A/N; here is my NaNo story for November. Enjoy. The story is done and should be posted once a week until it's done.
"Pa?" the little girl said.
"I'm busy, Rainie," Cole Danner said to his daughter; he glanced up before he went back to work. "Go get your school bag."
"But Pa, Pa," the little girl's voice was strained.
"Rainie, go get your school bag," Cole shifted around the horse he was grooming. He had to finish this before the woman, who owned the horse, got there at ten to pick him up.
"But Pa, Pa," Cole turned angry eyes onto his daughter; the little girl looked innocently back at him.
"Damn it, Rainie, I'm trying to work!" Cole yelled.
"Look," Rainie was pointing to Dragon Fire's stall, as the large black horse snorted. In the corner, barely visible to them, was a figure. Cole couldn't make out much as he moved towards the stall. He turned his attention back to his horse, an animal that would rather stomp you into the ground than let you close. Slipping into the stall, he gently reached out to touch Dragon's Fire's snout, hoping the horse hadn't already stomped the person to death.
Turning his attention back to the person, Cole made his way around slowly. Reaching out, he touched one pale cold shoulder; he let his hand slide to the pale exposed neck to check for a pulse. "Pa?" Rainie spoke quietly from outside the stall.
"He's alive," Cole shifted the boy, cringing when he saw that what he thought was merely a shadow was, in fact, bruising. It looked as if someone had beaten the hell out of the boy.
"He must be cold," Rainie muttered, and Cole had to nod his agreement. The boy was wearing a tank top and a pair of torn threadbare jeans that had seen better days. Even though it was spring, it was early spring, and it was still cold. Shrugging his jacket off, Cole moved to wrap it around the slender body. Picking him up, he was surprised to find the boy weighed nearly nothing in his strong arms.
Cole carried the boy out, letting his eyes scan the pale battered face; he needed to figure out how badly the boy was hurt. He glanced up to see his daughter was watching them with worried hazel green eyes as she pushed the stall door closed. He placed the boy onto a bale of hay; he let his eyes scan the boy for any other injuries. He knew though, just by looking at the pale skin and feeling the cold temperature of the boy's body, he was most likely close to hypothermic. They would need to take him to the hospital.
"Rainie, run up to the house and get my truck keys," he said. Seeing the little girl bolt from the barn, he yelled after her. "And your school bag!
Shaking his head, he gathered the boy up again to start towards his truck. He knew he'd have to call Mrs. Whilom and let her know that her horse wouldn't be ready in time. There was nothing he could do other than to leave the boy out to die, and he couldn't do that. Getting the boy into the passenger side of his truck, he glanced down to see the school bus just turning onto the dusty road.
"Rainie, hurry up; the bus is coming!" Cole yelled toward the house; he saw the girl run back out, a pink backpack dragging behind her. Shaking his head, he took his keys from her before helping her place the backpack on properly. He then ushered her toward the end of their driveway where the bus was just coming to a stop. Cole glanced at the boy in the truck before walking with his daughter towards the bus.
"Morning, Mr. Danner," the bus driver said in her cheery voice.
"Morning, Vera," Cole nodded as he knelt down to kiss his daughter. He could see her glance back at the truck, her eyes still worried. "Go to school, Rainie; it'll be alright."
"Okay, Pa," Rainie hugged her father before she climbed onto the bus.
"Something wrong?" Vera asked, frowning at the normally excited kindergartener that was currently moping along the aisle.
"Nope, just one of the help sprained an ankle this morning, I'm gonna take him over to the hospital," Cole smiled as he told the lie. He didn't know why, but the bruising on the boy's face made him think twice about telling people he had found a strange unconscious boy in his barn.
"Well, okay," the woman nodded before pulling the door to the bus closed. Cole stood watching as the large yellow bus slowly pulled away. Turning back to his truck, he crossed the space to climb into the driver's side. He checked on his passenger to see if the boy had stirred at all; seeing that the boy was still unconscious, he started the truck and turned it towards town.
