For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
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The sky was perfect, absolutely perfect. Black velvet with diamonds of stars and the moon a giant, full pearl. Two sapphire blue eyes studied the stars and sky, hands tucked behind her head as she lay on the cool, soft sand of the beach. The sound of the ocean twenty yards away was soothing.
She thought back over her Christmas, and vastly different it was from the year before. She'd been thrilled over gifts of seashells, soap and vines mere hours ago, when twelve months ago, she'd happily opened a new espresso machine for the house, clothes and a new pair of Columbia boots. She and Hannah had spent the rest of the day making love and just enjoying the company of the other. This Christmas was started out with the routine of survival: gathering food, making repairs to the shelters, clothing and washing out in the open, cold waters of the waterfall and pond. She'd created and eaten dinner with five people who had been total strangers to her this time last year, but whom have become her family. They fought together, they played together, they had survived together.
Denny sometimes wondered, if they did get rescued and returned back to their lives in New York, Texas and Oregon, would they remain in each others lives? Or would they all disappear into the recesses of the others' mind?
The brunette glanced up into the smiling face of Rachel, who had somehow managed to step within two feet of her, and Denny hadn't even heard. She smiled, nodding.
"Oh, it is."
"Do tell." Rachel gracefully fell to her knees, then sat on the sand, legs stretching out and holding herself up on her hands.
Denny tore her gaze from the blonde and turned it back to the sky above. "Just thinking about this time last year, and how amazing it is just how quickly your life can change." She snapped her fingers. "Just like that."
"Thinking about Hannah?" Rachel was surprised at the sound of her own question, a bit more harsh than it should be. Tucking her bottom lip between her teeth, she hopes Denny didn't pick up on it. She didn't.
"No," Denny said softly, "Not totally." She had been questioning herself over the past month or two. Hannah had taken less and less of her thoughts, though the brunette didn't want to admit what, or who had taken up residence instead. She glanced over at Rachel, who was staring at the ocean, watching as the moon-capped waves danced their eternal dance.
Rachel felt eyes on her, and looked down, meeting Denny's gaze. It would have been amusing if the blonde didn't sense it was so serious, the look on the coffee shop owner's face. She looked deeply confused about something. As she continued to study Denny's face, the beautiful features, Rachel felt the pull again, the pull she'd been feeling almost since day one. It was a physical pull, a spiritual one, something that tugged at her higher being. She felt her weight shifting to the arm closest to Denny, body leaning, but stopped it, sitting up and pulling her knees to her chest, effectively closed off.
"So was it me or was there some tension at dinner?" the blonde asked at length, keeping her eyes to the sea.
"Yeah, I felt it, too. I wonder if Michael and Pam had a fight or something. Hell, he refused to even look at her. Must have been a doozy."
"I hope they can get past it. This isn't the place to be fighting with someone." The author rested her chin on her knees.
Silence reigned once more. Denny's eyes kept stealing glanced at the blonde, the curve of her back, the moonlight glinting off the smooth skin, the perfection only broken by the strap of her bra. Her gaze strayed to the sides of Rachel's breasts, pressed against her folded legs, thighs strong and tanned. Even though the blonde wasn't able to shave her legs, as none of them were, Denny still thought she was perfectly beautiful.
"Denny?" asked Rachel's soft, almost wistful, voice.
"Yeah?" Denny tore her gaze away once more.
"if we make it back home, do you think all of us will stay in contact with each other?" The author glanced over at the prone woman, who sighed.
"I don't know. I was thinking about that, too. I hope so. I don't know, it's like everyone has become part of me somehow, bonding in a way that you just can't in regular life, you know?"
"Yeah. I know. Denny?"
The brunette shivered slightly at the softness of Rachel's voice. She loved her voice, letting it fill her. She said nothing, just met the green gaze again.
"Do you," the blonde swallowed, not sure whether to finish her question or not.
"What? Do I what, Rachel?"
"Do you miss Hannah's touch?"
Denny was stunned by the question, and noticed that suddenly Rachel could no longer keep eye contact, instead her gaze dropping to the sand that separated them. "I miss being touched," the brunette finally said, her voice just as soft.
"Do you like to be touched?" Rachel felt like something was taking her over, making her ask such probing questions, but she couldn't stop.
"Yes," Denny whispered. "Very much." She slowly pushed herself up to her elbows, noting a change in Rachel's breathing, as well as her own. Damn it all to hell, she was so drawn to her! "Do you?"
Rachel's smile was sad and somewhat rueful. "I didn't, we didn't," she sighed, looking away. "Matt and I hadn't been together in months before I left."
