The drive back to the apartment was quiet and uneventful. Kristin sat snuggled up to Nathan as per the usual, her head resting on his shoulder as he drove.
He took his eyes off the road for a brief second to steal a glance at her; he noticed the pensive look on her face and sighed softly. He knew she had so many worries going through her head that she hadn't voiced to him or anyone else. He also noticed the uncharacteristic pallor of her skin, the dark circles under her eyes. No, this was not his Kristin. It may have sounded like her, occasionally acted like her…but for the most part, this was not the woman he had known before they were transported into this time period.
He didn't blame Kristin for it at all, however. Considering the situation at hand, he found it quite remarkable that she hadn't disintegrated completely. Yes, she had broken down on many occasions, and he'd been there to see her through it. But for the most part, she was holding up fairly well; she was quite strong. He knew Kristin was a strong woman before all this, but he really did not realize how much until now. He was sure that even she didn't know it until then, although he was sure she certainly didn't feel that way.
When he came to a traffic light, he stole a glance at her again. He squeezed her gently with his free arm. "You're awfully quiet," he noted.
"I'm sorry; I didn't realize," she replied. "I was just…thinking."
Nathan wanted to prod her a bit, but he held back, knowing it might upset her more. "Well, if you want to talk…" he said, stepping on the accelerator once the light had turned green again.
She nodded. "I know," she told him, "but I'm fine, thank you."
Nathan placed a light kiss to her temple and dropped the subject.
A few minutes later, Nathan pulled the car to a stop in front of the apartment building, and the two walked inside.
"So," Nathan began once the door was shut, "what would you like to do?"
She sat on the sofa and shrugged. "I haven't really thought about it."
Nathan thought for a second. "Well, how about some music at least?" He turned on the radio; Angel in Disguise was playing. "I always liked this song," he commented.
Kristin said nothing, but she listened intently. She sighed and tried to relax.
A few minutes later, the tune changed. The song was Because of You. Nathan walked towards her and held out his hand. "May I have this dance?"
She hesitated. "Nathan, I-"
"Please? It's just us."
She thought for another second, then put her hand in his and allowed him to lead her to the middle of the living room floor. It was a bit awkward at first as they tried to keep in time with the music, but by the end of the song, they'd found their rhythm.
"See? This isn't so bad," Nathan insisted. "In fact, you look like you're having fun." There was a bit of a lull while the announcer was speaking.
She smiled. Nathan always seemed to know what she needed even when she didn't know it. "You think you're so smart."
"Maybe," he told her. "Or maybe I just know you. Now get ready; another song is about to start."
A moment later, I Remember You sounded through the room.
"Oh, I love this song," she gushed.
Nathan held her close, and the two moved with the music.
Kristin laid her head on his shoulder and felt at ease. Nothing else existed. There was no Frank Knox, no Richard, and no Sylvia. It was just them, and it was lovely. As the song ended, their eyes met. They smiled softly at one another, and Kristin brought her face a bit closer to his.
Nathan leaned in closer as well to the point where they were just barely touching. He hesitated at first, looking into her eyes for approval. She gave a slight nod, and that was all he needed.
He leaned in a bit more to close the gap when suddenly there was a knock at the door, ruining the moment.
Kristin jumped and let out a soft cry, obviously startled. "Who…who could that be?"
Nathan noticed that she became increasingly worried once again. He gave her should a gentle squeeze. "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," he told her. Then he walked over to shut the radio off.
Despite Nathan's attempt at reassurance, Kristin couldn't stop her heart from racing. What if it was the secretary general? She wasn't sure she wanted to find out. She excused herself and headed into the bathroom.
Nathan sighed. Just when he was getting her to relax… He shook his head and opened the door, but was relieved to see Ben, Katie, and Lucas.
"Surprise," Katie greeted him with a smile.
"I thought you were working today?" Nathan replied, stepping aside to allow them to pass.
"Well, Saturdays on the base are rather…boring," Lucas blurted out. "We got permission to leave."
