AN: Here's the next chapter. Hope you enjoy.
Mac, Dri, Richie, and Sean were all eating over a thin blanket they had spread across the ground. Dri overlooked the hills. Mac had told her that he had trained Richie here once upon a time. Dri had loved the place and had chosen this particular spot as the place to have their picnics.
Richie bit into his sandwich. "These are really good, Mac," He mumbled through a mouth full of food.
"I think he figured that out after you had your third one," Dri laughed. "And stop talking with food in your mouth. It's gross."
"What are you my mother?" Richie asked after he swallowed his food.
She threw a potato chip at him. "No, but manners wouldn't kill you."
"Maybe they would," Richie said sarcastically. "You don't know."
Dri shook her head. "I'm going to feed the ducks." She grabbed a few pieces of bread and stood up. "You coming?"
Richie nodded. "Yeah."
"Mac?" She asked turning to the highlander.
Feeding the ducks by the lake was also a weekly event. Mac declined though, wanting to stay and talk with Sean.
"Suit yourself," Dri shrugged. "Come on Richie."
Richie grabbed a few slices of bread and the two walked down the hill to where the lake was.
"She seems so happy," Mac said when they were out of ear shot. "What changed?"
Sean shook his head. "Nothing changed. She's not happy."
"That's why I said seems," Mac said. "It's too quick of a turn around. What's really going on?"
"You know I can't tell you the details," Sean said. "She wouldn't talk to me again if I did."
"She'd think you betrayed her," Duncan agreed. "So what can you tell me?"
Sean sighed. "Well I can tell you that after what Dri remembered last night, I'm surprised she's not more withdrawn. I think she's hiding her feelings. She's trying to make you think she's okay by acting how she thinks you want her to act."
"I just want to her to be okay," Mac said. "I want her to be happy."
"She knows that," Sean said glancing down to where Richie and Dri were feeding the ducks. Dri was laughing at something that Richie had said. "So instead of facing her pain, or sulking and seeing the pain in your eyes she's opted to act the way she thinks will make you happy."
"Even though she's still hurting inside," Mac said. "This is ridiculous Sean. Why won't she just talk to me, or you, or anyone? Why does talking to her have to be like…"
"Pulling teeth?" Sean asked.
"Part of it is she doesn't understand," Sean told him.
"That what happened to Dri, wasn't her fault," Sean said. "She feels like if she tells you what happened in the past you won't love her anymore."
"I've told her a million times that I will always love her," Mac said. "I don't know why she doesn't understand that."
"Because they're just words, Duncan," Sean told him. "Words that she's heard from people she cared about before and they all either hurt her or died. In all honesty I believe she feels as though she's unlovable."
"That's ridiculous," Mac said looking down at her. She was kneeling next to the lake tossing pieces of bread onto the water. "I love her like a daughter. What happened to her in the past, what Alec did to her it wasn't her fault."
"I know that, and you know that, but it's been drilled into her head so many times that she believes it."
"So how do we make her not believe it," Mac asked returning his gaze to Sean.
"We have to basically deprogram her," Sean replied.
Mac raised an eyebrow. "Come again?"
Sean sighed. "In some traumatic situations similar to what happened to Dri, the victim uses self blame as a coping mechanism."
"How does blaming herself help her to cope?" Mac asked genuinely confused.
"It allows Dri to feel some sort of control or power over what happened. It let's her feel as though she weren't completely helpless."
Duncan nodded. "So she blames herself instead of feeling guilty over not being able to help her brother."
"I truly don't think this is about her brother," Sean said.
The Highlander eyed Sean suspiciously. "What are you not telling me?"
"What he promised he wouldn't," Dri said walking up behind them. Richie was still by the lake. She had just come to get more bread. "So much for having a nice picnic," She stormed past them.
"Dri wait," Mac said standing up.
"You couldn't leave it alone," Dri said turning to face him. "You couldn't just wait till I came to you!" Venom filled every word. "You had to pry! Damn Duncan you don't press Richie, but you'll sure as hell do it to me!"
"Richie's not hurting himself, and when he was I did press him and I brought Sean into help."
Dri shook her head. "One day," She said. "All I wanted was one day to forget what he just made me remember. I wanted one more good memory before I told you what happened to me, before I had to face it, but you didn't have the patience to wait!"
"Dri," Sean said.
"You go to hell!"
She turned and walked away.
"Anyone care to tell me what just happened here?" Richie asked walking up to them.
"Dri over heard part of a conversation," Sean said. "She didn't get the jest of it and thought Mac was prying into the session we had last night."
Richie crossed his arms over his chest. "Were you?" He asked Mac.
"Not like you're thinking," The Highlander replied.
Richie shook his head. "In other words you were."
"He wasn't asking what happened," Sean explained. "He was asking how we help her come out of her shell."
"By giving her the space to do so," Richie said. "If you guys keep hounding her she's only going to close up more."
"Richie we can't let her go on like this," Mac said. "She's hurting herself."
"I'm not suggesting we let her go on like this Mac. I'm just saying lets not make Dri and her problems the topic of every conversation and every outing. Sometimes you just need to get your mind off things," Richie said. "Why do you think she suggested the picnic in the first place? She needed a break."
