Standard Disclaimers - I don't need any for this story. All the characters are mine. (laugh) I should probably disclaimer my use of my own company, but I won't, unless temptation gets too great, and I name the big boss "Les." Whoops.. I did that, but any resemblance to anyone real is coincidental. (the real one is one of the nicest people I've ever met, honestly)

What this is: This is an Uber story. (Oooo… that Uber stuff!) You get a general physical description likeness of the two gals in the story that will remind you of two old friends we all know well, but that's about it. The time period of this Uber is right now, and the place is Miami, Florida.

Why Miami? Well, I live here. Not only do I live here, but I've lived here for thirty years. That means I know all the stupid little quirks of the area, and since I'm going to give this Uber a stab, I might as well not overstress myself with doing research on an area I don't know. (Right? Right.)

The world my Uber darlings inhabit is my personal world - not that I'm a dungeon master or anything silly like that, but I do work for a company called EDS, and we do Information Technologies - we outsource IS to other companies, and absorb their own IS facilities and staff. In other words, we are the EDS Borg - you will be assimilated - Resistance is Futile. (I'm not making this up) The two characters will work and play in an area that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole however - so they're not autobiographical. I do technical and network support - I stay away from the business end of EDS, because that's the end you get stuck with, and not in a friendly place, if you know what I mean.

This isn't specifically EDS, but I've tried to maintain the flavor of our hierarchy though…and the goofiness that sometimes goes on behind the running of a megalithic corporation. The descriptions of our mainframes, however, are fictitious, along with any names of persons involved, and the various office locations with the exception of Plano. EDS does have its corporate HQ there.

Fisher Island, the place where Dar Roberts lives, is a real place. I used to work there. The descriptions of it are circa 1990 though - it's been built up a lot since then with more condos and stuff. All the places, and restaurants, and streets, and causeways are real. I didn't see any need to make them up, when Miami is a colorful enough place in real life without me doing that. It's kind of a tribute to my hometown - because I happen to really like it here.

Dar and Kerry are not super spies, or undercover agents, or renegades of any kind. They're not running from the law, or taking over third world countries (EDS runs a few, though) or anything like that. You might find their lives boring… I can't help that.. there's not going to be a lot of car chases, or gun battles, though this is Miami, and we're a pretty tough city, so anything can happen.

It's just a story about two people, who meet under very usual circumstances, and happen to change each other's lives.

Tropical Storm - Part 16

By Melissa Good

The soft sounds of motion from the kitchen floated through her ears, as Dar lay limply on the couch, about as totally relaxed as a human being could get and not dissolve into jello. She kept her eyes closed, and let her mind drift from subject to subject, nothing really making an impact on her conscious mind.

Kerry, though relatively inexperienced, certainly seemed to have her number right down pat. Dar stretched a little and relaxed again. And that had never happened before. Usually it took time, to get to know the other person's likes and dislikes, and have hers learned as well.

Not this time. Dar put her hands behind her head and exhaled, glancing down at her half clad body. It was almost as though they were just…

"Hey.. " Kerry poked her head out, and smiled, letting her eyes linger over the long, bare legs extended on the couch. "You hungry?"

Dar enjoyed the look, indulging her ego guiltily. "Are you?" She lifted a saucy eyebrow at her, and broke into a laugh as Kerry blushed a deep red. Dar found the mixture of gentle innocence and barely veiled desire incredibly attractive, and she rolled up off the couch, padding over to where her lover was standing. The green eyes dropped as she approached. "Hey." She gently laced her fingers through Kerry's hair and tipped her head back up. "You're beautiful when you blush."

Kerry gazed at her, lips twitching a little. "I am?" She murmured softly.

Dar traced the flushed skin, watching Kerry's eyes flutter closed as she leaned into the touch. "Yes, you are.. " She answered honestly, smoothing the fair hair back. "But I'm sure you've heard that before."

Kerry shook her head. "No… I usually get described… 'cute'." She let her eyes open, and smiled at her taller companion. She wrinkled her nose up. "Now you, on the other hand… " She reached up and brushed a fingertip over Dar's cheekbone. "Wow."

She was rewarded with a faint blush of her own. "Don't you tell me you've never heard that." The blond woman chided, with a grin.

Dar put her arms around her lover. "Never from someone I really wanted to hear it from before." The words slipped out, startling her, and exposing a rawness she hadn't really intended.

Kerry just hugged her back, giddily flattered. "C'mon… I'm going to burn something .." She slipped an arm around Dar's waist and pulled her into the kitchen. "

"So.. what did you conjure up?" Dar asked, as she sniffed interestedly at the pot bubbling away on the stove. "Looks like stew."

"Oo." The blond woman patted her. "Right guess, first time.. well, given what I had to work with , it was all I could really do.. it's got those two packages of shish kebab meat you had in the freezer in it.. and some canned vegetables and soup you had back in the hurricane supplies." She peered at Dar. "Tomorrow, we're going to go shopping, okay?" She tapped Dar on the shoulder with her serving spoon.

"Good idea." Dar deadpanned. "I'm almost out of Frosted Flakes." Her eyes twinkled as she dodged a mock blow. "Hey… I got you those little carrots.. and fresh fruit.. don't I get points?"

Green eyes slid sideways and regarded her as Kerry stirred her creation. "Actually, yes you do… that was very thoughtful, Dar." She commented. "Makes me feel right at home."

