Nano #7 Work and Energy by Jules Mills

Work and Energy
by Jules Mills

Part One – The work done on a body is defined as the product of displacement and the component force in the direction of the displacement, i.e. are you going my way , Baby?

Happy hour descended with open arms upon the upper-middle-class New Haven crowd. The professionals, with their five-hundred-dollar suits covering the pierced belly buttons they had acquired during their grunge teenage years, sipped Spanish Merlots and highballs to the sound of flutes. The current tune was Eduardo Forgivo’s tribute to Melissa Etheridge’s “Unusual Kiss.”

“Can I get something for you, Miss?” the bartender asked, directing his question to a young blond woman sitting at the bar with her back to him. She turned when she heard his inquiry and smiled with even, white teeth. He was a buff, Bostonian-looking boy, dressed in a green striped shirt and matching bow tie, and in the middle of his chin he had a single deep dimple that Grace Wilson found interesting. And his nametag said it all: “Buck.”

“A pink squirrel, please,” the doctor replied and continued to scan the bar for her lover. When her visual search came up with no hits, she turned back to the bar, checked her watch, and cursed.

“And what can I get for you?” Buck directed his question over Grace’s right shoulder. A woman slid onto the stool next to her, looking the doctor up and down with a wolfish, appraising eye.

“I’ll take a rabid blond chipmunk,” the deep, sexy voice replied.

“Sorry, but I don’t know that one. Care to help me out with it?”

“Well…I’ll give you a hint; it’s golden, sweet, and a little nutty. It packs a sharp little bite, and it only takes one to infect you.”

“So what is that—creme de almond?”

“That’ll work—the brown stuff, and a shot of Jim Beam.”

“I can’t believe you sometimes,” the young doctor said with a disapproving grin and her cheeks as red as a maraschino cherry.

“Stick a little fruit in it too,” Dana requested. She turned to the cute blonde. “All I did was order a drink, lady.” Buck returned with her concoction. “Thanks,” she said.

“You made up that drink.”

Dana wiggled her eyebrows at her embarrassed friend and took a sip. “Yum-yum. Tastes almost as good as the real thing.” She licked a creamy mustache from her upper lip and watched Grace’s face blush an impossible red. “You look like you just ate a haberno pepper.”

“This is the last time I meet you in a bar—in a public place, for that matter.” She spun away from Dana’s leer to face the crowd. Dana downed the rest of her drink, knowing her partner loved the attention.

“Ready for another?” Buck asked as he walked by.

“Always. But I’ll have the next one later,” Dana said, nudging her companion’s elbow.

“Knock it off.” Grace whispered her warning.

Doc Papadopolis was smiling from ear to ear, a rarity in public. But Grace embarrassed so easily in these froufrou places, and the childish part of Doc’s wicked persona could not resist. Sometimes she liked to be the kid from the other side of the tracks, the hoodlum, the hellraiser with the dirty mind. Beavis or Butthead; It didn’t matter. She reached into the communal basket of pretzels on the bar and began to munch. “How was your interview with the Times?”

Grace shrugged. “Okay, I guess. Barbara took over two minutes into it and didn’t let me get many words in.”

“I’m telling you, she’s not going to get over that FBI thing for another decade or so.” Dana began spinning back and forth on her chair.

“I’m beginning to believe you,” Grace said, sipping her cool drink and watching her friend twist. Finally she grabbed Dana’s legs and made her stop swirling. But she smiled at the burst of playfulness and giddiness of her usually reserved friend. “Did you take happy pills or something, Dana?” she asked.

“Just a few dozen Dramamine,” she said with a wicked smile and a tilt of her head. “I think I’m trippin’,” she teased and began to spin again.

“I’m never going to hear the end of that, am I?”

“Nope.” Dana turned to the bar and began to tap out the rhythm of the song playing. It was awful. “Jesus, what kind of shit are they listening to? Next thing you know they’ll be playing Celine Dion.”

“I like Celine Dion.”

“Mm-hmm. You know, I feel almost good enough to play some real music for these wienies myself,” she said, looking around at the humming executives.

“You mean the guitar?” Grace asked, completely surprised at Dana’s attitude.

“No, my armpit, Grace. Of course the guitar.”

“But you never play in public, and you only play for me once in a blue moon.”

“Maybe we should check the alignment of the planets or something,” Dana teased.

Grace reached over to feel her forehead for a fever.

Dana leaned toward the caregiver so that they were breathing in each other’s exhalations. “Touch me again, and I swear I will take you right here on the bar,” she growled. Grace pulled her hand away quickly and took hold of her drink glass instead, the voice so husky and the look in her lover’s eyes so bestial that her hand was shaking and a little shiver ran the expanse of her spine. “Let me taste your drink,” Dana demanded. Grace lifted the glass and tilted it to Dana’s lips for a sip. “Creme of almond, white creme de cacao, ice, and…” she smacked her lips, “…milk. A place like this, he should have used ice cream. Hey!” she bellowed, waving Buck the Bartender over. “This lady wants her drink with vanilla ice cream, not milk.”

“I’m all set, really,” Grace said, trying to make up for her friend.

“No problem, I can do ice cream for you,” he said with a wink and moved over to make her another pink squirrel.

“Dana, you really are acting strange.”

“Strange? I just feel good. It’s not strange to feel good, is it?”

“No, but—”

“—Do you know who that lady over there is?” Dana interrupted. She pointed to a woman in a red suitcoat and knock-me-down high heels sitting near the front window of the bar.

“Never seen her before.”

“She’s a hooker.”

“So?”

“And she was at York for two years for offing Senator Wilcox.”

Grace squinted at the woman. “Only two years for killing him?”

“He beat her within an inch of her life, Grace. I would have offed him too.”

A silence settled in, dulling the vibrant happiness to a watermark. Still Dana continued. “She had a really good lawyer that took her case for the appeal. I think he was an ex-john. It was a high-profile case, and I think he made a name for himself when he managed to get her out.”

“Old Senator Wilcox?” Grace said. Her mind was working, trying to retrieve memories.

Dana nodded. Grace remembered the murder from the papers during her freshman year at Yale.

“Old Senator Wilcox was a mean, dirty bastard.” The woman they were staring at looked back at them. Her face puzzled for a moment and then seemed to ease with recognition. She leaned across to her companion, a man with thick, curly gray hair and a pointy beard. A moment later the woman was on her feet, walking toward the bar.

“I do believe you have been re-cog-nized,” Grace commented with a slight Southern accent, using a whisper to her tall companion. From the corner of her eye she watched as her Dana transformed into something from years past, her body stiffening and her happy face becoming emotionless.

“Hel-lo there, beautiful,” the approaching redhead said, stepping up next to the bar. “Want to buy me a drink?”

Doc shifted, uncomfortable with the new company. A long half-minute passed. Grace had become acutely aware of the darkness descending upon her lover.

“Oh, come now, Doc, the least you can do is quench my thirst.”

“What would you like?” Dana asked in the same odd business tone she now took with Barbara Buchler whenever they spoke directly, without a middle person.

“A slow fizz.”

Doc reached over the bar and caught Buck’s sleeve. He looked at her with the patience of Saint Patrick. “Slow fizz for the lady, please,” she ordered.

“No problem.” He looked over at Grace and winked, which Doc noticed, then turned to make the drink.

“None of that cheap well water,” the redhead directed. She turned to face the tall ex-con. “Sooo….” she said in that drawn-out way that really asked, “How the hell did you get out of the slammer?”

“Want that blond chipmunk yet?” Buck asked when he placed the gin drink on the bar. The lady looked at Doc in amusement.

“Captain Morgan on the rocks.”

He poured a spiced rum and set it out for her.

“Who’s your little playmate, Doc?”

“Grace Wilson.” The little playmate extended a French-manicured hand.

“Madeline Stokes,” the redhead replied with a limp-fish grip.

“Who’s your…friend?” Dana asked, indicating the bearded man sitting by the window and taking a sip of rum.

“You mean my husband? That’s Barry.” She chuckled. “He was my lawyer,” she explained to Grace. “He’s one of those do-gooder types.” She became almost wistful. “I fell in love with him at first sight. He’s the one that won my appeal, Doc.”

“So you aren’t turning tri—”

Grace smacked Dana’s shoulder.

“‘Turning tricks,’ Doc?” she finished for the ex-con.

Doc nodded.

“Nope. I’ve changed. See, Barry believes in me, believed in me, and that has made all of the difference in the world,” she said proudly. “What about you? Have you taken anyone out with your dental floss lately?”

Dana’s body became completely still, and Grace noted that the technician was barely breathing. She wondered if this woman had had anything to do with her lover’s torment.

“No. Dana’s been busy finding a cure for cancer,” Grace chimed in dutifully, feeling protective.

Madeline sipped her drink while she watched the two women exchange glances. “Mm-hmm, you sure have grown up. You’re not the scrawny little bookworm that used to hang out in the common room doing multiplication problems.”

“Chaotic math.”

“Whatever. We used to call her Doc because she was so studious, always reading, and always wearing those silly wire-rimmed glasses. What’s it been—ten years?”

“They let you out in 2009. Eight years.”

That seemed profound to Madeline. “So I take it life is much better for you now.”

That was an understatement. “Actually, life’s pretty wonderful,” Dana said before sucking down half her drink. Some of the cloud seemed to lift when she looked at Grace.

“I’m glad for you, kid.” Madeline finished her drink. “Well, I had better get back to my sweetie before he gets too cold.”

“I bet you would know exactly how to warm him up.” Dana nodded as she left.

Madeline laughed. “Nice meeting you, Grace,” she said with a smile and walked away.

“I want to go,” Dana said, pushing her half-empty glass to the middle of the bar and leaving money with it.

“Okay,” Grace replied, a bit saddened by the change from the earlier mood. “But only if you promise to stop at the liquor store and get the booze to make me a few more of these,” she demanded, indicating her empty glass.

Dana smiled and nodded, but Grace could tell that the moment of peace had passed. She would have done anything to bring that silly joy back. “I’ll even treat you to a screaming blond chipmunk,” she whispered while leaning in so closely that their noses touched.

“It’s a rabid blonde chipmunk, and what did I tell you I would do if you touched me again?” Dana stated, almost growling.

Grace sat back, nervously aroused at the tone. “You wouldn’t dare.”

To Dana’s credit, her threat was not hollow. She did seriously contemplate crushing the smaller, supple body against the warm, polished wood, reaching up her skirt and experimenting a little with public sex. But then propriety reared its quadrangular head, and she found herself grabbing Grace by the hand and dragging her out of the trendy pub.

Dana walked two steps behind Grace, her arms laden with bottles of booze, a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream, and a bag of Chinese food, watching the rise and fall of Grace’s firm rear end. It had taken Dana an extreme amount of willpower and her lover’s insistence that a foray in the car would fall below the benchmark standard of the living room floor to make Dana give up on attempting sex in the little Wrangler in the parking lot of the bar. Grace punched in the security code—several times—and then held the door open while Rip exercised her right to the front yard, dog tags jingling, and Dana entered. Dana headed straight for the kitchen, taking out the blender, and set to making Grace her squirrels. Grace set up the Chinese food on the table with the good dishware, humming the last song she had heard on the radio. By the time the food was set out, the drinks were ready, and Dana was ready for real music.

“Are you going to let me in on what brought on such a good mood earlier?” the doctor asked, taking her seat across from her dark-haired lover.

“Take your clothes off for me and I will,” Dana said, placing a forkful of oriental vegetables into her mouth.

Grace laughed. “We aren’t going to have a single normal conversation tonight, are we?”

“I don’t have any idea what you mean by ‘normal'” was the reply through a full mouth as a long arm reached for the Sechuan chicken.”

“Never mind,” Grace grumbled and spooned out rice and beef with pea pods onto her own plate, then doused the pile with soy sauce.

“So are you going to take your clothes off?” she was asked again.

“No.”

“Okay,” Dana replied and set to devouring her food. For a few minutes the only sounds that could be heard in the small cottage house were the sounds of forks scraping the good china. Grace finished her drink. As soon as the last of the sweet concoction was gone, Dana removed the glass from the table and refilled it from the pitcher.

“You’re getting me drunk.”

“No, the alcohol is getting you drunk. I’m only creating the temptation.” With a wink, she handed the full glass to the blonde. Grace took another yummy sip, a big one. She was already way past buzzed.

“So you want me to take my clothes off for you?”

Dana looked up from her food, a bean sprout dangling from her wolfish grin. She sucked the sprout in like a stand of spaghetti. “I only want what’s best for you,” she said, her smile turning to a charming one. Oh, yeah, Grace was drunk—just look at those eyes.

“Well, if you put it that way,” Grace slurred. She stood up, her cloth napkin falling unnoticed to the floor, and walked over to Dana’s side of the round glass table. With painful slowness she eased the tiny top button of her blouse from its hole. Her finger slid slowly down the white silk to the next button, and it was only seconds before the pearly round nub easily slipped free, the soft material spreading open, revealing the pale flesh and the beginning curves of cleavage. She was swaying slightly, rocking with the caresses of her skin by her own fingers as they moved down to the next small button.

Dana had stopped eating and sat transfixed by the beauty revealing herself.

When she had gotten halfway down the shirtfront, Grace shifted her attention to the side zipper of her gray skirt and slowly pulled down. With her thumbs she pushed the fine wool over splendid hips to the floor, revealing the black garter and stockings that Dana had purchased for her during a rare mall trip.

Dana could not breathe.

Those pale fingers slid up to finish the blouse buttons and worked until the white material hung wide open.

Dana sucked in a breath at the sight of the flat tummy and round breasts contained by the white lace bra, forgetting to exhale as her eyes traveled down to the triangle formed where Grace’s legs met her belly.

“Is this what you wanted to see?” Grace asked coolly, with just a hint of Southerness, and slipped off her shirt. Smoothly she released the clasp of her brassiere. She moved closer to the seated, flushed woman.

“It will do,” Dana choked out.

Grace smiled, knowing she had her lover’s mind and body wrapped tightly around her…little finger. She climbed astride her lover’s lap, taking the back of Dana’s head firmly into her hands, and stared into the dark eyes of desire.

Dana placed her hands on the fine, silky mesh covering the muscular thighs, and slid them in circles until her fingers brushed the soft, satiny bareness of the upper thighs. Her caress slid slowly back to the silk and then up again, working the fingers slightly inward, closer to the center of everything each time.

