Whoever You Want to Be

bybashfullyshameless©

She remembered that it had been her idea. It had been her deliberate betrayal.

She remembered torches, and hearth fires, and flames that roared far higher and hotter than anything seen by mortal man.

She remembered being reborn, and remembered that it hurt, but after that she knew there would be power and pleasure for centuries to come.

* * *

"Ms. Abrams? Ms. Abrams, can you hear me?"

"Huh? Yeah. Yeah." Her eyes fluttered open. Up above her were grey Seattle skies. Closer to her, but still above, was a handsome face. She liked the green eyes and the short, spiky blond hair. "Wow. You look good in that uniform," she said sleepily.

The officer blinked. There was a lot of noise: people yelling, some crying, engines running and apparently something big burning brightly and loudly not far away. "Uh. Okay. You with us now? What's your name?"

"Shannon. Call me Shannon. Ms. Abrams is my mom," Shannon smiled. Then her smile faded as it all came back to her. "Oh, shit, is she—the woman who fell, is she okay? What happened?"

"Fire's already dealing with the building," the cop shrugged. He looked to be about thirty and in great shape. Shannon couldn't stop looking at him. Fit without being bulky. She wanted to see more. Hell of a time to think about that, though. "Your partner took over with the woman in the street right when I got here and pretty soon... well, anyway, it's under control and I figured somebody should look after you besides random civilians."

"Aw, that's sweet," Shannon smiled. Again, the cop blinked. So did Shannon. "I mean—uh—I mean thanks. Ugh. I gotta get up."

"Woah, careful, slow down," the cop said, kneeling down to help her sit up as she realized just how stable the world wasn't. "Are you hurt at all? You surely a concussion."

"No, I think I'm okay. I mean I'm a little confused, but I'm okay. I just... I started checking on that woman, and then it all went black. Is she okay?"

The cop frowned. "No, I'm sorry," he said. "She's gone."

"Oh, fuck," Shannon sighed, her hands covering her face. Her voice cracked with frustration. "Dammit, I was trying to help her and I don't know what happened!"

"Hey, hey, don't take it like that," the cop said. He put a hand on her shoulder. "Look, I checked her myself. The whole back of her head was broken in like five different places and you could tell just from looking at her that half her ribs were smashed. There was nothing you could've done."

"What? No, she wasn't that hurt! I didn't see anything like that!" Shannon's hands came away from her face. She looked toward the street to see a black plastic sheet covering the fallen woman. Beyond it, Shannon saw that the apartment building was a full-on blaze. Firefighters were inside trying to control and contain the mess, but nobody would be able to live there again once it was all over.

The cop relaxed a bit, understanding that Shannon's frustration wasn't to the point of tears or a breakdown. He saw now that she would hold it together. "You might not remember it that way now," he suggested, "but you could take a look at the body over there if you really want to. I don't recommend it. Seriously, she could've taken that fall in the emergency room parking lot and she still wouldn't have made it."

He helped her up when she moved to rise. "Ugh, I've gotta get back to work," Shannon said.

"No, you're good. Think we're all covered here. Plenty of paramedics already. You need to take it easy. Seriously," he reiterated when she tried to brush him off. Finally, he saw her absorb his words and nod. His tone softened. "Listen, did she have anything with her other than the gun?"

"What? No."

"It's just that nobody in this city should have one of those. If she had anything else and somebody in the crowd walked off with it before we got to you, it could be important."

"No, just... just the coat and the gun. Beside that, she was naked. Gorgeous." Shannon paused as she said that. Where did that come from? What would it matter?

He brought her to an ambulance—her own, embarrassingly enough. She accepted his help in sitting her down on the back bumper, less because she needed any help and more because she liked it. That wasn't normally her style... but hell, he's cute and he seems really nice, right?

"What's your name?" she asked.

"I'm Officer Murray."

She smiled up at him. "Does it say 'officer' on your driver's license?"

He grinned back at that. "Kevin," he replied. "My name's Kevin. Look, I'm gonna let your partner know you're okay, alright?"

