Part Six - Thermal Expansion
Dana awoke to the most delicious sensation of a wide, soft tongue extensively cleaning her shoulder blades. It worked her skin with quick, strong drags, wide and steady. It took Dana a few minutes to come out of her heady twilight daze, a warm, naked body half under her own, moving with a breathing that matched hers. Her own head rested in the crook of a shoulder, the steamy scent of perspiration lingering in her nostrils. She opened her eyes to the bright morning light streaming through the kitchen windows. Her knee brushed the carpet, and she discovered that her hand was cupping a firm breast. She looked down at the relaxed, creamy face of her snoozing lover, lips slightly parted and a little pink ice cream still on her right cheek. She lightly squeezed the breast, watching a smile curl Grace's lips. She looked so damned cute that Dana simply stared at her in wonder, her body beginning to prickle in arousal. Then she thought, What the hell is licking my back? She spun around, startling Rip from a feast of leftover sweet peppermint.
"Friggin' dog!" she exclaimed, pushing herself to a kneeling position on the strewn cushions. "That's nasty." She wriggled her slobbered shoulders.
The dog looked at her a moment with browner-than-milk-chocolate eyes and then wandered into the bathroom for a quick drink from the toilet. Stupid humans, her doggy mind thought, my mouth is ten times cleaner than blondie blonde's ,and she let her lick her everywhere and then stick her tongue in her mouth. When her thirst was quenched, she belched and walked into the kitchen to explore the garbage can.
Grace moaned and rolled over, away from the commotion. Sopping wet with dog spit, Dana decided a shower was in order and padded her hickied, naked body to the bathroom.
The hot water felt good on her skin. Her back was a mixture of mottled pink patches of new skin and old--she had seen in the mirror--and the new sections felt strange because they had no nerve cells or feeling in them. However, the blood vessels and capillaries seemed to be growing and feeding the grafts well. She had gone to see Sydney in a moment of weakness. Grace had been correct; she was crawling out of her skin the next day when the anesthesia wore off. After Rachel told her she was on the verge of being labeled a bitch by the staff, she had ventured down to the ER, found Nurse Sydney, and begged her to help her.
Sydney had the hospital pharmacy fill Dana's prescription and checked her wounds for her, then scolded her for going to work. Dana was off the painkillers now, but there were some strange twinges and confusion where the open-ended nerves pressed up against the new skin. Her back was still a little tight and a little tender where the water was pelting it.
It had turned out to be quite a weekend after all. She had watched after Nate and had her ice cream too. She chuckled smugly. Boy, that kid had been a terror. Definitely no little people for her, she reiterated. She traced a Bic under her arm because Grace liked her smooth, and then did the other pit. They had never been given razors in the pen, and for very good reasons. It had been a pleasant, soft surprise to Dana when she discovered women shaved their legs and other parts. It was sexy as hell. She did her legs with a softening cream made just for women and then washed her hair. She was applying her three-minute Aussie conditioner when sheheard the bathroom door open and then felt the cold breeze whip around the shower curtain.
"Close the door."
"Sorry," slurred a sleepy voice. A few minutes later the toilet flushed and Dana was scalded..
"Jesus, Grace!" Dana yelped as she jumped to the far side of the tub, mashing her body against the wall, out of the line of spray.
"Sorry." A moment later the water cooled again and the shower curtain was pulled back. Grace stepped over the tub edge.
Dana asserted her ownership of the shower stream again. "Wow! Those eyes don't want to open, do they?" she said, amused, and then began to rinse the conditioner from her hair.
"Grrr," Grace growled, too tired to think of a word. Dana chuckled at her and moved sideways to let her into the water. One whiff of the Irish Spring and those green eyes popped open.
Dana admired her lover, watching the water run down the muscular back and wash away any remnants of peppermint-stick ice cream.
"Have you lost more weight?" she asked Grace.
"A little. Why?" The blonde worked her hair into a lather, the movement making her shoulders and biceps bulge slightly.
"You look good."
"I thought you liked me plump."
"I do. I like you a lot of ways and in a lot of positions," Dana replied, stepping closer until their two wet bodies were barely touching. "Tired?"
