Disclaimer One: There is some resemblance to our favorite Warrior and Bard. They do not belong to me, but are the property of Ren Pics and that damned Oprah with her ‘O’ Network that only ten people have. No, no I’m not bitter. I just don’t get that channel. LOL. I also don’t own the folks over on ER. NBC and Crichton does. I’m just borrowing them. Everyone else is mine!

Disclaimer Two: There is a lot of violence throughout this story. It also contains instances of abuse. However, none of it is sexual. There is also the use of what can be called ‘foul language.’ We’re all adults, and I’m sure you all can take it. This is a story that contains a growing friendship between two women that will later blossom into something more intimate. There is a lot of other stuff in between.

Dedications: To the Big Guy for the talent. To Catt as always. To my mother who will understand this story more than she ever should, and to all those women in this tragic situation. I hope this shows that you are not alone; that someone understands; and that somehow you can get out. Also lastly, to the people on the Minervasplace list. Thank you for reading this, reacting to this, and being drawn in by this. Most of all, thanks for sticking with me as this story goes on. It means a lot.



Copyright March 2001

Chapter 1

Breathe. He's gone. Just Breathe.

With each breath Michelle St. Jean took, her other senses returned as she made her way back to the world of sight and sound. She had become an expert at shrinking into nothingness. Everything became distant during those times -- the scream of the baby, the bark of the dog, and him. It was a great irony considering it was the distant echo her sons constant screams during these times that made Michelle reach her breaking point. Now, those things reinstated themselves with force ten impact, making her almost hypersensitive.

Taz, her one protector in the form of black/white Huskie, nudged the blonde's leg and whined when she didn't respond. Meanwhile, Toby continued to cry at the top of his lungs. Each sound was cacophonous, reverberating in her head as though it was an empty cavern.

Michelle closed her eyes and took a couple more deep breaths to stave off the unpleasant side effect of her journey. With shaking hands, she moved back strands of long, shaggy blonde hair off her face, leaving only short bangs to hang over her forehead. She felt herself settle with a thud back into the reality of her surroundings as her heartbeat returned to normal.

The small upturned nose and full lips that were previously screwed in pain, making her look older than her twenty odd years, smoothed back to their cherub like state. Well spaced, large dark green eyes opened to peer down at the anxious dog. He whined some more and jumped up, placing large paws on the blonde's chest. Michelle, a proverbial light weight and vertically challenged to boot, almost toppled over with the added weight both real and imagined. He beamed at her with a bloody, toothy smile, and she reached to scratch behind his ears in thanks. With chilling satisfaction, the blonde watched as he licked his crimson chops.

It wasn't her blood nor his. It was Max's. This time Taz wasn't locked in another room, and he had stopped Max's slashing fist before they started. Where only feelings of self-pity, shame, and fear lived before, a certain cruel contentment settled in her blood knowing that he was the one hurt and scared this time. Knowing his routine, the blonde knew she would be alone for the rest of the night. Only with the peek of dawn, Max would return smelling of cheap booze and sex.

For so long, her facial expressions had been bland and emotionless, but now, she displayed a rusty smile of derision at the situation. Despite it all, she was still startled when Taz set his paws back on the carpeted floor. He growled in distress and trotted quickly over to the stark white crib where the crying baby boy lay. With quiet, measured steps, the blonde followed, knowing it wasn't a cry of hunger since the baby had suckled a little over an hour ago. It was time to soothe, love, and reassure the little boy after the chaos that reigned a few scant minutes earlier.

Peering down into the crib stuffed with blue and white blankets, she saw Toby's usual curious blue-green eyes screwed shut as tears streamed down the side of his reddened face. Tears slipped into the full head of dark blonde hair, wetting it and spilling onto the blankets. Michelle glanced over at Taz, who was standing on his hind legs once more with his front paws purchased on the crib edge, ensuring him a view of the goings on. The dog's intelligent dark blue eyes stared at her expectantly.

Making shushing noises, she picked up the two month old, rocked him, whispered non-sense, then began to hum and sing a familiar tune in a voice that had remained sweet despite the bitterness seen by its owner.

Alas my love you do me wrong to case me off discourteously And I have loved you oh so long, delighting in your company Greensleeves was my delight Greensleeves my heart of gold Greensleeves was my heart of gold And who but my Lady Greensleeves

She continued to sing and began to slowly walk toward the window. Keeping her eye on the precious bundle, Michelle smiled in relief when he began to coo and gurgle around the fist in his mouth. No matter how bad or how loud it got in the house, holding him and singing "Greensleeves" always seemed to calm him down.

Michelle moved closer to the window, feeling the frigid cold teem off the glass. Jade eyes moved rapidly, scanning the semi-dark Minnesota landscape. It was a blanket of white as far as the eye could see with garishly tall, somewhat bare red pines sticking up from the snow as if they were a product of it. For four long years, she thought the white blanket was her world to be trapped in, held prisoner on physically and emotionally, but today would begin her struggle to get out.

Anywhere, despite the ever present white was better than here. She had felt the sting of Max's fist, the agony of his kicks for the last time. No more. The choices were simple -- death in one form or another or escape. Michelle chose the latter. It was time to try to live again.

She glanced downward, feeling Taz's warm presence before she felt the huff of breath on her leg. His ghastly smile was a badge of honor that he carried well. The large dog had been the second most important thing in her life. She raised him from a pup. The Huskie was a present Max had picked up on a trip to Brainerd after the first time he hit her. He seemed as new to the situation as she was, but Max had become an expert over the years. She had accepted the gift simply because that's what she was taught to do.

The growing puppy's boundless energy and soulful eyes had provided the blonde with many happy moments throughout the years, giving her someone to talk to. He didn't talk back in a conventional way, but he listened without judgment.

That was important for those not allowed to have friends. Somehow, Taz survived confrontation after confrontation over the past few years suffering only a limp here and a bump there. Michelle continued to gaze at him as her mouth opened on a request she knew he would listen to. "Taz, tonight, I need you to watch over Toby while I pack. It's time to go boy." He peered back up at her then woofed silently as if understanding.

A loud sigh brought the blonde's attention back to the single most important thing in her life, her son. Toby's blue-green gaze was fixed on her.

Her breath caught, seeing the dependence and trust it encompassed. She whispered thickly, reverently, "For you, it's time to take back what little life I have left.." The fair head bent, allowing her to rub a soft cheek against dark blonde hair. An impossibly small hand made a fist in her hair.

"I can't let you live like this, grow up like this, Toby," she continued. His gurgle sounded like one of agreement, and Michelle closed her eyes, refusing to let the tears come.

I've cried enough, she thought. I don't have enough in me to do it anymore. She should have felt fear of the unknown and unpredictable, but for the moment, there was none, only resignation and relief based on what she had to do and face. Right now, the unknown seemed to be a well-lighted path that she was more than willing to take, instead of staying on the path leading to continued destruction.