Hands settled lightly on her shoulders and squeezed. "Good." Dar answered with a chuckle. "Can I drain those noodles for you?"

They took their dinner out onto the patio, and set it down on the small stone table that faced the ocean. Dar disappeared inside and returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses, setting them down and opening the bottle with a graceful motion. She poured Kerry a glass, and then herself one, and sat down, propping her bare feet up on the spare chair. "Nice night out."

Kerry leaned back in her chair, and appropriated the fourth one as a footstool. "Very… not too hot, but not cold, either." She picked up her bowl of noodles and stew and started eating, her eyes watching the moonlit horizon. "Look at those lights.. are those cargo ships?"

Dar leaned over to see where she was gazing. "Mm… one of them is.. the other two are cruise ships… I think that one's the Norway." She shifted a little so their shoulders were brushing, then settled down with her dish.

"Mm.. I always wanted to go on a cruise… " Kerry commented, biting a piece of stew meat in half and chewing it. "I'd love to take you on one.. but I guess both of us disappearing at the same time for a week would be a little conspicuous, huh?"

Dar chuckled wryly. "Just a little.. pity, because the last bonus Les sent me was two tickets to an Alaskan Passage cruise." She took a mouthful of noodles. "This is wonderful, by the way.. you're amazing."

"Thanks." Kerry smiled. "Alaskan passage, huh? Wow.. I've always wanted to see inside a glacier." She munched on a string bean. "I've seen the Northern Lights twice.. when we had sunspots, and you could just see them at night up in Michigan.. but I'd like to see them in their proper place.. and I hear you can hear them, too."

Dar nodded, resting her head against the wall and gazing up at the huge, full moon. "They hiss, supposedly…kind of like the surf on the beach." The thought of spending a week with Kerry exploring Alaska suddenly seemed very, very attractive, and she sighed quietly to herself. "Yeah, it is too bad."

"Mm… " Kerry mused. "Do you like hiking?"

A chuckle. "As long as there's a comfortable lodge at the end of the trail.. sure.. I'm not much for rough camping." Dar replied. "Another reason the military was probably not a good idea." She paused. "Maybe we could work a long weekend in.. go up to Colorado and hike around a little.. they've got good horseback riding there too."

Kerry grinned. "Oo.. I'd like that…I haven't been riding since forever.. I miss it." She took a sip of her wine and swallowed. "Wow.. that's nice…hey, have you ever been up to the wine country, in California?"

Dar shook her head. "No.. can't say I have… I hear it's nice up there, though… have you?"

"Twice… maybe that can be another long weekend… you can take a tour of all the vineyards, and it's really pretty." The blond woman replied enthusiastically. "I've always wanted to go back there… "

Dar felt a silly smile crossing her face. She masked it by lifting her glass and drinking a deep swallow. "That sounds fun." She agreed soberly. "You… interested in some diving tomorrow? Weather's supposed to be nice.."

A nod. "After we go restock your kitchen." Kerry pointed her fork at her. "Even my creativity has it's limits… I don't think there's much I can do with grapes, milk, pizza, and peanuts." She shook her head. "I don't understand how you haven't just keeled over from scurvy or whatever it is people get who live on ice cream get."

Dar chuckled. "I take vitamins." She admitted. "We should probably get you a BC that actually fits.. and a weight belt.. that one you've been using is too heavy… tell you what, we can go out to the dive shop, and stop at the big Publix off Washington.. how's that?"

Kerry finished off her portion of stew and licked her fork. "Sounds good to me… " She agreed readily. "Though.. I don't know, give me a few months and I think I'll need that heavier weight belt." She gave Dar a rueful look as she patted her stomach. "Not that everyone with the exception of my mother hasn't told me how good I look." She conceded.

Dar studied her. "To hell with what everyone says.. how do you feel?" She asked, bluntly.

A long pause, as Kerry gazed out over the ocean. "Great." She finally answered, in a reflective voice. She let her hand fall to her bare thigh, flexing it and watching the muscles move under her skin. "Getting a lot more of these, I think.. instead of just more padding." She admitted. "Feels kinda good, actually."

Dar reached over and extended her hand, smiling when Kerry took it, and curled her fingers around the taller woman's. "Well…in my opinion, you look fantastic… and I'm the one who gets to see you naked the most, so… "

Kerry burst into an embarrassed giggle. "Dar!"

"Hey.. it's true." The executive protested, with a smile, then she turned her attention to the water. "Can I interest you in a little walk in the moonlight?"

A squeeze on her fingers. "Absolutely."

Dar stood and collected their bowls. "C'mon… I hear a hot fudge sundae calling me down at the market."

Kerry latched on to the back of Dar's shirt, following her inside. "Where you go, I go." She assured the taller woman lightly.

They both stopped, and looked at each other, twin shivers going down two spines. "Well." Dar finally said softly. "I think I like that idea."

Kerry nibbled her lip, wondering where the words had come from. "Mm… yeah, me too." She smiled. "Guess we'd better put some shorts on though…meet you back down here." She trotted u the stairs, leaving a quietly reflective Dar behind.


"What about this one?" Kerry picked up the nearest jacket, and held it up. "It's… colorful."

Dar glanced up, then chuckled. "Oh yeah.. no doubt about it.. I'd be able to find you at 100 fathoms in that."

