Disclaimers: This story belongs to me so I don't give permission for it to be posted somewhere else under a different title, change in names or storyline.
Sex: But of course! J
Note: There will likely be somewhat graphic violence in this story, as part of it takes place during war times.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com .
San Jose , CA 1967
Kate walked through the front door, tired from a long day of classes. She set her purse and satchel down on the kitchen table and so she could pour herself a glass of iced tea from the pitcher in the fridge. The liquid was cold and satisfying after an unseasonably warm spring day.
Glass half-drained, Kate grabbed her purse and satchel again, glad it was Friday and she could relax for the night. She had grading to do over the weekend, but tonight she just wanted to watch some TV and enjoy some quiet time. Friday's were George's night to play cards with his friends, so she'd have the house to herself.
“George?” she called out, heading to the stairs that would take her upstairs and to their bedroom where she could change into comfortable clothes. “Are you home?”
There was no response but she'd seen his car parked outside. Sometimes he and his friend, Jay would ride together to get some dinner before the game started. Even still, something felt odd; it was almost as though the silence in the house was actually the house holding its breath, waiting for something to happen.
When Kate reached the top of the stairs, she noticed right away that their bedroom door was closed, which was highly unusual. George wasn't a nap taker, so Kate was immediately concerned. Her first thought was that perhaps George had another woman in that room, and the silence was them trying to get her out of the house. Kate stopped that train of that as she neared the door, as she realized she was being ridiculous.
Getting to the door, she stopped and listened, listening for the tell-tale snoring that would indicate George was asleep. If he was, she'd leave him be and make herself some dinner. There was no sound. Her heart began to pound as dread set in.
“George?” Kate grabbed the doorknob but found it locked. “George?” She rattled the knob again, bringing up a fist to pound on the solid wood.
Her gut screaming at her, Kate reached up to the frame around the door only to find the key gone. Looking around the hall for inspiration, she ran back downstairs, grabbing a screwdriver from under the kitchen cabinet then ran back upstairs. She tried the knob again, hoping that maybe it had been magically unlocked in the few moments that she'd been gone. No such luck, she fell to her knees and used the screwdriver to manipulate the lock.
Kate let out a yelp of victory when the lock clicked open, but then dread really began to creep into her stomach as she got to her feet, taking a deep breath before turning the doorknob and pushing the door open. The bedroom had an unnatural still to it, and immediately Kate's gaze was captured by the figure lying on the bed.
Kate cried out in horror, unable to wrap her mind around what she was seeing. She crept into the room, hands covering her mouth and eyes wide as she took in George's body lying on his side of the mattress, a deep crimson stain coloring the pillow beneath his head as well as a crimson splattering on the headboard.
“George,” she whispered, a sob ripping from her throat at her very-obviously dead husband of twenty-one years. One of the pistols of his extensive collection lay on the bed at his side, his hand still partially covering it.
Kate fell to her knees as her tears overwhelmed her, unable to take her eyes off her husband, praying that it was some cruel, elaborate joke and that he'd sit up any minute and say, “Just kidding! Ha ha, funny joke, right?”
Kate sat numb on a couch in the living room as the paramedics, Medical Examiner's Office and police filtered through her house. She'd already given her statement of what happened, as she knew it, and now all she could do was just sit and wait for the nightmare to end. She also had a call to make – to Megan – and dreaded it more than anything. How could she tell her twenty year old daughter that her father had put a bullet in his brain? How could she answer the onslaught of questions and need for understanding? Sorry, honey but I was about to leave your father and he couldn't handle it.
Kate buried her face in her hands, the tears starting anew. She was startled when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and looked up to see who had just sat next to her. To say she was shocked to see Carol would be an understatement. Regardless of the past events that had kept them out of contact for almost twenty-five years, she threw herself into her old friend's arms, the tears overtaking any sense at the familiar, friendly face.
