Disclaimers: The characters portrayed in this story are the property of CD McKendry. This story portrays scenes of mild violence and the occasional 'four-letter word'. If this offends you, please do not read any further. Also be advised that this story involves two women in a sexual relationship so once again; if this offends you do not read any further. Finally, this is my first attempt at writing anything since about a hundred years ago when I was once a school girl so if this worries you (and it probably should), please do not read any further. If you find anything truly offensive...or if you just want to say hi (which, by the way, I much prefer), please feel free to drop me a line at: cdmckendry@hotmail.com

For those of you that are left, please enjoy.

A special thanks to my very helpful beta reader Kelly!


Part 5

The only sound in the small apartment was the steady breathing of both women. Kris didn't answer immediately, she couldn't answer. She was overwhelmed with emotion and felt that if she was pushed, she just might break. "God Kate, please don't ask me that. I can't do this. I've been trying to forget the past for so long now...I just can't." Kris's voice was nothing more than a whisper. She was quickly loosing the fight against the tears that stung the back of her eyes. Feeling closed in, she once again tried to pull away from Kate. Kate was surprisingly strong though and wouldn't let the tall woman close herself off. She held fast to the large warm hand in hers and reached over to Kris's chin with her other hand.

"Kris, please talk to me. I don't know what the hell is going on between you and your father but I'm so sorry that he hurt you." Kris couldn't avoid Kate's eyes anymore. As she turned to face the smaller woman, she couldn't help but see the sadness, anger and guilt in the other woman's eyes. "God I'm such an ass. All the anger you had as a kid and I just made it worse at every turn. Jesus, its no wonder you always looked like you wanted to kill me. I was just so sure that you had grown up a spoiled brat and that you just needed a good old fashioned spanking." Kate hung her head in self-disgust.

Kris could see the remorse from Kate. She knew that she should try to offer some type of platitude but it just wasn't in her. The only thing she could offer the smaller woman was the truth. Slowly and softly after taking a shaky breath, she began to speak.

It took a moment for Kate to register that Kris was actually speaking. She could see the emotions that were so close to the surface. The hurt and sadness that had always been there but covered up so well by anger that it had been impossible to see...especially if you weren't really looking. Kate acknowledged the sad truth to herself. She had never taken the time to look beyond the hostile surface to get to the route of the problem. She knew that in order for her and Kris to truly forge a friendship, she would also have to admit her failure to the tall woman.

"When I was a child, my father always seemed larger than life. It was always a little intimidating and a lot awe inspiring to see him, always moving, always talking. He used to take me with him to the church during the day, way back before I was old enough to attend school. It made me feel so special. I remember feeling so proud that this was my daddy. This giant man that everyone always wanted to talk to. People loved him so much and he always seemed to know exactly what to say or do to make people feel better. I used to love it when he would carry me on his shoulders or let me sit on his lap. The first day of school I was so excited because my dad took the time to come to school with me and meet my teacher." Kris inhaled another shaky breath, not sure if she could continue. This is where the story turns ugly she thought to herself. It was then that she felt the soft stroking on her back. Kate was comforting her the only way she knew how and Kris had to admit, it felt pretty damn good. Finally she felt strong enough to continue. "Everything through my elementary years was pretty good although my dad and I did start to argue more as I started to develop a life outside the house. It wasn't anything noticeable at first just little things that I wanted to do that he didn't want me to. He didn't like that some of my friends' parents didn't go to church and wouldn't let me play with them after school. He wanted me to wear dresses all the time." Even Kate snorted at that comment and Kris couldn't help but smirk a little. "When I hit thirteen it all changed and not in a good way. That summer, I was finally old enough to go to bible camp with some of the other kids at the church. This was a big deal to my parents and they were very excited. I wasn't as keen on the idea because I wanted to spend the summer bumming around with my pals from school. My father and I had a huge argument about it the night before I was to leave for camp. He told me that it would be a good opportunity for me to practice my preaching abilities. That's when I decided that I better tell him the truth. God sometimes I wish I had just kept my mouth shut."

Kris looked at Kate and the pain that she felt in her soul was somehow mirrored in the blondes' eyes. It was almost as if Kate could feel exactly what Kris had on the night that her nightmare began. The hand on her back moved around and took Kris's hand in support. Their fingers locked together and Kate covered the intertwined fingers with her other hand.

"Unfortunately, at thirteen you're not always working with the best judgment so I told him that I didn't think I believed in God." Kris stopped talking, her breathing had increased and she hung her head. Kate could tell that the younger woman was no longer with her emotionally; she was a thirteen-year-old kid again about to be attacked by a monster. "God Kate, I'd never seen such a look before. I never saw the hand coming that slapped me across the mouth. He kept telling me that no child of his would ever utter such words again. I'll never forget him slapping me over and over again until I just couldn't feel it anymore. I remember the words heathen and hell. I remember looking at him and not recognizing him anymore."

Kris spared a glance at Kate for the first time since she began talking. She was startled to see the anger in the older woman's eyes and the tears rolling down her cheeks. Kate raised one of her hands to trace the past hurts on the beautiful face in front of her.

Kris's eyes closed at the gentle contact. Kate's touch felt like a badly needed balm to her soul and Kris gripped her other hand tighter, afraid if she let loose, this safe feeling would disappear. Neither woman spoke out loud for a few minutes, choosing instead to speak with their hands. Hands that caressed and comforted, hands that tried to erase the past. Kate's gentleness was the key that finally opened the gate for Kris and once the dam opened, there was no stopping the flood of tears that escaped down her face. Kate immediately pulled Kris's head down to her shoulder and wrapped her strong arms around the brunette's larger shaking frame.

Kate was at an absolute loss as to how to deal with all of the conflicting emotions that she was feeling. Anger was a big part of it, but so were guilt, sadness and a multitude of other things. As she leaned back into the couch taking Kris with her, she closed her eyes hoping to quiet some of the things running rampant in her mind.

