Phone Numbers, Lies and Octopi

by dabkey


This is a sequel to Lederhosen, Frenchtoast and Telemarketing. You probably want to read that one first, but I won't force ya.

Disclaimers and whatnot - again, two women who dig each other, some characters who like to imbibe and swear, and my apologies beforehand to all 22 year olds - I meant no offense.

Comments welcome -


Something about the silence and the deep-seated dread that clawed at my gut was familiar; I searched frantically for the memory, desperate to think about anything but what was going on in front of my eyes in the here and now.

Grinning like a maniac, I burst out of the woods into a huge untracked glade and bent low into my first turn. My skis whispered through the pristine white and I reveled in the sprays of powder that hit my face and goggles, thinking this was possibly the most amazing feeling a body could experience...until I realized that the gentle hiss of skis on snow was the only sound in an otherwise deafening silence.

An ominous silence very much like the one that descended on Pam and Ken's living room the moment we walked in.

The snow beneath me seemed to shift, and I could hear a faint rumble in the distance.

I was following a few steps behind Kim and nearly ran into her when she abruptly stopped in the entryway. I put a hand on her back to steady myself and got a fleeting impression of tension before she flinched away and took a step forward, her eyes riveted on the couch.

I dropped my hand and looked at her in surprise, then followed her gaze and watched as an extremely attractive blonde - hell, who am I kidding? The woman was fucking gorgeous - gracefully unfurled herself from the couch, crossed the room to where Kim and I were standing, and wrapped herself around Kim like an octopus. An extremely attractive, extremely tall, extremely blonde, Nordic octopus - all arms and legs and straight teeth and flawless skin and ice-blue eyes and cheek bones like the frigging alps...I wondered what it was like to walk around making everyone around you look like a troll.

For purposes having to do far more with self-preservation than logic, I firmly told myself that this must be a friend of Kim's. It couldn't be what it looked like. Friends hugged hello, didn't they?

The rumble became louder, and the world around me started to shake.

"Hey, baby," said the Nordic Octopus and loosened her tentacles enough to pull back a little from Kim and give her a brief kiss.

My rather childish hope that octopus-girl's perfection might be flawed by a voice like Fran Dresher was dashed, and it was becoming harder to squash the panic welling up inside me. Friends called each other 'Baby' and kissed hello, didn't they? She looked European - they were notoriously affectionate, right?

She turned to me with Kim firmly tucked under one arm and detached the other to shake my hand.

"Hi, I'm Simone. You must be the famous Greta. Kimber has told me so much about you - it's so nice to finally meet you!"

Kimber?!? Who the fuck was Kimber? And goddamnit, did she have to have good manners as well?

"Uh...I uh..." was all I got out before Octopussy leaned down and nuzzled Kim's ear.

The same ear that not an hour before, my own lips had nuzzled as we rode up the lift for our last run of the day. The same ear into which last night I had whispered words of pleasure and delight as we tumbled into my bed in a tangle of half-clothed limbs.

Friends might hug and kiss hello, and even call each other 'Baby', but friends did NOT nuzzle. Even European friends.

The rumble became a roar, and chunks of ice and debris slid past me.

I looked at Pam, who was standing in the kitchen, and saw worry and sympathy on her face.

I looked at Ken, who was glaring at Kim and Octopus...I mean Simone...angrily.

I looked at Kyle, who avoided my gaze.

And finally I looked at Kim and got all the confirmation I needed. I closed my eyes against the sadness and apology I saw on her face.

"Darce..." Her voice was pleading, and cut the last thread of hope that I had been clinging to.

I looked up to see a churning wall of snow rushing towards me and skied for my life.

I had managed to emerge from the avalanche unscathed, reaching the sheltering trees just in time. I doubted I would emerge from this as lucky - there was no shelter in sight.

"Come on in, you two," Pam said in an overly cheery voice, startling me out of my gloomy thoughts. "There's cheese and crackers on the table, and lasagna in the oven. You'll stay for dinner, won't you hon?"

I blinked, straightened my slumped shoulders, and took a steadying breath. Pam had been using her lawyer voice, which I am sure over the years had gotten her many things, but it was not going to get me to spend one more second with the woman who had, in only 24 hours, taken my heart and then given it back to me, purČed.

"Not this time, thanks anyway Pam." I congratulated myself on the steadiness of my voice. "Good to see you all, maybe I'll see you next time you come into town. And Kim..."

Panic flashed across Kim's face as she looked at me, and then quickly to Simone.

"Nevermind," I said, anger starting to seep through the numbness. I turned away from her, and gave Simone a nod. "Simone, nice to meet you - have a great stay."

Heck, I even sort of sounded like I meant it.

She looked at Kim, then at me, confusion evident on her face.

I sent her a smile that was all teeth and no feeling and with one last look at Kim, headed out the door.

After the door closed behind me, I sagged against it and took a few deep breaths of cool night air.

Fuck. From glory to shit, all in 5 minutes.

Absently, I watched the mist of each exhale, wondering what in the hell to do now. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to drink myself stupid and cry on someone's shoulder. Neither of which were particularly healthy options, so instead I started walking.

I had just reached the end of the walkway when I heard the door open behind me.

"Darcy, wait."

I kept walking, pissed off at my body for reacting to her voice.


I still kept walking, picking up the pace a little. I heard footsteps, and then a strong hand on my arm dragged me to a stop. I was surprised by her strength, although I shouldn't have been. I had seen the well defined arms and shoulders, felt them ripple beneath my fingers, my tongue...

Oh, God...

"Goddamnit, Darcy, wait!" She sounded like her mother. I almost smiled.

Slowly, I turned to face her. She was breathing hard, her face flushed with anger as she looked up at me. The light evening breeze ruffled her dark hair, sending a few errant strands across her face.

Jesus, she's beautiful. Why does she have to be so goddamned beautiful?


My hand rose automatically to brush the strands aside, but I stopped myself and quickly stuffed the offending hand into a pocket to stop it from betraying me again.

My stillness seemed to assure her that I wasn't going to run away and she cautiously released my arm and took a deep breath.

"Darcy..." She ran an impatient hand through her hair, and my stomach tightened at the familiar gesture. After only 24 hours, and already so familiar. How in the hell had this woman gotten under my skin fast? "Ah, Jesus, Darcy, I'm so sorry. I forgot she was coming..."

