Last chappy, ya'll. Hang on tight...
It was later than he expected when he finally arrived at the door. Running a shaky hand through his hair, Hector tried to calm his nerves. He reached out to knock only to have the door whip open. The pair of legs that went up to the bottom of an oversized black button down caused his jaw to drop. Whoa…
"Hey. Come in before your face freezes like that."
"Not likely," he mumbled as he walked in.
I'Lee smiled to herself. She didn't catch him off guard often. They moved into the en suite kitchen. "Rhonda is working the late night shift so we won't be bothering her."
"Good to know." Hector set the food boxes on the counter. "Block sends his regards. I think he likes you." The sailor winked as he told her.
She smiled prettily. "He's a big softy."
The dark headed man snorted. "You should see him with his MA-Deuce—" A finger on his lips halted his thought.
"No, no work tonight. Just…us." He nodded and nipped her finger. She shook her head in exasperation. "What am I going to do with you?"
"I have several suggestions." He stood next to her, leering.
"Oh, please. I haven't eaten yet. Save it, fly boy." At his raised eyebrow, she clarified. "Got that Solo look going again." She indicated the black jeans and work boots topped by a midnight blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
"Sorry, Your Highness. I don't get out much and the job supplies most of my clothes."
I'Lee raised her hands. "Not complaining here, sailor." She poked a finger between the buttons on his shirt. Meeting warm skin, she gave him a raised eyebrow of her own along with a twisted smile. Hmmmmm. "And what? No tee shirt?"
Hector flushed dark red and left the kitchen muttering about laundry.
The strawberry blonde fixed two plates and pulled down some glasses. She heard rummaging in her quarters and leaned in to see what her guest was messing with. The stereo came on and the sound adjusted slightly before she felt herself being moved across the little room. He smiled down at her and spun them around in a dance step. Out, back, around and under, over and dip. The sailor held her there, smirking. "Liking your ball gown there, Your Worship." He nodded at the black tank top beneath the button down.
She laughed. "You didn't honestly think I wasn't wearing anything under here, did you?"
"One can always hope." He made a puppy dog face as he pulled her upright.
Rolling her eyes, she asked, "What would you like to drink?"
"Got any Chinese beer?"
"Why? Why do I do this?"
"Because you love me."
"Delusions, laser brains."
"Is it?" His question momentarily caught her off guard.
"Okay, water it is." She poured the glasses. Anything stronger would be dangerous to my heart.
"Need my help?" He stood in the doorway.
"I could always use you." Realizing her mistake, she blushed as she covered her eyes.
A smiling Hector came over and took the glasses. "I would so enjoy that," he whispered before walking out.
Grabbing the plates, she followed him to her small sitting area. The retched research books were neatly stacked on a shelf, well away from all toes. Hector sat on the floor allowing I'Lee to have her chair. She handed him his food as he scooted in front of her.
"No lunch today," he got out between bites. "Beach had us train—" Again, fingers stopped him.
He nodded. "So, what's on the marquee?"
I'Lee grabbed the remote and started up the movie. As the opening strains of The Empire Strikes Back played, the sailor leaned his head back to look up at her. "This seems to be a theme with us."
She shrugged. "I like it."
"Do you have all three?"
"Of course. Now be quiet, it's starting." She set her dish aside.
"Yes, Your Highness."
Soon, though, the comments started again.
--Han and Leia in Hallway—
"Would you rather kiss a wookie?"
"I'd rather kiss you."
He turned around. "That can be arranged."
A kiss was stolen before she could say "Down, Sailor Boy."
--Hospital part one—
"Well, you are definitely scruffy looking."
"Really? I'll have to talk to my barber about that." He grinned up at her.
--Hospital part two—
"That was just wrong."
"Puppet Yoda or computer Yoda?"
"Dunno. Both are good. Computer Yoda kicks some serious…"
"She likes him."
"I take it back. Puppet Yoda is kinda freaky."
--Asteroid field redux—
"How's that foot, Princess?"
I'Lee slid her bruised toes out so he could see them. Hector adjusted to the side so he could rub her foot. Carefully, he worked the soft parts while avoiding the black and blue toes. A thought crossed his mind and he shook it off. No work. The sailor glanced at her. She was engrossed in the movie. He relaxed against the chair.
Silence reigned for a while, as they enjoyed each other's quiet company. But as the story progressed, the sailor became uneasy.
--Landing at Cloud City—
"I used to have friends like that."
"Remind me not to trust them."
"Don't have those friends anymore."
