DISCLAIMER: I don't own 'em. I just like to let them out to play once in awhile. It's not like TPTB are putting them to good use.
DISCLAIMER 2: I'm not making any money off of them; this is a labor of love. You know-- the obsessive kind that you're slightly embarrassed to admit to in public.
WARNING 1: Contains high sentiment and some warm, fuzzy Weaver. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea. Hell, it's not really even my cup of tea so go figure. Nevertheless, don't say you weren't warned.
WARNING 2: It's an "Oh god, not another Weaver/Legaspi reunification fic. As if THAT would happen in real life!" Don't say you weren't warned.
WARNING 3: I've worked in every romance movie cliché I could think of so-say it with me now-don't say you weren't warned. Still with me? Anyone? Hellooo?
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Generic Romance Number 3
By Punthesilea

Part three--Misunderstandings

Four weeks later, Kim was losing confidence in her plan. Patience had never been one of her virtues. True, her friendship with Kerry was stronger than ever. They'd started having lunch together several times a week and they'd been to the zoo and the park with Henry. It was on the romance front that Kim kept getting blocked.

Offers for dinner were demurely deflected. Movies that didn't feature a cartoon character were conveniently ill timed. Kerry even had to work the weekend of the flower show. Despite her subtle attempts at wooing the redhead, she was no closer to the Promised Land. Kim was frustrated but she wasn't giving up. That's why she was spending a rare Saturday morning out of bed and combing the aisles of Home Depot with the Weavers. They were looking for something called a ballcock. While she was strangely aroused by the name, she couldn't imagine why they would find one in a hardware store. Still, something in Kerry's new house required one so here they were.

Kerry closed on the house just five days ago and the renovations were starting today. Kerry just wanted to pick up a few supplies before she met with the contractors again. Kim volunteered to help out and thus found herself pushing the shopping cart that contained Henry and a stack of cleaning supplies. Kerry was carrying the list of needed items and muttering to herself.

"I thought you were hiring painters and carpenters and people like that to do this sort of thing? Didn't Sharon give you a list? She gave me a list when I bought my loft." `And I ended up dating half of them,' she thought with a grin.

Kerry sighed. She'd already explained this once. "Kim, I can't knock down a wall but I can damn well fix my own toilet. Some things are too easy to pay someone else to do. That's why we're here."

Kim looked around at the other shoppers out this early on a Saturday. "Are you sure it's not just so you can cruise the local dyke population?" she asked suspiciously.

"No, that's just a perk," Kerry said crankily. She hailed the next person passing by in an orange vest. "I'm looking for the plumbing aisle," she said. She explained what she was looking for.

The young woman smiled. "Plumbing's three aisles over, on your left. If you can't find what you need, let me know," she said with a wink.

"Ballcock, ballcock, ballcock," Henry chanted, testing the words.

Kim winced and pushed the cart forward. She experienced a rush of disappointment when they located the correct aisle and tracked down the elusive plumbing component. Luckily that was the last item on Kerry's list and soon they were loading supplies in the van.

She winced again when Kerry pulled into the driveway of her new house. Sitting in the drive was an unfortunately familiar van. Florence and Lawrence Construction was printed on the side of the van. They'd installed her new kitchen cabinets and Kim had dated Florence Appleby for a disastrous week three years ago. Maybe she'd let Kerry meet with the contractors in private.

Kerry noticed Kim's response. "Old girlfriend?" she asked pointedly. Despite her abhorrence for gossip, she couldn't stop herself from listening when the topic was Kim Legaspi and she'd gotten an earful at Sharon's barbeque. Kim had been busy in the past few years. Kerry channeled her hurt into irritation.

Kim shook her head. "We never got beyond really bad dates," she confessed. She couldn't decipher Kerry's expression. Disbelief? Dismay? Disinterest? She couldn't tell. "Shall I wait in the car?"

Kerry laughed grimly and opened her door. "I don't think we can hide from all your former paramours, Kim. We'd never be able to leave the house. Could you get Henry?" Kerry didn't wait for a response. She hopped out and stalked over to the construction company van.

