The Little Challenges of Love

By Ferae Naturae

Genre: Romance/Angst

Pairing: Shalimar/Emma

AN: This is a response to two challenges. The first was received AGES ago on MutantXslash and was aptly named the 'Kiss on the lips' challenge. A secret relationship revealed by a kiss on the lips. The second was, of course, ChEsTeRz infamous Birthday challenge. It's lovely to see how many great Shal/Emma writers there truly are out there. May the slash flow like wine on your Birthday Chez! ;P Enjoy.

Emma was laid beside Shalimar, lifted up on one elbow so that she could stare down on her lover. The feral's hair was ruffled from sleep and thick blond locks dropped forward over her face, moving every time she breathed. She wore a blood-red silk chemise that hung from thin straps over her shoulders, doing nothing to hide the strong muscles that moved under tanned skin as she reached an arm out to pull Emma in. She relaxed into her unconscious grasp, shifting so that she lay comfortable beside her, close in her embrace. Christ, she was beautiful. Just one look at those brilliant features could resurrect childhood notions of God. Nothing this perfect could have occurred by chance; whether the creator had been some omniscient being or a scientist who had a dream, few would ever know. The knowledge beyond that, that this beauty was devoted to her, was almost overwhelming. She sighed in quiet peace, shivering slightly as a stray piece of hair tickled down her back.

Shalimar woke at the small movement, deep brown eyes opening to meet blue ones as she smiled.

"Good morning."

Brennan looked up from his book as a tired looking Emma stumbled into the kitchen, searching for coffee.

"Hey Emma." He greeted.

"Mwhuh?" Was his reply.

"Jesse took the coffee." Emma made a noise that sounded like a growl and headed out of the kitchen to find Jesse. "Try to leave him in one piece." He called out after her. "We have to go out later."

Ten minutes later Shalimar emerged, hair damp from the shower and grinning widely. Grabbing juice and an apple she draped herself, oh so cat-like, across the nearest chair and examined the back of Brennan's book from her position upside down.

"Shal, do you have any idea how disturbing that is?" Sitting up, Shalimar rolled over and pouted at Brennan. She was preparing a retort when Emma entered the room. She smelled her before she saw or heard her and was glad that none of the others in the team were feral or their secret would be out immediately. Emma SMELLED like her - and coffee of course, which was a smell she couldn't imagine her without first thing in the morning. Not for the first time she was curious as to the reason for Emma's determination to keep their relationship a secret. She was sure the rest of the team would understand - they'd known each other long enough for them to at least be tolerant of them. It wasn't like they were the kind of people to stand and point or throw them out, but Emma was determined and it wasn't something she was going to risk their relationship over.

She was seized by a sudden urge to kiss her lover, right there in the middle of the kitchen, whether she appreciated their audience or not. Taking the image and adding in Brennan's a little more than shocked face, she turned and let it float to the forefront of her mind, knowing that the psionic would pick it up. She caught Emma's eye and watched as she dissolved into fits of laughter.

"I didn't think it was that funny." She observed. Emma didn't reply, still recovering from outrageous giggles. Looking back at Shalimar the image was returned, but from a slightly different angle - obviously Emma's perspective - of them kissing a little more passionately than before and of Brennan jumping up and down wildly, with his eyes popping out like they were on springs. It didn't take long for Shalimar to join Emma struggling for breath whilst giggling uncontrollably. Brennan glanced up from his book at the two fully-grown women rolling around with laughter and returned to his book, completely unaware that he was the focus of their humour.

The photo on the screen was black and white and at an odd angle, obviously taken by a security camera as the man walked by. The woman's voice was calm, but the clamour of noise in the background suggested she stood somewhere where there was little calm to be had.

"This man threatens to wipe out the Forsythe Building - one of the largest buildings in the city - at some undetermined point in the next week if he is not given everything he has asked for within twenty four hours. We are unable to get hold of a list of exactly what has been requested, but from the Mayor's response it's clear there are things on that list he has no right asking for. We have had no more information about this terrorist since he first demonstrated his powers two days ago by destroying a small abandoned skyscraper on the edge of town and then walking out unscathed. A simple note reached the Major along with his mysterious demands. 'The next one will have people in it.'..." Adam turned to them all as he switched off the news broadcast.

