By Kerry McCommon

Part 2


Kay Lazarus paced around her small quarters liked a caged panther. Being confined to quarters when something was going on was for the birds. She was the person who was usually leading the attack, thinking out the strategies, and now she didn’t even know if an attack was occurring. The Tango was in the midst of being retrofitted with a new weapons system array and wasn’t even ready to fly if she could get away. She felt defenseless and trapped, and that did not sit well.

She flipped on the terminal to see if the news was broadcasting anything, but at this late hour could only find an American football game, a rugby match, and a financial program. She left it on the American football channel. The noise provided some distraction from her unease. The Montana Buttes and the Las Vegas Rollers. Who cares which team wins, she thought. It’s better than silence right now. I wonder what Carter’s doing? I hope, I hope, I hope for a thousand things. I hope she’s okay. I hope I find out what going on pretty soon. I hope the Tango’s up and running tomorrow or the next day. I want it now. And then what? Do I take off out of here and leave her behind? I certainly can’t take her with me, not that she’d even consider leaving. Oh what a mess. What a time to fall in love. No, erase that thought. I’m not in love. Shit, why isn’t the news on?

She passed a fair amount of time with these pleasant thoughts and others like them, when her terminal announced a message coming through. Carter’s lovely face appeared. "Hi. I’m taking a small break and thought I’d check on you."

Kay was obviously glad to see her. "I’m so glad. I’m going crazy here, cooped up and not knowing what’s going on."

"I missed you too," Carter said smiling. "I don’t know how much I’m allowed to talk about…"

"Then don’t say anything," Kay promptly responded. "Just tell me we’re not in imminent danger of being attacked."

"No," Carter replied. "Not that I know of."

"Then I’ll try to settle down. It’s hard to sit still."

"Yes, I know," Carter said sympathetically, remembering what a hard time Kay had sitting for even a little while in the restaurant. "I’m not sure when I’ll be off, but I’ll come by and knock on your door if you’d like. Of course, if it’s too late, I won’t. I don’t want to wake you."

"Please wake me. I don’t care what time it is."

"Okay, I’ve got to get back to my station. See you later." Carter smiled at her and signed off.

"I missed you too," Kay said softly, still staring at the blank screen.


Lt. Ian Dunworthy, leader of the fighter squadron, was not surprised to find Capt. DeForest onscreen when he contacted Zebra. "Nothing out here, Captain. We split up and covered everything. We’re not picking up any warp signatures. There’s no sign of them at all."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Report to me when you get back," Capt. DeForest. "What do you think?" He turned and faced XO Joan Warren.

She thought for a moment. "I think we should assume we’re a target, although probably not for a few days. It’ll take them that long to regroup and get here. Of course, they could have decided they just wanted Gamma colony for the mining operation. It might not be an all out offensive, but I don’t think it’s prudent to assume otherwise," she offered.

"I agree," he replied. "I am going to have to make a carefully worded announcement to the station later this morning. I’m going to keep the standby alert, but release civilians from their quarters. I think we should prepare for a mass exodus of civilian ships. Contact customs and docking and have them prepare for this. And where’s Lyra? Security needs to doubled all over the station, especially in the docking areas."

"I sent him down there already," Warren responded. "We’ve had a few indignant customers insisting they be released at once. I’ll talk to him." She hesitated. "Do you think it’s safe to allow the civilians to leave, Captain?"

"I think they’re as safe on their way home as they would be here if the Ultharians attack," he said. "They breached the net, Warren. I have to assume that means we have a spy somewhere. God knows what other classified information they’ve gotten. They could have the schematics for this entire station for all I know. I understand it’s risky allowing people to leave, and I’ll do everything I can to protect them should they decide to stay, but it’s their choice. I’d rather not deal with the Ultharians and a civilian uprising at the same time, unless I have to" he smiled humorlessly.

Warren nodded. "Yes, sir. I’ll go down to docking and warn them, and speak to the warrant officer at the same time."

DeForest said, "When you speak to Lyra, tell him to report to you on a regular basis. I want a tight lid kept on this situation."