Not 'I'm sorry I wasn't honest with you', or 'I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was involved with someone else'...

I snorted and shook my head. "Yes, how very awkward for you to have your girlfriend there when you walk in with the woman you fucked last night." She flinched at that, and took an involuntary step back, but didn't deny the accusation.

I crossed my arms and tilted my head, flashing a bitter smile. "And now you've got to go back and explain to your girlfriend why you chased me out the door." I tapped my chin with a fingernail, feigning contemplation. "Now, the question is, will you tell the truth - tell her that you spent last night with me? Or will you keep her on the 'need to know' basis that you used with me?" I shrugged, and stepped back. "I guess I should be flattered that you think enough of me to follow me out here at all. Do all your one night stands get as much consideration?"

Her eyes sparked with anger, chasing away any remorse that may have been there before.

"Fuck you, Darcy," She hissed through clenched teeth. "I didn't plan what happened, it just happened! I don't remember you doing any complaining at the time." She threw up her hands, "Christ, you're acting like we're together or something!"

Because that's what it felt like, at least for me...

"It was one night, Darcy - one night!"

Ouch. Damn; girlfriend had some guns, and wasn't afraid to use 'em. And she was sounding a lot like the spoiled seventeen year-old that I had met and intensely disliked five years ago.

I stiffened, and did the worst thing possible - I let my mouth go off before checking in with my brain.

"You're absolutely right, sweetheart; it was just one night. And I guess not bad as far as one nights go..." She blanched a little, but I kept right on going. "Yeah, I'd say ya did yourself proud. And gosh, thanks for letting me entertain your poor, horny ass until your girlfriend got here. Speaking of whom; hadn't you best get back to her? I'm sure she's getting lonely for her Kimber."

As we stared at each other, my anger began to drain away, replaced by regret. But it was too late.

"Goddamn you, Darcy Max," she said in a whisper as she wiped angry tears from her eyes, "goddamn you!"

She turned and walked away.

Well, mission accomplished - I had made her feel as crappy as I did. Yeah, well, I'm all about sharing.

I watched her go, telling myself it was for the best.

God, I was such a liar.

Despite my earlier good intentions to resist unhealthy urges, my feet headed for the nearest bar and I had downed two shots of Porfidio before common sense came back for a visit. And not the common sense that told me, 'slow down, Darce, this isn't what you need.' No, it was the common sense that said, 'What the hell are you doing shooting ten dollar shots of good sipping tequila?' Jesus, sometimes I'm too practical for my own good.

The bar my feet had chosen was normally a local's hangout, dark and smoky; just barely on the safe side of seedy. I liked it for its dinginess - liked that the ash trays were cheap little gold colored aluminum things, liked that the bar was battered and scored with gashes that looked suspiciously like knife slashes, liked that there was still buckshot embedded in the back wall from a drunken prank several years back and liked that the back booths were dark enough for any number of illicit activities to take place, with no one the wiser...these little signs of coarseness usually kept the tourists out, but tonight, during the height of the holiday season, a good portion of the clientele was decidedly non-local and the atmosphere downright festive.

Damn. It's hard to wallow surrounded by yuletide freakin' cheer, but I was going to give it my best shot.

I scowled at the gaiety around me and gruffly ordered a third drink with a beer back, nodding my thanks and sympathy to the bartender as she put my order up. I grabbed them and moved down the bar to the end, away from a man and woman who had moved up beside me. I wanted to be far away when the cigarette he was waving around finally came into contact with the woman's huge Texas-style hair that had to be held in place by an entire case of something highly flammable. I plopped my drinks and morose self down and stared sightlessly at the television above the bar, visions of Kim dancing through my head.

Visions of Kim and the secret smiles we had shared that morning over breakfast with her family.

Of Kim as she pulled me into a bathroom stall in the lodge that afternoon to kiss me senseless; her mouth hungry and desperate, as if she would never get enough.

Of Kim collapsed on top of me, sweaty and panting, my fingers still stroking softly...


I don't know how long I sat, sipping and staring, vacillating between anger and self-pity, but eventually the tequila was gone and I drained the rest of the beer and left the bar.

I walked aimlessly along the snowy streets, the alcohol in my system enough to keep me warm, but not nearly enough to stop thoughts of a certain dark-haired, blue-eyed woman from ricocheting around my brain.

Kim, who I had known for less than 48 hours.

Kim, who had a runway model girlfriend.

Kim...who I was realizing I had already fallen hard for.

I walked around for nearly an hour, not wanting to go home but not wanting to go to another bar, either. Finally the warming effects of the tequila wore off and the cold drove me to Greta's door.

I thought at first that I had woken her - she was wearing a bathrobe and her hair was mussed as if from sleep. Her welcoming smile immediately turned to concern when she saw me, and she pulled me, unresisting, into the warmth of her apartment.

"Jesus Christ, D - what the hell happened to you? And where's Kim? Last time I saw you, the two of you were sending looks across the table that would make Madonna blush!"

"Ah, yes," I walked past her and collapsed on her couch with a sigh, "well, that was before Kim's girlfriend showed up and dropped me right back down here with the rest of the mortals."

"Her girlfriend?!?" She was suitably shocked, and I felt just a little better that I wasn't the only clueless one.

"Yep, her girlfriend. And not just any girlfriend. You know that line from the Rolling Stones song? You make a dead man come? It's that kind of girlfriend. Shit, I felt like I should be paying money, just to get a glimpse of her. Damn." I sighed and leaned my head back on the cushions. "Damn, damn, damn."

"Shit, Darce, I'm sorry." She thought a second. "Are you sure? I mean, Pam and Ken never mentioned any girlfriend, and they both seemed pleased as punch that you two were getting on so well...hell, I watched the two of you together today, and I can't imagine Kim looking at someone like she looked at you if she was with someone else."

It was nice to have her say that, but I was a little suspicious of her use of the phrase 'pleased as punch.' Greta was known to, on occasion, drink martinis and watch Cary Grant movies, and when she did, she used expressions picked up from her mother; 'pleased as punch' being one of her favorites. Also common were 'happy as clams' and 'snug as a bug in a rug'.

I looked over at the counter separating the kitchen from the living room and saw the tell-tale martini pitcher.