Cole sat in the hard waiting room chair, leaning slightly forward, his hat in his hands while his elbows rested on his knees. He glanced up when he heard people walk by wishing again that he was back on his ranch doing what he had to do to make ends meet. Of course Mrs. Whilom wasn't thrilled, but the woman gave him until 2PM to get it done.
"Cole?" Looking up, Cole stood as the doctor approached him.
"How is he, Dr. Haze?" Cole asked twisting his hat in his hands.
"Well, he was nearly hypothermic when you brought him in, but nothing is broken," the doctor turned, leading Cole back towards the emergency rooms.
"That's good news," Cole nodded as he followed after the man, "So what has he told you? He is awake, isn't he?"
"Yeah, about that," the man stopped outside a room, his pale brown eyes watching Cole closely. "He's not making a whole lot of sense."
"What?" Cole shook his head, his eyes on the doctor, waiting for the man to elaborate.
"He doesn't seem to remember who he is," Dr. Haze went to move into the room; he glanced back at Cole before walking behind the curtain to make sure Cole was following him.
"Crap," Cole muttered as he stepped into the small room; he looked at the boy on the bed. He was pale against the white sheets, except for the curly black hair spread out on the pillow. Cole felt his breath catch as the boy shifted, and he moved to get a better look at him. Periwinkle eyes met his, and the boy's forehead creased with a frown.
"How are you feeling, son?" the doctor asked moving to the boy's bedside.
"Better, I guess," the soft voice answered back as those eyes turned to the doctor. Cole clinched his jaw before he glanced between the doctor and the boy.
"Good, good," the doctor nodded, "This is the man that brought you in."
"Oh," the boy whispered, those eyes coming back to Cole. "Thank you."
"Yeah," Cole nodded slightly. "Doc, can I talk to you?"
"Sure, Cole," Dr. Haze followed Cole out of the room.
"I can't stay," Cole stated softly, shaking his head at the man.
"But you'll be back? When we release him?" the doctor raised an eyebrow at him.
"Why would I come back?" Cole inquired glancing around at the others in the emergency room. His hands tightened on his hat, nearly crushing the thing.
"Aren't you going to take him home with you?" Dr. Haze looked confused as he watched the rancher.
"Why?" Cole shook his head,; there was no way he could have that boy in his house. He took a step away from the doctor, shaking his head again.
"Cole, if you leave him here, and he can't remember anything, then we'll have to send him up to the psyche ward," Dr. Haze shook his head before he glanced down at the chart he was holding.
"But… doc, please… you know I can't," Cole tried, but saw the man look up at him again.
"Listen, I've done all that I can do for him," he explained, "He can't stay here."
Cole clinched his jaw before he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He knew, deep down, that he wouldn't be able to leave the boy here, not if he would be facing the psyche ward. Of course he didn't want the boy underfoot either, but well, maybe it would help the boy remember something. "All right, tell me everything."
"Well first off, there is a strange tattoo on the boy's leg," the doctor nodded as he stepped back into the room. He saw his patient look up, the boy smiling slightly. He moved to the bed and slowly moved the blanket to expose the boy's right leg and calf.
"What is it?" Cole asked, his eyes only glancing at it for a second.
"Not sure, a plant of some sort?" Dr. Haze frowned; he glanced over as a nurse stepped into the room.
"Hey, it's a vinca vine," she smiled as she set a bundle of folded clothes down.
"Vinca?" Cole asked frowning having heard of the plant before.
"What?" the boy glanced up, his eyes on Cole. For several long moments, they both stared at each other before the doctor finally moved closer to the boy.
"Vinca?" Dr. Haze grinned as the boy turned to him, an eyebrow raised in a question. "Is that your name?"
"I… um… well, I don't know, but I feel inclined to respond when I hear it," the boy sent a distressed glance in Cole's direction again before he looked back at the doctor.
