Disclaimers: Yadda, mine, yadda, mine, yadda.

Note: I do make mild fun of religion in this story, but it is all meant in fun. I apologize if it offends you, and it doesn't necessarily mean it is my views. Please just take it in the amusement it was meant, or don't read it at all.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

Bible Thumping


Kim Pritekel

"No way! Uncle Max!"

"Your Honor, if you please," the judge bellowed, gavel cracking against the desk.

"Sorry," Dakota muttered. "Your Honor, that isn't fair."

"It is fair, and it will be your sentence," the judge cracked the gavel again, making the brunette teen wince. "You will join the Mountain Creek Bible Study group for their annual retreat for two weeks. You will participate, and you will learn the lessons they impart." He leaned his bulk over the bench, voice lowering. "If you screw this up, young lady, next time it will be Juniper Hill, do you understand?"

Dakota looked into the blue eyes, so much like her own, and nodded dumbly with a swallow.

"Court adjourned." CRACK!

"Thank you, Max," Mary Anne Shepard smiled, grabbing her still stunned daughter by the arm. "You and Barbara are still coming for b.b.q., right?"

"We'll be there," Max Ludlow said, standing, black robe falling from his suited shoulders. "as long as you're making mom's banana cream pie?" he asked, brow raised.

Dakota stopped listening, feeling like she was stuck in a very long, very bad nightmare. She was embarrassed, her uncle having to hear every single detail of her crime, as he was the only judge in Brit County, Colorado, population two hundred and thirteen poor, God fearing souls.

The walk to the car was done in silence, Mary Anne wanting to get out of the courthouse as quickly as possible before anyone else saw her delinquent daughter.


The little white bus bounced it's way across the rocky, winding mountain roads. It's cargo- twenty-one laughing, yelling bible studying teens- looked forward to the final destination- the Mountain Creek Bible Study retreat camp.

The twenty-first camper was not a happy one.

Dakota Shepard sat at the front of the bus, where she was instructed to sit by Pastor Bill, who sat in the smelly green seat across the aisle. Blue eyes squeezed shut as the songs continued, a chorus of high-pitched, off tune, joyous voices singing all God's praises.

Dear god- I promise to be good if you'll make them stop. No doubt you like hearing them toot your horn, but please! Can't they do it telepathically, or something?

She groaned as yet another song was started. Looking out the window, the teen just about jumped out of her skin, taking the offending hand with her, that reached over her shoulder.

"Here!" a very nasally girl said, thrusting her song pamphlet into Dakota's face. Dakota looked over her shoulder at the girl who sat behind her. The girl's blue eyes were magnified behind her glasses, freckles dancing across her nose.


"Here," she wiggled the pamphlet. "I noticed you aren't singing, then I remembered you're new, so probably don't know the words." Light brown brows raised in hope and friendship. Glancing over at a glaring Pastor Bill, Dakota snatched the small booklet from the girl's fingers, which smelled like grape jelly, and turned back in her seat.

Dear god- please let that annoying little imp forget I exist.

Grape fingers reached over her shoulder again, excitedly tapping at a song title as the group began again. Dakota, acting purely on instinct, turned, snarling at the startled twelve year old, who's eyes got even bigger.

Dakota sat back around in her seat, happily humming to the tune of the song.


The twenty plus campers were fairly efficient as they emptied out of the bus and immediately began to carry off their equipment as it was lowered from the top of the bus by the 'elders'.

Dakota was heading for the trees nearby, hoping that just maybe she could get lost for two weeks, then mysteriously be found when the bus was headed home.

As she scurried away, she saw a bunch of the older kids, more around her age, gathered around a tent kit. Wordlessly the trio each took a task- one began to pound the stakes into the ground, one tugged the tent from the box, the other unfolding it.

Dakota decided to watch. She leaned against a tree, arms crossed over her chest, one ankle crossed over the other.

There were two girls and a boy. The boy was busy pounding away, hands and knees becoming covered with the rich, dark dirt of the forest floor. She didn't care about him, though she may be able to find an ally in him. Her eyes wandered to the two girls. The one unfolding the tent had short, fiery red hair, the sun shining down to create an orange halo on her head. Her long cargo shorts' pockets bulging with her personal supplies and equipment.

It was when Dakota glanced at the third teen that she decided maybe she'd stay after all. Her long, blonde hair was tied back into a ponytail, which flopped in her face as she worked. The girl would absently push it away, only for the strands to tickle her nose again. She wore a white tank top, shoulders smooth and summer brown.

Dakota waited for the girl to stand, wanting to get a better look at her legs, also nice and tan. Finally she did, and oh, what a beautiful sight! Her cutoffs showed very muscular thighs, which flexed enticingly as she worked.

Watching the girl struggle with the heaviest part of the tent, Dakota decided to make her move. She made her way over to the small group, her trademark charm firmly planted on her lips.

"Let me help you," she said, voice soft, velvety. The blonde looked up, and Dakota was struck all over again. Were eyes really that green?

"I've got it, thanks," the girl stepped away, taking her burden with her.

"Come on, let me help," the brunette said, stepping closer. The blonde whipped the box away from Dakota, eyes blazing.

"I said I've got it." When she whipped the box, the tent went flying out, smacking the boy on the butt, making him fall forward.

"Carrie!" he complained, getting to his feet as he wiped dirt from his face. The redhead burst into a fit of laughter, earning a glare from both the boy, and the hot little blonde, otherwise known as Carrie.

"Sorry, Josh," she said sheepishly, then turned back to Dakota. "See what you made me do?"

"I'm sorry, I-" the little blonde was off in a huff, helping her friends finish the tent. Dakota watched her, go, really enjoying watching her go, even though she was in a flustered state.

Anger taking over her embarrassment, she huffed off herself, about to make like Sasquatch in the woods when she heard hurried feet behind her. She turned on her pursuer, finding the annoying kid with glasses.

"Dad says he wants to speak with you," she said cheerfully, seeming to have forgotten about Dakota nearly biting her head off in the bus.


The girl nodded vigorously, then scurried off, toward Pastor Bill. Blue eyes rolled.

Dear God- let me die.


A firm verbal beating later, Dakota was sitting in the tent she'd reluctantly helped to put up, trying to figure out where to put her stuff. She sat on the inflatable mattress, hearing it screech under her as she moved around, stuffing things in the inside pockets of the tent. She found a nice little cubby for the small stack of approved CDs she was allowed to bring. An even smaller stack of approved reading material was tucked into the pocket next to them.

Sighing heavily, she realized this was going to be home for the next couple weeks. Laying back on the somewhat comfortable mattress, she put her hands behind her head, and glanced upside down at the world beyond the back window of the tent, flap unzipped, leaving the net-covered hole. She could see the trees a bit away, the blue sky above those, and hear the distant talking and laughter of her fellow campers.

Dakota had never been camping before, and couldn't help but be glad there was a short, squat brick building not far from their camp. Within the smelly green-painted walls were a few bathroom stalls, and two showers. The brunette was every grateful she'd brought flip flops after setting eyes on the disgusting state of the concrete floor.

Dakota glanced the other way, out the netted door, seeing campers walk by, someone trying to start a fire in the center of their ring of tents. She surmised that the campers aged from around ten to sixteen, her age, and a smattering in between. The campers were mostly girls, but there was a handful of guys, though the majority of them looked twelve and younger. What guy in their right mind would come to this Doris Day disaster?

Sitting up, Dakota noticed a pair of gorgeous legs pass by, and she ducked her head to look out the opening, getting a better look at their owner. Sure enough. It was Carrie. Her butt, which fit so snugly in those cutoffs, swayed gently with her hips as she made her way over to a blue tent, situated almost directly across from Dakota's, and her to-be-announced roommate. The fire pit and a couple picnic tables blocked a perfect view of the blonde's tent. The flap of the blue tent was opened, allowing Carrie to climb in. The blonde turned in the tent, sitting so she could zip the bug screen. As she glanced out, she saw Dakota watching her. They shared a brief glance, then the blonde was gone from sight, disappearing into the blue shadows of her tent.

Dear God- let Carrie be on the menu tonight.


Dakota managed to stay to herself, most the campers knowing why she was there, so they left her alone. Other than the curious stares, Dakota hadn't had to hurt anyone.

She was forced, however, to participate, just as her uncle had warned. Pastor Bill made sure of that. She had the distinct feeling that he and the judge were in cahoots. She was amazed, however, to see how the other half lived. Yes, their games may have been cheesy as hell, and the songs even worse, but the group did seem to have a good time. And without alcohol. What a concept.

The campers were all a close knit group, and this camping business was not new to them. Just by eavesdropping on tattered conversations, she learned that most the campers had come to the retreat every year since they were ten, the minimum age.

"Okay, kids!" Pastor Bill called out the following afternoon, bringing in screaming, giggling children from all directions, to his picnic table at the dead center of camp. Dakota, who'd been busy watching Carrie and the redhead at the stream, grudgingly came when called. Now all she needed was for Pastor Bill to call out, "Soooooooie! Sooooooooie, sooooie! Pig, pig, pig!"

She made herself somewhat comfortable on a stump, set back a bit from everyone else who climbed onto the picnic tables, or just sat cross-legged on the ground.

Pastor Bill smiled at his flock, Bible resting on his very, very white, hairy thighs.

Dear God- send down a lightning bolt and give those suckers some color! I'm blinded, and it ain't by 'the light'.

"Today we'll be reading from John," the pastor informed them, making eye contact with them all, settling on Dakota's. "Dakota, would you care to start us off?" he asked, holding the large, floppy paperback book toward her.

"Oh, uh, no. That's okay," she declined, waving him off.

"I insist." Pastor Bill's eyes met hers, and it was battle of the wills. As Dakota looked into his face, she suddenly saw iron bars sliding into place before her, clinking shut with finality.

Stuffing her growl down, she took the book from him, not sure where to even begin to find the book of John. Opening the black leather cover, she found the index. Running a fingertip down over the smooth, tissue thin page, she found what she was looking for, and turned to the page. Pastor Bill gave her the passage she was to read, and she cleared her throat, voice soft as she began to read.

"'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believeith in Him should not perish, but have ever lasting life.'…"

Dakota didn't really care what she was reading, the words meaningless to her. She had no idea the hypnotic effect her voice was having over the group, though. Not one sound could be heard, not a movement, nothing. All eyes and ears were on the beautiful newcomer, Pastor Bill sitting with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Maybe the delinquent wouldn't be quite so bad.

Dakota realized she'd read past her assigned scripture, and quickly stopped, shutting the book with a papery flop. Looking up from her chore, she noticed a pair of green eyes studying her, their owner leaning casually against a tree. Dakota met those eyes, challenging the blonde to look away, which she did.

Spell broken, the brunette handed the Bible back to Pastor Bill, and quickly tried to disappear again.

Other readers droned on and on, but Dakota wasn't listening to a thing that was said. She hoped there wasn't a quiz to follow. Her attention was totally on the gorgeous little blonde. Blue eyes settled on Carrie's breasts, hugged nicely in her cap-sleeved tee, so full and perky. Dakota wanted badly to know if they were as firm as they looked.

Her eyes raised to see a very angry pair of green staring her down, Carrie's arms automatically coming up to cross over her chest, shielding them from Dakota's lecherous gaze.

Feeling a might guilty, the brunette looked away. She fully expected another tongue lashing from Pastor Bill that night. Perhaps she should be a little more careful. The last thing she wanted was it to get back to Uncle Max that she was checking out her fellow campers, and that the salvation he'd sent her to was really a cesspool of sin.


Dakota was stunned when, even two days later, she hadn't heard a peep out of Pastor Bill, save for when he asked her to be a daily scripture reader. Your voice was given to you by God, and He wants others to listen to what you have to say.

She was walking along the blue trail when up ahead she saw Carrie, walking with just a walking stick for company. Speeding up, Dakota caught up to her.

Carrie glanced over to see who was walking with her, quickly looking away with a sigh.

"You didn't tell," Dakota said, a statement.

"No, I didn't," Carrie confirmed, her words clipped, voice short.


"Because I'm not a little tattle tell like my little sister," she explained.

"Oh." They walked on in silence for a short while until finally the blonde spoke again.

"Why were you staring?" She still had yet to look at her companion since initially discovering who it was.

"You have a nice rack," Dakota grinned. The blonde rolled her eyes in disgust.


"You don't like me, do you?" The brunette snagged a large branch from a tree they passed, slowly stripping it of its bark.

"I don't like rude, aggressive people. From what I've seen, you're both, so no, I'm not a fan."

Dakota admired the blonde's candor. "So what do you like?" she ventured, wiggling her brows. Carried stopped walking, glaring up at the brunette.

"You are too much!" she said, exasperated. "I can't believe you. You come here because you get yourself in trouble, and this is supposed to be some sort of redemption, right?" She didn't wait for the brunette to answer. "And look at you," she looked the brunette up and down, nose wrinkling in disgust. "All you can do is be rude and put down what some people really cherish. This doesn't have to be your cup of tea, Dakota, but it is for some people, and you put yourself here!"

Dakota oomphed when she was pushed in the stomach by the angry blonde, who stalked away, muttering under her breath.

Dakota watched her go, branch forgotten in her hand.

"I'm in love."


Another night of listening to her tentmate snoring, Dakota stared up at the red ceiling, grinding her teeth in order not to strangle the girl.

Having enough, she shoved the sleeping bag away from her body, and put her shoes on. Unzipping the tent as quietly as possible, the brunette snuck out. Glad to be standing, she stretched out her frame, the warm night caressing the skin of her bare legs and arms. There was little to no moon, so she'd have to be careful.

Listening for a few moments, she heard no noise within the camp, save for Lynn's snoring behind her, and crept away. She halted as she stepped on a twig, heart pounding as she waited for Pastor Bill's wrath. Nothing, she started moving again.

Making her way down toward the stream, she felt her way, hands touching every tree trunk, eyes scanning for loose roots or rocks that she could trip over. Just ahead she could hear the water running, and followed the sound, seeing a few sparkles on the surface between the tree branches.

Just about to make it out of the clearing, Dakota's eyes widened as a hand reached out and grabbed her, pulling. Another hand came around to cover her mouth, muffling her cry of surprise.

Tugging free of her captor, wild eyes looked down at an amused Carrie.

"You scared the shit out of me!" Dakota hissed.

"Yeah, well it's mutual," Carrie whispered back. "What are you doing up?"

"I could ask the same of you." Dakota wasn't sure what came over her, but suddenly she found herself stepping toward the blonde, who was backing up with every forward step.

"Couldn't sleep," Carrie said, her voice hitching as her back came into solid contact with a tree trunk.

"Why not?" Dakota asked, feeling the other girl's body heat coming off her in waves, hitting the brunette smack between the legs.

"Why are you up?" Carrie asked, ignoring the question and sounding a bit breathless as Dakota got closer. The blonde swallowed nervously, the brunette's face mere inches from her own.

"Because Lynn could wake up the dead with her snoring," Dakota said simply. She planted her hands on either side of Carrie's head on the tree, their breasts brushing. Dakota swallowed a gasp. Having the girl so close, and knowing the girl didn't want her that close, was setting the brunette's body on fire.

"Well," Carrie said, stumbling over her own lips, "maybe you could talk to Pastor Bill and get a roommate change,"

"You offering?' Dakota asked, inhaling the scent that was all Carrie. She leaned in close, hair tickling the blonde's neck, lips so close.

"No!" Carrie whisper/shouted, violently shoving Dakota away. "I bunk alone," she growled, then disappeared into the night, leaving a very frustrated Dakota in her wake.


Carrie refused to talk to, look at, or acknowledge Dakota's presence the next day. In truth, though she'd never admit it, the brunette could understand. The blonde had made it clear she was not interested, but in fact seemed to be offended by Dakota's actions.

But oh man, it was killing Dakota! Every glare she got, every time she was ignored by Carrie, it made her burn even more. She had never felt such a strong attraction to anyone, and it was driving her mad.

The only good thing was there was just over a week to go.


Anyone who has lived in Colorado for any length of time knows just how quickly the weather can change. From an afternoon of eighty-three degrees in the mountains, the night fell into torrential rains with high winds and destructive forces.

Dakota was awoken from a deep sleep by hurried movement beside her. Opening her eyes, she realized why she'd been sleeping so soundly- Lynn was awake, doing something.

"Help me!" the girl exclaimed. Soon enough Dakota realized what she was doing. The tent was being badly battered by the storm, and a leak had started, right over Lynn's bed.

Dakota got to her knees beside the other girl, and together, they tried to find the source of the leak. Just when they'd found it, they both cried out in surprise as the entire tent lifted off them, ripping the stakes from the ground, and the bottom from the rest of the canvas.

"Shit!" Dakota yelled into the storm, trying to hold down anything she could, you know, her bed, her clothes, things like that. Nothing major.

"Oh no!" Lynn cried, chasing after her own bed, which was flying through the stormy night. Lightening flashed, spooking both girls. Lynn ran headlong into a tree full of nasty-looking branches. Her cries brought the rest of camp out of their tents.

Dakota pulled the blanket tighter around herself, holding the metal cup of hot cocoa between her frigid hands.

"Is she going to be okay, Pastor Bill?" Kayla Austin asked, hand on Lynn's back. A huge bandage lined the entire right side of the girl's face, that branch doing a number. Blood was already soaking through, and Dakota figured the girl was going to need stitches.

"Lynn's opted to go home," Pastor Bill said, flipping his cell phone shut. "Honey, Karen is going to drive you home, okay?"

The girl nodded, seeing one of the elders getting the bus ready.

The pastor turned his eyes to a still shivering Dakota. "Josh and Carrie got your things in another tent, okay?" his voice was kind, eyes understanding. The brunette nodded, just wanting to get warm.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see that Carrie had entered the pastor's huge tent.

"Come on," she said simply. Dakota looked at the pastor, brows drawn.

"Carrie has offered to let you bunk with her. She was the only single in the camp," he explained, having no idea the war that was going on inside the camper.

Dakota stood, handing the blanket back to the pastor, and dutifully following Carrie out into the storm, quickly running to the blue tent. Dakota couldn't help but gaze over to where her tent had been, now only an empty, muddy spot.

"Come on, hurry up!" Carrie called out into the storm, holding the flap of her tent open for the brunette.

Dakota hurried inside, shivering all over again as her drying body had been saturated once more. Carrie quickly zipped the door shut, muffling the storm, then crawled over to her bed, which she'd shoved to the side to make room for Dakota's.

"Thanks," the brunette grumbled, seeing all her stuff that had been found, waiting for her. Her bed had been furnished with a dry sleeping bag, which looked incredibly inviting to the girl.

"This is the worst storm we've had during these," Carrie said absently, climbing under her own covers. Dakota just grunted in response. She was cold, tired and not happy as her Discman had been destroyed.

Snuggling inside the warmth of the sleeping bag, she squirmed until her wet shirt went flying, slapping wetly against the tent wall. Carrie's eyes followed it, then started as it was followed by a pair of mesh shorts.

"Night," Dakota mumbled, falling quickly asleep.


Dear God- I know they say you work in mysterious ways, but this is ridiculous!

Dakota awoke, rubbing her eyes. Blinking several times, her surroundings came into focus. She glanced over, seeing her new tentmate. Carrie had unzipped her sleeping bag in the night, and now lay on her side. Her hands were tucked under her chin, and her top leg bent, knee almost touching the blonde's chest. The sweats she'd had on when they'd entered the tent were no longer there, only a pair of panties.

The brunette's eyes glazed across the smooth skin of Carrie's thigh, up to the barest bit of the girl's butt that could be seen, before following the panty line.

Fingers itching to reach out and touch the inviting skin, Dakota had to literally tuck her hands underneath her own butt to stop herself.

A small moan, and Carrie turned over, a bit of her firm abdomen showing as her t-shirt didn't move with her body so well. Blue eyes traveled up to see the breasts she loved to look at so much, unshielded or formed by a bra. They were just in their natural state, nipples slightly peeked.

Dakota felt a pang of dread as her gaze went even higher, seeing green eyes focused on her.

"See anything interesting?" the blonde asked, voice more than annoyed. The brunette didn't answer, having no desire to start the day with a fight over her being a pig, a fact they both knew all too well.

Instead Dakota, realizing she was practically naked herself, held the sleeping bag to her chest, reaching for her duffel bag. Managing to find some dry clothes, she cocooned herself inside the bag until she was dressed, then unzipped herself.

She watched Carrie that day, noting how she was with the other campers, and how they were with her. The blonde was a quiet girl, though she had a smile for everyone. Well, everyone except Dakota.

Dear God- let Carrie smile at me like that just once.

The brunette reclined back against some rocks on the opposite side of the stream, watching as Carrie helped some of the younger kids with their fishing poles, patiently showing them how to hold it or bait their hook.

Something inside Dakota began to grow, and she was startled to find out that she wanted to get to know Carrie, as a person, and not as an object of lust. Though the lust was still there, in full swing.


Dakota lay in her sleeping bag two nights later. She was wide awake, but Pastor Bill patrolled the camp, so it was pretty hard to escape. You could be awake, even giggling in your tent, but no getting up. Besides, she knew she wouldn't run into Carrie again, as the blonde was lying next to her. What was the incentive?

Blue eyes tried to make out the blonde through the darkness, but it was tough.

"Yes, I'm awake," Carrie whispered, startling Dakota.

"Why can't you sleep?" she asked, moving to her side, raising her head onto her hand. Carrie sighed in the darkness, but Dakota could hear her changing position as well.

"Are we going to start twenty questions again?" the blonde said, though her voice wasn't near as harsh as usual.

"No," Dakota said, defensive, though an idea did pop into her mind. She grinned, nice and evil. "You very awake?"

"Why?" Carrie asked, suspicion dripping from that one word.

"Wanna play a game?"

"Oh, god. I'm scared," Carrie muttered. "What game?"

"How about truth or dare?" Dakota said, liking the idea more and more. She felt disappointment begin to crawl in as the silence stretched on. Finally the blonde spoke.

