DISCLAIMER: Charlie's Angels and its characters are the property of Spelling-Goldberg Productions.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set in Los Angeles in the late 1970s, suspended somewhere between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Kelly squinted in the darkness. Bodies--warm, hard, female--swarmed around her, pressing close, gyrating to the disco beat that pounded too loud from the speakers on stage. The air was thick with smoke. She'd hate the smell when she got home, would hate it stuck on her clothes, staining her hair, making her light-headed and dirty. For now, she inhaled deeply, trying to let the club's atmosphere into her senses. Trying to get swept away.
A hand took her arm. She turned into the grasp, and found herself face to face with a woman with a shaved head, shorter than herself, who was looking up at her with a sneer. Or, Kelly thought it was a sneer because the ring in the woman's nose gave her a porcine look.
"You looking for something in particular, honey?"
Kelly watched the woman's lips move as she spoke. They were chapped and rough. The hand on her arm was hard. She could feel calluses on the fingers, bruising her silk blouse, and she wondered why she'd come at all. "Sorry, I'm looking for a brunette."
The woman nodded. The hand left her arm. Kelly looked past her, at the bar, where a woman with short brown hair sat nursing a club soda. "Know her?"
The bald woman turned around to look. "Sure, Angie. Comes around every other month, but she's not from here. Back East, I think. Flies in and out on her job."
"Want an introduction?"
"No." Kelly spared a smile. "Good luck."
The woman watched her walk away, and sighed. "You, too."
The clock slowly rolled over from 3:01 to 3:02. Kelly groaned. Angie was asleep next to her, as was proper in the middle of the night, and Kelly had tried it, had tried to fall asleep with a woman's soft breathing against her hair, but now she was thinking of the best way to find her pants and get out without having to face an awkward goodbye conversation. Maybe Angie was a heavy sleeper.
Kelly was good at getting what she wanted. She knew she was beautiful enough that often she just had to ask, and whenever it took more finesse than that, she was a trained detective. Angie had taken one look at her and had sealed the deal. Kelly had realized only when they were making love, when Angie had said her name, that it wasn't what she wanted after all. Angie wasn't as smart as she had hoped.
They never were.
She slipped out of bed. If Angie woke up, she could always claim to be going to the bathroom. Angie snored on. Kelly found her underwear and began getting dressed. She felt nauseous, and unable to remember, at 3:06 A.M., why she had done this.
In the bathroom, fully dressed, she washed her face, and resisted the temptation to take a shower. At home, she could wash herself, and wash her clothes, and feel safe, because Angie would be flying back to Philadelphia, and no one would know what she had done.
"Good morning, Angels."
"Good morning, Charlie." The three women chorused the greeting. Kris's voice was the loudest, and most sweetly pitched, rising above the others. Bosley, as usual, was half a beat behind. It was noon at Charles Townsend Investigations, and neat Chinese takeout containers were spread over the coffee table and the bar.
Charlie's voice came from the speaker on Bosley's desk. "I have a new case for you. Have you ever heard of Alastair Robon?"
"Isn't he the mobster?" Sabrina spoke up from behind the bar, where she was mixing herself a mojito. Kelly watched her lick sugar from the end of a minature baseball bat, and nearly missed Charlie's answer.
"Yes. He's been smuggling drugs through clubs in Los Angeles, and some of them have been tainted. There've been two deaths, and the father of one of the victims contacted me."
"So we'll be starting at the clubs?" Kris was painting her fingernails.
"The Cicero is where Max Taskwell was last seen before his death. Robon's involved in prostitution, too, and his tricks are getting younger and younger."
"The Cicero?" Kelly looked at the speaker on the desk. "The men's bar?"
"Yes." Charlie's voice crackled. "That's why the police aren't going to get involved."
"Should we, then?" Kelly asked.
Sabrina choked on her drink. Kris froze in the midst of painting her pinkie. Bosley dropped his magazine.
"I believe so," Charlie said. "But if you have a problem, Kelly, I'm sure the other girls can take care of things for now."
Kelly inhaled. "No, I don't have a problem, Charlie. I was raised better than that."
"Glad to hear it. Bosley has the files on Alastair and his lieutenant, Seike Trogden. We believe she's the one running the laboratories and handling the distribution. Have a lovely afternoon, Angels."
"Goodbye, Charlie," Sabrina said distractedly, already looking at the file folder Bosley handed to her. Kris blew on her nails and stood up to walk to the bar. Kelly followed. Her cheeks still burned. She wished she hadn't spoken. It had been a slip of the tongue, brought on by the mention of Cicero.
"Are you all right, Kelly?" Sabrina covered her hand with her own, and offered a gentle squeeze.
Kelly's head jerked up. "I don't have a problem."
