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

Pol, my beta reader is the reason this chapter made it at all. I needed her more than ever this time.

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 3


Finding Shelter From The Storm

© GB

 

Part 4

It was a sheer sight of beauty.

Laura was standing in the doorway looking out on the patio behind the motel. The pool was empty and autumn leaves were on the ground. The sun had set half an hour ago and the air was chilly.

However it was not the picturesque scenery that had caught the auburn haired woman’s attention, but the slow, fluent movements of her travel companion as she practised the ancient art of tai chi.

Her hair was down and though she was dressed in grey sweats, still she managed to look as graceful and delicate as a ballerina in the soft light of the garden lanterns.

She’s like the essence of beauty, Laura mused, and yet she doesn’t seem to notice it. She walks around this world, carrying herself as if she was plain or nothing special. But she’s very special.

She smiled crookedly in self-deprecation. Oh, how sweet it was to wake up next to her; wrapped up in those slender arms with her breath on the side of my neck. It probably was a good thing I woke up first and pulled my hands out from under her tee-shirt, she snickered to herself. That could have self-ignited things beyond my control.

It would be so easy to just engage in a physical relationship with this girl. She was susceptible to Laura; there was an earth shattering attraction between them.

The older woman grinned.

Attraction was an understatement. Sunny was rapidly becoming much too important to her. This was unwise, considering her situation. There were times when it felt so good being around this wonderful creature; she could almost forget about the tremendous burden and loneliness of the past five years and why that kind of existence was necessary.

Laura was startled out of her reverie as the slender blonde suddenly exploded in a violent series of kicks and parries. Like a flash moving in carefully estimated patterns, she flew across the patio, small grunts emerging from her throat as she demolished some imaginary adversary. Not until she noticed Laura standing in the doorway, her coffee mug half way to her open lips, probably looking outright stunned, did she stop.

The older woman dipped her head in approval and gave a crooked smile.

“Are we going to have to register you as a lethal weapon? You are full of surprises, my dear,” she drawled.

Sunny regarded her calmly, cocking her left eyebrow.

“Just getting some exercise before we start driving again. What do you do to stay in shape Laura?” she asked.

“Oh, I get enough exercise from just trying to stay ahead.” And alive, she thought. “It’s quite enough for me, I think.”

Sunny smiled faintly.

“I think you look wonderful.”

Laura almost dropped her mug, but tried not to show how the compliment surged through her body, aiming for her heart.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. Then she squared her shoulders, drank the last of her coffee and turned to go back into their room.

“We need to get going,” she said over her shoulder. “We have quite a drive ahead of us. I’ll take the first shift at the wheel.”

“Are you sure you can manage?” the blonde asked worriedly, walking in behind her.  

“Yes, I’m fine. No sign of infection thanks to those antibiotics you got for me.“

Sunny looked pleased but also a bit apprehensive.

“You promise to let me know when you’re tired?” she asked cautiously.

Laura rolled her eyes.

“I promise.”

The younger woman moved closer and held out her hand in a silent appeal. Laura pursed her lips and took it lingeringly. Her skin is like satin, even her hands, she thought. I could definitely lose myself in those eyes and her scent. Even now, when she is a little sweaty, she smells divine.

“I liked waking up next to you,” Laura mumbled. “It’s also very pleasant to share a bed with you. You don’t move around much.”

“Neither do you,” Sunny said, her eyes sparkling. “When I woke up late in the afternoon because of that brief thunderstorm, you were sound asleep. I don’t think you would’ve woken up even if the lightning had struck the motel.”

“There was a thunderstorm?” Laura asked incredulously. “I didn’t hear anything.”

“No, you didn’t. You slept right through it.”

The older woman shook her head in disbelief. Then, something else struck her.

“At what time did you wake up?” she asked tentatively.

“Oh, around five?”

Oh no, Laura thought and closed her eyes. I woke up five thirty, right there with my hands all over your perfect body, my dear.

She glanced at Sunny who looked like everything was perfectly normal.

“I … um … I,” Laura croaked, losing her voice and feeling utterly embarrassed. This was not like her. She was composed, calculating and could be cold and cruel when necessary. Still this voluptuous blonde, possessing a childlike innocence that defied all logic, could make her blush with just a look.

Sunny stepped closer and carefully taking hold of Laura’s shoulders, caressing them softly.  “You look so vulnerable  in your sleep,” she said. “When the thunder woke me, I wasn’t sure where I was at first. But then I turned and saw you lying there. You were holding on to me as if you needed me even in you dreams. That was a special moment, Laura, don’t be embarrassed about it.”

Laura shook her head.

“I guess you noticed that … I was a bit too intrusive. Honestly, Sunny, I had no idea that I was …” Her voice trailed off and she shook her head again, giving the blonde a rueful smile.

“That you were fondling me underneath my tee-shirt?” Sunny added helpfully.

Groaning inwardly, Laura nodded.

“But that was so innocent,” Sunny stated brightly. “I liked it.”

Then she let go of Laura and hurried into the shower.

“I don’t mind you touching me at all,” she called over her shoulder as she ran the shower.

“You have such gentle hands.”

If you only knew what tasks these ‘gentle hands’ sometimes do, Laura thought wearily, packing her last items into her backpack. 

Turning, she regarded her empty gun harness.  Originally the plan was to head north but that was too obvious, so they headed south instead.  Several factors weighted this decision: obtaining a gun and Sunny’s safety. 

