Disclaimer: The characters in this story are mine. ALL MINE!
Sex: There are a few physical expressions of love in this story between people of the same sex.
Violence: There is some violence. Whether or not it's graphic I'll leave up to the readers to decide, as for me, I closed one eye and typed with two fingers when I wrote one part.
Dedication: To my partner, Brenda. You freed me the day you told me, "Stop trying to be a writer, you're a storyteller, just tell the story, the readers will get it." I can't thank you enough for that, I'll follow you anywhere...JAZ © June 2007
North Entrance to the DuPont Circle Subway, Washington, D.C.
The sound of the doors slamming open alerted everyone in D.C. Metropolitan Hospital's emergency room that it was go time. The frigid winter air of late January blew in and was immediately followed by two fast moving paramedics wheeling in a stretcher.
As the nurses rushed to help transfer the tall patient from the EMT's portable gurney onto a bed, Dr. Taylor Winslow pulled on a pair of latex gloves and waited for the medics to give their report on the female patient's condition.
Since the only indication of injury to the body was a patch of dried blood smeared across the unconscious woman's upper lip a report was very necessary.
One of the paramedics started relaying the information in a rapid manner "The patient was found unconscious in an alley twenty minutes ago, she appears to be a white female, between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-five years. Preliminary assessment at the pick-up site indicates bruised ribs, a head injury and a possible broken nose.
She hasn't regained consciousness since we found her. A saline drip was started through an I.V. and her head wound was cleaned while in route to the hospital." After passing on the patient's stats, the EMTs grabbed their stretcher and headed out on another call.
The nurses started to remove the woman's clothing, and as one layer gave away to another they took notice of the worn condition of the clothes they were removing. It was then that they realized that she was probably homeless.
After removing all of the patient's clothes and placing them into a plastic bag, the nurses covered her with a bed sheet as the doctor evaluated her condition.
Dr. Winslow pulled back the woman's eyelids and shined a penlight into them, when the pupils in the blue eyes reacted, she was pleased.
She then started the examination in earnest. After inspecting the bruised ribs she moved further down the long body. When she reached the woman's pelvis she noticed a word tattooed in blue ink on the patient's left hip near her waist line.
She ran her finger over the painted area, very impressed by its craftsmanship. 'Whoever drew this tattoo was truly gifted. I've never seen such detail before, and I've seen my share of body art over the years,' she thought as she continued to assess the long body.
The word was written using the elegant sweeps and swirls of calligraphy. When Taylor leaned in closer she was able to read the word, 'Elasmo,
' fleetingly she wondered if the tattoo referred to the elasmobranchii, or in other words...sharks.
As she continued her examination she took notice of how clean the woman was under all of her clothes. From past experiences she knew that the homeless didn't tend to be very hygienic and wondered how long the brunette had been out on the streets.
After finishing her examination the doctor was pleased to conclude that woman's nose wasn't broken and her ribs were just severely bruised.
She was only mildly concerned about her state of unconsciousness, trusting her instincts that the tall woman would wake-up after a couple of hours of rest, but to be on the safe side she wrote an order for a CT scan and instructed the nurses to make sure that the woman was admitted for overnight observation.
The blonde doctor pulled off her gloves as the bed was being wheeled out of the room. "Well, that's all we can do for now," she said as she walked towards the door while removing the paper gown she was wearing.
It was then that Joan Simmons, one of the nurses in the room made a snide remark. "I don't know why we have to continue to treat these people. They have chosen the life that they live and should have to deal with the consequences that come with that decision."
Taylor stopped in her tracks and turned around with green eyes blazing as she faced the taller woman. "Have you forgotten why we are here?"
The nurse took a step back. The doctor was small, but she exuded a power that the ER staff tried to avoid at all cost.
"If you have forgotten, let me remind you. We are here to treat the injured and heal those that are sick...no matter what their financial or living status is in life."
Joan hung her head feeling properly chastised. She had forgotten that Dr. Winslow was one of the doctors that still believed everyone deserved proper medical care...regardless.
"Sorry doctor, it will never happen again."
"See that it doesn't," she said as she turned and left the room.
Joan released a breath as the door closed behind the short doctor. "I gotta remember who's in the room when I say things like that."
The other nurses just shook their heads and continued to dispose of the used needles and gather the unused medications.
Taylor Winslow had been the ER Chief for the last two years. After she finished her residency in New Haven, she accepted a staff position at D.C. Metro and at the age of thirty-four became the head of their emergency department.
It came as a shock to her former classmates and co-workers when she decided to, in their opinion, waste a Yale education on detoxing addicts and treating bullet wounds.
She was a top notch doctor whose superior medical skills were indisputable and her colleagues felt like she was walking away from the opportunity to make big money by networking with the people that counted. The elite, the ones that could make your career just by speaking your name to the right people with connections in the right places.
Even if she didn't want to work in a hospital she could have easily set up a private practice in Fairfield County where the rich and powerful lived near Connecticut's Gold Coast.
Instead she chose to leave lush green manicured lawns, unencumbered streets and the low crime rate of Fairfield, for the concrete jungle known as Washington D.C.
What they didn't seem to understand was that Taylor wanted to help the people that needed it the most. She was a dying breed in her field, a doctor that wanted to heal, not gain riches or status through her gift.
She had followed in her father's footsteps by becoming a doctor and she tried to carry on both of her parent's ideal that it is possible for great changes to be made by the efforts of just one person brave enough to live by their convictions.
Her parents still lived in the house that she and her siblings were raised in, located in the tree lined suburbs of Yonkers, New York.
Being a huge Barbra Streisand fan, there were times that she couldn't stop the smile from coming to her face when she recalled the small fact that the character Dolly Levi, in the movie 'Hello Dolly', was from Yonkers.
The small blonde remembered all too well the twentieth anniversary showing of the movie at the old revival theater that her father took her to when she was sixteen.
That was the first time that she had ever heard of Ms. Streisand and after that night she couldn't get enough of the actress. She was so enamored with the performer, that in nineteen-ninety-one, when she was eighteen years old, she took a trip up the Hudson River to Garrison, New York to visit Riverside Village where the shots for Vandergelder's Hay and Feed were filmed.
The building was still standing and the word 'Vandergelder' could still be seen etched on one of the window panes.
To this day her love of the entertainer was something that she and her father had in common, and every time she went home for a visit they would pick a day just to pop in a few DVDs and have a Streisand movie marathon.
While walking towards the nurse's station the small doctor was debating with herself about whether or not she should submit a formal complaint to the nurse manager about Joan's insensitive comment.
But the closer she got to the tall counter, the less she felt the need to bring Joan to task. 'At least I know she'll never make another remark like that in front of me again,' she thought.
After dropping off the new patient's chart with Janice, the unit secretary, the doctor left instructions to be notified when the homeless woman was finished in the CT lab and assigned to a room.
Quinn Martin was slowly rising to consciousness. The first thing she noticed was the soft bed she was laying in, then her ears picked up the sound of quiet beeps in the room as she opened her eyes and took in her surroundings.
"Okay, I'm in a hospital room," she said out loud.
The tall woman took a moment to try and figure out why she would be in the hospital, and then she remembered...Curtis.
"That bastard and his flunky James jumped me."
Then it all came back to her in a rush. She had been walking pass an alley on U Street, when she saw a discarded piece of wood under some trash.
So she had decided to give it closer inspection. Reaching the pile that the wood was buried under, she realized that it was a small two shelf unit that could be put on a wall to display knick knacks.
She picked it up with the intentions of taking it back to her place. That's when Curtis made his presence known.
"Well looky who we got here, if it ain't the queen of the streets," he said in that incredibly annoying taunting voice he loved to use when speaking to her.
Quinn took in a deep breath then turned to face here tormenter. Curtis had hated her from her first appearance on the streets of D.C., five years before and those feelings had never diminished.
She had just arrived in the District of Columbia after fleeing a life where she had spent the last fourteen years working for The Sarrazin Group as a corporate raider.
Quinn was, as far as she was concerned, an orphan. Her parents were alive, but she had walked away from them when she was eighteen years old. The only reason it took that long was because she needed to finish high school before she could peel their stench off of her.
The young woman knew her only way out was by getting an education, working hard and staying focused on her goals. So she studied constantly, received excellent grades and used her athletic abilities to her advantage. Eventually she was rewarded with both, an athletic and an academic scholarship to the college of her choice.
She was from a small mining town in Pennsylvania were there wasn't much to do but drink, smoke and screw, all of which her father took full advantage of.
She spent the majority of her formative years watching him leave the mines covered in coal dust with one mission on his mind. Get drunk and get laid.
He would head for the miner's bar, his throat dry and his hormones raging, where he would spend the rest of the night drinking and womanizing.
There wasn't a weekend that would go by when her dad didn't stumble home during the early hours before dawn and get into an argument with her mother that usually led to a physical altercation.
It was after one these violent exhibitions that a fifteen year old Quinn turned her feelings off to the people that had produced her. That was when she made the mistake of trying to step in and stop her father from beating her mother...once again.
When the tall teenager pulled her much bigger father off of her mother, the weight of his body shifted and caused him to stumble and fall on top of her...he then turned his anger on his daughter.
She threw her hands up trying to protect herself from the large man's blows and called to her mother for help. That's when she noticed that her mom was standing near her head looking down at her with rage.
"Mom, help me. Get him off of me," she pleaded.
Blue eyes so much like her own turned away and her mother walked to the cabinet to pour herself a shot of scotch.
"By the time he's done with you, you'll think twice before trying to step in between a husband and wife while they're in the middle of a conversation."
Quinn knew that Keith and Luanne Martin would never win any parenting awards, but this was the last straw. She would not become a casualty of their sick relationship.
The next morning the sore and bruised girl decided she had to get away from these people before she ended up being just like them.
The first thing she did was find a part time job. Then she enrolled in self defense classes, putting all of her energy into making something of herself so that she could leave this place and never look back.
And that's exactly what she did. She went to NYU, received her degree and started working for The Sarrazin Group one month after graduating. Three years later she had her MBA and was on her way to building a reputation that would make her name notorious in her field.
The tactical use of disloyalty, dishonesty and betrayal that she used when taking over a company were lessons that she had learned while growing up in an abusive household and over time those skills had served her well in her career as a corporate raider.
She was the best at what she did and had an uncanny sixth sense when it came to targeting businesses that were on their way to failure, making them prime pickings for the Sarrazin Group.
Quinn would go in and intimidate or charm the owners, whichever was needed at the time, and then convince them that selling out was the best financial option for their business.
After the papers were signed and Vincent Sarrazin had legal ownership, he began his plan of destruction, starting with the dismissal of the labor force, leaving them with no more than a one week severance package.
Then he moved on to sell everything from the pictures on the walls to the paperclips in the desk drawers, ending with the sell of the building for scrap metal and using or re-selling the land for a profit.
Because she could decimate a company quickly and show little to no emotion while doing it, they started calling her 'Elasmobranch' or 'the shark,' then they just shortened it to 'Elasmo.'
Eventually the drive to acquirer every business that made a blip on her radar came to an end the day that the owner of one of the companies that she had put out of business couldn't stand to live with the shame of not only losing the company, but being completely ineffectual when trying to garner a decent package for his people.
The man went home, loaded his gun and proceeded to kill his family one by one, ending it by taking his own life. He left a note behind stating that he couldn't allow himself, or his family to live with the shame of his monumental failure.
That was the catalyst that caused the tall brunette to change her focus. She started finding out what business her firm was targeting. Then she warned them before they sold out to her company. She was determined not to allow another person to be harmed because of her callous acts.
Quinn started warning the companies about the buyout, then she would put a few of them together and show them how to join forces and make a stronger, more successful and profitable business.
Her actions were finally uncovered when her behind the scenes activities interfered with her firm's purchase of a storage warehouse near the water front.
Her boss, Vincent Sarrazin, found out what she had been doing and he not only fired her, he put a hit out on her.
She wasn't only taking millions out of his pocket, but she was interfering with another, not so legal side of his business and for that...she had to pay.
Elasmo was called into her boss' office and was told that her deception had been discovered, and in light of the circumstances, there was no other recourse, she would be let her go.
Quinn had no problem with the out come of her actions. She left the building carrying a lighter load on her shoulders. If losing her job with this firm was the price she had to pay, then so be it, her life would go on.
It wasn't until every door she knocked on in Manhattan and the surrounding tri-state area had been closed to her that she realized how far reaching her former boss' influence was.
It quickly became obvious that he was trying to ruin her career, but she was determined not to let him stop her. She would just relocate to another state and start over again somewhere that the name Vincent Sarrazin didn't carry much weight.
Unfortunately it wasn't long before the former raider realized that the loss of her career was the least of her worries. She was about to discover that her life became forfeit the moment she interfered with her boss' purchase of the waterfront property.
Quinn was in her high-rise apartment waiting for her take-out order to be delivered when there was a knock at the door. Thinking that it was the delivery guy, she grabbed her wallet and opened the door without checking first.
The person on the other side of the door definitely was not a delivery person. When the door opened fully, she was immediately pushed back into the apartment. As the metal door slammed shut the giant mass that stood in front of her started to approach her slowly.
Immediately she started to berate herself for opening the door without checking. Standing in front of her was Frank, Vincent Sarrazin's main enforcer, and usually the last thing a person saw before they met with an unhappy ending. The man's dark eyes looked at her with malice and she knew that she was in trouble.
"Mr. Sarrazin isn't happy with you Elasmo."
Quinn backed further into her apartment, mentally scanning the room behind her in hopes of locating a suitable weapon against this wall of a man.
But until she could find something to defend herself with she knew she had to try and talk to the hit-man in an effort to buy herself some time.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Frank," she said as she continued to back away from him.
When she felt the back of her legs make contact with the coffee table she stopped and spoke again. "Maybe you can enlighten me."
The hulking man didn't waste any time. He descended upon her and wrapped his gigantic hands around her throat.
"Oh no pretty lady, I'm not gonna play the let's talk awhile game with you. I'm gonna kill you and be out of here before you can take your next breath."
As Quinn felt the pressure against her throat intensify she was only able to speak in a whisper. "Why?" she forced out just as the man tightened his grip.
Frank looked into the frightened blue eyes of the feared Elasmo and decided that the least he could do was tell the great shark why she was dying.
He relaxed his hold just enough for her to live through the explanation. "Mr. Sarrazin had big plans for that warehouse and the shore line that surrounded it.
The boss' other business ventures that may be... let's say a little less legal than the Sarrazin group's other endeavors were going to take up residence on that waterfront. It was a prime location for the items that needed to be brought in by water delivery."
He started contracting his fingers again, knowing he had only a few more things to say. "It's really a shame that it has to end this way Elasmo. You were poetry in motion when you were feeding on those losers. You were truly the best."
Dark specks started to fill the woman's vision and she tried desperately to think of a way out of this situation.
She wrapped her long fingers around the man's wrist in an effort to pull his hands from around her throat, but couldn't get a good enough hold because of the shear size of the man.
Her eyes started to bulge and the burn in her throat was becoming unbearable, then just as she was about to succumb to the pressure on her larynx she heard a tapping at her door.
The unexpected noise caused the man to loosen his grip on her neck just enough for her to scream out, "COME IN!" To her great relief the door opened and the delivery guy stood in the entryway with her order.
Her attacker had to make a quick decision. Finish the job and get caught, or run and try to get close to the woman again...he chose the latter.
The large man released his hold on the woman's neck and bolted for the door, knocking the delivery guy to the side on his way out.
As he exited the building he was already formulating a story that he hoped his boss would find acceptable as to why the dark woman was still alive.
That was five years ago and through trial and error Quinn had discovered that the only way to be off of Vincent's radar was to drop out of sight.
When she realized that no matter where she went he could find her, she closed her bank accounts and decided to live her life as one of the invisible people.
She moved to Washington D.C., and for two years she slept in the seediest motels she could find. She cut her hair, dyed it blonde and never did anything that would bring attention to herself.
The only people she really had any dealings with were the homeless. She was afraid to eat in soup kitchens or sleep in shelters for fear of being discovered. Then she met Curtis.
He was tall and lanky with blonde hair and hard blue eyes. His sidekick, James, was his total opposite. He had dark brown skin, brown eyes and was short and bulky.
Curtis had noticed the tall woman walking around the neighborhood and knew that she lived in one of the cheap motels along Fourteenth Street.
Being that she lived near his turf, he didn't see why it should be a problem with her sharing some of the money she obviously had with him and James.
The first time that the duo approached her and tried to strong arm money from her, they were surprised by her fighting skills. There was no way for them to know that Quinn was a former competitive kick-boxer.
So their first official meeting didn't go as he had planned and over the next two years the three impoverished people would have occasional run ins, with both Curtis and James leaving the encounters in worse shape then they were when they accosted her...they would never learn.
After that two year period her money was mostly gone, and Quinn had to leave her meager surroundings and the limited safety of the motel, making her officially become one of the street people.
When Curtis heard the news he was so thrilled that the 'Queen,' his name for her, had finally fallen that he used his few coins to buy a bottle of MD20/20 so that he and James could celebrate in style.
In the beginning Quinn discovered that it could be a very harsh existence on the streets, especially during the winter months, but after she learned the rules she became very proficient at knowing where the best resources were to be found and on occasion was able give assistance to others.
Three years after moving out of the motel Quinn was as adept at street life as one could be. Over the years there had been many confrontations with the inept duo, but she was mostly able to avoid them, that is until today when they caught her by surprise in the alley.
As Quinn became more familiar with her surroundings in the hospital room, and felt her strength coming back to her, she sat up in the bed and did a mental check of her body.
Her head immediately started to spin from the sudden change in position. "Okay, I guess I have a head injury."
Then the pain in her side alerted her to the sore ribs. But the throbbing in her face overpowered any other pain that she was experiencing.
"That coward broke my nose." She said out loud as she tentatively ran her fingers along the sides of her injured nasal passage.
It was when she moved her hands to her face that she noticed the plastic tubing running from her arm to an I.V. pole.
She took care not to disturb the lines as she slowly swept her legs over the side of the bed with every intention of getting dressed and leaving the building unnoticed.
She looked around the room until she spotted an over stuffed plastic bag with the hospital's logo on it and decide that must be where her clothes were.
The tall woman stood slowly and her head and nose immediately started throb. The injury to her ribs wouldn't allow her to stand fully erect so she mentally put the pain aside. She gritted her teeth, grabbed the I.V. pole and started taking short steps towards her clothes.
Her slow approach finally brought her to her destination, the only problem was the bag was sitting on the floor.
Now she had to figure out how to pick it up. Using her feet, she slowly pushed the bag to a chair that sat near the window.
Gauging where the hand holds were, she decided that if she could hook her foot into the opening she could lift the bag onto the chair.
Using the I.V. pole as leverage, she hooked her foot into the plastic handle and slowly lifted the bag to the chair. Just as she reached in to pull out her clothes, the door to her room opened.
Taylor was sitting in her office signing off on charts when one of the nurses knocked on her door to inform her that the homeless woman had been moved into a room.
The blonde doctor took another thirty minutes to complete her task before she headed upstairs to check on her patient.
When she opened the door she was surprised to see the tall woman not only out of the bed, but bent over a chair that held her bag of clothes.
The shock made her quickly approach the injured woman, and without thinking she grabbed the other woman's forearm.
"What are you doing out of bed?!"
Almost immediately tension ran down Quinn's arm and Taylor couldn't help but notice the muscles that started to bunch under her fingers.
Taylor felt, as well as heard the woman pull in a deep breath through her mouth, then she looked on in awe as the tall woman stood to her full height.
Although she didn't show it Quinn was shocked that the unexpected touch didn't make her react in her usual defensive manner whenever she was faced with uninvited physical contact.
Even before her flight into the streets Elasmo never allowed anyone to touch her without permission. This was one of the reasons that her past lovers had always approached her with caution, and would rarely initiate a first touch even after they had been seeing each other for a significant period of time.
Although this time her body didn't react with aggression, her mind did and without looking at the woman standing behind her she said in a low dangerous voice.
"DO NOT TOUCH ME!"
Taylor heard the threat laced in the words, but for some reason the intensity of the delivery didn't frighten her. She loosened her grip on the other woman's arm, but she took her time removing her hand.
"I didn't mean to startle you, I was just surprised to see you not only awake, but up and out of the bed."
She decided to ignore the menace that the tall woman was trying to project, and chose instead to tell her about her condition.
"You'll be happy to know that your nose is not broken, just bruised, along with your ribs. I'll give you some pain pills and you should feel better in a couple of days."
When she got no response she pushed on, "My real concern is your head injury. You really shouldn't be moving around a lot until we can monitor you for the next twenty-four hours."
The genuine concern in the woman's voice made Quinn relax a little. The small blonde's voice was oddly calming to her and she was relived to hear that she didn't have any broken bones.
When Taylor felt the woman's body start to lose some of its tension she took a chance and placed her arm around the tall woman's waist. When she didn't feel any resistance she slowly guided the brunette back to the side of the bed and helped her sit down.
When she was returned to the bed the former raider admitted, only to herself, that the firm mattress was a welcomed relief to her battered body, and was pleased to sitting down again.
Quinn tried to discreetly take a few deep breaths to replace the oxygen that had been used in her effort to leave the bed and retrieve her clothes.
When she started to feel better she raised her head and prepared her argument as to why she would be leaving the hospital.
While Quinn was getting her breathing under control and thinking of a way to talk herself out of the hospital, Taylor was trying to think of a way to talk the woman into staying overnight, if for no other reason than for observation.
She removed the clothes bag from the chair and pulled it closer to the bed. After sitting down she leaned forward, placed her elbows on her knees and dropped her head in her hands before she started to speak.
"You know, you should really allow yourself to rest, if just for tonight." Taylor raised her head so that she could look at her patient to gauge her reaction.
The sound of doctor's voice momentarily pulled Quinn's mind away from her escape plans and she lifted her eyes to acknowledge the doctor.
It was the first time that either woman had really looked at the other and they were both left speechless for a moment.
Taylor tilted her head to the side, intrigued by what she saw. From the examination in the ER she was already aware of the woman's powerful physique. And although she was unconscious when they brought her in Taylor could see that the dark-haired woman was quite beautiful.
But what held her in place was the fire that sparked in the tall woman's vibrant blue eyes. In the eight years that she had worked at hospital she had never seen a homeless patient's eyes so full of life. And it made her wonder once again how long she had been living on the street. Usually the homeless had a defeated look about them, but that wasn't the case here.
Quinn took in the short stature of the doctor and the long blonde hair that was pulled back in a ponytail. The white lab coat and green scrubs covered what appeared to be a well toned body. And the small canvas covered feet shifted a little as intelligent green eyes observed her, making the former raider wonder what was going on in the doctor's head.
Feeling like the silence had gone on long enough Taylor cleared her throat and started to ask the woman a few general questions.
"Would you be willing to tell me your name?"
Quinn's defenses went up instantaneously, she knew that if she gave her name it would be put into the system.
It took some time, but when she finally realized that Vincent was able to track her movements through the cyber-trail she was leaving she changed her habits and had gone undetected every since.
Taylor saw the walls go up in the woman's blue eyes and decided to change her course of action.
"Okay, you don't have to tell me your name." She thought for a moment. "What if I just call you El?"
A dark brow rose in question, making the injured woman look a lot less threatening.
Taylor smiled and sat back in her chair before addressing the unasked question. "I figured since you have a tattoo that says 'Elasmo,' I'd shorten it, just in case using the full name made you uncomfortable."
Quinn's eyes filled with mischief. "So, if you saw the tattoo I guess it's a safe bet to assume that you've seen all that I have to offer."
The blush was immediate. The blonde woman turned pink from her neck to her scalp, but when she saw the twitch at the corner of her patient's mouth she decided that two could play this game.
"Yes, El. I did, but it wasn't anything that I haven't seen before."
Quinn accepted the turn of events and decided that there was something about the green-eyed doctor that could be trusted.
The tall woman pulled a pillow from the head of her bed and positioned it across her bruised ribs hoping to get some relief.
"I can live with that. El, it is." Then she paused. "But only if you tell me your name."
She looked at the doctor's name tag, then up into her green eyes. "Or should I just call you Doctor T. Winslow, head of emergency medicine?"
Taylor laughed at the woman's obvious attempt at humor and relaxed into the conversation.
"That would be Doctor TAYLOR Winslow. Head of emergency medicine."
"Ah, so I'm getting special attention from the boss?"
For just a brief second Taylor thought that she saw a bit of flirtation in her patient's blue eyes, but just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
"The only reason that the boss is here is because I was on duty when they brought you in."
