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 9

By Melissa Good

"Computers are great things, Chino." Kerry mused, as she reviewed her screen. She was curled up in her leather office chair, her robe tucked around her and soft, fluffy pink booties on her feet. "Online banking really does make life a lot easier." She clicked on a screen, then typed in an amount. "Okay. .that's the last of the bills to pay.. I got my car, the credit cards…all set."  She made a tick mark on a piece of paper sitting next to her keyboard. "Let's not let mommy Dar see that one, hmm?"

The puppy glanced up at her and licked her chops.

"Yeah.. that's the bill for the ring… and she'd have my head on a platter, I think." Kerry laughed gently, picking it up and looking at it. "But it was worth it, and they said you should budget two month's salary for that kinda thing, right?"

"Yawp." Chino yawned.             

"Well, it's just our secret." She tucked the bill away. "Okay.. let's see where we are." She reviewed her bank balance, pleased with the result. "Hey.. that's not bad, Chino… " She glanced at her payments. "Okay, I think it's time to reduce one part of this."  She picked up the phone and hesitated, then took a deep breath and dialed. She waited through three rings. "Hi, Mr. Mahoney?"

A low, pleasant voice answered her.

"It's Kerry Stuart… yeah…I know, the lease is up next month. I wont' be renewing it." The words felt so strange, and had taken her so long to decide to say. "No.. no, it's great, I just… well, I'm living with someone.. and I wanted to make sure it worked out… you know."

The landlord was very understanding. "You've been a great tenant, Ms. Stuart…anytime you need a referral, you let me know, okay?"

"Thanks." Kerry responded. "I'll be by to pick up the few things I've got there… but there's nothing valuable - you can show the apartment if you want to."

"Right you are.. and I know it's in great condition… thanks for letting me know, Ms Stuart.. I really appreciate it." He paused. "And best of luck to you.. I hope things go really smooth."

"Me too." The blond woman responded. "Talk to you later."  She hung up, and regarded the phone. "Well, Chino.. that's that." She glanced at the puppy. "I mean.. it's not like I haven't been really living here before, but… " It was a line crossed, and she knew it. "She's stuck with me now."

"Grrrr.. yawp." Chino rolled over, and put her head down, peering up at Kerry sleepily.

"Hmm…" Kerry turned her attention back to the screen. "Okay.. now let's order some groceries. " She switched over to the internal Island site that allowed her to pick and choose what she wanted from an extensive list, and have it delivered. "Let me check…oooo.. Dar, you little piggy wonk…. I'm gonna hurt you." She shook a finger at the screen, as she clicked into the personal options, and changed the credit card the groceries were billed to back to her own. "Damn it, I can afford this, Dar. .how many times do I have to tell you that?"

Irritated, she clicked over to her email, and whipped off a short, scolding note to her lover, and sent it. "Bad girl."

Chino lifted her head and whined.

"Not you." Kerry reassured the puppy. "Now..let 's see… " She selected a variety of fresh produce, and some staples, then drummed her fingers, but went over to the goodies section and clicked on a number of Dar's favorites. "By all rights, I should restrict you to Brussels sprouts for that trick, but… " A mental image of the little puppy dog eyes Dar was capable of when the mood struck her surfaced, and caused a grin to appear on Kerry's face. "I can't resist that pout and you know it."

She finished her shopping, which she'd discovered one night while roaming around the Island website, and which Dar had no idea existed. "Not surprising.. " Kerry snorted softly "Coming from Ms. I can Live on Frosted Flakes."  She reached over and took a sip of her ginger peach tea, breathing in the fragrant steam with a sense of quiet pleasure.  The drugs had kicked in again, and she only felt a gentle ache, which was better than the spasms of the morning. Still, she was glad she was curled up here in her robe, with a heating pad nearby if she needed it.

Not that the pad could equal the comfort provided by a living, breathing Dar, but…Kerry smiled quietly, recalling her lover's solicitous attentions. She'd cope.

She set about balancing her checkbook, and putting things in order. "Hmm… we've got a little extra here this month, Chino… let's see if we can find a treat or two." She clicked over to an online computer store. "Ooo… digital camera… what do you say, hmm? Does that sound good? Is that a treat?"

The puppy heard the word "treat" and immediately got up and trotted over, standing up on her hind legs and putting her small paws up on Kerry's thigh. "Rgrro?"

"Oh.. you want a treat?" Kerry laughed, and fished a puppy biscuit from her pocket, giving it to the animal. "Here you go." She watched Chino chew for a  minute, then she returned her attention to her browser. "Yeah…that would be cool.. gimme."  She glanced down as her mail icon flashed. "Hmm?" She clicked it, and smiled as she saw the sender.

Roberts, Dar - Sent 11:22 AM

All right - consider me chastised. I switched it so I could take care of the boat charges, and forgot to switch it back. We could just get a joint card or something.


PS.. how are you feeling? I didn't want to call in case I woke you up.

Kerry studied the note, feeling a little prickle of recklessness. She hit reply, typed in a few words, and hit send. "Let's see what your answer is to that, Paladar." She grinned, then resumed her surfing.


Dar paused outside the conference room, running her fingers through her hair before she put a hand on the latch and pushed it down. She entered the long room and let the door close behind her, aware of the several pairs of eyes that fastened themselves on her. "Good afternoon." She remarked, as she moved around to the head of the table and sat down. The rest of the room contained representatives from two companies they'd just signed alliances with, along with representatives from sales and marketing and one of Duk's people.

"All right…we're here to discuss the potential acquiring of the statewide benefits contract in Idaho. " Dar pulled out a folder, and flipped it open. "Suppose you people fill me in on what progress you've made with the state government so far?" She flicked a cool glance at the company representatives from that state. "You want to start?"

They glanced at each other, then the older man cleared his throat. "Well, all right… "

It was a long meeting, and Dar was slightly frustrated by the time it ended, sensing a communication problem but unable to pinpoint exactly what it was. She kept trying to get information from the newcomers, but she could tell the older man, at least, was being evasive, and they all seemed to want to keep their strategies under their hats, and keep her company around just to pump cash into things.

That wasn't going to happen. Dar fiddled with a pen as they filed out, and scowled a little. "Elle.. hang on."  The marketing representative paused, then walked back across the now empty conference room and stood, visibly uneasy. "Relax.. sit down a minute."

The woman did, folding her hands on the table and waiting.

"What did you think about them?" Dar inquired.

"Me?" Elle's brows lifted. "Um… I don’t know.. they were okay, I guess.. a little on the quiet side."  She sniffed, and pushed her thin, wire framed glasses up on her nose. "I took them on a tour before the meeting.. they were kind of prickly, if you know what I mean."

Dar nodded, pursing her lips. "Yeah… I got that feeling myself… well, okay. Thanks."

Elle blinked at her. "Um.. you're welcome." She stood, and ducked her head a little awkwardly, then she turned and left.

Dar sighed, then stood and gathered her things, walking back to her office in time to see Maria returning with a large, white bag. "Hello, Maria."

"Is your meeting over, Dar?" The secretary held the door for her, and followed her inside. "I brought you back some arroz con pollo…from my trip outside."

Dar smiled at her. "Thanks… yeah, it just ended…I've got another one after lunch… then a conference call after that."

Maria bustled over to her desk, and put her bag down. "And how is Kerrisita doing?" She asked, pulling out a Styrofoam container and handing it to Dar. "I stopped at he farmaceria, and you take this home to her, yes?" She handed Dar a bag. "Is to make tea.. is good for her."

Dar held the bag. "Um… I.. I don't know, I haven't spoken to her since I left the house.. I'm sure she's fine.. and thanks, she likes tea."

Maria gave her a severe look. "Poor Kerrisita is home so sick, and you don’t' call her?" She scolded her boss.

"Uh." Dar was caught flat footed by the older woman. "It's just some cramps, Maria… she's not a baby, you know."

"That is not the point, jefa." Maria stated. "Is good she knows you are concerned, no?"

"Uh…" Dar gave up. "Yep. You're right.. I'll go call her. " She fled the outer office, and escaped into her own, putting her lunch down and circling her desk. "Jesus.. you'd think she was an infant or something.. I bet she's napping.. or she doesn't want me calling every five minutes… " With a sigh, she sat down and dialed her home number. It rang several times, and she was about to hang up when it was answered.   "Hey."

"Hey!" Kerry's voice perked up audibly as she recognized the caller. "Wow.. I was just thinking about you."

Dar settled her chin on her fist. "I was just thinking about you too.. I just got out of a meeting I wish you'd been at… maybe you could have given me some insight into a few new associates."  She sighed. "How're you feeling?"

"I answered that in the email." Kerry told her dryly. "Which I guess you haven't seen yet."

"Um.. " Dar sat down and rolled her trackball to check her mail. "Ah.. no.. I just got back.. let's see… oh." She started laughing. "Oh." She felt a blush coming on. "Well, I'm glad you liked the service last night."

Kerry chuckled as well. "It's on and off.. I take drugs, it gets better, then they wear off, and I feel like a manure pile…I don't know what's with me this time." She sighed. "Chino's keeping me company, though… and I've been surfing."

"Uh oh." The taller woman uttered. "That could be dangerous."

"Mm.. yes, it certainly could.. did you know Victoria Secrets has a great website?" Kerry asked, innocently.

Dar's blue eyes widened. "Any particular reason you're letting me in on this little tidbit of news?" She inquired, hesitantly.

"You like blue, right?" Kerry asked, ignoring the question.

"Um.. yes… why?" Dar felt her curiosity crawl up her spine and perch on her shoulders, almost making her lean forward towards the phone. "Kerry?"

"Yes?" The blond woman purred.  "Something wrong?"

Dar chewed her lip. "Um.. no." She felt a little thrill of excitement, almost of danger. "Nothing."

Her intercom buzzed. "Hang on.. " She pressed a button. "Yes, Maria?"

"Dar, I have a Mr. Evans, from Interlock, he is wanting to talk to you?"

Ah. Her reluctant associate. "All right.. give me a minute, Maria, then show him in." Dar pressed her other line. "If you're done teasing me, I've got a potato farmer that wants in here."