Ending the embrace with a kiss on Toby's forehead, Michelle turned once again to stare outside. Taz sat at her feet, leaning his body heavily into her to provide some sense of comfort. Green eyes studied the slush that had become the narrow roads of Pine River, but the driver of a huge Ford truck braved the conditions with the help of heavily chained tires.

A little trepidation started to grow, until another truck past that was just as big. However, this one was different. The cab bore the black writing of a Pine River city truck. It rumbled with each inch it ate, but it made a pleasant scraping sound too as it shoveled mounds of snow. It was the one she had been waiting for.

The snows had stopped according to the local weather, at least for a few days. It was long enough to wake the sleepy town back up and long enough for her to get out of it. In a few hours, 371, the main intra-state highway would be cleared by city employees, while local concerned citizens would see to the residential streets. Michelle stood there watching and content to wait just a little while longer.

Despite Max's attempt to crush her spirit and her mother's ploy to prove she had none, at the moment, she felt it move within her. Some of it still lived somewhere. The tide had finally turned, and she was winning the mental fight even though she had lost the physical one long ago.

The people in the neighborhood were far from nosy, but if a brave passerby glanced toward the one story, yellow stucco house, they would see through the well-lit bedroom window to a vision Norman Rockwell would rush to paint -- a mother, holding her squirming child, with a furry protector at her feet. Picture perfect it was, but in reality, perfection was a state of mind that did not exist in Michelle's world. The petite blonde jumped and let out a small squeal at the sound of the house cracking and settling, as older houses do. She glanced around nervously, still fidgety and somewhat frightened of every noise that could mean impending pain or humiliation. Michelle cradled Toby to her, taking in his warmth as she continued her wary observation until she was satisfied of no oncoming danger..

A little while later, Michelle put the sleeping boy back in his crib and watched when Taz, in guard mode, sat on his haunches beside the piece of furniture. The blonde moved toward the bed, kneeling with a moan that reminded her of a recent back and chest injuries that well placed kicks had caused.

Through the years the blonde developed a heavy cynicism that only she was privy to that went along with the ever present fear. It reared its head. He knows exactly where to punch and kick me. It's never in the face so that every bruise can be covered up by my clothes. Bastard. Wouldn't do for his family, who's been here since George Barclay founded the town, and his friends to know he used his wife as a punching bag. Would sully the Pine River-Backus high school hero's angelic reputation.

Swallowing the pain, she reached under the bed to retrieve two medium sized suitcases. Throwing them on the bed, Michelle pulled the luggage open with vehemence and went with quick sure steps to the baby's dresser first. While emptying the cloth diapers, t-shirts, booties, onesies, outfits and hats into the suitcases, her thoughts scattered, going from one place to the next.

Wonder how he's going to explain us being gone to those blind parents of his? Do I really care? She found a sturdy plastic bag and threw Toby's shoes inside. He'll try to find me. His pride won't have it any other way. His family may go way back to the roots of this town but they don't have the money to back up the rep. Thank God. Otherwise, I know I wouldn't get far.

She walked briskly to her own chest of drawers and removed some of her meager belongings which included thick sweaters, long johns, sweats, underwear and jeans. Money and Max didn’t allow name brands, but it didn’t matter anyway to her clothes were clothes. Michelle’s thoughts continued to churn. Betcha momma will be more than happy to chip in her savings to bring her daughter back to do her duty.

That last word tasted bad even in her mind. Marsha Nieland had called it duty when the blonde showed her the bruises. It was her duty to stay in a loveless marriage and take what he dished out. I stayed through all of this just to go from nothing to something in her eyes. The blonde knew what she was the moment she was born, nothing. Marsha told her so because of a father she never knew left her mother bitter.

They moved around from the Midwest and back to Minnesota constantly, and Marsha never tired of telling her daughter she was trash born from trash from the time she was old enough to understand. It sunk in, and Michelle believed whole-heartedly in her mother's words, letting her keep her from college, dictate who she spent time with and even who she married.

Max St. Jean Jr. was the right somebody just because his family were distantly related to the murdered founder of the logging town, George Barclay. Max, himself was the local football hero both in high school and junior college. It was enough for him to be a giant in the town folk's eyes.

With disgust, she shook herself from her reverie and grabbed a couple pair of her good boots from the small closet, only to throw the in an empty duffle bag. The connecting bathroom was next. Michelle emptied the cabinet of toothpaste and her own toiletries, leaving the cheap, imitation perfumes of Halston and Red Door that Max forced her to wear. However, the blonde threw in lipsticks and other forms of make up that she rarely wore. After all, what was the point?

Still, as if they had a flow of their own, her thoughts refused to turn from the morose. The petite woman recalled the looks she received from the people in the community. It was as if her mother had been whispering in their ear because their eyes were full of pity and their voices dripping with condescension. Michelle hated them looking at her, making her feel dirty, stupid, and useless. Their eyes seem to bore into her, making her skin burn with shame. It was hard to stay away from the eyes, but she had refused their touch. It made the penny ante job as a cashier at Cobb's Shoes difficult to bare, but a necessity nonetheless. Max didn’t make enough at the factory, so he made her get a job, then beat her for it later.

Despite her heinous thoughts, Michelle felt a certain satisfaction at her clever ploy to save money. Each pay period over the expanse of a year the blonde lost her pay stub in order to put a little money back. Expecting beatings, they never came. Max didn't harm a hair on her head during the pregnancy. He only beat her with words designed to sting and whip like the most viscous of blows. It was still enough to take her to that special place in her mind.

Michelle gave her verbal resignation to Cobb right before her pregnancy leave and swore the old man to secrecy. The pleading in her voice and eyes must have been enough because the old man hadn't said a word.

Turning away from the bed, she groped through the closet looking for her winter coat. She heard the noisy nylon material before she saw it and pulled the thickly padded green jacket out before gathering her gloves and scarf. Making sure everything was on the bed, the blonde kneeled painfully again and searched the side of the mattress with deft hands until she came to a small section that had been torn and re-sown by hand. Michelle ripped away the stitches and reached in with two fingers to pull out a wad of cash.

She had saved three thousand dollars from a total of roughly twelve thousand. It wasn't much but it was a start. Grabbing a pair of jeans and a sweater out of the open suitcase she pulled them on over her pajama pants and t-shirt. The wad of cash found a home in her front jean pocket. Glancing quickly at the two other occupants of the room, Michelle grabbed her last bag, stuffed the breast pump carefully inside, and headed toward the kitchen to pack bottles, expressed milk, and any food that she could carry.

After foraging through the kitchen, the blonde scanned her surroundings for what we be the last time. Michelle had fixed Max his last meal tonight, keeping it bland as he liked it. Cooking had been a joy, but like everything else it had become a chore.

I won't miss a thing. She peered at the sink that was pilled high with dishes. Each unwashed dish had cost her dearly. This was her rebellion. It had started with refusing to clean, and it ended with her leaving. Green eyes took in the scuffed cabinets, the archaic refrigerator that refused to be quite, the Maytag stove that only worked half the time, and the warped, bubbled counter tops of the small kitchen.