"I'd appreciate that, thanks," Shannon nodded. She stepped on her urge to flirt more. She wasn't the flirty type at all. If anything, she was normally shy. This was also absolutely not the time or the place. She resolved to get her act together, and then immediately looked back up at him, unfastened the top button on her uniform shirt—just to cool off—and asked with that same girly, not-entirely-innocent smile, "Are you gonna come back?"

"I. Um. I dunno," he stammered, genuinely unsure of how to answer that. "Listen. Uh... like I said, this whole scene is crazy but if you remember anything," he said, fishing a business card out of his shirt pocket, "you wanna give me a call?"

"Sure," she said, accepting the card. The gun. Right. Something about a gun. That was something a cop would care about. Stop thinking like you're out barhopping. "Can I call you anyway?"

"...sure?" he answered. He seemed to blush. Then he left, answering a call from someone else on the scene.

Shannon didn't know whether to squeal or slam her head into the ambulance. She'd never made a guy blush before, let alone a guy like him. She still felt out of sorts. Good, oddly enough, but a little confused. The whole situation around her was pretty crazy, too, she conceded to herself. Maybe she was woozier than she thought and she had just imagined all of the cop's reactions? Or maybe she read them completely wrong because she'd damaged her brain?

A young woman in a dirty white dress stepped in front of her. She was seriously pretty—and pretty serious. "You're Shannon Abrams," said the blonde.

"Yeah?"

"Your boyfriend just dumped you because he's an asshole," she went on. The blonde's eyes looked her over as if reading something or seeing a scene play out on a television. "He—wow, what a dirtbag. Dumped you via text. Didn't have the balls to tell you the truth why. Wow."

"Huh? How did you know—"

The blonde shook her head. "You can't worry about that asshole now. You've got more important things to deal with. Don't fuck anyone until I can talk to you again."

Shannon blinked. "What?"

"Look, just for your own good and theirs: don't fuck anyone. Don't kiss anyone, don't accept any hugs, don't even flirt. Keep your cell phone off. Just get off work, go home and go to sleep. I'm busy and I can't explain just now. I'll catch up with you as soon as I can, but for the love of God, don't fuck anyone, alright?"

With that, she was gone. She just turned her head and walked around the ambulance and when Shannon got up to follow her, she had vanished.

Ian took her place. He came up to Shannon carrying a gear bag, breathing heavy as if he'd been working at a good clip. "Hey, I saw you were up," Ian told her. "How are you feeling? You okay?"

"Yeah, I think so," Shannon answered. "I'm fine now. I think. I'm a little out of it but I don't think I'm gonna pass out again. I feel like such a tool."

"Don't freak out about it," Ian replied. "Just take it seriously, but you've already had a hell of a day. Lots to stress about. Anyway, they've got plenty of people on hand for the fire. I was told we're released as soon as you're ready to go, so let's just head back to the station, okay?"

He's looking at me differently, she realized. It was a subtle thing; something about the interest in his eyes and his posture and the deeper-than-normal tone of his voice. She felt no mutual spark; he wasn't her type, and after riding with him for the last six months she found in him too many of her turn-offs. But she recognized now that there was something there for him, at least.

Ian stepped past her into the ambulance to stow the gear bag. He left Shannon sitting there on the bumper, reflecting on how hard it must be to wear a mask like that all the time. Must be hard to hide how you really feel all the time, she thought. Or to hide who you really are.

* * *

It was a good night to live alone.

Freed from her job after entirely too much discussion with her supervisors—and theirs—about her day, Shannon all but staggered through the door to her apartment, locked it behind her and threw the deadbolt. She leaned against the door, inhaled the lingering smells of last night's cooking and the cheap lavender air freshener plugged in down the hallway and told herself to relax.

She was home now. She would be home for a few days. As Ian predicted, her schedule had been rearranged in light of the complaint from the ER doctor and now because of her fainting spell. Not one of her bosses thought the complaint held any merit, but none were willing to take her episode outside the fire lightly, either.

Shannon unbuttoned her shirt and took it off right there in the doorway. Normally neat and methodical with her clothing, Shannon instead opted to just shed her uniform right there in the entryway.

She wanted to be naked. Shannon jerked at the laces of her boots to free herself from them, dumping the footwear on top of her uniform shirt and then tossing the socks as they came off, one toward the kitchen and another down the hall.