"Teasing? I'm not teasing you, Dar." Kerry objected, with a chuckle. "Can I interest you in a couple of burgers with the works for dinner? The Beach club just updated their menu, and they've got some new ones."

Dar smiled at the phone affectionately. "Sounds great to me… see you in a bit."

"Right.. have fun." Kerry hung up, and Dar exhaled, glad she'd taken Maria's advice. She glanced up as the door opened, and the tall, gray haired man entered. "Come in, Mr. Evans… Maria, thank you for reminding me of that pending issue."

The secretary looked blank for a moment, then she smiled, and shook a finger at her boss, but said nothing as she closed the door behind her. 

Dar motioned to her visitor chair. "Sit down, Mr. Evans.. I hope you won't mind if I catch up on my lunch while we talk." She didn't give him a chance to answer, as she pulled her Styrofoam container over, and popped it open, releasing the scent of saffron and garlic into the air. "What can I do for you?" She asked, pulling a fork out of the wrapped set of silverware that came with the lunch.

He seated himself, and crossed his legs, resting his hands on his knee and studying her. Dar maintained the eye contact, while she speared a piece of chicken and munched it. One brow lifted in question at him.

"Ms. Roberts, I'm not quite sure how to broach this." He spoke the words carefully. "I've spoken with my colleagues, and they feel as I do…and I'm afraid we have a difficulty with you.. ah.. your corporate culture."

Dar took a mouthful of rice and chewed it, while she considered the words. "Our corporate culture?" She repeated, then waved her fork at the walls. " You don't like oak paneling and maroon carpet?" She queried, honestly puzzled. "What corporate culture are you referring to?"

He hesitated. "It seems to us that your company has a very.. open.. policy on personal behavior." He stated. "As well as a great deal of diversity in your employee base."

One of Dar's brows rose. "Most people consider that a corporate asset." She informed him. "But what exactly are you getting at?" She paused, and chewed another piece of chicken. "Whose personal behavior are you getting offended by?"

He cleared his throat, obviously discomfited. "Yours, actually."

Dar stopped chewing, and just stared at him. Then she swallowed and took a sip of water from the glass on her desk. "Excuse me?" She almost laughed. "What is it you find offensive.. my tendency to doodle in meetings, or my eating lunch in front of you without offering you any?"

He looked at her. "We spent some time in your cafeteria this morning, and heard of a situation between you and your assistant."

It stopped being funny. Dar felt a cold wave sweep over her, and she knew it must have showed in her face, because she saw his reaction. She put her fork down slowly and precisely, then folded her hands on her desk. "And your problem with that is what?" She heard the drop in her voice, and felt the dark anger stir in her guts.

Dead silence for a dozen heartbeats. "We come from a god fearing part of the country, Ms. Roberts… and I, personally, find that kind of behavior disgusting." He looked right at her, lifting his chin a little. "And my colleges feel the same."

A dozen nasty retorts crossed Dar's mind, and she discarded them. "Well, Mr. Evans… our company's official policy is one of non discrimination…and I'm pretty damn proud of that.. I'm sorry you don't feel the same." She paused. "Let me make sure I understand, though.. you've got a problem with me because I'm gay, right?"

His face twitched at the word. "I accept Gods word on his views about that.. so yes."

"Let's not get into a debate on religion." Dar replied. "You won’t like my views on that, either, I'm sure." She took several deep breaths, to bleed off the angry tension. "All right… well, Mr. Evans.. in the first place, my personal life is no business of yours."

"I don't think we'll be comfortable dealing with you. " He interrupted. "And even if that were not so, your bowing to foreign culture here is something we find very upsetting…Mr. Roberts, do you realize a good portion of your employees do not speak English in the workplace?"

Dar felt her nostrils flare. "Mr. Evans, fifty percent of our employees have something other than English as their native language, based on the fact that they are citizens of another country."  She reminded him. "We are an international organization.. in case that slipped your mind."

"We find that.." He never got to finish. Dar stood up, and came around the desk, cold sparks flashing in her pale eyes.

"Do you know what I find offensive?" She growled, leaning on her desk. "I find your small mindedness offensive, Mr. Evans. So I'll tell you what… I'll call down to our marketing group, and we'll just call this little arrangement off, all right?"

"That was my objective, yes." He stood stiffly. "I'm sorry you cannot understand our feelings in the matter."

"I'm not." Dar let out a short laugh. "But let me tell you.. I'm going to have the publicity group release a statement saying we cut you loose because you were too prejudiced for us to deal with."

He drew himself up. "It's not prejudice, Ms. Roberts. It has nothing to do with that… it's just how we see ourselves, and who we prefer to deal with."

Dar just shook her head. "Then you'll find yourself on the inside of a circle growing smaller day by day, mister…and you know what?" She leaned closer, watching him edge back. "We'll go in there and take all the business away from you anyway."

"Not after we talk to those clients, and let them know what kind of people you are." He told her, smugly. "The rest of the country isn't like this place, Ms.. Roberts."

Dar smiled at him. One of her nastiest ones. "Mr. Evans.. when I'm done cutting a deal for them, they won't care if I'm a cross dressing transgendered muskrat."  She dropped her voice to a low growl. "Now , get out of here, before I have you thrown out."

He walked to the door, and looked back at her, his hand on the latch. "You are an abomination in the eyes of God, Ms. Roberts."

"Any god I believe in doesn't know what the word hate is, Mr. Evans." Dar replied mildly. "I pity you." She watched the door close after him, and let her held breath out. "Shit."

Damn it all to hell… stupid piece of shit righteousness stuffed up his butt son of a… Dar walked around her desk and dropped into her chair, shaking her head in disgust, as she considered what to tell Jose.

What a way to start out her new job.


"Two of these divisions aren't showing much profit." Duks pointed to a line on the page. "I think some changes need to be made there.. perhaps you could take a look."

Dar regarded the paper, and nodded. "They're not writing good contracts." She shook her head. "They're just putting in new business, and not really adding to the bottom line."  The late afternoon sunlight reflected into the office, and warmed her back. "I'll have their new stuff put under technical review."

"Good.. good." Duks stretched. "So.. how's it feel?"

Blue eyes regarded him in puzzlement. "How does what feel?"

"Being the master of all you survey?" The Finance VP replied, with a twinkle. "Did I hear a rumor you were going to cancel the Interlock agreement? What happened?"

Dar regarded her desktop. "Mr. Evans didn't think he could do business with us." She replied evenly.

Her phone buzzed. "Dar, is Mr. Jose on numero uno for you."

Dar sighed. "Okay. " She hit the button. "Yeah?"

"What is this I hear, you cut loose Interlock?" Jose's voice came through, thick with outrage. "What's this shit, Dar?"

"That's right, I did." Dar replied flatly. "He said he couldn’t work with us, so I cut him loose. Got a  problem?"

"Hell yes, I have a problem with that!" Jose shot back. "What do you think you're doing? We had a business plan in Idaho.. I am having seven major contracts going in there."

"Not with his cooperation. Try something else." Dar answered. "Go around him."

"Merde…that's a load of… what was his problem?" Jose demanded.

Dar hesitated, then her jaw clenched. "I was."

Dead silence. "You?" Jose spluttered. "Jesu, it figures.. did you tell him off or.. no, I bet he found out you're sleeping with that little slut of yours, and I tell you.. "

Duks got around the desk and grabbed Dar's hand, slamming his own down on the mute button. "Dar!" He called urgently, seeing the pale blue eyes go gray with fury. "Hold it.. "

"Let me go, Louis." Dar felt the tremors start. "I'm gonna fire his ass."

"Come on… listen to me." The Finance VP stood his ground, speaking softly. "He's an ignorant jerk, but life's full of them, and so's the company.. you can't fire them all, my friend."

Dar sucked in a breath, and released it, trying to keep a lid on the anger. "I can fire this one, and maybe the others will get the message." She finally said, in a low voice. "I am not going to put up with it, Louis."

"Okay.. okay… but, please, please, my friend.. give him one warning. Just one…. Keep our asses out of the courts, all right?" Duks asked, reasonably. "You know he'll do it again, Dar… please."

The dark haired woman let her hands fall to the desk, and she leaned on them. For a long minute she stared at the wood surface, then hit the mute button. "Jose?"

"Si? I knew this was going to get us into trouble, and I tell you.. "

"Shut up."


"I want you to listen to me, all right?"  Dar enunciated her words carefully.


"If you ever make a statement like that about anyone who works here ever again, I'm not only going to personally fire you, I am going to come down to your office, pick you up, carry you outside, and beat the living daylights out of you in front of the entire company." Dar stated softly. "Do you understand me?"

Long silence.

"I asked, do you understand me?" Dar requested softly.

"Si." Came back, very subdued.

Dar exhaled. "Good. Now he had two issues. My being gay, and you're being Cuban. I didn't figure either of us was going to change any time soon, so I told him to take a hike."

Long pause. "That puta had a problem with me?" Jose's voice rose. "My father came over to this country with nothing but a cigar wrapper and six banana leaves, and ended up owning half the real estate in Hialeah, so he can kiss my Cuban ass."

"Yeah, well.. so find another way up there." Dar repeated, then disconnected the call. She stared at the fighting fish as her blood pressure slowly dropped, aware of Duk's close presence. "I think he owes you a thank you."

"Mm." Duks murmured.

Dar glanced up. "I think I do too." She added, quietly.

The accountant shifted a little. "My friend, it's hard, I know….I understand."

"Somehow I doubt the majority of the company consider you and Mari an abomination in the eyes of God, Lou." Dar replied, as she sat down, and rested her hands on the desk. "You try not to care, but it gets a bit much sometimes." 

  Duks turned and sat on the edge of the desk, regarding her. "You know, Dar… I'm sure there are people who feel that way, but I don't think it's the majority."

"No." Dar had to laugh shortly. "The rest of them just hate me because I'm a bitch." She gave Duks a wry look. "They don't really care who I sleep with."

Duks sighed, and patted her on the shoulder. "Some of us are just pathetically glad you're here, and as good as you are, my friend…and I think there are more of us than you would ever have imagined."  He paused. "Come.. let's take a walk downstairs.. get some coffee, hmm?"