"Yes, and I ate way too much ice cream."
Dana reached up and pulled the wet hair from her lover's neck and began to nibble that spot she had found so delicious. Her hands slid around to grace the defined abdominal muscles.
"God, I missed you, Chipmunk," she moaned. "I can't seem to get enough of you." Her teeth nipped their way across sensitive, raw skin to a hickied collarbone. "So did I really convince you of forever?"
"No, but I think you made my mind leave my body for a while, and I may have caught the gist of a few cosmic truths," she groaned as teeth nipped her skin harder. She pressed backward into the body behind her, knowing that Dana found the contact erotically maddening. She was not surprised when Dana quickly turned her around and forced her back against the tile.
"What will it take?" the nano tech asked as her rough mouth bit and sucked a sternomastoid and then nibbled down to a pectoralis major. Her eyes were heavily lidded and dark in that unmistakable look of desire and hunger. Grace felt her own body tensing at the potency that Dana commanded and kept under control--most of the time. "God, Grace, you taste even better without the peppermint."
Green eyes rolled to the back of Grace's eyesockets as sharp, white teeth nipped lower to devour each rectus abdominus muscle in turn while strong, long fingers plied at adductor muscles, opening Grace for more attention.
She whimpered when teeth found their final destination.
"Say it!" Dana growled, sending vibrations through Grace's busy nerve network.
"Say what?" Grace whimpered again, confused. Dana stroked her with her tongue, tantalizing, yet not satisfying.
"Say you believe in forever."
"Or what?" the blonde panted. "You'll torture me until I do?"
A nefarious laugh that further aroused the doctor.
"Oh, God." Grace took a deep breath as Dana worked her. "Just a caveat," she panted. "I may end up lying to you about it because of your coercive methods."
Dana looked up. "Who the fuck uses a word like 'caveat' during sex?"
"Shut up!" Grace whispered. "It's a sexy word."
"I don't even know what it means."
"Look it up," Grace replied with an evil grin.
Dana returned her smile and then mumbled, "Freakin' intellectual chicks...you'd take over the world if you could," and then resumed her lingual torture of the blonde, having forgotten about that whole "forever" thing. Her only thoughts were of how wonderful experiencing this brainy chick always was.
"We already have, Dana," she groaned. "We just don't let you know it. Oh God!"
"I bought something for you while I was in the Underground," Grace said, wrapping a towel around her head and tying her terry robe closed. She walked over to the dresser and picked up a neatly folded, pink paper bag.
"Really?" Dana smiled and walked over. "What did you get me?"
Grace handed the bag to her. Dana read the name of the store printed on the outside and looked at Grace skeptically. She reached in and pulled out a pair of silky, black underwear. She automatically raised an eyebrow at her lover. "I don't think so."
Grace began to laugh. "Come on, Dana, try them on, please--for me. I guarantee they'll make you feel all sexy and hot at work. And by the time you come home you'll want me sooo badly you won't be able to breathe."
A long moment passed as blue eyes surveyed the panties. "Grace, do you want me to spontaneously combust or something? Because I couldn't be any hotter for you, unless maybe you were wearing these, or you were straight." She held them up in front of her face and scrutinized them. "Not exactly designed for comfort, are they?"
"They're called tangas."
"Ooookay. But I would have called them wedgies."
A devilish smile crossed the pink lips of the blonde as she thought about Dana in a thong. "Fine." She reached over for the panties and tried to snag them back.
"No. Mine!" Dana stated matter-of-factly. She removed the towel from her body and slipped the panties on. "At least you got the color right."
In retrospect, Grace was not sure if she had picked up a bug in D.C. or if it was the overexhaustion of a night filled with passion, but she took one look at her leggy lover in black silk and then hit the floor with a thud.
Dana donned a black turtleneck sweater to cover the series of love bites that wrapped around her neck like large plastic children's beads. She also wore very uncomfortable underwear and sported a Band-Aid across her nose and had slightly black eyes from Nate's direct hit with the orange juice glass. Nonetheless, she was in a very good mood. Neither woman was really sure about whether or not to mention the true intensity of the previous evening and the return of the trust that had been missing for the past year, but aside from the teasing and humor, whatever had happened seemed to be acknowledged by stares and smiles during the car ride into New Haven.
