DISCLAIMER: Much to my chagrin, I don't own any of these characters. Property of SHED Productions.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written as part of the Alphabet Soup Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Captured in Time
"What you doing?"
Nikki didn't turn her head at the sound of Helen's voice. "I've just discovered something fantastic," she declared as her eyes remained glued to the computer monitor in front of her.
Helen put a hand on the back of Nikki's chair and bent over her shoulder. "What have you found?"
"Did you know you could use the internet for things other than porn?" The tone was incredulous, but in obvious jest, and Helen laughed.
"Don't ruin it for me," the Scot said. "I'd hate to have to do something constructive with it."
"Yes, I've seen your bookmarks."
Helen feigned offence. "Those are private."
With her eyes still staring ahead, Nikki suggested, "Then you shouldn't use your birthday and my name for your password."
Helen's chuckle vibrated against Nikki's throat and she wrapped her arms around the brunette's shoulders. "Serves me right for loving a criminal."
"Wait 'til I figure out how to hack things, then we'll talk."
Kissing Nikki's cheek, Helen looked at the screen. "Really. Is that what you're doing now? Learning some secret hacking code?"
"That's taking me a bit longer to master than I thought," Nikki playfully confessed. "So in the meantime, I've been playing detective." She pushed back slightly from the computer desk and taking one of Helen's arms, silently directed the smaller woman around and pulled her onto her lap. Now their positions were reversed and she was able to curl her arms around Helen's waist and rest her chin on the Scot's shoulder. "Remember that cabin we found?"
Helen twisted around enough to look at Nikki. "The one in the woods?"
"Out of the hundreds we've found, yes, that's the one."
Making a face and ignoring the jibe, Helen asked, "What about it?"
"I scanned that photo you took and put it on a handful of community message boards in the area. I figured the owners more than likely lived close enough. And putting that with the name in the books I saw at the cabin, I think we've got a hit."
Helen couldn't disguise the surprise in her voice. "You're kidding?"
Nikki lightly kissed Helen's lips before answering, "Dead serious. I received an email this morning from someone who had seen my post. He thinks he knows who it is and more importantly, where they live. Robert Dennison and his wife, Anna. In Leytonstone."
"That's not even 30 minutes from here."
"I know," Nikki replied and kissed Helen again. "I thought we might go for a drive. What do you think?"
Helen turned fully and framed Nikki's face with her hands. Her kiss wasn't nearly as chaste as Nikki's. Between breaths, she whispered, "I think you're amazing. Even if my image of the internet is ruined forever."
The small house was just as non-descript as the rest of the homes in the cookie cutter row of buildings. As the car pulled up in front of one, Helen asked, "You sure this is the right one?"
Nikki got out of the car and glanced around. Helen followed suite. "Well, if it isn't I suppose we could just keep knocking on doors until we hit the right one."
Helen shielded her eyes and looked down the long never-ending street of clones. "Let's hope this is the right one."
It was only when they reached the door that it occurred to Helen. "What are we going to say?"
Apparently, Nikki hadn't given it any thought either. "I don't know," she shrugged. "I'm just the detective."
During their hesitation and uncertainty, the door opened and both women jumped back.
"I'm not interested in whatever you're selling," came a gruff voice.
As the door began to close, Nikki quickly spoke up. "We're not here to sell anything."
The door paused for a moment, then the voice spoke again. "That includes religion."
Now Nikki laughed. "No, sir, we're not selling religion, either."
When the door didn't close, Helen asked, "Are you Robert Dennison?"
A face stepped into the light of the day and a white-haired man of about 70 gave them more than a once over. With narrowed eyes, he asked, "Do I know you?"
"No, sir," Nikki replied.
Helen reached into her handbag and pulled out the black and white photo still in its silver frame. Holding it to the man she said, "We thought someone might like to have this."
He reached out for the offering, but his scowl remained. The two women realized how it must have looked to him and were at a loss to explain.
"We found your cabin," Nikki began.