"Fine. But," she held up a finger, not that Dakota could see it. "nothing that is said leaves this tent. Agreed?"

"Agreed!" Hooray!

"Fine," Carrie sighed her resignation to the pest. "Truth or dare, Dakota?"

"Truth," the brunette said immediately, excitement racing through her veins.

"Why do you stare at me all the time? And please, try not to be vulgar, kay?"

"I think you're beautiful," Dakota said simply. There was a pause in the darkness.


"Nope, sorry. No two-part questions." Dakota grinned, almost able to see the blonde rolling her eyes. "Truth or dare, Carrie?"

"Dare. No, truth."

"Which is it?"


"Okay, um, oh, I know. Why did you agree to this?" Dakota hated to waste one of the precious questions on this, but she really wanted to know.

"Because I want you to find out through your myriad of questions that I'm not all that great, and then maybe you'll stop staring at my rack."

The brunette chuckled. "Not likely."

"Lovely. Truth or dare?"

"Um, let's be adventurous. Dare." Dakota's eyes were twinkling in the darkness.

"Okay, dare. Hmm." Dakota heard more movement across the tent, and wondered what Carrie was doing over there. With a final sigh, as the brunette assumed Carrie got settled, the blonde stated her dare. "I dare you, wait, okay first of all, I think that all dares should have to stay within the tent. I don't want to get into trouble."

"Fair enough," Dakota said, fighting the impatience from edging her voice.

"Alright. I dare you to take off your shorts and wear them on your head during our entire game."

Dakota sat there, blinking.

"Come on, chop, chop."

Muttering under her breath, Dakota wiggled down into her sleeping bag, removing the shorts, and bringing them to the surface. She sat up, placing them on her head, adjusting them a few times so they would stay on. Suddenly there was a burst of light, and a giggle. The brunette looked into Carrie's flashlight beam, stuck her tongue out.

"Truth or dare?" she growled.

"Oh, come on. No getting mad. Truth."

"Chicken," Dakota muttered. "Alright, fine. Are you a virgin?"



"I can't believe you asked me that. Wait, yes I can." The blonde sighed. "Yes. Well, technically."


"Nope. No two-part questions, remember?" Carrie waggled her finger at the stunned brunette, gigging with delight.


"Truth or dare, Dakota?"

"Truth. I have no desire to wear my underwear around my neck just yet."

The blonde giggled at that, dousing the beam, leaving them in blue-tinted darkness again.

"Okay, are you gay?"

Dakota sputtered, eyes huge, mouth flapping like a guppy. Carrie laughed.

"I know there's a sentence just dying to get out."

"I can't answer that!" Dakota finally managed to outrage. She winced when she felt a soft touch on her knee.

"Hey, calm down. Nothing leaves this tent, remember?" Carrie's voice was so soft, so gentle that Dakota was immediately calmed, though still feeling very vulnerable.

She sighed, answering. "Yes."

"Now, was that so hard?"


Carrie giggled again. Gosh, she had a cute giggle.

"Truth or dare, Carrie?"

"Okay, what the heck. Dare."


Carrie blinked into the sudden beam aimed at her this time.

"I dare you to continue the game sans Calvin Kleins." Dakota wiggled her brows, seeing Carrie's fall.

"How did you know I wear-" she cut herself off, holding up a hand. "I don't want to know." Sighing heavily, not happy about this, the blonde disappeared into her sleeping bag, the top of her head sticking out, her body wiggling, and a slight grunt escaping her contorted face. Finally she sat up again, pulling the sleeping bag to her chest like a second skin.

"How do I know you really took them off?" the brunette asked. She laughed as green eyes got huge.

"You're not seriously suggesting I show you?"

"Come on, blondie," Dakota held out her hand. "cough 'em up."

Carrie glared at her, but reached inside her bag, waving the purple panties like a surrender flag. "There, you saw them," she stuffed them back inside her bag. "Truth or dare?"


"You know, when we started this game, I never would have taken you for a coward," Carrie wondered aloud, head slightly cocked to the side. It took a second for Dakota to realize that the sweet voice that had uttered those words was actually flinging an insult.


Carrie sniggered. "Fine, truth. Let's see, what could I possibly want to know about you." The blonde looked up to the ceiling, finger tapping on her chin. Finally her eyes met the brunette's. "What did you do to get stuck in a bible camp?"

Dakota felt her face redden in embarrassment, which baffled her. Anyone else, she would have happily supplied each proud detail. But with Carrie for some reason, she felt as though she'd done something wrong, and felt ashamed. She wasn't too keen on that feeling at all.

"A friend and I stole a car."

"Why? Okay, okay," Carrie said at the glare she got, raising her hands in defeat. "And before you ask, truth." The smirk on the brunette's face made the blonde a wee bit nervous.

"What does 'technically' mean?"

"Ugh. I knew you'd get back to that," the blonde rolled her eyes. Dakota didn't care about her theatrics, instead leaning forward in her bag, wanting to hear every juicy detail. "I had a boyfriend last year, and we kissed." Carrie eyed the other girl, seeing that Dakota wasn't believing a word. "Fine, and he touched my," she looked down at her chest, then back at Dakota meaningfully. The brunette whimpered, which made Carrie roll her eyes again. "Truth or dare?"


"Have you ever been with a girl?"


"You have?!" Carrie's eyes got huge, making Dakota chuckle. She nodded.

"Truth or dare?"

"Dare," Carrie said, though bit her lip nervously as she did so. Dakota leaned forward again, eyes boring into Carrie's. She lowered her voice a notch.

"I dare you to reach up under your shirt and show me what said boyfriend did to you."

"No!" Carrie hissed, glancing toward the door flap of the tent, as if Pastor Bill was standing just outside. The brunette sat back, arms crossed over her chest.

"And you called me the coward?" she watched the blonde through hooded eyes, swallowing her smile at the glare she got.

"Fine," Carrie muttered. "I can't believe I'm being bullied by you." She lowered her sleeping bag, though careful not to lower it too far, revealing her t-shirt clad mid-section, and tucking it around her waist. She chewed on her lip again, then finally sighed in resignation. Her fingers found the hem of the thin shirt, and moved their way up under, cupping her own breasts.

Dakota watched, part of her feeling guilty for telling the blonde to do it, but she was enraptured. She did her best to keep her breathing even as she tried to imagine just what Carrie's palms were feeling.

Carrie looked away in embarrassment, her hands remaining still underneath her shirt for a moment. Then they began to move. Nipples hardened as her palms eased over them in a slow, circular motion.

Dakota watched, eyes getting heavier as she watched Carrie's hands, noticing the blonde was having a hard time keeping her own eyes open. She watched as the hands moved, fingers taking the hardened nipples between them, twisting ever so slightly, then rolling them. The brunette heard the tiniest whimper, but honestly wasn't sure if it was from her or Carrie.

Dear God- in my next life, let me come back as Carrie's bra, please. Thank you.

Finally the show was over, and Dakota sat back, swallowing several times to try and get her heartbeat and breathing under control so she could finish the game. But then again, part of her just wanted to turn the lights out and pretend to sleep so she could take care of a very pressing problem.

Carrie gathered herself, hands slipping soundlessly out of her shirt, and resting in her lap. She looked down, taking a deep breath before facing the brunette, eyes hard, daring Dakota to say or do anything. Dakota decided to leave it as it was- a gloriously erotic sight and fodder for millions of fantasies, and not say a word. She could replay it in her mind as many times as she wanted later.

"Truth or dare, Dakota?"

"Dare." The brunette thought it only fair Carrie get to avenge her embarrassing act.

"I dare you to play the rest of the game buck naked. You can still keep the sleeping bag, of course," the blonde amended at the horrified look on the brunette's face. Dakota cleared her throat.

"Alright." Once again she was wiggling down into her bag, the shorts being knocked off her head in the process. Soon she tossed her panties out of the bag, followed by her shirt. Sitting up again, she tucked the sleeping bag under her arms, leaving her shoulders and upper chest bared. Carrie's eyes glanced over the newly exposed flesh, then swiftly turned away. "Truth of dare?"

"Truth. I don't know if I'm quite ready for another dare just yet," Carrie laughed nervously, making Dakota smile.

"What is the one thing sexually that you're most curious to try?"

Again, the blonde laughed. "Gee, maybe I should have just gone with a dare." She met Dakota's eyes for the first time, since her performance under her shirt. "Well, uh," she thought for a moment, again, chewing on that lower lip. "Okay," she was flushed as she hid her face for a moment. "don't laugh."

"I won't."

"It's not all that exciting, honest,"

"I'm sure I'll be enthralled."

"No doubt. Okay, I really want to know what it feels like to have naked skin upon mine. You know, like have the guy, or whoever," she added, eyeing Dakota, "lying on top of me, feeling the weight of their body, that kind of thing."

"The boyfriend never did that?" Dakota asked, truly curious. What the hell was wrong with the idiot?

"No," Carrie wrinkled her nose in the most adorable way. "I didn't want him to. I didn't mind messing around with him, but I didn't want to give him that."

Dakota nodded, understanding and respecting the girl for it. She often wished she hadn't been so hasty with sex.

"Good for you," she said softly.

"Shut up,"

"No, I'm serious. Good for you."

Carrie studied her for a moment, then looked down, softly thanking her. "Truth or dare, Dakota?"


Carrie kept looking down at her hands, refusing to meet the brunette's gaze.

"Do you really think I'm beautiful?" the question was so quiet, Dakota wasn't sure she'd heard right at first.

"Yes. Since the moment I saw you, Josh and Tanner putting the tent up. I think you're stunning," she shrugged at the simplicity, yet genuine, words she spoke. Again, a soft thank you. "Truth or dare?"

"Dare." Finally Carrie looked up, a soft smile on her lips.

"I dare you to wear your shirt backwards for the remainder of this game."

Carrie's brow raised, doubt clouding her features. "Are you serious? Come on, Dakota, are you really wanting me to put my shirt on backwards?"

"Well," Dakota said sheepishly, her own eyes dropping. "the last dare was really embarrassing for you, and-"

"What is your real dare?" Carrie interrupted her, a mischievous gleam in her green eyes. The brunette grinned, glad to know the game was back on track. So much for being nice.

"Fine. I dare you to take your shirt off, but you have to let me see you for three seconds."

"Without my shirt!?" Carrie gasped. Dakota grinned, nodding. "Shirt on backwards you said, right?" Dakota just stared at her, brow raised. "Fine. But only three seconds, and then either my shirt goes back on, or I get to cover myself with the sleeping bag."


Again muttering to herself, Carrie tugged at her shirt, hair falling into her face as it passed. The blonde brought her knees up, blocking the view as she ran her hands over her hair, tucking the long strands behind her ears. Dakota watched intently.

Slowly, oh so painfully slowly, she lowered her knees, and began to count out loud. "One Mississippi, two …"

The blonde's voice disappeared as Dakota gazed at the most incredible sight she'd ever seen. Carrie's shoulders were strong, well defined, her upper chest smooth and tan, like the rest of her seemed to be. Her breasts were a little large for her petit frame, but were beautiful, just as much as the brunette thought they'd be. The light pink nipples were still erect from earlier activities, as well as the suddenly cooler air they were exposed to, the skin darkening as Dakota watched, blood filling the flesh.

Her mouth watered as she imagined what it would be like to hold them, caress them, taste them. Their perfect roundness.

Suddenly her view of them was obscured by Carrie's raised knees and the sleeping bag. She was surprised when the blonde didn't put her shirt back on, instead setting it aside, wrapping her arms around her knees.

Dakota shook herself out of her lustful reverie, her brain forever emblazoned with those gorgeous breasts.

"Truth or dare?" came the quiet request.

"Truth," the brunette said absently, her mind still lost in fantasy.

"Tell me, if you could do any single thing right now, what would you do?" Dakota looked up at the change in Carrie's voice. It had grown much softer, almost breathy, but not quite. She studied the other girl for a moment before answering with absolute honesty.

"It's hard to pick just one, as there are a few on my mind right now. Certainly two. But if I had to pick just one, I'd do to your breasts what you were doing to them, but I'd use my mouth and tongue." Dakota felt satisfied as she saw a slight hitch in Carrie's breathing. She sat back, letting her words really sink in, seeing there was some effect as Carrie's throat convulsed as she swallowed. "Truth or dare?" the brunette asked finally.


"Are you turned on?"

For a moment Carrie looked absolutely mortified, then finally answered with a nod. "Truth or dare."


A truly devilish look spread across the blonde's face, and for the first time, Dakota felt slightly nervous.

"I dare you to play with your breasts, but I get to watch." Their gazes met, and Dakota wanted to see if the blonde was serious. Carrie didn't blink an eye, instead her eyes bored into the brunette's, daring her to say no.

Without a word, eyes still locked on green, Dakota dropped her sleeping bag shield, her breasts exposed to curious eyes. Dakota's nipples were already hard, her arousal rate ridiculously high. She was nervous, but wanted to give Carrie a good show.

Making sure Carrie's eyes were on her hands, Dakota reached up, cupping her own breasts, weighing them, barely brushing her thumbs over her rigid nipples, two shots of sensation racing south. Using her forefinger and thumb, she pinched her nipples, making them even harder, reaching up to lick the palms of her hands before placing them over her breasts, rubbing the warm wetness across them.

Without even thinking, Dakota's eyes slipped closed, head slightly falling back, enjoying the feel of her hands on herself, squeezing, kneading the aroused flesh. She could feel her lust pooling between her legs, and felt sorry for whoever's sleeping bag it was, as she wasn't wearing any underwear.

Sucking her lower lip between her teeth, she gasped lightly as she pinched them again, another jolt of pleasure rippling through her.

Finally opening her eyes, Dakota noted that Carrie was watching intently, and that it seemed she was short one hand. Leaving her breasts, the brunette's hands slid down her body, finally coming to rest on her lap.

"Truth or dare, Carrie?" Dakota's voice had lowered an entire octave, her body on fire.

"Dare," the blonde breathed.

"I dare you to show me how turned on you are," Dakota near whispered, her voice taken with her breath at her own arousal, and the blonde's flushed cheeks.

Without word or complaint, Carrie reached her visible hand into the depths of her sleeping bag, eyes falling shut, mouth open, then as her lids fluttered, her hand came back into view, two fingers glistening in the golden hue of the flashlight.

Dear God- thud!

"Stroke yourself," Dakota whispered, voice husky and hoarse from want. She watched as that hand disappeared again, Carrie's body falling back against her pillow, sleeping bag rising with her knees. Dakota whimpered as Carrie took in her bottom lip, eyes tightly closed.

Own hand traveling, the brunette was shocked to feel how wet she was, her fingers gliding in easily. She reclined back against her own bedding, spreading her legs as her fingers found her entrance.

She turned her head so she could still see Carrie, riveted by what she knew the blonde was doing. Little gasps now and then, an escaped moan.

"What do you feel?" Dakota whispered, her voice trembling from her own pleasure.

"Heat, slick heat," Carrie whispered back, eyes still closed, mouth open just slightly, her breathing uneven, erratic. "so wet," she breathed with a little whimper.

"Go inside," Dakota instructed, her own fingers sliding within herself. Carrie moaned, neck arching just a bit, visible upper chest heaving. "How does that feel?" Dakota moaned, sliding two fingers inside herself, then pulling back out, wetness pouring out with every retreat.

"Feels so good," Carrie's voice was trembling now, too.

"Stroke your clit each time you pull your fingers out, Carrie; feel how hard it is, how slick?"

"Oh, yes," Carrie gasped at the new sensations fueling her passion, her movements gaining speed. Dakota could see where the sleeping bag was moving with her hand, making her vision almost cloud over with the height of arousal, her climax so close.

"Now just concentrate on your clit, Carrie," Dakota whimpered, doing as she asked. "Slide two fingers over it,"

"Oh, god, yes," Carrie was panting quietly, trying to bite her lip to keep it in.

"That's my tongue on your clit,"

Carrie's gasp this time was loud, her entire back arching.

"Come for me," Dakota rubbed her own clit frantically, feeling the pleasure gaining speed, about to explode. Carrie turned her head suddenly, burying her face in her pillow as she cried out, entire body convulsing. Dakota followed suit, sucking in lungfulls of air, mouth open in a silent scream, seeing Carrie come again and again in her mind's eye, making it that much more powerful.

Dakota lay there, trying to get her body and breathing back under control. Glancing at Carrie, she saw the girl was still on her back, one arm brought up to cover her eyes.

"Are you okay?" Dakota asked softly.

"I'm tired," and with that, Carrie turned to her side, back to the brunette.


Blue eyes flew open, memories of the previous night pouring in. Taking stock, sure enough, she was completely naked, burritoed in her sleeping bag.

Dakota glanced to her right, seeing that Carrie's bag was perfectly rolled up and set on her inflatable mattress. Her side was completely neat, clothing put away, or folded in the corner.

"Shit," the brunette grumbled, searching for her shirt and shorts. Finding them, she tugged them on, running a quick brush through her hair before facing the day.

Voices could be heard, talking and laughing in the morning hush, and the smell of bacon wafted through the tent walls.

Deciding to face the day, and Carrie, Dakota unzipped the flap and crawled out. She would not miss that part once she got back home.

She would, however, miss the girl who just came into her sights.

Carrie, holding a plate of food, walked over to one of the picnic tables and sat down. Her long hair was loose, which was rare, and was so beautiful. It flowed down her back, reaching to about her bra strap, before curling up naturally on the ends.

The girl sat alone, elbow resting on the table, temple against her fist. She seemed to be picking at her food, which was another rarity.

"Good morning, Dakota!" Pastor Bill bellowed, shoving a plate of eggs, bacon and toast into her unsuspecting hands.

"Uh, hi." She took the plate, and chewing on her bottom lip, headed over to Carrie's table. "Can I sit?" she asked quietly, trying to decide how to act. Should she be her normal, annoyingly cocky self, or stay quiet in respect of what had happened the night before?

Green eyes glanced up at her, Carrie having to shield them with her hand as the morning sun blazed down.

"Sure," the blonde said, turning back to her own, mostly uneaten breakfast.

Dakota made herself as comfortable as you could get on hard, splintery benches. She unfolded the plastic flatware from their napkin, and looked down at what she was about to eat.

"Food's not half bad here," she said absently, a lame attempt at conversation.


Dakota studied the blonde, who still played with her food. Sighing, she turned back to her own.

"I'm sorry," she said finally, voice low.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Carrie said, finally meeting her gaze. Shocked, Dakota nodded, a little hurt.

"If that's how you want to play it, fine."

Carrie met and held her gaze, eyes hard.

"I'm not playing a game. I've had enough games, thank you." She looked back to her breakfast, then without warning, pushed back from the table, dumping her plate into the trash.

Dear God- women suck.


Dakota pretty much ignored the blonde throughout the rest of the day, not like she had any choice; Carrie refused to look at her, or if she did, it was a glare.

Not that the brunette would really admit it, but her feelings were hurt. She thought what they'd experienced the night before was pretty cool, and definitely intense. She wasn't about to pretend that it didn't happen, and resented the fact that Carrie seemed to be doing just that.

That night when it was time for bed, Dakota crawled into the tent at the last possible moment. She had no desire to lie there in the dark in silence, waiting for sleep to claim her.

Carrie was already inside, as she knew the blonde would be, all curled up in her sleeping bag, once again, back to the brunette's side of the tent.

"I replaced your batteries," came out of the blue darkness. Dakota stopped, brows drawn.


"Your flashlight was dead," Carrie explained, her voice slightly muffled.

"Oh. Thanks." Dakota removed her fleece over shirt, the evening chilly. Tossing it aside, she reached up under her shirt, unsnapping her bra, and strategically taking it out via her shirt sleeves. Sitting on her mattress, she unlaced her shoes, placing them by the door.

Getting herself settled, Dakota sighed, doing exactly what she didn't want to do- stare up at the ceiling. Back home she was used to getting to bed anywhere from one to four in the morning. This ten o'clock crap was for the birds.

"Did you have a good day?" came the muffled question. Dakota glanced over at her tentmate, noting that Carrie had turned to her back, though was not looking at the brunette.

"Why the sudden chit chat? All day I'm a leper you can't even look at." Green eyes met blue.

"Sorry. I just wondered how your day was." With a huff, Carrie turned back to her side.

"What, wanting to see if it was as miserable as you tried to make it?" Dakota challenged, her anger beginning to build, covering the hurt. Carrie's head whipped around, eyes narrowed.

"I wasn't trying to make your day anything," the blonde said, her voice lowering in the beginnings of anger.

"Right. It was just like it was at the beginning of this retarded trip. All you could do was glare at me or ignore me. Don't give me your shit, Carrie." Stung, it was Dakota's turn to turn to her side, back to the blonde, who said nothing. Eventually they both drifted off to sleep.


Three days is a very long time to be in close proximity to someone you're trying to ignore.

Dakota found that out the hard way, learning how to pray, as she begged for the days to go faster. Finally it was Sunday afternoon, and after a morning service, they were all on their way.

Once again sitting at the front of the bus, Dakota leaned her face against the cool glass, watching the edge of the road drop off on those steep, mountain roads. She couldn't help but wonder if the bus went over the side if she'd be missed back home, or if her parents would be glad to get rid of their delinquent daughter.

Pity party in full swing, Dakota closed her eyes, trying to find peace in sleep.

"Honey! I'm so happy to see you!" Mary Anne Shepard took her daughter in a warm, tight embrace, which to her delighted surprise, was returned.

"Hi, mom," Dakota said, shrugging her bag higher on her shoulder after the hug.

"So, you survived, huh?" Mary Anne said, leading them over to the car, loading the brunette's bags in the back.

"I guess. But oh my god, if I have to read from the friggin' Bible one more time, I'm going to puke!"


It had been two long months, the summer coming to an end, school starting up. Dakota was angry at herself, never able to forget about Carrie. It wasn't even just that night; it was the whole picture, the whole girl.

Going on with her life, staying out of trouble, and never, ever laying eyes on a Bible again, Dakota moved on with her life. She had turned seventeen recently, and was starting her junior year at Hick Heaven High, or Madison High School to the adults.

