Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Hear the Sirens Singing

 

Summary:

On Halloween, Alex considers a life-changing offer that could have her and Rachel moving off of Squire’s Isle.

Alex Crawford had been in fully-involved rooms that frightened her less than the one she was currently facing. A fire she could fight, but a room full of one hundred and ten children under the age of eleven was something she could only survive. She knew that after five years she should have become used to the program, but she seemed to have selective amnesia when it came to this particular hell. In those five years, however, she’d come up with a pretty decent script.

“That pretty much covers everything about Halloween safety. I know that you think the day is supposed to be fun, and this is a lot of rules. But the rules help make sure everything stays fun and safe. As much as I would love to see everyone’s costumes, I’d much rather see you at my doorstep instead of when I answer a call. Okay? All right…” She stepped aside and gestured at the table. “Your teachers are going to hand out these reflective stickers and candy bags. There’s more than enough, so if you want to take some for younger brothers or sisters feel free.”

Jill Hood-Colby stepped forward. “Let’s all thank Chief Crawford for taking the time for us today.” She got the assembly to clap and coordinated each row to come up to get their supplies. As the fifth-graders filed by, Alex retreated to the far side of the folding table. Jill joined her. “Thank you for doing this again, Alex.”

“It’s my pleasure. I’d much rather do this than spend my Halloween answering a bunch of calls about jack-o-lanterns catching curtains on fire.”

“Well, the kids love you. They’ve been talking all week about ‘Firelady Alex’ coming to talk to them.”

Alex chuckled. “Sure.”

“Yeah! It’s true. You have quite a reputation around here.”

She sighed. “Well, if I have to be a celebrity to a bunch of kids, maybe they’ll be more likely to listen to me. We’ve had a drop in Halloween night calls since I started doing this, so who knows? Maybe it’s having an impact.”

“Patricia certainly thinks so. I remember her talking about it when she was considering the full-time department. She loves you, Alex. She loves what you’ve done for this town and the department.” She lowered her voice. “She’s afraid you’re going to leave.”

Alex was surprised. “Where would I go?”

Jill sighed. “She heard about Bothell.”

“How did she hear about that?” She tried to think about who she had told, or who Rachel might have told. The call had come in over the summer. The fire chief in Bothell, Washington, was retiring. The mayor was friends with Alex’s old chief from Shepherd, and he’d recommended her for the position. He’d given her some time to think it over and, even though it seemed like a no-brainer, she was taking the necessary time before making a final decision. “It was just an offer.”

“For a bigger department, bigger budget, and more money.”

Alex nodded slowly. “Yeah…”

“Look, I know it’s a great opportunity. I would be tempted in your shoes. I just want you to know that whatever you decide, Patricia will support you. She wants you to be happy. Even if that means she has to break in a new chief.”

Alex grinned. “I’d be sure to suggest someone good to take my place.” She picked up one of the reflective trick-or-treat bags. “Do you want one of these for your girl? Is she… she’s not old enough for it yet, right?”

“Oh, God no. No, she’s not even two until November.” She took the bag from Alex. “Huh. This might be our last Halloween where we don’t have to worry about costumes and going door-to-door begging for candy. I didn’t realize that.”

“They grow up fast,” Alex said. “Or so I’ve heard.”

“They do.” She folded the bag and handed it to the next student in line. “I saw it with Michael. One day he’s in my class, and the next minute he’s going to college and living with his father on the mainland. I don’t know how I’ll take it when Isabel is all grown up. Which may have happened since I left for school this morning. I haven’t checked in.”

Alex chuckled. “The kids are going to lunch after this, right? Do you have any plans? We could run down to the Spartan Café and get something to eat.”

“I’m brown-bagging it at my desk. Another time?”

“Sure. But for dinner. Rachel would love to have you and Patricia and Isabel come over. I can use the opportunity to put Patricia’s mind at ease about the job offer.” One of the kids thanked her for coming to do the presentation, and she paused to tell him it was her pleasure. “Remember to be safe,” she added. “If I do decide to take the job, I want Patricia to be absolutely certain it didn’t have anything to do with her. She’s been a fantastic mayor. I’ve loved working for her.”

“She’ll be glad to hear that. She knows, of course. She’s fond of you, too. But it’ll still be nice to hear. It’ll have to be a day when our schedules are all clear.”

Alex scoffed. “A mayor and a schoolteacher with a toddler? When aren’t you available? You have oodles of time, I’ll bet.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m thinking of taking up some sort of hobby.”

