscious mind. It wasn’t only her chest that writhed in agony. Her extremities were on fire and she had a feeling of smothering. She wanted to scream in panic, but couldn’t.

What’s happening? I feel so detached. Take me with you… please.

Blackness closed around her like an ice-cold blanket.


March 15, 1999

0830 hours PST

St. Joseph’s Hospital

Burbank, CA

"Where is she?"

Boris and Nate were led down a narrow hallway to a cold, sterile room. There was a small square cordoned off by beige curtains.

The nurse gingerly stepped toward the spot. In a low voice, she said, "She’s here," and pulled the curtain aside with a sweeping motion. Boris was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted him.

"Oh, my God! Mac?"


March 15, 1999

OR #6

1545 hours EST

Bethesda Naval Hospital


The sharp pop was heard as the scrub nurse firmly put the dissection scissors in the surgeon’s hand.


The first assistant expertly suctioned the pooled blood from the dissected descending aorta freeing the diseased organ from its host. Vascular clamps gingerly held anterior and posterior sections of the artery. Her blood was being rerouted via the heart/lung machine. The inert organ was placed in a small stainless steel kidney basin and passed off to the scrub nurse.

"Let’s have the heart."

The prep team moved toward the table and passed the cooled heart to the surgeon. It looked as lifeless as the one removed. Quickly the surgeon and assistant went to work sewing the major arteries and vessels from the donor to the recipient.

"Pump time?"

The technician checked his watch. "Forty-five."

In minutes the structures were sutured into place. Without speaking, lap sponges were handed to the surgeon and assistant. They poised them over the newly stitched vessels.

"Prepare to come off the pump."


The surgeon took a deep breath. "Paddles ready."

"Ready and charged."

"Pump off. Clamps off."

A spurt of bright red blood splattered the surgeons plastic eye shield.

"Sponges. Paddles."

He placed the spool-sized paddles on the heart while lap sponges were packed over the suture lines.


For an instant the assistant and nurse took their hand off the drapes, the anesthesiologist did likewise. A low "thump" indicated delivery of the charge. Immediately, the surgeon began manual massage of the quivering organ.


The tech called the steps. "Charging… 200 watt seconds… ready."

The surgeon stopped the massage and grasped the handles again.


A second charge was delivered. The surgeon watched the monitor. He held his breath.

Come on. Pump, you fucker.

A slight blip appeared, and then another.

Casually, the anesthesiologist announced. "We have a good sinus rhythm. Blood pressure is stabilizing."

For a few minutes the surgeon just looked at the heart as it began to beat stronger. It always amazed and humbled him to see this organic workhorse assume its duties without hesitation.


There were a few centimeters along the aorta that need re-enforcing. They weren’t in the clear yet. Post-op bleeding in the first twenty-four hours was not unusual, but they had won the first round. In short order, the primary surgeon had closed the pericardium and turned over the chest closure to his second year cardiac resident. Stepping away from the table, he peeled his bloody gloves and gown off, depositing them in a refuse hamper. He needed to talk to the family.


Sandy had opted to stay with Lawton, Lyle and Ian instead of going into the OR. He figured that they would need his support, and especially if things had not gone well with the transplant. He had just walked to the nurse’s station for an update when the cardiologist entered. From his expression, Sandy couldn’t tell if it was good news or bad news.

I hate it when they do that.

"Well?" Sandy sprang on him immediately.

Dr. Jacobs nodded and gave a condensed report. "The first part went fine. We have a strong rhythm and bleeding is minimal, at the moment. It’s too early to say we’re absolutely successful, but its looks good so far. I’m moving her to the cardiac ICU. You want to talk to the family, or shall I?"

Sandy took a deep breath. "I’ll do it."

"Okay. I’m on call tonight, so I’ll be staying in the resident’s quarters should we have a bleed."

Jacobs walked from the CCU on his way to the cardiac ICU to write orders for Davis and his other patients. Sandy walked to the CCU family waiting room. Lawton looked positively awful and Lyle not much better. Only Ian looked somewhat together. All of them stood in frightened anticipation of the news.

