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

As always, I owe so much to Pol.

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 6


Finding Shelter From The Storm

© GB

 

Part 7.

 

Laura walked down to the dirt road.

Sunny was right behind her with a hand on Hubert’s collar. The dog growled deep in his throat. The silence after the two shots was ear deafening.

The man she had shot in the back lay motionless in the dirt. One of the kneeling women, the brunette, was already struggling to get on her feet. The other one, whom she had recognised as Doctor Morrison, was still kneeling, looking dazed.

Laura never took her eyes off the two goons standing about three yards behind the agents. They weren’t moving. She smiled crookedly and motioned with her gun for them to drop their weapons.

“You don’t mind if my friend here takes care of those, do you boys?” she asked amicably, watching them as they threw an UZI and a Colt 44 automatic to the ground.

Sunny walked over to pick up the weapons. When she came close, one of the men moved towards her.

Laura didn’t even have time to warn the blonde. Sunny twirled, kicked out and sent the man flying. Laura grinned. This girl was too good to be true.

Without looking over at the agents, Laura raised her leg and removed her boot knife.

“Here,” she said and tossed it towards the brunette.

The agent took the knife and knelt behind her partner, freeing her hands. Morrison grabbed the knife with unsteady hands and returned the favour. The brunette pulled the doctor up and then collected the confiscated weapons from Sunny.

“You know where to aim,” she mumbled to the blonde who just nodded and walked over to Laura.

“Now we have a problem,” the auburn haired woman said casually. “We have to decide what to do with our friends here. I would imagine that you’d want to call for back up?”

Morrison had regained her composure and walked up to Laura.

“It is not that simple,” she said darkly. “We have to be more innovative than that, Farlow.”

Laura noticed Sunny shooting her a look and groaned inwardly. This was not how she had planned their day.

They had left Emma and John early in the morning, taking a small road through the forest to stay away from traffic. After walking for a couple of hours they spotted a van similar to the one who forced them off the road days earlier. Quickly Laura and Sunny had taken cover in the woods as the van pulled off the road.

Silently they watched as three men jumped from the van and ran down the road, weapons in hand.

Laura’s instincts had kicked in and they had followed them at a distance.

Why she and Sunny had not simply stolen the van and driven off she had no explanation for.

Tracking the men not been hard.  The goons seemed intent on what ever it was they were pursuing and never bothered to check behind them.

What had happened next had shocked both women.

Witnessing the assault on the two agents had made Laura blood turn cold. She had watched and waited as the scene before them unfolded and had turned ugly. When it looked as if the agents were about to be killed, she had acted without hesitation, shooting the scum before he committed the execution.

She had recognised Doctor Morrison instantly. This woman had been hot on her trail for years now and on more than one occasion she had been close enough for Laura to observe her. This was their first meeting face to face.

“I think we better secure them,” the brunette now said and handed the UZI over to Morrison. “I am sure they have more of those comfy little clamps on them.”

She walked over to the men and with a nonchalant use of her elbow against his neck she sent the only standing man to the ground. Frisking him, she found several plastic clamps. She quickly secured their hands behind their backs and then their feet. With a devilish grin she then used two extra clamps to connect their hands and feet to each other’s.

Walking back to the other women she passed the motionless blonde man on the ground. Nudging him with her toe without stirring a reaction she knelt and felt for a pulse on his neck.

She shook her head. “He’s dead,” she said calmly and rose to her feet.

Laura shrugged. “Too bad.”

Sunny glanced at her but she wasn’t up to facing the blonde regarding this yet.

Morrison secured her weapon and lowered it.

“Well, Farlow, this is one shooting you won’t be blamed for. Thank you for saving our lives.”

Laura resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“And your eternal gratitude wouldn’t happen to extend to letting us just wander off, would it?” she drawled.

Morrison made a face and shook her head.

“No, I can’t do that. But things are complicated. We need to get out of here.”

Laura, not lowering her weapon, studied the doctor. She was pale and small beads of sweat pearled on her forehead and upper lip. She realised that both of the agents looked bruised and in dire need of food and rest. She nodded briskly.

“For once I agree. Their vehicle is down there,” she motioned with her chin down the road.

“What about them?” Sunny asked, her deep melodic voice almost startling the agents.

They all looked at Laura who frowned.

“Regardless of my reputation with the Bureau, I don’t take out defenceless people. Not even if they are scum like these two.”

“I say we just leave them,” the brunette said grimly. “A little crawling will do them good.”

Morrison looked like she wanted to object but closed her mouth. Laura saw her start to sway and before she realised what was going to happen, the redhead’s knees were buckling.

“Dawn!” the brunette gasped and reached for her partner.

The tall blonde caught the petite woman before she hit the ground. Gently she lifted the agent up in her arms.

“She fainted,” she said and looked worriedly at her burden.

The brunette touched the pale face of her colleague. “She has a fever. Damn, she has a head injury and she has been without food and water too long.”

“I suggest we move,” Laura said and started walking. The others followed, Sunny carrying the unconscious agent in her arms. Laura glanced at her and smiled inwardly.

