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

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 1


Finding Shelter From The Storm

© GB

Part 2.

Sunny opened the door to room number three and stepped in, patting Hubert on his ragged head as she passed him.

To her dismay she saw that Laura was still sitting half slumped over the table.

“Laura!” she exclaimed and quickly went over to her. She put the juice cartons on the table and then leaned over the pale woman. She felt her pulse and was relieved to find it strong and even, but the older woman’s skin was clammy and she was shivering.

“We have to get you into bed,” Sunny said quietly and stroked the auburn hair, so neatly done this morning, now matted and tousled, lending Laura a fragile appearance.

“I tried, but my legs didn’t oblige,” Laura said huskily. “I guess I do need your help after all.”

Sunny had to smile at the dreary tone in the older woman’s voice. It was obvious that she hated being dependant in any way, shape or form.

“I promise I won’t tell anybody,” she said and supported Laura as she stood up, dangerously swaying. “Here, lean on me.”

The bed was only a couple of steps away but they only just made it.

“How the hell will I be able to drive out of here tomorrow?” Laura mumbled to herself.

Sunny gasped.

“Leave tomorrow? You can’t drive! You can hardly walk and you are weak as a kitten. I won’t let you leave. You’ll be safe here.”

Laura glared up at her.

“I have to leave. Somebody knows I’m here and since you are aware of what circles your precious Jared used to move in, you must understand that if I stay here, they will find me sooner or later.”

Sunny rose from the bed and went into the bathroom. She returned with a washcloth that she had rinsed in cold water. She sat down and scooted closer to Laura.

“Well, I guess you are right, something must have gone wrong. It’s not Jared’s fault, that much I know.”

The blonde folded the cloth around her fingers and used it to carefully wipe Laura’s face.

“Oh, thanks, that feels great,” the older woman breathed and closed her eyes. “But you know, what is even more important; if they trace me back here, they could pose a danger to you and to your friends who work here.”

Sunny considered this.

“But if they know where you are, wouldn’t they already be here? I mean, they almost killed you, wouldn’t they want to sort of – finish the job?” She made a face at the harsh words.

Laura sighed.

“I guess. But they could also be biding their time, waiting for a good opportunity. I don’t know! I don’t want to put you in danger. You have been very nice to me and …” Her voice trailed off and she put a shivering hand over Sunny’s, holding the cloth. “I’d hate to see you get caught in the middle.”

“But you can’t drive anywhere tomorrow.”

“Oh, God …”

Sunny kept using the cool cloth over the other woman’s half naked upper body. The bra was blood stained and she wondered if Laura wanted her to remove it. The other woman had been so embarrassed this morning when her towel almost fell off, but that seemed like weeks ago. The unexpected turn of events sure was speeding up the ‘getting to know a person’ process.

Then she stopped moving, even breathing as a simple but bold idea hit her.

“Laura, listen,” she said excitedly, “I just thought of something.”

Laura regarded her with even blue-grey eyes, a lot bluer now then when she found her in the parking lot.

“What?”

“What if we move you into my apartment, behind the desk. It is not very big but nobody ever goes in there unless they are invited and it has the best lock in the facility as well as a steel door. I could ask Miriam’s nephew to hide your car in his underground garage. He has so much junk there, he could easily hide it under a dirty old cover. It would just look like one of his usual hopeless machines.” Sunny smiled faintly. “What do you think? I will register you as departed in the computer and set the time around one hour after you got home this evening.”

Laura regarded her carefully.

“Why are you so adamant in helping me, Sunny?” she asked.

Sunny frowned. She wasn’t sure how to answer that.

“I … I just want to,” she said and shrugged helplessly. “There is something about you, I’m not sure what exactly, only that I sensed it immediately yesterday. Like you are … familiar?”

The older woman nodded.

“Well, I am grateful all the same. I guess I have little choice since leaving tomorrow is not an option considering how I feel now. But if something were to happen to you because of me … I mean you mustn’t try and get between those guys and …” She made a face again, trying to shift to her right side.

Sunny gently eased her over.

“Well, you will have to describe them to me later,” she said casually. “Do you think you will be able to move now? We should get you into my apartment before you fade out here.”

Laura nodded, pressing her lips together, apparently not to keen to move around.

“Wait, let me get your rain jacket,” Sunny said. “We can’t have you gallivanting around here only wearing a bra.”

Laura blushed faintly but nodded.

“Gallivanting? I never gallivant,” she said darkly.

Sunny smiled, it was so enjoyable to tease the stern woman on the bed a little.

“No? Neither do I. Perhaps we could teach each other.”

 

When they reached the front desk, nobody was around and with relief Sunny guided the almost staggering woman through a narrow hallway and into her bedroom. She had deliberately neglected to inform her new friend that it was the only bedroom. She planned to sleep on the couch anyway, so technically it wasn’t necessary to be specific.

Laura gratefully sat down on the bed and exhaled audibly.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the blonde answered. “I will go back and pack your things later. I’ll ask Miriam to clean the room and she can also call Juan and he can fetch your car.”

She sat down on the bed next to Laura and carefully put her arm around her.

“I need to help you get out of those clothes now,” she stated firmly.

Her guest shot her a weary look but dipped her head once. Sunny rose and took a tee-shirt from a drawer in her nigh stand. Then she reached around Laura and unclasped her bra. The older woman flinched a little but kept her eyes locked on her hands until Sunny pulled the tee-shirt over her head. Obediently like a child she put her hands through the short sleeves and the over sized tee-shirt did little to reduce that impression.

