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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 15

By Melissa Good

The hangar bay door rolled back, revealing the F14 Tomcat in all it's sinister glory. Dar took a brief moment to study the swept back wing fighter, before she shook her head, and tightened one of the seven zillion straps there seemed to be in the flight suit Jack had insisted she wear.

Three shadowy figures were standing by the plane, and they saluted as Jack came up, stepping out of his way as he circled the aircraft, checking it thoroughly. He was all business now, and spoke to the crewmen in quiet, terse sentences as they finished the fueling and hooked the mounting ladder to it's side. The canopy swung up, and Jack motioned Dar forward. "You first.. so I can stand up there and tell you what not to touch."

He missed the wry look from his friend, as she pulled herself up the ladder, stepped over the high cockpit side, and settled herself into the surprisingly comfortable seat. She was surrounded by electronics, and she was momentarily glad the canopy was glass, which lessened the claustrophobic feeling a bit. "Okay."

Jack mounted next, and placed a booted foot on the edge of the canopy, pointing down. "That's the weapons array, that's radar, that's.."

"The targeting system, threat management, and navigation." Dar finished dryly. "And this, this little beauty is the heads up generator, which I wrote the original programming for."

Jack stared at her. "Oh." He gave her a sheepish grin. "Sorry."

Dar glanced up. "It's all right. I won't touch anything, I promise." She assured him, feeling the tremor as her muscles jerked in agitation. "Let's just get going."

They finished the checklist, then a small vehicle tugged them out into the open, and to the taxiway where Jack lit off his engines and started under his own power. The roar was almost subliminal in it's intensity, and Dar could feel it vibrating down along her clenched jaw. She settled the headphones on her head, and listened, as Jack talked quietly to the tower at the airfield, filing his flight plan, and confirming that was heading for a civilian airport. Then the Tomcat rolled forward, winding down the taxiways before it reached the runway, outlined in dim blues and reds , the oil marked tarmac clear in the icy white of his plane's running lights.

"You ready?" His voice sounded tinny through the earpieces.

"Yep." Dar responded, and tightened her straps. The song "I would do anything for love' inescapably began running through her mind, and she sighed, hoping the afterburners would drown it out. The Tomcat's engines powered up, and the plane began to shake against it's brakes, then with a tremendous jerk, they released, and they were flying down the runway.

It seemed mere seconds, rather than the long time it took with a regular airplane, before they were airborne, and headed up at a steep angle. Dar could feel the g pressure slamming against her, and she kept her breathing steady, closing her eyes and waiting for the plane to eventually level out.

Which it did, cruising along at quite a pace for a little while, as Jack navigated out of the established flight paths and into an isolated one reserved for military aircraft. "You ready?" He asked again. "It's one thirty am, and we're gonna crack plates all over Maryland... so hang on."

"Okay.. go." Dar briefly wondered what it was like to fly at more than the speed of sound, then the afterburners kicked in, and she felt like a horses hooves had slammed her in the chest "Jesus." The acceleration kept up, and she watched the mach meter, creeping closer and closer until it hit mach one, and a rolling wave of thunder cascaded around the plane, shivering through every part of it, and making her ears itch.

Then it was quiet.

They rolled up through mach 2, then Jack trimmed the engines, and maintained a steady flight speed, whipping over the earth with nonchalant ease.

It seemed only moments, in which she sat, trying not to think of anything at all, until she felt the pressure in her ears that meant they were descending. The plane slowed, and the rumble came back, and she could hear Jack's low, even conversation with the traffic controllers in the area. Kent County, apparently, didn't have anything but a radar officer and one single controller on watch, just in case, but they had no other planes in the area, and Jack just told them to turn on the runway lights, and he'd find it okay.

They queried him, uncertainly.

"I'm a carrier pilot." He responded dryly. "I've landed on something a lot smaller than your field."

Then they were on the ground, and Jack parked his plane in an unused hangar, shutting it down and turning it over to the watchful eye of an MP sent for just that purpose. They got in the car he had waiting, and started off.

An hour drive to Saugatuck, which was right on the water. They could feel the lake breeze hitting the car even before they got there, and Dar peered at the map, giving terse, nervous directions.

At last. A somber, white building rose before them, with gates in the front, and a full complement of security.

Jack looked at her uncertainly. "How are we going to get in there?"

Blue eyes regarded him. "You're not.. you're staying right here until I get back.. and if I don't get back, call this number." She tried to hand him a card, but he wouldn't take it.

"No way, Dar... I'm going in there with you." His jaw jutted stubbornly. "You had me fly all the way out here, I'm not missing out on the fun."

"Jack, this could mean trouble for you...I don't want that on my conscience." The dark haired woman objected.

"Flying into Iraqi airspace meant trouble for me." He replied bluntly. "I went anyway."

Dar remained silent, then sighed. "All right." She took her badge from her briefcase and clipped it on her, then peered at him. "Here.' She clipped the luggage tag on his flight suit. "Take off the insignia.. they won't know the difference."

They got out of the car, and Dar stripped off her flight suit, donning instead the trench coat she'd brought against the chill air. She shouldered her laptop, and faced him. "We're here to fix the computers... okay?"

His brows creased, as he pulled off his wings and name patch. "What if they aren't broken?"

"They are." Dar assured him. "They have a trouble ticket open with the local account here."

"That's a bit of a coincidence, isn't it?" He inquired warily.

"Not really." Dar replied, as she started walking towards the guard house. "It's a long holiday weekend, they have to transmit their payroll tonight, and both of their local techs are with their families three hundred miles away. It's the worst possible time for a problem, ergo, there is one." She straightened her lapel. "Computers are like that."

Jack thought about that. "Oh." He zipped up his jacket, hanging his luggage tag from the outside pocket. "It's that Murphy thing, right?"

Dar just smiled, as they came up to the gate, a large, rectangle of light from the glassed in window spilling out along the darkened path.

As they approached, a small panel slid aside, revealing a young guard with thick, curly blond hair and blue eyes. "Can I help you?" He started to ask, then his eyes fell on her badge. "Oh.. thank god...thank god...let me get the gate open."

Dar winked at Jack. "Now, that's the kind of reception I like to see the company get." Now that she was here, and doing something, her nerves had steadied, and she felt a lot calmer. It was the waiting that killed her.

The gate swung open and the guard hurried out. "You need an escort?" He asked anxiously.

Dar consulted a paper. "Let's see.. it's the computer room on the... " She bent closer.

"Third floor.. near the lockdown unit." He supplied helpfully. "Go up the elevator, get off at the third floor, turn right, and it's three doors down on the left. I'll have it opened for you."

"Great.. thanks. We'll try to be quick." Dar promised.

"Please.. if they don't transmit that tape before the banks update in the morning, I'm toast." The man begged. "I promised I'd take my mother in law out to brunch on Sunday, and at this rate, it's going to be at McDonalds."

Dar patted his shoulder. "Relax." She started up the gravel path, the stones crunching under her boots and exhaled. "First hurdle down."

Jack moved closer. "Isn't it bad, raising his hopes like that?"

Blue eyes shot a look at him. "Trust me, they've got a lot better chance of getting those damn systems working with me here than if they'd sent one of our field techs." She continued walking, heading up a low series of steps to the front door of the facility. "I'm not just an administrator, y'know."

"Bu.. uh.. well, I know, Dar.. but we're not really here to do that.. I mean...are you actually going to fix it, then?"

Dar sighed. "I have to access their mainframe to see what the problem is, and also to pull the information on where Kerry is.. I'll take a look then. "

They entered the building, quiet at this hour, and nodded at the guard sitting on the reception desk. He glanced at them, then spotted the badge and looked profoundly relieved. "Damn, are we glad to see you guys.. they said they didn't have anyone in the area.. I thought we were really screwed."

"We flew in." Dar replied honestly, as she headed past the desk and entered the elevator. The doors closed behind them, and she exhaled again. "Hurdle number two." It was a silent ride, until the doors slid open on the third floor, exposing a long expanse of mind numbingly mint green concrete. "Jesus.. I hate that color." Dar muttered, as she turned to her right.

Their shoes squeaked on the polished tile, and the sound made the nurse at the desk look up in startled attention. She came around the corner and approached them, a short, slim woman with dark hair, and a lightly made up face. "Can I... oh." Her eyes widened on seeing Dar's badge. "Thank the good Lord's mercy."

Dar smiled, and stopped in front of the room the guard had indicated, nodding at it. "Wanna let me in?"

The nurse hurriedly punched in a code, and the door opened. She pushed it back, holding it respectfully as they entered. "Oh, you have no idea how wonderful it is to see you...I can't believe they found someone at this time of night. It's incredible."

Dar entered the computer room, and set her briefcase down, then seated herself in front of the AS400 terminal and examined it. She pulled her laptop out of it's case and booted it, while Jack watched with interest.

"Can I get you two anything?" The nurse asked, anxiously. "Coffee.. a doughnut.. we've got some turkey and stuffing left?"

Dar glanced over. "Thanks, Ms.. " She squinted a little. "Archer.. coffee would be wonderful." She paused. "I like mine with everything."

The nurse nodded, then glanced at Jack.

"Just black for me, thanks." He smiled at her.

"Right you are.. I'll be right back." She hurried off.

Dar recalled the company's profile, and drilled down to their operations section, retrieving their administrative login and password. She typed it in, and was rewarded with full access to their systems.

"How do you guys do this?" Jack whispered. "It's like you've got some massive set of skeleton keys or something."

"Well.." The dark haired woman entered a query to their patient database, and waited for the screen to come back. Then she recorded Kerry's location, and the lock code to her room. "It's like this.. we do all the data transfer for most of the credit unions out there. Most places that are members of the credit unions know that, because we take care that they do.. with joint advertising, that kind of thing. We sponsor credit union picnics, if they have a fundraiser we're involved... so then we can go in and say 'hey.. we do this data stuff for the CU.. why not let us handle yours?' " Dar made several changes to Kerry's file, then saved it, and returned to the main menu.