"Yeah, you said that."
Kelly looked at the open file on the bar. Seike's picture was on top, a glossy 8x10 photo of a woman in a business suit. "Nice picture."
"She made the papers," Bosley said. "Charity event."
"Hey, Bri... " Kelly said, ignoring the fact that Sabrina's hand still held hers. "She kind of looks like you."
Kris peered over her shoulder. "Hey. Yeah. She kind of does."
The Cicero was in a downtown industrial district, in a converted warehouse that had high windows blacked over and a lot of empty space that the bar area didn't consume. Kelly had never thought of the building before, but now she wondered if the warehouse was holding drugs. Convenient for the buyers inside.
The bar was packed for a Thursday night. Sabrina, Kris, and Kelly, hoping to blend in as three girls out for dancing, stuck out in a crowd of two hundred men.
"At least I won't get hit on," Kris quipped, watching two men gyrating to a Donna Summer song blasting through the stage speakers. "Though, in a way, it's a shame."
"At least the women's bathrooms will be clean," Sabrina said. Kris smacked her in the stomach.
Kelly was looking in every direction, squinting through the smoke. Kris tugged her arm. "Let's start at the bar."
"Fine by me."
The bartender gave them a friendly smile and introduced himself as Eric. Kelly was finally relaxing as she settled into a barstool, after realizing that none of the men sitting to the right of her were leering. "What'll you have, ladies?"
"Gin and tonics all around," Sabrina said. Eric waited for Kris and Kelly to nod their consent before he reached for the spritzer. He squinted at Kelly.
"Hey, have I seen you at Ladies' Night?"
"What? No. Hardly." Kelly tossed her hair, and looked away from him, at the neon pink flamingo hanging over the payphone. He shrugged and moved down the bar to get glasses.
Sabrina nudged her. "You should have said yes."
"It'll help our cover if we're seen as regulars."
Kelly looked back at her. Sabrina's brow was furrowed, and Kelly could tell she was more worried about the case than where Kelly spent her time. "You're right," Kelly said. "I should have lie--I should have said I was here."
Sabrina nodded, seemingly satisfied. Eric set neat gin and tonics in front of each of the girls. Sabrina caught his eye. "We heard there was good dancing here."
"The best. Without the right lights, people don't loosen up." He stopped speaking abruptly. Kelly followed his gaze as two policemen entered the bar. They settled at the other end, in uniform, wearing guns and handcuffs.
Sabrina frowned. "Do they come often?"
"Like clockwork. Excuse me." Eric went to serve them, and Kelly heard them order club soda. A Barbra Streisand tune came over the stereo system, and the cops cringed as the male contingent of the club burst into song along with the recording.
Eric came back. "Scumbags. They come, they make everyone uncomfortable."
"Why do they come?" Kris leaned against the bar.
The bartender shifted uncomfortably. "Kickbacks. Which really isn't fair, seeing as how they're bringing the stuff in, in the first place."
"The stuff." Sabrina turned around and looked at the crowd. "Can't dance without it, right?"
"So they say." Eric sighed. "I just think it makes them run into each other like a bunch of fools."
Kelly took her first sip of her drink, and finished off half of it before she asked, "Did you know Max Taskwell?"
The bartender met her eyes. "Not really. Not more than everybody did."
"Did the cops?"
"Sure. Like I said. Everybody." Eric was beckoned to another patron, and he left the girls with a little wave.
Sabrina exhaled. Her jaw was set. "That could have been us, if we'd stayed in the force."
"No, not us." Kris touched her shoulder.
Kelly didn't answer.
Sabrina finished her drink. "Hey, if the cops are connected to Alastair, we should follow up on it. I'll take the big one, Kris, you take the skinny fellow?"
"Hey, what about me?" Kelly said.
Sabrina smirked. "Look at you. Everyone will think you're a drag queen."
"I'll stay here, then. See if I can't get people to open up about Max."
Sabrina grinned and patted her back. "Your natural habitat."
Kelly wondered, watching the girls slink up to the cops, how much Sabrina knew.
Alastair leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his stomach. "Three little girls."
Light flooded the picture window behind him. His office on the sixth floor of a building in downtown Los Angeles faced west. On clear days he could almost see the ocean. Across from him, in a hard-backed chair, sat a severe woman, who was pointing a hooked finger at three photographs spread out on his desk. Seike. He couldn't run the business without her.
She knew it.
"They look clean-cut," Seike said. "What do you think they want with a seedy enterprise like this?"
"Our informant mentioned Max. I told you he came from money," Alastair said calmly. He was unflappable as he studied the grainy photographs of three women getting out of a Cobra II. "Nice car."
"He should have been spending it on product, not trying to help those boys."
