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!
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.
Wayne, NE 1968
As Kate pulled into the tiny town, now population 3,013, she looked around, shocked at its size – or lack thereof. The main street of the town – 1st Street – wasn't hard to find or figure out. She pulled her little car to a stop in front of a diner, which was called Carson's Diner, and cut the engine. As she climbed out of the car, it wasn't hard to imagine hitching up a horse in front of the small eatery, then sauntering in wearing a Stetson.
Instead, she walked in wearing a summer dress, as the heat was oppressive, the many fans blowing in the small café appreciated. Standing at the door, Kate saw a breakfast bar to her left that ran along the entire length of that side of the restaurant and then red vinyl booths to her right. Deciding on the breakfast bar, she climbed onto a stool, covered in the same red vinyl material.
"What can I get for ya?" the waitress asked, a pencil behind one ear even as she clutched a second in her hand.
"Oh," Kate stammered, grabbing a grease-slathered menu from where it was housed between the sugar shaker and the napkin holder. "Why don't we start with an ice water?"
The waitress looked at her for a long, hard moment then began to move away. `You ain't from `round here, are ya?"
Kate scoped the menu, not sure what she was going to get from the greasy spoon once she ordered. The two old men who had taken stools next to hers – even though the rest of the diner was practically open for the taking - didn't help curb her doubt very well.
The waitress returned with a giant glass of iced water then looked at Kate expectantly. "Um," Kate said, her gaze returning to the menu more out of nervousness than because she needed to review it. "I'll have the steak and eggs. Eggs scrambled and steak medium well."
"Hashbrowns or country potatoes?" the waitress smacked, the pink of her gum making a cameo appearance from the corner of her mouth.
"Uh, country potatoes."
The waitress said nothing more, simply scribbled down what Kate had said then headed to Kate's neighbors, sweet as pie as she serviced `Joe' and `Pecker'. Once the two men had ordered, Pecker, who sat next to Kate, looked over at her, studying the stranger.
"Welcome to Wayne," he said, blindly reaching for the cup of strong, black coffee that the waitress had put in front of him.
Kate gave him a polite smile. "Thank you." She turned back to her water, but then something occurred to her. "Excuse me," she said, getting the old man's attention. "Do you happen to know Danni Felts?"
"Oh heck, I sure do. Used ta farm with her daddy years back."
Kate felt nervous excitement build in her stomach. "Does she still live here?"
Pecker turned to his friend, who was shaking his head. "She ain't lived here for goin' on about ten years now, I'd say," Joe said, leaning forward so he could see Kate on the other side of his friend.
Disappointment fell hard at that. "Oh."
"I'd ask Allison Hughes," the waitress interjected, setting Kate's breakfast in front of her. "She'd know."
Wayne, NE 1953
Allison tugged up her slacks, buttoning and zipping them before reaching for her bra. Danni lay naked in her bed in the tiny apartment she was living in that was over Brockman's Bar. She watched the older woman dress, hand cradled in her hand.
"What time is Harv getting home today?" she asked, eyeing the luscious breasts that were just now being covered by the satiny cups of Allison's bra.
"Sometime around six, then we have a dinner with that obnoxious business partner of his." Allison sighed, sliding her arms into her silk blouse and slowly buttoning it from the button up, purposely leaving tantalizing flesh for Danni's eyes to devour.
"I'm surprised he's not going to take Marilyn," Danni muttered, falling over to her back and tucking her hands beneath her head.
Allison smirked. "Somehow I don't think that slut of a mistress would be all that interested in business. Speaking of," she sat on the edge of the bed to pull on her shoes. "I really like your idea for F&H Industries and I think we should do it."
"So, you finally read my business proposal, huh?"
"I did, and it's brilliant." She leaned over and placed a kiss on Danni's lips. "Just like you." She pushed to her feet and grabbed her handbag. "I have to go. Let's meet up for dinner this week and discuss it further. Chow."
"See you later." Danni watched her lover of three years walk to the door of the one-room apartment, then stared up at the ceiling, her mind whirring with possibilities for their business.
Wayne, NE 1968
Kate sat in a Queen Ann chair in a lavish sitting room in the massive and beautiful house of Allison Hughes. She had been waiting for five minutes, her heart pounding. She couldn't believe where she was, and wasn't sure what exactly she'd find out: if anything. What if Danni had a family of her own somewhere? Someone like Danni, it was likely she did. What if Allison wouldn't tell her where Danni was? What if Danni didn't want Kate to know where she was?
"Good afternoon, Kate," Allison said as she walked into the room, startling her guest from her thoughts.
Kate got to her feet, riveted by the lovely woman who walked towards her. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Hughes. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice."
"First of all, call me Allison, and second of all, I was quite surprised you called." She indicated Kate should reclaim her seat, Allison sitting in the matching on across a low-slung table. "Would you care for a drink?"
"No, thank you."
Allison crossed one elegant leg over the other and studied the beautiful woman who sat across from her. Head slightly cocked to the side, Allison measured Kate's worth in a matter of seconds. "Hmm," she said absently, "I can see why."
