Missy's Alternate and Extra Story Bits

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Every so often Missy decides to write a piece of her story or a flashback from the opposite point of view. So, here's where you can find them. We've tried to include the reference to the original viewpoint. If you know of other bits that should be included just let us know. Happy Reading!

Tropical Storm: Space Mountain from Dar's POV
Tropical Storm: The Thai Restaurant from Mari and Duk's POV
Tropical Storm: Morning Coffee from Maria's POV
Tropical Storm: Kerry Stranded and Attacked from Dar's POV
Eye of the Storm: Hospital Explosion from Andy and Ceci's POV
Bound: Aaron and the Stable Scene from Xena's POV
Dark Comes the Morning: They hold hands from Xena's POV
A Lost Day: This takes place during Tropical Storm

Tropical Storm: Space Mountain from Dar's POV
Original story bit - Tropical Storm - Part 6 - Link to MMM Archive

Dar leaned against the railing, folding her arms across her chest as she listened to the conversation around her, while watching Kerry's profile. "So, you like roller coasters, huh?" Kerry's blond head turned and she looked up. "You bet." She craned her neck to peer upwards, as they moved with the slowly advancing line. "Oh."

Above their heads they could just see the dark outlines of tracks, and as they watched, a double car snaked quickly by, accompanied by a set of shrill screams. "Heh." Kerry grinned. "I don't think I've done one in the dark before."

"Really?" Dar murmured. "Life's just full of new experiences today."

Kerry glanced at her, and their eyes met, then the blond woman glanced away, a faint, almost puzzled smile on her face.

Careful, Dar. The line moved, and Dar rested her hands on the railing as she trailed Kerry's smaller form. Don't scare her. She's the best assistant you've had in ten years, and she's a Republican.  They edged around a corner, and moved up a slope. Probably goes to church on Sundays, and taught Bible class back home.

"Uh oh." Kerry's voice caught Dar's attention, as they trudged up onto the platform they launched the cars off of, and saw the contraptions I the light. "Hey, could you do me a favor?"

Hold your keys? Dar inclined her head and regarded Kerry. "Sure."

"I know it's sort of silly.. but.. um.. " Green eyes flicked to the cars, then up to her face, gentle sparkles visible even in the low light. "Mind going double with me? I get sort of nervous."

Dar studied her intently, a little surprised, but found only mild innocence looking back at her. "Sure." She agreed. "No problem."  She waited for Kerry to turn, then followed her down their assigned lane to wait for the next car to arrive. The blond woman's shoulders tensed a bit, as though she realized she was being watched, and her hands moved along the wooden railing in a gentle, repetitive motion, fingers tapping the surface lightly.

Huh. Dar regarded her companion, an intrigued smile growing slowly on her face.

The car arrived and they entered it. Dar lowered herself down in the back half, and extended her legs out, pressing her knees against the side of the car as Kerry seated herself between them.  The attendant warmed them to keep their hands inside, then pulled the lever that sent them on their way.  Dar wiggled her toes, and allowed herself a grin at the warm pressure against her legs. She felt Kerry's elbows press down as the blond woman took hold, then she glanced up as they started up the incline towards the top of the coaster.

"Uh oh." Kerry laughed, just slightly, as she hung on.

Won't get more than one chance at this, bucko. Dar chastised herself, but she reached up and tapped Kerry on the shoulder. "G'wan and lean back. I can take it." She patted her own chest, almost daring Kerry to take her up on it.

Would she?

The faintest of grins. "Okay."  Kerry took a visible breath and relaxed her hold as they moved upward, leaning back against Dar's body as gravity took over.  Instinctively, Dar wrapped her arms around Kerry's middle, and let out a breath as her body remembered just how good it felt to hold someone this close.

She expected Kerry to sense it, to stiffen and pull up, but instead the blond woman relaxed against her, letting her head rest against Dar's collarbone as they inched towards the top of the mountain.

Boy, that felt good. Dar thought wistfully. Too bad this is only going to last a few seconds. She gave in to the guilty pleasure and let herself dream, drawing in a breath filled with clean cotton and apricots, locking the memory down as just one of those fleeting moments in time you never got to repeat.

The ride jerked into motion, and the wind whipped against them as the darkness sped by, planets and track just barely visible as they were thrown back and forth with the car's motion. Dar could feel Kerry laughing, and she smiled herself, as the ride tilted to one side, then hurled itself over a bump and started down.  All of a sudden, Dar felt a warmth over her hands, and she realized Kerry had let go of the side of the car, and was now just holding on to her.  She tightened her grip, and felt another laugh, and wished she could will the ride to just keep going.

But a dive and a bump later, it was slowing, and turning into the final station, amid cheers from the riders, and repeated instructions from the attendants, and it was almost time for her to let Kerry go so they could stand up and leave the ride.

Dar found herself shocked at just how much she didn't want to do that. Then she realized Kerry wasn't struggling to get loose, either. She sat there quietly until the car finally stopped, only then releasing Dar's hands so she could loosen her grip and get up.

They climbed out and moved away, watching the car fill again with eager riders. "Wow." Kerry turned, and looked up, that tiny playful grin shaping her lips. "That was fun."

Their eyes met. "Yeah, it was." Dar agreed. Wonder if she's game for a repeat. The question popped up, surprising her. Then her conscience scowled. C'mon, Dar. Stop playing with the kid, willya? She's not your type.

Kerry's eyes went to the cars, then up to her face. "Think we can find more of these? I liked that a lot."

Dar chuckled. "I'm sure we can. Let's see if we can find some with seat belts next time."  She remarked offhandedly.

"Nah." Kerry grinned at her. "Where's the fun in that?"  She asked, giving Dar's sleeve a tug and starting for the exit. "I like living dangerously."

Now. Dar wondered, following the slim figure as she threaded her way through the crowd. What exactly did she mean by that?  She dodged a running child, and headed out into the night time air.

Tropical Storm: The Thai Restaurant from Mari and Duk's POV
Original story bit - Tropical Storm - Part 12 - Link to MMM Archive

"There. That's Dar's battlewagon, isn't it?" Mari leaned on the railing.

"Mmhm." Duks agreed. "Right on time, that is as usual."

They watched as the vehicle parked, and two occupants got out. Dar circled the car and joined Kerry on the passenger side, and they stood together for a moment, talking. Mari shook her head and chuckled just a little. "God, they're so obvious." She remarked, as Kerry reached out and gave Dar's clothing a tug, an invasion of Dar's personal space so extreme it would have gotten anyone else backhanded across the parking lot faster than you could say 'mainframe'. "Look at that."

Duks chuckled alsom as Dar gave her smaller companion a pat on the side. "Ah, the sweetness of love." He remarked. "Yes, it is plain to see, is it not?"

Mari sighed. "It would be wonderful if it didn't place such a huge, black, ticking bomb right in the center of my desk, Louis." She studied the two women as they started across the parking log. "And I really don't want to think that Dar hired this kid just so she could get in bed with her."

"Tcha." Duks frowned. "That is not how our friend is."

