Disclaimer: Uber Star Trek Voyager, JAG and X-files. No infringement intended since this is an original story. Among other things it is about same gender love between consenting adult women and if that is illegal where you are or offensive to you in any way - please hit your back button! 
Rating: Chapters vary between G - NC-17
Revised May 2, 2001

I dedicate this epilogue to my beta reader, Pol and to my husband, Elon. Pol has given me so much support, advice and shared the process of writing with me all the way through this story. Elon has been my strongest supporter and faithfully read everything I've written through the years and always encouraged me.

I also would like to thank every reader out there who has been so sweet to send me feedback and funny notes regarding this story. Some of you I knew before this adventure began and some are new friends. Big hug to you all!

Yeah, yeah ... I'll stop now and let you get on with the story. <grin>

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 12


Finding Shelter From The Storm

GB

 

Epilogue

 

Seven months later. 

Valerie Jones read the last page of the thick folder on her desk.

The events regarding the Farlow case had been turbulent, difficult, and in some ways heartbreaking. She had never felt so personally involved in a case before and she sincerely hoped that she would never have to experience something like it again. It was simply too exhausting and draining on the soul.

She had taken over the entire operation and also been the one who had to supervise the cleaning up of Monroe’s department at the Bureau.

Monroe’s demise had been a bitter disappointment for her. He had compromised the entire organisation and in turn destroyed public trust and had left so many questions unanswered.

Monroe’s body was discovered at a construction site. The autopsy showed no evidence of additional violence to the injuries he had sustained at the mill. He had died before the abductors placed him in the cement mixer, most likely from his injuries.

A thorough search of his workspace, residence, and automobile had turned up damnable evidence. As a result of these searches and forensic computer analysis the Bureau had successfully pieced together Monroe’s activities over the past years.

It was more insidious then anyone could imagine. It wasn’t just a case of Monroe on the take.  There was evidence that other governments were involved as well as ties to organised crime. 

Even more damaging was the way he had manipulated the agents under his command.  The four men who had been killed in the blast had been involved in the conspiracy against Farlow but to different degrees and some unknowingly. Monroe and his manipulations had pulled all of them into it. 

The investigation was still ongoing. The full extent of the damage was still unfolding.  The FBI, CIA, the Department of State and the Department of Justice had united in their efforts to get the bottom of this mess.

A District Court Judge had issued a protective order to prevent public disclosure of the classified materials associated with the investigation. This had aided in preventing the magnitude of this fiasco from becoming common knowledge.

 It had also ensured the safety of some of Monroe’s victims and the secrets that they held for at the centre of all this was one woman, Grace Farlow.

Resting her chin in her right hand, she browsed through the file.

The case had taken a surprising spin a while back. With every interagency in the nation looking for this one woman she had done the unexpected, she had simply shown up at her door one day literally.

* - * -   * - * - *

 

It had taken Grace Farlow months to surface.

The security guard at the front lobby had phoned Jones in her office on a Wednesday afternoon telling her that she had an unscheduled visitor, a woman. 

Jones had enquired about the woman’s purpose for wanting to meet her. The guard had politely stated that the visitor said it was to discuss a trip to River Meadows. Jones was intrigued and had thought that Sunny was her mysterious caller. She told the guard that she would be right down.

A jolt of shock passed through her entire body when she saw an auburn haired woman standing at the side of the visitor’s desk. Collecting her composure she quickly approached her and offered her hand.

“Valerie Jones.”

“I take it you recognise me,” Grace Farlow had said slowly. 

 “Let’s go to my office. We can continue this discussion in private.

Jones quickly signed her in and had security issue Farlow a visitor’s badge. Silently the two women rode the elevator to Jones’ office.  

“Take a seat Ms. Farlow. Can I offer you anything? Coffee? Tea?” was all Jones managed to begin with

“Coffee would be nice,” the scientist admitted, a crooked smile playing on her narrow lips. 

Jones buzzed her assistant and asked for two coffees.

“I’m not taking any calls unless someone is trying to take out the president,” she informed her subordinate.

Farlow smirked.

“I’m that important? Really? Should I be flattered or should I run?”

Jones shook her head.

“I think you’re done running. Otherwise you wouldn’t have just come marching right in here, would you?”

Farlow considered this.

“Guess you’re right, ma’am,” she drawled but then her face altered and became serious, even sorrowful. “It was time.”

Jones leaned forward with her elbows on the desk, lacing her fingers together under her chin.

