This is Paige's fault. Well, hers and Anna's, anyway. Anna's for introducing me to the Gary Seven list, and Paige for her wonderful announcements of when and where to find any and all things Robert Lansing.

The following is more Paige's fault than anyone else's, however. First, she let us know when the movie was on and I finally got a chance to watch and tape it (YAYYYY!!!!! <picture muppets, here>). It's also her fault that it's turned into a romance <shudder>. I despise romance novels. They're as bad as most porn. I'm of the mindset of the line from Rick Simon in Simon and Simon, "My idea of spectator sports begins and ends with football." Of course, my spectator sport of choice is polo in any of its incarnations, original, arena, and cowboy. However, with Paige's encouragement (she's been allowed to read this as it comes along (pun not intended...this time), something rarely allowed, it has taken on a life of its own. I have three musae. Dark and Gloomy, Sweetness and Light, and Many and Varied. I think they got together on this one, although Dark and Gloomy was overruled on her (His? Its?) inputs, as this has little angst.

Rating: NC-17 for graphic sex...and that's Paige's fault, most of all....

Scott Nelson, Anthony (Tony) Nelson, and Linda Nelson do not belong to me, and the people they do belong to have long since forgotten them and probably (hopefully) don't care that I'm using them, just as long as I'm not trying to make money from this, which I'm not. Chrys, Mike, Chad, Tom, John Edmunds, and anyone else you've never heard of are mine. Should anyone care (for whatever reason) to borrow one of them, please ask first.

And, finally (aren't you glad to see that?), this would never have happened without the wonderful, brilliant, and yummy Robert Lansing. I just wish he were still with us.

Only Three Dimensional


They'd closed down this place almost forty years earlier, as soon as they realized that the nuclear reactor leaked. It was too late, of course, much of the damage had already been done. The groundwater and most of the surrounding areas had been contaminated. Even though they'd managed to move much of the core to safer storage, it was only now considered safe enough to continue the cleanup.

There had been stories about this place. About ghosts and men who could walk through walls. No one quite believed it, but it certainly was eerie enough. The wind howled through the deformed cactus and weirdly shaped sagebrush. The town that had thrived here so long ago was barely skeletal remains. Once it was understood that improper shielding could cause radiation poisoning, and that many of the townspeople had developed strange, new diseases and cancers from it, they fled, taking their problems with them.

A very few hardy souls had remained, but they were thought to be mostly eccentric, to be kind. The team of researchers/demolition experts stared at the compound from the top of the hill, where the road snaked down to the still-strong chain link fence and deteriorating buildings.

"Doesn't look like much, does it?"

"Where the hell is the reactor?" There were none of the signs of what any of them would recognize as any kind of nuclear installation. "What did they do, encase it in just concrete?"

The lone woman in the group pointed. "There. That bunker, that's where we'll find what's left of the reactor." They were already dressed in radiation suits and even at this distance, nearly two miles from the installation, the Geiger counters were sending out signals of higher than normal radiation.

"Spooky. I can see why there are stories about this place."

"A man who could walk through walls? Come on, give me a break, Mike."

Mike laughed. "Come on, Chad, where's your sense of adventure? That famous sense of wonder we're all supposed to have?"

"Both of you are nuts, you know that? There's bound to be a rational explanation. Besides, if you recall the reports from when it happened, it was all determined to be due to the improper shielding of the reactor. Those deaths could be directly attributed to radiation poisoning. You saw the reports. The bodies were off the scale, radioactively speaking."

"Chrys, you have the soul of an accountant," Mike replied.

Chrys laughed. "I prefer calling it being a realist. Time's a-wasting, gentlemen. Let's get going, shall we?" She got back behind the wheel of their vehicle, a large panel van, shielded against radiation, where she would spend much of her down time. There were six vehicles, in all, including a semi-trailer with a full hospital emergency room specifically designed to deal with radiation accidents. They hoped that, after so much time, there would be no need for it; but you never knew.

Signaling the rest of the crew, Chrys started up her van and headed down to the facility below.

Using the main parking lot outside the fence to set up in, Chrys, Chad, and Mike directed the other members of the team what to do. It was still early enough, so they decided to do a quick walk-through of the buildings with their Geiger counters and other diagnostic equipment. With any luck at all, they would be able to work without the heavy and cumbersome radiation suits; but no one was holding their breath on that one.

Opening the door to the main research facility, Chrys automatically reached for a light switch and was surprised when the lights came on. "I wonder who's been paying the electric bill?"

"Probably has some sort of UPS, or something."

"Not back then. All they'd have would be gas generators, and it's too quiet for that. Maybe they never shut off the power, and until we got here nothing was ever turned on." Chrys took some readings from her equipment and grunted in surprise. "Looks like this room, at least, is safe enough. Let's check out the rest of the building. We may be luckier than we have any right to be."

The three kept within sight of one another as they searched and took readings. There was still equipment left behind, sadly archaic by modern standards. The 'computer' took up half of the building, and the reactor less than one eighth. It was 'only a small nuclear reactor', they'd heard, but it had done incredible damage back then. The owner had been one of four deaths forty-three years earlier. The research had continued for several years afterwards, but they finally realized that their reactor was 'dirty' and leaking radiation all over the place. The Federal Government had come in and shut them down in the early sixties. But the damage had been done, and had continued to occur until the entire area had been declared a SuperFund Site. They'd gone in, in the eighties, to remove as much of the reactor core as was possible, but there had been an awful lot of radioactive crap left behind. Now, it had finally come to them to get it as clean as was possible. Demolishing the buildings and, if necessary, digging down to the water table, or bedrock, to clean out as much of the contamination as they could.

If it weren't so dangerous, it could be fun.

They checked the entire complex. The only truly dangerous place was within the old reactor, itself. There was still contaminated coolant inside and it permeated the walls around it. The rest of the facility seemed relatively clear. Satisfied, they headed back out to where the rest of the crew was setting up camp. They had four special trucks coming in to siphon out the contaminated coolant and, hopefully, they would be able to break down the reactor's walls and cart away the contaminated rubble.

"So, looking forward to this one, Chrys?" Mike asked her.

She shrugged. "I'm looking forward to not needing the hospital, Mike. With any kind of luck at all, this is going to be an easy one. The contamination doesn't seem nearly as bad as we were led to believe."

"Yeah, well, just watch out for the ghost, okay?"

"Riiiiight, Mike. Ghost?"

"Yeah. Some guy who worked here, back in the late fifties, when the 'accident' happened. They never found his body. One of the stories is that he murdered those people."

"I read the autopsies, Mike. They died of radiation poisoning, pure and simple."

"What about that one woman in town, huh? She'd never been anywhere near this place, but she died, too."

Chrys shrugged. "Maybe she drank some of the water, or was seeing one of the contaminated workers. It was a long time ago and you know I don't believe in ghosts."

"Yeah, Mike. Knock it off with the ghost stories. We don't need you spooking the crew. Remember the last time? Half of them quit, even after it turned out to be a raccoon instead of a ghost."

"You two just don't have any imagination, that's all," Mike pouted.

Chrys smiled a bit grimly. "That's because you have enough for fifty people, Mike. You should be writing horror stories, not working in HAZMAT cleanup."

Mike stuck his tongue out at her, and then smiled. "Okay, have it your way. Radiation poisoning it is. But did you read what the sheriff wrote about what happened? About that missing guy who 'walked into the wall of the reactor'? Got to admit that's kind of spooky."

"Mike, just for that, you get KP after dinner tonight," Chad growled. He hated the fact that Mike had no sense of propriety when it came to the weird stuff. Chad, on the other hand, was bothered by the idea of paranormal activity and wished Mike would simply shut up about it; but the man was immune to any kind of chastisement.

"Good idea, Chad. Mike gets KP every day he talks about ghosts and stuff, right?"

Chad smiled. Leave it to Chrys to find a good way to make Mike keep his comments to himself. Cleaning up the dishes after twenty people was definitely a good punishment. "Agreed."

"Hey, don't I get a say in this?" Mike protested.

"Sure. You keep the cracks about ghosts and spooky stuff to yourself, and you won't get KP every night. Deal?" Chrys smiled at him sweetly.

Mike wasn't fooled. He knew he'd been directly responsible for going so far over budget on their last cleanup with his talk of ghosts. And the idea of having to do all the dishes for a month certainly was a deterrent. "Fine," he huffed. "I'll keep the comments to myself."

"That's all we ask, Mike." Chad was feeling better already.

Their crew had worked together for a couple of years, now. Most of them, anyway. Mike's penchant for telling ghost and horror stories had caused several of their people to quit. He just didn't get that they had dangerous enough jobs that they didn't need or want any added stress. Of their crew, four of them were new and this was their first major HAZMAT cleanup. The older, more experienced members were careful to keep an eye on the new 'kids' and to make sure everyone took the proper precautions. It looked bad if someone got radiation burns, for example.

Mike, who hated KP, kept his ghost stories to himself. He did, however, get a creepy feeling every time he got near the reactor. It felt, sometimes, like someone was watching him, someone who wanted his help, but was unable to communicate their need. As they got ready to dismantle the walls around the former reactor, Mike set up his video camera, curious about the 'presence' he felt, and that no one else seemed to notice.

They took down the outer walls with a simple wrecking ball. It was simply poured concrete, for the most part, and came down easily. It had obviously been built before earthquake proofing had been required. They cleared away the debris, sending it to be tested and, if it met Federal Guidelines, to be used as landfill, somewhere. The actual walls of the reactor, on the other hand, were still bursting with radiation. They would take it down with the same wrecking ball, but they would have to make sure to sweep up every speck of dust and seal it in special containers prior to shipping it to the lab for testing and disposal. Thankfully, that would be someone else's job.

Chrys watched in amusement as Mike set up his camera, again. He carefully checked the tape each day before inserting a new tape each night. He didn't talk about it, but Chrys knew him well enough to know that the place had him spooked. That was unusual. Mike liked to talk scary, but he normally didn't believe what he was saying. This time, however, was different.

"Want to tell me what you're looking for, Mike?"

He jumped. He hadn't heard her come up behind him. "I don't know. I just get this creepy feeling around this thing. Nowhere else, just here, by the old control panel."

Chrys nodded. "Yeah? Mr. 'I give people the creeps talking about ghosts and stuff' is getting creeped out by his own stories? Doesn't sound like you, Mike."

"I know," Mike wouldn't look at her, but kept his focus on the reactor walls. "What do you think? Is it possible for a man to walk through walls?"

She took in his serious tone and smothered her debonair response. "I don't know. Might be interesting, at that. It would take an awful lot of energy, though, don't you think?"

"Yeah, but with all that leaking radiation, it could have happened."

"You read and watch too many 'mad scientist' stories, Mike."

Mike sighed and turned away, after turning on the camera. "I know. And after tomorrow it'll be gone, so we'll never know, right?"

"Right." Chrys took one last look at the reactor and headed to her quarters for a good night's sleep.

Oddly enough, the reactor was much harder to take down than they had expected. They tried the wrecking ball, but it just pulverized the concrete in small batches, making more of a mess than they wanted to clean up. Chad decided to try some dynamite, just to see if it would work better.

They set charges in small holes dug beneath the wall, cleared the area, and set the explosives off. There was a tremendous roar with flame and smoke, and when it cleared they could see that the wall had, indeed, been damaged, with several sections having fallen.

"Cool," Mike murmured, looking at the wreckage. "How are the readings, doc?"

Chrys took her readings and nodded. "Not bad. This may be doable, providing we can contain the debris." They'd covered the section with plastic which, although it had ripped in places, had done a fairly good job of containment. "Let's get the sheeting off and see what we have underneath."

The body lay crumpled at the base of one section of the wall that was still standing. The ten-foot thick wall was cracked and much of it had crumbled, but this one section, looking oddly like a statue of a man, still stood, and there at the base of it, was a body.

He wasn't one of theirs and no one could figure out where the hell he'd come from. Chrys wasn't looking forward to the paperwork on this. But first, she had to examine the body and try to figure out how it had come to be there.

She was dressed in her radiation suit all ready, because of the amount of radiation still in the old reactor shell. The readings were marginal, until she checked the body. The first reading was off the scale, so she checked her equipment and tried again. The body was definitely radioactive, but ....

The body moved.

Chrys jumped away, cursing. "Okay, whose idea of a joke is this? Mike? If this is one of your lame ideas of a practical joke, you're gonna wish you'd never thought of it!"

Mike came running when he heard her yelling. Seeing the movement for himself, he paled. "I promise you, Chrys, I don't know who that is or how he got here...." He looked at the wall and shivered. It was the section he'd been filming for the past two weeks.

"Well, we need to get him to the lab. Get the gurney and a couple of guys, while I triage." Chrys specialized in this kind of thing, but it was still a shock. They were miles from anywhere, so how had this man gotten here? For that matter, how had he not been spotted before they set off the explosives?

She started triage, looking for the obvious injuries, first. There was an awful lot of concrete dust imbedded in his clothes, but there was nothing apparently wrong with him. Except that he was unconscious and there was a lump on his right temple, which could certainly explain his unconscious state.

Mike returned with a couple of the guys and the gurney. They immobilized him prior to moving him, then carefully placed him on the gurney and headed for their portable emergency room. Once inside, Chrys told Mike to send Chad in to help her, while he focused on the cleanup outside. Before she did anything else, she again checked for radioactivity, and was puzzled to find it had dropped into a safe range. That would make her job easier, thankfully, as she wouldn't have to wear her radiation suit while working on the unconscious victim.

"I heard we had an accident?" Chad asked as he came in. He frowned as he saw the patient. "Who's he?"

"I have no idea. Look at the material of his suit, though. That's some expensive wool, don't you think?"

"Looks old. Something from the forties or fifties, maybe?"

"Chad," Chrys said warningly. He backed away, holding up his hands in a placating gesture.

"Just making an observation, Doc, that's all. What do you need me to do?"

"Well, once I check him out completely, help me get him stripped, cleaned up, decontaminated and into bed?"

"You got it."

Chad watched curiously as she examined the stranger. She checked for broken bones, but found none. The only injury she could actually find was the knot on his right temple, where he'd landed when he fell. But where had he come from? And, how had he gotten there?

The door opened and Mike came in. "Uh, sorry to bother you, but you might want to come and see this."

Chrys looked up at him, frowning. "What is it?"

"Something else weird. Come and see."

Deciding that she could leave her patient for a short while, Chrys and Chad followed Mike out to the explosion site. They all stopped and stared. Chrys, scowling, stepped up to the oddly shaped section of wall, and touched a piece of it. It crumbled to dust at the slightest touch.

"What the hell?" she asked, looking at Mike.

"Yeah. Looks like a bad statue, right? And we found that guy right here, at its feet, as it were. I got some pictures, but look at this thing. It's like one of those people in Pompeii, the ones calcified by the volcanic ash. Only this is like pumice, not like the body is still inside." Mike was totally creeped out by the oddity.

"I want this left alone until we can take some samples and run some tests. This is weird, I agree." Chrys rubbed the dust between her fingers and shook her head. "It almost feels like ash," she murmured. Shaking her head as though to clear it, she looked up at her companions. "Come on, guys, so it's a little weird, I'm not yet ready to believe that guy was inside the wall. How could he have been? Not and still been alive, and I guarantee that he's very much alive." Chad and Mike exchanged looks, but nodded; and while Mike went back to overseeing the cleanup, Chad followed Chrys back to their little hospital.

"We need to clean him up, Chad. Give me a hand, will you? I want to strip him and douse him in disinfectant and that decontamination crap."

"Gotcha. Was there any ID on him?"

Chrys shook her head. "Nothing. The only thing in his pockets was cement dust."

They gently manhandled the stranger, stripping him of his clothes, then Chad carried the limp, unconscious man to the decontamination station and, stripping off his own clothes, turned on the unit and sprayed first the stranger, then himself with the decontamination solution, followed by disinfectant, and then clear water.

"Man, he's cold, Chrys. You sure he's still alive?"

"Cold?" Chrys frowned. She'd noticed he was cool to the touch, but just how cold was he? "Let me get his temp. You keep cleaning and I'll be right back."

Chad had turned the water to as hot as he could comfortably stand it, hoping to warm the unconscious man, but it didn't seem to be working very well. When Chrys came back, she used an electronic 'ear' thermometer to check his temperature.

"Shit. He's hypothermic. We need to warm him up if he's going to survive."

After Chad turned off the water, Chrys came in and helped dry the patient while Chad quickly toweled himself off and got dressed. Between them, they carried the still unconscious man to a bed, where they gently tucked him beneath the covers and Chrys placed a heating blanket over him and turned the temperature up.

"I was a little surprised he hadn't regained consciousness, but the hypothermia could cause that. Do you think he might have cracked his skull?" Chad asked.

Chrys shook her head. "His eyes are equal and reactive, and he's definitely in a coma, but as long as he's breathing on his own, I'm not going to panic. Maybe once we get him warmed up, he'll wake up. We'll keep a close eye on him, and if his condition deteriorates, we'll fly him to a hospital."

"You're the doctor," Chad replied, a bit uncertainly.

"If he doesn't wake up by morning, I'll do a CT scan, and if necessary, an MRI, okay?"

Chad grinned. "Yeah. I know I shouldn't second-guess you, but you know what a worrier I am."

Chrys smiled and patted his arm. "And your worries are generally well founded."

Chad grinned at her. "Well, I think I'll go look at the damage we did to the wall. If I find anything, I'll let you know."

"You know that weird section where we found him? See if you can spray it with something that will keep it from crumbling to dust, and check it for radioactivity, will you? When I first took a reading on our surprise patient, he was off the scale. I checked the machine and it said it was working right, but when I took another reading, it was still high, but not nearly as high as it was before, then, when I took another reading while examining him in here, it was nearly normal."

Chad frowned and then nodded. "I'll see if we have any of that spray sealant. I'll be careful, so as to not damage it any further. It really does look like a statue of someone."

Chrys smiled, a bit dubious. "Don't you go over to Mike's 'dark side', okay? One hysterical ghost hunter is more than enough for me."

"Well, this time, he's looking for a mad scientist, remember?"

Chrys made shooing motions. "Go. Do some work. I'm going to take our guest's fingerprints and fax them off to Washington. Just in case."

"On my way, Doc."

Once she was alone with her patient, she got together the equipment she'd need and gently took impressions of his fingertips. Once she had a clear set, she faxed them off to Washington, hoping for a match. When she was finished, she took his temperature again and was pleased to note that it had risen to an almost toasty 91 degrees, Fahrenheit. With any luck at all, she'd have him up to living temperature by nightfall and maybe he'd wake up.

She hovered around her patient. That was the only thing to call it. She was constantly taking radiation readings and checking his temperature. When his temperature finally rose to 95 degrees, he began to shiver as his body realized how cold it was and tried to use his muscles to generate some more heat.

When he began to toss and turn and moan, she sat on the bed beside him and tried to comfort him. At the touch of her hand, however, he cried out and violently shifted away from her, apparently in fear. Using her most soothing tone of voice, she tried to calm him, grasping him by the shoulders and holding on. Finally, the man stopped thrashing, although he continued to toss his head back and forth, moaning and whimpering.

Finally, he was quiet, and she let go of his shoulders and took stock of his condition. From being hypothermic, he'd gone to having a fever. That could be even worse than being too cold. Sighing, she turned off the electric blanket and applied a cool compress to his face.

It was going to be a long night.

Mike brought her some dinner and sat with her while she ate.

"I don't have any answers, Mike. Just questions."

"I know. Chad said his clothes were old fashioned, so I was wondering how old?"

Chrys shook her head. "I've never been a fashion hound, so I have no idea. The style looks classic, no extra-wide lapels, for example." She pointed over to the counter, where she'd been examining the suit. "It's right there, so take a look. Maybe you can tell."

Mike stood up and went over to the counter. "It's not hot, is it?"

"Nope. I still can't figure out what happened. My first readings on him were off the scale, the second one high, but not deadly, the third one, just above normal, and now he's got no more radiation signature than you or I have."

"Weird." Mike was looking at the suit. "This is heavy wool, not like they've made in a long time. My dad had suits like this, though."

"Yeah? My dad didn't wear suits, so I have no frame of reference.

Mike looked at the tie and whistled. "That's silk, hand-painted. It's an antique, well, not really, but I've seen some like this in antique stores. Worth a couple of hundred. It's from the late forties, early fifties." He turned the tie over to try and find the label. "Yeah, this is old. The artist's name is on the label, so it's not just a cheap one, even from that time."

Chrys sighed. "Doesn't help, much, I'm afraid. Late forties is too early for this place, except for when it was built."

"Yeah, well, guys didn't change styles much back then. The tie is kind of narrow, so I'd place it in the fifties, at least. Wide ties went out with wide lapels, and the cycle didn't move back for a long time. A suit and tie bought in 1950 would still have been in style in 1960."

"Still doesn't give us much to go on, Mike."

"I know." He moved over to the fax machine. "Anything back yet on his prints?"

"Nah. It's still too early. I don't expect anything before tomorrow afternoon at the earliest, to tell you the truth."

Mike cast a quick glance at her. "What if it's 'him'?"

Chrys stopped eating and glared at Mike. "Mike," she growled.

Mike shook his head and shrugged, "Hey, I'm just wondering, is all. What if it is?"

"He's too young, for one thing."

"Maybe he time traveled?" Mike was openly grinning, now. He still wondered and the whole thing was giving him the creeps, but his sense of humor remained intact.

Chrys laughed. "Sure, maybe. His clothes are certainly in good enough shape. But what about the cement dust?"

"He really did walk through the walls?"

"I'd like to know how."

"Wouldn't we all?" Mike turned away from the fax machine and returned to the other side of the small table Chrys was sitting at. "So, how's he doing?"

She shook her head. "I wish I knew. He was hypothermic, now he has a temperature. I'm keeping a close eye on him and I'll probably be up most of the night, checking." She looked at Mike and frowned. "Why?"

Mike shrugged. "Just wondering when he might wake up and we can ask him, is all."

"This is really getting to you, isn't it, Mikey?" Chrys's voice softened with the realization.

Mike glanced quickly at her, then away, "Yeah. It is. You know me, Chrys. I talk a good game, but I don't really believe all the stories about the places we go. It's just something to break the monotony, is all. But this time, well, I have to admit I'm spooked. Have been since we went inside the reactor building."

"I know. You've filmed that section of the reactor wall practically since we got here. And that spot just happened to be where we found our strange victim. I have to admit that it has me going, too, Mikey. However," she continued quickly, noticing how Mike perked up, "That doesn't mean I agree with you or believe he's been in that wall for forty-three years, either. We have to wait to find out."

Mike nodded. "And if by some miracle it is him?"

"That's going to probably be someone else's job to figure out, not ours."

"Yeah. Too bad." He stood up and, with a wry grin, gathered up Chrys's dishes and headed out.

"Hey, you don't have KP, do you?"

"Yep. Your rules, I asked if maybe he could be the missing man from back then, and I got the duty." He smiled, though, "But this time, I don't really mind, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah. I do, actually. Thanks, Mike. I'll let you know if you can collect on any of your bets."

"Bets? Moi?" Mike asked in mock astonishment. "Surely you jest."

"Right. I expect a very nice dinner if you win, though."

"You've got it. Black Angus?"

"That'll do. Now, get out of here and let me get some rest. Somehow, I kind of think it's going to be a very long night."

"I can come and relieve you for a few hours if you want."

"Nah. This is my responsibility. But if I do need anything, I'll give you a holler."

"Okay, then. Good night, Chrys."

"Good night, Mikey, oh, and Mike?"

He turned, eyebrows raised in question.

"Go ahead and set up your camera, just like usual, will you?"

Mike grinned, "Will do."

Chrys checked her patient and was pleased to note that his temperature had dropped down into a normal range. She had injected him with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, earlier, and now placed him on an IV to provide nourishment and to keep him from becoming dehydrated.

She brushed her fingers through his hair, stroking it off his forehead. He looked tired and worn. She'd guess his age anywhere from thirty to forty, but certainly no older. There was just a hint of gray at his temples, but since her own uncle had been white-haired by the time he turned forty, that didn't mean anything at all.

She watched him for a while, wondering who he was and how he'd come to be there. He was good-looking in a rugged kind of way. She frowned as she noticed that, even in sleep, he looked worried; or perhaps he was in pain. She shook her head and asked him, "Just who are you and how did you get here?" Not receiving an answer, she tucked the covers in around him and headed for her own cot, setting her alarm to waken her in two hours to check on him again.

The moment her alarm went off, she was up and turning it off before it had a chance to possibly wake her patient. She needn't have worried, however, as he hadn't moved since she'd left him two hours earlier. She changed the IV bag and checked all his vital signs, again. There was no change and his temperature was holding steady. That was one good thing, she noted. She was hopeful that he'd be waking up, soon.

When she was finished caring for her patient, she headed back to her cot, setting the alarm for another two hours.

There was no change the second time her alarm went off, or the third. She debated not setting the alarm again, but her dedication overrode her desire for sleep and she set it for two more hours. She didn't know which was worse, a patient who stayed asleep, or one who had a rough night. Either way, she was losing sleep over it. She grinned ruefully and headed back to bed.

It wasn't the alarm that woke her. She lay quietly for a moment, in confusion, and then she heard it, the soft moaning of someone in pain. Scrambling out of bed, she ran, barefoot, to her patient in the next room. He was tossing and turning, moaning softly. She caught his arm that held the IV and restrained it long enough to disconnect the IV line, to prevent injury.

She didn't want to restrain him, as it might cause him more distress. She held his head still long enough to get his temperature, which she was happy to note was normal. She observed that he was in REM sleep, so he was probably having a bad dream. Not too surprising, considering how close he'd come to being blown to bits. She pulled up a chair and started talking to him softly, soothingly, calmly. After several minutes, he seemed to calm down a bit, and she carefully pulled the tangled covers loose and lightly covered him again, without tucking him in. As she reattached the IV line, she glanced at his face and was startled to see two pale blue eyes, staring at her in frightened confusion.

"Well, hello. How are you feeling?"

He turned his head to look around, but didn't try to sit up. He frowned. "Where am I? What happened?"

"You're in a hospital, of sorts. I was hoping you could tell me what happened."

He shivered, looked around, and then shook his head, wincing at the pain the motion caused. "I...what's my name?"

She shouldn't have been surprised, but was, nevertheless. "We don't know. You weren't carrying any identification on you. What's the last thing you remember?"

He scowled, struggling to remember. "Dark, and cold."

Ooookay. "And before that?"

"Dark and hot?" He looked up at her, a lost expression on his face.

She sighed. "I'm afraid that's not much to go on. Who's the president?"

He looked surprised. "I have no idea."

"Who was the first president?"

"George Washington."

All right. Not total amnesia. She figured he probably remembered how to read and write, for example, and how to dress himself. Heck, he could speak intelligibly, for that matter. He just didn't seem to know who he was or where he was or how he got there. This was going to be so much fun.

"What year is it?"

He frowned. "Uhhhh," he looked up at her helplessly.

She shook her head. "Never mind. Don't worry about it. We'll figure it all out, eventually." She tried to smile reassuringly at him, but she could tell that he wasn't buying it for a moment. At least he wasn't becoming hysterical from the fear she could easily read on his face. "Would you like something to drink?"

He brightened up just a bit at that. "Coffee?"

A man after her own heart. "It's a bit late for that, I'm afraid. How about some apple juice, instead?" That she had on hand, thankfully.

"All right," he agreed. He didn't try to sit up, but turned his head to watch her move across the room to the small refrigerator across from him. She surreptitiously watched him watching her every move and wondered what he was so afraid of?

Putting the jug of juice back in the refrigerator, she came back and offered him the glass. Seeing him struggle to sit up, she immediately set the glass down and reached to help him.

"Sorry," he gasped, his arms shaking as he held himself in a sitting position.

She softly murmured, "Don't worry about it," and rearranged his pillows behind him, then helped him ease back. She was surprised by how weak he was. He was sweating from the simple exertion of sitting up? She decided she needed to keep a closer eye on him. Handing him the glass, she watched him as he slowly drank, pausing after each sip to take several breaths. That worried her. When he was finished, he handed her back the glass.

"Thank you."

She smiled. "You're welcome." She took the glass back across the room to the sink and rinsed it out. Turning back to him, she blinked in surprise to note he'd fallen back asleep, already.

"That was weird," she murmured to herself as she resettled the blankets back over him. She stayed and watched him for a while, but when he showed no more sign of regaining consciousness, she turned out the lights and headed back to bed to finish her own sleep. She took one look at the time and turned off the alarm.

She awoke to the sound of someone trying to cough up a lung. Realizing it was her patient, she threw back the covers and leapt from bed, scurrying into the other room. She found the stranger leaning over the edge of his bed, coughing hard enough to retch. She frowned at the dark gray color of the sputum and reached out to hold him and give him some outside support until the coughing finally eased. She grabbed a tissue from the box on the bedside table and wiped his mouth before easing him back into bed. He was flushed and feverish, she noted. Before checking his temperature, however, she poured him a glass of water and held a basin for him to rinse out his mouth and spit.

"Ssorry," he mumbled weakly. He was obviously exhausted, but from the way he'd been coughing, she was almost surprised he hadn't collapsed a lung.

"Don't worry about it. How do you feel?"


Wretched? Who on earth used words like wretched? "That good, huh?"

His eyes widened in surprise at her comment, but then a small smile twitched the corners of his mouth. "I guess so," he agreed.

She smiled at him. "Well, let me get this cleaned up and check you out again, then we can discuss getting you some breakfast." She was pleased that he looked interested. But first, to clean up the dark gray sputum and save it for analysis. She'd never seen anything like it, before. As she used some tissues to clean up the small mess on the floor, she noticed that it was gritty. Grit? Coughed up from his lungs? She'd better get some x-rays and maybe plan on an MRI, as well. Meanwhile, she carefully preserved the samples and hurried back to her patient to check his temperature, which was slightly elevated.

"Well?" he asked when she had finished her exam.

She noticed he was uncomfortable. Maybe he didn't like women doctors? Tough. She was the only doctor around, so he was stuck with her. "Looks like you'll survive."

"That good?" he quipped. He wouldn't meet her eyes, though.

"Considering the amount of dynamite we were using, yes." She frowned when he just nodded and pulled the blanket up around his neck. "Are you cold?"

He glanced at her, then away. "No. Look could I have some pajamas or something, please?"

She gaped. Then she had to stifle the urge to laugh. He was modest and uncomfortable with nothing on but the covers on the bed. She was so used to the men she worked with that it had never occurred to her that her patient was any different. "I'll see what I can do. Boxers or briefs?"

He frowned, "Briefs," he replied.

She nodded. "It might take a few hours, but I'll see to it that we get you something." She smiled at him, but he didn't return it.

"Thank you." He was totally serious.

She had never considered that he might be uncomfortable sleeping in the nude. It was rather endearing, actually. To change the subject and redirect his focus, she asked, "So, what would you like for breakfast? Nothing too heavy, though. I don't want you getting sick on us."

He thought about it for only a moment. "Toast and coffee?" he asked, hopefully.

She chuckled. Definitely a man after her own heart. "I don't know that coffee is such a good idea, yet." She saw the flash of disappointment, but held firm. "Now, hot cocoa, maybe...."

He frowned, and then suggested, "How about some tea, then?"

He drank tea? Interesting. She nodded. "Tea it is, then. How about some oatmeal?"

He nodded, and settled more firmly back against his pillows, his eyes drifting closed. "That's fine,"

She watched in amazement as he drifted off to sleep again. That worried her. She knew that the coughing fit had taken a lot out of him, but this wasn't looking good at all. She checked his temperature again and noticed it had dropped back down to normal. She went into another room and put on the teakettle to make some tea and put some instant oatmeal into a bowl to await the boiling water and her patient's reawakening.

It was an hour later before he stirred again. She was beside him when he shifted slightly and opened his eyes. She smiled down at him. "Welcome back." She helped him to sit up and rearranged the pillows to support him; then she went to fix his breakfast and bring him back his food and some tea.

"What would you like in your tea?" she asked as she set a tray across his lap.

"Plain, thanks." He reached for the pot and poured himself a cup. Lifting the cup, he took a cautious sip. Sighing, he relaxed and took a bigger sip.

"Don't forget to eat," Chrys admonished him.

Opening his eyes, he looked down at the bowl and grimaced. He set down his cup and picked up his spoon. Scooping up some of the soft, warm cereal, he took a bite. His eyes widened in surprise at the taste. "This is good. What's in it?" he asked, looking up at her as he took another, larger bite.

"Brown sugar and cinnamon flavored." She watched him eat and smiled, pleased. "Glad you like it."

He quickly finished the oatmeal and with a satisfied sigh, went back to sipping his tea. "Yeah. That was good. Thank you."

"You're welcome. I've got some things to do, but I'll be nearby if you need anything."

"Uh... bathroom?" he asked tentatively.

"Now, or for future reference?" She had to force herself not to smile and to take his concerns seriously.

"Now, please?"

She pointed to a narrow door across from his bed. "Right there." She frowned, remembering how weak he was. "Do you need help getting up?"

He blushed, "I think so," he admitted, a bit reluctantly.

She helped him up and steadied him on the eight-foot walk to the bathroom. She could tell he was embarrassed, partly for needing help, but more, she suspected from being naked. As soon as she got him settled back in bed, she would arrange for some clothes for him, she decided.

She helped him back to bed and tucked him in. He leaned back against the pillows in exhaustion. The smallest things took all his strength, it seemed. He groped for his teacup and, with shaking hands, tried to pour another cup. Chrys took the teapot from him and poured it for him without saying a word. Gratefully, he used both hands to lift the cup and take a sip. He closed his eyes and slowly drank his tea, oblivious to Chrys's presence.

She watched him to make sure he didn't fall asleep mid-sip. When he had finished his tea, he set the cup down on the tray, which was now on the bedside table. He sighed once, and settled back against the pillows and drifted off to sleep. Satisfied, she left him to rest and went into her office to begin her regular day's duties.

"Hey, Chrys. How's the patient, this morning?" Chad kept his voice down, not wanting to disturb their guest.

Chrys looked up and smiled. "He's doing pretty well, considering. He's got amnesia, though. Can't remember his name or who the president is. He's also coughing up cement dust, believe it or not." She was glad it was Chad, instead of Mike. Mike would have gone off the deep end, convinced that the stranger was the long missing 'mad scientist'.

"Cement dust? Hmmm." Chad looked uncomfortable.

"'Hmmm', what?"

"Oh, just thinking. That weird section of wall, most of the cement is gone from it, and our boy is coughing up cement dust. Just seems odd, you know?"

"You're starting to sound like Mike," Chrys sighed.

Chad mock-glared at her. "I sincerely hope I'm not that bad...yet."

"It does make you wonder, though, doesn't it?"

"Yeah. It does."

"Oh, do me a favor, will you?"

"Sure." Chad didn't even ask what it was before agreeing. Chrys never abused either their friendship or their working relationship asking for frivolous favors.

"Go to town, not Carsonville, and get him some clothes, will you? You can figure out the sizes from what we took off of him, right?"

"Yeah. What kind of clothes?"

"I don't know. He said he prefers briefs, plus some sweats, t-shirts, jeans, shirts and a jacket, I think that should suffice."

Chad didn't bother to write anything down, just nodded. "Okay. Let me get a look at his clothes for sizes and I'll be on my way." Seeing her surprise, he grimaced. "Seems we need a few other things, like some heavy-duty plastic to cover the rest of the walls before we blow them up. The cleanup is going well. Looks like, barring any more 'accidents', we should even finish on time."

"Great. How is everyone holding up?"

"Fine. I think I'm going to pick up something special for dinner, tonight. Some fish, maybe?"

"Mmmm, sounds good. Salmon or sole, for me, please."

Chad chuckled. "Salmon's in season, I think. Kind of depends on what's on sale, though. Although, clam chowder sounds good, too."

"Oooh, yeah, even better. Who's going to do the cooking?"

"Mike volunteered to barbecue, if that's okay with everyone. Most of the guys could care less, as long as there's plenty of food."

Chrys chuckled. "Ain't that the truth? How long do you think it will take you to get to town, buy everything we need and get back?"

Chad thought a moment. "Well, it's a hundred miles to the nearest town with anything more than a gas station, so two hours there, two hours back, and figure four hours for shopping. You want me to take Mike with me?"

"Any particular reason?" Chrys was a little surprised; Chad and Mike often rubbed each other the wrong way.

"Yeah. He's really spooked about our guest. I figured that if he's with me, he can't be spooking the rest of the guys, if you know what I mean."

Chrys sighed and then nodded. "Good idea. Try to talk some sense into him. Better yet, send him in here to meet our guest when you get back. Maybe that will help him get over his weirdness."

"Will do. I'll send him over with the clothes." He glanced through the door at the patient, "So, how is he, really?"

Chrys shook her head in consternation. "His temperature fluctuates between a fever and normal. He's extremely weak and the least little effort exhausts him. He can't even stand up on his own and walk to the bathroom. He's sleeping a lot, but that's better than the coma yesterday. He's lost his memory - has no idea what his name is or even the year or who the president is. He's scared, and I can't say as I blame him. I faxed his prints off to Washington. Maybe they'll have him on file, somewhere. He seems harmless enough, but then, most serial murderers seemed like nice guys according to their neighbors, as you may know."

Chad chuckled. "Yeah. Mike and his 'mad scientist' theories aren't helping any, either." Chrys joined him in laughter.

"Go on, get out of here before I start believing in men who can walk through walls," Chrys grinned and turned Chad towards the door and gave him a shove.

"Yes, ma'am. Just as soon as I get sizes on our guest." He headed for the counter where the stranger's clothing lay and looked at the labels. He frowned. "You do realize that these clothes are a good forty to fifty years old?"

"Chad..." Chrys growled in warning.

"Hey, just making an observation. The suit pants are Brooks Brothers, by the way." Noticing the heavy silence behind him, Chad wisely took notes on sizes and headed out before Chrys thought of anything more to say.

She stared at the door for several minutes after Chad left, frowning. Going over to the counter, she looked through her patient's clothing, noting the quality and realized that Chad's guesstimate on age was probably pretty accurate. She shook her head in denial. No. She wasn't going to go off the deep end after Mike and his mad scientist theories. Her patient was too weak, too frightened, and too quiet for her to believe him to be the monster Mike claimed him to be. She'd wait to hear from Washington before she'd believe anything else about the stranger.

The day was long and quiet. The crew worked on the cleanup of the debris and didn't need anything from Chrys. With Mike and Chad off getting supplies, everyone simply did their jobs without wondering too much about the stranger who had been found in the rubble.

Chrys kept checking on her patient. He woke easily enough, but was only able to remain awake for short periods of time. He was coherent, as well, but had absolutely no personal memories, not his name, his family, his history. He didn't have any current event knowledge, either, but knew his history, at least up until WWII and Korea... Could Mike be right? She shook her head in denial. He was simply too young to be the missing scientist. He hadn't even been born forty-three years ago.

He did seem prone to nightmares, however, but could never remember anything about them upon awakening. She was always there when he awoke, gently holding him and rousing him from the worst of the dreams. He became frightened of sleep, but she reassured him that she would be there and would awaken him. He was so weak that he had no choice but to accept her reassurances, as she had no answers for him, either.

It was late afternoon when Chad and Mike returned. Mike came into the hospital trailer with several bags of clothing for their guest. He didn't see Chrys immediately, so he dropped the bags in the lab before going to take a look at their patient.

"So, Mikey, does he look like a mad scientist to you?" Chrys spoke softly from behind him. Mike jumped with a strangled yelp of shock.

"Don't do that, Chrys! You scared me," Mike complained.

Chrys forced herself not to laugh. "Sorry, but does he?"

Mike looked back at the sleeping man. The guy looked exhausted and sickly. Certainly he didn't look dangerous, but then; neither did a lot of other dangerous people. "He looks sick."

Chrys nodded. "He is. He's been coughing up cement dust. I've got him sleeping almost sitting up to try to prevent pneumonia. He doesn't remember who he is."

"Yeah, Chad mentioned that. He's too young to be the missing scientist, though, isn't he?"

"Yeah. He wasn't even born when that happened." Chrys turned away to go and look at the clothes Chad and Mike had gotten for their guest. Mike followed her, leaving the patient still sleeping.

While Chrys looked through the bags, Mike wandered around and noticed that a fax had come in. Curious, he picked it up and read it. He turned pale and began to hyperventilate. Noticing, Chrys turned to him, frowning. "What is it?"

"I-it's a fax. It seems our guest's prints are on file in Washington."

"Oh?" Chrys came over, interested, "So, who is he?"

"Dr. Scott Nelson, physicist."

"Really? Never heard of him. Does it say where he works? Family?"

"Chrys..." Mike nearly choked and simply handed her the fax. His expression wasn't one Chrys was familiar with, so she simply took the fax and read it for herself.

She frowned. "This can't be right. He's not old enough. He's...." she trailed off when she saw the part that he was wanted for questioning about the facility they were demolishing. She read further and realized that Dr. Scott Nelson had reported the reactor to the government while it was being built, stating that it was improperly shielded and that it was dangerous. Nothing had been done until 1963, when the facility was permanently closed, three and a half years after the accident that had killed four people...and during which Dr. Scott Nelson had disappeared....

Chrys looked up at Mike, who was still trembling and looking sick. "Mike?"

Mike chuckled. There was a definite note of hysteria in his voice. "My mad scientist. Trapped in the wall of the reactor for forty-three years, Chrys. That guy murdered four people."

"No." Chrys disagreed. "I read up on those deaths. Every last one of them died from radiation poisoning. It's not possible for someone to give someone else radiation poisoning without getting it themselves."

