Return of the Warrior

By Katherine A. Standell
aka Archangel

Chapter One

It was an average early afternoon in Marietta, Georgia: hot but not too hot, sunny, but not too bright and, for a January in Georgia, it was kinda nice.

'Yep, just your average day and I am going buggy.' Dylan sat thinking and staring out the window; this was the fourth Welcome Home ceremony she had attended in as many weeks.

'You'd think the country would be tired of hearing my name.' She turned and stared at the cream colored room they had been given to rest in. It was huge; a beautiful cherry wood table graced the center of the room, it’s claw-toed legs seemed to clutch at the thick blood red carpet. Tall ladder-back matching chairs were scattered in strategic locations against the walls. The normal patriot prints were displayed in matching imitation cherry wood frames. It was all a bit heavy but over all, the county courthouse was really quite nice. Unable to sit still Dylan turned again to stare out the window. She and Lura had arrived earlier that morning and reporters had surrounded them immediately, bombarding them with questions and the flashing lights of cameras. The limo that had been assigned to them for the duration of their visit now stood patiently outside and Dylan sorely wished they were in it now. With a deep sigh she turned to glance at her roommate, slash fellow captive in all this confusion. Lura sat staring at her folded hands, a dazed look on her face; exhaustion evident in the slump of her shoulders. Dylan smiled gently at the small blonde; Lura had stuck by her through all the stress and strain of the physical rehab and the mental anguish of reliving and retelling the events in the debriefing session. As she watched her lover she began to notice the dark circles under her eyes and the slight pallor of her cheeks.

"This was the last one Lura, no more. We're going home."

Lura lifted exhausted but smiling eyes and sighed. "We will do whatever it takes Dylan, but to tell ya the truth home sounds really, really good right now. I think I could use the break." Slowly she stood stretching her tired body and walked to Dylan, wrapping her arms around the slim waist of the soldier.

Dylan raised her dark blue uniform-clad arms and placed them on the shoulder of her soul mate. Smiling gently down into the soft green eyes, she felt herself relax. "How do you do it Lura? Just a touch, just a sigh and I turn into a neatly pressed and starched, dress blue uniformed wuss?"

"Hmm, must be love sweetheart." Came the warm, muffled reply from deep in the front of her blue jacket. Lura pulled back far enough to glance up at the beautiful soldier she held in her embrace. Her Hawk looked incredibly regal in her dress blue uniform, the brass buttons glittered against the dark blue jacket and three rows of multi colored ribbons gracing her left breast. The incredible star-studded, deep blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor lay gently nestled against the stark white of her uniform blouse. The medal had been awarded the day she had arrived back in the United States. Frowning, Lura still remembered the ceremony.

They had arrived at the White House in the early morning. It was still gray outside and the security lights around the huge building glittered off the dew on the lawn. A police escort, sirens blasting, had taken them straight to the front door of the palatial estate. Their doors were opened by their assigned security. They were assisted out of the car and through the front doors into the home of the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

Lura was concerned about her partner, the injuries that they had both suffered had not quite healed and they were exhausted; Dylan even more so, having withstood a grueling debriefing the day before. She had been through so much already, to include months of rehabilitation just to reach the point where she could move under her own power again. Though the tall soldier had healed quickly, the injuries had taken a lot out of her. But what really concerned Lura was that through it all Dylan had not shed a single tear.

Inside the main foyer a Secret Service Agent stood with a wheel chair at the ready. She quickly rolled it forward towards Dylan, but stopped when her eyes met the icy daggers of the woman in blue. It had taken Lura a good ten minutes of arguing to talk the damn stubborn woman into sitting in the chair even though it was obvious she was ready to pass out on her feet. Dylan finally agreed to the chair but only if Lura offered to push it.

With a tired smile she had settled into the padded chair and, motioning forward, had ordered, "Onward McDuff."

Lura had leaned forward and whispered into one creamy ear. "Now I'm McDuff? Damn, close your eyes for a nap in a military hospital and see what happens. That's the last time I do that." Her comment was answered by a gentle rumbling chuckle from the chair.

Lura rolled them towards an indicated door where they exited the building and entered the plush grandeur of the South Lawn. A flag draped metal platform, with a set of stairs and a wheelchair ramp, stood at the edge of the manicure grass, the podium on it bearing the brightly painted seal of the President of the United States.

When they had settled into their assigned spaces on the platform the doors opened again to admit the press and the viewing public, those that had been invited specifically for the ceremony. Lura saw the man from the cave again, the one who claimed to be her mate’s father. She felt Dylan stiffen as their eyes met. Senator Cameron assisted his wife to her seat then turned and climbed the stairs to his daughter. Dylan began to struggle in her chair to rise and face her father but was stopped by a gentle hand on her arm. She turned and looked into a pair of pleading green eyes. Resigned to having to stay seated she sat up straighter and leaned forward, her white knuckled hands gripping the arms of the chair. Lura expected a low growl to emanate for the tight throat and was genuinely surprised when it did not.

Dylan waited for the man to speak. He stopped directly in front of her chair and stared down into eyes that mirrored his own. Kneeling in front of the injured woman he lowered his head as if in deep thought then raised his head and spoke. "Dylan, when your unit was attacked and you were reported lost for three years, I made a promise to God." He paused catching his breath. "I promised that if he were to give me another chance, just one, to have my daughter back I would do everything in my power to work things out. When we couldn't find you, when you were reported dead..." he stopped, his eyes filled with tears and he reached out blindly for her hands. Grasping them in his own, as if to draw strength and reassure himself of her existence. Clearing his throat he continued. "When you were reported dead, I made it my life's work to understand your lifestyle and try to find a way to come to terms with it. I did a lot of reading, I attended meetings and most importantly I spoke with your Grandfather. I am still not real sure of it all, but I can understand that love comes in a lot of different forms and you don't always have choices about who you love or why. I understand that there is no shame in love and most of all; I understand that God does not make mistakes. He made you the way you are for a reason, and that is good enough for me. There is something I want to tell you and something I have to ask you. First and foremost I love you, no if ands or buts, just the way you are. I realize what an ass I have been to you and your mother. There is no excuse for my behavior, but I have tried with your mother and Grandfather to make amends. They have forgiven me and for that I will always be grateful. Sweetheart there is one thing that I have been waiting and praying for and now thank God I have the chance. He stopped here and looked deep into confused blue eyes. "Please, please, can you forgive me?"

Dylan stared into the tear-streaked face of her father, then lowered her head and shook it side to side. "I don't know, I don't know." She mumbled, "I need time to think, please, give me time." Dylan choked unaware of the tears streaming down her face. Her hands gently pulled away from her fathers as she unconsciously reached back with one hand to her soul mate for comfort, using the other to angrily brush away the tears.

