Nano’s Still Not Done…

Author’s Note: So it was hard to get myself back into this one after work today. I was braindead to begin with, and it was almost four hours later before my mind seemed to work again—how well it is working being entirely debatable—but I do need to find an ending for this story, for the characters if not for me.

Continuing On

“This could be considered stalking, you know.”

Shaelynn looked over at Morton, folding her arms over her chest. She had to keep herself from reaching for her gun. She’d be in more trouble if he knew she had it—permit or no permit—but part of it was his fault anyway—he’d snuck up on her, and she’d almost gone right for the reaction that Ambrose had trained into her years ago. She still struggled with that. As much as she’d wanted to leave that life behind her, she was still a paranoid, gun-carrying woman whose reflexes were deadly—and she was even a bit proud of it.

“I take it Kaplan told you I didn’t think that it was over.”

He nodded, leaning against her rental. “She did—well, she muttered something about it before she dozed off in the middle of… dinner. Lack of sleep caught up to her last night.”

“And the bad news she got?”

“Not as bad as she thought it would be, which is both fortunate and unfortunate. They found a couple of Jane Does they thought were the girls she was searching for. They weren’t, which means hers might still be alive.”

“Only two kids are dead?”

Morton shook his head. “Not dead. Just… in bad shape. Real bad shape. One’s strung out and the other’s in critical condition. And my wife is probably going to work her off-hours trying to figure out who they are. I admire her for it. I’m tempted to do it myself. One of us has to be a parent, though, and Carolina is a handful on the best of days, so… do I be the hero to someone else or to my daughter? She usually wins. Does that make me a bad person?”

“You are asking the wrong person,” Shaelynn told him. “I don’t know anything about kids. I don’t want to know anything about kids.”

“Right. The cult. You grew up expecting to be nothing more than a baby factory, right?”

“That or an assassin, considering what Ambrose taught me,” she agreed. She let her head rest against the car. “You here to arrest me, Morton, or are you really going to claim that you wanted adult conversation again?”

He laughed. “No, I’m not here just to talk. It’s not like Geneva turned to me and said, ‘Raleigh, go rescue Sheppard from herself.’ She mentioned that you didn’t think it was over, but she was mostly asleep at the time, and I have to admit, when she’s in my arms, so am I. It’s a good feeling having her there, one I did not have with either of my ex-wives.”

“You were married more than once? Why would you do that to yourself?”

Morton looked at her. “You really don’t think it’s worth it, do you? I admit, after my second marriage, I thought I was done. It was ugly, almost uglier than my first. Thing is, though, I love Geneva. I always believed in love, and I suppose I gave mine away too easily to women that didn’t deserve it, but when you have it—even when you just think you do—your life is the better for it. There’s this other piece of you that they help you find. They make you better. You’re a lot less selfish when you’re in love—you care about the other person more than yourself or your needs. Sometimes you’re willing to die for them.”
Shaelynn looked at him. “That what you were like with all your wives?”

“I’m not sure. With Geneva, definitely. With the others… It’s debatable. I think things get colored by the way things ended, and they did end badly. Still, for all that Regina did to me—I got Carolina out of that, and I don’t regret her. She might be a hellion, but she’s mine. I love her more than anything.”

“How easy is it to convince yourself that you’re in love when you’re not?”

Morton frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You were married three times at least, and you say you loved them all, but if it was love, it would have lasted. How easy was it for you to convince yourself you loved them? Is it easy to convince yourself that you’re not?”

“You don’t want to be in love?”

“I’m not in love,” Shaelynn snapped. Morton looked at her. She almost reached for her gun. “Stop looking at me like that. I never said I was talking about me. I don’t believe in love. Nolan’s the idiot who thinks he’s in love.”

Morton shook his head. “A bit of advice—most men aren’t going to admit to that kind of thing, so if one of us says it, you need to step back and consider that a victory in of itself. You’re smart enough to know when a man’s lying about that and when he isn’t, so don’t try and pretend that you’re annoyed because he thinks he’s in love. He is in love, and that’s what makes you mad.”

She glared at him. “Nolan is not in love with me. That whole situation was so messed up that he thinks he is, but he’s not.”

“Speaking as a guy and as an agent trained to observe people—he is. If it was about the situation when you were kids, he would have been over it by now. And if it wasn’t love, you wouldn’t be stalking him right now.”

“I am not stalking Nolan.”