They walked together past the heightened security to the office they were temporarily sharing. It was still early, and most of the team were off for the two weeks that Dana had insisted it would take to reestablish the lab. It was going to take even longer than that, she had discovered on Friday.
"I wonder if we'll hear anything today about the investigation." Grace was thinking out loud. Dana closed the door behind her.
"Hmm," she answered, a little dreamily at the sound of her name.
"I know you don't like intimacy at work...."
The doctor smiled at her previous foolishness and bit her lip as she looked at her dark-haired lover. She was caught off-guard by the sudden embrace and the searing, thorough kissing that left the smaller woman breathless, her skirt askew, and very, very aroused again.
"I've wanted to do that every morning I've walked into this building with you," Dana said quickly.
Grace simply grinned back at her with a silly smile, still reeling from the afterglow.
Dana released Grace. "I doubt the detectives will come up with anything, and if they do they won't share it with us," she said, taking a seat in a cushioned tweed chair.
"I'm afraid it'll happen again," Grace replied. "And I think Lola has something to do with it."
Dana flipped a mechanical pencil through her agile fingers. "Why? Because she's new, or because she was conspicuously absent when the room was gassed?"
"I've asked Rachel to do a more thorough search on the girl."
"You think she may be hiding something too?"
"No. I want to rule out any possibilities. I chose the girl myself, and the last thing I want is Babbs trying to dictate how we hire people because of this incident."
"Do you think it may be Reichert getting us back?" Grace had finally asked what she, Rachel, and Dana had all been thinking.
Dana's brow creased as she frowned at the thought of Karl Reichert insinuating himself into their lives. "I hope not."
"Who do you think it might be?"
"Greer! Greer is teaching freshman physics in the SUNY system."
"He hates us, Grace."
"Hating someone and trying to kill innocent people are two very different things, and I doubt that Sam Greer has the psychopathic personality for that. I think it's Reichert."
Dana walked across the room to the door. She did not want to talk about Reichert with Grace. The fact that they had no idea where he was only heightened the discomfort. "If it were Reichert, Grace, we would all be dead," she stated and walked down the hall to the new computer center.
Grace did not see Dana again until the brunette showed up around lunchtime and asked her to join her for lunch in the cafeteria. Monday was pizza day, and Dana loved pizza day. And it was the perfect situation for Grace. She needed to ask her technical administrator something very important.
The two women were rolling their trays down the cafeteria line just as they did most every Monday. The cafeteria seemed to Grace to be the best place to ask a favor; she had had quite a bit of luck here before.
"Dana, I need you to do me a favor."
"For you, Chipmunk, anything."
"I want you to join me at the meeting with Barbara and the board tomorrow morning."
"I'm sorry. Let me rephrase that. For you, Chipmunk, anything except for your 8:30 board meeting."
"Please, Dana. They want a full report on the status for refurbishing the laboratory and how long it'll take us to get back on track. I don't want to spend all night trying to comprehend what you already know."
Dana sighed, then took one look into those sparkling green eyes and sighed again. "Okay."
Grace stopped in front of the desserts and stared at her nano tech. "What?"
"I said yes."
"Really? Just like that? Why?"
"Why do you think?" Dana wiggled her dark eyebrows and leaned forward lecherously.
"Because I let you do kinky things with food."
Dana chuckled. "No, Grace," she said, lifting a piece of chocolate cake off the shelf and placing it on her tray. "Because your friendship makes me happy--and your love has helped me purge myself of these demons that have controlled me for so long."
Grace stared at her for a moment and then frowned.
"What's the matter? You--you seem disappointed. I was trying to be romantic."
"Dana, you just likened me to a laxative. That's not romantic--that's geriatric." She grabbed a vanilla pudding, placed it on her tray, and resumed a steady pace toward the beverage center. "I like the kinky-sex-and-food reason better." But she turned to her stunned partner and gave her a genuine smile to let her know she was kidding. When Dana caught up to her, she leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lover's lips in front of the entire cafeteria crowd, homophobes and all.
