Disclaimers: This is a piece of uber fiction. Therefore all characters within belong to me. :) They may strike a remarkable resemblence to a certain Warrior Princess and her Bard, but otherwise, this piece takes place in contemporary times with original characters.
Warnings: Okay, we've got some violence (nothing too graphic), some language, and of course, the subtext is alive and well in everything that I write. This experpt does not contain anything graphic, however if the thought of two women in romantic situations disturbs you, you most likely won't want to read this fiction. Go find some nice kiddie stories to read, or perhaps get out more.
Author's Note: This section takes a little detour into the realm I like to call fantasy. Just as TPTB, I like to take a little license with reality to make things more fun. So our gals may find themselves in situations that normal, everyday people would never actually deal with. But, in the end, this is why we read fiction. Because fictional characters tend to have more fun than we do. Anyway, that's my warning. I'll bet most of you can suspend your disbelief at some of the details we start running into now.
Comments, please! I love to hear what I'm doing right and what you folks like, so keep me posted. You can reach me at xencall @ yahoo.com.
"Ms. Wilson," Mr. Bleisek said, stopping at her desk. "Wonderful improvement."
Lana gazed down at the paper he dropped before her. A large red 'A' screamed up from the test. She allowed herself a thin smile.
"Hey, Wilson," Tom whispered as soon as the teacher had moved an appropriate distance away. When he had her attention he puckered his lips and made a wet kissing sound.
She felt her anger rise, but caught Avery Johnson's smirk and controlled herself. Without a trace of emotion in her voice, she said to Tom, "I didn't know you felt that way toward Mr. Bleisek."
Avery burst into surprised laughter, earning a glare from Tom. She shrugged, turning back toward the front of the room. But first she cast a quick wink toward Lana, acknowledging her jab. Lana felt absurdly proud of herself, even though deep down she knew she should've held herself above such infantile behavior. Tom glowered the rest of the class period, obviously not able to take what was dished out to him.
Lana was in high spirits as she left school that afternoon. She had a week off for spring break, a strong start to the semester, and a new car. Well, new to her, anyway. Her mother had finally gotten around to buying herself another vehicle, and had sold the old one to Lana. It would help her out come fall, she'd said knowingly.
Not wanting to think about that, Lana focused instead on her brief bout of freedom. She'd worked her hardest at school to get her mother off her back and because of it had actually wheedled the car out of her as well. She was giving as good as she got at school, and the worst of the kids there decided she wasn't worth the trouble anymore.
Something had happened to her, something that allowed her to contemplate new possibilities for herself. A Christmas present of sorts. Lana warmed, thinking about her vacation three months before.
Walking out into the parking lot, she spotted Mrs. Claymore carefully negotiating her way out of a wheelchair and into the passenger side of her friend's car. She clucked sympathetically at the injured Geography teacher. Lana continued on her way, passing the car and crossing the lot toward hers. There were still a number of vehicles left behind at this hour. There were several sport seasons still in full swing, and many students remained after school for practice.
The spring afternoon was rather cool, and she had a light jacket on to ward off the chill. But she removed it after unlocking the passenger side door of her car, dumping it and her bookbag on the seat. The car was dark and the sun had the inside cooking. As she rounded the front to reach the driver's side, she stopped dead in her tracks. Someone was sitting in the car next to hers.
The dark haired woman smiled at her through the windshield of her car, then leaned across the seat to peer out the open passenger window. "We've got to stop meeting like this," she remarked.
Lana gaped at her, disbelieving. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
Those piercing blue eyes left her a moment as the woman nodded toward a point behind her. Lana turned to look, but saw only Mrs. Claymore's friend stuffing the folded wheelchair into her trunk of her car before hopping back into the driver's side and pulling away from the curb. "No way, you think Claymore is scamming her insurance company?" she laughed.
The woman gazed at her once more. "You know her well?" she asked.
Lana shrugged. "She's lived across the street from us for the past ten years."
The transformation on the other woman's face struck her dumb for an instant. She smiled slyly, the warm light in her blue eyes making Lana melt. The younger woman pushed aside her niggling feeling of unease over running into this stranger for a second time, in another state no less.
"Why don't we take a ride?" The woman suggested. "So we can discuss a few things."
"Oh, now you want to talk," Lana said, putting her hands on her hips.
The darker woman acknowledged this with a raised brow. "Well, now you have something interesting to say." At Lana's injured expression, she held up one hand apologetically. "Wait, that didn't sound they way I meant it."
