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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Reach Up
By Janine


They set down at an abandoned oil rig a few hours out of Texas. All of them had been going none stop for almost twenty-four hours and even though nobody particularly wanted to set down anywhere in the States (or anywhere at all for that matter) the pilots were falling asleep in their chairs and if they didn't get some rest they would have gone down anyway.

The rig hadn't been used in years, dust and rust covered almost every surface and the air was stale and stagnant. Still, there were no sickos around and there were junky cots and couches in various rooms that they were able to lay their weary bodies down on, which made it practically seem like a Holiday Inn.

Cherry lowered herself gingerly onto a cot, reaching down to pick up the machine-gun that was still attached to her stump and rest it on the squeaky bed before tipping her head back against the wall behind her tiredly. She felt like death warmed over and was convinced that if she closed her eyes she could sleep for two or three weeks straight at least. She was tired, tired down to her bones, but her body was oddly tingly and shaky which wouldn't let her settle down, and her right leg (or what was left of it) was beginning to throb.


Cherry opened her eyes and tilted her head forward to gaze at the door, a small smile touching her lips when she spotted a familiar blonde figure pressed against the doorframe of the room she was currently occupying.

"Hey," Cherry responded. "Come on in."

"Are you sure?" Dakota asked softly, the note of eagerness in her voice hinting that she was only checking to be polite. "You looked like you were about to drift off."

Cherry chuckled darkly. "The thought did cross my mind. Lots of thoughts do and this one was about as useful as most of them," Cherry replied shifting on the bed slightly to clear a space for Dakota to sit. "Trust me I'm wide awake."

"Me too," Dakota responded quietly moving further into the room and sitting gingerly on the edge of the bed. "I … I know I should be tired, and I am, but I'm restless too, you know. And terrified," she continued dropping her head down to gaze into her lap, "of the dark, even the dark behind my eyes. Actually, maybe that more anything else."

Cherry nodded. She understood that. Waking up and discovering she was a human pogo-stick was a shock that she did not want to go through again. She shifted on the bed, her hand unconsciously moving to the cool metal of the gun that it seemed would be a part of her for a while.

"How's your leg?" Dakota asked noticing the movement, her eyes focusing on Cherry's fingers as they caressed the metal.

"What leg?" Cherry asked a little smile on her lips though her tone was dark and her eyes troubled.

"Are you in pain?" Dakota asked impressed that the brunette was able to joke about it, even though the injury was clearly new and she was having trouble dealing with it.

"Yeah," Cherry responded resting her head back against the wall once more. "My stump smarts a little too."

Dakota blinked staring off into the corner of the room for a moment as Cherry's response washed over her. Of course she was in pain, they all were. She'd lost her lover and her son, Cherry had lost her lover and her leg, and all around them were people who had lost children, and parents, and siblings, and spouses and pretty much anything that had ever meant anything to them in their entire lives. They were all in pain, a pain that Dakota could barely comprehend, one her mind refused to understand, it was a bewildered, confused, and numbing pain that left them awake and laughing at nothing.

"I could help with the leg," Dakota said blinking focusing her attention on Cherry once more a few seconds later. "I'm a doctor, remember," she continued glancing down at the lab coat she had taken off of Bill's body to help with the chilly air before they left the helicopter. Her yellow, blue and red friends were in the breast pocket. And, by force of habit, she supposed, he'd also brought his medical bag with him so she had a few more supplies in there as well. It wasn't much, and it wouldn't last long, but it something, and it was enough for Cherry at the moment. "I have some of my friends here," Dakota continued patting the needles that lay above her heart.

"I wanted to be a doctor once," Cherry said somewhat wistfully after Dakota spoke. "People said I should be a stand-up comedian. I think now I'll have to be a pirate though," she continued looking over at Dakota and making an 'arrr' face. "I've already got the peg leg."

"You'd be the prettiest pirate I've ever heard of," Dakota responded eyeing Cherry for a moment, forgetting for a second that she was traumatized and hiding in an oil rig from a bunch of DC2 infected cannibalistic freaks with a taste for brains, as the beauty of the woman beside her washed over her.

Cherry smiled at that, her expression growing as the blonde blushed upon meeting her eyes and looked away from her.

"Pirate Queen, then," Cherry said softly drawing Dakota's eyes back over to her. She remembered the appreciative hold the blonde had on her body during their ride to the base, and that she had mentioned a female friend that sounded more like a "special friend" when they were trapped together in the hold. She didn't mind the looks though. She was used to being looked at. And considering that she was feeling just about the least attractive that she ever had in her life, it was kind of nice to have someone looking. "Why don't you introduce me to your friends," she continued seeing the blonde visibly relax.