“Do you think you can stand up one more time?” Sunny asked gently.

Laura nodded and made an attempt that only caused her to moan through clenched teeth.

“Oh, damn … I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve been messed up worse than this before …” she hissed and allowed the younger woman to almost lift her from the bed.

Sunny zipped her black skirt open and pulled it down over Laura’s narrow hips. Her shredded pantyhose went the same way and Laura seemed relieved that the undressing stopped at that.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?” Sunny asked.

“No … I think the blood loss is as much fluid as my body is willing to part with this evening,” Laura said dryly, a crooked smile on her lips.

Sunny rolled her eyes and then lowered the smaller woman to the bed after pulling back the cover and the blankets.

Laura settled down with a sigh of relief, closing her eyes.

“Mm … your bed is really cosy,” she mumbled, “and it smells of you.”

Then her words seemed to hit her. Her eyes flew open and stared into Sunny’s, like in disbelief.

“I hope that is a good thing,” the blonde smiled. “Now I have to go and get your things. You go to sleep. Hubert will guard you.”

“No! I want you to take him with you. You are not safe in that room. Take him with you.”

“Hubert will stay with you. I’ll be fine.”

Laura got up on her right elbow, stretching her left hand towards the blonde, agitated and her face distorted with pain.

“Take the dog with you. If you don’t I will get up and take my car and …” She hissed and then her voice broke, leaving her gasping.

“Are you mad? Do you want the bleeding to start again?” Sunny cried and leaped towards the bed, gently pressing down on Laura’s shoulders.

“You will not go to that room alone,” her guest said throatily. “I won’t allow it.”

“All right, all right, I’ll take Hubert, I promise. Calm down now, you are hurting yourself.”

Sunny was beside herself at the sight of the pale face on the pillow. Without really thinking she leaned in closer, putting her cheek next to Laura’s and hugging her gently.

“Lie still now. There you go, breath carefully. I will bring Hubert and I’ll hurry back here. I still have to make you drink some juice before you fall asleep and get you some antibiotics from Miriam’s cousin. There now …”

A weak arm was flung around her neck, as Laura clung to her with what little strength she had left.

“Promise me.”

“I have promised you. You have my word.”

“Take Hubert.” There were both anger and tears in Laura’s voice.

“I will.”

Sunny turned her head a little and kissed the damp, hot cheek. This sent a shiver through the older woman but also seemed to settle her a little.

“I won’t be long. You rest now.”

“All right.”

Sunny removed the limp arm from her neck and placed it under the blanket. Laura watched her carefully as Sunny stroked the damp hair back,

“See you soon.”

She got up and just as she left the room, she heard the command in the other woman’s voice.

“Bring the dog.”

 

The pain from shifting in her sleep woke Laura up. The pain wasn’t as sharp as before; it was more of a dull ache now. She turned her head, not sure of where she was.

Oh, right, Sunny’s apartment, she thought.

Then there were voices in the hallway, making her automatically reach under her pillow, but of course, her gun wasn’t there. She had fired against those bastards who shot her until she was out of ammunition and then, when she had an opportunity to escape them, she had tossed the gun over the railing of a bridge and into the water. She was furious for not having it now.

“Thank you, Miriam, for everything,” she heard Sunny say. “and tell your nephew that he can eat breakfast here for a week, free of charge.”

“I will, Sunny. Is she going to be alright?”

“I think so.”

“Well, I’ll lock up now. You take care.”

“I will. Goodnight.”

There was the sound of a heavy door being closed and then Sunny came into the bedroom, carrying the juice cartons and a small white envelope.

“You are still awake,” she said and sat down on the bed.

“Just woke up. Was that your friend, Miriam?”

“Yes, did we startle you? She brought the antibiotics and some painkillers too. Here, drink some of this and I’ll get these out for you.”

The blonde had opened a juice carton and filled up a glass sitting on the nightstand. She was about to hand it to Laura but stopped half way and rolled her eyes.

“You can’t drink lying down, what am I thinking of? “ she smiled and shifted the glass to her right hand. “Come here.” She circled Laura’s shoulders with her left arm and helped her up a bit and then gave her the glass.

Laura drank the juice thirstily and held the glass out for a refill. Sunny smiled again and poured her another glass.

“Good, huh?”

“Oh, I didn’t know I was so thirsty,” Laura admitted sheepishly.

“Loosing fluid would do that to you, I guess.” Sunny ripped the envelope open with her teeth and let two kinds of pills fall onto the nightstand. She took one of each and put them between Laura’s lips.

Laura felt the younger woman’s fingertips brush her lips and couldn’t stop a faint blush colouring her cheeks. She swallowed the pills with the rest of the juice.

“Okay?” Sunny asked and when Laura nodded and she was gently lowered onto the pillows. The bed was so soft and the few minutes she had been Sunny’s presence since she came back had given the older woman a sense of refuge she had not felt in years.

She regarded the blonde through her eyelashes, she was already sleepy again, and she couldn’t resist reaching for the other woman’s hand.

“Thank you.”

Sunny raised her free hand and brushed Laura’s tousled hair back from her face.

“Don’t mention it. I don’t know what happened today and if you ever want to tell me, that’s fine and if you don’t, that’s fine too. But nothing will happen to you tonight, you are safe here.” She kept the soothing movement of her hand going while she talked. “I will go and sleep on the couch now and Hubert will guard us both.”