"And they usually sit back and realize, it does make sense, because we are professionals, and this is what we do.. it's more cost efficient for us to add them to our network, then for them to maintain their own - especially WANS... those T1 lines are expensive as hell, and you don't get redundancy on them. " Dar then dumped out of the menus and went to the operating system level, starting a diagnostic.

"Okay...that makes sense." Jack acknowledged.

"So.. after that, we go in, and say.. 'hey.. we're doing the data stuff for the CU, and we handle your network, why not outsource the rest of your IS to us.. we'll give you a support package, and you won't have to worry about anything.." Dar watched the diagnostic run. "There's the problem." She muttered, stopping it, then standing up and going around to the back of the computer, and kneeling down. "Stupid interface cable's chewed.. they must have rats."

Jack peered at her. "You figured it out already?"

Blue eyes glanced back at him. "It's my job, remember?" Dar took a splicing kit from her briefcase, and quickly fixed the cable, then went back to the console. "They don't know we're here, I might as well fix this, then we can get on with getting Kerry the hell out of here.. she's probably sleeping, Might as well give her a few minutes more." She typed in a set of commands, and tested the cable. "Ah.. better."

"So..do they usually let you take over their stuff?" Jack asked, fascinated.

"A lot of times, yeah.. because maintaining an IS group, especially in a place like this, whose focus is so narrow, is just a pain in the butt for them.. it's much easier, and about the same amount of money, or maybe just a bit more, if they let us do it. And it's a big problem off their shoulders.. because we're big enough so they know if something does go wrong, we'll get it fixed."

"Like now." Jack smiled.

"Well... " Dar chuckled ruefully, as she started up the data transfer cycle. "They were bringing a tech up from Chicago.. I canceled him." She watched the counters roll. "Another day, another dollar. " She stood up and dusted her hands off, then turned, as the nurse came back with the coffee. "Good news."

The woman handed the coffee over, and peered at the screen. "Really?"

"Yep.. you're rolling." Dar informed her. "It'll take about twenty minutes for this to go through.. we'll hang around and make sure it gets finished."

"Bless you!" The nurse squealed in delight. "Oh my god.. I have to go let everyone know.. thank you . .thank you.. you're a genius." She dashed out, headed back for her station.

"Okay." Dar took a sip of her coffee. "You stay here. I'm going to wander casually down the hallway, and see if I can get into Kerry's room." She picked up the piece of paper with the room and code on it, and put it into her pocket. "Then I have to figure a way to get her the hell out of here."

"Oh.. so that part of the plan's not ready yet?" He asked, nervously.

"Plan?" Dar gave him an amused look. "What plan?" She slipped out the door, and sauntered down the hallway, gazing around in apparently casual interest. The nurse spotted her, and waved, never stopping her speech on the phone as she did so. Dar waved back, and continued her progress, stopping every so often to peer at the bulletin boards which dotted the walls, and read the notices and schedules on them.

Kerry's room was at the end of the hallway, Dar realized, around a small crook in the otherwise straight walls. When she came even with the door, and glanced back over her shoulder, she could no longer see the inside of the nurses station, only the front edge of the desk. "Good." She muttered, then eased back the little peephole and peered inside. The harsh white light displayed a stark, almost bare room, with a bed near the far wall. A figure was curled up in it, and Dar nodded to herself, as she closed the panel, then keyed in the lock code and gently opened the door.

She felt rather than saw the blow coming, and let her body react, twisting as something hard and cold struck her on the shoulders. She went with the force of it, diving for the floor and rolling, then coming back up on her feet in a dazed blur, holding her hands out in a defensive posture.

She blinked the stars from her eyes, and heard a faint choking sound, then her vision focused finally on Kerry's stunned face. "Wow." She managed to joke weakly. "You swing a mean stool there."

"Oh my god, I'm .. " Kerry unfroze and closed the distance between them, touching Dar's neck in horror. "Dar.. I'm... I didn't know it w... I thought it was....you're bleeding.. oh.. Jesus.. "

Dar rubbed her head. "Does that mean you're glad to see me, or not?" She gave the blond woman a wry smile.

Kerry just looked at her for a long moment, then slowly came forward and leaned her body against Dar's taller one, sliding her arms around her lover's waist and burying her face in Dar's chest. "Glad to see you? I've never been so glad to see anyone in my entire life." She let out a shaky sigh. "Oh god."

Dar felt her entire world collapse until it only encompassed the two of them, as she wrapped her arms around Kerry and gently kissed her head. "I'm sorry this happened to you."

A sigh warmed her chest, even through the fabric. "I can't believe he did this... it was horrible, Dar.. at first, he wanted to blame you.. he said it was all your fault, that you... lured me into this... "

Dar exhaled, but kept silent.

"And.. I couldn't... I had to tell him that wasn't true... and he.. " Kerry's arm unwound and lifted, her hand touching her cheek. "He hit me."

The dark haired woman pulled back a little, so she could see her partner's cheek. "Bastard."

Kerry just looked sad. "There was so much hate in his voice...I don't understand, Dar.. how can people hate you for something as beautiful as loving someone?" She put her head back down in misery.

"It's part of what makes us human, Kerry." Dar answered in a tired voice. "We like everyone to be the same as we are.. we don't like differences... in ancient times it's what held our little tribes together, and we've been fighting that genetic influence ever since." She told her softly. "Come on.. we've got to get you out of here."

Kerry nodded. "I know... they were going to start 'probing' me in the morning.. I knew I had to get out of here before then... I was afraid they'd..." She hesitated. "I didn't know what kind of drugs they were going to fill me with.. or ... I mean, you can say anything under some of that stuff, and.." Her eyes lifted and met the pale blue ones gazing down at her. "I didn't want to take a chance on them forcing me to say something I didn't mean."

Dar's lips tensed into a grim smile. "What were you going to do after you knocked out little miss sunshine out there?"

"Find a phone." Kerry admitted. "And scream for help." She plucked at her hospital gown. "After stealing some scrubs to wear." Her brow creased. "And.. how did you know about this, Dar?"

The taller woman snorted. "They put the admission and treatment in as a request against your medical benefits." She keyed the door open again, and peeked out, seeing a quiet, empty hallway. "Let me go see if I can find your clothes.. and let Jack know what's going on."

"Jack?" Kerry queried.

"Gerald Easton's son.. he got me here." Dar answered, absently, peering at doors to try and figure out what was behind them.

"Got you here?" A pause. "How did you get here so fast?"

"Tomcat." Dar replied offhandedly. "DC to Grand Rapids in twenty minutes or less. What a ride." She eased out. "Okay.. I'll be right back.. just take it easy, okay?" She patted her pockets, then pulled out a slip of paper. "Just in case." She handed it to Kerry. "It's your lock code."

Kerry blinked at her in adoration. "Bring back some gauze, so I can put a bandage on your neck, while you're at it." She sighed. "Hero."

Dar glanced at her, and blushed, but left without a word.

******************************************************

Outside, Dar padded quietly down the hallway, after shifting her jacket so that the cut on her neck was covered, and popped around the corner to see the nurse bending over some paperwork. She looked up as Dar sauntered closer, then smiled.

"Well, you certainly are the hero of the building." She put down her clipboard and sighed. "You don't know how many people there are here who can breathe now.. for me, tomorrow is my kid's birthday. It was gonna be a doughnut with a candle in it until you walked in."

Dar smiled sincerely at her. "Glad I could help." She leaned on the counter, checking her watch. "Not too much longer." She commented, stifling a yawn. "Say.. are those things really comfortable?"

The nurse looked down. "Oh. .the scrubs? Yeah.. they sure are.. beats the heck out of that starched polyester they used to make us wear, let me tell you." She looked at Dar speculatively. "Hey...would you like a set to try? I could get you one.. we've got thousands."

It was too easy. "Could you?" Mild blue eyes blinked at her in gratitude. "I've always wanted to try them."

The nurse patted her hand. "Honey, for you, anything." She ducked out from behind the desk, and hurried off.

Dar smiled and regarded the nurses station, peering under the counter to see if she could spot any of Kerry's belongings without much success. "Hey, Jack... how's it going in there." She called, in a normal tone of voice.

Jack's blond head popped out, and he glanced at her. "Um.. the red bar is about seventy five percent of the way across.. is that what you're asking?"

She nodded.

"Everything okay?" He looked closer. "Christ on a rudder, Dar.. you're bleeding." He walked over to her and pulled her jacket collar back. "What happened?" He asked in a lower voice. "Did you find Kerry?"

"Yes, I got hit with a stool, and yes." Dar muttered. "Kerry was trying to make a break for it, and thought I was a nurse."

"God.. feisty thing, isn't she?" Jack half laughed. "She okay?"

The dark haired woman nodded. "She's fine.. they hadn't had time to do anything to her... that was scheduled for the morning." She sighed. "But she's pretty shook up."

He digested this. "What kind of place is this, Dar?"

She glanced around. "A psychiatric hospital."

He blinked. "No shit? What's wrong with her?"

Dar shook her head. "Nothing... other than she got caught being gay."

The shock showed in his face as he stared at her. "You're not serious."

The executive sighed tiredly, rubbing eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep and tension. "Yeah." She looked up as the nurse returned, holding a package and smiling cheerfully. "Here you go.. hope you enjoy them." She handed it over, then gave Jack a smile as well.