Several hours after her last contact with Carter, there came a soft rap at the door of Kay Lazarus’s quarters. Finally having dozed off, she wasn’t even sure she had heard anything and put her head back down on the pillow when she suddenly remembered. She jumped out of bed and moved quickly to the door. She stuck her head out to see Carter’s back retreating down the corridor. "Hey," she said as the lieutenant turned around. "Come back."

Carter grinned and made her way back to the door where a tousled haired Kay Lazarus was poking her head out. "I knocked, but I figured you’d gone to sleep and I didn’t want to wake you," she said.

"I wanted you to. Come on in," she ducked back in the room and Carter followed. Carter caught her breath at the sight of Kay Lazarus in a black sleeveless muscle shirt and very brief black briefs. Determined not to get caught looking, she peered all around the room while Kay pulled on her robe. Apparently Kay had noticed her reaction anyway by the smirk on her face.

"I’ll bet you’re exhausted," Kay realized suddenly looking at Carter’s drawn face. "You probably need to crawl in bed while you have a chance to rest. I was so glad you’d come by I guess I just wasn’t thinking. Sorry."

"Mostly I need to eat," Carter said holding out a container. "I brought us some food. I figured you hadn’t had a chance to get anything." She opened the container and pulled out two sandwiches and a couple of apples. "Could you replicate some coffee?"

"Let me guess. No sugar, lots of milk," Kay said walking over to the small replicator.

"Good guess," Carter smiled at her. "Except put in lots of sugar too."

Kay laughed. "And where’d you get them apples, sister? They’re a little hard to come by in this neck of the woods."

"Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies," Carter replied enigmatically. She yawned. "God, I’m tired. I haven’t slept in over 24 hours." She bit hungrily into her sandwich. "Mmm, that’s good. Nothing better than sleep, food, and …well, never mind."

"Never mind? I’ve never heard it called that before. Maybe you need to pick more interesting partners," Kay teased Carter. They laughed and ate their food, Carter finishing hers first. Kay handed over the second half of her sandwich to Carter who barely got the words "Are you sure?" out of her mouth before she was eating it. Kay smiled, enjoying having Carter back with her again. After they had eaten, Carter got up and walked over to Kay’s bunk where she fell backwards on the bed.

Kay blinked. "Don’t you need to sleep? I…um, I love having you here, but wouldn’t you be more comfortable in your own room?"

"No. I want to be with you. Is it okay if I just stay for a little while?" Carter looked innocently at Kay.

"Of course it’s okay," Finding Carter very hard to resist, Kay was not at all sure that it was okay. She stood awkwardly for a moment, then moved over and sat next to Carter on the small bed. Carter reached over and intertwined her fingers with Kay’s.

Carter peered up at Kay. "Tell me what you did while I was gone. Oh yeah, I heard civilians were no longer going to be restricted to quarters later this morning."

"Oh good. I was feeling trapped earlier," Carter looked at Kay with concern. "But I feel better now. I imagine there will be a lot of ships leaving if they’re allowed to. Tango’s not going anywhere for a couple of days. She’s torn half apart with the retrofit. I think it will probably be at least 48 more hours. I have a cargo to pick up a few days from here, but I think I’ll wait and see how this situation, which I assume is Ultharian, pans out. Besides, I may be able to help out around here somehow once the Tango is outfitted." She felt Carter’s grip on her hand relax and looked at the woman who had fallen fast asleep on her bunk. "Oh well." She yawned. "Move over," she lay next to her bunkmate and fell promptly and peacefully asleep.


Later that morning Kay awoke, wondering if someone had broken in her quarters and hogtied her. Carter was sound asleep next to her, one leg thrown over Kay’s, her head on Kay’s shoulder and her arm wrapped tightly around her waist. Kay looked at the sleeping face of the woman she was trying not to be in love with

and knew it was hopeless. She was a goner.

She watched Carter sleeping for a little while, breathing in the sweet, sleepy smell of her, then gave in to temptation and lightly kissed her forehead. She slowly extricated herself from Carter’s tenacious grip and rolled out of the bunk. She should have been tired from lack of sleep and stiff from being pinned all night, but instead she felt miraculously energized. She walked to the replicator and whispered, "Coffee, black," and took the steaming cup into the lavatory with her. Stripping off her meager sleep clothes, she stepped into the shower.

