Disclaimers - Nope, none. My characters, my hometown, my pseudo company. This is an Uber Fiction - featuring two characters from a previous story called Tropical Storm. Dar Roberts is the vice president of operations for an internationally known Information Services corporation. Kerry Stuart is her assistant and protégé.

They kinda like each other.

There is mild violence, mild bad language, mild sexual activity, and mild salsa, with chips.

Whoops. Never mind that…  


Hurricane Watch - Part 7

By Melissa Good

"Brr." Dar snuggled further down into the covers, giving the early morning light an evil look. "It's cold out there." She glanced at the thermostat, then back at her trying not to giggle bedmate. "We forgot to turn the heater on."

"You are such a wuss." Kerry butted her head into Dar's chest, then she rolled onto her back. "All right.. I guess I have to prove my northern roots and get up to turn the heat on." She ducked out from under the covers and winced as her feet hit the cold floor. "Yow… " She scampered across the surface and got to the thermostat, tossing it up into the broil range, then bounded back and hopped into bed like a large, blond kangaroo. "Yikes.. that is cold."

"Hah hah." Dar grinned. Then she relented and tossed the covers around Kerry, pulling her back into a pocket of wonderfully Dar smelling warmth. "Thanks."

"Ungh." Kerry ducked her head under the blanket and deliberately snuck her chilled hands under Dar's shirt, grinning as she felt the taller woman's gasp. "Heh.. you're nice and warm." She gently tweaked the skin under her fingertips.

"Yeah.. except for these blocks of ice up against my stomach." Dar gave her a mock glare, now very wide awake. "How did you get so cold in that short a time?"

Kerry shrugged, snuggling closer. "Heat all rushed to my brain, I guess… to keep me from plowing into the window."  She yawned, making a soft, squeaking noise. "So…a little riding.. then some sailing.. right?" She found herself really looking forward to the day.

"Breakfast first." Dar corrected. "Millie makes the best cheese grits I've ever had."

"Cheese grits." Kerry sighed. "That ranks where on the health meter.. between munching on a solid stick of butter and swallowing chocolate syrup?" Sometimes she seriously wondered how Dar had actually lived as long as she had, and was in the physical condition she obviously was. Maybe her chemistry burned things differently or something. "Jesus."

Dar chuckled softly, used to the woebegon protests by now. "I think they serve a sprig of parsley with them., if it makes you feel better." She told her innocently. "Besides, you like them." She reminded her lover.

Green eyes peeked warily up from the dark recesses of the comforter. "You are a bad influence." Kerry informed her. "You tricked me in to liking them."

"You're the one who brought home Snowballs for dinner the other night." Dar teased the blond woman, who tickled her in revenge. "Hey!"

"Like I had a choice?" Kerry persisted, finding a good spot just under Dar's ribcage that was making her squirm. "It was either that, or eat The Eggs from the Black Lagoon, and Son of Maybe it Once was Bacon, but now, who knows?" She shuddered. "Believe me, the mystery crème in the snowballs was much safer."

Dar was laughing helplessly. "Okay.. okay.. I give up… you win." She draped her arms over Kerry's body and exhaled, watching the rising sun inch it's way into the window. The gentle, pink beams were broken by the leaves outside, and they laid an intricate pattern over the blankets. "Nice day out."

Kerry burrowed up a little, and peeked at the window. "Mm… yeah… this is going to be fun." She looked up at Dar with a frank, happy grin. "I haven't been riding for years.. I hope I remember how."

Dar gave her a squeeze. "Don’t worry… it comes back to you." She promised. "They've got a nice string of horses here.. only one or two meanies."

"One or two, huh?" Kerry eyed her speculatively. "Let's see.. " She raised a hand to her head and pressed her fingers to her temple, then closed her eyes. "My psychic ability is telling me… those are the ones you pick." One green orb opened, and it's brow tilted up. "Yes?"

Dar let out a low, throaty chuckle, and rewarded her with a sexy grin. "Very good, Madame Poo Poo." She inclined her head in agreement. "Hey.. I can get you a 900 number for the office.. make you a profit center. How about it?"

Kerry laughed. "Oh yeah. I can see that.. "Operations and Prognostication, Stuart speaking." She mimicked herself, rolling her eyes when Dar started laughing too. "I'd be a real hit in Sales meetings."

"Nah.. " Dar disagreed. "What would they do with their Ouiji board, and the 8 ball Jose keeps stuffed up his butt?"

"Oh god.. that's bad. What a visual picture." Kerry winced, covering her eyes. "Ewww…ew…. Dar.. gross.. I need to flush my cache."

"Here." The dark haired woman fished her out of the covers, and pulled her up, kissing her soundly. The contact continued past where she'd intended, and after a long moment they broke off and looked at each other, panting a little.  "Better?" Dar asked, on an irregular breath.

"Than what?" Kerry wondered, gazing at her in goofy adoration. "Is it just my opinion that you're such an awesome kisser?" She reached up and traced Dar's lower lip with a finger, shaking her head a little. "Or is it that everything you do takes on such a deeper meaning for me?"

Dar cocked her head and thought about that. "I don’t know. "She finally answered, honestly. "I've never had anyone tell me that before…but I've noticed that just about everything I do with you is.. um.. " She pursed her lips and rocked her head from side to side. "Right, if you know what I mean."

"Mm." Kerry waggled her eyebrows. "I know what you mean." She stated, then blushed a little and tucked her head into Dar's shoulder. God, Kerry.. you are turning into a wanton little hussy, aren't you?  "Shall we go and find you some cheese grits, boss?" She gave Dar a squeeze. "Maybe you'll humor me and have a nice chicken sandwich for lunch, hmm?"

"Sure." Dar agreed amiably, remembering Millie's chicken sandwiches, which consisted of a deep fried breast, covered in gravy, on toasted, buttery roll. "No problem."

Kerry eyed her suspiciously, but the blue eyes peered back with devastating innocence. "You know I’m just doing this for your own good, right?" She queried. "Not just to be a pain in the neck."

Dar touched her forehead to the blond woman's. "Yes, I know that." She paused and thought. "It's actually kind of nice to have someone be worried about me… my parents gave up on that a long, long time ago."

"Really?" Kerry murmured.

"Yeah.. " Her lover admitted. "She told me when I was…I guess sixteen or so, that if I did whatever I wanted, and had my body fall apart at age thirty, don’t come back and complain about her being right all those years."

Kerry peeked under the blanket, then gazed at her. "Dar?"


"She was wrong."

"I know… my father always said his genes could beat the pants off of a diet that would kill just about anyone else." The dark haired woman laughed a little self consciously. "I guess I'm just lucky I take after him."

"Hey Dar.. I was just wondering.." Kerry wrapped a thick lock if dark hair around one finger, and gave her a wistful smile. "Do you think we're best friends?"

The silence of the cabin lengthened as Dar regarded the covers pensively. "I have no idea what that means." She finally admitted, looking up at Kerry. "I have nothing to judge it against… really."

"Mm." Kerry let out a small breath.

"I do know I feel closer to you than I have to anyone else in my life before." Dar offered, a touch hesitantly. "I've told you things about myself that I've never said to anybody else." She paused. "Or wanted to." She searched Kerry's face. "Does that count?"

"It's hard to remember." The blond woman rolled out of bed and paced across the floor, running her hands through her hair. 'It's been a long time for me." She walked over to the built in hot water dispenser, and picked up a cup, dropping a fragrant peach scented teabag into a cup and pouring water over it. After a moment, she pulled down another cup, and riffled among the assortment of teas, choosing a blackberry one for Dar and steeping it. "Angie and I were always pretty close. " She commented. "But it was a sister thing…I had friends in grade school, but they kinda got fewer as I got older."

Dar had gotten out of bed and came up behind her, putting her hands on Kerry's shoulders and gently squeezing them. "That happens." How would you know, Dar? You've had what… six friends in all? Including dad? "People grow apart."

Kerry nodded, stirring sugar into the cups. "I know… I had a…a best friend in high school." She answered. "Peggy… her parents and my parents were friends, so we saw each other a lot." She turned, and handed Dar her cup. "We had sleep overs, went to movies.. shared our crushes.. you know."

Dar studied her. "Yeah." She finally nodded.

Kerry took a sip of her tea. "You don't know, do you?"

Surprisingly, the taller woman chuckled. "Kerry, I was the girl your mother told you to stay away from." She admitted. "The one who ran with the guys… got into trouble, picked fights, and raised hell." She sighed. "No.. there weren't many sleep overs in my checkered youth…the movies were mostly R and X rateds we snuck into, and crushes… " A faint shake of her head. "I didn't have time for those." She glanced up. "You still talk to Peggy?"

A quiet, sad look crossed Kerry's face. "No…" Her gaze dropped to the floor. "In our senior year, she got into trouble… a guy she'd been dating got a little frisky, and she didn't know enough to say no…she got pregnant." A quiet pause. "They sent her away somewhere… I got a letter from her… twice… the second time she told me she'd had her baby.. a little girl."

A silence fell. "And?" Dar gently prodded. "What happened?"

Kerry looked up. "I don't know.. I never heard from her again… when my folks found out about the letters, they were furious.. they told me if they caught me with any more, I'd be punished." She exhaled slowly. "I never got close to anyone again after that.. it was just.. to complicated."

"You're friends with Colleen, though." Dar objected, a little concerned at her lover's pensive air. "Kerry…everyone loves you.. I haven't met a person yet who doesn't, unless it was a total asshole who even his own mother would hate." She spread a hand out. "You could have hundreds of friends.. you know that."

 "Too many people to worry about." Kerry responded seriously. "I've tried to keep my life simple since then."

"Until now." Dar stated quietly. Until me. Which one of us took the bigger risk, I wonder?

"Mm." Her companion wryly agreed.



Dar put a hand on her cheek. "I think we are best friends." She leaned over and kissed her forehead. "C'mon.. let's go get some breakfast."

Kerry smiled, then raised herself on her toes and claimed a proper kiss. She could taste the blackberry on Dar's lips, and decided it went well with her peach. It felt so good, after all these years, to be unloading a little of this stuff. She wondered if Dar felt the same about it. "Okay… you're on."

They washed and dressed quickly, but not so quickly that a sponge fight was missed, then headed across the dew scattered ground in the brisk early morning air.

"So." Kerry linked an arm through her companions' "You were a hell raiser, huh?"

"Oh yeah." Dar confirmed. "First class.. I even had a switchblade."

"Did you really?" Kerry gazed at her, in bemused surprise.

"Yeah.. of course, the one time I almost had to use it I opened it backwards and nearly cut my own finger off, but.. "

They both started laughing, as their steps scattered the rising mist.