The women didn’t have to walk far. Parked behind the next curve was the van.

Both Joan and Laura reached for the handle to the back door at the same time. Exchanging looks, Joan sighed and stepped back.

“Be my guest,” she said dryly and watched Grace Farlow break into the van within twenty seconds. Joan was impressed. She knew the van had extra protection but the older woman had broken into it with ease.

“After you,” Laura said and nodded at Joan who climbed in and then turned to take Dawn from Sunny Stewart.

She looked down at the pale face and felt her heart twinge.

Dawn was burning up.  They had to make her drink and she had no clue how to do this while she was unconscious.

Laura climbed in past her.  

“Just as I thought. There is a bunk bed up here,” she said.

They carried Dawn over to the bed and put her down. Joan looked out the windows, noticing in the corner of her eyes that Farlow did the same. There was nothing stirring out there.

“We need to get out of here,” the brunette said solemnly. “You drive and I’ll take care of Dawn. And Farlow… this doesn’t mean that we’re not bringing you in.”

The older woman’s eyes narrowed and she carefully placed her weapon in her belt. Shooting Joan a cold look she nodded.

“I agree, for now. Just one more thing, my name is Laura.” Her voice was low and calm but Joan could hear the deadly serious tone underneath the impeccable composure.

She nodded. “Okay, for now, you’re Laura.”

Sunny Stewart had brought the enormous dog inside and closed the door. She walked over to Dawn and touched her forehead. “She is burning up. We have to wake her,” she said calmly.

Joan nodded and while Laura hot-wired the van, she sat down next to her partner and shook her gently. “Dawn,” she called. “Wake up, we must get you to drink. Dawn?”

No matter how she tried, the redhead couldn’t do more than briefly open her eyes. Sunny had fetched mineral water from the small fridge but there was no way they could get the doctor to drink. The water splashed over her lips, only threatening to choke her.

“You have to feed her,” Sunny said.

“What do you mean?” Joan asked, more sharply than she had intended. The blonde looked like a nice girl but the agent was growing more and more concerned with her partner.

“You must feed her, like this,” Sunny said and took a sip of water from the bottle and then demonstrated how she meant by letting it trickle slowly from her full lips into the sink. “I would do it, but I might scare her, make her choke. She is your friend. You must turn her a little on her side. You can do it this way with people who are not entirely unconscious.”

Joan just stared for a couple of seconds but then resolutely grabbed the bottle and took a mouthful of water.

“Slowly,” Sunny cautioned.

Joan nodded and kneeling on the floor she leaned in over Dawn and carefully opened her mouth. Turning the agent’s head a little towards her, Joan let a small squirt of water trickle in between the dry lips beneath hers.

Her relief when Dawn automatically swallowed encouraged her to repeat it six more times. She rose from the floor and looked gratefully at Sunny who smiled faintly.

“Thanks,” Joan said. “I need to drink something too. Did you see anything more solid in there?”

Sunny nodded and opened the fridge again. Taking out three packs of sandwiches she gave one to Joan and went up front to Laura, handing her one too. She sat down next to the older woman but not before letting her hand grace the back of the auburn head.

Joan raised an eyebrow and smiled.

She then sat down next to Dawn and let her own hand do a similar manoeuvre. Stroking the tousled and dirty hair out of her partner’s eyes she bent down, putting her lips against the redhead’s ear.

“Get better, Dawn,” she whispered. “Get better.”

*****

They drove along smaller secondary roads for hours.

Laura was at the wheel for the first two and then Sunny took over. They had not exchanged many words during the drive and the blonde was full of questions. She didn’t dare to ask Laura anything as long as the agents were there.

Glancing over to her right she saw Laura sitting in a relaxed way on the passenger’s seat. The only thing giving the older woman away was the small movement of the muscles around her jaw.

As if she felt Sunny’s glance, Laura turned her head.

“You okay?” she asked quietly.

“Yes. Are you?”

There was a slight hesitation.

“No, not really. I had planned to talk to you today, to explain …”

Laura faced the road again, pressing her lips together.

“You don’t have to do this,” Sunny said uncertainly. “With them …”

She motioned to the back with her head.

“Oh, they’re all right,” Laura smiled wryly. “I’d have to say that those two are the good guys in this.” She pinched the base of her nose.

Sunny passed a sign informing her about an upcoming intersection and looked questioningly at Laura. The older woman turned her head to the back of the van.

“Hey! We are coming up at the intersection here. Still south, I assume?”

The brunette who had introduced herself as Joan in passing earlier came up behind them.

“Yes, south. There is only one way we can go from now. I talked to Dawn, she is awake, and she agrees.”

Laura nodded briskly.

”Malachai.”

Sunny flinched but managed to steer the van across the busier road.

“We’re going to Jared?” she asked cautiously, wondering if this had been Laura’s intention all along. “Laura?”

Laura nodded again. “Yes, he is the only one who can and will help us. His strongest reason for doing so would be you.”

Sunny tightened her grip of the steering wheel. She didn’t like the sound of this. Laura had that final, indifferent tone in her voice that she had come to both fear and dislike.