Pulling her robe on, she exited the lavatory quietly to find Carter sitting up on the side of the bunk. Kay walked to the replicator and said, "Coffee, extra cream, extra sugar," and handed the cup to Carter who smiled groggily at her. Kay walked over to the storage unit where her clothes stored, pulled out what she needed, and dropped her robe. She quickly dressed and turned to find Carter much more awake, judging by the wideness of her eyes. She smiled at Carter and said,"What time do you have to be on duty?"

Carter sipped her coffee, stalling until her composure returned. "Not until 1400 hours. The duty roster is all mixed up right now."

"Want to go eat breakfast with me?"

"Sure. I need to go to my quarters and shower and change clothes. I can’t believe I slept in my uniform. Why don’t I meet you?"

"Okay. I’ll go get a table." Kay looked at Carter quizzically. "Did you sleep all right other than being in your uniform?"

"Yeah, great. I really didn’t mean to fall asleep. Did I crowd you out?" Carter had a vague memory of a dream that caused her to blush slightly and look worried.

"Nope. See you at breakfast, okay?" Kay winked at her. Carter looked relieved. "Has anyone ever told you that you talk in your sleep?" Kay smiled and walked out the door, leaving Carter sitting on the side of the bunk.


"Oh God. What did I say?" Carter mumbled to herself on the way back to her quarters. As a matter of fact, yes, a couple of people had told her she talked in her sleep. That’s what was so worrying. She let herself into her quarters and stripped off her wrinkled uniform relieved she hadn’t run into anyone who would notice. The terminal blinked, indicating two messages. "Retrieve first message," she said.

Annie Woo’s face appeared. "Hi Carter. Just wanted to warn you that Warren’s looking for you. She even called my quarters wondering if I knew where you were. She sounded kinda intense. Maybe you better watch your back. See you tomorrow." The readout at the bottom of the screen indicated the message was from late last night.

The second message was from XO Warren. "Lieutenant Laughlin, please show up a few minutes before your duty shift tomorrow. I’d like to have a word with you." The screen went dark. Terse and to the point, Carter thought. I’ll think about it later. I have more interesting things to mull over right now than being attacked by Ultharians or XO’s. She moved gratefully under the shower and let it wash away the exhaustion left over from the previous two days. Standing there with her eyes closed, relaxing in the sensuality of hot water sluicing over her body, a dream fragment returned to her mind. She and Kay Lazarus were both naked, sitting in hot water, and Kay was doing wonderful things with her tongue to Carter’s breasts. Carter ran her hands down her body, grazing her breasts with her fingertips slightly. Oh God. Well, the being in hot water part was probably right.

She dried off and put on a fresh uniform since it seemed unlikely she’d have a chance to change before her duty shift started. She dabbed on a drop of the perfume she preferred, gave herself a last look in the mirror, and satisfied with what she saw, left to meet Kay. Beautiful, naked Kay. First in her dream, and then, even more spectacularly, in person. She was sure Kay had no idea of the effect she had on Carter when she so nonchalantly dropped her robe to dress. This time Carter had looked. And what she saw was a lean, well-muscled, warrior. Wide shoulders, a tapered waist, long strong legs. And that was just from the back. Oh yeah. And a nice butt.

Her body was beautiful, but even in the first throes of love, Carter knew it was more than Kay’s body that was responsible for what she was feeling. Whenever she touched Kay or allowed herself a moment in those remarkable eyes, she knew. Kay was The One. In capital letters. When Carter saw Kay for the first time she felt her life take a hairpin curve. Everything was different now. She couldn’t even say it to herself, let alone out loud, but she would give up everything she had worked for all her life to be with this woman. If necessary, she would lay her life down for her. Carter knew these truths were just below the surface for her, and she knew she had a long and difficult day ahead of her, so she pushed them down in order to get her job done diligently. And because she didn’t want to think about it yet.