It was a very… tall.. horse. Kerry reflected, as she collected her reins, and gently nudged her chestnut mare in the ribs with hesitant knees. Wow..has it ever been a long time. She sighed, watching Dar enviously as the taller woman vaulted up on just the snazziest looking gray stallion, with neat black hooves, and a beautiful black mane and tail. The horse was restive, but Dar settled into her seat as though she was used to doing this on a daily basis, her calves pressing against the sleek gray sides, and calming the agitated horse down.

It figures she's good at this too. The blond woman sighed, trying to remember exactly how she was supposed to direct the horse, thrashing memories from her early high school days, when her mother had grudgingly allowed her English riding lessons from a local stable.

She'd loved the horses themselves, really, more than riding them. The feel of the sleek, hard bodies under her hands as she learned how to clean them, and the soft feel of the tiny hairs on their muzzles as they lipped corn from her palm. They were simple, and undemanding, wanting only good grass, and clean water, and from her, nothing but corn, and the odd apple if she felt so inclined.

Dominick had been her favorite, a stocky brown hunter, whose back she'd spent hours on learning to balance without holding on. She'd been so excited the first time she'd done the entire circuit without once grabbing for the front of the saddle, or the reins, or Dominick's clipped mane.

Kerry smiled in memory, and patted her mare's neck, comforted when the sedate animal craned her head around, and snorted a little at her. "Hey there, girl… we're gonna be good friends, right?"

The mare tossed her head, then looked up suspiciously as the gray stallion closed in, picking up his feet meticulously. "Hey… you ready to move out?" Dar asked, reaching around to adjust the pack she carried behind her, which was full of a neatly wrapped picnic lunch. "We can go up a nice trail just north of here.. it ends up on a little plateau overlooking a little spring.. it's nice place, and about a two hour ride."

"Sounds great to me." Kerry agreed, tipping her head back and drinking in the sunlight. The weather had cleared nicely, and it was cold, with a light breeze. She was wearing a thick sweater and her heaviest jeans, complimented by a pair of boots Dar had insisted on buying for her, saying she couldn’t ride all that way in sneakers.

Sure I could. Kerry reasoned, glancing down at the soft, creamy tan leather that snugly covered her calves. But they're killer boots, and I've wanted a pair like this, so…  She settled her heels contentedly and glanced over at Dar, who was resplendent in the very cheerful, heavy red sweater Kerry had insisted on reciprocating with  It contrasted nicely with her dark hair, and tanned skin, and Kerry decided she very much liked Dar in that color. The taller woman's hair was pulled back into a neat braid, and her eyes sparkled in the sunlight, delighting the watching Kerry.

Her own hair was also neatly braided, and tucked into a knot at the back of her neck, and she enjoyed the warmth of the sun on her skin, and the cool touch of the wind which unexpectedly brushed across the bared back of her neck.  She nudged her horse into a walk, following Dar's stallion towards the start of a half hidden path going upward.

It was a wonderful day for a ride, and she nudged her horse a little faster, until she was side by side with Dar, as they ambled up the path together. The trees, pines mostly, rustled over head, and she became aware of the small sounds of the forest around her.

Dead leaves rattling softly down.

The wind moving branches.

The soft, rhythmic footfalls of the horses.

Her breathing, and the rustle of wool as Dar turned, and glanced at her.

"It's beautiful." She murmured, glancing back. "God, it's been so long since I've done this."

Dar adjusted her hold on the reins, settling into her saddle with a feeling of quiet contentment. She'd managed to keep up her riding skills mostly due to a friend in the Redlands, who had a stable full of retired racers and half broken mustangs he'd let her rope and ride on, during the odd weekend she could escape from the city. It had been a while for her, though, the last time she'd gotten down there had been in early October, and she suspected her legs were going to remind her of that when the day was over. She watched Kerry out of the corner of her eye, and speculated they might be spending the evening giving each other massages.

A grin took over Dar's face. "Good boy." She patted her stallion's neck enthusiastically, finding nothing wrong with that prospective thought. "Yeah, it is nice up here… I've been up here when the leaves are changing colors.. that's a sight." She commented to Kerry.

"I know." The blond woman laughed. "I've seen them… that was one of the weirdest things to get used to about living down there.. no seasons."

"Tch.. there are too seasons." Dar gave her a mock scowl. "Summer's different than winter."

"Oh.. right.. 88 degrees and 100 percent humidity, versus 88 degrees and seventy percent humidity." Kerry grinned at her. "I forgot." She straightened a little, then relaxed into her mare's walk. "This type of saddle's more comfortable than the one I learned on."

"English?" Dar inquired, receiving a nod in response. "I learned bareback."

"Figures." Kerry laughed. "I bet you open cans with your teeth, too."

Dar laughed with her. "Not these pearly whites, thanks." She disagreed cheerfully, then she pressed her knees into her mount's sides, and urged him into a faster pace. "C'mon… let's see if these guys can move."

"Oh.. um… er.. " Kerry frantically tried to remember how to balance as her mare followed the now cantering stallion. "I think I.. oh.. " She leaned forward a little and caught her balance over the horse's stride. "Okay.. that's better." The mare was apparently encouraged, and she sped up, matching her stablemate's pace. "Good girl.. yeah.. that's it…" She gripped hard with her knees, and leaned forward, as the mare caught up to Dar's horse, and she came even with her lover, who was grinning happily. "Very nice, Dar.. very nice… I like this." She shouted.

"You do?" The blue eyes twinkled merrily. "Great!" With that, she leaned forward, and gave the stallion a nudge, pushing him from a canter into a full gallop, as the path opened up into a long, narrow grassy area. "C'mon!"

"Oh boy." Kerry settled down and hung on, as her mare sped up doggedly to match the gray horse, her pace moving into a gallop that whipped the wind past Kerry's ears, and made her eyes tear up. It was very shaky for a moment, then she relaxed a little, and began to enjoy it. "Yeah!" She urged the mare forward. "Go get im."

The two horses raced alongside each other, the grass whipping against their legs, and the wind tearing across their laughing rider's forms.

Dar let the race continue until she knew they were coming to a narrowing in the path. She gently pulled the stallion up, and allowed Kerry to thunder past her, as the blond woman quickly started to slow when she saw Dar do so. She half stood in her stirrups and pulled back on the reins, as the mare reluctantly slowed. They cantered down the narrowing path, and up into a steepening slope for the next part of the ride. "Wow.. that was fun." Kerry grinned. "Brings back a lot of good memories." She exhaled and caught her breath.

Dar gazed at her, smiling at the way the activity had brought a ready flush to her face. "Yeah? For me too." She slowed her mount to a walk, patting the warm neck with an idle hand. "Here." She handed over a water bottle.

"Thanks." Kerry gratefully accepted it, and sucked down a mouthful, tasting the mineral tang of the local water as she swallowed. "Oo.. did you see that squirrel, Dar?"  She pointed with the bottle at a bushy brownish red animal, who was clutching to the far side of a tree near the path, peering at them suspiciously.

"Sure do." Dar slowed her horse and stopped him, then carefully fished a handful of nuts from her pouch, and tossed one at the ground under the squirrel's tree.

Then she waited, sitting in perfect silence, the wind blowing stray tendrils of dark hair about her face.

The squirrel peered at her, then slowly inched down the tree and scampered across the leaves, sniffing at her offering warily.

Kerry watched her lover, the angular face quietly intent, pale blue eyes flicking minutely as she watched the squirrel pick up the nut and nibble it. A smile pulled at the dark haired woman's lips as she tossed another nut down, and the squirrel scampered right over to snatch it, apparently assured of her harmlessness.

Too bad I didn't bring my camera. She mused. Dar Roberts feeding squirrels.. no one would believe it. I'd put it on my desktop as a wallpaper. "He's cute." She commented softly, getting a suspicious glance from their tiny friend. "Yeah, you." She told him.

Dar shifted her eyes to Kerry, then she held a nut up at about shoulder level, near the tree the squirrel had been perching on. Obligingly , the animal scuttled up the bark, edging around until his head was level with hers, and they could see his earnest brown eyes.

"Here you go." Dar murmured softly, holding it closer.

"D… " Kerry held her breath, watching the creatures sharp teeth get closer to her lover's hand.

One clawed foot worked itself loose and made a grab for the nut, brushing Dar's fingers as she released it. The squirrel darted around the back of the tree, and onto a branch, where he sat, nibbling the nut and chittering at her impudently.

One long finger pointed at him. "Watch it, buddy… there are Fortune 500 CEO's who've gotten less from me with a whole lot more trouble." She warned the animal, then pressed her knees into her horse's side and moved away from the tree.

Kerry joined her, glancing back at the squirrel, who was watching her with a vaguely disappointed air. "That was pretty amazing."

Dar glanced at her. "What.. that he ate nuts?" She raised an eyebrow. "No it wasn't."

A gentle laugh. "Okay.. if you say so." Kerry agreed amiably. "But I know you wouldn't have caught me getting my hands that close to something with teeth that sharp."

Dar just laughed, and led the way upward.

It was a pleasant ride, mostly in the shade, mostly passing quiet trees and softly mossy rocks, where the scent of the forest was strong around them, and the cold air brushed against their skin. Finally, the climb let out on a small plateau, which sloped to a rock surrounded spring. It was sunny, and Kerry found a smile crossing her face as they pulled the horses to a halt and she leaned back in the saddle. "Wow.. this is nice."

"Thanks… glad you like it." Dar shook her boots free of her stirrups and swung her leg over her stallion's neck, dropping down off his back and landing with a little thump. "Whoo." She stretched cautiously, moderately pleased at the relative lack of stiffness. "You up for some lunch?" She laid a hand on the mare's neck. "There's a nice spot over there.. I used to come up here and just spend some time, listening to the water and… " she paused. "mostly just thinking."

"Sure." Kerry got off her mare in a more conventional manner, getting her boots on the ground and easing her knees straight. "Oh.. brother." She rubbed her thigh. "I'm going to feel this, that's for sure."

Dar took the mare's reins. "Come over here… I'll get the lunch and try to work the kinks out of you, okay?" She felt a little guilty about dragging Kerry out on a ride this long. "You could have said you wanted to do something shorter."

"No no.. I'm fine." Kerry tensed and relaxed her quadriceps. "Really." She walked gingerly after her lover, feeling the cramping ease as she kept moving. "It was great.. it was definitely worth it, Dar."

"Uh huh." Dar tied the horses under a tree, where there was a patch of mostly dried but still edible grass, and removed the lunch pack, carrying it with her as she guided Kerry up to a sunny spot near the spring. She set the pack down and dropped to the ground next to it, patting the earth. "Siddown."