"By accident," Helen added. "We were walking through the woods and "
Hearing Helen falter, Nikki continued, "The door was open. And we didn't take anything. I hope you'll believe that."
"Nothing but the photo," he corrected, though there was a tone of forgiveness in his voice. "Perhaps you two girls should come in."
With that, he left the door open and returned inside. Helen and Nikki looked at each other and with a light shrug from Nikki, they followed him in. He led them to the kitchen where he gestured to a small table.
"Please. Sit. Can I make you a cuppa?"
"Yes, that would be nice," Helen replied. "If it's not too much trouble."
He carefully placed the photo on the window sill before reaching into a cupboard. "I haven't had visitors in quite some time. It'll do me good to practice." As he brought out cups and saucers, he asked, "When were you at the cabin?"
Nikki turned to Helen. "Mmmm, about two weeks ago?"
"Sounds about right," the Scot agreed.
Spoons rattled against china. "I'm surprised the road hasn't grown over."
With obvious affection, Helen said, "This one here took the long way round."
The older man turned at the comment and seemed to see the two women for the first time. Then, as if pleased with what he saw, he granted them his first smile. "You found the foot path."
"We did," Nikki answered. "After taking in that gorgeous view."
"Raven's Perch," he nodded. "Memory's a funny thing, girls. But I'd like to think I can still see that view in my mind."
The kettle whistled and he returned to his task. After refusing help from Nikki, he brought each cup to the table and sat down.
"If you don't mind me asking," Nikki ventured forward, "when was the last time you were there?"
"Yesterday," he responded, then smiled again. Tapping his forehead, he clarified, "In here. But it's been five years since we left." The women had a well of questions to ask and he seemed to sense it. "There's a reason the door wasn't locked," he began. Looking over at the photo, he carried on, "My wife. The love of my life. She had pains in her chest that night, and despite her protests, I took her to the local emergency ward. I didn't bother locking the door behind us because because it never occurred to me that we wouldn't be coming back right away. As it turns out, we- I- never went back." He looked down into his cup. "I couldn't bear it, you know. After she was gone."
Helen wiped away an errant tear from her cheek and Nikki reached over for her hand. He saw the gesture and nodded. "So you two " he let the implication hang, then said, "It's all right. Not something my generation approved of, but love is what it is. Time's too short to worry about getting someone's approval before you can show you love someone. Treasure every moment, girls."
Both women smiled and Nikki spoke again. "Can I ask- you never thought of selling the cabin?"
He turned to Helen and tilted his head in Nikki's direction. "Very forward this one."
"Like no one I've ever met," Helen agreed.
The two shared a smile and he looked at Nikki. "I spoke to my son about it shortly after when I knew I wouldn't have any more use for it. Tim- that's our son- said he'd manage it for me, but he's busy. He has a career and a family of his own now. I suppose he just doesn't have the time. And to be honest, it's not something I even know how to bring up with him."
Nikki nodded. "I understand. I was just wondering if you had given it any thought."
Curiosity made his eyes narrow. "Why? Are you interested in buying?"
"In fact, I am," she replied honestly.
Helen's head swivelled and her mouth dropped open. "Nikki "
Pretending not to hear Helen's gasp of surprise, Nikki explained the bemused man across the table. "I'd like to give it to the love of my life."
"Well, miss " he stopped, realizing he hadn't caught their names.
"Wade," Nikki supplied, then realized the same oversight. "I'm so sorry! Nikki. Nikki Wade. And this is my wife, Helen Stewart."
His eyebrows rose. "They let you do that these days, do they? Time has passed me by in more ways than one." He shook his head at a special memory. "As it is, Miss Wade, I think the only one in here more surprised by your offer is Helen. I'd like to think about it, if you don't mind. And quite frankly, I don't quite know where we'd begin."
"All that can wait," Nikki said. She turned her head to the photo that had brought them here. "But if you'd let me make another cuppa, I think we'd love to hear you start from the beginning.
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