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“Please,” she said. "Please”

“Anything” Grace replied.

 

****

 

Dani wiped steam off the mirror with the back of her hand, and took stock of her cuts and bruises. She had felt them, of course, but seeing them on her face was still a shock.

She got dressed quickly and walked out into the bedroom, where Grace was thumbing vaguely through a small stack of clean clothes.

The others must have gone ahead to the gun range. The man… machine, she supposed, had a lot of weapons and a lot of targets, and everything looked well maintained - but they both knew Sarah would want to inspect them all personally before letting anyone else near them. And she’d made it clear she didn’t want company for a while.

“Sarah said she thinks they’ll be another hour or two,” said Grace. “You might want to get some sleep, no telling when you’ll get another chance.”

Dani looked towards the steady rattle of gunfire, beyond the curtained window.

“I don’t know if I could if I wanted to.”

Grace nodded vaguely, like she hadn’t really expected her to say yes anyway.

Dani thought maybe Grace could use some sleep too – how long since she actually had slept, really slept? - but she doubted she would either. She’d taken persuading they could both risk showers. She definitely wasn’t going to close her eyes and lie down. Not on what she clearly considered her watch.

Strange to know someone so well so quickly, Dani mused.

Grace returned to what she was doing, and pulled off the shapeless white t shirt.

She didn’t seem to care about privacy, but Dani looked away anyway.

The brief glance she’d had was still enough to tell a long story. She could see just how lean she was, how muscular, and just how many more geometric scars crossed her pale body under her clothes. Hard to imagine what kind of life built somebody like that.

When she looked back, Grace was wearing a clean black tank top from the bundle, gathering together the discarded shirt.

She paused, frowning thoughtfully.

She turned the shirt over in her hands, and - so absorbed she seemed to forget Dani was there - she brought it to her face and breathed in.

After a moment she glanced back up to where Dani was looking on.

“I recognize that smell from when I was a kid,” she explained quietly. “The soap, I guess. I can sort of smell it everywhere, I just hadn’t thought about it much.”

She stroked the cotton fabric with her thumb, like the texture was a novelty.

Dani watched her, thinking. That shirt had been stolen right off some goon's body, and Grace had worn it herself for hours afterwards, and still she’d been distracted by the smell of soap.

“Do you hate us?” she asked, carefully. “People like us, now?”

Grace looked up at her in surprise.

“What?”

“The world you come from… the future. It happens because of what we do now, right? Do you hate us, for the way you’ve had to live?”

Grace’s features gave away a guarded flicker of curiosity.

“Well shit, you were just thanking me for saving your life a while ago.”

She smiled, presumably to signal a joke in there somewhere. Dani wasn’t sure she’d actually seen her do it before.

She had a surprisingly sweet smile, all things considered, girlish even. Dani couldn’t help wondering she seemed out of practice, but she cast the question aside quickly.

She smiled back, recalling videos she’d seen of hostage negotiators approaching somebody with empty palms up and out.

“I just mean… if what you’ve told me is for real, I’d probably hate us.”

Grace leaned back thoughtfully, and took a deep breath.

Was she considering the question carefully, Dani mused, or just choosing her words as tactfully as she was able?

She’d shown, it could be said, very little talent for diplomacy so far.

“I think… I probably expected to, a little bit,” she said, after a time, a little sheepishly.

“Not you,” she added quickly. “But… people, in this time. But I mean, I remember a little before it all happened.”

Oh shit. Of course she did, Dani realized. The math just hadn’t occurred to her. She lived through it, she must remember before it.

“- Not much. But I remember that everything was just… normal, until it all changed. I figured that was because I was just a kid, and didn’t notice the signs or something but… That is how it is. All those people walking around in the street - It does feel totally normal to them. It is normal for them.”

She paused again.

Unused to speaking about herself, clearly, but she did seem to want to talk.

“Part of me wants to yell at them. Just stop… walking around talking, going to jobs, whatever. Go do something to save themselves. But… they can’t know what’s coming. They wouldn’t even understand if we tried to tell them. And all the stuff they’re worried about, it does matter now, even if it won’t later.”