"Why, what?" Kate asked, somewhat uncomfortable by the scrutiny.
"What can I do for you, Kate?" Allison asked, ignoring the question. "Why have you come all the way to this tiny little town to speak with me?"
"Well, I was actually hoping you could tell me where Danni is. At the diner, they said you two are close friends."
"Among other things," Allison said. She pushed up from her chair and walked over to a small bar placed in the corner of the room. She poured herself two fingers of scotch as well as a tumbler for Kate. "Here you are," she said, handing Kate her drink before taking her seat once more and sipping from the strong, expensive liquor.
"Thank you," Kate said. Not much of a drinker, she sensed it wasn't a good idea to deny this woman's hospitality. Or, to deny this woman anything.
"What do you want with her?" Allison asked, the crystal tumbler resting on her knee.
Kate looked down into the liquid in her glass for a long moment. "In truth, I'm not entirely sure how to answer that question, Allison." Finally she met the older woman's penetrating gaze. "I guess I just feel the need to reconnect."
"And you believe Danni will want to reconnect with you?" Allison took another sip, careful to keep her expression blank. In truth, there was a part of her that was somewhat jealous of the woman sitting in her sitting room. Though Allison had loved Danni for years, she knew in her heart that the only woman Danni had ever loved was the woman who sipped her scotch now.
A slight tremor flashed down Kate's spine at the strong, burning taste of the liquor. In truth, she was glad Allison had given her a glass; it was already somewhat calming her nerves. "I can't know that until I talk to her. There is certainly a chance that she'll want nothing to do with me, but-"
"But there's a chance she may want to?" Allison interrupted.
Kate nodded. "Yes. I hope so."
Allison set her glass aside and stood suddenly, looking at Kate for a moment before turning and leaving the room, leaving a confused Kate behind. After a moment, Allison returned, a piece of paper in her hand. She resumed her seat. "My first inclination is to protect Danni, but I'm not her mother, and it's certainly not my place to make decisions for her. She's a big girl." She set the paper on the table and slid it across to Kate. "If you can find it, I'd say you will have earned the right to at least speak with Danni, though I can't guarantee how she'll take such a surprise."
Kate picked up the paper and read an address in Munson, Maine, written in beautifully scrolling handwriting. "Thank you," she said softly, almost reverently. She tucked the page in her purse for safekeeping.
"Good luck to you, Kate," Allison said, again standing, obviously asking Kate to leave.
"Thank you again, Allison. I truly appreciate this."
Burbank, CA 1949
Danni stood on the front porch, butterflies swarming in her belly and sweat soaking the underarms of the uniform shirt under her uniform jacket. Taking a final deep breath, she raised her fist and knocked on the door, waiting for what seemed like forever before she heard movement on the other side. The door was pulled open and a large man looked back at her.
"Can I help you?" he asked, large hands covered in paint that he was wiping on a rag.
"Yes, sir. Is Carol here?"
"She sure is. Come on in." The man stepped aside, allowing Danni to enter the house. "Honey!" the man called out. "Someone here to see you!"
"Who is it?" called back a female voice from deep in the house.
The man looked at Danni for an introduction. "Sorry, Danni Felts," Danni said, holding out her hand to the man.
"Good to meet you, Danni. Frank, Carol's husband," Frank took Danni's hand in a firm shake.
Carol appeared from upstairs, also covered in paint splatter. She hurried to the door, her steps slowing when she saw who it was. "Danni."
Frank looked back and forth between the two, able to see the shock on his wife's face. "I'm gonna get back to painting, honey." He placed a quick kiss on Carol's cheek then disappeared up the stairs.
"I'm sorry to bother you, it's pretty obvious you guys are busy."
"No, it's okay. It's good to see you; been awhile." Carol was stunned, but shook herself out of it, inviting Danni into the kitchen, where she washed her hands as Danni took a seat. "We just bought the place so are doing a little remodeling," she explained, pouring them both a glass of apple juice. She sat down across from Danni, feeling nervous and uncertain. "What brings you by?"
"Well, actually fulfilling a promise I made a long time ago." She reached into her jacket and produced two small boxes, one containing a Purple Heart medal and one containing dog tags and a folded piece of paper. Carol looked at the medal, confused. Setting that box aside, she opened the other box and gasped, hand going to her mouth. "He wanted you to have these things."
Tears sprang to Carol's eyes as she took Mike's dog tags into her hands, running a thumb over the bumps of the letters of his name. "Oh, Danni," she whispered.
"Listen, I see you have a new life and a new family, and I really didn't come here to upset you-"
Danni was interrupted as Carol pulled her to her feet and into a crushing embrace. "Thank you."
Carol hugged her back, feeling like she'd finally come through for her long-dead friend. "You're welcome."
After a long moment, Carol pulled away from Danni, feeling foolish as she swiped at her eyes. "It's been five years, you'd think it wouldn't affect me like this anymore." She resumed her seat, Danni doing the same.
"Mike was a good guy, Carol. He affected us all."