During the three day weekend of Labor Day, Dakota was upstairs in her room, trying to find some peace away from her parents, both of whom were home. While reading a smuggled copy of Playboy, she heard the doorbell ring downstairs, and then her name called from the bottom of the stairs.

Irritated, the brunette stashed the dirty mag, then headed downstairs, pounding down them. She stopped mid-pound, seeing who her guest was.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, scowl planted on her face, she looked into green eyes, saying nothing.

"Hi," Carrie said shyly. "My mom let me borrow the car, so I decided to surprise you."

"Yeah? Well you can go and get back into your mom's car and un-surprise me." With that, Dakota started back up the stairs.

"Dakota Mae Shepard!" Mary Anne exclaimed, stunned by her daughter's rudeness. "What's the matter with you?"

Dakota stopped halfway up the stairs, knowing she was caught. It wasn't like she could explain to her mom why she didn't want to see the blonde, who still stood at the door, looking stricken.

With a heavy sigh, the brunette tromped back down to the other girl, grabbing her by the arm and leading her outside.

Once on the porch, she let Carrie go.

"What are you doing here, Carrie?" she demanded, arms crossed over her chest. Carrie seemed to shrink away from her for a moment, but then swallowed deeply, gaining her courage back.

"I came to see you, Dakota. I wanted to see you and talk to you," she fired back.

"What is there to talk about?"

Carrie stared out into the yard, running a hand through her long hair.

"Look, can we go for a walk or something? Please?"

Dakota looked at Carrie, seeing the hope in her beautiful green eyes. Being the fool she was, she nodded. Silently she led the blonde down the stairs of the front porch, and then down to the dirt road in front of the house. The property was surrounded by open fields with select crops of trees here and there.

"You weren't kidding," Carrie said, looking around. "You really do live in the middle of nowhere."

"Yeah. Ball of laughs, let me tell ya." Stepping over a fallen fence, Dakota led them toward an outcropping, thick, lush summer grass beneath their steps.

"It's pretty, though."

"Can't be much different than where you live. What, only like twenty miles away?" the brunette said, reaching up to rest her hand on a low branch, leaning on it. Carrie leaned back against the thick trunk. The blonde shrugged.

"I live in the city, well, more city than this," she grinned, indicating the farmland around them.

"Why are you here, Carrie?" Dakota finally asked, voice quiet, filled with pain not yet gone. Carrie sighed, looking around her.

"I wanted to apologize to you." Her eyes met Dakota's. "I really acted like a bitch up in the mountains. I'm sorry."

Dakota studied her for long moments, trying to gauge her sincerity. Finally she looked away, shrugging the apology off.

"You didn't need to come all the way over here for that. Life goes on, you know? Shit, I barely remember what the fight was over now," she lied, and it was very obvious she was lying. Stealing, yes, she was good at. Lying, not so much. How do you think she got caught?

"Damn it, Dakota! Don't shrug me off, or shut me out." She walked over to the brunette, frustration coursing through her veins. "I'm trying to say I'm sorry. I was wrong. I was confused, and didn't understand what I was feeling."

"Oh, and you do now?" Dakota looked at her, her face hard, closed off. Ah, the immaturity youth brings.

"No," Carrie grinned, stepping closer. "but I do know that I really liked what we did together, well separately." She rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean." Placing her hands on Dakota's waist, she looked up into the beautiful face of the brunette. "I want you to do those things you said you wanted to do," she said quietly. "I want to feel your mouth on me, touching me."

Dakota was having a hard time staying upright, her heart beginning to pound, though fear keeping her where she was, stubborn, unwilling to budge.

"Damn it, Dakota!" Carrie yelled, stepping angrily away from the brunette, pounding a fist against her own thigh as she looked out at the vastness around them. Finally turning back to the stubborn girl, she stopped, looking into blue eyes.

Dakota watched her, unsure what to do. She wanted so badly to accept Carrie's apology and invitation, then move on, but now she felt stuck. Too stubborn to accept, and not daring to walk away.

The brunette's eyes just about popped out of her head as she watched Carrie reach down to the hem of her shirt, and tug until the shirt was up and over her blonde head.

"What are you doing?!" she hissed, looking around to make sure they were still alone.

"I'm proving how serious I am," Carrie said. Standing in her bra, the beautiful girl began to unbutton her shorts.

Dakota raced over to her, wrapping her own body around the blonde's to cover it.

"Are you insane?" she exclaimed, looking down into an amused face.

"I have to say, Dakota, I'm a little surprised. My father told me you were a bit of a wild child, and Mountain Creek was your last chance." She wrapped her arms up around the brunette's neck. "Don't tell me you're just a sheep in wolf's clothing?"

"Your father? Oh god," Dakota rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me he's a judge, too?"

"A judge? What? No," she giggled. "He's a pastor."

"Pastor Bill!" Dakota nearly screamed, fingers coming up to cover her lips. She watched in horror as Carrie nodded, green eyes twinkling. "I'm really going to burn in hell now."

"See you there," Carrie whispered, her body pushing against Dakota's until the brunette found herself pinned between a tree and a soft place. "Please don't turn me away," the blonde whispered, her words tickling Dakota's lips.

Dakota moaned, feeling the soft swell of Carrie's bra-clad breasts pushing into her own. Her fingers were touching the bare skin of the girl's back, and the heat nearly burned her hand. She wasn't sure how it happened, or who did it, but suddenly Carrie's lips were pressed to her own, so soft and giving.

Her mind catching up to her libido, Dakota took the blonde in a crushing hug, her tongue insisting she be given entrance. Carrie responded to it all, hungrily clutching at Dakota's shirt, trying to get the other girl that much closer.

Dakota broke away from Carrie's mouth, both breathing heavily.

"What's wrong?" the blonde asked, trying to claw at Dakota's head to get her mouth back.

"Wait, wait," the brunette panted. "I want to do this right." She led Carrie over to a rather naturally cushy spot, the natural grasses forming a bed. She laid the girl down, then followed, laying her body atop Carrie's. The blonde moaned at the incredible feeling. "Damn, you're hot," Dakota whispered. Carrie smirked, thanking the other girl for the somewhat crude compliment.

Dakota looked down at the girl below her, looking up at her with awe and adoration. The brunette smiled, running a hand down the side of Carrie's smooth skin.

"You really are beautiful, Carrie," Dakota said with wonder. "I've always thought so, and always will."

Green eyes softened at the earnest words. She reached a hand up, cupping the back of Dakota's neck.

"Kiss me, Dakota," she whispered. "I want to know what it's like to be with the most incredibly beautiful girl in the county."

It was an 'aw, garsh' moment to be sure. Dakota felt her body turn to goo, but she happily complied. She felt herself being drawn in, her body settling a bit more firmly on that of Carrie's. The blonde gasped slightly as Dakota moved her thigh between the strong ones of the blonde.

Deepening the kiss, Dakota brought her hand up, covering a satiny breast, the nipple responding through the material of the bra.

"Oh, Dakota," Carrie breathed against the brunette's lips. "I want this so much,"

"So do I," Dakota whispered back, squeezing Carrie's breast, then tweaking the nipple, making the blonde whimper.

Dakota could feel her heart swell as her lips moved to the blonde's neck, hearing all the wonderful sounds Carrie was making. Her body was on fire, her excitement gathering quickly, slicking the inside of her thighs.

The urge was so strong to just tear the rest of the blonde's clothing off and devour her. She stopped herself, allowing herself the pleasure and time to explore and enjoy every single morsel. They'd always have time for the other stuff later.

Dakota kissed and licked her way down to Carrie's cleavage, swiping with her tongue, making the blonde whimper again. She peeled the top of the bra down, revealing very rigid nipples atop beautiful, creamy white breasts.

"So beautiful," she murmured, burying her face in the flesh. She heard a gasp from Carrie, and smiled into the breasts, then she felt herself being roughly pulled away.

Blinking in surprise, she found herself kneeling at the feet of Pastor Bill. The blonde frantically tugged her bra back into place, trying to hide as much of herself as possible.

Never in all of Dakota's young life had she seen that color of red before, nor that many veins popping out of a forehead. It looked like the pastor was about to explode.

"Your mother told me where I might find the two of you," he said through gritted teeth, attempting to keep his voice low and calm. It wasn't working so well. His eyes bore into the brunette, hatred firing into her brain. Almost as though she'd been slapped, she nearly fell over backwards, instead fought to get to her feet. Pastor Bill's eyes never left her stumbling form, meanwhile grabbing his half-naked daughter with an iron hand to her arm, shoving her behind him.

"Get in the car," he growled to Carrie, who was peeking at Dakota over her father's shoulder. "Now!" he boomed, voice echoing in the still, open day. With one final glance, Carrie scurried off, snatching her t-shirt from the ground by the tree where she'd tossed it.

Once alone, Dakota swallowed. She truly believed this man was going to strike her. She was nervous. No, that's not true- she was scared out of her mind!

Pastor Bill took a menacing step forward. "My wife told me Carrie had borrowed the car," he said, his voice deadly calm. "and when she told me she was headed up here to see your worthless self, I knew in my heart I had to come save her."

Dakota swallowed again, feeling a slight sting behind her lids. To hear what this man, who was supposed to be fair and give everyone a chance, really thought of her, hurt to hear.

"I knew you were a bad influence on my daughter, Shepard, and I was right," he took yet a step closer. Dakota could smell his Old Spice mixed with sweat. "If you ever come near my daughter again, Dakota, I'll kill you. You understand?"

Dakota's pain morphed into anger, as it always did. Her defiance began to bubble up to the surface like boiling water. She said nothing, but raised her chin in defiance, hiding her trembling hands in her pockets.

He stared her down, neither willing to give into the other, even as Pastor Bill began to slowly back away, toward his car that was parked on the dirt road thirty yards away.

One last warning point of his finger, and the man turned, hurried to his car. As he opened the door to get in, Dakota could hear Carrie crying, and then father and daughter yelling at each other. It was cut off as quickly as it had been revealed as he closed the door once more.

Dakota watched on, the Subaru pulling away in a cloud of dust.


The airbrakes on the bus hissed, then squeaked to a shuddering halt. Dakota rested one hand on the huge wheel, pulling the door open at Westen and Grant, the fourth stop on her fifteen stop route.

She nodded acknowledgement at a few words of gratitude she received, then waited for the teenager with all the tattoos to take his bike off the hooks on the front of the bus. Making sure he was out of the way, she closed the double set of doors again, and glanced in all her mirrors, making sure the midday Seattle traffic would let her merge.

About to pull away from the curb, Dakota stopped, glancing through her sunglasses at the window panels in the door. Someone was pounding on them, yell muffled.

About ready to pull away anyway, wanting to ignore the woman. She hated when people showed up late, considering she pulled up to the curb at the exact same time every single day. She was more dependable than the mail.

Something, however, told her to open the doors. Maybe it was the sound of desperation in the woman's voice and frantic pounding. Pulling just the front door open, she glanced over at the woman with short blonde hair.

"Do you have a radio or a phone, or something?" the woman said, her voice near hysterics. The blonde glanced over her shoulder, as did Dakota, and saw an older man lying on the sidewalk in front of a store front.

Flipping on the emergency lights, Dakota climbed off the bus, taking her cell phone with her. Hurrying over to the man, dialing the bus garage at the same time, she knelt down.

The man was older, probably in his seventies. He looked far too gray to be healthy. Passing a hand over the man's mouth, Dakota could feel he wasn't breathing.

"Hey, Johnny, this is S one oh nine. I need an ambulance out here to the seven hundred block of Westen. Yeah, Westen stop, you know exactly. Yeah, no. Not on the bus. A pedestrian on the sidewalk. Yeah. Thanks, bud." Flipping the phone shut, Dakota stuffed it into her driver's uniform shirt pocket, and smiled at the flustered blonde. "Help will be here soon, ma'am."

With that, she jumped up, having a tight schedule to keep.

"Thank you so much," the blonde gushed, grabbing the bus driver's hand in thanks. As the brunette climbed back on the bus, she heard the blonde calling the old man grandpa.

It was always strange for Dakota to climb onto her Harley-Davidson XL 883R Sportster after handling a mammoth bus all day. But, ohhhhhh, her bike.

Her parents had freaked out when she'd told them she was gay. They were so awful about it that Dakota felt she had to add to their misery and turn into the stereotypical 'dyke on a bike,' and purchased an old, ratty Honda from a guy selling it off his grass. She'd chopped all her hair off, save for a few strips and then got just about everything pierced she could, and made them pay.

It was a good strategy at the time, but it backfired. Dakota fell in love with the freedom of the open road on the back of a bike, and became the cliché she'd strived to torture her parents with, though she had more hair now, and set off less metal detectors. Now it was her first choice, though she did have the eight year old Jeep Cherokee for driving during the winter months.

The Sportster was brand new. She ran her hand down its sleek body as she went, black and chrome. Sleek and gorgeous!

Snapping her helmet in place, learning the hard way three and a half years ago that, yes, they are necessary and heads do break, Dakota was ready to go.

The bike roared out from the parking garage for city employees, echoing to an almost deafening level within the cement walls, stopping at the stop sign at the top of the cement exit ramp. Glancing both ways, she zoomed into traffic, and on her way home.

She had just enough time to get there, shower, and meet Theresa, though she absolutely didn't want to.

Theresa Meese was a nice woman, to be sure, but Dakota just wasn't sure if she was ready. Her friends pointed out, often, that it had been a year and a half since the breakup with Amber. What her friends didn't understand, however, was it had been the first time Dakota had really allowed herself to let go, fully trust and love. When Amber had cheated on her, then been cowardice enough to lie about it, some major damage had been done. Dakota just hoped it wasn't permanent.

Sighing in resignation, she looked at herself in the mirror, which she swiped a hand across to cut through the steam. Her hair was slicked back, dripping down her naked back. She looked at herself, liking what she saw. She was thirty-one, and still looked damn good. Then she sighed again, remembering that she couldn't curl up in her couch cozy and channel surf while she surfed the net on her laptop. Nope, exciting life was not hers.


Amsterdam's was busy, not surprising on a Friday night. Dakota walked in, nearly bowled over by a very drunk couple who were attempting to navigate the entryway out of the pub. Stepping inside, she scanned the dimly lit room, looking for the long, light brown hair.

Nodding acknowledgement to the wave she got, Dakota excused her way through the growing throng, finally reaching the high-backed, wooden booth Theresa sat in.

"Hi," she said, sliding across the smooth wood, setting her coat and helmet beside her.

"Hi there," Theresa smiled, sipping from her wine. "How was your day?"

"It was okay, I guess," Dakota ordered a stiff rum and coke, then grabbed the menu from the holder next to the wall. "I missed lunch, so I hope the food is fast tonight. I may start gnawing on your arm instead," she grinned at the shy, blushing woman across from her. Not being an innuendo pig with Theresa was difficult for the brunette. She figured out real early just how seemingly innocent the woman really was, and always felt she had to check her words at the door.

For that reason alone, Dakota wasn't so sure about this. She wanted someone she could be raunchy with, be a nut, and just be, … well … herself.

"Me, too. I had a late lunch during my free period, but those little darlings can take it out of you!" the teacher gushed, talking about her second graders.

"No doubt," Dakota chuckled, doing her best to not shovel down half the basket of chips the waitress brought, along with a nice, inhumanly hot bowl of salsa. "It takes a special person to be able to do what you do, Theresa. Me, not so much. I think I'd throttle them instead."

Theresa chuckled politely, snagging a chip now and then, chewing daintily. As Dakota watched her, she wondered, not for the first time, just what exactly kept her going out with the woman. Yes, Theresa was a sweetheart, and seemed to be a fairly normal, well adjusted person, but they had so little in common. After four dates, they were still stuck on small talk. And there was no way Dakota felt comfortable even bringing up the idea of any sort of physical activities. Even a kiss seemed… wrong, somehow.

Glad the arrival of her food interrupted her thoughts of boredom, she dug in with relish, not wanting to have to think of what to say, or to think about the fact that she wasn't saying a damn thing.

It was a long, agonizingly sweet evening, and Dakota was so ready to get on her bike and feel alive again as she rode home.


"Washington," Dakota called out, her voice static riddled over the aged public address system. The bus came to a halt, brakes and doors whooshing open. The group of elderly women who ask her to call out the streets every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, bustled out the door.

Shutting the door, the brunette became lost in thought once more as she pulled away from the curb, preparing to take a right onto Westen. Gritting her teeth as she had to pull the brakes when some little twit on one of those scooter things buzzed by, cutting the bus off, Dakota growled and glared. Just once she'd like to be able to plow one of them down.

Seeing she had folks waiting for her at the plexi-glassed stop, she eased to the curb, following the same procedure she had a million times already that day. And it was just noon-thirty.

People of all ages and wash schedules ambled past her, tucked into her little driver's cubby. She watched them go, mildly interested, but not really, as many were repeat riders.

As riders climbed on, Dakota's attention was grabbed.


She turned, seeing a familiar blonde standing there, next to the money tube by the driver's seat. The blonde had short hair, tucked back neatly in a casual, yet appealing style.

"I took a gamble that you'd be driving today as you weren't all weekend," the woman continued. Dakota couldn't help but take in the woman's fitted jeans and open collared button up, which she had the distinct feeling would ride up to expose a flat tummy if the blonde moved too much.

Who the hell was this woman? It was a good thing the blonde couldn't see Dakota's confusion behind her sunglasses, which the blonde also wore.

"You helped me out Friday afternoon, around this time. You called an ambulance for my grandfather," the woman explained.

"Oh! Right. How is he?" Concern filled in for her previously lustful thoughts.

"Fine, thank you. Well, he is because you called for help. I just really wanted to thank you for that. You probably saved his life. Thank you," the woman glanced down at the brunette's embroidered name patch. "Dakota." The blonde glanced up, taking in the driver for a moment, before being herded out by a couple riders who decided to get off. She called out a final thanks, and then disappeared.


The feeling of being watched was immense. Dakota hung her city-issued jacket up on the hanger, standing in front of her open locker. She reached out to grab her leather jacket when she heard someone speak behind her. Turning, she saw the blonde from the bus leaning against the door to the employee locker room, arms crossed over her chest, and a smirk planted on her lips.

"Dakota Shepard."

The brunette stood there, stunned, her leather jacket falling from her limp fingers. Her past from almost twenty years ago came back to hit her smack in the face. The green eyes were the exact same, now sans sunglasses. There may have been a crinkle at the corner that hadn't been there when she was sixteen, but that was it.

"I," Carrie suddenly stammered, her confidence of moments before draining away at the stunned, pale face of the bus driver. "Well, I thought it was you. Uh, thanks again for helping my grandfather the other day." And with that, she was gone.

"Shit," realizing she'd just been incredibly rude, Dakota tugged herself out of her stupor. "Wait!" Running to the door, she flung it open, looking both ways down the white, cement hallway of the innards of the downtown Seattle bus depot. There was no sign of Carrie anywhere.

The blonde had disappeared in record time, and the brunette almost had to wonder if she hadn't dreamt the entire thing.

"Damn," she walked back into the locker room, slamming her locker shut, then cursed again as she realized she'd forgotten her keys inside.


As the bus driver made her way home, she decided a little side trip was in order. Pulling off the main roads in the city, she took a bee-line for peaceful exile from the hustle and bustle. It was the best way for her to think.

She thought back over the past week, particularly the few times she'd seen the blonde. That first day, grandpa needed help. Dakota thought back to the woman who'd pounded frantically upon the bus door. The brunette had been so startled that she hadn't really given the woman much of a look see, and then she'd been too involved in the situation.

Okay, so next. The woman had stood there next to the cash taker in the bus. She had her sunglasses on, and that had certainly hidden a big part of what Dakota remembered most about the blonde- those eyes.

Just when Dakota was about to start beating herself up for not recognizing Carrie as soon as she'd seen her, her logic stepped in, grabbing that gloved hand in mid-swing. It had been almost fifteen years since that day in the field. It had also been part of one of the worst memories of the brunette's teenagehood. Of course she wasn't thinking of Carrie, ah hell, what was her last name? all the time. In fact, Dakota hadn't thought about those days in so many years, she may as well have not thought about it all.

What on earth was Carrie and her grandfather doing in Seattle? Maybe vacationing. After all, Carrie had only popped up within the past week. She'd probably be heading back to wherever soon. So, no worries, all taken care of.

Dakota gave her baby some more gas, a grin on her face as the scenery whizzed by at frightening speed. If only she could drive the bus that fast- give the old ladies a thrill!


The apartment was dark when Dakota got home. She set her helmet and keys on the entry table, then tossed her jacket to the sofa. Her ride had been long and wonderful, and she felt energized. If only Lacy hadn't moved to Portland. They had some good times together, for sure.

Sighing, Dakota strolled through her place, flicking lights on as she went, a trail of discarded clothing in her wake. Finally naked, she padded into the bathroom off the main hall. She hated the piss-poor excuse for a shower in her own bathroom. Who on earth was four feet tall and weighed fifty pounds? Okay, besides a ten year old.

Humming softly to herself, she turned the water to the right temperature, then stepped under the nearly boiling spray of water. She loved her showers like her women- hot and refreshing.

She smirked at her own piggishness. Some thing's never change.

The tension of the day drained down the drain with a swirl of soapy water, Dakota finally allowing herself to just wallow in the heat and power of the powerful showerhead spray. She remembered back when she lived with her parents, her mother was one of the cheapest people around. She insisted every showerhead in the house be the water-savor kind. You know, the ones where you have to run around in circles just to get wet?

One of Dakota's greatest pleasures was to get out of a hot shower, the cold air outside the bathroom instantly chilling her still wet flesh, then crawling into a warm bed, the electric blanket turned on before the water ever hit her skin.

She groaned loudly as she sank into the queen-sized bed, down comforter sinking in all round her. Her bliss was momentarily disturbed when she realized she'd forgotten to grab the remote before she'd cocooned herself.