"To Catch a Thief?" I asked with a small smile as she dropped down on the couch beside me and gave me a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

"Already watched that. I just started Philadelphia Story. You know...Dexter P. Haaaaa-ven," she said in a sing-song voice, and I laughed. It felt great.

"Smashing." I said, and bumped her shoulder with mine. "Mind if I horn in on your party?"

"I think that would be grand," she replied in her best Kate Hepburn voice, then switched back into the concerned friend mode. "You wanna talk about it, Darce?"

I scrunched up my face and shook my head. "Nope."

"Well, then," she drawled, back in character. "Be a dear and get me another marty, would you?"

"But what would dear Pa-Pa think?" I said. She giggled, and offered me a ding-dong from the voluminous pocket of her robe.

I accepted the gift with a raised eyebrow and a grin, then got up and poured her another martini. I grabbed myself a beer from the fridge and settled back down on the couch to let Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart take my mind of things, if only for a little while.

It wasn't the first night I had spent on Greta's couch, and I doubted it would be the last.

I woke early, despite the late night, and after a look in the fridge, pulled out some eggs and bread, and set to fixing coffee.

Greta always timed her martini/Cary Grant extravaganzas to coincide with her days off, so I wasn't worried about waking her, but the smell of coffee quickly did its work and she emerged from the bedroom soon after the coffee finished brewing.

"Hello sunshine!" I greeted her with annoying cheerfulness and handed her a cup of coffee - cream, 3 spoons of sugar. I was disgusted when she responded with equal, but in her case honest, cheerfulness.

"Why, thank you, Darcy, and good morning to you, too." She accepted the cup with a tranquil smile and sipped happily.

I will always be amazed by the therapeutic power of Cary Grant, Bombay gin, jalapeņo stuffed olives and ding-dongs.

I had tried my own version once, with anime movies and sake, but woke up the next morning hung over, thinking my nose was too big and my hair too small. These were not quite the remedial benefits I was hoping for, so I never tried that again. Maybe it was the ding-dongs that were missing...

She didn't waste any time getting the conversation going.

"So. Little Kimmie's got a girlfriend who Mick Jagger wants to boff." She took another sip of coffee and looked over at me. "Honestly Darce, that's not really saying that much - I mean, it's not like the man is picky or anything."

I was thinking that perhaps Greta missed some of the finer points of last night's conversation, but held my tongue, wanting to see where she was going with this.

"Did Kim actually say it was her girlfriend?"

"Not in so many words, no," I shrugged, "but when I called her on it, she didn't deny it."

"So you asked her, straight out, if this Rolling Stone-ho-wannabe was her steady, and she didn't deny it?"

Her steady? I think Greta was still channeling her mother. Could you channel someone who was still very much alive? I'd have to check into that later.

"Well, no, not really..."

"Ah-HA!!!!" she shouted, nearly causing me to spill my coffee down the front of my shirt, "You went off on a little Darcy rant, didn't you? And didn't give her a chance to explain anything. Am I right?"

"No!" I said defensively, "Well, um...maybe." I finished petulantly, annoyed that she knew me so well.

She nodded sagely, pleased with herself that she had guessed correctly.

I frowned at her and spoke to defend my actions. "We walk in the house, and this Elle McPherson look-alike attacks Kim like a goddamn octopus, sucking on her like a goddamn leech, and nuzzling her. NUZZLING!" I repeated emphatically, as though that explained everything. "What the hell am I suppose to think!"

She watched me, sipping in that goddamned tranquil way she had, until I finished. Then she sipped for a few moments more while I fidgeted.

"Well, your vivid use of water-dwelling animals to describe this woman's behavior certainly seems to point towards Kim's guilt - and of course the NUZZLING!" I winced at her tone, and the exasperated look on her face, "It's no wonder you jumped to conclusions and didn't wait for an explanation."

I gave her an annoyed scowl. "Come on, Greta, you weren't there and didn't see how that woman attached herself..."

"Oh I know, I know," she interrupted with a wave of her coffee cup, "octopuses and leeches and all that nuzzling...or is it octopi?" She stopped and seriously considered her own question. I rolled my eyes and waited for her to continue.

"Did Kim nuzzle back?" She asked after a few seconds, and I blinked.

I had been so overwhelmed by Simone's mitts being all over what I already considered mine that I hadn't thought to notice Kim's reaction to her. I though about it now. And realized that she had simply stood there. No greeting, no hug back, nothing.

"Um-hmm," Greta said at the contemplative look on my face, "listen, Darce, I don't know exactly what's going on, but I know what I saw when you two met, and I know what I saw all day yesterday. She really cares about you, and I think you should hear her out before you make any decisions."

I had probably ruined any chance of that with my charm at our last meeting, and started to tell her as much, but she stopped me with a raised hand. "That's all I'm going to say about it, ok? I know you're going to do what you're going to do, but I really think you should talk to her. Even if she is involved with this woman, you should still talk about what happened..." She looked at me pointedly, "I'm assuming that what we were all assuming happened, happened?"

It scared me a little that I had no problem understanding what she was asking. I hesitated, and nodded, unable to help the little grin that twitched on my lips as I remembered. "Uh-huh."

"Well, from that adorably dorky look on your face right now, I will further assume that is wasn't awful, and that given the chance, you would happily repeat the experience. So here is my advice."

"I thought you weren't going to say anything more." I grumbled, but looked at her expectantly.

"I changed my mind," she said with a shrug, "there's a law somewhere that lets me do that. Anyway, back to the advice. Talk to her, or this whole thing is going to eat you up, and when you do talk to her, keep in mind that she's only twenty-two. Remember how you were at twenty-two?"

Egads. Memories of the myriad of incredibly stupid, selfish and desperate things I had done when I was twenty-two flashed through my mind. Especially the casual way I had viewed sex. I don't know when I started expecting more than one night, but it certainly wasn't when I was twenty-two.

I groaned. "Jesus, Greta, you're not making me feel any better here."

"Well, maybe your own behavior is not a good example - you were a little on the easy side..." I tried to look properly offended, but knew she was right. "I'm just saying that six years can make a big difference, ok? I'm not discouraging you, I just want you to think about it, ok?" She walked past me, poured herself another cup of coffee, and hopped up on the counter, swinging her legs like a little girl. "So. Wanna ski the back bowls with me today?"

