Chapter 34: Before It Begins

In an instant Alice was awake; the pupils of her blue eyes contracted painfully when she exposed them to the morning light, but she left them open. She felt her senses assaulted by the remnants of the dream she had escaped. Her breath was staggered, until she felt the arm draped across her stomach. Her heartbeat exploded inside her ears, until she felt warm fingers interlock with her own.

"What it is it, babe?" Claire said sleepily.

"Oh – nothing. Just a dream," the brunette tried to throw up a shield and brush the redhead's concern off.

"What was it about?"

There really was no denying Claire – not for Alice. She released the younger woman's fingers and turned around in her hold; between them their hands picked up where they left off, and crystal blue eyes met deep green.

"I…it was so strange. If I wouldn't have woken up just now, I would've sworn that it was more like reality than this," Alice looked to their surroundings; all seemed exactly as it was when she'd fallen asleep for the night. A light breeze from an open window ruffled the fabric attached to the bed's canopy revealing a silver framed mirror and a marble fireplace. The brunette glanced around once more and continued talking. "You were in it, and so was the Corporation…"

"See – I told you. You know you're working too hard when you start having dreams about your job," Claire scoffed lightly.

"It was more than that. I don't know. Now I'm struggling to remember, but Claire…" The brunette fought to find the words to express the uneasiness that rested like a stone inside her chest.

Claire knew her lover well enough to see that she needed comfort. "Hey, it's ok. Everything's fine."

The taller woman closed her eyes, trying to let the words soothe her. Then she felt Claire's compassion reinforced with a kiss. It was slow and hesitant at first, equally calming and arousing. The redhead was asking permission to reassure the brunette with her touch, and Alice was wiling.

Their kissing became passionate and Claire closed the space between them. The redhead lightly pushed Alice onto her back and climbed on top of her. She used her hands to explore the taller woman's toned body, and took her sweet time enticing the brunette into a dazed state of arousal; avoiding the places Alice needed her most but lingering on the edges just long enough to excite her.

When Alice couldn't take it anymore, she turned the tables on her lover by rolling her over, and began her own seduction. She teased Claire's naked body with her tongue, but stopped her downward wandering as the phone rang on the nightstand.

"Oh, don't get up. Let the machine get it," Claire pouted and the brunette smiled mischievously, intent on doing just that. Alice ran her fingers down Claire's exposed ribs to the inside of her thigh causing her to shudder in delight as the phone continued to chime in the background.

The answering machine picked up, and the two women in bed could hear Alice's laughing voice. "Hi, you've reached Alice and Claire Abernathy – Claire, god stop," the recording continued as Alice tried to persist, but her mirth took dominion over what she was trying to say. "We're not here to take your call." There was a pause in the recording followed by a breathless Alice quickly wrapping up the message. "But-we'll-get-back-to-you-as-soon-as-we-can."

Suddenly a whispered comment could be heard from the device in the redhead's distinctive tone. "Unless we're too busy having sex."

The recording of Alice responded with surprise, "Claire!" Then the playback ended with a click, and the younger woman chuckled.

"I can't believe we haven't changed that yet," Alice said with amused disbelief as she waited to hear the message.

"Oh, you can hardly hear it," the redhead jeered.

A man's voice emanated from the machine after a few seconds of silence. "Alice…"

"Why the hell is Spence calling?" Claire asked with barely contained hatred for Alice's ex, and the brunette shrugged with uncertainty.

Spence's monotone took over again. "Today all your dreams come true."

Alice's face fell as her dream rushed back to her. A blue vial shattered on the floor, a ship floated in the distance, the Red Queen stared with menace, a tanker exploded in the desert, a gory dog snarled, followed by the most startling image of them all – Claire bleeding out on a pure white floor. The vision was overpowering and Alice fought hard to reclaim her composure.

"Your dreams? What the fuck does he mean by that?" Claire demanded.

Alice bolted out of the bed and quickly started dressing into her combat gear. She threw on her pants and a shirt first; then pulled on her dark leather military boots. As she laced them, Claire sat up in the bed to speak.

"Alice wait, what's going on?"

"I don't think I can explain it, but listen to me," the security operative looked into the redhead's eyes to convey the importance of her next words. "Take the first flight to L.A., find your brother, and stay with him." Claire's eyebrows knitted together as she puzzled over the command.

Alice put on her bulletproof vest and zipped it; then walked to the dresser and pulled out the second drawer. Encased in glass was her personal weapon locker. Like rapid fire she punched in the seven digit key-code, and the glass slid back giving her access to two submachine guns, two pistols, a 12 gauge shotgun, and ammunition for all. She started to load up and put the weapons on her person. The last gun she readied was the 12 gauge.

"Where are you going?" Claire pulled the satin sheets off her and rose from the bed.

The brunette pumped the obsidian slide of her shotgun once.

"To work."

Alice put the gun in the holster on her back, and even though she was in a hurry, stopped to watch Claire pull on her jeans. The brunette bit her lip in memory of the state of arousal the both of them had just been in, and sighed wistfully.

"Alice-" Claire was about to protest as she continued to dress, but the brunette cut her off.

"Baby, trust me."

"I do."

This is my first last chance to tell her how much she means to me, Alice realized. I may never see her again.

The brunette walked over and took Claire's hands in her own. The redhead could see the gravity behind whatever Alice was about to say.

"You are all that matters to me."

The words weren't enough; if Alice was going to do this right – she would have to show her, but she was suddenly nervous. The brunette turned to humor to combat the anxiety of the emotions she felt.

"Kiss for the road?" Alice inquired with one eyebrow raised.

Claire pulled her hands away to fold her arms in iron will as she replied. "Only if you promise that the road leads you right back to me."

Leave it to Claire's stubbornness to say everything I couldn't, Alice thought with a smile, and her earlier playfulness melted away to reveal the devotion she felt for the redhead as she gave her word.

"I promise."

Alice placed her hands on the back of Claire's shoulders and moved in to kiss her. She dipped her head slightly, and caught the redhead's lips with confidence. I will come back to you, Alice thought and her dream came to the surface. I won't lose you again.

The younger woman slowly dropped her folded arms as she surrendered to the kiss; the second she put them on the brunette's waist, Alice pulled her into a tight embrace and Claire returned it with fevered intensity.

Well it's been a ride, eh readers? I'd like to take a second to thank cantholdon and startariotinme for their help. A lot of this would not have been possible without them. Please review; this is your last chance to tell me if the story was any good, so take advantage - yes? Farwell readers :)