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 need to acknowledge my beta reader Pol more than usual for this part. She saved me!

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 2


Finding Shelter From The Storm

© GB

 

Part 3.

It was an awful feeling of dejŠ vue.

Joan sighed soundlessly, dragging a hand through her dark hair and gazing cautiously over at Dawn. The redhead was staring grimly at Jared Malachai’s home; which had taken them two hours longer than expected to locate.

It was a warehouse. 

From the outside it looked old and  worn but the area had an eerie resemblance to the warehouses where their fateful stake out had  more ways than they cared to remember.

After stirring up those memories only hours ago, Joan wasn’t sure what impact it all would have on Dawn.

“Dawn? Are you okay?” she asked quietly, knowing it wasn’t entirely safe to ask.

“Yes, why shouldn’t I be,” Dawn snapped but then tipped her head, biting her lower lip.

“Sorry, Joanie. I’m fine. Shall we … knock on the door?” A strange smile graced her lips as she regarded her partner.

“Fine by me,” Joan smiled and pounded on the large door in front of them.

They waited for a minute or two and then pounded again. Still nothing.

“Do you think he flew the coop?” Joan asked but she had not even finished the sentence when the door hissed open and they were facing a dark, dusty hallway.

“So much for being a gracious host,” Dawn smirked. “He has obviously never heard of the importance of making a first impression.”

“Oh, but I have, Dr Morrison of the Bureau. Good to meet you. This is of course your lovely colleague, Ms Tremayne.”

The voice from the shadows inside the building startled them for a second, even if their training and experience hid it well. Dana squinted, removing her sunglasses.

“Mr Malachai?”

“At your service. Please, come in, I think after that long drive you must be both hungry and thirsty.”

“You know a lot about us, Mr Malachai,” Dawn stated calmly.

“And vice versa, I would think,” the voice answered amicably. “Believe it or not we are on the same side in this.”

“What o you mean?” Joan asked.

“I promise to fill you in as soon as we are all comfortable in my living room. They stepped inside. The large door was closed behind them and some lights switched on.

Out from the shadows stepped a tall, lean man with grey hair. He was dressed in casual clothes; jeans, a blue shirt and sneakers.

“Call me Jared,” he smiled friendly, extending a hand to Joan. She shook it, feeling a bit dazed that he appeared to know a lot about them and their movements.

How did we get in here so fast? she thought, glancing at Dawn before she spoke.

“Joan,” she mumbled, introducing herself.

He greeted Dawn the same way but kept her hand a little longer.

“Don’t worry Dr Morrison. May I call you Dawn? You are among friends here.

Dawn didn’t look convinced but nodded and removed her hand from his.

“First let me tell you we did not drive the van.”

 “Then how did you know about the incident?” asked Dawn.  “ It happened a distance from here.”

“We have our methods of tracking your whereabouts but I assure you, neither I nor my associates are connected with this incident or the crime in any way. In fact – just the opposite.”

He motioned them to follow him  They entered a large room, a former storage space that had been turned in to a living room big enough to host a wedding.

I know you don’t have many reasons to trust me, nor do I you, but someone has to start. I decided to trust you because I figured, if you were the bad guys, why would they resort to such crude tactics to get rid of you?”

Dawn looked at him with no expression on her face.

“Or you could be setting us up.”

“Here? In my own home? Now that would be stupid, don’t you think? What would that get me except trouble? Besides, my wife and children live here as well. You’ll meet them later.”

Dawn considered this and glanced at Joan.

“He has a point,” Joan offered, smiling wryly.

“Yes.”

Dawn directed her eyes back at Malachai.

“You don’t take anything at face value, do you?” he smiled gently. “You can stun a person with those eyes, Doctor Morrison.”

“You know so much about us,” Joan interrupted, sensing Dawn cringe from such a personal remark. “How is that?”

“Please, sit down. Mary, my wife, will let us know when dinner is ready; it should be in a little while. I told her you were coming.”

Chuckling at Dawn not being able to resist rolling her eyes, he guided them to a couch in front of a roaring fireplace. Malachai sat down in well used armchair sitting close to the fire.

“I’m sure you can appreciate that I investigate the ones who investigate me,” he said. “A year ago your people started asking question about me and my business and not in a very subtle manner either. You probably know about my distaste for the authorities.

Joan raised an eyebrow. She was having a hard time reconciling herself to the Jared Malachia she knew from their files and this confident, easygoing man who sat before them.

“Six months later you were both almost taken out by the same force that probably is busily at work now,” he then said, now lowering his voice and looking at them both, but especially Dawn, with a serious expression in her eyes. “They screwed up of course, you both survived and two other agents were killed when the bombs went off.”

Dawn inhaled sharply.

“You know for certain that Joan and I were the targets?” she asked abruptly. “Or are you guessing?”

“Everything I have learned points to this,” he answered gently. “The explosives were enough to set the entire warehouse on fire and if those young agents had not jumped the gun, you would have been the first ones in. Isn’t that a correct assumption?”

Dawn nodded.

“Damn it,” she growled deep in her throat and got up, pacing in front of the fireplace. “Damn them all to hell, Joan.”

Joan got up and stopped the restless woman.

“It was because of us,” the redhead hissed. “We were getting too close and they paid the price for it. I’m not going to let this happen again.”

“I know,” Joan said quietly. She didn’t like what she saw in Dawn’s eyes.

An agent’s work involves inherent risks.  Knowing and accepting these risks allows you to function, accomplish the mission.  But no matter how seasoned or cynical you become, the loss of a fellow agent in the line of duty is never acceptable.  The scene at the warehouse, the loss of two of their own, marked all of their souls.   Joan knew the loss weighed heavily on Dawn because in her partner’s mind she held herself personally accountable for the deaths of those two rookies.

“Come on, sit down,” Joan said carefully and nudged the doctor towards the couch.