A while later, Kris had calmed down some, with only a sniffle here or there. Kate became aware that her left hand was stroking the long black locks that cascaded around Kris's shoulders. Kris finally took a deep breath and then sat up. Kate didn't know a lot of things but she knew it was important to back off when Kris seemed to need her space.

"Anyway, after that night, things went from bad to worse. I had so many bruises on my face that I never did end up going to bible camp. It's as though that one night opened up a well of anger in my father that I have rarely encountered in anyone else since. The beatings became a regular routine every time I did something that he didn't like. He wanted a perfect poster child to hold up to the town so that he could say that he had the perfect family. Instead, he got me. As time went on, I became more and more defiant. When the sheriff's daughter and I got caught making out up at the lake by the church deacon, well, let's just say that it was not good. By the time you and I met, I was pretty much a lost cause. I had such a warped sense of anyone in an authority position. I'd even been in and out of juvenile hall four or five times. Of course, my father was really playing it up for the sympathy. You know the 'poor me, I've done everything I can for my child but she is just so ungrateful' gig. He really had it down to an art form by the time I left." Kris had gotten up and was now standing across the room by the wall, hands shoved in her pockets.

Kate stood and walked over to Kris. Unable to resist, she put her hand on taller woman's waist and squeezed gently. "I'm so sorry Kris. I know that's not enough, it'll never be enough to make up for what you had to go through or my lack of compassion but it's true just the same. I can't believe that I didn't have enough sense to look passed the anger and attitude. You deserved so much more than what I gave you."

Kris looked deeply into the shimmering green eyes in front of her. She noticed that there were no more walls, no more barriers. The look conveyed the sincerity of Kate's words. Kate was right, nothing could ever make up for the hell that Kris had been through but this woman wasn't to blame and if Kris was lucky, this woman could help her get through the next year with some semblance of sanity.

Kate could see the final resentment slip out of Kris's eyes. She felt the forgiveness before she heard the words. When Kris reached her hand over and ran it gently through the blonde locks she easily moved into the taller woman's embrace. When she felt gentle lips graze the top of her head, she was finally able to breathe. Her arms slipped once again around the taller frame and her head tucked under Kris's chin. She could feel the rumble in Kris's chest as the woman's somber voice resonated. "It's the past now Kate. I think we've both learned a lot since then and to be completely honest, I need to put it away. I think it's one of the reasons I agreed to come back. I mean, yes I need to be here for mom but I think I need to be here for me to. Does that make any sense?"

Kate couldn't speak, too overcome with amazement at the strength of the woman whose arms held her so gently so she simply nodded in answer.

After a few minutes, both women moved simultaneously from their cocoon. It seemed that they both needed a break from the tension that felt so heavy in the air. Kris moved into the kitchen and made some more coffee while Kate went into the washroom to wash her face and just generally try to put the emotions away for the time being.

When Kate emerged from the bathroom, Kris was leafing through a flyer for Chinese food and looked at Kate questioningly. "I don't know about you, but I am starving. There's a reason that I try not to get all emotional and stuff...it makes me hungry!" Kris needed to laugh off the last little while. The emotions were still to close to the surface and she needed to step back for a bit.

Kate smiled at the look on Kris's face, half feigned innocence and half pleading for her to play along. "Sure, I'm always hungry. If you and I are going to be friends then you should know that I'm hungry often and I like to eat a lot!"

"Sounds good to me!" Kris smiled, happy that the tension was gone for now. Picking up the phone she ordered their dinner. Once that small task was out of the way, she turned to Kate and said, "So, I'm sure you had a reason for venturing over here to the dark side...what can I do for you?"

"Actually, I wanted to talk to you about tomorrow with Jenny. Somehow in the last couple of hours though, I've changed my mind and I think that you're right. Jenny does need this. With us there to support her, I think it will be just fine."

"Us?" Kris asked surprised. She hadn't planned on the blonde making the trip with them.

"Yes, us." Kate responded. "I want to be involved in this Kris. I need to be involved in this. Besides, how the hell are you going to get there if I don't come? You can't honestly tell me that you were thinking of riding that damned motorcycle of yours? It already like minus three out there!"

Kris looked sheepishly at Kate and said, "I know I know. I've got to get a truck or something to get me through the next five months or so. I've been avoiding it but to tell you the truth, I think that this morning when I rode in to school my eyeballs were frozen open for the first hour or so after I got into the building." Kate laughed as Kris opened her eyeballs as wide as she could.

"Well if you want, I'll drive you to and from school next week and then maybe on the weekend I can take you into Pritchard so that you can look for a truck. After all, we wouldn't want your eyeballs to suffer any permanent damage, you might miss something important!" Kate realized how that last part sounded and tried to hide the blush creeping up her neck. Unfortunately Kris noticed it immediately and laughed softly at her making the blush come on in full force.

"Jerk!" was muttered under Kate's breath but a small self-depreciating smile took the sting out of the word.

The rest of the evening passed quietly with the two women getting to know each other on a new level. Both were timid at first with what bits of information they shared but slowly some things began to come out. It amazed Kris that Kate hadn't married in the last twelve years just as it astounded Kate that Kris didn't have someone waiting for her to return to the city. All in all, the evening turned out to be a healing experience for past wrongs.

It was shortly after midnight when Kate finally began to make noises about leaving. "I guess I should go. We have a full day tomorrow and I don't think that me falling asleep at the wheel tops my list of things to do."

Kris walked Kate to the door and leaned against the wall as she put on her jacket. "Thanks for tonight Kate," she said quietly. "I "

Kate silence Kris by reaching her fingers up and gently closing the taller woman's mouth. "I should be the one thanking you Kris. You are an amazing woman and I look forward to spending more time with you. I'm only sorry that I've wasted all the time that I have."