Sunny didn’t know it but the fact that Jared Malachai lived in this direction influenced Laura’s final choice considerably.  She felt Sunny needed someone to go to where she would be safe if things escalated beyond Laura’s control.  Although she wanted more than anything for this escape to succeed, Laura knew the odds were high against it.

A gun and a sanctuary for Sunny would make the odds of survival balance in their favour but ultimately she would have to make a decision.  Sunny’s determination to stay with her would be irrelevant. Laura would ditch her in a heartbeat, sending her to off to Malachai if the threat to Sunny’s life became too great.

It would break her own heart, of course, but there was no way she would compromise Sunny’s life.

*****

They had only driven ten miles when the weather changed for the worse.

A new thunderstorm was upon them and this time the rain came down with a vengeance; Laura could hardly see the road ahead of them. She drove slowly, trying to keep the car from sliding down into the ditch. After two hours driving under these circumstances, her shoulders now ached and she thought it was time to let Sunny take over the wheel.

Suddenly, headlights were speeding towards them from behind. Laura tried to evade them but there was no time.

Sunny inhaled sharply. She tried to hold on but failed as the vehicle rammed the backend of their small car. 

Laura fought for control. The lights from the headlights were blinding The vehicle, a van, was trying to force their small car off the road.  The situation was impossible.  Pushing the accelerator to the floor she tried to escape.

The van quickly followed in pursuit.  Violently hitting the small car sending it careening off the road.

The deafening sounds of metal on metal and shattering glass enveloped the car as flying debris sliced their skin and Hubert howled in the back.

The car came to a sudden halt, its engine dead. Everything was eerily quite. The van was gone.

“Sunny? Sunny, are you okay?” Laura called, fighting frantically to get out of the restraining seat belt.

“Y-yes, I think so,” a trembling voice next to her answered.

“We need to get out. This was no accident. Get the dog,”

Climbing quickly out of the car, Laura was seized.  A large hand covered her mouth and a strong arm circled her waist.

“Dr Farlow, I presume,” a deep voice rumbled in her ear. “We finally meet.”

Laura’s heart skipped a beat and her next reactions were instinctive.

Raising her foot, Laura rammed it into her assailant while her hands to flew to his face jabbing both thumbs into his eyes. The man screamed and holding her closer, trying to restrain her further.

The auburn haired woman continued to apply pressure to the eyes digging her fingertips into his cheeks.

 He continued to cry out as his tight grip began to loosen a little.

 Laura sank her teeth into the fleshy hand that covered her mouth. Then she saw something that made her heart sink.

Behind Sunny, an even larger man was approaching from behind. Sunny had her head still in the car, talking to Hubert, trying to untangle the dog from their luggage.

Shifting tactics, Laura released one hand from her assailant’s face and began clawing the hand covering her mouth.

 Grunting, her assailant pulled his hand back to strike.

Seeing her chance Laura quickly moved under his arms.  Getting her left leg under his she tossed him and followed through with a quick kick temporarily putting him out of the picture.

She whirled around, clenching her teeth, fighting the pain.  The wound was open.  Blood was no doubt trickling down her side again but it didn’t matter as she focused on her next foe.  Never taking her eyes off her target, she crouched.  Sliding her right hand up the leg of her jeans, she grasped the concealed boot knife and began to circle the car.

Just as she was about to make her move she stopped.  Before her widening eyes Sunny had backed out of the car. Turning her head over her shoulder, the blonde had reached out, both hands supporting her bodyweight against the car, and erupted with a powerful kick hitting the man behind her in the chest.

He staggered back, waving his arms trying to keep his balance. Then a huge shadow emerged from the back seat, growling, flying through the air and clamping down its jaws around the man’s right wrist.

Hubert held his grip, sending the man to the ground, landing with a loud thud in the muddy terrain.

Laura heard breathing behind her and twirled around, raising her knife against her attacker who was stumbling to his feet, trying to find her by squinting through the rain with his swollen eyes.

“Back off,” Laura snarled, making sure he saw the knife.

“Get the fucking dog off me,” cried the man on the ground, almost covered entirely by the

huge animal. “He is chewing down to the bone. Bruce, shoot the god damn dog!”

“Bruce doesn’t have his gun anymore,” Sunny stated and regarded the scene looking amazingly calm.

“No, Bruce can’t help you much there,” Laura agreed, flashing a grin towards Sunny. “Sunny, there’s the van.  Get our stuff and get behind the wheel. See if the damn thing starts.”

Sunny grabbed their backpacks and tossed them into the van. She got in behind the wheel.  Turning the key, the engine began to roar.  Laura carefully kept an eye on the man standing ten feet away. Hubert was doing a great job keeping an eye on the wailing man on the ground.

Sunny gave a thumbs up through the windshield.

Laura signalled to her to drive as close as possible and then opened the large door in the back. She inhaled deeply, held her breath to stand the inevitable pain and then climbed inside it.

“Drive Sunny,” she said briskly and then called out the door. “Hubert, come on boy! Come here!”

The dog dropped the man’s hand and moved like lightning, jumping inside the van and knocking Laura over. There was a loud thud, as something brushed by them both and Laura closed her eyes in shock.

“Sunny!” she screamed, terror making her voice high-pitched.  

“Yes.”

“Are you hit?”

“By what?” the blonde asked, surprise in her voice.