“So tell me,” Grace whispered and then nipped hard into Dana’s earlobe, stealing the remaining semblance of rational thought from the nano tech. The white, even teeth released their treasure. “Why were you in such a good mood earlier?”

Dana closed her eyes and swallowed. “Uhh….” She could not form the words in her mind to answer the question. The hot wetness of the doctor’s tongue filled her ear, and she completely forgot the question. She was overwhelmed not only by the sight and feel of Grace’s body and heat against hers but also by the tangible scent coming from her. She could hear the blood rushing from her brain with each nip and lick. Strong, trembling hands slid under Grace’s bottom to the silk material covering the hot, moist flesh she sought to brush her fingers against. Grace lifted herself slightly, her mouth finding Dana’s with urgency just as Dana discovered the smooth, wet skin. Both moaned as Grace pressed herself against her lover’s gently probing hand. Dana responded to a pressure to open her mouth, teeth clicking against each other as Grace deepened the kiss with her tongue.

Grace pulled away abruptly. “Dana, I want more,” she demanded.

Silently, Dana lifted them both, legs wrapped tightly around her thin waist as she carried her lover to the bedroom, making no effort to turn on the lights. She leaned forward, carefully placing Grace on the bed, then slid up to cover the nearly naked body with her own. God, the shared heat of their bodies was enough to satisfy her forever. She again found the doctor’s lips and possessed them with her own greedy lust while burying her hands in soft, long hair. Her tongue dived deeper, trying to taste every nook of her partner’s mouth, finding the salty taste of soy sauce delicious. The steaming body under her own reacted by bucking against the jean-clad thigh pressed between the two stocking-covered ones. A strong hand wandered down the exposed torso, across the bare flesh of a thigh, to the edge of the hose. Fingers easily unhooked the garter clasp on the front of the leg, then gently trailed around to unclasp the back. The tips of the long fingers slipped under the hem and pushed the light material down. Suddenly her mouth left its feast and targeted the newly exposed skin, tasting each new inch of thigh revealed, all the way down to the little toe. When she reached the scar on the side of the small foot, she began to kiss her way back up the inside of the naked leg, transferring her attention to the other leg at the very top, after a quick nudge with her nose and a carefully placed kiss at the apex of her lover’s legs. Then she repeated the stocking removal.

“Jesus, Dana,” Grace groaned, and arched when her lover’s mouth reached the top of the other foot. The cool air on her now-unconstricted legs heightened her arousal, and the skin begged for more attention. Dana crept up the legs, alternating between the left and right with angel kisses and featherlight touches until her mouth reached the edge of the silk panties. The garter lay loose and relaxed, but Dana wanted it to remain on. She placed a kiss on the part of Grace’s leg extending to the next target of attention, her cheek dampened from where it rested. Then she moved up, licking the skin at the edge of the panties, adjusting her body so that she rested between the bare legs. Her clothing was pleasantly rough against the doctor’s tender skin. Then, without warning, Dana caught the front of the underwear with her teeth and the sides with her hands and yanked down hard, startling Grace as cool air surrounded her. Her lover pulled the remaining cloth from her body and then captured her roughly with a hot mouth, far-from-gentle tongue and teeth plying all the right places. Her knees were lifted, and the cotton of Dana’s shirt brushed erotically against the back of her knees and thighs. From that moment on, what was being done became impressions. Her body moved with the intrinsic rhythm of pleasure until she began to shake, and then came the bright white light of rapture. When it was over, the third time, and her body was finally released, she lay somnolently, spent and wondering if she had ever felt this good before.

Dana crawled up the limp body, pulling her shirt over her head and tossing it toward the laundry basket. Flipping onto her back, she wiggled out of her jeans and underwear, then rolled over and wrapped her arms around the damp, relaxed form. She placed a proud kiss on her lover’s cheek while she lay recovering. Nuzzling herself even closer, she enjoyed the smell of clean perspiration and sex.

Grace finally gathered the energy to turn her head to look at her lover. “So you like my underwear?”

Dana smiled against the tender flesh of Grace’s neck. “I like the way you look in them.”

Grace stared up at the ceiling, still a little stunned by the sheer glory of the past hour.

“And out of them,” Dana added. A few minutes of silence passed while Grace decided if she wanted to pass out or pursue further interaction. If she gave in to the exhaustion, she would surely miss out on the rest of the evening, but then would she be able to walk in the morning? Ah, hell, it was Saturday—who cared?

“Dana, can I ask you a question?”

“Mmmm” was her answer. Dana was too busy reveling in being close to the object of her affection to have a deep discussion.

“Do you reach orgasm while you’re…” she paused, “…um, doing me over and over?”

Dana’s head popped up and she looked down at the beatific face below hers. “Hunh?”

“I mean, I know I’ve fallen asleep afterward, several times, especially when you get me drunk, and you never complain that you’re not satisfied.”

Dana rested her ear on her hand and pondered an appropriate response. “There are different levels of pleasure, Grace. I feel good just being with you, making you happy.”

“So you don’t come.”

Dana smiled a crooked half-grin. “No, I don’t come.”

Grace rolled onto her side and propped herself up as well so that they were face to face. “That seems awfully unfair of me,” she said, dragging a short fingernail down a flat belly. Dana’s muscles twitched with interest. Grace leaned forward, kissing the technician softly on the mouth, smelling herself on Dana’s face, and, surprisingly, feeling the tugging of aroused muscles deep within her gut again. She deepened the kiss as she pushed the tan body back by pressing a hand to a bare hip. Then the same gentle but knowing hand crept between long, lean legs, past moist curls into the soft heat. “How do you sleep when you’re like this?” she asked, gently rubbing the tender, swollen skin.

Dana’s blue eyes were closed and her jaw was set. “I don’t want to talk,” she grumbled as her breath quickened to the pace of the fingers touching her. Grace let her unanswered question pass as Dana’s body shifted with responsiveness. Instead, she let her mouth roam with a series of bites, kisses, and licks, down the scarred, sinewy flesh of Dana’s shoulders, lower until she had one hardened nipple in her mouth and the other pinched in her hand. Her other fingers gently explored Dana’s softness. When she sucked hard and flicked her tongue, Dana responded with a jerk of her hips and a groan. Fingers skirted and teased relentlessly until Dana finally moaned from need. Grace released the breast from her mouth.

“Talk to me,” she commanded as she rubbed her cheek against the wet nipple.

“I don’t want to talk,” Dana growled, her eyes shut tightly.

“How will I know what you want unless you tell me?” Grace’s voice was quiet but determined.

Dana was at the point where she was desperate. After several passes and more teasing, she could not take any less; she needed Grace to have her.

“What do you want?” Grace whispered into Dana’s flesh.

Dana growled before she whispered her needs to her lover.

Grace responded with a thrust of her fingers, and then bodies began to move in every plane. The doctor slid lower until she could taste and kiss her lover over and over. The almost inaudible moans increased with the strength of the kisses until Dana gasped and stiffened with the ultimate pleasure. Grace continued on the shaking body until Dana reached down and touched the blond head. Leaning forward, she breathed out the words “Grace, you’ve succeeded. You can come up for air now.” But Grace continued her touches, softer now, making them even more physically inciting. She entwined her fingers between the long ones in her hair and pinned the hand to the comforter.

Dana’s body began to respond again to the soft coaxing of the lips caressing her, and with that came the realization that her tipsy partner intended to give back what she usually received. With a smirk, the nano tech relaxed back into the soft quilt and decided to give her lover what she wanted. It was good to be a woman.

It wasn’t until the fourth wave hit that Dana managed to roll far enough away from her rabid chipmunk to safety. It also happened to be off the bed and onto the floor. Wobbling on unsteady knees, she used the wall to help her stand.

Grace crept over to the edge of the bed, a devilish glint in her green eyes. “Get back here,” she chirped

Dana, her back to the wall, was still catching her breath. “No way!” She began to slide toward the door, but Grace, on fresher runners’ legs, was quicker and sprang to the door, closing it before her lover could escape. Dana slid back past the closet to the far corner of the room, keeping her distance.

“We have a lot of my selfishness to make up for, Doc,” Grace told her as she stalked her around the room, always staying between the door and her lover.

“There really weren’t that many times, Grace,” Dana argued, stepping onto the bed and entertaining the thought of jumping past the smaller woman to the door.

“More than three.”

“I counted four.”

“No, the first was tit for tat. The others are payments for debits.”

“Grace, you’re going to wear me out.”

“I finally made you make some noise, and you think I’m letting you go now?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“‘Oh, God, oh, God, Grace!’ I think is the direct quote.”

Dana began to laugh at the situation and the spunky woman’s crowing. The words had slipped out when the last intense release had come.

As soon as Dana laughed, Grace seized the opportunity to tackle her on the bed, pressing the tall woman back into the tangle of sheets and quilt. She pinned the strong arms by the wrists next to the splay of dark hair, the weight of her hips holding the long body to the mattress. She placed a gruff kiss of authority on Doc’s lips. Dana smiled that silly smirk of hers when she was released from the kiss.

“I love you, Grace,” she said so easily because it was true.

Grace sat up, her face easing from playful tormentor to gentle lover. “I love you more.”

“Impossible,” Dana replied, sitting up and wrapping her arms around the slender, petite body. She kissed her sweetly and then they rested, holding each other for a long time. “Still want to know why I was in such a good mood today?” Doc asked in a hush of a voice.

“I thought you would never get to it,” Grace whispered into the dark hair she was nuzzling.

“Rachel and I ran the simulations today.”

Grace pulled back and looked into Dana’s sleepy eyes. “I thought you were waiting until Monday.”

“We were ready today.” Dana reclined, supported by her elbows. “We finished up a little after six, which is why I was late.”

“Yeah, yeah—go on,” Grace said nervously.

Dana checked her impatience with a look.

“Please tell me,” Grace begged. “They must have been good, right? That’s why you were so happy?”

“Ninety-nine percent survival rate in early carcinoma, ninety-two percent success in advanced cases with metastasis.”

“What?! Ninety-nine percent? That’s—that’s unbelievable.” The happy blonde stood up and began to hop up and down on the bed with excitement.

Dana nodded at the bouncing, naked Grace.

“We didn’t even hit eighty percent with the Beta cure. Could—could there be a mistake?”

“I didn’t find any preliminary indications, but I’m going to spend Monday with Rachel going through the framework of my sim program to make sure I haven’t defined any relationships between variables erroneously. I mean, it’s possible with a data-fusion system to incorrectly use a mathematical model to predict the way a human body is going to act. There’s always the possibility I missed something or I labeled something as passive that should have been active or vice versa. Or maybe I—”

But she was cut off by Grace’s celebratory kiss and a hug that made her incapable of breathing. She tasted the salt of Grace’s tears of joy and pride. “We did it,” the doctor said breathlessly when they separated.

“We still have clinical trials,” Doc warned.

“This has to be the most perfect night of my life,” the doctor said and kissed Dana again. Dana kissed her back, all the while swimming in her own happiness, knowing how truly blessed she was to have played such a large role in bringing Grace anything perfect.

Part 2 – In the Real World, work is rarely done where friction is not present; hence, frictional force should be considered in the equation for work.

Grace felt the headache before she even had a chance to open her eyes. Sun was streaming in between the slats of the blinds, and she could smell banana bread baking and hear the gentle rustle of newspaper pages being turned in the other room. The classic jazz of John Coltrane was playing lightly throughout the house. Ugh!…after such a wonderful night she had to have the most horrible hangover of her life, even worse than graduation night. She thought about all of the booze and Chinese food she had consumed and her stomach did a flip-flop. She scrambled for the bathroom, making it to the sink just in time to expel the bilious contents of her stomach. Dana, hearing the commotion, put down her paper and wandered over to see just how hung over Grace was.

“What’s the matter, hunh? Feeling a little queasy?”

“Ugh!” Grace groaned as she rinsed the sink with Comet.

“How about a little hair of the squirrel that bit you?” Dana asked, slapping her miserable love on the rump. Grace jumped at the impact and then moaned her way from the bathroom back to the bed.

“You’re bedside manor sucks! You’d make a terrible doctor.”

The nano tech laughed at her.

“What time is it?” Grace asked as she lay back down. Her head felt like a size-twelve foot in a size-seven shoe.

“Eleven o’clock,” Dana relayed, stretching out next to her and kneading Grace’s neck. “You should drink some water to get that sweet stuff out of your blood. The sugar high has to be worse than the alcohol.”

“I need more sleep is all,” the sickly doctor said, hugging her pillow to her stomach.

Dana leaned over and kissed her cheek. “I’m going to run out to the market then.”

Grace pathetically grunted her approval.

When Dana returned from the store with her groceries and the special gift for Grace, her partner was awake and moving about, tidying the small cottage. Dana shoved the small box into the back pocket of her baggy blue jeans and carried the three sacks of food to the kitchen.

Grace was folding laundry in the bedroom. The clothes would stay in piles until Dana put them away, but Dana knew her lover’s limits. Besides, they were put in the right place when she did it herself.

“So, what did you buy us for dinner?” the blonde asked, having wandered into the kitchen when she heard Dana come into the house. She began to rummage through the paper bags of food. “Oh, asparagus. Now that’s a surprise,” she said sarcastically, holding up a bundle of green spears. “What else? Hmmm…pudding—low-fat—good girl…peppers—yum…vidalia onions….”

“I didn’t know you knew what raw vegetables looked like, Grace,” Dana teased.

“I had a picture book as a kid.”

Dana smiled and reached into the fridge, pulled out two bottles of spring water, and handed one to her lover. She tilted her dark head back and took a long drink, emptying the bottle.

“You know, Dana,” Grace began, looking at the asparagus in her hand, “I think that your asparagus fetish is really an emanation of your latent heterosexuality.”

“Ha! Who’s the latent heterosexual, Grace? I’m not the one who was making goo-goo eyes at big Buck last night.”

“What?!”

“Batting your eyes and smiling at him.” Dana looked at her lover and exaggeratedly imitated the look.

“You mean like this?” Grace said, smiling demurely and batting her reddish-blond eyelashes.