Lana shook her head. "I don't even know your name."
"Ah, of course." She stuck her hand out the passenger window. "Jake Regan."
Casting a sideways glance at her new acquaintance before accepting the proffered hand, Lana asked, "Jake?"
"It's an improvement to my given name, believe me," Jake assured her.
"Which is?" Lana prodded.
"Not so fast," she said, holding up one finger. "So how about it? Hop in, I'll drop you off back here when we're done. We can get ice cream."
Lana bit her lip, considering it. The strange thing was, she completely trusted this person, even though she didn't know a thing about her. She felt a level of comfort that she rarely shared with those she'd known for years. It was almost as if they'd met long before their run in down in Florida, although she knew that was hardly a possibility. Against her better judgment, Lana retrieved her bag from her car, locked it up, and jumped into the dark Cadillac.
"I'm Lana Wilson, by the way," she said as she pulled the door shut. "You sure put some miles on this thing," she remarked. "How old is it, anyway?"
"Older than you, little bit," the woman murmured, her voice husky. Lana felt a shiver at the sound of it.
A few minutes later Lana was happily slurping generous spoonfuls of a banana split, while Jake watched with an almost maternal expression on her face. "Not many girls your age can eat like that," the dark haired woman said.
Lana snorted. "Are you kidding? I could eat three of these and still be able to scarf down some of my mother's meatloaf." She paused. "So is this another reference to my age, bringing me here?"
"Well, you wouldn't have gotten one foot into Chesty's," Jake replied. She grabbed the glass of water sitting at the center of the table between them and took a swig.
Lana smiled at the mention of the most popular bar in town. "You really stake out a place pretty well before coming in to work it, don't you?" she asked.
"Definitely," the woman answered, eyes scanning the crowd. "Now tell me about Claymore."
Lana nodded. It was right to business, then. "She's a little eccentric, but harmless," she said. "She's, um...she's gay." This last bit she blurted out with a blush staining her cheeks.
Blue eyes swung back in her direction, pinning her in her seat. "Is that a problem?" Jake inquired casually.
"Oh no," Lana denied. "Not to me. But this is the Midwest...just about everyone else has a problem with it," she muttered.
Jake didn't respond. "Have you seen her perform any...strenuous activity since her accident?"
Lana's blush deepened. "No. She used to spend a lot of time outside in her garden, but I haven't seen her do any of that since she was injured. Why do you think she's faking it?"
"I'm working with an important contact of hers," Jake allowed.
Lana giggled. "This is so Cloak and Dagger," she said. "You're kind of a hero, huh?" This last bit was said ever so casually, as Lana dragged her spoon through what was left of her ice cream.
Jake quirked a grin at her. "The Urban Avenger again?" she asked.
"I've been following the story," Lana piped up excitedly. "Look." She pulled a binder out of her bookbag and opened it up on the table. Jake glanced down at it, her brow furrowing when she spotted a sketch of her own visage in one of the clippings found within.
"That looks nothing like me," she said. "The shape of the face is all crooked. You've got the wrong woman, little bit."
Lana shook her head. "This sketch is a compilation of three different witness accounts," she explained. "Of course it's going to look a little different than the real person. Witnesses are notoriously unreliable sources. They're all freaked out over what happened, and tend to forget some of the details. They finger the wrong criminals all of the time...it's a known fact."
"Is that right? Then how do you know this description can be trusted at all?"
"I know," Lana declared. "Just because I know what kind of person you are."
Jake chuckled. "Oh, you do?"
She nodded emphatically. "See, I was thrown a little bit by your job. I mean, it's not a really flashy way of fighting for the greater good. But you are helping people...people who end up paying for all of these scam artists who want to make an easy buck. Plus, you take care of your other crime fighting urges on the side."
"The greater good?" Jake asked. "And what's that?"
"Don't you read at all? The greater good is what all heroes are fighting for. To protect the innocent, and save civilization from the bad guys. It's basic comic book stuff."
Jake sighed. "I understand your enthusiasm," she said. "I'm not too old to have forgotten what it's like to be your age. But this is the real world, and comic books don't have much of an impact on how things really work."
"That's where you're wrong. See, everyone has to have faith that justice will prevail, otherwise life itself is miserable. But our government and politicians either can't or won't make sure things get taken care of for the little people. That's why heroes are so important. Now, read this article about how you stopped Melissa Johnson from being raped outside of a Quik Mart along the Interstate in Kentucky. I'll bet if I made a few calls I could find out that you were doing a job down there last September...maybe you even filled up with gas at the same convenience store. You saw something terrible happening, and knew that it had to be stopped. But you're too proud to take credit for it, so that's why you keep your identity a secret."