Kim didn't know whether to be mad or relieved at Kerry's attitude. She settled on puzzled but she climbed out of the car nonetheless. "Okay, kiddo, let's go see your new home."

Kim unbuckled the boy and he climbed out of his seat. She set him down beside the van and grabbed his hand. She wasn't sure if it was for his protection or hers. She walked over to where Kerry was talking to two contractors. She sighed with relief; she didn't recognize either of them. She really didn't want to involve Kerry in any of her old dyke drama. They had enough just between the two of them to last a lifetime.

"Kim, this is Shirley Howard and Stephanie Steward. They're going to be the supervisors on this job. This is my friend, Kim Legaspi."

Kim looked both women up and down. They did likewise. "Kim Legaspi? The Kim Legaspi? We've heard about you," Shirley, a tall, muscular woman, said with an annoyingly knowing smirk.

Kim smiled, ingratiatingly. "Don't believe everything you hear," she said as she turned on the charm.

Kerry cleared her throat. "If we could get started," she said in her brook-no-nonsense chief's voice. She waved toward the house.

Everyone nodded like good little soldiers and followed her into the structure. Kerry took the carpenters into the kitchen and suggested that Kim and Henry take a look around. They decided to start with the second floor.

It had once been a great house. It was built around the turn of the century; its woodwork and trim reflected the craftsmanship of that era. But years of neglect combined with a leaky roof had left the place in need of a lot of work. Wallpaper was peeling. There was water damage in places and trash and grime everywhere. The place was a mess.

Kim climbed the stairs carefully. She kept a tight hold on Henry's hand. There were four bedrooms on the second floor and two bathrooms. Kim walked into the first one and looked around. The ceilings were at least ten feet high and there was a bank of windows on two sides of the room. A connecting door led into a huge bathroom which led into another bedroom. These three rooms took up the front half of the house. The same layout existed on the back half. If Kerry could whip it into shape, it'd be a fabulous space. It was large enough for a king sized bed with plenty of room to spare. She got a little flushed just thinking about Kerry in a king sized bed. Maybe a four poster or one with a sturdy slatted headboard that would…


That brought Kim back to earth. Does this kid read minds? "What?" she asked hesitantly.

Henry looked up at her and frowned. "Dirty," he repeated. He ran his hand along the window sill. It came away black. He looked at his palm for a second and then held it up for Kim to see. He frowned again and then wiped his dirty hand on the wall.

Kim chuckled with relief. "Right, let's check out the bathroom kiddo."

By the time Henry and Kim made it back downstairs they both had dirty hands. They found Kerry in the kitchen alone. She was looking over some rough plans she'd drawn up a few days before.

"Where'd they go?" Kim asked.

"Supplies and reinforcements," Kerry answered tersely. She looked her son over carefully. "Henry what have you been getting in to?"

"Dirt!" he yelled happily.

Kerry sighed and pulled out a baby wipe from somewhere. Kim didn't know where it came from as Kerry didn't appear to have any pockets. She watched Kerry kneel down and start to clean Henry's hands.

"We tried to wash up but there's no water upstairs," Kim explained.

Kerry nodded. "Downstairs either. The plumber's coming out this afternoon. The roofer should be here in a few minutes." She looked around in dismay. "I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew here."

Kerry's rare moments of vulnerability were like catnip to the blonde. Kim smiled reassuringly. "It's going to be a beautiful house when it's done. And you said you had six months left on your apartment lease, right? You can do it," she said. "I'll help."

"You can do it," Henry parroted as if he had a clue what they were talking about. He held out his other hand to be cleaned.

Kerry's face reflected her delight. She smiled up at Kim. "With such ringing endorsements, how can I fail? Now I just need to find Henry a sitter before the roofer shows up," she said. Kim held out her hands to be cleaned.

Kerry stared at them warily. No way was she running her hands over Kim's long and talented fingers. Not to mention her palms--soft and warm with that fleshy part at the base of her thumb that Kerry loved to nibble just before she ….Blushing, Kerry handed Kim the baby wipe without making eye contact. She had to get these sense memories under control. Being around Kim was getting harder not easier.

"I can watch him for awhile," Kim volunteered before she could stop herself. "How long do you think you'll need?"