Dakota nodded and brushed some unruly hair behind her ears before reaching for the needles. Her hands were steady as she removed the pouch from the pocket, and she felt a calm come over her as she uncapped the yellow one and shifted towards Cherry's thigh with it. It felt good to work. This was something she knew, something that was familiar and she needed that at the moment.

"My yellow friend is to take the sting off," Dakota said softly her eyes on Cherry before she smoothly moved the needle over to the woman's right thigh and quickly emptied it. "My blue friend you'll barely feel," she continued uncapping that one as well and moving it towards Cherry. "That means my yellow friend is working. And once you meet my redheaded friend," she went on, her voice just above a whisper, "you won't see me again for a few hours," she finished pulling the needle out of Cherry's leg watching her as her eyelids began to flutter.

"I feel kind of woozy," Cherry said her words slurring together as she blinked at Dakota and the room spun around her.

"It's okay," Dakota said softly. "My friends work fast. Don't worry," she continued reaching out to stroke Cherry's cheek softly. "You're okay. I'll watch over you."

Cherry nodded. She was really feeling very sleepy, and Dakota's voice was nice and warm and made her want to close her eyes.

Dakota watched as Cherry's eyes finally drifted closed and her chest began to rise in the slow steady pattern of sleep. She watched the brunette for a moment and then allowed her eyes to drift down to the soiled bandages that were wrapped around her leg just above where the machine-gun joined it.

Cherry might have been out, but she was still wide awake, and working did seem to calm her slightly, so she decided to see what she could do about cleaning that up too.

Cherry awoke slowly, still feeling groggy, blinking blurrily into the room around her as she tried to kick-start her brain.

She felt different than she had before she went to sleep, she felt lighter somehow.

"It's okay," Dakota said tiredly from her position in a chair near Cherry's bed. "It's by the side of the bed. I had to remove it to clean the wound."

Cherry struggled up into a seated position, her back against the wall, and then looked down the length of her body. The bandages wrapped around her stump were clean.

"You had a good surgeon," Dakota said struggling up to sit properly in the chair.

"That's comforting," Cherry murmured sarcastically. "Thanks," she added a moment later looking over at the blonde to convey that her sarcasm wasn't directed at her so much as it was hard to look at the glass as being half full.

"I know that being mobile is important to you," Dakota began softly, knowing that what she was about to say was likely something Cherry would not want to hear. "But you should stay off that," she went on glancing over at the machine gun, "or any prop as much as possible. It's irritating the stitches and will slow down the healing."

"If only that prescription included a seaside deck chair with a table beside me for margaritas," Cherry replied closing her eyes for a moment and tilting her head up to the ceiling, a smile touching her lips almost as if she could feel the sun on her skin. "I'll try, Doc, but I don't know how likely it is. Peggy," she continued glancing down at the gun. "Is my leggy, and I think we're going to be roughing it for a while."

"I always hated camping," Dakota replied knowing that what Cherry said was the best she could hope for. These weren't ideal times, and she would just have to watch the injury and hope for the best.

"Anything is tolerable with marshmallows," Cherry replied. "Especially toasted."

"We don't have any marshmallows," Dakota responded smirking a little at the brunette. "Or a fire."

"Oh," Cherry breathed out holding the blonde's gaze. "Well. This is gonna suck."

Dakota watched the brunette for a moment and then shook her head smiling before an actual chuckle emerged from her throat.

"You're funny," Dakota said a few moments later as she got her chuckles under control. "You should be a …"

Cherry leaned her head back against the wall a genuine smile touching her lips as she waited for it.

Three Weeks Later …

A Ranch on the Mexican Border

Cherry looked over to her side watching as Dakota approached from her spot under a large tree, smiling softly at the blonde as she lowered herself onto the ground beside her.

"Stargazing?" Dakota asked tilting her head up to the sky gazing at the twinkling orbs above. Over the last couple of weeks the stars had really begun to stand out against the dark canopy of the sky as city lights everywhere began to turn off.

"Hmm," Cherry responded softly looking up as well. "It seems strange that they're still up there, shining away. But at the same time its comforting … to know that some things do remain constant," she finished glancing over at Dakota, holding her gaze for a moment before shaking her head and looking away embarrassed. "That was hokey."

"No," Dakota said smiling over at her fondly. "It's true. No matter what, no matter where you are, you can always look up and see something familiar."

"I thought it was 'reach up'," Cherry replied a moment later glancing over at Dakota to gage her reaction.

"That too," Dakota responded slowly taking a deep breath before angling her head to look at Cherry.

"What was her name?" Cherry asked softly as Dakota's eyes fluttered shut for a moment. Dakota had witnessed some of her relationship with Wray, and heard about other parts of it over the past couple of weeks, and she had learned about the blonde's psycho husband, and the death of her son, but that 'girlfriend' she had mentioned back at the military base hadn't come up again.

"Tammy," Dakota said finally looking away from Cherry, staring out into the dark open field beyond them. "Her name was Tammy," she continued her voice cracking a little bit. "She was coming to save me from Bill, to wisk us away to a land of sunshine, and freedom, and love."

"What happened?" Cherry asked though she had a good idea. Through talking they had discovered that she had been treated at the hospital Dakota worked at, just a few miles away from where the DC2 outbreak originated.

"Sickos," Dakota replied softly. "They … they … got to her," she said stumbling over her words, unable to describe the condition Tammy had been in the last time she saw her.

"What was she like?" Cherry asked knowing from the damage that had been done to her in just a few seconds that Tammy must not have been in very good, if at all recognizable, condition when Dakota last saw her.

"She was beautiful," Dakota said softly, remembering Tammy before that horrible night, standing in the sunshine smiling at her. "She was strong," she continued. "Confident. Nothing daunted her. Nothing fazed her she would take things and roll with them. She was," Dakota went on smiling as tears pooled in her eyes, "a walking, talking contradiction. She could change the oil in your car and then give you a French manicure before pulling out her guitar and busting out with some Joplin. I was twenty-four hours away from being able to walk down the street holding her hand," Dakota continued squeezing her eyes shut. "And now … I would have lost her anyway," she said softly. The odds of Tammy having the immunity wouldn't have been good. "At least she never became one of them. She died quickly … and human."

Cherry reached out for the blonde wrapping her arm around her shoulder encouraging Dakota to lean into her body and rest her head on her shoulder. The world had gone insane, they had all lost almost everyone they loved and were heading to an uncertain future with a beach front view, but one thing that remained the same was that a hug was still a hug, and that was something that Cherry could do.

Dakota gingerly rested her head on Cherry's shoulder, but as the brunette began to gently pet her hair she pressed herself more tightly against the former go-go dancer, and when Cherry pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head, Dakota buried her face in the brunette's neck and wrapped her arms around her waist, practically crawling into her lap as her tears fell.

"Is it always going to be like this?" Dakota asked softly, sniffling a little long moments later as she pulled her face away from Cherry's neck though she remained resting against the other woman, soaking up her warmth and presence.

"Nah," Cherry said softly looking up before glancing down at the blonde head on her shoulder. "It'll be much brighter in a few hours."

Dakota sputtered out a laugh at that, seeming to chock on the sound.

"It'll get better," Cherry said a moment later her tone serious as Dakota looked up at her. "It can't get worse which means it has to get better," she continued. "I mean, we've done the hard part already, right? We've survived. Despite the fact that they ache, and break everyday, our hearts keep beating. We wake up, we eat, we talk, we walk, and we sleep. We're living, Doc," Cherry continued staring ahead. "We're still living and one day it will feel like it again."

"If you say so, I believe you," Dakota said snuggling against Cherry's side, actually seeming more at ease than she had been moments before because of Cherry's words.

"I'm just an asymmetrical former go-go dancer with a semi-automatic leg and a grocery list of useless talents. Why listen to me?" Cherry responded, genuinely interested in why Dakota had so much faith in her. Why they all did. She had become a sort of de facto leader among the group that had originally gathered at JTs and it confused the hell out of her.

"Because I want to," Dakota said softly. "When you speak, it's easy to believe and I want to believe. We want to believe," she continued looking up into Cherry's face. "Useless talent #42," she added smiling fondly.

"I think that's my line, Doc," Cherry responded though she met Dakota's smile.

"Like most of them it's not useless at all," Dakota responded seriously as she looked away from Cherry. "If we all had so many useless talents we could probably rebuild the country in a few days."

"I'm not Wonder Woman," Cherry responded a little bashfully, embarrassed by the compliments being piled on her, especially since she wasn't sure she could live up to them.

"Only because you lost your boots," Dakota replied smiling.

"Now who's the comedian," Cherry drawled though she was smiling too. "Besides, go-go dancers do it in heels."

"You sure do," Dakota murmured softly and appreciatively.

Cherry looked down at Dakota her eyes just catching the blonde's before she looked away blushing slightly.

Cherry smiled.

"Considering I'm the one named Cherry, you sure do look cute in red," Cherry commented a moment later, knowing that Dakota's blush deepened at her words from the way the blonde angled her face into her body even though she couldn't see her.

Dakota shoved her playfully, still mortified by the odd sexual comment she let out around Cherry, but increasingly less so. She was worried at first that she might put the brunette off, but Cherry didn't seem phased by her attraction to her, which relieved her. Cherry was now the best friend she had in the world and she didn't know what she would do if her slight crush on the brunette made her pull away from her.

"You shouldn't do that, you know," Cherry said swaying to the side with the push before swaying back into the position she had been in before. "I'm disabled. That's really mean."

"You're not disabled," Dakota replied softly. "You're bionic … kind of. Only instead of the ability to jump really high, you're leg is a gun that saves us from sickos."

"So really, not like the bionic woman at all then," Cherry responded chuckling a little. "I guess I'm more like … a cyborg."

"Robo-a-go-go," Dakota declared smiling a little looking up at Cherry once again, her embarrassment forgotten.

"That doesn't leave this tree," Cherry said lifting up her finger and pointing it at Dakota to show how serious she was.

"Cross my heart," Dakota responded still grinning as Cherry tipped her head back and looked up at the stars again.

"You know anything about those things?" she asked. "I know names like the Big Dipper, and Orion and all that, but I never found out what they actually looked like."

"I know a few," Dakota said looked up as well, removing one of her arms from around Cherry's waist to point at the sky. "You see that bundle of stars right there? If you follow them down like this you'll see they join up with …"

Two Months Later

Mexico, Tulum Ruins

"I think I used to wear more go-go dancing," Cherry commented lightly looking up as Dakota entered the cool chamber that she had commandeered as her room, her eyes taking in the blonde's sparse outfit.

"It's hot," Dakota replied without missing a beat, a small smile quirking her lips. The smiled stayed a little longer than usual on her lips, as Cherry's eyes stayed a little longer than usual on her body.

"It certainly is," Cherry replied her eyes remaining on Dakota's bared stomach before she blinked and focused her gaze on the blonde's face. "It's what chased me in here," Cherry continued a frown coming to her face as she glanced down at her foot. "At least your feet," she paused for a second her eyebrows drawing together, "foot," she amended, "isn't swollen," she continued looking back over at Dakota.

"True," Dakota responded grinning happily which made Cherry frown again. "Let's see what I can do," Dakota continued moving over to sit next to Cherry on the blanket covered stone slab she had been resting on, drawing the brunette's leg up into her lap once she was situated. "My yellow, blue and redheaded friends are gone and buried, may they rest in peace. But I do have a few little piggies that might be able to help," she finished wiggling her fingers.

"You're the doctor," Cherry responded relaxing, bracing herself on her hands behind her and giving herself over to Dakota's tender care.

Dakota rubbed her hands together warming them up, glancing over at Cherry, smirking as the brunette raised an eyebrow at her. "It's all part of the process," Dakota said simply rubbing her hands a little more. Cherry simply nodded. Dakota had never let her down before and she had no qualms about putting her life or her remaining foot in the good doctor's hands.

Dakota stroked the top of Cherry's foot, her fingers moving between cords located on top of the foot at Cherry's instep. She continued this motion stroking sole of the brunette's foot, alternating between gentle strokes and firmer stokes that dug into Cherry's tissues and caused the brunette to sigh.

Dakota shifted her attention slightly and began to make circular motions with her thumb and fingers over the sole of Cherry's foot, her eyes drifting up to watch the former go-go dancer's face as she worked. Cherry's eyes were closed and her lips were parted slightly as she titled her head up to the ceiling. She was heartbreakingly beautiful.

Dakota returned her eyes to Cherry's foot and took hold of it with one hand, using her other hand to slowly rotate Cherry's foot gently starting at the ankle and then moving near the ball of her foot. She repeated this motion in both directions, her eyes tracking up to Cherry's face once again when the brunette audibly sighed and arched her back slightly in pleasure.

Cherry bit her lip as she felt Dakota begin to knead the sole of her foot by pressing down on it with her fist, the blonde's other hand gently stroking the side of her foot as her fist applied a glorious pressure to the sole and arch of her foot. It felt good, it felt very good, and Cherry had to concentrate for a moment to keep herself from moaning.

"Lie back."

Cherry's eyes fluttered open, blinking rapidly as she tried to focus on Dakota.


"Lie back," Dakota repeated smiling softly. "Sitting up like that is keeping your muscles tensed," she continued removing her hands from Cherry's foot for a moment to move her hands to her own waist, undoing the light sarong she had tied around her waist over a pair of boy cut bikini bottoms, balling it up and shifting forward to rest it at the end of the bench so that Cherry could rest her head on it. "Lie back," she continued softly a moment later, her hand moving to Cherry's back to help support her as she lowered herself down against the make-shift bench.

Dakota returned her fingers to Cherry's foot, taking her big toe between her thumb and forefinger, rolling it before she began to slide her fingers down the toe to the end, applying a gentle pressure.

Cherry lost herself in Dakota's touch, her mind floating away as her body was enveloped by a pleasurable and tingly warmth. She hadn't really relaxed in almost three months and her body was responding to the soothing touch with gusto.

"Hey," Dakota said softly a long while later, leaning over Cherry's body as she spoke.

Cherry slowly, almost dreamily, opened her eyes. "Are you sure you're a doctor, because that was magical," Cherry breathed out softly staring up into Dakota's dancing blue eyes.

"It's nothing," Dakota said softly holding her hand out to Cherry to help her back into a sitting position, "Useless talent # 47."

"Trust me," Cherry responded grasping Dakota's hand, allowing the blonde to pull her up. "There's absolutely nothing useless about that particular talent. In fact your fingers might just be the most useful thing around here after oxygen, water, and Chef the Chef."

"Right behind Chef the Chef," Dakota said playfully. "That's a mighty big compliment."

"That's a mighty big talent," Cherry replied her eyes on Dakota as the woman glanced over at her before shaking her head self-consciously and looking away. Sometimes the blonde really was too cute and it made Cherry just want to wrap her arms around her and never let her go.

Cherry lifted her hand to Dakota's face and brushed a few stands of blonde hair behind the doctor's ear before allowing the backs of her fingers to trail down Dakota's cheek softly. She was sure that the platonic thing to do would have been to remove her fingers after that first stroke, but she felt Dakota tilt her head towards her hand and automatically caressed the smooth skin of the blonde's cheek once more, delighting in the soft warmth underneath her fingers.

"It's probably feeding time," Dakota said softly drawing her face away from Cherry's hand, her eyes dropping to scan the floor as she spoke. Cherry's touch was doing things to her, things she wasn't entirely sure that Cherry wanted despite how they had been teasing each other recently. They were things she wanted though, and it was making her want very much, it was making her ache with wanting and she didn't want to have to take things into her own hands before dinner.

"It probably is," Cherry replied steadily watching Dakota not making a motion to move.

"We should probably …" Dakota began but before she could get anymore out Cherry interrupted her.

"Dakota," Cherry said her voice drawing Dakota's eyes up to met hers though her tone had been soft. She wasn't sure that she had ever actually used the blonde's given name before - actually based on Dakota's reaction she was sure she hadn't – and she knew that using it would get the blonde's full attention.

"You said my name," Dakota breathed out softly blinking at Cherry, their faces only inches apart.

"It's a nice name. I've never said it before?" Cherry replied questioningly.

Dakota shook her head.

"Beautiful state, Dakota, breathtaking scenery," Cherry responded. "You're well named I think," she went on holding Dakota's gaze, not letting her eyes stray from the blonde's for a moment, not even blinking.

"Cherry," Dakota said softly, her tone shaky, uncertain, as she watched the brunette watch her. There had been a tension growing between them in recent weeks, one that wasn't at all innocent or friendly, but it had never been as thick between them as it was at the moment. And there was a part of her that wanted to give into it, that wanted to press herself against Cherry, that wanted to taste her lips and see if they lived up to the brunette's name, but there was also a part of her that was weary, that was still battered and beaten inside and was as afraid of acceptance as it was of rejection.

Cherry leaned forward after Dakota said her name, brushing her lips across the blonde's softly, and then pressing them more firmly against Dakota's lips a moment later as her hand drifted back up to the blonde's neck.

Dakota gasped a little in surprise at the first touch of Cherry's lips against hers, but relaxed into the contact when Cherry pressed their lips together once more, her lips parting allowing Cherry to deepen the contact between them when she felt the brunette's fingers gently massaging the back of her neck.

Cherry pulled back from Dakota's lips many minutes later, a sweet smile on her face as she cupped the blonde's cheek and stroked the skin there with her thumb lightly.

"Do you still want to go for dinner?" Cherry asked softly, her eyes drifting down to Dakota's lips briefly before returning to her eyes.

Dakota shook her head and leaned in attaching her lips to Cherry's once more.

The End

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