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 8
By Melissa Good
The condo was very quiet, as Dar keyed the lock, and entered, flipping on the hallway light. It was cool inside, for which she was grateful, but she was suddenly struck by the emptiness of the place, something that had never occurred to her before.
Irritated by the thought, she shook her head, then moved through the living room, grabbing the remote and turning on the television just to get some background noise in the place. She continued on, into the kitchen where her mail was waiting in a little basket, brought in by the cleaning crew who had been there that morning. Dar glanced around as she retrieved a glass, and went to the refrigerator, pulling it open and getting herself some milk. She'd dropped Kerry off at the office parking lot, waiting until the younger woman was safely in her Mustang before she headed on her way, and strangely, she was finding herself missing the blonde's presence.
"C'mon, Dar get a grip " She chastised herself, grabbing the basket and trudging into the living room, sinking down onto the leather couch with a sigh. "So you had some fun with the kid all right, now we're back to normal here, so get that pretty face out of your head, and read your damn mail."
She started to leaf through the basket's contents, then felt something larger, and more bulky inside it. Puzzled, she opened the top, and pulled out a small box, addressed to her, with a return address in Kissimmee. What the hell She put the basket down, and picked her keys up off the table, using the small penknife she had on her keychain to open the box. Inside bubble wrap obscured the contents, until she carefully pulled it loose, and exposed what was inside. Her fingers slowly lifted out the crystal dolphins as she stared at them in disbelief.
Dazedly, she looked back into the box, and saw the folded note. She pulled it out with her free hand, and opened it. "Happy Bosses Day hope you had a good one. K"
"Oh, Kerry." She exhaled softly, turning the hand blown glass to the light, and seeing the explosion of color inside it. "You little idiot.. you shouldn't have done that." She hated personal knick knacks. But she felt her face easing into a smile of delight, at the laughing sea mammals, and admiring the fine tints of green and blue that trickled through the waves they crested on. She set the piece down on the table, and gazed at it, her elbows on her knees, and her chin resting on her hands.
If she accepted this, it meant accepting that she was allowing herself closer and closer to that line. It meant she was also allowing Kerry into a place she'd kept deliberately barren for a very long time. It was dangerous, and probably a mistake.
"Well." She addressed the crystal figurine. "I hope she likes what's in her box." What line? She knew she'd crossed it already, the moment she hired Kerry as her assistant. Any other thought was a lie, and though she readily lied to others, she tried not to lie to herself. And after she'd woken up that morning, knowing she'd had Kerry in her arms, and wanting nothing more than to repeat the experience she knew she'd come to a choice.
Stop, or go. Cut off their friendship, and pull back from Kerry totally, or let things go forward, knowing what was likely to happen. And stopping even the thought hurt, stabbing her deeply in places she had no defense against. She didn't want to stop.
So. She'd just see what happened from here.
Dar curled up on the couch, resting her head against the soft arm where Kerry had slept the previous week, and watched the changing light from the screen and the moonlight coming in the window sparkle and play in the depths of her gift.
Kerry locked the Mustang's doors, and shouldered her overnight bag, trudging into her apartment with a not very stifled yawn. She turned on the lights, and went over to her fishtank, dropping a few flakes in and waving to the two kissing gouramies and the tiny guppies that blinked up at her. "Hi guys." The gouramie blurped, nibbling at the flakes, and she smiled at them. "I'm back.. did you miss me?"
She chuckled and put the cover back on the tank, then set her bag down on the couch, and walked over to the small table in the kitchen, where Colleen had tossed her mail. She leafed through it, pulling out the bills and putting them in small green basket to one side, then sorting through the rest in order of relevance. She lifted the ubiquitous AOL diskette in it's colorful envelope up and sighed. "Friends don't let friends do AOL, you know that.. I'm going to have to be very harsh, here." She tossed the envelope towards the trash can, then went to her answering machine, pushing a button to retrieve the messages.
"Hello, dear, it's your mother we've started making arrangements for you to come home.. everyone is very excited. I think we'll put you in the west cottage until you and Brian decide for yourselves where you want to settle.. he's thrilled you're moving back, by the way, honey I have several engagements coming up I want you to attend with us, so we'll need to do some shopping when you get home, those dresses from a few years ago aren't appropriate now, so you'll need something new.. oh yes, and your father says it's perfectly all right for you get a little job with them up here in the Troy office, he knows several of the managers there, and he's sure you won't have a problem getting something nice.. something that doesnt require you to do all this dangerous traveling. Let's see.. what else was there? Oh, well.. we're expecting you for Thanksgiving.. the tickets are already on the way, so plan to fly out Wednesday night, and we made arrangements for you to leave on Monday, I know you can tell your boss about that and she won't mind. I have to go dear, please call me when you get home, since you know how I worry."
Kerry listened with an expressionless face, then hit the delete key. Damn. She'd thought that had just been a knee jerk reaction to the plane situation.. since it had turned out to be a simple mechanical malfunction, she'd hoped the furor had died down, and her father had dropped the subject. "Shit." She cursed at the machine. "This is going to be ugly."
The remaining four messages were one from Colleen, two from Susan, and a fourth from Ray, wanting her to go out tonight to the Grove. A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts, though, and she turned. "C'mon in."
The door fairly exploded open, and Colleen came bounding in, dressed in her skating gear, and covered with a thin sheen of sweat. "You're back!"
Kerry held her arms out and looked down at herself. "Looks like it, yep." She agreed. "What's up?"
"Wait.. I've got a box for you." Colleen interrupted. "I'll be right back." She bounded out, reminding Kerry vaguely of Tigger. She was left in quiet for a moment, then the redhead stumbled back in, tugging a large cardboard box behind her. "This came today I happened to be here when the Oops man showed up.. I signed for it.. it's from Orlando."
"Slow down, Col." Kerry laughed, as she moved forward to help her friend with the large package. "What on earth is this? I didn't order . " She fell silent, and opened the top of the box, pulling the flap back and exposing something plush and golden. "Anything." She finished, reaching in and pulling out a huge, smilingly stuffed Winnie the Pooh, his arms spread just waiting for a hug. "Oh."
Colleen watched her with a puzzled look. "You didn't order this? It's cute as hell, Ker and I know you love Pooh you've got all those damn figurines, and that honey cookie jar in the kitchen."
Kerry pulled the stuffed bear closer, and sniffed, then put it up against her face and breathed in. A slow, delighted smile crossed her face. "Um no.. I didn't order it.. I.. " She glanced in the box, and saw a little card, with a mouse on the front. She picked it up and opened it. "Thanks for a job well done." It was unsigned, but it didn't have to be. "It's from Dar." She told Colleen, handing her the card. "I did a presentation today and it helped us win the bid."
Colleen's jaw dropped, and she held the card as though it were a small thermonuclear device. "Holy shit!" She squeaked, looking at Kerry in disbelief. "This is from Popsicle Woman?"
Kerry gently smoothed Pooh's eyebrows down, and smiled back into his smiling face. "Yep." She picked the bear up and hugged it gently, reveling in the lingering scent of Dar's perfume that clung to its soft fur.
Colleen watched her for a minute, then she put a hand on her arm, her freckled face suddenly serious. "Kerry?"
"Hmm?" The sea green eyes glanced up in question. "Oh.. sorry. " Kerry released the bear, then set him down on the couch. "I love Pooh and it's so soft.. did you feel the fur?"
"What's going on with you?" Her friend asked, softly.
"With me? Nothing.. why?" Kerry asked, but she averted her eyes. "That was nice of Dar.. I'll have to remember to thank her." She felt Colleen take her arm, and allowed herself to be seated on the couch, next to the bear. "It was an interesting couple of days.. we got to see a few of the parks, and I got to watch a nasty bid firsthand."
"Uh huh." Colleen still studied her. "You two spend a lot of time together?"
Kerry knew where this was going, and she sighed inwardly. "Just about every minute, yes." She finally looked back up at Colleen. "And I had a really good time we actually got kind of friendly."
A faint smile edged Colleen's lips. "Kind of?" She put a hand on Kerry's arm and rubbed it. "I'm thinking it's a little more than that, kiddo."
The blond woman felt a deep blush rising, and she paused, trying to find words to refute what Colleen was suggesting.
Knowing there were none, not really, not unless she wanted to lie to her friend.
So she shrugged a little at her. "We both had a good time, Colleen we found out we like.. spending time together.. that's all there is, really.. I mean.. Jesus.. she's my boss, remember?" She felt a little defensive. "It was just.. I don't know, things kind of clicked between us.. she's really a lot of fun when she lets all those prickles down, and and damn it, I like her."
"Shh okay.. okay.. " Colleen patted her arm. "I believe you, Ker take it easy if anything, it shows just how perceptive you have to have been I wouldn't have guessed she had a nice bone in her body."
"Well, she does." Kerry's brow puckered. "You have to dig for it, and she doesn't give it up easily, but it's there." She glanced up. "Hey youre going to be at the Global day tomorrow, right?"
Colleen nodded. "Yeppers about two dozen of us'll be there why?"
Kerry nodded. "Dar's going to be there from our group I'll introduce you.. you'll see, Colleen.. she's not that bad, honest." Unconsciously, she reached out with one hand and stroked the bear.