Later that night – nearly 10 p.m. – Kate sat on the couch, a sleeping Megan resting her head in her lap. As she ran her fingers through her daughter's hair – as she'd been doing for more than an hour – Kate looked at Carol, her cheek resting on a closed fist as her elbow rested on the back of the couch cushion.
“I can't believe your brother-in-law was one of the officers here today,” she said, voice a murmured hush so as not to waken Megan.
“Guess it was meant to be that I came back into your life,” Carol offered, sipping the wine Kate had poured for them both. “I'm glad Steve called me and even more glad I'd spoken to him about you.” They both smiled at that.
Kate studied her old friend, amazed at the fact that, though Carol was now in her early 40s, she could still easily see the girl she'd once been. “I've missed you, Carol.”
“I've missed you too, sweetie,” Carol said, squeezing Kate's leg. “We have a lot to talk about, but I don't want to lose contact again.”
San Jose , CA 1968
Kate sat in her office at the university, her gaze locked into the intricately carved wooden box that Megan had uncovered in the attic three days before. She had fully intended to put it back in the trunk: out of sight, out of mind. Even so, she wasn't able to do it. Instead, she'd brought it to work with her that morning, intending perhaps to look at the contents once more before hiding it away. It was the end of the spring semester and she had a few things left to tie up before her summer break could begin. So, it seemed a ‘kill two birds with one stone' sort of moment to finish up her semester and re-visit some old memories before putting it all away and enjoy her time off.
Not to be. Instead, she sat at her desk, cheek resting on a closed fist and her gaze locked onto the carved grooves and lines that formed the picture.
“I have a gift for you,” Danni said, the excitement in her eyes evident.
“Do you, now?” Kate asked, reclined on the bed.
“I do.” Danni hurried over to her pack and produced a long, wrapped package. She presented to the blonde, a nervous smile on her face. “I hope you like it. I made it myself.”
“Oh my goodness,” Kate breathed, sitting up, the sheet falling to expose her naked breasts. “It's absolutely beautiful, Danni.” She gave the brunette a blinding smile, grabbing her for a passionate kiss. “Thank you,” she whispered against full lips.
Kate ran her fingertips over the smooth wood and contoured lines of the carved design before lifting off the lid and setting it aside. Just as Megan had found inside, Kate eyed the folded shirt, smiling at the memory of the night when she'd commandeered the undershirt. Her fingertips brushed over the soft cotton before she lifted it out of the box, setting it aside on her desk.
Following the shirt came the stack of letters and pictures and finally the ring box, which Kate held in her hands for a long moment, just studying the red satin, even as the object itself disappeared from her view.
“Let's do it,” Danni whispered, ring box held in her hand, the gold band inside glinting from the lamp light.
Kate smiled, her heart in her throat as she nodded. “Let's do it.”
Kate snapped to attention, nearly throwing the ring box across the small office in her startled state. Wide green eyes landed on Missy, Kate's assistant, who was actually a grad student and her right-hand woman. “Missy!” Kate said, more out of surprise than acknowledgment.
Missy grinned, amused as she sat in the chair across from Kate's desk, all brightly colored clothing and long, straight hair. “I'm assuming you know my name, considering you're the one who appointed me as the All-Mighty Assistant of Professor Hannigan, Historian Extraordinaire.”
Kate rolled her eyes, setting the ring box back in the wooden box. “I still think you should have gone into Theater rather than History, Missy.”
“Yeah, probably,” the grad student said, her gaze landing on all the objects Kate had removed from the box. “What's all this? A little archaeology?”
“No,” Kate said softly, all teasing gone. She was silent for a moment then glanced up at her student and good friend once more. “Missy, do you think I'd be a real bitch if I got rid of George's clothing?”
Missy studied her mentor for a long moment, trying to wrap her mind around the very sudden change in topic. Once she got her bearings, she gave the question real thought. Finally she shook her head with a smile. “No, I don't.” She nodded at the box and its contents. “Is this his stuff?”
“No.” Kate gathered the items, almost insulted of the assumption. “They belong to… someone else.”