"I know." Mari replied, softly. "But she's been alone for a long time, and maybe it was just too much of a temptation. Perhaps she felt she'd have more control this way."

Duks reviewed the oncoming figures. "I do not know that Ms. Stuart is one that might be controlled. Perhaps it is she who arranged this?"

Mari smiled. "C'mon, Louis. She's sweet, but not exactly a firebrand." She waved as Dar and Kerry came closer. "Hey there, you two."

Dar's expression took on a quiet watchfulnsss, an almost perceptible mask as she followed Kerry up the short flight of stairs.

"Let's go inside. It smells great." Mari continued, as Duks held the door open. "How was traffic?"

"Like usual." Kerry told her. "We got stuck on 95.. some truck overturned."

They entered the restaurant, and were lead to a small raised area to one side. Mari viewed the tables with a sense of satisfaction. They were low to the ground, and had space under them for one's legs, and were surrounded by pillows to relax on. Perfect. She watched Dar's reaction to the table, the initial suspicion which moderated as the tall executive settled into the cushions and relaxed a little.

Which was, of course the whole point. She wanted Dar to relax, because she suspected the extremely sharp woman knew perfectly well what this dinner was all about. Dar with her defenses completely up was an impossible nut to crack, and Mari knew it. She'd seen her friend in tough situations before.

But it had been a long day, and as they talked, Mari could see little signs start to break through Dar's dour facade.

LIke the unconscious smile when Kerry was talking, and the way Dar's eyes fastened on the blond woman and didn't budge.

Mari sighed inwardly. When Dar fell, which wasn't too damn often, she fell hard, and all the way. Everyone had so admired the way she'd dealt with the whole Elana thing - she'd been so cool, and turned what could have been pity into yet another story of DR's legendary stainless steel exterior.

Only Mari had known differently. Only Mari had gone out on the fourteenth floor balcony that Friday night when it had all gone sour, and found Dar huddled on the little bench outside, head in her hands, in pieces.

Dar had sworn then to make this time the last time.

And now?

Mari sighed again. She could sense a potential disaster on the verge of becoming real. It would all depend, she reasoned, on Kerry.

Would she be up to it?

Tropical Storm: Morning Coffee from Maria's POV

"Here you go, Maria." Kerry pushed the outer door open and crossed the carpeted floor, depositing a neat manilla folder on the secretary's desk. "Both contracts, and the supporting documentation."

"Aie. Thank you, Kerrisita." Maria gave her a look of warm gratitude. "El Jefe needs them for a... "

A low, but vibrant yell made them both look up in startlement. Maria then winced as she heard the sound of something ceramic shattering. "Dios Mio." She sighed, and shook her head. "It is not a good day, today."

Dar's inner door was jerked open, and a touseled head appeared, with angry, snapping blue eyes. "Get me that asshole from Westinghouse on the line." She snarled, then her gaze fell on Kerry.

Maria's head tilted a little as she watched. She had been with Dar for many years, and she had learned, yes, to see past all the yelling and screaming.So much about her boss was the little things to examine.

Now, she noticed, for example, how, so naturally, that Dar went to straighten out her hair as she saw Kerrisita watching, and how, instead of slamming the door or ordering Kerrisita to come into her office, Dar instead came outside and walked over to Maria's desk.

So unusual. So unlike Dar, who always made the people come to her instead.

"Rough morning." Kerry hazarded, looking up and meeting the stormy blue eyes. "Found those contracts... that lawyer was talking out of his hind end to you, Dar. Those clauses aren't in there."

Dar exhaled, and rubbed the back of her neck. "Figures." She glanced at the folder, then at Kerry. "Thanks." Then her attitude shifted again, and she turned to Maria.

"Si." The secretary said promptly. "I am on hold for la donkey tail e Westinghouse for you."

Ah. Her bosses face creased, very quickly, into one of her very rare smiles, then went serious again, before Dar turned and went back into her office. Maria looked up to see a very surprising look on Kerrisita's face, which also quickly went away as the young woman realized she was watching.

So interesting.

"Well, I"m going to get a cup of tea, I think." Kerry said. "I was talking on that conference call so long my voice gave out." She grinned, then turned and left quietly, closing the outer door behind her.

"Aie. Such a nice girl." Maria shook her head. "What does she do here, no?" She finished her task, and connected her hapless victim with Dar, then got up and went to the little kitchen.

Kerry looked up as she entered, a little surprised "You too, huh?"

"Si." Maria agreed, with a sigh, as she removed a small thermos of iced tea from the refrigerator and poured herself a cup. "Do you like this so far, Kerrisita? It is very different from what you were doing before, yes?"

"It is." Kerry admitted, as she poured hot water into a cup. "But  I really like it here. There's so much to learn."

Maria's eyes fell on the counter in front of Kerry, where not one, but two ceramic mugs were resting.

Was Kerrisita so thirsty?

One cup had a little tea bag hanging outside of it, but the other did not. As Maria sipped her tea, she watched but did not watch as Kerrista measured out sucar and poured in the thick, strong cuban coffee. Then she properly warmed the milk, and added it.  A thought occured to her. "Kerrisita, I thought you said you did not like the cafe con leche, no? Have you changed your mind so quickly?" She teased the younger woman gently. "The taste, it does grow on you."

Mild, green eyes glanced over her shoulder, a little abashed. "Well, yes, it's definitely an acquired taste, with all that sugar and cream." Kerry stirred the coffee, and added a bit of foam to the top, just so. "And.. unfortunately for my waistline, I"ve been rapidly acquring it, but this one's for Dar as a matter of fact." She said, with a smile. "I figured she could use a cup."  Kerry picked up both mugs and left, leaving Maria sitting in round eyed silence at her table.

Dios Mio. The secretary sat back and folded her hands together. What is this we have seen here? The last time someone else other than Maria had made Dar coffee was exactly never. And to make it correctly? How the jefe liked it just so? Amazing! Surely Dar would think it was very strange.

Would she not?

Maria finished up her tea and hurried back to her office, listening at the door for voices inside before she knocked lightly.

"C'mon in."

Maria pushed the door open and entered, closing it behind her. Dar was sitting in her chair, turned halfway around so that she could see out the big windows. She had Kerrisita's cup in her hands, and she no longer seemed so angry. As Maria watched her boss took a sip of the coffee, then looked at it, and smiled.

"Did you need something, Maria?" Dar asked her.

Maria smiled back. "No, Jefe. I had thought to ask you something, but I have just remembered the answer to my question." She waited just a moment. "I am going out to the farmaceria during the lunchtime, do you want something to bring back?"

"No." Dar turned fully and faced her. "I've got lunch plans today." She sounded a little surprised.

Maria, on the other hand, most assuredly was not. "Have a good time." She turned and walked out, chuckling softly to herself as she resumed her seat behind her desk, and looked again at her mail.

Tropical Storm: Kerry Stranded and Attacked from Dar's POV

It was cloudy at the beach, and a little chilly, but Dar didn't much care. She sat with her back against a palm tree, her legs sprawled out in the sand as she stared morosely at the water.

C'mon, Dar. You do this all the time. One more little pissant company, two hundred lousy employees.. what's the problem?