Colleen gave her a look. "All right I'll take your word for it " She shifted her gaze to the huge stuffed animal. "I can't argue with this." She could sense Kerry was still uncomfortable discussing her new friend, though, so she changed the subject. "Did your folks calm down any?"
Kerry was grateful for the shift in focus, even though it was a depressing one. "God, no they're making plans for me to come home.. I've got to try and think of a way to get them to back off.. before I end up in ruffles attending some chicken banquet in Michigan."
"Mm so , what else did you get?" Colleen resolutely pushed her worries out of her mind. "I see bags "
The blond woman smiled. "Oh god wait.. I brought you back some of the best chocolate.. here. " She dug out her large handled bag and began showing her purchases off. "Try this fudge "
"Mm " Colleen nibbled appreciatively, as she peered at the brochures her friend had brought back. "Is this where you stayed?" She held up the picture of the Grand Floridian. "Wow must be niiiicce.."
"Oh yeah.. " Kerry grinned. "They had the best banana stuffed French toast for breakfast and a really nice view."
"French toast, huh?" The redhead chuckled. "So you guys didn't do the bread and water thing.. that's good did you share a room?" Artfully put, she thought, with an inward smirk.
"Nope and nope.. " Kerry replied cheerfully. "I ate like a pig, I'm ashamed to admit, and I enjoyed every minute of it we managed to get to Epcot during the International food festival it was great." She patted her stomach. "But with all the damn walking and everything, I got away with only putting on a couple of pounds it was worth it though.. I had a really great time, even with worrying about the bid and all."
Colleen studied her as the blond woman dug into her packages. Smiling and interested, her sun tinted skin evident in the lamplight, Kerry looked like she'd just come back from a vacation, not a business meeting. The redhead smiled to herself. "Well, you look great got some sun, huh?"
Kerry nodded distractedly. "We spent six or seven hours at Blizzard Beach I got sunburned like crazy even though I wore screen.. but it was great. Those slides are fantastic." She pulled out a bag. "I got you a T-shirt "
"Ho ho " Colleen laughed, holding it up. "I like it he looks good in a tartan." It was a bold Mickey, dressed in green Scottish garb, and carrying bagpipes. "Blizzard Beach huh? So.. how's your boss look in a bathing suit then, eh?"
"Very nice.. " Kerry answered without thinking. "She definitely catches your eye .. "She stopped awkwardly, realizing what she was saying, and gave Colleen a gently accusing look. "Col "
Her friend smiled, and patted her cheek. "Never you worry, lassie it's clear as a bell to me you're head over heels.. and if you're happy, I'm happy for you, okay?"
"I am not " Kerry burst into a protest. "Any such thing." Her voice trailed off, and she sighed. "Oh my god.. is it that obvious?" Her shoulders slumped.
"Hey.. hey " Colleen laughed, and put an arm around her. "I think it was the fact that your face lights up every time you say her name that clued me in the first, but don't worry kiddo if it's any consolation to ya, I think you've got great taste. I can't say I like her methods, but she's one hot looking lady."
Kerry folded her arms across her chest. "I feel like such an idiot, Col I thought I was too old for crushes it's embarrassing." She admitted, ruefully. It felt good, though to admit it to someone other than herself. "But yeah she smiles and my damn blood pressure skyrockets and I start stuttering like some kind of star struck teenager." She shook her head with a sigh. "I'll get over it.. but it's driving me a little crazy."
"Mmmhm " Colleen was pleased with herself for getting Kerry to admit it. "How does she feel about it?"
Kerry stared at her. "Who.. Dar? Oh, Jesus, Colleen.. she doesnt know anything about it.. I mean, she's my boss, for Christ's sake she likes me, sure.. and she thinks I'm a good employee, but that it."
Colleen plucked the bear's arm, and raised an eyebrow. "You sure about that?"
"Of course I'm sure." Kerry insisted. "We just get along good, that's all."
The redhead leaned over, and sniffed at the bear's fur. "That her perfume?" A half teasing, half sultry note had entered her voice.
"Uh " Kerry exhaled. "Yeah."
"Nice." Colleen complimented it. "Okay.. well, I'm really looking forward to meeting her tomorrow then." Her eyes twinkled.
Kerry grabbed her arm. "You're not going to say anything to her." She heard the fierce note enter her voice. "Colleen, I'm warning you "
A hand lifted. "Not a word, I swear it." The redhead promised solemnly. "Well, let me let you get some sleep we've got a long day tomorrow." She rose, and ruffled Kerry's hair. "Sweet dreams, my friend."
Yeah. Kerry watched her leave, then she leaned against Pooh, letting out a long sigh She considered a moment, then picked up the cordless phone lying on the table and dialed a number which had somehow become ingrained in her memory. An unusual five rings sounded before it was picked up. "Um.. hi.. listen, I know it's late but I.. "
"Hey.. no.. I'm glad you called.. I fell asleep on the damn couch. " Dar's voice sounded a little blurry. "What's up?"
"Um thanks for Pooh." Kerry said, softly. "That was a real surprise."
A chuckle sounded, sending gentle shivers down her spine. "I don't recall signing the card." Dar replied in playful tone. "But you're welcome I thought you deserved a little momento of the successful bid." She paused, and Kerry could hear her clear her throat a little. "And.. um that was an insane thing to do, but thank you for the dolphins. I love.. them."
Kerry blushed a deep, brick red. She was at a loss for words. "Y.. you're welcome." She stammered softly.
She could almost feel the smile on Dar's face, as it faintly changed the tone of her voice when she spoke. "It was the best bosses day ever, you can be sure of that." The dark haired woman assured her. "Hey.. you there?"
"Uh.. yes.. sorry I'm really glad it was." Kerry managed to get her tongue untied. "Well.. you must be tired um see you tomorrow?"
"Uh huh." Dar agreed. "See you tomorrow night, Kerry."
"Night." The blond woman said softly, as the line went dead. She could feel a deep welling of emotion going through her, and she put the phone down, hugging the bear to her and burying her face into it's fur with helpless fierceness. After a long moment, she stood, and changed into her nightshirt, then closed the lights and went to bed, bringing the happy looking Pooh right along with her.
The morning was cool and crisp for a change, brought on a mild cold front that had rolled through the previous evening. Kerry took a deep breath of it, looking around her at the dull concrete building, and the crowd of T-shirted workers milling about, munching on bananas and bagels, and drinking orange juice. It was 8 am, and they were due to start shortly, but the company always felt that it needed to make sure it's volunteers weren't starving to death beforehand.
Kerry appreciated that, because she'd woken up late, and hadn't even had time to get coffee before she ran out of the apartment, and bolted north to the school, arriving with just minutes to spare and signing in with the work coordinator.
Then she had time to visit with her friends, as they spotted her and gathered around.
"Hey, Kerry!" Susan trotted up. "Nice sunburn."
Kerry laughed and tugged on her T-shirt. She had it tucked into a pair of older jeans, and was wearing her hiking boots. "Yeah I was in Orlando the past few days got a chance to get out into the sun for a while." She glanced at Susan. "How are you doing? I hear you're heading up the new programming project."
Susan nodded her head, her silvered chestnut hair dancing in the light. "Yep it's actually pretty cool I'm really enjoying it.. nice programming environment, and they got me a killer developmental machine a dual processor Pentium II."
"Ooo listen to the geekazoid." Ray came up on the other side, and rubbed Kerry's arm. "Via, chica what's up with the pinky stuff?" He stepped back and looked at her. "Have you been on vacation already? You look great."
Kerry rolled her eyes. "No.. for the hundredth time today I was at a meeting in Orlando the past couple of days I just got a few hours off, that's all." She put her hands on her hips. "Not like you guys would get your faces out your screens long enough to go to the beach yourselves, I noticed."
"Well, we're not all snooty executives." Ray teased. "So how is El Chupa?"
"Yeah has she made you eat any raw meat yet?" Susan added, with a grin. "I heard yesterday that she hides small children in her office closet for afternoon snacks."
Kerry didn't smile. "She's fine, actually you'll get to see for yourselves. She's supposed to be here today."
"What?" Susan snorted in disbelief. "You're joking, right? El high and mighty power suit doing grunt work?"
"Nah.. she'll show up and tell everyone what to do, I betcha." Ray laughed. "I can see it, in those spike heels, too."
Kerry glanced over his shoulder, and let a grin edge her lips. "Um.. not quite." She'd spotted the Lexus pull quietly up, and seen Dar get out, tucking a pair of gloves in her belt and start to walk over.
"Huh?" Susan followed her glance, and fell silent. So did Ray.
By some weird coincidence, the executive had chosen to wear almost a carbon copy of what Kerry was. Her company issued T-shirt was tucked neatly into faded blue jeans, and she wore practical work boots not unlike the ones the blond woman was sporting. The sleeves on the shirt were rolled up, exposing her toned arms, and she'd tied her hair back into a loose tail. Her pale blue eyes stood out against her tanned skin, and she kept a pleasantly noncommittal look on her face.
Until her eyes met Kerry's, and then a quick grin lit up her visage, and just as quickly disappeared. She went to the work coordinator and gave her name quietly.
"Huh." Susan muttered, obviously surprised.
