DISCLAIMER: Charlie's Angels and its characters are the property of Spelling-Goldberg Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As a budding lesbian growing up in the '70's, I adored Charlie's Angels. I'm pretty sure Cheryl Ladd was my first ever celebrity crush. It's still a mystery how I managed to see any episodes of the show, since my mom hated it. As an adult, I understand her issues with the sexploitation factor, but as a kid, I didn't notice any of that. I was simply in awe of three independent women who solved cases and kicked butt, and were good friends who supported each other. Still am, come to think of it.
SPOILERS: Missing scene fic for "Angels in Springtime." Spoilers for that episode. This story came about after I ran across an IMDB review of the episode "Angels in Springtime" (which has since been deleted), making fun of the idea that Kris could be incapacitated by being wrapped in hot towels. My goal was to explain that and write a friendship fic. The next thing I knew, Kelly kissed Kris and all of a sudden I had a developing relationship story on my hands. Some of the terms in the story may sound stilted to modern ears. I've softened the language a fair bit, but this is set in the '70's and is reflective of that time. The story starts at the tail-end of the penultimate scene of the episode "Angels in Springtime." If you haven't seen the episode, the first part of the story probably won't make any sense at all.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author
FEEDBACK: To cheerfuloceangazer[at]gmail.com

Springtime Angels
By ocean gazer


Kelly was none too gentle as she helped Sabrina grab hold of Norma Powers, who'd abandoned her wheelchair and was trying to flee on foot. They'd just discovered that the cantankerous retired actress--who delighted in antagonizing the staff at the Springtime Spa--was actually the murderer they'd gone undercover to catch. The older woman struggled to get free, still apparently under the impression that she could somehow outrun them.

Shaking her head at the absurdity of it all, Kelly tightened her grip on Norma. Turning on her heel, she started marching the formidable woman back down the path to the gym where they'd left her accomplice. Now that it was obvious the retired actress didn't actually need the wheelchair she'd been using, Kelly had no qualms about shoving her along, despite the older woman's very vocal protests. She wasn't feeling particularly charitable. Not after what Norma and Zora, the resort's physical therapist, had done to Kris.

She quickened her pace, glad that Sabrina kept stride, eager to get back and check on her teammates. They'd left Bosley to guard the menacing Zora and keep an eye on the incapacitated Kris, who'd been lying on a massage table, wrapped up like a mummy in heavy layers of steaming towels. Kelly shuddered at the memory of bursting into the gym and seeing the physical therapist holding a thick towel up to Kris' face, mere seconds away from suffocating the young blonde.

A murderer in a wheelchair, the resort's doctor and physical therapist running a blackmail ring, and the physical therapist acting like a Mafia hit man to boot. She couldn't say she'd expected any of that.

They reached the door to the gym and Kelly smiled grimly as Sabrina kicked it open with a flourish, making their captive jump in alarm at the noise. Bri took charge of Norma then, hustling the retired actress across the room to stand next to Zora, who was glowering at Bosley and the gun he had trained on her. She spared them only a brief glance before letting her gaze track over to the massage table where Kris still lay.

Though she and Sabrina had peeled off the top layers of boiling hot towels covering the blonde before racing after the escaping Norma, they hadn't had time to take off all of them. Not that they would have done so anyhow with Bosley and Zora both still in the room. Obviously the physical therapist had been the one to strip Kris down to her birthday suit in the first place, but that didn't mean they'd have been comfortable leaving their teammate exposed in front of her tormentor like that. Not to mention in front of Bos.

As she took in the situation, Kelly couldn't contain a sharp gasp. Kris was sweating bullets, her face flushed crimson and her pupils so dilated that only a faint rim of blue remained. The blonde alternated between panting for breath and whimpering. While the younger woman had been fairly coherent when they'd first found her, her condition had clearly deteriorated--she seemed thoroughly dazed and confused.

Kelly swallowed hard against the sudden lump in her throat.

She'd seen Kris in the aftermath of dangerous situations many times--violence and potential harm were just a part of their job. But never before had she felt quite so protective of the younger woman--or quite so helpless. While she and Bri had essentially taken on Jill's big sister role with Kris, neither of them had ever felt the need to shelter her, since they'd seen her strength and tenacity in action, and had been impressed at how easily she seemed to bounce back from whatever life threw at her.

That was the problem this time, Kelly realized in a flash. She'd never seen Kris like this before. She'd seen her panicked and preoccupied. But she'd never seen her plaintive or passive. Or so vulnerable. It broke her heart.

Kris whimpered again. The pitiful sound shook Kelly out of her momentary paralysis and she glanced desperately at Sabrina, who'd passed Norma off to Bosley while she restrained Zora.

Sabrina seemed to sense her scrutiny immediately, turning to face her, and Kelly quickly looked down at their suffering teammate, then over at the others. She was grateful for their long years of working together, for the way she merely had to share a glance with Bri to get her meaning across. Before she had time to blink, the dark-haired woman was issuing orders and hustling everyone out of the room, leaving her and Kris alone.

Kelly wasted no time stripping off the thick layers of steaming towels still encasing the blonde's body, wincing as heat pricked her fingertips. She couldn't believe how hot the sopping wet fabric still was. No wonder Kris was in distress. Especially since it was the second time in less than twelve hours that the younger woman had gotten dangerously overheated.

Kris had been lucky to escape heat stroke that afternoon after being locked in the sauna. But it appeared her luck had just run out.

Kelly winced as she pulled off the last of the hot towels and saw how red her friend's skin was. It looked like the blonde had been lying out in the sun for hours. Glancing desperately around, she saw a glass of water on a nearby counter and ran to grab it. She dumped the meager contents unceremoniously over Kris, careful to keep the water out of the younger woman's face, then looked frantically around for something else that might help.

A bucket in the corner by the cauldron of boiling water caught her eye and she raced over to it. She dumped its contents--wet washcloths--unceremoniously out on the floor and carried it into the gym's shower room. She turned on the faucet and held the bucket under the shower spray as best she could, filling it with cold water. It barely registered that she was getting soaked in the process.

She made her way back out to the main room as quickly as she could without spilling her precious cargo, and grabbed up a washcloth from the pile. Standing next to her friend, she dunked the cloth into the cold water and ran it carefully over Kris' face. Over and over, she dipped the fabric into the cold liquid, then swiped it over the blonde's reddened skin.

When the water in the bucket went from cool to warm from the heat picked up by the washcloth, Kelly set it down and pressed her hand gently against the youngest Angel's forehead, then against her cheek. Still alarmingly hot. And Kris had her eyes closed and was tossing her head back and forth, whimpering brokenly, murmuring Kelly's name like a plea, seemingly unaware of where she was or what was happening.

Kelly nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard footsteps behind her. She'd been so focused on her friend that she hadn't heard the door open. Bracing herself for trouble, she whirled around, then relaxed slightly when she realized it was Sabrina. The dark-haired woman hurried over and stood beside her, looking down at their overheated teammate, the back of her hand brushing lightly against Kris' forehead. The blonde quieted completely at Bri's touch, even her whimpers ceasing. Kelly didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad one.

Sabrina trailed her fingers down Kris' face, holding them against her neck for a moment, apparently taking the blonde's pulse. When the dark-haired woman finally looked up at her, Kelly felt a mix of relief and fear as she met the sharp, decisive gaze. On the one hand, Bri was a master at taking charge and knowing what to do. On the other, there was definite worry written in brown eyes.

"Keep doing what you can to cool her down, Kel. There's an ambulance on the way."

Kelly nodded, but Sabrina was out the door before she could form words. She had been about to ask if everything else was under control. But it must have been, otherwise Bri would still be out dealing with it. And even if it wasn't, she really didn't have it in her to care just then. She had more than enough to worry about.

She picked up the bucket and headed back into the shower room. She poured the warm water down the drain, then refilled the bucket with cold water and headed back to her friend. Methodically, she bathed the now silent and motionless Kris, ears pricked for any sound at the door that meant she needed to pick up a sheet to preserve the younger woman's modesty.

Emotions finally getting the better of her, she leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to her friend's cheek, then one to her lips. It was a display of affection she never would have allowed herself if Kris were actually conscious. Or if the ever-discerning Sabrina were still in the room.

Having a crush on the beautiful blonde was one thing. Having it no longer be her little secret...

She was in no way ready for that.

Carefully, she straightened a bit, her lips brushing lightly against her friend's sweaty forehead. She whispered, "Just hang in there for a little while longer, Kris. It's going to be okay, sweetheart."

She knew it wasn't the other woman she was trying to convince.

"You're here for Kris Munroe?"

Hearing the question, Kelly pushed out of the hard plastic hospital chair and sprang to her feet. Turning, she spotted the white-haired doctor who'd rushed to Kris' side when the ambulance arrived at the ER. She walked over to him, eager for news. Sabrina, who'd been pacing around the small waiting area, was at her side in a flash, one hand pressed against the small of her back as if to steady her. Bosley was slower to rise, but soon stood beside them as well.

The doctor smiled at them. "Your friend is going to be fine."

Kelly sagged in place at the words, a fierce wave of relief rushing through her. Sabrina's arm snaked around her waist and she was intensely grateful for the support. The hours of worry and waiting had been intolerable.

Seemingly oblivious to her reaction, the doctor continued his recitation. "Her body temperature is back to normal and we got her rehydrated without any trouble. She has some bruises and minor burns, but they don't seem to be bothering her too much and should heal up just fine."

Kelly heard Sabrina's sigh of relief and wasn't surprised when the other woman spoke for all of them. "That's good to hear. She's normally pretty indestructible, so we were getting a little worried. When can she go home?"

The doctor glanced between them quizzically and Kelly suddenly felt her heart beating in her throat. What wasn't he telling them? Before she could get too anxious, the man continued, "While she's recovered remarkably quickly from the hyperthermia, I am a bit concerned about her concussion."

Kelly felt her eyes widen with shock, and heard Sabrina's low whistle. Bosley stuttered, "Con...concussion? How did that happen?"

The doctor shook his head. "Honestly, I have no idea. She was too dazed to give us much information when she first got here, and she's hardly said anything since then. But I can tell you she's got a pretty good-sized bump on her head."

Anger flared up and Kelly curled her hands into fists. She'd seen the shattered table in Eve Le Deux's cottage when they went looking for Kris earlier in the evening, but hadn't thought much about it. She'd just assumed that it had happened days ago, while the various parties involved in the caper were searching for the dead woman's missing manuscript. But now she had a nasty feeling it had something to do with how their teammate had been incapacitated by Zora in the first place.

She took a deep breath, shoving that unpleasant thought away, and forced herself to calm down. She clarified, "But she's going to be okay, right?"

The doctor nodded. "Yes. She's young and healthy and should heal up just fine, especially since I'm putting her on medical leave for at least a week. But I am a little hesitant to release her so soon, since she said that she lives alone. The head injury may cause problems with coordination, balance, and dizziness that could make it hard for her to take care of herself initially. And she's likely to be fatigued and in a lot of pain for several days."

Kelly opened her mouth, but Bri beat her to it. "She won't be alone. We'll be there with her."

Quickly, Kelly added, "For as long as she needs us."

The older man glanced appraisingly between the two of them for a moment, then smiled. "In that case, there's no reason she can't go home tonight. Why don't you go keep her company while I get her discharge papers together? She's in room 108, just down the hall. I'll be in shortly and we can go over her care plan."

Kelly murmured her heartfelt thanks, only vaguely aware of Bri and Bosley doing the same, then turned on her heel and started down the hall towards Kris' room, her companions right behind her. Reaching the room, she knocked softly, then pushed open the door.

She stopped just inside the doorway, letting Bosley push past her, stunned by the sight that greeted her. It was something of a standing joke among the Angels that no matter what happened to them, they always managed to survive it without a single visible bruise or blemish or hair out of place. But Kris hadn't been so lucky this time. There was a splotchy red mark in the middle of her forehead and her face was pale and drawn.

It was jarring.

Kelly felt Sabrina's hand on her arm and offered a tight smile in response to the concerned look in dark eyes. The other woman raised a skeptical eyebrow, clearly not buying her "everything's okay" act, but merely patted her arm reassuringly before following Bosley over to stand next to the bed. She appreciated the little gesture, knowing that even though Bri knew better than to believe that she was fine, her friend at least understood why she was troubled.

She stood frozen where she was and watched warily as Kris looked over at her, the injured woman wincing as though the overhead light hurt her eyes. The blonde stared wide-eyed at her for a minute, expression unreadable, then looked away quickly, glancing between Bosley and Sabrina. Kelly could tell the blue gaze was slightly unfocused, as if the younger woman still wasn't tracking fully.

Bosley was as emotional as Kelly had ever seen him, clucking over Kris like a mother hen. While he cared about all of them, she knew he'd always had a soft spot for the youngest Angel. She wasn't too surprised when Bri chose to try and lighten the mood a bit.

"That's one heck of a bump you've got there, Kris. So much for you being hard-headed."

Despite her anxious mood, Kelly almost groaned aloud at the lame joke. The blonde had a stubborn streak, to be sure, but couldn't hold a candle to either of them in that department. Or to her big sister, for that matter.

She expected some kind of teasing come-back, given how good-natured Kris usually was. So it shocked her when the blonde merely frowned and reached up to touch her forehead gingerly as if she'd forgotten about it. The younger woman's voice was pensive. "That's just a bruise. The bump's on the back of my head."

