Sorry it took months to get more added to this. My life is not my own anymore, it seems. I write all day at work and I am too tired to write at home now. This isn't going where I wanted it to, as sometimes these fanfics take on a life of their own! I hope some of you enjoy, and I hope to wrap this up in one more chapter. Thanks for your patience.
To recap - our heroes were briefly reunited in the wilderness of Washington State while Hunter is being held captive as a key witness for the Grand Jury in the witness protection program . . . . . . .
McCall tried not to worry. But as it always was with McCall, worrying was second nature. She hadn't mentioned his name or breathed a word about him since she returned from Washington about four months ago. She reserved her thoughts of Hunter for times when she was alone, or worse, in her dreams, with no one to interrupt her after she closed her eyes. It was part of The Plan. The Grand Jury was to convene in about four more weeks, as long as there wasn't yet another extension. The minutes dragged into hours, and the days dragged into weeks. It was winter everywhere, but it was snowing in Hunter's corner of the world.
McCall stirred at the sound of knocking at her door, and was awakened from a deep sleep. Her heart hammered in her chest as she hurried to the door, her sleep-deprived body suddenly on high alert. Devane and Gary were on her doorstop at 3 a.m., and that was never good news. "What?" she asked as the men strode through her threshold. "It's Rick, isn't it?"
Gary turned to face her, his hands on his hips. "We're not sure," Gary said, finally. He looked at Devane, who nodded his head – saying he could proceed. "The messenger - you know, the person who picks up Hunter's messages in the box near the road where he's hidden – he notifed us, saying that he hasn't gotten a note from Hunter in two weeks."
Her heart sank. "There's something wrong," she whispered. "There has to be."
Gary put his hands up to ward off her instant panic. "We don't know that, but it does concern us. He hasn't missed a week since he went there. We want you to go back up there. Check on him. "
McCall's brain whirled with a combination of panic, worry and anxiety. Of course, she would go. "I can be ready in an hour or less," she said.
"How long did it take you to drive up there?" Devane asked McCall.
"About two days. I had to stay overnight to get some sleep. It was too far to drive in one day."
"I don't want her driving that far," Gary said quickly, casting a knowing glance to McCall. "Besides, it will take too long."
Devane nodded in agreement and reached into his coat pocket and handed her an envelope. "Emergency funds," he explained. "And it's snowing up there. Pack warm clothes and anything else you think you may need. Gary will make a flight arrangement and a rental car pickup in Seattle. We'll send a cab to take you to the airport. You know the drill. No one knows where you are, ok?"
McCall gulped. "What do I uh, do, when I get there?" she asked. A million scenarios were running through her brain.
"We'll send the courier to stop by and pick up a message tomorrow night." Charlie looked at his watch. "It's a little after 3, so if we can get you there by noon sometime, you should be able to get us a message by midnight, right?" McCall nodded. Thoughts about what that scenarios of various message could be were screaming through her. "If we are going to give you any further instruction, a message from us will be waiting there by noon the next day."
McCall's heart hammered in her chest. She looked at Gary for answers. His expression was unreadable. "Do you think something happened?"
Gary shook his head and placed his hands on her shoulders. "I need you to focus," he said quietly. "Maybe he just didn't need anything from the messenger. He knows the Grand Jury is meeting in a few weeks, so maybe he's just using up his stockpile. Just for my own piece of mind, I want to make sure he's ok and ready for the Grand Jury." And then he looked at her thoughtfully and tipped her chin so that she was looking up at him. "And I think it would be good for you to see him," he said. She blinked with the meaning of his words. "Don't borrow trouble." He tried to be reassuring. "Go pack. We'll leave in an hour for the airport."
McCall's flight to Seattle was uneventful. She glanced at the fake ID with her assumed name. Gary thought of everything. In no time, she was at the rental car counter, had her keys and hurried to find the car. She was pleasantly surprised that Gary had gotten her a 4x4 SUV to drive. She shivered while the vehicle warmed up, but she didn't let the cold stop her. There was snow on the ground, but it was mostly damp and rainy as she made her way from the airport back to Hunter. It was a two-hour drive from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to Anacortes and Hunter's hideaway – but she found herself turning in at the roadmarker in an hour and 45 minutes. Her headlights beamed through the fog onto the small cabin – and her heart dropped when she realized there was no smoke coming from the chimney and not a light on anywhere. As she hurried to the door, she noticed there weren't any footprints anywhere in the recent snow that had fallen, either.
