Disclaimer One: All of these characters are mine! Yep, mine. No one can use them without permission.

Disclaimer Two: There is subtext in this series so far. Let me change thatóitís maintext. If itís not for you, welll pooh, pooh on you. Letís expand your horizonís people. I mean that respectfully. (grins)

Dedication: Throws a hello to Celine and a heartfelt thank you to Steph, my beta reader.

This installment picks up with the weekend after Taylorís arrival and the results thereafter.

On with the show!

The Eyeís Have It
(Third Installment in Perspectives Series)



Chapter VI: Mama said there would be days . . .

Taylor awoke at the end of a silent scream. Her tall frame raised quickly to an upright position, allowing the covers to fall away. Sucking and gulping in calming air, she pushed the heels of her hands against half-opened eyes in an effort to wipe away the images. The same hands then went through her long, raven hair, feeling the wetness of sweat at the temples. Her t-shirt was darkened with the same moisture.

Despite the years of therapy and psychoanalysis, at least once a week for the past twelve years, it came like clockwork, functioning as some Freudian reminder. The nightmare.

She would never get used to it.

They were gone, just like that engulfed by death in dark, disturbed waters.

With the remnants still fresh, she left for a trip down memory lane.

With the same keen analytical mind that exists now, as a child, Taylor studied her parents while growing up. She never missed the secret smiles and looks that communicated what words couldnít say. They completed each otherís sentences. They simply completed each other. Her parents. They were an entity amongst themselves, forgetting everything around them, including their only daughter. Taylor learned early that one could be so lonely, even in the midst of others. She knew she was loved, just because they told her so, but they loved each other more, leaving their only child hungry and craving for the acknowledgement and affection she never got. She had reached out to them to the point where her heart was sore and reluctant, deciding to just let it be.

The raven haired women clutched at the sheets and stared at the far wall, feeling the movie projector in her mind start to roll memories that felt like yesterday. The morning breakfasts where she was ignored, and the romantic get aways where she was left behind with the reluctant housekeeper bit into her wrapping her in old pain. Long ago a promise was born of the loneliness, of the solitude and solidified in pain. She would never lose her being to another. She would never give herself to another. Remembering the promise brought a searing ache to her heart as other memories unfolded. One in particular brought about the ultimate agony.

It was so fresh that she could still see through the eyes of an eighteen year old. She watched in horror as her father was thrown over the railing of the rented boat that churned and bobbed in the violent storm. In the present, the older Taylor covered her ears, still hearing her fatherís scream of his wifeís name, not hers but his wifeís as he hit the white capped water. Existing in a trance, somewhere outside herself, she watched on as her mother turned to her with eyes full of loss, sadness, and regret, then moving abnormally slow joined her other half in the choppy Atlantic. The sound of the storm was drowned out by her sobbing yell of ĎNo!í Then the deck was quiet again. She stood there her skin soaking up the torrential rain for what seemed like millennia until the presence of mind returned, urging her to throw over lifejackets and radio for help, but it had been to no avail. What had been an attempt at a day of inclusion ended in total desolation and abandonment.

Back in the present, Taylor shook her head vehemently. She wasnít going to cry. She wasnít. The woman sniffed back the tears as the old feelings of betrayal and guilt swirled within her. Betrayal because they left her alone, and guilt because of the jealousy and feelings of gladness that the torture had ended. She continued to stare at the far wall boring an imaginary hole through it. She recalled the lawyers telling her of the inheritance she was to receive by proxy, enabling her to get the education that put her where she is today without the unoffered help of pitiless relatives. Shaking her head again, she jumped out of bed, heading for the nearby bathroom.

Peering into the mirror above the sink, she looked into the face that held wary azure eyes. Her skin was flushed and her chest was still slightly heaving. Knowing she had to get herself together, Taylor closed her eyes, thankful that it was the weekend. She padded back into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed near the nightstand that held the phone, staring at it longingly and wanting so much to call Wendy. She was the only one that understood. She was the only one the more than private woman let understand. They had made much better friends then they had lovers. Taylor had almost forgotten that they were. In an attempt to engage the redhead in one of the few superficial relationships the older woman had, she had met a friend who snuck under her defenses without knowledge or permission.