"She came through the surgery fine, they are transferring her to the cardiac ICU to monitor."

Ian asked what Lawton could not. " When can we see her?"

"In a little while. She’s still in recovery and they will need to get her settled in ICU. You have a while, so why don’t we all try to eat something. It’s been a long day."

Ian spoke for the group. "I think that’s a good idea. We all could use some fresh air." Another thought popped into his mind. He hadn’t called Boris yet. "Damn!"

"Something wrong, Ian?" Sandy asked.

Ian shook his head and pulled out his cell phone. "No, I’m just losing my mind."

"Okay. I’ll look for you all in the cardiac waiting room a bit later. Try not to worry." Sandy knew that would be impossible, but always tried to assure the family when things were iffy.

Lawton and Lyle started toward the hallway. "You coming, Ian?"

He had the phone to his ear and could hear the call ringing through. "Yes, in a minute. I have to talk to Boris and let him know what’s happening. I’ll catch up with you outside."

In Ian’s ear, he heard the recorded voice of the mobile operator. "I’m sorry, but the cellular customer you’re calling is not available. Please try later."

"Christ! I hate technology!" Ian dialed Boris’ home number and got the answering machine. He left a short message for him to call ASAP. Although he tried to sound calm, his voice was quivering. He didn’t want to think the worst, yet not being able to get Boris on his Cell was quite troubling. Only a major catastrophe would make Boris turn off his personal phone. Ian thought he was going to be sick from not knowing what the hell was going on 3000 miles away.

Easy, Ian. Take a deep breath and don’t come unglued… yet.

He placed the small black square back in his coat pocket and walked to be with Lawton and Lyle. It had already been a long day, and it would be a longer night.

Try not to worry my ass!


March 15, 1999

1620 hours PST

MacLeod Residence

Boris and Nate quietly got out of the gleaming Mercedes and entered the house from the garage. Neither was capable of saying a word. The day had been just too stressful and they were completely worn out. He had been in such a rush to leave for the hospital that he hadn’t taken his cell. He went toward the answering machine expecting to see a slew of calls. There were only three.

"I’m pouring a stiff one. One for you?" Nate opened a new bottle of Dewer’s and poured himself a double.

"Yes, definitely. Make mine a triple." Boris was waiting for the tape to rewind to hear the complaints for him not having the cell on today. He sighed heavily as Nate handed him the glass. Boris hit the play button, settled into a chair and waited the first message.

"Beep. Hi, boys. It’s Tom. Just reminding you two about dinner on Friday. Call ya later."

Boris rubbed his aching temple and took a deep draw from the glass.

"Beep. Boris? Why don’t you have the cell on? This is Mary. Don’t forget the eight o'clock conference call on Monday morning. I know how you gentlemen get distracted. Call me if you get time."

"Jesus! What do I care about a freaking conference call?"

"Beep. Boris, this is Ian. Um… we got a bit of a situation here. Davis was rushed to Bethesda early this morning suffering heart failure. She underwent a transplant early this afternoon. Please let Mac know. I tried your cell, but couldn’t get through. Give me a call."

"Shit… shit… shit! As if today wasn’t stressful enough! Damn!" Boris drained the scotch from his glass.

"What’s wrong?" Nate was already moving toward Boris.

"The fucking sky is falling, that’s what." Boris could feel the back of his neck knotting up. "That last message was from Ian. Davis had a heart transplant this afternoon."

"Oh, no. What can I do to help?"

Boris looked wearily at Nate. "Pack my bags. I have to get to D.C. as soon as possible. God. Mac would kill me if she knew I had waited this long to get the message."

Nate stepped behind Boris and massaged his tightening muscles. He tried to be supportive. "Well, that’s not an issue now."

Boris shook his head. "It will be as soon as I call her."


March 16, 1999

0700 hours PST

St. Joseph’s Hospital Morgue

"Why me?" The graveyard attendant was nervously searching the large room for something. He was looking under steel gurneys and sheets covering the newly arrived deceased. "This always happens on my watch. There’s gonna be hell to pay for sure."

"For what?"