Dar studied her hands. "Go on down.. I'll meet you there in a minute."

Reluctantly, the accountant left, closing the door softly behind him. Dar rubbed her face and leaned back, as her stomach slowly untied itself from it's knots. "What a completely sucky day." She informed the ceiling. "A few more like this and I'm going to chuck it all and become a diving boat captain."

A moment later, a soft knock came on the door, and she tilted her head towards it. "Yeah?"

The door opened, and Maria came in, carrying a tall mug, a faint curl of steam visible over it's edge. "Jefa, I know this is so bad for you, but today is not good." She put down the mug, and Dar caught a scent of hot chocolate.

It made her smile. "Thanks, Maria." She sighed. "Yeah… today's been a bitch all right. " She watched the secretary settle in the visitor's chair. "I'm sure the stories are flying."

"Si." The woman nodded. "They have been, is true." She straightened a little. "You know, Dar.. when I came here from my country, in my country I was in the office, the numero uno, you know? And when I came over to this country, all the people looked at me, and it was.. " She made a tiny, discrete spitting noise. "Immigrante."

Dar watched her curiously. "Hmm."

"It did not matter that I was good in church, or that I was running in this big law office, or that I raise my children…. No, it was just .. " She made the spitting sound again. "Immigrante.'

Dar steepled her fingers. "That must have been hard for you. We take our citizenship for granted, a lot of the time."

"Si." The secretary agreed. "You do..I had to be studying many hours before I passed this test, you know? And you do not have to take it… but any the way..what I learned from this, Dar… is that what is important is what is on the inside of people, not on the outside."

Dar gazed quietly at her desktop. "A lot of people never quite get that, Maria."

"Si, you are right.. they do not." Maria agreed. "Even in my church, which is writing that all people must love each other, still, they think that God makes this kind, or that kind better than the other." She folded her hands. "Dar, you are a good person."

The dark haired woman smiled. "Thanks.. I think you're a very good person yourself."

"Gracias." Maria smiled. "Kerrisita is a very good person."

"Yes, she is." Dar agreed, softly.

"When two good people love each other, Dar, God smiles on them, and he does not care what they are looking like." Maria said, gently. "That is what I believe.. that you have been very blessed."

It was like a warm blanket settling over her, coming from the most unexpected source imaginable. "Thank you, Maria." Dar replied softly. "That means a lot to me."

Maria looked pleased. "You are welcome, Dar." She hesitated. "One more thing…my youngest daughter, Conchita is having her quinces next month.. I would very much be honored if you and Kerrisita would come, and celebrate this with my family."

It was a shock. Dar knew enough about traditional Cuban culture to be honestly surprised at the request, but she also knew enough not to refuse. "We'd be honored." She replied, simply. "Thank you."

"Gracias." Maria said, in a dignified tone, as she stood, and brushed off her skirt. "How is Kerrisita?"

"She's doing all right." Dar answered, quietly, taking a long sip of her hot chocolate.

The secretary glanced at the window. "It  is five oclock…I am to be leaving.. do you not think those herbs would do better if Kerrisita gets them soon?"

Dar chuckled softly. "Are you telling me to get out of here, Maria?"

"Si." The secretary smiled. "I think I am doing that.. it is very bold of me, no?"

Dar stood up and turned her monitor off. "Sounds like a good idea to me." She grabbed her keys and shouldered her laptop. "It's been a long day."

"And there will always be tomorrow." Maria added. "For new problems."

Dar followed Maria out the door, and shook her head. "Isn't that the truth." 


Kerry watched the late afternoon light come in the front windows, and pour across the tile floor, painting golden stripes across the table. She was curled up on the couch, with Chino tucked in next to her, and a cup of hot tea resting on the end table near her head.

She felt pretty good. The drugs had mostly taken care of the pain, though she was feeling a little lightheaded from having to take so much, and she'd gotten quite a few things done, so she wasn't feeling any guilt about simply lounging around, watching cartoons all afternoon. It was nice just to have a day off, she reflected, and spend the time mindlessly relaxing, not having to worry about lines going down, or people yelling, or things like that.

She was a little worried though, since she hadn't heard from Dar since the morning, and a recent call to the office had gone to voice mail. She felt a little uneasy about her friend, in a vague, unsettled way, but resisted the urge to use her pager, or the cell phone, because if there was something going on, surely Dar would have called.


Kerry sighed, and put her head down on the soft couch arm, breathing in the scent of the leather as she tugged a soft quilt around her body. Her eyes closed, and she let the warm comfort lull her into sleep.

It was a strange dream, full of children's laughter, and the smell of hickory smoke. She was snoozing in what felt like a hammock, wrapped in a soft blanket that bore a hint of woods and leather.

Footsteps came close, and she felt a nearby presence, a warmth that brought a smile to her face, even as gentle fingers brushed her hair back, and she felt a kiss touch her lips. Her eyes fluttered open, to see familiar blue ones looking back at her, framed by a face a little tanner, and a little older than she'd expected.

She reached up and hooked an arm around a powerful neck and drew that face down, kissing her again, and reveling in the sweetness, and the passion, and the sense of belonging to each other that had no match in anything else she'd ever known.

And as she did, the children's laughter faded, and the hickory scent shifted to the tang of wood polish, and she opened her eyes to see those same blue ones looking down curiously at her, as a faint smile played about Dar's lips.

"Oh."  A little fuzzy, she reached up and brushed her fingers across Dar's cheek, where a tiny scar had shown in her dream, and now was gone. "You're home." Chino was wriggling up against her and nibbling her fingers.

The lips moved into a gentle smile. "Yes, I am."  Dar seated herself on the edge of the couch. "How are you feeling?"  She scratched the puppy behind the ears.

Kerry glanced at the window, which was darkening into twilight. "Um..better… thanks… I was… I was watching tv, and I guess I dozed off…how long have you been here?" She peered up at her lover. "You look beat."

Dar sighed. "I am.. I had a tough day." She admitted softly. "I've got a headache you wouldn't believe, and I gotta tell you, it's just nice to see a friendly face."

"Aww… " Kerry tugged her down and pulled her into a hug, feeling the long breath Dar released as she did so. She rubbed her lover's back, feeling the warm skin beneath the silk shirt. "I missed you.. what happened?"

Dar allowed herself a few more seconds of bliss, before she reluctantly straightened, and tucked the quilt back around Kerry's t-shirt covered body. She'd been debating with herself since she'd left the office as to whether or not to tell Kerry, then she figured that the blond woman was probably going to hear sooner or later, so it would be best to come from her. "Nasty stuff… I had to terminate a contract today because the company we contracted with felt they couldn’t do business with us." She pushed Kerry's very disheveled hair out of her eyes, and reflected on how cute she was when she just woke up. "They didn't like our diversity."

Kerry cocked her head to one side. "Diversity…. I don't….what do you mean?"

No way to soften it. "They heard about you  and me.. and spent some time in the lunchroom and heard the different languages… they didn't like that."

Kerry stared at her. One blond brow rose up to her hairline. "What jerks…tell them to go contract with the KKK."

Dar felt a smile coming on. She should have known better than to worry about Kerry's reaction. "It was a pretty ugly scene…and then I had to explain to everyone.. and that got pretty ugly too… Duks kept me from firing Jose outright."

"Wow." Kerry murmured. "What did he do?"

Dar bit her lip. "He said something I didn't like about you."

"Oh." Kerry considered that. "I'm glad you didn't fire him for that."  She stroked Dar's face. "Sticks and stones, and all that stuff."  She felt bad, but not as bad as if Dar'd fired him. "I'm sure you handed it in a very professional manner."

Blue eyes glinted in the soft twilight at her. "Um.. actually.. I told him if he ever said anything like that again, I'd take him outside and beat him silly in front of everyone."

Kerry clapped a hand over her mouth. "Oh." She muffled a laugh. "Jesus, Dar.. to a Cuban man, that was worse than firing him."

"Mm." Dar agreed softly. "On the bright side, we got invited to Maria's daughter's quinces."

"We did?" Kerry was surprised. "I mean.. we, as in  you and I, did?"

Dar nodded. "We.. definitely we, got invited." She confirmed. "Maria said some really nice things to me after everything happened… she's really a sweetheart."  She tugged on Kerry's tshirt. "We'll have to go shopping for some really snazzy gowns."

"Uerrg…. I haven't worn a gown since my prom, Dar." Kerry made a face. "And you don't want to know what I looked like for that."

"Sure I would." Dar objected, with a grin. "You haven't shown me all your embarrassing pictures yet… tell you what.. how about we get dinner sent over, and we can trade… I was a really dorky looking kid."

"Eek." Kerry rested a cheek on her shoulder, and bit her lip. "Okay.. but you have to promise not to laugh… I tried to perm my hair for the occasion."

"I promise." Dar crossed a finger over her heart. "But you can't ever admit to seeing the ones from my grade school play."

Mischief. filled the green eyes. "Ooo… you got a deal."  Kerry agreed, curling her fingers around Dar's. "Go get into your jammies… I'll call the beach club."

Dar smiled. "Okay.. " She stood up and walked towards the bedroom, then glanced over her shoulder. "Could you have them send.."

"A chocolate milkshake?" Kerry supplied, dialing the phone. "Sure."

Dar's eyes twinkled, as she disappeared. Once she was in the bedroom, she could hear Kerry's low voice , and looked down to see Chino tugging on her shoe, and it made her smile.

Home had such a different meaning now. Dar tossed her jacket over the chair near the mirror, then quickly changed out of her suit, feeling a sense of relief as the soft cotton of her favorite sleep shirt draped over her shoulders.  She sat down for a minute on the edge of the waterbed, and picked Chino up to play with her. "Hey there girl… whatcha up to??"

The puppy nibbled at her chin, then licked her face. Her brown eyes gazed adoringly up at Dar as her paws scrabbled for a good hold on her neck. Dar glanced around, then hugged the puppy to her, feeling a silly grin take over her face.  Then she stood, and tucked Chino under her arm, as she made her way back out into the living room.  Kerry was standing by the coffee table, having just lit two sturdy, scented candles  and dimmed the lights.  Her blond lashes caught the candlelight, which threw interesting shadows up her body as she turned towards Dar and smiled. "Dinner's on it's way."