Kris reached over and pulled Kate into her arms. "You're pretty amazing yourself you know." Kris whispered into a tiny ear. "I've never had anyone stand up to my father for me. That felt better than you can imagine."

They stood embracing for another moment or two before Kate finally managed to pull herself away. Unsure of why it was that she didn't want to leave this woman's arms, she said gently "goodnight Kris," and then turned and walked out the door.

When Kate finally crawled into bed that night, she still felt so many conflicting emotions. She knew that Kris had forgiven her for her absolutely appalling behavior in the past but she still felt a tremendous amount of guilt. Along with that, she found herself absolutely astounded with the woman that Kris had turned into and she knew that on some level she was very drawn to the woman with piercing blue eyes. If Kate was being completely honest with herself, she had to admit that it had been a very long time since she'd been interested in anyone on more than a surface level. With Kris, Kate knew there was something else there, even if she couldn't put her finger on it. With these thoughts swirling around in her brain, Kate finally managed to fall into a light sleep.

On the other side of the small town, a dark-haired beauty slept peacefully for the first time in a very long time. The burden of loneliness that she had felt from years of carrying around her past seemed to be lifting and it was in large part due to a certain blonde woman with gentle green eyes.

Saturday morning dawned quiet, clear and cold! Kris was very grateful that Kate had offered to drive as she stood outside her place waiting for the petite blonde to pull up. When she saw the other woman's car and got in, Kate handed her a steaming cup of coffee and she was even happier.

"Morning, I thought after our rather late evening last night, you could maybe use some coffee." Kate greeted Kris with a smile and Kris returned it in kind.

"Oh my God could I ever. I missed my alarm this morning and just barely had time to get my run in and have a shower before I had to run over to my mom's house and talk to the doctor. The new medicine they have her on causes these dizzy spells and they're trying to adjust the amounts so that it makes things better not worse. Anyway, in my parent's house, you don't get coffee, just tea." Kris paused long enough to take a grateful sip of the hot black liquid and enjoy it as it burned its way down her throat.

"Well then, I'm glad I could be of service!" Kate laughed at the look of ecstasy on the younger woman's face and pulled out of the driveway.

"So, we'll pick up Jenny and then I thought maybe we could make our way over to Pritchard. The group doesn't get together until 1:30 or so but I thought we could have lunch there instead of here. What do you think?" Kris was only half listening, still enjoying her first coffee of the morning. "Hey! If I'd known you were going to ignore me, I never would have brought you the damn coffee!" Kate was laughing at the startled look on Kris's face.

"Sorry, I've been on the coast for the last twelve years. Coffee is a religious experience to us there. You have to pay homage to the coffee gods once a day at least. Now, what was it you were saying?" Kris responded light heartedly. It felt good, this gentle bantering between them. Almost as though this is the way things always should have been.

"Well next time I'm withholding the coffee until after I've had you listen to me!" Kate easily maneuvered the car into the driveway of a small rear-split house. Turning to Kris she said, "Okay, I'm driving so you go get Jenny. I'm not freezing my ass off out there!"

Kris tossed the smaller woman a look of disdain and then smiled as she jumped from the car. As soon as she knocked on the door, Jenny opened it and came out. She looks nervous Kate thought to herself. She looked at Kris to see if the brunette had noticed it as well. The look on Kris's face told Kate everything she needed to know. The brunette not only noticed but she could totally relate.

When the pair got into the car and shut the door, Kate greeted Jenny and put the car in reverse to back out of the driveway. She noticed that Jenny's mom was standing in the front window and she gave a small wave to the intimidating woman. The woman in the window didn't respond. No wave and no smile. Kate thought to herself again that Jenny was an amazing kid given what she had to work with.

As they drove on down the street, Jenny filled in the two older woman on her Friday night and the letter she received from Cam. This on its own sent the teen over the moon with happiness and Kris and Kate both smiled at young love. Kate asked Jenny if she was hungry and the teen answered in the affirmative. Kris laughed and said to Kate, "I know food often and a lot of it. Got it. Why don't you two pick the place for food since it's been about a million years or so since I've been to Pritchard."

Kate and Jenny both agreed that they should go to Eggs-actly, a local breakfast place that had recently popped up in a couple of towns around the area. Kris watched the two amused at the easy way in which Kate interacted with the young student. It was easy to see why all of the kids loved this woman. She had a caring nature about her that just couldn't be denied. Kris had to chuckle to herself at that. That old saying that there is an exception to every rule rolled through her brain for a moment. She had apparently been Kate's exception in her younger days. Neither woman could stand to be in the same room long enough to care a spit as to what was going through the others' mind.

Kate heard the muted chuckle come from Kris and looked over at her questioningly only to be waved off by the other woman. Kate raised an eyebrow but Kris just mouthed the word 'later' to her so Kate shrugged her shoulders and directed the car into the parking lot of the restaurant.

Over lunch the trio discussed everything from sports to a book that Jenny had been assigned to read for English class. The young girl talked about her plans to go away to school and how she wanted to study veterinary medicine. She had been offered a volleyball scholarship to a school on the west coast and couldn't wait to get away.

As lunch drew to a close and they were getting ready to leave, Jenny hesitated. "I'm not sure if I can do this," the teen muttered to the two older women before getting up from the table.

Kate reached over and took the young woman's hand. "It'll be okay Jenny. Kris and I will be with you the entire time and if you're not comfortable, we can leave whenever you want. Right Kris?" Kate looked to Kris to help her reassure Jenny.

"Kate's right Jenny. Anytime you want to leave, you give me the word. Anyway, the group is only meeting at the center and then they are going bowling a little later. It's not a big 'hug-hug' meeting with the whole 'hi, my name is John and I'm gay' kind of thing. It's just a bunch of kids that have the same thoughts and feelings. They get together a couple of times a month and can help to buffer some of the isolation that they feel. I think you'll like it but if you don't, just remember, we can leave any time you want." Kris smiled at Jenny and the teen nodded her approval.

