DISCLAIMER: They are not mine, I'm just rubbing them together to see what happens. The story however, is mine...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: See this link: http://1qxh.sl.pt I decided to see how I write for this fandom. Normally I do subtext, and barely-there-text, not main-text. But this show is very interesting and I like the idea of working with a whole host of new subjects. If this catches on, I will write more. The idea for this story was planted in my head by someone special, and I usually take ideas and run with them especially when it comes to writing. YouTube has a number of captioned M&E centric episode summaries for this show starting here: http://1qxm.sl.pt Download full episodes here (no captions): http://1tmz.sl.pt Enjoy the story! (feed the bard)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By The Raven


It was one of those moments that was as surreal as it was horribly real, all at once. Marina would remember the moment for as long as she lived and later, when there was time, she would go over it thousands of times in her head. Every angle, every sensory input, every moment replayed, over and over again ad nauseam.

But, right now as heartbeats passed in agonising slow motion, Marina's brain was frozen in one moment. The moment the gunshot rang out. The fraction of a second where the smell of cordite, fear and desperation reached her nose. The moment Esther collapsed in her arms and brought them both crashing to the ground.

Stunned for what seemed to be an abbreviated eternity, Marina felt the pain of her back being wrenched out of place as she instinctively caught the other woman in a desperate attempt to cushion her landing. The expected pain of the devastating injury of a bullet tearing apart her body did not come though.

This could only mean one thing.

"Esther!" Marina said in desperation, struggling to extricate herself from the weight of the woman who was now still in her arms.

The movement evoked memories of other times when she had been pinned by Esther's weight and Marina cursed her mind for offering up such an unlikely thought at a time like this.

Feeling her hands slip on something wet and realising a moment later when the metallic smell of blood assaulted her nose, Marina felt panic rise in the back of her throat. Swallowing against the gorge and nausea of the moment, she finally managed to free her hands and forced herself to be calm.

Nothing mattered right now except Esther. Even the shooter was of no consequence. Marina did not know if the deranged woman would fire again, and did not care. If Esther was not alive, Marina was unsure if she herself wanted to go on living.

Marina might have been a paediatrician, but every doctor was first and foremost a general practitioner. Marina coughed deeply, desperate to overcome the immobilising panic that had her mind frozen in place. It occurred to her that less than a second had passed and that her ears were still ringing.

Esther was not moving.

Marina frantically checked for a pulse on the prone woman. Her fingers were slick with blood and the sensation caused another wave of panic to rise in Marina's soul.

She felt almost faint with relief when she perceived the frantic flutter of Esther's heart under her fingertips.

Where was the other woman hit?

Searching for the wound, Marina chocked back memories of exploring this same body not so long ago. Exploring it in the heat of passion, not the fire of barely suppressed panic.


Cursing herself, Marina found the wound, recoiling mentally and only barely stopping herself from pulling her hands away when her fingers sunk into an ugly, hurtful, evil wound that had devastated Esther's shoulder.

With some luck the bullet had passed high enough in Esther's body to miss her lungs, but there was a lot of blood, and there were countless vital structures that it could have hit. Marina forced herself to stop thinking about the medical anatomy of the shoulder and upper chest. Now was not the time to over think, now was the time to act!

Marina felt around for an exit wound. There was none.

That was a mixed blessing.

Esther groaned in unconscious pain as Marina applied pressure to the wound and listened to the approach of what sounded like half the hospital. The sound of the pained moan was music to Marina's tortured ears.

It meant that Esther was still alive, and that was all that mattered right now. Everything else could wait, nothing else was of any consequence. Only right now mattered and only the next moment counted.

Esther had to live. There was no other option that Marina would allow...

The fluorescent lights were cutting into Marina's eyes as she watched a team of trauma doctors and nurses work on Esther. They were all her colleagues, her friends. But right now, they were her lifeline.

There was so much blood. Marina could feel it in the creases of her hands and under her fingernails. She could feel it stiffening on her clothes and she swore she could actually taste it in her mouth. Ignoring these sensations with shocking ease, Marina kept her focus on Esther.

Marina had been told in no uncertain terms to stay out of the way, or that she would be removed. This has not been an unkind order, but it has been necessary. There were doctors who specialised in this sort of traumatic injury; Marina was not one of them.

What was Marina?

"Prep her for surgery." Marina heard someone say from within the heaving mass of humanity, blood and machinery in front of her.

What was she? Who was she, Marina, to Esther?

Was she an ex? Was she Esther's lover? What were they, and how had it come to this?

Why had some overwrought, mentally unstable woman decided to shoot at her tonight?

Marina of course knew the answer. Personally she could not even begin to imagine what she would do if she had a child and it died. But that did not, in Marina's mind justify the woman's actions.

Esther was shot. She had been shot because she had sought to protect Marina. It seemed so illogical. Before then it seemed that Esther had sought to hurt Marina. Perhaps not on purpose, but certainly with great carelessness.

"Time to go." A curt order rang out and then there was movement as the boiling mass of people seemed to instantly synchronise and start moving with a unified purpose towards Marina.

Marina attempted to follow, only to feel a hand on her arm. Glancing sharply at the owner of the hand, whatever she was going to say died in her throat.

"You need to get cleaned up, Doctor. There will be others in the waiting area and you can't go like this. Not if you expect to be allowed to stay." It was Rocco who spoke and Marina could see a sadness in his eyes as he said the words.

Marina glanced down at herself and concluded that he was probably right. She looked like she had just stepped off the set of a horror movie. The thought chocked her. In a movie set, the dead and injured got up and wiped their makeup off.

This was not a movie set.

This was life, and Esther had been shot.

She had to live. Any other choice was simply not an option.

Someone needed to call her father. Damn it.

Marina sighed in resignation and made her way to the locker rooms, determined to try to get off some of the blood and change her clothes. She would then worry about calling Esther's father.

Right now, Marina could barely think past the idea that it was Esther's blood that was caked under her fingernails.

Esther's. Marina fought to remain in control, to regain control. Marina knew that she was totally out of control.


Half an hour later, Marina made her way to the surgical wing of the hospital. She had managed to find some clean jeans and a shirt in her locker and for good measure had thrown a sweatshirt over the top of the clothes. She had her phone, her keys, and her credentials.

Everything she needed, just not what she needed.

She needed Esther.

Unconsciously rubbing her hands on her jeans as she stopped in the waiting area of the ward, she swore she could still feel the blood that she had scrubbed off only minutes before.

The fabric of the denim pants felt unnaturally rough under her palms and Marina spared a thought to the idea that she would normally never wear clothes like this out in public.

This was not normally. Marina wondered if it would ever be normally again. Maybe. If Esther was okay...

The doors of the surgical bay banged open and a blood splattered harried looking nurse walked by, making only the briefest eye contact with Marina. Her had was impassive and blank, though. Marina could read nothing from it.

It made her want to scream.

She needed to know what was going on, but experience had taught her that she would not be told anything, regardless of who she was until they actually had something to tell her.

Running a frustrated hand through her dishevelled hair, Marina pulled out her phone and scrolled through the list of numbers. She had programmed Esther's father's number into it months ago. Why she had done this Marina could not say.

Perhaps it was hope.

Hope. What an awful word it was. It promised so much but in the end, it was so fragile and easy to break. Marina shook her head impatiently. She needed to compose herself, now. The phone was ringing.

Hopefully Esther's father would pick up.

"Hello?" Caesar Bruno's voice sounded in Marina's ear.

"This is Dr. Marina Ranieri. Sir, I am sorry to call you so unexpectedly, and at this hour. However, you must know this. Esther has been shot in the upper torso. She is currently in surgery." Marina said in her best professional voice even as she felt her stomach heave angrily.

Just wait until he found out just how and why Esther had been shot...

It took Esther's father less than half an hour to reach the hospital. He had said nothing in response when Marina had called him. She had simply heard the call disconnect and had subsequently been left to wait for his arrival.

Part of her was not looking forward to the seeming inevitable confrontation that would undoubtedly ensue. Another part of her simply did not care and hoped that the man would be more concerned with his daughter's well being versus Marina.

That said, there was no way on earth that Marina was going to make herself scarce just to appease Esther's father. There was no way in hell, either. Marina was a lot of things, perhaps. But a pushover she was not. Esther's father would learn this the hard way if needed, but right now Marina's only concern was Esther.

There was still no news.

"What happened? Where is she?" Marina turned at Mr. Bruno's voice.

"She was shot in the upper torso, near her shoulder about ninety minutes ago. She is in surgery right now. By all indications she was stable when they took her in." Marina said by way of greeting and answer to the frantic inquiry of a parent.

Regardless of whatever her personal opinion may be of Caesar Bruno, he was a father, and by all accounts a very loving one at that. This was his child who was injured. Marina would do well to remember that.

"Shot, why? Stable? How do you know?" Caesar asked as he frantically sought to find someone, ostensibly to get more informative answers.

"I was with her when she was shot and saw when she was treated in the emergency room." Marina said quietly, mentally bracing herself for what came next.

"You were with her?" Caesar Bruno's eyes bulged out as he said this and Marina debated whether she was prepared to be on the receiving end of possible violence if needed, or was she going to summon hospital security.

"The bullet was meant for me. She was attempting to push me out of the way and in doing so it struck her instead." Marina said with a calmness that belied how she really felt inside.

Inside she was a gibbering mess.

"What?" Esther's father's voice contained danger.

Marina suddenly felt very tired.

If she was a man, this would not be an issue. Hell, if Esther was a man, this would not be an issue. The problem was that they were both women.

And yet why did it have to be a problem?

Marina was just about to extrapolate for Caesar Bruno, when the surgical bay doors banged open and out came the surgeon who had been working on Esther.

Everything else forgotten for the moment, both Marina and Caesar turned to him immediately. Marina could feel in an almost palpable way the desire that Esther's father had to simply grab the surgeon and shake information out of him.

Marina had empathy for that feeling.

"What is going on? How is she?" Caesar Bruno demanded without any preamble.

At the surgeon's questioning look Marina spoke up. "This is her father, Caesar Bruno." Her words were spoken calmly, but inside Marina wanted to raise her voice as well.

"All right then." The surgeon said quietly and rolled his shoulders in what was undoubtedly an unconscious gesture of nerves, or fatigue, or both.

"The bullet missed her lungs and brachial artery and its branches. But her scapula is shattered and there is significant muscular damage. She will be fine, but will require a significant amount of rehabilitation once she is healed enough." The surgeon explained and Marina felt both relief and tension at his words.

"We have an Orthopedist and a Microsurgeon in with her now to ensure that the damage is repaired as much as possible to facilitate her healing. It will be another two or three hours before we are done." The surgeon nodded at both of them and then disappeared once more through the doors that led to the surgical bays.

After a long pause Marina felt Esther's father turn towards her.

"What did that mean?" He asked softly, his earlier ire seeming forgotten, at least for the moment.

"Her shoulder blade is shattered and the muscles in her upper chest, shoulder and back have been damaged. But her lungs and the major blood vessels of the area were spared." Marina said at once, having anticipated the question and prepared her answer.

"She will require physiotherapy and rehabilitation to regain the full functionality of her arm and shoulder. They have specialists working on her right now to ensure that the surgery has the best possible outcome and it will take at least two hours, probably three until they are done." Marina finished in a rush, feeling the sense of mental exhaustion from before cloud her mind once more.

After a beat she heard Mr. Bruno speak. "Would you like some coffee?" His question was so out of place considering their circumstances that Marina found herself at a loss as to how to respond.

"Yes." She managed after a few moments passed.

Even if it was the worst coffee she had ever drunk, such as would be produced by the hospital vending machines, Marina would drink it and she would enjoy it.

Esther was going to live and her father had so far not ripped Marina's head off. Things were as good as they could get right now.

Maybe there was some hope after all...

About twenty minutes later as Marina sat on one of the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area, sipping the atrocious coffee that one of the venting machines has spit out, she noticed that Caesar Bruno was staring at her intently.

"Yes?" Marina finally asked as she probed her mouth with her tongue as if to ensure that the horrible coffee had not melted off something essential, such as her teeth.

"What happened?" The man asked tiredly, sadly.

Marina took a deep breath and closed her eyes briefly, replaying the impossible, horrible memory in her mind as she did.

"The mother of one of my patients. A young boy who died from a problem that was already too far advanced when he was brought to hospital, anyway. His mother confronted me on the hospital grounds with a gun." Marina said with some difficulty, her mind processing even as her heart felt dragged down by the dreadful inevitability of the moment.

"Go on." Esther's father prompted gently.

Marina glanced up with surprise.

"Esther came upon us, and when she saw that the woman was going to shoot, she pushed me out of the way and the bullet which was intended for me, hit her instead." Marina said uncomfortably.

She estimated that the bullet would have hit her square in the chest, possibly even fatally. Did that matter? Was she prepared to die for Esther?

The 'what ifs' of the situation were starting to infuriate her. Combined with her fatigue, the hangover of having so much adrenalin and having it dissipate, and the fact that Esther was injured was not making any of this easier to deal with.

"She landed on me, we fell. The rest of the hospital showed up. She received emergency care and now she is in surgery. I just wish that she had chosen another route to go home tonight." Marina said softly, stretching her legs out and gripping her now cold cup of sump-oil in her hand.

"I doubt Esther will feel that way when she wakes up." Caesar said after a few moments had passed in somewhat companionable silence.

Marina looked up into the dark eyes of Esther's father.

"Don't you say what you just said to me to her." Caesar said softly.

Marina nodded slightly. A bible quote about love and laying one's life down for another crossed her mind fleetingly. It made her wish she had paid more attention in Mass.

What an odd series of thoughts to be having just now. Odder still that she seemed to be having this rather, almost pleasant, conversation with Caesar Bruno. A man she was sure, up until a few minutes ago, was hell bent on hating her, and despising what she represented in his daughters life.

Marina glanced at her watch, only to remember that it had been ruined. The fall and Esther's blood had destroyed it.

Time marched on though. There were still over two hours to go based on the forlorn looking clock that hung in the waiting area. The second hand of the clock seemed to be ticking in time with Marina's heartbeat and it made her shake her head.

She needed some rest. But not until she had seen Esther. Not until she knew with her own two eyes that the other woman. That her Esther, was okay, that Esther would be fine.

Marina would not even close her eyes for a moment before then.

When someone finally came to stand in front of Marina and Caesar, Marina could not help but blink a bit blearily at the person. It was a nurse, one that Marina did not recognise.

"She is in recovery now. She will be moved to a room when she has woken up. You may see her for a few minutes, but then she must be left to rest until tomorrow." The nurse said succinctly, inclining her head to both Marina and Caesar, as if to acknowledge that both of them were included in the equation of what she had just said.

"The doctor will be available to answer your questions as to how the surgery went and what happens next, tomorrow. Right now, you should just visit, and then come back in the morning." The nurse added, as if to preempt the next question.

"I want to stay with her." Caesar said firmly. "I am her father. She needs someone here when she wakes up." He added, running a tired hand through his hair.

The nurse pursed her lips as if to deny his request, and then Marina spoke up. "I will vouch for him. This is important." She said softly.

It was important. Marina knew that Esther was desperate to reconcile something of her relationship with her father. Just exactly what that was remained a speculation at best.

Marina hoped that Esther was also eager to reconcile with her. Whatever their disagreements had been, right not they did not matter. It has only been luck, and the love of a woman that had stopped Marina from probably meeting her own end tonight.

"All right. I will have a cot brought to her room. But, Mr. Bruno, you will remain silent and will not interfere with her treatment, or any of the staff, of you will be removed." The nurse said firmly before she walked away, not even waiting for Caesar to confirm his compliance to her instructions.

Marina felt the trace of a smile on her face when Caesar looked at her in a perplexed way. "They have had a lot of experience with hysterical relatives." She said by way of explanation to the nurse's statement.

"I see. Well, I am not one for hysterics." Caesar said absently.

It almost made Marina snort in amusement. Perhaps not, but something close to them in any case. This was not the time or the place to go into that. What mattered now was some sort of harmony between them, as there was no way in hell Esther deserved to wake up to the two of them arguing, or otherwise at odds.

"I will go see about the arrangements. Do you need anything? I believe I can muster up a shaving kit and a clean shirt." Marina said as she stood, feeling the residual stiffness of having been too still for too long in her legs.

Caesar Bruno blinked at her as if she had two heads. Maybe he would one day learn that being a homosexual did not mean that once ceased to be human. Hopefully he would learn this before it was too late.

It was almost too late as it was...

By the time Marina got home, it was only five hours until she was due back at work again. While belatedly she knew that no one would expect her to come to work on time, or at all, she was determined to be there.

She just needed to shower, catch a nap, and drink some really strong coffee before she could function. The first thing she intended to do was go see Esther, just as soon as the visiting hours started. She wanted to give Caesar as much time along with his daughter as she could.

It was more important than her feelings, or her wants, or here desires, and certainly Marina knew that she was not out of the woods yet when it came to Esther's father, or Esther herself.

The hot shower did little to make her feel better, but at least it got rid of the lingering smell of blood, and warmed her chilled body. It also brought back memories of sharing this same shower with Esther.

It seemed like that was already a lifetime ago. But it had actually been quite recent. It was amazing how quickly, and abruptly life could change, and nor irrevocably at that.

Still, these were worries for tomorrow, or later today. Right now, Marina knew that she must try to sleep. Or at least relax...

Easier said than done. As she lay in her bed amidst the soft, clean smelling sheets, Marina kept replaying the scenes of the evening. The shot, Esther falling. The feel of blood, the smell of fear.

With a groan, Marina realised that she would have to deal with the police tomorrow. Even though she had not been hit, the murderous intent had been directed at her, not Esther. The police would want to know details of what happened and why.

Marina could not help but wonder about the woman who had intended to shoot her. Part of her understood the intent, but most of her was just too tired to think about it with any sort of sympathy. Still, she would do what she could to help the woman.

She doubted that Caesar would feel the same. But, Esther might. Esther was a sensitive woman with a big heart. She had also been shot. Marina could not envision the experience herself, and as tender hearted as Esther may be, the fact remained that she has been shot so her generosity might fall short.

That was of course, Esther's decision alone. Marina would not try to influence her in the matter. This was far too important to say the least. Marina just hoped that Esther would somehow be willing to try to repair what remained of their relationship.

All of this thinking was keeping Marina from resting and she had to be up in an unimaginably short amount of time.

Damn it.

The police were waiting for Marina when she arrived at work the next day. So was the press. Coupled with the headache she had, the ache in her back from catching Esther and her overall mood, it was not proving to be a favourable morning so far.

The only upside was that soon visiting hours would commence and Marina had every intention of being there the moment they began.

Right now however, she was fielding questions from some very nice police officers who seemed hell-bent on driving her insane with what seemed like stupid questions and ridiculously patronising behaviour.

After an agonising eternity that was really no more than about half an hour, Marina resolutely made her way to the surgical wing of the hospital and to Esther's room. Hopefully the night had gone without complications and today the other woman would be in good cheer.

Hopefully also, Caesar would not be there. Marina was not in the correct frame of mind to deal with Esther's overbearing father right now but she figured she would if she had to.

Knocking gently on the door to the room, Marina carefully eased the door open and glanced in.

There she was. Looking pale and fragile as she lay on the harsh-looking hospital sheets. Esther...

Alive and well.

Marina felt her heart skip a beat when Esther turned her head a looked directly at her.

"Hi." She said, her voice slightly slurred, undoubtedly due the painkillers she was being treated with.

"Hi." Marina replied, looking around the hospital room.

"Where is your dad?" Marina asked, hoping that all was well.

"My dad?" Esther asked, looking confused.

"Yes, he spent the night here with you." Marina replied, coming closer to the bed and examined Esther carefully.

She looked bruised, tired, and unwell. A dressing and a sling encased her shoulder and arm and she looked like she had been a few rounds with a prize fighter.

"He was gone when I woke up." Esther said forlornly.

"He was here. Also when you were in surgery." Marina said, gently taking Esther's hand in her own.

They needed to talk...

"Are you okay?" Esther asked as Marina got caught up in her personal woolgathering.

"Am I okay? Esther. You were shot. I was not shot. Of course I am okay." Marina said with some incredulity.

"You were there, Marina. I felt you holding my wounds. I felt you holding me." Esther said quietly, finally bringing her eyes up to look into Marina's.

"I'm fine." Marina said uncomfortably.

Was she fine?

Time would tell, and certainly she could revisit this conversation with Esther later.

Later. That thought had predominated in her mind before, and Esther had been shot. Maybe there would be no later.

"I'm not okay." Marina amended, sitting down heavily on the chair that was ensconced next to Esther's bed.

"I know." Esther said, gently squeezing Marina's hand before she withdrew her hand and shifted her position.

"We can't wait anymore, Marina. We need to decide now what we will do next. I have been shot and I have no intention of waiting around to see what happens next, I want to know what happens next." Esther said after a brief pause.

Marina thought that she sounded pained and tired and instinctively she wanted to shut down this conversation. But that is what Esther's father had been doing. Shutting his daughter out and only listening to his own point of view.

"I want us to try, Marina. I can't deal with the pressure though. We need to move at a more reasonable pace. I love you. You know this. But I can't eat a whole cake all at once, I have to pace myself and eat it slice by slice." Esther continued.

"I want my cake, Marina, and I want to eat it too." Esther seemed to conclude.

Marina considered the words.

It was true, she had been awfully pushy and had expected Esther to react in kind, but the truth was that Esther was at the beginning of a journey that Marina had already pretty much completed.

"I love you too." Marina said, carefully modulating her voice to indicate that she understood and was willing to move at a more reasonable pace.

"But, I will no be your dirty little secret." Marina said firmly.

Esther looked at her and for a moment, Marina could see a look of contrition in her eyes.

"Well, since we are in agreement then, why don't you tell me exactly what has happened to my shoulder. And don't spare me any details, Doctor. I want to know." Esther responded after a beat.

Marina smiled and felt hope rekindle in her chest.

"So my dad was here?" Esther asked after a moment.

"Yes. I called him. He came. It was almost pleasant." Marina answered.

On reflection it was probably the dire nature of the situation that had lubricated the interaction she had experienced with Caesar Bruno last night. She knew that it was only a matter of time before things were going to come to a head once more.

A very short time. With Esther injured like this it would be impossible for the man to remain silent for long.

A nurse had just finished changing the dressings on Esther's wounds and she had been allowed to have some gruel for breakfast when Caesar Bruno walked into the room.

"Dad." Esther said in a reflexive way and Marina turned around.

There he was, Esther's father. And in the light of day he did not look nearly as compassionate and concerned as he had the night before. Marina surreptitiously slipped the call button into her hand and waited.

"What are you doing here?" Caesar Bruno asked Marina without preamble.

"It's your fault she is like this." He continued and Marina had the distinct impression that he did not mean simply that Esther had taken a bullet for her.