“I agree,” she said. “I wouldn’t think you’d walk in here without a plan so why don’t you tell me what you have in mind? ”

Farlow shook her head.

“I don’t have any demands. No, that’s not entirely true. I have … a request.”

Jones raised her eyebrows.

“A request? That sounds very modest.”

“I’ll surrender everything, myself, the information regarding my research. All I ask is that you allow me to meet Sunny Stewart and apologise to her in person. That’s the least I can do after the way I treated her.”

She slumped back in her chair a little.

Jones regarded the woman across from her with trepidation. She seemed honest enough but she also knew how shrewd Grace Farlow could be. Still, when she looked closely at her she could see evidence of the strain this woman had been under.  Jones detected lines around Farlow’s eyes that made her look older and very tired.

“So you’re willing to come forth with everything?  Jones asked casually.

“Yes,” Farlow answered.

“What if Sunny won’t talk to you? You’ve been gone a long time and she seems to have given up enquiring about you.”

Farlow shrugged but a shadow travelled across her face.

“Not much I can do about that. It’s going to be Sunny’s decision.” 

“All right. You know we’ve been looking for you for the last six months. What took you so long?”

“I had to settle some old scores. No, don’t worry. I haven’t topped anyone off or anything. There were some things that I needed to straighten out. I don’t have anything hanging over me now.” She smirked joylessly. “You could say that I’m sort of free now.”

“Not everyone you killed that night was guilty you know,” Jones said coldly.  “This could have been handled differently. You didn’t have to take the law into your hands. I am fully aware of the wrong that was done to you but did that really justify you actions? ”

Jones wanted this woman who was bold enough to calmly walk into the Bureau’s headquarters to know that there were consequences for her actions and that she would be held accountable for them one way or another.

“Don’t you think I’m not aware of that?  I had no idea that Sunny, you, Morrison or Tremayne would be in that damn mill that night. Can you imagine the nightmares, the self-incriminations I’ve gone through because of all of that? The fact that I hurt innocent people, the fact that I almost killed the one person I love…  Why do you think I’m here for God sakes?”

Jones stared silently at the woman in front of her before she began to speak.

“The investigation into this entire situation is ongoing but your cooperation would be welcomed and might be viewed favourably on your behalf but you’re not off the hook.”

Jones rose and walked around her desk. 

“I’ll be honest, I can’t promise anything,” she warned Farlow. “I’ll do my best to honour your request but you are about to embark on a long and tiresome process.”

Grace Farlow leaned back in her chair and dragged a hand through her auburn hair.

“Fair enough.  Seems like I’ve got time.”

 

* * * * *

 

Valerie Jones caressed the folder containing the entire Grace Farlow file.

It was thick and held everything from the first documents about her case to all the transcripts of the endless hearings after the scientist gave herself up.

Having just checked the computer to make sure the copy of the file was only accessible if you had the highest security clearance, she hesitated just for a brief second before slipping the folder into her briefcase.

It was time to head home. She had a date with a glass of brandy and warm tub. Time to indulge a little; after all, she had earned it.

 

* - * - * - * - *

 

It was breathtaking.

The mountains surrounded them. A brook sang through the clearing just ten yards away where it disappeared into the forest.

The scenario was perfect and the sheer beauty of it was overwhelming.

Dawn looked over at the brunette sleeping on a blanket beside her in the shade of a tree. The sight of Joan resting peacefully was without a doubt the most beautiful sight of them all.

Her partner now walked with a slight limp. She had worked tirelessly at her physiotherapy and all the hours were finally paying off. Dawn had worked with her as much as her job had allowed for.

Sitting on opposite side of the blanket Dawn was able to close her eyes and turn her face towards the sun. This was the first vacation she had taken in a long time, at least one that stretched over more than a four-day weekend. She recalled Joan’s astonished face when she half jokingly had made the other woman the offer of joining her on her next vacation.

Joan had thought she was pulling her leg and Dawn had surprised herself by insisting that they would have a good time together in private. That was before she had confessed her love and her heart had skipped several beats when Joan had accepted the offer.

She couldn’t quite believe that they really were here. No phones, no meetings and nobody except Valerie Jones knew where they were.

Dawn smiled inwardly.

Valerie Jones had turned out to be a really good friend to both of them.

She had always held a grudging respect for her former boss but had never actually known her. During the last six months with all the turbulent aftermath of Monroe’s treachery, Jones had proved to be a valuable ally and friend. She had kept Dawn and Joan away from the press as much as it was possible. She had also managed to keep Sunny Stewart from being mentioned by name.