Even as the words left her mouth Taylor knew that it was more than that. When she saw the long body lying unconscious on the stretcher she had felt compelled to wait for her to wake-up so that she could talk to the woman. That's why she had hung around after her shift was over, keeping herself busy with charts until she thought enough time had passed for the patient to regain consciousness.
Quinn liked the little doctor, she seemed...whole. She thought it was an odd word to use to describe the woman, but that's what she saw.
Taylor Winslow's aura gave off both strength and compassion and in Quinn's former life she had come to realize that those two qualities were hard to beat.
She cleared her head of her thoughts and compromised. "I'll stay for the night, but I'm leaving first thing in the morning."
Taylor wasn't happy to hear the homeless woman's decision to stay less than the required twenty-four hours, but she knew that she had to take what she could get.
"That's fine. We'll check you over in the morning, determine the severity of your injuries and then you'll be released."
Quinn's eyes became hard, wanting the doctor to understand the finality of her words.
"It won't matter what your findings are, tomorrow I'm leaving here."
When Quinn saw the confusion in the doctor's eyes she felt the need to elaborate. "I can't stay away too long. If I do Otis will worry. I know he was pissed when I didn't let him come with me this morning."
The blonde doctor was surprised by the stab of jealously that clenched her stomach at the mention of the man's name, but she quickly called on her professional training before she asked her next question.
"Is there some way that I can contact Otis to let him know where you are?"
The raider wasn't sure, but she was almost positive that she saw a wisp of something run across the doctor's eyes before she let her professional mask drop over her features.
She started to laugh until her rib injury made its presence known. "No, Taylor there's no need to contact Otis."
When Taylor heard the deep voice say her name she couldn't ignore the delicious warmth that filled her belly.
"Umm...won't he be worried when you don't..."
She was at a loss for words. She didn't think that she should say, 'when you don't come home,' so she improvised.
"When you don't show up?"
Quinn decided it was time to let the woman off the hook, knowing that the doctor was trying to be polite she gave her a break.
"Otis is my dog."
The answer filled the doctor with unexpected relief, but she wasn't ready to acknowledge it. But she had to admit that the knot that had formed in her stomach was slowly unwinding itself.
Feeling that the conversation was over, she rose from the chair and stretched before she headed for the door. "In that case, I'll see you in the morning."
Quinn slowly leaned back in the bed and pulled her long legs over the side so that she could stretch out. Her body immediately felt relief at the change in position.
"See ya tomorrow Doc."
Taylor left the homeless woman's room and headed for the subway station, already planning her next course of action to insure that the dark woman's health would be monitored.
Taylor closed the door behind her after she entered her home in DuPont Circle. She had chosen the apartment because of its location. There were restaurants, bookstores and parks nearby, not to mention the close proximity of the subway station, couple that with the gay friendly community and she was set.
She kicked off her shoes and pulled off her work clothes as she made her way to the bathroom. After washing off the day, she dressed in a pair of sweats and headed for the kitchen.
As she pulled a microwave dinner from the freezer she heard a knock at her door. "I am in no mood for company," she said as she reached for the doorknob.
When she pulled then door open she was greeted with the unwelcome presence of her lover. She had been dating Gail Ross for four months and was rapidly growing tired of her company.
The headhunter was standing on the other side of the open door smiling and holding up a bag of food. "I thought that I would bring you some dinner after a long day," she said as Taylor stepped back to let her in.
"I wasn't expecting you tonight Gail."
"Yeah, well, I thought I'd surprise you."
Without another word she walked pass Taylor and made her way into the kitchen. As she unpacked the bags of take-out food Taylor observed her.
They had met four months ago at a dinner party thrown by a mutual friend. When the woman approached her Taylor wasn't sure what to do.
Gail wasn't what Taylor was usually attracted to. She was only an inch or so taller than the doctor and the combination of auburn hair and brown eyes had never really appealed to her. But after a night spent talking to the woman and getting to know her, Taylor was impressed by her sharp mind and gave the corporate headhunter her phone number.
They had dated for a month before the blonde woman decided to take the plunge and sleep with her. Unfortunately the excitement of first contact only lasted until Gail thrust herself to climax.
Now Taylor found that she wasn't sexually compatible with the brown-eyed woman. It only took one night for her to discover that Gail was a selfish lover. After taking her pleasure it became annoyingly obvious that she only made the effort to reciprocate out of obligation.
Her impatient fumbling and frequent sighs of boredom made it apparent that she was only waiting for her bed partner to reach her climax before she was released from duty. Then she would turn over and drift off to sleep. This became her routine.
She was never aware of, or maybe she didn't care enough to realize that Taylor was bringing herself to orgasm. Gail's body could have been a pillow, the mattress, or even Taylor's own hand for all the headhunter knew.
She never noticed that it was Taylor's own movements, her fantasies and ultimately her knowledge of her own body's needs that took her over the edge. To her the end result was all that mattered.
So out of tune with her lover's needs it never occurred to her that just because she was sated and made her body available, didn't mean that she was giving her bedmate equal satisfaction.
In the four months that Taylor had been dating the woman they had only slept together a grand total of seven times.
Taylor knew this because, once during a quiet moment of contemplation the doctor had sat down and did the calculations. When she was done she was shocked to discover that over the course of their...'relationship,' she had only been able to endure the headhunter's advances once every two weeks.
Gail had pulled two plates from the cabinet and was dishing out the food when the doctor entered the kitchen.
"Come on Taylor take a load off."
The doctor reluctantly took a seat at the table and started eating. Although the company was unwanted she was greatly appreciative of the food.
"So, why are you so late getting home?"
The question irritated Taylor the last thing she needed from Gail was having to report her whereabouts to the already controlling woman.
"We were swamped and I stayed to help out."
The auburn-haired woman mumbled around a fork full of food. "I thought one of the perks of being the boss was never having to do overtime."
The comment irritated the doctor immediately, then something occurred to her. "How did you know that I was home?"
Gail became nervous. She couldn't tell the doctor that she had been sitting outside of her apartment waiting for past three hours until the she got home.
"I...um. I drove by and saw your lights on and knew that you home."
The answer didn't sit right with Taylor but she let it go. "Well thanks anyway, I really wasn't in the mood for microwave food."
It was well past midnight and Gail wasn't showing any signs of leaving. As they sat on the couch watching television the headhunter put her arm across Taylor's shoulder and started to make slow circles on her upper arm.
Instead of the motion giving comfort it irritated the doctor. By the time short fingers started to make their way towards Taylor's breast she'd had enough.
The blonde woman stood abruptly and broke Gail's embrace. "It's getting late Gail and I have an early start tomorrow."
The corporate recruiter wasn't pleased. She had been patient with, Taylor. But every time she would make her desires known the other woman would come up with an excuse as to why they had to stop.
"Come on Taylor it's been three weeks and I'm tired of waiting."
It was just the opening that Taylor needed. "Tired of waiting!?"
She paced back and forth in front of the seated woman. "If you feel like you've been waiting then maybe you should ask yourself why I'm not all over you."
Gail was truly frustrated and confused. "I'm wrong for not pushing you?!"
Taylor stopped and glared at the woman. "If you would take a moment and look pass your own needs maybe you would realize that I'm not getting what I need from this relationship!"
The brown-eyed woman stood to address her lover's accusation. "What YOU need! What about what I need?! I can't tell you the number of times that I have left here so frustrated that I had to go home and take matters into my own hands!"
Green eyes flared. "GET OUT!"
Gail grabbed her coat and headed for the door. "Fine! It won't be the first time that I've left here sexually needy!"
As she opened the door to leave she looked over her shoulder. "If things don't change, and soon, you'll find yourself alone!"
Taylor locked the door and leaned against it. 'And she thinks that's a threat.'
Early the next morning Taylor showered and rushed to the subway. She reached the hospital well before her shift started and headed to El's room.
She wasn't surprised to see the tall woman sitting on the side of the bed, dressed in a pair of jeans and a thermal top.
Eyes that seemed even bluer by the dark hair that framed the strong face glowed when she entered. "I see you didn't waist anytime getting dressed."
Quinn had eaten the breakfast that was delivered and was waiting for the doctors to make their rounds and release her.
"What can I say? I'm not one to sit around doing nothing."
The truth was, Quinn had woken up before the sun rose and had been finding ways to keep herself busy until the blonde doctor showed up. She didn't want to admit to herself that she was looking forward to seeing her.
Taylor approached the bed and pulled the blood pressure stand over. "I want to get your pressure and take your temperature."
Quinn pushed the thermal sleeve up her arm and waited for Taylor to wrap the cuff around it.
The doctor placed a thermometer in the dark woman's mouth and checked her pupils with a penlight until the buzzers went off on the instruments.
After reading her pressure and temperate Taylor rolled Quinn's sleeve back down. "Your vitals seem to be okay."
Quinn slowly stood up and reached for her coat and the hospital bag that held the rest of her clothes.
Taylor knew what was about to happen and tried to keep the woman there a little longer. "What are you doing?"
Quinn slowly pushed her arm through the sleeves of her coat and gritted her teeth from the pain. "Come on Doc. You know what's going on. I waited until you got here and now I'm going to check on Otis."
"Wait! You need to stay until the doctors on duty make their rounds."
The tall woman looked at the doctor with knowing eyes. "I said that I would stay overnight for observation. They checked me every few hours last night and didn't find a problem. You've just checked me out and didn't find a problem... now I'm leaving."
Taylor knew that it was a loss cause to try and keep El any longer, so she reached into the pocket of her lab coat and pulled out a bottle of pain pills and a card.
"Take these once every four hours. I've added my cell phone number to the information on this card. If you ever need me, call me."
Long fingers took the card and the pills from the doctor's hand and placed it in a deep pocket. "If I ever need a splinter pulled or a toenail clipped you'll be the first person that I call."
Taylor laughed long and hard at the joke, then she watched helplessly as Quinn gathered her belongings and walked out the door.
"I would come and pull out your splinters or cut your toenails, El, cause I really want to see you again," she said to the empty room.
Quinn made her way from the hospital to the DuPont Circle subway station. After three years of living on the streets it didn't take long for her to discover all of the ways to get down to the tracks without being detected.
It still amazed her how clean and quiet most of the subway stations were. At first she thought how lucky the commuters were to be able to go about their daily business without being accosted by panhandlers or hustlers.
But after a few months of hanging out in the tunnels, her opinion changed. She realized, although she didn't really pay attention at the time, how much she enjoyed the rich diversity that was the New York City subway system.
It was the only place she had ever been where you could sit and listen to a musician's latest composition, buy a knock-off purse, or a do a little gambling... all before your train pulled in.
But as charmingly frenetic as that atmosphere could be, at this moment she was thankful for the stilted calm of the DuPont Circle subway.
After waiting for the platform to empty she sat on the edge of the wall leading down to the tracks and gingerly slipped off of the edge.
She walked along in the dark using the concrete walls for support, until she reached a long forgotten door that was cut off from the tracks by a cinderblock column that hid the entrance. She slowly pushed it open and was met by an overzealous dog and two worried humans.
For the last year Quinn had been sharing the abandoned room, that at one time had probably served as a small break room for the workers that built the station, with Buddy and Doris, who were more like surrogate parents to her than anything else.
She closed the door behind her and was glad to be home. The room was large with an industrial sized washing sink tucked away one of the corners. There was also a separate bathroom that had a sink and a toilet in it. The warm air that came through the vents in the winter time made them feel almost decadent, considering how they lived.
It was the sweltering heat of summer that had them searching for relief. They tried to stay out most of the daytime hours and would practically have to walk around naked to stay cool at night.
Thankfully a shelter had given Doris a couple of fans when she informed them that she and Buddy had finally found a place to live, but didn't have central air.
Their furnishings were sparse but enough to fulfill their needs. Over time they had accumulated a scarred square wooden table, four mismatched chairs, one with only three legs that sat in the middle of the common area.
A few sets of bi-fold doors, that were found discarded behind a hotel dumpster nine months before, served as partitions to separate Quinn's space from Doris and Buddy's across the room.
At night the older couple would disappear behind their half wall as Otis followed Quinn to the other side of her private space.
But all in all, the three of them were very satisfied to call their space home.
The older people were a rarity among the homeless. A married couple that had been displaced and stayed together. After meeting the dark, formidable woman they had made quick friends. Three months later Quinn had stumbled across this abandoned room and the three adults, plus one dog had sat up a household.
When Quinn didn't immediately offer up an explanation for her whereabouts the night before, Doris didn't hesitate to ask. "Where have you been, Q?" The older woman asked
"Curtis and James ambushed me and I had to spend a night in the hospital."
Quinn made her way around one of the partitions that had been set up as her 'room,' and laid down on her mattress.
Doris followed her and helped her out of her coat. When the tall woman had been stripped down to her thermal underwear Doris covered her with one of the many thick blankets that she had acquired over the years from the various assortments of social workers that would hand them out to the displaced people that wouldn't sleep in the shelters even during winter months.
She pushed the dark bangs back from the injured woman's forehead and sighed. "I'm relieved to see that you are okay."
Then she took the time to fully take in the tall woman's appearance. "Well, as okay as you can be after they finished with you."
"I'll be fine. I just need to rest for awhile." Her thoughts suddenly turned to Taylor and she smiled at the memory of the golden woman.
When I was in the hospital I met a really nice doctor, Taylor, that's her name. She took real good care of me." She pointed her coat. "She even gave me some pain pills and her number so that I could call her if I ever need help."
Her body was demanding rest and as she drifted off she whispered just loud enough for Doris to hear her. "She's gonna cut my toenails."
After making sure that the woman was resting peacefully Doris left Otis by her side and joined her husband on the other side of the barrier.
Buddy looked at his wife and shook his head. "You know as soon as she's feeling better she's going after them."
Doris turned on the hotplate that had been purchased nearly thirty-fives ago, and was one of the only items that they still owned from their life before, and warmed up a pot of beans. "She wouldn't be Q if she didn't."
Five days had passed and Taylor hadn't seen or heard from Gail. If she were to be honest with herself she had to admit that she was relieved. She felt like she could finally breathe again.
She was relaxing, sitting on her sofa eating a bowl of popcorn and watching television, just enjoying her alone time when her cell phone rang.
The voice on the other side sounded panicked. "Is this Doctor Taylor Winslow?"
"Yes, who is this?"
"My name is Doris. I'm a friend of Q's."
Taylor was confused. "I don't know anyone named Q."
Doris didn't have time to go into a long drawn out story. "You gave a tall dark-haired woman your card last week, right?"
Taylor's heart started to beat faster. "Yes, I did."
"Well that was Q. Look, I don't have much time, she's been hurt again so I pulled your card out of her coat pocket, can you help her?"
"Tell me where you are, I'll be right there."
"Come down to the south entrance of the DuPont Circle subway platform and I'll meet you there."
Taylor hung up the phone and grabbed her coat, wallet, medical bag and keys before she rushed out of the apartment running the few blocks to the station.
She spotted who had to be the caller as soon as she stepped off of the escalator. Doris was a short bulky woman with a short crop of salt and pepper hair with blue-gray eyes. What made her stand out was how she was dressed. She wore the standard homeless winter gear of many layers of clothes making her unfortunate condition obvious.
Taylor walked towards her as fast as she could without brining attention to herself. "Are you Doris?"
The homeless woman was impressed with how fast the doctor had arrived. And after getting a look at the petite green-eyed blonde, she knew why Q had been so dreamy-eyed when she spoke about the doctor her first day back home. She was beautiful. Then she had to suppress a smile when she imagined the small blonde cutting her friend's toenails.
"Yes. We will need to wait until the platform is empty before I can take you to Q."
The train arrived a short time later, but to Taylor it seemed like hours. After they were alone Doris led the doctor down the tracks and to a door that was cleverly hidden behind a wall of concrete blocks that created the illusion of a seamless stretch of wall.
When they entered the room Taylor was surprised by the warm air that greeted her and the large, spacious area she walked into. She also noticed that there were a couple of partitions placed about for privacy, giving the area a dorm like feel.
She was led to a partition located to the far left of the room, and when she walked around the barrier she saw the tall woman lying on a mattress trying desperately not to moan or writhe around in pain.
"Hey, Doc. I didn't think that I would see you again so soon." The injured woman said with a pained smile.
Seeing El or Q or whichever again, caused her to have the same reaction that she'd had a week before and the small blonde felt her heart beat faster and her palms became moist.
She looked at the pained expression on the tall woman's face and noticed that the bruising around her eyes and nose was almost gone.
"What happened, El?"
Before the injured woman could answer an older man interrupted and filled the doctor in. "I'll tell ya what happened. This idiot couldn't wait a few more days before she went looking for Curtis and James. And from her condition I'd venture to guess that she found them."
He didn't seem angry with the tall woman, he just appeared to be annoyed with her, the way a parent would be annoyed with a disobedient child.
Taylor didn't have time to get all of the details. She needed to assess El's injuries and get her back to the hospital.
She slowly pulled the thick thermal top over the woman's previously damaged torso and was relieved to see that the bruising in that area was also clearing up.
The older woman directed her attention to the injured woman's leg. "I think the only thing that's paining her is that leg," Doris told the doctor.
Taylor noticed the odd lump that was pushing against the pants leg and pulled out a pair of scissors to cut away the material. When she saw the swollen and disfigured skin along El's shin gently ran her hands along its length.
"El, this is gonna hurt, but I need to move your leg a little to see if it's broken or just severely injured."
Buddy spoke up again. "Hell yeah it's broken. Those two dirt bags jumped out and surprised her. They whacked her in the leg with a piece of two-by- four before she ever knew they were there.
The cowards knew if she had the opportunity to use her feet on them they would be history. If it weren't for Otis they'd have done a lot worse."
The dog raised his head and tilted it a little as if he were waiting for more praise. "When we heard him barking me and Doris knew something was wrong. By the time we reached Q the spineless bullies had run off."
When Taylor cautiously moved the leg from side to side she saw the lump shift independently of the rest of the appendage and knew for sure that leg was broken. It amazed her that El only flinched once during the examination, for the most part remaining still during the entire process.
To get the dark woman's focus off of the necessary pokes and prods that would have to be endured, Taylor started asking her inane questions.
"So, what should I call you? El or Q?"
Between gritted teeth Quinn forced out her answer. "Q."
After locating the area where the bone became detached Taylor exhaled and sat back on her heels as she delivered the news.
"Okay, Q. It seems that unlike the last time, this time they succeeded in breaking a bone."
She ran her hand up the side of Q's left leg giving the fibula a slight push. "I wasn't sure at first, but now I'm positive that it's your fibula, not your tibia that snapped."
Quinn moaned as she shifted her position, trying to get some of the wait off of her left side. The pressure was causing a throbbing pain that radiated down its entire length.
"I figured as much. I heard the pop when the board made contact."
Taylor stuck out her hand to stop the woman from moving. "You need to stay still. If you move around too much it will hurt even more when they set the bone in the hospital."
A dark brow rose. "Hospital? I'm not going back to the hospital."
"There isn't a choice, Q. The bone in your leg needs to be reset and cast."
Quinn took a moment to think over the situation. "Can't you set the bone here and use some wood and a few rags to splint my leg?"
Taylor knew that technically she could, but ethically it was a different story. "That wouldn't be wise, Q. Cloth wrapped pieces of wood will not offer the support needed to keep broken limbs stabilized. And too much movement could cause the bone to slip out of place and heal incorrectly."
Doris shuffled over and placed her hand on the doctor's slight shoulder. "Me and Buddy could watch her until she gets better."
Taylor was touched by the sincerity in the older woman's voice. "That's sweet of you, Doris, but she should be taken to the hospital, given a pain shot, have that leg reset and wrapped in a cast."
Quinn slammed her hand down on the mattress, inadvertently causing a vibration to travel down to her injured limb.
"See what I mean? In a hospital these things can be avoided."
"I'm not going to the hospital, Taylor."
The hard determined look in the blue eyes told the doctor that her patient meant what she was saying, and if she didn't come up with a solution the injury would go unmonitored.
"Listen, my apartment is only a few blocks from here, if you guys..." She looked at Buddy and Doris before she started again.
"If you guys will help me get her there I have everything that I will need to stabilize her leg. She can stay there until she's doing better, then I'll release her to your care. How does that sound?"
The older couple was more than willing to do whatever they could to help the woman they had come to think of as a daughter.
"Just point us in the right direction, Doctor Winslow and we'll get her there," Buddy said.
As movement started around the injured woman in preparation to transport her, Quinn took a deep breath and forced out her objection to having her power taken away from her.
"I don't recall agreeing to this."
Taylor had heard enough. The woman was too stubborn for her own good and it was time for some tough love.
The term didn't go unnoticed in her subconscious, but now wasn't the time for introspection. "Look tough stuff, either you come home with me or I call the EMT's and have them cart you off to the hospital."
The glacial stare that she was getting almost made her lose her resolve and back down, after all, she hardly knew this woman and what she did know should have had her running in the other direction leaving the homeless woman to carry on with her life in whatever manner she saw fit.
But Taylor knew instinctively that there was more to Q than met the eye. It wasn't just the care she took with herself to stay clean, it was the fact that she had somehow found a way to put a roof over, not only her head, but those of an older homeless couple and a stray dog.
She could feel it in the space that they shared. A family like atmosphere had been created in the most dire of circumstances. But more than that, the truth of her heart could be seen in the unwavering devotion that her dog had for her.
It was those thoughts that bolstered her courage. Even though she was getting a force ten glare Taylor had no fear of the woman that she was blackmailing into recuperating in her home.
Taylor stood to her full five-foot- five height and placed her hands on her hips. "Save the visual intimidation for someone who is affected by it."
It was quick, but the doctor saw the slight twitch that almost turned into a grin jump at the corner of Q's lips and she knew that her instincts were right.
"So what are ya gonna do, Doc? Strap me on your back and take me to your place?"
"I'll have you know that I am a lot stronger than I look."
She made an attempt to flex her muscles through her winter coat, but only succeeded in making her patient burst out in laughter, causing pain to radiate through her knee.
"I'm sorry, Q!"
She rubbed the woman's shoulders trying to sooth her. "I guess I'll have to be more thoughtful when I perform my stand-up routine."
Then she hitched up a fair brow as she thought, 'who knew the dark menace had a sense of humor...this could be fun.'
Their progress was slow. Because Taylor lived closer to the north entrance of the subway they had to exit on that side. Supporting Quinn as they rode up the one hundred and eight-eight foot escalator had presented its own set of problems, but the foursome eventually reached the street with very little notice.
They had to make frequent stops so that the injured could rest or just regain her breathing, so a trip that should have taken fifteen minutes at the most took forty-five.
Finally they reached the doctor's apartment, and after Doris helped Taylor get Quinn settled in the guest room she and Buddy left, over the protest of the doctor.
"You guys don't have to go back out there tonight, stay and then leave in the morning after breakfast."
The couple appreciated the offer, but they had lived too many years on the streets and had no interest in staying in the doctor's apartment. They had a place to call their own and couldn't wait to get back to it.
"Thanks for the offer, but me and the missus should be getting back. If we leave Otis alone too long he starts to tear things up. I guess it's his way of teaching us a lesson."
As the three of them walked towards the front door a voice was heard bellowing from down the hallway.
"Tell Otis I'll back soo..."
The sentence was cut short and a muffled "Damn it!" Was heard coming from the guest room.
"I guess that will teach you to yell," Taylor threw over her shoulder as she opened the door for Doris and Buddy.
Doris held Taylor's hand in her own and spoke from her heart. "Take good care of her doctor. Q is special she don't belong out here...she never did. Tell her that five years on the street is long enough."
Buddy wrapped his arm around his wife as they made their way down the hallway. He looked back over his shoulder one last time with parting words before they disappeared in the stairway.
"Tell her it's time to go home," he said.
They walked through the exit door and the only sound that could be heard was the echo of their boots hitting the stairs as they walked down to the street.
Taylor slowly closed her front door and ran her hands through her hair. "I'll do what I can, but from what I've seen so far it's gonna take a lot to convince Q that she has other options."
The small doctor entered her guest room just as Quinn was attempting to sit up. She rushed over, dropped her supplies on the side of the bed and stopped the tall woman's movements.
"You are one hard headed woman."
Quinn relaxed against her pillow and gave her caretaker a predatory smile. "You asked for it and now you're gonna get it."
Taylor's face flushed, she wasn't sure if Q was talking about getting revenge for being forced to stay with her, or...something else all together.
Either way, the excitement of the unknown was coursing through the blonde woman's body and she was ready to get started.
Ignoring the comment, Taylor started pulling supplies out of the bag she had been carrying. "First I'm going to give you a pain shot so that I can realign your bones."