"But he was in the wall, Chrys. You know he was."

Chrys had no answer for that. She just frowned and looked down at the fax. Fingerprints don't lie. According to them, her patient was a seventy-four year old man who had disappeared forty-three years earlier, after he'd reported that the facility he worked at was dangerous. She shook her head. Too many questions and no answers.

She noticed that there was a brother listed, along with an address and phone number. She debated calling him, but put it off until later. Right now, she needed to tell her patient his name...and how long he'd been missing. She wasn't going to pass on the accusations and speculations from 1959. But she would tell him that he'd reported that the reactor was improperly built and shielded.

She sent Mike out to fire up the barbecue for their dinner. She didn't bother to tell him to keep quiet about their guest's identity. Even with the fax, no one would probably believe it.

As Mike headed outside, he paused, "You're sure the coroner's reports say they died from radiation?"

Chrys nodded absently. "Yeah. That's what the conclusion was. His brother insisted he killed them, but there were no witnesses, and the first victim was Scott's best friend. I don't think he'd kill his best friend. Hmmm."


"Scott's brother, Anthony, married Scott's research assistant. Interesting."

"His brother stole his girlfriend?"

"Maybe. If that were the case and, as you and Anthony suggested, Scott was responsible for the deaths, I find it just a bit suspicious, don't you?"

Mike thought about it and nodded. "Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" He grinned and headed out, feeling much better about their 'mad scientist', if they could only figure out how he'd gotten in the wall and not aged for forty-three years....

Scott didn't awaken again until Chrys brought him his dinner. When he did wake, he seemed a bit stronger and managed to sit up on his own. Chrys set the tray across his lap. "I hope you like grilled salmon,"

He sniffed appreciatively at the smells rising from his plate. "Yes, I think I do." He smiled up at her and dug in. She was pleased to see he had a good appetite. Although he'd eaten his breakfast, he'd barely picked at his lunch. Now, however, he ate with relish and cleaned his plate.

Leaning back with a contentedly full sigh, he smiled at her. Seeing her serious expression, he frowned. "What is it?"

"We got back an answer on your fingerprints." She watched him as he nervously plucked at his blanket.

"Oh? Am I wanted for something?"

"No. They wanted to question you about this facility, but that was a long time ago."

He looked up at her. "How long?"

"Thirty-nine years."

He frowned. " old am I?" He'd seen himself in the mirror in the bathroom. He certainly didn't look that old, but as weak and tired as he felt....

"According to the fax, you're seventy-four years old."

"I'm what?" His voice rose in shock.

"Take it easy. There's obviously something we're missing in all this. You can't possibly be over forty, physically, at least. I'd guess you between thirty and thirty-five, myself. Physically, that is."

He just stared at her in consternation. "Who am I?"

"Your name is Scott Nelson." She waited as he mulled over this piece of information. Finally, he shook his head.

"I-I don't remember." He looked at her, a plaintive and frightened look on his face. "What happened?"

"I don't know." Seeing him shiver as the shock set in, she reached for the clothes she'd put on the shelf on the bedside table. "However, we did get you some clothes. He stared at them for several moments before hesitantly taking them. Recognizing his discomfort, she turned to leave him to dress himself. "If you need any help, call me."

"Thank you, Doctor."

She stopped, realizing that she hadn't told him her name. "Chrys, My name is Chrys." She didn't turn to look at him.

"Thank you, Chrys," Scott said softly.

She smiled as she headed through the door. "You're welcome, Scott."

The clothes had that new feel to them, but the cotton was soft and felt good against his skin. Once he was dressed, he felt a lot better, not nearly so vulnerable and helpless. He was still weak, though, so he stretched back out on his bed. When Chrys came back, he looked at her.

"Feeling better?" Chrys asked.

He smiled and Chrys's heart fluttered. He had a beautiful smile. "Much. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Tell me about ...well, myself, I guess."

"Not much to tell, I'm afraid. You've got a PhD in physics and you worked at this facility built, owned, and run by a Dr. Carson. You were here from the beginning and as the reactor was installed, you reported to the federal government that you didn't think it was properly built or shielded. In 1959, there was some sort of accident where four people died of radiation poisoning and you disappeared. Dr. Carson was one of the four victims of the radiation poisoning, as was one of your friends. Your brother tried to blame the deaths on you, but the coroner didn't buy it, saying that the four victims were obviously suffering from radiation sickness. The facility stayed open for about three and a half more years until the federal government came in and shut it down, permanently."

"Why'd they shut it down?" He'd listened to her entire speech without question, but he was curious about the facility.

"The nuclear reactor was improperly built and shielded, just as you'd reported to the government when it was built."

He pondered her words for several minutes, trying desperately to remember. Then, "I still can't remember any of it. You said I have a brother?"

"Yes, Anthony Nelson."

Scott shook his head. "I still can't remember. It's like you're talking about total strangers." He seemed dismayed. "How do you explain that I don't look like I'm seventy-four years old?"

Chrys sighed. "There was one rather outlandish theory, but it's pretty hard to believe."

Scott shook his head. "Sometimes, the outlandish is all there is."

Chrys didn't have an answer for that, so remained silent.

Scott looked at her, expectantly. She shook her head, but decided she had to tell him. "According to your brother, you could walk through walls and you walked into the reactor wall and stayed there, until we used dynamite do demolish the wall and you fell out."

Scott frowned. "Is that possible?"

"Not to my knowledge, no. But that's the story." She watched him as he mulled over this information.

"How could that be possible?" There was obvious curiosity in his voice and expression. She watched in amazement as he suddenly changed from a helpless victim to a fascinated scientist. She now believed he really was Scott Nelson, Doctor of Physics.

"And how come you stayed alive and didn't age?"

He looked up at her, eyes bright. "I have no idea," but he wanted to know, she could see it in his eyes.

"Well, it's going to have to wait, at least until morning."

Scott grinned at her and she could definitely see him as a scientist. He was obviously the kind of man who found everything fascinating and wanted to know how and why things worked. He nodded and settled back into his pillows. "But that's not going to stop me from wondering," he cautioned.

"Of course not," Chrys agreed and watched as he fell almost immediately to sleep. "But you're ill and weak, still, so don't be surprised if you can't jump up and start doing any research, right away," she murmured to the sleeping man as she tucked the covers around him.

Scott only slept a couple of hours before he awoke with another horrible coughing fit. Chrys decided that she really needed to get x-rays. He was too weak to stand without help after the coughing, so Chrys had to help him over to the x-ray machine. He noticed the MRI machine right next to it and frowned.

"What's that?" Scott asked as she eased him down on the x-ray table.

"MRI, Magnetic Resonant Imaging. Sort of like an x-ray, but much more... well, different."

Scott frowned, curious. "How's it work?"

"Let me get some x-rays, then, maybe, I'll just show you." She shouldn't have been surprised, but he immediately stretched out for the x-rays, glancing curiously at the MRI.

She stared at the x-rays. According to them, every joint in Scott's body was calcified. Only it wasn't calcium, but cement, she suspected. He still lay quietly on the x-ray table. "You're in luck. You get to experience the MRI first-hand."

"Is that good, or bad?"

"Well, do your joints ache?"

"A little," Scott admitted, unwilling to explain how hard it was for him to move.

Chrys nodded. The man had a gift for understatement. "Well, I'm going to run you through a full-body scan, if that's all right with you?"

"Sure," he agreed.

"Okay. The MRI requires you to be in a Johnny-coat, I'm afraid. She could see his discomfort, having just gotten clothes, but he gave in easily. At least he'd be covered, somewhat.

She let him undress in private, and then helped him get settled on the MRI. "You have to lie very still. It's going to take a while, too, because we're going to go ahead and do a full-body scan. If you start to feel claustrophobic, let me know and we'll stop, okay?"

"Okay." He lay quietly, fascinated by the entire process. Somehow, she rather doubted he was going to have any trouble lying still....particularly after he fell asleep just as she started the machine.

Something was terribly wrong. She stared at the head scans and frowned. There were three small, dark masses in his brain. Tumors. Poor guy. She wondered how long he'd had them. They looked strange, almost like they were shriveled, but that didn't make any sense. She sighed, not looking forward to telling him he was going to require surgery. She'd make the call to arrange it, certain that it would be funded simply because of the strange circumstances. It could certainly explain his weakness and tendency to fall asleep so easily.

He awoke half-way through the MRI. She could tell when she heard his breath catch. "It's okay, you're doing fine," she called out to reassure him. He relaxed at her voice and the rest of the MRI went without incident.

"Well, that was an MRI. What do you think?"

"May I see the pictures?" Scott asked, comfortable again in his sweatpants and t-shirt.

Chrys hesitated only a moment. "Sure. I need to show you something on your MRI,"

He knew from her tone of voice that it was going to be bad. "Oh?" He watched her as she pulled up the images on the computer. He was fascinated by that, as well. Looking at the images taken of his head, she didn't have to tell him anything.

"These dark spots, cancer?" he asked, stoically.

"Tumors, anyway. We won't know if it's cancer until we take them out and biopsy them."

He looked at her in shock, "Take them out? You can do that?"

He'd lost most of his memory, but obviously knew that brain surgery wasn't something they could do back when he was around. "Yes. I'm not going to say it isn't dangerous, because it is, but I don't know that you can live with them."

He nodded and looked at the images, again. "When?"

"I've already made a call. I expect to hear back from them in a couple of days, at the latest."

"I.... I don't have any money." Even if he did, he was certain that it couldn't possibly be enough to cover such surgery.

"Don't worry about it. I think I've got it covered." She didn't explain that she was affiliated with a research facility that specialized in nuclear medicine. Knowing what she did for certain about this man, she didn't think there'd be any problems whatsoever funding the surgery.

He looked at her, his eyes worried. "I'll have to trust you on this."

She smiled. "Yes, you will. But you'll be informed every step of the way, so you'll be able to make an intelligent decision, not just based on what the doctors say." She watched him and noticed when he made the decision to trust her and released a silent sigh of relief.

"All right. Meanwhile, what do we do?"

"Get some sleep." She had to help him back to bed, where she sat with him until he fell asleep. As soon as he was, she made some phone calls. She was concerned about the strange tumors and, after talking to her favorite specialist, emailed him the MRI scans. Then, all she could do was wait.

She didn't sleep well that night, but Scott slept through with no problems.

"I'm telling you, he's a murderer!" The elderly man was nearly hysterical, his wife standing impatiently beside him.

"Sure, buddy. Who'd he kill?" Chad had noticed the plume of dust approaching and gone out to stop whoever it was before they got to the site.

"Dr. Carson, for one," the man snarled. "You don't know what he can do! I'm telling you, if he puts his hand through you, you'll die!"

Chad frowned. "And just who are you?"

"Tony Nelson. I was here! I saw him go into the reactor, I tell you!" He couldn't believe the stupidity of this guy.

Chad didn't bother to resist, "And I suppose this is Jeannie?" He turned to the elderly woman, who looked insulted.

"Hardly. I'm Linda Nelson, Tony's wife."

There was something in the way she said it that didn't bode well for her husband, Chad thought. "Linda, huh? Care to tell me what you're doing out here at a SuperFund site?"

"We used to work here. Scott Nelson, Tony's brother, was found. At least, that's what we were told. Someone faxed his fingerprints to Washington. They notified us as next of kin. Is he alive?"

So, this was the brother, huh? Chad had stopped by late the night before and Chrys had brought him up to speed on their guest. Anthony Nelson was a jerk and Chad took an instant dislike to the man. The wife wasn't much better, she looked like a shrew.

"Let me call the boss and see whether or not we can let you onto the facility. We're demolishing the place and cleaning up all the radioactive debris." Chad moved away from the elderly couple and radioed in to Chrys.

"What's wrong, Chad?"

"Guess who's on the doorstep, wanting access to our guest?"


"The brother and sister-in-law. Should I let them in?"

There was a long pause while Chrys thought about it. Finally, "Sure, I suppose, but don't let them out of your sight. I want them escorted each inch and every second, got that?"

"Loud and clear. See you in a few." Chad disconnected the radio and went back to the visitors. "You'll have to leave your car here and ride in with me."

"Why?" Mr. Nelson asked, blustering.

"Because them's the rules. You want on the installation, you get escorted at all times. Any time you want to leave, you can go, but your car is not going in." He waited for a moment and added, "Choice is yours, pal. I've got work to do, so if you want in, you'd better come now."

Grumbling, the elderly couple got out of their car and into Chad's open-topped Jeep.

Chad had talked to Scot, and had liked what he'd met. These people, on the other hand, put his hackles up. He drove carefully, making sure he hit every rut and hole on the way in and bounced his passengers around as much as was humanly possible.

As they entered the compound, however, the road smoothed out and Mr. Nelson started to talk again.

"He murdered four people, you know."

"Did you see him do it?"

"No, of course not, but I know he did it."

"Why? And, if you knew, why didn't you stop him?"

"He'd have killed me, too."

"Tony, that's a lie, and you know it."

Tony scowled at his wife. "A lot you know."

Linda sighed. "Grow up, Tony. You can't go blaming everything on your brother. I don't believe he was a monster, even if I was afraid of him for a while. It wasn't until he was gone and we got married that I realized what a huge mistake I made, dumping him for you." Her voice was very bitter. She turned to Chad. "I made the mistake of going for the flash over the substance," she admitted.

"So, you dumped Scott for his brother?" Chad asked, appalled.

Linda sighed. "I'm afraid so." She glared at her husband. "It seems Tony made a habit of stealing Scott's girlfriends."

Tony laughed maliciously. "Well, maybe he'll take you back. At least that way, he won't still be a virgin when he dies." Chad was shocked, but then he thought about the time in which Scott had grown up and lived. It was very possible, but that didn't make him evil... "So, tell me, what did he do to make you hate him so much?"

"He stole my research and misused it."

"Your research?"

"I was working on a method of passing materials through each other. Scott took my idea and somehow made himself able to walk through walls...and people, only when he went through people, they got old and died. He had to, though, because every time he went through a wall, it aged him."

"Uh, yeah. Riiight." But it made sense. "So, how come he could do it and you couldn't?"

Linda answered him. "We don't know, for sure, but he was having these horrible headaches. He'd been having them for months, but the doctor did an EEG and said there was nothing wrong with him."

Headaches? Tumors caused horrendous headaches. Maybe the combination of radiation, the tumors and their location in his brain, and the idea of....could be. He'd have to talk to Chrys about it, though.

Chad pulled up by their living quarters and parked. He watched the couple closely as they got out and looked around.

"So, where is he? You didn't say, is he alive?" Tony asked.

"Mr. Nelson?"

The elderly couple turned to see a good-looking woman coming towards them, wearing a white lab coat. "Yes. I'm Tony Nelson. My brother, Scott, is he alive?"

Chrys could feel the anger coming off the man and decided that there was no way she was letting him near her patient, brother or not. "He's alive, but he's very ill, I'm afraid."

"Well, he's four years older than me, so I'm not surprised," Tony replied. "I want to see him now."

"No." Chrys shifted her weight to one leg and folded her arms across her chest.

"What do you mean, 'no'? He's my brother. I'm his only next of kin. You have no right to keep me from seeing him!"

"I have every right to protect my patient from unnecessary stress." Chrys turned to Chad. "Set them up in the guest quarters, please? When they calm down, let me know and we'll discuss things." Unfolding her arms, she spun on her heel and headed back for her patient.

"Now you wait just a minute!" Tony shouted after her, only to be firmly grabbed by the arm. He glared down at the offending hand.

"Mr. Nelson, you have two choices. You can either come with me peacefully and accept our hospitality, or I can forcibly evict you from the premises. The choice is yours, sir."

Tony blustered, but realized there was no way he could possibly overpower the younger man. Grumbling the entire way, he begrudgingly followed Chad to the visitor's quarters. Once the Nelsons were settled in, Chad headed for the hospital, snagging one of the other workers on the way. "I need you to go and keep watch on our visitors, Tom. Don't let them out of your sight, except for the bathroom, until you're relieved, understand?"

"Sure, Chad." Tom headed for the visitors' quarters and posted himself outside the door. Tom stood six-foot-eight and weighed in at three hundred and forty pounds of solid muscle. There was no way their guests were going to get past him.

Chrys turned when Chad came in. "Well?"

"I don't like them. According to the wife, Linda; well, it seems that Scott was having horrendous headaches before he got messed up in Tony's experiment. He really could walk through walls, according to both of them, they say they saw him enter the reactor wall. They also said that every time he went through a wall, it aged him. When he went through people, he somehow sucked up their lives and aged them to death." Chad's tone of voice indicated that he didn't quite believe that last part, even if Scott had been able to pass through walls.

"Hmmmm. I can't say I was too impressed, myself. Learn anything else?"

Chad thought about the snide comment that Tony had made and debated passing on the information. "Well, considering when he was raised and the way things were back then...." He took a deep breath and hurried on, "According to his brother, he's still a virgin."

Somehow, she wasn't really surprised. It certainly explained his discomfort at not having any clothes on. "Could be. Not that it matters or is anyone's business but Scott's. Besides, even if he weren't, he doesn't remember, so he might as well be, right?" Chrys looked at Chad, a challenge in her eyes.

Chad grinned. "No one's business but his." Chrys nodded, grateful that Chad knew how to keep his mouth shut. "So, he had blinding headaches. That certainly goes along with brain tumors. You said he'd had the headaches for several months before his brother arrived with his experiment?"

"According to Linda, yes. She also said the company doctor said it wasn't anything to worry about. They didn't even do x-rays, just an EEG."

Chrys nodded. "That could have made the difference, you know. The tumors combined with Tony's experiment. Yeah, maybe. But he can't do it now, because I kind of think the tumors are dead."


"The tumors. It seems that they've died. We still need to go in and remove them, but they're not viable tumors any more. Not according to Dr. Edmunds. I emailed him the scans and he said the tumors had shrunk and died, as though they'd been zapped with a strong course of chemo and radiation. I told him that the radiation was definitely likely, considering where we found him."

Chad frowned, "That means that the tumors were much larger than they are now? Man, how did he function at all, let alone do experiments and walk through walls?"

"Willpower?" They exchanged speculative looks.

"Maybe. But he doesn't remember any of it, not even his own name."

"Well, it was probably pretty traumatic. I can understand why he might not want to remember. Especially after meeting his brother."

"He's a blamer," Chad volunteered. "Linda mentioned that he needed to grow up and stop blaming everything that's wrong in his life on his older brother." Chad suddenly chuckled. At Chrys's questioning glance, he explained. "His older brother is now about forty years younger than him. Talk about sibling rivalry. Can you imagine what they're going to say if we do let them see him?"

Chrys tried not to laugh, and snorted in the process. "Oh, yeah. It would almost be worth it, if it weren't bad for Scott. Dr. Edmunds is on his way here. When he arrives, probably sometime this evening, bring him right in, will you? And keep the Nelsons occupied, and if you can get anything more out of them, it could be useful."

"Do I have to?" Chad whined unconvincingly.

Chrys chuckled. "No, I suppose not, but someone has to stick with them. I certainly don't want it to be Mike."

Chad nodded, understanding. "He'd probably take every word as gospel, at that. Maybe have him sit with Scott while you talk to them?"

"That might not be a bad idea. Tell him to come by after dinner, would you? And keep him away from the Nelsons, too, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am!" Chad gave a mocking salute and headed out.

Chrys looked up in surprise to see Scott leaning heavily in the doorway. She sighed. "I suppose you heard?"

"Yeah." He simply stood there, gazing at her, no expression on his face. "What do you think? Am I a murderous monster, or some kind of sick bastard?"

She regarded him for a moment before answering. "Neither. I see a man who was dedicated to his craft, which happens to be science and physics. You were injured on the job by an improperly built and shielded nuclear reactor, which caused brain tumors. You then performed an experiment that went horribly wrong, but because of the injury, you weren't capable of comprehending what had happened. Now, if you were to take up trying to walk through walls again, that's another thing." Her eyes never left his, wanting him to know that no matter what had happened in the past, she didn't blame him for it.

He nodded, slowly. "And my brother and his wife?"

"I don't want them anywhere near you. Your brother blames you for everything that's gone wrong in his life and, considering that you haven't been around in forty-three years, that hardly seems fair, now, does it?"

"I suppose not."

"And as for your sister-in-law...she's another piece of work."

Scott, who had heard every word Chad said about his brother and sister-in-law, nodded slowly. "Jealous?" he asked, seriously.

Chrys looked surprised, then blushed. "Maybe a little," she admitted. Scott smiled wearily at her.

"I think I need to lie back down. Are the tumors why I tire out so easily?"

"Partly. Mostly, though, I think it's because of all the cement you absorbed. That's what you're coughing up, by the way: cement."

"Cement? Is that why my joints ache?"

"Yes. Your body is working very hard to expel it, however. I'm going to want samples, the next time you go to the bathroom, by the way."

Scott grimaced in distaste, but nodded. "You're the doctor."

She smiled at him and noticed how tired he looked. "Come on. Back to bed, for you. I'll bring you some cranberry juice to go with your lunch. It's good for the kidneys and might help you wash some of that cement out of your system."

Scott was too tired to do more than nod and accept Chrys's assistance in getting back to bed. He quickly fell asleep as soon as he was down. Chrys was getting used to it, realizing that he needed to sleep for his body to heal itself, but it still worried her.

Chad left Tom on guard duty, but went in to try and get some more information from the Nelsons. The more he talked to them, the less he liked them. He got the specifics on Tony's experiment and the things that had happened back in 1959. The more he heard, the more he felt sorry for Scott. The picture they painted was of a dedicated workaholic. Chad could relate to that, being something of a workaholic himself. What probably bothered him the most, however, was Linda. She'd thrown Scott aside for his younger brother, but now regretted it. Why they'd stayed married was a question he had no desire to ask, although he would like to know. Maybe they felt guilty about what they'd done to Scott? Doubtful. They were both so self-centered and self-absorbed that he doubted that they ever gave a single moment's concern for Scott.

He was thinking even if Scott had killed those people, that one, the brain tumors would have negated his responsibility and two, if he did kill them, it was probably an accident. The only mad scientist he could see, was the elderly one before him. Tony and Linda, Chad thought, deserved each other.

Having gotten as much information as he could from them, Chad arranged for lunch to be delivered to the couple and left. He smirked when he saw Tony try to follow him and Tom step to block him. The old man took one look at the young giant and immediately turned tail.

Mike took lunch to Chrys and Scott. He was trying to come to grips with the myth vs. the reality. Chrys took the opportunity to head out for a bit, while Mike sat with Scott.

Scott ate his lunch slowly. He wasn't really hungry, but knew that Chrys would be upset if he didn't at least make an attempt to eat. He did drink everything offered, however. The cranberry juice was a favorite. He just didn't feel well and finally pushed the plate away.

"So," he asked Mike, "Do you think I'm a monster?"

Mike looked at him and noticed the faint tremors in his hands. He shook his head. "I don't know what to believe. Do I think you're a monster? No. Even if you were, those brain tumors would have relieved you of any responsibility for your actions. I understand you'd been suffering from migraines for several weeks prior to all that happened, yet the doctor never even took x-rays. If he had, well, you'd be dead, now."

Scott frowned. "I would?"

"Yeah. Brain surgery was practically impossible back then. Even if it was a success, you wouldn't be you afterwards. There've been tremendous strides in medicine since then. Sure, it's still life threatening surgery, but you've got an excellent chance to not only survive, but to come out of it relatively intact, just missing some hair and the tumors."

Scott frowned. "You sure about that? I seem to remember lobotomies being popular...." He trailed off, uncertain of the memory.

"Yeah. I remember reading about that. They're almost never done any more, thank God."

Scott nodded, accepting the information.

"Now, do I believe you could walk through walls? I have to say yes." He shook his head. "It's the only way you could have gotten here, falling out of the reactor wall when we blew it up. I can't explain it, but I believe it." He looked at Scott and saw a worried, ill man. "You should try to eat some more or Chrys will get on your case."

Scott looked down at his plate and shook his head. "I can't. I'm sorry."

Mike nodded. "Okay, then. You tried, that's the important thing."

"Tell me what I've missed?" Scott asked, curious about what had happened in the world.

"Well, computers can sit on top of your desk and are a thousand times better and faster than the best tube and transistor computers you had. They're all chips, now." Seeing Scott's confusion, he grinned. "I'm sure you'll catch up. Ask Chrys and she might even let you surf the 'net for information."

"Surf the 'net?"

Mike chuckled. "Yeah, you can talk from one computer to another, now. It's called the internet and it's full of all kinds of stuff, just about anything you could ever want to know is on the internet."

"Really?" Scott sounded very interested. "What else have I missed?"

"Well, you missed almost all of the cold war. The Soviet Union built a wall around West Berlin about the time you disappeared and it was torn down in, thirteen years ago... and Germany has been reunited and the Soviet Union has dissolved, with most of the countries that made it up becoming little democratic countries, more or less. Our current 'war' is in Afghanistan, and a bunch of terrorists attacked us several months ago. They took commercial planes and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and hit the Pentagon in DC. We're over there trying to catch and/or kill all the terrorists. Not that I think it's going to succeed, but they're trying."

"The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?" Scott said a bit sadly. "We thought the new millennium would bring some kind of utopia. But it hasn't really changed at all, has it?"

"No. People are still people. Oh! The US went to the moon a few times, and we're working on building a space station."

"No tourist flights to Mars, yet?" Scott grinned.

Mike laughed. "Nope, but they're talking about trying to get there. I'm not so sure it's a good idea, because it would be really hard to get them back, you know?"

"I can imagine." Scott found himself rather liking this rotund little man. "So, what else have I missed?"

"Viet Nam. A war that we lost."

"Sounds bad."

"It was, and it was stupid. All it really did was divide the country and cause trouble. Unfortunately, the guys who went were the ones who suffered the most. The war was so unpopular that when they finally came home, they were spit on and yelled at. A lot of the homeless are vets. They couldn't reacclimate to civilian life and the hatred they felt from people kept a lot of them from ever getting back into society." He looked at Scott, who was frowning. "My dad was one of them. He never could get over it. He killed himself, finally."

"I'm sorry," Scott said, sincerely. "All that makes whatever happened to me seem highly insignificant, unless I really did murder those people."

Mike looked long and hard at Scott and could see his concern. "Since the first victim was your best friend, I don't think it was murder. I think it was probably an accident. I can't say about that one, your boss Dr. Carson, but I think the others, at least, were accidents."

"What about Dr. Carson?" Scott tried to remember and still couldn't.

"According to everything we've been able to find out, you did all the work and he took all the credit. He sounded like a real creep. But all four deaths were attributed to radiation poisoning. That would fall on Dr. Carson, since he ignored your concerns about the building of the reactor. You even wrote to the federal government saying you thought the reactor was improperly built and shielded, but they didn't do anything about it until much too late. Most of the people who lived in town ended up getting weird, new cancers from this place. That's why they finally closed it down, but not until 1963."

Scott nodded. "So, I'm just a mad scientist, not a monster?"

Mike looked at him, thinking he was joking, but saw the man was perfectly serious. "Mad? No. Angry, maybe. I'm willing to think that you're like most science geeks, only interested in the research."

"Geek?" Scott frowned, thinking the word meant something else.

"Science nerd is another term. I bet you carried around a slide rule in your pocket."

"Tie bar," Scott replied automatically and then looked surprised. "I remember that. I had a slide rule for a tie bar. I seem to remember using it all the time."

Mike grinned. "Well, slide rules are obsolete. Computers can do all those computations a whole lot faster." Seeing Scott's interest, he offered, "Maybe Chrys will let me show you."

Scott nodded, almost eagerly; if he weren't so tired.... Mike noticed and stood up to leave, "I'd better let you get some rest, huh? Maybe we'll talk again, later."

"I'd like that," Scott agreed. As Mike picked up the dishes and turned away, he called after him, "Hey, Mike? What exactly do you do?"

Mike turned around and grinned. "I'm an engineer. I specialize in HAZMAT demolition and cleanup."

"HAZMAT? What's that?"

"It's a contraction for 'hazardous materials'. We go around and clean up places like this, so they can be returned to use, if at all possible. This reactor was particularly dirty, just as you reported. It got into the groundwater and soil. Our job is to dig it all out until the radiation, in this case, is little enough that people can come back. The only thing that might prevent that is if the groundwater is too contaminated. Of course, this being a desert, it might heal itself, once we take the contaminants away. Nature has a pretty good track record for healing itself."

"You like your work?"

Mike grinned. "Oh, yeah. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. Look, you can hardly keep your eyes open, so why don't you get some sleep and we can talk more, later?"

"All right. Thank you."

Mike frowned, "You're welcome, but what are you thanking me for?"

"For not thinking I'm a monster...."

Mike had no answer for that and, dropping his head in shame, he turned and left.

He was sitting at Chrys's desk when she came back from her walk and talk with Chad. He looked up at her from the files he was reading on the 'accident' in 1959.

"What is it, Mikey?"

"I don't believe them."


"The brother and research assistant." He shook his head. "I just can't see him as a killer. Accidentally, maybe, but on purpose? Nah. I just can't see it, not after talking to him."

Chrys nodded. "His brother and sister-in-law, his former research assistant, are here. Tony's blustering about his horrible brother, and Linda is sniping at him to grow up and take responsibility for his own actions."

"His research assistant married his brother?" Mike asked in surprise.

"Yeah. And, according to them, Tony 'stole' her away from Scott. Lucky Scott, is all I can say."

"So, that's who's under guard in the visitor's quarters?"

"Yep. Chad met them up on the hill and brought them down. He took an instant dislike to them, and I can't say as I like them any more than he does. They're slimy, if you get my drift."

Mike nodded. "I like him," he admitted, almost reluctantly.

Chrys smiled. "So do I. Dr. Edmunds is on his way here. He'll decide where and when to do the surgery to remove the tumors. I can't imagine it's going to be here and with any luck, we'll be finished with the job by the time he does the surgery."

Mike nodded. "How bad is it?"

"The tumors are all dead, but they can't stay there, they could shift and kill him. They appear to be easy to get at and with any luck at all, he'll wake up with his memory back and a headache. Or maybe just the headache. What happened back then was pretty traumatic for him, no doubt. His brother stealing his girl again and the experiment gone horribly wrong. It might be better if he doesn't ever remember."

"Again? You mean his brother stole his girlfriends before?"

"Yeah, he bragged about it, until Linda pointed out that she blew it. I still think that Scott was lucky. He might have never gone into the reactor if she hadn't thrown him over for Tony."

Mike shook his head. "Hell of a family, eh?"

"According to the records, their parents were killed when Tony was still in high school and Scott was in college. He did everything to help Tony, supported him, got him into college after high school, worked like a dog to make sure his brother had everything. And his brother took advantage of him. Tony'd get into trouble and Scott would rescue him. Probably felt responsible for him, after their folks died."

"Sounds like a good guy. In fact, sounds like the guy I was talking to in there. Oh, by the way, I hit some of the historical high-spots he missed. Berlin Wall, both going up and coming down, Viet Nam, landing on the moon, computers. He wants to learn to surf the 'net."

Chrys laughed. "Maybe I'll let you take him out for a surfing lesson. Did he eat his lunch?"

Mike shook his head. "He tried, but he didn't get much down. Maybe...well, maybe that cement in his system is making him sick? I mean, not wanting to eat, sick."

Chrys nodded. "Could be. I'll have to get him to swallow some activated charcoal, maybe. It could help."

"Yeah, if it doesn't make him puke his guts out."

Chrys grimaced, "There is that."

Mike stood up. "I'm going to head out. The rubble has been cleared and the statue has been preserved. We're going to blow up the rest of it tomorrow and we should have it all cleared out within three or four days, barring any accidents."

"Great, Mike. Thanks. If you see Edmunds, show him right in, will you?"

"Yes, ma'am," Mike smiled at her and headed out.

Chrys checked on her patient, who was sleeping again. She noticed he was perspiring and took his temperature, which was slightly elevated. When she wiped his brow with a tissue, she realized he was even exuding cement through his pores. There had to be some way to hurry the process along, she thought. Fluids, of course. He drank everything they gave him. Maybe if she gave him lots of fluids, particularly those known to be 'cleansing', it could help his body expel the residual cement? She went outside and found one of the workers.

"The 'statue' I want it weighed and compared with what it should weigh, please?" The man nodded and went to find out for her. She frowned as she realized that the man she'd just talked to had been one of the four new guys, and that neither he nor any of the other new men had made a single pass at her. That was most unusual. She usually had to fend off at least one pass before anyone new to the crew understood that she wasn't interested. She made a mental note to ask Mike or Chad about it, later.

She wondered if maybe taking Scott out for a walk would help. If he was even sweating cement, then perhaps that could be a good way to help him work it out of his system? Maybe. It certainly couldn't hurt. She frowned as she wondered if passing cement was anything like passing a kidney stone? She winced in sympathy if it was, and she couldn't imagine it being otherwise. She'd have to ask. Meanwhile, she needed to find some way to get rid of Tony and Linda Nelson. Ozzie and Harriet they definitely were not. On the one hand, she didn't want them anywhere near her patient, on the other hand, as next of kin they were entitled to any and all information she had... and access to Scott. Before she'd do that, however, she wanted to talk them

Maybe after dinner.

Dr. Edmunds arrived that afternoon. He didn't want to wait to examine his patient and run a second set of x-rays and another MRI. Chrys gratefully showed him around and introduced him to Scott.

Dr. Edmunds frightened Scott. He tried to hide it, but Chrys wasn't fooled. She wondered why, until she realized that Edmunds was treating him more like a lab experiment than a living, breathing, aware patient. She frowned and drew him aside.

"Care to tell me what's wrong, John?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You're treating him like a lab rat. He's not. He's a human being and you're scaring him to death. Frighten him too badly and I won't guarantee he'll be willing to let you anywhere near him in an operating room, and I wouldn't blame him one bit."

Edmunds frowned at her and drew himself up, rather huffily, Chrys thought. "I don't know what you mean, I'm treating him...."

"Like he has no feelings or say in what happens to him. He does, and the final decision is his, not yours or mine. Yes, I agree that the tumors need to be removed and that they're going to provide some fascinating research possibilities, but you've got to remember that this is a human being, not a lab animal. He's got feelings and concerns. I'm not going to let you blithely railroad him into anything. He needs reassurance that you're not just going to kill him so you can study what happened. Do you understand me?" She was furious, and very glad she hadn't told him everything about Scott.

Edmunds stared at her in surprise. She was obviously annoyed with him and he really didn't want her angry with him, he still had hopes of one day getting to know her better. To further this end, he backed down. "I'm sorry. It's just such a fascinating case, I guess I got overly excited and forgot, for just a moment, that cases involve real people. Can you forgive me?" He smiled winningly at her, but could see it didn't work, as her next words demonstrated that fact.

"I'm not the one you need forgivness from, John. If you can't develop a better bedside manner, I'll call in someone else; and you know that anyone else I could call would be just as good a surgeon as you are and would jump at a chance like this."

Edmunds lost all pretense at civility. "Then maybe you'd just better call someone else, then." He spun on his heel and left, expecting her to come after him and hesitating at the door when she didn't say anything. He turned to look at her, frowning. "Well?"

Chrys shrugged. "I'll make the call, later," and turned away to return to her patient. Edmunds stared after her, slack jawed in shock.

"You can't be serious!" he shouted after her. She turned back to him.

"Serious as a brain tumor, John." She waited for him to say something else. She saw him deflate, his head dropping as he sighed.

"I'm sorry."

"Tell Scott. Maybe he'll decide to let you operate, although I'm not sure I want you anywhere near him."

Edmunds sighed, knowing that no matter what, he'd lost this round. "You're right, Chrys. Let's see if I can salvage this."

Chrys knew that Scott was depending on her to take care of him. He didn't understand the medical terminology, but he certainly understood attitude, and Edmunds' attitude was enough to frighten anyone, let alone a man with no memories.

Far more gently, Edmunds explained the surgery, how it would be performed and where. It wasn't enough to ease Scott's fears, but he took his cues from Chrys and finally agreed to the operation. It wasn't like it was unnecessary, after all. Just because he didn't like the surgeon didn't make the necessity any less.

"Brain tumors? What are you talking about?" Tony frowned, looking at the disagreeable woman doctor.

"He has three brain tumors," she repeated. Turning to Linda, she added, "Those headaches you said he suffered from? That's what caused them."

"Tumors?" Linda repeated, aghast. She looked at her husband, frowning. "The company doctor said it wasn't anything...."

"He lied, obviously, or possibly he didn't know. An EEG won't show tumors, generally." Chrys replied.

"Brain tumors. Tony realized what it meant. "You mean he didn't know what he was doing?"

"I can't answer that, since he's got almost total amnesia in regards to his past and self-knowledge." She watched the elderly couple as they realized the ramifications.

"Even if he'd been caught and charged, he'd never have been convicted."

"Probably not. He'd simply have died."

The couple didn't react to that. They'd resigned themselves to Scott's death a very long time ago. "Can we see him, please?" Linda asked, looking hopefully at Chrys.

"That depends on what you want to say to him. I can't allow you to upset him any more than he already is. After all, he's lost forty-three years, all memories of his past, and is facing major life-threatening surgery in a very short time. If you can guarantee not to upset him further, I'll let you see him, one at a time, and with an escort."

"Escort?" Tony didn't like that idea.

"Escort. If he starts to become agitated, someone must be there to end the visit and take care of him. Meaning that if whatever you want to say to him can't be said in front of me, you're not going to talk to him." Chrys's posture indicated there would be no negotiation.

Linda was the first one to nod her agreement. "That sounds fair enough." She looked at her scowling husband and added, "It also means that you can't blast him for anything. Besides, he won't even know us."

Tony scowled but finally nodded his agreement. "All right." He looked at his wife, "You can go first."

Chrys stood up and waited for Linda to rise and follow her. As they made their way to the hospital trailer, she cautioned, "You're going to be shocked by his appearance, but don't let it affect you, or at least try not to. He's frightened and easily confused, still, but I've got him reading up on the history he's missed."

Linda paused, "He's missed a lot, hasn't he?" she mused.

"An entire lifetime, if you think about it."

Linda nodded. "How bad does he look?"

"Considering what he's been through, he looks remarkably well. He tires easily and is very weak, but his mind is sharp, just with no memories."

"Do you think his memory might return?"

Chrys thought 'I hope not', but said, "There's no way to know for sure. The surgery might bring his memory back, or it could further degrade. We won't know until and if it happens." She could see Linda thinking that she'd like to bring his memory back...was she in for a shock. She tried not to smirk as Linda began strutting like a woman on a mission of seduction. A very big shock....

Scott was dozing over his book. He still couldn't seem to stay awake for more than an hour at a time, but his naps were lighter and not as long-lasting. He heard them enter the trailer and his eyes were open when they entered the room. He stared at the woman staring at him. He had no idea who she might be.

Linda frowned. "Scott?" she asked uncertainly. She glanced at the doctor in shock. He looked even younger than she remembered him, there was only a faint touch of gray at his temples and the rest of his hair was it's original brown.

"Yes?" He'd accepted his name easily, as it was the only one offered him, but he obviously didn't recognize this woman.

"I-I'm Linda."

He cocked his head, slightly. "Do I know you?"

"No. No, you don't," she admitted. He frowned.

"Do you know me?" he asked.

"I used to, or at least I thought I did." She shook her head in amazement. "You look good," she continued wistfully.

"Thank you," Scott replied trying desperately to connect this woman to his missing past.

"I understand you've lost your memory."

"I'm afraid so." He just looked at her blankly, no sign of recognition. Linda shook her head and rose to leave. She had nothing to say to him. She had children older than Scott appeared now.

He thought about asking her about himself, but something stopped him. Instead, he watched her leave.

Chrys stayed behind with Scott, leaving one of the crewmen to escort her back to the visitor's quarters. She smiled sadly at Scott. "Up to another visitor?"

"Who was she?"

"Linda. She was your research assistant and is now your sister-in-law." She watched him, gauging his reaction.

"Why did she say that I didn't know her, then? I mean, if we worked together...?"

"Because she was saying you didn't really know her, that she wasn't what you thought she was back then."

Scott looked confused, not understanding. "What aren't you telling me?"

Chrys decided not to tell him that he'd been in love with Linda. For one thing he didn't remember, and for another, she was now old enough to be his mother. "Nothing. I know as little as you do."

Scott frowned, thinking that Chrys was keeping something from him, but not having any idea what it could be. "Am I that old?" he asked, typical of a young man looking at someone who looked much older.

"Older, actually. Chronologically, at any rate. You're less than half her age, physically," she reassured him.

"So, is my brother coming, too?" He looked uncertain about the meeting. His brother was younger than he was, but he hadn't aged and his brother had. What could he possibly say to him? Especially since he didn't remember him?

"Only if you want to see him." Chrys was careful to keep her own opinions out of her expression and voice.

Scott shook his head. "I don't remember them," he whispered in dismay.

"Maybe seeing him will bring back something? Like the slide-rule comment Mike made?" Mike had told her that Scott remembered his slide rule. She thought it was a significant memory, considering.

"But seeing Linda didn't bring back anything," he pointed out.

Thank God, Chrys thought. "But she isn't your brother."

"Tell me about him? Anything you know?" Seeing her reticence, he added, "Please?"

Chrys shook her head and sighed. For some reason, this man touched what she had thought her non-existant maternal instincts. He was vulnerable without being helpless, weak without being a wuss. "Your parents were killed when you were in your second year of college and Tony was still in high school. You worked like a dog, providing a home for your brother and making sure he finished school and got a chance to go to college, at the same time, you were working your own way through school."