She hurried to the door, and was not surprised to find it locked. Within a few seconds, she was able to pick the lock and let herself in. It was dark, cold, eerily quiet, and her heart was hammering in her throat. Nothing seemed to be amiss, except a sink full of unwashed dishes – and the fact that the cabin was freezing. The fire in the living room fireplace was completely out, and it looked as if a fire hadn't been burning in several days.
"Hunter?" she hollered. "Rick? Are you here?"
No response was not good, and she continued to search for him. Her hair stood on the back of her neck as she took her search upstairs. And as soon as she looked in the bedroom, a lump that looked to be Hunter's body was hidden under the covers of his bed. The only light was the one she had turned on in the hallway. Her heart was now hammering in her chest as she crept toward him. "Hunter?" she asked again, her voice now strangled with anxiety.
He was lying on his side, with all of the blankets drawn up and around his face. She could only see the top of his hair. She gently pulled the covers down to his shoulder, and breathed a sigh of relief when he stirred. "Rick?" she asked, gently nudging and trying to waken him. "Hey, it's me, Dee Dee," she said to him, and he responded with a distressed, rattled moan.
It was then that she saw that the t-shirt he was wearing was drenched in sweat. She laid her hand against his neck, and she immediately realized his pulse was rapid and thready – most likely hastened by a raging fever. She sat on the edge of the bed, turned on the table lamp and gasped. His skin was an ashen gray, and he looked to be 20 pounds lighter. "Oh my God, what happened to you?" she whispered. She pulled the covers down further and slowly turned him over to his back. His eyes remained closed. She leaned her ear down to his chest where his heart beat rapidly. The rattling gurgle in his chest brought tears to her eyes. She was not a doctor, but this sure sounded like pneumonia.
The first thing McCall did was start a fire in the fireplace in the bedroom. Hunter had stacked what looked to be a week's worth inside and two months' worth outside. As the fire began to roar and crackle, McCall found an extra set of sheets and towels in the closet. A nurse she was not, but she remembered what her mother used to do for her as a child when she was sick.
She raced back upstairs and dumped what she brought with her onto a chair. His eyes were closed, and he wasn't responding to her. His muscle tone was almost non-existent, and she could tell that he hadn't been out of bed in a really long time. He needed more than her – what he really needed was a hospital. But that was not in the cards, she knew.
"Rick?" she asked gently. When he didn't respond she shook him, hard, and he grunted – but still didn't open his eyes. "I need you to take these pills and get that fever down," she said, bending closer and raising his head so he didn't choke. He opened his mouth just a bit and she dumped 4 pills of ibuprofen into his mouth. His mouth was as dry as a desert, his tongue like sandpaper and his lips dry and cracked. She lifted the glass of water to his lips. "Easy," she said. He gulped at it like a dying man alone in the Sahara, and tears smarted in her eyes. She was now his oasis.
She tried to get his clothes off, but he was too weak to help her, and too large for her to try to remove them alone. So she did the next best thing – she cut them off with a pair of scissors and then quickly wiped him down with warm soap and water and quickly drying with a towel before covering his naked body with a sheet now that the room was beginning to warm up. She stripped the covers off of him and he began to shiver from the fever and lack of warmth on his skin. She remembered when her mother would make her lie on her bed, shivering, with only a sheet to cover her when she was fevered as a child. "Don't keep the heat in, let it out," she remembered.
She gently rolled him over from one side to the other as she quickly stripped the damp sheets and replaced them with clean ones. She put a pile of pillows at his back in an effort to sit him up to ease his labored breathing, despite his unconscious and rattled moans of protest, and finally got him settled and covered with a clean sheet and light blanket. She placed her lips gently against his forehead and frowned. The medicine hadn't kicked in yet, and his fever was still raging. She sat beside him for a few minutes and held his hand while offering him sips of water and chips of ice, which he drank readily. This was the best she could do for now. He needed a hospital but there was just no way.
One thing was for sure – she needed to get a message to Gary and Charlie.
