There it is. The moment and the explanation from Tawny that you've all been waiting for. Let me know what you think.
The abrupt intrusion of her phone alarm in the early hours of the morning doesn’t bother Alaine today. Hearing the shrill whine makes her happy -- ecstatic even.
For four days, she's been able to do nothing but sit on her hands and wait. If she didn't currently have a bruise the size of Angus' fist on her face, she might have forgone the two weeks of leave of absence assigned to her by her new employer. It would have been a means to pass the time.
She'd been surprised when Ian had called her. The genuine concern she'd read in his voice had been far more discomposing. Alaine had stuttered over her words, at first, because she'd expected him to want details of what happened. Instead, he'd simply told her to take the next two weeks to recover and if she needed more time, that she shouldn't be afraid to ask.
But today, she gets to see Lucas. Finally! Her despair over being barred from him disappears like mist on a sunny day.
Dion had driven to her front door the night before to deliver the good news himself. She'd thrown herself in his arms, she was so happy.
Her only connection to Lucas has been through the threads of text messages that she receives daily from Shernie and Shanice. At least, they had been thoughtful enough to do that for her and because of it she owes them an eternal debt of gratitude. Sometimes, they sent her pictures annotated with updates on his condition. It’s the only thing that’s kept her sane for the last ninety-six hours. Not therapy. During that time, she’s played hooky with her therapist. No one could expect her to move on from her trauma when Lucas is still stuck in his.
The fact that they're allowed to be in the same room together, has to mean that he's getting better. She'll get to hold his hand and kiss his lips after what feels like an entire era has passed.
Shernie had informed her that he couldn’t stay awake for very long periods but maybe, just maybe, she’d get to see those lovely gray eyes of his. That would be the icing on the cake.
In the event that Lucas does wake up, she spends an additional few minutes in front of the mirror. Unfortuately, Delah had already shuffled off to work, so Alaine is left to do the best that she can with the little she’s gleaned from watching her apply her make up and style her hair over the last three months or so.
Satisfied that she’s managed to hide the luggage under her eyes, somewhat, without making herself look like a clown, she meets Tawny outside of her apartment.
These days, when she steps into the open, she has no worry that Angus is going to appear out of nowhere. Granted, it would preferable if he was rotting six feet under, but the weight of knowing that he is out there has lifted off her shoulders.
She gives Tawny a wide smile. Her first real one in two weeks. Even Tawny’s lips twitch in response so Alaine knows that it’s going to be a spectacular day. New York suddenly seems like the place it had been when she'd first gotten here. A place to dream and dream big.
Alaine almost sings her greeting to Tawny when she says, "good morning, Tawny. It's a lovely day, isn't it."
“Ma’am,” Tawny replies in her usual monotone.
Getting her driver to refer to her by her name has proven to be an impossible feat but Alaine isn’t concerned about being made to sound like a grandmother before her time. Not today. How can she be concerned with such trivial things when she has to practice what she’s gong to say to Lucas?
...if he’s awake.
They weave their way through the heavy flow of traffic to get to New Jersey. The trip had seemed to take an age but as soon as Tawny puts the car in park, Alaine hops out and bounds for the front entrance of the hospital.
Tawny scrambles after her whereas, Alaine remains heedless to calls 'to wait' from the woman who had saved her life. The only thing on her mind is getting to Lucas' room and the only time she pauses her hurried steps is for the elevator ride to Lucas’ room.
He’s been moved out of the critical care unit and into the type of regular room in a wing at the hospital that only billionaires can afford.
Alaine almost skips her way to his door but contains her enthusiasm enough so as not to appear as an escapee from a mental institution.
“I’ll be here, Ma’am,” Tawny says at Lucas’ door. Then she stuns Alaine by breaking her strict adherence to protocol.
“All the best,” she mumbles. “Give my regards to Mr. Bright.”
Alaine recovers quickly from the pleasant surprise. She smiles before entering the room.
A part of her had been secretly wishing that she would find Lucas alone. Then she would be free to say all that she wanted without an audience. It’s a Saturday, so, she’s not shocked to find that his entire family is gathered around him. Not a person in the room takes notice of her presence it would seem and she’s loathe to disrupt their free chatter.
Alaine tamps down on the excitement rising from the pit of her stomach and dispersing all the way to the tips of her extremities. She hangs back near the door and listens to the low timbre of Lucas’ voice in the midst of the other voices. Her heart skips a few beats. Everything that she’d been prepared to say to him disappears from her mind.