Quinn nodded her understanding.
"Then I'm going to wrap your leg in gauze and begin to apply the casting material. This method is a little dated, but these are the only supplies I have available."
Quinn nodded again, ready for the doctor to get started. She hadn't expressed it, but she was in a lot of pain. The long walk to Taylor's apartment had been excruciating, but the tough raider wasn't about to let anyone know the extent of her suffering.
When she felt the prick of the needle Taylor used to administer the pain medication she waited patiently until she felt the affects.
After a few minutes Taylor questioned her. "Has the pain lessened?"
Quinn had a goofy grin on her face and nodded her head. Taylor found the look endearing, thinking that she'd like to see the tall woman let down her barriers more often...it was cute.
"I'm about to get started. If the pain becomes unbearable let me know, I'll stop, give you a little more of the pain meds and then proceed."
>From the looks of things Taylor didn't think that Quinn was going to need another shot. Doris had helped the tall woman get her clothes off and put her in one of the many hospital gowns that the doctor had stacked in her linen closet, making access to the injury easier.
"Oaky doaky, Doc."
For some reason this sounded funny to the dark woman and she kept repeating it over and over, running the words together.
"Oh, I'd say you're good and medicated."
Taylor pushed the gown up past Quinn's thighs and started the slow process of setting and casting the homeless woman's broken leg.
As she ran her hands over the damaged area along Quinn's leg, her fingers continually came into contact with a solid calf muscle.
The initial examination that had been done in the subway was performed quickly, with a doctor's eye, so the smooth hairless skin on the woman's leg surprised her and she absentmindedly wondered why her patient bothered with the task of shaving her legs.
Trying to remain professional, Taylor mentally shrugged her shoulders and turned her focus to talking to the other woman, hoping it would keep the raider's mind off of what was about to happen.
"Why did Buddy say those guys knew to ambush you and hit you in the leg?"
"Cause I'm a badass kickboxing champ," she slurred. "And I had already taken them out a few times over the years."
Quinn had never been a drug user, or much of a drinker. Her childhood experiences had always been a painful reminder of what too much liquor could do to you. So the strongest thing she ever drank was a Budweiser, that's why the pain medicine was making her kind of loopy.
"I'm about to realign your fibula. It's gonna hurt, but if you can keep breathing through the pain it will help."
Quinn smiled and her head kind of lulled up and down indicating her understanding.
Taylor quickly pulled and twisted Quinn's leg inward until she felt the bones line up. Feeling like the alignment was perfect, she looked up to see how her patient was doing.
When the only evidence of discomfort had been a slight stiffening of the long body, Taylor assumed that the pain had been minimal.
But it was now obvious that, that wasn't the case. Quinn's mouth was a wide gaping 'O', but she didn't make a sound. Her eyes were tightly shut and Taylor thought it odd that not one single tear made an appearance.
"Q, open your eyes."
The anguish that pooled in those expressive blue orbs before she closed them again said it all. Without asking, Taylor filled a syringe with just enough pain medication to take the edge off.
When the tension slowly left Quinn's body she reopened her eyes. "I think I love you," she said sluggishly.
Taylor knew it was the drugs talking, but there was something that sparked deep in those glazed blue eyes that piqued her curiosity.
"I'm about to start wrapping your leg, so I need you stay still. Let me do all of the work. Just lay there and be a good girl. Okay?"
"I'm not into S&M, Doc," she barely got out around her thick tongue. "When I'm with a woman it's equal give and take."
'Well,' Taylor thought. 'That's good information to have.'
"Just this once, Q. I need you to relax and let me do my job. Okay?"
Hazy blue eyes looked at the blonde doctor and that silly grin appeared again. "Okay, Taylor tie my hands to the bedpost, I won't fight you."
"You are a nut," Taylor told the woman before starting the process.
Quinn remained still, but each time Taylor leaned forward to pass the strips of moist casting material around the tall woman's leg, Quinn was given a perfect view of the blonde's cleavage.
"Mmmm...perky," the brunette said.
Thinking it was just more drug induced ramblings, Taylor chose to ignore her patient.
"And more than a mouthful...much more."
"What are you talking about?" Taylor asked while raising her head.
All movement stopped and Taylor turned beet red when she saw where the blue eyes were focused. Bending her head to look down her own shirt made her hair fall forward, blocking Quinn's entertainment.
"Hey move outta the way. You see 'em all the time. Let me have my turn."
Taylor was totally and completely embarrassed, not because Q had been looking down her shirt, but because the thought of those blue eyes caressing her breasts was becoming arousing.
She lifted her head and was about to speak when two large hands tried to reach out and touch the soft globes that seemed to mesmerize her.
Without thought, Taylor slapped them away and told Q to behave. "Come on, Doc. I just wanna see if they're bigger than a handful."
She looked at her hands and then Taylor's chest, back to her hands, then back to Taylor's chest. "My hands are pretty big. If you have more than these can handle..."
She wiggled her dark eyebrows and Taylor almost lost it. "Then I may need to call my mouth into service, you know, just to take up the slack."
The doctor couldn't take anymore, the laugh that had been trying to escape from her mouth was finally released and it continued until tears slid down her cheeks.
When she finally calmed down she was shocked to see that Q had fallen asleep. Seeing the gentle rise and fall of the other woman's chest she took the opportunity to finish applying the cast without interruption. When the job was done she propped the injured leg on a pillow and cleaned up the mess.
Before leaving the room she looked at the sleeping woman and shook her head. "I wonder if you'll remember any of this tomorrow."
Just as she was closing the door, she heard a garbled whisper. "I knew you would save me Taylor." Then she exhaled and uttered one word before drifting deeper into sleep. "Home."
The light snore that followed the statement reassured the doctor that her patient was out for the count. She wondered if that word was somehow prophetic. It was the same thing Buddy had said.
She spoke her curious thought out loud as she headed for the kitchen. "Has Q been waiting for me show up?
She retired to her own room and laid in the dark staring at the ceiling, trying to get her thoughts into some kind of order.
'I'm a doctor, I help people, that's why I brought her home with me. Right?'
'Okay, I'm a lesbian, I'm attracted to women, but that had nothing to do with me helping, Q. Right?'
'From her drug induced comments, I think it's fair to assume that in the past Q has had relationships with women. Right?'
'Her recovery should only take about five to six weeks. I can get through this without making a fool of myself. Right?...Wrong.'
She turned onto her side and focused on nothing as her annoying little voice made its presence known. 'We both know that every time she looks at you, you get that...feeling.'
She flopped over onto her stomach and said out loud. "Shut up."
She buried her face into her pillow and mumbled. "I think I'm in trouble."
Taylor's shift started at eight a.m., so she set her alarm clock for six so that she could get Q properly situated before she left.
>From the relaxed posture of the sleeping woman when Taylor entered the room, she assumed that she'd had a peaceful night's sleep without any pain.
She hated to do it, but she had to wake the woman up and let her know what was going on. She gently shook her shoulder and waited for her to open her eyes.
When she came around Taylor apologized and then told her about her schedule. "I'm sorry to wake you, Q, but I have to go to work. But before I leave I need to let you know what's happening. I'm leaving early so that I can let Doris and Buddy know that it's all right to visit you. I'm also gonna let them know that it's all right to bring Otis."
The sleepy eyes lit up with joy at the mention of her companion's name.
"Pets aren't allowed in this building but I figure, what the hell, a visit doesn't count."
Taylor heard the genuine appreciation in the woman's voice and wanted to do more. "If you're up to it, I'll help you into the living room and set you up with food, drinks and the all so important television remote."
Quinn looked into the doctor's beautiful green eyes and remembered most of what she had said the night before, but chose not to bring it up.
It had been more than five years since she had felt an attraction to another woman and it scared her. The life that she had lived for the last few years had been about survival. Personal feelings didn't have a place in her existence. Then the words, 'I knew that you would save me' resonated in her mind and it disturbed her.
That thought alone made extremely her uncomfortable, but the thing that terrified her the most was when she recalled what she felt when she said the word 'home' and knew that she needed to distance herself for the blonde woman.
"Why are you doing this Taylor? You don't know me from any other homeless person on the streets. What are you getting out of this?"
Taylor immediately felt like she was being accused of something and her defenses started to rise, but she fought the need for confrontation, choosing instead to address the accusation honestly.
"I don't believe in games, Q, so I'm gonna tell you what I feel. I've been asking myself why I've been so willing to go the extra mile for you and the only answer that I can come up with is no answer at all.
The rules that I have broken just by having you here bewilder me. I can only tell you that my agreeing to the outrageous requests that you have made comes from pure intuition."
She let one of her concerns have voice. "You not wanting to stay in the hospital, or have your name registered in our system makes me think that you might be hiding from someone."
Before the other woman could articulate a protest Taylor pushed ahead with her thoughts. "I don't think that you are a criminal, but I get the feeling that some bad things have happened to you and you don't want to relive them."
Quinn was amazed by the doctor's insight and a reluctant grin tugged at the corner of her mouth. "That's what you think, huh?"
"Yeah, that's what I think."
"Well, I won't tell you if you're right or wrong. I'll just thank you for trusting your intuition."
After getting Q fed and settled on the sofa Taylor got dressed and left for the hospital. When she told the woman goodbye she had to fight the urge to kiss her before her departure.
She rode the elevator down and shook off the feeling of domesticity that filled her being and started to plan out the rest of her day.
About one o'clock in the afternoon Quinn heard a key unlocking the door, thinking that it was Taylor coming home to check on her she relaxed and turned her focus back on the television. It had been quite a while since she'd had the luxury of lying back flipping through channels and she wasn't ashamed to take full advantage of the amenity.
But when she heard a familiar bark, she knew who it was and tried to sit up, but the heavy plaster cast didn't allow her much movement, so she waited for her guest to enter.
Otis came bounding into the apartment and ran to the couch. He immediately started licking his friend's face as she laughed and tried to push him away.
"I missed you too, boy," she said as her other guest walked in and located a place to sit.
She had found the dog almost three years before. After she had run out of money and was forced to leave the motel it was only a few months later that she had run across the dog and he had taken an instant liking to her.
When she first saw him she had tried to figure out what his breed was, but after an hour of observation she concluded that he was a mixture of so many different lines that there wasn't one that stood out from the rest.
But his pedigree didn't matter to her, with his tan coat and distinctive tiny white beard, the dog had proved himself to be a loyal companion on several occasions.
There had been many times when her mood was dismal and foreboding and she was in need of a friend. It was during those times that she would pull the dog close, just to have a warm body next to her and a living, breathing being to listen to her woes.
When she looked into his compassionate brown eyes she felt like he could understand everything she was saying and it made a lot of dark and secluded nights not so lonely.
For a long time it was just the two of them, him being her only company, that was until Buddy and Doris came into her life fifteen months ago, now they were a family.
Quinn looked at her friend and smiled, Otis was acting as if he was already familiar with the layout of the place and after greeting her he found the perfect spot and laid down beside the sofa, resting his head on his paws, continent to be close to his friend again.
Quinn muted the television, satisfied with one of the many judge shows that was now being broadcast filling the screen.
"How did you guys get a key?"
Buddy tossed the small piece of metal on the coffee table and told her that Taylor had given it to them when she stopped by earlier.
Her eyes opened wide with surprise. Taylor was proving herself to be a very trusting person and Quinn felt a need to protect that naiveté.
She had discovered over the years, through trial and error that this wasn't a side of your personality that you should show when dealing with street people.
She knew that the older couple would never do anything to harm the small doctor, but she didn't want her actions to become a habit.
Storing the information away for later discussion, she waved her hand across the coffee table before she asked her guest if they wanted one of the beverages that Taylor had left for her.
Buddy leaned forward in his seat and examined the choices. "Well, since you offered. I think I'd like to try that Green Tea."
Quinn nodded her head in approval and watched as the older man grabbed one for himself and a Pepsi for his wife.
"So, Taylor spoke to you before she headed for the hospital?"
Doris popped the top on the soda can before she answered. "Yeah, when she knocked on the door we didn't make a sound, even Otis knew to be quiet, then she announced herself so I let her in."
Buddy picked up the remote and started switching channels. "Q, television sure has changed since me and Doris took to the streets fifteen years ago."
Quinn opened a bottle of water and ran her fingers through Otis' thick fur. "Tell me about it, if I didn't know any better I'd think that the media was trying to turn everyone into morally deprived heathens."
I mean really, reality shows? Don't get me wrong. I've been watching a lot of reruns all morning and I see the interest in the competition shows like Top Chef and Project Runway"
She blew out an exasperated breath. "But putting your private life on display just to become famous is just pathetic."
The older couple wasn't sure what she was talking about, but it sounded like strange things had happened during their absence from society.
Quinn became even more animated. "Do people really care about the sleazy goings on between an ancient men's magazine owner and his three girlfriends? Or a hotel heiress' search for a best friend? And for some odd reason it seems that if you have gone into procreation overload and have a houseful of children that's enough to make you a TV star.
It's as if I fell asleep and when I woke up the National Enquirer was the nations main news source, strippers, nude models and porno stars are teaching our daughters how to conduct themselves as 'proper young ladies' and every Jerry Springer reject that the producers could find can now star in their own reality show. At this rate no one is going to be left to watch because everyone will be on television."
Doris and Buddy listened to their friend's rants and wasn't sure how they should react, so Buddy asked a hesitant question. What do you think is going on?"
Quinn ran her fingers through her hair to calm herself down. "I don't know. But I'll say this. I can't believe that this is the same country that had a protesting, letter writing fit when 'Married with Children' first came on the air. Considering the filth that is standard television fare these days that program was extremely tame. The sad thing is these shows couldn't be made without the people that are willing to display society's worst behavior in exchange for celebrity. It's like civilization is being deconstructed."
Listening to everything that Quinn had discovered in just one day made the couple realize how much the world had moved on during their absence and they could only shake their heads in wonder.
When Buddy's channel surfing stopped on a soap opera Doris grabbed the remote. "I can't believe that Erica is still on All My Children," she said.
With the mood broken, they settled down to watch the goings on in Pine Valley, leaving the out of control freight train that society had become to continue careening down the track that the media had set it on.
The time spent talking and watching television had gone by quickly, Quinn knew that Otis had to be hungry and in need of a bathroom break.
"Buddy, can you take Otis out for a walk while I fix a bowl of food for him?"
"Not a problem, Q. I could use a walk myself."
After he left the apartment with her dog, Quinn made an attempt to rise from the sofa and head to the kitchen in search of some sustenance. Doris narrowed her eyes and stopped the tall woman's movements.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"I was going to the kitchen and get us something to eat."
"I don't think so. I was given explicit instructions to see to it that you didn't overtax yourself."
Quinn smiled with the knowledge that Taylor had covered all of the bases to ensure that her patient didn't overextend her physical resources.
"Okay, fine, I'll lay here and let you wait on me like I'm an invalid."
Doris made her way to the kitchen and smiled when she saw a post-it note that gave instructions on what to feed the dog if he came with them, and the sandwiches that had made incase the human guest became hungry.
After breaking up the cooked ground beef and putting it into a bowl, she filled another with water and sat it down on the kitchen floor.
She unwrapped the cold cut sandwiches and took them into the living room where the reclining woman waited.
"It seems that Doctor Winslow is determined to take good care of you, Q."
The tall woman contemplated the statement as she drank from a can of Pepsi. "She's only doing what doctors do, Doris."
"I don't know about that. It's not the nineteen thirties when doctors made house calls, and if I'm not mistaken, even then they didn't bring the patients to their home and leave them there unsupervised."
The innocent commit was causing Quinn's walls to build up, making her become anxious. She felt like she was being forced out of her comfort zone, causing her to think too much.
She knew that she felt something deeper than medical attention coming from the ER Chief, but her survival instincts wouldn't allow her examination to go any further than a medical practitioner doing her duty to uphold the Hippocratic Oath.
Regardless of the doctor's earlier words, she refused to see it as anything more than the woman living up to the credo of doing no harm.
"You know that doctors believe in helping those that are in need," she said to the older woman.
Before she could refute the dark woman's words Doris heard Otis whining at the door and knew that the conversation was over, so she let it go, hoping that she would have the chance to talk to Q again about the truth that she saw unfolding in front of her.
By the time they were ready to leave, Buddy was scratching his head, bewildered, and Doris just looked dazed and confused.
TV commercials had really changed in the last fifteen years. They had watched advertisements for everything ranging from pills to control your next outbreak of genital warts to the warnings associated with the dangers of using a product for erectile dysfunction.
As they walked down the hallway after leaving Taylor's apartment Buddy turned to his wife. "I might be crazy here, Doris. But wouldn't the purpose of one of those pills cause the need for the other?"
Doris followed her husband through the door leading to the stairway. "I guess you could make that argument, Buddy," she said in a sad tone. "I know you and I are from a different generation, but after spending a day watching what used to promote wholesome living I can honestly say something that I never thought I would."
Buddy stopped and let her exit the building ahead of him and Otis. "What's that?"
"If this is what the world is turning into I'm glad we're no longer a part of it."
Buddy dropped his arm over his wife's shoulder in understanding. "You and me both, sweetheart. You and me both."
Then he chuckled. "But I gotta admit, I like all of those judge shows that are on all day."
On the third day of Quinn's convalescence Taylor came home with a large plastic bag and placed it on the floor in front the sofa that the injured woman was resting on.
"I have a surprise for you," she said as she pulled off her coat.
Between the pain meds and the crutches she had been given, Quinn was becoming more mobile, so she sat up on the couch to greet the blonde woman.
"What cha got there, Doc?"
Taylor was so excited to show her bounty that she turned the bag over and dumped its contents onto the floor. "I went shopping after work!"
She pulled several of her purchases from the pile and started to present them to her guest. "I bought you a pair of sweatpants, a long sleeved shirt and..."
She held up a thick winter coat feeling pleased with herself for her foresight. "A coat that will keep you warm until the weather changes."
Quinn couldn't believe her eyes, no one had ever, even before she had to escape to the streets had anyone ever been so thoughtful with her. In her previous life she had always been the giver and everyone else the taker.
The feelings that were coursing through her were conflicting, so she reacted in the way that was most comfortable to her. She lashed out.
"I'm not a charity case, Taylor! I don't need your pity. I've taken care of myself for thirty-six years. I don't need a mother!"
Taylor was shocked by the outburst. It had not been her intentions to upset her houseguest, but looking at her now, she knew that Q was not happy.
"Hold on, let's dial this back a little. I don't feel pity for you. I just wanted to help."
"Oh, so taking me in and taking care of my injuries isn't enough? Now you think that you have to dress me?"
The situation was quickly getting out of control and Taylor knew that she had to bring it back to a calm perspective.
"Look, I've already told you that I don't do games, so what I'm about to say is just the plain and simple truth."
She remained quite until she saw the fire die down in the woman's eyes and was sure that she had her full attention before she continued.
"In the time that we have spent together I have come to consider you a friend. To be honest I think it started in the hospital. When I accept someone into my life as a friend I do things for them. Sometimes that manifests itself in my taking them out to dinner, or maybe buying them a book that they're interested in reading.
It just so happens that those aren't the things that you are in need of, so I did what I do. I bought you a few items of clothing in the hopes that you would see that I see your needs...as a friend"
Quinn knew that the doctor was telling her the truth, but letting go of her control wasn't an easy task. How do you accept a gift at face value? It wasn't something that a person that had spent years manipulating their way into people's confidence, only to betray them in the end by taking over their company could accept.
But looking into sincere green eyes made her decide to take a leap of faith. For Taylor she would loosen one of the bricks that surrounded her heart and let a little light in.
"I'm sorry, Doc. But this friendship thing is going to take a while for me to get used to. Even before I started living on the streets I didn't live a life that embraced trust, but for you...I'll give it a shot."
The doctor's heart lurched at the woman's words and she smiled at her new friend as she knelt down beside the couch gathering up the garments that she had purchased.
"That's all that I can ask from you. I only hope that one day you'll be able to trust that I only want what's best for you, because I gotta tell ya... I don't see our friendship ending when your leg heals and you go back down into the subway."
She hesitated a moment before she decided to speak a hidden desire, if only in jest. "Who knows? Someday you might even trust me enough to tell me your name."
The days turned into weeks and the comfortable routine that the women fell into reminded Quinn of the possibilities that life had to offer.
Taylor had started leaving money on the counter for Quinn to order take-out food. The tall woman had become so adept at sensing when the doctor would be coming home that she was able to coincide the food delivery with the doctor's return home.
Over time they found themselves sharing brief touches as they passed one another in the hallway. Taylor sometimes taking advantage of the opportunity to help Quinn to the sofa when she didn't use her crutches. On occasion Taylor would seize the moment and wrap her arm around Quinn's waist as she stood beside the tall woman while she dished out their food.
She knew the other woman wouldn't appreciate her offering to help. Quinn had made it clear to her on a few occasions that she was capable of doing things around the house. She felt like it was the least she could do to repay the doctor's kindness. So Taylor backed off and used these moments to get closer to her houseguest.
The gesture had become so familiar that Quinn would unconsciously lay her free arm across the smaller woman's shoulder while balancing on one foot as she served up their meal.
The doctor had given Quinn the extra key that Buddy had returned and when she was up to it the former raider had started taking short walks in the neighborhood.
With the assistance of her crutches and wearing her new coat Quinn would make her way to the park across the street and sit for a while, just relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
Because she no longer looked like a vagrant her time spent people watching went uninterrupted by the patrolling police force.
Buddy and Doris had made it a point to occasionally bring Otis to the park so that he could spend time with the friend that he missed.
They would leave them alone because they didn't want to bring attention to Quinn because of the way that they were dressed. But when they returned it was always difficult to get the dog to leave with them. Quinn had to become stern with Otis before the canine would drop his head and follow the older couple back to their room.
Every few steps he would stop and look over his shoulder hoping that his friend would change her mind and call him back to her side. But she never did. She had talked to him about their temporary separation and although he didn't understand her words he felt her emotions and knew that it hurt her as much as it hurt him. So he followed Doris and Buddy, looking forward to his next visit with his friend.
One evening while sitting on a park bench Quinn saw the blonde head of her roommate bobbing in and out of the throngs of people that crowed the sidewalk as she made her way from the subway station.
She rose from her seat, thankful that the pain in her leg was barely noticeable and hobbled towards Taylor. When she got close enough that her where her voice could be heard she called out to the woman, hoping to stop her progress.
When the small woman stopped and looked in her direction she tried to walk a little faster on her crutches. When she reached her she stood in front of the short woman and bowed.
"Will you allow me to escort you to your door?"
The playful banter had become a part of their daily life, just like the brief touches that they shared. Couple that with the days and nights they spent talking just getting to know each other and a deep friendship was starting to grow between them.
A tentative bond of trust had started to form, and although they had only acknowledged it to themselves, their friendship was starting to growing into something more.
Warm green eyes shinned as they looked up into sparkling blue. "It would be my pleasure, Q."
Quinn shifted the crutch from her right side to the left, doubling them up so that Taylor could hooked her hand into the bend of her elbow as she escorted the doctor down the sidewalk to their shared apartment.
They happily strolled down the sidewalk not knowing what the future held, but neither one was interested in looking past each day as it came. The only thing that mattered was the here and now, the rest would take care of its self.
When Taylor opened the door the scent of cooked food assaulted her senses. Quinn immediately recognized the misplaced odor and pushed Taylor behind her.
Noticing her friend's change in demeanor, Taylor whispered to her. "I take it you didn't cook for us."
"No, I've been out most of the day."
The two women moved slowly until they could peek around the entrance to the kitchen. When Quinn felt Taylor grow tense and step around her she readied herself for battle.
Gail was bent over the stove pulling a pan of baked chicken from the oven as if it were the most natural thing in the world for her to be doing.
"What the hell are you doing here?!" Taylor screamed.
Gail was shocked to see her lover enter the kitchen with another woman and was left speechless for a moment.
"I...I...thought that our cooling off period had passed. So I came over and prepared a renewal diner for us."
Taylor didn't act like her guest was a welcomed surprise, so Quinn steeled her body and prepared herself to defend the small woman if necessary.
"How did you get in here? I never gave you a key!"
Although Gail noticed the tall woman's presence she chose to ignore it, putting all of her focus on her former lover.
"The day that you gave me your keys so that I could wash your car I made a copy of your apartment key."
She said this as if it were a perfectly acceptable explanation. The small blonde's temper rose and the change in energy was felt throughout the kitchen.
"I never gave you a key to my apartment. How dare you make that decision on your own!"
Gail was shocked by Taylor's outburst and decided that the blue-eyed stranger must have something to do with it. As she felt her own anger rise she decided it was time to go on the attack.