A bit of sea grass blew onto her arm and she picked it up, shredding it into tiny pieces as she tried to figure out what the hell she was feeling. Why this one hurt so much, after everything else she'd done in the past few years.

Dar let her head rest against the tree and exhaled. Maybe it just that she was exhausted after three days of wrestling with those damn numbers. She closed her eyes, then opened them again as Kerry's words echoed in memory.

Reluctantly, she gazed down at her hands, the fingers knotted together. Okay. She acknowledged the truth. You messed up, Dar. You let yourself like someone you knew you were going to have to screw over.

An irrational sense of loss filled her, senseless really, since she'd barely known Kerry Stuart and the woman probably hadn't liked her much anyway. 

Dar swallowed the bitter taste in her mouth, remembering so clearly that very first moment in Kerry's office, when the blond woman had looked up at her in all innocence, ready to cooperate. Ready to be friends.

Ready to be slaughered like a sheep by the big bad wolf.

She exhaled and rubbed her neck, wishing she'd remembered to take a handful of aspirin with her. The ache was making her sick to her stomach, and she remembered a little too late that she'd skipped eating the whole day.

Well. Dar pushed herself to her feet and dusted her jeans off. There was no sense in making Alastair chew his fingers to the bone until the last minute, so she might as well get off her ass and back to the office and finish what she started.

She trudged back through the sand to the parking lot, not really paying attention to her surroundings or the very few lurkers her peripheral vision caught deep int the shadows around her.

The Lexus beeped softly as she unlocked the doors and she got in, watching the first spat of rain hit the windshield as she started the car up. She backed up and navigated out of of the lot, turning out onto the main street and heading up the causeway back towards the office.

Halfway back, a thought occured to her, and she changed lanes, heading for an offramp that would lead her down through the city. Ice cream, she decided, would be a good idea. It was something her stomach would accept at the late hour and it had, from childhood, always been a comfort when things were bad.

Dar sighed, as she pulled onto the ramp, admitting to herself that she really did, in fact, feel rotten.

Maybe she'd get a whole sundae.

She jumped a little when her cell phone rang, her brow creasing. "C'mon, Alastair." She muttered. "I told you you'd get them when I was ready." Irritated, she flipped open the phone. "Yeah?"

There was the hint of a indrawn breath on the other end, then silence. Then the line dropped as the caller hung up, just as Dar stopped at the bottom of the ramp at a red light.

Dar stared at the phone. "Son of a bitch." She growled, pressing the caller ID key. "Play games with me, will you? I don't think so you..." She stopped in mid word, staring at the display disconcertedly.


"What in the hell was that... did she think of more names to call me?" Dar turned at the light and pressed the phone's key to redial. She listened to the ring, aware of a faint tickling in her guts. Finally it was answered.


"Ms. Stuart?" Dar said. "Is there something you wanted?" She winced as the words came out, imagining any number of ugly responses the woman could give to that particular question.

There was an awkward pause, then Kerry spoke. ""This is kind of stupid, and I& well, I didn't know this was your phone, really.. I was just looking for someone to make a call for me. I'm& I don't' have my phone book with me."

If the phone had grown an arm and was waving it at her, Dar could not have been more dumbfounded. It was the last thing in the world she'd expected, for this woman to ask her a favor, after everything else. Her mouth worked a few times before words came. "What's the number?"

"Well, I don't& I don't know, is the problem.. I'm kind of stuck, and I need the auto club."  Kerry sounded mortifyingly embarassed. "Look.. I ran out of gas, and I just need them to bring me a few gallons so I can get back to the office."

Dar felt like she was in the Twilight Zone. "Oh." She pulled to the side of the road for a moment, and took the emergency cell out of her glove compartment. "Where are you?"

"Northeast 2nd. Under the overpass."

"That's not a good area." Dar replied automatically, her eyebrows lifting as she wondered what in the world Kerry was doing down there. In fact.. She glanced around. It wasn't that far from where she was right now. Maybe she should...

No. Her conscience slapped her. You just want to make yourself feel better for firing her ass. Just call the damn truck and get out of here. 

I know." The blond woman answered. "It's pretty creepy right now." She paused. "Thank you for not hanging up on me."

Dar wrestled her coldest attitude into place. "Until I process my worklist on Monday, you're still an employee of mine. You used my company cell phone. Something happens to you now, and you've got grounds for a pretty big lawsuit."

"Why would you assume I'd do that?" Kerry asked, her tone puzzled.

"You assume the worst of me, I figure I should return the compliment." Dar replied. "Hold on, I'm getting the number. " She dialed the other phone with savage stabs of her finger.

A tired sigh sounded clearly through the one pressed to her ear. "All right. Well, thank you for making the call for me."

Dar stared at the other phone for a long moment. Then she turned it quietly off and glanced in her rearview mirror, watching for traffic as she crossed four lanes and headed in a different direction. What the hell are you doing, Dar? Hello? Last thing on earth that woman wants is to see your face tonight.

"Actually.. " Kerry's voice now held a slightly nervous note. "Maybe you'd better make that the police instead."

The adrenaline jolt surprised her. "Why?"

"Oh, my god!"

Dar heard the phone drop, and the sound of shattering glass, and rational thought went right out the window as she floored the Lexus and headed for the next corner at top speed.

The wheels left rubber on the pavement as she hurdled over a sidewalk, just barely missing a fire hydrant and wove between two trucks as she crossed over a major intersection towards the dark space underneath the freeway.

She saw the car. She saw the men. She heard Kerry yell and the next thing she knew she was out of the damn Lexus and bolting towards them, reaching for the nearest one as he swung the baseball bat at the green Mustang again.

She grabbed his arm and whirled, hauling him over her shoulder and dumping him on the ground. The next one came at her and she nailed him with a roundhouse kick, sending him sprawling back against the car with a scream of pain.

The third one, with a table leg swung at her, and she ducked under the blow, then spun and, balling her hand into a fist, launched a picture perfect hook that connected with his head with a very audible crack.

He dropped to the ground, then crawled away from her, holding the side of his head as his friends joined him in running away.

Dar stood for a moment in the rain, nostrils flaring, heart pumping, feeling an odd, fierce joy she barely understood.  Then she shook her head, and grabbed the car door handle, jerking it open so she could kneel and look inside.

Kerry was huddled inside, her arms covering her head. Without thinking, Dar reached out and put a hand on her arm. "Hey."

The blond head slowly lifted and huge, frightened green eyes met hers for a long, breathless moment. "Oh." Kerry finally whispered. "It's you."

Dar wished, wistfully, the moment would last just a little longer. "Yes, it is." She replied, knowing this changed nothing, did zero to undo what lay between them, it was just something she'd done...

Dar drew a breath. Why had she done it?

"Where.. " Kerry glanced around fearfully, searching for her attackers. "Where did they& "

"They're gone." Dar replied quietly. "Guess they thought I was the cavalry or something asinine like that."

Kerry looked as exhausted as she felt. "Perfect end to a perfect day." She fingered a piece of glass, then looked up at Dar, with an almost shy expression. ""But thank you.. for coming along and scaring them off."