Kerry did so, cautiously stretching her legs out in front of her and leaning back on her hands. "I feel bowlegged.. that horse is a lot bigger than the ones I rode." She studied her mare. "A lot chunkier, too."

Dar chuckled, and eased down with one knee between her lover's calves. "Okay.. just relax." She began to work on the tense muscles under the snug denim.

"Ungh." Kerry closed her eyes in pleasure and exhaled. "You are sooo good at that." She relaxed as the long fingers worked their magic, easing the tight cramping.

"Better?" Dar finished, patting her leg lightly.

"Uh huh." Kerry agreed, gazing at her through half closed eyes. "Do I get a repeat when we get back?"

Dar settled on the ground cross legged, tucking her boots under her knees and pulling the pack over. "Sure." She answered with a chuckle. "That hot jacuzzi sounds good, doesn't it?"

"Mmmmm…" Kerry sat up and gingerly crossed her legs. "You bet.. whacha got?"

Dar pulled out packages containing sandwiches. "Chicken sandwiches." She told her companion innocently, handing Kerry hers. "Just like you asked for."

Kerry peeked under the wrapping and burst into laughter. "Dar.. you are just a… a…. " She slapped the taller woman on the leg. "You're so bad." She smoothed the paper out and sighed. "Smells good, though." She admitted, as the scent of the crispy fried chicken sandwich rose to her. "What else?"

Dar pulled out two padded cases out, and handed one to Kerry. "Newest gadget.. keeps things warm for over three hours." She opened up a large napkin onto the ground, and set her case on it, then pulled out small dispensers of salt, pepper, and three small jars.

"What in th.. " Kerry unzipped the container, and was surprised when steam escaped, bathing her face in a gentle, familiar scent. "You brought Mr. Potato Head on a wilderness picnic?"

Dar peered inside. "Yep." She indicated her own container. "I have salt, butter, pepper, chives, sour cream, and bacon bits for them, too." She announced in a satisfied tone, as she speared a mini carrot with a toothpick and stuck it in Kerry's potato. "There.. I even brought you a carrot." She pointed. "Look.. Mr. Potato Head has a nose."

Kerry removed it and stuck it in her mouth." Not anymore." She disagreed, munching the carrot.

"What about an ear?" Dar next poked a bit of cold broccoli in place, and then evaded Kerrys' hands and added a slice of melon as a mouth. "There…"

"Stop it." Kerry slapped her. "Stop playing with my food, Dar.. or I'll turn Mr. Potato Head into Mashed Potatoes ala Dar's shirt."

The taller woman took the hint and chuckled, then broke open her own potato and applied everything she could get her hands on to it. "Steve sort of reminded me of a Mr. Potato Head. "She commented wryly. "Must have been those ears."

Kerry laughed, as she neatly sliced up her lunch and ate it. "Yeah.. maybe… I'll have to get you one of those to keep in your office."

A dark brow cocked. "So when I say 'off with his head'  I can demonstrate?" She inquired wryly. "No thanks.. it sends a very mixed message." She finished up her sandwich and scooted back a little, leaning against a sun warmed rock and stretching her legs out. Kerry tucked her wrappers away as well, and crawled over to her, snuggling up against her chest and relaxing as Dar wound an arm around her waist and she leaned back.

Dar felt the warmth of the rock at her back, and the warmth of her lover  against her, and decided it was about the most pleasant feeling she'd ever had. She gazed over Kerry's shoulder, watching the running spring with a peaceful sense of contentment.

And familiarity. Her brow creased. No, she and Kerry had never done this before, that she was pretty sure of, and yet…

She gave the blond woman a little squeeze, and Kerry reciprocated by pressing a hand against hers, and laying her other hand on Dar's leg, stroking it gently.

She could smell the clean scent of Kerry's shampoo, where the blond woman's head was resting just under her chin, and she let her cheek drop a little, to rest against it, feeling a sudden wash of strong familiarity, that brought a faint, pained smile to her face.

It was her dream, one of them. One of those strange ones, where she clearly remembered resting in a quiet glade not too different from this one, with  the soft sound of water, and the smell of the forest around them. She'd been leaning on a rock, her arm wrapped around a warm, somnolent body, whose fingers had gently traced across her thigh just..


As they were now.

Dar shivered in pure reflex, her eyes opening, as a silver hued image of the dream flashed through her mind.

"Hey?" Kerry turned to look up at her. "What's wrong?"

A soft exhale. "Just a bit of…I don't know.. déjà vu, I guess." She forced a laugh. "Or something from a dream.. I.. "

Kerry's eyebrows knit. "You know, I get that a lot around you." She commented casually. "Or I have these weird dreams where you and I are doing really strange stuff."

Dar gazed at her. "Me too." She admitted softly. "Like just now.. " Her eyes shifted. "I think I had a dream a lot like this… trees, water… you and I.. lying like this.. I was holding onto you.. " She paused, considering. "Weird."

Kerry shrugged. "It happens… I used to have dreams like that when I was in school.. about stuff going on there.. it's just your brain cleaning house."

"Yeah." The taller woman agreed, feeling a sense of relief. "You're right… hey.. " She picked up a flat stone and flipped it towards the spring. "Can you do that?"

"Oh god.. I've always wanted to.. figures you can." Kerry dug into the ground next to them and came up with a couple more relatively flat stones. "Here.. teach me."

With a tender smile, Dar reached and arm around her and guided her arm, feeling a sweet echo in her words. "Okay.. like this.. sideways.. "

They spent a very pleasant hour just tossing rocks, and snuggling in the sun, as the horses contentedly cropped grass, and the sun rose over head. Finally Dar patted her leg. " You ready to head back?"

"Mm… " Kerry had her head pillowed in Dar's lap, and was stretching her legs out in lazy bliss. "At least we get to sit down this afternoon.. are you going to let me teach you to sail?"

"Sure." Dar agreed readily. "I've never been on one of those small boats.. the big ones you just keep out of the way of the crew… I'm looking forward to it." She tickled Kerry's ear. "C'mon… let's get going."

They stood and gathered their things, with Dar packing everything neatly back inside the lunch pack while Kerry wandered over to the spring and tasted it's water. "Hey.. that's not bad." She grinned at Dar. "It's sweet."

Dar glanced over. "Yeah.. watch it.. looks like there's a bee hive over there.. be careful."

Kerry blinked. "Oh.. .. thanks." She carefully skirted the spot and walked over to where her mare was, untying her and gathering up the reins. "Okay, girl… what's your name again.. Cookie?"

"Brownie." Dar supplied wryly. "But you were close." She got up into her saddle and settled her knees, tucking her reins in one hand as she half turned the stallion towards Kerry's horse.

"Yeah.. yeah.. what's his name… Silver?" Kerry put a foot in the stirrup and hoisted herself up, feeling the mare shift under her. "Ah ah… none of that."

"Smokey." Dar replied amiably. "Careful."

Kerry slid forward a little in the saddle, and tried to find a comfortable place for her knees to grip. They were still a little sore, and she shifted, then half turned. "Do yo..whoa!"

The mare had stepped sideways, and one hoof caught on a root. With a snort, the horse crab hopped sideways, bucking a little and almost throwing Kerry off. "Whoa!!" The blond woman hung on, though, and pulled the mare's head around, grabbing tight as she jumped up out of the little hollow she'd moved into and bolted towards the stream for a few steps.

Enough to bring her right up against the bush with the beehive, her hindquarters brushing it's outer leaves, and disturbing the sluggish insects.

"Kerry.. uh.. " Dar's eyes widened a little. " Be careful there.. I.. "

"I'm being careful.. " The blond complained, trying to get the mare straightened out. "C'mon.. you… a…holy.. whoa…whoa.. shit!!!!" j

The mare snorted, as several bees settled and stung her, then she squealed and bolted, jerking the reins out of Kerry's hands as she headed out and down the long, sloping path. "Hey!! Hey!!! Slow down!!!!" 

"Son of a.. " Dar slapped her stallion on the side, kicking him into a run as she gave chase. "Kerry!!!!"


I'm in trouble. Kerry hung on to the front of the saddle, watching the reins fly uselessly near the ground. Shit. "Hey… c'mon…c'mon… slow down!" She called to the mare, who was snorting. Both back heels kicked up, almost tossing Kerry over the horse's head, and she gripped the saddle frantically. "Okay.. okay…"

The mare whinnied, and bucked, then chose a cedared path down the hillside, shaking her head as the reins irritated her. Kerry heard hoofbeats catching up, and she half turned, to see the gray stallion bearing down on her, Dar's body pressed to his back, one hand free, the other clenching leather reins.

Cursing, she turned around, and leaned forward, trying to grab one of the flapping pieces of leather, which flicked annoyingly just out of her reach.

"Hang on, Kerry." Dar yelled, as she closed, her horse snorting as his nose neared the mare's flying tail.

Unfortunately, this only scared the already terrified mare, who redoubled her pace, slipping a little in the cedar chips. "Whoa.. whoa… " Kerry yelled, her eyes widening as she saw a bend coming up. "Whoa.. take it easy… wh.. " The horse spun, and kicked, and she lost her grip, her body going the opposite direction and flying peacefully through the air. The mare got around the bend and took off running, as her former rider slammed unceremoniously against a tree trunk, then dropped to the ground with a leaf scattering thump.

Oh my god. Kerry just lay there for a long moment, trying to get air back into her lungs, almost not hearing the rapidly slowing hoofbeats, and the thump as something large hit the ground running, scattering cedar chips all over her as the steps came skidding to a halt at her side.

Hands touched her, and then Dar's urgent voice reached her ears. "Don't move."

"Couldn’t if I wanted to." She murmured, counting the stars circling her head. "Ow… damn that hurt."

"Where did you hit?" The low voice asked. "You got any shooting pain anywhere? How about your neck?"

Kerry had to think about it. "My shoulder." She flexed her hands a little. "Fortunately it was my butt that hit the ground…I'm sure I didn't take any damage there." The numbness was wearing off, replaced by aching. "Whoo."

"Can you feel everything?" Dar asked nervously. "Your hands, feet.. no numbness?"

Fingers, toes, eyelashes.. "Yeah… " Kerry sighed, moving her head a little. "It's all there.. it just hurts… I think I just got the wind knocked out of me." She told her companion. "We weren’t going that fast."

Dar sat down heavily next to her. "Jesus." She gently eased Kerry back from her curled up position, examining her carefully. Her sweater and heavy jeans had protected her from the tree bark, and she appeared relatively unharmed. "You scared the hell out of me."