"That was this morning. We only have twenty hours left. I'm sure the people behind this are new mutants."

"People?" Brennan asked.

"I doubt this was engineered by one person alone, it's too well organised. The details I can pick up are vague; they could be in one of two places. Brennan, Jesse, there's an abandoned power plant to the south of this city. You'll need both of your skills to gain access, so make sure you stick together. Shalimar, Emma, a warehouse on the north side. Is everyone okay with that?" There were unanimous nods. "Remember we're on the lookout for new mutants. The moment you're sure that your location is the right one you signal the others to join you. For the moment we are only there for recon.. Once we have the right location we'll start thinking further forward."

The day was bright but quiet, as they entered the boundaries of the abandoned warehouse. Shalimar gave Emma a boost over the chain link fence and followed quickly behind with a short jump. From here it looked like the warehouse was completely empty, but they had to be sure.

They were surrounded before they had a chance to react, only half way across the large courtyard to the main door of the warehouse. Men with guns appeared from every available hiding place. Two pairs of hands were raised, showing them empty of weaponry. Shalimar glanced across at Emma giving a small shake of her head, her meaning clear, there were too many guns out there for them to fight and walk out of it alive. They would be better off consenting to whatever was asked of them until a better opportunity arrived. At least this way they could gather information.

They were taken before two men, one recognisable as the black and white terrorist from the news broadcast, though with slightly more colouring in real life. The second was tall, with gaunt features like someone seriously ill and long brown hair that reached his shoulder blades. He sneered at them unpleasantly as they were herded inside.

"You were right, Jon." The tall man spoke, and his voice sounded like he looked, gravely and dry.

"They were quicker than I expected." 'Jon', the man from the film, replied.

"That's true. But still. 'You can always rely on Mutant X', you said, and here they are..."

"Your rings please." Jon asked, reaching out a hand.

"We'll just keep them if you don't mind." Shalimar replied confused as to how these men knew who they were.

"Come on, young lady. I know there's more to Mutant X than just the two of you. We can't have you bringing your friends in, can we." When Shalimar and Emma still made no move to hand over the rings he swung his arm out as though he would hit them. Both of them could see he was too far away to hit either of them so they stood their ground. A force hit them both like a great hand had reached out and slammed them against the wall. They hung there for a moment, pinned, before they were released and slumped to the ground. They both sat for a moment, gasping for the breath that had been forced out of them. A pair of guards who still stood at the door reached over and took the rings from them with little resistance.

"Much better." Jon said as he accepted the rings. "Now, you're going to sit nice and tight for us until we're finished doing what we need to do and then you can have these back and run off to continue fighting your little battles."

"You're just going to release us?" Emma asked in disbelief.

"We have no fight with you. We're all allies here." Shalimar rubbed at the back of her head where she'd impacted the wall.

"Allies, right."

"Now, now. You were being uncooperative. Harris, you wanna say your bit before we put them away for a while?" The gaunt man stepped forward, looking over the women a lot more than was polite.

"We have no wish to get on the bad side of an organisation as large and powerful as Mutant X." Emma and Shalimar glanced at each other. Someone had obviously heard some rather exaggerated things about the size of Mutant X. This might be used to their advantage. "But if we can pull this off we may have a whole city under the power of New Mutants." Another glance was shared, this time of disbelief.

"What have you asked the Mayor for?" Emma asked.

"We've asked him to reveal himself for what he is. A child of Genomex, and a powerful at that. He can get sanctions for New Mutants in this city. We could live here in peace. Have the whole city to ourselves."

"And you actually believe that would work?" Emma asked in disbelief. "They would kill him before he could get anywhere. He wouldn't survive. Everyone knows what he looks like, it would be pot luck who got to him first."

"Hey." Jon stepped forward again, fist raised. Shalimar knew he wouldn't hit her, but if his power could destroy buildings she didn't want to see what it could do to the love of her life. She jumped forward, feral eyes flashing and a deep growl starting in the back of her throat, so that she stood between them. 'Harris' almost visibly flinched at her action, his mouth twisting into a disgusted grimace.

"Oh god. Jon calm down, if this girl has another flare-up like that I'm gonna be ill." He moaned. Jon took a step back, Shalimar mirrored his movement.