“On the couch? Oh, is this your only bed? I’m sorry …”

“Shh … don’t be. It’s fine. I have a large couch and I have slept on it many times in it, you know, drowsing in front of the TV.”

She leaned over and surprised her guest by softly kissing her. Not her cheek like before but a much more intimate kiss on her forehead. “Sleep well, Laura,” she whispered. “Call me if you need anything.”

She got up and left the bedroom, leaving Laura with an inner turmoil and still feeling those full lips being pressed against her skin. What on earth just happened? she asked herself. This young woman, she must be somewhere in her late twenties or something, seemed to get under her skin over and over again. She frowned and carefully eased over on her right side, curling up to a more comfortable position under the blankets.

She had not let anyone get close in a long time, in fact it had been so long she could hardly remember what it felt like. Laura sighed and raised her hand to touch the two spots on her face, kissed by Sunny. It had felt both strange and oh, so good. The touch of another human other than a sturdy shaking of hands was alien to her. To then be kissed by this vibrant, beautiful blonde was enough to make her head spin and her heart beat out of control. She smiled wryly.

Wonder what Ms Stewart would say if she knew the impact her odd little gesture of kindness and affection had on this old broad, she thought. The answer came to her as easily as if the woman in her thoughts had answered right then and there. She would be happy.

A slow smile lingered on Laura Carter’s lips as she fell asleep.

There was not going to be any nightmares tonight.

 

* - * - * - * - *

 

The silence in the car had become a bit awkward.

Dawn was driving again. Her eyes behind the sunglasses were glued to the road. She had not spoken more than twice since they left their motel. She had perhaps said ten words during breakfast.

Joan sighed. Back to being Ms ‘I Don’t Need Anybody’ again, she thought. To think they actually hugged last night, it was unbelievable.

Joan had spent an hour in the back seat reading the files more carefully and stumbled on a familiar name. Jared Malachai.

Malachai was an ex-cop.  Several years ago he was caught steeling narcotics from an evidence room in his precinct to feed his own addiction. The reason the Bureau had him on file was the drugs he stole were part of a case they and local officials had built against a well-known drug lord. The fact that Malachai had so foolhardily stolen critical evidence resulting in a substantial set back to their cases had not bode well with the Bureau. Once his crimes were uncovered the system had rapidly tried, convicted and sentenced him.

In prison Malachai had done what hardly anyone expected, freed himself from his drug abuse, studied business management and come out on parole six years later, a better man. Like a damn poster boy for the prisons in this country, Joan smirked.

However a couple of years later he had been running a modest motel together with a daughter of one of his old colleagues and after beating up two guests he had been arrested again. This apparently had been more than he could handle with his usual cool. He escaped from the courtroom hearing and vanished into thin air.

Not until he was acquitted in his absence due to the testimony of … Joan checked the file for the name … Sunshine Stewart, had he resurfaced. He still lived a very secluded life, probably didn’t trust the authorities in the least, perhaps with good cause.

Now there were witnesses who connected him with the woman they were looking for. They had moved in the same circles over the last three months and Dawn was sure this was as good an opportunity as any to finally secure her.

Joan opened the other file. It was worn and thick as her arm. It was everything they had collected on Grace Farlow so far. She browsed through the documents once again.  She had read all the documents at least ten times over the years. Grace Farlow was a brilliant scientist, Nobel Prize material even, if she ever worked again.

And if they ever found her, she smirked.

The brunette crawled back over to the front seat and brought some of the first documents she had read with her.

“Have you seen this?” she asked Dawn. “Malachai  is mentioned in here.”

“Yes, I have. That is partly why we are travelling as inconspicuously as possible. If he hears that the Bureau is trying to approach him, he will vanish like some David Copperfield and not resurface for six months. And we both know we don’t have six months. We have to find her now.”

Joan nodded, happy in the silliest way because Dawn was talking again.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Dawn glance at her, a small smile on her full lips.

“And take the fun away from you? You know how annoyed you get when I go on and on about details and you miss the opportunity to discover things yourself.”

Joan laughed and put a foot up on the dashboard.

“I guess you’re right. I would have claimed that you didn’t let me do any thinking on my own,” she grinned. “You look out for me in your own special way, don’t you?”

Dawn immediately directed her gaze on the road again.

“Uh … I guess. We have worked together for so long now; I guess we know each other pretty well.”

“Dawn, I don’t agree. You probably know more about me because I seldom hold anything back. But you are still an enigma, my dear. Just when I think I have you figured out, you do something that throws me. Like yesterday. I mean, how many times have you hugged me, not counting that night and yesterday?”

Dawn’s jaw muscles moved as she clenched her teeth and pressed her lips together.

Oh, now I did it again, Joan groaned inwardly. Why couldn’t I just keep my big mouth shut?

“Well, I can answer that,” Dawn said, keeping her composure. “I haven’t hugged you more than twice but you hugged me at least one other time.”

Joan coughed and sat up straight.

“I did? When?”

“That night. When I lost it and you were trying to stop me from going into the warehouse. When Travis and Andrews were …” Her voice trailed off and she swallowed hard. “You were restraining me at first, but when I almost passed out from screaming my head off … you hugged me. I never thanked you for that, did I?”

