Next chapter. The next story of mine to be updated will be It's Over. Be on the lookout for that.
I own the plot line and the OCs. I do not own the title, anything Law & Order related, or anything RENT related.
It had been two hours since Joanne had come back to the apartment to pick Maureen and Anthony up. Collins had managed to avoid the subject of Connor's letter for that same amount of time by preoccupying himself with his daughter. After he had put the one-year-old to bed, he quickly decided that he and Angel should go to bed as well. He didn't want to have to tell her about Zina's prediction. Scaring her was the last thing he wanted to do.
"Collins, are you going to tell me what the letter said now?" Angel asked as she turned on the baby monitor that rested on the night stand next to their bed. Collins didn't look at her or respond. "Hello?"
"It's not important," Collins replied. He pulled the covers back on the bed and fluffed the pillows.
"Collins . . . I know Connor is in love with you." The anarchist turned to face his lover. "I've known for a while. You don't have to try to hide it from me."
"It wasn't a love letter, Ang."
"Then why won't you tell me what it said?" Collins sat down on the bed. Angel sat down next to him and all was quiet for a long moment.
"Do you know the odds of somebody you just met knowing details of your life that you haven't shared with your family yet?" Collins asked. Angel stared blankly at him.
"Is that a rhetorical question?" she replied.
"She knew my name, she knew about you and Olivia. She even knew I have AIDS. My mother doesn't even know I have AIDS."
"Maybe she followed you around one day. Or, and I'm just going out on a limb here, maybe she really is psychic."
"No, she's not. Psychics don't exist." Angel flicked the amulet around her lover's neck. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe I like wearing this thing?"
"She said something that got to you, didn't she?" Collins simply nodded. "What was it?"
"She knew Connor was going to contact me for help." Angel furrowed her brow.
"Well, what does he need help with?"
"He's been getting anonymous letters and it's scaring him."
"The people at the hospital can protect him, can't they?"
"He's being released soon."
"And he wants you to help him figure out who's stalking him?"
"Yes. He wants me to come to the hospital sometime before the week is over."
"I'll come with you."
"NO!" Angel jumped at the volume of Collins' voice. Before anything more could be said, crying came from the baby monitor. Collins quickly got up and left the room, Angel right behind him. She watched from the doorway as Collins entered Olivia's room. He picked the one-year-old up and comforted her as she clung to him.
"Don't ask," the anarchist interrupted. Angel walked into the room just as Olivia was starting to calm down.
"What else did that woman say to you, Collins?" the drag queen asked. "Did it have something to do with me?"
"Why do you care so much?"
"Because you just woke our daughter up over it. Just tell me what she said, honey." Collins sighed heavily and gently placed Olivia back into her crib. She was sound asleep. The lovers then went back to their own room, where Collins immediately sat on the bed. Angel stared at him with her arms folded and waited for him to speak.
"Ang . . . I don't want you to get hurt," he said. Angel raised an eyebrow. "Zina said she saw the two of us with Connor and a man attacked us."
"She didn't say, but she did say he kept you away from me and wouldn't tell me where you were." Collins looked down at his hands. "I may not believe in psychics, but I'm not willing to risk putting you in hypothetical danger by having you come with me to help Connor."
"Honey, if her prediction is right, then you shouldn't go either," Angel pointed out. Collins' head shot up.
"I have to go. I can't just abandon Connor. He trusts me."
"If you go, I go."
"Then you're not going."
"Why are you making this so difficult?"
"Collins, did we or did we not make a promise to cover each other no matter what?"
"Exactly. That means, if you're going to risk getting hurt to go help Connor, I'm going with you." Collins sighed in defeat as Angel approached him.
"How dare you use our song against me?" Angel giggled and kissed her lover's forehead. "I just don't want you to get hurt, baby."
"How do you know?" Angel sat on the bed next to Collins and grabbed his hand.
"I don't, but as long as you're with me, I know I'll be protected."
Angel and Collins agreed to head to Vermont that Friday. Joanne allowed them to borrow her car and she and Maureen agreed to babysit Olivia. They both packed a small bag just in case they would end up needing to stay out of town longer than they planned to. Collins, who sat in the passenger's seat for the first half of their journey, could barely concentrate on anything other than the possible danger he and Angel were heading towards. He had spent all of Wednesday and Thursday trying to convince Angel not to come with him, but had no luck. When it was his turn to drive, he thought about turning around and going back to New York, but he knew Angel would never forgive him for turning his back on Connor.
Once Lavender Meadows came into view, Collins took a deep breath. If anyone tried to hurt him or Angel, he was prepared to fight. He parked the car and he and his lover walked hand in hand into the building. There were nurses surrounding the information desk. Upon seeing the couple, the nurses began to disperse. The couple shared a look as they reached the desk.