--Suite in Cloud City—
"That's a pretty color for her."
"Yeah." His tone was edgy.
"Are you okay?"
--Han and Leia's Betrayal—
I'Lee watched him go into the dark kitchen. She turned her attention back to the story and it came crashing in on her. Han Solo was in the torture room. She hit the mute button. How could I forget? Her heart clenched. When the t.v. switched off, the suite was dark.
"I didn't even think—"
He interrupted. "It's okay, I'Lee." There was tension in his voice. "Give me a minute."
She signed. Getting out of her chair, she knocked over his glass, spilling water on the rug. Shaking her head, she went to the bathroom to fetch a towel.
In the kitchen, Hector heard her moving around. He closed his eyes, trying to push his dark thoughts back. Another thought pushed forward. He frowned. It wouldn't go away. A noise from the suite behind him caught his attention. She said Rhonda has the late night shift. Backing away from the en suite door to the second nurse's quarters, he turned towards the other room. Someone was trying the front door. The niggling thought from earlier became clear. Beach running greenies through Hell's Obstacle Course. One with a black eye. The night before. I'Lee mentioning new guys. In flash, he understood.
Taking I'Lee's desk chair, he slid over to the bathroom. He grabbed her, covering her mouth and scaring her half to death. "Do you trust me?" She nodded and he could feel her pulse racing. "Stay in here. Use this chair.to jam the door closed. Stay in here no matter what." His voice was quiet but strong, and left no room for argument. Reaching into a back pocket, he handed her his cell. "Call Beach and tell him it's…" One of the locks tumbled. "Tell him it's the newbies. Then call SE. Speed dial 4 and 6." A second lock opened. He kissed her hard and whispered, "I love you. Stay safe."
The small nurse stared at the closed door for a precious few seconds before her logical reason took over. She slid the back of the chair beneath the handle creating a barricade. With trembling hands, she dialed the four and waited for an answer.
A grouchy voice answered. "What the hell do you want, Wreck?"
I'Lee squeaked. "Wayne, he told me to tell you it's the newbies. They're breaking in." The line clicked dead and she dialed six. She heard the line open. "I need help." Timber yipped in the background before the line closed. Leaning her head against the wall, she closed her eyes. Her heart rate had slowed somewhat but she was in here and he was out there…This is what he's trained to do. The nurse blinked as she realized that between the two of them, work was an integral part of who they were and how they interacted. And…he loves me. The strawberry blonde whispered a prayer for safety. She had a conversation to finish.
In the dark of the room, Hector waited. Sounds from Rhonda's apartment grew louder as the intruders made access through the second kitchen door. Over at the front door, the last lock opened along with the door. A black clad figure entered quietly. Two more figures emerged from the kitchen and the sailor frowned. If she had been alone… He pushed the though back.
The first man moved toward the bed where he dove for the covers. Finding only pillows, he cursed. "She was just here a while ago. Did she go out your side?"
"No, we came in that way, remember?"
"Dammit. I want her. No one tells me 'no.' She'll pay for this black eye too." The malice in his voice was palpable.
"Did you check the bathroom or the closet?"
"No, wait a minute." The second man went to the closet first, passing right in front of the stone still sailor. Checking the small space, he passed back by as a voice cleared its throat.
"That you, Don?"
A fist stuck out in the dark, connecting. The one called Alex fell against the wall next to the bathroom door causing a loud thump. The ringleader flipped a switch. As the light came on, the second intruder, Don, went crashing backwards into the kitchen. One very angry man turned to face the last intruder.
"Get lost going to your quarters, Dalton?"
"Just looking to get a little payback." He flipped out a switchblade. "Guess I'll practice on you first."
The sailor narrowed his eyes, moving toward the intruder. Behind him, Don was trying to find a weapon in the kitchen. Dalton lunged forward, slashing in a wide pattern, catching the side of Hector's shirt. The dark headed man leaned back, allowing the pass to go over him. As he went down, he lashed out with his leg connecting with the other man. Just as quickly, he came back with a solid left to the jaw. His opponent reeled backwards and slumped next to the still stunned Alex.
From the kitchen, Don came out brandishing a large butcher knife. The dark headed man looked for something substantial for defense. Everything was too large, too nice or too decorative. Frowning, he pulled his shirt off, twisting it as the younger man approached him.
"Kid, you don't want to be doing this."
The intruder sliced at the other man. "What do you know?"
"He's bad news."
"Shut up!" Frantic stabs punctuated the words.
