Disclaimers - Nope, none. My characters, my hometown, my pseudo company. Dar and Kerry are (amazingly) copyrighted people belonging to themselves, who are renting their lives to me for reasons beyond my understanding. This is the sequel to Hurricane Watch.


Eye of the Storm Part 11

By Melissa Good

"Get down!" Kerry yelled, pulling herself and Cecilia painfully to the floor as a superheated rush of fire and air exploded over her head and out the window, it's crashing roar slamming against them like a physical force. Then the flames started licking at the ceiling, and she got to her feet, bolting forward regardless of the falling chunks of burning material.

Three people had been caught in it. She tried not to look at them and panic as she dove over a smouldering chair in the smokey darkness and was caught up abruptly by a pair of hands. "Let me…" Then she realized it was Dar.

"C'mon!" Dar yelled, "Everyone get over to the window!"

The heat was increasing quickly, and now it was anything but silent as the chaos outside filtered in. The children were screaming, and the survivors scrambled over to the opening, clinging to the frame as smoke poured out of it.

"You almost got us killed!" Roger Stuart raged.

Dar ignored him, as she peered back into the smoke, shading her eyes. Outside, the firemen had spotted them, and were working to get the huge basket cranked up to their level, shouts of alarm and encouragment echoing up to them. Andrew was pushing the last of the glass out of the way, one hand protectively curled around his wife, and Kerry was helping a young woman over the fallen furniture.

The two wheelchairs. Dar grabbed Stuart by the arm. "Give me a hand with those kids." She pointed, realizing only then she could have made a better choice of assistants.

Well. No time. Stuart stared at her, half his face lit in fire, half in shadows, and for a long moment Dar thought he was going to refuse. Then he wrenched his arm free and shoved her away from him.

"Go there." He ordered Cynthia, pushing his way past a fallen bookcase and towards the frightened children, who were unable to maneuver their chairs through the debris. It was very hot as they got to them, and Dar felt like she was breathing the fire itself as she touched the chair, then jerked her hands back at the heat. "Hang on." She unbuckled the petrified little boy and picked him up in her arms, ducking as a burning part of the ceiling started to fall, and almost stumbling as the flaming chunks hit her shoulder.

She shook them off and plowed forward, the child shivering so violently his teeth were chattering in her ear. "Take it easy.. we're gonna be fine." She told him, as small hands clutched desperately at her. The fire bucket was just reaching their level when she staggered to the edge of the window, and the two firemen inside were yelling orders almost impossible to hear over the roar of the fire and the noise of the crowd outside.

One had a hose, and he yelled something, then he opened a valve, and a jet of water exploded past them, hitting the fire behind where they were and making it hiss in protest. Someone screamed next to Dar, and she realized it was Kerry's mother. She looked back, but nothing was visible through the smoke, then she searched the survivors huddled nearby and didn't see the senator among them. "Shit." She started to put the child down, intent on going back when her mother caught her arm. "Can you watch him for a minute?"

"Where are you going?" Ceci asked.

"See if I can…" Dar watched a ball of black smoke billow forward, stopping her speech.

Then a coughing, soot covered form stumbled out of the darkness, soaked from the hose's spray but carrying the other crippled child.

Dar felt Kerry lean against her, and she glanced towards her partner, whose soot covered face was almost unrecognizable in it's weary tension. Her eyes were on her father, with an indescribable expression in them as the man came up to them, staggering under his load as a gust of wind from the circling helicopters washed in.

A spotlight hit them from above, and Dar shaded her eyes, blinking back spots as the firemen came closer to the building. They threw ropes over and Andrew caught one, tugging it back and tying it off around the steel window frame. "We got kids here!" He yelled. "We'll hand em over to you."

"Tie that to yourself!" The fireman hollared. "Don't want you falling out the window while we're doing this!"

Andrew nodded, hastily fastening the heavy rope around his waist and tying it with an efficient knot. "All right….c'mere, squirt." He held out a hand to the nearest of the children, and pulled the boy forward, catching him around the waist and hoisting him out over the open space between the edge of the window and the bucket. The fireman grabbed him and lifted him in, then handed him over to another fireman who had climbed up the long ladder zig zagging behind them.

The crowd clustered closer, nervously edging away from the fire at their backs, momentarily dampened slightly by the fireman's efforts. They started to push, and Dar braced her legs to keep her balance. "Stay back! Let's get the kids first!"

"She's right." Roger Stuart yelled. "Pushing won't help. Stay where you are."

An explosion sent the floor shuddering under their feet, and people started screaming, trying to keep their balance. One man panicked and jumped for the basket, his feet slipping on the wet floor and making him miss his hold, leaving him hanging from one arm. Andrew leaned out and grabbed the back of his pants, yanking him up with a single, powerful heave into the basket head first.

The fireman pulled him in, then looked over. "Better hurry up…. We can't hold this."

Two more people pushed to the front, clawing blindly at Andrew's arm. "Get back." The ex seal pushed them gently. "C"mon now… let the kids out." He insisted. "Dar, gimme that little boy."

"I"ve got him." Dar had tied the end of the second rope around her and now she leaned out and handed the child carefully to the fireman hanging on the front of the basket. "Careful…he cant' walk."

"You be careful, ma'am." The fireman warned, as he passed the child back.

Kerry got between the panicked survivors and Andrew. "Okay… just take it easy. We're all going to get out of here." She told them, yelling to be heard over the noise. "There aren't that many of us… and look, the fire's not getting any closer for now." She pointed with her good hand. "Don't start rushing the window… you'll fall out, and then you'll really get hurt."

They passed three more children out, then Roger edged forward, ignoring Andrew's offered hands and getting to the very edge of the opening before handing out the little girl he was carrying. "Watch the braces." He warned the fireman, then stepped back. "All right - women next."

Two women made it out, then a rumble filled the building, and part of the ceiling collapsed behind them, sending a wash of heat out the window. The remaining glass crackled and popped, and Dar shielded her face and turned her back to it. "We'd better hurry."

Kerry's mother went next, with Andrew taking one arm and her husband taking the other. "You next, Cec." Andrew turned, to see a stubborn look crossing his wife's face. "Now, c'mon." He grabbed her bodily and lifted her over, passing her slight weight to the fireman over her half spoken protests. "Careful with that one. She bites."

The fireman let a brief grin cross his tired face. "Yes, sir."

"You be careful, damn it!" Ceci yelled back, then her voice dropped. "Please?" Their eyes locked, and Andrew smiled at her, giving her a reassuring wink that didn't seem to work.

Kerry started to untie the rope around Dar. "Guess we're next."

"Go on." Dar gently removed her hands and nudged her towards the opening. "I'll be right there."

Andrew held a hand out, and she took it, pausing to glance at her father as she stepped into the glare and backwash of the endlessly hovering helicopters. The fireman reached out just as a gust of wind knocked her off balance, and she wavered, then felt a steadying hand on her back as the rescuers took a secure hold on her and lifted her over the gap. Once in the bucket she turned immediately and looked back, meeting three sets of eyes watching her.

The hand, she realized, had been her fathers.

She felt a guiding touch, and started carefully down the ladder, keeping her eyes always on that dark, smoke filled gap.


"You next." Dar exhaled, motioning to the senator, the last one left besides Andy and herself. She thought he was going to argue with her for a second, then he merely stepped forward, and accepted the fireman's arm clasp as they started spraying again into the opening. Smoke was billowing out continuously, and now, at last, Dar moved towards the window.

She and her father exchanged glances. "G'wan." Andrew spoke quietly.

A quirk. "You first."

Andrew's eyebrows lifted. "Paladar, get yer butt into that bucket before I whup it."

Dar shook her head. "Not this time…you're about to keel over. So move it." She folded her arms and met his eyes with an inflexibly stubborn look. "C'mon, c'mon…. we don't have all day."

Andrew untied his rope, and chuckled, shaking his head as he moved to the opening and paused, then jumped across on his own, disregarding the fireman's helping hand. Then he turned and took hold of Dar's arm as she crossed, out of the smoke and heat at last.

"Okay… pull her back!" The fireman spoke into a walkie talkie. "Let's get the hell…. Oh, shit!"

The low rumble warned them. "Get down! Get down!" The fireman slammed them both into the bottom of the bucket, and threw himself over them as a ball of superheated air and flame came roiling out of the hole in the glass, melting it and sending shards of concrete flying towards them.

The bucket reeled wildly, then swung away from the building, swaying as the engineers fought to keep it upright. The hapless survivors clung to the ladder desperately, until it finally steadied.

"Son of a bitch." The fireman exhaled, hauling himself off the two rescuees in the bottom of the bucket. "Oh. Sorry ma'am."

Dar slowly straightened, and gazed over the lip of the bucket to where the fire now shot out of the wall, raging up the side of the half collapsed building. Then she looked at her father, who gazed thoughtfully back. "I"ve heard people say being on the edge is a big rush."

"Mm." Andrew rocked his head.

"They're full of shit." Dar sat down in the bottom of the bucket, where she could see nothing but plastic and the clouds overhead.

Andy patted her knee comfortingly, then leaned an arm on the bucket edge. "We need to get climbing?"

"Hell no." The firefighter sat wearily on the edge of the contraption. "We get a ride down.. it'll just take a few minutes." He glanced at them. "You two deserve it…you saved those people's asses. We were about to back off and let the building blow out." He held a hand out. "Josh Beard."

Andy took it. "Andy Roberts… and this little sprout's my daughter Dar."

Josh looked quizzically at the six foot plus woman sprawled at his feet and grinned. "You musta used a decent fertilizer."

It struck Dar as funny, and she started laughing softly, too exhausted to otherwise move.

"Hey… was that really Senator Stuart and his wife?"

"Yeap." Andrew nodded. "How'd you know?"