Grace smiled again, sadly, like she was embarrassed.

“I think I get that now. The stuff they’re worried about, it’s the stuff that’s supposed to matter right? People shouldn’t have to live the way…”

“- the way I did”, she didn’t say, but Dani heard it anyway.

“To do the things I’ve done, or have done to myself; to make the choices I have.”

She let that hang where it was, but she was relieved when Grace continued.

“Out there… sun’s shining, and it’s safe to go outside and just walk around. There’s still TV, phones, a bunch of stuff that’s not broken. It’s different… it’s like a different universe.”

Her expression hardly changed, but her gaze drifted a little.

“Maybe I’m lucky to be here. See this version of the world for a while.”

She said this quietly, and looked as though she was confiding in something dreadful, shameful. Dani felt like she was watching her confess to something she couldn’t quite understand.

“I’ve left… some people behind I’m never going to see again. They remember even better than me.”

She made a dismissive huff and straightened up, suddenly conscious of herself.

Dani didn’t know how to respond. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“I’m sorry,” she said eventually, and it felt pathetically inadequate.

Grace, incredibly, smiled again, and shook her head.

“No, don’t. Don’t be sorry. But you have to understand.”

She stopped again, like she was frustrated that her words wouldn’t do what she wanted. Her tone became matter of fact.

“People died getting me here, and that’s hard to think about. And I’ve got a responsibility, I have to do what I’m here for. I have to do it, no matter what. You understand?”

Oh.

Dani balked. She understood the words, certainly. She was just revolted at what they meant.

“I don’t want that,” Dani said, and revolted again that she sounded so sullen and childish to her own ears. “I don’t want anybody else dying for me, I don’t want you dying for me.”

“That’s not up to you,” Grace said, shaking her head softly with a surprising new kindness. “I know how you feel. I promise. But that’s just how it is. I’m going to do what I was sent here to do, no matter what. And that means keeping you safe at all costs. No matter what.”

She very deliberately fixed Dani’s gaze.

“That goes both ways. You need to do what I’m here for, you have got to stay alive, no matter what.”

Grace wasn’t smiling anymore, or anything like it. But there was something under the surface Dani couldn’t quite figure out. She could swear it.

She’d known this woman for less than 36 hours, but already she’d learned her well enough to understand that she was trying to say something more than she was saying here.

Even if she wasn’t sure what it was.

“I’m serious. Promise me. I meant what I said. If it comes down to it, you’ve got get away, whatever it takes.”

“I can’t promise you that,” Dani said, and threw her hands up impatiently. “It would make me a fucking asshole. I’m not going to promise you that, I’m not a piece of shit.”

Grace scoffed, but she looked amused or impressed or something all the same.

Whatever it was, Dani hated it.

She sighed in frustration.

“Look, I’ll promise this - I won’t do anything dumb to get myself killed if I can help it, if you won’t either.”

This time Grace sighed.

She shook her head in defeat, and Dani laughed back.

It wasn’t resolved, then, but at least they’d figured out where they both stood for now.

Grace didn’t volunteer any more right away, and Dani didn’t want to ask.

After a few fidgety minutes she broke the silence, just to break it.

She gestured at the wound on Grace’s shoulder.

“That still hurt?”

Grace lifted her shoulder to see what she meant.

“Uh… kind of.”

She thought about it for a moment.

“I don’t know how I’d describe it. I can feel it healing,” she offered.

“I mean, how does it work, is it just going to close up like Wolverine or what?”

She watched Grace take a second to try to negotiate the reference.

“It’ll heal quicker than it would on somebody else.” 

“Can I see?”

Grace raised an eyebrow.

“We’ve got time to kill and I’ve got catching up to do, the least you can do is show me your cyborg supersoldier shit.”

Dani waved a hand towards the bed. Iron Woman was far taller than her, and she wanted to get a good look.

Grace frowned for a moment, but sighed and acquiesced amicably. When she sat on the edge of the bed, it sank a little under her weight, but Dani knew that she didn’t weigh very much more than…

Well, the word she almost thought of was “normal person”, but it felt ugly.