"I just don't want to stand out. I'll be the only new person there and I hate trying to get to know people. I guess I should get used to it though. Soon I'll be far away from home and everyone I've ever known so I'll have to learn how to interact with new people. Okay, let's go." Jenny seemed to make up her mind and then was quite determined to follow through with it. She got up and headed for the door so fast that Kris and Kate had to jump to catch up with the long-legged volleyball star.

Once the trio reached the center, they sat in the car for a moment. Kris and Kate wanted Jenny to do this voluntarily and the youngster only hesitated a moment before heading out of the car into the cold.

Again Kris and Kate had to jump to catch up with Jenny and they both laughed ruefully. "I really am getting to old for this!" laughed Kate as they ran to catch up. As soon as the large oak doors opened, the women could feel the warm air starting to warm their already shivering bodies. The doors closed behind them with a soft swoosh and Jenny stopped in her tracks. Now that she was here, she didn't know what to do.

Kris sensed Jenny's hesitation and put her large hand on the young woman's shoulder. Using her hand to guide her, Kris steered Jenny over to a tall longhaired blonde woman in the corner of the room with Kate brining up the rear. When the woman looked up and saw Kris, a smile immediately came to her face. "I don't believe it! Kris Warner in the flesh! It's been what, like a million years?" With that, Kris released Jenny and took the tall blonde into her arms in a full body bear hug.

"My God Sam you look incredible!" Kris exclaimed releasing her friend and looking her up and down.

The blonde blushed prettily and then said, "I don't know about that but you, my friend, look amazing. It's so good to see you! I never thought that I would see you back in this corner of the world." Finally it dawned on the two women that they weren't alone and they were rather rudely ignoring the pair standing patiently behind Kris.

Kris turned and brought Jenny and Kate closer. "Jenny, Kate, this is an old friend of mine, Samantha Small. Sam and I go way back to a time when dinosaurs still roamed the earth." The four women all chuckled at Kris's exaggeration. "Sam, this is Jenny and Kate."

Sam smiled at Jenny and welcomed her to the group. She promised the youngster that they would keep the in-depth psychoanalysis to a minimum giving that this was her first day. Jenny laughed and visibly relaxed in the gently teasing environment. Just then, another teen about the same age as Jenny came over. Sam introduced the two girls and asked that Cassie take Jenny over and introduce her to the rest of the group. With a final look at Kris and Kate, Jenny went off to join the group.

"So Kris how have you been? It feels like it's been a lifetime since we saw each other last." Kris knew exactly when the last time they had seen each other had been and she was pretty sure that Sam remembered as well.

"I've been good. You know, can't complain. It's a little odd being back here after so many years but thanks to a friend, the adjustment isn't as difficult as it could be." This last part was said to Sam but Kris was looking at Kate and Kate felt the warm affection flood through her at the words.

Sam watched the look that passed between the two women and wondered what there was between her old friend and the other woman. No sense in wondering she thought to herself. I might as well just ask! With that, Sam said to Kris, "So are you and Kate a couple?"

Kris who had just taken a large sip of her coffee recovered admirably as the coffee found its way down her windpipe. Hacking for a minute or two with Kate pounding on her back, she managed to catch her breath in a minute and then answered Sam. "No. Kate is the head of the history department at the high school. Jenny had originally gone to her with all of this and then Kate asked her to speak to me." She thought the glare that she sent to her old friend should shut her up.

Sam took the hint and backed off but not before she gave the tall brunette a very sultry smile. "Well," she said in a lower voice, "I'm very glad to see you back." With a final smile, she sauntered off to gather the group together and begin today's activities.

Kris knew that voice and smiled as well.

Kate watched the interaction and couldn't figure out why it left her feeling unsettled. It was obvious the two women were flirting with each other but she wasn't sure why that should bother her. Not wanting to think about it too hard right now, Kate filed it away and decided to think about it later when she was alone.

Part 6

Kate smiled to herself as she listened to Jenny chatter on and on about what a fantastic time she'd had and how great the group was. She was ecstatic to see Jenny really make an effort and be accepted as one of the group. Listening to the kids talk and interact, it made her realize so many things that she just hadn't consciously thought about before. Listening to Kris talk clinically about isolation and feelings of desperation, desolation and deep pain was all well and good but listening to these young kids talk about their own personal experiences with these emotions was devastating to the teacher. It just hadn't been something she had ever truly considered and she knew that from now on she would make more of an effort when dealing with kids that didn't seems to quite fit in, whatever the cause of that may be. No kid should ever feel like they had no one to turn to.

Her grip on the steering wheel tightened once again as she spared a glance over at the stoic brunette sitting beside her. Kris caught her glance and smiled slightly, wondering what the blonde was thinking. Kate removed one of her hands from the steering wheel and reached over to Kris. Grasping the large warm hand of the tall woman, Kate squeezed it slightly and gave her a small smile. Their touch lingered for a moment and then Kate turned her attention back to the road, removing her hand from Kris's.

Once Jenny had been dropped off at home, Kate started to head back over to Kris's small apartment but Kris stopped her. "Actually Kate, can you just drop me off at my parents' place. I need to check in with my mom and make sure she took all of her meds. God knows my father is useless in that department!"

"How will you get home from there?" Kate asked, not wanting Kris to be subjected to her father's anger and hatred.

"I can just walk from there. This town isn't that big so it's not like it'll take me a long time." Kris knew what was bothering Kate and said, "It's okay Kate. I've been dealing with him for a long time. He took away 12 years that I could have had with my mother. He's not taking away the last days of her life as well."