The Senator stood and drew in a deep breath, "I understand honey, I have waited three years for an answer and no matter what it is or how long it takes, I can wait. Thank you for coming home. I love you Dylan." Then he turned and walked away.

After he left Dylan turned as her gaze settled on the figure of her mother. She looked beautiful if not distraught. They had spoken at length on the phone from her recovery room in the hospital, and this was their first face to face in six years. There was a bit more gray in her hair but her features were still stunning. She loved her mother but was disappointed in the lack of support she had gotten from her as a child. Turning her head she caught the dark eyed gaze of her Grandfather. He cocked an eyebrow at her, making her smile. Then he nodded towards Lura and gave her a jaunty thumbs up. Dylan almost choked in surprise as she blushed and dropped her eyes in confusion to the deep laughter coming from the old man.

Lura glanced at her partner in surprise when she heard the sharp quick in take of breath coming from the woman in the chair. She frowned as she noticed the blush in her cheeks and reached over to feel Dylan's forehead. "Are you alright, Honey? You seem a bit flushed. Do you need a glass of water or anything?"

"Um, no. Uh no, I'm fine, just fine." The soldier stuttered not raising her head. Lura could have sworn she heard something like, "I'm gonna have to kill that old man." in a low murmur coming from the chair. Glancing up to see what had caused this reaction in Dylan, Lura was stunned by the face of the beautiful tiny woman seated next to the senator. It was very apparent where Dylan had gotten her incredible looks. The woman was a delicate version of the warrior, with gentle brown eyes, high cheekbones and the same beautiful long black hair streaked now with silver. But it was the figure beside the woman that had her eye now. A tall, steel gray haired warrior was seated beside the woman and her husband, the copper skin tones enhanced by the buckskin shirt and pants. Dylan's Grandfather, Gray Hawk, War Chief of the Cherokee nation had come to witness the ceremony in full traditional regalia. His thick gray hair had been combed back into two heavy braids that were tied off with leather wraps, a single eagle feather had been braided into one that lay on his chest like a badge of honor. The bone and stone beads that adorned the shirt formed a screaming hawk talons outstretched. His decorated buckskin pants and leather moccasins glittered the early morning light.

Lura watched as his alert black eyes turned to gaze proudly at his granddaughter, the thick barrel chest inflated as he crossed his arms and waited. As she turned to stare at Dylan she noticed her gazing at her Grandfather and as their eyes locked she felt the shoulder under her hand stiffen, but this time in pride. Dylan seemed to sit up taller; her head rose higher and a bit of the old sparkle appeared in her eyes. In turn the gray haired warrior threw his shoulders back with pride as a smile appeared on the wrinkled face. Lura now knew where her warrior had acquired her courage. They all settled into padded chairs in front of the podium and within minutes the ceremony began.

Lura vaguely remembered the introduction of the Secretary of War who read the citation out loud for the hungry eyes of the nations premier news stations. Her eyes were on the President as she walked to the microphone to address the nation.
She spoke of the boundless courage of a young Captain alone in the desert facing insurmountable odds and of her battle with a ruthless enemy who had made it his mission in life to destroy for his own benefit. She told of those last days in the cave and the firefight that ended in the death of an enemy and the horrendous injuries suffered by the proud defender. The President had tears in her eyes as she turned and called Captain Dylan Hawke to the podium.

Lura stood to roll the chair forward but was stopped by a raised hand. She looked on as the woman she loved slowly struggled from the chair, her pale shaky features telling of the strain that simple action was taking on her. Lura remembered again, the way the uniform hung loosely on the tall frame and the way the soldier swayed gently when she had valiantly fought to stay on her feet. The warrior stepped forward and bowed her proud head to allow the President to lay the Medal of Honor around her neck, the reward from a grateful nation.

And though she was there in the final days, Lura still had not been able to grasp the full enormity of Dylan's accomplishment until that moment. She had survived for three long grueling years virtually alone in the desert and had cause serious damage to the enemy of the United States and the free world. Lura remembered every moment, every smell, and every feel from that day. She would remember it for the rest of her life.

Chapter Two

The cameras loved the tall dark haired warrior and were constantly focusing on the beautiful haggard face and brilliant blue eyes. That face graced the cover of more than one magazine over the last month and the demands on her lover's time were as taxing on Lura as they were on the soldier. Today, Lura noticed the sunken cheeks and shaking hands. Dylan had not quite recovered from the extensive surgery that had removed several bullets from the beautiful body. She occasionally c&127;mplained of what she called 'twinges' that woke her in the night, forcing her to restlessly pace the floor of the hotels. Lura had watched as Dylan tossed and turned night after night and the journalist knew it wasn't from the injuries. Rather, this came from the deep horrid memories of the last three years.

Lura glanced at the ribbon around Dylan's neck, thinking of the meaning behind the star shaped bit of metal. Only warriors who had sacrificed all for the sake of others were ever awarded the country's highest honor. Most recipients received the award posthumously. She was amazed to notice that even General officers saluted the young Captain first, when they noticed the ribbon around her neck. They would stop, snap to attention and render a sharp salute, which Dylan returned just as sharply. When Lura asked her about it Dylan shyly replied that they were saluting in respect of the ribbon, its recipient and all those who had gone before. Lura felt as if her heart would burst from pride whenever she saw her mate in uniform.

Boy they were right when they said a woman couldn't resist a soldier in uniform. Oh Boy, were ever they right.

Dylan watched the now smiling woman and wondered what had brought on the sudden change in her facial expression. Whatever it was she was grateful, she had been worried that it had all been too much on her soul mate.

Lura, feeling the warmth of the gaze, glanced up. The still pale cheeks and drawn expression told it all. Dylan was barely holding it together and Lura knew it.

Time for a break, I'm gonna get my woman away from all this and let her unwind before the super glue she's using to hold herself together wears off.

Nuzzling back into the deep blue coat, Lura sighed again. "Dylan, I don't know about you, but I really need a break. Is there anyplace we can go and just be, well, normal?"

Dylan looked deeply at her companion, and a slow smile crept across her face, one eyebrow raised and the sparkle returned. "I know just the thing," she said chuckling. Taking her companion's hand, she led her out the door. They had already put in their appearance and were only waiting on their driver to leave. Dylan was tired of waiting>

That damn driver is probably out smoking. Well, too damn bad. We are outta here. Quickly striding down the hall and past a startled security guard, Dylan reached the limo. Opening the passenger door, she helped Lura in, and then rushed around to the driver’s door just as the first reporter raised an alarm. Smiling with wicked glee she locked the doors and started the car. Glancing back over her shoulder she eased the large car through the crowd of flashing bulbs, out into traffic and down the road. The squeal of tires and peal of laughter were the only sounds that were left, still lingering in the air.