Growling a litany of curses under her breath, she breached the warmth with a single arm, hand moving desperately around the nightstand to find the little black controller.

"Ah hah!" she cried in victory, and began the ritual again.

Sighing once more in pleasure as Jay Leno began to read off his headlines, Dakota realized that the only thing missing was a wonderful, soft, warm body to share it with.


The days went on, uneventful, and without seeing the blonde again. Dakota went on with her daily life. She did, however, break things off with Theresa. The woman was as sweet as she was boring.

Tired of window shopping, Dakota decided to give dating a break. When she was younger she had loved the excitement and exhilaration of what a date might bring, which was often casual sex. But not anymore. Once she'd discovered what it was like to be settled and comfortable with someone, knowing that they'd accept you no matter what, and the sex was actually meaningful, she cared less for the uncertainty and shallowness of the casual date.

Ah, the joys of growing older and growing up.

These were the thoughts in Dakota's mind as she walked through automatic doors of Safeway, looking around for the stack of carry baskets. Seeing them, along with the row of buggies, all pushed together, she heard a racket, and quiet cursing.

A woman was struggling with some carts, trying to pull them apart, and not very successfully.

A smirk fully in place, Dakota headed over to the little blonde, who's baseball cap, on backwards, spoke of the Raiders.

The brunette stepped up behind the woman, leaning down slightly.

"You know," she said into the other woman's ear, "it helps if you use a little finesse." She reached an arm over the woman's shoulder, and gently lifted and tugged until the carts separated. She rolled the newly freed cart away from its sisters, stopping it just in front of a furrowed-browed Carrie.

"Thanks," the blonde muttered, easing the cart in front of her. "I would have gotten it. Eventually."

"Hmm. That may be." Dakota took a step back, a very good idea that her shoes would have become intimate with the rickety wheels of the cart.

"Thanks," Carrie finally said again, though quite grudgingly.

"Sure." Dakota kept in step with the little blonde. "Listen, about the other day-"

"No, no. It's okay," Carrie held up a hand to stop the brunette's words. "I shouldn't have just barged in on you at work like that. You must think I'm some sort of a stalker or something."

"No, not really. And what I was going to say was I'm sorry for standing there like an idiot with the guppy effect."

"Oh, you mean how your mouth opened and closed, then just hung open? I'd say it was more like the dying guppy effect."

"Uh, yeah. That, too." Dakota muttered, walking along with Carrie as they headed down the cereal aisle.

"It's okay," the blonde said, pulling out a sandwich baggie from her pocket, digging through until she found a coupon for the Kellogg cereals. "I don't exactly represent the greatest memories for you, no doubt." She finally looked up, meeting the brunette's eyes square. Her smile was soft but slightly sad.

Dakota shrugged, glancing across the aisle at the various coffees offered. "Yeah, well, it's all in the past now." She gave the blonde a quick smile, dismissing the topic altogether.

"So," Carrie said, glad for the unspoken request of new subject matter. "how long have you been in the great state of Washington?"

"A few years," the brunette said, placing a can of Folgers into her basket. "You?"

"Since I was sixteen," their eyes met for a moment, then Carrie looked away.

"Oh." She grabbed a box of Lucky Charms, then one of Pops. Carrie eyed her, brow raised.

"Have little ones at home?"

Dakota smirked. "Nope. Just a great and mighty sugar tooth."

"So I see," the blonde nodded, tucking a box of Muslix into her buggy.

"Got an old man at home who needs to stay regular?" Dakota asked, her own brow raised. Carrie smirked.

"As a matter of fact, I do."

Dakota thought back to the woman's grandfather, then smacked her forehead. "Sorry."

"No worries," the blonde chuckled, tossing in a box of Frosted Shredded Mini Wheats for herself. "He actually lives above the garage. But I do all his shopping for him."

"So you take care of your grandfather, then?" Dakota asked as they moved down the aisle, turning into the next one. Carrie nodded.

"I think it's only right considering he and grandma took care of me."

"Is that where you got shipped off to?" Dakota asked, tossing a box of spaghetti into her basket. The blonde nodded.

"You could say that." Carrie's eyes dropped for a moment, then she glanced over at the brunette. "I heard what happened, and I'm so sorry. My father had no right to do that."

"It wasn't your fault, Carrie." Dakota said softly. "Things happened as they were supposed to, I guess." She sighed heavily, running a hand through her hair. "I mean, Uncle Max did warn me."

"Perhaps. But nothing my father, or anyone else for that matter, could say would convince me that what you did was a crime." She looked intently into Dakota's eyes, brows drawn in earnest concern. "Dakota, you didn't deserve to go to a goddamn detention center." The brunette said nothing. Carrie sighed. "I don't know. I guess I just always felt there was something I could have done. Should have done."

"Nah. Your dad was determined, and nothing a sixteen year old kid could have done would have changed that. Hell, if he could convince a judge…. It's in the past, Carrie." Dakota smiled, trying to put the blonde at ease.

Yes, it had been one of the most painful events in her life, and the scars would remain always just under the surface. But it wasn't Carrie's fault, and certainly not her burden to carry. For years she had indeed blamed the smaller woman- mainly while inside- but those days, too, were long gone.

Carrie studied her for long moments, almost making Dakota uncomfortable, when finally the blonde nodded, turning back to the shelves of food around them.

"So, if you've lived here for so long, why is it that I'm just bumping into you at every turn, now?" Dakota asked absently as she read the back of a can of chicken broth, seeing if any of the recipes printed on the label appealed to her.

"We switched my grandfather's doctor's a few months ago, and it was just too difficult to take him back and forth. We used to live down further south," Carrie explained. Dakota nodded understanding. "So, I found us a great house with the apartment over the garage, and it all works out great. Sometimes he can even get himself to the doctor."

"So you have to commute for work?" Dakota fished as she tossed a yellow plastic container of lemon juice into her basket. She was very curious about the little blonde.

"I write for a magazine, so I work from home," Carrie explained, watching while the brunette decided which three tomatoes she was going to pick. "That one looks good."

"Oh, you're right. Nicely done." Dakota picked up the huge, red, succulent tomato, tossing it into the air before catching it and putting it into a plastic bag. "That must be nice. Though I have to say, if I worked from home, I don't know how diligent I'd be."

"I don't work, I don't get paid," Carrie grinned. Dakota smiled back.

"Like I said, I don't know how diligent I'd be."

"So you work for the city?" She continued at Dakota's nod. "How long have you driven a bus?"

"About two years," Dakota leaned against the stand that held the apples and oranges, arms crossed over her chest, basket of food dangling from her left hand.

"You like it?" Carrie asked, taking a similar position, foot resting on the bottom rung of her buggie.

"I do. Pays the bills, meet interesting people," she winked at the blonde, and shrugged her shoulders. "It's not a bad gig."

"Good benefits?" Carrie asked, her eyes twinkling.

"Yeah. Great dental."

Carrie laughed, pushing away from the vegetable stand. "Come on. My ice cream is going to melt." Hands back on the bar of the buggie, they headed toward the checkout lanes.

Carrying their bags out into the cool night, they walked halfway to both their vehicles, parked four cars a part.

"Which one is yours?" Carrie asked, looking around. Dakota nodded toward the Harley. Green eyes narrowed.

"Ohhh, niiiiiice."

"I agree. Where are you?" Dakota took in the Lincoln Navigator that Carrie pointed to.

"Also nice."

"Thank you. I'm also fond of Abe," Carrie said, shifting her weight to her other foot. Dakota laughed.

"Abe? You named you Navigator Abe?"

"What else would I name her?" the blonde asked, looking with pride at her black SUV.

"Uh, well, nothing, I guess."

Green eyes glared at Dakota.

Dakota laughed as Carrie rolled her eyes. "Go grab Abe and go home. Ben and Jerry's, remember?"

"Yes. Couldn't dare let my double fudge melt."

"Utter crime."

"I agree. Goodnight, Dakota." With a brilliant smile, Carrie walked over to her car, quickly opening the back and setting the bags inside. One last look, she climbed in and drove away.

Dakota, for her part, was struck dumb. She arranged her purchases in the saddle bags, her mind whirring all the while. She couldn't help but admire the woman that little blonde bible thumper had turned into. She glanced up, seeing the Lincoln turning onto the main road, red taillights disappearing into the crowd of other cars.


Dakota's life went on, but she'd be telling a big fat lie if she said she could get Carrie out of her head. They'd spent less than an hour together shopping and talking, and the bus driver was far from ready to say goodbye. The draw she'd felt for the cute little blonde that first day at camp was still there. She was intrigued.

The days wore on, same route, many of the same passengers, same solitary existence. Sometimes it amazed Dakota how anti-social she'd become as she'd gotten older. But then, she reasoned, she'd moved around so often since her teen years, she hadn't really let herself meet people, or keep friendships. In her heart she knew that ultimately she would only be able to fully trust and rely on herself, so everyone else was expendable. She had friends in the Seattle area, and even when out with them on occasion, but none would be a huge loss should they walk out of her life tomorrow. That thought made her sad and feel cold and nomadic.

Crazily enough, talking to Carrie two weeks ago had brought Dakota's loneliness to the forefront. It brought to mind just how much she was secluding herself, wrapped up in a world all of her own making, her computer and beloved weekly TV shows, and the almost nightly rides on her bike. In some ways, her bike was her closest friend.

Yes, it was easier to stay anti-social, as the bus driver had no idea when she'd get the urge to move on again. She felt settled, and liked her job and where she lived, but still…. It seemed about every three years, like clockwork, she started to feel the tug of restlessness and the open road calling to her. She'd been in Seattle for three years, and it was getting to be that time. Granted, she hadn't felt it yet, but it could happen.

Dakota pulled the doors open, watching through her mirrors as passengers stepped off the bus, more coming on. She smiled at the few who smiled at her, saying hello to Margie, who rode the bus to school and home Monday through Friday. She never had asked the girl what she was studying.

As she merged back in with traffic, Dakota's thoughts went on the loose again. Should she perhaps open herself up again? Give other people a chance? She was still young, but the years passed quicker and quicker, and when it was all said and done, and she was standing in front of St. Peter, what did she have to show for her life? Who would be there to say goodbye?

Now utterly depressed, Dakota swung the big bus around for its final stop at the depot, and the end of her shift. Changing her coat and grabbing her keys and helmet, the driver headed out, tossing a "G'night," to Janelle, who ran the phones.

"Oh! Dakota?" The bus driver peeked her head back around the corner, watching the black woman stand from her desk and bank of phones, waving a yellow piece of paper in the air. "Almost forgot to tell you- got a message today."

"From who?" Dakota walked back into the room, taking the paper from her friend. She was stunned to see Carrie's name written in careful script across the top, along with a phone number. "Did she say anything?" the brunette asked, tucking the paper into her pocket. Jenelle shook her head.

"Nope. Just that she forgot to give that to you the other day." The dark woman's dark eyes twinkled. "Did you not even bother to get her phone number? Dakota," she drawled, "you letch."

Dakota chuckled, shaking her head. "It's not like that, Janelle. Not anymore," she muttered as she turned and left the offices.

Standing next to her bike, helmet balanced on her hip, Dakota took out the paper again, chewing on her lip as she scanned the numbers. She was shocked and felt a sense of giddiness rising within her chest, almost making her giggle. Yet again, Carrie had contacted her.

Dakota didn't even think or realize what she was doing until she felt the sturdiness of her cell phone in her hand, her thumb flipping it open. Looking down into the face of her phone, the brunette glanced over at her other hand, which held the phone number. As if she no longer had control of her hands, her thumb began to dial as the phone was cradled in her hand.

The phone was ringing. "Shit." No going back. Dakota put the cell to her ear, her stomach flip flopping as she waited for an answer, hoping that she'd get voicemail-


Gulp "Hey, uh, Carrie?" Dakota felt stupid, unable to even leave the depot parking garage before she called the blonde.


"Hey. It's Dakota. I got your message." She swung a let over her bike, resting on the seat.

"Hi." Dakota could hear the smile in the blonde's voice.

"Hi." Dakota felt stupid, her fingers fidgeting with her handlebar, flipping and un-flipping her headlight switch.

"What are you doing? Are you at home?"

Dakota looked around the garage, watching as a fellow driver pulled out of their spot, waving and blaring his horn as he blew by.

"Uh, not exactly. I'm sitting in the parking garage at work, on my bike." Dakota smirked, feeling more than sheepish.

"I see. Is that where you get the best reception, there in the parking garage?"

"No," Dakota muttered, hand rubbing the back of her neck, feeling foolish. "You know, just figured I'd kill two birds with one stone- get ready to go and call you back. You know." Dakota rolled her eyes at her own ineptness.

"I see. Well, multi-tasking is good. Do you want to go home? You know, you can call at any time…"

Okay, now the brunette felt really stupid! "Well, I wasn't sure if maybe you needed something, you know, maybe something was going on with your grandpa or something." Ohhhhh, good one!

"Oh," Carrie said. That made sense. "No, he's fine. Thank you, though. I just wanted to, well, say hi, and," the blonde chewed on her lower lip for a second, clearly taking over Dakota's discomfort. "and thanks for saving me from committing cart homicide. I mean, that could have been ugly had you not shown up when you did."

Dakota laughed out loud, head thrown back. She heard the chuckle on the other end of the line. "Well, that whole damsels in distress thing, you know."

"You passed with flying colors this time. But next time, Gadget…"

The bus driver laughed again, completely charmed. "Next time you go shopping, giving me a call and I'll make sure to be there to save grocery buggies everywhere from your wrath."

"You do that. Well, listen, I'm going to let you go so you can go home."

No! "Okay. You're welcome again, and catch you later."

"Bye, Dakota."

"See ya, Carrie." Dakota flipped her phone shut, really not wanting to hang up, but knowing she had absolutely no reason to keep the blonde on the line. Sighing heavily, she tucked her phone back into her jacket pocket and got her bike started.

As the brunette took the curves and turns at near breakneck speeds, she couldn't help but wonder what Carrie would think of the ride. Would she enjoy the speed and freedom of the night? Or would she be afraid and refuse to get on, like Theresa? Somehow Dakota didn't think Carrie would be afraid of anything.

As the night drew darker, the brunette found herself sitting outside of Bunnie's, a friendly pub with great beer and pool tables. Turning the machine off, Dakota glanced up at the two-story brick building, then pulled her phone out again. Flipping it open, she dialed the number that was already memorized.


"Hey. Uh, it's the buggy fairy." Dakota smiled when she heard a chuckle.

"Is that like the snack fairy?"

"Yeah, minus the tutu. Hey, I'm going to grab a beet and play some pool. Care to give me a challenge?"

"In pool?"

"Yeah." Dakota's booted foot tapped a staccato beat against the parking lot as she waited for Carrie's answer, hoping it was okay to invite the blonde to do something.

"And what makes you think I'm any good?" Carrie asked, a smile in her voice.

"Because no matter what your level is, you'll be better than me."

"Well, if that's the case can't you find someone there to play against you? Unless you're at home…"

"Nope. Not at home. I'm at Bunnie's."

"Is that the place over on Huron?"


"Alright, Shepard, you're on."

Dakota was almost giddy as she flipped her phone shut, walking into the pub to secure them a table, as well as herself a beer. She began to wrack the balls, lifting the triangle when she noticed a blonde head making its way through the increasingly busy pub. Carrie stepped into the circle of light above the pool table, a smile of greeting on her face. Dakota grinned back.

"Want a beer?" the brunette asked, raising her own bottle of Bud. At the blonde's nod, Dakota said, "Get yourself a cue stick. I'll be right back." Weaving her way through the crowd, Dakota managed to get to the bar and buy a beer for her friend. By time Dakota had gotten back to the table, Carrie had removed her jacket and was chalking up the tip of her cue. Dakota tried her best to not stare. The blonde was wearing fitted jeans, faded in all the right spots. Her baby doll tank was white, exposing strong, tanned shoulders and wonderfully muscles arms. A thin, gold chain glittered against the skin of her throat.

"You want to break?"

The brunette was knocked from her appraisal by Carrie's question. Mentally admonishing herself for staring, Dakota nodded, walking around to the head of the table as Carrie twisted the cap off her beer. The blonde leaned casually against the wall where the cue sticks were housed, lazily sipping from her beer as she watched her friend get set up for her shot.

In all honesty the blonde had been thrilled when Dakota had called, extending her an invite. Carrie's life had become her grandfather, whom she loved dearly, but it made things tough. She was constantly in an emotional rut as his health worsened. She had become so isolated from friends over the past couple of years, and it was starting to get to her. The writer was a naturally friendly, upbeat person. But the limited scope of her life was bringing into lethargic depths that she'd never experienced in her adult life. She hadn't dated in well over a year, and craved human contact. Even a hug would be heaven.

The cracking of the balls brought Carrie back from her thoughts. She watched as the balls were expertly scattered, though none fell into a pocket. She met twinkling blue eyes.

"You suck, huh? I don't know," the blonde said, setting her beer down on the ledge around the pool table. "That was pretty damn good break."

"Lucky shot."

"Hmm," Carrie said, eyeing her own shot. "We'll see."

Dakota clutched her stick, glancing down at the table, but her eyes quickly found themselves on the blonde who was leaning over said table. Her bangs hung slightly in her eyes as she studied her target, blue-tipped cue stick edging ever closer to the white cue ball. Finally with a snap of her arm, the cue ball flew across the table, crashing into a small group of solid balls, sending one into the pocket, and darn near the eight ball. Carrie stood, a relieved grin on her face.

"That was almost a very short game. Guess I'm solids." She walked around the table, chewing on her bottom lip as she eyed her choices and chances.

Dakota sipped from her beer as she watched the blonde's face, seeing the stark determination and concentration in their green depths. A small wrinkle formed between blonde brows, darker than the hair on Carrie's head. The cue moved gracefully between the writer's veed fingers, then slammed into the white cue, sending it flying once again across the table, knocking into a solid, which flew toward the pocket, taking a stripe with it.

"Thanks!" Dakota crowed, raising her beer in salute. Carrie glared at her as she stood, tapping the cue stick on the floor next to her foot.

"Yeah, well I figured I'd be nice and get you started." Carrie's face was smug as she grabbed her own beer, tipping it back, eyes on Dakota all the while.

Newly smug, and secretly grateful for the help, Dakota set her beer down and walked around the table, making a show of it, like a tiger stalking its prey. She heard Carrie chuckle softly at the show. Clearing her throat and cracking her fingers, Dakota leaned over the table, lining her shot. She eyed the distance between the white cue and striped 3 ball, five inches in front.

"Come on, sport. We don't have all night," Carrie grinned, beer bottle almost to her lips. She caught the glare tossed her way over the brunette's shoulder. This only made her chuckle louder. Carrie had only been at the pub for less than thirty minutes, and was already feeling more free and happy than she had in a week. She couldn't believe how good it felt to get out.

Finally Dakota decided she couldn't stall anymore. Apparently Carrie had picked up on her tactic. She wasn't kidding when she told the blonde she sucked at pool, but loved the game dearly, anyway. Finally thrusting the tip of her cue at the ball, she watched as the white cue ball rolled uselessly to the side, barely tapping a solid near the rail. Face flushed with embarrassment at fudging the shot, she stood, snagging her beer.

Carrie had the decency to not laugh, though she felt it bubble up in her throat. She took a long swig to keep it locked firmly inside. Another big of pressure began to bubble in her throat as she swallowed.

Dakota was stunned out of her self-loathing when she heard a loud, deep and resonating belch split the air around the pool table. She whirled on the blonde, seeing a hand held to Carrie's mouth, her eyes wide.

"Jesus Christ!" Dakota sputtered, torn between disbelief and laughing her ass off. She waited to see how the writer would react. A burst of laughter, as loud as the burp, erupted from Carrie's lips, mouth open, head thrown back. Not a bodily function prude by any stretch, Dakota was still stunned, and thoroughly enchanted. Marry me? "Damn, woman! My father would be so proud."

Carrie couldn't control her laughter, part embarrassment and part true mirth. "I'm sorry," she managed, trying to get herself back under control, though was finding it near impossible. The look on the brunette's face was priceless. She raised the brown, glass bottle. "Good beer!"

Dakota had never had so much fun getting her ass truly and definitely kicked. Though Carrie enjoyed rubbing it in her face, for some reason, the brunette just couldn't get upset over it. Watching the blonde's elation at sinking yet another ball, or making a truly great shot, was worth it all. Half the time Dakota thought Carrie was just as surprised as herself at how well the writer was playing.

"Come on, Dakota, just one more game," Carrie pleaded, already digging the coins out of her pocket for the coin-operated table. She swigged from her fourth beer. Dakota nodded, swallowing her latest drink. She set the bottle down, grabbing the cube of chalk.

"Okay. I'll let you kick my ass only once more," she held up a single finger. The blonde chuckled, then walked, somewhat unstably, to the end of the table to wrack the balls. "You alright there, sport?" the brunette asked, using Carrie's own earlier nickname for her.

"Yep. Just peachy." Carrie grinned, then re-chalked the tip of her cue. She was buzzed, that was for sure. Well, more than buzzed, actually. Not quite drunk, but feeling no pain. "Your turn to break."

Dakota nodded, tossing the bottle back, draining the rest of the liquid, then throwing the bottle into the nearby trash, where it clanked against their other bottles. Coughing slightly as the Bud went down wrong, she got herself under control and ready to begin another game. She leaned over the table, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment to help concentrate better on the white ball before her. She felt cool fingers on her forehead, and suddenly the ball was clear as day, her hair tucked behind her ears.

"There. Maybe now you can sink one."

Glaring at the grinning blonde, Dakota turned back to her shot, making her thrust quick and sure, the resounding CRACK satisfying.

"Nicely done," Carrie congratulated, watching as two stripes fell into a pocket. Ouch. Dakota grinned, thrilled with the shot and luck. She studied the table, looking for her next shot, hoping she could make it a good one. She didn't want Carrie to think she was a total louse with pool. Seeing what would be a moderate shot for a pro, or a helpful shot for a novice, Dakota set it up, and took it. It turned out better than she thought; the striped seven ball rested near the side pocket, as well as tucking the cue ball in a corner, surrounded by stripes. It would make a tough shot for Carrie. Knowing it was the best she could do, she turned the table over to the blonde, who growled menacingly at her companion.

