The Kink and Ways to Enjoy It, part 2 --- by Penumbra

Dellaís parents. Although the detective was usually talkative to exhaustion, she rarely mentioned her parents. And now they were coming for a visit.

Ghis was getting ambiguous vibes from the woman next to her. She was sure that partially, Della was happy to see her folks but there was something bothering her as well. The clubowner had a hunch it had something to do with her and their relationship, but she was sure Della would bring up the matter when she felt like doing so. Ghis had never been one to push people into divulging things they didnít want to.

Címon, get your brain on the mission at hand, she prodded her brain. She gripped the steering wheel of the Karmann-Ghia, feeling the smooth leatherís friction against her palms. She ventured one last glance at the silent Della and focused back on the view the front window offered.

It wasnít pretty, that was for sure. It was just plain, as most of the office buildings in ihis part of the City. It was one of the post-war hastily patched-up officeblocks that were built to replace those damaged and destroyed in the London Blitz. Standing four floors tall, all in mid-gray, it was a very dull thing to be looking at. There was one crucial fact that was the reason they were there. It was the headquarters of Sinclair Systems, Inc.

Monday morning had dawned as grey and the gloom had grown until midday when the sky had had it and got pissed. It rained, not hard but just so that everything was moist and muggy. They had sat in the car for an hour now but still no sign of Jameson Sinclair. He hadnít left for lunch but Ghis was sure he was in the building. He was known for his diligence and punctuality that bordered on neurotic.

The case had progressed little. The police reports Della had scrounged up had said that the access codes that were used for the break-in at Relativeís were the cleaning companyís but they were totally clean on that account, their cleaner who knew the code was in Brighton visiting his grandparents that day. But in Ghisí head, the case was a sure-fire one.

Sinclair lived in a posh new block of flats downriver Thames but he probably couldnít keep Celia there. The house had round-the-clock surveillance and a portier, no way to sneak a kidnapped person by him. It made even less sense for him to keep Mariaís assistant at the offices, too many people with too many keys and ears and eyes. So, the logical solution was a third location and thatís what they were here to find out, to know if such a place existed.

Oh, this has got to stop. She took a deep breath, counted to three and turned to half face Della. "Is there something bothering you?" She asked softly, a bit worried about the detectiveís closed posture and solemn face.


Discouraged at the curt answer, Ghis sighed and turned her gaze back to the windshield, not seeing the world outside the water-streaked pane, just her reflection on the glass. The silence became a tad cooler than it had been and for a long time neither moved, the only sound was the steady pitter patter of rain. Until Ghis felt a small hand on her bicep.

"Iím sorry."

"For what," the clubowner said although she had strong suspicions.

"For being grumpy." Della took a long, shuddering breath and raked through her hair with trembling fingers. "For all of this. The weather, the things that have happened... my parents." A sigh.

"Wanna... talk about it?" Ghis asked, unsure of what to say. Sensitive chats had never been her strong suit. She watched the blonde woman fiddle with her belt buckle, the lips forming syllables but no sound coming out for a while.

"My folks, theyíre not very... liberal," she managed finally.

"Uh...," Ghis coughed, seeing where this was going. "So... do you want me to lay low while theyíre here?" The question brought a lump to her throat, her eyes glazing over in hurt thogh she tried to keep her voice neutral. She was startled by the strong squeeze on her arm and at the green eyes blazing at her in all the shades of emerald.

"No. No no, thatís not it. Donít you ever think Iím ashamed of you or something." Another insistent squeeze on her hand. "You got that?" Della wouldnít blink or lower her gaze until she got nod and a half a smile from Ghis. She smiled back reassuringly.

"Itís just that... I want to be honest about myself with them. I do love them, yíknow. Theyíre just not very tolerant of... anything that differs from the norm," she finished in a roundabout way. Her smile morphed slowly into a sultry grin. "And what we have, mídear, isnít exactly in agreement with the fundamentalistsí model, is it?" She leaned agaist her seatbelt and proceeded to gently nibble on a delicious earlobe. "Not that Iím complaning."

Ghis hummed at the feel of the warm body leaning against her and decided right then and there, in a cramped cold car, that she was in fact a relationship kind of person. Ooo, did it have its advantages... she just hadnít realised it before. Better late than never, she thought faintly as she turned to offer her lips in replacement of the earlobe.

So entranced they were with each other that they almost missed the small, stocky man with a neat goatee and very short, almost military-style hair emerge from the building and head down the block. It was out of the corner of her eye Dell saw him.

"Hey!" she yelped and leaned forward in the car. "Is that the guy?"

"Yeah," Ghis said, her eyes slitting in calculation. "Iím ready to flatten him now. Not only is he a major pain but he made me break a kiss with you."

Della laughed a small, relieved laugh and patted Ghisí cheek. She loved the way Ghisí English accent turned more upper-classy whenever the woman was agitated or mad. "Címon, heís getting into his car. Letís go."

Ghis turned the key and the powerful engine of the sleek car roared to life, budding with pent energy. It shot after the black BMW Sinclair was driving.

It wasnít working and he knew it. Stopping to a red light at Cable Street, he rapped his fingers on the steering wheel and flicked his gaze on the manilla envelope on the front seat. Celia was too out of it and too distant a friend to be of much help or pleasure but... A small smile that bared just the tips of his teeth formed and he stroked the envelope with soft, almost erotic strokes.

The answer was right there.

They followed the impatient black car through the rain and the streets of outer London, through Whitechapel into Limehouse. It zipped past slower buses and lorries but Ghis was a skilled driver. When it turned to the garage entrance of a building, the dark woman cursed softly.

"Bloody íell. Heís just going home."

"Seems so."

They pulled over on the opposite side of the street, at the edge of river Thames that was a bit wider here than when it flowed past Westminister but the colour was the same lead grey it took on rainy days.

"Should we wait or...?" Della queried from the frowning Ghis.

"I donít know but-... heís coming back out. Look," the clubowner suddenly said, making the detective perk up. She pointed across the street and true to her words, a car came out of the garage. It wasnít the black BMW though but instead, a inconspicuous-looking old blue Volvo. "He just switched cars." The blue eyes squinted. It was Sinclair in the car. She started the engine and their pursuit continued.

They travelled further down the river and following the curving dip to south the river made, called the Isle of Dogs. It was the old harbour area that had hosued the massive docking areas for the sailboats of the East India Company and other legendary enterprises during the past centuries. To make way for the rapidly growing city, the shady docks had moved to the mouth of Thames, the labyrinthe are of old warehouses and shady sailor bars slowly giving way for expansive real estate and shopping centres. But the area around the angular basins carved in the English soil was still partially similar to that of the 19th century, massive blocks of ugly warehouses and narrow alleys traversing between them.

The Volvo stopped at a gate that was in the twenty-feet high chainlink fence, a middle-aged guard coming out of the small booth. He partially ducked into the car and then went back inside. The gate opened with a metallic groan, sliding to a side and the marine blue station wagon rolled inside.

"So, that must be the place."

"Yeah," Ghis grunted, studying the area with a practiced eye. "Good," she said and made a 180 with the car. She sped back towards London, a plan already forming in her head. Della could almost hear the well-oiled gears turn in the dark-maned head, the mind of a born strategist at work. This side of Ghislaine surfaced rarely, the cunning, ruthless leader who had almost an instinctive way she formed her plans, as if she could smell what was the best way to do what was to be done. A meticulous, detached and utterly brilliant machine at work, the cool way in stark contrast with the capricious and fierce personality of the woman.