Scott tried to fill in the blanks. "So, I gave him everything our parents would have, right?" That made sense.

"Yes. Plus, every time he got into trouble, you bailed him out."

He frowned, "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?"

"He blames you for everything that's ever gone wrong in his life."

Scott was confused. "Why?"

"Because you never made him stand on his own, until it was too late." She could see her words hurt him, but she felt they needed to be said. She didn't want Tony to hurt him any more.

"So, I did a lousy job?"

"You did the best you could with what you had to work with. Normally, big brothers protect little brothers and sisters. You just allowed him to keep falling back on your largesse. He came here to you after losing the last in a long line of jobs. He was working on that project of his and managed to burn down the lab he worked in. You got him a job here and he told you about his experiment. You tried it and somehow made it work, but it went all wrong."

"So, I am a mad scientist."

"Dedicated. Curious. Not mad, not insane. I'm convinced that the brain tumors had a lot to do with why you could make the experiment work, but you had no control over it. It wasn't your fault, Scott." She wanted to shake him until he believed her.

"But," he began.

"No 'buts'. The only blame belongs to the man who ignored your concerns about building the reactor. None of it would have happened if the reactor had been properly built and shielded. That's the bottom line, nothing else." He looked up at her and a faint smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. "Bet you could sell refrigerators to Esquimos."

"Inuit." She saw his confusion and explained. "They prefer to be called Inuit, that's what they really are. The term Esquimo was a derogatory term given them by another tribe and the white men accepted it. It's a politically correct thing."

"Politically correct?" Something else new. He was beginning to wonder if he'd ever understand this new world he found himself in.

Chrys smiled in commiseration. "Yeah. No more miss or missus, just MS. Chairperson, postal worker, all kinds of things are supposed to be gender-non-specific."

"It's going to take me forty years to catch up, and I'll still be behind." He sounded discouraged.

"Nah. You'll catch up quickly, once everything settles down. You'll see."

"And how am I supposed to make a living in the meantime?"

That was something she'd never considered. "We'll figure out something."


She met his eyes and held them. "We." They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time, but couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." They continued to gaze at one another. Finally, Chrys looked away and asked, "So, do you want to see Tony, now?"

"Might as well get it over with," he agreed. She nodded and left to bring his brother in.

"Linda said he hasn't aged, that he looks younger than the last time we saw him."

"Yes. I suppose so."

"I have children who are older than he is."

Chrys wondered what kind of adults those children had become? Blamers like their father, or whiners like their mother? But she didn't ask and simply led him to Scott. She moved away a bit and turned to keep an eye on the proceedings.

Tony stared. Linda was right. The last time he'd seen his brother, he looked about fifty years old. Yet, here he was looking almost exactly like he had when he first arrived here, so long ago. He stared. Scott met his gaze evenly, but there was no recognition in those blue eyes and Tony felt a twinge of something.

"Hey, Scott. How are you doing?"

"Better than I suppose I have any right to be," Scott replied, unsure of himself and his brother.

Tony shook his head, remembering his brother and how he'd been there to rescue him every time he screwed up; and how he'd blamed him ever since the last time, how he'd been unwilling to take any of the responsibility for what had happened. Blaming Scott for being able to work his experiment without any equipment, just by will, alone...and to discover, at last, that it was all due to some horrendous, deadly brain tumors.

"I've missed you, big brother."

"I'm sorry." Scott shook his head. "I just don't remember you...or much of anything, to tell the truth."

Tony nodded. Standing here, looking at his brother after so many years, he felt cheated. That he had cheated himself. "Maybe that's for the best, then. You can start over with no baggage."

Scott frowned. "Can I?"

"Yeah. You know, I've, uh, I've got your bank account, you know? And your stock portfolio? I kept them for you. I didn't do much with them, but I do still have them, paid your taxes on them and such."

"You did?" Scott, after hearing what everyone had had to say about Tony, was surprised.

"Well, yeah. I couldn't exactly have you declared dead, not with you...well, you know."

"Thank you." Maybe he wasn't as bad off as he had thought he was.

"I, uh, I've got the papers in the car. I'll have someone take me up to get them." He hadn't known what had possessed him to bring the papers with him, but now he was glad he had. Scott's signature was on file with the stockbroker he'd used back in 1959, and it was certainly on file with the bank. He'd simply acted as executor, pending either his brother's return or the proof he was dead.

Scott stared longingly at his brother, wishing he could remember...something, anything. But there was nothing and he finally shook his head. "I'm sorry. I just don't remember."

For a moment, the rage he'd been harboring for all those years bubbled up to the surface, but he forced it down. Scott had brain tumors, cancer that might have been cured, by some miracle; tumors that he'd have died from if all this hadn't happened.

"It's not your fault," Tony forced out.

"It isn't yours, either."

And that was the break Tony needed. His brother, even with no memory of him, was still trying to protect him. He shook his head. Unable to meet his brother's eyes, he turned away and left without another word.

Scott thought to call after his brother, but Chrys's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "Let him go. He's blamed you for forty-three years, it's going to take a while to come to grips with it all."

"I wish I could remember...."

"But maybe not remembering is really for the best."

"I wish I could be sure, is all."

Chrys had no answer and simply nodded.

Tony spoke to the young giant who guarded their door, asking that someone return him and his wife to their car. Tom saw Chad talking to Mike and whistled for their attention. When the two men turned to look, he motioned them over. When they came, he explained what was wanted. Mike volunteered to take them to their car and Chad couldn't think up a reason not to let him. He just hoped that the Nelsons didn't say anything to set him off.

Mike got the jeep and when he pulled up by the guest quarters, Tom opened the door to the visitor's quarters and let Tony and Linda out. They got in the Jeep and Mike slipped the clutch and headed for the gate and the hill beyond.

"Did you get to talk to your brother?" Mike asked.

"Yes." Tony looked at the man driving them. He had a grin on his face and looked like everything was right with his world. "Have you talked to Scott at all?"

"Yeah. A little." Mike was suddenly suspicious. "Why?"

"Does he really not remember anything?"

"General history, but nothing personal, why?"

"Just wondering. He said he didn't recognize us, but it's been so long...."

"Yeah. I guess."

"He did kill those people, you know," Tony added, unconsciously baiting their driver.

"Yeah? Well, it was using your experiment, wasn't it? That makes it your responsibility, don't you think?"

"I didn't tell him to take my equipment and run it. Besides, my equipment was broken and he could do it without it!"

Mike frowned. "I read all the stories, before we came here. How you called him a monster and a murderer. Seems to me that you made an awful lot of noise, even knowing that you wouldn't be believed. Could that be because you were pissed off that he could make 'your' experiment work and you couldn't? Did you ever get it to work?"

Tony was quiet for a moment, but Linda spoke up, laughing snidely. "No. Never. He got it to work once, he said, and had a wooden pencil through a steel plate, but he never could duplicate it."

"Sounds like jealousy, to me. The reports claimed all four died from radiation poisoning. I'm surprised they didn't shut this place down then, but let it go on operating for almost four more years."

"There were government contracts to fill," Linda muttered, then laughed. "Cargonite, the impenetrable material. Scott developed it, but at the news conference, old Carson never once mentioned who did all the work, but Scott didn't care. He only cared about the research, the discoveries. Funny thing, though, they couldn't manufacture Cargonite. Not without Scott, even with all his notes. That was what finally shut us down."

"You mean that I couldn't duplicate the process, don't you?" Tony's voice was bitter.

"No one could. Not without Scott. I couldn't and I was there every minute while he was working on it. I think the radiation must have scrambled his brain waves, to let him do those things."

"Maybe. It doesn't matter, any more. Scott doesn't remember anything about anything." Tony almost sounded regretful.

"What bugs me is that he's younger than our kids," Linda said softly. "I can't get over that. He looks so...well, so young."

"He is. Lucky bastard."

Mike listened to them, driving silently and letting them talk. When they reached the Nelson's car, he stopped. He didn't offer to help them out, simply waiting to watch and make sure they left. He could understand Chad's dislike of the couple. They were certainly nothing like Scott, memories or not. Tony got out of the jeep and opened the trunk of his car, getting a briefcase out. Opening it, he pulled several folders out and then closed the case and put it back in the trunk. Leaving Linda impatiently waiting for him to unlock the doors, he came back to the jeep and held the folders out to Mike.

"These are Scott's. It's his stock portfolio and his bank account. Everything's there, taxes, earnings; everything."

"I'll see that he gets it."

Tony nodded and turned back to his car. Looking at his wife, he sighed regretfully. Unlocking the driver's side door, he pushed the button to unlock the other door. Linda jerked the door open and got in, slamming the door behind her. Tony got behind the wheel and started the car. They didn't say a word to each other and never looked back.

Mike watched them until they were out of sight.

Once he was sure they were gone, Mike started the jeep up and headed back to camp. After parking the jeep in its usual spot, he headed for the hospital trailer to give the folders to Scott.

Chrys was sitting tilted back in her chair, her feet up on her desk. Scott was sitting opposite her, eyes closed and face drawn and pale. Mike placed the folders on the desk between them. "Tony left these for you," Mike murmured.

Scott looked curiously at the folders and desultorily pulled one over to look at it. He stared at the contents, frowning. "I don't know what this means," he admitted, sighing in discouragement.

"Let me see," Chrys asked, sitting up and reaching for another folder. She opened it and looked, then looked again, her eyes widening. "Good God Almighty!"

"What?" Mike asked, startled.

"You bought IBM stock?"

Scott shrugged, not understanding. Mike moved around to be able to see over Chrys's shoulder. Seeing the file's contents, he whistled in admiration "Four cents a share? Man, how many shares does he have, Chrys?"

"A lot. Scott, I don't think you need to worry about money."


"Because you are a wealthy man. Your brother did very well for you. I suppose he didn't, really, but he left your stocks alone and let them grow. Where's the bank stuff?"

The bank account wasn't nearly as spectacular, although Tony had moved all the accounts into high-yield CDs many years earlier. All in all, Scott could probably live modestly on the interest and dividends of forty plus years of savings and a stock portfolio that had never been touched since it was originally purchased.

"Well?" Scott asked, frowning.

"Well, you don't need to work for a while at least. You have enough to live on, if you're careful. Certainly enough to go back to college and take some courses to catch up." She looked up at him and smiled.

Mike was grinning, too. "Lucky you, man. You'll be just fine, it looks like to me,"

Scott frowned, still unsure. "That's providing I survive the surgery, isn't it?"

Chrys understood his fear. "You'll be okay."

He looked at her. "I suppose if I'm not, I'll not notice it, will I?"

"I'll be with you every step of the way, I promise."

Scott nodded, accepting the promise. Mike frowned, looking from one to another as little suspicions began to trot along his nerve endings. "Well, I'm going to go see what's for dinner. I'll send something over for you, okay?"

"Thanks, Mike," Chrys smiled at him. When he was gone, she looked at Scott. "I think it's time for you to lie back down."

He begrudgingly nodded. He hated being so weak, but there wasn't a thing anyone could do about it...and the surgery might not help that....

After dinner, Chrys went out for a while, leaving Chad and Mike with Scott. The two men had been talking and as soon as Chrys was gone, confronted him.

"Leave Chrys alone," Mike blurted. Chad shook his head at him and turned his attention to a puzzled Scott.

"What your brother said about you. True or not, it might as well be, since you don't remember. Don't try to 'fix' it with Chrys, is all."

Scott shook his head, confused. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Ever wonder why, even though Chrys is the only woman here, that she doesn't have a boyfriend?" Chad stepped on Mike's foot to keep him from saying anything else.

"No. Not really. I don't understand?"

Chad stared at the confused Scott for several seconds before turning to Mike. "I don't think he does."

"Need to tell him why, anyway," Mike insisted.

Chad sighed. "Chrys doesn't do sex. Not with anyone."

Scott looked embarrassed. "What's that got to do with me?"

"You going to try and tell us you aren't interested in her?" Mike asked, surprised.

"I hardly even know her! Why would you think I'd....well, that I'd ...." He stopped in total consternation. "Besides which, why should it matter?"

Chad and Mike exchanged looks again. Mike nodded encouragement for Chad to explain.

"We've worked with Chrys about six years, now, and Mike's known her a lot longer. Like any red-blooded, unattached man, we noticed that she's pretty, smart, and charming. I think just about every man who's ever been on the team has made a pass at her one time or another. Most take the first 'no' and leave her alone. A few have taken two and even three 'nos' to get the message. And a couple have tried to force the issue. They don't work for the company any more."

"That sounds reasonable," Scott agreed.

"The reason she always says 'no', is that when she was twelve, she was gang-raped by some high school football players. It's left permanent emotional scars. She's afraid of men and she has to be in control."

Scott looked horrified at the image their words painted. "That's...that's despicable. Did they go to prison? The boys who attacked her?"

"No. They weren't even arrested," Chrys spoke angrily from the doorway. "What the hell is going on here, Chad? Mike?"

"We were just explaining things to him, Chrys, just like we do every new member of the team," Chad explained. Chrys blushed crimson.

"Is that why none of the new guys have made any passes at me?" she demanded.

"Uh, no. One is happily married, one is in a long-term relationship, and the other two are too busy hitting on the rest of us to even notice you exist," Mike told her.

Chrys glared at them for several moments as their words sank in. Suddenly, her anger dissipated and she grinned. "Hitting on you?" She snickered. "What a refreshing change." She glanced at Scott, expecting to see 'that' expression on his face. All she saw was confusion.

"They're saying that the two men in question are gay." When that only caused more confusion, she tried again. "They're homosexuals. They like men, not women."

Scott finally understood and shuddered, much to Mike and Chad's amusement. "It's an acceptable life-style, now," Chad informed him. "You'll just have to get used to it, is all."

"As long as I don't have to participate," Scott replied.

"Nah. Heterosexuals are still more mainstream," Mike added.

"Now, tell me again why you were telling tales out of school?" Chrys brought them back to the initial subject, anger again in her voice.

"Chrys, we were just doing the same thing we do with any new member of the team. We warn every man on site to leave you alone. At least, we have ever since Cuthbertson." Chad wasn't in the least apologetic.

"Oh." Chrys wilted a bit at the mention of the name of the last man who hadn't wanted to take 'no' for an answer. She took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. She looked at Scott and was still surprised to see only concern on his face and not the expected pity.

"What I do with my life and who I decide to associate with is nobody's business but mine. Understand?"

"Yes, Chrys," Mike and Chad chorused.

Chrys nodded, still looking at Scott, who met her gaze steadily. "Now, get out of here. Both of you."

"Yes, Chrys," they chorused again and made their way out, leaving the two of them alone.

"So, now you know my deep, dark secret," she said softly, wondering how he would react.

"Just as you know mine," he agreed, watching her curiously.

She nodded. "True. So, does that bother you?"

"Not as much as the information about your two new workers did."

Chrys couldn't help it and snickered. "Well, yeah. That was a bit of a surprise to me, too. And Tom is so cute."

Scott shook his head. "I wouldn't know, since I've only seen you, Mike, Chad, and Dr. Edmunds, well, except for my brother and his wife, that is."

Chrys blinked in surprise. "You're right. That is a little odd, isn't it?"

Scott shrugged. "I wouldn't know."

"No, I suppose you wouldn't." They looked at each other for long moments before Chrys finally shook her head and turned away.

"I'm sorry for what happened to you," Scott softly called after her.

"Thanks. So am I." She didn't turn back to him and continued her way into the other room to prepare for bed. She heard Scott shift onto his side and heard his breathing deepen almost immediately into sleep. For just an instant, she envied him that.

"She deserves better," Mike muttered to Chad as they headed for their quarters.

"You think he's right for her?" Chad asked in surprise.

"Well, think about it. She was raped, had no control, and has been fending off guys ever since. Scott is virgin territory, so to speak. He doesn't remember anything. With him, she might be able to stay in control. It might be the only way she'll ever find someone, you know?"

Chad stopped and stared at his friend. Mike, realizing he'd stopped, turned to look askance at him.

"You know, for an Engineer with TGIF on shoes and undies, you can occasionally come up with some really brilliant observations."

"I do not have 'Toes Go In First' on my shoes or undies or my pants. I have a chart on the wall, as you know perfectly well."

Chad roared with laughter. Of course he knew. He'd had the chart specially made for his friend. "Of course you do, but the sentiment still fits. The question is how do we get her to think of that?"

Mike sighed. "That's the problem, isn't it?"

Discouraged, they continued on to their quarters.

Three more days and they were finished. The last of the contaminated soil was dug up and deposited in special trucks for transport to the testing and cleaning facility. The test samples on the ground water and remaining land were taken and sent off for analysis, even though they could do the tests themselves and had, in actuality. Their tests had come back in the 'safe' range, but they always had an independent company double-check their findings.

Chrys and Dr. Edmunds had made the arrangements to get Scott to a suitable hospital as soon as the crew was ready to take off for their month of vacation before their next assignment. Mike and Chad had come to no conclusions on how to get Chrys and Scott together, although both men had made offhand comments about Chrys needing a man she could control in the bedroom, if nowhere else. She had ignored them.

As they packed up and got ready to leave, Chad asked, "So, you going to go with him and help with the surgery?"

"I promised Scott I'd be there when he wakes up."

Chad nodded and didn't bother to point out the great, big 'if'. "He's a nice guy," he suggested, trying to sound innocent of ulterior motive.

Chrys smiled, shaking her head. "You're out of your mind, you know that? You and Mike are possibly the world's worst matchmakers. Let it drop," she added, seeing him about to protest.

"Fine, Chrys. Have it your way. You always do." With that, he turned away from her and headed for her van, which he would be driving because Chrys had borrowed his jeep.

Chrys looked after her friend, frowning. Shaking her head to dispel the thoughts trying to work their way in, she turned to help Scott into the jeep. He was marginally stronger, but he still tired much too easily and she wished they had a more comfortable vehicle to transport him in. At least the jeep's hard-top was in place, which would protect them from the wind.

She was surprised that he didn't know what a seatbelt was, but then remembered that they hadn't been around prior to the early sixties and not mandatory on vehicles until the late sixties. She showed him how it worked and Scott commented that it looked like a good idea. Chrys just smiled and fastened her own belt and started the car.

The trip was a long one, taking almost two days. While the trucks headed south, towards home, she turned west, to go to the hospital where Scott was scheduled for surgery in another three days. When they stopped for the night, she got a single room at the motel, but with two beds. Scott didn't say a word, being too exhausted to do much more than eat his burger and go to bed.

Chrys didn't sleep very well. Scott, while he didn't talk in his sleep or snore, was rather vocal in his dreams. She awoke several times and had to waken him to break him out of his nightmares. She was curious, but he could never remember anything but the fear and that it was 'dark'. Thinking about where he'd been, it made sense. His mind had somehow been aware, at least part of the time, so the darkness was being trapped in the reactor wall. She shuddered and thought that that had to be the ultimate in claustrophobic experiences.

Neither of them realized how dependant Scott was becoming on Chrys; and Chrys never noticed how much she was getting used to having him around.

She got him checked into the hospital and went through all the forms with him, explaining the dangers of the surgery itself and the possible dangers if he didn't have the surgery. He'd already agreed to it, however, and simply signed wherever indicated.

There was nothing more to do but wait. The hospital drew blood and took other samples for tests and he would stay in the hospital until the tests came back, after which the surgery would be performed.

He was terrified.

Chrys knew he was afraid and didn't blame him. She stayed with him, even sleeping in a chair by his bed at night. The second night, Chrys was fidgeting. Scott frowned at her.

"You don't have to stay, you know. You've done more than you had to. I can understand you wanting to get away." His voice was soft and non-accusing.

Chrys frowned at him. "No. I promised. I keep my promises. Besides," she smiled, "I'd worry a lot more if I weren't here."

Scott didn't understand. "Why would you worry about me? You hardly know me."

"I know enough. I've seen the kind of man you are. Just because you can't remember your past doesn't change the kind of person you are." Her voice and expression were sincere.

Scott regarded her for a moment, then nodded. "Thank you." He shifted in his bed, watching her. "I'm glad I'm not alone."

"No. You aren't. And I do care, you know."

He tilted his head just a bit and smiled. "I know. Thank you. I like you, too."

She returned his smile and reached over to hold his hand, watching him as he fell asleep. The smile faded and she examined the hand she held. It was a good hand, strong, well-defined, with long, elegant fingers and strong palms. They were large hands, but not too big. They fit the man who owned them.

She found herself thinking about things she'd avoided for most of her life and shivered. Recalling what she'd overheard Chad tell Scott, she closed her eyes and swallowed, hard. It was true. Since Scott had no memories, he might as well have been a virgin. In two days, he was having life-threatening surgery. Could she let him go without... well, without that experience? Could she bear to give him that opportunity? She looked at him sleeping. One of the things she liked about him, was that, unlike most men, he didn't look innocent in sleep. He looked worried. Heart pounding, she made a decision.

Scott awoke to a hand gently rubbing his chest. He opened his eyes and frowned up at Chrys. "What's wrong?" he asked.

Chrys shook her head. "Nothing's wrong." Biting her lower lip, she sat on the edge of his bed and leaned over him, gently stroking his cheek.

"Chrys? What are you doing?" His breathing changed, becoming somewhat erratic.

"They say that everyone should experience love once in their lives. Since you don't remember if you have or not, I just thought...."

"No." He tried to push her away, a hint of anger on his face. "I don't want your pity, Chrys."

That stopped her cold. She pulled away and stood up, frowning at him. "Pity? You think this is pity?"

He looked at her, sadly. "Isn't it?" he softly said.

She took a deep breath, held it a moment, then let it out in a gust. "Is it?" she asked, uncertainly.

"Feels like it to me. You hardly know me, Chrys. I'm not saying I'm not interested, because I am. I just don't want it like this, because you feel sorry for me."

"I don't feel sorry for you. I'm worried. The surgery is dangerous. You might not make it." She realized at that moment that she didn't want him to die. That she didn't want to lose him....

He looked at her, long and hard. He saw her frown and shift, then her eyes met his and he read her feelings. "If I make it, maybe we can talk about this, then."

She nodded. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure." They stared into each other's eyes for a long time, then Chrys sat back down on the edge of the bed and leaned down to kiss him.

His lips were soft and warm against hers. She uncertainly opened her lips and her tongue hesitantly touched his lips. His breath caught, then his lips parted and his own tongue came out, lightly caressing hers. She ended the kiss, pulling back almost reluctantly. She looked at him, only to find his eyes on hers, a question in their blue depths. She licked her lips, tasting him, and shivered.

"Yeah," he murmured, his breathing harsh. She hesitated a moment, then leaned down and kissed him again. His hands, almost of their own volition, reached up, one circling her body to hold her against him, the other caressing her face and running through her hair. When they had to come up for air, she rested her forehead against his, breathing hard.

"I want to sleep beside you," She whispered.


"No. No sex, I just want to hold you, would that be okay?"

He only hesitated for a moment before speaking. "Yes, that would be all right." He shifted over a bit to make more room for her and she stretched out beside him. She decided how she wanted him positioned and slid higher in the bed, then pulled him over to lay his head against her breast. He was willing to do what she wanted. The soft, warm breast beneath his cheek was the perfect pillow and he sighed, closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.

She had a sudden, almost uncontrollable desire to giggle, as the thought that he was going to be one of those guys who fell asleep in the middle of sex. She shivered, realizing what she was contemplating and for just a moment she had the urge to bolt, but looking down at his face and feeling his arms around her, she fought the urge and closed her eyes.

She'd had this dream before. Not often, but sometimes, and she liked it. It was the one where she had overcome her fear of men and fallen in love. The only difference was that this time, the man in her dream had a face. Scott Nelson's face. She dreamed that he slept with her, his lips kissing her breast. She imagined lifting her blouse so he could have better access. His lips were soft and warm against her skin and she smiled as he kissed her nipple, sending a shiver through her. His tongue came out and lightly licked her nipple and then began to softly suckle.

She awoke, but didn't immediately realize it, since she felt soft warm lips on her breast, lightly suckling. It sent sparks along all her nerve endings; sparks that settled low in her body. She shivered suddenly when she realized it wasn't a dream, but reality. She raked her fingers gently through his hair, then realized he was still sleeping. She wondered what he was dreaming about when he stopped suckling and rubbed his cheek against her, then nuzzled back to nursing.

She'd never felt like this, not even in her dreams.

After a while, she drifted back to sleep, reveling in the feeling of his body next to hers.

The nurse, checking on her patient in the middle of the night smiled to see that his girlfriend had finally decided to stretch out beside him. It was against the hospital's rules, but the administration wouldn't really be surprised by how often it happened. Particularly with young couples like this. She checked the chart and marked it before silently leaving them. She knew his surgery was dangerous and she hoped that he came through it all right. They were a lovely couple.
Scott awoke to find himself sprawled across Chrys, his face buried between her breasts. He shivered, realizing that he'd somehow managed to push her shirt up and he was skin-to-skin with her. He brought his hand up to gently touch her breast, watching curiously as the nipple swelled and hardened beneath the caress. He glanced up and found her eyes on him. He pulled away, blushing.

"I'm sorry, I...."

"It's all right, Scott. I don't mind. In fact, to be honest, I kind of like it." He smiled at her and kissed her. She, quite naturally, kissed him back.

The tests came back and surgery was scheduled for the following morning. As much as she wanted to, she didn't dare repeat the actions of the previous night, as they would be doing various and sundry things to prep him for the early morning surgery. It didn't stop her from staying with him, however. Much to his relief. Just having her in the room eased a lot of his fears and calmed him.
Six hours. The surgery was supposed to last six hours and Chrys wasn't sure she could stand the wait. Six hours for surgery and up to twenty-four more hours until he awoke. She paced. She sat. She cried. Then she started over again with pacing.

When at long last Dr. Edmunds appeared, she was a wreck. She looked at him bleakly. He smiled.

"Look at this." He held out a plastic bag with three hard, charcoal-colored blobs. She took it from him and looked at them, frowning.

"These are the tumors?"

"Yes, they're like rock, almost like they crystallized. I can hardly wait to do the biopsies on them. I've never seen or heard of anything like this. Do you realize what this could mean?"

Chrys tightened her fingers into fists, one holding the bag with the samples. Her knuckles whitened and she paled. "I don't give a damn about that. How's Scott!?"

"Oh, he's going to be fine. It was quite easy, actually. In fact, it took more than an hour less time than anticipated. He should wake up in ten hours or so." Edmunds waved that off. He had something more important to concern himself with. "Now, if I could have my tumors back?"

Chrys glared at him. "No."

"What? What do you mean, 'no'?"

"Just what I said, John. No. You don't get them."

"But Chrys!"

"No 'buts'. They won't help you find a cure. I can already tell you what makes them so hard. It's cement. Are they radioactive?"

"Yes, slightly, but nothing dangerous. Please, Chrys? How about just one? Can I have one?"

She looked at the man she'd once considered a friend and mentor. She shook her head. "Sorry, John. You know why, don't you?"

He sighed gustily. "Yeah. I know." He glared at her. "I shouldn't have showed them to you."

"I'd have come looking." She watched as a now subdued John Edmunds turned to leave. "Oh, and John?"

He turned back, eyebrows raised in question.

"You may be the best damn neurosurgeon on the planet, but you're never going to be any good until you learn that people come first over research. Otherwise, what's the point? You came in here all excited about the tumors and had to be asked about the patient. If he'd died, you'd still have been excited. You don't care about the people, John; and I don't like you any more."

He looked like he'd been slapped. "Chrys?" He started to approach her.

She held up a hand. "No, John. Too little, too late. Go back to your research and leave the patients to people who care about them." She turned away, leaving him to stare at her. Finally, he took the hint and left.

He paused one last time in the doorway. "One thing you should know, he has very few folds in his brain. He can't remember because the memories have all been destroyed. I doubt if he'll be able to learn, either. Not without being able to make new memories." Chrys didn't look at him, and with his head high, he walked away without looking back.

The nurse who had accompanied Dr. Edmunds had remained invisible until he left. "You know, I've wanted to do that to so many doctors over the years. Good for you, girl."

Chrys jumped and spun to stare at the late-middle-aged nurse. "Sorry, I didn't notice you."

The woman laughed. "People rarely do. Particularly doctors." Chrys smiled back at her.

"I'm a doctor, too. Just not a surgeon."

The nurse nodded. "Surgeons are the worst. How would you like to sneak into recovery and wait for your man to wake up?"

Chrys's face lit up. "Really? You'd do that for me?" she asked excitedly.

"Anyone who can put a research surgeon in his place deserves to get the rules bent. Come on, honey. I'll get you in with him."

The 'few hours' stretched into a day, and then another. Chrys stayed with Scott every minute, barely taking time to run to the bathroom. The nurses were careful to bring her food and coffee, which she ingested unconsciously. Late the first day she had started talking to him. By the second afternoon, she'd almost lost her voice.

"Come on, Scott. Please wake up, now. This is getting old. I'm tired, cranky, and I need a shower. But I promised to be here when you wake up, so I am. Come on, baby. I want to see those beautiful blue eyes looking back at me and hear that wonderful voice of yours. Please, Scott?" She was pacing around the room as she spoke, using the activity to stay awake. They'd moved him into a room after four hours in recovery. The good news, he was breathing fine on his own. The bad news, he was still unconscious.


When she finally turned to look at him again, she had tears running down her face. She wasn't even aware of them. She was tired and worried and he just wasn't responding. They kept telling her that it wasn't at all unusual for neuro patients to take two or three days, or even longer, to wake up.

Two beautiful blue eyes were regarding her in amusement. Seeing the tears, however, he frowned. "Chrys?" he asked, his voice almost a croak.

"Oh, Scott. How long have you been awake?" She crossed over to him and sat in the chair beside his bed and took his hand.

"Not very long." He lifted his hand, which she released, and gently stroked the tears from her face.

"I'm sorry, babe," he whispered.

"Don't be. You're awake and you remember me. That's all that matters." She beamed at him as more tears formed and fell unnoticed.

He looked at her as though re-memorizing her face. He smiled and held his hand up. She grasped it and held it to her heart. "So, did any more memories come back?" she asked, wondering if she wanted him to remember or not and feeling guilty for her feelings.

He shook his head and winced at the pain the movement caused. "Just you."

"Is that good?"

"Yes. It's also enough. I don't care about the rest." His expression, as usual, was serious. "So, what happens now?"

"First, I need to call the nurse to call the doctor, then you recover and we go home."


"My home. You don't mind, do you?"

He shook his head minutely. "No. Not at all. Not if you want me there."

"Anywhere. I want you with me, okay?"

He frowned. "Are you sure?"

"Positive." She'd done a lot of thinking while he was unconscious and come to the realization that Chad and Mike had the right idea. She'd never noticed it before, but she did while she worried about him, that she was lonely and that Scott not only didn't frighten her, he made her feel things she hadn't thought she could.

She'd have to tell him all about it, some time, but not yet. They had a lot of getting to know each other to do, first. He was smiling at her again. "What?" she asked.

"Lie with me?" he asked. He hadn't even tried to move, not after the initial movement of his head caused him pain.

She gazed at him and understood what he really meant. "Scoot over." She had to help him, but once there was room, she slid onto the bed beside him, lying on her side facing him. His arm was around her and she snuggled up against him, laying her head on his shoulder. In moments, she was sound asleep.

He remembered her voice. He also thought he remembered some things she'd said, but he wasn't sure it wasn't a dream. If they were true, however, he knew that he had something very precious and he didn't want to lose it. The weight of her against his side warmed him and eased his concerns. He could wiggle his toes on command and except for the pain when he moved his head, he felt pretty good. His eyes tracked to the door as it opened and a nurse entered. Seeing him awake, she smiled at him, ignoring Chrys sleeping by his side.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Nelson. How are you feeling?" she asked, picking up his chart and making notes on it.

"Got a hell of a headache," he quipped with a smile.

The nurse laughed. It didn't matter how often patients made that observation, it always delighted her. "That's a good thing, I think. Other than that, how do you feel?"

"Good." His arm tightened around Chrys to punctuate his statement. The nurse smiled and nodded. "I'll tell the doctor you're awake. You might want to get Chrys in a chair. Doctors aren't always very understanding."

"Tough. She's exhausted and she can stay right where she is."

The nurse looked at him, a bit skeptical, but seeing the glint in his eyes, she simply nodded and left.

Five minutes later, a doctor came in, frowning over the chart. He didn't look at his patient at first, going through the chart as he spoke. "Good to see you awake, Mr. Nelson. How's your memory?" He looked up at that point and finally realized that Chrys was sleeping beside his patient. "Hold on, here. She can't do that!"

"Wake her up and I'll kill you."

The doctor jumped and looked at Scott. The expression on his face was deadly serious. "She's been up constantly for how long? She's exhausted from waiting for me to wake up and I won't have her disturbed, understand? If you don't like it, we'll both leave."

The doctor swallowed hard, then nodded. "A-all right. Uh," he shook his head, trying to remember what he'd been asking. "Uh, how's your memory? Do you know your name?"

"Scott Nelson." Scott smirked, remembering the first time that question had been asked.

"Good. Date?"

"No idea. Some time in 2002, I believe?"

Close enough. "Yes. Well, I'll have someone bring you some supper, if you like?" Receiving no acknowledgement, he hesitated and then hurried on. "I'll have the nurse remove the IV line. Now that you're awake, you won't be needing it any more." He made notes on the chart, then continued muttering, more to himself than his patient. "Order a light supper, then, uh...." He looked up, frowning. "Are you in any pain?"

"Just my head. Hurts to move."

The doctor nodded. "That's normal, I assure you. It should go away in a few days, once the incision starts healing. Of course, that's when it will start itching," he grinned, relieved when Scott returned the grin.

"Itching I can deal with. Pain I prefer to avoid, if you know what I mean."

The doctor did. "Yeah. I'm with you on that. I'll send in the nurse." The doctor turned to leave, when Scott called him back.

"You're not going to check my eyes and stuff?"

"Uh, right. Sorry." The doctor turned around and took his patient's vitals and checked his pupils, asking him to follow his finger with just his eyes and all the other normal things doctors did. Satisfied, he scribbled on the chart some more and finally left.

Scott smiled contentedly, his hand lightly stroking Chrys's back. Relaxing, he never noticed when he fell asleep.

They kept him two weeks, amazed at his rapid recovery. He had no balance problems and, now that the tumors had been successfully removed, he didn't tire quite as easily, even though his body was still working the cement out of his system. The hospital didn't need to know about that, however.

It was a beautiful day when they finally got into the jeep. Scott looked at Chrys, pleased with how relaxed and rested she looked. He took her hand for a moment after she got in, drawing her attention to him. He turned towards her and she met him half-way for a kiss. Smiling at each other, they then fastened their seatbelts and Chrys started the car.

Scott hadn't asked earlier, primarily because he didn't really care, but he finally asked where they were going.

"Well, I was going to take you home with me, but I've got to go back to work. Got a new job to do." She paused. They hadn't had much time together to discuss things and there was a lot to discuss. "Care to tag along?" She held her breath awaiting his reply.

He didn't hesitate. "Anywhere you want to go is where I want to be...if you want me."

Her heart leapt with joy and she flashed him a brilliant smile. "Nevada it is, then."

They could have made it in a day, if they pushed it, but Chrys didn't want to stress Scott that much. Besides, this was going to be their first night together alone and she was nervously looking forward to it. She pulled off the highway in Lake Tahoe. She picked a motel based on the first vacancy sign she saw and pulled in. She left Scott sleeping in the car as she arranged for their stay. Getting back in, she started the car and pulled through to park in front of their ground floor room.

Turning the engine off again, Chrys reached over to touch Scott's face. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. Looking around as he stretched, he asked, "Where are we?"

"Lake Tahoe. Nevada side. We'll have about a four hour drive tomorrow."

Scott frowned, it was only mid-afternoon. They could have easily made it all the way. Then he realized where they were parked. He glanced at her, a bit uncertain. "Tired?"

She grinned impishly at him, "Exhausted," she said breathily. Scott grinned back at her.

"I'm not, but I can't drive. I don't even remember if I know how."

"We'll have to take care of that. Come on. There's a Denny's next door."

Scott frowned. "Denny's?"

She paused. She tended to forget how much he didn't know, "It's a restaurant chain. All over the country. You can always find good food at Denny's. And the menu's the same at each one, which is another good thing."

Scott nodded and got out of the jeep. He stretched again and his back made audible popping sounds. He insisted on carrying their luggage, not that there was much of it, and followed her into the room.

There was only one bed.

Dropping off their bags, they left immediately and walked to the Denny's. Both of them, having had hospital food at seven that morning for breakfast, were starved. Scott demurred to her and had her order for him. Deciding he needed 'real' food, she ordered steak dinners for them both. They just sat quietly, looking at each other as they waited for their food. The meal itself was just as quiet as they realized how hungry they were. Finally sated, they sat back and simultaneously sighed as they reached for their coffee cups.

Scott's eyes were twinkling as he smirked and said, "Have you noticed how much in sync we are?"

She looked at him over the rim of her cup to catch his eyes over the rim of his cup. She almost choked as they simultaneously lowered their cups and started laughing. "Is that a good thing, do you think?"

His voice dropped down to a low, rumbling purr, "I certainly hope so."

Chrys shivered, half in fear, half in anticipation. She'd made the decision before he had the surgery and although she had a lot of doubts, she didn't doubt her desire. "Shall we go?" She didn't meet his eyes as she grabbed her purse and stood up. Scott rose with her and followed her to the cashier and then back to their room.

He frowned. "What's that plastic thing you use? Don't they have money any more?"

She frowned back at him. "My credit card? Yes they still make money, but it's easier to use a credit card." Seeing his interest, she sighed, realizing she was going to have to explain the modern monetary system. Fortunately, he was a quick study, remembering everything with only being told once or twice. He asked questions again and again, until she could find a phraseology that he could connect with. She thought about Edmund's prediction and it made her smile.

It was still light out. They were full and contented, physically. Scott had gotten a lesson in finances and asked her how to access his own bank accounts. They'd have to go to Los Angeles, to the bank office where his signature card was on file. He nodded in understanding, but wasn't very happy about it.

She realized he felt useless, having to depend on her for everything. He was a proud man, one who paid his own way and his missing memories didn't change that fact. "Tell you what." He looked up at her. "Next trip, you can pay all the expenses, how does that sound?"

He relaxed and smiled. "Like a good idea," he agreed. Placated, he stretched again. His joints still bothered him a bit, but they were getting better. He hoped that one of these days, his body would finish expelling the cement still in his system and allow him to move more freely, and be able to stay awake longer.

She could see he was tired. She glanced nervously at the queen-sized bed. Taking a deep, calming breath, she got up from her chair and got her nightgown from her suitcase. Going into the bathroom, she took a shower and got ready for bed. When she came out, he looked at her, mixed emotions in his expression. Getting his own nightclothes from his duffel bag, he entered the bathroom and took his own shower. When he came back out, she was lying in the bed, stiff with fear.

He hesitated, chewing on his lower lip. Deciding, he turned off the lights and slid beneath the covers beside her. Instead of whatever she expected, he leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss before turning away and lying down to go to sleep.

She lay rigidly until she realized he was asleep. The tension flooded out of her, leaving her limp and weak. This was never going to work if she couldn't take him...if she couldn't force herself to have sex with him. But, her mind screamed inside, you're not ready! Grateful that he was asleep, she turned away from him and cried herself to sleep.

She was having that dream again, and again the man wore the face of Scott Nelson. She moved against his hand on her body, making soft, pleased sounds. She didn't notice when she transitioned from sleep to wakefulness, only became aware of the way his hands caressed her, the feel of his lips giving her face feather-light kisses; the warmth and solidity of his body next to hers. If she wanted, she could easily escape him...if she wanted to. She didn't think she wanted to.
He awoke beside her, his arm wrapped around her waist and his head pillowed against her breast. He moved carefully away from her and watched her sleep for a while. He knew and understood her fear; that was why he'd simply kissed her lightly and gone to sleep. Now, however, he couldn't resist. He wanted to touch her, to feel her soft, warm body and caress the firm muscles underlying that flawless skin. Cautiously, he touched her. Lightly, at first, just his fingertips, brushing against the fabric of her nightgown. It was silk, although he didn't know that. He just noticed how it felt, almost like her skin, he thought.

When she didn't wake up, he became bolder and lay on his side beside her, facing her. He propped his head up with one hand, and allowed the other hand to do what it wanted; and what he wanted was to touch her. He ran his hand over her body, from collarbones to hip, returning to her breasts. He cupped one breast in his hand, quietly, at first, and when she remained sleeping and oblivious of his actions, he began to gently squeeze and massage, first one breast, then the other. He was fascinated with the way her nipples peaked and reacted to his touch. His breathing accelerated as his body suggested other things it would like to do. He was in control, however. Mostly. He rose up on his elbow and lightly kissed her. Her lips, her eyelids, her cheeks, her forehead. Light kisses, soft kisses. Meanwhile, his hand continued its stroking, over her abdomen, back to her breasts, down to her hip, up to her face. He was so engrossed that he didn't notice when her breathing changed and she became aware.

Her body positively tingled. Everywhere he touched there was a tingling feeling left behind. As his hand ran down her body again, this time reaching her crotch for the first time, she arched into his touch and sighed. He pulled away and looked down at her. She made a soft, plaintive sound of complaint when his hand and lips stopped what they had been doing. Opening her eyes, she looked up into the endless depths of his sky blue eyes.