"Thanks." Dar took the scrubs and tried to figure out what to do next. Her mind was slowing down, she realized, as the problems of getting Kerry out of the hospital safely weighed down on her shoulders. She hadn't really gotten past what to do after she got in here.. mostly because she had no idea what the layout was, or the possibilities.. maybe she could pull the fire alarm... or.. was that a water pressure pipe in that other alcove.."

"Excuse me." The nurse touched her arm "Listen.. can I ask you a big favor, since you're stuck here for a little while anyway?"

"Huh?" Dar broke off her planning and turned to the woman. "Sorry.. sure."

"I'd like to run down and grab a sandwich from the cafeteria.. can you just listen for this phone?" She pointed at it. "If it rings, just answer 3rd Floor, and take a message."

"Uh... well, sure.. of course.. no problem." Dar assured her, working hard to keep an incredulous grin off her face. "Go on.. we'll be here another.. uh.. thirty minutes... at least.. that load's taking longer than I thought."

Nurse Archer beamed at her. "You're the best." She ducked out from behind the desk again. "Can I bring you back a sandwich? They have turkey on a croissant today, and some tomato soup."

"No.. no.. we're fine.. thanks." Dar waved at her. "Take your time."

The doors to the elevator slid closed behind her white butt, and they looked at each other. "Well." Dar rubbed her nose. "You stay here and listen for the phone, and I'll go get Kerry." Unable to quite believe her good luck, the dark haired woman trotted down the hallway to her lover's door, and punched in the code, having the handle practically taken out of her hand by an impatient blond. "Hey!"

"I was starting to get nervous." Kerry whispered. "I thought maybe you got into trouble."

Dar leaned forward and kissed her on the lips, letting her touch linger a bit. "I am trouble." She purred into the shorter woman's ear. "Here." She handed Kerry the scrubs, which came complete with little booties. "It's not chic, but it'll get you the hell out of here."

Kerry took the bundle and examined it with interest. "Hm.. I always wanted a set of these... this wasn't the way I'd have chosen to get them, though." She opened the packages and shook out the white garments, stripping off her uncomfortable hospital gown and slipping into the drawstring pants. "Yeesh." She tugged on the waist strings to make them fit, and ended up tying a big bow, while Dar knelt and did the same for the ankles. "That's better.. at least I won't trip on them." The blond muttered, as she pulled on the shirt, settling it around her body. "Well.. that's not too bad."

Dar smiled, then stood up and pulled a comb out of her pocket, and ran it through Kerry's disheveled hair. "So.. other than that, Mrs. Lincoln.. how was Thanksgiving?"

That got a weak laugh from the blond woman. "Oh... lots of relatives, lots of bullshit...I got to make nice with Brian, and see some of my uncles and aunts I haven't seen in a while." She paused. "Now I guess I won't again." She concluded softly. "Dar, he's not going to just let go of this."

"Leave that to me." Her boss responded, in a crisp, no nonsense voice.

Kerry looked at her. "What does that mean?"

Dar finished her task, and turned her lover towards the light. "You'll do." She concluded. "It means that I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and I'd like you to just trust me to handle the situation."

Warily, Kerry gazed at her. "You're not going to tell me what's going on?"

Serious blue eyes studied her face. "Not here.. not now... and it's easier if I show you. When we get home, I'll lay it all out for you, I promise." She paused. "Will you trust me?"

Kerry looked her right in the eye for a long silent moment. "I trust you." She stated quietly. "Just.. remember, Dar.. whatever else he may be, he is my father."

Dar patted her cheek. "I know." She took a breath. "Come on.. let's get out of here. I'm going to have you go downstairs with Jack.. I'll wait for the nurse to get back here, then join you. It would look strange if we left the floor unwatched, and I don't want any alarms getting out."

Kerry nodded. "Then what?"

Cool, direct blue eyes. "Then we go to your parents house to pick up your things."

"What? Dar.. no.. I don't need that stuff.. there is nothing there irreplaceable... I don't want to go back there." Kerry protested vehemently.

"Kerry.. " Dar started to speak.

"No!" The green eyed woman interrupted. "I can't face them.. not after this.. Dar, donít ask that of me, please." She turned away, hugging herself. "Can't we just get out of here?" She whispered.

Dar exhaled. "Okay... let's go." She walked forward and put an arm around Kerry's shoulders. "I'm sorry.. I'm so used to being so damn confrontational, I forget not everyone can do that."

Kerry let herself be turned around, and they headed for the door. "What purpose would it serve anyway? "

"Just lets them know they didn't beat you." Dar replied quietly, as she opened the door and gently ushered her lover out into the hall, checking first to make sure the coast was clear. "But that's my pride speaking.. and it's kinda loud sometimes."

Kerry looked over her shoulder at the frank admission, and felt a tiny smile tugging at her lips. "That 'in yer face' gene again, huh?" She glanced around at the depressing hallway. "Uck.. this place is disgusting."

They came around the corner and spotted Jack's lonely figure, casually slumped against the desk, as he waited. He saw them and straightened, then smiled as they came closer. "Hi." He gave Kerry a tentative smile. "You must be Kerry."

She held a hand out. "And you must be Jack.. it's nice to meet you."

Dar went around behind the desk, and started rooting through drawers. She came to a locked one, then glanced at the counter. "Nice nurse." She grabbed the set of keys the woman had left and unlocked the drawer, pawing through it. "Ah." A set of hospital badges, all with little post it notes on them. "Let's see.. " She studied them. "Terminated.. terminated... quit.. terminated...deceased.. terminated.. admitted?" She peered at that one. "Hmm... ah.. " She pulled one out from the stack and handed it to Kerry. "Clip that on.. the picture's close enough."

Kerry did so. "Now what?"

Dar relocked the drawer and put the keys back down. "Okay.. you two take the elevator there down, and just walk out the front door. Kerry.. you pretend you're just walking him out, okay?"

The blond was recovering her composure. "It would be more realistic if I was hitting on him." She glanced at the blushing Jack. "He's cute."

"Fine." The executive chuckled wearily. "Once you get out there, just wait for me, okay?"

They both nodded. "What are you going to do?" Kerry asked, predictably.

"Discharge you." The dark haired woman smiled piratically. "I like things neat. Get going." She paused. "Jack, take my laptop, okay?"

He nodded. "Gotcha... see you downstairs." He retrieved the case, and left, guiding Kerry towards the elevator. At the doors, the blond woman turned and met Dar's watching eyes.

"Be careful."

Dar smiled. "You too."

She watched the doors close, then she turned her attention to the task at hand.

**************************************************************

The ride down the elevator was quiet, and Kerry ran her fingers through her hair restlessly, fidgeting until the doors opened at the bottom floor, and they got out. Ahead of them, a single guard was seated at the reception desk, leaning on his elbows. He glanced up as he saw them, and a big smile crossed his face.

"Hey.. hear you guys saved the day! Way to go, man!"

Jack waved. "Yeah.. it was a chewed up wire.. but we got things going again.. I'm just going to put my stuff away." He hefted the briefcase. "Boss is upstairs making sure things finish okay for you guys."

"Great.. great... listen, can we get you a pop or something?" The guard's eyes flicked over Kerry, and dismissed her.

"Nah.. we're just wanting to get to the motel, and get some sleep.. been a hell of a long day." He declined, starting to move past the desk. "Glad it all worked out."

"Which hotel they got you at?" The guard asked in friendly interest. "I know most of the good happy hours around here."

Jack was at a loss. "Um... "

"Didn't you say the Marriott Courtyard? It's about a half mile from here." Kerry interjected casually. "That's where you said we could get a drink later... "

"Wooo.. they put you up at the good places." The guard laughed. "And you got an invitation on top if it...well, g'night.. and thanks again." He glanced once more at Kerry, then went back to the magazine he'd been reading.

They passed through the front hall, and exited the building. "Brr." Kerry sighed. "These scrubs are not meant for November in Saugatuck."

Jack glanced around as they crunched down the gravel path. "Thanks for saving my butt in there.. I've got no damn idea what hotels there are around this place." He glanced around. "Once we get past the front gate, I'll give you my jacket.. okay?"

Kerry nodded, but kept silent, feeling the cold, hard ground through the thin surface of her booties. They came even with the front gate, and the guard inside looked up. Kerry waved at him, and he waved back, then he waved even harder at Jack.

Jack smiled. "I feel like a goddamned messiah." He muttered out of the corner of his mouth. "I haven't gotten this kind of a greeting since we liberated Kuwait." He glanced at the beaming guard. "He doesn't even realize he doesn't know you, does he?" The gate slowly opened in front of them, and they started to pass through.

Kerry snorted softly. "There's a lot of Dutch and Germans settled in this area... blond, white women are a dime a dozen, trust me...he probably sees twenty people who look like me every day." They passed out of light cone around the guardhouse, and finally, Kerry felt her guts start to relax a little, as she heard the metal lock close shut behind her.

She was free. She was out of the worse situation she'd ever been in, and she mostly felt like finding a warm spot and just curling up into it and crying. It was dark around them now, and Jack stripped off his jacket, and set it around her shoulders. "Thanks." She nodded gratefully to him. "I know I owe you a big thank you for getting Dar here so fast, too."

He chuckled a little, as they came up to the military car, in dark blue, and he unlocked the door for her. "I'd do just about anything for her.. we've been friends since we were kids. She saved my ass once, after we built a treehouse out in a ficus that overhung a sinkhole." He waited for her to slide in, then he closed the door and got in on the other side. "My dad told me not to.. but I was pretty damn stubborn, and I did anyway... I was putting the final railing on when I lost my step and fell over the edge, with nothing between me and the bottom of that damn sinkhole except O2. " He exhaled. "My belt caught on a branch nub, and there I was, hanging like a stuffed pig on Christmas, yelling my head off."

Kerry muffed a slightly hysterical laugh. "Oh no."