"I underestimated you, Taylor. It seems that your disinterest in me wasn't because of any problems that we had, but was because you had a piece waiting on the side."
Taylor felt Quinn's body go rigid at the accusation, and the power that emanated from the tall woman's frame filled her with a strength and a never before felt desire that left temporarily dizzy.
She quickly regained her composure and set the headhunter straight. "Q had nothing to do with why I didn't want to see anymore."
Brown eyes squinted with malice and accusation, only to be met by blue fire that verbally challenged her allegation.
"I don't know who you are," Quinn said to the stranger.
"But whatever filth you have swirling around in your head is untrue," she said, hoping to dowse the flame of conflict that was smoldering.
"Me and the Doc don't have that kind of relationship. I'm just her patient and she's my physician."
Taylor didn't like the sound of Quinn's definition of their relationship and wanted to stop any further trivializations of what they were beginning to mean to each other.
"You don't have to explain anything to her, Q."
She turned and looked into her friends blue eyes, hoping to dispel any thoughts of her being involved with the intruder.
"Gail and I dated for four months. I thought it had ended over a month ago, but her presences here tells me that I need to make it final in a way that she understands.
When Gail engaged anger filled green eyes she started to feel a wild desperation rise in her chest and quickly started to apologize.
"Taylor I'm sorry that I came into your apartment without your permission. I won't do it again, but please give me another chance."
The doctor held out her hand and demanded the key. "Give me my key, Gail, and hear me well." The small physician wanted to make her point clear. "I don't want you to call me, contact me in any way, or come here ever again."
The headhunter felt like she was being backed against a wall. She knew if she gave Taylor her key any control that she had over the situation would be lost.
She laughed nervously and started to move away from the doctor. "Look, Taylor. I said that I was sorry, and I swear I won't show up again without your say so. What more do you want?"
>From behind her Taylor felt Quinn move forward in an attempt to get closer to the retreating woman. So she planted her feet in the floor, holding back the tall woman's advance.
"Just give me the extra key and leave, Gail. That will bring this to an end."
Instead of giving over the key, the headhunter stepped away from the two women and headed for the living room. After grabbing her coat she started walking towards the door.
"You are obviously having trouble seeing what we have together, Taylor. So I'm going to give you the opportunity to think this over."
She continued her path to the door and then turned back around to give her lover a final ultimatum. "I am officially putting you on notice. This doesn't end here. I know you'll eventually come around and realize that you are making a big mistake and when you do I'll be waiting... But don't take too long coming to your senses. My patience is wearing thin."
Quinn stepped around Taylor and followed the shorter woman to the door ignoring the monolog that had just been delivered. "I believe that the Doc asked you for her key."
Gail saw that the tall woman was on crutches and wore a cast. That was all it took to bolster her confidence, so she let loose with a little false bravado.
"Look, I don't know who you are or where you came from, but this is between me and Taylor, so I suggest that you stay out of it."
Blue eyes went flat and silvery as a dry smile formed on Quinn's lips making her look like the shark that she had been compared to. "That's where you're wrong. The doc is my friend and if she wants you to give back her property, that's what you're going to do."
Gail stuck her chest out and stood toe to toe with the much taller woman. "Yeah, well who's gonna make me do it?"
Quinn growled a little and stepped closer to her adversary. "I'm gonna make you do it." She held out her hand and waited for the headhunter to turn over the key.
Gail looked up and down the tall body and hardened her stance. "I'd like to see you try."
Quinn's movements were so fast that Gail never stood a chance. Before she knew it, the shorter woman was in a headlock, bent over at her waist struggling to get free.
"Let me go you, Neanderthal!"
Quinn just laughed and squeezed a little, tightening her hold around the woman's neck. "Say pretty please."
Gail's face turned red and she started to struggle. "Kiss my ass, bitch!"
"Not in your wettest dreams. Now give me the key."
The headhunter raised her foot and stomped down hard on top of Quinn's sneaker covered foot. The move made the tall woman let go of her and Gail took the opportunity to start pounding Quinn in her chest.
"If you ever touch me again I'll break your fucking arm!" Gail screamed as she continued her attack.
Caught off guard for just a moment, Quinn quickly regained control of the confrontation and grabbed the other woman by the throat pinning her against the wall with one of her crutches.
"You're gonna need to bring a little more heat if you plan on taking me down, little girl."
The taunting only fueled the shorter woman's anger and she raised her knee in an attempt to make contact with her attacker's groin.
Quinn inhaled sharply when she felt the contact, but didn't release her hold. The ache only made her anger soar and she put more pressure on Gail's neck.
Taylor could see that the situation was rapidly getting out of hand and tried to stop it from escalating any further.
"Q, let her go. I think she sees her mistake."
Hearing Taylor's voice reminded Gail that the doctor was in the room and her focus turned to who she perceived as the problem.
"Shut up you little tramp. I don't need your help!"
The words made Quinn see red. This arrogant little pipsqueak wasn't going to get away with breaking into Taylor's home and verbally abusing her.
She leaned her weight into her crutch and pushed until the woman's face became a deep red. She knew that she was cutting off the woman's air supply but she no longer cared.
The small doctor saw Quinn's intent and lack of compassion and knew that she had to stop her before Gail lost consciousness.
"Q, let her go!"
The tall woman didn't seem to hear her, so she yelled louder. "Let her go, Q!"
Gail became frightened when, instead of letting her go, the tall woman smiled and pressed into her even harder.
When Taylor realized that her pleas were going unheard she did the only thing that she could think of, she called the dark woman by the only other name that she knew her by.
"Elasmo, let her go!"
The room went still and Quinn slowly dropped the crutch from Gail's neck. The headhunter's hands immediately went to her throat, trying to rub away the pain.
When Quinn turned to look at the doctor, Gail took the opportunity to ease out of the apartment. When she was safely outside she sat on the steps and continued to rub her sore throat, trying to get her breathing under control.
There was a pricking at the back of her mind, a memory that was trying to come forward. But what was it? She couldn't seem to grab a hold of it.
Then it hit her. It was that name...that name sounded very familiar to her. But she just couldn't place it. After a few moments of introspection she snapped her fingers.
"That's where I've heard that name before."
Remembering that it was the moniker used by the most sought after corporate raider to ever come along caused a flood of information to fill her head.
And when she remembered Taylor calling her Q. She knew who her attacker was. She had found the long absent Quinn Martin.
The irony of the situation didn't escape the headhunter. It wasn't that many years ago that she had almost given in to an impulse to take a train up to New York just to see if she could get a face-to-face with the notorious corporate raider and try to talk her into joining one of the companies that she scouted for.
Now after having an up close and personal meeting with the woman Gail understood the reason why no one that had met the raider ever described her the same way.
Sometimes they called her a classic beauty, other times she was the devil's spawn incarnate, but without fail the one common denominator in everyone's opinion of her was that she embodied a quiet strength that wasn't so much seen as felt.
Gail snorted a little as she rubbed her sore neck again. 'Well I'd say I felt enough of that strength today to last me a lifetime.'
All of a sudden her eyes lit up and she felt her excitement start to grow when she remembered that Vincent Sarrazin had a long standing open invitation to anyone that could give him any information that led to her whereabouts. Claiming that she had stolen from him by filtering off profits. And if that information led to her prosecution there was a substantial reward waiting for the person that brought her to justice.
Her heart rate escalated as she stood and left the building heading in the direction of her car. She had already started to formulate a plan that, if she was successful in its execution she would be financially set for years and maybe even get a job offer out of the deal, after that getting Taylor back couldn't be far behind.
"If you think that you can bully me into staying away from my girlfriend like you bullied business owners out of their companies you are sadly mistaken. I've got you now and I'll see to it that you are brought down Elasmo."
The sound of the door closing brought the women out of their silence. Taylor recuperated first and without a word went to the kitchen to turn off the oven. She grabbed a pan with every intention to dump the prepared food into the trash, but was stopped by the sound of Quinn's voice.
"What are you doing, Taylor?"
The doctor looked at her friend as if she were dense. "I'm getting rid of this food. What does it look like I'm doing?"
Quinn, from her time on the streets couldn't in good conscious watch as a perfectly good meal was thrown away without saying something.
"Just because you don't like who made it doesn't mean that you should toss it in the bin."
A pot of boiled potatoes were held suspended above the trashcan as Taylor thought it over. It was true. The food was in perfectly good condition and if she threw it away they would have to find something else to eat.
The ER Chief exhaled. "I guess we could eat it, but I want to go on record as stating that I'm doing this under protest."
Quinn stepped behind the blonde doctor and wrapped her arms around her slim waist.
"It is so noted."
She kissed the top of the shorter woman's head before releasing her. They both felt the familiar warmth that always spread throughout their bodies whenever they were in physical contact with each other, and it was soon followed by the profound sense of loss that they experienced when the contact was broken.
They stood staring at each other in silence, sharing an unspoken knowledge. They both knew that the bond that had started to form between them in the hospital was growing with each passing day and the time was coming closer when they would have to act on it or turn away from each other.
After eating the unexpected meal, the women retired to the living room to watch a movie. Taylor pulled out her third installment of the 'Underworld' series from the shelf and fixed some popcorn to snack on while they watched.
Twenty minutes into the movie, Quinn realized that she was having trouble following the plot. "Doc, who is that chick? The last time I saw this movie Kate Beckinsale was the female lead."
They were sitting on the sofa and somehow Taylor had maneuvered her body between Quinn's long legs, using her upper body as a backrest.
She tilted her head so that she could look at her companion's face as she answered. "I guess you missed the second part of the movie. She hit the pause button on the DVD player and proceeded to fill her companion in on the missing parts.
After Quinn was brought up to speed Taylor hit the play button and they continued watching the movie The doctor snuggled down into her friend's embrace and pulled the large hands around her, placing them over her stomach then covering them with her own.
The former raider noticed the more intimate change, but chose to ignore it by keeping her focus on the movie. When small fingers started to caress her large hands, Quinn felt her heart rate increase.
'This means nothing, just keep watching the movie.' She told herself as the soft hands started to move up and map out each muscle in her forearm.
Taylor felt the heat that was radiating from Q's center where her backside was wedged and pressed her lower body further into her human backrest in an attempt to make closer contact with the tall woman.
Soon the movie was forgotten as Quinn made every effort to focus on something other than her desire for the woman that rested between her legs.
She thought about Otis, Doris and Buddy and how much she missed seeing them everyday, but nothing seemed to work. If this didn't come to a stop soon there would be turning back.
She made a slight movement, changing the position of their hands, making hers now hold the dominant position, stopping the other woman's caresses.
She knew where this was leading and dropped her head so that she could whisper into the blonde woman's ear.
"I want you to listen to me, Taylor. It's been more than five years since I've been close to anyone. Because I respect you I'm going to be honest with you."
She tried to release the doctor's hands but Taylor wouldn't let her go. The hot breath that she felt when Q spoke into her ear only served to fan the flames of her desire.
"I'm very drawn to you, Taylor, but it's more than a physical attraction. I feel you here." She placed a hand over her heart.
"And it scares me. Not only have I been alone for half a decade, I have nothing to offer you. I have no home, no job and no future prospects. A woman like you deserves so much more."
Taylor didn't turn around, she chose to speak without looking at the woman behind her. "I'm not asking you for anything, Q. I just want to be with you. If that means just for tonight then I'll take that and be happy."
She tried to change their position so that she could face the tall beauty but Quinn's strong arms stopped her. She nuzzled her face into the soft skin of the doctor's neck and kissed the smooth flesh, temporarily giving in to her desire before pulling away.
"Are you sure, Taylor?"
The doctor felt her companion's arms shake a little before releasing her. She turned around and straddled the raider's thighs as she faced her. Now that she was looking into at the dark woman she cupped Quinn's face and hoped that her sincerity showed in her eyes.
"I'm more sure of this than I've been of anything in my life."
As they gazed into each others eyes Taylor slowly leaned forward placing a gentle kiss on Quinn's lips. The contact was brief, then the doctor pulled away, only to go back for several short pecks.
With the last contact of their lips Quinn could not hold back any longer and gave in to soul's desire. Clamping her hands down on Taylor's waist she pulled them closer together as she deepened the kiss.
When their tongues met they both moaned their satisfaction. Hands started to roam and clothes were quickly discarded. It wasn't long before they found themselves naked.
The feel of skin against skin was over powering and while on her back Quinn leaned up so that she could take one of Taylor's tight nipples into her mouth.
The arousal that swept through the doctor was nothing like she had ever felt before. She threw her head back in ecstasy. Her body becoming inflamed from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.
When Quinn opened her legs and raised the thigh of her uninjured leg to meat the smaller woman's throbbing need, Taylor thought that she would lose consciousness.
The pleasure was so overwhelming that the doctor clamped down on Quinn's bare shoulders as she road the powerful muscle.
Taylor had enough presence of mind to push her own leg into her lover, giving Quinn the pressure that was needed to seek out her own release.
Their bodies moved together in a rhythm that would eventually end in a joined climax. As they approached the edge their hands lowered, instinctively knowing that they wanted to be totally connected when they fell into the abyss.
Their damp bodies slowly slid against each other before picking up speed, then they went stiff for just a heartbeat before speeding up again, trying to catch up with the orgasm that was flowing through them.
Their release was loud and almost painful in its intensity. And in that moment both women knew that there would never be another.
As they slowly came down and tried to regain their breaths, they removed their fingers from the silky warmth that held them and Taylor pushed herself up from her lover's body and looked at her with a sympathetic awareness.
"How is your leg, Q?"
The homeless woman laughed, trying to give herself time to regulate her breathing. "This is a fine time to ask, Doc."
Taylor blushed and felt selfish for asking the question after the act and tried to move off of the long body that had given her so much pleasure.
Quinn saw the guilt in her new lover's eyes and knew that her joke had been taken seriously. So she held the small woman in place and waited until green eyes looked at her.
"I'm just kidding, Taylor. My leg is fine, see?" She raised the cast covered limb off of the sofa and wiggled it around to prove her point.
"I don't want to hurt you, Q." She raised her head and looked into her lover's blue eyes.
"I never want to hurt you."
The homeless woman ran her large hands through the wet blonde hair and held the smaller woman close to her.
Taylor leaned back a little further and tilted her head in question. The dark woman leaned forward and kissed the soft lips that were in front of her.
Inhaling, the former raider decided to take a chance. "You wanted to know my name, my name is Quinn, Quinn Martin."
Overwhelmed by her lover's trust, Taylor fell into her body and hugged the dark woman to her fiercely as she whispered in her ear. "Thank you, Quinn."
She played with the sable strands of hair that were plastered to her lover's broad shoulders and smiled with mischief.
"Would you be mad if I kept calling you Q?"
Large hands cupped the bare flesh of the doctor's firm rear and squeezed the mounds together, shuddering as her passion began to rise again.
"You can call me anything that you want."
Then she became serious for a moment. "Just don't call me Quinn in front of any one...okay? Doris and Buddy don't even know my real name"
Then a sheepish look bloomed on her face. "Otis is the only one that I've told who I am."
Taylor realized the importance of the request and decided that she would do everything in her power to make new lover comfortable enough to share her past. "You have my word you'll only be Quinn when we are alone."
Taylor gently bit down on Q's ear. "You'll see...Otis isn't the only one you can trust."
They eventually moved to Taylor's bedroom and spent the rest of the night sharing their love gently, strengthening a cord that had started pulling their hearts together almost two months ago in a hospital room.
The morning after brought with it a sense of warmth and light that had nothing to do with the rising sun. Both women felt like it was the beginning of not only a new day, but a new life.
Taylor sat up on the side of the bed and stretched out her stiff body, trying to get the kinks out before heading for the bathroom.
The night before they had found it necessary to get a little creative with body placement to get around Q's leg injury, but in the end it worked out perfectly.
Recalling the night's activities almost made her purr. When Quinn finally stopped touching her she felt like a boneless heap of satisfied sexual carnality.
Having five years of pent-up passion released on you could have been an overwhelming experience, but the doctor discovered that if done correctly it could be quite pleasurable.
Afterwards she had collapsed onto the mattress and tried to remember if she had ever felt this way before. No. She knew she hadn't. This was new. Her body felt like it had been touched for the first time.
She shook herself, brining her mind back to the present, but before she could leave the bed she felt that now familiar touch encompass her as long arms wrapped themselves around her waist, holding her in place.
"Where ya going, Doc?"
She covered the much larger hands with her own and sighed when she felt warm lips kiss her hip. "I have to get ready for work, Q."
The former raider temporarily released her hold so that she could sit up beside her lover, then she cupped the doctor's face between her hands as she slowly leaned forward to give her a good morning kiss.
Taylor hummed with pleasure when they separated and ran her hands up and down the tall woman's strong back.
"Believe me, I'd like nothing more than to crawl back into bed with you, but duty calls."
Quinn knew that her lover had to get ready for work, but it was going to be hard to let her go. She had never felt a connection with anyone the way she felt it Taylor.
The small blonde had awakened something deep inside of her, something that she knew she could no longer live without it.
What really surprised her was that the knowledge didn't come with the fear that she had always associated with these feelings. In the past she had always thought that if she let someone in she would become weak, but to her amazement, she didn't feel weak at all, she felt strong. She felt like she had a purpose, a reason.
She wobbled a little as she stood up and balanced herself on her plaster covered leg before pulling the doctor up with her. "I'll let you go...for now." She kissed the woman one last time before releasing her to start her day.
As their tongues joined together, first in Taylor's mouth, then in Quinn's, the doctor almost gave in to her need, but her obligation to her job caused her to force herself away and head to the shower.
Quinn watched as the beautiful body disappeared into the bathroom and sat back down on the bed. She ran her fingers through her tangled mass of dark hair and exhaled a frustrated breath.
"I am in so much trouble."
Taylor had never had a lover as passionate and considerate as Quinn, and she was quickly becoming addicted to the woman's touch.
Every chance she got she found a reason to get the tall woman naked. It didn't matter where they were in the apartment. Sometimes it just took a look and they would find themselves hours later finishing whatever it was they had been doing before the interruption...Taylor didn't think that life could get any better.
Three days turned into three weeks and by the time Quinn's injury had healed, they had settled into a comfortable relationship.
Taylor realized that she hadn't heard from Gail since Q threw her out, and vaguely wondered why the woman had remained suspiciously quiet. But the doctor quickly erased thoughts of the headhunter from her mind, fearing that just thinking about her too long would make her reappear in their life.
A small blush crept up her neck when she realized that if Gail did show up again and accuse her of having a relationship with Q, this time she couldn't deny it.
Remembering how repressed and caged-in she had felt during her months with Gail made Taylor want to get her life back to what it had been before the auburn-haired woman had entered it, and she knew where she wanted to start.
She wanted to socially reconnect with the friends she had been neglecting. After giving in to the overbearing woman's demands that they stay isolated until they got to know each other better, she had gone several months without spending any quality time with her friends.
When they were dating Gail didn't seem to be interested in meeting anyone that the ER doctor associated with, so most evenings were spent with just the two of them watching television, ordering out for meals, or renting a movie.
Whenever Taylor would mention her friends the headhunter seemed to tune her out, making it obvious that she couldn't care less about whoever it was she was talking about.
The last time Taylor brought up one of her associates to the woman, a person that she had mentioned on several occasions, and Gail looked at her as if she didn't have a clue as to who she was talking about, the ER Chief threw her hands up in defeat, swearing to herself that she would never bring up the subject of her friends again.
And to be honest, the more she got to know the woman and saw her irritating antisocial personality traits, she realized that she didn't want her friends to meet the possessive headhunter.
But things were different now. Taylor wanted to experience her life again, and she wanted Quinn to be a part of it. She wanted to introduce her friends to the person that she knew she was hopelessly in love with. She just had to figure out how to raise the subject.
Breathing hard and sweating, Quinn rolled off of the smaller woman. "Wow! If that's the way you plan on talking me into things, I'm open to all conversations."
Taylor rolled on to her side and ran her fingers through the moisture that had pooled in between Q's breast. "So you like my methods of persuasion?"
Quinn mirrored her lover's position and turned to face her. "I love your methods." She reached over and pushed long damp hair to one side. "But you don't have to take me to bed to get my attention, Doc. Just ask. I'll listen."
Green eyes dropped. "I'm sorry, but I...well...I wasn't sure how you would react."
Long fingers lifted the smaller woman's chin until she was looking up again. "You mean you didn't think I would agree."
Taylor shrugged her shoulder. "Something like that."
Quinn chuckled a little. "Doc, I'm not her. If it's important to you, it's important to me."
"I know, Q. It's just that...well I know how long it's been since you had to... deal with people."
A dark brow rose in amusement causing Taylor to give lover a quick slap her in the stomach. "I know you deal with people on a daily basis. What I'm trying to say is...
Quinn cut her off. "I know what you're trying to say, and I appreciate it. I admit, the thought of sitting down and sharing dinner conversation with complete strangers is a little intimidating, but I think I can remember enough of my social graces to get through it."
The smile on Taylor's face made Quinn feel proud. If agreeing to go out to dinner with Taylor and her friends made the blonde this happy, that was incentive enough.
She rolled over onto her back and pulled the smaller woman on top of her. As large hands started to map out a route along her back, Taylor's eyes darkened with desire.
"What are you up to, Quinn Martin?"
Hearing her name spoken with such passion caused a sudden flood of moisture to saturate the dark woman's inner thighs. She reached down and ran her fingers through her lover's damp blonde curls. When her thumb came into contact with a very hard nub, she laughed a little, making the doctor's body vibrate.
"I think I should be asking what you're up to, Doc."
When her fingers slid down, passing over Taylor's moist entrance she felt a slight contraction tug at the tips of her fingers like the doctor was trying to pull them. Quinn knew she didn't have to ask, her lover's body was speaking for her, so she slowly inserted one, then two fingers into the welcoming opening.
The much desired intrusion made Taylor rise up on her arms to support her weight, then her hips started to move up and down, making the long fingers that were buried deep inside of her move in and out.
"Oh, yes, Quinn, just like that," she panted.
The former raider readjusted her body so that she could pull a pink nipple into her mouth, escalating the blonde woman's pleasure. When she heard a lustful groan she smiled.
"You like this, baby?" she asked around the pert offering.
"God, yes. Don't stop. Don't move. Stay just like that."
As Q stimulated her breast, Taylor's walls started to contract, holding the strong fingers firmly in place. "I couldn't stop now if I wanted to, Doc."
When Taylor's hips started to move faster and she threw her head back with her mouth opened wide, Quinn knew what was coming... literally.
The small woman suddenly exploded as a primal yell erupted from her throat. Silky walls clamped down hard, pulling the digits deeper into her. A flood of liquid streamed down the tall woman's wrist heightening her own excitement, sending her libido into overload. It was so erotic that Quinn felt her own release rush forward, coursing through her body like a bolt of lightning. Its intensity surprised her. Never before had she experienced an orgasm because of her bed partner's pleasure.
When Taylor dropped down on her lover's heaving chest, she felt the long fingers leave her body. She gave an involuntary shudder before tightening her hold on the body beneath her.
"I lo...liked that a lot." She didn't know if Q was ready to hear her speak her heart, so she tried to cover.
Quinn heard the unspoken words, but didn't push. There were things that she felt like she needed to do before she could voice her own feelings, so her only response was a kiss on the cheek.
Taylor moved off of the long body and snuggled close. "I don't remember. Did I thank you for agreeing to dinner?"
Quinn pulled the blonde woman closer and buried her face in her wet hair. "Yeah, Doc. You thanked me."
They fell asleep wrapped in a cocoon of love that was still unspoken, but in their hearts they knew that it wouldn't be much longer before the words were said. The feelings were too strong to go unspoken for too much longer.
When the day of the dinner arrived Quinn had just one request. She wanted Taylor to give her the time and location of their meeting so that she could join them later.
Before Taylor could ask why, Quinn explained. "I just want to spend some time alone to settle my nerves." That was all she said.
She couldn't tell Taylor that she wanted to be alone while she got dressed into the casual clothes that her lover had bought for her. She couldn't tell her that she wanted to be alone when she looked at her reflection in the mirror as she tried to convince her likeness that she could do this. She didn't want to tell her that she was afraid.
She was relieved when Taylor didn't ask her to elaborate. The small woman just nodded her head and gave her an encouraging smile. Quinn exhaled a breath of relief. She didn't want to show her lover any weakness by having to explain her reasons.
Taylor didn't have a problem accepting the request without question. The fact that Quinn was willing to make this huge sacrifice for her was enough, and if her only desire was to spend some time alone to settle her nerves before the dinner date, she would do it. No questions asked.