I smiled, as much at her behavior as at her change of subject. "I think I've got some stuff I need to take care of this morning... Can I meet up with you later?"

"Stuff, huh?"


"Well, alright then. Timber Ridge at 11:00?"

"Perfect." I reached for the eggs. "Scrambled ok?"

She nodded, and I started cracking.

The rest of breakfast passed without any other mention of Kim, water-dwelling creatures, or Mick Jagger, although every once in a while I caught Greta looking at me with a worried frown.

It wasn't until I was about to leave - showered and dressed in borrowed jeans and a sweatshirt - that Greta brought it up again.

She pulled me into a fierce hug then held me at arms length, looking at me intently.

"You sure you're ok, Darce?"

"Yeah...I guess...shit, Greta, I don't know. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. I just thought...hell, I don't know what I thought."

"Mmm," she said, and put a hand on my chest, "She really got to you, didn't she?"

I thought to make some kind of joke, but couldn't.

I sighed. "I see her, when I close my eyes - like she's tattooed there. We knew each other, what, barely even a day? But every second of that day was twice as good as any other second in my life before." I gently extracted myself from Greta's embrace and grabbed my coat from the rack. "Yeah, you could say she got to me."

"Oh, honey...," she straightened my coat, and tugged gently on the collar, "remember what I said, ok? Things might be a little screwy right now, but from what I could tell, I think Kim probably feels the same, so don't completely shut her out."

"I'll remember." I kissed her on the forehead and gave her a crooked grin. "Thanks for letting me stay - see you at eleven?"

"Eleven." She nodded in confirmation, "And if you don't show, I'll assume that 'Stuff' went well." She smiled knowingly and pushed me out the door.

I walked slowly back to my house, ignoring the curious stares from the multitude of brightly clad and heavily laden skiers making their way to the slopes.

I would go and see Kim; I realized I couldn't leave it as we had. I needed to know why - why, if she was involved with someone, she had let things happen; why she hadn't told me. I refused to believe it had all been one sided, that she truly thought of me as a one night thing; maybe that was stupid, but there it was.

Maybe, eventually, we could even be friends.

Jesus, the thought of seeing her and not touching her killed me, but maybe when I'd given it some time, gotten over the hurt, it would be easier.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The answering machine showed 4 messages, and my cell - still in its charger where I had forgotten it the previous morning in a lust-induced haze - showed I had missed 3 calls. I checked the answering machine first.

"Darcy, it's Pam. I wanted to see if you were alright - you seemed a little upset when you left, and Kim was a wreck when she came back inside from talking to you...Well, just give us a call when you have a chance, ok?"

The next was from my Aunt Brenna, who was coming to spend Christmas with me. Brenna was pretty much the only member of my family that spoke to me anymore - my mother and father had written me off years ago after I brought home my first girlfriend, and my sister, eleven years my junior, had accepted their opinion of me as gospel, never attempting to find out for herself if I was really the evil lesbian slut they made me out to be.

Brenna couldn't have cared less about my orientation, and had never liked my mother, so for the last few years we had been spending Christmas together, alternating between her house in Sedona and wherever I happened to be.

Damn. With everything that happened, I had forgotten about her. I needed to pick her up at the airport - she hated taking the shuttle. Guess I wouldn't be meeting with Greta after all. I glanced at my watch. 8:37. Her flight came in at noonish, and it was a two hour drive down to DIA, plus parking and walking to the terminal...

The third message played and I caught my breath.

"Darcy?" the voice was barely a whisper, filled with emotion. "It's Kim - please pick up the phone. Please?" There was a pause, and a heavy sigh. "God, Darcy, you make me so crazy...I have to talk to you, and I don't want to do it over the phone. Please, pick up!" Another pause. "Ok, I understand, after what I said and what happened, that you probably don't want to talk to me..."

What she said? I thought with a grimace.

"...I'm so sorry - I know I should have told you about Simone, I don't know why I didn't. I wasn't lying, I had thought about kissing you forever, but I just never expected you to do it...never expected it to feel like be like that..." She took a breath and continued fiercely, "I'm sorry for not telling you I was...seeing someone, but I can't be sorry for what happened - I'll never be sorry for that, Darce, never! Please..."


Goddamnpieceofshitshorttapeansweringmachine...I leapt to the phone, as though she were still there, but stopped as the forth message played.

It was Kim again, and she sounded defeated.

"Ok, I guess you don't want to talk...I....I'm leaving tomorrow, my group was the lucky one to pull Christmas duty - someone's gotta take care of all the critters, ya know..."

Kim was in her second year of Veterinary School, and had explained to me about the rotating schedule she and her classmates followed to take care of the long term and overnight patients at the teaching hospital. As I thought about that, what she was saying finally sunk in.

She was leaving.

Tomorrow, she said. That would be today. Now.

I ran from the house, not even bothering to finish listening to her message.

By the time I reached Pam and Ken's place, I had managed to get my panicked self somewhat under control, but if Pam's raised eyebrow at my demeanor was any indication, it wasn't near as under control as I would have liked.

She stared at me as I took a deep breath, willing myself to calm down.

"Is she here?" It came out as a croak and I cleared my throat and tried again. "Did she leave yet?"

Pleasepleasepleaseplease... I was acting ridiculous; she was with someone else, and I had no claim on her, but I wanted to see her so bad my teeth ached.

The look of sympathy on her face told the story, and I felt the shock of it like ice-cold water.

"I'm sorry, Darcy - they left early this morning. She had to be back for rounds at noon..."

"Shit." It was all I could think of to say.

I ran a hand through my hair, then across my face in defeat.

"Shit." I said again. She was gone.

Pam pulled me, unresisting, into the house and sat me down at the kitchen table. I sat quietly, lost in my own self-pity, vaguely aware of Pam's movements in the kitchen behind me.

"Black, right?"

I blinked and nodded as steaming cup of coffee was placed in front of me.

"Thanks," I said perfunctorily, and absently raised the cup to my lips as Pam settled herself in a chair across from me.

She watched me for a while, and I looked back warily, wondering what she was thinking.

"You know," she said finally, "Kim had that exact same expression on her face last night after you left."

"Was that before or after she kissed her girlfriend hello?" The bitter words were out of my mouth before I could stop them, and mentally slapped myself. It wasn't Pam I was angry with.

