Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, though sometimes I wish they were ;) Lauren, Harry, Marilyn, Milton, Marla, Steven, Daniel and Kevin are property of David E. Kelly and FOX network. I just borrowed them to play a little. Everybody else is mine, though :)

Rating: PG 13, just to be safe

Category: Lauren/Harry -angst, romance, friendship

Marilyn/Lauren -friendship

Summary: Lauren has left, but where did she go?

Spoiler: Story is set after Season 2. Season 3 never really happened in my world ;)

Feedback is very much appreciated: allthingsjoliemoiyahoo.de

Chapter 3- Conclusion

Lauren awakened to the sounds of thunder and rain heaving outside. She had left her bedroom window slightly ajar last night, thus making it impossible to sleep through the storm. She glanced at her watch. 2.32 a.m. Closing her eyes once again Lauren tried to block out the noise by clutching the pillow to her head. She pressed it onto her ears, hoping the added pressure would help shield her from the sensory overload. But she had no such luck. Frustrated she threw the pillow on the floor next to the bed, pushed the blanket down with her feet, then lay still for another moment, enjoying the cool breeze that came wafting through the window. Her body felt hot, almost sweaty and the fresh air gave her goosebumps all over. It had been unusually hot for the past few weeks and the storm already brought some much needed relief.

Finally she dragged herself out of bed and walked over to the window. The rain was pouring down from the darkened sky, and must have been for the last couple hours, causing the sewers to overflow. Lauren let out a heavy sigh; for the first time she was glad she'd had to park up on the hillside, for the cars parked outside her apartment already stood halfway up to their tires in water and it didn't look like the rain would stop anytime soon. Leaning up against the window frame she took a deep breath, inhaling the cool air and enjoying the scent of rain that it carried. She loved the smell of rain on a spring night, she always had. When she was young she would sneak out of the house at night, after her parents had gone to bed. Tiptoeing to the back door, deliberately avoiding the planks that she knew would squeak. Once outside, she would pause for a moment, leaning back up against the wall and inhaling the breeze. It had always felt exhilarating to her, the musky scent of grass and rain mixed with the sweet smell of early spring filling her lungs, running through her system and revitalizing every inch of her body after the long winter season had used to give her chills. And even now, 20 years later, the familiar scent evoke those same feelings inside of her. She took another deep breath before finally closing the window and making her way back to the bed.

Lauren had almost reached the bed when the phone rang. She jumped at the sound, her sudden movement causing the small nightlight to fall over. She hastily put it back up, switching it on in the process. The added light gave her a sense of security while she hurried out into the hallway to answer the phone. Who called her in the middle of the night anyway.. she mentally fussed for she really was not in the mood to deal with anyone right now. All she wanted were a few more hours of sleep before having to go back to work in the morning. And she really didn't want to have to think about work, lately she had been feeling more stressed out than ever before. And she couldn't even say why, Michael had left her alone after she'd finally gotten the stamina to outright tell him to leave her the hell alone.

She slightly smiled at the memory of the look on his face during that little conversation. She had never done that before, telling someone to leave her alone, especially not the hell alone. But with Michael that little extra word had been needed in order for the information to really sink into his brain. And it had worked which was all Lauren had cared for.

So Michael wasn't causing her any problems anymore, and neither were her students for that matter. At least not to the degree of her worrying about anyone or anything in particular. She just couldn't seem to figure out what the source of her most recent distress could be.

Still lost in thought Lauren finally reached the phone and picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" she asked, hoping the person on the other end would turn out to have dialed the wrong number, leaving her free to hop into bed again.

"Lauren? Is that you?" a female voice asked.

"Yeah, who is there?" Lauren answered, trying to figure out why that voice sounded so strangely familiar to her.

"Lauren, it's me, Marylin."

"Oh my god, wha…" Lauren gasped, desperately trying to grab hold on something for she felt her knees go weak from the adrenaline rush of hearing Marylin's voice for the first time in almost a year.

"Lauren, I know it's out of the blue, but have you watched the news tonight?"