Dawn thoughts went to the tall, aloof blonde. She wondered how she was doing. She genuinely felt sorry for all the traumatic events the young woman had had to experience.

A hand on her shoulder made her gasp.

“Oh, sorry, Dawn,” Joan said with a smile and moved closer to the doctor. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Goodness,” Dawn said, “I forget how stealthily you move.”

“Easy to understand why. Just a couple of weeks ago I was as quite as an elephant.”

Dawn laughed and ruffled the dark curls on Joan’s head. 

“You? An elephant? Not even when you were on crutches, my dear.”

“No?”

“Of course not. You always move very gracefully.”

Joan grinned and hugged her partner.

“Liar. But thanks.”

Their eyes met and Dawn suddenly held her breath.

They had put part of their relationship on hold when Joan was injured. The love they shared had been present all along but they had slowed down on the physical aspect of it.

Joan had been in a lot of pain on her road to recovery and Dawn had had to work almost around the clock to sort out what was left of their old department. When she had received the offer to head another department she had accepted the promotion but it had also increased her workload considerably.

It had seemed natural that Joan would move in to stay with Dawn in her house when she got out of the hospital. Joan’s apartment was not very practical, as its owner would be walking on crutches for a while and she needed someone to look after her, whether she was willing to admit it or not.

Joan’s parents had approved of the arrangement. They had been reluctant to fly home and leave Joan by herself.  After coming so close to losing her they couldn’t help but be concerned.   Dawn’s suggestion was a welcomed solution.  So with the help of Joan’s family and some of their friends at the Bureau, they had moved Joan in while she was still in the hospital.     

Joan had fallen in love with Dawn’s small but luxurious home and soon it was like they had shared living quarters for a long time. Dawn was neat and kept everything where it was supposed to be. Joan liked to keep things nearby which meant she wasn’t as tidy.

To her surprise, Dawn found the slight mess Joan made strangely homey and comforting. It was nice to come home from work and not having to face an empty house.  

Now however, she was glad to be out of the house and away from any form of communication device.

This trip was the first time they had been together without the risk of interruptions.

Looking into Joan’s eyes, Dawn swallowed hard.

They had arrived at the scenic opening next to the brook yesterday afternoon and focussed on raising the tent and organising what would be their home for the next three weeks. They had been tired after the long drive and fallen asleep as soon as their bodies hit the air mattresses.

Now she looked at Joan, her eyes wide and searching.

“What you are looking for might not be found in faces,” Joan smiled gently.

“What?” Dawn mumbled absentmindedly.

“You look like you think you’ll find the answers to life’s mysteries in my face, sweetie.”

Dawn lowered her gaze and smiled ruefully.

“Sorry. Was I staring?”

“You were, but it’s okay.”

A finger was placed under Dawn’s chin, raising her face again. Joan looked at her tenderly. Leaning down, the brunette brushed her mouth against her partner’s, over and over until Dawn with a moan parted her lips.

Joan’s tongue entered without hesitation, tangling with Dawn’s, dancing with it and teasing it. The doctor moaned huskily, reaching around Joan with both arms, hugging her close.

“Oh, darling,” she breathed into the brunette’s mouth. “It’s been so long.”

“I know,” Joan whispered. “I’ve been very patient, haven’t I?”

Dawn laughed nervously.

“Yes, you have … wait, what do you mean, you’ve been patient?” she asked, pulling back a little.

Joan smiled angelically.

“I’ve been very patient. Doing my exercises, watching you work day and night to sort out the mess that son of a bitch left us. I’ve been watching you and wanting you all the time.   Only the fact that I was in such pain at times … and that we both were so exhausted we could hardly think, kept me from taking you in my arms and doing this.”

She leaned over towards Dawn again, cupping her cheek in one hand as she kissed her again. Nibbling the full lips of her partner, she moaned softly.

Dawn reached around Joan’s neck with both her arms, hugging her as they deepened the kiss, tasting the sweetness of the other woman’s mouth. Devouring each other they sank down on the blanket in the sun. 

“Oh, you feel so good,” Joan whispered placing open mouth kisses on her beloved’s exposed neck. “You’re so soft, so wonderful.”

Dawn felt herself blush. Joan’s voice was hoarse with emotions and her own body responded like an ignited fuse.

“Joanie,” she mumbled, “perhaps we’d better slow down … it’s been a while and …”

Joan raised her head. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes only narrow slits, she looked dazed.