The Dacor buoyancy compensator had bright pink and green pockets, and was dazzlingly bright. Kerry slipped it over her shoulders and faced her friend. "Well?"

The taller woman sauntered over and adjusted the device, buckling it across Kerry's chest and stepping back to judge the effect. "Nice."

Kerry grinned, and bounced a little, then unbuckled the catches and shrugged out of the vest. "Okay.. and.. you said a new weight belt, right?" She mentally added up the cost, and nodded a little. Her bills were paid for the month, and her raise allowed for little luxuries like this. She picked up a dark pink web belt, liberally studded with small pink weights. "How's this?"

Dar studied it, then hefted the weight. "Yeah.. that'd' be okay." She judged. "Here.. " She added a pair of snug fitting neoprene booties. "Oh…" She went to a rack holding wetsuits and pulled off one with short sleeves and mid thigh length legs. "This too."

Kerry fingered the thin neoprene. "Ah.. to protect against jellyfish?"

Dar stepped closer. "No.. I just think you'd look really good in it." She muttered softly, her eyes twinkling.

"Tch.. Dar." Kerry's face wrinkled up into a mildly embarrassed smile. "Let me pass on this right now.. it's a little over my budget."

Blue eyes flicked over the supplies, then to her face. "I could.. um.. "

A hand touched her arm. "No." Kerry's voice dropped a little, and she glanced around. "I appreciate the thought, Dar… but I'm responsible for myself, okay?"

The dark haired woman drew breath, then let it trickle out her lips. "All right.. I was just.."

Kerry smiled at her. "I know…and I let you get away with it with my fish… and those plane tickets, but it's important to me to stand on my own two feet."

Dar looked almost comically crestfallen. "Um.. " She looked around. "Look.. the truth is, between my salary, and the bonuses Les keeps dumping on me, I've got this huge lump of funds stuck in a couple of accounts at the credit union.. and I've.." She paused, and exhaled. "I haven't had anyone in my life in a while that I really wanted to spend it on." She shrugged a little. "I didn't mean to insult you or anything."

Kerry was at a loss for words. "Uh." She frantically searched for some kind of response, and realized she was just out of luck. So she merely looked up into Dar's eyes and tried to express what her heart was feeling silently.

Her companion produced a little smile, and glanced around the store. "We about done here?"

For a sophisticated, intelligent, aggressive woman, Dar certainly could present an excellent imitation of a spanked puppy sometimes, Kerry noted mournfully. Maybe it was the way she stuck her hands in the pockets of her shorts. "Dar?"

Those pretty blue eyes focused on her. "Yes?"

Kerry gathered up her vest, belt and booties then handed her taller companion the wetsuit and lifted her eyebrows. "Since you think it'll enhance the visuals."

A flash of white as Dar smiled, and took possession of the suit.

A compromise. Kerry reasoned, as she made her way towards the cash register. "Hey.. " She stopped, as her eye caught a bathing suit in crimson with deep gold slashes in it.

Dar peered over her shoulder. "Not your size." She commented regretfully.

Green eyes studied her speculatively. "No.. but I bet it's yours." Her nose crinkled up in a mischevious grin. "Fair's fair."

One dark eyebrow lifted slowly as Dar gave her a look, then plucked the suit off the rack without another word and headed up to the counter.

"Heh." Kerry chortled softly as she followed.


"Good thing I brought the truck." Dar commented, putting the last bag in the back of the Lexus, and giving her companion a slightly amazed, slightly alarmed look. "You actually use all that stuff?"

Kerry put a hand on her back. "Believe it or not.. yes.. when you actually cook real food with real ingredients, it's not just pulling something out of a box and nuking it."

Dar closed the back hatch and put her hands on her hips. "Sure is easier that way." She commented teasingly.

"Yes, it is." Kerry agreed. "But it's a lot less healthy for you, because of all the junk they put in there to keep the food from crystallizing when they freeze it… I think that stuff turns your ears blue or something."

"Oh." Dar considered this. "I guess that makes sense." She walked around and got into the car, waiting for Kerry to do the same. "You up for some café con leche?"

Speaking of unhealthy. Kerry gave her companion a wry look, but didn't resist. "Sure." She agreed readily, acknowledging to herself that she'd become somewhat addicted to the sweet coffee and the tiny pastries that would go with them. Her stomach growled, already anticipating the cheese and guava ones she particularly liked.

Dar navigated the beachfront streets with skill, pulling into the back parking lot of a small Cuban cafeteria and parking. Kerry took a deep breath of the morning air contentedly, tasting the strong hint of salt on it. "Nice morning." She complimented the weather, being in the lower seventies, and much less humid than it had been recently. The sun was warm, but not overbearing, and the breeze fluttered the thin fabric of her T-shirt against her body.

She felt… it was like having been in school, and now she was out on summer break, Kerry decided, but with the knowledge that there was no fall term to go back to. In a way, it was like when she graduated college, and started out on her first real job. Everything changed.

Now it was again, as she took slow, tentative steps towards a whole new life, allowing the reality of a partnership with Dar to sink in. It felt so strange, but in a weird way, familiar.

She was hurting over her parents, and she knew that. She knew it would be a long time before she could think about them and not feel the grief of not being accepted… but on the flip side, it felt so, so good to not have to measure up to their standards anymore. Now she was free to set her own standards.