Dana’s heart and lungs froze, and a moment later her heart began to melt, dripping down into her belly. “Yes, that’s the one,” she answered stoically and turned away from her friend toward the sink, having completely forgotten what she had planned to do.

Grace chuckled at the enormity of the power of her wiles.

“You’ll never guess who I ran into at the store,” Dana said after she remembered she had intended to clean the vegetables.

“My mother,” Grace teased.

“I doubt I would have lived to tell about it,” Dana said as she started the tap water. “Your old flame.”

“Which one?” Grace asked absently, reading the label of a box of new cereal.

Dana turned and stared at her a moment.

“What?” Green eyes stared back pleading innocence.

She shook her dark mane. “The one that’s always trying to beat me up.”

“Which one?” Grace repeated.

“The bitchy cop one.”

“You saw Beth?” Grace looked up, curious. “Wonder why she’s in town. Did you talk to her? How is she?”

“I don’t know, no, and I don’t care,” Dana replied with a chuckle.

“Did she see you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“And?”

“You know, she spent a long time in the melon section.”

“Dana, did she say anything to you?”

“Nope. But she sort of stared at me and followed me around for a while.”

“That’s weird.”

“I think you should be careful if you go out alone and when you run—just for a while.”

“I’ll take you with me everywhere,” the doctor said melodramatically.

“I’m not going running with you. You can take Rip for that.”

“That’s because you’re out of shape and can’t keep up, kind of like last night.”

“Ha!”

“I don’t think Beth would ever hurt me anyway, Dana.”

“You have to be kidding, Grace.”

“No, I’m not.”

Dana sighed. “Still, I would appreciate—”

“—My brother called while you were out,” Grace said to change the subject.

“Oh, God, I don’t want to know.”

“But he has such fond things to say about you, Dana.”

“Yeah, right,” she replied and slipped into her best Colonel Sanders voice. “That thar Greco gal can’t ‘preciate mah big ole dooly, mah assault rifle, or mah charmin’ sense o’ humor. Ah can’t stand that Na-da Papasfritas, heh-heh-heh.” Dana came over and took the cereal box away when Grace began to dig for the toy prize. “I can’t stand the son-of-a-bitch.” She put the box on the top shelf of the cupboard.

“He’s coming to a writers’ workshop at Yale.”

Dana dropped a glass jar of tomato sauce on the floor. It shattered and splattered red sauce all over the floor and her legs. “Ah, shit!” she said, realizing what she had done, and began to clean up the mess.

“He wants to stay with us.”

“It sounds like a good time for me to do a little fishing. When is he coming?”

“Next week.”

Dana looked up at her lover and sighed. “I can’t leave next week. We have protocol to set up, and manufacturing. You know that.”

“I’m not suggesting you do.”

“Okay, I’ll call Rachel and see if she can take me for a couple of nights. She should be able to as long as that Fed isn’t lurking around.” Dana took a clean rag from the drawer and began to wipe at her pants legs and feet.

“Dana, this is your house too.”

“I’m not staying here with him,” she said with a seriousness Grace had not seen in a long time. Usually all Grace had to do was bat her eyes and her wishes were Dana’s.

Bat, bat.

“No!” Dana went to the bedroom to change her pants and wash the stains off her clothes.

“Don’t make me choose,” Grace said, following her to the bedroom, where the stackable washer was kept in the closet. She caught Dana in her underwear, pulling a small box out of the pocket of her splattered jeans.

“I’m not making you choose, Grace. I’ll spend some time at Rachel’s while you bond with Dick-uh.” She added soap to the tub and then put the lid down on the washer..

“What’s that?” Grace asked about the small box Dana was palming.

“What?”

“That box. What is it?”

Dana looked around and shrugged. Grace stepped closer.

“That box in your left hand.”

Dana pulled a pair of clean jeans off the shelf in the closet. After sliding the attic hatch open, she stuck the box into the rafters, where Grace could not reach. “What box is that, Grace?”

Grace wrapped her arms around Dana’s nearly naked waist and swung her to the bed, then climbed on top of her and the sexy-smelling sheets and began to poke her chest.

“Ouch!” Dana said as the pokes grew harder, so hard they were almost beyond tickle. One caught her just above the collar bone. She suddenly gasped and grabbed at her throat, her neck tensing and straining, and she sucked in air in rasps.

“Oh, my God!” Grace said, suddenly palpating her lover’s neck to find the damage. In a panic she climbed off. While the color drained from Dana’s face, she tried to find out what had gone wrong, praying to God she had not crushed her windpipe, or had she dislodged a bloodclot!? She felt around Dana’s neck for some sign of a broken artery. Dana’s hands began to shake, and her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Grace reached for the telephone next to the bed and started to call 911. Just as she was hitting the second “1,” Dana grabbed her from behind, causing her to scream. She smacked Dana in the arm with the phone and began to curse her. Dana laughed so hard she thought her sides would bust. Grace was so angry she stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind her. It gave Dana a chance to hide the box a little better.

Dana was sitting on the deck, playing the guitar softly and watching Rip chase the sea gulls on the beach while she waited for Grace to return from her huff. The doctor had been gone five hours. When Dana heard the familiar putter of the Jeep’s engine, she fought the urge to run around to the front of the house and apologize profusely. She was even considering offering to stay around while Dick was visiting. Instead, she restrained herself and strummed “Brown-Eyed Girl.”

She listened to the front door open. The familiar footfalls of Grace’s cute waddle echoed from the house, and keys were tossed on the counter, sliding against the cookie jar with a clink. The waiting guitarist moved into an old David Gray song, one of Grace’s favorites. She began to sing the first verse of the slow, scaling tune when the back screen door opened. Oh, yes, come to me, Grace, she thought, feeling quite the siren. Grace sat across the deck from her, small hands shoved into her sweatshirt pockets. The doctor sat quietly while Dana finished the song. When finished, the nano tech slid off the railing, placed her guitar in its case, and sat squarely facing her lover on the opposite bench.

“I’m really mad at you,” the blonde said.

“I know. I thought about coming after you.”

“I thought I might have killed you.”

“Come on, Grace. I was doing an old chick-flick scene.”

“But the way your face went pale….”

Dana hesitated a moment, then moved over to Grace’s bench. “I’m sorry, Baby,” she said sincerely.

“How sorry?”

Uh-oh. Dana could see what was coming next.

“Sorry enough to—”

“—No!” Dana interrupted.

“How do you know what I was going to ask?”

“I’m not so much as sharing the air that your brother breathes, Grace,” Dana said, getting up to lock her guitar case down.

“Then there’s only one alternative,” the blonde said.

“You’ll tell him he can’t stay?”

“No. You give me what’s in that little box you hid in the attic.”

Dana gritted her teeth, having been outsmarted by the administrator yet again. She picked up the black leather Guild case by the handle and carried it into the house. Grace could hear the sound of pots and pans clanking and cabinets slamming shut. Two minutes later—no less, no more—Dana returned and sat next to her lover, holding out the little brown jewelry box. “Here,” she said.

“You aren’t going to get down on your knees?”

“It’s not a ring, Grace. Good God.”

“What is it?”

“Just open it.”

She took the box from the larger hand and opened it. Inside was a small gold caduceus with diamonds for snake eyes and a larger one on top of the golden pole that the snakes wrapped around.

“It’s to mark your accomplishment,” Dana explained. “For making the program a success. It goes on your rope,” she added, touching the gold chain around the perfect neck.

“Dana, it’s beautiful.”

“Yeah, well, I figured that if I got you this, you might forgo the milestone tattoo this time, and maybe I’d get my name there instead.”

Grace smiled. “But I didn’t do—”

“—Yes, you did, Grace.” Dana unlatched the necklace for her and slipped the pendant on it.

“You deserve it more than I.”

“Grace, don’t argue with me about this.”

The overwhelmed woman did not argue. Instead, she took her lover’s hand and led her toward the house. “You want to show me exactly where you would like your name, Dana Papadopolis?”

“Mm-hmm. And that’s Papadopolis with three ‘p’s and two ‘o’s?”

Part 3 – Unlike with work, the time element is an integral part of defining power. Power is work divided by time and relies equally upon the magnitude of the force and the rate.

Dana felt as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders, and she was no Atlas, or even Arnold Schwartzenegger, for that matter. She sat by the window, but the heavy blinds blocked her view of the thickening storm clouds, and her thick, gray sweatshirt insulated her from the gentle breeze of the air conditioner. One arm rested across her stomach, and the fingers of her free hand roamed the keyboard. Every so often she looked up through her wire rims at her computer screen and then looked away again, rubbing her eyes.

Rachel made several trips to the water cooler just to peek into the office. On her sixth trip she noticed Dana had both elbows on the table and her face ensconced in both hands.

Then the tech flipped down the screen with a growl, leaned back, and stretched out her arms as she rolled her neck until it popped. She wanted to be sure that the nano would work, especially before going into human trials. If something were to go wrong and more people died because of some mistake, or ignorance, she didn’t think she would ever be able to adjust to that guilt. Barbara had decreed that she wanted to start the previous day, but Grace had backed Dana’s hesitancy and insisted that the nano would not be produced until Dana decided it was ready. Grace had no idea whether Dana would ever feel ready. Over the past week Dana had picked apart her simulation program, and Grace had called in the microbiologists and biochemists to reassure her partner that the variables had indeed been defined correctly. It broke Grace’s heart to see her so insecure about her own ability to do good. But she understood, and she waited.

“Hey, there, tall, dark, and noticeably missing from my bed,” Grace said, staring into her lover’s blue eyes as she entered the office they shared. She pulled the door closed behind her.

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite suit,” Dana replied, opening her arms for a much-needed hug. ” My, my, aren’t we Hunt Clubby today,” she remarked when the doctor slipped into the hold. They squeezed for a long time, and then Grace climbed into her cushioned chair behind her desk. Yum, Grace’s hair had smelled really good during that hug, Dana thought.

“How was the slumber party at Rachel’s?” Grace asked.

“You know Rach. She got me drunk and then had her way with me. How’s Dick-uh?”

“Fine. He sends his regards.” The blonde fiddled with a pen.

“I just bet.” The tech smirked. ” You weren’t here when I came in. Where have you been all morning?”

“I had an eight o’clock with Barbara.” This was met with a knowing groan. ” Then I spent three hours approving the protocol with Dr. Spitz.” The pen tapped the calendar blotter insistently. “So…are we ready for production, Dana?”

Dana folded her hands in front of her so that she almost appeared to be praying. “I can’t find any reason to hold us back any longer,” she mumbled.

A thrill ran down the small woman’s spine, but her words were steady. “The team is ready to start production as soon as you give them the word.”

“We have to be extra careful with the stereochemistry.” Dana stood. ” No racemation.”

“Do you want to tell everyone?” Grace offered, unable to hold back her smile.

Dana sighed heavily. ” Uh-uh. I want to go out for a while.” The truth

was, anxiety was hanging over her like a black thunderhead just waiting to open up and melt her into nothing.

“Where are you going?”

“Don’t know. Maybe to the marina, or maybe I’ll find me a game.” She picked up her backpack and opened the door. As an afterthought, she walked over to Grace and kissed her on the cheek.

“Call me later,” Grace said as the tech disappeared from the office with her small bag slung over a high shoulder. She was worried about Dana.

“Hello.” Grace Wilson answered the cordless phone on the second ring. A flash of light, a crackle of static on the line, and then two seconds later a large boom.

“Hey, baby,” a deep voice replied through the increasing static. Another light flashed, one second, boom! Rain began to pound against the weathered gray shingles above her.

“Who is this?” Grace asked indignantly.

“I know you’re alone,” the voice replied amidst the crackle of interference.

“You do, do ya?”

“Um-hmm. I watched him leave.”

“Then what are you waiting for, baby?”

“I’m at the back door,” the voice answered.

A chill of excitement twisted Grace’s spine like a Chinese finger cuff. She walked to the kitchen just in time to watch the doorknob turning slowly. A bright flash and large crack shook the little cottage, and then the lights went out. The phone went dead. “Dana, that better fucking be you!” her shaking voice yelled at the door.

“Or what?”

“Knock it off!”

“Jesus, Chipmunk. Of course it’s me,” Dana said, stepping through the doorway, only a silhouette in the dark. Grace grabbed the soaking-wet body she had recognized immediately by smell and mashed herself against it. “You’re such a baby, Grace,” Doc said with a crooked smile in the dark.

“Shut up,” the blonde grumbled into the wet sweatshirt material between Dana’s breasts.

Dana placed her cell phone on the kitchen counter and wrapped her heavy arms around the doctor. Despite being covered in acid rain, her hair wet and stuck to her face, she felt wonderful and warm…she was home.

“Where’d Dick-uh go anyway?” She pulled her soggy sneakers off her feet.

“Out to dinner with a woman he met at the conference.” Green eyes looked up in the darkness at the outline of a strong chin. ” Have you been playing ball all this time?”

Dana released her hold and stepped back to peel off her sweatshirt and sweatpants while Grace scrounged up the flashlight from the cabinet under the sink. “I played most of the afternoon with some guys down at the marina park. But mostly I’ve been walking. I found myself on Post Road and sorted ended up here.”

Grace led her through the house by the hand to the linen closet, where she pulled out a fresh, fluffy towel. “We need to get you a car…hmm…maybe not…who knows where you would have ended up?”

“I’ll always end up here,” Dana answered, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman and kissing her neck just below the ear. ” What time is your brother coming back?” she whispered.

“If he has his way he won’t be back tonight.” Grace blindly found a washcloth.

“Good!” It slipped out before Doc could stop it. ” I mean—”

“—I know what you mean,” Grace cut in, handing the linens to her companion. Standing on her tiptoes, she gently brushed her lips across Dana’s. “Go take a shower and I’ll make you something to eat.” Dana stared at her lover a moment, an absent smile forming, then answered her request with action.

“It’s dark in here,” Dana complained.

Grace followed her into the small bathroom and lit the candle on the sink for her.

“I thought that was for decoration. I didn’t think it would actually burn,” the tech teased.

“Take a shower. You stink.”

“Are you saying I smell?”

“We all smell, Dana. You smell stinky. Pee-eww.”

“Get the fuck out of here!” Doc replied with a smirk and gave the doctor a little shove toward the door.