“Don’t you want me?” she asked, obviously trying to sound like she was joking but with a definite uncertainty written on her face.

Dawn gave in. Flinging her arms around her partner again she pulled her close, hugging her and letting her voice convey all her love.

“Of course I do, darling,” she said. “I want you so much, it’s like a fire inside of me. I have watched you sleep beside me for months and I have wanted you the whole time. But you were in so much pain. I think it was wise to wait, but now I don’t think I can wait anymore. I love you, Joan. I want to be with you.”

This was all that the brunette needed to hear. She pressed Dawn down on her back again, kissing her passionately as her hands started caressing her partner’s slender, rounded shoulders.

Dawn was wearing a light blue tank top. Joan simply shoved it up over her breasts, baring her to the warm sun. Joan’s mouth descended on her, opening greedily above a nipple and then sucking it into the soft, warm wetness behind her lips.

The doctor gasped as an arrow of pleasure penetrated her, drilled into her and making her body tremble. Joan suckled her, caressed her breast with her tongue like someone who’d been starving for a long time.

“Oh god, Joan,” Dawn sighed. “It’s like fire …”

“I know,” Joan mumbled as she moved her hungry mouth to the other soft and pliant orb. She took that nipple into her mouth and treated it with the same passion and apparent greed.

“So you like what my mouth does to you, Dawn?” she asked in a low growl. “Then perhaps there are other areas of your body that wouldn’t mind a little … attention?”

Dawn shivered all over. She realised that Joan was undressing her as more and more of her pale skin could detect the sun’s rays on it.

When her partner pulled at her shorts and panties all she could do was raise her hips and comply. There was no way she could say no to Joan.

She looked up at her lover. Joan was still dressed in a tee shirt and tight shorts while she herself was naked as the day she was born.

Joan’s eyes were darting over her, as if she wanted to cover as much of Dawn’s image at one time.

“Do you like what you see?” Dawn asked quietly.

The brunette grinned.

“Oh, yes I do. Very much so.”

With that she unceremoniously nudged Dawn’s legs apart with a knee and settled between them. Leaning over the slightly startled redhead, she kissed her deeply, slipping her tongue into Dawn’s mouth, devouring her.

Dawn, never realising that Joan would turn out to be so passionately aggressive, let her. Handing herself over to this dynamic, beautiful woman she opened her mouth willingly and let Joan set the pace. The passion was spellbinding, her head twirled with emotions of love and desire.

“I want all of you, Dawn,” Joan’s husky voice breathed against her cheek. “I want to take all of you, taste all of you. I’ve waited so long for this.”

Dawn nodded, her voice not to be trusted at this moment.

“I want to touch every inch of you,” Joan continued. “I want to please you, make you scream when you come and then … do it all over again. I still remember how you made love to me so tenderly in the safe house. How you put my needs before your own. Now it’s my turn. Only I’m not so … selfless. I want all of you … everything you can give me … I want it …”

She placed her mouth over one of Dawn’s breasts again, muffling her words. She nipped at it with her lips before sucking it into her mouth and gracing it with her teeth.

This made the doctor cry out softly and arch under the loving body over hers. The sensations flooding her were making moisture gather between her thighs, readying her for what she wanted more than anything; for Joan to take her, make love to her.

As if the brunette had read her mind, her hand began to circle Dawn’s stomach, caressing it as it moved down with each stroke. When she reached the apex of her lover’s thighs her hand halted for a brief moment and then plunged between the swollen folds.

“Oh!”

Dawn arched under the intrusive fingers that bathed in her wetness. The flashes of promised pleasure that surged through her made her whimper uncontrollably.

“There,” Joan mumbled, letting her fingers search the slick folds. She spread her own legs and by doing so, forced Dawn’s legs further apart.

The doctor involuntarily bent her knees and by doing so, giving her lover better access.

Joan easily found the hard little ridge of nerves and circled it relentlessly, not taking her eyes off the beloved face under her.

“This is what I want, Dawn,” she said in a low, almost violent tone of voice. “This is what you want too, isn’t it? Tell me that this is what you want!”

Dawn nodded but that didn’t seem to be enough. Joan hovered over her, looking intently at her as her fingers performed there magic.

Burning inside beyond belief, Dawn gave in to every emotion she had ever felt regarding the woman she loved. She cried out, arching towards her, towards the sun blazing down on the two of them.

“Yes! Yes, this is what I want. I want you. I need … you … Oh, god, Joan … Joan, I love you.”