She met her friends, Chief of Surgery, Matthew Chandler and his partner Stuart Boyd, a hospital equipment salesman, at Lido's Restaurant.
After being seated at their table the two men didn't waste any time questioning the small blonde about her absence for half a year.
"Where have you been hiding yourself, Taylor?" The tall, lean, brunette Chief of Surgery asked as he sipped from his glass of wine.
The response was given without much enthusiasm. "I know you've been around, Blondie. I see you everyday, but this is the first time that I've seen outside of the hospital in over six months. What's up?
Some mischief bloomed in his brown eyes before he continued. "Are you going to finally let us meet this mysterious headhunter that you've been dating?"
Before she could answer, a prickling started at the base of her neck and she knew that Quinn had arrived. "I'm not dating Gail anymore. I've met someone else."
She knew that the hostess had steered Quinn in their direction and she was making her approach when Matt's eyes went wide and Stuart clutched his chest. She rolled her eyes. Stuart could be so dramatic at times.
Then a salacious smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. She knew without looking what a stunning package her lover presented on first sight. The woman was tall, dark, beautiful, and power oozed from every pore of her body. It didn't matter what sex you were or what your sexuality was, she was everybody's wet dream.
Her back remained turned, she didn't feel the need to watch Quinn walk towards them, instead she wanted to see her friend's reactions as they looked at her lover's approach in shocked silence.
Stuart almost swallowed his tongue when the dark woman leaned down and kissed the top of Taylor's head. It was the most sensuous act he had ever seen without it being overtly sexual.
"I hope I'm not late, baby.
Taylor finally turned and looked up at the tall woman before grabbing her hand, guiding her to the seat beside her without breaking eye contact. "Not at all. You're right on time."
When Matt cleared his throat and Taylor looked in his direction, he felt like he had interrupted something, although they were not touching he felt as if he had pulled them apart. Taylor blushed a little before making the introductions.
"Matt, Stuart, this is Q."
The men waited for more information, when none came Matt's manners took over and he held out his hand across the table.
"I'm happy to meet you, Q."
Stuart pulled himself together long enough to extend his hand. "Me too...um, Q"
Matt looked at his lover and could see the wheels turning in his blue eyes. He knew without question that the short blonde was about to issue one of his infamous unfiltered opinions...he didn't have to wait long.
"You are a goddess." he said in awe.
Quinn's brow raised in a cocky manner. Stuart wasn't the first gay man to react to her in this way, so she leaned forward and rested her chin in the palm of her hand, allowing a bit of her old self to surface.
"Yes, I am." Her blue eyes twinkled with humor before she continued. "Do you want to worship me?"
At first Taylor was shocked by her lover's response, then she realized that this was probably Q's persona before she fell on hard times and smiled at Quinn's return.
Stuart clapped his hands together and almost bounced out of his seat. "Oooh, Taylor, you are going to have your hands full with this one."
Green eyes captured teasing blue for a moment. "I know."
During dinner the foursome got to know one another. Quinn learned that the men had not seen the blonde doctor socially for many months, but after listening to their conversation she knew the reason why...Gail.
The only glitch in the evening came when Stuart asked what Q did for a living. Before the former corporate raider could answer, Taylor interjected. "She's in acquisitions."
Seeing that no more information was going to be given, Stuart changed the subject. "Being a goddess, you must tell me about the many followers that I'm sure have bowed at your feet."
Quinn dropped her voice seductively. "Now that wouldn't be fair." She let some of the confidence that gay men loved to see surface. "It would only make you jealous...and I don't think that Matt would want to see that side of you."
The table erupted in laughter. "I guess she reined in your horses with that one, Stu," Matt said.
The equipment salesman's blue eyes flared a moment at the laughter, then softened when he saw the humor in the comment, causing him to back off some. "Yeah, well..." He looked at his lover. "That might be true." Then he turned back to Q. "But don't get too comfortable, I'll get a story out of you sooner or later."
Quinn found that she liked the two men. Stuart especially piqued her interest. The man reminded her of the many high maintenance gay men she had met during her years in New York, but she could also see how much he loved Matt.
During their meal it was all the blue-eyed blonde could do to stop himself from cutting his lover's meat for him and feeding it to the surgeon.
"How long have the two of you been together?" Quinn asked.
Before Matt could answer, Stuart piped up with pride. "Seven years."
Taylor snorted. "Yeah, seven long years."
Stuart tried to look offended. "Why, Doctor Winslow, if I didn't know any better I'd swear you were jealous."
Taylor twirled her pasta around her fork. "Jealous of what?"
She dropped her utensil without taking a bite and propped her cheek in hand. "Jealous of not having someone to come home to after a long day at work? Jealous that I don't have someone to share my problems with?"
She blushed all the way up to her hairline before making her final statement. "Jealous that I don't have someone to love?"
She reached over without looking and covered Quinn's hand. "I don't think so. I have that and more."
Quinn couldn't believe what she was hearing. Did Taylor just say that she loved her? She blocked out their dinner companions for a moment and focused on her lover.
"Do you mean it, Doc?"
Taylor turned in her chair to face the dark woman. "With all my heart. I hadn't planned on saying it in front of the biggest mouth on the eastern seaboard, but yes, I do."
Stuart huffed, knowing that the jibe was directed at him, but his indignation went unnoticed.
Blue eyes filled with apprehension and Quinn was almost overcome with emotion. Love was never something that she would allow herself to feel. The way that she had grown up had showed her that it wasn't something that she could trust, but the sincerity in the green eyes that looked into her soul made her want to believe.
She caressed the doctor's soft cheek and closed her eyes to prepare herself to take a giant leap, one that she had never before thought herself capable of.
"I love you too, Taylor."
The doctor almost wept when she heard the words being said by the one person that she most wanted to hear them from.
"Open your eyes, Q."
When dark lashes revealed frightened blue orbs, Taylor leaned forward and kissed away the fear. "Don't fret, my love. Your heart is safe with me."
Feeling like they were witnessing something very private, Matt decided it was time to break the tension with a little humor. "That sounds all well and good, but I have one question."
They all looked at him. "Who's going to do the cooking?"
The atmosphere changed immediately and Taylor sat back in her seat, thankful for the reprieve. "Welll...Q has been doing most of the cooking...sooo, I'm hoping that she will take on that task."
Quinn raised a questioning brow in response, prompting Taylor to pull her mate's large hand close to her chest as she pleaded. "Come on, Q. Don't make me beg."
She batted her blonde eyelashes, hoping to gain the upper hand. Quinn accepted her defeat with a deep sigh. A look was all that it took to make her give in to any demand that the beautiful blonde would make...her fate was sealed.
"Okay, Doc. I'll be your personal chef."
Matt felt warmed by the display, and Stuart became giddy. He felt like he had found a comrade in the dark woman. She was a bit closed off, but he knew that with a little coaxing he could convince her to join his camp.
It would be nice to have someone on his side when Matt and Taylor ganged up him. He knew instinctively that she would keep him in line, but he also knew that in the end Q would be a valuable friend.
A week after their night out, Quinn sat waiting for Taylor to come home from work. She had a lot on her mind. The cast had been removed from her leg long enough for most of her mobility to have returned. Now there was a decision to be made.
She felt like there was no reason for her to continue living off of Taylor. It was time to take responsibility for herself again.
She couldn't allow the small woman to take care of her any longer. If she was going to have a relationship with Taylor, she felt like she had to bring more to the table than just herself.
Quinn hoped that enough time had passed and Vincent Sarrazin wasn't looking for her any longer. If that was the case she wanted to find a job and present herself as more of a partner to Taylor instead of someone that needed to be taken care of.
Her plan was to ask the doctor to let her use her address and phone number as her contact information and when she got a job and had worked long enough to save a substantial amount of money, maybe they could start a life together on an even playing field.
She knew that Taylor felt like she contributed to the household already, but Quinn needed to do more than cooking their meals and keeping the apartment clean to feel like she was providing support.
She also knew that Taylor would fight her decision to go back to her subway home while she worked and saved her money, but she had made up her mind. She would establish herself as an equal contributor to their relationship and Taylor would just have to understand her need to do so.
Quinn was sitting on the sofa when she heard the key turn in the new lock she had installed after Gail's unannounced visit. She felt her heart start to pound in anticipation of the confrontation that she knew was about to take place.
The woman that was coming in the door was small, but she was formidable when it came to defending her opinion. She hoped that she could convince her lover that her decision was what was best for both of them. She pulled in a deep breath, hoping that the doctor wouldn't put up too much of a fight.
Taylor looked worn out and Quinn knew that the physician must have had a hard day in the ER. She helped her out of her coat and sat her down on the couch before heading for the kitchen to prepare her a cup of tea.
Taylor pulled off her shoes and laid back across the cushions, resting her head on the arm of the sofa so that she could relax and let her day drain away.
When Quinn returned she brushed blonde bangs away from the tired woman's forehead and kissed her softly on her lips. "Did you have a hard day, baby?"
"That doesn't start to describe it, between the patients and the administrator's budget complaints I couldn't catch a break today."
She looked deeply into the blue eyes that now meant more to her than anything and took solace in their compassionate gaze before relaxing further into the soft cushions.
She exhaled a weary breath. "I'm so glad to be home. Don't get me wrong. I love what I do, but sometimes it starts to wear thin."
Quinn hated that she was about to add to her lover's bad day, but like removing a band aid, she knew that a quick pull would make the pain less intense.
"Baby, I know that this isn't the time to tell you, but I have been thinking." She shored up her determination and pressed forward.
"If we are going to make a life together I have to get out there and make a living so that I can feel like I'm a viable part of this relationship. That means going back to the subway until I can come to you as a whole person."
She saw the pain in her lover's green eyes and felt her heart break. "I need to do this so that I can come to you and feel worthy of the love and generosity that you have given me so freely."
Taylor didn't like what she was hearing and sat up. "Are you leaving me, Q?"
The former raider dropped to her knees and held the smaller woman's hands in her own. "No. Never, Doc. I just want to come to you as an equal partner. We will still see each other everyday."
She tried to make the blonde woman understand. "You have given me so much..."
She lowered her head onto Taylor's lap and spoke from her heart. "You have given me so much that I want to feel deserving of your efforts. I can't do that if I let you continue to do all of the giving."
Quinn moved to a sitting position on the floor when Taylor stood up from the sofa. "Have I ever asked you for anything? Have I ever made you feel like a freeloader? No, I haven't. So why are you now trying to take on that burden?"
"Taylor this isn't about how you make me feel. This is about how I feel about myself. Don't you see that?"
Taylor was left speechless. Quinn's argument was valid and her feelings needed to be respected. The doctor sat back down and covered her face with her hands before she spoke again.
"I understand, Q. It's just hard to think about how far we've come just to see you pull away from me."
"Doc, I'm not pulling away from you, don't you see? I'm trying to stand in front of you as a woman. As someone that can look at themselves in the mirror and see a contributor, not a taker."
Before the blonde woman could protest Quinn stopped her. "I know that you don't see me that way."
She pulled the small woman's hands away from her face and kissed them as she looked in her eyes seeking understanding. "But if I don't make some changes in my life that's how I'll see myself."
Taylor knew that she was fighting a losing battle so she gave in. "When will you come back to me?"
Quinn sat beside her on the sofa and pulled her close. "I'm not leaving you. Like I said before. I'll see you every day. I'll just be living somewhere else until I can find a job and save enough money to come to you with my head held high."
Taylor leaned her head on her lover's broad shoulder and cried silent tears. "You better find employment as quickly as humanly possible, because if you don't I'll leave this nice comfortable apartment and follow you down into the DuPont Circle subway system and live with you underground if necessary."
She had no idea at the time how soon her words would become fact.
The days went by and the month of April was making the climate a little warmer. Quinn was dressed in a gray pantsuit that Taylor had bought her. She was sitting in the park across the street from the doctor's apartment after a day of filling out applications, and she couldn't wait to share the news of her most resent prospects with her lover.
Although she had officially moved back to the subway Taylor was able to find new and more inventive ways to convince the former raider to spend her nights at the doctor's apartment.
After a night of sharing their love the women would rise, shower and leave the building together. Quinn, going to check on Otis, Buddy and Doris before going on a job hunt, and Taylor leaving her lover on the platform before boarding a train to the hospital.
Quinn would stand with her lover until her train arrived, give her a kiss and a hug goodbye, then walk down the dark tunnel to her own home after the coast was clear.
She was filled with nervous energy after the positive feedback from her latest interview and couldn't wait to share the news with Taylor.
As she sat on the bench taking in her surroundings her eyes wandered to the front of Taylor's building and her heart sank at what she saw.
She recognized them immediately. Skinny Slim was a tall, sinewy black man that held a very specific position within the Sarrazin organization. Getting people to talk was his specialty and he was frighteningly efficient at it. His preferred method of torture...a very sharp knife that always ended with the facts that he was seeking being given in the end.
The man could inflict hours of pain on a person that would illicit large amounts of blood, but the victim would remain unmercifully alive until he got the information that his boss needed.
When she looked at his partner a knot formed in her throat. There was no mistaking Frank. The man was as huge as ever. It didn't matter that it had been five years since their last encounter Quinn could still feel his ham sized hands around her throat choking the life out of her. Her own hand unconsciously rose to her neck, rubbing away the remembered pressure.
The raider's mind searched for an answer. She didn't understand how, after so many years of going undetected they had found her. It couldn't have been the applications, the jobs that she was applying for only entered a social security number after they hired the applicant
Looking around, trying to think of a plan of escape she saw Taylor coming down the street, totally unaware of the danger that awaited her.
The woman wore a smile on her face that spoke of the happiness that she felt from whatever thoughts that were spinning around in her head.
Gazing at her love, Quinn felt guilty about the trouble that she had brought to the woman's front door, literally.
She quickly ran the last few months through her memory, hoping to hit on the slip up that had caused them to find her. Then it dawned on her with a sickening clarity.
Over the months she and Taylor had shared large parts of their life with each other. She remembered a brief rundown of her lover's relationship with her ex and recalled that Gail Ross was a headhunter.
Her thoughts went deeper into the day of their confrontation, and when she remembered that Taylor had called her Elasmo, it all fell into place.
The woman must have put it all together and called Vincent, hoping to get the payoff that was offered for information leading to her whereabouts.
"That bitch!" was all Quinn could say in her frustration.
As Taylor got closer to her building Quinn knew that she had to intercept her. The tall woman eased off of the bench, carefully moving out of the assassin's line of sight.
She ran across the park until she was standing across from the oblivious doctor and tried to get her attention, first by waving her hands and then with her voice.
"Psst, Taylor," she said in a loud whisper, trying to get the small woman's attention.
The blonde head turned and her smile became even brighter. Just before she yelled Quinn's name the raider put her fingers to her lips, signaling Taylor to stay silent.
The gesture confused the doctor, but she remained quiet until she crossed the street making her way to the strange acting raider. When she reached Quinn she looked up at her confused.
Quinn grabbed her arm and walked them further back into the park out of eye sight before she changed direction and started back towards Taylor's apartment, hoping that they would stay hidden in the shadows.
When she finally stopped they were standing across from the building, camouflaged by the trees and the various people that populated the park. Before Taylor could say anything she held her finger up to her lips, letting her lover know that they needed to maintain their silence. Then she pointed to the two men waiting out front.
"Those are two of Vincent's men."
Panic rapidly coursed through the doctor's body when given the information. As their relationship became deeper and a foundation of trust was built, Quinn had told her about the threat to her life and why she was living as a homeless person.
Her voice began to shake in fear. "H...how did they find you?"
Blue eyes went hard with rage. "The best I can figure is that spiteful bitch of a headhunter recognized my corporate Moniker and called the company."
At first Taylor was confused, then she was filled with remorse. "Oh, no."
She stared at the former raider with apologetic green eyes. "I'm so sorry, Q. When I called you Elasmo I wasn't thinking."
The small woman started to pace as she ran her hands through her hair. "I can't believe she would do something like this...I'm gonna..."
Quinn cut her off by standing in front of her. All those goons needed to see was someone acting out of place before their interest was piqued.
"Don't worry about that, baby, there's no time for regrets. What we need to do now is get as far away from here as we can."
Dark lashes closed over remorseful blue eyes. "Gail, in her misguided attempt to turn me over to Vincent has placed you in danger."
Green eyes went wide with fear. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying, even if I walked away and never saw you again they would never believe that you don't know where I am."
Several emotions enveloped the doctor, ranging from the need to never be separated from the tall woman, to the stark fear of her life being in danger. All she could do was cover her face with her hands.
Quinn pulled her lover close to her and kissed the top of her head. "I'm sorry, baby. I'm so very sorry that I've pulled you into this."
When Quinn felt Taylor ball up the front of her shirt in her hands and lean away from her, she looked down into determined green eyes.
"Don't you dare apologize, Q. You didn't do this, Gail did."
Pain filled blue eyes pleaded with her. "Don't you understand? If it wasn't for me being here she would have never made that call."
Taylor took one of her lover's large hands and led her to an empty bench where she sat them down. She held on to Quinn's hand and placed it in her lap.
"This isn't your fault, Q. Gail made a choice of her own free will, and she chose to call that man and bring him into our lives. That wasn't your doing and there is no reason for you to take responsibility for it."
The dark woman appreciated her lover's efforts to take away her blame, but she didn't see it that way. "No, Taylor. My past sins have come back to haunt me. The only problem is that I always thought that when the time came, me, and me alone would take this on."
She caressed her lover's cheek. "Instead the most precious thing in my life is at risk and I could never forgive myself if something happened to you."
Taylor waved her hands in the air venting her frustration in the only way that she could, then she dropped them back down in defeat. "This is not your fault, this new twist is because of Gail, what we need to do now is find a way to adjust to the change and move on."
Quinn knew that Taylor thought the solution was just that simple, but she knew better than anyone that now that Vincent had a lead on her whereabouts, it wouldn't end until she was found, or the doctor was dead after they questioned her while seeking information.
She leaned forward and rested their foreheads together, making their eyes only centimeters apart. "Thank you, baby, but it's going to be a lot harder than that this time. Vincent has you in his sights and won't give up until you tell him everything that you know."
They sat back and stared at their uninvited visitors as Taylor wondered what lay ahead, then she turned her head towards her lover with a grin on her face.
"Well, you're the expert at subterfuge, what's our next move?"
Quinn just smiled. "I don't think you'll like what I have to say."
Surprisingly, it didn't take a lot of convincing for Quinn to talk Taylor into going into the tunnels. She figured it was fear that made the doctor agree to the change in location so easily, but she didn't hold onto much hope of it lasting long. Once the doctor got over her fear she would realize how much of her life she had give up to stay safe.
Taylor didn't complain when the raider settled her into the small partitioned area that was her 'bedroom'. There was no problem when she was told about the one restroom. She was relieved that there was one.
When she was told about Otis' habit of sleeping at the foot of the mattress that she was going to share with Quinn. It didn't seem to faze her.
But when she was told that she couldn't return to the hospital, the fireworks began. "What do you mean I can't go back to work?!"
Buddy and Doris moved further back into the room, trying to give the young people as much privacy as they could.
Even Otis stayed away from the blocked off area, instinctively knowing that this wasn't the time to try and manipulate the small blonde into giving him a belly rub.
Quinn tried to reason with her lover. "Taylor, if they know where you live then they most certainly know where you work. If they can't catch you at home they'll wait for you at the hospital."
Small fist started to beat on the worn mattress that the doctor sat on as she let her anger take over. "I wish that I could get my hands on Gail, I'd wring her neck and..."
She suddenly stopped and stared at her balled up fist with unbelieving eyes, shocked by their malicious intent. Loosening them, she placed them in her lap. "What am I doing? These hands heal they don't cause injury."
Quinn took the now limp fists in her own hands and raised them to her lips, kissing them with respect. "And they will heal again, baby. I've been thinking about it and I've decided that this is my problem and there is no reason for your career to be ruined because of it. So what I'm going to do is turn myself over to Vincent's boys and let the cards fall where they may."
Taylor snatched her hands away from Quinn and stood up... pacing in front of the seated woman. "No, I will not let you give up your life to those criminals!"
Quinn stood beside the agitated doctor and tried to calm her down. "Don't you see, Doc? I'm who they want. If I give myself up you and everyone that I care about will be safe."
She moved to the concrete wall that served as her headboard and leaned against it, clasping her hands on top of her head. "This started with me and it has to end with me."
Taylor ran to her lover and let out her desperation. The thought of losing her so soon after finding her was unacceptable. "No! There has to be another way. I will not let you sacrifice your life because of these thug's code of revenge."
She reached up over Quinn's head and pulled her hands apart so that she could wrap them around her waist. "If something happened to you, don't you know that I couldn't go on?"
Giving in to the bond that they shared, the raider pulled the smaller woman to her and laid her cheek on top of the blonde head.
"Okay, Doc. We'll find another way."
"What do you mean she didn't come home?" Vincent Sarrazin was livid. "Did you check the hospital?"
If it were at all possible, in that moment, Frank knew, without a doubt that he hated Elasmo even more than he thought possible. He knew that the former raider had somehow slipped from his grasp again and he would have to make more excuses for failing a second time.
"Yes, Mister Sarrazin, we checked. After the doctor didn't return home. The next morning we went to the hospital where we found out that she was on emergency leave."
Frank's boss was beside himself. This was the closest he had come in five years to locating his former employee and he wasn't happy to hear that she had eluded him once again.
He looked at his best enforcer with doubt and snarled. "You're supposed to be the expert, Frank. What's our next move?"
The big man didn't like being in this position. Usually he was given an assignment, carried it out and moved on to his next job. But Elasmo was now becoming a personal vendetta for him. She had now gotten away twice and it made him look bad in the eyes of his boss.
He was going to find her and deliver her head on a platter. First, to redeem his reputation as the organization's number one enforcer, second, because he refused to be seen as another victim of the great shark's feeding frenzy.
"Maybe we should go to, Pennsylvania and hold her family hostage until she surfaces," the big man said in hopes of finding a quick solution to their problem.
Vincent immediately waved off the idea. "If she gave a damn about those degenerates that raised her that would have been done years ago when she first disappeared but Quinn couldn't care less about her parents or their well-being."
Frank tried again. "What if I went to, Yonkers and "Questioned" the doctor's family?"
"No, you idiot." Vincent couldn't believe how dense Frank was. The doctor's parents were well known good upstanding people in their community. An invasion on their lives wouldn't go unreported or unnoticed.
Vincent's voice became sinister. "Involving those people would cause me the kind of problems that you don't want to answer for, Frank."
Frank wasn't known for his intellect, but even he could hear the veiled threat to his life mixed in with his boss' words and backed off but still tried to placate the man. "You're right, Mister Sarrazin, I didn't think about that."
Vincent hardened his gaze as he looked at the enforcer. "That doesn't fill me with confidence, Frank.
Could it be that my belief in your abilities have been misplaced? Maybe you have outlived your use to me."
His fear quickly turned to hate and he found himself once again cursing the missing Elasmo for putting him in this position.
"No, Mister Sarrazin. Your faith in my abilities are unquestionable. Give me a week and I will have that treacherous bitch standing in front of you begging for her life."
A satisfied smile covered the ruthless man's face. "That's what I want to hear. Now tell me. What's your next move?"
Relieved by his boss' response, Frank came up with another plan. "I'll start with the little snitch that turned Elasmo in."
Vincent leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together. "Ah, that sounds perfect."
"Roll over, Otis."
Taylor held a slice of lunchmeat over the relaxed dog's head trying to entice him into doing a trick for her. But Otis was uninterested and refused to move from his spot on the floor.
Observing the dog's lack of participation, Taylor began to wonder about the friendship that had developed between her lover and the reluctant canine.
"Q, I never asked before, but now I'm curious. Where did you find this dog and why did you name him Otis?"
Before the raider answered, she leaned back in her chair, careful not to topple herself over from the three legged chair that was now being supported by a crate. She looked at the knowing expressions on Buddy and Doris' faces and smiled.
They already knew the story of how the homeless woman had met her loyal friend, so they sat back, ready to hear the tale again.
"After my money ran out and I had no choice but to live on the streets, I made it a habit of finding as safe of a place as I could to sleep at night.
One evening after I had surveyed an alley that I thought would be safe, I entered it, hoping to sleep through the night without having to fight off the police or other homeless people.
Just as I was about to climb into a recently discarded cardboard box, I heard a noise, like someone was slurping from a can.
I cautiously moved towards the sound, ready to run or protect myself, whatever was necessary in the moment.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a dog lying on his back with a beer can held between his two front paws. His tongue was trying to lap up every last drop that the can was offering.