“I dig it,” Missy nodded. “Well, I'm outta here,” Missy announced, pushing up from her chair.
“Have a great summer, Missy.”
“You, too, Prof.”
Left alone again, Kate turned her attention back to the box. She picked up the snapshot of her and Danni and had to smile at the look on her face: so adoring and so utterly in love. She hadn't felt that in such a long time and wondered if she ever would again. After George had died, she'd all but decided to give up on love and focus on Megan and her new life, as well as Kate's own career.
Releasing a heavy sigh, Kate set the picture down on her desk and sat back in her chair, her gaze finding the bright, sunny day outside her office window.
Kate stood at the bottom of the stairs, her gaze at the top and knowing what lay at the end of that long hallway. Since George's death, she'd been sleeping in the guest bedroom, no longer wishing to spend time in the room where so many bad moments were spent, culminating in the final moments of her husband's life and the biggest nightmare of hers.
Sucking in all the courage she could, Kate ascended the staircase, hand gliding along the smooth wood of the handrail and then padded her way down the hallway, green shag carpet beneath her feet. She stopped in front of the closed bedroom door, closed since the day after George's suicide. For a moment, she was taken back to that day all over again, standing in front of the locked door, unsure of what awaited her on the other side. Now, the hurt of an old ghost awaited her, that much she knew.
The bedroom was exactly as it had been for the seventeen years the Hannigan's had been in the house, save for the fact that Kate's clothing or belongings were no longer in the room, and the mattress and headboard had been removed from the room and destroyed, leaving the bare bones bed frame. In truth, Kate thought the entire thing should probably be burned, but it had been left, untouched.
The room smelled stale and unused after a year of neglect, so Kate walked over to the window and opened it, allowing a bit of fresh air to circulate. Turning to face the room, she placed her hands on her hips and tried to decide what to do first. The majority of what was left was George's clothing, as Megan said her fiancé wouldn't want her father's “old man clothes”, though Megan had taken her father's watch and treasured bottle of Old Spice cologne for a reminder.
Kate walked over to the closet, pulling the mirrored doors open. A pang of regret and sadness washed struck her heart as she eyed all of George's clothes hanging neatly from wire hangers. With a heavy sigh, she ran her hand down the sleeve of a dress shirt, the material cool and soft to the touch. She took a quick visual inventory of what was there then turned to the long dresser and then George's nightstand.
She headed downstairs to the garage and grabbed some empty boxes to pack away the clothing. Tomorrow she would make a stop at Goodwill and make a donation.
San Diego , CA 1943
Danni sat in Puck's Diner off Wilmont Street . The businesses along the long stretch catered mostly to the military men stationed at the base and had become a hangout for them. The diner was filled to near capacity this afternoon, the noise level loud and boisterous. Men were scheduled to ship out in two days, so the sailors were trying to get in as much “civilian” life as they could.
“Not so sure what I'm gonna feel when it's our turn,” Mike commented, shoveling more scrambled eggs into his mouth.
“At least you guys are part of the SeaBees. Ain't got a lot to worry about, there,” their friend, Paul said.
Danni remained quiet as she continued to eat, her stomach doing flips at the conversation. Their time was coming and they all knew it. They were getting into the nitty gritty of their individualized training in San Diego before they were shipped out to their destinations around the world. She and Mike were part of the Construction Battalion, CB for short and nicknamed the SeaBees. They would be taken to various locations to construct buildings, roads and forts, and were expected to help defend it should it come under attack. It wasn't exactly the front lines, but it was still dangerous as hell.
“Why you so quiet over there, Danny?” Mike asked, sitting back in his chair, finally getting his fill.
“Just thinking,” Danni said, offering him a quick glance.
“Yeah, but I know what about,” Paul said, the Devil in his smile. He'd heard all about Danni's encounter with the pretty blonde a few nights before.