“Have you tried that new thing? What’s it called… oh, sleeping!”

“I used to do that. Got out of the habit around the time Isabel was born, though.”

Alex said, “Never too late to get back into it.”

The final student went through the line and got the stickers and bag, leaving a handful behind. Jill told Alex she could leave them for the afternoon assembly and told her to have a good lunch. Alex thanked her and left through the side entrance. Since she didn’t have to be back for the second assembly for at least an hour, she decided to have lunch at Chaplin’s. Rachel was in another practically-vegan phase and Alex wanted to be as supportive as possible in case this time she decided to stick with it. Alex could never be a full vegan or vegetarian, but she would do her best to show her support. She didn’t want Rachel to decide against it because it was too hard on her. Besides, Chaplin’s made an amazing sandwich with mushrooms and jack cheese on wheat.

It would be easier for Rachel to become vegan if they moved to Bothell. She’d looked it up, and the town had far more options than December Harbor’s single restaurant. There were places on the island that were vegan-friendly, of course. Gail’s offered substitutions and the Shipwreck actually had a small section of the menu devoted to meat-free dishes.

As she parked, she told herself that the answer to Bothell’s job offer was a no. It started as a firm no, and the delay was simply to make sure she was absolutely positive she would turn it down. She parked next to Chaplin’s and took out her phone to text Rachel. “Lunch? Meet at Chaplin’s or I can bring it to you.” She waited for the reply and looked out the back window at the harbor. She loved Squire’s Isle and December Harbor. The department felt like something she had helped build. She took it from a small volunteer operation to the full-fledged fire service it was now. Her work wasn’t finished. There was still a long way to go. But there were people who could take her place, pick up the ball, continue what she started.

Her phone rang and she looked down at the screen. “Another day. Bogged down w/ paperwork. You can have something meaty for lunch if you want. ::wink:: Dinner for sure. Free at 5:30.”

Alex smiled and stuck the phone back in her pocket. If they had dinner together, Alex would definitely get something vegan or vegetarian. So lunch would be her only opportunity to have any meat at all that day. She started the truck and pulled out of the spot and headed for Smooth Glass Grill.

 

#

 

“Charades was ruined for me forever when my mom had to act out…” Alex picked up the white card and smirked. “…a sad hand-job. I think we have a winner, folks.”

Abby Holt wrinkled her nose as Alex passed the black card to Richard. “I still think ‘Harry Potter erotica’ is the best. It wasn’t mine, but come on.”

“This is Cards Against Humanity,” Alex said. “The raunchier or more offensive, the better.”

They were seated around the station’s dinner table, the dishes waiting by the sink for Wallace to take care of later on. Alex didn’t remember who originally brought the game to the station, but Abby had quickly become the station champion. She blamed her current poor performance on the fact it was Halloween. The cards were gathered and the next round began, with Shireen playing the judge. She drew a black card and cleared her throat.

“What never fails to liven up a party?”

As Alex was shuffling, Paul shouted up from the apparatus bay. “Chief! Your wife is here!”

“I think that’s my answer.” Alex pushed back her chair and slipped her cards into a pocket. “You guys keep playing. I’ll take over for Paul and send him up to take my place.”

She went downstairs and saw Rachel sitting with Paul in the lawn chairs they’d set up in the station’s driveway. The candy bowl was on a stack of milk crates between the two chairs. Rachel was wearing a plaid shirt so large she seemed to be swimming in it, a floppy green hat, and when she turned Alex saw that she had a scarecrow’s stitches painted on her lips and two bright red spots on her cheeks. She fought the urge to laugh out loud as she whistled to get Paul’s attention.

“I’ll take an hour. Head up and play a while.”

“Sure thing. Nice seeing you again, Mrs. Crawford.”

“You too, Paul.”

Alex settled herself into the lawn chair Paul had just vacated. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself. I hope I didn’t pull you away from anything important.”

“Playing Cards Against Humanity.” She took the cards out of her pocket and handed them over. “I had a pretty good hand.”

Rachel took the cards and shuffled through them. “Sexy pillow fights, Wearing underwear inside out to avoid doing laundry, Cheating in the Special Olympics, 72 virgins? These are horrible.”

“That’s kind of the point. Besides, it could be worse. When I started out, the guys had playing cards with naked ladies on them.”

“And this is an improvement?”

“It’s cerebral.”

