Storm Chaser by Kim Pritekel

Storm Chaser
by Kim Pritekel

Some people have their futures set by their parents’ station in life. Some people’s futures are set by circumstances, and some people just don’t have any idea what their future will be.

I’m one of the pre – destined, though I prefer to call it pre – cursed. My story was set, and now I get to live out the legacy my mother gave me the day she died, and the day I was reborn, before I was even born.

This is my story. This is her story. This is our story.

&&&

“God damnit!” Dale slammed her hand down on the steering wheel of her small, compact car. Days like this she wished she had a Hummer or a tank, and could just drive over the idiots who apparently had no clue how to drive.. They stopped, or never start, because they don’t pay attention to a damn thing. Traffic had been backed up for more than an hour, and Dale Bailey was at the end of her rope, and instead wanted to use said rope to strangle the two idiots who hadn’t been paying attention, and therefore caused an accident that made everyone late.

The blonde tapped her frustration out on her steering wheel, deciding that slamming her hand did nothing but make her hand hurt. She glanced over to the passenger seat, growling in her throat when she saw the metal case that was belted in. She needed to get the specimen to the lab before the water samples were damaged, and before anyone was alerted that she had swiped it in the first place.

“Damn it.” Never had she cursed so much in her life until she moved to a bigger city. Growing up in Plainsville, Georgia, after earning her masters in chemistry, Dale had taken a job at the prestigious Murtz Institute in Chicago. She’d been there for three years, and loved her job, though despised the traffic. Some days she missed the slow, laidback life she’d left behind. Then she remembered her father was there, so decided that maybe Chicago wasn’t so bad after all.

To try and distract herself from the rigors of big city driving, the researcher turned up the radio, pushing buttons until she found a station she could live with. Fairly removed from pop culture and all its media forms, Dale had no clue who the artist was, nor the song, but it didn’t grate on her nerves too badly, so decided to give it a shot. At least it wasn’t rap, whiney R&B or twangy country. Anything else she could stomach.

Dale’s older brother often called her every parent’s wet dream. As a child and teenager, she didn’t drink, do drugs, party, have sex or mouth off. She was a perfect child – dutiful, intelligent and driven. Unbelievably driven.

Since she’d been a small child, Dale had been curious about the world, what made it tick, taking apart whatever she could get her hands on, then putting it back together. Sometimes she was able to get it to work again, other times not. But either way, her mind never stopped working. Even now, as she sat in traffic, she was thinking ten steps ahead, to the testing of her sample. She was trying to calculate in her head what she’d need.

Her attention was caught for a second by the rumble through the heavy, dark clouds. A storm was brewing, and it looked like it would be a doozy. With the holdup in traffic, it would be a long night for Dale. She sighed heavily, resting her head against the cool glass of the driver’s side window.

&&&

Randy Hobbs was chewing on three sticks of Wrigley gum, one stick never sweet enough for his pallet. His cheek bulged out as he bobbed to the music coming out of his truck radio. The traffic had just started moving again, which he was glad for. It’s not the he was looking forward to getting to his mother – in – law’s house and fix her dryer, again, it’s just that he was tired of sitting on his ass. He was a man of action, and was quickly getting bored.

“Man, look at them clouds,” he muttered to himself, rolling down his side window to stick his heat out a bit, looking up at the sky. Blowing a whistle through his teeth, he was surprised when a sudden, massive gust of wind drowned it right out, the pressure nearly making him swallow his gum.

&&&

Dale was finally getting into a song that came on when her brows narrowed. Up ahead, above the slowly moving traffic, she saw . . . lightning? Almost a horizontal flash of it.

“What the hell was that?”

She wasn’t allowed to ponder that thought for long as a speeding corvette, tired of waiting in his lane, made his way up the shoulder of the road to Dale’s right. The inexperienced driver, taking his Daddy’s car for a spin, hit a rut in the side of the highway and smashed into side rail, bouncing off and right into Dale’s 2006, brand new Volkswagon Rabbit. She didn’t have time to react as suddenly she was viciously pitched to the left, her head slamming into the driver’s side window. The crack of the glass barely registered before her upper body was pitched to the right, her legs caught under the smashed steering column and the front of the car, smashed in when the blonde’s car had been shoved into the Hummer next to her.

The last thing Dale remembered seeing was a blinding bolt of lightning, which seemed to flash right over her car, then all went black.

&&&

Her face was pale, deathly pale, as there was no heartbeat. Her shirt was soft to the touch, except for where the wet, sticky blood was gathering. A small push, flow of energy. The cadence was weak, but there.

&&&

“Jesus! I haven’t seen a storm like this in years!” EMT, George Fields complained, starting as yet another streak of lightning split the sky, followed almost immediately by another crash of thunder.

“I know. We’re gonna get fried,” his EMT partner, Louis Metzger agreed. They tried to work steadily as the fire department disentangled the mangled cars and trucks, the pileup ugly. Louis worried there wouldn’t be much for them to do, except call in the paddy wagon. It looked like it had all been started by some impatient ass in a corvette. The dude was lucky to be alive. Couldn’t say as much for his car, or for the lady who was still in the tin can that had once been a yellow Rabbit.

“Louis, come quick! We got one still alive!” George yelled out, stunned, considering the condition of the blonde. Her legs were crushed under the dash, undoubtedly her pelvis, as well. She had a huge gash on the side of her head, and from the shattered remnants of the driver’s side window, he thought he knew why. Her shirt was quickly becoming covered in blood, the stain growing larger, telling him her heart was still beating.

Calling a few firemen over to help them pry the woman out of the disaster that was her car, she was rushed to the nearest hospital.

&&&

Jimmy Todd sighed happily, the five bucks that kid gave him earlier coming in awfully handy. Settling himself on the park bench, his shopping cart of worldly belongings not two feet away. Glancing up at the sky, he saw that the earlier spill apparently hadn’t been enough for the rain gods. The fresh smell of the afternoon’s deluge still hung in the air, even as the night sky clouds gathered.

Ignoring the approaching storm, as he knew he’d be able to hide under the park bench, just like he always did when it stormed, Jimmy popped the top of his whiskey bottle, mouth watering in anticipation. Humming in contentment, Jimmy glanced over at the giant statue of some dead guy, where the birds liked to shit. Every year the parks and recreation department tried to clean it all off, only for it to turn into a shitter five minutes later.

Jimmy chuckled at his own thoughts, then took a long swig. The night was lonely and getting cold. Summer would be coming to an end soon. The summer thunderstorms had been a constant for weeks now, always indicative of the changing of the seasons that was just around the bend.

As the transient settled against the seatback of the bench, bottle at his lips, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Lowering the bottle, he turned back to the statue, squinting up at it. Though the statue was no more than a black object against the backdrop of an even blacker night, he swore he saw something atop it, like . . . crouching.

“What the hell is that?” he muttered, taking a quick pull from the bottle to help clear his head. A distant flash of lightning brightened the night just enough to see that, indeed, there was someone crouching on top of the statue. Jimmy was trying to figure out how the hell they’d gotten there, when he knew damn well they hadn’t been five minutes ago. As he watched, a low rumble rolled through the clouds, the figure rising to their feet. It looked to be a woman, by the shape of the body. No clothing flapped in the rising winds, the silhouette smooth and trim.

Jimmy was enjoying his eyeful when the rolling thunder exploded into a crack of sound and light. The figure raised her arms, palms up, head falling back. In the blinding light, Jimmy cried out, watching as the white hot bolt of lightning came down in a smooth arch, fingers of electricity running over the woman’s body, down her arms and legs, swirling around her head and mid – section. The light intensified, the smell of burning rubber in the air. Jimmy covered his eyes, the images before him burned into her retinas. As soon as it started, it was gone. When he looked again, the night was black, figure gone. More distant lightning illuminated a scorch mark on the head of the statue.

“Jesus, God,” he whimpered, sucking down a gut full of whiskey to still his frazzled nerves.

&&&

“Damn, Dale,” Blake Jones murmured, taking in the small blonde spread out on the hospital bed. She was bandaged on most of her body, tubes sticking out of her body. Machines beeped her vital signs softly. His co – worker and friend had been through hours of surgery already, her eyes puffy and back as they remained closed. She seemed to be as comfortable as possible and hanging in there, so Blake left the room.

As the chemist walked down the hall, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his rumpled suit, sighed heavily. He knew he should’ve told Dale how he felt. His defeated form disappeared around the corner, headed to the cafeteria to get some coffee. He’d been there half the day already, and needed a pick – me – up.

Dale continued in her medicine – induced sleep. The dim light above her bed flickered once, then twice, then a staccato beat of flashes. Her equipment tripped, sending an alarm to the nurse’s station.

Gretchen Thomas cursed softly under her breath as she raced toward room 301 of the ICU, nearly sliding past as she grabbed onto the doorframe of the glassed – in cubical. The heart monitor screamed its warning, as did the blood pressure machine. The veteran nurse looked at the patient, noting as healthy a color as could be expected after such trauma, as well as could see a pulse in the blonde’s throat. Turning to the machines, she shut off the alarms, resetting them. Taking Dale’s wrist in her fingers, the nurse timed herself as she took the patient’s pulse. It was steady and strong.

“Weird,” she muttered, placing Dale’s hand back at her side, making sure the morphine drip was still in place and running smoothly. Everything looked fine. After a long day, she was ready to go home. Running a hand through her hair, one last look at the petit body in the bed, made bulky from casts and bandaging, Gretchen headed back to her post.

Green eyes slowly blinked open, unfocused and disoriented. She could barely make out a face, looking down into her own. Concerned blue eyes looked into hazy green depths. The image was fuzzy around the edges, dream – like, even.

“You’re going to be fine,” the dream image said, voice soft and whispered. Dale felt herself falling further into black depths, where there was no pain, and there was no fear.

&&&

She sat alone on the roof of the building, watching far below as ambulances and police cars came and went, sometimes with their sirens blaring, other times silent and without preamble. She loved watching the people below, like ants running around, just lacking the leaf. She wondered who they were, why there were there, and for whom were they scurrying for.

The crash had been bad, terrible, in fact. Like dominos, one careless driver had caused the chaos that took three lives, and injured dozens more. There were almost four fatalities, but she just couldn’t let the young one die. Looking into her face, peaceful and smooth even in death, it just couldn’t be. She had a feeling the blonde one was special for some reason, though she had no idea why. One touch and the blonde’s heart had restarted, giving the paramedics a chance to save her. And they had.

It had been risky to venture inside the hospital, but she needed to know if the blonde one had survived. She guessed the injured woman to be in her early twenties, far too young for one to die so uselessly. It was unfortunate that the others couldn’t be saved, but their injures were far too severe. One woman had lost part of her head. There was just no going back from that. But the blonde, she had a strong heart, and it had started to beat proudly. She was only glad she could help. She’d go back soon to check on her, see if maybe she’d awaken again. Maybe this time she could find out her name. Or at the very least wish her well.

There was nothing left on the roof, no evidence of the woman who’d just been sitting on it. A distant rumble echoed across the night.

&&&

Dale groaned softly, wondering why the tuba section of a marching band was practicing in her head. She squeezed her eyes shut, but that made it hurt even worse. Finally giving up, she tapped her finger to the beat that pounded in her skull, her heart pounding in the same cadence.

“How’re we feeling this morning?” a sing – song voice boomed into the room, making Dale wince.

“Wh – ” the blonde cleared her throat weakly, then tried again. “What happened?”

“Oh, honey, you survived quite the ordeal.” The nurse, dressed in scrubs covered in fuzzy bunnies, stood next to the bed, a hand on her hip. Dark brows drew. “Do you remember anything? Nothing at all?” she asked at the slight shake of the blonde head, covered in bandages. “I’ll tell your doctor you’re awake now, and he can come in and explain things to you.”

“‘Kay,” Dale whispered. Her throat felt like it had been given a thorough rubdown with sandpaper. She saw a pitcher on the rolling tray next to the bed and whimpered slightly, an oasis to a desert dweller. The blonde took inventory of her body, making sure it was all still there. She could feel just about everything, except for her legs. Raising her head as much as injury and medication would allow, she looked to see if they were still there.

“They’re still attached,” a soft, male voice said from the doorway of the glassed in room. Dale was shocked to see her entire lower half in traction, though could feel none of it. “Your legs were caught under the engine and dash. The entire left front of your car was pushed in on you,” the doctor explained. He pushed off the doorframe and stepped into the room, arms crossed over a lab coat – clad chest.

“How?” Dale wasn’t sure what she was more terrified at – the fact that her entire lower body was apparently crushed, or that she couldn’t remember any of the reason why.

“There was a pile up, and you were in the middle of it. Your injuries were substantial, Dale. You were extremely lucky to have survived it. In fact,” the doctor sighed, clasping his hands in front of himself. “I’d say it was pretty much a miracle.”

“Why can’t I feel my legs?” The blonde wasn’t sure if she were happy about her miraculous survival, or wished it weren’t so. She was starting to feel a dull the practicing marching band march down into her neck and shoulders.

“Right now you’re on a great deal of medication to stop the pain. Your pelvis was broken as well as your femurs.”

Dale tried to take in everything that was being told to her, her cloudy brain barely able to concentrate on the words or comprehend the scale of destruction that had rent her body. Another question managed to get through the medicated haze. “How long have I been here?”

“Two weeks.”

She groaned, her thoughts lamenting the fact she’d lost her window to study the water specimens she’d taken, before drifting off into peaceful blackness.

&&&

She tried not to be noticed, though wasn’t sure exactly how successful she was. She drifted down the long, sterile halls, trying to appear no more interesting than the cheesy, motel room artwork that adorned the walls. She hated wearing clothes, but had no choice in this case. They were uncomfortable, and horribly restricting, although some may be want to argue her regular attire was more so. She didn’t think so. To her it was like a second skin. Though, in many ways, it was.

Stealing clothing sure sounded easier than it actually was. She had tried to find an errant clothesline strung between buildings, as she’d seen in Chicago before, but unfortunately, with all the rain they’d been having, laundry had been brought in. She had to resort to going into an actual store. The temporary power outage perfect cover.

She headed into the ICU, smirking when she heard a rumble behind her, the soda machine in the waiting room surging, cans of Coke products shooting out of the slot to the delighted shock of those waiting for loved ones.

The nurse’s station was darkened, just a couple reading lamps turned on so as not to disturb sleeping patients in their glassed in cubicle – like rooms. A Hispanic nurse smiled at her from where she sat at the desk, her attention returning back to the novel she had been reading. Glad the nurse hadn’t bothered to question the lab coat and stolen nametag, turned backwards, she headed into room 301.

She knew she had to be careful, so strayed clear of the small army of machinery that was attached to the blonde, who was deeply asleep. Her face looked better, her eyes not so bruised and swollen. She could almost imagine what the small woman looked like in the real world. Her hair, which at the time of the accident, had been long and tangled with blood, was now cut very short. The bandages had been removed, leaving an angry looking wound on the blonde’s forehead and a smattering of healing cuts and bruises on her cheeks and jaw. Her legs and hips were still in extremely uncomfortable – looking equipment, almost as though it were holding her together.

She was surprised to feel tears sizzling her cheeks. Reaching out, long fingers barely stroked the softness of the blonde’s cheek, mindful of a large bruise there. To her surprise, green eyes opened, yet again, looking up at her.

“Sleep now,” she whispered, hoping the young blonde would listen and obey, perhaps thinking it a dream that she had a midnight visitor at all. She was not so lucky.

“You’ve been here before,” Dale whispered, her words thick from sleep and heavy medication.

“Yes. Sleep now.”

“Who are you?” Dale barely got the question out before her eyes betrayed her and slid closed.

She felt relief when once again the blonde slipped back into peaceful slumber. She looked down into the sweet face, that had started to haunt her dreams. She’d helped people before, and certainly had checked back on them to make sure they were okay, never finding anymore interest in them than simply a fellow human being whom she had helped. But this one, this one was different somehow. It made her heart hurt, knowing that she was so young, yet everything had been stripped away from her – including almost her life. She wanted no thanks, no tribute or gratitude, just simply to know the injured woman’s name.

Glancing toward the wall by the door, she noticed a holder, the blonde’s chart tucked safely inside. Taking one last peak at the patient, making sure she was still asleep, she grabbed the chart and flipped through it until she found what she was looking for.

“Dale Bailey,” she whispered, blue eyes scanning the pages. “Twenty – five years old.” With a heavy sigh, sadness in her heart, she replaced the chart, starting when she heard a loud beeping.

Maria Ortega almost threw her novel when she saw the red flashing light on the control panel before her, the light flashing next to the numbers – 301. Getting to her feet, she hurried into the room, noting the low hum of fluorescent lights about to die, though they weren’t on, as well as the machines attached to Dale Bailey’s vital signs were blaring their warning of impending heart failure. Switching off the alarm, she turned back to her patient to see her staring up at her. Maria crossed herself, whispering a short prayer in Spanish.

“I’m okay,” Dale whispered, just as startled by the alarms.

“Where did the doctor go?” the nurse asked, resetting the machines. She had been told the same thing had happened once before, a week ago.

“She left,” the blonde whispered, almost wistful as her eyes closed once again. “Pretty blue eyes,” her words were almost unintelligible as she drifted off, leaving a baffled nurse standing next to her bed.

&&&

If Dale thought she knew boredom, she was sadly mistaken. She’d been in the hospital for a month, and was finally able to move around a bit. The only good thing about her stay was that she had been so doped up through the majority of it, she could barely remember her name. Even so, the last week they’d been easing her off meds, and now she felt the endless hours in all their endless glory.