“Yeah, whatever,” Danni muttered, pulling a few bills out of her pocket and tossing them onto the table. She pushed her chair back and stood, settling her cap on her head. “See you ‘round, boys. I've got some things I need to do.”
Danni ignored the cat calls her friends threw after her as she headed out into the warm afternoon. As she walked down the sidewalk, intent on heading to a shop to buy her mother a birthday present, she was pleased as people passed her, nodding their acknowledgment of her military service. Some even went so far as to stop and shake her hand, thanking her for fighting those Nazis.
Feeling good and proud, Danni continued on, stopping to look in a storefront when a display of music boxes caught her eye. Her mother absolutely loved humming birds, and the little humming bird statue on top of a carved wood box immediately made her smile. That smile turned into a startled turn of the head when someone tugged on the sleeve of her shirt.
Danni's expression melted into a gooey smile when she found herself looking into Kate's beautiful face. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Kate said softly, her voice shy and cheeks flushed. “I thought that was you.”
Danni could feel her heart pounding in her chest at an almost painful cadence. “Yes, it's me.”
“Well, what a wonderful coincidence that I would find you here, then.” Kate's smile was broad and beautiful.
“Indeed. You look lovely,” Danni said, her gaze wandering over the blue and yellow dress Kate wore, once again the cut showing off the beautiful curves of Kate's body, though not in an inappropriate way.
“Thank you,” Kate blushed, nearly swooning. “And you look handsome as ever in your uniform.” Now it was Danni's turn to blush, which sent Kate off into delighted giggles. “You're so adorable!”
Danni cleared her throat and looked away, as she knew her blush would get worse and make her even more flustered than Kate already made her. “What are you doing here?” she asked at length.
“Shopping for a new dress for my graduation party.” Kate chewed on her lip for a moment before suddenly blurting, “Would you like to join me? That is, unless shopping isn't something you fancy. I know how abhorrent men find shopping, after all.”
Danni gave an easy smile to her playful teasing. “It just so happens that I'm shopping, myself.”
“Are you now?” Kate asked as they began to walk along the sidewalks. “For something special for your girl?”
Danni hoped that Kate was fishing, but didn't want to assume. Even still, she very much wanted Kate to know there was no girl in her life. “If you'd like to think of my mother as my girl, well, then I guess we should part ways right here.”
Again, Kate burst into adorable giggles. “No, I suppose not. Is it her birthday or something, or are you just being a good son?”
“All the above,” Danni teased, holding the door open to the small shop so Kate could enter first.
As they strolled through the shop, Kate glanced over at Danni from time to time, her heart flipping over in her chest every time. She studied the way he moved, how polite and gentle he was with the saleslady who was trying to help him. He had such a calming influence over her.
“What do you think?” Kate asked, indicating the music box the saleslady had shown him.
Danni picked the piece up to examine closer. It was the piece she'd been admiring in the window when Kate found her. Up close, it just didn't seem to be as nice as she wanted for her mother. After all, this could be the last birthday she's ever able to celebrate with a gift. She sighed, disappointed as she set the music box back onto the shelf.
“I don't think that's going to work for her.”
“Want to try somewhere else?” Kate offered, already leading the way out of the store.
“Let's go shopping for your dress. I want to take some time to give a little thought for my mom's gift.”
Back out on the sidewalk, the two walked on in comfortable silence, Danni shoving her hands in the pockets of her uniform trousers in order to stop herself from reaching to grab Kate's hand. She shared a couple quick smiles and finally turned into a small boutique.
“You really don't have to do this,” Kate said as they walked in. “Honestly. I know how you boys are about clothes shopping.”
Danni stopped Kate's progress into the store and turned the blonde to face her. “I want to be here with you, okay? I honestly don't care what we're doing. I just wanna… be with you.” She looked away, feeling like a fool.
Kate was deeply touched and reached out to take one of Danni's hands in her own, squeezing the fingers until Danni met her gaze. “I want you to be with me. Just giving you the option.
Danni grinned, shaking her head. “I don't want the option.”