"You're psionic." Emma said, watching him curiously. He shuddered.

"I see auras." He sneered. "Yours is sickly red with new love. It's disgusting." He turned to the guards. "Get them out of my sight, please."

As they were led out of that room with one guard each, Shalimar gave Emma a meaningful wink. An elbow to the nose left Shalimar's guard out cold as a psionic blast did the same for Emma's. They were both preparing to head to the exits to get their information to Adam over the car's comm. system when they were stopped in their tracks by a voice behind them. They turned to find Jon in the hall behind them. Neither had time to react before he flung them against the wall and they blacked out. The last thing they saw was a grim smile on the molecular's face.

Shalimar woke alone in a concrete room with harsh lighting, empty of anything but herself. There was no sign of Emma and the only door out looked pretty solid. She examined the lock for a moment. It was a simple design and didn't seem to match the prison-style room. She looked over the metal door for a moment and then took off her leather jacket. Folding it, she held it over her shoulder for protection as she launched herself at the door. The lock creaked and shifted in its mount. Two more solid hits broke the lock completely and let the door swing open. She rubbed at her arm for a moment as she made sure there were no guards around before putting her jacket back on and starting a check of the cells. Emma had to be here somewhere.

Reaching the end of the row of cells with no signs of life at all, let alone Emma, Shalimar was beginning to get desperate. Giving up her search for Emma temporarily, Shalimar headed up the stairs to where she would hopefully find someone who would tell her where she was.

Emma woke alone in a concrete room with harsh lighting, empty of anything but herself. There was no sign of Shalimar and the only door out looked pretty solid. She listened to the sounds outside her cell. There was definitely someone out there.

"Excuse me!" She called through the door, hoping that the guards were as poorly informed about Mutant X as their leader. A face appeared in the opened grill just long enough for him to take a psionic blast that left him open to persuasion.

"Can you open the door please?" She smiled sweetly.

"Of course ma'am." The door slid gently open.

"Thank you." She said, letting off another psionic blast which left him unconscious on the ground. Hearing talking at the other end of the hallway Emma headed in the opposite direction, hoping to avoid any trouble and get outside to call in the others.

Shalimar had run up against her first real obstacle. Six guards were sat in a room just off the mail corridor. If she walked past they would see her and there were too many for her to take on her own. Seeing another passage leading off of the main one, she headed down it, hoping she didn't get lost.

Emma was walking down a passageway, the fluorescent lighting making the concrete walls seem even duller. The passage led to a small door with a glass window. It looked like it would have been more at place as the front door of a small house in the suburbs. It looked quite bizarre in a concrete-walled tunnel like this one. She looked through the window cautiously, aware that she could be showing herself to anyone inside. She could only see one person in the room and it took her a couple of minutes to realise that it was Harris that she was seeing. He looked completely different, the gaunt look gone, his skin looking more filled, his hair thick and lush, like he was younger or from before he had been ill. His eyes were closed in meditation. She opened the door carefully and stepped inside, not sure what she planned to do, hoping she decided before she get herself killed. Harris opened his eyes slowly.

"A slightly prettier picture isn't it?" He rasped, his voice still as it had been before. "This is what you people do to me. I have to meditate every day just to keep myself alive, and it's your auras that do it. It sucks the energy from me."

"You know this plan is never going to work. It's hopeless."

"You don't know that."

"I know people. People will never accept who we are. What we are."

"I think you're wrong. I think it only takes one person in power who is different to make the others see."

"The Mayor will never agree to it. You'll be forced to carry out your threat."

"Then that's the way it will be."

"I can't let you do that."

"Try and stop me little girl." Emma sent out a quick psionic blast, only to have it deflected by the other psionic's aura, seemingly solid. A ripple of orange followed the deflected blast as it skipped along the surface of his aura. "Don't be silly, child. My aura is my power, you think I'm letting any of your petty tricks by it?" Emma paused for a moment; she really had expected it to be that simple.