Kerry stood up. "A couple of hours," she admitted warily. "Are you sure you're up to it?"

Kim laughed. "Trust me. Besides, how hard can it be? We'll go grab some breakfast and maybe hit the kid's section at the bookstore down the street." Kim looked down at Henry. "How `bout it kid? Want to come with me?"

Henry looked up at Kim and bravely lifted his arms. Kim smiled cockily and swaggered over to pick him up. This kid thing wasn't so hard after all. She bounced him a little bit and he started laughing. Then she turned to Kerry. "Can we borrow your car keys?" She held out her hand; Henry held out his hand too.

When Kim drove up two hours later, Kerry was sitting on her front porch steps waiting for them. She'd talked to the roofers, the plumber and the team of carpenters and painters that had shown up. Walls were coming down in the kitchen, the roof was coming off on Monday and the plumbing repairs were already under way. `It's amazing what you can accomplish with some planning and a hefty checkbook,' she thought.

Kerry watched as her van pulled up in the driveway. She was startled when Kim practically leaped out of the door. Kim threw open the back door and Kerry could hear Henry crying from where she was sitting on the porch. She rushed down the stairs as Kim lifted the boy from his car seat. Kim rushed to meet Kerry half way.

"He's okay," Kim said. Despite this assertion, she was almost hysterical. "Just make him stop crying," she begged as she thrust Henry toward his mother.

Kerry took him from Kim. She checked him out carefully. He wasn't bleeding anywhere. He wasn't bruised. He didn't appear to be injured. "What's the matter baby," she cooed as she pulled him into the comfort of her body. She reached up and wiped the tears gently from his cheeks. The crying slowed but didn't quite stop. "It's okay, sweetie," Kerry continued. She shifted him to her hip and walked slowly toward the porch, still speaking softly to him. Kim followed them at a safe distance.

Kerry sat down on the top step. Henry, nestled in her lap, hiccupped a few times and then slowly stopped crying. Kim approached them carefully and sat down a few steps away. She looked as shaken up as Henry.

"What happened, Kim?" Kerry asked, keeping her voice as low and as calm as she could.

Kim put her head in her hands. "It was awful Kerry," she said tremulously. "We had breakfast. He loves cinnamon rolls, by the way," she said stalling for time. She wasn't sure how to explain how it had all gone so horribly wrong.

"And then?" Kerry was trying not to jump to any conclusions but she was on the verge of hyperventilating.

Kim took a deep breath and lifted her head. Staring off into the middle distance she began. "We went to the bookstore. We found a couple of books. We were having a great time," she said, bewilderment evident in her voice. "And then HE showed up." Kim shuddered.

"He?" Flasher, groper, who exactly was she going to have to kill?

"Clifford… the big red dog. Well, someone in a Clifford costume, anyway. He was making the rounds of the kids and they were having a great time. But when Henry saw him he just started screaming." Kim shuddered again. "Kerry, he wouldn't stop," she said desperately. "I tried everything."

Kerry reached out and squeezed Kim's shoulder. "He's afraid of dogs," she said. "It didn't occur to me to warn you. I'm sorry."

Kim swallowed convulsively and nodded a few times. She tried to slow her racing heartbeat. She was an accomplished professional, a doctor, and she'd never felt as inadequate in her life as she felt in the middle of that bookstore. How did parents do it?

Kim moved up two steps to sit next to Kerry. She looked over at Henry, now sitting calmly in his mother's lap. "I'm sorry Henry. I didn't know you were scared of dogs." She reached over and ran her hand gently down his arm. Henry smiled at her but he didn't let go of his mother.

`At least he wasn't mad at her,' Kim thought. In the car driving home she was sure the kid would never speak to her again.

"Bad dog," he said with a sniffle.

"Yes, he was a bad dog for scaring you," Kim agreed emphatically. She wondered if they'd ever let them back in that bookstore.

To Kim's surprise, Kerry started chuckling. Now that everyone was okay the humor of the situation was surfacing. "I wish I had a picture of your face when you drove up."

"You try driving with a banshee in the back seat, Weaver. See how you like it," Kim said defensively.