Della wondered if she could ever fully understand the infinitely layered person next to her, guiding the car in a sure, firm way through the maze of streets at Limehouse. There were so many hidden qualities to Ghislaine, so much she kept tightly under wraps, under a tight emotional control. The hidden layers surfaced now and then and what she had seen usually scared her. Like when they had gotten the fax at Mariaís. The look on the handsome face had been uttery calm, the eyes half-closed as if she was drowsing. It was the glint in the blue eyes gone gray from rage, the utter emotionless hate of a killer machine that was in so much contrast to what Della was used to.

Sheíd probably never understand all of it but damned if she wasnít going to give it her best effort. And not understanding didnít mean not loving. She had never known a person who loved as boundlessly, as unselfishly as Ghislaine did. It was equal parts light and darkness and so little grey in between.

As they roared through Whitechapel and into the City, a feral grin spread the dark womanís lips. Yeah. Youíre gonna get it, Sinclair.

Della had some errands to run about her parentsí visit so they arranged to meet at the club that night. Ghis went to grab a bite to a disgustingly America-styled restaurant at Covent Garden, a club sandwich being her early dinner. She left her car there and sauntered the rest of the short but pleasant journey to Soho and to the club.

It was still quiet there and she liked it that way. Until Della had come along, solitude had been her most preferred friend. The girls were out shopping and none of the staff had yet arrived at this early hour. She sauntered slowly under the balcony, brushing the dark wood of the bar with her hands and reached the two-story high space of the dancefloor. The colour lights and strobes were rows of black eyes in the ceiling, the massive speakers for once silent and still.

She felt her neck muscles creak as she let her gaze roam around the balcony. Rubbing the sore nubs, she decided on a slow, languid tour at her smallish gym, the iron a good medicine for her own tension, she had learned a long time ago.

She had just completed her second round on the bench press and adding another twenty pounds to the already straining Olympic bar when a sudden dark shadow flashed over her mind, as if someone had put on a damper on her soul for a fleeting moment. She paused, the round weight still in her hands. The dark head cocked to a side but when the feeling didnít return, she shrugged to herself and continued with her rounds.

She finished off with her usual set of chin-ups and pushups, the one-armed type coming along a bit sluggishly. She stood and flexed the arm, watching shadows appear as her triceps bulged and the vein travelling over it rose. Getting a bit slack, are we... she shook her head. Her squat had been out of order, having to get fifteen pounds off the bar before it started going smoothly. Gotta perk up lazybutt or youíll grow into a blob. She glanced at the mirror and chuckled a bit self-depricatingly. OK, not instantly but one day. She swore to take regular care of her body, dried her neck on a small white towel and went to take a shower.

When she emerged from the steamed room and ambled towards her office, she got the same shadowy fleeting feeling of coldness in her again. This time it didnít go away and she stopped and closed her eyes to better be able to feel it.

It was an elusive shadow and it bothered the hell out of her. It was... a similar feeling to that she had gotten the day her brother had died. She had been resting at her foxhole that shielded her from the hot sun of the Iraqi desert and she had been cleaning her binoculars from the irritating sand that was everywhere. In her gun, in her eyes and grating inside her underwear. But she took it calmly. After all, it was part of her profession. Her hands had paused over the delicate task when the cold feeling head washed over her.

The information had come three hours later at their check-in hour, the satellite phone blaring out in clipped sentences the fact that her brother had died, burned to a crisp inside his tank. At that moment, something had just snapped. Just like that. And the next thing she remembered was the helicopter ride back to Saudi-Arabia. During the ride she was told that she had single-handedly obliverated an Iraqi base, killed everyone inside, some with her bare hands.

Her hand paused on the buttons of her shirt. Della, her subconsciousness supplied. A bark of a curse left her lips and she practically dived into her leather trousers and grabbing her keys, she bolted out of the door. She thought to take the car but upon hearing that Salome had arrived, she got a better idea.

"Need to borrow your skates," she quipped to the bartender as she jogged past her. Salome nodded and followed the hurrying clubowner who put on her K2ís and bolted out of the door like a duotone lightning. The stocky bartender shrugged, having gotten used to the occasional oddities of her boss.

Ghis was sure she could feel her heart in her throat, pounding there and supressing all breathing and swallowing. Breaking more traffic rules than she had fingers she speeded through the streets of London. The traffic was heavy so she took to the sidewalk occasionally and most people stood aside reflexively for the seven feet of dark and deadly on wheels and those that didnít were scared to a safe standstill by a roaring yell of warning.

She reached Oxford Street and St. Cristopherís Place in mere minutes and snapping the skates off and shoving her feet into the combat boots she had carried slung over her shoulder, she leaped up the stairs to Dellaís flat three at a time.

The door wasnít closed. That in itself was ominous but when she carefully made the millimetre-wide crack larger, the first thing that grabbed her attention was Dellaís cell phone, keys and purse on the floor, in a haphazard pile on top of her mail. Something was really wrong. Ghis entered the flat and her instincts perking up, she serached the place. nothing, no-one. She went back to the small hall and crouched down to check the pile of mail.

On top of it was an envelope that contained two plane tickets for a flight from London to Edinburgh, obviously her parentsí connecting flight. The dark woman turned the envelope around and on the other side were exactly four drops of something red. She sniffed at the stains and the familiar coppery smell made her hackles rise and brought back the countless times she had felt the sickeningly tangy scent before. And as always, it made her nostrils twitch. It was the smell of hunt, the smell of blood.

All strength in her legs suddenly vanished and with uncharacteristic lack of grace, she sat on the manilla rug in the hall. It was as if she had turned to a statue, eyes fastened on the little red specs on the otherwise immacultely white paper. She smoothed her fingers over the small bumps the liquid had made, as if she could rub off the offending, garish colour and make all back the way it was.

So many times it had happened. With her father, her brother, the soldiers under her command that trusted her with faith born of illusion, she thought. She had let them down, every one of them. All had fallen to a violent death and she had had no means to stop their pain and suffering. But not this time.

The envelope was slowly crushed into a thin tube, the powerful muscled palms and fingers turning white. It wasnít about corporate espionage anymore. This was personal, the sonovabitch had figured out he could do nothing to her so he decided to hurt the ones close to her. But heíd stepped over the line now, right when he decided to kidnap the one person Ghis wouldíve died for without hesitation.

The tall figure straightened into its formidable height, the wide shoulders squaring. The eyes were not blue anymore, they shone in a cold slate grey in the dimming light of the evening. Hello, Jameson Sinclair. Welcome to war. Hope youíll enjoy it as much as I intend to.

"What do you want?" Della croaked. Her throat was dry save for the blood that flowed there and she couldnít understand why the man kept on hurting her although she had sworn a dozen times she knew nothing.

A bark of a laugh sounded nearby. "I want you to suffer, thatís all."

"But why?"

"You got involved with the wrong kind of people. Her."

He slammed the door to the small room behind him and ascended the stairs to his office in the mostly empty warehouse. He did some mainframe business through his company now and then and this was where the huge boxes of the powerful conputers were delivered from the City Airport that was nearby and waited for delivery to the customer. It was secluded, other people save for the trucking company rarely came here and it had many a cranny and nook and small room that could be utilised for... other purposes. Purposes that didnít take overt exposure to the daylight too kindly.

He nodded to the two thugs he hired for these jobs that were chatting about soccer and drinking beer out of can in the break room next to the office. Entering his private space, he sat on the worn office chair and re-lighted his cigar. He sucked and puffed the flame of the Zippo until the head of the brown roll glowed in an amber shade. He picked up a black and white glossy off the table and blew a mouthful of blue smoke.

It was a picture of two women, one dark as the night and other light as the day. They were sitting in a small restaurant and the blonde womanís hand was up and waving as she was explaining something to her companion. The dark woman was smiling softly as she chewed on her ice cream. The next photo showed another scene, where the fair-haired was swallowing something the darker one had offered her on a spoon, still tightly clamped in the smaller womanís mouth. The look on her face was one of gentle indulgence, echoed by the other.