"Oh, Rachel. I'm sorry." Denny scooted over to the author, their shoulders nearly touching as the brunette mirrored Rachel's position.
"I'm not even sure I ever really liked sex. I don't know. To me, it just never reached me on a level that I needed it to. It was just physicality. I don't know," Rachel shrugged. "Maybe that's all it is."
"It's not. Trust me, it's not. When it's right, and you've connected with that person on more levels than just skin on skin, it's incredible."
Rachel turned her head, resting her chin on her shoulder to look into Denny's eyes. "It sounds wonderful."
Rachel felt her breath catch as she studied Denny's lips, those two words so telling. Suddenly she could imagine what it would be like to be touched by this woman, the author allowing herself to give herself freely, something she'd never done with Matt.
Denny was falling further into needy green eyes, losing all sense of self or propriety. Thoughts of Hannah were dangerously far from her mind, filled only with the vision of beauty before her. She was surprised to feel flesh against her fingertips, not realizing she'd brought a hand up until it already rested against Rachel's flushed cheeks.
"You're shaking," she said to the blonde, who nodded. "Are you cold?" Again, the blonde nodded, but they both knew she was lying. All the same, it was a good excuse to stop what Denny so badly wanted to do. "Maybe we should get some sleep, then."
"Yeah," Rachel said, her voice hoarse. She allowed herself to be helped to her feet, wiping the sand from the back of her sarong.
Silently the two women made their way to the shelter, where Mia and Pam were already getting situated for the night. The older woman looked up, noting in the light of the small fire lit in the corner, the flush gracing Rachel's features, a flush very similar to the one she had been sporting earlier in the day. Twin brows raised in question, though neither woman would meet her eye.
"Where do you want these, Hannah?" Lisa Baker asked, box filled with napkin dispensers in her arms. The brunette walked over to the high school student, looking into the box.
"Uh, those can go in the truck. Tyson doesn't want any of the decorative stuff with DiRisio's stamped on it."
"'Kay." The girl chomped on her gum as she did as asked.
"The tables are staying, right?" Tiffany asked, wandering into the kitchen, where her friend was packing up ingredients: bottles of syrups and chocolates. Espresso beans, ground and un-ground.
"Yeah," Hannah said absently, marking off on Denny's order forms what was present. The redhead stood beside her, watching for a moment, then studying the brunette's profile.
"How are you doing?" she asked softly. Hannah sighed, shrugging tired shoulders.
"Okay, I guess." She met the concerned gaze of the woman she'd decided to give a chance. They'd not been intimate, and she knew she wasn't quite ready for that, but her walls and heart was slowly beginning to mend and soften. It was a matter of time. "I absolutely hate selling the shop, but I just can't do all this. Plus, this was Denny's dream, you know?"
Tiffany nodded. "Yeah, I can understand that." The accountant felt guilty sometimes, so tired of hearing about the dead Denny DiRisio, but at the same time, the coffee shop owner, whom she had to admit was stunning, seemed like someone she would have liked to know, like they would have made good friends. The workers at DiRisio's adored their boss, and the entire place was still grieving her loss. Seemed everyone in the woman's life was.
Dark eyes landed on Hannah again, noting the way she chewed on her lower lip as she turned a bottle of peach flavoring in her hands, gauging if there was enough o save, or if she should just dump the remnants in the huge, stainless steel sink, used to wash used dishes and equipment.
"Okay, I think this is the last of it." Deciding to dump the peach, Hannah grabbed the ever-present roll of tape, sealing up the box, and handing it to Josh Townsend, an employee of DiRisio's since it's inception, almost nine years ago. "Thanks, Josh." The man refused to answer, instead taking the box and scurrying away. He was angry at Hannah for closing the coffee shop, and felt she was betraying Denny for doing so. The researcher had run into that a lot since she'd made the announcement a month ago. It had been one of the most difficult decisions of her life, but one that needed to be made. She'd done her damndest to try and find a buyer who would be willing to take over the coffee shop, transferring ownership of DiRisio's, but it was not to be. Ultimately, Hannah had decided to sell to the highest bidder, her heart breaking when she realized the place where she had first met Denny, and watched her dead partner put her heart and soul into, was to be turned into a French bakery.