“I know this is hard to hear,” Malachai said. “I wish there was something I could say to console you, but there isn’t. I have had my moments of guilt and self-deprecations and for good reason. I betrayed everybody in my life at one time, my family, my partner and my friends. You two are just trying to do your job and it has been tough as hell for you these last months. You need to find her and bring her in.”

Joan’s head jerked up and she stared at him.

“You mean …”

“It is time to secure Grace Farlow

 

The dinner was delicious.

Malachai’s wife Mary had entered the room and the conversation had come to a stop for a time as introductions were made and Mary informed them that dinner was ready.

They had not discussed business over dinner since Malachai’s wife and teenage children were present. The conversation had revolved around general topics and had been quite pleasant.

It wasn’t until they had finished off the plentiful meal that Dawn and Joan realised how exhausted they were.

When they rose from the table, Joan was seeing double from driving all day and her head was buzzing from all the new information, not only about Malachai’s decision to involve himself in their case but also the strange vibes she was getting from Dawn.

Since you don’t have anywhere particular to stay tonight, why don’t you just stay with us?

“It is nice of you to ask us to stay,” Dawn replied, “but we’ll find a motel for the night.”

“Reconsider Dr. Morrison,” he said amicably. “This is the safest place for you until you decide to leave the area. Those men who tried to run you off the road today were surprised by Joan’s innovative way of driving, but they won’t make the same mistake twice.

Dawn thought quietly for moment then turned to her partner What Malachai said made sense.  Silently the two partners came to an agreement.

“I’ll get the bags,” Joan said, remembering the files in Dawn’s large briefcase.

“By all means. We’ll wait here for you,” Malachai conceded.

Joan quickly returned from the car, handing over the suitcase to Dawn while hoisting her backpack up on her shoulder. She decided to hang to the briefcase for now.

The brunette even thought she might be swaying a little or perhaps it was Dawn who stood next to her.

“I think you two better call it a night and we can talk again tomorrow morning,” Malachai said with a smile. “You both look like you can fall asleep standing up.”

Dawn shot her partner a look and her face softened.

“Goodness, Joan, you look a mess.”

Joan sighed.

“Don’t flatter me, it might go straight to my head,” she muttered.

Malachai grinned.

“I asked Mary to prepare the large guestroom for you. I guessed you’d feel more at ease sharing a room.”

That threw Joan for a loop and she couldn’t help glancing at Dawn who just thanked him in her usual composed manner.

They said goodnight and Mary showed up from nowhere and guided them through the inner parts of the warehouse to their room. After she left they both dropped their bags noisily on the floor and stared at each other.

“Well now, Dr Morrison, I bet you never expected this kind of royal treatment from Jared Malachai,” Joan smirked.

The redhead shook her head.

“No way. I was pretty sure he was going to vanish, family and all, and stay lost until everything solved itself, one way or another.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought. I wonder why he didn’t? And most of all, I wonder why he is being this forthcoming and … nice?”

Dawn shrugged and headed for the door. She checked the corridor and then closed and locked the door carefully. Looking around she grabbed a chair sitting by a small desk, shoving it under the door handle.

“There,” she said, looking pleased. “Now we can sleep a little safer, I think.”

Joan couldn’t help it. She started giggling and broke into a fit of laughter.

“What? What’s so funny?” Dawn said and frowned. “Care to share the joke?” she prodded exasperatedly when the paroxysms didn’t mellow down.

“No … I mean, it’s not funny, really …” Joan waved her hand as she cracked up again, laughing so hard she had to sit down on the bed.

The bed.

Her laughter stopped as quickly as it began and she stared wordlessly at Dawn.

Like she had read her mind, Dawn glared at the bed and then sighed.

“For heaven’s sake …” she groaned and sank down next to the brunette. “This is not for real.”

“I believe it is.”

“Why would he give us a guestroom that only has one bed? He said he has more guestrooms but he wanted us to ‘feel safe’ and just use the one. Which is a good idea since we don’t know if we can really trust the guy … but …” The doctor flung her hands in the air.

“We can manage,” Joan said but glared darkly at the bed.

“I’ll use the bathroom first,” Dawn said rapidly and grabbed her suitcase, shuffled through it for her toiletries and night-gown. “I won’t take long,” she said over her shoulder and practically slammed the door.

“Oh, great, Malachai,” Joan sighed and closed her eyes. “This is not what I need. Wonderful.”

She decided that somebody really must hate her and opened her backpack to retrieve her tee-shirt and toothbrush. She removed the cover from the bed and folded down the blankets on both sides, the domestic feeling of it all making her smirk and feel absolutely ridiculous.

“Your turn,” Dawn said behind her, startling the brunette and making her pivot so fast she almost toppled over.

“Hey, take it easy,” Dawn said, a tiny smile on her full lips. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”

Joan smiled back but still felt awkward.

“Well, you almost bit my head off earlier and you know … I’m a sensitive girl.”

Dawn stopped in her tracks, searching the other woman’s eyes carefully.

“Yes, as a matter of fact I think you are,” she said. “I’m sorry. It’s just … this whole assignment …”

“I know,” Joan reassured her. “We have been on it far too long.”

She went into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Looking around she couldn’t help being amazed by the way Malachai took care of his guests. It had everything; lots of fluffy towels, a shower stall, a large Jacuzzi.

She stuck her head out the door.

“I think I’ll take a bath,” she informed her partner who was in bed already, browsing through one of the many files now piled on her nightstand. Dawn’s eyes narrowed, she had an utterly composed look about her.

“You do that,” was all she said before going back to her reading.

Joan closed the door and ran a hot, steaming bath for herself. She brushed her teeth and then undressed. She was surprised to see faint bruises where the seatbelts had dug into her shoulder and hips earlier. She wondered about Dawn’s head.  She could be sitting out there with a mother of a headache from those bumps. That could explain her loosing some of her usual self-control in front of a witness.