Tearing her eyes away, the blonde woman made her way through the living room, passing the ugly brown furniture that Beatrice St. Jean, Max's mother had picked out, in order to get back to the bedroom, where she stopped in her tracks. Pausing in the doorway, Michelle stared into the room, as if seeing the faded navy blue comforter, beige carpeting, wooden dressers and nightstands for the first time.

It's over. Thank God, it's over. If I stayed here another day, I would have started screaming and wouldn't be able to stop. She gazed at the bed with disgust. I guess I could say I was lucky, more so than other women in this situation. I lay there and gave him what you wanted and swallowed down the puke I felt coming up when he finished with me.

I was so glad when I got pregnant for more reasons than one. There was no reason to touch me anymore because I gave him what his parents wanted, a grandson. Fortunately, they won't see him grow up. They won't be able to create another monster.

Feeling freedom within her grasp, despite being in the house, Michelle smiled genuinely, which was something she hadn't done in a long, long time. I gonna live, Max. The blonde entered the room with a confidence that she hope lasted.

"Woof," Taz proclaimed softly by way of greeting.

Michelle moved toward the Huskie and scratched his head in thanks. He hadn't move from beside the crib. She looked down to see Toby still sleeping, but before she cleared the distance to the bed, he started a familiar cry that her body recognized. The blonde could feel her milk leaking onto the breast pads.

Sighing at his timing, Michelle scooped up her child and headed for a clean space on the bed. Cradling Toby with her left arm, the blonde removed the pad from left breast and lifted her sweater and bra as far up as possible. Sensing nourishment, tiny lips puckered, and she gave him what he needed. Seeming to be always present, Michelle didn't even bother to look down when Taz brushed her leg.

This was her favorite time. With Toby, she felt needed and loved, which are things the blonde wasn't familiar with in the past. It left her warm and toasty inside. During this time, Michelle knew that she was making a life better. Deep inside, she knew that Toby would be the only male this close to her for a very long time. Content with the moment, Michelle began to hum his favorite song as he suckled nosily.

Sometime later, she had them both clean and dressed as warm as possible to face the below zero conditions outside. For many reasons, she hated the snow, but tonight, she would tolerate it. Placing him in the crib again, Michelle called Taz to guard duty while she loaded the station wagon. Once outside, she held the thick scarf to her face to ward off the icy cold. Thankfully, Max had shoveled the driveway, simply because he had to get out himself. The porch light guided her through the dark toward the '86 Chevy wagon.

It had been her mother's, until the woman had signed it over to her daughter. For selfish reasons, the young woman reminded herself on a pang of guilt. It was a ploy to interfere in her life on an everyday basis and remind her of what a nothing she is. I don't need it anymore, momma. Find somebody else to take out your pain on.

Inside an hour, she had them all packed in and ready to go. Not looking back, Michelle drove down the connecting street to get to Barclay Avenue. As predicted, it was slushy but somewhat smooth sailing from there to the highway, especially with the help of good, cautious driving and chained tires.

Glancing over her shoulder, she bent her ear listening but only heard Toby's deep breathing, hating that she couldn't see him since he was strapped in the car seat. She almost smiled when a warm tongue caught the side of her face. "Yeah, glad I remembered to clean you up, boy. Betcha feel a lot better."

She rubbed his head then turned back to the front, reaching over to snatch a road map she had stuffed in one of the duffle bags outer pockets.

The blonde wanted to get as far away as possible before it stated to snow again. Knowing they were smack dab in the middle of Minnesota, south seemed like the way to go. "What do you think, boy? How does south sound?"

"Woof," was his soft reply.

"Then south it is."

Two hours into the trip, Michelle stopped at an Exxon on the highway, getting Huggies in lieu of the packed cloth diapers and changed Toby on the changing table in the bathroom. She made kissing and cooing noises to make him more comfortable in the strange surrounding.

Once they returned to the car, the blonde fed Taz a package of honey ham that she bought on sale inside the convenience store. Hungry herself, she dug through the duffle bag closest to her and procured a couple of nutri-grain bars and a can of Vienna sausages before starting off again.

Getting onto I-75, Michelle headed further southwest until finally pulling over to a side road to take care of a fussy Toby. She climbed over the back seat to unlatch the car seat and bring the infant to the front. The blonde looked down into his red face. "Shh, sweetie. I know you're hungry."

She went through the ritual of freeing a breast and sighed when Toby's mouth covered her nipple. "That's right, go on. There's nothing to worry about, nothing to bother you or scare you anymore. I'm gonna finally start doing what I shoulda been doing, protecting you."

She played with his closed fist until his fingers opened and grasped her larger appendage. The blonde lovingly gazed into the child's face, and blue-green eyes stared back before they closed. She hummed, listened then discarded the sound of the passing cars.

You're the reason why I'm doing this, Toby. If you hadn't come along, I wonder would I still be with him. I wonder would I still believe what I was taught to believe?

Michelle shook her head. I can't believe that I thought I was the cause of all this. I can’t believe I let this happen to me. What kind of person does that make me? Phenomenally stupid or weak beyond words? I don't even think I know who I am anymore. I don't think I ever knew who I was in the first place.

She felt the dark lure of depression seeping around the corner, waiting. Looking down at the gurgling baby, Michelle knew she couldn't give in to it, not if they were to survive. So, with a determination she didn't know she possessed, Michelle resisted the pull, for now.

After a few more long minutes, she gently burped Toby and strapped him back into the car seat once he was quiet. While leaning over the back seat, the neglected Huskie attacked her face with licks. Unable to help herself, she giggled at his antics and the sound of his rapidly wagging tail thumping against the seat. "Yeah, I know you want to play, Taz, but we can't." She patted his sides and kissed his muzzle in apology. "You've been a good friend. Just be patient with me."

"Woof? Woof!" He backed away obediently, allowing her to get back into the driver's seat.

Once back on the road, the driving was slow with a myriad of traffic jams, but Michelle continued to follow I-75, making detours onto cleaner side roads to avoid building traffic, as the sun rose and on into the day. They stopped several more times for feeding, fill ups, and bathroom breaks but remained inside the warm car as much as possible.

Somewhere deep in Yellow Medicine County, Michelle saw the late afternoon skies darken before her eyes, and before she went another ten miles, thick flakes of powdery snow began to fall with mild accumulation, but it was enough to make the most cautious of drivers rush home. Leaving them virtually alone on the road as either the bravest or most foolish of souls.

The blonde pushed the search button on the radio in an effort to find a station that would come in. She had been listening to broken voices since Stearns County. Her trepidation started to grow when the snow began to come down fast and furious along with the raging, howling winds that even shook the sturdy station wagon. Getting nervous, Taz huffed and woofed, waking Toby from his slumber.

Michelle could panic teeter on the edge of her consciousness. They're counting on me, and this is turning into shit. Her anxiousness went up several notches at the sound of the weather report.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! I never thought to check the weather in the other parts of the state! The petite blonde's heart began to hammer against her chest upon hearing, "twenty six inches or more of snow over the next eight to nine hours."