“So … am I bate or am I the reason for us going south?” the blonde asked, glad that her voice didn’t betray the whirling emotions inside her.

“A little bit of both,” Laura answered. “But the only reason I was heading south with you was to keep you as safe as I could. I couldn’t …” Her voice trailed off.

Joan cleared her throat and returned to her partner.

“What?” Sunny asked quietly. “What couldn’t you?”

The auburn haired woman dragged a hand across the back of her neck.

“I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you,” she said in a low voice, filled with more emotions than she had shown since their shower this morning. She glanced at Sunny, her eyes a dull grey.

Sunny considered this and let the van take the soft curves smoothly.

“You are putting yourself on the line for me,” she realised. “You feel guilty. Perhaps you even feel obligated to keep me safe, to stop anything from happening to me because of you. You have risked getting caught all along from doing so, haven’t you? These … “ she waved one carelessly to the back of the van, “ … agents, they won’t let you go, will they?”

Laura laced her fingers on her lap, shaking her head slowly.

“No, they won’t. But I’ve outrun them before, I can do it again.”

“But for how long?” Sunny whispered. “For how long will you run, Laura?”

“My name isn’t Laura,” the older woman said harshly, biting her lower lip.

“I know. You are this Grace Farlow, aren’t you?”

Laura glanced at her.

“Have you heard the name before?”

Sunny laughed, an odd little croaking sound.

“Only on TV a hundred times or so. The scientist who … supposedly,” she pointed out, “stole government research material, set her lab on fire and killed fourteen innocent people and several others later. Among them her sister and brother-in-law.”

Laura didn’t even flinch. She kept her gaze at the road, a strange half smile on her narrow lips.

“You’ve heard of me all right,” she said calmly.

“After meeting you, I don’t see how any of that can be true,” Sunny stated, hanging on to the wheel with cold fingers.

This made Laura flinch. Her body went rigid in the seat and her head snapped to the left, her eyes nailing Sunny.

“You don’t know anything about me!” she growled. “You don’t know anything about who I was back then!”

Sunny didn’t budge.

“No, I didn’t know you then, but I know enough now to give you the benefit of the doubt,” she replied hotly, tears forming in her eyes. “You are like a hunted animal, with animal instincts. You move like a thief in the night because you need to, not because you want to.”

Laura covered her mouth with a trembling hand.

“You are caring, you are unselfish and you … you need me,” the blonde continued, her voice choked.

The older woman sighed and closed her eyes briefly. Then she got up and stood behind Sunny. She stroked the blonde hair and smoothed down the younger woman’s ponytail. The soft hands ended up resting against a long, white neck, caressing it with the gentlest of fingers.

“You are so damn protective,” Laura whispered.

“So are you,” Sunny said defensively.

“We both are, then,” the other woman agreed.

“If we are going to Jared’s … shouldn’t we call him?”

“Oh,” said a cool voice from behind, startling them both, “I don’t think we will surprise him by showing up. Perhaps the fact that it’s all four of us will, though.”

Dawn Morrison was leaning against her partner who helped her to sit down in the passenger’s seat. She had freshened up. More water and food had helped the agent find her bearings again. She now regarded them all with even blue eyes, her authoritative presence almost as palpable as Laura’s.

“Ms Stewart, won’t call Malachai before we get there. We got the impression that even his organisation, no matter how legit these days, has been compromised.”

Sunny shot the agent a worried look.

“We visited Malachai before going to River Meadow,” Dawn continued matter-of-factly, “and he is the only one we can trust right now. There is a mole in the Bureau. We are not sure whom to trust. One thing these last days have proven is that who ever it is, doesn’t want you found, Farlow. Or should I say; wants to find you first.”

Sunny felt Laura’s fingers jerk against her skin at the sound of the name she apparently hated.

“The only reason I’m sharing this information,” Dawn said sternly, directing her cool blue eyes towards Laura, “is that this means that the evidence against you may have been engineered.  There’s been far too many computer screw ups, missed surveillance operations … stake outs.”  

She regarded the older woman severely.

“I don’t need to tell you that far too many lives have been lost over this.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Laura answered, her voice calm but Sunny felt the tremors moving through her fingers.

Dawn got up and motioned for Laura to sit again. Leaning a little against her partner, the agent returned to the back of the van.

There was a brief silence and then Laura sat down. Sunny focused on the driving, carefully keeping an eye on the fuel gauge. They would have to pull over soon to fill the van up.

“I told you I was bad news,” Laura eventually said, her voice casual.

“Yes, you did.”

“I also told you … that I wasn’t the among the worst of them.”

“Mm.”

“Sunny, what are you thinking?”

Sunny bit her lip, then sighed, feeling very tired.  

“I don’t know what to think. If you’re asking if my feelings have changed; the answer is no.”

“I have killed people.”

“In self-defence.”

“Yes.”

Sunny had known it must have been in self-defence but relief flooded her anyway. She chanced a look Laura’s way. The older woman was staring at the road again, obviously remaining calm only by doing so.

“May I ask you something, Laura?” Sunny held her breath.

“Go ahead.”

“You never stole anything, did you?”