She pursed her lips. Graceful fingers itched to dial the familiar number. It was one of the things that purged the memories from her mind and the emotions from her system, talking to her best friend or putting her body through the rack. Blowing out a breath as her decision was made, she disturbed the messy tendrils of darkness that had fallen into her face. If she called her, Wendy would want to talk about her situation here in Gary. It was inevitable, and she wasnít ready to discuss the green eyed ankle biter as of yet. She didnít know why, but she just wasnít ready. The muscle in her jaw clenched in an attempt to block her thoughts. Fortunately, it was successful.

A small smile upturned the corners of full lips, despite her morose mood. After a week, she had decided on her end of the infamous bargain, wanting to show the caseworker more than just paper work just like the blonde had shown her ---well, whatever that was the other day. She couldnít wait. . . to tell her that is. Taylor stretched her tall, lanky, and muscular frame, hearing the multitude of pops and the pulling of tense muscle. The rack it was. It was a good thing she had found a gym.

Cory grumbled into the air. Sometimes she hated Barb. It was true that they usually worked out together three times a week, including Saturday, but they had a slow couple of days after the last fiasco. All the blonde wanted was to get ready for the storm that was probably brewing for next week. But, no, like some demented Swiss time piece, the woman had called her at 8am, telling her to get that cute ass out of bed. Cory grumbled some more, and her body sagged as she blew out a long breath. Green eyes closed in irritation, knowing it was also true that the older woman was the voice of reason more times than not, which kept her grounded. Still, sometimes she just hated Barb.

Slowly, she pivoted her body to the side, preparing to crawl out of bed. The phone rung abruptly for the second time this morning, making the blond jump and squeal in surprise.


She stared at the offensive machinery for a few more rings before answering it with a muted sigh.

"Hello?" The caseworker said groggily without an ounce of warmth in her voice.

"Well, I know I didnít do anything to you. Havenít talked to you in over a week." The woman answered back not hiding the amusement in her voice.

"Hi, mom." Cory replied with a sudden smirk on her face.

"Hey, Bunchee. I havenít heard from you in a bit so I thought I'd give you a call to see whatís going on."

Cory smiled at the use of her nickname. She could almost see the short, sandy hair and smiling green eyes of her mother.

"Oh, itís been interesting to say the least, Mom. I donít even know where to begin."

"The beginning is always your best bet sweetheart."

The blonde inhaled deeply. "Well, I told you about Mr. Cardwell retiring. Monday of this week, his replacement showed up." Cory gritted her teeth. "Pardon my French, but sheís a real bitch. Right off she fired some people and ended some programs without even spending the time to see what was going on!" The young womanís voice went up an octave. "Everyone just sat on their asses and took it. I just couldnít. I mean it was nonsense, so I went in there and told her just that."

Brenda Donovan rolled her eyes heavenward. Her child had definitely gotten her fatherís temper. "All I want to know is do you still have a job? Or is that why you havenít called?"

Cory chuckled. "Yeah, I still have it. We reached an agreement of sorts. She gets to see my side of things and I see hers. That in itself is just a joke because sheís nothing but a pencil pusher. Arenít all administrators?"

"Oh, I donít know hon. You sound like youíre being as closed minded as you were accusing her of being. How do you know what they do if youíve never taken the time to look?"

"Mom! Whoís side are you on here? I mean she was trying to take away vital programming from the community! And----"

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe she had a reason? Iím sure she didnít wake up that morning and say to herself ĎLetís see how many people I can hurt?"

"Ugh, Jesus---"

"Donít you dare take the Lordís name in vain Cory Alexander!"

The blonde bit the inside of her cheek. Suddenly, she felt six again.

"Listen Cory, all Iím saying is donít become what youíre accusing her of being. That would make you a hypocrite."

Cory sighed. "Yes, mom. Iíd better go Barb is coming to pick me up soon to go to the gym."

"Oh, tell her I said hello will you? And listen to what I tell you Bunchee. Youíre not too old to hear what I say." The woman smiled and wondered if she was getting through to her youngest child, knowing she had inherited her motherís stubborn independent streak.

"Okay," the young woman replied softly.

Hanging up the phone a minute later, she rubbed her temples. ĎHadnít Shelley pretty much said the same thing? Why the hell do I react to this woman that way? I can barely contain myself when that. . . that woman is around. God, I canít even say her name.í Heaving another exasperated sigh, she rammed her fisted hands into the mattress, causing a crisp rustling sound of the sheets. ĎI need to think. A good work out would definitely help. Better yet, I could kick the living tar out of somebody in the ring,í she thought to herself. The petite blonde bent down to touch her toes, stretching out vertebra. Getting up and scratching her stomach idly, she headed for the bathroom, shedding her clothes as she went. "Yeah, weights then kickboxing," she remarked to no one in particular. Maybe she didnít hate Barb too much this morning. Maybe.