"Like what?" Esther asked, her voice sounding broken to Marina's ears.

Oh, how she longed to simply whisk Esther away from all of this sadness, and pain. This madness.

"A pervert!" Mr. Bruno said harshly. "You soiled her." He said pointedly at Marina.

Marina swore that hell would freeze over before she would flinch in front of this assault. She could feel Esther cringe beside her and it made Marina brush her finger along the call button that she had hidden in her pocket.

"I did no such thing, Mr. Bruno." Marina said without hesitation, hoping that the conviction in hr voice would be enough to help support Esther.

"It is just as well her mother is not alive to witness it. How could you do this?" Caesar Bruno continued, oblivious to Marina's protestations.

Marina opened her mouth to say something, but the man cut her off before she could get a word out.

"You brought your deviance to my home! Perversion, filth, probably disease as well. You disgust me!" He almost shouted. Marina felt the words like knives, but she had the armour to deal with them.

Esther however did not. Not yet anyway. She would sadly have to develop it as this was just one moment of an uncountable number that she would be forced to deal with in her life from now on. Perhaps this was the most hurtful of all though. Perhaps.

"Father. Please leave." Esther said, her voice tight with tears.

Marina could see that her good arm had a white knuckled grip on the sheets and blankets that covered her and that her hand was trembling.

"If you do not choose me, this is the last time you will see me, Esther." Caesar Bruno said in a voice that made Marina think that he thought Esther would choose him for certain, and his morals, such as they were.

Would she?

Marina felt the icy cold tendrils of fear grip her heart.

"Fine then." Esther said and finally a tear escaped from her eye and Marina was overcome with the urge to reach over and wipe it away.

She would do anything to wipe away Esther's pain. It was her great sadness right now that she could not. This was a pain that Esther would have to endure by herself. Marina could only hope to offer her support, or a shoulder to cry on, or anything, if she needed it, wanted it or asked for it. Marina would be there for her, with her, by her side.

Marina realised then that she would do anything for Esther...

Caesar Bruno seemed to be stunned into place at Esther's words. Marina wondered if he would leave, or if there would be more scenes to be had first. Moments passed and finally the man turned and simply walked away.

Marina heard Esther sob beside her and dropped the call button and reached out to take Esther's good hand in her own, wanting desperately to gather her up in and hold her and frustrated that Esther's injured shoulder made it impossible to even consider.

"It will be okay, Esther." Marina whispered softly. Inwardly she was not so convinced, but that did not matter right now.

Only Esther mattered, and only her...

"Is this how it will be?" Esther asked as she pulled her hand away from Marina's abruptly.

Marina looked at the tear streaked face of the woman she had grown to love. Esther looked broken.

"Not always." Marina offered.

How could she explain this?

It was something that needed to be experienced, unfortunately. She would spare Esther this, if she could. If only she could.

"Not always?" Esther said bitterly.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" She added angrily.

"Not everyone will have a bad reaction, and believe it or not it is possible to recover a relationship, even with a reaction as bad as your father's." Marina said, sounding lame to her own ears.

Who needed to hear this shit at a time like this? Maybe Esther did.

"Please leave me alone, Marina. I need to be alone right now." Esther said in a toneless voice.

Marina looked at Esther and saw that she had composed her face into impasivity. Marina decided that she would come back in a little while. Perhaps Esther just needed some time to process alone, and she sounded resolute.

"I mean it, Marina. For your sake, and mine. Leave me alone right now." Marina kicked herself for hesitating when Esther repeated herself and without any more preamble, Marina slipped out of the room and made her way back down to her own department.

That is, after she bribed the attending nurses in the surgical ward with smiles and promises so that they would let her know how Esther was getting along or if there were any changes as soon as they happened.

Marina was loathe to leave the other woman alone, but she also knew that there were situations that one simply needed time alone to process. This sort of hurt, might be one of those situations and Esther was a grown woman, after all. She knew what she wanted and what she needed.

Sighing sadly, Marina moved to her office and tried to mentally compose herself to face her day. It was hard to do, as all she really wanted was to be with Esther, even if all they did was sit quietly together.

Damn Esther's father. Damn him...

Shaking her head, Marina composed herself and turned her attention to work. It was not as if she did not have plenty of it to do.

"How are you?" The words caught Marina by surprise as she studied a patient chart.

Looking up into the kind eyes of Rocco, who essentially was every lesbians best-straight-male-friend, Marina offered a weak smile. Rocco was safe to let your guard down around, even if only for a few moments at a time.

"I'll manage." Marina offered softly, feeling tears in her throat even as she said it.

"Will you?" Rocco asked, his voice kindly and understanding.

Why was it that he was the exception, not the rule? If only her own parents had been like Rocco. If only Esther's father was more like him.

If only.

"I have to be." Marina said quietly. "For her." She added.

Rocco nodded.

"Don't forget yourself, though. Esther will want to be there for you as well. A relationship is a two way street." Rocco said softly after a pause.

Marina looked up into Rocco's eyes and for a moment, felt a deep kinship with the man.

"Yes. I will try to remember that." Marina whispered before she felt too uncomfortable to continue with the conversation. At the moment anyway.

She still had a few hours of work to accomplish before she could realistically leave. The head of her department had told her to leave early, and Marina intended, just for once, to obey.

Esther was waiting, even if Esther did not know it just yet.

Hopefully there would be no major emergency or other interruption that would cause Marina to actually have to stay. Just for once, she wanted to be away and gone on time. She had places to go, and a person to see. It was important. For both her and Esther.

The gods were smiling on Marina just for once, and in good time she found her way back to the surgical ward. A quick phone-call to the nurses station had confirmed that Esther was fine, though cranky and eager to be discharged.

Marina reflected that technically speaking there was no reason for Esther to be in the hospital for more than another day or two, provided no complications arose. But it also occurred to Marina that Esther would not be able to deal with being alone just now.

She would need help dressing, and washing, and possibly even eating. Also, her wound would need care, and someone would need to remind her to take her medicine and then ensure that she did as the physical therapist and her doctors ordered.

Esther's father was out of the question, that much was clear.

Marina considered her options, and hoped that Esther would be amenable to her suggestion as she knocked briefly on the door to Esther's room before she made her way in.

There were two police officers in the room, much to Marina's surprise, but then she realised that probably the nurses had been very firm earlier in the day that the patient had to be allowed to rest some more before the police interview could be conducted.

For this, Marina was eternally grateful.

Esther was looking healthily pissed off right now and it seemed that the interview was being concluded, so Marina waited as unobtrusively as possible for the two officers to leave.

"Thank you, Miss Bruno, for your time. We will be in touch if there is any need..." Marina heard one of them say and then they were gone.

"How are you?" Marina asked by way of greeting.

"I need a shower." Esther replied, her voice broadcasting her discomfort, dissatisfaction and irritation.

"I am sure that can be arranged. Have you been up today?" Marina asked as she turned to hang up her jacket and bag and mentally calculated just what she would need to do in order to help Esther.

"Yes. The fascist nurses forced me to walk the corridors and made me squeeze a damn ball." Esther said grumpily.

Marina decided not to point out that Esther herself was a nurse, and it was likely that she had, at some point, been labelled a fascist by one of her patients in the past.

Now was not the time. Now was the time to see about getting Esther a shower. She would need help. Marina wondered if Esther would accept help from Marina.

There was only one way to find out. She would gather her courage and ask. The worst that could happen was that Esther would say no. Marina sincerely hoped that this would not be the case.

Marina went to the nurses station and told the assembled nurses that Esther wanted to wash and would it be acceptable if Marina helped her? Marina was summarily handed some plastic and tape, unnecessarily told to keep the wound dry and the arm immobilised and to ensure that Esther was seated in the shower, not standing.

Wandering back to Esther's room, Marina considered how she would broach the subject of helping Esther with her shower. It was not as if she had not seen Esther naked before.

But this was different.

Closing the door behind her Marina approached Esther's bed and held up the plastic in her hands.

"I'll help you shower." Marina said, smiling in what she hoped was a jaunty way.

Esther blinked for a moment before she nodded. Whatever objections she may have had seemed to fade away with the prospect of getting clean and it was not as if she did not trust Marina.

Pleased with the way things were going, Marina quickly found and laid out a fresh set of hospital clothes for Esther and also raided the stock of towels that were available. No doubt the sheets would be changed as soon as Marina had Esther safely in the bathroom.

But now the main thing was to get her undressed and wrapped up in plastic. Marina gently helped Esther sit up and noted when she did so, that Esther had blood in her hair and there were deep iodine stains all over her neck and even up the side of her face.

No wonder she was desperate to shower. No doubt it had been decided that she could not in the morning just to make sure that some settling down of her injuries occurred before anything else happened, but without a doubt, Esther was extremely uncomfortable.

"Let's get you undressed. Would you prefer to be in the bathroom?" Marina asked gently, supporting Esther as she sat up in the bed.

A fall would be a disaster at this point of her healing.

"Yes." Esther said simply.

Nodding, Marina gathered up clothes, and towel and take and plastic under one arm and gathered Esther under her other arm and the two of them made their way painstakingly to the bathroom.

Esther felt frail to Marina, but she also felt alive, and that was what mattered...

Once in the bathroom, Marina carefully sat Esther down and set aside the other things she had been carrying. It was time to undress Esther who was somewhat conveniently encased in top that had open sides that tied up. Obviously in deference to her injured arm.

"Ready?" Marina asked, her fingers carefully poised on the ties.

Esther nodded and Marina delicately undid the knots and eased off the garment. Esther was still and did not flinch as Marina gently pulled it up over her head. So far, so good.

However, when Marina's eyes rested on Esther's body, it took every ounce of professional acumen that she possessed for her not to react. Esther's torso was a mass of bruises, dried blood, and streaks of iodine. Also, her arms were scrapped and she looked almost emaciated.

Only Esther's breasts seemed unscathed and they sat proudly and pertly on her chest, as if in defiance of their circumstances.

This was not a time to start thinking about Esther's breasts.

Marina reached for the plastic and proceeded to wrap Esther's injuries as carefully and as thoroughly as she could. It occurred to her that she was going to have to wash Esther, from head to toe. The other woman would not be capable of doing this herself, not yet anyway. Maybe in a few days she would be able to do some of it, but not yet.

It was obvious though that Esther needed to get clean, so Marina resolutely set aside the scissors and the tape and moved to help Esther out of her pyjama pants. This was not time for dilly-dallying or shyness.

Not on either of their parts...

Esther obediently raised her backside a little and soon she was sitting naked in the chair and Marina was reaching for the shower head, carefully arranging the needed toiletries within easy reach.

"Okay?" Marina asked as she adjusted the water temperature with extreme care.

"Yes." Esther replied and closed her eyes as if to block out what was going on, or perhaps even to simply savour the sensation of finally getting clean.

Marina eased Esther's head back and proceeded to wet her hair, ignoring the splash of water as it soaked her pants and shoes. The long strands slipped through her fingers easily and Marina took care to ensure that no water got into Esther's hair, and that no strand of hair was neglected.

Reaching for the shampoo once she was ready, Marina put a healthy glob on her hands and proceeded to work it into Esther's hair. Much to her pleasure, Marina observed Esther begin to relax as Marina did this.


After a while, Marina rinsed the shampoo out. There was no conditioner, but Esther's hair would tolerate one wash without conditioner. Tonight Marina would go shopping and ensure that Esther had anything she needed for the rest of her stay.

Right now however, it was a simple matter of getting her to feel better.

"Lean forward a little." Marina instructed.

Esther complied and Marina wet her body before she carefully began to wash Esther's back with a washcloth, then moved to remove as much iodine as she could from her shoulders, chest and neck.

Moving to use her hands on some of the more delicate skin of Esther's body, Marina moved around to the front of Esther and ran her soapy hands along her front. When her hands brushed over Esther's breasts, Marina heard Esther inhale sharply.

"Esther, look at me." Marina asked quietly.

When Esther opened her eyes, Marina smiled.

"Trust me." Marina said gently.

Esther seemed to be confused for a moment, but then she nodded.

"I do." She whispered.

Satisfied with the answer, Marina continued with her ministrations, carefully washing Esther's legs and feet and deciding that the most intimate parts of the other woman would be fine with rinsing.

Marina doubted that Esther would be receptive to such an intimate bath; not today anyway.

Carefully, Marina washed away the soap from Esther's skin and then bade her to stand up for a little bit as the last vestiges of soap were chased away by the stream of warm water.

"I'll do your face after you're dressed." Marina said as she reached doe towels and started to gently dry Esther as she leaned against the sink.

In short order, Marina had Esther back into clothes and back into her bed. Now with a warm washcloth, she carefully cleaned the other woman's face and then held up a comb.

"Allow me?" Marina asked.

Esther nodded, looking exhausted but grateful.

Marina felt the warmth of hope burn brightly inside of her as she carefully separated Esther's hair and prepared to comb it out.

It seemed that the hospital gods had finally decided that Esther could have real food. Marina has just finished with the other woman's hair when the evening meal was delivered.

Marina cringed inwardly when she looked at the array of unappetising foods that Esther was offered. But Esther was starving, and it was apparent as soon as the food was set down that she would eat it, and do so with gusto.

"Can you manage with one hand?" Marina asked.

Esther looked at her and then at the food.

"I think they anticipated that I might have some trouble. Thankfully, they did not serve me spaghetti." Esther replied and gingerly picked up her fork.

"I'll get you a toothbrush while you eat. Do you need anything else?" Marina asked, suddenly uncomfortable and wanting to give Esther some space to eat and accustom herself to eating with one hand.

"You don't need to do that." Esther said.

"I know. I want to. Just let me will you?" Marina replied feeling a little tired of the constant resistance, but resolutely deciding that she would be patient with it.

She knew that Esther was not comfortable with the difference in their incomes and assets. They would need to come to some sort of agreement about it. Marina did not want Esther to be uncomfortable, but neither was she prepared to simply stop doing things for Esther, or stop giving her things, for that matter.

They would need to discuss this in more detail, but first Marina would need Esther to agree to come and convalesce at her place.

Without any more ado, Marina left Esther's room and made some plans as to where the nearest department store might be and what she wanted to get from there to make Esther's hospital stay easier, or more comfortable in any case.

It was a quick drive to her destination and Marina found herself selecting a toothbrush, toothpaste and a few basic essentials for Esther. On the way to the checkout, she paused before a display of stuffed animals and was unable to resist buying one, along with some flowers.

No one else was paying much attention to Esther, though Marina knew that Rocco and several others had been to see her. The fact remained though, that the one person Esther wanted, had rejected her.

The very least Marina could do was provide some colour and comfort for the austere hospital room.

Later she would see about going to Esther's father's home and getting some of her personal effects, or maybe she would ask Rocco to do this. Esther would need some of her things and Marina was certain that she would not go fetch them herself.

Before she knew it, Marina found herself back in the hospital parking lot and quietly made her way back to the surgical wing. Visiting hours were over, but Marina was confident that she would be able to sneak herself in, or charm her way in. Either way, she would get in.

As it turned out, simply being dressed as a doctor was enough for her to get past any prying eyes or attempts to stop her and she found herself once more at Esther's door.

This time she felt nervous before she knocked. Bringing a woman gifts was always an interesting proposition. Even when said woman was in hospital, and even if she really needed some of the gifts in question.

"You're back." Esther said when Marina quietly slipped into the room.

To Marina, Esther sounded surprised.

"Of course. And I come armed with a toothbrush." Marina replied, setting down the bag she was carrying and pulling the teddy bear she was hiding behind her back out.

"Marina." Esther said, in a very soft tone when the glimpsed the stuffed toy.

"Everyone needs a friend, Esther." Marina replied and settled the bear on the end table and then fussed about setting up the flowers that she had brought on another table in the room.

"There, now it looks better in here." Marina said.

At Esther's sceptical look Marina shrugged mildly and added. "Esther, you don't do austere very well. Please, you would do this for me if the situation was reversed." Marina felt very tired as she spoke the words, but she was determined to unpack the rest of her tidings.

"I have a toothbrush and toothpaste for you. Some deodorant, and some underclothes. There is also a book of short stories here and some nice socks." Marina muttered as she rummaged around in the shopping bag she had brought along.

"Thank you." Esther said, and when Marina felt a gentle hand touch her, she looked up directly into Esther's eyes.

There was still a connection, Marina realised and she was determined not to lose it. Ever again.

"You're welcome." Marina said, sitting down on the chair that was adjacent to the bed and trying to force her shoulders to relax.

"You should go home and rest." Esther said after a long moment of comfortable silence passed.

"I know. But I wanted to do this for you first." Marina said absently.

"Would you consider coming to my place while you are healing. I have a guestroom, and that way you would not be alone all the time. I mean I would be at work, but you would have someone around in the evenings and I could come home during the day." Marina said the words in a rush before she could lose the nerve.

"I'm not asking you to move in with me, but it is pretty much either my place, or Rocco's, and my place is bigger. I also don't have a wife." Marina did not add the word, 'yet'. Not out loud anyway.

She did think it, however.

"Only if you let me contribute to food and bills." Esther finally replied.

Marina blinked herself to a more alert state. Esther had taken so long in replying that Marina had dosed off a little.

"All right." Marina agreed readily.

She had realised, perhaps belatedly that Esther was a proud woman and it was important to her to feel like she was in control of a situation.

Esther seemed to be happy with Marina's replied and Marina could see an almost unperceivable relaxation in her frame. It would seem as if Esther had actually been worried about this as well.

"Do you want to give me a list of things to get from your dad's place?" Marina asked after another little while had passed.

"No. I mean yes. But I don't think you should go." Esther said, her voice tight with hurt.

"I can send Rocco." Marina said, taking Esther's hand in her own and rubbing it gently.

She would dearly love to take this pain from Esther, but it was a pain that could not really be shared. It would in time heal somewhat or almost completely, or scar over and not hurt as much, and it helped to have people who cared around you.

But it was a pain that Esther would have to deal with alone.

It was very late when Marina got home, but she decided that she would call Rocco in any case. She knew he would be awake and that Esther was his friend. He would want a heads up and he would also be interested to know what was going on and where Esther was going to be stay as she convalesced.

The phone was answered at the first ring.

"Hello?" Rocco's voice sounded interested, and awake.


"Hi Rocco, this is Marina Ranieri." Marina said pleasantly into the phone, hoping to disarm the man with the informal usage of her name.

"Oh, hello Doctor." Rocco replied, sounding even more interested now that he knew who was on the phone.

So much for informality. Oh well, he was Esther's friend, he would help in any case.

"Esther sends her regards. She is doing much better and hopes you will smuggle in some proper food for her to eat." Marina said, making up the last bit.

However, if anyone could smuggle food in, it was Rocco.

"Oh, that is wonderful to hear, and I will bring her some lunch tomorrow." Rocco replied, a clear smile evident in his voice.

"She, and also I, have a favour to ask you." Marina plunged in, wishing there was an easy way to ask this, say this.

"Esther will be staying with me as she convalesces, but she needs some of her thins from her father's place. We both think that you would be a better candidate than me to fetch these things." Marina said, hoping that the man would say yes even while she was sure he would not say no.

"I see. Well, um. Okay. Tomorrow then I guess? I expect she will be discharged soon." Rocco said with some trepidation evident in his voice.

"I can drive you, and I have a list and her keys if needed." Marina extrapolated.

"All right. We can arrange the details tomorrow. Goodnight, Doctor." Rocco agreed, obviously wanting to end the conversation as soon as possible.

"Very well, see you then. Goodnight." Marina heard the phone go dead and laid her head back on the bed and vowed to get some sleep.

She was going to need it.

It felt as if she had been asleep for only ten seconds when the phone rang. Marina groped around for it and blearily answered it without looking to see who was calling.

"Yes?" Marina half gasped into the phone.

"Marina." It was Esther's voice. She sounded frightened, tearful.

Suddenly completely awake, Marina scrambled to her feet and started to yank on clothes.

"I'm here." Marina said into the phone in a gentle voice.

"It hurts so much." Esther whispered.

"I'm coming." Marina said, as she blindly swept her things into her bag and charged out of the apartment with her shoes untied.

Esther needed her and Marina would go to her. Even if she had to walk across hot coals to do this. Nothing was going to stop her, and with that thought she threw her bag into the car, sat down, buckled up and sped off towards the hospital.

Esther needed her.

Marina broke a few laws and made it to the hospital in record time, quickly gaining access via the emergency room where no one paid her any attention. She had credentials, even if her shoes were untied.

Moving quickly, Marina found herself in the elevator. The same elevator that she and Esther had shared their first kiss in. Marina knelt to tie up her shoes and then redid the buttons of her shirt which were askew.

It was time to put on her best doctor face. She was going to need it to gain access to Esther at 3 o'clock in the morning.

As she approached the nearly deserted nursing station, Marina considered her options. She was a doctor in the hospital, it was her pejorative to be here, but she needed a reason.

Well, she was coming to check on a patient. Maybe that would do. Hopefully.

Marina was under no illusions about just how powerful nurses were in a hospital, so she would need to do this carefully. Steeling her nerve she stopped at the nursing station and gently cleared her throat.

Even though there was just one nurse here, there could be as many as five in the ward, and she needed cooperation, not to be asked to leave at once should she be discovered, so she had no intention of trying to sneak in.

"I am Doctor Ranieri, I am here to see Esther Bruno. She called me and requested my presence." Marina said, seeing if the truth would gain her leverage.

"Ah, I see. Well she has had a restless night, so maybe you can calm her down, Doctor. By all means, but please remain as quiet as possible and remember that she needs to sleep as much as possible." The nurse said amiably, and moments later Marina found herself at Esther's door.

Without a knock, and without hesitation, Marina entered the room and gently closed the door behind her, dropping her bag onto a chair and hurrying towards Esther.

The other woman turned her tear streaked face and blinked at her in confusion. "You came." Esther eventually managed to say.

"Yes, Esther. I will always come to you." Marina said, gently gathering Esther to herself and sitting on the bed carefully.

"I will always come for you." Marina whispered, pressing a kiss to Esther's temple and making extra sure that she was not hurting Esther's injured side.

Esther burried her head in Marina's neck and seemed to relax perceivably. In a moment, Marina would make sure that Esther had received her allotment of painkillers for the night.

Right now though, Marina was just going to hold her and savour the moment. Right now that was what mattered and by the way Esther was holding her, it seemed that she was in agreement.

"Okay, so you have the list?" Marina asked nervously as she and Rocco pulled to a stop in front of Esther's place.

"Yes. Clothes, computer, papers, personal effects. She says she has two suitcases under her bed and just to fill both." Rocco replied, his voice betraying some of his anxiety.

Marina hoped that Mr. Bruno would not be home, to be honest. This could get extremely ugly, extremely quickly if he was.

But Esther was their friend, and legally it was her residence, and she could give them permission to enter it, and it was her stuff. So if Mr. Bruno got vicious, they could simply call the cops.