Pulling herself up into a sitting position, grunting as her lower half, still encased in plaster, was heavy and still ached, she finally got settled. Always purely anti – soap opera, the blonde clicked to CBS, curious to see what her new favorite characters were up to, and what ridiculous situations they’d gotten themselves into since Friday afternoon.

“Which one is this?” Blake asked, walking into the room as he tossed his overcoat onto a chair.

“Young and the Restless,” Dale answered, smiling up at her co – worker, thrilled to have company.

“You know last time I was here, it was As the World Turns.”

“I know. I think it’s the medication they have me on.”

“Uh huh.” Blake sat down, blowing out a breath after a long Monday. He’d taken up Dale’s work load, so had been putting in twelve to fourteen hour days. He’d gone into the lab at five – thirty that morning, and at one o’clock, he was already exhausted, especially since he knew he had another nine or so hours to go. It was a nice break, though, to stop by on his daily visit with the blonde.

“Yeah, well I don’t exactly have the History Channel to tune into right now,” Dale sighed, tossing the remote to the bed.

“Don’t get pissy, Dale.”

“I’m sorry.” She rested her head against the pillows, looking at him. “Break me out of here.”

Blake chuckled, shaking his head. “No way. The doctor said soon, right?”

“Another week!”

“Dale,” Blake said, taking the blonde’s hand in both of his. He looked into miserable green eyes. “You’ve been through hell and back, your body broken and put back together. It’s a miracle you’re still alive. Just be patient a little longer and you’ll be home. Okay? In celebration I’ll take you out for steak.”

“Really?” the blonde brightened. Her co – worker, and one of her only friends, nodding with a chuckle. “This is so hard, Blake. I have truly never been so restless in all my life. Cabin fever can’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling right now. I’m so tired of being drugged up. Did you know I had that same strange hallucination again the other night?”

“The blue – eyed midnight visitor?” Blake smirked, clearing his throat at the green daggers thrown his way. “How long will you be stuck in a wheelchair?” he asked at length.

“I’m not sure.” Dale glanced woefully at the devil chair that was folded against the wall next to the bathroom. “I dread it. I can’t even fathom how I’ll manage in my apartment.”

“I’ve told you, Dale, I’m more than willing to let you stay with me for awhile. It’s an old house, and the doorways are wider, rooms are bigger . . . ”

As Blake’s voice trailed off, the blonde studied her friend. She had known for some time that he liked her, but had ignored it. The look of hope in his dark eyes made her sad. How could she tell him she had no interest in him whatsoever, other than as the good friend he was? She didn’t want to hurt his feelings by turning him down outright. “Thanks, Blake. Be careful, cause I may take you up on that. If my place is too small . . . ” she shrugged.

“Fair enough. The invite is always open.”

“Thank you.” She smiled, taking his hand in gratitude, squeezing it before letting it go. The man cleared his throat once again, getting to his feet.

“I’d better get back.” Dale accepted the hug he offered, then he grabbed his jacket. “Take care. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Okay. Thanks for coming.”

“Anytime.” He looked down at her for a long moment, seeming to be memorizing her features before turning away and disappearing out into the hall.

Dale sighed, boredom setting in again quickly. It was nice to have a disruption to her day, even if it was only ten minutes worth. She’d been moved into a private room a week ago, which was nice in some ways, but more lonely. There wasn’t the constant sound of nurses and doctors running around, responding to alarms. On the fifth floor, the nurses came in like clockwork, but that was it. Dale was starting to feel itchy, like she was ready to burst from her own skin. She needed mental stimulation. Blake had brought her some paperwork to do, but even that wasn’t enough. She wanted to be in her lab!

&&&

The Kansas skies were alive tonight, the clouds pregnant with impending rain, the drums of nature pounding to the dance of lightning. She sat atop a rock overhand, legs pulled up to her chest, arms clasped over her shins. With her head thrown back, she smiled at the force of nature overhead, waiting for just the right moment.

She had left Chicago earlier in the day, the pulse of Kansas’ storms racing through her blood, a charge that sizzled through her body. She was not disappointed, awed again and again by the brilliance of the storm. Soon her chance would come, and, like a surfer, she would find her perfect wave, her perfect time. She was patient.

&&&

“You can put that over there, thanks.” Dale wheeled herself over to the living room, trying to get out of the way of the cabbie who had offered to help. She knew Blake would be angry with her for not calling him, but she wanted to get home on her own, tired of depending on everyone for everything, including taking a damn dump!

“Okay, lady, you’re set.”

“Thank you.” She paid the grateful man handsomely, then cursed as she banged into the hallway wall as she wheeled her way toward the front door, intent on locking it behind him. It took her a few minutes to un – wedge herself, trying to not cry at the pain that shot through her hips at the jarring of the crash, though she couldn’t say if the tears would be more from the pain or the frustration of her predicament. She wondered if maybe she should have taken Blake up on his offer after all. “No,” she whispered, running a hand through her hair, which had started to grow back. She hadn’t had her hair this short since she’d been a teenager.

Dale couldn’t help it as the tears began to trail down over her cheeks, part anger, part pain, and part plain old fashioned feeling sorry for herself. Her life was fine, it was good, even. She had a job she loved, a nice apartment, and had even managed to make a friend in Blake. Then one minute, blink of an eye, gone.

Wiping a hand over her eyes and nose, Dale decided it would do her no good to sit and stew. She had a life to get back together, and had to do it quick. She intended to be back at work Monday morning. That gave her three days to get used to her chair.

Gathering her resolve, Dale turned her chair around, taking several deep breaths as she prepared to face her day in her new, front row seat. She stopped short when she heard a soft knock on the front door. Groaning deep in her throat, preferring to be left alone, the blonde made her way back down the hall. Figuring it was Blake, she mentally prepared herself to send him away, but was surprised to see no one there, though on the ground, leaning against the doorframe, was a single white rose with a small card taped to the stem.

Dale frowned, wondering who could have left it, especially since she saw no one at either end of the hall, trying to escape detection. Picking up the gift, she saw her name written on the outside of the envelope. Her curiosity got the best of her as she slid a finger under the flap, ripping it open.

DALE – HERE’S TO TURNING THOSE TEARS INTO A HAPPY SMILE.

Now truly baffled, Dale’s brows drew, re – reading the simple message written in bold, block letters – a steady hand. She brought the rose to her face, closing her eyes as she inhaled the fragrance. It smelled wonderful.

Figuring it must be a well – wishing neighbor, who had been able to quickly escape back into their apartment, Dale decided to take the rose and card at face value, closing and locking the door as she got her wheelchair turned back around, narrowly missing the wall with the edge of her chair’s tire. As she made her way into the kitchen, she was surprised to see the clock on her coffee pot blinking. She noticed the clock on the microwave and stove were also blinking. Odd, but they had been having lots of storms lately. But what was most odd was when she looked at the time, the clocks were only ten minutes behind, compared to her wristwatch. But then again, it could mean 2:32 a.m. and not p.m.

It didn’t matter, she decided, as she made her way deeper into the apartment. What she craved right now was peace and quiet, surrounded by everything that was familiar to her – no hospital food, smells or personnel waking her up at ungodly hours of the night to check her vitals. Maybe tonight she’d actually have a full nights rest.

Dale knew there were few who would be calling her, so she’d assured Blake and her boss that she was fine, was at home, but wanted to be left alone on her voicemail, asking them to not come over. She refused to answer the phone, instead wanting to fall into the solitude she craved, and had not been able to enjoy for more than a month.

&&&

Dale woke up to a terrible neck kink and her back screaming at her. Not to mention her entire lower half. She groaned as reality slowly beckoned. Blinking several times, she saw the sun shining through her living room windows, the TV quietly hissing snow at her.

Confused, she pushed herself up in her wheelchair, trying to figure out why she still sat in it, and why she was waking up in her living room. It all came back to her with startling clarity and returning frustration. The night before, almost falling ass over appetite when trying to transfer herself to her bed, the blonde had decided to take a deep breath, and step back from the situation, as it were. So, she’d wheeled herself into the living room and had slid a DVD into the player. She figured she must have fallen asleep, as Dale ran a hand through her hair, which made it stand up at crazy angles.

Deciding that coffee was a must, Dale released the chair’s break and wheeled herself in the direction of the kitchen. Carefully eyeing the counter the coffee pot sat on, she chewed on her bottom lip, trying to decide how well she could reach it. Wheeling up to it, she was relieved to find that, though a slightly uncomfortable reach, it was definitely doable. Water poured from the carafe into the reservoir on the machine, she was all set. Except for the coffee itself.

Looking up at what seemed endless cabinet space, and made for a giant, Dale tried to visualize where exactly her can of Folgers was.

“Shit.” It was in the cabinet above the microwave, second shelf, behind the sugar. “Shit, damnit, fuck!”

Grimacing as she rested her hands against the arms of her chair, Dale pushed herself up as high as she could, lowering one leg, testing the slightest bit of weight on it, wincing, but pushing on.

“Okay,” she breathed, blowing out a long breath. “I can do this.” She put her other foot down, testing a little more weight, then cried out, flopping back into her chair, which jarred her body even more. Sobs of frustration tore through her, pouring out in an all out tantrum.

Blake, hand poised to knock, froze, leaning in toward the door until his ear was almost pressed against the cool surface. Sure enough, he heard a loud crash. Worry filled him as he imaged a horrid scene inside.

“Dale!” He pounded on the door, waiting to see if there was any response. He was relived when he heard another crash. That meant that the blonde wasn’t dead. “Dale? Open the door.”

Dale stopped her fit, canister of tea bags in hand, ready to be chucked against the same wall her coffee carafe had met its end on. She looked toward the front door, tears still sliding down her cheeks. “Shit, Blake.” She got herself turned around, banging into the cabinets as she hurried out of the kitchen. She felt her anger spark further into flames when the front doorknob rattled.

Blake stepped back from the door, surprised when it suddenly opened, and he was met with a less – than thrilled little blonde scientist.

“Do you have any idea what time it is, Blake? Do you have any idea how many of my neighbors you probably just pissed off by banging on my door?!”

“Uh,” Blake’s mouth fell open then closed, words escaping him. Finally he got his voice back as he followed the irate little blonde back into the apartment. “I was worried about you, okay? I heard a loud crash . . . ” the words died on his lips when he saw the shattered remains of some sort of glass and ceramic object, strewn about the kitchen floor. “What happened?”

“I couldn’t reach my coffee, that’s what happened.” Dale rolled to the center of her living room, crossing her arms over her chest. She knew she was acting like a petulant child, but she hated the fact that the self – reliance she’d always worked so hard to attain had been stripped from her. Growing up with an abusive father who needed to control her every move, had pushed her to break away from his every move, every hate – filled word and look. Now she felt like she had been transported back to that time of helplessness, and she was goddamned pissed about it!

“So you tore up your kitchen?” Blake had to take a step back or risk losing a shin as Dale whirled her chair around to face him.

“I don’t want visitors, Blake. I thought I made that abundantly clear on my voicemail.”

“Yeah, you did, but damnit, Dale, I was worried, okay? You just take off from the hospital, don’t tell a soul, trying to get used to your life after you almost died, and just expect everyone to say, oop! Dale doesn’t want company right now. Think I’ll let her attempt to live a life in a wheelchair when her life isn’t exactly ready for one!”

“Yes. That’s exactly right.”

Blake looked into those fiery green eyes, and for a moment, completely lost himself in them. He saw so much in that one look – determination, fear, pride and deep embarrassment. He knew nothing of Dale’s past, where she came from, or how a woman so young, only twenty – five, had managed to accomplish what she had. All he knew was that he respected her above all others, and had lost his heart to her somewhere over the past three years. Taking a deep breath, he decided to change the subject and clear his own head.

“Coffee, you said?” When Dale didn’t answer, Blake ran a and through his dark hair. “I’ll make you some.”

“I broke my damn carafe,” the blonde muttered, turning her chair back to the window, staring out over the new day. Blake was glad she’d turned away, as he knew he’d lose more than a shin if Dale saw him smiling at her predicament.

“Okay. I’ll run down to the corner and get you some. Okay?”

Dale could only nod. She didn’t want to be a bitch to Blake, as she knew he was only trying to be a friend. “Large.”

“You’ve got it.”

Dale sighed heavily as the front door closed. All she wanted was a nice, hot bath, candles lit all around the bathtub, and an issue or two of Scientific American. Looking down at herself, she realized she was in the same scrubs the hospital had given her, as her original clothing had been ruined in the accident. She hadn’t brushed her teeth or her hair. Hadn’t touched a stick of deodorant. And, to top it all off, she had to pee like a race horse!

“Can this get any worse?”

&&&

It was getting late, and she really ought to be heading out. After all, the lure of a thunderstorm bundle in Colorado called. Even so, she stayed, perched outside, watching. The blonde had returned home, had been with the guy she’d seen at the hospital before, and right now they were settled on the couch, and apparently talking.

She moved to the other window, mindful of the ledge. Gloved hands grabbed onto the moulding around the windows, peering around the curtains on the insides of the tall windows.

&&&

Blake was trying to find some sort of topic, any topic that would keep him in Dale’s apartment. He was cursing himself, having already played his ace by catching her up on everything work – related. He had lowered himself to talking about his pet Beta, Fosco.

“Blake,” Dale rubbed the bridge of her nose with her fingers, doing her damndest to be nice. “Listen, I’m grateful for your help today, the coffee, making me lunch and all that, but I’m really tired. I’d like to go to bed.”

“Oh!” Blake hopped to his feet. “I’ll help you.”

“No! Thank you.” The blonde tried to hide her growing irritation behind a smile. “I really just want to be alone now, okay? I’m feeling better, feel strong now, so, you can just head on home. Okay?”

Blake felt his hopes shatter, but knew there was nothing he could do except nod and grab his keys. “Alright. Listen, if you need anything, anything at all – ”

“I’ll know who to call.” Dale smiled sweetly.

Blake sighed, about to turn around when something caught the corner of his eye. Looking at the window, he started. “Jesus!”

“What?” Dale tried to follow him over to the window, but was having a hard time getting in her chair fast enough.

Blake stood pressed to the window, hands on either side as he stared out into the night. He saw nothing. “I think I just had a John Lithgow, Twilight Zone moment,” he muttered. He turned back to Dale, who was trying to get into her wheelchair. He hurried over to her, easily lifting her from the couch cushions and settling her on the padded seat.

“Thanks. What’s wrong?”

Blake shook his head, not wanting to freak out the blonde. “Nothing. I think I just saw a bird take off and it startled me.”

“Oh. Okay.” Dale was a little surprised, considering Blake was pasty pale. She rolled after him as he made his way to the front door. Wishing him goodnight, the blonde was shocked all over again when her co – worker bent down and placed a lingering kiss on her lips. He scurried out the door before she could respond. “Lovely.”

&&&

She closed her eyes, body pressed against the cold brick of Dale’s building. She couldn’t believe that guy had spotted her! But, he had, and it had frightened him badly, though why wouldn’t it – seeing a woman peering inside a tenth floor window.

Chancing another peek inside, she was glad to see that he was leaving, though felt her blood boil when he stole a kiss. Blue eyes studied the blonde, who didn’t look thrilled at the kiss. She got herself turned around at the entryway of her apartment, and looking as though she were muttering to herself, headed out of sight, disappearing down a hallway.
Part 2
Dale decided that a bath was a must, no matter what she had to do to accomplish the task, even if it meant crawling to the damn tub after she tumbled to the damn floor from her damn chair. Wheeling into the bathroom, she reached up to the light switch, growling deep in her throat as nothing happened. She flicked the switch back and forth, crying out in surprise when a small spark was sent from the fixture above the sink. Breathing heavily, she tried the switch again, and to her relief, buttery light flooded the large space. Taking a deep breath, began her bath water. Her mouth almost watered at the sight.

&&&

She moved around the side of the building, mindful of other watchful eyes, as she tried to find another window to see what Dale was up to. She stopped at what looked to be a bedroom window, though the room was dark. Through the open slats of mini blinds she could see the open door led to what looked to be a short hallway, a triangle of light painting the hall floor.

Closing her eyes, she allowed the electric waves all around her to buzz to a fever pitch, melding with sound waves until she was able to zone in on what was happening inside the blonde’s apartment.

&&&

Dale felt like a piece of leftover chicken as she wrapped her lower half in plastic, so it wouldn’t get wet. She knew she probably shouldn’t be taking a bath, but she didn’t care. After the last two days she’d had, a sponge bath wasn’t going to come even close to doing it for her.

She slowly sank into the depths of the hot water, only filling the tub a third of the way to lessen her chances of getting her casts wet. She washed her hair with one hand, using the other to help hold her body up. It was tedious, and somewhat painful, but necessary. She had to admit it was much easier with shorter hair. After she finished washing her body, Dale decided that it was time to attempt getting into bed. Part of her wondered if maybe she should have allowed Blake to help her, but then again, that damn kiss said a lot, and she wasn’t willing to answer. Besides, she’d endured as much embarrassment as she could in one day. Earlier he’d helped her to the bathroom, thankfully leaving her in peace to pull down her own pants and pee.

Exhausted and weak, she gauged the distance from the tub to the chair, then mentally tallied the distance to her bed. “I can do this.” Taking a deep, cleansing breath, the blonde placed her hand on the side of the tub, heart stopping as her hand slipped. She dried the side and her hand, then tried again. Her hand stayed put, so that gave her the confidence to push off, lifting her body free from the water, and feeling like a gymnast all at the same time. “Going for the gold,” she panted, easing her broken body to the side of the tub, glancing several times over at the chair, making sure it hadn’t moved in the three seconds since she looked at it last. Confident she was actually going to do this, Dale heaved herself that last bit of distance, crying out as the chair rolled backwards when she tried to sit.