Chapter VII: Letís get ready to, uh, rumble?

Taylor tapped her fingertips on the steering wheel along with the techno-dance beat, trying desperately to improve her mood. It didnít help. She sat in the car a few extra minutes to finish the song. Getting out, she frowned at the openness of the parking lot. A better car alarm and a club were definitely in order. She grabbed her bag, swiftly pulled down brief shorts that had ridden up slightly, and headed for the building. Of all places, she had found the gym inside the Convention Center. It seemed others had closed due to constant break ins. Well, it was Gary after all.

Opening the door to the Center, she heard a wolf whistle of all things. Her shoulders stiffened under the blue t-shirt. She was definitely not in the mood to deal with this. The tall woman turned slowly and scanned the vicinity to see some kids sitting on top an old Buick. Not knowing and not caring what demon possessed her, she swiftly gave them the finger. Finally walking through the door, she heard Ďbitchí whispered and carried through the air. Cracking a small smile, she began to hum the song from the radio, playing just a few minutes earlier. Nothing like a little confrontation to get the blood pumping and improve the mood.

Barely out of breath, Barb continued the brisk jog on the treadmill and watched her friend stretch. She had been abnormally silent during the ride over and that silence held. She drew dark brows together in worry, wondering what was up. Deciding to go with humor to draw her out, the older woman asked, "Surely I didnít make you that mad by making you miss your cartoons?"

The blonde head raised to reveal troubled green eyes. "Nah, síokay."

Now, the brunette knew something was definitely wrong. She stopped the machine and leaned forward, placing elbows on the control panel.

"Cor? Whatís wrong?"

The younger woman sighed and sat on a nearby weight bench. Running hands through already messy hair, she let her arms drop dejectedly at her side.

"I-I donít know. It seems like Iíve been angry a lot lately, especially this week. That woman I donít know how to explain it. She just . . . ugh. I donít even know how to describe the feeling. Itís like exasperation, anger and a lot of energy balled up inside. I canít keep on like this. Either Iíll end up fired or . . . or I donít know what else. I donít know what to do anymore. Both Mom and Shelley told me what an idiot Iím being."

Barb studied her friend before answering. "I donít know if this will be any consolation, but I think sheís going through the same thing. Itís not everyday that someone does what you did to her. Maybe if you two get together and talk it out without yelling. . . you never know. I saw her face the other day Cor. She was really affected by what she saw at that house. Besides you two made a good team." ĎYou probably could make something more,í she said to herself.

The blonde head bowed, but not before Barb saw the edge of full lips curl in a small smile.

"Yeah, you could be on to something. I just need to think. A good workout should help. You wanna join me in the ring later?"

Barbís head jerked up and she blinked twice, trying to think of a quick answer.

"Uh, no?"

Obvioulsy, she couldnít come up with one.

A bark of laughter came from the blonde caseworker. "Would that be your ĎOh shití face?"

"Uh-huh, that would be the one. Wouldnít you rather beat up on someone who knew what they were doing?"

Cory continued to chuckle at the rounded blue eyes that stared back at her. "Calm down girl! Finish your run. Youíre safe for now."

Barb nodded and Cory got up to continue stretching.

Barb upped the treadmill a couple of levels to increase her running speed. Letting go of the bars on the side, she moved into a smooth running gait. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of black and blue. Turning her eyes toward the sight, she zeroed in on somber blue sky. The older woman wheezed and stumbled, missing a step and causing herself to be propelled backward, toward the wall. A well placed hand on the railing was her only savior. Looking up again toward the vicinity, the woman saw Taylor, who nodded briskly and walked away. Barb glanced down quickly, hoping to gage Cory's reaction, only to see the blonde head bent down to her front leg as she did something that resembled the splits. Cory hadn't seen a thing. The brunette smacked her lips and smiled. 'And I'm not going to tell her. It's a small gym, so they'll find each other. It maybe just what they need.' Continuing to smile, Barb cranked the machine up another level.