"It's tattooed on your leg," Cole muttered finding that this was a bad idea. He should have dropped the boy off at the emergency room door and gone home.
"Well, Vinca it is for now," Dr. Haze seemed to be delighted that they had something to call the boy. "Get dressed, and Cole is going to take you home."
"Okay," Vinca looked over at Cole, "you know who I am?"
"No," Cole crossed his arms over his chest; he glared at the boy. "You were in my barn."
"Cole," Dr. Haze shook his head as he shooed Cole out of the room; he glanced up at the man again. "Listen, I'm not sure what you want to do, but I'm going to have the police run this tattoo through the system, because something like this isn't going to be common."
"All right, but, well," Cole took a deep breath before he plunged along, "with the bruising and stuff, I want to be careful. Maybe he's running from someone."
"Yeah, I figured as much, so I called Randy," the doctor stated. "He's coming to take a statement, and then we'll go from there."
"Okay," Cole started to pace the corridor while he waited for Vinca to finish up.
Cole glanced over the horse's back, his eyes finding the boy who was pacing the barn. The boy was wrapped in his old jean jacket and the clothes the hospital gave him. Vinca hadn't really said anything since leaving the hospital; the boy hadn't given the police much either.
Turning, Cole saw a truck pulling a horse trailer behind it turn into his driveway. Finishing one last stroke of the brush to the horse's neck, he set the brush down and led the horse toward the barn doors. He glanced back realizing that he couldn't see the boy and frowned.
"Cole," the woman's voice cut through his head.
"Hello, Mrs. Whilom," Cole smiled slightly.
"Is my horse ready?" she asked moving towards him. Cole nodded, moving to lead the horse to the trailer that the driver of the truck had opened. He glanced back, seeing the woman heading into the barn, and he wanted to call out to distract her. Once the animal was loaded, he turned and headed into the barn.
"Your horse is loaded, Mrs. Whilom," Cole let his eyes scan the barn, but he didn't see Vinca anywhere. His eyes swung to Dragon's Fire's stall when the woman took a step towards it. The horse gave a loud snort, shifting in the stall. The woman took a step back, her eyes wide as she watched the horse.
"You really should get rid of that beast," the woman shook her head before she turned to hand Cole a check.
"I like my horse," Cole smiled as he took the check and nodded to the woman. He followed her out of the barn, glancing back when his horse whinnied softly. "Thank you."
"Anytime," she said getting into the truck. Cole watched until the truck pulled away, his eyes following until it turned down the dusty road. With a sigh, he turned back to the barn and went in search of the boy.
"Where are you?" he asked softly, although he already had an idea.
"That woman was scary," Vinca replied from where he was standing in Dragon's Fire's stall. Small hands gently stroked the horse's neck, large periwinkle eyes watching him.
"Well she's gone, so come out," Cole stated, not sure he liked the idea that his horse liked the boy. Dragon's Fire didn't like anyone normally, and this just proved that Cole couldn't have the boy there.
"I think I'll stay here," Vinca glanced over, his eyes tracking Cole as the man moved.
"Suit yourself, I'm heading into the house," Cole stated knowing the boy would follow; Vinca hadn't wanted to be left alone in the house, which is what had led to the boy pacing the barn. Turning, a smile came to his face as he heard the boy following behind him. Entering the house, he headed towards his office, seeing the boy had stopped just inside the doorway.
Dropping into his chair behind his desk, he saw the boy pass by his door as he turned his attention to the check in his hand. Frowning slightly, he pulled out his check book, knowing he was going have to go to the bank. But he wouldn't leave the boy here, and he wasn't sure he'd get Vinca back into his truck.
Cole glanced up one last time before he put thoughts of Vinca from his mind. He picked up the phone to start work on trying to get his business back up running, he wanted to make connect with a few of his father old business partners. With Rainie now in school, he had more free time and he was going to use it to his advantage. For several hours, he lost himself in his work.