Dar found herself unexpectedly captured in those eyes, and found herself smiling back. "No problem."

Eye of the Storm: Hospital Explosion from Andy and Ceci's POV

"Andy!" Ceci yelled, through the remaining rumbling, as the blast rocked through the building. "ANDY!"

"Hush!" His big form was at her side in an instant, blocking a rain of plaster chips. "Where'r the kids?"  Andrew looked anxiously behind her. "Dar!"

No answer.


They heard a cough, and a weak yell. "Son of a.." Andrew plowed back through the debris, with Ceci following him attached like a tick to his back. "Dar!"

"Here." Dar shoved aside a piece of drywall and stumbled towards them, half carrying and half dragging Kerry along with her. "I don't.. I... "

"Easy there." Andrew glanced around them. "Ah don't think we got time... "

Dar had lowered Kerry to the ground and knelt over her, patting her cheek gently. "Ker?" The blond woman was completely still, her face pale and dust covered. There was blood on her forehead, and a dried trickle near her left ear. "Ker?" Dar said again, her voice cracking. "C... c'mon.. wake up."

Ceci felt her stomach lurch up into her throat, understanding far too well that quaver in her daughter's voice. She put a hand on Dar's back in pure instinct, as Andrew knelt next to her, touching her head with one hand as the fingers of his other curled unobtrusively around Kerry's wrist at her pulse point.

Goddess, no. Ceci watched Kerry's chest anxiously. These kids just found each other. Don't do this to them.. at least Andy and I had twenty years together first. And despite the differences between Dar and herself, she drew in a breath and readied herself, to provide the comfort to Dar she'd refused to allow her daughter to offer her.

"Easy there, Dardar." Andrew put an arm out to steady Dar as she shifted and leaned down for a closer look at Kerry's very still face. "Easy..."

"Ker?" Dar's tone turned softly pleading, her fingers brushing Kerry's face with trembling lightness.

A soft groan answered her, more an unconscious restlessless than anything Kerry had done deliberately. But it was enough, and Dar quickly lifted Kerry's upper body up, cuddling with her and tucking the blond woman against her chest. "Atta girl." Dar breathed, closing her eyes and pressing her lips against Kerry's head.

Ceci felt her whole body almost go limp in utter relief. She looked up to see her husband looking back at her, with a quiet, bleak understanding in his eyes.

A low rumble came to them, and Andrew looked up, his body tensing. "We need to get on out of here." He took hold of Dar's shoulder. "G'wan, Dardar.. I'll take Kerry for yer."

"No." Dar curled her arms around Kerry's limp body. "I've got her." She hugged the blond woman tightly ot her and stood, cradling her in her arms. "I've got her. Go on." Her voice was now steady, shockingly at odds with the tears tracking down her face. A booming roar cut off discussion, and Andrew reluctantly turned and lead the way, pushing debris aside as Ceci and Dar followed him.

Aaron and the Stable Scene from Xena's POV
Original flashback in Bound - Part 7 - Link to MMM Archive

The door closed, and Xena slowly let her hand fall from her sword hilt as silence descended over the shabby little room.


The warrior tried not to care. He was just some punk, after all. But her mind kept going back to the look on Gabrielle's face, and she kept hearing the resounding thunder of the bard's silence and damn it&

That hurt.

So, all right. She was no Athenian aristocrat. Xena swallowed the bitter taste in her mouth, and exhaled, then with a sudden, vicious swipe backhanded the mug she'd been drinking out of against the wall, shattering the wooden cup in half.  For a moment, she stared at the dark stain the ale made on the wall, then she flexed her hands and walked out, slamming the door to the room behind her.

Outside, her eyes automatically scanned the road, fastening on the two retreating figures walking side by side away from her.  Then she turned her back and went in the other direction, somehow finding herself inside the barn and at Argo's side before she really stopped to think about what she was doing.

The mare stopped chewing her supper and gave Xena a nudge in the ribs, snorting softly and sprinkling the warrior's legs with chaff.

"Hey girl." Xena murmured, as she stroked the soft, nubbly coat. "You wanna stay and have dinner with me, huh?" She sorted bits of Argo's mane to either side of her neck. "Can't really blame the kid, y'know. Nice big town, good market.. she doesn't get to see much of that stuff traveling around with us, right?"

Argo snorted again.

Xena traced a whorl in silence. "But y'know.. I sorta thought.. " She stopped. "Guess she's seen enough of me to take the shine of that old hero worship, hub?" Strange, how disappointing that was, considering she'd never wanted that mantle to begin with . "Ah, I don't care, Argo."

The mare nuzzled her, liquid brown eyes regarding her with gentle understanding.

"Why should I?  Better she gets over that now.. figures how what I'm really like, then she can& " The warrior paused, and sighed, leaning her arm on the horses' back. "I thought we were friends, Argo. How stupid was that? I should have known better."  Slowly, she circled the mare's neck with her arms, and hugged her. "You're still my friend, right?"

Argo whickered, and stayed very still. Xena closed her eyes, and let herself get lost in the warmth of the soft coat, and the mare's gentle nature.

It felt so good, she didn't hear the door open, until after it creaked wide, allowing in a draft of outside air. She straightened in reflex, picking up Argo's brush and smoothing the horses coat down as her senses evaluated the intruder now standing at her back.

Funny, how she could always tell when it was Gabrielle. It wasn't really a noise, or a smell, or even the sound of her footsteps. Just a sense of presence that Xena recognized as being different than anyone elses she'd ever known. She kept her back turned, though, and just kept brushing Argo, waiting to see what the bard was going to do.

Tell her she was leaving, right? Xena tried not to feel the pang in her chest at the thought. Maybe Aaron made her a better offer.. sure, he probably could even guarantee she wouldn't have to catch her own dinner at night.  "Thought you were going cross town."  She said, brusquely.

Hesitant footsteps approached, and she felt Gabrielle just at her back, knew the green eyes would be looking at her, studying her.  A small hand reached out, reached into her vision and stroked Argo's side. "I don't want to hang out with idiots." Gabrielle replied. "I'd rather stay here with you."

All her instincts resisted it. She didn't need this, didn't need the constant worry, and the hassle of this damn little kid hanging around her. "Can't see why." She replied coldly.

Gabrielle moved a step closer. "I said he was an idiot, Xena. He doesn't know you."

I don't care about him. "It's all right. Doesn't matter."  Xena kept brushing, surprised when she heard herself start to talk again. "I'm used to people not trusting me to act like a decent human being."

She heard Gabrielle take a breath, and she turned, facing the bard squarely. "I just didn't expect that from you."

The green eyes widened.

"I just thought& " Her better judgement caught up with her, and she stopped. "Forget it." She turned back to Argo.  Turned her back on Gabrielle. Maybe the kid would get the message. But no, a hand fell on her arm, fingers circling it as the bard moved even closer.

"That's not how I think of you." Gabrielle replied softly. "And you know that."

Xena didn't answer.