Kelly noticed that Sabrina straightened subtly at the words, and could almost see the dark-haired woman growing more serious by the second as she intently studied their subdued teammate. After a minute, Bri asked carefully, "Are you up for telling us what happened?"

Kris looked down at her lap, fingers twisting in the sheet pulled up over her. The blonde took a deep breath. "I remember finding the manuscript, then hearing a noise outside the cottage. I put the papers back in their hiding place and went over to see what was going on. The next thing I knew, the door flew open. It smacked into me and knocked me backwards into the cabinet. I hit my head hard enough to see stars."

The young woman paused for a moment, and when she continued, her voice was strained and quiet. "When I could focus again and realized it was Zora there with me, I knew I was in serious trouble."

Still frozen in place, Kelly watched Kris carefully. Even from across the room she could see the white lines of her friend's knuckles from how tightly she was gripping the sheet. Sabrina moved closer to the bed, placing her hand on the blonde's shoulder, clearly picking up on the reaction as well.

Kris didn't look up at the supportive gesture, didn't offer a smile or a thanks or anything. That was distinctly out-of-character for their sweet and sunny teammate, and Kelly's worry ratcheted up a notch.

Eyes still downcast, the youngest Angel continued haltingly, "Everything after that is pretty fuzzy. I remember her throwing me across the room. I collided with a dresser...I think? Then I was somehow on the floor and she pulled me up by my collar. She backhanded me and sent me flying and I crashed into...something. Then it all went black until I woke up in the gym, wrapped up so tight I could only move my head, painfully hot and feeling like I couldn't breathe..."

Hearing the catch in her friend's voice, Kelly was at Kris' side before she'd even registered that she'd moved. She smiled her thanks as Sabrina quickly stepped back out of the way, and sat down on the edge of the bed, reaching out to cover the blonde's tensed hands with her own.

Kelly kept her voice soft and gentle. "It's okay, Kris. You're safe now, honey."

While the comforting touch was the most natural thing in the world, as touchy-feely as they all were with each other, she wasn't quite sure how her friend was going to react, since it was clear that Kris wasn't exactly herself at the moment. So she was relieved when the younger woman didn't pull away.

The blonde gave a single nod in response, still staring fixedly down at her lap. Then, abruptly, Kris unclenched her hands from the sheet and grabbed hold of Kelly's. The younger woman's grip was tight, as if she was scared or needed reassurance, and Kelly shifted her hands slightly so she could run her thumbs soothingly across her friend's whitened knuckles.

For a minute, there was nothing but silence in the room, even the often-oblivious Bosley not breaking the tableau. And then Kris sighed softly and slumped back slightly against the mattress.

Kelly was close enough to practically feel the tension draining out of the blonde, and it eased some of her lingering worry. She glanced up to see relief in Sabrina's dark gaze, the other woman clearly picking up on their teammate's reaction as well. She shared a knowing look with Bri, then turned her attention back to Kris, holding her friend's hands firmly, doing what little she could to provide support.

She was so focused on her teammate that she jumped when she heard a decisive knock at the door. Kelly barely had time to compose herself and murmur calming words to Kris before the doctor walked in, a packet of papers in hand. The man glanced casually over each of them, then seemed to settle on Sabrina as the one in charge--focusing on her as he explained the dangers of concussions and what symptoms to keep an eye on.

Used to Bri being the leader, Kelly merely sat quietly, holding her friend's hands, one eye on the doctor and one on Kris. She noticed that even though the younger woman had managed to lift her gaze to look at the doctor while he spoke, Kris still didn't seem to be tracking very well. It was clear to her that the blonde was only hearing about half of what he said--if that.

No wonder. It had been an awfully long day for all of them. Especially Kris.

Just as the doctor handed off the papers to Sabrina and took his leave, a nurse appeared with a wheelchair. Kelly saw Bri's assessing stare on Kris, before the dark-haired woman shifted her gaze to Bosley, studying him for a moment as well.

She had no idea what her teammate was looking for or trying to decide, but she didn't have time to wonder about it. Sabrina spoke quickly, her tone brooking no argument. "Kelly and I will take Kris home and stay with her until she's back on her feet. Bos, why don't you fill Charlie in and let him know Kelly and I won't be in the office for a week or two. Do you mind writing up the preliminary report on this case by yourself?"

To his credit, Bosley didn't appear remotely fazed by the way Bri was issuing orders--or the fact that she didn't bother to check with Charlie first before declaring that none of the Angels would be working while Kris recovered. Of course, Kelly knew their boss wouldn't object to the time off considering the circumstances, but it still amused her that when Sabrina spoke, they all listened. Even the mysterious and masterful Charles Townsend.

Bosley said, "I've got it covered. You girls just take care of Kris. I'll call Charlie when I get home tonight and let him know what's going on and what the doctor said. I'll deal with all the paperwork in the morning and then swing by Kris' place afterwards to check in and see if you need anything."

Kelly nodded appreciatively, and Sabrina offered a heartfelt, "Thanks, Bosley." He smiled in response, then said his goodbyes, kissed Kris carefully on the top of the head, and made his way out the door.

She glanced at Sabrina, who jerked her chin slightly towards their unnaturally quiet teammate. The gesture was subtle, unnoticeable by anyone who didn't know Bri, but Kelly understood exactly what she meant. Turning her full attention to Kris, she carefully slipped her hands free from the blonde's grip. Blue eyes stared at her in alarm and she patted her friend's shoulder gently, smiling reassuringly.

"C'mon, honey," Kelly said, keeping her voice soft. "Let's get you home."

She didn't miss the look of relief that brightened Kris' face at the words. The sight was like sunshine after rain.

Kelly woke leisurely, aware that she wasn't asleep, but drowsy enough that she couldn't quite force her eyes open. Particularly since she was incredibly comfortable right where she was, lying on her back on a firm mattress, a fat pillow under her head, and a solid warmth pressed up against her side.

For a confused moment, she thought she was at home and that her poodle, Albert, had jumped up into bed with her. But that didn't seem quite right--her mattress was softer and Albert was fuzzier. After a moment, she registered a low, steady roar in the distance. Then she identified the sounds of two people breathing--one taking slow, deep breaths, the other matching her own shallower, more frequent breaths.

At the sounds, full awareness came back to her quickly. It was the ocean she was hearing in the background. She was at Kris' house, in Kris' bed. She and Bri had spent the night to look after their injured teammate.

She opened her eyes, blinking away the remnants of sleep, and shivered slightly at the feel of cool air against her bare legs. Glancing down at herself, she noted the long-sleeved tee-shirt and shorts, and abruptly remembered Kris pulling out some of Jill's old clothes for her and Bri to sleep in, since they'd left their suitcases behind at the spa. Kelly had a vague memory of all of them changing for bed in a tired daze, then collapsing together in a heap on top of the covers, suddenly too exhausted to actually climb under the blankets.

Carefully turning her head to survey her surroundings, she wasn't at all surprised to find that the warmth pressed up next to her was Kris--curled on her side facing Kelly and sound asleep. She let her gaze linger fondly on the younger woman for a moment, drinking in the sight of the bubbly blonde so peaceful and relaxed.

Glancing over the top of her friend's slight form, she also wasn't surprised to find Sabrina on Kris' other side, spooned up against her, one arm draped across her waist, legs entwined with the blonde's.

The only unusual thing was that Kelly wasn't the one in the middle.

It definitely wasn't the first time the three of them had fallen asleep together in the same bed and woken in a tangle of limbs. It undoubtedly wouldn't be the last.

Occasionally, it was out of a need for comfort after a difficult case--the physical closeness reassuring all of them that they weren't alone. The three of them had always been incredibly affectionate with each other, to the point where even straight-laced Bosley didn't blink when they held hands or linked arms or sat on the couch right next to each other. It was just a mark of their deep friendship.

More often, however, it happened after one of their carefree girl's nights--when they'd all had a few drinks and ended up sleeping over at the home of whoever was hosting, rather than driving while impaired. It had always been far more comfortable for them to pile into bed together than to sleep on the couch or the floor, even though Sabrina usually snored like a buzz saw and Kris was a certified blanket hog.

Kelly smiled in amusement at the thought, her gaze drifting lazily over her sleeping companions. Make that one sleeping companion, she amended when she noticed a pair of dark brown eyes open and watching her. There was no trace of sleepiness in her friend's expression, and she realized Sabrina must have been awake for a while, but had stayed put to avoid disturbing them.

Carefully she rolled from her back to her side, trying not to wake Kris in the process. The younger woman shifted with her movements, murmuring uneasily and unintelligibly, but quickly settled again, curling up against her once more. Kelly propped herself up on one elbow and draped her free arm over the blonde, who snuggled closer at the contact.

"What time is it?" she whispered.

Sabrina lifted her arm off the blonde's waist and glanced down at her watch. "Almost eleven."

The dark-haired woman spoke in normal tones and Kelly frowned, glancing reflexively at Kris. But the blonde was still fast asleep. Her frown deepened as she registered Sabrina's words. "Really?"

Bri laughed. "Really. C'mon, it's not that hard to believe considering what time we finally got to bed."

That was true enough. It had been nearly one in the morning when they'd arrived at Kris' house after leaving the hospital. And even with all of them being exhausted after a very long day, it had taken another couple of hours to whip up an after-midnight snack and then wind down enough from the evening's excitement to be able to sleep.

Sabrina continued brightly, "The only unbelievable thing is that it wasn't Bosley who woke us up."

As if Bri's words were a cue, she heard three bangs on the front door. The sound was muffled by distance, but there was no mistaking the fact that someone was knocking. Kelly rolled her eyes and complained, "I wish I knew how you did that."

Her friend merely laughed again. "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

She shook her head while Sabrina carefully untangled her legs from Kris' and then rolled to the side and pushed herself up off the bed. Bri looked down thoughtfully at the blonde, who was starting to stir, then met Kelly's gaze--her expression unreadable.

Sabrina's tone was suddenly serious. "You and Kris take your time getting up and ready. I'll let Bosley in and we'll get the coffee on and see about making something to eat. There's no need for the two of you to rush."

While she usually could read Sabrina like a book, Kelly had no idea what was going on in her friend's head at the moment. She nodded anyhow. Bri was probably just concerned about their injured teammate.

She watched Sabrina make her way across the room, pausing to grab Kris' bathrobe off the back of the bedroom door and belt it on over the clothes she'd slept in. Once Bri was out of the room, closing the door behind her, Kelly turned her attention to Kris, who had rolled over onto her back and was blinking owlishly, one hand slanted above her eyes to shield them from the light filtering in through the gauzy curtains. She reached out, brushing her thumb lightly across the blonde's cheek, then pulled back in shock when her friend flinched as though she'd been struck.

That hadn't been at all what she'd expected.

Before she had time to react further, Kris hurriedly rolled over to face her. "Gosh, Kelly, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I swear I didn't. You just startled me."

The blonde's voice sounded shaky and she looked stricken. Her very real remorse immediately chased away any hurt Kelly might have felt. And the sight of the bruise on her friend's forehead--the mark having turned dark purple overnight--abruptly reminded her that Kris wasn't exactly in the best physical or emotional shape at the moment.

"I know. It's okay." Her response was simple, but she could see the relief in blue eyes at the words. After a beat, she asked carefully, "How are you feeling?"

She half-expected her friend to wave away any concern and say she was fine. It was what they all tended to do--Kelly because she'd learned early in life to protect herself, Sabrina because she always wanted to be strong and in control, Kris because she was irrepressibly cheerful.

But the blonde sighed heavily and her voice was almost painfully quiet. "I'm still exhausted and my head really hurts."

Kelly reached out again, slowly, pantomiming her movements, and stroked her friend's cheek gently. Kris didn't pull away this time, instead closed her eyes and leaned into the touch, sighing softly as if in relief. The reaction should have reassured Kelly, but instead, it made worry flare to life. There was something off, unusual, about the younger woman's response and she couldn't figure out what it was.

But there wasn't time to obsess about it because blue eyes opened quickly again as the sound of Bosley and Sabrina's chipper voices filtered through the closed door. Kelly soothed, "Take your time, Kris. There's no hurry. While we get washed up, they can start making breakfast. Well, I suppose it's more like lunch by now."

Kris frowned. "Is that safe?"

Having expected her friend to zero in on what time it was, it took Kelly a minute to connect the dots. She chuckled. "Safer than you might think. Sabrina will keep Bosley from throwing weird ingredients together, and he'll keep Bri from setting anything on fire."

She was glad to see a touch of amusement flicker across the blonde's face. But then Kris winced slightly and she was reminded of what the other woman had said in response to her earlier question. Kelly pushed up on one hand, getting herself into a sitting position, then climbed out of bed. She took a moment to stretch, then looked down at her friend. "Are you ready to get up, or do you just want to lie here and rest for a little while longer?"

Kris grimaced. "I don't really want to move, but I also really want to brush my teeth. And I need to use the bathroom."

Kelly held out her hand. "Here. Let me help you."

The blonde rolled to the edge of the bed, and she pulled her carefully to her feet. Kris swayed, as if dizzy, and Kelly quickly slid an arm around the younger woman's waist, steadying her and holding her upright. Her friend leaned heavily against her for a minute, breathing hard, then straightened slightly and murmured, "Thanks."

Kelly smiled, even knowing Kris couldn't see it. "Any time. That's what friends are for."