Kerry slid her left arm around Kim's waist. "It wasn't that bad, was it? Everyone survived. You're okay, aren't you Henry?"

Henry nodded. "I'm okay."

"And you're okay, aren't you Kim?" She squeezed the blonde's waist for emphasis and then left her arm in place. She didn't want this one setback to sour Kim on spending time with Henry. Trusted sitters were hard to find, she thought deviously.

The warmth of the contact was seeping into Kim's body, offering a comfort that words couldn't come close to. When she felt goose bumps climb her arm, she knew she was experiencing a whole different kind of heat. Without warning Henry climbed over into her lap. She forcibly squelched all libidinous thoughts brought on by her physical proximity to a certain redhead as she turned her attention to the junior Weaver. "We're going to have to work on that phobia, kiddo," she said. She tickled him slightly for emphasis and he broke out in giggles.

This was the tableau that greeted Janet and Sharon as they walked up the front walk toward the porch. They waved at the trio.

"So any bets on how long it'll take Kim to move in?" Janet whispered to her partner.

"The house won't be ready for six months so my money's on six months," Sharon said with a smirk.

"Did I tell you I caught her reading Dr. Spock the other day? She shoved it in her desk drawer but not before I saw the title." Janet chuckled. "I offered to giver her a list of more contemporary child development experts. She told me to mind my own business and email her the list."

Sharon's prediction was wrong. With Kerry in charge, the renovations only took three months to complete. Despite Kim's help. Kim spent many Saturday afternoons over there ostensibly helping out but actually keeping an eye on Kerry and the carpenter dykes. She knew just how appealing a woman in a tool belt could be with her shoulders and biceps developed through years of swinging a hammer. When you added in tight white tank tops and kick ass, steel toed boots that made the wearer swagger whether she wanted to or not those women became downright dangerous. No way was she leaving Kerry alone with them. They were too good with their hands to be trusted.

For her part, Kerry felt guilty that Kim was spending so much of her free time helping her out with her new house. At least she felt guilty until the weekend she walked in the kitchen and caught Kim ogling Stephanie as she was replacing an overhead light fixture. Kim was helpfully holding the ladder in place and checking out the carpenter's ass at the same time. Kerry felt a sudden rush of jealousy which she crushed mercilessly. She had no right to be jealous. She'd rebuffed Kim's interest weeks ago and now they were just friends. Close friends. If Kim wanted to spend her weekends doing home repairs just to get closer to a few, admittedly, hot craftswomen she'd do what she could to help her. She conveniently forgot that Kim didn't need any stratagems to attract women.

Kerry was surprised that Kim continued to drop by to help once all the major reconstruction and repairs were completed. All that was left was the interior painting and Kerry hired Mark and Ben to complete the job. Kerry knew Kim wasn't stopping by to flirt with them but she kept stopping by anyway. Finally, the place was almost done and Kerry invited her over to see the final results. Kim brought a bottle of champagne and she and Kerry went room-to-room inspecting the work. The place was stunning.

"Kerry, it's beautiful," Kim said, her voice quivering with awe.

"It is, isn't it?" Kerry couldn't quite believe it. "I never would have guessed it would look this good."

"When are you moving in?" Kim ran her hand along the smooth, stainless steel surface of Kerry's new stove top.

"There's another day's worth of touch ups to be done but it should be finished by this weekend." Kerry spun around in the kitchen. She was extremely pleased at the way things had turned out. She'd already increased the home's resale value by at least twenty percent and probably more.

"You're moving in this weekend?" Kim sounded disappointed.

"No, I'm actually not moving in until week after next. I'm going to a conference this weekend in Chicago. I won't be back until late Saturday."

"The women in medicine conference?"

"Yeah, how did you know?"

"I'm going too. I have to take advantage of conferences close enough to drive. Since someone, who shall remain nameless, cut the staff's travel budget," Kim teased. Kerry's cost cutting measures ranged from the obvious to the arcane. Kim was most pissed about the increase in vending machine charges. `Why should the hospital subsidize the unhealthy eating habits of the staff,' had been Kerry's argument.

"If you're staying at the Marriot, we could save the hospital some money," Kim suggested, trying to appear helpful and not manipulative.