"And we thought we'd come see the doc," Ben added.
"I hope it's okay that we're dropping by." Katie looked around. "Where is she?"
"Uh, wait here; I'll go get her," Nathan replied. "Make yourselves at home." He headed in the direction of the bathroom and knocked gently on the door. "Kristin? You have company; just some of our friends."
When no answer came, he knocked again. "Kristin?" He tried the knob and was relieved to find it unlocked, but what he found was heartbreaking. He found her sitting on the floor, her knees pulled up to her chest. She was crying softly.
He sat next to her and pulled her into his arms. "Oh, sweetheart," he whispered softly. "What's wrong?"
Kristin took a few deep breaths before speaking. "I…I thought it might be…I came in here…I…" she began.
Nathan understood completely; he hugged her tighter. "No, it's just Lucas, Katie, and Ben; they wanted to come by and see you." He kissed her cheek. "I know what you thought. Please, don't cry."
She nodded and did her best to stop. "I was suddenly so scared. I…"
"Ssh; you don't need to explain," Nathan told her. "I understand, but you're safe. You don't need to worry."
She nodded and clung to him. "Please…just hold me," she whispered as she did her best to calm down. She felt Nathan tighten his hold on her, and the two stayed that way for several minutes.
When Nathan heard her breathing pattern return to normal and that her crying ceased, he said, "Feeling better now?"
She nodded. "Thank you."
He pulled away and stood, holding out his hand to help her up. "I'll give you a few moments to freshen up; I'll tell them you'll be out soon."
Nathan then headed back out into the living room.
"Is everything all right?" Katie asked worriedly, walking up to him. "The doctor…is she-"
"She's fine," Nathan promised. "It's just been an emotional day so far…but she is eager to see you."
Katie nodded and lowered her voice. "That's why we wanted to see her; after last night… Of course, we don't want to upset her, either."
Nathan shook his head. "No, I think this will be good for her. She needs to get her mind off of what might or might not happen later."
Kristin sighed as she stared at herself in the mirror. She hardly recognized herself. She looked as though she hadn't slept in weeks. Had she been one of her patients, she'd have ordered her to take time off and rest. If only it were that easy; not that she could rest as it is. She couldn't even hear a knock at the door without going into hysterics. She suddenly felt ashamed, embarrassed.
She could hear Nathan speaking to the others. She wondered what he was telling them exactly, but all she heard were murmurs. And when she did go out there, what would she say? She sighed and wiped away the streaks of mascara that had run onto her cheeks with a washcloth. She wondered how in the world she was going to get through the rest of this day.
You'll survive, Sylvia said.
"Even you can't be sure of that," Kristin replied quietly.
I promised I wouldn't leave you, and I haven't. I've been with you the whole time. That has to count for something. I've already promised you I'll do everything in my power to make sure you will be all right.
Kristin nodded. "And I've already told you I know. I completely understand, but I can't possibly change the way I feel. We both know things could go wrong…"
You need to forget for the time being…or at least try.
Kristin nodded, but didn't speak.
And don't worry about what your friends think; they just want to see you, that's all. You needn't worry about them.
"I want to see them, too."
Then go see them, Sylvia urged. Try not to worry about later, please?
"I'll do my best," Kristin promised. She took a deep breath and started toward the living room.
"Sorry I kept you all waiting," Kristin said when she entered the living room. She gave them a small smile. "This is a lovely surprise."
"Oh, you didn't think we could stay away, did you?" Katie said, standing up to give her a tight hug. She then lowered her voice and spoke into Kristin's ear, "And after last night, we wanted to be sure you were all right."
"I'm feeling much better now that you're here," Kristin returned. "Thank you so much for coming to see me."
When Katie broke the hug, her eyes glistened with unshed tears, and Kristin almost broke down right there. Even though this was a happy time, it was still quite emotional. But when Katie noticed Kristin's look, she offered her a smile to show that she was fine.
After greeting hugs from Ben and Lucas, Kristin said, "I thought you three were supposed to be working all day?"