The sea breeze blew cleanly across her, and a gull circled over head, as Kerry smiled up at the fluffy white clouds floating lazily overhead. What was that about breaking eggs to make omelets? Her eyes slipped sideways, to the tall form pacing beside her. What kind of omelet are you, hmm? My favorite kind, I think.

Dar felt a quiet contentment drop over her, and she was surprised at how easily her lone, and sometimes prickly nature accepted Kerry's close and constant presence. She'd been skeptical of her own ability to adjust to that, but her subconscious had apparently been fooling her all along into thinking she was happier alone.

It wasn't true, and she knew it now. She'd just had to find the right person. She wondered briefly if Kerry felt the same way.

She hoped so. She really, really did. Dar found herself very much looking forward to building a lasting relationship with her blond companion.

She reached out and opened the door to the cafeteria, releasing the heady scents of the thick Cuban coffee and pastries into the salty air. They entered, and she ordered for them in a workmanlike, slightly accented Spanish that caused Kerry to give her an amazed look. "What?"

"I had no idea you spoke Spanish." The blond sputtered.

Dar shrugged. "Enough to get by, sure…" She sat down on a vacant stool and motioned her companion to do the same, as they waited for their order. The cafeteria was mostly full of other patrons, most enjoying various types of coffee, and either the pastalitos or full breakfasts. "Oh. .hmm.. " She turned and got the waitresses attention and pointed at a nearby plate. The woman nodded, and smiled at her.

"What is that?" Kerry peered at her.

"Cuban Egg McMuffin." Dar replied, with a grin. "Eggs, cheese, and bacon on toasted Cuban bread." She watched Kerry cover her eyes. "You can have half."

"Jesus." Kerry moaned. "You are so corrupting me." She sighed, and picked up the warm, flaky pastry the waitress had settled in front of her, taking a bite and enjoying the combination of sweet and tangy. "I spent most of Thanksgiving night wondering why everything was so damn tasteless.. then I remembered my mother has them cook everything without salt, butter, or cream."

"Yuck." Dar munched on her sandwich, nudging the other half over to Kerry's plate. "What purpose do potatoes serve if you can't use them as a delivery vehicle for all three of those things?" She asked, reasonably.

Kerry gave her a look, then nibbled a corner of the sandwich. "Mm… that certainly is better than an Egg McMuffin." She admitted.

A chuckle. "Relax… look around." Dar flicked her eyes around the room. "This is standard Cuban fare.. you see all the old folks around here? It won't kill you." She stood up and gathered her bag of pastalitos. "C'mon… we'd better get that stuff in the refrigerator."

They walked outside and headed around the corner of the small building, into the lot that was bordered by the cafeteria on one side, and an apartment complex on the other.

Two dark figures rose up, and the distinctive sound of a gun cocking stopped them both in their tracks, as Kyle circled in front of them, holding an automatic in a capable grip. "Well well."

Dar got in front of Kerry and stared at him, her heart starting to pound in alarm. "Don't you know when to quit?" She asked quietly.

Kyle laughed. "Did you really think the Senator was going to just let you walk away with his daughter?" He motioned his partner over a little. "If she makes a move towards me, shoot the bitch.. I'm not taking any chances."

Kerry edged in front of her taller companion. "Kyle, what do you want? My father made his wishes pretty clear, and that was for me to leave. I did."

"Oh no." Kyle moved a little closer to her. "I convinced him otherwise.. I'm not letting a little pissant like you ruin my plans." He smiled at her. "Now, go over there like a good little girl, and we're going to get in that car, and leave." He glanced at Dar. "And don't bother with your threats… we know it was a bluff."

Dar studied him. "I don't bluff." She stated quietly. "You're going to find that out very shortly."

He ignored her. "Come on, Kerry… over here." The gun pointed at her. "Hurry up.. we've got a plane to catch."

Kerry exhaled slowly, and moved.

Backwards, until she was pressed against Dar's warm body. "No." Her eyes found his. "You've taken away every god damned thing I've ever loved in my life from me. You're not taking this you son of a bitch." Her jaw clenched.

"Don't be stupid, girl." Kyle said, from between gritted teeth. "You know this is in your best interests.. now move!" His voice rose to a commanding bark.

"Bite me." Kerry replied. "Now you better get out of here, before I call the cops and have your disgusting, ugly ass arrested."

He raised the gun, and pointed it at Dar. "Fine.. I can see the roadblock.. one more bullet riddled corpse in Miami.. who in the hell would even notice." He motioned to Dar. "Move away from her."

Kerry reached behind her and grabbed hold of her companion. "No."

"Stupid bitch." Kyle lifted his aim towards Dar's head. "I wanted to save myself the cost of buying you something to wear not blood splattered. He aimed carefully. "Say goodbye to your lover, you pervert."

Kerry felt arms close around her. "Go on." The low voice shivered down her spine. "I'll be all right."

She felt a rage building. "Why are you doing this, Kyle? Even if I go with you, I'll never stay.. we both know that… why can't you just leave me alone?"

"Because no worthless woman is going to get one over on me, that's why." Kyle answered bitterly. "You're going to come with me, and I'm going to see you back where you belong, like I promised your father I would." He motioned. "Now move, or I shoot your pal there."