She kept her arm around her friend and guided her slowly across the room towards the bathroom. Though she hated seeing the younger woman in pain, she was grateful that Kris was allowing her to help.

Though they'd woken late in the morning, the day passed fairly slowly.

Somewhat to Kelly's surprise, Bosley and Sabrina were both uncommonly lively, all things considered. They chattered incessantly to each other while making lunch and cleaning up afterwards, and again while cooking dinner. Their running conversation only stopped when they settled down at the kitchen counter in the afternoon to play a few games of backgammon.

She was also a bit surprised by how quiet and withdrawn Kris was. While she knew the younger woman was tired and hurting, it was still disconcerting to see her usually irrepressible friend so subdued. The blonde picked at her food at mealtime, and spent most of the day curled up on the daybed, half the time with her eyes closed and her hand pressed to her head, half the time leafing listlessly through old magazines.

Kris didn't even want to go sit out on the deck and gaze at the ocean when Kelly suggested it. That, more than anything else, alarmed her. She held her tongue, not wanting to add to the strain the other woman was obviously feeling, but it renewed her determination to keep a careful eye on her injured friend.

Kelly spent most of the day floating around the edges of everything--adding her two cents to Bri and Bosley's ongoing conversation every so often, sitting on the end of the daybed with her own stack of magazines, Kris' feet in her lap.

Bosley left after dinner, and Kelly helped Sabrina wash the dishes while Kris sat at the counter, nursing a cup of coffee. The three of them settled in to watch a movie on television, then crashed early for the night.

They curled up in bed together again, under the covers this time, Kris once more sandwiched in between her and Sabrina. When the blonde snuggled up close against her, Kelly finally relaxed fully, and sleep came quickly.

The next two days passed in much the same way, only with earlier wake up times and without Bosley's presence. Kelly helped Sabrina with the cooking and cleanup. Kris straightened up the house, then dug out more of Jill's discarded wardrobe and did laundry so the two of them would have clean clothes to wear.

Kelly and Bri played several spirited games of backgammon and took a few short walks on the beach. Kris steadfastly remained inside, but put the old magazines in the trash bin and curled up on the love seat with a novel.

Sabrina spent less time talking, Kris spent less time napping, and Kelly spent less time worrying.

While Kris was still far quieter than usual, her appetite was better, she didn't take as many painkillers, and she actually seemed to be tracking what was going on around her, even if she didn't actively participate.

The only thing that truly discomfited Kelly was the number of times she looked up from whatever she was doing to find Kris watching her, only to have the blonde look away quickly and act like nothing had happened. At first, she thought she'd done something to make the younger woman uncomfortable. But nothing else in Kris' demeanor suggested that.

After the seventh or eighth time, she decided to just ignore the odd behavior and chalk it up to her friend's concussion. After all, Kris still wasn't acting quite like herself. And while it was definitely mystifying, it wasn't any of the worrisome signs of head injuries that they'd been warned to keep an eye on.

Besides, Kelly didn't exactly have room to talk. Over the past several months as her crush on Kris intensified, she'd spent enough time surreptitiously studying the blonde that she didn't really have the right to complain when the tables were turned.

Even if it was for completely different reasons.

Kelly jolted awake suddenly, not sure where she was or what had woken her. She lay blinking rapidly in the darkness, trying to get her bearings. After a moment, memory returned. She was on the daybed in the beach house's living room. She and Sabrina had decided that after three nights and days of them living in each others' pockets, it might be a good idea to give their recuperating teammate some space. They'd tucked Kris into bed, then she'd settled down on the daybed while Bri had made a nest of blankets on the floor near the fireplace.

She called Sabrina's name, but got no response. Using the rail on the side of the daybed for leverage, she pulled herself upright, then fumbled around until she found the switch for the nearby lamp. Light flooded the space, leaving her momentarily blinded, her vision still fuzzy with sleep. Once she could see again, she glanced over at the space where Bri had been sleeping. Blankets and pillows were strewn around haphazardly and there was no sign of her friend.

Then she heard the other woman's voice, slightly muffled, as if at a distance. She couldn't make out the words, but there was a definite note of panic in them. The sound woke her fully and she sprang to her feet quickly. Sabrina never panicked.

She ran through the living room, following the sound of Sabrina's voice to the bedroom. Pushing through the half-open door, she skidded to a halt just inside the doorway, blinking under the glare of the overhead light, taking stock of the situation. Kris was thrashing wildly under the blankets, eyes closed, sweat beading on her brow, clearly in the throes of a nightmare. Bri sat next to her on the edge of the bed, hands on the blonde's shoulders, calling her name and pleading with her to wake up.

Kelly could feel her heart beating in her throat at the alarming sight, but she moved forward without hesitation. Placing a hand on Sabrina's shoulder, she said quietly, "Let me try."

She didn't miss the look of relief in brown eyes as Sabrina got to her feet and moved out of the way. Kelly took her place on the edge of the bed. But instead of trying to hold Kris still, she grabbed hold of the covers and started pulling the fabric away from her struggling friend. She spoke loudly, but kept her voice as calm as she could. "Kris, honey, this is just a dream. You're not trapped, and Bri and I are here with you. You're safe now."

Over and over she repeated the words as she stripped the blankets off her friend. Kris' frantic movements began to slow as she was freed from the confining fabric. Scooting closer, Kelly reached out and brushed sweaty hair off the blonde's forehead, careful to avoid the lingering bruise. She kept talking calmly and clearly to the distressed woman, letting her know she was safe.

Suddenly, with a sharp gasp, Kris sat stark upright, the top of her head nearly colliding with Kelly's chin, eyes popping open, dark with fear.

For a minute there was silence, save for Kris panting harshly, like she'd run a mile full-out, her eyes wide and unseeing. Kelly continued talking to the blonde and smoothing her hair, trying to help ground her in the here and now. She could almost feel the weight of Sabrina's dark gaze on their teammate, and knew without having to look that Bri was analyzing the situation, trying to figure out what to do.

And then, Kris blinked rapidly, focus coming back into blue eyes. The blonde stared blankly at her for a minute, then abruptly burst into tears.

Kelly couldn't move for a moment, shocked to the core by the sight. In all the time they'd known each other, she'd never seen the younger woman look so lost.

But her astonishment wore off quickly as she registered her friend's very real anguish. Kelly reached out and gathered the distraught blonde in her arms. Kris was stiff in her hold for several seconds, then suddenly collapsed against her, head burrowing into her neck. She held the sobbing woman close, rocking her like a child, murmuring "I'm here" over and over, hoping the reassurance would soothe her.

Moments later, Sabrina sat down on the edge of the bed facing her, long arms going around both of them, holding them tight. She was grateful for Bri's support, was even more grateful for Kris' trust in her, in them.

Kelly had no idea how long the three of them were locked in the snug embrace. It didn't really matter. What did matter was that eventually Kris' sobs tapered off and the blonde began to calm.

"I'm sorry."

Kris' whisper was so soft that Kelly almost didn't hear it. She froze at the words, not sure how to respond to the unexpected statement. The Angels were a tight team, risking life and limb together. They always helped each other out without question, no matter how dire the situation or how urgent the need. She couldn't imagine what on earth the youngest member of their little family was apologizing for.

Kelly blinked in surprise when Sabrina abruptly released her hold on the two of them and sat up straight. She frowned when she saw Bri's sharp gaze rake over their teammate. Her frown deepened when she felt Kris go rigid in her arms, as if somehow feeling the weight of the other woman's scrutiny.

For a confused moment, she thought Sabrina was somehow offended by what Kris had said. But then she saw the dark-haired woman reach out and gently start petting blonde hair. Though Bri's voice was soft, it carried in the stillness of the night. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Kris. You didn't wake us up on purpose. You had a nightmare. And besides, we're your friends. We just want to help."

Kelly tightened her hold on Kris, the words reminding her that the younger woman was recovering from a concussion and still wasn't quite herself. Tenderly, she said, "Bri's right. We're family, and family always is there for each other. We love you, honey."

She was grateful when she felt Kris relax against her again, the tension draining out of the blonde as quickly as it had risen.

After a minute or two, Sabrina dropped her hand away from Kris' head and pushed up off the bed. Kelly looked questioningly at her, and Bri jerked her head in the general direction of the bathroom. She nodded.

Before long, the dark-haired woman was back--a glass of water in one hand and a wet washcloth in the other. Kelly loosened her hold on Kris, then helped her sit up and scoot around until they were sitting side by side on the edge of the bed, feet on the floor. She slid her arm around the blonde's back for support, then took the glass in her free hand while Sabrina bent down and gently swiped the washcloth over the younger woman's face, cleaning away the mess of tears. Once that was finished, Kelly handed Kris the cup of water.

While the blonde took a few small sips, Kelly watched Sabrina set the washcloth down on the bedside table, then straighten and carefully study the youngest Angel. She didn't quite know what her teammate was looking for, but she supposed it didn't really matter. The other woman was probably just trying to gauge whether or not Kris was really okay. After a minute or so, she saw Bri nod to herself, then heard her clear her throat.

Though Sabrina was usually their decisive voice of logic and reason, this time her tone was as kind and sympathetic as Kelly had ever heard from her. "Kris, do you want one of us to stay here with you while you try to go back to sleep?"

Kelly had no idea what to make of the way Kris' cheeks pinked at the simple question. Or the way the younger woman chewed her lip for a moment before giving a single nod and staring down at her lap.

She was further baffled by the fact that Sabrina didn't seem at all fazed by the blonde's odd reaction. Bri said gently, "It's all right, Kris. I just want you to feel safe and comfortable. I promise it's okay."

The words didn't do a thing to alleviate Kelly's confusion. But Kris seemed to understand what Sabrina was getting at, lifting her head to look up at Bri intently, her eyes very wide and very blue.

And then, before Kelly could get frustrated enough to ask what the hell was going on, Kris sighed softly and leaned against her shoulder, and she suddenly understood that to be the answer to Sabrina's question. Instinctively, she tightened her arm around the blonde's waist, holding her close. She was warmed by her friend's faith in her, even as she hoped Bri's feelings wouldn't be hurt.

But Sabrina merely smiled reassuringly at both of them, and leaned down, reaching out and brushing the tips of her long fingers lightly across Kris' cheek. The dark-haired woman said, "If you need anything, just yell and I'll be here in a jiffy. Sweet dreams, love."

Kelly felt like she'd missed something important, but she didn't have time to wonder about it before Sabrina nodded at her, then turned and padded out of the room, leaving the door cracked open behind her.

When the two of them were alone, Kelly slipped her arm away from Kris' back. She didn't miss the uncertainty on her friend's face, and spoke quickly. "Why don't you get comfortable while I take these things back to the bathroom. Do you want me to bring you anything to help you sleep?"

Kris stared quizzically at her for a moment, then shook her head and held out the water glass. Kelly took the cup with a gentle smile, then stood and retrieved the discarded washcloth before heading out of the room. Once inside the bathroom, she set the glass on the counter next to the sink, then rinsed out the washcloth and hung it on the rack to dry. Reflexively, she glanced in the mirror, grimacing at the dark circles under her eyes. She ran her fingers through her tangled hair, then resolutely turned away from her disheveled reflection and headed back to the bedroom.

She found Kris on the far side of the bed, under the blankets once more, lying on her back and staring blankly up at the ceiling. Kelly flipped off the light, then climbed into bed, slipping under the covers. She shifted around until she was lying on her side facing the blonde--close, but not quite touching. She couldn't read the younger woman's mood and was afraid of spooking her.

With the light from the full moon spilling in to the room through the thin curtains, it didn't take long for her eyes to adjust. Gaze locked on Kris, she suddenly realized the blonde was trembling and blue eyes were shadowed with anxiety. Kelly couldn't imagine what had caused the reaction and her heart seized in her chest for a moment.

Then, out of nowhere, her friend's earlier apology flitted through her mind and she thought she understood what was going on. With the concussion, Kris wasn't her usual spunky self--someone who spoke her mind and asked for what she wanted. The younger woman was back to being the shy, insecure girl Kelly had met a few times when she, Jill, and Sabrina were still at the police academy. That Kris had still been sweet and sunny, but hadn't yet blossomed into the confident, courageous woman she was now.

"C'mere, Kris," she said softly.

The blonde head turned towards her and she held out a hand in invitation. Kris didn't move, just stared at her for a minute. But there was no mistaking the need and longing in blue eyes.

Kelly coaxed, "You're not a burden, honey. I promise. I want to be here with you."

She didn't miss the fierce relief that rushed across Kris' face at the words. Abruptly, the blonde rolled over onto her side and snuggled up against her. Kelly scooted incrementally closer and wrapped her arms around the younger woman, hit hard by her own sense of relief at the tangible reminder that her friend was safe and sound.

For a moment, she held the other woman tight, craving the connection and reassurance more than she could have expected. She'd come closer to losing Kris than she really wanted to think about.

Then she loosened her hold slightly, embarrassed by her own neediness. She shifted around, pulling Kris with her as she went, wrangling them into a more comfortable position. When Kelly finally stopped moving, she'd maneuvered them so that she was lying on her back with her friend half-sprawled on top of her--one leg thrown over hers, the blonde head tucked neatly under her chin and pillowed on her chest. She abruptly felt tension flooding through Kris, and wrapped her arms around the younger woman, one hand rubbing her back gently.