She leaned over and kissed Hunter's fevered head once more and returned to the kitchen to take inventory and make a list of things she thought she would need. Fifteen minutes later, she trudged through the snow to the courier box, left a lengthy note, and went back to Hunter. He drifted in and out of consciousness, and she kept an all-night vigil not only on the fire in the fireplace, but also feeding Hunter ice chips at every opportunity. How long he had been like this was anyone's guess.
At noon the next day, McCall drove the rental out to the courier box and found several large bags filled with the items she ordered, along with another bag full of medical supplies, including an antibiotic for Hunter. She loaded the car and drove back in to the cabin.
"Doc said for him to take two of these on the first day, and then one a day for the next 5 days," was written in Gary's sprawled writing. "Take care of him and don't forget to take care of you. Messenger will be there every day to check for notes in case you need anything. Stay strong."
There had been no change in her patient, with the exception that he appeared to be slightly more comfortable thanks to the fever-reducing medication and the hydration that McCall was able to get into him. He still hadn't spoken to her, and sometimes she wondered if he even knew she was there. Exhaustion on her part was beginning to set in. She moved the lounge chair closer to the bed and after she gave him the first dose of the new medication, fell asleep.
A dog. She could hear a dog barking. In her dream, she was sitting on a porch, holding a sleeping baby. And she could see Hunter with a little boy in the front yard, playing ball with a big dog. The dog barked every time Hunter or the child would throw the ball, and she smiled at the giggles that came from the boy every time Hunter would wrestle the ball out of the dog's mouth. And then they'd throw it again, and the barking would continue.
McCall opened her eyes and stirred from her dream. The room was bathed in the early shadow of dawn. Suddenly realizing where she was, she sat straight up as she heard Hunter coughing and coughing – like the barking dog in her dream. She went to him and offered him a drink. He took it gratefully – and then stopped mid-drink. Blue eyes looked at her in surprise. "Dee Dee?" he rasped. "You're here?"
She smiled at him as he drank the liquid. "Finally, you're making some sense," she responded softly. "We hadn't heard from you in a few weeks so Charlie and Gary sent me up here to check on you. You're a sick man."
Hunter coughed again, his chest rattling as he did so. But the cough seemed more productive than it had been. "I don't remember," he said. "How long have you been here?"
McCall yawned. "Four days," she replied. "Four long, hard days." She looked at him thoughtfully as her eyes watered with grateful emotion. "It's good to see you awake." He leaned back in the bed again and shakily ran his hand through his hair, standing it straight on end.
"I don't remember much," he said. "I had fallen into the creek when I was fishing, and went under," he said slowly. "I came back here and got warmed up, but the next day I started coughing, and I just remember feeling like hell, so I went to bed." He turned and looked at her. "And I wake up to find you here."
"Well, judging from the state of affairs when I arrived, it looks like you've been sick for at least a week or two."
He grunted a response. "I had no idea." He looked at her again and reached for her hand. "You are a sight for sore eyes."
She smiled back at him and leaned back in the big easy chair. "When I got here, I had to leave a message for the courier. You were so sick . . . . I thought you were going to die," she said softly. "The courier brought medication and other things for you the next day, so I was able to get it into you and finally, you're awake." She sat back up and laid the back of her hand on his forehead. "Fever is down," she stated.
"I feel like I've been hit by a bus."
"You look it, too." And she grinned at him. It was just after 8 a.m. and her stomach rumbled. "If you're okay to sit here for a few minutes, I'll go downstairs and get some breakfast, okay?" She looked at how thin he was. He was lean as a hound.
She returned to the bedroom with some hot tea, orange juice, bananas and blueberry muffins. His eyes were closed, but as soon as she sat the items down on the end stand, he opened his eyes again. He sipped the orange juice and devoured a banana and a muffin, while McCall picked at hers.
He reclined into the cushions again and looked at her with sleepy eyes. "You okay?" he asked softly. Something was amiss on his McCall radar. Dark eyes looked at him and she just smiled.
"I'm okay now," she responded with a quiet smile. "You had me so worried."
"You're sure?" he asked. Her face flickered with just a second of uncertainty.
"Yes, I'm sure!" she said, her volume going up a notch or two for effect. "Give me a break – it's been a crazy few days."