About to line up her shot, Carrie started when her phone rang. It was after nine-thirty, and she could think of only one reason for someone to call her so late. Flipping her phone open, she saw the number displayed on the window.

"Hey, Nikki. Everything alright?" The blonde listened, nodding a few times, her face growing paler by the word. "Okay. I'll meet you there." Flipping the phone shut, she turned worried eyes on Dakota. "I'm sorry. My grandpa's been taken to the hospital. I have to go."

"Is he okay?" the brunette asked, coming around the table to stand in front of the shaking blonde. "Can you drive? I don't think you should-"

"No, no. I'm okay." Carrie tucked her phone back into her pocket and quickly stowed her cue stick, grabbing her jacket from the bench next to the cue stand. Shoving her arms through the openings, she shrugged the garment on and dug her keys out of the pocket. Looking back at her friend, she gave her a sad, apologetic smile. "I'm really sorry."

"Don't you dare apologize. If you need anything, please let me know." Dakota watched as the blonde quickly threaded her way through the crowded pub. She felt a sense of loss grow the further away Carrie got, until her blonde head could no longer be seen. Sighing heavily, Dakota turned back to the table, the game suddenly very much losing its luster. Stowing her own cue, she knocked all the balls into the pockets, listening as they all rolled to the central chamber under the table where they'd be locked until someone else put another fifty cents into the coin slot and released them.


Dakota flushed the toilet as she tugged her panties up, then washed her hands. One thing about drinking alcohol, especially beer, it went through her like mad. She had already peed four times since she'd been home. As she dried her hands on a hand towel, her cell phone chirped to life.

Padding to the living room, the brunette took her phone from its charger, flipping it open, and hoping there was enough life in the battery to answer.



Dakota sat on one of the stools at the breakfast bar where she sat. "Hi. Is everything okay?" she asked. The soft hush of Carrie's voice threw instant concern into her eyes and voice.

"Yeah. Just got home." The blonde sighed shakily. "It's not good. He has lung cancer, and I think his time has just been cut in half. He had a pretty bad relapse tonight."

"I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do? Anything you need?"

"No. Just talk to me."

"That I can do, though I must warn you- my battery is about dead."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Dakota. I should let you get to bed anyway-"

Dakota made a perfunctory decision. "Where do you live?" She ripped open a drawer, looking for paper and pen. Finding them, her hand stayed poised, waiting. When Carrie told her the address, Dakota barely got a chance to tell her she was on her way when her phone cut out.

"Six thirteen, six fifteen, seventeen, nineteen." Dakota pulled her bike into the long drive, which ended in front of a detached garage where she recognized Carrie's Navigator parked. Parking behind it, she shut the bike off and climbed off.


Turning, the brunette saw Carrie leaning out of the back door to the two-story house. She was hugging herself in the chilled night.

"Hi." Dakota took off her helmet and unzipped her leather jacket as she walked toward the back door, which was being held open for her. The screen door and big door were closed behind her as the brunette walked into a large kitchen, old and well-used, but clean and inviting.

"Do you drink coffee?" Carrie asked, walking in behind her friend. At the brunette's nod, she grabbed a coffee cup and filled it with the fresh brew. "Creamer, sugar?"

"Uh, do you have any cinnamon?" Dakota asked, taking the cup from the writer.

"Cinnamon," Carrie said with a slight nod, as though tucking that bit of information away in her brain. She grabbed the canister from the spice cabinet, handing it to the taller woman, watching as she sprinkled a goodly amount in her coffee. Adding a touch of creamer into her cup, Dakota sipped experimentally then smiled. Perfect.

Dakota looked up at her friend as she took another sip from her drink, seeing a very different woman standing across from her than who she'd played pool with hours before. Carrie's eyes were downcast, her hands cupped around her mug and held in front of her like a shield. Her shoulders were slumped, and an aura of exhausted sadness surrounded her.

Carrie looked up, surprised to feel her coffee up being taken from her hands. She looked up into understanding blue eyes, then gave in as she was pulled into a strong embrace. The warmth of Dakota's neck felt good against the blonde's forehead as she wrapped her arms around a slender waist, clasping her hands at Dakota's back.

Neither of them said anything for a long time, both absorbing the feeling of being touched, of knowing for just a moment that someone else knew they physically existed. Carrie could hear Dakota's heart beating, and to her surprise, it soothed her, and if she let it, could lull her to sleep. Dakota, for her part, was doing her damndest to separate this moment with that of nearly twenty years ago. They were very different people in a very different situation. Dakota was no longer the confused, highly-hormonal teen she had been. Though there was a part of her that wanted to talk more about what had happened when they were young, now wasn't the time.

"I can't lose him, Dakota," Carrie said at length, her voice muffled against the brunette's shoulder. "He's all I've got left."

Dakota could only nod, understanding all too well where Carrie was coming from. She said nothing as the blonde continued.

"I haven't spoken to my father in more than ten years. My mother and I speak usually during Christmas, and she calls me on my birthday. I haven't seen her, though."

"How long?"

"My grandmother's funeral. Few years back. My father didn't bother to go. I think that's why my mom still talks to me- that hurt her."

"I'm so sorry, Carrie. How long did the doctor say your grandpa has?"

The blonde took a deep breath, releasing it and Dakota at the same time. Grabbing her coffee off the table again, she hugged it to her. She felt the need to get out of the brunette's physical touch, which surprised her. But then again, Dakota's touch had always scared her, no matter how innocent. Carrie knew that, had always known that. She had been drawn to the brunette from that very first day back at bible camp. The years and distance hadn't changed that. The blonde realized she'd felt it again that night at Safeway, as they'd haunted the aisles, talking, feeling each other out after almost two decades apart. She'd felt a strange, tangible connection to Dakota, a comfort that she'd never felt around anyone else.

She remembered back to those days at camp, the way the gorgeous blue-eyed teenager had looked at her, raking those eyes over her body, constantly staring at her breasts….

Carrie had to look away as she felt herself grinning, unable to stop it. Her grin promptly slid off her face as she had sudden flashes from their game of truth or dare.

"Carrie?" Dakota walked over to the blonde, who's back was to her. She saw the blonde head dip, then shoulders began to shake. "Oh, Carrie, I'm so-" Sable brows drew when she turned the writer around, seeing her face flushed with the silent laughter racing through her petit body. "What the?"

"I'm sorry," Carrie laughed, setting her cup down for fear of dropping it. She couldn't control it anymore. "My dad's face," she said in between bouts of hilarity. "Price… priceless!"

Dakota could only stare at her, utterly confused. Carrie managed to get herself under control enough to look up at her friend, then lost it again, holding onto the counter to steady herself. Taking several deep breaths, she managed to calm, knowing full well that part of this was letting go after the profoundly bad news she'd gotten tonight from the doctor at the ER.

Dakota for her part could only stand there, waiting. She couldn't help it as a brow raised, arms crossed over her chest as she waited.

"I'm sorry, Dakota," Carrie said, still trying to get her laughter under control. She rested a hand on the brunette's arm. Dakota couldn't help but feel like the laughter was aimed at her, even though Carrie had mentioned Pastor Bill. She still shivered with hatred at the name. That man had nearly made her hate god until she'd realized with age and maturity that it wasn't god she should hate, but rather the sheep that couldn't live by their own minds, but must follow zealots like Pastor Bill.

Shaking her head of those thoughts, she focused once again on Carrie, still so very much the girl from so long ago. If Dakota had any doubts, all she had to do was look into those incredible eyes- there she was inside. She saw that girl staring up at her, the tent in her hands, her green eyes feisty and stubborn fire, refusing to let Dakota help her.

Why am I so damn drawn to you?

She shook off her thoughts of the past once again. "So what's so funny?"

Carrie had managed to get herself under control, and cleared her throat as she looked up into blue eyes that she could tell were becoming slightly irritated. The blonde sobered, realizing that Dakota must have thought she was laughing at her.

"I'm not laughing at you, Dakota," she said softly, gently squeezing the brunette's hand before releasing it. "I don't know, I guess I got caught on a trip down memory lane for a second. For some reason my father's face passed through my mind, when he caught us." Carrie didn't have to elaborate on that statement; she saw recognition flush the bus driver's face as Dakota looked away, a hand reaching up to rub the back of her neck.


"I'm sorry. I know it wasn't exactly funny-"

"No, but you're right. I really had no idea a man's face could turn that color." Dakota smirked, looking up at the blonde through her bangs.

Carrie sniggered. "He was awfully pissed."

Dakota felt the laughter fade as she met a still-smiling green gaze. "Why did you come over to my house?" she asked, a question that had been haunting her for eighteen years.

Carrie's smile slid off her face, surprised by the very sudden change in atmosphere. Clearing her throat again, she grabbed her coffee cup, pouring the now cold contents down the drain and pouring a fresh cup. "Do you want a warm up?" she asked softly. Her answer was Dakota's cold mug placed next to her. Carrie spoke, back to her friend, as she made them new cups.

Dakota watched intently, feeling guilty for just a moment, that perhaps this wasn't the time to bring it up. But then again, she had a right to know.

"I used to get hit on all the time back at school," Carrie began, stirring in what she hoped was the right amount of cinnamon, and stirring in a bit of creamer. She handed the cup to the brunette, avoiding her gaze, then began making her own coffee. "I hated it. The guys at school never interested me, but actually used to just irritate me. I figured it was because they were so immature compared to me." She smiled ruefully, setting the spoon aside she'd used to stir both their coffees. "I thought I had it all together back then. I knew what I wanted to do, what I wanted out of life. My dad was so proud of me." The bitterness in the blonde's voice was heartbreaking.

Dakota took the mug handed to her and sipped. Carrie had made it perfectly. She watched the green eyes drop, looking at a spot on the floor for a moment. When they were raised again, there was no light in them. The brunette had to fight her instincts to go to her.

"I was their golden child, you know? Smart, pretty, motivated and godly," the last word whispered. "He made sure I knew that bible from cover to cover by time I was ten years old. It was what I was taught to read on, and I had to recite a new passage every night until I was eight, then I had to recite five until I was fifteen, then I had to recite an entire book, be if Mark, Matthew, Judges, whatever."

Dakota followed the blonde as she suddenly pushed away from the counter, heading into the living room. She sat on the brown leather couch, the brunette taking the other end, but turning so she faced the writer. Carrie set her cup on the coffee table, running her fingers through her hair, leaving the short strands to stand on end. She continued her story.

"I was always so happy to see him smile, the pride shining in his eyes. My parents knew I was interested in journalism, but I know, not so deep down, they wanted me to follow in my mother's footsteps- you know, marry a pastor or elder in a church somewhere, and be the good, dutiful wife. And, for a time I have to admit, I entertained that thought. Just to make them happy."

Dakota was shocked. That didn't sound like the headstrong, stubborn girl she had known back then. She remained silent, sipping from her coffee.

"Then you come into my life." Carrie smiled softly, curling her legs up under herself. "I knew you were trouble the moment I saw you, when you came up to. You tried to be all suave and confident." She chuckled. "I thought you were a dork."

"A dork!?" Dakota put a hand to her chest, devastated and surprisingly hurt.

"Well," Carrie quickly tried to backpedal. "Okay, not a dork, but you laid in on so thick, and you were so young and you tried so hard-"

"I got the picture."

"Oh, Dakota," Carrie moved closer to the brunette feeling awful. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Hey," she said, trying to cheer up her friend, leaning down to catch blue eyes. "you got me to play that stupid game, didn't you?" At the nod she got, Carrie smiled. "I couldn't resist you." The blonde's shrug was as nonchalant and forward as her answer. "I didn't know how to handle it, or the ramifications of my dad found out. But when we got home after camp, I couldn't stop thinking about you, and was curious. I knew you'd be more than willing to help me out, so," she shrugged again, letting her words trail off, any further explanation unnecessary.

They were both silent, an uncomfortable silence filling the living room. It was mercifully interrupted by a soft beeping from the kitchen. Dakota looked to the blonde for explanation.

"Grandpa's meds. The doctor has started him on a morphine shot." Carrie ran her hands through her hair as she stood.

"Do you need any help?" the brunette asked, standing also, hands stuffed into the back pockets of her jeans.

"No, thank you, Dakota. It's late. Go get some sleep." She smiled softly, squeezing the brunette's arm.

"Okay. Call if you need anything, 'kay?"

"Okay." Carrie gave it a short contemplation, then walked over to the brunette and enveloped her in a tight hug. She smiled when she felt strong arms pull her in close. Carrie fought the urge to sigh; it felt so good to be held. She stepped back when she felt the embrace coming to an end.

"Goodnight, Carrie. Thanks for kicking my ass at pool." Dakota smirked.

"Any time," the blonde laughed, walking the driver to the door. She watched as Dakota zipped up her heavy leather jacket and wiggled her full-face helmet in place. With a wave of a gloved hand, the brunette and her Harley disappeared in still-dark early morning. Green eyes glanced over to the small apartment above the garage. With a heavy sigh, she headed back into the main house, preparing the syringe for her grandfather's morphine.

The apartment was dark, only the soft murmurings on the news radio station that Bradley Hicks constantly listened to. The blonde wandered through the apartment, expertly walking around familiar furniture, painted in shadow, following the voice of Dick Cantrell talking about President Bush and his 'religious rite', soon a caller joining the radio personality.

She ignored the thread of their discussion, which normally would have interested her, but right now she had to hold herself together, and give her beloved grandfather a temporary peace from the pain that flowed through his body.

"Hey, sweetheart," a soft, yet thin voice said from the darkness.

"Hi, Grandpa. Why are you awake?" Carrie turned the bedside lamp on, almost wishing she hadn't. Her grandfather looked so small tucked into his bed, his green eyes, once so much like her own, now tired and watery, blinking at the sudden light. "I'm sorry, Grandpa. I have to be able to see."

"I know." He smiled, lips paper thin. He watched as his granddaughter sat on the side of the bed he'd shared with his wife for forty-three years before she was taken. He couldn't wait to join her, and he knew it was coming. Bradley looked away as Carrie gently stuck him with the needle, a soft apology carried across to his ears- about the only thing that still worked.

Carrie removed the needle, tossing it in the bag the doctor gave her for safe keeping of the sharp objects.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, looking once more down at the pale face of the only family member she had left, who she knew loved her fully. Years ago she had come to the painful conclusion that her father loved the idea of his children, rather than the actual flesh and blood creations. It had hurt worse than anything she could imagine. She had once had such a deep respect for him, thinking in her young, naïve mind that God, Himself, had blessed Pastor Bill, had made him special and good- a loving father and husband, and wonderful man. It had been a sad, sad day when her childish dreams and illusions had been shattered that day in the field with Dakota. She had seen him for the judgmental monster he was. He was only the loving father when his kids followed he path he set for them. That wasn't love, that was cold pride. She was pulled from painful memory.

"I'm sorry you had to cut your evening short because of me, Carrie."

"Don't worry about it, Grandpa. I shouldn't have left you in the first place."

"Nonsense!" A rare fire burned in Bradley's eyes. "You're a young woman still, and need to have some fun and some friends. I'm not going to let you throw your life away taking care of me like you did with your grandma." He took his granddaughter's hand in his, using his other to raise the beautiful young woman's chin so she'd meet his gaze. "Honey, you're far too young to be this way. Please don't throw your life away for a no good cause."

"Grandpa, you're not a 'no good cause'." Carrie was trying her best to keep her emotions locked inside. Spending time with Dakota had shown her just how lonely she really was, and it hurt.

"It's hard to watch you throwing your life away, Carrie. Your grandma used to wish you'd go out there and meet someone to make you happy." He reached up and cupped the blonde's cheek with a sandpapery palm. "Those eyes don't shine no more."

Carrie looked down, ashamed that her grandfather had been able to see her unhappiness. She always worried he'd take it personally, think that taking care of him is what made her so sad. The truth was, she'd been using him as an excuse to not have to deal with what she knew deep inside. And, perhaps she'd worried that he and grandma would reject her, too.

"I'm okay, Grandpa," she finally said, covering his hand with her own, and resting them in her lap.

Bradley knew better than to argue with the stubborn woman, but felt better knowing that he'd finally said what he'd been meaning to for so long. He nodded, not satisfied, but content that his concerns were out there for the blonde to chew on.

"Now, let me get some sleep."


Carrie took a walk around her house, deciding to take a break from the article she was trying to write, without much success. Her pad filled with notes and research sat uselessly on her desk, green eyes staring blankly at the screen before her, nothing more than her by-line written.

She tried to force her decidedly melancholy thoughts from her mind as blue eyes wandered before her mind's eye. She wondered if Dakota were working, and if not, what was she doing? What did she do with her off time, other than play pool and shop in the middle of the night. Did she have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? The blonde smirked at that last thought. Not likely.

She wondered if the bus driver would maybe want to go see a movie or something. She knew her grandfather was right- she needed to get herself a life outside of work and caring for him. Maybe that's why she ran into Dakota when she did- it was time to get her life back.


Dakota sat out on her balcony, feet propped up on the railing. She sipped from her bottle of sprite, staring off into the spreading colors of sunset. She made herself leave her laptop turned off, television dark and quiet. She needed to start seeing the life around her, stopping to smell the flowers, as it were. She hated flowers.

What the hell good was the beautiful colors, the wonderful sounds and scents if there was no one to share them with? This thought shocked her to no end. Dakota had never been one to think in pairs. For her, especially after her heart had been ripped out, one plus one equaled one, not two. She was on her own, and was happy that way. She had never needed someone to create an identity for her, and could enjoy life just fine, just her and her bike. She had definitely become a cliché, and she didn't care.

Hating her morose thoughts and somber mood, Dakota's boots hit the wooden floor of the balcony with a hollow thud, then she pushed to her feet to head back inside. Screw this nature crap. She wondered what was on TV. Reaching down to grab the remote, the brunette glanced over her shoulder, trying to figure out where her phone was chirping from. Catching sight of it on the breakfast bar, she snatched it up, surprised to see the new number in the display.


"Hi. How are you?" Carrie asked, watching as the sun slowly began to slip beneath the horizon.

"I'm good. You?" Dakota found herself heading back outside, hitting the power off button on the TV as she went.

"I'm good. Enjoying the gorgeous evening."

Dakota smiled. "Me, too. Nice breeze."

"Yeah. I love sun sets. I don't get out here nearly often enough to watch them, though, you know?" The blonde gently pushed against the floor of the large front porch, the glider squeaking slightly as it began to move.

"I know exactly what you mean. I was actually thinking that myself earlier. Wow," she breathed, "look at those colors."

"Lots of pink and orange."

"Yeah." They remained silent at the spectacular sight before them, each lost in her own thoughts of nature's wonder. "Where are you at?"

"Sitting on my front porch, a glass of lemonade in my hand. You?"

"Balcony. Sprite."

Carrie smiled, getting a good visual. She'd never seen the brunette's place, but you've seen one balcony, you've seen them all. "There it goes," she said, her voice soft as the day slowly died.


"That was really great."

"I've always loved this time of day- not really day anymore, but not quite night time, either. It's like that one moment when nature can't quite seem to make up its mind."

Carrie smiled, nodding. "You're right. Never really thought of twilight like that before. Well done."

"Yay! I did good." Dakota grinned at the chuckle she heard over the line. "How's your grandpa?" she asked at length. She heard the tired sigh on the other end of the line.

"Okay, I guess. We're on the countdown, according to his doctors, and I'd have to agree. I see it every day, him slipping away." Carrie reached up, swiping at a sudden tear. She smiled at the genuine sympathy the brunette offered. "Thank you. Listen, do you mind if we talk about something else?" Carrie asked gently. "I kinda need a break."

"Of course. Lead on."

"How was your day?"

"It was good. Almost hit a kid." Dakota chuckled at the memory. "The stupid kid was so flustered that he fell flat on his ass in the middle of the street, then stumbled over the curb to the sidewalk." Carrie laughed loud and long across the distance.

"Oh, that's priceless. How old?"

"Eh, I'd say maybe sixteen. To make it worse, a group of teenage girls were standing on the corner, laughing their asses off at him. I think the kid is scarred for life."

"No doubt!" Carrie sipped from her lemonade, still chuckling. It felt good to laugh; she hadn't done much of that since returning home from the ER a week ago. "I'd love to ride shotgun on your route one day, just watching the people and the crap that they do."

"You should. It's hilarious. I've gotten pretty numb against a lot of it now, so it takes something pretty great, like that kid today, to get to me now. But I bet you'd love it." Dakota took a swig of her drink, the bubble burning her throat. "How about you? Win any Nobel Prizes today?"

"Any day."

"Oh, good."

Carrie smiled, pushing up from her seat and walking around her large front yard, the breeze blowing her bangs out of her eyes. She needed a trim.

"What did you want to do when you were a kid? Other than be a car thief, that is."

Dakota grinned at the reference. "I really didn't know. I wasn't good at anything other than causing trouble. I thought about going into the military at one point." She shrugged, then realized the blonde couldn't see it. "But then I realized I'd have to follow the rules, so there went that idea. There was a counselor in juvey that I always looked up to, and for awhile, I thought about following in her footsteps. Didn't happen. Did you always want to be a writer?"

"I don't know about the writer part of it, like I'm not real keen on novel writing or anything, but I always was interested in journalism. I was always far too curious about everything for my own good, and always found myself digging way too deep." She laughed at memories.

"Good for you, then. Going after your passion."

"Thank you." Carrie pulled a small group of weeds she'd missed while doing yard work over the weekend. Tossing them aside, she looked over her yard, satisfied. It looked beautiful. When she'd bought the place, the yard was starting to fall apart, the previous owner too busy to work at it. She'd spent a lot of time brining it back to its former glory. "What about now? Plan to retire from driving a bus?"