Her entire body was filled with a wave of pain as she hit the bathroom floor, the tile cold against her naked skin. She couldn’t move, pain and frustration nailing her to the spot. She stared up at the ceiling through her haze of tears, feeling like she’d was moving in and out of consciousness. She felt hands on her, felt herself lifted. Her dream savior remained faceless in the shadows of night. Soft words and even softer bedding met her, Dale easing into the comfort. She could vaguely remember the series of questions she was asked – was she hurt? Could she move? Did she need a doctor?

“Doctor?” she whispered, finally looking up into blue eyes. “You are the doctor, remember?” She grinned, silly and exhausted. “You came back.” With those words, she drifted off into a deep, desperately needed sleep.

&&&

Green eyes slowly fluttered open, the harsh light of late morning kept at bay by the pulled blinds, tendrils of light attempting to escape from around the edges. Memories of last night’s botched attempt at a bath came back to her, and Dale took mental stock of her body, as well as her surroundings. She was sore, but nothing felt out of place or missing, and she was lying in her bed, surrounded by a dozen pillows.

“How the hell did I get here?” she muttered, almost startled right out of her skin when her question got an answer.

“I put you there.”

Dale tried to move away from the intruder’s voice, but soft hands were on her shoulders in record time. Dale was stopped by . . . a hum? . . . in the touch. Dale stilled, frozen with fear. She looked into the face and was stunned to see the blue eyes of the dream image that had followed her throughout her entire ordeal. The face that loomed over her was beautiful, the sky blue eyes only the tip of the iceberg.

“Careful, Dale. You’ll hurt yourself,” the strange woman said softly. She saw the fear in the blonde’s eyes, though it was being quickly mixed with curiosity, and stopped back from the bed.

“Who are you? Why are you in my house?”

“You needed help,” the woman said softly, retaking her seat by the window.

Dale looked down at herself, suddenly self – conscious. She remembered that she had been naked while lying on the bathroom floor. She was now dressed in a soft, terry cloth robe. She absently pulled the ends together, unnecessarily covering herself better. The bedding hid her entire body. Even so, she slid further down, enveloped in a soft cloud of material.

As she observed the woman, who’s own gaze hadn’t faltered, she realized the woman was dressed in a bizarre sort of . . . body suit. Her eyes traveled over the strange outfit, noting that it looked like pieces of leather or something, were quilted together, covering her from just under her chin, full sleeves, then down to her feet, which were covered in some sort of rubber – soled shoe. Her long, dark hair flowed freely around her shoulders.

“Are you crazy?” she finally asked, meeting the woman’s amused gaze. The woman shook her head.

“No. Just someone who’s concerned.”

Dale studied her for a moment, unsure what to think. Should she be afraid? Should she be grateful? It was obvious the woman meant her no harm. A blonde head cocked slightly to the side.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Sutton. I’m not here to hurt you, Dale. Odd I may be, but I won’t harm you.”

“How do you know my name? Why were you at the hospital? How did you get into my house?” Dale’s voice rose with every question, her fear beginning to peak as the situation began to fully unfold. Blindly she reached to her bedside table, snatching the phone from its cradle. She gasped as a flash of light blinded her for a moment, the air in the room sucked out like a vacuum, leaving the blonde gasping.

She twisted around as much as her body would allow, trying to figure out where her uninvited guest went. Sutton was nowhere to be seen, the only evidence she’d ever been there was the frayed ends of the screen on her bedroom window, still smoldering.

&&&

“Wow. That is awfully strange.” Peter Ramsey jotted a few notes in his notebook then turned to the frightened blonde. “You said you’d never seen her before? Before she showed up at the hospital, anyway.”

“Right. I have no clue who she is.” Dale hugged herself tighter as she remembered the creepy events of the morning.

“Okay. Well, we’ll look for her, but to be honest, without a last name, no fingerprints, anything, I doubt anything can be done, Dale.”

The blonde nodded. “I understand.”

“Though with the description you gave, it may not be all that hard. I’ll check with some of the local hospitals, maybe even the psych ward where you were at. They may know something.”

“Okay.” Dale allowed herself to be pushed out of the bedroom, the officer, and husband of a co – worker, leaving her in the middle of the living room.

“If you need anything at all, Dale, please don’t hesitate to ask. I know Sandy has been worried sick about you.”

“Thanks, Pete. I appreciate that. Tell her I’ll be back to torment her Monday.”

The officer chuckled. “Will do.”

Left alone again, Dale sighed, looking around her apartment. For some reason she couldn’t shake, she felt guilty for calling the police in, almost like something inside was telling her that Sutton wouldn’t hurt her, and that there was far more with her than met the eye. But then she remembered the torched edges of her window screen, and the light that had filled her bedroom just before the strange woman disappeared. Dale shivered.

&&&

Winter was upon Chicago with a quick and brutal hand. Gone were the days of mild weather and refreshing summer rains. Gone were clear skies and light jackets. Snow fell in record depth and temperatures fell just as drastically. Though free from the confines of her wheelchair, Dale felt like a sixty year old woman as the cold cut bitterly into here legs and hips, aggravating the pins that held her frame together after so much bone mass had been crushed.

Dale had moved on with her life, thrilled to be back at work, and trying valiantly to hold off Blake’s subtle, and sometimes not – so – subtle, interest. The kiss had never been discussed, as the blonde felt no reason to bring it up. In truth, she didn’t want to deal with it, and as long as he didn’t make it an issue, it wouldn’t be.

As time passed, Dale thought less and less about the strange encounter with the stranger woman from the previous summer. She hadn’t seen her since, and the police had found nothing, no trace, no record of her, just as Peter had predicted. Dale had boiled it all down to a strange summer all the way around, not giving it anymore credit than that, and genuinely grateful it was over.

She had no idea that on the other side of the world, a woman sit atop the Sydney Opera House, basking in the wondrous show of nature that was a summer thunderstorm, her thoughts never far away from the blonde. Sutton had quietly checked in on Dale a few more times before necessity bade her follow the storms that the mid – west was quickly shedding. Now, atop the international landmark, she raised to her full height, her blood beginning to surge as the crackle of electricity wound its way through her body, energy pumping through her frantic rates, readying her body’s mutated chemistry until her arms spread, face lifted to the heavens as that split moment of pleasure/pain ripped through her, the deafening crash of a lightning strike leaving her deaf and dumb as her body was filled with the pulsing electricity that was behind her every move, tinged her aura with crackles of blue, and preceded her every step.

Sutton took a deep breath, her lungs ending their electrical seize, allowing air back in for the first time since the strike. She let out a long, shaky breath, eyes closing as the last remnants of the strike faded. She imagined, from what she’d heard, it was much like an orgasm.

Body still pulsing, Sutton raised her hands again, calling out to the waves of light, sound and electricity all around her, invisible to the average soul, yet a never – ending highway to her. A clash of lightning, she was gone.

Sutton walked the streets, no desire to attract attention, so she wrapped herself in stolen clothing, only the slight added bulk of her undersuit announcing anything different about her. She did her best to reign in the power humming through her blood, her body’s natural abundance of electricity, coupled with that she’d gathered atop the opera house, made it near impossible for her to not short out every light she came upon. A few cracked bulbs was the least bit of damage she could do, and was glad of it; she had no desire to face down some thug or idiot. She lived a solo life, and was in an incredibly anti – social mood this night.

Her mood reminded her of her younger days, days and nights when she strolled the streets near her childhood home of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’d walk up and down Academy Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in the small metropolis, hoping some wayward car would hit her, snapping her legs out from under her and send her to join her mother and father.

Now, strolling the busy streets of Sydney, Australia, Sutton allowed herself to think about her mother, whom hadn’t crept into her thoughts in more than a year. It was just too painful. The recluse closed her eyes for a moment, just barely stepping out of the way of an oncoming couple as she opened her eyes once more. Though as the streets came back into focus, she also could see the one image of her mother she’d ever been given, a picture that had long since been lost. Her long, brown hair, so much lighter than that her daughter would have. Her eyes had been amber, Sutton’s father calling them the color of champagne.

Crystal Marie Callahan, wife of Stuart Callahan. They had been married for four months when the news of their first child had reached their ears. The couple had been ecstatic, as Crystal had wanted a child since she, herself had been a child. And the day she’d found out her first child was a girl, Stuart had held his wife, her tears of happiness unstoppable.

Sutton was told by her father that Crystal would talk to her unborn child constantly, telling her how much she was loved, and how Crystal couldn’t wait for the day she’d be able to meet her little girl.

Sutton grabbed onto the metal side of a fire escape, looking around her once. No eyes were on her, so she filled her chest with the rumbling energy inside her, closing her eyes and willing the energy around her to scoop her up and take her along until she was atop a nearby rooftop, looking down over the city. Separating herself from everyone else was second nature for the brunette. She wasn’t like them, and they could never understand her. They feared her, well, those that were unlucky enough to see her oddity at work. Such as Dale. Those who had over the years had scorned her, laughed at her, or worse – tried to capture her. She had learned that hot summer day back when an eight year old Sutton had stood over her father’s dead body, that she must hide her gift – her curse. No one must know. It would also be for the safety of the public at large to stay away. Yes, over the many years she’d learned to control her oddity, ensuring that nothing like what happened twenty – two years ago would ever happen again. Never again would someone lose their life because of Sutton. She couldn’t allow it.

She pushed the returning thoughts of Dale out of her mind. She’d find another storm to chase, leaving Chicago behind her.

&&&

Summer had come, and it was hot. As Dale drove in her six month old Accura, she glanced up at the ominous clouds, a low rumbling threatening to loose nature’s fury. She loved rain, and looked forward to the coming storm. The guy on the Weather Channel said that it would be a record year for rain and summer storms. Bring it on, Dale said.

The blonde scientist was trying to allow herself to enjoy the ride home from work. She had only driven a handful of times since the accident last summer. Hell, she’d only been out of the wheelchair and all medical attachments for a little over seven months. She hadn’t been keen to get behind the wheel of another car, nor buy a new car, on the corvette driver’s insurance, that is. Blake had talked her into it, convincing her that if she didn’t try again, she’d be afraid for the rest of her life. He had used Dale’s own competitive spirit against her, and it had worked. So, yes, she was driving again, but no, she didn’t like it. Chicago’s Friday night rush hour certainly wasn’t helping matters any. As far as she was concerned, she couldn’t just taken public transportation for the rest of her life, and been quite happy with that.

As she neared her neighborhood, the clouds ripped open with a violent crash of thunder, and suddenly the day was awash in driving rain. Dale flicked her windshield wipers to high, entertaining the idea of pulling off the side of the road until the deluge passed, or at least slowed. She was passing the park she could never remember the name of, the huge, ludicrous statue standing at attention in the center. She had to remember to ask Blake who the hell the statue was of.

Dale was about to move into the left lane for her turn when a blinding flash of lightning centered over the statue. The crash of thunder that accompanied it made the blonde yell out. Just as she was about to turn away, she was horrified to see a figure standing on the statue, body rigid as the lightning strike ripped through them.

“Oh my god!” Dale was already feeling around for her cell phone as she crossed three lanes of traffic to pull off into the park’s parking lot. Her car screeched to a halt as she searched desperately on the ground around the statue for the body of the person who had just been struck by lightning.

“911, what’s your emergency?” a woman’s voice said on the other end of the line. Dale put the phone closer to her ear as she stepped out into the rain.

“I just saw someone get hit by lightning,” she gasped, hurrying under the archway that led into the park.

“Wha . . . s . . . location, ma’am?” the voice said, her question a staccato of static. Dale shouted the address of the park into the tiny phone, the sound of the storm like a freight train. “I . . . nt . . . you . . . ”

Dale cried out, static erupting from the phone, her ear buzzing. She pulled the phone away from her head, tucking it away into the pocket of her pants. She froze, looking up into the sky, every hair standing on end as an electric current raced through the air, her skin tightening painfully. She felt her toes curl and ears ring as something boomed directly overhead. She couldn’t even hear her own screams as the sound reverberated through her skull. A jagged spear of light reflected in wide, green eyes. The next thing Dale knew, she was flat on her back, the cold, wet grass beneath her, a heavy weight on top of her.

“Hold on!” someone yelled in her ear, loud enough to be heard over the storm.

Dale’s fingers gripped onto something slick, wet leather or something. The light overhead became blinding, the world around them exploding with the acidic smell of fire and smoke mixed with the earthy smell of rain and wet soil and foliage. The blonde wasn’t sure her eyes were even open as she could see nothing but the specter of the blinding light remained. She began to feel fear and panic grip her insides when she tried to move, but her body refused. She thrashed her legs and arms, only to find that her hands were suddenly pinned to the ground. Blinking several times, her vision began to clear, two blue eyes coming into focus.

“Shh, Dale. Calm down. Take deep breaths. I’ve gotcha.” The blonde calmed immediately, the familiar voice like a balm. She cried out in surprise as she felt herself being lifted into the air. Warm air hit her ear, then softer words. “Hold on.”

The scientist clung to the blue – eyed stranger, gasping as her body was filled with a radiant, almost painful . . . light. Dale squeezed her eyes shut, her face closing in on itself as she felt a ripple of electricity flow through her, as though each and every one of her cells were imploding, sucking her into a vortex made up of her very being. Then everything went black.

&&&

Sutton watched the new day dawn, marveling at the colors that spread over the city. The storm had been violent, tearing limbs and leaves from the many trees, puddles and mud dotting the streets.

She sighed heavily, grateful for not the first time, that she had broken her promise and returned to the Windy City. She had felt it in the air, the brewing of a record year for storms in and around Chicago. She had managed to stay away from Dale, not even going near her home or work. Not until last night, when she knew the best place to go for the quickest, most potent charge, would be the park, rather the statue in the park.

Sutton turned when she heard Dale’s soft groan from the bed behind her. The brunette was glad she’d managed to wake before her. She walked over to the chair she’d been occupying all night, slowly lowering herself into the seat.

“Why do I feel like I ran a marathon?” Dale groaned, stretching her arms then legs. A tiny squeak escaped her lips, making her guest smile. “Better yet, why do I feel like a marathon was run on top of me?”

“It’ll pass. Your body’s been through a lot,” Sutton said, her voice soft. She met the unfocused green gaze aimed her way.

“What happened?” Dale rubbed her eyes and face, trying to clear her vision, which was still blurry, no image clear. She could see the dark figure sitting in the chair near the window. She blinked rapidly, trying desperately to focus. “My eyes,” she breathed, closing them and rubbing. She stopped at the touch she felt on her arm, one of her hands pulled away from her face.

“Don’t do that, Dale. It’ll just take a little time.” Sutton sat on the edge of the bed, reaching to the bedside table where she’d placed a glass of water earlier. “Here. Drink this. You need the fluids.”

The blonde gladly took the glass, drinking the glass dry in moments. “More.”

Without a word, Sutton took the glass, hurrying to the kitchen to refill it then hurrying back. As she walked into the blonde’s bedroom again, she slowed, watching as Dale pushed herself up to lean against the headboard of her bed.

“Here.”

Dale looked up at the brunette as she walked over to her, taking the glass of water from her extended hand. The blonde looked at that hand, strong fingers, the skin looked dry, cracked in places. Her gaze traveling up her arm, barely able to make out the quilted pieces of the sleeve. Rubber. Pieces of rubber

“Thank you,” she whispered, bringing the glass to her lips.

“How are you feeling?” Sutton asked, not sure what to do with her hands now that she was no longer holding the glass.

“Tired. Sore. My stomach is queasy, too.”

Sutton nodded, clasping her fidgeting hands behind her back. “That’s pretty typical with a strike.”

It took a moment for Sutton’s words to register. She took in a sharp breath when it did. “A strike?”

The brunette nodded sagely. “Yes, Dale. I tried to absorb as much of it as I could, but,” blue eyes fell. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t absorb it all.”

The blonde pushed herself away from the nest of pillows between her and the headboard. “I don’t understand. What do you mean, you tried to absorb as much as you could? You’d be dead, Sutton. That makes no sense.” She grew quiet as she saw the strange brunette’s eyes raise to meet her gaze – steady and filled with pain.

“You won’t understand – ”

“Than make me, damn it! Explain to me how you do whatever the hell it is that you do. Cause I have to be honest with you – you scare the hell out of me!”

Sutton sighed, running a hand through her hair. She glanced over her shoulder at the new day behind her, streaming through the windows. “I don’t want to scare you, Dale. It’s the last thing I want.” She sighed again, her mind waging war with her heart and responsible logic. Finally she made a decision. “Okay. I’ll tell you.”

Dale sat back against the pillows, waiting patiently for the dark woman to begin her tale. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what she’d say.

Still facing the window, Sutton began. “There was a woman, Crystal Marie Callahan, wife of Stuart Callahan. Crystal was nine months pregnant with her first child, and one night she got caught in a huge storm. Tragic storm, really. She was struck by lightning,” Sutton snapped her fingers, “just like that, she was gone. But, her child, a daughter, survived. But she was forever changed.”

“Changed how?”

Sutton turned away from the window, finally facing the blonde. “Ways that you can never understand. Ways that are strange sets her far apart from everyone else.”

“That daughter was you, wasn’t it?” Dale asked, her voice soft, yet careful. She saw Sutton’s nod. “What ways, Sutton?”

“My body doesn’t work the way yours does, Dale.” She resumed her seat in the chair.

“How so? Because of the lightning strike?”

“Yes. I don’t know. I guess you can say my body is almost like a battery. Everyone produces their own electricity, but in small currents. During the strike, I don’t know. Something happened, some sort of chemical reaction, and my body produces a tremendous amount. I’d wager around forty – five percent more than yours. My body sustains itself coupled with the current. I have to, well, I have to recharge, if you will.”