"Mamacita. She's buff!" Ray whispered to Kerry, who rolled her eyes.
"Hey is that the Popsicle Lady?" Colleen had come up on the other side, and poked Kerry. "Certainly looks different than I remember her."
"Be nice, guys." Kerry tore her eyes from the dark haired woman with some effort. "She's my boss, remember, okay?" She was aware of Dar's moving closer, and she lifted her gaze to greet the older woman with a smile. "Hey."
Dar had reached them, and she gave the group a civilized nod before she let her eyes meet Kerry's. "Morning."
Kerry smiled in reflex. "It sure is that Dar, this is.. "
"Susan Barnes, Ray Ramirez, and Colleen McNamara " Dar interrupted quietly, giving Susan and Ray a polite nod, and inclining her head towards Colleen. "You're at Barnett, correct?"
They all blinked. "Um.. yeah I dont' think we've met." Colleen looked uncharacteristically rattled. "But I've seen you at the bank once or twice."
"Over the tape stream incident." Dar replied crisply. "I remember." She turned to Susan and Ray who were frankly gawking at her. "I don't believe we've spoken since you transitioned.. but I hear things are settling down there."
"Everything's all right, yes." Ray answered, a little stiffly.
A faint, wry expression crossed Dar's face and she backed off a step. "Well, I've got some painting to do. " She gave Kerry a nod, and a ghost of a wink before she turned and headed for the small group of people assigned to help paint the side of the building.
"Good god." Colleen blurted, giving Kerry a look. "That's her?"
Kerry watched the tall figure walking away, her snug jeans and T-shirt showing off her lithely muscular body to admirably good effect. "Yep."
Susan let out a low whistle. "I don't remember her being that um she's different than I remember." The programmer muttered.
"Me too.. she sure looks different in that than she did in a suit." Colleen agreed. She looked at Kerry, who was regarding the grass thoughtfully. "Well.. we're the garbage detail, right?" She handed around bags. "Let's break up you guys want to get that side of the yard, and we'll get this side?"
"Sure.. " Susan shook her bag open. "Let's see who finishes first."
Kerry let her body work mechanically, as she and Colleen scoured the schoolyard, picking up cans and bottles, and other, more sinister debris. Her mind went all over, but chiefly settled on the tall figure perched on a ladder, one leg swung over the top as she neatly covered part of a wall with a color most kindly called puke green. "Why do they pick such a disgusting color for a school?" She commented to Colleen.
"Well, it was that, upchuck brown, or Pepto Bismal pink, so I guess we should consider ourselves lucky." Colleen replied, watching Kerry's eyes with a quickly stifled grin. "You developing a taste for painting, lassie?"
Kerry scowled at her, and went back to her plucking in silence.
They worked all morning, finishing up the garbage and starting to work inside the building, peeling old posters off the walls, and removing broken furniture from classrooms that had seen hard use. Many of the desks had gang slogans carved into them, and Kerry found herself shaking her head as she traced the many angry statements written in rough letters in the aged wood. She was working so hard she barely heard the call for lunch, until Ray came trotting in, his hair held back with a bright red bandana, to get her. "Hey chica lunch time."
"Oh.. sorry." Kerry put down her bag, and dusted her hands off, exhaling as she followed him outside. The other workers were gathering under a spreading tree, where tables had been set up, and pizza was being distributed along with cans of soda. She tagged along after Ray and joined Colleen and Susan as they picked up their slices then glanced around for a cool spot to sit down in.
Trees scattered across the grass, and Kerry spotted a familiar, conspicuously lone figure reclining underneath one of them. She poked Colleen. "C'mon I'm going to go keep my boss company, since no one else here wants to."
Susan and Ray hesitated, then sighed, and followed along, giving Dar wary looks as they closed in on the tree. The executive was chewing her pizza slowly, and gave them a moderately friendly look as they came closer, letting her eyes rest momentarily on Kerry. They settled in a circle around her and started eating in silence, until Susan, giving the others a furtive look, started a technical discussion with the taller woman, getting into programming concepts that went past the other three.
Kerry let out a tiny sigh of relief, and reminded herself to thank Susan later. The atmosphere had definitely been getting stilted.. and she felt herself losing patience with both the wary dislike coming from her friends, and the icy reserve of her boss. Dar had spatters of paint up and down her long frame, and a spot of it was above her right eyebrow. Kerry found herself having a very rough time not reaching over to wipe it off. Instead, she sighed, and settled her self again, her back just touching the edges of Dar's pants legs.
She concentrated on her pizza, picking the pepperoni off and chewing it before she took a bite from the small part of the slice, then almost choking on it as she felt a gentle nudge against her back. She stopped chewing, then felt it again, and darted a glance at the reclining Dar.
"No.. that wouldn't make sense." Dar's low voice was saying. "They'd have to modularize it." Then for just a second, those blue eyes wandered casually over and met hers, and a tiny glint appeared.
"I don't know " Susan replied. "They want to do it as one huge executable.. I think they're crazy."
"We're going to get more pizza you want some?" Colleen asked, as she and Ray got up. Her offer went to everyone, and she even shyly glanced at Dar.
The executive gave her a smile. "No thanks.. none for me."
"I'll go." Susan got up and joined them. "Be right back."
They trooped off, leaving Dar and Kerry alone, under the tree. A soft breeze came through, blowing the green grass around them, and rustling the leaves overhead. Kerry finally gave into her desires and reached over, rubbing the paint off Dar's eyebrow. "Jesus.. you look like a demented Dalmatian."
Dar grinned sardonically. "I did it on purpose.. I thought it might break the ice with you buddies.. y'know I've been in hostile takeover boardrooms that were friendlier."
Kerry sighed. "Sorry."
"Hey.. don't worry about it." Dar chuckled. "I'm used to it.. believe me." She picked off a piece of sausage and nibbled it. "Besides, it's a worthy cause.. this place is a mess."
Kerry glanced over to where her friends were headed back. "Yeah.. I know.. it scares me, how filled with hate these kids are." She smiled as Ray sat back down. "I see they're switching to vegetables now. "
"Uh huh." He agreed cheerfully, as Colleen and Susan also sat down, giving both Dar and Kerry brief smiles.
Uh oh. Kerry sensed collusion ahead.
"So.. we were thinking of going over to the Pelican after this.. and grabbing some dinner. " Susan announced. "You guys want to join us?" Her eyes went to Dar first, then to Kerry, and she made it clear the invitation was to both of them.
Dar's dark eyebrow crawled up into her hairline. She took a quick look at Kerry's face, the blank startlement there confirming her suspicion that this was an unplanned event. Tactically, she had no idea what the group was up to, but spending the evening with her young assistant appealed to her. "Sure." She replied casually, getting a quick side glance from Kerry.
"That sounds fun." The blond woman agreed hastily, wondering what in the world her friends were up to. Fortunately, the work supervisor called them back to their labors, and she was free to grab Colleen, and pull her behind a tree. "What in the hell was that about?"
Colleen gave her a startled look. "What was what it was a dinner invitation, Kerry.. Jesus would you relax?" She shook herself free from the blond woman's hand. "We were just talking saying how maybe you were right.. maybe we need to give the woman a chance so we decided asking her to have dinner with us was at least a step in that direction.. what did you think this was?"
Kerry dropped her gaze, and rubbed her temples. "I.. I'm sorry, Col.. I.. "
"Hey " The redhead stroked her arm, giving her a concerned look. "Listen.. if this is too much for you, we'll forget it, okay? I didn't mean to freak you out."
Kerry got ahold of herself. "No.. no .. it's okay.. I just.. I guess I feel so self conscious around you guys because that's all I hear is Popsicle lady this, and Chupacabra that, and I just don't I just want to scream at you because god damn it, she's not like that."
"Whoa whoa " Colleen glanced around, then took Kerry by the shoulders and pushed her gently back against the tree. "Take it easy we didn't know, okay? All we had to go on is what we hear at work, and what everyone else says you obviously know more about her than we do.. I'm sorry.. I didn't know that stuff was getting to you."
Kerry took a deep breath. "I guess I didn't know it either. "She admitted. "I'm not sure what's with me today.. maybe I'm PMS'ing or something." She gave the redhead an apologetic look. "Sorry."
Colleen dropped her hands, a relieved look on her face. "Okay.. so we're still on? I think it'll be fun.. at least if you can give me an idea of something to talk to the damn woman about.. Jesus, Kerry.. she's so intense."
"Yeah. " Kerry started walking towards the school building. "I know um.. well, she likes the ocean.. she scuba dives.. and she's been to most of the reefs and stuff around here.. you could ask her about that." She relaxed a little, her anxiety slowly easing into anticipation, wishing the day was over and done already.
The Rusty Pelican sat on an outthrust bit of land, on the seaward side of one of the small Keys that lead out to Key Biscayne. The twilight was just settling, lighting the western side of the wooden building in shades of burnished, deep red. The restaurant was a two level wood building, with rustic decorations including fishing nets, and old oars, and came complete with creaking floorboards which held a deep scent of the sea locked in their salt encrusted pores. Dar mounted the steps, and took a breath of the air, then smiled as she held the door for Kerry. They'd used the school's showers to clean up, and had changed into fresh shirts and jeans, stowing the dirty ones in the back of Dar's Lexus since carpooling had seemed like a good idea.