Reaching the hotel, she retrieved their key from the front desk and led Lura to their room. As Lura watched, a bemused expression on her face, her partner unlocked the door, pulled the smaller woman in, pushed the dead bolt home, slipped on the chain, walked quickly to the windows, and drew the curtains. She then turned and pulled Lura into a bone-crushing hug. "Sometimes you have just the best ideas." She mumbled into the soft blonde hair. "Let's change, then I am going to take you out for the most normal food you have ever eaten."

Quickly changing, Lura and Dylan escaped the confines of the six star hotel the state had paid for and were searching for what Dylan referred to as one of her many 'vices'. She absolutely had to have a large order of McDonald's French fries. "I'm not sure how they make em, but every true fry connoisseur knows that McDonald's has the best French fries; not too hard on the outside, nice and soft on the inside, with just the right amount of salt." Dylan had assured Lura.

Lura knew how much salt Dylan considered 'just the right amount'. She noticed that the tall woman had a love for the seasoning and tended to overdo it just a bit in that area. Having gotten directions from the front desk, the two women walked three blocks down the street and into the nearby McDonald's. Minutes later they were seated quietly in a corner booth, munching on crisp, hot French fries and slurping down their drinks. Neither noticed the arrival of the news van or the cheerful reporter who stood outside talking to the television camera.

Dylan felt the disturbance first, and raised her head. Still munching on a heavily salted, crispy fry she watched from her corner seat as the other customers began pointing and chatting in excited voices. 'Uh oh." she moaned, reaching over she placed a hand on Lura's head and turned her towards the window.

"Oh my. Oh no. Not here." Lura groaned, watching as the perky anchorwoman motioned her cameraman towards the silent couple.

"I am not giving one more God Blessed interview." Dylan growled. "All I want is to eat my fries in peace. Make them go away Lura." She whined, presenting Lura with a pitiful puppy dog pout.

Lura stared into the big blue eyes of her companion and nodded her head. "I'll take care of it baby, don't you worry. I won't let those big bad nasty news people near you." She spoke in the perfect Mommy voice. "You just sit here and finish your fries. I will be right back."

She stood up, dusted the salt and fry crumbs from her jeans, pulled her shirt straight and headed towards the camera crew. There was a look of staunch determination on her face.

"Go get 'em girl." Dylan said, smiling as she munched on another salty treat.

Holding up her hands to stop any further advance towards her partner, Lura began to speak. "Miss Hawke is not giving any more interviews today. You need to speak with her attorney."

"Are you Lura Grant?" The perky reporter asked. "How does it feel to be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize?"

"Whaaa? ... Huuu? ... I'm not.... but, the Pulitzer Prize?" Lura stammered. Suddenly, she felt strong hands lightly grasping her shoulders.
"Miss Grant is not giving any more interviews today. You may speak with her attorney. Thank you." Dylan said, as she turned and ushered the stammering, confused blonde back into the restaurant.

"The Pulitzer, the Pulitzer. The Pulitzer." Those were the only words that Dylan could hear from her companion as she guided the still mumbling woman down the aisle, ignoring the stares of the other customers. Finally reaching their seat, she pushed the stunned journalist down into the booth and slid in after her. She picked up a French fry and placed it into Lura's trembling fingers, guiding the small hand to her mouth just as the words, "The Pulitzer" spilled out again.

Still watching the dazed mumbling blonde, Dylan picked up on the conversation of a couple standing in line next to them. A smiling woman stood next to a tall young man. The young man looked to be around seventeen or eighteen.

"Aww, Aunt Char, I want two Super size Big Mac meals. I have been soooo good and I'm really hungry." He whined, turning pleading gray eyes to his aunt.

"No Michael, you know what your Mom would say. Sam would kill me if she knew I let you talk me into more fast food. You're doing so well on your diet, and for a short woman your Mom has quite a temper."

"Yep," the young man replied with pride. "But she never stays mad for long." He finished with a grin.

His Aunt Char seemed to be considering this comment for a moment when a loud noise in the rear of the restaurant drew everyone's attention. First there was yelling, then screams, closely followed by gunshots.

Dylan reacted instantly. Drawing Lura to her and shielding the smaller woman with her own body, she threw them both to the floor.

Lura felt the tall soldier stiffen just before she was folded into two strong arms. "Dylan, what's going on? What happened?"

Dylan, of course, had immediately recognized the sound of the gunshots. Her first thoughts were to get Lura to safety. Suddenly she was back in the cave, facing the big gun of the tank. Dylan's vision tunneled until all she saw was the threat.

As Lura watched, Dylan changed. Gone was the smiling former soldier. Gone was the gentle, sweet lover. The person rising next to her was familiar, the face a chiseled mask, and the eyes an icy blue.

The Hawk had returned.

The thief, a slender young man, with dirty blonde hair stood in the back of the restaurant. He was dressed in a dark green jacket, two sizes too big, black gloves that could not hide his slender hands and a blue baseball cap turned with the bill in back. He had been in this McDonald's before and had his routine down pat. He planned to simply wave his gun around, threaten a few faint-hearted customers and employees and rob the popular eatery. It had always worked before and he needed a few bucks for the new speakers he wanted to go with the sound system he had stolen last night. When he arrived in the restaurant he expected some resistance but he had not counted on the creature he now faced. Before him was a demon. The woman's face was hard as stone; her lips were drawn back, exposing white teeth in a chilling grin. But it was the eyes that were the most frightening of all. The irises were almost white and as cold as death.

Lura watched as the would-be thief froze in place. His hands trembled as he stared into the face of the very tall, very angry warrior. He stood still, not moving a muscle, the way one might if facing a rabid wolf. She watched in utter amazement as he stopped in his tracks. His arms out stretched, palms down his eyes still locked with Dylan's, he slowly lowered his weapon to the floor and stood, waiting. Dylan had not moved. She had not spoken or threatened him in any way that could have been easily seen or anticipated. Dylan Hawke had simply glared at the trembling man while he, to his total embarrassment, he wet his pants in sheer terror.

A quick thinking employee had picked up a phone in the manager's office and dialed 911. The sound of the siren and the arrival of the police brought a cheer from the crowd. But there was no sound coming from the still figure of the warrior or trembling form of the thief. The police rushed into the restaurant, guns drawn, expecting to find cowering customers. Instead, they too, faced the warrior.

Lura knew that Dylan was not herself and tried to stop the police from further escalating the situation, but it was too late. Dylan spun around to face the newest threat. Crouching low, she placed herself firmly between the guns and Lura.

