From the Story Arc: One of Two

Previous Story in the Arc: Poison by Belladonna Aura (Wednesday, January 17, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Here With Me by Belladonna Aura (Friday, March 16, 2007)

(posted Monday, January 22, 2007)

It was very quiet in the tiny office. Here in the basement, far from anything, past the storage lockers and the stacks of Petro’s salvage, hardly anyone ever came. If there had been room to put a cot in here, Bella might have considered moving in.

So when John Murdock suddenly opened the door, without her hearing so much as a footstep, it came as a shock. She let out a gasp as she started back, one hand to her throat.

“Bella—“ She looked up at him numbly. He filled the space as he shut the door carefully behind himself. “Bella, what th’ hell do you think you’re doin’ down here?”

She shook her head, her throat tightening. “Getting away, from everyone,” she managed. “I—“ And that was all she could manage.

“Bella—dammit kiddo, what’re you doin’ to yourself?” He put both hands on the edge of the desk and loomed over her. “Lockin’ yourself in basement? Never seein’ anybody? I’ve been talkin’ t’ people, hearin’ what you’ve been sayin’—kiddo, you ain’t makin’ any sense—“ His distress spilled over onto her, and she bit her lip to keep from losing her own control. “Bella, none of this, any of this, is your fault! Hidin’ from us all ain’t doin’ you or us any good! Bella, please—“

She wouldn’t cry. She would not cry. She would not show any weakness—

John suddenly stopped looming, and instead, dropped down beside the desk, putting his eyes on a level with hers, one of his hands on her shoulder. “Kiddo, look at me.” She couldn’t look away from him, his eyes riveted hers. “Please. Listen to me. I’m callin’ in that favor. I want you to do somethin’ for me, like you promised.”

He had her. She’d promised. He had her pinned like a butterfly on her own word. Stricken, she looked into his eyes.

“You need help. Someone t’help get you through this. There’s a—“ He swallowed. “There’s a shrink, a special shrink. She’s set up Underhill, one of those time-slipped places. One day here is a year there. Sera went to her when she thought---“ He swiped, momentarily, at his eyes with the back of his free hand. “When she thought I wasn’t comin’ back. Vickie went an’ talked to her. You can go any time, you can go now. Two days. You c’n take two days. Right?”

Her eyes filled. Even Johnny wanted to get rid of her—

”No!” he shouted, then winced at the sound of his own voice in the tiny room. “No, kiddo, no!” he said, pleaded, more softly. “I don’t, we don’t want to get rid of you! We want you back! We want our Bella back! Bella, please—we don’t want to lose you too.“

That got across all the barriers she had erected, all the shields, all the walls. His pain. Sera’s. His words…
Two days.

His eyes pleaded with her. Her resistance crumbled. “You think—“ She let out her breath in a trembling sigh. He was right. She couldn’t keep this up. And it was the weekend. She could do nothing on the weekend anyway. “All right, Johnny. Get Vic. Tell her…” She felt herself starting to shake. “Tell her I’d—I’d like to go. And it might as well be now.”

She sensed his relief, in the flash of his eyes, in the relaxation of his muscles. “Y’mean it?”

She nodded. Do it now, before she lost her nerve. “Yes. Now.”

“You’ll be back by Monday,” he promised, standing up. “Bella—“

She hushed him with a look, stopping at the door for a moment. The tiny office wavered for a moment in her gaze. She would be back by Monday. But she wouldn’t see it again for two years. Two years. Would the pain be gone? She didn’t think so. Not the loneliness, nor the longing for Zach. But it might be—bearable. Something she could live with. “See that there are violets,” was all she said. And then, she walked out, following Johnny, out of her darkened office, into the light.