The Slow Burn
This is a continuation of Burning Time.
“Fire station 145, Captain Robinson speaking.”
“Hey, Cap, this is Rene. Sorry to call so late. Is Dina there?”
“Hey Doc! Thank God it’s you. Are you coming home soon?” asked the captain hopefully. “We’re going to have to sedate her before she kills someone if you’re not. We’ve gotten used to the kinder, gentler Dina around here. Since you’ve been gone, she’s reverted back to the angry, grouchy one.”
Rene half smothered a giggle at the picture of Dina terrorizing the men of Fire Station 145. “OK, Cap, I’ll talk to her. But I’m coming home tomorrow.”
“Good,” he answered seriously, “I’ll put her on right away. Dina!” Rene could hear him shout across the hall, “It’s for you.”
“Hello?” growled the firefighter as she picked up the extension in the dorm.
“Hey Lover,” chimed the blonde cheerfully. “He’s right. You are reverting to a grouch.”
“Oh, hi,” the voice softened considerably into a purr that even after eight months still gave Rene goosebumps. “He didn’t say who it was. How’re you? How was the wedding? I miss you. Four days is too much. Tell me again why you had to go.”
“I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say at one time, much less in one breath,” Rene laughed. “I’m fine. The wedding was fine. I miss you, too. You’re right. Four days is too much. And you know I had to go back early to try on the bridesmaid’s dress.” She rolled over in bed and tried to speak softly into her cell phone, so as not to disturb the rest of the household. “I really missed you. The wedding was very, um, formal. There was a full mass, so my poor feet were aching in my grown up lady shoes by the end of it. But it was fun and Patty looked beautiful.
“By the way why do bridesmaid’s gowns always look like some poor sofa was sacrificed for the material? Anyway, you know Patty and I have been friends forever. I just had to be there when she asked me.”
She paused and sighed. “I just wish you could’ve come. I wish I could have told them. I feel like a wimp, but?” Her voice trailed off.
In the fire station dorm back in LA, Dina could feel her lover’s mixed feelings. The doctor wanted so badly for the firefighter to be part of her life completely, but she knew that Dina would never be accepted by many of her friends and some of her family back home. It was a hard choice. But Patty was one of Rene’s oldest friends. So Dina had stayed home while Rene went to Ohio, even though it was during her long weekend.
Rene continued, “I did get a little sick of ‘When are you going to find a nice man and have kids?’ And I swear Patty threw the bouquet at me. Luckily I ducked.”
The firefighter smiled, picturing the blonde, in her dress and heels, making a dive out of the way of the flying flowers.
“Anyway, I miss you desperately.”
“Hon,” Dina clutched the phone tightly, “I miss you, too. I can’t wait to get my hands on you. I may embarrass us both in the airport.”
“My plane gets into LAX at six p.m. You’d better get lots of sleep tomorrow because I’m planning on keeping you up late.”
“I’ll be there. You rest up, too.” The dark haired woman countered. “I love you. I’d better let you go. That cell phone bill is going to be a fortune.”
“Better than Patty’s parents calling me about who I was talking to in LA every night, but yeah, I’d better go. I love you. Hope your night goes well. Be careful.”
“I will. Sleep well. Goodnight.” Humming softly to herself, a small smile lighting her face, Dina hung up the phone and lay down in her bunk. Can’t wait to hold her again. A flood of warmth suffused her body as she thought of the feel of Rene’s body in her arms again? kissing her lips?gazing into her brilliant green eyes?
Dina flipped onto her stomach. Oh God, better not go there. I have twenty more hours to survive. She put her head down on her pillow and tried to think chilly thoughts.
Back in the spare room in Patty’s parents house, the blonde doctor lay in bed, hands behind her head, thinking about the day. It had been fun, but very different from her ex-roommate’s wedding two months ago.
It might have been inconceivable to most people to have a Japanese, Irish, Mexican wedding. But Stuart’s unflagging cheerfulness and Erin’s stubborn good humor had won it through. They’d been married by a nondenominational priest, with a few Buddhist blessings thrown in. Stuart had even stomped on a glass at the end in deference to their Jewish friends.
Only the bride and groom had dressed formally? Erin in Asian good luck red and her groom in a gray tux with his hair dyed a tasteful purple to match his cummerbund.
The whiskey, sake, and tequila had flowed freely. Rene could even vaguely remember a drink that had combined them all.
Since both Erin and Stuart were in ‘The Biz’, as expected, all six sexes were well represented. Rene and Dina relished being able to openly hold hands and dance together to the slow songs. It had been a wonderful day.
Rene blushed remembering how Dina had held her close and kissed her during one dance? the feel of her breasts through the linen shirt.. She gave a shudder. Better not go there. It’s been four days and I’m already crawling out of my skin. One more night, that’s all. She turned, wrapped herself around her pillow and tried to sleep.
It was pouring rain when she got to the airport the next afternoon, but the departure board still said “on time”. With visions of the bluest eyes and raven hair dancing in her head, Rene got onto the plane, every fiber of her being straining to be home.
She settled into her window seat, next to a very large man who was spilling over the armrest to her side, and cheerfully picked up the airline magazine hoping to kill some time until departure.
She glanced at her watch. We should’ve left twenty minutes ago. The flight attendants were going up and down the aisles checking seatbelts. Looks OK, just running late. She went back to the magazine.
Ten minutes later, magazine done, they were still sitting. She rested her head back and looked around the cabin. The plane was packed.
“Attention. This is your captain speaking. Due to the weather, air traffic is delayed. We will be pulling out from the gate shortly. Thank you.”
OK, fine. She dove into her carry on and pulled out a novel she’d brought for the flight.
Twenty minutes after that she finally felt the plane lurch back from the gate as the attendants began their safety routine. Rene watched politely, then went back to her book, hoping for a quick takeoff.
“Thank you for your patience, this is the captain again. Due to the weather delay, we are now tenth in line for takeoff.”
Another half hour crawled by before she saw the runway lights passing below them.
Frig! It’s about time. Rene recrossed her legs and leaned against the fat man trying to move him into his own territory. The takeoff had been bumpy, but at least it was a takeoff.
She couldn’t concentrate on the book anymore. Her stomach growled. I wonder when they’re going to feed us.
The plane lurched upward and gave a shudder.