Kate wanted to respond, she wanted to question Kris's lack of anger with her mother but she didn't. Now wasn't the time or the place. Instead she asked, "How about I come with you and then when you're done, I'll drop you off at home. It's really cold out tonight Kris, I don't want you catching pneumonia or some fool thing like that." If you have to go, I'm going with you. I may not have been there for you 12 years ago but I sure as hell am going to be there now! Kate thought to herself fiercely.

Kris was warmed by the fierce protectiveness that she felt from Kate. She wanted to tell the smaller woman that it wasn't necessary, that she was capable of taking care of herself but for some unknown reason, it felt good to have someone want to ease some of that burden. "Okay, if you're sure you don't mind. If he's there, it may not be pretty but I'll try to make it a quick visit."

"You don't worry about me or your father, I can handle it. I'd like to see you mom anyway, it's been a while. We can visit with your mom and then maybe we'll grab some food before I drop you off. After all, it has been like four hours since I ate. I think that's some kind of record!" Kate and Kris laughed together at this comment.

When the pair arrived at the old house the first thing that Kris noticed was that her father's car was not in the driveway. With the realization that he wasn't home, both her and Kate relaxed.

"Well, I guess luck is on our side tonight!" Kris was feeling pretty good as she got out of the small car. "Man, is there a warning on your car that says only people this tall and under should ride in this vehicle?" Kris asked holding her hand up to her waist mockingly.

"Well miss gargantuan, at least I have a roof over my head in our lovely fall weather!" Kate laughed and pulled the taller woman by the arm towards the front door of the house. "Should we knock or do you just go in?"

"Well, if I knock, my mom will get out of bed to answer the door so I don't generally." Kris answered and tried the door. Just as she thought, the door was open and she stepped inside. The scents that greeted her told her immediately that someone had been cleaning since she had been there that morning and she felt her anger rising almost instantaneously.

Kate saw the change come over Kris but was unsure what had caused it. She put a reassuring hand on the younger woman and raised an eyebrow in question. Kris shook her head and led the blonde into the room where her mother was staying.

Pausing in the doorway to make sure that the old woman was awake and they wouldn't be disturbing her, Kris smiled softly at the old woman whose eyes lit up at the sight of her tall lanky daughter.

"Kris! I didn't expect to see you back here today. I thought you were going out of town?" The old woman asked obviously delighted at this unexpected pleasure.

"Hi mom. We did go out of town this afternoon and just go back actually. I'd asked Kate here to drop me off but she wanted to come in and say hi." Kris pulled the smaller woman into the room fully and Kate smiled at the older woman.

Kate knew what to expect from Kris's description of her mother but it was still a shock to see this once robust woman reduced to a limp heap lying on the bed. Hi Mrs. Warner, it's good to see you again. I've been meaning to come by and see if there is anything that I can do to help out. You know, help tidy up or make a meal or two. Sorry it's taken me so long to get here."

Kris's admiration for Kate was bumped another notch when the blonde didn't allow the shock that she must have felt show on her face. Instead, Kate moved right into the room and sat down beside the bed having a quiet conversation with her mother as though she wasn't even standing there.

"I'm betting that if you had to rely on old tall dark and daft over there for a meal you'd starve." Kate and Karen shared a conspiratorial laugh at this.

"You know Kate, I tried to get that kid to learn how to cook for ages but she's just all thumbs in the kitchen. The one time I let her try to cook dinner; she burned her arm, lit the tea towel on fire and melted a pot. It took me a week to get the smell of melted mettle out of my kitchen!" Kate roared in laughter at the story and Kris stood staring at the pair.

"If you're going to pick on me, I'm just going to leave. I never claimed that cooking was one of my many hidden talents. That's what take out food is for!" Kris did a pretty good job of sulking until Kate took pity on her. Rising up, she winked at Karen and said, "That's okay Stretch. If you need a home cooked meal, I could probably be convinced to help you out. I'm a big fan of food you know!"

Karen looked on with eyes of understanding when the smaller woman patted her daughter on the stomach and grinned playfully at her. My how things have changed. I wonder if they've finally worked things out or if there is more going on? Resigned to not push for information, Karen sat back, contented to watch the situation unfold before her eyes. If there was one thing she really wanted for her sullen daughter before she passed on, it was to see her settle down with someone who could truly care for her.

The three women sat and visited for an hour or so until it became obvious that the older Warner woman was having a hard time keeping her eyes open. Kate finally nudged Kris and whispered, "She needs her rest sweetie, and we should go."

Kris looked at her mother for a moment through sad eyes wishing once again for a past that could never be. "Yeah, you're right. Mom, we're going to go now so you can get some rest. I'll be back over on Monday right after the game. It should be about 6:30 or so. I'll bring dinner if you'd like. Just call my cell and let me know if you need anything."

"K," her mother whispered sleepily. "Thanks for coming by. I'll see you Monday." With those final words, the tired woman fell into a deep but restless sleep.

Kris took one final look at her mother and turned from the room.

Both women were quiet on the drive over to the diner. Neither said much through their dinners or on the drive back to Kris's place. Kate was aware of the toll this must be taking on her tall friend and her heart broke for her. When Kris bid her a quiet thanks and goodnight, Kate couldn't let it go. She followed Kris into the apartment and once the door was closed, wrapped her arms around the taller woman's waist. When Kris would have pushed her away, she held on and led them over to the couch, pulling Kris down into her arms. Gradually, she felt Kris relax into the embrace and then she felt her return it. Kate closed her eyes and held on, silently vowing to take as much of the burden that Kris felt on her own small shoulders and make this next year as easy as possible.

Kris couldn't understand why she didn't push the blonde teacher away. She'd never been a tactile person and yet she seemed to melt every time the small woman touched her. Little did she know that Kate was having the same conversation in her own head. Kate was thinking to herself what the hell is wrong with me? I hate it when anyone is my space and yet when I'm with Kris, all I want to do is hold her and make all the hurt go away! Deciding that this was left over from a guilt that she couldn't let go of, Kate decided to ride it out and see what happened. After all, it was the least she could do to give her friend a shoulder to cry on when needed.