"I think you should wear your gray wool slacks and the gray cashmere turtleneck I gave you for Christmas," Grace suggested as they walked back to the new office.
"I didn't say I would dress up. I only agreed to tag along." Dana popped a piece of cinnamon Dentyne into her mouth.
Grace rolled her eyes at her technical administrator/love machine. "You can't go in blue jeans and a T-shirt."
"Then I'll wear black jeans and a sweatshirt."
"Ha! You will not."
They rounded the corner and walked smack into two men with cropped, brown hair and matching brown, three-piece suits. They were standing just outside of Grace and Dana's office.
"Excuse us," Grace made her apologies and entered the room.
"Doctor Wilson?" One of the men asked. He had extremely dark-brown eyes, and a small scar extending from his upper lip to his right nostril.
"Yes," she answered. "Can I help you with something?"
Barbara Buchler was sitting at Grace's desk, using the phone. "Finally you're back from lunch. I hope Ms. Papadopolis is with you," Grace's supervisor said rather haughtily.
Dana had begun to inconspicuously retreat around the corner when the men stopped her with their questioning stares.
"What do you need, Barbara?" Grace asked, a bit perturbed that the administrator had been picking through the mess on her desk.
"These gentlemen are Mr. Ryan and Mr. Spinnelli from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They want to ask Ms. Papadolpolis and Dr. Jones a few questions."
"About the explosion?" Grace asked, completely taken by surprise.
"I talked to the detectives last week," Dana replied, her face emotionless.
One of the men smiled, a crooked tooth showing under the scar. "Because of the technological importance of the nature of your work, Ms. Papadopolis, we have been asked to pursue the investigation and categorize it as terrorism until we can determine otherwise."
"Which one are you?" Dana asked, her voice having dropped an octave.
"And who asked you to pursue this investigation, Mr. Spinosey?" Dana asked. She and Spinnelli stared at each other for a moment and then his smile returned.
"It's Spinnelli. The Contagion Agency."
"Let's take this across the hall into the conference room, shall we people?" Dr. Buchler commanded with a sweep of her arm.
The agents began to move across the hall to the room while Barabara held the door open for them. The ex-con did not move. Last week the time she spent with the New Haven police and the Fire Marshall had been bad enough. But flunkies sent by the Contagion Agency were worse.
Grace gave her lover a look of apprehension. "We'll be fine," she mouthed and smiled, then walked into the conference room after Dr. Buchler. Dana looked both up and down the hallway for any sign of Rachel Jones, and then followed the group into the room.
"We won't be needing you, Dr. Wilson," Barbara said as she sat down at the head of the long table.
"I'm sorry, Barbara, but considering this is my project, I have to insist on being here." She sat down and gave Barbara a regal smile. The two agents sat on the opposite side of the table.
Dana took her place next to Grace.
Each detective opened a laptop. Spinnelli set out recording hardware while Ryan went on-line.
"So, Dr. Papadopolis..." Ryan began.
"It's not 'Doctor,'" Barbara Buchler interjected.
Dana's expression did not change.
"Right. Sorry, I'm used to people in your position having Ph.D's. Now, Ms. Papadopolis, would you please tell us your version of the events last Monday?"
"Which one are you?"
"Which events do you mean, Mr. Ryser?" Dana replied evenly.
"Anything you feel is important," Ryan clarified.
Grace could sense from Dana's lack of animation and little name game as well as the pulsing of the brunette's jaw muscles that she was fighting to retain control. The blonde cleared her throat. "Don't you have the New Haven detective's reports? Because I believe her statement in there is pretty thorough. I have an email copy on the server if you need one." Grace looked directly at Ryan at smiled. "I think we can save a lot of valuable time if you look that up."
Dana folded her arms across her chest.
Ryan looked at Grace and then back at his computer. "Have it right here."
"Good. I hate repetition--it's such a waste."
"When did you start with the Nano Research Division?"
"About a year and a half ago."
"Dr. Jones and I recruited her," Grace added. "That information is in the personnel file. Would you like to peruse it?"