“And what happens if you don’t . . . recharge?” Dale asked slowly, her scientific mind trying to wrap itself around the craziness she was being told. She looked deeply into the beautiful, yet very sad, blue eyes of the woman sitting in her bedroom, and saw no signs of deceit, nor lunacy.

Sutton shrugged at the question. “Things start to slow down.”

“Things? Things such as your energy levels?” Sutton nodded once. “Your muscle action?” Nod. “Your heart rate?”

“Yes.”

“Wow. Sutton, none of this makes any sense. I just can’t, I don’t know. I’m finding it very hard to swallow.”

“I know that, Dale. It’s crazy. That’s why no one else has ever heard that story before.” Sutton was preparing herself for a very quick departure, just like the last time she was in the blonde’s bedroom. She gripped the arms of the chair with almost iron – like fingers, the muscles in her legs flexing and un – flexing in anticipation. She watched as Dale pushed the covers back, wincing slightly as she got to her feet. Once steady, the blonde walked over to her, looking down at her.

“And what about this? You were wearing this last time I saw you, too.” Dale gently tapped one of Sutton’s shoulders, the rubber – like material of her bodysuit smooth and cool. Sutton looked down at herself and shrugged.

“It’s made from rubber, pieces that I’ve gathered over the years, or that I mend it with. It helps protect my skin from further damage,” the brunette softly explained.

“More damage?” Dale couldn’t help but take a step back as the strange woman stood. She didn’t want to be afraid of her, and felt in fact, that her fear was misplaced, but she felt it all the same. Her curiosity took over as she watched Sutton take hold of the head of an unseen zipper that ran down her left side. Peeling back to rubber, Sutton turned so that her back was facing Dale. “Oh, god.” The blonde brought a hand to her mouth, stepping up to the taller woman, fingers itching to reach out and touch. At the center of the brunette’s back, between her shoulder blades, were two scorch marks, the skin so badly burned that the marks were raised. “They look like wings.”

Sutton smiled, nodding. “Yes. When I was a baby, they very much did, and were the right size for them. My doctor used to call me Angel Baby. They didn’t grow with me, but they didn’t go away, either. Now they’re mini angel wings.”

Dale felt a strange unease as she reached out a tentative hand. “Does it hurt?”

“No. Not anymore.”

“It used to?”

Sutton nodded, glancing over her shoulder. “Yes. You can touch it, Dale. I won’t break.”

The blonde concentrated on the scorched tissue before her; it was strange, almost as though the black and gray had been airbrushed onto raised skin. The feel of it was much different than what she had expected. From the looks of the scaring, it looked like it would have been hard and course, like a scab. Instead it was soft and pliant, much like normal flesh. She couldn’t help but look at her fingertips, expecting to see smudges on them.

Sutton closed her eyes, trying not to lean back into the blonde’s touch. She hadn’t been touched in so long. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d given or received a hug.

“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t’ you, Sutton?” Dale whispered, her hand lying flat on the warmth of the brunette’s back. The flesh was amazingly warm – far warmer than Dale’s own.

“We all have our scars, our burdens. Mine are no different. Perhaps just a little more visible.”

Dale smiled at that, admiring the taller woman’s courage. :”I never got to apologize,” she said at length.

“Apologize? For what?” Suddenly starting to feel far too vulnerable half dressed, Sutton pulled away from the blonde, shrugging back into the sleeves of her bodysuit and turning to face her.

“For last time we met, calling the police on you.” Dale gave her a sheepish grin. “You have to admit, though, it was odd that you were suddenly in my house, regardless of if you helped me or not.”

Sutton chuckled, studying her feet. “Yeah. Sorry about that. I had been keeping an eye on you since – ” realizing what she’d said, she stopped herself, taking a deep breath.

“Since . . . ?”

Sutton met a demanding gaze. Not wanting to frighten the blonde anymore than she already had off and on during their acquaintanceship, she decided to answer. “Since your accident. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Dale was baffled, but then she remembered that she had seen Sutton’s face in the hospital. “That’s right. I remember seeing you while I was in ICU. I thought you were a doctor. Or a figment of my imagination. Did you work at the hospital?”

Sutton shook her head. “No. I uh,” she swallowed and began to fidget nervously. “I saw the accident happen. You were hurt badly.”

“How badly?” Dale had the distinct feeling that the brunette knew more than she was leading on.

“Bad. Uh, dead, basically.”

“And the EMT’s brought me back to life?” the blonde asked, hands on hips, head slightly cocked to the side as she studied the suspicious behavior of the other woman.

“Not exactly.”

“Then how? My doctor told me I should’ve been dead. Why wasn’t I, Sutton?”

“Well, uh,” Sutton started to fidget more when Dale took a step toward her. She couldn’t meet her eyes.

“Tell me.” The researcher stopped right in front of Sutton, looking up into her face, though blue eyes would not meet her gaze. She reached up, placing a hand on the side of the brunette’s warm cheek. Though she knew she wasn’t, Sutton almost felt feverish to the touch. “Tell me what happened.”

Taking a deep breath, Sutton finally met her gaze. “I restarted your heart,” she said simply, thinking it interesting that she couldn’t meet the blonde’s eyes moments ago, and now she couldn’t seem to look away.

“You did?” Dale asked, her voice almost a whisper. She felt her chest expand with sudden emotion. She could see it in the depths of Sutton’s eyes, her very soul, the woman was telling the truth. “Why did you do that?”

“Because I thought you were far too young to die.”

“Oh, Sutton.” Dale closed her eyes as she wrapped her arms around the taller woman’s neck, bringing her in for a long, tight hug. “Thank you.”

At first Sutton almost panicked, not sure what to do. But as the hug lasted, she pulled Dale in tightly, resting her arms around the blonde’s lower back. “You’re welcome.” She reveled in the embrace, quietly inhaling Dale’s scent, storing it in her memory banks for when she left to chase another storm.

Finally Dale pulled away, but kept her hands on the brunette’s arms. “Where are you staying?”

“I find places.” Sutton smiled, a bit of pride in her eyes.

“You have nowhere?” Dale was surprised, though it made sense. Since the taller woman moved around so much, where logically would she stay? “How long are you staying in Chicago?”

Sutton shrugged. “Until the storms pass.”

“Well, until they do, I want you to stay with me.”

“Oh, uh, Dale, I can’t do that. Really, it’s no necessary,” Sutton protested.

“I know. But it wasn’t necessary for you to save my life, check on me afterward to make sure I was okay, then hang around too save my life again,” Dale said, ticking off each incident on her fingers. “Somehow I don’t think necessary or unnecessary is relevant in this conversation. You’re staying.”

Sutton chuckled, nodding slightly. “Alright.” She wasn’t’ sure how she felt about the invite, but didn’t want the smile on Dale’s face to go away.

“Great. Now that that’s settled, I’m hungry.”

)))

Sutton let the bodysuit fall to the floor with a loud flop. It sounded as though she’d just dropped a suit of rubber armor. In some ways she had, she supposed. The buttery light of the bathroom was bathing her skin in a golden hue. She studied her nudity, taking in the pale skin and lean lines. A few scars marked her body from mishaps as a child. It seemed no matter how minor the injury, anything due to current left its mark on her skin and on her soul. She didn’t want to think about that.

She felt strange accepting the kindness Dale was paying her. She’d never stuck around long enough to meet anyone she’d helped in the past, so it was definitely a different situation for the brunette. Though in all honesty, no one in the past had caught her attention the way the blonde did. She had no idea what it was. Yes, Dale had been far too young for what had befallen her that day last summer, but young people died every day. What was so different about Dale? What made her special? Sutton did not know, but she did know that the blonde was special. Something about her, about he fire and demeanor. The life in her eyes. The determination in every step she took, which still contained a slightly lingering limp from her injuries.

She turned the knobs, the water power high as the water charged from the faucet. Making sure the temperature was right, Sutton turned the knob that would get the shower going, and stepped around the open shower door. The initial jolt as she was immersed in the water roared through her, but was soon replaced by a pleasant hum.` The warmth felt good to her tired body. Her stomach was full for the first time in awhile, as she usually just grabbed what she could, when she could. She had learned how to conserve energy over the years, as well as the recharge, which gave her energy food never could.

Above all, though, Sutton was enjoying her time spent with Dale. The blonde was quiet and thoughtful, and Sutton felt the need to try and find out everything about her.

As she stepped out of the shower, she looked again at the pile of clothing Dale had given her to put on. It would be strange without the bodysuit, but in some ways, the brunette looked forward to the change. She pulled the t – shirt on, then the shorts. Dale assured her they were large on the small blonde, and as promised, fit Sutton fairly well. Looking in the mirror again, she was surprised to see a different person staring back at her. A normal person.

Dale was lounging on the couch, trying to figure out what the hell made her invite a total stranger into her home. Yes, Sutton had saved her life. Again. And yes, she was grateful, but all the same, the brunette was in fact a stranger, and a very bizarre human being. The blonde now believed her, but still . . . What was Sutton capable of? Could she do any damage with her “powers”, for lack of a better term. Dale didn’t even know what to call them, what to make the of the entire situation. All she knew was that, to her shock, Sutton didn’t scare her anymore. In fact, if anything, she felt safe and comfortable around the beautiful brunette; She was curious about her, wanting to know about her past, about who she was s a person. Way there anywhere she considered home? Did she have any family, since her mother was dead, and her father, as well. Any grandparents somewhere that she was able to go to from time to time and call home? It was heartbreaking for Dale to think that maybe that wasn’t the case, and that Sutton was truly alone in a world that would never understand her. What did she go through on a daily basis? What demons did she have to face as she traveled the world, chasing storms? What kind of life was that, and did she have anything at all to ground her?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the bathroom door. Sutton stepped out, dressed in the clothing Dale had given her to wear. She looked so different in regular clothing – even more beautiful, if that was possible.

“Have a nice shower?” the blonde asked, tucking her feet up under her .
“Yes. Thank you. I have to say, I feel a bit out of place in this,” the brunette chuckled, fingering the hem of her shirt. Dale laughed.

“Well, you certainly look more in place.” She watched as Sutton walked across he room, sitting in the arm chair, stick straight, as if she had no idea what to do with herself. Dale smiled in understanding. “So, uh, do you have to . . . recharge . . . today?”

Sutton shrugged. “I can , or I can go without. I charged last night, so . . . ”

“Right. And then some, right?”

“Yes.” Sutton chuckled. “and then some.

Dale was quiet, unsure of what to say or do. For some reason, she felt awkward. They hadn’t done much talking since their discussion that morning, and all of Sutton’s revelations. Dale couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful woman sitting next to her. She had no idea what to say to her, never one for small talk, but she just couldn’t wrap her mind around the woman, her situation, nor how beautiful she was. Sutton was perhaps the most beautiful woman the blonde had ever seen that wasn’t dolled up on TV or a movie. Sutton, hair wet and slicked back from her face, not a stick of makeup on, and about as natural as she could get, was stunning. She seemed to glow with her own inner light. Maybe it had something to do with the loads of electricity washing through her body, but Dale didn’t’ think so.

“What?” the brunette asked, feeling green eyes on her. She met Dale’s bemused gaze.

“Nothing.” Clearing her throat, the blonde scooted up from she’d slouched on the couch. “So where did your suit come from?”

“I made it. Gathered pieces of various types of rubber over the years, slowly stitching it all together, and replacing the parts that become damaged when I need to. It’s a never – ending process.”

“I bet. Do you ever wear regular clothes?”

Sutton shook her head. “Not very often, no. I feel naked,” she said sheepishly. Dale smiled, but then turned away, suddenly an image off the brunette just that popping into her head. She was shocked at the vision, and somewhat ashamed.

“Who was that man that was with you, in the apartment?” Sutton asked, realizing by the look of confusion on Dale’s face that perhaps she shouldn’t have asked that. Now Dale would know she’d been watched.

“What man?”

“Uh, the tall man with dark hair. I saw him last time I was here. The night you fell. I also saw him at the hospital.”

“Blake?” Dale asked stupidly. From the other woman’s shrug she continued. “I don’t’ know where he’s at. We work together.”

Sutton was confused. “You’re not with him?”

Dale chuckled, shaking her head. “No.”

“Oh.”

“Why did you think that?” Dale was truly curious. She also wanted to know how many times Sutton had seen Blake for him to have made an impression on her.

“Uh,” why indeed. Sutton panicked for a moment, trying to figure out what to say, and how to respond. She didn’t know why, it was just a hunch. She decide to tell the blonde as much. “Just thought so. The way he looks at you, it looks like, well, like he loves you.”

“God, I hope not.,” Dale blew out. “He was interested in me last year, as he told me as much, but that was it. Nothing since then. I think he got the idea..”

Sutton was surprised by the relief she felt. A small smile graced her lips, and she visibly relaxed.

“What about you? I know you don’t stay anywhere long, but anyone special? Some handsome guy who’s life you saved?” dale grinned, almost holding her breath as she waited for a response.

“No,” the brunette said softly, looking down at her hands. “I basically avoid people, so any time I come into contact with them, I don’t’ stick around long enough to find anything about them interesting.”

“Except me?” the blonde surmised. She smiled at the shy grin she saw on Sutton’s face before the brunette turned away. Her smile softened. “You’re so shy, Sutton. You don’t’ have to be with me. I wont judge you, won’t call the police on you again.”

Sutton smiled, looking at her folded hands in her lap. “No, I don’t think you will. I’m just not used to this, used to being in someone’s house, around the presence of another person. It’s very odd for me. Its been such a long time,”

“Why do you isolate yourself so badly, Sutton?” Dale asked softly, reaching out to brush a few long, fallen strands of hair out of the brunette’s face. Sutton looked up at her for a moment before her gaze fell again.

“Because no one can understand, and I know how dangerous it is for me, if anyone found out. People don’t deal too well with those that are different and unique. Especially this kind of unique. Doctors would have a field day with me.”

Dale nodded at the truth of those words. Hell, her own co – workers would have a field day with Sutton. “I see. You have no one, do you?”

Sutton didn’t answer, she didn’t’ need to. Dale could see it in her blue eyes. Instead she took a deep breath, running a hand through her still – damp hair.

“You know what amazes me about you is that you’re so strong, so very capable, yet I see a lost soul in your eyes, Sutton. It breaks my heart.”

Sutton was surprised by the words, and even more so by the soft, profoundly sad tone of Dale’s voice. She looked over at the blonde, slowly shaking her head. “Don’t be sad for me, Dale. It’s just the way the cards fell. There’s nothing I can do to change it, so I do what I have to to survive. And, besides,” she shrugged, trying to put a brave smile on her face. “I got to meet you.”

“Yes, you did. And I’m glad for it. You’re someone special, I can tell.”

“No more so than you or Blake.”

Dale took Sutton’s warm hand in her own, squeezing slightly. “Let’s just agree to disagree and watch a movie, okay?”

The brunette laughed in relief, squeezing the hand around hers in return with a nod.

^^^

Blake felt his impatience grow as he waited. Raising his fist, he was about to knock again, when finally he heard the release of chains and locks on the other side The door opened, and Dale looked back at him.

“Hi,” he grinned, bringing up his hand to present her with the bag of German chocolate coffee. He knew how much she enjoyed it.

“Oh, uh, hi. Thanks. What’s this for?” the blonde reluctantly took the coffee, looking up at him with questioning eyes.

“No reason. Just wanted to do something nice. Are you busy?” without an invite. The dark – haired man stepped around Dale and into her apartment. Dale looked after him, stunned, but then closed the door.

“Well, uh, yeah, actually I am. I’ve got company.”

Blake froze at the words. He did his level best to keep his voice calm. “Oh yeah? Who’s that?”

Dale walked into the living room where she’d left Sutton lounging on her end of the couch. The movie they’d been watching was paused. “Blake, this is my friend, Sutton. Sutton, Blake.”

Sutton felt a small surge rush through her, and she realized it was jealousy. She could see it returned in his dark eyes.

“Hello, Sutton,” the man said with a nod of acknowledgement. “Girl’s night at the movies?” he asked, a forced smile on his lips.

“Yeah. Was there something you needed, Blake? Otherwise, we can talk about it at the lab Monday.”

“Yeah,” he tore his eyes off the woman on the couch, and looked at the blonde who stood in the living room doorway, arms crossed over her chest. “I was wondering if you wanted to catch some dinner. Maybe a show, but I guess not.”

“No, sorry, Blake. As I said, I’ve got company.” Dale tried to hide her irritation with a smile, though felt it came out a bit twisted and sarcastic than friendly apology.

“Right. Okay. Well, uh, Sutton, it was nice meeting you.” He didn’t even give the brunette a second glance as he made his way toward the door, Dale following close behind. Something about the woman with dark hair, who looked to be wearing one of Dale’s t – shirts by the way, stuck him. Something . . . familiar, perhaps? He couldn’t place it. He said his goodbyes to the blonde, fuming his way back down to his car.

Dale re – locked the door then plopped down next to her friend, sighing heavily.

“You could have gone, Dale,” Sutton said softly. “You can still go. I can leave – ”

“No! This is where I want to be, and what I want to be doing. I hate it when he just drops by like that. The man has no consideration for boundaries.” She shivered, remembering the kiss from a year ago.

In truth, Sutton hadn’t liked B lake from the moment she saw him a year ago. Something about him made her skin crawl and defenses standup. She certainly didn’t’ like him hanging around Dale. She kept quiet..