Laura shifted in her chair and regarded the younger woman through her eyelashes.

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t take anything from the institute. It was all destroyed in the fire. Still, I have what they all want, right here.”

*****

Dawn sank down onto the bunk bed with a sigh. It had taken every bit of what little strength she had to go up in front and be the boss. She looked up at Joan who hovered above her trying so clearly not to look concerned.

The redhead smiled faintly.

“She is one tough lady,” she said quietly, nodding towards the front of the fan.

Joan nodded.

“Yeah, she scares the hell out of me. She just looks at you with those piercing eyes and you have absolutely no idea what she’s thinking.”

“She saved our lives. She could have stolen the van and just taken off with Sunshine Stewart.”

Dawn regarded the young blonde’s dog that slept soundly, sprawled all over the floor.

“There’s the lethal guard dog. He looks … cosy?” she said shaking her head. “They make an unbelievable trio, that’s for sure.”

“Stewart impressed me. Miriam never mentioned that she is a martial art expert. That kick wasn’t beginner’s luck,” Joan said.

“No, it wasn’t. She isn’t very blasé. The way she looks and acts around Farlow is anything but cool or casual.”

The brunette sat down next to her partner.

“How are you feeling? Do you want anything to drink?”

“No, I’m fine. I just needed to sit down for a bit. Thank you for taking care of me earlier.”

She had vague memories of drinking water from her partner’s mouth and blushed faintly. It had been such an intimate thing and she wasn’t sure she remembered it correctly.

“Oh, it was my pleasure,” Joan grinned.

Dawn rolled her eyes but allowed her heavy head to fall onto the other woman’s shoulder. “We must keep driving,” she stated firmly. “We need to get to Malachai as soon as possible. It is too dangerous to stay at motels or in the van. We must keep going.”

“We don’t have any cash either, it is still in the car,” Joan reminded her. “All I have are the clothes on my back, my gun and my ID.”

Dawn nodded. “Same here.”

Laura came back and Dawn sat up, trying to not slump back again.

“We need gas,” the auburn haired woman stated. “Sunny is pulling over soon. Just so you know.”

“Do you have cash?” Dawn asked sharply.

Laura smiled, a feral grin that didn’t convey any happiness.

“Yes.”

With that she returned to the front.

“Charming,” Dawn moaned and let her head fall back onto Joan’s shoulder. “She reminds me of my former boss.”

Joan laughed.

“You mean, Ms Jones? I never met her, but I am told that woman was something else.”

Dawn sighed.  

“She could turn a good day into a disaster just by showing her face. She personalised the word ‘trouble’, I swear. When she became head of the Washington office and Monroe replaced her, we all sighed in relief. But perhaps … we would have been better off with Jones. She was a pain, but … she was honest and fair.”

Joan’s arm circled Dawn’s shoulders.

“You don’t trust anybody from Monroe and up, do you?” she asked carefully.

“No, I don’t. There isn’t much I can do before we arrive at Malachai’s. But once we do … I will make some phone calls and stir the nest a little.”

“Dawn?” Joan said warningly. “Not one of those reckless stunts again? Please … “

Dawn buried her face against the softness of her partner’s neck.

“Hold me?” she asked breathlessly. “I have a feeling it may be a while before we get the chance again and I … I need you … As for reckless stunts; I learned most of them from you, remember?”

*****

It had been dark for more than four hours when they pulled up at the warehouse where Malachai lived.

Joan had driven the last three hours and now she stopped the engine and gazed out the window. Laura and Sunny came up behind her.

“Jared lives here?” Sunny asked sounding surprised.

“Yes,” Joan answered and rose from the seat.

She went back into the van and grabbed her torn trench coat. Dawn was already standing by the back door, her gun in one hand and the other one on Hubert’s collar.

“He’s growling,” Dawn said quietly. “He hears something.”

Joan hadn’t heard the dog earlier but now she did. A soft, murmuring growl reverberated through that huge, muscular body.

Sunny and Laura joined them.

“Hubert’s on alert,” Laura whispered to the blonde, motioning for her to take care of her dog. “We don’t want him to be the first one out.”

Dawn glanced back. She nodded briskly and opened the door a couple of inches. At the same time, Laura and Joan moved up to the front. Joan opened the passenger’s door. Ducking she let her body slide through. Laura followed her soundlessly.

The agent motioned for the older woman to circle the car to the left. After a quick glance under the car Laura complied. Joan reached the back of the van just as Dawn climbed down. Sunny and the dog followed. They started walking towards the large door, making sure the coast was clear.

“Can you get us inside without having to knock?” Joan asked Laura.

The auburn haired woman shook her head.

“Malachai has an extensive alarm system,” she said. “We don’t have to knock. He’s already seen us.”

“Damn,” Dawn said. “That could mean that somebody else has too.”

There was a sudden rumble when the large door slid up. Laura pushed Sunny behind her to the right of the opening. The other two moved to the left.

The door came to a stop. There was a short silence. Joan couldn’t see anything in the darkness.

“What a nice surprise, ladies,” Malachai’s voice said.

Joan frowned.

