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A Reluctant Hero

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Kelsey drove me to get my car later that afternoon. I’d napped, and recovered, from my hangover, but having her dad’s image creep in every time I closed my eyes was less than relaxing. While the headache, dry mouth, and threat of dehydration was behind me, I had more tension than I wanted or needed. On the other hand, no thoughts of Roger Allen made my life less irritating.

I tried very hard to NOT squirm as my friend, showing the clear evidence of JD’s grandchild growing inside of her, kept glancing at me. Finally I opened my mouth to apologize, for what, I wasn’t completely sure, but Kelsey spoke first. Keeping her eyes on the road, far more careful than her dad drove, she sighed and then started talking.

“Dad called me before you did.” Oh. OK. “He said he forgot to get your number.” Ah. I thought about his promise to call me. “And then, he interrogated me about you.”

“He what?” My mouth dropped open. I mean, I knew I found the man irresistible, but it wasn’t like I’d put my best foot forward.

Kelsey chuckled and my lips curled into a smile at the familiarity of it with her dad’s. “I told you what he does for a living,” she rolled her eyes, but kept them on the road. “His last-” she seemed to be looking for a word. “Relationship was intense.” I waited, figuring that it was my time to listen. “You were-” Again she seemed to be searching for something. “When you were in Paris,” alright, a few months prior to this last teaching stint, right around the time that I learned that Kelsey was pregnant and offered my house as refuge. I nodded, wondering what was going on. “Did you just NOT watch the news while you were gone?”

“You know I hate the news, Kels, that shit gives me anxiety.” I shook my head at the theory that everyone had to be inundated with all the horrors our world had to offer.

This time she snorted, and I realized we were close to the bar. “We’re almost to your car,” she offered, and I nodded my agreement. “This is probably a conversation that needs our full attention.”

“Stop there,” I pointed to one of my favorite restaurants. “I’ll buy us dinner and you can keep telling me what you think I should know.”

 

She waited until we’d been seated, gotten our drinks, and ordered before continuing. “While you were blissfully ignoring the world around you, my dad’s face was plastered all over the news. They called him a terrorist. He and-” she stopped, her eyes pinching with a memory I didn’t share. “The woman he was seeing, they were involved in the Humanichs and Hybrid situation.”

“Oh.” I HAD heard about the hybrid aliens among us, of course, and the Humanichs project and how horribly wrong it had gone was LOUDLY covered. I didn’t recall JD in the mess, but I tried to keep my mind away from those types of stories. I took a long drink of my tea. “It ended?” I meant his relationship, the intense one, and was thankful that Kelsey understood.

She nodded. “She was-is working hard to help the hybrids to integrate into our world better, become more accepted by regular people, you know?” I told her I did. “And it was a short, INTENSE situation, I think Dad realized that it moved fast and hard, and he wanted to focus on getting back to normal?” She sounded unsure and I felt the same. “When he asked me for your number, my mind went to-” she took a drink from her own glass. “I wondered if the two of you had-” again, she stopped. Ugh.

“We did NOT.” Emphatic denial, even though I WANTED to, my mind and body screamed, we hadn’t. She chuckled.

“Yeah, I realized, I’ve seen you drink, Ani,” my face burned at just how drunk I’d been the night before. “And you were WAY beyond how drunk I’ve seen you,” I raised an eyebrow at her certainty. “I nearly needed to activate a translator application on the phone, Ani. But they don’t make one for ‘drunk friend’.” That got me laughing. “Dad doesn’t show interest in just anyone, though-”

I sighed. “He found the intense woman interesting.” And I might be dramatic, but intense? Probably not.

“And look how well that worked out,” she rolled her eyes. “I told him that you’re normally pretty even keeled. Normally.” Her red lips quirked on one side. “Then there’s the fact that you gave me-” she gestured to herself, the dark hair, nose ring and very big bump. “His only child a place to stay when he and my mom were going through their various crap.” She shrugged, faking a nonchalance at the estrangement that she and her parents went through in waves. “It was just weird hearing him show active interest in-” her smirk change to a look of ruefulness. “Then again, when we first got to know one another, I kind of thought-” I stopped fiddling with my silverware and looked up to see her studying me. “You’re older than me, and settled, and smart.” My head tilted wondering where she was going with the ‘compliments’. “You both have tastes that run toward outdoorsy, but refined, and-” She bit her lip and I still didn’t say anything. “If you aren’t into him, I get it, but if you ARE interested in my dad, I think the two of you wouldn’t be a HORRIBLE idea.”

My mouth dropped open again. Seriously, the Richters were going to turn me into a mouth breather. “Are you saying-” my mouth had gone dry again. Another twist of lust at the simple thought of JD making my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. Taking another deep pull from my glass, I tried again. “Are you suggesting that your dad and me-” nope I couldn’t say it, not to Kelsey, it was too weird.

“If you’re grossed out by it-” I shook my head, thinking that it was the complete opposite, but still very fucking strange. “I mean, I know I sounded freaked out this morning.”

I snorted and nearly choked on the drink I’d hazarded to take. “Just a bit.” Sarcasm dripped from me at how ‘freaked out’ she’d sounded.

Her lips twisted again. “Yeah well, I’m knocked up, hormones on HIGH, and you and Dad didn’t answer your freaking phones for HOURS.” We stopped talking long enough to have our food served and as she took up her fork, she shot me a look. “You were completely trashed when I talked to you. Dad isn’t the type to take advantage, BUT no one answering made me wonder if he was investigating your corpse.”

“And then his ‘occupied’ comment helped loads,” I shook my head as I took my first bite. “He’s a handful isn’t he?”

Kelsey laughed around her own bite. Chewing carefully and swallowing, she grinned across the table at me. “Oh you have no idea.” Then nearly forced me to require the Heimlich maneuver when she added, “yet.”