 

 

Joan felt no triumph, only an overpowering feeling of love.

She looked down at Dawn, saw tears flowing down her flushed cheeks. The smaller woman looked utterly consumed by her own desire and the love that surged between them.

“That’s it,” Joan soothed and let her fingers slow down a little.

“No, no … don’t stop,” Dawn gasped. “Don’t let go … not now … Joan, please.” 

Joan regarded her carefully. She was aroused too, wanted nothing more than to finally make Dawn hers but also felt some trepidation that she had moved too fast for the other woman.

“Tell me what you want,” she urged.

“Take me,” Dawn answered readily, pushing red tresses from her eyes.

Joan hesitated briefly and then nodded.

“I want what you want,” she said simply and let two fingers slide inside her lover.

Dawn stiffened and then quickly put the knuckles of her left hand in her mouth to not cry out loud again.

Pushing her fingers all the way in, Joan experienced both so much love and pride to be the one Dawn loved enough to let so close.

“I love you,” she whispered as her hand took up a steady pace.

“I love you too,” Dawn sobbed behind her hand.

“There … does that feel good?” Joan asked as she pressed her fingers upwards.

The incoherent reply was all she needed to hear. The brunette slid down a bit and kissed her way along Dawn’s soft stomach. Reaching the moist softness where her fingers worked in and out, she spread the swollen folds with her free hand.

The sensitive tissues were soaked with Dawn’s passion and the sight turned Joan on more than she had thought possible.

Without hesitation she lowered her head and tasted Dawn. 

“Ah!” Dawn cried out and then her body went into convulsions. The slender legs hooked around Joan, pulling her closer and her inner muscles clenched around the fingers buried inside.

Riding the passion, Dawn clutched at Joan, pulling her up to hug her.

“Joanie, oh Joanie,” she mumbled over and over.

Joan settled down next to Dawn, half on top of her, her fingers still inside her lover’s quivering body. She caressed her softly and held her close while the orgasm subsided. Slowly, Dawn’s respiration returned to normal and the two women held on to each other, basking in the sun and in the afterglow of the moment.

“Bet that felt good, huh?” Joan asked smilingly. “I think I have a talent for this.”

After a surprised silence, Dawn began to laugh softly.

“No such thing as false modesty with you, is there Joan?” she asked, shaking her head.

“Nope.”

Dawn turned her head and kissed her softly.

“You’re right. It felt good. I … I haven’t felt like this in a long time. I love you so much.”

Joan’s heart overflowed.

“I know, Dawn,” she said. “I know, because that’s how I feel too. Whenever I’m around you, whenever I look at you … my heart skips a beat or I’m breathless. You know I’m a bit reckless and even outrageous at times … but I want to stay with you, be with you always. If that’s what you want too, sweetie.”

She didn’t know where the courage to actually ask Dawn to share her life came from. All she knew was that this petite, seemingly fragile woman meant everything to her. Such things as pride or fear of rejection was unimportant. She knew that Dawn loved her.

Still her heart began to race as the Dawn’s eyes grew wide and she didn’t give an answer right away.

Then her partner softly cleared her throat.

“You know how I feel about you,” she began, her voice steady but her tears ran freely down her cheeks. “I’ve loved you for quite some time now, long before you even guessed that I had feelings for you. To hear you say that you want to spend your life with me …  it’s more than I ever could’ve hoped for. After having you in my home, our home, these past months … I believe you. I think you know exactly what you want.”

She smiled and wiped the tears away.

“I want you to be in my life always, as well. There is the matter of our jobs. People will talk and we have to agree on how to handle that. You are more important to me than anything.”

Joan held Dawn harder against her trembling body. She had inhaled and forgotten to exhale and now the air gushed out of her lungs, making her head spin for lack of oxygen.

“Are you sure?” she asked breathlessly.

“Yes, I am.”

Joan kissed the woman she loved tenderly.

Just then Dawn pulled away for a moment.

“But I have one request.”

”What’s that? Joan asked.

“Get undressed.”

“I only live to serve,” Joan responded with an evil grin.

 

* - * - * - * - *

 

Valerie Jones had not revealed much.

She had called two days earlier, asking Sunny to rendezvous with her at a certain location from where the older woman would escort her to a mutual friend. 

Sunny’s heart had skipped several beats as it dawned on her just who this friend was. It had to be Laura. There was no other explanation for the secrecy.