“Are you alone?” she asked, letting her hand fall on Dawn’s shoulder.

“Of course. It is the middle of the night,” he answered friendly. “Don’t stand out there in the dark, come in.”

The brunette shook her head. Something was off.

“Something’s wrong,” she whispered in Dawn’s ear. The doctor nodded.

“Jared?” Sunny’s voice called.  

There was a short silence and then he spoke again.

“Sunshine! This is indeed a surprise. Did you bring that big oaf Herbert with you?”  

That was proof enough for Joan.

“I’m going in,” she hissed and pushed past her partner.

She entered the dark hallway.

“Jared, my man,” Joan beamed.

Cautiously hiding her gun in the large folds of her trench coat she entered the dark hallway. Remembering where the light switch was, she casually walked close to the wall and slammed her hand against it.

Fluorescent light flickered and then flooded the large room.

Joan took in the scene.

Malachai stood between two men. Each had a gun aimed at him. There were no sign of Mary or the children.

The agent threw herself into a roll, ending up at the bottom of a small staircase. She shot the closest goon. Hitting him in the shoulder she sent the man flying into a wall.

Malachai ducked and was down on his stomach. Joan rolled again and fired twice. The bullets tore up the other man’s biceps and hand, disarming him. He pivoted violently but stayed on his feet.

Then Laura and Dawn were inside, jumping over her as she tried to get on her feet.

Hubert came like a bat out of hell. Growling deep in his throat, he landed on all fours on the man still standing, hurling him to the floor.

Joan staggered to her feet, her back aching.  

The others had secured the two men. Laura and Malachai were checking out the doorways leading from the hallway. Joan sighed, rubbing her hip.

Jared pushed a couple of buttons behind a console, making the large door go down.

“Ms Tremayne,” he said, a little out of breath. “You move like lightning.”

Joan made a face, not even looking at Dawn.

“I had to do something,” the brunette mumbled.

“How did you know?” Malachai grinned, hauling the closest bleeding man over to the other one.

“You called the girl Sunshine and the dog Herbert.”

He nodded approvingly and then smiled at Sunny.

“Hi there, sweetie. It was clever of you not to correct me,” he said.

Sunny regarded him calmly. “I understood that something was wrong. I wasn’t aware that Ms Tremayne … Joan … would play cowboy like that, though.”

“Neither was I,” a soft, menacing voice said behind Joan.

Dawn came up and took her by the arm.

“Are you all right? We’ll talk about this … later.”

Joan swallowed but then grinned.

“Okay.”

The shots fired had attracted the attention of several other people in the building. Three men and two women appeared from different directions.

Laura and Joan raised their guns but Malachai stopped them.

“No, no … those are part of my regular staff. These two however,” he gestured towards the moaning men being guarded by Hubert, “are new. They’ve only been on my pay roll for six months.”

“Are you sure?” Dawn asked, cautiously looking the newcomers over.

“As sure as I can be.”

The agent nodded and lowered her weapon a little.

“We need to take care of these two,” she said, motioning towards the injured men.

“My people will do that. Let’s go inside.”

Malachai showed them into the living room.

Joan looked around. There was a fire going in the fireplace like last time. There was a turned over glass of brandy on the coffee table and a thick book lay tossed on the floor.

“They just came and grabbed you when we drove up, didn’t they?” Joan asked, gratefully sitting down on the couch.

“Yes. I was reading, enjoying my late night brandy and suddenly they … Well, I guess they caught me completely by surprise,” he admitted sheepishly. “I knew, or suspected, that somebody was not loyal, but I had no proof.”

Dawn sank down next to Joan. Laura stood close to the fire, her gun still in her hand, staring at the flames.

Joan regarded the older woman curiously. Sunny had approached the scientist, standing just behind her. The blonde leaned into her friend and mumbled something into her ear.

A crooked, enigmatic smile appeared briefly on Laura’s lips and then she shook her head. This made Sunny smile too, changing the young woman’s usual standoffish appearance.

“We need your help,” Dawn said, turning everybody’s attention back to Malachai.

“I had guessed that when suddenly you showed up on my doorstep together. I assume that you all ran into trouble?”

He looked around the room.

“We did,” Dawn confirmed. “If it hadn’t been for Laura and Sunny showing up when they did … they saved our lives.” She told him shortly what had happened since they left his place days earlier.

Malachai listened and then turned to Sunny.

“Come and give me a hug, sweetie,” he smiled tenderly. “I haven’t seen you in so long.”

To Joan’s astonishment, the statuesque blonde walked over to him and knelt beside his chair. She put her arms around his neck she hugged him for a long time while he stroked her back.

When she pulled away, small tears were glistening in her eyelashes.

“I missed you,” she said quietly.  

“I know,” he smiled. “We all missed you too.”

“Where are Mary and the children?”

“In a safe place. I couldn’t keep them here right now.”

Joan nodded to herself. She realised he must have sent his family away right after assisting her and Dawn.

“We should get some rest,” Dawn interrupted the reunion. “Tomorrow I need to make some calls. There is somebody out there who is pretty frustrated right now. We have managed to foil their attacks on at least six separate occasions. They must be furious.”  