Kerry hesitated, then she turned and hugged Dar. "I'll be back." She murmured softly. "I promise you."

Dar saw the triumphant look in Kyle's eyes, and understood what was behind it. She put her arms around Kerry and hugged her back. "Take care of yourself." She whispered. "I love you.. don't ever forget that."

It hurt. Kerry tried not to think about how happy she'd been just a half hour previously, then she released Dar, and backed off a little, turning to face Kyle with a fierce expression. "You're going to pay for this."

He reached out and jerked her closer, then shoved her towards the waiting car. "Oh no.. but I'm going to enjoy this moment for a long time." He raised the gun, and aimed at Dar. "Sending you to hell, bitch… say hello to Satan."

Dar met his eyes grimly.

"No!" Kerry yelled, throwing herself forward, between the gun and her lover, as Kyle's finger whitened on the trigger.

Dar met her halfway, grabbing her out of mid air and whirling around to protect her body from the gunshot, as both Kyle and his partner fired at the same time.

The seagulls yelled a protest, and scattered, leaving the street in curious silence. Slowly, a dark head raised up from the dusty surface, and looked around. "Wh… " Dar blinked, seeing the two, slumped figures not far from them. She glanced down at Kerry, who was huddled under her, both hands clenched tight in Dar's shirt. "Hey.."

Green eyes fluttered open, and Kerry gazed up at her in shock. "What happened?" She whispered.

Dar rolled to one side, and blinked. "I…. " Her eyes took in the two still forms, and the dark puddles spreading from under them. "I.. .did they shoot each other? I don't unders…" She looked quickly around, seeing the furtive eyes peering out of the back window of the restaurant. "Guess I'd better call the cops." She stood, then offered Kerry a hand up. "Are you all right?"

Kerry staggered to her feet, and fell against Dar's body, clutching her unsteadily as she gazed in horror at the two men. "Oh my god." She whispered.

Dar put an arm around her before she unclipped her cell phone from her belt and started to open it. A gentle scuffing interrupted her, however, and she looked around, to see a tall, shadowy figure standing against the restaurant's back wall.

It was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, with the hood up and pulled, shading it's face from her view, but… She let her hand drop, and moved a few steps closer, trying to make out clearer details.

The fabric moved as the figure took a breath. "Easy there, Dardar."

Kerry felt her lover's body go dead still, then start to shiver. She forgot about the two slumped bodies. "Dar?"

The taller woman walked a few steps more, stiffly. "Dad?" Her voice was hoarse with disbelief. "Wh.."

The man held up his hands, palms outward. "Just take it easy.. I didn't want ta have this happen like this.. but jerks with guns, ya know how it is." He backed up as step as she approached. "Hold on there… just .."

Dar stopped, utterly confused. "Wh.. .they said you.. but.. we saw the b.."

"I know." He sighed. "I know… I got into a situation over there.. and got messed up. I… well, let's just say I don't look to good, all right?"

"Who the hell cares what you look like?" Dar managed to get out, her voice cracking. "How .."

"I care." The quiet response came back. "I care, and I couldn’t face the look in your mother's eyes when she saw what's left." He paused a moment. "So I decided not to have them correct the KIA… and that's just how it is." Another pause. "How is she?"

"I don't know." Dar's voice was fracturing. "She hasn't spoken to me since the funeral." Her knees started to buckle, and she felt Kerry wind a strong arm around her.

A soft sound of dismay came from the shrouded figure. "Hell."

Dar slowly started moving forward again. "She needs you." Kerry hung back, watching, and waiting, almost holding her breath.

He pressed against the wall. "Don't come over here, honey.. she doesn’t need me like this." His voice sounded very sad. "And I don't want you… Dar, please." His body shifted. "G'wan and get out of here.. I'll take care of the trash."

She didn't stop, and now she was close enough to see the twisted flesh half hidden under the hood. "Daddy." Her voice cracked. "I miss you."

His whole body jerked in reaction. "Aw, honey.. I miss you too… I miss you both.. so much it makes me crazy.. I …"

Two more steps, and she was there, close enough to touch him, before he could react, and she lifted her hands, evading his startled grasp and gently cradling his head. Her eyes met his, blue on blue, and she absorbed the wreck that was left of his once handsome face without flinching. "It's all right." She told him in an anguished whisper.

A scarred hand lifted and brushed her cheekbone lovingly. "I'm damn sorry, Dardar…I never wanted to hurt you… either of you."

Dar just shook her head, and gently folded her arms around him, pulling him close against her. 'I'm just glad you're alive." She murmured.

He sighed, and rested his head against hers. "Most of the time, I'm surely not." He released her and stepped back. "You better get a going…let me clean this mess up." He gazed at her, blue eyes brilliant against the dark red scarring. "You promise me not a word to your mother."

Dar took a breath to protest, then remembered who she was dealing with. "On one condition." She gazed at him. "That you don't disappear out of my life again."

He watched her for a moment. "You think you can change my mind if you keep at me long enough." He chided her gently.

A faint, pained smile. "Deal?"

He ducked his head, letting the hood cover his face again. "Only been stateside a month or two… been keeping an eye out on you since then." He kicked a rock. "All the trouble you seem to be getting yourself into.. guess I'd better stick around." He sniffed reflectively, then glanced over at the silent Kerry. "You gonna introduce me to your girlfriend?"