As she gathered up the rest of the equipment in the back room, Tiffany helping her, she realized how grateful she was for the accountant's presence, and comforting support. No doubt this was all hard on the redhead, she had stuck by Hannah, doing everything she asked. They'd talked about the kiss, that had yet to be repeated, deciding that their relationship was indeed moving beyond friendship, but Tiffany understood Hannah wasn't quite yet ready for intimacy. The redhead was trying hard to hold strong, but each passing day she fell a little harder for the researcher, and she had to wonder sometimes if she was fooling herself. That may be, but she was willing to wait it out, be there to meet Hannah as she stepped out of her hell.
Her steps were sure, intent obvious. Pam stalked over to where Michael, Dean and Mia were cleaning fish, grabbing the big man by his ear and yanking him to his feet.
"Jesus, woman!" he barked, pulling away. He wasn't going to get free that easy. The older woman was on a mission, and quite focused. Michael found himself drug away from his task by various body parts until he and Pam were alone, just inside the jungle. He stared down at her, arms crossed over a barrel chest. "You wanna tell me just why you pulled me away like a child?"
"Sure," Pam said, mirroring his posture. "As soon as you want to tell me why you've felt the need to be an asshole for the past two weeks. It happened, Michael, get over it! We both had a baser need, and we took care of it. That's no reason to sulk around here, making everyone uncomfortable. There's only the six of us, and we all have a role to play here. When one of us decides not to play, it throws the entire dichotomy off. You got me?" she asked, poking the deeply tanned chest.
Michael was struck by the veterinarian's tirade, unable to hold his defensive posture, his hands fell to his sides. Sighing heavily, he ran his fingers over his thick beard. Pam could almost read his unspoken thoughts.
"Michael, you can't let guilt of past actions run or ruin your life. Even if we're stuck here until we all die, it will do you no good, but eat you up inside. And if we do get home, your kids are going to need their dad, and they're going to need him to be whole." Pam was taken off guard by the Texan's reaction to her lecture. Brows falling, a hand strayed to her hip. His laughter bubbled up from deep in his throat.
"Woman, you sure are a force of nature."
The vet grinned. "Can you believe my husbands called me controlling?"
"I know. It was hard for me to believe, too." Pam grinned, reaching a hand up to cup the side of the man's face, suddenly sobering at the obvious pain in his eyes. "Don't let Melissa's memory hold you back from being a human being, Michael. We all make mistakes, but she knew you loved her."
Michael nodded, eyes falling. He knew Pam was right. Though he was loathe to admit it, he knew he was using what had happened with her as excuse to be angry for his own past deeds.
"Come here, you big pain in the ass." Pam took the mechanic in a hug, brows furrowing again. "Are you happy to see me, or do you have a banana in your pocket?" She pulled away just far enough to see a sheepish Michael indeed pull the short fruit out of his pocket. The laughter startled a few birds nearby.
Mia glanced over at Dean, wondering if he knew what that had been all about. He just shrugged slim shoulders, turning back to his rather nasty task.
"I swear, I will never eat fish as long as I live when I get home," he muttered, placing the newly shredded strips of meat onto the flat rock, used for just that purpose.
"I've never been a fish person, actually. I don't know," the girl shrugged her own shoulders, squinting as she studied what she thought was a tiny bone buried in the meat. Carefully she picked it out. "I kind of like it now." She set the, hopefully, boneless meat aside for Dean to cut up with the sharpened rock. She remained quiet for a moment, mind wandering in a few different directions. "Dean?"
"How did you know you were gay?"
The question about his sexuality surprised him, especially coming from the sweet young girl, all of them had become extremely protective of. She was such a kind, compassionate and sensitive, and utterly beautiful. Dean knew someday she would truly be a stunner.
"Don't tell me I've got another lesbo on my hands. I've already got two."
"Two?" Mia cocked her head to the side, studying the grinning man, who waved her off.
"Never mind. But, you're not-" he eyed her.
"No!" Mia wasn't offended, just shocked at the question. This got even more laughter from her companion. She reached over, smacking him playfully on the arm. "I'm just curious, you goof."
"Okay, okay. I don't know," Dean swiped his forearm across his forehead, wiping away the sweat from the midday sun. It may be January, but oy! "I think somewhere inside I always knew, since I was a boy. Crushes on this actor or that actor, loving to watch the Olympics, especially the men's gymnastics!" He winked at her conspiratorially. "I remember getting my first woody the year Mary Lou took the gold." He sat back, a slight, wispy smile on his lips.
Again, Dean waved her off, unimportant details. "I just loved the boys, loved looking at them, fantasizing about them, jerking off to them-"
"Sorry, Sweets. Just part of every growing queer's legacy." They were quiet for a long time, each lost in their own thoughts. The attorney glanced at the girl next to him, his own questions running through his mind. "You got a boyfriend back home?"