Joan was speechless. She had not exactly forgotten the whole thing, but Dawn’s pain had been hers too. She had felt equally responsible for the disastrous stake out and holding on to the other woman had been as much a way of holding herself together as helping her partner.

“No, you didn’t but you never had to. We were both there and we both know how we felt. God, Dawn, if you hadn’t been there, I would have lost it too. It was only because I had to focus on keeping you out of there, that I didn’t run into that building myself.”

The redhead nodded and suddenly reached out a hand and grasped Joan’s.

“We did what we could, didn’t we?” she asked softly.

“Yes, we did. There was no way we could’ve known then that there was a traitor. It makes me so mad that we still don’t have a positive ID on the guy.”

“Or woman.”

“Yeah.”

They rode the car in silence for a while, but now the silence was comfortable again.

“Can you pull over at the next gas station?” Joan then asked. “I have to get something to drink.”

“Let me guess. Diet coke?”

“Are you psychic?”

“Yes. That and I have seen you drink a gallon of that every day for years.”

“Very funny.”

“Isn’t it?” Dawn turned her head and gave her partner one of those soft smiles she so seldom shared.

 

It looked like it was going to rain. The weather forecast on the radio had stated that it would start sometime during the afternoon and then just keep raining for a couple of days.

Dawn gazed up at the sky and squinted at the pale sun, partly covered by clouds.

“Great”, she mumbled. “It is Joan’s turn to drive and she hates using the windshield wipers.”

The woman of her musings came walking towards her, two huge bottles of diet coke under each arm. The long, black trench coat and the high-heeled western boats gave a tough impression and her wild, dark brown hair and obsidian eyes added to it perfectly. Joan always looked like she had a suntan but it was her natural skin tone as she never sun bathed and considered a day at the beach was a day wasted.

“Ready?” Dawn asked and opened the passenger door.

“Yep. Got what I needed and now I am all set to be the designated driver.”

The redhead rolled her eyes.

“Well if you start drinking those two in your usual pace, we will have to stop every fifteen minutes so you can … go.”

Joan stuck out her tongue at her partner.

“Very cute. May I remind you that I can hold any liquor, with or without percentage, much better than you. Perhaps because you were an only child and I have five siblings. You learn to hold it when there is a long queue every damn morning.”

Dawn had to laugh. The image of the Tremayne family pacing back and forth outside the bathroom was too hilarious. Joan always made it sound like she came from poor circumstances, but the truth was that this somewhat laid-back, tough woman had grown up in a middle-class area in the suburbs. Dawn on the other hand had grown up with a single father in wealthy area and had as Joan always pointed out, been an only child.

“Let’s go then,” she said and put her sunglasses back on.

Joan got into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Without checking she pulled into the lane that would take them back to the freeway. A driver in a dirty little Toyota honked his horn in fury over the careless manoeuvre.

“For heaven’s sake, Joan, are you trying to get us killed?” Dawn sighed and covered her eyes with her hand.

“Nah, I saw him coming, I knew I’d make it out here before him. Did you see how pissed he was?” Joan grinned and waved her hands in the air, mimicking the poor man’s frustration.

“At least keep one of your hands on the steering wheel, will you?” Dawn muttered and glared at the brunette. “You are reckless sometimes, you know.”

“Yeah, but you love me anyway, don’t you?” Joan wiggled an eyebrow.

Dawn felt her jaw drop. The comment wasn’t unexpected, it was just the kind of thing Joan would say, but her heart almost stopped beating.

When she didn’t get a smart retort, Joan glanced over at her partner and frowned.

“Dawn?”

“Uh … well, I … “ The doctor swallowed hard. “I …” There it was again, the lump in her throat that sometimes would appear out of nowhere when she looked at the woman next to her.

“I was kidding, Dawn. You know that, don’t you?”

Dawn tried to smile but could only stare at her hands, at anything but those dark eyes that darted between the highway and herself, as they passed the other cars one after another.

“I know,” Dawn finally managed. “I just …” Damn, there was the lump again. She swallowed hard.

“Is there something wrong, something you haven’t told me?” Joan asked worriedly. “You’re acting really strange.”

Oh, man, is there ever, Dawn groaned inwardly. How about that I love you, that I’d give anything to be able to tell you that?

“No, everything is fine,” she offered casually, brushing away invisible dust from her black slacks. “I’m just a little preoccupied, you know.”

Joan didn’t look at all convinced.

“You sure? You know, you can tell me anything. I may sound really superficial sometimes but I never gossip or anything like that.”

Dawn smiled a little.

“I know. And I would … but it’s nothing.” Nothing I could ever tell you, Joanie, she thought wearily.

“Okay, but the offer stands. And you know me, once I think you are hiding anything, I get like you – like a dog with a juicy bone, I never let go.”

Oh, goodness, Dawn thought. She will nag me to death. I’ll have to come up with something and soon.

A sudden bump from behind sent them both flying, only prevented from hitting the windshield and the steering wheel by their seatbelts.

“What the …” Joan cried out and glanced in the rear-view mirror while she tried to keep the car from skidding off the road.

Dawn had already unbuckled her seatbelt and reached for her gun. Now she was carefully peeking between the head restraint and the seat.

A dark blue van was right behind them, two men were sitting in the front seats and the driver just hit them again. The doctor was prepared and held on to the seat but she could see in the corner of her eye that Joan was tossed against the seatbelt again.