Alastair laughed. "He was young and idealistic. Having money will do that to you."
Seike narrowed her eyes.
Alastair rocked back in his chair. "Things are heating up."
"So let me take care of them. If the police aren't going to look into Max's death too hard, they won't look into theirs, either."
"No. Not yet. You don't think the police will care about three beautiful, white women? Straight women? And didn't you tell me they were ex-cops?"
Seike snorted. She tapped the photograph of a woman with long, dark, wavy hair. "She's been to the Cicero before. And not on business."
"The weak link."
"And she was a dancer. Our kind of dancer."
"Lean on her, then. We'll let Rick and Tate distract the other two. Lead them on a wild goose chase."
"And make sure they know their expenses are paid. Those girls proably think they're dirty cops." Alastair rocked forward and picked up a picture. "Seike... Do you think she looks familiar? Which one is she?"
Seike scowled. "Sabrina Duncan. She looks nothing like me."
"Well, you're far more beautiful, of course."
"But still... I think I have an idea."
The waiter stood at the edge of the umbrelled table. The outdoor cafe overlooked the Hollywood sign, and Sabrina, Kris, and Kelly were settled in for an afternoon conference.
Sabrina tapped the menu against her chin. "It's a warm afternoon. How about a mai tai?"
The waiter nodded. "Very good, miss."
"Gin and tonic," Kris said.
Kelly shook her head at them. "It's a little early for me. Club soda."
"It's never too early, Kelly," Sabrina said. "That's why Charlie has a bar."
"Maybe he just likes glassware."
"Do you think he does?" Kris was watching the waiter walk to the next table. "Or would he be surprised when we got him crystal for his birthday?"
"When's his birthday?" Kelly was smiling.
Sabrina socked her arm. "So, if you're not drinking now, will you be drinking later?"
Kelly leaned toward her, and said, "Come by later and find out."
"Speaking of hot dates..." Kris said, "Tate is taking me roller-skating tonight."'
"Are you going to try and convince him skating would be better with some psychotropic drugs?"
Kris grinned. "Maybe. Or maybe I'll spike his popcorn and see what he has to say."
"Vixen." Sabrina was laughing as her mai tai arrived. She plucked out the mini umbrella and sucked on the end. Kelly stared at her lips.
Kris nudged her leg under the table. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure. I thought I'd--"
"Girls!" Bosley came onto the patio, panting and clutching his chest. Sabrina offered him her drink, which he gulped gratefully. "I'm so glad I found you. I spotted Kris's car outside."
"What couldn't wait, Bosley?" Sabrina patted his back as he settled into a chair.
"Those policemen you brought to our attention? I was just down at LAPD headquarters. They aren't cops."
Kelly sat up straighter. "What?"
Bosley nodded vigorously, and took another sip of Sabrina's mai tai. She watched it mournfully. "They aren't cops," he said. "They never were."
"Then what's going on?"
Kelly put her hands on the table. "I'll go to the Cicero tonight, and find out who, besides us, knows who Rick and Tate really are. Or, aren't."
Bosley nodded. "Maybe Max found out."
"Kelly..." Sabrina reached over and squeezed her wrist. "Be careful."
Kelly smiled. "Don't worry about me. At least I don't have to go on a date."
"Yeah..." Sabrina said as she sucked on her straw, now that Bosley had relinquished her drink. "That's always the worst."
"Three nights in a row..." Eric wore a curious smile when he set the vodka tonic on a napkin in front of her. She was back at Cicero's, following leads as promised. Talk and eventually something will break. Detecting 101.
"I could have sworn I saw you at ladies' night," Eric said, leaning on the bar. "That's not a face I'd soon forget."
She blushed mechanically and took a sip of her drink.
Eric looked like he was about to ask her something, but as he was inhaling, a man sat next to her. "Hi, sweetheart."
Kelly squinted at him.
"Buy you a drink?"
"I'm busy," she said, jerking her head at Eric.
"The rest of my life."
"Now, look here..."
Eric tapped the bar. "Hey, buddy."
The man looked at him.
"She's a woman. For real."
The man took another hard look at Kelly. His eyes widened, and he cursed under his breath before leaving the barstool.
Kelly sighed. "You'd think, of all the places I could go, not to be bothered..."
Eric laughed. "There's a reason, sweetcheeks, that we want to be treated just like everyone else."
"Well, welcome to hell." She bit her lip. "And speaking of...Max."
"Look, I told you, I barely knew him."
"And you barely knew those two cops last night weren't cops, either, right Eric?"
His eyebrows raised, and he didn't say anything.
"Kelly." The word went right through Kelly and she turned around to see Sabrina walking into the bar. The room was dark and smoky and Kelly had to squint, because Sabrina shouldn't be here, and didn't look quite like herself, with leisure suit traded in for a black leather skirt. But the voice was unmistakable, pitched and throaty, and Kelly swallowed before turning back to Eric.