Thank god, Laura thought, trying to get up to close the door. The bullet that had almost taken out both Hubert and herself had not hit Sunny either.

Dragging herself to her knees she pushed the sliding door closed. Looking around her jaw dropped. She had wanted a gun. She could count to ten different firearms just from where she sat on the floor. Expensive surveillance equipment as well as bunk beds and a small kitchen added to the luxury.

“Keep going, Sunny,” Laura said and started crawling towards the lower bed. “I’ll just rest here for a while.”

Sunny glanced back for a second.

“You’re bleeding again,” she decided, her voice trembling.

“It’s not bad, I promise. We need to put as great a distance between them and us as possible and then hide the van somewhere. Do you think you can drive, darling?”

The term of endearment was past her lips before she realised it.

Sunny nodded, her back against the older woman.

Laura regarded the stiff demeanour of the soaking wet woman at the wheel. The blonde had her eyes glued to the wet and muddy road in front of her but she kept raising her hand and wiping her face, over and over.

It took Laura a few minutes to understand but once she did, she crumbled a little.

Oh, good lord, she thought wearily, she was tough as nails back there. She kicked like a fury against that man, really kept her cool. But now, knowing that I’m hurt again, she’s crying.

*****

The sign said River Meadow Motel and Joan sighed inwardly.

“This is all we’ve have done these last days,” she muttered. “We drive, we share a room, we drive and then share a room again … Feel like I’m caught in a time loop.”

Dawn glanced at her partner, her brow furrowed.

“Are you alright? You have been driving most of the day, you must be beat.”

“No, I’m fine, really. I will be glad to get in there and get a room. Even if we find Farlow, I am dying to take a shower and have a sandwich or something.”

“We’ll see. If she’s here, we need to be on top of things. She is way too smart. These years have taught her more than any person need to know.”

Joan nodded and got out of the car. The rain was pouring down and they both ran to the reception.

Inside a smiling middle-aged woman greeted them with a warm smile met them.

“Good evening, ladies,” she said, “bet you’re glad to be out of that weather?”

“Yes, we are,” Dana agreed amicably. “May we to talk to Sunshine Stewart, please? “  

The smile faded just a tad, Joan was sure she saw the apprehension come and go in her dark eyes.

“I am sorry, but Sunny is away on a trip. May I help you instead?”

Joan and Dawn exchanged a look.

This is one thing we didn’t expect, Joan thought.

“No, this can only be dealt with personally,” she smiled. “When will Ms Stewart be back?”

The friendly smile stayed in place.

“I don’t know,” the woman told them kindly. “Sunny didn’t say.”

Now this was interesting, the brunette thought and felt Dawn stiffen next to her.

“Do you want a room for the night?” the lady asked.

“Yes, please,” Dawn said. “Did Ms Stewart say if she’d be in contact with you anytime soon? Surely she wouldn’t leave her motel unattended for any longer period of time?”

Now the smile definitely faltered as the woman pressed her lips together a little.

“May I ask who you are and why you want to get a hold of Sunny?” she asked tersely.

Dawn only nodded a little.

“We have a message for her from Jared Malachai and it’s important that we deliver it personally,” she said. “My name is Dawn and this is my … friend, Joan.”

Joan was startled by Dawn’s choice of word and regarded her colleague with a silent question in her eyes. Dawn raised an eyebrow at her, a strange sparkle in her eyes.  

“Wait one moment, please,” the woman behind the counter said and grabbed the phone. She dialled a number and talked briefly to someone. When she hung up her expression had changed completely. She looked much more approachable and even came around the desk.

“I’m Miriam and I am sorry if I sounded a bit stand offish earlier,” she smiled sheepishly. “It is just that we have had a bit of a … situation here and we don’t know who we can trust. But Jared says you can be trusted and that is good enough for me.” She nodded to a small couch beneath the window. “Please take a seat and I’ll tell you everything.”

Dawn and Joan sat down and Miriam pulled up a chair. There were no other guests in the reception at this late hour and they would immediately spot anyone coming through the door.

“Sunny isn’t here because she felt she had to go with Laura Carter after she and Hubert had been attacked by those men,” Miriam blurted out.

“Whoa, wait a minute,” Joan said, raising her hands, “take it from the beginning.”

“Laura Carter was a guest here and she was shot by someone. Sunny helped her and they seemed to … well, find each other on a personal level. Hubert is Sunny’s dog and when she was out walking him, she was attacked by two men who probably were the same ones who shot Ms Carter.”

Dawn and Joan could only stare at each other.

“And where are they now?”

“I don’t know. They are going to call in once a week to let us know that they are okay.”

“You let this young girl leave with a woman who is being pursued by men with guns?” Joan asked incredulously.

“Sunny is hardly a child, she is twenty-eight,” Miriam said but Joan could see she wasn’t all that pleased about the situation. “And Sunny said it could become dangerous for her to stay behind too. That they might think she knew where Laura Carter was.”

Dawn pulled out the picture Jared had given them.

“Is this her?”

Miriam nodded.

“Yes, that’s her.”

The brunette rubbed her forehead.

“What did Laura Carter say about all this. From what we know, she prefers to travel alone.”

“I got the impression that she was a loner by necessity,” Miriam nodded. “But when Sunny insisted that she and Hubert would join her, she didn’t have enough strength to resist. Our Sunny can be very stubborn.”

No shit, Joan thought. Grace Farlow was obviously more human than they had anticipated, even after all these years on the run.