"I can't see a thing now, and we can't stop in the middle of the road." Toby screamed louder, making her heartbeat double and her breath catch. It was quickly becoming too much. She pulled at the collar of her sweater, hoping that would make breathing easier.

It didn't help.

"Maybe they're right. I'm not good for anything! Look what I got us into. We could die out here. It’s all my fault," she added helplessly. Michelle wanted to scream at Toby to be quiet. She wanted to muzzle Tax or do anything to make the panicky howling noise go away. She just wanted to scream period.

Her hands shook on the steering wheel as she slowed her speed considerably and passed a sign that she swore said "Enter City of Ivan -- something."

Anxiety grasped her and wouldn't let go. It shook her hard and robbed her of breath, leaving only basic thought. It had won, showing her what was like to feel everything at once. The headlights of the wagon refused to penetrate the growing darkness. Visibility was less than zero now. With the blonde deep in the throes of a possible breakdown, the baby screaming, and the dog whining, the car, despite its slow speed, swerved into a huge snowdrift left by the plows.

Michelle added her scream to the other high-pitched sounds, as snow covered the hood and front windshield. Her body jerked despite the seatbelt, knocking a little coherence into her. Breathing hard and heavy, with shaky hands, Michelle turned off the ignition and turned toward the back to see what the sickening thud was that she heard at impact. Crawling over the front seat as quickly as possible, she checked the car seat only to find a red faced and still crying Toby. She made quick work of the buckles and pulled him into her arms.

A loud whimper made her look further back into the cab. Taz had been thrown in the back with the luggage and struggled to get up. Her voice was a croak, "You hurt Taz?"

He whined again and got up successfully to reclaim his seat this time in the front. Totally flustered and relieved at the same time, Michelle returned to the front holding the precious cargo close. Pulling the crying baby to her chest, she looked out the windshield to see nothing but white swirling in the growing darkness of the day.

A heart-wrenching sob exited her lips and all the hope and confidence of hours before left in a flash, leaving destitution, despair, and mind numbing fear. The unknown did not appear to be a lighted tunnel anymore. Blood roared in her ears, sounding like a runaway freight train. She tried to swallow the growing panic but found that she couldn’t swallow at all. Sweat dampened the blonde’s hands, brow, and upper lip, leaving her trembling and clammy in the wake of the blasting heat.

The feelings became overwhelming leaving Michelle muttered nonsense, but from somewhere instinct took hold pushing her into mechanical action. In stiff, jerky movements, she pulled the car seat to the front, placing it in between the two seats and laid the squirming child in it. With unseeing eyes, Michelle reached for the keys dangling from the ignition. She turned them, and the wagon started with a stuttered weeze. In light of the positive outcome, coherence started to return to her slowly. Michelle shifted gears and pressed on the gas.

They went nowhere.

The petite blonde tried again with the same results. She cried out in frustration and slammed a fist against the steering wheel. They were stuck, and suddenly everything came down on her shoulders at once -- failure, loss and terror, making her chest and shoulders hurt with the tremendous weight. Even though Michelle swore that they had dried up long ago, from some deep, desperate vein, hot tears came.

She had taken them from the frying pan into the fire.

Earlier that day, Max St. Jean stumbled out of his 4X4 and held his hand up to his face to ward off the dreary sunlight bouncing off the snow. Heedless of the cold, he was capless, gloveless, but at least had the flannel jacket over his red flannel shirt. He ran a hairy knuckled hand through his dark curly locks and scratched the top of his head before letting out a loud, deep, gut-wrenching belch.

Laughing at his own joke, Max screwed up his handsome features in disgust as the tangy, sour taste of bile and alcohol filled his mouth and glided clumsily up the now slippery driveway. Brown eyes glanced around his surroundings.

Something was missing, but he just couldn't figure out what it was, He peered at the spinning, empty patch of driveway in front of him in confusion then shrugged his shoulders and sloshed through the couple of feet of snow across the expanse of his yard.

If she didn't haveta take care of that damn screaming baby, I'd get her ass out here to shovel. Damn kid is just like her, whining all the time. I can hardly believe he's mine.

Getting up to the porch area, Max stomped his feet to clean the snow from his boots. Mindful of the throbbing wound on his right hand, he blew on both appendages briefly, before reaching with his left into his jacket pocket to pull out the keys. There were a lot of keys. Three key rings swam in front of his face. He was drunk and for some reason found that unbelievably funny.

After a chuckle, he picked the ring in the middle and went with the middle again to pick the key to open the door. That bitch should be waiting at the door listening for me to come home. That's all she's good for anyway.

Hearing the lock click, Max pushed the door open, hard, letting it slam into the back wall. He was greeted with silence. Stopping in the middle of the living room, he canted his head to the side to listen for the coo of a baby or the bark of a dog. A sick smile formed on his face at the thought of the dog. "Oh yeah, here poochie, poochie. C'mere so I can snap your ugly neck! I'm tired of your ass!" Max whispered hotly. Again, it was only quiet that answered him. Dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. What is that bitch up to?

Sobering with each quick step, he made his way toward the bedroom. I'm gonna wring her fuckin neck as soon as I take care of that mutt! A minute later, he walked through the wide open door of the bedroom. Brown eyes scanned the room. The bed was unmade and clothes littered the floor. She deserves a smack for leaving this shit like this.

The mess wasn’t the only thing to stand out. No one was here. His groggy mind went into rewind in an attempt to catch what he missed. The car wasn't there either. She wouldn't... Nah, that bitch wouldn't leave me. She doesn't have the guts. Probably just visiting that stupid mother of hers. That’s another smack for not getting permission.

Cackling and brimming with confidence, he started to wrestle out of his clothes. Work at the factory beckoned him in a few hours, and he could not go smelling like a brewery. His flannel jacket and shirt fell to the floor, revealing a burly, hairy chest. He pushed off his boots, throwing them near the closet. Max's hands froze over his crotch as he stared at the bare hangers. Anger sharp and defining singed his blood, causing his fists to clench in reaction. Almost stumbling over the clothes on the floor, he pushed his way into the bathroom and pulled open the medicine cabinet.

It was empty except of his razor and shaving cream. The anger turned to blinding rage, making hot blood rush up to his face. He always got what he wanted, and when he got it, it stayed with him as long as he wanted it too. Not a minute shorter. No one, least of all a stupid woman was going to best him.

Max was instantly convinced that Michelle's leaving was an attempt for her to make a fool out of him. Feeling the blistering agony of rage, he rammed his uninjured fist into the wall going through the white tack with ease. He needed something to hit, and for the moment, this would do.

Feeling no pain, Max charged back into the bedroom and reached for the phone. Max Sr. would help. He could pull some well-oiled strings just like the St. Jean's always did. If anybody knew about ornery women Max Sr. did. He'd been keeping his own wife in line for years. Junior remembered the lesson well. Sitting at the kitchen table sniffing out of cheap scotch bottles, while his mother busied her hands and mind in the kitchen, Maxwell St. Jean Sr. dished out his diatribe on life and women to his son.