Kris was exhausted emotionally. The last two days had taken so much out of her; she wasn't sure how much more she could take. The only thing keeping her sane at the moment were the arms that held her right now. She wasn't sure when she and Kate had decided to move their relationship from antagonistic to safe harbor but she was awfully glad they had. As she sunk deeper into the warm embrace, she wondered at the sensation of peace that seemed to come to her whenever Kate was near. With this thought in mind, Kris drifted off to sleep still trying to find an answer to the questions floating in her mind.

Kate felt Kris's breathing change. She knew that the young woman was drifting off to sleep and felt herself fighting to stay awake. After a few minutes of trying to keep her eyes open, she couldn't remember why she had to be awake and gave into what her heavy eyes wanted. Her last waking thought was how comfortable she felt.

A few hours later, Kris woke to find her self squished into the back of the couch with Kate's head laying on her shoulder. Although having Kate near was nice, the couch that they currently occupied was not made for two grown women to sleep on and Kris's back was not very happy with her.

Gently, she nudged Kate awake. Kate, never one to wake up gracefully, clutched at Kris's shirt and wouldn't let go. Kris sighed and thought, well, I have two choices. I can try to fall back to sleep or I can carry Sleeping Beauty here into the bedroom. I wonder if she'll freak in the morning if she finds herself in bed with me? The evil side of Kris's brain chose that moment to surface. It'll serve her right for not waking up! She chuckled quietly under her breath and then picked up the smaller woman and walked quietly into the bedroom. After a quick side trip to the bathroom, Kris crawled into bed beside Kate. It wasn't long before the brunette was drifting back off into the abyss. She was just about out when she felt Kate gravitate towards her. Sighing contentedly, she opened her arms and allowed Kate to wrap around her.

The first thing that Kate thought when she began to awaken the next morning was man, it's a good thing my bed isn't this comfortable every morning or I'd never get up! That thought of course led to where did I get this body pillow? She couldn't stop the small moan of pleasure that escaped from her throat as she burrowed deeper into the pillow. Then the mattress moved and damn near gave her a heart attack.

Kate froze, unable to move or breathe. The low chuckle under her ear was a dead give away as to just whom her pillow was. Turning her head slowly, wary green eyes met sparkling blue. "Good morning Kate," Kris rumbled in her still sleep filled voice. "I trust you had a good sleep?"

Kate ducked her head back down and hid her face in the crook of the other woman's arm. This only made Kris chuckle more as she could see the tips of Kate's ears turning red from her blush. "You know, it's kind of cute when you blush Kate!" Kris's voice was far to cheerful at that early hour of the morning so Kate did the only thing she could think of, she slapped the long lean body under hers on the stomach and then jumped up and ran for the bathroom, chased by Kris's now all-out laughter.

When Kate returned to the bathroom, her tall friend was nowhere to be found. Wandering into the kitchen, she found Kris staring intently at the coffee pot waiting for it to finish dripping. Not able to help herself, Kate leaned against the doorway and observed the beautiful woman in front of her. The long dark hair still tussled from sleep, strong shoulders encased in only a thin tank top tapered down to a well-muscled back and perfectly sized waist. Hips that were the perfect shape and incredible legs that seemed to go on forever were highlighted somehow by the flannel boxer shorts that Kris wore. Kate knew she was staring; actually, she was completely fixated. She could feel her breath catch in her throat and felt an odd sensation in her lower belly. Finally, unable to stand the tension she could feel burning through her own body, Kate cleared her throat and said, "You know, they do make coffee pots that brew coffee in six minutes or less."

Kris turned around and laughed at the mess that was Kate's hair. "Nice 'fro dude."

"Hey, we can't all look like we just walked off of a magazine shoot first thing in the morning Kris. How is it that you don't look like you've even been to bed yet?" Kate asked with a hint of playful annoyance.

"Ah see, now that's my secret; one that I can't share with you or I'd have to have you killed. We wouldn't want that now would we?" Kris smiled at Kate and then turned back around as she heard the coffee pot finally stop dripping. Pulling the pot out from the machine, Kris began to pour it into her oversized mug. Looking over her shoulder, she asked Kate if she'd like a cup as well. Kate nodded her head in the affirmative and Kris poured a cup of the black liquid into another mug adding just a little crme and sugar.

Handing off the coffee to Kate, Kris asked, "So, what do you have planned for today?"

Kate took a deep sip of coffee before answering her. "I have a million chores to do around the house. You know, laundry vacuuming, all the fun things in life really."

Kris understood all to well the joys of housework. There was a reason that she never rented a big place to live...big meant more rooms to clean. More was never good when it came to housework. "Yeah...me too. Fun stuff eh?" Kris responded in a voice that showed anything but excitement. "Well, at least let me make you breakfast before I send you off for your fun-filled day!"

Kate looked skeptically at the tall woman. "I heard from a fairly reliable source that you couldn't cook so I'm not sure that I want to experience that particular talent of yours!"

"Ah, breakfast isn't really cooking. Even I can make breakfast. You are right about the cooking thing though. Can't cook to save my life!" Kris had to laugh at that. "I always said if I was going to settle down, my woman better know how to cook. If she can't, we'll either starve to death or be in debt up to our eyeballs from all of the take out food!"

Kate laughed too and said, "Well, you've lived this long so I'm going to assume either you've had a lot of someone's to take care of you or you're in debt up to you eyeballs!"

"Well, I never claimed to be a virgin!" Kris jumped as Kate flicked the towel at her and then started laughing. "What?" she laughed at the smaller blonde woman.

"Remind me never to introduce you to anyone I like if all you're going to do is use them for their cooking abilities!" Kate exclaimed.