Hector spun to the side, roping his shirt out. It wrapped around the younger man's arm and he yanked hard. The knife fell to the floor and the sailor kicked it under the bed. Don jumped on his back, punching at his head and the two fell against the big chair. Both grappled for a good hold on the other. A black boot hit the wet spot on the rug and the pair crashed backwards into the shelving. Books tumbled out, hitting both men. Don received the worst pelting, as the research books were all together and landed on his head. Hector caught a few glancing blows, one above his ear causing a cut. He stood slowly as Alex and Dalton began to stir. One down, two to go. He wiped his arm across his eyes and saw blood.
Big mouth decided it was time to talk. "So, what's your stake in this, man?"
Wouldn't you like to know. "These aren't your quarters."
"What do you say, Alex?"
"He can have what's left when we're done."
Over my dead body. The sailor beckoned the braggart forward. Alex advanced slowly, trying to circle around the other man. When that didn't work, he lunged, swinging mightily, hoping to connect. Hector used his forearm and shoulder to block but one shot got through. As his head snapped back, he heard Dalton begin to pound on the bathroom door. No. Not happening. Shaking off the blow, he grunted as the younger man rammed him with a head butt to the chest, driving them both across the room into the kitchen and through the other door.
Oh, no, you don't. The dark headed man double fisted the back of his attacker's head, rendering him unconscious. He pushed him off and sprinted back to the other quarters.
Dalton had broken off the handle and was throwing his weight against the door. It was starting to break and splinter.
Not happening. Not gonna lose this time. Hector body-slammed up against the last intruder and their combined mass busted the hinges. The door gave way a bit, tilting askew but not totally opening. It was still blocked from the inside.
Dalton tried to grab an edge of the door and push it open but when his fingers went into the crack, the door was pushed closed and the sound of bone crunching was drown out by a cry of anger and pain.
That's my girl. The sailor had a grim smile as he struggled with the other man.
Both had cuts and scrapes from crashing the door. Dalton tucked his right hand beneath his left arm and tried to defend. He dove toward the front door, retrieving his dropped switchblade. Coming up, he made a dash to exit only to find the door firmly shut and not budging. The intruder spun as Hector stood there watching him. The avenues of escape were narrowing. Sneering, he held the blade out in front of him, taunting the sailor. As trash spewed out of his mouth, blue eyes flashed. Suddenly, the lights went out, halting the verbal barrage.
Thank you, SE. "Afraid of the dark, Dalton?" The voice dropped lower. "I've been there. I'm not afraid. But you…should be." The sailor sank into a low crouch with his eyes closed. Concentrating, he could hear the other man moving, feeling his way to the kitchen. Dropping, he rolled, sweeping a leg out and knocking the last intruder down. The clatter of the knife sounded away from them and Hector was on the man in an instant. Two strikes to the head and Dalton was out.
He stood, breathing heavily. The fight had taken its toll and now, adrenaline was surging. Slowly, the front door opened revealing the Ranger. Lights flickered back on. SE dragged a tightly bound Alex into the room, plunking him down next to the unconscious Don and Dalton. The silent man swiftly secured the two, minding the crushed hand of the one.
Beach walked past the heaving sailor and picked up a shredded blue mess. He handed it to him and pointed to the broken door. "She in there?"
Yeah. A nod. The sailor walked unsteadily over to the battered door. "I'Lee?" His voice was hoarse.
"What?" Hers was faint.
He leaned his head against the door. Are you okay? "It's over." Are. You. O.K.? "Open the door."
"Give me a minute." The men heard a scraping noise along with the sound of wood splintering. Slowly the door opened, a very shaky nurse stood there, looking alone. She took in the Ranger's eyebrow at her appearance and tried not to blush. But her glance at the shirtless sailor ruined all that. She locked eyes with Beach. "I have my own med kit. How can I help?"
He directed her to the trio and she went to tend to the minor wounds. SE was right with her, helping as needed. Wayne pointed to the front door and directed Hector to follow him outside. "Go. Run. Two laps and come back. We'll still be here." The Ranger watched as the sailor took off at a killer pace. Shaking his head, he returned inside.
I'Lee was taping closed most of the cuts and scrapes. There were no major injuries except for Dalton. He was starting to stir and his hand was on fire. She tried to get him to hold still before he came fully awake. Splinting would be easier that way. He wouldn't cooperate and SE applied force to a pressure point causing him to relax. "Teach me that," she mouthed at him. He nodded. Since the MPs would be there shortly, she opted for an air splint for his whole hand. The brig doc would have to tend to it.