Hopefully it would not come to that.

Marina cringed inwardly at the thought...

"I'll be waiting right here, call me if you need something." Marina said as she got out of her car and leaned against it, feeling the pit of her stomach fall to the ground.

Good lord she hoped that this would go well. She was not optimistic though, not after the scenes that Esther's father had caused in the hospital.

Rocco nodded and jingled the keys and the list that he had and walked up to the front door, experimentally ringing the doorbell.

There was no answer, so Rocco simply let himself in and disappeared behind the closed door, leaving Marina alone with the stampeding herd of butterflies that seemed to have decided to do the watusi all at once in her lower abdomen.

The things one did for love, loyalty and friendship.

It really was Rocco who was putting more on the line than Marina was. Up until this moment, he had managed to successfully avoid entangling himself in the politics of the situation between Esther, her father, and Marina.

This would irrevocably change that, even if Mr. Bruno did not come home in the interim. He would know, and eventually he would know who, and the battle lines would be drawn.

Ugh. Why did there have to be battle lines?

Marina rolled her shoulders, feeling the heavy press of fatigue as she fidgeted with her keys and waited and waited and waited.

Hurry up, Rocco. She urged mentally.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Marina jumped when she heard the angry, loud voice of Caesar Bruno right next to her ear.

"Mr. Bruno." Marina said to cover up her total surprise.

How had he managed to sneak up on her?

"I asked, what are you doing here?" Esther's father repeated.

"Well, Esther asked us to get some of her stuff." Marina said, holding up a piece of paper that contained a note that Esther had dictated for her father.

Writing has been a bit beyond Esther's ability yesterday.

Mr. Bruno snatched the note from Marina's hand and glanced at it briefly.

"I bet you're happy about this! You're finally getting what you wanted..." Mr. Bruno spat at Marina.

"You think I want Esther to be rejected by her father?" Marina was incredulous despite herself and could not help but responding to the obvious taunt.

Just then Rocco appeared on the scene, holding two suitcases in his hands, which he carefully placed in the back of Marina's car before he turned his attentions to Esther's father, moving to stand beside Marina almost protectively.

It made Marina wish she had a Rocco with her when she had done this with her own parents. The wistful thought was blown out of her head when she felt hands grab her.

"Mr. Bruno. Let her go or I will call the police." Marina heard Rocco say in a voice she had never heard him use before and even as she gasped in shock, she saw Rocco put his hand on Mr. Bruno's arm and knew that it would not be a contest if this came to blows.

Caesar Bruno looked at her with nothing but vitriolic hatred in his eyes and it made Marina almost want to cry. Not for her own sake, but for Esther's sake.

"Come on, Mr. Bruno. Let her go. Do you really feel this way? Your daughter could have died two days ago, Dr. Ranieri is only trying to help her." Rocco said again, his strong grip managing to somewhat gently extricate Mr. Bruno's grip from Marina.

"It would have been better she had died, than this." Mr. Bruno said spitefully.

"Thank God Esther's mother is not alive to witness this, abomination." Caesar Bruno abruptly let go of Marina and stepped back.

It was only then that Marina realised that her heart was pounding out of her chest.

"You disgust me." Mr. Bruno spat angrily and then turned away, brushing past Rocco and a moment later they both heard the front door slam.

Marina let out the breath she did not know she was holding and felt a single tear escape her eye and was still while it left a hot trail of sadness and no small degree of hurt as it travelled down her face.

Without a word, Rocco broke all protocols and enfolded her in an embrace she would be forever grateful to have received just at this moment.

"It will be okay, Marina. It will. You'll see." Rocco said soothingly as he briefly stroked her hair and back and Marina allowed herself long moments to inhale his clean masculine scent, wishing fervently, just for a moment, that he was her father.

"We'd better go before he comes out swinging a rolling pin or something." Rocco joked as he let her go.

Marina smiled weakly and nodded and a few minutes later they were making their way to Rocco's place. He had insisted on picking up his wife. "She'll help you set up your apartment so that Esther and you will be comfortable." Rocco has said.

Privately Marina was grateful. It would feel good to have two people who cared about Esther and also about her, albeit vicariously, help with this difficult transition.

That and Marina was tired. Physically tired from lack of sleep, and right now she felt mentally tired as well. So much intolerance and so much hate, and for nothing.

She could only imagine how Esther felt.

Marina knew that she would have to tell Esther about her father. As much as she did not want to, it was better to be honest now, than somehow try to deal with the repercussions of what might happen when Esther found out through some other channel. Which she eventually would, of course...

"Thank you, Rocco." Marina said as she stopped in front of his place, and she let her hand wander over to touch his arm gently.

"Just so long as I get to come to the wedding." Rocco joked gently as they both alighted from the car and made their way to the front door where his wife was already standing and ushering them both inside.

"Coffee first, then we go." Rocco said by way of explanation as Marina raised an eyebrow in his direction.

It sounded like a great idea to Marina.

By the next morning Esther was ready to be discharged. Marina made a gap in her schedule to make sure she was there for it and to bring Esther back to her place and situate her comfortably.

"Ready to go?" Marina asked Esther after she had convinced her to acquiesce to the compulsory wheelchair to escort her out of the hospital.

"God, yes." Esther replied and in short order Marina had the other woman safely ensconced in her car and on the way to her apartment.

Marina had a full compliment of prescription medication and over the counter stuff as well, in addition to several schedules for physical therapy, rehabilitation therapy and follow up appointments.

She had managed to assure Esther's doctors that she was capable of changing the bandages and taking care of the stitches in Esther's shoulder when the time came, so at least those were things that Esther would not have to go to the hospital for.

Right now, Marina simply wanted the other woman to rest, relax and heal. As much as possible.

Rocco and his wife had spent about two hours at her apartment yesterday and between the three of them they had managed to set up Marina's guestroom to a comfortable lodging, and had also managed to full Marina's fridge and cupboards with ingredients suitable for a guest, and a convalescing patient.

Marina had repaid them for their trouble with food, wine and funny anecdotes from her childhood, giving them both a window into a carefree private time of Marina's life that she knew they would both appreciate.

It had also helped her deal with the violence and bile of Esther's father, to be around good, caring people who did not have any perceivable prejudices.

Marina would have to tell Esther today when they got to the apartment about Mr. Bruno and how things had gone, but for now she just wanted to get Esther safely there and without any fuss or distress.

Esther was still extremely tired and though Marina was driving with the care of a ninety year old lady, every pebble, bump and jolt of the road was causing her pain.

Marina idly wondered if she should get the suspension of her car checked but before she could give that much thought, they had arrives and Marina quickly grabbed the plastic bag of Esther's possession and hurried around to help her out of the car.

Esther stood gingerly, leaning against Marina heavily.

"Home sweet home." Marina quipped lightly and then guided Esther inside.

It as imperative to get the other woman showered, fed and into bed. Maybe not in that order, but in any case, inside and out of danger of falling over.

Despite having received blood transfusions and already showing remarkable signs of healing, Esther still looked pale and weak, and understandably so.

She had been shot. It was a big deal. It was not merely a scrapped knee.

"Here we are then." Marina said as she gently eased Esther into a chair in her hallway and took care of their things.

Esther nodded and closed her eyes, seeming exhausted by the trip over.

"We'll get you resting in a little bit, darling. But you need to shower, I have to change your bandage and you need to eat something so you can take your medicine first." Marina said as she turned back to Esther.

"I'll help you." Marina said when Esther looked overwhelmed at the prospect of so much to do.

"I only need help with my hair, I think. I need to get used to taking some care of myself." Esther said after a beat.

"Very well, but I will insist that you sit in the shower, okay? Imagine the damage to your healing if you fall and this happened only a few days ago, Esther." Marina said with the authority that her medical degree gave her.

Esther nodded and a moment later Marina helped her get up and they moved together towards Marina's bathroom.

Once there, Marina carefully helped Esther undress and sat her in the plastic chair she had waiting in the bathroom. Grabbing tape and plastic, she soon had Esther's shoulder wrapped.

"You want to wash your hair first?" Marina asked, poised to do whatever Esther needed.

"Yes, I think so." Esther replied and in short order Marina was efficiently washing her hair once more.

It only took a few minutes and then Marina decided to leave Esther alone with her shower, but she did make sure the door was left ajar and that she did not leave the vicinity of the bathroom as the other woman proceeded with her shower.

As she waited, Marina considered what to make Esther so that she would have something in her stomach before her medicine and before her pills. Maybe sandwiches. They were easy to eat, and would not be too heavy so sleep would come more easily afterwards.

The water turned off and Marina listened to Esther move around the bathroom carefully. Deciding that she would be okay for a few moments, Marina quickly went to get the other woman some clean clothes to wear.

In the guestroom, Marina grabbed clothes she had laid out before, basically sweat pants, and a loose button down shirt that Esther would have an easier time to get on.

Back at the bathroom, Marina arrived just in time to see Esther peek around the corner of the door, looking much refreshed and with distinctly better colour than what she had before she took her shower.

"I have some clothes for you." Marina said, holding up the bundle of cloth in her hands.

"Thank you." Esther said and stepped out of the bathroom encased in nothing but a towel.

Marina had to remind herself to breathe. This was not the time to be gawking at her, what was Esther? Was she Marina's girlfriend?

Anyway, this was not the time to be gawking at her. Even if the sight of water dripping down her long body was enough to make Marina's mouth feel dry and cause her pulse to jump in her body.

"We need to change the dressing, and then you need to eat, Esther." Marina said after she had gotten Esther into clean clothes and she had her sitting in the kitchen of her apartment.

Esther nodded mutely and Marina set out the supplies she would need to tend to the wounds on Esther's shoulder. It would be the first time she had actually seem them. She had felt the initial gunshot wound, of course, but this would be surgical stitches, cuts and puncture wounds that were a few days old now.

"Let me know if you get cold, dizzy, or if it hurts, okay? Marina said as she eased the shoulder of Esther's shirt out of the way and exposed the dressings.

"I will." Esther replied and closed her eyes, perhaps to avoid seeing her shoulder, maybe simply because she was tired.

Marina disinfected her hands and began to work on the adhesive bandages and tape that seemed to encapsulate the delicate shoulder under her hands.

The area was horribly bruised and it still bore iodine stains from the surgery itself, and Marina could feel the restlessness in her stomach as she worked to avoid hurting Esther if she could.

When the area was finally exposed, Marina evaluated the wounds. Neat surgical cuts, stitched with the care of a plastic surgeon, and the nasty stitched up wound that the bullet had entered Esther's body through. Marina could remember kissing this shoulder not so long ago.

Closing her eyes for a moment, Marina took a deep breath. "I'm sorry." She whispered and reached for the disinfectant to clean the skin around the wound with.

Esther opened her eyes and looked over at Marina and then at her shoulder and sighed. "It will be okay, Marina. The wounds will heal. If she had shot you it might have killed you. The bullet would have gone into your chest." Esther whispered as she watched Marina carefully wash the wound area.

Marina worked diligently to scrub away as much blood and iodine as she could without actually being able to apply any pressure to the area before she carefully applied a new dressing to the wounds. She had gone to the pharmacy and obtained a stock of efficient, smaller dressings, and a series of new slings for Esther's shoulder as well.

After she had refastened Esther's shirt and carefully put her arm into a new sling, Marina turned to get rid of the trash and old bandages. "I know, Esther. But I can't stand seeing you hurt." Marina finally replied to Esther's earlier statement as she washed her hands.

Esther was silent and Marina took this as her cue to suggest something to eat.

"How do you feel about a sandwich? Then you can take your pills and go to bed." Marina was gratified to see Esther nod at her suggestion and quickly made herself busy preparing a simple sandwich for the tired woman sitting at her kitchen table.

It took some coaxing, but eventually Esther had eaten and taken her medicines. (Pain pills, muscle relaxants, and a broad spectrum antibiotic.) Now Marina was taking her to the guestroom.

Esther was barely on her feet anymore and was swaying with fatigue so it was with palpable relief that Marina sat her down on the bed and urged her to lay back on the bed.

Blinking, Esther looked around.

"Wow, looks nice. Thank you." She said, her words slurring slightly.

"You're welcome. Rocco and his wife helped last night." Marina said as she tucked the blanket carefully around Esther and fussed with the water and the phone on the end table.

"How did it go with my dad?" Esther asked after a long pause.

Marina was silent for just a moment too long.

"Tell me. Now." Esther said, making as if to get up.

"Okay, just stay laying down. I will tell you, Esther. Then you must sleep though, promise me?" Marina replied, regretting that she had to tell Esther, but knowing that it was necessary.

"Tell me." Esther repeated, her voice firm.

"He arrived just as we were about to leave. Rocco was in the house getting your things, I was waiting by the car." Marina began, absently touching her chest where Mr. Bruno's knuckles had left bruises when he had grabbed her shirt.

At this gesture, Esther did sit up, and with some effort. Marina made no move to stop her, knowing it would be futile.

Brushing aside Marina's hands with her good hand, she pulled aside the collar of the shirt and peered at Marina's chest.

"He did this?" Esther asked, outraged.

Marina nodded silently.

"Rocco pulled him off and eventually he went inside. I won't lie, Esther, it was not pretty and I was frightened when he grabbed me. But it is okay, I was not hurt. These bruises are nothing, just another mark of survival and they will heal without leaving a mark." Marina reassured Esther and gently pushed her back to the bed and pulled the blankets up again.

"We'll talk more when I get home, okay? Now sleep." Marina insisted, and she could see that Esther lacked the energy to fight back anymore.

Marina leaned down and kissed the side of her face gently, double checked the phone at the side of the bed and rose up to her feet.

She needed to get back to work, her long lunch hour was almost over and the sooner she got to work the sooner she could come home and see that Esther was safe and sound and well.

Esther was asleep before Marina took a step towards the door, so she made extra sure to leave the apartment quietly and carefully locked the door behind her after closing it.

Hopefully Esther would simply sleep for the rest of the day. It would be ideal for her health. Tomorrow she had a scheduled visit from a physical therapist who would begin working on her hand and lower arm and who would also treat her back and neck to alleviate the pressure and pain caused by only having one functional arm.

Marina stepped into her car and drove back to work, her mind on Esther and on tomorrow, and on tonight.

Tonight could not come soon enough...

Thanks to being shot at just a couple of days ago, Marina managed to get off work on time. Normally quite workaholic, she also had a certain lenience when it came to her schedule.

On a regular day she left when she was done, whenever that was, and usually came in early. Today was not a regular day and she had been all but chased out of the hospital when the time had come for her to leave.

Everyone who mattered, knew that Esther was at her place, thus she was saddled with cards, flowers, and small gifts from concerned coworkers. Hopefully they would cheer Esther up...

Quietly opening her front door for the case that Esther was asleep, Marina crept with her load into the kitchen and came to a dead stop at the door. There was water on the floor and an upturned saucepan lay in the middle of it.


Marina case aside her load and made her way hurriedly to the guestroom, knocking lightly on the door before going in. Esther was asleep on the bed, from a distance she looked okay, but this did not explain the water on the floor or how it had gotten there.

As if sensing her presence, Esther opened her eyes and Marina could see unshed tears in them.

"Are you okay?" Marina said as she came closer.

Esther did not look injured, but that meant nothing.

"I tried to boil some water. I am sorry for the mess." Esther mumbled.

Marina could hear the tears in her voice. "It's just water. What happened, are you okay?" Marina asked worriedly, trying not to fuss.

"I could not balance it with one hand. I dropped it and it hit my foot and I jumped. That hurt my shoulder." Esther went.

Marina reached for the nearby bottle of hand sanitizer, carefully cleaning her hands before reaching over and gently moving aside Esther's shirt. One of the dressings had a red stain in the middle of it.


"I need to check the wounds, Esther." Marina said gently, trying to keep the panic out of her voice.

Esther accepted Marina's help and was soon sitting up. "Wait here, darling." Marina whispered, kissing Esther's temple before moving to fetch the box of supplies she had left in the bathroom, pausing only to wash her hands.

She prayed as she hurried back. She prayed that whatever it was it was just superficial.

"Let's get your shirt off." Marina instructed, easing the shirt off the injured shoulder and started to work on the bandages for the second time today.

Esther's skin was starting to show the irritation with the adhesives which worried Marina. As she eased back the main surgical bandages, she sighed in palpable relief to see that there was no blood and no pulling on the stitches.

Using extreme care, Marina applied an ultra thing layer of medical grade ointment to the angry skin around the wound and left the wound exposed as she moved to check the actual gunshot wound which was slightly off to the side of the surgical wound.

Easing back the bandage, she saw that a scab had been dislodged and as she carefully examined the stitches she saw nothing else amiss. Thank God. Marina carefully eased the broken scan away and cleaned the area around the wound and then she turned to Esther.

"Just a scab dislodged. I am sure this hurt like hell inside." Marina could sense Esther relax at the words.

Marina applied a thicker pressure bandage to the wound and then moved back to the surgical wound. Carefully she covered it as well and then eased Esther's shirt back on.

"Why were you trying to boil water?" Marina asked as she packed away the supplies.

Esther looked defeated when she answered. "I wanted some fettuccini."

"Well then, we had better make you some then. Why don't you sit here and I will clean up the water so you don't slip in it and then you can come watch me be fabulous in the kitchen, okay?" Marina replied with a small smile.

Esther seemed to cheer up at the thought and no longer looked so forlorn. That was good. Marina got to her feet, put the bandages away and then moved to her kitchen.

It figured that being the sort of stubborn woman she was, that Esther had attempted to cook, even thought the fridge was brimming with things you could eat without having to cook.

Marina chuckled as she set about cleaning up the spilled mess and then called out to Esther as she set a clean pot to boil on the stove. Marina also put a teapot to boil, figuring a warm drink would soothe them both and well, Esther would not be able to have any wine, and Marina was too tired to drink it anyway.

She'd fall asleep into her pasta pot.

"This is good." Esther said after she had finished her plate of food and as Marina observed her, she noted that the other woman finally had some good colour back in her complexion.

"Thanks." Marina said as she cleared away the dishes and then set a cup of steaming tea in from of Esther.

"You want to talk about it?" Marina asked as they had sat in a companionable silence for a while.

"I'm not sure. Mainly, I just want to feel like me again and this arm just pisses me off right now." Esther replied, gesturing vaguely with her good hand at her sling.

"I'm certain it does. It's going to be a while before you have full range of motions and strength, though." Marina replied and reached out to delicately hold the hand that belonged to the injured arm.

Esther squeezed her fingers with a comforting level of pressure before she gently withdrew her hand.

"What will happen to the shooter?" Esther asked.

Marina almost jumped at the apparent non sequitur.

"Well, the hospital will charge her with what it can, and the police will also charge her with the relevant laws. The rest depends on you and me." Marina answered, running a hand through her hair.

"With you, the charges are quite severe, with me, less so, even though I was the intended target." Marina finished.

"I feel sorry for her, but what she did is unconscionable. I don't care how irrational she may have felt, or what her emotions state was." Esther said angrily.

"I know." Marina said reassuringly.

"I want an indefinite restraining order placed against her, for both of us. And I want financial compensation from her. Lost wages, trauma, whatever costs. And I want a written apology that shows true remorse. To start with." Esther mused out loud.

"And, I want the charge of attempted murder for you, and assault with a deadly weapon, for me. I will forego other charges, as the hospital and the police will already have a whole stack of them against her. I am not heartless, but she must pay with jail time for this and her record must show what she did to me, and tried to do to you." Esther said with some finality in her tone.

To Marina this sounded reasonable. She had actually planned on putting no charges against the woman, but when she heard Esther's words, she knew she would acquiesce to them. It was important, no matter what sort of sentimentality Marina might have had with regards to the matter.

"I will see that the police are informed of your wishes tomorrow, and the restraining order and the civil suit will be put into motion as well." Marina finally answered, happy that they had at least talked about it this much.

Still no real talk about how either of them felt, not about each other, or about the situation they were in, or about what next. But this was a good start.

Esther was starting to droop with fatigue again.

"You want to shower, or anything, before you sleep?" Marina inquired, readily prepared to do anything that Esther might ask her to.

"Um..." Esther hedged slightly.

"What is it?" Marina prodded.

As far as she knew, Esther was able to handle any matters of personal hygiene aside from her hair, without Marina. She needed some help with dressing, but otherwise, what could it be?

"Would you floss my teeth for me? I need two hands to do it, and it's driving me crazy how my mouth feels." Esther finally asked, a small blush rising in her cheeks.

"Of course I will." Marina said at once.

"Tomorrow I will get you some of those, flossing fork things, you can use them with one hand. But of course I will help you with this thing. I'd be going crazy as well." Marina added with a smile.

It was an incredibly intimate, yet somehow so unlikely request. Marina had never flossed anyone's teeth except her own. She just hoped that she was up to the task.

"Shall we?" Marina asked, standing and holding out her hand.

Esther looked at her, nodded and then got up to follow Marina, allowing herself to be led by her good hand.

Marina could not help but smile to herself as they arrived in the bathroom.

How surreal life could be sometimes.

Marina had been asleep for what felt like four minutes when an out of place noise woke her up. Glancing around her darkened bedroom, Marina focused her concentration and tried to identify what had woken her.

A moment later, the sound repeated itself.

A sob...

Throwing back her blankets Marina rose to her feet and pulled her robe on, quickly making her way to the guest bedroom. There was only one person that sob could be coming from.


Quietly, Marina entered the room and looked at the bed. It looked as if Esther was asleep, but Marina could not tell from a distance.

Tip-toeing to the bedside, she looked down intently at the sleeping woman in it. Esther was asleep, but it seemed that she was in the throes of a dream that was making her cry in her sleep.

Marina sat down and considered her options. Esther needed to sleep, but whatever sleep she was getting could not be especially restful, all things considered. No if she was crying in her sleep...

Laying a gentle hand on Esther's good shoulder, Marina leaned closer and whispered. "Esther. Wake up, darling. You're having a bad dream."

A gentle nudge to the shoulder under her hands and Marina was rewarded with the sight of the other woman opening her eyes and blinking at her.

"Marina." Esther said, her voice heavy with sleep and with tears.

"You were crying in your sleep. I figured you would want to wake up from whatever it is that was making you cry." Marina said softly.

"Will you stay with me?" Esther asked, her voice small.

"Yes, of course I will." Marina removed her robe and carefully slid into the large bed, making sure that she did not jostle it and that Esther's injured side was nowhere near her.

Esther snuggled in close and Marina laid a hand on her, in lieu of being able to embrace her which was currently impossible. She could feel Esther falling back asleep beside her and moments later, Marina felt her own eyes slip closed as sleep overcame her once more.

The next morning, Marina woke slowly and as she did she remembered almost at once that she was in the guest-bed. So was Esther, or she had been. Marina could feel that she was alone and it made her wonder where Esther was.