"Yep.. next thing I know, Dar's there, and she manages to get a rope tied off, and around her, then she climbs down next to me, and helps me get up onto the next branch... so then we both lose our balance, and fall.. and she's hanging on to me, and tied to that rope.. so I figure we're both toast."

"Oh no!" Kerry's eyes widened.

"Yep.. but she's stronger than all hell, if you know what I mean, even then, when we were little, so she manages to get her body twisted round, and I can grab onto the branch and pull myself up. Then she gets up next to me, and we were all right. "

"Whew." The blond woman blew out a breath. "Then what happened?"

He gave her a wry glance. "She slugged me for being so damned stupid."

Kerry burst into laughter, clamping a hand over her mouth quickly. "Oh.. god. I'm sorry.. that's not funny." She apologized.

"Sure it is." Jack laughed. "It's Dar all over."

The blond woman sighed. "Yeah.. I think I can see that.. even though I've only known her for a little while." Her eyes flicked to Jack's. "She's a brave woman."

He smiled at her "She's a brave human." He corrected her. "She's the best friend, and the worst enemy you could possibly want to have.. she never backs down, and she's always there if you need her to be."

Kerry stared out the windshield, at the faintly glowing lights from the hospital. "That's true." She finally said softly. "She'll stand up to anyone." She fell silent, and leaned her head against the door jamb, her eyes glued on the path leading down from the hospital.

They waited what seemed like an eternity, but what was actually about ten minutes, until Kerry's eyes found what they were looking for, and a tall, lean figure came gliding down the gravel, stopping at the gate and exchanging a few words with the guard, who laughed, and waved, and exited out the sliding wire barrier into the darkness of the parking lot.

A moment later, and Dar was sliding into the back seat, with a long, exhausted sigh. "God damn it all to hell in a wire handbasket, I'm glad that's over with." She muttered, slumping against the cushions. "Damn woman nearly talked my ear off.. tried to give me a cupcake.. wanted my bosses name so she could put in a good word... Jesus!"

Kerry started laughing helplessly. "You should have given it to her." She exhaled. "And you like cupcakes."

Jack glanced at her, then into the rearview mirror. "Where to?"

Dar considered. "There a hotel nearby? I think we all could use some sleep. I know I could.. then we can pack Jack back off to DC, and catch a commercial flight back home."

"What about that Marriott you mentioned?" Jack asked Kerry.

Kerry remained silent for a moment. "I.. um.. ." She half turned, and rested her chin on the back of the seat, gazing at Dar. "I.. think you're right. I think we should go pick up my stuff."

A dark eyebrow lifted. "I thought... "

"I know." Kerry looked down at the fabric. "But I started this, and I need to finish it." She raised her eyes to Dar's. "I just need a little backup."

A quiet, proud smile edged Dar's lips. "You've got that... Kerry, I know this is tough for you.. and I know you still love your parents very much.. try to remember that, all right?" She sighed. "Don't let what happened take that away from you.. no matter how much they seem to deserve it."

Jack started the car and pulled out of the lot.

Kerry thought about Dar's advice throughout the quiet, darkness shrouded drive.

*******************************************************

The house was dark. The front light was on, sending a pool of silver across the brown grass, but the rest of the building was silent and gray. Jack pulled up next to the driveway, and glanced back at Dar.

"All right." Dar sucked in a breath, and tried to summon up energy. "Jack..."

The pilot blinked at her. "He's enough of a scud to nap his own daughter, and have her shipped off to the funny farm... I'm going as your security." He reached under the seat of the car and brought out his service issued automatic, snapping the adjustable holster into it's place under his arm. "And just so they know I'm registered to carry that.. " He put his insignia back on.

Dar put a hand on his arm. "No." She quietly disagreed. "I donít' think it's going to be necessary, and I've got a few cards up my sleeve if he does try anything stupid.. let's not get the military involved in this, okay? He's a senator, and it could only mean big, big trouble, my friend."

"Dar's right." Kerry added softly. "My father has a bug up his ass about the power of the Pentagon.. don't give him that kind of ammunition."

Jack glanced from one to the other. "Okay.. but you've got thirty minutes. More than that, and I'm coming in after you."

"All right." The dark haired woman agreed. "You ready?" She asked Kerry, who nodded. "Let's go."

They eased out of the car, and shut the doors gently, then made their way up the front walk to the entrance. Kerry faced the door and her hands clenched, then relaxed. She reached up and rang the bell.

Once. Twice. Three times, before they heard footsteps approaching. Dar put a steadying hand on her lover's back, and straightened her own, gathering her wits about her.

The door opened, and swung back, and the Senator was standing there, blinking at them in sleep fogged disbelief.

Kerry walked forward, and mounted the step up to the threshold, then hauled off and slapped him hard across the face.

The sound of the slap ricocheted through the hallway, making him stumble back, and startling Dar, who had no idea in the world her lover was going to do that.

"What in the.." The Senator reached for a light switch and flipped it on, illuminating the doorway and inner hall. "How dare you.."

"How dare I?" Kerry walked right in and up to him. "How dare I?? How dare YOU do something like that to me!!!"

He stared at her, then slowly, his eyes drifted past her to the tall, dark figure looming behind her. "You." His voice dripped with revulsion.

Dar walked inside and closed the door behind her. "I don't think we've met, have we?" She put a hand on her furious friend's back. "My name is Dar Roberts, and I'm your daughter's supervisor."

"I know who you are, you whore." The man roared. "Get out of my house!" He turned for the phone. "I'll have the law on you!"

"For.. what?" Dar cut off Kerry's violent protest. "Exactly?"

"Breaking and entering!" He answered, dialing.

"You let us in." Dar reminded him.

"Of the hospital, you freak!"

"Actually, they're an account of ours.. I signed in the visitors log like anyone else." Dar replied calmly. "And I was requested there due to a computer problem."

He stopped dialing. "You broke her out of there." He accused.

"No no.. the nursing supervisor discharged her." The executive smiled at him. "After they found nothing wrong with her."

"There is something wrong with her." He put the phone down. "And it's your fault. You corrupted her, you bitch, and I'll have you... "

A long, powerful finger lifted. "You will have me filing a lawsuit against your for libel, along with one for kidnapping and forcibly detaining an employee of mine if you donít shut up." She slid ahead of Kerry, dangerous as a panther as she walked up to him, staring him evenly in the eyes. "Now.. I suggest we take this little discussion to whatever you use as an office, so the rest of your.. family.. doesnít have to hear what I have to tell you, okay?"

"You think you're so damn clever." The man spat.

"No.. the company does, in fact.. the company pays me to be clever.. and I like to give them their money's worth." Dar replied, with a smile. "Now.. you can move, or we can just collect Kerry's things and be on our way, and I'll just run a transmit to the news services when I get back in the car. Your choice." Dar's voice dripped with danger, smooth, slick syllables, that rolled off her tongue and were accented with glints of her eyes.

He moved, turning and heading towards a wooden door visible through the living room they were standing at the edge of. Dar followed him, and Kerry, after taking a breath, followed her, stunned by the powerful presence her boss had manifested. She glanced to one side and found herself looking into her mother's eyes, peering out from their bedroom doorway.

The eyes disappeared, and the door closed. Kerry sighed, and kept walking, trailing after Dar's tall figure as they entered that damn study, and this time she closed the door behind them.

Dar circled the room, then ended up by his desk, which she perched on a corner of and crossed her arms. She stayed quiet, taking a moment to study him with interested, blue eyes.

'What do you want?" He finally asked, after a period of this.

Dar let him wait a bit longer, then she stood and walked around a little, ending up next to the window. "What do I want." She repeated. "I want you to go back twenty four hours and not have assaulted, kidnapped, and illegally incarcerated your own daughter there. That's what I want."

"I didn't illegally do anything." The Senator brusquely informed her. "She was admitted for observation, and it's my responsibility to make sure my family gets taken care of."

"Oh.. so when they filled me full of drugs, and tried to brainwash me in the morning.. that was for.. observational reasons?" Kerry asked, from her position against the wall.

He glanced at her. "I wanted them to talk to you, yes, and get these crazy ideas out of your head, before you ruin your life." He glared at Dar. "She's the one who brainwashed you."

"Brainwashed her into what?" Dar snorted. "Into thinking for herself? No thanks.. she did that all by herself with no help from me." She paused. "Oh.. you mean brainwashed her into thinking we were in love with each other.. right... "

"I don't want to hear that." The man turned his back on them. "I donít accept that any child of mine would be a part of something that disgusting and depraved." He turned. "And be damned to Hell on top of it. " His hand slashed through the hair. "No!" His eyes went to Dar's shadowed face. "Why don't you just get out of here, and leave decent people alone? Your kind doesnít' belong in this country."

Dar stepped closer, so fast he didn't even have time to move, or to blink before she was practically on top of him, nose to nose. "My daddy died for this country you piece of ignorant trash.. so you watch what you say." Her voice had dropped to a menacing growl. "And he was worth a thousand of you."

Kerry held her breath. She'd never seen Dar like this. Her eyes were glittering, and her whole body seemed alert with energy. The fiery rage was almost palpable.

Dead silence. Then. "I'm calling the police." The senator picked up the phone. "I'm going to have you arrested, on whatever charges I feel like paying the chief to write up for me, and then I'm going to enjoy seeing your ugly ass locked up in the men's side of the prison and watch you get raped until you scream. "

Surprisingly, Dar smiled. Charmingly. "Ah.. your true colors." She purred, her temper put back on a leash. "Before you finish dialing, you might want to think of the number.... 99344343."

He stopped dead, his finger on one button, and slowly, viciously, raised his eyes to hers.

A chuckle. "Did you know, Senator, that in this day and age, everything you do goes in a computer?" Dar stepped around the desk and sat on it's edge again. "Every credit card transaction, every banking transaction, every medical record.. " She smiled again. "Birth certificates.. Death certificates...everything."