Dar gazed at her, imagining what it would have been like, to come home from a day like today, and not have Kerry or Chino there.  A sigh trickled out of her, and she put the puppy down, then went over and enfolded Kerry in a hug that came right from her heart.

"Urk.. " Kerry was surprised, but obligingly slid her arms around her lover and hugged her back, loving the feel of the strong body pressed hard against her own. "Mm…. What was that for?"

"I'm just glad you're a part of my life." Dar answered, with a sigh.

"Really?" Kerry murmured.

"Of course. " Dar released her, and leaned back a little.

"Funny you should say that." Kerry sat down on the love seat, and pulled her down as well. "I've.. um… I've got something to ask you.. and before I do, I want you to know it's okay for you to say no."

"It is?" Dar responded faintly, unsure of what to expect.

"Yes." Kerry took both her hands and held them. "I got a call today." She took a breath. "It was from Pastor Robert… I told you about him.. remember?"

"Yes." Dar answered.

"He's in town." The blond woman told her.

"Oh.. that's nice.. you .. um.. want to have him here for dinner?" Dar offered, hesitantly.

"No…well, I mean, sure.. but that's not the question." Kerry squared her shoulders. "He offered to um.. " She stopped, then took a breath. "He said he'd perform a ceremony for us, if I wanted… I mean, if we wanted him to."

Dar blinked at her.

"Listen, I know you're not into that, Dar… I know.. it's not been something you had growing up, and I know it doesn't really… mean….oh."  Kerry shut up as Dar pulled her hands loose, and cupped her cheeks, bringing her closer for a passionate kiss.

They broke apart. "I'd love that." Dar stated sincerely. "I mean.. you're right.. I don’t know much about it, and I've never been into stuff like that, but I know it's important to you… and that makes it important to me."

Kerry smiled gently at her. "Wow." It felt wonderful. "Great… now..  you can figure out a place to do it, because I don't know… if I want to have it inside a church down here.. even the one on South Beach."

Dar grinned. "I know a place." She cradled Kerry's face in her hands, stroking her cheeks with gentle thumbs. "It's a little short on amenities, but it's got a killer sunrise." Kerry's requested had delighted her, in ways she'd hardly expected, but she couldn’t pretend she hadn't been considering the same sort of thing lately.. in fact, a dawn run out to that little spot had been on her 'list' of Valentine's Day things anyway. 'Thank you for asking me."

Kerry found herself smiling, just because Dar was. "Sorry you had such a lousy day."

Dark brows knit. "Huh?"  Dar asked, honestly puzzled. "What day? Oh… " She laughed softly at herself. "Yeah.. right.. that…ah… " She studied Kerry's face. "Maria was right."

Kerry leaned into the touch, simply feeling the love. "Mm?"

"I have been blessed." Dar stated softly. "I've found my soulmate."

Breathe. Kerry heard a voice, remotely resembling her own reminding her. Breathe, Kerry. Her chest moved, and sucked in air, making a soft, almost sob. She was crying, and she had no idea why, except that just that word made her feel so…


Kerry smiled. "Yes, you have." She reached up and curled her fingers around Dar's hand, then turned it a little and kissed the palm. After all this time. The thought echoed gently.

The doorbell rang.

"I'll get that." Dar said, softly.

"I'll get the pictures." Kerry answered.

"We've got a lot of catching up to enjoy." The dark haired woman said, with a smile.

Her soulmate smiled back. "Yes, we do."


Dar slowly let her eyes open, aware of the early morning hour even in the strange place she found herself.

Well, not really strange, it was, after all, her couch, but strange enough to jog her lightly out of her sleep, as Kerry shifted and burrowed closer to her.  It was still dark out, and as such, she couldn’t see anything but vague shadows in the living room, where books of pictures and scattered memories surrounded them.  They'd stayed up until almost 2 am peering through both Kerry's neatly bound volumes, and the ragged eared folders Dar had reluctantly but good humoredly dragged out of her closet.

She hadn't been able to prevent Kerry from kidnapping the one of her dressed as Tigger, and she just knew that was going to come back and bite her in the butt someday. Oh well.. could have been worse… she could have been Pooh.

And that was okay, because she'd snitched not one, but two pictures of Kerry… one of her as a wide eyed, beruffled cherub, and another of her taken off guard, as a teenager with her back against a tree trunk, and a book open on her knees.  In the second, there was something so gentle, and so wistful in her expression, with her hand spread across the page, and her head resting against the bark, it tugged at Dar's heartstrings irresistibly

Her soulmate. Dar smiled, and stroked the soft pale hair . The word had delighted Kerry, and it really did fit how she felt towards the blond woman, as though they really were part of each other

Maybe they were. Dar pulled Kerry a little closer. They certainly fit together, like a well made wooden puzzle, despite their different heights. Kerry was nestled up against her left side, with one arm wrapped around Dar's stomach and her knees between the taller woman's. Dar could feel Kerry's warm breath against her collarbone, and….Dar smiled. They were breathing in the same rhythm.

 It was a nice feeling.

Loving Kerry was a nice feeling. Dar smiled contentedly, and relaxed, thinking about the weekend. More specifically, early Saturday morning, when they'd go out and greet the sun, and tell each other…..

Pale blue eyes popped open in mild alarm. Tell each other what? Could they use the standard vows?


Dar's mind started working. What in the hell could they…okay, okay.. how about something simple like…. I'll love you forever.

She winced. Not that it wasn't true, but…


You are the light of my life? Augh.. Dar… you sound like a bad seventies hit parade. You make my life worth living?

Well, that was true too. You came into my world, and turned it upside down? Not so flattering, but…

"Dar?" Kerry's sleepy voice interrupted her studied musing. She glanced down, where the blond woman was still nestled against her.


"What are you muttering?"

Dar sighed. "Sorry.. I didn't realize I was."

"Mm… so… what was it?" Kerry persisted, curiously.

"Umm… nothing.. really." Dar cleared her throat gently, and snuggled back down. "G'back to sleep." She firmly closed her eyes.

"Okay." Kerry murmured obediently.

Peaceful silence fell.

"Am I really the light of your life?"

Dar made a noise halfway between a groan and a whine.

"I'm not?"

"Of course you are." The taller woman spluttered hastily. "You weren't supposed to hear that." 

"Oh." Kerry's voice seemed disappointed. "Okay.. sorry."

Dar gazed down at her, unhappily. "Kerry.. you're all those things… and so much more I can't even begin to tell you.. I was just trying to figure out what I was going to say to you on Saturday morning."

"Oh." The inflection was totally different. "You don't have to say anything." Kerry told her softly. "Just your being there's enough for me."

"Oh." Dar's turn to murmur.

"I thought… maybe… I could just… sort of..um… I mean,  I have this poem….that I wrote…I thought maybe I could have Pastor Robert use that."

Dar exhaled in relief. "That'd be perfect." She kissed Kerry's head gently. "Thank you."

Silence fell.

"I turned everything upside down, huh?"

Dar rolled over onto her back, pulling Kerry up on top of her. "Yep."

"Awk.. Dar… c'mon.. you're gonna be squished." Kerry laughed.

Dar rubbed her back, working the strong muscles with her fingers. "Nope..I like this feeling."

"You like not being able to breathe… Dar, you're demented." But Kerry's body slowly relaxed completely against her, melding with her own in boneless completeness.

"Mm…. " Dar savored the feeling.

"Goofball." Kerry nuzzled her neck, nibbling the underside of her jaw  "I love you." She felt the muscles of Dar's face move as she smiled. "It's almost time to get up."

"Uh huh." Dar agreed lazily. "How are you feeling?"

Kerry considered the question. "Like I don't want to get my lazy butt up and go running.. but I don't have a good excuse not to."  She admitted. "So, c'mon, tiger.. let's hit the Frosted Flakes and get moving."

Dar laughed softly, and pinched her on the specified bodypart. "I'll put the coffee up.. you let the puppy out?"

It was just the start of another day.


Kerry yawned. "What a day." She peered out at the sunset they were driving through, on the way home from work. "I don't want to see another TCP/IP diagram this week, Dar… I swear, I have ping test patterns bouncing off the insides of my eyeballs."

"That's an attractive thought." Dar remarked, leaning her elbow on the car window and stretching her legs out. "Did you get ahold of the pastor?"

"Yep." Kerry told her. "He's all set… when I told him he'd get to go out on a boat and see the sun rise, he almost burst a vocal cord cheering." She adjusted her sunglasses, and watched the road. "Now… um…I thought I'd ask Colleen to be there…if that's okay."

"Sure." Dar closed her eyes behind her own sunglasses.

Kerry glanced at her. "If I had a few more days, I'd try to get Angie down here… or Mike.. is there… Dar, do you think your father would like to be there?"  She watched the fading sunlight outline her lover's profile, and saw the movement as Dar swallowed.  "That was a silly question. .I know he'd like to be there."

Dar was silent a moment. "I don’t think he'd… he won't come with other people there. But it's a nice thought."

"You could ask him." Kerry suggested softly.

Dar turned her head and looked out the window. "Maybe… maybe he won't want to be there, Kerry… it's hard for him, being alone so much."

"What's hard… to see his daughter happy?" Kerry steered the Mustang onto the ferry and parked. "Dar, he doesn't grudge you that… I've only known him a few months, and even I realize that."

"No.. I know.. but… " Dar fiddled with her glasses, pulling them off and rubbing her eyes. "Damn, I looked at that screen too long today… " She sighed. "What was I saying..oh…no, I don't think he grudges me anything.. I just don’t want to make him hurt more than he is."

Kerry studied her. "You know.. I saw you squinting in that damn meeting today.. when was the last time you had your eyes checked?" She asked curiously.

Dar froze, then settled her sunglasses back on her nose and slouched in the seat. "There' s nothing wrong with my eyesight." She folded her arms across her chest.