Lt. Ian Dunworthy reported to Capt. DeForest as ordered after returning from patrol. "I’ve ordered extra patrols, Captain. We’ll have twice the usual number of fighters out there until this is over."

"Good. Send them out in pairs. I want someone watching the back of every fighter out there."

Lt. Dunworthy looked speculatively at Capt. DeForest. "I heard Lazarus was on the station."

DeForest looked up sharply. "Yes."

"Is she here for any particular reason?" Dunworthy tried hard to keep the defensive tone out of his voice.

"She’s hauling cargo these days, Lieutenant," he said kindly to the young man. "There’s nothing for you to

worry about. She resigned her commission, you know. You’re the one in charge of the fighter squadron."

Dunworthy managed to keep the relief off his face. "I had heard she was back and you know how all the pilots felt about her, me included. She was the best I’ve ever seen. If you don’t mind sir, and if I have time, I might look her up and have a chat with her. I’d like a chance to pick her brain about some things."

"I think that’s an excellent idea, Lieutenant," DeForest said, dismissing the young man. "Dunworthy?" he said as the Lieutenant turned to go. "You’re doing a great job. I’m proud of you."

"Thank you, sir," Ian Dunworthy replied, saluting lightly, his shining eyes betraying his casual attitude.


Carter spotted Kay sitting at a table reading the news. She stood for a moment and watched her until Kay felt Carter’s eyes on her, looked up and smiled. Carter walked over to the table and sat next to Kay. "I don’t know what I said in my sleep, but I did remember a dream and now I’m embarrassed."

"Don’t be," Kay laughed. "It was mostly nonsense." She affected an overly casual expression and hummed a small non-tune. Carter looked at her affectionately.

"Okay, if that’s how you’re going to be," Carter managed to plaster on a false smile that said she was above it all anyway. Kay patted her arm condescendingly.

They ordered breakfast and while they ate, Kay told Carter everything she’d done the day before, leaving out the part about the accolades she got from onlookers after working out with the skean dhu holo program.

Carter laughed when Kay told her she had restocked the Tango. "I’ll bet what you consider basic supplies for the Tango are not what I would consider basic. That would involve a lot of chocolate and I’ll bet you’re not that kind of a girl."

"Chocolate? No, popcorn is my weakness. Salt is at the top of my food chart," Kay admitted.

"Maybe we can make some chocolate covered popcorn sometime," Carter suggested.

Kay wrinkled her nose. "I used to know someone who ate bacon and grape jelly sandwiches. Maybe I should introduce you."

"I don’t think so," Carter said softly, abruptly changing the whole tenor of the conversation. "Meeting you is about all I can handle at the moment."

"Is that good or bad?" Kay asked.

"Oh, I’d say good," Carter said casually. "What are you going to do today?"

"Go check on the Tango. I guess I’ll go work out for a while. Then I’ll probably fritter away the rest of my time eating bourbon bonbons and watching soap operas."

Carter laughed. "That’s what I thought. I’m not sure when I’ll be off today, but I’ll let you know and meet you at your ship so we can work on your comm link, okay?"

"That would be great. I’m a little anxious to have her space worthy as quickly as possible," Kay said. "Maybe we could do a little test run with her when it’s all done, if we can get clearance and you can find the time."

"If I can I will. We’re all waiting right now to see if the other Ultharian shoe is going to drop, but if we get clear of this I’d love to." Carter thrilled at the thought of being in deep space, surrounded by nothing but stars in all directions, alone with Kay Lazarus. But a thought constantly danced in the back of her mind. When the Tango was space worthy Kay would leave. Civilians couldn’t live permanently on the space station. And Carter had four months left on her rotation here. She was pretty sure that she couldn’t stand being separated from Kay for that long.