Dar accepted the answer, and put an arm around Kerry's shoulders. "This is Kerry Stuart." She stated quietly. "Kerry, this is my father, Andrew."

Kerry reached down and took his hands in hers, and squeezed them. "I'm really glad to meet you." She gazed into the wreck of a face with gentle acceptance. "Thank you for.. " Her eyes drifted back to the still forms. "Saving us."

His lips pursed a little. "You've got a lot of guts to be jumping out in front of bullets like that, young lady." He commented. "Made for a hell of a shot."

"I wasn't really thinking." Kerry admitted, then she exhaled. "Shouldn't we… I mean, call the police? " Her eyes strayed again to the still forms, now attracting interested birds.

Andrew Roberts shifted, and drew a gun from the pocket of his sweatshirt. "Might be hard to explain hows two Navy bullets got into their heads, eh? Let me take care of this.. I'm used it it." He gave Dar a gentle nudge. "Get outta here, sprout…I'll be in touch with you."

Dar gently stroked his cheek, feeling the scarring under her fingertips. "You'd better be." Reluctantly, she backed off, feeling Kerry's hand on her arm, and she walked backwards until they were at the Lexus, and he was out of their sight.

Kerry took the car keys from her and opened the passenger door, pushing her inside. "Go on. I'll drive." She was pretty shaky herself, but the stunned look on Dar's face took precedence. She walked around and got into the driver's seat, adjusting the length automatically and starting the engine. Dar was leaning against the passenger door, her eyes glued to the building corner hiding the alleyway from view. "Can I make an appointment to have a nervous breakdown?" She inquired weakly.

Dar turned her head, and gazed at her. "Get in line." She responded, with a wry look. "Let's go home. We've got a lot to talk about."

Home. Kerry exhaled, and shifted the car into gear. Sounds great to me.


It was a very, very quiet drive back. Kerry finally sat back, once they were safely on the ferry, and rolled her head to one side, regarding Dar's profile. She sighed. "I think I like your father."

Dar blinked, and turned her head. "Yeah?" She murmured. "I never…" She let the words trail off. "I can't believe he's alive."

Kerry nodded a little. "I can't believe Kyle's dead."

Now the blue eyes were serious. "We came very close to being that way."

The blond woman exhaled. "I know… though I don't think that's really registered yet, because I haven't run screaming off into the horizon." She paused thoughtfully. "I think I owe you an apology."

Dar's jaw dropped a little. "For… what?"

"Putting your life in danger." Kerry answered softly. "Twice."

"Oh that..." Dar shrugged. "Don't worry about it." She patted Kerry's arm, and left her hand there, her thumb making small circles against the soft skin. "You're definitely worth the risk." She smiled a little. "Beside.. you put your neck on the line for me back there."

"Well.. duh." Kerry blushed and glanced down. "Like I’d just sit there and let someone shoot you." She covered Dar's hand with her own, and rested her head against the taller woman's shoulder. "You're the most important person in my life.. I have no intentions of losing you." She kept her eyes on the leather seat, not daring to look up to see Dar's reaction.

Which was a pity, because she missed a round eyed look of absolute, quiet wonder bestowed on her by her companion. "You know.. I was.. kind of hoping you felt like that." Dar murmured.

The soft clank of the waves against the ferry's rigging drifted in the open window of the Lexus. "Why/" Kerry whispered.

Dar rested her head against the smaller woman's. "Because I feel the same way."

"Oh." Kerry smiled, closing her eyes. "I guess that's all right then."

They stayed like that until the ferry docked, and Kerry steered the car up the ramp and through the winding roads to the parking spot they'd left a few hours and a lifetime ago. She helped Dar carry the groceries and their new diving gear inside, and they put things away in a comfortable silence.

Finally, Kerry dropped into the loveseat, and gazed at the ceiling, while Dar puttered around the kitchen. She could hear the microwave beeping, and predicted smelling the rich, distinctive scent of chocolate next.

Dar didn't disappoint her, and she smiled as the tall, dark haired woman padded into the living room, handing her a gently steaming cup of hot chocolate. She took a seat next to her companion, and propped her bare feet up on the coffee table.

They looked at each other in quiet regard for a long moment. "Been quite a month." Dar commented, taking a sip of her chocolate.

"Oh yeah." Kerry agreed. "It sure has been." She swallowed a mouthful of the sweet beverage. "I should start keeping a diary.. if this is what life's going to be like from now on."

Dar laughed gently. "Jesus.. I hope not…it would end up sounding like some crazy television show." She laid an arm across the back of the couch, and tangled her fingers in Kerry's hair. "Listen.. I know it's been a rough weekend…" She paused, collecting her thoughts, then went on. "And I know you're going to need some time to get used to things, but um… "
Kerry put down her chocolate, and edged over, slipping her arms around Dar's body and leaning against her. "But um what?"

Dar blinked at her, putting down her own cup and returning her embrace. "But um… " Her brows knit. "I really think we work well together."

Kerry sniffed reflectively. "Well.. that's true… we have different approaches, but we generally get to the same point." She was fairly sure Dar's speech had nothing to do with work, but she was willing to go along with the charade. "You're a logical person, and you usually get right to the heart of the problem and fix it."

"Uh… right." Dar agreed, hesitantly.