“We will stay the night here and we also need to know what car they used. We need a recent picture of Sunny and we also need to see the room where … Laura Carter stayed.”

“You’re in luck,” Miriam smiled wryly. “It’s the only vacant room. You’ll be staying there. Room number three, the second on your left.”

“We can’t sign in, but we’ll pay of course. Cash,” Dawn informed her.

“For friends of Jared, we don’t mind.”

*****

The room was immaculately clean.

Dawn sighed. Not only because it was unlikely they would find any traces of Grace Farlow in here, but because this was another room they were going to share that boasted one bed; this time queen size.

I guess the next time we have to share a single bed, she smiled inwardly.

“I see you’ve noticed the bed,” Joan smirked, looking back over her shoulder.

“I have.”

“Well, we can do this,” the brunette smiled impishly. “I am getting used to snuggling close to you.”

The comment startled the redhead, making her eyes go wide and stare at her partner in horror.

Joan frowned, apparently not anticipating such a strong reaction.

“It was a joke, Dawn,” she said carefully. “Just a joke.”

Dawn exhaled slowly, chastising herself.

She doesn’t know, she thought, angry at herself. She doesn’t know.

“I know, sorry,” she said quickly and dropped her suitcase on the bed. “I hope they have something for us to eat here, or pizza delivery somewhere near.”

“I’ll pop over to the reception and ask,” Joan offered and left without waiting for an answer.

When she had closed the door behind her, Dawn sank down onto the bed, hiding her face in her hands. How long am I going to have to put up with this? she asked, tears burning behind her eyelids. Another night in an even smaller bed. I don’t know if I can take it.

She only had to close her eyes to remember the way Joan had held her in that narrow phone booth earlier. She had trembled, cried, and still the brunette had made her laugh with her crazy talk.

She is good for me, Dawn realised, hastily raising her head in surprise at the revelation. Her easygoing, cheeky personality, her toughness over all that vulnerability is so far from my stiff and composed nature. She makes me feel … complete, I guess.

The door opening behind her broke her out of her reverie. She turned around, carefully disguising her feelings before looking at her partner.

“Here, don’t these look great?” Joan said merrily and placed what looked like enormous sandwiches on the little dining table. “They call them killer subs.”

Dawn smiled and shook her head.

“I’ll probably topple over and die if I ate a whole one,” she admitted. “No doubt you will eat half of mine as well. I don’t know where you put all that food, Joan.”

Joan grinned and pulled off her trench coat, letting it fall on the bed next to Dawn.

“I just burn so much calories keeping up with you, my feisty redhead,” she smiled. “Look, they had a large bottle of diet coke left.”

Joan’s comment had thrown her a bit, but the huge bottle of coke made her laugh.

“I guess you’re all set, then,” Dawn smiled.

“Yep, I will be fed and I won’t be thirsty. You want some?” she asked holding up a glass.

“Yes, even I am thirsty enough to drink some of that stuff,” Dawn relented and accepted the glass. “If you cut that killer sub there in two I will have one.”

Joan did that and handed her the large baguette.

They ate in silence, tired and hungry, both of them. After Joan finished the rest of Dawn’s baguette and got rid of the wrapping, she turned to the redhead and nailed her with her dark eyes.

“Now, we need to talk. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many mixed signals during the past few days and I need to know why you’re jumpy, which is understandable, but there is more. Talk to me, Dawn.”

Dawn felt all the colour leave her face and her mouth go dry in an instant.

“Joan? I …” Damn, there were that lump in her throat, right on schedule.

“I don’t mean to pressure you, that is the last thing I want,” the other woman said softly. “But I must know what you are thinking. It’s just you and me here, we are alone on this case. We can’t call in for back up, we can only trust each other. And I feel you are holding something back.”  

You do? Well, that’s an understatement if I ever heard one, Dawn thought, her mind at a complete standstill for fear of revealing anything that would give her away.

The doctor got up from her chair and paced the room, trying to think of a plausible explanation that would satisfy Joan. Oh, god, I shouldn’t even think the words ‘satisfy’ and ‘Joan’ in the same sentence, she thought, furious at herself for not being able to keep this strictly professional.

“Joan,” she began apprehensively. “First of all, this isn’t about something you’ve done.  You‘ve done nothing wrong. Do you believe me?” She glanced over at her partner, seeing that she had her complete attention.

“Okay,” the brunette answered calmly.

Dawn cleared her throat.

“I have been, experiencing some personal … issues,” she said. Oh for heaven’s sake, this is sounding so strange, she will think I am losing it or something, she thought, mentally kicking herself. “Anyway, will you just trust in me that it is strictly personal and that there is nothing you can do about it?”

Joan regarded her for a moment and then got up and stepped well inside Dawn’s personal space.  

“I do believe it’s personal,” she agreed and looked down at the other woman. “What I don’t buy is the fact that you believe is that you can’t share it with me and that I’m suppose to just accept this and let you handle it yourself.

Dawn was stunned. Stunned that Joan sounded so calm and determined. Stunned that her body was reacting the way it did, every little cell screaming out to the other woman.

“Dawn, you are not alone in this. Ever since that night at the warehouses you’ve been hurting and so have I. But you’re taking it much harder than I am. Please, don’t shut me out. I …” she frowned, looking unsure, “… I don’t like it. It makes me feel like I’m letting you down.”