Kay’s thoughts were running in the same direction. The Tango would be repaired soon and then her intense desire to be with Carter would be the only thing holding her here. Of course, she could arrange to come through the station a lot but that would wreak havoc with her cargo schedule and she would still go weeks on end without seeing her. She didn’t think she could stand not hearing her voice for that long. Funny coming from me, she thought. Me, who listens to no one but the computer’s voice for weeks on end, can’t stand to be separated from the sight and sound of someone I just met. It’s too soon to talk about it with her, and even so she has a job here. I can’t ask her to give it up even if she could. She ran into this dead-end over and over again. Maybe she should walk away now while she could. She looked at Carter to only be caught in the whirlpool of her green eyes. Too late. She couldn’t walk away if she tried, and there was not too much that Kay couldn’t do if she wanted to.


Arriving ten minutes early to her post, Carter spotted XO Warren. "You wanted to see me ma’am?"

Joan Warren looked at Lt. Laughlin without really seeming to see her. "What you do in your free time is

really none of my business, Lieutenant, but did I see you with Lazarus a couple of nights ago?"

Carter stiffened. "Ma’am?"

Warren’s focus on Carter tightened perceptibly. "Did you not hear me Lieutenant Laughlin, or are you avoiding answering me?"

Carter didn’t reply but kept her eyes straight ahead.

The XO’s eyes narrowed in anger. "I will be more than happy to relieve you of duty if you don’t answer me immediately."

There was a dead silence all over the bridge and most work seemed to have come to a halt. Carter said, "Yes ma’am. You’re right. I was with Captain Lazarus, and it is none of your business."

The XO’s face went stark white with anger as she stared at Carter, but she said nothing and turned and left the bridge.

"Oh my God," said Annie Woo as Carter made her way to the comm center. "Do you have a death wish? Warren’s going to make your life miserable."

"I was right and she knows it," Carter replied shakily. "Who I associate with on off hours isn’t her business."

The sympathetic look Annie gave Carter convinced her she had screwed up royally. "Well, maybe she’ll just forget that you told her it was none of her business in front of the entire senior staff."

Carter groaned. "Maybe I should go find her and apologize."

"I think you should let her calm down a little first," Annie said.

"Besides, Captain DeForest and John Lyra have both been hanging around with her too. Why is she picking on me?"

"I don’t know. Maybe you should find out."


Kay went to the area where the Tango was being worked on and looked for the engineering chief. She didn’t find him, but her ship had been moved so she climbed aboard. Charging the main console, she was surprised to see new controls already installed. She checked her power supply and was pleased to find it full. She ran a short scan to find her shields were repaired and enhanced. She felt the thrill of having the Tango in top running shape again.

"Got to you a little earlier than I thought," the chief’s voice came from the open door. "New systems went in like a charm. This is a nice ship. Neat as a pin," he nodded approvingly.

Kay turned to face him. "You did a nice job."

"Yep. I could tell by the way you maintain her that you’re persnickety, so I did most of the work myself after hours. I tweaked your shields a bit, hope you don’t mind. They’ve just come out with an upgraded enhancer and I had one laying around so…"

"I’m impressed. Id send all my friends here if I had any," Kay laughed.

The chief didn’t. "I figure we owe you something around here, captain. Seems to some people around here you got a raw deal. I was just a mech engineer when you were stationed here, but Johnny Lyra came by and told me who you were. In fact, he’s the one..."

"Now, Frank, no telling tales out of school here," John Lyra interrupted as he came aboard. "Hey Lazarus. Frank and I had to work on this bucket of bolts for hours to get her space worthy again."

"Hey Johnny. I hope he didn’t let you touch any of the controls," Kay walked over to him and put her arm around his shoulder. "Thanks for getting me up and running again. Both of you guys. I feel so much better knowing I can maneuver again. As soon as I get the comm link fixed, and I hope that’s today, then I’m ready to fly."

John looked at her quizzically. "You’re leaving?"

At first he thought she wasn’t going to answer. Then she said, "I don’t know. There’s not much I can do here."

He looked sad. "I have to get back to work. The mad rush is on for civilian ships. Are you going to be around later today?"

"Yeah, I should be right here getting the comm link fixed. Come by if you can."

"Okay. Don’t leave without saying goodbye."

This time Kay looked sad. "I wouldn’t do that, Johnny."