"You do know that, right?" Gabrielle got right up next to her, impossible to ignore. Inside her defenses, inside her personal space like no other person in her life had been allowed to get and live. "Xena?"

Did she? Xena turned and met those eyes, feeling them drill right through her, Gabrielle's gentle nature taking hold of her in a way she had no defense against and never had. "Yeah, I know that." She finally relented, bumping the bard in the gut a little. Then her eyes dropped to the hand resting on Argo's side and she stiffened, at the ugly bruise spreading across Gabrielle's fair skin. "Hey.. what did you do?"

Gabrielle looked at her, then at her own hand. "Oh& " She winced. "I.. um.. "

Xena took hold of her fingers and cradled them. "Gabrielle, that's.. I think that's broken. I'm gonna have to b& what happened/"

The bard had remained silent for a few seconds, flinching as her hand was manipulated. "Uh.. well, Aaron said something.. ow.. about you I didn't like and I.. um.. " Gabrielle almost seemed abashed. "I slugged him, I guess.. ow& gods, that hurts!"

Xena got an arm around her and led her to a nearby bench, easing her down onto it and sitting next to her.

"I'm gonna have to block the nerves& " Xena stopped in mid speech, as the words penetrated. "You hit him?"

A tiny, rueful nod.

Because of something he said. Xena marveled. About me. Dear gods. "You were defending my honor, Gabrielle?" She asked, half jokingly, reaching up and cupping the kid's face, watching the blush slowly creep across her skin. It suddenly occurred to her, incongruously, that Gabrielle was no longer a kid, that face pressed into her palm was lengthening into adulthood, taking on new planes, and a stronger character, and& .

"Well.. you have so much honor, I figured you  need some help defending it." Gabrielle replied, with a smile.

Gods. She's adorable. Xena blinked.

"And I mean every word of that." The bard finished.

Every word of what? Xena wondered. Oh. Right. Her honor. Gabrielle defended it. Little Gabrielle, the kid from Potadeia defending my honor. Hades in a handbasket. Impulsively, Xena pulled the bard closer, and gave her a kiss on the forehead, hearing the soft, delighted gasp of surprise.  "Thanks." She whispered into Gabrielle's ear. "But next time?"  She could feel Gabrielle's breath against her neck.


"Kick em in the groin, willya?" Xena told her, as she set the bard's hand down on her knee, and blocked the nerves, glad they'd turned out to be friends still after all. She felt a pressure on her shoulder, and glanced up, meeting a pair of green eyes looking back at her as Gabrielle rested her cheek against her upper arm.

They hold hands from Xena's POV
Original flashback in DCTM - Part 5 - Link to MMM Archive

Xena sat near the fireplace in the quiet Inn, intent on her task. She turned the armor catchpiece around and around in her fingers, trying to decide the best way to wrap the wire she'd found around the joint to strengthen it.

The intrusion started as a low mutter, which caused her to glance up towards the kitchen door. When the noise didn't get any louder, she dismissed it and returned her gaze to her hands.

Then the door slammed open. "Gods be damned." Cyrene strode into the Inn's common room and spotted her offspring. "Xena, have you seen your brother?"

The warrior considered the question. "Not since breakfast." She remarked dryly. "Why not ring the bell for lunch? That should bring him running."

Her mother snorted. "He was supposed to help me move all that stuff he has in the storage room out." She shook her head. "He's probably out picking flowers with that Amazon."

Xena's lips twitched a little. "Cut him some slack, mother. Last time he had a serious girlfriend Athens was just a village."

Cyrene put her hands on her hips and sighed. "It's no excuse, Xena. After all, you certainly didn't act like a.."

"Mother." Pale blue eyes pinned the innkeeper.

"Well, you didn't." Cyrene told her. "Only way I knew you had it so bad for Gabrielle was because you coudn't help smiling every time I mentioned her. It certainly didn't turn you into a brainless flitterby."  She sighed. "All right. I'll go send Johan out to find the little bugger."

Xena watched her mother's form dissapear behind the kitchen door, and she sat back, resting her elbows on the chair arms and regarding the crackling fire with a faint smile.


It had taken her a while to get used to it. She and Gabrielle had traveled together for so long, firm habits had formed that were tough to break, even after they'd spent some time at home.

So, their arrival into yet another town with yet another market didn't even prod Xena's interest. All she'd wanted was a mug of cold cider to cut the trail dust, and a replacment catch for one of her boots. Gabrielle had shown every sign of wanting to shop, and Xena had already planned her own route, towards the sturdy inn near the river, and a cool spot to sit back and wait for her partner to finish her bargaining.

That's how they'd always done it. Gabrielle knew she hated the crush and excitement of the market, as much as she knew the bard reveled in it. It was a good system.

"So. What are your plans?" Gabrielle had asked suddenly.

"Mug of ale and a buckle." She'd answered briskly. "Meet you by the inn?"

For an instant, Gabrielle had hesitated, then she'd nodded. "Okay."  She'd turned and wandered off, her interest already taken by the bright cloths of a nearby weaver's stall.

Xena had kept her eyes on her partner until she disappeared, admiring the way the sunlight gilded the bard's exposed skin and the gentle swagger she'd developed in her walk.

"Hey!" A rude voice had made her jerk her eyes downward, to see a short woman with a tray of fruit.

"What?" Xena had snapped back.

"If you're gawna stand there gawkin, make yerself useful and buy something."

Xena had allowed her eyes to narrow dangerously. "I wasn't gawking."

The man had just laughed derisively. Xena had pulled a coin out of her pouch and set it on his head, then selected a bunch of grapes and sidestepped out of his way. His eyes had widened as he tried not to move and dislodge the coin, unable to free up a hand to grab it. "Put her on the tray!" He yelled.

Xena merely smiled, and plucked a grape, then turned and strolled off.

Moving away from the inn, she'd realized, halting near a blacksmith's forge. She'd listened to the rhythmic ring of hammer against anvil, unsure of why she didn't just turn back around and get going.

Then her eyes had found Gabrielle, through a gap in the stalls and she'd watched as her new partner had politely moved out of the way of a tall local with his arm around a girl about Gabrielle's age.

She'd seen Gabrielle look after them. Seen the slight smile, and the faintly resigned expression cross the bard's face. A clue had come galloping between the stalls at that moment, and bowled her right over. She hadn't even had time to duck.

It had taken but a moment to sneak up on the bard, circling her unseen as she examined some fabric in a color Xena was certain the gods had never intended human beings to wear. A distraction had been in order, so when Gabrielle opened her mouth to ask the price...

In she'd popped a grape, figuring if nothing else, it'd prevent the question.

"Hey!" Gabrielle had turned, startled, to see her there. "I thought you were going to get drunk and buckles?"

Xena had no recollection what she'd said to that, she'd only known that what she wanted right then, more than ale or anything else, was to see Gabrielle be happy. She'd watched her face, and held out a hand. "Walk with me?"

And her goal had been achieved, in the look of wondering joy that transformed Gabrielle's face as she accepted the offer and their hands had met.

She'd forgotten all about the inn. Gabrielle had forgotten all about fabric. They'd both ended up buying the stupidest things for each other.