The doctor couldn’t move and certainly not speak. The lump in her throat was almost making her nauseous, or it could be the killer sub, she thought wearily.

Then her right hand moved without a conscious intention. It reached Joan’s face and cupped her cheek and then her chin. Her index finger traced the curved lips of her partner who gasped in surprise – or was it shock? Dawn didn’t care, her finger was telling her things she didn’t know but always suspected. Like that Joan had the softest lips, they were a little moist and they could tremble in the sweetest way.

“Dawn?” There was a soft gush of air against her finger as Joan breathed her name questioningly.

“Shh …” Dawn said gently. Like in a trance she let her finger part Joan’s lips and carefully examine their soft and vulnerable texture.

The wetness on the inside coated Dawn’s finger making it glide easily back and forth between her lips. The small, white teeth inside were explored with the same thoroughness. When she started to pull her finger out, a tentative tongue darted out and then hid behind Joan’s teeth again.

“Joan?” Dawn whispered, her eyes huge in the dimly lit room.

The tongue slowly appeared again, tasting the intrusive finger cautiously before becoming bolder and lapping at it more confidently. The redhead groaned softly and leaned in a little more.

This encouraged the woman in front of her.

 Joan’s mouth opened some more and then the finger was sucked in further, engulfed by satin surroundings making delicious little sucking movements.

Dawn couldn’t believe what was happening between them. She purred deep in her throat; the erotic sound reverberating within the woman in front of her. Joan raised her hand and gently took hold of the one so intimately connected to her mouth; holding it firmly in place.

“Joanie …” the redhead whispered shakily, letting her free arm circle Joan’s waist, pulling her closer.

Joan slowly pulled the now buzzing finger, giving her partner a shy but brilliant smile before planting a kiss in her palm.

“Dawn,” she said, looking down at her.

Dawn was trembling all over, her breath so deep and rapid, it almost choked her. She stared at

the brunette, realising that both of them seemed as taken aback and affected by the feelings raging between them.  

“Forgive me,” she said in a low voice, not daring to drop her gaze although her cheeks were burning.

“Don’t say that,” Joan frowned. “Don’t say you’re sorry. I’m not.”  

Impossible words. Dawn desperately wanted to believe them but she didn’t dare to. She had stepped way out of line; there were really no excuse for how she had behaved towards her partner. Her junior partner.

“But I am,” she insisted, letting her arms fall to her sides.

The brunette regarded her closely.

“You are doing it again,” she said, a sad tone entering her voice. “You are withdrawing from having to discuss anything personal with me. You don’t trust me, that’s it, isn’t it? You don’t think I am capable of judging what’s good for me or not. You feel like you have to protect me from everything. Including you! Damn you, Dawn … damn you …” She told the stunned woman in front of her and then her voice broke and she almost sobbed the last words.

The doctor didn’t know what to think. Was Joan saying that she was attracted to her? Or was she just saying that Dawn should let her make her own decisions even if that meant rejecting her?

Joan stepped back and folded her hands over her chest, glaring grimly at her.

“I hate it when you do this,” she said through clenched teeth. “You are so damn overbearing at times, Doctor.”

Dawn flinched. Yes, I am, she thought wearily. And that is one reason of many for you to stay clear of me, Joanie. You don’t need a high-strung, overbearing, screwed up agent with a broken heart.  

Some of what she was thinking must have reflected in her eyes because the brunette suddenly mellowed a little and lowered her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she sighed. “Calling you names won’t make you like me, will it?”

Make me like you?

The ridiculous statement made Dawn laugh, a bitter kind of chuckle that quickly sent tears running down her cheeks. This startled Joan, forcing her to act and she pulled Dawn into a fierce embrace.

“Shh … don’t, Dawn,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry. Don’t cry.”

But the gates were temporarily open and the tears soaked everything in their path.

“Oh, no,” the brunette groaned, “why can’t I learn to keep my big mouth shut? Damn!”

“It’s not your fault,” Dawn sniffled. “It is … well, I think it’s everything. This case, this never-ending journey and … I guess it’s you, a little bit. But not because anything you’ve said or done. It’s my fault.”

Joan cocked her head, looking at her partner.

“How is it your fault? Tell me, don’t shut me out.”

Dawn hesitated. I can’t tell her everything, she thought quickly, but I can’t keep hurting her.

Joan nudged her towards the bed.

“Hey, let’s sit down,” she suggested. “We need to settle this or we'll find ourselves in big sh- … trouble.” She grinned sheepishly.

Dawn nodded and sat down. Joan kept her hand in the small of her partner’s back, administering a gentle little massage to the tense muscles there.

The doctor cleared her throat and managed to get rid of the lump for now.

“You must wonder why I … did that,” she began, gesturing at Joan’s mouth and feeling a bit flushed, but chose to ignore it. “I am sorry about that, you shouldn’t have to put up with that from any superior officer.”

“I didn’t put up with it,” Joan immediately objected, “I liked it.”

This took Dawn by surprise and she forgot what she was going to say, right away.

“You did?” she asked incredulously.

The brunette grinned impishly and let her hand circle Dawn’s waist.

“Sure I did.”

“But … why?”

Now it was the other woman’s turn to blush faintly.

“Why? Well, because it felt good and I … uh, it was exciting. You never touched me like that before and I never knew it could be so … erotic.”

Dawn smiled a trembling, crooked smile.

“Fingers and mouths, Joanie, can be very erotic.”