Kerry managed a grin. "Me too.. what on earth happened?" She moved her arms and legs, shifting her feet to a more comfortable position, and took a deep breath. "Did that horse go nuts, or what?"

"I think she got stung." Dar explained, slipping an arm over Kerry's shoulders and supporting her solicitously. "You sure you're okay?"

Kerry leaned her head against the convenient shoulder, and sighed. "I'm shaking like a leaf, but yeah."  She glanced off down the path. "Looks like I'm walking home, though." She exhaled as the throbbing receded.

"You most certainly are not." Dar snapped, her adrenaline still surging, making her hands shake almost uncontrollably. She took a few deep breaths, willing her heart to calm.

Surprised green eyes glanced at her, reading the ghosts of recent terror there. "Hey.. it's okay." She added gently. "I'm all right.. I'm not the first person who ever fell off a horse." She laid a hand on Dar's chest in comfort, then inhaled, as she felt the racing heartbeat under her fingers. "Take it easy there, tiger."

"I'm fine." Dar replied, a little shortly. "You can ride my horse.. I'll lead him."

Kerry put a hand on her lover's knee. "No.. you forgot to wear your brace, Dar.. you're not going to walk five miles back to the cabin.. now, just relax.. I'm fine.. I just got shook up a little."

Stubborn blue eyes glared at her. "We'll both ride then… he's a big horse." She replied. "We'll take it real slow."

Kerry considered arguing, then saw the set jaw, and the tensed muscles, and decided to let this one go. "Okay." She agreed. "Poor horsie.. you better get him some apples when we get back."

"He'll survive." Dar relaxed a little. "We're still under the weight limit." She added, letting a slight grin cross her lips, referring to the three hundred pound sign prominently displayed on the stable wall.

Kerry poked her. "Not by that much." She teased. "You still owe him apples." She allowed Dar to lift her up to her feet, though, and she stood gingerly, testing her body out before she nodded. "Okay…I'm all right… let's go."

Smokey stood, watching them suspiciously as Dar collected his reins, and studied him. "I'll drive." She decided, putting a foot in the stirrup and pulling herself up, then neatly sidestepping the horse over to where Kerry was standing, and extending an arm down. "Grab on.. I'll pull you up."

Kerry felt herself smiling for no apparent reason, and as she reached up, her hand slid past Dar's to grip the taller woman's arm above the elbow, giving her a handle as she also reached for the back of the saddle.

The sensation of being lifted was so familiar, she almost laughed, as she threw her leg over the horse's hindquarters, and settled in behind Dar in the large saddle. "I'm going to squish you." She warned.

"No problem." Dar advised her, feeling the warm pressure as Kerry's body melded into hers. "Just hang on."

A gentle laugh bubbled it's way up through her lips as Kerry wrapped her arms around Dar's body, squeezing her a little. "Absolutely no problem there." She assured her lover. "Where you go, I go, buddy."

Dar stopped, and half turned, gazing back at her with one eyebrow lifted. "Buddy?"

Kerry grinned charmingly at her. "Aren't you my buddy?"

A shake of the dark head, then Dar turned back around and nudged her mount down the trail. "Okay, Smokey.. nice and easy.. I don't want any road bumps."

The silence dropped around them again, and Kerry was able to put her aching shoulder aside, as she leaned against the warm body in front of her. The smell of sun warmed wool tickled her senses, and she let her chin rest against Dar's shoulder blades, feeling the bones move a little as the taller woman shifted.

"Mm." She rubbed her cheek against the soft fabric, then blinked as it reminded her of her dream a while back. "Hey."

"What?" Dar whirled, almost unseating her, glancing back anxiously. "Are you okay? You're not starting to feel dizzy or anything, right? How's your shoulder."

Kerry cleared her throat, and resettled her legs, finding the contact with Dar both familiar and comforting. "Well, it'd be a lot better if you'd stop jerking around like that." She admonished her companion. "Would you relax already? I just wanted to mention that this whole thing reminded me of that dream I had."

Dar faced forward, feeling a little embarrassed. "What dream?" She asked gruffly.

"The one with you in the armor." The blond woman placidly answered. " You remember?"

"Oh yeah." Dar grunted. "Me in armor.. silliest thing I ever heard."

Kerry closed her eyes, trying to remember the sensations. "And no pants."

The horse stopped stock still. "What?" Dar looked cautiously around at her.

"Your legs were bare." Kerry replied, opening her eyes and patting her companion's thigh. "So were mine for that matter." She giggled. "Half naked horsebackriding… whoa… I'm quite the wild thing in my dreams, huh?"

Dar started laughing." Doesn't say much for me.. what kind of idiot would wear armor and no pants?"

"Hmm.. there must be something deep and Freudian in that." Kerry mused.

"Kerry?" Dar hesitated.


"Don't go there."

"Mm.. yeah, okay."


They got in an hour later than they expected to, since Dar insisted on keeping poor Smokey to a pace somewhere between a turtle and a turtle. The stable man ran out to greet them, and took Smokey's reins, while Dar jumped down, then solicitously caught Kerry as she tried to follow, and let her down gently to the ground. "The mare got bee stung.. threw her and took off." She explained tersely.

"We figured." The man nodded. "Had to pull four or five stingers out of her butt… sorry about that.. you all right, ma'am?" His eyes turned anxiously to Kerry.

"I'm just peachy, thanks." Kerry assured him, as she looked up at Dar. "You can let me go now, I think." She straightened her legs with a wince, but they held.

"Oh. Sorry." Dar gave her a little pat on the back and cleared her throat. "Listen.. let's save the sailing for tomorrow, okay? " Her eyes flicked to the stable man's. "Anything going on here tonight?"

He considered. "We've got a hay ride scheduled." He offered. "Out to the big firepit after dinner."

"That sounds wonderful." Kerry spoke up, with a grin. "I love hayrides… c'mon, Dar.. I bet they'll have marshmallows."

"Yes, ma'am, we do.. the riders make s'mores, in fact." The man smiled back at her. "And we've got a couple folks who play guitar, and some that tell stories, too."

Kerry gave Dar a wishing look, and was rewarded with a tolerantly knowing grin. "Sure." Dar agreed. "C'mon.. let's go change into something that smells less like horses, and relax before dinner." She circled the smaller woman's shoulders and they headed off towards the cabin, pausing as they noticed a large group clustered around the tailgate of a work worn blue pickup truck.

"What's up?" Dar inquired, as they neared it.

Millie turned, and shook her head. "Poor people… they've had an awful rain out in Arizona… just look at it." She pointed.

In the back of the truck was a portable television, running off the truck's engine. A grainy picture showed, of a hapless man in a blue poncho, standing with his microphone in a complete downpour as bits of trees and small animals floated by in the background.  A caption at the bottom was labeled Channel 12 News. "Man, look at that." One of the workers whistled softly. "And that damn storm's heading our way, too."  

Dar and Kerry exchanged glances. "When?" They both asked together.

The worker blinked, surprised, and glanced at them. "Um…Monday night, Tuesday morning… why?"

"Thanks.. no… we were just curious." Kerry smiled at him. "C'mon, Dar… I hear a Jacuzzi calling my name."

"Right." Dar agreed, shaking her head at the screen as cactus floated by past the reporter. "I wonder if that's causing us any problems?"

Kerry tugged her forward. "I'm sure they'd call if it was." She assured her lover.

"Right." Dar murmured again, as they walked away.


The warm water felt absolutely wonderful, Kerry decided, as she squirmed around to let the jets rush against her ribs, and watched Dar approach bearing a couple of nicely chilled glasses.

Not that she noticed the glasses, especially, since her eyes were mostly fully engaged by her hormones due to the fact that her lover was jaunting around the cabin buck naked.

"Here." The dark haired woman sighed, handing her a glass and seating herself, stretching her long legs out and letting her head rest against the edge of the tub. "Boy, that feels great."  She paused, expecting an answer, then glanced over when all she got was silence. "Kerry?"

"Sorry." The blond woman took a sip of the chilled champagne and swallowed it. "Just thinking." She wiggled her toes contentedly and exhaled. "I suppose it could have been worse.. we could have gone skiing."

"Probably would have been me that slammed into a tree then." Dar remarked. "How's your shoulder?" She peered worriedly at the smoothly muscled bodypart in question, examining the bruise that covered Kerry's arm. "You sure nothing else hurts?"

"Dar, can I ask you a question?" Kerry peered at her. "How can a person so oblivious of their own physical well being be so damned solicitous of mine?"

The taller woman stopped, and drew back in silence. "Sorry." She muttered. "Didn't realize I was bothering you."

Kerry studied her, a little bewildered. "No.. it.. it didn’t.. doesn't bother me, I just didn't expect… that… of you."

Dar gave a little nod, and took a sip of her drink. Truth be told, she hardly knew why she was so damned concerned herself. The woman was obviously all right, so she should just back off, and let her be.. after all, that's exactly what she'd want in Kerry's place, right?

Right. She hated when people fussed over her, and here she was.. being the biggest fusspot this side of an old fashioned nursery nanny. No wonder Kerry was annoyed. With an effort, she relaxed, and closed her eyes, trying to recapture the good mood she'd been in at lunch.

She was surprised when a warm body fit itself around hers unexpectedly, and her eyes popped open in startlement, to see two pale green ones peering back at her from a very close distance. "Uh.. hi."

"Hi." Kerry answered, with a quietly apologetic look. "Sorry.. I assumed that because you hate people pawing over you, that you naturally would just expect everyone else to buck up and pretend gaping head wounds are nothing."

"No." Dar acknowledged quietly. "I don’t' expect that at all."

It was a quiet, willing surrender, she knew. "Good.. then could you give me a hug, please.. I really feel like crap… my legs are killing me, and my entire back feels like an accordion." Kerry sighed. "And what kind of good drugs did you bring that might help?"

Dar felt a curious smile crossing her face, as she put her glass down and folded her arms around her lover, then lifted her, gently cradling her in the frothy water. "Let me take some tension off your back, then." She replied, as the blond woman nestled her head against one of Dar's shoulders. "Just put your arms around my… yeah."  She gently stretched Kerry's body out, working the stiffened muscles with one hand while supporting her with the other. "I've got some Percogesic…it's pain killer and a muscle relaxant.. how does that sound."

"It sounds great." Kerry mumbled. "But I feel much better already.. I think you're one kick ass drug yourself, Dar." She snuggled closer, absorbing the clean, chlorine tinted warmth of the water, and the even warmer silkiness of the skin she was nestled against.

Dar felt a sincere, through sense of relief. "Well… I doubt it.. " She joked.. "The AMA would never approve me, that's for sure.. but let's get you out of here and comfortable, okay?"