"Oh… they're turning the place upside down looking for him.. you kidding? When they pulled his kid out and she said he was stil…"

Dar grabbed his leg in a vise grip. "What? Are you saying his daughter Angela got out?"

"Ouch." He winced. "Yeah… about to pop… she was on the west side of the building and they got her out first thing." He took off his helmet and scrubbed his hand through short, curly hair. "Probably a momma by now."

Dar felt a wave of relief flow through her and she let her head drop back against the plastic. "Thank god." Then she pulled herself to her feet and peered over the basket edge, towards the slowly aproaching ground. "Where in the hell's Kerry?"


Kerry found herself on the ground, and for a long moment, she simply stood there, letting the chaos around her pass her by as she absorbed the steadyness of the earth under her feet, and took in breaths of air untinged with smoke and dust. Then she turned, and tilted her head back, reassuring herself of the slow progress of the bucket on it's way down before she turned and paid attention to the paramedic who was talking to her. "I'm sorry… what did you ask me?"

"I said, would you come over here, ma'am, and let us take a look at you?" The woman repeated, taking her elbow.

Ceci appeared at her side. "She had a dislocated shoulder." She told the paramedic, as Kerry obediently allowed her to lead her over to what appeared to be a triage area, where she sat down on a bench.

"Doesn't look dislocated." The woman had gently removed the dirty, singed sling Kerry was still wearing. "Someone put it back in for you?"

Kerry nodded. "Yes." She took a breath. "It really hurt."

"I bet it did." She carefully manipulated Kerry's arm. "How's it feel now?"

"Sore." A sigh. "But then, just about everything's sore.. it's kind of hard to judge." She winced as the medic touched her forearm. "I think I got burned there."

"Mm… yes, you did." The medic looked around. "How about you lie down on that gurney over there, and let me get someone to take a look at this, okay?" She took Kerry by the arm and led her over, then helped her settle down on the rolling cot, pulling the sheet up over her to her waist and positioning her arm carefully resting on her stomach. "You just stay right there."

"Okay." Kerry let out a breath, glad to be still. She turned her head towards Ceci and blinked. "Are they down yet?"

The gray eyes lifted then returned. "Almost." Ceci had seated herself on the grass next to the gurney, and was leaning against a stone disposal. "I see the press has found your father."

Kerry turned her head that way and watched. "He did okay up there." Her voice took on a note of tired wonder.

"He proved his paternity." Ceci remarked dryly.

Kerry gave her a puzzled look.

"That was a compliment."

"Oh." She rubbed her face, blinking her stinging eyes, then looked up as a man in green surgical scrubs knelt next to her. "Hello."

He glanced at her. "Hi there." Professional hands carefully lifted her forearm and examined it. "Well, that's a nasty burn, but I think you got lucky."

"Lucky." Kerry murmured.

"Let me look at your head now." Gentle fingers probed. "That's a pretty bad bump."

"Bump?" Kerry thought about that. "I don't remember that… "

"Probably when you went through the drywall." Ceci supplied, glancing over to see the basket making it's landing finally. "You were out for about fifteen minutes."

"I was?"


"I think we need to take you in, and take some xrays… just stay quiet here, and we'll transport you in a little while, okay?" The doctor spread a faintly spicy smelling salve over the burn on her arm, and covered it with a light layer of gauze. "Have you been coughing? Does your throat hurt?"

"No.. not really." Kerry cleared her throat experimentally. "Kind of raw, though."

"Okay.. we'll check you for smoke inhalation… just lie back, and relax."

That sounded like a good idea. Now that it was over.. well, sort of, all the little scrapes and cuts and bangs were surfacing and she felt like she'd been run through a trash compactor.

There were so many things to think about, and she didn't want to think about any of them. "Doctor?"

"Mm?" He looked up from cleaning a cut on Kerry's collarbone.

"Kerry!" Dar's voice cut in, and then she was there, dropping to one knee and smiling. "Hey.. I've got great news."

Kerry's eyes fastened on her face trustingly. "What is it?" She could see the honest happiness on her lover's face, and it brought a smile to her own unconsicously. "Did you find Angie?"

"Not exactly." Dar twined their fingers. "She's already at the hospital… you're an aunt."

Every bit of pain just vanished for a simple, golden moment. "Yes!" She exulted. "Oh god.. yes… I knew it…. I knew she was all right. Dar… " She was halfway between laughing and crying. "Thank you… how 'd you find out?"

"Everyone knows." Dar replied. "She was one of the first ones out… she told everyone who she was, and the place went berserk."


"That explains all the press." Ceci remarked. "Otherwise a fire hardly would have drawn Dan Rather."

"Fire?" The doctor finished his work. "Ma'am, that was no fire. It was a bomb." He patted Kerry's uninjured shoulder. "I'll be back."

There was a moment of silence, as they looked at each other. Then Andrew came up and took a seat next to his wife. "Damn bastards blew the place up!"

"Who?" Kerry asked. "Who would want to blow up a hospital?"

The ex seal shook his head. "They dunno yet." He sighed. "Got them a coffee tent over there. You all want some?" He pushed himself to his feet, and Ceci joined him. "We'll bring some back."

"You want anything else?" Ceci asked, letting her fingers brush Dar's hair lightly.

Dar sighed, swallowing her first, instinctive answer. "Coffee's fine. Thanks." Then her parents were gone, and she and Kerry were relatively alone, the chaos around effectively isolating them.

Kerry breathed in the damp air. "What time is it?"

"I have no idea." Dar leaned her arms on the gurney, running her thumb over Kerry's fingers. "I'm glad about your sister."

Kerry lifted her other hand and ran it through Dar's dark and very tangled hair. "Me too." She watched as Dar looked up, her face covered in soot and scrapes, and her eyes bloodshot. "Crappy day, huh?"

The neatly shaped lips tensed into a smile. "You and I are here at the end of it… that's good enough for me." Dar admitted. "But yeah… I think I"ve had better twenty four hour periods in my time."

Kerry cupped her cheek, and watched Dar's eyes flutter closed in reaction. "I love you."

Dar opened her eyes and gazed at her. "I love you too."

"I'm really glad nothing happened to you, Dar." Kerry went on. "Because I don't think…. I would have wanted to make it out of there if it had."

Dar's jaw clenched, moving the muscles under the skin. "Yeah." She muttered hoarsely. "You gave me a scare in there a few times." She leaned into Kerry's touch, glad it was over, and not really caring what happened next.

Footsteps approached, and Dar looked up, expecting to see her parents or the doctor, and surprised when it was a young woman in khaki pants and a blue shirt, who knelt at her side. "Ms. Roberts?"

She blinked. "Yes."

"Whew. Glad I found you." The woman held up a very familiar looking identification badge. "Mr. Baierd asked me to see if could locate you… he's got a motorvan available to take you over to the hospital… or wherever you need to go."

"Hamilton's here?" Dar looked over towards the coffee tent for her parents, and only then realized what logo was blazoned on the flap. "Community support team?"

"Yes, ma'am… here to help, and also because we got word you and Ms. Stuart were maybe trapped in there. You've got a lot of people really, really wired up, Ms. Roberts."

"I bet." Dar almost laughed. "All right… let me just find my parents and… where in the hell is he?"

She pointed towards a sleek, streamlined Winnebago idling on a side street. "You might want to hurry… I think the press is looking for you."

Dar sighed, pushing herself to her feet. "You okay to walk?" She assisted Kerry in standing. "They've got a nice, cushy couch you can lie down on in there… that's the thing they use to take the board members to the Super Bowl."

"Does it have wet towels?"

Dar waved her parents over, and pointed towards the van. "C'mon.. a little piece of my world just plopped itself down very conveniently." She took her cup of coffee, and they started off, just as a clamor of voices lifted behind them.


It was quiet, cool, and full of leather furniture inside the motorvan. Dar considered that ample exchange for the fact that it was also full of Hamilton Baird. The tall, well built lawyer settled a smile on her the minute she cleared the door, as he sat with not one single silver hair out of place.

Their relationship could best be described as cordial, mutual antagonism. Dar sighed inwardly. Hamilton was without doubt, a supremely talented lawyer, but they mixed like oil and water, and he was one of the few people in the company who was neither intimidated nor impressed by her.

Of course, Hamilton also was one of the few people in the company who had a nastier reputation, and was more disliked by just about everyone than Dar was, which was quite an achievement to his credit.

Right now, however, she woudn't have cared if he were Satan personified, so long as he didn't get between her, and the thick, comfy looking leather chair near the teakwood bar. "Good morning, Hamilton."

"And a fine morning it is, too, Dar." The lawyer's rich, Louisiana tinged speech curled around the air conditioned atmosphere. "Now that ah can call Allie and tell him to stop messin in his silk shorts."

"He wears cotton briefs." Dar sat down and extended her legs. "These are my parents, Cecilia and Andrew Roberts, and Kerrison Stuart, our new VP Ops." She tilted her head. "This is Hamilton Baird, ILS's chief council."

"And bottle washer.. you forgot that part, Dar." The lawyer chuckled. "Ah would make a nasty comment about what you look like, but ah figure you deserve a little slack just considering." He inclined his head toward Kerry. "Ms. Stuart, It's a pleasure to meet you finally… after hearing so much about you from so many people."

Kerry had sat down next to Dar, and was simply being quiet. "Nice to meet you too, Mr. Baird."

Andy and Ceci had settled on the long couch that just barely fit against the far wall of the van and were sucking on sodas.

"Ah take it we need to run by the hospital?" Baird picked up the phone as he asked, and dialed. "Hello, Allie… I was trolling through the streets of DC, and what d'you know? I found our missing CIO lookin like the ass end of a trash heap." He held out the phone. "Not even so much as a thank you Hamilton. Lord… what did his mother teach him?"

Dar took the phone and cradled it to her ear. "Hi."

A long, long exhale. "Jesus H. Christ, Paladar."