"Tips aren't good enough? They give you a cut of the trade for dealing, too?"
"Look, it's not like that." He grabbed her wrist. "There aren't many places for us folk to go, and the protection we have to pay is--"
Sabrina reached the bar. "This guy bothering you?" She placed her hand over Eric's, on Kelly's arm. Eric yanked back, his eyes widening.
"What are you doing here?" Kelly blinked through the smoke at Sabrina, but couldn't quite see her face. Her hair was combed to hang down over her eyes.
Sabrina laughed. "I came to dance. My date with Tate was a bust."
"I thought you were with Rick."
"Whatever. It was a waste of time. So let's dance."
"Kelly..." Eric was reaching over the bar, grasping for her hand again, but the wooden beam stopped him.
Sabrina gave him a dark look as she tugged Kelly toward the dance floor. "She doesn't like men, remember? Did you, of all people, Eric, forget what kind of place this is?"
Kelly laughed. Not at the joke. She was feeling light-headed, and light on her feet, and Sabrina was closer to her than she'd ever sensed. No, that wasn't true. She'd felt Sabrina's arms around her a dozen times. Had smelled her skin, had tickled her and teased her and had even been slapped once or twice. But never like this. Never so close that Kelly could smell her skin. Soap and perfume and sweat. Kelly wanted to push her face into Sabrina's neck and inhale. Instead, she whispered in Sabrina's ear, "I feel like I'm going to float away."
"I've got you." Sabrina's arms tightened around her.
She warmth and strength and Kelly let go, feeling like Sabrina was the only thing anchoring her to earth. "I think...Eric doped me."
"Then I rescued you just in time."
"You did. Why?"
"I told you...I wanted to dance with you." Sabrina swung her around.
Kelly watched the room spin, saw men dancing with each other, which made her stomach flip. It was sick and wrong and they were doing it right there in the open, and the police--they weren't police. She spun and saw Eric, a panicked expression on his face, reaching for the phone. "We have to get out of here," she said, drooling on Sabrina's neck. "Eric's calling the man."
"Who's the man? Is Charlie the man?"
?She thought she heard Sabrina sigh. Then Sabrina took her hand, and pulled her toward the door. "Let's go. Our cover is blown."
"It's just an expression."
The night outside was cold, and Kelly felt a violent shiver go through her. She blinked, and the streetlights and security lights turned into stars, and then into blurs. "Sabrina," she called. "I think--"
Sabrina had pulled her to the side of the building, under a staircase that led to an outdoor balcony. The shadows were deeper and the aluminum siding was rough and cold against Kelly's back where Sabrina pushed her. "Kelly, the case."
Kelly closed her eyes. Sabrina's breath was hot on her face. Where it touched her skin it turned to liquid and poured down her back, under her clothes, warming her to the core, where she burned and wanted to grab Sabrina's hand and shove it between her legs. She gasped, choking merely with the breath on her face, and Sabrina had to say, again, "The case."
"Eric's in on it."
"How much do you know?"
Sabrina's voice vibrated in her ear. She felt the prickle of the words against her neck. She turned her head toward Sabrina's mouth, to taste them, too. "I know as much as you."
"Have you found out what the not-cops are doing there?" Sabrina's mouth eluded her. Her voice seemed to be coming from everywhere.
Kelly closed her eyes. The light was blinding. She said, "You were supposed to find out about the cops."
"That's right." Sabrina's voice paused, the sudden silence booming in the air, and Kelly opened her eyes, looked into Sabrina's black ones, as Sabrina said, "I needed to see you."
"Why?" The word was swallowed up by Sabrina's kiss. She covered Kelly's mouth with hers, open and wet and warm against the cool air. Kelly sagged against the wall. She only thought yes and finally and she didn't see anything but Sabrina's black eyes. Then Sabrina drew Kelly's lower lip between her teeth and sucked.
Kelly inhaled. Her open mouth filled with cool air as Sabrina traveled down her chin. She pressed her lips together, feeling them wet and slightly numb from the kiss. Sabrina's breath was against her ear again. Kelly said, "I didn't think you'd kiss like that."
Sabrina stepped back. "Let's go upstairs. See if they keep any of this stuff on the books."
Sabrina's hand was still in hers, smooth and with small fingers, leading her up the stairs into an office. They were above the bar. Kelly could hear the bass pounding under her feet. She imagined the disco ball spinning, casting starlight over all the boys, over Eric, over Max. Then the floor became invisible, and she saw it exactly as she imagined it. She looked at Sabrina, who was different than she imagined.