"Don't stop," she murmured, her voice low and throaty from desire. His hand returned to her breast, lightly caressing. She hummed in pleasure and leaned into the touch. She still wasn't completely awake and he knew it. He kept his movements slow and gentle, knowing that she could, at any moment, panic.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked, his voice a velvet purr. She shivered at that voice.

"Kiss me."

He kissed her. The kiss was soft and undemanding. She had to initiate anything more and she did, her lips parting and her tongue caressing his lower lip, requesting admittance. He granted it after a few seconds and when her tongue entered his mouth, he sucked on it, which caused her to buck against him. His hand was on her hip, holding her, but not restraining. She put one arm around his shoulder to grasp his skull, now covered with soft, new hair after his surgery. She avoided the scars, however. Her other hand found the one on her hip and she moved it back to her breast, pressing it firmly against her body and arching into the touch.

Scott followed her lead, letting her initiate further contact, touching her where she wanted to be touched, with the amount of pressure she needed. When she moaned into his mouth, he broke the kiss for a moment and started to pull away.

"Don't," she complained, reaching for him.

"Show me what you want."

Her body shuddered. She was shocked that she could react that strongly to just his voice. "Touch me."

"Where? How?"

She groaned in frustration, not realizing that if he'd been the aggressor, she'd have rejected him and run. She stroked her hand down her body and pulled her nightgown up, baring herself. "Please?" She reached for his hand and placed it between her legs. He pressed against her pubic mound for a moment, and then slid his fingers lower. He began to gently rub; finding her clitoris, he pressed and rubbed it, adjusting the friction based on the sounds she made. When he felt her breathing become ragged, he slid his fingers lower and into her. She cried out and bucked against him. He didn't stop the movement of his fingers, but added his lips to her breasts, lightly nibbling at her nipples and suckling first one and then the other.

She'd been long familiar with self-arousal, but this was nothing like it. As the shudders took over her body and she moved against him, she began to feel that it would never end. On the one hand, she wanted to feel like this forever, on the other, she needed it to stop. She made a desperate sound and pushed away from him.

When she pushed away from him, his first reaction was to reach for her to pull her back, but he stopped himself and pulled away from her. He watched her in concern as she panted and regained control. When she finally looked at him, she saw only concern and nothing in his expression to remind her of 'that' night.

"Are you all right?" Scott asked, worriedly.

She nodded, still not in control enough to speak.

Hesitantly, he reached a hand out to touch her cheek. She could smell herself on his fingers and shivered again with desire. She looked at him and noticed his arousal. Her breath caught for just a moment before she reached a shaking hand out to stroke his erection through his pajama bottoms. She saw his eyes close and the look of need on his face.

"I don't know if I can do this, Scott," she whispered in despair.

His expression of longing didn't change, nor did he move. "Touch me. Please?" He lay on his back and put his hands behind his head, closing his eyes, leaving her to decide for herself.

She shivered. He was leaving it up to her. She could get up and go take a shower and leave him to his own devices, or she could touch him...something she'd never done, at least, not in a sexual way. She sat up and looked at him, observing the long, flat muscles on his chest and the way his triceps flowed smoothly into his shoulders. He didn't have the much-flouted 'six-pack of abs', but he certainly had little if any fat. Biting her lip, she hesitantly touched his chest. He sighed softly and, encouraged, she lightly touched one of his nipples. It immediately came to attention and she smiled, reaching across to touch the other, with the same results. Lightly, she ran her hand down his torso, feeling the firm play of muscles beneath the skin.

He lay perfectly still, only the occasional catch in his breathing giving her any indication of what he was feeling. She shifted to sit cross-legged beside him, allowing both hands to come into play. While her hands touched his smooth chest, she looked down. She could see a damp spot at the point where his penis strained against his pajamas. Taking her lip between her teeth again, she turned her attention south.

He couldn't imagine a better form of torture. He wanted to grab her and have his way with her, but at the same time, he was enjoying her touching him. Besides, knowing her history, there was no way he'd ever want to hurt her. Particularly not after she'd been so kind and patient with him. When he felt her fingers opening his pajamas to release him, his breath caught and held for long seconds while she didn't touch him. He opened his eyes and looked at her.

She sat very still and looked for a long time at his fully erect penis. Finally, she shook her head and had the fleeting thought that it was no wonder why those boys had hurt her so badly, but then remembered seeing those boys and that they had hardly been this well endowed. Still gnawing on her lower lip, she slowly reached out to touch him.

When her fingers finally touched him, he had a hard time keeping his hips from thrusting against her hand. She lightly stroked him from head to root, and his breathing became ragged. She then lightly ran her fingers over the head, nearly driving him mad with desire. He involuntarily made a pleading noise and she took a deep breath and lightly grasped him.

"What do you want me to do?" she whispered, totally unsure of herself.

His hand folded over hers and began a slow, gently pumping action. She easily got into the rhythm of it, then ran her thumb over the slit, which was leaking. She switched hands so she could comfortably touch his scrotum, as well. His hips jerked when she touched him and he gasped, then moaned softly. She looked at his face and could see the pleasure he was feeling reflected there. She smiled and turned back to see what else she could do. She tried manipulating his testicles within their covering and was fascinated when they drew up closer to his body. She nearly jumped off the bed when he abruptly ejaculated. His hips thrust a few times as he made a helpless but passionate sound. Then, as his erection flagged, he stilled, breathing heavily. She looked at him and found him looking back at her.

"Like that?" she asked, wondering.

His throaty chuckle gave her the shivers. "Yeah, like that." He was totally relaxed and suddenly exhausted. He started to struggle to get up and clean himself, but she, recognizing his condition, pressed him back down and got up herself, going into the bathroom and getting a warm, wet washcloth. Bringing it back, she gently cleaned him, rearranging him back within his pajamas. Then she rinsed out the washcloth and washed her hands. Returning to bed, she noticed he hadn't moved, but his eyes were glittering as he watched her every move.

With just a moment's hesitation, she crawled into bed beside him, pulling the covers up over them. Moving closer to him, she stretched out and put her head on his shoulder. His arm came down from behind his head and wrapped around her shoulders, holding her lightly against him. He ran his fingers over her arm for several moments, then turned towards her and wrapped his other hand around her waist. He gently kissed her and then fell immediately asleep.

She found that his holding her like this made her feel safe, rather than confined. She smiled a bit ruefully, but realized that her friends and colleagues had been right. She needed to be in control, and Scott had given her that. She knew she still had a ways to go, but at least it now seemed that there might actually be the possibility of a normal relationship. She watched him sleep and found herself wanting to touch him. Shifting just a bit, she could rub her face against the smooth skin of his chest. Finding a nipple, she hesitated for a moment, then lightly ran her tongue over it. When it responded, she smiled and licked it again. Remembering how it had felt to have him nuzzle and nurse, she decided to try it for herself.

She fell asleep suckling.

She dreamed of Scott again. This was becoming her favorite dream. This time, however, the darkness came over and the fear hit her hard. Gasping, she awoke, thrusting away from the man in her bed. Scott, who was abruptly awakened, blinked up at her.

"Chrys?" he asked in that sleepy-velvet purr that turned her nerve endings into static ecstasy.

She frowned at him, realizing he hadn't done anything; that, in fact, he'd been asleep. "Sorry. I'm sorry. Just a stupid dream."

"Tell me?"

She shivered, but instead of running away like the little voice in the back of her mind was screaming at her to do, she moved towards him, back into his arms.

"It's nothing. Go back to sleep."

"It's not nothing, babe. Talk to me?"

He might not have any intact memories, but he certainly knew how to reassure her. She sighed and explained. "Started off with you and me, in bed together, like this. Then it got dark and cold and 'they' were there. I got scared and woke up, running away from them."

"I'm sorry," Scott rumbled. "I wish I could take those memories away for you." He hugged her gently.

She took a deep breath and replied, "I want you to replace them. Will you do that for me?"

He looked down into her pale, still-frightened face and nodded. "I'll try my best."

"Touch me," she demanded, pulling from his embrace and lying on her back.

He touched her, then lay on his side and pulled her back against his chest, his hands stroking and massaging her breasts, her abdomen, eventually working down between her legs, where she'd wanted him to begin with. He kissed her, feather-light kisses along the back of her neck and down to between her shoulder blades. He brought her to orgasm and she grasped his forearm and held on for all she was worth, trying her best to last through it without having to break away. She couldn't, but she didn't go very far, as he simply rolled with her, supporting his weight on his arms and pulling her back against him.

"Are you all right?" he asked in concern.

She was still panting, "Yes. Oh, yes. I'm fine, thank you." She was surprised that he wasn't aroused. "How about you?"

"I'm fine," he replied, unconcerned with himself.

"I want you to make love to me," she suddenly blurted out.

"I thought that was what we had been doing," he replied.

"I want more," she whispered. "I want you to take me and make me yours. Please?"

He hesitated. "Chrys, are you sure that's what you want?"

"Scott, I've never wanted anything more in my life, except for the rape to have never happened."

He shuddered against her and nodded. "But are you going to want to marry me?"

That thought had never even entered her mind. "Married?" she asked in surprise. "Why?"

She could feel him withdraw from her, not physically, but in other ways. "Why? I thought that was what people in love did, is all....unless you don't love me?" His heart pounded as that fear settled in the pit of his stomach. If she didn't love him, then everything between them was a lie.

"Love?" Chrys turned over to face him. "You love me?"

He looked at her blankly. "Of course."

She locked eyes with him, searching for the truth. The realization sent her heart into a spin. He loved her! Now the question was, did she love him in return? It only took a moment for her to reach a conclusion. "I do love you, Scott." She shook her head in wonder, "I just hadn't thought about it in that way."

"So, marry me."

"Are you sure?" He had a lot to catch up on, but looking into his eyes, she realized that he wasn't the kind of man who changed his mind very often. She remembered what she'd learned about him before he'd disappeared and lost his memories. "Silly question, wasn't it?" She smiled.

"Which one?" He asked uncertainly.

"Mine." She gazed into his eyes a while longer. Biting her lip, she answered his earlier question. "Under one condition."


She sighed and broke her gaze from his earnest eyes. "You have to give me time to adjust to all this. You know how hard this is for me. I just need you to promise to... well..."

He smiled at her. It wasn't a smile she'd seen, before. His other smiles were wonderful, but this one lit up his entire face. "You can be in charge. I don't mind," he promised.

She shivered. "Make love to me, now."

His hands touched her, endlessly and everywhere, followed by his lips and tongue, kissing and touching until she was nearly mad with desire. She grabbed his hand and thrust it between her legs, splaying her legs wide in invitation. She undulated against him, trying to tell him what she needed and wanted. She moaned when his thumb found and began rubbing her clit, and thrust her hips up when his fingers entered her. She wanted more, she wanted all of him, and she wanted it NOW! "Scott!" she whined demandingly. She was frustrated when he just chuckled and continued touching her.

He wasn't sure she was serious, but he was determined to give her anything she wanted. He enjoyed teasing her body, stroking and manipulating her flesh to bring her pleasure. He especially enjoyed her breasts, suckling and nibbling at the erect nipples. When she spread her legs, telegraphing her desires and whined his name, he chuckled, but continued his ministrations.

She was going mad. There was no way she could stand this much longer. Finally, when she thought she could take no more, when her body was in eternal orgasm and she was ready to push him away, he finally settled his body atop hers and she felt his penis slide home inside her.

His fingers continued to manipulate her clitoris after he entered her. He used his weight to hold her down as her orgasm continued. He could feel her muscles pulsating around him and he waited until they began to wane before he started to move. Chrys cried out and bucked beneath him, crying out his name and locking her ankles around his legs, her arms clinging tightly around his shoulders as he thrust slowly and smoothly into her.

She'd never imagined anything could be this good. Certainly not sex. Sex had always had painful memories, but this was so very much more than just sex. She clung tightly to him, wanting to suck him into her until there was no Scott and no Chrys, but only the two of them become one. She moaned his name over and over, wanting it to stop; wanting it to never end.

He tried to make it last for her. He didn't know how he knew what to do, but he couldn't imagine doing this with anyone else. As he thrust again and began to feel his control slipping, he put his head down in the arch between her neck and shoulder and let himself go. His body continued thrusting, losing the rhythm he'd managed to maintain for quite a while, and became wilder. He thrust hard, then harder while all the time she continued to move in nearly perfect counterpoint against him, her internal muscles rippling against him and making him helpless to stop.

Thank God she only made more encouraging sounds as he thrust harder and harder into her. Finally, with a cry of release, he arched up from her, his hips pressing all his weight against her where they joined, he shuddered for long seconds and then collapsed onto her, exhausted and totally sated.

She lay gasping in time with him as he lay limply atop her. She had a moment of panic when she realized he had her pinned beneath him and she started to struggle. He moaned and rolled heavily off of her. She rolled to her side, not liking the sound he made.

He was drenched in perspiration and was breathing very heavily.

She touched him with a shaking hand. "Scott?"

He just groaned.

She sat up, all her attention on him. "Scott? What's wrong?"

His eyes opened and met hers. He started laughing softly, but there were tears in his eyes. "I think I hurt my back," he choked out helplessly.

She shook her head in denial. "You can't have thrown your back out from having sex." Seeing that he really was in pain, she moved around behind him and began running her hands down his back. He gasped when her hands reached the small of his back, right above his hips. "You've thrown your back out," she muttered in disgust. "I can't believe this." She sounded so disappointed, that he began laughing again, and again gasped in pain.

"Can you move?"


"We've got to get you on the floor." She moved so that she could get a good hold on him and helped him to roll over and ease off the bed to the floor.

"Now what?" he gasped.

"Now, I try popping your back," she muttered, rolling him to his stomach, with his arms at his sides. Starting between his shoulder blades, she placed the heels of her hands on either side of his spine and leaned all her weight onto her hands. Moving down an inch, she repeated the process, working down to the small of his back. In the middle of his back, there were half a dozen pops as his vertebrae adjusted. When she was finished, she rubbed his back, massaging from neck to buttocks. When she was satisfied, she stretched out beside him, kissing his cheek.

"Scott? Does that feel better?" He didn't move. "Scott? Scott!" He was asleep again. She laughed and shook her head. For a moment, she considered leaving him on the floor, but there was something about the way he looked, lying naked on the floor, that she found arousing.

She started by rubbing her body against his. She smiled when he grunted and turned his head to look at her.

"Feel better?"

He cautiously moved and smiled at her when he was able to sit up without assistance. "Much. What did you do?"

"Realigned your spine." She watched him as he got to his feet and she suddenly became aware of him as a very handsome, beautifully formed man. She caught her breath as she realized how beautiful he was and how much she wanted to touch him, and have him touch her. She rose to her knees, inching closer to him as he watched her in puzzlement. Reaching him, she almost slithered up his body, rubbing herself against him. It had the desired effect. As she reached her feet, his arms went around her and he tilted his head down to kiss her.

Breaking the kiss, she urged him backwards, towards the bed. When his legs hit the mattress, she kept pushing and he fell back, bouncing and laughing as he grabbed her hand and pulled her down beside him. He rolled towards her and captured her lips with his. Releasing her mouth, he began kissing her cheek, trailing soft, wet kisses down the line of her jaw to her throat as his hand gently stroked her side.

"Wait," she told him. He stopped immediately and pulled away to look at her. She took advantage of his position to twist her body and push him down on his back. "My turn." She began by kissing him and exploring his body with her hands. She found him to be ticklish and, grinning madly, tickled him unmercifully until he begged her to stop. Laughing, she released him, sitting back on her heels and watching him gasp for breath.

He lay there, gasping and grinning. Suddenly, he yawned. Chrys realized that he'd been awake for longer today than he had since she'd met him. She felt a moment of guilt, until she noticed that now she had stopped tickling him, he was becoming aroused. She lightly touched him, causing him to twitch. Looking into his eyes, she straddled him and stretched out along his chest. She kissed him, slowly, passionately. His arms circled around her and held her close. She could feel his erection harden and she rose to her hands and knees. Never taking her eyes off of his, she slowly settled down, impaling herself on him. His eyes narrowed, watching her. He let his hands slide down her sides to her thighs; with her hands on his chest, she began to move.

He groaned softly and curled up. "Pillows." She understood and reached over to pull the other pillow over and under his shoulders. Leaning back and now able to reach her more easily, one hand went to her breast, while the other went between them.

She whimpered and moved faster. When she reached climax, Scott sat up again and held her close to his chest, kissing her and waiting. When she finally began to relax, he rolled them over and began thrusting, bringing her back to the edge and this time, went over it with her.

Scott was shaking with exhaustion as he slowly lifted himself from her. She had to help him settle into the bed and pulled the covers over them. Snuggling up beside him, she fell asleep stroking his chest.

When Chrys awoke, she was spooned in front of Scott with his arms around her, holding her close. She felt warm and cherished, with his breath soft on the back of her neck. She ached in places she'd never known before...and loved the feeling. She just lay quietly, waiting for him to wake up.

She noticed his breathing change, and a moment later, felt him move. Turning towards him as his arms loosened around her, she looked at him. He still looked terribly weary and she felt guilty. "Are you okay?"

He nodded, his eyes still sleepy and hooded. "I'm good. Still tired, though," he admitted.

"Then go back to sleep."

He shook his head. "No. You need to get to work and I certainly don't want to make you late." He sat up and pushed the covers back. "A nice hot shower and some coffee and I'll be fine." He stood and after a moment's hesitation, headed for the bathroom.

Chrys watched him and, seeing how tired he was, she felt guilty and smug at the same time. Giving him a couple of minutes to get into the shower, she scooted in after him. Stepping into the bathtub behind him, she saw how he was leaning against the wall with the warm water cascading down over his body. Frowning, she closed the distance to him and put her arms around him. He jumped and slipped. They twisted and Chrys was lucky enough to be able to keep them both upright.

"Sorry," she whispered once they were safely steady on their feet again. Seeing the shock on his face, she smiled shyly. "I just thought that you'd like me to wash your back?" His expression cleared and he smiled.

"I'd like that."

Smiling, she took the washcloth from his hand and took the soap and worked up a good lather. Instead of washing his back, however, she started with his face, working down his front to his feet. Touching him to get him to turn around, she then worked her way back up his body. While he stood under the water, rinsing off, she washed herself, much to his chagrin at not being able to return the favor.

"Next time," she promised.

He nodded and at least got to help her rinse. Turning off the water, they got out and dried themselves. Going into the bedroom, they dressed and prepared to check out.

They had breakfast at Denny's. Chrys made sure Scott had lots of protein and stuff that would stick to his ribs, those very nice ribs... She shook her head, forcing her eyes to her plate.


She blushed, realizing he was watching her. "Uh, I was just thinking that breakfast is one that will stick to your ribs," she admitted. Seeing him frown, she winced and added, "And then I was thinking about your ribs, and how ticklish you are, and how good you feel...." She was blushing violently.

Scott chuckled. "Biscuits and gravy make you think of tickling me?" he teased.

"No! Well, yes. Sort of. Right now, I kind of think that everything is going to make me think of you."

He sobered and regarded her with serious blue eyes. "Is that good, or bad?"

"Good. Just as long as it doesn't interfere with work."

"I'll keep out of your way."

"Just as long as I find you in my bed every night."

"Then you'll need a new bed."

That startled her. "Why?"

"You only have a twin bed in that hospital trailer." He was smiling as he took a bite and chewed slowly as he watched her figure it out.

She began to smile a mischievous, seductive smile. "Sounds pretty cozy to me."

"Until the first time one of us moves and falls out of bed," he agreed.

She snorted coffee. When she recovered, she wiped the laugh-tears from her eyes. "I love you," she said, still trying to catch her breath.

He beamed at her. "So, when are we going to make it permanent?"

She sighed, still uncertain if he really meant it. "It will have to be after this job. We still need to get you officially back among the living, you know."

"Funny, I don't feel seventy-four."

"You don't look it, either."

He frowned. "Is there any chance I might suddenly age to my real age?"

"I don't think so. Something about the cement and the radiation combined to, well, preserve you."

He nodded, praying she was right.

Once on the road, Chrys was happy when Scott fell asleep. It gave her time to think. The idea of him suddenly aging bothered her, but she really didn't consider it much of a possibility. What she did worry about was that he'd acclimate to the way the world was now and get bored with her. She tried to believe he really did love her. She frowned, remembering what Linda had said, that Scott had been in love with her and how angry and upset he was over Tony and she getting together; how Scott had said he needed her and loved her, and then when she had shot him, asked her if she hated him that much. She said that she had liked Scott well enough, but was never in love with him, then she'd glanced at her husband of forty-two years and shook her head. She'd looked Chrys straight in the eyes and said that she'd have definitely been better off with the steady and responsible Scott, instead of his flighty brother, but he'd seemed so exciting at the time....

So, Scott was going to ask Linda to marry him when 'the mess' happened. He'd already asked her to marry him, and told her he loved her. She decided that she would make very sure that he didn't fall out of love with her, if at all possible.

Following the directions she'd downloaded from her laptop (another thing that had fascinated Scott), she turned off the highway onto the dirt road that led to her next assignment. The change in road surface woke Scott.

"Are we there?" he asked, stretching and rubbing his face to help clear his mind. He looked at her blankly when she laughed. "What?"

"Sorry. 'Are we there, yet' is the classic child on a long trip driving parents nuts."


"Because, like 'why', they keep asking it over and over, every five minutes."

He thought about it and finally shrugged. "All right."

She was going to have to find him some movies to watch that would help him understand. She jumped when his hand touched hers. She looked at him and smiled, turning her fingers to clasp his hand.

"You are so beautiful," he said softly, watching her drive.

She blushed. She'd heard those words before, but from Scott, she felt that they were sincere. "So are you."

He chuckled. "Hardly that."

She glanced at him. "You are to me."

He stared at her and shook her head. "How did I get so lucky as to find you?"

She shrugged, hiding the little thrill his words caused. "I got lucky, too," she countered. She felt his hand tighten around hers and she returned the pressure.

Thirty minutes later, he was forced to release her hand so she could downshift. Ten minutes after that, they had arrived.

"Hey, Chrys!" Mike called out as the jeep pulled to a stop in front of the hospital trailer. His jaw dropped when Scott climbed out of the passenger side. "Scott! Welcome back. How are you?" He looked at his mad scientist and noted the extremely short hair and the pattern of scarring on the left side of his head.

"I'm doing pretty well, thanks." He looked around. "What's the job this time?" he asked.

"PCB contamination." They turned to see Chad stepping out of the trailer. Seeing Scott's puzzled expression, he explained. "They stored a bunch of old transformers here, and they leaked. PCB is the contaminant. We have to dig up all the dirt down to where it's clean, then we have to treat it and then we can put it back. This time, they just want us to dig it all up and ship it to the cleaning facility. Easy job, except that we have to wear suits the whole time."


"Nah, nothing that heavy. Just got to keep the dust off our skin and take decontamination showers before lunch and every night," Mike explained.

Scott nodded, assimilating the information.

"So, Scott. How are you?" Chad asked.

Scott smiled. "I'm okay. Still sleep too much, but it's getting better."

"Still passing cement?"

Scott chuckled. "A little. Not nearly as much as at first."

"How's the head?" Mike added.

Scott lightly tapped the right side of his skull with his knuckles, "Still attached, knock on wood." He noticed Chrys pulling their bags from the jeep and he quickly moved to help her and didn't notice the looks that Chad and Mike exchanged.

Carrying their bags, Scott followed the others into the hospital. Chrys looked around and sighed. "Hovel, sweet hovel."

"Your van's here, too, Chrys. You didn't think we'd stick you in here, did you?" Mike grinned. "It's right behind this thing. Sticking this facing east-west, we parked the van on the north side, more shade.

"Thanks, guys. So, how was your vacation?"

"Same-old, same-old," Chad said. "Yours?"

She glanced at Scott. "Kind of boring, actually," she answered.

There was a long, uncertain silence. Scott realized that the two men were wondering why he was here. "Chrys didn't have time to take me to LA," he said. "So I volunteered to come along. Maybe I can find something to do around here."

"KP?" Mike suggested hopefully.

"Hardly, Mike. He's still recovering from the surgery. He's only been out of the hospital for a couple of days." Satisfied that her hospital was in order, she turned towards the door. "Well, let's see how my little home looks. You guys didn't trash it again, did you?"

"Nope. Not us," Mike hurriedly replied. "Once was more than enough, thank you very much."

Scott picked the bags back up and followed Chrys. "What did they do?" he asked.

She glanced back at him, her eyes flashing with mischief. "They touched my stuff. I made their lives miserable for a week for it."

"And she really knows how to make people's lives miserable," Chad muttered, glaring at Mike. Scott surmised that Mike had been the instigator.

"I'll be careful, then."

The four of them walked around the trailer and Scott saw the van for the first time. It was a large, old, UPS-style truck. Inside, however, it looked like a studio apartment, complete with stove, refrigerator, futon sofa/bed, and even a table and chairs. Everything was perfectly neat, with not one single speck of dust.

Scott set the suitcases down and looked to Chrys for instructions. She smiled at him and didn't notice that Mike and Chad were looking at them oddly. "The futon is full-size," she said softly, much to the shock of her friends. Seeing Scott look at the futon, they both slipped quietly out, not wanting to intrude.

"Well, that went well," Chad said leading the way around to the other side of the hospital. Suddenly, he was glad they'd decided to give Chrys some privacy by putting her little home off by itself.

"I wonder how he did it?"

"Who knows. For that matter, who cares? I just want her to be happy and have a chance for a normal life."

"Like he's 'normal'?" Mike laughed.

"I don't care. If they're 'together', and he stays with her and doesn't hurt her, I'll be thrilled."

Mike nodded in agreement. "I think a little celebration is in order. I'll fire up the barbecue and do the steaks tonight," Mike decided.

"Great. I'll let everyone know. And tell them that Chrys's van is off limits unless she invites them."

Mike laughed. "Good idea. Let's give them a couple of hours, shall we?"

"Hours? You think he's up to that?"

"No, but he'll need a nap, afterwards. Remember, he's still recovering." The two men continued discussing what might be going on in the little van, with each suggestion becoming more outlandish and pornographic. They hoped that Chrys didn't find out what they'd said.

Chrys smiled. "I thought they'd never leave," she murmured. "Give me those," she took one of the bags from him and turned to unpack. He followed her, standing close to her, his head down and his cheek brushing lightly against her hair. She leaned back against his chest and his arms encircled her. "Scott, I need to get this stuff put away." Reluctantly, he sighed and released her. Finished with her clothes, she turned to get his and realized he was looking wan.

"I'm sorry. You've got to be tired. Here." She opened the futon and got out sheets and blankets, making it. "Come on, Scott. Kick off your shoes and relax. Can I get you anything?"

"Something to drink, maybe; but I can get it."

"Refrigerator, help yourself. I'd like a diet soda, please." He went to the Dometic and opened it. Half of the contents were cans of soda. Checking the labels, he pulled out a diet and a regular Pepsi. He looked curiously at the tops and figured out how to open them.

"That's clever," he murmured, handing her the open soda.

"Yes, it is," she agreed, taking a quick sip. He sat on the futon and set his drink on the end table. Bending down, he unlaced his shoes and took them off. Chrys took his bag and unpacked it, making room for his clothes in her closet and drawers. She watched him and suddenly wanted him.


"Hmmm?" He hadn't realized how tired he still was, but once he stretched out, he wanted nothing more than a nice, long nap.

"Take your clothes off?"

Half asleep already, his hands came up and began to unbutton his shirt. His fingers fumbled a bit and Chrys smiled and came over to help him. She had to work just to get him down to his briefs and t-shirt. At that point, she gave up and got him under the covers. Looking down at the slumbering form, she decided that a nap was in order for her, as well. Humming softly to herself, she stripped down to skin and slid under the covers with him.

She didn't really plan on sleeping, but several hours later when there was a knock at the door, she got out of bed, still mostly asleep. Opening the door, she mumbled. "Wha?"

Tom, who had been sent to get them to come for dinner, gawked. "Uh, D-dinner's, uh, ready." His eyes were huge, nearly bugging out of his head. It was almost enough to change his mind about his orientation. Then he spotted Scott, who came up behind Chrys and wrapped her in a blanket. Scott immediately drew Tom's attention. The guy was a fox, and Tom liked what he saw. Even better than Chrys.

"We'll be there in a bit," Scott told the huge young man. He turned Chrys away from the door and kicked it closed in Tom's face.

No one could figure out why Tom kept grinning for the rest of the evening.

Scott got Chrys back to bed and snuggled against him. He wasn't sure why she was so out of it, but thought that maybe all the driving and...well, their activities the day before had tired her more than she thought it had. Cradling her in his arms, he gently kissed her awake.

"Mmmmm, nice," she murmured, opening her eyes. It was obvious to him that she had no idea that she'd gotten up and answered the door in the nude.

"One of your guys, huge kid, came to say that dinner is ready."

"Tom?" She looked at him and realized he was only in his briefs and t-shirt. 'Uh, you didn't happen to answer the door like that, did you?"

"Yeah, why?" He frowned.

Chrys tried to smother her snicker. "Uh, Tom's one of those two new guys who didn't hit on me." She saw him put it together and pale. Her snicker turned into a chuckle. "Don't let it worry you. I'll protect you."

"Oh, God," Scott realized that the look of shock on Tom's face at seeing Chrys had turned speculative when he spotted Scott. He shook his head and groaned.

Chrys, unaware of the truth, laughed even harder. "He's a good kid, Scott. If you tell him you aren't interested, he'll leave you alone. Trust me." She grabbed her panties and bra and started to get dressed. "Of course, if you don't get some more clothes on, all bets are off." She smiled at him as he snatched up his jeans and started dressing.

Dinner was wonderful. Scott was introduced to the crew and, with speculative looks, was welcomed. After dinner, Scott insisted on helping clean up. The people assigned to KP welcomed him with open arms. While they cleaned up, he had to field questions: where he came from, what he did, could he cook.... Mostly, he ducked the questions by asking questions in return. Hearing that they had to take turns cooking, he wondered if it was something he could do. He'd have to see about that.

Chrys watched in amusement as Scott cleared tables and washed dishes. He chatted amiably with the guys, even Tom, who kept smiling at her. She wondered why, until she remembered that Scott had answered the door in his underwear. She loked back at the big man and smiled possessively. He grinned back and winked.

Once the kitchen was clean, Scott joined her and, holding hands, they headed back to her van; totally oblivious of the stares from the crew.

Back in the van, Scott turned and leaned down for a kiss. Chrys wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly. Breaking the kiss, she whispered huskily, "Take your clothes off." He smiled, stepped away, and began undressing. She shivered as she watched him. She enjoyed the way the muscles shifted beneath his smooth skin as he moved. Down to his briefs and t-shirt, she suddenly realized that she was wearing too many clothes and started to scramble out of her garments, leaving them in a heap on the floor. Scott paused to watch her, his eyes gleaming.

When they were both naked, Chrys pushed him back onto the futon. Since they hadn't bothered to make up the bed before leaving for dinner, the covers were still bunched up at the foot and Scott simply lifted his legs up and slid his feet beneath the covers.

She followed him and drew the covers up over them, settling herself atop his body and pulling the sheet and blankets up over their heads. His arms wrapped around her and she kissed him quickly and rolled off of him, positioning herself against the wall.

"So, what would you like to do now?" she asked, rubbing her face against his shoulder.

"Just lie here and hold you, if that's all right?"

"Yeah. That's all right. Still tired?"

"Constantly," he admitted, a touch of disillusionment in his voice. "I keep hoping to wake up one of these times and feel like going for a nice, long walk; without worrying about whether or not I'll be able to make it back."

She stroked his cheek and then hugged him. "It will come, eventually. It's just going to take time. You were carrying an extra twenty pounds of cement, remember...which reminds me, I need to run some more tests and see how well you're doing flushing it out." She could feel him grimace in distaste.

"Yes, I'm still passing gray," he admitted. "Not as much, though."

"Good. How do your joints feel?"

"Better," he admitted. With one arm trapped under her by her head on his shoulder, he turned towards her so that he could touch her with his other hand. He couldn't seem to get enough of running his hand up and down her body, much to her delight. His gentle touch caused her to relax and she drifted to sleep.

Once she was asleep, he nuzzled into her hair, rubbing his cheek against her head. A few minutes later, he fell asleep, as well.

Scott awoke before daylight with Chrys snuggled close in his arms. He smiled and watched her sleep. She was so beautiful; asleep, she looked vulnerable and soft; awake, she was strong and positive. He loved every facet of her. He watched her sleep, his hand gently running up and down her back, unable to get enough of touching her.

She opened her eyes to find him watching her. She smiled and stretched, pressing against him. "How long have you been awake?" she asked.

"Not long. Half an hour, maybe. Sleep well?" He smiled at the way she pressed against him.

"Oh, yes. Great." She shifted so she could kiss him. "What time is it?"

"I've no idea. Sun isn't up yet, though."

"Hmmm, too early for anyone to be up, then."

"Too early?"

"Mmmmm-hmmmm. She kissed him again. She had to crawl over him to get out of bed. She looked back at him and asked, "Care to join me in a shower?"

Scott quickly rose and followed her.

They dressed and went outside. The sky was just lightening as they walked over to the trailer that contained the kitchen. Chrys moved around the kitchen and got together the items needed to make coffee. Scott drew the water for her and between them, got it started.

While they waited for coffee, Scott took a look through the refrigerator. Turning to Chrys, he asked, "Shall we fix breakfast?"

Seeing that he was looking for ways to help out, she nodded. "Sure. It's almost six; the guys will be waking up within an hour or so. Coffee is the most important thing, of course, but I'm sure they'd appreciate having food ready, too." She moved over to look over his shoulder into the refrigerator. "Hmmm. Sausage and eggs?"

"With hash browns?" Scott added.

"Sounds good. Go for it."

Scott gathered the needed ingredients and, once finding the right cooking utensils, began to prepare breakfast for twenty-one hungry people.

Chrys watched as he worked. Once he had fried the sausage links, he put them in a flat pan and put it in the oven to keep warm. The stove was typical of a restaurant, with a large griddle. He washed and shredded some potatoes, using a grater because he didn't know about the food processor. Once the potatoes were done on one side, he flipped them over and moved them to the back of the griddle, where it was cooler.

Chad was the first one to come stumbling in, searching for coffee. Chrys poured him a mug and placed it in the groping hands. Chad moaned and took a deep drink.

"Bless you," he growled. Two drinks later, his mug was empty and his eyes were starting to open. He realized that Scott was cooking. He sniffed and his face broke into a grin. "Breakfast, too? Oh, I think I'm in love!" He reached for Scott, who dodged his embrace, blushing and looking concerned.

"Chad!" Chrys chastised. "What happened, did you and Mike exchange personalities last night or something?"

Chad jumped back, aghast. "God, I hope not!" He headed for the coffee pot, instead. "Sorry. It's just that since we got here three days ago, I've been the first one up. You know me, Chrys. I can't cook at all, and my coffee is abysmal, at best."

"Well, stop trying to scare Scott," Chrys grumbled, "And be grateful that he volunteered to fix breakfast."

Chad smiled. "I repeat: Bless you." He held up his free hand to stop Scott from replying. "No more hugs. Got it. Chrys has proprietary rights and you're off limits. Got it."


Chad grinned at her cheekily. "So, the two of you. Tell me about it?"

"None of your business," Scott growled, cracking eggs into an enormous skillet and stirring them to make massive amounts of scrambled eggs.

"Not that! No, how did you, well.... Come on, Chrys, help me out here. You know what I mean."

"Yeah," Mike grumbled as he came in and accepted a mug of coffee from Chrys. "Give."

Chrys glanced at Scott, who was frowning in discomfort. She smiled. "Remember when you were warning Scott off and I walked in on you?"

"Yeah?" Chad and Mike chorused.

"Well, I tried to do what you warned him off about." She took a sip of her coffee, watching the three men. Scott was blushing and Mike and Chad were frowning, trying to remember exactly what they had said.

Mike's eyes widened. "You mean about...what Tony said?" He looked from Chrys to the blushing Scott and knew. "Chrys!"

"He said 'no'."

That stopped both of her friends cold. "He did?" Chad asked.

"You did?" Mike asked.

Scott glanced at the highly amused Chrys and sighed. "Yeah, I said no." Then he smiled slyly. "But I did let her sleep with me."

Mike and Chad exchanged glances and then looked back at their friend and her lover. "Yeah?"

Scott looked at them, very serious. "I did pay attention to what you said, you know. I was about to have surgery that I might not survive. It wouldn't have been fair to Chrys."

Chrys stepped behind Scott and wrapped her arms around him and held her cup for him to take a sip from. "He's so considerate," she murmured.

Scott steadied her hand holding the cup and kissed her wrist, his eyes closing.

Mike and Chad looked at each other. "So... uh, how are things between you?"

Chrys hugged Scott, and then turned to look at her friends. "What do you think?"

"I think that congratulations might be in order," Chad replied.

"So, what are your plans?" Mike asked.

Scott turned in Chrys's arms and looked down at her, a question in his eyes. Looking up into the endless blue depths, she murmured, "Scott's asked me to marry him, and I said 'yes'."

Mike and Chad were somewhat surprised, until they remembered that Scott, despite his loss of memories, had had a very different upbringing than people his apparent age. He'd been raised during the depression, in reality, and despite not remembering his past, the rules governing behavior had stuck. It was one thing that made him perfect for their friend.

"Then congratulations are definitely in order. When's the big day?" Chad grinned.

"We haven't decided," Scott said, tilting his head and looking at Chrys for confirmation.

"After this job, that's for certain," she agreed. "There are still some things that need to be worked out. Scott's existence, for one. After all, he's not exactly easy to explain, you know?"

"Yeah. Ain't that the truth," Mike chuckled.

Scott looked worried as he turned back to stir the eggs again. Chrys didn't see his expression, but Mike and Chad did and exchanged knowing glances. All was not perfect in their friend's world.

"It'll be fine, Scott. You'll see," Chad tried to sound reassuring. Scott glanced at him gratefully, but it didn't really ease his concerns.

"Hey, is that good coffee I smell?" Tom boomed as he came in at the head of a line of half-a-dozen of the crew.

"Yep. Chrys made the coffee, and Scott's making breakfast. How's that for a good way to start the day?" Mike grinned. "Best part is that Chad didn't get near that pot except to pour himself some."

"Halleluja!" Tom laughed, filling his mug; the others echoed his sentiments as they lined up for coffee.

"It's food," Scott announced, scooping the eggs into a serving dish and then placing the food on the counter as the next group of workers came in and got in line for coffee. There were murmurs of thanks as they grabbed plates and began to eagerly serve themselves.

The crew dug into their breakfast and started talking about the job and getting ready to start the work. Chrys reminded them that they'd need to decontaminate their suits twice a day and that she expected to have their bare little fannies in her hospital after every shift to shower and get checked out for possible contamination.

After everyone had eaten, Scott insisted on cleaning up, since they had real jobs to do and he was just there. The crew found that to be a great idea and hurried out before he could possibly change his mind.

"You know," Chrys smiled, "You may have just gotten the permanent job of breakfast cook and KP?"

He regarded her solemnly. "I need to earn my keep, Chrys," he said softly.

"I know," she agreed, giving him a hug. "So," she began as she pulled away from him, "Can you do biscuits and gravy?"

He frowned. "I don't know. How do you make it?"

"I'll help you. Tomorrow morning will be soon enough, providing we wake up early enough."

Scott smiled and started running the hot water and soap into the sink to wash the multitude of dishes. "Somehow, I don't think that's going to be a problem."

Scott checked the schedule and noticed that lunch consisted of canned or frozen items that the workers could fix in the microwave. He listened and watched in avid fascination as Chrys explained how a microwave worked. "So, lunch only has trash to collect, right?"

"Right," she agreed.

"And dinner?"

"Needs to be big. Twenty hungry men working hard for eight hours a day require a lot of calories."

"So, how do they decide who cooks and what?"

"Randomly. Everyone gets assigned a night and they go through the stores and decide what they want to cook."

"Which means that you're always short-handed every afternoon because one of the crew has to stop working and come fix dinner?" Scott frowned. "Why don't you have a regular cook?"

Chrys shifted uncomfortably. "Cuthbertson." Seeing him scowl, remembering what he'd heard of the man, she quickly continued. "He was the cook. Chad and Mike came in early because Mike had slipped and cut himself. They interrupted Cuthbertson's attack." She paled at the memories, which caused Scott to take her into his arms and hold her close. She leaned into him, soaking up his warmth and love.

"Anyway, Chad went off the deep end and nearly killed the creep. The cops came and because there were two witnesses and me, they arrested him. Unfortunately, he only got a couple of years for attempted rape. He's out, now, but where he might be, I not only don't know, but really, really don't care." She smiled when he snuggled her even closer to him.

"So, you've never gotten another cook?"

"Hmmm-mmmm. Didn't seem important. Of course, last summer made it even worse when Mike's ghost stories and a raccoon caused four of our guys quit and refuse to come back. So, we're still getting settled. Why? You want to hire on as cook? They really liked your breakfast, you know."

"Well, if I can cook, I'd be more than happy to," he agreed.

"Let's look through some cookbooks."

When the crew came in for lunch, it was to find Scott already working on their dinner, much to their joy. He also announced that they wouldn't have to be assigned KP any more. He immediately became a very popular member of the crew.

Fortunately, he was a better than merely adequate cook. Not that anyone would have complained much even if he had been.

They had worked sixteen days straight. They needed a break and Chad announced that they were taking the next day off and would be going into town for the evening. When invited, Scott declined, having spotted Chrys giving him the eye. Even though their van was separated from the rest of the crew, there still wasn't a lot of real privacy. With the crew going to town, they were going to be completely alone, and Chrys obviously had plans for them.