“This is the captain. Due to adverse weather conditions I have advised the cabin crew to hold off on serving dinner. This is a large storm cell, but we hope to maneuver around it. In the meantime, the seatbelt light will stay on.”
The plane suddenly dropped, driving her stomach into her throat. That’s good. I don’t think I’m in the mood to eat anymore, anyway, she thought, gripping her arm rests. Next to her, the man gave a snort and leaned even further over her chair. Just great, she sighed morosely, gripping her armrests tighter as the plane staggered across the sky.
A few white knuckled hours later the PA crackled into life. “I’m sorry to inform you that a warning light has come on. We think it’s probably just a wire shaken loose by the storm, but we’re being rerouted to Las Vegas. We expect to land in forty minutes.”
A wire? Just a wire? Rene fought mounting panic. She stared wildly about the cabin. Everyone else was doing the same. A woman toward the back had started to cry loudly.
The plane thumped upward, pushing the doctor down into her seat, then slewed sideways. More people were starting to cry.
Rene closed her eyes trying to find some calm within. She pictured Dina? being held by Dina? comforted by Dina. It worked. Soothed, she opened her eyes and patiently waited to land.
In Terminal 4 at LAX, the tall, glowering firefighter was pacing like a caged animal. Her nervous energy made her want to run screaming through the airport, but her anxiety about Rene wouldn’t let her leave her small area near the arrival gate.
They were supposed to have landed an hour ago. Now they’ve posted ‘rerouted to Las Vegas’. She stared at the board. What does that mean? She listened again as the woman at the gate carefully explained to the worried crowd that everything was fine. There was no information yet, but as soon as there was, she would make an announcement.
Dina forced herself to sit down. She picked up an abandoned newspaper and tried to read. But the words swam in front of her eyes. She stood, thrusting her hands into her pockets determined to walk down at least as far as the newsstand, then sat down again afraid she might miss something important.
Finally, a lifetime later, the gate attendant lifted the mic and announced, “The plane has landed safely in Las Vegas.”
Dina relaxed slightly. Alright. She’s OK. But now what? She walked over to stare out into the night sky. How’s she getting home from there? Damn, we need another cell phone. She paced back to the gate.
In Las Vegas, all hell had broken loose. No one knew what was going on. Each person was determined to find out NOW, at the top of his or her voice. Rene hung off to the side, listening for someone who had some answers to speak up. She was just happy to be off that damn plane. But how was she going to contact Dina? Was she at LAX or at home?
After a long while, an airline rep in a red jacket showed up and began directing people to planes that would get them to their final destination. The LA people would be on a flight that arrived at midnight.
“Sir,” Rene called for the nth time, finally catching his attention, “Will they announce this in LA?”
“They’re doing that right now,” he answered tiredly.
Great. Now Dina will be there. We need another cell phone.
12:15 am, an exhausted Rene dragged herself down the gateway into the arms of an equally exhausted Dina. They held each other, not caring about anyone around them.
“I was so worried,” Dina whispered, holding Rene, stroking her long blonde hair over and over. “Don’t leave me again.”
“I love you. I was so scared,” mumbled Rene as she clung to her tall lover. “Let’s go home.”
It was after 1am when they finally dragged themselves through the door of the home they had been sharing since Erin moved out. They tossed the still fully packed suitcase in the corner and crawled into bed, having just enough energy to get undressed. They exchanged a tired kiss goodnight and both passed out.
The alarm at 5:30am came very early. Time to get up for work, Dina realized unenthusiastically. Snuggled next to her, Rene slept happily, her head on the firefighter’s arm.
“Hey Hon,” Dina said quietly to the sleeping blonde, “I need that arm.” She tried to lift Rene’s head. The doctor thrashed momentarily, then rolled over, coming to rest with her head on Dina’s chest. Her breath blew softly across her nipple
The firefighter closed her eyes and relaxed back into the electric feeling of it. For a moment she lost herself in fantasizing some creative ways to awaken Rene.
“No.” She opened her eyes. “I’ve got to get up.”
Rene’s hand flopped across her lower abdomen. A few twitches of her fingers sent a lovely tickly feeling even lower.
Oh, that feels nice. No. I HAVE to get up? NOW! With inhuman resolve she rolled out from under the blonde and ran to the shower.
“Hello, Station 145.”
“Hey Baby, it’s me. I’m awake, home, having my coffee, but you’re not here. And I’m missing you.”
Dina tucked the dorm phone against her ear, crossed her arms and leaned against the wall with a sigh. “I know, me too. Last night just didn’t go as planned.” She grinned to herself. “And I had such wonderful plans. They started somewhere around your toes and worked their way very slowly up?”
“Sounds like some great plans. Candle light, maybe? Some quiet music in the background? A little wine? You and me? Those plans? Have I told you how much I hate your 24 hour shifts?” Sitting at their kitchen table, Rene absentmindedly pushed a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and took a sip of coffee. Oh yeah, I know those plans. She closed her eyes and pictured kissing the firefighter’s soft, full lips. She could feel her body naked against her own. The smoothness of her back as she ran her fingers down the long length of her? her perfect butt?
Rene opened her eyes quickly and took a big gulp of coffee. She inhaled most of it just as Dina started speaking again
“Yep,” agreed Dina, sighing again, “Those were the plans. Anyway, I?” She stopped at the sounds of coughing and choking from Rene. “Are you OK?”
“Yeah.” She coughed again. “Small pulmonary lavage of coffee. What were you saying?”
“First, coffee works better in your stomach than your lungs, and second, I was going to say that I’ll be home at 7am. You don’t go to work until 8pm. I think we can find some time in there, don’t you?”
Rene interlaced her fingers around the coffee cup, thumbs unconsciously stroking the handle. Her green eyes crinkled as she envisioned what they could do with those few hours, starting with the luscious way she would wake Dina up.
“Rene, still there?”
“Oh yeah?” She answered breathlessly. “Oh yeah, we’ll find some time.”
BRAAAAAAAP “Engine 145 respond to car fire Northbound Hollywood Freeway at the Universal Studios exit.”
“Gotta go, Love, gotta fire,” Dina informed Rene hurriedly.
“OK, Hon. Be careful. I’ll see you in the morning. Love you.”
The tall firefighter hung up the phone and ran for the engine. The siren blared as she adjusted her headphones and looked at her watch. 10am. It’s going to be a long shift.