Now she was sitting in a hotel room in a town about ninety miles from her hometown. She regarded her hands, firmly clasped on her lap. She was nervous beyond description but refused to let it show.

What did Laura want?

Jones had confirmed that it was Laura who wanted to meet her but also that it was up to Sunny to agree or decline to do so.

The blonde smirked. As if there had ever been a real choice. She had waited for months and now she was only minutes away from actually meeting Laura.

She had withdrawn within her shell and had deliberately refrained from asking Jones for any details. She wanted to hear directly from Laura.

Jones had been very kind to her. She had kept Sunny’s name out of the papers and had guarded her privacy. After she was released from the hospital Jones made it her business to see to it that a security detail discretely kept an eye on Sunny. Jones feared for Sunny’s safety and until the investigation was over she knew the young woman was at risk.  

Sunny checked her watch.

It wouldn’t be long now; Jones had said she would bring Laura right away.

The sounds of a key card in the door made her square her shoulders and hold her breath.

The door opened and a woman was standing on the threshold.

She had dark chocolate brown hair arranged in soft curls down past her collarbones

Brown eyes regarded the motel owner seriously.

“Hello Sunny,” the woman said in a low throaty voice. “I’m so glad that you agreed to meet me.”

Sunny’s head was spinning. Her thoughts whirled through her brain; not stopping long enough for her to grasp them, to make sense of the information her eyes provided her.

Before her stood a woman, so remarkably like Laura Carter, no, Grace Farlow, she corrected herself. The hair wasn’t right, neither was the colour of her eyes. The voice, however, was the same, like rugged velvet against Sunny’s nerves.

“Laura?” she breathed and rose to her feet.

“Yes,” the woman said with emphasis but tears gathered on her eyelashes as she spoke.

“Oh god,” Sunny mumbled, her eyes hungrily moving over the woman before her.

“You look wonderful,” the dark haired woman smiled through the tears. She nervously cleared her throat as she stepped inside the room and closed the door behind her. She walked closer. “This isn’t easy for me, Sunny.”

“It hasn’t been easy for me since the moment you entered my life,” Sunny said unemotionally, her voice not revealing the disturbing turbulence inside her.  

“I know, my dear.”

“I couldn’t get any information about your from anyone at the Bureau. I stopped trying two months ago. I figured …” Sunny swallowed hard, all of a sudden choked up. “I figured that you would come to me if you were alive and if you wanted to.”

“You did?”

“Yes. Was I right? Is that why we’re here? Have you … come for me?” Sunny swallowed hard. “Or is this goodbye?”

The naked question seemed to startle Laura. She gazed at Sunny, as if trying to read beyond the solemn expression on her face.

“I’m here. My feelings haven’t changed,” she replied.

“I have questions,” Sunny said, feeling as if she needed to take charge of their conversation in order to remain calm.

“I’ll do my best to answer them. May I have a seat?” the other woman asked.

“Go ahead,”

Laura sank down on the couch, apparently more tired and weary than she had let on.

“Did you turn yourself in?”

“Yes.”

“Did you escape again or did they let you go?” 

“They let me go … sort of.”

“What does that mean?”

Laura gestured towards herself.

“This, the new me, it’s all part of the deal. I guess you have heard of the Witness Protection Program?  I’m being relocated under a new identity known only to a handful people in charge of my case. I was willing to surrender everything I could remember about my research and also agreed to testify if they ever built a case against the people who were behind my pursuit.”

“They let you go because you told them everything and now you have to leave and live just like before, under a false identity?” Sunny asked tensely.

“No, not quite like before,” Laura said, now with a decidedly tender tone in her voice. “It is all above board even if it’s very hush-hush. I had no old family members or friends to say goodbye to, so my case was probably a lot easier than most. There was only one condition that I imposed on them.”

“What was that?”

“You, darling. They had to allow me to approach you, to … to ask you …”

Laura blushed faintly as she stumbled over her words.

Sunny sat down next to her.“What do you want to ask me, Laura?”

“If you say yes to what I’m about to ask you, you can never call me Laura, or Grace, again.”

Sunny felt her heart skip a beat.

“Go on,” she urged gently.

Laura inhaled deeply and closed her eyes for a moment.

“I love you, Sunny. I loved you then and I love you now. Your face has haunted me every night in my dreams. It’s been a blessing, a comfort and a terrible curse at the same time. I had no way of knowing how you felt, even if Valerie Jones seemed to think …” 

She broke off and lowered her gaze.

“Yes?”