"Wha.., no, why?" she managed to say before her knees gave in and she ploped down right there on the floor.

"Daniel. He got shot. By a cop. Tonight. Lauren, turn on the tv, it's all over the news!" Marylin hastily replied.

Lauren felt another rush of adrenaline flowing through her body at the mere mention of Daniel's name. Her blood was pumping so hard in her ears thus making it impossible to listen to Marylin's words. Daniel, that sick little bastard. He had caused her enough heartache, more restless days and sleepless nights than she cared to remember ……….her mind trailed off as those painful memories came rushing back, invading her mind like cancer would invade one's body. A dark stranger who takes up residence, turning it's new home against itself. That was the evil of cancer, that it would start as an invader, but soon become one with the invadend, forcing you to destroy it, but only at the risk of destroying yourself. And she had tried to destroy them, time and time again. But those memories just wouldn't die, they wouldn't let go of her, wouldn't let her live. Over time they had very much become a part of her, a part she'd kept well hidden, but that was still with her wherever she went. She had wondered numerous times wether she'd ever be able to get rid of them, free herself from those restraints that kept holding her back. She was afraid that she would break, that she would indeed destroy herself along with all those pent-up emotions.

"Lauren? You're still there?" Marylin's soft voice broke the silence, pulling Lauren out of the dark side of her mind that she had just begun to dwell on.

"Yeah, I……….I'm here. I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said, could you…"

"Which part did you not hear?" Marylin asked, wondering what was going on.

"Everything you said after Daniel ," Lauren replied, again shaking as the words rolled off her tongue. God, how she despised that name.

"Oh, well, you should really turn on the TV. See for yourself. But Lauren, he got shot, as I said. By a cop. On channel 4 they said he was trying to break into someone's apartment when the cops just happened to be around. Apparently they walked in on him and he just lost it. They said he'd had a gun and he'd tried to shoot, but one of the cops was faster. He's in the hospital right now, but they said it didn't look too good. He might not make it."

Lauren had entered the living room and reached the TV by the time Marylin finished. She quickly turned it on just in time to see split images of a crime scene, cops everywhere and an ambulance rushing away. It was breaking news on all the local network stations, channel 4 had even called in their lead news anchor to cover the story.

It was almost 3 in the morning, but Lauren had never felt more alert in her life.

The warm breeze caught her long blonde hair, lifting it off her shoulders. With her wavy locks blowing in the wind she looked like she had just stepped out of a fairy tale. Harry couldn't take his eyes off of her as she was walking toward them in her black pants and a fitted blue blouse that showed off her figure perfectly. She looked so groomed and beautiful, just like the Lauren he remembered from the old days, not the one he'd briefly met at the mall five months ago. That one had frightened him to death. But watching her now, she seemed incredibly relaxed, like a huge weight had been lifted from her. Which was exactly the point of their meeting, he quickly reminded himself, feeling an unfamiliar warmth tingle inside his stomach. He tried to remain calm, hating himself for feeling so fucking pathetic. It was just Lauren, after all. Yeah, right, he thought, just Lauren.

Lauren had been eagerly awaiting this very day for the past three weeks. Ever since that call from Marylin things hadn't been the same for her. Daniel had indeed died as a result of his injuries that very morning. Lauren had called in sick at work after spending the rest of the night glued to the TV screen. Marylin and she had talked for almost four hours straight, both watching the news and at the same time catching up on what had been going on in their lives over the past year.

It was then that Lauren had first learned about Marylin's transfer to Lindsey High last November. Marla had started working there right after summer and when Steven had gotten fired over some stupid school board issue, Marylin had quickly decided to hand in a letter of resignation herself and follow Marla to LH. Lauren had been startled to hear about all of this when Marylin had dropped an even bigger bomb. Ronnie had been killed in a car accident the previous summer. Naturally Harry hadn't taken her death well, first taking a leave of absence and evntually dropping out of teaching altogether. So basically none of her former friends was working at Winslow High anymore, which in a way had made Lauren feel a little less guilty. In her mind she wasn't the only one who'd run away anymore.