"Put your hands up Miss!" A stunned young police officer ordered, training his weapon on the dark haired woman.

"No!" Lura screamed, rushing forward. Then, she stood with her back to the policeman, facing Dylan. "It's alright Sweetheart. These are the good guys. These are the cops. Everything is okay now. Calm down, we're okay."

Dylan heard Lura's voice and slowly began to focus on the soft green eyes. Shaking her head she began to listen to the voice of her soul mate.

"Everything is okay, these are the police." Lura repeated.

Slowly, Dylan realized that the threat was gone, Lura was safe, and she was no longer in the desert. Reaching out her arms like a blind woman searching through the darkness, she again folded the small blonde to her chest. Breathing in the smell of the sun-kissed hair, she released the Hawk to settle back into her home.

The reporter and cameraman rushed forward shoving the camera and mike into the soldier's face. "Can you tell us what just happened here Ms. Hawke? How do you feel right now, having just stopped a hold up?"

Lura pushed the reporter back and glared into the camera until the cameraman finally caught a hint and lowered it.
Dylan stood there, her arms still wrapped around Lura, still in a state of shock.

The manager of the McDonald's was talking to the stunned law enforcement officers about the tall dark woman. He told them how she had subdued the thief before they arrived. He was attempting to explain what they all had seen, but could not believe. A woman stopped a robbery with only a glare. As the police cuffed the thief, the manager slowly approached the two women. "Thank you for stopping that asshole. That's the third time in two months he's been in here. The police have never been able to catch him. Somehow, I don't think he will be coming back this time." he said, smiling. "Now I know you weren't here for the 'entertainment', so whatever it is you wanted, it's on the house."

Lura smiled and thanked the manager. She started to turn the offer down when she heard a deep voice respond. "French fries, and a Dr. Pepper." Lura turned and glanced back at her partner. Dylan still had the disturbed look in her eyes, but if she wanted French fries, by God, she was gonna get them. "Supersize that and add a Strawberry shake to it."

"I'll do better than that." He walked to the counter and pulled out a slip of paper. He quickly wrote out a note and signed it, then passed it to Lura, still staring at her dark friend. The note read: 'Free French fries, Dr. Pepper and Strawberry shake for life at this McDonald's'. It was signed: John Wilson, owner/manager. Lura chuckled and passed the note to Dylan, who glanced at it briefly before stuffing it into the pocket of her jeans and turning an expectant glare at the manager. John Wilson had not flipped a burger or salted a fry in years, but he jumped to fill this order. Pushing aside the startled teenager behind the deep fryer, he shook out the fry basket and dumped the hot fries into the bin.

"She likes lots of salt." Lura added, trying to keep the smile out of her voice. Turning again to face her lover, Lura took Dylan's hand and led her back to their seat, past the looks of gratitude on the faces of the other patrons. Dylan sat with her back to a wall, her eyes scanning the open spaces between their seat and the door. Waiting. Lura watched as Dylan pulled a napkin from the dispenser on the table and slowly tore it in half, then half again and again until there was nothing but a small pile of white confetti. "Getting ready for a parade love?" Lura asked.
"Huh, what? Oh, sorry sweetheart. What did you say?" Dylan asked, focusing worried eyes on her companion.

"I asked if you were getting ready for a ticker tape parade." Lura asked, smiling.

"No, sorry. I guess I’m a bit distracted." The dark woman said. "That guy kinda shook me up a bit. I kinda forgot where I was for a minute there." Dylan said staring at the small pile of snowy napkin bits. She gently gathered the pieces and placed them in the brass colored ashtray at the next table.

Turning to Dylan, Lura noticed the worried frown on her face and reached up to stroke the dark hair from her lover’s eyes. "Honey, what's wrong? Is what happened still getting to you? I know that happened pretty quickly but it's over now. Let's just enjoy our snack and go back to the hotel. I know it's been a long month, but we can go home after this."

"Home?" Dylan asked just as John brought over a tray loaded with fresh hot fries and two large drink cups.

Lura was sure she had heard Dylan mumble something but wasn't certain what it was. 'I need to get her back to the hotel so we can get into some soft clothes and do some serious cuddling, I think my big bad warrior could use a bit of snuggle time.' She thought, watching the still frowning woman munch on the hot fries and stare at the door.



Chapter Three

The drive back was thankfully uneventful. Lura spent the majority of it trying to revive the atmosphere. By the time they pulled into the parking garage she had succeeded in getting Dylan to unwind enough to allow the circulation to return to the hands gripping the steering wheel. The ride up in the elevator resulted in a poking tickle fight and by the time they had reached their room, Dylan's good humor was on an upswing. Lura knew what would keep that happy mood. She reached for her toiletry bag and walked into the bathroom. Turning on the hot tap she squirted a generous amount of scented oil into the running water. Adding a touch of cold she filled the tub. The crisp sent of evergreens filled the air. Satisfied that the water wasn't too hot she turned and called out, "Dylan honey, take off your clothes."

A laughing disembodied voice replied, "Lura, I know I usually take charge in the bedroom, and I know I promised that you could be in charge sometimes but Sweetie you are going a bit overboard don't ya think?"

"Dylan!" Lura laughed coming out of the bathroom holding a large towel advancing on her lover a look of determination on her face. "Now you listen to me. Hawke, if you are not naked in the next fifteen seconds you are gonna see one very pissed off little falcon. You hear me!" Lura stood there, her hands on her hips and watched as a grinning Dylan stripped.

As she turned to place her clothes on the bed Dylan felt the towel smack her naked butt. "HEY!" she yelped turning to face a smiling small blonde.

"Get that cute butt of yours in the tub Hawk, before the water gets cold." Lura laughed.

"Alright, alright just keep your flippin towel to yourself." Dylan said as she ran bouncing into the bathroom and stepped into the tub. "Ya gonna join me, it looks big enough for two."

"Nope, not this time lover. This one is all yours; you earned it. But if you ask really nice, I might be persuaded to scrub your back." Lura replied.

Dylan sank into the hot, scented water of the tub and allowed the soft oily water to caress her body. "Lura this is great all I need is..."

"Dr Pepper?" Lura said appearing in the doorway with a sweating can of cold Dr. Pepper.

"God, I love this woman." Dylan said reaching for the can.

Lura smiled as she watched the exhausted woman sip on the cold soda, a crooked grin on her lips. Her eyes traveled the length of the beautiful bronzed body, frowning as they touched on the still healing scars made by the bullets. Her Hawk had been through Hell. The question wasn't if she survived, but did her soul make it as well.