Dale chewed on her lower lip, a feeling of dread warming her insides. Deciding to ignore it, she grabbed the remote, un – pausing the movie.
Part 3
Dale started awake, lifting her head from the pillow and looking around the dark bedroom. Nothing was amiss, though she saw a blue glow coming from the living room. Wiping the sleep out of her eyes, she pushed the sheet back and slipped her shorts on. Padding into the living room, she figured Sutton must be watching TV. What she saw stopped her in her tracks.

The brunette lay on the couch, head propped up on two pillows, hands hovering over her stomach with her fingers curled, hands not more than six inches apart. Between them arched brilliant blue tongues of electricity, creating a bit of a cat’s cradle. Dale’s gasp of surprise got the brunette’s attention, the light fading with a soft hiss.

“Sorry if I woke you,” the brunette whispered, feeling as though she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Dale couldn’t speak for a moment, still seeing the brilliance of the light show in her mind’s eye. She’d never seen anything like it, and was mesmerized. Sutton cleared her throat nervously as she studied the blonde, unsure what to say. She looked as though she’d seen a ghost. “Sorry. I couldn’t sleep.”

Finally shaking herself out of her daze, Dale ran a trembling hand through her hair. “What were you doing just now?” She could barely make out Sutton’s features in the newly darkened room.

“Just playing, I guess. Keeping myself occupied.” Sutton’s grin was sheepish.

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. Can you just do that at will?”

“Yes.” With a soft hum, a string of electricity spread out between the fingers of her left hand, the bolts licking between her fingers and swirling around her hand.. Dale took a step toward the couch, but then stopped, remembering that the light show was deadly. She watched as the blue light sent shadows to Sutton’s face, painting it with eerie patterns of darkness, and sunken features.

“Can, . . . can you shoot that out? Like Zeus and his lightning blots?”

Sutton chuckled, shaking her head. “No.” She glanced up at the blonde woman. “Come here, Dale,” she said softly. Cautious, Dale stepped over to the couch, sitting on the coffee table in front of it. “Hold your hand up.” The blonde looked at her, unsure and nervous. Sutton smiled. “It’s okay. It won’t hurt you.” When Dale did as asked, the brunette brought her own hand up, placing it within a foot of the blonde’s. The electric current swirling around her own hand began to react slightly, a finger or two licking out at the air in the direction of Dale’s palm. Sutton brought their hands closer together, the current stretching out further as it neared Dale, the blonde’s heart rate picking up, her breathing growing heavy with nervous excitement. She noticed the closer the bolt got to her hand, the more the light turned from the blue brilliance to a dull purple. “It’s okay,” Sutton whispered, noting the sweat that was beginning to form on Dale’s forehead.

Dale swallowed hard, watching with wide eyes as the finger finally reached her palm. On contact, she gasped, a small, not unpleasant, jolt racing up her arm. As she watched, the purple light began to spread out from her palm to tickle her fingers, the line unbroken from Sutton. It reminded her of one of those electric balls at novelty shops, where the bolts of mild electricity followed the touch upon the glass globe the bolt was jailed inside.

“I can’t believe this,” she whispered, breathless. She watched in awe as Sutton moved her hand, making the current dance between their palms, coming closer, further apart, then close together again, until their fingers were entwined, the dazzling blue/purple spectacle crawling over their joined hands.

Sutton watched Dale’s face, loving the look of wonder and awe she saw reflected in those green eyes. She was careful as she controlled the level of current racing from her body, but increased it ever so slightly, just enough to make the color more brilliant. Dale gasped at the new jolt, which she felt all the way down to her toes, and everywhere in between, all of her nerve endings twitching and tingling.

“What do you feel, Dale?”

The blonde tried to think, her eyes half – hooded at the sensations flooding her body. She heard the question, but it took her a moment to decipher what Sutton was asking. “I feel.. alive. Everything is jumping, all my cells, all vying for attention, it seems. I feel a tingle weaving its way through me.”

“That’s how I feel at every moment of the day,” Sutton whispered, unclasping Dale’s hand and pulling back, the string of electric current stretching with it.

“This is incredible,” Dale breathed, eyes finally falling shut. She barely heard Sutton’s request for her to lie on the couch. Slowly she moved herself over, the tingle momentarily gone as Sutton pulled back. The blonde rested her head on the pillow the brunette had recently abandoned, the softness seeming more intense, acute, as her body tried to adjust.

Sutton took the blonde’s perch on the coffee table, looking over the prone body of Dale. She was curious, her own heart racing double time, and she had no idea why. She could see Dale’s breasts through the thin t – shirt she wore, heaving with every breath the blonde took.

“Relax,” she whispered, taking Dale’s hands and unclenching them, where they lay on top of the blonde’s stomach, resting them at her sides. “I won’t hurt you.”

Dale nodded, knowing this was true. She took several deep breaths, her fists unclenching. She could still feel the tingle at the center of her palm, almost as though someone had stuck it with a very hot pin. She opened her eyes, looking up at Sutton. The brunette hovered over her, her hand almost levitating over the blonde’s torso, Sutton looking at it in infinite concentration. Lowering it to just an inch or two above her stomach, Dale heard a soft hum, then felt as though a wave of white heat caressed the muscles over her stomach

Sutton watched, almost hypnotized, as she could see the skin and muscles of Dale’s stomach and torso reacting to the light touch, through the material of her shirt. The brunette used what she called a soft touch – pressure gauged in her mind, as though using a feather – light caress atop skin. The current was small, a mere tickle for the body’s cells. She brought her hand up, concentrating the touch into her finger, running a line up from the area of Dale’s belly button up to her breast bone. She noticed with a bit of panic that she’d left a thin line of scorched cotton in her wake.

“Shit, I’m sorry, Dale,” she whispered. The blonde’s eyes opened, and looked down at herself, chuckling lightly at what she saw.

“It’s okay.” Biting her bottom lip, she studied the brunette for a moment, then without allowing herself to think, or rather, re – think, she sat up, whipped her shirt off and laid back down. Sutton stared in astonishment, frozen for a moment before taking a breath. Her gaze was drawn to the blonde’s bared breasts, the light, pink nipples hardening before her eyes.

Sutton felt a pull in her sex, which she’d never felt before, and had no idea what to do with. She thought Dale was beautiful, one of the most beautiful things she’d ever seen. Bringing her attention back to her own hand, she resumed its placement, gently touching with current, careful to avoid the blonde’s heart. Though the voltage was extremely low and harmless, she could tell by the more – than – steady rise and fall of Dale’s chest that her heart was already pounding.

Dale had never felt anything so exquisite as Sutton’s hand moved up, between her breasts, and down around her right one, skin never touching skin. The small hum of the electricity Sutton was sharing with the blonde filled the air around them. She could feel her skin tightening, her sensors expanding and pulsing. The blonde gasped when she felt an intense tingle wash through her right nipple, sending jolts of home – grown electricity to the blonde’s center.

Sutton was infinitely fascinated by Dale’s reactions. She wasn’t sure what this little exercise would do, but never expected the reaction she was getting. The blonde’s body began to move subtly, her back arching ever so slightly. Her hands clenched and unclenched at her sides, head back, eyes closed. Sutton’s gaze traveled back to the blonde’s body, her breasts in particular. They were beautiful.

She hadn’t meant to touch over her nipple, but liked what happened when she had, so decided to make a second pass. Dale moaned softly, her back arching a bit more. Sutton concentrated the finger of electricity on the area, feeling her own insides clench even more. She glanced at the blonde’s left breast, noting the painfully hard nipple, the fingers of her other hand itching to touch it, feel the softness of the skin around it, the firm roundness.

“Oh, god, Sutton!” Dale whimpered when she felt her left breast enveloped in soft warmth. Her panties were slick with the sudden need that filled her. Opening her eyes, she looked into the brunette’s flushed face, noting the pulse point in Sutton’s neck, pounding her own desires. The blonde reached up, and in a surprise move, cupped the back of Sutton’s neck, pulling the taller woman down. Their lips met, creating sparks of their own.

Sutton was surprised, but moaned into Dale’s mouth, her body igniting as the unfamiliar craving spread through her. She needed desperately to touch Dale, and be touched by her in turn. The feel of Dale’s mouth against her own was like magic, the softness taking her breath away. Her hands left their posts as she was pulled fully down atop the blonde. She settled her body out along Dale’s,

Dale had no idea what came over her, never in her life initiating sex, let alone with a stranger, and a woman to boot. But something inside her had awoken, and she had never wanted anything as badly as she wanted Sutton in that moment.

Sutton felt hands slide down her back and rest on her ass, pushing her further into Dale. She gasped at the sensations running through her, trying to help as suddenly those hands were on the hem of her t – shirt, tugging frantically at it. She lifted herself to her knees, kneeling between the blonde’s legs. The shirt went flying into the darkness. She looked down at the beautiful woman beneath her, whom had invaded her thoughts for more than a year. She could see the need in Dale’s eyes, and figured it undoubtedly matched that in her own. She decided to take a chance, and grasped the waistband of Dale’s shorts and panties, tugging them down in one, smooth stroke.

Dale groaned softly, lifting her hips and pulling her legs out of the garments, not caring where the landed, as they, too disappeared into the darkened room. She reached down between her spread legs, tugging on Sutton’s own shorts, which were promptly removed.

“Come here,” she breathed, pulling the brunette back down on top of her. She moaned at the feel of Sutton’s overly heated skin pressing against her own. It was pure bliss. She found the brunette’s mouth again, finding her tongue and sucking it into her mouth. Sutton moaned, her hands slithering between Dale and the couch cushions, hugging their bodies together and pushing down with her hips, crying out when Dale pushed back into her.

“I don’t know what to do,” she gasped, unable to concentrate on just one part of her body – all of her was on sensor overload, and she was overwhelmed. The blonde seemed to be able to sense this, cupping Sutton’s face in her hands and making the brunette look at her.

“It’s okay, baby. I don’t, either. We’ll figure it out, okay?”

Sutton felt relieved and nodded, bringing her mouth back to Dale’s. She had no clue what she was doing, no, but was eager to try it out. She now realized that a small part of her had wanted to kiss Dale since the moment she’d seen her, even broken as she was.

Sutton met Dale’s hooded gaze as she began to move her hips, both gasping at the ripple of pleasure that shot through both of them as their sexes made contact. She kissed the blonde gently, then lifted to look into her face gain. She felt such a connection to Dale, one that she couldn’t explain, but the ability to allow that connection to manifest in their physical bonding was incredible for her.

Dale couldn’t believe the heat that was pouring from Sutton – her wetness was almost too hot against the blonde’s skin. She wrapped her legs around the taller woman, burying her hands in long, thick hair as she brought their mouths together in a deep, heated kiss. She couldn’t believe how ready her body was, and knew that it wouldn’t take long for her to reach her limit.

As they moved their hips against and with each other, the room was filled with heavy breathing and the mixture of their wetness. Sutton felt her orgasm closing in, her hips working hard, lower stomach slapping against Dale’s. She heard the blonde suck in a breath, then he body went rigid, legs tightening around her to keep their bodies close, the pressure exactly where she needed it. Watching Dale’s release brought on Sutton’s own. She cried out in surprise at the waves of pleasure that pounded her into near blackness.

Dale clung to the taller woman, waiting for her convulsions to calm. Just as the blonde was getting her breath back, it was stolen again as a hot mouth wrapped around her nipple, sucking on it and batting at it with a gentle tongue.

“Oh, Sutton,” she cried, pressing the dark head closer into her. She felt Sutton’s stomach between her legs, and pressed u into it. She couldn’t believe how quickly she was aroused again. Typically with her, one and she was done. But as she felt Sutton’s skin upon her own, mouth licking a scorching trail over her chest, Dale knew she was far from done this night.

Sutton couldn’t get enough of the taste of Dale’s skin. She used her mouth, tongue and instinct to guide her down the blonde’s body, sculpting the pliant flesh into her own creation as she went. The sounds Dale was making fueled her on, giving her confidence which she had no right to entertain.

Dale nearly shot off the couch when Sutton’s tongue grazed the apex of her thigh. Flopping back to the pillows, all she could do was groan and spread her legs, one raising to rest along the back of the couch. Sutton took the blatant invitation to heart, using her fingers to stroke the soft skin of Dale’s leg while her tongue tasted the blonde for the first time. It was like nothing she had ever tasted or done – strange and foreign, but beyond sensuous. She ran her tongue through the blonde’s sex, gathering the abundant moisture as she went, allowing it to coat her lips and chin.

Dale was lost in a world of lustful haze as her eyes slipped closed, her head arched back. She reached down, buying her fingers in Sutton’s hair, pressing her a bit harder into her task. When the brunette began to lap at her clit, Dale thought she’d pass out. Her breathing was growing shallow as she tried to retain control of her body. It was a losing battle.

Sutton brought up a hand, teasing around the blonde’s entrance, waiting for some kind of permission or sign that she should. Dale bucked her hips, slightly bringing the tip of Sutton’s finger inside. It was enough for her. She heard the long, guttural groan as she pressed on, entering with one finger. Dale reached down between her own legs, urging Sutton to use a second, which she swiftly did.

Sutton returned her mouth to the blonde, lapping up everything she had to offer, continuing her thrusting in a quick, steady rhythm. It wasn’t long before she felt Dale’s inner walls tightening around her fingers, the blonde crying out as she exploded for a second time. Dale felt dizzy and lightheaded at the intensity of her release, her entire body shuddering with the aftershocks.

Sutton climbed back up her body, gathering her into a tight embrace as the brunette whispered nonsense words in her ear, kissing her face and lips.

“That was so intense,” she finally was able to mutter, looking up into Sutton’s beautiful eyes. The brunette nodded.

“It was. Thank you for that.”

“no need.” Dale pulled the taller woman down until Sutton’s head was lying on her upper chest, their bodies fully entwined.

“Am I too heavy?” Sutton murmured against the blonde’s skin.

“No. Please stay here.”

Sutton sighed heavily, fully content. She didn’t have to be asked twice.

^^^

Vaguely Dale remembered being woken up and helped to the bedroom. As she opened her eyes, the tiniest signs of a new morning filtering through the curtains, she realized that she was lying on top of Sutton, her arms tucked at her own sides. Sutton had the blonde wrapped fully in her arms, the blonde’s head rising and falling along with Sutton’s steady breathing. The smell of the brunette’s upper chest was intoxicating, and Dale inhaled deeply. She brought her hand up, touching the warm, soft skin. The scientist in her kicked in, thoughts parading through her mind – what was Sutton’s steady body temperature? What did her organs look like? What did she taste like?

The last question took the blonde off guard, her mind managing to stay in fairly even territory; or she thought. But now that the thought had been planted, it was starting to grow. She raised her head, looking into the peaceful face of Sutton, still very much asleep. A bit of mischief in her green eyes, Dale lowered her head again, though this time face – first.

She could feel the soft skin of Sutton’s breasts against her upper chest. She placed a soft kiss just above and between the firm breasts, slowly moving her body down until she was at eye – level with them. Sutton sighed in her sleep as Dale gave one nipple a tentative lick. She watched, fascinated, as the skin quickly hardened and increased in size. Liking the effect, she moved to the other, this time sucking it into her mouth rhythmically.

Sutton awoke to the sensations pulsing through her. Immediately she knew who was touching her, and her body relaxed, a hand finding its way into the soft, blonde hair at her breast. The feel of Sutton’s encouraging hand spurred Dale on. She eased off the brunette’s body, lying along side her, mouth never leaving its prize.

As Dale concentrated on Sutton’s breast, her hand began to wander, feeling the soft skin, the warmth that poured from it. She inhaled deeply, taking in the new smell that wafted to her nose – Sutton’s arousal. She kissed her way up to the brunette’s mouth, finding it hot and ready as her fingers delved into the extremely hot wetness between Sutton’s legs.

Sutton moaned into the blonde’s mouth, her legs falling open, allowing Dale’s fingers to slip deeper into the wetness, lightly stroking the hard, slick center of Sutton’s current world. Their kiss deepened, growing passionate and desperate. Sutton held Dale’s head to her, tasting every part of her mouth that she could, her own hand finding its way to the blonde’s breast. Dale moaned into the kiss, increasing her strokes between Sutton’s legs.

Sutton could feel the pressure rising, building to an uncontainable high. She clenched her thighs shut around Dale’s hand, crying out into the blonde’s mouth,.

“Yes, baby,” Dale whispered, “let it go . . . ”

Sutton rode out the waves that crashed over her before falling limp on the bed, eyes closed and mouth open as she regained her balance on reality.

“Are you okay?” Dale asked, gently kissing Sutton’s lips. The brunette nodded, a soft smile on her lips.

“Yes. That was wonderful.”

“Good morning,” the blonde grinned.

“What a way to wake up!”

^^^

After breakfast, Sutton went to take a shower, Dale checking in on weather reports. She prayed the summer storms were here to stay for at least a little while, as she knew Sutton would be gone as soon as they were. The weather man answered her prayers.

“Yes!” The blonde hopped up from the couch and walked over to the closed bathroom door. She could hear the sound of the running shower, and was about to turn away, knowing the brunette wasn’t likely to be able to hear her over the spray. A grin spread across her face as an idea bloomed.

Sutton was humming softly to herself as she washed her still – sensitive body, closing her eyes and sighing at the recent memories. It had been nothing she was prepared, either to happen, or for it to be as amazing as it was, when it did. Dale had taken her places the brunette didn’t even know existed! She was enthralled with the new experience, and knew she could never get enough of the blonde. She needed to figure out a way to stay in the area. She might have to go back to using random power lines. She hated doing that, but . . . She would do it for Dale.

Sutton was startled by a sudden spark and cry. She shoved the shower curtain aside to see a dazed Dale sitting flat on her ass in the middle of the bathroom floor. The blonde was naked, and wide – eyed. Sutton tried to keep her laughter inside, knowing that the blonde was alright. When Sutton wasn’t expecting company near water, she didn’t know to keep her energies down and natural current low.