"Nothing here," Sabrina said, standing by the desk. "Not even a calendar. Let's call Charlie, report what we know."
Kelly couldn't feel her legs. She fell into an old couch, felt the springs give under her.
"What's his number?"
"You know his number."
"I forgot. It's been a busy night, Kelly."
"Well, I don't know either. I can't think straight. I can't see..." Numbers floated in front of Kelly, out of order, out of reach. She reached for them, but they floated away like bubbles. She laughed. "Kiss me again. Make everything clear."
Instead, Sabrina cursed. "I arrange everything for him. I run his operations. I make his money. And he reduces me to babysitting this slut..."
Sabrina came to the couch and took Kelly's jaw in her hand. "Give me Charlie's number."
"So I can make a deal with him, and get you out of my hair and him out of Alastair's."
Kelly blinked, and the room changed. The woman in front of her wasn't Sabrina anymore, but not a stranger, either. She saw the curve of the jaw, and the eyes that were grey, not black. But Sabrina's voice came from the woman's mouth. "You disgust me." Kelly recoiled. The woman's hand on her jaw squeezed. Kelly knew there would be bruises. Thumbprints, black and obvious, marking her for what she was.
Sabrina said, "You're so beautiful on the outside, but inside, you're rotted. Poisoned. Just like Max. He was beautiful, too."
"Did he reject you?"
Sabrina struck her, hard across the face, and Kelly couldn't help her scream as she fell into the couch, covering her face in the dusty cushions. Below her, through the couch, through the floorboards, she could see Eric's panicked face, just like when she'd left the bar. She could smell his fear, radiating up, dank and rancid, filling the room. Then something heavy fell against the back of her head, and the smells and the sounds and the visions obliterated into nothingness.
Kelly's head pounded, and her vision swam when she opened her eyes. The lights that had danced like sugar on her tongue before now swarmed and attacked her, driving into her skull so that she closed her eyes and whimpered. When the pain subsided in her head, new pains arose. Her wrists were raw. Her back ached. She was sitting up, tied to something above her head.
"Oh, good, you're finally awake."
She inhaled. Dust came into her throat. She coughed. The office, still, then. She recognized it. And Sabrina's voice.
"So, you know that much. Tell me everything, and I'll let you live."
"You'll kill me because it's personal."
"Or I'll just blackmail you, until you bleed, crying out for your precious Sabrina."
Kelly could still taste the kiss on her lips. She spat. "How can you live with yourself, being surrounded by those people all the time?"
"The money, of course. So much easier to exploit the oppressed."
"Very Machiavellian of you."
"It's not so bad. No hands traveling over my ass. No gropes. No flirts. Just business. Until a dyke like you comes along."
"I wasn't hired because I was g--" Kelly bit her lip.
"See? Even you can't say it. It revolts you."
Kelly flinched, but Seike didn't hit her again. Seike just said, "Who hired you?"
"Who do you think?"
"I can't think of anything that would care."
Kelly smiled, letting herself be bold because her eyes were still closed. She couldn't see the horror underneath the floor. "Someone always cares about the money."
"Touche," Seike said, and laughed.
A pounding started in Kelly's head, loud and insistent, and the walls shook, and Seike screamed. Kelly opened her eyes to see the door flung open, and a swarm of angels rush in. More shouts, and then Sabrina's hand was on her cheek. "Kelly?"
Kelly tried to tell which Sabrina it was. The eyes were black, the hand was cold. The breath didn't touch her face at all. Deciding made her stomach twist, so she closed her eyes to the nausea, and passed out.
Cool water touched her lips, delivered by a cloth. Something soft was underneath her, and when she breathed in, there was only the water, not dust. She opened her eyes. The lights were bright, and neither danced nor attacked. She blinked. The lights stayed still. "I could have sworn I saw Kris with a gun."
There was laughter, tinkling in her ears like bells. Kris's laughter.
Where am I?"
"Eric called the police. Charlie intercepted the call through a friend on the force. Kelly, we called a doctor. It looks like Seike used a topical agent to drug you. She touched you."
Kelly could have sworn Sabrina had growled the words. She tried to clear her head. "The case."
"Kris followed her cop to the docks, and caught him and Alastair redhanded. The police didn't care about the Cicero, but they cared about the drugs. Everyone's rounded up."
Kelly rolled onto her side, away from Sabrina's hand on her waist. She looked at the blank, white wall in front of her.
"What did Seike tell you?"
"Nothing. I don't want a doctor."
"You're hurt." Sabrina's hand traveled to her back. Kelly cringed.
"It'll only take a few minutes."
"I just want to be clean again."
"I'll run a bath."
Kelly closed her eyes.?
She must have fallen asleep, because when she opened her eyes again, the room was quiet, and a blanket covered her. She heard the bath running. "Sabrina?"