It had ended up being just the damn best day.

A little time between the day Dar and Kerry went shopping, and the day Kerry started at ILS.

The soft buzz of the alarm pulled Kerry out of a deep sleep, and she peered at the clock through an incomprehensible fog for several moments before her brain booted and she disentangled a hand from the covers to shut the thing off. “Wow.” She mumbled, her eyes closing again. “What a weird dream.”

Rabbits. What in the world was she dreaming about rabbits for? 

She snuggled back down under the covers and drifted off again, until the clock buzzed again fifteen minutes later.  Reluctantly she pried her eyes open and rolled over, blinking sleepily as she stretched out. Her eyes fell on the neatly bagged new suits hanging on the back of her bedroom door, and memories of the previous night flooded back.

That woke her up.  Today was Monday, and she was going to have to go into work at Associated, and tell everyone what was going to happen.  Things would change, people would change -the majority of them would stay on, but some would be leaving.  Kerry thought they probably expected all that already – she’d heard comments in the lunchroom, but overall the atmosphere had been upbeat the last week, as the employees took their cue from her.

They trusted her.  Kerry thought about that as she pulled the covers back and got out of bed, stifling a yawn as she trudged to the bathroom and traded the carpet’s warm softness for the cool tile against her bare feet.  They trusted her, she repeated the thought as she regarded her reflection, and she’d lived up to that trust.

“Ow.” Kerry gingerly touched a small cut on her temple, where the broken glass from her car window had grazed her.  What would they all say when she told them she was leaving?

Or why? Kerry used the facilities, then splashed a little water on her face and patted it dry before she made her way into the living room, finding her steps straying towards her computer as she walked towards the kitchen.  She paused in front of it, then moved the mouse to wake the machine up and clicked on her mail program. 

Hm. She’d never done that before, usually waiting until she got to the office to pick up her mail. After all, she was usually one of the earlier people in, and who’d be sending her mail before breakfast?  Nevertheless, she watched the server connect, and tried to ignore the tiny tickle in her guts of anticipation as it check for new messages for her.

“Ah.” Kerry forced herself to wait for the mail to finish downloading before she clicked on the third one down. “Good grief, don’t you ever sleep?”

Roberts, D – Sent 5:45AM

Kerry –

Attached are the contract particulars for the IRS. They will be expecting a clean turnover, I don’t need to remind you that as a new contractor, we’ll be scrutinized very closely. Make sure your team is up to it.

Forward your recommendation for your replacement to Mariana. I’ve told her to take your suggestion, unless your candidate turns out to be either a wanted felon or illegal immigrant. I’ll expect that transition to be done by the end of the week – you don’t have much time.

I’ll be in meetings most of the day. If you have any questions, call.


Kerry almost sat down to answer it immediately, but she took control instead and marched herself into the kitchen, taking out a container of juice and pouring herself a big glass first. She put the juice back and regarded the contents of her refrigerator. “You shouldn’t be hungry, Kerrison. You ate like a pig last night.”  With a sigh, she selected a bran muffin to quiet her rumbling stomach anyway and took that, and her juice back to her desk.

“Now.” She flexed her hands, and laid her fingers on the keyboard, her mouth full of muffin. After a moment, she started to type.

Good morning, Boss –

Thanks for the files – I’ll have a staff meeting with our operations group today, and fill them in. They won’t disappoint you, I promise that. 

I already have Ray’s resume ready, and I’ll send his file over – or maybe I’ll bring it myself today.  I think he’ll be fine, once he gets over the shock of being asked to step up, and over the fact that I’m leaving.  I think that’s going to be the toughest thing to tell everyone – after everything that happened, I mean.

Thanks again for the severance packages. I know you didn’t have to do that, and I want you to know how much it meant to me that you did.

Anyway – I’m looking forward to starting my new job – so I’ll do my best to get things wrapped up here as soon as I can.


Kerry reviewed her typing, hesitated, then added a last line in before her name and hit send. “There.”  She scanned the rest of the messages and concluded they could all wait for her to get to work, then shut off the screen and headed for the shower.  As she walked through her bedroom, her eyes fell on her dresser, where Dar’s dark blue sweatshirt  was neatly folded.  She wandered over and picked it up, brushing her hands across the soft cotton as she went to put it in the hamper to be washed.

She paused and lifted the fabric, sniffing it curiously as a distinctive scent rose to her nostrils.  Dar’s perfume still clung to it.  It was a little musky, and a little spicy, and Kerry had decided she liked it very much. She made a note to ask Dar what kind it was, then instead of putting the sweatshirt in the hamper, left it on her tall dresser instead. After all, she reasoned, she’d only worn it for an hour or two that night, right?

Right. Kerry grabbed her towel and headed for the bathroom.



“Hm?” Dar looked up to find Maria in the doorway. “Oh, thanks.” She motioned the secretary to enter. “I just got back from that damn marketing session..  stupid bastards.”

“Si.” Maria put down a cup of steaming coffee.  “I have completed all the forms from Mariana for this new assistant as you asked, Dar.”

“Great.” Dar murmured, scanning her inbox. She sat down and edged her chair over, clicking on one of them. “Glad we got that out of the way. Half of corporate wants my ass for jumping the fence and hiring Kerry.”

“Si.” Maria said. “They are wanting to know everything, who this person is, and why they got this job instead of all of the others, and so on.”

“They’ll find out.” Dar smiled as the screen, then looked up as the silence in the room suddenly bounced off her.  Maria was gazing at her with both hands folded in front of her, an expression of polite inquiry on her face. “I guess you want to know too, huh?”  She leaned on the desk. “She’s all right, Maria. Kerry’s a smart kid, with a lot of guts. She’ll do fine.”

“It is just so sudden.” The secretary murmured. “You have always said you do not like to have assistants.”

Dar leaned back in her chair, and exhaled. “Yeah, I know.”  She studied her folded hands. “I guess I just had to find the right person.” She told her secretary. “The way things have been going around here, I needed someone to take some of these damn projects, and.. “

“Then this Kerry Stuart, she did come at, how you say, the right time, no??” Maria seemed satisfied with the answer.

“Yeah.” Dar answered, after a moment’s thought. “I think she did.”

“Is good.” Maria smiled.

They both looked up as the door opened, and Eleanor barged in, making right for Dar’s desk. “Okay, I’ve had about enough, Roberts. You can’t do it.”

Dar cocked her head. “Can’t do what?”

“Hire some bimbo off the street when you’ve got two dozen qualified candidates inside the company.”

Dar stood as Eleanor closed on her, and used her towering height to good purpose. The Marketing VP stopped short and backed up a step in pure reflex. “I can hire anyone I damn please.” Dar answered in a very clipped tone. “Don’t’ believe me? Ask Alastair. If  I want to hire a Dalmatian dog as the director of operations I can, and give him a salary package better than yours.”


“He’d be worth more. Now get your ass out of my office before I pick you up and throw you out.” Dar’s voice built in volume until it was a booming yell.  “I don’t hire bimbos. I send the bimbos over to your side of the building where boobs are a premium and brains sop up coffee spills!”