He just stared at her. Hating.

Dar leaned forward. "You put the phone down. You let me get Kerrison's stuff out of here, and then you don't bother her ever again, or I have one huge ass file that's going out on a mass mailing to every god damned news agency in the world, along with the Attorney General's office. " She paused. "With a personal note from me to Janet, if you know what I mean."

"You're bluffing." He whispered.

Dar leaned closer. "No I'm not." She chuckled. "And believe me, I'd enjoy every single second of watching you self-destruct on CNN." She eyed him lazily. "I'd even send a condolence card to Pamela."

His eyes bugged out. Dar slipped off the edge of the desk, and stood, waiting.

"All right." He straightened, and appeared to regain his composure. "What do you really want? What deal are you after."

"Deal?" Dar inquired softly.

"You must be after something... what is it, money?" He glanced up. "They can't pay you that much at that place... is that what you're after?" He moved around, drawing her attention and Kerry's as he paced. "We can work out a deal... you just name what your price is and we.."

Dar's body moved with a savage suddenness that startled even Kerry. She half turned and sent a sideways kick snapping up, her foot hitting something hard and sending it flying. Then she whirled and spun kicked again, this time sending a body flying against the wall with an audible thump.

Kerry ran for the lights as she heard movement, and got to them, flicking them on just in time to see Kyle go flying again, caught squarely in the ribs by a flying drop kick.

"What's the matter, Kyle.. you too used to picking on little girls." Dar taunted, as she ducked a side swipe of his fist. "Intimidating them, and taking their puppies?" She swiveled and cracked him in the jaw with a roundhouse kick "Stinking pig."

He lunged at her, grabbing her around the waist and taking them both down, but not counting on Dar's powerful legs, which wrapped around him and flipped them both over, landing Dar on top and letting her get in a good blow to the groin.

"Bitch." He slugged her in the side, then did it again, then wheezed as a knee slammed him in the gut. He scrambled out f her range, then lunged to his feet, intent on grabbing her.

Dar rolled up and caught him as he tried to stand up, slamming an elbow into his jaw, then grabbing an arm and throwing him over her shoulder to land with a sodden crash on the parquet floor. "Oh yeah.. the bitch that just kicked your ass and loved every minute of it." Dar felt her breathing steady, and she felt her temper dropping, the violent need satisfied for the moment.

It was quiet then, until Dar walked over to the far wall and picked up the automatic pistol she'd kicked out of Kyle's hand, juggling it in her own.

Kerry watched an unfamiliar expression appear on her father's face.

Fear. "Did I forget to mention she was the World Champion in karate one year?" Kerry murmured. "Guess I did." Now it was her turn. She stepped forward, until she was standing against her father's desk. "What you did to me was wrong."

He just looked at her.

"Not just last night... you've been trying to make me into something I'm not since I was a little girl, and you hurt me a lot." Kerry told him. "But your still my father, and I still love you.. I just can't live with you."

"I am not your father." He turned his back. "Get out of my house, and take your.. friend.. with you ."

Kerry sighed, and glanced at Dar, who was unloading the pistol and pocketing the rounds. "Come on.. I don't have much to get here."

Dar tossed the automatic on the desk. "Right behind you."

They left the office, and proceeded silently up the stairs. Dar settled her hands on her lover's shoulders. "You okay?" She murmured softly into a pink ear.

Kerry felt like just leaning back and letting Dar's body envelope hers. "I'm really hurting inside." She told the dark haired woman honestly. "I think I'm going to need a good, long cuddling real soon now."

Dar kissed her gently on the head. "Tonight, and ever other night for the rest of your life, if you want." She promised, realizing what she said after the words came out.

A momentary, almost shocked silence. "I want." Kerry finally answered, in a soft voice. "C'mon.. let's get out of here... I have a life to attend to."

*********************************************************

Kerry walked into her old bedroom and crossed the floor to where her things were still resting. Someone had tucked everything away, and she hoped it had been Angela. She quickly checked through the laptop case, then her bag, and gave Dar a nod. "This is everything." She pulled out a pair of jeans and the Navy sweatshirt, and quickly changed, tucking her scrubs away in the bag and sitting down to pull on her sneakers.

Dar walked over and lifted the bag, swinging it to her shoulder. "All right... let's go."

Kerry hesitated, and looked around. "I grew up in this room." She stated quietly. "Angela and me."

Dar let her eyes flick over the room, then she put her free arm over Kerry's shoulders. "You know you won't lose touch with your sister, right?"

"I know." The blond woman sighed.

They both looked up at a sound, and saw a disheveled chestnut head poked in. "Ker?"

"Angie."

Her sister came in and hurried over, as Kerry stepped forward and hugged her. "Oh my god, Kerry... what in the hell happened? You disappeared, and they wouldn't tell me what was going on.. or where you went, and I... "

"Shh... yeah.. it was pretty bad." Kerry answered softly. "They knocked me out and took me to Roger's."

Angela released her, and stared at her sister in shock. "Oh my god." Her eyes finally drifted to the right, as she realized Kerry wasn't alone, and she gasped a little, at the pale blue orbs catching the low light in the room. "Oh.. I... " She looked closer. "You must be... Dar?"

The taller woman smiled, a glint of white in the gloom. "That's right." She held out a hand courteously. "Nice to meet you, Angela.. wish it was under better circumstances."

"Oh.. uh... yeah." Kerry's sister took her hand gingerly and shook it. "I've heard a lot about you.. .. " She smiled tentatively, then turned back to her sister. "So.. what happened?"

Kerry sighed. "Well... Dar showed up and sprung me.. "

"You were doing pretty damn good at that yourself when I got there." Dar interrupted.

Green eyes gave her a mild, affectionate look. "Then we came back here, and I.. sort of had it out with dad, and now.. we're leaving." She paused, gazing at her sister. "For good, it looks like."

"Oh." Angela took her hands and squeezed them. "Well, I might be right behind you... and I'll keep in touch, okay?"

Kerry smiled and hugged her. "Please... I'll miss you.. will you let Michael know what's going on?"

Angela nodded, as they parted. "I'll call him tomorrow... I'm sort of glad he got stuck at school and wasn't here.. you know he would have gone ballistic."

Kerry sighed. "I know... well, we've got to get going...I'll call you when I get back to Miami."

"During the day." Angela told her softly. "Richard's given me a lecture about getting involved." She made a face. "We had quite a discussion about that."

"All right." The blond woman shouldered her laptop. "C'mon, Dar.. before Jack comes busting in here." She gave her sister one last hug, then moved towards the door, trailing her tall, dark shadow behind her. They walked down the stairs and out the front door, passing through the pool of light and onto the path, towards where an anxious looking Jack was half in and half out of the car, one foot on the ground. He got back in as they arrived, and Dar opened the door, allowing Kerry to slid inside. She started to close the door when the blond woman held a hand up, then reached out and tugged her coat, sliding over further to make room.

Dar tossed the bag in the back seat and closed the door, then got in next to her lover and exhaled. "Let's get out of here."

Jack needed no further instruction. He started the car and backed out, then turned around and headed down the road. "Nasty?" He asked, after a few silent moments.

Dar sucked on a sore knuckle and glanced at him. "Very." She snuck a peek at the very quiet Kerry, then put a hand on her shoulder. "How are you doing?"

Kerry tore her eyes from the dark landscape, and slowly turned her head, peering up at Dar's half shadowed face. "Really sucky." She answered, in a hoarse voice. "Dar, why can't I just hate them? It would be so much simpler."

The dark haired woman circled her shoulders with a powerful arm and pulled her closer. "Sorry... I wish I had an answer for you." She felt Kerry settle against her, an arm wrapping around her stomach as her lover buried her face into her shoulder. "I wish I could change their minds." She felt the catch in Kerry's breathing, and she pulled her closer, rubbing her back soothingly.

Jack looked over and caught her eye, his own full of quiet sympathy. "Where to?"

Dar sighed. "Find a main road.. stop at the first place that looks like it doesn't have roaches in the sinks." She pulled her cell phone from her pocket, and dialed a number. "Morning." She said softly. "This is Dar Roberts, employee number 4432234." She paused. "I need two tickets from Grand Rapids to Miami, first flight out, airline not important." She listened for a long few moments. "That's fine.. use my credit card on record, though.. this is personal."

Kerry stirred at that, but Dar just patted her back and kept up her soothing motion. "Okay.. that's great... excuse me? Oh.. " Dar smiled a little. "Yeah... that's true.. yeah, go ahead and apply them.. it's been a real long night and I think I can use a little extra space." She listened again. "Thanks... I'll pick them up at the airport.. I appreciate it." She hung up and let her head rest against the back of the seat. "Change in plans... keep going, and head for the airport.. the first flight out is at eleven.. we might as well get a few hours sleep before we all get out of here." She glanced at Jack. "Can you take off from there without causing havoc?"

He nodded. "Yeah.. I won't be able to do the kind of speed I did on the way in here, but.. " He yawned. "A few hours sack time sounds like a great idea.. I can call Dad, and I'll buy you guys breakfast before your flight, how's that?"

Dar felt Kerry slump more heavily against her, and she realized the exhaustion was overtaking her friend. "Sounds great." She admitted. "Oh.. damn I want a bed... I feel like I was run over by a truck." She sighed.

Kerry lifted her head, and peered up at her. "Well.. he did hit you a few times... everything okay in there?" She patted Dar's chest.

"Hit you?" Jack's head snapped up and around. "Who? What?"

Kerry put her head back down. "My father's bodyguard.. He tried to get the drop on Quick Draw McGraw here...who proceeded to kick his butt all over room."