Sabrina came into the bedroom and sat down next to her. "The doctor's come and gone. You'll be fine." She reached to brush hair out of Kelly's face, to tsk at the bruises along her jaw. "It's just us."
"Are you ready for your bath?"
Kelly sat up. The blanket fell off her shoulders. She was still dressed. Sabrina took her hands and tugged her to her feet. She let herself be led. Sabrina's hands were larger, now, and Kelly fell into them.
As long as she didn't have to speak, she thought she'd be okay. The bathroom was bright, and candles burned on the edge of the tub and on the back of the commode. When Sabrina began untucking her shirt from her pants, Kelly reached out to stop her. "Don't."
"It's no trouble."
"But you don't know..."
"Know what?" Sabrina pulled the shirt upward, and Kelly raised her arms. She was trapped by the fabric.
"Seike kissed me."
"She kissed you?"
"I thought she was you."
"Did you kiss her?" Sabrina yanked the shirt, and it fell to the floor of the bathroom. Kelly could see again, right into Sabrina's wide eyes. She inhaled.
Sabrina didn't move. Just kept staring at her.
"I'm one of them."
"You work with Alastair? I think you're still feeling the effects of the drug... we think it was LSD. You won't be able to leave your apartment for at least 24 hours."
"No. I was at the Cicero. Before."
Kelly turned to the tub. She unbuttoned her pants. Her hands shook. She could feel Sabrina looking at her. Her body flushed with the shame of it.
Sabrina cleared her throat. "And you kissed her?"
Kelly stepped into the tub. She let herself slip into it, sink into the water, until it covered her breasts. "Turn out the light."
Sabrina flicked off the switch, leaving the room in candlelit darkness, and knelt by the tub. "Did you sleep with her?" Sabrina's eyes went to the crux of Kelly's legs under the water, and then back to her face.
"N-No. I don't think so."
"Did you want to?"
Kelly looked at Sabrina, who was picking up a washcloth. She couldn't answer.
Sabrina dipped the washcloth into the water, and touched it to Kelly's face. "Would you want to?"
The sob began in her chest, and rose up so thick in her throat that it choked her. She gasped, then retched, then finally sobbed. Sabrina was there, solid, stronger than Seike, and Kelly flung herself into Sabrina's arms, soaking Sabrina's clothes. Sabrina toppled forward, halfway into the tub, and held her. "It's okay, Kelly."
"It's my life," Kelly said, pressing her face into Sabrina's shoulder, making the soggy fabric of her shirt wetter with tears.
Sabrina was crooning, and stroking the back of her neck. "No, it's not. Your life is something better than that. I promise. It will be."
The water was chilly when Kelly was ready to get out. Sabrina had left her alone, after making her promise not to do anything crazy.
"I'll be fine," Kelly had said, eager to be alone.
"No, promise," Sabrina said, her lips moving against Kelly's temple.?
Sabrina had left her in the candlelight, and despite her promise, as soon as the door shut, Kelly let herself sink underwater. The roar in her ears blocked out the rest of the world, and the water was black over her. She blew bubbles, and felt her hair float above her, and stayed under as long as she could. Then she rubbed her skin raw. Her head felt clearer, and her eyes only saw things they were meant to see. When she found the needlemark, sore on her arm, she understood that the doctor had given her something. No wonder she felt so calm.
She got out of the tub and let it drain. When she'd pulled on the sweater and sweat pants Sabrina had left folded on the toilet seat for her, she flicked on the light. The bruises were vivid and black on her face. They hurt when she probed them with her fingertips, and whenever she flexed her jaw. Her hair hung in limp clumps around her shoulders. She carefully wrapped the strands around curlers before plugging in the hairdryer.
Makeup tempted her, but when the scent of coffee came to her, she eschewed the eyeliner in favor of more drugs. She opened the door. The lights in the living room were dim. Sabrina stood in her kitchenette. She was wearing one of Kelly's robes, and Kelly saw the curve of her hip marked by the silk, and the point of her nipple. "Why are you wearing that?"
"You got my clothes all wet. Coffee?"
"Sure. You know... I'm high as a kite."
Sabrina smiled. "I've been thinking about that."
"Thinking of taking advantage?" Kelly made her way to the bannister seperating the kitchenette from the living room, and leaned against it. Sabrina set down her coffee mug, and placed her hands over Kelly's.
"Sort of. Like... hell." She bent her head and kissed Kelly. Her lips felt so different from Seike's, softer and warmer, and they moved against Kelly's, asking, not demanding, until Kelly could only yield, opening her mouth to Sabrina, letting her in. Sabrina nuzzled her bruised lips, not enough to hurt her, and drew back. "We can chalk this all up to trauma and confusion."