The man waved the picture, obviously taken across the street and through the window of the restaurant. Although the distance was great, there was no mistaking the persons in the photo. His beard itched so he scratched it at his chin and smiled. The girl knew nothing about the data but judging from the loving smile the dark bitch had plastered on her face in the picture, at least heíd get his revenge.

The cigar dipped and came in contact with the photograph. Dellaís head twisted and vanished under the hot tip that burned a roughly circular hole in the picture.

The ritual was so familiar she didnít have to think about it anymore. Her hands did their tasks with optimized, economical moves while her brain was finalising her plan. She paused at the mirror on the inside of her wardrobe, seeing her reflection there. A small, sad smile was twitching her lips. She remembered the time she thought this was fun and also, the moment she saw that it wasnít fun. She was trying to drown the scream of her hollow soul to that of her victimsí.

With a slight sigh she sat and stuffed the trouser bottoms of her black fatigues inside her combat boots and tightened the laces. Slapping her ankles she rose and stretched her arms in an attempt to try to relax her muscles as they twitched in anticipation. Deciding against a long-sleeved shirt for it was still hot outside, she fished for a short leather thong. The dark hair was tied to a knot with it and she went back to the wardrobe and reaching back, she got out a toolbox. The items inside were not ordinary tools however, all these were designed to tear apart, not to mend.

The metal of the Smith&Wesson 5946 full-automatic was cool and smooth to touch. Oxidised to a midnight black matt, the gun was of the third generation of the highly valued S&Wís and what the gun lacked in features (it had only a 10 round clip, compared to most gunsí 14 or 15), it won back in sheer intimidation power. It weighed over two pounds and required a steady hand and strong muscles. Ghis had both and she figured that if 11 rounds wasnít enough, she was in too much trouble already for the extra four to help any.

A few additional items she dug out, the last of them a long gukri knife that had a wide, bent blade. And she was done. Silently, she paced to her car and it shot out to the moonless night.

She had done numerous rescue ops in her career in the Navy and she tried to think of this one as just one more. She couldnít call the police and tell them about Sinclair because her connection with the military would be revealed and she was bound by oath never to discuss the failed op where those two young men had gotten killed. So, she was on her own. No back-up, nothing but her own abilities. She left the car a few blocks from the warehouse area and got to the high fence without incident. At this first hour of the day, no-one was around.

The fence was tall, just as she had remembered it to be. Jogging along it, she found what she judged to be the most secluded and remote point of it and made quick work of the thin steel wire with her wire cutters. She left a few intact though, so that looked from farther away, the fence would seem flawless. No sense in alerting guards any sooner than necessary.

The blue eyes took an appraising look at the fence, up the chainlink and all the way to the twist of barbed wire on top of it. A flash of white teeth shone in the lightless night. Easy beans, she grinned and started up. Making little noise, she pulled herself up almost on her hands only, the thick padded leather gloves providing protection and just the right amount of friction. Carefully bending the thorny wire down, she pushed with one arm, creating enough explosive momentum for her to fly over the fence and land on the ground, rolling to bleed off speed and without stopping, lunging to a quiet run. It took her all of nine seconds to accomplish all this and crouch behind a safe, shadowy corner. Still got the touch, she thought and inched even farther into the shadows. Someone was coming.

The bobbing light of a torch came nearer, the solitary beam of light raking the ground. A guard with a big Maglite and pot belly walked past, the slumped bearing and a big yawn telling a familiar tale of long hours, lots of donuts and idle status quo. He probably made his rounds on regular intervals, walking just for the sake of it and to ward of sleepiness. He passed the narrow canyon between buildings that Ghis was standing in, knife ready, without even looking her way. His lack of intrest in his job saved him from probably the nastiest surprise of his life.

She heard the receding footfalls grow quieter and vanish altogether. She waited another three minutes and slipped the knife back into its sheath, strapped to her calf. She paced down the barely yard-wide canyon and soon reached the wider street that was shadowed by a row of high, foreboding-looking boxes from both sides. The boxlike buildings were at leat three or four stories tall each and all looked alike. No lights were on and even the moon refused to take a peek behind the thankfully rainless but thick clouds. Ghis couldnít see anything beyond basic shapes from over two yards. But there was a solution to that.

The silent woman reached to her head and snapped down the night vision device. The two short, telescopelike tubes snapped to her eyes and whirred to life, their battery charging with a high, whinnying sound that always reminded Ghis of a cameraís flashlight. The world was now a fluorescent green and she could see, but the light enhancer had one bad quality: It tended to flatten the imge to 2D, so judging distances was so much harder. She wouldnít have taken the goggles just for their night vision, though.

She pressed a button in the binocs and got the infrared setting. The only pinpricks of warmth in the whole of the streets were the engine of a truck that shone faintly light blue and the soft glow of a few humans in two of the warehouses. She dismissed the closer one instantly, there were only two people. The other was much more interesting.

She saw three humans, a few lights and a generator that shone as a spot of pure white. Three was just the number, although she doubted that Sinclair was dumb enough to be alone. But that warehouse was the safest bet. She snapped off the night vision and closed her eyes.

She felt the rough concrete of the wall bite through her clothes, the nubbly surface against her leathered fingers. Her ears twitched as she listened for anything alarming, her senses extending over and beyond what one could normally see. It had always been one of the qualities that made her not only a good soldier but also a lucky one, her ability to sense. A lucky soldier was more often better than a good soldier.

Her squad had sometimes joked that one of her ancestors mustíve mated with a big cat, no other way to explain her voracious, intense nature, her sixth sense and the nine lives that she was still only half-way through. Ghis knew not where it came from but she had been more than once been grateful of the talentís existence.

She smelled the oil on the ground, the faintly rotten and leaded smell of the river and its extensions here and the scent of wet asphalt. Mixed with those was the faint scent of blood and fear and insanity she recognized so well. And if she tried really hard, she could feel Della nearby. It wasnít something tangible, it was more of a shadow of a person left to the scene, the echo of a hearbeat she would recognize anywhere.

The eyes opened. She was sure now.

The skylight was so encrusted in dark smudge that she was sure no sky nor light was visible through it. She cleared a small corner and peeked into the warehouse. She had gotten to the roof without much effort, the fire escape ladder of the old cube had been rusty but sturdy enough.

The warehouse was dark save for a few widows of inner offices overlooking the main space. Fluorescent light showered from the windows and illuminted the rest of the hall in a stark industrial glow, creating hard contrasts of shadows and glaring light on white floor. A few dozen massive cardboard boxes stood in the middle of the floor, looking quite lonely, but the rest was one open, empty space. Not good. Not only was there little cover, empty spaces tended to echo quite a lot. Iíll just have to be really quiet then, wonít I? she said wryly to herself.

She jogged the tarp roof to the skylight that was directly on top of the block of offices and gently rapped the glass. It was loose, as she had expected. Years of sun and hard weather had dried out the gasket into crusty, cracked substance. Some air conditioning sticky tape and a few flicks with her knife and the glass came off. It was left on the roof as Ghis uncoiled her rope, fastened it around an air conditioning duct and started rappelling down.

The rope was a thin nylon line enforced with kevlar fibers and despite its thickness of four millimetres it could hold up twenty Ghisí. She slithered down the rope with the help of the gloves, smelling the burning leather in her palms. When the inner roof of the offices came closer, she slowed down and settled without a sound there.

Through the thin roof she could hear two voices, speaking in a thick Liverpool accent. The other laughed a coughing laugh and she heard a can of beer snap and fizz open. She adjusted the ear on the nubbled surface. It wasnít the best of its kind for listening but no matter. At the other room she heard nothing, not even footsteps or a creaking chair. The third was gone, then.