Kerry nodded warily. She really didn't want to share a room with Kim. Or maybe she wanted to share a room too much. She couldn't decide. Either way, it was a bad idea.

"Want to carpool? No sense both of us driving down alone."

"Carpool? Sure," Kerry agreed in a rush. She tried to convince herself she was relieved. "But I won't be alone. Henry's coming."

"Won't he be a little bored?" Kim figured he'd be going that's why she hadn't suggested sharing a room.

"He's spending most of the time with his grandparents. He loves to visit. He has a couple of cousins just a little older and the family spoils him rotten. I bring him to visit as often as possible. We're leaving Wednesday night, driving back Saturday evening. Is that okay?"

Kim smiled a canary eating grin. "That's perfect. Now let's check out the rest of the house. How did the master bedroom come out?"

Four days later Kerry pulled into the driveway of her in-laws house. At least she thought of them as her in-laws. They weren't quite family but they certainly weren't strangers. And they genuinely loved Henry; that made them okay in Kerry's book. They actually got along fairly well and Kerry took great pains to include them in Henry's life. Kerry thought, not for the first time, how strange it was that they got along better since Sandy's death than they ever had before.

Kerry pulled to a stop and cut the engine. That woke up Kim and Henry. They'd both been asleep for the past two hours but only one had been drooling. She handed Kim a tissue.

"Are we there already?" Kim asked, confused by the strange neighborhood. She yawned and stretched. She was startled by the squeal from the back seat.

"Papa! Papa!" Henry was yelling for his grandfather whom he saw coming out on the porch of the modest home.

"We're at the Lopez residence," Kerry explained. "Henry's grandparents."

"Oh, I didn't realize we were stopping here first," Kim said. She felt a bit out of place but she was determined to make the best of it.

"Who's that?" Kim asked, pointing at a tall, dark and handsome younger man. He'd just stepped out on the porch and was waving at Henry.

"That's Eduardo."

"Henry's father?" Kim asked, based on the remarkable resemblance. She felt strangely resentful. They hadn't discussed the circumstances of Henry's birth. Not that it mattered really. `Except as tangible proof that Kerry had built a life with another woman,' Kim thought darkly.

Kerry laughed. "No, his father was donor 3274B. Eddie's his uncle. Sandy's younger brother."

The passenger door slid open and Mr. Lopez said hello. Kerry made the introductions while Papa was lifting his delighted grandson out of his car seat. He smiled benevolently at Kim and invited everyone in to the house for coffee. Then he carried Henry up to the porch where a short, older woman waited impatiently.

"That's Florina. Sandy's mother," she explained as she climbed out the van.

Kim took a deep breath. She really hadn't planned on this but she'd have to make the best of it. She grabbed Henry's bag from the back seat and walked around the car to where Kerry was talking with Eduardo. She stuck out her hand and turned on the charm. "Hi, I'm Kim Legaspi, a colleague of Kerry's."

Eduardo looked puzzled by Kim's presence so Kerry added, "She's a doctor. She's attending the conference too. We just drove down together. To save money."

Both Kim and Eduardo grinned at Kerry's babbling. Eduardo took Kim's hand suavely. "It's very nice to meet you, Dr. Legaspi."

"Please, call me Kim."

Eduardo tucked Kim's hand into the crook of his elbow and escorted her up the short sidewalk to where his parents waited on the porch. Kerry followed them. She didn't know whether to be amused or offended by Eduardo's blatant gallantry. She settled on amused; it was safer for everyone.

Kim and Kerry didn't stay much past the introductions. It was getting late and they needed to get to the hotel. Kerry handed Mrs. Lopez a list of phone numbers and then walked over to where Henry was playing with two of his cousins Jake and Amanda. She kissed him goodbye and told him to be a good boy. He was so interested in his older cousins that he barely noticed she was leaving until she reached the door. He ran over and threw his arms around her and kissed her goodbye again. Then, much to the surprise of everyone in the room, he did the same to Kim.

Kim hugged him tightly and then kissed the top of his head. "See ya in a few days kiddo," she said around the lump in her throat.

"See ya!" Henry yelled and then ran back to his cousins.