At home, Rene was a ball of restless energy. I’ll do my laundry, then I’ll go for a bike ride. Maybe I’ll clean. She took a tour around the house. The rickety couches and milk crates had been replaced with Dina’s much better furniture when she’d moved in. The house was spotless. Well, she cleaned. I’ll do my laundry, then ride.
She wandered into the bedroom and opened her suitcase. Haphazardly wadded pieces of clothing spilled onto the floor. Rene stared as if she’d never seen them before. Can’t deal with that now. Bike ride. Gotta blow off some of this energy or I’ll explode.
She rummaged through a drawer until she found her lightest pair of bike shorts and a tank top. Gonna be a warm one. She slipped them on and went to dig out her bike shoes and helmet. Gotta bring lots of water today. LA in June is usually wet and cool, with lots of coastal fog. ‘June Gloom’ the weather folks like to call it. This one, though, had been the hottest and driest on record.
Gathering her stuff, she finally made her way out to the garage where Dina, in a brave attempt to organize some of Rene’s things, had hung her bike.
She lubed the chain, pumped up the tires, and then carefully clicked into and out of her pedals. Right? Check. Left? Check. That’s a relief, she thought happily as she swung onto the bike and pedaled up over the hill. Gonna do the Strand. There’ll be lots of people by the beach so the people watching will be good and it will be cooler. Decision made, she aimed herself down to the beach and the seething masses of humanity.
About ten miles later she’d wound her way through the thickest crowds, chalking up a few prime sightings that she’d have to remember to tell Dina about later.
Much as she hated to admit it, the firefighter really enjoyed hearing Rene’s tales about the people she saw on her wanderings. She would sit happily, listening and watching, picturing each detail, as the blonde told her stories in her usual animated fashion.
There was the woman who was essentially only wearing a Macaw parrot, and that was on her shoulder ? and one guy? I didn’t know they made Speedos that small? in magenta. She shuddered at the thought.
The sight of the approaching power plant reminded her, as it always did, of that day eight months ago when she’d crashed her bike there. She’d hit a pothole on the path and been thrown part way down the rock retaining wall. Trapped, she’d hung there until rescued by a certain tall, gorgeous, dark haired, blue eyed firefighter whom she hardly knew. She’d been out for a jog well out of her usual territory.
I still say it was fate, not coincidence, she mused with a smile. She pictured Dina’s quiet shrug that was her answer every time the doctor would try to draw her into that debate.
“I don’t care which way it was. The important thing is we’re together now,” she would say, gathering the blonde in her arms. “And that’s how we’ll stay.” End of argument.
“Whoops!” Rene swerved madly to avoid hitting a rock. Stop daydreaming and ride, she chastised herself. I don’t need to do that one again. Besides, Dina’s working today. So who would rescue me?With that sobering thought, she straightened out the bike and rode north toward Marina Del Rey and more good people watching.
The exercise, heat, and jet lag had done their job. By the time she got home it was all she could do to shower and have some dinner.
It’s too hot to cook. I wonder what we have in the fridge? There were some cold cuts that still seemed edible in there, and the last of the loaf of bread. I guess we’ll have to go food shopping soon.
She plopped herself down on the couch with a sandwich, put her feet up on the coffee table and found the TV remote. Her favorite newscast seemed to have shuffled their people again during the last week. The black news anchor had been replaced with a Korean woman. The co-anchor, previously a black woman was now a Latino man and the weatherman was determinedly polyethnic.
Let’s hear it for rolling diversity, Rene thought, toasting them with her sandwich.
“? and on the local front, the heat and dryness have created an extreme fire danger that is more typical of October than June. Residents of the foothills are being asked to clear dead brush from around their homes and we’re asking everyone to be very careful. This could be the beginning of a very long fire season.
“Next up? Is your pet carcinogenic? After this message from our sponsors.”
Rene lay there through the rest of the news and weather: “?hot, dry, mid 90s?”, at last deciding that she had enough energy to call Dina and do one load of wash before she passed out.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring?
I guess they’re out on a call. I’ll see her in the morning. Now, whites or colors? Whites it was. And then bed.
vThe dream started like they always did: She was in her scrubs, attending in the busy ER.
“Dr. Covington, there’s an agitated patient in Bed 3, methamphetamine OD. You better see him before he destroys the room,” a pissed off nurse reported to the blonde doctor, handing her the chart.
“Lovely, just what I need tonight.” She took the offered chart and walked through the curtain.
The campfire was burning low, red embers dancing along the collapsing logs. Lying on her stomach, Gabrielle whispered to Xena, lying next to her, “Isn’t he asleep yet?”
Across the fire, Joxer’s cheerful voice rang out, “Hey, you guys still awake?”
“No, go to sleep,” answered Xena with a groan, arm draped across her face in frustration.
“He’s got to fall asleep soon,” Gabrielle whispered again, reaching under the blanket to rub slow circles across the dark haired woman’s taut abdomen.
Her hand was caught in a tight grasp as Xena turned and glared at her. “Don’t tease me like that. He’s been with us for three days and I am about to explode.” She thought for a minute. “Let’s take a walk, hmm? Grab the blanket.”
“Hey, where you guys going?” came the call as they stood up, Gabrielle surreptitiously folding the blanket in her arms.
“To check the perimeter. I thought I heard something,” Xena clipped back at him as she strode toward the thickest area of the woods.
“Great, I’ll come with you.”
Behind them they heard the creak and clank of his patchwork armor.
“But, Joxer,” Gabrielle called to him in her best cajoling voice, “We need you to guard the camp.”
“Oh, right.” He settled back down with a clunk.
They slipped quickly into the dark of the forest and spread the blanket in the first open space they found.
“How’s that?” Gabrielle finished smoothing it out and turned to the warrior.
“Perrrfect,” rumbled the honey-voiced warrior. Giving a feral grin, Xena scooped the bard up into her arms and lowered them both to the blanket. “Let me show you just how perfect,” she murmured into the blonde’s ear and sucked lightly on the lobe, “With my tongue.”
Turning her head, Gabrielle hungrily captured the taller woman’s mouth with her own. “Oh yes, please,” she sighed.
Stopping only long enough to pull off the bard’s sleeping shift, Xena unhurriedly nibbled her way down the younger woman’s body, delighting in the feverish gasp as her mouth found each erect nipple in turn. She kissed her way down the wonderfully defined abdomen and nuzzled her way into the downy blonde patch below.