Morton shrugged. “Fine. Tell yourself you’re only here because you’re worried about him, that it’s just because this might not be over. Eventually you’ll have to look deeper and look at why you’re worried. That was quite the sucker punch for me. I didn’t think that Geneva had gotten in that deep until I realized just what I was willing to do for her and why. You’re still watching over him. You’d have stepped in between that kid with the gun and him. Those kinds of things aren’t what you do when you don’t care.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“Maybe not, but if this isn’t love, I am going to have to arrest you for stalking.”


“You trailed off in the middle of saying goodbye to the Hendersons.”

Nolan grimaced. “That was unprofessional of me. I will have to apologize to them—oh, wait, that was their last visit. I guess we’ll see how offended they are when they send the check, huh?”

Nora shook her head. “That’s not a good measure of how badly that went. I swear, that was more like a full on fugue. I was tempted to shove a phone at you—at least then you would have had a good reason for zoning out. You didn’t. You’d started one of your jokes and just stopped and fortunately I was able to use my phone to call the office one and distract everyone, but that was weird.”

“No weirder than the original PTSD from being shot,” Nolan said. He rubbed his head. “I don’t know—I had one of those moments where I was thinking about one thing, remembered another, and somewhere in the middle of it, I got sidetracked by thinking about something completely different. And before you say it—that was not about Shaelynn. Hard to believe, but there I was, discussing the kids with the Hendersons, I started thinking about Boots—apparently I was able to make that connection because of the whole kids and Morton’s kid getting Boots, but then I was back with that girl Kaplan’s looking for, and she was saying I was just like her father…”

Nora sighed. “You’re still not sleeping, are you?”

He shrugged. “Define sleep.”

She rolled her eyes. “I suppose I am just glad that you don’t smell. That was bad, and I was starting to think I would have to do what you wanted with the damned water balloons to even start that process.”

He laughed. “Only because you made such a big deal out of it. I wouldn’t have cared if you didn’t care so much. Consider that the duty of the big brother.”

“You can skip that from now on. Come on. We should pick something new for you to work on. You weren’t supposed to go through all of those that fast.” She started toward the door and stopped. “I know you’re really determined to go forward with this, that you’re going to get over her, and I am behind that one hundred percent. I want you to have your life, I want you to get over her, and I want you to stay over her. No thinking you’re better but you’re not. I want the cycle ended just as much if not more than you do. The only thing I don’t want is to see you do nothing but work. That’s not taking back your life. It’s not learning to live without her. It’s hiding. You don’t get to hide. You will not hide. We are Sheppards. We don’t hide.”

Nolan was torn between being frustrated and wanting to hug her. He did love his sister, and a part of him agreed with her, but another part of him was well past annoyed. He didn’t need more lectures. He was trying. He didn’t expect to bounce back the instant he told Shaelynn to go. He knew that it was going to be a long road. He hadn’t stopped trying. He wasn’t going to stop, either. He just also knew that he wasn’t going to be fixed overnight.

“I’m not hiding. I’m working. There is a difference. I’ve had… hot streaks like this before. Sometimes things are easy to understand, the big picture is obvious, the steps to correct it or keep it running smoothly, that’s all there and something I can write up in a few minutes. I know that it’s not always like that, and so do you. I may have worked on a few more than I would have if I hadn’t just had my heart broken, but I’m not hiding.”

She nodded. “I’ll accept that, just… don’t start.”

“I won’t,” he said, rising. “I think that if you really want to be sure that I’m not hiding or working too much, we could take a long lunch today.”

“A long lunch.”

He had to laugh when she said that. Her expression hadn’t changed, but her voice had been dipped in acid with a side of disbelief, and it was so… Nora. He walked over and gave her the hug he’d held back before. “You are so funny when you don’t try to be.”

“And I hate you when I try to love you.”

“That’s not true.” He shrugged. “I don’t know—it’s not like I have a lot of other things in my life. I can either work or eat—oh, I know. Let’s go down to the animal shelter and get me another cat. That’s what we should do with the afternoon. That’s moving on, right?”

She considered that. “It is, but it isn’t. I am a bit concerned by you getting another cat. I’m not sure if you’d be… rebounding or not, and you didn’t end up losing Creamsicle like we thought that you would. You don’t need to go replacing Boots.”

“Can’t replace Boots. He was special. I mean, he is special. I know there’s still a possibility that he won’t be able to stay with the Mortons, so I shouldn’t go cluttering up my apartment with more cats. I’m not going to hold my breath about that, either.”

“If you go looking at the shelter, you will want to bring one of them home. Either you go in there intending to bring one of them home, or you don’t go at all.”

“Okay,” he said. “Lunch, then.”

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