The attendant was on his knees still searching. Startled, he bolted off the floor only to hit his head on the underside of the metal table.

"Fuck! That hurt!" As he stood, he vigorously rubbed the goose egg swelling beneath his scalp. He was looking squarely into the face of the morgue’s senior pathologist, Dr. Dale Chandley.

"Leon… what have you lost this time? Hmmmm?"

"Well, ma’am, its not that I actually lost something." He tried not to visibly twitch. It was a nervous habit that the doctor knew well, and it would give him away for sure. He just needed a little more time.

"Whatever, but I’m warning you, if you’ve rescued another lab rat and brought it in here, there will indeed be ‘hell to pay.’" Dr. Chandley just shook her head and turned her attention to the morning’s work awaiting her.

"What do we have this morning, Leon?"

Relieved that the doctor had turned her focus elsewhere, he rattled off info on the three specimens in the center of the room. "We have a ninety year old cerebral aneurysm, sixty-three year old heart attack and an eighteen year old vehicular victim."

Dale was always saddened when a young person or child was waiting her expertise. Before starting the autopsies, she needed to catch up on paperwork from the day before and a mug of Leon’s coffee. She poured some of the black liquid and sorted through her unfinished charts.

"Hmmmm… " Dale looked up from her cluttered desk. "Leon, where’s the chart on that organ harvest from yesterday? It was right here when I left last night." She waited his response. "Leon? Did you hear me?" She distinctly heard a noise coming from the adjacent room where the refrigerated units held the deceased. "What now?"

She walked into the room just as Leon shut a door on one of the units.

"Okay, what’s going on? Where’s that chart?"

"Um, chart? What chart?" He twitched involuntarily.


The movement didn’t go unnoticed by Dr. Chandley. "That’s it! You’ve lost the chart?"

"Well, yes… I mean, no… uh, I dunno, ma’am."

"Which is it, Leon?"

"I just can’t find it. I know it’s around here somewhere." His eyes darted about the room hoping to see the item gone missing.

Dale was not amused. She moved toward the square doors along the wall. "Are you sure it’s not with the body?" Her hands opened door number three and slid out the stainless steel tray. She looked at the empty tray and then checked the door number again.

"Did the mortuary claim the body last night?"

Leon had begun to sweat profusely. "No, I don’t think so… maybe, but I’m not sure."

Dale spoke in a calm voice to the befuddled attendant. "So, you’ve lost a whole body and the chart?"

He wiped the moisture from his brow. This isn’t good "I dunno, Dr. Chandley. Everything was here when I came on and when I checked later to have things ready for you this morning, it was gone."

Dale raised a brow in disbelief. "The chart or the body?"


"This is absurd. I can assure you that in my entire career as a pathologist, I have never, never seen a case where the corpse got up and walked out of the morgue taking its chart with it… especially one with all the vital organs and half the head missing."

Leon hung his head. "Yes, ma’am."

Dr. Chandley walked toward her desk with Leon following at a safe distance. She picked up the phone and started dialing. While she waited for the call to go through, she threatened Leon.

"If I find out this is part of a med school prank, you’ll be replacing that cadaver."

"Yes, ma’am."

A voice on the phone drew Dale’s ire away from Leon. "Medical records, this is Linda."

"Linda. This is Dr. Chandley in the morgue. It seems one of my charts has been removed and I need to know the current disposition of this case. I don’t have the chart number."

Linda was already inputting the preliminary information on her computer. "Deceased’s name." She listened and typed the name and it the enter key. "It will be just a few moments while the database is searched." She watched the screen as the names appeared. "Hmm, this is odd."

"What?" Dale was tapping her finger on the hand piece.

"I don’t see any record of a patient by that name deceased or otherwise. Are you sure the name is correct?"

"Yes, I’m sure!"

Dale hated being wrong. "Well, I suggest you run the information again. That body was here yesterday." She slammed the receiver down. "Damn! What’s wrong with everyone today?"

Sheepishly, Leon tried to be of assistance. "Why not call the family? I wrote the number down yesterday to call them today for transport arrangements." He pulled out several scraps of paper from his lab coat pocket. "Ah, here it is."