I winced and started to apologize, but she waved a hand and smiled faintly. "S'ok. You have every right to be angry."

"Not at you, I don't."

She was quiet for a moment, and then shrugged, "Maybe you do. I...I knew about Simone, but I still did all I could to push the two of you together..."

My head snapped up. "You knew?"

She nodded, and had the decency to look uncomfortable. She knew. Which meant that Ken had known also. And Kyle.

I was going to kick that little shit's ass the next time I saw him.

"She and Simone have been on again-off again for a while...Kim hadn't mentioned her in ages, so I thought..." She looked at me, at the anger in my face, and sighed. "I never thought she would behave like that if she were with someone. I honestly believed that Simone was out of the picture, or I would have said something. You two just seemed to hit it off so well, and I haven't seen Kimmie that animated in a long time...I'm sorry, Darce, I really am."

We were quiet for a long time. She stared at her coffee as though it might speak to her, and I stared out the window, wishing I could go back in time, but thinking that if I did, I'd do the same damn thing again - hell, I'd probably do the same damn thing right now, regardless of the consequences.

"Jesus," I said finally and leaned back in the chair, rubbing my neck, "this is so completely fucked up." I glanced quickly at Pam, wondering if I should apologize for my language, but she didn't seem to have heard me.

I looked at my watch and stood. I needed to pick up Brenna in 3 hours.

"I have to go - thanks for the coffee." It was on the tip of my tongue to thank her for fixing me up with her oh-so-available daughter, too, but I stopped myself before the sarcastic comment got out. Making Pam feel guilty wouldn't make me feel any better - well, not in the long-run anyway.

Her head jerked up at my sudden movement, hesitant eyes meeting mine. "Oh...uh, ok. Right. Um..." she paused for a moment, checking out the contents of her cup again. "I meant to ask you what you were doing for Christmas...I'm making dinner here, and we'd love to have you. And Greta too - I'm going to call her later."

"I can't, Pam..." she looked stricken, and I hurried to reassure her, "No, no - it's not because of what happened with Kim, I swear. My aunt is coming into town this afternoon, and we already have plans." I walked around the table and gave her a quick hug. "Come on, woman, it's going to take more than me fooling around with your daughter to mess up the friendship I have with you and Ken." I laughed, and it sounded hollow even to me.

"Is that what it was?" she asked quietly, "Fooling around?"

I paused for a long time.

"Well, to her, I guess it was." I forced small smile and squeezed her shoulder as I stepped back.

But it wasn't to me. I left it unsaid.

"Darcy I'm..."

I held up a hand to stop her. "Please - don't take this the wrong way, but I've heard enough 'I'm sorry Darcy's to last me a month." Pam stopped herself with an effort, and I smiled. "I'm an adult and I made my own decisions. And Kim made hers. And that's that."

Pam stood and walked me to the door where we stood awkwardly for a few moments, before she suddenly turned and went back into the kitchen to grab a pad of paper and a pen.

"Here, let me give you her phone number and address, ok?" Her voice was hopeful, but I shook my head.

"No, please don't."

An hour before, I had wanted nothing more than to see Kim, to talk to her and hear what she had to say. Somehow, finding out that Simone wasn't something new; that she had been around for a while and would probably continue to be around, made me change my mind. Now I just wanted to leave it behind and move on.

Her face fell, and she put down the pad down and came back to the door.

I hugged her again. "I'll call you in a few days, ok? Maybe we can get together for New Year's, if you're still in town."

"Ok," she said sadly as I opened the door. "Have a good Christmas, Darce."

"You too, Pam. My love to Ken, and kick Kyle in the butt for me." I paused, and shook my head. "No wait, I'll do that myself the next time I see him."

She smiled at that. "Be well, Darcy."

I nodded in acknowledgement and made my way home.

The first genuine, heartfelt smile to grace my face in what seemed like days happened as I stood amongst a throng of impatient travelers under the sign for carousel 15 at Denver International Airport.

It started when I noticed a group of people hurrying down the escalator, looking behind them with thinly disguised alarm, and got larger as the focus of that wariness came into view in all her beaded, crystaled, lets-sit-around-the-campfire-and-sing-Kumbayah hippy glory.

Aunt Brenna.

Her hair was sandy brown like my own, but where mine was shorter and slightly curly, hers was long - nearly down to her waist - and very straight. Today several small sections of it were braided and threaded with multicolored beads that clicked softly as she walked, and I could smell the patchouli from 30 feet away. Her long skirt - made of something gauzy and semi-transparent - looked like peacock road-kill, and skinny, alarmingly tanned arms poked out of a bright turquoise colored tank top.

God, I loved this woman.

By the time those skinny arms were wrapped around me in a powerful hug and the top of her five-foot three head tucked under my chin, the smile was threatening to split my face in half.

"Hey, you." I said, resisting the temptation to pick her up. Her response was muffled in my shoulder, and I gave her a final squeeze before releasing her.

I grinned and pinched a bit of her shirt between my fingers, teasing her about her outfit. "You do realize that it's December, don't you?"

She ignored the jibe, and stepped back a little, still holding onto my hands.

"Good God, Darcy Rene, you look scrumptious. Where's the skeleton I left here in May?"

I laughed, and pulled a bag off her shoulder. "Too bad you're my straight relative - that kind of talk makes my heart go pitter-pat."

"Oh hell, honey - it's been so long since you got laid that re-runs of the Facts of Life make your heart go pitter-pat..."

My laughter was slightly hysterical, and she looked at my face more closely. "Oh my. Well, well, well. Finally got back on the horse, huh?"

I didn't respond, and she raised pencil thin eyebrows. "Not a smooth ride, I take it. I sense a story behind that broody silence you and your father are so good at..."

I frowned at being compared to my father and shrugged. She grabbed my arm and started moving towards the carousel. "Well, you'll have lots of time to tell your nosy yet surprisingly charming aunt all about it on the drive back to your place."

I sighed. I had a feeling it was going to be a long drive.

To her credit and my amazement, Brenna managed to wait until bags were loaded, parking fee paid, and we were cruising along Pena Boulevard on our way to I-70 before curiosity, which had kept her hopping around on her seat like a third-grader that needed to pee, finally got the best of her.