Shalimar quickly came across another entrance. This time, instead of guards inside it had only one person inside. Jon. She stepped up behind him, hoping to be able to knock him out before he could turn his powers on her. If she could get Jon unconscious and away from this place he couldn't hurt anyone if the Mayor didn't agree to their scheme, which was more than likely. Unfortunately she didn't get close enough before he noticed her, turning and spinning, throwing his arms out and putting all of his momentum into it. She threw her arms backwards as she flew, hoping to absorb some of the impact and stop her head from hitting the wall and knocking her out again. Her head still hit the wall, but her arms took some of the blow, leaving her shaky. She stood again, spinning into a kick aimed at Jon's head. He caught her again, throwing her across the room like a rag doll. But the force hadn't been as powerful that time, she realised as she sat against the wall - just taking a breather, she told herself - it had to be something about the way he swung his arm. He couldn't get as much force in when she had jumped for the kick. She had put herself at a strange angle to his arms and so the throw wasn't as powerful. She stood as quickly as she felt she could, feeling the painful numbness in her arms and knowing she wouldn't be good for much, but finally realising Jon's weakness. She had to get behind him, that way she couldn't sweep at her with his arms to use his power. Pulling together all the reserves of her energy she leapt over his head before he could react. Stood behind him, she grabbed hold of a handful of his sweater so that he couldn't spin and turn on her. Growling deeply she lifted her arm and struck him hard across the back of his neck. He slumped to the ground and she almost fell on top of him as the pain overcame her for a moment. Standing again, she put aside all thoughts of carrying him out to the car to tie him up. She didn't have the strength. Instead she took his keys, hoping that he was the only one with keys to his room, and locked him in. The door wouldn't hold him for long with his power, but it would stop anyone else getting in.

Emma gasped as Harris stepped forward. It felt as if someone had just stepped right into her personal space and just stopped there, a blip on her consciousness that annoyed her no end. But it wasn't hurting her, it seemed strange that he couldn't hurt her. He took another step forward and everything changed. She was gasping for breath, an invisible force squeezing at her, pushing at her. She felt hopeless, like she wanted to cry. She could tell what he was doing to her, he was using his solid aura to push hers away, fold it in on itself. She felt a weight of pain push down on her heart. She thought through everything she knew about auras, desperate for an escape from this sadness as her aura was compressed. She found herself on her knees, not that she remembered getting there. But then she remembered something, not anything that she had learned or read, but something she had heard him say. Emma smiled. She had it, she knew the one thing she could do to hurt him. She thought of Shalimar. Her face, her hair, her touch, her kiss. Intimate things done late at night. Their love.

"You will never be able to beat me Harris," She spoke slowly, as if she was explaining something to a small child, standing as she did so, feeling his aura regressing. "And you will never be able to live in the true world, because you hate yourself too much." The look of pain on the man's face was enough to tell her that she was getting to him, whether it was the emotions she was pushing out into her aura or the words from her mouth. "You can't love because you can't see what love is. It isn't a colour or a shape on an aura." It was like watching an apple dry, his face was twisting, loosing its shape, returning to the man he had been before. "It's the blending of two auras. The mixing, the pairing. Two people together, turning into one. You can never do that because your aura is too hard. Too impenetrable. You will never be influenced by those around you because your own aura won't allow it. So you wither and die without the connection. Everyone needs someone, Harris. Without anyone, you will die." He was the old gaunt man again, laying on the floor. Suddenly feeling terribly cold, Emma turned from the room and started running. Running like she was trying to get as far away from that man and his emotions as she could before she broke.

Shalimar pushed through the door and out into the air, jumping as another door was thrown open further down the side of the building. She gasped and smiled as Emma burst out of the building. They started off walking, but they were running by the time they reached each other, holding tight like they feared the other would slip away at any moment. Taking a moment to look into each others eyes, they kissed. Softly, a reassurance, then deeper. They were prepared to let this kiss go on forever, surrendering to the feel of the other's lips. But something interrupted them.

"Ahem." It was hardly a word, but that noise spoke volumes. Two pairs of eyes shot open to meet each other. Neither could restrain the wide grins that spread across their faces as they turned to meet the eyes of the maker of the noise. (see , lol) Adam had the good grace to blush and look back at Brennan and Jesse for a moment before turning back to them. "I'll just leave you girls to it shall I? I assume this is the right place, the guys didn't find anything, and your comm. links were turned off..." He trailed off. Emma's grip seemed to tighten for a moment, as if she had only just realised what was going on. The smile faltered, then dropped completely. Releasing Shalimar and pushing out of her arms, she ran.