She didn’t weigh all that much more than anybody else her build would, which was remarkable how much metal must be in her body.

Some kind of alloy or carbon nanotube shit, she guessed? Like the stuff she’d seen in concept cars.

She reached for the bedside lampshade and tilted it to serve as a makeshift worklight. Grace didn’t look up at her.

She had the uncomfortably familiar sense of approaching a car to be worked on.

How many people did it take to do something like this to a human being, she wondered?

How long did it take to recover? How many people had examined or handled her body to see how she was healing, or what she was capable of?

Had they all approached her like Dani had, like a mechanic strolling up to the next job in a workshop?

She looked around for the first aid kit left open on the dresser, and dug some latex gloves out of it. She wasn’t really afraid of infection or anything, in either direction - it just seemed polite.

Probably the first time latex gloves made something feel less impersonal, she mused.

“So… you volunteer for this, or do you get volunteered?” she asked, adjusting the gloves.

Grace tried to smile, but this time it didn’t quite light.

“I was asked. And then, later, I volunteered.”

“Huh.”

 

“I was asked”.

 

Dani added it to the mental tally she was keeping.

I was asked. I was told. I was sent.

All these times she’d had something done to or asked of her, without anybody doing the doing or the asking. At most, she only ever mentioned “somebody”, “someone”, “people”. Never names. Never even he or she. Just… I was asked.

It was no accident. Dani couldn’t even guess what is was really about, and it felt off limits in a way all of its own. She decided not to push it, at least for now.

She touched skin near the wound gingerly. Grace didn’t flinch.

“Tell me if I’m hurting you, right?”

“You won’t.”

Still, she moved warily as she got nearer the damage itself. She shifted to get out of her own light, and carefully made the skin taught with her fingertips. Grace didn’t react.

It was fascinating. Gross, but fascinating. There were minute traces of… blood, she supposed, or something like it, around the immediate skin edges, and a decent amount of dirt and flakes of rust from the impact of rebar - and right underneath, the glint of silver.

“What’s it made from? Like… what metal or whatever?”

“It’s classified.”

Dani stopped and glared at her impatiently.

“Don’t give me that bullshit.”

Grace looked back up at her in surprise, then gave something like a chuckle.

“I mean, from me. It’s classified, whatever it’s made out of, it just comes in code numbers.”

Dani hummed skeptically and leaned back in. The edges of the breached skin were already less ragged than they had been only hours before.

“So it’s… some kind of synthetic mesh over your own muscles, right? Under your skin. That’s where the strength comes from? But there has to be like an, uh, a structure too, so you don’t just like, tear yourself apart.”

“There’s… skeletal stuff too, yeah. It’s all anchored to something.”

Something – bones, she meant bones.

And they must have reinforced them somehow too, so they didn’t break apart.

Dani had visions of drills, and bolts, and saws. Blood, muscle and bone.

Grace sat still patiently as she followed the clean straight scar lines that led from one joint to the next. She had other, older scars scattered here and there, but they only served to highlight how unnatural the straight lines and right angles of these ones were.

Christ, she thought, trying to manage a rising sense of horror. They carved her apart to do this.

Dani felt her stomach heave at the thought of a human being held together with stitches after this, like a roll of deboned meat in a butcher’s display.

She tried to imagine what it might have been like, to wake up afterwards, feeling what they’d done to you right down to your bones. How every part of you would weigh or move differently, how the body you'd lived in your whole life was something alien all of a sudden.

“I was asked” she thought.

What kind of person could ask somebody to go through this?

She felt a low anger at them. Did they check up on her afterwards, he or she, to see how she was coping? Did they just ask some flunkie how well their science project was coming along?

“Did uh…” she tried, hoping she’d think of something else to say. “Are there like… motors somewhere? A CPU? What runs all this stuff for you?”

“There’s some central mass hardware. Power source, sub processors, stuff like that.”

Central mass?

Central mass.

Oh cool, sure, no big deal, did they just toss some of your insides out to make room?

She felt her stomach roll again.

Yes, she realized. They almost certainly did.