“Anyone we know?” the brunette hissed as the car skidded across two lanes. She pressed the accelerator to the floor and managed to get some space between the vehicles.

“Not as far as I can tell,” Dawn answered and cocked her gun. Peeking at the van she saw it coming at them with a speed that made her wonder what kind of engine was installed under its hood.

“Here we go again,” she warned Joan and held on hard. The van hit them, harder than before and Dawn felt her hands slip and suddenly she was on the floor having hit the back of her head on the dashboard.

“Dawn, you okay?” Joan yelled as their car skidded back and forth several times, keeping the doctor from getting up again.

“Yes, just drive the car,” Dawn growled and climbed up on the seat again, this time not hiding but aiming the gun at the two men.

They didn’t care or didn’t think she would actually fire, they kept coming at them, hitting them twice more and sending Dawn back on the floor again.

“There is an exit coming up, I have to get off the freeway,” Joan said. “Stay down there, this will be a bumpy ride.”

She turned the wheel with all her strength and the car skidded across three lanes, narrowly missed a small truck and then they were on the exit.

“Now, get up and fasten your seatbelt, my lady,” the brunette muttered, “we have some driving to do and I can’t have you bouncing around on the floor like a popcorn in a hot pan.”

Dawn rolled her eyes at the comparison but did as told and apparently in the nick of time because a quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that they had company again.

“I will head for that road over there,” Joan indicated towards a narrow road to their left. “It has lots of curved as far as I can tell and that big sucker will not do as well there. To heavy and to tall.”

Dawn nodded her agreement and held on hard when her partner threw the car screaming through a, fortunately, empty intersection. Without reducing their speed at all, she forced the car through the curves, one after another, and every time Dawn checked, the distance had grown between them and the van.

“So much for being inconspicuous,” the redhead muttered. “Can you get us back to a road that leads us in the right direction without having to use the freeway again?”

“We are on a pretty good road now,” Joan said. “I think if you check the map, it will take us to Jared even if it will add a couple of hours to our trip.”

“Not with the speed you are driving at,” Dawn sighed. “I think you can slow down a little. We don’t want to antagonise the local police force, you know.”

“Just another ten minutes at this pace and then I will be driving like that guy … you know, like in ‘Driving Miss Daisy’?” she grinned impishly at the doctor.

“And I suppose that Miss Daisy would be … me?” Dawn said dryly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Joan said politely. “We aim to please, ma’am.”

“Your nuts.”

“No, you’re nuts. Who said you could unbuckle and play ‘Lethal Weapon’? I thought you were going to get a concussion or something. You have a bump?”

Dawn felt the back of her head.

“Several, actual.”

“Let me feel.” Joan let her long fingers gently probe through Dawn’s dishevelled hair, examining her scalp carefully. “Oh, damn … you’re right. Are you dizzy, do you feel nauseous?”

Dawn had to smile. The feeling of Joan’s hand in her hair was delicious and she was a bit sore but there was nothing wrong with her.

“No, I’m fine, I promise,” she answered truthfully.

Joan let her fingers slide off her head and then she took her partner by surprise by caressing her cheek before letting go.

“You had me worried,” the brunette muttered. “That last fall you took looked really painful.”

“Well, it wasn’t. How about you, you got your fair share of being tossed into the seatbelt.”

“Nah, that was nothing. I’m fine too.”

Dawn checked again.

“Their gone, looks like we got away. Damn, who were those guys? They had California plates, but they were no doubt fake. And that van, it was not your average family vehicle.”

“No, it came at us like a bat out of hell,” Joan agreed. “I think we should be prepared that someone may have tipped Jared Malachai about us.”

“Somehow I think this had more to do with our invisible traitor than Mr Malachai. I think we should change our plans. Instead of driving to a motel and calling in backup, we drive directly to Malachai and introduce ourselves. It isn’t exactly by the book, but if we don’t want him to either vanish or let those guys in the van get to him first, we better stay ahead.”

Joan nodded.

“I agree. I don’t think those guys would be able to touch him, though. The risk of him disappearing is greater. But either way, we better get to him in time.”

Dawn rubbed her forehead and sighed. “Once this is over I think I will need a long vacation.”

“What? Now I know you hit something … hard. Vacation, you?” the brunette exclaimed, staring at her.

“It has been at least two years since my last one,” Dawn admitted. “Don’t you think it’s about time?”

“Way past time, I would say,” Joan agreed. “Where would you go?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t like the ocean much, but perhaps I could find some nice, desolate mountain somewhere. I could bring a little tent and just go roughing it for a while.”

Joan laughed out loud.

“Dawn Morrison, roughing it in a little tent! Oh dear Lord, you are killing me here … Could I come too and bring a camcorder? Nobody would believe it otherwise.”

Dawn had to smile. “You could come if you cooked,” she offered graciously.

Joan stopped laughing and glanced over at her.

“I could? Did you mean that or were you just …” Her voice trailed off.

The redhead smiled and put on her sunglasses. She had not heard Joan sound so uncertain in a long time.

“Sure you could, if you wanted to. I mean, I know nothing about roughing it, I could use your help. As a matter of fact, I could use your company.”

Joan was quite for a little while, obviously considering the offer.

“Run that by me again, Dawn. You plan to go on your first vacation in two years and you want me to come along, the person you have spent every workday with for the same last two years. I don’t get it.”

Dana blushed. How stupid of her to think that Joan would want to spend any more time with her than she had to.