Mia grinned, though it was shy, her head lowering so her curtain of dark hair covered her burning cheeks.
"Ohhhh! Daddy like! Tell me about him."
"His name is Abraham Schwartz."
"Mm, Jewish boy. Don't believe what they say about circumcision, Mia," Dean whispered, leaning over to the giggling teen. "Foreskin has its plusses, too."
"God, Dean, you're so gross!"
"That may be, but I'm also an expert on such things. So? Is the boy cut?"
"Cut?" Mia was confused for a moment, but then the meaning hit her, her cheeks becoming enflamed. "Dean!" Her body heat went up about three hundred degrees, part embarrassment, part memories of the little bit she and Abe had done.
The attorney was thoroughly loving the conversation, and the reactions of his young friend. His virgin alarm was humming steadily. All the better to torment her.
"I'm sorry, Sweets," he chuckled, once again using his special nickname for the special young girl.
"We hadn't gotten that far," Mia admitted, almost ashamed to tell this man, who obviously knew so much about the carnal world, in all its forms, that she was inexperienced and pure. Dean sensed this, and immediately felt bad.
"Mia," he said, voice soft as he reached over and raised her face with a finger under her chin. Once he had her dark gaze, he smiled. "Be proud. It's nothing to be ashamed of. This Abraham guy obviously wasn't the right guy, or the right time."
Mia smiled, though it was shy. She nodded slightly, still feeling embarrassed, but better by the sincerity she saw in Dean's eyes.
"I'm a pig," Dean continued, dropping his hand and turning back to his task. "Always have been a pig, always will be a pig, but you, dear, Mia, are a beautiful lady."
"Awww, you're so sweet, Dean! Cheesy and queer, but sweet."
Dean chuckled, nodding. "You got that right, Sweets. It sucks here, with only Michael." They both snickered at the attorney's fate.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Am I crazy, or is there something going on between Denny and Rachel?" the girl, who had been wondering about it for months, glanced shyly over at her friend. She was worried he'd laugh at her, that she was all wrong about their relationship. She was surprised by the soft smile that graced Dean's hair-covered lips. She didn't like him with the facial hair; it just didn't suit him, somehow.
"Oh, I think so. Definitely." Dean nodded to emphasize his own words. "Those two share a very special bond I think, Mia. If I didn't know better, I'd say they were very much in love."
"Really?" Mia's voice was soft, wistful. Again the attorney nodded.
"It's beautiful to watch, isn't it?" His smile turned sad. "I think Denny is fighting it, though."
"Why!?" The teen couldn't understand not grabbing at love with both hands. The girl was a romantic at heart, and filled with ideals of youth.
"Oh." Mia's heart fell, understanding all the implications behind that one word. "But what if we're stuck here?"
"I don't know, Sweets." Dean sighed, cringing internally at the very thought of being stuck on the island for the rest of his natural life. He knew his loafers certainly wouldn't make it, nor would his libido. "I can only hope they'll see reason."
The night was quiet, unusually so. It was almost as though the entire island had fallen to sleep. All except Denny. She lay on her side, facing Rachel, who also lay on her side, facing her. They were no more than six inches apart, the blonde's face relaxed in peaceful. Denny studied that face, so beautiful. Dark blonde brows arched slightly over the most amazing green eyes Denny had ever seen, and it wasn't just the color. No matter how hard the author tried to hide herself, the coffee shop owner could read it all in the green depths. Ironically, the eyes of a famous author read like an open book. Denny didn't understand why no one else could read Rachel, why her own husband couldn't see everything, because it was all there. All you had to do was pay attention.
She thought about what she'd seen in the blonde's eyes over the past several weeks, and it nearly took Denny's breath away. No doubt she saw her own feelings reflected back at her, and it scared the brunette half to death. She hated to admit it, but the guilt was steadily seeping from her, replaced by longing so strong, it sometimes made Denny lose her breath. She felt Rachel in every part of her being, seemingly down to a cellular level, but how could she dare act on it? It wasn't fair to the author, who seemed to be so confused in her own heart about things involving said heart.
Who was she kidding? And why was she putting her own issues on Rachel's shoulders? When it all boiled down to it, Denny was scared. What was she afraid of? She knew love, she understood its beauty and ramifications. She had taken a huge gamble on Hannah, and it had paid off for eight years of wonder and deep love. Perhaps she was scared because the little blonde author had entered her life, and the love she felt for Hannah seemed to have been swept away. No, not swept away. Denny would always love Hannah, no matter what, even I they were stuck on the island for the rest of their lives. But she had to admit that her heart was big enough to allow more than one love in her life to enter. She did love Rachel, that much she grudgingly admitted to herself.