After returning from the locker room, Taylor sat heavily on the nearby bench and gnashed her teeth. She was here. It was a small world, and Gary was even freakin' smaller. 'Dammit, dammit, shit!' The tall woman screamed in her head. Hadn't she come here to relax? The admin could feel the muscles in her lower back tense with each breath. She had traded one nightmare for another. 'That. . . that little pisant. Maybe if I leave now I can catch Wendy before she goes anywhere.' She shook her head and resisted the urge to growl. 'I'm not going anywhere. She wouldn't dare say anything to me outside work.' Taylor cringed at the laughter in the back of her mind along with the little voice that had just called her delusional. Mumbling to herself, she grabbed at the towel around her neck and started stretching bunched arm muscles.

"Hey Barb?"

The woman glanced down toward the blonde at the mention of her name. Cory paused and squinted, looking again at the amusement that sparkled in the face above hers.

"What?" The older woman said as innocently as she could.

"What are you up to?" The younger woman asked with a smirk.

The brunette blinked then blinked again and tried to wash the grin off her face. it didn't work. She tried for coquettish instead. Batting her eyelashes dramatically, Barb slowed the treadmill almost to a crawl.

"Whatever do you mean?"

Cory's mouth twisted to the side and a blonde brow hiked into blonde bangs.

"There's no turnip truck outside, Barb. So, I didn't fall off one." Sarcasm dripped from the petite woman's lips.

"Uh-huh, I still don't know what you're talking about."

Her grin widened.

"Ohhhh," Cory sighed in exasperation.

The other woman smiled even more. Cory's fingers itched to throw the towel in her friend's unsuspecting face. Instead, she wrapped it around her neck and pointed toward the next room. "Look, I'm going to the weight room if you need me."

Still supporting the shit-eating grin, the other woman simply replied, "Kay," and tried not to laugh as the young blonde stomped off. Barb waited a beat then followed. She wasn't going to miss this for anything in the world.

Bronze legs flexed, outlining sleek muscle as she pushed against the small paddles attached to the leg press machine. The satisfying snap of the weights as they landed on top of the others was music to her ears. She concentrated on the sound, her pumping heart, and breathing to drown out the surrounding noise. Sweat trickled down the crease of her back and dampened dark temples. This morning's tension was starting to ebb away. Taylor closed her eyes, exhaling loudly as the bars were lifted again.

With blue eyes still closed and concentration holding, she missed the small gasp but felt the hair prickle at the back of her neck. 'Damn.' Opening baby blues, Taylor followed short, leanly muscled legs up to brief red shorts, white t-shirt that revealed chiseled abs, long, graceful neck and up to two points of green light that stared unblinkingly with unnamed emotion. The admin groaned inwardly and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling.

Cory knew she probably looked like a green eyed guppy, standing there with her mouth open and eyes bulged. "Oh, crap, I wasn't prepared for this.' Straight white teeth began to grind instinctively as a familiar ball of emotion tunneled it's way through. For the first time, she tried to fight it. Clenching her fist, she tried to usurp the emotions with shear will. Her mouth closed and opened again with impending speech, but the other woman beat her to the punch.

"Ms. Donovan," Taylor said with a velvet voice laced with venom.

The blonde's small, determined chin snapped upward, and she looked down into azure eyes that readily reflected antagonism. All the fight left, leaving only very familiar emotion.

"Ms. Wilson. The world is too damned small." Cory replied. Green eyes darkened with anger.

Taylor cocked her head slightly to the smiled wanly. "You know, I was just thinking the same thing?"

Listening close by, Barb slumped against the wall and groaned. The air crackled with energy around those two, and from what she had just heard, it sure as hell wasn't positive. Barb closed dark blue eyes and shook her head. Peaking back at them with one eye, she had to make sure. They were adults weren't they? The older woman smirked and wondered if she could get fired for locking them both in the locker room all day. 'Yeah, probably.' She crossed wiry arms over her chest and continued to watch.

Squinted eyes exchanged green and blue fire. They continued to stare, squared off like gunslingers in some bad Western. Cory was the first to draw.

"Are you going to stay on that thing all day? I mean other community members wanna use it, or you gonna try and take that away too?"

An elegant dark brow raised.

"Although, I'm sure all these people would object just like I have," the blonde added with a wintry smile

Taylor reared up slowly. She'd heard it. The dam of control burst then crumbled, leaving anger free to roll through in tsunami type waves. Silver blue darkened to almost gray. In quick sure moves, Taylor pushed herself up from the machine and just as surely walked menacingly up to the blonde. A lesser person would cringe at the flames of anger and warning shooting from the olive skin, but Cory was not that person. She absorbed the energy and used it to fuel her own. So, there they stood in the middle of the weight room, surrounded by nosy bystanders and Barb. Taylor stepped closer, trying to intimidate the smaller woman with her size and presence. Cory never flinched.