After dinner, while Scott cleaned up, Chrys saw the crew off. They caravanned away while it was still mid-afternoon. Returning to Scott, she silently started to help him finish cleaning up. Drying his hands after the last dish was washed, he lowered his head and looked up at her from beneath lowered brows.

She put the last dish away and turned to see him looking at her. The angle of his head made his eyes glitter in a way that caused her heart to flutter with anticipation. "Finished?" she asked.

"Just beginning," he purred in that low-pitched voice that sent shivers all through her being.

"Race you...." Without waiting, she turned and sprinted for the door, leaving him flat-footed. Laughing, he ran after her.

She beat him to the van by several yards, as he still wasn't up to a great deal of exercise. In fact, his job of cooking for the crew exhausted him, leaving him too tired to do much more than cuddle at night. Since everyone got off early to go to town, Scott had simply made some spaghetti, which gave them the opportunity for time to themselves.

When he came through the door, she grabbed him and began working at the buttons on his shirt. Laughing, he kicked the door closed behind them and began to work her out of her clothes, too. As soon as they were undressed, she pounced on him, pushing him down on the bed and landing atop him. As his arms wrapped around her body, she started kissing him wildly, passionately. He grasped her carefully and rolled them over so that he was leaning over her. "Slow down," he panted. "We've got all night, remember?"

"Yeah...all afternoon, too." She pulled him down beside her and began kissing him again, her hands touching him and arousing him. He let her take the lead, as usual.

Chrys didn't know, but a couple of the crew had made comments. He might have been upset, if he'd cared about their opinions. Tom had been with him when the comments had been made and offered to 'take care' of the guys, but Scott waved it off with a laugh. He just happened to enjoy letting her be in charge of their love-making and the comment about how only a pansy let a woman be in charge in the bedroom had rolled harmlessly off of him.

When Chrys straddled him, lowering herself slowly onto his erection, he smiled. Those fools didn't know what they were missing. In this position, he had his hands and mouth free to do other things. Very pleasant and pleasurable things.

She was never able to out-last him, but she loved every moment of it. He was gentle, every single time, and so considerate that she was glad that she'd always been too afraid of men before him. As the sun went down, they fell into an exhausted sleep, arms and legs entwined.

When Scott awoke, he frowned to find himself alone. "Chrys?" he called softly, thinking she might be in the bathroom. When there was no answer, he got up. She wasn't in the van. Confused, he pulled on a pair of jeans and slipped on a pair of deck shoes and a shirt and went out to look for her. Seeing a light in the hospital, he smiled and headed that way.

He was still ten yards away when he heard voices. Recognizing Chrys's voice and the fear in it, he moved faster, picking up a shovel as he passed the tool rack. Climbing the steps into the trailer, he spotted the man who'd made the rude comment standing there with his pants off, watching and obviously awaiting his turn. Scott didn't pause but slammed the shovel across the back of the man's head, knocking him cold. The other man, who was attacking Chrys, was too self-absorbed to notice.

For Chrys, it was reliving her worst nightmare, only this time she knew the names of her attackers. Lepisto surprised her when she came out of the van to see about getting some juice from the kitchen trailer. He'd grabbed her, slapped a hand over her mouth and dragged her towards the hospital trailer where another figure from her nightmares waited. She struggled with all her might, but the two men were much too strong for her.

It took both of them to hold her down. While Lepisto restrained her, Cuthbertson cut her clothes from her, nicking her several times with his knife. The men took turns restraining her while they dropped their pants in preparation. She began to hyperventilate in terror and was unable to even scream, but it didn't stop her from struggling.

She clamped her legs together and writhed like an eel trying to keep them from tying her hands to the examination table. She was crying and begging, but they weren't listening to her. While Lepisto stepped back to watch, Cuthbertson came for her and she finally screamed, "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"You bitch. I heard some loser finally broke you to saddle. Now you're gonna see what a real man feels like. With her hands restrained over her head, he grasped her knees and viciously forced her legs apart. The table was too high for him, however, and he had to pull out the step to stand on. With his hands pressing cruelly down on her knees, her bottom braced against his thighs for a good angle, he started to lean forward to complete his revenge.

Scott, realizing that he still had a few seconds to act, reached between the would-be-rapist's spread legs and grasped him by the testicles. Squeezing them tightly in his fist, he twisted his hand. The man screamed and tried to get away, but Scott just squeezed harder. Fumbling at Chrys's side, the man got his knife and slashed behind him, slicing Scott across the buttock.

Instead of making Scott let go, it only angered him. Livid, now, he began to talk to the man who tried to hurt his lady. "You miserable piece of excrement." He shook his left fist, trying to tighten his fingers even more. The man started keening in agony but couldn't move without fear of having his balls ripped from his body. He leaned forward, dropping the knife and put his hands desperately on Chrys's body. Fortunately, he couldn't reach her throat.

Since she was no longer being held, Chrys chose that moment to bring her knees up and knocked her attacker in the chin with them, and then scrambled back, huddling against the wall behind the exam table and bringing her knees to her chin, presenting a barrier to anyone trying to get her. There were livid hand and finger-shaped bruises over much of her body.

Scott saw her get away and allowed his anger and rage to blur his vision. He jerked his fist towards himself, forcing his prisoner off the table to stumble to the floor, trying to maintain his balance. As he wrenched his hand down, dropping to his knees, the man shrieked. Still too enraged to really know what he was doing, Scott somehow picked the man up and threw him through the door and over the steps to the ground four feet below. Like a cat, he was out the door and jumped down, skipping the stairs, to land beside his prey. Bending down, he grabbed the man by the shirt and penis and lifted him over his head, only to throw him once more to the ground. Out of control, he started after him again, only to have a massive form step between him and his goal.

"Move or you're dead," Scott growled and tried to side step the barricade.

"Scott, no. He's out, stop, now."

"Move. I'm gonna kill him."

"No, Scott. Chrys wouldn't want you to do that."

Like a sudden ice-bath, Scott's rage vanished. "Oh, God, Chrys..." He turned and ran back to the trailer, leaving the other man to check to see if the rapist wannabe was even alive, still.

He tripped over Lepisto, stumbling towards the exam table. Chrys was still in the same position she'd been in when she'd gotten away from her attacker. He fumbled with the knots restraining her hands and when they were freed, she wrapped them around her knees and shivered.

"Chrys?" Scott asked tenderly. "It's okay, now, babe. They're gone. Come on, look at me. You're safe, now. Chrys?" He didn't know what to do to help her. Hearing movement behind him, he turned his head to see who it was. Spotting Tom crouched by Lepisto, checking him for a pulse, he didn't realize that tears were streaming down his face.

Tom looked up. Lepisto was going to be out for a long time. "What happened?" he asked. Taking in everything, Chrys's shredded clothes and the blood running down Scott's leg, he had a pretty good idea.

"I'm not sure," Scott's voice trembled as his hands lightly ran up and down Chrys's body. Tom, moving slowly so as not to set Scott off again, got a blanket and offered it to him to wrap around Chrys's naked form. Taking the blanket, he gently wrapped it around her.

"I-I woke up and she wasn't in the trailer. I went looking for her and saw the lights on here. I came over and heard her scream...." He had to stop and swallow heavily as he remembered the scene that had presented itself. "I grabbed a shovel on my way up the steps, from the drying rack from the decontamination stuff?"

Tom nodded, moving back to ease the pressure on the shaking Scott.

"They...they had her hands tied and I, uh, managed to nail Lepisto before...." He took a deep breath. "He was waiting his turn. The other guy was getting ready to... he grabbed her knees and forced them apart and he was going to... he had to use the step to reach... he was about to... I didn't have time, so I reached through his legs and grabbed him." His eyes finally stopped darting around and met Tom's, who could see the rage barely in control.

"He got his knife..." he frowned and looked down at his right leg, seeing the blood. "I guess he got me, huh?"

"Yeah, he got you. Can I get you to let me take a look? Chrys isn't exactly in any shape to help at the moment, and she'd kill me if I didn't at least clean and get that bandaged."

Scott looked at Tom and frowned. "What are you doing here? I thought everyone was out having a good time?"

Tom blushed and shrugged. "I'm not much of a drinker and there wasn't exactly much there for me, if you know what I mean?" He could see that Scott didn't, but that was kind of nice, for a change. "Anyway, I got bored and decided to come back. I spotted you coming in here and decided to see what was wrong." He looked at the slender man and shook his head. "I gotta ask you, though, how in the world did you lift that guy? Not once, but twice?"

Scott's scowl deepened, "What do you mean?"

"Scott, that guy might not have been as tall as I am, but he sure weighs almost as much. He makes two of you, man. Yet you picked him up and flung him ten feet out the door and then picked him up and threw him another ten feet. I'm strong, but I couldn't have done that."

He watched Scott and realized the man was in shock. Leaving his questions for now, he softly said, "Never mind. Let me get a look at where he stabbed you, okay?" When Scott nodded, he moved closer and while Scott focused all his attention on Chrys, Tom unfastened his jeans and gently lowered them. He was momentarily startled that Scott would have been going commando, but then remembered that he'd just been looking for Chrys to go back to bed.

He looked at the gash and winced. It looked like it wasn't too deep. At least, he didn't think it needed stitches. He gathered the first aid equipment and cleaned and dressed the wound, using butterfly strips to close the edges of the gash and then applied analgesic/antibiotic ointment and covered it with a sterile dressing and taped it in place. Scott didn't notice even when Tom pulled his pants back up and fastened them.

Looking at Chrys, Tom knew that she was in shock, too. Covering Scott's hand resting on her shoulder, he gained his attention and gasped at the haunted look in his sky blue eyes. "Let's get you two back to the van, okay? We can take better care of Chrys there, don't you think? You can lock the doors and no one will bother you. Okay?" Getting a slight nod of agreement, Tom had to get Scott to move enough so he could pick Chrys up.

"Okay, Scott, get the door for me, please?" Tom stayed close to Scott, who hovered like a worried parent with an injured child. He was totally oblivious to his own injury or the state of the two men who had attacked Chrys. They hurried to the van and Scott held the door open for Tom. Chrys remained in the same position she'd pulled herself into escaping her attacker. Her head was still pressed against her knees, which were held tightly to her chest by her arms wrapped around them.

Tom looked around the van. He looked at Scott, who still had all his attention on Chrys, but was shaking from shock, himself. "Get out of your clothes," Tom told him. Scott frowned and shook his head. "Scott!" He looked at him, his eyes focusing and a shiver rocked through him. "Get your clothes off and get into bed."

Scott nodded and fumbled with pulling his t-shirt off, kicked off his deck shoes, and then struggled with the fastenings of his pants. Dropping his jeans to the floor, he clambered into bed, his eyes again only on Chrys. Tom sighed in relief and laid his burden down beside the shaking Scott. He positioned Chrys so her back was to Scott, so that her head rested on his shoulder. Satisfied, he pulled the covers over them.

"Just hold her and talk to her. Make sure she knows that she's safe, now. Okay?" Scott nodded. "All right. I'm going to go call the sheriff and take care of cleaning up the mess, okay?" Another nod. "Good. If you need anything, anything at all, you just call me, understand?" Nod. "Okay. I'll come back to check on you and I'll call Chad and Mike to let them know what happened." Nod; and then Scott buried his face in Chrys's hair, his shoulders shaking.

Feeling helpless, Tom left them to go take care of the mess outside.

Chad slammed his cell phone closed and snarled. Seeing Mike, he motioned him over. "Lepisto, wasn't he one of Cuthbertson's buddies?"

"Yeah, I think so. Why?"

"That was Tom."

Mike looked around and realized that the big young man wasn't around. Turning back to Chad, he asked, "He have an accident?"

"I wish. Seems that Chrys was attacked tonight. Lepisto was one of them, Tom doesn't know the other one, but he said that the guy is shorter than he is, but not much lighter."

"Damn. That sounds like Cuthbertson. Is Chrys all right? What about Scott?" Mike was up and moving towards the door with Chad right behind him.

Chad shook his head. "He says Chrys is in shock. She's pulled into a fetal position, with her arms locked around her knees and doesn't seem to be aware of anything. She wasn't raped, though. Seems that Scott woke up to find her gone and went looking. He took a shovel to the back of Lepisto's head and then half-castrated Cuthbertson with his bare hands. He also claims to have seen Scott pick Cuthbertson up and throw him...twice."


"Cuthbertson cut Scott with a knife. He doesn't think it needs stitches and he cleaned and bandaged it. He's got them both in bed in the van, now. He says that the other two probably need medical help, but he doesn't feel like calling for it."

"I'd just like to bury them where they'll never be found," Mike grumbled as Chad unlocked the jeep and the two men got in to head back to camp.

Tom had simply dropped a tarp over the one man, leaving him where he'd landed. Lepisto, he'd covered with a blanket where he lay, as well.

They checked Lepisto, first. Definite concussion, there. It was pretty obvious, however. A man didn't normally go running around with no pants on, and seeing the shreds of Chrys's clothes and the knotted fabric attached to the head of the table, it was a story anyone with half a brain could read.

They went back outside and lifted the tarp from Cuthbertson. He was semi-conscious, at least his eyes were open and he was breathing; panting, in fact. His eyes were glazed and he was oblivious to anything around him. The only hint he was really conscious was the way he was cradling his genitals, which were horribly bruised and swollen.

"Serves the son of a bitch right," Mike muttered. He glanced over at Tom, "It's not enough, though."

"Sorry, I don't go for scum, Mike," the young giant stated emphatically. "I wish I'd gotten a video of Scott in action, though.

Chad paused and headed back to the hospital trailer. "Maybe we did."

Sure enough, the motion-activated camera they'd installed because of some of the drugs they maintained on site, showed the whole thing, from the two men dragging Chrys in to the arrival of Scott and his defense of Chrys. Seeing the expression on Scott's face on the video sent shivers down all three men's spines and when he picked up the twice-his-size Cuthbertson over his head with just one hand on his genitals, his second hand used only for balance, they exchanged frightened looks.

"Remind me to never piss that man off," Mike muttered seriously.

"Amen to that," Tom agreed.

"Not a problem. None of us would ever do anything to hurt Chrys, so we should be safe enough."

Tom jumped to his feet. "I need to check on them. She was really out of it, but I didn't think calling for an ambulance was the right thing to do."

The other two men rose as well and Chad flipped off the video. "You take care of them and we'll make the calls to get the garbage removed. I don't want either of them out of that van until the trash is gone, okay?"

"You've got that right. I only stopped him because I said Chrys's name. He coudn't hear anything else," Tom shook his head, still awed by what he had seen.

The three men separated to take care of their tasks.

Scott's arms were wrapped around Chrys's body, his hands over hers where they held her legs to her chest. He'd occasionally stroke her arms or back while he talked to her, trying desperately to bring her back.

"Chrys, I'm sorry, babe. I am so sorry. I should have been there sooner. It should never have happened. Please, babe, I'm sorry. Please forgive me...." He was unaware of the tears constantly coursing down his cheeks. He was totally unaware of his own injury; only aware of hers. Finally, though, his exhaustion took over and he fell asleep, still cradling her against him.

Tom knocked lightly, but heard no response. Quietly, he entered anyway and checked on Chrys and Scott. He could see the tear-tracks on Scott's face even in the dim light of the bathroom nightlight. Chrys was still in a fetal position, but she was breathing deeply and he thought she might be asleep, too. Tom straightened the covers over them and then left them alone, hoping that when they awoke, things would be better for them.

Chrys was having the old nightmare again. It had been a while, not at all since she and Scott... in her dream, her attackers had faces she knew and in that dream, they had hurt Scott, maybe even killed him. Whimpering, she tried to reach for him, crying for him to come help her. When he appeared, his face was the face of an angry god, wreaking vengeance, not because of his own anger but out of his anger for her. Like a larger than life hero, he had plucked the monster from in front of her and flung it away like the monster was nothing more than a pillow. Sighing, she straightened her body and turned towards the warm body behind her and found a nipple to suckle.
When she awoke, she sighed at the warm, reassuring scent of Scott. She nuzzled against his chest and found the peaked nipple by her eye. Smiling, she took it in her mouth and drew on it, knowing it was something that aroused him. When he groaned, however, it wasn't a sound of pleasure. Frowning, she opened her eyes and looked. An area the size of her hand was bruised and swollen around his nipple and she realized she'd laid the mother of all hickeys on his chest. From the color, she knew it must be painful. Shifting, she scooted up so she could see his face. Normally, she loved to watch him sleep; now, however, his expression was one of pain. She touched his cheek with her fingers and noticed that his eyes were swollen and she realized he'd been crying. She frowned, wondering what was wrong.

She stroked his stubbled cheek, smiling when his breathing changed and his eyes finally opened. "Hey, you okay?" she asked when he focused on her.

"I should be asking you that, Chrys. Are you all right?"

She smiled, "I'm fine, but it looks like I got a little carried away. Does it hurt?" She laid her hand over the bruise she'd given him. Frowning, he looked down and was surprised by the mark.

He shook his head. "No, it doesn't hurt, just a little tender, I guess. Chrys, don't you remember what happened last night?" he asked worriedly.

She blinked up at him in confusion. "I had a bad dream. I dreamed that Cuthbertson and one of his cronies came after me, but you got there in time and turned into Superman, or something."

"Or something?"

She smiled, remembering her dream. "I dreamed they'd grabbed me and dragged me away and cut my clothes off of me. Just as Cuthbertson was about to...well, you showed up and like Superman, you just grabbed him and threw him out." She giggled. "You grabbed him by the balls and picked him right up over your head and threw him." She smiled at his concerned face and continued, "Some dream, huh?" Even though the dream had been frightening, the fact that even in her dream Scott had come to her rescue eased her fears.

"It happened, Babe," he whispered huskily.

"What did?"

"Lepisto and some huge bastard. I was asleep and when I woke up, you were gone. I went looking for you and heard you scream. There were two of them. Lepisto and the big bastard. I knocked Lepisto out with a shovel and grabbed the other guy by the privates..." he trailed off, seeing her smile fade and turn to one of terror as the real memories came back.

"Oh my God, no." She started to shake. "Did...did they...?"

"No. I was just in time." He hung his head in shame, "Barely. I'm sorry."

"Sorry? What for?" She shivered as the memories became clearer.

"I almost wasn't in time. He...he...." He looked into her eyes and began crying; the fear of what had almost happened and how close he'd come to allowing her to be hurt; blaming himself as though he could possibly have prevented the two men from coming for her.

"Scott, they'd have killed you, given the chance." She shook her head. "If you'd been awake when they grabbed me, they would have killed you, and then who would have saved me?" She hugged him tightly, wanting to reassure him.

As her words sank in, he chuckled, "You know, we're perfect for each other."


"Always needing to come to each other's rescue," he whispered and then kissed her.

Chrys was shocked to discover that Cuthbertson had managed to knife Scott and took a critical look at the patch job Tom had done. She begrudgingly agreed with the treatment, but couldn't help teasing him for having to let the gay man patch his ass. He might have been upset if Tom hadn't taken care of Chrys, as well.

"Well, remember that first day here when we took that nap and woke up when someone said it was time for dinner?"

She chuckled. "Yeah, you answered the door to Tom in your undies?"

"Actually, you answered the door in the altogether. I just brought you a blanket and took you back to bed."

Chrys stared at him in shock for a moment, then giggled. "No wonder he's always grinning at us."

The crew was still in town letting off steam. The only people at camp were Chrys, Scott, Tom, Mike, and Chad. The three men were a little surprised to see them, even though it was almost noon. They men were in the kitchen trailer, sitting around and drinking coffee. The police had come and taken both of Chrys's attackers to the hospital. Originally, they hadn't believed Tom, but when they saw the video they had no choice but to believe. They still needed to talk to Chrys and Scott, though.

The three men stood when they entered, looking worriedly at them. Chrys headed for the coffee and poured mugs full for Scott and herself. Scott limped over to the table with the others, but didn't sit down; gratefully accepting the mug from Chrys, he smiled at her.

Tom winced, knowing why Scott remained vertical. "That bad, huh?"

Scott shook his head. "Not really. I can walk and I can wear clothes," he replied with a relieved grin.

Tom nodded, grateful they were doing so well.

Chad cleared his throat, "Uh, the cops want you to go in and file a report."

Chrys nodded reluctantly. "Do we have to see them, do you think?"

"I doubt they'll let you anywhere near them."

"Why?" Chrys asked in surprise.

Glancing nervously at Scott, Chad took a deep breath and explained. "Uh, the motion-activated video was working. It's all on tape, well, most of it. It didn't get the part outside."

"What part outside?" Chrys looked up at the suddenly embarrassed Scott.

"He just picked that guy up and threw him again, is all," Tom explained.

Chrys shook her head. "My hero," she murmured, standing to give Scott a kiss. She then turned and gave Tom a kiss on the cheek. "My other hero," she added. Tom blushed and then looked up at Scott with just a hint of fear in his eyes. Unlike the others, he'd been up close and personal with Scott's rage. He didn't want to ever piss this man off.

"Is there any way to get them to come back out here to take our statements?" Scott asked, thinking of the discomfort of the hour and a half drive to town.

"I doubt it," Chad replied. "But we told them it might take a few days for you to recover, so why don't we put it off until they call. Maybe they'll take your statements over the phone, if we're lucky."

"Thanks, guys." Chrys finished her coffee and took Scott's empty cup as well, then rummaged through the refrigerator and pulled out some stuff to take back to the van with them. "We're going back to bed. Don't wait up for us." Taking Scott by the hand, they headed out.

They watched as Chrys had to help Scott down the steps. When they were gone, Tom frowned and guiltily cleared his throat. Seeing the question in Chad's eyes, he took a deep breath and explained. "I was with Scott one day a couple of weeks ago. The third day they were here? Lepisto was being a jerk and saying that any man that would let a woman be in charge in the bedroom was nothing but a pansy. He was careful to be loud enough for Scott to hear. Some of the other guys laughed, but Scott ignored them, so he got worse. Heck, the jerk made me mad." Tom was known by everyone as an easy-going and gentle man. Of course, his size and strength were enough to protect him from anyone giving him a bad time about being gay. "I offered to pound Lepisto for him, but Scott told me not to worry about it, that he liked letting Chrys be in charge." He blushed, "He said it left his hands free for other things."

Mike and Chad stared at him for a minute and then, with a glance at each other, they started chuckling. Seeing Tom's confusion, Chad shook his head and explained. "Chrys has control issues. Scott is exactly the man she needed. Trust me."

"I can tell you one thing, I don't ever want to piss him off."

"As long as you don't try to hurt Chrys, I think you're safe, Tom," Chad repeated his opinion from the night before.

Mike nodded his agreement. "One thing, though, what do we tell the guys about Lepisto?"

"Since the cops impounded his truck and took all his gear, we tell them he quit," Chad said, firmly. The other two men nodded their agreement.

Chrys was disappointed. Scott was too uncomfortable to make love. She sighed and settled down beside him, with his arms wrapped around her. She was dozing when she felt his hands moving. Pressing into his hand, she made a pleased little noise. "Scott?"

"I need to touch you, please?" he whispered in her ear.

"Oh, yes," she breathed. "How?"

"Trade me places? I need to be on my left side." She simply got out of bed and let him get himself situated and then crawled in next to him. She was well satisfied with his solution to her desire.

He touched her and frowned. Looking down at his hand, he was shocked to find blood on his fingers. "Chrys?" he asked, horrified. She sat up and saw the blood. Swearing, she got up and headed for the bathroom.

"Nothing to worry about, Scott. I just started my damned period." She inserted a tampon and used a washcloth to cleanse herself before returning to bed. He watched her in concern. She smiled a bit ruefully and slid into the bed beside him. She'd brought a washcloth to wash his fingers. Tossing the washcloth towards the bathroom and snuggled close to him again. She sighed.


"Well, this isn't so bad. You're injured and can't fool around, and I'm on my period and can't fool around. Pretty good timing, I'd say."

His hand gently stroked her body, gently pleasuring her, despite everything; much to her delight.

Scott might not remember his past, but he was outstanding at replacing her nightmares and making new memories.

When the crew returned, they weren't terribly concerned that Lepisto had gone. He hadn't really been one of them, in some ways; he was usually trying to cause trouble, so he wasn't missed at all.

They noticed that Scott was limping, but instead of questioning it, merely leered, thinking that he'd pulled something doing the 'bedroom boogie'. Those who knew better never even considered correcting their error.

It was about a week before Scott was in any shape to handle the long drive to town to make their reports to the police. They felt very uncomfortable at the way everyone stared at them, particularly the way they looked at Scott.

The Sheriff himself took their statement. He asked if they had seen the video and was pleased that they had not. He offered to show it to them, but Scott immediately said 'no'. Then he looked at Chrys and took her hand. She smiled at him, having paled at the thought of seeing what had happened. She remembered it mostly as a nightmare and was using Scott as a buffer to protect herself from those memories.

Chrys's portion of the report wasn't very long. She barely remembered beyond being grabbed and struggling. She began to hyperventilate as she spoke and Scott knelt beside her and held her close as she cried on his shoulder. When she regained control, he turned to the apologetic sheriff and glared.

"I'm sorry, but I have to ask." He turned off the tape recorder. "Look, ma'am, why don't you wait outside while I take your husband's statement?"

Chrys giggled, "We're not married, yet."

The sheriff waved that off. "So, if you'd wait outside? I don't want to upset you any more." He smiled reassuringly at her and she smiled back. Scott escorted her into the outer room and then returned, closing the door behind him. He gingerly sat down and met the eyes of the sheriff.

"You're not exactly what I was expecting," the sheriff admitted.

"What were you expecting?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. Someone who lifts weights, Superman, maybe."

Scott shook his head. "He was trying to rape her." His heart started to beat faster as the rage tapped at his memory. The sheriff shifted back in his chair a bit nervously.

"Uh, yeah. We got that. So, uh, tell me what happened?"

Scott took a deep breath to calm himself. "I woke up and Chrys was gone...."

They had to wait while their statements were typed up for them to sign. Before the Sheriff let Scott return to Chrys's side, he asked him if he had any idea what he'd done to the two men. When Scott frowned and shook his head in the negative, the sheriff enlightened him. He was pleased when Scott paled at the realization of what he had, in his rage, done.

Lepisto would never go to trial; the skull fracture and resulting concussion had caused permanent brain damage. As for Cuthbertson, no woman would ever have to worry about him again. The sheriff stood up, smiling. As he reached to open the door, he offhandedly commented that sometimes, punishments really could fit the crimes.

Since they were in town, Chrys wanted to do some shopping. They hit the grocery store and picked up some things for dinner. Scott found himself in the frozen foods aisle and was staring at the ice cream.

She noted the direction of his eyes. "What flavor?" she asked, opening the door to the case.

"There are so many of them." He shook his head. "I have no idea."

Chrys grinned mischievously and started loading the cart. Seeing his expression of concern, she winked at him. "Hey, there are a whole bunch of hungry men back at camp. You don't think we can get some for us and not get them some, too?"

Scott grinned. "I think I remember vanilla and chocolate and something...." he squinted, trying to force the memory, "Pink?"

"Neopolitan? Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry."

"I hate the pink stuff."

"Okay, no strawberry, then." She grinned and got some sherbet, as well.

They had to buy three styrofoam ice chests in order to be sure that the ice cream would survive the trip back to camp, but the reaction of the crew was definitely worth it.

Two more weeks, and the job was over.

Scott's injury was healed and Chrys was looking forward to getting back to California with him. The sheriff had called them to let them know that they wouldn't have to testify. When asked why, he informed them that Cuthbertson had decided to plead guilty and all that would happen would be a sentencing hearing. He asked them to stop by to pick up the tape on their way home.

The last night in camp, they had a party. Mike barbecued and Chrys provided beer for them all, her normal gift to the crew after every gig. They all had a good time, but went to bed early so they could get up to get an early start home.

Ever since the night of the attack, Chrys had noticed something different about Scott. After they picked up the tape and were on the road, she finally asked what had been troubling her.

"Scott? What changed?"

He frowned. "Changed?" he asked, puzzled.

She looked at him and shook her head. "Something about you has changed, and I don't know what it is."

"When did it change?" he asked, fearful of her answer.

"That night," she admitted. When Scott paled and looked away from her, she grabbed his hand. "It's not a bad thing, I don't think. Just...something's different, and I can't figure out what it is?"

He looked at her, a deep sadness in his eyes. "I don't know." He had an idea; whenever he thought about that night, he felt the rage, deep within him and he was afraid.

She shook her head and started the van. "Maybe I'm nuts, then."

"You're not nuts, babe. Me, maybe, but never you."

She smiled at him. "Have I told you that I love you?"

"Every time you smile at me," he murmured softly. She gave him a joyous smile, patted his hand, and then put the van in gear and pulled into traffic.

Two hours later, she figured out what had changed. She glanced over at him and began to laugh. He looked at her, frowning.

"What's so funny?"

"You! I figured out what changed!"

"What?" he asked, nervously.

"You're still awake!"

He stared blankly at her and it clicked into place, "I don't tire out like I did," he mused in surprise.

"Yep," she beamed at him. "How have you been feeling?"

He nodded, "Good, the joints still ache early in the morning, but after it warms up, I'm fine."

She cheered, thrilled that he was healing.

She was looking forward to stopping for the night...somewhere remote, where no one would be anywhere around to hear them when she jumped him. She shivered in anticipation.

They could have made the trip in two days, easily, but they took a leisurely three days, instead. They stopped early each night and made love, often getting a late start the next morning...or afternoon.

Her house wasn't huge, by any means, but it was nice. The yard was maintained by a service and he wondered why, when she was away so much, she even bothered with a house.

"Because it's mine. It's almost paid for, and I don't have to worry about anyone trying to make me go away," she explained, leading him from the detached, oversized garage to the house. Once inside, the first thing she did was open all the windows to air the place out.

"The only thing I hate is how stale the air gets when I'm not here," she admitted. She watched him nervously as he prowled around, looking. "Well?" she asked, finally, when he paused to look out the front window.

He nodded and smiled at her. "Very nice, have you lived here long?"

"Three years. I took my first paycheck and put half of it down on this place. Every time I do a job, half of my take home goes on the house, and the rest in the bank for the regular payments. I should have it paid off in a few more years."

"Very wise of you," he murmured, stepping close and taking her into his arms. "So, now what do we do?" he asked, kissing her.

"Well, I don't know about you, but there is absolutely nothing to eat in this place but canned goods. How about we go out to eat?"

He smiled and nodded. "Do you know where that bank is?"

"Yep. It's across town, but we can go tomorrow." She got the keys to her regular car and led the way back to the garage. Leaving the windows open, she locked the door, much to Scott's amusement.

She took him to her favorite family-style restaurant. As always, his attention was totally on her; oblivious to everyone around them. After dinner, since he still wasn't tired, they stopped off at a grocery store and picked up enough supplies to last a while. When they got home, he insisted on helping her put the groceries away. Finally, once everything was done, he whispered in her ear, suggesting a nice, warm shower and bed.

"First, we have to make the bed, though," she informed him. He laughed and followed her.

Her bed was huge, as far as he was concerned. Compared to the cozy full-sized futon, her king-sized bed seemed enormous. He looked almost disappointed.

"What?" She asked, seeing his expression.

"We'll get lost in all that," he replied.

She laughed. "No, we won't. You'll see. Besides, you've never seen me in full 'sprawl'," she teased. Grinning, he helped her make the bed. Finally, they were in the shower together and he was more than up to the task. They showered, but then Scott stopped her from getting out. He plugged the drain and ran the bathtub full. Getting his drift, she opened the cupboard under the vanity and brought out some nice, neutral-scented bath salts and poured some in. It gave the water a nice, ocean-y scent they both liked. When it was deep enough, he sat down and urged her down in front of him. He took the washcloth and began bathing her again, but without soap. She was a bit surprised when the dead skin cells started coming off, but that was a good thing, right? His hands on her body, stroking, rubbing... it could last forever and she'd not complain.

Eventually, though, he was finished. He just held her, his chin resting on the top of her head and his arms wrapped around her, holding her close. She sighed. "My turn?" she whispered, turning her head to see him.

"If you want," he agreed. She turned around and sat facing him. Smiling, she took the washcloth and started with his toes, slowly working her way up. By the time she got to his head, she realized he'd fallen asleep and splashed him in amused annoyance.

He startled awake, splashing her even more than she'd done. The water was quite cold and she pulled the plug to drain the tub. She turned the water on and redirected it back to the shower. Scott was on his knees behind her when she adjusted the temperature and turned to face him. The sight of him on his knees before her sent a shiver through her. Taking his hands, she drew him up to his feet. Rinsing off and warming up, she found herself wanting to hurry. There was a nice big bed waiting for them.

The following morning after breakfast, they went out to run the errands Scott needed in order to once more become a viable member of society. Fortunately, in and amongst the other papers Tony had given them, was Scott's social security card and his old driver's license. It was so old that it had his right thumbprint on it instead of a photo.

"I hope you don't mind, but I need to stop by work, first."

"Why would I mind?" he replied, smiling. Since they were in traffic, she had to resist the urge to lean over and kiss him.

The office of her company was in the San Fernando Valley. It was early, yet, but it was going to be a warm, sunny, Southern California day. Scott looked around curiously at the photos on the walls. They were all pictures of their work, before and after shots of the places they cleaned up and several of them included more recent photos showing how the land had been reclaimed and was being used currently. He liked what he saw.

Chrys talked to the receptionist, who made a phone call. Moments later, a short older man came in and greeted Chrys with a fond hug. Scott watched, feeling a momentary pang of jealousy, but it was quickly gone when Chrys dragged the man over to meet him.

"Dave, this is Scott. We need a photo ID for him."

Dave looked him over and nodded, liking what he saw. "Got the replacement for Lepisto already, huh, Chrys?"

"Actually, he started work our first day in camp. He's our new cook." She grinned at Scott, giving him a wink. He ducked his head and looked at her from beneath lowered brows, causing her heart to flutter and 'that' feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"Really? Oh, yes, I seem to recall Chad mentioning that you'd found them a decent cook. I have his check; I just didn't have a name to put on it, yet. That was somewhat remiss of you, young lady," he said, trying to be stern, but the smile negated any chastisement.

"Well, we were kind of busy, Dave. So, can we get him an ID?"

"Absolutely. We need to get some retroactive paperwork on him anyway. Come along, children, this way." He put an arm around Chrys's shoulders and led the way back through the maze of hallways to their little personnel office.

While Scott filled out the paperwork, Dave spoke softly to Chrys. "So, how's his cooking?"

"He's no Emeril, but it's good, solid food, and he knows how to cook for that crowd. Nothing fancy, but filling. And, best of all, he also does dishes."

Dave chuckled and softly said, "Hallelujah! It's about time we could find someone to take over the kitchen. Too bad he's only one man. Most of the other crews are still having to share the duty." He noticed the way Scott kept glancing at Chrys and how she almost vibrated every time he did. Dave became suspicious.

"Chrys, is there something going on between you I should know about?" he asked worriedly.

Chrys shrugged just a little too innocently. "Not really, unless of course if you're asking if we're 'involved'. In that case, the answer is 'yes'." She held her breath waiting for Dave's reaction.

He turned to stare at her and then took a long, narrow-eyed look at Scott. Scott chose that moment to cast another glance at Chrys and saw his expression. Scott straightened up and his eyes became challenging. The two men's eyes dueled for long seconds until Chrys shook her head and chuckled.

"Come on, guys, it's not like you're going to fight over me, it?" Her laughter turned into a frown as she looked up at her employer and long-time family friend.

Dave spoke to Scott. "You hurt her and I'll kill you," he said in a low, menacing tone of voice. Scott relaxed and smiled. Nodding in easy acceptance, he turned back to filling out the employment forms.

Chrys groaned. "Dave, did Chad tell you why we lost Lepisto?"

"Hmm? Oh, no. He said something about a little trouble?" He turned his attention back on her, forgetting Scott for the moment.

"The guys were in town for some R&R. Scott and I stayed behind for a little R&R of our own in the empty camp. Lepisto picked up his old buddy Cuthbertson and paid us a visit. I'd gone outside to think, when they grabbed me. I didn't even have a chance to scream. Scott was still asleep and never heard a thing. They took me over to the hospital trailer and were going to rape me."

Dave's eyes grew wide as she told her story. When she mentioned the word 'rape', he flinched and glanced at Scott, who was watching and listening to them, a grim, angry expression on his face.

"What happened?" Dave asked after several moments of silence.

"Superman to the rescue," Chrys said, shrugging. "I don't actually remember much of it, only that Cuthbertson was forcing my knees apart, and then suddenly let go. I saw Scott pick him up and throw him out of the trailer." She shook her head. "It all has a very dream-like quality, in a nightmarish kind of way." She shivered. She hoped she wasn't going to have to tell this story again. Maybe they should just make copies of the video for distribution? She shuddered. She still hadn't watched it and Scott had told her not to. That was one order she was more than willing to obey.

Scott hurriedly finished filling out the forms and came to them, thrusting the papers at Dave and wrapping his other arm around her, rubbing his cheek on her temple and then kissing it. "Shhh. It's all right. He's not ever coming back; and if he does, the next time, I'll kill him."

Dave blinked. He could have sworn that, for just an instant, he saw something other than the handsome young man who had obviously captured Chrys's heart, and body he was happy to note. He wasn't sure what it was, but whatever it was, it was dangerous. "Here, here," he softly agreed, gaining a look from a pair of cold blue eyes.

Scott stared into the warm green eyes of Dave for several long moments. He realized that Dave cared for Chrys as more than an employee and only wanted the best for her. They came to an understanding as their eyes communicated and Scott nodded, turning his entire focus back to Chrys.

Dave was amazed. He'd known Chrys's father, who had been his partner in this business until his untimely and unexpected death ten years earlier. Technically, Chrys was a partner, rather than an employee, but she didn't actually know that. He remembered all too vividly when those boys had attacked her and he had vowed to protect her. He knew all about her and had despaired of her ever finding any man she could trust again. Yet, here he was. His cheek pressed to the top of her head and his arms around her, holding her as close as possible, silent, waiting for her to make the next move.

Dave nodded in approval. He was going to have to have a little chat with Chad when he came to pick up his check. Some things needed a bit more explanation; like, who was Scott Nelson and where had he come from? He glanced down at the papers and frowned. 1928? That must be a mistake. But when he looked at the old driver's license and the birth certificate, they said the same thing. He frowned, knowing that they had begun putting photos on licenses back in the early sixties. There were obviously a lot of questions for Chad to answer.

Chrys had her arms wrapped around Scott's waist, her cheek pressed to his chest, over his heart, which beat strongly in her ear. His arms felt warm and comforting around her and she could have stayed like that for hours. Dave's clearing of his throat brought her back and she sighed deeply and pulled reluctantly out of Scott's embrace. She looked up at him and saw his understanding smile and returned it, and then quickly kissed him before turning back to Dave.

"Sorry," she said softly and unapologetically.

"Nothing to be sorry about, my dear." He looked at Scott, "The, uh, birth year? Is that correct?" If it were, Scott was ten years older than he was, although he'd have sworn he was only in his early thirties.

"Yes," Scott admitted. "It's a rather long and somewhat unbelievable story, but it is true."

Dave, seeing the worry in Chrys's face let it drop. If this man could make her happy, he certainly wasn't one to stand in the way. He smiled and was pleased to see Chrys relax and smile back. Scott visibly relaxed as well and Dave decided that as good a judge of people, particularly men, as Chrys was, he probably had nothing to worry about...unless someone tried to hurt Chrys, again.

"Very well. Let's get your photo taken, shall we?"

It took half an hour for the ID card to be made and Dave insisted on showing Scott around and explaining what they did besides SuperFund cleanup. He was fascinated by the demolition work and the excavating. He asked intelligent questions, not necessarily those of an engineer but certainly questions only a scientist of some sort would ask.

"What's your background, if you don't mind my asking, Scott?"

"PhD from MIT, I think," Scott replied. Seeing the confusion on Dave's face, he explained. "I've lost most of my memories. My past, my family. Things I've done, places I've been," he shook his head and cast a grateful look at Chrys, who was watching him with what to Dave appeared to be total adoration.

"I'm sorry. That must be tough."

"Chrys has been wonderful." Scott's voice had dropped to a rumbling purr as he looked at Chrys. "I don't think I could have withstood it without her."

Dave nodded. Mutual comfort, mutual support. He knew of successful relationships built on less. Of course from the way they kept looking at each other and how their hands kept connecting, not to mention other subtle, tender touches, he had no doubt that this could only be True Love, in capitals. He was overjoyed for Chrys's sake.

"I'm glad. You seem to be good for each other," Dave added, then decided to ask the next, logical question. "So, what are your plans?"

"We need to get his bank account and stock stuff back in his control, then a trip to DMV to get started on teaching him to drive, again. After that, who knows?" Chrys said with a smile...for Scott, Dave noticed.

"Certainly, but what about longer term plans?"

"I've asked Chrys to marry me," Scott said, more to remind Chrys and get a more positive answer, one with a witness would be good.

Dave realized that Chrys might be hesitant, and looked at her expectantly. "So, are congratulations and best wishes in order, Chrys?"

She searched Scott's face, still expecting him to change his mind, but she saw nothing but the same resolve he'd shown from the beginning. "Yes, they are," she admitted.

"Wonderful! Mazel Tov!" Dave cheered. "Of course, you haven't decided on the day, yet, but I do hope that you'll allow me to make the arrangements?" Seeing the blank looks on their faces he hurried on before they could object. "I insist! After all, I've known you since you were a little girl, Chrys, and your father was not only my partner, but my best friend."