“Oh yes, Xena,’ moaned Gabrielle, arching involuntarily toward her lover’s mouth, her hands clenching the blanket.
CRASH. “Hey guys, where are you?” Joxer’s voice called from close by. CLANK, as he stumbled into a tree. “I heard it, too. It’s over there. Where are you?”
Purely by luck, he was coming closer.
Xena dropped her head and pounded the ground with her fist. “No, no, no. I’m gonna kill him.”
“I won’t stop you,” replied Gabrielle, hands over her face. She sat up, grabbing her shift. “Maybe I’LL kill him.” She pulled it over her head.
Xena stood, and with one flying punch, knocked a large branch from a nearby tree. A series of quick kicks took out three more. “OK,’ she said, smoothing her hair, “I think I’m ready to face him.”
The dream ended as they always did: She was standing in the studio, dressed in her gi. Dina closed the studio door as the last student made his way out. ‘Why do I still feel so wound up?’ she wondered. ‘Maybe I’ll go for a run.’ She made her way up the stairs to find a change of clothes.
Dina awoke with a disoriented start in the pitch black dorm. She flopped back, listening to the surrounding snores of the other firefighters and tried to calm her thumping heart. Wonder what time it is? She consulted the soft glow of her watch. 3:30am. Only 3 hours until I get to go home.
Putting her hands behind her head, Dina closed her eyes and let her mind drift homeward, to the bedroom where her beautiful blonde doctor slept happily burrowed into the blankets. She imagined slipping in next to her and curling protectively around the soft warmth. As she’d done for ages.
36 firefighters were jolted from bed as the lights came up and the loudspeaker announced, “Engine 145, Engine 245, Truck 145. Brush fire. Tujunga Canyon.
“Crap, that’s way out of our first in. Must be a big one.” Dina barely had time to remark as she dove into her turnouts and leaped onto the engine.
Rene rolled onto her back and gave a luxurious stretch. Finally feel caught up with my sleep. Oh Dina, just you wait? A mischievous smile lit her features, then quickly vanished. Where is Dina? It’s? She picked up her head, pushing her sleep-mussed hair out of her face and looked at the clock. Nine. She should’ve been home hours ago. She sat up and scanned the room for signs that the raven haired woman had come home. There were none.
Anxiously she jumped out of bed and ran to the phone in the kitchen to check the message machine.
And I would’ve heard it ring, anyway.
She looked around in indecision. Maybe she got held over, she hoped, trying to keep at bay the thought of burns, falls and all the other grim possibilities that always lurked in firefighters’ lives. Not to mention ordinary, run-of-the-mill car accidents.
She grabbed the phone and hit speed dial 1.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring?
She counted to fifteen before hanging up. Out on a call. I’ll try again in a few. She walked into the bedroom. And back to the kitchen. No. Too soon. Back to the bedroom. And back to the kitchen.
She looked at the clock. Still too soon. Back to the bedroom?
Hot. It was damn hot. Dina dragged her part of the hose forward through the brush, trying to keep in line with the guy on the nozzle. The sun had only been up for a few hours, but it was already baking down on them. Dawn had come and gone unseen, its colors mixing with the reds and oranges of the fire.
The raging fire radiated heat off of the narrow canyon walls as it devoured every scrap of brush and roared for more, pulling a searing wind behind it.
Gonna need some water soon or I’ll pass out. She tried to mop her forehead with her filthy sleeve without releasing either hand from the hose. Out of the corner of her eye she could see lines of firefighters attacking from all directions, trying desperately to save the up canyon houses.
She took another step as the nozzle man moved right. I hope Rene isn’t panicking. Please, Hon, she sent a thought winging homeward, I’m OK. Don’t worry. Then there was no time for thought as the wind suddenly spun on itself driving the fire back toward them, forcing a retreat.
On her fifth lap into the kitchen, the band that had constricted her head suddenly let go. She’s OK. She didn’t know how she knew, she just knew. Rene gave in to the impulse anyway and dialed the station.
Ring. Ring. Ring?
“Station 145, Captain Nelson speaking.”
“Oh thank God,” the stricken woman gushed. “Cap, this is Rene. Where’s Dina?”
“Hey Doc. She’s at the fire in Tujunga. She’s OK. We’re working on getting relief crews out there. I’m hoping to get them back to the station within the hour.”
“Thanks, Cap. I was so worried.”
“Yeah. It turned into a bigger fire than we expected and we needed all the manpower. We’re starting to get it under control now. So we can get last night’s crews home.”
It was just after 11 when Dina practically fell through the front door. She had stopped at the station only long enough to shower, change, and throw her soot and dirt covered turnouts into a plastic bag.
“Dina,” Rene caught her as she stumbled into the house. “I was so worried. I’m so glad you’re OK. Do you want anything to eat? Drink? Is there anything I can do for you? I think I’m rambling.” Tucking herself under the much taller woman’s arm, she helped her exhausted lover to the couch before she ran to get her a glass of water.
The fair haired doctor scanned her love’s pale face, the dark circles intensifying the blue of her eyes. Green eyes met blue as Rene touched Dina’s cheek. “You are OK, aren’t you?”
Head flopped back against the couch, arms sprawled limply, Dina smiled weakly. “I’m fine. Just tired. Give me a few hours? Then I have plans for you?” She managed a small wink at Rene before she dragged herself off the couch and in the general direction of bed.
She was already unconscious, curled up on her side, in the time it took for the doctor to put the glass in the kitchen and to walk into the bedroom. The petite blonde woman stood for a moment looking down at the other half of her soul. Swiftly she bent and softly kissed her forehead. Then she left her love to sleep.
It was late in the afternoon when searching-for-clothing noises from the bedroom caught Rene’s attention. She put down the book that she’d been lying on the couch reading, went into the kitchen and put on water for Dina’s tea. Then she headed into the bedroom to greet her lover.
The firefighter was sitting on the edge of the bed, still blinking somewhat owlishly, dressed in a pair of gray knit shorts and a threadbare, mottled green tank top that Rene could’ve sworn she’d thrown out a few months ago.
“Hey”, the doctor called quietly from the doorway, “How ya feeling?” She leaned against the doorframe as she admired the firefighter’s exquisite features. Even disheveled from sleep she was still breathtaking. Rene felt her chest tighten and her stomach drop as their eyes met and Dina flashed her a smile of pure love acknowledging their bond. It was a smile for her, and her alone.