"Emma..." Shalimar started after Emma. She stopped, turning back to the others, resisting the urge to growl at them for what they had done. It wasn't their fault. Not really. "There are guards with guns, a molecular with strong physical powers and a psionic with aura-reading abilities. The molecular is unconscious - mind his hands and make sure they get tied up, that's where his power is. I think Emma got the psionic. We'll meet you back at Sanctuary. We have some things to sort out." Then, without letting them reply she started running after Emma. Adam turned back to the others.

"Well." He paused. "Right then." He seemed to think for a moment about what to do next. No one spoke. "Shall we finish this off then." He suggested, heading into the warehouse.

"Emma, please stop. I don't want to keep running." Who would have thought her love would have such endurance. Shalimar ached all over from the battering she had taken from the molecular and just felt like lying down and sleeping, preferably with Emma beside her. She watched as Emma tripped over something on the path and dropped to the floor. She quickly caught up with her and dropped ungracefully besides her. They were both breathing hard as they sat, Emma breathing in long gasping sobs.

"I can't do it Shalimar. I can't go back. Not now. Not after that." She sobbed quietly.

"After what Emma? They all saw and no one yelled us out. No one told us never to come back. They didn't laugh or point, they just looked surprised and I have to say that's not the most amazing thing. They are our family Emma; nothing can ever stop that. Please don't force me to leave Sanctuary. I would follow you if you decided to go, but it's my home."

"What if they don't understand? What if it changes things?"

"We won't ever know if we don't go back. Somehow I don't think it will."

Shalimar pulled into the car park with Emma's hand on her thigh and head on her shoulder. She sat up as she realised that they had stopped - eyes wide and face pale.

"You go in, I'll follow you in a minute." She offered.

"No, that's not how it works Emma. I'm here to offer support, OK? I love you. If they want to have it on, we do it together. If they want to complain that we didn't tell them straight away, we take that together too, OK? And if you're planning on running away in this car, I want to come with you." She grinned, hoping that she wasn't too close to the truth.

Jesse jumped up from the computer console as they walked in, hand in hand.

"Hey guys!" He called down. "We picked up pizza on the way home. Adam wouldn't let us start until you got home so hurry up." He dashed off into the kitchen area, leaving Shalimar and Emma stood there. Adam appeared from one of the corridors and rolled his eyes.

"You better get cleaned up for dinner quickly or else there's not going to be anything left." He warned jokingly. "I can only hold them off for so long." Emma looked at Shalimar who looked back at Emma, neither knowing quite what to make of their behaviour. Did they want to forget it? Had they decided that they would ignore what they had seen? It might make it better for Emma, but Shalimar was determined that she would get these gremlins out in the open before they did any more damage. Shalimar shrugged.

"I guess we better get ready for dinner."

Dinner was a relaxed affair, with everyone scrabbling over the three pizza boxes in the centre of the table. If anyone noticed that Emma and Shalimar didn't eat much, nothing was said. Eventually the boxes were empty and the boys sat back, sated. It was Brennan that broke the tense silence first and Emma jumped at his unexpected question.

"So. How long have you been keeping this from us?" He asked, teasing. Shalimar saw Emma pale and squeezed her hand, wrapping a hand around her back from where they sat on the floor and pulling her close.

"Almost a month now." She replied.

"A month on Wednesday." Emma clarified, blushing furiously.

"And you didn't tell us because...?" Jesse asked, grinning quietly.

"We weren't sure how you would react." Shalimar supplied. Emma's eyes widened at the 'we', but Shalimar simply squeezed her hand a little tighter.

"Is it serious?" Jesse pressed. Shalimar rolled her eyes at him.

"Yes, I would say it's serious."

"Cool."

"Cool?" Emma retorted, feeling a little put out and wondering exactly what Jesse found 'cool' about their relationship.

"Yeah, cool. You're like sisters to us Em. To see you so happy and to know you're so good for each other... that's cool." Emma blushed again.

"Yeah, we're happy for you guys. A bit miffed you didn't trust us enough to tell us, but happy all the same." Brennan put in, jokingly.