Kim and Kerry scooted quickly out the door. Twenty minutes later they were signing in at the hotel. Kim scooped up her credit card and her room key and stepped out of the line. "Want to go get something to eat," she asked as she waited for Kerry to finish signing in.

Kerry yawned. "I don't think so. I just want a hot shower and a warm bed." She was tired from the drive.

"Sounds good," Kim agreed, trying hard not to picture Kerry in the shower. Or in bed. She sighed. She could always order dinner for one from room service. They joined the line at the elevators. While they were waiting Kim skimmed the conference schedule. When the elevator doors opened everyone piled in. Kim managed to snag a spot next to Kerry. Actually, up against Kerry would be a more accurate description. She stood a little closer than necessary but the cramped elevator provided the perfect excuse to seriously invade the redhead's body space. She kept her eyes on the schedule trying to appear casually unaware of the closeness. Then she noticed Kerry's name in the line up of speakers. "Hey, you're in here," she said with surprised pride.

Kerry preened. She'd worked hard on that paper. "Yep, two o'clock tomorrow." The elevator reached her floor. "Be there or be square," she said as she stepped out of the elevator, leaving Kim to ride to her floor alone but for her many frustrations.

Kim didn't see Kerry the next morning. She'd called Kerry's room to invite her out to breakfast but there was no answer. Kim headed out to her own workshops. She wasn't too concerned. After all, she knew where Kerry would be at two.

Kim was late for Kerry's presentation. She was hurrying to the main conference room when she was surprised by the sight of Henry running toward her. Eduardo was close on his heels.

"Kim, Kim," Henry yelled. He threw himself at her and she picked him up without hesitation.

"Is everything okay?" Kim asked.

"Kim, I saw wions and helefants," he said, his eyes alight with excitement.

"We were out doing a little male bonding at the zoo and Henry said he wanted to come see his Mama," Eduardo explained. "I called Kerry and she said to meet her here but we're a little early," he added.

"Kerry's still presenting her paper. And I missed it," she said. She shook off her disappointment. She could always ask Kerry for a copy of her speech or, better yet, a private showing. "Shall we wait for her in the coffee shop? You can tell me all about the zoo," Kim said. She started to walk toward the restaurant that was just off the central lobby of the hotel.

"I'll meet you two there," Eduardo said. "I need to run to the little boys' room."

Kim nodded and turned her attention back to Henry. "What else did you see? Were there gorillas?"

Henry nodded. "Biiiig gorillas." He made some monkey sounds for emphasis.

Kim smiled and said with a laugh, "I think someone's been watching too much Animal Planet."

Eduardo spotted Kerry on his way back from the restroom.

"Where's Henry?" she asked. Her concern was immediate.

"He's in the coffee shop with this tall blonde he's apparently charmed," Eduardo said with a smirk. He pointed Kerry in the right direction and they pushed through the crowd. As they approached the restaurant they could see Kim and Henry sitting at a table inside. Well, Kim was sitting at the table; Henry was sitting happily in her lap. It looked like they were sharing an ice cream sundae.

"He said he wanted to see his Mama but I guess Blondie's almost as good," he said looking slyly at Kerry. He couldn't quite keep the grin off his face. He'd always liked the redhead. She'd been good for his sister. "Way to go, Kerry," he said with a smirk. "Maybe you could give me some pointers?"

`Did he just elbow me? Are we twelve now?' Kerry thought. "She's my friend, Eddie. It's not what you think."

Eduardo didn't buy that for a minute. He'd seen the way the blonde looked at Kerry and Henry didn't warm up to just anyone. "Why the hell not?"

"Your sister, remember? She's only been dead a year," Kerry protested. "I'm not ready."

"It's been almost two years," he corrected. "And Sandy would want you to be happy," Eddie said seriously then he looked at Kim and grinned wolfishly. "She'd certainly make me happy."

Kerry slapped him on the shoulder. "Cut it out, Eddie," she ordered in her most authoritative big sister tone. She'd never had a brother and she was beginning to understand why Sandy had called her lucky

Eduardo wasn't fazed a bit. "Ma wants you to come to dinner. And she said bring the blonde. I think she likes her."

