Chapter 3

Natalie drove Tracy home. They were both silent for the entire drive.

Natalie followed Tracy up to her apartment where Tracy dug in her pocket for her keys to unlock the door. "Glad they let me have my keys back so I could get into my apartment. I should really get my car, though."

"Nick or Schanke'll take care of it. Don't worry about that now." Natalie was really worried about her. Tracy seemed too calm, too much in control which wasn't a good sign. Tracy had broken down once and asked to go home but since then…nothing. Not good at all.

"Thanks for driving me home, Nat, but as you can see, I'm O.K. You don't have to stay. I know that you're needed at work."

"Tracy, it's fine. I called them and let them know I wouldn't be coming back tonight. I'll stay."

"You didn't tell them why, did you?" There was a tiny note of hysteria in Tracy's voice, the first crack in her facade.

"No. I just said there was an emergency. I didn't say what it was."

" Good." The mask of calm was back. "I'm going to go take a shower now. Feel free to make yourself at home."

Tracy hurried to the bathroom. She couldn't wait to get in there and scrub herself clean. She felt so dirty and it wasn't a pleasant feeling. She had to scrub away the feeling of him on her and-. Cutting her thoughts off firmly, she hopped in the shower and began lathering herself up. She scrubbed every inch of herself, including her hair. It wasn't working; she still felt dirty. She scrubbed even harder. It didn't matter how long it took; she had to get him off her. And she would, if it was the last thing she ever did.

Natalie was getting an uneasy feeling. She couldn't explain it but she had to act on it. She went and knocked on the bathroom door.

"Tracy, are you all right? You're taking an awfully long time in there. Can I come in?"

Natalie. Tracy had forgotten about her. "No. I'm fine. Go away."

"Tracy, please. I just want to make sure you're all right."

She wasn't all right and she didn't feel like she'd ever be all right again but she couldn't let Nat know. "Come in."

Natalie entered and walked over to the shower. "Trace, I just want to make sure you're all right. She hesitated. Natalie had a feeling she knew what Tracy was doing in there.

"I know." Tracy's voice was flat and empty.

Natalie was alarmed by that tone. She just knew Tracy was scrubbing herself raw. "Trace, I think it's time to come out now. Scrubbing your skin off isn't going to help."

Then came another crack in the mask. "It's not working, Nat. No matter how much I try and how hard I scrub I can't get the feel of him off me."

"That feeling won't last. It'll go away in time. You'll be all right. Come on out."

Tracy shut off the water. Natalie handed her two towels through the shower curtain. Tracy wrapped herself in one and her hair in the other. Then she walked to her bedroom. Natalie followed. Tracy turned to her. "Are you absolutely sure you want to stay? Because…you know…you don't have to."

Natalie's heart broke. Poor Tracy was terrified of endangering her. Natalie wanted to put her arms around Tracy and tell her it was all right because she didn't need protection. But that would only relieve Natalie's burden. It would only add to Tracy's and that wouldn't be fair. If only she and Nick had…but it was too late now. "Yes, I want to stay. Why don't you get some rest?"

"Sure." Tracy plopped down on her bed, suddenly not having the energy to argue anymore or do anything else.

Natalie sat down next to her. "I'm so sorry this happened to you."

Tracy felt dangerously like crying again. To counteract that she went over to her dresser and found some flannel pajamas to put on.

Natalie turned away as Tracy put her pajamas on. "Nat, I don't have a guest room or anything. You won't be comfortable."

"I'll sleep on the couch. I'll be fine." There was no way she was leaving Tracy alone tonight."

"But Sidney. He'll need you."

"He'll be fine. He's a resourceful cat. Besides he's got enough: food, water and litter. I always make sure of that. Now go to sleep and stop worrying. I'm here for the night."

"O.K. Good night."

"Good night."

It wasn't very long after that when Natalie was awakened by the sounds of screaming. "NO! NO! PLEASE DON'T! STOP IT! She rushed to Tracy's room. "Tracy, honey, it's all right. You're safe. It's just a dream. It's not happening again."

Tracy took a deep breath and looked around "Yes. Right. Of course I'm safe. Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."

Natalie's heart broke all over again for her friend. Tracy was shattered. But the mask was already back up. And the facade she was putting up deeply worried Natalie. Tracy wouldn't be able to heal untill she dealt with what happened, which she wasn't doing. But Natalie couldn't force her to without further hurting her. Especially with the 'special circumstances' they were dealing with. "Are you going to try to go back to sleep or do you want to talk?" Natalie prayed that she'd want to talk.

"I'm fine. I don't need to talk. I'm going to go back to bed."

That was one unanswered prayer. Natalie was forced to accept it. She went back to the living room.

Tracy didn't go back to sleep. She lay there and cried silently so Nat wouldn't hear. She also tried to decide how best to handle things. She hoped it wasn't all over the precinct by now but she was afraid it would be. How could she face going back to work? What if her father found out? Dear God, no. Not that. Anything but that. "Please don't let him find out. I can deal with everyone else. Don't let my father find out how badly I screwed up." These thoughts started the tears flowing. In spite of herself, the exhaustion caught up with her and she fell asleep. And had another nightmare. This time she didn't wake up screaming, so Natalie didn't know. Which may or may not have been a good thing