"If you gotta smack her around you do it, but not in the face. Keeps the nosey people away, and no one will ever know. Not even me. Didn't even know how I kept your mother in line till you saw it, didja?" The seriousness dissolved into belly laughs and smacks on the back.

Max was aware that Michelle thought his parents didn't know about the nature of their relationship. Hell, she had even threatened to tell once. She'd been so confused by his laugh. His Daddy had taught him well. Stupid woman.

His face changed from a sneer to an evil smile. "Guess I didn't break her in good 'nuff. Gonna haveta fix that when I bring her ass back here. Need to show her that she's my property. Maybe I'll even call that mother of hers. She's always on my side. That bitch couldn't have gotten far," he said aloud to the empty room. Maneuvering an arm behind his head, he leaned back on the bed and hit number three for speed dial. "I'm gonna getcha Michelle. I don't care how long it takes. I'm gonna getcha," Max whispered into the ringing phone.

Chapter 2

She stood, tall, naked and majestic in a river of unidentified fluid. The smell was one she knew like an old friend, the sweet, cloying tang of blood. It lapped at her bare feet, kissing them gently like salt water on a beach. Pale blue eyes peered down at it. With each instant it became thicker, brighter as if it had a life of its own.

It did before it was spilled.

Distant whispers caused her head to jerk upward, and bright blue eyes to scan the emptiness of the barren landscape. However, she wasn't alone anymore. Not far away, she could see a crowd of people, slowly splashing through the red waves. The closer they got the louder the whispers became.

They were chanting her name, not reverently, as if in worship, but accusingly. With each step closer, the pasty gray faces began to look familiar. They were those that no doctor could have saved, even her, and they stood out in gory relief. Some had gaping wounds of the head and chest that oozed. Others did not wear death so obviously.

They got closer and closer, and their nearness suffocated her. Her lungs burned for breath. Her heart beat as if clinging on to life. She turned rapidly around with frightened eyes as they encircled her. Cold, dead hands reached out touching her and smearing her with blood, and all the while, they whispered, "Bobbi, you failed us, killed us."

Hyperventilating now, her body caved in on itself. She wrapped her hands around her torso and fell to her knees with a bloody splash. "Nooo, I tried. Don't you understand?! I tried. I tried damn you!"

The undead circle parted, admitting two new members that seemed to have come from nowhere. Silver blue looked up in horror. These figures weren't just familiar. She knew them like her own hand. "Bobbi? Why didn't you try harder?"

"Yeah, sis. You said you loved us, but how can you allow something you love to die?"

Her hands found purchase on her temples, where she pulled at long sable strands. "Mom, Steve, don't you understand?! I couldn't. I just couldn't!"

"Lies!" The word caught on like a fad, and they all began to chant it.

One by one they began to close in on her, hovering over her like a thick blanket. Her breathing came in rapid gasps now. "Please! Noo!"

Dr. Bobbi Waszinski woke with a start, and as a result, she reared up from the bed. Sweat covered her body and face, plastering long wisps of midnight to her forehead and cheeks. Bobbi took in several deep, calming breaths to reduce her speeding heart, and dispel the disturbing images of an old nightmare. So much blood. I knew I couldn't deal with it anymore. Too much.

She rubbed her breastbone in an attempt to alleviate the ache inside and grabbed the charm at the end of the long gold chain around her neck. The charm, procured during her college days, represented the Chinese symbol for strength. Her grasping the golden bit was a familiar gesture, but just like many times before, Bobbi felt no spark, no energy from it, just a coolness against her heated skin. It could not comfort her in the wake of old, painful memories. They came anyway.

Even though her days at an ER in a Cook County General was five years in the past, they still haunted her from time to time. First, there would be a sickening, deceptive calm. Then, the hurricane would begin. Pale eyes had seen everything from drive bys, ten car pile-ups, murders to brutal rapes, and after all of it, she always ended the day with her scrubs covered in blood. Even when it was not there, the brunette could smell the coppery scent in her dreams.

Every person she could not save left a red stain on her heart. She felt them deeply. "Maybe you need to look into another area of medicine," Doctor Greene had told her one day when he pulled her aside. "You care too much, feel too much."

He was right just like he had been most of the time. Carter had tried to help, but she knew that he was struggling with his own demons. It had all come to a head on a snowy night with another ten car pile up.

They had opened themselves to trauma, and they came in one after another. It never occurred to her that her mother and brother would be involved. It never occurred for a minute. Bobbi knew they were coming from Indiana to visit, but the thought of them facing danger was not even an option. Until, they were wheeled in on gurneys by the paramedics.

Joan Waszinski, she recognized right away, but it was her missing arm and the sight of a female EMT on top of her compressing her chest that gave Bobbi pause. Her brother, Steve, and his lack of a face was what turned her blood to ice. She was only able to identify him from his signet pinky ring. Words like no pulse, no breath sounds, and non-responsive greeted her. The paramedics and their quarry passed by Bobbi, as if in a race, but to Bobbi it was as though the passage of time had eaten itself allowing her to look and hear what she normally could not.

She could hear her name being shouted, but the voices sounded as if they were coming from the bottom of a tin drum. Dr. Weaver's jerk on her shoulder did not awaken her. In fact, the brunette looked down into the redhead's face as if she was a stranger.

Bobbi remembered screaming at the agony of it all. She couldn't have their blood on her hands. There was too much there already. She couldn't fail them, but in her lack of response, she did. For five years, she lived with the knowledge.

Born in the polish community of Ivanhoe, Minnesota, Bobbi did not make a home there for long. Before the age of ten, and when her younger brother, Steve, was just seven, their parents divorced. Peter Waszinski kept his home and his practice in Minnesota, but they found another home in Indiana. Communications with her father had been few and far between only consisting of phone calls and cards on birthdays and holidays, leaving her hollow and her brother bitter. Joan had taken it all in stoic silence, never speaking a negative word about the man who divorced her because his love laid somewhere else, medicine.

Striking even in disarray, Bobbi buried herself in the dark blue comforter and pulled the pillow to her lithe body, cuddling it. Why do I always do this? It's like a constant trip down memory lane that ends in the same bad spot. The brunette shook her head, knowing it was a moot effort. Her head refused to listen even though her heart was hurting. Memories hurled at her like bullets.

It didn't take the teenage Bobbi long to realize that his children failed to compare with Peter's occupation too. He wasn't there when she went out on her first date. He wasn't there when she realized it was her last date with a boy. He wasn't there when she finally figured out what had been in her blood for so long, and he wasn't there when she finally told the rest of her family how different she was. He still wasn't there when they hugged her and accepted who she was.

Through the first year and a half, she had resisted the lure of medicine, even though it called to her, settling for something that was incredibly easy for her, Chemistry. It gave her time to be with friends and make new ones. Her presence alone commanded attention and people gravitated toward her.