“Hey!” Eleanor held up both hands. “All right! All right! Jesus!”


“Fine.” Eleanor turned and walked out, slamming the door behind her.

Dar let the silence settle a moment, then took a sip of her coffee. She glanced apologetically at Maria, and gave her a little shrug.

“That Dalmatian dog, is the one with the spots, no?”

Dar nodded.

Maria peered around the room. “Cute, but I am thinking he would clash with the furniture.” She clucked, then made her way out of the office, closing the door softly behind her.

Dar dropped back into her seat with a heartfelt sigh. “Stupid hairbrained piece of…  ugh.” She dismissed Eleanor and returned her attention to her screen, with it’s open mail.  After a moment, she clicked on a reply, and started typing.


Kerry hitched herself up onto the coffee counter, and waited, as the murmur of voice died down and all eyes turned to her.  It was a small group, just the department heads, and the looks on their faces mixed curiosity, trepidation, and excitement.  “Okay.” She composed her thoughts. “Which do you want first, the bad news or the good news?”

“Bad.” Susan stated immediately. “Let’s get it over with.” 

Everyone nodded.

“We need to cut about twenty percent of the staff, and the budgets will have to be drastically revised. A template with my changes is in all your mailboxes.” Kerry said, then stopped, and waited.

They looked at each other, then at her. “And?” Susan hazarded.

“And nothing. That’s it.”

“That is it?” Ray asked, incredulously. “No dungeons and no dragons?”

A faint smile crossed Kerry’s face. “Well, a couple other things, and you and I have to talk, but basically, yeah, that’s it.”  She let the murmuring go on for a moment. “We also picked up two new contracts as part of this, and we’re going to need to ramp up to support them. Government contracts.”

“Whoa.” Susan rubbed her jaw. “I’m in shock.”

“The IRS website.” Kerry grinned, seeing the stunned looks.

“Kerry… “ Jane Biggins held a hand up. “This is great news, except for that 20 percent. That’s a pretty big cut.” Jane was the personnel manager, and justifiably concerned. “Where do we start?’

“I’ve got a list.” Kerry told her quietly. “It’s in your packet. Give it to the managers who are involved, and we can talk.”

“Could be a lot of sour grapes there.” Susan warned.

“Not with six month salary and benefits severance packages.” Kerry replied.

Conversation stopped dead, again. “Six MONTHS?” Jane spluttered. “Are you shitting me?”

Kerry drummed her heels on the cabinet base, smiling a little. “Nope.”

Susan stepped forward and held a hand up. “Okay.  I vote we nominate Kerry for President. Who’s with me?”

“El Presidente of the company?” Ray asked, with a laugh.

“Of the US.” Susan replied. “C’mon, hands?”

“Wow.” Jane whistled. “Kerry, that’s amazing – how’d you do it?”

“Yeah!” Susan and Ray moved closer, smiles spreading over their faces.

Kerry indulged herself for a moment as she basked in the admiration. “Well, it was a lot of hard work.” She shrugged a little, modestly. “And some pretty incredible dumb luck.” She added, with a grin. “But all in all, I’m pretty happy with it. Things worked out better than I’d hoped.”

“Me too.” Jane grimaced.

“Me three.” Susan added. “I think we all owe Kerry lunch. Someplace nice for a change, not that corner grease joint.”  She grinned at Kerry. “You up for it?”

A quiet wistfulness entered Kerry’s eyes, as she thought about leaving all her friends here behind. “Sure.”  She hopped off the counter. “Come get me when you’re ready to go. Ray, can I talk to you in my office?”

The dark haired man blinked nervously. “Sure, jefa.” He followed Kerry as she left the break room and into her office, closing the door behind both of them. “What’s going on?”

Kerry turned and leaned against her desk, crossing her arms as she considered her words. “There’s going to be a lot of changes going on.” She began.

“Si.” Ray agreed.

Well, no way around it. “One of the changes is that I’ll be leaving.”

Ray was visibly shocked. “Kerry!”  He darted over to her. “You must be joking, how could you have fixed it all for all of us, and not for you?” Now he was upset. “Mierda! That little Chupa!”

“No NO…” Kerry lifted a hand, and laughed faintly. “Ray, it’s not… it’s nothing like that. She didn’t fire me.. in fact, she hired me.”  She watched his jaw sag. “I’m going to go work for her. She’s my new boss.”

“Dios Mio.” Ray abruptly collapsed into one of her visitors chairs. “I have become into an XFile. The next thing is the door will open, and in will come Gillian Anderson in those cute little heels.”

Kerry muffled a laugh.

“And she will tell me I am having her alien baby.”


Dar entered the conference room and circled the already populated table, taking her seat at the head of it. "Afternoon." She greeted her operations group. "Everyone have their minutes?"

Nodding heads.

"Good." The operations group meetings were the one of the few that Dar actually enjoyed. For one thing, it was her team, her department, and her rules.  Operations was one of the smoothest running parts of the company, and her word was law here. There was discussion, yes, but no one questioned her decisions and she didn't often walk out of one of these meetings feeling like kicking the nearest drywall.  "Any big problems on the slate first off?"

There was a momentary silence, then Mark Polenti cleared his throat.  "We had a foul up in the Washington office. I thought we'd put redundancy in there, but I guess a checklist got missed. We lost the switch, and the office is still down."

Dar looked at him, one eyebrow lifting meaningfully.

"We don’t have another one here."

"Find one." Dar's eyes went around the table. "Anyone have a resource list? Sticky note? Crystal ball?"

No one returned her gaze.

Dar sighed. "What kind is it?"


"Tell someone to go into the closet in Plano, check in the back." Dar told him. "We pulled six of them out of Laguardia when we did the upgrade there."

Mark nodded. "Thanks, boss. " He flipped open his palm pilot and composed a note, then sent it. "How do you remember all that crap?"

"Because I have to." Dar rubbed the back of her neck, stifling a wince. "Next time try running a search in the accounting database. Damn things have to be in there."

Another short silence. "So, how'd Associated go?" Elaine Costas asked.

Dar's ears pricked up, detecting the sudden, almost silent shifting as they all leaned closer to her. She'd suspected the word was out, and was wondering just how long it was going to take for someone to just ask her outright. "Not bad." She shrugged. "I was going to strip them for resources, but two more support contracts came down the pipe last week that they're a fit for."

"So.. they're integrating?" Mark hazarded.

"Yeah." Dar agreed. "Most of them. We're going to have to throw some infrastructure in there to support those contracts. Get an analyst out there tomorrow, and see what they need."


Another silence. Dar finally propped her chin up with one hand and let a tiny grin tug at her lips as she looked at her team. "Anything else?" She drawled.

Everyone looked at Mark. "I, uh.. I've got that security report you asked for." The MIS manager spoke up bravely. "For the new employee?"

Dar's eyes twinkled. "Yeah? Thanks." She replied. "Put it on my desk."

Mark flipped his pen twice, then bit the end of it. "You gonna tell us about the newbie?" He asked.