Dana was drawn by the cozy candlelight and light music emanating from the bedside table. She wore her green cotton sleep shorts and a threadbare white sleeveless tee. Her wet hair smelled of sunflowers and was combed back from her face. From the doorway she admired the naked outline of Grace’s curves as she lay on her side. She let her eyes wander along the dips and swells, and her mouth watered. She smelled peanut butter.

Dana cleared her throat. ” Ever get the feeling you’re a little overdressed?” Then she kneeled on the bed and removed the peanut butter sandwich that was resting on Grace’s hip. Wickedly she wondered how Grace would serve her French toast with maple syrup. ” Grace, you have this really kickin’ hourglass thing going,” she whispered as she let her fingers drift up the top leg.

“Eat your sandwich.”

Dana took a bite and winced at the taste of Polander real fruit.

“All of it,” Grace commanded without turning.

Dana took another bite of the sandwich. A raspberry seed popped between her teeth. Ick! she thought. ” Whatever happened to the grape Smuckers I bought?” she asked, doing her best to scrape off the preserves with her finger.

“You don’t like what I offered you?”

Don’t complain, don’t complain, or you may not get any, Dana warned herself. Then an idea popped out of nowhere. “Here,” she said, reaching over and offering her jellied finger to the reclining woman. Grace took hold of the wrist and wrapped her lips around the long, sweet finger and sucked the jam clean off. She slowly pulled the finger out of her mouth, dragging her teeth along its length, and then pulled it completely out of her mouth with a “pop” of broken suction. Then with those teeth she began to nibble her lover’s palm. “I’m not gonna say a word,” Dana whispered when she got her hand back. She reassembled her sandwich and began to eat the peanut-butter-and-Wonder delicacy.

“You will never guess what I found in the peanut butter jar,” Grace mumbled.

“Peanut butter?”

“No.” The blonde lifted her arm from the bed and held up a small red dragon. “My Mushu figure. Any idea how he got in there?”

Dana had a good idea, and it was probably a wild one named Nate, but she wanted to tease her lover a little. “Maybe he was hungry.”

“Ha! I don’t think so.” She placed the little figure on the table next to the bed.

Dana smiled and finished her sandwich. When she was done, and a bit tongue-tied from the sticky peanut butter, she moved over to explore the soft body next to her with her fingertips. Then she tugged at Grace’s hip and rolled her onto her back. ” Ah, the flip-side,” she remarked. ” And I think this side will be an even bigger hit.” Slowly Doc leaned down to kiss the naked woman, but a hand went to her chin and stopped her.

“What?”

“Do you want something?”

“Um…yes,” Dana replied, arching her eyebrow.

“Maybe you should ask for it.”

Dana stared down but refused to answer. Then she began to move closer but Grace held her firmly.

“Do you want to kiss me?”

“Yeeeesss.”

“Then ask.”

Doc scowled a little. “Don’t you want me to kiss you, Grace?”

“That’s not the point.”

It took Dana a moment. “May I kiss you?”

“Say please.”

Dana grunted a little but Grace held her away firmly. It only made her want the kiss more. “Why?”

“You have to work a little for anything you really want.”

Dana blinked. “Please.”

“Okay.”

Slowly Dana’s lips met Grace’s, but Grace held her face firmly in her hands and controlled the touch—light, barely making contact, and not enough for the tech.

“I want you on your back,” the doctor whispered quietly but sternly. She looked up at the closed eyes of her lover. Then she lightly traced Dana’s upper lip with her tongue, tasting peanut butter, and did the same to the lower lip. Dana’s lips parted, and her breathing was becoming erratic, fast. Grace loved how easily she could turn her on and this was really working. “Dana, roll over.”

Dana obeyed, and when she was flat on her back, the naked woman rolled to her knees and hovered over the long body. “You smell really good,” Dana said, reaching up to trace the outline of a dangling breast.

“Mm-hmm.” Grace looked at the roaming fingers. “Would you like to touch me?”

Dana looked at her hand. “I believe I already am.”

“I think you should have asked first.” Grace took hold of the exploring hand and pinned it next to the tech’s head, then did the same with the less active hand. Dana strained her neck to reach Grace’s mouth for a kiss, but the doctor moved away. She tried several more times but was met with the same retreat.

“Jesus!”

“Would you like something?”

“Yeah!”

“What?”

“To fucking kiss you.”

Grace checked her with a look that made Dana hotter than a McDonald’s coffee.

Dana’s hands were moved together and held by a single smaller one. “Don’t move.” Then with her free hand, she grasped the tech’s chin and pushed her face to the side. Bending down, she whispered in her ear. “I suggest if you want me you start showing some manners.”

Doc whimpered. And when Grace’s tongue flicked her ear she growled deep and wantonly. Grace watched the closed eyes and felt the arms pull slightly against the hand that still held them. The jaw in her other hand clenched. She pressed slightly so she had better access to kiss and lick Dana’s neck. The sensitive area at the base on the side twitched with need.

“Grace, please kiss me,” Dana begged.

Dana’s head was then turned, and her mouth was met with a deep, much-needed assault. The humming grunt the kiss produced was the sign Grace needed.

“Do you trust me, Doc?” Grace asked softly, her lips brushing up the bridge of a long nose to trace a dark eyebrow.

“Yes” was the reply, weak from distraction.

“And you know I would never hurt you?” She kissed the thin skin of a closed eyelid.

“Ye—”

“—And you know I trust you?”

A hesitation.

“I do, Dana. With my body,” a kiss to the other eyebrow, ” my future,” a kiss to the other closed eye, ” all of me.” Her mouth trailed to the closest ear. ” I want you to feel that way about yourself.”

“I can’t” came the whispered reply.

Soft hands gently stroked the strong features, and Grace nuzzled into her neck. “Trust me. It will be okay.”

Dana swallowed hard. “I do trust you.” A nanosecond later her mouth was covered, and when she opened to breathe, she was filled with Grace’s soft, sweet tongue. Small hands wrapped tightly into the silky hair.

“Show me.”

“How?”

That was what the doctor wanted to hear. “Hmmm…would you let me tie you up?”

“Yes.” A very quiet, slow whisper.

“You would like that?”

“I’m not sure…I’ve never….”

“Do you want to try?”

“Yes.”

Grace smiled into the neck she was kissing and then reached down to remove Dana’s shirt. “Mmm,” she moaned as she leaned in and brushed against the breasts.

Grace moved off her body and stretched to reach the drawer of the table. She withdrew a blue silk scarf. “Close your eyes.” Then, with slow precision, the doctor dragged the scarf along Dana’s bare skin, the texture and weight making the body arch and quiver. When she touched Dana’s neck, she could feel the change in temperature from a few minutes before. And the stillness. She took one wrist, and then the other. First she wrapped the scarf around the right wrist and fingers, then placed the palms together, and finally she entwined them with the silk, around and around. She placed the hands on the bed above the dark hair and tied the tail of the scarf to a rung of the headboard. She tugged once to test it. ” That’ll do.” Then a light kiss before the body above began to move down, with well-placed touches and kisses. Hair trailed, and the supersensitive skin of Dana’s chest broke into goosebumps. “These have got to go,” Grace mumbled and began to tug on the elastic band of the shorts. Her lips were not far behind the waistband that was moving down. “Oh, that’s so much better.” The hot breath mixed with the dampness and clean, earthy smell Grace was enjoying. ” Do you think that’s better?”

“Yes,” Dana choked out.

Grace couldn’t help reaching in and touching, testing. “I think you like this.”

It was met with a groan and slightly moving hips.

Doc was not sure if it was the vulnerability she felt or the fact that Grace seemed to like the control, or maybe it was a balance of both, but every inch of her body was dying to be licked or touched. When she climbed back up her body, and skin slid against skin, it was delicious but not enough. Movement was needed, and she told Grace that, begged for it, and was rewarded.

“Dana, I’m going to kiss you everywhere,” the doctor whispered. “Your legs, your hips, your belly, all of you. Do you want that?”

“Uh-hunh.”

“Do you know how good you look to me like that?”

“No.”

A slight growl left the blonde, and she began her trip downward. She would show her. And true to her promise, she kissed all of her. The bottomsof her feet, the backs of her knees—everywhere was tasted, even between her fingers, and then the young woman settled in at midpoint. There small fingers joined the tongue, and with more growls, the kisses became more urgent.

“Is this what you need?” Grace asked, her teeth nipping.

Panting.

“Is it?”

“God yes!”

“You like me to touch you like this when you can’t do anything about it?”

Dana hummed and strained against the scarf.

“Giving up this control doesn’t scare you?”

“No,” it was breathless. “Not with you.” Dana was breathless.

“You like to trust me?”

“Yes.”

“Mmm. Why?”

“I don’t know! Jesus, you’re chatty!”

Grace stifled a chuckle and held a firm look by biting the insides of her cheeks. “I think you know,” she growled.

“Believe me if I knew, I would tell you so we could get on with this.”

Grace stopped what she was doing and stared up at Dana.

“You need an answer, don’t you?”

The doctor nodded.

Dana’s dark hair fell back against the pillow and she sighed and thought. “I like it because it turns you on,” she offered.

The blonde kissed a slightly trembling thigh. “And…?”

Another sigh. “And I like giving up all the responsibilty.”

Grace smiled and kissed the other thigh. “Is that so, Dana, you feel responsible for everything that happens to you?”

“Yes.” It was a quiet reply. “I’ve acted too many times doing what I thought was right, and it always turned out to be so wrong.”

Grace rested her cheek against slightly sweaty skin. “And you got hurt.”

“A lot of people did.”

“Baby, what the rest of the world does with what you have given them isn’t under your control.”

“But I don’t trust them.”

Grace couldn’t say she blamed her. “Well, start by trusting me and sooner or later…”

“They’ll all be between my legs?”

The blonde began to laugh. “Would you like that?”

“Heh—No.”

“Good. And I had better get on with your therapy,” Grace commented and gently reaquainted herself with her target.

Dana closed her eyes and let herself trust Grace’s…judgement, and what good…judgement she had. Grace filled her and

“I…I…oh, God, Grace! Oh, God!” It was like a rock penetrating the water, ripple after ripple expanding from a single point until the waves finally smoothed and calmed again. Dana moaned and gasped for breath as Grace continued. Another rock hit the surface, and more ripples. Dana strained so hard for air she was dizzy. Finally the blonde moved up and kissed her lover hard on the mouth.

The muscles of Doc’s shoulders ached from the strain. ” Untie me, please,” she gasped. She had to touch Grace.

The doctor reached up, and with a tug Dana was free and slipping her hands out of the scarf. She grabbed Grace’s hair and flipped them over so that her full weight pressed into the smaller body. She looked down into the dark green eyes while she caught her breath.

“I’m ready to give you anything you want, Doc.”

So the nanophysicist tested that and could not prove that to be untrue.

The candles had evaporated into nothing, the storm had blown out to sea, and the lovers slept deeply, Dana resting atop Grace’s back. For the first night in a week Dana slept without dreaming or waking every two hours. But it was not to last.

Grace awoke first to the shrill scream of her beeper. Her first thought was the nano production team. She whispered for Dana to roll off her, and in dream state the tech moved barely enough for her to slide out from under her. She moved through the darkness to the dining room table, where the little beeper was screaming. By new moonlight streaming in through the kitchen window she read the number. That was weird. She recognized it immediately.

She walked back into the bedroom. “Dana,” she said, gently shaking the tech.

It took a few shakes before the tech responded. ” Hmmm.”

“It’s the police.”

Sleepy blue eyes widened. “Where?”

“Beth’s work number is on my pager.”

“Beth? You mean Miss Piggy?”

“Yeah.”

Dana ran a hand through her very tousled hair. “What could she possibly want?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you called yet?”

“No.”

“Well…let’s call.” Together they walked back to the kitchen to use Dana’s cell phone.

Part 4 – Therefore, increasing the rate and the magnitude of the force, increases the power by two-fold.

Grace barreled through the swinging doors of the City of New Haven police station. The young doctor was clad in a tan trenchcoat that still bore the word “petite” on the sleeve because Grace insisted it was the brand name, a French brand, and Dana trailed behind like the askew waist-tie of that coat. The sound of wet running shoes and the phish of filled blue jeans cut through the humid air.

“I am here for Richard Wilson!” Grace stated officially to the night clerk.

He looked up over his bifocals, his wispy gray-black hair anchored neatly behind his right ear. After a quick assessment he went back to his paperwork.

“Excuse me!” The small jaw jutted fiercely. Dr. Wilson had no patience tonight.

Meanwhile, Dana’s body was trying to drift back outside.

“Did you hear me?!”

Dana froze out of habit.

The elderly officer coolly removed his glasses and rubbed his crooked nose. It curved slightly to the left. “Yes, I heard you, young lady.”

“‘Young lady,’ ha! It’s ‘Dr. Wilson,'” she corrected with just a hint of Yalie snootiness.

He gave her the Doogie Howser once-over.

Not a good move, Dana thought.

“Sign in,” he said, pushing an electronic clipboard and laser pen to Grace. She signed and then slid the board to Dana.

“Do I have to sign this if I don’t go past here?” Dana asked the clerk.

“No.”

She laid the pen down and handed the clipboard back to him without signing it.

“Dana?” Grace asked testily. She couldn’t help the edge in her voice.

“I think you can handle this yourself. I’ll wait here.”

“But I need—”

“—Gracie?” a familiar voice interrupted the plea, but its tone did not match the endearing diminutive. Both Dana and Grace turned to see Beth, who had a harsher haircut than during their last encounter but a befitting one. “Your brother is this way.” She shot Dana a piercing slit-eye snake look, then turned on her heel and slithered back into the squad room. Grace’s eyes couldn’t help following the curvaceous outline of the retreating officer.

“She’s so fuckin’ creepy,” Dana whispered to Grace, catching the lusty glimmer in her lover’s eyes. Grace was Eve in The Garden, and Dana realized she would never have that one thing Beth had. “Fucking cop pants,” she mumbled at Grace’s back.

“Mmm-hmm. That’s why I need you to come too.”

Dana hesitated, trying to figure out just what that meant. She didn’t want Grace to be alone with Beth. “I…I….” Grace strained to hear her. “I can’t go in there…not without having a full-blown panic attack,” Dana said defeatedly.

“Okay.” A touch to the arm reassured the tech that her weakness was okay. “And it’s the cuffs, not the pants.” A wry smile.