He’s not only awake! He’s talking!
Though his words are bit slow, maybe from the pain medication or tiredness, hearing his voice after so long fills her with the kind of joy and relief that simply cannot be measured or described with the limited number of adjectives in her vocabulary.
Her tears renew quickly so she takes a moment to stem the flow and just listen to the love of her life.
Then his eyes find hers. His star pins her feet to the floor. The signal of recognition doesn’t come immediately from the dull pools of gray looking back at her. Rather, it’s the subtle change in the steady rhythm coming from the heart monitor before it settles to a calm beat again that gives Lucas away.
The wispy smile on his face disappears. By now, of course, he knows that Alaine is alive and well but it’s such a shock and a pleasure seeing her there after so long, his eyes coast over her from head to toe, taking all of her in.
He takes a deep breath and blinks away the water gathering on his lashes.
She’s still so beautiful and makes his heart thrash around in his chest. Though, she is a little thinner, Lucas can't help but note.
Remembering Dion’s warning to keep his heart rate measured, Lucas tries to bring his emotions under subjection. He doesn't want her to be banned from his side again. Every time he woke up expecting to see her there, disappointment would lay heavy on his chest.
“Come here, you,” he encourages softly.
Uncertainty flickers over her face.
As he tries to ease up in bed, a number of hands reach out either to offer him aid or stop him.
Wishing that everyone else would just disappear, he tells them, “I’m fine,” and searches beyond the wall of bodies obstructing Alaine from his view.
She moves forward with a bit of hesitation in her steps and looks to Dion for approval before going any closer.
He nods his head to give his consent.
Still, Alaine maintains approximately a foot or two of space between them.
“Closer,” Lucas requests.
She fulfills it quickly. As soon as she is near enough, he strains to lift the back of his hand to stroke her cheek while his eyes hold her gaze captive.
His touch is weak as is evident by the light tremor in his hand so Alaine closes her fingers over his to help him.
“Thank God,” Lucas breathes softly.
She leans down to rest her forehead against his and cries quiet tears that leak from her cheeks onto his face.
With his eyes shut to relish the sensation of having her near again, he whispers, "I got shot."
“I know,” Alaine answers. “I’m so sorry.”
“Shh,” Lucas scolds. Then he continues, “I got shot but what scares me more than that is the memory that you’d left me. You left me,” he repeats.
“I’m sorry about that too,” Alaine tells him. “I’m so sorry for everything.”
“Don’t do it again, okay?” he requests.
“Never,” Alaine promises before pressing her lips against his. "Never," she repeats with her tears slipping into his mouth. "I love you so much."
Dion steps in to interrupt, cutting of Lucas' reply.
“He’ll have none of that,” he warns. “You’re not out of the woods as yet,” he directs to Lucas.
He moves to give Lucas a gentle touch on the shoulder, however, the look on his face is anything but. It's a pointed glare that let's patient know that he's serious.
Lucas wants to tease him about it or make a joke. Doing anything -- even something as simple as talking -- requires such an output of energy that weakens him further, he does nothing but nod.
"I need to go," Dion tells him. "So do all of you, in a bit," he says to the rest of the room. "My patient needs to rest."
After he leaves, those remaining in the room make an attempt at continuing the conversation as it was happening before a Alaine arrived. They all seem to give up, however, as one by one they recognize a need for the two of them to be alone.
Carter makes his way out first, followed by Shanice and Shernie. Only Arlington hangs back for a little bit but only out of necessity.
"While you're awake, I would like to talk to you about something," he says to Lucas.
"It can't wait?" Lucas mumbles.
"I'm not sure when we'll have Tawny and Seth and Alaine together like this again," he tells Lucas.
Lucas scowls gives him a weak scowl. "Tawny and Seth?" he questions.
"I'd like to know how my son got shot," Arlington speaks plainly. "Seth is going home to today. I do not know when I will get the chance to speak with him again." Then he turns to Alaine to ask, "your driver is here too, isn't she?"
"She's outside," Alaine whispers while turning a wary eye to Lucas.
"Good," he replies before walking to the door.
A short while later, Tawny joins Lucas and Alaine in the room. She takes up her post next to the door with her legs slightly parted and her arms secured behind her back.
