DISCLAIMER: Army Wives and its characters are the property of Katherine Fugate, Lifetime Television, and Mark Gordon Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Cabenson for the stamp of approval. A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Another Day Has Gone By
By Ann


A light breeze rolled gently through the trees that lined both sides of the winding road, the occasional chirping of the birds quietly filling the air and adding to the serenity of the picturesque scene. A distant sound, completely foreign to the peaceful surroundings, grew louder and more distinct as time marched by, until finally, it could be easily identified as the roar of an engine. The motorcycle flew around the sharp curves, the rider expertly leaning into the turns, while the passenger held on tightly and mirrored every move, their bodies pressed so closely together nothing could pass between them, not even a ray of light from the bright sun beating down on them.

The driver smiled behind her dark visor, the shield blocking out the glare of the sun and allowing clear visibility of the road ahead. Pulling back on the throttle, she accelerated into the next curve and chuckled as arms, wrapped so intimately around her, tightened their hold. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed the sheer exhilaration of riding a bike, the freeing feeling it had always given her, and to have someone dear to her share her joy, only made it that much more special. She just wished the circumstances that dictated their lives were different, but their paths had already been set long before they'd ever met. Friendship was as far as they could allow themselves to go.

Spying the turn-off just up ahead, she eased back on the throttle and readied for the turn, her passenger releasing her vise-like grip but keeping her hands in place, the tight hold replaced with an almost intimate caress. The familiarity and comfortableness the two always shared was more evident than ever, perhaps because they were alone, isolated from family and friends by miles and miles of road, or more than likely, because they'd not had any real quality time together since the Hump Bar had been destroyed, leaving behind so much more damage than just a pile of rubble. Yes, they'd shared a few short moments, but not without the possibility that someone would walk in on them at any time. Subconsciously, they'd been careful; even in grief, they'd held back.

The wheels of the motorcycle came to a stop underneath a wooden pier that extended outward into the water, and a booted foot stepped onto the soft, dry sand to steady the bike and allow her passenger to disembark. With a final squeeze, hands moved to her waist and the weight of the bike shifted momentarily until she was left sitting alone.

A feeling of emptiness swept over her at the loss of contact, but she pushed down on the disappointment and used the heel of her boot to lower the kickstand. Climbing from the bike, she immediately removed her helmet and shook out her long, dark strands. Now free from her confinement, she could easily hear her friend's exclamation.

"What a rush!" Claudia Joy Holden, helmet in hand, smiled widely at her friend. "I can't believe I was so scared to try this."

Chuckling, Denise Sherwood balanced her helmet on the seat and moved to unzip her jacket. "Told'ya you'd like it."

"Like it? I loved it!" Claudia Joy once again mirrored her friend's movements, reaching to remove her own jacket. "Wonder what Michael would say if I bought one of these for my own."

"He'd probably shoot me on sight."

A rich laugh rose above the sound of the nearby surf. "You're probably right."

"C'mon, let's find someplace quiet and sit in the sun for awhile," said Denise, pushing off her shoes, before sliding out of her jacket and wind pants to reveal a teal-colored tank, tucked into a pair of white shorts. Opening the bike's small compartment, she removed a pair of flip flops.

"Sounds like a plan." Denise had already divested herself of her jacket and wind pants and now stood in a pair of cut-off denim shorts, revealing only the top half of her one-piece red bathing suit. She reached down and picked up her backpack from the sand. "I've got a blanket, crackers, cheese, and wine." She winked. "Hope you don't mind plastic glasses."

"I think I can manage." With a smile, she followed her friend out into the sun, pleased to see that most of the beachgoers had gone, chased off by the earlier scorching heat, leaving only a couple of families well down the shoreline. Minutes later, the two women sat comfortably beside each other, just yards away from where they'd left the bike.

"Oh, this is wonderful. We need to do this more often," said Denise, holding her clear plastic cup out to Claudia Joy. "Only half a glass, please, I'm driving."