She moved away from the shoulder wound and traced carefully across some of the darker patches on Grace’s collar bone. Dani was dimly aware she could feel warmth through the gloves, a little more than she should. She was always warm, always running hot.

Grace stayed still enough for her to see, but she could sense her leaning her head away a little to offer a clear view.

The same unsettling hex pattern she’d seen in the exposed mesh played out on her rising and falling chest in reverse, like an old photo negative.

When her skin, her own body, had been crushed against this shit, it had to yield. She couldn’t even bruise without it making itself known.

“Crazy” Dani heard herself say softly, following the pattern as it faded away from centre of one bruise and reappeared at the next one. Her voice struck out into the settling silence of the room. The gunfire outside felt a million miles away.

She could see how the bruise patterns conformed to real muscle in some places, and then didn’t on others.

Anchored to something, she thought.

She pressed gently on some unhurt, unmarked skin near Grace’s shoulder blade and couldn’t feel anything artificial press back. She must have been very lean and muscular even without the… surgery, or whatever you wanted to call it. She traced the slope of muscle from her shoulder down to her bicep, and Grace lifted her arm out a little to permit it.

With her fingertips, she traced scar lines past the strap of the shirt and across Grace’s back to her spine, from there up to the nape of her neck. Grace leaned forward without a word to let her trace it up to her hairline.

She'd just begun to follow it upwards when her eye caught Grace’s gaze and she startled.

Suddenly, she was too aware of how close she was, and she pulled her hands away. Grace saw with very nearly concealed amusement that she wasn’t sure where to put them instead.

Dani gave an embarrassed laugh, realizing at last that she, too, was being studied. Grace looked on, but said nothing.

“Studied” was the right word.

She'd only meant to let Dani satisfy her own curiosity; but somewhere along the way she’d gotten curious too. It was compelling to watch her, and how carefully she’d followed scars and come to conclusions about their purpose, to feel how she traced out structures and muscle, or decided where to look next. To watch an unfamiliar version of a very familiar person this close up, so focused - and focused on her - was a strange privilege.

It was fascinating just to see her so fascinated, to watch her think at leisure.

The woman she knew – or rather would know, in some years’ time, she supposed – made life and death decisions hourly. She asked terrible, vital things of people, all the time. Sent people to their deaths, when she had to, and they would go willingly.

But here she was now, younger and so much less hardened. So careful she was almost tender, even with a stranger’s body, concerned only with what had been done to it.

Yes, she’d shown interest in the augmentations, and asked logical mechanical questions about them, but something about her manner told Grace she wasn’t simply impressed by the technology.

She could see she was mindful not to do anything that might hurt, no matter how much she was reassured. She’d made a point of addressing her personally, more than necessary, the whole time. The way she mapped the scars and probed softly for something here or there… like she was trying to understand the consequences of these things on somebody, on Grace, rather than what they could do, or how they might be made.

It wasn’t quite what she would have expected. And Grace herself was not inclined to think in those terms. But the sentiment meant something.

Her older self, the Dani she had known before, was not always easy to read. She could inspire extraordinary loyalty and devotion from any crowd - but on a personal level, she was necessarily guarded and cautious. Even to Grace sometimes, and even more so with time.

In another way though, this younger, more open Dani was an enigma too. For all she’d been through in the last two days, all she’d lost– and Grace understood how much that really was – and for every right she had to think of nothing else, she’d looked bashfully away when she found Grace watching her. Like she was worried she might be doing something selfish or careless to her somehow.

It raised an uncomfortable question.

The Dani she knew, years older, and hardened by hard experiences, did she remember having done this?

Every second they’d spoken, had she been choosing not to tell her any of it?

She decided to dismiss the thought. Not because she didn’t think it was possible, but because… it didn’t matter now. If she had, there was a reason. It didn’t matter now, it wouldn’t change anything. And she didn’t want to think about it too much. She could never have an answer, and she didn’t enjoy thinking about someone she’d never see again. Could never see again.