“I have no way of knowing how you feel now, at this moment,” the older woman explained. “I just know I have to try, I have to ask you to come with me. I couldn’t bear to begin a new life without taking the chance …”

Sunny gasped out loud, interrupting the other woman.

“Come with you? Where to? For how long?”

A smile formed on Laura’s lips. It ignited into that broad, brilliant smile that the older woman had saved for this young woman in front of her.

“To a new city, to a new life. For how long? Forever, darling, if you want to.”

With a sob of relief, Sunny threw herself into Laura’s waiting arms. Clinging to the woman she loved, she inhaled Laura’s familiar scent and wrapped her arms around the her neck.

“Oh, I’ve missed you so much,” she moaned softly against the dark haired woman’s neck. “I was so afraid that I’d never hear from you, never see you again, that you would disappear … or worse, that you were injured in the mill and had died later … “

Laura held the trembling blonde tight in her arms.

“We have to talk about that, you know,” she said sorrowfully. “I didn’t know that you and the agents were in there. I was so set on destroying Monroe. He was a threat, personifying a menace to society far greater than both you and I can comprehend. Jones told me she informed you a little regarding my research and what it could lead to.”

“I understood that you did the right thing when you evaded all of them for so many years. Will they be able to keep the research safe now? Will somebody else continue it?”

“I don’t know if it will be safe or not. I’m sure others are already working on the technology. I just don’t want any part of it anymore.”

Sunny sighed.

“Yes,” she said simply.

“Yes, what?” Laura asked, puzzled.

“Yes. I’ll go with you. I’ve waited for you and dreamed of this moment for more than six months.”

Laura cupped the alabaster cheeks in her hands, cautiously meeting her eyes.

“You need to understand that you might never be able to come home again. You’d have to leave the motel, your friends …”

“I know. I realise that.”

Laura smiled but shook her head.

“Do you? I need you to be as sure as you can be.”

“Don’t tell me I need more time to think. I’ve thought through every scenario possible as I sat here waiting for you tonight. I grant you this was not exactly one of them, but some were even harder … and I always knew I’d go with you if you asked.”

The dark haired woman smiled, tears rising again in her eyes, quivering at the edge of her eyelashes before running down her cheeks.

“You sound awfully sure,” she whispered. “I know you’re not very experienced, darling. I’m your first lover and I’m afraid that I’m not being fair to you.”

Sunny withdrew a little and gazed down at Laura.

“I am sure,” she emphasised, feeling an inner calm that had not been present for months. “I know that I’m inexperienced when it comes to love. I’ve been avoiding everything that being in a relationship would entail.”

“You never got around to telling me why,” the dark haired woman said gently. “Can you do it now? Did anyone hurt you, Sunny?”

Sunny flinched.

“Yes,” she admitted cautiously. “But not the way you think.”

“Tell me.”

“I haven’t told many people this.” Sunny cleared her throat nervously. “My dad was a very warm hearted man but also very old fashioned. When he noticed that boys took a great deal of interest in me as I started to develop … he was concerned as my mother was dead and I had only Miriam to talk to. He considered her to be far too liberated in her views of how a young woman should conduct herself.”

Sunny lowered her head.

“I had no problem following the rules my dad set up for me, not until I thought I fell in love,” she continued. “I had a crush on this boy my own age and we started seeing each other in secret. Dad found out. He … don’t get me wrong … he loved me and wanted what was best for me … But he paid the boy off and what was worse … Mike accepted the money. I was so humiliated. I couldn’t talk to dad about it … and not to Miriam who would have caused a scene with my father … after that I just kept to myself, my friends and worked at the motel. I felt expendable. I felt I was something that people assumed they could buy. That was what my father did. He bought me from Mike.”

Laura held the younger woman close. 

“Surely you must have met other boys, men … even women, before me, who has shown an interest in you? Loved you for who you are.

“Probably. But I kept my distance. I wouldn’t let it happen again. I refused to let anyone close.  Then I met you and I felt overwhelmed by my feelings. They forced me to go beyond everything I had convinced myself was true.”

Laura hugged her close. “You’re warm and caring, as well as stunningly beautiful, darling. You are a brave and unique individual, no ones commodity.   Tell me, those feelings that you have for me…are they worth giving up everything for?” she asked softly.

 “Yes. I love you, unconditionally … I don’t even know what to call you anymore.”

“My name is Patricia Bell.”

Sunny mumbled the name and then nodded.

“You like the name?” Laura asked.

Sunny smiled.