"Was that a statement, an accusation, or a question?" Dar closed her eyes, obscurely pleased with the reaction. "It's not my fault, Alastair." She paused. "Thanks for sending the troops in, though."

"Are you all right?"

"Pretty much."

"What about Kerry?"

"She's banged up a little - but she'll be fine." Dar glanced at her and winked. Kerry smiled back. She heard a ticking noise through the phone amidst a chunk of silence. "Alastair?"

"Hang on..hang on… " One few last clicks. "There… I just sent out a bulletin.. thank god it's good news."

"A bulletin?" Dar's brows creased. "For what?"

"Well, that you two are all right, of course, Dar.. what did you think?"

"To who?"

"Users All."

Dar stared at the phone for a minute. "Well, that was a waste of network bandwidth." She snorted. "I'm sure there are a hundred thousand people who didn't want to know that bit of news."

Now it was Alastair's turn to be quiet briefly. "You know something, Dar?"


"For someone so bright, you're a real idiot sometimes."

Dar had no answer for that one.

"That's all this company's been focused on for the last twelve hours. Not one god damned bit of work got accomplished, and probably fifty percent of the net bandwidth corporate wide was taken up by everyone tuning into streaming video feeds from CNN."


"Yeah, oh. " Alastair responded. "You think I'd be sitting here at four am in the god damned morning, after spending the night pacing the halls for just anyone?"

"No.. I.." Dar felt very off balance. "I'm sorry, Alastair. It's just been a very long day."

"I know it has." Her boss told her gently. "Kerry's sister called Mark Polenti and told him you two were in there, and he called me at home. I can't tell you how that made me feel."

Dar blinked, then rubbed her eyes. "Thanks."

"Go get some rest. You sound like hell."

"It was like that in there."


"Yeah." Dar replied. "We got out right before the place we were in blew out."

Alastair rattled some keys. "Wait..wait…I thought I saw…. Sweet Jesus, that was you." His voice sounded shocked. "Hanging out of that damn window!"


"Handing those kids out!"

"Yeah." Dar sighed. "Dad and I were the last ones to get off that floor."

"After the senator? The press made a huge deal about that."


"That must have been comfortable for you all."

"It sucked."

"Mmm. Well, put Ham on for a minute, willya Dar? And you go get some sleep. That's an order!"

"I will. Goodnight, Alastair." Dar hesitated. "Um… thanks for being concerned." She handed the phone back to Hamilton and slid down, letting her head rest against the chair back. She felt a warm touch on her arm, and she turned her head, to see Kerry gazing at her. "Apparently we're the news at eleven."

"Ah." Kerry stifled a yawn. "I don't want to be news. I just want to be clean, and asleep."

"Right there with you." Dar muttered. "Hope it doesn't take long at the hospital."

There was a moment's silence, then Kerry cleared her throat. "Listen.. I'm feeling a lot better. They put some stuff on my arm, and the doctor said everything else pretty much looked okay… could we just go back to the hotel?"

Dar rolled her head to one side and peered at her. "You sure? That's a nasty bump on your head… might be better to have it xrayed."

"I can go back tomorrow." Kerry argued. "You know it's going to be packed there… with all these people. I want to go tomorrow early anyway, to see Angie - but right now…" She hesitated. "I'd kinda like to just go to bed."

A quiet room. A shower. A bed, clean clothes, and Kerry. Dar didn't even stop to think or argue. "All right. " She murmured. "That sounds great to me." She glanced over to where her mother was already dozing in her father's arms, and nodded. "The hotel it is."


They managed to get to their rooms without major incident, though Dar spotted several packs of reporters roaming in the main lobby. She slid her card into the door with a sense of utter relief, and watched the green light blink, then pushed the handle down and shoved the surface inward.

It was dark and quiet inside, lit with only one light, and the bed was turned down invitingly. The message light was blinking, but neither of them had any intention of answering it. Kerry trudged into the bathroom and turned the light on, then leaned against the doorframe wearily. "I'm going to need some help here."

Dar had gone to their bags, and was kneeling next to hers. She turned her head to peer over her shoulder. "I figured." She held up two pairs of pyjamas.

"Mm." A nod. "Wish I had some hot tea to go with it.. my throat's raw."

"Mine too." Dar admitted. "How about you start the water, and I'll have some sent up?"

"Deal." Kerry turned and started fiddling with the water controls, turning the shower on and letting it run over her good hand to test the temperature. It took a while to warm up, long enough for Dar to finish her task and enter the bathroom. "Almost ready."

"Mmhm… here. Let me get that off for you." Dar carefully removed the sling, then studied her gauze wrapped arm. "You want plastic over that?"

"I guess." Kerry swayed on her feet. "I don't think I.. oh, okay. Yeah.. that'll work." Dar had unbuttoned her shirt, and was sliding it off and down both arms, taking care not to pull her injured one. "Ew." She gazed down at her body, covered in dirt and smoke residue. "I look like I live in a garbage can."

"Nah." Dar unhooked her bra and removed it, exposing startlingly white skin against the rest of Kerry. "Remind me to send a nice note to.. "She glanced at the tag. "Hanes."

"Tch." Kerry fumbled with her belt. "I don't think they had this in mind when they designed that model."

Dar stripped her own shirt off, and glanced down. "Hm."

Kerry glanced up."Oh… shit, Dar." She forgot about her trousers and focused her attention on the raw, vertical shallow slashes across Dar's belly. "Where did you… oh, wow. That must hurt."

"Um." Dar reached around and unhooked her bra, wincing at the fabric slid down and caught on a jagged cut just below her collarbone. "I think I was crawling over that glass I broke down that first tunnel."

"Jesus." Kerry wet a washcloth and gently cleaned around the injuries. "Dar, you should put something on these.. they're going to get infected."

"Later." Dar unbuckled Kerry's belt and undid her jeans, tugging them down and pulling them off over her already sneakerless feet. "Glad we were wearing denim." She patted one thigh, then slid a finger under the waistband of Kerry's cotton underwear.

I should be way too tired to feel anything. Kerry closed her eyes briefly, as the familiar tingle worked it's way up her body from it's center in her groin. That must say something about us.


"Mm?" She blinked her eyes opened, to see Dar's concerned look. "Oh.. sorry. Just reflecting…here, let me.. " She managed, one handed, to undo Dar's jeans and watched them slip down. "Oo… are those new?"

"Yes." Dar dredged up a weary grin. "C'mon… I have grunge in places even the biology books couldn't find." She pulled off her bright red briefs and helped Kerry step into the tub shower, letting the warm water wash over the both of them.

Twin sighs of appreciation emerged. Dar took the soap, and a washcloth, and set to work cleaning Kerry's skin, rubbing very gently over the scrapes and bruises that liberally covered her upper body. "Does your neck hurt?"

"Yeah." Kerry rocked her head back and forth a little. "And I"ve got a headache that would drop a manatee at two fathoms." She took a little soap in her good hand and started to work on Dar's tall frame.

They were both quiet for a few minutes, as they rinsed off, then Dar got some shampoo and carefully worked it into Kerry's thick blond hair, avoiding the lump on the left hand side.

It felt so wonderful. Kerry moved a step forward and just leaned against Dar, nuzzling her chest as the water washed the soap away, taking the dirt and sweat with it. She stayed there while Dar scrubbed her own hair, then stepped with her outside the shower, and let Dar towel her dry.

The room air felt cold against her skin as they left the bathroom, and she stopped long enough for Dar to ease her tshirt over her head, the soft fabric smelling of sunlight and cedar from her chest of drawers at home. Then Dar lead her over to the bed and pulled the covers back, guiding her down onto the soft surface. "Easy."

"Ungh." Kerry slid under the sheets and put her head down, glad beyond reason to be still, and quiet, and comfortable. She closed her eyes, and listened to the soft sounds of the room, hearing a faint knock, then Dar's low voice as she answered it. The door closed and there was a soft clink as a tray was set down, then the sounds of liquid pouring, and a spoon being stirred.

The bed next to her moved, and dipped and she opened her eyes to see Dar seated next to her, damp hair slicked back, with a mug of steaming tea in her hands. "You're pretty darn good at this."

"Good at what?" Dar got an arm behind her and supported her as she took the mug.

"TLC." Kerry sipped at the tea, which had a wonderful mint scent, and a nice, sweet taste. It slipped down her throat and warmed her, and she sighed in relief. "Here… have a sip."

Dar obeyed, then leaned back, letting out a long, exhausted breath. The bombardment of people and emotions was over at last, and she sat still for a moment, collecting herself with a weary effort.

But she found herself not wanting to think at all. She just wanted to lie here, with her arms around Kerry and block out the last twelve hours, setting it aside until her mind could deal with it.

Right now, that wasn’t an option. Dar shivered a little, not entirely from the chill air. She cradled Kerry in her arms and closed her eyes.

Hoping like hell she wouldn't dream.

Kerry put her nearly empty cup down and snuggled down into Dar's embrace, letting out a sigh and tugging the covers up a little around them both.

It was over.

She was safe.

For right now - that was enough.


Waking up this time felt like she was ascending from a deep dive, Dar groggily thought, as she slowly drifted up from a well of sleep that had been mercifully dreamless indeed. Half of her wanted to just sink back down into the pleasant warmth of the bed, but the other half was crankily aware of her body’s stiffness and it was poking her towards consciousness and movement.

So she reluctantly opened one eyelid, and surveyed the room, noting the dim, gray light coming from the window. Rain. An even better reason to stay in bed. She rotated the eyeball towards the bedside clock, and blinked at the red numbers displaying back at her.


No wonder I feel stiff. I’ve been in the same damn position for twelve hours. Dar peered down at Kerry, who was curled half on her side, with both hands tangled in Dar’s shirt, and her head tucked into her shoulder. The blond woman hadn’t moved much either, but her breathing was steady and regular, and her skin tone had returned it it’s normal healthy state rather than the drawn grayness of the night before.