“When you are furious, you make mistakes,” Laura’s throaty voice said, making them all turn their heads towards her.

She was still standing by the fire and Joan thought she could detect a slight tremor in the petite body.

Sunny rose from the floor and looked down at Malachai.

“Do you have a room Laura and I could use?” she asked calmly.

He nodded.

“I have the two guestrooms upstairs. They are connected and if you put that wolf of yours outside and lock them from the inside, you will be safe.”

Joan rolled her eyes. She knew what Dawn was thinking.

As if reading her mind, Malachai grinned at her.

“I think you found your guestroom satisfactory last time?” he teased gently.

Seeing the darkening features of Dawn’s face, Joan mumbled something appropriate before getting up. She extended a hand to her partner without thinking and only when Dawn took it with a wry smile did she remember her sore back muscles. The pains shooting through her made her give a muted gasp.

Dawn’s eyes narrowed and Joan groaned inwardly. She realised she was bound to get lectured.

*****

Dawn looked around the guestroom.

It was just as welcoming and cosy as before but her heart rate was still up and she couldn’t appreciate the luxurious surroundings. She pivoted and glared at Joan.

The brunette was sitting on the bed, trying to push off her left boot.

“You’re in pain, aren’t you?” the doctor accused softly.

Joan shot her a careful look.

“Yes, a little. The light in the hallway was flickering and I misjudged the distance to the staircase.”

Dawn sighed and walked over to partner. She leaned down and pulled at the reluctant boot. It came off easily and she repeated the manoeuvre with the other one.

Wiggling her toes with a sigh of relief, Joan peeked up at her.

“I had to do something, Dawn,” she said.

“Yes, but did you have to go in like a madwoman, shooting the place to pieces?” Dawn asked exasperatedly. “One second you were behind me, the next you were in there, bullets flying …”

“I had the element of surprise on my side,” the other woman objected.

Dawn nodded and dragged a hand through her hair.

“Yes, but you had no idea about what to expect … what the scene   …”

“But it went fine,” Joan interrupted and rose from the bed. “Can’t we just let it go and concentrate on what to do next?”

Dawn regarded her wearily. She was so tired.  Joan’s actions had scared her during the shooting … She groaned and nodded.

“All right,” she whispered. “But if you ever, and I mean it, ever do that to me again …”

Joan stepped close to her and pulled her into a tight embrace.

“I’m sorry. I just had to do something,” she repeated. “I know how you hate being helpless and I know I stole the initiative. You’re still recovering from the crash and I … I’m not.”

Dawn held on to the lean woman in her arms. Hugging her close she buried her face against the softness of the tall, slender neck. They were both dirty and had smelled better, but she was so grateful to be close.

“We need a bath or a shower,” Joan said. “I have no clue what to wear after that.”

“There were plenty of towels if I remember correctly,” Dawn said and smiled, “and bathrobes.”

They went into the bathroom and Joan started filling the bathtub while Dawn ran the shower.

“How can you take a shower when there is a tub here?” Joan asked in disbelief.

Dawn blushed, a deep crimson. She hardly dared look at her partner.

“I thought we could take turns using the shower to get clean and then … if you want to, take a bath together?”

She glanced at Joan, afraid that she had assumed too much, her cheeks still burning.

The brunette looked a bit dazed but quickly recovered. Smiling softly she nodded her consent and began to undress.

Dawn bit her lip and began to pull of her torn and muddy trousers. She let them fall into the same pile as Joan’s equally dirty clothes. Her partner was slower to undress, hindered by apparently aching muscles and after getting rid of the rest of her clothes, Dawn showered quickly, needing time to find her balance.

She scrubbed herself off and washed her hair quickly, almost falling out of the shower when Joan opened the glass door to enter.

They brushed against each other when they passed in the narrow opening. Dawn could not stifle a soft gasp.

The tub was full. Dawn turned of the water and sank down into the tub. Small cuts and bruises stung a little from coming into contact with the scented water but the heat was soothing just the same. The doctor tipped her head back, relaxing for the first time in two days.

The water stopped running in the shower and Joan came out. Dawn regarded her through her eyelashes, admiring the glistening wet body. Her partner was also full of cuts and bruises and she walked carefully, like she was in pain.

“Joan?” Dawn said cautiously, “If you sit with your back turned against me, I could take a look at it. You look like you’re in pain.”

Joan made a face but stepped into the tub and sank down between Dawn’s legs. Sitting ramrod straight she let the doctor examine her back.

Dawn let her fingers stroke the blackening bruise just beneath the right shoulder blade. Carefully she palpated the area.

“It is not too bad,” she stated, “but you will be sore for a while.”

She reached out and pulled the brunette against her. Joan allowed and relaxed against her partner’s chest.

“Are you all right like this?” Dawn asked, her hands holding on around the other woman’s waist.

Joan nodded. Her head lolled back and found a resting place against Dawn’s shoulder. “Yes.”

They didn’t speak after that, just sat there and let the hot water surround them, making them feel at least a little safer together.

*****

Laura paced the floor in front of the bed, over and over.

