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Prudence, Chapter 61

The psychologist turned up shortly after lunch. She was an older woman, her dark hair dusted with silver, with a pleasant smile. She took one look at the crowd around Kristen's bed and suggested that Angie take a walk with her.

Angie left with a worried, anxious look to her eyes, but she was smiling when she returned. Quietly, she told them that she'd managed to convince the psychologist that she was stable now, and that the suicide attempt had been an overreaction to an immediate and unexpected situation on top of a very stressful day, and that she was glad it hadn't succeeded and had no intention of trying again. This success meant that she would be released that afternoon, but she did have to promise to show up to 10 sessions with a therapist in order to avoid criminal charges.

True to his word, the doctor released Kristen, as well. They didn't have any real reason to hold her, but between her unusual 'birth defects' and the fact that they still had no idea what had happened to threaten her life in the first place, the doctor was less than thrilled to see her go. Mark and Steven both held firm, however, and so the papers were signed, albeit reluctantly.

Aaron's car was only large enough to seat four, so Steven, with poorly concealed reluctance, invited Angie to ride with him. She glanced nervously at Kristen, who nodded slightly, and then gave him a weak smile and agreed.

"Kris?" Steven looked at his daughter questioningly, and she bit her lip and looked from Steven and Angie to Kayla and Aaron. Finally she shook her head.

"I'll ride with Aaron, Daddy, and see you at home," she said.

One corner of his mouth twitched upwards in a crooked, cynical smile as he turned to Angie. "I guess it's just you and me, then," he said. "No point in standing around then. Let's go."

She nodded and followed him, but not without one more anxious, unhappy look back at Kristen as she went. Kris blew her a kiss, and gave her an sweet, encouraging smile.

When she turned to Mark, though, Kristen's smile faded, and her teeth once again tugged on her lower lip. "She will be okay, right?" she asked softly. "I thought... maybe they should have some time to... you know... talk things out in private. But I'm not sure he really understands... she's fragile right now."

He bent and kissed her forehead. "She'll be fine. He knows she's important to you. And they do need that time."

She sighed and leaned against him for a moment. "You're right. I'm just... nervous. I don't know how everything got so complicated!"

He hugged her tightly. "We all love you, and want you to be happy. That's not all that complicated. Don't worry, love. It'll all work out, you'll see." He hugged her tightly, and leaned close to her ear to whisper, "I talked to your dad about rings for Kayla and Aaron. We should have them in a week or so."

She smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling, and he raised his hand to caress her cheek. "You'll see," he said again, softly.

Kristen turned her face and kissed the inside of his wrist, then let him lead her to the car where Aaron and Kayla were waiting. Aaron offered Mark the keys, but he waved them away and crawled into the backseat with Kristen, instead.

Once they were on the way, Kayla turned halfway around in the front seat, wrapping her arm around the headrest, and said, "Okay. We need to decide what story we're going to use at school."

"Story?" Mark asked, shaking his head. "About what?"

Kayla rolled her eyes and sighed. "I imagine the rumors are already flying. 'Kristen had a miscarriage,' 'Kristen tried to kill herself,' 'Mark beat her up because he caught her cheating on him,' and endless variations on those themes," she said, her lip curled in disgust. "You should know how people are by now!"

He frowned thoughtfully. "Hmmm. Point. How about an allergic reaction to something you ate?" he asked, looking down at Kristen.

She nodded slowly. "That would work, I guess. There'll still be a lot of rumors, but when I show up healthy and we're still together, most of them will just look silly."

"Right," he said. "And an allergic reaction would hit fast, and go away just as quickly. And if it'd been a miscarriage, there's no way you'd be back at school tomorrow."

"Right," she agreed. "This shouldn't be too bad... right?"

He glanced at Kayla, who shrugged.

"It could certainly be worse," Kayla said. "Like you pointed out-- if you're both there, happy, healthy, and still obviously in love, most of the rumors are just going to look stupid. The main thing is to have something to offer them so they don't make up their own idiocy. An allergy works for that."

Kristen relaxed against the seat. "Good. I'm tired of being everyone's target for their nasty gossip."

Mark took her hand in his and squeezed gently, thinking that he agreed with that statement totally and completely.


It was a tense group that sat in Steven's den that evening. They'd started out talking easily enough, but outside of the hospital setting, Angie's presence felt more unfamiliar, almost alien as she hovered awkwardly on the edge of the group. She practically radiated tension, shooting nervous glances at Steven in between quick, guilty, longing looks at Kristen.