Oo. Kerry settled back in her own seat. Hit a nerve. "Okay.. just a thought.. " She replied mildly. "Maybe it was just the glare in there." She gazed out at the water quietly, very aware of the pale blue eyes watching her from behind the tinted lenses of the wraparound sunglasses Dar preferred. "Might be nice to ask Maria, since she asked us to her daughter's ceremony."

"Um… yeah, that's not a bad idea… maybe I could see if Duks and Mari want to come over for it." Dar murmured. "And… I'll.. um.. I'll ask Dad… maybe he'll come over afterwards for a few minutes."

Kerry reached over and took her hand, squeezing it a little. Then she waited, letting the soft hiss of the surf, and the lonely cry of a seagull settle between them. She could see the tiny twitches as Dar's jaw muscles moved,  and that was a sure indication the taller woman was working something out in her head.

Or deciding to relate something.

Finally, Dar's head turned a little towards her. "They told me I needed glasses in sixth grade."

"Ah. Really?" Kerry mentally ticked herself a point. "So what happened?"

A faint shrug. "I figured… if my father didn't need them, I didn't.. so I… figured out a way to..um… "

"Trick them?" Kerry inquired mildly. "That'd take some doing."

Dar sighed. "Not really.. I have almost perfect recall. Memorizing  a stupid eye chart wasn't hard."

Kerry turned and looked at her in amazement. "You are joking, right?"

Dar solemnly started reciting the chart.

"Son of a… " The blond woman blurted. "Dar, but you…I mean, you're an adult now… surely you could…"

Another shrug. "Wasn't that bad to begin with,  and I sort of grew out of it, mostly." Dar regarded the waves. "It gets a little annoying when I get tired, though." She gave Kerry a droll look. "I didn't get much sleep last night."

Kerry shook her head. "What I don't learn about you…. Now that I think about it, you were having trouble the night we came back here.. after I got stuck, weren't you?"

Dar paused, thinking, and smiled faintly. "You know,  I honestly don't remember…that wasn't one of the things I retained about that night."

"Ah." The blond woman nodded. "You hit those guys, didn't you?"

Blue eyes regarded her quietly. "Yes." Dar flexed a hand. "I think I fractured at least one jaw."

"Mm." Kerry put the car in gear as the ferry docked, and steered off the platform. The security guard flagged them down, and she pulled off to the side, rolling down her window. "Hi."

"Hey, Miz Stuart.. Miz Roberts… you just had  a delivery." The man told them, checking a clipboard. "Federal Express, two big boxes. We had it escorted to your place." He glanced at Dar. "It was for you, ma'am, from New York."

"Ah." Dar nodded. "Yes…I was expecting that… thanks, Jorge." She smiled as he waved them on.

Kerry rolled her window up. "What's up?"

Dar leaned back in her seat. "My aunt May… the one I got this place from… they found a locker with a trunk, and a few boxes of her stuff… I'm her only inheritor, so they sent them down. Should be interesting.. she traveled all over. We'll probably find all sorts of weird stuff in there."

"Oh.. sounds fun." Kerry smiled in surprise. "Maybe there'll be ancient scarabs, or something."

Dar chuckled. "Assorted, dried snakeskins, knowing Aunt May."  She stifled a yawn. "We'd better keep Chino away from them."

Kerry grinned, and drove on.


"Oh, I get it." Kerry finished slicing up the fresh chicken breast. "I'm cooking, so now I'm  your favorite, right?" She gave the patiently waiting Chino a droll look. "Don't you look at me like that.. go find your friend the cookie monster."

"Yawp." Chino yawned, then poked her small tongue out and panted.

The blond woman laughed, and turned her attention back to her task. She checked the steamer full of brown rice, and started a fire under the wok, pouring in a little peanut oil and waiting for it to heat. "Shh…. You keep quiet now, Chino… don't tell Dar I put all these nice vegetables in here, okay? After I finish making the sauce, she'll never know."

Chino sniffed her ankle, then she curled up on Kerry's foot and closed her eyes.

"Oh.. great. What am I, a puppy bed?" Kerry sighed. "You're just hoping I drop something."

One brown eye opened and peeked at her.

Kerry smiled, as she tossed thinly sliced red, green and yellow bell peppers into the oil, and listened to the sizzling. She stirred them around, then added bamboo shoots, peanuts, and Szechwan peppers. "Oo… that smells good, huh?"  She got the vegetables nice and crisp, then she slid the two pounds of chicken breast into the vegetables, and quickly stir fried it.

"Almost ready." She murmured, adding the sauce,  which coated the contents of the wok a nice, honey brown. She added handful of sesame seeds, then she turned the fire off, and scooped mounds of fragrant brown rice into each of two comfortably sized bowls, and topped it with the stir fry. "Hey, Dar?"


The nearby voice nearly scared the bejesus out of her. "Yeeow!" She almost dropped the bowls. "Dar… don't do that!"

"You called me." Dar protested, taking both bowls.

"Well, yeah.. but I didn't realize you were standing in my back pocket." Kerry laughed, as she grabbed two glasses and a bottle of plum wine. She followed Dar into the living room, and joined her as she settled onto the loveseat, putting the bowls down on the end table.

"So." Kerry curled up with her legs tucked under her and accepted the bowl Dar handed over. "That's some chest." She indicated the trunk which had been delivered. It was a curious item, bound in leather that was carved with intricate, interlocking squares. "It's gorgeous."

"Mm." Dar agreed around a mouthful of rice and chicken. She'd changed into a pair of cutoff sweatpants and a t-shirt, and was wearing a thick pair of very white socks which were intriguing Chino immensely. "Good stuff, Ker." She indicated the bowl.

"Thank you." Kerry's nose wrinkled up as she smiled happily. "It's a new recipe."

Dar's eyes twinkled. "I can feel the healthy vibes coming off of it." She used her chopsticks to retrieve a sneakly hidden vegetable and waved it at her lover. "But you could put this sauce on shoelaces and I'd eat them."

Kerry laughed. "I was counting on that." She took a mouthful and chewed it. "Do you really mind the veggies?"

Dar made her wait for an answer for a moment, then she smiled. "Nah." She took a cheerful bite. "Besides, what right do I have to complain? You're cooking."

"Well… " Kerry nibbled a bamboo shoot. "It makes me feel better about having chocolate chip ice cream for dessert." She paused, almost laughing at the way Dar's ears perked up. "Double chocolate chip, in fact."  She scooped up a bit of rice. "Which reminds me… we're going to have to take separate cars tomorrow.. I have my annual checkup scheduled.. I almost forgot about it."

"Mm." Dar took a few mouthfuls and chewed them. "Kerry, can I ask you a personal question?"

The blond woman stopped eating, and stared. "Uh… sure."

One dark brow lifted, then dropped. "Why does chocolate chip ice cream remind you of your doctor?"

"Oh." Kerry laughed, blushing a little. "Yeah, I guess that came out a little weird, huh… no, it's because she gave me such a hard time last year … apparently I was too skinny for her tastes.. she started giving me lectures, and pamphlets on eating  disorders… " She gave Dar a wry look. "I was imagining her reaction this year."

"Ah… I see." The taller woman nodded in understanding. "Do you think she was right?"

Kerry slowly chewed a mouthful. "I think I'm a lot happier now than I was then.. but there's a lot that goes into that." Her eyes searched Dar's face. "I think the biggest influence in getting me to change my mind was the opinion of someone I really respected."

"Mm." Dar didn't quite know how to respond to that, so she merely murmured an agreement, scooping the last of her rice up. "Well, let's see what we have here, huh?" She put the bowl down and eased herself down onto the floor, where Chino immediately tried to crawl into her lap. "Hey!"

Kerry laughed, as she put her own bowl aside, and joined her lover on the floor, taking the puppy out of her way. "Oo.. look at that hasp."

"Yeah." Dar took the key that had come with the trunk and fitted it to the old fashioned lock, then turned it. The metal protested, but released, and she removed the rusted object and set it on the floor. "Okay." She murmured, then she carefully unlatched the two catches, and released them, tugging the top of the trunk open and tipping it back.

The scent that came out was the oddest mixture of dust, age, and mystery, and Kerry squirmed closer, so she could peek inside. "Ohhh….."

"Wow." Dar leaned on her crossed knees, and just looked. "What a mess."

Inside the truck was a tangle conglomeration of… stuff. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the contents, just a random assortment of odd items, ranging from small wooden boxes, to pieces of metal, to very old clothing. "What in the hell is all this stuff… looks like the leftovers from a bad touring theatre troupe."

"Or a hard up for cash girl scout troop." Kerry murmured, lifting out a metal pan, resembling a camping cup. "Wow." She turned it over, peering at a set of scratches in the bottom. "Initials."

"Uh..huh… " Dar reached in an pulled out a small wooden box, flat and smooth as satin with age. She gently opened it, revealing an old fashioned writing pen, it's tip stained with purpled ink.

"Oh." Kerry took it from Dar's proffered hands and examined it. "Wow.. that's really old."  She ran a fingertip down the brass surface. "Was she a writer?"

"I…" Dar thought about it. "I don't think so… but I didn't know here really well, Kerry… we were…it was strange. I wasn't really ever sure why she left me all this… we weren't close." She paused. "Why… do you think she was?"

"Mm… this pen meant something to her… usually you keep the things you use the most, Dar…." Kerry lifted the pen out carefully, and curled her fingers around it. It … fit…. Comfortably, in the oddest way. "Oh.. what a nice feeling."  She murmured, flexing her hand.

Dar watched her curiously. "Are you into calligraphy?"

"A little." Kerry responded. "I used to write my poetry longhand…until I figured out it was a lot safer to put them in my computer." She sighed. "They always seemed more intense when I wrote them out… but I knew my parents… or Kyle.. couldn’t find their way through my hard drive."

Dar closed her hand over Kerry's. "Why don't you keep hold of that, then… because if you've ever seen my handwriting, you'll know I will never, ever have use for it." A wry grin edged her face. "There's a reason I type everything…and I have, since grade school."

Kerry gazed at the pen, then up at her. "Oh.. yeah.. I heard Mariana moaning about some evaluations you wrote out… she said she was going to have to call in a Greek scholar to translate." She teased gently. "Thank you… I don't know if I could bear to try and use it, but I like just holding this."