Dakota chuckled. "I have no idea. It works for now, you know?"

"Yep, I do." She walked back toward the house. "So what are you up to now?"

"Talking to you and contemplating what I want for dinner."

"Ohhh, what'cha got in mind?" Deciding that she, too could eat, Carrie headed to the kitchen.

"Well," Dakota said, heading into her apartment and yanking open her fridge. Ducking to look inside as cold air assaulted her face, she chewed on her bottom lip. "Sparse pickings. Guess I'll have to actually cook."

"Oh, the horror."

"I know it." Butting the door closed, the brunette turned to her cabinets. "What are you doing?"

"Well," Carrie said absently as she read the back of a gravy packet, "I'm going to make some mashed potatoes and gravy, I think."

"Do you like lumps in your mashed potatoes?" Dakota asked as she took out some hamburger, sticking it in the microwave to thaw a bit so it wouldn't take three hours just to brown it.


"Yeah, you know, like country-style."

"Yeah, I guess so." Carrie measured the right amount of flakes into a glass measuring cup then tossed them into the sauce pan she's placed on a burner, next to the smaller one she planned to use for gravy. "Do you like to cook?"


"No, lie to me."

Dakota grinned. "Yes, I do. I don't do it often, you know, kinda sucks for one person, but once in awhile."

"Are you cooking now?" Carrie asked, holding the phone between her ear and shoulder as she add milk and water to her pan, reaching over to turn the burner on.

"Yeah. I'm going to make some meatloaf. That way I'll have dinner for a few days." Dakota took the bowl out of the microwave, hissing as the hot cellophane-covered meat burned her fingertips. She quickly tore into the cellophane and dumped the pound of meat into the skillet she'd set on the stove. "Do you?"

"Sometimes. I don't really like to, though I do like to bake."

"Ohhh, I'll make dinner and you bring dessert."

"You got it." Carrie grinned, beginning to stir her gravy as it began to boil….

Three hours later…

"Everything okay?" Dakota asked, once again batting at the string that would draw the blinds on her bedroom window.

"Yeah. I got my phone plugged into the charger. How is yours holding up?"

"Fine. Good thing I kept my old phone so my other one can charge." The brunette grinned, hearing an answering chuckle.

"Alright. So, you're serious? The most romantic thing you've ever gotten from a girlfriend for Valentine's Day was a frying pan?" Carrie was incredulous as she slapped at a few bubbles in her bath.

Dakota laughed. "Hey, it's a really nice frying pan. I've got a theory about this," she heard the blonde groan.

"You and your theories."

"I know. I've got one for everything. Anyway, my theory is you know you're really young when you get more excited about the wrapping paper than what's inside, and you know you're getting old when you're excited by socks."

Carrie threw her head back, her laughter echoing through the tiled chamber surrounding the tub. "Oh, that is classic! I love it."

"It's true!"

"Sadly you're right. It is true."

"Okay, you're turn. Most romantic gift."

"Alright, but it wasn't for Valentine's Day, it was for my birthday."

"Okay. Shoot." Dakota stared up at her dark ceiling, wiggling her sock covered toes as she listened.

"I was dating a lawyer for a little while. Mason. Strange man. Anyway, he took me to the Bahamas for three days."

"For your birthday?!" Dakota sprang up from the bed, curling her legs under her. Silence, then a very soft,


The brunette whistled through her teeth. "Damn. Certainly makes what I've done look like a Charlie Brown Valentine's Day or birthday."

Carrie smiled, slipping further under the hot, bubble-laden water. "Well, trust me, I spent more of my weekend trying to dodge the marriage bullet than having fun."

"Did he ask?"

"He started to a few times, but I always managed to get him on another subject, or distract him."

"Why wouldn't you marry him?"

"Because we'd been dating for two months!"

"Oh, come on- if you two were lesbians you would have been celebrating your golden anniversary by then." Dakota was charmed to the soles of her feet when she heard Carrie's giggle.

"Are women really like that? I mean, I've heard all the U-Haul jokes and everything." The blonde switched the phone to her other hand.

"Nah, well, some are, yeah. We do definitely bond quicker, and far deeper than men and women, so lesbians avoid a lot of the game playing. If men and women didn't play so many games, they'd hook up just as fast."

"So three years, huh? That's your longest?"

"Yes. You?"

"Not three years." Carrie laughed, splashing at a clump of bubbles and watching them pop.

"So how long?"

"Seven months."

"Hmm," Dakota's brows drew. "I'm thinking maybe you're a gay man in a woman's body." Again Carrie giggled, and the brunette was charmed. She realized that she knew ore about Carrie in a three and a half hour conversation than she had about Theresa after two months of dating. "So tell me what was so wrong with the men you dated, then? Why weren't your string of Prince Charmings' so charming?" Dakota asked, flopping back down onto her mattress.

Carrie thought about the question for a moment then decided to give a half-truth. "Well," she began, pulling the plug from the tub, "I don't know. Something was just missing, I guess." Please don't ask what.

Dakota got the distinct feeling that this was a sore subject for the blonde. "Oh." She rolled off the bed, balancing the tiny flip phone between her shoulder and ear as she unbuttoned her jeans and let then slide down her legs, stepping out of them to leave a puddle of denim next to the bed. She quickly yanked her shirt over her head before reaching behind herself to unsnap her bra. "What was that?" she asked, having heard Carrie say something when she'd taken the phone from her ear to undress.

"I asked what you would give up for love," Carrie said, gingerly stepping out of the tub. She hurriedly swathed her chilled body in her robe, unplugging her phone from the wall as she padded to her bedroom, re-plugging it in next to her bed.


"What would you not give up for love?"

"My self-identity."

Carrie thought about that for a moment as she eased down onto her bed. "You know, I think that's what went wrong," she said softly. "I wasn't being true to myself, or being myself with them."

The admission was so soft, so achingly sad, Dakota couldn't bring herself to ask for clarification. Instead she climbed under her covers, resting on her side. "What about you?"

"What would I give for love?" At the affirmative response, the blonde hummed, thinking. "I guess anything, except my grandfather. If someone wanted me to turn my back on taking care of him," she let the statement trail off.

"Then they wouldn't be worthy of having you," the brunette finished.

"That's sweet, but yeah. Guess so. And as for what I wouldn't give up for love, myself. Take me as I am or keep walking."

Dakota smiled at that, wanting to say so much, but deciding against it, as she wasn't sure how innocent her comments and thoughts were. She felt there were some things best left unsaid….

Two hours later…

Carrie squeezed her eyes shut then opened them wide, hoping that would help the burning- it didn't. She was exhausted, but didn't want to hang up just yet. They were in another pocket of silence, which were starting to come more frequently as they both got more tired. The blonde was surprised that the silence wasn't uncomfortable at all; on the contrary. She could almost feel Dakota lying next to her, both staring up at the ceiling, lost in their own thoughts, just being together.

"Shit," Dakota said, her voice soft and somewhat thick from sleepiness.


"My phone's beeping at me again. Battery is about to die."

Carrie sighed, turning over to her back and running a hand through her hair. "Guess the phone is trying to tell us something, huh?"

"Yeah, that the battery sucks." Dakota smiled at the blonde's chuckle.

"Goodnight, Dakota. I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to you for," she glanced at the alarm clock on the dresser across from the bed, "almost eight hours."

"Damn. It's been that long? Can you hang for another four and we can end with the sun rise?"

Carrie laughed. "Go to sleep, you goof."

Dakota smiled, loathe to hang up but knew she had to. "Sleep well, Carrie. I'll talk to you later."

"Sweet dreams, Dakota."

The brunette felt an acute sense of loss as she took the phone from her hear, suddenly the silence utterly deafening. She tossed the small phone to the floor and rolled over onto her back, her mind whirring with everything they'd talked about, everything she'd learned about the blonde. Everything.

Carrie almost felt like crying as she studied the slanted patchwork of moonlight reflected on her wall through the blinds. She felt so alone as she lay in her king sized bed, feeling engulfed by the space. Dakota's soft, low voice had kept her warm company for an entire work shift, tickling her ear with her thoughts and experiences, making the blonde laugh more times than she could count. She'd been her friend and companion for the night, and now she was gone.

The blonde turned to her side, curling up with the pillow hugged to her chest. She was so lonely.


"Fenway and Houston," Dakota called out, pulling the doors open and waiting for passengers to gather they're stuff and step off the bus. She glanced into the long rearview mirror when she heard some slightly raised voices. She saw a young black man sitting in a seat, looking up at two Hispanic teenage boys. The two standing were trying to taunt him.

The bus driver unbuckled herself and headed down the center aisle to where the trio began to raise their voices, other passengers beginning to move away from them.

"Okay, boys, break it up," she said, looking from one to the other of the standing boys.

"Fuck you, bitch!" one of them said, looking her up and down with not-so-good intent flashing in dark eyes.

Oh boy. "Look, you cannot get on my bus and cause trouble. Either you guys settle down or you're going to get off."

"You want some of this, bitch?" the louder of the two standing boys demanded, a round of gasps as he pulled a handgun from the waistband of his sagging pants, his long football jersey having covered it.

Dakota's eyes widened to the size of saucers as she eyed the semi-automatic, waved carelessly in his hand.

"Leonard, don't be stupid, man," the other Hispanic boy muttered.

"No. Mind your own business, bitch," the boy said, shoving the gun in the brunette's face. She felt herself almost going cross-eyed as she stared down the barrel, her body beginning to tremble, sweat gathering in rivers under her arms and making her scalp itch.

"Listen, buddy," she said, her voice soft and remarkably calm. "There's no need for this, huh? Put the gun down and let's talk about this calmly, okay?"

Dakota was thrown back as the gun smacked her under the chin. Her hand came up to the wound, covered in blood. Startled eyes took in the gunman lying on the dirty floor of the bus, three passengers lying on top of him.

"Get off me, fuckers!" he yelled. The bus driver noticed that the gun had been knocked from his hand when he was tackled, the weapon sliding along the ribbed flooring to come to rest against the leg of a seat. Dakota got to her feet, ignoring the searing burn in her chin and jaw as she grabbed the gun, quickly dislodging the magazine. Within moments the sirens of police cars split the morning air.

Dakota was truly shaken as she stood on the sidewalk giving her report to one of Seattle's finest. His pen scribbled furiously across the page as she recounted the ordeal.

"Alright, thank you, Miss Shepard. The medic will see about your chin now." The young officer nodded once, then walked away, leaving a stunned and still hurting, Dakota to stare after him.

"Mind if I look at that chin now?"

The brunette turned to see a paramedic with twinkling brown eyes looking up at her. She smiled faintly and nodded. Led to the ambulance, Dakota sat just inside the open doors, allowing the woman with short brown hair to clean out her wound.

"You know, the other night when you said you dealt with some crazy people, I didn't think you meant it literally."

Dakota glanced up, trying not to move her head as the woman cleaned her up. She was shocked to see Carrie standing next to the open door of the emergency vehicle, arms crossed over her chest.

"Yeah, well, driving a bus is a safety hazard."

"So I gather." The blonde stepped closer, putting a hand on Dakota's shoulder. "Are you okay?" she asked, voice soft and very serious.

"I think I'll live, right, doc?" she glanced at the paramedic, who chuckled.

"Yes, but with a headache, I'm afraid," she said.

Dakota glanced back up at her friend. "Yes, but with a headache. What are you doing here?"

"Believe it or not, I was going to take your advice and ride the rails, as it were, for a bit."

"Get some ideas for stories? Maybe a book, starring yours truly?"

Carrie smiled, shaking her head. "I don't do fiction."

"Why not? Writing is writing, isn't it?" Dakota hissed as her wound was lathered in a cleaning agent that stung even worse than the cut itself.

"Hardly," Carrie laughed. "A novel from me would turn out sounding like a news cast. I don't do creative writing all that well." She watched for a moment, the paramedic attaching a butterfly bandage. "So do you have to go back to work now?" The brunette shook her head.

"Boss is sending out a replacement driver. I have to go down to the garage and fill out paperwork."

"Oh, fun for the whole family!"

"You know it. Wanna tag along?"

"Sure." Carrie stepped out of the way as the pretty paramedic finished up, giving Dakota instructions on how to clean out her injury, then sent her off with a pat on the arm. The writer walked along side Dakota, hands stuffed in her pockets as she led them toward her Lincoln, parked in the parking lot of a Denny's. She glanced up at her friend from time to time, not sure what to say.

Dakota for her part was still trying to reconcile what had happened. An hour ago she had been driving along her route like normal, calling out stops as she went. She had seen the young black man step on, and though she'd not seen him before, he had been no trouble, just sitting in his seat and staring at the passing scenery. The two Hispanic boys had gotten on a stop before the current one, neither saying or doing anything until she'd stopped.

The cops said they figured it was probably a gang-related dispute, and that Dakota had gotten lucky, especially since the kid with the gun had been higher than a kite on what the police speculated to be meth.

"Are you okay?" the blonde's voice was soft, filled with concern and caring understanding. She met tortured blue eyes who looked into her own. Putting a hand on Dakota's arm to stop her, Carrie brought her arms up around the brunette's neck, pulling her into a much-needed hug. Dakota gave into the comfort, resting her head on the blonde's shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to get the image of that seemingly endless black hole of the gun barrel out of her mind. She knew she would be haunted by that for a long, long time.

"I really thought that was it," she whispered, sighing as she felt fingers begin to run through her hair. "I thought that stupid kid was going to shoot me right in the face. He probably would have if those guys hadn't tackled him."

"I'm so sorry, Dakota," Carrie whispered, trying to block out pictures of Dakota lying there on the bus floor, a bloody mess where her beautiful face had been.

"So scared."

"I know." Carrie was surprised to feel the soft shaking of the brunette's shoulders as Dakota's adrenaline and shock turned to fear of what could have happened.

They stood on the edge of the Denny's parking lot for what seemed an hour, the warm sun shining down on them. Finally the driver raised her head, bringing up a hand to swipe at her tear-streaked face. She was able to meet Carrie's eyes after a few moments of deep breaths.

Carrie smiled up at her, bringing both her hands up to gently cup the brunette's face, wiping more moisture away with her thumbs. She stared into Dakota's gaze, finding herself becoming lost. One of her hands slid around to the back of the brunette's neck, gently tugging until she saw Dakota's face coming closer.

The brunette's breath caught as she felt herself being brought closer to those gorgeous eyes and full lips. Her eyes instinctively closed as she felt Carrie's breath upon her face, then a moment later the softest lips she'd ever felt resting lightly against her own. The lips returned, pressing with a bit more pressure.

Carrie's thumb gently caressed Dakota's cheek as she titled her head just slightly, just enough so their lips fit together even better, Dakota's full bottom lip slipping between her own. Inside her head a voice screamed at her to stop, to pull away, to not do this again, but as she felt warm hands make their way to her waist, then slide around to her back as the blonde's body was gently pulled in until her breasts were lightly touching the brunette, she knew she couldn't pull away.

Dakota sighed as she felt Carrie's warmth, her lips moving so easily against the blonde's. Just beginning to settle into the kiss, Carrie pulled away, her forehead resting against Dakota's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," the blonde whispered, taking several deep breaths to get herself under control. At the first, tentative touch of the brunette's tongue against her own, she was drawn back to reality with a loud crash. Looking up into slightly confused blue eyes, she shook her head. "I shouldn't have done that, Dakota. I'm sorry."

Dakota tried to give the blonde her best smile. It wasn't like Carrie had promised her anything. It happened, and it wasn't a big deal. "It's okay. I kinda got carried away, too."

Carrie nodded, not believing the brunette for a moment. Her first instinct was to run and run far, but she felt Dakota's need for her after what had happened. She pushed her embarrassment and confusion down, ignoring it for later inspection as she stepped out of the bus driver's personal space, and led her toward her black Lincoln Navigator.


Carrie had sat quietly as her friend filled out report after report for the incident. Finally she was released and could go home for the day. Quietly they walked to the employee parking garage above the bus terminal. Standing next to the Harley, Dakota wasn't sure what to say, the kiss still very vivid in her mind. She had no idea what it meant, and was scared to ask.

"Do you think you're okay to drive?" Carrie asked softly, glancing over at the big bike doubtfully. The brunette followed her gaze, then sighed.

"I have to be. Gotta get home."

"I can take you, Dakota. I don't feel real sure about you getting home safely right now. As the brunette met her gaze, green eyes fell to lips that she knew were softer than anything she'd ever pressed hers against. Quickly Carrie looked away.

"I think I'll be okay," the driver said, running a shaky hand through her hair. Her chin was beginning to sting again. In truth, she wasn't entirely sure she could get home on her own, but she had a feeling Carrie was still really uncomfortable from their kiss, and had no desire to make her more so. Besides, she couldn't say that she wouldn't try and kiss her again if they spent any more time together that day. That would be a huge mistake, her gut told her. She didn't know why the blonde had kissed her in the first place, but she did know that she was very, very addicted even in just that brief moment.

"At least let me follow you home, make sure you get there okay?" Carrie asked, a hand resting on the brunette's arm. She saw Dakota nod, then smiled, pleased. "I'll meet you on the street."

"Hop on. I'll give you a lift to your car," Dakota suggested, nodding toward her bike. The blonde glanced at it, then smiled, though it was weak and somewhat nervous.


The bike roared to life as Carrie settled in behind the brunette, wrapping her arms loosely around her waist. She was surprised by the powerful rumble between her legs as the bike idled. Finally Dakota got them moving, the sound almost deafening in the cement confines of the garage. She had to smile to herself as she realized she wished they could just head on to Dakota's place. She was enjoying riding on the back of the bike, arms wrapped around the brunette's warm body, the air rushing through her hair, making her want to snuggle up closer to Dakota to absorb her warmth.

All too soon the ride was over, and the Harley was idling next to the blonde's Navigator. She climbed off the bike, feeling it come off balance for a moment before Dakota righted it, booted feet resting on the street on either side of the big bike.

"See you at your place," Carrie said, hoping her voice sounded like her own, as it sure didn't in her own head. Dakota said nothing, but nodded. She unhooked her helmet from the side of her bike, tugging it into place as the blonde climbed behind the wheel of her SUV, getting it started and pulled out of her parking space. She waited patiently for Dakota to lead the way.

The entire drive to her apartment Dakota felt her heart pounding, glancing into one of the rear mirrors to see the SUV behind her, or a car or two behind her, but always there. She couldn't help but smile as she thought of the blonde behind the wheel, her lips still tingling.

Carrie followed the black motorcycle to a four-story apartment building made of red brick. Three sides were dotted with small balconies. The blonde smiled when she thought of their phone conversation nearly a week before. Dakota said she was watching the sunset from that balcony. She'd come to think of that sunset as their sunset. What a wonderful night that had been.

Dakota parked her bike in her assigned space, shaking her hair free from her removed helmet. She saw the Lincoln pull up, and walked over to it, Carrie's window buzzing down as she approached.

"Well, this is home," the brunette said, indicating the building who's shadow she stood under. Green eyes gazed up the structure, then turned to meet Dakota's Oakley's-clad eyes. "You wanna come in?"

The writer studied her for a moment, wishing she could see Dakota's eyes, read her thoughts. Finally she nodded, turning off the engine after buzzing her window back into place. Dakota stepped back as the blonde opened the driver's side door, then locked up her car.

"Right this way, m'lady." Dakota led the blonde under a brick archway into an open courtyard, landscaped, but peppered with weeds and minor garbage. They climbed two flights of wrought iron stairs, then stopped in front of a door.

"This must have been a bear to move into," Carrie noted, looking over the walkway they stood on as Dakota unlocked her door. She noticed a cat in a first floor window on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped courtyard.

"Yeah. It was oodles of fun," Dakota remarked dryly, holding the door open for the writer. Carrie stepped inside, noting the kitchen straight ahead, separated from the living room with a breakfast bar, two stools tucked neatly under the backside. The decoration was simple, almost minimalist. "Want something to drink?" Dakota asked, tossing her keys and laying her helmet on the breakfast bar counter and opening her fridge.


"Ice tea?"

"Sounds good." Carrie walked further into the apartment, noting the sliding glass door that shed sunshine into the room. A darkened hallway jutted off to the right, where she assumed led to the bedroom and bathroom. "Thanks," she said softly, taking the glass that was offered.

"Sit down." Dakota felt nervous, alone and in a small, personal space with the blonde. The invite had fallen out of her mouth without her giving it a second thought. As soon as it had been accepted, she had felt her stomach churn and butterflies begin to attack.

Carrie sat on the couch, a couple feet away from the driver, her glass of iced tea cupped between her palms.

"Don't believe in wall decoration?" she asked, glancing around the naked walls. Dakota looked around, then smirked.

"I usually don't stay anywhere long enough to bother. This is home, but doesn't necessarily feel like home, you know?" She met green eyes. Carrie cocked her head slightly to the side.

"Why doesn't it feel like home? The apartment or Seattle?"

"This place, the apartment. No, I like Seattle. I think I'll stick around for a little while. And I don't know," Dakota shrugged, sipping from her drink, which she really didn't want, but it gave her something to do. "Just," she paused again, trying to figure out exactly what she was thinking. She glanced down at the hand that tapped her glass, then began to speak. She decided to be completely honest with the blonde, having the feeling that Carrie would understand. "I've had this feeling, for a long time, that I'm destined for something, to be somewhere, and everything I've been doing, every place I've lived, is just a temporary situation." She met Carrie's eyes, the blonde's unflinching.

"What do you feel you're destined for? Where are you supposed to be?" The writer looked into troubled blue eyes and she could feel the turmoil and confusion inside Dakota.

"I don't know," Dakota said softly, shaking her head. "I just feel like there's some place I'm supposed to be, you know? Yet I have absolutely no clue where that is. I've traveled all over this country, seen so many places and things. Yet," she shrugged, "I can't find it."

"What are you looking for, Dakota?" Carrie felt herself drawn to the brunette once again, wanting to be that anchor that she'd never had, that bit of land that she could swim to.