Sunny was talking to Hubert in the corridor outside the guestroom. The scientist had to smile in spite of her inner turmoil, hearing the blonde give the dog verbal instructions.

She stopped pacing when she reached the window. She wearily dragged a hand through her hair, still wet from the quick shower.

Looking out, she saw nothing but black asphalt among abandoned warehouses and garages. She noticed that it had rained again.

Sunny entered the room again, locking the door behind her.

“I think I will take a shower too,” she said quietly and headed for the bathroom.

“Sunny, wait,” Laura said, raising a hand.

When Sunny stopped and looked questioningly at her, she shook her head.

“No, go ahead. Take a shower. We can talk when you’re done.”

The blonde nodded and closed the door behind her. Laura flinched when she heard Sunny lock the door.

Laura sat down on the bed and grabbed a pillow, hugging it against her as if trying to keep her aching intestines inside.

The ever-present stomachache, only interrupted and forgotten on the occasions when Sunny  wrapped her arms around her, was there. She moaned quietly. A foreboding feeling of letting everybody down, of breaking Sunny’s heart … of losing everything again, hit her hard.

She fell to her side, her body curling up in pain. She buried her face in the pillow, crying  soundlessly, soaking it with her tears.

There had not been many tears over the last year or so. She had gone from one town to another, never stayed long, always on the move. There had always been a demand for a presentable woman with her particular skills.

She had changed her looks, dyed her hair so many times, she had almost forgotten what her natural colour was.

Then soft hands turned her over, pulled her into a warm embrace.

“Oh, Laura,” Sunny said. “Tell me … “

“I’m so sorry, darling,” Laura whispered, clutching at the younger woman. “I’m so very sorry …”

Her body shook with sobs, tearing agonisingly from her throat. The only thing keeping her from losing it completely, were the strong arms holding her, rocking her.

Laura pressed her mouth, her face, against the slender shoulder under her, trying to mute her anguish.

“I … I didn’t … kill … Maria and Paul,” she cried. “I wasn’t the one … I never …”

“Shh …” Sunny hushed and hugged her closer. “I know. I know.”

Words poured from Laura’s lips in staccato, chopped off by the tears flowing freely, as memories flooded her, making her nauseous.

“I had already … resigned … left the Institute … I was only going back because … and then … there was the explosion … the fire … Oh, god, there was nothing … nothing, I could do! I knew they were there … all those people … and I couldn’t do anything …”

She felt her stomach overturn and she broke free from the embrace, stumbling blindly for the bathroom. Throwing herself to her knees by the toilet, painful retching shook her compact body.

The cool hands were there right away, supporting her forehead as she vomited over and over as if her system was purging itself of the agony.

When there was nothing left, Sunny pulled her away from the toilet and lifted her up in her arms. She carried her into the bedroom and put her gently down on the bed. She then went back to the bathroom and returned with a washcloth, wiping Laura’s face carefully.

Laura glanced up at her through tear-filled eyes.

“Dejà vue,” she croaked, trying to smile.

“Yes …” Sunny smiled softly. “Are you feeling better?”

“Not really,” the scientist answered, “but not worse either. May I have a glass of water?”

Sunny fetched one for her and she thirstily gulped it down.

“Thank you,” Laura said and put it on the nightstand.

Sunny moved around the room, turning off the lights except for a small lamp in the window. Then she climbed into bed and pulled Laura onto her shoulder.

“We really need to sleep,” the blonde said quietly. “You will need all your strength tomorrow.”

Laura closed her eyes and bit her lip.

She was going to need more than her strength. She was going to have to find a way to leave Sunny, outsmart the agents … and all this without getting anyone else killed.  

*****

Joan snuggled closer to the lithe body next to hers.

She had had a restless night, tossing in bed trying to find a comfortable position. Eventually Dawn had reached out for her without a word.

The agent had gratefully allowed herself to be embraced, relishing in the soft touch of the smaller woman. Dawn’s scent had filled her senses and she had been lulled to sleep within minutes.

Now she realised that both their bathrobes had come undone during the night.

She smiled shyly and didn’t move. She didn’t want to wake Dawn up if that meant losing that sensual touch.

Joan glanced at the alarm clock. It was early yet, only five-thirty. They were facing a hard day and she wanted Dawn to rest for as long as possible.

Her partner chose that exact moment to open her blue eyes and dreamily regard her partner.

“Hm … good morning?” the redhead said sleepily.

“Hi,” Joan smiled, hoping that Dawn wouldn’t realise how close they were just yet.

“Are you okay?” Dawn asked and yawned.

“I’m fine.”

Dawn smiled drowsily. Then she moved a little and immediately shot Joan an uncertain look.

“I know,” the brunette said wryly. “I don’t know how that happened.”

Her partner blushed, a deep crimson colouring her cheeks.

Joan tried to pull back but the feeling of the small, soft body against her own was delicious.

Her hand started making little circles over Dawn’s quivering stomach, as of its own volition. The agent’s head spinning from the current of feelings, she bent down and pressed her lips against Dawn’s.