"Alright, Lil'bit - Give." I rolled my eyes at the nickname; I was five-ten in bare feet, and had been taller than Brenna since I was eleven. "Your aura is completely jacked." She went on, "It's all over the place. What the hell happened to you? I sense a woman is involved in all this."

"Well, Miss Cleo," I said dryly, "I see your amazing psychic abilities have survived the trip from Sedona. Can I talk to Elvis now?" That earned me a smack on the arm and a disapproving glare.

"I didn't need any abilities to figure out what's going on - although your aura is a complete mess - but that hickey on your neck told me all I need to know."

Before I could stop myself my hand flew to my neck, and Brenna cackled with glee.

"Ah-ha! I knew it!"

"Shit." I mumbled. That was one of the oldest tricks in Brenna's 'How to get information from recalcitrant nieces' book, and I couldn't believe I had fallen for it. Again. Sheesh.

"So - as I said before, Lil'bit; spill it."

I sighed and glanced over at her. She had unhooked her seatbelt and turned in her seat to face me.

"Seatbelt." I said mildly.

"I can't see you properly..."

"Seatbelt." I repeated.

"It scratches my skin..."


"I'll be fine, Darcy - it's not my time..."

"Brenna." My voice stopped her. "No seatbelt, no story."

She scowled and reached behind her to pull the seatbelt across her body.

I returned my attention to traffic, hiding a smile.

I heard a click, a rustle of clothes, and a grunt as she tried to make herself comfortable.

"There. Happy now?"



"So." I said, and paused for a minute. "Ok. I met someone, it was great, didn't work out, end of story."

"That's it?" Her disbelief was obvious. "That's all you're gonna give me?"

"That's all that happened." She shot me another disbelieving look, and I added, "Well, - more or less."

"I'd like the 'more' version, please. Like when did you meet this woman?

"Um, two days ago...sort of."

"Two days?" She stared at me in surprise. "You're this messed up over something that lasted less time than it takes for bathroom caulk to dry?"

I frowned. Damn, when you looked at it that way, it sounded pretty pathetic.

She noticed my frown and her voice gentled. "Must've been a pretty incredible two days."

I nodded with a sad smile. "Uh-huh..."

Once I started talking, I didn't shut up until we reached Georgetown, and by then I had completely rationalized my decision to leave well enough alone and avoid all contact with Kimberly Scott.

Brenna had been quiet through most of the drive. Without knowing Brenna, you'd have no idea how strange that is, but just for the record, it was very strange. Occasionally she would interject a question or comment, but mostly she just listened and watched me with an intensity that, to be honest, creeped me out a little.

I finally stopped talking, and the car was silent for several minutes. She kept watching me, compassion evident in the light brown eyes so like my own. I was horrified to feel the sting of approaching tears. I blinked several times, fighting them back.

"Oh Darcy..." Her voice was full of love and understanding, and all it took to turn the waterworks on. I'm not a big crier - I'm more of a 'hold it inside and take it out on some unsuspecting, completely innocent person later' kind of gal - but this, I couldn't hold inside.

Brenna took it in stride, calmly instructing me to pull the car over and then pulling me to her, rubbing my back and making soothing noises as I collapsed in her arms and sobbed like a baby. Twenty-plus years of stoicism ended up on her bright turquoise top in the form of tears, drool, and all the other body fluids that you tend to emote while balling your head off. When I finally heaved my last gasp and sniffed my last sniffle, saying I was a wee bit embarrassed would be like saying the jagged Rocky Mountains surrounding us were wee little hills.

"Oh, Jeez, Brenna, your shirt..." I said as I sniffed and tried ineffectually to wipe my snot, drool and tears off her shirt with a Wendy's napkin that I should have been using for all those sundry fluids in the first place. "Oh, God - I'm sorry."

She stared down at her shirt with a mixture of bemusement and curiosity; as though she wasn't quite sure where the mess had come from, and wasn't sure that she even wanted to think about it. As I looked at her expression, my sniffles turned into giggly hiccups, and when she turned her perplexed face my way, the hiccups gave way to snickers then all out laughter.

She blinked and looked down at her shirt again before adding her own braying laughter to mine. This time the tears that came were that of mirth; I welcomed them as readily as I had fought them minutes before, relishing the release of tension.

When our laughter subsided to occasional giggles, I pulled the car back out onto the Interstate and continued our journey. We had driven in silence for several minutes when I felt a light touch slide down my arm and a warm hand grasped mine.

"So whatcha gonna do about this girl, hmm?" she asked with a gentle smile.

I sighed, and squeezed her hand. "Hell if I know, Bren. Hell if I know."

That was pretty much my standard answer throughout the five days Brenna stayed with me. We rarely talked about Kim, but every once in a while, out of the blue, Brenna would ask 'Whatcha gonna do?', forcing me to deal with something I was trying hard, unsuccessfully, to put out of my mind.

Other than Brenna's questions and other occasional reminders of Kim - occasional meaning every morning when I woke up alone, my face pressed against a pillow that still bore faint traces of her; every time I heard Patty Griffin, which I morbidly played over and over when I was alone; every time a flash of dark hair would catch my eye...Other than those occasional reminders, I managed to keep my mind off Kim and salvaged a fairly decent Christmas. Brenna kept me laughing; her bluntness and unique way of looking at the world always did. We talked, shopped, sledded, ate, drank, talked and ate some more - Brenna even tried snowboarding for a day, and was surprisingly good at it.

Five days flew by, and sooner than I thought possible, I was standing again in the terminal of DIA, Brenna's skinny arms wrapped around me, my chin resting on the top of her head.

"Merry Christmas, Bren. Thanks so much for coming, and listening and...well, everything." I murmured as she pulled away.

"I had a great time, honey, thank you." She looked at me mischievously. "So, Lil'Bit, whatcha gonna do?"

I gave her a crooked smile. "Hell if I know."

She smiled back, and grabbed my hand, pressing something into my palm. "Maybe this will help." I looked at her quizzically then down at the slip of paper she had given me. On it was a phone number in bold block letters that I recognized as Greta's writing.

I looked back at her. "What's this?"

"Her phone number."

"Who's phone number?" I knew perfectly well whose number it was, and she knew I knew.

She smirked, and grabbed me again in a quick hug. "Bye, honey. Take care of yourself, ok?" I nodded, and she turned and started for the concourse. After a few strides she stopped and looked back over her shoulder at me. "And for christsakes, call her!"