Dakota was shocked to feel emotion building in her throat, and quickly swallowed it down with another sip of iced tea. Suddenly she felt like all her dreams were right in front of her, yet out of reach. Like always. She cleared her throat then managed to meet devastatingly understanding green eyes, making her look away again, or be swept up in them. She needed a hug.

"Honestly?" She briefly met Carrie's eyes again. "I want to feel like I belong."

Carrie felt her heart break. She set her iced tea aside, then reached for Dakota's, setting it on the coffee table next to hers.

"Come here, Dakota," she whispered, opening her arms. The brunette hesitated for just a moment, but then scooted across the expanse between them, and found herself engulfed in the most soothing embrace she'd ever known. She tucked her head against the blonde's shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around Carrie's back. She felt soft fingers running through her hair, a warm hand rubbing soothing circles across her back. "It's been rough for you, hasn't it?" Carrie murmured, resting her cheek against soft, brown hair.

"I'm okay," Dakota said into the warmth of the blonde's neck. "I don't want you to think I'm some sort of ridiculously sad, melancholy wretch."

Carrie smiled, lightly shaking her head. "I don't think that. I think you're a remarkably strong woman."

Dakota sighed, feeling so safe. "Don't know about that. We all have our crosses to bear. Sometimes I really hate myself for feeling this way."

"Why?" Carrie readjusted her seat, leaning back slightly into the crook of the arm and back of the couch, taking Dakota with her until the brunette was tucked into her.

"Well, I'm in my thirties now, for crying out loud. Shouldn't I have a house and white picket fence? A dog named Rover and membership to the PTA?"

Carrie chuckled, placing a soft kiss to the top of Dakota's head. She rested her cheek against the soft hair again, her fingers beginning to massage the skin at the back of the brunette's neck. She smiled when she heard the soft groan of pleasure. "Not everyone is cut out for that, Dakota. You've never been a cookie cutter, and I think it would be far sadder if you became one now."

Dakota smiled, eyes opening to see the up close and personal view of Carrie's throat. She wanted so badly to place her lips against the warm skin, taste its saltiness. She resisted, but just barely.

"You have that."

"I don't have a dog named Rover." Carrie smiled at Dakota's chuckle. "I may own a home, and even do have a picket fence, though it's not white, that doesn't mean anything. It doesn't matter if you don't have anyone to share it with."

"Do you want that? Someone to share it all with?" Dakota readjusted her head, moving until her head lay upon Carrie's upper chest. She could feel the strong, solid heartbeat under her ear. She watched her hand as it played with the material of the blonde's shirt hem, wrapping the soft cotton around her fingers before letting it go only to start again.

Carrie thought about that for a moment, wondering just exactly what she did want. She had basically let that thread of thought and want go, once her grandmother got sick. And now that her grandfather was at death's door, she had no time or energy to focus on herself. Her thoughts returned to the woman lying against her when she heard Dakota's soft, contented sigh. Carrie wrapped her arms around her tighter, her heart rate picking up when Dakota's fingers innocently grazed the skin of her side as the long fingers played with her shirt.

Clearing her throat, she answered the driver's question. "Yeah, I do."

"Have you ever had that?"

"No, not really. I dated off and on, but never anything substantial. I've never lived with anyone, and certainly never had anyone move in with me."

"Why not?" Dakota asked, lifting her head slightly, just enough to see the slight action of Carrie's throat as the blonde swallowed. She was mesmerized by the motion.

Because I couldn't be true to myself. "I never found the right person, I was busy with work, busy with my grandparents… You can pick the excuse." Carrie's eyes slid closed as she felt warm breath against her neck. Her hand, which had been massaging Dakota's neck, began to slow, the massage morphing into a caress.

Dakota could hear the blonde's heartbeat pick up, the beat strong and quick, as well as her breathing changed, ever so slightly.

Carrie continued speaking, trying to get her body to calm as she concentrated on her words. "My grandfather used to give me a hard time about it. Still does, really. He says I'm not living, only existing."

"Are you?" Dakota asked, her face moving closer to the blonde's neck, eyes closing as she inhaled the scent of lotion, vague perfume and the musk that was Carrie's skin.

"No," Carrie breathed with a small gasp when she felt the barest touch of lips against her neck.

"Why not?" Dakota whispered, her words stirring the miniscule hairs on the blonde's skin, forcing a slight shiver through Carrie's body.

"I-" Carrie swallowed, her head lulling slightly to the side as the lips ran a hot trail up to her ear. "I don't know. Guess… I guess it just wasn't right."

"What wasn't right?" the brunette asked, her hand slipping just under the hem of Carrie's shirt, where moments before her fingers had played. She felt the hot skin of the blonde's side against her hand, which made her sigh into Carrie's neck. She felt the hand that had been at the back of her neck work its way into her hair, cupping the back of her head, holding her in place.

Carrie tried to keep up with her thoughts and the question that had been posed. She whimpered softly as her earlobe was laved by a hot tongue. "The person," she gasped.

Dakota couldn't hold back now. With a gentle tug, she pulled Carrie down so the blonde was lying on the cushions, looking up at the driver. Dakota met her gaze, their heaving breasts a hair apart. Holding herself up on her arms, the brunette studied Carrie's face, saw the darkening of her green eyes and flushed features.

Carrie was breathing heavily as she looked up into Dakota's face, her body buzzing. The brunette's body was between her legs, holding herself up slightly on hands and knees. Making a decision that required no thought, the writer reached up, grabbing her friend around the neck, and pulling her down.

Dakota groaned loudly as she lay atop the woman that she had been drawn to since the day she'd met her. She felt Carrie's strong legs wrap around her, bringing their bodies flush. The feel of Carrie's breasts against her own, the heat of her sex nearly burning Dakota, even through the layers of denim and cotton of their pants. She was on fire.

Carrie's mouth opened immediately when she felt Dakota's lips on hers, accepting the brunette's tongue as it caressed her own. She brought a hand down, grasping a fistful of Dakota's shirt, desperate to have this woman as close to her as possible.

"I want you so bad," Dakota whimpered, leaving the blonde's mouth to once again find Carrie's throat. She nipped and licked, feeling the blonde's hips begin to move against her. She responded, pressing against the blonde, using the seam of Carrie's jeans to her advantage as she heard the writer moan. She could think of nothing but giving the blonde pleasure as she raised herself to her hands once more, looking down at Carrie's face- eyes closed, mouth slightly open as she moaned. Dakota thrust against her, rubbing against Carrie's sex.

"Oh god, Dakota," Carrie whimpered, her hands running down the brunette's back until she clasped her ass, pulling the driver deeper into her. She couldn't believe wet she was, her clit, slick and engorged, rubbing against her own clothing as Dakota thrust against her. She was overwhelmed by the orgasm that ripped through her, stealing her breath and reason with it.

Dakota laid back against Carrie, her breathing harsh and ragged, watching as the blonde panted, her body still convulsing from her intense climax. She littered the blonde's face and neck with kisses, murmuring endearments and words of beauty. Finally she hugged the smaller woman to her, feeling Carrie wrap her body around her.

Carrie was confused and blissfully aware at just how satisfied she felt in that moment, yet a niggling voice still spoke to her from somewhere inside. She tuned out the words of warning, instead basking in Dakota's presence and kisses, responding to them, and her caresses.

Dakota couldn't believe what they'd done. She didn't regret it, other than that wasn't exactly how she would have wanted their first time to be. She threw those thoughts aside as Carrie began to respond to her kisses, their mouths opening wider as the kisses deepened.

Carrie was pulled violently out of her aroused haze as her cell phone chirped to life. Only her grandfather or his nurse, Nikki called. Dakota felt the sudden and drastic change in Carrie, and lifted to her hands, looking down into her beautiful face.

"I need to answer that. Something could be wrong," Carrie panted, pushing herself up from under Dakota's retreating body. She scrambled to the door, where she'd left her purse, and dug her phone out. "Hello?"

Dakota sat on the couch, doing her best to get her heart rate back under control, as well as her arousal, which was at a dangerous level. She ran a hand through her hair, then took a long drink from her iced tea, hoping the liquid would cool her off a bit. Her attention was snagged by Carrie's tone.

"You're what? Why? Dad, this isn't-"

Dakota felt her blood run cold at the mention of that son of a bitch. She could see Carrie's body grow stiff, the muscles in her jaw working almost nonstop as the blonde held the small cell phone with a vise-like grip.

"Alright. Goodbye." Carrie slapped her phone shut, and fought the urge to throw it, instead letting it sink back into her bag. She took several deep breaths, running shaking hands through her hair. She jumped at the light touch to her shoulder. Turning, she looked up into concerned blue eyes.

"Are you okay?"

Carrie nodded. "My father has decided to bring my mother up to see grandpa."

"Oh." Dakota dropped her hand, feeling unsure and the mention of Pastor Bill's name and presence brought all her old uncertainties and disgusts back. She pushed them aside. "How do you feel about that?"

"I don't want him here, but I can't stop them from coming." Carrie sighed again, feeling angry and confused. "I don't know. There's that part of me that wishes so badly that he'd come here, would be different, you know?" She glanced up into Dakota's eyes. "Maybe be the father I once thought he was."

"Do you think that'll happen?"

"I don't know. I doubt it." Her shoulder drooped, and suddenly all she wanted in the world was a big hug. She turned to the driver and folded herself up against her, smiling when she felt strong arms enfold her.

"I'm sorry, Carrie. Is there anything I can do?"

"No." Carrie pulled away with a heavy sigh. She looked up at the driver. "Dakota, about what just happened-"

"Shh." Dakota silenced the blonde with her fingers on Carrie's lips. "Don't." The brunette smiled, though it was a bit sad. Something inside told her that Carrie was regretting it, and that it had been a mistake. "If you need anything, to talk or any help with your grandpa, let me know. Okay?"

Carrie stared up at her for a moment. Was she being blown off? Looking deeply into Dakota's blue eyes, she thought she saw the tempest that matched her own. The blonde was confused, felt ashamed, yet thoroughly exhilarated. She had no idea which emotion to settle on. She had to know.

"Do you regret it?" she asked, her voice soft, almost a whisper. Dakota was stunned by the question, and nearly stumbled back a step. She saw her friend look down at her hands, unable to meet her gaze.

"No!" the driver exclaimed, shocked that Carrie would think that. "Hey." She reached out, lifting the blonde's chin so she'd look at her. Dakota smiled and shook her head. "No. I don't regret it, but it would kill me if you did, and to be honest, I can't take that kind of rejection from you again."

Carrie was pained by those words. "You can't think that what I did at sixteen I'd do now." It was a statement, her eyes growing hard. Dakota said nothing. "That's not fair, Dakota."

"I like you, Carrie. I do, I can't help that. But-"

"But what? I think it's fairly obvious I like you, too, don't you think?" The writer glared up at her, hands fisted on her hips. When the brunette merely looked away, Carrie grabbed her bag from the floor, hastily digging her keys out. "Forget it."

Dakota stood stupid as the blonde stormed out of her apartment, slamming the door in the process. The crack reverberated through her apartment and head. Shit! Running her hands through her hair, the brunette tried to decide what to do, if there was anything she could do. What the hell was wrong with her? Why had she done that? Why had she stood there like an idiot making Carrie take the brunt for Dakota's intense hatred of Pastor Bill? When they'd been interrupted by his call, all the old feelings had come back, and having no one else around to blame or vent her feelings of ancient hurts on, she had lashed out at the enemies daughter.

"Shit, shit, shit!"


Carrie swiped at a tear as she barreled down the street, surprised that her emotions were so out of sync. She was hurt by Dakota, there was no other way to say it. Why was she still being punished for something she'd done almost twenty years ago? Did Dakota really think she was so perfect as to never had made a mistake before? Or was Carrie to be drawn and quartered for being a confused sixteen year old?

Who was she kidding? She was a confused thirty-four year old.

Pulling into the drive, she parked in front of the closed garage door, glancing sight of her grandfather's covered Model T, his pride and joy. He'd spent fifty years working on that car until it was back to its original, pristine condition. With that thought bringing a brief smile to her face, she headed on up to his small apartment. Nikki had spent the day with him, but Carrie would send her home early. She needed to get her mind on something else for awhile.

"How is he?" she asked, the nurse raising her eyes from the Nora Roberts paperback she was reading.

"Resting right now. I just gave him something to help him sleep. He was in a lot of pain today."

Carrie plopped down on the couch next to the nurse. "Be straight with me, Nikki. How long?"

The nurse stared at the lovely young woman whom she'd gotten to know over the past months since Bradley had taken a drastic turn for the worse. She hated to be honest with the woman, but knew she had to.

"If he has any family in other places, I'd be gathering them."

Carrie nodded, looking down at her clasped hands. She felt the sting of tears. She knew what Nikki would say, but actually hearing the words was a different animal entirely. She took a deep breath, trying to get her emotions under control until she was at least alone. Pushing off on her thighs, she stood.

"You can go on home, Nikki. I'm home for the night."

"Are you sure? I've still got," Nikki glanced at her wrist watch, "two hours until the end of my shift."

"I know." Carrie smiled down at her. "Take the night off and enjoy your family."

Carrie walked to the main house after spending about a half hour with her grandfather. He was deeply asleep, but she sat with him, held his hand and thought back over her day. She wished so badly she had someone to talk to about. She'd even been tempted to talk to Nikki. Still able to smell her earlier arousal, Carrie walked toward her bathroom, shedding her clothes as she went.

Sighing deeply as she slid down into the tub, she rested her head against the back, arms running along the sides of the claw-footed tub. Instantly blue eyes flashed before her mind's eye, and would not leave, no matter hw hard Carrie tried to push them away.

"Damn you, Dakota."

So involved was she in damning the brunette to roast over an everlasting hell fire, Carrie nearly missed the sound of the doorbell.


Climbing out of the tub, she quickly dried off and threw on her robe, then hurried down the stairs. She cursed and hopped on one foot as she jammed her little toe into the corner of a wall.

"Just a minute!" she called out as the doorbell rang again. Hobbling, she reached the door and unbolted it. She could only stare at Dakota who stood on the other side.

"Hi," the brunette said sheepishly, hands stuffed into the pockets of her jeans.

"Hi." After a moment, the blonde realized she was being rude, so pushed open the screen door, allowing Dakota to enter. She followed the blonde into the kitchen in silence, trying not to be a letch and check out the blonde's behind, outlined nicely in the tight robe. She watched as Carrie absently tucked a wet strand of blond hair behind her ear. Carrie walked to the center of the room then turned, facing her visitor. She eyed her with carefully shielded eyes.

"I'm sorry. I was a real ass. Your father calling kind of threw me for a loop, and," Dakota shrugged. "I took it out on you. I'm sorry."

Carrie cocked her head slightly to the side, sizing the brunette up, trying to decide if she felt that explanation was enough. Without a word, she walked over to the coffee pot, starting to make a fresh pot. Dakota was confused. Was she being dismissed? Had she been forgiven?

"Do you have nothing to say?"

"What is there to say? Other than would you like a cup?"

Dakota couldn't believe it. She just stared at the blonde, trying to figure it out. Carrie could see the building confusion and anger in the blue eyes. She walked over to the driver.

"Dakota," she said, her voice soft. "You can't punish me for what happened so long ago. I'm not my father, nor do I condone what he did. You weren't the only one who paid for that, you know."

Dakota nodded, feeling like a schmuck. "I know."

"Yes, I'm shocked by what happened this afternoon, but no, I don't regret it." She smiled. "I don't know what happens to me when I'm around you, but for some reason, I do things that I normally wouldn't." She chuckled sheepishly. "It kind of makes me nervous, to be honest."

"Why?" she asked softly, feeling herself becoming lost in Carrie's eyes.

"Because I can't help myself around you. I don't know," the blonde shook her head, unable to fully understand it herself. "I've never met anyone like you. It's like I lose all inhibitions with you. I can be myself."

"Why only around me?"

"I know you won't judge me," Carrie said simply.

Dakota thought that was terribly sad. "I wouldn't want you any other way."

Carrie smiled, suddenly very tired. "Listen, I'm exhausted and need to be up early to give my grandpa his meds. Can we say goodnight?"

"Yeah." Dakota accepted the hug she was given, holding the blonde close for the few moments she was allowed, then stepped back with a brave smile. "Sleep well. Again, if you need anything…"



Dakota lay in bed, hands tucked behind her head. Her body was buzzing, alive and totally not allowing her to get to sleep. Her chin stung, but even that couldn't keep her mind off of what her body so badly craved. When she'd been at Carrie's house earlier that night, she had wanted so badly to take the blonde upstairs and make love to her. She wanted to show her what her heart was steadily making clear to her.

"God, this sucks," she muttered, bringing a hand down to slip underneath the sheet. Her body had never gotten release that day, yet it had been on sensation overload since the writer had left her apartment. Thinking about the feel of Carrie's body, the taste of her mouth, the way she looked and sounded as she came, all making Dakota pulse more and more. Her fingertips had just inched under the elastic of her panties' waistband when the phone next to her bed shrilled to life.

Yanking her hand back guiltily, Dakota grabbed the handset. "Hello?"

"Dakota?" it was Carrie, and she was crying. "Can you come to Mercy?" Sniffle "It's almost time."

Dakota sat up like a shot, already thinking of what she was going to put on. "I'll be right there."

Carrie was curled up in a hard plastic chair near the main entrance, waiting when Dakota found her. Carrie's eyes were heavy from an hour of crying, the color vibrant from the upset. The automatic doors whooshed open, and the brunette looked around for where the blonde said she'd be waiting.


The driver heard her name, and hurried over to where Carrie was standing, taking her into her arms, holding on as the blonde sagged against her.

"Shh. It's okay. It's all going to be okay," Dakota whispered, cupping the back of Carrie's head as the blonde's face was buried in her neck. "Where is he?"

"In a room in ICU. Come on." The blonde wiped at her eyes, taking Dakota by the hand as she led her to the unit on the second floor. They were relegated to the ICU waiting room as Bradley was stable and visiting hours were long over, though the attending physician promised she could see him if his condition worsened.

"How long have you been here?" Dakota asked, sitting next to the blonde, a comforting arm around her shoulders.

"Just over an hour. I went to give him is two a.m. meds, and he wasn't breathing." Carrie brought a trembling hand to her mouth at the memory. "He'd had a stroke."

"But he's-"

Carrie nodded. "He's alive. For right now. They let me see him briefly, but he wasn't very lucid. I don't think he knew who I was."

Dakota said nothing, just guided the blonde's head to her shoulder. She knew there was no need for platitudes right now.

"You know, there's this part of me that is glad for him, and hopes he goes tonight. He's been so lonely since grandma died."

"How long were they married?" Dakota asked, resting her head against Carrie's.

"A long, long time. Fifty years or so. I really hope I can find that someday. That kind of love and dedication."

Dakota smiled at the thought. "I have no doubt you will, Carrie. I think we all dream of that kind of love."

"Even you?"

"Even me."

"Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it," Carrie said softly, her eyes growing heavy, and the warmth and strength that surrounded her made her feel just comfortable enough to want to sleep.

"Any time."

It wasn't quite two hours later when Dakota opened her eyes, hearing voices in the room. Looking down, she saw that Carrie was fast asleep, having scooted down the row of chairs to stretch out her body, her blonde head lying in the driver's lap. Her hand rested on Carrie's shoulder.

Looking around the waiting room, feeling slightly disoriented, Dakota nearly bolted when she saw who stood by the coffee maker. Carrie's parents had arrived, the blonde having called them after calling Dakota. They had been on a flight, and the blonde was supposed to pick them up at the airport. They'd grabbed a cab, heading to the hospital as soon as they'd settled in their hotel.

Dakota was amazed at just how much Pastor Bill looked the same, though his hair had begun to gray quite a bit. His pasty pale skin was the same, as were the hard eyes that had pinned her to her seat in court when he'd been there to make sure she didn't see the light of day for six months. Those eyes landed on her once again, then moved to take in his daughter's sleeping form before returning to Dakota's face. She saw the moment recognition and shock sparked his blue eyes.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, taking a menacing step toward the row of chairs the two women were using.

"Bill," the blonde woman at his side said, warning in her soft voice. The voices woke Carrie, who looked around, just as disoriented as Dakota had been moments before. She jerked up when she realized her father was glaring down at her.

"When did you guys get here?" she asked around a yawn.

"Soon enough to see who else was here," Bill said, his voice dangerous deep. "You have no place here, sinner."

"Dad, stop it. She's here because I asked her to be."

"When did you get paroled?" the man asked, obvious pleasure in his words.

"You son of a-" Dakota popped up from her seat, only stopping from throttling the bastard by the forceful hand on her chest. She could feel the pulsing of her jaw muscles as she looked down into Carrie's pleading face.

"You have no right being here, Shepard. You have no place here."

"Bill, stop it. That's ancient history."

"History? Did you see how they were laying when we got here?" he roared, pointing to the women standing before him.


"No! You obviously still can't seem to stay away from the Devil's work." He reached out, grabbing Carrie's arm and pulling her back to stand behind him. She tried to move away, but he kept her put. "This is a family matter. My wife's father is about to die. You're not needed nor wanted here." His eyes bore into Dakota's. She was stunned by the pure hatred spewing from his voice. What had she done to warrant that? Especially more than a decade later.

Dakota looked at the family, all three standing before her, all three showing very differing expressions. She studied Carrie's seeing how tortured the woman was, her eyes pleading.

Taking a step back, eyes dropping from Carrie's, Dakota grabbed her jacket and stormed out of the ICU waiting room.

Carrie yanked her arm from her father's iron grip, shooting daggers at him. "What's the matter with you?"

Looking down at his eldest child, Bill ran a hand through thinning hair. "Why was she here? Where did she come from?" he asked, ignoring Carrie's question.

"She's my friend! She's here because I asked her to be. She made it so I didn't have to sit here alone!"

"Maybe if you would have married Eric like you should have, you wouldn't be alone!"