Steven, himself, seemed uncomfortable, and Mark caught him looking coldly Angie's way more than once... as did Kristen. Every time she caught her father's eyes, she would give him an unhappy, pleading look, and for a while he'd try. He'd turn his attention to the others, smile, even make some small conversation, but he'd always grow quiet and then his eyes would grow cold and drift Angie's way again. Finally, after another of Kristen's silent pleas, he stood up and excused himself to his office, claiming he needed to catch up on neglected work.

Aaron and Kayla left shortly after that, Kayla needing to get home to reassure her parents, and Aaron needing to head home himself since, as was a rare occurrence, his father was actually home. That left Kristen and Mark alone with Angie.

After a few moments of awkward silence, Angie smiled weakly. "Um. My car is still at my house...."

"Do you really want to go back there?" Kristen asked her. "Tonight?"

Angie looked down at her lap and slowly shook her head.

Kristen looked up at Mark and hesitated. He could almost see the question behind her uncertain green eyes-- what do you do with your primary partner when one of your secondary partners isn't into three-ways? She probably wouldn't have put it just that way, but it was clearly what she was wondering, and he smiled down at her before turning to Angie.

"Would you like to spend the night with us?" he asked. "Not... anything you don't want, but if you'd like to sleep with Kristen, she's got two sides."

"I... um." Angie blushed, not looking up. "This is awkward, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Mark agreed with a shrug.

She peeked up at him. "If you don't mind, and--" She hesitated, and turned to Kristen. "And if she wants me to?" she asked softly.

Kristen smiled at her, ducking her head shyly, and nodded. "I'd like that."

"Then... I'd love to," Angie whispered. Her eyes were locked on Kristen and full of desperate, aching hunger... and a trace of fear, as well.

Looking back and forth between the two of them, Kristen nibbled on her bottom lip, and finally turned and stretched up to whisper in Mark's ear, "Love, could you... would you give us an hour or so?" He could feel her hand trembling against his arm, and hear the worry in her voice, and it was easy to see that she was torn between her fear of hurting him and her need to comfort and reassure Angie. Most other men would have been hurt, angry, jealous, or all three.

Fortunately, Mark wasn't most other men, and their bond made the kind of insecurity that fueled such feelings impossible, even if he had been inclined towards them. So instead, he grinned down at her and put his hand over hers on his arm. Squeezing gently, he said, "Sure, love."

She stared up into his eyes for a moment, and her own eyes grew soft and adoring, and as the last of her uncertainly faded, she gave him a dazzling smile.

Kristen hopped to her feet, then bent and kissed Mark firmly before straightening and turning and treating Angie to the same brilliant smile. She held out her hand and Angie took it, looking somewhat dazed and confused. Kristen tugged her out of the chair, and then pulled her towards the stairs, and Angie looked back at Mark, wide-eyed and nervous.

Mark grinned at her, and gave her a little wave. "Go on," he said. "I'll be down here." He nearly laughed when her eyes went even wider, her face a portrait of shock, and a bright red blush spread across her cheeks. She actually stopped dead in her tracks for a moment, but then Kristen turned back to smile at her again, and raised one soft little hand to caress her cheek, and Angie just seemed to melt into her touch, her eyes fluttering closed as the last of her will to resist dissolved. When Kristen tugged on her hand again, she went willingly and with no further hesitation.

Whistling happily, Mark walked over to pour himself a drink from Steven's liquor cabinet, then headed to the library for a book. It wouldn't be fair not to give them at least a couple of hours, after all, and if he didn't have something to distract him from what he was pretty sure was going on upstairs, he'd be in no shape to sleep when he joined them. Fortunately, it was a good library.

When he did finally creep into the bedroom, after first listening carefully to make sure he wouldn't be interrupting, they were curled up together on the bed, both of them sound asleep. Angie was wearing one of Kristen's over-sized t-shirts and wrapped around the girl's naked body so tightly it looked like she was trying to crawl inside her skin. Kristen had one pale, slender leg thrown over Angie's thighs, and the woman's head cradled against her breast. He smiled down at them, then quietly removed his own clothes and crawled in beside Kristen. She sighed in her sleep, snuggling back against him as he wrapped his arms around her waist and dropped a kiss on her shoulder.

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