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Written for 14 valentines challenge, theme "Sexuality"

There were a few seconds of silence after Penelope floated the idea. It was uncomfortable silence, but she was too tired to really care all that much.

Finally, JJ said, “He was fifteen feet from you and had a Colt. You know there was nothing you could have done, right?” She asked in that soft, compassionate way that she managed, which made Penelope feel a little idiotic. Luckily, she was too tired to care about that, either.

Penelope closed her eyes. “I know, baby girl. But I think I’d feel safer.”

“Okay, then,” and there wasn’t any hesitation this time. “Of course.”

Penelope felt JJ’s fingers at her temple, soothing back her hair. For the moment, she felt more than safe enough.


Penelope could readily admit that the whole thing was illogical. She had been shot. Nothing that she could have done bodily would have stopped or changed the event. If she had listened to her own suspicions, that would have been something different, but she already knew she should trust her mind. It was her body she had, at best, a fair-weather friendship with. At least, though, until now, she had trusted it to get her the places she wanted to go, support her intellect, be the part of her that represented who she was inside as best it could.

Now she was afraid to touch where the bandage lay, worried that she would poke the wrong place, and things would fall apart, spill out of her. The doctors assured her everything was healing properly and it wasn't so much that she didn't believe them, just that none of them had lived through the bullet's impact, the sudden, forceful loss of control it had effected.

It was not so much that she thought if she could protect herself in a hand-to-hand situation that she could have stopped anything, changed anything, in this instance. It was that it would give her back some semblance of control over the space she called her own, the air she inhabited. She had learned a long time ago that her space was sacred to her. She didn't have to specialize in profiling to recognize the careful way she filled her spaces, decorated them, protected them. It was more that, until now, she had never thought of her skin as a space to be invaded.

She wasn't thrilled about having to rethink that.


Self-defense, as JJ taught it, involved a lot of yelling. Penelope could be as loud as the next gal, but, "Really? Because, I mean, I don't think I'm gonna scare the big, bad wolf-man away with an 'a-YA.'"

JJ rolled her eyes. "First of all, you're wrong. Noise draws attention, and most attackers do not want attention drawn. But more importantly, it's less about the noise and more about your self-assertion. Physical defense is only one aspect of self-defense."

"But it's the part where you ground the asshole into jelly and worm-food," Penelope said. She knew she sounded a little wistful. She didn't care.

JJ laughed. "Um. More like it's the part where you incapacitate and run."

"Sounds less glorious," Penelope grumped.

"I guess." JJ shrugged. "You want glorious, watch the sunrise the next morning."

"I hate that you always have a point."

JJ nodded in sympathy. "Yeah, it gets tiring."


The first time Penelope left JJ on the mat, her entire chest burned like a jungle full of napalm, and she was breathing so hard there were black spots in front of her eyes. "Take. That," she panted.

JJ looked up at her, wincing slightly, and asked, "How'd it feel?"

Penelope put a hand to where she was still healing. Nothing threatened to come apart. She smiled at JJ. "I dare someone to come and get me."

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile