PLEASE DON'T SUE ME DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, I'm not making any money off them, and what I've done to them is no worse than what the TPTB did in seasons 8 and 9.
CHARACTER ASSASSINATION DISCLAIMER: Some characters herein behave badly. It's a bit like real life.
RATINGS DISCLAIMER: This story is intended for mature audiences. There's lesbianism, drunkenness, nudity, profanity, violence, stalking and neopagan rituals. There's even dancing. Don't say you weren't warned.
TIMELINE AND A/U DISCLAIMER: This takes place shortly after season 9 and Sandy is history.
GRAMMAR DISCLAIMER: This ain't been beta'd. So if spell check didn't catch it, I'm sorry. And now on with our show.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Love Boat
By Punthesilea

Kerry Weaver stood at the railing of the Ariadne, a large ocean liner. She was watching as billowy, white clouds formed on the horizon. She turned to face into the soft breeze and she felt the tension draining from her slight form. It was the first morning of a seven day Caribbean cruise. Seven days to do nothing but eat, drink and sleep. If she got really ambitious she might read one or two of the romance novels she'd stuck in her suitcase. This was her first vacation in years and she was determined to enjoy it. Now, if she could just find a cup of coffee and a deck chair she'd be set for the day.

"Kerry? Kerry Weaver?"

`Kim?' Kerry would never forget that voice. It still popped up in her dreams sometimes. She whirled around and started forward without even thinking. It was her, the one woman she never expected to see again. `Of all the gin joints in all the world.And she still looked fantastic, damn it!' Unbidden, a huge smile spread across Kerry's face.

"Kim! Oh my god, what are you doing here?" Kerry squeaked, surprise and pleasure evident in her voice.

Kerry laughed at her own question. It was an Olivia cruise, after all, and the young blonde Kim had by the hand made it pretty clear what she was doing. Or, rather who she was doing. Kerry's smile faltered and she stepped back a bit.

The younger blonde eyed Kerry warily and decided to assert her position. "Kiiim, honey, let's go swimming." She let her towel drop revealingly.

`My, she has such an attractive whine,' Kerry thought snarkily. Of course, the cleavage spilling out of her bikini top might make it possible to overlook certain character flaws. Of course, Kim's cleavage wasn't anything to sneeze at, she remembered as her gaze drifted lower than Kim's face. She suddenly realized she'd never seen Kim in a swimsuit. `Shit, don't go there Weaver.' She quickly pulled her eyes back up to the blonde's forehead. In fact, she thought it prudent to actually look at a spot just over Kim's shoulder--just to be on the safe side.

Kim's body half turned toward her younger companion but her eyes never left Kerry's face, despite Kerry's refusal to actually make eye contact. "Listen, Tiffany, you go ahead and I'll meet you at the pool in a few minutes, okay?"

"Fine, but don't be long," Tiffany ordered with one last pout that was completely wasted on Kim; she had already turned back to Kerry.

"Kerry, you're" She wanted to say scrumptious but given their estrangement that seemed unwise. Still, the redhead did look great. She was lightly tanned and she appeared more relaxed than Kim could ever remember, at least, outside of bed. She'd lightened her hair a bit and had the cutest pixie cut. Snug walking shorts hugged her curves in all the right ways and revealed her well shaped legs and ass. Not to mention her t-shirt was just tight enough to display --`Whoa! Don't go there, Kimmie!' She shook her head vigorously to clear it of all improper images featuring the good Doctor Weaver and her amazingly ample cleavage.

Luckily Kerry didn't notice. She had ducked her head shyly. Apparently, she was still uncomfortable with personal compliments. "Thanks, you look fabulous. But then, you always did." She finally looked up and caught Kim's appraising gaze.

"I'm surprised to see you here," Kim said honestly. More than surprised, she realized. She was stunned and more than a little bit pleased to see her.

To Kim's complete astonishment, Kerry laughed and looked around at the crowd of half naked women surrounding the pool nearby. It was a far cry from her last vacation, that's for sure. She scratched her head in embarrassment.

"I know. It's not my usual type of vacation but I won the tickets in a GLMA fundraising auction. It seemed a shame to waste them."

'GLMA? Gay and Lesbian Medical Association? Tickets, plural? Did that mean she was out? More importantly did it mean she was with someone?' Kim's head spun with questions and her natural curiosity ramped in to overdrive. She stepped closer to the redhead and put a hand on the railing behind her.

"Wow. I guess things have changed. Would you like to go get a drink and catch up?" Kim asked eagerly.

Despite her initial joy at seeing Kim, the last thing Kerry wanted right now was to be alone with her ex-girlfriend. "That'd be great," Kerry lied, "but I think Tiffany is trying to get your attention."

The younger woman was waving vigorously from a deck chair. If she wasn't careful she'd fall out of her bikini top, Kerry thought. Kim didn't appear particularly impressed.

"And I'm supposed to be meeting someone in the forward lounge, wherever the hell that is," Kerry added.

But Kim wasn't going to be deterred. She wanted to find out more about this new out and proud Kerry Weaver. "We could meet later for drinks. Or, perhaps, dinner?" Kim pressed hopefully.

"Perhaps," Kerry demurred. "We're stuck on this barge for a week; I'm sure we'll cross paths."

Kim stepped even closer. Kerry looked skittish and she didn't want to leave their next meeting to chance. She reached out and lightly grasped her elbow. She leaned down toward the redhead and was about to get insistent when another attractive blonde approached them at the railing.

Kerry saw Susan walking toward them. She breathed a sigh of relief, smiled, and waved her over.

"Hey, I've been looking for you." Susan took note of the tall woman standing quite a bit closer to Kerry than absolutely necessary. Not many people felt comfortable invading Weaver's personal space and she couldn't remember anyone suicidal enough to touch her while she was conscious. She also noticed that for just a moment the blonde looked none too pleased with her arrival. `Curiouser and curiouser.'

"Am I interrupting something?" she asked pointedly. She didn't know all the ins and outs of lesbian dating but she was pretty sure it supposed to be consensual.

"Of course not," said Kerry very definitely, too definitely to suit Kim.

"Susan, this is an old...acquaintance. of mine. Kim Legaspi. She used to work at County. Kim this is my partner, Susan Lewis."

`Acquaintance! Ouch that hurt! And partner?' Kim felt like she'd just been hit by a bus. And not one of those tiny half pint school buses either but one of those triple jumbo cross country buses. Still, she tried to remember her manners. Reluctantly, she dropped Kerry's elbow and stepped back a bit. She held out her hand and smiled winningly. "It's nice to meet you Susan. I was just trying to convince Kerry to have a drink with me and catch up. Would you care to join us?"

Kerry jumped in, "I told her I couldn't. That I was meeting someone for brunch?" `Come on Susan, get a clue.'

"Oh, right. Brunch. Yeah, I was just on my way to find you. Sorry, Kim, maybe some other time. Are you ready, Kerry?" Susan rested her hand possessively on the small of Kerry's back. She wasn't sure what was going on but it was pretty obvious to her that Kerry didn't want to have drinks with the pushy blonde.

Outmaneuvered, Kim stepped back graciously. "Of course, I hope to see you both later."

Kim followed the couple with her eyes as they walked away. `Well, well, well. Kerry Weaver is out and proud and, apparently, happily coupled. Now why exactly does that piss me off?' She stomped off toward the pool.

Once they were safely out of earshot, Susan began to give Kerry the third degree. "OK, now who was that and why did you want her to think we're a couple couple and not partners in a medical practice? I mean, come on Kerry, she was tall and blonde. Not to mention beautiful. And she was giving you the eye! What's going on? You are still a lesbian, right?" Susan teased.

"Come on, let's get a drink or three and I'll tell you all about the lovely Dr. Legaspi and how she broke my heart."

Three mimosas later, Kerry had filled Susan in on the highpoints of her disastrous affair with Kim.

"So after only two months together she expects you not to freak when your new girlfriend gets accused of sexual misconduct with a patient? All because she came out to a whacked out, suicidal kid?"

Sometimes Susan could cut right through the bullshit. "Yeah, I guess. I should have been more personally supportive but I just didn't know how. I felt like my whole world was threatened. Turns out it was, just not the way I thought," Kerry chuckled grimly.

"I really can't blame her for being angry and hurt but she wouldn't even talk to me. She never gave me a chance to explain or, hell, even grovel for forgiveness. Because, at that moment, I would've. She just shut me out in the cold. And no one is as icy as that woman." Kerry shuddered in remembrance. "Not even Elizabeth Corday at her worst."

"Damn, that is cold." Kerry wasn't the only one who had frostbite from run ins with the temperamental surgeon.

"You know, maybe it's a psychiatrist thing. I was in a relationship with a shrink when I was a resident. I came home one day and he'd just moved out. I had no idea why. And that's what really hurt, the not knowing. You'd think people who listen for a living would be better communicators."

"Yeah to be discarded and not know why," Kerry agreed mournfully. She waved her glass at the waiter and ordered another round. "But enough about me. So what was your worst breakup, the psychiatrist?"

"Oh no, not even close."

The two doctors spent the next hour discussing their various relationship failures. Kerry finally got the full story about Susan's Vegas wedding and her on again/off again marriage. Susan got the details of Kerry's third and final break up with Sandy.

"So, basically we both suck at relationships?"

"Yeah," Susan laughed. "Apparently we're a danger to ourselves and others. Maybe I should call on that nice tall shrink you were talking to?"

Kerry snorted. "Only if you want off the straight and narrow. Believe me, she's that good." Kerry was proud that she was only slightly bitter. Trying to get serious, she added, "Thanks for helping me out back there. I just got my life back in order. I really don't need more interactions with bitter exes."

"It's the least I could do. After all, I'm getting this great free cruise and I don't even have to put out."

Kerry looked at her seriously and deadpanned, "Says who?" They both cracked up.

Kerry had won the tickets shortly after her last loud and angry break up with Sandy. The only good thing about the whole scene was that for once it didn't take place at work. Still, it left her with an extra ticket and no one to take along. The thought of going alone was just too depressing so she asked Susan if she'd like the tickets. That's when she found out that Susan had just broken up Chuck. Again. They decided to come on the cruise together.

They both needed a vacation. They'd been working 16 hour days trying to get their practice established. After years of whining about his families' money, John Carter finally decided to take the reins of the foundation and do some good. He figured the art world could do with a little less support. Instead, the Carter foundation provided the funding for a low-income, women and children's clinic. John had practically begged Kerry and Susan to run it. The thought of being completely in charge was just too appealing to pass up. Well, that and the huge salary increase. After almost a year it was finally running smoothly and they decided to take a much deserved break.

Kerry figured a week at sea would force her to relax-- a little sun, a little alcohol, maybe a little uncomplicated sex if she played her cards right. Surely there would be other single lesbians on board. For her part, Susan figured she was safe on a lesbian cruise. After all, she wasn't likely to get drunk and come home married to anyone. `At least as long as the boat stayed away from Canadian ports,' she mused. And, much to her surprise, they were already having a great time.

It had taken Susan years to appreciate Weaver's sly wit and wicked sense of fun. She often wondered why Kerry kept her best traits hidden from the people she spent the most amount of time with. Maybe she really was raised by lions.

"Susan why don't you wave that bartender you've been flirting with back over and order us some more drinks?" Kerry teased. "I've gotta run to the little lesbians' room."

Kim spent the morning sunning by the pool and thinking about her relationships with women. She was genuinely puzzled. Here she was surrounded by women, women-loving-women, female flesh in all its many splendid forms and flavors. She should be delighted, right? Furthermore, more than a few of said Sapphic forms had not so subtly indicated an interest in mutual exploration. Not to mention she was presently in the company of a beautiful younger woman that she'd met on the plane. It was evident that Tiffany would like to continue their acquaintance. So here she was literally surrounded by opportunities for instant gratification and she couldn't get an infuriating, middle-aged redhead out of her mind, a redhead who wanted nothing to do with her. She wanted to scream.

"Kim, would you like another drink?"

"What?" Kim had to force herself to pay attention to her companion.

"A drink, would you like another drink?" Tiffany asked. She was obviously irritated with Kim.

"Oh, no. Thanks though. I think I've had enough." Oblivious, Kim went back to brooding.

"So have I. Listen, our conversation on the ride from Chicago was great. Our little foray into the mile high club was even better but I don't have time to sit here while you moon over some middle-aged dyke with a dye job. This is a boat full of opportunities and I didn't come here to sit on the sidelines."

Kim really looked at Tiffany for the first time that morning. She was young, beautiful and obviously used to getting who and what she wanted. But then, so was she.

Kim sat up. "You're absolutely right."

Tiffany, sure she was about to get what she wanted, smiled graciously.

Kim continued, "It was nice to meet you and I hope you have a great time on the rest of the cruise. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got something to do elsewhere." Kim scooted out of her chaise lounge, grabbed her towel and headed off in the direction of the forward lounge.

It was inevitable that Kim and Kerry would find themselves assigned to the same table at dinner that first night. Especially since Kim went out of her way to find and bribe the staff to insure just such an occurrence. She'd failed to track down the redhead earlier, although she did spot Susan playing shuffleboard late in the afternoon. So, thwarted in her attempt at stealth, she thought a little direct action might be called for.

Kim was a little surprised that the maitre de was so amenable but apparently it wasn't a strange request. He just smiled and said, "Honey, I'll be changing seatings this whole week. Singles hooking up, couples fighting. And triangles! Lord, triangles are the worst!"

"Wow, it must get pretty involved?"

He rolled his eyes. "You have no idea. But all's fair in love and lust, right?" He winked at her. "So, would you like to sit by her or across from her?"

Kim showed up late for dinner. She didn't want to give Kerry a chance to avoid her. Since it was a buffet it really didn't matter if she was a few minutes late. The expression on Kerry's face when she slid into her seat was priceless. Surprise gave way to veiled interest followed quickly by hostility--all in the space of ten seconds. Luckily, their tablemates began to introduce themselves and Kim was saved from immediate annihilation.

Kim didn't press her luck by trying to engage Kerry in conversation. She was content to spend her evening watching surreptitiously. She was especially interested in observing her interactions with Susan. It was like looking at a car wreck. She didn't want to but she couldn't stop. She needed to know just how serious they were about each other. They talked like they had known each other for years but they weren't generating any obvious heat. Of course, Kim knew from experience that Kerry's public reticence masked a very passionate nature so that might not mean anything.

Dinner conversation was a friendly discussion of books recently read and movies recently seen. Kerry and Helen, a bookstore owner from Vermont, had hit it off right away. They were having a spirited discussion about queer theory and lesbian representation, or lack thereof, in TV, film and mainstream print. Several of their tablemates had taken up sides. Kim sat back and watched. She wondered exactly what had happened to Kerry in the past 3 years. She wasn't surprised that Kerry had familiarized herself with the major theories but since when did she watch TV? Kim figured Susan must not be a reader since she was sitting there looking clueless. 'Now be fair, Legaspi, what's the last book you read that didn't involve an attractive, sexually active but emotionally dysfunctional dyke PI?' Still, Susan was losing points by the minute.

"I think I'm going to hit the dessert table," Susan said as she stood up. She rested her hand on Kerry's shoulder and then bent down, "Can I get you anything, Ker?"

"Sure, why don't you surprise me?"

Kim joined Susan at the dessert table a few minutes later. Susan was standing there gazing at all the beautiful offerings.

"It's almost obscene isn't it?"

"Yeah, I can't decide. Think they'd mind if we took one of each?"

Kim laughed. Then she spotted what looked like triple chocolate cake and her decision was made. Susan grabbed a strawberry and whipped cream confection. "Hmmm, now what would Kerry like," she said to herself.

Puzzled, Kim watched her for a few seconds. She couldn't have changed that much. Finally she pointed at the cherry cheesecake and said with a smirk, "and if you drizzle some of that melted chocolate on it, I guarantee you she'll do anything you ask." She immediately wanted to kick herself for helping out the other blonde. Kim realized that if Susan was unaware of Kerry's cheesecake fixation they couldn't have been seeing each other long.

`Drizzled chocolate, huh? And you would know, right,' Susan thought. She flashed on an image of the blonde wrapped tightly around the redhead, pale skin glistening with sweat and melted chocolate. She blushed but tried to cover. "Of course, thanks."

When they returned to the table with dessert, Kerry shot Susan a look that made Kim want to kick herself all over again. Susan seemed completely oblivious to the possibilities inherent in Kerry's response. Kim thought that very odd. Then she dug into her chocolate cake and all coherent thought ceased for the moment. `God, that's better than sex,' she thought as the chocolate danced across her taste buds. When she opened her eyes she found Kerry watching her intently. Kerry blushed. Kim just winked at the redhead and said, "Some things never change."

"So, who's up for Casino Night," asked Pat, Helen's partner. "Hel, will be here for hours now that she's found someone to argue with." She looked around the table for willing coconspirators.

Susan looked at Kerry for permission. She wasn't sure how long she was supposed to keep up the couple's ruse. She hoped Legaspi wasn't the tenacious type.

Kerry laughed. She knew Susan was bored and she appreciated her efforts. "Go, have fun. I'll see you later." Susan didn't wait to be told twice.

Most of the group wanted to try their luck. The few who were left decided to take their coffee and conversation on deck where they could enjoy the sea air while they argued. Kim wasn't really interested in the discussion. She'd been over these arguments a hundred times since college where she'd first learned to use debate as foreplay. Still, she'd never had these discussions with Kerry and was intensely curious about her views. `Yeah, right, Legaspi. The only views you're interested in are the ones from above and behind," Kim's libido piped in. She was happy to sit back and observe.

By eleven o'clock, Kim and Kerry were alone on deck. Apparently, Burch, Butler and Card couldn't hold a candle to blackjack, craps and poker. Kim settled back in her chair content to let Kerry make the next conversational move. She didn't have to wait long.

Kerry took a long sip of coffee. "How's Tiffany?"

"Fine, I guess. Who really cares?" Kim asked puzzled.

"That's right." Kerry laughed cynically. "I'd forgotten how meaningful relationships are to you. What are you up to here Kim?"

Kim gritted her teeth and refused to get sucked into an argument. She'd realized long ago that she probably wasn't the only one with reason to be bitter.

"Kerry, we're stuck here for a week. We can, at least, try to be civil," she said haughtily.

"Why?" Kerry shot back. Her tone was laced with hostility.


"Kim, this is a huge boat. We could go for months and not cross paths and the last time we spoke you were pretty damn clear that you never wanted to cross paths with me again. I respected that damn it!" It had taken every ounce of control Kerry had not to call or see Kim after she left County. But Kerry had owed her that. Only now Kim was here and acting like she didn't abhor her and it was just so damn confusing.

"So, I repeat, what are you doing?"

Kim smiled winningly. "I think it's called renewing old acquaintances. Isn't that what you called us this morning?" Kim's tone had an edge now too. She dropped her head to her hands and then sighed. She added softly, "It's been three years, shouldn't we be able to put this behind us?" She straightened up and looked at Kerry hopefully.

Kerry stood up and walked over to the railing. She gazed out at the water for a moment and then turned back to Kim. "I see. So you'd like us to be friends?"

Kim nodded. "Yeah, I think it's time." She stood up and approached Kerry at the railing. She stopped a few inches away from the redhead. She was close enough that if she bent down she'd be able to kiss her. That wasn't her intention, but it was always good to be prepared.

Kerry inched even closer and turned to face Kim directly. She gazed up at the blond. Kim could see the shimmer of tears in her green eyes.

"I'm not sure," Kerry faltered and looked down. When she raised her head again, she had a look of grim determination on her face. "I'm not sure I can adequately convey just how uninterested I am in being your friend, Kim." Then she turned and walked away.

Stunned, Kim stood there for awhile just gazing out at the waves. `Well, that went better than I expected.'

Susan staggered her way back to their cabin around one a.m. She wondered when the seas had gotten so rough. The sight that greeted her sobered her up pretty quickly. Kerry was sprawled out on one of the beds. She was surrounded by crumpled tissue and her eyes were even redder than Susan suspected her own eyes were.

Gingerly, Susan knelt by the bed and asked gently, "What's wrong?"

"I talked to Kim."

"Yeah, I noticed she stayed behind; I didn't think it was for the great debate. She's about as subtle as a brick," Susan smirked.

"She's ready to be friends."

"Is that a lesbian thing? Because guys never want to remain friends. If they can't fuck you they'd just as soon you died or, at least, disappeared. It's one of their more endearing traits actually," Susan said reflectively. "I take it you're not interested in the friendship option?"

"The fall out from that relationship came very close to destroying me, personally and professionally. That's how intense it was. Friendship would be a pale and feeble thing after that." Kerry sniffed and then blew her nose. She stuck out her chin. "I may be alone for the rest of my life."

"Now there's a cheery thought," Susan interjected.

"but damn it, I'm not settling."

"Shoot, I wish I'd brought some champagne. No more shetteling. We should toast to that."

Kerry finally took a good long look at Susan. She was half kneeling and half sprawled on the bed. "I think you're pretty toasted already." She laughed and rolled out of bed so she could help Susan into hers.

"I'm not drunk," Susan whined just before she got tangled up in her own feet.

"Of course you're not sweetie," Kerry soothed. She helped Susan stand back up and kick off her shoes. Then she stripped off her slacks. She pulled back the blankets on Susan's bed and maneuvered the blonde into a prone position.

Susan reached out and grabbed Kerry's hand. "I'll be your friend, Kerry," she said with drunken seriousness. Kerry smiled.

"Thanks, that means a lot to me." She leaned down and kissed Susan on the forehead. Then, deciding discretion was the better part of valor; she pulled the blankets up to Susan's chin, said good night and climbed into her own bed.

The next morning, Kim spotted Kerry in line at the breakfast buffet. She walked up behind the redhead and then casually reached around her to grab a plate. Kerry jumped slightly as Kim's arm brushed her hip.

"Try the French toast. I hear it's fabulous," Kim whispered in her ear as she spun away. Kim blithely ignored the glowers Kerry was throwing her way as she worked her way through the offerings.

Plate loaded, Kim plopped down at a nearby table. She had just picked up her fork when Kerry slammed her plate down beside Kim's. She sat down. "What the hell are you doing, Kim?" she hissed.

Kim smiled. "I'm having breakfast Kerry. What are you doing?"

Kerry growled in frustration. She grabbed her plate and moved to another table. Kim grinned to herself and then attacked her breakfast. After all, she needed to keep her strength up for the days' activities.

Kim had lain awake for hours deconstructing Kerry's behavior from yesterday and she was convinced that underneath the hostility was a bedrock of attraction. The question was did she want to exploit it and, if so, to what end?

Around three a.m. she admitted to herself that yes she did indeed wish to exploit any attraction that Kerry might still harbor for her. Kim had always gone with her instincts. And her instincts told her that she wasn't done with Kerry Weaver, not by a long shot. Despite her decision to end things, the abrupt cessation of their initial affair had left the whole thing feeling unfinished, incomplete. Kim had had her share of break ups and none of the others haunted her at night. But Kerry? Kerry was different. Even after three years, a certain shade of hair, the scent of a familiar perfume, hell, even the sound of a crutch on worn, hospital linoleum would make her look around eagerly for the redhead. And then reality would crash back down.

She'd had a string of affairs in a futile attempt to get Kerry off her mind. When that didn't work, she'd gone into therapy for a while. One of the things she realized was that their breakup was caused as much by her own fear as Kerry's shame. She'd fallen hard and fast for Kerry and that scared her. She'd misjudged Kerry's comfort level and rate of adjustment and that scared her. She'd given Kerry a key and subtly invited her to start moving in and that terrified her. She'd always been the one to move in. It made it easier to move out.

Then she'd introduced Kerry to a few of her oldest friends and she discovered a whole new level of fear. Kim was devastated when Kerry had cut and run after a few tasteless jokes. She stood in the snow and watched Kerry climb in a cab and ride away, possibly forever. Even though they'd reconciled, Kim didn't think she could bear to watch Kerry leave again. And Kim was sure she would because, after all, that's what straight girls do when the life gets too difficult. She couldn't hang around for that. The whole Shannon Wallace fiasco provided a great excuse.

Of course, by the time she'd figured it all out, it was too late. She'd already changed jobs and moved across the country, not to mention how deeply she'd hurt Kerry. But now, she had a second chance. Kerry was here. She was here. She was older, wiser and ready to settle down. Of course, there was the small matter of the blonde girlfriend and she had to get Kerry to actually talk to her but, hey, no relationship was perfect, right? She figured she'd spend a few days reminding the redhead of her considerable charms and then they'd proceed from there. She decided to ignore the part of her brain that told her she was being hopelessly optimistic.

From 3 tables away Kerry watched Kim plow into her breakfast. She ate like she was loading for a marathon. Of course, Kim's appetite was one of her more endearing qualities. Kerry forced her eyes away from the blonde. She'd made her decision and she was going to stick to it. She focused on her own breakfast. Kim was gone the next time she looked up. Kerry sighed. Maybe Kim had gotten the message. She was glad, really. It made things easier. She finished her meal and then headed back to her cabin. She wanted to check on Susan.

The sound of snoring greeted her before she even opened the door. Kerry stared at her roommate affectionately. She figured Susan would be out for a few more hours so she put a tumbler full of water and a couple of aspirin on the bedside table. Then she grabbed a book and a pillow and headed back out on deck. She found an empty deck chair in the shade and settled in for a leisurely afternoon. She was asleep within the hour.

Kerry slowly fought her way up from sleep. She discovered that someone had covered her with a light blanket. She snuggled back down, drowsy and content. She awoke a few hours later and stretched languidly. She sat up.

"Nice nap?"

She shot a surprised glance to her right. Kim was reclined in a chair a few feet away. She was reading Kerry's book. Amused blue eyes gave Kerry the once over.

"I never would have figured you for a Katherine Forrest fan, Ker?"

"Give me a break, Legaspi, I'm on vacation. Besides, the detective story is a fine American literary invention."

"Ah, it's all about literature," Kim teased. "You should try J.M. Redmann. She's quite `literary' too."

Kerry couldn't help but respond to Kim's teasing smile with a grin of her own. Then she remembered she was supposed to be avoiding the blonde and looked away.

Kim felt her disengage from the conversation so she stood up and walked over to the other lounge chair. She stood in front of her chair until Kerry was forced to look up. Kim held out the book. "Here you, go. I marked your place. Don't worry, I won't tell you who did it," she said with a smirk as she sauntered away.

Kerry sat there for another hour or so pretending to read. She could smell Kim's perfume on the book's pages. It was most distracting. Finally giving up, she got up and went in search of Susan. Susan wasn't in their cabin but she had left a note saying thanks for the aspirin and she'd catch up with Kerry at dinner.

Feeling a little lonely and out of sorts Kerry decided to take advantage of the hot tub on the upper deck. She changed into her swimsuit, grabbed a towel and headed back out. She snagged a margarita as she passed by the pool bar. She was on vacation, after all.

Although the hot tub looked like it would easily accommodate a dozen people, there was a single occupant. She looked asleep but it was hard to tell with her sunglasses in place.

"Need a hand?" she drawled as Kerry began to navigate the steps.

"Nope, I got it. Thanks though." Kerry smiled. The brunette smiled back.

"Hi, I'm Jane."

"Kerry. Nice to meet you." She set her cane down on the deck beside her and settled into the warm water. It came up to her shoulders and felt wonderful.

"There's something positively decadent about this, isn't there?"

"Yeah. Especially since it was 45 degrees in Chicago when I left. And it's only going to get colder." Kerry took a sip of her margarita.

Jane moved a little closer so they could talk. "Chicago's a great town. Are you a native?"

Kerry nodded. "More or less. How about you, where are you from?"

"I'm living in Atlanta right now. I teach at a design school there."

"I've always wanted to live somewhere warm."

"It has its perks. There's nothing quite like the south in the spring. Of course, fall leaves a lot to be desired. So what do you do in the cold confines of Chicago, Kerry?"

Jane was very easy to talk to. They discussed various cities they'd lived in and talked a little about their work. It was a nice conversation but by the second margarita the pool area was rapidly filling up and the tub was getting crowded. Jane stood up, "I've gotta get going." She reached for Kerry's hand. "It was nice to meet you Kerry. Are you going to the dance tonight?" she asked hopefully.

Kerry was a little flustered by the obvious interest. "I hadn't thought about it."

Jane squeezed her hand gently and stepped a little closer. "Well think about it, okay? I hope to see you there." She climbed out of the tub and waved at Kerry before heading back to her cabin.

Kerry closed her eyes for a moment, basking in the glow of a successful flirtation. She didn't have those very often. It just wasn't one of her talents, she mused. She felt a shadow fall over her. When she looked up Kim was standing there.

Kim plopped down on the deck beside Kerry and dangled her feet in the hot tub. She'd been anxiously watching the redhead for the past twenty minutes. She noted two things-- Kerry's flirting had dramatically improved and she looked great in a swimsuit. She was not impressed with the brunette though. She seemed a little pushy. She had been ready to come over and break up their little tête-à-tête when the brunette bailed.

"Making new friends?" Kim tried hard not to sound accusatory. She wasn't very successful. "What would Susan think?" she added snidely.

"Susan would think a woman can never have too many friends," Kerry shot back acidly. "Oh, that's right, you do." She climbed awkwardly out of the tub and headed back to her cabin. She didn't look back.

Kim watched Kerry walk away. She couldn't decide whether to be hurt or angry. Finally she settled on puzzled. `Just what kind of relationship does she have with Susan anyway?' She slipped into the hot tub, determined not to waste anymore time chasing after the redhead. She looked around. There were more than enough attractive women willing to help her forget. She smiled at the nearest woman but her heart wasn't in it.

Kim wasn't at dinner that evening. Kerry told herself she was relieved. Now she could relax and enjoy the rest of the cruise.

"Looks like you've lost your stalker, Ker," Susan whispered in her ear.

"Think she finally got the message?"

"Maybe. You'd just better hope she doesn't see you in that little black dress. It makes me drool and I'm straight," Susan teased.

"Speaking of, how's Bob the bartender?"

"Pretty darn fantastic, and I don't mean his skill with a blender. He's got tomorrow afternoon off and he's offered to show me the sights."

"His or the islands'?"

Susan laughed. "Guess I'll find out tomorrow."

After dinner Susan decided to see what Bob was up to. That left Kerry free to check out the dance on deck 3. She could hear the music long before she got to the ballroom. `Ah, Melissa Etheridge, I should have known.' She pushed her way through the doors and stopped cold, confronted with an almost solid wall of women. It looked like every woman on board was present at the dance. Kerry began to work her way toward the bar. If she was going to hang around for a while she really needed a drink.

She spent fifteen minutes weaving her way through the sweaty, writhing crowd of women. She decided the hands brushing her ass were accidental but she was pretty sure the breast grope was intentional. Yep, she really needed a drink. She broke through the crowd just as the song changed. Several women left the bar just as the Pointer Sisters were getting excited. Kerry lucked out and snagged one of their stools at the bar. She figured that from that vantage point she could easily drink and watch the crowd.

After a few minutes the bartender made her way down to Kerry's end of the bar.

"Vodka. Neat."

"A woman who likes to keep things simple," the bartender said with an approving smile as she set up Weaver's drink. "I like that," she added with a wink before moving off to serve the next patron.

Kerry turned around to watch the dancers. She spotted a familiar mane of blonde curls twirling gracefully on the other side of room. Kim had always loved to dance. She and Kerry had only gone out dancing once but they had started a number of evenings waltzing around Kim's living room. And there was one memorable evening that started with a tango in the kitchen while Kerry prepared dinner. She'd ended up being the appetizer. She'd never been able to look at Kim's kitchen table the same way again.

"I was hoping you'd show up tonight," said a familiar voice in her ear.

"Hi, I heard the music and thought I'd check it out," Kerry replied.

"Would you like to dance?"

"Sure, that'd be great." Kerry said bravely. She hopped down from her stool.

Jane reached for her hand and led her out on the dance floor.

Jane proved to be a very good dancer. She was energetic and light on her feet. Unfortunately, she also proved to have wandering fingers and an immunity to subtle hints. Kerry spent ten minutes trying to wriggle out of her octopus-like embrace. She was about to get more direct when she felt a warm and familiar presence sidle up beside them.

"May I cut in?" Kim yelled over the music. Jane ignored her. Kim tapped her on the shoulder and asked again. "May I dance with my girlfriend?" she asked with a grim tone. She'd noticed Kerry shortly after she arrived but she was determined not to approach the redhead. Her resolve lasted until she noticed the brunette manhandling Kerry. At that point she couldn't stop herself.

She took advantage of the brunette's surprise and edged her way between the dancers. Before Jane knew what hit her, Kim had twirled Kerry away.

"Girlfriend, Legaspi? Very smooth," Kerry said, amused.

"Hey, it worked for Cary Grant. besides you looked like you could use a little help."

That was exactly the wrong thing to say. Kerry pulled loose from Kim's light embrace.

"I don't need rescuing Kim," she said emphatically.

That was such a Kerry-like response that Kim burst out laughing. She reached out for the redhead and forcefully pulled her close.

"Everyone needs help now and then, Ker," she said. She leaned closer and whispered, "Even you. Don't worry, your virtue will remain intact but you'd better play along because she's headed this way."

Kerry glanced around surreptitiously. Kim was right, damn it. Jane was hovering near by, waiting for an opportune moment.

"Unless you're anxious to get back to your wrestling match?" Kim continued.

Reluctantly, Kerry snuggled her head under Kim's chin. She told herself it was just to get rid of Jane. She tried to look relaxed in the embrace without actually relaxing into the embrace. It was very trying especially when the pounding disco beat segued into the slow strains of a popular love song. Kim pulled her close and steered her effortlessly around the dance floor. Eventually the heat from Kim's body served to relax the redhead and for the first time that night she felt completely comfortable.

Kim was extremely pleased with herself. If she couldn't talk sense to the redhead the next best thing was holding her. She chose to ignore the circumstances and focus on the results. She had Kerry Weaver in her arms. Finally. And, she could feel Kerry relaxing by the minute. They'd always enjoyed a strong physical connection. She should have trusted in that sooner.

Halfway through the song, Jane gave up and wandered away in search of less protected prey. When the song ended, Kerry lifted her head slightly. "Is she gone?" she whispered.

"Nope, she's still watching you, Ker. That must have been some conversation this afternoon. Or maybe it's this little black dress. You do look fabulous tonight." Kim winked.

Kerry blushed and laid her head back on Kim's chest. "Hopefully, she'll give up soon," she said as she tightened her grip on Kim's waist. She didn't see Kim's self satisfied grin. To Kim's great gratification, the next song was also a slow song.

Kerry virtually melded her small form to Kim's longer one. She told herself it was to keep up the ruse. And if it felt amazingly good that was just a bonus, right? One arm rested lightly around Kim's waist while the other held her crutch out of the way. She was dependent on Kim to maintain her balance.

Kim was happy to oblige and even happier to take advantage of the situation. She slid her arms more firmly around Kerry's torso. One hand rested comfortably on the small of her back while the other slid lower to rest on the swell of her ass. She rested her cheek softly against the top of Kerry's head. She nuzzled her hair, delighting in the wonderfully familiar scent of her shampoo.

Kim took a deep breath and maneuvered them to a darker, though no less crowded, part of the dance floor. Briefly, Kim wondered if she just might possibly be insane. They'd burned so hot and crashed so hard the first time around. Would it be possible to set all that pain aside? Despite her very reasonable fears, she felt nothing but happiness at this moment. `Well, I'm happy and horny,' she amended. Kerry's silk clad skin was warm and enticing under her palms. She wanted to run her hands over every square inch of skin, to lose herself in the demands of heated flesh and soft, warm curves.

Kim squeezed Kerry lightly but she fought her impulse to just dive into the redhead. She knew she could seduce Kerry if she tried hard enough because despite the redhead's attempts to maintain her emotional distance, Kerry was clinging to her like a second skin. And her dress left little to the imagination. Kim felt Kerry's nipples harden; she felt Kerry's pulse quicken. She felt every shudder and hitch of her breath. Oh yeah, Kim figured she could seduce her but she didn't want just a quick fuck.

She wanted more. She wanted everything. She wanted things that she'd frequently made fun of her friends for wanting-- kids, dog, white picket fence. And she wanted it so badly that she was determined to ignore the pulsing ache in her groin and the wetness seeping into her panties. She would go slow. She would make Kerry understand that they could move beyond their past, that they could build a future together. And this time she would let Kerry set the pace, even if it killed her. Which it just might, she thought as she took a deep breath and tried to slow her own racing pulse.

Kerry was amazed at Kim's display of restraint. She was also grateful. She wasn't sure she could or would resist a seduction attempt. But surprisingly, she didn't feel pressured or cornered. On the contrary, for that moment, in Kim's arms Kerry felt at peace. She knew it didn't make sense. She was dancing with the woman who broke her heart, whose heart she broke. It was a rare moment of grace and she decided to enjoy it while it lasted. All too soon, the song ended. Kerry lifted her head and glanced around. "I think she's gone, Kim," she said quietly.

"No, Kerry, she's not," Kim whispered just before twirling Kerry in another direction. Kerry was forced to hang on tight for balance. At least, that's what she told herself as they swayed through the latest song.

It was too good to last. The next song was loud and fast. Kim brought them to a stop at the outskirts of the dance floor. They separated slowly.

"I should probably head home," Kerry said reluctantly.

"May I see you to your door?"

Kim noticed Kerry's hesitation. "The groper could still be out there. She looked like the determined type," she warned, self- servingly.

Kerry smiled her approval. Kim held out her arm gallantly. She wasn't ready to lose all physical contact with the redhead. Kerry reached for Kim's arm. Apparently Kim wasn't alone in her reluctance. They walked slowly back to Kerry's cabin.

As they neared Kerry's cabin she slid her arm from Kim's. "Thanks for seeing me home."

"It's the least I could do," Kim replied as she lightly pulled Kerry away from her door and toward the ship's rail. "Look at the moon, Ker. Isn't it beautiful?"

And it was. The stars stood out in stark relief from the velvet of the night sky, while the quarter moon cast a soft, silvery reflection on the waves. With that backdrop it seemed the most natural thing in the world to lean forward and place a soft kiss on Kim's cheek.

Kerry's action surprised them both. Kim stood there for a moment debating with herself as she stared into Kerry's eyes. Finally, with an internal "ah fuck it" she leaned in and captured Kerry's lips in a kiss that was meant to be a gentle hello. Of course it went from hello to let's get naked in 30 seconds. And Kim was lost.

She reached out and pulled the redhead closer. Gliding her hands up Kerry's torso, they came to rest near the gentle swell of her breasts. Kerry's breath hitched and that spurred Kim on. She slid her hands around and down and cupped Kerry's ass, pulling her closer still. "Kerry, Kerry, Kerry," she whispered as she switched her attentions to Kerry's neck, searching for that spot that would make Kerry growl. And wet.

Kerry groaned her appreciation of Kim's efforts. Forgetting they were in public, she slid her hands between their bodies and started to undo Kim's shirt. She wanted, no she needed to feel bare skin. Now! Thank god Kim wasn't wearing a bra.

When her hand cupped Kim's breast it was Kim's turn to moan.

Neither of them heard the approaching footsteps. "Oh my god!" Susan exclaimed in surprise. She'd never expected to see Kerry Weaver with her hands on someone's breast. At least in a non-medical capacity, she mused. She was stunned and also a little aroused by the sight. And she didn't know what to do next.

Kerry stepped quickly away from Kim. "Susan!"

"What? Who?" Kim blanched and looked around disoriented. Quickly, she tried to close her gaping shirt. `Shit! This was bad. This was very bad.' Not that it was the first time she'd been caught by someone's spouse but she and Kerry were still on very shaky ground. She turned back to Kerry. Shit! She could see Kerry shutting down. "Kerry."

"I'm just gonna go now," Susan said decisively. She turned toward their cabin.

"Susan, wait," Kerry called after her.

Susan didn't stop.

"Kerry, don't go. We need to talk," Kim pleaded. She held her arms out entreatingly but Kerry wouldn't even look at her.

"Kim, just go. I need to talk to Susan. I'll talk to you tomorrow." With that she turned and quickly moved away.

"Goddammit!" Kim yelled at no one in particular. She really wanted to hit someone. She just wasn't sure who. She stood there for a moment and then stormed back to her room.

When Kerry got back to her stateroom Susan was already in her pajamas. She looked up from the book she was pretending to read.

"Have a nice time at the dance?" she asked with a grin. "I wasn't sure whether or not I should play the outraged girlfriend. I mean, you looked like you were enjoying yourself."

"I was." Kerry's shoulders slumped as she sat down on the end of Susan's bed. "Maybe too much."

`Typical Kerry,' Susan thought. She always had to take the hard road. If something was easy, she wasn't doing it right. "Kerry, I think you're thinking too much. What's wrong with having a little shipboard fling?"

"Says the former Mrs. Chuck `Let's get married in Vegas' Brown," Kerry smiled to take the sting out of her words.

"Susan, believe it or not, I've had meaningless sex and one night stands," she huffed. "If it was anyone but Kim this wouldn't be a problem." She sighed in frustration. "I mean, I don't know what she wants. Or expects. I don't even know where she's living now."

"You know, you could actually try talking to her."

Kerry stared at her like she was a particularly dull student.

"What?" Susan stared back, refusing to back down. "It looks to me like she wants a second chance. She's following you around like a puppy, after all. But whatever you decide to do, we need to drop this Rock Hudson/Doris Day thing we've got going on. It's so 1950s" Susan said wryly.

Kerry nodded. "That's ok, it's not like it's working anyway."

"I noticed. What a little home wrecker! Or maybe she just can't resist your obvious charms," Susan said with a comic leer.

Kerry laughed as she headed for the bathroom. "Thanks, Doris."

"Any time, Rock. Now go to bed. We've got a long day tomorrow. Are you doing the temple tour or scuba diving?" she yelled over the sound of running water.

Kerry walked back in with her toothbrush. "Neither, I'm going shopping. The steward said there's this great open air market with all sorts of craftsmen and vendors. How about you?"

Susan blushed.

"Ah, how is Bob?"

"Pretty darn terrific," Susan replied as she hid her blush behind her book. Kerry laughed and headed back into the bathroom to finish her ablutions.

Kerry got up at six the next morning. She needed to think so she put on her bathing suit and headed for the pool. She loved swimming. Buoyed by water, insulated from the sights and sounds of the world she could focus on her body-- the stretch and flex of muscles, the expansion and contraction of her lungs, the sheer joy of gliding through the water with a grace and speed she would never have on land. It was better than any form of meditation she'd ever tried.

She was on her second set of laps when she felt another body dive into the water. The newcomer kept up for a lap and half but then Kerry easily pulled ahead. With a sense of inevitability she realized it was Kim. Kerry ignored her and continued her workout.

Nevertheless, Kim was paddling around the end of the pool waiting for Kerry when she finished her laps. Kerry swam over and pulled herself up to sit on the side of the pool. Kim pulled herself up to sit beside Kerry.

Kerry slicked her hair back out of her eyes and toweled her face dry. She laughed when she caught sight of Kim's attire. "What kind of suit is that?"

Kim was sitting there in drenched running gear. At least she'd taken off her shoes.

"I hadn't actually planned to go swimming. I came out for a jog and got distracted by this red haired Nereid. I had no idea you could swim so well." Kim really was impressed. Despite her other athletic abilities she'd never been a very good swimmer. "Could I borrow that," Kim asked pointing at Kerry's towel.

Instead of handing it to her, Kerry reached over and gently dried Kim's face. It was a surprisingly intimate gesture and Kim felt her breath catch. Kim captured Kerry's hand before she could completely withdraw it. She held it gently in her lap. "Kerry, we really need to talk."

"Yes, we do," Kerry said with a sigh. "We need to stop playing around before someone gets hurt."

"Kerry, I'm not playing here. Obviously, I'm still attracted to you; I think you're still attracted to me. I know Susan is a problem but."

Kerry cut her off. "Susan's not the problem. And yes the attraction's still there." Her gaze fell to Kim's chest.

"Obviously the attraction's still there." She hesitated. She knew she had to explain this clearly. Kim looked too hopeful.

"You know when we first got together, I had no clue. I thought I'd come to terms with who I was, what I could reasonably expect from life. But I didn't expect you. You breezed in and blew apart every considered notion and calculated plan that I had. And that was before the whole Wallace fiasco. After that little debacle, it took me years to regain my equilibrium, to integrate what I'd learned about myself. But now I have."

"So what's the problem, Kerry?"

"I'm not sure I want to risk it all again. I've come to terms with being a lesbian, Kim. I've accepted and occasionally even embraced it. But I'm not sure I can survive being a Legaspian."

"What the hell does that mean? Is this another lifestyle crack? Because, Kerry, I have to tell you that is so lame." Kim was getting angry now.

"What I mean is that while I'm sure I'm looking for a woman. I'm not sure you're the woman I'm looking for?"

This completely took the wind out of Kim's sails. She realized that on some level she had always assumed Kerry would welcome reconciliation. She had to admit that she might be wrong.

"I'm sorry." Kerry pulled her hand away from Kim. She hated that she was disappointing Kim again. But better a small hurt now than a killing blow later. She stood up and walked away while Kim was still mulling over this revelation.

"I wish she'd quit doing that," Kim muttered. Her initial impulse was to leap up and go after her. She decided to try something different. She was going to think first for a change.

`All right Legaspi you're the great psychiatrist what just happened here? One-Kerry admitted Susan wasn't really a factor. That's a good thing. Two- she admitted she was a lesbian. That's a good thing. Three- she admitted what--that she was confused, scared, unsure? But she didn't actually say no, now did she? And she wouldn't be confused if there wasn't something still there. Right? So, all I have to do is convince her to take another chance on us. And when I've done that I can end world hunger and cure cancer.' Kim rolled her eyes. She headed back to her room to change into something dry and figure out what to do next.

Kerry hid out in her cabin the rest of the morning--room service, a long soak in a bubble-filled tub and plenty of time to think about impetuous blondes. What more could a girl ask for?

Kerry was reading when Susan came barreling in a few hours later. She needed to change for her island excursion.

"You know, I'm getting really good at this shuffleboard thing. But I think Helen's a shark," she yelled from the bathroom

"A shuffleboard shark?" Kerry laughed trying to picture Susan getting hustled at a game most frequently associated with Floridian retirees.

"Hey, your girlfriend was there too," Susan said as she pulled on a more revealing t-shirt.

"My girlfriend?"

"Yeah. Tall, blonde, nice tits from what I remember," Susan teased. "She was pumping me for information about you. Oh, she tried to disguise it as an apology for and I quote `any inappropriate actions I may have taken last night' but she was sooo digging."

Despite her best intentions, Kerry was fascinated. "What did you tell her?"

"I thanked her for getting you so worked up last night that we came back to our cabin and had hot monkey sex `til sunrise. I told her it was a wonder I could walk."

Kerry's jaw dropped.

"Funny, that was her expression too," Susan laughed. "I'm kidding, Kerry. I told her that whatever was going on was between you two and you two would have to work it out. Then I kicked her ass at shuffleboard."

The Ariadne pulled into port at noon. They had four hours to spend ashore doing various tours or activities. Kerry waved as Susan and Bob headed off on one of the tours. She headed toward the marketplace. Her guidebook said this was a great shopping area for rugs, clothing, pottery. She hoped to indulge two of her little known weaknesses --authentic native crafts and haggling.

She spent the first hour at a stall that sold leather goods. She finally came away with a butter soft pair of leather slippers for Gabe, a hand tooled harness for Stinky, and a new leather backpack. The owner wiped his brow as she left. She drove a hard bargain.

The next stall contained clothing woven of cotton, wool, and what she thought was probably hemp. She held up a very colorful sweater. The mix of blues and teal would look great on Kim. She was so disturbed by how automatically the blonde had wormed her way into her thoughts that she bought the sweater without arguing over the price. On her way to the next booth she noticed a familiar blonde at the nearest food stand. Kim was entirely focused on eating something on a stick.

Kim wasn't sure what she was eating but it was certainly tasty. She'd been watching the redhead fondle clothing for the past half hour and had worked up an appetite. While she heartily approved of Kerry's new backpack, she was puzzled by the dog collar and the men's slippers. She finished her snack and headed back into the marketplace. She hadn't come to the market to stalk the redhead. It was just a happy coincidence that she'd spotted her at the leather booth. Of course, having seen her, she decided she'd better keep an eye on her.

Kerry stopped at a stand where women were frying some type of flatbread. She bought a slab covered with roasted vegetables and moved into the shade to eat it. She watched Kim make her way through a few stalls. She stopped in front of a stall selling clay pots and figures.

Kim didn't care much for pottery but there was a figure of an old woman that just drew her in. She had the distinct features found on Mayan pictographs but Kim had no idea who or what she represented. The wizened old shopkeeper saw her staring at the figure and pulled her over to the display. She placed Kim's hand on the figures head.

"Ixchel," the shop owner said.

"What?" Kim was a little freaked out by the woman's attitude. She jerked her hand back.

"Ixchel. Good luck." The shopkeeper smiled and pointed at Kim.

Kim backed up a step. "Look, I don't really need."

The woman rattled something off in rapid fire Spanish and poked Kim in the chest.

"Hey!" Kim rubbed her chest.

Kerry saw all this and decided she's better intervene. She knew Kim didn't speak Spanish and they certainly didn't need some kind of international pottery incident.

Kerry walked over. "She said never insult the goddess. It could have dire consequences. Of course, so could buying such a hideous piece of art."

"Says the woman with tribal masks all over her house," Kim shot back.

"So you do want this?"

Kim's desire for the statue grew in proportion to Kerry's disdain for it. "She's starting to grow on me. Ask her how much."

Kim stood back and watched Kerry and the old woman as they argued back and forth. Finally they reached an agreement and Kim handed over the cash. It was less than she'd paid for her food. The woman bundled the statue up in some old cloth and handed her gently to Kim. She nodded sagely and said "Good luck for you," then she turned to the next person approaching the booth.

Kim and Kerry resumed their shopping. The statue was a lot heavier than it looked and Kim kept shifting it from hand to hand.

"Here, put it in here." Kerry held open her new backpack.

"Thanks, Ker," Kim said as she slipped it in.

"You get to carry it back to the ship," Kerry sniped.

Kim laughed and slung the pack over her shoulder. They walked in silence for few more minutes.

"Kim, have you been following me?"

"What?" Kim decided to lie. "No, Kerry I just happened to be going this way. Is that okay with you? I heard there was great shopping down here. Geez, some people have a high opinion of themselves!" She radiated outrage and she roughly pushed by the redhead. She walked deeper into the market place. She hated that she was so obvious.

Kerry wasn't sure what to believe and now she was following Kim. The one thing she did know was that Kim's sense of direction hadn't improved in the intervening years. She was headed in the wrong direction. She was leaving the market and heading down an ally. For one, brief moment Kerry considered letting the blonde find her own way but they were due to be back at the boat soon. Kerry called out to the taller woman.

"Kim. Kim, wait!"

This entreaty just caused the blonde to increase her strides. Kerry sighed and then started after her. After two right turns she came to an odd open ally way but there was no sight of Kim. And that was disturbing because the ally branched off in two directions.

"Damn it, where are you?" Kerry muttered. "We have to get back to the boat," she yelled hoping Kim could hear her. Kerry started down the nearest path when she heard a yelp and then angry voices in the passageway off to her left. She spun around and started running toward the commotion. As she rounded a corner she slid to an abrupt stop.

Two men, with their backs toward Kerry, were advancing on Kim. One of the men was waving a knife around wildly. The other man ordered Kim to hand over her backpack. Even though she didn't speak Spanish, Kim got the gist of that demand. Kerry saw her jaw set stubbornly. `Just give them the damn pack, Kim,' she screamed internally.

Kim, bless her psychiatric little heart, was trying to reason, in English, with her would-be muggers. Kerry rolled her eyes. She considered going for help but realized she wouldn't make it in time. So, she squared her shoulders and advanced on the duo, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Kim spotted Kerry over the attacker's shoulders. `Jesus Kerry, get out of here!' Unfortunately, the redhead couldn't read her mind. She signaled Kim to keep talking while she crept closer.

Understanding that Kerry couldn't settle for just getting help, Kim ramped up her efforts to communicate with her attackers. She raised her voice and started flailing her arms, hoping to keep their attention focused on her. She knew the moment her attackers lost patience with the crazy American lady. The smaller, unarmed assailant lunged for her bag while the other one found his legs knocked out from under him by a crutch wielding redhead. As Kim and the smaller mugger grappled over her bag, Kerry swung her crutch at the larger man's knee and then his elbow. She felt the crunch of bone and cartilage. He screamed as he fainted. `At least he dropped the knife,' she thought wryly.

Kerry didn't have time to feel bad about the damage she'd just done as the second man was now coming toward her. She could tell he was furious. Even though he was smaller than his colleague, he still outweighed her by at least seventy pounds. And she'd lost the element of surprise. Still, she gamely swung her crutch at him, hoping to slow his attack. Unfortunately, he caught her crutch mid- swing. He laughed as he pulled her toward him and viciously backhanded her across the face. He didn't want to kill her just yet, he wanted to have a little fun with the interfering bitch first. He shoved her to the ground and stood above her gloating just long enough for Kim to hit him over the head with her backpack. The ten pound piece of pottery she'd bought at the bazaar did a very effective job of knocking him out. She just hoped she hadn't broken it.

He crumpled to his knees. Kim shoved him out of her way as she scrambled to get to Kerry who was now sitting up in the dust, shaking her head. Her ears were ringing from the blow and she could feel blood dripping from her nose.

Kim fell to her knees beside Kerry. She reached into her pocket for a tissue and gently wiped the blood off Kerry's face. "Are you okay? How's your eye? Are you hurt anywhere else? Don't move, let me check you out!" she said while simultaneously running her hands up and down Kerry's body.

Kerry knew there was no telling how long their assailants would be out. Luckily, they were both still alive. She could tell by their slow and even breathing. Still, they needed medical attention. Now that Kick-ass Kerry was no longer needed, Doctor Kerry was reemerging.

"Kim, take a breath. I'm okay and as much as I'm enjoying you groping me, we need to get out of here."

"What?" Kim was stunned that Kerry could be flirtatious at a time like this.

"Let's get out of here; you can feel me up later!"


"Focus, Kim. We have to go and find the authorities."

Kim stood up and grabbed her bag. She wasn't letting that Mayan goddess get away. Not when she was having so much luck already.

"Could you help me up?"

Kim glanced down at Kerry who was grimacing as she tried, unsuccessfully, to stand.

"Jesus, Kerry! I knew you were hurt!"

She rushed to help the redhead up. She pulled her to her feet and held her up as she slipped her crutch on.

"I twisted my knee as I fell. Damn it, I've probably sprained it." She tried to put weight on her leg. The pain that shot through her knee told her that was a very bad idea.

She sighed resignedly. "Kim, I don't think I can walk, you're going to have to go get help."

Just then one of their assailants groaned.

"There's no way in hell I'm leaving you in this alley. I'll carry you out if I have to," Kim said fiercely. "Now, put your arm around my waist and lean on me."

"Kim, I'll just slow you down."

There was another groan from the lump to their left

"Just do it, Kerry," Kim barked as she slid her arm around the redhead's waist. She didn't wait for the woman to acquiesce. She just pulled Kerry up and into her body to take all the pressure off the injured leg. "Think of it as a three legged race. It'll be fun." She smiled grimly as they set off.

With fear and adrenalin fueling their flight and Kerry providing directions, they made good time getting back to the marketplace. Kim was breathing heavily and sweating like a stevedore when she gently deposited Kerry on a bench at the market. She knelt down beside her. As tired as she was, Kim could see that Kerry was exhausted from the exertion and the pain. She touched her gently on her undamaged cheek.

"How're you doing, Ker?"

Kerry looked up at the worried blonde.

"Hanging in there." She smiled wanly.

"Okay, well I'm gonna go get some help. Don't go anywhere, `kay?"

"I'll wait right here."

Kim tore herself away from the older woman and ran into the marketplace yelling and waving her arms.

"Help, help, we need some help over here!"

Kim quickly succeeded in drawing a crowd and it wasn't long before a local policeman joined the group. She led him over to Kerry so she could explain what happened. After Kerry reeled off an explanation he used his radio to call for an ambulance and some back up. When he was done, she asked Kim if she could find her way back to the scene of the crime.

"I think so, Ker but we need to get you to a hospital first," she said emphatically.

"I'm not seriously hurt, they could be, Kim. We need to get them some help."

"Damn it, Kerry!"

"Kim the longer we argue the longer it'll take. An ambulance is on the way. Now go."

Kim knew she wasn't going to win this one. She turned angrily and gestured to the cop to follow her. She walked to the head of the ally and hesitated.

"It's two rights and a left, Kim," Kerry said as she rolled her eyes.

She repeated those directions to the cop, just in case, and then he and Kim headed down the ally. They found the spot without any trouble but their suspects were gone. Kim would have assumed she was in the wrong spot except there was a trail of blood where something large had been dragged away. The trail led in the other direction. The policeman spoke into his radio. Then he pointed Kim back toward the market and he took off in the opposite direction. She wasted no time in getting back to Kerry.

Kim reached the marketplace just as two men where helping Kerry onto a gurney. They then loaded the gurney into an ambulance that looked like it had last seen service in the war for Independence. She was talking to another policeman in rapid fire Spanish and directing the EMTs at the same time.

`Full chief mode, gotta love it,' Kim thought as she smiled at the redhead.

She trotted over to the ambulance and explained what they had found at the scene. Then Kim started to climb in the ambulance. A hand on her arm stopped her and the attendant rattled off something in Spanish.

"Oh come on," Kim sputtered. "I know this isn't San Francisco but how can they object to me riding to the hospital with you?"

Kerry rolled her eyes. "Kim, he said there's not enough room for both of you in the back.

"Oh," Kim thought a minute and then pointed to herself. "El Doctore."

The attendant glanced at Kerry. She nodded. He smiled and helped Kim into the rig. Once she was inside, he slammed the door shut and jumped in the front cab. The ambulance tore out of there at a zippy 5 miles an hour.

"Well, this should be interesting," Kerry said tiredly.

Kerry winced as the rig hit a pot hole. Kim could tell the day had taken its toll on her. She knew she felt like shit and she hadn't even been injured. She could only imagine how bad Kerry must feel. Without thinking, she reached over and took hold of Kerry's hand. She squeezed it gently. It was the least she could do after literally leading Kerry down a blind ally. Not to mention Kerry might possibly have saved her life.

Kim leaned over her.

"Kerry, I'm really sorry about all this," she said earnestly. She blinked a few times and then continued.

"I was following you at the marketplace," she hesitated then forged on with her explanation. "Then you called me on it and pissed me off," she said sheepishly.

"Kim." Kerry interrupted.

Kim squeezed her hand again. "Let me finish this. I'm trying to apologize. And we both know I don't do that very often so you should lay back and enjoy it." She grinned winningly.

Kerry chuckled. "Sorry, please continue."

Kim looked down shyly. "Well that's it really. I'm sorry."



"For what? What are you sorry for? Stalking me, running away, almost getting yourself hurt because you didn't want to give up that hideous piece of pottery?"

Kim was surprised, both at the pointed assessment of her behavior and the sarcastic opinion of her taste in art. Mostly she was surprised at the gentle tone of Kerry's question. It made it hard to get mad at her, damn it.

"Uh, all of it, I guess," she said disconcertedly. "Well, except the stalking part," she amended. "I'm not sorry about following you. I've been trying to talk to you for days and you just keep running out on me."

The irony of the situation wasn't lost on either of them.

Kim continued bravely, "But Kerry, I regret how this all turned out. And I'm deeply sorry you got hurt on my behalf."

"This," Kerry said waving at her knee, "is nothing. A little sprain. I'll be fine a few days." `Besides, it's a small price to pay for keeping you safe,' Kerry thought.

"Don't forget about the black eye." Kim grinned suddenly.

"What so amusing about a black eye?"

"I'm just remembering the look on your face when you charged that guy. It was."she stopped suddenly.


Kim looked down, her cheeks flaming in embarrassment.

"It was what, Kim? Dangerous, reckless?" Kerry's gentle tone had disappeared. She didn't need someone telling her what she couldn't handle.

Kim blushed and then mumbled a response.

Kerry didn't understand what she said. Kim's sudden fascination with her shoes didn't help. "What?" Kerry pressed.

Kim sighed, resigned. She looked up.

"Hot, okay?? You looked really hot charging in to rescue me."

It was Kerry's turn to blush. Luckily, her embarrassment was cut short as the ancient ambulance came to a sharp stop.

The doors of the ambulance flew open. Regretfully, Kim let go of Kerry's hand. The technicians spent the next few minutes unloading the gurney and wheeling Kerry inside. Kim followed close behind. A tall, dark and handsome doctor met them at the entrance. Kim was surprised and relieved by his perfect English.

"Ms. Weaver, I'm Dr. Montoya. Officer Lopez called to alert us you were coming. Don't worry. I'll get you fixed up in no time."

"And you are?" he asked Kim.

"Kim Legaspi. Dr. Kim Legaspi," she replied pointedly.

Dr. Montoya edged between Kim and the gurney. She didn't appreciate that but she was willing to overlook it, at least until he'd patched up the redhead. He directed the gurney into a trauma room and told Kim she could wait in the waiting area. Kim ignored him and followed the gurney into the room. He frowned but he didn't make an issue of it. He simply turned his considerable attention on Kerry and ignored Kim as best he could. Despite her almost instant dislike, she had to admit he seemed to know what he was doing.

Ancient ambulance notwithstanding, Kim was pleased with the modern appearance of the interior of the ER. It actually looked in better shape than County the last time she'd seen it. She relaxed for the first time in hours. The staff proved efficient, even Dr. "I'm so Charming," and it wasn't long before Kerry was in a hospital gown getting wheeled down to x-ray. Kim had gleefully offered to help her change but Kerry refused. Instead she sent Kim off in search of coffee while a nurse helped her disrobe. The nurse offered to hold on to Kim's backpack but she declined. She had no intention of parting with Ixchel, she'd been instrumental in saving Kerry's life.

Kim wandered off in search of the cafeteria. She was really grateful that coffee was almost universally understood and it wasn't long before she made her way back to the ER carrying two large mugs of a rich, dark brew. She knew she, for one, could certainly use the caffeine. After her first swallow she thought it possible that she wouldn't sleep that night.

She entered the exam room where she'd left Kerry. It was empty. `Shit! Now where'd she go?' Kim panicked and rushed to the admit desk. The clerk spoke little English but he tried to explain that they'd already taken her to x-ray and if Kim would care to sit down in the waiting area they would bring back her girlfriend soon. Kim understood x-ray and the finger pointing toward the waiting area. `Another universal,' she sighed internally.

By the time they wheeled Kerry back from x-ray Kim had finished both her coffee and Kerry's. She was thinking that she'd probably never have to sleep again when she saw Kerry in a wheelchair heading right for her. She wasn't sure if it was the caffeine or the adrenalin dump from all the excitement earlier because it couldn't possibly be the sight of the redhead in the skimpy hospital gown that was making her hands shake. Could it?

Kerry motioned to her and Kim followed Kerry into the exam room. The nurse left to give them a few moments of privacy. Kerry's knee was encased in a soft cast. Her eye and cheek were swollen and starting to bruise.

"Okay, how bad is it?" Kim steeled herself for the news.

"I told you. It's just a sprain. I need to keep it immobilized for a week or two but there should be no permanent damage."

"That's a relief."