It was Friday, which was good. Marina was so ready for the weekend to arrive. Even after getting more sleep than she had in days, she still felt worn out and in need of a break. Hopefully she would be able to keep Esther sufficiently amused for the weekend.

As she healed and started to feel better, and less tired, Esther would also start to feel restless and bored. But, that was a concern for the weekend, right now Marina's immediate concern was where exactly was Esther.

Hopefully not trying to make breakfast...

Reaching for her discarded robe, Marina rose and made her way out of the guestroom, listening to her apartment for clues as to where Esther might be. There were sounds coming from the kitchen.

Marina made her way there hoping that Esther was not cooking, but deciding that she would not be surprised if she was.

"Good morning." Esther said the moment Marina stepped into her kitchen.

"Good morning." Marina replied reflexively, looking around.

The coffee maker was making coffee and the fixings for a breakfast of bread and associated condiments were laid out on the table.

"Don't worry, I only used my good arm. I am getting better at realising what I can and cannot do." Esther said when Marina made as if to say something.

"Sit, Marina. Let me do something for you." Esther insisted, pointing with a spoon to the chairs.

Realising that it would be useless to protest, Marina gave in and sat down, feeling bemused as she did. It seemed that Esther was feeling better. Hopefully she would remember not to overdo it, though.

Esther came to the table and put a pot full of coffee in the middle of it. She leaned over and kissed Marina on the side of her neck and Marina could feel Esther smile against her skin.

"Eat." Esther said and sat down, looking better than she had in days and days. In weeks even.

How ironic.

"I've missed you." Marina said quietly as she poured them both coffee and offered Esther some bread.

Esther looked at her thoughtfully. "I've missed you as well. Right now, I don't even remember what my problem was before. It seems insignificant by comparison to how things are now." She said softly.

Marina nodded. A close encounter with death and one's own mortality had a very natural tendency of bringing what really mattered into sharp focus.

Right now though, Marina wanted to eat her breakfast and drink her coffee and carefully add fuel to the gently burning fires of hope in her chest. It warmed her to think that this could work, that it actually would work. If they both worked at it though, and Marina reminded herself sternly to be patient.

Not only was Esther injured, and quite badly so, she was simply new to this. New, as Marina had once been. So, patience. But not too much, Marina would not allow complacency to fit into their relationship ever again. Tomorrow might never come, it was important to live right now.

With a smile, Marina took a sip of her coffee and let the moment seep into her bones and felt a lightness in her heart that was somehow new and special...

Later, Marina found herself at work once more and in the back of her mind she knew she was utterly exhausted. She could feel it in every cell of her body and knew that she was dangerously close to having her work performance compromised as well.

She might have gotten sleep the previous night, but that did not compensate for sleepless nights, stress, and worry. She found herself looking forward to the weekend.

Marina has all but been ordered to do nothing on the weekend and for once she intended to follow instructions. It helped of course to know that she had a houseguest who would require peace and quiet and rest during the weekend as well.

As the clock ticked along, marking the passage of the day, Marina considered the fact that she needed to go shopping before she went home. She did not want to have to resort to having to go get anything during the weekend itself.

Thankfully she had a well stocked supply of DVDs, books, music, and wireless internet. There would be plenty to do, even if there was nothing to do. And if the weekend was especially gorgeous weather-wise and depending on how Esther was feeling, it may be possible to convince the other woman to go on an outing.


It would do both of them good to have some time outside, Esther especially. Fresh air was good for healing, both mental and physical.

Marina wondered how Esther's physical therapy was going and then reminded herself to contact the police and both her and Esther's lawyers. She did not want to have to deal with any of this on the weekend, after all.

With a mental shrug, Marina refocused her attention to her work and set aside her thoughts for the time being.

She still had several hours to go before she felt like she could realistically begin her weekend. Such was the work ethic of the workaholic in her.

"How is she?" Marina looked up at the sound of Rocco's voice.

"She is going well. You know, you have her phone number, Rocco. Don't be shy, and you can come visit if you like. Just call to make sure there is someone there." Marina replied with a smile, feeling an unexpected kinship with the man.

He was Esther's friend, but he was also fiercely loyal, and that endeared him to Marina's eyes.

People needed loyal, true friends in this world.

"Okay." Rocco said with a nod and went about his business.

Marina resisted the urge to look at the clock. It would not make time go any faster and she really did want to be out of here. She felt dangerously drawn out and tired.

Perhaps she should just cancel her appointments and go. At this rate she might make a mistake and she certainly did not need any more angry parents to deal with.

One angry parent had done more than enough damage. Thankyouverymuch!

With a sigh, Marina picked up the charts that she had been looking at and moved back to her office, feeling as if the weight of the world was resting on her shoulders.

Sitting at her desk, Marina rested her head in her hands and closed her eyes for a brief moment. Guilt seemed to weigh heavily on her today and as the day had progressed, the what ifs had also started to gather in her mind.

It was starting to irritate her and Marina knew she needed to distract herself so that she would not go into a downward spiral. She could not afford the lapse right now. Maybe one day she would be able to cry about the past week, the past six months, about other moments.

Not right now, though.

Right now she needed to be strong. Her patients were depending on it and so was Esther.


Marina wondered how the other woman was doing.

No doubt she was giving the physical therapist a run for his money. Esther was somewhat mild mannered, but when sufficiently aroused, she could be quite feisty and Marina presumed that Esther's being sore, bored and tired, would make her quite the handful to deal with.

Marina could not help but chuckle to herself at that thought. She would not mind Esther being in high temper at this moment. It seemed to have been an eternity since they were last intimate.

A lifetime ago, actually.

But now was not the time. Hopefully before long, though.

Turning back to her work, Marina resolved not to think about anything at all for the next few hours except work.

No sooner had she made this resolution, when her thoughts turned back to Esther, grocery shopping and the weekend.

By the time Marina got home that afternoon, she was even more tired than she thought was possible. However, she would have to wait to rest, right now there was no time to even take a nap.

When she walked into her apartment there was no evidence of cooking mishaps at least, but it was also apparent that Esther has been cleaning house. Not that Marina's home bore the evidence of neglect when it came to how tidy it was or was not.

It clearly had been dusted, though and Esther has also straightened things out. Marina was glad that Esther had found something to occupy her time with. She was a very intelligent woman, so no doubt being forced to do pretty much nothing was not exactly sitting well with her.

Marina set her purchases down in the kitchen and went to see if she could find Esther. So far the apartment was silent, which made Marina think that her guest must be asleep.

When Esther failed to materialise, Marina stuck her head into the open doorway of the guestroom, and sure enough, there was Esther, asleep with the abandon of a child. She must have been truly exhausted.

Moving back to the kitchen, Marina carefully put away the groceries and then sat down heavily at her kitchen table. It had been a long week. With some luck there would be no emergencies that required her attention this weekend and Marina would have the time to recuperate before another long workweek arrived.

Now, however, she needed to think about what to cook for dinner. Esther would be hungry, no matter what she had managed to eat during the day. Maybe something simple would suffice though. Marina was not in the mood to cook anything splendid tonight. Maybe on the weekend itself once she had gotten some sleep first.

With a sigh, Marina got to her feet and went towards her bedroom, intent on changing out of her work clothes and into something comfortable and relaxed.

Walking past her bed, she was sorely tempted to simply climb into it, but that would have to wait, and anyway, Marina needed a shower before she could even think about going to bed.

Cook first.

She told herself firmly and slipped into some sweats and a sleeveless shirt, puling her hair up into a twist and then padding barefoot back to her kitchen. It felt so good simply to be home...

Marina set out the ingredients to make dinner and lost herself in her thoughts to the point where she failed to notice Esther enter the kitchen until the other woman had walked up behind her and looked over her shoulder at what she was doing.

"Can I help?" Esther said, making Marina jump ever so slightly.

Turning towards Esther, Marina smiled and nodded, waving her hands towards the vegetables laid out on the counter.

"You can wash those." She said and turned back to what she was doing.

"How was your day?" Marina asked when she heard the water being turned on in the sink and Esther start to wash the waiting vegetables.

"Tiring. I think I will learn to hate the physical therapist." Marina almost laughed at Esther's slightly petulant tone.

"I'm sure you will. You might learn to hate me too, when I make you practise the exercises I know he left for you to do." Marina answered after a while, smiling to herself even as she wondered how, making, Esther do anything would work in practicality.

"I would never do that." Esther replied quietly.

Marina glanced at her. "Do what, your exercises? Or hate me?"

"No. I mean, yes, I will do my exercises." Esther answered, sounding slightly flustered and Marina could hear the washing of vegetables pick up pace.

She would bet money on it that Esther was blushing right now. Marina looked over and saw a slight smile gracing Esther's face and it made her feel warm inside. Hope was burning more brightly every day, every moment...

Marina was finally in bed. The problem was that she could not sleep, as tired as she was and no matter how desperate she was for the sweet oblivion of sleep, she was counting sheep, and in reality it seemed that the sheep were counting her instead.

It has been two hours since she had laid down, and she was more awake now than she had been today at work.

Finally giving up her quest to sleep, Marina threw back her blankets and got out of bed, puling her robe on as she went and moving to the main area of the apartment. No sense in laying in bed if she was not asleep, or making love...

Not right now anyway, not when her mind was full of thoughts and none of them very good.

Walking to her kitchen, Marina opened up her freezer and pulled out a drawer, rummaging under some frozen goods until her hand alighted on a smooth, cold shape.

Pulling it free from the freezer, Marina shut the drawer and closed the freezer, before moving to a cupboard in search of a glass. Blindly selecting one, she put it down before holding up the bottle in her hand.


Marina poured two fingers worth into her glass and set the bottle aside and went to her living room glass in hand. Stopping at the large window, she stared unseeing at the view. The glass was making her hand cold, and her hand was making the vodka warm.

Taking a sip of the slightly viscous liquid, Marina ignored the burn as it went down her throat. She was unaware of the tear that was running down her face until it landed, hot and angry on the hand that was holding the glass.

Startled, she touched her face with her free hand and discovered that it was wet with tears. The revelation did nothing to stem the flow of tears though, if anything it increased it. Marina turned away from the window and put her glass down before she dropped it, then she sank into her sofa and burried her face into her hands.

How had things gotten to the point where the mother of a patient had held her at gun point, and then the woman she loved had been shot while protecting her?

How had things become so that she and Esther were not talking, that is until just a few days ago when an event that brought them both so close to death finally got them talking again?

Why did people have to be so close minded?

Esther's father. It hurt Marina to think about it. The horror of it and the sadness of it. That he would say that he would rather she was dead, than with a woman?

How had it come to this?


Marina angrily wiped her eyes with her sleeve and contemplated her now warm vodka, and still the tears fell.

Damn it.

Absorbed as she was in her own musings and misery, Marina failed to note the approach of Esther until she felt a warm hand encase her shoulder and her sofa move beside her as the other woman sat down.

Esther did not say anything, she just pulled on Marina until she gave in and leaned carefully leaned over. As she laid her head on Esther's chest, Marina closed her eyes and listened to the strong heartbeat under her ear. She could not properly articulate just how good it felt to hear that sound.

Marina simply could not imagine the alternative. The mere thought caused fresh tears to form in her eyes and Marina struggled to contain her sobs as she finally gave in and allowed herself to fall to pieces.

Esther's good arm tightened around her and it felt so right, and so good that Marina felt herself start to drift into sleep.

There was no way that Esther would be able to hold her as she slept, no matter how much Marina may have wanted it. Esther seemed to realise this as well, as after a while she spoke.

"Come on, sleep with me again tonight. We'll talk in the morning." The low whisper caressed the delicate shell of Marina's ear an she shivered in sleepy reaction.

"Okay." Marina mumbled, and allowed herself to be prodded to her feet before she was gently led to bed.

She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow...

The next morning Marina woke up slowly. There was a feeling of peace in her body and in her mind. The feeling of warmth and comfort extended to her mind as well and for long moments she simply lay on her back and enjoyed the whole sensation.

As awareness returned to her, she realised that Esther was cuddled up against her side and the hand of her injured arm was resting on Marina's chest. To be more precise, it was gently clasping Marina's breast.

Marina sighed deeply. Not so long ago this sort of waking up would have led to other things, but not today. Esther was injured, and while that in of itself would not stop things, they also needed to talk. They had yet to discuss the status of their relationship and how they wanted to proceed from here.

Wherever here was...

Marina moved her body, trying to extricate herself from Esther's grip without actually waking the sleeping woman. The hand on her breast tightened possessively and Marina suppressed a moan. This was going well. Kind of like being in high school and being horny went well...

Come on, Marina. You are an adult, behave like one...

That was the problem. She was an adult, and adults did not spend a great deal of time tiptoeing around this sort of thing. Not if they were experienced enough to know better.

Though this was somewhat new to Esther, the other woman was not a child and Marina was getting tired of waiting for whatever was going to happen next.

Maybe today she could talk Esther into going out. Lord knew the other woman probably desperately needed some fresh air and a change of scenery. Also the exercise would do her good.

In this sort of convalescing situation, loss of physical condition could happen very quickly, and also mental fitness. It was important to avoid both of these things with Esther. She would need to return to work soon, or as soon as possible, even if only in an administrative capacity and this meant that she would need to start facing issues, and obstacles at full steam.

With a sigh, Marina shifted and cleared her throat. Esther stirred beside her and started to show signs of waking up.

Good. Though how she would react upon discovering that she had been feeling Marina up in her sleep would be potentially funny. Marina found that she was looking forward to that reaction.

"Time to get up, Esther." Marina prodded, unable to keep the smile from her voice.

There was a surly moan from the woman beside her and Marina bit her lip to keep from laughing.

This was going to be fun...

When Esther finally opened her eyes, Marina stared into them with a smile. Esther looked adorable, sleepy and slightly befuddled.

"Good morning." Marina said in a quiet voice, eager to not wake Esther up completely too quickly.

"Hi." Esther replied.

Monica watched as Esther took stock of herself and saw the moment when Esther realised that she was in fact, feeling Marina up. A pretty blush crawled up Esther's cheeks from her neckline and it made Marina wonder idly if that blush went all the way down to Esther's breasts.

She knew from experience that Esther did in fact blush during orgasm. Now however, was not the time to be thinking about orgasms, no matter how tempting that may be. Now was the time to watch what Esther would do next.

"Um." Esther mumbled as she extricated her hand somewhat stiffly from Marina's breast.

Marina sympathised, Esther's bad shoulder was probably quite stiff from being in a more, active, position for who knew how many hours. Marina resolved not to laugh at the look of mortification on Esther's face.

"Esther, it is not as if you have not touched all of me, while we were both naked." Marina could not resist teasing.

This really was too easy, and Esther really did need to get over being so stiff with Marina. If there was to be any hope that they would move on and hopefully progress into a more amicable, and more romantic relationship, they really did need to get over being so uncomfortable.

Or, more specifically, Esther needed to get over being so very uncomfortable...

Esther moved to sit up and Marina gently pulled back down again, being very careful not to jostle her bad arm and shoulder.

"Talk to me." Marina requested quietly, turning Esther's head so they were eye to eye.

Esther relaxed and laid back down again.

"I don't know how to." She admitted after a moment, and Marina could heat a forlorn note in her voice.

"Ouch." Esther muttered after a moment.

"What?" Marina asked, all thoughts of talking immediately dismissed from her head.

"My arm hurts, and my back hurts. Yesterday's physical therapy." Esther explained.

"Time for some breakfast, your pills and let's see about what we can do about the tension. I can't rub the area around your injury, but I can rub your back." Marina said decisively.

"I think you need to go for a walk or something as well. You are used to moving around more and have been laying down a lot recently." Marina added as she rose to her feet and helped Esther ease herself out of the bed.

"True. Since when did you become such an expert anyway, Dr. Ranieri?" Esther teased as she ran her hand through her very dishevelled hair.

"Just for that, I think I will use all the hot water and you will have to take a cold shower instead this morning." Marina muttered and made her way to the kitchen.

Noticing the now warm bottle of vodka on the countertop, she made quick work of putting it back into the freezer and then detoured by the living room to fetch her glass with its measure of booze still in it.

Quickly she dumped it away and rinsed the sink. The smell of the vodka was not appealing this morning like it had been then night before. What appealed to Marina right now was the idea of fresh coffee, so she set about making that ready.

As she worked, she realised that her body was flushed with anticipation that was sexual in nature. Waking up with Esther wrapped around her and touching her had kindled her libido and the optimistic mood of the way was fanning the embers into small flames.


Sometime later after they had both had showers, Marina found herself staring at Esther's back as the she laid face down on the Marina's bed.

Esther's sling was off to facilitate the position and Marina had very carefully arranged pillows to support her injured side. Fresh dressings covered the Esther's wounds, and Marina had finally managed to get rid of the last traces of iodine from the pale bruised skin.

Marina moved to gently straddle Esther's hips, being extra careful not to jostle her as she prepared to rub away the tension in the other woman's back. The position was intimate and it also showed the level of trust that Esther had. Marina was determined not to fail in this task.

Pouring a coin-sized dollop of oil onto one of her palms, Marina rubbed her hands together, warming the oil and then leaned forward slightly, brushing some of the extra oil onto the smooth skin of Esther's back.

Carefully, Marina designated an outline of the injured area of Esther's back. She would avoid going anywhere near the broken shoulder blade, or the damaged shoulder itself, and simply work on the other side, Esther's beck and her sides instead.

After mapping out Esther's back, Marina put some weight into her efforts and began in earnest. Almost at once, Esther moaned under her and Marina had to bite her lip to suppress an instinctual response that threatened to bubble out of her own throat in reaction. Now was not the time, though it could easily have been the place.

Knotted muscles jumped under her hands as she worked the oil and her fingers into what had to be very painful tension indeed. Smoothing her palms over the area she had worked her fingers in, Marina worked until the cramped flesh under her hands was smooth, and then she moved to the next area that was in need of her attention.

Esther had a beautiful back.

Marina could not help her thoughts as she moved herself lower on Esther's legs and began to work on the muscles in the other woman's lumbar area. Esther arched into her touch and Marina forgot what she was doing for a fraction of a moment.

Coughing slightly, she resumed, feeling as if the shirt she was wearing was getting very tight and hot. Damn libido. Now was not the time for it to be playing tricks...

"How are you feeling?" Marina asked as she moved off Esther's hips and sat on the edge of the bed to gain better access to her neck.

"Mmmm..." Esther mumbled into the pillow she was resting on.

Marina smiled and carefully worked on the agonisingly tight muscles of Esther's neck. They were experiencing the strain of her having to use a sling constantly. It would be several weeks before Esther would be able to forego the sling for any length of time.

Pausing in her ministrations, Marina examined Esther's damaged shoulder, her trained eye taking in the area. There would be atrophy, no matter how well she was rehabilitated. It made Marina feel sad to think that this had happened to Esther.

Why her?

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Marina moved back to her task and as she worked, she considered where she could take Esther today so that she could have some fresh air but not strain herself or become too tired.

"You want me to walk?" Esther asked as they made their way out Marina's apartment building.

"Yes. Esther, you need the exercise and the fresh air. And it's not far, just two blocks." Marina said with a laugh.

Esther looked indignant but finally gave in and they were now on their way to the small park that was close to Marina's home. They could sit on the benches, talk and simply enjoy the day.

Marina was hoping they would talk. She was certain that Esther was strong enough now to handle even a potentially stressful conversation and Marine felt that they had to talk, or the engine that drive them might actually stall, which would be sad.

Thankfully they made good time and Marine, seeing that Esther was looking a little breathless, bade the other woman to sit down on a bench and then sat next to her.

"How are you feeling?" Marina asked.

"Fine, I guess. I mean the pills take away the pain for the most part unless I do something stupid, and my legs are not injured, and neither are my lungs, thankfully." Esther replied and gave a one armed shrug.

"I am a little tired of not being able to lean back properly, though." Esther added as an afterthought and Marina could have sworn that she looked a little irritated.

"So, what now?" Marina asked, deciding to plunge into the deep end.

"I don't know. We sit here for a while and go home?" Esther suggested.

Marina felt her heart leap at the word home.

"Sounds fine. But I was actually talking about you and me." Marina said after a moment.

"I know." Esther replied with a sigh.

It did not sound like an unhappy sigh, just a confused one.

"I want to be with you." Esther continued before Marina could say anything.

"I want that too." Marina said at once before she was silent again, hoping that Esther would continue.

"This thing with my dad, though. So much baggage." Esther said softly.

"I have the same baggage, or well, my own personalised version of it, Esther." Marina said, taking Esther's good hand into her own.

She was gratified when Esther did not pull away or look around furtively. Hope was a beautiful thing.

"I don't want it to be like this with him, but I suppose I will have to accept it, until it changes." Esther seemed to conclude.

"Yes." Marina replied, wishing again that she could do something more concrete to help Esther with this specific problem.

"But you and me. I want to make this work, Marina. We have to work on how to do it, the pace. This is new to me and you need to be patient, more patient." Esther said firmly and with confidence.

"Yes, I know this. I am sorry I did not figure it out sooner." Marina said softly.

"I promise I won't hide, us, anymore, though at work it is not proper to be so open, in my opinion anyway." Esther added, as if Marina had not spoken.

Marina had to concede that she probably had a point there.

"But no more shying away in the parking lot in my car, Esther. That is just too much." Marina insisted.

"I don't mean hide, I just mean, discretion at work for professionalisms sake, and then just normal otherwise. Two people in love." Esther clarified, meeting Marina's eyes.


Marina smiled and nodded. "Okay."

Esther smiled in return and leaned against Marina as they sat on the bench together and breathed the cool air. It felt good to be outside, and it felt good to clear the air between them.

"You want some ice cream?" Marina asked, spying an ice cream cart.

Before Esther could respond, Marina carefully stood and then hurried over to the cart and made a quick purchase, making it back to Esther in record time.

Impulsively, she leaned down and before she offered Esther her ice cream cone, Marine kissed Esther on the lips. She felt a slight intake of surprised breath and then Esther kissed her back.

It was a sweet kiss, and it promised more. Marina pulled back before things could accidentally or purposefully heat up and then she handed Esther her cone. When Marina sat down again, they repositioned themselves comfortably and then proceeded to eat their ice cream and watched as the pigeons pecked at the dirt.

It was a perfect moment...

Esther had been exhausted after their outing, so Marina has shooed her to bed and had retired to her office to try to catch up on some paperwork.

Normally she was loathe to bring work home, but in the past week she had been preoccupied with other things than work, to say the least, so she really did need to catch up.

With some music playing softly in the background and a cup of now cold tea to keep her company, Marina found herself absorbed in her task and in her mind, she felt a certain peace. A peace that she had not experienced in what felt like a long time, or had she ever?