Carol nodded, grabbing a napkin from the older and blew her nose. "You are so kind to bring this stuff to me. I can't believe you did this. Especially after…" her words trailed off, shame causing more tears to come.
"After, what?" Danni was confused, and almost dreaded whatever she might hear.
"I know about you, Danni," Carol blew out, relieved to finally get this off her conscience.
Danni stared at her blankly for a moment, her heart stopping. "Did Kate tell you?"
"No God no, she never would have betrayed you."
Danni nearly threw up at those words, but said nothing.
"No, I saw you two together once. To say I was shocked is an understatement." She gave Danni a rueful smile. "You do `guy' real well, Felts."
Danni's smile was small. "Thanks, I think."
"Listen," Carol said, reaching across the table and covering one of Danni's hands with her own. "I will never forgive myself for how I acted and for turning my back on Kate. It's not a proud moment for me." She squeezed Danni's hand then released it.
"It's never too late, Carol. Do you know where she is? You can always talk to her; I'm sure she'd understand." Danni couldn't believe she was actually defending Kate! What the hell is wrong with me?
"Helen keeps me up to date on Kate and her family. Honestly, I'd be afraid she'd slam the door in my face: not that I'd blame her."
"Maybe someday you two can reunite, Carol. Don't give up hope."
Munson, ME 1961
Danni walked into the house, gathered mail in her hands, including a square box with a return address of the United States Navy. Curious, Danni tossed the other mail on the kitchen counter and grabbed a knife from the knife block and sliced open the tape. Pulling the flaps of the brown box apart, she saw first a type-written letter with the official seal of the Navy and a bundle of envelopes beneath it. Turning to the letter, Danni read, her mouth falling open with each word.
The letter fell from her hands as she braced herself on the counter, head hanging. "No way."
Blowing out her rising emotion, she turned the box's contents. Banded together were more than thirty letters that had been found tucked away in a storage closet six months before. The letters were postmarked from Kate Felts to Danni Felts and from Danni Felts to Kate Felts. Danni's letters had never left the base and Kate's had been stashed away, with Danni's outgoing mail.
Munson, ME 1968
"You lie to me!"
"No, you lie to me!"
"Okay, okay!" Danni interrupted, moving between the elderly couple that had been tenants in one of her houses for four years. "It doesn't matter who lied to who, okay?" She looked to her right. "Gertrude?" The old woman crossed her arms over a heavy bosom, a stubborn set to her mouth. Danni looked to the man on her left. "Horace?"
He mirrored his wife's position, head turning away in defiance. "I don't wanna talk about it."
"See?!" Gertrude erupted.
The front door of the house opened and the couple's daughter hurried inside. "Mamma, Pappa, what are you doing torturing Danni again?"
"It's her fault!" Horace accused, pointing a crooked finger at his wife of sixty years.
"You lied!" Gertrude yelled.
"No, you lied!" he fired back.
Danni turned to the daughter. "That's the most I've gotten out of them in an hour."
"I'm sorry, Danni. Thanks for calling me. I'll take it from here."
Relieved of her duty as babysitter, Danni headed out of the small house and out into the warm day. She tugged her sunglasses on and hurried to her Jeep, a lot of work that still needed to be done. She'd already fixed a leaking toilet in one of her rental houses, mowed a lawn, weeded a garden, finished staining a group of four dining room chairs that she had been commissioned to make, and was finally going to get to the woods to chop up the three trees that had been felled over the past week, to begin her wood stock up for the upcoming fall and winter.
Four hours later, Danni's Jeep pulled up to the back of her cabin and a very tired Danni climbed out, ready for a nice, hot bath, good dinner and then bed. She got to the door, hearing her dogs barking like mad inside. About to insert her key into the lock, she noticed a note tucked into the heavy metal and glass screen door.
Kate paced as far as the phone cord would reach. The hotel room was simple but comfortable, but at the moment it felt like a cage. "I don't know if I did the right thing by coming here, Carol. I really, really am not sure."
"It'll be fine, Kate. Whatever is meant to happen will happen."
"I know." Kate blew out a breath, a hand running through her hair. "I should go. This call is costing me a fortune, I'm sure."
"Undoubtedly. Hang in there, lady and let me know how it goes."
Right then there was a knock on Kate's door. She gasped, her heart flying to her throat. "Oh god," she whispered, panicked. "She came."
"Go! Go!" Carol encouraged. "Call me!"
Kate hung up the phone and wiped sweaty palms on her thighs as she walked to the door. Hand on doorknob, she took a final deep breath before pulling it open. On the other side stood one of the employees of the hotel, an armful of folded towels.
"Did you order for more towels?" he asked, hopeful.
"What?" Kate asked, thrown completely off guard by the unexpected visitor.
"Clean towels. Did you order more clean towels?"
"No, I didn't."
"Are you sure?" the man looked at the number on Kate's door. "You didn't order towels?"
"No! I did not order clean towels; I haven't even used the ones I have yet." Irritated and profoundly disappointed, Kate slammed the door closed, the employee barely having enough time to move out of the way. She walked back into the room, head hung and hands on hips. "Damn." A knock sounded again on the door. Really irritated now, Kate stormed over to it and flung it open. "I did not ask for more towels!"