Rachel snorted and shook her head as she handed the cards back. “Well, whatever keeps you out of burning buildings, I guess. Just try not to be too offensive.”

“But then I’ll lose.”

Northeast of the parking lot, a group of five or six kids who looked to be in the ten-to-twelve age range rounded the corner. Alex was proud of the fact that at least half of them were carrying the reflective bags she’d handed out. One dressed as a cowboy had the safety stickers attached to his vest. They stopped under the streetlight to decide which direction to take when one of the girls pointed at the station. Alex waved and the kids started over.

“What the hell are those yellow things in the overalls? I’ve seen about twelve of them tonight.”

“Minions,” Rachel said. “It was a movie.”

Alex said, “Minions. I like that word.” The kids looped around the sidewalk and came up the driveway. Alex scooted to the edge of her seat and smiled as the kids prepared their bags.

“Trick-or-treat!” the Minion said.

“I guess I have to give you candy. I wouldn’t want you to… uh…”

Rachel whispered, “Take over the world.”

Alex looked at her. “Seriously? Wow. Kids movies have higher stakes than I remember.” She and the other firefighters had chipped in to give out full-sized candy bars. The kids were appropriately enthusiastic about their bounty and thanked her profusely as they filtered back out into the night. When everyone had gotten their bar, she slid back into her seat.

“Superheroes and princesses rule the day. No firefighter costumes yet. What has society come to?”

Rachel clucked her tongue and picked out a Snickers bar. “Any doctors?”

“I think Shireen had one at the beginning of the night.”

“Mm.” She draped one leg over the other and let a silence build between them. “So…”

“What?”

“Bothell. You were supposed to give the Mayor an answer by the end of the month.”

Alex said, “Dodged a bullet. I called this morning to make an appointment and her secretary said she was busy all day. Pushed it until tomorrow.”

“What were you going to tell her?”

“I was kind of hoping the deadline would make the decision for me.”

Rachel sighed.

“I know what you’re going to say.”

“I should say it anyway.” She sucked a bit of chocolate off her thumb. “You know that I’m onboard with whatever you choose. There’s bound to be work for a doctor in Bothell, or somewhere nearby. I could commute to Seattle. I could work in a clinic. It doesn’t matter to me. I thought it was beautiful when we visited and drove around the neighborhoods. I can see myself living there if that’s where our lives take us. But honey, this isn’t a decision I can make lightly. I need to know if I should be planning for that.”

“I know.” She scuffed her foot across the concrete. “Part of me feels guilty for thinking about it. I came here to be with you. When you left Shepherd, I didn’t even think before I followed you. But since then, it’s become home. This department? It was nothing when I showed up. But the work I put into it means I can walk away without worrying it will collapse. But this is your safe place. It’s where you came after you were attacked…”

Rachel said, “No. This was a house. I lost my apartment and my family’s cabin was a place to sleep. My safe place is you, Alex. It always has been. Where you go, I’ll follow.” She reached out and took Alex’s hand. “I don’t want to force you into a decision. Take all the time you need. But you can take me out of the equation completely. I’m with whatever you decide.”

“Good to know.” She spotted another group coming from the direction of downtown, this time younger and accompanied by three adults. Still, one of the kids had a reflective bag. Alex resisted the urge to pump her fist in victory. “Incoming. What in the holy hell is that one dressed as?”

“I believe that is an Ant-Man.”

“How do you know all this stuff? You didn’t see any of these movies.”

“I have my finger on the pulse of pop culture crap. People come into the ER, sometimes they have their kids with them. We have coloring books in the waiting room. The kids bring their own toys. You learn to recognize the popular ones. You know Elsa and Anna, right?”

“Those are Lord of the Rings things, right?”

The group almost passed the firehouse before one of the chaperones caught up to the kids and pointed out that they had candy. Alex gestured at the bowl in her best game show model impression and the kids hurried across the street.

“Princesses and Ant-Men, oh my. I like the Ninja Turtle. Those are still popular? That’s so cool.”

When she was finished, one of the chaperones had remained behind with a pre-teen with a wild red wig and big buck teeth. “Excuse me,” the woman said, “but this is my daughter Melissa. She really loves firefighters, and she was wondering if she could take a look around the station.”

The girl looked like she was about to explode from humiliation, but Alex said, “Absolutely. I’d be happy to show her around.”

Rachel said, “I’ll monitor the candy.”

“Thanks, Rachel.” She stood up and offered her hand to the girl. “I’m Chief Crawford. You can call me Alex.”