"Sure." Kerry agreed amiably. "Wh.. Dar!"  She grabbed a tighter hold as she was lifted out of the Jacuzzi. "Stop that.. you'll hurt you knee!"

"Nah." Dar stepped carefully out of the tub. "Grab that towel." She instructed, then carried Kerry out into the nicely warmed cabin, and set her on the bed. Taking the towel, she knelt. "Hold still. This won't hurt."

"Bu… " Kerry spluttered, then subsided, slowly relaxing as Dar dried her gently.

It was remarkably erotic, and she had a hard time keeping her hands still, as the soft, almost rough fabric of the towel brushed against suddenly sensitized skin. She had to force herself not to react, force herself to let Dar take complete control.

To trust completely.

Her breathing slowed, and let herself become aware of Dar's close presence, to feel the warmth as her still damp skin brushed by Kerry's hand. She could hear the soft breaths, and the whispery sounds of Dar's hair as it slipped over her bare shoulders. She could smell her, that inimitable faintly spicy musk that clung to her lover's skin, along with the chlorine scent of the water. Her world stilled for a perfect instant.

And then lips touched hers, and the towel's rough warmth was replaced by knowing fingertips that traced a path across her skin leaving a shiver of anticipation in their wake. She let her eyes slide open, to see Dar's looking back at her, a teasing grin moving her lips. One long finger came up and balanced itself on her nose. "Don't go away." Dar told her softly, as she stood and went to their baggage, coming back with a bottle and a cup of water. She knelt down again and shook out two pills, handing them to Kerry. "Here."

Kerry gazed at her, mesmerized. "Do I need these?" She asked softly. "It doesn't hurt anymore." She reached out and bypassed the pills, resting her hand on Dar's cheek. "I just need you."

Dar put the bottle down without breaking eye contact, and eased down on the bed, stretching her body out next to Kerry's and laying a hand on her stomach. She felt the muscles contract under her fingers, and watched as the pale green eyes darkened at no more than that light touch. "All right." She leaned over and brushed her lips against the soft curve of  a breast.  "I can't guarantee it's going to be relaxing, though." She moved up, feeling the sudden intake of breath as Kerry felt the teasing pressure. "You sure you're up to it?"

She finally let her hands loose, and they greedily reached for Dar's close presence, tugging her closer as her body growled with desire.

"Guess that answered that." Dar chuckled low in her throat, and succumbed to the insistent tug, feeling a warmth of connection between them that was pulling her closer, and closer, until she could swear…

That they were simply two halves of a whole.

Of course you are. Her mind whispered at her, as she let go and allowed the passion to take her, hearing a faint, knowing chuckle somewhere deep in the back of her mind.  


"You're being quiet." Kerry commented, glancing over at Dar as they mounted the steps to the lodge. Her hands were tucked firmly in her pockets against the chill air, and her breath escaped as puffy clouds of vapor.

Dar also had her hands hidden, and she sniffled a little against the cold. "I'm not generally speaking a noisy person." She responded mildly. "I was just thinking, that's all." She reached out and pulled the heavy door open, then inclined her head for Kerry to precede her.

"You always do that." Kerry commented. "Open doors."

"Well.. you need to, Kerry.. or you crash into them and get a lot of splinters in your face." The taller woman responded drolly. "How's your shoulder doing?"

"It's a little stiff, but okay." Kerry replied. "Actually.. " She blushed a little, and moved closer. "My butt hurts more."

The blue eyes twinkled a little. "You probably bruised your tailbone." She patted the spot gently. "I'll have to get you a pillow for the office for a week or so."

They went into the dining room, already half full with guests at the scattering of tables. A table near the window was made available, and they settled into it, gazing out at the view of the last rays of sunset over the lake.  The room was fairly dim, wall sconces made to look like candelabra and torches were the motif, and they spread a warm, reddish glow around rather than a harsh brilliance. A fireplace in the rear crackled merrily, and leant to the rustic atmosphere.

"It smells great in here. " Kerry commented, as their server arrived, bearing a basket of warm, fresh biscuits and a bowl of sweet butter. "Is it the wood they're using in the fire?"

Dar glanced over at it, as she snagged a yeast biscuit and broke it open. "Um… that might be hickory, so yeah." A tiny hint of a smile appeared. "You know, this winter stuff isn't all bad." She tugged on her collar. "Except that this wool's driving me nuts."

Kerry laughed. "Well, you look really nice in that sweater… even if it's tickling your chin." The turtleneck, a rich, solid electric blue brought out the color of her eyes like nobody's business, and framed her angular face wonderfully.

Dar looked pleased at the compliment. "You look very nice, yourself." She returned it, eyeing the blond woman's layered flannel and sweatshirt combination. Kerry's face had a gentle tinge of color from the wind they'd ridden through, and her pale hair was pulled back into a pony tail, with a few wisps escaping around her pink ears.

Which grew a touch pinker at the words, something Dar found eminently adorable. "I'm glad our flight's not until 8 tomorrow.. gives us the whole day." She remarked. "You're going to teach me to sail in the morning, right?"

"Teach you?  Dar you've been on the ocean all your life.. what do you  mean teach you?" Kerry protested, smiling a thank you at the server as he put a cup of frothy local ale in front of her, and a similar one in front of Dar.

"Um… " Dar took a sip, and raised her brows. "Not bad.. um.. I can drive about anything on the water that uses petroleum products, and I even got to sit at the controls of something that uses…" She paused, and waggled her head. "A more esoteric form of fuel, shall we say.. but I've never sailed."

"Really?" Kerry thought about that. "Esoteric? I don't…" She remembered what branch of the service Dar's father had been in. "Oh..oh.. I get it.. .right… " Pause. "They didn't let you drive a submarine, did they?"

Dar held up a finger to her lips. "Sshhhh…. I didn't even have a driver's license at the time."

Kerry covered her eyes. "Oh.. I suddenly feel so…soo….safe… " She sighed.

"I didn't hit anything." Dar objected mildly. "And I'm a safe driver, you know that."

Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a large family, who took a table not far from them. The father was an older man, gray haired and stocky, dressed in a flannel shirt and corduroys, and he directed the three assorted children to sit down while his wife pulled the waiter aside. The children were all slimly built and meticulously dressed, and the mother had, incongruously, a mink stole around her shoulders.

Dar snorted as she took a sip of her ale, then glanced over and saw the pensive look on Kerry's face. She reached over and covered the blond woman's hand with her own, chafing the fingers of it lightly. "Hey."

Green eyes flicked her way, then held.        

"Memories?" Dar guessed.

"Something like that." Kerry acknowledged softly. "When we were younger, we used to go up to a Christian retreat up in the north lake area…it was a little like this, except that the focus was bible teaching, and family building." She let out a faint, bitter laugh. "Family building.. what a joke.. it was just one big excuse to get us all together in one place so we could be preached at for week.. and told our faults."

Dar winced. "Not all families are like that." She told her friend, giving the nervously moving fingers a squeeze.

Kerry dropped her gaze to their hands. "I know." She looked up. "But I see kids like that.." She jerked her head towards the family. "And I always wonder."

Dar studied the children quietly, noting the almost furtive glances as they looked around. The eldest girl was probably about sixteen, and the youngest about ten, she reckoned. As she pondered, the oldest happened to look her way, and their eyes met briefly. The girl immediately dropped her eyes, and a blush made itself evident on her face.

A dark brow lifted, as Dar wondered what had garnered that reaction, then she realized she and Kerry were still holding hands. Ah. She drummed the fingers of her free hand on the table. Well well. "So." She casually pulled Kerry's knuckles over and brushed them with her lips, then released them. " What were we talking about.. sailing, wasn't it?"

 "Um…" Kerry looked a little flustered. "Dar…you know, we are in North Carolina."

Dar blinked at her. "I know that."

Green eyes flicked around the room, then back to her face. "Don't they still lynch adulterers here?"

The dark brows knit for a long moment. "Wha…oh." Dar sat back, nonplused. "I… " She looked around in a startled manner. "B…"

Kerry hid a smile behind one hand. "Dar… Dar… relax… I…didn't mean… " She covered her eyes, and felt her skin warm. "I just.. I sort of had you pegged, I thought, as someone who didn't do PDA's." She peeked at her lover hesitantly.  The angular face was very still, as Dar processed her words, then an indescribable look took it over. "Dar?"

"I…" Dar released a breath. "I didn't think I did either."  She folded her hands and studied them. "I'm sorry.. I didn't realize it was bothering you." Her voice was steady, and casual.

But Kerry had learned something about her companion over the months. Sometimes she said what she thought the person she was talking to wanted to hear, rather than what she was feeling in her heart, and it usually showed in subtle shifts in her body language.

Like when her neck muscles relaxed, and it dropped her shoulders a little. It wasn't quite slumping, but Kerry could see it nonetheless. "N.. no, it doesn’t' bother me… " She hesitated, choosing her words carefully. "I love when you touch me.. you have no idea how special that makes me feel."  She watched the dark head lift, and wary blue eyes peeked out at her. "I guess I'm just not used to being conspicuous."

"Conspicuous?" Dar repeated.

"Yeah.. I um.. " Kerry twiddled her thumbs. "I made it a practice to attract as little attention to myself as possible.. it was sort of a survival reflex."

"Oh." The dark haired woman murmured. "I never thought of that." She played with her roll. "I never really cared if I attracted attention or not."

Kerry rested her chin in her hand, and gazed at her magnetically attractive companion. "No.. I bet you didn't." She remarked wryly. "But it's going to take me a little while to get over that."

Dar bit her lip, looking for all the world like a scolded child being denied dessert. "Sorry.. I… I wasn't .. doing it on purpose, I just..." Damn it, I should have realized.. what in the hell is wrong with me? "I'll try to keep my hands to myself from now on."

Kerry felt a definite pang hit her in the chest, just hearing that self disgust in Dar's otherwise even tone.

It was a quiet dinner, and Kerry noticed neither of them ate much. She zipped up her jacket and followed Dar as she made her way out the front of the lodge, towards where the hayride was forming up, a soft round of laughter coming from the people who were waiting.  A large wagon really full with hay was standing there, with two large work horses hitched to it, their placid, gentle eyes regarding the crowd with little or no interest.

The family had decided to go, and so did six or seven other couples, two of them with children. Kerry bounced on her feet a little in the chill, as she watched them all mill around, waiting for the lodge worker to allow them to climb up onto the wagon.

Dar stood quietly nearby, her hands tucked into her pockets, a look of polite interest on her face. Her breath showed as a gentle stream of vapor, and as Kerry kept an unobtrusive eye on her, the stream doubled, as she let out a long sigh.