Blue eyes glinted suddenly, with an inner light. "Write me a poem with it." The low voice took on a momentarily deeper tone.

A warmth traveled up her spine, and Kerry smiled in reflex. "All right."  She carefully put the antique pen down on the table. "What's next?" She reached a hand in, and collided with a large, heavy metal piece. "Ouch.. what the heck is that? A machete? Did she wander the Amazon jungle or something?" Kerry carefully tugged her find free. "Oh."

It was a rusted, rotting, half disintegrated sword. "Good grief." Kerry got her other hand under the rotted leather of what once might have been a scabbard and lifted it clear. "Would you look at that."

Dar had stilled, and now she exhaled a long breath. "Let me see that." She asked softly, holding out her hands as Kerry gently placed the ancient artifact in them.

The first thing she felt was a slow, faint wash of sadness, gentle, but profound enough to prick the back of her eyes with tears. "Bet there's a story behind this old thing." She commented to Kerry quietly. "You can almost feel the history in it."  She gazed down at the ruined sword, noting the plain, worn brass hilt, it's surface encrusted in green, and the unraveling tatters of rotted leather that fell away from her fingers as she touched it.

Dar wrapped her fingers around the hilt, and pulled the crumbling leather away from it, revealing a scarred, pitted steel blade, broken halfway down, it's remaining length gouged with deep, asymmetrical grooves.  She twisted her wrist, closing her eyes and feeling a faint, clear bell of familiarity ring deep down, as the weight of it hit her forearm muscles. "Damn.. this brings back memories." She murmured, opening her eyes and regarding Kerry thoughtfully.

"It does?" Kerry had been watching her in mild fascination.

"Yeah… we used to study a couple different types of sword handling when I was really into the martial arts… there are several forms that focus on allowing the artist to become proficient at a lot of different weapons. Dar mused, turning her hand around and letting a faint smile touch her lips. "I gave it up… mostly because it doesn't have a lot of practical application in today's world."

"Mm.. bet you were good at it." Kerry observed, cupping her chin in one hand.

A shrug. "I was all right." Dar gently put the broken sword down. "I'll clean that up… it's a nice conversation piece."

"Right." Kerry reached in, and pulled out another small wooden box, this one a heavier, almost petrified looking wood with a brass band around it fastening it shut. "Care to give a guess? Let's see… a centuries old brass faucet."

Dar leaned on the edge of the trunk. "Okay… um…a petrified dog biscuit." She hazarded, the word biscuit immediately getting Chino's attention.

Green eyes rolled, then Kerry carefully undid the clever latch, and worked the box open, the wooden edges having warped tightly shut. "Ugh.. this is kinda… whoops.. " The box fell out of her hands as it popped open, and onto the tile floor, spilling it's contents. "Oh.. damn… did it break? God, Dar.. I.. "

"Shh… no.. " Slowly, Dar put down her hand, and touched the grayish black stones gingerly. Each was attached to the remains of a silver chain, and she picked one up and examined it. "What in the hell is that?"  She picked up the other stone and looked at it, then she rotated it and gingerly put both stones together. "Hey..they match."

Kerry leaned close. "They fit together."  Her throat felt funny when she said it. "How unusual."

Dar's finger pushed the two stones around in her palm, their edges fitting snugly together. "They sure do." She mused thoughtfully. "Too bad they're so beat up…it might be kinda fun to… um… "

Kerry gently picked the stones up and separated them. "Let me see if I can clean them up.. I've got some jewelry cleaner upstairs." She glanced up at Dar's face, which was painted in tones of interest and curiosity. "Would you wear half if I can?"

A strange, almost dreamy smile crossed Dar's face. "Yeah… would you?"

A laugh bubbled up from deep inside her, and Kerry released it into the air. "Sure."

In her palm, the stones nestled together, in obscure, gray contentment.


Kerry took the small bowl out onto the patio with her, seating herself in the early morning sun and propping her bare feet up against the railing. Dar had left a little while ago, and she'd found herself with some time before her nine am appointment.

So she'd decided to clean the rocks they'd found, before she got dressed and took the short drive over to her doctor's office. She shifted a little and flexed her thighs, a little heavy feeling still from her running that morning, but she'd made eight laps for the first time, keeping up with Dar in a small piece of personal triumph.

Of course, she suspected her lover had cooperatively kept her pace to something Kerry could handle, but… still, eight was eight, and it felt pretty damn good. Add that to the fact that she'd finally… finally.. gotten the hang of that over the shoulder throw last night, and had managed to down Dar with it not once, but twice….

Yeah. She could sit here in the sun with her rocks and her solution, and feel darn proud and pleased with herself. "Heh heh heh." Kerry chortled softly, dipping the rocks carefully in the very mild liquid. She was actually feeling pretty smug, to tell the truth, and she was more than a little looking forward to going in for her checkup for a change.

What she hadn't told Dar was that her doctor, Marie Simpson was a gym rat. She'd not only delighted in chastising Kerry for being so skinny, she'd spent thirty minutes during every appointment trying to  browbeat her into joining a gym and starting an aerobics program.  She'd also been…to Kerry's mild discomfort, romantically interested in her.

Marie had made it clear that she wasn't looking for anything serious, just some light hearted fun, and they'd gone out a few times together. Kerry had enjoyed herself, still very tentative in adjusting to her sexuality, but she and Marie just hadn't had that much in common. The doctor's interests tended to violent sports, poker, and frank leering at passing bodies.

Marie also like to drink, which Kerry tended to shy away from, and she loved parties full of like minded folks, one of which she'd taken Kerry to, thrown by a professional women's group she belonged to.  She'd been all right, until she was cornered near the bar by a couple of very drunk, and very amorous paralegals.

That had been a little ugly. But she'd gotten out of it with the help of a very sweet, and very friendly bartender, who let her slip by behind the bar and through the hotel's kitchen, where she exited and called a cab.

It hadn't been Marie's fault, though the woman had apologized profusely, but Kerry had decided after that she wasn't quite the party animal.  "Kerry," Marie had said. "You're sweet, but you need to get a life."

Kerry swished the rocks around in the solution, and looked around her, with a grin. "Bite me, Marie… I went out to Macy's and bought the custom deluxe life model here." She told a seagull floating overhead. "And I bet you're still stuck at K-Mart."

"Okay, let's see what we've got here." She gently fished the first stone out and laid it on a soft cloth, then rubbed it carefully. A layer of the dark surface came off onto the rag, and she examined it, then dipped it again. Three or four more dips, and a careful cleaning with the rag, and she was sitting in some amazement, as the sun poured down and sent fractures of colored light through the pure, clear crystal in the palm of her hand. "Wow."  She whistled under her breath. "Check that out."

An idea occurred to her, and she carefully dried off the two pieces of crystal, untangling the ruined chains from them. "I think I remember a jeweler close by Marie's office…yeah."

She grinned, as she stood up and reentered the condo, heading for her bedroom to change.


The waiting room was quiet, this early in the morning, and Kerry had only been seated for perhaps five minutes before the receptionist slid her glass window to one side, and motioned her in.

"Good morning." The blond woman smiled at the nurse who met her.

The woman glanced at the folder she was carrying quickly. "Oh.. good morning, Ms. Stuart.. gosh, we haven't seen you here in quite a while, have we?"

"Not for a quite a few months, no."  Kerry confirmed cheerfully.

"You must be nice and healthy, then." The nurse tucked her folder under her arm. "Right this way… in room three." She guided Kerry down the corridor, and into the examination room. "Go on and slip into the gown, and I'll be in to take your blood. This is just a regular physical, right?"

"Yep." Kerry put her purse down and shrugged out of her jacket, draping it over the back of the chair. She'd worn a fairly casual, but neatly pressed polo shirt under it, chiefly because she knew she'd be taking it off, and travel irons weren't really her style. She unzipped her skirt and slipped out of it, then pulled her shirt off and left them folded precisely as she pulled on the thin fabric of the examination gown.

Then she walked over to the counter and examined the various jars and containers, wishing this part of the trial was already over. She didn't hate doctors like Dar did, but like any normal person, she found the waiting, and the wondering, uncomfortable.

She didn't have long to wait, though. The nurse came back in, and put her folder down. "Okay… let's get you weighed and then I have to take two blood samples, okay?"

"Sure." Kerry stepped amiably over to the scale and stood on it, watching as the nurse adjusted the weights until the bar balanced perfectly.

"One hundred twenty one…okay." The nurse marked it down. "That's a change from last year."

From ninety four? Yes. "I took a job delivering pizzas… it's made all the difference." Kerry told her solemnly. "You know you have to eat all the ones you can't deliver."

"Oh my." The nurse gazed at her, concerned. "Is that healthy?"

Kerry kept a straight face. "I work with a partner.. I only eat the vegetable ones."

"Ah.. that's really smart." The nurse smiled. "Okay.. go on and sit up on the table there, and I'll get what I need to draw blood."

Kerry obediently went and hopped up onto the table, dangling her bare legs over the edge, and resting her elbows on her thighs.  She lifted an arm as the nurse came over, and submitted to the short, chunky woman's touch as she probed for a vein.

"Do you work out?" The nurse asked, in idle curiosity, as Kerry flexed her arm and caused the newly defined biceps in her upper arm to bulge.

"No. Why?" Kerry asked, with devastating innocence.

The nurse peeked at her, then went back to her task. "Oh.. well, nothing. I was just asking."  She took her blood and then checked Kerry's pulse and pressure, and wrote those down. "Okay, the doctor will be in shortly."

Kerry rubbed her arm, where the needle had extracted blood and stifled a yawn. She'd deliberately skipped coffee that morning, not wanting to send her blood pressure skyrocketing. "Musta worked." She murmured to herself, recalling the 115 over 72 that the nurse had recited.

She hopped off the table and wandered over to the frosted window, standing up on her toes to peer out  the top, where green leaves moved across a blue sky. She spotted a blue bird outside, and she watched, fascinated, as the bird hopped to a nest nearby and started feeding small chicks.