Rachel felt like she was being watched, her brows knitting for a moment as she was swiftly pulled from sleep. Eyes opening, she found herself staring into an unwavering blue gaze. She said nothing, but smiled in greeting, though it quickly faded at the look of intensity in Denny's eyes. She studied those eyes, looking deeply within, almost able to read the brunette's thoughts. She wanted to blush at what she saw there, a shiver of heat flowing through her body. Though married for three years, with Matt for four, well, would have been nearly five now, she had never experienced desire at his touch. At least not to the degree that a simple look from Denny could muster.
Denny reached out a hand, needing to touch the softness that was Rachel's face. Green eyes closed as the backs of her fingers brushed Rachel's cheek, her hand turning over so her fingertips traced her brow, down the straight line of her nose, and over soft, full lips, which brushed her fingers in passing. The hand trailed its way down, along the blonde's jaw, opening to cup the side of Rachel's face.
Rachel's heart was beating at an insane cadence, her skin tingling where Denny had touched her, lips slightly parted as her eyes opened, noting where Denny's eyes rested. I want to kiss her, too.
Denny licked her lips, as though readying herself for a big, juicy steak, as if her very life depended on it. She met Rachel's gaze once more, her own breathing beginning to hitch, her blood racing through her, warming her in the most wonderful ways. She reached her own hand out, touching the soft, warm skin of Denny's shoulder, tracing the valleys and hills of muscle, skin and bone, awed at just how soft the brunette really was. So very different from Matt and the few other men she'd been with. She allowed her fingers to trace up, over the smooth, yet hard skin covering the muscle leading toward the brunette's neck.
Denny fought a shiver at Rachel's soft, teasing fingers, her own hand finding its way down the blonde's side, and finally tucking itself behind her back. Rachel felt the slight tug at her back, but wasn't sure if she began to move from that, or her own uncontrollable need for closeness. Bodies a hair's width apart, Rachel looked up into Denny's eyes, feeling the soft warmth of the brunette's breath on her face. The blonde swallowed, suddenly filled with nervousness, and uncertainty. What am I doing? No longer able to look into those intense eyes, she closed her own, tucking her head under Denny's chin. She felt strong arms wrap around her, and she snuggled in as close as she could against Denny's chest.
The coffee shop owner was so grateful when Rachel snuggled up against her, taking the temptation of her lips- so close- away from the brunette, allowing her to just hold Rachel, and feel her close. Their breasts and stomachs were pressed together, the warmth electrifying. Denny made her heart calm, sighing deeply as she held Rachel as close as she dare. She had a lot to think about, and a lot to consider, but she didn't want to think about it, knowing it would leave her with troubled dreams. Closing her eyes, finally falling into a deep, easy sleep.
Matt slid a hand through his hair, fussing with it, making sure it looked properly messy, the casual ease of his look belying the hour it had taken him to attain it. Samantha liked it, so he was willing to do it for her. Today they were going for a fun day playing miniature golf and go-cars. He liked Sam; she was fun, young and hot. The detective grabbed his sunglasses and keys, checking his breath one last time before locking the house behind him.
He had struggled for a long time, trying to decide what was prudent. Truth be told, and he had told no one, since Rachel's death, he realized just how unhappy they had been as a couple, and the relief within his heart was palpable. He loved Rachel while she had been alive, there was no doubt, but he found through her absence, he hadn't liked the man he'd become while married to her. He had spent such a long time trying to make her happy that after awhile, he hadn't given a damn, and had let himself go, his wants and needs until he'd given in with Diane, getting caught red-handed. Now, though it was tragic how their marriage had come to an end, he could see that Rachel knew that, and was preparing for the end. That was why she had left the bulk of her estate to Reenie and her sisters. His anger had fizzled over time, realizing that it didn't matter in the long run. He needed to make himself happy, and Rachel's money wasn't about to do that.
Matt had stopped by the cemetery two weeks ago, filling the bronze container next to Rachel's large stone- the author's memory buried next to her sister Daisy, just as she'd want- and had sat on the grass, gaining new life as spring inched its way forward. He'd talked to the blonde for hours, telling her all about his thoughts, what he wanted for his life, and what he planned to do. He begged for her forgiveness in his infidelity, but hoped she'd understand that he needed to move on with his life. The detective wasn't sure how often he'd return, but he assured her he loved her and always would.