"All right, folks… let's get aboard.. we want to get over to that campfire real soon, cause this weather ain't getting any warmer." The cheerful driver told them, as he unhooked the chain and let the back gate down, the put a set of stairs in place. "Up you go."

Dar and Kerry were the fourth set of people to get into the haywagon, and they settled themselves in one of the front corners, out of the way of the giggling children who were burrowing in the hay, tossing bits of it around. Dar drew her knees up and put her arm against them, resting her chin on one forearm.

She thought about what Kerry had said, and found herself resenting the other couples there, who were free to hug and kiss each other, with no fear of any adverse reaction. In fact, the two older couples were watching one pair of lovebirds with an indulgent look on their faces.

She felt, in that moment, as though something very important had been taken away from her, and it was making her mad. So was Kerry's assumption that she wouldn't like public displays. So was the annoying cold, that was making her throat dry out and giving her a headache.

She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back, letting herself slide into a fully fledged, self acknowledged really bad mood. Part of it was at herself, since she really should have guessed that Kerry wouldn't be comfortable announcing their sexual partnership to the world, especially here in what she assumed was a bastion of conservatism.  Another part of it was because she hadn't even realized she was doing it, which made her kick herself for being so damned self absorbed.

The cold pressed in on her, and she dropped her head a little and let it in, remembering the last time she'd been here.

Living through the hurt, and rebuilding her defenses, determined to go back out there, and never, never let anyone get close enough to make her feel that lousy ever again.

So what the hell was she doing here now?

Then the other half of her slapped her upside the head. Get a grip, Dar… she didn't blow you off, she just asked for some time to adjust. So just chill out.

Well, at least that was easy enough. She glared morosely at her visible breath, bracing her feet as the wagon started, and the other occupants laughed in delight. The horses started to pull them down the road, their hoofbeats making a regular pattern in the still, cold air. Stop behaving like a spoiled brat, already. Jesus, Dar…what would dad say? He'd kick your ass for acting like this. "Pretty night out, huh?" She forced her bad mood down, and turned to Kerry, shocked at the effort it took not to reach out and gently move aside the soft blond hair obscuring her face.

Kerry's jaw was working, and her brow was knit. She turned her head towards her lover in almost slow motion. "Yes, it is."  She responded thoughtfully. "It's cold, though."

"Yeah." Dar agreed softly, as she rubbed her arms with her hands.

The blond woman studied the wagon's occupants, noting the huddled duos with a speculative eye. Then she took in a breath, and expelled it. "Dar?"


Kerry chewed her lower lip a minute. "I'm over it." She announced. "I guess the world'll just have to expand it's horizons."

Startled blue eyes regarded her. "What exactly do you mean?"

The smaller woman shifted, then crawled the short distance between them and wrapped herself around Dar's body, tucking her head into the hollow of her lover's shoulder and exhaling. "Is this explicit enough, or do I need to suck your tongue?"

Dar felt a surge of heat erupt, as a flush colored her skin, warming her rapidly. "Uh.. no.. no.. this is fine.. I get the idea." She blurted, knocked offbalance by Kerry's sudden change of heart. She put her arms around the blond woman and settled back, letting their conjoined body heat chase away the chill of the air. "What made you change your mind?"

Amazing, how fast a bad mood could vanish, whisked away on the cold wind.

Kerry thought about the question for a while, as she regarded the people around them. After a few initial, startled glances, they were being mostly ignored, which was fine with her. "Well." She picked up a stalk of hay and chewed it. "I thought about how uncomfortable I felt about everyone staring at me, and then I weighed that against how comfortable I knew I'd feel if I was snuggling with you, and snuggling won."

"Just like that?" Dar asked, in mild disbelief.

"Essentially, yeah." Kerry replied. "Oh.. there was more to it.. and I'm still wrestling with stuff…but I realized when I thought about it that you've been doing all that stuff ever since we.. um… "


"So…just because we're in a strange place, why should that matter? I know I joked about them lynching people.. but then I figured out if anyone's got a problem here, you could probably kick their ass, so.. " Kerry shrugged. "What the hell? I never rebelled as a teenager.. maybe it's time."


"Maybe I'll get a tattoo."

"Uh…" Dar peered at her. "Don't get all drastic on me, okay? How about we start with a rainbow sticker for your bumper."

"I don't know, Dar.. " Kerry mused. "A nice knotwork design, around your name.. right on my.. um.. " She glanced down.

"Uh.. Kerry… " Blue eyes glanced at their neighbors, one of the older couples who were watching them with interest.

"Shoulderblade." The blond woman finished, with a twinkle in her eyes. "I bet that guy at the desk knows where I could get one around here."

"All right.. " Dar gave her a look. "Now you listen here, Kerrison Stuart.. I am not going to stand by while you get my name tattooed on any part of your body in some hack shop in the backwoods, you hear me?"

Kerry's nose wrinkled up as she grinned. "You sound so like your dad when you talk like that." She teased. "Would you do it?"

"Get your name tattooed on me?" Dar countered.

The blond nodded, but said nothing.

The angular face went serious, suddenly, intense as Dar met Kerry's eyes and held them. "I already have that." She whispered, touching her chest above her heart with a finger. "Written so deep there, nothing could ever remove it."

Kerry just looked at her, forgetting their watchers, her eyes softening and carrying the sudden glitter of unshed tears. She started to speak, then shook her head, and buried her face in Dar's shoulder.

Hmm. The dark haired woman rested her cheek against Kerry's pale hair. Not bad, from a hard bitten, cold and ruthless bitch from hell, huh?

Up ahead she could see the brightening glow of the campfire, sending crackling sparks up towards the bright stars winking over them.


Dar floated blissfully in a pocket of warm comfort, her arms wrapped securely around Kerry's peacefully snoozing body. The air outside the blanket felt chilly, but she had no intention of going out into it, at least until the sun took it upon itself to come up.

Funny, though. She could have sworn they'd left the heat on last night. She edged one blue eye open and surveyed the cabin. It was a dull gray from the light coming in the window, and very, very quiet. Too quiet, Dar realized, as she missed the faint, but just perceptible mechanical sounds of the heating unit. Her eyes flicked the clock, which showed a depressingly early time.

Great. She chewed her lip for a moment, then decided the only way they were going to get heat in the place was if she got up and turned the heat on, then started up that fire again. C'mon Dar… buck up… you made Kerry get up yesterday, it's your turn.  She told herself firmly, as she eased away from Kerry's warmth, and scooted out the other side of the bed. Shit. The chill made start shivering, and she quickly trotted over to her bag, flipping on the heat along the way  

Tugging out a warm sweatshirt, she pulled it on over her head and rubbed her arms. "Brr." She commented softly. "This cold stuff is for the birds."  But there was a good stock of wood, at least, and she quietly stacked some in the fireplace, remembering how Kerry had arranged it the day before. She packed the moss into the crevices, then she grabbed some matches they'd gotten from the lodge the day before and lit a few, making sure the fire starter caught in several places.

"Hey.. not bad." She sat down in front of the fireplace on the rug and warmed her hands on the growing flames,  quite pleased with herself. "Okay… we've got heat going.. I got a pot here I can heat up some water with, and we've got fresh coffee." She counted off silently, giving a tiny nod. "That'll do."

On the way to the sink to get some water, she stopped and simply stood, watching Kerry sleep for a long moment. The blond woman was curled on her side, with one hand tucked under her head, and the other resting on the blanket, and her face was peacefully relaxed in the early hint of dawn. Her breathing was slowly moving the fabric, and Dar felt herself breathing in the same rhythm, as she leaned against the doorway in pensive silence.

Funny. She sighed, and continued on, getting the water and bringing it over to the fireplace, putting the pot on a small shelf evidently for that purpose. A soft hiss went up as the flames evaporated a few droplets on the outside, and she settled into the comfortable chair, tucking her feet up under her and gazing into the fire.

The light caught with a flash of brilliance on the unfamiliar band around her finger, and she found herself staring at it, almost mesmerized by it's friendly twinkle. She rubbed her thumb against the inner band and exhaled, finding it hard to believe she was seeing it.

She'd spent so long the last time she was here, just sitting, and watching the water, and wondering what in the hell she'd done so wrong in her life to earn the repeated disappointments dealt to her where her heart was involved.

Now, here she was, sitting here wondering what in the hell she'd done so right in her life to deserve this. She leaned her head against the chair back. And it wasn't just the ring…it was what was behind it. It was the equal commitment she'd been searching for almost all of her life.

It was what her parents had, and something she'd simply assumed everyone else was entitled to. Jesus, if I’d known how damn rare that is, maybe I'd have entered a convent. She closed her eyes. The last time she'd been here, she'd made the decision to leave her dreams behind.

This time… she found the sudden gift so overwhelming, she hardly knew what to do with herself. Slowly, she lifted the ring to her lips and pressed them against it, feeling a single tear wind it's way down her cheek.

There was no doubt this was messing her up. She knew it… she knew damn well this was going to make doing her job the way she'd become accustomed to it difficult to the point of impossible. Kerry's gentle, loving influence had wrecked her emotional shields, breaking down icy barriers she'd kept in place almost effortlessly for years, and now she was left with the same responsibilities, the same goals, but without the single minded, cold purpose that allowed her to achieve them.

Damn right she wished the resignation had stuck. Especially now. She let her eyes slide open, and blinked them, to clear the moisture out. Right now, she felt a distinct urge to chuck her whole damn career, and take off with Kerry to someplace quiet, someplace small and sleepy, and maybe open up a little corner computer shop where the most exciting thing that happened in a day was someone catching a boot sector virus.

Her eyes found her lover's face. But that wasn't fair to Kerry, either. She'd just gotten started, and besides, she liked Miami.

Dar sighed. She'd just have to see how things worked out, that was all. Maybe she could change the way she did things.

Yeah. Maybe pigs would grow jet engines and take off from an onramp of Interstate 95.

A rattle broke her out of her musing, and she looked up to see the water pot shivering against the shelf, evidently quite well heated. Dar stood up and retrieved it, yelping a little as the heated plastic stung her fingers. "Ow.." She put it down quickly, then got two cups ready, and set plastic cone filters on top of them, adding scoops of the fragrant ground beans and pouring the water over it. It smelled great, and she took an appreciative sniff, letting her worries go for the time being.

No point in worrying about it now anyway, right?

She fixed the coffee with lots of cream and sugar, then she picked up Kerry's cup and wandered over to the bed, now gently bathed in early dawn's peach colored light. As she neared, sleepy green eyes fluttered open and blinked at her, picking up the light in their depths and highlighting the golden specks  that floated in the misty color. "Hey." Kerry burred softly, her voice slightly hoarsened from sleep. She cleared her throat. "What are you doing up?"