“I’ll wait out here,” Dana offered with a frustrated grimace. She would have waited in the car if she’d had her full choice.

Twenty minutes and a few fingernails later Dana looked up to see Dick Wilson staggering toward her with a purpling eye and a bottom lip the size of a talking horse’s. Blood stained the front of his polo shirt. Had he seen fit to smile at Dana, for he did not, she would have seen that his right canine was no longer his. Not far behind strutted his sister, red-faced and as furious as Dana had ever seen her.

Dick pushed his way through the swinging doors with an arrogance befitting a silver-back gorilla but with only half the intelligence.

Dana found herself hurrying after Grace, who was in hot pursuit of the family writer, determined to snatch his banana. By the time Dana hit the pavement, Grace had her featherweight brother’s arm in her grasp and had shoved him up against the fender of the Jeep. His lazy eyes ignored her, an d Dana could tell that the doctor was cursing him. After several minutes of this, she released his arm in disgust and then slammed her fist against the hood, making the tech jump.

“Get in the fuckin’ car, Dick!” she growled at her brother, a hint of Southern drawl in her angry words.

He waited a few seconds before sauntering over to the passenger side. He flung the door open and began to climb into the passenger seat but slipped on the wet steel of the car’s frame and crashed to the cement sidewalk, banging his chin on the edge.

“Gawd, you stink, Dick-uh,” Dana said, grabbing him under the arms. “What’s that cologne you’re wearing, Eau de Five-Day-Old Dead Possum?”

“Fuck you, Nada.”

“No, thanks, I prefer your sister, whiskey boy.” She easily lifted him to his feet and then shoved him into the back seat.

After climbing in herself, she took a moment to size up Grace’s mood. She was glaring into the rear-view mirror at her brother. Dana opened her mouth to say something but closed it. She had never seen Grace angry enough to exhume the Southern drawl. They drove home to Milford in silence.

Dick stumbled into the house, insistent that he could walk on his own after Dana picked him up off the front lawn.

“Dumb drunk fuck,” Grace mumbled, the words surprising Dana.

The tech reached for the doctor’s arm to stop her from going through the front doorway. And she didn’t like the fact that Dick knew the security code. Hell, she didn’t like Dick.

“What’s going on?”

“A fucking brawl and a drunk-and-disorderly.”

“Oh.”

“Beth picked him up.”

“How convenient.”

“We were lucky she picked him up. The guys he was fighting would have killed him.”

Dana growled at that remark. “Lucky?”

“Yep.” Grace stared at Dana a moment. “Look, Dana. Beth did me a favor.”

Dana wanted to sneer but she shrugged instead. “Why are you so angry, then, if the world is being so kind to you?”

“Because my brother is a fucking drunk,” Grace replied and walked into their home, leaving Dana alone on the stoop. Maybe if she shook her head hard enough it would all make sense. She stood for a few minutes, trying to reclaim her bearings in the little whirlpool of dysfunctional family dynamics and ex-girlfriends. When she finally decided to go inside, she still did not have her sea legs, but she was not about to let Grace shut her out of this. She noted that Dick had passed out on the daybed in the spare room. Grace was lying in their bed with her face buried in the pillow she was clutching.

The once-emotionally-stilted brunette sidled up to her best friend and began to gently stroke the tight muscles through the white T-shirt.

“He blames me.” Grace’s words were muffled by the pillow.

Dana continued to stroke. “For what?”

“For ruining his life.”

Dana didn’t say anything because she had no idea what Grace was talking about, but if she seemed interested and not too threatening her chatty partner would likely reveal things to her. Grace rolled onto her side to look at Dana. “At first I thought it might just be the whole competition thing, Yale and then med school.”

Dana nodded and caressed her arm.

“But when I saw him that last time and he was so angry and drinking…and when I talk to Joy she tells me he’s getting worse. He had two DUI’s in Louisville last winter.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“I didn’t tell you.”

“Obviously.” She let that pass but kept it for later. “Why do you think he blames you for his drinking?”

“Not just his drinking,” Grace corrected. “His whole fucking screwed-up life. Being alone, being an asshole….”

“The two may be related.”

“They are…they’re my fault.”

“So you blame yourself as well?”

“No.”

“Sounds like it to me.” Dana pushed herself into a sitting position and with her foot caught the door and closed it.

“Well….”

Dana lay back down. “Well…maybe you don’t want to tell me this either, being that it’s about family.”

“That’s not why I didn’t tell you.”

“Whatever.”

“Mom asked me not to.”

“And that’s supposed to be a good reason? Jesus! If she asked you to stop seeing me, would you?”

“I haven’t, have I? And I didn’t think you would care. I mean, you pretty much hate him.”

“If it bothered you, I would care.”

This was met with silence and then a quiet “Okay.”

Dana smiled. “Tell me why you feel guilty.” She brushed long, wispy blond bangs away from dark green eyes.

“It’s kids’ stuff.”

“Well…I happen to know kids’ stuff can be pretty rough sometimes.”

Grace nodded. She looked a little scared, almost childish in her emotion.

“Grace?” she asked softly. “Please tell me.”

“We were very young, and stupid, and…and…things….” A big, frustrated sigh. “And it changed our lives by not changing our lives.”

A long time passed.

“Is this a riddle or something?” Dana finally asked.

“No.”

“Well, ‘things’ is pretty vague. You sure it wasn’t ‘stuff’?”

Grace managed a tiny smile. “Dick and Suzie Becker and me were playing strip poker up in the clubhouse above the garage and my mom caught us.”

Dana was stunned. That was it. That was all it was. And now it was her turn to say something, something profound about nudy games. “Yes…well, considering the way you play, you were all probably very naked.”

“Both Suzie and I were.”

“Yeah? Whatever happened to Suzie?”

“She died…that weekend,” Grace said solemnly.

“Oh.”

“She and Clyde Bannister and Dick and me were supposed to go to the Young Christian Convention in New York City. Mom grounded us because we were obviously not Christian enough, and we missed out on the trip.”

“Was there a bus accident or—?”

“—No, Dana. The Big Wave hit.”

“Oh. Wow.”

“Yeah,” she replied sadly. “Very wow. It really fucked Dick up.”

“I still don’t see how it was your fault.”

“It was my idea to play.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. But so what if it was your idea?”

“Look, I told you it was kids’ stuff.”

“Grace, I wouldn’t belittle a brush with death, especially something as colossal as The Wave. But I don’t think Dick’s alcoholism and basic pissy personality can all be blamed on that one incident. It would be like saying the reason you’re an overly zealous megalomaniac is because of that same incident.”

“What did you just call me?”

“An overly ambitious megalomaniac.” Dana slowly smiled.

Grace stared at her a moment. “I think you said ‘zealous.'”

“Yeah.”

“We should have died.”

“Could have.”

“And it did affect me. It made me realize I needed to take the chance I was given and make the most of it.”

“You don’t have to prove your worth, Grace.”

“Dick just wants to piss his life away.”

“Dick lives his own life. It’s his to piss away.”

“What’s that mean?” Grace did not like Dana’s nonchalance. “So if I decided to start fucking around and still did the pills and basically tossed everything away it would be okay because it’s my life?”

“No.”

“Why is it okay for Dick, then?”

Dana had talked herself into a corner. And she had to be careful, for Grace was using the “f” word a lot. What would Cassandra do? she asked herself. “It would not be okay, Grace. It would hurt to watch that, and I would try to help, but ultimately it would not be my responsibility to fix you. It would be yours.”

“Like with the pills?”

“Yeah. And just like you did for me.”

“Would you leave me?”

“If you were fucking around I sure would. Look, I don’t want to fight over Dick.” She put her arms around the tense woman and nuzzled her hair.

“I’m not a megalomaniac.”

“I was kidding, Grace. But you are driven like a swarm of drones aching to hump a fresh queen sometimes. And maybe if you really want to get through to Dick, put yourself on the same level as he is…tell him about your pill problem and what you had to—”

“—What pill problem?”

“Wha…”

Green eyes curled into a smile. “I’ll think about it.”

Grace returned to the room to find Dana sprawled back on the bed, hands neatly tucked behind her head and biceps tweaked just enough to make Grace hot.

“Ugh!”

“Did he listen at all?”

“He was very quiet. I doubt it did any good.”

“Well, at least you tried. Cassandra says that—”

“—Ugh! No more ‘Cassandra says,’ please.”

“Okay.”

Grace hooked her fingers into the front of Dana’s shorts and rolled her over so that she could snag a kiss. When she was satisfied, she brushed the bangs away from the blue eyes.

“Tomorrow’s a big day.”

“Yep.”

“Are you comfortable with this?”

“Nope.”

“Can I do anything to help you?”

“Mmm, maybe.”

“Would this happen to be something naughty?”

“Mmm, maybe.”

“Would it involve food of any sort?”

“Mmm, maybe.”

“Hot or cold.”

“Hot.”

“Spicy or bland?”

“Spicy.”

“It’s not the chili con queso again?”

“Would you prefer guacamole?”

“No…too many calories.”

“I’ll get the chips.”

Part Five – A machine is a force-multiplying device. Its purpose is not to convert one form of energy into another but merely to exert on an object a force which is usually larger than the force which is applied on the machine from the outside.

Dana hovered over the sink full of Mexi-Velveeta-encrusted dishes, stirring a bowl of pancake batter and watching the post-storm chop of the ocean. Rip was chasing the seagulls that had returned to the beach from their safe haven on inland golf courses. She was getting slower in her domesticity and rarely came within ten feet of the birds. It was for sport now, not survival, and Dana was sure the dog understood that and was fine with it.

Dick, still in the bloodied clothing from the previous evening that reeked of souring beer, vomit, and the sweat of a beer brawl, moseyed into the dining area from the bathroom. He took a seat at the breakfast counter across from his sister’s lover. Dana noted the mustard-yellow tint—where he wasn’t black and blue—to his gaunt, thin skin. The green pupil of his right eye looked eerie in contrast to the red whites.

“Nada, you’re the last person I thought I would find here this morning,” he grumbled with all the Southern charm he could manage.

“Why’s that, Dick-uh?”

“I thought Chipmunk had dumped you, and you were off living with some computer geek.”

“Sorry to disappoint you there, buddy, but I’m quite certain that Grace and I are still together.”

“Maybe you just haven’t realized she doesn’t want you, you having such limited people skills and all.”

She took a long look at his swollen cheek and purpling brow and decided that she would have liked to have done that to him. “You’re one to talk, Popeye.”

Dick stared back at her with one good eye, the left one. “You know what I just realized?”

Dana sighed. “What, Dick-uh?”

“You remind me of someone.”

Dana wanted to ignore him, she really did. “That’s nice.”

“You know who?”

Dana sighed again. “No, Dick-uh.”

“That chick Rosmunda from that movie ‘Penitentiary 9’.”

An eyebrow shot up on its own. Dana couldn’t believe she was having a conversation with anyone about that movie or any others in the series, let alone actually using its characters to compare real people to. Not even Dick had taste that bad, or so she had thought.

“She’s big, lethal, and knock-dead-gorgeous but dumb as a garden hoe.”

Bite your tongue, Dana, she urged herself. “I must have missed that masterpiece.” She scooped out some creamy batter onto the long, buttered griddle and made six medium-sized flapjacks. She loved to cook for Grace and take care of her. She turned to her brother-in-whatever-chicks-who-love-chicks-call-them. “Come to think of it, you remind me of a character in a movie too.”

He smiled, for he had engaged her. He would have looked evil, but he was one tooth short and looked a little dorky instead. “Really?”

“Yep. You remember that old pre-‘Anaconda’ Jon Voigt movie ‘Deliverance’?”

“Unnnh-hunnnnnh,” he replied slowly and waited.

Dana turned to the sink and began to run the water to soak the dishes.

“And?” Dick asked the back of her head with a little twist of whine.

“And what?”

“Which character?”

“Oh, sorry.” Dana smiled to herself and then recovered her impassive mask before turning to face him. “I thought it was obvious.”

“No, it’s not. And I don’t do boys or pigs, if that’s what you’re insinuating.”

“No, Dick-uh. I meant the little country kid with the banjo.”

Dana watched as his pummeled smile slid down his face to become a snarl. When she crossed her eyes and began to swing the spatula from side to side like a pendulum while twanging out “Dueling Banjos,” he slammed his fists on the counter, stood, and stomped off. Very amused eyes, the eyes of victory, followed him until he disappeared around the corner and slammed his door.

“La belle dame sans merci,” a demure voice whispered to her.

Dana turned to face the back door leading to the deck, where Grace had been watching and listening through the screen after returning from her morning run.

“Cogito; ergo, sum,” the tech replied.

“I’m speaking French, baby. You’re using Latin.” The doctor opened the squeaky door and took off her sandy running shoes, which she tossed on a throw rug next to the door. Dana opened the refrigerator, took out a bottle of water, and handed it to the blotchy-faced road-pounder. Grace sucked the bottle dry and wiped her mouth daintily with her fingers. “Why don’t you like Dick?”

“Geeâ•œyou mean that homme moyen sensuel?”

“Yes, that average nonintellectual man.”

Dana smirked. Grace knew French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. Dana had the back of her Webster dictionary and the section titled “Foreign Words and Phrases” memorized.

“Ex animo?”

“Yes, from the heart. And, seriously, you only know him from two visits. Believe it or not, there is a lot more to him.”

“Ex pede Herculem. Ecce signum.”

“Smartass!”

Rip scratched at the door.

“Cave canum.”

“Beware the dog,” Grace repeated and opened the screen door. “Come on in, doggie, but wipe your dirty paws first.”

Rip looked up at the sweating blond beauty knowingly and traipsed into the living room, leaving sandy little prints the whole way.

“And you, Dana, are as naughty as that there hound.”

“Just like Rosmunda,” Dana remarked with a triumphant, adolescent pride and handed Grace a tall stack.

“Rosmunda? Hehâ•œthe only Rosmunda I know is from these prison movies Dick and I used to dig.” The blonde sat at the counter and doused her cakes in maple syrup “That chick was a total bad-ass babe. But dumb as a garden hoe.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yeah,” Grace replied with a dirty little chuckle.

“You think maybe you had a crush on this Rosmunda?”