Kate smiled, her soul soaring. “Okay. I won't offer an ‘out' again.”
Danni shared her smile then followed her into the shop, noting Kate never dropped her hand. At that move, Danni was torn between two emotions: elation and near paralyzing fear. She was born Danielle Felts, and in her mind would always be Danielle Felts, a female. To be waltzing through a clothing store holding the hand of another female, she couldn't help but keep a careful eye on everyone in the store, waiting for shocked looks or disgust or fear. She saw none of that. In fact, everyone who glanced their way had nothing but a soft, knowing smile on their lips.
Calm down, Danni. Nobody knows; not even Kate.
Danni sat in a chair located outside of the dressing room and, dress after dress, she gave her opinion. The dresses were beautiful for sure, but there was always something missing. Finally, the fifth dress Kate tried on, Danni was knocked back into her seat. The emerald green satin hugged Kate's body like a glove and brought the brilliance in her eyes. Danni was left speechless, which made Kate laugh.
“I'm guessing you like this dress?” she asked, playing with the floor-length skirt. All Danni could do was nod. “Alright, then this is the one.”
Ten minutes later, Danni carried the bag that held Kate's dress, Kate's hand tucked into the crook of Danni's arm. Danni had never felt so happy or proud in her life. She felt like she was walking on water, and had finally found a home, and that home had nothing to do with any structure. Little did she know, Kate felt the same.
They ended up at a small malt shop, Frank Sinatra playing softly in the background. Kate played with the straw in her strawberry malt as she studied her companion. “When do you ship out?” she asked, her heart falling at the fear of the answer.
Danni studied Kate for a moment, surprised by the question and her heart falling at the answer. “Just over five weeks.”
Kate was silent for a long time, the information mulling over and over in her brain. Finally, she set her malt spoon down and studied Danni, an upraised palm cradling her chin. “Are you scared?”
Danni contemplated the question before she finally nodded. “Yes. I'm part of the CB, but yes, I'm scared.”
“You're a builder, huh?”
Danni shrugged. “I grew up on a dairy farm in Wayne , Nebraska . We had to do it all ourselves: build roads coming into our farm, build outbuildings and stables. I'm also an excellent tractor driver.”
Kate smiled. “I've never been on a tractor before. My family owns a lot of land, but we don't have tractors; it's all natural as well as my mother's prized flower fields.”
Well, if you're ever out the Nebraska way, look me up and I'll take you out on a tractor.”
Kate smiled, a dreamy look in her eyes. “I'd love that.”
Danni played with the straw that was buried in her thick, chocolate shake, a troubling thought bouncing around in her brain. Finally, she looked up and met Kate's gaze. “Won't your fella be upset that we're spending this time together?” she asked, her voice soft and strangely, hurt.
“Fella?” Kate asked, baffled.
“Yeah, the fella from the dance: George.”
“Oh Danni, he's not my fella. George is a friend and nothing more.” She sighed heavily. “Regardless of what he may believe.”
“Or what he says,” Danni added quietly.
Kate groaned, rolling her eyes as she flopped back in her chair. “I should have known he'd do that.”
Relieved, Danni leaned forward. “So, if George isn't your fella, will you go with me to a picture show Friday night?”
“Yes,” Kate said, without thought, without regret: for the moment. “Oh no!” she gasped, hand going to her lips. “I can't, Danni. Friday night is my graduation party.”
Danni tried her best to hide her disappointment. She favored Kate with an understanding smile. “Another time then.”
“Come to the party,” Kate blurted, immediately regretting her invite. She knew without a doubt that her parents would rip Danni apart.
Danni brightened, nodding. “Alright.”
Despite her worries of her family, Kate was overjoyed. “I'm so glad! And,” she said, a little coy, “you might want to bring your friend, Mike. Carol will love me forever.”
Danni walked Kate to her car, as it was getting late and both needed to get home. “I really enjoyed today,” she said as they strolled. As they neared the car, her stomach began to do nervous and slightly panicked flips. She didn't want their time together to be finished.