"Is this okay?" Kelly asked quietly, suddenly worried that her friend's reaction was because of the inadvertent intimacy of their position. Though her intention in cuddling Kris was strictly platonic--solely out of a desire to comfort and reassure--she realized it might not have come across that way.

Then another thought occurred to her and she continued softly, "Did I hurt you?"

Kris didn't respond in words. But she felt the movement as her friend shook her head. Moments later, she heard a deep sigh, and then the body in her arms relaxed fully, the younger woman going completely boneless against her. Kris' free arm snaked around her waist and the blonde head burrowed deeper into the hollow of her neck, giving every impression that she was snuggling closer.

Kelly slowly let out the breath she'd been holding, and reached up with one hand to stroke her friend's hair, keeping her other arm wrapped tightly around Kris, holding the younger woman as close as possible.

Though the movement was awkward, she craned her neck so she could press a kiss against the top of the blonde's head. "Sleep tight," she murmured.

Kris whispered, "You too."

It wasn't long before the blonde's breathing slowed, indicating she was slipping into sleep. Tired as she was, Kelly stubbornly kept her eyes open, comforted by being so close to the woman she cared about so much, intensely grateful for her friend's trust in her.

At length, her exhaustion got the better of her. Lulled by the warmth of Kris' body against her, Kelly soon drifted into dreamland.

She could definitely get used to this, Kelly decided. Once again, she'd woken leisurely, not being jolted awake by the alarm. She was lying comfortably on her back, a warm weight pinning her to the bed. She opened her eyes, blinking to clear the fog of slumber, and smiled as memory returned.

Kris was still sprawled half on top of her, not seeming to have moved at all during the night. The blonde's breathing was slow and even, but Kelly couldn't tell if the younger woman was asleep or if she was playing possum.

Not that it really mattered, because Kelly's need for the bathroom was making itself known. Doing her best not to disturb her human heating pad, she carefully shifted out from underneath Kris, leaving the blonde curled up awkwardly on her side, then rolled off the bed and got to her feet.

She used the bathroom, washed her hands, rinsed her face, then combed her fingers through her hopelessly tangled hair. Shaking her head at her reflection, she yawned, then shivered from the slight chill of the hard floor against her bare feet. Hugging herself, she decided to crawl back into the warm bed for a few more minutes. She headed back into the bedroom and slipped under the covers, rolling onto her side to face Kris.

Blue eyes opened at the motion, blinking sleepily at her. Even the dark bruise in the middle of the blonde's forehead couldn't detract from how adorable the sight was. Kelly smiled fondly and reached out to trail a finger down Kris' cheek. "Morning, sunshine," she said warmly.

Kris' answering smile lit up her whole face. "Morning, babe," the blonde breathed softly, and leaned in close, pressing a kiss to Kelly's lips.

Even knowing the other woman was half-asleep and the gesture couldn't be anything more than friendly affection, it was still about the last thing Kelly expected. She froze in shock, blinking rapidly, gaping at her friend.

Kris pulled back abruptly, face going crimson, seeming suddenly wide-awake. Blue eyes darkened with panic. "I...I...I'm sorry."

Before Kelly could kick-start her brain or react to what was happening, Kris was off the bed and out the door.

It wasn't until she heard a loud crash followed by a heavy thud that Kelly finally shook free from her paralysis. She threw off the covers and jumped out of bed, searching wildly for a robe to ward off the chill. Grabbing one of the blonde's from the back of the bedroom door, she pulled it on, hastily belting it around her waist, and raced out of the room.

She skidded to a halt as she entered the living room, stunned back into immobility by the sight of Kris crumpled on the floor next to the end table, shards of glass from a broken vase littering the space around her. Sabrina was kneeling next to the prone woman, head lowered and hand on the blonde's shoulder, and the two of them were whispering urgently to each other, the words too soft for Kelly to hear. Heart beating in her throat, feeling utterly useless, she just stood there, eyes locked on her teammates.

At length, Sabrina lifted her head and looked up at her, and Kelly was taken aback by the glint of anger in dark eyes. Feeling suddenly shaky under the weight of the rebuke she saw there, especially since she didn't know what she'd done to cause it, she had to put her hand on the wall to hold herself upright. She watched, still and silent, as Bri practically lifted their fallen friend to her feet--easily swinging the barefoot blonde up and over the broken glass before wrapping an arm around Kris and guiding her over to the love seat.

Sabrina settled the youngest Angel on the cushions and sat next to her, an arm around her shoulders. Even from a distance, Kelly could see how pale the blonde was, blue eyes wide and glassy. It scared her. She started to ask if Kris was okay, but stopped herself, realizing it wasn't the right question. Instead, she asked hesitantly, "Are you hurt?"

Kris shook her head, but didn't reply in words, and Kelly's concern ratcheted up a notch. Especially when the blonde lowered her head and stared fixedly down at her lap.

Before Kelly could say anything else, she felt Sabrina's gaze on her. She braced herself for another reproof, but the expression in dark eyes had softened. Bri said mildly, "She got lightheaded from moving too fast and lost her balance. She's probably got some new bruises. But no harm done, except to the vase."

That was a relief, but it didn't lift the worry pressing down on Kelly's chest. Especially with Kris still staring resolutely at her lap, hands knotted, refusing to meet her gaze. Slow tears trickled down the blonde's face.

The sight broke Kelly's heart. Still leaning against the wall, held in place by the weight of her guilt, she said quietly, "Kris, I'm the one who should be sorry. Not you. I..."

She trailed off, suddenly unsure of herself, of what to say, and painfully aware that the two of them weren't alone.

Kris didn't look up. Her voice was a bare whisper as she said, "You don't have anything to be sorry for, Kel. I was completely out of line. You have every right to be upset. I...I don't know what I was thinking..."

Carefully, Kelly picked her way around the broken glass and over to a wicker chair. She sank gracelessly down into it, feeling as if the bottom had dropped out from under her. "Kris, you have nothing to apologize for. Honest. You were.... I was.... I mean--"

"Oh, for God's sake!"

Sabrina's frustrated interjection made Kelly jump, and she noticed that Kris had the same reaction. The blonde pulled away from their teammate's embrace and stared wide-eyed at Bri as though she'd grown another head.

The dark-haired woman patted Kris' shoulder reassuringly, then folded her hands in her lap and fixed Kelly with a pointed look. Sabrina's tone was level, but there was no mistaking the exasperation on her face. "Kel, either you tell Kris what's going on so she knows she's got nothing to worry about, or I will."

Kelly gaped in bewilderment at her friend. If Sabrina had suddenly started speaking Swahili, she couldn't have been more dumbfounded. She tried to respond intelligently, she really did, but all she could manage was, "Huh?"

Bri rolled her eyes. "Do you really think I haven't noticed you mooning over Kris for the past few months?"

Kelly blinked rapidly, her confusion shifting quickly to shock. On the rare occasions when she'd fantasized about revealing her feelings for the beautiful blonde, she'd never once pictured it unfolding like this. And it had never once occurred to her that her secret might not be, well, a secret. Her usual calm, cool, and collected demeanor was completely out of reach at the moment.

She stared incredulously at Sabrina, not even remotely sure how to respond, then steeled herself and shifted her gaze over to Kris, terrified of what she would see in blue eyes. She prayed for pity or understanding. She expected disgust and discomfort.

What she actually saw was something she'd never, ever imagined. Relief. Wonder. Hope.

In her wildest dreams, she'd never anticipated that reaction.

She couldn't make any of it make sense. She couldn't possibly be seeing what she thought she was seeing. Her mind was obviously playing tricks on her. It couldn't be anything other than wishful thinking.

Abruptly, she realized Kris seemed as uncertain and nervous as she was. The blonde's reaction unexpectedly steadied her, and suddenly she found that she could breathe again. At least she wasn't the only one who was caught completely off-guard by Sabrina's blunt statement.

Taking a deep breath, Kelly squared her shoulders and forced herself to hold Kris' gaze. "Cards on the table," she said quickly, knowing that if she didn't just admit the truth now, she never would. "Bri's right. I've had a crush on you for quite a while, Kris. I never planned to tell you and I never wanted to make you uncomfortable. I was fine with us just being good friends. I mean, I am fine with that. I don't expect you to feel the same way or reciprocate or anything."

She saw Kris open her mouth and held up a hand to forestall her. She needed to speak her piece without her confession being tainted by her friend's sympathy. Kelly continued, "I knew when you kissed me this morning that it was nothing more than a sleepy, innocent gesture, and I'm sorry I froze up on you like that. It was just...unexpected. And for a split second, it made me wonder if I'd...if you..."

The words stuck in her throat when she finally registered the depth of affection in blue eyes. Kris said quietly, "I kissed you because I've come to realize that I care about you. A lot. I mean, that I care about you in a way that's more than just friendly. And after last night, after the way you held me, I just...I thought it would be okay."

Kelly's mouth dropped open and she stared unblinking at the younger woman, wondering if her ears were playing tricks on her now too. When she noticed tiny tremors shaking Kris and saw Sabrina slipping a supportive arm around the trembling blonde, she realized she had, indeed, heard what she thought she'd heard. She wasn't imagining things. Gobsmacked, she blurted out, "You're kidding. How long?"

Kris took a deep breath, then blew it out quickly. The blonde spoke in a rush. "Not very long. Only since the other night in the gym. When you kissed me."

Blue eyes suddenly went wide, and doubt and fear flashed across the blonde's face. Kris bit her lip, knotting her hands together in her lap, then said hesitantly, "You did kiss me, didn't you? I didn't just imagine it, did I? Things are still pretty blurry and I...oh, God..."

At the obvious distress in her friend's voice, Kelly pushed out of her chair and went over to kneel in front of the blonde. Gently, she took Kris' tensed hands in her own, her thumbs running soothingly over whitened knuckles. "You didn't imagine it," she said softly. "We'd come so close to losing you and I was so scared, and I thought you were unconscious and would never know. I care about you, Kris. So much."

She was glad to see some of the anxiety drain out of the younger woman's face at the reassurance, but couldn't stop herself from asking, "It's really only been since then?"

Kris chewed her lip again and looked down at their joined hands. The blonde was quiet for a minute, then said haltingly, "It never occurred to me that it was an option. Liking a woman like that, I mean. I've felt this way about you for a long time, but didn't understand what it meant. Not until it was staring me in the face. I'd just assumed it was what I was supposed to feel for my best friend, since I'd never really had one before."

Had anyone else said that, Kelly probably would have assumed it was a mild exaggeration at best, an outright lie at worst. But she knew that the younger woman was a lot more naive than she appeared on the surface. And she could see the truth of the words on the blonde's expressive face, could tell Kris was trying her best to convey her thoughts and feelings honestly.

She didn't quite know how to respond, the conversation already so far outside her comfort zone that it was in another area code. Silence fell around them and she held tightly to Kris' hands, her thumbs still caressing whitened knuckles, taking comfort in the fact that her friend hadn't pulled away.

After a few very awkward minutes, she heard the clearing of a throat. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound, having all but forgotten that Sabrina was still in the room with them.

"Okay, so I think this is where I exit stage left, so the two of you have some space to talk."

Bri spoke calmly, but there was no mistaking the amusement in her voice. All at once, Kelly could see the humor in the situation and it helped calm her nerves. It didn't change the fact that she and Kris were overdue for a serious conversation. But she had to admit it was pretty funny that she'd been so convinced that the younger woman couldn't possibly share her feelings that she'd missed some fairly obvious signals. And that Kris had been so utterly clueless about everything until that moment in the gym. And that Sabrina--whose track record with romance and relationships was terrible--had been the one who'd figured out what was actually going on.

Kris still looked anxious, and Kelly let go of her hands, putting a finger under the blonde's chin and coaxing her head up so that their eyes met. "Whatever happens, it's going to be okay, Kris," she said, putting all the sincerity she could muster into her voice. "We're friends first and foremost, and I can't imagine anything changing that."

She saw traces of doubt in blue eyes, but was relieved when the younger woman managed a tight smile and a nod. Sabrina sprang up off the love seat and theatrically gestured to the space she'd vacated. Kelly rolled her eyes at her dark-haired friend, but obediently pushed up off the floor and sat down next to Kris.

Sabrina merely grinned impishly at her, then turned towards Kris and sobered again. Bri bent down, kissing the top of the blonde head, and said softly, "Kelly's right. It'll all be okay, love. Just talk to each other."

Kris nodded again, looking a little less worried, and Kelly was grateful to see it. Bri straightened and said, "I'm gonna swing by my place and pick up the mail, then go by Kelly's house and do the same. I'll stop at the grocery store on my way back, since the cupboards are looking a little bare. Think a couple of hours will do it?"

Though Kris didn't seem to know how to answer, Kelly nodded. That should be more than enough time. And even if they were still talking when Sabrina got back, it wouldn't be that big a deal. After all, their teammate had already heard their initial awkward confessions. Hearing other bits and pieces of the conversation would be small potatoes compared to that.

Meeting her friend's dark eyes, Kelly said simply, "Sounds good. And Bri? Thank you."

Not surprisingly, Sabrina shrugged off the acknowledgment, merely smiling at both of them and then turning to snatch up her purse on her way out the door. Idly, Kelly noted that while she and Kris were still sitting around in their night clothes, Bri had obviously been up for a while since she was fully dressed.

She didn't have time to dwell on that irrelevant observation because the door slammed shut and she and Kris were alone.

And there they sat, in silence.