Jack's face split into a grin. "Quick Draw, huh?" He laughed softly.

Dar groaned. "Just drive." She growled.

*************************************

The hotel at the airport was small, and the desk clerk was rubbing his eyes when he finally came out and registered them. "One room?" He asked, in a mumble.

"Two." Jack answered, giving Dar a sideways look. "Adjoining."

She didn't protest. They got their keys and trudged upstairs, to rooms smelling of must and damp brick. Dar instinctively flipped the air conditioner on, then she went for the bed, the long days catching up with her. She let herself down on her back, and felt her muscles go limp in reaction. "Damn." She hadn't really been counting on the fight with Kyle... his sudden appearance had shocked her senses, and triggered a surge of adrenaline that had carried her through the battle, but now... "I'm getting too old for this stuff." She muttered.

Jack had disappeared into his room, and Kerry finished up the soda she'd gotten from the vending machine, then shut the light off. She crawled into bed next to Dar, and settled on her side, her eyes searched the sharp profile so close to her. "I don't think I've thanked you yet."

Dar rolled her head to one side, and peered wearily at her.

"It's an odd feeling, you know.. " Kerry let her chin rest on her forearm. "Having your own knight in shining armor and all."

A soft snort. "I am not any such thing." The dark haired woman objected. "And we both know that."

Kerry shook her head. "You may know that.. but I don't." She replied in quiet reflection. "Oh.. maybe I could write off the arriving by supersonic jet part... hey.. it was opportunistic, right?"

Dar rolled over and faced her, only inches separating them. "Right."

"Mm.. but not the standing up to my father.. and not the ass kicking you gave Kyle.. I heard what you said to him, by the way." Kerry continued. "So.. thank you... Dar... I've lived my life under the belief that people act for themselves and their own interests... now I know that's not the case."

A dark brow edged up. "Who said it wasn't in my own interests?" She inquired softly. "It was very much in my best interests to make damn sure you were safe, and whole..." She reached over and brushed her knuckles against Kerry's cheek. "I very selfishly wanted you back."

Kerry blushed a little, and ducked her head.

"I mean it...that was just pure self interest.. not a noble thing about it." Dar shook her head firmly. "Besides, you have any idea how long it would take me to find another assistant half as good as you?"

"Dar, I was trying to be serious." The blond woman protested gently.

Soft fingertips caressed her jaw. "Whatever the effort.. it was worth it, Kerry... believe me." Dar answered, just as seriously.

The blond women cocked her head in question. "I know you said you knew where I was because they submitted the charges to my benefits card.. but how did you find out, Dar?"

"Mm." Dar rolled over onto her back, and stretched, feeling a wave of exhaustion roll over her. "I had a.. I don't know, a night mare I guess... I woke up in a sweat, that's for sure.. at about twelve thirty." She let her eyes close, remembering.

"Twelve thirty?" Kerry murmured. "That's about when...yeah, that's when they knocked me out.. I remember looking at my watch right before I went into the study."

"Well, I knew I couldn't go back to sleep.. so I dialed up the office... and when I connected, a bot I had running popped up and displayed the fact that you're card had been used, and I .."

"Whoa... you had a bot checking for that?" Kerry asked, puzzled. "Did you suspect something was going t happen?"

"Uh.. " Dar peeked at her from the corner of one eye. "Not exactly.."

Kerry crawled closer and put her chin on Dar's shoulder. "Not exactly?"

"No..well, since you had that close encounter with the milk truck, I um.. " Dar was embarrassed, and she felt her skin heat with a blush. "I set it up just in case anything.. well. I mean, it's not like you have a contact card on you .. I mean, whatever... if something happened to you, I'd.. um.. "

"Dar, that's very sweet." Kerry gazed at her.

"Practical." The executive argued. "A simple need for information."

They looked at each other, and Kerry gently kissed the shoulder she was leaning on. "Thank you for caring, Dar." She said very softly. "You don't know how much that means to me right now."

The taller woman gently pulled her closer, and slid both arms around her. "I'm sorry things didn't work out with your folks, Kerry... " She tucked the blond head down against her, and kissed it.

Kerry allowed herself to sink into the comforting warmth at last, breathing in Dar's distinctive scent, and settling her head down on her lover's broad shoulder. "Me too." She sighed. "I guess I have no family now." She added sadly.

"Sure you do." Dar murmured, her eyes closed.

Kerry tilted her head, and regarded her in silence, then she smiled to herself, and put her head back down, at last allowing sleep to wash over her.

*******************************************************

Her pager went off at nine, and Dar had to force her eyes open, as her body complained heartily about leaving the warm, somnolent nest she was snuggled into. The thin curtain in the room was blocking most of the daylight, and it was nice and dark inside.

"Ugh." She groaned softly, blinking the sleep out of her eyes, and peering down at the still sleeping Kerry. The blond woman was sprawled half across her and Dar could see the strain and exhaustion that still marked her friend's face.

Poor kid. Dar absently stroked the soft golden hair lying across her chest. I can't believe they did that to her.. she didn't deserve that. Kerry had been very withdrawn since they'd left her parents house, and the dark haired woman knew she was probably still in shock.

Dar took a moment to reflect on the last twenty four hours, scarcely able to believe what they'd both been through. "Damn." She muttered softly to herself. "I'll be glad to get home."

"Am home." Kerry mumbled, letting out a sigh and tightening her grip, still mostly asleep.

The taller woman smiled, then rubbed her lover's back. "Ker?" She called softly.

Pale green eyes very slowly fluttered open, and focused on her. "Uh?"

"We've got a plane to catch." Dar told her, half apologetically, smoothing the fair hair back from her forehead.

"Oh.. right." With an obvious effort, Kerry pushed herself up on her elbows, then let her head drop and rest on Dar's arm. "Oh god....I feel like I've been run over by a truck." She moaned.

Dar yawned. "Me too.. must have been all the excitement." She rolled over and paused, catching her breath as the bruises she collected a few hours previous made themselves known. "Ah...whoa."

Kerry slid over and took her arm. "What's wrong?" She asked anxiously. "Are you okay?"

Her taller companion slowly straightened. "Just a few aches.. I'm all right." She stood up, and cautiously stretched her body out, then trudged over to the bathroom and flipped the light on, running water in the sink. "Jack offered to buy us breakfast... we can do that, then head for the gate, and get out of here." She splashed water on her face and exhaled. "We unfortunately have to change planes in Detroit."

"Sounds wonderful." Kerry murmured. "The sooner the better." She sighed. "Detroit, huh? Well.. I can get a Lions sweatshirt.. I always like them."

Jack poked his head in the door between their two rooms. "Did I hear my name?" The Navy pilot inquired brightly. "And something about a Lion?"

They washed, and headed off to breakfast.

****************************************

The flight was uneventful, and Kerry was happy to sleep through most of it, curled up in her first class seat near the window, with Dar's comforting presence on the other side of her. The slanting sun woke her up, and she peered out the window to see an endless sea of grass spreading out beneath the planes wings, the patchwork of green interspersed with the odd ripple of dark blue, and forest green. She turned her head and gazed at Dar, who was staring off into the distance, her eyes half closed. "Dar?" She reached over and touched the taller woman's arm.

The blue eyes turned to meet hers. "Hmm? Almost home."

Kerry nodded. "We're over the glades... what's the weather like?"

A smile. "Lower eighties, sunny, chance of showers tonight."

"Oh.. an odd day." The blond woman smiled back, letting her fingers move lightly over Dar's tanned skin. "You look really wiped."

"I am." Dar admitted. "I couldnít sleep night before last, then I had that early flight.. we ran around playing football and all that yesterday, then last night... " She exhaled. "I'm running on nothing but cussedness right now."

Kerry leaned over and rested her cheek against Dar's arm. "Lend me some cussedness for a while then, okay?"

The plane continued it's descent, as the greens of the Everglades slowly morphed into cinderblock buildings, then the paved lots of the outer rim warehouses. Then the heavy industrial section flowed under the wings, storage buildings directly in the flight path of the airport.

Lower and lower, and finally Kerry saw the distinctive arch of the 826 freeway pass under them, and she settled back against the leather seat as the plane dropped to the ground and landed with a soft hop on the long, sun bleached runway. Green trees surrounded them, and Kerry felt a sense of relief as the plane taxied up to the terminal, and nudged into place at a gate.

They got their luggage, and Dar handed her claim ticket to the valet service. "Easier than parking myself." She commented to Kerry, who had been very quiet. "You want me to drop you at your place or...?" She was a little uncertain, knowing what she wanted Kerry to do, but not wanting to push her lover if Kerry felt like some time alone to think about things.

The blond woman was silent for a bit, then she looked up as the Lexus was brought around. "Um.. to be honest, Dar... I don't know if I want to be by myself right now." She admitted. "No one's going to be around my complex, and..." She let her eyes rest on Dar's face. "And I think I need a shoulder to lean on."

A smile crossed the taller woman's face. "I know a little island you might be interested in." She commented quietly. "I think I even have some turkey roll."

Kerry nodded. "I'd love that." She knew the reaction to everything would hit soon, and the peace of Dar's condo was very enticing. She certainly didnít' want to face Colleen, or her other friends with explanations already.

They got in the car and Dar pulled out cautiously, merging into the exiting traffic, her still exhausted mind missing the car the pulled out behind them and followed carefully.

*****************************************************

Dar went in first, holding the door open for Kerry to follow, then shut it behind them as the cool peace of the apartment surrounded them both. "Well." Dar tossed her bag down on the couch, then took Kerry's from her, and held it for a moment.

Kerry walked over to the sliding glass doors and peered out, pressing her fingertips against the glass and absorbing the huge expanse of green stretching to the horizon. "It's so pretty out there." She commented softly.