"It's nice out here." Kerry said softly, as she passed in front of the taller woman. "I like the park on the other island."
"So do I." Dar agreed. "Maybe we can stop out there afterward."
Kerry felt a quiet thrill at the words. "Sure.. I'd like that." She grinned, then entered the building, spotting her friends immediately. They sat down, at a table near the window that allowed a view of the Atlantic, strings of lights going out a testament to the cruise ships and freighters going out into the darkening waters. They were sitting at a round table, with Dar and Kerry sitting next to each other, then Ray, Colleen, and Susan completing the circle. After a waitress took their appetizer and drink orders, a faintly awkward silence fell.
Dar sighed, then recalled that she was capable of holding her own in hostile boardrooms. "Did you all know you're sitting in the Bermuda Triangle." She inquired casually.
That broke the ice, big time. Kerry turned to her. "You're joking."
The executive shook her head solemnly. "Nope this is the eastern edge.. it hits here, and scrapes along Key Biscayne you are, indeed, at this moment, inside the Bermuda Triangle."
"Dios Mio." Ray yelped, looking behind him, as though expecting ghostly aviators to float through the window. "I knew it.. I felt.. so strange.. coming out here I knew it."
"Damn.. " Susan laughed. "I know the weather out here is weird I never realized it was part of the Triangle, though.. "
"It's a microclimate." Dar spoke knowledgeably, regarding her interlaced fingers. "Because of the pressure ridges over the coast it rains a lot less, and the humidity content is much different than the mainland.. you can see it in the foliage here too."
"You lived her all your life?" Susan asked, her reserve broken as she rested her chin on her hand, peering at Dar with interest.
"On and off." Dar replied. "I did a study of the ecology when I was at the University down here.. I spent a lot of time at RSMAS." She cleared her throat. "It's interesting.. if you go out to the tip of the Key, where the state park was you know Andrew wiped that entire Australian pine forest off, and they let it grow back up as natural vegetation.. you can't recognize it anymore."
"Wow.. yeah.. I know.. " Susan leaned forward. "I used to go out there and picnic after the hurricane I went out, and almost cried.. then they told me that entire forest was really parasite trees.. imported.. and they were going to burn out the remnants.. I was pretty pissed off until someone explained what the Australian Pine was doing "
The tree was brought in to provide a windbreak for erosion purposes, but had gotten out of hand, and crowded out many native species.
The tension relaxed, and the chatting went on, diverging to discussions on various shellfish which were on the menu. Kerry felt the knot in her stomach relax, and she started to enjoy herself, trading jokes with Colleen, and ordering a lobster in defiance of Susan's assurance that sea roaches were just disgusting. Dar, she noticed, had ordered a mixed platter, and the executive was talking reefs with Susan, who had done a one day diving workshop when she'd gone to Bermuda the preceding year.
Okay this isn't so bad. She thought, happily. I should have known Dar could handle these guys silly me. She leaned forward, her knee pressing against Dar's and held her breath, until it became obvious to her that the dark haired woman had no intention of moving away. It felt nice. She smiled, then her eyes widened as their dinner arrived and she was faced with a large, pugnacious looking lobster, staring at her with baleful, beady black eyes. "Oh gosh."
Everyone laughed, and she picked up the nutcrackers the waiter handed her, peering at the large animal uncertainly. "Good grief "
"Hah.. told you the sea roach would be too much for you!" Susan crowed, pointing her fork at the blond woman. "You better order something else "
"No no.. I can do this.." Kerry objected, poking at the shell with the bitty little fork they'd given her. "Somehow." She scowled at the red object, who scowled back.
And then a warm hand covered hers, and Dar's voice was purring into her ear. "Give me that." The executive told her, taking the nutcrackers out of her hand. "C'mere.. " Dar picked up a claw, and put the cracker around it, closing her hand and breaking it efficiently. "See?" She held up the claw, with the pink lobster meat peeking out of it.
"Ah." Kerry took it from her, and examined it. "Okay.. I gotcha."
"Good." Dar handed her the cracker and went back to her own plate.
The blond woman nibbled the lobster. "Mm.." She glanced up at the watching faces, startled to see quiet, knowing smiles there. "I usually stick to shrimp." She explained sheepishly, giving them puzzled looks as they exchanged glances and started their own dinners. Wonder what that was all about? She mused, then shrugged, and went to work on her stubborn lobster.
It was late by the time they finished, and left the others with a cordial set of good-byes. Kerry was happy.. they'd had a good time, and so, she thought, had Dar. She glanced at her boss as they got into the Lexus, and she settled into the leather seat with a groan. "Oh god.. I think I'm going to explode."
"That's all right.. leather cleans up." Dar blithely replied. "You still up for a walk on the beach?"
"Please.. " Kerry laughed softly. "It's necessary after all that." She leaned back. "Key lime pie.. what an odd combination of sweet and sour that is."
Dar chuckled. "Some people say.. it's just a reflection of what South Florida is.. a lot of sour with a little sweet on top just to fool you."
Kerry thought about that. "I don't know it was kind of refreshing I think I liked it." She decided, watching the softly blowing palm fronds go by as Dar drove over the last causeway, and pulled into a familiar parking lot. "This is ironic." She commented, as they got out and let the cool sea breeze hit them. "This is where I went that night."
No need for Dar to ask which night. "Hmm " She murmured, as they walked across the sidewalk, and turned right, onto the wooden boardwalk. "It's pretty out here."
The board walk was relatively quiet, and echoed their footsteps as they left the lights of the parking lot behind and approached the softly sighing shoreline. The moon was out, and lighting a rippling pathway across the water, leading up onto the beach, which shone white it its glow. Far out on the horizon, a buoy winked as it bobbed back and forth, and faintly, on the wind, Kerry could hear music coming from the hotels down the shore south of them.
It was pretty, she admitted, as they paused, and perched on the railing of the boardwalk, listening to the waves. The moonlight reflected of Dar's hair, and made her pale eyes colorless, but Kerry had no trouble conjuring up what they looked like as she glanced up into the taller woman's quiet face. She could feel the slow beat of her heart, the rhythm picking up as Dar's eyes left the horizon, and tracked to hers, and the lips curved into a smile. "Nice night." Dar's voice broke the stillness in a quiet rumble.
"Mm it is, yes." Kerry answered, reveling in the currents she could feel running between them. "Thanks for taking them up on the invite that worked out better than I thought it would."
Dar slid off the railing, and leaned back against it, so that their heads were almost on a level. "Wasn't bad." She grinned. "I got them with the Bermuda Triangle thing."
Kerry smiled back. "You sure did.. is that true?"
"Oh yeah.. " Dar assured her, turning around and pointing. "You're standing in it right now, in fact."
The turn had put her shoulder right up against Kerry's thigh, and it was too much for her not to let her hand drop to rest against the smooth back, feeling the warmth through the cotton of Dar's shirt.
Dar didn't move. She just continued to look out over the water, but Kerry could see the muscles in her jaw clench a little, then her throat worked as she swallowed. The blond woman's fingers stirred of their own accord, tracing a gentle pattern casually.
The dark head turned very slowly, until those blue eyes were looking right at her.
Looking right through her, and she felt it in her guts, as her knees started to shake a little. "Dar?"
"Mm?" A faint, playful smile was starting, plucking chords in her deeper than anything in her life ever had.
"Can I ask you a personal question?" Kerry knew it was her voice, but she had no idea where the words were coming from, and she felt her heart start to pound.
A shifting of muscle, a sliding of shadows and light, as Dar straightened up, moving closer until Kerry could feel the warmth of her, then a gentle touch on her face brought her eyes up as the taller woman tilted her chin up and studied her intently.
Kerry felt soft cotton under her hands as she slid them up against Dar's body, wanting the contact as Dar ducked her head gracefully and she felt lips brush hers. Light as a feather, then again, as solid contact, lingering and powerful, lasting long enough for her soul to recognize something in her very deep.
Then Dar was pulling back, and she had to focus on those eyes again. "Does that answer your question?" The dark haired woman asked, very softly, her breath warming Kerry's face.
Breathing never seemed so difficult before, but she somehow managed to pull enough air into her lungs to say an audible "Yes." She opened her mouth to say more, but found a finger against her lips.
"Slow." Dar breathed. "Easy.. I'm not used to this, and neither are you."
She felt like laughing, and crying, all at once, and she knew Dar was right. This was way too powerful.. they both needed time to think, and react. But her body was craving something she knew she wasn't capable of denying it any longer. "C ca can I.. " She stammered softly, moving closer, her hands moving slowly and timidly against the cotton of Dar's shirt. The taller woman's arms closed around her, and as their bodies made contact, a warm, familiar wave flowed over her.
Kerry let herself settle into place, tucking her head down against Dar's shoulder, and burying her face into her shirt, as she felt Dar's chin rest on the top of her head. It was an explosion of feeling a deep, aching familiarity that brought tears to her eyes so quickly she couldn't stop them. "Oh god.. " She gasped softly, feeling Dar's breathing catch under her ear. It's been so long. The thought echoed in her mind, from a place buried inside her.