At all cost, she didn't want to be like him. Still, somehow Bobbi got to the point where she couldn't resist the lure any longer. Before she knew what hit her, she was in medical school and doing a residency at Cook County General. Medicine may have called to her, but it didn't tell her what she would be facing -- death, bureaucracy, and egos the size of Texas. Bobbi knew medicine was her calling but emergency medicine was not, especially on that snowy night when it all hit the fan.

She needed somewhere, where it was okay to care a little too much because it was what people wanted. She needed a place where the blood, the egos, and the bureaucracy were virtually non-existent. After the funeral, Bobbi found out that she needed her father like never before. She swallowed her pride, finished her residency, and found herself once again in Ivanhoe, Minnesota as a GP in her father's practice. Before she left, the brunette made one solemn promise to herself --- the patients were her priority; the patients were her world and there was room for nothing else. Bobbie was not just like her father, she had become him. She cut herself off from the rest of the world.

So much alike, they never talked about more than the next patient or the next medical procedure. He had never re-married between his time with a booming practice, the small hospital, and the local clinic there wasn't room for anyone. She had done the same for a time. They were known as double ice with their aloof manner around the hospital but unbelievable warmth toward the patients. It was lonely to a degree, but she found relief for her baser instincts discreetly and infrequently. There were no tractor pulls, no Polska Kielbasa festivals that included a multitude of food, drink, dances, karaoke, and no Centennial for her.

When the town celebrated its ancestry the August of the previous year, Bobbi worked and continued to do so. That is until her father made an announcement that would utterly change things. He pulled her into his office one frigid Tuesday. "I've been having a lot of pain lately. Um..." His head lowered. "They say that I have liver cancer that spread to my lungs." His voice took on a grainy, pained quality. "They say I have less than six months to live." Then to her consternation and surprise, he had cried like a baby right in front of her. "I need you," he said.

I needed you growing up. I needed you when I was confused. I needed you when I was in pain. Where were you? Now, you need me. Instead of saying all of that, Bobbi had simply nodded. For the next few months, she treated him like a prized patient, being both doctor and nurse. She bathed him, fed him, and held his hand when he cried out in acute pain. Slowly, the shell she spent so long to build started to crack. Before the excessive pain, he started to show her the father she had missed. The father who said, "I love who you are. I'm proud of you. I'm sorry."

Then, with a snap of a finger he was gone. In her mind, it was another one she couldn't save. It was more blood on her hands. The day she buried Peter Waszinski those cracks sealed up, and she took over her father's practice full time, forgetting the hospital and the clinic. Now, she was only on call to the community. His old patients stuck with her, and some new ones came. However, there were a few that stayed away from a doctor so young, from a doctor who was a woman.

And here I am where I want to be, where I need to be. Something good came out of all this. These people are happy, and I get to be the doctor and the person I wanted. Large elegant hands pushed wisps of ebony silk that was way too long away from her face again as normally chiseled features, consisting of slashing cheekbones, a straight aquiline nose, full naturally rosy lips, and a pointed, determined chin, screwed in disgust as she stared at the nearest wall.

The weariness that sent Bobbi to bed early took hold of her again. Lying back onto the large brass bed, she let out a sigh of relief when the images and feelings finally faded, but she was still on edge enough to almost jump out of her skin when the pillow under her head started to vibrate. She frowned and pushed a hand under it. Her fingers wrapped around something rectangular. "Oh, my beeper. Can't believe I still forget that I put it under there." She tapped the button and peered at the number. With her own demons forgotten at the moment, she jumped out of bed hastily, looking for anything to pull on over the pale blue long johns she had fallen in bed with instead of her usual attire of t-shirt and panties.

There was only one explanation for the 911 after the number. Karen Polinski's water had broken and her husband, Keith had put the page through. There was no way they were going to the hospital, preferring home birth. Bobbi rushed to the phone. Picking it up, full lips tugged into a frown at the excessive static and distant sound of dial tone. Good thing he was able to get through. She peered around the large room, scanning the clothing on the floor for something warm when it hit her. "Why would the phone..."

The brunette rushed to her bedroom window to see thick flakes of snow falling. "Shit! That's why! I guess that I shouldn’t even bother with my cell." She peered down at the ground, seeing the substantial accumulation, glowing a ghostly white in the pale moonlight on top of the several feet they had already gotten. "Double shit!" She thanked whatever god listening for her finally getting the Jeep Cherokee.

Bobbi pulled on dark blue corded jeans that she kept on the floor with the rest of her clothes and searched for an old sweatshirt, already knowing that things were going to get messy. She slid across the hardwood floor as she put on socks, and her way into the bathroom to splash water on her face, gargle, and run a brush through thick hair, bypassing the application of a customary coat of lipstick and splash of Tommy Girl perfume. There was no use for it this time. It wasn’t a regular house call.

The brunette slid back across the hardwood, heading to the living room in hopes of finding the sturdy Timberland boots. There was one on each end of the ivory colored couch where she had thrown them earlier. Almost slipping as she jerked them on, the doctor missed smacking her shin on the glass coffee table by a hair.

Fully dressed, she walked briskly through the kitchen and snatched open the door connecting her offices to the living quarters. Making her way down the short hall, she switched on lights in search of her medical bag, and it was exactly where she always kept it in the drawer on the right hand side. With one last look around, the brunette marveled how one side could be a total clusterfuck and the other side be perfectly organized and immaculate. She shrugged and jogged back toward the kitchen.

"Such is my life. Call me Messy Marvin." Finally ready, Bobbi tugged on the thick white coat, pulled up the hood, wrapped the ivory scarf around her face, and yanked on gloves.

Shoveling a excess snow out of the driveway, she opened the garage door and warmed up the green jeep. Within five minutes, Bobbi was on the slick, snowy roads moving slowly but surely. As an after thought, she shoved a CD in and cranked up the volume. After being hurried, it was time to relax and get in the proper mindset to bring another life in the world. "Hang in there Karen."


Michelle gripped the steering wheel with enough force to rip it from its mount. Her breath came out in raspy gasps, leaving her light headed. The constant screaming and whining pounded in her ears like snare drums. Desperately, she stepped on the gas once more and heard only the spinning of the tire and crunching of snow. Again, a small cry of hopelessness and frustration escaped from deep within. The pain and responsibility crashed down on her.

For a second, she wondered if she should have left. For a second, she wondered if they were going to die out here before they had a chance to live. For a second, she was unsure and that brief moment of uncertainty was epiphany, letting her know that right now her life could go either way. It was her chance to push on or retreat. Something inside her clicked. Some hidden strength inside her grew. For once it was up to her, and it was then that the blonde knew freedom in its purest form. Having had a taste if only for ten hours or so, she could not squander it for Toby's sake, for hers, even for Taz's.

Picking up her little boy, she shushed him and began to hum. With her free hand, she reached over to the dashboard and cranked the heat up a notch. They had a full tank of gas. They had heat, and they had each other. It was time for Michelle to think about how to keep it that way.