"Of course, Dave. In fact, would you walk me down the aisle?"

Dave's excitement stilled, "I'd be honored," he bowed slightly, his right hand over his heart.

"Meanwhile," Chrys said, shaking off the numbness from everything that was happening, "We need to get going. We need to get to the bank and the stockbroker's. We may have to wait until tomorrow or Monday to hit the DMV."

Dave jumped, "Oh, wait, I think I have one around here, somewhere. Wait...yes, here it is." He triumphantly pulled out a current copy of the California Driver's Handbook. He handed it to Scott. "You'll need this to take the test. Although you can't have it with you to actually take the test, the information you'll need to pass is in there."

"Thank you." Scott looked curiously at the booklet, then glanced at Chrys. "Maybe we should put the DMV off so I can study this?"

She nodded. Releasing Scott's hand, she crossed to Dave and gave him a hug, "Thanks, Dave. For everything."

Dave hugged her back, watching Scott's face and was pleased to note he didn't seem to mind him hugging Chrys. "You know I'd do anything within my power for you, dear." He released her and stepped back.

"By the way, since your team has had four hard ones in a row, you're getting a three month break. Go out and have some fun, you two."

Three months? Chrys frowned at Dave, then realized that he'd probably already made that decision before meeting Scott. It was just one of those happy coincidences. She grinned. "Perfect timing as usual, Dave." They both laughed and even Scott smiled. With another quick hug to Dave, Chrys took Scott's arm and they left.

As soon as they were gone, Dave reached for his phone and made a call. When it was answered, he was no longer smiling, but frowning. "Chad, why didn't you tell me?" He listened, nodding; then," Tell me everything, Chad. Everything you know about Scott Nelson."

The call lasted well over an hour and at the end, Dave was still worried, but somewhat reassured by what he had learned. He agreed that since Scott had no memories from before... and that was going to take a lot of getting used to, it wouldn't be fair to judge him on hearsay and innuendo. And the story of what he'd done to Chrys's attackers, well, that went a very long way indeed towards his willingness to accept the man as a part of Chrys's life. A very long way, indeed.

After thinking about it for a while, he lifted the phone and made another call. This time, he wanted to start putting out feelers for what he hoped would be a wedding, and soon....

"I think he likes you," Chrys said as she started the car.

"Only because I managed to arrive in time to rescue you," he agreed.

"No," she corrected. "Because you managed to reach me when no one else could, or would." She looked over at him, a little worried.

"I love you, Chrys. It's as simple as that."

She gazed into his eyes for long seconds and then smiled. "Yes, it is." She leaned over to kiss him. As she put the car in gear and backed out of the parking space, she added, "And I love you, too." Putting the car in drive, she exited the parking lot and began the drive into downtown and his bank. As soon as they were on the freeway, he reached over and held her hand. She cast a quick glance at him to find him watching her and smiling. She smiled back and then turned her attention back to the road.

She hadn't been aware that there were any privately owned banks left. It was in an old building, where it had been for nearly a hundred years. How it had managed to avoid being gobbled up by larger banks, she didn't know. They had a very short wait and as they stepped up to the teller's cage, the middle-aged man behind the counter smiled at them.

"How may I assist you, today?" he asked formally. Scott placed his passbook on the counter and pushed it through the opening into the teller's reach.

"I need to access my account." Scott informed him.

"Of course, sir." He opened the passbook and blinked upon seeing the name and amounts involved. "Uh, yes, Mr. Nelson. May I see some sort of ID, please?"

Scott suddenly understood Chrys's insistence on getting him an employee ID and got the new, laminated document from his pocket. At this rate, he was going to need a wallet, and soon. He slid it under the little fence and waited. He saw the teller frown at the photo and the birth date shown on the document.

"I have my birth certificate, if you need that, as well," he growled softly. The teller jerked and gave him a false smile.

"Uh, if you'll excuse me a moment, I need to show this to our manager. It's been a very long time, Mr. Nelson." He backed away and turned to scurry for a partitioned off space.

Scott frowned and looked around. It was cool and quiet in the building. The marble covered walls and floor were highly polished. He frowned. "Chrys, how hard should it be to close this account and take the money somewhere else?"

Chrys blinked in surprise. "Well, unless it's payday and they're expecting a big run this afternoon, I doubt they'd have that much cash on hand. Why?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. Just a feeling."

She straightened up and looked around, frowning. "Well, deposits are guaranteed up to one hundred thousand dollars. Maybe leave ninety-nine thousand here and take the rest and make deposits in several other banks?"

Scott nodded. "Sounds like a good idea." They turned back as the teller returned with an older man.

"Mr. Nelson?" the older man smiled insincerely and Chrys got the same vibe Scott had.


"I'm Mr. Wolfe. How may I help you, sir?"

"Well, I've been gone for quite a long while," Scott began and received a nod of agreement from Wolfe. "I needed to find myself, so I went on a retreat," he chuckled, "It lasted a lot longer than I thought it would, but it was definitely worth it." Again, Wolfe nodded. "Anyway, my brother was taking care of things for me in my absence, but now I need to take control again." Another nod. "So, I was wondering, I find myself in need of some cash and I have no way to access it, it would seem. Can you help me with that?"

"Certainly, Mr. Nelson. We'd be more than happy to issue you the credit card of your choice...."

Scott frowned. "Why would I need a credit card when I have cash?"

Wolfe's smile faltered. "Excuse me?"

"Don't I have close to three-quarters of a million dollars in your institution?"

"Well, yes, of course, but..."

"Then why shouldn't I make use of those funds, rather than using credit?"

"Well, of course, it's just that...."

"Since I'm looking at some property, I was hoping to just pay cash for it. So I'd like to withdraw six-hundred-eighty-five thousand dollars." That would leave just under one hundred thousand dollars in the account.

"Six..." Wolfe swallowed audibly and cast a frightened glance at the teller. "Uh, that's a very great deal of money, Mr. Nelson," he began.

Scott frowned. "Is there a problem?"

"No! No, certainly not. It's just, that's such a large sum of money, you know."

Scott nodded. "I'd like cash, if at all possible." Wolfe paled to match his shirt.

"C-cash? Uh, excuse me just a moment, Mr. Nelson, I need to speak to the bank's president about this." Pulling out his handkerchief, he scurried away, mopping the perspiration from his brow. The teller gave them a sickly grin and wished there was some way to get rid of them.

Scott and Chrys turned around and looked about some more. "I think you're right, Scott. There is something very wrong here," Chrys whispered. Scott nodded, frowning.

It was almost ten minutes before Mr. Wolfe returned with the bank's president. Both men were pale and perspiring. They blustered a bit, talking about what an enormous amount of cash it was, but Scott played the innocent and eventually they had no choice but to fulfill his wishes.

Fortunately for Scott, it was payday and they had enough cash on hand. The bad news for all their other investors was that without Scott's money, the bank was, quite frankly, bankrupt. With such a large, inactive amount of money, they'd used it as collateral for loans and day-to-day business expenses. With it gone, they had very little to work with, as the rest of their depositors were hardly saving much of anything, and the loans they'd made had not always been the most... wise.

It took three shopping bags to fit all the cash in. The president and manager watched sadly as their lives walked out the door. As soon as they were gone, the president nodded and Mr. Wolfe closed and locked the doors. They returned to their office and waited for the call that would probably end with the both of them behind bars.

With that much cash, Chrys hurried them to her car, where she locked the money in the trunk. She was perspiring. That was an awful lot of cash. She looked at Scott, who didn't seem too concerned. "Scott, if someone were to rob us, you'd be broke."

"So, we go to a few more banks and make some deposits, right?"

She sighed in relief. "Good choice." They spent the next four hours going from one financial institution to another, making cash deposits. At the last one, which happened to be the credit union Chrys belonged to, he joined and deposited the last eighty thousand and his pay check. He kept out three thousand for 'petty cash', until the credit union could issue him a debit card. He also had a new checking account, with counter checks that the bank printed with his information for him to use until his first box of checks arrived. Chrys was relieved. He was still carrying too much cash, but at least it wasn't anything like what she'd helped him carry from the first bank.

Once back in the car, Scott leaned over and kissed her. Her arms came up around his neck and they relaxed. Parting, Chrys sighed with relief and smiled at him.

"Can I take you to lunch?" Scott asked.

Chrys grinned. "Certainly. Where would you like to go?"

"I'm in the mood for some good Mexican food. Any suggestions?"

"Well, it's late enough, how about La Fonda's?"

"Lead the way."

La Fonda's had been around since before Wilshire had a 'miracle mile'. It was on the downtown end of that stretch which included the La Brea Tar Pits and museum. The food was excellent, and the ambience authentic. After lunch, they decided it was too late to try and do anything about his stocks and returned home.

Since lunch was so late, they settled down in the living room, where Chrys introduced Scott to her desktop computer and got him online and surfing the net. He was soon engrossed in learning about all the things he didn't know, from current events to history, to new discoveries, to advances in science and medicine. Particularly interesting, was NASA and everything to do with physics. Not that that surprised Chrys any.

While Scott studied, Chrys cleaned house. Not that the house was dirty, but there was a lot of dust accumulated from being gone for almost six months. She made a pot of coffee and brought Scott a mug. He paused long enough to kiss her in thanks and then turned back to the information on the screen. She smiled and shook her head. At least he wasn't a sports nut.

She thought about it for a while longer and then, shaking her head, went to Scott. "I think we need to tell the authorities about your bank."

"Which one?" he asked, looking up at her.

"The first one, silly. I think you were right about there being something wrong, there. Is it all right to have them checked out?"

Scott shrugged and shook his head. "No problem at all. Go ahead." He watched her as she got out her cell phone, then paused. Shaking her head, she dug out the telephone directory and she looked up the number for the local office of the FBI. Placing the call, she leaned against the desk to wait for a real human to come on the line. Scott lightly grasped her hip and guided her to sit on his lap. Chrys smiled and settled down, leaning against his chest with one arm around his shoulders for balance. He kissed her cheek and she lifted her chin to rest atop his head.

It took almost twenty minutes before they finally got a real person on the line. She identified herself and explained why she was calling. The bored sounding young woman perked up as their tale unfolded and agreed that it was, indeed, very odd. Particularly that they agreed to give them cash, as almost all financial institutions insisted on using certified drafts for large sums of money. By the time she hung up the phone, Chrys was feeling much better.

Scott, who had stopped studying the computer screen while she talked, began to rub his cheek on her breast. Chrys was grateful that he'd waited until the phone call was finished. Setting her cell phone down on the desk, she disconnected the computer from the internet and shut it down, all the time looking deep into Scott's eyes. He was smiling seductively and she shivered. As his hands reached for the buttons on her blouse, she stood up, eliciting a disappointed look from him.

"Bedroom," she said and turned away. He only hesitated a moment and then he was up and following her.

It was late when they woke up, or early, depending on your point of view. Whichever it was, they were hungry. In the kitchen, they opted for some seafood salad she'd bought at the grocery store the day before. They took the container from the refrigerator and one fork and took turns feeding one another. When they were full, they put the leftovers back in the refrigerator and went back to bed.
DMV didn't even look twice at his information, simply handed him the test and told him he'd have to take a practical exam in three weeks, as that was the soonest appointment they had available. Scott passed the written test and Chrys promised to give him several chances to practice before he had to come back. He was a little surprised by how easy it all was.

"The knowledge is there, Scott, you just don't have normal access to it, is all." Chrys tried to reassure him. He smiled and accepted her trust. They had one more chore to do involving his investments, so they went over to the broker. They were asked to wait and a few minutes later, an elderly man came out and stared at Scott.

"My God, you haven't changed one bit in over forty years. Scott, It's great to see you." He noticed the folder Scott held and grinned. "Ah, I see that Tony has returned your property. I was very careful, I hope you noticed, not to let him get his greedy little hands on it. Nor on your bank account either."

Scott smiled and tried to remember the man, but couldn't. "I'm sorry. I know I should recognize you, but most of my memories are gone," he chuckled dryly, "I didn't even recognize my own brother, to tell you the truth," he admitted.

The elderly man laughed, "No great loss, I'm sorry to say. You look wonderful. My name is Garrison, by the way. Don Garrison. You were one of my very first clients, I'm happy to say. And one with an excellent eye towards the future. Although, you may wish to make a few changes, now."

Scott smiled and nodded. "Yes. I did want to talk to you about my investments. By the way, let me introduce Chrys, my fiancee'," Garrison beamed at the lovely young woman.

"Congratulations, Scott! You're a lucky young lady," he added to Chrys. "He's got a good eye for investment, I must say, bought IBM and XEROX at four cents a share." He didn't feel it was proper to indicate just how valuable those shares were now. "Please, come on in and have a seat. Carly, coffee for out guests," he called to his receptionist, who smiled at them and rose to prepare a tray.

Three hours later, Scott left, reeling. Going through the papers Tony had returned to him had given no indication whatsoever as to the value of his stocks. He agreed that it was a good idea to sell some of his shares and put the money in other, safer, investments. They might not be as volatile in the possibilities of quick growth, but at this point, it was felt that it was better to safeguard what he had, rather than worry about large profits. Besides which, the market in computer stocks hadn't been doing well for the past year or more.

He was rich. More than rich. When Chrys had first mentioned that he might be able to live 'comfortably' on his investments, he'd had no clue as to what his pitiful little portfolio had become. He wanted to celebrate. As they passed a mall, he touched her arm.

"I want to do some shopping."

She grinned and nodded. "Right you are. Mall-crawling it is."


"You'll see."

Even if he regained his memories, he'd have had nothing to relate this...this madhouse to. The mall was three stories high and full of shoppers. There was every possible kind of store and a multitude to choose from. Grinning, Chrys took him by the hand and they started walking.

He gawked like a tourist in Rome. He couldn't help it. He had no frame of reference for this. Shaking his head in awe, he let Chrys lead the way. The first stop, and very nearly the last, was Barnes & Noble. Seeing all the books, his eyes lit up and he started perusing the stacks, working his way through the massive store. He eventually gravitated to the more esoteric physics section, where he leafed through a few volumes and put them back. Seeing Chrys looking at him in surprise, he grinned. "I'll be better off going to a university and picking up some texts." She nodded.

"I'm going to go look for some science fiction." Seeing his curiosity, she explained, "Fiction. Come on and I'll introduce you to some of my favorite authors."

More than an hour later, but with only one small bag filled mostly with magazines, they headed for the food court for some lunch. Right at the edge of the food stalls, there was a jewelry store and Scott stopped. Chrys kept going as he went over to look in the window at the wedding sets. Most of them seemed either gaudy or cheap, and he frowned. Feeling her hand slipping into his, he looked at her.

"That place sells crap," she murmured.

"But I want to get you a ring," he replied.

She smiled. "I'd love one, but not from here." She tugged his hand and led him back towards lunch. She was thrilled to discover that he didn't know what pizza was.

He did make a few clothing purchases, writing a check for them. The suit he picked out, however, needed a few alterations, since his waist was somewhat smaller than his chest and shoulders. She'd never really noticed that he had an almost classic v-shaped torso, but he certainly did look good in navy blue... She remembered the tie he'd been wearing and made a mental note to be sure to give it to him. It would go very well with the new suit. Now that he had a complete wardrobe, she wondered what he would do, next. She needn't have worried. Once they were back in the car, he turned to her and asked, "Rings?"

She shivered in anticipation. She still wasn't sure about his really wanting to marry her, but he did seem pretty certain. She offered him another chance to change his mind. "Are you sure, Scott?"

"Chrys, if you don't want to marry me, say so."

She turned to look at him, shocked at the weary tone in his voice and saw the fear and uncertainty she felt in his eyes as well. "I'm just scared," she admitted.

"So am I. Not so much of marrying you, because I know that's what I want. I'm afraid of this whole, new world that I know nothing about. Fortunately, I've got money, so I wouldn't have to work if I didn't want to. You got me a job working with you and that's even better. I love you and I want to be with you. I don't know what more I can say that might convince you."

She stared into his eyes for the longest time, almost getting lost in their depths. Finally she took a deep breath and let it out in a soft sigh. She nodded. "Rings," she agreed.

Surprisingly, she took him to a pawnshop that specialized in antique jewelry. He smiled at the wide selection of rings. Most would not be considered engagement rings, per se, but they certainly were beautiful. He pointed to one he liked, and she smiled. It consisted of rows of diamonds intermingled with sapphires, with a largish diamond in the middle, set in platinum filigree. It was magnificent.

"It's gorgeous, she murmured."

The shopkeeper, who was hovering, smiled. "It's old mine cut. Dates from the mid-1800s. It's a nice piece, although a bit delicate for everyday wear." Scott nodded, dismissing it a bit reluctantly. The elderly man opened the case and rummaged around on a lower shelf, a bit and came up with something that he thought might be a bit more suitable. "I have this one, also diamonds and sapphires. As you can see, it's a bit more modern, with brilliant cut diamonds. The sapphires are classic ovals, and are just as large as the diamond." He looked at Scott, recognizing that the man was his customer, even if the ring were for the woman.

Scott frowned. "Too much," he said. "The stones are too large and will dwarf her finger." He sighed. "I really like the other one, better. Do you have any more, similar to that one?"

The shop owner nodded. The man liked platinum. He didn't blame him, the antiques held their value despite advances in cutting design and technique. "I have a few. Let me get them." He turned towards the back of the shop to the safe, where he brought out several more trays of rings.

"Do you see anything you really like?" Scott asked. Chrys shook her head, looking again at the first ring he'd picked. It was truly wonderful.

"I liked the first one, too. But 'too delicate for everyday wear' is certainly not a selling point." She linked her arm through his and leaned against his biceps. "I really like the sapphires, though, they make me think of your eyes, even though your eyes are lighter than that."

He smiled and leaned his cheek against the top of her head. "Thank you," he whispered and watched as the shopkeeper returned with more trays of jewelry.

Together, they looked through the collection, but found nothing that really struck their fancy. Realizing that the couple was interested in sapphires, he excused himself and brought back one more tray. Here, the sapphires were the most prominent with diamonds as the accent, rather than the other way around. As they looked over the tray, the shopkeeper watched in amusement when they smiled simultaneously and reached for the same ring.

"Lovely choice, I must admit. That's a three-quarter karat sapphire in a diamond cut, with almost a full karat of diamonds surrounding it, set in white gold." He was surprised that they liked that one. It was an odd piece, and he'd been trying to sell it for years and years. In fact, his father, who owned the shop before him, had had it for as long as he could remember.

Scott picked the ring up and slid it onto Chrys's finger. It definitely looked like it belonged there. Chrys shivered, feeling something almost magical from the ring. She smiled up at Scott. "I love it; it's perfect."

Scott kissed her, briefly, and then turned to the shop owner. "How much?"

He'd never been able to sell it in over thirty years. His father had probably given ten dollars in pawn for it. He could have broken it up any number of times, but its beauty was such that he couldn't. Here, at last, was someone who would appreciate it for its beauty. Besides, it wasn't as though he had anything invested it the ring.

"Seventeen hundred." He was amazed when the customer brought out a brand new wallet and removed a stack of hundred-dollar bills. He counted off seventeen, then looked up.


"Uh," He quickly figured it in his head, "One-hundred-forty-fifty," and the man added another two hundred and handed it to him. He took the money and quickly checked it for authenticity, wrote up the sale and handed him back his change. "Would you like a box for it?"

Scott looked down at the ring, "No. She'll wear it, thank you." When she looked up at him, he quickly kissed her. Then, placing the change and receipt in his new wallet and putting it in his hip pocket, he took her hand and they left the shop.

He watched them go, feeling that somehow, he'd just been a part of something very special.

She couldn't stop looking at the ring. The dark blue stone seemed magical, catching the light like more like a diamond than a lesser stone. It even made the beautiful diamonds around it seem lacking in comparison. Scott couldn't stop smiling. One time, when he caught her staring at the ring, he took her hand and kissed her palm and then the ring, much to her amusement. He lifted his eyes to hers and smiled. "I do love you, you know," he murmured.

"I know. And I hope you realize that I love you, too."

She watched him as he moved away. Frowning, she followed him. "Scott? What is it?"

He turned to her, "I want you to be my wife," he said softly.

She nodded. "We need to get blood tests and then we can get the license. It will take about a week. Dave will be upset if we don't let him put it all together. Who do you want to invite?"

He hadn't considered that. The only people he actually knew were the men on the crew. Oddly enough, he had no desire to invite Tony or Linda. "The only people I'd really feel comfortable with are the guys."

She nodded her understanding. "Got any ideas for a best man?"

Scott grinned. "Tom."

That surprised her. "Tom? But he's..."

"So? He's a nice kid and I think I'd like him to stand up for me."

She remembered learning from the enormous young man that Lepisto had made rude and inflammatory comments; and that Scott had turned down Tom's offer to 'handle' it for him. Of course, in retrospect, that might have been a good idea, but it certainly made sense for them to have become friends. She smiled. "I'll get his number and you can call and ask him."

Tom was enthralled at the idea, much to their amusement. He excitedly agreed and then started to panic as though it were the next day. Chrys took the phone from the laughing Scott and told him to calm down, that there was plenty of time to prepare. Tom thanked her profusely, as though it had been her idea. Finally ending the call, she shook her head and wrapped her arms around her fiance', laughing hysterically.

"Oh, man. That was amazing." She wiped the tears from her eyes, "Excellent choice, my love. I think you made his week."

Scott continued to chuckle as she called their boss to find out how long it would take him to set them up for a wedding. Dave was pleased and said he'd already done the initial research and come up with several possibilities. His first question was, "Church or civil ceremony?"

Chrys frowned. "Scott? Church or civil?" Seeing his confusion, she explained. "Church/minister, civil/judge."

He nodded his understanding. "I was raised Lutheran, if that matters."

Chrys jumped. He remembered something from his past. Did that mean the rest of his memory was going to return, as well? She looked away, suddenly worried. He came over and wrapped his arms around her. "I get the occasional flash of memory, babe. But nothing big, just little things. I still don't remember my brother, or my work, or school. Even if I do, it's not going to change how I feel about you. Not unless the old memories can somehow transplant the new ones. And I have to tell you, I really like most of the new ones."

"Civil," Chrys said into the phone. She hadn't been to church since her father died and some of his so-called 'church-friends' had said terrible things to her about how he was being punished for her actions. Of course, that was the father of one of the boys.... she bit her tongue to drive that thought away and had to ask Dave to repeat what he'd just said.

She tipped the phone so Scott could hear, too. Scott listened and smiled. "Yes, that sounds nice," he agreed. Dave sounded excited and promised take care of everything and that he'd call to let them know when and where. Chrys smiled and hung up. Looking at Scott, she shook her head.

"I think we just made his week, too."

"That's two. You need to get your guest list together."

She shook her head. "Not much of one. The guys, their families or girlfriends, or whatever. Dave, my mom. Oh, hell. You have to meet my mom," she groaned.

"Is that a bad thing?"

"That depends. How are you with whining women?" He grimaced and she winced in agreement. "Yeah. Me, too. She's my Mom and I love her, but sometimes... well, she still misses Dad, of course, but that's not really an excuse, is it?"

"I don't know. Is it?" Scott nuzzled the nape of her neck and she shivered. He kept finding new ways to excite her and she loved it.

"I-I suppose not." She reached behind her and grasped him by the hips, pulling him closer. "But enough about her, let's go fool around."

He chuckled and pulled away. "Call your mother, first."

She wrinkled up her nose and pouted at him. "Fine. Be that way. Make me talk to my Mother instead of fooling around with you. She's really going to ruin the mood, you know."

"I'll put you back in the mood," he purred, nibbling at her earlobe. She shuddered and reluctantly picked the phone back up and pushed a speed dial.

"Hey, Mom!" She scrunched her face up, and pulled the phone from her ear. Scott didn't need to be right next to her to hear the voice. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it definitely was whining. He smiled softly and kissed her cheek. Then he walked away, leaving her to her fate.

She glared after him. Just as he was about to go through the door to the hallway, he glanced back over his shoulder at her and wiggled his butt; making her laugh.

"Sorry, Mom. No, it's not you. Really. No, Mom. Yeah, I just got back in town. I'm fine. No, I'm not going to get another job. I like what I do. Mom. Mom. Mom!" She glared at the amused face of Scott peering at her from the hallway and realized he had taken his shirt off. "Mom, I'm getting married," she said quickly and jerked the phone away as far as she could and still hold it.

Scott winced, able to hear the scream from where he was. He turned away, smothering his laughter. Chrys wanted to go after him, but she still had to finish dealing with her mother.

"His name is Scott, Mom. No, he's not a doctor, well, yes, he's a doctor, but he's not a medical doctor. He's a physicist, Mom. Mom..." she sighed. Tilting her head up to look at the ceiling, she spotted Scott in the hallway again.... dressed only in his briefs.

"Mom, I need to get going," she stamped her foot in frustration as she spotted Scott grinning at her before going back down the hall. "Yeah, Mom. No. He's a great guy, Mom." She smiled. "I really love him, Mom. He's everything I could ever want." Just then, Scott flashed by the doorway, stark naked. "Mom, Scott needs me to help him right now. I'll call you tomorrow and tell you all about it. Bye!" She slammed the phone down in its cradle and hotfooted it after him.

She caught up with him in the bedroom and tackled him to the bed. They were both laughing joyfully. She started tickling him, but he was already laughing so hard that it was pointless, so instead, she pounced on him, her hands on his shoulders. "That was mean!" she laughed. "Don't do that to me, understand?" He grinned impishly and ran his hand up the inside of her thigh. She shivered and stopped laughing.

"I told you I'd get you back in the mood," he said in the soft, rumbly voice that melted her bones.

"Yes," she whispered, stretching out on him. "You did, didn't you?" and she kissed him.

Chrys heard a pounding noise, followed by an impatient buzz, followed by more pounding. Groaning, she opened her eyes and realized it was someone at the door. She levered herself up, using Scott's chest to brace herself and squinted at the bedside clock. He grunted softly and awoke.

"What's wrong?"

Chrys groaned. "It's not even seven in the morning and someone's at the door. Can only be one person, my mother."

He frowned, "Why?"

"Why is she here before seven? Or why can it only be her?"

"Uh, why do we have to answer the door?" he asked hopefully.

Chrys giggled and shook her head. "She won't go away." She sighed. "Get dressed, and please hurry. We'll go around through the back yard and pretend we were out there, okay?"

Scott frowned, not understanding the subterfuge but willing to go along with her. Chrys scrambled into a pair of shorts and a halter-top, then scurried out into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee while Scott got dressed. As soon as he had on his pants and a shirt, she hurried him out the back, still barefoot. She handed him a pair of clippers and pointed to a bush that needed pruning. Shaking his head in confusion, he began to trim the bushes.

Meanwhile, she got out the hoe and began hoeing around the rose bushes. About fifteen minutes later, they'd both worked up a sweat and Scott stopped to pull his shirt off. Chrys paused to watch and smile. Five minutes later, the side gate opened and an older woman in heels and dressed for a tea party came stomping into the yard.

"I rang the bell and knocked, but you didn't answer." The woman said accusingly.

"Mom! What are you doing here so early?" Chrys leaned her hoe against the fence and went to 'air-kiss' her mother's cheek. Scott watched, frowning.

"Hello, dear," her mother smiled, then looked rather critically at Scott. "And who might this be?"

Chrys smiled. "This is Scott, Mom. Scott, this is my mother, Laine MacKenzie."

"Cassidy, dear," her mother corrected. Chrys frowned.

"When did you change your name, and why?"

"Oh, I just took back my maiden name a few months ago, dear. I felt it was time to move on with my life." She turned her attention back to Scott, who was busy pulling his t-shirt back on. "Aren't you going to invite me in, sweetie?"

"Sure, Mom. There should be coffee in the kitchen." Chrys turned towards the house, but her mother scurried ahead and entered before her. Scott held the door for Chrys and heard her softly mumble "This is going to be soooo bad."

Her mother insisted on being served in the living room, even though both Scott and Chrys would have preferred the kitchen. Chrys, knowing her mother, poured the coffee into a carafe and served it on a tray. Scott stayed with her to help while her mother prattled from the other room.

Once they were all seated and sipping their coffee, Laine Cassidy beamed at Scott. "So, Scotty, how did you meet my precious little Chrysanthemum?"

Scott almost choked, but managed to swallow. He turned wide eyes on the furiously blushing Chrys, who softly muttered, "Oh, please, beam me up," and realized what her mother was doing. With a twinkle in his eyes and a quick wink at Chrys, he turned his attention to the older woman.

"She found me at the foot of a wall." Seeing the confusion on the woman's face, he smiled. "We met on the job."

"Oh! You're an engineer or something?"


"What do you do?"

He looked at Chrys, who watched him, wondering what he was going to do. "I'm the company cook."

Laine choked and sprayed her coffee all down the front of her dress. "C-cook?"

"Yeah, Mom," Chrys added, seeing that this might not be all bad. "You know how bad the aerospace industry's been for the past fifteen years or so."

Ms Cassidy frowned, not even trying to hide her displeasure. Her frown turned into a scowl when Scott took Chrys's hand. "Yes, my precious little flower lifted me up out of the dust and debris and gave me new purpose in life."

Chrys gaped at him. Had Scott just simpered? She closed her mouth as she caught his wink. Yes. He had simpered. She glanced sidelong at her mother, whose face turned from pasty to overly pink.

"In fact," Scott clapped his hands and stood, "I've just the perfect idea for the wedding. I must go and call Dave, sweetness, may I please have his number?" His eyes never even glanced at Chrys's mother, but he was vindictively aware of her reaction to his behavior.

Chrys smiled adoringly up at him. "Yes, lovey, it's speed dial number two, just hit the 'dial' button and then the two." She watched him as he minced from the room and had to look away to keep from bursting into laughter.

"Dear, just what kind of man is this Scott?"

Chrys turned back to her mother, noticing the black scowl on her face. "Oh, Mom, he's absolutely perfect. He's the sweetest man on the face of the earth," she said, beaming at her.

"But...but he's so, so... effeminate!" was her mother's horrified rejoinder.

"Don't be silly, Mom. He's just perfect for me." She could meet her mother's eyes on that statement, as it was the absolute truth.

"But, Chrys...."

"Mom," Chrys sighed. "My life, my man, my decision," she stated emphatically. "You've never liked a single one of my friends, so why should I be concerned when I finally find the one man who's perfect for me?"

"That's not so, Chrysanthemum!" She took a deep breath to continue, not noticing Scott entering the room behind her. "Ever since you were twelve, you've been difficult. You always disagree with me and never listen to my very good advice...."

Chrys became angry. "Good advice? From you? I don't think so. I seem to recall you telling me that it was my fault those boys attacked me. I overheard you telling your 'friends' that I just got what I deserved. I was twelve years old, Mother. I was a child. I was brutally attacked and raped repeatedly. I spent five days in the hospital, remember? But because they were going to the state finals, it was ignored and I was painted as a slut. How could you do that to me? Did you hate me so much that you enjoyed my pain?" Chrys was in tears and her mother was becoming uncomfortable. Scott watched and listened in horror and rising rage to what had befallen her, but Chrys didn't even notice his presence.

"Well, you got your revenge at the championships, now, didn't you?" her mother snarled.

Chrys smiled through her tears. "You bet your life I did. Mikey's still one of my best friends and I love having him on my team at work." Her mother sniffed disdainfully, "Lucky for me, Daddy came home right after that and found out everything and moved us to California."

Her mother was livid. "And that was the worst mistake your father ever made."

Scott entered the room and crossed to Chrys, taking her into his arms as she rose. He lightly kissed her cheek and murmured, "Let me handle this," in her ear. He turned to glare at his future mother-in-law. "You know, I was always under the impression that parents were supposed to protect their children. I've seen crocodiles with more maternal instincts than you have." Chrys was shaking in his arms and buried her face against his chest. "Now you've come here and upset her. I'd like you to leave, now, before I say something you may regret."

Laine glared at the couple, but Scott's entire demeanor had changed. The simpering, effeminate man she'd seen had been replaced by a strong, implacable man of stone and the glitter in his pale blue eyes suddenly frightened her. She stood up and snatched up her bag.

She sniffed, trying to regain some kind of dignity. "I'll call you later, Chrysanthemum, after he's gone home, and we'll talk." She turned, nose in the air and headed for the front door.

Scott got in one parting shot, "I am home, Laine," and smiled grimly as the older woman nearly tripped on the edge of the carpet. She stumbled to the door, jerked it open, and left without a backwards glance, slamming the door shut behind her.

"She's the kind of woman who gives mother-in-laws a bad name," he murmured into Chrys's ear as he pressed his cheek to the top of her head.

Chrys choked out a laugh, but it came out more of a strangled sob.

"Shhh, It's all right, babe. Fortunately, I'm in love with you and she doesn't mean anything to me, except that she hurt you and that makes me angry." He was trembling a bit himself from the aftermath of the confrontation.

"I-I know. Sometimes, I think she's always hated me." She sniffled and clung more tightly to his warm, loving form.

"Why on earth would she dislike her own daughter?" Scott couldn't understand. Chrys pulled away and wiped her eyes.

"She was jealous. I guess that when I was born, my father was so taken with having a baby he fussed over me and maybe didn't pay quite enough attention to her. At least, that's what she thought. She refused to have any more kids so Daddy doted on me. That probably made things worse."

Scott nodded, understanding. "Where was he when you were attacked?" he asked softly.

"Saudi Arabia, working. Mom never told him what happened and wouldn't let me talk to him when he called, always saying I was out, or sleeping, or something. When he came home the day after the championships, he heard all about everything and within two weeks, we were packed up and moved."

He nodded. "You said that was when you met Mike?"

She smiled up at him through her tears. "Oh, yeah. See, the biggest reason they didn't want to do anything about what happened to me was that they were going to the state championships and had home-field advantage. The other team had to come from clear across the state, from one of the larger cities. In fact, it was what is called an 'inner city' school... poor people, mostly. They couldn't afford two nights in the hotel and almost nobody came with them, not even their cheerleading squad, there just wasn't enough money. So, they pulled in about an hour before the game, having traveled most of the day. The bleachers were full on the home-team side, and there was almost nobody on the visitor's side."

She grabbed a tissue from a box on an end table and mopped at her eyes and blew her nose. Scott took the used tissue from her and placed it in the wastebasket by the desk in the corner, then put his arm back around her and they sat on the couch. She snuggled up against him, resting her cheek against his chest. "So, since I couldn't possibly root for the guys who hurt me, I was over on the visitor's side, too. Cheering myself hoarse with every first down and every score." She lifted her head to smile up at him, "I was pretty loud."

He smiled, picturing her defiantly cheering for the opposition. "Good for you," he murmured.

She nodded and rested against his chest again before continuing. "So, the home town crowd was getting quiet and I kept getting louder. The boys on the field looked up at me, wondering why on earth I should be cheering for them. The game was a close one, but I kept screaming for the underdogs to get going and win. In the last fifteen seconds, down one point, they intercepted a pass. They got it just past the fifty-yard line before being stopped. There was about eight seconds on the clock and only time for one more play. They kicked a fifty-five yard field goal and won the game. I was shrieking my vocal cords raw and the rest of the stadium was dead silent."

Scott hugged her more tightly, knowing how hard it was for her to talk about it. He kissed the top of her head and rubbed his cheek in her hair. "Go on, then what happened? I'm sure they probably wanted to lynch you."

"Oh, yeah. Well, the visiting team came up into the stands where I was and every single one of them shook my hand and gave me a hug and thanked me. I had lost my voice by then and could only smile. They invited me to join them for pizza and I nodded. I think that if it hadn't been the law, the local pizza parlor would have refused to serve them."

Scott frowned, "Why?"

"Well, they were all black kids in a white, southern town. Plus, they'd just beaten their 'can't lose' team."

Scott nodded his understanding. "So what position did Mike play?"

"Center. He's always been short and stout. More of it is fat, now, of course, but he's still one of the strongest men I know."

"And he adores you," Scott added.

She looked up at him and smiled. "He's my friend. I still keep in touch with most of the guys on the team. It was funny, but Mike's family moved to LA about a month after we did and we ended up in the same school. He remembered me, of course, and we spent my freshman and his junior and senior years hanging out together."

They sat quietly for a while after her soul bearing. Finally, Scott asked, "What about your mother?"

"She's never forgiven me for taking her from where she was the top of society to where it didn't matter. Funny, if she'd just given Daddy more kids, I'd probably have had someone besides him to play with and have fun with."

Scott nodded his agreement. "Do we have to invite her to the wedding?" he asked a little plaintively.

She chuckled. "Yes, I'm afraid so. She's going to be angry, too, because I want Dave to give me away."

He nodded again. Hesitantly, he said, very softly, "Chrysanthemum?"

Chrys groaned. "Yes. My mother was a hippie wannabe. She insisted I be named something 'elegant and unusual'. She chose that, but my father quickly shortened it to Chrys. She's the only one who calls me that, by the way."

"Good. By the way, I talked to Dave,"

"What was that about, anyway?"

He chuckled. "Well, what do you think of a Chinese theme for your wedding?" he asked.

Her eyebrows arched as she thought about it. "Hmmmm, could be interesting. Why Chinese?"

"Chrysanthemums. Very popular in the art, as I recall...."

She frowned, then nodded, wondering what he was getting at.

"So, how about we decorate with chrysanthemums, among other things?"

She thought about it and a smile slowly grew on her face. "I'd like that. I'd like that a lot." She kissed him and grinned. "So, the colors are orange and yellow?"

"Red and yellow?" he suggested.

She nodded. "Good summery-autumn colors. Sounds great." They snuggled some more, until Scott's stomach rumbled, reminding them that they had been rudely awakened far too early and they had yet to eat any breakfast. Hand in hand, they rose and headed for the kitchen.

They spent most of the rest of the day in the back yard, cutting the lawn, pruning bushes and pulling weeds. Chrys was annoyed, as she'd been paying a service to maintain her yards. The front looked great, but the back was sadly overgrown.

"It looks like they haven't been back here in a month or more," she growled, showing Scott how to use the weed-eater. He watched closely and once he understood how it worked, went to town taking down the weeds by the fences while she went along behind him raking it all up.

By early afternoon they were finished. Hot and sweaty, they decided on a shower before lunch. Bathing each other, they got involved and wound up in bed, completely forgetting to eat.

When they awoke, it was early evening. Both of them were hungry, so they headed to the kitchen to fix dinner together. They spent as much time touching and kissing as they did cooking and eating. After dinner, when the dishes were done, Scott smiled at Chrys. "One question, by the way."

"What's that?" She was comfortable and full and relaxed.

"What's 'beam me up'?"

She froze in his comfortable embrace and he stiffened as well, thinking he'd said something wrong. "Sorry, I...."

"No, it's all right. I forget that you've missed a lot." She shook with silent laughter at the realization that he'd missed not only Star Trek in all its incarnations, but also Star Wars, E.T., and thousands of other movies. "I think it's time we watched some television...."

She had an extensive video library, including most of the episodes of Star Trek (TOS, TNG, and DS9). Naturally, she started him out with the original, and he was fascinated with the special effects. He realized that the doors on the Enterprise worked just like the doors into the grocery stores. She laughed and explained that the idea for those doors came from the show. That the way they worked on the series, however, involved two people pulling the doors open from off-screen; but it had given people ideas, and the results were the modern automatic doors.

It was well after midnight when they gave up. Scott was totally Star Trekked out. She promised him something different for the next day. Scott, nearly recovered from his surgery and finally no longer passing cement from his system, still tired easily but had forced himself to complete their tasks during the day. Despite the afternoon nap after making love, he was more than ready to simply sleep. They cuddled until they did.

It was almost noon before they stirred. Scott was the first to awaken and he drew Chrys closer to his body and sighed contentedly. When she awoke a few minutes later, she stretched against him, then turned to face him. He continued to hold her close, kissing her. Snuggled comfortably together, they simply basked in the warmth of one another.

"You're the only man I've ever met who is just as happy snuggling as he is having sex."

"Oh?" Scott asked, curiously, "And you know this because?"

"I've dated, Scott. Except for very few exceptions, most men are only interested in sex. You don't seem to care and, in fact, seem to enjoy the snuggling more than the sex."

"Sex. Is that what you think of it? I think of it as making love," he murmured. "That includes everything, the sex act itself, along with the touching and cuddling. It's all part of the same thing for me."

She sighed. "But you like to snuggle, most of all." He didn't deny it, so she continued, "Why do you suppose you like to snuggle so much?"

He frowned, thinking about it. He thought about how having her in his arms made him feel, how touching her and being held by her made him feel, he shook his head, uncertain, but tried to answer anyway. "Maybe it's because I need it more than most men?"

She thought about what she knew about him from before. How he'd had to grow up too fast and be responsible. Having met his brother, she wondered if his parents had been huggers? Tony certainly didn't seem to be. "Maybe. I know that I like it, a lot. But then, I'm hopelessly in love with you, too."

"Hopeless? I'm in love with you, but not hopelessly," he said softly. She stiffened in his arms as he nuzzled against her ear. "I'm hopefully in love with you," he continued, nibbling on her earlobe. She heard him, but it took a moment for it to register. She turned her head and kissed him soundly.

"Sometimes you say the most wonderful things," she declared. He chuckled softly and held her closer. Despite the fact they'd been sleeping for more than twelve hours, they drowsed back to sleep.

It was mid-afternoon when they finally awoke. Chrys slipped out of bed, leaving Scott still sleeping. She looked down at him and smiled, noting that he no longer had that worried look on his face, but simply an expression of contentment. She shuffled out to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee and figure out what to fix to eat. She'd just poured two mugs full when he came wandering into the kitchen. She grinned. His hair was finally long enough to get a good case of bed-head.