Except, maybe, for the glimpses of her she thought she saw now and then, all the way behind this young woman’s dark brown eyes when she was thinking. When she was making sense of something. When she was reaching a conclusion or making a decision. She could see her then sometimes. Maybe.

“Uh. I think there is rust in the cut on your shoulder.”

Grace almost jolted, surprising herself, and she was grateful Dani had already turned back to the first aid kid.

She got some alcohol wipes and a squirt bottle of saline from the kit and came back to where Grace was sitting.

“I don’t know what happens if you heal over it, but we should clean it up.”

Nothing, probably, she could have said. Grace had survived plenty of shrapnel. But she didn’t say that, and didn't know why.

“Sure. Thanks.”

Dani had cleaned up big cuts before, at home and at work. She started carefully wiping dirt from the unbroken skin around the wound first. She poured a little saline and a few flecks of rust came freely away.

She leaned in to start cleaning the raw wound with a fresh wipe and paused.

“I mean it, tell me if I’m hurting you.”

She glanced back at Grace without thinking, and for the second time, found herself looking right into clear blue eyes, much closer than she’d meant to be.

“You won’t,” she said, much more softly.

And she believed it, Dani realized. She absolutely believed it.

She’d had to trust Grace with her life since this all began. But it was a surprise - maybe a confusing surprise - to understand Grace trusted her in return, even in that stupid little way.

This time she didn’t laugh or look away or try to change the subject. She looked, and Grace looked right back.

It came soft and slow, like it had happened all by itself, without anybody having to decide anything. The distance between them disappeared, and they kissed.

Even when they broke and kissed again it was deeper, more urgent, but still soft, like they’d both had enough of haste and roughness from the rest of the world.

The bottle left Dani’s grip, and was set down somewhere. When Grace’s hand slipped up Dani’s cheek and into her hair, she was careful to avoid her cuts and scrapes, just as Dani found herself avoiding the bruises on Grace’s collarbone when her hands moved up to her face.

It should feel strange, Grace thought distantly, to be doing this. But it didn’t, at all. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. Like it made so much sense that it might never make sense to stop, like it might never make sense to do anything else. It didn’t feel like she was with Dani Ramos, THE Dani Ramos, Commander, warrior saint, leader of the last human resistance, somebody to be awed and ordered by.

It felt like she was with somebody she knew, and needed, and needed her.

Maybe just for now or whatever, but for real all the same. That could be enough. She’d learned that a long time ago, in a world full of short lives. She could be what Dani needed for now, she didn’t need to believe she could mean more than that.

When Dani leaned in against Grace’s body, her arms took her in like she belonged to them. When her hands settled around Grace’s waist, she didn’t feel scars or muscle or think about metal or strength. It didn’t feel like she was with some mysterious superwoman from the end of the world. She felt closeness, and warmth, and safety, and gentleness.

It felt like she was with somebody she really cared about, and who really cared about her.

Crazy, she thought distantly. They barely knew each other. But it still felt true.

It was so easy to start pushing against her and moving them back onto the bed, she hardly noticed it happening. So easy she was surprised when she realized, amazed that Grace had let it go so far that she was already half lying under her.

“We probably shouldn’t,” she said between breaths.

“Why not?” asked Grace simply, looking up at her.

She wasn’t teasing or mocking. It was an honest question, asked honestly.

Dani realized she couldn’t think of a single honest reason.

She leaned forward and kissed her backwards and felt Grace move to hold her better as soon as she did. She eased them both back further up the bed, feeling muscles shift under her touch.

Grace was softer, in every way, than Dani might have imagined. When she lifted Dani’s shirt away she careful to avoid bruises, and to give her time to pull herself free from it with sore limbs. She kissed her face, throat, shoulders, breasts, gently and generously, slow enough to let her hesitate if she wanted.

She didn’t. Dani’s hands slid into her hair and kept her as close as she could as kisses wandered over her body. She pulled Grace’s own shirt over her head and threw it aside.

For just a second, Grace was conscious of her scars, though they’d never cost her much thought before. But Dani only looked at them and looked at her with the same warm curiosity she’d looked at her before. She’d never known her before them. They were just another part of her she seemed to find interesting.