Dylan lay back with a deep sigh finally relaxing, finally feeling a measure of security behind the door of the hotel room. Her soul mate was here and safe, she was here and safe. The doors were locked and she was on the fourth floor, in her own room and in her own country. There was no need to worry, no worries.

As Lura watched, Dylan closed her eyes and slipped deeper into the tub. At first she was worried that the sleeping woman would slip under the waters but her long legs prevented that from happening. Lura decided to let her relax. 'This is probably the first decent rest she has had in days.' Lura thought. 'I'll give her a few minutes but I swear if she comes out of there looking like a prune...

She felt the sweat dripping down her face, she was hot and it was nighttime. He was coming, no not for her, for Lura. He was going to hurt Lura! 'I have to get to her before he does.' The sand was so thick, she was sinking into it, 'Quicksand! I can't run! Have to get to Lura! She's in the cave, surrounded by my men. They can't fight him; they have no arms, no legs, and no heads. They can't protect her. She will die, like they did. I have to get to her. Lura!' "LURA!" Dylan screamed leaping from the tub, sliding on the now wet floor and crashing to her knees. "Lura!"

Lura heard her from the bedroom and rushed in to find a sodden Dylan on her hands and knees beside the tub. Her face streaked with tears, her hair in disarray. "Dylan honey, are you okay?" She bent to help the tall woman to her feet. Reaching for a towel to wrap around the wet body she guided the still stunned soldier into the bedroom and onto the bed.

Dylan turned and looked at her soul mate. Reaching up with an unsteady hand she stroked the soft pink cheek. "So soft." She glanced into gentle green eyes. Placing her hand behind Lura's head she slowly drew the soft pink lips to her own, kissing the blonde gently. "I love you Lura." Dylan pulled Lura to her and began to undress the other woman, kissing each portion of flesh as it was exposed.

Lura, threw her head back offering her lover a choice bit of neck to nuzzle and moaning softly as Dylan took advantage of the opportunity.


Return of the Warrior (continued)

By Katherine A. Standell aka Archangel

Chapter 4

Dylan lay awake, the hum of the room air conditioning the only sound she heard. Her left arm pillowed her head; her right was wrapped around the smaller woman that clung to her side like a limpet. All should be right with her world, she was home, safe, warm, fed and deeply in love. She could not understand why she lay there staring at the ceiling. Her mind was alive and refused to allow her eyes to close. Every time she felt herself drift off visions would appear in her head. Visions of her men, of the tank, of the men she had killed, and of her soul mate, beaten and bloody. She knew the visions were all in the past but she could not seem to convince her mind to leave them there. The incident today simply triggered the memories again and this frightened her. She was afraid of her response, she had lost control. What could have happened if Lura had not been there, what would she have done to the cops, those people in the McDonald’s, hell even the thief. "I have to control this. I can’t let it control me." Dylan lay there staring at the ceiling, seeing the incident repeat itself over and over again. That was how Lura found her the next morning, still staring at the ceiling, dark circles under her exhausted dull blue eyes.

"Dylan honey, you did not get any sleep last night, why don’t you lay here and let me get us some breakfast. Then I want you to go back to bed and stay there." Lura said



Dylan looked up from her place on the bed staring into the eyes of her soul mate. At first she was a bit upset, not liking the idea of being coddled then she realized what Lura had said. "I will make a deal with you sweetheart. I will stay in bed if I am not alone." Dylan said wiggling her eyebrows and giving Lura a decidedly wicked grin.

The small blonde grinned back thinking that Dylan must not be too tired if she was having those kinds of thoughts. ‘Yippee!’ "I will be right back." She said grabbing her robe, she ran from the room to the laughter of her roommate.

As soon as Lura left the room Dylan began to remember again the horror of the dream. As she lay there her mind began to run through the events of the previous day again. ‘What if I had hurt someone? What if Lura had been hurt? What could have happened to those people in the McDonalds? I could have really caused some damage. My God I could have hurt someone."

Dylan was so lost in thought that she did not hear the door open or Lura call out. Suddenly, she was just there.

"Dylan honey, I have the…"

Dylan jumped and swung a fist towards the intrusion. She tried to stop herself but she was too late. The tray held by the smaller woman went flying, the hot coffee spilled down the blondes chest and she screamed slapping at her robe.

Dylan sprang from the bed grabbing the linen and dabbing at the brown liquid running down the front of the robe.

"Lura! Baby, I am so sorry. Are you okay? Please, I am so sorry, tell me if you are burned anywhere. I am so sorry. Please, Lura."

"Calm down Dylan, I’m fine. It didn’t get me; the robe got most of it. I’m okay, really. You didn’t hurt me. I should know better than to slip up on a soldier without any for warning. I am really sorry I startled you." Lura gently sat on the edge of the bed taking Dylan’s hand in hers, feeling it tremble from the recent shock. Her heart went out to the stunned woman and she gathered her close rubbing her back gently to calm her.

Dylan could not believe her reaction, it was everything that she had imagined in her nightmares, and the only difference is that it had happened to the one person that she would give her life to protect. She sighed deeply and buried her face in her hands.

"Oh God, what is going on? I nearly hurt Lura. I have to get control of this thing."

Lura sat, watching the woman she loved, feeling the intense pain she was suffering but had no idea how to help. So she sat quietly rubbing Dylan’s back and offering her silent support.

Finally Dylan straightened and turned to Lura, "Can we get out of here for a bit? I need a break. I need some air. Maybe it will help get my head together."

"Sure sweetheart, let’s get dressed and go for a walk, how does that sound. Hey maybe we can stop at that McDonalds and try a breakfast, okay?"

"No, not the McDonalds, I…I….I’m not hungry." Dylan never was a good liar and this lie was as clear as glass.

Lura looked at the worried expression on Dylan’s face and realize the problem. "Okay honey, no problem. Maybe you will be hungry after our walk." She said rubbing Dylan’s back in a soothing circular motion. "Tell ya what, there is a bagel shop right down the road near a park. We can walk there, pick up some breakfast and eat in the park. Maybe we will be hungry by the time we get there. How does that sound?"

"Great, that sounds great Lura. Yeah, let’s get dressed and go." Suddenly she couldn’t get out of the confines of her sanctuary fast enough. Dylan sprang naked from the bed and moved to the dresser. Finding and slipping into a clean bra and panties, she reached in again and pulled out a pair of black jeans and a sleeveless white polo shirt. She quickly slipped them on then reaching back into the dresser, she located a pair of clean socks and crawled under the bed for her Nike’s. Finally dressed she stood by the door waiting, not so patiently, for her partner.

Lura had been watching this entire exercise with amazement. She knew how fast Dylan could undress but she had just set a new land speed record for dressing. Shaking her head she finished tying her own shoes and stood, smoothing down the front of her green polo shirt and tucking the tail into the dark blue jeans she had chosen to wear.