Kerry sighed deeply. "Yeah, it is."

"Hey, I'll be happy to play nursemaid for the next few days. I think a sponge bath is the least I could do," Kim waggled her eyebrows playfully. "By the time the cruise gets back to." she trailed off as she took in Kerry's shocked expression. "The boat!" they exclaimed simultaneously.

"Do you think they waited for us?" Kim asked hopefully.

"You didn't read the fine print on your ticket did you? The part where it says the boat always leaves at the scheduled times?"


Kerry winced and rubbed her forehead on the side opposite the bruising. Kim noticed and quickly knelt down so that she was eye- level with the redhead in the wheelchair. She cupped Kerry's uninjured cheek.

"Listen, Kerry, don't worry about this. I'll find us a hotel for the night and we'll figure something out, okay? I'm sure there's an airport or something around here. We'll be fine."

Kerry looked skeptical.

"Okay, think of it as an adventure," Kim added.

"Perhaps I can help," said a voice from the doorway.

`Great, Dr. Charm is back,' Kim thought. She pulled her hand away and stood up. She turned to face the handsome young specialist but he ignored her completely.

Focused on Kerry, Dr. Montoya walked into the room. "Kerry, your other tests came out great," he said silkily. "I trust you know what's necessary for your leg. As for your eye, a little ice and TLC should take care of it."

`Did he just wink at her?' Kim was incensed.

"Thanks, Ricardo. I appreciate all your help."

"I would like to help further," he said as he smoothly picked up Kerry's hand.

"My mother runs a small hotel. I would be happy to call and make reservations for you. And for you as well, Ms. Legaspi," he added without taking his eyes off Kerry. Kerry smiled up at him.

"That's `Doctor' Legaspi," Kim muttered.

Kim stood there fuming. `How can she fall for that phony smarm?'

"That would be lovely. Thank you."

"My pleasure," he said right before he gallantly kissed her hand. "And now I'll leave you alone to get dressed. I'll send in a nurse.

Kim turned on Kerry as soon as he was out the door. "Kerry, how could you?"


"Flirt with him. Don't tell me you fell for that two bit charm routine."

"What's your problem, Kim? We need a place to stay. He's recommended one. That's all."

"That's all! He, he .kissed you!" She was outraged that Kerry wasn't.

"My hand, Kim. He kissed my hand. He's charming in an old world sort of way. Besides, we had a chance to talk while I was waiting in x- ray. His mother's from New York. He got his medical degree from Harvard; and he did his residency at Mass General. We discussed the differences between practicing in the U.S. and practicing here. It was fascinating."

"Oh I just bet it was," Kim snarked. She realized she had absolutely no right to be angry or jealous but that didn't stop her.

Luckily, the nurse entered before she could really get started. She had a set of full crutches and Kerry's pain meds.

"Kim, could you go and get the hotel info and call us a cab?"

Grateful to finally have something useful to do, Kim headed out the door. She found Montoya at the admit desk. He was talking to a policeman.

"Ah, Ms. Legaspi, here you are." He handed her a card with the name of the hotel on it.

"It's Doctor Legaspi."

"I've called and reserved you a room. My mother is expecting you. A cab should be here in a few minutes. I would drive you myself but I'm still on duty."

"Thank you, Mr. Montoya. But you've done enough. A cab will fine," Kim said pointedly.

"This is Officer Martinez, he has a few questions for you. If you'll excuse me I'll go check on my patient." Montoya headed back down to Kerry's exam room while the policeman stayed to ask Kim a few questions.

"We've radioed the ship and let them know that you're here. They'll pick you up on the return trip or, if you'd like we can arrange a bus to the next stop. I'd like to apologize; our market is usually quite safe for visitors. Although we usually recommend that tourists not wander too far from the central market." Clearly he thought all tourists must be a bit dim to wander afar.

"That was my fault; I got confused and walked in the wrong direction. Have you found the men who attacked us?"

"Yes, we have. They didn't get far. We have them in custody."

"Are they ok?"

"One has a broken arm and busted kneecap; the other has a slight concussion. They've caused trouble before and they have outstanding warrants. You're lucky you weren't hurt. Dr. Weaver is quite impressive."

`You don't know the half of it,' Kim thought. "Yes, yes she is. I'd better go check on her. Do you need anything more from us?"

"I don't think so. I have the number for your hotel just in case. Let me know if you'd like us to arrange a ride."

Kim thanked him and then headed back to Kerry.

Despite a nondescript entranceway, the hotel turned out to be a small but very nice establishment. Kim noticed it was only a few yards from the beach and there were a number of restaurants in the immediate area. An elderly woman opened the door and rattled off a question in Spanish. Without waiting for an answer, she ushered them through the doorway and up to a massive wooden table that served as the check in desk. The old woman banged on the bell three times and then disappeared through a doorway.

Kim spotted a chair nearby and pulled it over so Kerry could sit down, which she did gratefully. She really wasn't very good with the crutches. Luckily it was her weak leg that was injured. She had just settled when a small, middle aged woman burst through the doorway.

"Dr. Weaver? Ms. Legaspi?"

Kerry nodded. Kim muttered under her breath, "It's Doctor Legaspi."

"I'm Maria Montoya. My son called. I'm so sorry about what happened to you. I was just getting your room ready. I only have one room vacant at the moment. I do have some guests leaving tomorrow if you need more space."

Kim tried not to look overjoyed as she whipped out her credit card and filled out the registration form. Kerry just sighed. "One room will be fine for tonight, Mrs. Montoya. I'm sorry about the short notice."

"Nonsense my dear. What happened was outrageous. Now let's get you girls settled. Follow me."

She led them down a shady hallway, stopping in front of a wooden door that would have looked at home in a castle. She pushed open the door and ushered them inside. It was more like a suite than a room and their hostess wasted no time before showing them around.

There was a small kitchen on one side of the entryway and a sitting area on the other side. A short hallway led to the bedroom and bathroom. It looked clean and comfortable. Kim noted the two beds with a pang of regret. Oh well, at least they'd be in the same room.

"Now I've left robes and toiletries in the bathroom and the room service menu is on the desk by the phone. There's an entrance to the pool through the courtyard and the beach is just beyond that. It's the hotel's private beach so make yourself at home. Just call the desk if you have any questions."

Kim had more than a few more questions but she noticed that Kerry was flagging. She steered Mrs. Montoya out the door as quickly and politely as possible. Closing the door behind their departing hostess, Kim asked, "What's the deal? Do I not LOOK like a doctor?" She turned and headed back into the room.

Kerry had collapsed in a chair and was rubbing her thigh just above her injured knee. Kim rushed over her pique forgotten.

"Come on Kerry, let's get you settled in bed and medicated and then we can figure out what to do next."

"Always trying to get a girl in bed, eh, DOCTOR Legaspi," Kerry teased, tiredly.

"Can you blame me MS. Weaver?" Kim shot back, smiling, as she pulled Kerry to her feet.

Once she was steady, Kerry shooed Kim away. "I've got this. Could you see if there's any ice?" It was more a plea than a simple request.

While Kim was rummaging in the kitchen, Kerry hobbled her way into the bedroom. She sat down on the nearest bed and propped her crutches on the nightstand. A few minutes later Kim came in carrying a tray of supplies and the backpack. She set the backpack on the dresser. She pulled out Ixhel, unwrapped her and set her up on the dresser. It couldn't hurt to have a goddess standing watch. She then got the bag of medications from the hospital. She added these to her tray and then brought the supplies over to Kerry's bedside.

She had a full ice bucket, some bottled water, two dishtowels and a couple of bottles of tequila from the mini-bar.

"Kim, I really don't think I should mix oxycodone with tequila."

"Those are for me," Kim replied as she handed Kerry a pill and a bottle of water. "Now take these and let's get you comfortable."

Kerry took her pill as Kim pulled down the bed covers. She piled a couple of pillows against the headboard and then helped Kerry scoot back until she could recline comfortably. She then took a pillow from her bed and propped up Kerry's knee.

Kim grabbed a drinking glass from the bathroom, added some ice and poured herself a drink. She set it aside while she wrapped up more of the ice cubes in a dishtowel.

"Put this on your cheek. And drink the rest of your water. It's easy to get dehydrated."

Kerry smiled drowsily as Kim reached over her to get her drink from the table.


"You're pretty good at this."

"What this?"

"This taking care of thing." Kerry smiled again and settled in deeper. She didn't know if it was the drugs or the company but suddenly she felt very mellow.

Kim could tell the pill was taking effect. Kerry was looking a little bleary. She'd probably fall asleep very soon. It was only half past seven but it had been an exhausting afternoon after all.

As soon as Kerry was asleep, Kim covered her up. She finished her drink, took off everything but her t-shirt and then climbed in her own bed for a quick nap. She planned to get up in an hour or so and order dinner and then check out their travel options.

It was two in the morning when she finally woke up. She lay there disoriented and wondering why she'd awakened. Then she heard it.


Kerry! She jumped up and cleared the distance between the two beds in one step. She flipped on the bedside lamp and then leaned over and shook Kerry gently.

"Kerry," she whispered. "Kerry, wake up!"

Kerry's eyes shot open. She looked around wildly. She realized it was Kim leaning over her and she started to calm down.

Kim climbed into bed with her and wrapped her arms around the shivering redhead.

"It was a nightmare," Kerry said, unnecessarily. "There were hands, grabbing me, holding me down. I hate hospitals. I always have nightmares afterwards."

"And yet you work in one. Fascinating." Sometimes Kim couldn't help being a shrink.

Kerry sighed sadly. "I really don't want a psychiatrist in my bed right now."

"Fair enough. What would you like? Kim asked seriously. She wanted to kick herself for her insensitivity.

"Well I don't think I'll be going back to sleep anytime soon. I don't suppose you have a deck of cards?"

"In this outfit? Where would I put them?"

Kim ran her hands over her torso, feeling for pockets. The absurdity made Kerry laugh. Pain immediately shot through her damaged cheek. She couldn't quite stifle a groan.

Kim shot up in bed. "What is it, your knee?"

"No, my face, it hurts when I laugh."

Kim was immediately apologetic. "Oh Ker, I'm sorry." She checked the clock. It had been long enough.

She hopped out of bed and ducked into the bathroom. She came back with some water and another pain pill.

"I'm going to go get some more ice. I'll be right back."

Kim was halfway out the door when Kerry called to her. She turned back into the room. "Yeah babe?"

"Don't be long," Kerry requested in a small voice.

"Back in a flash." She smiled on her way to the kitchen. "Hey Ker, are you hungry?"

After she got Kerry settled with a fresh ice pack she called room service and ordered breakfast. She wasn't exactly sure what she ordered but the pictures looked good. If the staff thought it was odd to be serving breakfast at three in the morning, they didn't say anything. Of course, Kim figured most resorts were used to guests keeping all hours. She decided not to worry about it.

Their food was delivered by the same elderly woman who had greeted them yesterday. She wheeled in a cart laden with food. She looked around. Seeing Kerry in bed she wheeled the cart into the bedroom and pulled out a bed tray. She handed it to Kerry and then she started uncovering the dishes on the cart.

"Ah, this is like.." Kerry asked the woman a few questions and she nodded vigorously. Before she left she smiled and patted Kerry's hand.

Kim looked at Kerry questioningly as she started dishing out the food.

"What? I just told her that this was similar to a dish my girlfriend's grandmother used to make." Kerry dug into her breakfast.

Kim grabbed her heaping plate and sat down crosslegged next to Kerry on the bed. "Susan's Hispanic?" Kim asked around a mouthful of eggs.

"Not Susan, Sandy. Sandy Lopez."

"Not Susan? Sandy Lopez? Her grandmother made you this dish?" And I had trouble getting you to go out with my friends. "It must have been a serious relationship?"

"Yeah, in a lot of ways. She was the first after you."

"Wow. The first? So that means there have been more?"

"Not that it's any of your business but yes there have been a few more women in my life. Sandy and I were on again/off again a few times. In between there were a few.dalliances. Hey, don't hog the tortillas."

For a moment, Kim got lost in the possibilities but managed to pull her attention back to the matter at hand. She passed the container of warm tortillas to Kerry. "So, you must be pretty sure you're a lesbian?"

"It would appear so."

"Man, these eggs are great. I love these peppers; so why did you split?"


"Break up. Why did you and Sandy break up? What with the family bonding and multicultural exchange I would have thought you'd have enjoyed that."

"Again, not your business," Kerry said pointedly. But for some reason it was okay--maybe it was the slumber party atmosphere or maybe it was because it was Kim asking, hell, it was probably the painkillers, Kerry thought wryly. But no matter the reason, it felt good to talk over these things with Kim.

"Come on Ker. We could be stuck her for days," Kim whined. "We may as well make the best of it, catch up, mend fences." Lay bare our souls and try again.

"All right," she agreed with mock reluctance. "But if you so much as think the word closure I'm going to smack you. And it's quid pro quo, Clarisse."