“We all did. Even Joy. She wanted to save her, make her good. I just wanted to be her prison guardâ•œoh, yeahâ•œI had a crush, all right.” It took Grace three mouthfuls before she realized what she had said. “Oh, shit! Dana, I’m sorry.”

The ex-con had turned her back to the counter and was scrubbing the plasticized cheese product from the good china. “It’s no biggy.”

“Yeah, it isâ•œI mean, I never would have saidâ•œI mean, it was this fantasy I had as a teenagerâ•œ.” The doctor was standing next to tall, dark, and reticent, trying to get her to look down at her.

“Sorry, Grace, but prison wasn’t a fantasy to me at that age.”

“Danaâ•œ”

“We have a lot to do today to start the trials and should get going,” Dana replied curtly as she turned off the water and moved out of the kitchen, leaving the pancakes burning in butter.

The lab bustled with nervous excitement. Those who were working, agents of what was bound to become one of the biggest medical discoveries of the 21st century, could practically feel and hear a physical buzz in the rooms, a phenomenon caused by the chemical reactions of static electricity, human sweat, and the heat of the nanomanipulators working overtime. They were on the verge of making history and changing the world. And each one knew how rare a chance it was to be part of such a remarkable thing.

Dana was very aware of her part in this. She had cracked the physical mysteries of nanoscience left by Merkle and Drexler practically on her own with her gift, her clarity of thought. She had always thought of it more as her affliction…and even now still doubted its goodness, her goodness. And today she was preparing to unleash a power with the potential to be more hideous and epidemic than the cancer that was eating the bodies and sucking the life from the people who as last resorts and first resorts elected to be her guinea pigs. But would they still be so willing if they knew who she had been only years earlier? Who was she now?

The time with Cassandra had taught her how to control her fierce anger and put her niggling fears into perspective. Grace had offered her that once-in-a-lifetime chance of contented domesticity, a home. She had led her to a happiness that Dana had never imagined, or if she ever had, had forgotten, and Dana was so afraid that she was about to detour again. Maybe she was trying to attain something that was not really there but was some facade or illusion. Could she change herself? Was she changing? Cassandra had urged her to uncover the darkest, ugliest parts of herself and deal with them. But she was not sure that dealing with them wiped out what she had done or the even larger question: was she trying to be something that she was never supposed to be? She had always felt like a wanderer. Now she was working day in and out in a lab creating nano cures and living in a small beach house with a cute blonde who had great breasts and dimples.

Suddenly she felt like Wilbur about to release a zillion little Charlottes into the barnyard, into all the winds of the world, and she wondered if they were going to be literate, gentle arachnids like their mother, Grace, or more like black widows.

She shook off all these self-doubts when her assistant, a young American raised in Germany and now in her senior year of biomedicine, asked her a question about calibration.

Down the hall, Grace was seated at her desk, going over the forty-six pages of blindly selected candidates, another thirty-seven pages of wait-listed people, waiting only for production to catch up with need. Name after name—male and female, senior and infant—were listed in front of her. Their enemy had no prejudice. The research facility had decided to aggressively test five types of carncinoma, so there were five batches of nanomachines being created, each batch specifically keyed to the chemical the tumors released. It had been either five or choose one or two types to test on, and neither Grace nor Dana, nor even Barbara Buchler, could make the choice. It was the invasive cancers and the large tumors that would either make or break the testing, and the advanced cases would require creating a protocol that incorporated gene therapy to repair large cellular and organ damage from the cancer.

Grace cross-referenced the case study in her computer of a five-year-old with an inoperable brain tumor that had not responded to either chemical or gene therapy. This was the child’s last chance. Then she found a thirty-year-old mother of two with ovarian cancer. Next was a sixty-two-year-old man with cancer of the lining of the stomach who had been opened last month and closed immediately after doctors saw that the cancer filled his abdomen. And there were the prostate cases, the cervical cases on twenty-year-olds, lung cancer in middle-aged men and women, and finally the most demanding and difficult of the cases (in the rats at least), the leukemia patients, because they were non-tumor and the nanomachines actually attempted to identify the genetic defects that caused the leukemia and repair the genes.

She sensed, as did the others, that she was at the most pivotal moment of her career, if not the medical discovery of the 21st century. She felt like Salk. But unlike him, she had spent the past three months in preparation for the tests, fighting with the HMO’s and the doctors to get people to try the nano. The funding she had fought for in Washington D.C. over the past few years, as well as the streamlining of the manufacturing process by Dana and Rachel and several nano labs around the world, had made nano cheaper and had helped the HMO’s swallow the pill a little easier. Still, it was not free, and Grace knew she would be ruined if they failed.

Still, she was strong as she tried to put a possible failure into perspective. The world had passed through its third wave, the Great Disruption of the information age. As with the transition from hunting/gathering to agriculture, and from agriculture to industry, the social order that had started to decline in the 1960’s was now reconstituted. New hierarchies of political and corporate life had emerged from those crumbled by the explosion of freedom of choice and individualism. The relentless progress of technologies and the process of modernization had transformed the accumulated social norms and habits of the industrial era into the stock of shared values; new communities had formed despite personal freedom and individualism that tended to leave culture bereft of community.

New communities arose, cyber ones mainly, forced into existence by tragedy and fueled by the adaptability of the human spirit when faced with the horrors of the Wave, the nuclear meltdown of ANO 1, and the human plagues of the Alpha and Beta. It was the transference of information on the lines of the net at 56K bps that had brought people together with physical and emotional support. They had in fact, derailed the trends of crime, declining family, and the loss of trust. They had come together and survived, not as animals, but as intellectuals who, like their ancestors, learned to use their tools and their technology to overcome.

Grace herself had grown up happy, knowing family and a sense of community, but as she watched Dana come through the doorway she realized she had been lucky. She had grown from child to adult pretty much unscathed, confident, and evolving. Dana’s world had been staccato to her crescendo. Dana had lived through the Great Disruption and survived; Grace had barely noticed it.

Seeing Dana and what she had done and conquered empowered her, and she realized that it was the human spirit that gave the mind the ability to take all the moments in life and join them and make sense of them and avoid fragmenting. And that was why she could share values and beliefs with someone from such a fractured life. So now she had two choices she could make: she could revel in her loneliness, or she could reach out and communicate. It had been four days since Dick had left, and the lovers had hardly spoken. Now, though they sat no more than two meters from one another, they were in different worlds.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” Dana mumbled back with as much enthusiasm as a frying pan. The tech sat down hard in her mid-management chair and mumbled to her laptop.

Information Age, Grace thought to herself, and began to type at her computer. She then pressed her enter key, and waited.

The mail icon flashed on Dana’s plasma screen and Imma spoke to her, re-emphasizing the presence of new mail. Dana clicked on the icon and the latest message flashed on her screen.

I”d really like to reconnect .

G

Dana bit her lip nervously and typed her reply.

A moment later Grace’s computer dinged and she clicked on her mail icon.

yeah? me too

Grace typed again.

Can we talk?

Dana read it and looked over to the expectant face.

She nodded and chewed her lip harder.

Grace found the courage to gather herself up and closed the distance between them. She knelt on the thin industrial carpeting in front of Dana. Her hands rested on the blue jeans covering Dana’s knees. “I’m not sure what to say….”

“About what?”

“About the other day…what I said… you know…. ”

“About Rosmunda?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it a problem?”

“You haven’t spoken much to me since.”

Dana shrugged. “It’s no big deal.”

“It bothered you.”

“So?”

“Maybe I can explain.”

Dana shrugged again. Those who had known her father would have recognized him by her reticence.

“It was this fantasy…an immature one…but nonetheless a fantasy I had, and what I said just slipped out and I’m very sorry you took it as something I want now. Do you understand that?”

Dana shifted. “I don’t understand it at all.”

“I don’t know where it came from…I don’t like to hurt people. I don’t think there is anything sexual in rape or what happened to you, and I would never want that…when I thought about her it was more like a game…she wanted it and let me…kind of like tying you up.”

“That was about trust and power, and very real, and I gave that to you freely.”

“I know it’ s different…I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s like when I was 11 and I spent the whole year learning to…well you know….”

“No, I don’t.”

“To hump, Dana.”

“Oh.”

“And I got hooked on this fantasy about being naked and having my math teacher spank me. Who knows where that came from?”

“Jesus! You two ever consider closing your door when you play your kinky reindeer games?”

Grace’s spun to the doorway to find Rachel staring at them both. The computer guru shook her head from side to side in dramatic disgust, but her body belied jesting.

Grace’s face flushed faster than a Boeing 747 toilet. “What do you want, Rachel?” she hissed, then stood and and brushed the little carpet imprints from her knees.

“I came to get Doc for pizza day in the cafeteria. But I think the real question is ‘What do you want, Grace?'” The computer geek said this with such seriousness Dana began to half-smile as well.

“Bite me!”

“And here I thought you would want me to spank you, Queenie.”

Grace shot her a look meant to suck all of the goodness out of the hacker and leave her as blue marble. She stomped back to her chair and spun away from the door so that neither Dana or Rachel could see her embarrassment and defeat. She had wanted to explain away something that Dana might have seen in her and would hate, forever.

“I’ll catch up with you downstairs,” Dana said quietly to the hacker and then closed the door.

“Bye, Spanky,” Rachel yelled through the door.

Dana took a deep breath. “Want to go for pizza?”

“No.” A reply to the wall.

Dana regrouped. It was her turn and at the least, Grace was cornered. “Do you ever think of having me that way?”

“What way?” the doctor replied grumpily.

“Taking me against my will.”

“No…I don’t think of doing that to anyone. How could you think I could want that? I mean, in all the times that we have been together, have I ever once done something that hurt you or that you weren’t ready for? I waited for you, remember? I admit I like taking, and I really like having the control, but only when you want to give.”

“I know that. It’s just that you surprised me. Jesus, Grace, what you said was so…so….”

Grace faced her. “So what? Hideous, cruel, ugly?”

“Dickish.”

“Dickish?”

“Yeah. You just seemed so much like Dick that it scared me. I mean really scared me…because you do seem more like Joy when we’re together…loving and caring and gentle…never too pushy. Now I keep thinking that Rosmunda is what you really want and wonder whether you’re even turned on by me or whether you’ll stop eventually because you can’t take it to some other dickish level.”

“Oh, my god, baby…I am always very, very turned on and no way would I ever, and I repeat ever…how could you even doubt that?” When Dana didn’t answer right away, she turned her chair back to the wall.

Dana shrugged. “I don’t know.” She thought hard for a moment. “Look, Grace, I had some ideas, way back when, as a kid before stuff happened, nothing quite like your penitentiary fantasy or that spanking thing, but naughty stuff. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I think maybe a lot of us were desensitized to violence and hurtful things growing up and that some of us were baptized into the reality of violence and some of us weren’t…and I don’t mean just you…but more like Dick and Reichert and all these other bastards that don’t realize how precious people really are. I know you understand that and you wouldn’t hurt me. I guess I just didn’t realize that maybe at some point you were a little more like Dick, and that shocked me and got me wondering if I was right for you. But you’re not like that now, I guess, just as I’m not the same stupid kid who plunged a butcher knife through the heart of a man and watched the life drain from his face. So I’m not going to judge you, I’m not judging you, but it does mean I am questioning a few things about us. Okay?”

Grace had not realized it, but as Dana delivered her words to her, Dana’s own admonition and Grace’s absolution, she had begun to cry silent tears of relief and understanding. The tears ran down her cheeks over her lips and fell off her chin into her woolen lap. Dana did not see these tears because Grace was still turned away. Perhaps that had made it easier to speak to her and for Grace to listen.

“Want to go for pizza?” the tech asked awkwardly after a few moments of silence. And then she heard a sniffle, and then a snort. It was then that Dana turned the chair around and looked into the pink, wet face of her friend. And she did not have any more words to say because sometimes it was best to act rather than to talk. So she took Grace’s damp cheeks into her hands and kissed her softly, first the right eyelid, then the left, tasting the warm salt on the lashes. Her lips followed the salty trail down the cheeks to the mouth and covered Grace’ s lips as compact, strong arms wrapped around her neck and clung tighter than spandex across a biker’s muscled buttocks.

Part Six – Work (v): to bring to pass

Overnight couriers brought in batch after batch of nano machines grown in sister labs all over the United States in what seemed like finely organized order, yet underneath it was as chaotic as the pattern of turbulent cream cooling a cup of coffee. For twelve grueling nights and days each teammate involved in the project worked around the clock, knowing that this was their one chance. Catnaps were snatched on cots and couches—Grace pondered in a moment of pure exhaustion how she had ever made it through those 72-hour shifts of her med school days. They ate every meal from the cafeteria, milk from little plastic bottles, sandwiches wrapped in cellophane, pizza, fish sticks doused in tartar sauce, okra fixed in twelve different ways, pickles and Pop Tarts. Dana craved seafood gumbo and baked cod with dill so badly she dreamt of it when she wasn’t too tired to dream. The doctors and medical technicians worked in shifts, bouncing from patient room to patient room with bags of plasma infused with nanomachines for intravenous feeds. On Wednesday Dana became a mechanic, repairing the overworked nano manipulators countless times until Friday when the German-based company flew over a technician to be permanently onsite. And despite the pain of sleep deprivation, it was the focus and purpose that kept the team strong and effective. And on the thirteenth day, and a 98.6 percent cure rate, it was time to take the bedraggled group of the nanoteam to their first post-triumph press conference.

At 3:45 p.m. Barbara Buchler took the podium in Clinton Hall and made her opening remarks, discussing the program’s history, its talent, and its recent, ground-breaking achievement. After sufficient time in the limelight she introduced Grace to the group of reporters. First and foremost, the young physician wanted to credit and thank the staff for their hard work, diligence, and insight. Then she opened herself to questions. She went several rounds, discussing cost, projected future cost, and implications regarding the future of medical treatments, including genetic repair. She glowed with pride and the respite of completion. They were all feeling good, like those who, despite exhaustion, finish a marathon and feel joy.

“Don’t you think that this is simply another example of exorbitant spending on reactionary medicine? Couldn’t that money have been better spent preventing cancer rather than developing and unleashing a destructive technology that is likely—and has in the recent past been proven—to create worse diseases than the ones you are curing? Hasn’t the hospital itself had a case of Beta virus within the past three years? And now you tell us that taxpayers are about to fund your genetic tampering? ”

“What kind of asinine question is that?”