Dar remained still for a little while, just watching Kerry sleep, and feeling the warmth of her friend’s breathing through the thin cotton of her shirt. Then the discomfort forced her to straighten out, stifling a groan as her back protested the motion fiercely.

Even the slight sound was enough to get a response from Kerry, however, who murmured, and opened her eyes, reaching instinctively out as Dar shifted. "Hey.."

"It’s okay.. I’m just stretching." Dar reassured her, seeing the sleep fogged and slightly dazed look peering anxiously back at her. "How are you feeling?" She cleared the very disheveled hair out of Kerry's eyes and watched her blink a few times in confusion. "Ker?"

"Yeah….. yeah.. " Kerry’s brow creased slightly. "Mmph." She cleared her throat slightly, and tentatively shifted. "Not too bad." She murmured, in a surprised tone. "What time is it?"


"Jesus." Kerry swallowed. "No wonder my mouth feels like cotton wadding." She drew in a breath and rolled over onto her back, stretching out cautiously under the covers. Other than her sore shoulder, everything seemed to be pretty much okay, and she wiggled her toes, feeling a hundred times better than before she’d gone to sleep.

Except for one thing. "I’m starving." She informed the popcorn ceiling. "Are you starving?" She laid her hand over her very empty feeling stomach.

"I dunno.. let me get enough kinks out to stand up, then I’ll let you know.’ Dar groaned, as she slowly extended her legs and arched her back. "Son of a…" She felt like one huge cramp. "Ow."

Kerry reached over and patted her thigh. "Easy there, tiger." She murmured. "I can’t believe we slept so late…I wonder what’s going on."

Dar slid out from under the covers and got to her feet, rubbing the back of her neck and walking gingerly. "I’ll turn on the news…" She limped over to the connecting door between their room and her parents and stuck her head inside, smiling at the dark, quiet room with it’s sleeping occupants. She drew back out and shut the door carefully. "Still snoozing… " She yawned, and scratched her belly, then hit the remote for the television and trudged towards the bathroom. "I think I am hungry, now that you mention it." Walking around loosened things up a little, though her back was still protesting.


Dar listened to Kerry rustle around for a minute, then she used the restroom, and ran water in the sink, splashing handfuls of it over her face. It was cold, and faintly metallic smelling, but it worked to wake her up. She patted her skin dry, and regarded her reflection, smoothing her dampened hair back off her face. "Mm." One finger touched a bruise covering half her cheekbone. "Last time I had one like that, I was still in high school."

She met the eyes in the mirror for a moment, then turned the light out and reentered the room, to find Kerry sitting up in bed, cradling her arm. "Oh.. wait." She grabbed the sling and held it up. "Need this?" She walked over at Kerry’s nod and adjusted the canvas support around her, then sat down on the bed and glanced at the menu Kerry had open in front of her.

"Ooo." She made a grab for the folder, spotting something interesting.

"Ah ah." Kerry tugged it back one handed. "Dinner first, then dessert." She scanned the choices, then picked up the phone and dialed room service. "Hello…ah, yes, it is." A pause. "Thank you ..um… I’d like to order something for dinner?" She scowled at the television, which was on a shopping channel. "Put on CNN, will you?"

Dar keyed the remote, but left the sound down.

"Yes, thanks.. um, two of the clam chowder… " She put the phone against her chest. "How do ribs sound?"

Dar tickled hers lightly. "Fine."

"Stop that." Kerry hissed. "Two orders of the ribs…. No, the full rack." A pause. "Do you have anything bigger? A what? No.. no… that's okay. I'll pass on the cow." She rolled her eyes. "Baked potatoes sound great…and the salads, yeah." Another pause. "A large pot of coffee, and um.. " She flipped the page. "Two of the Death by Chocolate Killer Mountain Brownies with vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce."

Dar scratched an ear. "When you put it like that, it sound so excessive." She muttered.

"It is." Kerry smiled. "Yes, thanks, that’s great." She hung up the phone. "About thirty minutes." She reached over and turned the sound up, as a familiar scene appeared.

"The explosion, believed to be centered in the middle of the seventh floor, set off a chain reaction when it touched off the gas supply inside the hospital." The announcer spoke gravely. "Two hundred people are believed dead, and today the FBI has started investigating, citing a tip they received that this horrible tragedy might not have been an accident. "

"Two hundred people." Kerry breathed. "Oh my god, Dar."

"Senator Roger Stuart, in Washington for Senate hearings on his conduct was an eyewitness. Seen here, as he assisted in evacuating victims from the floor worst hit, he stated that so far as he could tell, there was no warning, just a huge explosion that shook the entire building."

Kerry stared at the screen, seeing her father’s battered face and burned clothing through a faint haze of memory. The camera showed the firefighters perched out side the broken window, and what was, unmistakably, her father’s outline as he handed out one of the children. Through a billow of smoke she could also see Andrew’s distinctive form, but it seemed like a dream to her, not something that she’d lived through only half a day prior.

Dar was blinking at the screen, which showed further film, and a close up of the window as a thick puff of black, oily looking smoke poured out. "Damn." She watched a dimly seen figure holding onto one of the women, as they climbed into the firefighter’s basket and it occurred to her suddenly that she was watching herself. "Is that… "

"You." Kerry murmured. "Yeah it is."

The film cut to Dar clambering over the edge of the basket herself, then all of them ducking as an explosion shook the screen, sending a fireball out inches from the erratically weaving platform.

"Oh my god… you just.. ." Kerry’s eyes widened. "Dar… " She turned her head.

"Yeah." Dar put a reassuring arm around her. "It was kinda close… I made Dad go before me. I wanted to make absolutely sure he was okay."

Kerry leaned her head against Dar’s shoulder. "I’m glad I didn’t realize how close you came… I’d have had nightmares, I know it."

"I thought I was going to have nightmares… but I didn’t." Dar sighed. "I think I just want to forget the whole thing." She looked down at her hands, which were covered with tiny cuts and scrapes and really stung. "It's sort of a blur already."

Kerry thought about that. "I remember you being very brave." She commented softly. "I remember you saving my butt a few times.. along with some other people's."

"I just wanted to get you out of there." Dar replied. "I didn't really care about those other people."

"That's not true. You cared about your parents." Kerry objected.

"Well, yeah."

"You cared about those kids."

Dar didn't answer.

"Dar, why is it so hard for you to accept your own heroism?" Kerry asked.

She didn't get an answer for a while, then Dar shrugged one shoulder. "I don’t know."

Kerry tucked a hand inside her elbow and studied Dar's face, it's battered profile still and somber. "This really rocked you, didn't it?"

A nod.

"You want to talk about it?"

Dar drew in a breath. "Not yet." She gave Kerry a brief, honest look. "But I will… and you'll be the first one to hear it."

Kerry smiled at her. "Fair enough." She leaned over and kissed Dar's arm. "How are you feeling?"

Now she got a bit of a wryly raised eyebrow.

"Like a truck ran over me." Dar answered honestly. "I think I pulled a few things… my back's really hurting."

"Maybe they can slide a few xrays on you when they get my shoulder tonight." Kerry stated pointedly. "I'm not surprised your back hurts.. you carried my butt for fifteen minutes.. good grief, Dar…I'm surprised you didn't get a hernia on top of it."

That even got a smile. "Didn't even occur to me… I wasn't in a reasonable frame of mind, I don't think."

The television caught their attention. "The Senate committee investigating Senator Stuart has informed CNN that they have postponed further hearings for a short period - perhaps until after the holidays to allow the senator to recover from his ordeal."

"Oh.. my…God.. did he just say we can go home?" Kerry blurted.

"Yeah.. I think so.." Dar now smiled again in frank relief. "Maybe you don't have to come back."

"In related news, International Logistics Services confirmed that two of the survivors from the explosion were ILS CIO Dar Roberts, and Vice President of Operations Kerrison Stuart, who is Senator Stuart's daughter. Both were reportedly there visiting Ms. Stuart's sister, who was in labor at the time."

"Ew." Kerry scrunched her face up. "I don’t like being a sound bite."

"According to Chief Execuitive Officer Alastair McLean, both of employees were among the group rescued from the seventh floor, and he identified Ms. Roberts as the person CNN has been showing in this spectacular piece of footage all afternoon."

"Ew." Dar covered her eyes. "Alastair.. did we need the publicity that badly?"

"Mr. McLean stated that he was not surprised at the heroism shown by Ms. Roberts, a fifteen year employee if ILS, and that he was glad to rush ILS resources to the scene to assist the injured." The announcer cleared his throat. "CNN featured Ms. Roberts in a Businessline interview only this morning, regarding the ATM outage the previous day."

Dar watched a clip of her interview, and sighed. "I look like an idiot."

"You do not." Kerry gave her a look." You look gorgous…and that guy is all but drooling on you, Dar."

Dar made a face.

"You're such a nerd." Kerry kidded her gently. "I think you look great on tv."

Dar fiddled with her pager, then turned it on and dropped it onto the table. She stared at it for a few seconds, then jumped as it started to vibrate. They both watched in facination as the device skittered all over the table, then hopped off, and dropped to the carpet, where it continued to vibrate. "Wow." Dar waited a few minutes until it finally stopped, then she picked it up and reviewed the pages. "Twenty five. It maxed out the memory." She thumbed through them. "Guess I should probably give Mark a call…maybe have him call Maria.."

"Why don't you call her?" Kerry got up and walked over to the window, which was covered in raindrops. "You know she'd love to hear from you directly, Dar… she really likes you." She turned and leaned against the glass.

"Yeah." Dar rose and went to the desk, sitting down behind it and taking a breath, then booting up her laptop. "You should give Colleen a call." She picked up Kerry's cell phone and turned it on, then dialed Mark's number, which she had to fish in her still slightly foggy memory for. It rang twice, then was answered. "Hi."