When he realized that he was being watched, he dropped the can and stood on all fours, waiting to see what I would do.
When our eyes met, I immediately knew that I had a kinship with this animal. When he tilted his head to the side, looking like he was asking me what my next move was going to be, I kneeled down and held my arms out to him.
He moved forward without any hesitation, and when I embraced him he licked the side of my neck as if he had known me for years.
When I stood up to look down on him he sat on his back legs, tilting his head again, trusting whatever it was I was going to do next. I placed my hands on my hips and tilted my head in the same fashion and laughed.
I motioned for him to follow me. After I settled myself into the cardboard box that I had found he laid down beside it like he was going to keep watch.
Before I closed the flap that would separate me from the rest of the world, I ran my hand over the dog's back and gave him a name.
I'm gonna call you Otis, because you remind my of that lovable town drunk from the Andy Griffith Show. He snorted in what I perceived to be his approval and we settled down for the night.
After that we became inseparable and that's how I came to meet Otis, my furry little sidekick."
Taylor thought that the story was endearing and agreed with Quinn's reason for naming the dog Otis. She recalled a memory from two days before and the strange purchase that was made now made more sense to her.
She and her lover had gone to the grocery store to stock up on some necessaries...
After their first day in the tunnels Taylor decided to buy food for everyone while they were in hiding. She refused to help deplete the stored food supply her hosts had gathered without contributing her fair share.
When Quinn realized that she couldn't change the small blonde's mind she insisted on accompanying her as a look out, so she followed behind her lover as they left the room. Until it was safe to resume their normal lives she wasn't going to take any chances with Taylor's safety.
Taylor had wondered how the adults made their way in and out of the large underground undetected and was impressed the day before when Quinn took her through the above ground passageways that were still accessible from the early years of the systems development to get in and out.
She had been even more impressed when Quinn used a key to unlock a nondescript door that the tall woman had led her to in an alleyway.
"Where did you get those?" the doctor asked.
Quinn wiggled her eyebrows. "I scouted this area for a long time until I was sure that no one hug out here. I guess the others thought that the people in the neighborhood would call the cops if too many homeless people started to hang around, so I got the idea if I could scrape up enough money to change the lock we could stay in the room behind the door and be safe."
Taylor didn't have to ask who 'we' were. She knew that her lover was referring to her friends.
"Anyway, when I pried the door open and saw that it led down a long stairway I followed it and found myself faced with another door. I worked that one open and was shocked to see what I later found out was the hallway that led to the restrooms and offices that were use by the employees. I roamed around until I was alone and able to explore the tracks, that's when I found the room that we live in."
Taylor smiled at the memory as they made their way out of the underground to go grocery shopping. 'This woman of mine is full of ingenuity.' she thought as she followed Quinn out into the alleyway.
As they piled dry and canned foods into the cart Quinn sheepishly added a six pack of beer to their purchase. When Taylor questioned why, the raider started to fidget.
"Well...um...Otis likes to have a beer every now and then. So when I can afford it I buy a six pack and give him a treat."
She saw the questioning look in the doctor's green eyes and quickly filled in the rest. "He likes to take a sip on occasion and these will last him for a couple of months. I only give him a drink every two weeks or so."
Taylor couldn't help but see the humor in the situation and decided to put Quinn's mind at ease. "Don't worry about it, Q. I know what Otis means to you and if I can give him a few luxuries along with the rest of us, that's what I'll do."
They continued their shopping and at the checkout they had the baggers pack their purchases in as few bags as necessary so that their burden would be light.
After they made their way back to the hidden room without being accosted, they began storing the dry and canned goods on shelves that had been found in various places around the city.
After putting the perishables away in the small refrigerator that the homeless adults had somehow acquired, they sat around the table listening to a portable radio that Doris had been give years before by a social worker that wanted the older couple to have a source of entertainment while they roamed the streets. The same shelter that kept Q supplied with feminine hygiene products also gave them a generous amount of free batteries when they ran low.
With so much concrete surrounding them the only channel that came in without static was an AM news station. At first Taylor thought that being cut off from the world would be strange. But after spending a few days underground she realized that the so called 'displaced people' understood more about the truth of life than she ever did.
She slowly came to see that the conveniences that men had developed were only hindering the population's ability to discover the new and wonderful things that the world still had to offer.
When she moved her chair closer to her lover's, she rested her head on the former raider's strong shoulder and rubbed her stomach as they listened to the broadcast.
The ER doctor was determined. When this nightmare was over she would do more in her efforts to make a connection to every human being that she treated. Her new perspective would make it so.
Seven days later when Quinn tried to ease her way out of her lover's embrace undetected, the doctor immediately felt the missing warmth of the tall woman's body.
"Where do you think you're running off to?" she asked in a sleepy voice.
The tall woman relaxed her body back into the mattress and moved closer to her lover. "I thought that I would go to the hospital and see if there was anyone waiting for you."
Taylor quickly became awake and pushed up on her elbow, staring down into her caught lover's eyes. She gently removed the dark bangs from her forehead so that she could see her clearly.
"Were you planning on going on this mission alone?"
Knowing that she was caught, Quinn exhaled in defeat. "I was, but now that you are awake I guess I'm gonna have to change my strategy."
Taylor readjusted herself so that she laid on top of her lover, taking away the woman's ability to leave the bed without dislodging her bodyweight.
"What's our plan of attack?" Taylor asked.
Quinn's hands worked their way up her lover's shoulders before she snuggled her head closer to the smaller woman's neck.
"Since it is obviously that you are going to join me I'll let you in on my surveillance plan. Now that there are two of us, we'll hide in the woods that grow across from the ER entrance."
She held up her hand to stop what she knew was coming. "I know that a huge parking lot and a two-way thoroughfare separate the distance, but it will be close enough for me to see if Frank and Slim if they are there... Frank especially.
We'll wait to see if Vincent's henchmen are staking out the building. If they are, we'll come back to the subway and decide what our next move will be."
Quinn waited to see how her lover would react. When Taylor agreed without protesting, she was pleasantly surprised. The women quietly got dressed and set out to see if Quinn's suspicions were valid.
When they reached the door Otis was determined to follow them and would not be turned away, Quinn shook her head in defeat and allowed the dog to come.
She leaned down and whispered in his ear. "You're just as stubborn as she is," she said referring to her small mate.
Taylor pinched the tall woman's side. "I heard that, Q."
As they left the room Quinn rubbed the sore spot and mumbled. "I was just kidding."
It wasn't long after they arrived that their little surveillance expedition paid off. At eight o'clock on the dot Frank and Slim pulled up in a dark sedan, parked in a space, and stood outside of the vehicle, waiting to see if the doctor show up for her shift.
Otis started to growl deep in his throat until Taylor rubbed his back in a soothing motion. "You have to be quiet, boy. We don't want them to hear us. "
Seeming to understand what his new friend was saying, the dog stopped the noise, but never took his eyes off of the two men.
Quinn had seen all that she needed to see. She rose from their hiding place and pulled Taylor and Otis further back into the foliage.
"That answers my question. Let's get back and figure out what to do next."
"I swear. I don't know where Taylor is," Gail Ross said through her swollen bloodied lips.
The headhunter never conceived in her darkest nightmares that she would ever be sitting in a chair with her hands held behind her locked in handcuffs while being tortured by a soulless demon with expert culinary skills as a mountain of human flesh stood off to the side observing the exhibition.
She had already been beaten and cut in places that she had never imagined would illicit so much pain. She now knew that she had made a huge error by calling these people.
Over the last month and a half the headhunter had wondered why Quinn Martin would give up a successful and lucrative career as a corporate raider and drop out of sight... now she understood why.
Skinny Slim, that's what his colossal partner had called him, was cleaning his fingernails with the tip of the pointed blade he had been using her, acting as if he had all the time in the world.
Gail knew that she was losing all sense of reality when she focused on the blade that the man was using to clean his nails, and her only thought was about the amount of bacteria that would be left behind if he used it to cut her again.
When she saw that her kidnapers didn't feel hurried in their task it scared her. The men made it a habit to take their time getting to her, before and after each round of abuse. That's how she knew that she was in for a long agonizing confinement.
"I've told you everything that I know about Taylor. She is the ER Chief at DC Metropolitan. And the only thing that I know about Quinn Martin is that she used to work for the Sarrazin Group and has a broken leg."
In this particular circumstance it was unfortunate for the headhunter that she didn't know Quinn was homeless. If she had, she could have directed her kidnappers to various alleyways and storefronts that the homeless frequented.
But she had made the mistake of contacting Vincent Sarrazin before she had done any homework on Elasmo's status during her five year absence...it would prove to be a fatal oversight.
Skinny Slim moved in to start another round of adding cuts to the woman's anatomy and she whimpered with the anticipation of the pain she knew she was about to receive.
When he unlocked the handcuffs Frank moved in behind her and held her tight so that Slim could bring her arms around to the front before pulling out a second pair of cuffs.
She tried, but she knew there was no way she could free herself from the titan that held her forcefully in place as her wrist were cuffed to wooden arms of the chair.
After he had secured both of wrists Slim lifted the index finger on her right hand. He made a quick motion, slicing the skin along her cuticle. The thin line that appeared caused the delicate skin to separate from the nail bed immediately.
At first it felt like a paper cut, and then the pain started to set in. When all five of her sensitive nail coverings had been cut she started to moan and writhe in an effort to escape...but there would be no reprieve for her on this day.
Frank stepped in front of her and backhanded her with his large hand, snapping her head back, causing her right eye to throb and swell shut.
"Please guys...I'm telling you the truth. I can't help you."
Frank grabbed a handful of her sweaty auburn hair and pulled her head back so far that she thought her neck would snap.
"You know the doctor, so you should know who her friends are. Make it easy on yourself. Give me a name and maybe I'll tell Slim to go easy on you."
Gail racked her brain trying to think of a name, but none was coming. Taylor had never introduced her to any of her friends, and now she regretted not pressing the issue.
If it hadn't been for her selfish attempts at dominating the small doctor's life during their short time together, she would have a few names and addresses to give over.
But instead of getting to know who her friends were she had insisted that Taylor spend all of her free time alone with her. Now she was paying for that selfishness...dearly.
When Frank punched her in the face, breaking her nose, Gail shutdown. She had finally reached her limit. The hours of unending agony that she had been put through had taken its toll.
Her mind had crossed over to a place where the threat of being tortured or possibly killed held no power over her. She refused to take anymore...she was ready to accept her fate.
The headhunter looked at the men through the slits that her eyes had become and straightened her body as much as she could in her position.
She spat out the blood that had pooled in her mouth and raised her head in defiance. "You're supposed to be the tough guys, the ones with all the answers. Why can't you find her?"
Gail called up all of her reserves and laughed at the stunned men. "I guess the hype is true. Elasmo is the best of the best and way too smart to be found by two dimwitted bullies like you.
You idiots have to stoop to beating up a defenseless woman to get the answers that you're too feebleminded to find on your own. With the two of you on the job no wonder she's gone undetected for so long."
She saw the change in their demeanor immediately, and knew that her next words would probably be her last.
"Elasmo may be a woman, but from where I'm sitting it looks like the two of you are the pussies."
Frank's face went scarlet and he wanted to crush her skull with his bare hands, but instead he gave Slim the signal to finish the bitch off in a way that only the skilled lacerate could.
The knife swiped across her gut so quickly that Gail never saw it coming. When she looked down and saw her intestines sitting in her lap her eyes opened in surprise.
Her last thought before she died was. 'It doesn't even hurt.'
When Quinn left the mattress, Taylor began to stir. She kissed her head and whispered for her to go back to sleep, telling the doctor that she would be right back.
She and Otis were going to make their daily trip to the platform to retrieve one of the newspapers that the subway passengers usually left behind.
When they climbed up onto the concrete floor the station was deserted and she quickly spotted a few of the commuters left behind papers on an empty bench.
She picked up one that was in reasonable good shape and her stomach dropped when she read the headline on the front page of the Washington Post.
"PROMINENT DISTRICT HEADHUNTER FOUND DEAD NEAR THE WHARF."
She quickly made her way back to the abandoned room and woke up its sleeping occupants.
When she heard her lover's frantic voice Taylor got up and rubbed her eyes as she stumbled around the partition and joined the others at table.
"What's got you so riled up, Q?"
Quinn shoved the paper in front of the doctor and waited for her to finish reading the story.
"Oh, my god. No. This can't be true."
Blue eyes softened with compassion as she slid out of her chair to kneel down beside the distraught physician.
"I'm sorry, baby."
Taylor had never loved Gail, but she didn't feel like the woman deserved to die, and from the brief description that was given concerning the condition of her body, it hadn't been an easy death.
Quinn lowered her head in shame. "This is what will happen to you if you stay with me, Doc."
When Taylor abandoned the paper to address her lover, Buddy picked it up and pulled it closer so that Doris could read it with him.
Small hands lifted the dark head and started to caress high cheekbones with her thumbs. "No, Q, remember what we talked about in the park? I won't lie to you. Gail's murder frightens me, but she is responsible, not you."
"How can you say that? If she had never met me she would still be alive."
Taylor knew what she had to say. She wasn't going to allow Quinn to feel guilty because Gail's underhanded attempt to come between them had resulted in her own death.
"Don't you dare feel responsible for her. She did this to herself."
The doctor stood up and pulled Quinn with her. As she led her lover to their private area, she looked back over her shoulder.
"I want to talk to Q alone, we'll be back later."
The older couple nodded their heads in understanding. If the doctor could talk their friend out of doing something stupid, they were all for it.
After guiding Quinn to their mattress, Taylor sat down beside her. She took one of the large hands in her own and started to stroke it while trying to think of a way to say what was on her mind.
"I know that you feel like you should do something about this, but I don't see it that way. You are not obligated to sacrifice yourself because of Gail's death, and I won't sit on the sidelines watching while you try to pay a debt that you don't owe."
Quinn laid back on the mattress and covered her face with her arms. "I don't feel like I owe Gail anything. What I'm thinking about is how to protect you."
Quinn sat up and looked at Taylor with pleading blue eyes. "Don't you see? Vincent won't stop now that he has a location and a name."
Large hands cupped the doctor's soft cheeks. "I refuse to hide like a coward, keeping myself safe while putting your life in danger."
The determination in her lover's words frightened Taylor and she knew that she had to redirect the raider's thinking.
"They don't know where we are, Q, if they did they would have come here by now."
"They won't stop, Doc. It'll never end until they find me. And if you are with me when that happens...well, that's not something that I will allow."
She prayed that her lover would understand. "Don't you see, Doc? Your life has more meaning than mine, if something happened to you it would be a greater loss."
Green eyes hardened with anger, she knew what she was about to say wasn't fair, but she didn't care, so she played her last card.
"If something happened to you while trying to protect me I would be devastated. Don't do that to me, Q, I couldn't live with the guilt."
She kissed the soft lips in front of her. "Don't you know how much I love you? If you jumped off of a cliff, I'd follow right behind you. This life means nothing to me if you're not in it."
Quinn exhaled in defeat, knowing she felt the same way. But something had to be done. Things couldn't go one like they were. She couldn't stay hidden away, hoping that Vincent would grow tired of searching for her. The presence of Frank and Slim proved that would never happen.
"Okay, Doc you win. Any plan that I come up with will include you. Does that make you feel better?"
Taylor grabbed Quinn and kissed her all over her face. "Yes, it does. Now, what do you have in mind?"
Quinn couldn't help but laugh. "A little anxious aren't we?"
The pout that tugged at Taylor's lips before she dropped her head was adorable. "I just wanna help."
Two long fingers raised the blonde woman's head and reassured her with smiling blue eyes. "And help you shall."
She guided Taylor back into the main area and rejoined Buddy and Doris at the table. The older couple looked at Quinn, waiting to hear what she was going to say.
Large hands hit the table with an audible slap. "Okay, here's the plan."
"Is everyone ready?" Quinn asked her partners in this mission. The three of them looked around at each other and nodded their heads, yes. Even Otis added his voice to others by letting out a short bark.
Quinn reached over and rubbed his tan head. "That's my boy."
The dog wagged his tail in delight, feeling like his friend was pleased.
"Okay, remember the plan. You guys follow me from a distance, but don't make a move until contact is made. Got it?"
Again the heads nodded in understanding. "Are you sure, Q? Is this safe?" Taylor asked.
Quinn held the doctor's hands in her own, trying to comfort the small woman with her eyes and a confident touch.
"Taylor, whether it's safe or not can't matter. This is the only way that I can think of to end this without all of us ending up dead."
She smiled a little. "Is it wise? Probably not. But I think we'll come out okay." Her smile brightened. "I have a feeling."
The blonde woman raised their joined hands and kissed the larger one. "Then let's go hunting."
Their plan was simple. They would go back to Taylor's building and Quinn would walk around, acting like she was waiting the doctor while the others stayed across the street out of sight.
Quinn knew there was a good chance that Frank and Slim would still be keeping an eye on the building since it was where Taylor lived.
She hoped that when she was spotted she would be able to lead the men to alley where their plan could go into action.
That was if the thugs didn't get so excited about finding her that they grabbed her right there on the open street. But if her instincts were correct, and Elasmo's usually were, Frank would want to get her somewhere private and...have a talk with her.
After getting them to follow her to the alley, Buddy would use the newly purchased handheld digital camcorder to record their meeting while Taylor held the hi-tech listening device to record the conversation.
When Taylor had to leave her home two weeks before, Quinn remembered how she had been found early on in her attempts to disappear, so she told the doctor that it would be best if she withdrew as much money as she could from the bank before Vincent could put a flag on the account.
So when they went to the store to purchase the surveillance equipment that was needed they paid with cash in an effort not to leave a paper trail.
If things worked out as planned Vincent Sarrazin's henchmen would take the information back to him that Quinn had in her possession recorded evidence of his threats against her and he stop his pursuit...forever.
Three adults and one curious dog had been sitting in the park across from Taylor's apartment for three hours watching Quinn walk back and forth acting like she was waiting for Taylor to come home.
When Taylor finally saw Frank and Slim walking in her lover's direction her heart lodged itself in her throat and she could hardly breathe.
"My god. That's the biggest human being I've ever seen," Doris said.
Quinn saw the men before they saw her and started to lead them away from the building. Just as she had hoped. They followed.
When she was sure that they were content with stalking her in silence, she started walking towards an alley that had been scouted out earlier. She knew that is where the confrontation would take place.
It didn't take long for them to make their presence known. Once she had traveled deep into the dimly lit corridor, she heard the voice that she would never forget.
"Well, well, well, Elasmo, it's been a long time."
She turned to face her pursuers and wasn't surprised when her heart tried to beat out of her chest. The years between her last up close and personal meeting with Frank and the present seemed to disappear and memories returned with a vengeance.
Her breathing increased and despite the cool weather sweat started to form above her lip. As hard as she tried to calm herself, it wasn't working.
'My god, I must have been insane to try this. What was I thinking?' she thought.
Then visions of golden hair and green eyes filled her mind and she drew strength from the image. 'That's why,' she reminded herself. 'I can't let them harm Taylor.
She pulled up her Elasmo persona and faced her past. "Frank, long time, no see. How's it going?"
The big man's laughter filled the hollow space and created an echo that sent chills down Quinn's spine.
"Still the cocky bitch I see, Elasmo."
Quinn pulled up all of her reserves in an attempt to project confidence, as she mimicked his laughter, adding a lopsided grin to the picture...just to irritate him.
"Well, you know what they say. If ya got it, flaunt it."
The men moved further into the passage until they were twenty feet away from their target. "Let's not play games. You know why we're here. You can come with us voluntarily or by force."
Frank cracked the knuckles on his mammoth sized fist and smiled. "Personally, I'd prefer it if you chose force."
Once again panic started to rise in the raider and she felt her concentration slipping, that was until she looked over the man's shoulder and saw her friends across the street with their equipment pointing in her direction.
"What do you want, Frank?"
"I want many things, Elasmo, but I have to put my personal wants aside in order to fulfill Mr. Sarrazin's needs...he's very unhappy with you."
Quinn knew that she had to get the enforcer to say more if she wanted to tie Vincent into the confrontation. If not, there wouldn't be any incriminating evidence against the big boss.
"Sorry, but I don't know what you mean. Why would Vincent Sarrazin be looking for me?"
Frank noticed Slim looking at him with a question on his dark face. Skinny Slim carried out Vincent's orders without the benefit of knowing why. The reasons were never a necessity for him. He did his job, got paid and moved on with his life until the next time.
But, because Frank seemed to have so much hatred for this woman he was curious as to the reason why the big enforcer was making this personal. In their line of work that was never a good thing.
Instead of talking to Slim he addressed Quinn, recounting their history to her for the tall man's benefit. "Oh, I see that your memory needs refreshing after five years. Okay, stop me if any of this sounds familiar to you."
He pointed his thick finger at the raider. "You were a corporate raider for the Sarrazin Group. Then you." He pointed at her again.
"Decided to become a turncoat and help the people that Mr. Sarrazin was trying to buy out stay in business."
Quinn tilted her head as if she were listening to a story that was foreign to her.
Slim moved to the side, deciding to watch the show. He had heard many stories about the shark, how she could throw corporate heads off her scent with her intellect and charm, realizing too late that they were in the middle of a feeding frenzy.
He had a feeling that's what was happening now. Knowing that Frank wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, he relaxed a little, wanting to see how the mountain of meat would handle Elasmo.
"Your confusion doesn't fool me, Elasmo."
Slim raised his brow showing shock laced with a little bit of respect at the man's fairly accurate observation.
"I know you remember why I came to your place five years ago. Mr. Sarrazin wanted me to dispose of you then and he wants me to dispose of you now."
Quinn was shocked at how easy it was to get Frank to spill the beans. But she wanted one last confession.
"Yes, it's all coming back to me now. But I have a question. Did you have anything to do with the headhunter's death?"
Knowing that the raider's life would end soon, the enforcer saw no reason why he shouldn't answer her question.
"Let's just say that she found herself swimming in uncharted waters. The silly woman called Mr. Sarrazin and he sent us out to... question her. The fact that she ended up dead was her own fault. Her mouth wrote a check that...well you know the rest."
Quinn looked across the street and saw Taylor give her the thumbs up from a distance and knew that they enough information.
Feeling confident, Quinn moved closer to Frank and noticed Slim leave his perch on the wall to stand beside his partner, ready to defend them if necessary.
"Turn around and leave big man, it's over."
Frank snorted. "Really? Why is that?"
Quinn motioned for the men to look behind them as she pointed out three people and a dog standing across the street with what looked like audio and visual equipment trained in their direction.
The outpouring of anger and violence was so sudden that before Quinn knew what was happening, Frank was on her and his fists were pummeling every part of her body that they could reach.
After Slim realized that they had been caught on video, the tall man made a run for it, nearly knocking down two men that were entering the alley as he made his escape.
Earlier that day Curtis and James had decided to check out the dumpsters in a more affluent neighborhood. It had been months since their second encounter with the 'Queen' and without around to pick a fight with he was bored.
He knew that it would take some time for her to recover from the lesson that he and James had taught her, so while he waited for her to resurface he decided to do a little exploring.
This wasn't an area that he and James made a habit of coming to, without fail, the police always ran them off before they could scope out any goods.
But for some reason that he didn't understand, when he woke up that morning he was filled with a desire to scourer the alleyways for the discarded trinkets of those that lived well, and afterwards sit for as long as he could in the park that was located in the middle of DuPont Circle.
When the black man ran past them, almost knocking them over, they wanted to follow him and show him a little 'street etiquette.'
But when they saw a large suited man beating on who they assumed was a fellow street dweller, after all who but a homeless person or a criminal would be hanging out alleyways? Curtis squeezed his fingers together, pumping blood into his fist before he looked at his partner.
"Feel like a workout, James?"
The short black man smiled in a way that was very familiar to Curtis. "Just say the word."
Before they could take two steps forward, a golden colored mutt ran past them and entered the struggle. Otis didn't hesitate. Once he was able to pull away from Doris' grip there was stopping him. Quinn needed help and he was going to give it to her.
He launched his body onto the attacker's wide back and bit the man where ever he could find skin. Frank was momentarily shocked by the piercing pain, but recovered quickly.
He reached around with his gigantic hand and found purchase on Otis' fur covered neck. With little effort he slung the dog against a brick wall and heard the unmistakable sound of bones breaking.
Realizing that Frank's blows had stopped, Quinn rolled over and tried to stand up. But the reprieve only lasted for seconds.
Before she could regain her footing, Frank was on her again. Spit was dripping from his mouth as he grabbed her by the collar.