She traced the ones on her ribcage, the ones she hadn’t really seen yet. Grace followed her gaze as she mentally sketched out their topography, pathing them from one intersection to another.

Almost like she had a few minutes ago, but it all felt totally different now. It felt shared and intimate now, something secret between them.

Dani felt the heat of Grace's bare skin and wondered how much felt different to Grace now than before they’d changed her body. Was it different for her to be kissed, to be touched? To hold somebody, to be held? Had they changed that too?

She wasn’t sure she wanted the answer. But she made sure to meet Grace’s watchful gaze as she ran her hand up her stomach, and met the swell of her breast with a little mischievous pressure. Grace smirked and sucked in a breath, and then pulled forward before she could explore any further, so suddenly yelped in surprise.

All at once, Grace’s mouth was so hot and so hungry on her skin, all over. Just like that, Dani was hardly aware of anything else but her mouth, hardly aware as she was shifted onto her back like she was weightless, hardly aware as Grace climbed over her.

And still, she let Dani guide her wherever she would, wherever she wanted, kissing and sucking and mouthing her chest, her breast, lingering around a proud nipple, back to her shoulder, back to her collarbone, wherever she was wanted. Dani wanted it all, wanted her everywhere, and gasped helplessly as her hips start to roll against Grace like a demand.

She didn’t even let up as she pulled open Dani’s jeans, dragging them off easily. She began plotting a definite path down her body, until a fist in her hair brought her abruptly back up to Dani’s own mouth.

Here, stay here, please, she was trying to say, and that was okay too. Grace nodded once as if she’d heard her out loud, and obliged happily.

Dani tugged on Grace’s own waistband, and then those jeans were pulled away too, so quickly she might have laughed at Grace’s eagerness if she could. She missed her new heat immediately, but when she returned to her, more skin to her skin, it was worth it. She could feel Grace’s body all around her, and the idea anything anywhere was still a threat to them seemed a world away. It was so easy to pretend not to know better.

Grace had come to think of sex as a kind of hard, fast catharsis to be snatched between watches or sorties. That would have made sense now, she knew - but it wouldn’t have been right, she knew that too. A day might come when Dani would never feel safe enough again to be so unarmored. There might come a time when she could never trust anyone as much as she seemed to trust Grace in that moment. She knew she didn’t want hard or fast right now, and she knew she didn’t want to give that to Dani either.

So she was slow and deliberate at first. She swept her hand up the soft skin of Dani’s thigh and parted her gently. She stroked over all of her at first, only gradually starting to focus her attentions.

Even that was enough to have Dani fighting not to sink nails into her back. She could feel it. She liked it.

With a little more coaxing, she felt it when Dani couldn’t help herself anymore at all, and did just that. She liked that even more.

She could feel every detail of how Dani’s body responded to her, and it was sublime. She would have heard Dani’s breathing change even if she couldn’t hear her pulse and her heartbeat too, even if she couldn’t sense every minute muscle spasm or blood rush, beyond what Dani probably could herself. When her fingertips found her in earnest, Dani made a hard, desperate sound in her ear, and it was better than any of it.

It was tempting to indulge herself by drawing it out – to take the time to enjoy how Dani’s body screamed for her and only her – for now - and how that made her feel. But she didn’t really want that either. 

She could have been more precise, or slower, or faster, but God, the more… the more Dani clung to her, the more she cried her name, or arched under her… it was like getting drunk on something. It felt like she was running on pure instinct, the only instinct - she just wanted Dani to have whatever she needed, or wanted. That was all she could imagine wanting.

Dani felt Grace’s hot breaths and hot mouth against her throat, a soft tongue and the tease of teeth on her skin. She could taste her kisses, she could smell heat and arousal, and she could feel muscle move on her and under her hands. She felt Grace’s face against her own, her body on her own, her legs around her own.

Everything Grace did seemed to be flooding through her senses, everything was close, hot, wet, overwhelming, powerful, tender, it wasn’t enough, and too much all at once. Like she was feeling too much to even understand, like Grace’s gathering strokes were going to bring her all the way out of her fucking mind. And she didn’t care; she knew she needed Grace every single way she could have her, she didn’t care what it might do.