Jake had propped her head up with one hand, and was watching her quietly. "You tell an interesting story. It's not reality, but it's interesting. Now can we please get back to Mrs. Claymore?"
Lana took a deep breath and plunged forward with her next question. "I want to work with you on this case," she said.
Jake looked surprised. "What do you mean?"
"I mean I can help you. You're independently contracted to investigate these claims, right?" Jake nodded. "So, you can hire me on the side to do basic surveillance. I live in the same neighborhood, so it will be really easy. Better yet, I'll just volunteer, and you won't have to pay me or anything."
"This isn't a game, Lana. I'm making a living here. Besides, I don't want you to get into any trouble," Jake cautioned. But there was something...yes, a flicker in her eyes told Lana that her interest was piqued.
"I won't get into trouble," Lana assured her. "I'm really good at being sneaky, you'll see. And I'm quick. I figure things out pretty fast. You need my help for this one."
She could tell Jake was trying not to laugh at her. "You can watch Claymore," she began, raising her voice when Lana started squirming excitedly. "On an unofficial basis. Don't break any laws, don't cause any trouble. You can let me know if you find anything out. But don't try anything stupid, all right? You're not Nancy Drew."
Lana nodded. "Yeah, of course! This is going to be awesome. You'll be so impressed, I promise you."
Jake smiled back at her. "All right, I need to get going. I'm gonna get some more water. Meet you in the car?"
Picking up her scrapbook, Lana nodded. "I'm finished," she said.
Jake slid easily out of the booth, turning to saunter toward the counter once more. Lana's eyes were drawn to her body in spite of herself. The woman looked damned good in a pair of jeans, that was certain. She felt a strange fluttering deep within her and glanced away in confusion. That was inappropriate, she thought to herself. But despite her mind's resistance, she couldn't help but sneak another quick peek at Jake's backside while she was still turned away from her.
It had to have been the talk about Mrs. Claymore, Lana decided. The idea of two women together had never repulsed her, even when she was younger and everything related to sex reduced her to nervous giggles. In fact, she had never understood exactly why some people fostered so much hatred for homosexuals. As she grew older the idea of sex itself became less interesting to her, whether with a male or a female. Sometimes she thought she was asexual. That made her reaction to the older woman all the more bewildering.
"Are you ready?" she heard Jake's voice ask just above her head. Lana jumped, startled. She'd drifted off for a moment.
"Yeah, let's go," she said. "I have to work tonight, I almost forgot."
The majority of students had left school grounds by the time they returned. The days were getting longer but it was still turning to dusk when Jake screeched into the parking lot. "Don't forget what I told you," she warned. "No funny business, okay? I don't want to take responsibility if Claymore catches you fishing through her trash or some other such nonsense."
Lana bit back her retort. How did she know she'd been thinking about checking the garbage bins? The woman had to be psychic. "Okay, keep it simple. If I see her doing flips across her living room, I call your pager."
Jake grinned. "Yeah. She claims she can't even stand for extended periods of time, so even if she's walking out to get the paper, that's something I can use. It at least suggests she's doing more than she should. It'll only be a matter of time before I catch her in the act."
Lana watched her face as she explained things. She saw the same light in her eyes when she mentioned catching Mrs. Claymore doing something she shouldn't. It wasn't just fighting for good, Lana guessed, not for Jake. She was here for the hunt as well. Tracking these people down was just as satisfying as knowing she'd put a stop to a con artist's game. The woman's competitive streak was a mile wide.
"Good. Now I have to go play popcorn police," Lana said, frowning. At Jake's look, she explained, "I work at the movie theater. It's just a little name I...made up for it." Realizing how childish she sounded, she stopped.
"Well, best of luck then," Jake said, not unkindly. "I'll see you later."
After her interaction with Jake Regan, Lana found the rest of the evening incredibly boring. Usually she could at least stick her head into one of the theaters and watch a bit of whatever was playing, but not even that could satisfy her tonight. Her mind kept drifting back to her conversation with the dark haired woman, and the way her pants fit so snugly around her...at this point she was always either interrupted by a customer or compelled to shove the thought away, horrified.
"Horrified?" she whispered to herself as soon as yet another mother dragged her young child off to the bathrooms after asking her where they were. The ideas dancing through her mind concerning Jake Regan were hardly disturbing; rather, they were...titillating.