"If I have to do time it won't be for killing some spineless little snitch that didn't have enough sense not swim in the deep end, it'll be because I killed you, you ruthless whore."
Just as he wrapped his hand around her neck in an all too familiar hold, he drew back with his free hand and struck her in the temple.
As Quinn's world went black her last thoughts were of Taylor. 'I'm sorry, Doc. I made an error in judgment.'
Although her body laid boneless at his feet, Frank didn't stop his assault. He reached down and started to pound the unconscious woman's torso, he wanted to pulverize her and leave an unrecognizable corps to bury.
When he was suddenly hit from both sides with enough force to knock him on his back he had no choice but release his hold on Quinn in order to defend himself.
"Get off me you fuckers!"
Curtis and James didn't give an inch in their attack. It wasn't until they were on the man that they realized how humongous he was, and they knew that if they stopped pummeling him before he passed out they were dead men.
When Frank finally laid unconscious beneath them. They looked up just in time to see Buddy, Doris and a very beautiful blonde woman rushing towards them.
Taylor hurried to Quinn's side, momentarily ignoring the mess that was her lover's face while she frantically ran her fingers over the long neck, trying to find a pulse. She breathed out a sigh of relief when she felt a strong heartbeat rise up to meet her fingertips.
She pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911. When she knew that help was on its way she disconnected the call and acknowledged her lover's saviors. "Thank you, thank you for helping her."
It was then that Curtis realized who they had rescued. Looking down at the 'Queen' as she lay beaten and unconscious didn't make him feel the joy that he thought he should at her predicament. Instead he was filled with a small amount of pride for his part in stopping the stranger from killing her.
"Yeah, well, don't mention it. She may be a bitch, but she's our bitch, and if anyone is gonna beat her sorry stuck-up ass to within an inch of her life it'll be one of us, not some well dressed thug from the heights."
When he smacked James on his arm and motioned for him to follow, the action caused pain to radiate in his sore and damaged knuckles. He was still trying to rub the pain out them as they left the alley. They wanted to be long gone before help arrived. Answering questions about the part they had played in this debacle wasn't on their agenda for the day.
As they walked away, James took one last look over his shoulder at the picture the two women on the ground presented. One dark and the other light. Something about them picked at his memory. Then it hit him.
"Hey, Curtis. Don't they kinda look like those women that came through a few months ago warning us about night creatures of some sort?"
Curtis thought for a second then snapped his fingers. " Ouch, shit! That was dumb. Yeah, they do. What were their names? Um...Connie, Candace."
He almost snapped his fingers again but stopped before popping the pads together. "Camron, Camron and Antoinette. That was it."
He shivered a little. "Now those were two chicks I definitely wouldn't want to meet alone in a dark alley."
Taylor laid Quinn's head in her lap and looked to Buddy while Doris tended to the whimpering Otis. Even in his obvious state of pain the dog was still trying to crawl over to his fallen companion.
"Do you know who they were?"
Buddy shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly before he spoke. "That was Curtis and James."
It took a moment before Taylor's mind could register why those names sounded so familiar. When realization bloomed she looked towards the now vacant entrance and smiled.
"I'll be damned. Was that an example of street loyalty?"
They could hear sirens quickly approaching in the distance as Doris pulled out a worn piece cloth to wrap around Otis' injured leg.
"As strange as it may seem, yes, that's exactly what it was."
The ER was buzzing with activity when Quinn's stretcher was wheeled in. They took her to an exam room right-a-way and the nurses started to prep her for diagnosis.
Nurse, Joan Simmons recognized Quinn immediately. Although her clothes looked new, there was no mistaking the tall, dark haired woman's identity. She was the homeless person that had been brought in months before.
And from the looks of her she had been beaten again. "When will these people learn?" she said out loud. "They need to be given minimal treatment and sent back out on the streets to meet whatever fate awaits them."
They were almost the exact words she had stated the first time that she had seen this particular patient. As she roughly removed the unconscious woman's clothes her monolog continued.
"I am so tired of our time being wasted on this indigent trash. I didn't go to nursing school to have to deal with these people on a daily basis."
Before her rant could continue she heard a voice that had been absent from the ER for two weeks. "Nurse Simmons, I thought we had come to an understanding when it came to you voicing your personal opinions about our patients."
Joan's heart stopped in her chest. 'Shit, I thought she was out on leave.'
"My mistake, Dr. Winslow. I forgot myself. Please forgive my outburst."
Taylor moved forward and removed the nurse's stethoscope from around her neck and looked at her with contempt.
"I'll need these for my exam. I suggest you go take a break in the lounge until I come for you."
The nurse used her better judgment and left the exam room without saying another word.
"Okay people, we have a thirty-six year old female with multiple contusions and a possible closed head injury. She's been unconscious for twenty-five minutes, but her vitals are strong. Let's get her prepped and up to the CT lab."
The small doctor was barely hanging on to her professional demeanor. Her hands trembled slightly and with each pass she made over her lover's body her finger tips unknowingly paused to caress the soft skin underneath.
Brad Davis was a senior physician on the ER staff and was assisting with Quinn's exam. Every so often he would glance at his colleague with concern.
Taylor was behaving oddly. It was obvious that she was having trouble holding it together, but it wasn't until she lovingly ran her hand through their patient's dark hair that he had a clue as to what was going on.
He stepped beside her and spoke into her ear. "Dr. Winslow, you look a little stressed. Why don't you go to the on-call room, take a warm shower, put on a clean pair of scrubs and meet me in the family waiting area."
At first Taylor bristled at the suggestion, until she took notice of the dried blood that was on the coat that she was still wearing and gave in.
"Fine Brad, but I'll take a shower in my office, if anything happens call my extension."
As soon as she cleared the door, Brad took charge and the room came alive again as everyone started working together like a well oil machine.
Taylor was barely able to make it into her office before the tears began to fall. But before the all consuming fear of what could have happened in that alley took control of her she stood still for a few minutes trying to center herself. She knew that she wouldn't be any good to her lover if her emotions were all over the place.
As her body started to calm, she decided that the best thing to do was keep herself occupied while Quinn was being treated, so she started to make a mental list of things to do.
The first being to take a hot shower, something she had missed for the last two weeks, and change into a clean set of scrubs.
As she stood under the warm spray she thought, 'It just goes to show how resourceful Quinn and her small family are. To be homeless, they have been able to keep themselves very clean. They were so lucky to find a place that had a half bathroom in it.'
A sad smile showed on her face. 'That was because of Q.'
She forced away the worry that tried to creep into her heart by thinking about the two men that had saved the day.
'Q definitely smelled cleaner than Curtis and James.' Her mouth turned up in a half smile when she thought about how ironic it was that Quinn's nemesis had, by a total twist of fate, become her rescuer. 'Now that was a surprise.'
She dried off, got dressed in the green hospital issued scrubs and sat at her desk with a towel draped around her neck catching the excess water. "Now for the next item on my list," she said out loud.
She picked up the phone and dialed the extension to the Chief of Staff's office. It was picked up on the second ring.
"Good afternoon. Dr. Peterson's office."
"Hi, Marla, this is Dr. Winslow. Is Charles in?"
An involuntary smile creased the older woman's face. After her boss, Taylor Winslow was her favorite doctor working at the inner city hospital.
"He's on another line, but should be done in a few moments. Do you want to hold on?"
Taylor grabbed a pen and began doodling on her desk blotter. "No problem, I'll wait."
She was just finishing the last shadings on her T.W. loves Q.M. heart when she heard a deep pleasant voice on the other end.
"Taylor, to what do I owe the honor of a call from my ER Chief? And aren't you supposed to be on leave?"
"I'm here with a patient, but that's not why I'm calling, Charles. Normally I wouldn't ask, but how fast can you transfer Joan Simmons out of the ER?"
The man's voice took on a tone of concern. "What's the problem, Taylor?"
"While a preliminary exam was being done on a patient, I overhead her, not for the first time, speaking negatively about the type of people that we help."
"Mmm. I see."
"I've reprimanded her once, but obviously it didn't do any good, now I want her out of my ER."
He didn't have to consider the request at all. If Taylor had a problem with this nurse he didn't doubt that it was well deserved. The small blonde didn't play politics or use her position to carry out personal vendettas.
"That shouldn't be a problem. Is tomorrow soon enough?"
"Tomorrow would be perfect. After I hang up with you I'll go down to the lounge and inform her about the change. Thanks, Charles. I really appreciate it."
"Anytime, Taylor. You're the best ER chief we've ever had. That, and the fact that you believe in treatment without the loss of dignity makes your request an easy one. Just have her report to the nurse manager's office before her shift starts tomorrow. Is there anything else that you need?"
"No, that'll be it."
Joan Simmons drank cup after cup of coffee as she waited for Dr. Winslow to come find her. She hated being left in the dark without any information. It always sent her mind to a negative place.
Yes, she had gotten caught making disparaging comments about that homeless woman again, but it couldn't be serious enough to cause her to lose her job...could it?
Before she could sink any further into her musings the door opened and a freshly scrubbed Taylor Winslow walked in.
"Dr. Winslow, let me start by saying..."
Taylor held up her hand to stop the nurses' ranting. "You've talked enough. Now you listen. First. Be thankful that you still have a job."
Joan mentally sighed with relief. That was one question answered.
"Second. This is your last warning. If I hear you denigrate so much as a urinal cake, you're out of here."
That was all that she needed to hear, as long as she kept her position in the ER she wouldn't complain. To her, working in the fast paced atmosphere was a sign of status.
In her mind it took special skills and abilities to keep up with the constant care that was always needed in the emergency room. Floor nurses were just glorified babysitters as far as she was concerned. She knew that it was not a position that she was interested in holding.
"And lastly. You will report to the nurse manager tomorrow morning before the start of your shift to receive your new assignment."
The short blonde paused for effect. "Your services are no longer needed in my ER."
Before Joan could utter a word Taylor was out the door in search of information about her lover's condition, never giving Joan Simmons a second thought.
She was relieved to see Janice Benson on duty at the admit desk. She had been the unit secretary the entire time that Taylor had worked at D.C. Metropolitan and was probably the most kindhearted person on staff.
She was short in stature. To her pleasant surprise she was even shorter than Taylor. And to the small doctor that was saying a lot.
Dark curly hair framed a brown face that was open and inviting. That was one of the reasons people were immediately put at ease when they were anxiously awaiting to hear information about their loved ones. For some reason when those compassionate brown eyes told them that the wait would be just a little longer there was never an outburst of impatient yelling, just a heartfelt thank you.
Seeing Taylor approaching the desk, the older woman greeted the doctor with a smile that caused the sepia colored skin around her eyes to crinkle from the effort.
"Hey, Dr. Winslow. It's been a while. I thought you were out on leave."
Taylor leaned on the long counter and let some of her exhaustion show. "I am. I came in with a patient."
She lifted her weary head and asked Janice if she could call the CT lab and check on Quinn's condition. Short fingers flew across the computer keyboard with expert precision.
"You said she would be listed as a Jane Doe, right?"
"Okay, let me see what I can find."
She tapped a few more keys until she found the information. "Here it is. A head injury. It looks like she's still being scanned."
Taylor rubbed her face and released a deep sigh. "Thanks, Janice. When you hear something could you call my extension? I'm gonna wait in my office."
"No problem, as soon as I know something I'll give you a buzz."
As she walked passed the waiting room she spotted Buddy and Doris sitting amongst the people waiting to be seen.
They noticed her approach and stood to meet her before she reached them. Doris spoke first. "How is she, Taylor?"
The ER chief motioned for them to follow her without saying anything. When they reached her office she told them to have a seat on the leather sofa as she sat behind her desk.
"She's still up in the CT lab, but they'll call me as soon as they know something."
Noticing Buddy's somber demeanor she remembered that another loved one had been injured in the fight and asked about his condition.
"Buddy, how's, Otis?"
The older man lifted his head and smiled at the doctor. "We took him to a vet around the corner from your building."
His smile widened. "Living in a nice neighborhood sure has its perks huh, Doc?"
"Yeah, I guess it does. Is he okay?"
"The old boy caught a break...literally. His back leg is broken. Thankfully that was the extent of his injuries. The vet said we could pick him up on our way back to the station."
He hung his head in shame for a moment before he could look Taylor in the eye. "Sorry, Doc, but we had to give your name and address before they would see him...you know...so they could send a bill."
Taylor waved him off. "Not a problem. If I had been thinking clearly I would have told you to do that anyway."
They sat in silence for a while, each person lost in their own thoughts. Taylor observed the older people and not for the first time wondered how they had come to live on the streets as a couple.
Deciding that it couldn't hurt to ask, she broached the subject. "Um...if you don't mind me asking...how did you guys become homeless?"
The fire that sparked in Doris' eyes was so fierce that it caused Taylor to sit back in her chair, making her hold her hands out in front of her as she apologized for asking.
Buddy reached over and patted his wife's leg in an effort to calm her. "It's alright, Doris. Taylor didn't mean any harm."
Street life was different from life that was lived in the real world. No one asked about your story and the information was rarely volunteered.
As long as they had been with Q they didn't know her name was Quinn until they heard Taylor say it. None of that mattered. A person's past life wasn't important.
All anyone cared about was the here and now. They didn't know that Quinn Martin was a corporate raider, or that she had lived in the lap of luxury in Manhattan. All they knew, all they cared about was the person that she was now and that was family.
For long moments the couple stared at each other, seeming to communicate without words. Finally Doris nodded her head and relaxed against the back of the cool leather.
"Well, Taylor, it's like this. Up until seventeen years ago I worked for the post office. Life was good. We lived in the suburbs, raised three kids and were looking forward to a life that consisted of just the two of us.
The only problem was, for many years I had been a heavy drinker. There had been a few times that the post office allowed me to take time off while I went through treatment.
Unfortunately it didn't work because I only did it when drinking became a problem at work and my only choices were rehab or termination. So my sobriety only lasted a few months."
He stopped talking and his eyes softened with what could only be described as regret. "Doris decided that if she would drink with me, maybe I would gradually stop."
He raised his hands to ward off whatever Taylor was about to say. "I know it was crazy but..."
He squeezed his wife's leg before he continued. "She was trying to help me the best way she knew how. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were both alcoholics.
With the children gone and the responsibility of their care no longer a deterrent there was no reason why we should stop...so it went on.
That is until I stopped going to work and we lost our home. But even that didn't slow us down. Our oldest son and his wife took us in, but after about six months we had worn out our welcome."
Doris heard the strain in Buddy's voice and took up the story. "He had no choice but to put us out."
Taylor couldn't stay quiet any longer. "Your son threw you out?" That's awful."
"No, Taylor, don't judge Clayton harshly. We deserved it. We were freeloading and pawning anything that we could get our hands on and it was putting a strain on his marriage."
She turned to Buddy and rubbed his slumped over shoulders. "He did the right thing."
Buddy reached up and held the rough hand that soothed him. "I'm so sorry, Doris, this is all my fault. If I had been stronger..."
Taylor watched as Doris tried to comfort her spouse and felt wonder at the display. The love that they had for one another was obvious and the point was made clear when Doris said her next words.
"We have been through this a thousand times, Clayton." A blonde brow rose when Taylor heard Buddy's given name.
"Don't you dare blame yourself." She held his face in her hands and looked at him with eyes filled with love.
"How many times must I tell you...where you go, I go. Nothing can ever change that."
There was silence as the room's occupants absorbed the statement. Taylor thought about what Doris had said. Would she live on the streets just to be with Quinn? Was she capable of that kind of love for the raider?
Then a bell went off in her head. That's just what she was doing. When she was faced with the decision to let Quinn go, or follow her, she had followed. Willing to leave her position, her career and her life behind if it meant staying with her lover.
Then she remembered her words. 'If you jump off of a cliff I'll be right behind you.'
Seeing the older couple comfort each other, she knew that the sacrifice Doris had made was an easy one. She would have done the same thing.
Her relationship with Quinn was just a blink of an eye compared with the years that Buddy and Doris had been together, but the woman's words resounded loud and clear in her head. 'Where you go, I go.' She liked the sound of it and knew it was also her truth.
"How long have you two been married?" she asked.
Buddy smiled as he thought about their years together. "Let's see, we got married when we were nineteen, had our first child at twenty...so it's been forty-seven years."
Doris rested her elbows on her knees and she smiled as thought about their children. "Let's see. That means Clayton, Jr. is... forty-six, Leanne is forty-four and Warren is..."
Her eyes went wide. "Our baby is forty-two years old! Buddy, where have all the years gone?"
Clayton, Sr. ran his hands through his greasy hair and held them there. "I don't know, Doris. I just don't know."
Taylor did some quick calculations and discovered that the couple was sixty-six years old. When she subtracted the fifteen years that they had been living as homeless people it amazed her that two people in their early fifties had made the decision to give up a life that they had lived for thirty-two years to scrounge around in dumpsters looking for food.
But she didn't judge them. All of us live our lives as best we can, and how many times had she treated an abused woman or a crack baby and thought, 'There but for the grace of god go I?'
She wanted to keep the dialog going so asked another question. How long has it been since you've had a drink?"
After a moments thought Doris answered. "I guess it's been about two years."
"Yeah, that's about right," Buddy said.
"It was around the time that we met Q. At first she seemed real tough. You know how she can be. 'I'm gonna take care of myself. I don't need anyone's help.'"
Taylor snorted a little, remembering how hard it had been to get her lover to accept the clothes that she bought for her. "You don't have to tell me."
Buddy nodded in understanding. "That attitude only lasted for an hour or so. After we showed her the best places to sleep and the streets where social workers would give out free food, her and that ridiculously loyal dog started to trust us."
After a while she was keeping us so busy with her thoughts of finding a safe place to live that one day became one month, and before we knew it three months had passed by without us having a drink.
That was around the time she found the subway room. After we had a safe warm place to sleep where no one would bother us Doris and me started to feel like we had a home again."
He scratched his beard stubble and laughed. "After almost two years alcohol doesn't seem to be something that we need. Even when Otis has his monthly drink we don't feel the need...I guess the craving has left us.
Taylor was about to ask another question when her phone rang. "Dr. Winslow," she answered.
"Dr. Winslow, this is Janice, Dr. Davis is on his way to your office to fill you in on Jane Doe's condition."
Taylor thanked the unit secretary and hung up just as a knock sounded at her door. "Come in."
Brad Davis entered the office and waited until his boss let him know that it was alright to speak freely.
"Although the majority of the blows were to her head your friend was lucky, the injuries that she sustained were not life threatening."
"Has she regained consciousness?"
"No, but we are hopeful. She has a little swelling in her brain, but we think that it will go down within twenty-four hours."
"So she has a closed head injury?"
"Yes, but it's not severe. If there are any changes before we transfer her to a room I'll let you know."
Taylor nodded her head in understanding, allowing Brad to make a quick exit. After reassuring Doris and Buddy that Quinn would be fine the couple left her office with the intensions of retrieving Otis before returning to the subway.
After finding out what room Quinn was assigned to Taylor didn't waste any time heading for the third floor.
She was pleased to see that her lover's monitors were minimal, just a brain scan to register her waves and an IV drip to keep her hydrated.
Pulling up a chair next to the sleeping woman's bedside, Taylor lowered the rail and picked up a large hand. Her professional side knew that the bruises that covered Quinn's face would heal, but her heart ached for the pain that Quinn had suffered in an effort to protect her.
She pulled Quinn's hand to her chest trying to get as close to her lover as she could without climbing on the bed with her.
She kissed the bruised knuckles and laid her head down on the stark white sheets. Before she knew it, she was falling asleep.
Her last thoughts before sleep claimed her was of a life lived with a person that she would sacrifice everything for just to be with them, and a contented smile formed on her lips... she was home, and nothing had ever felt so right.
Movement and faint sounds pulled Taylor from her somber. She raised her head and saw the gray skies that were about to give over the night to the day.
It had been Quinn's mild thrashings that had brought Taylor to wakefulness. The ER chief ran her hands through her lover's bangs, trying to comfort her.
She kissed the tall woman's forehead and whispered sweet words in her ear. Gazing at the woman that had claimed her heart, she spoke her feelings out loud.
"You have no idea how much I love you," she said.
"I've only known you for three months and I know without a doubt that I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
She brushed her knuckles across Quinn's damaged cheek. "If I could marry you I would. That's how committed to you I am."
Quinn moaned a little before speaking. "That's a damned shame."
Taylor jumped a little when she heard the sleep graveled voice, then her eyes began to sting with unshed tears of relief.
"What's a damned shame, Q?" she asked as she used the collar of her scrub shirt to catch the tears as they fell from her eyes.
"That I had to be comatose before you could propose."
"How long have you been awake you little eavesdropper?" she questioned her lover as she grabbed a cup filled with water and lowered the straw to Quinn's lips.
Quinn sipped a mouth full of water to lubricate her throat before answering. "Since you got to the part about me having no idea how much you love me."
Taylor sat on the side of the bed, getting closer to Quinn and gently ran her hand through the woman's dark hair.
Blue eyes glowed with joy as Quinn stared at the woman that held her heart. She reached up and pulled Taylor's hand down to her cheek so that she could lean into its soft warmth.
"I love you too, Taylor, and I would love nothing more than to be your wife."
Without thought to her patient's injuries the small woman started kissing Quinn's face all over, trying to make contact with every bit of skin that she could.
"Whoa, hold on a minute, I'm still kinda sore."
Taylor jumped back in horror. "Sorry, I forgot."
"I don't know how you could forget. From the way I feel my face must be a mess."
The small woman caressed a bruised cheek with her knuckles. "Not from where I'm sitting. I think you're as beautiful as ever."
The raider felt a blush heat up her face and was embarrassed that she couldn't control it.
Hey, what's that about?" Taylor said. "You must have heard that a million times by now." She repeated Stuart's evaluation of her lover with a little sarcasm. "After all you are goddess."
Quinn ignored the dig and chose to respond with seriousness. "Not from anyone that mattered."
They sat staring at each other for long moments, basking in the comfort of their shared declaration before Quinn remembered something.
"Is Otis okay?"
Taylor smiled, happy to be able to give Quinn the good news. "Yes, Buddy and Doris took him to a vet where he was treated for a broken leg."
The woman's features went dark at the memory of her friend being tossed aside in the fight. Although she hadn't been able to do anything she knew the instant that the dog had entered the fray and how quickly he had been disposed of.
"What about that bastard Frank?"
The blonde couldn't resist. The shape of her lover's mouth was so inviting that she had to lean in and gently kiss the dry, swollen lips before she answered.
"You're not gonna believe this." She offered Quinn another sip of water before she continued.
"Two unlikely characters came to your rescue."
She went on to tell the bruised woman how Curtis and James had intervened by double teaming the large man, eventually incapacitating him.
"So he's somewhere in this hospital?" Quinn asked with panic lacing her voice.
Taylor's brow furrowed at this strange reaction. She didn't understand it. "Yes. Is that a problem?"
"Most definitely that's a problem. If Slim got away then Vincent already knows what happened and it won't be long before he tracks Frank down, and if he finds Frank..."
Taylor's hand went to her mouth as she finished Quinn's thought. "He'll find you."
"Right." Quinn started to rise in an effort to leave the bed, but Taylor held her down before she could get up.
"Hold on. Let's wait a second and think about this."
"Doc, there's no time for thinking, he could have someone here already."
"Just calm down. This is what we'll do. I'll help you get dressed and then have you discharged so that we can head back to the subway."
This solution seemed to satisfy the patient, and Quinn wrapped her long arms around the doctor seeking comfort.
She turned her head and kissed the fine wisps of blonde hair just behind Taylor's ear and was pleased when the ER chief turned her face just enough to engage their lips in a kiss.
The contact deepened and both women lost track of time. It wasn't until someone entered the room that they broke apart.
"I heard you were back, but I didn't know that you were here with your better half," Matt said.
When the surgeon saw Taylor's fear turn into relief he became worried. "What's going on, Taylor?" Then he took in Q's condition. "And what in the hell happened to you?"
Green eyes turned to blue, when she saw Quinn give the okay to proceed, Taylor told her friend everything that had happened from the first day that that she had met Quinn to how they had ended up in the ER.
Matt ran his hands through his hair as he sighed out loud. "That's a hell of a lot of drama, Taylor."
Then he smiled. "Stuart is going to wet his pants when I tell him that I got to hear Q's story first." Then a curious expression covered his face.
"If I'm not being too intrusive, now that have your background story, is there any chance that you'll tell me what Q stands for? Or maybe I should call you Elasmo."
If Quinn had been able to muster up the strength she would have thrown her pillow at the obnoxious surgeon.