There was a brief silence. "Dar?"


"Son of a goddamn bitch… I am so glad to hear your voice."

It brought a surprising tightness to her throat. "Thanks… everything all right there?"

"Here? Yeah! Ah.. everything's great.. perfect…" Mark blurted. "Well, I mean.. like the usual stuff is going on, you know.. Canada's down, and we lost the overseas routers this afternoon, so that's a mess, but.. um.."

"I get the picture… glad things are pretty much as usual." Dar replied.

"Hey guys! I got Dar on the phone!" Mark yelled, muffling the receiver with one hand. "Man, it's fantastic to talk to you.. I've got that whole clip digitized and in Quicktime.. the server's been going wild serving it."

Dar covered her eyes. "Great… if you blow an array with that, I'm going to kick your ass."

Mark laughed in delight. "Now that sounds like my boss… how's Kerry?"

"She's fine.. she's got a dislocated shoulder, and few bumps, but she's okay." Dar couldn’t seem to get rid of the lump in her throat. "Is.. um.. is Maria still there, or did she leave already?"

"She's here… I'll transfer you… listen, I really mean it, Dar - I'm glad you're both okay." Mark put her on hold a minute, then the call clicked through.


"Hi, Maria."

A gasp. "Dios Madre… " Maria sounded like she was crying. "Dar, I am so glad to hear you… I was so frightened that something bad had happened to you, and to Kerrisita."

"No.. we're both okay, Maria… thanks for worrying though." Dar cleared her throat, and blinked, shocked to find tears stinging her eyes. A hand fell on her shoulder, and she glanced up at Kerry, then just handed her the phone, covering her face with her other hand.

"Hey, Maria…" Kerry spoke into the cell, rubbing Dar's arm with her other hand.

"Oh.. Kerrisita!" The secretary sounded overwhelmed. "I thank God everything is all right with you.. I have been praying every minute."

"Thanks, Maria… it's great to know people were concerned about us." Kerry told her. "The great news is, it looks like we're coming back.. and let me tell you, I can't wait to get home."

"Are you all right? Is Dar all right?"

"We're fine." Kerry assured her. "A little scratched and dented, but that's it…but I think God was watching over us, so we did just fine." She scratched Dar on the back of her neck, and watched as her lover rubbed her face, then straightened, her composure restored. "You don't know how wonderful it is to know how you all were watching out for us too."

"Kerrisita…I know God watches over you… and I will be glad when you both are back here, safely and soundly." Maria exhaled. "Now.. I can go home, and my family will be happy tonight. Mayte was so concerned also."

"Thanks." Kerry smiled. "Tell her I say hello…and that she's going to have to help me with typing for a little while."

Dar held hand up and took the phone back. "Thanks, Maria… pass along my regards to everyone, will you - we'll see you Monday morning."

"Si, Dar. I will do that - you take good care, yes?"

"I'll do my best. Good night.. have a good weekend." Dar hung up and sat there, staring at the phone for a moment, then put it down. "Well."

"My turn." Kerry picked up the phone and clumsily keyed in Colleen's number, then pressed the send, just as a knock sounded at the door. "You know, I realized we have a problem." She muttered, as she waited for the line to ring through.

"Hm?" Dar had gotten up and headed for the door.

"Ice creams' gonna melt."

Dar paused, with her hand on the knob, and turned her head. "Like hell it is."


"Ms. Stuart.. could you move over just a little?"

Kerry obligingly shifted slightly, peering up at the xray machine and trying to relax. It was hard, though, since the table was cold, and her skin was warm, and the machine was making weird little chuckling noises that were making her jump.

"Okay, now hold still." The voice called, and she heard a buzzing noise. "Thanks.. one more." Another buzz. "Okay…" The technician came over and helped her sit up. "There… that’s all for me.. now they said you needed to go.." She consulted a chart. "To CAT scan next."

"Mm.. yippee." Kerry sighed. "Do I have to? I don’t even have a headache now."

"Not for me to decide." The tech told her cheerfully. "I’m just a stop on the way… we can’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do, but if the doctor thought it was a good idea, it probably is."

"I guess." Kerry fastened her short, hospital issued little tunic thing up, which tied in front and was a vast, vast improvement over the old backless gown number. At least they’d let her keep her jeans on, since her lower body seemed to have taken good care of itself, and her sneakers which kept the cold floor from chilling her toes. "I wonder where my friend is?"

"Let me guess." The tech ticked off her fingers. "Tall, dark hair, built like a brick we wont say what, and with an attitude from hell?"


"Clear blue eyes?"

"That’d be her." Kerry admitted. "Did she give you trouble? She doesn’t mean it. She just really hates hospitals, and after what happened yesterday, I’m not surprised she didn’t want to be messed with." A pause. "I kinda made her get checked out. She’s probably really pissed off at me."

"She’s more pissed off at the tech who was with her.. he made a crack about her working for the WWF."

"World Wildlife Foundation?" Kerry gazed at her, totally bewildered. "What brought that up?"

The tech scratched her chin. "World Wrestling Federation." She muttered. "You know, the…"

"Oh." Kerry muffled a chuckle. "Yeah, I bet she was pissed. She hates that stuff… I can see why he asked, though."

"Mmhm…. " The tech cleared her throat. "Think she’s available?"

Kerry smiled. "Nope." Then she walked out, and ran her fingers through her hair to free it’s ends from her gown as she made her way down the hall towards the prominently labeled CAT scan area. She knew she should have waited for the wheelchair to come take her, but she was anxious to get the tests behind her, and go visit Angie.

Then get out of there before she ran into her parents, and get back to the hotel, where they had nothing more strenuous planned than an outing with a pay per view movie, and a bucket of popcorn. Then tomorrow… a plane trip, and by sundown she’d be home.



Shit. Kerry almost didn’t stop. Almost didn’t turn. But she knew, in her heart, that sometime, someday she’d have to face her father, and maybe, who knew? Maybe she could head off whatever it is he wanted right now. She stopped, and turned, but didn’t answer. Her father was dressed almost casually for him – pressed slacks and a sweater over his shirt and tie, and this close, she was struck by how much older he looked to her.

"Step inside there." He pointed to a small room, used for consultation. "I’d like a word with you."

Kerry felt her heartbeat double, but she walked inside the chamber, going deliberately behind the desk to put some distance between them. She sat down in the almost comfortable chair there, and waited, in guarded silence.

Her father entered, and closed the door, then leaned on the desk with both hands and gazed at her.

Kerry forced her own eyes to remain steady, refusing to allow his posture to intimidate her. "If you’re thinking about telling me not to see Angie, don’t bother." She kept her voice low, and controlled, like Dar had taught her. "That's not your choice."

"No. I can see you're far too under her control."

"Who… Dar?" Kerry could have laughed, thinking of her bullying her stubborn lover into getting examined. "You have no idea what your'e talking about."

Roger Stuart shook his head. "It's you who's being blind, Kerrison. Cant' you see the path she's led you down?"

Kerry studied him for a moment. "Why does it always have to be someone else's fault?"


"Why can't you just accept that this is my choice? Dar didn't do anything to me." Kerry straightened. "If that's all you wanted to say, I've got more important things to do."

"How could it be your choice?" Her father protested. "You were fine, up until the minute you met that horrible person, and then you changed!"

"I was never fine."

"What are you talking about?"

Kerry exhaled, too tired, still, to be frightened of him. "I was never fine. I was headed towards a life I had no interest in." She looked up. "Every time I tried to change that, I got punished."

Roger stared at her in bewilderment. "What the hell is that all about? Change what? You had everything any child could have wished for, you ungrateful piece of…"

"Like I said." Kerry stood up. "I've got better things to do than this." A brief pause. "You never did listen to me before - I don't know why I bothered now."

"Just you hold on a minute…" Her father lifted a hand towards her.

"Don't you even think about it." Kerry's temper flared unexpectedly. "I'm not the little dishrag you tossed around in Michigan. You touch me, and I'll hurt you."

Roger drew back. "Is that how you speak to your father?"

"You're not my father." Kerry spat back. "You made that crystal clear."

Slowly, Roger nodded. "All right." He murmured. "So I did."

They stared at each other. "You know…. I risked my life, and the lives of some of the people I love most in the world to make sure you got out of that building." Kerry said. "So if you think I owe you anything for having brought me up, I don't."

"You owe me an explanation." Her father replied. "Why? Why did you abandon and betray your family?"

"Why?" Kerry sat down on the edge of the desk. "Because I was angry." She exhaled. "Because you hit me, and held me against my will, and you would have had me drugged senseless all because I told you the truth." He opened his mouth, but Kerry held a hand up. "Because it was very satisfying to expose such a hypocrite after I'd spent my whole life trying to live up to your ideals."

Her father wasn't stupid. Kerry could see the thoughts going on right behind those gray eyes. "And here I thought I was working to give you a decent life."

"Your idea."

"Of course, my idea." Roger snapped back. "I raised you, put you through school, gave you every advantage, so you can sit there and call me a hypocrite?" He shook his head. "Last year, I made the mistake of believing if you could just be talked to… explained how taking the path you were on was so wrong, you'd just wake up, and realize the truth. I was wrong. There is something very evil in you."

"You're the one who won't realize the truth." Kerry felt nauseaus. "You're so sure you're right, you won't even consider how I feel, will you? How I felt when you banished my friends, and told me what I could think, or look like… what my limits were."

"It's my right to bring you up properly."

"Or being told my chief value to the family was as breeding stock, because I'm better looking than Angie."

"That's ridiculous. Your mother merely complimented how nice the two of you were together."

Kerry could feel tears rising, but she ignored them. "Or what it was like to be told not to do too good at school so I wouldn't make Michael look bad."

"We were trying to help him excel." Roger looked annoyed. "Surely you wanted to help your brother."