“I did, too.” She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before a sheepish grin spread across her lips. “I have a confession to make, Danni.”
“It wasn't lucky chance that we ran into each other today.”
“No?” Danni asked, brow raised.
“No.” Kate shuffled her feet, her gaze anywhere but on Danni, as she felt like a silly school girl. “I've been coming down here every day, hoping I'd see you.” She finally met Danni's gaze, not sure what she'd see there. She blushed at the look of absolute adoration she saw there and quickly looked away again. “I know you Navy boys hang out here a lot.”
When Kate heard nothing from Danni, she nervously met his gaze again. She was surprised when he reached up and gently cupped her chin, holding her in place as he leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her lips. Kate was left breathless by the simple kiss.
“I'm sorry,” Danni whispered, slowly moving away and dropping her hand. “I just kinda… uh,” she rubbed the back of her neck, feeling as though she'd done something wrong and incredibly deceitful.
“Don't be sorry,” Kate said, taking Danni's hand in both of hers. “I've wanted you to do that since I first saw you.” She smiled shyly. “Terrible, I know.”
Danni felt her heart soar. “No,” she said, shaking her head, “not terrible. I've wanted that, too.”
Kate looked up at Danni, her smile growing. She so badly wanted him to kiss her again, but had no idea how to ask. Instead, she let out a heavy sigh. “Well, I suppose I should be getting home before my mother sends out the dogs to hunt me down.”
“Yeah, I have to get back, too.”
They both stood in awkward silence for a moment, both wanting the same thing but not sure if it was the right thing to do. Finally, Danni couldn't stop herself and once again leaned down. Kate met her halfway, one of her hands resting on the side of Danni's face. The kiss was soft and lingering, both simply absorbing the feel of the other.
As Kate slowly drew away, her heart was pounding so loudly she was worried Danni would be able to hear it. “Wow,” she sighed, her hand sliding from Danni's face and resting on his shoulder. “I really should go before I make you do that again and again and again.”
Danni grinned, her own heart beating so fast she nearly felt faint. “Drive safe and I'll see you Friday.”
Kate nodded, pulling her car keys from her purse and pulling the car door open. She accepted the package Danni had been carrying for her and set it across the large bench seat to the passenger side then turned back to Danni. She opened her purse again and pulled out a piece of paper, having written her phone number on it days ago in case she saw him.
“Call me tomorrow and I'll tell you where to go for the party.”
Danni accepted the paper, lovingly folding it small enough to put in her pocket. “Alright.”
Kate quickly stole another kiss, giggling as she hurried into her car, shocked at her own forwardness, leaving a surprised and amused Danni to watch her drive away.
“Oh boy,” Danni whispered. “I'm in trouble.”
Three of the five guys Danni shared a room with were already in the room, two playing an enthusiastic game of checkers and the third already in his bunk, reading. They looked up when she entered, sending out a greeting before returning to their respective activities.
“Where's Mike?” she asked, walking over to her own bunk and tossing her cap onto it.
“With that dame he met at the dance,” Henry responded, never taking his attention from his book.
“Carol?” she asked, tugging the black neckerchief from around her neck. Henry shrugged a shoulder.
Danni headed to the communal bathroom that the entire floor had to share. A long line of shower stalls ran the length of one wall, only flimsy curtains for privacy. Along the other wall was a line of bathroom stalls, half with doors the other half open urinals. Those urinals had scared her to death during boot camp. What had been even worse in boot camp were the open shower stalls. Danni had began a habit of either getting up ten minutes before her class or going days without a shower.
Now, as she entered, Danni thought about her time abroad, once she was shipped out. Would she be able to hide her secret as easily as she'd been able to in training? Would she be found out? If she was, what would happen to her? Would she be brutalized? Would she be killed? Or, would she simply just be court marshaled and sent to prison in Leavenworth , Kansas ? None of those options were particularly appealing. It was, however the choice she'd made and she'd have to stick it out.