"What just happened?" Angel wondered out loud, feeling a bit self conscious. The woman behind the desk sensed her discomfort. Collins noticed she was a completely different receptionist than he had met the first time he had come to the hospital.
"Oh, that had nothing to do with you two coming in here," she assured the drag queen. "We were just going over some last minute things for a little surprise for one of the patients. He's the sweetest thing you'll ever meet and today is his birthday. His name's Connor."
"Connor Bennett?" The receptionist nodded and Angel looked to Collins. "Did you know today was Connor's birthday?"
"Yes," Collins replied. He received a soft punch in the arm.
"You know I hate seeing people on their birthday with no gift. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because if I had, we'd still be in New York searching for the perfect thing to get him."
"I take it you're here to see Connor, but not because it's his birthday," the receptionist guessed. She picked up the phone that was on the desk and dialed a number. "I just have to make sure he's not with Dr. Fletcher." Angel and Collins waited patiently while the receptionist spoke with the doctor. "Dr. Fletcher, there are two people here to see Connor and . . . oh. Well, all right then. I'll tell them."
"Is he with Dr. Fletcher?" Collins asked as the receptionist hung up the phone.
"No, but Dr. Fletcher is on his way to his room. He said he'll take you there. His office isn't that far from here." The receptionist took a moment to study Angel and Collins. "While we're waiting for him, I just have to say you two make an adorable couple."
"Oh, thank you," Angel said. She smiled as Collins kissed her on the cheek.
"I remember you," Dr. Fletcher stated as he entered the lobby. Angel and Collins looked to him. "I didn't know your name until my first session with Connor, but I do remember you. What brings you here?"
"Connor sent me a letter asking me to come," Collins answered.
"Is this about the letters he's been getting?"
"He told you about them?"
"Yes. They're all he's been able to focus on since the day they started coming. Follow me, I'll take you to him."
Angel and Collins followed the doctor out of the lobby. They passed several patients' rooms, most of them empty. Dr. Fletcher stopped walking periodically to speak with passing nurses. All of the nurses were carrying some sort of decoration. Angel and Collins assumed it had something to do with the surprise for Connor.
"So, Dr. Fletcher, is Connor completely cured?" Angel asked. The doctor glanced back at her and slowed his pace a bit.
"Not exactly," he replied. "But his mental health is under control. It's certainly much better than it was when he first came here."
"What does that mean?" They reached a closed door before Dr. Fletcher stopped walking again. He turned to face the couple.
"After Connor had been here for about a week, he asked for a book. A nurse and I took him to the nearest bookstore and he saw a little boy that looked lost. He approached the boy and asked him if he could help him find anything, but the boy's father showed up and told Connor his son was fine." Dr. Fletcher paused for a moment. He seemed to be trying to think of how he should continue.
"What happened after that?" Collins pressed.
"Connor wouldn't let go of the boy. The nurse and I had to pull him away and the second that boy's father got him out of the store, Connor started shouting, 'I have to help him. He's going to hurt him.'"
"So, he knew something you didn't," Angel said.
"Exactly. The boy was actually trying to hold onto Connor's hand." Dr. Fletcher paused again. "On the car ride back here, Connor let out this bloodcurdling scream of pain, then he was quiet after a few seconds."
"Albert took over," Collins guessed. Dr. Fletcher nodded.
"He accused us of putting Connor in harm's way and then not letting him help a child in need," he continued. "The nurse asked him if she could talk to Connor and apologize, but he refused to let her." Dr. Fletcher sighed and shook his head. "We didn't see Connor for six months after that."
"Six months?" Angel and Collins said together.
"Yes. He was essentially trapped inside his own body."
"Well, how did you get him to resurface?" Collins asked.
"There was nothing I or any of the nurses could do. Connor's mother is the one who convinced Albert that Connor wouldn't be harmed. She wasn't even fazed by his threats. She's a very brave woman."
"Did Connor say anything about . . . his experience?" Angel asked.
"He only remembered the boy at the bookstore. Nothing more. It was as if he blinked and six months went by. But, like I said, everything is under control now. His personality, his post traumatic stress, and his attachment disorder." Collins raised an eyebrow.
"'Attachment disorder?'" he repeated.
"Yes. Connor seemed to be quite smitten with you and after a few sessions with him, I realized he wasn't actually in love with you. He was just grateful to have someone in his life that showed him some form of kindness. So, are you ready to see him for the first time in three years?"
"Has he changed much?"
"See for yourself."
Dr. Fletcher then faced the closed door and turned the knob.