Kelly's mind was racing, and she couldn't seem to put her thoughts together in any sort of coherent manner. It was clear to her that as nervous as Kris was, she was going to have to take the initiative. Knowing that, however, didn't do a thing to help her gather her wits enough to figure out where to start.

She glanced over at Kris and did a double-take when she realized the younger woman was trembling again. Was the blonde really that terrified of talking about this? Then Kelly took a closer look and realized that while she'd taken the time to put on a robe, her friend had run out of the bedroom in only a thin tee-shirt and shorts. Kris wasn't scared--she was cold.

All at once, Kelly's practical side took over and she finally felt in control of both herself and the situation. "I don't know about you," she said, keeping her tone deliberately casual, "but I'd be a lot more comfortable having this conversation if I had a nice strong cup of coffee in my hands and wasn't sitting around in my pajamas."

She saw relief flit across her friend's face. "Me too," Kris admitted. "Why don't you go get ready while I make the coffee?"

Half an hour later, they'd both had a chance to wash up and get dressed. Kelly had cleaned up the broken glass; Kris had poured the coffee. They sat on the love seat facing each other, each leaning back against one of its wicker arms, hands wrapped around their respective mugs. The earlier tension seemed to have dissipated with the flurry of activity. Now it was just a matter of figuring out where to begin.

To Kelly's surprise, it was Kris who broke the silence. The blonde took a deep breath, then stared intently at her over the rim of her mug. "How long have you known? That you like women as well as men, I mean."

That wasn't at all what Kelly had expected the other woman to ask, but it was as good a starting point as any. She shrugged, then said matter-of-factly, "I can't remember a time when I didn't know. Ever since I was old enough to feel attraction, I was drawn to girls as much as to boys. I just always dated men because it was the socially accepted option. I already stuck out like a sore thumb because I was an orphan with a checkered past. I didn't need the stigma of being queer on top of that."

Kelly shook her head at the still-bitter thought, then continued with a reminiscent smile, "Still, I've had enough women in my bed over the years to know that I definitely like them."

It amused her to see the blonde's cheeks turn pink at the bald assertion. Despite the younger woman's naivete, Kelly wouldn't have thought Kris would be so embarrassed by talking about sex, given who her sister was. Then again, Jill was enough older that maybe the two of them hadn't ever confided in each other about first kisses and puppy love and such.

Kris' reaction, combined with the question the blonde had asked earlier, sparked something in Kelly's head. She studied the younger woman thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "Honestly, I never would have guessed that you leaned towards women at all. I mean, I've seen how you are with men."

When she saw Kris squirm uncomfortably at the words, she paused. But needing answers, she forced herself to continue. "You wrap them around your little finger like it comes as naturally as breathing."

Kris put her mug down on the table with a thud, coffee nearly sloshing over the side, and stared down at her lap, seemingly unable to meet Kelly's eyes. The blonde's words came slowly. "All my life, I've watched Jill bat her eyes at every handsome man who came along. I've seen how she sweet-talked them into going out with her or seduced them into her bed. I learned what to do, how to act from studying her, but it's simply a role I've learned to play. It's not real. It's just something I do for the job."

Having spent way too much time watching Jill date her way through the phone book, Kelly didn't have a problem believing the first part of her friend's statement. And now that she thought about it, the only time she ever really saw Kris flirting was when they were on a case and were fully in public persona mode. Outside of work, the younger woman was just her cheery and charming self with everyone--male or female.

But she still stared incredulously at the blonde, since Kris had never struck her as the type to toy with people like that. She couldn't keep the sharp edge out of her voice. "Oh, come on. Sure, I know you ramp up the sex appeal while undercover in order to cozy up to any man who might be involved in the case. That is part of the job and we all do it. But what about with your boyfriends? You weren't just playing games with them, were you?"

She saw the way Kris tensed up at the question, and knew she'd hit some kind of nerve. Her immediate impulse was to apologize, but she tamped it down. Hard as the subject might be for the other woman to talk about, Kelly knew she deserved the whole truth. This conversation was too important to settle for anything less than that.

When Kris finally answered, still staring down at her lap, her voice was very, very quiet. "I've gone out on dates with a handful of guys over the years, but I purposely kept things casual to avoid leading any of them on. I've only had one actual boyfriend. That was in college, before I dropped out to join the police academy. Tommy and I had been friends for a while before we started dating. I told him in the beginning that I wanted to take things slow, and he said he was fine with that. We only got close to having sex once, and it...it wasn't my idea..."

Hearing those last words, Kelly felt as though someone had punched her in the gut. Instantly agitated, she had to set down her mug to keep from spilling her coffee. Kris seemed to sense her reaction, because blue eyes quickly came up to lock on hers, and a hand reached out to lightly stroke her arm. The younger woman said softly, "It's not what you're thinking, Kel. I promise."

The words and caress mollified her enough that she could breathe again. Kris shot her a tight smile before growing pensive once more, dropping her hand away and staring down at her lap again. The blonde continued haltingly, "We were kissing...then he started touching me...reaching up under my clothes. He was really into it, but I just got more and more uncomfortable. I asked him to slow down and pushed his hands away, but he just found new spots to...to fondle. Finally, I told him point-blank to stop. He wasn't happy about it, but he did."

Kris shook her head and there was no mistaking the distress in her tone. "I apologized, but he didn't want to hear it. He said he was tired of waiting for me to grow up and stop being such a prude. Needless to say, we never saw each other again. He was a nice guy who'd been really good to me and I still feel bad about hurting him."

Kelly put a supportive hand on her friend's arm, not missing the way Kris flinched at the contact. Though she was upset, she kept her touch gentle, only her voice conveying her anger. "You had absolutely nothing to apologize for, Kris. Nothing. He should have backed off immediately when you asked him to slow down. And you had every right to say no if you didn't want what was happening. Women aren't property and they don't owe men sex."

She wasn't terribly surprised when the blonde head snapped up at her fierce declaration, Kris staring open-mouthed at her. After a moment, the younger woman shook her head sharply, as if trying to clear it, then offered a one-shouldered shrug. "I guess. I mean, I know all that, Kel; I do. It's just that he was the kind of good-looking, terrific guy all the other girls were drooling over. And being with a man like that is what we're all supposed to want. Jill certainly always has. And I...didn't. Don't."

Before Kelly could figure out how to respond to that, her friend sighed heavily and looked down at her lap again. Kris continued dejectedly, "I've spent years wondering what was wrong with me. I've always felt like I was broken somehow. I mean, I'm still...still a virgin..."

The blonde's cheeks were crimson by the end of that little confession and blue eyes brimmed with tears. Kelly couldn't stand the sight of her friend's shame and anguish. Especially now that she finally understood what was going on. She scooted closer to the younger woman and pulled her into an embrace. Kris resisted at first, stiff in her arms, then collapsed heavily against her. She could feel hot tears soaking into the fabric of her shirt.

After a bit, Kelly loosened her hold and carefully pushed her friend upright so they were face-to-face. Kris was still crying softly, but met her gaze without hesitation, and the guilelessness and vulnerability in blue eyes took her breath away. She cupped the blonde's face in her hand and brushed a thumb across the younger woman's cheek, wiping away some of the tears. For a moment, she just stared deeply into Kris' eyes, trying to convey all the love and affection she felt through that connection.

Then Kelly said gently, "Sweetheart, you're not broken, and there's nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all. You've just never had the chance until now to discover that you're actually attracted to girls instead of boys."

She saw the flash of surprise in blue eyes, like the possibility of being gay had never occurred to Kris before. It probably hadn't, come to think of it. And it certainly fit with her friend's earlier admission that she hadn't realized liking women was an option.

Kelly wiped away a few more tears from the younger woman's cheek. She watched the blonde intently, seeing myriad emotions flit across the expressive face. If she had to guess, she'd say Kris was taking her words to heart--revisiting things from her life in light of this new revelation.

She remained quiet for a few minutes, giving her friend time to absorb the idea. Eventually, Kelly said earnestly, "There's no shame in not figuring this out about yourself until now. We live in a world that demonizes homosexuality, so it's not uncommon for people who feel same-sex attraction to repress it and keep it buried for years. Even those of us who don't learn to be very, very cautious about who we trust with that information."

Blue eyes were locked on her, Kris clearly paying careful attention to what she was saying. Smiling to lighten the mood a little, she finished, "And there's nothing wrong with still being a virgin. It's kind of sweet, actually."

Kris blushed at that and Kelly pulled her back into a hug. She held her friend close, gently stroking her fingers through blonde hair, and they sat together in silence for a while.

At length, it was Kris who pulled out of the embrace. The younger woman sat up straight, then grabbed hold of Kelly's hands, twining their fingers together.

"So what do we do now?" Kris asked seriously.

"What do you want to do?" Kelly asked, equally serious.

She could have blurted out all her hopes and dreams for the future. But she held her tongue, waiting for Kris to answer. Kelly was no stranger to dating and sex and exploration of sexuality. Been there, done that. It was obvious that it was totally unfamiliar territory for the blonde. She didn't want to move any faster or go any farther than the younger woman was comfortable with.

Even if Kris decided she only wanted to be friends, Kelly would be content with that. Especially since up until this morning, that was all she'd imagined she could ever have.

Eventually, Kris gave a one-shouldered shrug and said, "I don't know." There was a measurable pause, and then the blonde shook her head and sighed. "No, that's not true. I do know."

Kelly stared at her friend, confused, and saw Kris glance away shyly. The blonde's voice was quiet. "I want what we're supposed to want with men. Going out on dates. Spending time together. Being intimate."

Kris' cheeks flamed red as she said the last words. Kelly squeezed her friend's hands reassuringly, but before she could do more than that, the younger woman continued gamely, "I want to explore having a relationship with you, to see if we can make a life together. That's what I want to do. But I know it's not socially acceptable and I remember what you said earlier--"

"Oh, honey, that's not what I meant."

Kelly felt bad about interrupting, but she couldn't let Kris keep thinking the wrong thing. She saw bewilderment on the expressive face and spoke quickly. "When I was younger, I didn't want to be the odd one out--not any more than I already was. Dating men was easier. But even back then, I couldn't pretend that I didn't like women too. I just kept that part of my life hidden. Now, I'm comfortable in my own skin and past the point of caring what other people think of me. Life is too short to pass up any chance of happiness."

She untangled her hands from the younger woman's and reached out, fingers cupping Kris' chin and turning the blonde's head so they were once again facing each other. Emphatically, she said, "As happy as I am being your friend, I don't want to miss out on the possibility of being even happier as your girlfriend."

It wasn't the most eloquent sentence she'd ever spoken, but the relief and joy shining in blue eyes let her know that she'd gotten her point across. Still, there was one more thing she needed to make clear.

Stroking her fingers down Kris' cheek, Kelly said softly, "I know this is all new for you and realizing these things about yourself is probably a little overwhelming." She felt, rather than saw, the blonde's answering nod. "I want the same things you want. To date and spend time together, and, yes, to make love. Never doubt that. But I'm not in any rush. I want you to feel comfortable with this, with us. We can go as slow as you need, sweetheart."

Kris exhaled shakily, as if a weight had been lifted, and abruptly Kelly had her arms full as her friend snuggled heavily against her. She held the younger woman close, reaching up to gently comb her fingers through blonde hair, and waited patiently.

At length, Kris said slowly, "I have to admit that I'm a little scared. Not of you, of being with you. Even though that's the part I probably should be nervous about, it feels...natural. Like it's just an extension of the relationship we already have. It's just..."

There was a significant pause before Kris rallied and continued, "It's a lot to come to terms with all at once. And while I don't usually care too much what other people think, I am afraid of..."

Kelly heard Kris sniffle and finished the thought for her. "You're worried about what Jill will say."

She felt a nod against her shoulder. Though she knew it was a genuine concern, Kelly couldn't help but chuckle. "Kris, honey, Jill loves you more than anyone else in the world. Even though she probably won't understand any of this, all she'll want is for you to be happy. She'll just think you're nuts for not wanting a tall, dark, and handsome man with a nice big package."

"Ewww. Really, Kelly?" But Kris' tone was more amused than disgusted. Clearly the blonde knew her sister's taste in men very well.

There was another pause, then Kris spoke again, her tone earnest. "Thanks, Kel. For being willing to take things slow. It means a lot. And for the conversation...the reassurances...everything. I've spent the last two days trying to figure out how to broach the subject." The blonde chuckled. "This isn't at all how I expected it to happen."

Kelly laughed. "Me neither. I think we need to take Bri out for a fancy dinner or something. We definitely owe her. Who knows how long we both would have continued dancing around our feelings."

Kris snuggled closer. "Yeah." After a moment, the blonde said, "When I ran out of the bedroom this morning, all I could think was that I'd completely ruined our friendship. Now, I'm glad I went with my heart and kissed you."

Kelly grinned, even knowing Kris couldn't see it. "Me too."

After a moment, she pulled back slightly from the embrace. Kris looked up, confused, and Kelly gave her a tender smile. She said, "But I think maybe it's time for a real kiss. One that we're both prepared to enjoy."

She leaned in, seeing blue eyes flutter shut as she drew near, and touched her lips lightly to the blonde's. The kiss started soft and sweet. It didn't stay that way for long. Kelly pressed harder, love and desire blossoming in her chest at the contact, and felt the younger woman's lips part beneath hers. She deepened the kiss, her mouth claiming Kris', her tongue darting out to explore the warm wetness.