Immersed as she was in her task and her thoughts, Marina jumped when she heard someone knock at her door, somewhat urgently at that. Standing quickly, Marina moved to her door, hoping that whoever was at the other side, they were not bring bad news.

There had been far too much drama lately.

Marina glanced through the peep-hole and stopped.



Just what she needed. A crazy ex to disrupt her peaceful weekend, to wake her sleeping girlfriend and to bring more drama.

What the hell did Vera want?

Too late now, Marina had made too much noise approaching the door, and Vera had undoubtedly see her car parked outside. She would not go away until Marina confronted her.


Opening the door, Marina stared out at the woman standing at the other side of it. Worse still, she was going to have to invite her in, as otherwise her neighbours would be privy to something that Marina did not care to share with them.

"Marina! Thank God you're okay! I heard about the shooting and was worried." Vera exclaimed and threw herself at Marina.

Marina barely avoided rolling her eyes at the melodrama and deftly stepped aside to allow the other woman into her apartment. The woman had not been here before, and if Marina played her cards correctly, she would not come here again.

She really was getting quite tired of Vera, and without a doubt Esther was going to wake up to this commotion any minute now and that was just going to add to the fun.

"What do you want, Vera?" Marina asked without preamble, making sure to block Vera's way further into the apartment and at the same time, keeping herself out of reach from the other woman's smarmy grasp.

"Is that any way to speak to a friend of yours who has come to express concern for your well being?" Vera had the audacity to look hurt.

Marina was not fooled.

"The incident happened days ago, Vera. If you were really concerned, you would have called, or something on the day it happened. Why are you here?" Marina bit out, feeling her good manners start to wear thin.

Vera sighed and tossed her hair, and Marina wondered what on earth she had ever seen in the woman. Concluding that she had been extremely naive with regards to the whole situation, Marina came to a decision in her mind as she waited for Vera to offer up the next excuse for being here.

"Well, I knew the bullet had not hit you. I hear your little nurse girlfriend threw herself in the way of the gun." Vera said flippantly, and Marina felt her blood pressure begin to rise at an exponential rate.

She could still feel Esther's hot blood and hot tears on her hands, and the echo of the fear of possibly losing Esther to such a senseless thing haunted her still.

"Be very careful what you say next, Vera." Marina said in a low voice, her manner belaying how she really felt.

She wanted to strangle Vera with her bare hands, to be precise.

"Oh come on, Marina. You're not serious about this little nurse are you?" Vera asked, her voice full of contempt.

Just as Marina was formulating a response, Esther walked into the room, looking befuddled, sleepy, adorable, confused.

Marina felt her heart lurch. This was the woman she loved, Esther. Not this poisonous creature who was darkening her doorway. Vera only thought about herself. Esther had been ready to die for Marina. The difference between the two women was staggering.

Moving to Esther, Marina encircled her waist with her arm and held her protectively.

"Get out, Vera. Get out of my life. I don't ever want to see you again, not even by accident, as I know with you it would not be an accident." Marina said, her tone leaving no room for argument.

Vera, predictably, ignored her tone.

"What is she to you? She has no money, no class, no style. She is nothing." Vera waved her hand in a dismissive fashion and Marina was struck with the urge to snatch those fingers and give them a good twist, but that would have required touching Vera.

"What she is to me, is none of your business, Vera. But since you insist, I will tell you. She is the woman I love. Now, get out. If I ever see you again, hear from you again, or find you snooping around my life, I will call your husband and have a talk with him." Marina was not above making this sort of threat, not if she had to.

Vera's jaw dropped open.

"And before you think you can somehow hurt me, you can't. My boss knows, everyone in my life knows that you were a mistake that I won't be repeating. Get out." Marina felt her voice raise.

Vera took a step towards her and Esther immediately put herself between Marina and Vera.

"I took a bullet for her. Taking you on will be nothing by comparison. You are nothing, not to me, and not to her. Now, you heard what she said. Get out." Esther's voice was laced with anger and steel, and Marina had the revelation that Vera would be very foolish to try anything right now.

Where Marina had failed, Esther succeeded.

Vera turned and made her way to the door and stepped through it, not bothering to close the door in her wake. Marina quickly moved to close the door and then turned back to Esther.

"Sorry about that, she just showed up." Marina exprapolated vaguely.

She was in slight awe of Esther at the moment.

Normally, the other woman was almost timid, but this display had been nothing like timid. It has made Marina feel cared for and protected and it had also been unbelievably sexy.

"Will she stop?" Esther asked abruptly.

"Yes. She knows that I will call her husband. I do not make idle threats, she knows at least that about me." Marina said convincingly.

Vera was a sore loser and a bad sport, but she was also self centred and concerned only with her own personal gain and life. She would not risk jeopardising that and with some luck she would find some other unwitting prey before long.

"If she comes near you, you tell me. Or near your friends. No matter what she says, promises or threatens. Okay?" Marina added, moving to gently embrace Esther.

The strong arm that encircled her made her feel comfortable and loved. Marina carefully laid her head on Esther's shoulder and closed her eyes.

"I will." Esther whispered into Marina's hair.

After a few moments, Marina raised her head and kissed the underside of Esther's jaw. The sound of Esther's sharp intake of breath was music to Marina's ears, and the feel of Esther's good arm squeezing her tighter made her sigh happily.

"I want you." Esther whispered into Marina's hair.

Marina felt her libido flare up at the statement.

Ostensibly, it would technically be possible to make love, but the risk of hurting Esther was still very great, and Esther could easily become frustrated by her limitations due to her injury.

"And I want you." Marina settled for saying, wrestling her libido under control and putting it into a sleeper hold.

It would wait. At least until Esther could manage her pain with non-prescription pain killers. Or until Marina woke up one morning with Esther making love to her. She would not reject Esther's advances, but decided that she wanted Esther to set the pace.

Just so long as they were not standing still...

"Time to do your exercises, then we need to change your dressings, and after that you can watch me make something fabulous for lunch." Marina said after a few more minutes of silence.

Esther pulled away and pouted. "Must I?" She asked.

"Yes, you must." Marina replied, playfully pinching Esther's cheek and then pulling her to sit down on the sofa.

"If we don't do these every day, the damage could be permanent." Marina said as she gently undid Esther's sling.

"I know. It does not mean I want to, though." Esther said petulantly.

Marina just smiled and then proceeded to gently straighten out Esther's stiff arm. Days spent bent in the sling meant that it was understandably awkward and painful to move it.

Esther gasped with pain as Marina carefully manoeuvred the arm straight. The Marina gave Esther a few moments to breathe before she bent it back and repeated the straightening and bending a dozen more times.

Right now, they could not incorporate shoulder movements, so only the arm was being worked on. The physical therapist would determine along with Esther's doctors when the shoulder blade and the torn and repaired muscles in her shoulder could start to be used.

Marina put an exercise ball into Esther's hand.

"One hundred times, and don't forget to rotate your wrist." Marina instructed gently.

Esther stuck her tongue out at Marina.

"Better not stick that out unless you intend to use it." Marina teased as she gently probed the muscles in Esther's upper arm.

They seemed do be fine. A little tight, but no symptoms of bigger issues. Good. The last thing Esther needed was more issues with her body.

Caught up in her professional musings, Marina failed to realise what was going on until Esther had grabbed her with her good arm and then she swooped down to kiss Marina.

Startled, Marina failed to react for a fraction of a second as soft lips touched her own. She soon got over her inaction though and a moment later, they were kissing.

As they had before. Before the arguments, the worries, the problems; the shooting. Marina felt her senses flood with sensation, with heat. Esther's good hand pulled her closer and Marina felt her self control start to slip as Esther demanded more from her with her mouth.

Pulling away, Marina tried to catch her breath. Esther pursued her and Marina found herself once more being kissed, and this time Esther broke through Marina's resolve.

Giving in to the moment, Marina felt her self control slip from her grasp as Esther sought and gained access to her mouth. As the kiss deepened and promised anything, everything. Losing herself in Esther's taste, in her scent, Marina lost track of everything else.

That is until Esther hissed in pain and pulled away gasping for breath.

"Damn it!" She groaned, holding her arm protectively to her body.

"Oh my God. I am so sorry." Marina felt as if someone had poured a bucket of ice water onto her.

Pain, such as what Esther was experiencing, was not sexy. Pain in general was not sexy, actually.

"It's not you. I forgot and tried to put my bad arm around you." Esther said through gritted teeth and Marina thought that she looked pale.

"Lie down." Marina instructed, gently pushing Esther down onto the sofa and rising to her feet at the same time.

Medicine, a change of dressings, some water and a blanket, that was what was needed.

"It's okay, Marina." Esther reassured her.

Marina did not feel reassured. She felt like her brain was sprained in fact. Talk about a whip-lash inducing change of pace.

"Let me make sure you're not bleeding." Marina said when she had returned with the needed things.

Esther gratefully accepted the blanket and Marina tucked it around her. Changing dressings could wait a few minutes while she calmed down a bit more, but Marina wanted to see if they had done any damage to the wounds. Probably not, but she could not help wanting to check.

A quick examination of the pristine white dressings, showed her that if there was any bleeding, it was mere seepage that had not come through. She'd know more when she changed the dressings, but nothing looked urgent for the moment.


They needed to be a little more careful until Esther was stronger. Marina doubted that either of them would be very happy about re-injuring injuries at this point.

That would not make consummating their new relationship happen any sooner, and could actually cause frustrating delays.

Now, to somehow be patient, which was not easy as they both knew exactly what they were missing...

"I think I'll get a tattoo." Esther said as Marina changed the dressings on her shoulder a little while later.

The wounds were healing well, and Marina was able to minimise the coverings so that more of Esther's skin was exposed and thus would enable the irritation from the adhesives to go away.

As it was, the skin was pale where the adhesives has stuck. It was nasty and Marina hated to see Esther's beautiful skin marred so.

"A tattoo?" Marina tried to not sound too aghast.

Esther laughed making Marina think that she had not managed to keep her voice as neutral as she thought.

"Yeah. Maybe a dragon. I can make the gunshot hole it's eye, and the rest of the scars lines of its body." Esther elaborated.

Marina looked at the now covered wounds and imagined them. Hmm, a dragon tattoo?

"Could be cool. But I don't think this will scar badly." Marina said softly as she ran her fingers lightly over the bandages.

Most of the damage was on the inside...

Esther gave her a one armed shrug.

"Come on, let's get some food." Marina suggested and helped Esther get her shirt back on again.

They could discuss tattoos and kisses later.

By the time evening arrived, Esther was so tired that she went to bed and fell asleep at once. Marina did not expect her to stir until morning. No matter how well she was feeling, the fact remained that she had a major traumatic injury and it had only been a little while.

Also, no matter which way you sliced it, anaesthesia took it out of a person, big time. Marina was just grateful that Esther had decided not to resist her body's demands and had gone easily to bed.

This left Marina with some time alone with her thoughts, and her paperwork, which had been interrupted earlier in the day with the unfortunate visit from Vera. Marina sincerely hoped that she would not have to deal with Vera again. Poisonous exes were exactly that. Poisonous...

Marina was just glad that Vera was unique in this regard.

An idle thought crossed Marina's mind as she packed her bag ready for Monday. Hopefully Aldo would not be causing problems right now. Marina knew that Esther was so over the man, but sometimes men, like women had trouble letting go.

Oftentimes even...

Marine dragged herself off to the bathroom to brush her teeth and then looked in on Esther who was sleeping peacefully. Deciding that it would be better not to wake the other woman, even accidentally, Marina then wandered off to her own bed and lay down.

Hopefully sleep would not be elusive tonight. She was really tired and needed to gather up her energy especially for Monday. No sooner did she have this thought and she was asleep.

Sunday came quickly and as they went about the now familiar morning routine, Marina observed how Esther was moving today. She was starting to intuitively use her injured hand. Putting things into it to hold and so on. It was good...

Her wounds would be healing quickly and it was important that she not favour her uninjured hand for too long. A loss of coordination and strength in the wounded arm would only be detrimental in the long term.

As Marina sipped her coffee, she was considering this and many other things, such as her overactive libido when Esther spoke.

"I am bored. Can we go out and do something?" Marina looked up at Esther.

Of course she was bored. She was feeling well enough now that she did not need to sleep all the time, and when she was awake, the limited scope of things that she could do was not very stimulating.

"Such as?" Marina asked, wanting to know what Esther had in mind before she made any suggestions.

"I don't know. Movie matinee?" Esther suggested.

"You can still barely lean back properly, Esther." Marina said pointedly, indicating Esther's arm.

"I'm bored. I want to do something. Surely there is some short movie someplace. Please?" Esther replied.

Oh dear. As if Marina could resist it when Esther said please...

"Let me take a look in the paper. But only if there is something near-by, it is short and it is a matinee. You are still not well enough to do much, even if you may feel well enough, Esther." Marina said very firmly as she picked up the paper and opened it up to the entertainment section.

"Fine." Esther replied, but Marina could hear the note of pleasure in her voice.

Esther knew that she had won the first round in any case...

In the end, Marina had insisted that wherever they go, they needed to take her car. She had packed the front seat with some soft pillows, so that Esther would be able to lean back and the back seat had every conceivable thing she could think of taking along to ensure that both of them, but especially Esther, would be okay.

There was a short film on show at the closest art theatre, a forty-five minute event that promised to be amusing and easy. Marina had chosen it for its length, though. Not for its content...

Esther would have to satisfy herself with it, as Marina hedged a guess that Esther would be ready to leave by the time it was over.

So, once more Marina found herself driving like an old lady, determined not to jostle her passenger, and extra determined not to get into any situations that would cause the seatbelt that Esther wore to dig in, or press her uncomfortably.

In somewhat short order, they were at the theatre and Marina found herself at the ticket window buying tickets a moment later.

"Need anything before we go in?" Marina asked when she returned to Esther who was standing away to the side in the lobby.

"I don't think so." Esther replied with a small smile and at that, Marina nodded and they went to find seats.

Marina was determined that no one would kick Esther's seat, and that there would be no gymnastic parade of people wanting to climb over her, either. It simply would not do. Marina questioned the wisdom of even being here, but Esther had the right to choose her own life path.

If watching a movie barely a week after she was shot was something she really wanted, Marina was not going to stop her.

Carefully, Marina helped Esther sit and arranged herself protectively at the isle seat. They were in the front, in a row with only two seats. Marina would suffer a sore neck if it meant that Esther was not made uncomfortable over the next hour or so.

"All right?" Marina asked as she looked over at Esther.

The other woman was sitting a little stiffly, but so far as Marina could tell, she seemed to be holding her own.

"Yes." Esther replied.

"Let me know if you can't handle this, okay? We can watch this another day." Marina whispered.

Esther nodded, but seemed determined to stick it out.

Marina on the other hand was determined to keep a very close eye on Esther. The movie could remain unseen on her part just so long as Esther did not get wind of Marina's attention. It might bring out a stubborn streak in her and this was not the time, or the place for that.

As the lights dimmed, Marina carefully took Esther's hand and willed her eyes to adjust to the darkness more quickly. Intuitively she knew that this was probably too much for Esther, but she was determined to stick it out, if Esther wanted it.

Esther would not take kindly to being babied too much, regardless of how serious her injuries may be.

Despite her best intentions, Marina's attention was drawn to the movie, and she found that it was actually quite fun. As luck would have it, picking a movie based on length worked.

At least this once...

They had been in the theatre now for about half an hour and were coming to the halfway point of the movie itself. So far so good.

But, no sooner had Marina had that thought when she was compelled to look over at Esther. For one, Esther's hand had grown clammy, and for two, there was a stiffness to her posture that finally penetrated Marina's wavering attention.

When she saw Esther, Marina forgot all about the movie. The other woman was pale, and it looked like she was sweating. Time to get the hell out of here.

"Come on." Marina gently urged Esther, getting her to stand and then protectively wrapping her arm around Esther's waist as they slowly made their way to the door.

There was an usher at the door who upon seeing their approach hastily moved to open the door for them. Marina nodded at the man before she guided Esther through the lobby and out the doors. It would do her no good to sit down right now.

Right now, Esther needed a bed.

"Only a little further, sweetheart. Come on." Marina urged the now trembling Esther.

After what felt like a marathon distance, mainly due to Marina's concern at Esther's condition, they arrived at her car.

"Don't fall over, just hold on and close your eyes, okay?" Marina urged, then leaned Esther against her car.

Quickly opening the door, Marina pushed the passenger seat back all the way, moving stuff out of the way and arranging pillows as she did. Hopefully simply being horizontal would make Ester feel better.

After she was ready, Marina eased Esther onto the seat, ignoring any discomfort she may have felt from supporting most of Esther's weight. None of that mattered right now. Only Esther mattered.

"Lie down." Marina urged and carefully covered Esther with a blanket that she had handy.

Locking and closing the door, Marina moved to the drivers side and quickly let herself in. This was not a practical location to administer first aid, but Marina had no choice.

"How are you feeling?" Marina probed gently as she turned to Esther.

Huge tears were leaking out of the corners of the prone woman's eyes. Marina reached over to wipe the tears and felt her heart lurch in her chest.

"Don't cry, darling." Marina urged, gently stroking the soft hair under her hands.

"It's so frustrating." Esther muttered as she scrubbed her good hand across her face in an angry gesture.

"I imagine it is, my Esther. I wanted this to work out as well, I am sorry it did not. But, in a week, or two, we can try again, okay?"

Esther nodded slightly.

"Can you drive us someplace with a nice view. I am fine now and we have what we need in the car. I don't want to go back inside just yet." Esther asked in a small voice.

Marina nodded, even though Esther's eyes were closed and she could not see. "Of course." Marina said at once.

She'd drive Esther to the alps if that is what would make her happy. Quickly she turned around in her seat and started the engine.

Now, to find a nice view that had enough privacy, but that was close enough to Marina's apartment so that going back would not take too long or bee too difficult for Esther...

Moving carefully into traffic, Marina selected a destination and started to drive. Thankfully Esther seemed to have slipped into a doze, this despite the relative awkwardness of her position.

Resolving to check Esther's condition when they stopped, Marina focused on her driving and hoped that traffic would be with them on this Sunday afternoon...

"How are you feeling now?" Marina asked when she had parked her car. The had found a nice shady park where there was silence and calm.

Esther opened her eyes and looked at Marina. "I am okay." She finally answered before she manoeuvred herself with Marina's help to a sitting position.

Marina touched Esther's face, examining her temperature. She seemed a little warm. "Have some water and take your medicine, it is time." Marina instructed as she rummaged in the bag that had been in the backseat for the items.

"When is your checkup tomorrow?" Marina inquired as she handed over the pills.

"Noon." Esther answered, swallowing down her pills.

She had adamantly decided that she did not want to use prescription pain killers the night before. Marina reflected that her elevated temperature could be her body adjusting. There had been no sign of infection at the dressing change in the morning.

"I'll come pick you up." Marina offered, as she cracked open a bottle of water and eased her seat back.

Esther laid down again, curling onto her good side.

"I feel like a teenager again." Marina said out loud, allowing a laugh to bubble up in her throat.

"Yeah. Some date. Well at least we got outside. I can handle being in a car if I have to." Esther replied, a smile evident in her voice.

"I knew the movie was too much, but I wanted to go. I am glad you noticed though, I may have tried to stick it out." Esther said after a long moment.

"I wish I had noticed sooner. And yes, the movie was too much." Marina replied, petting Esther's leg.

Heat moved up Marina's arm when she felt Esther react to her touch...

Now was definitely not the time.

"What will they do tomorrow, do you think?" Esther asked.

Marina glanced at her. Esther knew the answer, but if she wanted Marina to indulge her, then Marina would do this thing.

"Check the healing, possibly change your physical therapy prescription. They will adjust your medication. It is too early to remove any stitches, but you may get a more lightweight sling, and an estimate as to when you can return to desk duty." Marina ran off the mental checklist of what she would do.

"A different sling would be nice. When do you think the stitches will come out. They are so irritating now." Esther asked after a little while.

"Maybe by the end of the week." Marina offered.

She wondered if she had anything at home that she would utilize to help Esther with her irritated stitches. Probably not. The problem was that they were pulling on her skin, no ointment would help that.

"Lie back." Esther requested.

Marina glanced at her and considered her options. Why not?

Checking to make sure the car doors were locked, she set aside her water and eased back her car seat. As soon as she was almost eye to eye to Esther the other woman lifted her injured arm slightly and ran a finger across Marina's face.

"I want you, Marina. Today was about distracting me from what I really want to do." Esther said after a moment.

How was Marina supposed to react to that?

Her body was already reacting, though...

"All the more reason to be careful, Esther." Marina managed after a few moments of wrestling her libido under control again.

"I want you. Believe me. I do. But, right now..." Marina ran her hand through her hair.

One wrong move, and stitches could be torn open inside of Esther's shoulder and damage could be permanent. Libido or not, they needed to be careful.

Esther rolled her eyes at Marina and sighed.

"There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, I suppose." Esther commented after a few more moments passed.

Marina laughed. It was true. Anticipation could be a delight, but it could also be a supreme frustration. Still, they needed to keep a lid on things, or disaster could be the result. Hopefully tomorrow's checkup would bring good tidings.

"I hope the doctors have good news." Marina voiced her thoughts.

"Yeah, me too." Esther agreed and pulled her hand back from Marina's face.

"You're right. This is like being a teenager." Esther murmured.

Marina laughed lightly. It was true.

Esther fell asleep early, clearly worn out from her day and this left Marina with time to herself once more and with nothing concrete to do with this time.

Surfing the net had limited appeal right at the moment, and anyway, she was far too restless to even attempt to concentrate properly.

Of course the underlying reason for the tension and restlessness was sexual frustration, but there was little she could do about that right at the moment, short of masturbation. Even that would not do much except take the razor sharp edge off.

An edge that would re-hone itself in minutes or hours...

Marina sat down in her living room and put her head in her hands. This was not so easy, despite her best intentions. And when Esther was well enough to take care of herself and go back to work, what would she do?

Would she stay?

She needed to get more stuff from her father's place if that was the case. It would be a fun trip, no doubt.

Did Marina want her to stay? Yes.

Would it be practical to work and live and love, together?

Well, at work they did not see excessive amounts of each other, and here, the guestroom could be converted into a space for Esther and her things, thus providing her with needed privacy and room.

But would Esther want any of this?

Right now Marina decided that she would settle for Esther simply wanting her. The rest they would need to sort out eventually, not yet though. Not yet thankfully. Not yet, regrettably.

Marina gave a frustrated sigh. Too much thinking was going on and none of it was helping her state of being or her more carnal urges for that matter.

Maybe she was going to have to resort to her own hands. Tomorrow would be a long day and she needed to sleep in order to not already be behind at the beginning of the week.

Monday, such a fabulous day. If only there were two Fridays a week, instead of a Monday.

Laughing at her little joke, Marina made her way to brush her teeth and decided that she might as well be frustrated in bed, versus frustrated moving around the apartment where she might end up waking Esther and where she certainly was not going to find the inspiration to sleep.