Pushing away from his desk, Cole frowned when he saw the school bus heading down the road. He hadn't realized it had gotten so late. Moving through the house, he checked each room to find out where Vinca had gone. He found the boy curled up on the sofa sleeping.
Walking out onto the porch, he waved to the bus driver as the woman waited for Rainie to exit the bus. He watched as his daughter came running down the drive, a huge smile on her face. As she neared, he called out asking about her day.
"It was great; we learned about spring," she gushed coming up the stairs.
"Do you have homework?" he asked smiling as he moved to open the screen door. He led the way into the house and to the kitchen.
"No homework," Rainie grinned dropping her backpack to climb up onto a kitchen chair. She watched as Cole moved around the kitchen to get her an after school snack. "So um, where is he?"
"Sleeping," Cole moved to start supper, a smile finding his face as he listened to Rainie's day at school.
Vinca shifted, pulling the blanket closer around himself before he opened his eyes. He let his eyes scan the room, not really recognizing it, but then again, he probably wouldn't know it even if it was his own home at this point. Sitting up, he took a deep breath finding out that something smelled really good. Pushing the blanket aside, he stood and headed in the direction of the smell.
Vinca paused in the doorway, his eyes going from the man, standing at the oven, to the little girl that was sitting at the table. "Hey."
"Hey," Cole glanced over, a small smile coming to his face as his daughter turned to look. "I see you're finally awake; have a seat."
"Yeah," Vinca blushed slightly as he took the chair the little girl indicated.
"My name's Rainie," she said wiggling in her chair with a grin.
"I um…" Vinca glanced at Cole, seeing the man was frowning slightly.
"Rainie, this is Vinca; he's going to be staying with us for a while," Cole said as he moved to pull the casserole out of the oven.
"How come you were in the barn?" Rainie asked frowning at him.
"I don't know," Vinca shrugged slightly as he folded his hands in his lap and dropped his head slightly.
"But…" Rainie started.
"Rainie, leave him alone, he doesn't remember who he is," Cole explained as he set the casserole onto the table. He started to dish the plates. They ate in silence for several long tense moments before Rainie sighed and looked at her father.
"How can he not remember, Pa?" she glanced at the guest, making Vinca wish he was still sleeping.
"I don't know, kiddo, but we'll help him, okay?" Cole watched the boy's cheeks redden again; he pulled his eyes away before looking down at his plate.
"Okay," Rainie giggled slightly as she happily munched on her supper.
Vinca ate slowly, finding that his stomach wasn't up to much food. Pushing the food around, he glanced at the clock to see it was just after six in the evening. He looked up, startled when he felt eyes on him, seeing Cole was watching him with a frown. "Sorry, I'm um… not sure when the last time I ate was."
"It's okay; eat what you can," Cole frowned again, wishing he knew a little bit more about the boy. The doctor couldn't say much, other than the boy was dehydrated some, besides being nearly hypothermic. He wasn't underweight per se, just really slender. Besides the bruising said that the beating hadn't taken place all that long ago. As soon as the meal was done, Cole pushed his plate away and stood. "I have to get the horses in."
He glanced between the two at his table, his eyes landing hard on the boy. He tried to gauge if he felt good enough about the boy to leave his daughter in his company alone. After staring into those oh-so-blue eyes, he finally nodded and, turning, left the house with the screen door slamming shut behind him.
Vinca watched the man go, his eyes wide before he turned to look at the little girl. Her silky brown hair feathered around her face, and she had the same color eyes as her father. Pulling his eyes away, he saw that he could be useful and put things away. Getting up, he started to gather up the dishes from the table, still very aware that Rainie was watching him.
As he started the dishes, he searched for a container to put the left over casserole in. Once found, he put everything away before starting on the dishes. Vinca glanced over as the girl left the room, frowning when he heard noise as tiny feet pounded up the stairs before coming back down. He saw her slide back into her chair, a book placed on the table.