“Hi,” Melissa said softly. “Sorry to bug you…”

Alex said, “Absolutely not. I love this stuff. In fact, if you ever want to come back up here to see what we do between calls, we’d be more than happy to have you around. Come on. We can start with the truck.” She bent down next to Rachel and added, “Bette Midler from Hocus Pocus. I do recognize some of them.”

“Yeah, the ones from twenty years ago.”

Alex stuck her tongue out and hurried to catch up with Melissa, who was already moving toward the engine like a moth attracted to a flame.

 

#

 

Rachel stayed until the end of Alex’s shift, helping her hand out candy while identifying the costumes. When they left, it had been nearly an hour since the last group of kids came by, so Alex told the team they could start divvying up the leftover chocolate. She hurried Rachel out of the station before the bloodbath began. They lived less than half a mile from the station so they walked. Alex would pick her truck up in the morning and take it to City Hall, where she would finally give Patricia an answer.

When they got home, Rachel went to the bedroom to change out of her costume. She only turned on the hall light, but it cast a wide enough glow for Alex to see her way to the sliding door of the deck. She got a beer from the fridge and took it out onto the chilly air of the deck. The harbor was still and silent even though there was one more ferry scheduled for the day.

Back in Shepherd she’d had a life she really loved. She loved everyone in her department, even those who drove her insane. Her apartment was great and the people who worked in the deli and convenience store knew her name. She had a great jogging route that she still sometimes missed using. She assumed that she was grown up enough to be where she would spend the rest of her life.

Then Rachel showed up. Rachel wanted to move to the island, and Alex followed her. In the seven years since, she hadn’t had a single regret about uprooting herself so abruptly. Her old life had been perfectly fine. So did her new life. Maybe there was a third life that would be even better, or just as good, or… maybe she was overthinking everything.

“Is it too early to just go to bed?” Rachel asked when she came back. “Close the door. It’s freezing.”

Alex went back inside and shut the door behind her before she noticed what Rachel was wearing. Her face had been scrubbed of makeup – both costume and her normal cosmetics – and she had changed into a button-down blue dress shirt over a pair of black shorts. Her hair was flat from being under the hat all night, but around her face it still had full-bodied curls. She smiled when she realized Alex was ogling her and she reached up to run her fingers through her hair.

“Stop. I had a five hour shift this morning, and I spent the entire night dressed as a scarecrow. I can’t possibly be sexy to you right now.”

“Okay. You’re not sexy.” She smiled as she crowded Rachel back toward the wall, hands on her thighs right where the shirt ended. “You’re actually looking kind of dreadful right now.”

Rachel smiled and worked her hands under Alex’s shirt. “Oh?”

Alex nodded. “Disgusting. This old shirt has got to go.”

“Now you’re a fashion maven?”

“I know what I don’t like.” She nipped at Rachel’s bottom lip. “And this shirt is absolute garbage. I may just tear it off you.”

They kissed as Alex undid the buttons. Rachel’s hands slid higher under Alex’s shirt before skimming down to the small of her back. The shirt was dropped and Alex pushed the shorts down as well. She cupped her hands to the curves of Rachel’s butt and squeezed as she let Rachel’s tongue slip into her mouth. They both moaned, and Alex smiled at the sound they made together. She nipped at Rachel’s bottom lip and pulled her away from the wall.

“I think it’s definitely time to just go to bed.”

“I meant to sleep,” Rachel said. “But you’ve changed my mind.”

Alex smiled. They left the light off and the bedroom door open, moving to the bed by the light coming in from the hall. Rachel took a moment to lose her bra before crawling onto the bed. Alex shed her shirt and stepped out of her shoes, watching Rachel stretch out across the comforter and stretch both arms over her head as she waited. Alex got her pants off and put a knee on the bed.

“Ah-ah,” Rachel said, then twirled a finger.

Alex grinned and repositioned herself with her legs up and her head down. She lay on her side and scooted closer, stroking Rachel’s hip and lifting her head to kiss the smooth skin. Rachel kissed Alex’s thighs and eased them apart, her lips brushing Alex’s thigh as she moved her hand to cover Alex’s sex. Alex bit back a groan – too early to start making those sorts of sounds, but damn it felt good – and wrapped her arms around Rachel’s waist. She bent her knee and planted her foot flat on the mattress to provide room for Rachel’s head.