Dar studied her, then chewed her lip a bit. "Um... " It was horrible timing, but... "Kerry?" She called, tentatively.

The blond woman half turned, peering at her. "Yeah?" She peered at her lover, surprised by a sudden, perceptible awkwardness that was painfully evident to her. "What's up?"

"Um... you know, you.. spend a lot of time here. .and I... " Dar focused her eyesight on the tile. "I mean, I hope you spend a lot more time here, but.. it's... I mean it's kind of senseless to be carrying things back and forth all the time, so I thought.. " She found herself uncharacteristically fumbling for words. "I thought maybe you'd.. Well, I have all those spare rooms upstairs, and I.. thought maybe you'd like to sort of keep some... stuff.. um... here."

Hands covered hers, where they rested on the bag, and she looked up in startlement to see Kerry gazing at her from a very short distance. She took the duffel bag and slung it over her shoulder, then took Dar's hands in her own. "That's incredibly sweet and generous of you, Dar.. I know how much you value your private space."

Dar searched her face for a minute. "Does that mean yes or no?" She managed a half smile.

"I.. um.. I.. yes." Kerry finally got out. "I'd really like that... thank you."

"Good." The taller woman exhaled in relief. "You can.. um.. pick out whichever one you like.. though I... kinda thought you might like the one on the end." She rubbed her neck. "I'm going to get some coffee going... I think we both could use it." She rubbed her neck and pretended an offhandedness she simply didn't feel.

Kerry nodded. "Good idea.. I'll just go... um.. " She patted the bag. "Put stuff away." She smiled at Dar. "Be right back. "

Dar watched her disappear up the stairs, and allowed her face to crease into a relaxed, delighted grin as she turned and made her way back into the kitchen. It wasn't like... okay, so it was a tiny step towards Kerry moving in with her.. but she knew they both weren't ready for that. This seemed... a good first move though, and it was practical. It would let her test out the idea of actually living with someone, which she, at least, certainly wasn't used to.

She knew she loved Kerry.. there wasn't any doubt about that, but Dar was also a realist, and she knew herself pretty well.. she'd been living alone for many years, and adjusting to a roommate, no matter how beloved, would be a trial.

Wouldnít it?

Dar nibbled on a bit of dried apricot she'd taken from the refrigerator, and put up a pot of coffee, using the newly delivered flavored blend she'd gotten before she left. Hazelnut, she sniffed approvingly, before she peeked in the refrigerator again, and was relieved at seeing a somewhat meager, but adequate variety of groceries. "Oo." She leaned forward and examined a neatly packaged bunch of ripe green grapes, then checked the crisper for the small baby finger carrots she'd asked for, knowing Kerry loved to nibble on them.

"Wonder if she'd like those dipped in chocolate?" Dar mused absently, selecting one and examining it. "No.. that probably defeats the purpose, right?" She bit the end off the carrot and chewed it. "Hmm... "She rolled the sweet pulp around in her mouth and swallowed it. "That's not too bad." She admitted. "For a vegetable."

She checked the rest of the groceries, then wandered into the living room, considering. "Have to have that second ISDN line dropped in up there.. that second room could be another office..." Dar chewed another piece of apricot thoughtfully. "This could work."

*****************

Kerry got to the top of the stairs and stopped, leaning against the wall and just closing her eyes. It was just all happening too fast, she realized, her mind was still whirling with the situation regarding her family, and now this...

"Okay." She shook the hair out of her eyes, and tried to settle herself. "It was just a really, really nice thing for Dar to do, probably because she knows how weirded out I am right now." She found a smile twitching her lips up anyway, and she moved slowly from room to room, peering in to each one until she reached the last one.

She nudged the door open, and peeked inside, remembering the wide, open space and beautiful view. Yep. Kerry walked all the way inside, feeling the carpet thick and comfortable under her feet, and looked around. The room was a pale shade of greenish blue, with pale wood furniture in it. There was a tall dresser, with six drawers tucked into one corner, and a long set of drawers across the length of the room, with a neatly framed mirror in the center.

A door in the corner led into a walk in closet larger than her kitchen in the apartment, and on the other wall was a door which lead into an eggshell and cobalt bathroom, complete with a corner stall shower and a large, whirlpool equipped bathtub raised up for easy entrance. "So." Kerry leaned against the wall and gazed at the room. "You think I 'd like this one, huh, Dar? " She walked over to the tall dresser, and pulled a drawer out. "You're right.. I do.."

She unpacked her bag, and put everything away, then went to the window, and let the ocean's mellow movement calm her. A nutty scent distracted her, however, and she turned, and made her way to the door, running her fingers through her hair to order it a little and almost collided with Dar. "Whoa."

The taller woman held out a cup. "Here." She offered. "Everything okay in here for you?"

Kerry took a sip of the fragrant beverage and swallowed it. "Mm... " She glanced behind her. "Of course it is... and you know it." She exhaled. "Thanks." She looked up and noticed Dar's bloodshot eyes, and weary expression. "C'mon.. " She tucked a hand into the crook of her lover's elbow. "I need to go sit down."

They walked downstairs, and Kerry settled in the corner of the couch, sipping her coffee and letting her head rest against the soft leather while Dar hunted out the remote, and flipped the large screen TV on.

"How are you doing?" The taller woman asked, as she seated herself next to Kerry on the couch, putting her coffee down and clasping a hand over the blond woman's knee.

Kerry stifled a yawn. "Oh.. I'm all right... I guess... " She answered softly. "I just keep trying not to think about it." Her father's angry, disgusted voice echoed loudly in her ears. "You know. .I .. I 'm not sure what I expected... " She mused. "Anger.. yeah. .I thought he'd yell, and scream.. but..." A pause. "I didn't expect that."

"How could you have?" Dar asked reasonably.

"Oh.. I don't know, Dar... surely I should have seen that coming." The blond woman responded, bitterly. "It was pretty naive of me to think we'd just be able to talk this out, huh? That he'd listen to reason, or.. " Her shoulders slumped. "Or that I'd matter to him as a person instead of window dressing." She finished in a low voice.

"You couldnít have predicted that." Her lover insisted "Hell.. I didn't predict that, and I always expect the worst from people, not the best, like you do."

Kerry sighed. "I don't know...maybe you've got the right idea."

Dar tipped her chin up a bit. "Don't let them take that away from you, my friend...I"d rather you think the best of people.. not the worst.. after all, where would I be if you did?"

The blond woman rested her head against her hand. "In Washington, enjoying your holiday." She muttered. "Instead of here, tired, hurting, and having to listen to my hard luck story."

"Kerry." Dar put a sympathetic hand on her back. "I wouldn't trade where I am right now for anything."

Hooded green eyes peeked up at her.

"Honestly." Dar commented softly. "I know it's hard for you...and I'm sorry you had to go through this... but I donít' regret one single second of the past twenty four hours for my part of it."

A tiny smile. "You're a good friend, Dar." Kerry reached out and took her hand, bringing it up and pressing it against her lips. "You're the best friend anyone could ever hope for." She felt the tears starting to well up, and she closed her eye, fighting it. "And they can't understand why I love you." A sob escaped her. "Oh god."

Dar pulled her close. "Easy... easy.. I got you."

"After everything he's done... " Kerry whispered. "Everything he's taken from me.. I couldnít let him take you too." She felt her composure shatter, and a wall of emotion swamped her senses. "I need you so much."

Dar swallowed, feeling Kerry come apart, her words dissolving into hiccuping sobs that wrenched her body with little shudders. She took a deep breath, and just hung on, murmuring reaassurances and rocking the smaller woman in whatever comfort she cold muster.

Kerry needed that. She needed Dar's touch, and the warmth of her body, and the comforting scent, which surrounded her. "They hate me." She got out. "Dar.. I donít' want them to hate me for this."

The dark haired woman's jaw clenched, and she exhaled slowly. "I know." She felt Kerry's body jerk as she tried to catch her breath, and a soft moan escaped her. "Shh... "

"S'not fair." Kerry whispered.

"No.. it's not... " Dar replied, rubbing her back.

A long pause, and Dar could feel the sobs slowly subsiding. She kept up her gentle petting, until Kerry's breathing evened out, and steadied, and she could sense a calm returning to her lover.

"Was that stuff you told him true?" Kerry finally whispered, in a hoarse tone.

Dar hesitated, not wanting to hurt her friend further. But lying, at this stage, would be pointless. "Yes... I was able to isolate those two pieces of information.. I.. you can look at it later if you want to."

Another long pause. "Who's Pamela?"

"Kerry, you don't need to talk about this now.. wait a while." Dar pleaded. "The information's not going anywhere.. just rest... it's been a hell of a long day, and we're both exhausted."

Red rimmed green eyes peered up at her. "Just answer." She sniffled, wiping at her eyes with one hand.

Dar sighed. "A woman your father's been supporting for twenty years... she has three kids, two boys and a girl.. they're his."

Kerry's jaw dropped.

"Yeah... and he has the balls to say anything about you." Dar stated darkly. "That alone would blow his career out of the water." Her eyes narrowed. "I hate hypocrites." She gently dabbed at Kerry's eyes with her sleeve.

"Wow." Kerry breathed softly. "I can't imagine that... no wonder he turned white when you said her name." She felt better all of a sudden. "How do you know those kids are his?"

A soft snort. "DNA test results entered in the computer."

"Oh." The blond woman closed her eyes. "Can I take a look at all that stuff later?"

"Sure." Dar eased back into the corner of the couch, and gently pulled Kerry down with her, tucking the smaller woman in between herself and the couch back. "Just relax now.. you're safe here."

Kerry nodded "I know... Dar?"

"Mm?"

"Do you think I should tell my mother about that?"

Whoo. Loaded question. "Let's get some sleep before we talk about all this, okay?" Dar told her. "I'm too tired to think that through right now."