With a spring in his step and song in the air, Matt climbed into his brand new SUV, started the engine, and listened with satisfaction as it rumbled to life. Buckling himself in, he pulled slowly out of the garage, letting it buzz closed behind him.
Brows drawn, Meredith Adams listened, nodding periodically, glancing over at her grandson who sat in a chair, fingers tapping on the arms.
"I'm sorry, what was that last part?" she asked, shaking herself from her thoughts of the past month.
"I said I'll need to see him twice a week for at least two to three months. If we have any progress, we can bring it down to once a week. Mrs. Adams, that is one angry boy," Lynn Mason said unnecessarily. The older woman nodded solemnly.
"I know. These past eight months have been trying on all of us. We just don't know what to do with him anymore. My husband, Walter is threatening me."
"Threatening you?" The counselor didn't like the sound of this, and her body language spoke volumes as suit-clad arms crossed over her large chest.
"Yes. He said that if Conrad gets into one more fight, he's out," Meredith near whispered, not wanting the thirteen year old to hear. "I don't know what to do!"
"Hopefully I can get him to talk about this. He hasn't dealt with the death of his parents. Bottling it in his extremely dangerous, and counter productive, as you've seen." She placed a hand on the older woman's arm, gently leading her toward the door of her office, a subtle hint that the boy's session was over. "I'll see him back here day after tomorrow. Mary can schedule an appointment fro you."
"Okay. Thank you. Come on, Conrad." Meredith tugged her purse strap onto her shoulder, waiting for the boy to drag himself from the chair, then followed him out the door. The older woman glanced at him as they made their way to the receptionist's desk. "How did it go?" she asked.
Conrad shrugged. "This is stupid."
"I'm sorry you think that." She made an appointment for him, taking the reminder card the gray-haired woman behind the desk gave to her, tucking it into her purse. "You have got to do this, Conrad. Your grandfather is so upset with you. You have got to stop this fighting." She unlocked her side of the car, reaching across the bench seat to unlock Conrad's. The boy surreptitiously adjusted his jaw. Wade Pickett could sure throw a mean right hook.
"What's got you so sad, pretty girl?" Denny asked, settling herself down beside Mia, who sat on the beach, the shore washing up to cover her wiggling toes. The girl had been sitting there for the better part of an hour, staring out to sea, long, dark hair blowing in the salty breeze.
"Do you think we're ever going to get home?" the teen asked, her voice soft, wistful. The brunette was left without an answer for a moment. Mia was simply stating aloud what everyone else was afraid to dare breathe, let alone speak.
"Yeah. Sure we will." She smiled, though it was weak, and the girl knew it was. Denny's heart broke as she watched the girl's face crumble, then disappear behind her hands.
"I'm gonna die a virgin!" Mia cried, her voice muffled. Denny tried to hide her smile as she placed an arm around Mia's shaking shoulders, pulling her against her.
"Shh," the older brunette cooed, kissing the side of Mia's head. Denny had kept track of their time on the island for the first one hundred and seventy-two days, but then it began to depress her more than keep her up to date, so she stopped. She had absolutely no idea what month it was, thought he weather was warming immensely. The nights weren't quite as cold, and the rains had turned warmer, though more frequent.
"I want to go home, Denny," Mia said, sniffling as she rested her head against the strong shoulder offered.
"I do, too."
Mia was quiet for a moment, watching the waves come in, then flow out, just like they had done every friggin' day since they'd arrived on the God-forsaken island. She was beginning to hate the island, and never wanted to see the ocean again as long as she lived. Hope had faded along with the light in her dark eyes.
"Do you think they had funerals for us?"
Denny's eyes closed at the morbid thought, shivering. She took a deep breath. "I don't know. Probably. They all think we're dead."
"I bet we die here, Denny. I bet one by one we're going to die until there's only one left, and then that one person will have to try and fend for themselves until they, too die." Mia's voice was eerily soft.
"Why are you saying all this, Mia?"
"Because it's true, Denny. Tell me you haven't thought about it, too?" The girl raised her head, meeting troubled blue eyes. "Part of me feels guilty for thinking this way since I know I should be grateful, surviving that crash and everything. But what is the good of surviving when we're left to die here?"
"I don't really know." I wonder the same thing, kid. "But I have to think that the six of us surviving has to be for a reason, right? Maybe we're supposed to live on, whether it's here, or if we get home, making the best of the second chance we've been given." Denny's voice was velvety smooth and soft as she spoke in the girl's ear, fingers running absently through long, soft hair. Mia was almost getting lost in the sensation of the comforting gesture. Her mother used to do that. "I'm not going to give up, Mia, and don't you, either. There's a reason for everything, and there was a reason we all survived."