Kelly marveled at the way Kris opened up willingly to her, and was deeply touched by the awareness of how thoroughly the younger woman trusted her. She lifted a hand and cupped the back of the blonde's head, holding her close as their mouths meshed together.

When they finally broke apart with a gasp, Kelly stroked the back of Kris' neck and whispered, "Wow."

"Yeah," Kris murmured.

"Was that okay?"

"Oh, yeah."

Kris' tone held a note of breathless wonder, and as she studied the younger woman carefully, Kelly saw the same kind of dazed awe and astonishment in bright blue eyes.

As if understanding the reason for her scrutiny, the blonde reached up and trailed gentle fingers down her cheek. "It was more than okay," Kris said dreamily. "I've never felt anything like that before. I never knew a simple kiss could feel so...so...amazing."

Kelly smiled, warmed all the way through by both the words and the blissful expression on the blonde's face. She pulled Kris back into a hug, loving the way it felt to have the younger woman in her arms, cuddled up against her. Softly, she said, "It was pretty amazing for me too."

Kris snuggled closer, arms tightening around her. Kelly sighed in utter contentment, resting her cheek against the top of the blonde head. She'd never imagined being able to hold her friend like this. She didn't intend to take a second of it for granted.

Kelly opened Kris' refrigerator for the third time, scanning its meager contents as if a new option would suddenly present itself.

Bri hadn't been kidding when she said the pantry was getting bare.

Glancing at her watch, Kelly wondered absently what was keeping her teammate. It had been nearly three hours since Sabrina left them alone to talk. Though she wasn't concerned that something bad had happened, she was starting to get hungry. She and Kris had slept through breakfast, talked through brunch, and it was now edging past lunchtime. No wonder her stomach was growling.

She turned towards Kris, who was standing in front of the coffee maker, waiting for a fresh pot to brew. The blonde was staring blankly at the empty mugs on the counter, chewing her lip, clearly lost in thought. The sight made Kelly's heart do a little jump in her chest, suddenly afraid that despite the conversation and the kiss, the younger woman was starting to have doubts.

As if sensing the scrutiny, Kris looked up, then walked over to her, reaching out to place a hand on her arm. At the calming touch, Kelly felt some of her anxiety fade away. The blonde said seriously, "There's nothing to worry about, Kel. Honest. I was just thinking about work. About how I don't want this...us...to interfere with the job. I love working for Charlie. I love working with you and Bri and Bosley."

Kelly hadn't yet gotten that far in her thought processes, but understood exactly what the other woman was talking about. "I love it too," she said. "I know our relationship will change things in some ways; it would be impossible for it not to. But I don't want to give up working together either, especially now that we're such a tight-knit team. Losing Jill, even though it was her choice to leave, was hard enough."

Kris caressed her arm lightly and said softly, "You guys are my family. I don't want to lose that."

"You won't."

At the sound of Sabrina's voice, Kelly jumped in surprise. She hadn't even heard the door open. Judging from Kris' fish-out-of-water expression, the blonde was equally startled. She slipped free from the hand on her arm and whirled around to see Bri in the doorway, three bags of groceries precariously balanced in her arms.

Without a word, Kelly ran to rescue one of the bags, Kris right on her heels. The three of them made their way into the kitchen, setting the groceries on the breakfast bar.

Looking over at her dark-haired teammate, Kelly saw the smirk on Sabrina's face. Abruptly recalling the other woman's intrusion into the conversation, she fixed her with a pointed look and raised a questioning eyebrow. She was vaguely aware of Kris' mild befuddlement at the nonverbal exchange, but ignored it, her focus on Bri.

She noted the way Sabrina's smirk dropped off under the the weight of her stare, the dark-haired woman's expression quickly growing sober. Bri shrugged and said, "Change doesn't have to be a bad thing. The two of you getting closer will probably only help with our work. We're effective as a team because we're a family and we care about each other. We wouldn't be nearly as good at our jobs if we didn't know each other so well."

Glancing at Kris, Kelly saw a thoughtful expression dawning on the younger woman's face. The blonde said, "Like the way the two of you seem to predict each others' moves and usually know what the other is thinking with just a look."

Sabrina nodded. "Exactly."

Kelly canted her head to the side, mulling it over. At length, she offered, "You have a point. I'm just afraid Charlie will start doubting our ability to be professional."

"Who says he needs to know?"

Bri's tone was dead serious, and Kelly gaped at her. She had not expected that. To her further surprise, Kris was nodding emphatically.

Sabrina continued earnestly, "We spend half our time undercover, pretending to be people we're not, putting on whatever persona is needed to be convincing in that role. We pretend we don't know each other. We've even pretended to hate each other. We act like we're totally into men who give us the creeps, and not one of them has suspected otherwise. Your friendship hasn't affected your ability to play those roles, to do whatever is necessary to solve a case. There's no reason to think that will change even if your relationship does."

Kris spoke up. "We're acting when we're out in the field and it's not like we'll somehow lose that ability just because we love each other. And if we do..."

Bri raised an eyebrow and stared at each of them in turn, saying, "I'll be the first one to kick your butts and tell you to get your heads on straight. Well, figuratively speaking, of course."

Kelly burst out laughing at that. That was so very Sabrina. And it was a profound relief to know the other woman had their backs--both in the sense of being okay with them being a couple and of calling them on it if it became an issue. She resolved then and there that it wouldn't be, and as she glanced at Kris, she was certain the contemplative look on the blonde's face meant that she was making the same sort of silent pledge.

Then Kelly looked back over at Sabrina, returning to the subject they'd conveniently glossed over. Unable to keep her sudden unease out of her voice, she asked, "So you don't think we should tell Charlie? Do you think he'd have a problem with it?"

Sabrina glanced between her and Kris for a moment, then said carefully, "I have absolutely no idea how he'd feel about it. Quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to find out. What I'm saying is that as long as you do your jobs, what you do on your own time is none of his business. If he and Bosley figure it out on their own, terrific. They can ask about it then. If they don't, then it doesn't matter anyhow."

Kelly nodded, the words making sense to her and easing some of her anxiety. Their boss was an odd mix of progressive and old-fashioned, and she had no more idea than Bri what his opinion on the subject might be. Caught up in her own reactions, she was startled when she realized that Kris was laughing.

She stared incredulously at the blonde, who held up a hand and said, "Sorry. I just.... The idea of Bos noticing anything out of the ordinary..."

Kris shook her head, still laughing, and the sound helped Kelly shake off the last of her momentary melancholy. Replaying the blonde's words, she started to chuckle. Bosley was skilled with facts and figures and paperwork. Personal nuances, however, tended to slide past him unnoticed unless they were extremely obvious.

She glanced at Sabrina, whose eyes were twinkling with amusement. But Bri's tone was mild as she said, "I doubt he'd pick up on anything unless you two started making out in the office. Though, come to think of it, I'm not actually sure he'd think twice about that. We might have to test that theory."

Kelly rolled her eyes at her friend, but heroically resisted the urge to stick out her tongue. She looked over to see that Kris' cheeks were pink, and despite the situation, she couldn't help but find the sight endearing. She stepped closer to the blonde and slipped an arm around her waist, pulling her into a sideways hug. Sabrina chuckled and said, "Relax, Kris. I'm not serious."

The blonde merely shook her head. "I didn't think you were," Kris said patiently. "I do agree that we don't need to tell Charlie or Bosley about the change in our relationship unless they bring it up."

Kelly chimed in, "Me too." She paused, waiting until Sabrina's eyes met hers, then said sincerely, "Bri, I'm really glad that you know about us and are okay with it. With us. You know what I mean."

She watched as Sabrina moved over to stand in front of them, placing one hand on her shoulder and the other on Kris'. The dark-haired woman smiled at each of them in turn. "Of course I'm okay with it. You're my dearest friends, and as long as you're happy, I'm happy for you."

Dark brown eyes locked with Kelly's. "You good?"

Kelly nodded, feeling like her sudden grin would split her face, though all she said was, "I'm good."

Sabrina shifted her attention to Kris, and Kelly was struck by the way the dark-haired woman's expression softened as she looked at the blonde. Somehow, she'd never quite noticed how protective Bri was of the youngest Angel.

Gently, Sabrina asked, "How are you doing with everything, Kris?"

Kelly turned her head in time to see the blonde's face light up in a brilliant smile. Kris spoke brightly. "I'm terrific!" The younger woman paused for a moment, then continued thoughtfully, "Well, apart from the lingering headache and the still-aching bruises and the fact that I'm starving."

On cue, Kelly's stomach growled. Loudly.

Expecting Sabrina to poke fun at her, she was pleasantly surprised when her friend merely rolled her eyes and said indulgently, "Well then, it's a good thing I picked up some sandwiches at the deli. C'mon, let's get the groceries put away so we can eat."

As the three of them worked together quickly and efficiently, Kelly couldn't help but feel a surge of gratitude. During her years in the orphanage, she'd longed for a family to call her own. Now, she had one in her friends, and she couldn't imagine a more perfect fit.

After the intensity of the morning, Kelly was glad the rest of the day passed in a lazy blur. At Sabrina's urging, the three of them ate lunch out on the deck, finishing up right as a rainstorm blew in.

While Bri made a number of phone calls, Kris curled up on the love seat with her book. Kelly settled in beside the blonde, pulling her into her arms. She was perfectly content to just cuddle the younger woman as she read, reveling in the freedom to finally show her love and affection openly.

Kelly volunteered to make dinner, working around Sabrina, who was propped at the breakfast bar doing a crossword puzzle. Afterwards, Kris helped Bri clean up, then the three of them settled in for a game of Monopoly.

When they all started yawning, Sabrina declared it was time for bed. The dark-haired woman plopped herself down on the daybed and shooed Kelly and Kris into the bedroom.

Kelly couldn't help but smile at Bri's automatic assumption that her place was at Kris' side.

She slipped under the covers and snuggled up close to Kris, giving the blonde soft, sweet kisses. Warm and comfortable with her arms wrapped around the woman she adored, Kelly fell asleep quickly.

The next morning, Kris woke complaining of a nasty headache. The blonde barely ate breakfast, and was listless and fatigued. Kelly got her settled on the love seat with a blanket tucked around her, then joined Sabrina at the breakfast bar for a quiet game of backgammon.

She kept a weather eye on Kris, noting the fact that the blonde alternated between leafing aimlessly through a catalog and staring blankly at the wall.

When Kris couldn't keep either her lunch or a dose of painkillers down and admitted her headache was getting worse, Kelly was beside herself with worry. She was glad that Sabrina remained calm, cool, and collected.

Kelly sat down on the daybed with Kris and held the increasingly nervous blonde while Sabrina called the doctor. She listened with one ear to the one-sided conversation, most of her attention on trying to console her friend. At length, Bri hung up the phone and assured them that there was probably no reason for alarm--that the doctor said it wasn't unusual for patients to start feeling better, completely overdo it, and suffer a setback.

His recommendation was for Kris to get a lot of sleep and do as little as possible for a day or two.

While it was a relief to hear, Kelly felt incredibly guilty, certain the heavy conversation of the previous day had triggered the reaction. Even Sabrina's reassuring hand on her shoulder and quiet "It's not your fault" didn't help.

Kris appeared oblivious to the exchange, seemingly in too much pain to notice. The younger woman curled up in a ball on the daybed, head pillowed in Kelly's lap, tears trickling down her face, whimpering occasionally. Kelly gently stroked blonde hair, the connection as much to reassure herself as to try and comfort her friend.

Tense and anxious, Kelly didn't start to relax until Kris finally fell asleep. She was grateful for the way Sabrina floated around the edges of the small house doing her own thing, giving the two of them some space.

That night, Kris woke them both with her horrific nightmares. After the third one, Sabrina ended up staying in the bedroom with them.

Kelly cuddled the trembling blonde close, doing her best to soothe her, while Bri spooned up protectively behind Kris and held them both tight.

Thankfully, once sandwiched securely between them, Kris was finally able to sleep without dreams.

The next two days were more of the same, with Kris exhausted and hurting. Though the blonde's nausea was gone, so was her appetite. Kelly could only coax her to eat enough to take her painkillers.

Kris spent most of the time lying on the daybed with her head in Kelly's lap, sometimes sleeping, sometimes just resting quietly.

Kelly did her best to keep the younger woman calm and comfortable, while Sabrina tended to all the minutia of daily life.

At night, they didn't bother with separate sleeping arrangements--just piled into bed all together. Kris' nightmares weren't as haunting, and Kelly was able to quickly and easily soothe her back to sleep afterwards.

When they woke the next morning, Kelly braced herself for another stressful day. But Kris bounded out of bed with more energy than she'd had since her encounter with Zora, and said her headache was almost gone. The blonde insisted on cleaning up after breakfast and then doing a load of laundry, since Kelly and Sabrina had been taking care of most of the chores during her convalescence.

Kelly watched the younger woman like a hawk, afraid she would overexert herself and end up relapsing again. After a while, Sabrina pulled her aside and told her to stop hovering--that it was important to let Kris start doing little things as she felt up to them.

Though the assurance didn't completely ease her worry, Kelly tried to take it at face value and relax. After all, Bri was the one who'd talked to the doctor and knew what signs and symptoms to keep an eye on. And besides, the blonde had done work around the house earlier in her recovery with no adverse effects.