Dale took the slip before Leon could offer it to her. "I’ll take that." She picked up the phone again and dialed the number. On the third ring, a pre-recorded message droned in her ear.

"I’m sorry, but the number you have dialed is not valid. Please dial again."

Dale held the dead phone in her hand. "What the fuck? Did I come to work in the Twilight Zone this morning?"


March 16, 1999

1000 hours EST

Cardiac ICU

Davis had made it through the night without any complications. She was in and out of consciousness due to her medication for pain. The surgeon had come by very early on his rounds and had written orders to try to get her a little more alert. In this day and age, cardiac surgery patients were encouraged to become ambulatory very soon after their procedure. Although Davis’ case was more critical, having her awake would help her recovery.

Ian stepped into the cubical to relive the night watch. He had fresh coffee and danish for Lyle and Lawton.

"How’s she doing?"

Lawton’s eyes were red from little sleep, but he seemed calmer than twenty-four hours ago. He gratefully accepted the hot java.

"She’s doing great, if you can believe the nurses."

Ian checked the heart monitor and saw a very regular, strong rhythm moving across the small screen. He didn’t know that much about such things, but it looked normal to him.

"Has she been awake much?"

Lyle took the opportunity to speak. "Not much at all last night, but she’s stirred some this morning. The nurses said she should be more awake today."

"That’s wonderful news." Ian smiled and was about to have a nibble of cherry danish when he saw Sandy at the nurses’ station. "Excuse me for a minute, I want to talk to Sandy." He walked from the cubical with all its electronic beeping and pinging to the relative quiet of the control center.

Dr. Schwartz was reading over the progress notes on Davis.

"Morning, Sandy."

"Good morning to you, Ian. Seems like our girl did very well last night. I see from the surgeon’s notes the staff will be getting her awake today."

That indeed was great news, but Ian had something else he wanted to question Sandy about.

"I need to ask you something. Got a minute?"

Sandy closed the chart and moved away from the desk. "Sure. What’s up?"

Ian motioned him over to a vacant cubical. Once inside, Ian pulled the drape. Sandy was a bit puzzled by all this.

"What’s going on?"

"I didn’t want anybody overhearing our conversation, especially Lawton." Now that Ian had the man’s undivided attention, he didn’t quite know how to broach the subject. He opted for the direct route. "Did you find out where the transplant heart came from?"

Sandy raised a brow. "I thought I mentioned that it was from some place on the West Coast. Is that what you meant?"

Ian shook his head. "No, I meant do you know whose heart?"

"God, no. That information isn’t available unless the donor’s family wants to give it, and before you ask… I can’t get the name of the family either. Why is this so important to you? It’s an amazing coincidence that this happened at all. I feel sorry for the donor, but without that Davis would probably be dead already. Just be thankful a higher power was watching over her. Okay?"

"Okay. I’m sorry I sounded so ghoulish. I just…" Ian wasn’t about to give voice to his fear, but at some point he would have to say something. Boris hadn’t called him back from yesterday. This wasn’t right.

"… nevermind."

Sandy gave him a fatherly pat on the shoulder drew the drape opened and stepped toward Davis’ cube. Ian tried to regroup.

He’s right. I’m obsessing over nothing. As soon as I talk to Boris, everything will be all right. Yeah, that’s it. Just relax…

He slowly walked out of the ICU to get a breath of air. He was very tired from holding his fears inside and every moment that passed without talking to Boris was making things worse. Exhausted, Ian slumped against the hallway wall. He closed his eyes and massaged his forehead, mumbling to himself.

"What am I going to tell them?"

"Tell who about what?"

The distinct sound of Boris’ voice snapped him out of his depressed muttering. He quickly opened his eyes and turned toward the familiar voice.

"Boris! Oh my god, where the hell have you been?!" Ian was almost crying.

Boris was now standing directly in front of him and took Ian by the shoulders to calm him.

"Hey, relax, my friend. I’m sorry I didn’t call back, but we wanted to get here as quickly as we could. I couldn’t use the cell from the jet." A worried look formed on Boris’ face. "Davis? Has something else happened?"