"It's not like they don't get their own satisfaction out of the encounter!" The look on Kate's face was priceless and Kris found herself on the receiving end of a well-placed smack in the stomach.

"Come on and feed me oh Talented One. I need to get going before I'm forced to take matters into my own hands!" Kate walked past the tall woman and looked in the refrigerator for all the necessary things to make an omelet.

At Kate's words, Kris froze in her track as her mind so nicely conjured up all kinds of images as to what exactly Kate could do to take matters into her own hands. Surprised at the ease with which the mini-daydream came up, Kris pushed it away impatiently. God Kris, she's being nice, you guys are becoming friends, don't blow this by doing something inappropriate!

By the time Kate had turned back around, Kris had reigned in the unexpected jolt to her libido. "Well," Kate said with a challenge, "I'm waiting and so is my stomach!"

Kris cleared her throat that had suddenly gone rather dry and returned, "right food often and a lot of it. I'm on it!" With an impromptu salute to the blonde, Kris bolted into action.

Breakfast had been leisurely despite the fact that both women had things to do. It was odd for both of them but they just couldn't seem to pull themselves away from each other.

Once Kate left, Kris resigned herself to behaving for the rest of the day and actually getting some things cleaned up around the apartment. She knew that Sundays were not the day to go and visit her mother as her father was always more riled up on Sundays than any other day. Kris figured the day spent in the church preaching and playing the 'holy man of God' role just swelled his brain to an abnormally large size.

After cleaning up the kitchen from their breakfast, Kris moved into the living room to tidy up. She found it odd that only a few short hours ago she and Kate had been lying on the couch that now seemed so empty. She remembered the sensation of having the smaller woman's body underneath her. She couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like to have something that wonderful for the rest of her life.

Unable to shake these thoughts from her head, Kris moved into the bedroom to make the bed and have a shower. It wasn't until that moment that she realized that she hadn't taken her usual morning run today. That stopped the tall woman cold. She always took her morning run. It didn't matter if she'd had a woman spend the night or not. She always went for a run. The only difference this morning was that she didn't want to leave the warmth of the woman snuggled up to her 'nor waist a moment of their time together.

This is so not good! Kris told herself. I so don't need this right now! We've just barely become friends and now I don't want to be away from her? I will ignore this and it will go away. A little bit of distance is all I need to get some perspective on the situation.

Kris spent the rest of the day deeply involved in reviewing files of troubled kids and cleaning her apartment. Anytime she thought of the blonde woman across town she'd push the thoughts away and find a new chore to do.

The next few days passed uneventfully and for this Kris and Kate were both quite thankful. As the weekend began to approach, Kate sought out Kris to see if younger woman still wanted her to go car shopping. Kris had called her and cancelled the offered ride to and from school for most of the week. She wasn't able to find the young woman most of the time and when she could find her, it seemed as though the counselor always had some place else to be. If Kate didn't know better, she'd swear that Kris was avoiding her. Why would she be avoiding me? Last weekend was amazing. I know I've never connected with anyone like that before. It was almost as if...Kate stopped. Oh my God! Did I come on too strong? Did she think that I wanted something more than a friendship? Oh lord, I have to straighten this out.

Kate looked around for Kris but once again couldn't find her. Noticing that her keys were still on her desk, Kate knew that Kris would have to come back to the office before leaving for the day. Deciding to nip this situation in the bud, Kate sat down to wait.

When Kris finally made it back to the office, it was quite obvious that she'd been in the gym working out. Her long lanky frame was dripping in sweat and her hair was drenched as well. Every nerve ending in Kate's body sat up and said 'good morning' the moment the beautiful woman walked in.

It seemed as though Kate lost all ability to speak. She had this long speech prepared but it flew out of her mind he minute her eyes caught sight of Kris's well-toned body. Oh my God she's beautiful! Kate's though pattern was erratic and she knew that she was blushing. When she finally got to Kris's face, the older woman thought she detected a look of amusement flash through Kris's eyes.

"Kate, what are you still doing here? I would have thought you'd be long gone by now." The sight of the older teacher sitting in her office threw Kris. She'd tried all week to avoid Kate and was able to accomplish her task most of the time until she was alone. Then her thoughts would automatically turn to the beautiful blonde and she would be lost.

"Kris, we need to talk. You've been avoiding me all week long and I'm not sure why. Have I done something to upset you or make you uncomfortable? I thought that last weekend we managed to put the past in the past and move on. If I'm wrong, I'll understand but I truly would like to be your friend now. I think that you could use one right now and I know I could always use a friend." Kate's brain finally managed to come up with something that she thought sounded fairly close to the little speech that she had practiced.

Kris knew as soon as the blonde started speaking that she had been wrong to behave the way she had been. Kate was right, they had forged a pretty good start at a friendship last weekend and now because she couldn't control her libido, she had almost jeopardized that. "I'm sorry Kate, I've just had a lot on my mind. It's not you I'm avoiding it's," Kris looked at Kate from beneath hooded eyes. "You know what? I'd rather not have this conversation here. Why don't you come over to my place and we'll talk about it. Right after I have a shower that is!"

Kate smiled, relieved that she hadn't blown it. "I'd like that. If you have any food in your fridge, I'll cook dinner. We wouldn't want to add any more to your bills than we have to!"

After a short detour to the grocery store, the pair once again headed for Kris's apartment. As soon as they were inside, Kate was shuffling Kris off to the shower with promises of pasta and fresh garlic bread when she got out. Once Kate heard the water running, she began to pull out the variety of vegetables from an assortment of bags. Cutting, slicing and dicing was the only way that the 38year-old teacher could keep her mind off of the 29-year-old body that was naked in the next room. She had to lean against the counter for support as an image of water sliding down a perfectly sculpted body invaded her senses and it was all she could do to stop herself from barreling head on into the washroom and making an absolute ass of herself.