Kerry looked up, and gave her a little, weary smile. "Sorry... my head's just spinning... you're right." She closed her eyes, and nestled closer. "I love you."

Dar felt a wall of sleep overwhelming her. "Love you too." She murmured, surrendering to her body's demands.

Sea green eyes regarded her with wistful pride, before they, too, closed.

****************************************

Kerry woke near sunset, opening her eyes to see Dar still fast asleep, her body tangled around the blond woman's. That was all right, it gave her a while to just sit and think, allowing herself to absorb fully the last twenty four hours.

It hurt, she acknowledged, even though she'd resented her parents, and dreaded flying home for those far too long holidays. But in a way, it was also kind of a relief, to finally have it out in the open, and not have to pretend, or put them off constantly. She was free to live her life, and do whatever she wanted to do.

Even if that whatever included this tall, beautiful woman who had pretty much put herself on the line for Kerry, in more ways than one. She sat thinking about Dar actually getting into the cockpit of a fighter jet just to come and find her, and a silly, incredulous smile edged onto her face. It was like a fairy tale, really... no one ever did that in real life, right? Of course not.

And yet, she had, making nothing of it as though it were an everyday occurrence for her. "My hero." Kerry whispered softly, curling a dark lock around one finger as she gazed at her sleeping lover's face.

Her eyes fell on the neat bandage taped across the cut the stool had made in Dar's neck, and she pursed her lips. She's lucky she moves as fast as she does, Kerry reflected wryly. I would have clobbered her, otherwise.. poor thing. She felt very protective of her tall friend suddenly, and felt a fierce surge of simple affection for her, beyond their physical relationship.

Idle words formed in her head, and she let the chase themselves around a little, ordering and reordering them. Finally she smiled wistfully to herself. "Haven't done that in a long, long time." She whispered, winding her fingers around Dar's, which were resting on her hip. "Didn't think I even remembered how... but there's something in you that touches something way down deep inside me, Dar...and it makes me feel things so strongly it's like seeing life in a million colors suddenly, instead of just a few." The words floated by again, and she closed her eyes and recited them silently, tasting their depth.

The winds of life are circling
Over grass and under trees,
Touching my heart and lifting me up to soar.
And as my eyes fall upon you,
an ancient song surrounds me
Binding our souls together with sure hands.
The future lies an uncertain path
Under dark and stormy skies,
But I will walk in sunlight beside you forever.

Kerry smiled in silent wonder, then her eyes flickered open as a fingertip traced her lips. "Oh... "

"What's so funny?" Dar inquired curiously, her voice husky from sleep.

"Life." The blond woman answered, softly. "You donít have to get up....go back to sleep, Dar.. you still look pretty tired." She smoothed the disordered hair back out of the taller woman's eyes. "I'm going to root around and scare us up some dinner."

A frank, lazy grin appeared. "Scare is probably the appropriate word.. I think I've got grapes, milk, some frozen pizza's, and a can of fruit cocktail." Dar admitted. "Maybe we should order in."

"Ah ah ah.. " Kerry shook her finger playfully. "Where's the challenge in that? I like this, Dar... I get a chance to use my imagination.. give me a minute, okay?"

Blue eyes gentled. "You feeling better?"

Kerry exhaled. "Yeah... now that the shock is kind of over...I just want to get on with my life, you know?" She played with the edge of Dar's sleeve. "It's weird to realize I don't have to worry about their opinions anymore." A shrug. "And.. I think it was also that I was just really tired...my defenses were sort of shot."

Dar relaxed back into the soft leather, and let her hands wander down the denim covered leg resting over her own. She could feel the muscles tensing as she explored, and she put strong hand to use in a gentle massage. "Maybe in time they'll change their minds." She offered. "Kerry, no matter what, you're still their daughter.."

Kerry exhaled slowly. "Do you think your mother will ever change her mind?" She looked up, right into Dar's eyes.

Dar's gaze dropped to the surface of the couch. "That's different...she's... angry with me because she thinks I don't understand how much she loved him... " The dark haired woman spoke quietly. "I told her... we got in a big argument after he died, when I told her he'd gone the way he'd always wanted to, and she should just let him go."

"Mm." Kerry twined her fingers with Dar's.

"She told me I didn't understand.. and probably never would." Dar remained silent for a moment. "Maybe she was right."

"She must have loved him a great deal." Kerry murmured.

"He was everything to her... she'd look at him, and it was like he was some...god ... or something." Dar sighed. "She knew, before they came to the house... she'd been beside herself all day long."

"Maybe... maybe they were soulmates." Kerry said, hesitantly, the word tasting sweet, but strange on her tongue. "You know.. that old story...two halves, that kind of thing."

A long moment of silence, while Dar considered her words. "I... I never believed in any of that stuff.. but.. " She shrugged. "Who knows?" Her eyes studied the blond woman. "Do you believe in that.. in there being such a thing?"

Kerry kept quiet, thinking about the question. "I didn't used to." She admitted finally. "I never considered myself a romantic person.. or someone who believed in great, mythical love." A pause. "But.. I donít know...it's a really nice kind of possibility, you know?"

"Yeah." Dar murmured.

"When I was up in Michigan.. I got to talk to an old pastor of mine, Pastor Robert.. he used to talk about that all the time, so.. " Kerry carefully kept her eyes on her hands. "And.. um.. well, he kind of told me about that.. and how he thought you could tell.. I mean, if you've found yours, that is."

"Yeah?" Dar cleared her throat. "Just... for argument's sake.. what did he say?" She propped her head up on one hand, and paid close attention to a seam in the leather.

Kerry lifted her eyes, and studied the dark, bowed head. "I.. um...he..um, he said you can tell.. because when you look at that person, you see everything you need to complete yourself."

Faintly startled blue eyes lifted and met hers.

"Which.. sorta makes sense. I guess." Kerry added, in a low mutter.

Dar simply breathed for a long instant. "In.. interesting theory." She finally managed to say, clearing her throat when her voice came out a touch hoarse, her eyes still locked with Kerry's.

"Isn't it?" Kerry replied softly.

"It.. um.. " Dar rubbed the back of her neck, and exhaled. "Has a certain logic to it." She pursed her lips, then glanced up into Kerry's eyes again. "Did you say something about dinner?"

Kerry smiled, feeling a happy little jolt in her chest. "Uh.. yeah.. let me go see what I can find." She leaned forward and brushed her lips against her lover's, enjoying the tingle of heat that stirred up in her guts. "On the other hand..." She murmured, delighting in the distraction, as her body forgot about dinner, and concentrated on something equally as tasty.

Dar's hand slid slowly off her hip and she felt a teasing touch exploring her ribs under her T-shirt. "Mmm.. " Kerry murmured softly, unbuttoning Dar's cotton polo and tugging it loose from her belt. "By the way. .have I told you how inspiring you are?"

Teeth nibbled her ear teasingly. "Inspiring?" The deep voice inquired curiously. "How so?"

"You ignite my dreams." Kerry replied softly, her hands exploring hungrily. Dar's skin was amazingly soft, and had a warm, silky texture she really liked. The muscles felt thick and strong under their light layer of softness, and the blond woman traced their contours with sensual delight.

"I do?" Dar sounded a bit surprised. "Imagine that." She let her hands slide down the smaller woman's waistline, long fingers working loose the top button of her jeans with a soft pop. "Coincidentally.. " Another pop, as the second button came free. "You.. " A third. "Dominate mine." The last button loosened, and she slid her hands under the heavy fabric. "I've been dreaming about us together since before that trip."

Kerry arched her back, feeling the jeans slowly slide down her thighs, and the cool air of the room brush her bare skin. "So have I." She whispered, as she unbuckled the belt holding Dar's Dockers up. "Guess it was just meant to be." She ducked her head to allow Dar to pull her T-shirt off, as she nudged the cotton pants off her lover. "Mm... " Kerry growled softly as they slid together, and she kissed Dar's belly button, working her way teasingly up from there.

A slow, teasing touch traveled up her thigh, and Kerry let out a soft groan, as her body shuddered, anxious for her lover's attentions. Dar had pushed her gently back and slid a leg between hers, and Kerry leaned into her, reaching for the soft skin that was so tantalizingly close. Every touch just made her want more, and she rapidly felt her senses forgetting where she was, and focusing on the touch and taste and scent of her partner.

Until the knowing nips and nibbles and touches wound her body up to the breaking point, then released it into a thundering wash of sensation that left her panting in a helpless shiver. "God.. ' She pawed weakly at Dar's chest, as the taller woman gathered her in and wrapped her in a loving embrace. Her heart was pounding, and she clung to Dar, catching her breath.

Dar nuzzled her neck, rubbing her side gently. "You okay?"

"Ungh." Kerry took a deep breath and released it. "Oh yeah. I'm great." She nibbled lightly across Dar's bare collarbone and then moved lower. "So.. where's this scar from?" She licked the mark in question, near the taller woman's shoulder.

"Mm.. " Dar found it hard to focus, as Kerry slid an exploring hand down her belly. "Fishhook caught.. oh... me."

"Uh huhh... and this one?" Kerry moved lower, across the curve of her left breast.

"Uh... "

Kerry continued her exploration, as her fingers felt muscles jump under her touch. "Uh? I don't think I know what an "uh" is." She teased gently.

"Fell off my bike." Dar managed to say, faintly.

"Oh yeah?" Kerry chuckled, moving in for a better angle. "Did it hurt?"

Dar had no idea what she was talking about, as her body shamelessly abandoned itself to Kerry's inquisitive touch. "No.. it feels wonderful." She finally muttered, finding a smiling pair of lips that captured hers, then slipped away and continued on their way.

********************************

 Concluded in Part 16