Ten minutes later, Marina was staring at the ceiling in her bedroom feeling no less restful than she had felt anyplace else in the apartment. Glancing at the clock, Marina groaned softly.

At this rate she was not going to be getting any sleep at all...

Throwing back her covers, Marina drummed her fingers on her abdomen, debating with herself. On the one hand, she needed to sleep, on the other hand, what she needed to sleep was asleep in the room across the way.

The alternative was her own hands and these seemed to be no way around it, either. Not if she wanted to actually be alive tomorrow, versus the walking dead.

Marina moved her hand lower, feeling the muscles in her lower body clench in anticipation. It had been a while. Since she had been with Esther. And since she had last satisfied herself.

Before Esther had been shot, Marina had hardly been in the mood, but now. Marina bit her lip and moved one of her hands upwards to cup a breast while the other one travelled further south, brushing through coarse hairs and Marina sighed.

She already felt more relaxed and as her fingers slipped lower, she hissed in reaction to the dual sensation of pleasure from being touched and the pleasure of touching herself. This was now she had learned to touch women, after all. By touching herself.

Dismissing the thoughts, Marina moved her hand with purpose and bent her knees slightly. This was going to be quick. Which was good. Some other time she could draw it out, but right now she just needed the release of tension and to get to sleep.

No sooner had Marina thought this when her orgasm swelled over her body and she found herself gasping into the night. It was good and she could already feel the lassitude of sleep start to overwhelm her.

Half asleep, Marina was not aware of movement in her bedroom until Esther appeared at the side of her bed. Marina looked up at her in confusion for a moment and then realised the image that she must present.

Mostly naked and tangled in her bedding, sweating and smelling of sex. Esther stared at her with an intensity that Marina could feel even through the darkness and her sleepiness. It made her shiver and she could feel her body prime itself for round two before she could derail her thoughts.

"Esther?" Marina eventually asked, finally gathering her senses together enough to pull her blankets around her nakedness.

"Are you okay?" Marina asked, slurring her words slightly with fatigue and post orgasmic befuddlement.

"You expect me to give you an answer to that?" Esther ground out, and Marina could see her struggle for self control.

"Do you need anything?" Marina asked.

"I need you." Esther replied at once.

Marina shivered. It was going to be a long week or two or heaven forbid, more. Hopefully tomorrow's doctor's appointment would yield good news.

"Go to bed, Esther, before I break promises and do things that we won't regret, but that will probably make things more complicated tomorrow." Marina finally managed, wrestling her libido under control.

She could hear Esther swallow in the darkness.

"This is not easy." Esther eventually allowed.

"I know. But it is necessary." Marina reflected that it was good that Esther had now shown up a few minute before.

Marina was not sure if anyone with a pulse would have the willpower to resist THAT.

Esther finally sighed and turned and left. Then there was silence and already Marina was closer to sleep than wakefulness.

Just before she fell asleep, she reflected that she probably would not have been able to, rise to the occasion, anyway. Even if things had been ideal. Her body was screaming for sleep. But, in the morning?

The little next while was going to feel like a long time...

By the time Marina got to work the next day, she was far too busy to think about the night before. Now that she had a weekend to rest and some time had passed since the shooting, she was expected to take up her workload again and while everyone was very sympathetic towards her circumstances, Marina was not really so interested in dwelling.

Right now, she was only interested in noon and finding out how Esther was healing. There had been no awkwardness in the morning between them, but there had been an undercurrent of heat. Marina had carefully avoided provoking Esther, and it seemed that the other woman had carefully been avoiding provoking Marina.

It occurred to Marina that they were both probably being stretched to the very limits of their self control in this situation. As tempting as it was to give in, the fact remained that it would take very little to cause Esther considerable pain, and not so much at all to damage her healing. The very thought was enough to pour ice cold water on Marina's raging libido.

Pain was not sexy.

Glancing at the clock, Marina willed time to go faster. She had an hour long lunch break and with some luck she would be on time. She had made sure of a contingency plan, for the case that she would be unable to take Esther to the hospital, but she was hoping for the best.

In the meantime, it was important to catch up on work and focus. Thankfully there was plenty to occupy her, so time would at least not seem to go as slowly as possible.

Marina found that she missed having Esther around the hospital. It's no that she saw her with incredible frequency, but she had always been around and it had been nice. Marina noticed that others missed her as well. Esther had been good and efficient at her job and her absence was being filled by more than one person.

It gave Marina a sense of satisfaction to know that her, girlfriend, was so indispensable. She was also, however, determined that when Esther came back to desk duty, that everyone would remember that she was not nursing a sprained wrist. Esther was nursing a gunshot wound.

Esther was stubborn and proud, and it stood to some reason that she might play down her injury. That would not do. Not only for Esther's sake, but for Marina's.

Marina needed for Esther to be healed, and for her to be whole. For peace of mind, because of love, for the sake of many things, and also because Marina was hungry and Esther was the feast that would satisfy her. Only Esther could hope to sate her hunger...

After determining that she would kick the ass of anyone who got in the way of the grand plan and scheme of things, Marina picked up the next patient chart and moved her thoughts back to work.

Noon could not come soon enough...

By noon Marina had managed to corral most of her work into a manageable chunk for the afternoon, and now she found herself on her way to the apartment.

Esther has said that she would stay in the hospital until Marina was ready to leave, so at least there would be no rush for Marina to get back to work and she might even find out before tonight just how Esther was doing physically.

Marina wondered if Esther would need therapy of some sort, of the psychological kind. It would probably be ordered, even if she felt that she did not need it. Marina had been ordered to half a dozen sessions and had been given no option to refuse, either.

Arriving at her apartment, Marina found Esther outside waiting. Esther smiled and before Marina could even get out of the car, Esther had slipped into the passenger seat and buckled herself in.

Marina could feel herself reacting to the Esther's presence. Her hormones had not calmed down at all during the day. "Ready?" Marina asked.

"As I'll ever be." Esther replied and soon they were off again, Marina driving with great care.

Though she was healing remarkably well, Esther still had the potential for a great deal of pain, and Marina wanted to spare her that at all costs. Thankfully the traffic was surprisingly light and they were soon at the hospital. Marina had to get back to work and Esther reassured her that she would be fine so they parted ways in the lobby

Marina tried to regain some control over her libido and hoped that the rest of the day would go smoothly. What she really wanted was to go home and get to the privacy of her bedroom before she burst.

Sometime later, Marina was absorbed in paperwork in her office when a light knock interrupted her thoughts. Looking up she saw that it was Rocco, and he was training Esther behind him.

"Look what I found." Rocco announced, gently shooing Esther in front of him.

She looked tired and sore, but okay. Marina considered where Esther could be sequestered where she could be comfortable and left in peace until Marina's shift was over.

"I'll leave you to it." Rocco said and briskly walked out.

"I gather you already filled him in?" Marina asked, examining Esther more closely. She looked pale.

"Have you eaten?" Marina inquired sharply.

Esther shook her head. Marina pursed her lips in disapproval. "And I'll bet you left your pills at home." Marina muttered as she rose, phone in hand.

"The only prescription I still have to use is for the muscle relaxants." Esther said as Marina walked past her into the hallway.

Marina stood in the hallway, quickly making an order for food before she went to the medical dispensary and sought pain killers, muscle relaxants, and some multivitamins for Esther.

Returning to her office, she found Esther half asleep in her chair and looking even more put out than before. "Here you go. Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and muscle relaxants." Marina said and handed Esther a cup of pills and water.

"Food will come shortly and you can go to the break room to eat and rest. I have Rocco's word that you will be left alone as much as possible so that you can rest." Marina added as she watched Esther down her pills.

"Your colour worries me." Marina said as she came to stand close to Esther and examined her with a medical eye.

"It feels like they bent and twisted my arm to the point where it would come off." Esther explained, her face betraying her displeasure.

"How are things?" Marina asked.

"Well, I need physical therapy three times a week. Exercises daily, I have a few more and a, big rubber band in addition to the squeeze ball. They also want me to have half a dozen appointments with the head shrink." Esther said as she leaned her head against Marina in a moment of casual intimacy.

"Yeah, they prescribed that for me as well." Marina said softly as she ran her hands through Esther's soft hair.

This was not doing her libido any good at all. Or rather, it was doing excellent things to her libido, and that was a problem. There were still hours to before she could go home and what she really needed, was right here with her.

Marina felt the vibration a text message arrive on her phone. "Food." She announced, helping Esther to her feet and guiding her to the break room.

Esther followed along without protest.

"She's asleep now." Marina looked up at Rocco as he came into her office and gave her a status report on Esther.

"Good. They really worked her over at her appointment today." Marina replied, thanking the man with a nod of her head.

"How has she been?" Rocco asked as he lingered at the doorway.

"You should come over. Mostly she is bored and not strong enough yet to do anything or go anyplace. Bring your wife if you like." Marina said with a smile.

Hopefully Rocco would take her up on the offer.

"I'll do that. We'll call first." Rocco said and then disappeared into the hallway to go back to work.

Marina glanced at the clock again. Three more hours. Ugh. How was she going to stand it?

Glancing at her patient roster, she saw that she only had a few scheduled appointments left for the afternoon, so maybe she could kill some time in the ER.

Rising from her desk, Marina made a beeline towards the break room to check on Esther.

The other woman was sleeping peacefully, her colleagues had brought pillows and blankets and moved furniture so that she would have a comfortable and safe nest to sleep in. Esther's pain and discomfort had also been relieved by her medicines and Marina hoped that she would sleep until it was time to go.

Every moment she spent sleeping, would mean more healing for her body. Sleep was best, after all...

Gently closing the door, Marina turned and looked directly into the eyes of Caesar Bruno.

Damn it, not another confrontation in the hospital. And he better not wake Esther up... Marina thought as she moved away from the break room door. Thankfully the man followed her.

"Mr. Bruno. What can I do for you?" Marina asked, trying to be as civil as possible to the man who had handled her so roughly only days ago.

"I want to know how she is doing." Caesar Bruno said.

"You could call her and find out." Marina said pointedly, wishing this conversation to be over with.

"You have to understand. This is hard for me." Mr. Bruno started to say.

"I have to understand nothing, Mr. Bruno. And it is only hard because you choose to make it hard. Love conquers all, if only you would let it." Marina interrupted.

"By putting conditions on your love for your daughter, and letting so-called propriety get in the way of her happiness, you do both her, and yourself a great disservice." Marina kept her voice level and even, but injected as much force into her words as she could.

"You can't understand how I feel, you..." Mr. Bruno went on to say.

"Oh yes, I can. I have been on the receiving end of this prejudice most of my life. It is inexcusable. Your reasons are not valid. Either you love your daughter unconditionally, or you love her only if everything is nice and easy for you." Marina interjected, impatient with the conversation and actually quite angry with Caesar Bruno as a whole.

"If you really want to confirm that she is doing well, she is asleep in the break room. But I warn you, Mr. Bruno. If you wake her up, and especially if you upset her, or cause any sort of scene in this hospital, there will be consequences that you do not want to face." Marina said as she stepped right into the man's personal space and stared him right in the eye.

"If you'll excuse me now, Mr. Bruno." Marina said after a moment and then simply walked away from the man.

She saw Rocco take up a protective position near the break room door, though he had a stack of charts with him to make himself look busy. He would deal with Esther's if need be.

It was up to Caesar Bruno to figure out how to deal with Esther. She was his daughter, after all. Marina was here only for Esther. Not for the overwrought, borderline hysterical reactions of a bigoted parent.

Shaking her head, Marina moved into the ER and hoped for an easy case that would pass the time before her next appointment was scheduled. Anything to make time go faster.

When the time came to leave, Marina headed to the break room with the hopes of finding Esther there. Opening the door gently, she found the other woman still asleep. Good.

"Esther." Marina prodded gently, touching Esther's uninjured side and stroking her.

The nerves in the palm of her hand danced as she ran her hand along the naked skin of Esther's arm. This was really becoming too much. Sensory overload... It was kind of nice, in a frustrating way. Sort of.

Esther's eyes blinked open and she stared at Marina for a long unguarded moment. Marina steadfastly stared back at Esther, feeling a blush travel up from within her lab coat to her face. The barely controlled coil of arousal that seemed to have taken up residence in her lower abdomen stirred restlessly.

"Hi." Marina offered after a long moment of silence.

"It's time to go." She added.

Esther nodded, and levered herself up, pulling herself along Marina's arm as she did. The action brought their faces together and Marina swallowed roughly. By God she wanted this woman and this position was hardly conducive to maintaining self control.

"Kiss me." Esther whispered in a demand that made Marina's breath catch.

Marina did not resist and leaned a fraction forward, bringing their mouths together and feeling Esther pull on her with her good arm.

Esther opened her mouth, demanding entrance to Marina's mouth in a way that made Marina's resolve crumble. Lips, tongue, teeth clashed and moved together and Esther moaned into Marina's mouth.

It was like pouring gasoline onto open flames. Marina struggled to maintain control, but Esther was not having any of it. She pulled on Marina's head with her good arm and bit Marina's lip.

Marina gasped and attempted to pull back, desperately trying to maintain some semblance of order in her mind and body. Esther did not allow it. Her hand moved to Marina's neck and curled around it, pulling Marina closer, closer still as she fucked Marina's mouth with her own.

Finally, it was the need for air that forced them apart and Marina could only gasp as she leaned her forehead against Esther's and tried to somehow figure out how to think again.

"You're going to be the end of me." Marina finally managed, feeling her kiss-bruised lips tingle as Esther closed her eyes and breathed deeply.

"Hardly. I'll be the beginning of you." Esther murmured, gently pushing Marina away and swinging her legs off the couch to the floor.

"If we stay here, I am not going to be responsible for what anyone sees next." Esther said softly as she stood up carefully and gingerly rolled her shoulders.

Marina conceded that the other woman did have a point.

It was time to go. They would talk, or whatever, once they were home. The thought made Marina smile. Did Esther consider Marina's apartment to be home, yet? Would she ever?

Time would tell, unless Marina got Esther to tell her sooner...

Soon they were outside and as Esther was climbing into the car Marina told her that her father had been to visit.

"Yes. I know. I woke up when he came into the break room. He was quiet, but even when I was a child, he woke me up when he checked on me when he came home from work." Esther replied, looking a little wistful.

"Did you talk?" Marina asked as she started the car.

"No. He just looked at me for a while, and then left. I was pretty groggy so I did not even get the chance to say hello." Esther replied.

"I'm sorry." Marina replied and wondered what they could have for dinner.

She was not in the mood to cook tonight, and Esther was not really up to it, either. "What would you like to eat?" Marina asked the other woman as they came to a stop sign.

"Anything is fine, Marina. You pick a place. Just wherever I don't have to use my arm, even a little bit. It hurts like hell tonight." Esther replied.

To Marina, she sounded tired and defeated. A far cry from just a little while ago when they had kissed. Marina figured that thinking about her dad had brought Esther's mood down.

"I have just the place." Marina replied, making her way to a small, hole-in-the-wall place with a good menu, a friendly staff, and that was usually not crowded.

Hopefully it would suit Esther's needs, and hopefully she could find a parking spot not too far away from it.

It only took ten minutes to reach the place and lady-luck was smiling when Marina found a parking spot only a block from the front door. Quickly she moved to open the car door for Esther and soon they were walking to the restaurant.

It seemed that Esther's mood had perked up. For this, Marina was happy... It was painful to see Esther hurting. If only Mr. Bruno would come to his senses and realise that his prejudices were not his own thoughts, so much as thoughts that had become his own thoughts thanks to social conditioning and expectation.

"Order for me. I can't think and you know what I like." Esther asked after they had been seated at a nice table that was out of the mainstream of traffic.

It would minimise the chances of anyone running into Esther and for this, Marina was happy. Esther really did look like she was in pain and just wanted to go home and rest some more.

Thankfully this was a small establishment with quick service.

Waving the server over, Marina quickly placed an order for both of them and was then happy to give Esther all of her attention.

"How are you feeling?" Marina asked softly, inquiring not only after her physical state, but her emotional state as well.

"My arm, shoulder, neck and side hurt. I just want to take my pills and go to bed." Esther said, her voice downcast.

"I am angry at my father. It is an issue that needs to be, resolved. One way or another. Either he is part of my life, or not part of it. This, in between stuff is too draining for me to figure out right now. It also bothers me." Esther continued.

Marina conceded that Esther did have a point. Mr. Bruno's fence sitting was irksome. But Marina also had the benefit of experience. It was entirely likely that Esther's father would saddle the fence for years.

She sincerely hoped not, but that could turn out to the case, sadly.

Some of their food arrived, so Marina focused on that for a while, and was happy to see that at least Esther's appetite was not bothered by her mood. That would help her heal, and it would also help ensure that the pain medicines she was taking would not burn a hole through her intestines or stomach.

By the time they got home, Esther was pretty much falling asleep again and Marina figured that her day had been long and painful and it was best to get her to shower and go to bed as soon as possible.

Tomorrow was another day and they could talk, and plan, and decide what to do next then. Esther seemed to be very cooperative with the idea, so it was a simple matter for Marina to accomplish.

This of course, meant that Marina had another evening to herself. It was a little too early for her to go to bed, and now she had some time to kill. At least she was home and there were no prying eyes to see what she would get up to, or down to in the interim.

Moving to her living room, Marina considered her options: Read, music, navel gaze, or some other option.

Options. Hum...

Marina had a few options in mind, mainly related to her raging libido, but at the same time if Esther woke up again, Marina was unsure that she would be able to control herself a second time.

They really needed to talk, or something, with regards to just exactly what they would do, should do, or might do next. The tension in the air was such that any moment, their self control was going to break and then all hell, or heaven would break loose and damn the consequences.

Marina thought that perhaps she should just give in and take care of business. It might help her sleep. It might also stop her from chewing off her own arm in frustration.

Before she knew it, though, she was falling asleep on the sofa and barely had the energy to reach for the soft woollen blanket that she kept folded nearby for just this purpose. Then, oblivion conquered her and she fell asleep.

It was an indeterminate amount of time later that Marina woke up due to the strong feeling of being watched. Of having someone nearby. Opening her eyes blearily, Marina glanced around, realising that she was on her sofa, very uncomfortable and guessing that it may have been about two in the morning.

"Esther?" Marina managed to say when she spotted the woman standing at the foot of the sofa.

She looked fine and was actually without her sling. She had been told that she could go without it when at home in the evenings and mornings. When she was less likely jar, or use her arm accidentally.

Esther was wearing a loose tee shirt, and Marina would bet money that there was nothing on underneath it.

It barely came to Esther's mid-thigh.

Marina licked her lips and pushed the blanket off her suddenly too hot body, glad that at least she was somewhat dressed. Granted in only sweats and a tank-top, but in any case, dressed, sort of.

Still bleary with sleep and with her neck aching, Marina rose to her feet and took a step towards Esther. The other woman had not said a word yet and it was making Marina feel nervous.

"Are you okay?" Marina asked, coming to an arm's-length from Esther.

Esther was breathing deeply and her complexion was flushed. Marina felt her inner doctor mode kick in. She reached for Esther.

"Don't." Esther murmured.

"Don't what?" Marina asked, alert and worried now, even in her sleepy distraction.

"If you touch me, I will not be able to control myself. I was on the way to the kitchen to get a drink of water when I saw you sleeping. I have been watching you for ten minutes." Esther explained, waving her good arm vaguely to illustrate the situation.

Marina gasped slightly and then she looked more closely at Esther. Dilated pupils, erect nipples and she seemed rigid with tension. Feeling arousal flood her body, Marina took a step towards Esther, forgetting anything, everything else except this moment right now.

"Let me." Marina said softly, her voice the barest whisper of its usual self.

"Let you what, Marina?" Esther ground out through clenched teeth.

Marina did not answer, rather she reached out for Esther, running her fingers up the exposed arms, being extra gentle not to hurt Esther's injured side.

"Let me." Marina whispered again, moving closer still.

Now she could smell Esther. Warm skin, the perfume in her soap, sleep, and over it all, the tell-tale of arousal. Marina found herself suddenly desperate to know if Esther was wet.

She had been standing looking at Marina for ten minutes. Were her thighs wet? Marina's hand twitched as she fought the urge to lose control of herself.

This was playing with fire. Oh, how Marina wanted to be burned.

Suddenly aware that she was also panting softly now, Marina looked up directly into Esther's eyes. It was a mistake.

Instantly pierced by the intense, hungry gaze of the woman she already had delicious carnal knowledge of, Marina felt her self control slip from her fingers and crash to the floor as heat flooded her body.

Esther met her half way and the kiss they shared was wild, hungry. Demanding. Out of control. Marina ignored the taste of blood in her mouth where Esther's teeth had crazed her lip. All she could feel was Esther. Her heat, her touch. The other woman filled her senses.

She was delicious. Marina kissed her as if she was starving.

"Bedroom, Marina. Or I will fall over." Esther moaned when they separated to breathe.

Marina did not hesitate, rather she carefully let Esther to her bedroom. Was this really happening?

Esther did not leave her any time to think though once they arrived. Pressing Marina to the bed, Esther climbed in and carefully, so very carefully, moved to kiss Marina again.

Mindful of Esther's bad arm, Marina pulled the other woman closer to her, feeling her heat and having her every sense flood with desire. Esther tugged impatiently on Marina's pants, so Marina quickly wriggled out of them, casting them aside without a thought as she turned her attention back to Esther.

Esther moved to straddle her legs in the bed, and Marina carefully supported her back, kissing along Esther's jaw line. Then Esther lowered her weight to Marina's legs and Marina almost bit off her own tongue.

Esther was not wearing underwear, and she was wet. Oh, how she was wet.

Sanity fled.

Marina brought their mouths together again, and the tangle of tongues, bodies and the incoherent moans that were starting to bubble up from Esther's throat obliterated all other thought.

A tug on the bottom edge of her shirt, caused Marina to obediently pull the offending object off and then Esther's hand wrapped itself around Marina's back, pulling her closer as Esther manoeuvred herself.

"Fuck me." Esther whispered into Marina's ear in a hot breath that made Marina's inner animal howl.

Marina carefully slid one of her hands up the back of Esther's shirt, and splayed it along the smooth skin of her back. Esther sighed, her head dropping back and providing Marina with a view that would forever be etched into her mind as Esther arched beautifully for her.

"Goddamn it!" Esther exclaimed, her voice laced with pain, instead of pleasure.

Marina reacted like she had been burned.

"What?" Marina asked, carefully holding Esther.

"I forgot about my fucking arm." Esther gasped as she squeezed her eyes against pain and tears.

"Shhh, darling." Marina said as she tried to regain her bearings.

Esther had obviously wrapped her bad arm around Marina to brace herself and the action had pulled muscles, healing tissues and her shoulder blade.