"Usually." Kerry repeated, tipping her head back and gazing up at her companion.

"Usually what?" The dark haired woman hazarded.

"You usually get right to the point." Kerry stated, patiently.

"Oh.. right.. yeah, I do." Dar muttered. "I know I do…, in fact, there's a point around here and I'm going to get to it as soon as I figure out what the hell it is."

Kerry buried her face into Dar's chest, and muffled a laugh.

Dar sighed. "You have this knack of making me feel like a lovestruck teenager, did you know that?"

Green eyes peeked up at her. "Is that good or bad?"

"Well, it certainly blows my image all to hell." Dar replied, with a faint laugh. "So I guess my asking you if you want to move in here wont' do much worse."

Kerry swallowed hard. "Guess you found the point, huh?" She asked softly.

"Guess I did." The dark haired woman admitted. "Look.. I know you can't just give your place up.. for one thing, changing your address in CAS is going to cause one hell of a ruckus… but.. I…" She gathered her courage up again. "I really like having you around.. and I'd like to try making a life with you."

Kerry felt a deep, honest warmth creeping over her. "Now.. that's more like it." She murmured, then fell silent as she considered the request. "Work is going to be extremely weird." She finally said. "And you're right… I really can't just give my place up… at least not yet." Another pause. "And you probably need time to adjust to the invasion."

Dar didn't deny any of the statements.

"Tell you what.. why don't we do weekends here, and the rest of the week I can stay down in Kendall.. then on Wednesdays, you can come over after the gym." It seemed a good compromise, giving them both a little space and time to adjust to each other.

Dar blinked at her. "So.. is that a yes?"

Kerry blushed a little, and nodded. "I'd very much like to make a life with you." She inclined her head, and they kissed gently. "Dar?"

"Yes?" The dark haired woman smiled fondly at her.

"Can you show me the stuff you found out about with my father?"

The request caught Dar by surprise, and it showed in her swiftly elevated eyebrows. "Eh… sure…" She stood, and extended a hand down to her companion. "Sorry.. I forgot I told you I'd show you all of that… " She led Kerry into her office and settled behind her desk, keying the computer to life, and starting up her mail program.

"Mm… I like that ISDN line." Kerry commented, leaning an arm on Dar's shoulder and peering over it.

Dar typed in a request, and brought the mail which held the information up. "You know.. that little room in the middle upstairs would make a nice little office." She commented innocently. "I could have the other channel dropped in there."

"Dar?" Kerry whispered. "You don’t' have to bribe me with toys."

Blue eyes peeked up at her. "Wasn't a bribe… I have to know where to tell Bellsouth to put the jack, that's all." She straightened, and indicated the screen. "You sure you want to see all this?"

Kerry regarded her quietly. "I'm a big girl, Dar… yes. I want to read it."

"All right." The taller woman stood up and indicated the chair, then she walked over to the window they'd opened during the tropical storm and leaned on the sill, peering out while Kerry read.

The documents were ugly, even to Dar's experienced, and somewhat jaded eyes. Years worth of accepting bribes, standard among a percentage of politicians, but bribes which lead to the stonewalling of legislation that hurt people, and disregarded the common good. Payoffs for jobs, for bills, for votes… all depressingly regular.

It was the funding by right wing extremist groups that made her nauseous, millions of dollars over the course of a career socked away in private bank accounts, to further the interests of people whose chief platform was hate.

That and the hypocrisy of that other family.. that woman and her children, being supported by the Senator, she and two of the older children in comfortable government jobs, and supplied with generous benefits and stipends.

Oh, and the tax fraud. Dar wondered if Kerry realized she and her sister were still being listed as dependents, and her still on the books at some school, enrolled?

Disgusting. She heard a the click of keystrokes and turned, to see Kerry eyes flicking over the screen.

"I'm forwarding this to my mailbox." The blond woman murmured. "That was… really kind of slimy to read, Dar."

She settled warm hands on Kerry's shoulders. "I know…the entries from United Klan's of America kind of got to me."

Kerry logged out, then logged in as her own account, the screen popping up immediately. She accessed her mail and opened the documents again. "Dar… you know, I've been having to spend a lot of time with those marketing people… and they gave me a tour of their operation the other week."

Dar blinked in confusion. "Um… yeah… okay.. what does that have to do with anything?"

Kerry selected the documents, then opened a new mail message and pasted them in. "Well, one of the things they showed me was their distribution network.. it's really kind of neat.. they can get information out by using a mailing list.. see? Like this." She addressed the message. "You just click.. here.. " She hit the send key. "And it gets sent to sixty different news outlets."

Dar's jaw dropped in utter shock. "Did you just… "

Green eyes looked calmly up at her. "Yes, I did." A pause. "You said it would be my decision, didn't you?"

"W.. but.. uh… yes, but I.. " Dar sat down on the desk, nonplussed. "Jesus, Kerry!"

"I wasn't going to." The blond woman stated softly. "But then he just couldn't let go… he couldn't just let me leave, he had to send that bastard down here.. because he thought we were bluffing. " Now she looked right up at Dar. "You told me if someone calls your bluff, you have to just go with it. So I did."

"You.. understand what that will do." Dar said, quietly. "Don't you?"

"Yes." Kerry answered, steadily. "I do." She studied the desktop. "I'll warn Michael and Angela." Her eyes lifted to Dar's still shocked face. "I surprised you, huh?"