Always had been. Always would be.
Dina held out her hands to Rene. “Much better. Come here.” How did I get so lucky? She drank in the golden crown of her hair and the emerald sparkle of her eyes. She lost herself in Rene’s delighted smile. It lit up her face, making her appear even younger than she was. And it never failed to bring out smiles from even the most hardened and unhappy.
All it took was two steps and Rene was in her arms. For a heartbeat they held each other, savoring the contact which was at once comforting and electrifying. It felt like home and it felt like MORE.
Lips met. Tongues danced. Wordlessly they reaffirmed their love and passion.
Dina pulled Rene closer and ran her fingertips lightly up and down the blonde’s back. She lifted the hem of her shirt, and cupping a breast in her hand, she ran her tongue around and then sucked gently on her rosy nipple.
Rene moaned and leaned into the wonderful feeling. She ran her tongue over Dina’s ear, moaning again softly.
“What is that?” the firefighter asked huskily, as she turned her attentions to the doctor’s other breast.
“Mmm. Don’t care,” Rene answered, caught up in the growing warmth spreading throughout her body.
“Crap.” The blonde took reluctant a step back. “It’s the teapot. One sec while I go turn it off.” She kissed the seated woman on the forehead. “Hold my place. I’ll be right back.”
She ran into the kitchen and turned off the burner just as the phone rang.
Not gonna answer it. The machine will take a message.
“Hello? Rene?” came a familiar voice through the machine. “This is Dale Talvin. My wife has gone into labor and I was hoping you could come in early so I can be with her. Give me a call as soon ?”
Crap, crap, crap. With a sigh she snatched up the phone before he could hang up. “Hey Dale? I’m here. Yeah, I’ll come in. I just have to shower. I can be there in, oh, 40 to 45 minutes.”
“Thanks so much,” he said gratefully.
“Well, I owe you, ya know? Be there soon. Bye.”
She turned and unexpectedly found herself looking directly into the firefighter’s tee shirted chest.
“I hate it when you sneak up on me like that, you know?” the petite blonde groused, looking up into her lover’s questioning blue eyes. “That was Dale Talvin, Dr. Talvin, asking me to come in early. His wife’s in labor and I owe him one anyway. So I said yes.”
Dina cocked an eyebrow. “Owe him?”
Rene sighed. Wrapping her arms around the taller woman, she leaned against her, listening for a second to the comforting thump-thump of her heart. “He’s the one that came in at 3am for me the night you were admitted.”
“Oh,” Dina replied softly, locking her arms around Rene. She’d had no idea. She couldn’t remember much about that night except her fight to breathe, and how painful that tube in her throat had been, then how awful it had felt to have that machine forcing her to breathe to its rhythm. The only thing she was sure of was that Rene had been with her. “Then you have to go.”
The firefighter grinned, relieving the solemn mood. “It may kill me, but we’ll have some other time.”
“Mmmn mnmns mnd” came the mumbled reply from the general vicinity of Dina’s chest.
“What was that?” she asked the blonde.
“I was cursing my work ethic,” Rene raised her head and grinned back. “We have tomorrow after I wake up, right?”
“Nope. I picked up an overtime shift tomorrow, remember?”
“Dammit. Forgot. The next day?” a distinctive whine crept into her voice.
“Yep, the next day.” Dina laughed at the hopeful look on Rene’s face. “It’s a date.”
“OK. A date it is. Now I’ve got to scoot. I love you.”
Their lips met in a kiss that quickly intensified with the remaining heat of their earlier passion.
“Uh uh, no. Can’t do this? I’ve got to go? Uh.”
Rene finally tore herself away. She shook her finger at the dark haired woman. “You are a troublemaker.” She took a few steps toward the bathroom and turned back again. “And I love you for it. Hold that thought. We have a date.”
The firefighter stood unmoving until she heard the water running in the shower, then slumped her way into the living room and threw herself full length on the couch. Great. What am I going to do now? Feels like a long run and then a cold shower. I thought I wasn’t going to have to do this once we were living together. She let out a long breath. Damn.
Luckily it was a slow night in the ER. Dr. Covington, seated at the doctor’s desk, lay her head down on her crossed arms and sighed. I could almost prefer a busy night tonight. Thoughts of Dina had been flashing happily, but most distractingly, through her mind all night. She sighed again, yawned, and thanks to her years of practice as a resident, immediately fell asleep.
Dina stood in front of the roomful of eager faces. “Tomorrow we’re taking a bus out to a meet in Tarzana. The bus leaves at nine. Anyone not here is not going. Got it?”
18 white clad bodies, differentiated only by the color of their belts, bowed in unison. “Yes, Sensei,” they chorused.
She allowed herself a small smile. This was a very promising group. “OK. Head home. I’ll see you in the morning.” She let them out, locking the door as the last one left and?
?turned to face Margaret, who was standing across their bedroom, hands on hips, glaring at her in anger.
“I just don’t understand why we have to have an escort in the carriage with us, Kate,” she grumped. “Your brother has done everything to come between us and annoy us since you turned down Francis Hutchinson’ proposal.”
Lady Catherine shook her head. “I know, my love. He harries us at every step and does his best to see we have no privacy. But this time I must agree with him. ‘Tis a long ride and a wild one from here to Paris.”
“But in the cab? Why couldn’t he ride on the outside with the driver?” She pouted, unwilling to give an inch.
The Lady gave a laugh and glided over, enfolding the small, petulant blonde in her arms. “I suppose he could,” she mused, “But my brother has decreed he should ride inside. To observe and to vex us I don’t doubt.”
Gently touching her lover’s face, she tilted her chin up so she could look her in the eyes. “And why, pray tell, does this mean so much to you, my dear?”
Green eyes twinkling mischievously, Margaret leaned into Kate’s long body. “Well, Mum, this poor urchin’s never been on a long carriage ride,” she explained in her best Cockney drawl. “And I was thinking that the rocking of the cab might get me in a mood to help you pass the time a little more? interestingly? if you might think.”
“Ah, yes, I can see this,” mused Catherine, a crooked smile playing across her lips. “Our unsuspecting man sitting outside would suddenly become aware of strange moaning sounds coming from inside. He would have the driver stop and would come around to check on us.