Dawn moaned and wrapped her arm around Joan’s neck. There were no hesitation in the way her lips parted and the brunette let her instincts take over, allowing the tip of her tongue to enter her partner’s mouth.

Joan moaned into the soft, dark sweetness of the doctor’s mouth. The magical feeling between them grew, took charge and they kissed over and over, abandoning every uncertainty they had been victims of before.

“Oh, Joan,” Dawn sighed. “You … are so beautiful.”

She buried her hands in Joan’s dark locks and pulled the other woman closer as she devoured her mouth.

Joan let her, encouraging her by circling the tiny waist of her partner with her hands. She pulled the responsive woman nearer, pressing her own naked skin against the shivering agent’s.

Rolling them over, Dawn was suddenly on top, framing Joan’s face with her hands.

Consuming her partner with wide eyes, she leaned in and nibbled at Joan’s lower lip. Sucking it into her mouth, she let her tongue trace it before kissing the other woman again.

Joan felt herself going out of control, losing herself in the flames created by the petite woman in her arms.

She tried to catch her breath, tried to remember where she was and what she was doing there but all she could think of was the passionate desire permeating every part of her.  

“Dawn, Dawn,” she gasped. “Dawn, we need to stop … I … this is a little scary, honey.”

Dawn withdrew as if somebody had kicked her.

With her wildly tousled hair and narrow eyes she looked like a wounded animal withdrawing from a fight.

Joan’s heart ached. This was not what she had meant.

“No, not like that,” she whispered reaching out for the other woman. “Not like that.”

This made Dawn flinch but she allowed the taller woman to pull her back into the embrace.

Joan wrapped a wayward robe around them both. Slowly rocking, she held her partner close.

“I love it … I love kissing you, touching you,” Joan explained, her voice trembling a little. “It’s just … it’s all happening too fast. You’re hardly awake and I … I didn’t plan it this way.”

“What do you mean? Planned it?” Dawn asked huskily, hiding her face against Joan’s shoulder.”

Joan grinned sheepishly.

“Well, I had sort of imagined it being a bit more … you know, slow. More romantic? Now it was all fire … and all I wanted was to ravish you. That can be fine too, but I … I want it to be right between us. You are far too important to me …” Her voice trailed off and she felt utterly naked and vulnerable.

Dawn was still for a couple of seconds and then tipped her head back.

“You want romance?” she asked, her face not revealing anything.

“Yeah, silly huh?” Joan shrugged, an awkward feeling building inside her.  

Dawn looked down and then faced her again, this time with a tender smile on her lips.

“No, not silly. Just very sweet.” She kissed the stunned agent softly on her lips. “I think I will like being romantic with you, once this is all over. But don’t be afraid of the fire, it isn’t dangerous. We are still in control, you know. As long as it is you and I, we will both be fine.”

Dawn caressed the other woman’s cheek, keeping their gaze locked together.

Joan’s heart melted and she hugged the doctor close. “Oh, Dawn, I … I care about you so much. I can’t imagine not being with you.”

Dawn returned the hug.  

“I know, Joanie,” she whispered. “You know I love you, don’t you?”

Joan’s heart skipped several beats.

“You do?”

“Yes.”

“What happened to make you so brave, Dawn? A couple of days ago you avoided me like I had the plague or something.” Joan pulled back a little to let her eyes feast on the beautiful woman in her arms.

Dawn smoothed down the dishevelled tresses of Joan’s hair.

“I was almost killed yesterday and so were you. The only thing I thought of when that man pressed the gun to my head was that I’d never told you my feelings.”

Joan kissed her again. Sweet little kisses, tracing her lips and following her jaw line, making the redhead shiver.

“You will never regret telling me this,” Joan vowed quietly. “I will be careful with your heart.”

Dawn looked scared for a moment but then smiled. “I know you will.”

*****

Sunny walked downstairs with Hubert trotting after her.

She was numb and still dressed in one of Malachai’s guest bathrobes.

Entering the large kitchen located beyond the living room, she looked at the two agents having breakfast with their host.

“Hi sweetie,” Malachai smiled. “Did you sleep well?”

Sunny nodded automatically.

“Yes,” she mumbled. “I did.”

Malachai frowned and put down the bowl of fruit he was holding. Walking over to the blonde he took her by her shoulders.

“What’s wrong, Sunny?” he asked cautiously.

His tone of voice had alerted Dawn and she circled the kitchen table to join them.

Sunny raised her right hand, willing herself to unclench her fist. She was clutching a small piece of paper.

Dawn took it and smoothed it out.

Sunny stared wide-eyed at Malachai.

“She did it, Jared, …” she whispered almost soundlessly.

Joan had joined them, reading over Dawn’s shoulder.

’I am sorry, Sunny. This is how it has to be. Laura.’ That damn, stubborn woman,” she swore under her breath. “What the hell does she think she is doing?”

Dawn pinched the base of her nose, regarding the blonde.

“What do you think, Sunny?” she asked kindly.

Sunny swallowed hard and tried to speak past the large, choking lump in her throat.

“She’s sacrificing  herself for our sakes,” she said flatly, "by giving herself up.”

*****
Continued in part 8
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