He rubbed his face with both hands and then ran his hands through his hair, smoothing it, slightly. He gave her a grateful smile as he accepted his mug. "Thank you," he murmured, taking a deep sip.

"You're welcome," she replied, taking a sip of her own. They sat down at the table and sleepily sipped their coffee, slowly waking up more fully. When the phone rang, they were almost ready to consider breakfast...or whatever meal it was supposed to be.

Chrys snagged the phone from the wall, "'Lo?" she asked. "Oh, hey, Dave. Yeah, he's here. Really? Sounds good." She looked at Scott and announced, "Colors are red and gold. How does that sound?"

Scott nodded, "Sounds good." He watched as Chrys repeated his reply and then listened for a long time, with a smile growing wider and wider on her face.

"That's wonderful, Dave. Tomorrow's Monday, right? Sunday? Is that all? Sheesh. I must have it bad, not being able to remember what day it is. Okay, day after tomorrow, we'll get the tests done and then as soon as they're back, we'll get the license and be all set. Is there anything else we need to do?" She listened, smiling. "Thanks, Dave. You're wonderful." She listened some more and frowned. "Figures. She was here yesterday morning, early. She was rude to Scott."

"She was even more rude to you, babe," Scott softly growled, but was ignored. She listened for a while longer and smiled again.

"That would be great, Dave. Thanks. I do love you, you know." She listened some more and finally ended the call, still smiling.

Scott watched her, "What did he say that pleased you so much?"

She grinned impishly at him. "It seems that my mother went running to him about us and he told her how happy he was for us and for her to shut up and take it like an adult."

"Good for him, but won't that annoy her even more?"

"Gee, I certainly hope so."

Scott gaped at her for a moment before noticing the impish gleam in her eyes, which made him chuckle. "I love you," he murmured, standing up and crossing to her to take her into his arms again.

She melted against him, hugging him hard. "Oh, I love you, too, Scott." There had been one thing that Dave had told her that worried him, however, and thinking back on it, she worried, as well.

"What is it?" Scott asked, somehow knowing something was wrong.

She pulled away and watched him, frowning slightly. "Dave said something that my mom said. She's afraid of you, that you might hurt me. Dave told her she was nuts, but he was a little worried when we were there the other day, about the way you started to get angry, he said that he was afraid that you might attack him. You wouldn't have, would you?"

"Only if he tried to hurt you," Scott admitted.

Chrys gazed worriedly into his eyes. He met her gaze calmly; but she remembered from her 'dream' of the night Scott had saved her, the enraged, almost feral look of him, and she shivered.

"Something's wrong with me, isn't there? You are afraid of me." There was deep sadness in his voice and he looked away, his heart breaking.

"Maybe. I want to take you to a doctor and have some tests run. If there is something wrong, maybe we can find a way to fix it." He nodded, but wouldn't meet her gaze. "Scott," she had to grasp his face with her hands to make him look at her, and she saw the anguish in his eyes, "Scott, I love you and you love me. We'll figure out something. If the only thing is to make sure that no one is foolish enough to hurt me, well, we'll deal with it. Okay?"

He gazed longingly into her eyes and finally nodded. "All right. But if it's something dangerous, if there is any possibility of my hurting you, I-I'll leave." He choked on the vow.

She shook her head and hugged him. "Don't you even dare to think that, Scott Nelson. We were meant for each other." He nodded, but they both knew that they were afraid, and with good reason.

Although they slept together, neither of them felt like making love, simply holding each other, trying to reassure themselves that nothing was wrong, even though they both knew differently.

Monday morning, Chrys made the appointments for the required blood tests, plus a full physical and workup for Scott. She explained to the doctor her fears about Scott's tendency to become enraged whenever he felt someone threatened her and the doctor nodded, frowning.

"It could be serious, but you say he's only lost control one time, when you were in danger?"

"Yes, but he's frightened other people. He gets this look...."

The doctor nodded. "I'll run some blood tests." He could see her concern, but without the tests he was unable to reassure her. "We'll find out, it may just be that he's overprotective," he offered lamely.

Chrys shook her head. "Overprotective? That's putting it mildly. The two men who attacked me? One of them is never going to be able to rape anyone else, and the other one is little more than a vegetable." Seeing the doctor's shock, she explained, "The one he grabbed by the gonads, picked him up and threw him. The guy was twice Scott's size. The other one, he hit across the back of the head with a shovel and cracked his skull."

The doctor swallowed hard and looked away from her. "That-that's quite some temper."

"Yeah. I think he was going to kill the one guy, but Tom, one of the guys we work with told him that I needed him and, according to Tom, it was like a switch turned off the rage and he came running to me."

"How was he then?"

"I don't know, for sure. I was kind of out of it. When I did become aware again, he was holding me. I'm afraid most of the incident is kind of a dream-nightmare, for me. I don't remember many of the specifics, and if you don't mind, I'd just as soon not remember."

The doctor nodded. "What are you thinking? I know you're an M.D., yourself. You must have some ideas?"

Chrys shook her head. "None. I know that Scott would never hurt me, but if someone else were to do so, I don't want him going into a killing rage over it."

"No, of course not," the doctor agreed. "Let's get him in here and get started, then, shall we?"

Scott didn't enjoy the physical, but he endured it, albeit with ill grace. The large number of blood samples was unpleasant, but not nearly as bad as the spinal tap. He knew they suspected they knew what might be wrong with him and it frightened him...even more than the neurosurgery had. The operation might have killed him, but this could lose him Chrys, and he didn't know if he could survive that.

He was aching and exhausted when they finally released him to go home. His back ached abominably and he wanted nothing more than a hot shower and bed, preferably with Chrys beside him. It took a couple of days for the effects to wear off, by which time they were anxiously awaiting the test results.

Three days cooped up waiting because Scott didn't want to run the risk of losing his temper. He became morose and depressed. Nothing Chrys could say or do could cheer him up. All she could do was hold him tight. She dreaded hearing back from the hospital.

The news, when it finally came, wasn't nearly as bad as they feared. Yes, Scott's serotonin levels were a bit low, but still well within 'normal'. The big problem, it seemed, was that he had a huge vitamin and mineral imbalance. The doctor felt certain that a change in diet would most likely be all that was necessary to alleviate the problem, although it would take time and there really was no cure for Scott's overprotective nature where Chrys was concerned.

Their relief at the news turned into a celebration. One which culminated in the bedroom with an all-night session of lovemaking.

The results of their blood tests was also celebrated, as they could now go down to get their marriage license.

They slept late the next day and Chrys was the first to awaken. She watched Scott sleep for a while, smiling that the lines of worry had eased from his face. Rising, she slipped quietly into the kitchen to start the coffee and call Dave with the good news.

"Dave? How soon can you set up the wedding?"

"Well, next Saturday, perhaps? That gives you ten days to get your dress and your guests."

"Great. Thanks, Dave." She couldn't stop smiling.

"So, what did the doctor say?"

"Diet, mostly, along with medication."

"Diet?" Dave asked in confusion.

"Yep. Too high a mineral content, not enough vitamins. Too much calcium, iron, potassium, etc. Not nearly enough of D and B and A. They've never seen such an imbalance in what is 'otherwise a healthy individual'."

"So, obviously, cement is not very good for you, right?"

Chrys laughed, the joy having come back into her life. "Absolutely," she agreed.

Dave chuckled, "I'm happy for you, sweetheart."

"Thanks, Dave."

"Well, let me get going. I've got a lot of work to do if this is going to happen in just ten days."

"Thank you for everything, Dave. I love you, you know."

"I know, sweetheart. I love you, too. Take care and I'll get back to you with the particulars when they're ready."

She said her goodbyes and hung up. Turning, she saw Scott standing in the doorway, smiling at her. "Hey."

"Hey, yourself. Sleep well?"

"Best sleep I've had all week," he admitted.

"Yeah, me, too. Once we actually slept, anyway." She grinned mischievously at him. "Want food, or to fool around?"

His smile slowly spread across his face and his eyes twinkled, "How about both?"

She laughed and stepped into his arms.

The intervening time was spent preparing for the wedding, although they took several opportunities to find nice big empty parking lots for Scott to practice his driving, followed by a few cautious excursions onto the streets and finally full traffic and freeways. Surprisingly, he seemed to remember the skills, subconsciously at any rate. Three days before the wedding, he took his practical exam and was pleased when he passed. He was as proud of his temporary license as any sixteen-year-old.

The Treasury Department had closed down Scott's original bank, although the funds he'd left there were insured. He'd simply taken the money and put it in Certificates of Deposit, at Mr. Garrison's suggestion.

The day before the wedding, the crew arrived. Chad and Mike showed up at Chrys's house to take Scott out for a bachelor party, much to Scott's dismay. He drank sparingly at the party and desperately wanted to get back to Chrys, only to be informed that it was very bad luck to sleep with the bride the night before the wedding. Instead, Mike finally took pity on him and when the party broke up just after midnight, took him home with him, where he slept restlessly.

Chrys spent a lonely night as well, even though her mother had given her a shower, also. Unfortunately, the only people she knew at the party were two older ladies she just happened to be acquainted with. The guests were all friends of her mother's. She was bored to tears.

Finally able to escape, claiming a headache and the need to get some sleep, she drove home to a miserably sleepless night of her own.

Getting ready for the wedding, Chrys was nearly panicking, waiting for everything to come together. Her mother was less than useless, but Chrys couldn't exactly tell her to go away. Dave did his best to keep her occupied elsewhere, but he couldn't keep her away forever. Laine was simply being a pain to everyone and everything. Scott, however, could send her scurrying for places out of the way just by looking at her. His initial impression on her hadn't changed at all, and wasn't likely to.

Tom was nervous. He'd never been someone's best man, before. He was honored and terrified that he was going to screw it all up. Scott, who should have been the most nervous of all, except for maybe Chrys, was totally relaxed. He was truly looking forward to getting married.

He'd broken down and invited his brother and sister-in-law. They'd almost declined, but decided at the last minute that it wouldn't be good manners to miss it. Mr. Garrison had been surprised and delighted with his invitation, and he and his wife were there.

The entire crew and their families had come, not about to miss out on a good feed, not to mention the opportunity to tease the couple.

Chrys had only one worry. She was due to start her period at any minute and was terrified at the thought of possibly bleeding through her dress. That would be horrible. She took precautions, wearing both a tampon and a pad.

Actually, she'd been due to start the week before, but attributed it to the stress from her worry about Scott and then the excitement over the wedding. Besides, she'd never been all that regular, anyway.

Everyone there agreed that the wedding had been beautiful. The Justice of the Peace who performed the ceremony had been perfect, an elderly man who had a knack of creating the perfect words for each couple. Scott had stood quietly, waiting for Chrys to come down the aisle. Tom looked more like the groom than the best man. The moment the wedding march began, Scott had looked towards the doors and from the moment his bride appeared he had no eyes for anything but her. When Dave handed her over to him, Scott touched his arm in thanks, never moving his eyes from Chrys. She gazed up at him through her veil, not quite believing that this was happening.

The words passed in a blur, as did their answers. When Scott was instructed to kiss his bride, he did so, gently, passionately. Turning to their guests, the Justice announced Mr. and Mrs. Nelson. The men from the crew cheered, oblivious to Chrys's mother's distaste. Dave, who had sat with Laine Cassidy leaned over and told her to simply lighten up. It was Chrys's wedding, not hers. Laine sniffed disdainfully and turned away.

The reception was catered by one of Dave's relatives, much to Chrys's delight. Scott still had eyes only for her and was hard-pressed to allow anyone to dance with her, although he grudgingly allowed Dave the opportunity while he was stuck with his mother-in-law. She moved stiffly in his arms, as though she expected him to hurt her. When he finally turned his gaze to her, he smiled.

"Don't worry, MS Cassidy, you only have to do this once. In fact, if you like, you don't even have to see us again, although Chrys might be a bit disappointed."

Laine sniffed in distaste. "I'm just grateful that there won't be any children," she said snidely. Scott frowned, not understanding. Seeing his expression, she got a sly look, "Don't tell me she didn't tell you? She can't have children, according to the doctors."

Scott was shocked, not so much by the news, because that didn't bother him, but that Laine should be so cruel to say it. "That's all right, mother, I married Chrys because I love her, not because I thought she'd be a broodmare." He smiled down at the shocked expression on Laine's face just as the music ended. He tilted his head mockingly and bowed. "Thank God I won't have to do that again," he said very pleasantly so only she could hear his words. Turning away, he found Dave right behind him, offering Chrys's hand to her new husband.

As the music began again, he swept her away, smiling happily down at her.

Later, aboard their flight to Honolulu, they dozed, holding hands the entire flight. When the arrived in Hawaii, there was a limousine waiting for them, courtesy of Dave, naturally. Instead of staying in a hotel, they had a small bungalow on the beach. The kitchen was fully stocked and there were tickets to various attractions, including a luau...if they could tear themselves apart to go to it.

Wedding nights are supposed to be memorable and the simple change of location made it so. They danced under the moon on the beach and walked in the surf holding hands, and kissed under the full moon. Their lovemaking was slow and tender, like the incoming tide, rising quietly, but inexorably until complete. They slept in a tangle of limbs, sated and happy.

After two days, they were ready to do some of the tourist things. They rented a car and took a nice, long drive around the island, stopping whenever the mood struck them. They ate at small, local eateries, rather than the big tourist spots. The locals liked them, they weren't dressed like tourists in loud, overly expensive Chinese and Indonesian copies of their traditional shirts. One of the places they stopped, they found a family still making painted silk shirts in the traditional fashion. Scott was enthralled and they ended up purchasing a matched pair, much to the delight of the artists. Chrys tried to convince Scott to try the traditional men's lava-lava, but he shook his head, refusing.

They decided to wear their beautiful new shirts to the luau that night. Among the guests was a representative of the hotel, who kept staring at them. Every time they turned around, the man was there looking at them. It got on Scott's nerves and although Chrys kept him calm, he finally had enough and confronted the man.

"What do you want?" Scott practically snarled, encroaching on the man's space.

Surprised by the obvious animosity, the man backed away, his hands coming up in a placating gesture. He got the feeling that if the woman hadn't kept her hand on her husband's arm, he might actually be in danger. "I'm sorry, it-it's your shirts. They're magnificent. I was trying to figure out where you had them made, is all."

Scott blinked, his rage immediately gone. He frowned. "Why?"

"I'm, uh, the gift-shop manager, here." No longer feeling threatened, he came closer and reached out to touch the fabric of Scott's shirt. "It's silk, isn't it?"

Scott looked at Chrys, at a loss. She smiled and slipped an arm around his waist; leaning against him, she effectively reassured him as well as blocked him from any action.

"Yes, they are," Chrys agreed, smiling at the stranger. "We found them down the beach from our bungalow. They're locally made, in fact the artists were still working on them when we saw them."

"Really? Did they have a lot of them, by any chance?" Now that he was closer, he could see that whoever the artist was, they were very talented.

Scott shrugged. "I didn't notice. We saw these as they were painting them. Chrys loved the colors, so we asked if we could buy them."

The stranger nodded. "May ask what you paid for them?"

"I gave them a hundred dollars for the pair."

The man stared. He could easily get twice that price for them in his shop. "I'd like to meet these people. Do they have a business card?"

"No," Chrys laughed. "It's just a local family. I suppose we could give you directions, mister...?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm Bob Davis. Like I said, I'm the buyer for the gift shop, here." He offered his hand and Scott reluctantly shook it. "I'd really love to contact the artist, I think we might do very well together."

"Artists," Scott corrected. "There were four of them. Two were working on these shirts, the other two were working on another pair, only the base color there was orange."

"Orange? Were they silk, too?"

"I think so," Chrys answered.

"Please, could you give me directions?"

Scott and Chrys looked at each other and shrugged. Between them, they gave Bob the directions to their bungalow, and from there how they'd found the little family enterprise. When he understood how to find the artists, Bob was ebullient in his thanks. When he finally left, Scott was relieved.

"That was definitely weird," Chrys murmured as they decided to head back to their bungalow. Scott nodded his agreement.

"I hope we didn't screw up their business by telling him about them."

"They can always say 'no'. It's not like he can actually do anything to force them to work for him. Besides, maybe they'll be able to make a good deal."

"I hope so," Scott agreed.

Later that night, as they lay together, Scott finally asked, "There's one thing we've never discussed, babe."

"Oh? What's that?" Chrys replied, lazily tracing abstract patterns on his chest.

"Children." He felt her stiffen and added, "Did I say something wrong?"

Chrys could have kicked herself. It had never been a consideration, before; but now, now it might be important. "When I...when I was attacked when I was twelve, they didn't just rape me. They, uh, did some other things that damaged me inside. The doctors said I could probably never have kids. I'm sorry, I didn't think. If you...."

"Shhhh, it's all right, Chrys. It isn't a problem. I don't care. All I care about is you, love," he hastened to reassure her, holding her tightly to him. "You're all that's important to me, sweetheart."

"Wh-what made you ask?" she whispered, clinging tightly to him.

"Something your mother said at the reception." He felt her stiffen again and held her tighter. "I told her that I was marrying you because I loved you, not because I wanted a broodmare," he admitted.

She couldn't help herself, the imagined look on her mother's face would have been worth paying for. "Oh, Scott, how did I get so lucky as to find you?"

"No luckier than I am, babe," Scott countered, kissing her.

They made love again, and Chrys didn't worry about anything at all except pleasing her husband, who was single-mindedly focused on pleasing her. They couldn't have been happier.

Two days later, as they played in the surf, two small children approached them with a note. Scott read it and frowned. Chrys looked at him and asked, "What is it?"

"It's an invitation." He looked down at the two children, who couldn't have been more than eight years old. "I don't understand?" he asked them.

"You sent man to buy our shirts. Tutu say 'You come to luau tomorrow night.' Yes?" the older looking child said.

Scott looked at Chrys, who was smiling. "We'd be honored to come," Scott replied and received Chrys's confirming nod. The children giggled and ran off. Scott shook his head. "I guess that guy at the hotel was serious."

Chrys nodded and hugged him. "Good. I hope that he pays them well."

"Me, too."

The following evening, they walked down the beach towards the houses of the locals. They were greeted like old friends by everyone they met, much to their surprise. When they arrived at the house of the people they'd bought their shirts from, they were hailed like long-lost favorite relatives. When they asked if the man from the hotel had come, they were told in detail of the negotiations and how pleased they were with the results. They were seated in places of honor, next to the matriarch of the clan, who smiled at them and chattered away in Hawaiian. One of the younger children translated for them.

"Tutu says you are family, now, because you sent the rich man to buy so many of our shirts."

"We didn't really do anything," Scott insisted. "He saw the shirts we got and wanted to know where we found them. We just told him how to find you."

"Tutu say: yes, and for that, we are most grateful."

The family-style luau was very different from the professional kind. The men literally threw out their nets into the surf and the fish were brought in and cooked immediately. The pig had been roasted all day, buried in the sand, wrapped in Ti leaves, rather than the banana leaves used by the hotel. It was seasoned differently, too, and was far better than the 'ordinary' luau fare. They had a much better time with the locals than they had at the tourist luau.

Later in the evening, the matriarch reached over and patted Chrys on the knee. When she had their attention, the old woman smiled and said, "Hapai." Chrys shook her head, not understanding. The old woman patted her stomach and repeated, "Hapai," and smiled broadly when her great-grandchildren snickered.

"I'm sorry, what does Hapai mean?" Chrys asked.

One of the children answered, giggling. "She say you have keiki." Seeing that Chrys still didn't get it, the little girl sighed in exasperation and said, "You ohana get bigger."

Chrys turned to Scott, puzzled, but he could only shrug helplessly. The old woman called to one of her older children and sent them for something. Upon their return, she handed the package of dried herbs to Chrys. "You take. Not feel so good, you put little piece under tongue. It help. Make keiki strong."

Chrys accepted the gift, but frowned. "But what's a keiki?" The old woman laughed and gestured to her large, extended family.

"All my keiki, my ohana."

Chrys still didn't understand, but smiled and tucked her gift away.

Later still, as the party slowed down, Chrys and Scott stood and thanked their hosts for the wonderful time, but that they should be getting back to their bungalow now. Before they left, however, the matriarch called for one more thing. One of the artists handed them a package. They were told to open it. Inside, they found more of their fantastic art on clothing. For her, there was a long dress in a midnight blue, with a shirt to match. For him, there was a lava-lava in a matching midnight blue with matching shirt. The pictures that had been painted on them included portraits of them standing on the beach in each other's arms, looking out to sea, with a full moon sparkling on the water.

Chrys gasped in awe. She wondered how in the world they'd managed to do their portraits so beautifully. "These are magnificent," she breathed. She lifted tear-filled eyes to their hostess, "Thank you so much. I..." She couldn't talk. They couldn't possibly know that, as beautiful as the work was, she would probably never be able to live the scene they painted, as it showed she and Scott with two children. The old woman smiled at them and nodded.

"You see. Soon. You see," she insisted.

Scott smiled graciously and simply said "Thank you for everything."

"It is you who we thank. You bring us good luck. We give you luck back," the elderly woman insisted. "You see. You see very soon."

Smiling through her tears, Chrys thanked them again. Scott held her hand all the way back to their temporary home and then held her through the night as she cried. Being reminded twice within as many days that she couldn't have children was too much for her and only Scott's unconditional love and support brought her out of her funk.

The end of the week, they were happy to return home. Hawaii was nice and the neighbors had been very friendly, but it wasn't home. Back in California, they happily entered their home, only to be brought to a startled stop upon seeing what had happened in their absence.

Scott stared. The entire inside of the house was draped with toilet paper and the bedroom was filled with popcorn...popped popcorn. Fortunately, it was plain, or Chrys would have wanted to kill someone. Scott just shook his head and laughed.

"Is this what you were talking about with Chad and Mike 'touching your stuff'?"

"Yes. Only this is much worse. They are going to be sooo sorry." She started gathering up the streamers of toilet paper while Scott got out some trash bags and started stuffing them full of paper. By the time they were ready to start on scooping the popcorn out of the bedroom, however, they were both exhausted.

"What would you think of staying at a hotel, tonight?" Scott asked.

"I want to sleep in our bed," Chrys whined, tiredly. "But I suppose we should."

"Too bad we can't just open the window and blow it all outside," Scott mused, his mind fuzzy from exhaustion.

Chrys perked up at that. "Hmmm, can you get to the window?"

"Yes." He proceeded to do so, opening it wide and carefully removing the screen. Chrys started pushing at the popcorn and they watched it as the late afternoon breeze took it and scattered it across the back lawn. Scott grinned and started helping to scoop the mess out the opening. It took another two hours, but finally there was no more mess. They were thankful to discover that their little joksters had been kind enough to cover the furniture with plastic before filling the room. It made the last of the cleanup much easier, simply gathering up the plastic and shoving the entire mess out the window. They'd worry about cleaning up the yard later.

Scott put the screen back and closed the window. Sighing, he turned around to find Chrys sprawled across the bed. Kicking off his shoes, he fell down beside her. "I'm too tired to move," he moaned.

"Yeah. Me, too," Chrys agreed. "Need to lock up and turn off the lights, though."

"I know."

"We should eat, too."


"Maybe we can just rest here for a second and catch our breath...."

"Good idea."

When they awoke, it was to the sound of a multitude of birds squawking and fighting. The sun was not yet up, so the lights they'd left on were useful. Groaning, they arose and looked out the window. There on the lawn, was an enormous flock of many different kinds of birds, all fighting over the popcorn bounty. Laughing ruefully, the couple headed for the kitchen and some coffee.

With the coffee started, Scott murmured into Chrys's ear that a shower sounded very good. Together, they took a nice, long, hot, shower together, which reminded them of their new status. Despite the noise, they forgot about the coffee and their need for food and focused instead on their need for each other.

When they awoke again, it was mid-morning and there was someone ringing the doorbell.

Scott groaned and got up. He'd much rather stay snuggled up with Chrys, but their visitor didn't seem to want to go away. Pulling on his robe, he shuffled bare-footed out to answer the door.

"What?" he asked, feeling surly.

"Sorry," Dave smiled, insincerely. "I have a little coming home gift for you." He held up an envelope. Scott frowned and accepted it.

"What's this?"

"Nothing much, since I know you're probably still tired, I thought I'd send you out to dinner."

Scott frowned as he opened the envelope and saw it contained a gift certificate for a very nice restaurant. "Thank you, Dave." Then, remembering his manners, he backed away from the door. "Won't you come in?" he invited. Dave beamed at him and nodded, following him into the house.

"Chrys is still asleep. I think she's probably thinking of dire things to do to Mike and Chad, though."

Dave frowned. "Why? What happened?"

Scott led the way to the kitchen and Dave followed close behind. "We got home yesterday afternoon to find the house filled with loose toilet paper and the bedroom filled with popcorn. As you can probably hear, we threw the popcorn out the window and the birds are having a feast on it."

Dave grinned and shook his head. "Sorry about that. I forgot how juvenile they could be. I promise not to tell them that you're probably going to be seeking revenge."

Scott grinned as he got coffee mugs from the cupboard. "Thanks. Somehow, I rather suspect that Chrys has some good ideas on what to do to them."

Dave chuckled. "Oh, my, yes. She's got a very inventive mind when it comes to that sort of thing." He accepted the coffee and they sat at the table.

After a few minutes of companionable silence, Scott looked at Dave. "Can I ask you something?"

Dave sat back and placed his entire focus on him. "Of course."

Dave played with his spoon for a moment before starting. "Chrys. When she was... attacked. She said they did... other things to her. What kind of things?"

Dave frowned. "She didn't tell you?"

"Only that the doctors don't think she can have children." Seeing Dave's concern, he smiled. "That's not a problem. As I told her mother at the reception, I married Chrys because I love her, not because I wanted a broodmare."

Dave smiled in relief. "Does Chrys know that?"

Scott nodded. "Yeah, I told her in Hawaii. She was pretty upset."

"Sometimes, I'd like to take Laine and simply throttle her."

Scott smiled ruefully. "Funny, that was my first reaction to her, as well."

Dave froze for a moment, remembering his own feelings of fear of this man. It appeared that either the diet and medication were working, or he was simply too happy with Chrys to be angry with anyone. Either way, it was a relief. "She's always been jealous of Chrys. That was why she refused to have any more children. Rich had so much love to share, but Laine never figured that out. She saw children as competition, not completion."

Scott nodded, listening closely, wanting to know everything about his wife, to understand her and the whys and wherefores of her life. "Chrys is like her father, isn't she?"

Dave looked at him, consideringly. "Yes. Very much so. She's always had a lot of love to give, but since she was twelve, she's been too afraid to share it. Until you. I'm still amazed that you managed to break through that wall of hers."

Scott nodded in agreement. "I think that maybe I just needed to be loved so much myself, that she decided to take the chance."

"Yes. You're perfect for each other. Both of you needing what the other has. That's good."

Scott smiled. "Yes, I think it is."

"You were wondering about children?"

Scott shrugged. "I'd never given it much thought, actually. But while we were in Hawaii, we bought a couple of shirts from some local artisans. Hand-painted silk. Really beautiful. Well, when we went to that luau at the big hotel, the gift-shop manager asked us where we got them and we gave him directions. I guess they made a deal, because the family invited us to a real luau." He rose to refill his coffee. Offering Dave some more, the older man shook his head. Sitting back down, Scott continued.

"As a thank-you, they gave us these hand painted clothes. A dress and shirt for Chrys, and a lava-lava and a shirt for me. Not that I'll probably ever wear the lava-lava, mind you, but they're beautiful. The pictures they put on them...." He trailed off, remembering the beauty of the work, and the sadness they caused Chrys. "They painted our portraits on them. Standing in each other's arms and looking out at the moon over the ocean." He had to clear the lump forming in his throat. "They, uh, included two little children, and I know that really hurt Chrys." He looked up at Dave, who was frowning in concern.

"I'm sure it did. Did they say why they painted them that way?"

Scott shook his head. "No. The matriarch didn't speak English very well. Kept saying things like ohana, keiki, and," he paused to remember the word, "Hapai, that was the other word."

Dave stared at him. He'd been stationed in Hawaii during Viet Nam and had learned at least a smattering of the language. "Did you say 'hapai'?" he asked in astonishment.

"Yes. Do you know what it means?"

Dave shook his head, not quite believing. "Tell me, Scott. Have you and Chrys been using any kind of contraceptives?"

Scott frowned, "Contra....uh, no?"

Dave started smiling and nodding. "Well, ohana means family, keiki means child, and hapai, well, hapai is pregnant."

Scott frowned. "But..." He shook his head, trying to clear it. "You mean..." he stood up, paced from the table to the stove and back, then sat back down. "But how could they have known?"

Dave laughed in delight. "Simple, my dear boy. Chrys was injured before puberty. Perhaps her young body healed itself of its wounds." He sadly met Scott's amazed gaze. "It's possible. Has she had her period?"

"Uh, yeah."

"When was the last one?"

"Uh, a couple of weeks before we finished the last job."

"Scott, that was seven weeks ago."

The two men stared at each other, and then began to smile.

"Get her to a doctor and find out," Dave suggested.

"Yeah." Scott's smile widened. "Oh, yeah." He hadn't thought that children were important, but after Chrys's upset at the beautifully painted clothing and what they depicted, he found himself wanting children. As many as Chrys was willing or able to bear.

"One thing though, Scott," Dave warned. Getting the man's full attention back he continued. "If she is, she can't be out on Super-Fund sites any more. I'll have to assign her to less onerous jobs. Like excavation or demolition."

Scott beamed, "I don't think that will be a problem."

After Dave left, Scott fixed a light meal and went to wake Chrys up. She was grumpy and not feeling well. Remembering the elderly matriarch's gift to her, he found the little bundle and took a small piece and talked her into placing it under her tongue. Within minutes, she was feeling better.

Convincing her to see a doctor, however, was more difficult. However, the following day when she again didn't feel well until after the herb, convinced her.

Scott spoke briefly with her doctor before she went in, explaining his suspicions. The doctor, who hadn't known Chrys all that long, agreed that the possibility could certainly be one cause for her current difficulties.

When Chrys came out of the office, she had a dazed look on her face. Scott was immediately by her side. "Chrys? What is it, babe? What's wrong?"

She looked up at him, badly shaken. Sure, her period was overdue, but.... "I'm pregnant?" she whispered.

"You are?" he asked, smiling.

"I'm pregnant," she said a little louder.

"You are," he agreed.

She looked up at him and laughed joyously, flinging her arms around his neck. "I'M PREGNANT!" she shouted. He joined her in laughter and lifted her and swung her around. Setting her down, he kissed her. The other patients and office staff watched in amusement. Such a lovely couple and so obviously in love.

Scott suggested they go out for a celebratory dinner, which Chrys immediately agreed to. They used the gift certificate Dave had given them and had not only a wonderful meal, but a lot of fun dancing, as well. Fortunately, neither were big drinkers, so avoiding alcohol wasn't a problem.

Later, they continued their celebration in private, doing all the things they most enjoyed doing with and to each other; the things that had caused their celebration in the first place.

It wasn't as difficult as it might have been, convincing Chrys that Super Fund cleanup wasn't healthy for her or her baby. She was so pleased with the fact that her mother was now spreading the rumor that she and Scott 'had' to get married (much to everyone's derision) that she was constantly in a good mood. At least, she was as soon as she had her herbal supplement from Hawaii each morning.

Her crew, which had been making premium hazard pay on the Super Fund work, were offered the option to stay working with Chrys or going to another crew. Most of them opted to stay with Chad and Mike, who immediately decided to stick with Chrys. Their first job after their long vacation was a demolition and excavation. First, they had to implode and remove an old building; and then they had to dig the underground parking area, complete with rough-form ramps, before the builders came in. The advantage of that kind of job was that it didn't take as long as the HAZMAT cleanup. It was also somewhat less dangerous.

When Chrys was five months pregnant, she was showing. She had hideous backaches, which Scott soothed with frequent massages and gentle rubbing. When her feet started to swell, he learned how to massage her feet. And when she wanted weird things to eat, he'd go out in the middle of the night and drive any distance to get her what she wanted. He'd do all that and still managed to cook for the crew. At six months, she had an ultrasound.

There was a problem.

Her gynocologist frowned and took a second ultrasound. Then a third. And then he brought in a specialist and they did yet another one. By then, Chrys was really worried. She was afraid that she wouldn't be able to carry her baby to term and the idea of that was devastating.

The doctors asked Scott to join them as they did a fifth ultrasound. They explained what they saw.


"Twins?" Scott and Chrys said simultaneously, looking at each other in surprise.

"Yes," Dr. Curtis said, sighing. "Unfortunately, there's another problem."

"What?" Scott asked as Chrys's hand clamped down on his tightly, almost painfully.

The doctor looked at them. He'd been in this business for a long time and this was one of his favorite couples. They were so much in love that it spilled over into the air around them. "It doesn't happen very often; it's really quite rare, but your babies are not twins."

"What do you mean?" Chrys asked, looking worriedly at her husband, who pulled her into his arms and glared at the doctor.

Joe Curtis sighed. He really hated these things. This was only the second problem pregnancy of this sort he'd ever seen. "You have two babies, but one is at least a month, possibly two or three, older than the second one."

Scott frowned. "That's not possible," he said softly.

The doctor frowned. "I assure you, it is. There are two placentas. The only other case of this nature I've ever seen had two babies conceived three months apart."

Scott shook his head. "They can't be more than a month apart," he said softly, rubbing his cheek against his wife's. "Not unless it happened after she was diagnosed," he added.

"But Scott, I had my period that month," Chrys denied.

Curtis perked up. "Oh? Well, if they're only a month apart, it's not too bad. Particularly if the older one decides to wait for its sibling." He didn't bother to explain all the difficulties if that didn't happen.

"What are the problems?" Scott dashed his hopes. Then he remembered that Chrys herself was a doctor and very likely aware of the ramifications of her condition.

He sighed. "If the older one decides to be premature, the second fetus has little chance of survival."

Scott scowled and growled, "It's not a fetus, it's a baby. Our baby." He had spent a great deal of time catching up on the modern world and had some definitely old-fashioned ideas, much to Chrys's delight and their friends' amusement. She felt his arms tighten protectively around her and smiled.

"Sorry, but that's the big worry."

"What else?" Chrys asked, basking in the warm embrace of her husband.

"Whether or not both can survive. The good news is that with two placentas, there's less chance of one dying and causing the other to die. The bad news, is that it's slightly more likely that their umbilical cords could become constricted."

"Advice?" Scott asked.

Dr. Curtis felt a little like a shuttlecock being batted between them. "Keep calm, take long, slow walks. Nothing too strenuous." He looked away, a bit embarrassed, "Uh, keep the intimate moments, uh, well, it's not a real good idea."

Chrys sighed. No sex. She felt Scott laugh silently as he hugged her and she realized that he was definitely inventive enough to keep her satisfied, but what about him?

"What else?" Scott asked.

"I need to see you at least every other week, and possibly weekly, as you get closer to term. You're at six months, possibly seven for the older fetus, possibly only five for the younger. There's no way of knowing, I'm afraid."

They were silent for a few minutes as the information sank in. Scott continued to hold Chrys close, rocking ever so slightly.

She sighed. This was not what she'd been expecting. Of course, being pregnant at all was not what she'd been expecting, let alone two babies. "So, long, easy walks, nothing strenuous, no nookie," she sighed again and Dr. Curtis had to fight down the smile. "Anything else we should or shouldn't be doing?"

"Plenty of water, preferably bottled or filtered. Fresh vegetables, lots of protein; you know the kind of diet you should be eating."

Both of them smiled. "Yeah, we do. Lucky for me, Scott's gotten to be a pretty good cook," Chrys mumbled.

The doctor stood up. "It's not a bad thing, you know. You just need to be a bit more careful. No roller-blading, no downhill racing, no heavy lifting. Take everything slow and easy and you should all be just fine."

Scott frowned at him. "I'll be 'just fine' when they're born and Chrys is safe," he grumbled. Curtis had no answer for that.

Long strolls along the beach. When Dave had heard the news, he'd put them both on maternity leave, explaining that this was as close as he'd ever get to having grandchildren, so he was going to make sure that they took whatever care they had to, to keep them all healthy. Chrys might have complained, if it hadn't been for Scott and his wonderful hands. Hands that could ease her discomfort, soothe her aching feet and legs, and could satisfy her need for his body. Added to that his fascination with the kicking life inside her, she was well content.

Now, if she could only figure out some way to help him with his needs....

She found help in the oddest of places. She was alone, for once, as Scott had his own doctor's appointment to check on his chemical imbalance. He'd done wonderfully between diet and supplements, but they kept a close watch on it, just in case. She was wandering through the nearby shops and found a little hole-in-the-wall bookstore. She'd gone in and started looking around. Much to her surprise, she spotted Tom, talking to someone. She smiled and went to say hello.

"Hey, Tom," she said softly touching his arm. He nearly knocked her down when he jumped and turned to look at her.

"Oh, man, Chrys! I'm sorry, you startled me." The man he'd been talking to gave her a very dirty look, but she tried to ignore him.

"That's okay, Tom. How's work been?"

"Just got back. It was a bad one. I sure do miss your gentle mercies when someone gets hurt," he said softly.

Chrys realized he had one arm in a cast and sling. Frowning, she asked, "What happened?"

"Ah, it was stupid. I tripped on the steps coming out of the kitchen and fell and broke my wrist and arm."

Chrys frowned. "Oh?" she asked, eyes narrowing.

"Some of the guys, well, you know how they can be," Tom almost squirmed in discomfort.

"Who?" Chrys asked, her voice almost a growl.

"No one you know. The new doctor. He's a real, uh, pain."

She could see that Tom was uncomfortable talking about it and backed off. She'd have a nice, long talk with Dave about it and if the new doctor didn't come around quick, she'd see to it that he was gone.

"So, hey Chrys, how are you doing?" Tom asked. He looked down at her very large belly and smiled. His friend eased away, obviously unhappy.

"I'm doing well. Scott's turn at the doctor's today."

"I wondered where he was," Tom grinned. He looked over at his friend and motioned him back. "This is Chrys, Carl. I was the best man at their wedding." He said it with pride, but his friend frowned.


Chrys frowned at him, "Because he's a friend and Scott asked him."

"But Tom," Carl began, only to have Tom straighten up to his full height.

"Carl, don't you dare say it," Tom said with a scowl.

Chrys looked from one man to the other and wondered what was going on. "What's wrong with Tom being the best man at my wedding?"

Carl glared at her. "You couldn't possibly understand." With that and a glare at Tom, Carl spun on his heel and stalked away. Chrys turned to Tom, wondering what that had been about and saw him sigh.


He grinned ruefully. "Don't let Carl bother you. He can be just as much a jerk as straight guys are." His smile broadened as he gazed at her. "You look great, Chrys."

She smiled and hugged him. Tom hugged her back and when he saw Carl looking back at them, even more upset, he stuck his tongue out at him. "So, what on earth possessed you to come into a gay bookstore?" he asked as he released her.

Chrys looked surprised and blushed. "Gay? Oh, man. I had no idea. It was just a little bookstore and I love books and needed to waste an hour or so." She looked around curiously, chewing her lower lip.

"Chrys?" Tom asked uncertainly. When she looked at him, he shivered, "I recognize that look, Chrys. What do you want to know?"

She smiled coyly at him. "The doctor has kind of, well, limited our activities, if you know what I mean. Now, Scott is wonderful about managing to fulfill my needs, maybe you have some ideas on how I can fulfill his?" She beamed up at his furiously blushing face.

"Oh, boy. Hey! Carl?" He looked hopefully at his friend whom, it turned out, was the shop's proprietor. When he learned Chrys's request, he was a little non-plussed. He thought hard for a few minutes, and finally nodded.

"I may have something for you." He led her to a shelf far in the back of the shop and drew a book from the top shelf. "This may give you some ideas," he offered. He watched smugly as she opened the book and smirked as she gasped at the pictures. "It's illustrated." He watched her turn the pages and his smirk turned into a disappointed frown.

Chrys glanced at Tom, who was blushing just as hard as she was, but was looking at the pictures, too. "Tom?" He had to clear his throat, "Uh, yeah, Chrys?"

"Do you do this?" She held the book for him to get a better look.

Tom swallowed, hard. "Uh, I have, yeah."

"Do you like it?"

The big man swallowed hard and wished that the floor would open up and swallow him. This was not a conversation he ever expected to have, particularly not with a woman. "Uh, yeah. It-it's good." He looked at Carl, whose expression had gone from smirk to amazement.

"Hmmm," Chrys murmured and continued looking through the book. "Some of this is...well, not quite what I'm comfortable with," she admitted.

Both men coughed and cleared their throats uncomfortably. "How hard is it to get used to?" Chrys asked, looking up at both men. Even Carl was getting uncomfortable, now.

"Uh, it takes some getting used to, but, uh, if you really love someone, you get over it," Carl admitted a bit hesitantly.

Chrys nodded. "Is this the only book like this that you have?"

Carl nearly choked. "Uh, no. Actually, there's a better one, over here." He selected a somewhat larger tome from the rack and handed it to her. This time, she wasn't shocked by the pictures, but was actually more intrigued, as instead of illustrations it had actual photographs to demonstrate. She looked through the book, nodding occasionally. Finally, she closed it and smiled up at the two men.

"I'll take this one," she held up the second tome and handed the first one back to Carl to put back on the upper shelf. She headed for the front of the shop with both men following her, still in shock. Making her purchase, she gave Tom a hug and kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Tom. I'll let you know if he likes it."