"Well, I had considered bringing some, but since your note didn't mention that you needed any, I changed my mind."
Kate stared, wide-eyed at a smirking Danni who stood out in the hall. It took her a moment to snap out of her shock, and then a new kind of shock hit her. Standing before her was the single most gorgeous woman she'd ever seen in her life: where once a beautiful young woman had been was replaced by a mature, confident and almost cocky, mature woman of 43. She took Kate's breath away.
"Hello, Kate," Danni said, smirk gone.
"Hello." Kate shook herself from her reverie. "I'm sorry, please come in." She stepped back, allowing Danni to enter. Danni was dressed in hip-hugging jeans that showed off a slender build with muscular thighs, and a casual, flowing shirt that added an element of femininity to Danni that Kate had never seen. The long hair that fell around Danni's shoulders was also a shock, but a beautiful one.
Danni entered the room and looked around, hands tucked into the back pockets of her jeans. Her stomach was doing flips and her palms were sweating. She had to do her best to not show it. She knew Kate was beautiful, but seeing her now, after so many years, she was blown away and trying not to stare. When she'd found Kate's note, to say that she was struck dumb was one of the biggest understatements of the world! She had considered ignoring it, not sure if this was a can of worms she wanted to open. Ultimately, she knew she'd regret it for the rest of her life if she didn't at least come see her.
Taking a final deep breath, she turned and faced Kate, who was already watching her. "How are you?"
"I'm good." Kate didn't know what else to say. Even though she had flown across the country to find Danni, now that she stood six feet away from her, she was lost.
Seeming to understand that, Danni graced her with a smile. "Listen, I had enough time to change before I raced over here after a long day working. I'm starving, so would you like to grab something? I saw there's a restaurant downstairs."
"Yes!" Kate exclaimed, happy for some semblance of a distraction from the situation. "That would be good."
The two headed down the hall of Kate's floor, each sparing glances at the other, smiling shyly the few times their eyes met. Danni, for her part was scared to death. Though she'd never forgotten about Kate – and never would – she couldn't help but feel a mixture of thrill that Kate had found her and fear, as no one had been able to damage her like Kate, regardless of what she'd found out years later.
The elevator ride was made in silence, the two walking across the lobby and finally into the small, attached restaurant where they were immediately seated. Sitting across from Kate, Danni smiled at her, trying to ease some of the tension. She could tell Kate was so nervous, she was ready to bolt.
"Kate?" she said, her voice soft and understanding. "You look so frightened right now. What do you think I'm going to do?"
Feeling foolish, Kate's head fell for a moment. She took a deep breath then looked up at Danni. "I'm sorry. I'm acting like a child. I don't know what my issue is."
The waitress came and took their orders, leaving them once again alone in the nearly-empty restaurant. "Alright. Well, I'll start by saying that I can't help but notice the irony that I came to your hotel room."
Kate smiled, nodding. "I know. Not exactly how I planned it, but I guess it worked."
"It did," Danni agreed, sipping from the glass of water the waitress had left for them. She turned her water glass around and around before finally speaking again. "What do you want from me, Kate? Why are you here?" Her words were not at tall unkind, but simply from a woman who had tried to put a past behind her that she had no control of.
Kate sighed, sitting back in her seat. "What a question, Danni. I don't know, to be honest. After George died," she shrugged, meeting Danni's pained gaze. "I felt compelled to find you. To understand, maybe."
"That was a terrible thing that happened with your husband," Danni said softly, having to force herself to say the word `husband'. "I'm so sorry you had to deal with that."
Kate leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Why didn't you stay and say hello to me?" she asked, finally able to ask what she so desperately needed to know. "Why did you come?"
Danni smiled, amused. "Carol told you."
"No, it took a bit of Cloak and Dagger, but finally I got it. She never told me at the time."
"I don't know. I guess I figured you had a lot to deal with and didn't want to make things worse for you. And," she shrugged with a heavy sigh. "I guess I was a little afraid to see you."
Kate smiled, nodding. "I understand that. The entire time I was trying to find your cabin, I thought I was going to throw up."
Danni smiled. She waited for the waitress to set their food in front of them and walk away before she spoke. "How long are you in town?"
"My flight leaves Wednesday morning," Kate said, pouring ketchup on her cheeseburger.
"Not very long."
Kate smiled, sheepish. "Well, I figured if you didn't want to see me, at least I wouldn't have to suffer for long."
"Good plan." Danni cut up her chicken fried steak. "If you like, I can pick you up in the morning and bring you out to my property, show you around, that kind of thing."
Kate's stomach flipped in nervous excitement. "I'd love to."
San Diego, CA 1945
Kate was nervous. She was excited, she was relieved, but she was nervous. She'd been waiting with the hundreds of other people at the harbor for an hour. She ran her hands down the front of her dress to smooth it out, hoping that her hair and makeup still looked good under the August heat. At least it was cooler by the water. Her heart began to really pound as the ship came closer and closer, once a dot on the horizon and now a moving city.