Leaving the room the two quickly walked down the hall and into the next elevator. A smooth silent ride down took them to the lobby where the checked for messages and left their key cards. Since they were walking they didn’t want to risk losing them.

They walked side by side through the busy town, past the McDonalds that was in the midst of the breakfast rush, and on towards the park. Lura was nearly trotting to keep up with her partner’s long legged stride.

"Dylan, Dylan honey, please slow down." Lura panted, "My legs aren’t nearly as long as yours and I never was real good in track events."

"Huh? What was that…?" Dylan was distracted her mind a hundred miles away. All she could think of was the forest.

Lura reached out a hand and grabbed Dylan’s arm. "Please Dylan, slow down. I’m out of breath."

Dylan stopped when she felt the tug on her arm. Glancing down she realized that Lura wasn’t at her side. She stood for a second a bit disoriented then as if realizing something odd; she turned and saw her blond companion several feet away. Lura had stopped and placing her hands on her hips had tilted her head back and was sucking in large lungs full of air.

Seeing the obvious distress she had caused her mate Dylan looked down at her shoes in embarrassment.

"Um, sorry Lura, I guess I was a bit distracted with the idea of getting out." She stuttered. "Are you okay? I’ll slow down, promise."

Lura waited catching her breath before she answered. Walking up to Dylan she placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled. "Hey, I understand, you have been cooped up so long I’m surprised you didn’t bolt sooner. Come on let’s get to the park and then I can take a real break." She slid her arm through Dylan’s and turned them both in the direction on the park.

Wow, do you smell that? Lura asked Dylan.

Frowning, the taller woman paused and tilted her head closing her eyes to concentrate. "Oh Yeah, cinnamon and walnut, with just a touch of honey." She commented.

"How does she do that?" Lura asked, no one in particular.

Dylan smiled overhearing the comment.

They reached the bakery and Dylan held the door and with a bow and a wave, allowed Lura to enter first.

Smiling at the wonderful warm smell of freshly baking bread Dylan walked up to the counter and began examining the selection. There was quite a bit to choose from. Cinnamon raisin, honey and walnut, whole wheat, blue berry and the choices went on. Lura stood back a smile on her face as her partner selected first one then another changing her mind at least three times before settling on the cinnamon raison with honey walnut cream cheese in a separate plastic container. Lura selected the blue berry with strawberry cream cheese already on it. Smiling she paid for the bagels and took the brown bag from the extremely patient waitress.

"Honey?" Lura asked the silent smiling woman pacing next to her. "Um, why did you insist on your cream cheese be put in a separate container instead of on your bagel?"

"Well, the true ‘bagel connoisseur’ knows that the only way to correctly eat a bagel is with the cream cheese slathered on all available surfaces." Dylan informed the curious blond.

"Slather? Is that really a word?" Lura asked trying in vain to keep the smile out of her voice.

"Of course it is." the tall woman replied with confidence, "I just used it in a perfectly good sentence didn’t I? The only way to truly slather is if you have plenty of cream cheese. Thus the need for the separate container."

She wrapped her arm over the blonds shoulder and gave her a friendly hug as they continued on towards the park.

It took Dylan a good fifteen minutes of dedicated evaluation to decide on the perfect location to enjoy their meal. Lura was at the end of her patience and ready to find any handy spot of shade when the tall soldier finally settled on "the perfect spot", near the edge of a large field beneath the arms of several huge ancient oaks. Dylan explained in some detail how the only avenue of approach to their location was straight on and that she could handle any flanking maneuvers because she would have plenty of time to prepare. Lura simply smiled indulgently and nodded her agreement even if she didn’t understand half of what she had just been told. If Dylan was happy, she was happy.

The two women found a shady spot under one of the huge old oaks and settled down to have their breakfast. Part way through they began to watch the young people playing Frisbee football on the field in front of them. Lura was amused at the intensity of her companions viewing, Dylan sat yelling out encouragement to the young would be athletes and laughingly cursing at their sometimes clumsy efforts. All in all it had turned into a wonderful morning.

Having finished her bagel Dylan stood and shook the crumbs out of her shirt. "Lura, I’m going over to the rest room and clean the cream cheese off my face, slathering tends to be a bit messy." The dark haired woman smiled down at her companion bits of bagel and cream cheese still evident on her lips.

"Bend down a minute honey." Lura called reaching for the slender bronzed hand. She pulled Dylan down to her and gently but thoroughly cleaned the cream cheese from her mouth, much to the happy chagrin of the soldier. "Um, just couldn’t let you walk around with slathering on your face darlin’. " Lura commented with a heavy, sexy southern drawl.

"Oh, well, we can’t have that now can we?" the laughing woman commented. She smiled down at her companion then with a quick kiss turned and strode off towards the restrooms.

Lura watched the tall slender woman, admiring the gentle sway of her hips and the rolling gate of her long legs. Momentarily distracted she did not notice the Frisbee game coming closer and closer. As she watched and waited for Dylan’s return her mind had drifted back to the oasis in the desert and that wonderful afternoon bath they had shared. She still remembered the tall beautiful soldier standing naked in the sun, the light glittering off the drops of water sliding down the beautiful bronzed body. With that thought in mind and a dreamy look on her face she continued to stare in the direction her love had gone and missed the young man running straight at her.


Dylan had just finished cursing at the hand blow dryers and had left the rest room when a sudden movement caught her eye. Her head jerked up as she saw a man struggling with her partner. All sound stopped as she heard Lura scream. She didn’t remember running she just remembered suddenly being there. She reached down and pulled the man off of Lura and threw him against a tree, her strong hands locking onto his shirt collar and holding him off the ground, his feet dangling. "You will not touch her!"

"Dylan!" Lura screamed, "Let him go, it was just an accident. Let him go." Lura reached out her hand resting on a tense arm, the corded muscles straining in the effort to hold the man against the tree. "Please, honey, put him down."

The voice was calm and broke through the red haze in her mind, "Please, Dylan, please."

Lura watched the face of her lover change from anger to realization to shock as her words registered.

Dylan finally realized exactly what she was doing. She lowered the young man gently to his feet releasing his shirt and staring as he scampered off looking back over his shoulder as he reached his concerned friends.

"Boy that is one crazy, strong ass bitch." He said brushing off his shirt. Now, in the midst of his cronies, he felt his heart rate slow to a normal rhythm and was a bit embarrassed at his behavior and fear. His friends gathered around him patting his back and agreeing with him in an attempt to reassure themselves that he had indeed survived a meeting with a most dangerous adversary.