After lunch, Kris' energy petered out. The younger woman spent the afternoon out on the deck, curled up in a lounge chair under a beach blanket, staring out at the rolling waves. The fact that her friend finally wanted to be outside near her beloved ocean was a huge relief to Kelly. As was the fact that Kris, despite her lingering fatigue, was acting more like her usual cheerful self.

While Sabrina took a leisurely and well-deserved bubble bath, Kelly sat out on the deck next to Kris, alternating between reading a magazine, glancing out at the surf, and watching the blonde. Seeing the younger woman so peaceful and relaxed, soaking up the sun like a cat, made her smile.

That night, Sabrina slept on the daybed once more, while Kelly snuggled up with Kris. This time, their sleep wasn't interrupted by bad dreams.

Things improved dramatically over the next week. Enough so that Sabrina went back home and back to the office, helping Bosley catch up on paperwork.

Kelly remained off work and continued staying at Kris' house to keep an eye on the still-recovering blonde. But she also started venturing out during the day to run errands, getting back to some of her usual routines. She even met twice with Eve, the client from their last case, who wanted some help with a personal matter.

Much as she loved hanging out with Kris, she knew they both needed some time apart and alone. The blonde's lack of protest spoke volumes.

Kris had a follow-up appointment with her doctor, who cleared her to go back to work.

The blonde's nightmares had all but disappeared, and she was steadily regaining her energy.

Kelly was relieved that everything seemed to be getting back to normal. Well, everything except their friendship, which had definitely changed. She was even more relieved that Kris, despite struggling to come to terms with her sexual orientation, didn't seem to have any doubts about pursuing a relationship.

Three months later, Kelly stood out on the deck of Kris' beach house, leaning against the railing with her arms crossed on top of it, staring out at the last rays of sunlight flickering on the horizon. Through the open sliding glass door, she could hear Kris' teasing voice and Sabrina's infectious laughter. The two of them were in the kitchen, making dinner for a long overdue girl's night.

Kelly tuned out the noise, sighing softly into the gathering darkness as she reflected on the past several weeks. Between going undercover and long hours doing all the decidedly non-glamorous minutia of detective work in the form of exhaustive research and endless paperwork, the team hadn't had a full weekend off in months. The last two weeks, they'd worked ten to twelve hours a day, every single day, piecing together the clues to tie their client's accountant to a clever--and incredibly complicated--money laundering scheme.

They'd finally gotten the last pieces to the puzzle in place that morning, to everyone's immense relief. The work, while not remotely dangerous, had been grueling.

Especially coming on top of a series of cases where they'd each had some pretty harrowing experiences while undercover. Kelly had been deliberately trapped in a fire, suffering a nasty burn on her arm, and then had nearly been drowned in a swimming pool. Sabrina had been taken hostage at gunpoint. Kris had been drugged and kidnapped by a religious fanatic. The blonde had also--in the most surreal experience any of them had ever had, which was saying something--wrestled an alligator.

This girl's night, which was the start of a whole week of vacation, was something they all needed very much.

Kelly smiled at the thought, more than ready for some time off. And some quality time with her girlfriend.

Somehow, in the midst of all the long hours and the chaos, she and Kris had managed to go out on a handful of actual dates. They'd spent several more evenings just hanging out together, splitting time between each others' homes--talking, playing games, or cuddling up to watch television. They rarely stayed overnight, having decided not to make a habit of that while they were still in the beginning stages of their relationship.

They'd also made a pact not to step outside the bounds of friendship while at the office or undercover. No stolen kisses. No displays of affection other than the kind of hand-holding and hugging they'd openly offer Bri as well. They didn't want the personal to bleed over into the professional. It had been a little awkward at first, but with Sabrina's help and support, it quickly became second nature. Enough so that neither Bosley nor Charlie appeared to have noticed any change at all.

Out in the field, she and Kris were part of a team, putting on whatever roles they needed to play to do their jobs. In the privacy of their own homes, however, they were most definitely a couple.

Kelly found it a little frightening how easily they'd slipped from being friends to being something more, how seamlessly their lives seemed to fit together. It helped, of course, that they'd been close to begin with, but she couldn't remember ever settling in quite so quickly with any boyfriend or lover before.

Not that she and Kris were lovers. Not yet, anyhow.

They'd spent plenty of time kissing and had done some fully clothed exploring, but the younger woman was still skittish about taking that step and Kelly wasn't about to push her. Especially not after what had happened between Kris and Tommy. The last thing she wanted was to make the blonde feel pressured like that again.

And she never, ever wanted Kris to feel guilty about saying no or wanting to take things slow.

Besides, as much as she desired the beautiful blonde, Kelly was utterly content with what they had--feeling cared for, understood, and accepted in a way she'd never experienced with a partner before. That sense of belonging had been like a whole new world opening up for her. One she'd longed for her whole life without having a clue what, exactly, she was longing for.

As if her thoughts were a summons, she felt arms slip around her waist from behind. She smiled as she pushed away from the railing and leaned back against Kris, melting into the blonde's embrace. The sun had completely slipped below the horizon and the only sound was the crash of the surf. Standing there in the quiet darkness, secure in her girlfriend's arms, Kelly felt wholly at peace.

After a few minutes, Kris spoke quietly against her ear. "Oh, babe, I forgot to tell you that Jill called this afternoon. She said to tell you hi. She's in France right now, preparing for her next race, but is planning to come home for a visit in a few weeks."

Kelly smiled at the undisguised excitement in her girlfriend's tone. She knew how much Jill meant to Kris. And how scared the younger woman had been of losing her sister.

A month before, Kris--despite being a nervous wreck--had worked up the courage to come out to Jill as gay and to tell her about her budding relationship with Kelly. Braced for confusion or disappointment, at best, the young blonde had been completely gobsmacked by her sister's nonchalant reaction. The former Angel had said she always suspected Kris played for the other team and was glad she'd finally figured it out.

Even Kelly had been stunned by that, not having expected the idea of same-sex attraction to ever occur to her man-crazy friend. What hadn't surprised her, however, was Jill's assertion that all she wanted was for Kris to be happy, and that she loved her little sister and would always have her back, no matter what.

Kris had practically been on cloud nine ever since, relieved beyond words by Jill's easy acceptance.

After a moment, Kelly said, "Let me guess. She also told you to remind me that if I ever hurt you, I'll have to answer to her."

It wasn't an actual question. Jill's fierce protectiveness towards her baby sister was the stuff of legends.

Kris laughed softly, the sound like bells tinkling. "Of course she did. But I told her not to worry. That I'm terrific. You're terrific."

Kelly smiled again, warmed by the words. Leaning back against Kris, she was intensely grateful to be here like this with the woman she loved, intensely grateful for supportive friends like Sabrina and Jill. She knew better than most just how cruel and cold the world could be to anyone who was different, and she didn't take her circle of friends--her chosen family--for granted. She knew just how fortunate she was.

They stood in companionable silence for a while, then Kris said, "We should probably go inside, m'dear. Dinner will be ready soon and Bri's chomping at the bit to start playing bartender."

Kelly chuckled. "I'll bet she is. After spending hours and hours poring over financial statements with a fine-toothed comb, I think she needs a good stiff drink or three. I know I sure could use one."

Kris laughed again. "I don't need a drink, but I am starving. C'mon."

Kelly rolled over in the bed, bumping up against Kris and grabbing her girlfriend in a clumsy embrace. She pulled the blonde close and tried to kiss her lips, but got the tip of her nose instead. She tried again, but got the younger woman's chin, then her neck, then--somehow--her ear.

When Kris held her at arm's length and fixed her with a look that was equal parts incredulous and amused, Kelly rolled onto her back and burst into giggles. She watched as the blonde pushed up on one elbow, hovering over her, and then felt a gentle hand come up to brush hair off her forehead. Soft lips pressed a kiss to her cheek. "Kelly, honey, just lie still and relax. You need to get some sleep."

"Don' wanna sleep yet," Kelly protested. "Can I have another kiss?"

Kris leaned down and gave her a tender kiss on the lips. Kelly tried to reach up and wrap her arms around the blonde to pull her down for an embrace, but couldn't get her uncoordinated limbs to cooperate. She pouted. "Can I have a hug? Please? My swee'heart. My darlin'. My sunshine."

"My ears. My poor ears. My poor innocent ears. I may never recover from this. Get a room, you two."

Hearing the dramatic--and clearly feigned--disgust in Sabrina's voice, Kelly burst out laughing again, forgetting all about her request. She couldn't see her teammate, since Bri was on the other side of Kris, who they'd maneuvered into the middle for some reason. But she could clearly picture her dark-haired friend rolling her eyes at them.

Kris abruptly sat up and Kelly giggled even harder at the sight of her girlfriend shaking her head in exasperation. But the blonde's voice was patiently indulgent when she turned towards Sabrina and said, "We did get a room. This one. And you'll be just fine. You--and your ears--haven't been innocent for a very, very long time."

Kelly bit her lip to try and stifle her giggles, but it didn't work, especially when she heard Sabrina start snickering. Kris shook her head again and muttered, as if to herself, "What am I gonna do with you two?"

"Mommy, will you read us a bedtime story?" Sabrina asked cheekily.

The suggestion made Kelly laugh until she cried. Sabrina was very, very drunk.

So was she, for that matter.

Caught up in her laughter, it took a few minutes for Kelly to register Kris' hand gently stroking through her hair. Once she did, she sighed softly, the familiar touch immediately calming her, grounding her. She suddenly realized Sabrina had stopped giggling as well, and pushed up awkwardly on her elbow, dislodging her girlfriend's hand, to look over at her dark-haired teammate. Bri was lying on her back with her eyes closed, and Kris was stroking her hair as well.

Something about the sight made Kelly feel warm and safe, and she sank back down against the mattress as abruptly as she'd risen. Kris' hand once more brushed through her hair and she sighed again.

This felt right. The three of them still close friends, still an important part of each others' lives. She hadn't realized how worried she'd been that her relationship with Kris would change all that. But here they were. All together. Silly and sleepy and sharing space easily. Just like old times. She smiled at the realization.

After a moment, Kelly heard music. It took her fuzzy brain a minute to figure out that it was her girlfriend, singing softly to her and Sabrina. Singing them a lullaby.

She closed her eyes and let Kris' dulcet voice wash over her. The melody was soothing, lulling, as was the hand stroking her hair. Deeply content, it wasn't long before she slipped into sleep.

Kelly lay on her side on Kris' bed, holding the blonde close and kissing her, her hands gently stroking the younger woman's back and shoulders. The mattress was soft beneath her, and the late afternoon sun filtered hazily in through the gauzy curtains. They were nearing the end of their week off and had decided a lazy Saturday nap was in order. They'd woken only a little while ago.

As far as Kelly was concerned, being kissed senseless by the woman she adored was a wonderful way to chase away the fog of slumber.

She felt one of Kris' hands leave her back, snaking around to her front. Agile fingers worked their way up under the hem of her tee-shirt, tracing random patterns across her abdomen, and she groaned against the blonde's lips, heat rising at the simple touch. When Kris delicately cupped her bare breast, Kelly pulled back from the kiss with a sharp gasp of both surprise and need, her nipple immediately pebbling at the light contact.

It was the first time Kris had touched her so intimately.

Kelly looked deeply into eyes that were dark blue with desire, and leaned in again for another kiss. She slipped a hand free from the younger woman's back and slid it between their bodies, trailing it up Kris' arm until it was atop the hand resting on her breast. She pressed the blonde's fingers more firmly against her bare skin, then moved her own fingers in a rhythmic caress, telegraphing how she wanted to be touched.

It was Kris' turn to gasp into their kiss. The blonde's lips parted beneath hers, and Kelly took full advantage, passionately claiming her girlfriend's mouth, spurred on by the feel of slender fingers massaging her breast.

At length, she pulled back from the kiss, pleased to discover that Kris was as breathless as she was. Blue eyes were hooded and the blonde looked utterly stunned. Kelly felt like she should say something reassuring or encouraging, but couldn't seem to gather her wits enough to form a sentence, her body tingling with desire.

And then, Kris blinked rapidly, focus coming back into blue eyes, and surprised her by whispering, "I want to make love to you, Kel."

Kelly's heart beat faster in her chest and a wave of arousal flooded through her at the softly spoken words. She dusted a gentle kiss over Kris' lips and said carefully, "I want that too. So much. But only if you're ready. There's still no rush. More than anything, I want this to be good for you."

She didn't miss the flash of anxiety that flickered across the blonde's expressive face, or the sudden tinge of pink in the younger woman's cheeks. Kelly smiled sympathetically, knowing exactly what had caused the reaction. Kris said slowly, "I am. Ready, I mean. I just don't want to disappoint you because I don't know what I'm doing."

Kelly slipped her hand free from atop Kris', bringing it up to tenderly brush her thumb across the blonde's cheek. "You could never disappoint me, sweetheart," she said seriously.

She stopped Kris' protest with a finger across the lips and continued earnestly, "Knowing what to do helps a lot, but it isn't the be-all and end-all. Everyone is different and enjoys different things. Experience isn't nearly as important as listening. As paying attention to how your partner responds and genuinely caring about your partner's pleasure. And I have no doubt, my darling, that you'll excel at all of those things."

When she saw a relieved smile light the blonde's face, Kelly knew she'd made her point.

Kris said softly, "Then let me show you just how caring and attentive I can be."