She blew out a breath. "Here we go."
The noise level was immense, people screaming and cheering, arms and hands waving to the tiny specs on the decks that were sailors. The closer the ship got, the louder the cheers and crying got. Kate did all she could to hold her own emotions in check. She hadn't heard from Danni in ten months, and wondered if she'd even want to see her. Kate knew she had to try.
Finally, the ship docked, the excited sailors on board yelling and waving down from its impressive heights, the men trying desperately to make out any of the hundreds of faces below, seeing if any of them were there for them.
Kate tried not to get trampled by the excited crowd, which grew as the sailors joined the numbers. All around her sailors were engulfed in the arms of crying girlfriends, wives and family members. It was touching, and Kate found herself choked up more than once. She made her way towards a car, climbing onto the bumper to try and see above the crowd, looking for one sailor in particular. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Suddenly, Kate felt two hands grab her at the waist, and she was being lifted down into strong arms. Her shock and profound disappointment didn't have long to fester as George took her in a bruising kiss, leaving Kate unaware of the pair of devastated blue eyes that watched on before disappearing into the crowd.
Kate pushed George away from her, delivering an angry slap. "What are you doing?!" she demanded, immediately feeling bad for the violence.
"I'm sorry," George said, contrite. "I'm just so relieved to be back and couldn't wait to see you."
"George, I'm a married woman," she sighed, "and I'd really like to find Danni."
"Married woman," George said, glaring down at her. "A married woman who hasn't even heard from her husband in how long?"
Angry and hurt at George's all-too-true words, she walked away, still on the lookout for Danni.
Munson, ME 1968
Danni lay in her bed, staring up at the ceiling with hands tucked behind her head. Sleep had been elusive, as per usual, though tonight it was for a very specific reason. Tomorrow morning she'd be picking Kate up at her hotel and bringing her back to Danni's home. She wasn't sure what the day would bring, but could only pray that it wouldn't dredge up what had taken Danni so many years to let go of.
With a heavy sigh, she pushed out of bed and pulled on her clothes, Healy following her outside, where Danni looked up into the early morning sky. The sun would be in an hour or more, which was disappointing for Danni, as she would love to watch the new day dawn. She hugged herself and once again, her thoughts turned to Kate.
As they'd sat at dinner together the night before, she could see just how confused Kate was, very unsure of herself and her motives. Danni could feel the familiar pull to Kate, but knew that pull would lead to nothing but more pain, and she wasn't sure if she'd survive it this time; she barely survived it last time. She'd spent a year drifting from town to town, trying to drink herself into oblivion. She had relied completely on Allison's strength and tenacity to get her through it, once she'd landed back in Wayne.
It had been eighteen long years since those days, and Danni had given all she had to make her life worth something, and felt she had succeeded. So why had Kate come back? Why now? Why ever? Healy's whimper pulled Danni from her thoughts. She looked down at him, meeting an entirely un-dog gaze. With a loving smile for him, she put her hand on his head.
"Can I have your life, Heals?"
"So, there you have it," Danni concluded, leading Kate back to the living room, where the tour had started thirty minutes before.
"This place is absolutely stunning, Danni," Kate breathed, walking over to the giant stone fireplace. "This must be amazing when it's lit." She smiled back over her shoulder at Danni, who stood in the center of the room, hands tucked into the back pockets of her jeans. Kate noticed this was a new stance for Danni, and seemed to indicate when she was nervous.
"It's beautiful. What I love most though, is during the holiday season, I have a massive seven foot tree that I deck out to all get out. At night, I turn off all the lights in the cabin except for the tree lights and light a fire." She smiled, feeling warm at the memory. "Truly magical."
"Oh, I bet." Kate ran her hand over the rough, natural stone. "You built this place yourself?"
"Well, I had help," Danni chuckled. "But yes, I did build it."
Kate cocked her head slightly to the side, a peaceful smile on her face. "I guess working with the SeaBees was a really good thing for you, huh?"
Danni's smile was brilliant. "Let me show you."
Kate followed Danni out of the house and into the warm, early afternoon air. She was led across the dirt and wild grass yard, and to an outbuilding, made of the same logs that were used to build the large, beautiful cabin. Danni pushed open the door and held it open for Kate, allowing her to enter before her.
The smell of freshly-cut wood met Kate's nose, as well as glue, stain and many other woodworking materials. Once the lights were turned on, Kate found herself in a woodshop wonderland. The area was large and very neat, with the wooden shelves full of materials and equipment, all well-maintained and clean. A huge work table sat at the center of the room, the top dusted with wood shavings.
To the left, Kate saw stacked pieces in various stages of completion, from a gorgeous, finished dining room table to four raw wood chair, just needing to be sanded and stained. She walked over to them, running her fingers over the various pieces, amazed and beyond impressed. The styles went from rustic to simple to elegant and elaborate.
"My god, Danni," she said, wonder in her voice. "You are so talented."
"Thank you. It's what I love to do. F&H Industries builds houses and buildings, but this is my true passion."