"My name is Quinn Martin, but I'd prefer it if you continued to call me Q."
Matt laughed from deep in his chest and pulled his chair closer to the injured woman's bedside. "Q it is." Then he became very serious. "But I need to know. Is Taylor still in danger?"
The couple relaxed and started to fill the doctor in on what they hoped would be the end of Vincent Sarrazin's presence in their life.
After they were done, Matt let out a long breath. "I thought the first part of your story was dramatic. I had no idea that there was more."
A worried look bloomed across his features before he stood to leave, but before he exited the room he turned to his friends. "If there is anything that I can do to help let me know."
He held Taylor's eyes for a moment. "You are like a sister to me, and if I'm not mistaken the tall dark one is going to be around for a long time." He captured Quinn's blue eyes. "I'm here for the both of you, don't hesitate to call me...I'll be there."
With that he was gone.
The women looked at each other in shock. "I never expected that," Taylor said.
Quinn rubbed her hand up and down her lover's arm. "You have a great friend in him, Doc. And from my experiences that's a rare find."
Joan Simmons was ticked off. The nurse manager had given the nurse her new assignment and all she could think about was how she could pay the ER chief back for causing what she considered a demotion to her rank.
She had been transferred to the third floor and was assigned to six patients that she had to care for. That meant she was responsible from everything ranging from giving them their meds to emptying their bedpans.
She stood outside of the door leading to her first patient's room and braced herself in preparation to deal with the whiney needs the recovering person would be demanding as they recovered from what ever sickness had brought them to the hospital.
She was thrown for a moment when she walked in and interrupted what was obviously an intimate exchange between the room's occupant and her visitor.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't know you had company." Then she became stern, suddenly feeling the need to express her power of the situation. "Visiting hours don't start for another hour. Your company will have to leave."
"It's okay, I was just about to lea..." Taylor turned towards the intruder and stopped mid-sentence.
Joan's eyes narrowed when she realized who the blonde woman was. Then she sneered when she recognized the homeless woman.
"Well, things are a lot clearer now. This is why you had me removed from the ER. It had nothing to do with me speaking out against vagrants. It was just this vagrant in particular that you were protecting. I'll bring you before the board for this, Dr. Winslow."
Quinn looked at Taylor with questioning eyes. "I'll explain later, love."
Hearing the term of endearment only fueled Joan's anger. "Love?! You are a real piece of work, lady. When I'm through with you that chief position will be a thing of the past."
Before another word could be spoken, she was out of the door in search of the chief of staff.
Taylor ran her hands through her disheveled hair and exhaled loudly. "That went well."
Quinn voiced her concern. "Are we in trouble?"
Taylor stood up and grabbed Quinn's clothes from under the bed. "Nothing I can't handle. Come on, let's get you dressed and out of here. I'll deal with her later."
Taylor discharged Quinn and hailed a cab outside of the hospital informing the driver to take them to the DuPont Circle subway station.
Buddy and Doris were shocked to see that the injured woman had left the hospital, but when they saw the doctor enter behind her they relaxed, knowing that there was a good reason for their sudden appearance.
To no one's surprise, Quinn insisted on checking on Otis before Taylor could force her to lie down. Buddy pulled a chair over to where the dog was resting so that Quinn could sit down as she looked him over. She needed to see for herself that he was okay.
The raider leaned over and rubbed the dog's side as she spoke to him. "How you doing, boy?"
Otis raised his head just enough to lick his friend's hand and he whimpered a little before laying back down.
"Yeah, I know how you feel." She waited until one of his brown eyes focused on her and gentled her voice. "Thanks, Otis. You've always been there for me and I can't thank you enough for your loyalty."
A mischievous smile broke across her face before she said her next words. "You'll be getting an extra beer this month. You know...kinda as a reward for your bravery."
The room filled with laughter when the dog barked his appreciation and pawed the air in recognition of his friend's words before lying back down.
After Quinn was settled in they discussed what they were going to do next. Taylor's mind had been working constantly ever since Quinn had told her about the new threat that Vincent posed and she had an idea.
"What about this? I know that our original plan was to let Vincent's goons know that we had recorded them hoping that they would tell their boss to back off, but under the circumstances I think we need to be more direct.
She pulled in a deep breath before continuing. "I'll go out and make copies from the video card we used. Then I'll open a safe deposit box, put the evidence in it and add a note explaining the contents."
"Then what?" Doris said.
"Then I'll express mail one of the copies to Vincent Sarrazin and call him to let him know what we've done, telling him if he doesn't back off of Quinn we'll release the information to the authorities and bring him down."
Quinn was silent throughout the entire speech waiting to hear everything before she spoke. When the doctor finished speaking she looked to her lover for some kind of response.
After several minutes Quinn nodded her head in agreement. "Sounds good. But be careful, Doc. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Taylor beamed with pride. "I was hoping you would see it my way. Here." She pulled a piece of paper and a pen from her shirt pocket and handed it to her lover.
Quinn's battered face tried to hitch into a smile but she wasn't very successful. "Pretty sure of yourself aren't ya, Doc, she said as she wrote down Vincent's number.
"The only thing I'm sure of is that I love you enough to do whatever is necessary to free you from this man's hold on your life."
"I love you too, Doc, but please, please be careful."
Taylor's face was filled with love as she kissed the raider on the lips. "Don't worry about me, Q. I'll have eyes in the back of my head the entire time I'm away from you."
"You'd better. Because after all of this is over some serious decisions have to be made and I can't make them alone."
"I agree." Then she pushed the envelope a little. "One of them being you coming to, Yonkers with me to meet my family."
Blue eyes immediately filled with fear as Taylor made her way to the door. "Don't worry, Q. I'll be with you every step of the way."
The small doctor's laughter could be heard echoing on the other side of the door as she headed for the platform on her way to the copy center.
The older couple looked at each other, then at Quinn. "Did we miss something?"
Getting the copies made and purchasing a safety deposit box was fairly easy. Now Taylor stood at a payphone trying to get up the courage to take the final step in what she hoped would bring an end to her lover's five year exile to the streets.
With shaking hands she punched in the numbers that would connect her to the offices of The Sarrazin Group, Inc. She gave her name to the receptionist and was immediately transferred to the boss.
"Dr. Winslow, I have to say, I am surprised. What can I do for you?"
Taylor cleared her throat and steeled her nerves. Now was not the time to let fear overtake her. This was truly a matter of life and death.
The man's demeanor was so charming that Taylor had to remind herself who she was talking to and why.
"This isn't a social call, Mr. Sarrazin. I think you know why I'm contacting you."
"Ah, straight to the point. I like that. I see Elasmo is rubbing off on you."
The deep laugh that followed raised the doctor's ire. The sound was anything but humorous. It held a sensuality that was inappropriate given the circumstances.
"Yesterday two of your men tried to kill, Quinn."
"Now, now, Dr. Winslow, this isn't a conversation I'm willing to have with you on this particular line. I must deny any knowledge of the contents of this conversation. Why don't we set up a meeting...? Say somewhere in, Washington so that we can sit down and discuss whatever is on your mind in person."
'He's a really smooth talker,' Taylor thought. But she had seen too much over the last couple of weeks to fall for his charm. So she cut to the chase and gave him the information that she wanted to pass along.
"That won't be necessary. I've express mailed some footage to you. It should be arriving sometime today. I'll call you tomorrow to see if you've received it, then we can talk."
Before the man could say another word Taylor hung up the phone and headed back to Quinn with the hopes that tomorrow would bring her lover the freedom that she had been denied for so long.
They spent a restless night in the tunnels and awoke before the commuter traffic started to fill the underground.
Quinn insisted on accompanying Taylor on what they hoped would be the final call to Vincent Sarrazin.
"No, Q. You are still too sore to be moving around, and what about your face? If anyone saw you they would think that you needed to be in a hospital and possibly call for help."
"You're not gonna talk me out of this, Taylor. I'll wear a baseball cap and pull it down so that it covers most of my face, but there is no way in hell I'm letting you go out alone, and if you try to talk me out of it then you had better be ready for a fight."
When Quinn used her given name Taylor knew that her lover's mind was made up, so she gave in and helped the injured get dressed before they headed out.
They sat in a McDonalds talking over coffee, waiting for the hours to tick by until Vincent would be in his office.
Finally, at eight o'clock Quinn couldn't take it any longer. "Let's go, Doc. He should in by now."
The women made their way to a payphone different from the one Taylor had used the day before. The doctor punched in the same numbers that she had used the previous day and waited.
This time she didn't have to go through the receptionist, Vincent answered the phone himself. "This is Vincent Sarrazin," he said.
Taylor was thrown off balance. "Wow, I didn't expect you to answer."
"Dr. Winslow, I'm going to give you a number. Call me back using it. Then we'll talk."
Taylor took the information and looked to Quinn for guidance. "What does this mean, Q?"
"It means he got your package and he's ready to negotiate."
Taylor called him back using the new number, when he picked up there was no preamble. "Dr. Winslow?"
"Yes, it's me."
"I received your parcel and I must say...I'm impressed. It seems you have me by the proverbial 'short hairs'."
Taylor had positioned the phone so that Quinn could hear the conversation as it progressed. "What does that mean?"
"It means that I will agree to your terms." He hesitated for a moment. "Elasmo, I know you're listening. It's over. You don't have to look over your shoulder any longer."
Quinn leaned back and looked at the phone as if she could see the man through the handset. Then she moved her mouth closer so that she could speak to her former employer.
"That's nice to hear, Vincent. It's been five years and it's time for this to end."
Hearing the all too familiar silky smooth voice on the other end brought an unexpected smile to his face. "Is that you, Elasmo? You sound good. I guess living in hiding hasn't been that hard on you."
Quinn's temper flared and before she could stop herself she vented her pent-up rage to the one person that had made her life a living hell.
She spoke through clinched teeth. "Fuck you! You have no idea what I've been through you bottom feeding piece of scum!"
"Temper, temper. Remember the saying about glass houses and throwing stones. There was a time, not so long ago, that your moral compass leaned as far away from true north as mine does."
He audibly exhaled and decided to end this call as soon as possible. He had better things to do than debate with the angry woman.
"Look, Quinn, that's all in the past. Now you hold all the cards, and it seems that our relationship has finally come to an end. I'll try and forget that I ever knew you existed, just as I'm sure you will try to forget that you ever knew me. But before I let you go I want to tell you something."
Blue and green held each other in question. The timbre of the man's voice had changed from smug arrogance to soft sincerity.
"You were the best, Quinn. There will never be another as good as the infamous, Elasmo."
The former raider dropped her head in shame as she spoke to the powerful man. "And I hope there never will be. I lost my humanity and it took the death of a broken man and his family to bring it back. No one should wield that kind of power."
Hearing the pain that was laced in the woman's words made Vincent realize that she really wasn't the shark any longer. This person could never look someone in the eyes, swear that her motives were pure and then pull the rug out from under them without ever looking back.
She hadn't betrayed him for profit or to make a power play as he had thought for all of these years, no, she had developed a conscious and could no longer ruin people's lives for wealth... he had to let her go.
"Our business is done. You are free to live your life."
Taylor breathed a sigh of relief, but Quinn still wasn't sure. For all she knew she could be ambushed and killed when she least expected it, and with Vincent's connections the evidence that they had could just...disappear.
"How will I know that you are telling me the truth?"
The man laughed knowingly. Elasmo to the end, huh? Okay. If it will make you feel better I'll send you a message that you'll hear loud and clear."
He softened his voice again and spoke what he hoped she would hear as the truth. "Goodbye, Elasmo. You'll never see or hear from me or my associates again. Live in peace."
The line went dead and they were left in silence. Taylor hung up the phone and looped her hand through Quinn's elbow as they made their way back to the tunnels.
"What did he mean, Q?"
"I'm not sure, Doc, but I have a feeling that when he sends his message it will be as he said, 'Loud and clear.'"
It only took twenty-four hours for Vincent to make good on his promise, and when it came there was no doubting its meaning. The early edition of the next day's paper brought a message that only they would understand.
They sat on an empty subway bench and read the story together that was featured on the front page of the Washington Post' Metro section.
'PATIENT'S MURDER LINKED TO STAFF NEGLIGENCE.'
Big Frank's body had been discovered in his hospital bed late the previous night, and from its condition there was no doubt that he had been murdered. His throat had been cut and his tongue had been pulled through the opening, outfitting him with a classic Sicilian Necktie.
Quinn looked at Taylor's horrified expression and mirrored it. "If that's not a message, I don't know what is."
Because the man had been listed as a John Doe, Joan Simmons gave him minimal care. The nurse would check on him at her leisure, or sometimes not at all.
There were times during his three day stay that she wouldn't enter his room for an entire shift. As long as he was awake, eating and could go to the bathroom on his own, as far as she was concerned he wasn't worth her time.
It was during one of these down times that Skinny Slim had snuck into Frank's room and carried out Mr. Sarrazin's promise to his former employee.
When Frank saw Skinny walk in his anger towards the man couldn't be held back. "Where the hell did you disappear to?!" he raged.
Never allowing the man to speak he continued. "We'll talk about that later, for now I have another plan that I want to bounce off of you."
He leaned his head back on the pillows that were stacked behind him and looked up at the ceiling. "I think I still have time before Mr. Sarrazin finds out I failed...again."
Skinny Slim watched and listened in shock. Why didn't this idiot know that his time had run out?
"Even though they have a video I think that after I kill Elasmo and her helpers we can break into the doctor's apartment and find it before any damage is done."
While Frank was staring off into space revealing the steps to his ridiculous plan Skinny had moved closer to the bed and thought how easy this was going to be. When Mr. Sarrazin had given him his latest assignment he had two thoughts, the first was relief that his life wasn't in danger, the second was wondering how he would be able to take down the humongous man without suffering a few broken bones in the process. But that last thought wasn't going to be a problem after all.
When the big man felt the razor sharp knife at his throat his eyes went wide, he whispered, afraid that too much movement in his throat area would make the blade slice through the thin skin.
"What are you doing, man?"
"It's over, Frank. You are a liability. Elasmo already got in contact with the boss and he is not happy that you were caught on video using his name in connection with a crime."
Before Frank could protest or plead for his life Skinny's blade had done its damage. By the time he was found the assassin was long gone and Big Frank's eyes were wide open staring at the ceiling once again.
Joan had been furious when the chief of staff had dismissed her accusations against Dr. Winslow. Seeing her actions as nothing more than a disgruntled employee's rants he refused to act on her charges against Taylor and dismissed her from his office.
But this latest act of prejudice induced negligence had brought media attention to the hospital and she would have to face the same board that she had hoped to put Taylor in front of.
As she sat in front of the board members she couldn't help but notice their somber faces, and without being told she knew that this would be her last day at D.C. Metropolitan Hospital.
Dr. Charles Peterson spoke first. "Nurse Simmons, what do you have to say in your defense of the charges that have been brought against you?"
Joan cleared her throat and started to recite her prepared speech. "I have been an emergency room nurse since I started at this hospital ten years ago. During that time my patient care has been exemplary."
She fought down her need to mention that her abilities had only recently been called into question because of Dr. Winslow's personal feelings.
"I don't think that it is fair to judge me harshly for one indiscretion after my many years of loyal and professional service. I hope that my record will speak for itself, leaving the board with no choice but to give me a suspension and a note of reprimand in my file."
James Cross, one of the more vocal members of the board addressed the nurse's lame defense. "Let me make sure I understand you. You think because you have ten years of service we should ignore this enormous lapse in protocol with a slap on the wrist?
He shook his head in disbelief. "Can you even begin to understand the broad scope of examination you've put us under by JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations)? Not to mention the negative public scrutiny that our PR people will have spin. Then there are the legal aspects of this incident. Our lawyers will have to do a lot of scrambling to get us out of this one if John Doe's family comes forward."
When Charles saw the panic in the nurse's eyes he held up his hand to silence James. "Ms. Simmons, what Mr. Cross is trying to say..."
He looked at the angry man before going on. "What James is trying to say is that someone has to answer for this."
"He pulled in a deep breath and engaged the woman's eyes, looking at her closely, hoping that she would understand the information that he was about to impart to her.
"This hospital will not be held accountable because of the actions of one person's misguided views of the world we live in."
Joan saw the writing on the wall, she was going to take the fall for this. Her and her alone, and in that one moment she decided to vent her anger at what she perceived to be a double standard.
"Oh, I see how it is. One of your high and mighty doctors can use her position to play chess with the staff and move us around when it suits her needs, but when one of the underlings makes a mistake we have to pay with our job. Is that how it goes?"
Seeing that the cork was about to pop on James' temper, Charles held up his hand to stop him before he could say something that might give the nurse enough ammunition to bring them up on charges.
"You are allowed to have your personal opinions, Ms. Simmons, but somewhere along the line you have forgotten that those opinions have no place in your professional life."
He looked down the line of board members sitting at the table, and when he received their nod of agreement he proceeded.
"Effective today your services are no longer required at this hospital. You will be given a two weeks severance package and your sick and medical leave will be added to your last check."
Joan Simmons stood to leave. Her displeasure radiating from her core. "Fine! This isn't the only hospital in town. I'll get hired somewhere else and this place will be no more than a ten year mistake!"
When she left the room the board members looked at one another as James Cross said out loud what they all were thinking.
"I pity the medical facility that hires her on. That woman has problems."
As soon as Quinn read the article she knew that Vincent had made good on his promise and after spending another week in the tunnels, it was with great trepidation that she finally gave in to Taylor's request that they move back into her apartment where the doctor could take better care of her and her recuperation would be quicker if she didn't have to struggle up from her mattress to meet all of her needs.
After the doctor returned to work she told Quinn about the board's decision to fire Joan Simmons. Quinn just rolled her eyes at the news. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer person," she said sarcastically.
The weeks that passed after moving back in were a little unsettling for Taylor. She jumped every time she heard the slightest sound out of place. Feeling helpless to do anything, Quinn asked her lover to purchase deadbolt that she installed along with a safety bar that was wedge under the doorknob to prevent entrance.
Taylor saw this as another blow to her personal freedom, but gave in. When she really thought about it and recalled the danger that they had been in, she had to admit that some precautions needed to be taken.
Her only hope was that their sense of security would return before she was old and gray.
They were resting in each other's arms after a very slow and tentative session of making love, Taylor leisurely ran her fingers through the sweat that had risen on Quinn's chest as they basked in the after glow.
It was taking longer than Quinn had anticipated to heal and Taylor was finding it almost impossible to keep the injured woman still for any length of time.
When she realized that there was nothing she could do to stop the tall woman's roaming around the apartment without tying her down, the doctor devised a plan to keep her lover stationary for a few hours.
"Q, while I'm at work do you think you have the strength to go through the classified ads for me and make a few calls?"
A dark brow rose in question. "Um...sure. What will I be looking for?"
Taylor kissed the shoulder that she was laying on. "I... I...well even with the new security that you've installed I don't feel that safe here anymore and I want to put this behind us, so I thought that if we could start over together in another place it might help us feel like we are living a normal life."
Long fingers slowly lifted her lover's chin until they were looking at each other. "Now that this nightmare is over I'm not sure I know how to live like a normal person again. Five years is a lone time to live on the fringes of society, Doc."
"Then let me rephrase that. Maybe we can live a totally different life than we have up until this point. After all who's to say what normal is, Q? I bet you thought your life was normal when you worked for Vincent, but now you know better."
Quinn exhaled a sigh of regret. "Sometimes, Doc, I'm not even sure where I'm supposed to be or what I'm supposed to be doing with my life."
Taylor shrugged her shoulders making a few strands of her damp blonde hair fall across her chin. "If you ask me, I think that you are exactly where you were meant to be and the person you were supposed to be. It's almost like that song. You know the one? 'I've looked at life from both sides now'?"
Quinn smiled, remembering hearing the song on some oldies station years ago. "Yeah I know the one."
Not for the first time Taylor saw the sadness in her lover's blue eyes that meant the woman had gone back to a time where she was treated so poorly by the people that were supposed to love and protect her and it pissed Taylor off.
If she were ever to meet Keith and Luanne Martin she knew that Quinn would have to physically restrain her because the anger she felt towards the couple would make her act out.
Taylor could feel the anguish that emanated from her lover's soul and found herself, not for the first time, holding her love close and kissed her while whispering words of love and protection, giving the neglected child that still lived in Quinn the unconditional love that she sought and needed, words that she craved, words that would help her become whole.
When the dark woman exhaled, the long breath that she released carried tears with it along its path. Tears that came from a place so deep down that Quinn felt like her insides were collapsing on themselves from the drain they left in its wake.
With one last kiss Taylor raised up so that she could look into her lover's red rimmed eyes. "Just know this, my love. I'll do whatever is necessary to keep you safe. You mean everything to me."
Quinn could only nod her head in understanding and wipe her face with her forearm. "You mean everything to me too, Taylor."
Hoping to change the mood by changing the subject Taylor switched gears. "What are we going to do about Buddy and Doris?"
Having had this conversation many times since leaving the older couple in the tunnels, Quinn didn't have to ask what her lover was talking about.
"They're proud people, Doc. As strange as it may sound they found what they needed on the streets. I guess you could say they found themselves, and that's where they feel most at home. We can help them, but they will never allow us to shelter them."
Taylor rolled over and laid on top of her raider. "Then we'll have to make sure that they have whatever they need."
A curious expression appeared on the doctor's face. "You know, in a way the four of you saved each other."
Quinn raised a dark brow in question. So Taylor clarified her statement. "You, Buddy, Doris and Otis. You were there for each other"
Otis raised his head and barked from the foot of the bed when he heard his name.
Quinn laughed out loud. "Yes, we are talking about you. "
The dog gave a grunt and laid back down.
Quinn pulled Taylor closer and kissed her head. "Yeah, I guess you're right. And come to think of it finding a new place is exactly what we should do. I mean how long do think we can hide my furry friend before someone finds out he's here?"
Taylor kissed Quinn's neck and her hands started to wonder. "You're right about that."
"What are you doing, Doc?"
"I've decided to give you a total physical exam. One that will end with you screaming the praises of my medical skills."
Wanting to maintain the light atmosphere Quinn wiggled her brows and dropped her hands so that she could squeeze her lover's firm backside. "Have I ever told you about my younger years playing doctor with the neighborhood girls?"
Taylor worked her way down to the raider's full breasts and sucked on a dark nipple. "No, you haven't and I don't want to hear about it now."
As the small woman made her way further down Quinn's body the tall woman wrapped her hands in her lover's blonde locks.
"Whatever you say, Doc...whatever you say."
Six months later
"Are you going to be alright?"
Quinn took another breath and pulled Taylor close to her. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"If you're not ready for this we can postpone it for another time."
"No, let's get it over with."
"Are you sure, Q? It doesn't have to be now. You can meet my family some other time."
The tall woman had never been in this position before. Meeting a lover's family had not been one of her duties in her past, but she knew that it was inevitable.
She loved Taylor and if she was going to spend the rest of her life with the doctor she would eventually have to meet her family.
They stood on the platform of Union Station waiting for their train. Arrangements had been made and Doris and Buddy had agreed to stay in the house they had bought in Bethesda, Maryland to keep an eye on Otis while they were gone. It was through shear luck that the Bethesda station was only six stops from DuPont Circle making the commute an easy one for the elderly couple. Now it was just a matter of getting up enough nerve to board the train.
"No, it has to be now. I start my job at the bank next week and this is the only time I'll be free until my probation period is over."
Quinn held Taylor close and kissed the top of her head to reassure the small woman that she was okay with the trip.
"I'm fine, Doc. Since I've been with you I've learned to interact with people that didn't live their lives on the street."
She ran her hand up and down her lover's arm as she laughed low in her throat. "If I can spend an evening with Stuart without freaking out, meeting your family should be a cakewalk."
Taylor squeezed Quinn's hand and looked up into her eyes. "He is a challenge." She then felt the need to reassure her mate. "You know I'll be by your side the entire time?"
She saw the love that passed through Quinn's nervous blue eyes. "I'll never leave you, Q. Where you go, I go."
Quinn felt comforted by the words. It was a phrase that Taylor had used often since her last stay in the hospital and it always calmed her.
"That's why I can do this," she said while she held her partner in a firm grip. Then her features intensified as she tried to get her own message across.
"You've said those words to me so many times that now I want to give you that same promise. Where you go, Doc, I go. That will never change."
Taylor rose up on her toes and kissed her lover's lips sealing their commitment as the conductor made the last boarding call.
They held hands as they stepped onto the train ready to start another chapter in their life together standing side by side filled with the knowledge that whatever path life set them on they would travel it together, never having to walk alone.