He and the chief left and Kay wandered around the Tango, finding the boxes of supplies left by the commissary. She neatly stowed them, briefly wondering how chocolate covered popcorn would taste. She activated the cleaner bots in cargo and the rest of the ship, then closed her up tight and went to work out.


That night when Carter got off duty, relieved that she had seen no more of her XO, she retreated to her quarters to change out of her uniform. Disappointed to have no messages from Kay Lazarus, she slipped on her robe and decided she needed very badly to calm and center herself. After muting her terminal so she wouldn’t be disturbed, she slipped her body easily into the Lotus position. She began the mental exercises she used to clear her mind of all extraneous thought. Soon her bunched muscles and nerves relaxed and after a while she unfolded herself and stood up, refreshed and calm. She noticed the terminal was blinking to let her know she had a message. "Retrieve," she said.

Kay Lazarus’s image appeared. "Hi. I guess you’re still not off duty. I know it’s been a long day and you haven’t had much sleep lately, so if you aren’t up for working on the comm link tonight, I understand. I’ll be on the Tango if you want to get in touch." She smiled. "Of course, the comm link doesn’t always work right, so catching me may be difficult. Maybe I’ll see you later." Her image faded.

Hmm, thought Carter. She pulled on a coverall she used for physical work, made a quick call, grabbed her PIChip and left her quarters. After a stop in the concourse, she headed to where she hoped Kay was waiting for her. She stuck her head in the door of the Tango to see long legs sticking out from under the console. She rapped lightly with her knuckles and said, "Hello?" The legs jerked up as a solid thump sounded from underneath.

"Ow," Kay scooted out rubbing her forehead. She scowled until she looked up and saw Carter. Her face underwent a remarkably rapid transformation. "Hi," she said happily.

Carter dropped the package she was carrying and hurried to Kay. Dropping to her knees she said, "I’m sorry I startled you. Are you all right? Let me see your head." She reached out and pulled Kay’s hand away from her forehead to reveal a red spot. Rubbing it with her fingers, she said, "I think you’ll probably live."

"Yeah, but I think you should keep rubbing it anyway," Kay groaned insincerely. She looked up and met Carter’s eyes, suddenly aware of the proximity of the young woman. She reached up and took Carter’s hands in her own. "Hi," she said softly.

"Hi," Carter replied, never breaking eye contact. Carter leaned over and hesitated for a moment when her lips were a fraction from Kay’s, then moved in and kissed her very lightly, twice. She backed away, attempting to keep her hands from trembling in Kay’s. She closed her eyes and took a deep shuddering breath. After a long, bad day at work this was the medicine she needed.

"Are you okay?" Kay looked concerned.

"Yeah. I…you…" Carter fumbled for the right words.

"I know," Kay said. "I know." She pulled Carter gently toward her and kissed her again, this time enfolding her in her arms, drowning in the smells and sights and sounds that were Carter Laughlin. Home at last, Kay thought. This is what I’ve waited for all my life and I didn’t even know I was looking for it.

Carter held on tightly. Her stomach growled and she looked down at it, a little embarrassed.

"You hungry?" Kay asked smiling.

"Actually yes. And I brought us something to eat. You haven’t eaten yet have you?" She jumped up as Kay shook her head no. "I stopped and got take out." She started taking cartons out of the package she had brought in. "Chinese. And chocolate covered popcorn for desert."

Kay raised one eyebrow. "You’re kidding."

"Yes, I am. I had them hold the popcorn so it’s just chocolate. Ice cream. You’re not lactose intolerant or anything are you?"

"No," Kay had to laugh at her.

"Maybe we should hold it against your forehead. It’s starting to swell a little."

"Nah, it’s okay. It doesn’t hurt."

Carter picked up a carton and a pair of chopsticks and handed it to Kay, then took another for herself. She sighed deeply as she maneuvered her chopsticks and got a bite of rice. "This day is ending up much better than it started out at work today. I had a run in with my XO and I’m pretty sure she’s going to make my life miserable for a while."

Kay picked at her food and didn’t look at Carter. "With Joan Warren?"

"Uh, yeah. Sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up," she mentally kicked herself, and stole a glance at Kay who suddenly looked unhappy.