Stepping out of the tub, she walked over to the prone blonde, kneeling. “Shocking, isn’t it?” she grinned.

Dale could only stare up at her, wondering how the hell she’d gotten on the floor. She accepted Sutton’s help to her feet, still feeling a trace of the shock that had run through her body, knocking her off her feet.

“What the hell just happened?” she finally asked, taking a shaky breath.

“You don’t need a small appliance to throw in the tub when you have me. I’m sorry, Dale. I didn’t know you were coming. I wasn’t controlling the current.”

“S’kay,” Dale breathed, still dazed. She smiled at the gentle kiss she got, then took Sutton’s hand when it was offered, the brunette leading her toward the tub. Dale was now weary, but believed the brunette’s promise that it wouldn’t happen again. Dale found that showering with Sutton was certainly electrifying, and it had nothing to do with an abundance of current running through the blonde.

An hour and a half later, the women were giggling as Sutton tried to use her energy to fry a piece of toast. Tiny scorch marks marked the piece of bread in a smiley face. They almost didn’t hear the knock on the door for their laughter. Dale sent the brunette to answer it, as she was trying to get herself under control. She hadn’t had this much fun in years!

Sutton still chuckled as she unchained the front door and pulled it open. A less – than thrilled Blake stood on the other side. He looked the brunette over, noting the wet hair and flushed cheeks, as well as the fact that she wore only a t – shirt and panties.

He was surprised to see Dale’s friend answer, but as he looked at her, his brows drew. Something was wrong with this picture, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

“Blake?”

His gaze moved past the brunette to where Dale stood at the entrance of the hallway, dressed similarly to Sutton, a spatula in hand. “Uh,” suddenly he very much felt like he was intruding. He didn’t like it. “I brought you your Saturday morning newspaper and bagel. Though I’m late today.” He held up the bag lamely. He had purposefully come late, hoping Dale’s friend would be gone.

“Oh. Right.” Dale had forgotten. For some reason, every single Saturday, come rain or shine, her co – worker had done this. It was a sweet gesture, but never asked for. “Thank you. Um,” she glanced at Sutton, then back to their uninvited guest. “We were just making breakfast.”

“At one in the afternoon?” He noticed for the first time that Dale’s hair was just as wet as the brunette’s, and the unmistakable flush of post – coital happiness tinged her cheeks. Anger and jealousy flared through him at dangerous speeds, and he felt nauseous. “I see,” he said softly, setting the bag and newspaper on the entryway table, and slamming out of the apartment.

“Shit. Blake!” Dale ran after him, managing to catch him before he got onto the elevator. The dark – haired man stared at her, eyes hard. “First of all, I don’t owe you any sort of explanation, but I do consider you a friend, so I’ll give you one.”

He cut her off. “Is she why you would never give me a chance?”

“No, Blake, it’s not. I just didn’t feel the same way about you, is all. I’m sorry – ”

“Forget it. If you want to play your dyke games, fine.” Blake stepped into the car and hit the button with finality. He glared at the blonde as the doors closed, and he disappeared.

“Well, that went well.” Dale ran a hand through her hair as she headed back to the apartment. Sutton was back in the kitchen, making sure the eggs and bacon wouldn’t burn. She glanced sheepishly at the blonde, waiting to be tossed out onto her ear. She was surprised when the blonde walked over to her and hugged her from behind, resting her forehead on Sutton’s upper back. “I’m sorry about that,” she mumbled into the cotton of the taller woman’s shirt.

“No, I’m sorry. Maybe I should – ”

“No!” Dale turned the brunette around, looking up into her blue eyes. “Blake doesn’t own me, and I don’t owe him a damn thing. He’s a friend to me, and that’s all. I think he finally got the message loud and clear today.” She reached up and placed a gentle kiss upon Sutton’s lips. “Let’s just enjoy our day, okay?”

^^^

Blake couldn’t believe what he’d seen earlier in the day. Never in a million years had he figured Dale for a dyke. Never! If that were the case, why hadn’t she just told him, and spared him the humiliation? Not to mention money. If he added up the cost of the fucking bagels on Saturdays, coffee and lunches during the week, time spent at the hospital . . . The thought made him angry all over again.

Slugging back his fifth shot of Jack, the man returned his attention back to the stage before him, the girls wiggling their tits and ass at him, looking for a good tip. As he stuffed a nice, crisp twenty into the g – string of the closest dancer, he wondered what else they needed. Maybe he’d get lucky again, and could grab a quick bit of snatch out back, like before. His body burned at the thought. He was a man, goddamn it, a natural, hot – blooded, meat – packin’ man! Any woman wanted that, and by god, he was going to prove it!

^^^

Sutton had hated leaving Dale, who slept soundly after another marathon session of lovemaking, but she had to. The exertion of the past day, as well as lack of recharging, had taken its toll on the brunette. She had been out prowling for about an hour, waiting for the rains to start. She could smell it in the air, and knew it was coming. Glancing up into the heavy night sky, she sighed, impatient. All she wanted to do was get back to the blonde and feel her naked skin against her own. Who knew that was such an amazing experience?

Sutton hummed softly to herself as she walked the streets, ducking out of view at every pedestrian that came near. Spending time with Dale over the past couple days had made her feel as close to normal as she ever had. Well, since her father had been alive. He’d always told her no matter what, she was just like everyone else, and those who thought differently be damned. It didn’t take long after his death for her to see differently. The world hated her, and she had become one with the world of darkness and freaks, escaping normalcy and all its expectations.

But, Dale . . . The blonde made her feel like she could do anything, be anyone, even normal.

Sutton was rocked out of her thoughts when she realized she almost walked right into a couple in the alley. She slunk back into the shadows, ready to climb away into the night, but something stopped her. Something about one of the people seemed . . . familiar. As she watched, she realized it was a man and a woman, the woman’s back against the wall. They were kissing, some light petting. Everything seemed fine, just a horny couple, but then the man brought his hand down to the hem of the woman’s short skirt.

“Wait, baby,” she said, breaking the kiss and reaching down to remove his wandering hand. “I’m not ready for that, yet.”

“The state of your underwear says a little different,” Blake said.

Blake? Shit! Sutton scurried closer, staying close to the wall, her body buzzing with possible trouble. She should leave now, get out before she was seen. The next few minutes made that impossible.

“Wait, I told you I don’t want that!” A slap resounded in the smelly alley, Blake jerking back as his cheek still stung.

“Oh, you bitch,” he growled, shoving his entire body – weight against the whore who looked at him with wide eyes. He could feel himself growing hard as she played his game. She struggled, sure, and even made a few whimpered noises, but he could smell her arousal, hell, he felt her wet pussy! “Yeah, you’re ready for me,” he panted, his excitement growing beyond his control. This bitch would be perfect. When he looked at her bleached blonde hair, heavily made – up face, he could use his imagination and see Dale. He’d show her who could give it to her best –

Blake yelled out in surprise and pain as his head hit something hard, his erect penis sticking out of his pants obscenely as he lay sprawled against the opposite wall of the alley.

The woman had no idea what had just happened, but didn’t care. That bastard was off her, so she took the chance to get the hell out of there. She caught a glimpse of another woman in some weird – ass outfit just before she ran around the corner.

Sutton looked down at the man, her breathing heavy, hands clutched into fists. Energy pulsed through her. She glared at the dark – haired man, daring him to get up. Her gaze was met by Blake’s, his surprise quickly turning to rage. As he stood, he experienced a slight vertigo, but shook it off, stunned to see who stood before him.

Dale’s whore.

Somewhere in his pickled brain, reason came to him, and he knew that everything could be ruined in a split second. Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for the acting role of a lifetime.

“Sutton, right? Listen, I’m sorry you had to see that. Hell, I’m sorry it happened,” he ran a shaky hand through his hair. “It, things got out of control. I didn’t mean to hurt that woman, you know?”

Sutton remained silent, keeping an eye on the man. She didn’t trust him for a second.

“I’ve had a lot to drink.” He fell back against the wall, feigning sickness. “Oh man, too much. I need to get home.” Looking down at himself, he stuffed himself back into his pants, groaning at the painful hard on he still sported. Damn bitch. He turned to head out of the alley, curious to see what the woman would do. She remained silent, watching his every move. Turning, as if in afterthought, he made a final plea. “Please don’t say anything to Dale, Sutton, okay? This was a horrible, horrible incident. I’m deeply ashamed, and couldn’t stand it if she thought less of me. Okay?”

Sutton chewed over what he was saying, not sure what her place even was with this. She knew she couldn’t go to the police, and what if Blake was telling the truth? It was just a horrible, alcohol – induced incident? She nodded, if for nothing else, to give her time to think about it. Besides, she felt a storm coming on.

Blake was infinitely relieved as he hailed a cab, leaving that bitch behind.

The energy still tingled in every cell of her body as Sutton made her way back to Dale’s apartment. She slipped in the same way she’d slipped out, peeling the bodysuit from her skin as she stood in the darkened bedroom. The blonde was still in bed, lying on her stomach, clutching the pillow Sutton had been sleeping on. Her naked back was exposed, the skin smooth and beautiful.

Sutton felt alive and charged as she climbed onto the bed from the foot. She climbed over Dale’s body, hovering above the still – sleeping blonde. Carefully, she pulled the sheet further down, exposing the rest of Dale’s back, and the tops of her hips. Hungry, blue eyes took in the bounty before her, her fingers and mouth itching to partake.

Leaning slightly in, she nuzzled the skin between Dale’s shoulder blades, placing a soft kiss there. She smiled against the warm skin as Dale let out a long sigh, her hand reaching back to caress Sutton’s naked thigh.

“Where’d you go?” she whispered, sighing again at the trail of kisses that led up to the back of her neck.

“Had to recharge,” the brunette whispered into her ear, making Dale shiver. She pushed visions of what she found out of her head. For right now, she wanted to concentrate fully on Dale.

“Mm, I missed you.” Dale’s hips began to squirm slightly as her body slowly ignited. She felt Sutton’s warm touch caressing her back and sides, the brunette’s mouth paying homage to her neck and shoulders. She’d never had a lover that was so completely intoned to her body, or who took so much time with it. She moaned when Sutton brushed her own hard nipples along the blonde’s back.

“I missed you, too,” Sutton whispered into her neck. “The entire time I was out there, all I could think about was coming back here and making love to you.”

“Oh, Sutton,” Dale breathed, the soft words sending jolts of excitement throughout her body. She felt the brunette’s simmering excitement against her ass and pushed back into it. Sutton gasped, not expecting that little maneuver. It fueled on her excitement. Dale smiled when she felt Sutton press herself against her, grinding.

Sutton reached down, yanking the sheet out from between their bodies, settling herself down once more against Dale’s naked ass, the blonde pushing up to her knees. She leaned over Dale’s back as she gently thrust herself against the firmness. “I wish I could be inside you while I did this,” she moaned, Dale returning her excitement.

“Does that feel good?” Dale panted. She was shocked that her own excitement had doubled from the position, able to hear Sutton’s pleasure in her every breath.

“Yes,” Sutton whispered, raising to her own knees, holding on to Dale’s hips as she ground her clit and pubic bone into the blonde’s flesh. “Feels wonderful.”

Dale felt so vulnerable on her hands and knees, even more naked than she already was. But somehow that added to the moment, raising the level of taboo. She cried out in surprise and pleasure as she felt two of Sutton’s fingers enter her from behind. She began to move her hips in rhythm with the brunette’s thrusts against her.

“Oh, Jesus, Sutton,” she gasped. The combination of the taller woman’s thrusts against her, plus her thrusts inside of her, was driving the blonde toward orgasm quickly.

Sutton arched her head hack, eyes closed as she continued to pump, moving her hips in a circular motion to change the pressure on her clit. She couldn’t believe how wet Dale was, her hand filled with her essence.

“Oh, god, harder, baby, please,” Dale begged, the bed beginning to squeak as Sutton not only thrust harder inside the blonde, but also moved her own hips faster. They could both feel the pressure rising inside, Dale gasping as she felt Sutton’s almost molten – like desire painting her backside. Within moments, Dale exploded, crying out loudly as she clung to the headboard to support her sagging body. Sutton was so close, but hearing Dale’s rapture was all it took to send her flying. She gasped loudly as she held on painfully tight to the blonde’s hips, grinding the last of her pleasure out against her.

Dale was grateful as Sutton quickly wiped away the liquid fire from her skin. “You’re hotter tonight,” the blonde commented, turning over to her back, Sutton lying alongside her. The brunette nodded.

“Fully charged now.”

“I figured.” She reached up, kissing Sutton soundly before falling back to the bed, sighing in happy contentment. “That was wonderful.”

“Glad you liked it. I don’t know what came over me,” Sutton explained softly, almost shy. “I just saw you lying there, so beautiful . . . ”

“Oh, Sutton,” Dale placed her palm against the brunette’s cheek. “You never need to justify touching me. I loved it. I absolutely love making love with you.”

“Me, too.” Sutton rested on her back, pulling Dale to cuddle on top of her. She loved feeling the blonde against her, her comforting weight. Dale tucked her head in what was quickly becoming her favorite place, right under Sutton’s chin. They sighed in unison, chuckling at the sappiness of it all. Dale had no idea she could become so happy, and so quickly. She barely knew the brunette, yet something inside told her this was what true happiness was like. She wanted so desperately to finally show Sutton what being happy could be like. Hell, Dale wanted to know what true happiness felt like.

Sutton’s thoughts were very different as she held Dale close, loving the feel of the blonde’s warm, steady breath against her skin. She thought back to Blake and the woman he was accosting in the alley. Regardless of what he told her, Sutton had a very bad feeling about the situation. If she hadn’t shown up when she had, undoubtedly that terrified blonde would have been raped, or worse.

Yes, Blake had been drunk – Sutton could smell the alcohol on him, but still . . . That didn’t excuse anything. Dale deserved to know what her friend really was. His jealousy earlier that day had been unmistakable, and what if he decided to turn that darker side on Dale? The brunette would never forgive herself if anything happened to Dale. Besides, she may have to be moving on soon, which tormented Sutton’s soul. She felt like she had finally found a place to call home in Dale. She felt as though not only did she belong, but that she was actually wanted.

Would telling Dale what had happened hurt her chances with her? Perhaps the blonde wouldn’t believe her; after all, Dale had known Blake for a hell of a lot longer than she had Sutton. Also, Blake had been there for the blonde during her accident, had been there for Dale. Dale had said as much, herself, let alone what Sutton had seen with her own two eyes. She was hopelessly torn.

^^^

Dale noticed Sutton scratching her thigh for the fifth time in an hour. She stopped their progress through the open – air market with a hand on the brunette’s arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” the brunette said sheepishly, “just not used to this.” She indicated the jeans she wore, bought earlier in the day for their shopping expedition.

“Yeah, because you’re not wearing a second skin,” the blonde chuckled. She leaned in, whispering in the taller woman’s ear. “I think you look hot as hell in those.”

Sutton blushed, swallowing audibly. Her companion laughed and they continued on their way. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the two women seeming to not have a care in the world as they strolled, Dale picking up fresh fruits and vegetables. Even so, Sutton’s thoughts were dark and troubled. What would happen once the magical weekend was over? Tomorrow morning Dale would head back to work, and undoubtedly Sutton would be sent on her merry way. She didn’t want to leave, didn’t want to lose the blonde in her life.

“Are you okay?” Dale asked, almost able to feel the brunette’s troubled thoughts like crackles of static in the air. She met sad blue eyes. Once again stopping them, she gently tugged on the brunette’s hand, getting them out of the main traffic. “What is it? Sutton, if you’re not comfortable, we can go – ”

“No, that’s not it.” Sutton took a deep breath, deciding it was best to speak her mind, and not go on assumptions. Her father always said it only made an ass out of u and me.

“Then what is it?” Dale felt her heart rate pick up, nervous sweat beginning to gather under her arms.

“What happens tomorrow, Dale? Was this just a wonderful couple of days?”

The blonde was struck by the candid question, and relieved to have it out in the open finally. The same thoughts had troubled her since the night before. After they’d made love when Sutton returned, she had lain there for a long time, comforted and at the same time, tormented by the brunette’s steady breathing under her head. “What do you want this to be, Sutton? Do you want it to be just a wonderful couple of days?” Dale’s voice was weak. She was almost afraid of Sutton’s answer. She nearly cried in relief when the taller woman merely shook her head. “Okay. Then what do you want?”

“I want to be with you. I’ve never felt like I truly belonged to something before . . . until you.” Sutton saw the blonde’s radiant smile at her simple words. “I feel like you accept me, and don’t judge.” She looked down, feeling more like a silly, love – sick school boy than a thirty – two year old woman. “I don’t want to lose that.”

“Neither do I.” Dale pressed two fingers underneath the brunette’s chin, raising her face so she could look into her startlingly blue eyes. “I don’t want to lose you. I think we’ve been thrown together so many times for a reason.”

Overcome with her relief, Sutton grabbed the smaller woman and held her close, letting out the breath she’d been holding. Dale closed her eyes, absorbing the smells and feel of the brunette. A thought occurred to her.

“Wait,” she pulled back just enough to look up into the beautiful face. “What about the storms?”

Sutton smiled toothily. “I’ve been thinking about that. There are ways around it. They’re just highly illegal.”

“Oh, lord,” Dale rested her head against her neck again.

“We’ll work it out, Dale. I promise.”