Dar had no idea what to do with the barrage of emotion hammering her from every side. She'd had no intention of taking this to where she had no intention of shattering these particular barriers. But once Kerry had touched her
And now it was her dream realized. She could feel it.. the same warmth, the same feeling the sunlight had shaken her out of the previous morning.
Nothing else mattered. She was lost.
Or maybe she was found.
She tightened her hold, and tipped her head back, regarding the stars. Letting the moon's silver light baptize them as the other half of her soul came sliding home.
Dar had no idea how long they stood there. It was a long time though, long enough for the tears to dry on Kerry's face, and long enough for their bodies to become used to each other's touch. Dar felt a sense of quiet peace, and she suspected if she stood here long enough, she'd simply fall asleep in it, standing up and everything.
She thought about what to do next, her hand making idle, gentle circles on Kerry's back, enjoying the feel of her smooth skin under the fabric. Finally, reluctantly, she exhaled, and shifted a little, causing the blond woman to open her eyes, and look up, with an expression of such perfect trust it was almost frightening. They looked at each other for a moment, then Dar smiled. "This wasn't planned."
Kerry smiled back. "No." She agreed. "It certainly wasn't."
A nod. "Are you all right?"
Kerry considered the question on several levels. "Yes are you?"
Dar had to really think about that. "I yes, I think so." She murmured, wonderingly. "I don't usually um " She found her fingertips tracing the planes of Kerry's face. "B.. but " She took her hand away, and exhaled. "I don't know what came over me "
"I don't know either.. but can we bottle it?" Kerry smiled impishly. She captured Dar's hand, and felt the fingers curl around hers. Seeing Dar so at a loss was very cute and impossibly endearing. "You want to sit down a minute? There's a bench near here."
Dar felt a certain weakness in her knees, and realized it was probably a good idea. "Sure yeah " She let herself be lead over to the bench in question and they sat down on it, side by side. "Okay um " She laughed a bit, rubbing her face with one hand. "I guess we know we.. um.. " Her words failed again. "Good God, I have no idea what in the hell is wrong with me."
Kerry just leaned her head against the cotton covered shoulder. "I'm pretty sure this isn't covered in the employee handbook." She patted Dar's back, and just left her hand there. "Or maybe it is, and I just haven't gotten to that section yet.. that thing is huge." She was babbling, she knew, but she thought maybe it would get Dar to relax a little. Then she paused, as a thought occurred to her. "Guess this means I've got to start checking ETIPS, huh?" The part of the handbook she had read had covered employee relations, and what she and Dar had just shared was a big no no.
"Um " Dar wrestled with her composure. "Well.. technically.. yeah.. I guess.. but um.. hold it." She took a deep breath, then released it. "Let's just I finally found a decent assistant.. I'm not ready to let you go just yet. Let's see if we can keep work, and this separate."
"Mm." Kerry felt her hand start a gentle circling motion against Dar's back. She had no desire to change jobs.. maybe they could just see how things worked out. Slow, Dar had said take things slow. "Okay." She agreed softly. "I kinda like the boss I have."
A moment of silence. Of waves. Of winds stirring the palm leaves. "Your boss kinda likes you too." Dar responded softly. "I didn't expect it to come out like this." She paused in thought. "I just couldn't keep it back anymore."
Kerry let out a relieved sigh. "It was getting pretty hard for me, too." She admitted shyly. "I thought it was the most ridiculous thing in the world.. I mean.. how cliched can you possibly get.. .right? Having a crush on your boss?"
A wry smiled answered her, as Dar's dark brows lifted. "Hiring a beautiful young assistant without prior experience?" Her blue eyes twinkled. "I was damned lucky you turned out to be as good as you are."
Kerry blushed. "I had no idea what that job was, and I could have cared less." She admitted honestly. "Just something about oh boy I couldn't stop thinking about you."
Dar exhaled, unable to prevent a giddy smile from shaping her lips. "Okay well, now that we've got that straight.. we can proceed accordingly." She considered. "Let's see we've already been trapped in a hurricane, gone through a carjacking, and slept in the same bed together.. I guess we can skip the obligatory meet in the coffee shop date, huh?"
Kerry giggled. "Uh.. yeah." She rubbed her nose. "Let me try this one can I interest you in dinner and a movie tomorrow night?" She glanced down, then up again. "I'll cook."
"As long as it's not the Titanic." Dar smilingly agreed. "Or anything with subtitles."
"Ew." Kerry winced. "I'm more a 'Starship Troopers' kind of person myself." She confessed, a little guiltily.
"Phew." Dar mock wiped her brow. "That's a relief."
The looked at each other quietly. "It felt really good when you hugged me." Kerry finally said softly. "I've never felt like that before except maybe in my dreams."
Dar gazed soberly at her. "Neither have I." Hesitantly, she circled Kerry's' shoulders with her arm, and felt the smaller woman ease against her immediately. "I like that." She leaned against the bench's back and almost stopped breathing as Kerry laid an arm across her stomach, and nestled her head against Dar's shoulder. They watched the waves in peace for a while, until Dar noticed Kerry was struggling to keep her eyes open. "Hey c'mon. Time to get you home."
I am home. A tiny voice insisted, as Kerry forced herself to sit up straight, leaving Dar's warmth very reluctantly. "Yeah.. falling asleep on the beach sounds nice in stories, but they forget to mention all the sand that gets everywhere." She joked as she pushed herself to her feet, and held a hand out to the still seated Dar.
They walked back up the boardwalk, sand crunching lightly under their shoes, their hands clasped together.
"Ma'am?" The voice sounded impatient. Dar's head jerked up and she blinked at the ferry deckhand, who was not so patiently waiting for her to drive off the ferry.
"Sorry." Dar gave him an apologetic wave, and exited the boat, driving to her condo and parking the Lexus without really thinking about what she was doing. She got out and locked the doors, then climbed the steps to the condo and opened the door, closing it behind her and flicking the lights on with a mechanical motion.
Her steps wandered into the kitchen, where she glanced at the terminal, glad to see there wasn't any mail waiting, since she had no desire to read any right now. She mixed herself a large glass of chocolate milk and went into her bedroom, putting the glass down while she got out of her jeans and T-shirt, and put on her favorite baseball jersey and flannel shorts. It felt a little strange, and she glanced down, realizing she'd put them on backwards. With a soft curse, she pulled them off, and put them back on the right way. "Oh boy." She picked up her glass and wandered back into the living room, turning on the television and sinking down into the couch, looking at the screen without really seeing it, and allowing her mind free rein at last.
Jesus Christ what in the world has just happened to me? This wasn't supposed to escalate like this I was just.. she was just we were Dar took a long swallow of milk, comforted by the soothing, familiar taste. Okay.. okay okay. Let's take stock of the situation. We.. are attracted to each other. That's not a surprise I knew that before. Okay? Okay she's attractive.. she thinks I'm attractive we have similar tastes she's smart it's really not that surprising, Dar.. so get a grip.
She felt better. A little. But all that rationalization didn't explain just how good it had felt to hold Kerry in her arms, and how much her body was craving more of that, so much that if the blond woman had been there, she knew she couldn't have kept her hands from touching that soft skin, or playing with her hair or
Dar slowly lowered her head onto the back of the couch, feeling the cool surface of the leather warm against her skin. This was a new feeling for her. Intense, and somewhat out of control, but warm and sweet and very, very distracting. She knew she had to get a handle on that, but right now, she was content to sit, and sip her milk, and indulge herself in this emotional whirlpool.
She was surprised when the phone rang, and she stared at it for a moment before she hoisted herself to her feet and went to the table, picking it up and glancing at the clock. "Hello?"
"Ms. Roberts, this is mids ops." The vaguely nervous voice said. "Um.. you're on my notify list if we lose anything."
"Oh yeah?" Dar asked, curiously. "What'd we lose?"
"Um.. Netops." The voice answered. "They had a fire in the building, and they had to evac the fire department won't let them switch to UPS, so "
"We're down." Dar supplied.
"Completely down." Dar added. "Everything.. the network, and the mainframes."
"Guess you can go home then, huh?" The executive commented casually.
"No sense in your being there if there aren't any mainframes to administer.. the internal network is on an automatic backup schedule." Dar reasoned. "So.. go on home."
"Uh okay Ms. Roberts.. if you say so."
:"Sure." Dar reassured him. "Bye."
The line went dead, and she put the phone down, padding back over to the couch and sitting down, taking a sip of her milk, letting her mind review the conversation.
Then spitting the milk out over half the table. "Holy shit!!!!" She barked, jumping back up and grabbing for the phone again. "Sonofabitch . " She dialed frantically, then waited. "Yeah on second thought stick around there. No.. no it's my fault no who else have you notified? Keep going. " She hung up, then slapped her self on the side of the head a few times. "Jesus!"
She dove into her briefcase for her contact book, and opened it, bringing it, and the phone back to the couch. She dialed a number. "Who is this? Okay, this is Dar Roberts.. yes, I know who won't let you cutover to backup? What's his name? Okay what division is he with? County or city? Thanks what damage did the building take?" She listened for a long moment. "Did the extinguishers go off?" Another long pause. "Christ do we have backup 3270's?"