Rachel started with fingers, keeping her lips free to kiss Alex’s thighs. She pushed herself up and bent over Alex’s body to leave a trail of kisses over her belly as she stroked with her middle two fingers. Alex rested her cheek on Rachel’s thigh and moved her hand over the other, pulling it down as Rachel curled her legs up toward her chest. Alex was pinned between her wife’s thighs, but there was nowhere she would rather be. She used the tip of her tongue to tease the folds apart, moving her hand up against her chin so she could use her fingers as well.

Alex was well-versed in the signs of approaching orgasm, and she used the information well. She eased up when Rachel’s thighs tensed, or when she stopped moving her hips and began to push down against Alex’s mouth. Focusing on that kept her from getting too caught up in what Rachel was doing to her. One of Rachel’s hands roamed the length of Alex’s body, pausing at her breast before moving back down her stomach.

When she felt Rachel had been to the edge and back enough, Alex freed herself and pushed away. “C’mere… sit up…”

“Want me to get the toy?” Rachel asked.

The toy… the idea of having Rachel between her legs with the harness and the dildo was very attractive, but she didn’t want to take the time necessary to retrieve it and put it on her. She shook her head as she sat up and pulled Rachel to her. They kissed and Rachel straddled Alex, settling on her lap with both arms around her neck. Alex looked up into Rachel’s eyes as she put a hand between them.

“Hi,” Alex whispered.

Rachel grinned. “Hi-i… oh…”

Their position meant that the hallway light fell over Alex’s shoulder and illuminated Rachel’s features. Her dark hair, currently worn long, cast shadows over her features, the angular lines of her cheek and the wide, thin-lipped mouth. She opened her mouth and bit her bottom lip, eyes open just wide enough to see Alex through her lashes. Alex smiled and Rachel rocked her head back, one hand flat on the back of Alex’s head while the other squeezed her shoulder. Alex kissed Rachel’s cheek and moved her lips to the curve of her neck, licking and sucking as Rachel moved against her hand.

“Sweetheart,” Rachel gasped, sagging forward to drag her lips across Alex’s, the tension fading from her body as she came. Alex kissed the slope of Rachel’s shoulder and eased her hand free. She wrapped both arms around Rachel, one hand covering the familiar terrain of burn scars in the small of Rachel’s back as she lowered them both to the mattress.

They lay face-to-face, Rachel’s legs still wrapped around Alex. Rachel brought a hand to her mouth and wet two fingers, never breaking eye contact as she moved her hand down. Alex tensed and closed her eyes as Rachel’s hand pressed against her and then pushed inside. She stroked in a slow rhythm that matched Alex’s breathing.

“Look at me, Alexandra.”

Alex whimpered, but she opened her eyes with great effort.

“Tomorrow, you’re going to go to the mayor and tell her your decision. You know I don’t care either way. I support going and staying. So I’m going to give you the answer and you know it’s unbiased.” She pressed her thumb against Alex’s clit and Alex struggled to focus on what was being said. “You’re going to stay. Because this is where you belong. It’s not about budget or opportunity. You’re going to stay because you love this town. You love the people here. This is your town, Alex, this is your department, and you’re not going to let anyone take it away from you. So why would you willingly give it up? No job is worth that. No paycheck is going to make that sacrifice worthwhile.”

Alex came in the middle of the speech, burrowing her face into the pillow as Rachel continued to speak in a low whisper. In the aftermath she scooted closer and put her head against Rachel’s chest. Rachel stroked her hair and kissed her temple.

“You feel that staying is like standing still,” Rachel said. “Success means moving on, climbing some invisible, arbitrary ladder. But success is knowing when you have everything you always wanted and holding onto it even in the face of temptation and great unknowns. Success is being right where you’re supposed to be and knowing it.”

“Thank you,” Alex said.

Rachel leaned back just far enough to find Alex’s lips. “You’re welcome. You would do the same for me.” She brushed Alex’s hair out of her face, and Alex turned her head to kiss Rachel’s wrist. “Are you convinced?”

“A hundred percent. I’m not going anywhere.” She kissed Rachel. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

They held each other as they fell asleep, and Alex felt a calmness settle over her as she let go of the stress and uncertainty she’d been clinging to since the Bothell job offer came in.

 

#

 

The next morning, Alex and Rachel had breakfast at Yolk Folks. Rachel had a shift at the hospital so she wished Alex luck and headed off. Alex lingered over her coffee long enough to be sure Mayor Hood-Colby would be in her office, then made her way to City Hall. It was a short walk, but she took the scenic route past the harbor. She hadn’t realized how much she’d been worrying until Rachel took the stress away from her. The answer was, of course, obvious. There was no way she could leave Squire’s Isle.