"We were released early," Ben replied.
"Oh, dear," Kristin replied. "You didn't do anything to provoke the brass, did you?"
Ben chuckled and held up his hands. "I swear I'm innocent."
"Actually, there wasn't much to do; they asked for volunteers to go home. Ben and I took on the hardship," Lucas said melodramatically.
"Oh, how very gallant," Nathan quipped.
"And Doctor Levin told me I could leave; the hospital was slow," Katie added.
"So did you two have a nice morning?" Katie asked, looking at both Nathan and Kristin expectantly.
"Oh, it was very nice indeed," Kristin replied.
"I took her on a morning hike," Nathan explained.
"Yes, and we watched the sunrise, and we got to spend some time with Darwin," Kristin added. "It was a lovely morning."
"Darwin…how is he?" Lucas asked. "I hadn't gotten to spend as much time with him as I wanted. He's probably mad at me."
Nathan placed a hand on his shoulder. "I don't think he's mad at you, and he seemed just fine."
"He misses us," Kristin added, "but I'm sure he understands."
"So what are you plans for the rest of the day?" Katie finally asked, taking Kristin's hand and ushering her over to the sofa.
Kristin looked expectantly at Nathan. "We honestly didn't have plans."
"We were just playing things by ear," Nathan added.
"Well, in that case," Ben said, taking out a deck of cards from his pocket and shuffling them, "how about some poker?" He looked at Kristin. "It would just be for fun, of course."
Nathan exchanged a glance with Kristin. "I have no objections, but it's the doctor's decision."
"Oh, why not?" she said.
Nathan ushered everyone to the table, but he pulled Kristin aside. "You sure you're up to this?"
She nodded. "Yes, I'm fine; it'll be relaxing."
"Not that I'm complaining to see your mood has improved."
She gave him a soft smile. "I think it's the company." Then she gave him a wink. "Now come on so I can beat the pants off of you."
"That sounds like a threat," he teased.
She shook her head. "No, it's a promise," she stated, a wry smile on her face. With that, she headed to the table with Nathan following close behind.
"Now tell me again what it is you're going to do." Reggie turned to Richard expectantly, cigarette in hand. She was sitting at the dining room table, her long legs swung across it.
Richard, who was sitting across from her, sighed. They'd been over this about ten times that week. "Do I really have to tell you again, darling? I already know."
She leaned over and pinched his cheek. "You say you do, but I want to be sure. It's game day…and I want to make sure you don't intend on breaking the rules."
"I'm going to call Sylvia up later tonight," he replied obediently.
"And why tonight?" she challenged, an eyebrow raised.
"Why do I need to tell you when you know perfectly well why?"
"Oh, Ritchie." She moved to stand behind him and ran a finger just around the outer edge of his left ear. Then she over close to speak into his ear. "I'm starting to suspect your affections for me are waning. You don't want that, do you?"
"N-no, my dear. I love you with all my heart," he assured her.
She smiled and stepped around to face him. She sat on his lap. "Then you'll do anything for me, won't you?"
He nodded. "Of course."
She then took his necktie in hand and gave it a rough tug. "Then when I ask you a question, you'll be sure to answer without any lip," she said through gritted teeth.
"S-sorry, my darling," Richard spat.
She released him, pleased that he was willing to comply. She then placed a kiss to his cheek. "As long as we have an understanding."
"So tell me again; why are you waiting until tonight?"
"Because it's harder for witnesses to see."
"Ah, but you'll be sure there aren't any witnesses, won't you?"
She patted his cheek again. "That's a good boy. And what will you tell her?"
"I'll tell her that I'll sign the papers…if she agrees to meet me here."
"I'll tell her how sorry I am, put on the charm…so that she'll agree," Richard replied.
Reggie smiled. She captured his lips in a passionate kiss. When she broke it, she said, "There's more where that came from if you tell me what's next."
"Well, yes," she answered. "I know I told you I didn't care how you did it, but part of me is curious now. How are you going to do it?"