“I realise that now,” Joan said and swallowed. “But before tonight, I have never … you know, explored it like this.”

Oh, we are going to be specific now, Dawn thought exasperatedly. All right, why not.

“You mean, you haven’t explored that kind of foreplay?” she asked, trying to sound casual even if her heart went ballistic in her chest.

“No, not that either.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have never touched another woman like this before.”  

“Oh.” Oh damn, indeed, Dawn thought. I should have known.

“But I have always wondered about it,” Joan continued, not noticing the doctors trepidation.

“I have always been compelled to look at you.  At first I couldn’t understand why I needed to be so close to you all the time. But I know that I’m content in ways I never felt before. I guess it’s only logical that I would be … I don’t know, attracted to you, as well.”

There is no oxygen left in the room, Dawn thought. I can’t breath. She is being too honest, too soon. I can’t deal with this but I can’t hurt her either. Not even if my life depends on it. I must say something, but what?

“I didn’t freak you out?” she asked, her voice only a whisper, scared to death that she might have misunderstood the other woman.

“Hell no!” Joan blurted out and hugged her. “I don’t scare easily and you know me, I’m tuff as nails.”

“Oh, you are, are you?” Dawn said softly against the strong shoulder.

“Yes, I don’t freak out easily.”

“No, you don’t.”

“And I don’t want you to feel bad about … us touching, like that.”

“But …”

Joan squeezed her hard.

“Okay, okay,” the redhead relented. “I won’t.”

“You promise?”

“I said I won’t.”

The brunette let go of her a little and pulled back.

“If I trembled so hard from sucking on your finger, it would be interesting to find out what would happen if we actually…”

Dawn inhaled sharply, her eyes widening.

“… kissed.”

*****

Sunny parked the van in a small glade, half a mile down a gravel road.

She had not heard a sound from Laura in the back for a while. She had driven as fast as she had dared in the stormy, rainy night. Now she unbuckled her seatbelt and swiftly moved over to the back.

The older woman was lying on the lower bed and was pale in the dim light. Hubert was sitting next to her, his head resting on her thigh, as if he was trying to keep her safe by being as close to her as possible.

“Oh, Hubert, she is hurt, isn’t she?” Sunny mumbled as she opened Laura’s jacket and pulled up her sweatshirt. The bandage was bloody but not as bad as she feared.

She grabbed her backpack and pulled out the first aid box. With slightly unsteady hands she removed the old bandage and replaced it. She examined the small cuts on Laura’s hands and the slightly larger one on her cheek, but decided they could wait. Having done that and pulled down the sweatshirt again, she sat back on her heels, regarding the auburn haired woman.

“Laura.” she said. “Wake up and look at me … please?”

There were a tiny trembling of eyelashes and then a foggy blue-grey glance was directed her way.

“Sunny? Are you all right?”

“Yes, just a few minor cuts. I parked where they won’t find us, Laura. We need rest. I had to change your bandage. Are you in much pain? It’s time for you pills anyway.”

Laura shook her head.

“No, it’s not bad, really. I’ll be fine if I just take one of those knockout pills you gave me last night.” She grinned weakly at the blonde.

“I’ll get them for you,” Sunny said and rummaged through her backpack again.

“Here,” she said and tucked them into Laura’s hands. “I’ll see what they have in the fridge.”

“Probably lots of beer,” Laura drawled hazily.

Sunny opened the fridge and the first thing she saw was indeed beer. She cocked an eyebrow but then saw a couple of cokes sitting on the bottom shelf. She opened one and brought it to Laura.

“Here. It was this or beer,” she smiled.

“Thanks,” the other woman said and quickly swallowed the pills with some of it.

Then she tried to sit up but paled considerably and sank back.

“Here, let me help you,” the blonde offered but when she was going to pull Laura up, the other woman shook her head.

“No, let me stay down,” she said and closed her eyes. “I really only wanted to be closer to you.”

“Ah,” the blonde said. “We can arrange that.”

Pushing the dog aside she stretched out next to Laura on the narrow bed, wrapping her arms around the older woman.

“Like this? Is this okay?” she asked casually.

It feels incredible just to hold her, she thought to herself. She is so charismatic and strong; you forget how small she is and how fragile she feels when you’re holding her this close.

“Yes, this is great,” Laura sighed contentedly.

Good, because there is no way I can let you go, Sunny thought.

I feel so unbelievably good when I’m around you. The way you look at me, with those blue-grey eyes almost piercing holes in me … it’s almost scary.

The look in your eyes today when those men attacked us, I don’t think I ever want to see that again. It was such a deadly grim look.

I wonder what you would have done with that knife if Hubert hadn’t been with us?

I wonder what you have done before to survive and what marks this kind of existence  has left on your soul.

She nuzzled the older woman’s cheek, breathing in the scent of her shampoo. Laura shifted and turned a little against her.

“You‘re too cold. We both need to get out of these clothes,” Sunny said, trying to sit up.  

“No. Not yet. I need you to hold me.”

Sunny flinched at the naked sorrow in Laura’s voice.  

She is so driven by what ever it is in her past. Maybe it’s why she takes me by surprise every time she shows this vulnerable side, even if it was the first thing I noticed about her.

“I’ll hold you, just relax,” she soothed the shivering woman next to her. “I won’t move until you’re ready.”

There was a gentle sigh against Sunny’s neck, sending a shudder down her spine.

“I hate feeling like this,” Laura muttered.