Dylan stood facing the tree, gazing down at her hands, the same hands that had swung at Lura, the same hands that had almost killed a thief, the same hands that almost harmed an innocent young man, those same hands that had taken so many lives. All she saw was blood.

Lura watched as Dylan froze in place her hands held palm up in front of her. Something was not right, she did not know how to help but she wanted desperately to. She couldn’t stand to see the lost hurt look in the face of the woman she loved. Reaching out slowly she placed her smaller hands in the long slender powerful ones of the soldier and squeezed. "Let’s get out of here honey. Let’s go for a drive, better yet, let’s go home."

"Home?" Dylan looked into the worried green eyes and thought of the word. "Yes, home." She said with a sad smile. She took Lura’s hand and led the way back to the hotel to pack.



By the time they reached the hotel Lura was exhausted the stress of the morning had taken a lot of her scanty energy and she knew that she needed to rest. "Dylan, honey, can we leave in the morning, I am really worn out and I want to help you drive. If we stay tonight, we can leave first thing in the morning and avoid most of the early morning work traffic."

Dylan, still in a daze, nodded her head in agreement and went to sit on the bed. Lura watched her mate concerned at the quiet forlorn attitude in the usually active woman. She was worried and hoped that returning home would eliminate some of the stress Dylan was under and allow her to let her body and mind heal.

She went to the dresser and removed the two sleeping shirts they habitually wore, handing the soft worn Army gray shirt to Dylan and slipping out of her own clothes and into the soft Tigger shirt that she loved. It was very early but she figured that they would probably not be going out again today so getting comfortable and relaxing was the only other option.

Having changed she turned to see Dylan still sitting on the edge of the bed, the shirt held forgotten in her hands. "Honey, why don’t you change? I will see what is on television and we can relax on the bed. How does that sound?"

"What? What did you say Lura?" Dylan looked up confused.

"I said, why don’t you change and we can get comfortable and watch television."

"Oh, yeah, sure, that’s fine. I’ll just change and we can get comfortable and watch a little TV, okay?"

"Um, sure Dylan, a little TV sounds good." The confused blonde said.

Dylan slipped out of her clothes and into her sleeping shirt; she pulled the covers back and slid in between the cool sheet. Holding her arms wide the invited Lura to snuggle. Lura couldn’t seem to move fast enough to crawl onto the bed and into the strong waiting arms. Snuggling down into the warm embrace she sighed contentedly and smiled as Dylan reached for the remote and adjusted the picture.

‘Things are almost back to normal she thought. ‘I am not sure what is going on in that beautiful dark head of yours but I need to get you somewhere you can think, my big bad warrior.’ Lura thought gazing up through sleepy lashes at her companion.

Dylan lay in bed in the dark, the only light coming from the television, which now was showing a rerun of a Conan Doyle show. Her mind was a million miles away. She lay staring at the silent figures, she had turned down the sounds so as not to wake her bedmate. Though she was watching the host go through the motions of the interview, her eyes were seeing the scenes that had taken place over three yeas ago. Silent tears glistened on her cheeks and she made no effort to wipe them away almost unaware of them.

‘I have got to get a grip. This flying off the handle is really going to cause some serious problems. I just don’t know what to do and how to handle it. I can’t stay around Lura, look what has already happened.’ She glanced down at the sleeping woman and pulled her closer, placing a kiss on her blond head. ‘I know who can help me. I just have to get to him. I have to find him.’

"Sorry, I can’t take you with me Little Falcon. But I will be back, or at least I will try to come back. I just can’t stay around you any longer. I won’t take the chance of hurting you."

Silently, Dylan slipped her arms out from under the mumbling woman and slid out of bed. She quickly dressed and packed her bag, she turned to walk out then gazed one last time at the beautiful sleeping woman.

‘I can’t just leave. I’ll leave her a note so she won’t worry.’

Sitting at the small desk in the room she opened the drawer and pulled out a pen and the hotel note pad.

Little Falcon,

I am not sure what is going on in my head, but I can’t take the chance of hurting you or causing you any pain. My nightmares are becoming impossible to distinguish from reality. I need to go somewhere where I can’t hurt anyone, especially you.

Know that I love you and I will until the day I die.

Your Hawk,



She placed a soft kiss at the bottom to seal the note then placed it on the pillow her head had been resting on scant minutes before. Reaching out with a long slender hand she caressed the soft cheek, her eyes tearing at the smile she received from the gesture. Then, quickly, before she changed her mind, she turned and walked silently out the door and out of Lura’s life.







Lura felt the cold air hit her skin, she had kicked the sheet off in her sleep and the air conditioning was working overtime. She was surprised that Dylan had not replaced the covers.

"Dylan? Dylan honey, its cold, come back to bed and let’s snuggle." Lura called her eyes still closed.

No response.

"Dylan? Dylan where are you?" Lura opened one sleepy green eye and scanned the empty room. Climbing from the bed she staggered to the bathroom and peeked inside.

"Dylan are you in here?" ‘That was a dumb question.’ She thought glancing around. ‘Now where did that woman on mine get too?’

"Dylan, Dy…" she paused spotting the note on the cold pillow. Picking it up she quickly read through it.

"Oh my God. No. DYLAN?!" Running to the door she jerked it open startling the maid cleaning the room across the hall.

"Um, sorry, have you seen a tall dark haired woman leave this room?" The maid smiled and glanced at Lura’s sleep shirt.

"Uh, no ma’am, I haven’t. You might try the desk, but I would put on some clothes first if I were you."

Blushing Lura thanked the maid then went back to her room. Sitting on the bed she picked up the note and read it again slowly. Her fingers brushing the soft lip prints left by her Hawk.

Where have you gone? How will I find you? Don’t you know I can’t live without you?’ Teardrops struck the paper blurring the ink and causing Lura to cry even harder. Suddenly, the phone rang startling her from her thoughts.

"Yes? DYLAN?" she asked

"No dear, it’s your mother." Came a cheery Southern voice on the other end. I just finished reading the article about you in the paper. We are proud of you dear being nominated for that nice little writer’s award. But enough of this nonsense now Lura, your father and I have been waiting for you to come home. When might that be dear? I need to plan a proper homecoming celebration? Your sister is here visiting and we just can’t wait to see you." The voice on the other end of the line exclaimed.

"Mother? How… when…what?"

"Well dear we have now covered the four critical issues haven’t we? When are you coming home sugar?"

"Today mother, I am coming home today." Lura thought dejectedly crumbling the note in her trembling hand. If Dylan didn’t want her anymore then so be it. She told her mother that she had to make some arrangements but she would call later with the plane departure and arrival information.