"He's right," Sean said. "I'm just as much at fault for this as you are Duncan. We shouldn't have been talking about her. Not right now. This was her time to digest everything she saw."
"Or deny it," Mac said.
"No, she's not going to deny it. She knows it's true, but right now it's like a dream to her," Sean said. "She knows it happened, she won't deny that to herself. It's whether she will deny it to the rest of us."
"Okay see this is what I'm talking about," Richie said throwing his hands up in defeat. "Stop talking about it. Stop talking about her! She doesn't want to be the center of attention! Dri just wanted to have a normal day without her problems and even now after she ran off you can't stop talking about it!" He shook his head. "I'll find Dri and bring her back to the loft. See if you guys can find something else to talk about while I'm gone," Richie said walking past them.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Dri said kicking the dirt. She hadn't gone far. Just to the other side of side of the fields. She had thought going on a picnic would make everyone forget for just a while. She just wanted a memory of a normal day before she faced it all.
Dri picked up a rock and chucked it as hard as she could. "Just couldn't leave it alone," She mumbled. "Had to bring it up."
"That's Mac for you."
Dri whirled around. "Richie you scared the hell out of me!" He was leaning against a tree with his arms crossed over his chest. "You didn't have to follow me. I'm fine."
"I know you're fine," He said. "But hey I'd rather hang out with you than with those two old geezers." He smiled.
She gave him a disbelieving glance.
"It's true," Richie insisted walking over to her. "I was having fun hanging out by the lake."
"So was I until Duncan had to start prying about what happened last night," She kicked the dirt again. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
"Well I'd call Mac a lot of things," Richie said. "But I don't think stupid is one of them."
"Not him," Dri yelled. "Me! I'm stupid!"
"You're stupid?" He asked.
"I'm stupid," She said.
Richie nodded. "Okay."
"You're not going to ask me why?" Dri asked.
He shook his head. "You've been hounded by questions for the last couple of days. If you want me to know you'll tell me."
"You're not going to press me?"
Dri tilted her head in confusion. Then, without warning she ran over and threw her arms around Richie's waist.
"Hey, it's all right," Richie said embracing her.
"Thank you," She said.
She pulled back so she could look up at him. "For trusting me enough not to ask questions."
"Let me tell you something," Richie said. "Come here sit down." The walked over to the tree Richie had been leaning against and sat down in its cool shade. Richie threw his arm around Dri's shoulders and she settled into his embrace.
Richie sighed and looked over at her. "I know you've been through a lot Dri. I could honestly probably guess whatever it is you're not telling us."
"I really hope that you couldn't," Dri said.
"Hey I'm an orphan remember," Richie said. "I lived on the streets for a long time, but I also lived in some nasty foster homes."
Dri looked up at him. "Doesn't sound like it was fun."
Richie shook his head. "It wasn't. The places I had been made me not want to trust anyone."
"I know that feeling," Dri said snuggling back into his embrace.
He nodded. "I know you do."
"But you trust Mac," Dri said.
"Yeah I do."
"Because in all the years I've known him he's never given me a reason not to."
"What about all the questions? Didn't he judge you?"
"Never once," Richie said shaking his head.
"I'm sure he'd judge me if he knew."
"I always thought the same thing," Richie said. "But anything Mac found out, he never cared. Well he cared, but he didn't look at me different, he didn't think I was dirty or to blame."
"Because you weren't," Dri said looking up at him again. "It's not your fault if those people hurt you."
Richie smiled at her. "Now how many times have you heard Mac tell you what you just told me?"
"That's not fair," She said. "You tricked me."
He nodded. "Yeah, I did."
Dri wanted to get mad but knew she couldn't. "If I'm not to blame," She said. "Than why did all those bad things happen? What did I do that was so wrong?"
Richie gently squeezed her shoulders. "You didn't do anything Dri. You were in a situation you had no control over. There was nothing you could do."
"But it feels so bad," She said closing her eyes. "And it never goes away."
"You're too busy blaming yourself to let it go away," Richie said.
Dri shook her head. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."
Richie nodded. "Okay."
Dri was grateful that Richie wasn't pushing her. She was sick of everyone always pushing her. She was going to tell Mac and Richie, she really was, but she needed to do it on her own terms.
"Do you think Mac is mad at me?" She asked.
Richie looked at her questioningly. "Why would he be mad at you?"
Dri shrugged. "Because of the way I acted back there."
Richie smirked. "Trust me I think I pissed him off more."
"Why?" She asked.
"I told him and Sean to lay off you," He winked at her. "I told them that they needed to find a new topic to talk about other than you."
"Really?" She asked.
He nodded. "Listen Dri, I won't force you to tell me anything. I know what it's like to be hounded about your past, but this cutting…"
"It makes the pain go away Richie."
"I know it does, but you hurting yourself causes pain to the people around you."
"I don't want to hurt anyone else," Dri said softly. "But I don't want to hurt anymore either."
Richie gave her a reassuring squeeze. "You don't have to."
She looked up at him. "How do I make it stop?"
Richie brushed a stray hair out of her face. "By letting us help you."