She lowered herself into the hot water, moaning with delight. This should remove some of the soreness in her muscles. Driving for so long and then their adventure on the highway would be enough to make anyone sore, she guessed.

She had no idea when she started to drift off but when she accidentally inhaled some water and choked on it, she sat up spluttering and not entirely sure where she was. The water was getting cold and she shivered as she got up and reached for a warm towel from the rack on the tile wall.

Wrapping herself in it, she grabbed the tee-shirt and then pulled the plug from the bathtub to let the water out.  Opening the door to the guestroom she stopped just inside the threshold, a smile gracing her lips.

Dawn had fallen asleep with all her papers and folders scattered around her.  Joan padded over to her and carefully collected them all placing them on the floor next to the bed. She switched off the lamp on Dawn’s side and removed the towel walking over to her own side.

She pulled the tee-shirt over her head and climbed into bed. Her head was aching a little and she turned her back to Dawn, burrowing her face into the soft pillow as she fell asleep instantly.

 

Dawn was not sure why she woke up. It wasn’t a sudden thing.  It wasn’t as if she had been startled by a noise or something; she just wasn’t asleep anymore.

She was comfortable, her headache was gone and the bed was sufficient. She moved a little and realised that her left arm was restrained by something.

Her heart started pounding.  At first she thought this was some scheme of Malachai’s, then she heard someone’s slow and steady breathing in the darkness, someone in very close proximity to her.

She moved her head and her chin brushed against soft hair. The weight along her left side shifted a little and a soft sigh breathed against her neck.

Joan.

 

She was lying on her back and tucked up under her chin was her partner.

Oh, my god, Dawn thought, how the hell did we end up like this? She couldn’t even remember falling asleep. Joan had taken a bath and she had been studying the files, trying not to pay attention to the sound of water splashing, coming from the bathroom. She had tried especially hard not to think about a nude Joan Tremayne in there.

Now she had the woman firmly placed against her left side, lying on her arm. Joan had thrown a leg and an arm across Dawn and the redhead had too breath carefully not to moan out loud.

Something must have disturbed the brunette anyway because she shifted again and it became blatantly clear that she didn’t have anything else but the usual tee-shirt on.

The doctor cringed and was at a loss how to proceed next. This was one of the reasons she had snapped at Joan earlier in the night after seeing the king size bed. Not that they needed a king size bed right now since they were lying so close together in the middle, she smirked.

Damn, how am I going to get out of this one without waking her? she thought frantically.

Joan suddenly twitched and inhaled audibly.

“No …” she mumbled against Dawn’s neck, holding the other woman closer. “No, don’t …”

Joan has nightmares? Dawn thought wearily. She has never mentioned it. She knows I have them, well, obviously, since she helped me through one of them, but she never said anything to me about hers. Of course, that would not do, to let her guard down and let me see a not so tough side of Joan Tremayne, she pondered into the darkness.

The lean body in her arms jerked again, this time harder and the groan coming from the brunette sounded like fright.

“Shh …” Dawn tried. “I’m here. Shh …”

The stirring stopped but the other woman’s lips moved over Dawn’s neck, touching her skin soft as a butterfly. It took her a while to understand that she was whispering something.

“No, no, no … you can’t go in there … stay here … no, you have to stay here …”

She’s dreaming about me, the doctor thought and held the other woman closer without realising it until her right hand touched naked skin on Joan’s hip.

She meant to withdraw her hand right away but her body refused to comply. She couldn’t believe that she was lying there touching her partner in such an inappropriate way; feeling her up, really. The soft and smooth skin was tantalising and more than that, it scared her to admit how much she had wanted this and for how long …

She pulled herself together and bit her lower lip. This was madness. They were partners and she was Joan’s superior officer. She didn’t even know if Joan was interested in women.

“Mm …”

The soft moan coming from the woman in her arms made her flinch and she pulled her hand away from the satin skin and wearily left it lying on the strong shoulder instead. She didn’t want to wake Joan up, not unless she had to, but she couldn’t in good conscience let her hand stay where it was earlier.

She inhaled the brunette’s soft scent. It was like a mix of musk and some flower. She didn’t know which kind. Sorrowfully she kissed the dark hair tickling her chin. She loved the lean although curvaceous woman in her arms and if something ever happened to her … Dawn closed her eyes. She would never forgive herself.

She closed her eyes and let her mind slow down, emptied it using all the relaxation techniques she could think of and after a little while she finally fell asleep.

* - * - * - * - *

Vincent’s car was hardly a status symbol but its inconspicuous appearance made up for its rough exterior.

Sunny had insisted on driving and Laura had not been all that hard to persuade. The bleeding would start if she moved around to much and driving at night when a dizzy spell could overcome her anytime was not a good idea.

They were driving south along the highway with Hubert in the backseat, snoring softly on top of their backpacks.

“How are you feeling, Laura?” Sunny asked after a long silence. She had not said much since they left the motel, Laura reflected worriedly.

“I’m fine,” she said casually. “And you?”

“Fine.”

Oh, no, the older woman thought, she is having second thoughts. I knew this was a mistake; it isn’t fair to bring her into this. She has no way of knowing what she is getting herself into.

Laura swallowed hard. She had to make it possible for Sunny to turn back, even if it meant by train or bus.

“You know,” she smiled, “I wouldn’t blame you if you had a change of heart. I know you wanted to come, although I’m not sure exactly why.”

This was a huge lie. The kiss the younger woman had brushed against her lips had more than expressed the attraction they shared.

“What do you mean?” Sunny asked darkly, now fully alert and focusing on her passenger.

“I mean, there is nothing wrong with developing cold feet once you realise that you might …”

A fist pounded at the wheel, startling Laura and efficiently silencing her.

“Stop it!” the blonde exclaimed. “You will not persuade me to turn back. Try to understand that I am here because I want to be. You need me.” The last three words were uttered with a suddenly low, shivering voice, aiming straight for the older woman’s heart.