She had visited the hospital that very morning. Daniel had been on life support, his face and chest covered with tubes and electrodes that were monitoring his vitals. He'd looked so fragile in that bed, his face calm and relaxed like an innocent little child sleeping peacefully. Lauren had spent the better part of an hour just watching him from behind the glass windows, trying to make sense of everything that had happened. She hadn't want him to die, she had always wished they could have worked things out without anybody getting hurt. But seeing him in that bed, kept alive only by machines, she had been thankful to finally get her life back. She'd said a silent prayer for him, though, not wanting Daniel to feel any pain and wishing that wherever he might go, he'd be safe. When she'd opened her eyes again, the heart rate monitor had blinked frantically. Two nurses had rushed into his room, followed by a doctor. They'd tried to bring him back, but it'd been too late. Daniel had already slipped away.

Marylin had accompanied Lauren to the funeral and spent the night at her apartment. That night they'd made plans for meeting up with their old friends. Lauren had been dying to get together with Harry, Marla and the others, after all they had been a huge part of her life for several years. Marylin had promised her to arrange everything. She'd kept in touch with Kevin after he and Milton had left, plus she was still working with Marla, which had left Lauren with only one thing to do. Calling Harry.

When she reached Harry he greeted her with a warm smile. They both contemplated what to do next, but Lauren was the first to opt for a hug. Harry gladly returned the gesture, wrapping his arms tightly around her and inhaling her sweet scent.

"Milton and Kevin went on ahead to get our table," Harry said when they'd let go, "but we're still waiting for Marylin. Marla will be here shortly, she said she'd have to work late today."

Lauren's lips curled up in a smile. Harry was cute when he was nervous and she had known him long enough to pick up on his nervous banter. She already knew about Marla, Marylin had told her about it yesterday. But she didn't mind hearing it again, especially not when it was coming from a cute and panting Harry. She looked at him a little more closely, noticing his hair had grown out a little. It made him look younger, overall his features were softer, more relaxed. Maybe dropping out of teaching did have a positive effect on him after all.

Before she could say anything else she heard Marylin's voice behind her.

"Lauren, Harry, how are you two? Am I late?" She gave both of them a tight hug, shooting Lauren a meaningful look over Harry's shoulder.

"Come on, you guys, I'm starving. Let's go inside!" Lauren said trying to figure out what that look was all about. It couldn't mean what she thought it did, could it? She and Marylin had known each other for so long and they used to be extremely close, as in look-me-in-the-eyes-and-I'll-tell-you-what-you're-thinking close, but maybe the time they'd spent apart had changed things.

The smell of grilled fish lingered in the air, welcoming them once they got inside. Lauren was glad she had suggested this place, she loved seafood and the restaurant was right by the harbor, only a few minutes from her apartment.

When Harry spotted Kevin and Milton, he grabbed her hand and maneuvered the two of them through the crowd. The place was packed and Lauren was quite thankful to have Harry to hold on to. Marylin followed them, all the while carrying the biggest smile Lauren had ever seen on her. What in the world…she thought, turning her head back into the direction Harry was pulling her. She would have to have serious girl talk with Marylin once they got the chance to be alone.

Seeing all of them again was great.
Lauren had missed each and every one of them dearly and was delighted to hear that Milton and Lisa were still together. Kevin was dating a woman he'd met in the supermarket of all places and he seemed to be quite content with the way things were going. The biggest surprise though was when Marla announced she was going out with Steven. Even Marylin hadn't known about it.

"Marla, I can't believe you haven't told me before!" She actually sounded a bit hurt.

"I was saving it for a special occasion," Marla laughed, patting Marylin's shoulder, "nothing personal, honey."

Honey…Lauren cocked an eyebrow at the intimate expression, they must have really gotten close. She couldn't believe she actually felt a fit of jealousy. Get over it, she mentally chastised herself, trying to swallow down the lump that had formed in her throat.