"How it felt when you had my dog poisoned."

Her father stared at her.


"How if felt when your bodyguard raped me, and you made me apologize to him."

"We're back to that story, are we?"

"Maybe I should have just had my gynecologist call you."

He went silent for a long, tense moment, just watching her.

"I didn't think of it then. I should have. " Kerry whispered. "But I was too ashamed to tell her my father didn't believe I was raped."

For a moment, she thought she might have reached him, might have shaken that bullheaded wall of belief. Then his eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

"Is that what this is all about then? This is your reaction to…. That….? You went off and found this woman?"

Kerry felt a wave of disgust roll over her. "You're so clueless." She got up. "No." She felt curiously relieved though, having said what she had to say. "My falling in love with Dar had nothing to do with Kyle.. or Brian, or you, for that matter. It was just between the two of us."

"You understand you're going to Hell, if you don't put a stop to this, don't you?"

"I spent twenty six years in Hell." Kerry answered briefly. "Dar was my ladder out of that… and it's been wonderful living in the sunlight." She walked around the desk and put her hand on the door latch. "I spent all that time trying everything I could to make you proud of me… and it was never enough. Now the only one I have to worry about making proud is myself." She turned the latch and opened the door, keeping eye contact with him. "And I am."

The door closed behind her, and she was out in the hallway, leaning against the wall for a long, sick moment. Then she pushed off and started walking unsteadily towards the first doorway she saw, ducking inside a small waiting room and sitting down quickly, trying to control her rebelling stomach.

A nurse found her there. "Oh, there you are, Ms. Stuart…we thought we'd lost you!"

Kerry took a deep breath, and straightened up. "No.. I um.. " She put a hand over her stomach. "Was feeling a little queasy, that's all. Thought I'd better sit down for a minute." She stood up. "Sorry…"

"That's okay… I'll walk you down to the CAT scan room.. unless you'd rather have a wheelchair? You look sort of pale." The nurse put hand on her arm, her tone concerned.

"I'm okay." Kerry managed a smile. "Lead on."

"Great." The nurse kept hold of her, and eased out of the waiting room. "Listen.. you're friend is giving us a little trouble… maybe you could talk to her, and calm her down."

Like a light switch flipping, Kerry gladly turned her thoughts from one problem to another. "Why? What's wrong?"

"Well, they want to scan her back… the doctor's a little concerned about something he saw on the xray, but she's refusing." The nurse explained. "Of course, we can't force her."

"Mm.. they strap you down for that, don't they?"

"Yes… to keep you from moving, for the pictures, but…"

Kerry sighed. "I'll see what I can do." In the state she knew Dar was in, she had her doubts. "Maybe we can compromise?"

Something her father lived with in public life, but would never succumb to in his private one.


"Hi, Angie."

The woman in the bed looked up, and her eyes widened. "Ker!"

Kerry slipped around the door frame and entered, tugging her dour, and grumpy companion with her. "Boy, it's great to see you." She released Dar's hand and went over to her sister, hugging as much of her one armed as she could reach.

"Same here! Hello, Dar." Angie glanced shyly at her. "I'm glad you're okay."

Dar rested both hands on the bedrail. "Thanks… it's good to see you made out all right as well." She gave her partner's sister a smile, just glad to be finished with a brief sojourn into one of her worst nightmares. Five minutes, she'd finally granted the technicians, and no straps. Five long minutes only made marginally bearable by Kerry's grip on her hand, and an iron self control that still hadn't been enough to keep the twitching from starting, as they hastily pulled her out of the machine and got out of her way as she bolted off the table.

She hoped they got what they needed, because there wasn't any second chances at that. She'd calmed herself by talking to Kerry as the blond woman took her turn on the platform, lying quietly as they took pictures of her head and shoulder.

And she felt kind of stupid, really. After all, it's not like the machine hurt, not nearly as much as her back did, at any rate.

"What's wrong with your arm?" Angie asked Kerry. "I'm glad you came now - they're about to bring the baby up."

"Well, I dislocated my shoulder." Kerry explained. "They just took xrays."

"Ow." Angie made a face. "The labor is mostly a blur - they'd started to take me out and down to delivery, when the explosion happened - we were actually inside the elevator, and I thought I was going to give birth right there I was so scared. But somehow, the power stayed on and we just kept going down, and right out the emergency entrance in the back. It was horrible.. everyone was screaming, and no one knew what to do.. and I was so scared, knowing you guys were all up there."

"It was kinda rough, yeah." Kerry replied quietly. "But we managed to dig ourselves out and get to where they could get us down."

Angie was holding Kerry's good hand and she rubbed the fingers with her thumb. "You got the folks out."

Kerry and Dar exchanged glances. "Yes, we did." Dar said.

"Mom told me." Angie searched her sister's face. "She's pretty shook up."

"Yeah, well.. I had a run in just now with him." Kerry told her. "Maybe that'll be the last one."

"You didn't tell me that." Dar interjected, her brows creasing. "When?"

"You were a little preoccupied." Kerry gave her a faint smile. "It was before I met you in the imaging room."

Dar scowled. "That was more important than the stupid machine."

They turned at a rattle in the door, and found a nurse there, holding a neatly wrapped bundle. "Here you go, little man… say hi to mama."

"A boy?" Kerry asked.

"Yes.. " Angie took the bundle and cradled it, showing off her new baby. "Isn't he sweet?" The tiny, prune faced infant burped. "I called Richard… he's thrilled." She and Kerry exchanged wry glances. "I tried to call Brian.. but there was no answer at his place. I'll try him again in a little while." She glanced at the baby. "Want to hold him before he latches on to the milk bar?"

"Sure." Kerry carefully took the baby and cradled him with her good arm. "Oh… he's adorable." She grinned. "What a cute nose!"

Angie smiled. "I think so." She glanced up at Dar. "Were they taking a scan of you, Dar? Is everything okay?"

"Mostly." The dark haired woman answered grudgingly.

"Nothing a little bed rest and chocolate wont' cure." Kerry amended. "Poor Dar unfortunately had to drag me around for a while, and tore two muscles in her back."

"That's not when it happened."

"Uh huh.. .anyway.." Kerry shifted the baby, and smiled. "The doctor prescribed a couple of days of rest, and some painkillers… about the same thing he suggested for me."

"You guys should go off somewhere on a vacation." Angie advised. "Otherwise you'll get all tied up in that stuff you do."

Hmm. Kerry chewed the inside of her lip, then impulsively handed off her wriggling bundle to Dar. "Here… say hello."

"A…bu…" Dar brought her hands up and took the baby in an instinctive gesture, then stood there staring nervously at him. "Yeah.. he's cute. Here." She tried to hand him back, but Kerry made a show of straightening her sling. "Kerry…."

"Just hang on there for a minute." The green eyes blinked innocently at her.

Dar sighed, then brought the baby closer, and examined him curiously. Babies weren't her thing, generally, though she had nothing against them. This one was a fairly good side, and was kicking inside his covers, probably hungry, she figured. He had a wrinkled face, with tiny, pouty lips and a bitty nose, and his head was covered in a little white hat.

He gurgled. Dar raised an eyebrow, then tentatively touched a clutching hand with one fingertip. The baby grabbed at her with surprising strength, causing the other eyebrow to raise.

Kerry watched in amused fascination. "What did you name him, Angie?"

Her sister sighed. "I haven't yet."

Both Dar and Kerry looked at her in surprise.

"I know…I know… nine months, you'd figure I'd have a name already." Angie laughed wearily. "To tell the truth, I was really expecting another girl, so I had a bunch of names picked out that wouldn't really suit him." She paused. "What would you name a little boy, if you had one, Dar?"

"Andrew." Both women answered together, then chuckled. "Yeah… you got me there." Dar unbent a little, and relaxed, playing idly with the baby's hand. "Dad would pretend not to like that, but he would."

"Your parents seem really nice." Angie smiled. "Your mom really helped me out last night… I hope I get a chance to thank her." She held out her hands as Dar returned her baby to her, and cradled him. "You hungry, little man?" The baby yawned, and smacked his lips. "I guess so, huh?"

"Well, we don't want to hold up dinner…" Kerry smiled, and rubbed her sister's arm. "We just wanted to stop by and say hello… we're leaving to go home tomorrow."

"Are you?" Angie looked surprised. "Is it over?"

"For now." Dar replied.

"This breaking news.." A voice came from the television, and they glanced over from sheer habit. "An FBI spokesman tonight has told CNN that an arrest has been made in the hospital bombing case."

"Whoa." Dar turned, and eased back, putting a casual arm around Kerry's waist. "That was fast."


"FBI agents took into custody Mary Evanston, the alleged girlfriend of Senator Roger Stuart. Ms. Evanston reportedly turned herself in, informing agents that she planned the bombing for revenge."

Three sets of eyes opened wide in total shock.

"Son of a…" Kerry breathed, her jaw dropping. "Revenge for what?"

"When questioned about the motive, FBI agents stated that it appeared Ms. Evanston harbored a grudge allegedly resulting from the senator's reported abandonment of her when he announced his intention to marry Cynthia Ellis, the current Mrs. Rogers, at the start of his political career."

It was, truly, like being hit in the face with a bucket of cold water. Kerry tried to take it all in. "You mean…"

Angie hugged her new son. "She's not the other woman, Kerry."

"Mother was. Oh my God." Her world neatly flipped upside down. "No wonder she stuck by him.. she must have known all along."

"She was trying to kill you." Dar got out. "She was trying to kill all of you… but why now? He's been supporting her for almost thirty years, if that's true!"

Kerry stared at the television screen, which was now rehashing the bombing. "Oh my God."

"Angie! Angie! You're not going to….oh!" Michael came skidding around the corner, and jerked to a halt. "Oh…boy… Kerry!" He ran over and hugged his older sister. "Wow… oh..wow… boy I'm glad to see you."