Dr. Wilson’s and Dr. Buchler’s heads simultaneously whipped to the right faster than a three-year-old can spill milk.

A faceless female voice in the middle of the crowd defended itself: “I asked Dr. Wilson to explain why the group is spending so much time and so many federal resources on treating cancer rather than on the more responsible practice of preventing it.”

“That’s like asking why a dog isn’t a cat.”

The reporters surrounding the outspoken reporter separated themselves from her. This drew the attention of all to a tall, lithe, and blondly attractive woman in her late twenties. She held herself defensively, yet proudly, unsure herself of the identity of the woman in the black t-shirt and blue jeans who had responded so bluntly to her questions. Once Grace overcame the shock of hearing Dana’s voice, more powerful than she had ever heard it in a public arena, she smiled her support, because Dana was speaking up for her—well, sort of for her—and the project.

“I believe the question was directed to Dr. Wilson,” Barbara Buchler declared, needing to control what was surely about to become a a political brouhaha.

Dana had tuned out Dr. Barbara Buchler long before. “First of all, this group of people have developed a cure for the plague of the 20th century and you’re criticizing them because they haven’t fixed the hole in the ozone layer or eliminated toxic waste. I mean, how else do you propose to eliminate cancer? You can eat all the bran and take all the antioxidants you want, but contaminants will still infiltrate cells, mutations will still be triggered, and cells will grow abnormally. It’s a part of the life of cells, and change, and imperfection.

“Do you have any idea how many external causes there are? Ultraviolet rays, radiation from your television and computers, the rocks that the earth is made of, radiation from deep space that bombards our bodies all day and night from the time we are fetuses until we become dust. And then there are the million or so things that we ingest. You have pesticides in your water and bran, chemicals that are used for preservatives in gum and diet pops, caffeine, smoke from our campfires. Really, think about how preposterous your comment really is. What are you going to do with the millions of people who already have cancer, or will in the next few years—let them die so that people seventeen generations down the line might be cancer-free? Can’t you see that they are two separate problems to solve? You have the future and the present.

“No one here said we had all the answers. It’s simply a way to improve and save the lives of millions who yesterday had very little hope, if any, of seeing next year, next month, or the ripe old age of five. I think it’s unconscionable of you to belittle the effort of these people and the promise this program holds for everyone. And keep in mind, we are all potential patients.”

Silence. A slow murmur began to build. Dana stepped back into the line-up against the wall.

Barbara covered the microphone with her hand and vehemently whispered something to Grace, who was smiling at the rare and passionate eloquence while she appeared to argue back. Having realized what she had done, and a bit shocked at herself, Dana opted for the door. As she walked past her staff, Rachel Jones whispered, “Way to go, Batgirl.”

Her crew looked at each other with amused confusion as their normally quiet, yet fearless leader exited stage-left. Grace followed, leaving closing remarks to Barbara. “Dana, stop!” she yelled down the hallway when she finally caught sight of her. Dana obeyed. The doctor trotted up to her. “What you said was wonderful. But why the hasty exit? I wanted to introduce you.”

Dana began to walk away. Grace grabbed her arm to stop her.

“I know exactly what you were about to do, Grace. We agreed, no announcements about me.”

“”Why won’t you take any of the credit? Without you, this would never have happened, and you deserve—”

“—Come on, think about the future of the project.”

“I am, and you’re a huge part of that.”

“You have several competing research organizations dying to find a chink in your program. I’m a public relations nightmare: murderer and beta-virus creator now working on cancer killer. You’d lose your future funding, or me on the project, and who would want to test new cures, especially genetic ones?”

“People who are dying.”

“It would destroy your credibility. Most people can’t forgive like you do.”

“People don’t need to know about the Beta. No one knows about you and Reichertâ•œ.”

“No, but someone would find out.”

Grace wanted to argue but Dana would not have it. “Look, I’m a liability, on one hand, and an asset, on the other. As long as we respect the line we shouldn’t have a problem.”

“Dana.”

Dana looked away, around, anywhere but at Grace. “I’m going to head home. Have fun tonight.”

“You’re really not coming?”

“I think it’s best if I lower my profile after opening my big mouth in there. If we’re lucky, Barbara has passed me off as an enthusiastic janitor.”

“I’m not going either.”

“You have to, Grace—it’s expected of you. No one expects me to show up in an evening gown and schmooze Yale alumni and supporters for money.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Sit at home and make myself crazy wondering what money shark is hitting on you or fantasizing about taking you home and having his way with you.”

“I really wish you would reconsider.”

“Dr Wilson!” Barbara’s disembodied voice beckoned from down the hall. “There you are,” she said as she bounded around the corner, practically knocking into Dana. She gave Dana her customary disgusted survey. “Ms Papadopolis, I appreciated your enthusiasm; however, please leave all future public statements to me and those qualified. I barely managed to rectify that situation.”

Grace spoke up for her friend. “I don’t think anyone could have answered that question better than Dana did. I thought her words were wonderful.”

“Yes, well, we’ll address this issue later, Grace. Right now we have several representatives from Pfizer and Merck waiting to talk. And I would prefer that you lead the discussions.”

“What room are you going to be in?” Grace asked.

“Conference room A.”

“I’ll be up in a minute,” the blonde replied and turned her full attention to Dana.

Dr. Buchler didn’t seem happy with the fact that Grace wasn’t leaving with her immediately, but she left anyway. She was too busy to argue.

They stood in silence for a few moments. Grace wanted to share the public Yale celebration with her, but Dana seemed convinced she could not partake. Grace wondered if Dana still felt undeserving of a celebration. It reminded her of how after poor simulation results Dana would wake from sleep, her body covered with a thin sheen of sweat, and mutter to herself, “I’m so sorry” over and over as she rose from the bed and paced the front room until Grace would come and drag her back to bed and make gentle love to her to remind her of who she was, at least to Grace.

“Don’t listen to Barbara, Dana. She’s a dumbass.”

Dana shrugged. “I stopped caring about Babs a year ago.”

“Still….” But it did not matter what she said. She knew Dana already hurt despite what the shrug said. “I’ll be home early, ” Grace promised, then planted a soft kiss on softer lips. She watched Dana close her eyes and squeezed a larger hand.

“Okay,” Dana said to her after a moment of readjustment. Grace’s kisses always took her away.

Upstairs Dana and her crew gathered in the meeting room as they did every day at 5:00 pm.

“Does anyone have a list of groceries for me to pick up?” Dana asked.

“Right here,” Rachel answered, handing her a piece of scrap paper.

“And booze?”

She was handed another list.

“Okay, does anyone need directions?”

Several hands were raised, and Rachel handed out little direction discs for automated vehicle navigation.

“Okay, who’s in charge of making sure Dr. Wilson gets home from the gala? And, no, she will not ride with you, Rachel. You scared the shit out of her last time.”

Rachel screwed her face up in disgust. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”.

“We have it covered,” Jack offered. “No one should have to ride with Rachel Jones.”

“Then I think we’re all set unless someone thinks of something else.”

The group concurred, with happy mumbles.

“So do we all leave at once?” someone asked.

“That’d be kind of obvious, doncha think?” someone else said.

Dana hadn’t really thought about that. A large exodus might cause political repercussions. Of course they would rather celebrate with each other with beer and steaks rather than at some stuffy contributors’ banquet. This planning stuff was a pain in the butt. Grace would have known what to do or would have, at the very least, thought about it. “Umm, leave in small groups—people with last names, if you can remember them, starting with A to H first, then ten minutes later I through S, and then T through Z. Start around eight o’clock.”

“What if you’re hyphenated?” a voice asked.

“Hyphens go last because they’re so damned confusing,” Dana said. “And remember, this is casual, so I don’t want any of you showing up in evening gowns or tuxes, and if you plan on getting sloshed, plan to stay.”

Grace managed to slip away from Senator Drake, but when she looked around for a friendly familiar face, she was surprised to discover that her entire staff had vanished. She was relieved when she spotted Jack and Minnie at the punch bowl. When she started to chat, they mentioned immediately that they were about to go. She looked around at the stuffy crowd and felt the two weeks of exhaustion wash over her for the hundredth time that day and begged for a ride. They, of course, agreed.

“Ah ha!” Dr. Wilson exclaimed as they approached her small beach house. Cars lined the gravel road and music pounded from the back of the lit-up house. “Now I know where everyone went. This is great!”

She was met with smiles and laughs when she entered her house. She was the only one not dressed in jeans or shorts and t-shirts. She was also the only one without a margarita or beer in her hand. Rachel was busy at the blender and rectified the drink situation immediately. The bean counter, Davenport, was flipping burgers on the grill just outside the back door, and the deck was lit with tiki torches and bright, happy faces. Dana, in conversation by the bathroom, caught sight of her roommate dressed in a black, silk, swoop-necked, sleeveless sheath that clung to every small curve, and black silk hose and two-inch pumps. Golden hair was casually scooped into a loose bun, and teardrop diamonds sweetly dangled from small, sensitive earlobes. Dana began to work her way to the kitchen, where Grace waited. Five feet had never seemed so far. She was wearing a worn blue sweater vest and a blue cotton shirt, her feet comfortable in flip-flops and her long legs tan and luscious.

“You look gorgeous,” she told Grace when she finally made it to the kitchen. “Nice dress. What do you have underneath it?” she asked, pulling at the edge. Grace removed the bottle of beer from Dana’s hand and slapped the groping fingers.

“Get a room,” Rachel suggested as she walked away and sipped a margarita.

“How much beer have you had?”

“Two or ten,” Dana said. her eyes slightly glassy and a perpetual crooked smile lighting up her face. “I lost count somewhere near the blender.”

Grace smiled. Dana was very drunk and very cute, and if she were dickish, she would take advantage of her right there. “I’m going to get changed.”

“Want help?”

“I can manage. You have guests.”

Dana looked around and sighed. Her first party.

“I’ll be right back.” Grace squeezed Dana’s forearm and then set out on a journey to her bedroom. Dana watched all the way until the door closed. When she turned to head outside to the porch, she ran smack into Margaret, the undergrad who had been shadowing her for the past month. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Her hand found Dana’s hip. “I’ve been trying to catch up with you all night.”

“Really?” Dana teetered a little.

“Yeah. Would you be interested in a walk? It’s beautiful tonight.”

“Mmm-hmm.” She was thinking about her knees embedded in the sand between Grace’s legs.

Margaret took the opening and slid closer, leaving no room between them.

“Uhh,” Dana said when a hand settled on her hip.

Grace returned to the room and began to weave her way across the small house, chatting and finding another margarita in her hand. She wandered onto the back porch for some air. Dana was sitting on the porch rail close to a tiki torch, listening to Jack tell the story of how Nate had to listen to Zorba the Greek every night before bed. Dana laughed hard, knowing the boy would never be able to get that need out of his blood.

“What’s this from?” the young woman asked, letting her finger slide across the large “V” brand on Dana’s shoulder.

Dana looked at the long finger. “A shark bit me.”

“And this?” A manicured finger traced a similar one on the thigh that disappeared under her shorts. Margaret let her brazen finger slide up under the cotton fabric and Dana almost fell backwards off the railing.

“Shit!” she said, catching herself but losing her Sam Adams. She looked across the porch, hoping no one had seen what had happened, and found Grace’s green eyes watching in amusement.

“Are you all right?” the Yalie asked, a mischievous, vodka-induced look on her face. Her hand was now firmly situated on Dana’s bare thigh. Dana gently picked it up and removed it from her leg.

A guilty chill shot through Dana along with the worry that Grace might have gotten the wrong impression, maybe even thought she was flirting with the girl. Then she looked down at her half-empty bottle in the sand and sighed sadly. What a mess.

“‘I’ll get you another.” But before Margaret could slide off the railing, Grace was there, warm hands sliding up long, bare thighs to the edge of blue shorts.

She offered a fresh bottle to her roommate. “You have to be a lot quicker to please this one,” Grace said to the undergrad. The fact that Grace felt brazen enough to PDA in front of her entire crew, leaving no speculation, surprised Dana, but she took the beer, with a contented smile.

“Dr. Wilson,” Rachel’s voice suddenly squawked from the amplifier behind their heads. A karaoke version of an old Kenny Rogers tune—pre-protein-diet—that Dana had heard once long, long ago on her mother’s radio began to come from the speaker. “This one’s for you.” And Rachel began to sing, badly.

Grace rolled her eyes as Rachel crooned to her. “Yes, you, Doctor. You areâ•œyou are so beautiful…to me…can’t you see? Yes, you are.” She signaled for someone to turn down the music. “Dr. Wilson, now that at the ripe old age of twentysomething you and your crew have created the cure for cancer, what do you intend for your next project?”

“Fix the hole in the ozone layer?” someone yelled.

“No, much more difficult. My next project is to get our industrious Dana Papadopolis to actually wear a shirt to work that has sleeves on it.”

“Some of us like that look,” Margaret said loudly from the rail. Not a politically savvy move for her career, but then again, it was a well-established fact that bad sexual politics didn’t affect Yalies the same way as they did the rest of the world, and if they were bad enough they might even help her to be President one day.

“Yes, well, you have made that painfully obvious tonight, haven’t you, dear?” Grace said back, giving the young tech her best child-of-evil glare. Dana saw an uber Faith Wilson.

“Turn the music back on and sing, you drunken fool!” Dana yelled at the hacker across the stand-off.

The music started again and Rachel began to walk her way through the crowd, sharing the microphone with anyone drunk enough to join her.

“I want to talk to you,” Grace said, leaning forward and rubbing her hands up and down the firm muscles of Dana’s thighs in a proprietary manner. Margaret, who was sitting on the rail next to Dana, looked on a bit unhappily, but Grace refused to acknowledge her, her eyes burning into Dana’s.

This is either really good or really bad, Dana thought, hoping it was only a seduction. Grace grabbed her lover’s shirt front and led her between their co-workers, down the deck stairs, and toward the edge of the ocean, away from the people inhabiting her home, using her bathroom, and messing with the stereo settings. Dana stumbled in the sand until she managed to remove her flip-flops. Grace was barefoot in worn denim jeans and a man’s v-neck white t- shirt and nowhere near intoxicated.

“What’s the matter, Grace?” Dana slurred.

“You tell me.”