Ian was trembling. "No, Davis is doing great…" He stopped in mid sentence. "We? Did you say ‘we’? What ‘we’?"

"This ‘we.’ Ian are you okay?"

Boris stepped aside and Ian saw Mac, big as life, behind him. The fact that she was in a wheelchair had a cast on her right arm and leg, and she looked like hell was lost on him. He totally lost it.

Tears were gushing from his eyes. "Oh, god… Mac… I thought you were… you know. Oh, hell it doesn’t matter! You’re here alive and breathing."

In his unabashed zeal, Ian bent down and threw his arms around her. When she audibly winced in pain, he stopped and stood up. The full realization hit him.

"Christ! What happened to you? You look positively awful."

Mac grinned as much as she dared. "Thank you very much, Ian. Its nice to see you, too."

"Shit… that’s not what I meant. You have no idea how relieved I am to see you… see you both. What the hell happened?"

Boris took the chance to explain and to scold his boss. "Seems like Mac took a dive under a Porsche on that cursed Harley of hers. She’s damn lucky she got away with just some broken bones and bruises. It’s a miracle she wasn’t killed." He paused for a moment and then continued in irritated tone. "She should be in the hospital recovering… this very minute, but mine’s not to reason why. I hear and obey."

Mac motioned for Boris to relieve the aide of her wheelchair duty and to start her moving toward the ICU doors. "Yep, that’s right. Believe me, Ian, if Boris hadn’t told me everything, he’d be selling T-shirts on Venice Beach for a living. I’ll recover just fine. I came to be with Davis. So… wheel me in dammit!"

With no further words, Ian held the swinging door open and Boris pushed Mac toward Davis’ cubical. Ian followed closely and whispered ‘thank you’ to the heavens. The cubical was very small, but Boris was able to get Mac close to the bedside. Mac looked at Davis. She appeared so fragile with all the things hooked up to her.

"Would you all mind if I had some time alone with her? And would someone lower the bedside rail for me?"

Ian nodded and let the rail down. They all stepped from the space, knowing that Davis was in good hands. It was just the two of them now.

Two invisible entities watched the two women and speculated. The younger spirit spoke first.

"Do you think they will remember?"

The older one smiled radiantly. "I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter that much. They are together again."

"Yes, they are."

The mature spirit posed a question to the younger. "So, are you satisfied now?"

"Yes, very much. It was the least I could do since I lost her the first time."

Michael looked at Leif. "I told you not to worry about that first time. We were in a war long prophesied; it wasn’t your fault. But I did agree to allow you to atone in any manner you desired. So what was it like being human again?"

Leif grinned. "It was very painful but worth it to give her my heart after almost losing her soul in that fall into Hell." He paused for a moment and then said, "I think, however, it will be long time before I ask to do that again."

Michael took the young guardian angel by the hand, and as they faded, he said. "No problem. We have an eternity to ponder that."

Mac felt she wasn’t alone, but the sensation faded almost as soon as she acknowledged it. She turned toward Davis and wanted to hold her, silently cursing herself at having had "all that control" back in January.

"I was such a fool to have ever let you go. Please come back to me."

Mac was exhausted, mentally and physically. She rested her head next to Davis’ hand and wept. Her tears were soaking the white sheet and she didn’t care.

"Crying? Don’t cry." The voice was coarse but it was from Davis. Mac felt a hand stroking the top of her head.

She raised her head to find Davis smiling weakly at her. Mac carefully took her hand, brought it to her lips, and placed a soft kiss on her fingers.

"You’re a sight for sore eyes."

Davis blinked and a flicker of recognition registered. Although she had looked at Mac’s face and features many times, she felt like she was really seeing her for the first time.

Mac was having the same feeling… like she had said those words before, but where or when? She looked in earnest at Davis’ green eyes.

Mac’s words came slowly as the link between them embraced her senses. "I know you… remember?"

"Yes, I remember." Davis’ next phrase solidified the connection. "We’re going to be together for eternity."

Mac caressed Davis’ face.

"Forever, my love. Forever."


Another beginning….


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