“It suits you.”

“You will have to pick a new name too. You can’t be Sunshine Stewart anymore, perhaps never again.”

“Have the people in charge of the Witness Protection Program, have they … I mean, do they approve of me becoming part of it?” Sunny asked uncertainly.

“Yes. That was another one of my terms once I learned that the Bureau was willing to negotiate. Valerie Jones was instrumental in helping me. She was very fair and I got the feeling that you had earned both her respect and admiration.”

Sunny shook her head.

“I was mostly in the way,” she stated, her voice rising and becoming agitated. “I was so torn up inside when you left me, all I could think about was getting to you. I would have done anything. In fact, my rash actions almost got Joan Tremayne killed. I put all of them in danger by being selfish. I was the one who followed you into the mill. I was the one who …”

“Stop it,” Laura said softly, interrupting the staccato self-accusations. “Listen to me. I was the one who detonated the explosives. We all carry guilt around and I don’t think yours is the greatest. I came into your life and you got caught up in something that you had no way of knowing how dangerous it was.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. Even if I had known I would have chosen to be with you,” Sunny said stubbornly.

Laura smiled softly and caressed the younger woman’s back as she pulled her into her embrace.

“Would you do something for me, darling?” she asked Sunny.

“Anything,” the blonde replied instantly.

“Kiss me?”

Inhaling sharply and unsteadily, Sunny framed the beloved face in front of her. Slowly she lowered her head and captured the narrow, yielding lips that began to tremble against hers. Carefully she parted them, the kiss feeling brand new, unexplored and enticingly familiar at the same time.

She tasted the sweet warmth of Laura’s mouth, not quite believing that she finally was holding the woman she loved more than anything or anyone in her arms. Pulling her closer, she soon had drawn the older woman up on her lap.

Devouring the enticing mouth pressed against her own, she made the most of the kiss, as if she had starved for a long time and in a way she knew she had.

“Oh, darling,” Laura mumbled into her mouth. “Oh, I have missed you. I have ached for you so badly … oh, kiss me again …”

She pressed herself closer to Sunny.

The blonde was only happy to comply. She let her tongue enter Laura’s mouth again, now with more love and somewhat less passion. She needed to convey her feelings with the kiss.

Then she pulled back and cocked her head.

“Since I’m going to have to choose a new name too,” she smiled. “What do you think about … Diana? Diana Norton?”

Patricia regarded her, a little out of breath but with a smile playing on her lips.

“Diana? Yes, I like it.”

Sunny smiled.

“Really? From a Sunshine to a Diana … your taste is diverse.”

The older woman laughed as she hugged Sunny hard, a rare sound coming from her but one Sunny hoped she would hear often from now on.

Sunny returned the embrace.

“How long do I have?” she asked.

Laura kissed her cheek and pulled back.

“Not long I’m afraid. Things move pretty quickly once decisions are made. We can’t remain here. I’ll have to leave in a few hours. ”

Sunny nodded.

“I understand,” she said. “There is one thing we haven’t talked about, regarding this Witness Protection Program.”

Laura moaned.

“Don’t tell me; an intelligent, understanding, one of a kind dog.”

“I know he’s not very inconspicuous but he’s saved us so many times. He has to come too.”

“The WPP people will have a field day with this one.” Laura rolled her eyes.

Then she hugged Sunny close again.

“I don’t care who or what you need to bring, as long as you come with me … as long as you never stop loving me …”

The uncharacteristically needy tone of voice and words that poured out of the older woman made Sunny hold on to her hard.

“I do love you,” she whispered. “I have loved you since that first rainy night, you know.”

“You became my protection,” Laura mumbled against Sunny’s neck. “I was so lost and so lonely that night when it rained so hard. I was on the road again, not knowing what to expect. You took care of me, sheltered me. At first I thought it was because of the fact that Jared had sent me your way … but the way you looked at me … the way you made me feel said differently. All I knew was that I let my guard down with you. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known, but that is only the shell. Inside you are the most caring, considerate and exciting person I’ve ever met. That is why I fell in love and I fell hard. I can exist without you, but it won’t be living. To live my life to the fullest … I need you. I need you so much.”

Laura seemed breathless after her emotional outburst.

Sunny rocked her gently.

“I’m here.”

“Yes, you are, aren’t you?”

Sunny hid her face in the chocolate brown curls, inhaling the sweet, familiar scent.

Then she spoke the words most evident to her.

“I’ll always be here.”

*****

The End

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