Mere inches separated their bodies. The tall, raven haired woman leaned down with eyes slits of blue and whispered coldly.

"If I fired you right now. What would your starving community do then? You're a hypocrite and a coward. And guess what? You're gone."

She smiled ferally, turned, and walked away.

Cory heard the blood rush through her ears as it pumped furiously through her heart. She swallowed the golf ball sized lump in her throat. Her eyes burned, and small hands started to shake. Green eyes scanned the room and the people in it frantically. They stared back. Loss constricted around her gut, taking the ability to breath, and the room started to spin. She sat down and lowered her blonde hear between parted knees. She had seen it in the crystal blue eyes. It had gone too far. She had gone too far. 'Oh fuck, what did I just do?'

The sparse sea of people parted to let the tall, obviously angry woman through, who was followed a minute later by another brunette.

Taylor's heart thudded in her throat. She had seen the civility shining in the green, and it scared her. Not knowing what else to do, she lashed out in an effort to see something in the jade eyes she could handle. Animosity. Seeing it finally, she nurtured it until they both tumbled out of control. She snatched the band holding her hair in a ponytail. Her head fell into large, elegant hands and loose midnight tendrils covered her arms. Letting out a long sigh, Taylor resisted the urge to scream. She had crossed the line. Hell she had obliterated it. As a result, she had just fired one of her best caseworkers. 'Damn, what did I just do?'

Barb looked through the small window into the locker room. She had seen and heard the whole thing. Guilt laid his head heavy and bulky on her shoulders. She had to do something. The older woman had seen the devastating look on her friend's face. She just had to do something. . . anything, knowing she would never forgive herself otherwise.

Pushing the door open, she entered quietly.


Recognizing the voice, Taylor moaned softly. 'Not now.' "What do you want, Barb?" Her voice muffled by her hands and devoid of emotion.

"I heard."

"Oh? And?"

"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"What the hell for?" Taylor asked finally looking up.

They exchange serious glances.

"You know why. This. . . between you two needs to stop."

The younger woman laughed without humor. "It did. I fired her."

"Yeah, I know, but I don't think you meant to. Things just went too far. God, you two scared me to death."

She got a stony glare in response. "What? Did you think I was going to hit her? I don't hate her. it's just that she gets under my skin like a bad itch."

Barb nodded in empathy. "She's one of our best. We ---"

"Don't you think I know that?" The dark head shook in exasperation. She couldn't believe she was talking to this woman, but what the hell.

Barb blinked. She knew this woman was human. She'd seen it just a few days before, hidden behind eyes that held secrets. "I know you two make a volatile mix. She sees you as a change agent, trying to rock the boat big time. You see her. . . I don't know how you see her." Barb sat down next to the other woman. Taylor surprised them both when she didn't flinch.

"She's stuck. Doesn't want anything to change despite what the numbers say. God, it's so stupid. She's being what she accused me of being."

Light blue eyes looked into the darker set for agreement.

"She's scared Taylor. She cares so much. Maybe too much, and I'm surprised she hasn't fallen apart, seeing some of the things she has. I know her. She just wants them to have the same chance we have, and in her eyes, you're trying to take that away."

Taylor jumped up and began to pace in front of the wooden bench. "Dammit! That makes no sense! All I'm trying to do is concentrate the money we have in areas that the people frequent to make them stronger! Can't she see that?"

"Have you told her?"

If it was a less delicate situation, Barb would have laughed at the look on the other woman's face. It would probably hurt if her haw had dropped any lower.

"Uh, I-I assumed. . ."

"I'm sure you both assumed a lot of things. Don't you think it's time to talk and know the real things? You two could work well together. With the way she cares and the way you think, this community could really grow."

"I don't know. I just don't know."

"Come on. Things can't get any worse. I don't think." Barb smiled crookedly, earning a slight smirk from her boss.

The raven haired women shook her head. She definitely had to rethink her impressions of people especially this woman. "Yeah, what would it hurt?"

Barb got up and waited for the other woman to follow. They made their way back to the weight room, but there was no Cory. Taylor looked around confused.

"She left."