Kerry groaned. "What is this? A Lopez conspiracy?"

"She's gay isn't she?" Eddie asked.

"Yes, she's gay." Kerry didn't hesitate to out her. "But she isn't interested in me. We're just friends," Kerry said adamantly, as much to herself as to Eddie. The smile on Kim's face when Kerry entered the coffee shop belied that protest.

"You know all that sugar isn't good for him, don't you?" Kerry asked as she approached the table. She was stuck somewhere between cranky and affectionate.

Kim was undaunted. "Yep, that`s why we're sharing one. Want a bite?" She held out a spoon full of ice cream and was completely surprised and delighted when Kerry accepted her offer. Her temperature spiked when Kerry licked her lips.

"Mmmmm, hot fudge. My favorite." Kerry's smile faded when she caught sight of Eduardo's knowing smirk.

"Mama want bite," Henry said, offering up his own spoon to Kerry. Everyone laughed and Kerry and Eduardo sat down.

They spent the next half hour eating ice cream and listening to Henry's zoo time adventures.

Finally, Kim pushed back from the table. "It's been fun kids but I have another presentation to attend this afternoon," she said regretfully. She picked Henry up and passed him to his mother. "I'll see you later, kiddo." She ruffled Henry's dark curls. "It was nice to see you again Eduardo."

He nodded and started to invite Kim to dinner but Kerry kicked him in the shins.

"I'll call you later, Ker. We can compare notes on the conference." Kim said before she rushed out.

"Hear that Kerry. She wants to compare notes," Eddie teased.

Kerry shot him the death ray glare she reserved for recalcitrant medical students and interns. He paled slightly and decided that discretion actually was the better part.

"So we'll see you for dinner at six?"

"I'll be there."

"Bring the blonde," he ordered bravely. "If not for you, then for me," he said with a grin.

The drive back to Minneapolis was quiet. Henry was asleep in the backseat. He was completely worn out from his exciting weekend with the family. Kerry was in the passenger seat trying to figure out a way to apologize without making the situation worse. Kim was driving. She needed something to keep her mind occupied and off the multiple disappointments of her weekend.

`Things had been fine until that damn dinner at the Lopez's,' Kim thought. Actually, dinner was great. The food was terrific and she had charmed the multiple members of the family. It was after dinner that things deteriorated.

Kerry and Florina were standing at the porch railing watching Henry and several of his cousins playing ball in the yard. Kim had been chosen by the kids to referee.

Florina was an observant woman, with six kids you had to be, and it hadn't escaped her notice that Henry adored the tall blonde. She'd also noticed the blonde watching her daughter-in-law when Kerry wasn't aware of it. Never one to avoid conflict, Florina dove right in.

"I think Dr. Legaspi is in love with you," she said, matter-of-factly.

Kerry was startled. "What? No, we're just friends," she protested. She wasn't sure how to interpret Florina's statement.

Florina shook her head in disbelief. "She acts like she's known you a while."

Kerry still couldn't read Florina's motivations and decided on a partial truth. "We were involved. A long time ago, long before I met Sandy," she confessed. "Now we're just friends. It's too late for us to be anything more."

"Are you dead?" Florina asked, more harshly than she intended.

"What? Of course not," Kerry sputtered.

"Then it's not too late. When you're dead it's too late," the older woman said. A heavy weight of guilt and bitterness made it come out harshly. She'd spent a year after Sandy's death regretting lost opportunities. She'd counted on having years with her daughter, years to repair the rift that had grown steadily since Sandy was a teen. The fire department, her outspoken lesbianism, a white girlfriend--these were all choices that put them at odds until Sandy's untimely death made reconciliation impossible. Florina was determined not to let that happen again. Her withdrawal from the custody suit was the first step in a healing process that was both long and painful.

Florina watched Henry running after Kim and decided to switch tactics. "Henry adores her and he needs two parents," she said.

Kerry turned away from the railing, exasperated. "Yes, but he only has one and she's not ready to start dating. Kim or anyone else," she added.

"The longer you wait, the harder it becomes."