“Like what?”

“This dependant, this furious … this scared.

Sunny hugged her closer, mindful of her wound.

“Those men? Who were they?” she asked tentatively, not wanting Laura to think she was prying.

“Not the good guys, that’s for sure,” Laura said blandly.

“No, I gathered that. They seem very well equipped for being bad guys.”

“Ha! The bad guys are often better equipped than the good ones. The higher the stakes the greater the motivation. Nothing motivates like the smell of money or the fear of death.” The older woman laughed weakly, but was apparently not amused.

“And you, Laura, what category do you fall into?”

Laura flinched.

“You mean, am I a bad guy or a good guy?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. What drives you? What motivates you to stay on the run like this? Sometimes I get the feeling that you are fleeing for your life … but then … that’s not all, is it?” Sunny said quietly.

“No, that’s not all. I wish I could tell you everything. I haven’t talked to anyone about this for a long, long time. I think Jared guessed some of it. But you won’t ever be safe if I tell you.”

“Won’t the others simply assume that you did?”

Laura raised her head and regarded her intently.

“Not necessarily. I’ve been doing this for a long time and managed to leave practically no trace. Only when I stayed with Jared a little too long did they catch up with me. He tried to help me but somebody blew the whistle. No doubt someone falling into ‘the smell of money’ category,” Laura smiled wryly.

Sunny gently pulled her down onto her shoulder again.

“And now you’re paying the price for that,” she concluded angrily.

“In a way. But I’m not an innocent in this, darling,” Laura sighed. “I may not be one of the really bad guys, but I pushed my luck more times than I can count, done things I’d never thought I’d do.” She shivered again.

“Please, let me get you into warm and dry clothes,” Sunny pleaded.

The older woman stiffened but relented.

“Okay,” she said. “I guess pneumonia isn’t something that would be in our favour either.”

“Certainly not.”

Sunny rose and grabbed Laura’s backpack. She pulled out a set of sweats before carefully helping the other woman to sit up. Gently she peeled off the damp and cold clothes, checking the bandage, feeling relief when it was dry.

Laura sat next to her, her hands gripping the edges of the bunk bed hard with her eyes closed. Her body was milky white, dusted over with small freckles. Sunny regarded her tenderly, not shy about the older woman’s nudity anymore.

“Here, raise the arm on the wounded side first,” she said calmly. “Yes. That’s it. Now the other.”

Sunny eased the dry clothing over her body.  She was fully aware how Laura despised being in a position that required someone’s help.  It was not her intention to emphasise her helpless or make her make her any more uncomfortable than necessary.  

Quickly completing the task Sunny helped Laura lie down again.

Sunny then started to take off her own damp things. Shivering in the cold van, she pulled out some dry clothes and quickly put them on.

There must be some way to get the heat up in this luxury vehicle, she thought and moved to the dashboard. She flipped a couple of possible switches and suddenly there was hot air coming through the ventilation system. Good, she thought, now we will be able to stay the night here and catch our breath. Laura needs her rest.

*****

Sunny gazed out the windshield. There was only the quiet vast forest around them; she had not seen any houses on their way down the road and the glade was a bit off road. The van was a four-wheel drive and easily moved through the terrain.

She went back to the bed and found Laura propped up on her elbow, waiting for her.

“Did you see anything … anyone?” she asked hoarsely, her eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed.

“No, and Hubert is quiet, too,” Sunny replied.

She opened the door in the back and let the dog out for a quick run. He did what he was supposed to and then jumped back into the van, not stopping until he was in place beside the bunk bed again.  

Sunny closed the door and then bent down and patted her dog. “He is not leaving your side, that’s pretty significant.”

“What do you mean?”

“He knows you’re important to me. He knows I want you to be safe.”

“He does, huh? Well, come to bed, darling. I will feel much safer.”

Sunny smirked but got into the bed, under that blanket. Immediately Laura moved onto her shoulder, burying her face there, sighing the blonde’s name.

“Oh, you smell so good,” the older woman mumbled. “Even if I couldn’t see you, I would recognise you just by inhaling that scent of yours.”

Sunny smiled and kissed the auburn hair.

“Are you comfortable?”

“Yes. Am I heavy?”

“No, you are just right.”

Laura chuckled quietly. “I am, am I? Now what would you mean by that?”

Sunny blushed and was grateful for the darkness. “I just meant that you are … not heavy.”

“Oh, Sunny, I shouldn’t tease you,” Laura said remorsefully. “I’m sorry.”

Sunny rolled her eyes. It wouldn’t do to let her know how she affects me when she is so tired and in pain. But her voice reverberates in me, does things to me that I never knew were possible. The huskiness of it is enticing. It makes her seem dangerous as well as tremendously alluring. I don’t understand how this could happen so quickly, but she is becoming the centre of my attention. Where she is; there, my dreams are born.

“Sunny?”

The sleepy voice of the woman on her shoulder brought her back.

“No, no, don’t be sorry,” Sunny smiled. “Just go to sleep, Laura. I won’t leave you.” She kissed the top of Laura’s head again.

“Mm … do that again.”

She repeated the gesture.

Laura tipped her head back, offering her lips.

“Again?”

Sunny chuckled.

“Do you think it’s wise?”  

“Probably not, but … please?”

The blonde didn’t want to ever make Laura beg; she bent down and pressed her lips gently on hers. She didn’t deepen it but let her full lips nibble the older woman’s lower lip, caressing it tenderly until Laura trembled in her arms. Only then did she let her go and tucked her in beneath her chin.