Barb touched her arm to get her attention. "No, she couldn't have. I think I know where she is. Follow me."

With a breathless grunt, Cory landed a smacking kick to her sparring partners lower side. The man let out a surprised 'umphf'. The woman smiled. She had no job. No career. Why not kick the shit out of some unsuspecting, typically smug man? It could make her feel better. She bobbed and weaved rapidly to the side as quick punches came toward her face. The feisty blonde laughed, trying to wash the acid taste of failure back down with fake mirth, then landed a deadly combination to his stunned face. The sound of leather on skin was loud in the quiet gym, despite the safety wear. Sweat flew from his hair and face as his head jerked to the side from the force of the blows.

The sandy haired man shook it off and growled in growing anger. There was no way this little woman was going to beat him. He went to her hard, throwing a combination of stinging punches and swift kicks. It would have hurt, if they had hit their mark. He wanted to snarl in frustration but got the feeling it wouldn't bother her in the least.

Cory smirked at the dazed look in the man's eyes. Anger and disappointment turned inward at away at her insides, making each move purposeful, calculated. Still, she smiled brighter, letting loose a series of blows that would make anybody watching dizzy. Each strike to his head landed with a thud and a muffled smack and each kick hit it's mark with the clapping sound of wet flesh. God, it hurt that she could be such an idiot. She let out a loud, keening yell as she added another combo as quick as the last one ended.

Barb gasped as she watched from the doorway. The feral look on her friend's face couldn't be disguised by the smile. She was hurting, and she was going to work her body until everything was numb. The taller Taylor watched on with a raised eyebrow. She was suddenly glad that she didn't hit women. Her view of the blonde improved as the man bounced against the ropes, sucking air. Not able to help herself, she smiled, following the other woman further into the room.

As if possessing some sixth sense, the blonde head jerked up and to the side, immediately meeting pale blue. Green eyes widened in surprise then continued to stare, trying to decipher the resigned, sedate look in the blue depths. The male fighter sneered in triumph as he spotted the opening he needed. Cory turned back, sensing before she felt the movement just a little late. With a loud cry, his gloved fist sailed toward her face. She cringed, preparing her body for impact.

Two sets of blue eyes widened in horror at the unfolding sight. "Hey!" Taylor yelled as she broke into a brisk run toward the ring. Barb followed closely behind. A little too late. With a resounding crunch, the punch connected with Cory's nose. She yelped and reached back for the safety of the ropes. Realizing they weren't close enough, she felt her body sluicing through the non-resistant air as pain radiated through her face. With a loud smack, she hit the mat, hard. Stars exploded in front of green eyes, resulting from the double bounce of her head as it hit the surface. Letting out a strangled groan, she tried desperately to breath.

The sandy haired main loomed over her chuckling. "Bitch." He sneered and aimed a spit wad near her side. Two long tanned legs jumped over the side. Raven hair righted itself messily around her head as she landed in the ring. Her chest heaved and unexplainable anger exploded through peaked senses. The man turned around only to find his chin meeting with a hard fist of yet another woman. He whimpered softly. The last thing he saw before crumpling to the floor were slitted eyes that flashed pale fire.

Barb flinched in instinctive empathy as she jumped into the ring. 'Whooo okay, somebody cares more than she thinks.' Coming out of the reverie, she rushed to the side of the moaning blonde. Kneeling down, the short haired brunette looked over her friend. Blood oozed from her nose, and she beat one foot against the mat in pain.

"Kid? You okay?"

Cory swallowed audibly. "Barb? Oh God, it hurts," she replied nasally. The blonde brought her knees up and tried to raise her torso. Groaning was the only result.

"Hey, stay down. I think it's broken."

The petite woman chuckled and moaned. "No shit. Serves me right. Idiot. Owww, dammit!"

Taylor huffed out a pained breath as she shook her hand. She didn't know why she did that, and she wasn't going to ponder on it. 'Chivalry. Yeah, that's it. Chivalry.' The little voice cackled again, and continued as she walked over to the other women.

"Sonofabitch! Owww! Stupid!"

"Calm down, kid. It's okay."

Jade eyes stared at the ceiling because it hurt too much to turn her head.

"Hold on. I'm going to go get some ice."

"Oh God, don't leave me alone. Please!" Cory added desperately.

"Shhh, you're not alone."