She shook her head in amazement. It didn't matter how she felt about the thoughts she was having, she had to stop them. After all, what would a woman like Jake want with a skinny kid like her? Better ignore this crush before it turned on her.
Lana spotted two familiar figures skulking about outside one of the closed theater doors. She frowned as she observed them. Those two jerks were always sneaking in. She swore they waited until she was on duty to do it, too. Right on cue, one of the two boys turned her way and grinned.
"Don't think I'm going to do anything about it, do you?" she muttered to herself. "Lana the doormat, that's me."
She stalked toward them, grabbing the second one just as he attempted to slip through the door. "Do you have a ticket?" she asked.
He graced her with a condescending sneer. "I just came out for a drink," he said.
Lana refused to loosen her grip. "That's bullshit and you know it. I want you and your friend out of here, now."
"God, lighten up, will you?" the first boy interjected. He'd heard the commotion and come back out for a closer look.
"Okay, I'll make you a deal," she said. "You get out of this theater and don't come back, or you explain to your parents why you're calling them from the police station."
He snorted at her, but his friend didn't seem so sure of himself anymore. "You wouldn't call the cops," he said.
Lana's lips curled into a sneer. "Try me," she said.
"Hey, just forget about it," the worried one told his comrade, swatting him on the arm. The first boy jerked his arm from out of her grasp, glaring at her. She raised her brows in question.
"Yeah, okay," he finally said. They walked away, hiding their wounded prides with an exaggerated saunter.
When Lana turned to head back toward her post, she spotted the night manager standing nearby. He wasn't looking too friendly just at that moment. Heart sinking, she approached him. "They were trying to sneak in..." she started, but he held up his hand.
"I saw what happened. Good job," he said. "How about taking over for Colleen until closing? She burned her hand and had to go home."
Pleased by his compliment, Lana realized he hadn't been shadowing her at all. "Oh, sure," she said.
It was after midnight when she finally pulled into her driveway, still overwhelmed by the day's activity. Meeting Jake again had reinvigorated her, and she wasn't ready to sleep yet. As she stepped out of her car, she happened to glance across the street. Lana noticed that a bedroom light still burned in Mrs. Claymore's house. She searched the opposing driveway, looking for the "friend's" car, but it was absent. She hadn't spent the night after all.
Lana shrugged and was about to turn back toward her own house when some movement caught her attention. She saw a shadow quickly pacing back and forth across the wall inside Mrs. Claymore's bedroom. Suspicious, she paused to watch.
"Hmm," she murmured to herself. "I wonder what she's up to?"
She took a quick look up and down the street to make sure she wouldn't be spotted, then lazily trotted across the street. At the sidewalk just off Claymore's yard, she stopped again, unsure. Jake had said no law-breaking, but she was still high from her triumph at the movie theater. Somehow she worked through a way to rationalize her next activity, and crossed the property line.
There was little advantage to standing down in the grass, so Lana did another quick visual sweep of her surroundings before choosing a prime branch of the oak tree growing near the corner of the house. She pulled herself up easily. Although was always the last one picked for any team in gym class, she'd have little trouble managing the physical aspects of most. Her mother used to roll her eyes whenever she caught her trying to climb to the top of their climbing tree in their backyard. "You take after your father," she'd say. "I never knew where that strength came from, as small as you both are."
A small branch poked her in the back as she swung around to get a good angle, and she heard the fabric of her white shirt rip. "Just great," she muttered.
She was a little out of breath by the time she'd climbed high enough to peek in through the window. Just before she did so, she stopped a moment, almost losing her nerve. Never mind illegal, what she was doing was pretty rude. But she thought about Jake's easy smile, and thought that if she caught Claymore doing something, it would be the best way to make that smile come again.
But when Lana peeked inside, she saw nothing out of the ordinary at first. Claymore's bed sat near the window, unmade. Nearby she could see the metallic shine of the wheelchair. She was musing over the feminine floral motif when she noticed movement for the first time. The wheelchair seemed to be shifting slightly of its own volition. Lana then realized just why the lighting was a little off. A blank space on the nightstand next to the bed revealed the appropriate position of the lamp that now lay on the floor beyond.