"No, I want to know. I want to know everything about you," Kay recovered herself.

Carter forced a smile. "Good. But I’d rather eat than talk about her." She deflected the conversation away from her XO. "Tell me about your comm link problem."

"Sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. I ran diagnostics and learned it was a relay, but when I checked that relay I couldn’t see what was wrong with it. If it isn’t pretty basic, I’m a poor engineer."

"Well, I’m a heck of an engineer. I’ll figure it out," Carter spoke with confidence. They finished their food and Carter took Kay’s place under the console. She quickly ran diagnostics, pulled out her PIChip and inserted it, downloaded one of her electronic tools, and slid back out in about ten minutes. "I think that did it."

"You can’t be finished already," Kay was almost dismayed. "I worked on that stupid thing off and on for weeks, and you fixed it in five minutes?"

"I have tools you don’t have," Carter said easily. "And besides, I’m good at what I do." She waggled her brows suggestively at Kay.

"I’m sure you are," Kay laughed, and looked around the cabin rather at a loss. "I thought we’d be here working on this thing all night. At least you’ll be able to go home and get a good night’s sleep."

Carter looked disappointed. "That’s not on the top of my priority list right now." She laughed. "We’re on constant yellow alert, my XO wants to rip my head off," she hesitated a little, "and all I can think about is you. Does that mean my priorities are really good or really bad?" It was pounding so loud in her ears she was sure that Kay could hear her heart beating. "I feel as if I’m standing on the edge of a precipice Kay, and I want to go ahead and fall."

Kay moved closer and reached her hands out to take Carter’s. "Then go ahead and fall. I’ll catch you," she said softly. Carter’s arms encircled Kay tightly as Kay pulled her close. Carter buried her head against Kay’s shoulder, smelling the scent of her soap and hair. Kay rested her chin lightly on Carter’s blond head and closed her eyes. She felt Carter’s heart beating against her own, and heard her own breathing quicken. Carter loosened her grasp on Kay and looked up into her pale blue eyes. Kay met her gaze, slid her hand behind Carter’s head and pulled her slowly into a deep kiss. As the kiss lingered, the storm of emotion that erupted in her almost stunned her in its intensity.

"Oh. My," said Carter as they slowly broke apart and looked at each other. "If you don’t go lock the hatch door then I’m going to," she said shakily. Kay nodded, wondering if her legs would hold her up if she tried to walk and was surprised when they did. She closed the door, took Carter by the hand, and led her into her sleeping quarters.

Standing by the bunk, Kay reached down to the top of her coverall and began to unfasten it. "Let me," said Carter. She slowly unfastened the front of the work suit and pulled it off Kay’s shoulders. It fell to the floor and Kay sat on the bunk. Carter pulled it off the rest of the way and then began undoing her own clothes. Kay watched as the young woman slowly peeled off her clothes until she stood before her naked.

"You’re beautiful," Kay whispered. Carter leaned over and kissed her and took the opportunity to remove the rest of Kay’s underclothes. Kay lay down on the bunk.

"So are you," Carter whispered back. She climbed onto the bunk next to Kay and they began a slow and sweet exploration of each other that was tentative at first, then grew more heated and urgent, culminating in a rush of intensity and emotion unlike either had known before. It was new and thrilling, but still familiar somehow. They each instinctively knew what would please the other. They had finally landed where they both belonged, and it was both a relief and exhilarating in its intensity. When it was over, Carter rolled away from Kay to hide the tears in her eyes.

"Are you all right?" Kay asked with concern, leaning over Carter.

"Yes. I’m sorry. I’m feeling so much…" Carter tried to explain.

"Sssh, it’s all right sweetheart," Kay comforted her. "I understand." And Carter knew that she did and almost laughed in her relief. "That’s better," said Kay gently smiling. "Gosh, I’ve never made anyone cry before."

Carter sat up with a look of mock fierceness on her face. "And you better not ever again," she replied. Her expression softened. "I liked that."

"Which part?" Kay asked.

"All of it. And I liked that you called me sweetheart."

Kay leaned over and kissed her. And they began again.

Continued - Part 3

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