"Don't you shhh me, Marina." Esther ground out, looking very much like she was going to blow up.

"It will be okay. Come on my love, get up off my legs and let me get your sling. Shhh." Marina instructed as she gently caressed the woman sitting on her and thankfully Esther obeyed.

It took her a minute to fetch the sling and then she carefully helped the now tearful but much calmer Esther into the device.

"Esther." Marina coaxed Esther to open her eyes.

"Esther, watch me." Marina said, drawing Esther in for a soft kiss and tasting the other woman's tears.

"Watch me." Marina repeated.

With the words, Marina moved to pull off her panties and then lay herself back against her pillows while Esther found herself a comfortable position on the bed.

Marina could feel her own wetness soaking the sheets under her. Without a doubt Esther was doing the same thing where she was sitting.

Marina could feel her blood still pounding in her veins. There was no way she was going to let Esther's arm get in the way this time. Where there was a will, there was a way.

"Do you want me, Esther?" Marina asked, looking at Esther in the dim room.

"Do I want you? Like I want air. But I can't do anything, my whole side aches now." Esther muttered as she watched Marina where she lay.

Not at all shy in her own skin, Marina smiled lazily.

"Sure you can do things. You can watch." Marina suggested and ran one of her own hands down her body.

Esther stopped breathing for a moment.

"You want to watch, Esther?" Marina asked, sitting up and looking at Esther, wanting to see her face.

"Watch?" Esther half moaned the question.

"Yes, Esther. Watch." With the words Marina slid her hand further down her body and brushed it along her lips.

She was wet. Her fingers glistened when she pulled back, still watching Esther's face.

Esther was not breathing. Not really. She was not blinking either.

"Well?" Marina asked as she drew her hand back up along her body.

"Yes." Esther mouthed silently, her powers of speech seeming to be gone for the moment.

Marina smiled.

Sliding both hands down her body once more, Marina carefully spread herself with one hand, and then slid the fingers of the other hand along her inner lips. She was unable to hold back a moan as she did that, but she forced herself to keep her eyes open.

Esther was now leaning forward, her mouth hanging open a little and Marina could see her gripping the bedcovers with her good hand.

Marina felt a surge of arousal and brushed her fingers along her clitoris, arching into her own touch before she slid a finger into herself, and brought the fingers of her other hand over to touch herself instead.

"Esther." Marina said, catching Esther's attention which was riveted on what Marina was doing.

"This is you, you are doing this to me." Marina said, her voice just whisper of its usual self.

Already she could feel her orgasm begin in the background and she sought to delay it, even for a minute or two. It was hard, she was so turned on. So very, very turned on.

Esther was panting now and Marina could see that her eyes were just pupil, no iris at all visible.

"Do you want me to come for you, Esther?" Marina asked, watching Esther's face as she said the words.

"Oh my God." Esther moaned and closed her eyes for a moment.

It was like splashing gasoline on an open flame in the sort of reaction that was evoked in Marina.

"Do you?" Marina finally managed to ask, only barely holding off her orgasm.

"Yes. Come for me, Marina." Esther whispered in a hungry, desperate tone.

Marina did. She could feel her body coil around itself as pleasure intense enough to momentarily blind her surged through her body and when she heard Esther panting and gasping in reaction it further fuelled her orgasm, heightened it.

Oh wow...

Finally, Marina lay back, gasping and smiling as she heard the echo of Esther's hard breathing.

Without a doubt, Esther was now so aroused that she was in borderline pain.

Marina dragged herself up to a sitting position and rolled over onto her knees.

Esther was watching her with bright eyes. Hungry eyes...

"Lay back, darling." Marina whispered, gently pushing Esther back into a supine position and making extra sure that she was comfortable before Marina leaned down to kiss her gently.

Esther was shaking with pent up arousal.

Marina brushed her fingers along Esther's lips and she was rewarded with teeth catching one of her fingers and licking it. Esther moaned from deep inside her chest.

It was time.

Marina arranged herself along Esther's side and brushed her fingers down Esther's body, sliding them up under her shirt and feeling her rapid pulse, and her almost painfully erect nipples.

Esther moaned again, this time it sounded almost like a whimper. Marina kissed Esther again and then moved her hand lower, a moment later brushing her fingers through Esther's wetness.

The reaction was instant, and startling.

"Shhh, darling. Be careful, let me do this. Let me." Marina whispered, wanting to make sure that Esther did not hurt herself.

Esther stilled a little and Marina gently caressed her, feeling her finger slide effortlessly as she touched. Esther was so wet. Marina longed to move down and use her mouth, but right now it would be too much.

Marina instead slid a finger into Esther, pushing it deep and touching her very soul it seemed, as Esther undulated gently, gasping as Marina moved her hand.

Already Marina could feel the tightening that would herald Esther's orgasm. It made her shiver in anticipation. It had been too long. Far too long. As she brushed her thumb along Esther's clit, Marina reflected for a moment that she would never, ever get enough of this.

"I've got you, Esther. Come for me." Marina coaxed, gently brushing her lips along the sensitive shell of Esther's ear as she spoke.

Esther did.

Marina watched as Esther's face was transformed by pleasure. Marina felt as her hand was engulfed by heat and wet and Marina felt her heart sing with joy as Esther moaned out her pleasure.


Just beautiful.

Finally Esther stilled and Marina gently withdrew her fingers, and she was unable to resist the temptation to bring them to her mouth and lick them.


"I can't wait until I can use my shoulder again." Esther murmured as she finally opened her eyes and watched Marina study her.

Marina noticed a tear make its way down Esther's face.

"Hey. You're crying." Marina said, feeling a sudden fear grip her.

Was Esther hurt? Marina would never forgive herself.

"They're good tears." Esther murmured sleepily.

Marina decided that she had better get Esther more comfortable before she fell asleep. Gently, Marina removed her sling and helped her ease under the covers.

Marina snagged up her shirt again and slid it on, before she too lay down and felt sleep start to overtake her almost at once. Tomorrow was going to be in an interesting day, and Marina could not wait to see what would happen next...

Waking up the next morning was a delicious experience. Esther had curled up against Marina's side during the night. They had fallen asleep wrapped up in each other, but Esther had obviously cuddled even closer and now Marina faced the impossible choice of getting out of bed.

It was warm, comfortable. And the heady undertone of sex permeated the air. It was subtle, but it was there. Marina reflected that she felt more at peace and more relaxed this morning than she had in what seemed like forever. She also simply did not want to get up...

It was time, though. And she would have to wake up Esther to do it, as otherwise she might hurt her. Esther had her injured arm wrapped around Marina and she was sleeping on her uninjured side.

"Esther." Marina murmured gently.

She got a sleepy moan in response and felt a smile tug at her face.

Marina leaned over and kissed Esther's face lightly. "Wake up sleepyhead." Marina whispered.

One eye opened and Esther regarded her sleepily.

"You're much better than an alarm clock." She murmured, gingerly pulling away from Marina and cradling her bad arm as she lay back.

"I hate pain." Esther murmured and Marina got the impression that the other woman was in some considerable pain.

"Come, my sweet. I will make you breakfast so you can take your pills." Marina urged.

"You have no appointments today and you can take it easy and do whatever you like." Marina encouraged.

Esther looked at her and raised an eyebrow. "Whatever I want?" She asked, giving Marina a very pointed look.

Marina blushed hotly, feeling the residual effect of the night before crowd into the forefront of her mind. And now she was expected to go to work? Impossible.

She wanted to stay home as well and make love with Esther all day.

It was only the cold, hard reality of the very probable fact that Esther could not do this yet that quelled her temptation to call in sick. That, and the fact that she was a consummate professional who had told her boss that her romance with a colleague would not get in the way of work.

"Just as soon as we both have a free day, and your arm can take it. We'll spend the day, or days doing just that." Marina eventually managed to say as she started to lay out breakfast things.

"Eat now, and be good. I have no willpower with you." Marina said firmly.

It was true. If Esther started something, Marina was not at all sure anymore than she could resist. That she would resist, even if she could.

Esther pouted adorably, but eventually gave in and soon they were eating in comfortable silence and Esther took her pills.

Sometime later and Marina was ready to leave. "Kiss me." The words came from behind her and Marina turned to look at Esther.

Kiss her.

Oh yes, Marina wanted to kiss her. But would she be able to stop at simply a kiss? Would that be enough?

No, it would never be enough.

Esther took the decision from Marina and leaned in and kissed her. It was not like the desperately hungry kisses they had shared the night before, but it contained the same burning heat.

Marina moaned into the kiss and felt the reverberation in Esther as the kiss started to heat up.

Pulling away reluctantly, Marina tried to regain her equilibrium and took deep, gulping breaths. Work! She needed to go to work.

Esther seemed to sense the need for Marina to go. "The sooner you leave, the sooner you will be back. I'll be waiting." Esther said softly and gently pushed Marina out the door.

Turning to look at Esther, Marina saw the kiss bruised lips and the glow in the other woman's face. She speculated that her own face had the, just fucked look, and her lips were swollen and red as well.

Rocco would be happy to see that...

Laughing at her own little joke, Marina made her way to her car and was soon on the way to the hospital.

As she drive, she considered the coming day, but especially the coming evening. Hopefully Esther would find something to do with her day that would ensure that she did not become too bored. Marina found that she could not wait to get back home.

It may be that Esther was not up to making love, not really, but there were plenty of other things to do as well.

At this point, Marina would be happy simply to sit with Esther and stare at the wall. The new dynamic in their relationship; the passion, lack of inhibition and the openness. These things were compelling.

Now if only Esther's father would come to his senses, and sooner rather than later as well. Marina could only hope so. Esther needed her father and Caesar Bruno was not a bad man. He was simply misguided and unable to see past his conditioning.

Before she knew it, Marina was pulling into the parking lot and alighting from her car. It was time to begin her day...

With a spring in her step, Marina walked through the hospital doors and found that she was really looking forward to whatever the day would bring. Hopefully good things. But even bad things would be taken in stride.

It was a good day to be alive...

By noon, Marina's point of view of the day had changed somewhat drastically. There had been an emergency and doctors had been called in from all over to assist. Marina had spent the morning elbow deep in blood, pain and anguish and was now feeling quite out of sorts.

After a quick shower and a change into scrubs in the locker room, she was now pulling on a fresh lab coat, and considering various unappetizing options for lunch. Mainly because she had no appetite, not because the options were all that bad.

Just as she had decided that a candy bad would fit the bill, and was rummaging for change to the vending machines, a knock on her door made her look up.

"Mr. Bruno. What can I do for you?" Marina said with some resignation.

This really was too much and she was not in the mood to deal with Esther's father. Not at all.

"I need to talk with you, Dr. Ranieri." Mr. Bruno said, somewhat humbly.

"I will only consider a talk with you if you remain civil. Keep your voice within a reasonable range, and do not insult your daughter." Marina said after a pause.

"I accept." Mr. Bruno said at once. "Can I buy you lunch?" He added, his question very hopeful.

"Fine." Marina said and rose from her seat, indicating that Mr. Bruno should walk ahead of her out the door.

At the vending machines, Marina made her selection of fruit, water and a candy bar, and allowed Mr. Bruno to feed the needed coins into the machines. At this point, she did not care what the man thought of her.

"Shall we?" Marina indicated the break room.

It offered some privacy but at the same time was well within hearing distance of the nurse's station, should Marina be in need of help. She was not about to trust Mr. Bruno just like that. Not after he had laid hands on her just a few days ago.

"What do you want, Mr. Bruno. I warn you, my patience is at its end, so please get to the point." Marina said as she sat down, waving to the man in an indication that he should sit as well.

She was not about to have him towering over her like some unwanted father figure. She had a father, thanks very much. And she was not seeking another one. Though one day maybe she could regard Caesar Bruno as some sort of relative. Maybe...

"Do you love her?" Mr. Bruno asked without preamble.

Marina blinked once in startled reaction but answered at once. "Yes. I do. With all that I am." With the words Marina began to idly peel the orange she had procured from the vending machine.

"Does she love you?" Mr. Bruno continued with his questions.

"Yes, she does." Marina said at once.

This was something she knew for sure.

"Her mother would have understood this. I find it hard." Caesar continued talking.

"I realise that, Mr. Bruno. But your, feelings, on this matter are your concern. By making them Esther's concern, you do her a great injustice. She wants nothing more than to have her father in her life, and sharing her happiness. And right now, easing her pain." Marina did not pull any punches.

She was fed up.

"You are more about appearances. You quote traditions. You spout prejudices you were taught and absorbed and made your own." Marina continued, putting down her orange.

"She could have died. Do you understand? She. Could. Have. Died." Marina empathised her point with her hands, stood up and began pacing.

"Does it matter? Do your programmed prejudices matter in that case? As you wept over her grave, would it have mattered to you that she loved a woman?" Marina said harshly.

"I doubt it. I doubt you would have cared about anything. You would have done anything to have her back. Anything." Marina added, moving closer to Mr. Bruno.

"She's not dead. She is alive. You can have her back. You only have to care more about her than you care about yourself. You are a father, Mr. Bruno. It is your vocation to love your child. What are you waiting for?" Marina said in a final huff and then sat down, exhausted suddenly.

Mr. Bruno turned his face away, and Marina swore she could see the glint of tears. She felt no sympathy, though. She was not done yet.

"Esther loves you, Mr. Bruno. But she is her own woman and she will make her own decisions, even if you do not approve. Either you accept that, or she will be forever beyond your reach." Marina sat down again as she said this, and reached for her orange once more.

"You would stop her from talking to me?" Mr. Bruno said, his voice sounding guarded.

"Me? Stop Esther from doing something?" Marina laughed, determined not to be insulted by the suggestion.

Mr. Bruno offered up a smile. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for." He said with a shrug.

Marina tipped an orange slice at him and wondered where all this was leading to.

"It's not me you need to have this conversation with, you know." She said as casually as she could manage.

It felt a bit absurd to be giving advice on parenting to a man who was pretty much old enough to her own parent.

"I know." He conceded.

"You are welcome to go to my place, Mr. Bruno. But, the same warning stands." Marina spoke after a moment.

"You will not cause a scene, raise your voice, or upset her. If you do, I will ensure you incur consequences. I will not have my home, or her healing, disrupted by your temper." Marina said this in a flat voice.

"You have my word, Doctor." Mr. Bruno said before he sat back to sit in silence as Marina finished her lunch.

It was a bit disconcerting to be eating in his presence, but Marina had no time to do anything else, and she would be damned if she would let him disrupt her life.

Anymore than he already had...

It was time to leave. Marina had spent the rest of the day wondering if Esther's father had gone to visit her. No phone calls had ensued from Esther. Or from any of her neighbours for that matter.

Marina forced herself to drive carefully as she went home. No sense in getting into an accident out of carelessness. From the outside, the apartment looked peaceful enough. That meant nothing, of course...

When she got to her door, there were no sounds from within the apartment so she simply opened the door and went in. It seemed peaceful enough. Marina tiptoed through the living area to check in the guestroom.

It was empty...

Where was Esther?

Eager to be out of her scrubs and to take another shower, Marina went to her bedroom and stopped at the doorway.

Esther was asleep in her bed. Marina smiled and walked closer. Esther was in deep sleep and her injured shoulder was exposed. The night before it had been decided she no longer needed dressings unless she went out and now the wounds were simply dressed with a slathering of antibiotic ointment to ensure they did not dry out.

Marina looked at the wound. It was healing well, thankfully. Internally however the situation was not so clear cut. Esther had a ways to go still...

Quietly, Marina moved to undress as the sleeping woman in her bed filled the room with her peaceful presence.

Half tempted to get into the bed with Esther, Marina decided that she really did need a shower, as soon as possible. With a fond glance she moved to the bathroom and quickly stepped under the shower as soon as the water was warm enough and became distracted by her routine as she phased out her day.

When she felt a warm arm wrap around her from behind, Marina almost dropped the sponge she was using to wash herself with. Carefully turning within the circle of the arm holding her, she found herself face to face with a very awake, very naked, and rapidly getting very wet, Esther.

"Hi." Marina said, trying to gather her wits.

Thankfully Esther's wounds no longer required that she keep them dry, though saunas and baths would have to wait another fortnight, though.

Marina found her gaze drawn to the wounds on Esther's shoulder, before her eyes were distracted by the play of water on Esther's smooth skin. The droplets caught Marina's eye and in doing so, she felt her breath catch in her throat.

They were both naked, in the shower, together. This was not going to be good for any hope of self control that they may pretend to have.

Esther cut off whatever Marina was going to say next by running her good arm up Marina's body to touch her face, which she then pulled closer. "Kiss me, Marina." Esther whispered against Marina's lips.

Unable to resist the siren's call, Marina melted into Esther and brought their mouths together in a kiss that tasted of water, of love and of the molten heat of passion that was no longer being held in check. It also tasted of Esther, and that was something that Marina hungered for.

Esther pulled back slightly, moving Marina's wet hair away from her face and smiling. "You're beautiful." She whispered, kissing Marina on the nose.

The silly, intimate gesture, coupled with Esther's words made something in Marina melt. "I love you." Marina replied, bringing her sponger back up and beginning to wash Esther's front in lazy circles.

Esther's head dropped to Marina's shoulder and as she breathed into Marina's ear, Marina washed her. First with the sponge and then with her hands. The smooth slickness of water and soap and skin making it all a tactile experience that Marina would not soon forget.

When Esther moaned into her ear, Marina had to remind herself to stay focused. She wanted out of the shower, so they would not drown, or freeze, or simply wash away down the drain. Esther's soft moans were not making it easy for Marina to stay focused, though.

"I want you." Esther whispered as Marina finished with her washing of Esther's body and was trying to work out how to wash her hair without moving her away from this delicious contact.

The words poured heat through Marina's body, making her clench, and ache and keen for more. She had to maintain control, at least for a few more minutes. Somehow...

"Thank you." Marina said, hoping that Esther would understand.

Deep, thoughtful eyes looked into hers, and Marina saw that Esther did indeed, understand. With a slight nod, Marina helped Esther shampoo her hair, aware that it was pretty much impossible for her to lift her arm up with any effectiveness.

In short order, they were done and Marina reached for towels, trying to remember how to breathe. It felt as if each drop of water that was trickling down her skin was making her forget. Combined with the weight of Esther's gaze and the knowledge that they were both moving towards, something, made Marina feel slightly dizzy, actually...

After catching her breath, Marina turned to find Esther examining her reflection in the mirror. She was leaning forward and brushing her fingers along the stitches in her shoulder. Marina watched as Esther explored the wounds and then felt around the gunshot wound itself.

Her face looked curious, almost interested and Marina could not see any hidden displeasure in it. Hopefully it would all heal well, not only in how it scarred, but also inside. It would not be fair any other way...

Marina walked up to Esther and gently wrapped her arms around the other woman, looking at their reflection in the mirror. They looked good together...

Esther met her eyes in the mirror and Marina felt a surge of heat flood her body as she pressed them together. Esther's eyes fluttered shut and Marina took the opportunity to kiss along the line of her shoulders, moving aside her still wet hair and kissing the nape of her neck.

When Esther's good hand gripped the edge of the countertop, Marina was unable to contain the moan that bubbled up from her throat.

Oh, how she wanted this woman. The sensation clawed at her pleasantly, demandingly. In a way that she could not ignore. When Esther opened her eyes and locked her gaze with Marina's in the mirror, Marina felt the last vestiges of control slip from her fingers.

Moving her hands up in the mirror, Marina gently cupped Esther's breasts, running her fingers along the semi-erect nipples in tandem with the movement of her mouth on the back of Esther's neck. Marina watched as Esther unconsciously pushed herself into the countertop.

The act caused something predatory to rise up in Marina and she dropped one of her hands, deftly slipping it between the countertop and Esther, watching all of this in the mirror. Watching Esther react as Marina's fingers slid into her wetness.

Carefully, so carefully, Marina moved her fingers and felt Esther shudder in reaction. "Open your eyes, Esther." Marina urged when she saw that Esther's eyes were closing.

Esther obeyed and pried her eyes open, looking at Marina, and at what Marina was doing. Her good hand now had a white-knuckled grip on the edge of the counter and Esther was panting, pushing herself against Marina's hand, lifting herself onto her tiptoes to try to gain more contact, more sensation. More of everything.

Marina carefully slid her hand away from Esther's breast and moved it to hold her securely, before she slid her other hand lower, lower, until the tip of her finger reached its destination and slid into Esther's body.

Esther cried out and ground herself against the palm of Marina's hand, her breath coming in gasps now. "Watch us, Esther." Marina whispered into Esther's ear.

Esther did and Marina could feel her own wetness trickle down her thighs as she pushed herself against Esther, in part to hold her up, in part because she could not help herself. The combined sensory input of watching this all happen in the mirror, of touching Esther and of holding Esther up was bringing Marina close to orgasm.

So close.

But this was about Esther. Marine refocused and concentrated on her fingers as they moved. Esther was breathing in gasps now, lost in sensation, in the moment. In Marina.

It was beautiful and when Marina felt Esther begin to come, she could feel herself begin to come. "Come for me, Esther. Come, so I can come for you." Marina whispered into Esther's ear.

Esther shuddered once and then moaned low in her throat as she ground against Marina's hand, against the counter, with Marina feeling her own orgasm cascade over herself in sympathetic response.


Marina gasped against the pale skin of Esther's neck and tried to organise her brain. They needed to go to bed, or sit down. They could eat later, but right now neither of them was being very steady on their feet.

"Come." Marina said as she carefully extricated her hand from Esther's body and guided the other woman back to the bedroom, encouraging her to sit down and then lie down.

Marina slipped into the bed beside her and carefully wrapped herself up in Esther's body before she closed her eyes and tried to gather her shattered thoughts.

Before she knew it though, they were both asleep...

It was only an hour later when Marina woke up. She was hungry and without a doubt, Esther would also be quite hungry.

Rising quietly from the bed, she tiptoed to the kitchen and thought about what to cook. Something quick and good. Marina had just the thing. A quick dig around in her purse produced her cell phone and a pre-programmed number had her talking to her favourite local pizza place.

Dinner would arrive in forty-five minutes with all the trimmings needed. In the meantime Marina found herself hoping that Esther would be able to forego painkillers soon. Until she was done with them, she could not really drink any wine. Also the muscle relaxants were counter indicated as well.

There were other things to drink though.

By the time the pizza arrived Marina was ready to wake Esther up. It was just as well she was sleeping so much as tomorrow would be a hard day for her. She had a full two hours with the physical therapist, and she was also expected to put in a couple of hours worth of paperwork with human resources at the hospital.

Esther would be doing desk duty soon, and there were considerations with regards to sick leave and so on to work out.

Also, Marina was hoping that the doctors would give the go ahead to have Esther's stitches removed. They were really pulling in her skin now and in Marina's point of view it was time for them to go.