"You'll regret it later. When will you have the opportunity to experience this while high? LSD is supposed to enhance everything."
"I think that's marijuana." Kelly was staring at Sabrina's lips, unsure that they had touched her. Wanting to lunge forward and see if her memory could be true again, but frozen to the spot by Sabrina's hands on her, and by wondering if she were still in the warehouse, tied up and dreaming. She shuddered, and Sabrina's hands tightened on hers. They were worn and calloused and real.
"Marijuana, really? You got any?" Sabrina's voice was so light, like cotton on Kelly's wounds. She could always do that, make everything into a joke, even murder, but Kelly had heard, as recently as tonight, the screams of pain Sabrina was capable of, calling her name.
Calling her name.
?Kelly swallowed, and managed to say, "Sorry, did my last toke. Want me to call my dealer?"
"No." Sabrina stepped closer. "I'll take my chances with the LSD."?
"We should really talk."
Sabrina stopped, an inch from her lips, so that Kelly couldn't see her mouth anymore, and had to settle for her eyes. They were brown under the kitchen flourecents. She said, "Do you want to talk?"
This time, for the first time, Kelly leaned forward, finding Sabrina's mouth. She kissed her because she wanted to, and with the touch of lips, with the way Sabrina sighed and leaned into her, felt something break. Her back stopped hurting, and her head stopped hurting, and she stopped worrying, and just kissed Sabrina.
Sabrina let go of her hands only to hold her shoulders. Kelly slid her arms around Sabrina's waist. They were seperated by the kitchen wall, which held them up, and didn't stop kissing until Kelly's lips were numb again, and swollen, and she had the taste of coffee in her mouth. She drew back, keeping her hands on Sabrina's sides, feeling her slender waist under the silk. "Have you seen my bedroom?"
Laughing, Sabrina said, "Yes, Kelly, I have."
"Would you like to see it again?"
"I'd love to."
Kelly turned and walked to the bedroom. Sabrina followed. The lights were off, and Kelly left them that way, letting the light from the kitchen and the streetlamps outside illuminate half the bed. She thought of drawing back the sheets, but the explicitness of the act made her shiver, so she turned around, to see what Sabrina would do.
Sabrina had dropped her robe--Kelly's robe--at the doorway, and was leaning, naked, against the doorstop. "I've never been with a woman."
Sabrina grinned. "Just thought about it."
"How much have you thought about it?"
"Ever since I joined a little agency called Townsend's."
"That's such a line." Kelly tried to keep her eyes level with Sabrina's, and not glance down at her breasts, or the tangle of dark curls between her legs. Or how long her legs were, reaching down to the floor. Or her toes, which caught the light, and made Kelly wonder if they were painted--
Sabrina cleared her throat. She folded her arms under her breasts. "Okay, since I heard of the Cicero, and thought... that such a thing was even possible."
Kelly stopped short. "The case!"?
"Kris is taking care of the case. Everyone's in jail."
"Everyone but me."
Sabrina stepped forward. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"I feel like..."
"Then let me make you feel better."
"That is definitely a line," Kelly said. She yielded as Sabrina moved into her arms, and slid her hands under her sweater.
"I had a friend pick it out." For the second time that night, Kelly raised her hands over her head, and let Sabrina undress her. This time, as her arms were caught, Sabrina let go, and slid her hands down her back, and Kelly felt something wet against her nipple. "God." She pulled off the sweater and tossed it onto the bed, before cradling Sabrina's head.
Sabrina's hands on her sides eased her to the bed. She fell backward, Sabrina over her. Her nipples were hard, and Sabrina's mouth, warmly pulling on one, then the other, made her strain against Sabrina. Sabrina laughed at her squirming, and held her on the bed.
"This is easier than I thought," said Sabrina, moving down to kiss Kelly's stomach.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because of this." She ran her tongue across Kelly's navel, and Kelly shuddered. "See?"
Kelly gasped as Sabrina's mouth slid across her skin. When Sabrina let go of her in order to tug at her sweatpants, Kelly seized the opportunity to bury her fingers in Sabrina's hair, and said, "Are you saying I'm easy?"
Sabrina dragged Kelly's sweatpants down to her thighs, with Kelly's wriggling help, and then slid a hand to her center. "Ah, yeah. I'd say you're easy."
?Kelly groaned as Sabrina's hand transferred her wetness to her thighs. Sabrina's presence near her clit set her nerves aflame, and she ached to force Sabrina's hand against her. But that would mean letting go of Sabrina's hair, so instead she begged. "Tell me you like easy girls."