“Sleep now.”

“Yes,” Laura replied in a strange, shivering voice.

“Tomorrow there are things we need to discuss,” Sunny said with more confidence than she felt, “but now you must rest.”

*****

That last comment made the auburn haired woman go stiff.

I wonder what is going on in that blonde head of yours now; I don’t like the sound of that. You are going to make me another wild suggestion, aren’t you, my darling? 

Laura closed her eyes, again inhaling the strangely comforting scent of her protective blonde.

She doesn’t give an inch, sometimes, she thought. I am not the easiest person to get along with. After all I’ve been through these last five years … my social skills are down to a minimum when it comes to a young girl’s tender heart. If I weren’t wounded, I would probably not hesitate to seduce her right here and now …

But Laura wasn’t fooling herself. She would never deliberately seduce Sunny, take that gorgeous body just for her own pleasure, knowing she sooner or later she must leave her.

And leaving her might soon become a necessity. There was no way she would stand by and let a  situation like what happened tonight happen again.

If you need to leave me, she thought sorrowfully, if that’s what it comes down to, I will drive you away, darling. I will do it in a way that makes you think you want to leave me. I can only hope that you’re too innocent to realise that. I have learned how to do that to people. I have it down to an art, how to alienate, as well as entice people, in ways you’d never want to know. If I think you are safer somewhere else I’ll drive you away and you’ll be glad to leave.

The older woman let her lips move a little over the satin skin on Sunny’s neck. She would have to give her up, sooner or later and it would break her heart. This was just another very good example why there were no point in staying in one place too long.

You just get your heart ripped out.

*****

Joan lied on her half of the bed, listening to the soft breathing sounds coming from Dawn.

The redhead had fallen asleep instantly but she couldn’t relax. She kept going over the events of their evening, trying to determine what was behind Dawn’s atypical behaviour.

I was so stunned when she touched my face like that, she thought. And, oh god, when she let her finger touch my lips, I thought I’d faint.. I was scared; I was exhilarated … I was definitely interested!

She smiled wryly into the darkness.

And the look on your face, that wide-eyed surprise when you thought I was about to kiss you. For a moment, I almost followed through. I leaned into you, you lips parted. I was so close. You really expected reckless Joan to just jump you.

You are probably not even aware of the fact that I’m pretty shy. I can mouth off and I can be a pain in the butt about some things, but when it comes to you …

Joan sighed.

I’m just too scared. Scared of stepping over that invisible line you have drawn around you.. It is like a border that can’t be crossed.  The uninvited soon discover the chances for being throttled are enormous.

A tiny voice inside my head tells me that you’d never do that to me. But I’m afraid, so I stepped back, give you your space and joke it all away.

For a moment tonight I swear  I saw disappointment on your face, but I might have been mistaken. There are such things as wishful thinking …

Dawn shifted a little and a small hand ended up on Joan’s stomach, making her jump a little.

Can’t keep your hands to yourself even in your sleep, can you? she thought and put her own hand on top of Dawn’s. Well, I don’t mind. I think there is a lot you’re not telling me and if I can get you to open up and talk to me, perhaps I will get you to kiss me too. She rolled over to her side, facing her partner whose hand now ended up around Joan’s waist.

She let hers do the same, circling the other woman, pulling her a little closer.

I could get used to this, she thought and grinned. I could definitely get used to holding you like this, Doc, if you’d let me. I don’t know when I realised it, but now I do. I hope we can catch up with our target soon. I’d like to go on that vacation with you and explore all these explosive feelings.

Dawn sighed, the sweetness of her breath gushing over Joan’s face. The redhead snuggled closer, burying her face against her partner’s neck.

“Joanie …” she mumbled and then went back to sleep right away.

“I’m here …” the brunette whispered, kissing the red locks beneath her chin.

Her thoughts returned to Grace Farlow, or Laura Carter as she called herself right now.

I wonder why she decided to allow that young woman to tag along. She could have refused or simply just not cared, and gone on alone but she didn’t. I’d like to see Malachai’s face when he realises this. Farlow even brought the damn dog. Could it be that our fugitive is falling for this young lady? Now wouldn’t that be something? Grace Farlow, the powerful and brilliant scientist who escaped everything the law has thrown at her and the opposition who wanted what possessed. Wouldn’t it be ironic if she got caught because of some infatuation with an unknown blonde?

She made a face at her cynical way of thinking. What if what these women shared was more than that? Like love?

Stranger things happened.  

Joan let her hands caress the slender, small frame lying close beside her.

 She had never realised that she could see Dawn in this light, that she could feel this protective, this … loving towards her.

 And the feel of that body next to hers, so soft and round in all the right places in spite of her diminutive form.

I sure wouldn’t mind if she woke up now so I could kiss her, she thought, but knew that she could never be so selfish. Dawn hardly slept a full eight-hour on any night and now she was so completely relaxed she slept like a child.

You are one tough woman, Doc, Joan mused, but you are so much more than that. You may be the “Bureau Bitch” at times, but you feel so many emotions and you hide them so well.  I’ve watched you cry over all the horrors we’ve seen, I’ve watched it eat your soul and nobody sees it but me and only because I’ve made it my business to do so. You need somebody who looks out for you.

Most of all, you need someone to help save you from yourself.

*****
Continued in part 5
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