"Well," Kevin interrupted her thoughts, "Let's make a toast! To old friends, old lovers and new ones…"he chuckled, oblivious to any possible implications his choice of words might have.

"Kevin," Marylin slapped his arm, "stop it!"

"All right, all right, to old friends and new friends, then. That better? We'll just skip the love part and get right down to the sex."

They all laughed. Lauren tried to recall the last time they all had spent an evening together but couldn't remember. It had been too long, that was for sure. She looked at Marylin and caught another meaningful look. What? she mouthed, making a mental note to ask her about all of these little insinuations later on. She was tired of trying to figure out what her best friend wanted to tell her. Besides, if it was about what she thought it was, Lauren would rather choose not to waste anymore thoughts on that for she had already contemplated that particular thing for the last couple of weeks. She hadn't actually come to any conclusions except that some things were better left in the past. If she could just tell her heart to let go, things would be a hell of a lot easier.

Harry was unusually quiet, gazing at her from time to time. Lauren wondered what was going on but too occupied talking to Marla and Kevin to concentrate on him.

The cool damp air enveloped them once they stepped outside. It was chilly and Lauren shuddered a little from the breeze that came wafting from the water.

"You want my jacket?" Harry quickly offered.

"No thanks, I'll be fine. It's just that is was so hot inside and I need a little time to get adjusted. I actually brought a sweater, I think that'll do just fine."

She pulled the blue cloth out of her purse and smiled at Harry. He acted so unsure of himself, almost like a boy trying not to say anything stupid. It really was unusual for him to be this way, especially around her. But then again, they hadn't seen each other in a long time and a lot of things had happened since last June. She flinched when she thought of Ronnie's death. She had never liked her much, but she knew Harry had. All night they had avoided the topic of their old school, afraid it might somehow lead to Ronnie. Lauren had sensed his discomfort whenever their conversation would touch the subject of teaching in general and she had wondered what he would have done if anyone would have actually mentioned Ronnie.

"Did you walk here all the way from your apartment?" Harry inquired.

"Yeah, it's just two blocks away, actually. I'll be fine," she answered, not wanting him to think she couldn't take care of herself. Although the thought of walking home alone at this late hour didn't exactly thrill her much. This was the city, after all.

"Lauren, I just got you back, if you think I'll let you walk all by yourself now you're mistaken!" His voice was firm but Lauren could sense the hidden affection.

"Thanks, Harry," she gave in, "I really appreciate this."

They walked in silence all the way back to her building. When they reached the staircase in front of the entrance, Lauren turned to Harry.

"You know, I……I've been wanting to tell you something, but I….." her voice trailed off. "I just, I was waiting for the right moment and it's just that I didn't, you know, it just never felt right." The last part came out almost inaudibly.

Harry just watched her, not giving away any of the emotions that were raging inside of him. When she didn't say anything else he reached out, cupped her face with his hands and softly asked: "Lauren? What did you want to tell me?"

His sudden touch felt soft and sincere. Paralyzing. Blood coursed through her body in hot waves. She looked at him intently, his dark eyes penetrating her soul and making her shiver all over again. Lauren knew what she wanted to say, she just wasn't sure if she could get the words out without starting to cry. And she really didn't want to lose it right there out on the streets with Harry watching. She could cry her heart out once she got inside, once she was alone. Stop being such a baby, she mentally chastised herself, just say it and get it over with.

Swallowing the lump that had begun to form in her throat she continued: "Harry, when you said you'd just got me back, I…..I just want you to know that I don't ever wanna lose you again, either. I need you, I need you to be a part of my life and I don't ever wanna live without you again." Lauren lowered her eyes and unable to contain her feelings any longer she felt a hot tear streaming down her cheek.

Harry tilted her chin up until her eyes locked with his. "Lauren," he said under his breath, "don't say anything else. Just let me do this right once and for all." His eyes were still focused on hers and she felt her knees go weak when he began to lower his lips to hers.

Not every story had a happy ending, she thought smiling, but maybe their's would have, after all.