She leaned over and cupped the back of Sunny’s head, caressing the strict ponytail.

“Yes, I do, “ she conceded. “It’s just … you’ve been so quiet since we left. I know you will miss them all. But you will return. Soon.”

“That is not why I was … quiet,” Sunny, said in a low voice.

“No?”

“I … I was thinking about … You know, earlier.”

Laura frowned, not understanding immediately. The eyes widened and she had to smile.

“Oh. You mean the kiss.”

Sunny flinched.

“Yes.”

“Do you regret it?”

A quick glance from the bluest of eyes.

“No.”

“Well, then. Don’t worry. I liked it,” Laura smiled. Oh, Sunny, if you knew how much I like it. You’d be running away … She removed her hand.

Sunny relaxed visibly, a gentle smile on her full lips.

She is so beautiful, Laura thought for the hundredth time. Her face is angelic but she has this tremendous strength that lies just beneath the surface. It pops up when you least expect it. I wish I could tell her everything but she would be in so much trouble if I did. It is bad enough that I brought her on this endless journey. Hopefully she’ll be able to go back soon. But then … I’ll be alone again.

“Why don’t you sleep some, if you can?” Sunny suggested.

“Oh, I don’t think I can. I have never been good at sleeping sitting up, you know. I’ll just sit here and relax.”

The blonde bit her lower lip, frowning a little.

“You could lie down with your head in my lap,” she suggested shyly.

Where did all the oxygen go? Laura thought frantically. The thought of lying in Sunny’s lap was more than her frayed nerves could handle.

“But won’t that … distract you?” she asked breathlessly.

Sunny smiled.

“Probably, but not as much as if I had to worry about you overdoing it. Did you take your antibiotics, by the way?”

“Yes, mom,” Laura muttered, trying not to blush. “All right, then.”

She unbuckled her seat belt and, moving as carefully as she could not to make the injury worse, lied down with her head on Sunny’s lap. Curling her legs up on the seat she sighed gratefully.

“Good thing this car is an automatic,” she joked nervously.

“Are you comfortable?” Sunny asked.

“Very. You?”

The blonde looked down at her passenger.

“I think I will like driving more than usual,” she said softly. “You just rest now.”

Laura sighed contentedly and closed her eyes, once again surrounded by the younger woman’s intoxicating scent.

I never recognised how desperately lonely I was, she mused unaware that she nuzzled closer to Sunny as she settled down. Not until I met her, or rather, until she forced her way in into my room, my life … my heart? When I was bleeding and so damn scared out in the rain on the parking lot; I think her voice was the sweetest music I’d ever heard. The way she just took over and paid absolutely no attention to my objections. She just doesn’t see or doesn’t care that I am bad news.

Laura felt a protective hand circle her back, pulling her closer. Her temple was now brushing against Sunny’s stomach and the blonde unzipped her jacket and pulled it loosely around the older woman’s head.

“Very cosy,” Laura mumbled teasingly. “Almost like camping.”

A soft chuckle from above showed that Sunny had heard her.

Laura raised her right hand and tucked under her chin before realising that such a movement put her hand very high up on Sunny’s thigh. They both held their breaths, Laura feeling a slight shudder in the slender leg underneath her.

“Is it okay?” she asked tentatively.

Sunny peaked down.

“Are you comfortable?”

“Yes.”

“Then it’s fine.”

Laura sighed and closed her eyes again. It only took her a few minutes to fall asleep. 

 

It was a crystal clear autumn night. The stars were decorating the black sky and there were hardly any other cars on the road.

Sunny had driven for four hours, leaving the highway using only secondary roads an hour ago. Even though her right leg was numb from Laura’s weight pressing down on it, she had no intention of waking the older woman yet. Glancing down she smiled softly.

She is so beautiful, she thought. I can’t believe she let me come with her, but then again, I guess I didn’t give her much choice.

The softness of the hair, when she carefully stroked the head in her lap, made her heart ache. To think she kissed this incredible woman. She had just stood there, so close, and then she had leaned down and … oh, those soft lips … It had been a mere brushing of lips, a caress as soft as a whisper, but it had sent tingling sensations to every corner of her body.

Just thinking about it made her blood rush to her lips and cheeks.

She was happier that Laura had not been dismayed about it; she wanted to do it again if the opportunity occurred.

They had left in a hurry but not before making some preparations. Sunny had taken a great deal of cash from the safe, leaving the key and combination in Miriam’s capable hands. Miriam would also act as manager of The River Meadow Motel in Sunny’s absence.

She and Laura would call in once a week to let her know how they were doing.

Vincent had brought the car and taken Sunny’s old pickup truck with him, hoping its absence would create the impression that the women were using it.

Always a good idea to hide ones trail, Sunny mused. Vincent’s car was old and not a pretty sight, but it would take them where they wanted to go, he had assured them.

Daybreak was coming. When she saw a sign announcing a motel at the next intersection, she decided it was as good a place as any to rest for a while.

“Hubert,” she whispered to the snoring dog in the backseat. “Hey, Hubert!”

A soft woof and rattling of claws against the back of her seat told her he woke up with a start.

“You okay?” she said in a low voice as she turned left and let the car roll into a space at the furthest end of the motel’s parking lot.

“You expect him to answer you?” a husky voice asked from her lap.

Sunny smiled down at Laura as she turned the engine off.

“Hi.”

“How long have I slept? I’m so stiff, I don’t think I can move.”

The blonde chuckled.

“For about four hours,” she said. “I just pulled up to a motel. Thought we would get some proper rest.”

Laura’s eyes widened.

“Four hours! No wonder I feel like the proverbial doornail.”

She tried to sit up but slipped down again twice. Looking bemused and not a little annoyed she glared at Sunny.

“Well, seems I can’t do anything on my own,” she sighed with dismay.

The blonde gently put her arms under Laura’s and lifted her up a bit. This put the older woman very close to her and the blonde couldn’t resist pulling her in for a hug.