A faint nod. "Yes, you did." She hadn't expected quite that level of vindictiveness in her friend. "I didn't think you… would do that."

Kerry sighed, and rested her chin in her hands. "If it had just been me… I probably wouldn't have, but they came after you." She rubbed her lip with her thumb. "That was too much, Dar… I can't have that.. maybe some of that ruthlessness I see in him came down to me." She blinked at the screen. "I feel pretty ruthless right now."

Dar slowly exhaled, and curled her fingers around Kerry's wrist, which was resting on the desk's surface. "No… what he did.. what Kyle did.. that was ruthless. What you did was justice."

"Maybe." Kerry murmured.

"I know you care about your family, Kerry…and this wasn't an easy thing for you to do." Dar gave her a sympathetic look. "In a way, we've both lost our families."

A slow, almost puzzled smile crossed the blond woman's face. "But there are two kinds of families, Dar… the ones you're born into, and the ones you make yourself… " She looked up and met the blue eyes regarding her. "And our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could." Memory chimed, clear and piercing as a bell.

Dar smiled acknowledgment, holding up one hand, palm outstretched, and watching Kerry's fingers curl into hers. "You are my family." She agreed, then reached into her shirt pocket. "By the way… thought you might want this back." She turned Kerry's palm over, and set a golden circle into it. "It's an interesting piece."

Kerry took the ring up between her forefinger and thumb and peered at it. "I always felt there was something behind it.. some story.. you know?" She turned it over. "Probably just an overactive imagination on my part.. though when my great aunt gave it to me.. it was kind of strange. She hadn't seen me since I was a… Jesus, probably three, four years old. I went to visit her after I got out of college, and when she saw me.. she had me stand in the light and just looked at me for about ten minutes… not saying anything.. then she laughed, and got this out and gave it to me."

"That is kind of strange.. " Dar agreed. "What kind of person was she.. did she do a particular thing, or… "

"Hmm? Oh.. she was a writer." Kerry sighed. "Poetry… and these lyric, old fashioned stories about the past, and knights, and things like that." A shake of her head. "The family mostly though she was a little crazy… I liked reading her stuff, though… she even had a story about Paladins." Her eyes twinkled teasingly at Dar.

Who rolled her eyes and chuckled a little.

Kerry was silent for a moment, then she looked up. "What your father does is kind of scary, isn't it?"

Dar nodded soberly. "Yes… it is.. it can be horrific, too. I know you probably felt a little strange about not getting the police involved in that whole thing.. and to be honest, so did I."

"Mm." The blond woman murmured an agreement. "I mean.. I can see the point.. but it makes me kind of sick to my stomach to know they're just going to.. um… disappear or something… can we even tell his family.. Brian, I mean.. what happened?"

"I… " Dar thought a minute. "I don't think we can.." She sighed. "I wish there was a better way to do it, though."

"Yeah." Kerry chewed her lip. "Is that.. I mean, what he does.. is that really what you wanted to do?" She looked up and searched Dar's face.

A sigh. "I thought I did, yes….for a long time."

"What about now?"

Dar remained silent, considering the question. "I think.. you hit a point where you.. I mean, when I was sixteen or so, and taking those tests, I was hot for it.. it seemed like the most exciting, the most incredible life I could imagine…I wanted it, really badly." A pause. "But now, I look back and think.. Jesus, was I nuts? " Dar sighed. "I'm glad, in a lot of ways, it worked out differently."

"Me too." Kerry twined their fingers, and looked up into her eyes. "For one thing, we probably would have never met.. and for another, I think that kind of thing puts a very heavy toll on your conscience… I can't imagine that."

"No.. I'm glad I don't have to bear that burden." Dar acknowledged softly. "Life's hard enough.. I'm glad I didn't take that path after all."

The green eyes gazing at her took on extra depth, as Kerry stood, putting a hand against her cheek tenderly. "So am I, tiger."

Dar felt a warm fist of emotion squeeze against her heart. "Tiger?" She murmured. "Haven't been called that in a long time." She laced her fingers around the back of Kerry's neck and gazed at her, blinking a little as a faint haze seemed to obscure her vision for just a moment. "Brings back a lot of memories."

"Does it?" Kerry whispered, feeling a tremor run through her knees, as their bodies drew closer and joined, and their lips met. An emotion half joy and half relief coursed through her, as they paused, and she leaned back, meeting eyes both newly met and well known.

"Welcome home." Dar's voice burred the words, low and sweet, as they joined again, in the warm light of a tropical winter's day.


The End.


Well, folks, this is the end. For now. Obviously, there are lots of things that have to be followed up on.. like.. the puppy, and Jack.. and how these two are going to survive at work, and…. Well, you get the idea. Thanks for taking this ride with me, and giving all the feedback on this little Uber thing.

Tropical Storm didn't start out to be a long story.. in fact, it was supposed to end after part 2. However.. something about these characters intrigued me, whether it was that they were living in a world so close to mine, or that I kept seeing echoes of my versions of Xena and Gabrielle in them… probably a little of both. I always wondered what Xena would have been like, given her competitive nature but without having gone down the dark path Ares led her on.. And what Gabrielle would have been like, given a chance to mature with intelligence and spirit intact. So Dar and Kerry are more equal, less serious, less traumatized… more like us.