"Read with me?" Rainie asked, seeing the boy look at her.
"Okay," Vinca placed the last plate into the drying rack before he went back to the table. He waited as she opened the book, a smile on her face as she started to read, pausing every now and then to look at Vinca for help with a word. Vinca soon found himself lost in the reading, glad that at least he hadn't forgotten how to read, even if he couldn't remember who he was.
Pulling his coat off, Cole hung it up, pausing as he leaned to pull his boots off. He could hear Rainie reading in the kitchen, the quiet voice of the boy helping with words that the little girl missed. Leaving his boots by the door, he paused in doorway of the kitchen to watch them. Vinca's head was close to Rainie's. The kitchen table had been cleared, and the dishes were done.
Finally stepping into the room, he moved to start a kettle of water. Cole pulled three cups from the cupboard; putting them on the counter, he pulled a canister closer to open it. He could feel the eyes on his back. He knew that Rainie knew what he was doing, but Vinca wouldn't. With a smile, he started to hum low, a good feeling settling into his stomach. He spooned the cocoa mix into the cups, adding the water when it was hot enough.
"Here," Cole said as he set a cup in front of the boy and one in front of his daughter. Grabbing his, he sat across from them watching as Raining happily sipped at hers.
"Thank you for the cocoa," Vinca glanced up with a small smile before turning his eyes back to the book.
Cole grinned; he couldn't help it as he watched them. The boy's quiet ways seem to compliment his daughter's happy bubbly personality. Taking a sip of his cocoa, he couldn't help but feel a small pain in his heart as he watched the little girl.
"Rainie, you need to go take your bath," Cole saw his daughter turn sad eyes on him.
"But… Pa," Rainie whined.
"Rainie," Cole warned. He watched as with a sad face the girl moved to put her cup in the sink and leave the kitchen. Turning his eyes back to the boy, he saw Vinca was once again staring at the tabletop. "You're pretty good with her."
"She's very nice," Vinca shrugged as he looked up. "She's very easy to be with."
"Yeah, she is," Cole stood moving to pick up Vinca's empty cup before turning to start putting dishes away. He could feel the boy's eyes watching him; he glanced over his shoulder. "Do you remember anything?"
Vinca bit his lower lip; a frown marred his forehead as he thought. "No, I haven't. It's like my life is blank."
"It'll be okay," Cole moved away from the counter; he patted the boy's shoulder as he left the room. He headed up the stairs to check on his daughter and to see if the guest room still had sheets on the bed. He knocked on the bathroom door, hearing Rainie call out before he moved down to the room at the end of the hallway.
Turning on the light, he glanced around the room, making sure everything was in its place. Sometimes, Rainie would play in it, and leave a mess, but this time, nothing was out of place. Heading back down the hallway he told Rainie she had ten minutes before he headed back downstairs. He found Vinca standing in front of the big bay window in the living room.
"You okay?" Cole asked seeing the way the boy had his arms wrapped around his middle.
"It's so dark," the boy whispered, a shudder ran though him. "I can't even see your neighbor."
"That's because he lives two miles up the road," Cole moved to stand beside the boy, seeing the top of the boy's head came to his chin.
"Oh," Vinca wrapped his arms tighter around himself.
"I've made sure the guest room was ready; you can have it," Cole saw startled blue eyes look at him.
"Thank you," Vinca took a step away from the man. "That was very nice."
"It's at the top of the stairs," Cole turned away; going to his chair, he dropped down and picked up the remote. Vinca turned, seeing the man had turned on the news. Drifting over, he sat down on the sofa. It was a short time later when Rainie headed into the living room, the girl dressed in pajamas, a robe, and slippers. He watched for several minutes as Cole tenderly brushed out the girl's hair, a sad smile on his face and a sudden ache in his chest as he watched.