“We, being occupied, would be caught unawares as he opens the door to find you up under my skirts? What fine confirmation for my brother, who strongly suspects, but cannot prove, our relationship.
“No. As lovely as it sounds, not this trip My Incorrigible One.”
“But, Mum, that’s ‘ow you like me,” Margaret grinned, relenting to the Lady’s logic.
“True. I would have you no other way. But?” She fixed the smaller woman in a searing glance. “No one is with us tonight, are they?”
The petite blonde’s look swept the room theatrically. “By God, no. We are alone.”
“Then I say we should take advantage, should we not?” Without waiting for an answer, Catherine bent to kiss her Love.”
“Dr. Covington. Dr. Covington.”
Rene awoke with a start. “Huh?” She looked around, momentarily confused.
“Dr. Covington you fell asleep. There’s a febrile kiddie to see in room 4,” the nurse informed her, handing the doctor the chart. “Sorry to interrupt what sounded like a good dream,” she added with a grin.
Rene could feel the blush coming up from her toes. “Uh, it was getting there,” she admitted, and clutching the chart, stepped into room 4.
The house was empty when Rene got home. She knew it would be. Dina had to be at work at 6:30am and the doctor didn’t get off shift until 8am. But after last night’s visitation with Margaret and Catherine, the house seemed particularly empty and, despite the summer heat, the bed was cold.
“Jose, this shift sucks,” Dina informed Jose Saavedra, the engineer, as the two of them worked in the kitchen concocting the night’s dinner of chili and beans with salad. “It’s hot. It’s dry. We’re busy.” She chopped viciously at an unsuspecting tomato. “And everyone is in a bad mood.” A head of lettuce disintegrated in her hands.
Jose gave the chili a stir and looked at her. “Whoa Mija.” He cocked his head. “I thought your cute little doctor was home. You were supposed to go back to ‘Nice Dina’ when she came home.” He suddenly looked worried. “Are you guys OK?”
She raised an eyebrow and gave him a withering glance. Only Jose could talk to her like that without risking his life. He’d been the first to figure out her and Rene, and she’d been the only person in the department he’d come out to. The small Hispanic engineer and the tall female firefighter had a bond of friendship now that all acknowledged but few understood.
Unable to sustain it, her look deteriorated into a slow embarrassed grin. “Thanks, Jose, we’re fine. It’s just that? since she’s been home, well? we haven’t had much time? together? alone? well?” She stopped, realizing she was stammering.
Jose’s mouth dropped. “Oh my God. She was gone four days or so, right?”
“And she’s been home two?”
“And you still haven’t?” He collapsed against the counter in uncontrollable laughter. “No wonder you’re still so?” He pounded the countertop. “Edgy.” His composure dissolved completely in another round of laughter.
He looked up to see the knife pointed directly at his throat.
“Friend or not, if this gets out, I will hurt you.”
He looked into the steely depth of her eyes and swallowed hard. “No Mija.” He held up his hands. “It’s between you and me.” His lip twitched as he tried to contain his snickering.
She put down the knife and stared at the counter. “Am I that obvious?”
He nodded and, unable to contain himself, fell against the counter laughing again.
“I feel like a bad joke,” she said starting to grin, then laugh.
They were leaning against the counter still laughing when the captain walked in.
“What is this?” he demanded, “Are we getting dinner or not?”
“Almost done, Cap,” answered the engineer, suddenly sober.
BRAAAAAAAAAAAP “Engine and rescue. Difficulty breathing. 415 East La Vista.”
“Crap. Another call. Let’s cover the chili. We’ll have to eat it later,” the captain groaned at they ran for the engine.
It was four calls and two hours later before they made it back to the station for their dinner.
Rene awoke from a fitful sleep and peeled the eyeshade from her face. Focusing slowly, she finally made out 5:17pm on the clock. Ick. She lay back down and stared at the ceiling. Coffee. Inspired by that thought, she crept out of bed, found a tank top and shorts on the floor and threw them on without considering whether they were hers or Dina’s. Finally, she made her way to the kitchen.
An hour later, caffinated, showered and fed, she called the fire station, but was disappointed to get only empty ringing.
No one home. Must be a busy day. What’s the news today? She plopped onto the couch.
“Tonight’s big story: Weather continues to be hot and dry. Multiple fires have broken out in Orange County and San Bernadino. People are being asked to conserve water as reservoirs are hitting critically low levels. Next up? Kite flying, the new aerobic sport. After these commercial messages.”
Nothing big in LA today, she thought breathing a sigh of relief. She remembered a story that Dina had told her about pumping out someone’s pool and using the water to save her house. The woman later threatened to sue the fire department because they had cracked a tile.
No accounting for people, she mused cynically, as she packed up her stethoscope and left for work. I think it’s going to be a busy one.
I hate going shopping in my scrubs, but tonight’s our date and I’m gonna make a special dinner, Rene told herself excitedly as she got out of the car. She’d stopped on the way home from work at the local upscale supermarket. Ugh, look at these prices. But they do have the prettiest food, she conceded.
“Yes, I’ll take that piece of sea bass,” she answered in response to the clerk’s question. She quickly made her way over to produce and picked out the best scallions and mushrooms and a plump lemon. She zipped through the specialty rices and finally lingered over the choice of a fine chardonnay. We already have salad and baklava for desert. This will be great. The blonde smiled happily planning their date as she cruised home.
Dina was already asleep when, groceries put away, she stripped and snuggled into bed.
It was perfect. The salad was crisp and cool. The fish was moist and slightly spicy, sitting in its bed of rice. The wine sat invitingly in its chiller. And the candles gave the perfect glow.
They gazed across the table, holding hands and eating, every now and then stopping to kiss.
They fed each other the baklava sitting on the couch, licking the sticky honey off each other’s fingers? then lips, baklava forgotten.
This is all I could ever want, Rene felt, more than thought, as she nibbled her way down her firefighter’s exquisite throat. Gently she cupped her breast and heard an encouraging rumbling moan in answer. She felt Dina’s fingers run tinglingly down her back and dip teasingly into the waistband of her shorts.
Suddenly, Dina sat straight up and pushed Rene back.
“What?” Rene squeaked.
Dina’s face was a slightly greenish shade of pale. The doctor was only able to get out, “Hon?” before Dina bolted for the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. The sound of retching came shortly after.
The blonde walked over and knocked on the door. “Are you OK?”