"That's certainly easy to see. Do you create on commission, or sell in some local store somewhere, or…?"
"Both. I have a small storefront in town as well as people place orders with me directly."
"Plus you're part owner of F&H Industries, plus you rent out houses and land." Kate shook her head. "My, my, you've become quite the entrepreneur."
"Yes I have," Danni smiled. "It's kept me out of trouble, in the lap of luxury and out of trouble."
"Well," Kate said, glancing back at the works of art called furniture. "I think I might just have to completely re-do my entire house with work done by you."
Danni laughed, the sound utterly charming to Kate. "Well, before you do that, let me show you more."
They headed back to the cabin, just long enough for Danni to grab Healy and Anicka, who Kate had already been introduced to. The four began to walk the land, Danni taking them towards the woods. The two dogs ran ahead, barking their joy into the afternoon.
Kate laughed, amused at the dogs' antics. "They must love it out here."
"You have no idea," Danni agreed. "If I wasn't worried that a bear or mountain lion would get them, I'd let them run free all the time." She glanced over at Kate and laughed at the look of horror on the blonde's face. "We're fine," she assured her. "I think."
Again, Danni burst into laughter, laughing harder when Kate delivered a playful swat to her arm.
Kate allowed herself to really enjoy her surroundings. Living in and around the ocean and beaches her entire life, she hadn't spent a great deal of time in any sort of wooded area or mountains. "You must get the most incredible sunsets and sunrises here," she said, her voice wistful as she looked up at the sky through the leaves of the dense tree cover. Danni looked over at her, unable to answer for a moment, her heart leapt. "What?"
Danni shook herself out of her reverie. "Nothing. I come out here all the time to see either sunrise or sunset; it's truly magnificent." She smirked ruefully. "My girlfriend thinks it's pretty ridiculous that I `waste time' with it."
Kate's heart stopped and ice gripped her blood. Girlfriend. She knew this was a possibility when she'd come, and had been very pleasantly surprised when she'd seen no hint of anyone else in Danni's life at the cabin: no pictures, no mention of anyone else. She was suddenly filled with hot jealousy, which she knew she had to rid herself of. Danni had just as much right as anyone else to be happy.
"Well," she said, her voice a bit shakier than she'd like. "I guess she just doesn't know what she's missing, then."
Danni knew the moment those words had left her lips that they would hurt Kate. Though that hadn't been her intention, there was a part of her that was glad they had: now maybe Kate could know just a hint of what it had felt like to find Kate married, and married to George Hannigan.
"Yeah. Ironically, she's not much of the outdoors type," she said, plowing ahead with the unintended conversation topic.
"Then why does she live in Maine?" Kate bit out, far harsher than she'd meant. She silently cursed herself.
Danni heard it, but let it go. After all, she understood. "She doesn't. She's an attorney in New York and makes the eight hour drive to come here a couple times a month."
Kate looked over at Danni, stunned, and perhaps… relieved? "That's an odd arrangement."
Danni shrugged. "It works for us." She was ready to drop the topic, as Mary was the last thing she wanted to talk about with anyone, let alone Kate. As an excuse to drop it, she whistled between her teeth, indicating to her dogs to stop and not go any further.
Kate sat with a cup of coffee, belly full of the best steak she'd ever had in her life. The sun had fallen and she was a happy camper. "So, you build houses that will make you cry, they're so beautiful. You build furniture that will make you want to sell everything you own just to re-furnish with your creations. And now I find out that you cook like some of the best chefs my parents ever could have hired." Kate studied with Danni with a raised brow of accusation. "Where do you keep your cape and boots?"
Danni burst into laughter, delighted. "Safely hidden away in my closet. Oh and by the way, I sewed the cape, too." Kate's giggle made Danni continue. "And, I personally cured and dyed the cowhide to make the boots. See, at first they didn't fit, so I had to call on my good friend, Batman for helpful advice and tips."
"Stop!" Kate begged, her stomach hurting from a large dinner, and her laughter not helping matters any.
"Oh, I guess that's another hidden talent I forgot to tell you about over the past twenty-five years: I'm a comedienne, too."
"You are so bad, Danni. If I explode from too much food and laughter, you get to clean up a rather icky mess."
"Alright, alright. Well," Danni said, pushing up from the table. "You stay here; I've got a surprise for you."
Left alone, Kate also pushed away from the table and gathered their empty plates and mugs, carrying them to the kitchen sink. As she ran hot, soapy water to begin cleaning up, her mind went back to the day she'd spent with Danni. Despite a few uncomfortable or difficult moments – such as Kate having to adjust with the fact that Danni had very much moved on with her life – she'd had the most beautiful day of her life. The amazing thing was, despite the many weeks they'd spent together during the war, it seemed that their connection with each other had matured, taking on a new facet than the rampant lust and need for each other that had bonded them together so many years before.
"What are you doing?" Danni asked, stepping into the kitchen. "Hey! You're my guest, therefore you are not allowed to do any manual labor."