Sitting back on her heels, she watched as the Ranger took care clearing the room and making the report. Her quarters weren't too damaged. The bathroom door was totaled but most other things were fixable. Where was he? She set to cleaning up and became busy with the little things. It wasn't until she got to the shelving that she realized everyone was outside. She sighed and began to stack the heavy research books out of the way.
"Those helped me."
Her heart stopped.
"They fell on his head."
She tried to breathe.
"I was afraid I was going to lose you just as I found you."
Turning, she saw him standing there, bruised, bloody, shaking.
"I couldn't let them win." He drew in a shuddering breath. The swipe of his arm across his sweating face revealed fresh blood.
Training overrode her rampant emotions and she shut the door to the apartment. Grabbing her med kit, she bade him to sit in the only chair left. He sat shaking while she checked his head. The cut above his ear was the source of the blood. "Do you need a blanket?"
No, I need you. He shook his head 'no.'
She 'hmmm-ed' as she worked the cut closed. He shut his eyes for a moment but when he opened them, she was gone. A noise from the kitchen and she returned with a bowl of warm water and a cloth. Gently, she began to wash the sweat and blood from his face. Blue eyes never wavered as he watched her. She smiled and whispered, "Do you trust me?"
More than you know. A nod 'yes.'
She started at his neck, using the cloth to wipe him clean. The tops of his shoulders came next. Her touch was solid yet soft. Down his back, she traced the scar pattern, wiping off hard-earned sweat. The shudders were slowing, a sign that his adrenaline was almost burned out. The small nurse paused, going to the kitchen for clean water. She returned to stand in front of him. Let me take care of you. Her heart caught again, the look of trust in his eyes was unshakable. First his right arm, then his left was made clean. She dipped the cloth one last time. She laid her hand on his chest.
His heart stopped but his breathing didn't. Closing his eyes, he murmured, "Any excuse to get me with my shirt off, Princess…"
"Yeah, something like that." Her voice was so quiet that he leaned forward to hear. She pushed him back, taking her time to finish her task. Placing the cloth in the bowl, I'Lee looked at him.
He had stopped shaking but there was something different in his eyes, glowing, turbulent but not dangerous. She took a deep breath and felt her own tremors start. A large, warm hand reached for her and pulled her to a safe place. She was tucked into his lap tightly, two strong arms wrapped around her and a soft voice murmuring in her ear. "Talk to me, just…talk to me." He could feel her face and hand moving against his chest as she gave a small nod.
If I had been alone… "I was so scared in there, Hector. All I could hear was noise and crashing. And when he started on the door and the handle fell off… I had to hold the chair." She trailed off. "When I saw the fingers, I panicked. I didn't mean to hurt him."
"It was him or you, Princess. You made the right move."
"You said no matter what…"
"I wasn't going to let him get you, I'Lee." The intensity of emotion in his voice overwhelmed her. She buried her face, letting the tears wash the suppressed adrenaline out of her system. "Let it out. Let it all out." He loosened her hair from its braid, allowing it to fall like a silk curtain, giving her a sense of privacy. Tears were trailing down his chest, first warm, then cold. She shivered. He pulled her tighter, the black shirt biting into his skin. "Relax, Princess. I'm not going anywhere." Eventually, her breathing evened out as she fell into a light sleep.
SE came in. He worked quickly on the front door, replacing the locks and adding a deadbolt. Once done, he turned to the sailor.
The silent man nodded. Grabbing the comforter off the bed, he draped it over the pair. 'She okay?'
"I hope so."
SE cut off all the lights except for a small night lamp. He went through the en suite kitchen and took care of Rhonda's locks as well. When he came back, Hector had dozed off, a look of contentment on his face. The silent man let himself out, locking the door behind him.
I'Lee wasn't sure what had awakened her. It was the salty masculine smell right under her nose or the slight rumbling accompanied by a steady drumbeat under her ear. Either way, it was nice. Her pillow inhaled deeply, letting her know he wasn't asleep.
"You awake?" His voice was quiet but strong.
She nodded, not wanting to move from her safe haven. This is where I want to be. "I see you have me in your clutches again," came her shy whisper.
"Yeah," was his equally hesitant reply. He smoothed her hair back from her face, placing a kiss on the top of her head. There were so many ways this could go. I don't want to mess this up. "I'Lee, please, look at me."