She didn’t understand why Grace would do all this for somebody like her, or any of the things she’d done, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t even wonder if she deserved it anymore. She could only think about how close she was, how much she needed that final push, and needed it from Grace.

 

“Please,” she said. "Please”

 

They were so close she couldn’t even see Grace’s face any more, she could only feel her against her; so close that as Grace finally brought her to the brink, and whispered a single word reply she wasn’t meant to hear, she didn’t even recognize it until much later.

There were lots of things she wouldn’t realize until much later.

She felt her muscles start to fire and nerves ignite as she passed the point of no return, and then with a few more firm strokes, she was gone.

She only felt pleasure. She felt pleasure and it felt like the first real thing she’d felt in days. She felt it fill her up and flood over her and wash her away with it for miles and miles and miles.

She didn’t know how long it was before she came back to strong arms around her, catching her breath. Closeness, and warmth, and safety, and gentleness.

Grace had drawn sheets around them and pulled her in to lie facing her. Studying me again, Dani thought with a spent little smile to herself, closing her eyes. Fuck it, she can do what she wants, she decided.

She was right – Grace was studying her.

She had tried, as best she could, to take everything in, to the fullness of all of her enhanced senses, and to remember it all. The way Dani had tilted her head back when she’d kissed her throat. The heat of her body, and the way she’d moved. The taste of her soft, naked skin. The clean smell of her hair. Her heartbeat, how it raced. The soft, and louder, sounds she’d made before and during.

She didn’t really know what was ahead of them, but she wanted to take those things with her. She tried to petrify each and every detail into her memory.

When she swept a lock of dark hair away from Dani’s eyes, she smiled, and looked somehow younger and lighter than Dani could have even imagined her only recently. Something about her seemed awkward and uncertain again, in the way she sometimes seemed when she wasn’t fighting.

When she started to say something, Dani caught her up in a kiss she hadn’t expected. She was gratified to know she could catch Grace off balance like that too, and they smiled against each other.

It amazed her, the effect she seemed to have on Grace. She yielded easily as Dani shifted over her, even holding her around the waist to steady her, as Dani kissed her and marvelled that her burned face was already flawless again to the touch. She moaned freely when Dani palmed her breasts, and offered herself to meet her hands glady. She shifted apart when Dani reached between her thighs like she was spellbound.

It was a rough and real kind of intimacy all the same. Dani had some experience, but not with a woman, and her first explorations were inexpert and instinctive. She mapped her out by touch, divining where she was most sensitive by her response.

Dani hadn’t meant to tease, but the effect as she slowly discovered her was the same. Grace made a guttural, animal noise of need, but Dani was surprised by the trace of a wild smile at the edges of her gritted teeth. 

She liked it, she realized, enthralled - Grace liked having Dani test her like this. She was straining for more contact as Dani traced and teased her, but straining, maybe, to keep herself in check too, to stay at her pace.

She liked having Dani test her like this. She liked that Dani was making her wait while she did, she could see it.

She could see it, and still, maybe just to make her say it, she asked anyway.

You like me taking my time?

Grace nodded furiously, her jaw still clenched and her eyes screwed shut. Dani almost laughed with delight and disbelief that she was so unabashed about this, of all things.

I hope you can be very patient for me then.

Grace gave a fraught in reply.

Hearing her moan like that made Dani blush even now, and anybody in earshot would have known what it meant. She didn’t seem to care who heard her. Maybe it wasn’t something anybody cared about where Grace came from; maybe she liked not having to be quiet. Maybe she was just beyond caring anyway.

It surprised her how openly responsive Grace was to her. But she liked it, loved it, loved how everything about her felt honest, even that. She liked seeing the effect she could have on her, how immediate her hands or lips seemed to be for her, as unskilled as Dani considered herself to be. She was vocal, and tactile, and Dani learned quickly how she might need to be touched, or kept wanting, ecstatically, a little longer.