Those were considerations for tomorrow though.

Now it was time for dinner...

Marina went to her bedroom and looked at Esther as she slept. So innocent seeming. And she also looked so young in sleep.

"Esther." Marina coaxed gently.

"Time to get up, darling. You need to eat." Marina continued, gently touching Esther.

Sleepy eyes opened and looked at her.

"Time to eat." Marina said with a smile.

"Oh, good." Esther replied and levered herself to a sitting position.

When the blankets fell away from Esther's body, Marina had to swallow hard. Esther was naked as the say she was born.

Food! Marina reminded herself and after brushing her fingers lightly along Esther's face, she turned and forced herself to walk back to the kitchen. Maybe later there would be desert, but they did need to eat first.

"Your father came to the hospital today." Marina said as they were eating.

She had waited until Esther had eaten at least two pieces of pizza, just for the case that her appetite would desert her.

"He did?" Esther asked, reaching for her glass.

"Yes, he did." Marina answered, taking a bit of pizza in an effort to give herself some seconds to collect her thoughts.

"He seems to want to bridge the gap between you, but he does not know how. I told him he could come here to talk to you, but that if he upset you I would kick his ass." Marina finally said.

Esther smiled a brilliant smile and laughed.

"I am sure you would kick his ass." She murmured and took a bite of pizza.

"I hope he does come here. I am through going to him. This is up to him now." Esther said as she leaned back carefully.

"I can't wait for these damn stitches to come out." Esther said somewhat testily.

"They hurt now." She murmured, rubbing at her wounds under her shirt.

"I know, darling. But when they come out you will have to wear a sling full time for a few days to ensure that the wounds are not stretched out. They will probably glue the wounds. Won't that be fun?" Marina said cheerily, content to tease Esther ever so slightly.

Esther stuck her tongue out like a child and Marina felt a rush of heat.

She could not wait for Esther to recover to the point where some semblance of a more active sex life could be entertained. But they also needed to talk. About the status if their relationship and what happened when Esther was well enough to fend for herself once more.

Would she stay with Marina?

Marina figured some of that answer would come when Esther's father had made his move. Marina doubted Esther would entertain moving back in with her father, but certainly his actions could have an effect on what Esther would decide to do next.

Hopefully Caesar Bruno would make his move soon...

After dinner, Esther insisted that they do something normal, like watch a movie. So Marina had put something to play in her DVD player and about fifteen minutes into the film, she now had a sleeping Esther sprawled across her lap.

Marina herself could feel her own grip on wakefulness slip away. She supposed they both had a lot of residual fatigue to deal with. But this was not the place to sleep, Esther would make up incapacitated by pain and Marina's neck was already sore.

She was loathe to wake up the slumbering woman though. Maybe they could wait a little while longer and the movie was just getting to some interesting part anyway. Or Marina assumed that it was anyway, she could barely remember what movie they were watching.

This would not do at all.

Gently, Marina coaxed the half asleep Esther to her feet and then guided them both to the bathroom where Esther mechanically brushed her teeth and Marina followed suit.

A few minutes later, they were both ensconced in Marina's bed and Esther had pulled herself alongside Marina's body and was now sleeping once more.

Marina found herself to be oddly awake again, though...

What would Caesar Bruno do?

What would Esther do?

What would she, Marina do?

It was enough to drive her to distraction, actually...

Marina eventually gave up trying to sleep around midnight and gently extricated herself from the bed to go someplace else, lest she disturb Esther's rest. Marina herself was starting to feel a little envious at how easily Esther seemed to sleep. If only it were the same for herself.

She fetched herself some water and brought it to her living area to gaze out the window and somehow hopefully organise her thoughts enough to be able to go back to bed.

What would they do next?

In another week or so, Esther would be more than capable of taking care of herself, short of having to heft heavy groceries, or move furniture, or any other sort of lifting, and in a month Marina doubted she would have any serious restrictions left.

No hefting of patients, or pushing cars, or attempting to do chin-ups, pretty much. She might need physical therapy for longer than that, though. It just depended on how well she healed and what her doctors decided.

But then what?

Marina supposed that she could just ask Esther what she wanted to do next, but that seemed a little daunting, to be honest.

It needed to be done though.

Marina resolved that as soon as Caesar Bruno has made his move, that she would approach Esther about all of this. No sense in overloading her with too many things to think about all at the same time.

"Marina?" Esther's voice startled Marina.

"Yes, Esther?" Marina replied, once she had coughed up her own tongue.

"What are you doing?" Esther asked as she moved around the edge of the sofa and came to sit down.

"Thinking. I can't sleep." Marina said, waving her hand vaguely.

Esther looked at her in the dimness of the room. "What are you thinking about?" She pressed.

Marina considered her answer. Maybe now was the time, after all...

"I was thinking about us." Marina answered quietly.

"What happens when you heal? Will you stay here? Will you get your own place?" Marina elaborated and then fell silent.

Esther was silent for a moment, but then she spoke.

"Do you want me to stay here with you?" She asked.

Marina's heart leapt in her chest, but she answered seriously, nonetheless.

"Yes. But the thing is, Esther, this is not about what I want. This is about what you want."

Esther was silent and Marina could almost feel her thinking. Marina tried to keep her hope under control. Even if Esther said that she would rather have her own place, it did not mean that it would negatively effect their relationship. Not at all.

Marina was just greedy, it was a simple as that...

"I'd need my own space." Esther said finally.

Marina looked up at her, startled at her answer.

"Of course. We can convert the guest room, or even move someplace larger." Marina said at once.

"And I expect to contribute. I want us to be equals in this." Esther added.

Marina nodded, feeling her heart soar. Whatever Esther wanted, she would have. No problem.

"We can discuss the details of course. You also need to deal with your dad as well. No hurry." Marina was quick to say.

She did not want Esther to feel pulled or pressured from too many directions at once. Marina was just happy to have some answers and immediately felt more at ease with things. It helped to have some more concrete knowledge of things.

"Come to bed, Marina." Esther prompted, holding out her good hand and tugging Marina gently.

Marina rose to her feet and followed Esther to the bedroom, feeling suddenly quite tired and like she would be able to sleep. Esther climbed into the bed and patted the mattress.

"Bed." She said and Marina smiled, shedding her outer layers and climbing in.

Esther carefully wrapped herself around Marina and within moments Marina could feel herself drifting off to sleep. Esther was already breathing deeply beside her. Regardless of what else, Marina knew that she was with the person she wanted to be and the future was looking rosy.

Marina fell asleep with a smile on her face and in her heart.

Morning came and Marina was woken by the smells of cooking. It seemed that Esther was awake and had decided to make breakfast. Marina's stomach rumbled in response and without further ado she clambered out of bed and made her way to the kitchen to see just exactly what was cooking.

"Good morning." Esther said when Marina entered the kitchen somewhat sleepily.

"Food's almost ready. Set the table." Esther instructed as she moved around the kitchen confidently, despite her injured arm.

By the time this was over with, Esther was going to be seriously competent at doing things with just one hand. Marina felt her stride break slightly at the thought of just what sort of things Esther might be competent at with one hand.

It was a delicious thought.

It was also a thought that made her happy to think about the future. A future with Esther. Marina just hoped that everything would work out. Esther needed some sort of closure with her father, or some sort of renewal in their relationship.

And then there was where they would live. Marina considered her current apartment. Technically there was nothing wrong with it, but it was a tad small for just two people. They could decide later. Maybe Esther could move in and then eventually they could upgrade, once they had settled and Esther was healed and thins were stable.

It sounded like a good idea. No sense in getting ahead of oneself.

Marina was just pouring coffee when Esther brought breakfast to the table and they then sat down to eat. It was somehow so nice and homey, so comforting to sit and eat with Esther.

Normally Marina might skip breakfast, or eat a hurried and inadequate meal, or simply utilise the hospital vending machines. This was new, different. Wonderful.

"I love you." Marina said as she offered Esther some bread.

"I love you, too." Esther replied with a sweet smile that simply melted Marina's heart.

"I'll come see you when I am done with the doctors." Esther offered as they got into the car together sometime later.

"I hear you are on desk duty for a while today." Marina said by way of reply.

"Yeah. Paperwork. I think they want me back for about twenty hours a week next week, so I need to have everything ready this week." Esther extrapolated.

That made sense. They would ease her back into the hospital routine, and once she was cleared to work, and had been to the therapist and was ready, she would go back to work full time.

Marina suspected that Esther was looking forward to that. It was understandable as well. Marina herself would not have liked being forced to sit at home for hours. Still, it was better than being dead.

They parted ways when they reached the hospital and soon Marina was immersed in work with Esther a compartmentalised though in her head. The day was thankfully moving smoothly and there was also a sense of anticipation at the thought that Esther would actually be around today.

She was missed, and she did have one of the more important jobs in the department. Hopefully the transition from full sick-leave to part-time work would not be too draining on her.

As if summoned by her thoughts, Esther appeared wearing scrubs and her sling and her hospital id. She looked good, though tired and Marina was glad that there would only be a limited period of paperwork for her to deal with today.

"All set?" Marina asked when Esther paused near her.

"Yes. I am now glued instead of stitched, and I can tell you it is a huge relief. I am also cleared for an hour of paperwork before I must go to physical therapy." Esther said and then she smiled at some of her colleagues as they walked by.

"Got to go." Esther said, brushing her fingers against Marina's before she left.

Watching her go, Marina could not wait until evening came again. She wanted Esther naked, in bed, as soon as possible. The thought brought a smile to her face and with that smile, Marina picked up the chart of her next patient and prepared to deal with the rest of her day.

By the time the day was over, Marina was more than ready to call it a week. It seemed that this was the week to fall ill, and two doctors had been out, as well as one other nurse. It had left the rest of them with a frenetic pace to keep up with.

Marina now wanted a hot shower and to sit and do nothing with the rest of her day. She needed to go grocery shopping, though. Whether she wanted to or not. The simple fact was that they had to eat and Esther could not do this herself, not yet anyway.

So, Marina drive to the store and prayed to the supermarket gods that there would be a reasonable amount of people, and that things would go smoothly so she could get out in good time.

She really did want to get home as soon as possible.

The store took more time than she would have liked, though so by the time Marina had hauled the stuff to there car and made her way home, she was almost too weary to consider somehow making it to her apartment. It would be better when Esther could help, but for now, Marina was just content that she could count on Esther being around.

With that thought, Marina climbed out of her car, and collected her shopping, before she made her way to her apartment and tried to come up with a recipe for what she would cook when she arrived.

No doubt Esther was also quite hungry. Hopefully she had not attempted to cook anything. Breakfast had been more than enough and Esther with her freshly removed stitches needed to take it easy for a few days.

Finally at her door, Marina slid her key into the lock and gently pushed the door open, glad beyond measure to finally be home.

Stepping into her home, Marina secured the door and turned to face the main living area. It was then that she realised that she had a guest. A guest in addition to Esther, that was.

"Mr. Bruno." Marina said politely, feeling a little startled, despite herself.

Mr. Bruno rose to his feet and his daughter followed suit. Marina left her groceries ignored on the floor and regarded the tableau before her. Esther looked calm, composed, and Mr. Bruno did not look like he was about to suffer an aneurysm. In other words, it looked very promising...

"Hello Doctor Ranieri." Mr. Bruno said and a moment later, Marina extended her hand and felt the firm grip of a good handshake.

For far, so good.

"I'll, just bring these to the kitchen and leave you to it." Marina suggested, figuring that perhaps whatever conversation Esther was having with her father would be better suited to some privacy.

Or the pretext of privacy in any case.

"You can stay." Esther said, and something in her voice made Marina hesitate.

If Esther needed her, Marina would stay.

"I'll be back in a minute then." Marina said and scooped up her groceries and brought them to the kitchen.

Moving quickly she put away the perishable food into the refrigerator and then washed her hands, before she quickly returned to the living area where Mr. Bruno and Esther seemed to both be waiting for her.

Since when had she been made arbitrator of this relationship?

Feeling a little tired, and not a little wary, Marina sat down near Esther and folded her hands on her lap. It occurred to her that she was being somewhat remiss as a hostess, but Esther seemed to have provided her father with some refreshment, and really Marina did not want to give the man too many objects to throw, if it came to that.

"I'm sorry." Caesar Bruno said to Marina without preamble.

Marina blinked in surprise. That she had not been expecting.

"For what?" She asked, unable to stop herself.

"For shouting at you. For calling you names, and most of all, for laying hands on you the other day." Mr. Bruno elaborated.

Marina felt Esther tense beside her.

"Apology accepted. I will not issue it twice though, Mr. Bruno. So please be mindful of that. For the sake of your daughter." Marina said after only a moment's consideration.

Just what happened next would depend on Mr. Bruno and on Esther, there was little Marina could do except listen, and support Esther if she needed it.

"It won't be needed. I am not a man of war." Mr. Bruno said with some assurance.

Easy words, but until proven otherwise, Marina was willing to extend the benefit of the doubt. But Marina was also waiting for him to apologise to his daughter. She was the main injured party, and while the foundations for rebuilding bridges could be laid tonight, the actual rebuilding would take time, and patience.

Things said, could not be unsaid. Mr. Bruno could hope for forgiveness, forgetfulness. He could hope for healing, and atonement, but what he had said could never be unsaid. He would have to prove that he was worthy of a second chance.

"I'm going to move in with Marina, dad." Esther said after a few moments of silence had passed.

Marina could see Mr. Bruno startle briefly and hoped that he was good for his word and would not in fact, cause a scene. Hopefully he did not really expect Esther to move back with him after what had happened between them. Anyway, Esther was an adult woman who needed to make her own decisions in life.

"I see. Well, I suppose that is okay." Mr. Bruno hedged.

"Dad. I want to have you in my life, but I am not asking your permission, I am telling you." Esther said firmly in reply.

"Yes. Of course. I know. I'm sorry, Esther. Just give me a little while. You're my little girl and this is not easy for me." Mr. Bruno said at once, lifting his hands up in surrender.

"I may be your little girl, dad, but I am also a woman. Marina is who I love, and who I will love. This is indelible fact." Esther said and stood up and walked over to the window.

Marina felt her heart pounding in her chest as she waited for whatever would happen next.

"How you treated me. What you said to me, when you found out. And how you have behaved up until now, after I was shot. These things, dad, they are totally unacceptable." Esther whispered in a low, deeply hurt voice.

Then she turned around and looked directly at her father.

"I will not be made to choose. I will choose her, dad, if you force me to. I choose Marina, if I have to." Esther blinked back tears as she spoke and Marina rose to her feet, moving to wrap her arms around Esther who was shaking a little with emotion.

Mr. Bruno was silent for a long moment.

"I won't make you choose. But please, Esther, give me some time to learn how to be a better father to you. I can't figure it out overnight. I am so sorry I hurt you. It was unforgivable." He finally said.

Esther pulled away from Marina and moved towards her father, looking down at him and Marina felt tears sting her own eyes as she watched the man stand up and move to gently embrace his daughter.

Things were looking up. Hopefully this would be the last of the drama for a while. Marina just wanted to have a break from exes, from issues, and from overwrought parents.

She really just wanted to make love with Esther, and get to know her better, and kiss her. And sip coffee with her, and, well, do pretty much anything with her. Always.

Mr. Bruno disengaged from his daughter and moved towards Marina, and for a long moment they shared a look, then Mr. Bruno nodded, and smiled slightly. Marina felt something give way inside of her.

Hope, was a beautiful thing indeed.

"That went well." Marina remarked as she and Esther stood in the kitchen sometime later.

"It did." Esther replied at once.

They were hungry and Mr. Bruno had declined the invitation to stay for dinner, so they were now trying to come up with something to eat. Esther was once more tightly wrapped up in her sling, just to safeguard her injuries just after the stitches had been removed.

Other than that, it really did feel like two people in love trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Marina had some ideas of what she might like for dinner, and none of them had anything to do with food.

However, she did concede that they needed to eat.

"How are you feeling?" Marina asked as they moved in an almost eerie synch in the kitchen.

"It's a little sore. And the glue itches, but it is fine. I am feeling much more like myself again." Esther offered as she rummaged around in the fridge.

Marina nodded absently, forgetting that Esther could not see her.

She was making chicken under Esther's guidance. Something Milanese. Esther had assured her that it would be delicious. Marina was not so certain but she was nothing if not willing to give new things a try.

Mostly she was just pleased that things had gone so well with Esther's father. Esther had seemed much calmer now, and Marina had started to see some of the sparkle in her eyes that had been part of the initial draw to the other woman.

The thought made Marina feel warm. She shook her head, now was not the time to be daydreaming. The food would burn.

Esther moved up behind her and Marina could swear that she felt every hair on her body stand up in reaction. It was an almost supernatural awareness and it made Marina feel short of breath.

"Looks ready." Esther remarked and in a few efficient movements she was serving dinner.

"I must insist on a small glass of wine tonight." Esther said as they set the kitchen table.

Marina smiled and soon they were seated with their simple repast and with wine glasses full. It felt homey, comfortable. Marina decided that if she started to smile now she would simply break her face in half.

Later when Esther was off brushing her teeth, Marina was lost in her own thoughts. When would they get Esther's stuff from her dad's? Marina thought also about making the guestroom a place that Esther could cal her own complete with bed, no less.

Marina might never want to let Esther out of her sight, or her bed, but she recognised that as impossible. Schedules, moods, and life, meat that it was important to have one's own space. Perhaps even a crucial key to happiness in a relationship, especially one that contained two stubborn women such as this one.

Preoccupied as she was, Marina mostly failed to note Esther's return to the bedroom until she sat down beside Marina. A smooth hand moving along her shoulder alerted Marina to Esther's presence and when she turned, she found herself looking directly into Esther's soulful eyes.

Esther did not speak, she merely leaned forward and kissed Marina, using her good hand to pull Marina closer, until there was no space at all between them. Marina felt her brain stop working when Esther demand entrance to Marina's mouth with her tongue.

Marina felt herself being gently pushed backward on the bed, and Esther then moved to straddle her. Her injured arm was out of it's sling and she was wearing a brief top and her panties, nothing else obscured the view for Marina's eyes, or presented obstacles for Marina's touch.

Esther leaned forward, supporting herself with her good arm and allowing Marina to help hold up her injured side. The kiss that followed was electric, hot, demanding. It burned Marina's brain and wiped out whatever thoughts she had in the moments prior to it. In the lifetime prior to it...

Carefully, Esther kissed her way down Marina's body, moving aside clothing, pulling down the edge of Marina's panties and kissing along the line of Marina's hips. Having that soft, coveted mouth so close to the ultimate focus of her desire, made Marina start to lose coherence.

Esther pulled down Marina's panties and poured herself down off the edge of the bed, kneeling on the carpet and urging Marina down as well. Carefully, Esther pulled one of Marina's legs over her back, opening Marina up and pushing her wide.

Marina could feel herself becoming wet though for it to trickle down the crack of her ass. She was now almost incoherent with desire and when Esther leaned forward and blew a cool stream of air on Marina's clitoris, it was enough to make Marina sob with feeling.

Esther looked up at her and smiled with her eyes, before she leaned forward and closed her delicious mouth on Marina. The feeling was exquisite, Marina felt tears escape the corners of her eyes as Esther moved her mouth delicately.

Despite her passion, Marina was careful not to move the leg that was near Esther's injured side, but all other thought was obliterated by Esther's mouth as it explored her carefully. When Esther slid her tongue into Marina, it caused Marina to sit up in the bed gasping with pleasure so intense it was almost pain.

She could feel Esther smile against her and then the other woman began to fuck Marina with her mouth in earnest. Marina moaned into the stillness of the room and she could feel Esther's answering moan against her, which further enflamed her.

"Fuck." Marina whispered out loud.

Esther carefully moved her good hand and Marina could feel the tip of an elegant finger tease her before it slid into her body. It was quickly followed by a second finger and then Esther started to move her mouth and hand in tandem. Marina spent about two seconds trying to figure out how Esther was doing this with just one hand, but then she lost the ability to think at all as she felt her orgasm mount.

The feeling was sublime and as pleasure began to wash over her body, Marina could feel something inside of herself give way. A final barrier, perhaps. Swept away by pleasure, by love, by this very moment in time. A barrier that only Esther could have removed and only this moment made possible to remove.

Then Marina was lost in pleasure, crying out into the night as Esther drew out her orgasm, as Esther made her whole again.

Moments, or lifetimes passed and Marina found herself half unconscious on the bed, gasping, and with tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes.

She decided at once, that orgasms could be spiritual, not just physical...

At least this is how it felt with Esther.

Right now...

"Esther." Marina finally managed when she caught her breath.

The other woman had carefully come back onto the bed and was laying at Marina's side. The feeling of wholeness was profound. Marina did not have to do much to convince herself that she had never been this content in her life before.

"Esther, I love you." Marina whispered, feeling her body start to come to life again.

She felt Esther smile against her skin and when Marina ran her hand down the smooth expanse of Esther's side, she felt the other woman arch into her touch.


Marina pulled herself to a sitting position and gently pressed Esther to lay on her back, kissing any skin that her mouth could reach as she did so. Esther moved like she had no bones, and Marina carefully, so carefully kissed the vivid red marks on Esther's injured shoulder.

The other woman hissed in reaction, and Marina was instantly aware that the new skin was incredibly sensitive.

She brushed her hair forward and allowed it to trail along the new skin and Esther moaned from deep in her chest.


Marina moved to straddle one of Esther's legs and kissed her body, bringing her hands into play as she cradled the beautiful breasts that were presented to her so pertly. Esther was now lost in pleasure and Marina could not help but smile in reaction.

"Marina, don't tease me." Esther moaned as Marina gently bit down on a nipple and felt the strong fingers of Esther's good hand pull on her head and her hair almost painfully.

Marina conceded that Esther was probably painfully aroused, and right now was not really the time to make her crawl on the ceiling with anticipation. Maybe.

Moving downwards, Marina trailed her tongue along a smooth abdomen and further down she did not pause before situating herself comfortably between Esther's thighs.

Strong legs immediately moved to trap her head and Marina could not help but smile as she trailed the tip of her tongue along Esther's swollen lips. One taste though, and Marina's hunger got the best of her and she buried her mouth into Esther without further preamble.

She was rewarded with a cry of ecstasy which bubbled up from Esther's throat and it spurned her on. It made Marina feel wild to know she had this power to drive Esther to the point of madness with pleasure.

Marina pulled herself closer, sealing the space between them with her mouth and completely losing herself into the moment, the movement, and beauty of it. Esther was undulating against her with movements that were disjointed and desperate and in just moments, in mere lifetimes, Esther was coming.

The feeling of Esther's orgasm washed over Marina, blinding her with its intensity. Powerless to do anything except ride along the waves of pleasure that Esther was experiencing, Marina felt more tears prick her eyelids as she hung on and opened herself up to feeling.

So this was love.


The End

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