"Wonderful dear, your father and I will be there to meet you. You be careful now. You don’t know what sort of strange people you might meet in those public waiting areas." With that remark the phone went dead.

Lura stood there for a few minutes staring at the receiver, unsure of what to do next. Then she felt the paper in her balled up fist. Lifting her hand she started to throw the hated piece of paper into the trash bin but could not bring herself to open her hand and release it. Slowly she sat back down on the bed and carefully flattened out the wad. She read the short note again and again, but the words didn’t change. Dylan had left her.

Finally she pulled herself together. ‘Home, I have to go home, I can think there.’

Now, having made the decision, she couldn’t move fast enough. Kneeling on the floor, she opened her suitcase and noticed the single set of toilet articles where there had earlier been two. They had just repacked everything yesterday with the idea of leaving today. Well, the plan really had not changed only instead of an ‘US’ decision it had been a ‘ME’ decision. In a slight daze Lura removed a pair of soft jeans, some under things and a pale yellow polo shirt. Slipping out of her nightshirt she quickly tossed it into the bag and pulled on her street cloths. Glancing around she looked for her Dockers. Finally rooting though her bag again she found them in the bottom of the suitcase. Holding them she sat on the bed and reached for the phone dialing a number from memory.

"Reservations please." She wiggled into her shoes into her shoes while she waited to be connected. "Yes, I need a ticket to Richmond, Virginia, one way."

Dylan stared out the window of the bus as the road signs whipped by. All she could think of was Lura. Was she awake yet? Was she all right? Her heart skipped as she thought of the events of the last few days. ‘I’m doing the right thing, I know I am. So why do I feel like shit.’

She listened to the hum of the tires and the muted music coming from her seatmates’ headset. The young man sitting next to her was in uniform, a brand new soldier. She sighed and wondered if he really knew what it was all about. Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye she noted the crossed rifles of the infantry insignia on his lapel and smiled. ‘A grunt’. He had his rifleman badge proudly displayed shining on his left breast pocket right below his Army service ribbon,’ The walkin’ and breathin’ ribbon. Probably just finished boot camp and heading home to his girl." Dylan thought, smiling sadly.

Looking at this young boy soldier with his short cut hair and his freshly shaved face brought back memories of another young man, a young officer who had just begun to live. The California boy, who died before he reached his 23rd birthday. Dylan closed her eyes, seeing the fresh suntanned face again, the strawberry blond hair and the contagious smile.

"Um are you alright ma’am?" A voice startled her from her memories. She opened her eyes and realized that the young soldier was speaking to her.

"I just… well I kinda saw you were crying. Is there someone bothering you? Is there something I can do?" He held out a clean handkerchief, the sound of genuine concerned in his voice.

Dylan stared at the small white cloth, and was startled to realize that she was crying. "No, but thanks for the offer and the hanky." She said, taking the cloth and wiping her face.

"No problem ma’am, you keep that." he said pushing the handkerchief back at her, "I will be close by if you need some help. Okay?" He offered, puffing out his narrow chest with confidence.

Dylan smiled remembering all the young men she had killed over the last three years. ‘I wonder if any of them had girls back home waiting for them?’ Outwardly she thanked the young soldier again and turned back to the window to continue her silent vigil. Watching the landscape change like the setting sun, from the congested traffic and tall building of the city to the open freedom and evergreen scent of the country. She was going home.

The drowning of the tires seemed to be chanting ‘Going home, going home, going home." The clean scent of pine even over road the faint smell of the diesel fuel floated around the bus. Finally, with her head resting against the cool pane of the window and the hum of the tires rumbling in her ears, she nodded off.

At that same moment Lura’s flight was taking off for Richmond. The pull of the planes powerful engines reminded her of another flight, one much longer and into the unknown. The end of that flight had led her into life threatening danger and the death of friends. While those thoughts were painful on bright memory shown through it all. That flight had also led her to the woman she loved. The one person she believed to be the other half of her soul. Now, she was on another plane, and this trip was very different, she knew exactly where she was going. There was no threat at the end of it and the only death she would face was the death of her heart. She could not understand how a heart torn in so many pieces could continue to beat. She sat going over the last few days in her head. Her mind was so distracted she wasn’t sure what day it was much less aware of the fact that the plane had landed and all the other passengers had already left.

A voice broke into his thoughts and she looked up to see a smiling stewardess calling her, "Miss, we have landed. Are you alright, do you need some help." The concern in the woman’s voice made Lura aware of the tears streaming down her face.

"No, no, I’m fine, just a bit stressed." She states taking an offered napkin and wiping her face. "Sorry, I didn’t realize we had arrived. I’ll just get my bag and be out of your way." She stood and reached into the overhead compartment and pulled out her small carry on bag. Sighing deeply she shouldered the bag and made her way out of the plane.

The lobby of the airport was crowded and noisy; the airport authority had gotten the passengers into long lines to clear airport security. She moved into one of them and waited patiently for her bag and identification to be checked, her mind was reading the note over and over again. She still had one question, why? Why had she left? Her heart hurt with every beat and she felt so alone. There was no one waiting, no blue eyes smiling at her. She was alone.

Finally leaving the long lines behind, Lura looked around for any familiar face, she saw a stranger holding a sign with her name on it.

Thomas looked around, hoping that the person he was sent to pick up would hurry, and he had a cold dinner and a hot wife waiting at home. He noticed the small attractive young blond approaching; she wore a pair of faded jeans and a pale yellow polo shirt. A small bag was slung over her shoulder and she pulled a larger matching bag behind her.

"For someone who just got back from vacation she sure doesn’t look happy." He thought, "Well, that ain’t my problem I just got to get her home in one piece." Aloud he said, "Ms Grant? Lura Grant?"

"Yes" came the soft reply.

"Um, your folks sent me to pick you up. I’m the new chauffer, my name is Thomas." He held out his hand for her bag and was surprised to find her hand grasping his in a firm handshake.

"Nice to meet you Thomas. Where is the car parked?" The quiet woman asked looking into the startled brown eyes of the young man.

He reached again for her bag but she turned towards the street looking for the car. He was finally able to pull the larger bag from her grasp and was surprised when she didn’t protest. "Right this way ma’am, I have the car parked right outside. Do you have any other bags?"

"No, I have nothing." Came the soft reply.

‘Somehow, I don’t think she is talkin’ about bags.’ The young driver surmised.

They reached the stretched Lincoln and he held the door open for the slender woman to enter. He ran to the rear and with the flick of a switch popped open the trunk and stored the larger bag in the back.

Lura sat gazing out the window as they pulled out, listening to the hum of the tires. They seemed to talk to her, ‘She’s gone away, she’s gone away, she’s gone away." The tears began again.


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