Richard was taken aback. To be perfectly honest, he hadn't had much of a plan at all. "Well, I'm going to kill her."
She snickered. "Well, of course…but how?"
"Oh, no," she replied after a moment once she realized he had no plan whatsoever. She pushed herself off his lap. "I don't believe it. You mean to tell me after all this time, you haven't once thought about how?"
"I…I…" Richard stammered. "It isn't something I've thought about, to be honest. I was going to improvise."
"You imbecile!" Reggie shouted. "I told you needed to be as discreet as possible, did I not?"
"You did, dear," Richard replied quietly, averting her gaze.
"And do you really think that improvisation allows for discretion?"
"Fine…let's say we're doing it your way. What are you going to do when she starts screaming? Don't you think the neighbors might wonder what's going on?" Reggie challenged.
"I don't…the neighbors never seemed very concerned before…"
She groaned in frustration. "That's not the point. If we want this to go exactly perfectly right, you need to have some sort of plan. Yes, in the spur of the moment, you can diverge from it slightly…but you need to know what it is you're going to do in the first place."
"Okay…I'll take a knife and stab her."
She shook her head. "No…we didn't want a mess, remember?"
"So no gun either?"
"No." She rolled her eyes. "Oh, do I have to think of everything?" She thought for a few moments. "You'll have to knock her out somehow. That should keep her from crying out."
"After that, the possibilities are endless. There's suffocation, strangulation…just make sure you do it fast. Even you should be able to handle that."
"And after that?" she asked hopefully.
"I get rid of the body?"
She clapped her hands. "Finally, you got one right. Now you better not screw this up, Ritchie, you got it?"
"Yes, dear, I understand completely."
"I fold," Nathan announced, looking across the table at Kristin.
"Oh, come now, Nathan, I thought this was just for fun?" she teased.
"He must consider losing fun," Lucas joined in.
"Hey, you lost the last hand as well, so I wouldn't get too cocky," Nathan replied.
"Okay, show your cards," Ben called out.
By sheer luck, Kristin had won the fourth hand; she'd won every hand actually. "Okay, what's going on?" she asked.
"We have no idea what you mean," Katie said innocently.
"I am never quite this lucky in poker." She looked across the table at Nathan. "And I've never seen you quite so unlucky."
Nathan held up his hands. "I honestly didn't do anything."
"Me either," the others chimed in.
Kristin didn't quite believe them, but it didn't matter. They were trying to be kind to her, get her mind off things, and she appreciated it more than anything. "Another hand?"
"Actually, we do have lunch plans," Katie replied. "You two could come along if you'd like?"
Kristin looked at Nathan. "Oh, no…I think we'd rather stay in, but thank you so much for coming by."
"It was a lot of fun," Lucas told her as he leaned in for a hug.
Katie and Ben followed suit.
At least this time, Kristin didn't break down in tears. She was worried she might not see them again, but she pushed that aside for the time being.
Once they were alone again, Nathan turned to her. "Are you hungry? I was going to make a sandwich."
"Let me help you," Kristin offered.
The two of them worked together, making small talk as they did so. Then they ate quietly.
After lunch, Kristin went to sit on the sofa. After washing off the table, Nathan went to sit next to her. "Anything else you'd like to do?"
She leaned her head on his shoulder. "Just be here next to you," she answered quietly.
Nathan put his arm around her. "That's all I want, too."
They talked quietly about anything and everything for hours, and before they knew it, the afternoon had turned into evening.
"You just sit here," Nathan told her. "I have something special planned for dinner."
"Are you sure you don't want help?"
He shook his head. "No, I want you to just relax…or do whatever you like."
She smiled softly. "I think I'll take you up on that. I did have one thing I wanted to do." She placed a kiss on his cheek and headed into the bedroom.
"I'll let you know when dinner's ready," Nathan said.