Carly sipped his canned Guinness and grimaged at the taste. He was more into bitters but beer was beer, he was uncivilised that way. It made his head buzz in a nice way and even Robbieís stories started to sound mildly amusing. To tell the truth, he was bored. They had grabbed the broad as was told, though the other man now sported a nasty lump on his forehead and sore kidneys for their trouble. He himself had a swollen eye and the Guinness helped to that too.

So, they had done their job but the man had told them not to go yet, he might have some more hauling for them to do. Carly, being the brains of the pair, had shrugged and complied. As long as the little papers with Her Majestyís portrait came their way, and he wasnít talking about stamps.

He touched gingerly at the eyelid that had grown to resemble a grape, purple and all. The bitch had been quick and very strong, the small slip that she was. Carly had smacked her to next week for her troubles so that was that. He smiled against the mouth of the can. Perhaps the boss would let them have their fun with her when he was done.

As if Robbie had read his thoughts, he belched and leaning his way, said: "That was one tight piece of ass we brought in today, eh, Carly?"

"Yeah, wouldnít mind having her for some grind míself," the man grinned back and saluted with his can.

Robbie leaned back and studied his dirty fingernails. "The man said sheís bonking with some broad," he said, waggling his eyebrows.

"Frigginí dikes. Iíd like to get a whack or two on her too...," Carly muttered and took another swig.

"Well, here I am boys. No need to look further."

The voice made Carly spurt out the dark, white-foamed liquid out of his mouth. It came behind him and as he swerved in his chair, he saw the source of that deep, vibrating voice that virtually dripped honey. And froze.

It was a woman, as far as Carly could tell. Impossibly tall though, dressed in black combat fatigues and a tight tank top that did nothing to hide the voluptuous muscles on the sleek body, leaning agaisnt the doorframe. She unattached herself from the slim wood and paced a few steps forward, in the fluid pace that spoke of power. The figure oozed dark, edgy menace as it came closer.

"Iím the broad sheís bonking with. You had something to say to me?" She queried casually. The voice made the menís brains finally snap into action and they bolted out of their chairs.

Ahhh, Ghis hummed and was unable to resist a small purr of joy coming from deep within her throat. She had lots of pent-up energy and now was as good time to release it as any.

The men were both of size ítractor and a halfí. Size did have its advantages in pure power of leverage but it also slowed down. So, she reacted in an almost leisurely pace to the fist aimed at her head, ducking aside at the last possible moment. The swing whizzed by and Carly stumbled forward, not expecting the move. Ghis punished his mistake with a sharp jab to his stomach that made him bend down in two. A two-fisted strike to neck made him fall to the floor with a thump.

She caught the other guy with a jab to his ribs and felt the satisfying whoosh as all air was pushed out of his lungs. A flash a metal made her turn her head and lift her arm just in time to block a switchblade. Carly had revived quickly. The hand with the blade impacted with another arm, this one a steel bar that didnít budge a millimetre. The blade flew and grazing briefly at Ghisí cheek, it clattered to the floor. She twisted the arm she had caught, wrenching up and back and was rewared with a muted crack as Carlyís arm was twisted out of its socket and pushed forward, the dull bone ripping through skin. The man screamed and dropped to his knees.

One down, one to go. Robbie had gotten his breathing back and rushed her. She stepped aside, turned slightly and guiding with her hand on his shoulder, made the man trip. She caught him though, twisted and brought her knee up. Robbieís jaw hit it with a sickening breaking sound and his jaw became a permanent part of his nose. His gurgle of pain was cut short by a sharp jab behind his ear. He fell to the floor and stayed there.

She dusted her hands and went back to Carly who was seriously hyperventilating, his eyes focused on the yellow bone that was sticking from where his shoulder used to be. Ghis grabbed the other and shook it so hard the manís teeth rattled and a groan was pushed out from between his clenched teeth. A sharp, curved blade was placed under his chin.

"Where is she?" The deep, calm voice asked.

"Fucking cunt..." he spat, a gush of blood punctuating his words.

Ghis sighed and took the other arm. She treated it the same way, pushing the arm back and then up. Another crack and the man groaned, his eyes rolling up. All blood had escaped his face and he wouldíve fallen to the floor had Ghis not had a steady grip on him.

"Again, where is she?"

"Downstairs," he gritted, the pain flowing over him in huge white hot flames where he was in danger of drowning into. "Small room." He went very quiet and slopped to the floor when the dark woman struck him with the grip of the knife.

Ghis flew down the stairs, jumping the last six of them in one leap. She cursed at her temper. It had taken her too long a time and the noise very well couldíve alarmed the third person, the one she suspected to be Sinclair. She had again just snapped as she had heard the lewd conversation, the way they referred to her love. Snap, and blood came pounding to her ears, the small red tendrils flowing at the edge of her vision. Snap, and she became a sadistic killing machine. Water under the bridge, she sighed and focused on the mission again.

There was a locked door under the offices but locks had never before given her trouble. Praying that Della wasnít standing behind the door, she took a breath and rammed the door with her shoulder. It gave way easily and slammed with a bang to the wall next to it. Water streamed in, reflected off millions of dust particles and off two bloodshot misty green eyes. The eyes widened and shone with tears spent and soon coming. With two steps Ghis was at the chair that held Della. The blade flickered at the speed of light and Ghis gently gathered Della to her arms.

"Oh... Della," was all she managed to say as she buried her face in the tangled gold hair. She tried to swallow her tears but feeling the bruised, battered, shivering body in her arms, they flowed freely.

"I knew you would come for me," Della whispered and smiled wanly at the woman that hugged her so hard it seemed her life depended on it.

"Charming. And how disgustingly romantic." The dark and fair head rose at the cold voice.

It was the short, stocky man and he had Celia in front of him, holding her at gunpoint. Ghis instantly focused on the Klock in the manís hand, he pressed it to the shorter womanís temple so hard she was cringing. Two eyes the colour of glaciers and colder than North wind narrowed.

"Can you stand," she whispered to Della who nodded faintly. Slowly, she set the detective down and pushed her behind her own body, instictively protecting her.

"Hello, Jameson. Long time no bother.," Ghis intoned, tracing the blade of her big knife with her thumb. Her tone was relaxed, almost casual. Her eyes werenít.

"Put down the knife. Slowly." He emphasised his words by pressing the revolver at Celia harder. The small woman closed her eyes tighter and a small, strangled sound left her throat.

Ghis bent down with infinite slowness, gauging the distance between her and him. She set the knife to the floor and watched Sinclairís shoulders relax minitely and his finger move to the trigger guard from the trigger. When she was coming back up, she sprang into action.

The knife strapped to her calf flew out of its sheath and screaming through the air, it found its mark on the back of the manís gun hand. He yowled and dropped the gun. Ghis had followed the knife closely and pushed Celia aside so forcefully she flew flat on her stomach. Smart woman as she was, she stayed there.

"Bitch!" Sinclair gritted and took a swing at her with his uninjured hand. It was caught by five iron fingers and it stopped as if he had hit a brick wall. Ghis applied pressure to the grip and felt the manís knucklebones grind against each other. Squeezing a tad more, the bones complained even louder and the man as well. Standing so close she could see the pores of his skin and the madness in his eyes, she yanked the knife out of the manís hand.

"Iíve been called that too many times today. This ends here, Jameson," she breathed into the manís face, locking her gaze with the grey one below hers.

"Never", her roared and tried to yank his fist off the vicelike grip.

"Yes. It ends right now," she said with almost wistful sadness and brought the knifed hand up. She closed her eyes briefly, took a deep breath and putting all the power she had in her arm, jammed the knife into Sinclairís right eye. It went through, meeting little resistance and the strike was so forceful that the sharp blade went all the way through the back of his skull and into the wall, pinning him to the concrete like a moth to a display box. Little blood and no sound came out, his hand just relaxed inside the grip and slumped to his side like the limb of a ragdoll.