Dar smiled, and sat down on the bed, offering her the cup. "I had to uphold Miami's reputation for tough natives.. I got up to turn the heat on." She admitted.

Kerry sat up, crossing her legs and accepting the coffee. She pushed her sleep disheveled hair out of her face with an idle hand as she yawned. "Mm." She sipped the beverage. "Thank you, Dar… I really appreciate this."  Her eyes  flicked to the quietly pensive look on her lover's face. "Where's yours?"

"Hmm?" Dar started, then smiled. "Oh.. it's over there.. I was just sitting by the fire waiting for the water to heat up."

"Mm… sounds nice." Kerry slid her legs out from under the covers, and stood, taking Dar's hand in hers. "C'mon.. let's go back over there." She clung to the long fingers as they crossed the cabin, and didn't let go as they seated themselves by the fire. "I had a dream about you."

Dar almost inhaled a bit of her coffee. "Um.. yeah?" She replied. "Good or bad?"

Kerry chuckled as she took another sip. "Oh.. awful.. you turned into a bug eyed giant rabbit and went bouncing all over the place, drooling." She glanced over, to see wide, round blue eyes staring at her. "I'm joking." She put a hand on Dar's leg, stroking it gently. "It was a wonderful dream… it didn't make much sense, but you were in it, and so was I.. and a white horse… and it was summer.. and there was a really beautiful grassy meadow.." Kerry exhaled happily. "And we were laughing, and running through the grass, chasing after the horse."

Dar smiled. "Sounds like fun…did we catch it?"

"Yes." Kerry lifted their still linked hands and kissed Dar's fingers. "And we rode off together, just like we were riding yesterday."

A faint twinge reminded her. "How's the legs?" Dar asked her. "Still sore?"

Kerry flexed her thighs and considered. "No.. just a little.. but they're okay. My shoulder's okay too." She added, before she could be asked. "C'mon… let's grab a shower, and get dressed… I can't wait to get out on the water."

"You got it." Dar grinned. "I can pick up a basket of pastries and a thermos.. we could have breakfast out there.. how about it?"

"I like it." Kerry released her, and stood, stretching luxuriously, then giving a little yelp of surprise as Dar enfolded her in a bear hug. "Urp." She felt herself lifted up off the ground. "Whoa." The grip gently straightened her spine, though, which felt wonderful, and she threw her arms around Dar's neck with a soft laugh. She could almost feel the emotion going through her lover, and she exhaled, as Dar finally released her back to her own feet. "Boy, that felt great."

Dar rubbed her back and gently kissed her head. "Yes, it did." She playfully scooped a handful of sunlight, letting it sparkle off her ring and send tiny flashes darting around the room. "C'mon.. let's go."


The sun poured down on ruffled blue waters, unobstructed by a single cloud, and warm enough to offset the chill of the wind that coasted over the lake. Kerry expertly turned the small boat and filled the sails, sending them over the waves, and causing a cold spray to dust their skin.

Dar was seated in the bow, her long body sprawled over a padded seat, and her face turned into the breeze as they plowed through the waves. "This is great. "She sighed.

Kerry smiled, as she moved the tiller, and checked the tension on the sail. "It sure is." She agreed, her body dredging up old memories of many hours spent out on Lake Michigan in boats not much larger than this one. "The best day of my young life was the day I got qualified in a sunfish.. and I didn't have to have anyone with me when I went out."

Dar reached out and touched the canvas sail, as she watched Kerry's smooth, and precise motions. "You're good at this." She commented, enjoying the sight of her lover's wind whipped figure. "And you look really cute."

"Oh sure.. I probably look like an afghan hound with his head out the window of a car going down US 1." Kerry laughed. "Glad the sun's pretty strong, though.. or it'd be really cold out here." She tied down the sail, then balanced herself and pulled off her heavy sweatshirt, leaving herself only her collared rugby top over her jeans. "Whoo.. that's better."

Dar followed suit, taking off her tan sweater and tucking it under the seat, and pushing  the sleeves up on the bright red shirt she was wearing underneath. "You ready for some breakfast?" She inquired.

"You bet. .I'm starving." Kerry informed her, as she edged the boat towards one of the small islands that dotted the lake's wide surface. "I figure we can shelter on the lee of that land there, until we're ready to go back." She studied the wind. "I'll have to tack back… but that's okay… we've got all the time in the world. Right?"

The words brought a smile to Dar's face. "Right." She edged closer to where Kerry was sitting, and broke a freshly baked blueberry muffin in half, offering a portion to the blond woman. "Here.. take a nibble of this."

"Mmm…. " Kerry captured it in her teeth and chewed. "Oo.. you have more of those?"

"I have more of those." Dar informed her. "And I have those ones with all the nuts in them you liked.. and I have cornbread."

The blond woman stopped chewing. "Cornbread? I don't get it."

"Northerner." Dar snorted softly. "Here." She took out a miniature loaf of the corn bread, and spread some soft, sweet butter on it. Then she drizzled a touch of honey over that, and broke off a piece, putting it in Kerry's open and waiting mouth. "Try that."

Kerry closed her mouth and chewed. "Mmm… " It was a rougher texture than the almost cakelike muffin, and the butter and honey made a nice counterpoint to the earthy taste of the corn. "Oh.. I like it… now I know why the South lost the Civil War.. they were too busy cooking."

Dar laughed in pure reflex. "I don't think that's why.. but we definitely go in for comfort foods in the South."  She moved down the padded seat while Kerry skillfully moved around one of the small islands, blocking the wind. She took down the sail and tossed over the small anchor, then squirmed over to where Dar was, leaning against her as they rocked gently in the waves.

She let her eyes roam the skies over head, watching a hawk circle lazily. Dar reclined next to her, breaking off mouthfuls of her assorted goodies and popping them in Kerry's mouth as they shared companionably.  "Jesus.. this has been such a long week." The blond woman commented. "I can't believe it was only a week ago, that we'd gotten home from the trip to Hell."

"Uh huh." Dar fed her another bit of cornbread. "I'm glad we had a few days up here just to relax." She paused. "Well, sort of." She chuckled. "Barring a fall from a horse or two." She brought out a large thermos and uncapped it, releasing an intoxicating scent of chocolate into the air.

Kerry accepted the cup of hot chocolate, and gave Dar a gentle kiss. "It's been wonderful.. despite the horse."  She gazed into the blue eyes. "We’ll have to come up here again when we can spend more time." They were sitting in the bottom of the boat, with their heads resting against the padded back seat, and Dar shifted, slipping an arm behind Kerry and drawing her closer.

Kerry put the cup down, and half turned, sliding her hands over Dar's shirt and tangling her fingers in the fabric, as she willingly met the lips searching for hers. They tasted each other for a breathless moment, then backed off a little, as Dar reached up and stroked Kerry's face. "I wish we didn't have to go back."

Kerry studied her face, evaluating the statement. "You mean that."

The blue eyes dropped. "Yes."  Dar exhaled, as she regarded the rippling water. "I keep trying to dredge up interest in going back into that office on Monday, and I just can't." She confessed. "I don't know if I can just go back to business as usual."

Kerry's blond head cocked to one side. "Dar… I don't understand…I thought you'd worked things out with Les… did something else happen?" She put a hand on her lover's arm in concern.

A soft laugh. "Sort of. " Dar's lips twisted into a wry smile. "We happened." She stated quietly. "I don't think I can put that aside, when  I have to be the company bastard anymore." She glanced up at Kerry honestly. 'There are things I've done… that I couldn’t do now.. not and look you in the eye at the end of the day."

Kerry felt a little shocked. She hadn't expected that, hadn't even considered it, really. "Dar.. you don't know that… I mean.. we've hardly had a chance to… "

"I do know it." The dark haired woman interrupted gently. "I knew it that afternoon up at Disney." She picked up Kerry's hand. "When I wouldn't trade a roll in the sack for a contract.. just because you were there."

A slow intake of breath. An exhale. "Oh."

"Yeah." Dar murmured. "What you think of me matters, Kerry… I've never had to worry about that before." She tangled her fingers with her lover's. "I can't do things the old way."

Kerry tried to jump start her brain into action. "Find another way then." She offered, faintly. "We can do it.. you and I."

A long pause, as the hawk called overhead, lonely and regal.

Finally, Dar blinked. "Maybe." She murmured. "I guess we'll find out." She smiled. "Just another challenge, right?"

Kerry nodded, profoundly relieved. "Right." She rubbed Dar's hand against her face. "Speaking of challenges, you ready to learn to sail?"

A smile spread across Dar's face. "Yeah." She cupped Kerry's cheek affectionately. "Teach me."


"Whew." Kerry adjusted the strap on her laptop case and handed over her suitcase to the skycap, as Dar bent her head to listen to his mate, who was processing their boarding passes. "We've got time for a cup of coffee, Dar… you interested?"

The dark haired woman glanced over her shoulder and smiled. "You bet." She accepted the boarding passes from the porter, and rejoined her companion, zipping up her jacket a little as they moved along the concourse towards the door. "I think we're getting outta here just in time… did you see those clouds?"

Kerry peered back the way they came, where lowering, gray clouds obscured the sunset, and nodded. "Yeah.. I think you're right, pardner." She patted Dar on the back. "Unless I'm really mistaken, you're going to miss a snowstorm."

Dar's ears perked up. "A snowstorm?" She grinned, and bumped into Kerry's shoulder with her elbow. "That wouldn't be so bad… I always wanted to have a snowball fight with someone."  She let out a breath, and paused before they entered the terminal. "Maybe next time."

"You want a snowball fight? You got it." Kerry smiled, her eyes crinkling up all the way. She tucked a hand into the crook of Dar's elbow and walked her inside, dodging a moving cart as they moved towards the security station. "Whoops.. time for the Gestapo." She released Dar, and put her laptop case and purse on the belt, then shrugged out of her jacket and added that, since it had her cell phone and pager in the pockets. Then she stepped through the security gate and smiled at the guard and she went to pick up her things.

"Excuse me, we need you to open this?" The young woman behind the table stated, holding onto Kerry's laptop firmly.

Kerry sighed. "Sure." She unzipped the case and laid it open, exposing the slate gray top of her computer. She was aware of Dar's close presence, as the taller woman was also being asked to open her bag. "Why don't we have this much trouble at Miami?" She muttered under her breath.

Dar chuckled softly, unzipping the case and opening it.

"Could you turn them on, please?" The woman asked, implacably.

Blue eyes and green met in wry exasperation. "Sure." Dar flipped her power switch on, then reached over and got Kerry's. "I have Pinball loaded on there if you're interested." She remarked to the guard.