She smiled in response, and Kris slipped her hand off her breast and out from underneath her shirt. Without a word, Kelly sat up and pulled her tee-shirt off over her head, tossing it casually to the side as the blonde watched reverently. She rolled off the bed, then stood so that she could slide her sweatpants and underwear over her hips and down her legs. Stepping out of the bunched up fabric, completely naked, she climbed onto the bed again, lying on her back.

Kelly looked at Kris, who was propped up on one elbow, hovering over her, staring down at her in awe. While they'd seen each other nude many times before--in locker rooms and shower rooms and hotel rooms while on cases--it didn't compare to this at all. To seeing each other not as teammates and friends, but as lovers.

She reached up and lightly brushed the tips of her fingers across Kris' cheek. "You okay?" she asked gently.

The words seemed to break whatever spell Kris had been under. There was a sudden flash of heat in blue eyes, and the blonde's voice was husky. "More than okay."

Kelly watched, licking her lips in anticipation, as the younger woman sat up and slowly peeled off her tee-shirt. Kris held the fabric against her chest for a minute before finally setting it aside, revealing her bare breasts. There was a moment of obvious hesitation before the blonde wriggled out of her shorts, a blush pinking her cheeks.

It didn't surprise Kelly that Kris left her underwear on. Frankly, she hadn't expected the younger woman to go so far so fast.

"You're beautiful," Kelly whispered, grinning when she saw Kris' blush deepen at the words.

"So are you, babe," Kris breathed.

Kelly's breath hitched in anticipation as Kris lowered herself back down to the bed. Moments later, the younger woman was lying on her side next to her, one leg thrown over hers, hand drawing lazy circles on her stomach, lips claiming hers in a sensual kiss. She reached up, one hand cupping the back of the blonde's neck, holding her close.

A few minutes later, Kris' hand found her breast again, fingers caressing gently, sending sparks of heat racing through her veins. The blonde's fingers skimmed lightly over her hard nipple and Kelly groaned into the kiss at the contact, her hand tightening on the back of Kris' neck. She groaned again as her lover took the hint and stroked more firmly.

As the younger woman tentatively explored her body with hands and mouth, Kelly guided her along, letting her know with words and actions what she liked, what she didn't like. The blonde's touches were fumbling and unsure at first. But Kris was obviously paying careful attention to her every reaction, and gradually her girlfriend's caresses grew more confident, more certain.

Before long, Kelly was too lost in sensation to even think about guiding her lover. She writhed unashamedly under Kris' ministrations, arousal building with every touch, every kiss, her legs opening wide in invitation. At the first cautious brush of slim fingers against her slick center, she arched up and cried out, craving more.

Kris' fingers moved slowly through her wet heat, the blonde carefully feeling her way along this new territory. At first, Kelly merely murmured encouragement. But as her need grew stronger, her whispers turned to fervent pleas as she told her lover exactly what she wanted.

Soon, she felt three fingers slide fully into her, while a thumb stroked over her sensitive bundle of nerves. She cried out again at the amazing sensation. Agile fingers toyed with one nipple while a warm mouth closed on the other one, and Kelly reached up blindly, hand fisting hard in blonde hair, holding Kris firmly in place against her.

Her entire world narrowed to the feel of the fingers thrusting into her, the thumb rubbing against her, the mouth suckling her, the fingers caressing her. She moaned wantonly, completely caught up in the passion of their lovemaking. Her arousal spiked higher and higher, her muscles tensed with anticipation, and heat coiled in her belly. She bucked up wildly, heart beating loudly in her ears, fire coursing through her veins. And then, pleasure exploded through every nerve ending, and with a long, drawn-out scream, Kelly came utterly undone.

When she finally came down from that high, she found herself snuggled up against her lover, wrapped in a warm embrace. She blinked fuzzily, vaguely surprised that she hadn't felt Kris withdraw from her body or roll her over onto her side.

"Wow," she murmured.

At length, she pulled back slightly so she could study her lover's face. Blue eyes darted shyly to the side for a moment, before coming back to meet her gaze. Kris' wistful expression was so artless and endearing that a wave of affection engulfed Kelly. She reached out to cup the blonde's face in her hand, thumb brushing across her cheek.

Kris' voice was very quiet and she sounded very young. "Was that okay?"

Kelly smiled blissfully. "Oh, sweetheart. That was so much more than just okay. It was incredible."

The blush that stained her lover's cheeks at those words was adorable, and she leaned in, pressing a gentle kiss to the blonde's lips. After a moment, she pulled away again, hand still cupping Kris' face, and said tenderly, "And now, if you'll let me, I really want to return the favor and show you just how incredible it can be."

Kris bit her lip nervously, and Kelly caressed her cheek, waiting patiently, giving the younger woman space to decide if she was really ready to take that last step. After a moment, the blonde head gave a brief nod, and she leaned in again for more soft, sweet kisses, doing her best to project reassurance and love.

After a few minutes, Kelly smoothly rolled Kris over onto her back. She languidly kissed her way down the younger woman's neck and across her upper chest, paying close attention to the blonde's every reaction. Soon her mouth found Kris' generous breasts and she peppered them with kisses, drinking in her lover's soft gasps.

When her lips closed around a taut nipple, Kris arched up against her, hands tangling in her hair. Kelly licked and suckled the hard bud gently at first, then with increasing pressure as the blonde writhed beneath her.

When she used her teeth for the first time, Kris nearly came off the bed, breath coming in ragged pants.

The touch had been relatively light, all things considered, a way to test her hunch that her lover would enjoy a degree of roughness. But Kelly started to pull away, suddenly afraid she'd misjudged things. The hands in her hair tightened, pressing her head back down and holding her in place. Kris' whisper was breathless. "More."

Kelly wasted no time in obliging her.

At length, she switched to Kris' other nipple, giving it the same thorough attention, before shifting lower, her lips and tongue painting a path down the blonde's toned abdomen. When she reached the barrier of the younger woman's underwear, she hooked a finger underneath the waistband and tugged gently, gauging her lover's reaction. After a moment's hesitation, Kris reached down and helped push the thin fabric over her hips.

Kelly dragged the garment down the blonde's shapely legs, tossing it aside, then ran her hands lightly back up muscled calves, pausing just above the younger woman's knees. She felt the tremor that shook her lover at the implied request, and murmured soft words of reassurance. Eventually, Kris' legs parted slightly, allowing her access.

She carefully positioned herself between her lover's legs, pressing soft kisses to the inside of the blonde's knee. Utterly humbled by the trust Kris was placing in her, Kelly stayed still for a minute, giving the younger woman time to get comfortable with the increased intimacy. Then, she started leisurely kissing her way up the length of Kris' thigh, her lips and tongue leaving wet trails in their wake.

By the time she'd thoroughly mapped the tender skin of her lover's inner thighs, Kris was squirming almost desperately on the mattress, legs spread wide, her growing arousal obvious.

Kelly hesitated only a moment, then lowered her mouth to Kris' center, her tongue sliding firmly over delicate flesh, her hands pressed hard against the blonde's thighs to keep her legs apart.

Kris arched up against her with a ragged gasp, and Kelly pulled back, lifting her head and glancing up to make sure her lover was all right. The younger woman's hands were fisted in the bed sheets, her eyes closed, her face alight with pleasure, her nipples hard, her skin flushed.

Though she was positive she could trust the nonverbal signals, Kelly also didn't want this to be like the blonde's uncomfortable encounter with Tommy. She wanted her lover to know she was safe and secure, that she could say no to anything she didn't want. Deliberately, she asked, "Is this okay, Kris?"

The younger woman didn't open her eyes, but her hips arched up again, as if seeking the contact she was being denied. "Yes, Kel. Please. Don't stop," Kris whispered imploringly.

Reassured, Kelly returned to her ministrations, her lips and tongue hungrily delving into slick folds, thoroughly exploring her lover's intimate flesh, flicking and teasing Kris' sensitive bundle of nerves. For a scant second, she thought about sliding a finger inside the blonde, then quickly dismissed the idea. She didn't want to risk breaking the mood with something she wasn't sure the younger woman was quite ready for.

Besides which, Kris was obviously enjoying what she was already doing.

Instead, she worked her lover harder with her mouth, lapping up the blonde's abundant wetness, roughly swiping her tongue over and around the delicate bundle of nerves, reveling in the way her every touch made Kris writhe beneath her. She listened carefully to the soft gasps, gauging how close the younger woman was to the edge.

Abruptly, Kelly closed her lips around her lover's sensitive nub and sucked hard. Kris bucked up wildly against her with a shuddered moan, every muscle tensed, breath coming in staccato pants. For several long seconds, the younger woman hung there, body quivering, clearly riding out a wave of powerful sensation, before collapsing boneless to the bed.

Carefully, Kelly released her hold on her lover's bundle of nerves, then lightly kissed the sensitized flesh, feeling the electric twitch of aftershocks against her lips. She wiped her mouth on a corner of the bed sheet, then crawled back up to lie next to Kris, who was sprawled on her back staring dazedly at the ceiling.

Propping herself up on one elbow, Kelly reached out and nimbly pried the blonde's fingers loose from their tight grip on the sheets. Then she lay back down on her side, facing her lover, watching her intently. She wasn't terribly surprised when blue eyes welled with tears. She'd known for a long time that underneath Kris' goofy, good-natured exterior there was a deeply sensitive soul.

She reached out again, easily rolling the unresisting blonde on to her side. "C'mere, sweetheart," she coaxed, tugging Kris towards her. The younger woman instantly obeyed the summons, snuggling up close, crying against her shoulder. Kelly wrapped her arms around her lover and just held her tight.

After a few minutes, when Kris' sobs had abated, Kelly asked tenderly, "Are you all right?"

The blonde's voice was quiet. "Yeah. I'm okay. I've just never felt anything so intense before. I had no idea it was possible to feel that incredibly good. Or that I could feel so vulnerable and yet so loved at the same time. It was all more overwhelming than I'd expected."

Kelly nodded understandingly. She'd been pretty sure that was the reason for Kris' tears. She said gently, "As pleasurable as sex is, it can also be a pretty emotional experience. Especially when it's with someone you really care about."

She felt a nod against her shoulder and wasn't surprised to feel a fresh wave of tears against her bare skin. She rubbed the younger woman's back soothingly and murmured, "It's okay, honey. I've got you. I love you, Kris."

For long minutes, they lay there in a comfortable silence. Kelly was sated and satisfied and more than content to be right where she was, with her lover nestled securely in her arms. At length, Kris whispered, "I love you too, m'dear. And Kel? I'm really glad my first time was with you."

Kelly felt the unexpected prick of tears in her eyes at the heartfelt words, and craned her neck to press a kiss to the top of the blonde head. "So am I, sweetheart."


Kelly hummed under her breath as she danced around the beach house kitchen, waiting for the fresh pot of coffee to finish brewing. She rinsed out the cup she'd been using--a green mug with pictures of turtles on it, which was one of her favorites. Then she opened the cupboard and stared thoughtfully at its contents before grinning and picking out another mug. That one was white with a beach scene on it, two colorful surfboards front and center.

Seemed appropriate for Kris, since the blonde had just spent nearly two hours out in the ocean.

Kelly shivered at the mere thought, since the morning was overcast and chilly with an occasional cloudburst. At least she had the good sense to plan on spending the majority of their three-day weekend indoors, where it was dry and warm and comfortable. She glanced over to the corner of the living room, where Albert was curled up in his travel bed, fast asleep. Clearly she wasn't the only one who had good sense.

Setting the mugs down next to the coffee maker, Kelly poured herself a fresh cup. As she walked out of the kitchen and through the living room with her mug in hand, she absently noted the bathroom shower shutting off. She chuckled to herself. Apparently Kris had finally run out of hot water.

She settled herself on the love seat, her back resting against the arm of it, her legs outstretched on the cushions. Putting the mug down on the table, she picked up her book. Finding her place again, she started to read.

Kelly lost herself in the tale, occasionally sipping her coffee. She was vaguely aware of Kris, now showered and dressed, moving around and making noise in the kitchen. From experience, she knew her girlfriend was fixing herself a snack to tide her over until lunch. She tuned out the familiar sounds, focusing on her book.

When she sensed a presence looming over her, she looked up. Kris smiled down at her, coffee pot in hand, and she gratefully held up her mug for a refill. By the time the blonde put the carafe back on the hot plate and returned to the love seat, Kelly's knees were bent and her feet were pulled back, making space for the younger woman to sit.

Kris set her mug on the table and plopped down on the cushions, her own book in hand. Kelly immediately settled her feet in her partner's lap, feeling a gentle hand come to rest on top of her calf, massaging lightly.

Silence fell as they sat together, reading and drinking coffee, enjoying the mellow day.

When she reached the end of a chapter, Kelly glanced up, watching Kris for a moment. The blonde was fully absorbed in her novel, nose crinkled in concentration, a sight she never failed to find endearing.

It was the simplest of moments. Two women, in the same space, touching but not talking, connected but doing their own thing. There was nothing at all earth-shattering or profound about it. And yet Kelly felt a sense of warmth flood through her, a sense of deep contentment.

She loved how easy it was to be with Kris. How easy it was to share space with the good-natured blonde and feel completely comfortable and totally accepted just as she was. How easy it was to remain wholly herself while thoroughly entwining her life with the younger woman's.

Kelly loved that when she was with Kris, she felt something she hadn't felt since she was a very small child. A sense of being home.

The End

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