"Címon, letís go," Ghis said, feeling suddenly the weight of the world on her shoulders. She helped Celia up and to the quickest pace the two ex-captives managed, left the small, oppressing room. The dark woman didnít spare a glance back at the man on the wall, a small trickle of blood flowing from his eye down his cheek, neck and staining the white collar bright crimson.

The journey home was via a friend of Ghisí, a doctor who worked for the same people she did. He knew how to keep his mouth shut about odd wounds and not ask about their origins and why they came knocking at her door at night. Celia had a concussion and her nose was fractured but noting else besides bruises. Della had suffered a partially uprooted tooth that needed to be set and an array of bruises and bumps. And regardless of Ghisí feeble objections, he also cleaned and closed the scratch on her cheek.

"Thanks, JB. I owe you one," Ghis said to the man as they were leaving.

The man clapped Ghis on the shoulder and smiled a small, warm smile. "Anytime."

They dropped Celia to her place and drove on. Both were quiet, the adrenaline of the action slowly draining out of Ghislaine and Della finally realising that she was free. When they were finally indoors, Ghis was feeling tired to the bone. They undressed while walking to the bed and just crashed there.

The rush of the fight and the thrill of blood dissipated quickly and all she felt was a gentle tiredness in her limbs. She nudged at Della and the blonde woman needed no further invitation to scoot into Ghisí arms and rest her head on the muscled shoulder. The head turned to regard the taller woman and Ghisí breath caught at the look of utter admiration and bottomless love in the green eyes.

"My warrior," the detective whispered and placed a soft kiss on Ghisí lips. She lay back down, nuzzling the soft skin at the shoulder.

"My love," Ghis whispered back and kissed the strawberry blonde hair.

They floated to dreamland, their world finally at peace.

Ghis sighed in frustration and dropped the small, delicate screwdriver. It clattered to the table and rolled until it met a pile of junk and stopped there.

Junk that used to be hardware worth a nice sum of money, she corrected. She had found all the missing hard drives in Sinclairís office, some in better shape than others. A few that had contained nothing valuable he had just smashed and the rest were in perfect condition. Her drive at work had unfortunately belonged to the first category since she had taken precautions not to have any of Relativeís stuff there. A tool or another had been taken to the engine and it didnít work correctly. Lucky thing she took regular backups and the insurance would pay for her new drive. Ultra-wide SCSI-2 drives were not the cheapest around.

Relativeís server drive was in pristine order and already returned to the company. They had invented a not very plausible story about the thing being found in a rubbish bin and blah blah but the insurance company had not asked many questions, they had just been glad they hadnít been forced not to pay for a new one.

She ceased her futile attempts at fixing the small engine and leaned back in her chair, entwining her fingers behind her back. She smiled at memory of the warm, shy thank yous she had gotten from Celia who was in a good condition, the week of healing had done wonders to her. If the nose bandage hadnít been on, no-one wouldíve noticed anything. Della had recovered from her ordeal just as quickly, her excellent basic condition helping in the process. The bruises had faded into almost nothing, her eye no more swollen, just black.

The newspapers had screamed about a ímysterious, brutal murderí at the warehouse. The guards had found the hole in the fence in the morning and upon a police search, Sinclair was found, still attached to the wall. No sign of his two thugs, they had had enough sense to flee when they had regained consciousness. No leads could be found and Ghis had been careful enough not to leave any fingerprints and she had wiped all Celiaís and Dellaís off the chair. A clean job, she was sure and if something had come up and pointed at her, her friends in high places wouldíve handled it.

The police had searched the warehouse thoroughly and found several large cases of illegally imported computer parts. Smuggling had been one of Sinclairís past times as well, it seemed, and the LPD thought the murder to be a result of a smuggling deal gone sour.

Okay, that problem solved. One more to go. Dellaís parents were coming the day after tomorrow and dark clouds were gathering to the sky. Dellaís sentences had been clipped, her manner tense for the past few days and Ghis was at loss at what to do. She knew she had to discuss the issue with the detective but... agh. She really did hate sensitive chats. She picked up the screwdriver again, twiddled with it for a while and set it back down. No time like now, chicken. Címon, bite the bullet, she coaxed herself and got out of the chair.

She found her partner in the kitchen, drinking a glass of soda and pretending to read the newspaper. Her eyes werenít moving and they were focused somewhere far beyond the paper. Ghis touched a slumped shoulder and so hair-triggered the smaller woman was that she jumped off her seat at the touch.

"Hey, itís just me," Ghis calmed her down. Della eyed her with a mock murderous glance and then the hazel green eyes melted to a smile. She grabbed Ghisí arm and yanked her to sit on the next chair.

"I guess Iíve been a pain recently," Della ventured.

"Well, no wonder. You got beaten to a pulp because of me," Ghis said, trying to make her tone light. She was grasped forcefully by the blonde woman and intense eyes bored into hers.

"It was not your fault. It was his loony idea, his. You had nothing to do with it."

"But if you didnít know me, none of this-" the commando-turned-clubowner tried to protest but was cut off by a finger on her lips.

"Shhh. Look me in the eye," Della said and the dark woman did as was told. The intensity in the infinite green pools was spellbinding. "It was him. He was mad, bonkers, gone over the edge, not running on all cylinders. It had nothing to do with you. You got me, bonehead?" the detective said and leaned closer, smiling at the last words.

Ghis hugged the smaller woman to her and let out a shuddering breath. She closed her eyes and right then and there, in their quiet kitchen on that warm June day, she decided to let it go. Let go of guilt.

Damn it felt good.

For a long time, they just sat still, basking in the closeness and the warmth of the evening sun that shone through the high windows. Ghis kissed Dellaís forehead and mouther a smiling íthank youí. She got a silent íanytimeí back.

"So, wanna talk about it?" the clubowner asked, taiking a gulp of her soda.

"Sensitive chat time, huh?" Della asked back, smiling a wide smile that was just too damn infectious.


The blonde woman took a deep breath and turned her eyes straight ahead, staring at her reflection from the silver-blue shiny cupboards of the kitchen. "Well, you know what the problem is," she began. Ghis nodded.

"I want to tell them about us," Della continued. "But I donít think I have the courage."

"Iíll come with you."

That surprised Della. Not that she wouldnít put it past the dark woman to try and protect her but she was a very private person, unlike herself. Meeting new people, especially Dellaís parents, couldnít be her definition of a good time. "Would you," Della piped, looking under her brows.

"Of course," Ghis said and smiled a warm, reassuring smile. "And if they try anything funny, Iíll grab you and run. After smacking them with a lobster, of course."

A warm bubbly laugh came out of the detective, so relieved she was. The thing she had feared had been facing her parents alone. But with her love at her side, she knew she would be invincible. "Thanks," she said and rested her head against a muscled shoulder with a content, puppydog sigh. She felt as well as heard the soft rumble of laughter that came from the taller woman. She poked the woman between ribs and with a feigned íouchí, the poke was returned. Another poke from Della and a full-out tickling competition broke out. Since Ghis wasnít ticklish, it was unsurprisingly a very one-sided.

Della waved her arms in surrender as she giggled uncontrollably when the dark womanís fingers flew over her ribs. "Gahhh... I canít breathe," she huffed and sucked in a massive breath. When she settled down, she hugged Ghis with all her might.

"What brought that out?" the dark woman asked, pleasantly surprised.

"Thanks for being my friend."

"Anytime, Red." Ghis said and returned the hug.

"My hairís not red."

"Yes, it is. At least in this light."

"No itís not."

"Yes it is."