The small woman pushed herself out of her comfort zone to do as he asked. Glancing at his eyes, she saw the same glowing turbulence as before along with something else…fear. Her heart pounded. Maybe he regrets what he said…
His eyes closed and fingers caressed her face, dancing lightly across her features. "Beautiful," he murmured. Captivated by his touch, all she could do was watch him and listen. "I love you so much. You don't know what I would do for you." One hand cupped her cheek while the other traced her lips. "That night in the common room, when you wouldn't let me go…" His face relaxed and he smiled, eyes still closed. His hands slipped into the strands of her hair. "Telling me not to run. Don't you know I could never run from you? I never want to leave you." He opened his ocean blues to find the darkest green he'd ever seen staring back at him.
Slowly, she lifted a finger and traced his lips. They parted as he drew in a breath, her touch sending shock waves though him. "When I first saw you, I was heartbroken. How could anyone do something so horrible to another person?" He winced as his heart crashed. "You tried so hard to come out of what had been done to you. You were so sure and tried to be strong." Closing his eyes, he tried to turn away. "No! Look at me." It was hard but he did it. "We almost lost you. But you found your peace, became whole, became more of who you are. I was pleased to be your friend. And it stopped there." The utter defeat on his face was almost more than she could bear to see. "But that night, when Psyche stood me up because of duty, I realized something. You were so much more than what I had come to know. And I liked that part of you. It called to me, here." Grasping his hand, she placed it over her racing heart. "You confuse me, make me crazy, keep me tilted on my ear…"
"Do you love me?" His voice was hoarse.
"Yes," she leaned in and kissed his forehead. "Yes," she breathed in his ear. "Yes," she murmured as she captured his lips in gentle kiss. Pulling back, she looked into his eyes, never wavering. "I love you, Hector, very much." She slid off his lap. Taking his hand, she pulled him to stand as well. In a slow, deliberate movement, she unbuttoned the black shirt, revealing her black tank top and running shorts. Removing it, she stepped behind him, helping him slide it on. "Button it." Wordlessly, he did as she asked. She slipped back to stand in front of him. Looking up into his eyes, she whispered, "May I?"
"May I what?" There was a note of uncertainty in his voice.
"May I touch you?"
Blinking, he shook his head 'yes' before his brain could figure out what she was asking.
Starting at the top, I'Lee began opening his shirt. Her nails would graze his skin, causing tremors as he tried to stay still. Smiling to herself, she finished with the last button and pushed the fabric back, revealing the same warm skin she had slept against only an hour earlier. Small fingers reached for the largest scar, tracing it from beginning to end. So much pain. One by one, she caressed each mark, pouring her heart into making him feel how much he meant to her, scars and all. She knew when his pulse started to race and his breathing became uneven. Just as she touched the last mark, large hands captured hers, spinning her around, her back to his chest.
"You have to stop," he breathed in her ear. Or I'll never be able to.
She could feel him shaking. "Relax, Sailor Boy. Breathe."
He smiled against her ear. "See what you do to me?" He pulled them both back into the chair. She turned so she could see his face. He looked very content. She leaned over to grab the comforter while he leaned to the opposite side, reaching for something on the floor. They came up at the same time, she with the covers, he with a squashed little box. Hector let her tuck them in before he showed her the gift. I'Lee raised a brow at it's appearance. She glanced at the sailor, reading tremendous love in his glowing eyes. Opened the box, inside was a ring like she had never seen before. Silver with inlaid ocean blue and forest green, the pattern was interwoven, meeting at a small anchor with a tiny diamond in the hole.
"Marry me." It was as simple a request as the ring was elegant. He leaned his forehead against hers as she processed his words. "I love you. I want you to be the only one to ever touch me. I want you to hold on to me and never let me run. I want you to be mine, more that anything I've ever wanted. I want you to love me so much, you can't breathe. Marry me, I'Lee."
"Oh…." She nodded as tears brimmed over. He took the ring and slid it on to her finger where it fit because it was made for her. Taking his head in both hands, she kissed him hard and long. And when they parted, she was breathless.
A/N: As if this wasn't enough, the intrepid duo wouldn't leave me alone and the sequel is done already. Coming Home
will be posted soon. More fallout from stuff, a cameo from Jack,
Sue and Bobby, and a wedding the way only Hector could do it.
Thanks to all the readers who gave this a chance. Mega thanks and your own personal wookie to those who reviewed:
pryrmnts, jesuschick, ryn, sharon and kate. May the Force be with
you and your wookies be as cool as mine...
Mega thanks and your own personal wookie to those who reviewed: pryrmnts, jesuschick, ryn, sharon and kate. May the Force be with you and your wookies be as cool as mine...