Dar leaned back in her chair and reached into her jacket pocket, retrieving a chocolate chunk wrapped in blue foil and tossing it across the table at him. "Here. You deserve it for being the only one with a set of cojones in the room."

Mark caught the candy and smirked. The atmosphere in the conference room visibly relaxed, and some tentative smiles appeared. "Woohooo… my favorite." He unwrapped the chocolate and popped it into his mouth. "So.. what's the scoop, boss? The big cheese make you take on a junior again? We got bets on how long this one'll last."

Dar regarded them thoughtfully. "Matter of fact, no." She replied. "This was my idea."

Mark blinked in surprise, and everyone else stared.

Dar shrugged. "Thought I'd try something new for a change. At any rate, our new Director of Operations, Kerrison Stuart will be starting next Monday. I expect you all to cooperate with her."  Her eyes went around the table. "Unlike her predecessors, I picked this one, so try not to send her screaming from the building for a least two weeks, okay?"

The staff looked at each other. "You bet, boss." Mark finally said.

"Good. " Dar shuffled her minutes, and got down to business. The rest of the agenda didn't take long, and she concluded with a list of action items spooled off the top of her head that kept them all writing furiously for five minutes as she got up. "Any questions? No? We're done."  She scooped up her papers and circled the table, getting through the door and into the hallway as they all were just straightening up.

The door closed behind her, and the staff relaxed. "Wheew." Elaine shook her head. "What is up with this?"

Mark exhaled. "Beats me."


"Can't be sure." The MIS Manager mused. "Got a great record, that's for sure. Not even a freaking parking ticket. "

"Oh great, a goody two shoes. Just what we need."

"Midwest. Christian school, dad's a senator."


Elaine frowned. "And Dar picked her? I don’t get it."

"Guess we'll find out." Mark stood up. "I figure Dar's got a plan somewhere in all this."

"Doesn't she always?" Elaine sighed. "Hey, is she good looking?"

Mark chewed the end of his pen. "Yeah, but she's not Dar's type." He said. "And with that background… "

"Yeah." Elaine agreed. "I think they still require virginity for marriage out there."

They all chuckled, as they filed out the door.


Kerry tilted her chair back, and put her feet up on her desk. It was an unusual thing for her to do, but it had been a long day, and she’d spent most of it out of her office and running around, and it was good just to sit back and decompress after all the chaos.

Lazily, she reached over and nudged her mouse, reviewing the mail inbox that appeared. Notes from practically everyone in the company overflowed it, expressing thanks, and dismay about her leaving. The word was out, of course, after she’d gotten back from a long lunch with her senior staff where she’d broken the news over glasses of cold ale and very good burgers.

The afternoon had been taken up by operations meetings, where she’d sat down with her technical group and explained their new contracts.

In a word, they’d freaked. Kerry had almost been alarmed at the widened eyes and she’d hastened to remind them that technology was just technology, and just because it was government technology didn’t mean it had alien tentacles waving off it.

“Ah.” Kerry’s eyes fell on a message about three quarters of the page down. She clicked on it.

 Roberts, D – Sent 11:56 AM

Kerry –

No need to thank me for dinner or helping you shop. Consider it an attempt on my part to make sure you weren’t getting into anything you couldn’t handle.  That you could deal with the job, I had no doubts. Dealing with me, on the other hand, is a different matter. 

Your paperwork is complete – Mariana will need to you stop by to fill out an official application, however. It sounds ridiculous, but if you don’t, there will be a checklist somewhere without a check on it, and ILS will grind to a halt. You don’t want to be responsible for that, I’m sure.

My MIS manager will be sending a facilities analyst to the Associated office tomorrow. He’ll spec out any infrastructure changes you’ll need for the new contracts. Don’t let him talk you into nested routers. He’s got a fixation on that.


 Kerry chuckled softly. “You know something, Ms. Roberts?” She addressed the mute email. “Despite everything, I think I’m going to like you.”  She pulled her keyboard over, and rested it on her thighs, considering a moment before she hit reply.


Dar padded down the hallway in her stocking feet, the noises of the day now long gone. She was alone on the fourteenth floor, and despite the headache she’d acquired and the lingering soreness in her hand, she felt relatively content to be here on her present mission.

She slowed her pace and started poking her head into darkened offices, checking out both sides of the hallway as she made her way along the row of closed doors.  “Let’s see… near the copier? No.” Dar dismissed one empty room. “Last thing she needs is to hear every piece of gossip in the building all day.”  A few more doors went by. “Too small.” A shake of her head. “Too narrow.” She rejected another lonely space.

Most of the offices on this side of the building were small, meant for mini conference rooms or temporary projects. Dar frowned. She wanted something….   Ah. Dar edged around a corner and stopped in front of a double suite of offices. There was a small open space, with a little storage room off to one side, then a second room that opened off the front space to the rear. Dar marched over and opened the door, standing inside the darkened room with her hands on her hips.


It was a good size room, more spacious in fact than most of the VP’s offices on the corners. Dar smirked. It had maroon carpet and wall weave, and floor to ceiling windows that looked right out onto the water.  She could think of at least two dozen senior managers who would gladly give up their firstborn children or keys to the executive washroom for this space.

Heh. Dar leaned against the doorway. One of the perks of being the head of the Ops Division was that she got to assign facilties. That meant, you pissed off Dar Roberts, you got the office that shared a wall with the men’s room.

And leaked.

Dar walked inside the office and prowled it’s confines, approving the dimensions. She ended up next to the back wall, and a small door set into the paneling. With a smile, she opened it and stuck her head inside, observing the plain, white walled maintenance corridor which allowed access to mop rooms, the Xerox center, and…

Very conveniently, at the other end of this little corridor, her office. Perfect. Dar slipped inside and let the door close behind her, then she walked across the tile floor until she reached her own door and returned to her office.

With a satisfied grunt, she sat down at her desk and pulled over a requisition sheet, scribbling down her requirements and signing it with a flourish.

A macaw chuckled.

Dar glanced up and gave her trackball a spin, then saw the mail header and tsked. “Working late already?” She opened the mail with a distinct ping of curiosity.

Stuart, K. – Sent 6:59PM

Dar –

I”ll stop by tomorrow to do my application – I’d hate to think I’d brought a multi billion dollar corporation to it’s knees for a procedural snafu. It would make for an interesting lead story on CNNfn, though you have to admit.

I think everyone has stopped saying “What?” and “You’re kidding.” and  “You did WHAT?” for today. We got all the personnel issues squared away, and my ops group is running around getting a list together of what they’re going to need for the new contracts. 

It’s been a really long day.

Thank you for making it a good one.


Dar gazed at the screen for quite some time, letting her eyes roll over the words repeatedly. A feeling of surprising warmth made her skin prickle, and a charmed smile appeared on her face at this little reward to her moment of insane kindness.

No no. She reminded herself, as she closed her mail program down. It was strictly good for business.


Long fingers drummed on the polished wood, then Dar opened her inbox again, and hit reply.

Wouldn’t be polite not to answer such a nice note, right?

The rattle of keystrokes echoed off the plate glass, which framed a twinkling palette of chuckling stars.

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