A hand thrust into view just then, startling her. She jerked away from the tree trunk in response, figuring out what she was seeing. Claymore must have fallen from the bed. Lana caught herself from losing her grip just in time, and quickly lowered herself down the tree. Who knew how long the woman had been trying to get back up? In her rush to reach the ground, she missed a toehold and slipped. She hung suspended by one hand for a moment, her feet frantically scrambling to find purchase. Unfortunately the branch she held on to wasn't strong enough to hold the weight. Lana heard the crack an instant before tumbling down, crashing through the rest of the branches and landing in a heap on the ground below.
"Lana, you have a visitor," the nurse said, poking her head through the door. "I said you were resting, but she was rather insistent."
Blinking sleepily, Lana smiled, knowing exactly who it was. "It's okay," she nodded.
When Jake burst into the room an instant later, the look on her face was not a happy one. "What the hell did you do to yourself?" she demanded.
"I broke my leg," Lana said sheepishly.
A dark brow raised incredulously. "Just your leg?" she inquired, losing some of her steam.
"Well, I also bruised a few ribs and...fractured my collarbone..." Lana looked away, embarrassed.
To her amazement, Jake started laughing at her. "I really should've known you'd go and do something like this," she said. "Climbed a tree outside of her house. Jesus."
"Hey, you can't tell me you've never been in the same situation," Lana accused her, growing angry.
Jake sat on the side of the bed, still smiling. "Maybe," she admitted. "But I never fell out."
"Anyway, Claymore is legitimate. She got up in the night and tried to use the bathroom by herself. It wasn't very good idea, though. So I guess I really blew it all around, huh?"
"Well, you've got initiative, I'll give you that," Jake said grudgingly. "But you're not ready for full time detective work quite yet."
Lana remembered the aftermath of her accident, ashamed. Apparently her scream woke up half the neighborhood. She didn't have a memory of that exact instant, since she passed out somewhere along the fall to the ground. When she woke up again she was being strapped to a gurney while her mother cried nearby. She managed to whisper what she knew about Claymore's trouble before losing consciousness again. Man, her mother ripped her a new one for that incident.
"You have to leave now, don't you?" Lana asked. When Jake nodded, she sighed. "Do you believe in fate?"
The other woman looked surprised by the question. "Why do you ask?"
"Don't you think it's funny that we ran across each other again like this? I mean, what are the chances, right?"
Jake's mouth twisted wryly. "More comic book stuff," she commented.
Lana shook her head. "Never mind. Just forget I said it."
"Now, now, don't be like that," Jake chastised her. "I came here to give you something."
Her interest piqued, Lana pushed herself up straighter in the reclined bed. "What?" she asked.
Jake pulled a piece of paper out of her jacket pocket and passed it to her. "I'm kind of difficult to get a hold of on the phone," she said by way of explanation. "But maybe a pen pal will help keep you out of trouble. If you ever want to reach me, that is."
She'd scrawled an email address in bold red ink. Hiding her excitement, she nodded. "Sure. I won't be doing much for a few weeks, anyhow."
The older woman chuckled. "That's probably a good thing. Listen, I've got to get on the road."
Lana bit her lip, considering something for a moment, then decided to plunge forward. "I'd give you a hug, if I wasn't wrapped up like a mummy," she said.
She found she couldn't quite meet those blue eyes as they sharpened their gaze on her. But she was truly shocked when Jake silently leaned forward and ruffled her hair, then gave her a chaste peck on the cheek. "Don't want to break anything else," she commented. "You write to me now; I don't hand that out to just anybody. Keep me posted on the superhero biz."
Lana was beaming when the darker woman left the room, closing the door behind her. Mind spinning, she pulled the bed's tray closer to her and grabbed the sketchbook her mother had purchased for her from the drugstore down the street. She was inspired in more way than one. Using her left hand, which pained her much less than her right side, she scrawled a few lines onto the first page.
"During times of darkness, when men and women have lost their faith in goodness and justice, it takes only one average person to realize that she has the power to do something to put things right. There are no knights in shining armor, no kindly wizards to slay the dragons with wisdom and magic. But in the crowded streets of urban America, there is..."
Lana paused. She couldn't very well use the same name the press had chosen for her, not if Jake expected to keep her anonymity. She frowned, racking her brains for a good superhero name. Her hand jerked back to the page a moment later, a big grin resting on her features.
"But in the crowded streets of urban America, there is Vigilant."
Satisfied, Lana put the pencil down and lay back in bed. She was too tired to start the first issue right away, and had to think about it a little bit anyway. As she drifted off, she imagined Jake's expression when she read her own story. It would impress her, she decided.
To Be Continued in Part Three
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