Totally thrust from her thoughts, at first Kate was nearly surprised enough to drop a plate. She managed to keep hold of it in wet, soapy hands. "Yeah, well I'm not about to leave all this mess for you. Besides, you cooked."
Danni was touched, and in truth, she liked seeing Kate standing at her sink, washing dishes: it felt natural, somehow. Even so, it wasn't something she could contemplate. So, instead she walked over to Kate, handed her a towel then led her out of the room. "Dishes later. Come with me."
Kate was led into the living room, with its twenty foot high, raftered ceilings. She gasped, as the lights had all been turned off and the fireplace lit. Though it was June, there was a definite chill in the air as night had settled in, and she imagined that fire would be amazing: it certainly looked amazing.
"Oh, Danni," she breathed, walking towards the incredible sight. She'd never seen such a large fireplace before, let alone one that was aflame. "It's so amazingly beautiful!"
Danni stood back, pleased that Kate liked it. She knew in her heart that she would, but also didn't want Kate to take it the wrong way, or worse, think she was silly and plain. In truth, though there was a slight chill in the air, there certainly wasn't enough of a chill to start a fire, but she wanted Kate to see the beauty. God, why does she make me feel like a teenager again? Danni tossed the thought out of her mind as she met Kate's gaze.
"Can we stay here and talk?"
Moments later, the two had fresh mugs of coffee – dishes forgotten – and sat in the comfortable couch and loveseat, all created by Danni. The fire burned and snapped merrily in the fireplace, the two women staring into the flames.
"So," Danni said at length, "How is your daughter doing? She's got to be twenty years old by now, right?"
Kate smiled, the mention or thought of her only child always making her heart sing. "She'll be twenty-two next year."
Danni could see the joy in Kate's eyes and it made her smile. "That's so wonderful, Kate," she said softly. "To have a child, what a wonderful thing."
"You don't have any?"
"No." Danni sipped from her coffee. "After I left the Navy," she shrugged, "I already knew what my preferences were, and those preferences didn't include the natural ability to have children."
"Danni?" Kate asked, a question entering her mind that she'd never even considered before. "How did you know? I mean, when you came to San Diego, and we met: did you already know you liked … women?"
Danni studied Kate for a moment, trying to see where Kate's question was headed, or the source of it. She wasn't in any mood to be judged. Seeing nothing but pure curiosity, and perhaps some of Kate's own confusion, she decided to be honest. "I knew when I was younger that boys did nothing for me. My brother Billy and I used to talk about girls before he left for war."
"In a sexual way?"
Danni smiled, shaking her head. "In an, `aren't they beautiful?' sort of way. I knew that the life of a husband and children wasn't for me."
"I understand the husband part, but the children part, was that because you knew it wasn't possible or because you never wanted them?" Kate found herself leaning slightly forward in her seat, wanting so much to hear Danni's responses.
"Because I knew it would never be possible. For me. I gave up on that dream long ago, Kate. I am, however, glad that you were able to be given that, even if it was from George. I can see how much you love Megan, and that she is a gift for you. That's beautiful."
"She was. Is. Has been." Kate smiled, looking down into the black depths of her coffee. "The greatest moment of the past twenty-one years."
Danni studied Kate for a moment, sensing so much more than Kate's words divulged. "She's beautiful, Kate," Danni admitted. During George's funeral, she had watched the girl, noting the closeness between mother and daughter, and feeling somewhat envious of both Kate, as well as that dynamic of a child and a family.
"Thank you. She's getting married in September, can you believe it?" Kate sighed, running a hand through her hair. "God, some days I feel so old, Danni." She studied the flames. "I remember the day she was born, the day she began to talk, walk, all of it. And now, my baby's getting married."
"Do you like the fiancé?"
"I do, actually." Kate met Danni's gaze. "Megan met Robert in college. They both finish school this December, then Rob's off to," she smirked, "the Navy. He enlisted, rather than being drafted. He figured at least this way he could choose where he went."
Danni left Kate's gaze, no longer able to stand the intensity. "Déjà vu, huh?"
"Yeah. Déjà vu." Kate set her coffee cup aside on a nearby table. "I worry for his safety in this mad war, Danni."
"An understandable fear."
There was a long silence, though not uncomfortable, before Kate spoke. She met Danni's gaze, questions of so long ago surging to the surface. "Where were you?" she asked, her voice soft, almost frightened. "Where did you, Danni?"
Danni looked deep into Kate's eyes, and there she saw her own torment of so many years ago. "For a long time I wondered the same thing," she said, setting her own cup of coffee aside. She made a decision in that moment, and pushed up from the couch. "I think you should see something."
Kate watched, surprised, as Danni left the room, only to return a few moments later, a cardboard box in her hand. Danni stopped in front of Kate, handing her a piece of paper and advising her to read it.
Kate did as asked, and was baffled until she was handed the box. As she fingered through the thirty or so letters, realization dawned. "Oh god," she whispered, taking one out and seeing her own handwriting as well as post-mark date of 1944. She looked up at Danni, who wore a grim expression.
"I felt you deserved to know," Danni said softly, resuming her seat on the couch.