The sensation of holding Laura in her arms was breathtaking. Sunny buried her face in the dishevelled auburn hair and inhaled the other woman’s special scent.

“Laura,” she mumbled, caressing her back carefully.

“Oh, god …” she heard Laura moan and then gentle hands were in her hair and around her neck.

Sunny stopped thinking and could only feel. This was what she had felt when she kissed Laura, only so much more. Shuddering she held the other woman closer, trying to remember that she was injured.

“Oh, Laura, you … do you mind?” she asked cautiously.

“No, no … I don’t mind at all. Hold me,” Laura answered with a catch in her voice.

I don’t think I have much choice, Sunny thought, her thoughts spinning. I have to hold her, I just have to.

Pushing Laura’s head down onto her shoulder she cradled the older woman against her trembling body. Planting little kisses on her forehead, she tried to convey some of her confused feelings; how important she had become to her, how much she wanted to be with her.

Then Laura turned her head a little; their lips merely a breath apart.

“Sunny?”

“Yes?”

Their lips almost touched as they whispered.

“Darling, I want to kiss you,” Laura said in that low, throaty voice that made the other woman’s stomach lurch.

Sunny swallowed. Her chest was on fire and tears were welling up in her eyes.

“I want that too.”

There were a couple of excruciating seconds when neither of them moved but then Laura captured the younger woman’s mouth in a kiss that sent shivers down both the women’s spine.

Careful little nibbles left Sunny breathless and in awe of the feelings emerging inside her.

Playfully tugging with her teeth at Sunny’s lower lip, Laura managed to part the blonde’s lips and then let a tentative tongue enter the sweetness inside.

Sunny flinched and without any hesitation whatsoever she met the intruder with her own tongue, deepening the kiss and taking it even further. Suddenly there were no barriers, nothing to stop the blazing kiss they shared in the front seat of a car, only witnessed by an equally beautiful sunrise.

As they explored the other woman’s velvet mouth, both moaning in pleasure, Sunny opened her eyes a little.

The sight of a Laura Carter in complete surrender in her arms; framed by the sun’s first rays, was enough to trigger the tears in her eyes to fall. The salty drops reached their joined mouths, merged with their shared taste and nothing she had ever felt or seen before had ever been so beautiful.

Laura broke the kiss and rested her forehead on Sunny’s chin.

“Darling … oh, goodness … “ She smiled, trying to catch her breath. “I hate to be a killjoy but there is a pitiful whimper coming from the backseat.”

Sunny only stared at her, dazed from all the feelings that still flowed through her veins, travelling with an unfathomable speed towards her heart.

“Hubert,” Laura clarified with a smile. “I think he has to go.”

“Where?” the blonde asked, confused.

“Out. Anywhere. You know; ‘go’ as in pee?”

Sunny blushed.

“Oh, yes. Right. I get it.”

She carefully completed what she had started out to do; helping Laura to sit up in the passenger’s seat. Then she opened her door and jumped out, not bothering with her own stiff legs at all.

She let Hubert out.

“Now, go and do your thing,” she said tenderly. “Just don’t go too far.”

A chuckle was heard from the other side of the car. Laura was leaning against the roof, her chin on her hand.

“I swear you talk to that dog like he was a person.”

“He is very much a person. You will understand in a little while as you get to know him.”

“I look forward to it. Shall we check in while he ‘does his thing’?”

Sunny nodded and grabbed both their backpacks.

“He’s just as smart as I am,” she insisted quietly to herself.

“I’ll have to wait and see if that says more about you than him, then,” she heard Laura answer cheerfully.

 

Laura came out of the bathroom.

Taking in the site before her, she chuckled quietly and shook her head.

Sunny was lying on her stomach, dressed only in cut-offs and a tee-shirt. Across her feet the large dog had draped himself, snoring again. If he was supposed to be this clever guard dog, he was sure making a fine interpretation of a lazy good-for-nothing spoiled brat kind of dog, she mused.

Walking over to the bed, drying her hair with a towel, she nudged the dog.

“Hey, Hubert. Get off her feet, you are crushing them.”

The dog just gave her a supercilious look and then closed his eyes.

“No, you don’t,” Laura growled and nudged him again. “Get down from there.”

He glared at her, sighed and then jumped down. Sunny didn’t even stir as the bed bounced back from the loss of his weight.

When her hair was nearly dry, Laura brushed it briskly and then put on a clean oversized tee-shirt. Turning around to pull down the covers on her bed she stopped in her tracks and had to bite her tongue not to cry out in surprise.

Hubert had found a new place to sleep. Snuggling happily into her pillows and stretching out on the cover, he was already snoring again, his huge paws jerking a little.

“Whoa, you fall asleep easily, don’t you?” Laura muttered and sighed exasperatedly. “Now what do I do?”

Her gaze altered between the heavy dog, drooling on her pillow and the delicious blonde sleeping on the edge of her bed.

“Well, that was easy,” the older woman smirked. She pulled up the blankets around Sunny and then crawled under them herself. Her side was aching a little from changing bandages again but she was starting to feel much better. This evening she would be driving. If Sunny wanted to sleep in her lap, that was fine too.

* - * - * - * - *

She was wearing a black suit and black pumps. Her face was pale and Joan had to look carefully to see that the redhead really was breathing. Her full lips were pressed to a thin line.

“Are you telling me that you supplied her with an unregistered firearm, a false Visa card and a car with false plates?” she asked in a bland, low voice. Only Joan, who knew that voice intimately, seemed to realise its significance.

Jared Malachai nodded.

“Yes.”

Joan groaned inwardly, wanting to slap the man in the head for being so oblivious.

“You only know she calls herself Laura but you have no idea what surname she used on the Visa card?”

“That’s right. It was the only way I could ensure her safety.”

“From whom?”

“From the same forces that wanted to run you off the highway in a high speed pursuit, Dawn,” he explained patiently.