Carrie could only stare up at him, her mother crying softly in the background. "You unimaginable bastard," she whispered, taking steps back from him. She shook her head in disbelief. She was about to run out of the waiting room in search of Dakota when Dr. Epstein walked in, his face grim.

"I think you all should follow me."


Seattle was quiet from up there. The night was cool, rain could be smelled on the breeze. Dakota loved the smell of rain, ozone. She sighed heavily, sitting atop her bike, looking out over the city. She had taken off work for the past two days, jumping on her Harley and riding all over her adopted state. Though she didn't want to admit it to herself, she was looking for somewhere new, somewhere else to settle and start over.

The brunette brought up the beer she'd bought, taking a long draw from it before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Yeah. It was time to move on. Downing the rest of the brew, she tossed the empty bottle to lonely mesh trash can set on the trail, then got her bike started, the sudden illumination of the headlight startling some woodland creature. She got the Harley turned around and headed home for the first time since she'd left Mercy two nights ago.

Tired and wanting to crash in her own bed, Dakota sped through the streets of the lively city, blocking out all the life around her. It didn't matter, she wasn't interested in anything but getting home to bed, and then starting to plan her next move the following day. She liked Washington, but maybe she'd look into Oregon or Idaho. Heck, maybe she'd even go east. She was forever looking for that utopia, the Shangri La.

Dakota felt bitter and cynical as she entered her apartment, picking up the small collection of newspapers and tossing them onto the breakfast bar, along with her helmet and keys. She saw that her cell phone, which she'd left behind, had messages. Toying with the small cell for a moment, she decided she could listen to them later, and walked to her bedroom.


"I appreciate you giving me a place to stay, honey," Carrie's mother, Brenda said, setting her bag down on the bed in the spare bedroom.

"You're always welcome here, Mom." The writer came back from the linen closet in the hall, setting the sheets she'd brought with her on the chair. Taking her mother's bag from the bed, she whipped off the comforter, revealing a bare mattress, and together they dressed the bed.

Brenda was quite for a moment, then looked over at her eldest. "I'm so sorry about what your father said, Carrie. That wasn't right, and it's not right how he's treating that girl."

"No, it isn't right." Carrie met her mother's gaze, her own hard and daring Brenda to say anything disparaging about Dakota. "She doesn't deserve that. She didn't when we were younger, and she sure as hell doesn't now. She's been a good friend to me."

"When did you meet up again?" Brenda asked, shoving a pillow into one of the cases.

"I ran into her initially a couple months ago, but we've been hanging out for the past couple weeks."

Brenda watched her daughter closely, noting the change in her voice, how soft it grew, wistful. She wasn't sure what to make of that. "Life is funny, isn't it? Your father tried so hard to keep you away from her, and now, well, now you're friends." She smiled, somewhat amused by the situation. Yes, she had been bothered by what her husband had told her he'd stumbled upon that summer day, but she'd never agreed with what he'd done. Young girls experimenting was no reason for anyone to be thrown into a center for juvenile delinquents.

"So what are you going to do?" Carrie asked softly. She could see it in her mother's slumped shoulders and dead eyes. She was slowly falling apart before the writer's eyes.

Brenda slowly lowered herself onto the newly made bed, hands tucked into her lap. The events of the last three hours were finally starting to hit her.

"I don't know," she whispered. "Now that dad's gone," her voice cracked, face crumbling. Brenda fell into her daughter's arms as her world collapsed around her feet.

"We'll get through this, Mom. We will." Carrie tried to hold it together, but memories of not only losing her beloved grandfather, but then her mother refusing to go back to the hotel with her father, she felt like her own world was turning upside down. Finally she let her own sadness overtake her, and together, mother and daughter cried in each other's arms.

Carrie lay in bed, staring up at the dark ceiling. She'd tried to call Dakota again, but only got her voicemail, again. She wished so badly the brunette would answer her phone, but it was not to be. She missed Dakota desperately, and wished so badly that she was there to hold the blonde, talk to her. Carrie felt that her life, so carefully sculpted and put together, was falling apart at the seams. She was shocked to learn that her mother had been thinking of leaving her father for years, but had just never had the courage. After seeing his reaction to Dakota's being there at the hospital, Brenda realized she couldn't do it anymore. She was done; her kids were raised and gone, and she had nothing to keep her with him.

Though Carrie wanted nothing to do with her father ever again, it was still devastating to see her parents separating. It was the last tangible link to normalcy, and it had been snipped, like scissors and thread. She had to admit, however, she was grateful for her mother's presence.

The blonde sighed heavily, knowing that sleep would be elusive.


The church was quiet in that strange, mournful way that seemed to always fill the walls, no matter what the occasion was. Today was no different. Carrie stood at the back of the sanctuary, talking to a few of her grandparents' friends, smiling politely and allowing herself to be hugged and kisses peppered on her cheeks. She was pleased by the turnout, the church pews filled. Bradley Hicks had been a well liked and respected man.

She was about to go to her seat at the front of the sanctuary when she spotted someone out of the corner of her eye. Stopping, she slowly turned, meeting guarded blue eyes.

"Dakota," she said, her voice soft and surprised. The brunette walked up to her, looking beautiful in tailored black pants and a blue blouse.

"I'm really sorry about your grandfather, Carrie," the driver said, though kept her distance from the blonde. Carrie wasn't going to allow that. She swept away the distance between them and wrapped her arms around the brunette's neck. Hesitantly arms wrapped around her waist.

"It's so good to see you," the blonde whispered into Dakota's ear. "I've missed you."

Dakota's eyes squeezed shut at the words, her heart, forcibly made cold, began to melt. Carrie pulled away at length, but her hands rested on her friend's shoulders.

"Come sit with us?"

After a moments thought, Dakota shook her head. "I can't, Carrie. This isn't the day for fighting. You don't need that right now, and your father was right- it's not my place-"

"My father isn't here. This isn't the time to talk about this, but trust me when I say, he will never talk to you like that again." Her hand ran down the brunette's arm until she tucked Dakota's hand in her own, gently tugging. "Please?" At Dakota's nod, Carrie led the way up the center aisle of the sanctuary to the front pew, where her mother already waited.

Brenda glanced over, seeing her daughter and Dakota, Carrie holding tightly to the brunette's hand. The elder blonde was surprised to see it, her eyes reaching up to her daughter's. Carrie dared her to say anything. Brenda didn't, instead sliding across the polished wood to make room for their newest arrival.

As the service began, Carrie could feel her heart expanding, the air in her lungs threatening to give way to more tears. It seemed that's all she'd done over the past few days, cried herself to sleep. Her mother was in far too bad a state to make any arrangements for her father's funeral, so it had fallen upon the writer, and she was grateful. It kept her busy and occupied, and she didn't have to think of her loss. She also didn't have to think about Dakota.

Glancing down at their joined hands, which rested on the blonde's thigh, Dakota couldn't help but squeeze slightly, seeing blue eyes turn to her in question. She tried to smile her gratitude for Dakota being there, but fell short. She was so overwhelmingly sad, and felt lost. Dakota seemed to understand that as she squeezed Carrie's hand in return, giving her the softest, sweetest smile the blonde had ever seen.

Dakota had opened the paper that morning, looking for apartment rentals further south, as well as possible jobs, when she'd glanced at the obituaries, and had seen Carrie's name in the surviving family section. Feeling her friend's devastation just through the obit, Dakota knew that no matter what had happened, she had to be there for Carrie on the day of her beloved grandfather's funeral. She had planned to show up, stay through the ceremony then wish Carrie well and be on her way. As she sat next to the blonde, holding her hand, that didn't appear to be the way things would go.

Brenda reached into her pocket, pulling out a Kleenex as her guilt began to consume her once again. As she stared up at the closed casket where her father lie, she realized just how badly she'd screwed up. Bill had never liked the Hicks family, and when they'd moved to Colorado, she'd allowed her relationship with her parents to sour and eventually become nearly nonexistent. When her mother had died a few years ago, she had promised herself that she would get her relationship with her father and daughter back on track. Well, ultimately she'd been weak under the oppressive wishes of her husband- a decision she would regret for the rest of her life.

Glancing over at her eldest daughter, she saw her hand still encased in the hand of the beautiful brunette, and couldn't help to wonder yet again if Bill hadn't been right. He had sworn that Carrie had been overtaken by the Devil, and her eye leaned toward women. He had done everything in his power to keep Carrie away from any girl he viewed as a threat, trying desperately to keep her in the company of nice, devout young men, even going to so far as to try and arrange a marriage with Eric Lillard. Carrie had refused. At the end of that semester, just before Christmas of the year Carrie had been caught with Dakota, the teenager had been shipped off to Prosser, Washington to Brenda's parents.

Though Brenda never believed Carrie was evil or taken over by any such foolery, she was confused and concerned with Carrie's single status. After going through what she had for the past thirty-five years, Brenda understood the urge to remain un-married, but Carrie had never even been in love. Perhaps it was time she and Carrie had a talk to find out what was going on.

Dakota hated funerals. She didn't deal well with death, and was having a hard time for a man she'd never even met. But she could see that Carrie was close to losing it as the ceremony came to a close, the blonde already having given the eulogy, which she'd managed to make it through. But now, sitting there, their fingers entwined, the blonde was falling apart. She let go of Carrie's hand, replacing it with her opposite hand as she wrapped her arm around the blonde's shoulders, drawing her to her side.

Carrie rested her head against Dakota's shoulder, the tears falling freely down her cheeks. She heard soft words whispered to her, and snuggled in closer. She felt her mother take her other hand, and the writer smiled at the older woman, squeezing her own comfort.

Carrie's house was filled with murmuring visitors, most with a plate of food in their hands and quite conversation on their lips. Dakota tried to help the blonde by keeping trash to a minimum and keeping dishes cleared as they emptied. Brenda spoke with several of her father's old friends, people she hadn't seen in years.

As the afternoon wore on, the house began to empty, well-wishers taking their leave. Brenda, Carrie and Dakota cleaned up, though the elder blonde had a hard time taking her eyes off the brunette. She was very curious.

Carrie ran the trash out to the curb, leaving her friend and her mother in the kitchen, one washing, the other drying.

"Dakota, I'd like to apologize for my husband's behavior at the hospital. It was completely uncalled for, and I'm terribly ashamed of him." She glanced at the woman who was currently drying a glass. Dakota nodded, but didn't meet her eyes. "It seems you've become quite a good friend to my daughter, and regardless of the past you two have, I'm grateful to you for that. Carrie is such a loner, I just don't understand it." She sighed, dipping her rag into the warm, soapy water before running it over a casserole dish. "Thank you for that. For bringing her out a bit."

Dakota nodded once more, but looked over at the older woman. "She's a wonderful person, and doesn't deserve to be treated that way. No one does. I don't care how your husband treats me. He doesn't matter to me, but I'm sorry- if I ever see him treat Carrie like that again, I can't guarantee I won't do something about it." She met blue eyes, daring the older woman to say anything. Brenda met the steady gaze, and had no trouble believing Dakota's words.

"I'm glad Carrie has you as a friend. And I wouldn't worry about it- I think Bill has pounded the last nail into his coffin where his daughter is concerned."

"Mom, have you seen the roll of trash bags?" Carrie asked as she walked in through the kitchen door. She stopped short when she saw the look on both women's face. She felt a pang of dread until Dakota smiled at her, melting the blonde's fears.

"I think I put them under the counter, honey," Brenda said, bending down to look in the cabinet, handing the item to her daughter.


Dakota sat on the back porch, the glider she sat upon swinging gently as she stared out into the growing darkness. The screen door squeaked open as Carrie stepped outside, a cup of coffee in her hand.

"Hi," she said, her voice soft in the cool night. The brunette glanced up at her.

"Hey. How are you doing?"

"Tired, but okay. My mom is going to stay up in grandpa's apartment. Go through his things, that sort of thing." The blonde sat next to her friend, running a hand through her hair. "Plus, I think she needs to feel close to him, you know?"

Dakota nodded. "Yeah. I can understand that."

"You were such a comfort today, Dakota. Thank you so much for coming, and for helping out here."

Dakota met Carrie's gaze, seeing just how exhausted the blonde really was. She knew Carrie had put so much time into her grandfather's care, and wondered if she felt lost now.

"You're welcome. I'm glad I came."

"I'm glad you came, too." Carried studied Dakota's face, eyes wandering over her features and hair, then to her lips, and finally back up to her eyes. She reached over, taking the brunette's hand. "It meant so much to me." Dakota nodded, then looked away, gently removing her hand from the blonde's.

"I should go." She was about to stand when a firm hand was placed on her thigh. Looking over at the friend with question in her eyes, she saw an intensity shining in those green eyes that she'd never seen before.

"Please stay," Carrie whispered. She stared into Dakota's soul, beseeching her to stay with her.

"Why?" Dakota asked, her voice so soft, Carrie barely heard her. Carrie looked down at her hands, which were now cupped around her coffee mug. Why indeed.

The blonde stood, walking to the railing where she set her cup. "Dakota, do you think I'm playing games with you?" She looked at the brunette, hugging herself. "Do you really think I'm trying to mess with your head still?"

Dakota studied the blonde for a moment, then shook her head. "No."

"Do you feel what I do? A connection somehow, between us? Is it just me?"

Dakota's heart nearly broke at the confused, small tone of Carrie's voice. She nodded, whispering, "Yes. I feel it, too." She swallowed nervously. "I always have. I told you then, I was drawn to you. Still am."

Carrie let out the breath she'd been holding. "I'm so sorry about the hospital. I wasn't pushing you away, Dakota, nor was I taking my father's side. I didn't know what to do."

"I know. I shouldn't have left."

Carrie walked over to the glider to stand in front of the brunette. She reached a hand out, caressing Dakota's cheek, smiling as the driver leaned into her touch. "Somehow, over the past month, you've come to mean a lot to me, Dakota. I can't get you out of my head."

Dakota looked up into green eyes, becoming dark as the night fell. She reached a hand up, covering that the still caressed her face, entwining their fingers before bringing Carrie's hand to her lips, kissing the back of it. I can't get you out of my heart, Carrie. She got to her feet, standing toe to toe with the blonde.

"Do you have any idea what you give me?" she whispered, bringing her forehead to Carrie's. She felt the blonde shake her head. "Whenever I'm around you, I feel like I've finally found a home. Do you know what I've been doing for the past two days?" Again Carrie shook her head. "Looking for a new place to live, a new city, new job, new life."

"What?!" Carrie looked up at her with panicked eyes.

"Shh." Dakota smiled. "Today showed me that there's no way I can walk away from you, Carrie." She shrugged. "I just can't."

"You better not. I won't let you walk out again, Dakota."

"No need." The brunette cupped the blonde's face, green eyes closing at the touch. "What do you say we go inside? It's getting a bit chilly out here." The brunette was fighting the urge to kiss Carrie senseless, but decided that perhaps they should take things slowly. Besides, the blonde's mother could walk into the house at any time. Carrie took Dakota's hand in her own, kissing the palm before leading her inside, closing the door behind them. Carrie tried to keep her desire in check as she asked the brunette if she wanted some coffee to warm up. At Dakota's nod, she began the simple, mechanic motions. She turned to lean against the counter.

"Grab the sugar out of that cabinet, will you?" she asked, pointing to the cabinet behind her friend. As Dakota turned around, reaching up, the blonde became overwhelmed by her need.

Dakota was stunned and nearly dropped the sugar bowl as she felt warmth suffuse the backside of her body, strong hands gripping her hips as Dakota was pulled back into Carrie's body. The brunette's eyes fell closed as a hot mouth found the side of her neck, those hands beginning to slowly pull her blouse from the waistband of her slacks.

"Oh, Dakota," Carrie moaned, her hands touching the hot flesh of the brunette's stomach. She felt Dakota lean back into her, their bodies flush. She moaned into the warm neck as hands reached around, cupping as much of the blonde's ass as possible.

Dakota quickly turned around in Carrie's embrace, her mouth coming down to claim the blonde's, desperate. Carrie found herself backed up against a wall, Dakota's body pressed against her. She recovered quickly from her surprise, her hands making quick work of the brunette's blouse, fingers rushing to unbutton every button until the shirt fell open, exposing Dakota's bra-clad breasts.

Carrie moaned at the sight, bringing her mouth to the soft skin of her cleavage, inhaling all that was Dakota. The brunette's head fell back as slightly tentative hands cupped her.

"Oh, Carrie, I want you so bad," she whimpered, hand finding the back of the blonde's head, pushing her into her chest.

Carrie's head raised, her mouth finding the driver's. "Yes. I'm yours. Make love to me, Dakota," she said into the kiss.

"Where's your bedroom?"

Reluctantly Carrie let her go, but she finally grabbed her by the hand and rushed through the house, up the stairs, and finally into her bedroom. She found herself flat on her back with a very aroused Dakota atop her.

"I've wanted you since that stupid game, Dakota," Carrie whimpered, thrusting her hands between their bodies, trying desperately to undo the button and zipper of the brunette's pants.

"You're kidding?" Dakota asked, lifting herself slightly to give the blonde room, her mouth attacking the hot flesh of Carrie's throat.

"Ung, god that feels good. No, I'm not kidding." Whimpering in frustration, Carrie pushed Dakota away, the brunette almost falling off the bed. They both chuckled as she gained her footing, tearing her clothes from her body, then working on Carrie's. Both completely naked, Dakota forced herself to slow, wanting to savor every moment.

Carrie pushed herself up to her elbows, eyes taking in all that was Dakota. "My god you are so unbelievably beautiful. I think you'd turn any woman gay."

Dakota snorted, climbing back onto the bed, pushing the blonde back with just her presence. Carrie's eyes closed as she felt Dakota's skin press against hers, like nothing she had ever experienced before. She had never been so aroused, nor had she ever wanted anyone as badly as she wanted Dakota in that moment. She felt a strong thigh slip between her legs, moaning at the contact against her saturated sex.

"You're so wet, baby," Dakota murmured against Carrie's lips, gasping as the blonde's own thigh raised, creating the pressure against her own sex that she needed. After a long, deep, leisurely kiss, Dakota left Carrie's mouth, nibbling and licking a fiery trail across the blonde's jaw and neck, nipping at her throat. Carrie's head arched to give her more access, sighing as she felt Dakota begin to move against her. She buried her hand in the thick, dark hair as Dakota's mouth moved dangerously close to her breast. She couldn't help but raise herself up to meet her, her nipple so hard it felt like it would explode without attention.

"Oh, yes," she moaned, her nipple laved by a hot tongue then encompassed by the brunette's mouth. Carrie moved her own hips, matching Dakota's slow, lazy rhythm. She couldn't believe all the sensations Dakota was causing to rush through her body, from so many points of contact.

"I wanna taste you," Dakota declared, beginning to move her way down the blonde's body. Carrie was nearly overwhelmed by the mere thought of what Dakota was planning to do. She'd never had anyone's mouth on her, yet had always dreamed of it.

Dakota moaned into her explorations of Carrie's body, making herself comfortable between her spread legs, which she gently rested over her shoulders. She inhaled, amazed at how wet Carrie was.

The writer's mouth fell open, eyes rolling back as she felt Dakota's tongue glide through her drenched folds from her opening to her clit, then back again. She moaned into her feats, clutching the blonde's hips and pulling her even closer into her mouth, then reaching up, taking Carrie's hands into her own, resting them on the blonde's stomach.

Carrie was lost in a haze of pure lust and sensation, her head falling to the side, hips beginning to move to the rhythm of Dakota's tongue. She cried out as that tongue entered her, her hips raising higher, wanting the brunette as deeply inside her as possible.

Dakota could tell the blonde was getting close, so she replaced her tongue with her fingers, sucking Carrie's engorged clit into her mouth, feathering her tongue across it. She had to struggle to hold the writer down as her body began to convulse, her voice crying out to echo off the walls of her bedroom.

Carrie's chest heaved as her body exploded, the pleasure so acute it was almost painful. Dimly she was aware of Dakota kissing her way back up her body, then she was engulfed in a warm hug, her face buried in the brunette's neck.

Dakota held her tightly, kissing the top of her head then moving on to her face before capturing the blonde's lips. Carrie kissed her back, still slightly disoriented after the most intense orgasm of her life. Suddenly she was infused with the need to touch Dakota, to be inside her, to claim her.

The brunette yelped as she found herself on her back, a very enthusiastic blonde latching on to just about every square inch of her flesh.

"Oh, Carrie," she hissed as the blonde flicked her nipple with a hot, steady tongue. Carrie moaned as she took as much of Dakota's breast into her mouth, her hand on the move. "Open for me," she whispered, feeling the brunette do her bidding. She slipped her hand between Dakota's thighs, the heat immense. "Oh, baby," Carrie moaned, cupping Dakota's highly sensitive sex. She was astonished by the copious wetness she found there, sliding her fingers through it, finding her way inside with two fingers. "Oh god, yes," Dakota whimpered, raising her hips to take in more of the blonde.

Carrie had to watch, had to see herself giving Dakota such pleasure. She raised her head from the brunette's breast, watching as her hand worked between Dakota's legs, Dakota's hips thrusting with her, constant moaning and panting filling Carrie's ears. Suddenly, the brunette's body grew stiff, her thighs clamping around Carrie's hand. Dakota stopped breathing, her entire being exploding around the wave of pleasure that ripped through her. She felt Carrie gather her against her, Dakota's heavy breaths and whimpers muffled against the blonde's mouth.

Carrie's heart was pounding just as hard as Dakota's, her body convulsing in sympathy at the brunette's intense climax, which she herself had just experienced moments before. Together they calmed, Dakota pulling the writer to lay on top of her, Carrie's head tucked under her chin.

"Truth or dare, Carrie?" Dakota said at length. She heard the blonde chuckle.


"The truth is, I've been in love with you for almost twenty years," the brunette said softly. She watched as Carrie raised her head, looking deeply into her eyes. A slow, contagious smile spread across Carrie's lips.

"I love you, too," she whispered, leaning in to place a soft, comforting kiss to Dakota's lips, then lowered her head again, sighing contentedly. She couldn't keep the goofy smile off her face if she tried.

The End.