“No, I guess it was a dumb idea,” she muttered and crossed her arms in front of her, biting her lower lip. Then she looked up in surprise as Joan pulled the car over and stopped at the side of the road.

“Dawn, don’t. It was a great idea.  I just thought that you … you know, were pulling my leg. I mean, most of the time you just seem to … tolerate me. It isn’t often that we get the chance to just talk and laugh like we have today. Well, before those insensitive guys interrupted us, that is.” Joan unbuckled her seatbelt and shifted in her seat, regarding her partner seriously.

“Yeah, they were rude, weren’t they,” Dawn allowed and glanced at the brunette.

Joan looked so happy, her brown eyes sparkled and all of a sudden she reached for Dawn’s hand like she had before. Rubbing her thumb against the back of her partners she just kept smiling, driving Dawn crazy.

“Joanie,” she mumbled. “What are you doing?”

“Waiting for your reply.”

“What was the question?” Dawn asked wearily, staring down at their joined hands.

“If you really wanted me to come with you on your vacation or not,” the other woman explained with exaggerated patience.

“Oh, that …” the doctor stalled. “Well, if you did, I think we could have a lot of fun. You know, hiking, climbing and just kicking back. Perhaps even do some fishing?”

The brunette smiled, a brilliant, contagious smile that sent tremors down Dawn’s spine.

“That sounds great.”

Joan leaned over and hugged her partner and not a short, friendly hug, but a long, lingering hug where she pressed her cheek against the redheads while her hands stroked her back.

Dawn felt the lump return with a vengeance to her throat. She had her arms full of one delicious Joan and it almost killed her not to turn her head and kiss her.

“Oh, Joanie,” mumbled almost soundlessly.

“Dawnie …” the brunette breathed against her ear and then pulled back, leaving her partner in her seat, blushing a deep crimson.

After having pulled out on the road again, Joan turned her head and winked at the flustered Dawn.

“Now I only have one question.”

“Yes?” Dawn held her breath.

“Be honest now. Have you ever really been fishing?”

 

* - * - * - * - *

 

When Laura slowly stepped out of the bathroom she found a frowning Sunny waiting outside, her hands firmly on her hips.

“Why didn’t you call me?” the blonde asked sternly.

Oh, god, she can really sound annoyed, Laura thought as she held on to the doorframe to steady herself.

“I feel much better today,” she answered calmly and locked her eyes on the motel owner.

“That’s not what I asked you. You promised that you’d call when you needed me.”

When I need you young lady? the older woman mused. You should be more careful with your choice of words.

“I did? You know, I can’t quite recall everything we talked about yesterday,” she tried but it was far from enough to get her on Sunny’s good side again.

“Hm … you’re not being truthful, but now I‘ll help you get back to bed,” Sunny said firmly and stuck her arm under Laura’s. The older woman sighed exasperatedly and allowed her to escort her back to bed.

“Are you always this protective?” she asked as she was practically shoved into bed.

“Only when I want to,” Sunny replied. “You are still recovering, you know. If you try too hard, too soon, you will only have a setback.”

“And you want me out of your hair as soon as possible,” Laura joked.

This made the young woman go pale and quickly withdraw her hand.

“No! How can you say that?” she asked, getting up from the bed. “You can stay as long as you want to.”

Laura regretted her insensitive words. She had forgotten that her way of joking wasn’t always obvious. Sunny had gone through a lot of trouble for her sake and was still taking a big risk having her in her own home.

“I’m sorry,” Laura said and held out her hand to the blonde. “That was clumsy of me. I was joking, you know, I know how generous you are. I’d have to tie you to a chair before you would let me leave.”

This time Sunny realised that she was joking and smiled faintly and took the proffered hand.

“I’m just so worried for you,” she said quietly. “I don’t think you can leave until you can move about without that much pain.”

“No, but I can’t stay here much longer either,” Laura admitted. “They will find me, sooner or later.”

“Who are they?” Sunny asked carefully, holding on to the older woman’s hand.

“I can’t tell you. But they are the bad guys. I am supposedly not as bad,” she smiled wryly.

“I know that,” Sunny frowned. “But if you think they will trace you here, they will only find that you left yesterday. I took care of it.”

Laura smiled and raised their hands to her cheek without thinking about it. Brushing her lips over the younger woman’s knuckles, she closed her eyes.

“You are something else,” she mumbled. “You know nothing about me and still you are adamant in protecting me and I have no clue as to why.”

She really didn’t. She had arrived to this place less than two days ago and this remarkable woman had been so wonderful to her from the start, relentless in her aim to take care of her. Laura didn’t know if she was annoyed or thrilled. She had been on her own for far too long to be able to just allow herself to accept it.

Now Sunny turned her hand in Laura’s, the older woman’s lips ending up in her palm, making the caress all the more intimate.

“Laura,” the blonde whispered.

Her guest gazed up at her, cocking her head with a crooked smile on her lips.

“Yes, my dear?”

“Will you promise me something?”

“If I can.”

Sunny inhaled audibly.

“Don’t leave without telling me. Don’t just … disappear?”

Laura’s heart jumped and the look of apprehension in the other woman’s eyes made her shiver.

“That, I think I can promise,” she said gently. “I want to ask you something too.”

Sunny nodded.

“When I do have to leave here, you won’t try and stop me?”

The blonde stared at her, frowning and pressing her lips tight together. Then she relaxed visibly and sighed.