She went into one of the stalls and closed the door, doing her business. She got herself back together and walked out of the stall, headed to the bank of sinks to wash her hands. As she did, she passed the shower stalls, where she saw one of them were in use: the water ran and the flimsy curtain was closed. She then noticed something else: there wasn't just one person in the stall.
She stopped, noting the one pair of feet she could see and the knees of someone else directly in front of them. Her attention was then caught by a soft grunt and a sigh. She knew in her gut these were the sounds of pleasure and was utterly baffled. She actually jumped a bit when a loud grown escaped from behind the shower curtain. The man on his knees pushed to his feet and a few moments later, he stepped out from behind the still-closed curtain, a towel wrapped around his waist.
Danni recognized the man as Herb Rascone. His eyes grew wide as saucers when he spotted her, his Italian features draining of color. Herb quickly ran out of the bathroom, the bathroom door slamming in his wake.
Danni lay in her bunk, hands tucked underneath her head, staring at the top bunk above her own. Even so, what she was seeing had nothing to do with the underside of Mike's bed: what she was seeing was a replay of what had happened in the bathroom earlier that evening. She kept seeing Herb's mortified expression and couldn't suppress all the questions that rattled around in her brain.
Deciding sleep wasn't going to come, she pushed up from her bed and tugged on a pair of pants over her boxer shorts, then padded out into the hall, headed up one floor. Standing outside Herb Rascone's door, Danni's heart was pounding and she wasn't entirely sure what she'd find on the other side. Gathering her courage, she rapped once, twice and finally a third time with her fist.
The door opened and a very cranky sailor opened the door. “What do you want?” he asked, hair sticking up all over his head.
“I need to talk to Herb,” Danni said, doing her best to keep her confidence up.
The sailor walked away from the door, leaving it ajar. Danni could hear him mumbling to someone, and then a moment later, Herb stepped up to the crack in the door. When he saw Danni staring back at him, he winced.
“I need to talk to you, Herb,” Danni said, taking a step back from the door and out into the hall, indicating he should follow. “Let's take a walk, fella.”
Danni and Herb made their way to a stairwell, where they knew they could talk openly and not wake any of the other guys. Danni leaned back against the cool cinderblock wall, eyes focused on the uncomfortable man standing before her. He met her gaze – though reluctantly – and said nothing.
“What happened today,” she began, though realized immediately that it was the wrong thing to say as Herb looked as though he'd book it. “Hang on,” she said, arms crossed over her chest. Over the past months she'd observed her “brothers” in arms, and had figured out their physical patterns and tendencies. It had become natural to her to use them, however tonight she realized that it would do her no good. She knew in her soul she'd found a kindred spirit and wanted Herb to understand that. “I don't think we're as far apart as you think, Herb.”
Herb studied her, a dark brow raised. “Really?”
“Yeah, but not what you think.” Danni took a deep breath then blew it out. “I like girls.”
Herb rolled his eyes. “Of course you do. You're a hot young sailor, why wouldn't you like girls?”
“Because I am a girl.”
Herb stared, his mouth falling open. If Danni weren't so terrified of he might do or say, she would have found the expression amusing. He ran a hand over his short-cropped hair. Finally, he let out a breath and met Danni's nervous gaze. “You shocked me, guy. You really did.” He studied her, seeming to try and penetrate her very soul with the intensity of his dark eyes. “You're not joking with me, now are you?”
Danni shook her head. “No.”
Herb walked up to her, studying her face, her body and back to her face again, a slow grin spreading across his lips. “You sure fooled us all, didn't you? But, I have to say that now that I know, I can see it.”
After the joyous relief of finally telling someone the truth, Danni felt a twinge of fear. “Herb, I really need you to keep this to yourself-“
“We gotta stick together, Danni,” he said, cutting her off. He held out his hand, which Danni took. Herb held the hand firmly in his and pumped it twice. “Brother to brother.”
Danni smiled, letting out a relieved breath.
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