She booted her laptop as she listened, and plugged the phone cord in that would connect the machine to the dedicated line dropped into the condo. "Well, someone better get on the line to Infrastructure in Plano and see if they have a couple mothballed somewhere." She hung up, then studied her screen. "Hell.. everything's down " System indicators showed red blinking lights everywhere on the top level view of the network. With her free hand, she dialed the phone, listening for a familiar voice. "Hey."
Kerry sounded a little surprised, but not disappointed to hear her voice. "Hey what's up?"
"We're not Netops had a fire, and the entire network is down." Dar told her, with a sigh. "Some idiot in the fire department won't let them go on backup."
"Yikes you need some help there?"
Oh it was soooo tempting. Dar sighed. I'd love that.. but you can't really do anything, so it would just be satisfying a personal whim. She regretfully told herself. "I just wanted you to know.. since you're not on the notify list."
"Oh." Kerry sounded disappointed. "Well.. okay.. if there's anything I can do, though "
Dar drummed her fingers against her leg. "Um you know, we're going to have to reroute a lot of stuff if I can't get the fire department to cooperate.. I could use some help in research and identifying available assets."
"Really?" Kerry's voice perked up.
Dar gave in, and gave up. "Yeah you can dump into the second ISDN line here if you want to, that is."
"I'll be right there." The blond woman assured her.
A smile edged Dar's lips against her will, and she took a moment out to call security, then she went back to her searching. She found the name she was looking for, then glanced up at the screen, which was tuned to, of all things, the Disney channel. "Oh Beauty and the Beast I love those candlesticks." She pointed cheerfully at it, as she dialed the phone. "Hello.. I need to speak with Walter Blakelock no, this is business." A pause. "I don't give a goddamn if he's humping with the mayor's wife, I need to talk to him."
Another pause. "Either get him on the phone, or I'll be calling his boss out of bed too thanks, I'll wait."
Kerry dimmed her lights as she pulled into the underground parking and turned the engine off on the Mustang after sliding into place next to Dar's Lexus. She glanced at her reflection in the rearview mirror and gave herself a little lecture. "This is business, Kerrison. You are here because the company is in crisis, and it's part of your job." She told her reflection sternly. "No doe eyed looks, no batting of the eyelashes, and no backrubs, got it?"
She exhaled, then cleared her throat and got out of the car, bringing her laptop case with her. She trotted up the stairs and rang the bell, listening for and hearing Dar's low voice in response. "It's business, it's business, it's business." She repeated silently, as she pushed the door open, and ducked inside.
Dar was sprawled on the couch, in her pajamas, one long, bare, muscular leg slung over the end of the furniture and her shirt half unbuttoned. Oh well. So much for that, Kerry sighed, as every single solitary hormone in her entire body stood up and said "Hi there!".
"Hey." She managed to give Dar a crisp nod, as she put her case down, and got her laptop out. "Long time no see."
Dar, still on the phone, rolled her eyes. "Look Jim, I dont' care what it's going to take, I need the building back online." She leaned forward and cradled her head in her hand. "They can't go on back up power because the fire department won't certify the electrical substructure as safe that means I need an electrical engineer in there, and I need them now, not tomorrow or Monday.. got me?"
Kerry got her system going, then she stood up. "Bet you could use some coffee." She guessed, getting a pathetically grateful look from her boss. "Thought so.. I'll go make some."
Okay.. I can do this.. we're functioning. Kerry felt a little relieved, her initial nervousness fading as she rattled around the kitchen, setting up the coffee maker and starting it going. She returned to the doorway, and leaned against it, watching Dar as she persistently threatened, cajoled, and harangued a series of people, finally resulting in a string of curses in two languages that caused Kerry's eyebrows to lift as the executive slammed the phone down.
Dar glowered at the phone, then looked up, to meet warm, green eyes looking back at her. "Idiots."
Kerry disappeared, then reappeared a minute later with a cup of steaming coffee, which she brought over and handed to the dark haired woman, before taking a seat next to her on the couch. "No luck, huh?"
Dar sighed, and leaned back. "I have an electrical engineer headed there from South Carolina and two backup machines being prepped in Plano.. but it's not enough." She took a sip of the coffee, then gave Kerry a look. "You remembered how I like it."
The blond woman laughed. "Dar.. c'mon.. you add enough cream and sugar so that it stops tasting like coffee, and there you are." She patted her companion's leg, feeling the subtle shift of muscle under her hand as Dar stretched a little.
"Eh.. that's true." The dark haired woman admitted, giving her an affectionate look. "God.. what's next "
Kerry was searching the database. "Jesus that board looks like a frigging Christmas tree." She pulled her laptop back onto her lap as she settled deeper into the soft leather and sat cross legged next to Dar. She glanced up. "Hey.. Beauty and the Beast I love those candlesticks." She grinned and shook her head, not seeing the startled look from Dar's blue eyes. "Yeesh, Dar this is terrible.. we really don't have a backup if we lose that facility." She looked up at her boss, who nodded slowly. "Wow."
"I know we made a decision three years ago in executive committee not to duplicate that center.. I fought it like crazy, but no one wanted to allocate the budget for it.. I wanted to split the processing.. but they just wouldn't go for it." Dar sighed. "This is one of those times when I wish I wasn't proved right."
Kerry shook her head. "Well.. we can shift critical stuff here and here but they've got all the routers up there, Dar we don't have enough alternate routes to get around that."
"Yeah.. that's why I've been putting my efforts into getting the building back up." Dar acknowledged glumly. The phone rang, and she picked it up. "Yeah?"
"Dar, it's Jose." Montarosa's voice was excited. "Do you know what's going on?"
"Yeah. We're down." Dar replied tersely. "Now get off my goddamn phone so I can do something about it."
Kerry glanced at her, then disengaged a hand from her keyboard and rubbed the taller woman's back in gentle circles. She could feel the tension in her boss, and she let her fingers probe the knots she found in her neck.
The re was a slight pause, then Dar's voice resumed. "I'm sorry, Jose.. what was that you asked?" Her tone had relaxed a little. "No there was a fire in the building.. the mainframes are fine, but we don't have power because the fire department won't let us put juice in from the generator." Dar closed her eyes as strong, sensitive fingers probed muscles sore from painting. "What? Oh.. yeah, no.. we don't have a backup location.. you know that.. you voted it down, remember?"
Kerry put her laptop down, and crawled up onto the back of the couch, going to work with both hands.
"Uh I don't I've got an electrician coming down to certify the building.. so yeah, probably.. but I'm going to keep pushing on the fire department anyway. Maybe they'll get tired of hearing my voice and give up no, okay.. I'll let you know bye." Dar let her hand drop with the phone in it and groaned. "You are very good at that."
"Thanks." Kerry murmured. "You're really tense." She worked her way down Dar's back, as the dark haired woman leaned forward, then started back up. "There better?"
Blue eyes gazed back at her as Dar half turned. "Much."
Kerry grinned, and slipped back down onto the couch. "So..what's next?"
Dar draped an arm across her shoulders. "Just stay here, and keep me company while I yell at people, okay?"
Okay? Kerry squirmed closer, settling against Dar's warm body with a little sigh of contentment. "Sure." She let her legs join the taller woman's, propped up on the coffee table, her green socks an odd contrast to Dar's bare feet, then pulled her laptop over, resuming her search for resources. "We could shift these routers, and get some of the bank traffic up, or.. wait here, and get Interline back."
Dar peered over her shoulder. "Mm do it I'd rather have NOTAMS and the weather service back for the airlines it's the weekend, the banks can wait."
Kerry almost didn't hear the last part of that, since Dar's breath was tickling her ear very distractingly. "Uh.. okay erf uck, I forgot I can't use oh, wait, I can route the request through the Plano backbones.. hang on.. "
"You're very good at that, too." Dar's voice almost made her accidentally reconfigure a master router. "Dar?"
"Hmm?" The executive peered at the screen.
"Unless you want me to reroute the NBC satellite feeds to Iran, could you just be quiet for a minute?"
Pale blue eyes winked at her mischievously. "Sorry."
"No problem" Kerry tried not to think about how close those nice, inviting lips were. "What was I doing? Oh yeah " She worked at the keyboard for a minute. "Okay yeesh, that's awkward."
The phone rang, and Dar picked it up. "Yes? Oh.. right okay, good let me know." She hung up, then stretched. "The electrician just got there hey, want some ice cream?"
Kerry didn't think twice. "Sure." She continued her browsing. "Oh I can get ATM's back up in the Northeast hang on.. "
Dar got up and ambled into the kitchen, musing on how much more fun a disaster was with Kerry around. She thought about that as she dished out the frozen treat. How much more fun everything was with Kerry around. She carried the dishes back, and handed Kerry hers, then settled back in her spot, and picked up the phone again.
It was almost five am before the electrician finished his inspection, and Dar had to argue with him for fifteen minutes before he'd issue his report then and there. "Look.. I didn't have you get out of your god damn bed at one am so you could write a report tomorrow.. just do it!" She snarled. "Put Gregory on the phone."
The deep, rumbling voice of the Netops chief came on. "Yeah, Dar "
"Get that report.. I've got that damn fire chief on his way to you now.. give it to him, and tell him to take it and shove it.. '' She stopped, when Kerry stuck a spoonful of ice cream in her mouth. "Mfufh " She swallowed. "Sorry.. I mean, tell him to please open the seals, and let you in the control room to get the power cutover."