"Deal!" Kim was amazed at how easy that was. "So, tell me all about Sandy and I'll tell you all about Tiffany." That would be painless enough.

"That should take all of five minutes. After all, she's not old enough to have that much life experience."

"I'll ignore the sarcasm for the sake of harmony," Kim said, trying not to smile. After all Kerry did have a point. Kim didn't usually go for younger women but it had been a long, boring flight.

"Okay, Ker. Spill it. And pass the salsa."

They spent the next hour eating and talking and catching up on three years of their lives. The conversation was light and spirited and kept well away from anything remotely connected to their shared past.

When they'd finished everything remotely edible on the cart, Kim started to clear away the dishes. She didn't know if it was food or the company but she was surprisingly content. She wheeled the decimated cart out into the hallway. When she came back she glanced between her bed and Kerry's. She was torn. She didn't want to wear out her welcome when things were going so well with the redhead. On the other hand, she wasn't sure she could bear sleeping alone now.

Kerry watched her trying to decide. All it took was Kerry lifting the blanket invitingly. Kim dove back into bed and crawled under the covers. They were both still wide awake and now that she had Kerry talking she didn't want to quit. She stretched out on her side facing Kerry. They'd covered Sandy and now it was time to deal with present complications.

"So why didn't Susan raise a fuss this afternoon. Surely she noticed you were missing?"

"She's probably been to busy boffing Bob the bartender to notice."

"You two are non-monogamous? And you're okay with that?" Kim voice had risen along with her disbelief.

As much as she was enjoying the squeak in Kim's voice, Kerry decided it was time to come clean.

"Susan is free to sleep with anyone she likes. She's just my partner. And she's straight."

"Just your.I can't believe.," Kim sputtered and sat up. She seemed more worried about Kerry's girlfriend than Kerry. And non- monogamous? Wait, did she say straight?

Kerry rushed to clarify. "My medical partner. We have a practice together. A clinic in Chicago."

"Yeah, Susan said you two worked well together."

"Yes, just work."

"Just work," Kim repeated inanely. Kerry could almost see the light bulb going off over Kim's head.

A confused grin spread across Kim's face.

"So why?"

"Did I misrepresent things?"

`Yes. Why did you lie to me?"

Kerry winced at the word lie. "You surprised me. I don't handle surprises well."

"I guess some things never change," Kim said. She'd gone from confused to relieved to angry in the space of three seconds. She crossed her arms protectively.

Kerry reached out and grabbed Kim by the forearms to keep her from leaving the bed. She'd expected this type of reaction.

"And some things do. Some people do. We're not the same people we were but when I heard your voice that morning I was right back where you left me--alone in the psych ward watching you walk away. That scared the hell out of me. I didn't want to go through that pain again. I thought the best way to avoid that was to avoid you. But luckily you're not so easy to ditch," Kerry teased, trying to lighten the mood.

"Kim Legaspi, lesbian stalker. That's me," Kim said, still miffed.

"And I think I like having you around," Kerry admitted quietly. "If you're still interested in hanging around, that is."

Kim's smile lit up the whole room. "Oh, I'm interested. So when did you figure this out?"

"When that big guy was waving the knife at you. It was suddenly very simple. What I don't understand is why your tenacity? There must be many, less screwed up women out there?" Kerry had no illusions that she was easy to live with. Sometimes even she had trouble with her actions.

Kim lay back down. She reached out and gently cupped Kerry's undamaged cheek. At last she had a question she could answer.

"Kerry, I don't believe in fate or soul mates or "the one" but when I saw you on the boat my first thought was where the hell have you been, I've been waiting. And I remembered that's exactly what went through my head the first time we met. I don't know if this'll work but I know we have to try. That, or one of us has to move to Antarctica," she said half seriously.

Kerry inched closer. "I can't stand cold. You?"

Kim slid an arm over Kerry's torso. She got a close as she could with Kerry's cast in the way. Gazing down, she said, "No, you know I like things hot" just before she kissed her. Unlike the kiss after the dance, this one was soft and sweet and said welcome home. It was the next kiss that said I really want to fuck you senseless but maybe now's not the right time since you're injured.

Kerry's sudden gasp of pain made that point perfectly clear.

Kim sat up quickly. "Shit! I'm sorry. Maybe I should get back in my own bed."

"But we have a lot more to talk about, work out," Kerry whined.

"Yes we do but we don't have to do it all tonight," Kim responded with infuriating logic.

"I'd like you to stay," Kerry entreated.

Kim couldn't resist the first time she'd heard those words and she couldn't resist now. And truthfully, she didn't really want to resist anyway. "Okay, I'll stay, but we should hold off on the kissing for a while, at least until your face heals."

Kerry reached out and pulled Kim back down. "I'll stay on my side."

"That'll be a first," Kim said with a grin. She reached up and turned off the light. Then she carefully leaned over and kissed Kerry on the forehead.

When they parted, Kerry asked seriously, "Do you think we have a chance of making this work? I mean even if we can get past all the old anger and hurt we're still so different. Do you honestly think we have a chance?"

"Yes we're different. Hopefully that'll keep things interesting. At the very least it'll be cause for lots of makeup sex," Kim leered teasingly.

"Looking on the bright side Legaspi?"

"Always, Weaver, always."

Carefully, they snuggled back down and then warm and full and happy they quickly fell asleep.

Kerry woke up late the next morning to find her bed empty. She sat up in a panic. Then she heard Kim's voice in the next room. She was talking to someone. Kerry lay back down.

A few minutes later, Kim popped her head in the bedroom door.

"Hey, you're awake." She came in carrying a glass of water, Kerry's pills and a fresh ice pack. She sat on the side of the bed and handed Kerry the water and a pill.

"Okay, I called the tour company. The captain's already been in touch with them. They said the boat will be back in port in three days. We can wait here or, we can take a bus to its next scheduled port of call. That's a 400 mile drive, give or take. What do you think?"

"I think I'm not up to a spending a day traveling the hinterlands of Central America with my leg in a cast. I'm too old to be that adventurous. I'm going to wait here but you should do what you want. I'll be fine."

Kim rolled her eyes. "Kerry, I'm not leaving you here by yourself. Especially now that you're talking to me."

"But Kim, your vacation." Kerry protested.

"...was meant to be a vacation, not an episode of Survivor. And look, I'm in a tropical resort hotel with a beautiful redhead. What more could I ask for?" She smiled winningly.

"Clean clothes."

Kim chuckled. "It's under control. I'm going shopping this morning with Maria so you'd better make a list." Kim leaned close and looked in Kerry's eyes. "Now, how are you feeling?"

"Better now that you're here," Kerry said. It was true. Her knee and cheek still ached but those pains took a back seat to the joy of having Kim sitting there looking at her with such concerned tenderness.

"How much better?" Kim asked as she leaned even closer.

For a minute Kerry thought about grabbing the blonde but then reality intervened. "Not that much. Unfortunately."

"Damn," Kim teased. "Feel up to a shower before I go shopping?"

"That would be great. Do we have time?"

"I'll make time Red."

Kim helped Kerry out of bed and into the bathroom. There was a bench in the shower as well as handrails on the three tiled sides of the stall.

"This must be the gimp suite," Kerry commented as Kim helped her sit down. Kim knelt down and undid the clasps on Kerry's cast. Kim set the cast aside. Kerry shut her eyes and groaned her appreciation as she ran her nails up and down her newly exposed flesh. "Those damn things always itch," she mumbled.

Kim sat back on her heels and watched the redhead's sybaritic display. She knew she had it bad if watching Kerry scratch her leg was getting her hot. And she couldn't deny that it was.

Kerry opened her eyes and saw Kim avidly watching her. She had an eyebrow raised.

"Was it good for you?" Kim asked, huskily.

"Exceedingly," Kerry said with a satisfied grin.

Kim turned on the shower and then helped Kerry out of her clothes while the water warmed up. She helped her sit back down and then handed her the shampoo and the soap and washcloth. She lowered the movable shower head into reach and then stepped back to a safe distance.

"Aren't you going to join me?"

Kim backed further away and said, "Kerry if I join you I can guarantee that we'll end up doing something that you're probably not up to right now. So, no, I'm not going to join you. I'm going to go sit in the other room with a nice glass of water. Cold water. Ice water, in fact. Call me when you're done." Kim scurried out of the room without waiting for a reply.

Kerry sat under the warm spray for a long time letting the heat leach the pain out of her leg. Finally when she felt almost human again she scrubbed up and rinsed off. She'd be happy to sit there all day. She must have lost track of time because suddenly Kim was standing beside her. She was holding a towel.

"C'mon Kerry, you're starting to prune. Let's get you dry."

Kerry felt boneless and she really wasn't much help. Kim ran a towel lightly over her body and then towel dried her hair. Then she reached for the cast.

"Wait! Is there any lotion? It'll help with the itching."

"Sure, wait right there."

Kim walked over to the vanity and gathered up the lotion. She walked back over and handed it to Kerry. Kerry looked up at her pleadingly. "Could you do it, it hurts to bend."

Kim looked at Kerry suspiciously but she couldn't really refuse. So, again, she knelt in front of Kerry. She started to apply the lotion to her injured leg. She smoothed the silky oil down the long bones of her leg, taking care not to press to hard. She tried not to think about what she was doing but Kerry's skin felt like fire under her fingertips. Kerry's appreciative groans weren't helping her composure any.

Kim tried desperately not to look at the tempting display of flesh right in front of her. Kneeling, she was at eyelevel with Kerry's breasts. She groaned internally. She didn't know if she had that much self control. She shut her eyes and switched her attentions to the other leg. After what seemed like an eternity she was done. She leaned back and opened her eyes. And found Kerry watching her. Caught in the intensity of that gaze, she couldn't move.

Kerry moved for her; she reached out and grabbed Kim by the back of the neck. She pulled her in roughly and proceeded to devour Kim's lips. Kim whimpered and tried to pull back but Kerry wouldn't have it. She tightened her hold and when Kim opened her mouth she slid her tongue in commandingly. Resistance was futile. After a few minutes, Kim was able to pull away. She leaned back slightly, eyes glazed, and whispered "Are you sure about this?"

Kerry couldn't form actual words so she just nodded.

Kim smiled. "Okay, but tell me if anything starts to hurt." She leaned back in and where Kerry had been commanding, she was gentle. She rained soft kisses down Kerry's undamaged cheek. When she got to her neck she lingered there for a few moments. As she sucked and nipped at Kerry's neck, she ran her hands down Kerry's arms. She captured each of Kerry's hands in one of hers. She gently lifted her arms and placed Kerry's hands firmly on the shower support rails just behind her. "Hold on tight," she commanded. Then she began what Kerry considered a torturously slow journey southward.

But it was definitely worth the wait, Kerry decided thirty minutes later. She was sucking in great lungfuls of air and trying to slow her dangerously rapid heartbeat. Kim, wearing an immensely self satisfied grin, rested her head gently on Kerry's thigh. She licked her lips. "Mmmmm. Wet redhead, now that's what I call the breakfast of champions."

Kerry ran her hand lightly through Kim's hair. "When do I get to eat?" Kerry teased.

Just then there was a knock on the door. "Damn, that must be Maria. Stay here I'll be right back."

Kim ran out of the bathroom. She returned a few minutes later. "Okay, we're leaving in fifteen minutes so let's get you out of here." Kim was all business as she slipped Kerry's cast back on. Then she bundled Kerry up in one of the hotel robes and handed her her crutches. Once she had Kerry settled in a chair with her leg propped up, she handed her a piece of paper and told her to make a list of things she might need for the next three days. While Kerry was doing that Kim called room service. "What would you like for breakfast, Kerry?"

Kerry shot Kim a look that made her blush. "Settle for pancakes?" she squeaked.

Kim left Kerry sublimating with a big stack of pancakes and a couple of English language newspapers that Maria had thoughtfully provided. She promised not to be gone long.

Four hours later she finally made it back to the hotel laden with packages. Maria was right; there were some great shops in town. She set the bags on the sofa and looked around. There were no visible redheads. She peeked into the bedroom. Kerry was curled up in bed, sleeping soundly. She looked at peace. Kim leaned on the doorframe and watched Kerry sleep.

"You could come a little closer you know," Kerry said without opening her eyes.

Kim pushed off the frame and ambled over to the bed. She kicked off her shoes and slid in under the covers. Taking care not to jar her cast, she carefully scooted up behind Kerry. She slipped an arm over her waist and spooned her. "Close enough?"

"Not really but it'll do for now. How was shopping?"

Kim chuckled. "It was fabulous. Want to see what I bought?"

Kerry yawned. "Maybe later." She slipped back into sleep.

Kim wanted to stay awake but the warmth of the body in her arms and the steady rhythm of Kerry's breathing soon lulled her to sleep.

Kim woke up an hour or so later; the bed was empty. She scooted out from under the covers and walked into the living room. Kerry was on the phone; she smiled hello at the sleepy blonde.