"Have it right here," Ryan repeated.
"Oh, more repetition. Do you doubt the accuracy of our records?"
Dana relaxed a little and began to chew her gum again. She enjoyed watching Grace assert herself, and she could tell the doctor enjoyed the little power trip.
"What were you doing at the time you were approached about the position?"
"Your father was a fisherman?"
"He was a Greek immigrant?"
"No. He was a Greek immigrant's son."
"And during the time before you were 'fishing'?"
"And before that?"
"You mean between prison and the time I was sailing?"
"Yes, we can start there."
"I worked for the Nano Division of the Weapons Agency for a while developing the Alpha and Beta viruses."
The agents looked at her with matching emotionless faces.
"Tell us about that work."
"I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you."
"We are aware of Ms. Papadopolis' previous nano experience," Grace explained. "And it is the reason we hired her. Unlike the government, we were able to offer her a project where the beneficial possibilities were worthy of her capabilities."
"You mean instead of creating nano viruses that decimate communities?"
"Exactly. We'll leave that to you."
"We don't work for the Weapons Division, Doctor."
"Oh, I'm sorry. It must have slipped my mind, not having actually seen your identification. Would you mind? This is a secure floor, and with what happened last week and the sensitive nature of our research here, I would like to make sure you really are who you claim to be." Grace smiled sweetly at the men.
"For God's sake, Grace," Barbara Buchler whispered.
"You do have identification?"
Both men retrieved their leather-bound ID's from their coat pockets and slid them across the table to the blonde doctor.
She opened the wallets and then recorded the personal identification numbers in her electronic organizer. She slid them to Dana to scrutinize.
"Did you get a chance to see these?" Dana asked Dr. Buchler.
"I'm all set," the administrator clipped back.
Dana slid them back to the agents. "Mr. Spackle--Mr. Rhinal." This was becoming quite interesting.
"So, gentlemen, do you have any real suspects in this investigation besides my technical administrator, who, by the way, risked her life to save not only a stricken technician but also the entire laboratory?" She began to laugh. "Because unless you do, I quite frankly think you are wasting our time. And I think it would be a good idea for me to run these identification numbers through the on-line identification system. There are a lot of imposters out there nowadays."
Jesus, Grace was good at this. Dana chuckled silently.
"I mean, you could be terrorists yourself."
Dana did her best not to laugh.
"We are trying to investigate the sabotage, Doctor."
"Uh-uh. You are insulting the most important member of our team and wasting our time." Grace stood up and walked over to the door. "You gentlemen will need to wait outside on the other side of the security door until we can clear you properly. If it hadn't been for Dr. Buchler, you would most definitely not have made it past our security without being properly screened. Unless, Barbara, you did that and are holding their badges."
"No, we bypassed security," Dr. Buchler admitted, her face tense from the affront.
Ooooh, Grace, you are going to pay for that one, Dana thought, wincing at her lover's brash remark.
"Well, luckily, we are not conducting any real research at the moment. Barbara, would you mind escorting them out? I will let you know when they are cleared." The men removed their belongings and followed the steaming administrator out of the secure area to a small lobby.
Grace and Dana looked at each other with raised eyebrows and then walked straight down to the computer center to find Rachel and to find out exactly whom they were dealing with.
"So what are we dealing with here?" Grace asked nervously. She paced the room while Rachel ran the identification numbers directly through the Federal Bureau of Investigations personnel database.
Dana played with an electro-magnetic-almost-perpetual-motion machine on Rachel's desk.
"Definitely Federal Weenies."
"Yes, Rach, but tell us what brand," Dana mumbled. She was nervous but did not want to show it.
"Definitely not store brand. Maybe Oscar Mayer, maybe Ball Park."
"Ball Park?" Dana asked surprised.
"That's who put their information in the database three days ago. I can tell by the footprints."
"What the hell are you two talking about!" Grace yelled.
"We can find out for sure," Rachel said, ignoring the pugnacious doctor. "See if they plump when we cook them."
"She's saying she thinks they may be National Security Agents, Grace," Dana explained.
"Yep," Dana replied.
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