Her single-bedroom apartment usually stayed fairly clean. Now her belt went flying carelessly across the living room. Her undershirt fell across the stove, just a few feet away from the front door. She rounded the corner, went into the bathroom and promptly cranked the knob in her shower-tub to fill it with hot water. She didn't bother to balance it by turning the cold water knob.

Shannon unfastened her pants and slipped them off her hips, slowing now to touch her legs with her fingers all the way down. When she straightened back up, she found herself looking back in the mirror.

Like many women, Shannon wasn't fair to herself about her looks. She faced with her reflection and with her life at a new crossroads. "I'm plenty pretty enough," she said aloud.

She had been since the beginning. She knew that now. Whether Brad got that or not she didn't know and could hardly bring herself to care, but she was clearly better than he deserved. She had a brain. She had a job—crappy though it often was, and no longer as awesome as she once thought, it was still a job and she was damn good at it. Shannon was twenty-eight, sane and stable despite her career frustrations. She'd been a good girlfriend: thoughtful, attentive, willing to give space. And yes, pretty, too, goddammit.

"Can't say much for the underwear, though," Shannon frowned, and watched herself in the mirror as she pulled the sports bra over her head. Her hands came down to her chest to massage her freed breasts and rub the red lines left behind by the edges of her bra.

All that was normal. It always felt good to shed her bra after work. What wasn't quite normal was the amount of time she took in rubbing her breasts, or the slow, sensual pleasure of it. Her breasts felt good. Very good. She'd never noticed it before. Shannon felt a bit bad about having to restrain her perky endowments—firmer than she normally gave herself credit for—in such an unflattering garment. They looked good. They felt even better.

Her hands lingered. Stress quickly melted away as she touched herself. Shannon cupped her breasts, bringing her fingers to her nipples and giving the slightest of caresses, and found herself letting out a deep sigh.

A grin spread across her face, half out of genuine arousal and half out of wry amusement. Like anyone, she took care of herself while alone from time to time. Yet she never liked the thought so much before now. Shannon glanced at the tub, seeing it fill with water hot enough to give off visible steam, and decided she deserved a little playtime. In fact, she deserved a lot.

She shed her panties—dismally plain things, she decided—and allowed one hand to linger between her legs while she slid the flow selector over to "shower."

Scalding hot water rained down from the detachable nozzle. Some of it splattered onto the floor outside the tub. Shannon hardly cared. She slipped one leg inside, then another, loving the wet warmth that sprayed across her body and immersed her legs.

How are they so smooth? Shannon wondered absently. It had been several days since she last shaved, but now they felt as if she'd just waxed. Her hands slid up and down her legs, enjoying them almost as much as she enjoyed touching her own breasts, and only barely questioned her new sensitivity.

Soaking wet now, Shannon finally slid the shower doors closed to avoid a flood in her bathroom before she pulled the nozzle from its mount. She ran it over her body, reveling in the heat without considering how it should burn rather than comfort. She brought it over her head. Down across her shoulders. Over her breasts, then under them, and finally down her belly to her center.

She was glad to be home from work. She was glad she didn't have to deal with Brad... and yet she felt a hunger that would best be sated by a man. Still, the shower would do nicely for now, which only seemed surer as she began to tease herself between the legs with the water flow.

The world and all her cares drifted away as the water began to do its work. Shannon lifted one leg up onto the side of the tub to allow better access, leaned against the wall and sighed while she teased herself further. Arousal built. Heat and pressure applied in small circles quickly did its work.

Shannon shook and let out a moan. She wasn't normally this quick; more than once, she had run out of hot water before getting off, and that was without filling the tub with hot water beforehand. Yet she didn't feel rushed at all. Were it not for the finite limits of her hot water heater, she would have thought she'd been at this for quite a while as pleasure rose and her tremors grew more intense.

The water felt so good. She felt so good. A shuddering breath escaped her as the spasms began. Shannon let out a loud moan, shameless and joyful in its announcement of her climax. It, too, went on for longer than she expected. Her center throbbed with pleasure and the sound of the showerhead between her legs changed as she brought it in even closer to prolong her bliss.

Her orgasm abated, only to quickly build into another before she had even pulled the showerhead away. Shannon rode it out, surprised at her body but happy to enjoy it just the same. Water sprayed all around her as her hands shook, but she didn't mind. Nothing detracted from the sensations of orgasm.