“I promise, Laura.”

“Thank you.”

Laura realised that she had been holding the other woman’s hand against her cheek for a while now and let go. But instead of taking her hand back, Sunny let it slip around her guest’s neck and pulled her up, mindful of her wound, to hold her against her ample chest.

Laura inhaled Sunny’s sweet scent, the same scent that had surrounded her all night in Sunny’s bed.

This feels so good, so damn good, she thought. It is crazy, but I could stay like this forever, in her arms. She is amazing.

“Laura,” Sunny whispered. “am I hurting you?”

“No, why do you ask?” she whispered back burying her face into the blonde’s shoulder.

“Because you’re crying.”

 

Later in the day, Laura proved to be a bit more trying than Sunny had anticipated. First she insisted on showering and washing her hair. Then, after replacing the bandage herself, she refused to get back to bed, claiming that she was fine.

She still moved around very cautiously, but Sunny had to admit that she was recovering more quickly than she would ever have expected.

Her guest made one corner of Sunny’s couch her own and started zapping through channels, just looking at them for a couple of seconds until she found one that showed the latest news.

“You’re looking for any news about the shooting,” Sunny stated.

Laura nodded absentmindedly.

“I’ll go out and go through the guest list. There are one new guest arriving today and two leaving tomorrow. I need to make preparations,” the blonde said and got up.

“Sunny …”

“Yes, yes, I know. Bring Hubert. I will.”

She left and before she reached the door she heard a low, throaty chuckle from the living room.

She went out to the front desk and nodded to Miriam who was sorting out the mail.

“Sunny, you look tired,” the round, middle aged woman told her.

So would you be after dealing with that stubborn woman, Sunny thought dryly.

“I’m fine,” she answered instead and logged into the computer. “Everything taken care of after breakfast?”

“Yes, I called Maria. You know, my sisters sister-in-law? She really needs some extra work, I hope it was okay?”

Sunny became worried and couldn’t avoid glancing at the closed door behind them.

“And no, she knows nothing about your lady.”

My lady? Sunny thought wearily. What made her say that?

“Good. The fewer that knows the better. It isn’t safe.”

“I know, my girl. How is she?”

“Annoying.”

“What?” Miriam smiled and gave a surprised laughter. “What do you mean ‘annoying’?”

“She is set on doing everything herself and she won’t let me help her. I’m afraid that she will overdo things and … well, I don’t like to see her in pain.” She blushed faintly.

“Of course you don’t. I am sure she knows her limit.”

“I don’t think so,” the motel owner muttered. “She is too stubborn.”

“Like you, my girl?”

Sunny shot her amused employee a look and turned to the computer again.

She worked for an hour, doing everything she needed to get done this day and after arranging with Miriam that she could call in anyone she felt necessary to cover for Sunny, she logged off the computer and whistled for Hubert. She stuck her head into the living room to tell Laura that she was going to walk the dog, but she had fallen asleep. She looked so relaxed and peaceful; Sunny didn’t want to wake her. Quietly, she  sneaked back out locking the door behind her.

It was not raining anymore and Hubert took off down the pavement, happily chasing a little bird until it flew away. Sunny casually strolled behind him, thinking about the strange twist of fate that had brought Laura to her motel.

She had received a call from Jared on her private phone a few days earlier. He told her that she might expect a woman to arrive in a day or two and that her first name was Laura. He reserved a room for her, but wasn’t sure when or if she would show up. He said that she would need a room overlooking the parking lot where she could observe anyone approaching or leaving the motel.

Sunny had been hesitant, not about helping a friend of Jared’s but the lack of information. Finally he had asked her to just trust him and she did, with her life.

She had been drying off Hubert who had just come back from a walk with Miriam’s husband when the doorbells had alerted her of someone’s arrival.

She had known right away that she was the one, Jared’s friend. She had looked dead tired and been so pale and still so charismatic and possessing a strange commanding presence that went beyond anything or anyone Sunny had ever come across.

She was not a young woman, probably in her forties and with amazing auburn hair. She moved with a certain casual attitude, like she was very sure of herself and yet she seemed so incredibly vulnerable at times.

Sunny had only to take one look at her to feel the first tingling sensation in her chest. She recognised that Laura was going to leave a very lasting impression, that somehow she would become important to her. It was safe to say that she had never been so overwhelmed by anyone before.

Hubert’s sudden growl startled her.

When he started barking and running back towards her, she turned around to see what was going on. The sight of two men running at her from behind sent her running; yelling for Hubert to follow her.

Barking and growling the dog obeyed and paced himself staying by her side. Sunny ran with her heart in her throat, as fast as she could back towards the motel. She didn’t dare look back. That would only slow her down. She expected to be fired on at any time even though it would not be a smart for them to do in a populated are in broad daylight.

She had about five hundred yards left to run when her foot slipped and she fell. Spinning and rolling on the ground, something sharp dug into her shoulder.

She heard approaching steps and desperately tried to get back on her feet. Hubert growled.   She was certain they were catching up with her.

Then there were voices, much younger voices.

“Sunny, Sunny, are you all right? Who were those guys and why were they chasing you and Hubert?”

Four teenagers, she knew them all, gathered around her, helping her to her feet. She worriedly looked around her but the men were gone. She had not seen any cars around earlier and there still weren’t any.

“Thanks guys,” she gasped and clutched her side that ached from running faster than she had in her entire life. “You showed up just in time.”