Kim walked over and sat down beside Kerry on the small couch. She put her head on her shoulder and closed her eyes again.

"Yeah, that's right. I'll see you in a couple of days."

"No, don't worry; Kim's looking after me just fine." Kerry laughed and then blushed at Susan's muttered "I'll just bet."

Two could play that game. "Tell Bob hello. Bye, Susan."

Kerry reached over and hung up the phone. "Ready for lunch?"

"Are you coming on to me?"

Kerry chuckled. "Not at the moment but play your cards right."

"In that case, I'll need my strength," Kim opened her eyes and sat up. "How about you call in the order while I hop in the shower."

"Deal, and then you can show me what you bought us to wear."

"You know, Ker, we really don't have to wear anything," Kim drawled seductively as she played with the tie on Kerry's robe.

Although sorely tempted, Kerry knew there were things that needed to be said before they fell back into bed. Truth be told, she was a little ashamed of her lack of control that morning. Not that she hadn't enjoyed every second of it, she mused.

"Kim. Shower. Now!"

"Yes ma'am."

Once Kim was under the warm spray she didn't want to get out. She'd always loved hot showers. Tantalizing smells from the kitchenette finally drew her out. She wrapped herself in the remaining robe and, toweling her hair, strolled out of the bathroom.

She found Kerry precariously balanced on one crutch about to drop a plate. She was obviously trying to arrange an extensive selection of colorful dishes. Kim caught her just as she was about to topple.

"Whoa, there, Red. Need some help?" She grabbed the plate with one hand and Kerry with the other. She spun smoothly and deposited the plate on the table, thus freeing her other arm to wrap tightly around the older woman. She couldn't have planned it better if she tried. She steadied herself against the table, her arms full of off kilter redhead.

Kerry grabbed Kim's robe lapels to steady herself. "You're out of the shower," she said inanely.

"And none to soon I'd say."

Kerry stretched up and rewarded Kim's chivalry with a chaste kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for not letting me fall on my ass."

Kim blushed and tried to cover her embarrassment. "Well, it is such a nice ass," she said. She patted it affectionately before turning Kerry loose. "Besides, I'm starving; I couldn't let you drop dinner."

She looked at the food on the table and realized she hadn't eaten in quite a while. Snack sized redheads didn't count. Her mouth watered and she pulled out a chair for Kerry before sitting down herself.

For the next few minutes they ate eagerly. The silence was broken only by their moans of appreciation. "God this is good" and "what's in this?' were frequent exclamations. By unspoken agreement, they kept dinner conversation light and inconsequential.

In fact the rest of the evening was lighthearted. After dinner Kim started pulling things out of her shopping bags and they had an impromptu fashion show. Kim had done amazingly well finding clothes in Kerry's size. She'd had less success finding things long enough for her but with any luck she wouldn't need many clothes for the next few days.

When all the bags were empty Kim plopped down on the couch next to Kerry. "So, care to get dressed and hobble down to the beach? Maria recommended this little bar not too far from here. We could sip margaritas and watch the waves roll in. If you're feeling up to it that is."

Kerry was game. The day of rest had done wonders for her aches and pains and if they didn't get out of the hotel room they'd probably soon be doing something they weren't quite ready for. They slipped into some of their new clothes and headed out the door.

They found the bar easily. It was only about a quarter of a block away from the hotel. One whole side overlooked the beach and was open to the night air. They grabbed a table on the deck and Kerry ordered a pitcher of margaritas.

"Should you be drinking?"

"I haven't had any drugs since this morning. I'm feeling much better."

"Oh, okay then." Kim giggled and poured Kerry a drink. They sat and watched the light fade. They couldn't really see the sunset but they could see the stars gradually appear.

"So why did you decide to take this cruise?"

"I'm starting a new job soon so I took two weeks off to rest and relax and get everything organized from the move."

"Where are you moving?" Kerry tried to ask casually but she failed.

"Chicago, actually," Kim said. She was watching Kerry's reaction carefully.

Kerry choked on her drink. "Chicago?" she managed to sputter between coughs.

Kim giggled and patted Kerry on the back. "Yep. I've been offered a faculty position at Northwestern. I start a week after we get home."

"And you're just now telling me this?" Kerry was ecstatic. And terrified.

"We haven't really had a chance to talk, Ker. What with the time you wasted avoiding me," Kim smirked.

"Well, I'm all ears now, Blondie, so talk," Kerry ordered, in her best Chief's voice.

"I was surprised to run into you on the boat, Kerry, but I had already decided to look you up once I got settled in at home. I've wanted to apologize to you for a long time."

"Apologize? To me?" Kerry was stunned by this admission. "Why?"

Kim took a moment to organize her thoughts. She wanted to explain this right.

"About a year after I moved to San Francisco, I started doing some volunteer work at the Gay and Lesbian Resource center. Training hot line volunteers, overseeing some youth group sessions, designing some web pages-stuff like that. Anyway, one of our other counselors needed two weeks off. She and her girlfriend were going to Canada to get married and then honeymoon. I agreed to sit in on her group sessions while she was gone.

"One of her regular groups was a coming out at mid-life group, mostly women. I know it sounds clichéd but listening to those women. it really opened my eyes to what you were going through when we were together. I came out so young; our experiences were completely different. I mean, I knew, but I didn't really know, you know? "

Kerry nodded and smiled at Kim's phrasing but she didn't interrupt.

"I guess I'd finally acquired enough distance that I could look beyond my own hurt, see things from your perspective. Not just Shannon Wallace but our whole time together. I did push you for things that you weren't ready for. I'm sorry for that and for the way I shut you out at the end. I think separating was a healthy choice for me but."

"Separating?" Kerry snorted derisively. "You mean dumping me, don't you? Separating sounds so clinical and clean. You dumped me. Big time," Kerry added with a surprising grin.

Kim couldn't help but smile sheepishly back at her. "Yeah, I dumped you. And I think I was right to do that. You weren't ready for me, for us, and it hurt so much."

She looked down. "To be honest, I didn't think you would ever be ready. I should have had more faith in you. In us."

Kerry reached over and pulled Kim's chin up until she could see her eyes. "You weren't wrong to set boundaries."

"But I should have talked to you. I shouldn't have just shut you out like that. Maybe if I'd."

Kerry ran her thumb over Kim's chin. Her loving gaze effectively cut off Kim's self recrimination.

"I won't lie. It was hard, one of the most painful times in my life," Kerry hesitated. "But maybe it was necessary."

Speaking more to herself than Kim, she added, "God knows it took more than you leaving me to teach me the real costs of homophobia."

Trying not to sound like a shrink Kim asked, "What did? How did you manage to come to terms with things? Was it Sandy?"

Kim wasn't sure how she felt about Sandy Lopez but she knew jealousy and anger were part of the volatile mix.

"Partly." Oblivious to Kim's internal dialogue, Kerry continued. "Four people have played pivotal roles in this whole process. You showed me I was a lesbian. Sandy taught me I could survive outside the closet. Romano illustrated the many not-so- lovely forms of bigotry out there. But it was a stranger, a patient named Keith Mitchell, who taught me the real costs of homophobia. I owe him so much for that."

"What happened to him?"

"I killed him."

Of all the things Kerry might have said, Kim had never considered that. Consequently she didn't have her shrink face ready. Her expression revealed her profound shock at Kerry's statement. Kerry actually found that comforting. She didn't want to talk to Doctor Legaspi, noted psychiatrist; she wanted to talk to Kim, her friend.

Kerry's hands were unsteady and her voice shook but she managed to tell Kim the full story of Keith's death and her involvement with the alderman. She didn't gloss over the details and, for once, she didn't try to cover her tracks. She knew she was trusting Kim to understand something that she didn't fully understand herself. She wasn't looking for absolution. She just knew she had to come completely clean if their renewed relationship was to stand a chance.

Kim kept quiet during the story. She was awed by the level of trust it displayed. She could tell how troubled Kerry was by it. It was the kind of guilt you never completely got over. And maybe that was a good thing. Doctors had to walk a fine line between arrogance and humility. So, Kim sympathized even if she couldn't agree with Kerry's actions. All doctors had to make ethically difficult choices. And sometimes those choices bite you in the ass, she thought bitterly, but somehow you had to learn to live with them.

"I knew then that I had to find some way to deal with my shame or it was going to kill me," Kerry continued. "I went to a group like the one you sat in on. It was helpful. I did some individual therapy too but the most helpful thing was working with the Illinois Lesbian Health Collective. All those women, all their experiences, it put things in perspective. And to think I have Romano to thank for that," she said wryly.

"Thank you for telling me." Kim picked up Kerry's hand from where it was resting on the table.

"I had to," Kerry said simply. She squeezed Kim's hand gently. "You needed to know before case you don't want to." Kerry couldn't complete that sentence but Kim understood; she was giving her an out. Or seeing if she would run, depending on how you looked at it. Either way, Kim wasn't leaving.

"You're not getting rid of me that easily."

Kim smiled and tried to lighten the mood. She knew they had more to talk about but she figured that they now had years in which to do so.

"Did you know I used to drive by your house? Late at night, when I couldn't sleep."

"I can top that. I subscribed to six psychiatric journals on the off chance that you would publish something. By the way that dopamine study was brilliant."

"Thank you," Kim preened a bit before admitting, "I did a PubMed search once a week."

"I started buying sour cream and onion chips."

"I gave up fried chicken."

"I gave up George's."

"I dated a string of redheads."

"I dated anyone but blondes."

"I wouldn't date anyone under 5'5"."

"For months I slept in your blue shirt."

"I got rid of my hair dryer."

They both broke down in laughter. When she could catch her breath, Kerry looked across the table. Kim was smiling at her. Kim. Was smiling. At her. Kerry thanked whatever gods might be listening for this second chance. She wasn't going to screw it up this time.

"Let's go home, Kim," Kerry said suggestively. She thought it might be time to move this reconciliation along. She slid her hand slowly down the inside of Kim's thigh.

"Are you sure you don't want to talk some more?" Kim teased.

"If you screaming my name counts as conversation, then, yes, there will be more talk. Lots more talk!"

"Oh my!"

Epilogue One

Ten days later
Carter Family Clinic, Chicago

"Kerry did you know that ship captains can marry you?" Susan asked irritation evident in her voice.

Kerry had just walked in the door of the clinic. She was finally back at work. Susan hadn't seen Kerry since shortly after the boat picked her and Legaspi up. She'd popped her head in to say "hello, I'm still alive and I'll see you back in Chicago in a week." Then she grabbed her stuff and she and Kim had disappeared.

"Well they can." Susan held out her hand and then sighed. There was a silver and turquoise ring on her left hand. "And for the record, I'm never going on vacation again!"

Epilogue Two

Weaver/Legaspi household, Chicago
Two years later

Kim was standing at the foot of their king sized bed. She was wearing a gauzy silk robe when Kerry came in with a large metal canister. "Are you sure you want to do this at home?"

"Yes, the hospital is too cold and clinical. Besides, I'm a traditional kind of girl," Kim said, playfully waving around a plastic turkey baster. Kerry laughed, and then gasped as Kim suddenly dropped her robe to the floor. Kerry's mouth went dry at the sight of Kim in all her glory. She couldn't disrobe fast enough. She wondered if she could just leave her socks on.

Crawling backwards onto the bed, Kim whispered, "Besides we want to be able to take our time."

Kerry sans clothing was crawling onto the bed when suddenly Kim leaped up, startling her.

"Oh, wait, I forgot the offering!"

Kerry plopped down on her side and watched as Kim ran naked from the room. She returned thirty seconds later with a large bag of cheese puffs. She proceeded to place several puffs around the statue of Ixchel. She had held a place of honor in their bedroom since they started cohabitating eighteen months ago. Could be worse, Kerry mused, it could be those hideous clown dolls she loves. Thankfully, those had been banished to the guest room.

"Kim I can't believe you're doing this. You're a doctor, a woman of science." Kerry said, exasperation coloring her voice. She was more annoyed at the delay than Kim's neopagan observance. "Besides, I don't think Cheetos are a traditional offering for Mayan fertility Goddesses."

"I think they're great. Light, airy, full of cheesy goodness."

"Oh, well, in that case they're perfect," Kerry said snidely as she rolled her eyes. She flopped over on her back and sighed theatrically.

Kim shot her the eyebrow and completed her task undeterred. What Kerry didn't know, even after almost two years together, was that Kim often used Ixchel as a sounding board. It was better than talking to herself, she thought. And during the first six months when Kerry insisted they "date", Ixchel had regularly gotten an earful. Glancing appreciatively at Kerry's nude form, Kim decided it was time to restore the mood. Kim sauntered back toward the foot of the bed.

An inch at a time, she slid her nude torso up Kerry's prone form. When she finally made her way up Kerry's neck, she whispered in her ear, "Don't insult the goddess, Ker. We don't want to end up with quints."

The End

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