She heard a flush and then, “Yeah, come in.”
Dina sat on the floor, her face still pale but no longer green. Her arm rested on the toilet.
Rene knelt down and took the taller woman’s free hand. “Was it dinner? I’m sorry.”
“No, no.” Dina shook her head, then quickly bent to retch again.
Rene grabbed her hair and kept it out of the way as the poor woman lost her dinner.
“I think it was last night’s chili,” she explained when she was finally able to look up. “We cooked it but then it was a few hours before we could eat. It sat out the whole time?” She was interrupted by more heaving. “I know it wasn’t tonight’s dinner. That was great.” Dina grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. “I’m sorry I ruined our date.” She threw up again.
“Oh, Hon, it’s OK. I’m sorry you’re sick.” ‘The Doctor’ kicked in. “I have an idea.”
The firefighter looked at her suspiciously with one watery eye as she leaned her head on the cool of the bowl.
“No.” Rene held out her hands. “It’ll be OK.” She stood and found two scrunchies in the medicine cabinet. Deftly, she tied Dina’s hair at the top and middle into a neat, out of the way pony tail. “I’ll be right back.”
The pony tail is a good idea, Dina thought as nausea overcame her again.
She heard the refrigerator door slam and Rene reappeared, a small silver wrapper in her hand.
“What’s that?” the stricken woman asked, not bothering to lift her head.
“A Compazine suppository.”
“Compazine, a medication for vomiting. Remember when I had the stomach flu in the spring? Works great.”
Dina lifter her head and gave Rene her best stare. “I am not going to use a suppository.”
“It’s no big deal.”
“No.” She put her head down and dry heaved.
“It’s better than what you’re doing now.”
“Why are you being so stubborn? I know what I’m talking about.”
“Fine.” The doctor straightened herself up and put on her best ‘Doctor Voice’. “I’m going to give you half an hour. If you haven’t stopped puking by then you’re going to take the medication if I have to give it to you myself.” She spun and stalked out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
A miserable half hour later Dina, exhausted, gratefully took the medication and was in bed shortly thereafter.
Rene made short work of the dishes and the kitchen, wiped some stray honey off of the coffee table and cleaned the bathroom before finally going to bed. Dina never moved as she lay down and curled up, one hand on her beloved firefighter’s hip.
It was overwhelmingly busy in the ER. The nurses looked frazzled as they tried to keep up with the admissions, medication orders and discharges. Kay, the charge nurse grabbed Rene as she surveyed the six charts of the patients she hadn’t seen yet and the twelve that were still in the department that she had.
“Dr. Covington,” she snapped, “We need you in room 2 right away. We have a woman actively seizing.”
“Get someone to grab some Valium. I’m on my way,” the doctor directed as she forgot the other charts and ran into room 2.
“No!” The book she was holding slammed down onto the desk. “No, Janice, I do NOT see why you have to go to this excavation. We have discussed this before. We agreed. We’re getting too old for this. It’s too dangerous. No more digs.” Melinda crossed her arms and stared out the window across the green lawns of the plantation that had been their home for the greater part of twenty years.
“Melinda.” Janice moved the pen around in her mouth, then set it down. She’d given up the cigars fifteen years ago, but the habit was still with her, especially at times like these. She came up behind her, wrapping her arms around the dark haired woman and leaned her head against the still strong back. “There’s rumors that after all these years there might be scrolls in that abandoned mine. Think of it. New Xena scrolls. I have to be there.”
Melinda turned in Janice’ arms and held her tightly. “Oh Janice,” she whispered, knowing she’d lost the argument. “Oh Janice,” she said again, starting to cry. “I just? I have a bad feeling. Please promise me you’ll be careful.”
“Hey Toots,” she comforted Melinda using a pet name that harked back to their younger days, “I promise. I will always come back to you.”
Dina, still in her gi, gave her last student a hug as her mom picked her up and drove her home from the meet. ‘ I’m bushed. And I didn’t even fight. Time for a shower.’ She walked up the back stairs to her apartment, peeling her clothes as she went.
Dina awoke as the first rosy light was picking it’s way into their room. She felt drained but much better. Next to her, Rene slept, head partially buried under her pillow, one arm and leg sprawled over Dina’s body. With her free arm, Dina pushed some of the hair out of Rene’s face. Then, moving as little as possible so as not to disturb the sleeping woman, she kissed her. “Thank you,” she whispered and went back to sleep.
“You gonna be OK?”
“Yes, Rene,” Dina answered patiently for the nth time from where she lay on the couch. A bottle of her favorite blue Gatorade sat on the coffee table next to her. “I will be fine. I haven’t thrown up since last night. I’m resting. I’m taking fluids. I’m reading a book. Now go to work before you’re late.”
“Rene!” the firefighter snapped, “I will call if I have any problems. I’m gonna try some soup later. I’m OK. Promise. Now go to work!”
Dina softened. “I love you, too. And thank you. Now go to work.”
“Dr. Covington, breath sounds are equal with bagging, but he sounds very wet,” reported the respiratory therapist.
“Thanks, Don. I’ll write the ventilator orders and let’s get Xray in here.” She motioned for the tech to roll in the portable xray machine and stepped out of the room.
“Hey Kay,” she yelled over to the charge nurse, “I’m going to go explain to his wife about his congestive heart failure and why he’s intubated now. OK?”
The charge nurse nodded. “OK. And when you come back in, call Dina” She gave a short laugh at Rene’s suddenly worried face. “She says to tell you she’s fine.”
“Hey Hon, how’ya doin’?”
“Hey Love, OK. Just wanted to let you know soup went down fine so I ordered in some tacos?”
“What?!” Rene clutched the phone. “Of all the idiotic things?” She stopped as laughter came pealing over the phone.
“No, I didn’t. I had soup and crackers per your instructions. I feel much better.” Rene relaxed as Dina continued. “Am I correct in assuming we’re both off tomorrow again?”
The blonde eyeballed the doctors’ schedule hanging at the desk. “Yes, my dear, you are.”
“Shall we try again at another date?”
“OK. It’s a date. I love you. I’m sorry I’ve been snippy.”
Rene grinned. “And I’m sorry I’ve been pushy. I’ll see you in the morning, ‘K?”