"Ow." Kerry gently moved one of his hands. "Careful.. I'm glad to see you too… you'll never believe what we just heard."

"Oh yeah I will! I just heard it too! You know what this means?" Michael was almost stuttering.

"Yeah." Kerry exhaled. "It means we almost died for a thirty year old rejection." She stared at the screen. "And over two hundred people did die." She turned her head and looked up at Dar, who was drinking it all in, analyzing the information with a familiar expression on her face. "This is going to be more than fifteen minutes of fame."

A soft knock came at the door. "Now what?" Kerry muttered, as she looked over, to see Brian's face hesitantly peeking in. "Oh yeah." She exhaled and rested her head against Dar's shoulder. "Way more than fifteen minutes."


 "Don't much see why a new momma needs flowrs." Andrew muttered to himself. "Think they'd need something more practical, like a truckload of Pampers." He glanced around as he walked, searching for a logical place for them to have put an ex pregnant woman. Ceci had paused downstairs, intent on picking out a bouquet, and he'd decided to do a little scouting far from the scent of daisies.

He ambled along, ducking his head into the various rooms. "Closet. Head. Papers..whoops." He jerked his head back out of a waiting room, spotting a dour figure inside. "He ain't in no mood to be chit chatting, I don't think."

Andy got four or five steps further on when he heard a voice from behind him.

"Commander Roberts?"

"Lord." The ex seal gave the bulletin board a plaintive look. "And just what did I do today to deserve this?" But he turned, and went to the doorway, putting one hand on the sill and peering inside. Roger Stuart was now standing, his tie slightly askew, looking back warily at him. "Yeap?"

The two men studied each other, from worlds so vastly different, Andrew doubted they had a single common frame of reference. Stuart was perhaps ten years Andy's senior, educated, sophisticated…

And stupider than the day was long about his damn kid. "D'jou want to cuss me out some more? Cause if you did, I've got lots better things fer me to do then listen to you vent hot air."

"No." The other man lifted a hand. "My people looked you up."

Andrew grunted.

"You have quite an amazing record, Commander."

"I just did what Uncle Sam paid me t'do, Senator." The ex seal answered quietly.

Stuart sat down and rested his hands on his knees, not meeting Andrew's eyes. "Well, you did the right thing yesterday. Good job."

One of Andy's dark eyebrows lifted. He moved into the room, and took a seat next to the older man. "Wall… you did too." He allowed, graciously. "Ah think everbody done pretty well in that there mess."

There was an awkward silence, but Andrew didn't see any reason to break it.

"I wanted, also, to thank you for stopping and giving us a hand to get out of that room." Roger finally said, clearly embarrassed.

A good SEAL learned to recognize an opportunity, and exploit it.

Andrew had, surely, been a very good SEAL, having lived long enough to retire as one. "Hell, don't be thanking me, Senator." He stated. "Kerry wasn't leaving till she found you." He absorbed the quick look, from wary gray eyes. "And my kid wasn't going anywhere without her, so.." He shrugged. "Ah just moved rocks."

"Yes, well." Roger made the words sound distasteful. "I'm sure she felt she had an obligation."

Andrew let out a breath. "Makes me feel real comfortable knowing someone like you's up making laws, when you don’t' even know squat about your own kid."

"Commander.." Roger replied stiffly.

"Don't you commander me, ya twenty watt bulb." Andrew snorted. "What in the hell's wrong with you, anyhow? You been wearing a necktie so damn long it cut off the flow of blood to yer brain or something?"

"All right. That's enough, mister. Or I'll.."

"Or you all will do what?" Andrew snorted. "Slap me around like you done to her? You will not like the results, ah can tell you that."

"I didn't.."

Now Andrew stood up. "Senator, you will not sit there and tell me you did not take hold of Kerry and put her up somewhere." He told the other man sternly. "Because even if she were the storytelling kind, which she ain't, mah kid surely is not, and she told the same tale." A pause. "And Dar would not lie to me."

Roger Stuart also stood, and paced to the wall, slapping it in frustration. "God damn it, I was just trying to make her see reason!" He turned and put his hands on his hips. "It's my right as a father to bring my children up as I see fit, and I don't care what anyone, including you thinks of that!"

"By locking her up?" Andrew asked, incredulously.

"By putting her somewhere people could talk to her.. and give her guidance.. and whatever help she needed to get… to get over this…this.." The Senator swallowed bile. "Perversion."

Andy's eyebrows contracted, and he put both hands on his hips. "Cause she's in love with my daughter? Is that what you call that?" His voice dropped warningly.

A visible shudder went through the older man's body. "How in the hell can you just sit there and say that, and not throw up?" He asked. "You're married.. you're in the military… you're not some whacked out whiney assed liberal!"

Andy sat down and crossed one ankle over his knee. "Wall." He scratched an ear. "Ah can tell you, Senator.. ah ain't never had feelings for any other male type individuals."

A snort.

"But being as ah spent thirty some years in the Navy, it ain't exactly a foreign notion to me." He continued dryly. "I got to tell you that don't ask don't tell notion you all came up with weren't a bad idea…cause if they all told, you all'd roll right up outta Capital Hill and bounce yer asses into the Potomac."

Stuart just stared at him.

"Look." Andrew sighed. "Mah family came from Alabama. Mah daddy was one of the hatingist bastards ah ever did meet, and ah got two brothers who got sent to prison fer beating half to death a young feller who didn't do nothing but be born a different color than they were."

The senator shifted uncomfortably. "Well…certainly that was the wrong thing to do but…"

"No buts, senator. It ain't right to teach a child to hate. No matter what the cause."

Now, the gray eyes were pinned on him intently.

"Ah grew up hearing how what we was made us better than what everybody else was, and believe you me, when ah chose to marry outside what we were, it was not a pretty sight." Andrew paused, reflecting quietly. "What her folks done, and what mah folks done, hurt both of us." He shook his head.

"I don't. " Roger started to speak, then stopped. "It's not the same thing."

"Ain't it?" Andrew asked.

"The Bible says it isn't." He replied stiffly.

"That there book was written by folks just as mixed up as you an me, Senator." Cool, blue eyes regarded him. "At any rate, ah looked at what damage all that hating had done to us, and I figgured out with myself, that if ah ever had kids, ah would not do to them what mah folks did to me." He took a breath. "Ah told myself, that no matter what them kids turned out like, if they was mean, or ugly, or stupid as a rock, I'd still hold em, and love em, and bring em up as best as I was able to."

Stony silence.

"Wall, sir… I got lucky in the ugly and dumb departments." Andrew lifted his head proudly. "Cause mah kid ain't neither of those things." He nodded slightly. "She's real smart, and real pretty, and she was damn lucky enough to find somebody out there in the world who'll love her the same way I love her mama."

"That's disgusting."

"It is not." Andrew shot back. "It is not, Senator, and if you'd spend just an hour with the two of them and not think that, you'd know it too."

"Never." Stuart shook his head in disgust, and waved a hand.

"Your loss." Andrew shrugged, and stood up. "Cause your daughter is a damn fine human being, Senator, and I am glad the Lord let me live long enough to know her." He was getting mad, and that wasn't a good thing. Punching elected officials only got a man into more trouble than it was worth.

Stuart snorted. "Until she can find a way to betray you. Have fun."

Andrew turned, and pointed. "Don't you blame her fer that." He shook his head. "Be a man, fer once, and take the responsibility fer what you get yerself into. Kerry didn't force you into none of that, Senator - and it's a sign of her goodness that she's able to see past her love fer you, and do the right thing."

And then he left, escaping into the hallway just in time to meet his wife getting off the elevator with a large arrangement. "Good Lord." Andrew took it from her. "Thought you were getting flowers."

"I thought fruit and snacks would be more useful." Ceci told him amiably. "Where have you been? Making trouble?"

Andrew glanced at her innocently from between two stalks of celery. "Hardly had time to do that." He blinked. "Much."

"Oh boy." Ceci muttered.


"Oh my god." Kerry trudged into the hotel room and over to the bed, falling face first down on top of it, then yelping, and rolling onto her side. "That was stupid."

"Mm." Dar landed next to her. "Understandable though." She looked at the clock. "It's two am."

They'd been surprised at the hospital by a visit from the police, and an investigator from the FBI, who had tracked them down. With lots, and lots of questions, which they'd fortunately done in a small office at the hospital instead of at the police station, or the Bureau building. "I'm glad I'm not a cop." Dar groaned. "It's bad enough being a nerd executive.. seeing crooked CFO's in corners."

"I think that one guy has a crush on you." Kerry mumbled, resting her head on an outstretched arm. "The redheaded one?"

"Ungh." Dar exhaled. "I've never actually met a guy of our generation who uses Old Spice before." They exchanged wry looks. "I thought they were going to wet themselves over my father."

Not surprising. Here, you have a hospital that gets bombed, containing an infamous senator who is publicly known to be hostile to both of us, and up conveniently pops an ex Navy SEAL with thirty years experience in pyrotechnics and clandestine operations. Dar sighed. "Fortunately, daddy thought it was more funny than anything else."

"I can't believe they even thought he'd be involved." Kerry lifted her head, her brow creasing in anger. "I mean, he was in the stupid hospital, with his wife, and his daughter… what kind of idiocy is that?"

"Daughters." Dar corrected her. "Yes, well… they gotta ask all the questions, and his background really is a little too scary for them to dismiss him just because of some minor matter like..oh, he would have blown himself up too."

Kerry smiled slightly. "My sister and brother really like your folks." She commented. "And dad was so cute with the baby…he's such a mushball."

Dar rolled over onto her belly and rested her chin on her arm. "Yeah.. he was, wasn't he? I can remember him playing with me when I was really little.. I wasn't sure which one of us had more fun."

A little silence fell. "Wow." Kerry sighed. "I'm really tired."