Towering above both women, Taylor looked down at the blonde with sympathetic eyes. Cory squinted painfully, as some of the light from the ceiling flourescents dimmed. Her eyes searched the area, only to come into contact with concerned blue. The younger woman swallowed and whimpered.

"God, don't leave me, Barb. I don't think I could take her right now."

Two sets of blues met. The darker set inquisitive. The other answering the question.

"She'll take care of you, Kid. Be right back."

Cory whimpered again in protest.

"Relax, Cory. I know what I'm doing, and I'm not going to hurt you. . .anymore."

The blonde was sure she was losing her hearing. She thought she heard gentleness in the voice of the woman who had just fired her. When the pain receded, she would have more time to ponder the wave of peace that enveloped her, but right now first things were first.

Taylor watched on somewhat shocked at how vulnerable the helion of a woman looked. She needed somebody, and the older woman was going against everything her promise to give her what she needed. It felt right. It even felt good. Speaking to Cory in soothing tones, Taylor kneeled at her feet.

"Cory? I have to set your nose. Okay?"

"Is it gonna hurt?"

"I'm not gonna lie to you. It is, but it will be over quickly."

Taking a deep breath, Cory close her eyes then opened them again, having made a decision. "Okay, I believe you."

Taylor tried to steel her senses to the pleasurable emotion flowing through, but it was to know avail. She swallowed, and whispered, "Okay, here goes."

The taller woman crawled up the other woman's body until she was straddling the small waist. She could feel the contraction, against her thighs, of the smaller woman's abdomen as she breathed. Leaning forward, Taylor's thighs contacted sweaty skin, causing her to slide a little. She pitched forward but was able to catch her impending fall by placing her palms on the mat. Black hair cascaded downward, brushing the younger woman's face. Taylor glanced down to see the youthful, bruised face inches from her own. Glazed green looked back at her. The moment was awkward to say the least. The tall woman cleared her throat loudly.

"Uh, sorry."

"It's okay," Cory replied softly. The pain was momentarily forgotten in the place of beautiful warmth.

"Uh, let's try this again."

Taylor distributed her weight to long legs.


"Yeah, let's go."

Placing large hands on both side of the blonde woman's face, her thumbs ended up searching for the battered bone. With a muted 'ah,' some pressure, and a loud snap, the bone was put back into place. Cory yelped and dug her blunt nails into a convenient forearm, almost drawing blood. Taylor reared upward but didn't protest the hand on her arm.

"Okay, all done. Try to sit up slowly."

Swinging her legs off the body under her, the admin rose gracefully, wiping blood on her shorts. Supporting herself on forearms, Cory sat up.

"Ugh, it still hurts. Um, but thanks," she said sheepishly.


Taylor turned hearing the sound of running feet. Barb grabbed onto the rope and hefted herself over. She looked from Taylor to Cory.

"Everything okay?"



"Okay, good." 'Well, isn't this a cozy picture. Interesting.'

She took the ice to her friend and helped her apply it to her face. All three of them turned at the slight moan. Cory looked at both the woman.

"What happened to him?"

Barb smirked at Taylor.

She had the good grace to look smug. "Uh, something hard hit him?" The younger brunette replied.

The older woman snorted. Cory looked at them both confused.

"Uh, okay. Can somebody help me up? I think I need to get to the hospital."

Barb heaved the woman up gently from behind. With an arm around her waist, she helped her toward the ropes. All three stopped as a beeper went off.

"That's me," Barb said as she grabbed the pager snapped to her waist. "Damn, that's the hubby."

"I have a cell phone in the car," Taylor offered.

"Okay, let's get her out of here."

Once outside, Cory sat on the hood of her boss' Accord, holding a bag of ice to her nose. Taylor handed the other brunette the phone and turned toward the blonde.

They stared at each other awkwardly.

"What?" Cory asked softly.

"Your eyes are getting puffy underneath. I think they're swelling."

She tried to snort but winced in pain. "Ugh, I know. I can feel it."

Blue eyes glanced away then looked back. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, prolly need to get some x-rays though."

Cory swallowed and tried to ignore the gentleness shining in the other woman's eyes. She couldn't, but she still didn't know how to deal with it. So, for the time being, she hid.

"Uh, thanks again for this."

Taylor nodded.

Cory sighed inwardly. Maybe this is what they needed. Maybe the lines needed to be crossed and obliterated in order for new one's to be drawn. Maybe.