Perhaps not so oblivious after all, Joan thought. Gazing at her partner she realised that Dawn was not impressed.

“You have broken at least four laws doing just that, Mr Malachai,” the doctor hissed.

“Yes, but you two are the only ones who know that and you have no evidence to prove it, have you? Only what I told you and I’ll deny it all in a heartbeat, should it come to that.”

Wow, brilliant, Joan thought but cringed at the naked, burning anger in Dawn’s eyes.

She is like a witch on wheels today, she thought warily. I don’t know if it was because we had all those little heart to hearts yesterday or having shared the same bed. Perhaps both. She is such a private person, she must have really suffered. She was up when I woke and, god damn it, she had already straightened up her side of the bed.

Joan sighed.

“What can you tell us that will be of use? Does she know that you know who she is?” she asked, equally patient, not very in character.

Malachai gestured for them to move closer.

“I found it wise to tell her right away, once I had recognised her. She was a fairly public figure not long ago and every so often media digs out her story again. She wasn’t thrilled, putting it mildly, but when I told her my background, she apparently decided to almost trust me.” He rolled his eyes. “First of all I have a recent picture of her. She didn’t know my daughter was taking snapshots of everybody at her birthday party. She got a camera for her fifteenth birthday and was driving us all nuts. This was taken outdoors, in our atrium. She has changed, wouldn’t you say?”

They stared at the picture.

Grace Farlow as they knew her didn’t exist anymore. She had been an extremely elegant blonde, dressed in tailor made suits, fitting a lady from a very wealthy background. She had been sharp, not very tactful and brilliant in everything she did.

This woman was much thinner, had shoulder length auburn hair and new lines around the eyes and mouth. The young photographer had captured her from a distance but either the camera was very expensive or the child’s eye very skilled; the picture was crystal clear.

“She looks so lost,” Joan said quietly, making her partner jump a little next to her.

She held the picture closer to the light and nodded.

“I agree, Joan. She does look … wayward. These last years must have been rough.”

“If we think they have been rough, and we do, she must have been feeling it so much more,” the brunette said sorrowfully. “She must feel alone.”

Malachai cleared his throat.

“Actually, that is what struck me the first time I met her. She is a loner, not by choice, but because she has to be. She refused any attempts from anyone in our circle of friends to come close even though she was very polite and amicable.”

Joan looked at the picture again.

“She’s so thin,” she observed, “ and the way she is folding her arms around her. She looks cold.”

“I suspect my daughter captured her in a rare moment of weakness,” Malachai offered. “She was very commanding and had a presence and aura about her that instilled respect and fear in a lot of people. She is not to toy with, I’d even go so far as to say she is quite dangerous.”

Dawn shot him a look.

“Dangerous?”

“Yes. If cornered I don’t think she has any scruples. She is quite set on staying clear of both the Bureau and any other person or organisation that may want to find her. She told me that there was no way she would surrender herself to anybody. I got the impression that she was most sincere.”

Joan shook her head, rubbing her forehead. This assignment is not getting easier with time, that’s for sure, she thought.

“Do you think she would kill herself rather than be taken into custody?” Dawn asked.

Cringing at the solemn tone of voice of her partner, the younger agent closed her eyes briefly.

“I can’t tell. Some days when we talked I could have sworn that a woman of her substance would never do such a thing. But there were other moments when she looked, as you said, lost. Haunted, even. She could get a tremendously weary look on her face, lose her eyes in the distance and just … drift away. If you catch her when she is in that mood, who knows what she’d do.”

“Wonderful, we need to secure a woman who could very well be suicidal,” Joan muttered.

“And you’re sure she is travelling alone?”

“Yes. She's not bound to change her habits after all these years, do you think?”

Dawn paced back and forth in front of Malachai’s desk.

They were in his study and she would have liked the room, Joan thought, if she had cared enough to look around more closely.

Then Dawn stopped pacing and before any of them had a chance to react, she slammed her hand on the large desk, making pictures and paperweights jump.

“You said ‘first of all’ you had the picture. What more do you know?”

Malachai looked hesitant. Rubbing the back of his hand he regarded them with more apprehension than he had shown since they met him last evening.

“This is very sensitive information,” he said slowly.

Dawn nodded.

“I need guarantees. Not for me, but for a friend. She is not aware of anything of what’s going on, but I had to send Laura … Grace … somewhere safe.”

Joan held her breath saw that Dawn did the same.

“Go on,” Dawn said.

“She is at the River Meadow Motel,” he then said and sighed. “Here is the address. A friend’s daughter owns it. I am a silent partner and I called her to say I was sending someone her way. I don’t know if Laura is still there or not but this is where I think she was going.”

Joan searched for a fleeting piece of information in her mind.

“The girl you saved when you were later wrongfully arrested,” she exclaimed. “Sunshine … something.”

“Sunny Stewart,” he nodded. She is the daughter of the only cop who would even talk to me after I came out of prison. He gave me a job at his motel and when he died, Sunny made me a partner. She runs the place now.”

“What did you tell her about Grace Farlow?” Dawn asked, frowning.

“Nothing. All I asked was that if a woman called Laura came that she’d give her a certain room. I’m sure she knew this wasn’t exactly above board, but she is loyal to me even if we haven’t met since I escaped. She was nice to my family before I was acquitted and could send for them.”

“This is it? You are not holding anything back?” Joan asked, suddenly eager to get out of there and get on with the job.

“No, that’s it,” Malachai said. “I have a car for you. You will be able to reach it from the outskirts of this area via the tunnels below. We have rebuilt and reinforced them, they are safe to use and not many people know about them. Plenty of maps in the car, you should find the motel easily.”

“How far is it?” Dawn asked, looking a little dazed from all he was giving them.

“About a twelve hour drive if you take turns and take any longer breaks than ten minutes a couple of times.”

He walked them to the hallway where the man who they had briefly met yesterday was waiting.

Malachai stopped them as they reached their luggage.