^^^

Dale had never known such happiness as she did the first week Sutton was with her. They’d quickly managed to turn a strange situation into a happy, satisfying domestic one. She was working with Sutton every night after work, getting her out and about, around other people to make her feel comfortable. They were also beginning to stock up a wardrobe for the brunette. The way to acclimate into society was not to run around in a skin tight bodysuit made of rubber.

Friday afternoon was upon them, and Dale was happy enough to whistle. She couldn’t wait for the weekend, as she and Sutton had plans to take a road trip and get out of the city. Sutton said she had some places she wanted to show the blonde.

As Dale entered her office, she cried out in surprise. Blake sat in one of the chairs for guests, his hands behind his head as he sat casually, waiting.

“Jesus, Blake. You scared the hell of out me. What are you doing here?” the blonde peeled off her lab coat, hanging it on the hook mounted to the back of her office door. Taking a seat behind her desk, she looked at the dark – haired man expectantly.

“So how are you doing? Did your . . . company leave, yet?”

“What business is that of yours?” Dale could feel something coming off of Blake in waves. She couldn’t quite identify it, but didn’t like it. She immediately felt her defenses rising.

“I’m asking as a friend.” Blake sat forward in the chair, a beseeching look on his face. “This isn’t like you, Dale. I know you’re not like . . . that. Come on, we’re friends. You would have told me if you were.”

Dale looked into his pleading eyes, seeing something much darker just underneath the surface. “This isn’t about me, is it? You could give rat’s ass if I were gay, or fucking another woman, or whatever. This is about you. Isn’t it?” She searched his face, looking for some sign of recognition, something, anything.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Blake was taking it easy, playing his cards close to the vest. He had no idea what, or if that brunette bitch had told Dale anything. He’d purposefully stayed away from the blonde over the past week, hoping it would all blow over.

“You’re pissed off because you lost, not because I’m happy.”

“Happy?” he hissed, is anger taking over his good sense. “How can you be happy with some woman who gets her kicks crawling around in some strange bodysuit, watching people in alleyways? She’s weird, Dale,” he said, his voice low. “I don’t get a good feeling about her.”

Dale sat there, confused. “What are you talking about? Watching people in alleyways?”

Shit. Blake backpedaled, swallowing. “I saw her. The other night. She was sneaking around like some sort of thief. Hell, there was even some guy attacking a woman in the alley, and she just stood there, watching. I think she was getting off on it, Dale.”

“Oh?” the blonde asked, brow raised. She wasn’t convinced for a second.

“Yeah! If I hadn’t stepped in, god only knows what may have happened to that whore.”

Dale studied him, every hair on her body standing on end. Something was wrong here, very, very wrong. She wiped any expression off her face. “Thanks for the warning, Blake. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You do that.” Blake stood up on shaky legs, his heart pounding. He had the feeling he’d blown it.

^^^

Blake swung his suit jacket over his shoulder, digging his car keys out of his pants pocket. About to insert the key, he noted someone walking along the building, heading toward the back entrance where he’d just left. He recognized Dale’s bitch immediately. The tall brunette tried the door, finding it locked. Looking around, making sure no one was watching. Blake was most interested, wondering what the woman planned to do. He quietly made his way between two other cars to get a better view, ducking down. He sucked in a breath when he saw a single finger of electricity jump from the woman’s fingertips to the plate next to the door, where an employee’s I.D. was swiped in front of. The computer would read the code – bar and unlock the door. He heard the click of the lock released, the brunette slipping stealthily inside.

“What the fuck was that about?” Blake whispered to himself, unsure he had seen what he thought he saw. He knew she had nothing in her hand, no tools, no zapper device. Something was strange, here.

Sutton made her way down the hall, consulting the wall map she passed, looking for the direction of the chemists offices. She knew that’s where Dale’s office would be. A small smile spread across her lips as she thought how surprised the blonde would be. Hopefully she wouldn’t be mad. Coming to another set of locked doors, the brunette used the same handy way to get in, the doors wheezing shut behind her.

“Excuse me? Do you work here?”

Sutton stopped at the sound of the man’s voice. She turned, cursing herself for missing the security guard at his station. About to answer, she was rescued by another voice. A familiar voice.

“I’ll take care of this, Derrick. She’s a friend.” Blake walked over to Sutton, taking her arm in tight grip, letting her know not to argue. She followed him through another set of doors, then yet another, deeper into the heart of the facility. Blake said nothing, and Sutton wasn’t sure if she should, either. It wasn’t until Dale’s co – worker let them into a room with the swipe of his card, that the brunette became nervous. The room was large, a lab of some sort. Small cages lined the back wall, some with various types of rodents inside, others empty.

Prickles of ice began to slide down her spine. She turned, about to say something when her world went dark.

^^^

Dale gathered her purse and keys, shutting her computer down and lights out for the weekend. Closing her office door behind her, the blonde headed out, calling out a “Have a good weekend,” to Derrick as she went. The radio in her car was turned up loud, the blonde enjoying the music on her commute home. She was excited to see Sutton. Maybe they’d get some Italian for dinner, and then a gorgeous brunette for dessert.

Dale grinned at the lecherous thoughts.

She pulled into the parking garage under her building, heading up to her floor and unlocking the door. Everything was quiet and neat. She saw that Sutton had done the dishes, as well as the bed was made up with clean sheets.

“Baby?” Dale called out, tossing her jacket to the bed to be hung up after she changed into more comfortable clothes. There was no answer. “Sutton? Are you here?” A check in the bathroom told her she was alone. Disappointed, but figuring the brunette would be back soon, Dale got settled in to relax after a long week.

^^^

Blue eyes slowly blinked open, the sound of muffled voices entering her reality. A pounding in her head caused her to groan, a hand to find the injured area. The dark hair was hard from dried blood.

“She’s awake.”

Dr. Eugene Samms walked over to the large, metal cage, looking down at the woman who was starting to come around. Blake had filled him in on what he’d seen the woman do, and after a thorough search, nothing had been found – no pocket laser, no high – tech electric gadgets. Just a beautiful woman with extraordinarily high vital signs and an average body temperature of one hundred seven degrees, yet she showed no signs of clamminess or illness.

Dr. Samms assistant, Bobby Reynolds, followed the doctor, clipboard in hand. They stood near the cage, watching with curious eyes as the woman sat up, immediately touching the back of her head. Blake told them she’d given quite the struggle, and he’d had to hit her a few times. Hard.

“How are you?” the doctor asked, placing his hands casually on the bars of the cage. He met tormented blue eyes. Such a pretty color. “What is your name?”

“Where am I?” Sutton asked, ignoring the man’s question.

“I’m Dr. Samms, and it seems you have some very interesting bodily functions. Care to tell me about them?”

“Not really.” The brunette took in her surroundings, trying to figure out how the hell she’d ended up in a cage. The room beyond was a lab of some kinds – tables, counters and various scientific paraphernalia scattered. Then it hit her, literally. Blake had led her into this room. “Why am I in a cage?” She could feel the first trickles of fear tickle the back of her brain as her world came into focus.

“I don’t understand you,” Dr. Samms said, cocking his head slightly to the side. “You’re human, of course, yet your vitals are off the charts. Technically, you should be dead. I want to run some tests – ”

At the word tests, Sutton was on her feet, racing to the front of the cage like a rabid animal. She was starting to understand just how much trouble she was in. Exactly what her father had feared, and exactly why he’d taken his young daughter and run from her birth city. It was happening again.

Grabbing the good doctor by the collar of his shirt, Sutton brought the man face to face with her, his glasses thrown askew from being pressed against the bars. Her other hand wrapped around one of the bars and she let her energy go, flowing through her at deadly levels.

Eugene Samms cried out in surprise as he felt the metal around him warming, almost pleasant under different circumstances, but then he could feel the icy heat digging into his flesh. He couldn’t look away from the chips of ice that looked back at him.

“Let me out of here,” Sutton growled deep in her throat, fear and panic giving it an inhuman quality. The doctor’s body began to convulse as the current rushed through him, his eyes wide, mouth open.

An image came back to Sutton, long ago, her father’s body convulsing just like that, still underneath the hood of his car, hands clenched in a death grip around his tool as he was electrocuted. A nine year old Sutton standing by helplessly, terrified at what she’d accidentally done.

“Jesus!” Bobby screamed, rushing over to the doctor. He dare not touch the older man, left impotent to help him.

“I will not go through this again,” Sutton spit out through clenched teeth, a bit of spittle landing on the doctor’s glass lenses. Small gasping noises escaped his throat as he continued to look at her through wide, terrified, pain – filled eyes.

Sutton remembered her father again, the look on his face, the agony. With a strangled cry, she shoved the doctor away from the electrified bars, sending him halfway across the polished tile floor. The other man in the room was at the doctor’s side. Disgusted and afraid, the brunette walked back toward the back of the cage, no more than five feet away from the bars. She felt nauseous, able to smell burnt skin and hair. She was partly relieved when she heard the man utter some unintelligible words to the young kid at his side.

^^^

Dale awoke to find her neck stiff and screaming curses at her. She sat up from where she’d lain slumped in the corner of the couch. She couldn’t believe she’d drifted off. But then again, it wasn’t like she’d gotten much sleep with Sutton around. She grinned at the thought as she stretched, but then realized that the sun was going down, and she was still alone in the darkening apartment.

Starting to get a little worried, she wandered into the bedroom, pulling the closet door open. The rubber bodysuit was still hanging neatly on its hanger. The new boots they’d bought for Sutton were missing, as were one of the shirts. Brows drawn, the blonde searched through the apartment, looking to see if there was a note left anywhere, any sort of clue as to where Sutton had gone off to, and how long she planned to be gone.

She thought about the possibility that the brunette had to go find a storm, but without her suit? It didn’t sound right. Heading back to the closet, Dale did, indeed find it hanging. She hadn’t imagined it. Standing in the middle of the bedroom, the blonde had no idea what to do. There was no one to call, no one to check with. Should she just wait, enjoy her evening, and Sutton would come back from wherever in her own, sweet time? For some reason that didn’t sound right, either. But she had no choice. She knew the brunette could take care of herself, but still couldn’t shake the feeling of unease.

She’d give it until morning. If Sutton hadn’t returned by then, she’d figure something out.

^^^

Sutton tried to keep her rage and fear under control. She’d nearly killed a man, and may have, for all she knew. The kid had drug him away, and she’d been left alone for a long time. She had no idea what time it was, or even if it was still Friday. She guessed that she’d been out for some time before finding the two men looking at her like the circus show she was.

She had examined the bars and lock a number of times. There was nothing she could do. Only a metal tool or key could get her out. She could stop them from prodding her by simply keeping the bars lit, but how long could she last? Like a battery, she’d lose energy, and then . . . she didn’t want to stop and think about ‘and then’. She was trapped, that much she knew.

Sutton tried to ease her mind by thinking of Dale, but that made things worse, knowing that the blonde was probably worried, and there was nothing Sutton could do. Couldn’t tell her where she was, couldn’t send her a message. Hell, she hadn’t even left a note. Why would she? She had left the apartment to see Dale.

“Damn it,” she muttered, feeling her world closing in on her, panic gripping her heart like a vise. It was the weekend, Dale would be nowhere near the building until Monday morning. “Damn you to hell, Blake. And me, for trusting you.” The brunette swiped angrily at a tear that slid lazily down her cheek. She felt the horrors of her childhood coming back full force. As a child, a team of doctors had convinced her father to let them try and “fix” her. All they really wanted to do was study her, poke and prod, making a three year old cry. “I can’t do this again, dad,” she whispered, head falling as she plopped down to curl up in the corner of her prison.

^^^

“There’s got to be a way. We’ve got to move her. It’s too dangerous where she’s at,” Dr. Denise Combs muttered, glaring over at the woman across the room.

“I’d suggest a sedative,” Dr. William Bryce said, rubbing his chin.

“Do you intend to administer it, Bill?” Eugene hissed. “Look what she did to Eugene!”

“True. That was a close one. What about the tranquilizer darts we use on bigger game?”

“I think that would kill her,” Bobby said, glancing nervously at the brunette, who briefly met his gaze. The lab assistant looked away, unable to keep eye – contact. His conscience was getting to him bad enough as it was.

“I say give it a try. If it goes wrong, we simply call the police and tell them she broke into our facilities.”

“Agreed,” Bill said with a nod, then headed out of the room to get what they would need.

^^^

Late Saturday morning burned brightly in red – rimmed green eyes. Dale had only gone to sleep a few hours before, unable to rest while worrying about Sutton. She turned over, hoping to be able to fall back to sleep with the sun at her back, but the knock on her door smashed that idea.

Sleep forgotten, Dale jumped up from the bed, quickly tugging on a pair of shorts and t – shirt. “I’m coming!” she called, relief washing through her as she unchained the door and tugged open the locks. Her hope fell shattered around her when she saw Blake standing at her doorstep, newspaper and bag of bagels in hand. He smiled brightly.

“Good morning. Figured I’d bring your morning paper while it was actually morning this week.” Stepping around her, he entered the apartment, setting the bagels down on the kitchen counter, as well as the folded newspaper.

“Blake,” the blonde said, more surprise to see him than anything else. Remembering their conversation at work the day before, she was baffled. She felt like she was stuck in some sort of strange Twilight Zone episode. He was acting as though nothing had happened at all, and it was just any ordinary Saturday morning. “Why are you here?” She stood in the doorway of the kitchen, crossing her arms over her bra – less chest. She felt uneasy.

“What do you mean, why? I brought you – ”

“I know about the paper and bagels,” she cut him off, feeling nervous irritation creeping up on her. “Yesterday, you weren’t exactly willing to play the ‘friend’ card.”

“Eh,” Blake waved it off, taking out one of the pre – sliced bagels and sticking it in the toaster, just as he knew Dale liked them. “I’m sorry about that. I guess I got jealous.” He sent a broad smile her way before turning to get the cream cheese out of the fridge. “So you’re sleeping with that woman.” He shrugged as though he’d just told her his opinion on the weather. “We all make lapse in judgment now and then.”

Dale was outright chilled by the smile that followed that statement. “Oh?”

“Sure. We all make mistakes, Dale. We just have to move on past them, you know? Like it never even happened.”

“What are you talking about?”

Blake studied the blonde for a long time. He had to make this work, had to keep himself straight and not break. It was harder than he ever thought it would be, knowing full well what had happened to that dyke. He couldn’t let his conscience and Dale’s beautiful green eyes thwart him. No doubt things wouldn’t work between himself and Dale now, but he could be thrown in jail, too. He played it cool. “I’m talking about our fight, Dale. Jeez, keep up.” He grinned, taking a plate down from the cupboard above his head, taking the bagel halves that had popped up onto it, hissing as they burned his fingertips. “I was being an ass. I’m sorry.”

“Okay,” Dale said, still unsure of exactly what was happening. Something still felt off.

Blake decided to fish for information as he smeared on a generous amount of cream cheese onto the bagel. “So, where is your friend, anyway?” He gave her an innocent glance before turning back to his task.

“I don’t know,” the blonde said slowly, leaning against the wall of the kitchen entrance. “She wasn’t here when I got home last night.”

“Oh yeah? Where would she go?” Blake handed the blonde the plate. She stared at it for a moment, almost as if trying to see the arsenic particles mixed in with the spread. She knew it was ridiculous, so finally took the plate from him. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Dale. Jesus, I’m not going to hurt you.”

The blonde stared down at the bagels, admitting to herself that they did look good, but her appetite had been gone since she’d gotten home the night before. “I’m just not very hungry,” she explained, setting the plate down on the counter.

“Well, maybe later.” Blake prepared himself a bagel, dropping the halves in the toaster. “I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I’m sure she’s fine.” Though it was a common, innocuous comment, Blake felt naked in saying it. He had left Sutton in the hands of scientists and doctors. He, himself was a scientist, and would love nothing more than to cut the bitch open and see what was inside. He didn’t want to think about the types of tests his colleagues would be running on her.

“I’m sure she is, too,” Dale said, suddenly very much wanting Blake to leave. “Look, I’ve got a lot to do around here, today. Can we do this later?”

“Do what?” Blake sucked a bit of the spread from his thumb as he smeared some over his own breakfast.

“This pretending – that – everything – is – fine routine? I’m not in the mood for it this morning.”

Blake looked at her, stung. “Alright.” He took the halves of his bagel off the plate he’d set them on and balanced them in one hand as he grabbed his keys with the other. Dale pulled away when he leaned in to place a kiss on her cheek. He met her gaze, which was filled, to his dismay, with fear. “I’ll see you at work.”

Dale followed him out, locking the door securely behind him and leaning her forehead against it. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but Blake’s actions, his very presence, seemed wrong to her. Her gut told her that he knew something, though about what, she wasn’t sure.

Pushing away from the door, she headed into her bedroom, gathering clothes and quickly showering. Once dressed, Dale made one last trip around the apartment, looking for anything that would tell her where Sutton was. She was about to grab her keys when she glanced over at the computer tucked into the back corner of the living room. She noticed it was on, only the monitor turned off. Knowing she always shut the whole thing down, she pushed in the power button on the monitor, and waited for it to come to life. On the screen was a mapquest page with her home address as the starting point and her job as the ender. Using the mouse, she scrolled down, noting the entire list of directions, followed by a map.

Chewing on her bottom lip, Dale shut down the computer and headed out.

^^^

Sutton opened her eyes, though they felt unbelievably heavy, her vision shrouded in strange shadows, the world blurry and unfocused. She tried to sit up, but couldn’t. Something rattled as she moved her arms and legs, and to her horror she realized that she was chained to something – a slab or bed. Her head hurt badly, the pounding in her neck and shoulders. Her mouth was dry, her body weak and dehydrated.