"It's not that I didn't trust you." Emma blurted out. "I was just scared, y'know."

"Hey, Emma, it's no problem. It's OK." Brennan reassured.

"It's just so cool!" Jesse exclaimed.

"OK, that's it. No more Coke for Jesse after eight." Shalimar put in, glad to see Emma smile. Adam grinned in the corner watching the others interactions.

"Adam." Jesse confronted. "Something to say?"

"No, no, I'm just surprised neither of you saw it earlier."

"You KNEW!?" Emma exclaimed. Shalimar grinned. "You KNEW HE KNEW!?!" She jumped up from her seat, not quite sure where she was going, but knowing she wanted to be ready to go.

"Hey, hey." Shalimar soothed, pulling Emma back down to the floor with her. "I suspected. How could he not? He does scans every other day. He had to have seen something." Adam smiled even wider.

"I don't think you two realise what an effect you're having on each other. I HAD to suspect something when Shalimar would rather sit and meditate than train, and when she sleeps in her morning routine and Emma's no where to be found. And when Emma starts letting her own emotions shine through rather than just reflecting others, and sits for ten minutes by the meditating pool watching Shalimar train rather than meditate." They shared a glance, and a smile. Nothing had changed but now things were better than ever.

The club was busy as they stepped inside out of the brisk night air. The hall was hot with the number of bodies on the dance floor and they merged into the crowd, making their way over to the small booths on the other side of the club.

They had a routine in the club. The girls would get a booth while the guys went chick-surfing. In the loud atmosphere they had an excuse to sit as close as they wanted without anyone noticing anything out of the ordinary. Tonight though, Emma had other things in mind. Taking Shalimar's hand she lead her out onto the dance floor. Shalimar often asked to dance, but before now Emma had always been too self-conscious to follow her. Now things would be different.

"Miss DeLauro, where are you inhibitions tonight?" Shalimar teased, curious as to Emma's behaviour.

"You know what? I've decided that life's a lot more interesting without them."

"Does that mean I get a dance?"

"You can have whatever you want."

"Oh, now there's an offer." She laughed. "You know I might take you up on that."

"Jesse." Brennan called over the table where they sat in the booth. "Just look at that. It's just... it's all wrong." Jesse looked over, wide-eyed.

"I thought you were OK with them."

"No, not them, just look." Jesse watched the two dancing for a moment.

"I don't see anything wrong, they look perfectly happy."

"Yeah, but they're slow dancing to a fast song." Jesse looked confused.

"So, we need to make them dance faster?" Brennan sighed, standing up from their booth and heading over to the DJ. He shouted something up to him and then returned to the booth. A few seconds later the dance track ended and David Beddingfield's 'If You're Not The One' clicked in, the dancers giving way to couples.

"Ah." Jesse said. "Slow the music, gotcha."

Turning Shalimar so that she faced away from her, Emma wrapped her arms around the shorter woman's hips, pulling her in as Shalimar lay her own hands over Emma's. They moved in perfect synchrony with the music, the soft beat swaying them.

If you're not the one then why does my soul feel glad today?

If you're not the one then why does my hand fit yours this way?

If you are not mine then why does your heart return my call?

If you are not mine would I have the strength to stand at all?

I never know what the future brings

But I know you are here with me now

We'll make it through and I hope

You are the one I share my life with

Shalimar turned in Emma's arms to face her.

"Now, where were we?" She grinned, wrapping her arms around Emma's neck as Emma settled her arms on Shalimar's hips. Pulling each other closer they shared a brief kiss. "Oh yes, now I remember." The next kiss was not so brief.

And I hope you are the one I share my life with

And I wish that you could be the one I die with

And I pray that you're the one I build my home with

I hope I love you all my life

AN2: Yikes, that's slightly longer than expected. :S It was only supposed to be short! There is a third one, but it's never going to be finished by Sunday. It'll have to wait now. I have too many other things to do! Look at this... and dream of things to come. (and you should SO send a packet to the show. It would be worth it just to know how they would reply.)

Disclaimer - I don't own these characters or situations, they belong to Tribune Entertainment and the rest, but I do own the storyline and writing. I'm not making any money out of this writing, I do it just for fun.