“It has been an honour to act as your host, ladies,” he smiled. “I hope we meet again, under more normal and pleasant circumstances.”

To Joan’s surprise he reached out for her and hugged her briefly.

“Take care, and … take care of her,” he whispered in her ear, obviously meaning Dawn, before letting her go with an angelic smile.

The expression on Dawn’s face was priceless. Her eyes were huge and full of questions as she regarded them. Joan had to smother a grin, it didn’t happen often but now the redhead was certainly looking dumbfounded.

Before Dawn had time to pull herself together Malachai had ceased her and hugged her as well.

He is indeed a very special, and tactile, man, Joan mused.

When he let go of Dawn she had composed herself but Joan could have sworn she saw a tiny sparkle of amusement in her blue eyes.

“It has been … an experience,” the redhead said with a crooked smile. “If this leads to Grace Farlow, we owe you a lot.”

“Just don’t hurt her. Try to remember who she is in all this and that’s all the thanks I will ever need. Tell Sunny I sent you. She can call me if she needs to and I’ll confirm it. This has to come to an end.”

He gestured towards a door further down the hallway.

“My friend here will guide you through the tunnels and help you locate the car. Parking it among lots of other cars is brilliant – but makes it hard for you to find. You can trust him.”

Dawn nodded solemnly and grabbed her suitcase and briefcase.

“I’ll take that, ma’am, and your backpack,” the bulky man next to them stated calmly and did so.

Joan shrugged and grinned at Malachai.

“You’ve had him trained well,” she teased.

“Actually, it is the other way around,” their host said.

“Goodbye,” Dawn said and extended a hand. He shook it and then they followed his large friend through the door.

Joan looked over her shoulder and waved.

Malachai smiled and waved back.

“God’s speed.”

 

Here we are in a car again, Dawn thought, looking over at Joan who sat deep in thought in the passenger’s seat. I wonder what is going through her mind, she mused. She has not said many words since we started driving. If this is how she feels when I go into one of my brooding spells, I’m amazed that she doesn’t slap me over the head at times.

She steered the car into the outer lane, going at an even, comfortable speed. There were a lot on her mind and she was glad that the traffic wasn’t too intense; she needed to keep her mind on their case.

If I only could, she smirked inwardly. I should worry about securing Grace Farlow, not brooding about what happened last night.

She shuddered and masked it by reaching for the sunglasses she wore on her head. The autumn sun stung her eyes and she needed them but that wasn’t all. She was desperate to hide her feelings from Joan, but it was getting harder every day.

Damn these long missions, she thought. I have enough trouble keeping my distance and my feelings in check during ordinary days at the office. Tossing us together over and over in different rooms, not to mention beds, is not exactly making it easier for me. 

She had hardly slept during the night. She had kept waking up, over and over, sleepily feeling around for Joan, in a nameless fear of her being gone or injured. At first the brunette had been there, snuggled up against Dawn but eventually she had moved and that was when Dawn found it prudent to rise and study their files instead. She had even smoothed out her side of the bed, trying to hide any trace of them sleeping in the same spot.

It felt so good to hold her, she remembered wearily. She trembled in my arms when she had that nightmare and as soon as she heard my voice, she calmed down. It was as if she knew I was there. And the way she smells … it is a dark, secretive scent … positively dangerous.

Dawn felt herself go warm inside. A part of her wanted to tell Joan how she felt, another part, the much stronger, was scared out of her mind and was sure that Joan would be appalled, outraged and embarrassed. For all she knew, Joan might never even have looked at another woman twice.

But she is a warm-hearted person under all that tough exterior, she mused. She is caring and sort of shy when you get to know her and she really sounds interested in going on that vacation with me. One thing Joanie never does is say something she doesn’t mean. She must like some things about me, which is odd since I haven’t always been very nice or patient with her. I can be a sarcastic bitch at times. Guess I should make an effort to change that, either way. It isn’t necessary to be so … stuck up.

“Can you pull over at the next exit, Dawn?” Joan suddenly asked, startling her partner with her shivering voice.

“What is it? Are you okay?” she asked, not succeeding entirely to keep the fear out of her voice. For heaven’s sake, Dawn, she chastised herself, get a grip. It’s not like she’s dying or something.

But looking over at Joan again, she realised that the other woman wad definitely pale and little beads of sweat pearled on her forehead.

“Yes, but I’m … well …”

The brunette lowered her head and mumbled something inaudible.

“What? What’s wrong Joanie?”

The nickname was over her lips before she could stop herself.

“I feel ill. Motion sickness,” Joan mumbled, clearly embarrassed.

Dawn stopped herself from laughing but it was close. Motion sickness! She remembered herself teasing her partner when they left the Bureau but never really expected her to suffer from it for real. Joan put on such a tough and strong mask every day, even Dawn bought into it sometimes.

“Oh, dear,” the redhead mumbled, “we better hurry then.”

“I think that would be wise,” Joan mumbled through clenched teeth.

Dawn shifted lanes again and was grateful to see an exit coming up. She made the turn, drove a couple of hundred yards and then pulled the car over. Joan was outside before she came to a full stop, heading for the ditch.

Dawn got out of the car but knowing Joan, she stayed where she was, making sure the agent was okay. She saw her pacing back and forth next to the ditch, drawing long, cleansing breaths, over and over. After a couple of minutes she stopped and dragged both hands through her hair. Then she looked over at Dawn and made a face.

When she came back to the car, Dawn couldn’t help but smile. The look on the brunette’s face was more than a little tentative.

“I won’t hold it against you, Joan,” she promised casually.

“Are you kidding? This was just what I didn’t need. A reason for you to …”

“Didn’t you hear me? Anybody can get motion sickness. It has happened to me many times. I hate flying.”

Joan stared at her.

“You do? But we have flown many times together. You have never …”

“There are wonderful things up there called bathrooms.”

“You mean, you …” Joan pointed her finger into her mouth.