The woman looked frostily at her. "Thank you. Could you turn on your phones and pagers, please?"

One dark eyebrow rose. "You don't want me to do that." Dar drawled.

"Yes ma'am, I do, unless you'd rather do it in security offices." The guard answered.

Dar shrugged, and flipped the devices on, then counted under her breath to ten. On six, both pagers went off, and both phones started beeping, indicating voice mail.

The guard backed away from the desk, with a frightened look.

"I told you." Dar sighed, picking up her pager, and glancing at it. "Damn it… there must be three dozen pages on this stupid thing."

"Yikes." Kerry picked hers up, and pressed the button. "Oh… gee, I'm glad I'm just your assistant.. I've only got two dozen." She shook her head. "I mean.. didn't they figure out we were together?" She glanced up at the guard, who had been joined by two others. "We've been on vacation for two days." She explained. "Our office tends to freak out."

Dar was muttering, and cursing under her breath as she reviewed her pages, then she looked up at the silent guards. "Oh, for god's sake, they're pagers, not grenades." She tugged her identification out of a pocket of her laptop and tossed it over to them. "There." She tugged her jacket back on, and shoved her phone in the pocket, then took her id back. "Excuse me." She started down towards the gate, still muttering.

Kerry found herself facing them. "Um… it's been a long week." She explained, zipping up her laptop and shouldering it. "May I?" She held out her hand, and was given back her pager. "Thanks.. have a great day."

She walked off, resisting the urge to look back over her shoulder, and hurried to catch up with Dar. "Hey.. wait up.."

The long strides shortened and slowed, and Dar glanced at her as she came along side. "Idiots."

"C'mon, Dar.. they're just doing their job." Kerry admonished her. "It's for everyone's safety."

Dar held up her pager. "I meant them." She tossed it up, then caught it and stuffed it in a pocket again. "There's the gate… you want to keep ahold of these?" She indicated the laptop. "I'll go get some coffee."  She settled Kerry in a padded seat near the gate window, then put down her laptop. "Be right back."

"Grab a paper, too." Kerry requested, as she leaned back and watched her companion walk off. A grin wound it's way onto her face as she enjoyed the little rhythm in Dar's walk, too slight to be a swagger, but definite nonetheless. She was wearing a pair of worn, black stone washed jeans with her high top sneakers, and Kerry found herself wishing the company would allow casual dress in the office.

Not that Dar didn't look good in a business suit, oh no.. she certainly did, the blond woman reflected. Especially that black linen one with the silver silk blouse… no, there wasn't much her lover couldn’t pull off in the clothes department, but she got the feeling Dar was most comfortable just like she was right now.

And so are you, wise guy. Kerry stretched out her feet and crossed her ankles, regarding her tan hiking boots wryly. She had her most comfortable pair of really nice, faded, soft jeans on, almost white from washing, with spots a little worn around her knees, and brass buttons with the letters rubbed right off them. Her thick, warm flannel shirt was tucked in neatly, and she folded her arms across her chest, letting her head lean back against the chilly glass of the window.

It had been a good weekend, she decided. Despite the bumps, and the little moments of doubt, it still had brought them closer together, and put some truths on the table. They'd come out of it rested, and pretty much relaxed, and…  Kerry wiggled her fingers and regarded the ring on her hand. "And pretty much committed to each other, I think." She took a moment out and allowed the joy she was feeling to bubble up, making her skin tingle.

"Kerry?" Dar's hesitant voice broke her out of her dreamy state.               

"Uh… sorry." She pushed herself upright and took the cup her lover was holding out. "I was um… just thinking."

"Uh huh." Dar dropped down in the chair next to her. "I'm not going to ask about what.. but based on that look you had, I hope it wasn't the coffee."  She handed her the requested paper. "Here.. it's tomorrow's edition of USA Today."

Kerry took it, and laid it down in her lap, then gave Dar a look over the rim of her cup. "It wasn't the coffee." She admitted, taking a sip. "I have this little ball of happy inside me, and I was just playing with it."

Dar bit down on her cup edge, and her eyelashes fluttered in surprise. "That's an interesting way to put that." She chuckled. "Very poetic."

Green eyes twinkled gently. "I said you bring that out in me, didn't I?"

Her companion grinned frankly. "Funny… why do I bring out the worst in everyone except for you?" She leaned on the chair arm and pressed her shoulder against Kerry's, glancing down at the paper. "Anything interesting?"

Kerry flipped through the pages as Dar relaxed, closing her eyes and taking slow, idle sips of her coffee.

"Hey Dar?"


"What's a CIO?"

Dar regarded the popcorn ceiling reflectively. "Chief Information Officer… it's a person who sits on the board of directors of a company.. charts strategy for IS, sets policy, that kind of thing. "  She sucked down a mouthful of the mocha. "Why?"

"We didn't have one of those." Kerry remarked.

"Nope.. Les has been waffling on that for two years.. since the last guy threw up his hands in disgust and walked off… he's got to give up control for that, and he just can't stand it." Dar crossed her ankles. "It's worked for me, because it takes out a layer of pretty useless management."

"Mm." Kerry slid closer, and put her arm around Dar's shoulders, putting the paper in front of her half closed eyes.

"What's that… " Dar's brow scrunched. "Oh.. shit, he finally found someone? Damn it.. who in the hell did he con into that?" The headline stated their company had named a CIO.


Dar went absolutely still, her eyes wide and staring for a long moment, before she shot upright, and grabbed the paper, bending her head to read the text. Her jaw dropped open, and she took in and released several breaths before an intelligible words came out. "That son of a bitch.. I'm gonna kill him." She managed to squeak out.

"Dar, honey… the usual response to a promotion is 'thank you', isn't it?" Kerry murmured, rubbing her back soothingly. "Not 'you son of a bitch, I'm going to kill you.'" She watched Dar's nostrils flare, and her jaw muscles work. "Hey…?"

Blue eyes pivoted and met hers. "He's toast."

Kerry touched her cheek. 'Why? If anyone in the world deserves that, it's you, Dar… we both know it." She rubbed the soft skin gently. "Why are you so upset?"

"He promised me nothing would change." Dar snarled. "Bastard."

"Dar… " Kerry leaned closer, catching her eyes. "Weren't you just telling me this morning you didn't want to go back to the same old thing? This gives you a chance to change things from the top."

The long hands gripped the chair arms with convulsive strength, as Dar's gaze turned inward, thinking. Finally her body relaxed, and she took a deep breath, returning her eyes to Kerry's face. "If he thinks I'm moving to Texas, he's got a surprise coming."

Kerry felt the tension drain from her. "I'm willing to bet you won't even have to change offices, Dar… he just saw a way to fix a problem, and you were it." She gave her lover a smile. "He put you in charge of everything, and every body, didn't he?"

The pale blue eyes blinked, considering.

"I just wonder why he didn't do it before." Kerry sighed.

Slowly, a grin started to twitch Dar's lips. "He knew he never had anyone who could step into my Ops job before." She drawled softly, putting a finger on the very tip of Kerry's nose.

"Oh no.. no. I'm not.. um.. " Kerry held up a hand. "No.. Dar, I've only been here for a few months.. no I… no.. Dar.. no… stop looking at me like that."

A dark brow lifted in question.

"Dar, don't be silly… I can't do your job." Kerry wailed softly.

"No." Now Dar's gaze was sharp, and appraising, and reminded Kerry very much of the cool judging she'd received on that very first day. "You can't do what I did the way I did it… but I bet you could find a way to do it your way."

"I can't.. "

"Then I can't accept this." Dar stated quietly. "Because you're the only one I trust to replace me."

Kerry felt breathless. "Dar, that's not fair."

"No. it's not." Her lover replied. "Life sometimes isn't."

They looked at each other in silence. Dar sighed. "At least think about it." She asked quietly. "Please?"

Kerry glanced down at her boots, kicking the carpet a little, then she looked up." All right.. I'll think about it." She nibbled her lower lip. "Give me a day or so, huh?"

Dar looked like she wanted to argue, but she nodded. "Sure.. take your time." She settled back in her chair and shook her head. "I'm gonna kill him."

Kerry poked her lip out. "So am I." She muttered.

Slowly, they turned, and regarded each other seriously. Then Dar started to laugh, and after a moment, Kerry joined her. They both wound down, then started up again, until Kerry just buried her face in Dar's shoulder, and curled a hand around her arm, helpless with giggles.

"I got an idea." Dar pulled her sneakered feet up and tucked an arm around her knees. "Why don't we change our tickets, and go to Plano, and show up at his house with rubber hatchets?"

Kerry peered up at her. "You really are a brat, aren't you?" She laughed.

A wicked, sexy smile answered her. "YOU.. bring that out in ME." Dar told her, shaking a long finger at her. She looked up as the boarding agent was clearing her throat, and picking up her microphone. "Ah.. .looks like it's time to go."

Kerry finished off her coffee and stood, flexing her arms and wincing as her shoulder popped into place. "Ow." She reached down for her laptop, but found it taken from her fingers, and a warm hand touching her back. "Dar, I can carry my own bag."

"Yes, I know." Dar told her, lowering her voice. "But it's my privilege to do it for you."

"Ah. I see." Kerry mused, allowing herself to be gently steered towards the airplane ramp. "Privilege." She murmured very softly, almost under her breath, as she handed over her boarding pass to the smiling agent. "Thank you."

She took back her stub, and entered the long boarding tunnel, along with a straggling of the few other passengers on the evening flight. She slid in to the window seat in the first row of the airplane, and watched as Dar put their bags in the overhead bin, then sat down next to her, letting her hands rest on her thighs.

"Be glad to get home." The taller woman sighed.

"How's your knee doing?" Kerry asked, as she leaned on the console between them. "I noticed you weren't limping anymore."

Dar nodded a little. "Fine… it doesn't hurt… it was a little bit stiff this morning, but it feels great now." She gazed at the joint, hidden under stonewashed fabric. "Find out tomorrow when I run on it, I guess."

A blond brow lifted at her. "And if it hurts?" She knew better than to argue about the running.

Dar took a breath to answer, then found intense green eyes watching her. "I can worry about myself, you know."

A smile. "I know.. " Kerry wrinkled her nose. "But it's my privilege to do it, too." She told her lover. "It works both ways, Dar… we're responsible for each other, okay?"

"Okay." Dar snuggled back in the leather seat, and accepted a glass of wine from the steward, passing it to Kerry then taking one for herself. She took a sip and rolled it around her mouth a few times before she swallowed it.

Someone else being responsible for her. What a weird thought. It'd been a very, very long time since anyone had wanted to do that.

But you know.. Dar considered it seriously. I think I like that idea.