"Never tell, when you can show." Sabrina cupped Kelly, sliding her middle finger right where where Kelly was throbbing, and Kelly jerked against her hand. Sabrina grinned, and let go long enough to pull Kelly's pants down to her calves, so that she could spread her legs. "And never touch what you can taste." She bent her head to Kelly.
Kelly could only hold on as Sabrina's tongue stroked her. Hard and fast, and then slow and gentle. Kelly was squeezing Sabrina's shoulders with her thighs, pulling her hair. She was trembling all over, and glad that Sabrina, head buried, couldn't see her like this, out of control and at the mercy of someone else. Her toes dug into the comforter. Her back strained.
She came, bucking against Sabrina's face so hard she felt Sabrina's teeth in her thigh. She gasped for air, letting her hands fall to her sides to hold onto the bed. She felt weightless, and was glad when Sabrina slid up her body, to hold her down, and keep her from floating away.
Kelly kissed her, licking the wetness from her cheeks. Sabrina's tongue probed at her lips and she accepted it, sucking, feeling Sabrina arch into her. Kelly drew back and laughed. "Easy?"
"Piece of cake."
Kelly rolled over, depositing Sabrina at her side. She propped herself up on one elbow, and took another long, indulgent look at Sabrina's body. "I confess," she said, "I've imagined it a hundred times. But I've never seen it." Her fingers traced Sabrina's sid, over her hip, between her legs.
"What you look like when you're having an orgasm."
?Sabrina moaned. She shifted closer to Kelly. They were on their sides, facing one another. Sabrina threw her leg over Kelly's, and Kelly's hand had room to move, to find Sabrina wet and swollen and welcoming. She touched where she had touched other women, but only Sabrina made her hold her breath. Only Sabrina sent electric currents through her fingers, up her arms. She pushed two fingers inside of her.
"Like that," Sabrina said. "Harder." She bit into Kelly's shoulder. Kelly could feel Sabrina's stomach brushing against her own. Sabrina was rocking against the thrusts of her fingers. She was sweating. Kelly saw the sheen of it on her skin, lighter, saltier than the wetness surrounding her fingers. And then Sabrina squeezed, and Kelly instinctively stilled, instinctively held her breath, until Sabrina let hers out with a gust, and then a whimper.
"Sabrina," Kelly whispered, and Sabrina shuddered again, clamping on her hand.
Sabrina opened her eyes, and Kelly slipped out, and then held her, kissing her sweaty hair. Sabrina's fingers lazily traced patterns against her back. "That," she said to Kelly, "was not trauma."
Kelly laughed, and then winced as it strained her bruised jaw. "My face is going to be so swollen tomorrow morning." She rolled onto her back.
Sabrina shifted, and drummed her fingers on Kelly's stomach. She said, "That'll be pretty funny."
"And what's Kris going to say about the hickey?"
Sabrina shot into a sitting position. "There's a hickey?"
Two days later it was Sunday, and the angels were down at Cicero's, in the sandlot behind the warehouse, where six men were playing volleyball. A party of sorts had been thrown in their honor by the new manager of the bar. Eric was awaiting trial, expecting to plead a year for intent to sell, in return for his cooperation against Alastair, Seike, and the cops. Kris was sprawled in a lounge chair wearing a baby doll shirt reading Fag Hag. Sabrina and Kelly wore tennis outfits, and felt overdressed while surrounded by shirtless men in silk shorts.
"It's a crime," Kris said, watching a man dive for the volleyball, so that his lean form stretched out in front of her.
Sabrina stretched. "Why is beauty always a crime?"
"Because there's not more of it," Kris said. She frowned. "Eric knew about the drugs. But he saved your life, anyway."
Sabrina shrugged. "Drugs are a long way from kidnapping and murder."
"Maybe he reached his breaking point," Kris said.
Kelly closed her eyes. "Everybody has one."
Kris looked from Sabrina to Kelly. "Right. Well, tonight I'm going to call my sister and tell her I love her. Now... another mai tai." She pushed herself up from her chair and headed for the bar under the cabana.
Kelly frowned. "What do you think that means?"
"Exactly what she said. Stop overthinking."
"I really should. After all, you're the smart one."
"Only by default."
Kelly shook her head, and smiled. "This'll never work out."
"Maybe not forever. But it'll be fun."
Kelly shot her a look.
Kelly frowned. "Hey...what do you mean by default?"
"Well, I mean... you're the beautiful one. Beautiful and smart. But only one gets to go on your nameplate."
Kelly lifted her middle finger.
"Classy," Sabrina swatted her hand down, and then squeezed her fingers.
"I'm a lady."
Kris came back and settled in next to them with her drink. They didn't speak to each other for the rest of the game, prefering to cheer for the teams, and dodging sand kicked toward them by errant and deliberate feet. But their hands stayed linked, and no one said a word.
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