Kate didn't know what to say, what to think or what to do. "There's so many," she whispered, noting that there were at least ten letters posted from Danni to herself, none of which had reached her. She saw that all of her own letters to Danni were opened, and assumed they'd been read. "I wrote you, Danni."
"I know you did. I wrote to you, too. And," Danni moved to sit on the coffee table in front of Kate. "I want you to take these with you. I want you to know that I never abandoned you, mo matter what you were told."
Kate looked down at the letters again, tears coming to her eyes. "Who did this, Danni?" she whispered.
Danni sat there for a moment, not sure what to say. She knew exactly had sabotaged their relationship, but didn't feel it was appropriate to put voice to those views. "Read these. I really need you to read these." She sighed, her own emotions rising to the surface. "Just so you'll know," she whispered.
Kate knew in her heart who had done this, and suddenly, it all made sense. All that she hadn't realized, or hadn't wanted to know, fell into place. The tears came strong and fast, her heart breaking. "So many wasted years!'
"Don't cry," Danni whispered, falling to her knees in front of Kate. She took her in a desperate hug, bracing the back of Kate's head against her shoulder. "Please don't cry."
Despite Danni's whispered pleas, Kate couldn't stop herself. For so many years she'd been so angry and hurt with Danni, never understanding. Now, what sat on her lap explained it all, and it all pointed to the biggest mistake of her life: marrying George.
Danni held Kate to her, letting her ride out her wave of grief. Danni had her chance to deal with this years before, but even so, it tore her apart now to hear Kate's reaction. "I know,' she whispered. "I know."
After a long moment, Kate's tears came to an end, and she found herself in Danni's arms, Danni's kneeling body between her legs pressed against her. She felt her own breath bounced back to her against Danni's neck, and suddenly realized that she had found the closeness she had craved for nearly two decades.
Kate pulled away slightly, just enough to look into Danni's own tormented face. "Danni," she whispered, just before she brought their mouths together.
Danni was surprised by the kiss, but quickly recovered, responding as she felt the softness of Kate's lips press into hers. She buried her fingers in Kate's hair, holding them together. Even so, the feel of Kate's tongue demanding entrance rocked Danni back into reality. She pulled away and stumbled to her feet. "No."
Kate, shocked by the sudden loss of Danni could only stare up at her. "What?"
"No," Danni said again, trying to get herself under control as she moved away from the couch, running a hand through her hair. "No." She finally met Kate's tortured gaze. "That ship has sailed, Kate," she whispered, even as her soul begged for her to return to Kate. "I can't do this."
Kate felt the rejection like a dagger to her heart. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, begging her heart to slow down. Finally, after a long moment she pushed to her feet. "Can you please take me back to my hotel?"
Danni said nothing, only nodded.
Outside Kate's hotel, Kate and Danni sat in Danni's Jeep. Kate glanced over at the brunette, who stared out the large windshield. "I'm sorry, Danni," she said softly. "I know you offered to take me to the airport in the morning, but I'll call a cab." Danni said nothing. "I think it's best."
Finally, Danni looked at Kate. "Sleep well, Kate," she said, her voice soft but cold. Kate gave her a weak smile then climbed out of the vehicle, not looking back as she entered the building. Danni watched her go, watching until Kate disappeared inside the building. After, her eyes fell closed and her head rested against the seat. "I did the right thing," she whispered. "I did the right thing."
Kate glanced at the bed, noting her packed suitcase, ready to head back west to California. She'd done the right thing, and now it was time to go home. Her flight took off in two and a half hours, and she'd already called a cab. A knock at her door denoted the arrival of said cab. Kate walked to it, unlocking it and pulling it open, shocked – for a second time – to see Danni standing in the hall.
"Your chariot has arrived, madam," Danni said, with an elaborate bow.
Though wanting to smile, Kate resisted. "I've already called a taxi, Danni."
"So cancel it," Danni said simply. She entered the room without Kate's admission, grabbing Kate's single suitcase and the box she'd given her the night before. "Ready?"
Kate stared at Danni, shocked. "Uh, I guess."
A call to the cab company and two and a half hour later, she and Danni stood at Kate's gate, the plane ready to board when they arrived.
Kate looked up at Danni, unsure what to say. "Well, I guess this is it," she said, after her flight had been announced.
"Yeah." Danni took Kate in a tight hug, holding her close. "Please take care," she whispered into Kate's hair, leaving a kiss there.
Kate nodded, pulling away. "You, too." She smiled, backing away towards her gate. "Give Healy and Anicka a kiss for me."
Danni smiled with a nod and a wave. "Of course."
Kate headed to her plane, her cardboard box of letters held to her chest. She found her seat and buckled herself in. Something felt wrong, but she wasn't in a mood to reflect on that. Right now, she knew she was headed back to California, and that was all that mattered. Right?
Danni waited until all passengers had boarded, then headed back through the eight year old airport and to her Jeep. She felt in her heart that she had finally found some closure to the earlier part of her life. Now, it was a time to move on, find new horizon, and perhaps find some new footing with Mary.
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