Mia was quiet for a moment, taking in all that the older woman, whom she respected so very much, had said. At length, the girl cleared her throat and spoke. "Denny?"
"Can we stay in contact if we get home?"
Denny smiled, pulling the girl in closer, placing another soft kiss on the side of her head. "Of course."
Silence, then, "Denny?"
"Are you and Rachel fighting?"
Denny squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then opened then, sighing deeply. "No. Why do you ask that?"
Mia shrugged. "I don't know. Guess you guys aren't together all the time like you used to be. I saw her crying the other day, over by the waterfall. Not sure why, and I felt like I was intruding, so I left."
"Crying?" Denny saw the girl's nod. She felt pain shoot to her heart. No, they weren't fighting, but yes they were spending less and less time together, compliments of Denny's avoidance. It was a hard thing to do on an island that was three miles across, but it was necessary. After that night in the shelter, she realized that she needed to put some physical space between them, and allow her heart and head to clear. Denny needed to believe that they would get home some day, and there was no way she could face Hannah, knowing that she hadn't been true to her.
"She loves you."
The coffee shop owner was tugged from her thoughts by the unexpected comment. She wasn't sure she'd heard right. "What?"
"That's what Dean says. He says you guys love each other, and that you need to get your head out of your ass and open your eyes."
Denny would have wanted to laugh if she hadn't been stung by Dean's words. "Well, maybe Dean should mind his own fucking business."
Uh oh. Mia raised her head from Denny's shoulder, turning enough to look in the older woman's face, which had hardened. "I'm sorry, Denny. I didn't mean to make you upset."
"You didn't, pretty girl." The older brunette smiled, raising a hand and gently cupping the girl's face before dropping her hand to her own lap. She sighed heavily, running a hand through her too long hair. "I can't allow myself to," she paused, unsure of just exactly what she was trying to say.
"To?" Mia encouraged.
"To follow my heart. These are hard circumstances, and the feelings I have aren't honest ones. I think ultimately Rachel would get hurt."
"And what about you?"
"What about me?" Denny met wide, innocent brown eyes.
"I see it," Mia brought her own hand up, thumbing one of Denny's eyebrows. "You look so sad all the time, when you look at Rachel." Mia felt so sad as blue eyes disappeared behind dark lashes. "Denny?" Her gaze was against met by piercing blue. "We may not get out of here. Don't keep hurting you and Rachel both."
"You don't understand, Mia." Denny's voice was thick with unshed emotion. Yes, she was hurting Rachel. She saw it every time she dared to look at the blonde, which wasn't often. At night, the brunette turn to her side, back facing the author, effectively cutting herself off physically and emotionally. The first few times Rachel had tried to snuggle up behind her, but when she got no response, she'd given up, curling up into a little ball. It had broken Denny's heart, but she had to do it, had to protect herself and her goddamn super-sized sense of what was right and what was wrong.
The girl had a feeling that she was only serving to make her friend mad, and she didn't want to do that. "Denny?"
"Yes?" Denny could feel her jaw clenching, trying to think of a way to tell the girl to drop the damn subject without hurting her feelings. She was eternally grateful when she heard the next softly spoken words.
"If we get back to New York, will you make me a mocha breve?"
Denny grinned, unable to help it. Her eyes far too moist, she pulled the teenager against her again, nodding. "Of course."
Angry. She was so damn angry she almost couldn't stand herself! Rachel splashed in the water, scrubbing at her skin until it was raw from the scratchy plant lather. Sniffling again, she ducked her entire body, pushing her medium-length hair from her face, finally able to keep her damn bangs behind her damn ears, and out of her damn eyes.
"That's some pretty fierce washing."
Rachel whipped around, green eyes flaring as she noted Dean sitting one of the rocks around the pool, arms crossed over his chest.
"Do you mind, Dean? I'm trying to take a bath."
"It looks like you're trying to kill the soap, your skin, the water-"
"Fuck off, Dean." The blonde turned her back to him, quickly swiping at her eyes, only to get more frustrated as the water made her nose itch, and the more she tried to scratch at it with wet fingers, the worse she made it itch. "Damn it!" Wading over to where she'd laid her sarong, which had become much shorts as the bottom third had been ripped off to make a covering for her breasts. Her bra had given out two months ago, finally literally falling apart.