Taz picked up his master's mood and began to calm as well. He watched the blonde tentatively, as if waiting for something, for anything. Scenarios flashed through Michelle's head, and as quickly as they came, she rejected him. She couldn't leave them in the car nor could she send Taz out. He would be blown away in a matter of seconds no matter what kind of dog he was. Wait. They had to wait. There was no other choice. Michelle pulled Toby to her, hoping to warm the sudden coldness in her heart and praying that she had the courage to face whoever came along to help them.


Able to pick up a little speed because of the chains and the tread of the tires, Bobbi drove along the lighted streets, looking left and right at the side roads in case an idiot plowed into her. All the while, she sang along with the song:

Heaven help the heart that lets me inside Heaven help the one who comes in my life Heaven help the fool that walks through my door Cause I decided right now I'm ready for...

Bobbi pulled to a stop and did a double take. The brown, burgundy wood like panel of what looked to be a station wagon stuck out of a large snow bank. The hood and windshield was covered in snow, and she saw a puff of exhaust smoke coming from the back, letting her know the engine was running. The brunette peered through her own windshield hoping to see inside of the lit cab, but the windows were too fogged up. "Jesus Christ! Somebody's in there!" Bobbi switched off her own ignition and hurried across the street with the howling wind whipping her with icy fingers. Karen, we'd better hope that baby doesn't pop out like the other two did.

Over the roar of the engine and hum of the heater, Michelle thought she heard another car, but she couldn't be sure. Putting the now quiet Toby back in the car seat, she ordered Taz to the back and attempted to clean the window. The petite blonde wiped away the precipitation on the glass. A face wrapped in white stared back at her containing the most piercing blue eyes she had ever seen.

Michelle yelped and reared back toward the driver's side. Her body pressed up against the door at the opposite end in fear. God, help me. I can’t do this. The knock on her window made her jump and yelp again. Taking a cue from the blonde, Taz started to bark, waking up the baby all over again.

"Hey," Realizing her voice was muffled by the scarf, the brunette moved it down a little. "You okay in there?!" Bobbi asked with growing trepidation. I heard a baby, a scream, and saw green eyes, scared green eyes. I hope no one is hurt.

Think Michelle think. That was a woman's voice. Would a crazy person knock on the window first? Would it be a woman? Or are there actually good people left in the world?
The blonde snuck a peek at Taz. He looked vicious in mid bark and growl. She glanced down at Toby's red face and counted her options. There was no contest. She had to do this. There was no choice. They had to get out of here. Her fear had to go on the back burner. She took a deep breath and almost choked on the last vestiges of fright as concern took over. "N-no." I have to do better than that. "No! We need help. My baby... we're stuck. Can you help us?"
Bobbi reared back up and covered her face again for protection. What the hell is a mother and her kid doing out in weather like this? It doesn't make sense. Anybody that lives here knows to stay out of the storms. Okay, Karen little Sue or whatever you plan to name her is gonna have to wait. I got me a damsel in distress. "Look! I'm a doctor! Are you or your child hurt!?"

Michelle leaned close to the passenger window again. "No, we’re okay!"

The icy wind bit into the brunette in unforgiving fashion despite her padding. Shit! I'm gonna freeze out here, and I won't be good for anybody. This lady has got to trust me. "Miss? I'm tired of yelling, and it's cold as hell out here. Can you let me in? My jeep's parked not that far away!"

I can't tell anymore who's good or bad, but Taz always could. She prayed to any God who would listen. Please let this turn out alright. Let this woman be who she says she is. Michelle pulled Toby in her arms protectively, ignoring his crying for the moment and unlocked the passenger side door. "I-It's unlocked!"

Sighing in relief, Bobbi yanked on the door. It didn't budge. Ah, hell just my luck! What else is gonna happen tonight?! After gathering some strength, she tried again and landed in the snow with a wet thump. "For crying out loud!" The doctor mumbled into her scarf. Now submerged in the growing pile of snow, she felt its wet arctic bite seep into her clothes within seconds. Grabbing onto the handle, she lifted herself off the ground, and in anger gave one more hard pull. The door flew open with a loud creak. Score one for Doc B! Without preamble and grace, she threw herself into the car and pulled the door shut without slamming it.

Bobbi turned to the passengers to find two sets of eyes watching her in the lit cab. One was dark green and the other was blue. Swallowing in apprehension, she decided to deal with the blue first. She held up her hands and inched as close to the door as possible. "Whoa, good doggy?"

Taz huffed and maneuvered himself until he was hanging over the seat. He huffed again then sniffed the air around the brunette. Satisfied, he turned to the blonde and whimpered slightly.

Michelle released a breath that she wasn't aware of holding. Relinquishing her double-handed hold on Toby, she scratched Taz behind the ears. He’s here if she tries anything. "Good, boy. Sit." Still full of fear and hovering against the door, Michelle swallowed hard and turned to the blue-eyed woman. "I'm s-sorry about him, but I don’t know you."

Bobbi raised her hands defensively. "Whatever lady." I wouldn't blame her especially the way things are these days. She appraised the other woman -- attractive, long blonde hair with a slightly chubby face. Must be a newborn or close to it. She peered into green eyes and saw what a deer must look like caught in headlights, waiting for his final moments. She saw a combination of fear, desperation and resignation. The first word that popped into her head was running. "You're not from around here are you?"

Michelle cradled Toby in the crook of her neck. The need to protect and hoard what she had garnered such a short time ago rose with a passion, so she did the only thing she could do. "Um, w-why do you need to know t-that?" The blonde asked suspiciously. Green eyes rounded in growing fear before skittering away from blue. Oh, god is she like the others? I don’t know. What am I doing?! Michelle’s voice shook uncontrollably. "J-just got caught. . .in the s-storm. Didn’t know what else t-to do."

Pale blue eyes squinted. Definitely running and scared shitless, and I don't need to get involved in anyone else's business right now. "Uh, okay look. Like I said I'm a doctor. I'm on my way to deliver a baby. You're free to go with me, and afterwards I'll help you find a phone that works. You can tell whoever you need to and tell them you’re okay—maybe get some help. Then, I guess we'll just go from there. By the way, welcome to Ivanhoe."

We need help. I don’t really have a choice in this. We can’t just sit here in the snow and wait forever. I have to do this. God help me. I have to do this. Michelle glanced at the doctor and hastily retreated once again. "I-I guess. What about our things? We can’t just leave them h-here."

Bobbi glanced toward the back of the cab. Thinking, she pursed her lips then blew out a breath. "We can take as much as we can. The Polinski's house isn't that far away, so we can get the rest on the way back while looking for a phone, if theirs doesn’t work."

"Okay, we can do that. I guess." Indecision continued to rear its head, and fear crept back upon her. I can’t believe I’m doing this. What if. . .God. What am I doing? But, I have to. . . This is so hard.