In February. Kerry shook her head in mild amazment, then turned, as the door opened, and Marie Simpson walked in, letting it close behind her as she stood, and studied her patient.

"Who are you, and what have you done with Kerry Stuart?" The slim, frosted haired woman asked, with a laugh. "Holy Jesus came to town, kid…what's up with you?

Kerry chuckled, as she turned, and leaned casually against the wall. "Hi, Marie."

The doctor put her folder down and walked over. "When I heard Nancy talking about this buff blond in room three, who was smart mouthing her, I had to come see for myself."

"I was just messing with her." Kerry felt a blush coming on.. "So, how've you been?"

Marie took her wrists, and moved her arms out, examining her. "Not a patch on you, kid… did my lectures finally sink in or something?" She gave Kerry a slap on the shoulder. "Go sit down on the table.. let's check you out."

Kerry did so, laying down on the table and stretching out, as Marie set her stethoscope into her ears and listened to Kerry's heart, then moved it down to her abdomen. "So, did it?"

"Did what?" Kerry asked.

"My lectures sink in?" Marie asked, probing with gentle, sure hands.

"Not exactly." The blond woman told her. "But I took your advice. I got a life."

"Really?" The doctor laughed. "That wasn't all I told you to get." She teased. "I think I recall saying.. ' Kerry, you're sweet, but you need a life, and good lay."

Kerry cleared her throat, ignoring the flush of blood going to her skin. "I got one of those, too." She muttered, hardly able to believe she was saying it.

"Ooh… did you !" Marie gave her a pat on the belly. "Sit up." She waited for Kerry to comply, then set the stethoscope against her back. "Breathe."

Kerry sucked in a breath obediently, glad of the chance to regain her composure.


Another breath.

"Sounds good in there… you had any more bronchitis?" Dr. Simpson studied her. "Those dizzy spells come back?"

Kerry shook her head. "No coughing since that last time, and the dizzy spells kinda tapered off in the fall." Since October, in fact.

The doctor picked up a metal bar and tested her reflexes, then peered interestedly into her ears. Kerry sat quietly, looking straight ahead and trying to think of something other than how much that thing was tickling her.

"So.. you lifting weights?" Marie asked, casually.

"Um.. a bit… not that much really, mostly light stuff." Kerry resisted the urge to bat the woman's hand away from her sensitive ears. "Wall climbing.. a lot of running.. some diving.. a little martial arts.. that sort of thing." She glanced up as the doctor stepped back. "I feel great."

Marie put a hand on her shoulder. "You look great."  She smiled "I can hardly believe it."  She indicated Kerry's clothes. "Get dressed…and c'mon into my office.. we can chit chat for a minute or two." She paused. "Did you want me to schedule you for a mammogram? No..wait.. we did that last summer, right?"

Kerry nodded. "Yes…that's hard to forget.. I still get chilly thinking of it." She grinned wryly.  "I.. um… " She chewed her lip. "Check regularily."

Possibly more regularily that strictly necessary, since she and Dar had invented a sort of mutual, gently sensual game to it, when she'd found that her stubborn lover had never bothered to check herself even once.

"Good deal." The doctor nodded. "Okay then, meet you down the hall.. I'm going to grab a bottle of carrot juice. Want some?"

"Uh..no thanks." Kerry ignored the growling in her stomach. "I'm going to pick up some breakfast on the way into work." A Cuban egg McMuffin, she'd decided, and a nice big café con leche.

And one for Dar, of course.

Marie left her to change, and she did, tucking her shirt into her waistband and zipping it, then settling her metallic green jacket over her shoulders. She picked up her purse and went down to the doctor's office, settling into the comfortable chair across from the desk, where the older woman was busy scribbling into her files. "So… everything look okay?"

"Hang on." Marie muttered, still scribbling. "I want to get.. okay." She looked up, and folded her hands. "It'll take a while for the bloodwork to come back, but everything looks good to me." Her eyes twinkled. "And your health does too."

Kerry allowed a smile to cross her face, acknowledging the compliment. "It's been quite a change for me…I moved, I have a new job…" She paused, considering. "Someone in my life… I guess that's been the biggest change… Dar's gotten me into a lot of that physical stuff."

Marie cocked her head. "Dar.. that’s an unusual name.. you don't mean Dar Roberts, do you?"

Kerry blinked, truly startled. "Um.. yes."

The doctor whistled.  "Wow.. I never met her, but I've heard stories." She leaned forward. "You got pictures?"

She'd heard of Dar? That made no sense.. given the separate circles they traveled in. "Uh.. yeah, I do." Kerry pulled out her wallet, and opened it, selecting one of her favorite pictures of  the two of them, standing near an old oak outside the condo, Dar's arms wrapped loosely around her neck.

"Wow." Marie said again, looking up and giving Kerry a very respectful glance. "My ex was at the bar downtown the night she took out those two robbers…she said she never saw anything quite like it.. just like in the movies."

Kerry's blond brow edged up. "Hah.. I haven't heard that story.. but that's Dar.. she hates making herself out to be a hero."

Marie handed the picture back, with a frank grin. "She definitely saved a few butts that night.. and put one guy in the hospital for three months." A faint shake of her head. "You picked a wild one, Kerry… but if you're happy… " She let the thought drift off. "Listen, we're having a party next Saturday night at the club.. why don't you guys stop by, hmm? I I'd love to meet your friend."

Kerry hesitated. "Sure… I mean, I don’t think we have anything planned…I'll check with Dar when I get to the office."  She didn't want to refuse outright, since she did like Marie, but she wondered if Dar would want to make an appearance at what was, apparently, old stomping grounds.

Marie stood up. "Okay.. great.. maybe we'll see you then." She smiled, and held a hand out. "Great seeing you, Kerry.. I'll give you a call if anything unusual comes back in your tests.. but in my considered opinion, just keep doing what you're doing, okay?"

Kerry also stood, and gripped her hand. "Thanks, Marie.. I'll be seeing you."

"Yeah." The doctor gave her a speculative look. "I hope so."


Dar was seated at her desk, her head propped up on one hand and her mouse in the other. She was clicking through a series of spreadsheets, checking their contents, then flipping back to others in a blur of white with pale blue lines. A soft knock interrupted her, and she leaned back, welcoming it. "C'mon in."

Maria pushed the door opened and entered, closing it behind her. She was carrying several folders, which she put neatly on Dar's desk. "Is the three new companies we bring in, Dar." The secretary said. "And Kerrisita just poked her head in, to say she is here now."

"Oh?" Dar visibly perked up. "That didn't take long…guess everything's okay then." You never knew with doctors, after all… though Kerry certainly appeared extremely healthy, you just never knew. "Great…I had a lunch meeting sprung on me that I wanted her to attend."

As if on cue, a popup appeared on her window.

"Hey…my doctor wants to meet you."

Dar blinked, and glanced at Maria, then leaned forward and typed back.

"Oh really? Everything go okay then?"

"Remember what Maria thought of me? With the trail mix? That's what my doctor thinks of you."

Dar smiled. "C'mon over." She turned and put her hands on the desk. "So..we have three new acquisitions, eh?"

"Si. " Maria agreed.

Dar drummed her fingers on the desk. "Um… so… what did you have planned for the weekend, Maria?"

The secretary gave her a curious look. "Aye… well… nothing really, just some work in the garden, and my husband is going to paint the bathroom. " She answered, a little puzzled.

"Ah…. That sounds nice… um… " Dar glanced up as the inner door opened and Kerry ambled in, her green eyes twinkling as they found her lover's face. "We were going to have a little get together on Saturday morning… I'd..um.. " The tall woman regarded her pencil, then looked over at Kerry. "We'd like you to be there."  Kerry put a paper bag down on the desk and smiled at Maria.

Maria folded her hands, and looked from one to the other. "It is a party?"

Dar looked at Kerry in silent appeal. The blond woman rolled her eyes.

"Sort of." Kerry perched on one corner of the desk. "My former pastor from Michigan is in Miami for a visit, and he… offered to perform a commitment ceremony for us."

She does that so smoothly. Dar marveled.

"Como?" Maria took a step forward towards them. "Do you mean to be saying you are getting married?"

Kerry felt the strangeness of the word. "Um.. yes, I think you could say that." She turned and looked at Dar in question. The woman was chewing the end of her pen so studiously you'd have thought she had a plastic deficiency. "Right?"

Blue eyes shifted to her face, and then to Maria. "Uh.. yes." Dar swallowed, having never really expected to be saying that.

Maria put her hands on her hips, and gave Dar a very severe look. "Jefe, that is not nice."

Dar was startled. "Wh… " Could she have read Maria all wrong? No..  "What isn't nice?"  Kerry was also regarding the secretary in some puzzlement.

"You cannot just be doing this without warning… to not give me a chance to get a nice present… that is not fair, Dar….I must get a dress, and.."

"Whoa.. whoa.. no.. no. .it's very casual, Maria.. " Dar stood up hastily. "You don't need to get us anything.. we just want you to be there."

"Right." Kerry nodded. "Really…it's very.. we just decided to do this the other day, Maria."

"Casual? " The shorter woman repeated. "How you mean, casual, Dar?"

"Um.. well, we're going to take my boat out there." Dar scratched her jaw. "And it's on a little island… before dawn."

Maria stared at her for a long  moment. "Dios Mio." She shook her head. "Dar, you are too much."

Dar exhaled softly. "It's all right if you don't want to, Maria.. I know it's very short notice.. and it's not… "

"Pardon? I do not think so, Dar.. I would not miss this for all the how you say, coffee in India." Maria stated. "I will get my pair of shorts out, just for you." She beamed at them, then turned and bustled out, shutting the door behind her.

"Well." Kerry remarked, turning and giving her lover a smile. Then she walked around and leaned on the desk next to Dar, her blond hair brushing the edges of the wood surface. "Hi."

Dar glanced at the door, then nuzzled her. "Mm.. you smell like café con leche."

"Oh yeah?" Kerry leaned her way and kissed her lightly. "Imagine that."

Dar's eyes gentled. "Everything okay?" She asked.

"Mmhmm." Kerry told her. "Marie tells me I'm very healthy… and that I look great, and that she wants me to bring you to a party down there so they can all meet the infamous Dar Roberts."