Tom nearly hyperventilated as he and Carl watched her exit the store. When she was finally out of sight, Carl turned to Tom and said, "Was she for real?"

"Oh, yeah. That's Chrys. She's definitely for real." He looked at Carl and cocked his head. "You know, that book really gave me some ideas," he said in a low, seductive tone of voice. Carl, who was thinking much the same, grinned.

"Let me close up shop and we can go upstairs."

Chrys was waiting patiently in the car when Scott returned. He opened the driver's side door and climbed in, kissing his wife. "Everything's good, babe," he told her, smiling. Seeing the bag, he chuckled. "Found a book store, eh? Anything interesting?"

She shrugged. "Just a how-to book."

He frowned. "How-to? What kind of how-to?"

She smiled seductively at him, "Oh, you'll see. I think you're going to like it, once I figure it all out." She snatched it out of his reach and simply grinned at his puzzlement. "You have to wait. I'll show you after I've read it."

Shrugging, Scott fastened his seatbelt and started the car to go home. "Anything you want, babe," he told her. She almost squirmed thinking of how surprised he was going to be with her, hopefully, new talents.

They had gotten into the habit of taking long strolls after dinner. Scott was, therefore, a bit surprised when Chrys told him that she didn't feel like it that evening. She practically ignored him, she was so engrossed in her book. He wondered what could possibly be so fascinating. It was even worse that night in bed. She was so engrossed, still, that he barely got a kiss good night. He wasn't sure what he'd done wrong, but whatever it was, her response to him certainly hurt.

The next day it was no better. She kept her nose stuck in her new book all day, hardly even talking to him. Finally, in hurt frustration, he went out in the back yard and worked, pulling up weeds by hand. He didn't even stop for lunch and it was nearly dark when he finally came back in, dirty, sweaty, and exhausted. She didn't even acknowledge his presence. She had cooked, however, but he wasn't hungry and simply took a shower and went to bed, leaving her still buried in that damned book.

He lay for long hours, missing her and wondering what he'd done? Eventually, he did fall asleep, but when she came to bed, he woke up.


"Hmm?" She looked up, seemingly surprised to see him.

"Did I do something wrong?"

She frowned, "No, why?"

He gazed at her for a long moment. "Are you sure?"

"Positive." She was starting to wonder what he was trying to get at.

"Well, you haven't kissed me, or touched me, since we got home yesterday. I thought maybe you were mad at me, or something." He'd become accustomed to holding and touching her and without it he felt bereft.

She blinked. "Yesterday?" She looked down at her book. She was reading it for the third time, now, and realized that maybe, instead of reading about it, she should maybe be practicing it. Deciding, she closed the book with a snap and dropped it on the floor beside the bed. Turning to her miserable husband, she smiled. "I'm sorry, Scott. That book just has so much information in it and I want to be sure I get it right."

"Get what right?" Scott asked, frowning.

"Oh, you'll see," she said teasingly and leaned against him for a kiss. She hadn't realized that she had missed him, too; but his touch instantly inflamed her and she knew that she needed him at least as much as he needed her. "Touch me, Scott," she demanded. With a pleased sigh, Scott did her bidding, touching her in all the ways she liked most, bringing her to the brink of pleasure and back several times before allowing her to fall over the precipice.

Clinging tightly to him afterwards, she stopped him from getting up to go into the bathroom to take care of his own needs. When she touched him, he shivered, and when she slid beneath the covers, he gasped. Being even more gentle than the book had instructed, she soon had him whimpering with his need. She found that to be at least as exciting as what he did to her. And his gasp and cry when she actually used her mouth and tongue on him made her very happy indeed to have wandered into that particular little shop. She'd have to remember to ask Tom to thank Carl for her.

He tried to warn her, but she was enjoying herself too much to recognize it. When the bitter fluid flooded her mouth, she gagged and nearly choked. The description of that certainly hadn't been adequate, but she survived. She grabbed some tissues from the nightstand and spat repeatedly, trying to get rid of the taste, but when Scott tried to apologize, she shook her head. "No, it's all right. It was just not quite what I was expecting," she admitted.

He was barely coherent. "What? How? When?" he gasped as he tried to get his breathing back under control.

"The bookstore I found yesterday. Tom was there. His...I guess you'd call him his boyfriend, owns it. I had no idea what kind of bookstore it was, but I thought about how you always make sure I'm taken care of in what I need, that I asked if they had any suggestions for what I could do for you. That's what that book is."

He stared at her, amazed. Finally, he shook his head. "I can't imagine..." He trailed off and shivered. "Well, I can certainly understand the attraction for that, now." He shivered again and drew her up beside him. He kissed her and, smiling, they snuggled together and soon drifted off to sleep.

Depending on when she'd first become pregnant, she was somewhere between seven and a half or nine and a half months along. They'd pleasured each other and were sleeping, when Chrys flinched and woke up. She shifted in Scott's arms and tried to go back to sleep. She was just about to doze off when it happened again. Her eyes flew open and she held her breath. She waited and just as she relaxed, it happened.

"Scott?" she said softly, not wanting to startle him awake.


"Scott, I think I'm going into labor," she murmured.

"Huh?" he said, sleepily, lifting his head and trying to draw her closer to him.

"Scott, I think I'm going into labor," she said, more insistently.

His eyes opened and he blinked at her, still fuzzy with sleep. "Labor?" he began, and then his eyes sprang open wide and he bolted upright in bed. "Did you just say 'labor?'"

She smiled at him, her hand pressing against the bulge of her belly. "Yes. Labor. As in I think we're going to have to go to the hospital, soon." She nearly laughed to see him in a near panic, groping for the bedside phone and the speed-dial for the doctor, who instructed them to time the contractions and when they were less than ten minutes apart, to call him back.

Scott got up and dressed, asking how close the contractions were so far. "Thirty minutes, or so, Scott. We've got a while, yet." He calmed down a bit and caught his breath. "Why don't you go make some coffee? You remember the Lamaze class, don't you?"

He paused and took a deep breath. "Yes. Okay. I remember. We're fine. There's plenty of time. Nothing to worry about, everything is on schedule," he said calmly, then added in an almost hysterical tone of voice, "Right?"


Reassured, Scott got the coffee on and while it was brewing, her suitcase down to the car. He was instantly beside her every time she gasped from a new contraction, but they didn't seem to be getting any closer together. He nervously paced and timed and drank pot after pot of coffee. Chrys dozed between contractions, much to Scott's envy. By dawn, Scott was a nervous, exhausted, wreck. Chrys finally calmed him down and he stretched out beside her, holding her to his chest. She grinned when he fell asleep, but was glad. The last thing she needed was for him to fall apart on her.

By late afternoon, the contractions were coming a bit closer together and by mid-evening, they finally made the call back to the doctor, who told them that when they got within five minutes it would be time to go to the hospital, unless her water broke.

Scott was back to nervously pacing, timing, and drinking coffee, while Chrys simply smiled and endured it, trying desperately not to scream.

It was just after midnight when they made the final call to the doctor and left to meet him at the hospital. By then, Chrys was in serious discomfort and pain and Scott was a total wreck. They made it safely to the hospital and spent four more hours waiting before they were finally taken to the delivery room. While they waited, the staff took ultrasound to check the babies' positions. Both looked more than ready to join the outside world.

Scott coached his wife as he'd learned in their Lamaze class. Panting in time with her and encouraging her to push when instructed; wiping her tears and apologizing. He held her close, supporting her against his chest, his arms around her and her hands digging permanent grooves into his forearms. After what was for him an eternity, Chrys screamed as she gave an enormous push and moments later, there was the whimper of a new life, complaining about its rude entry into the world. Scott watched, eyes wide as his child was cleaned and tended. His awe was short-lived, however, when the doctor insisted, that Chrys try again. The second birth began with much more difficulty, as Chrys was already exhausted from the first delivery. This baby was smaller, however, being younger, so would hopefully come out more easily. Scott whispered to her how beautiful their baby was and that she was a beautiful and wonderful woman. She took strength from his support and pushed again, crying, but too exhausted to even scream any more.

With a final effort, the second, smaller infant slipped right out on the third push. Chrys panted and weakly clung to Scott as the doctor and nurses took care of her and her babies. She remained in Scott's embrace, resting and trying to recover enough strength to even open her eyes to see her children. Finally, there was a soft, gurgling sound and Chrys's eyes opened. Two nurses were each holding a tiny newborn.

"Congratulations, Mrs. Nelson," Dr. Curtis smiled, "You have a son and a daughter."

She felt Scott trembling as he held her and she looked up at him. Seeing the tears in his eyes, she smiled and reached up to touch his cheek. His eyes met hers and he smiled. "They're beautiful, babe, just like you." he whispered as he leaned down to kiss her lightly.

Scott was finally forced to leave, as they had things to do to his wife and children. He sank exhausted into a chair in the waiting room, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed, preferably with his wife, and sleep for at least a week. He couldn't relax, though. Every time he thought he was winding down, he'd think of the look on Chrys's face as she cried out in pain or had to push. Or, he'd remember the amazement of seeing his children. HIS children. He shivered and stood to pace. He wanted to be with Chrys. He wanted his wife, his lover, his beloved.

Finally, as they prepared to take Chrys to her room, he was allowed to accompany her. The orderlies grinned at each other at the way Scott held his wife's hand as they traveled down the hall to her room. It was always nice to see such devotion. He hovered as they settled her into her bed and as soon as they left, he was beside her, gripping her hands and kissing her.

"Come up here and hold me, Scott?" Chrys asked tiredly.

"Anything you want, babe. Anything at all." He helped her sit up and slid behind her, cradling her against him.

When the nurse came to check on her, she smiled. Sure, it was against the rules, but no one was surprised by how often it happened. She quietly did her checks, marked the chart, and left them, turning the lights out as she did.

Early in the morning, before the sun had even risen, Scott awoke. His neck and back ached abominably from the awkward position he'd slept in, but gazing down at his beautiful wife drove all thoughts of his own discomfort from his mind.

He winced as he carefully eased out from under her, gently settling her back against the pillow. The room had a bathroom and he availed himself of the facilities. When he came back out, Chrys was just waking up. He sat on the edge of her bed and smiled down at her.

"Hey, babe," he murmured, smoothing the hair off her face.

She smiled up at him and began a slow, luxurious stretch, which was brought short by a sudden twinge of pain. Scott was immediately worried. "Chrys?"

She shook her head. "I'm okay, Scott. Just a bit sore, still." She took his hand to reassure him and he leaned down to lightly kiss her.

"Excuse me," the nurse spoke from the doorway. Scott jumped from the bed, looking guilty and Chrys flinched from the sudden movement. "I thought you might like to see your children." She looked sternly at Scott, "You'll have to gown and mask first, though." She held out the items to him.

"Thank you," Scott murmured, accepting them. He pulled on the gown and mask and when the nurse was satisfied, she left, returning a few minutes later similarly engowned and masked, along with another nurse, each carrying a tiny infant.

Scott raised the head of the bed so Chrys could sit up to hold her children. As the first nurse handed the child she carried to the new mother, she said, "They've had their bottles and been bathed and changed, so they'll probably sleep for another hour or so."

Chrys frowned. "But I want to breast feed," she said, frowning.

"Honey, that's more trouble than it's worth, especially with two of them. You'll be better off with bottles."

Chrys looked to her husband for support.

"You heard her, nurse. I suggest you allow her to tend our children in the manner she desires." Scott was standing and moved closer, carefully taking the second baby from the other nurse, who smiled at him, a bit timid, but obviously agreeing with him.

The senior nurse sniffed disdainfully. "Don't be ridiculous," she began, only to find Scott in her space, seemingly growing larger as his anger manifested.

"Ridiculous?" he said, very softly. "Ridiculous is a nurse telling people how to care for their children when what the mother wants is to continue the 'natural' process. It might be different if she were sick, or unable, but she's not." He slowly advanced on the nurse, who backed up. Scott's voice dropped a few more notes and he nearly growled, "Now, why don't you go ask the doctor to come and see us so we can get this straightened out?"

"Scott!" Chrys called, recognizing the rage. She didn't think he'd allow anything to happen to the baby in his arms, but neither of them was in control of the belligerent nurse. He stopped moving but continued to glare at the offensive woman.

"I'll get Dr. Curtis for you," the second nurse offered, sliding smoothly around the senior nurse and scurrying out the door.

"Thank you," Chrys called after her, keeping a close watch on her husband and his adversary.

The two remained, glaring at each other, until the nurse sneered and glanced at Chrys. "Barefoot and pregnant. That's all he wants from you, girl. A baby factory." Chrys choked on her desire to laugh, still watching Scott, who blinked once and then grinned; it was a very feral grin, one Chrys had only seen once or twice before.

"Scott, don't hurt her," she admonished.

"I won't," Scott purred. With his infant still in his arms, he again advanced on the nurse, who backed up again. "Funny, you sound just like my mother-in-law. At our wedding reception, she informed me that Chrys couldn't have children." He took another slow step closer and the nurse backed away an equal amount. "I told her that it didn't matter to me, that I was marrying Chrys because I love her, not because I wanted a broodmare." His voice lowered further and became softer, more deadly. He smiled, "She sniffed, much the same way you did, that disdainful, 'I'm better than you are', looking down your nose at the riff-raff kind of sniff. Well, guess what? She's not welcome in our home." He stepped closer. "She's not welcome near our children." Closer. "Thankfully, we don't have to do what she says, and we certainly don't have to follow your wishes. If Chrys wants to breastfeed our children, then by God, she will, unless someone can give us a valid reason not to." He took one last step, and as the nurse backed away yet again only to come up against the wall. She jumped, but he had her blocked. She finally began to look frightened. The baby in Scott's arms stirred and he took his laser-blue eyes from her to turn to his child.

The nurse didn't frighten easily, but this man... this man was crazy. When the baby he held stirred, she watched in amazement as the rage she saw in his face immediately disappeared and was replaced by wonder, concern, and love.... She shivered and started to sidle towards the door and escape. She was going to call security on this guy and ban him from the hospital, she thought.

Dr. Curtis listened to the agitated young nurse and frowned. Sighing, he stopped his rounds and headed for Chrys's room. He arrived in time to watch Mr. Nelson back the senior nurse into the wall and was worried about the rage he saw, but relaxed when the infant stirred and the new father's countenance changed. He stepped into the room, which forced the nurse to stop trying to sneak away.

"Mr. Nelson, is there a problem?" he asked, glancing to make sure Chrys was all right. She was cradling her other child against her, but watching her husband.

"Her," he jutted his chin at the offending female. "She insists our children be bottle-fed. Chrys wants to breast feed them."

Dr. Curtis frowned. Turning to the senior nurse, he noticed that she was one of the older nurses in the hospital. He suddenly wondered just how many other mothers she'd bullied into bottle-feeding? "Nurse Tompkins? Care to explain?"

Still nearly pinned against the wall, she tried to bring herself to attention but only succeeded in looking foolish. "Policy, doctor. First time mothers are encouraged to bottle-feed their children."

"Whose policy, Tompkins?" Curtis asked softly.


"It's not hospital policy, nurse. It certainly isn't my policy. Obviously, it isn't the policy of the Nelsons' now is it?" The nurse pursed her lips in restrained anger. "You are dismissed, Tompkins. I don't want you anywhere near any more of my patients and I'll be filing a formal complaint. I'm sure the Nelsons, here, will be more than happy to assist by filing a complaint of their own."

"Be glad to," Scott agreed distractedly, smiling down at his daughter.

"You may go, Tompkins."

The nurse glowered at them all, particularly the junior nurse, and had to wait for Dr. Curtis to move so she could leave.

"I'm sorry about that," Dr. Curtis muttered and crossed over to Chrys to examine her and her children.

"Thanks for backing us up," Chrys smiled, watching the doctor as he examined her son.

"I'm a little annoyed that that woman is even working here. One of the good things about breast-feeding is that you get a much stronger bond with your baby, which may or may not help further on." He smiled down at the infant. "Well, he's looking just fine." He handed her son back to her and turned to take a look at their daughter, cradled carefully in Scott's arms.

Reluctantly giving up his burden, Scott watched closely as Dr. Curtis examined his daughter. Sighing in relief when the child was returned to him, he smiled... and received an answering smile (although, it could have been gas). He was fascinated with the perfect little hands, the eyes, the downy-fine hair, everything about his offspring.

Dr. Curtis examined Chrys and smiled. "Excellent. Mother and children are doing fine. So, have you decided on names, yet?"

Scott and Chrys looked at each other and realized that although they'd talked about possible names, had never come to any conclusions.

Dr. Curtis chuckled, recognizing the expressions. "Well, I've got a baby name book in my office. I'll drop it by for you." He prepared to go back to his rounds and smiled at the couple. "I'll check with you later. With any luck, you should be able to go home in a couple of days." With that, and the junior nurse at his heels, he left.

"Names." Scott rumbled, no sign of his earlier rage.

"Scott, did you take your meds yesterday?"

He looked up, "What? Oh! I guess I may have forgotten. They're at home," he admitted.

"Go. Get them, take them. Bring them back with you. When you get back, we'll discuss names for our son and daughter," Chrys should have known. Scott had been so busy with her that he hadn't done anything other than worry. "Did you eat anything yesterday?" She remembered him drinking coffee, but that was about it. All that caffeine on an empty stomach and without his medication; well, that nurse was lucky, was all she could think. At his blank look, she continued, "Stop off somewhere for a decent breakfast while you're at it. It's only," she looked at the bedside clock, "Seven-thirty, so go home. I want you to eat, take your meds, get a shower and maybe some sleep, then come back, okay?"

Scott sighed. He really didn't want to leave her, but knew that she'd be adamant about his meds and eating. And a shower certainly was a good idea. He smiled, "Yes, dear." There was just a touch of mockery in his tone, but only love and adoration in his eyes for her and their children.

"I love you," she reminded him.

His brilliant smile bathed her in its warm glow and she waved him away. "I'll be back in a couple of hours. Anything you want me to bring you?"

She glanced out the door as though afraid someone might be listening. "I'd really love a nice, hot, cup of coffee."

"Coffee it will be." He smiled and turned to go. He wouldn't tell her that the coffee would be decaf. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

He stopped for breakfast at their favorite eatery, Denny's. The staff all knew him and looked over his shoulder, wondering where his wife was. For once, he sat at the counter instead of a booth and everyone looked at him, worried. When the waitress poured his usual cup of coffee, she asked, "Where's your wife, today? Nothing's wrong, is it?"

He smiled, "She's in the hospital," he began.

"Oh, dear, she's not sick, is she? What happened?"

Scott realized that they hadn't been much in the past several months. "Twins," he announced.

The waitress happily congratulated him and word spread swiftly and everyone found some excuse to stop and congratulate him and wish he and his wife well. He took it all in stride and listened with half-an-ear to several stories about first babies. He left his usual generous tip and headed for home. First on his list was taking his meds. He knew he'd been almost over the top with that annoying nurse, but he hadn't touched her, thankfully. He thought that a shower should be next on his list, as he wanted to get back to Chrys as soon as possible. Seeing the phone, however, reminded him that he had a call or two to make.

Speed dial was a wonderful thing. It allows the user to accurately dial a number even when they're so tired that they can hardly see. When Dave answered the phone, Scott simply said, "A boy and a girl. No names, yet. I'll be going back to the hospital after I get a shower." With Dave's declaration of Mazel Tov, he smiled and made a request. "Do me a favor and let anyone who might be interested know?" He listened as Dave went on and on about how wonderful it was, and was Chrys all right?

"She's great, Dave. Doctor says she can come home in a few days. Had a little run-in with a nurse, though. She insisted the babies be bottle-fed." He listened to Dave's opinions on that, or at least, he started to, falling asleep on the couch with the phone balanced on his shoulder.

Dave finished his rant and then asked how soon he could go see Chrys. Where there was no answer, he listened closely and heard heavy breathing and realized that Scott had fallen asleep. He smiled as he hung up and grabbed his car keys to head over to their house to make sure Scott was all right.

It was early afternoon when Scott awoke to find himself stretched out on the couch, a light blanket over him. He frowned, not remembering how he got there. Sitting up with a yawn, he looked around and spotted Dave, dozing in the recliner. He stood up and folded up the blanket. Feeling decidedly grimy, he headed for the bathroom and a shower.

Dressed again, he came back into the living room and gently awoke Dave. "Hey, Dave?"

The older man awoke with a start. Seeing Scott, he relaxed. "Hey, you woke up. How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, Dave. How come you're here?"

Dave chuckled. "You fell asleep on the phone, so I came over to make sure you were all right. Exhaustion and excitement can do that to you." He noticed that Scott's hair was still damp from his shower and that he'd changed. "Feel better?"

He smiled ruefully. "Yeah. Thanks. I'm going back to the hospital, now. Want to tag along?"

Dave put the recliner back into chair position and stood up. "I'd love to, thanks. Just as long as I drive," he added. Scott frowned, considering it, then realized that Chrys would probably send him home again. He sighed and nodded.

"Okay, you can drive," he agreed.

Chrys was thrilled with Dave's visit, particularly when she learned that Scott was stuck having to go home with him. While Dave went down the hall to look at the babies, Scott sat with Chrys.

"Names," he said.

"Right. Any suggestions?"

"Not Laine, if you don't mind." They both laughed and agreed on that one.

Chrys looked fondly at her husband. "How about Scott junior?" she suggested.

"Not junior. Kids named junior never outgrow it," he frowned, thinking hard, trying to remember something. "Richard?" he suggested, watching her closely for her reaction.

Her breath caught, "Why Richard?" she asked softly.

"Wasn't that your father's name?"

She let her held breath out in a soft sigh, her eyes filling. "Yes," she agreed.

Scott nodded. "Richard Nelson?"

She couldn't help it and laughed. "As much as I'd love to name a child after my father, Ricky Nelson is not a name I'd wish on anyone."

Scott frowned, "Why?"

She laughed, shaking her head, realizing that he didn't remember Ozzie and Harriet. "I'll have to tell you about it, later, but thank you for the offer."

He was a bit confused, but he was used to that. Gazing into her eyes, he kept thinking. "David?"

Her breath caught again and a smile spread across her face. "David Scott Nelson," she countered.

Scott didn't have a middle name, but at least this way, his son could have his name without being a junior. "David Scott Nelson," he agreed.

Unfortunately, Scott didn't remember his mother's name, and they agreed that Chrysanthemum was not something they could in good conscience saddle a child with. Finally, Chrys suggested, "Dave's late wife was named Rebecca."

"Rebecca Nelson... needs a middle name." He thought for a bit and smiled. "Rebecca Lyn?"

"Rebecca Lyn Nelson," she repeated softly. "You know that my mother is going to claim that 'Lyn' is for her, don't you?"

"So?" It was something else to annoy Laine with, and the names did flow nicely together.

Chrys grinned. "Rebecca Lyn Nelson," she said again, savoring the name. "David Scott and Rebecca Lyn Nelson." Her eyes met Scott's. "I like it."

When their children were brought in for their mother to feed, Scott talked softly to one, telling them their name, while Chrys nursed the other. When they traded babies, Scott learned how to burp his child. Wisely, Chrys had also insisted he put something over his shoulder to protect him in case of upchucks. After the babies had been fed and burped, they required changing. Scott, who had no concept of how it was done, watched Chrys very closely, and then copied her actions. Fortunately, disposable diapers made it a lot easier.

Dave had returned in time to kibitz about diaper changing, making the new parents, particularly Scott, laugh hysterically. Finally, fed, burped, and changed, the infants swiftly dropped off to sleep. Scott gently placed them in the crib the hospital had moved into the room at the same time.

While Chrys relaxed in bed, still easily exhausted, the two men watched the children sleep. "We've chosen names for them," Scott announced.

"Good. A child needs a good name," Dave replied.

"David Scott and Rebecca Lyn."

Dave gasped and stared at Scott in shock. "You named your son for me? And your daughter for my Rebecca?"

Scott shrugged, embarrassed. "It seemed fitting. You're the only grandfather they've got, and you've done so much for us, after all."

Dave tried blinking back tears, he was so moved. "I am honored, Scott. Thank you."

Scott put an arm around Dave's shoulders and hugged him lightly. "Besides," he added with an impish grin, "There was no way we were going to name either of them for Chrys's mom, and she said that as much as she loved her father, it wasn't a good idea to name our son for him."

Dave's tears dissolved into laughter. "Oy, you know how to keep a man from becoming too prideful!" He gently elbowed Scott in the ribs, and Scott joined in the gentle laughter.

"So," Dave asked a few minutes later, "Have you called Laine, yet?"

"No. The only one I've called is you, Dave."

"Why? She's finally a grandmother. You should tell her," Dave insisted.

Scott sighed and looked over at his dozing wife. "The woman is unkind to Chrys, always saying hurtful things to her. I don't want her influence anywhere near our children," he said emphatically.

Dave nodded his understanding. "Of course not, but you still owe her the courtesy of informing her before she hears it elsewhere."

"How much has she insisted that we had to get married?"

Dave couldn't help himself. Every once in a while, Scott's choice of words reminded him that although he only looked to be in his early thirties, Scott Nelson was, in reality, older than he was. "Scott, she's spread that everywhere. All that happened is that people laughed at her and marveled that you'd have bothered to marry her."

Scott nodded. "She wanted to hurt Chrys. I don't like it when people try to hurt my wife, Dave. That's why I don't want her anywhere near my family."

Dave sighed. "I understand, but propriety dictates..."

"I don't give a damn about propriety," Scott snarled venomously. Dave flinched away, suddenly afraid. Seeing it, Scott fought down his rage. "Sorry. I'm sorry." He shook his head, forcing himself under control. Taking several deep breaths, he finally spoke again. "I don't mind if she knows about them, I just don't want her here," he finally explained.

Dave sighed in relief. "Not a problem." He motioned Scott to follow him and they left the sleeping children and mother to go outside. There, Dave pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed a number. "Laine, it's David." He listened patiently, eyes rolling as he ignored the rant from the other end "I just thought you should know, grandmother." He held the phone away from his ear. For a moment, all was silent, then the voice at the other end of the phone line shrieked once and started babbling.

"Two of them, Laine. A son and a daughter. No, I have no idea what the names are yet," he lied, winking at Scott. "Probably Scott and Chrys, I suppose. A couple of juniors, I fancy." He chuckled. "Well, I need to get back to work, Laine. I'll talk to you later." He hung up without waiting for a reply. Scott smiled admiringly at him.

"Thank you, Dave."

"You're welcome. As a matter of fact, I do need to get to the office. I really do have some things I need to get done. Let's go say good-bye to Chrys and I'll take you home. You need some rest, too." Seeing him about to protest, "You can come back later, but if you stay now, the hospital staff will eventually throw you out. This way, there isn't much they can say about it."

Scott didn't want to leave. He wanted to be with his wife and children, but he also knew that Dave was right and that Chrys would insist he go home to rest. He sighed and gave in. "All right, Dave. Let's go say good-bye."

Chrys was grateful to Dave for making Scott go home to rest. She didn't want him hovering, although she'd have loved to sleep in his arms. She'd noticed how stiff and sore he'd become, cradling her to him while she slept, and she didn't want him hurting. They kissed a long time, while Dave pretended to watch the babies sleep. When a nurse came in, Scott reluctantly left, turning to look back at the door. Dave's hand on his arm started him moving again.

"I'm never going to sleep," Scott muttered, already missing his wife.

"Of course you will."

"Not well," Scott countered.

"Take her pillow and hold it like it's her. You'll sleep well enough."

Scott frowned and looked at Dave as he drove. "How long were you married?"

"Twenty-two years. She was killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light and hit her broadside. She never had a chance." His voice still carried the pain of his loss and Scott looked away.

"I'm sorry."

"Not your fault. We were never blessed with children of our own, but Rich was kind enough to allow us to share Chrys. Laine, as I'm sure you can imagine, never had time for her, so we got to have her around a lot." He looked over at Scott and continued very softly. "The pillow trick, it works pretty good. I still have some of my Rebecca's favorite perfume..."

Scott turned back to him, understanding in his eyes. He reached over and gently gripped the older man's shoulder. "Thank you."

"Thank you. It never occurred to me that I should be so blessed. Rebecca would have approved of you."

Scott chuckled. "Unlike Laine."

"Laine doesn't even approve of herself," Dave replied. They exchanged understanding grins and fell silent for the rest of the trip.

Scott used the technique Dave suggested and, although it wasn't nearly the same as having Chrys's heartbeat against his ear, it was enough.

Dave went to his office and opened the safe, taking out a folder. He read through the contents, frowning. It was time. More than time, really. He should have done this before they got married, but hadn't been sure of Scott, yet. Having watched them through Chrys's pregnancy, however, the decision was easy to make. Chrys would be upset, but they couldn't allow the children to be put in danger on sites. It was time. He looked at the framed photographs on his desk and smiled.

"Rebecca, they named their daughter for you," he whispered. Then, looking at a second photo, he nodded. "You were right, Rich. Thank you for sharing your remarkable daughter with me. She did find someone. You'd be so proud of her. I promise that I'll do my best to help them and provide the sage advice a grandfather is supposed to have." He kissed his fingers and touched first the picture of his late wife, and then that of his best friend and former partner. Folder in hand, he stood up, turned out the lights, and left, locking up behind him.

Three days later, Scott was allowed to bring his family home. Unbeknownst to them, Dave had arranged an enormous party for them. Their entire crew was there and had decorated the bedroom Dave indicated was to be the nursery. There were two beautiful antique cribs, clothes for the babies, toys, case after case of disposable diapers, and all the things needed for the new arrivals. The same caterer who had provided for their reception had come through again. Not only was there more than enough for the party, but also there were other dishes in the freezer, which would only require heating in either the microwave or the oven.

When Scott pulled into the garage, all either of them wanted was to put the babies to bed and then fall into their own bed and lay in one another's arms until they had to move. They'd both slept badly, suffering horribly from the loneliness of being apart. As Scott gathered up the babies, deciding that the other things could be gotten later, Chrys watched him, tiredly. He handed her little Rebecca, while he carried David, which allowed him to put one arm around his wife's shoulders to provide support. When they walked into the house, they were not prepared for the number of people there.

Dave met them at the door and softly explained that the crew insisted on throwing them a party. Graciously, they put the babies down to sleep, making the appropriate comments and thanks for the amazing redecorating of the room, and particularly the diapers.

At least they could hold each other throughout the party.

The food was most welcome, and after eating Chrys and Scott ended up on the living room sofa. Finally, with nothing demanding their attention, they fell asleep, Chrys's head on Scott's shoulder and Scott's cheek resting atop his wife's head. When Dave realized what had happened, he gently awoke them and, smiling, called for everyone to gather around, as he had an announcement to make.

Both Chrys and Scott were still only half awake, so the announcement didn't quiet register, at first.

"Wait," Chrys said, "What did you just say?"

Everyone laughed. "What I said, Chrys, is that your father was not only my best friend, but my partner. When he died, my instructions were to safeguard his half of the company for you. Well, you can't go out into the field any more," to which there were groans of disappointment, "But that's all right. It's time for you to take over your half of the company and join me in the front office."

"But what will I do?" Chrys asked. Scott remained silent.

"Do? What you should have been doing all along; running the office. I should be figuring out how to get us more work. For the past few years, I've been using photographs, instead of first-hand looking. With you and Scott holding down the fort, I can actually go back on the road and find us jobs. Jobs where we can accurately predict the costs, I might add."

Chrys looked at her husband, who was watching her. "Scott?"

"What can I do, Dave?" he asked, turning his pale blue eyes to the older man.

"You're a physicist. You can devise new and better ways of cleaning up the mess," Dave declared. Scott gazed into the distance and after a few moments he slowly nodded.

"Maybe," he agreed, finally. "I can certainly look at the current methods and see about streamlining them a bit."

Dave smiled. "Best of all, David and Rebecca can go to work with you," he said softly, which brought a lot of teasing and agreement from the rest of the group.

"Think about it for a week or three. There's plenty of time." He looked at the revelers and smiled. "All right, youse guys. Time to clean up the mess and clear out of here!" They all went to work, clearing out the mess and putting leftovers away. Thirty minutes later, the last of them were heading out the door, leaving only Scott, Chrys, Dave, Mike, Chad, and Tom.

Chrys and Scott stood to say final good-byes to their friends. Exchanging hugs and admonishments to take care, soon only Dave was left.

"Your father would be so proud of you," Dave whispered as he gave Chrys a good-bye hug. Chrys didn't try to hide her tears. Turning to Scott, Dave gave him a long appraising look and nodded. "Rich would have liked you, son. Take care of her for him?"

"Forever," Scott agreed.

Dave nodded, satisfied. Looking at them both and noting how tired they were, he smiled. "Go to bed, you two. Sleep, take care of your babies, and most of all, take care of each other."

"We will," they promised. Dave nodded again and left them alone, gently locking and closing the door behind him.

Checking on their children, the weary couple took care of their babies and then settled down to sleep a while before taking care of them some more. They'd been told that it would take a couple of months before the children would sleep through the night, but they began their first night home, allowing their parents a full six hours of uninterrupted sleep.

It was a new beginning, and a good one.


They'd been happily married for ten years and to commemorate it, they returned to the same bungalow they'd honeymooned in. With their children. Although they'd never used contraception, they hadn't been blessed with more children, but that was unimportant. For them, being together was the most important thing; their beautiful son and daughter were simply a bonus. Both nine-year-olds went to private school, as the public school was unable to keep them under control. There was nothing wrong with them, unless you count exceptional intelligence and curiosity as something less than good. The possibility that they'd be starting college in another year was extremely high, so this was possibly their last chance for a big family vacation.

David and Rebecca were used to their parents disappearing for hours at a time for 'private' reasons. It was normal and they always behaved themselves. When their friends made comments about how gross it was to see their parents kiss or hug, they couldn't understand. Theirs was, after all, a very loving and tactile family, with frequent hugs and tickles in almost equal proportion.

Looking at the bungalow, Chrys laughed that it looked exactly the same. Scott smiled and scooped her into his arms to carry her once again across the threshold. David and Rebecca smiled and grabbed the luggage, following their parents in.

Once inside, Scott continued carrying his wife into the master bedroom, kicking the door closed behind them, leaving the children to giggle and unpack their things in their rooms, which were screened lanais. Deciding to be helpful, they gathered the hangers from their closets and began hanging their parent's clothes. They admired a beautiful pair of brightly painted Hawaiian shirts, smoothing the silk and marveling at the feel of the fabric. They stopped to wonder when they came to the bottom of their parent's suitcase when they found four more items of silk. They were a dark, midnight blue and the paint was nearly iridescent. Hanging the items, they gasped at the paintings.

When the door finally opened and their parents reappeared, it was to two very curious children who wanted to know who had painted their pictures on the beautiful clothes. Chrys and Scott had forgotten about them, even though they'd packed them. They'd never looked at them again after they'd been given to them; it had hurt too much, thinking that they would never have children. Spreading the lava-lava and the wrap dress out on the table to examine them more closely, they remembered and explained it to their son and daughter.

"When we got married, Chrys didn't think she could have children, because of something that happened when she was a lot younger," Scott explained. "This is where we came for out honeymoon, as we've already told you," the children nodded. "Well, after a few days, we went out for a walk and met this family who were painting some shirts." He pointed to the two beautiful, brightly colored items. "Those two. We asked to buy them and they agreed. The next night, we were at a luau, where we met the buyer for the hotel gift shop." The children nodded. "Well, he wanted to know where we got our shirts, so we told him." The children nodded again. "A few days after that, the family we'd bought the shirts from invited us to a luau at their home; it was to thank us for telling the man at the hotel how to find them. After the luau, they gave us these," he ran his hand gently over the midnight blue fabric. "When we looked at them, it made your mother cry," he said very softly. His one hand continued to softly stroke the material, tracing the lines of the pictures, awed. His other hand clasped one of his wife's hands tightly.

Chrys leaned against her husband's shoulder. "I was so upset because I didn't think I'd ever have anything more than what I already had, namely your father." She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. "He's always been enough, but at the time, I thought it was a terrible thing to have thrown in my face. Tutu, the matriarch, tried to tell us, but we didn't understand." She frowned and shifted to look up at her husband. "She knew," she said in awe. "Remember what Dave said when we got home? He translated those words they used. They knew!"

Scott smiled tenderly at his wife and kissed her. "So they did, babe, so they did." He turned back to his enthralled children and continued the story. "They were a gift and we didn't want to offend them, so we took them, but we put them away, never expecting to look at them again." He chuckled. "I still don't want to ever wear the lava-lava, but I suppose, under the right circumstances, it would be appropriate. Anyway, that's how we got them," he concluded.

"But how did they know what we would look like?" Rebecca asked, reaching out to touch the painting of the child with her face.

Their parents shook their heads. "No idea," Scott admitted, "They'd seen us, of course, so our pictures are accurate, but how they knew..." he glanced down at his wife and smiled, "Maybe we should just go down the beach and ask them?"

Chrys grinned and stood up, still holding her husband's hand and pulled him to his feet. "Excellent idea. But we need to take gifts. What do you suggest?"

They threw out several ideas, but finally Scott offered the one that everyone agreed would be the best. They had to drive around a while before they finally found one, and the children had to keep it in the back of the minivan, but finally, they were back at the bungalow and ready to go.

There was someone waiting for them as they got out of the van. Scott and Chrys looked hard at the beautiful young woman and then smiled. "You were that beautiful little girl who visited us when we were here before," Chrys said.

"Yes," the young woman smiled. "Tutu wishes you to join us for a luau tomorrow night, if you would so honor us?"

Scott grinned and opened the back of the van. "Only if you allow us to provide something."

The native girl laughed, one hand covering her mouth, and nodded. "Oh, yes, thank you. It would be most good." Looking into the trees, she called out and half a dozen children, a bit younger than David and Rebecca, came running. Scott managed to force the enormous Yorkshire hog out of the back of the van and then the children drove it down the beach towards their home. The girl smiled and turned to follow. "You remember the way?"

"Most definitely," Scott replied. "We'll see you tomorrow, then."

The following evening, Scott finally gave in and wore his lava-lava. Surprisingly, the matching midnight blue shirts fit the children quite well, and Chrys wore the matching dress. Hand in hand, they walked down the beach, greeted by the neighbors. Arriving, Tutu rose to greet them.

"Ohana!" the elderly woman announced. The clan gathered and stood surrounding the visitors. There were several comments about how handsome Scott looked in his lava-lava, with his pale skin providing contrast to the midnight blue silk, which color also reflected in his eyes. Others remarked about how beautiful Chrys was in her dress, or how the children looked just like the pictures painted so long ago.

"Family," came the translation.

Tutu reached out a hand to each child, gently stroking their cheeks. "Keiki," she added, turning her mischievous gaze to the parents. She nodded. "Welcome home, my children."

While their parents visited with Tutu, David and Rebecca played with the children. They were shown the tide pools formed by ancient lava floes. One of the younger children slipped and fell, getting his foot caught in the rocks. While the other children ran for help, David and his sister exchanged a look. The child was crying and they could see blood dripping from the trapped limb. The moment no one was looking at them, they reached through the rock and brought the child's foot back through. Then David lifted the toddler and carried him to the shore, where the adults were rushing to meet them.

Scott caught his children's eyes and frowned. They gave him matching guilty looks, biting their lower lips. This was a secret they even kept from their mother because Scott didn't want her to worry. He'd never told Chrys that the first time he saw one of their children escaping their crib by simply crawling through the rails, some of his memories returned. For them, it was a natural ability, unlike his. Somehow, the long-term exposure to radiation had changed him, somewhat. If necessary, he, too, could pass through walls, but although it didn't age him, it left him exhausted and weak for hours. Their children, on the other hand, could do it with no ill-effects. He'd impressed them with the need to keep it a secret, however.

"Sorry, Daddy," Rebecca said as she stood before him. He knelt before his children while everyone else tended to the injured toddler.

"Did anybody see you?" Both children shook their heads. He nodded. "All right. Just remember, it's a family secret."

"Yes, sir," both children chorused. He smiled and ruffled their hair as he stood.

"Come on, let's see how the baby is and then it'll be time to eat." The children, relieved, smiled up at him and ran off, following the others.

Chrys was waiting for him when he returned. "They pulled him through the rocks, didn't they?" she asked softly. He froze, then slowly turned to stare at her. She smiled up at him. "When they were a year old and wouldn't stay in their cribs and kept sneaking into bed with us."

"I remember," he whispered.

"The door was locked, but they got in, anyway."

He stared at her, worriedly. "You've known all along?"

She nodded. "Yes. I know that when the tree fell on the house and trapped everyone, that you walked through it to rescue us."

He turned to look into the distance, trying to steady his breathing. "So, am I a monster?"

She smiled. "No," she whispered, putting her arms around him. "You only use it for good and have taught our children to do the same." She hugged him.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I was afraid."

"I know. It's all right. I forgive you."

He turned and gazed down into her eyes. "Have I told you just how much I love you?"

She smiled and repeated words he'd said to her years before, "Every time you smile at me."

Scott stared at her a moment as the memory surfaced and he hugged her tightly. "How'd I ever get so lucky?"

"Same way I did," she replied.

They smiled at each other and kissed. The burden he'd carried for the past eight years dropped away with the realization that Chrys knew and didn't mind. He held her tightly, trembling with the knowledge.

Chrys held him tightly, pleased he'd finally admitted the truth. She looked forward to telling their children...but not tonight. That could wait until later. For now, she was happy that there were no more secrets, exept the ones her family would continue to keep from the world.

The End...???

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