Dellaís hands shook a bit as she took the last turn that led to Gatwick airport. Following the signs to arrivals, she tried to gulp down her nervousness. Her parents were arriving on the afternoon flight that was just taxiing to the gate. She left her car in temporary parking and went to the waiting area. The chairís plastic padding was sticky and groaned slightly as she sat her behind on it. She fiddled with the hem of the light blue jacket, the trouser suit being her favourite summer outfit when you had to be official. With her parents, that was the case. Not that she wasnít glad to see them. It was tonight that was making her nervous.

Twenty minutes passed and passengers started pouring out. She saw her parents and waved at them. Her mother grabbed her in a hug and his dad did the same.

"Hello, mum, dad," she smiled. "How was the trip?"

Her mother launched into a lenghty and detailed description of their journey. The talk lasted all the way to the outskirts of central London. The reason the elder Covingtons had flown to the Old Country was a sort of a class reunion of her momís med school class. She had studied at Cambridge as an exchange student and now a colleague of hers was hosting this fancy shindig in Scotland. Their connecting flight was on Monday morning so they had one night in London.

"So, tell me about your life. Dating anyone?" her mother asked, smiling.

"Actually, I am," Della said, gripping the wheel tighter and trying to calm her heart that pounded almost painfully against her ribcage. Well, if I get a coronary now I wonít have to live through tonight, she thought grimly. Not that I will.

Her mother turned in surprise. "Really? Who?"

"Youíll meet the person tonight. At the dinner," she said carefully, trying to avoid presonal pronouns.

"Oh, wonderful," her mother said, clapping her hands. Her daughter had never been much interested in boys. She hoped she had found happiness... and now that she knew it, she could see the subtle changes in her daughter. She was looking healthy and happy and the rings under her eyes were less pronounced than they usually were except for... she gently grabbed Dellaís chin and turned it towards her. The detective yanked her jaw back.

"Mother! Iím trying to drive!"

"Who did that black eye to you? This guy youíre seeing?"

She shot an outraged glance at her mother. "No! You know Iíd never date anyone who would abuse me." Without my permission, she specified to herself. The black eye was from her ordeal with Sinclair but luckily her mother couldnít see under her clothes. Yes, mother, the person I love is resonsible for the lashmarks. And the bite marks at my belly and the small scars in my back. Oh, and by the way, heís actually a she and I asked... no, begged on my knees for her to do that to me.

Della sighed. It was going to be a loooong day.

The fork dabbed at the escargot that swam in the garlic butter. The grey-green blob twitched but stayed put.

Della did like snails but she wasnít particularily hungry right now. Absentmindedly she stabbed at her starter and now the small piece of meat came up and she put it on the bread. She chewed slowly, thinking. Now or never, she sighed and cleared her throat. Her parentsí discussion halted and they turned to gaze at her, her father munching on his wafer-thin prosciutto with honey melon..

The restaurant was lit with a low, hazy light, the waiters in their heavily starched white shirts and black aprons discussing quietly with their customers. It was a slow Sunday night and the excruciatingly high prices kept most casual passers-by away. The smallish restaurant was only half full which was nice because you didnít have to shout to be heard.

"Yes, dear?"

Della cleared her throat again. It felt as if the snail was stuck somewhere between her mouth and stomach, so hard it was to breathe normally. "The person Iím seeing..."

"Yes, where is he? Wasnít he supposed to come here?"

"Car trouble," Della explained. Sheíd gotten a call, Ghis told she had a flat tire and sheíd come in time for the main course. "Anyway..." she gulped and flicked her gaze to her parentsí expectant eyes. "Thereís something I gotta tell you. Itís not a he but a she."

The stunned silence that followed weighed a ton and a half, or so it felt. Her fatherís fork paused in mid-flight and both of their eyes bulged. Della wouldíve laughed at their utterly astonished looks had the situation been less severe. Her mother opened her mouth and was about to ask something when a familiar presence permeated Dellaís consciousness and a warm hand landed on her shoulder.

"Sorry Iím late," the much-awaited voice hummed in its rich timbre. Della put her hand on top of the one on her shoulder and gazed up at Ghisí smiling face. A dark eyebrow rose in question and Della answered with a faint nod. A smile and a small squeeze and the detective was feeling so much better.

"You must be Dellaís parents. Iím Ghislaine du Plessis," the dark woman intoned and extended her hand towards the Covingtons. So deeply bred was their politeness that they intoduced themselves in a polite yet rather subdued way. "Pleasure to meet you," Ghis hummed and sat down gracefully.

She was wearing an outfit Della had never seen, a handsome three-piece jacket suit in rich burgundy, the skirt short enough to leave a generous amount of tanned leg in view but long enough to be tasteful. Not one piece of jewellery broke the sleek lines of the suit that fit like a glove over the muscular frame of the clubowner, the beautiful colour in perfect sync with her tanned skin and dark hair. It brought out the blue eyes that had an almost ethereally bright blue quality that shone in the low, gentle light.

íYou look gorgeous,í Della mouthed at her silently and was rewarded by a momentary blush and a waggling eyebrow that spoke volumes.

They made some small talk about the car to let Dellaís parents have some time to adjust. The waiter came to tke away their plates and they ordered the main course. Della took salmon and Ghis decided on the house lobster. "For smacking purposes," she whispered to the blonde detective who couldnít stop the small giggle that escaped her.

Dellaís mother cleared her throat. "So, Ms du Plessis-"


"Ghislaine. Tell us about yourself."

Della let out a small sigh of relief. At least her parents would be civil with Ghis. If there was something she hated, it was freezing fish-eyes, the kind her mother usually excelled in. She gave the elder Covington a grateful glance.

Ghis smiled her best charming smile, the kind that would dazzle the hell out of even the stubbornest of people. "Well, I own a club in Soho, my familyís of French origin and I live in Mayfair."

Dellaís fatherís interest was piqued. "Oh? Where abouts there?" They launched into a lenghty discussion about the neighbourhood she lived in, it seems a friend of Dellaís father worked in the Canadian embassy that was only a block or two away. Ghis looked relaxed, was at her wittiest and with negligent ease, made her parents stand at ease. Della was relieved beyond belief that no-one had yet said a bad word.

Between main course and dessert, Dellaís mother nudged her. "Dee, come to the powder room with me. Thereís something wrong with my skirt." Della glanced at Ghis who was in deep discussion with her father. They shared a passion in classic cars and a lively debate on old Hispano-Suizas was in good progress. It seemed that the male Covington had forgotten this was his daughterís girlfriend he was talking with, so the dark head nodded and smiled.

The lining of the skirt was caught in the zipper and pulling the skirt askew. Della bit the tip of her tongue as she jimmied the zipper slowly down, trying not to break the silk inner lining.

"She seems nice."

The voice wafted down and Della smiled. "Yeah, she is that. A-ha," she said triumphantly as the persistent plastic thingy let loose of its prey. She straightened the lining and pulled the zipper back up. Patting her mother on her behind, she rose and met the warm grey eyes she had looked into so many times.

Her mother took her hand. "Are you sure of this? I mean..." Della squeezed the hand gently.

"Yes. I love her and I know she loves me. Iíve never been happier in my life."

The elder Covington sighed and looked at the ceiling. "Well." She took a deep breath. "This certainly was a surprise."

"I know, Iím sorry I dropped it at your lap all at once."

Her mother refocused on Della and smiled a small, sad smile. "As long as youíre happy."

"I am. Happier than I ever dreamed I could be."

"We need some time getting used to this... idea," her mother continued.

"Take all the time you need," Della said and tugged her towards the door. "We better get back."