Blue eyes flickered. "Infamous?"

"Mm.. something about a robber.. or maybe it was two of them… "

Dar dropped her head. "Ah. " She nodded. 'That.. damn.. are they still telling that old story?"

Kerry slipped her arm across Dar's shoulders. "Tell you what, partner… I've got some meatballs in the crock pot.. cooking nice and slow… how about you, and me share a big bowl of them and some spaghetti later on, and you tell me that old story, okay?"

Dar smiled quietly at the desktop. "All right." She paused, reflectively. "You know… I remember going out to the beach after that whole thing happened, and watching the sun rise. " She let out a breath. "It was one of the only times I felt… proud.. of who I was.. and the fact that I'd had a positive effect in someone's life."

Kerry studied her profile for a moment, then she reached over and gently tilted her chin up, until their eyes met. "Until now."

 A calm silence fell, as they stared into each other's eyes, bathed in the warm sunlight pouring into the room, and spilling over them like a golden blanket.

Abruptly the phone buzzed., and broke the spell. "Dar, I have the Singapore on uno." Maria's voice entered the room.

Dar took Kerry's hand, and kissed it. "All right, I've got it, Maria."

Kerry stroked her cheek, then straightened, and  nodded. "See you for lunch?" She motioned towards the bag. "Enjoy."

"Thanks." Dar smiled, as she reached for the phone button. "Yeah?"

"Dar, we've got SITA problems again." The harried voice sounded. "The overseas net is down in the Far East… can you help?"

Kerry moved to the door, and waved, then disappeared.


It was cool out on the patio. Dar stood, leaning against the stone wall, her elbows resting on it's top as she gazed out over the water. The salty wind blew her hair back, and she caught a whiff of wood smoke, from the barbeque they were having down at the beach club.

If she turned her head, she knew, she'd see Kerry sprawled in the loveseat, busy with her ancient pen and a piece of parchment, writing something she refused to let Dar see. "Tomorrow's soon enough." She'd told her lover, huddling over it.

Tomorrow. Dar looked down and regarded her hands quietly, absently fingering the golden band around her finger. She wasn't nervous, exactly… after all, it was just a few words spoken by someone she didn't even know. She would have preferred that it were just the three of them, but she couldn’t grudge Kerry's wish to have people there.

Grumpy old antisocial beach bum. She chastised herself, semi humorously. C'mon, it's not that big a step, and it's only Duks, Mari, Maria, and Colleen. Get over it.

Her page to her father had gone unanswered, and though part of her was concerned at that, another part was secretly relieved, and that was warring with the big slice battling off dissapointment.

Well, they'd take pictures… he'd like that. Dar sighed, and straightened. The Jacuzzi caught her eye, and she decided a nice warm soak was a good idea. A thought occurred to her. Bet Kerry would like that too.  Another thought. We have fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

Brightening, Dar went back inside.


Kerry put the last touches on her poem, then untangled herself from a snoozing Chino and trotted upstairs to put the parchment carefully away. Then she examined the white, casual outfit she'd picked out for the morning, cutoff denim shorts, and the soft white shirt that tied across her ribcage, exposing her belly.

Casual, Yeah. Kerry faced her reflection in the mirror and smiled. Dar had picked a worn, stonewashed pair of short overalls, with a white shirt underneath it. It was impossibly cute on her, especially with her tan, and the fact that she intended to remain barefoot.

Kerry laughed gently, then opened her top drawer, and pulled out a wooden box, neatly carved and purchased at Bayside just the day before. She opened it, and exposed the soft, plushly velvet interior, where the two crystals were nestled, the soft lamp light glistening against both them and the brand new golden chains draped about them.  The jewlers had polished the stones, causing them to reflect the light in brilliant prisms, and she smiled as she imagined giving Dar hers the next morning.

Soft footfalls alerted her, and she tucked the box away, just in time to turn and greet her wind disheveled lover as she peeked inside the room. "Hey."

Dar entered, riffling her hair with a negligent hand. "I was wondering if you'd like to share a bowl of raspberries and a hot tub with me."

Kerry grinned hugely. "Would I? What kind of a silly question is that? You betcha." She grabbed her bathing suit from the rack and gave Dar a gentle shove. "Meet you out there?"  Dar's eyes twinkled, as she nodded, and ambled out, Chino stumbling at her heels.

Kerry pulled her shirt off, and tugged on her suit, pulling at the straps to settle the thin fabric. Then she grabbed a towel and trotted downstairs, in time to meet Dar coming out of the kitchen with two plastic containers and a smudge of whipped cream on her face. "Mm." Kerry stood on tiptoes and licked it off, getting a startled squawk from her taller companion. "Who needs berries?"

They went outside, and eased into the bubbling Jacuzzi, as Dar put the containers on the edge of the pool. "Mm." She stretched out long legs and leaned back. "That was quite a workout tonight…I'm not sure what got into Ken and I… we were like wild weasels." Ken had come out to the island, mostly to get away from the club for one night, and they'd taken over the aerobics area at the island's gym, and really gone at it. The young kid Dar usually sparred with had just stood back against the wall and watched, and for a minute there..

Dar regarded the bright stars. It had all come back, as she'd executed a flickering, almost dazzling move that had dumped poor Ken on his butt so hard he bounced. She'd stood there, blood pumping fiercely, and remembered just how good that felt.

"I told Ken I'd be willing to give a little, local match a try." Dar commented, idly tracing the patterns in the sky with her eyes. "There's one in May…I think I'm gonna enter."

Kerry regarded her speculatively. "Awesome… I think you're going to kick everyone's butt."

A shrug. "Well.. I don't know about that… I'm getting a little old for this, but… we'll see. It'll be a small thing.. maybe I can win a few rounds."

Kerry sploshed over and laid her cheek against Dar's shoulder, gazing up at her with puppylike adoration. "Would you win me a trophy?"

Wide, round, blue eyes stared at her. "Um… what?"

"I always wanted someone to win a trophy for me.. I used to have Brian try it at the State Fair, but to tell you the truth, he was more uncoordinated than I was.. and I'm pretty bad."

Dark lashes blinked. "You're not uncoordinated."

"Not now, no." Kerry agreed. "How about it? Is that too romantically gooshy for you?"

"Romantic?" Dar ran a hand through her hair, confused. "Kerry.. it's a flipping karate trophy.. I don’t know if I can.. I mean… I'm sure there'll be better…I… "

Soft, green eyes gazed at her trustingly.

A sigh. "You want a martial arts trophy."

Kerry nodded. "Mm…. I really do." She assured her lover. "And I'm going to get a t-shirt with your picture on it so I can cheer you on."

Dar made a noise somewhere between a cluck and a sneeze. "Kerry!" She squeaked, truly alarmed. 

The blond woman chuckled softly. "Gotcha." She gently nibbled Dar's arm. "Sorry.. whenever you go on about how old you are.. I have this irresistible urge to pull your chain a little."

Dar scowled engagingly.

"Tch.. that is such a cute look." Kerry put a fingertip against the pouting lips. "Seriously, Dar… Ken was totally impressed tonight.. I heard him talking to that kid you usually work with."

"Mm." Dar grumbled. "I just don't want to…" She hesitated. "I guess I don't want to get my own expectations up." She played with the water a bit. "The last time I did this, I was really good, Ker… I know I can't match that now, and I'm trying to convince myself it doesn't matter."

"It doesn't." Kerry put her arms around her friend. "But you're really competitive, aren't you?"

A rueful nod.

"You'll do fine, Dar… no one's going to expect everything from you after all the time that's gone by.. just have fun." Kerry rubbed her belly comfortingly. "I'm looking forward to being there."

"Hmm." Dar produced a smile. "Yeah.. you're right… I guess I'm just being a little bit squirelly tonight."

Kerry rested her head against Dar's arm again. "Mm.. " She glanced up. "You nervous about tomorrow?"

"No." Dar brushed the thought off. "Oh, well, a little nervous about getting all those people on the boat and out of Government Cut without ramming into Soverign of the Seas, but other than that.. no." She nuzzled Kerry's hair. "They're going to stock the galley with breakfast for everyone."

"Mmm…..  " Kerry moved closer, sliding her arms around Dar's body. "Did you decide on what you wanted to say?"

An unseen smile lit Dar's face. "Yes."

"Ooo… gonna tell me?" Kerry coaxed, easing an adventurous finger under Dar's bathing suit strap.

"Nope." The dark haired woman responded. "You'll find out tomorrow." She bent her head and nipped a line across the back of Kerry's neck, and feeling the soft rise of goosebumps on her skin. Playfully, she reached behind her and dipped a finger in the whipped cream, then put a blob on Kerry's damp nose.

The green eyes crossed slightly as Kerry tried to focus. "Yah."

Dar leaned over and removed the blob, then moved down and kissed her, exchanging a bit of the sweet stuff while Kerry giggled. "Like that?"

Kerry went back for another taste, easing over and straddling her lover as she floated in the water. After a moment she paused. "That answer your question?"

A dark brow arched. "Want some berries?"

"Later." Kerry leaned forward and brought their bodies into contact, creating a gentle friction in the water. Dar's hands slid across her back  and increased the pressure, as their legs intertwined and she felt a touch wander down her hip and tickle her thigh.

She slid a strap down on Dar's suit, and heard a chuckle as her fingertips brushed against newly uncovered flesh. "Hope no one's got the binoculars out" She breathed  into a tanned ear.

Dar got both Kerry's straps off at once, and slid the sheer fabric down, exposing her body to the water's currents, a sensual moment. "They'll just think it's a full moon." She tweaked Kerry's behind with a twinkle in her eyes, then arched her back as the blond woman worked her own suit off.

"Bite me." Kerry ducked her head under the water and took a nibble, feeling Dar's whole body jerk in reaction. The combination of subtle touches and the water's stimulation was incredible, and she wanted more of it.  Hands slid around her ribcage and pulled her up, and she found Dar's lips waiting. The dark haired woman rocked back, and started a slow, teasing expedition that Kerry enthusiastically joined in on.

The stars chuckled overhead.


Concluded in Part 10