Kristin had dreaded this moment, but it was something that had to be done. In case this was her last night on Earth, she had wanted to write some letters to all the special people in her life, mainly her daughter, Cynthia. But she also wanted to write one for Nathan and one for Lucas.
As she started writing to Cynthia, she felt tears sting her eyes. She had kept them at bay for as long as she could, but composing these letters was not going to be an easy task. By the end of the letter, the tears were flowing freely. She wiped at her cheeks and began writing one for Lucas.
Really, it was really more of a repeat of what she'd told Cynthia, telling him how much she loved him and that she always will, how he'd always have a special place in her heart, and how she'll always be with him.
And then it was time to write Nathan's. Part of her was sure he already knew what she wanted to tell him, but this was a, "Read this if I don't make it," type of letter. She wanted to remind him of how much she loved him and that he deserved to be happy. Yes, they'd told one another they loved each other, but she wouldn't allow him to tell her anything more...at least not yet. And here was a reason for that, but she would be damned if she was going to die without letting him know everything she had in her heart.
Just as she was finishing the last line, Nathan appeared in the doorway, unbeknownst to her. He saw her sitting at the small desk in the corner, weeping quietly. "Kristin?"
She wiped her tears away and turned to him. "It's nothing," she told him. "I was just…" She sealed Nathan's letter and handed him the bundle. "You promised me you'd deliver these…in case."
Nathan glanced at the names written in her delicate handwriting. When he saw his own name, he gave her a questioning look.
"This is only to be opened if I can no longer be with you," she told him.
He nodded and put the letters in his pocket. He then took her hand in his and gave it a gentle kiss. "Come on, dinner's getting cold."
Nathan had the lights dimmed low, lit candles on the table. He'd made crab legs and shrimp with vegetables on the side.
"This is just lovely," she said. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." Nathan then poured them both some wine. "I thought that we should do something a little special tonight."
The two ate while talking quietly, neither of them in any rush to get the meal over. It was relaxing.
After the meal, she and Nathan washed dishes together. Then after that, he ushered her to the sofa and without a word, he enveloped her in his arms.
Kristin did the same. They both had the sinking feeling their time was drawing to a close, and neither of them wanted to think of that.
After a moment, Nathan kissed her temple and then he tilted her chin so that he could kiss her lips.
Kristin eagerly returned his kiss. "I wish this didn't have to end," she whispered softly.
Nathan placed a tiny kiss on her nose. "It won't; we'll only be separated for a little while. You have to believe that."
She nodded, but didn't speak. She offered him a weak smile.
"That's my girl," he replied. He then pulled her into his arms again, and the two stayed that way for quite a long time…that was until the phone rang, causing both of them to jump.
Nathan made no attempt to move at first until Kristin said, "You'd better go answer that."
He nodded and reluctantly pulled himself away. He picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
Kristin could only hear Nathan's end of the conversation, but she could already tell who it was. Sylvia had already told them this. It was the admiral; she felt her heart sink at the realization.
"Can't it wait until Monday, sir?" Nathan asked, hoping to try to change something…anything. "I see…yes. All right…but only for a short while. Yes, sir…I'll be right there, sir. See you soon." He then hung up the phone and turned to Kristin.
"You don't need to explain," she replied. "We already knew it was coming."
"Yes, but I was hoping…it'll only be for a little while." He then headed to the bedroom and quickly changed into his uniform. He found Kristin crying softly. He wrapped her in his arms again.
"I promise I'll be as fast as I can. I'll come for you." His voice trembled as he spoke. "I am not going to let you go."
Kristin only cried a little harder, unable to speak. She buried her face in his chest.
Nathan gently pushed her back to look at her. "I will always love you, no matter what happens." He then kissed her passionately.
Kristin returned the kiss. "I love you, too," she replied quietly.
Nathan nodded and reluctantly tore himself away from her. He gave her one last look before heading out the door. Then he quickly left, hearing soft sobs from Kristin as he walked down the corridor. As he walked to the car, he pleaded softly, "Jack, if you're listening, please, help me protect her."
And Jack promised that he'd try.