"Good thing I brought some bottled water, otherwise you'd die of thirst in this heat," said Claudia Joy, dutifully filling the glass midway. She carefully placed the bottle to the side and pulled a couple of small plates from her backpack, earning a raised eyebrow from her friend.

"What else do you have in there?" Denise eyed the box of crackers and Tupperware full of cheese that had already been placed on the blanket.

"Oh, just some chocolate brownies I baked this morning," Claudia Joy teased, perfectly aware of how much her friend loved her brownies. She laughed out loud at the look of sheer joy that crossed Denise's features.

"Let's skip the cheese and crackers and go straight to dessert." She reached for the backpack, only to have her hand swatted away.

"Good things come to those who wait," promised Claudia Joy, moving the temptation a safe distance away. Denise poked out her lip and pouted, but Claudia Joy held firm, deciding some kind of distraction was in order. She knew just the subject.

"So, tell me about this bike of yours."

Disappointment flew from Denise's face and was replaced with an excitement Claudia Joy had never before seen from her friend. She perched on an elbow and stretched her legs out as she listened to Denise prattle on and on.

". . . and so I'm keeping it; I don't care what Frank says."

Claudia Joy placed her empty cup on the edge of the blanket and reached for Denise's hand. "You *should* keep it." She looked down at the perfect fit, it'd always seemed so right. "I haven't seen you this happy in years. Don't let anyone take that away from you." Her voice was tinted with a touch of sadness, and Denise's head snapped up at the realization of where her friend's thoughts had gone.

"Oh, Claudia Joy, I've been so caught up in my job and the bike, I've neglected our friendship." She squeezed the hand she held. "How are you doing?"

"Better." She offered a slight smile of reassurance. "I still miss her terribly, but I can't let my grief take over my life. Emmalin is my daughter, too. She deserves a mother who lives in the present, not in the past." Hesitating, she moved her focus to the plaid pattern of the blanket and added, "And Michael and I have become intimate again."

Rarely had the two women spoken, or ever referred, to sex shared with their husbands, but Denise understood perfectly what Claudia Joy was telling her. She had taken another step closer to healing.

"Good." The simple word was all that was necessary as a comfortable silence fell between them. They sat quietly, holding hands, as the sun slowly made its way across the sky.

"It'll be dark soon," Denise spoke softly, not wanting to break their special bond, but knowing it was time to return to reality.

Claudia Joy looked up at her friend. "Could we stay awhile longer?"

"Sure, but let's move closer to the bike." It was an easy decision to make; she'd just drive slowly on the ride home. Pushing to her feet, she pulled Claudia Jo to a standing position. The two friends quickly packed up their things and walked over to a broken off post.

Plopping down on the sand, Denise leaned back against the wood and motioned Claudia Joy to sit in front of her. The other woman smiled and eased into a sitting position, her back resting comfortably against her friend's chest.

"Your shoulders got burned," said Denise, lightly running her fingers over the heated skin. She marveled at the goose bumps that rose with her touch.

"Yeah, I'm going to be sorry tomorrow, that's for sure." Claudia Joy reached for the small Tupperware that sat at the top of her backpack. She lifted the lid and offered the container to Denise, the smell of the chocolate reaching her friend's nose well before she noticed the offering.

"Oh, I've died and gone to heaven." She snatched the largest of the brownies that lined the top of the container. "Hmm…"

Claudia Joy chuckled. "You are so easy." She scooped one for herself and took a generous bite. They truly were sinfully good.

The sun continued to move lower in the sky, while the two friends polished off half of the brownies. Claudia Joy finally replaced the lid before they could make themselves sick. She leaned back once again and, firmly ensconced in Denise's arms, watched as the sun began to set, its refection glittering golden across the water.

"Amanda loved sunsets," whispered Claudia Joy, moving her hands to grip strong, slender arms that held her close, making her feel so safe.

Denise tightened her hold. "Are you okay?"

"I am now."

Lightly kissing her friend's temple, Denise pressed her head against Claudia Jo's as the sun slowly dropped below the horizon.

Another day had passed them by.

The End

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