Taylor didn't know what to do with what she was feeling. Confusion settled into her gut. Why did all of this have to happen for them to be civil to each other? In any other situation, they could have been fast friends. The two women were broken from their reverie with Barb's announcement.

"I have to go gang. The hubby needs the car because his broke down. Uh, Taylor can you take her to the hospital, and I'll join you as soon as I can?"

The raven haired woman nodded. "Sure no problem. I saw a hospital not far---"

"No!" The other two women said vehemently.

Barb giggled. "You don't want to take her there. They might loose her, or end up taking out her appendix instead of x-raying."

Taylor's eyes widened. "You're kidding?"

They both shook their heads silently.

"Merrilville is our best bet," Cory added."

"Okay, hop in. Merrilville it is then."

Chapter VIII: Check, uh, stale. . . mate

The first few minutes of the ride were cloaked in silence until Taylor broke it.

"Uh, do you have everything you need with you. Insurance card, ID, and such?"

"Yeah, got it out of Barb's glove compartment before we left."

They lapsed into silence again. At a red light, Taylor glanced over at the blonde's profile. Her living was with knowing what to say, when to say, and saying it to the right people. Right now, she had no idea. She had never had problems talking to anyone, especially women. Her tongue felt thick and tied, and all she was seeking from this woman was a possible friendship, no matter how tentative. Pale blue glanced over again, only to have moss green staring back. She snatched her eyes away quickly and cleared her throat.

Cory made a show of studying her free hand in her lap. 'Damn, this is hard. I can't ask for my job back. I deserve what I got, but she should know that I'm sorry for all the things I said to her the past week. Whoever said 'Mama is always right' wasn't kidding.'

"Uh, Tay---"


Taylor chuckled awkwardly as she drove through the green light.

"You first. You don't mind me calling you Cory do you? Ms. Donovan is a trifle impersonal after what we've just been through."

"Cory is fine. Um, I was going to say I'm sorry for what's happened between us. I want you to understand that it's not you per say just what you stand for." Cory could feel the sudden tension. "That didn't come out right. It's not you personally. I guess I just wanted everyone in that office to want what I want, the best for the people."

"And you think that I don't want that? I do Cory. I didn't cancel those programs out of spite or ignorance. I cancelled them to concentrate on the other ones to make them better."

"I guess we. . .turn here then hand a left. We should be right there. Um, I was going to say that I guess we have or should I say had some misunderstandings."

Taylor was quiet for a long minute. As they drove into the hospital parking lot, she replied. "Yeah, I guess we did."

The time inside the hospital breezed by. Taylor helped the other woman to fill out insurance information, and explained to the details of the kickboxing incident to the doctor. A quiet chasm lapsed between them in the waiting room, but it was a pleasant one. Cory dozed as Taylor flipped through a magazine. With an economy of words, a bridge had been built between them. A short hour later, Barb arrived with her husband. They were both assured by a helpful Taylor that the blonde would get home alright.

The married couple glanced at each other.

"Barb? I thought you said that they wanted to scratch each other's eyes out?"

"Mmm, well, let's just say something's changed."

The ride back into Gary was uneventful. Cory snored softly with the aid of pain killers. Taylor split her attention between the road and the woman. Something had definitely happened. For the first time in a week, Taylor didn't feel anxious around the smaller woman. She felt comfortable. Having got the instructions from Barb, the older woman pulled up in front of an apartment building. Taylor looked over at the sleeping woman, hating to wake her, but she needed a key to get in. She put her hand on a slumped shoulder and shook lightly.

Cory sucked in air loudly and jumped up in surprise.

"Hey, it's okay. It's just me."

"Oh, home already?" she said groggily. The puffy eyes and semi-swollen nose were outlined in the street lights.

"Yeah, you want me to see you up?"

"Uh, no I'll take the elevator. I should be okay."

"You sure?"


"Alright then."

The dark-haired woman hit the button to unlock the doors. The blonde moved to get out. With one leg out and one leg in, her progress was interrupted.

"Hey, Cory?" The green eyes looked back at her sleepily. "If you're up to it, be ready to see through my eyes come Monday."

The little woman blinked then smiled crookedly. "Kay."

With that she got out of the car, looking back slightly over her shoulder as she made her way to her building. Taylor smiled after her, watched, and waited until the other woman disappeared inside to drive off. Hopefully, she had ended one nightmare.

Whooo, that was one labor of love people! God, I love these characters. Let me know how you feel will ya? Give me a jingle at Minerva

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