"Okay, okay," he responded. He slowly sat up and heaved his legs over the side of the bed.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"To the shower," he replied. Before she could even move, he was standing next to the bed on long, shaky legs. She quickly stood beside him and he leaned against her for support. He made his way to the bathroom and leaned against the sink while she started the hot water for him. Once he got inside, she managed to change the bed sheets once again. She heard him coughing inside the shower as the steam loosened up his respiratory system. By the time she was finished, the water was off and he had a towel wrapped around his waist.
"Feel better?" she asked hopefully. He smiled at her, and his blue eyes twinkled.
"Not fabulous, but better," he admitted. She helped him dress in sweatpants and a t-shirt and he elected to lie down on the bed again. He looked at her, dressed similarly in stretch pants and a hoodie with thick socks on her feet and smiled. "Come here," he directed, wagging a finger at her.
She put a couple of more logs on the fire and then joined him on the bed by laying right next to him on her side, automatically hitching her leg over his thigh. She heaved a deep sigh.
"Don't you ever scare me like that again," she warned. He chuckled and then began coughing. When it finally settled down, he pulled her against him, entwining his fingers with hers and holding her close. The faint scent of her perfume and the tickle of her hair against his neck was ultimately satisfying.
Hunter's recovery from pneumonia was quick. Within a week, he was up and around and slowly gaining some weight back. He still tired easily but every day he became stronger and stronger.
He lay in bed one night, with the only light in the room coming from the flickering fire. He watched McCall undress, and as he looked at her naked silhouette as she changed her clothes, he felt himself stir for the first time since he became sick. Finally, his body was almost completely well, and a slow smile spread on his face.
"Don't wear that," he directed softly as she started to pull a nightgown over her head. She looked over her shoulder, startled by his words. "Come here," he said, his voice husky and deep.
She knew that voice, what it meant, and she felt her cheeks flush. She slowly went to him, naked as the day she was born, and slipped under the covers. Within seconds, he was leaning over her, his mouth on hers as he kissed her thoroughly. She tensed as his hand skimmed her body, touching her all over. He felt her hesitation immediately.
"What's wrong?" he asked quietly. His McCall radar ratcheted up again for what seemed like the tenth time that week. Something was amiss.
She shook her head slowly. "Nothing," she said, her voice barely a whisper. Her fingertips floated along his spine, making him tingle from his head to the tips of his toes. "It's just been so long," she whispered to him. "I missed you."
He groaned as she brought his face down to hers and they began to kiss again in earnest. Her body responded with a low hum as he began to kiss the hollow of her neck where it met her collarbone, slowly venturing toward her breasts. His hands were everywhere, and she sighed with pleasure.
Hunter skimmed her body, trying to go slow despite his body's traitorous need to go faster. He thumbed her nipple and heard her gasp, and he smiled against the other breast as he drew the tip into his mouth. Her breasts seemed fuller and heavier than he remembered, not that he minded. She hissed as he began to suckle her, and he increased the pressure. But her hiss of pleasure turned to immediate discomfort as she let out a whimper of pain and pushed him away. "Stop."
His brow furrowed with concern and worry as he looked down at her. "I'm sorry," he said. "What's wrong? You okay?"
She nodded her head. "Just sensitive, that's all." He began to kiss her again and smiled when her hum of pleasure quickly returned. His lips made a trail between the valley of her breasts toward her bellybutton. He had every intention of paying her back in sexual favors for making him well. As his lips brushed her lower belly, he suddenly stilled. And she stiffened for the second time when he stopped.
He immediately returned to her and looked into her eyes, and with his left hand, skimmed her body again, this time very slowly until he reached her lower abdomen. Her belly was no longer concave like it had always been. And it wasn't from overeating. The slight firm roundness, about the size of an orange and barely fitting into his palm, yet not visible to the naked eye- but something he could certainly feel - could only be one thing, and his heart hammered in his chest as he recalled her earlier admission that her breasts were ultra-sensitive to his touch.
His questioning and accusing eyes looked down on her as realization set in and a tear leaked out of one of hers.
"I wasn't allowed to tell you," she whispered, choking back a sob that he realized she had been holding in for a long time. And then her arms went around him, gripping him tightly as she began to cry into his chest. "You're weren't allowed to know."