Lucas' lips shift up by a degree. Then his features shift to one of respect.
"Thank you," he tells her as he brushes his thumb lightly over the back of Alaine's hand.
Tawny simply inclines her head in acknowledgement. A movement that conveys the sentiment that she'd simply doing her job.
For about ten or so minutes, Lucas and Alaine are able to ignore Tawny's unobtrusive presence. At his behest and cajoling, Alaine finally acquiesces and perches her backside on the left side of his bed.
"Your doctor will kick me out," she complains.
Lucas gives a light chuckle. "Maybe we should have Tawny stand guard," he suggests.
"I feel like if I ask you how you're feeling, you're going to say like you've been shot," she tells him.
"That's exactly how I feel," he mumbles. "Or like I was hit by a two ton truck."
The imagery produced from his descriptions makes Alaine wince. She swallows down the rising tide of emotions swelling inside her. Instead of giving in to the need to cry, she says, "now we have to get you all better."
Noticing that she's fighting the urge to cry, Lucas says, "I felt really good when you kissed me. That's a good place to start. You should do it again."
His light humor puts a smile on her face but the door opening again prevents Alaine from telling him that his request has been denied by order of his doctor.
Arlington wheels Seth into the room. His eyes zero on Alaine's position on the bed. The silent disapproval she feels sees her hopping off but Lucas places a hand on her thigh to stop her.
"I want her right here," he says to his father in tone that ends an argument before it even begins.
Alaine feels torn but she looks at the man who had taken a bullet for her and resigns herself to his will.
Though he's mildly perturbed, Arlington relents. He forces himself to understand Lucas wanting Alaine that close after the last two weeks he's had. Not wanting to lose what little time that he has while Lucas is still alert, he breaks right into the discussion of what happened that day.
"Why didn't you kill him?" he demands of Tawny after she gives her version of events.
The venom is his voice, catches everyone off guard.
"Because," Seth starts to answer for Tawny. "At the time, she still didn't know who his accomplice was. We still do not know."
The news of an accomplice comes as a shock to Arlington.
"Accomplice?" he repeats and turns a questioning scowl to Lucas.
Too weary to actively participate in the conversation, he merely shrugs. His tiredness is evident in his droopy eyes and the diminished pressure of the touch he maintains on Alaine's thigh.
He looks far more haggard to Alaine than he did when she'd just entered the room -- almost as if he's struggling with pain.
She wants to tell them that he needs to rest but Tawny explains, "I thought that he would have been our best bet to find out who...quickly."
"Was he?" Lucas asks.
She shakes her head. "No, sir."
"Then not killing him was a waste, then, wasn't it?" Lucas grumbles.
Tawny looks at Seth. He gives her nod.
"Not entirely," she tells Lucas. "We're able to monitor his activities from his cell. We can see who comes and goes. Search whatever he receives. Listen in on his calls. I also factored in his family's connection to the criminal underground when I decided to spare his life. I could have killed him but that probably would have kicked the hornet's nest. Somebody would come looking for retribution, eventually. You don't often hear about it, but organized crime is nothing more than gangs given a fancy name. Revenge killings do happen."
The room falls silent. A shudder runs through Alaine.
"So, what does that mean?" she asks. "Are they...?"
"They're doing nothing," Tawny assures her. "I've seen to it."
When everyone leaves and only Alaine remains, Lucas places his hand over hers.
"Don't worry," he says in a whisper. "You heard Tawny. We're safe now."
"I just want this to be over," she whimpers.
"It is," Lucas tries to assure her. "Like you said, now it's time for us to focus on me getting better. No more tears, sweet girl," he encourages.
Because she can't help it, Alaine leans down to press her lips to his.
He gives a soft groan to sound his discomfort and Alaine jerks back.
"Pain," he grunts and squeezes his eyes tightly shut as if that might help him absorb it.
"Why didn't you say something," Alaine scolds.
Lucas shrugs again. "According to my doctor, pain means I'm not paralyzed. It means I'm alive," he grits between his teeth.
"What do I do?" Alaine asks.
Worry has her eyes sweeping from his pinched features and down his body.
"This," Lucas instructs her, pointing to button that adjusts his pain medication.
Not long after Alaine presses it, his features relax, his breathing evens out so she knows that he's fallen asleep.
Since it's been too long since they've been together, she sits in the chair beside his bed and takes her hand in his.