Kerry sighed. She hated justifying herself to anyone, even a woman she'd grown reluctantly to respect. She tried to explain what she didn't fully understand herself. "I can't just decide to love Kim. Yes, Henry needs another parent," she said vehemently. She started to tear up. Being in Sandy's childhood home, surrounded by her family always pushed Kerry's emotional buttons. Eduardo's eyes, Florina's hands, her father's smile--they all reminded her of who and what she'd lost. "He needs Sandy," she cried. "I need Sandy but she's not here, damn it." She wiped futilely at the tears on her cheeks. "Why did she have to be so stubborn; why did she die, Florina?"

The older woman moved in and enveloped Kerry in her arms. She could feel the sobs wracking Kerry's slight frame but hardly a sound escaped. Florina held her while she cried. She looked over the railing into yard. Kim was standing with Henry in her arms and they were both staring intently at the scene on the porch. She wondered how much of it they'd overheard. If Kim's wounded expression was any indication, they'd heard all of it. To her credit, the blonde turned away and distracted Henry, allowing Kerry time and privacy to grieve.

A few minutes later, Kerry was drying her eyes when Eduardo came out on the porch to announce that dessert was ready and "anyone not in the kitchen in two minutes isn't getting any." He stepped out of the doorway to avoid being trampled by the junior Lopezes. Henry ran to keep up with his cousins. Eduardo and Florina followed the brood into the kitchen leaving Kim and Kerry alone on the porch in the dimming light.

Kim approached the other woman slowly. She could still see faint tear tracks on her cheeks.

"Last in line for dessert? That's not like you Legaspi," Kerry said with a wan smile. She was obviously trying to find her equilibrium again.

"Sometimes survival's more important than flan." She chuckled half heartedly.

"You've never had Florina's flan," Kerry said. "It's worth a few bruises." She was entirely serious.

Kim looked longingly at the door. First things first, she decided. She stepped closer to Kerry and reached out but she didn't quite touch the other woman. "Kerry, I overheard what you said to Mrs. Lopez about Sandy and not wanting…"she paused. She couldn't bring herself to say `not wanting me' so she settled for "not wanting to date."

An embarrassed flush spread across Kerry's cheeks. "Kim, I'm sorry…"

Kim interrupted her nascent apology with a curt shake of her head. "Don't worry about it; it's okay. We've been out of synch since the beginning," Kim assured her. "Our timing's always been off; it's almost funny," she said but her grim expression belied the humor.

In that instant Kerry realized how serious Kim was about renewing their relationship. Despite the time they spent together she hadn't let herself believe it before. She wasn't sure she wanted to believe it now. Love was so complicated and it opened you to so much pain.

"At least we've salvaged our friendship." Kim's voice was marked with muted resignation, as if she'd come to some sort of resolution. "Listen, I'm going to grab a cab back to the conference," she said, turning away suddenly. "I'll talk to you later." She rushed into the kitchen leaving Kerry standing alone on the porch in the growing gloom of twilight.

They successfully avoided each other for the rest of the conference; they didn't see each other again until they met to check out of the hotel. Kim loaded their bags in the van in silence. She offered to drive. Kerry handed over her keys passively and walked around to the passenger's side.

Henry was happy to see them but he was sad to leave his grandparents. He cried softly as his grandfather buckled him into his car seat. `I know how you feel, kid,' Kim thought as she backed out of the drive.

It was late on Saturday night when Kim pulled the van to a stop near the entrance to her apartment building. Henry didn't even wake up. She hopped out and went to grab her bags. Kerry rushed around to the rear of the van to meet her. She couldn't leave things like this.

"Thanks for driving," was all Kerry could think of to say. Even she thought it was lame.

Kim smiled a little. "Not a problem. I'll see you at work next week," she said reaching in quickly. She picked up her luggage and turned away.

Kerry couldn't let her leave it like that. "Kim," she called out.

The blonde turned back expectantly.

"Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow?"

Kim gave Kerry a long, serious look. "No. Thank you, but no that's probably not a good idea." She was going upstairs to try and forget this weekend ever happened.

Kerry nodded her acceptance. She couldn't do anything else. "Okay, I'll see you Monday," she said. Kim waved and turned away. As the blonde disappeared into her building Kerry suddenly wanted to cry.

Part 4

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