The closest one, another one of Miriam’s nephews, looked proud.

“We saw them chase you from Danny’s living room over there,” he pointed across the street, “and we all ran out. They looked like … mobsters or something. You know, black suits.”

“Yeah, or like cops,” another boy said, his eyes shining. “Have you done anything you shouldn’t have, Sunny?”

If you only knew, Sunny thought with irony.

“No, not that I know of, Sean,” she smiled with difficulty. “Hey, thanks again, but now I need to go home and nurse my shoulder, I think I hit a small stone or something.”

The boys looked disappointed but waved to her. She jogged with Hubert the rest of the way home and when she looked back, the boys were still standing there, making sure she got home safely.

 

Sunny tried to be very quiet when she unlocked the door but of course Laura was awake and calling her.

Now she calls me, Sunny thought exasperatedly.

“Sunny?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

There were slow steps approaching and Laura stood in the doorway, looking very rested and as composed as she was yesterday morning in the breakfast room.

“Done for today?” the older woman asked with a smile.

“Yes. I’ll be with your shortly, I just have to …” Sunny took one step towards the bathroom when she accidentally brushed against a clothes hanger. She inhaled sharply and clutched at her shoulder.

“What happened?” Laura asked instantly and walked up to her. She noticed the grime on Sunny’s sweatshirt and steadied herself against the wall as all colour drained from her face.

“Sunny?”

“I fell. Some men chased me in the street and I fell. I’m okay now. Hubert and four boys that I know came to my rescue,” the motel owner said, trying to sound casual but the tremor in her voice betrayed her.

“Oh, damn, Sunny,” Laura swore quietly. “You have to let me look at that shoulder.”

Sunny laughed, visibly shaken.

“This is familiar,” she whispered and allowed Laura to lead her into the living room.

The older woman pulled the drapes closed and then turned on the light.

Knowing she would have to sooner or later, the blonde pulled off her sweatshirt and then her tee-shirt, the pain making her moan quietly. Sitting there, only dressed in jeans and a bra, she realised just how exposed and vulnerable Laura must have felt before.

Her guest sat down next to her and carefully examined the bruised skin on her shoulder.

“Good news, the skin isn’t broken, but you will probably get a bruise as big as Texas back here,” she informed Sunny in a low voice. “Any other place hurt?”

“No.” Sunny moved the shoulder, glad that the joint was working okay. “This will be stiff I imagine.”

Laura sighed and closed her eyes for a moment.

“You realise that this is it?” she asked sorrowfully.

“Yes,” Sunny answered, not having the strength to move just yet.

“I will have to leave. Tonight.”

“Yes …” Two large tears fell down and the blonde quickly wiped them away.

“Oh, honey, don’t cry. You knew I couldn’t stay for long and perhaps it’s better this way …”

“Don’t say that!” Sunny cried out. “Don’t say it is better that you leave than that you stay with me!” She glared at Laura, all her resentment and anger over the remark sparkling in her blue eyes.

“No, okay, I take it back,” the older woman relented, letting a hand stroke the blonde’s back. “There is nothing good about it, actually.”

Sunny’s eyes grew big and then she threw her arms around Laura, making the other woman yelp both from pain and surprise.

“Oh, Laura …” the blonde whispered feverishly.

“I’m here, don’t cry.”

“I promised I wouldn’t try to make you stay, that I’d accept it.”

“Yes, you did.”

“I won’t break my promise, Laura.”

“I know you won’t, honey.”

Sunny pulled back a little and regarded the older woman seriously.

“But I will go with you. I won’t let you go on alone, I can’t.”

The other woman stared at her; expressions altering her face from looking sorrowful to surprised and finally exasperated.

“Sunny, that is madness.”

Sunny set her jaw and regarded Laura icily.

“I am coming with you.”

“It’s too dangerous,” her guest insisted.

“I know it is but do you really think I will be safe if they think I know where you are?” she asked, hating that she had to pressure Laura who looked stunned. “I’m going with you. We can use one of Miriam’s nephew’s cars. That will make it harder for them.”

Laura laughed although it was not a particularly happy sound.

“You’re the most stubborn woman I have ever met,” she smiled dryly. “If I thought there was even the smallest chance that you would back off from this crazy idea, I would nag at you no end. But you are not going to, are you? Back off, I mean.”

“No. Hubert and I are coming with you. We will find a way to solve this. You said it yourself, it has been too many years.”

She leaned against Laura, their foreheads touching. The older woman cupped her cheek and caressed it.

“All right,” she whispered. “You can come, but only because you might be in danger here. You saw two of them and got away – so did I. This is not going to be easy, Sunny.”

“I know.”

“Why are you so insistent about this?” Laura asked and pulled back a little, looking at the motel owner with a strange smile.

Sunny blushed faintly.

“I’m not sure. Not yet. I just know I have to.”

“Fair enough. You probably can tell that I am not indifferent to you either.” Laura eye’s glanced down at Sunny’s half naked body. “You better put some clothes on. We need to arrange things and quickly. We leave tonight.”

Sunny rose from the couch and offered Laura a hand, pulling her up too.

She was still shivering from her run in with those men and now she found herself standing very close to the other woman. Much too close. Looking down at that rich auburn hair and those calm eyes, now very blue, regarding her, she bent down and let her full lips brush against Laura’s.

*****
Continued in part 3
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