“Oh, Dr. Covington.” Kay took the phone from Rene’s hand and hung it up. “Come down off that cloud and please come back to work. You’ve got to write those vent orders, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” Rene smiled cheerily. “Thanks.” I think the rest of this shift is going to go just fine, she thought happily, and went to finish her paperwork.
At 3pm, no longer able to restrain herself, Dina made a pot of coffee, poured a cup and went into the bedroom where she wafted it back and forth in front of the sleeping doctor’s nose. Or at least the general vicinity of where she thought it might be. It was hard to tell from the lump in the bed.
“Mmmmmmm,” came from the muffled figure in the bed.
“Rene,” Dina called quietly, sitting down on the side of the bed
“Rene.” She wafted the coffee again.
“Murrfle?” One hand reached up and uncovered a single eye. “Coffee? For me?” She sat up completely, pulled off the eyeshade and tossed it across the room. Taking the offered cup, she gulped down about half. “Thank you. Coffee in bed. What a treat.”
“Well,” Dina looked embarrassed. “I cleaned, did laundry, went for a run, shopped, and then ran out of ideas. So I decided to wake you up.”
Leaning forward, Rene gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You are the best. I love you.” She grinned. “And not just for the coffee.”
One eyebrow shot up. “”No?” asked the firefighter.
“Oh no, there’s much more.” She finished the coffee in one quick swallow and handed the cup to Dina, who set it on the dresser. “C’mere.” She patted the bed next to her. “Let me tell you.”
The taller woman sat down, leaning against the headboard, her long legs stretched out in front of her, and looked expectantly at the blonde.
Rene threw off the covers and knelt on the bed. She took one of Dina’s hands.
“I love you for how you take care of me.” She kissed the firefighter’s little finger. “I love how you let me take care of you.” She kissed the ring finger. “I love you for how you know me so well.” The middle finger received its kiss. “I love you for how you let me know you.” The index finger. “I love you for what you do to me.” Eye’s twinkling, she kissed her thumb? then sucked it, nipping at it slightly.
Straddling the surprised woman , Rene put her hands on the headboard and leaned over to whisper into Dina’s ear. “And I love what you let me do to you.”
Their lips met. Dina wrapped her long arms around her love and pulled her close. The both gasped at the feel of their bodies touching.
“Too many clothes. You definitely have on too many clothes,” Rene declared as she temporarily broke their embrace and pulled at Dina’s tank top.
Dina obligingly lifted her arms as Rene removed the top.
They held each other again, delighting in skin against skin, slowly exploring each other with hands, then tongues.
“Time for you to lose the shorts,” Rene murmured into Dina’s belly as she kissed her way down?
BANG BANG BANG RING RING RING
“What the hell was that?”
BANG BANG BANG RING RING RING
“It’s the damn door. And if I know that bang, it’s Erin. And she won’t go away until we answer.” Rene thumped the bed with her fist. “Damn!”
She got up and rummaged through the drawer, throwing on the first tee shirt and shorts she found.
“I’ll get it,” she grumped as the banging commenced again.
“Goddammit Erin,” the blonde growled as she threw open the door. “What is ??”
Her growl was cut off as she was hit by a 5’2″ mass of flying, hugging, laughing, Irish-Hispanic woman. Behind her, still in the doorway, stood Stuart, an immense grin on his face.
“Rene, guess what?” her ex-roommate gushed, “I’m pregnant!”
Rene took a step back out of Erin’s arms and stared at them both. “Wow. Well, that was quick. You two have only been married, uh?” She glanced unhelpfully down at the nonexistent watch on her left wrist. Dropping her arm, she continued, “two months.”
“C’mon in why don’t you. I’ll have some more coffee and you can give me the details.”
She turned toward the kitchen and stopped as the full meaning of her request penetrated her still sleep fogged mind. Turning back quickly, she found Stuart staring at her with an ever-widening grin on his face.
Rene held her hands out in a warding off gesture in front of her. “Gods, I must be slow. No, Stuart, I don’t mean THOSE details. I mean? Uh? Oh, crud, let me get some coffee first, OK?”
Dina joined them as they settled themselves onto the couch.
“Well, I’m seven weeks pregnant. We waited until after 6 weeks to make sure. I got an ultrasound today. Everything looks good.” Erin beamed and hugged Stuart.
“Seven weeks? You guys didn’t wait long at all.”
Stuart puffed himself up. “We Japanese are known for our efficiency,” he stated proudly.
The doctor put one hand over her eyes and leaned back into the couch. “I can’t believe you just said that,” she moaned.
“We’re thinking about names, and I want you to be godparents? both of you.” She beamed at them, then suddenly laughed. “Did we interrupt something?”
“Huh?” Rene and Dina asked in unison. Two sets of eyebrows went skyward.
“Well, Rene’s shorts are on backward and Dina’s shirt is inside out.”
“Uh, well?” Doctor and firefighter looked at each other and broke out laughing. “To tell the truth, well, yeah,” admitted Rene. “I’ve been back six days and it’s been one thing after another, and well?”
Erin put up a hand. “Say no more. I’ve told you what I came to say. Whatcha say Stuart, shall we let these ladies go back to what they were doing?” She winked at him.
“Yes, please carry on,” he agreed, heading for the door.
“Besides, we all know how crabby Rene can get if she goes without. I can’t even picture you, Big One,” she added with an evil grin.
“What do you mean by that?” Dina asked, smiling as innocently as possible.
“Dina, ignore her please. Congrats to you two. All our love to you both. She gave her ex-roommate a hug. “And thanks,” she whispered in her ear, “You’re right about both of us.”
“Now where were we?” the blonde inquired as she closed the door. “Oh yeah.” Taking Dina by the hand, she led her back to the bedroom.
“One other thing first,” Dina said, stopping at the door. She turned and sprinted into the kitchen.
“What did you do?” Rene asked her when she returned a minute later.
“I turned off the telephone ringer and turned down the answering machine,” the firefighter answered with a laugh. “NOW back to where we were.”
“Hey look! It’s dark out already,” Rene remarked much later.
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
A low rumble interrupted the silence.
“Was that your stomach?” Dina asked.
“Yeah. I guess I’m hungry.”
“Hungry? You mean?”
“Hon, that doesn’t count as food.”
“No? How about if I?”
“Mmmmmmm. Well, that does feel good. Maybe it does count. But?”
“Uh, mmmm, nevermind. I forgot what I was going to say.”
And nothing more was said for a very long time.