I looked at Brenna's retreating back then down at the number.

Crumpled it up in my hand.

Walked towards the nearest trash can.

And didn't throw it in.

On the walk back to my car I must have past two dozen trash cans. At every one, I reached out my hand, held it over the rim...and didn't let go.

Couldn't let go.

Frustrated with myself, I finally stuffed the wad of paper in my pocket where it burned a hole in my pants the entire drive home. What a wimp I was. Couldn't even throw a little-bitty piece of paper away.

I put in a Nine Inch Nails CD for inspiration - I used to always listen to them before meetings, when I knew I needed to be a hard ass - but even screaming 'head like a hole' at the top of my lungs didn't take my mind off the paper in my pocket.

I played 'how many license plates from different states can I identify'. That game was a lot more fun when I was 8.

I played 'I spy with my little eye', but playing that solo takes most of the challenge out of it.

I played 'red truck, blue truck', but without beer involved, what's the point?

I sighed.

I fidgeted.

Sighed again.

I gave up and put in Patty Griffin. What the hell - if you're gonna wallow, you might as well do it up right.

Still was humming 'Wishing Well' and thinking about the number on the paper in my pocket, I followed the flagstone path around my house to my front door after parking in the small garage in back. I tried to remember what I had in the refrigerator, thinking I should just call Greta and see if she was interested in going out...

I stopped cold. What the...

She pushed herself off the porch railing and stood, watching me silently.

I had wondered, in the last week, whether my first, nearly visceral, reaction to her beauty had been accurate or merely a result to the situation.

As blue eyes surveyed me coolly from head to toe, I felt the kick of it again.

No doubt about it - I'd been right the first time. She was flawless; like a slap to senses that made you want to blink and mutter 'Daaaaaammmmnnn...'

I managed to keep it to just a blink or two before I realized I was staring - I took in a deep breath and forced myself to move forward.

I stopped a few feet from where she stood.

"Simone." I said neutrally with a nod.

She looked at me a few more moments, then crossed her arms. "You're not Greta."

The corner of my mouth almost twitched into a smile. "No, I'm not."

"Then who the hell are you?" Apparently I was no longer worthy of her good manners.

"No one important."


I shrugged, and walked past her to the door. When I got the door open, I turned. "Do you want to come in? If I'm about to be interrogated, I'd rather do it over a beer."

She seemed nonplussed for a second; I shrugged again and pushed through the door, leaving it open behind me.

I hung my coat on the back of a chair and tossed my keys on the table before moving into the living room and turning on the cd player, hastily forwarding it past the cd I knew it was currently playing. Ani DiFranco's Beautiful Face came on, and I smiled - fitting, I thought, and let it play.

I moved back into the kitchen, snagged a beer, and was opening it when Simone finally worked up whatever it was she needed to come in. She looked around curiously, taking in the muted tans and greens, landscape watercolors, fireplace, hardwood floors and Navajo rugs.

She frowned a little when she came to the pencil drawing above the fireplace. It showed a chemical molecule from three different perspectives; a gift from a former roommate who was taking a drafting class at the same time I had taken organic chemistry. He had been so fascinated by the plastic molecule set I used for studying that he had used one of my models in a drafting assignment, and later gave it to me as a gag gift. I had liked it so much that I had it matted and framed and still smiled whenever I looked at it.

"Benzene ring." I said matter-of-factly.

She jumped guiltily at my voice and quickly swung around, glaring at me as though I had startled her on purpose.

"Sorry." I said, not really meaning it. "Want one?" I gestured with my beer and she hesitated then shook her head. I shrugged, leaning back against the counter and crossing my arms. She studied me intently for a few minutes while I casually swigged at my beer.

"Who are you, and how do you know Kim?" She said finally, breaking the silence.

I looked at her.

I'm the idiot who's in love with your girlfriend.

I wanted to say it, but I didn't.

"I'm Darcy, and her parents are friends of mine."

She looked at me suspiciously, like she thought there was no way in hell that Kim's parents would be friends with me. It made me feel better somehow that she obviously didn't know Pam and Ken that well.

"Then what were you doing with Kim the other day?"

Oh, if only you knew....


"Besides skiing!" she huffed, her frustration showing. "There's something between you two, and I want to know what it is! I want some answers, now!"

I raised an eyebrow. I didn't often have people talk to me in that tone of voice in my own home. Actually, I didn't often have people talk to me in that tone of voice, period. It ticked me off a little. I set my beer down carefully and re-crossed my arms, studying her.

"Well, Simone," I said calmly, but firmly, "you came to the wrong place for answers. If you have an issue with Kim, then you need to take it up with her, not me. Now, I've got things to do so..."

I was interrupted by a knock at the door, and frowned.

Who the hell was that? I didn't get many visitors, and now two in one day?

"Go ahead," Simone said with a smirk as she moved into the living room, "I can wait."

Goddamnit. The more I talked to that woman, the less I liked her. And I hadn't liked her that much to begin with.

"Shit." I mumbled, and stomped to the door, throwing it open with more force than necessary.

"Wha..." my annoyed voice trailed off in surprise.

Another set of blue eyes regarded me warily, and sent me into such a free-fall of emotion that I had to lay a hand against the door jam to steady myself against the momentary vertigo. When my mind righted itself, I had an overwhelming sense of relief - like finding something I didn't even know I'd lost; a piece of me sliding back into place.

"Kim...what are you...ohhhh..."

The last was nearly a groan as she stepped forward without a word and wrapped her arms around me, burying her face in my shoulder. All my anger and any resolve I had left melted away, unable to compete with the complete and utter bliss I felt at that moment. I closed my eyes and sighed in contentment, pulling her to me even tighter.

She smelled of leather and soap, pine trees and snow, and I breathed her in greedily, filling my senses with the heady combination. The cold from outside still clung to her skin and clothes, but the breath on my neck was warm and the lips that fleetingly touched my jaw, scorching.

"God, you feel good," she whispered into my shoulder, and I tightened my arms in response, unable to find the words or the voice to respond, but fully agreeing with the sentiment. "I don't want to let go."

"Then don't..." I whispered back...Please don't... the voice inside me pleaded.