"Sure hang on.. here he comes now. You wanna talk to him?" Gregory chuckled.
"No." Dar sighed. "He doesn't want to hear my voice again, I can tellya that."
"Okay.. he's doing it.. we're in." Gregory's voice faded, and several clanks and sharp pops came clearly through the phone. "Hold on yow it's dusty in here thank god we test this thing once a week..okay hold your ears. "
The overwhelming rumble of the generator came through. "Stabilizing coming up to voltage okay " Gregory was on another phone. "Yaz! Hit the switches, eh?" He came back. "Power's up, Dar I'm going to give it ten minutes to peak and spike, then kick the dogs in the ass and get them back online."
"Whoops.. here come the routers." Kerry informed her, watching the top level map. "Do they autoboot?"
Dar nodded "Routers just came back, Greg." She watched as the red lights slowly mapped to green. "Backbones are up." She felt a tired smile twist her lips.
"Packets are passing." Kerry reported, with a grin. "The overseas link just came up." She pointed at the multiline gateways that passed data over the Atlantic.
Dar ruffledher hair, then draped an arm over her shoulders as they watched. "Okay..looks good, Greg."
"Uh huh thanks Dar couldn't have done it without you, that's for damn sure." Gregory cheerfully told her. "Later.. go get some sleep, eh?"
"Night, Greg." Dar replied, and cut off the line. "Damn, that was a bitch."
Kerry nodded, then turned her head to regard the dark haired woman. "You've got ice cream on your lips." She observed, peering at the offending spot.
Dar eyed her quietly. "I do?"
Kerry leaned over and gently, deliberately, removed it, tasting the surface with a tentative tongue. She felt the soft intake of breath, then a steadying touch against the back of her neck sent tingles down her spine as Dar returned the favor, taking a leisurely bit of time doing so. Kerry could feel the warm closeness of her body, and breathed in the pleasant scent of her as she let herself respond, enjoying the simple, undemanding pleasure of it.
They were both too tired to go further, she knew, but it felt very good to spend a few minutes in this gentle exploration, giving them both a chance to get used to each other. She drew in a breath as Dar pulled back a little, and rubbed noses with her. It brought a smile to her face, and she let her head fall back against the couch, with a sigh. "That felt nice."
Dar nodded, brushing her hair back with idle fingers. "Mmhmm c'mon you can find out first hand what a waterbed feels like."
Kerry must have looked a little startled, because the dark haired woman laughed a little, and put a hand up, patting her cheek. "Easy..easy just to sleep in we're taking this nice and slow, remember?"
Kerry returned the smile. "It's just all a little new to me." She explained. "But a bed of any kind sounds really good to me right now."
Dar nodded in quiet understanding. "Is this your first time, Kerry?" She knew the answer, but waited.
The green eyes dropped, and a soft flush colored the blonde woman's neck. "Um not.. with a woman, yes." She finally got out, glancing up. "I.. um.. "
"Shh.. it's okay.. I kind of guessed that." Dar responded, giving her a reassuring pat on the arm. "Take it easy no rush, no pressure. "
Dar got up and stifled a yawn, then held out a hand invitingly. "C'mon.. time for bed.. I'm really bushed."
It was Kerry put her laptop down, and stood up, having changed into her pajamas earlier. It was scary, and at the same time, exhilarating. She took Dar's hand, and followed her into the cool, blue walled bedroom, feeling the calmness of the place with a sense of anticipation. She glanced at the bed. "Good grief, Dar.. it's huge!"
The executive chuckled. "Yeah I know c'mon. " She pulled the covers back, and got in, moving over to the center of the bed. "See? Big enough for six "
Kerry laughed, and accepted the invitation, surprised at the gently moving surface. "Oh.. I thought it would move more."
"It's semi waveless." Dar explained. "There are these little foam baffles inside, and the water gets trapped in there, so it doesn't move around much." She patted the surface. "See?"
Kerry settled down. "Mm wow this is comfortable." She had plenty of space around her, she realized, and a nice soft pillow. Her anxiety eased, and she relaxed, watching as Dar reached up and turned off the overhead lamp.
"You okay?" The low, vibrant voice cut through the darkness.
"Yeah I'm fine." Kerry answered sleepily. "G'night."
Dar put her hands behind her head, and gazed up at the unseen ceiling. "G'night."
A peaceful silence fell, and Dar waited for sleep to claim her, tired, but very conscious of the warm body nearby. What a day. She shook her head in mild disbelief. Her life was changing shifting so fast she hardly knew what to do about it. In the space of a single day.. of a single night, really she'd suddenly acquired a facet in her life she never would have expected, but now that she had it, she was sitting her wondering how she'd ever lived without it.
The bed shifted gently, and she felt Kerry's warmth move closer, and a grin appeared. It took another ten minutes, then she felt a touch against her and she sidled over, closing her arm around the sleeping woman, who nestled closer immediately, tucking an arm around her waist, and relaxing with a sigh as she nuzzled Dar's shoulder.
It felt wonderful. Dar's eyes closed, and this time, she welcomed the dreams. Waking
would outdo them.
They were outside a waterfall this time. She was looking out over a small ledge thick with moss above a deep pool catching the falling water with a dull roar. It was mid afternoon, and the weather was perfect, nice and cool, but sunny.
Other than the water, the only sounds she could hear were birds, and a few small rustles that might have been squirrels around them. Otherwise it was quiet enough to hear the leaves growing.
Warmth stirred against her, and she glanced down, to see a blond head tucked against her shoulder and one tanned hand resting on her stomach, a surface a good deal more toned than she could recall herself being since she'd stopped competing in tournaments a few years back.
It was Kerry.. and yet, it wasn't. The hair, though disheveled, was styled differently, and the hand resting on her bore a small scar in the half moon between forefinger and thumb that wasn't familiar.
The body resting against her was darker, and more muscular as well, she could feel the solid weight of it and the rippled curves under the arm she had wrapped around the smaller woman.
Strange. And not. A roughly woven blanket covered them from the hips down and despite the uneven surface she felt very comfortable and totally relaxed.
She watched a butterfly flutter down, it's yellow and black wings in a stark color contrast to the green around them, and light on a flower, pale pink and salmon that swayed gently under the insect's weight.
The wings spread for balance, and she watched them almost hypnotically open and close, seeing the odd, dark eyes on each one.
She looked straight up and saw a hawk, coursing through the upper canopy, and arching it's body to land.
A feather floated down, wisps of brown and tan, and landed on the blanket over her thigh.
Then the water's sound lulled her back into sleep.
Dar became slowly aware of her surroundings, a mixture of the familiar, and the unfamiliar as the well known comfort of her waterbed combined with the wonderful sensation of someone hugging her. She let her eyes drift open, to see the muted reflection of sunlight coming through the drawn blinds, sending tiny stripes across both her body and Kerry's.
The blonde woman was in the same position she'd fallen asleep in last night, or to be more precise, earlier that morning, curled up tightly against her left side with one arm thrown across Dar's middle. Just like the dream, she mused. Except they were in a bed, in an apartment in Miami, fully dressed, of course, not naked somewhere in the forest outside a damn waterfall.
What a strange dream. Dar shook her head faintly, then craned her neck to examine Kerry's hand, where she'd seen the scar in the dream.
Nothing but smooth skin met her eyes, and her brows creased in puzzlement. What was that all about? Why would she imagine something like that? Weird. Very weird.
She dismissed the images, and turned her attention to the current time. Where their bodies met, she could feel Kerry's living warmth and she almost stopped breathing when the younger woman's hand moved, lightly stroking her stomach through the fabric that separated them. She closed her eyes, savoring the touch, and tried not to think about how long it had been since she'd allowed herself to want what she wanted with Kerry.
Not sex. Well her lips twisted a little. Not sex, but closeness, that trust between two people she'd only known twice in her lifetime, and twice
Twice she'd learned a hard lesson. Everyone has their own agenda, Dar.. nobody gives for giving's sake but to get something back. Something they want. Something from her.
After that, she'd stopped trusting. You wanted sex? Sure.. she could do that. It didn't mean a goddamn thing one way or the other. But nobody got inside.. nobody got to where it would hurt if they turned out to be scum, or they walked away, or told her thanks, but they'd gotten what they wanted and now she meant nothing.. no. Twice was enough.
And here she was, after all those years, thinking about trusting again. About letting Kerry inside, letting her get ahold of the little bits and pieces of vulnerability that were left in there, and trusting her not to scrape them raw again.
She hardly even knew Kerry. What was she thinking of? Hell, she didn't even know if she was capable of it anymore never mind if it was a good idea. She sighed, and looked at the clock. Eleven well, she'd gotten a few hours of sleep, anyway better get up and see what was going on at the office, and ..
Kerry nestled closer, making a soft sound of contentment, and warming Dar's skin through the cotton with her breath. It felt so good the touch of her skin.. the smell of her it was like drowning. She slid her arm around the smaller woman a little tighter and exhaled softly.