"Me too." Dar agreed. "Oh… we're booked on the one PM flight back to Miami tomorrow… all four of us." She started to roll over onto her side, then paused as her injured muscles cramped. "Oh… yeowch."

"Yeah." Kerry shifted her sling. "Hey, Dar?" Her brows contracted. "You know, the press is going to go nuts over this thing for a while.. maybe it's better if we lie low for a few days."

"Hmm?" A thoughtful eyebrow lifted. "Yeah, maybe… " Dar reached around and probed her back gently. "You know… come to think of it, sitting in an office chair is gonna be damn uncomfortable for a while."

Kerry wiggled her fingers. "So's typing." She reminded her boss. "We could work from home, though."

"We could." Dar agreed. "But we're not going to."

"We're not?"

Dar cautiously eased off the bed and trudged over to the laptop sitting on the desk, sitting down at it and rattling the keys for approximately five minutes straight while Kerry lay and watched her. "There." She hit a final key, then sat back. "We're on vacation."

Kerry's ears perked up visibly. "We are?"

A nod. Dar allowed a tired smile to cross her face. "I promised you a trip to Key West."

"Dar, we can't both just go on vacation like this." The blond woman smiled. "Not that I don't want to."

"We can." Dar disagreed. "We are… I just told Alastair and Mariana. If they don't like it, too damn bad." She got up and went to the bed, sitting down and reaching a hand out. "You, me, and Chino… in a bungalow on the beach for a week. It's a done deal."

Kerry clasped her fingers with her own. "Sounds wonderful.. but… you had those meetings this week, Dar.. and the new network… I know how important that is to you."

"It's not." Dar's voice was quiet and soft. "It doesn't mean a thing to me, not anymore."

Kerry fell silent. Maybe two o clock in the morning wasn't the best time for them to be discussing this, she reflected, though she sensed Dar was being completely truthful with her. She studied the pale blue eyes, shadowed with the strain of the last few days, and decided maybe some time off wasn't a bad idea. "Okay." She agreed. What was the worst they could do.. fire them? Well, she'd never been fired before… it would be a new experience in that case. "I'd really like to spend time with you… we haven't ever really been able to.. for more than a day or so… without work, or some other disaster happening."

Dar looked pleased. "Good." Her face creased into an unexpected smile. "I'd really like that too.. it's been a while since I took some time off."

"Skiing, wasn't it?" Kerry prodded her memory. "You getting up and personal with nature… if I'm not mistaken."

"You remembered that."

"Mm.. I thought it was really interesting.. most people would have lied and said they skied the black diamond slopes." Kerry replied. "Not you…. I remember being impressed at how secure you were with yourself."

Dar slowly let herself lie down, and stretched her legs out on the bed. "I never thought of it like that." She admitted. "I was just praying you weren't going to ask me when, precisely, that skiing trip was."

Kerry cocked her head. "When was it?" She asked, predictably.

"My senior year in high school."

The blond woman's hand dropped to the bed and she stared. "Are you telling me you haven't' had a vacation since high school?"

Dar nodded sheepishly. "The last time Mariana checked… I had enough rolled over time built up to take off an entire year."

"B…" Kerry rubbed her face. "B… what about that place in North Carolina? You spent time there!"

"Weekends." Dar shrugged.

"Good Lord, Paladar A Roberts." Kerry shook her head. "Damn right we're taking next week off… I may kidnap you and keep you down there for a month."

Dar grinned happily. "Promise?"

This was a new Dar. Kerry smiled back at her, and interlaced their fingers. "Promise." It would be nice, actually.. and she could take the time to let her arm heal, before she had to come back and deal with the usual stuff…


"What if the police want us to stay?" She asked suddenly. "That one guy was asking some pretty weird questions, Dar… like had I noticed people following me and stuff… what was that all about?"

Good question. Dar mused, as she levered herself up and tugged her shirt out of her jeans. "I don't know… I think they've just got to ask everything.. you never know what's going to mean something or not." She paused. "They asked me that too… I told them if someone was trying to blow me up.. there's a lot better places to do it than a damn hospital. "

"Mm." Kerry felt her eyes close. "Why did she do it, Dar?"

"If she did."

A green eye opened. "What?"

"Dad thinks whoever did it.. knew what they were doing. Pamela doesn't seem much of a terrorist to me." Dar replied. "But who knows? Maybe they'll have more on it tomorrow.. she looked sorta pathetic to me on the television."

"I wonder how her kids feel."

"Her kids… are older than you are." Dar reminded her. "I should have caught that when we did the initial gathering…I registered there were children.. not how old they were."

Kerry slowly rolled over and got up. "He supported them all these years." She shook her head, and started unbuttoning her shirt one handed. "It's so hard to believe." Fingers took over from hers, and she used that hand to explore the soft, warm skin now inches away. Dar had bruises all over her, and little scrapes, tiny dark lines against her tan that rubbed rough against Kerry's fingertips. "You smell nice." She commented idly, reflecting that being her height wasn't a bad thing when it got you the view it got her when Dar was naked.

"Thank you." The taller woman rumbled. "It's that scrub stuff you got from the Internet…I kinda like it."

"Mm." Kerry got her nose closer, then took an experimental lick. "Smells different on you than on me." She nibbled further.

Dar chuckled unexpectedly. "We're dif…ah.. that tickles."

"Really?" Kerry repeated the experiment, feeling Dar's ribcage contract sharply under her other hand as she laughed again. "Hmm…"

"Kerry!" Dar unhooked the sling holding up her arm and carefully lowered it. "Easy.." She slid the device off, then removed the blond woman's long sleeve cotton shirt. "What have we here?" She plucked something off Kerry's brastrap and held it up before her eyes. "Two timing on me, hmm?"

Kerry focused her vision on the tiny item. "Just like in the movies.. you find a blond hair on my underthings… too short to be mine." She sighed. "My cover's blown.. I'm having an affair with our dog."

They both started giggling, the long day's tension dissolving in absurdity.

"Lemme guess.. it's the tail, right?' Dar guessed.

"Nah.. that six inch long to.."

"Hey, girls?"

The inner door started to swing open and Kerry's eyes almost turned the size of baseballs. "Oh shit!"

Dar kicked her brain into gear and quickly wrapped her arms around Kerry, neatly covering both of them as her father poked his head in. "Hi dad."

"Hey list…." Andrew's face turned an odd shade of coral." Good Lord, ah beg your pardon,"

"No problem, dad." Dar reassured him, bolstered by years of boardroom experience in poker faces. "I was just helping Kerry get undressed."

Andrew scratched his jaw. "Done a right professional job at it, looks like."

Kerry started laughing, her breath tickling Dar right between the breasts.

"I always try to do things right." Dar managed to keep a straight face. "Did you need something?"

Andrew found something interesting on the opposite wall to examine. "We were gonna order us up some ice cream… thought you might be interested."

"Sure." Dar smiled. "Great nightcap."

"With lots of syrup." Kerry's muffled voice rose up from the depths.

"All right." Andrew agreed seriously.

"And cherries." Another half heard request.

"You can have mine" Dar remarked dryly. "Make sure there's nuts, though."

"Now. Ah'd have thought them would be…oh. You mean the eat'n kind." Her father drawled back.  "All right."

"Dad!" Kerry squealed, turning her head and peeking at him.

Andrew gave her a rakish grin and disappeared.

"I can't believe he said that." Kerry spluttered.

"Why?" Dar released her, and continued removing her clothing. "He knows the difference between boys and girls, Ker… and despite rumors to the contrary he knows I don't have anf..ffof." She peered at her friend over a hand clamped firmly across her mouth.

"Thank you so much for the biology lesson." Kerry muttered. "I'm just not really used to parents making comments like that… mine never did." She paused. "It would have been like the statue of George Washington cracking an X rated joke."

Dar nibbled Kerry's palm, exploring the soft skin, which shifted and was removed. "You know what they always said about George, right?" She teased, then inclined her head and found Kerry's lips about to make a protest. Then she circled Kerry with both arms again and drew her closer as they kissed, reveling in the solid reality she'd almost lost the day before. One hand slid up and cupped Kerry's neck, her fingers tangling in the pale hair as she allowed the intensity to build, blocking out everything but the emotion of the moment.

They paused to breathe, and swayed together, moving to inaudible music they both heard, eyes locked, souls bound.

Finally Kerry smiled. "Guess I"d better get my jammies on before the ice cream gets here." She commented, still almost lost in Dar's gaze.

"Yeah." Dar agreed amiably, not moving an inch.

A silence fell again for a while.

"We're going to really embarrass dad if he comes back in here."

"Yeah." Dar sighed. "I'll have to start teaching him all the 'how many lesbians does it take to change a lightbulb' jokes." But she finally shifted, and unhooked Kerry's bra, then retrieved both of their sleeping outfits from the suitcase.

Kerry settled on the bed in her Tweety shirt and cradled her arm. "So.." She watched Dar as she folded everything and put it away. "How many does it take?"


"Lesbians. To change a light bulb?"

"Well." Dar came over and sat on the bed, laying out on her side carefully and stretching long, mostly bare legs out. "There's the two with the wood.."


"They have to build the ladder first."


"Power tools. Anyway… the two with the wood, then four to plan the strategy…"


"Yeah… a representative sample…one butch, one fem, and two that self identify as androgynous."

Kerry giggled.

"Then you need six more to research where to buy the bulb…."


"Gotta make sure those dyke dollars go to supportive stores, hon." Dar drawled. "And we can't forget the dozen academics to analyze the process, and determine if changing a bulb could be considered the subject of a 'Changing role relationships in the American Workplace" seminar"

Kerry giggled harder. "And that's how you'd change a bulb?" She asked, skeptically.

"Nah." Dar shook her head, as she heard sounds in the next room. "I'd hire someone else to do it." She leaned over and stole another kiss. "I hate stereotypes."


 Concluded in Part 12