Trying to keep her mind off of the beautiful woman in the other room was proving just as difficult for Kris. Okay smart-ass, you've tried to ignore her, tried to tell yourself that you're not attracted to her what's next? You know that there is something going on between both of you but you're to afraid of where it may lead. Now what are you going to do? It would be so easy to just slide that hand down a little farther, just to take the edge off so to speak. Kris pulled her mind away from where her thoughts were leading her and quickly rinsed her hair. As she toweled off her body, she could hear Kate moving around in the other room and that feeling of completeness once again filled her. Well, let's finish that conversation and then we'll see what's next won't we? Kris asked herself while she threw on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt.

Exiting the bathroom, Kris made a quick trip to the bedroom and laid some sweats and a t-shirt on the bed for Kate. We might as well both be comfortable she thought reasonably. The smells from the kitchen were to wonderful to avoid for much longer as was the pull of the other woman. Kris finally entered the kitchen and smiled at Kate who looked completely at home standing at the stove with four pots going and something in the oven. Kris again wondered why this incredible woman wasn't taken already. God she really is the whole package! She's smart, funny, compassionate and caring. She has a great sense of humor and she can cook!

"I threw some sweats on my bed. I thought you might want to be comfortable and I know there is nothing I prefer than to be in sweatpants and a t-shirt on a cold night like this. Dinner smells wonderful by the way." Kris leaned over a smaller shoulder and tried to sneak a taste, only to have her hand swatted away.

"You behave yourself until it's ready. It's only about another 10 minutes so I don't think you'll starve!" Kate laughed and then wiped her hands on a tea towel. "If you don't mind, I think I'll take you up on the offer of sweats. Can you just stir that for a minute while I run and change?"

"Sure, I'm pretty sure I can't screw that up." Kris and Kate both laughed as the same thought popped into both minds. Bet you can screw it up!

Dinner was a relaxed affair but there was an underlying tension in the room. Both women felt it but neither woman acknowledged it. They both knew that their touches were becoming more frequent and lingering just a little longer than necessary. The looks that passed between them were more intense somehow although neither woman would broach the subject.

As Kris was tidying up the dishes in the dining room after dinner, Kate was in the kitchen wrapping up the leftovers. When Kris brought a load of dishes into the kitchen, she saw Kate trying to put a bowl away on the top shelf. Not wanting the smaller woman to bean herself on the head, Kris stepped up behind her companion and took the bowl from her outstretched hand.

The presence at Kate's back momentarily through her off balance and she stumbled back into Kris. Kris wrapped her arm around Kate's waist to steady her and at the same time, righted the bowl in the shelf. "You okay there?" the low voice rumbled through Kate and seemingly ended up right in her core. She shivered in response and looked up to Kris's eyes.

Kris knew that look; she'd seen it enough in her life to know what it meant. She could feel the response in Kate's smaller frame and her own body ached to continue the contact. When she was about to pull away or go crazy from want, Kate reached up and caressed the side of her face lovingly. Both women started to lean into each other and their breath mixed as their mouths drew closer.

Kris's eyes moved from Kate's eyes to her lips and back again. She knew that she was playing with fire but like a moth to a flame was unable to avoid the impending danger. Just as she was about to sell her soul and complete the kiss, a shrill ringing broke into the cocoon that had built up around the couple. Kris felt Kate stiffen and then pull away but not before she saw the look of disappointment in the green eyes that had been darkened by need.

The phone rang three more times before Kris was able to force herself to reach over and answer it. Expecting that it would be her mother, she didn't bother to look at the call display.

"Hello?" she asked into the phone, her breath still a little shaky.

"Hi, Kris?" a voice at the end asked.

Kris was unable to place the voice immediately but she knew that it sounded familiar. "Yep, this is Kris. Who am I speaking with?" she asked.

"Hey woman! It's Sam. I've been thinking about you all week and I thought that now that the weekend is here we could get together. You know, catch up on old times." Sam's meaning was perfectly clear to Kris.

"Hey Sam. That would be great. I think I definitely need a break and I've got to come out there tomorrow anyway. I'm supposed to go truck shopping." Kris answered. Maybe this is the distraction I need to get Kate off of my mind. God! I can't believe I almost kissed her! What was I thinking?

Kate had stiffened the moment she had heard the tall blonde woman's name mentioned. She may not have ever dated a woman before but she sure knew when someone wanted someone else and she could tell that Sam had only one goal in mind when it came to her tall friend. Come on Kris, you know what she wants. Why are you doing this?

"Well, how about I come out there and pick you up in the morning then. We can have a late breakfast and make a day of it." Sam was very sure that they wouldn't be spending much time looking at trucks but she did figure they would make a day of it.

"Okay that sounds great. Give me a call in the morning and let me know what time you'll be here." Kris answered quietly. By the time she'd hung up the phone, Kate had left the room. When the smaller woman reemerged it was with her own clothes on.

"Well, dinner was great but I've got to get going now. You obviously have it covered for tomorrow so I guess I'll see you at school on Monday." Kate tried to make her voice seem light but it was obvious that she wasn't happy.

"Wait Kate, I wanted to talk to you. We should have finished our conversation from earlier." Kris knew that Kate was angry with her but didn't know how to make it right. The emotions that she felt when she was near her were to strong and Kris didn't know how to cope with them. Sam she could handle. She knew that Sam wanted a quick role in the hay so to speak and then it would be over. No emotion, nothing to get messy. That she could handle.

"You know what Kris? I'm really tired and I think I just need to go home and rest. I'll see you next week and we can talk then." This last part was said as the older teacher was walking out the front door.

God she couldn't even look at me she was so mad! Kris thought aloud as she was left standing alone wondering how everything had changed in the span of a few moments. What she didn't know was that Kate couldn't look at her. Kate couldn't let her see the tears that had already started to fall.

To Be Continued - Part 7

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