They exited the ladiesí room and ambled back towards their table. Michaela Covington looked at her daughterís straight bearing and bobbing hair as she walked ahead of her and shook her head. When had the small, slim girl vanished and this confident yound woman emerged. She was more than proud of her Della, of her career and accomplishments. And if she wants to live her life with this woman, well. Nothing I can do about it now is there, she thought.

The rounded the last corner and as they approached the table, the dark woman turned to smile at them and rested her hand on the back of her chair. The woman was all but enigmatic, the elder of the female Covingtons thought. Her manner was polite and mild, yet there were depths in the startlingly blue eyes. She found it hard to look into them, so intense they were, but when she did, she saw deep intelligence and wry wit there, reminding her of her late aunt. The woman was fun, she had to admit grudgingly. And the way Della looked at her. It was a look of quiet adoration, unrequited love and an infinite field of feelings, all aimed at the strikingly handsome woman sitting close to her. Next to her wild beauty, Michaela felt very grey but she was smart enough to not let that cloud her judgement.

Ghislaine smiled at them and Dellaís mother saw the softening of the corners of the eyes, the gentle twinking of the icy pools. It seemed the feeling was mutual and if Michaela Covington had something learned in her long life, it was that love overcame all. Her daughter was happy with this person, that was all that mattered.

"Well. That went better than I expected."

"Yeah. Iíd say you charmed them over and out," Della said and leaned against the strong shoulder next to her. The luxuriously smooth light wool fabric prickled her cheek and she sighed happily. A chuckle shook the body the shoulder was attached to and Ghis wrapped her arm around the smaller womanís shoulder.

The Silver Phantom II glided smoothly through the nightly streets of London, rolling with the grace of a stallion and the mass of a whale along Piccadilly, guided by the sure hand of Herc. The car was a perfect match to the marbled edifices of the buildings at the street, buildings that housed old venerable companies, gentlemenís clubs and the finest of Londonís hotels. They had just dropped the Covingtons at one of them, though Della had had a hard time to convince her father leave the legendary Rolls Royce.

Ghis had decided that if hellís your destination, better not go in a handbasket. Style above all and so on, so she had decided on the Rolls she rarely used anymore. It was a sort of a family heirloom, bought by her grandfather at a time gone by, when divers and other manual labour was cheap and fuel cheaper. Restored with a loving hand, the silvery car was a sure attention-grabber and a neverending source of discussion.

"You trying to get into my knickers didnít help much, though," Ghis continued. She could feel the wicked smile that took shape on the detectiveís face.

"I have no idea what youíre talking about," she said in a light tone.

"Oh yeah?" Ghis hummed and turned the smirking face towards her, raising an eyebrow.

It had been towards the end of dessert when Ghis had felt Dellaís hand on her thigh. Her head had snapped towards the smaller woman, both eyebrows raised halfway to hairline. The detective had munched on her ice cream like nothing was happening and Ghis had refocused on her petit four.

When the hand had moved minutely and settled on her hemline, that had given her a momentary pause. But when the hand had slipped under her skirt and brushed the skin of her inner thigh in a way that could not be mistaken for a casual one, she had almost choked on her last small pastry. As discreetly as possible, she had settled the food in the right tract and felt the hand move again.

The fingertips had brushed her skin and when the muscle under them twitched, Della had flicked a sultry gaze at Ghis. Encouraged thusly, the hand had moved farther up, pushing the skirt as it went. Ghis had tried to focus on stopping the trembling of her hand when she had picked up her teacup and look as casual as possible. It had been hard.

The hand had stopped at the line of her underwear, brushing the edge of the fabric from her pelvis down. The tendon in Ghisí inner thigh had contracted and released a few times and tensed again as the forefinger had peeked inside her knickers. Her breathing had stopped with a small strained sound. It was just that moment that Dellaís father had asked something about her cars. She had had great trouble getting her voice control back and she had shot a murderous glance at Della who had just rested her chin on her hand and smiled like the sweetest of things.

"No idea whatsover," she smiled, tweaked Ghisí nose and kissed the smiling lips.

The car took the turn to Old Bond Street but neither of the women on the backseat noticed. The strong humm of the engine, the hiss of the wind against the car, the gentle creak of the leathered setas, all was incidental to the women. All they felt was the small cocoon of warmth that seemed too permeate the air around them.

A pair of grey eyes peeked through the rearview mirror. Maybe another round around the block, Herc thought and smiled at the quite lovely pair so engrossed in each other.

As far as Della could tell, it was German that was blaring out of the speakers in decibles so high that she could feel her eyelashes curl. She dashed the few steps to the stereos and turned the volume knob from southwest to east. "íSokay mum, it was just the music," she said to the cell phone she was holding and put her hand back on the receiver.

An expressive dark eyebrow lifted and reaching out, Ghis pulled the smaller woman to her from the hem of her jacket. A muffles squeal from the detective and she found herself in Ghisí lap.

"Something up?" The low voice whispered, warm breath tickling her ear. The clubowner adjusted the quite lovely weight on her lap and felt the woman humm in contentment.

"Mmmm... oh, yeah," Della shook out of her reverie. "Itís my mother. Sheís got something she wants to say to me before their flight."

"Invite her here," came the answer. Green eyes gazed at Ghis, a question in them. "Yeah, itís OK. As long as you donít take her to my office," the clubowner added, smiling a crooked smile.

A burst of laughter erupted from the detective, her eyes glinting in mirth. "Oh, sheíd swallow her pearls and the studded cat ío nine tails on the sight," she laughed, grinning at the mental image of her mild, civilised mother in front of Ghisí tool rack. The laughter was echoed and the hold of the tanned arms around her squeezed.

"Are you with someone there, dear," the small black phone intoned. Della grinned and put the phone back at her ear.

"Umm, no, Iín just sitting in my favourite comfy chair," she replied and felt a chuckle travel through the taller womanís frame. Ghis buried her face in the fair head in front of hers in a desperate attempt at not to laugh out loud.

Della coughed, grinned and continued. "Iím at Ghisí club, why donítcha come here," she said and gave the address.

"Uh oh. Your mother. What should I wear?" the clubowner said after Della hung up.

"Well dear, you better wear something," the blonde woman said and patted affectionately the bare thigh she was sitting on. Like most computer enthusiasts, she had a few odd ways when it came to coding. She liked to do it naked (a fact that Della didnít mind about, no) and she listened to German hardcore rock, loud (a fact that made the detective doubt the sanity of her partner). As was the case, she was sitting in her birthday suit in front of her newly fixed computer, installing the new hard drive that had arrived that very morning.

The blue eyes twinkled in bemusement. "How about the new jodhpurs and the black officerís shirt with the peaked uniform cap," she said, poking the detectiveís belly and was rewarded with a rolling of the mist green eyes and a slap of a small hand.

"Nothing in rubber, please," the woman on her lap intoned, mock exasperation in her voice.

Abiding to her partnerís request, Ghis dug out some regular clothes, a light blue manís shirt and black leather trousers. Stuffing her feet in her trusty combat boots, she eyed questioningly at the smirking detective who stood nearby.


"Just looking," she replied innocently, the green eyes slitting.

"What?" the clubowner repeated, extending her long arms to her sides.

Della stepped a step closer. "You..." Another step. "Are..." Another. "Stunning," She finished and stooped down to kiss the sitting woman. True to the detectiveís words, Ghis looked stunned.

"Whu... what brought that up?"

The smiling face only an inch away from hers licked her lips. "Just stating a fact," she finally replied, gave a quick peck and vanished through the door. Ghis shook her head and followed the perky blonde.

Michaela Covington arrived in thirty minutes. She was escorted to the main room by the gentlemanly Herc. The elder covington was quite smitten with the polite, handome man who kissed her hand in greeting and she blushed at the whispered compliment the blonde man made regarding her hair. The bulky doorman showed her to a small table, brought coffee and paced upstairs to find Della.