“Yes.”

“More than once?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? I could have … helped you.”

Dawn laughed, a loud, thoroughly amused sound that made her partner stare at her with even wider eyes.

“You mean, hold my forehead or something? No, I don’t think so,” she grinned. “But maybe I should have told you anyway. You could have carried all the bags.”

“I usually do.”

They regarded each other more fondly than they had ever before and Dawn found it to be calming in a strange way.

“What do you say we drive to that parking lot over there and get something for you to drink and nibble on?” she asked a pointed towards a small convenient store further down the road.

“Good idea,” Joan agreed. “Okay if I drive, my stomach is still not settled?”

“Sure. Although, I get the feeling that you might start using this as a way of making sure you always get to drive.”

“Me? No, I’d never do that,” Joan smirked.

“Right.”

When they reached the parking lot and just had gone out of the car, Dawn’s cellular phone rang. They had discussed if they were going to leave it on or not. Any signal to or from cellular phones could be traced and their location revealed. But since Dawn always scanned the caller first by her automatic caller’s ID, they had decided to leave it on. There was the odd chance that they might need to call in for back up.

Dawn glanced at Joan and then checked the display.

“It’s Monroe,” she said.

“What do you want to do?” 

Resolutely Dawn turned off the cellular phone and removed the batteries.

“I’ll call him from the pay phone and be really quick about it.” she decided. “Time me.”

Joan nodded and they entered the store together.

“Hi,” Dawn smiled at the young boy behind the counter. “Is there a phone I can use?”

He ogled her from her hair to her shoes and then, after moving the enormous piece of gum in his mouth, he pointed to the far corner. 

“There’s a payphone down there, ma’am.”

“Thank you,” Dawn said politely and they walked to the little booth.

Dawn stepped inside and the little door behind her closed only to be opened by her partner, deciding to squeeze in too. Immediately the air got thin and the doctor’s heart started pounding in a furious pace. Joan was standing pressed up against her from behind and that was far more than she had bargained for.

“A bit crowded in here,” the brunette observed casually.

“Could be because there’s two of us in a booth designed for one?” Dawn said dryly as she searched her pockets for change.

“That kid will have the wet dream of his life tonight,” Joan offered.

“What?” Dawn exclaimed and tried to turn around, almost falling.

“He ogled you like you were one, large pizza or whatever kids his age devour.”

“You are absolutely crazy. He looked at me …”

“He was ogling you.”

“All right, he was. But to think … to say …”

Damn, she was speechless. Was this going to be a habit? She glared at Joan who looked just fine now. Her colour was back and she was beaming.

Dawn found some coins and then called the operator that would put her through on a secure line.

“Dave? Hi, Dawn Morrison here. Yes, yes. I figured it was you. No. My cell phone, yes.

Don’t know what’s wrong with it, it keeps losing the connection. Mm. What’s on your mind?

Yesterday? We stayed at that motel, you know. Aha.”

She made a face at Joan who kept her eyes on her watch, starting the count down using her fingers. 

“I will. What? Are you sure? That’s good news. Finally. Yes. We’ll see you sooner than we thought, then … Whoops, can’t hear you. Dave? Hello … Dave? Damn phone … Dave?”

She hung up when Joan tapped her shoulder.

“Dawn, you missed your calling. You could have been an actress on the radio. You know, they way they used to do it in the old days,” Joan smiled. When her partner didn’t return the smile, just turned towards her in the narrow booth with a grim expression on her face, her smile faded.

“Dawn? What did he say?”

“He’s calling us in. He says they have traced Grace Farlow to a boarding house on the west coast that our lead was a hoax, a false trail laid by some person near her. He sounded awfully cheerful, said he still wanted to congratulate us for ‘making it all possible’.

How does this sound to you?” she asked and pressed her lips together.

“Do they know about Malachai?”

“Not unless Dennis told them and I really don’t think he’d do that. He is so unimpressed with the brass upstairs, even more so than both you and I put together. It is doubtful that they saw the same connection that Dennis did.”

“Then I put my money on Malachai. He had everything to lose and nothing to gain from talking to us. If Monroe is our traitor, that is just the opposite. He would have everything to lose if we find her. It is easy enough to arrange a little annoying failure – which they would pin on us – when they ‘don’t find her after all’ on the west coast.”

“That’s what I was thinking too. Damn it, Joan, as if this case isn’t hard enough. We have a brilliant scientist that is a potential walking disaster and a boss that could very well be a traitor. This is starting to get on my nerves, I can tell you that. I don’t want this case anymore!”

Dawn slammed her palm into the wall of the phone booth. Then she was pulled towards a strong, lean body, one arm around her waist and a hand around her neck, under her hair.

Joan held her close and mumbled inaudible words in her ear.

“Shh …” she whispered soothingly.

Dawn sobbed once and allowed her forehead to rest against Joan’s shoulder.

“I hate this, Joanie,” she whispered. “I really do; it has gone on too long.”

“I know. But I’m here with you and we’ll find a way out together. We just have to be careful and stay one step ahead. And of course, find Grace Farlow.”

Dawn barked a short laughter and nodded against the trench coat clad shoulder.

“That would be good.”

“She’ll be at The River Meadow Motel, you’ll see.”

“I hope so.”

“And she’ll come peacefully.”

Another chuckle.

“Now you’re dreaming.”

“And she’ll thank us for finding her.”

“You are crazy.”

“I know.”

Dawn smiled and lifted her head, gazing up into her partner’s eyes.

“I think you’re even crazier than you realise, my dear.”

“No. I know exactly how crazy I am,” Joan grinned, her dark eyes sparkling. 

“You do?”

The brunette’s smile faded.

“Yes, because I really believe we can do this. You can do anything, Dawn and I’d follow you anywhere.”

And as if her incredible words weren’t enough, she stunned her partner into silence by leaning down and gently kissing her cheek.

*****
Continued in part 4
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