My eyes flew open and I sucked in a breath when her hands slipped under the loose sweater I wore and stroked my bare skin. She hummed her approval - whether at my response or the feel of her hands on me, I didn't know and didn't particularly care, I just knew that the sound made me weak, and I needed to find a chair soon, before I fell down.

"You sure look like someone important from where I'm standing." The voice, bitter and resigned, cut through the haze of euphoria clouding my brain.


I'd forgotten about tall, blond and angry.

Kim froze at the sound of Simone's voice, and I sighed, expecting her to jump away guiltily. She pulled away slowly, but to my surprise and delight, only far enough to look over my shoulder. She kept hands resting loosely on my hips, in no more of a hurry to break contact than I was.

"Simone?" she said in confusion, "What are you doing here?"

She looked back at me quizzically, and all I could do was give her a dazzling smile, still amazed by the fact that she was here, with me, touching me...the smile grew even wider, if that was possible, and her lips twitched in response. Her hands tightened on my waist and she leaned in...and kissed me. I front of Simone, not giving a damn, she kissed me, hard.

"God damn, Darcy, I missed you." she said when she was done. I could do no more than blink and nod, my body tingling and my brain trying to wrap itself around what this meant.

Kim smiled at my bemusement, then looked past me at Simone. After another light kiss on the lips and a quick squeeze of my hips, she turned to face the tall blond, sliding her arm around my waist.

Simone looked angrily from me to Kim, then back to me. I tried to tone down the 'I'm so friggin' happy I could sing like Julie Andrews' grin I was sure was plastered across my face, but damn, I was so friggin' happy...

The hills are alive...

I got my face under control, but the emotions running through me needed an outlet, so instead of grinning, I ended up hugging Kim tighter and kissing her hair. And grinning anyway. Definitely not what Simone wanted to see, but the look Kim gave me...

Screw Simone.

I kissed Kim again.

"What's up Kim? Is this why you've been so fucking weird the last week?" Her voice cracked a bit, and I could tell she was angry, and not used to being in this situation. Not that anyone ever gets used to seeing their girlfriend kissing on someone else...

The thought sobered me.

I tried to move away from Kim, but her arm tightened, holding me to her as she responded.

"I haven't been 'fucking weird' Si - I just told you I didn't want to sleep with you anymore. We both agreed when we got back together it was just temporary...shit, you were the one who made sure I knew you were going to keep your options open, and it was just a handy distraction for both of us."

She turned to me shyly and ran the back of her hand down my cheek.

"I don't need a handy distraction anymore."

The gesture was so sweet, the words so sincere, that I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around her, octopus style.

"I love you." The words slipped out before I could stop them; softly but loud enough if she wanted to hear. One part of me was scared to death she heard, the other part hoped beyond hope she did.

She stilled in my arms, for what seemed like a long, long time.

I guess she heard.


"Um...I mean I love how..." I stammered, trying to plan out damage control for the words I had said far too early.

Suddenly her lips were on mine in the sweetest kiss I've ever experienced - slow and thorough, with a hint of passion, but mostly just sweet.

"I love you too, Darce. God, I love you so much..." her voice was low, full of emotion, and nearly wrecked me. We held on to each other tightly for what could have been hours, but was probably just long, long moments.

The slamming door brought us back to the present, and we both jumped and pulled slightly apart, looking at the closed door sheepishly.

"Damn," Kim said with a wry smile, "I guess I could have handled that better."

"Do you want to go after her?" I tried to keep the fear out of my voice, the need. Logically I knew that if she did go after her, it wasn't the end of the world. She told me she loved me - we had plenty of time, right?

"No." She said firmly, and I couldn't hide the sigh of relief. She searched my face for a while, and kissed me softly, gripping my arms.

"Darcy." I'd been avoiding her eyes, but the seriousness of her tone got my attention.

I nodded to show I was listening.

"Simone and I...we were together for about four months, and broke up when it wasn't going anywhere."

I kept my eyes on hers, trying to ignore the irrational feelings that welled up on hearing about her past lover.

"A few months ago, we hooked up again at a party - neither of us was seeing anyone, and we had always been go..." she looked at me with a grimace and changed her wording, "comfortable...together, so we sort of got back together, but not really..." she took a hand from my waist and ran it through her hair nervously. She took a breath, then another, and ran her hand through her hair again.

I knew there were things we needed to talk about - apologies to be made and accepted on both sides - but at that moment, they didn't seem very important. I grabbed her hand, and brought it to my lips, kissing each knuckle gently.

"Do I need to worry about her?" I said softly.

She blinked, and shook her head.

"Do you love me? Really?" I tried to keep my voice steady, but it broke a little and I cringed at how pathetic I sounded.

She blinked again, and then treated me to the biggest, most genuine smile I had ever seen.

"Really, I do." She grabbed the front of my sweater and pulled me close.

"I really, really love you, Darcy Max," she said before laying a kiss on me that rocked my world and made me a believer.

We broke apart, gasping for breath, and I wondered if the smile on my face was as silly as the smile on hers.

I hoped so - it was friggin' adorable.

"I don't think you'll need this for a while..." I said as I pulled off her coat and let it fall to the ground behind us.

"Or this..." I un-tucked the turtleneck she was wearing, and pulled it over her head, letting it fall next to the leather jacket.


I drew a sharp breath.

I was a sucker for black underwear.

She laughed, a throaty, sexy laugh - god, I loved that laugh - and pulled back, hands on her hips.

"Is that so."

Did I mention how goddamned sexy she was?

"Yup," I said, running my hands up her abdomen and under the edge of her bra. It was her turn to suck in a breath and groan.

"Mmmmm..." I said in approval as I brushed my thumbs fleetingly across her nipples, feeling them harden.

"Jesus, what you do to me..." she said breathlessly, and grabbed my hands, pulling me towards the bedroom.

She somehow managed to relieve me of my sweater, bra and pants before the back of my legs hit the edge of the bed. I was impressed by her resourcefulness and certainly not complaining.

I fell back on the soft comforter, and as soon as she followed, twisted to switch our positions.

I kissed her leisurely, realizing we had all the time in the world. We came up for air, both were smiling like maniacs.

"Think your mom's cookin' french toast in the morning?" I said, feigning seriousness, then closed my eyes, more than a little distracted as she ran her tongue along my collar bone and places lower.


She smiled up at me wickedly, and that was the last though I had about breakfast until...well, until breakfast time.


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