Michaela sipped at the mocha latte and hummed at the delicious taste. She had feared that the Britons couldnít make good coffee but here she had found an exception. She toasted at the gigantic woman behind the counter and nodded her approval. The bartender nodded back and smiled, the polishing move of the rag on the bar never pausing.

She sipped the coffe again and let her eyes roam around. Upon entering, she hadnít noticed that the place was so big, the outer appearance certainly hadnít promised such a cavernous place. Dark but well-maintained, she noticed, rows and rows of lights and speakers lining the walls wherever there was no bar. The art was odd, plaster statues of people with body proportions comparable to those of Greek gods. And the furniture... Michaela racked her highly-tuned brain at the odd contraptions, finally coming to a conclusion that they were in fact objets díart, not chairs.

A clear voice wafted down from the second floor and Covington recognized it to be her daughter. Another voice came down too, this one deeper and warm. Michaela knew this one too and she was still a bit ambiguous as how to deal with the owner of that rich-timbred intonation. She pulled herself straighter up as Della emerged from the stairwell, flanked by the tall and dark. She watched them amble towards her, the clubowner wrapping an arm around Dellaís shoulder. The blonde woman titlted her head to her side and up, smiling at her companion.

"Hi, mum," Della greeted and gave her a hug. She sat on the chair on the opposite side of the table and Ghis placed her hands on the detectiveís shoulders and lifted her gaze to the elder Covington.

Michaela met the blue eyes and felt the stark elecricity of the gaze. The eyes were livid, vibrant and of the purest colour she had ever seen, like... blue Curacao on ice, she thought wryly.

"Good day, Ms. Covington," Ghis said and patted Della once. She headed for the bar, leaving mother and daughter to talk in peace.

Della gazed at her mother who seemed to be wrapped in thought, her eyes somewhere far far away. The detective added two and two, coming up with a close approximation of Pi and took a wild guess, based on the start her mother took when looking at Ghis.

"Like the summer sky, arenít they?" she said, gazing at her nails. The elder Covington jumped a bit from the words and lifted her eyes to look at her daughter who was smiling in quiet knowledge. If someone it was Della who knew the magnetic personality Ghis had.

"Yeah. Lovely shade of blue," Michaela replied, a bit shyly. She wondered when her daughter had grown into this self-assured, happy and healthy young woman. Children grow so fast, she had been told when Della or her sister Lisa was born but only now did she realise the truth behind the words.

"Was there something...?"

"Ah, yes..." Michaela cleared her throat. "In accordance with these recent... developments," she said, gesturing vaguely with her hand, "I suppose you... wonít be coming... home for a while."

Della grabbed her motherís hand and squeezed it. The sad, older eyes met hers and a wan smile came to Michaelaís lips.

"Youíll always be my family. Iíll come home, to visit, soon. I promise," Della said. "But my life... and my love," she smiled, flicking a gaze at Ghis, still leaning against the bar and chatting with Salome, "Are here."

Michaela Covington nodded and squeezed back at the hand still gripping hers. "I guess you wonít be needing the apartment at St. Christopherís then."

Della blushed and shook her head. "No, nope," she managed and got an impulse to hug her mother and she obeyed it.

"You take care," the elder Covington whispered and got a stronger squeeze as a response. They disentangled and Della pulled her mother towards the bar.

"Pleasure meeting you again, Ms. Covinton," Ghis hummed, smiling her best charmer smile as she shook the offered hand. Dellaís mother echoed the smile.

"You take care of my girl, here," she uttered, casting a sly glance at her daughter. "She has a tendency to get into trouble."

Della backhanded her chuckling mother and Ghis practically roared in laughter at the face that was a lovely shade of pink, the colour creeping from neck up. "Oh, so Iíve noticed," the dark woman managed and was rewarded with a withering glare from the detective.

She glanced down, at her curiously bare stomach, and frowned. She didnít remember the said bodypart to be so tanned, nor so muscular. And her clothes... what was that ugly green top she had on?

She seemed to have four legs as well. No... her head turned, sluggishly, to a side and she saw that in fact, only two of the legs were hers, the outer ones were not. So, she was sitting in the ground... grass of some sort, long and dry... and in somebodyís lap. Ah.

She knew this person she was leaning against, she was sure. She could smell the familiar scent of leather and clean sweat and some other scent, spicy and sharp. Herbs of some sort, probably. But it was more than the scent or the long, sleekly muscled legs around her. It was a feeling of familiarity grown for an eternity, a feeling of... as if the person behind her wasnít really another persom but instead, the other half of her, body and soul. She tried to lift her hand but it refused to move. Again, and now it moved but it felt as if the limb weighed two tons, so heavy it was. She watched the raising arm, not feeling the said bodypart, just seeing it. It came closer and then started to back away, fading into a soft shade of... dark blue. Navy blue, her mind provided. Navy blue alcantara.

"Your knack for sleeping in the most oddest of places is highly commendable," a wry voice stated, the deep timbre humming behind and around and inside her. She blinked and the world of midnight blue came into focus.

"Oh... I fell asleep?" Della asked, her throat a bit dry. She tried to remember her dream, it had been so vivid. Leather, grass... and something glowing in a gloden haze, something intanglible but very real and comfortable. Nah. The vision escaped her and she shook her head, focusing on the woman sitting behind her on the divan.

"Yeah, smack in the middle of a backrub," Ghis chuckled and gently patted Dellaís side who promptly leaned against her and let out a small, content sigh. "Címon. We got tíget going," the dark woman said.

"Ok," the smaller woman grunted and rose. She stood, stretching luxuriously, the rubber of her dress groaning in protest.

She was wearing a leopard-speckled sleeveles catsuit that practically sucked onto her curves and a matching half-mask that had small cute pointy ears. The picture was finished with a long tail, metal claws that clipped onto her fingers (these ones were blunt for she feared for her and Ghisí dress too much to wear anything sharp) and long fingeless gloves that had the same pattern. Ghis matched her outfit with a perfect rubber reproduction of a circus animal tamer, top hat and and tight short jacket with flaps at the back and all.

"How about a collar?" Ghis asked the younger woman who pondered for a moment, smiled and nodded.

"Yeah, Iíll wear one. Maybe that annoying woman in red rubberíll leave me alone then."

Ghis chuckled and went to her tool rack. "Oh, Iíll chase her away all right," she quipped and waved a short thick lash suggestively.

Della giggled at the wildly waggling dark eyebrows and leaned on Ghisí arm. "My hero." she haid, sarcasm tinging her voice.

Ghis poked her tongue at the giggling blonde woman and put the lash away. She extracted a spiked collar made entirely of metal, a lone ring fastened to the front. A chainmail leash snapped onto the ring and the collar was wrapped around Dellaís neck. It was padded on the inside so it wasnít uncomfortable, itís weight more reassuring than anything.

"Címon, catnip," Ghis smiled and gently yanked at the leash. She turned to the door but was brought to a halt by two hand that circled around her middle and the feel of a forehead between her shoulderblades. A tanned hand with long, strong fingers came to rest on top of the entwined fingers that belonged to Della, a small, dreamy smile shaping the lovely red lips.

Della took a deep breath, taking in the slightly industrial scent of the rubber and the silicone shining agent on it. The material felt slippery on her skin, and also warm, the scent that was Ghis wafting through the artificial matrial. It was all a heady mixture, the essence of the woman she loved. She felt the warmth emanate from the taller woman, warmth that was not merely body heat. It was something golden, hazy... something she had seen in her dream, or more felt in her dream. It was an essential part of her, reaching to the darkest corners of her fragile, young soul and bringing light and comfort there. She smiled, resting her chin on one of the metal spikes that decorated her neck. Home.

--- The End ---

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