“You don’t like other women hitting on me in your own house.”

“That’s about right.”

“She keeps flirting with me.”

“She wants you.”

“Really?”

Grace rolled her eyes.

“She’s not a threat,” Dana pointed out as quickly as she could.

“I know.”

“So why—” and then she was yanked down by the back of her neck, and her mouth was met with lips and teeth and tongue that tasted of Triple Sec and lime. She was being marked as territory, and for a moment Dana was glad that they were not dogs.

“Wow,” Dana said with a head shake when her mouth was finally released. “What was that for?” she asked, touching her lips to check for blood.

“For what you said earlier.”

“Yeah?”

“And to show that little hussy she has no chance of having you in my house.”

“I don’t think she had the house in mind. She wanted to go for a wa—” but she was cut off by a hand over her mouth.

“I don’t need to hear details, Dana,” she said. She looked at the porch full of partiers and then to Dana, who was looking very cute in the moonlight, absently gazing out toward the waves. She tried to remember the last time they had been naked together. Hooking her hands into the waistband of Dana’s blue shorts, she tugged her closer. “Want to go for a walk with me, Papadopolis?”

” I think we’ll be missed.”

“I haven’t had a minute alone with you in weeks. ”

Dana smiled.

“So what do you say?” Grace held out her hand and began to walk backwards towards the north end of the beach. “You want to join me?”

Dana extended her arm, catching the tips of smaller fingers in her own, and allowed herself to be led toward the dark outline of the jetty.

“On one condition,” Dana said as their bare feet left tracks in the soft sand.

“What?”

“I can have you.”

“We’ll see. You’ll have to catch me first,” she said and tore off down the sand toward the darkness.

“Ah, shit!” Dana said, thinking that just maybe they were more like dogs. She broke into a run, her longer legs but too much beer putting them in a dead-even race. Dana began to force her soon-to-be conquest down toward the water. Grace tried using the solid sand to help her push ahead, but Dana was too quick, and when she hit the edge of the waves she tripped and stumbled face-first into the surf. Dana pounced in after her, pulled her out of the surf, and flipped her over her shoulder. She continued to wade deeper into the choppy, dark waves.

“Does this remind you of anything?” Dana chuckled and patted the wet, round ass situated next to her face.

“Don’t you dare,” Grace choked out, brine stinging her face and nose.

Dana waded out a little further and stumbled slightly on a rock. Grace panicked and dug her nails into Dana’s fleshy back.

“Ow!” Dana yelped as she felt the piercing nails cut through her sweater. She shifted Grace down so that she was in front of her and could wrap her wet bluejeans around her waist. The water, as high as Dana’s belly button, lapped persistently at them. Grace grabbed Dana’s face and kissed her hard. She used her lips and tongue as an offering to Dana in exchange for safekeeping, and Dana held her tightly against the ebbing surge of the water. Grace’s kisses became less about survival and more about need and want. She couldn’t kiss Dana deeply enough or get enough of the taste of her mouth or the softness of the lips she was running her tongue across. Opening her own mouth wider, she reached in and traced the hard teeth, curving around and stroking the roof of a foreign mouth. She retreated and broke away slightly. “Give me your tongue,” she gasped. And Dana, despite having captured Grace, gave it to her to be sucked hard and drawn in.

Dana struggled to the beach, wobbly from the raw need she held in her arms. Carefully she settled back into the hardened wet sand, Grace still wrapped around her tightly. Grace continued to kiss and hold her by the hair, devouring her with little bites and licks. She had planted her knees in the sand as she straddled the larger woman, and she pressed her wet jeans against Dana’s thin shorts. Grace began to rock slightly as she pressed down. Everything was wet and coarse and raw. Dana slipped her hands under the wet t-shirt and slid her fingers across the muscles and ribs, across spots of warmth, and cooler ones where the wet bra was still in place. That had to come off, and despite the increasingly savage activities of their lower bodies, she managed to find the latch and free what had been imprisoned for far too long. She touched and lost her breath. Grace’s skin was soft and supple, and her nipples were hard against her palms. They were like water.

“Touch me!” Grace growled into her mouth. She kissed her and then attacked Dana’s collar bone. Dana couldn’t think, yet her hands found the button of Grace’s Levis, and before she could break for air, she had the jeans halfway down Grace’s jerking hips. Dana pushed Grace’s t-shirt up so it clung above round, pressing breasts and latched on with eager, rough lips and teeth.

“Harder!” Grace urged, her head thrown back. Dana subconsciously heard her and bit harder. She was rewarded with a moan. Grace’s body began to move more quickly against the fingers that teased her, touching everywhere except right where she craved and needed, and then, just before she was about to beg for what she wanted, she was filled, quickly and deeply. She grunted ecstatically. Where coarse fabric had been rubbing, warm smooth skin stroked her, but Grace did not need gentle. She pressed herself harder into the touch, down and forward, again and again. Dana held onto Grace’s naked hip with one hand while the other felt her growing hotter and wetter against her as fingers slid in and out.

“Oh, yeah, just like that!” Grace grunted. All Dana was doing was trying to keep her hand and wrist firm and steady against Grace’s movements, but she’d take the credit anyway. She heard Grace’s breath quicken and opened her eyes to look up, lips still wrapped around a nipple. Oh, yeah, she’d take full responsibility any day for the look upon her lover’s face and the fine sheen on her body. Grace tightened around Dana’s hand as the fingers pressed deeper, and when Dana rubbed her thumb across instead of around, Grace broke free, free from everything in a big vocal bang of “Mmmmm’s.” Slowly the movement of the hips stopped but not until Dana had felt and recorded in memory every bit of Grace’s pleasure. Grace slowly fell against her.

“Kiss me,” she quietly mumbled into Dana’s neck, and Dana searched for the tired, whispering lips and kissed, softer now, and as lovingly as she could.

Dana leaned back into the cool softness of the white sand and sighed, a delicious weight on top of her. “I needed that.”

“Really?” Grace said sleepily.

“Well, yeah…it’s been a while since we touched, you know?”

“You know, all you had to do was ask.”

“Couldn’t you tell?”

“No.” Grace was feeling lazy, and satisfied, maybe even cuddly. “I needed that too.”

“I could tell.”

Grace rolled off and onto her back. She looked up at the stars. “Tell me you love me.”

“I love you.”

Grace closed her eyes and felt that.

“You know, you’re very girlish sometimes, Grace.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Mmmmm…vulnerable…needy…sweet…it’s not a bad thing. Just kind of hard to predict and understand, because sometimes you act all tough and in control and then WHAM! you turn around and get all soft and mushy.”

“Really? ”

“Yeahâ•œsometimes I wish there was a manual on how to figure women out.”

“Dana, that’s a sexist thing to say!”

“Well, so what? I could use the help sometimes. Like some days I say something and you’re, like, all touchy about it.”

“Like what?”

“Like three weeks ago when you had that lettuce between your teeth and I told you. You got all mad at me for telling you, so then last week you had that black smudge on your face and I didn’t tell you and you got all pissy at me for not telling you.”

“Dana, you waited three hours after lunch to point it out.”

“Not exactly something to cry about though, is it?”

“Not like you’re not hard to predict.”

“I wear my heart on my sleeve, baby.”

“Ha!”

“At least I’m not high-maintenance.”

“And I am?”

“Don’t you think so?”

“No!”

“See, I’m trying to communicate and you’re getting all emotional and defensive.”

“No, I’m not!”

“No wonder I close up all the time.”

“Stop right there. You were reticent long before I came along.”

Dana rolled over so that she was half-covering Grace. “Kiss me!” she demanded.

“No,” Grace said petulantly.

“Stop being girlish and give me what I want.”

“Next thing I know you’ll be saying I’m more emotional at certain times of the month than others.”

Dana said nothing.

“Uh-uh, don’t even go there.” Grace tried to squirm away but Dana pressed her into the sand.

“You know, the thing is I like that you’re a little girlish at times.”

“You do?”

“Yes. It’s a million times better than dickish, and it makes me think that maybe sometimes you need me and that I mean something special to you .”

“Of course you do. You mean everything to me.”

“And it makes me think that you trust me enough to let your guard down a little around me, and I like that.” A pause. “Everything?”

“Yes.”

Dana smiled and then rolled onto her back to think about that. “I like that. Especially because that’s what you are to me. I was doubting that, you know?”

Grace watched her as the knowledge settled in. “I like when you’re girlish too.”

“Heh. I’m never that way.”

Grace cackled. “You cry at that Pokeman movie every time we watch it.”

“Of course I do. Who doesn’t?”

“And that Adam Sandler movie always makes you tear up.” Grace rolled into a sitting position and watched Dana, relaxed, happy, and beautiful. Dana was smiling with a smile that was crooked, yet perfect.

“We should get back.”

Dana looked over. “Why?”

“Because my butt is cold,” Grace explained, slapping her wet jeans.

“Awwww,” Dana complained. She loved the smell and feel of the sand and the perpetual sounds of the ocean.

They walked back to the bright orange lights of the dancing flames of the tiki torches. The laughter most likely had never ceased, although they had been too far away to hear it. As they approached, Dana became aware of the wonderful feeling holding Grace’s hand gave her and the not-so-comfortable scratch of wet sand in her underwear.

“Hey, guys! Been swimmin’?” Rachel asked, fresh, salted margarita poised in each hand.

Dana slipped her feet into her flip-flops and began to climb the stairs behind Grace.

“Not really… why?” Grace asked.

“I thought maybe a shark bit Doc,” she said, pointing to a large red and purple mark on Dana’s neck, exaggerated by the orange and yellow wavy light.

“Nah, that’s a chipmunk bite,” Dana explained with a mischievous, lip-curled smile. She received a subtle elbow in the stomach.

While Grace went to change, Dana snagged a piece of barbecued chicken and a plate heaped with picnic salads. When Grace returned in dry khaki shorts and a navy shirt, she “borrowed” Dana’s plate and sent her in search of more margaritas. When Doc returned with fresh Mai Tais, her plate was empty.

“Man, you ate my stuff,” she protested and then quietly left to fill her plate again, this time staking out a place in the corner of the deck to eat. Rachel brought her a beer and took the seat next to her. A rare somberness had taken over her features.

“We did it, Doc.”

“Nothing illegal, I hope.”

“I’m serious. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt better in my life.”

“Enough booze can do that,” Dana said with a mouthful of chicken.

“No, I mean about myself, being part of something that’s not just for me. I wasted so much time when I could have been doing this kind of thing. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks,” and she said it with such sincerity and perhaps even tears in her eyes, although she would never admit it, that Dana stopped mid-bite.

“You’re welcome, Rachel,” she said, placing a hand on her friend’s. The moment passed as quickly as they could make it.

“You know you disappointed that undergrad?” Rachel said.

“Yeah, but my boss is pretty happy.”

“She’s still glowing, and so are you, for that matter.” Rachel thought about her observation of her two best friends. She got up and began to move away. “You two are so sweet it makes me nauseous.”

The party began to dwindle around four am. They had decided to mingle, bouncing into each other at random intervals. At some point Dana had changed into another shirt and sweatpants. At four-thirty Dana hunted down her roommate, who was talking on the deck to Davenport’s girlfriend, a second-year English professor. She spoke in an affected nasal tone and exaggerated her words in just the right way to make it easy for Dana to mimic her. She had been off-limits tonight.

“So I explained to the poor boy, ‘Double negatives in English are always positive, whereas, as you say, in Latin-based languages, such as Spanish, double negatives are a negative.’ Then I explained, ‘There is no language, especially English, where two positives make a negative.'”

“Yeah, right,” Dana said, slipping her hands on the shoulders of her bed partner. She slipped into her affected rendition of the professor: “Excuse me for a moment while I borrow the physician here. We have a man dying of a splinter in the house.”

“That was rude, Dana,” Grace said once they were in the kitchen.

“That lady’s a wooden puppet who doesn’t move her mouth when she talks. And she’s banging the dean of English behind Davenport’s back. I hate that type.” Dana led her to the couch, where a drunken biochemist was sprawled out, his right foot propped on a small, decorative, hand-tatted pillow.

“Splinterman, I have brought help”

“Oh, thank God!” the young scientist exclaimed.

Grace had been expecting a grander injury. Dana handed her her doctor’s bag and then sipped at a beer and handed it to the injured. It was only a moment before the inch-long splinter was removed from his big toe. Grace looked at the bloody wood in the tweezers and passed it to Dana, who had wanted a look.

“I want to keep that,” Splinterman asked as Grace cleaned and bandaged the wound.

“Knock yourself out,” Dana said, handing him the sliver. Grace took her bag to the bedroom to put it away. Dana silently followed on her heels, unable to stop in time to avoid knocking Grace onto the bed when she bent to pick up a beer bottle from the floor.

“Dana, you’re drunk,” Grace said, rolling onto her back.

Dana climbed onto the bed next to her. “I am not.”

Grace removed the beer from her hand and drank the rest herself., then placed the bottles down next to the bed. “How many are passed out on the lawn?”

“Two, maybe three.”

“How many left on the deck?”

“Four, last I checked.”

“And in the front room?”

Dana leaned out to look. “Just Splinterman and his gal, and they’re getting it on, so they may be a while.” She watched for a minute until Grace pulled her back into the bedroom by her shirtback.

Grace kissed her hard. “Get them to go home and I’ll give you something to look at, sailor.”

It took a moment for the meaning of the offer to diffuse through all the golden suds. But once it registered, Doc was gone, ushering the groping couple to their car and extinguishing the tiki torches on the deck. The last of the partygoers had left on their own. Dana left the bodies on the front lawn and locked up the house before returning to the cozy bedroom. She fell to her knees and looked under the bed.

“What are you doing?’

“Checking for stragglers.”

“Dana, get your ass up here!” Grace commanded her drunken lover. Dana climbed directly from her knees to the bed. This time the place was going to be soft and dry. The bed was exactly where she had hoped to land Grace, all night, and now she had touchdown.

“I’ve never seen you happier.”

“You make me happy, Grace,” Dana explained, leaning forward for a kiss and forcing Grace backwards onto the bed. Dana stretched herself out on top of her, relishing the closeness. They kissed for a few languid moments, gently, warmly, and then Dana passed out cold.

 

 

The End

Continued in Nano 7.5 Love Bots 

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