"Hey," Dean rested his hand atop hers, which lay on the garment, ready to dry her face with it. Rachel looked up into concerned eyes, filled with compassion and understanding. "Slow down, Rach," the attorney said, taking the sarong from under her hand and gently wiping at her nose, then tenderly wiping her eyes. This only made more tears fall. The author tried to turn away, embarrassed at the man witnessing her emotions, but he wasn't about to allow that. "Come here, you. Play the tough butch later."
Rachel chuckled through her tears as she allowed herself to be drawn into a warm, scratchy embrace. It reminded her briefly of Matt, used to the smooth skin of Denny. The thought made her tears really fall in earnest.
"Shh, sweetie," Dean cooed. "It's okay, Rachel. It's ooookay," he rubbed comforting circles over her back, rocking her gently. He felt his own heart ache for the two would-be lovers. He knew what the problem was, but decided to make the blonde talk about it, out loud, to somebody else. She lived so often inside her own damn head, it was no wonder she was falling apart.
Once Rachel had managed to get herself under control, Dean got her dressed, and led her by the hand to the blonde's ledge. It was time they talked. She knew what was coming, and tried to brace for it, her brain swarming with ideas and excuses. Anything to avoid talking about Denny. Dean got himself comfortable, patting the rock beside him. Once the blonde was situated, he placed an arm around her shoulders, absently playing with the muscle of her shoulder, a testament of the hard lifestyle of survival. None of them had an ounce of body fat on them, now lean and fit. Even Pam had lost all of her mid-section. Dean often ran his fingers over the hard bumps and valleys that was now his stomach, amazed at the transformation.
"This is kind of nice," he commented, squeezing the blonde's shoulder for emphasis. "Reminds me of the first and last time I played peek-a-boo with a vagina."
Rachel exploded into laughter, her voice thick and nasally from crying. She looked at the attorney, incredulous. "Dean!"
"What?" he asked, glancing over at his companion. "It's true." He smiled with a wink. "Now, tell me what happened."
Rachel sighed, knowing there was no way to get around talking, so she swallowed and readied herself for humiliation. "I don't know. I think I've pissed Denny off in some way, or hurt her, or-"
"Made her fall in love with you..."
The blonde was stunned, head whipping around until she was looking at the attorney's profile. Finally he met her gaze. "What did you say?"
"I said she's in love with you, and scared shitless."
"She's scared shitless?" Rachel blew out. Dean nodded.
"Honey, she's got a partner back home, whom she loves dearly, and then her heart goes and has the nerve to fall in love with another woman? Shit, that's a lot for a dyke to deal with, you know?"
"She can't be in love with me," Rachel insisted, her stubborn streak coming to the surface.
"Why not? You are with her," Dean said pointedly.
"No, Dean. I am not in love with Denny. I can't be."
"Why? Cause you have a husband back home? Because you're straight?"
Rachel looked down at the hands that fidgeted I her lap. "Because I don't know how to love. I made that clear by totally screwing up my marriage." Dean had no idea what the blonde was talking about, but decided to wait her out, let her explain in her own time. "I'm so confused, Dean. Never in my life have I felt anything like what I feel when she's around." Rachel was shocked by the words that came out of her own mouth. She couldn't take them back, so she tucked her bottom lip between her teeth to keep anything else unexpected locked inside.
Dean hadn't been expecting that, but was glad it wouldn't require anymore prodding. They were at the core of the issue. "What do you feel, Rachel?"
"I don't know. It's like my day brightens, my skin tingles and my stomach flutters. It's like, it's like nothing else matters, you know? Just the fact that she's close to me. I want to touch her, I want her to touch me," she paused, searching the sea before and below them for answers. "It's like I need her to touch me."
"Honey, can I ask you a question?" Dean asked, his voice soft, filled with understanding. The blonde nodded. "Have you guys..."
"No." Rachel smiled sadly, shaking her head. "I thought for sure one night she was going to kiss me, but ... she didn't."
"What if you kissed her?"
The author snorted, bringing a hand up to swipe at an errant tear. "I think she would freak out. She won't talk to me, it's like she can't stand to be around me. It hurts Dean, and there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it."
"Give her time, Rachel. I think Denny's probably pretty torn right now. She's got a good heart, and is obviously loyal to Hannah, even if it's just not necessary anymore. No doubt she's pushing you away because she's struggling, a fight between her heart and her head."
"Really? You think so?"
"I do," Dean nodded.
Rachel sighed heavily, finally leaning into the attorney. "This would all make such a great book."
Dean drew his brows, confused. "What do you mean?"
The blonde chuckled. "Never mind."
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