She took the long route back to City Hall, reminding herself of everything that made December Harbor home to her. It was more than just the geography and weather, it was the people. The sense of community that had cropped up in the past few years might be present in Bothell, but she doubted it would be the same. There was something magical about Squire’s Isle. It was a town where an openly gay teacher could be married to the mayor. Where the owner of the coffee shop could have a polyamorous relationship without being whispered about behind her back. It was the town where she truly started a life with Rachel, and almost lost her, and found her again. It was home.

Patricia Hood-Colby was in front of her office talking to her receptionist about something on his iPad. She glanced up as Alex approached, and Alex held up one hand in greeting.

“Hi. Don’t stop on my account. I can wait until you have a minute free.”

“Is this about…?”

Alex nodded. “Yeah.”

Patricia said, “Then I have time now. Simon, we’ll finish up with this later. Come on into my office, Alex.” She stepped through the door and Alex followed.

There was a painting of the Hood-Colby family behind the desk. Alex had seen it so many times that she almost didn’t notice, but something about it was different. She squinted and pointed.

“Has that… changed?”

Patricia chuckled. “It has. Jill got it for me as a gift… a living portrait. The artist lives on the island, and she updates it once a year as our family grows. The last couple are hanging at the house.”

“That’s an amazing gift.”

“It is,” Patricia agreed as she took her seat. “So… have you made a decision? Are you going to be around to see what changes in the painting next year?”

Alex said, “I’ve put together a list of people I think would be more than qualified to take my job.”

Patricia nodded slowly. “I see.”

“Yeah. I’ll forward it to Bothell so they can find a suitable candidate.”

Patricia’s head snapped back up. After a moment she smiled and shook her head. “Oh, you are a bitch, Alex Crawford.”

Alex said, “I couldn’t resist. Although I guess it was cruel, considering how long I put off giving you an answer.”

“It doesn’t matter, since you gave the right answer. I would’ve hated to lose you, Alex. And as for the pay bump you would’ve been getting in Bothell… I can try to match it, but it’s like butting against a concrete wall.”

Alex shook her head. “I don’t care about the money. I know a big chunk of the budget is going toward paying full-time firefighters to man my crew, and I appreciate that more than I would a raise. That’s what it came down to. The people here. The island. It’s my home.”

“I’m very glad to hear it. It’s a huge relief. I love working with you, Alex. You’re a great chief, and the things you’ve done for this department… it would have been a huge loss.”

Alex wasn’t sure what to do in the face of so much blunt praise, so she just nodded awkwardly. “I hope I can keep it up for a very long time.” She gestured at the door. “You have a busy day, I’m sure, so I’ll get out of your hair.”

“Yes, unfortunately. But thank you for taking one thing off my mind at least. Oh! Jill mentioned she spoke with you yesterday at the Halloween safety assembly. She invited you and Rachel to dinner.”

“Right. Just as soon as our copious free time allows the four of us to sit down on the same night. I’m free in 2020, I think.”

Patricia shook her head. “I’d have to check my calendar.”

Alex laughed. “Well, let us know. Even if it has to be lunch or breakfast.”

“Deal.”

Patricia escorted her out with a promise they would find a night that worked for their dinner. She decided to walk back to the station so she could pick up her truck. She hadn’t gone far when she spotted a group of elementary-age students walking toward the school. One of them was carrying a reflective safety bag, the kind she’d passed out the day before. It was obviously loaded down with candy, which meant it had probably been used for trick-or-treating. She’d helped keep that kid safe. And yes, if she hadn’t been there, the program would have gone on. Shireen or Paul would have handed out the bags and stickers. But it was a program she started. She helped design those bags.

She stopped on the sidewalk and looked at the town around her. It was her town, now more than it had ever been. She’d been tempted away but, thanks to her beautiful wife, she’d been able to resist the call. Bothell was just a dot on a map. It was a town she and Rachel spent an afternoon driving around playing hypotheticals. It would never have been home to them. It would never have held a candle to Squire’s Isle and December Harbor.

Alex smiled and stuck her hands in her pockets as she started walking again. Maybe when she got to the station, she would stick around for a while. Make breakfast for the crew, clean up, play a round of Cards Against Humanity. Whatever they needed from her, she would be more than happy to do.

December Harbor was her town, and she would be sure she was always there to keep it safe.

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