Unexpectedly, she found her eyes drifting shut as her body relaxed against Kerry's, the younger woman's peaceful somnolence coaxing her back into sleep. Well.. she reasoned, no sense in forcing the kid to wake up she worked hard last night, right? A few more minutes wouldn't hurt
Kerry realized where she was before she opened her eyes this time. She caught her breath, but resisted panic when she felt the secure hold wrapped around her and realized Dar knew she was there, and hadn't minded.
So she relaxed, and enjoyed the sensation, her head pillowed on a very nice shoulder and her ear pressed against Dar's chest, letting her senses absorb the closeness, and the distintctive scent of her, faint traces of perfume, of soap.. the clean cotton smell of her pajamas.. it was all ordinary, but combined together painted a unique portrait of her new friend. Kerry decided she liked it.
She could hear the heartbeat, slow and steady, and feel the movement as the older woman breathed, and decided it was really comforting sound to wake up to. She opened her eyes and shifted a little, peering up at the angular face above her to see Dar completely relaxed in sleep.
Jesus she looks so young like that. Kerry mused in faint surprise. Without the wary intelligence that so characterized Dar's face, and the tensions life had put there, she appeared no older than Kerry herself, and the blond woman found herself wondering just how true that was. Surely someone who was in a position like hers had to be older.. had to be more experienced.
Right? And yet there was no hint of silver in that dark head, and the creases along her eyes were those Kerry had seen in even the youngest adults here, from the constant squinting into the brilliant sunlight. It would be easy enough to find out, of course just send a query for her graduation date from public school into the Dade County archives. .
Or you could just ask, her more practical side tapped her on the shoulder. I mean, Jesus, Kerry.. you're practically sleeping on top of her.. I don't think she'd mind you asking how old she is. She put her head back down with a wry smile I'm not sure this is how it's supposed to work, though aren't you supposed to go through stages like meeting.. dating having drinks going to parties in large groups before you end up sleeping together?
She let her fingers flex gently against the soft surface. She could feel the bumps that were Dar's ribs moving under her hand and found her thumb rubbing the skin that sloped down towards her navel. It didn't feel strange to be touching her like this.. in fact, it seemed so normal to her it was sort of scary.
How had the barriers that existed between any two people broken down so quickly between them? Kerry was a touch sensitive person in any case.. she spoke with her hands, and she tended to reach out, and make contact with whoever she was dealing with, but this .
It was almost like they'd known each other for a long time.. it was that kind of comfortableness.
She traced a line down Dar's belly absently. Oh well, I always was a fast learner. I hope I can learn fast enough, though I have absolutely no idea in the world what to do with her beyond kissing. I wonder if there are books. She mused, considering the thought.
A pause, as she let Dar's warm scent enter her lungs. I bet I can find something on the internet. Let's see.. Yahoo, Search, keyword: Sex and women but not kinky. Response: We have found six zillion seven hundred million references, please refine your search parameters . Kerry giggled softly to herself.
"What's so funny?" A low, vibrant voice rumbled through the surface her head was resting on. Kerry managed not to jump, but she glanced up to see sleepy blue eyes regarding her in amusement..
"Um " She muffled another giggle. "Didn't meant to wake you up.. it was nothing really.. I was just.. um.. thinking of cartoons."
Both dark brows lifted. "Cartoons?" Dar's voice replied in disbelief.
"Yeah.. you know.. like Space Ghost." Kerry thought fast. "Did you know he interviewed Emeril Lagasse the other night?" She started to back off. "I have no idea why we always end up like this.. I don't.. um. "
"Hey.. " Dar patted her back. "It's okay you just do it in your sleep it doesn't bother me." She released the smaller woman, though, sensing her discomfort. They had time and Kerry was going to need it, to get used to the physical dimension they were developing. That was all right . It was going to take her some getting used to also.
"Well " Kerry rolled over onto her back and stretched. "You're right though.. it is comfortable." She smiled at Dar. "I'll have to think about getting one of these." Then she sighed. "After I figure out what I'm going to do with my parents."
Dar rolled onto her side, and cocked her head. "Your parents? What do they have to do with a waterbed?" She inquired curiously.
Kerry remained silent for a moment, then she looked up. "They're putting a lot of pressure on me to come home." She paused, thinking. "And I'm not going to go.. it's just that I have to find a way to tell them without causing a nuclear family holocaust."
Dar scratched her nose. "They still want you to marry that guy?" Her blue eyes watched Kerry's face intently.
The blond woman nodded grimly. "Oh yeah Brian is graduating from law school this semester.. he'll be done by the holidays, and that was what they were waiting for."
"I take it they don't know you..um " Dar gestured between the two of them.
"Uh no." Kerry winced. "That's a relatively new development." A pause. "I..um I mean, I always just did what everyone else does the prom, the whole deal but I never really.. I mean, I couldn't figure out what the big deal was, you know?"
Dar muffled a grin. "I know." She gave the blond woman an understanding look.. "Been there, done that."
Kerry smiled at her. "Yeah.. I guess you have so then when I moved down here, everything was just so different.. and one Saturday a bunch of my new friends took me to South Beach."
"Oh." Dar clapped a hand over her mouth. "I guess that was a revelation."
"For someone from Saugatuck? Uh huh." Kerry started to laugh, and then exhaled. "Most outlandish thing I'd seen until then was the Saugatuck Duck Festival let's just say my horizons were considerably broadened that weekend."
"C'mon, Kerry even in Saugatuck I'm sure there were gay people." Dar chuckled.
"Well.. sure in fact, when I think back, and I know now what I was seeing, I can remember that.. but no one talked about it it was kept, like the cliché, in the closet." Kerry explained. "Certainly, in my family, it wasn't discussed." She exhaled. "But then I well, it took me a while, but I eventually figured out what I was feeling.. and why I was having such a hard time dealing with the thought of settling down with Brian and having a couple of kids."
"That must have been rough for you." The executive sympathized. "My father guessed and he took me aside one day and talked to me about it I had already figured it out, so it was kind of a relief."
Kerry looked at her. "He didn't mind?"
A shake of the dark head. "No it surprised me.. I'd been scared to tell him, because he was military, and you know that doesn't really breed liberal thoughts. But when I think about it know, knowing what he was I shouldnt have been surprised."
Kerry got off track. "What was he?" She asked softly.
"Navy Seal." Dar smiled at her wide eyed reaction. "Yeah.. one of the wild ones."
"Wow I can't imagine what that would be like." Kerry breathed. "It would be very different for me. They wouldn't understand that."
"Ah." Dar nodded. "That's tough." She thought a moment. "Certainly your career is more likely to advance her than in Michigan the Troy office really doesn't do what you're good at."
Kerry sat up, and crossed her legs, pushing her hair behind her ears. "They dont' care about that my mother left this message on my machine last night that said I could get some secretary's position in the Troy office, so I could keep my little hands busy, while I waited to get pregnant."
"What?" Dar leaned forward. "Kerry, did anyone tell them this is the 1990's, going on the year 2000?"
"Not in my family." The blond woman stated quietly. "I think they're firmly entrenched in the 1940's." She nibbled her lip. "I could just tell them, I guess."
"Maybe you should start slow like telling them you're staying in Miami first." Dar replied, reasonably. "Before you spring the 'I'm not marrying whathisface.' And 'oh yeah, by the way, I'm dating my boss' on them." The taller woman added, with a wry smile.
"Mm you're probably right." Kerry acknowledged. "Though I'd get a point for dating my boss, for all of the twenty seconds or so it would take him before he remembered who that was." It was a tempting thought, though.
"You aren't close with your father, I take it." Dar asked, gently.
Kerry stared at the wall, holding down the wave of sick reaction. "No." She finally muttered. "You could say that."
The dark haired woman leaned forward and took her hand. "Don't worry.. we'll think of something." She promised. "Hell, worst comes to worst, I'll route his IRS records to MSNBC."
The blond woman rolled her eyes. "That would be hilarious, but useless.. he's a pillar of moral rectitude. I doubt he even claimed us as dependents until we were a year old, just to prove we were viable." She sighed. "But thanks, Dar it helps just to talk to someone about it." She gave her boss a smile, and squeezed the fingers holding hers. "And I'll keep your threat in reserve."
Dar laughed, then she rolled over and stretched, arching her back and extending both arms out. "Okay well, now that it's afternoon " she shook her head at the ceiling. "I guess I'd better check on the office I'm sure there's going to be a half dozen emergency staff meetings tomorrow to discuss why our fallback procedures which don't exist dont' work."
Kerry considered that, and considered all the undone things she had to do at home, and sighed. Much as she'd rather spend the day here with Dar "Listen.. why don't we get together next weekend sometime? I have a ton of laundry and everything else to do since I wasn't home all those days." She suggested, regretfully.
Dar felt a jolt of disappointment, but knew Kerry was right. They both had things to do, and a week of work to prepare for. "Sounds like a good idea." She admitted. "Much as I hate to admit it .are you still interested in the gym? That class starts on Wednesday."
Kerry had almost forgotten about that. "Oh.. right! Absolutely God yes if I keep hanging around with you, I'm going to desperately need it." She gave Dar a grin. "Thanks for reminding me."
The executive rolled out of bed and stood up. "Well, let's get going then I think I have some extra Frosted Flakes if you're interested."
Kerry shook her head and laughed as she joined her. "See what I mean?"
Continued in Part 9
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