Relieved and pleased, Shannon lazily assessed the depth of water in her small bathtub and found it adequate. She turned off the flow and left the showerhead hanging from its metal hose as she sank into the tub, immersing herself in water that would have burned any other woman.

It felt natural. It felt relaxing. She hadn't felt cold before, necessarily, but the heat soothed her. Naked and alone and for the moment satisfied, Shannon felt the last tensions of her day leave her body.

Her mind relaxed, and finally turned off.

When she found herself thinking about much of anything once more, she found her thoughts drifting toward naughty things. She lay in the tub with her legs spread and her knees bent, perfect for the taking if only she had someone here to take her. Or to kneel down and please her. That would be lovely, too. No room in the tub for either option, of course, but her position was perfect for such fun.

She frowned a bit, reflecting on her bout of self-love. Normally she entertained definite fantasies when she took care of herself. They varied in style and in partners—not that she could ever have told touchy, insecure Brad about whom she fantasized—but naughty daydreams were always part of the process. Only just now she had been turned on without any such thoughts at all. She had been turned on by her reflection in the mirror. She had been turned on all by herself. Literally by herself.

Her hand was on her breast again. Another drifted between her legs to tease her lips. It felt good... but this wouldn't do. She wanted more.

Shannon slid the shower door open again and found her pants still in a pool on the bathroom floor. She grabbed the edge of the bath mat to pull them over, drying her hands on its fabric. Shannon fumbled with the pants until she could get at the cell phone in her back pocket. The cell phone, and one other tiny item.

Her eyes rolled and she let out a sigh as the phone announced an endless stream of texts and voicemails. Friends and family called to offer their sympathies on her break-up. Several messages asked which of Brad's limbs she would prefer broken. Shannon considered herself shy and socially timid—work was one thing, making friends was another—but even so, she had her support circles.

She didn't need them, though. She needed something different. Shannon checked the time and decided to go for broke as she dialed the number on the card.

"This is Kevin," a voice answered.

"I thought you'd answer with 'Officer Murray' or something," Shannon said, sinking back into the tub with a grin. She felt a bit surprised at how easily she could talk to this man; normally she found herself tongue-tied around attractive strangers. Now the flirtation came naturally.

"Uh... sorry? Who's this?"

"It's Shannon, from earlier today. The paramedic?"

"Oh, hi. Right. How are you feeling?"

Shannon's free hand wandered back between her legs. "Pretty good," she replied. "So are you at your desk? Or is this your personal phone?"

"I'm still on duty, but some of us do carry cell phones," Kevin answered. Now that she listened for it, Shannon could hear the sound of traffic going by. "Normally I let it go to voice mail, but I'm parked at the moment. What can I do for you?"

Shannon stomped on her initial bawdy response. That would not do at all. Nor was it even remotely in character for her. Suddenly unsure of what to say, Shannon's eyes darted around as she considered her response. She caught sight of the plastic jack o' lantern on her kitchen counter down the hall, full of candy that she would likely eat before any trick-or-treaters actually came along at her door.

It's Halloween, she thought, or close to it. You can be whoever you want to be.

He's a stranger. Just met him. Nice, but nothing to lose. Probably already attached anyway. Just go for it.

"I was hoping you could meet with me later tonight, if you're up for it. Maybe when you get off work?"

"...this isn't about the dead woman with the gun, is it?" he asked hesitantly. Shannon didn't hear any particular disapproval in his voice. "You're not asking to meet with me for some professional matter?"

"Does it have to be?"

"I dunno. Kind of inappropriate," he teased.

Shannon winced. "Right. God. Sorry, I know, I shouldn't—"

"It's a little before nine now. I'm off at about eleven unless something crazy happens. Probably be midnight at least before I can actually be anywhere. Gotta go home and feed my cat."

"Aw. That's sweet. Late tonight is good for me. I've got tomorrow off. But I wouldn't want your kitty to go hungry."

"Oh, no, he's a smart guy. If I don't get home and feed him, he'll just find a way to get at the food and then I'll have to clean up whatever mess he leaves behind. Anyway. Are you in the city? I live in the north end. Greenwood-ish."

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