"Okay, I'm thinking out loud here. Since you have the baby, it wouldn't be good to subject her to the weather. Sooo..." She brushed off her hood, releasing long dark tresses. "I can pull a long side of you as close as I can get without our doors banging, and we'll just do a hand off, car seat and all, that should keep the baby from all of this. Then, I'll pull up a little; you grab some things; and both you and the dog can hop in. How's that for quick thinking?" Bobbi quirked a brow and a smile. She then frowned when she didn't get the same in return.

Hanging her head, Michelle mumbled her agreement. Already, she had encountered things she had never seen-- a strong, independent woman and a smile. She didn't know how to react to either. She didn’t know if it was right to react to either. Michelle watched from under blonde lashes as the brunette's white hood went back over her head.

Leaving the passenger door cracked, Bobbi confronted the storm once more. With outstretched arms, she battled it, until squinted eyes could see the glinting of metal in the night. Opening up the door, she hauled herself into the cab. Come on you monster. I got the feeling that she's just as eager to be rid of me as I am of her and this screwy situation. Driving cautiously, she turned onto the side street. Even with the chains and the excellent tires, it was not good enough. The jeep started to slide toward the same snow pile the station wagon was stuck in.

"Shit! Don't do this to me!" She turned the wheel in the direction of the spinning jeep, but nothing worked. The brunette could hear the crunching snow underneath the tires and feel the friction that should have been there disappear. Gaining momentum, she tried to move out of the path of the station wagon and sighed in relief as she missed it by a nose. With a loud thunk, she headed into the pile front first. She bore down gently on the brakes hoping to stop before she got in too deep. The gesture only made her shimmy from side to side. By the time, the Cherokee stopped, Bobbi was buried almost all the way to the cab.

Grinding her teeth and cursing like a sailor, she threw it in reverse and pounded on the gas. I have never been a damsel in distress, and I won't be one now. Damn it! The gods weren't listening. With each rev of her engine the tires burrowed in more. She smacked the steering wheel in frustration but continued to try. It only sunk deeper. "This can not be happening to me!" Letting out a muted growl, she cut the engine, laid her head down on the steering wheel, and glanced out the window at the station wagon parked beside her.

Wrapping Toby up as warm and tight as possible, Michelle watched in fascination and horror as the jeep slid past her into the snow bank she was sure she owned. She swallowed back the tears that threatened and inwardly shouted to any god that would listen. What are you trying to tell me? I'm trying here! Why are you doing this?! I just wanted out. That's all. Is it too much to ask? Why punish her she doesn't even know me!

For the first time in her life, the blonde felt that curses existed, and particularly powerful one was linked to her. Michelle resisted the urge to scream, knowing that it would only make her feel better. Nothing would be fixed. This can't get any... She stopped herself before finishing the mental statement, harboring the knowledge that it could in fact get a lot worse. It was back to waiting again.

Not having a lot of choices, Bobbi went with the obvious. She had to go back to the station wagon. There was no point in keeping two cars running when she didn't know when they were going to be found. Sometime before the May thaw I hope. Wrapping up as tightly as she could, she grabbed her bag and opened the door to face one of the worst nights of her life. Okay, B. Be calm. That woman still needs help, but how much help does she need?

The passenger door creaked open again, letting a blast of frigid air in. Michelle huddled Toby to her as Bobbi swept into the car like the wind itself. The brunette wrestled herself out of the layers of clothing. Okay, I gotta do something to keep us sane here. She pursed her lips and turned to the blonde giving her a long look. It was long enough to make hesitant green meet blue. The doctor blew out an exasperated breath and scratched her jaw. "Ookay, what you just saw was the dry run. The real rescue will start..." She looked down at the Timex on her wrist. "As soon as the Big Guy stops dicking us round," Bobbi added with a crooked smirk.

Michelle blinked. There it is again that smile. She's trying to make light of this to keep things from seeming so desperate, but I don't know how to respond. So the blonde said nothing.

Oh, come on. It's almost as if she doesn't know what to... do. What's going on here? Careful, B. Remember, no complications. Despite of what she was thinking, the unthinkable came from the brunette's mouth. Her voice lowered an octave, "Come on now. You can't give into this. Cops and trucks come through this area all the time even in storms. It's just a matter of waiting it out." What am I doing?! Am I soothing her?

I don't understand this. I’m a stranger to her. Why is she trying to help me? Why is she treating me like this? Do something! But I don’t know how. So, Michelle did her best. The sides of her mouth lifted, twittered, and it all felt so rusty. She could feel the hinges moaning with each flick of muscle. The smile refused to form. It had been forever since she smiled at anyone. The blonde did the best she could and replied with a soft "okay" to a statement she almost forgotten had been made.

Okay, that's a start. Bobbi grinned and ducked her head in an effort to catch rapidly lowering green eyes. "Now, that wasn't hard was it? I'm Bobbi by the way, and you are?" She didn't dare hold out her hand. The woman looked as though she would bolt at any minute.

Michelle swallowed. Bad people don’t introduce themselves do they? "Um, I'm Michelle." She murmured shakily and pointed toward the baby. "This is Toby, my son, and that’s Taz." On cue, Taz leaned over the seat and snuffed then nuzzled Bobbi's hair. That's a real good sign, but I don’t know. "Um, I think he likes you. He's usually not like that with anyone but me."

Bobbi turned toward the dog, scratching his ears. "Well, I'm not really a dog person, but this guy is cute." The brunette groaned on the inside. What am I doing? She mentally shrugged. Well in for a nickel... "So are you gonna tell me where you’re from? That might help since we’re trying to get you back there."

Michelle could feel the blood roaring in her ears as panic-struck hard. She couldn't think and went with the first word from her mouth. "Um, Billings," she answered hesitantly.

It hasn’t been that long since I’ve been around people that I can’t tell when one is lying. "Uh, no… Try again. It’s okay to tell me."

Michelle turned away quickly to peer down at her squirming child. Her chest heaved, and she fiddled with the blanket to hide shaking hands. The anxiety began to grow acute. What does she want from me?! I can't tell her. No one can find out. It's safer that way. She clutched at Toby using him as an anchor. Her grip grew tighter. In protest, Toby cried out.

Led by instincts honed in medical school, Bobbi reached for the child in concern.

"No! Don't touch me!" Michelle screamed, lunged, then cowered deep in the corner.

Azure eyes widened, and Bobbi reared back toward the passenger door in defense, holding her hands up for added protection. "Whoa lady! I was just checking on the baby."

Still caught in the throes of an impending flashback, the blonde screamed out what she could not all the other times, "Don't touch me! Get away from me!" In her mind, all Michelle could see was dark hair and gleaming eyes moving toward her. Never again. Toby cried louder and her vision cleared at the shrieking sound. The blonde turned to the other woman only to see her watching cautiously with wide wary eyes. A small hand covered her mouth when she realized what had transpired. "Oh my God! I'm sorry I didn't mean... I mean, I thought you were somebody..."

The brunette held up a hand to stop her. I can only guess what you're running from, kid, but whatever it is -- isn't pretty in the least. I know all about that. "It's okay, just try to relax. Someone should be by in a little bit." I hope it’s quick. I really don’t need this.



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