Even now, she could feel the edges of incredible strength in Grace’s body as she agonized beneath her, and still she seemed to be entirely at her mercy. She kissed Dani back fiercely, and arched into her with desperation, moaning and hissing every breath. She craned into every touch, even just a hand cupping her cheek, like it was life to her. 

Dani wondered if was an augment thing somehow - maybe all her senses were enhanced, even pleasure - or maybe she’d just been so stoked up from what they’d already done she was just much more sensitive than she'd have expected.

She couldn’t pretend though that she wanted to believe it was simply that.

She could feel how wet she was, how much she wanted her, and it was intoxicating to know beyond a doubt she’d done that to her. Not because she was some otherworldly super soldier, some time travelling superhero, it wasn’t novelty in having some kind of power over somebody powerful.

But because… maybe because she was somebody she wanted to want her so much. The way Grace looked to her, and opened up for her, and stayed vulnerable to her… she didn’t even know what to make of it, but she knew she’d have given anything to live up to it.

She wished she had more to offer than fucking in a stranger’s guest room. But if that was all there was right now, she could have all of it. She could have whatever she wanted of Dani, why ever she wanted it.

Grace’s hand seized in Dani’s hair abruptly, and her eyes snapped open.

God, those eyes. The way she was looking at her right now, she couldn’t imagine how anybody could be worth that. How much she could envy anyone who was.

Grace’s other hand grasped a bundle of sheets frantically, and Dani wondered if she was trying to make sure she didn’t hurt her somehow. She frowned, but there wasn't time to dwell on it, Grace was already too close.

That's what those eyes were telling her; that she couldn’t take much more.

A fierce blue stare fixed her as she pushed Grace right up to the threshold, even as her body started to tremble with tension. She clasped her own hand over Grace’s and tangled their fingers together.

It’s time, she said, already sure that was all she’d need to hear.

Grace cried Dani’s name once, and for a beat the air itself seemed to stop where it was.

Impossibly powerful muscles struggled furiously against each other for one more moment.

And all at once, everything suddenly gave at last, a tectonic break after a billion years, a release of unfathomable pent-up energy.

Whatever had been done to her, she was a force of nature, and as Grace clasped her hand back like a lifeline, Dani could suddenly understand what makes a person chase a storm. Dani saw and felt all that unimaginable strength crash together and crash apart again like a witness, a forever changed witness, to some extraordinary astronomic event. Grace cried a hoarse, primal roar like a warcry as something in her body seemed to surge like a fission reaction.

If she was holding back now, Dani couldn’t have said. She couldn’t even imagine it.

Maybe, she would come to wonder, there was some kind of perverse thrill in that idea - in knowing for a fact she could kill her in a heartbeat, and being able to trust entirely that she would not. But she wouldn’t think about any of that until much later.

There were lots of things Dani wouldn’t realize until later.

 

 

After everything, it was hard to believe that Grace would recover as quickly as she did, but of course she did. Dani was still catching her own breath, still half awestruck, by the time she had her wits back about her. Dani shook her head in wonder that Grace could pull herself together so quickly after that, but Grace only smiled a little bashfully. She kissed Dani softly, and Dani laughed when she slung an arm around her like they were teenagers going steady.

They wrapped up in each other like any lovers anywhere. Like they’d all the time in the world to lie in each other’s arms and say nothing, absorbed in one another's nearness. Dani might even have dozed a little. Grace might have leaned into her hair, to keep her pressed into a soft half-kiss until she stirred again.

They didn’t notice when the firing outside stopped. They didn’t even notice when Sarah came to the doorway.

They didn’t notice when she sighed and walked away, because just this once, doomsday could stand to wait just ten more fucking minutes.

 

****

 

Dani wouldn’t know for sure if Sarah had seen or heard anything for a long time. It wasn’t important anyway.

What was more important, what she would come to think about almost every night, were the very few words she and Grace had exchanged. They hadn’t said much, and Dani wasn’t sure if she regretted that or not. It amounted to a few questions, and they weren’t important either.

 

What mattered was realizing that, in the heat of it all, she'd used the language first to her. She'd asked everything in Spanish.

Grace had answered her.