The cage that the brunette had been put in was at the center of the largest lab, the bars covered in rubber for the safety of the researchers. She was alone in the white, stark room, left to shiver as her body was exposed, only a thin sheet covering her nakedness.

“Hello?” she called out, her voice hoarse, barely above a whisper. There was no response. Her world was spinning inside her head, thoughts cluttered her brain, none clear or coherent. She felt woozy and lost in a haze. She tried to send a current of energy through her body, bring her out of her stupor. Nothing. She had no idea how long she’d been in the lab, absolutely no sense of time. She hadn’t charged since Wednesday night, and had used an extreme amount of current on the scientist. Fear returned, her constant companion since she’d been hit over the head.

She thought of Dale, figuring by now the blonde must be frantic. I’m sorry, Dale. She’d do anything to see that sweet face again, even if it was the last thing she saw.

^^^

Blake shoved through the doors that led down the corridor where he’d been told Sutton had been put. He was pissed, and wanted nothing more than to take it out on that bitch. Dr. Combs had told him what had been performed thus far on Sutton. Samples had been taken, temperatures had been obtained every hour on the hour. They’d kept food and water away, curious as to what the effects would be, and if Sutton needed either, considering it seemed that the electric current sustained her.

They were making plans to drop her off on a street corner within the next forty – eight hours, after a nice, strong dose of drugs to cripple her memories, of course. Not on Blake’s watch! That bitch wasn’t going to leave the facility alive. He had no idea what would kill her but he would find out.

^^^

Dale slid her card along the slot, the red light turning green as the door clicked. She pulled it toward her and slipped inside, shaking the water from her umbrella before snapping it shut. The lab was quiet during the weekends, only a skeleton crew running things. It was so different from the mayhem during the week. Clicking on the light switch in her office, Dale tried to think. Sutton must have been heading there, but what had gone wrong between the apartment and here?

Deciding to do some research, she headed out deeper into the facility.

^^^

Bobby caressed the handset of the phone, biting his lower lip as he tried to decide what to do. He felt extremely uneasy about what they were doing to that poor woman. She had been put through the gamut, darn near torture, in his mind, over the past couple of days. He didn’t feel it was right. Dr. Combs said it was all in the name of science. Mularky if you asked him.

He almost picked up the handset once more when something caught the corner of his eye – a blonde head. Dale Bailey was a favorite of his. She was so young, only a couple years older than him, yet she was intelligent, driven, and gorgeous! He always felt like a fourteen year old boy around her.

“Bobby?”

“Hi, Dale.” He grinned, goofy as ever. The blonde scientist hid her own grin. She knew Bobby liked her and thought he was adorable. “What’s up?”

“I’m looking for someone. A friend of mine. When you were here last night, did you happen to see anyone strange walking around?”

Bobby felt his stomach drop, and knew his face must have paled. “Uh,”

“She’s tall, long, dark hair, blue eyes . . . ”

Bobby opened his mouth, about ready to spill it all when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Blake looking at Dale.

“Dale. Strange seeing you here on a Saturday,” the dark – haired man said, hand squeezing Bobby’s shoulder, daring him to say a word.

“I could say the same thing about you, Blake.”

“I thought you had things around the house to do.”

The blonde shrugged. “Part of my errands were coming here.”

Blake nodded in understanding. He felt a bit of panic grip his insides. Slowly, he moved his hand up to the back of Bobby’s neck, putting just the tiniest bit of pressure there. “Well, I need to steal Bobby here for a second, so I’ll see you Monday.”

Dale watched as the two men walked away, Bobby glancing back over his shoulder, meeting the blonde’s gaze before he was hurried out of the office. The blonde chewed on her bottom lip, trying to figure out why the puzzle pieces just weren’t fitting. The look on Bobby’s face, like he was about to spill his soul, plagued Dale.

^^^

“What did you tell her?” Blake demanded, pulling the lab assistant off into an unused office. The young man looked at him, shocked at the vehemence in the scientist’s voice.

“Uh, nothing.”

“You didn’t mention Sutton at all?”

“Sutton?”

“The woman!”

“Oh. No.”

“Good.” He leaned in. “You make sure and keep it that way.”

Bobby watched the dark – haired an walk away, a chill running down his spine.

^^^

Dale stood in the center of the hallway, trying to decide where to start. She now knew security was a dead – end, so now what?

“Hey, Dale?” Rob Reynolds called out breathlessly, his heavy keys banging against his hip as he jogged to the blonde. The security guard walked over to her, a piece of paper in his hand. Holding up a finger, he rested his hands on his thighs, trying to catch his breath. “I’m too outta shape for this shit.” He used to work the weekday shift, but recently went into partial retirement, only working the weekend crew. “I figured since we couldn’t find anything on the security tapes from yesterday, I’d run a report for entries. This is kind of odd.” He pointed a meaty finger at a line on the page Dale held. “See that? There was no card swipe. There seemed to be a computer glitch or something – the locks were disengaged, but no information was gathered on whoever left, then about two minutes later, Blake Jones entered. Maybe he saw something.”

“Thank you, Rob.” Dale uncharacteristically hugged the security guard, then hurried off in the direction she’d last seen Blake. She checked the list in her hand, noting the time of the ‘computer glitch’, which she knew often meant Sutton had been around. It had been just after twelve – thirty. Thinking back, Dale realized that Blake had left and come back minutes after he’d left her office.

“Oh, Jesus.”

^^^

Bobby felt the watchful eyes of one of the scientists on him as he prepared some microscope slides. They were planning to gather more fluids from, whom he found out, was Sutton, and Dale Bailey’s friend. He wondered if the pretty blonde knew of her friend’s abilities.

He glanced at Tom Landrey, a geneticist called in specifically for this case. He’d never met the man before today, but wasn’t too fond of him. The man hadn’t left his side since Bobby had been talked to by Blake. Not only was it wrong to keep Sutton in the lab against her will, but it was something much darker – he could feel it.

“Dr. Landrey? Could I get your opinion on this, please?” Mya Gustovson, an intern with the company, asked the doctor, peeking her head in. The geneticist glanced at Bobby, giving him a warning glare, then followed the young woman out of the lab.

Bobby walked over to the cage where Sutton was being kept. She was still chained, though he wasn’t sure why. She hadn’t moved in hours, her skin pale, body temperature dropping dangerously, though none of them could figure out why. They’d stuck heating lamps over her, but nothing helped. As he watched her, she opened her eyes, the color startling against the color of her skin.

“Help me,” she whispered, barely audible. Bobby felt his insides twist, thinking back to the look in Dale’s eyes, how badly she wanted to find her friend. Studying the brunette before him, he got the tragic feeling that she would die soon.

Glancing over his shoulder, Bobby saw that he was still alone in the lab. One more look at the chained woman and the assistant was on the run.

^^^

Blake slammed the phone down, shocked to see Dale standing in the open doorway of his office. He plastered a smile on his face, feeling the ends of the situation unraveling more and more per second. He was damning himself for all of it, knowing that he was getting in deeper with each breath.

“Where is she, Blake?” the blonde asked, not even bothering with the pleasantries. Her gut told her she was looking at the key to the whole thing. Blake Jones said noting, just stood from his chair, shoving trembling hands into the pockets of his pants. “I know you know. You followed her into the building yesterday, didn’t you? She came here, looking for me, and she found you instead. Didn’t she?”

“Go home, Dale. This is none of your concern.”

“None of my concern!?” Dale was over to his desk in a flash, hands pressed flat against its smooth surface, face the mask of fury and hatred. “I love her, Blake. That makes this my concern. And even without that, she’s a human being. What have you done?”

“She’s not a human being,” Blake hissed, stepping around the desk, eyes dangerous and filled with the madness the predicament he was in poured over him. “She is a freak of nature, something to be studied.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Dale whispered, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. “Please, no.”

“Science deserves a crack at her. You can have what’s left.” Blake never saw it coming, but the hardness of the floor beneath him let him know that it had, indeed happened. He brought up a hand, gingerly touching his jaw, making sure all his teeth were still present and accounted for. Looking up, he saw Dale cradling her hand against her chest.

“How dare you, you son of a bitch!”

Quietly, Blake got to his feet, looking down at the petit blonde. “Now you won’t even get a crack at what’s left.”

Dale was chilled by the deathly chill in the dark – haired man’s voice, his eyes just as cold and heartless.

“Where is she, Blake? You’re playing with fire, and you will get burned in the end. This is a life you’re talking about. Give me a chance to save it.”

“You had a chance. You fucked it, instead.”

“You bastard,” the blonde whispered, a darkness falling over her like a fog. I will fucking kill you for this.” Before Dale could even take a breath, her co – worker’s hands were around her throat, her back coming into painful contact with the wall. Her head was knocked once, twice, her vision beginning to jump, the edges blackening.

“Blake!” she tried to say, her voice nothing more than a gasp as she clawed at his hands, arms, anything. His grip only tightened. Dale could feel her head pounding as her vessels constricted with the loss of oxygen. She felt her consciousness slipping away, which she knew if that happened, she would not be waking up again.

A loud crash startled the blonde, who fell to the floor, suddenly released from his death grip. Coughing violently, Dale looked across the office to see Blake lying flat on his back, a broken flower pot laying scattered next to his head. She met Bobby’s gaze, his hand stretched out to her.

“Are you okay?” he asked, chest heaving with the fear of what he’d seen and just done. Dale nodded, unable to speak as she slowly got to her feet. Finally she managed a weak thank you. “I know where your friend is. Come on.”

Dale followed Bobby, running through the maze of labs, hiding in recessed doorways as security or doctors walked by. “How did all this happen?” she asked

“Long story. I’ll explain later.” He met a frantic green gaze. “You’ve got to get her out of here, Dale. It’s bad.”

The blonde nodded, nausea working its way up from her stomach. She tried desperately to swallow it down, as well as her tears. Her head was still pounding, neck bruised from Blake’s hold. She still felt woozy from the lack of air, but never more determined in her life.

Finally in the lab, Bobby quickly bolted the door closed, praying no body found Blake. At that point it would be all over with.

Dale hurried over to the cage at the center of the room, shocked at what she saw, yet deeply relieved. It looked like Sutton was still alive. She banged at the lock. “Give me the keys,” she said, frantic to get to the brunette. The lab assistant shook his head.

“I don’t have them.”

“What?! We’ve got to get her out of there!” Dale hurried over to the cabinets, looking for anything that could help her pick the lock.

“What about this?” Bobby held up pruners, used to break open the chests of specimens. The blonde took them from him, hurrying over to the cage, whimpering in frustration as her trembling hands dropped them, causing a loud clanging. Bobby winced, looking at the door, as though he could see through it.

Blue eyes opened at the noise, Sutton’s breathing shallow and weak. The tiniest bit of a smile curled up one corner of her mouth. “Dale,” she whispered, a breath on the breeze. The blonde stopped what she was doing, meeting the peaceful gaze.

“I’m here,” she whispered, “I’m here.” Dale saw the soft smile, then the eyes closed. She returned to her task, gritting her teeth as she tried to push the arms of the tool together, ultimately snapping the metal lock.

“Here, let me help – ”

“No!” Dale shoved Bobby away, determined to get Sutton out on her own. “Watch the door.” With a satisfying SNAP, the lock fell to the floor, Dale immediately swinging the door open and stepping inside the brunette’s hell. “Oh, baby,” she cried, tears tickling her cheeks as they slid off her chin. “God, what have they done to you?” Sutton’s skin was cool to the touch, which terrified Dale, her color pallid, almost translucent in some places. Her arms and legs were badly bruised, which Bobby explained was from Sutton’s fight against the doctors before the tranquilizer took hold.

The shackles around Sutton’s wrists and ankles proved to be more difficult than the cage lock. The pruners weren’t doing the trick. Dale asked for a probe, which Bobby immediately supplied. The blonde fell to her knees, working tirelessly on the locks until finally they popped open. The flesh of Sutton’s wrists were badly bruised, dried blood in some places. Dale’s tears continued – frustration, anger and devastation.

“Come on, baby. Let’s go.” She put a hand under Sutton’s back, using all her strength to help lift the heavier woman. Sutton managed to get to a sitting position, but could barely hold herself up. She leaned heavily against Dale, never so happy to see another person in all her life. They were both startled by the sudden pounding on the outer door. Bobby was over to it in a flash, worried the bolt wouldn’t hold. Looking around frantically, he saw the outer door, which led directly to the director of the department’s office.

“Over here!” he called, running to the door and trying to knob. It didn’t budge. “Fuck.” Standing back, he kicked once, twice, three times. The door gave a painful – sounding crack, then swung open, the outer knob lodging itself in the wall behind it.

“Come on, Sutton. Can you walk?” Dale asked desperately, looking at the main door, the people outside banging. She heard something from the brunette that sounded in the affirmative.

“Hurry before they go to the other door!” Bobby hissed.

Ignoring him, Dale concentrated on getting the taller woman to her feet, not wasting any time with greetings, though she so badly wanted to take Sutton into her arms and make sure she was okay. “Come on, baby, we’ve got to hurry,” she whispered, easing the brunette off the table, putting one of the taller woman’s arms around her shoulders and grunting as she bore a lot of Sutton’s weight.

“Come on,” Bobby raced over to them, taking Sutton’s other arm, the sheet falling from her body as she began to walk, her head hanging, hair falling like a curtain.

“One step at a time, Sutton,” Dale said, her breathing heavy with fear and exertion. The banging was getting louder, as well as shouts. The blonde felt each one, her heart pounding with fear and anger. Looking up, she saw the other door, which seemed so terribly far away, like an eternity. But before she knew it, Bobby was maneuvering them so he could grab the knob and pull the door open. They all breathed a sigh of relief when they found the offices empty, though they knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

Sutton felt herself beginning to lose consciousness, her body ready to give out. It was only the presence of Dale beside her that kept her going. She’d do it for her, as her own life meant little now. She was so demoralized, her soul injured far more than her body.

Dale saw the light of day and of freedom as they neared the back hall that led to the east parking lot of the building. As they neared, she could her the steady staccato of rain still coming down. A distant boom of thunder rocked the day from time to time. She sent up a prayer of thanks to whomever was listening.

“Let go of that woman,” a female voice growled.

Bobby looked up, his heart falling when he saw Dr. Combs step into their path. They were so close!

“Get out of my way, Denise,” Dale said, her voice equally low and dangerous.

“I’m not going to let you leave this facility with her, Dale. She belongs to science. You, of all people should know and respect that.” The doctor held her ground, arms crossed in front of her chest. She wanted to be able to talk some sense into Dale Bailey, a well – respected colleague, before calling in the cavalry.

Dale didn’t even bother to respond. She leaned Sutton’s weight against Bobby and walked over to the redheaded woman. Without a single word, she landed a right hook, the woman folding like a house of cards. Bobby watched, wide – eyed and slack – jawed.

“Help me!” Dale ordered as she gathered her part of Sutton’s weight, dragging the lab assistant out of his shocked reverie. He shook himself out, renewed vigor as they headed for the door. The next time they were stopped, it may not be so easy, and they all knew it.

The taste of freedom was in the air as they neared the door, the sky beyond heavy and gray, spider – webs of brilliant light adorning their undersides.

“Almost there, Sutton,” Dale panted, using her foot to kick the door open.

Sutton raised her head, the static electricity in the air making her skin prickle, her blood begin to race. She looked up into the sky, like a surfer, judging that next good wave. She saw it coming, and turned to the blonde. Raising a hand, she touched the smaller woman’s cheek.

“Get out of here,” she whispered, looking into swollen green eyes. “Be safe.

“Sutton – ”

“Shh.” The brunette placed a single finger over the blonde’s lips. “Please. Be safe.” With a soft kiss, Sutton pulled weakly away from Bobby, one last glance at Dale, then garnered the last of her strength and ran out into the late evening.

Bobby jumped and cried out as a bolt of lightning swept down, striking Sutton right center of those strange markings on her back. The brunette arched her back, head raised to the skies as the current raced through her. “Jesus,” he breathed.

Dale smiled, knowing in her heart that Sutton would be fine. Now all she had to do was figure out how to go on without her.

As they continued to watch, a brilliant explosion of light blinded them, both turning away with raised hands. Dale blinked rapidly as she tried to focus through the stars in her eyes. When she looked back, Sutton was gone.

^^^^^

Three months later:

The biggest cover up in her company’s history, but Dale went along with it. She knew that if she went to the authorities, went against the company, Sutton would be hunted, either by the company, or by the police. She had no idea where the brunette had disappeared to, or if or when she’d be back, but she loved her, and wanted to keep her safe.

Dale had quietly resigned from her position, packing up everything she owned, and took a job as a high school chemistry teacher in Arizona. She started that position in three weeks. Driving down the highway, she glanced out her windshield. It looked like a storm was coming. The clouds were heavy, the winds picking up. One thing she had to say since leaving Illinois, she did not miss the snow.

Just up ahead, the blonde noticed something, or rather, someone, standing at the side of the road, thumb out to hitch for a ride, dressed in jeans and a white, button – up. With a sharp gasp, Dale pulled the car to the side of the road. Opening her door, she stepped out, looking back over the top of the low Volskwagon. Blue eyes sparkled at her.

“Heading my way?” she said, her voice as soft and velvety as always.

“Sutton,” Dale raced around the car, swept up in a tight embrace. She inhaled the brunette’s fragrance, her very soul. “God, I’ve missed you!”

“I missed you, too,” Sutton murmured, eyes tightly closed. “Do you know how hard it was to find you? I never thought you’d settle anywhere.”

Dale smiled, pulling away just enough to look up into Sutton’s beautiful face. “Need a ride, stranger?”

“With you?” Sutton asked, brow raised. The blonde grinned.

“Always.”

“Definitely.”

 

 

The End

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