A/N: I figure Kelly and Jennifer are around 26 and 28, respectively. Also, I ship them hard.
TIME MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
It took less than an hour for things to go spectacularly wrong.
When this idea was proposed to her after reuniting with her old friend and former Cadet Captain she'd thought life was finally looking up for her. Dinner and drinks with a person she hadn't seen in years shouldn't be too hard, she'd thought. Boy had she been wrong.
In the years since Kelly had seen Jennifer Stone they'd both done a lot of growing up. It had been a complete surprise for Kelly to run into Jennifer at the coffee shop she frequented every morning. She looks amazing, had been Kelly's first thought. Her second was oh no, she's seen me!
Jennifer had peered at Kelly's face for a moment before affectionately asking, "Maggot?"
Kelly, by force of habit, straightened up and saluted. "A pleasure to see you again, ma'am," she'd said with a smile.
Jennifer had smiled hugely back and grabbed Kelly into a fierce hug. "It's really you!" she'd laughed, "How long has it been?"
Kelly hugged her back just as fiercely, "Nearly ten years now. What are you doing here?"
Jennifer released her and stepped back still grinning, "I was just transferred here."
"Oh?" Kelly asked curiously, "Did you go into the Armed Forces?"
"Air Force, right out of high school," Jennifer confirmed, "After training and a few tours I joined the nursing program in North Carolina and graduated with highest honors."
"Congratulations, ma'am," Kelly beamed at her former Cadet Captain.
Jennifer frowned a little, "You don't have to call me that, Kelly. I'm not your Captain anymore."
"Sorry," Kelly said with a shrug, "Force of habit. You'll kind of always be my Captain."
Jennifer just sighed and smiled a little sadly. She reached out to touch Kelly's arm, "Call me Jennifer, please?"
Kelly nodded while laying her hand over Jennifer's, "Jennifer, then."
The brunette smiled, "So, what are you doing out here in California?"
"I live here. Have since I graduated college." Kelly smiled proudly.
"Congratulations on graduating!" Jennifer grinned at her, "What do you do now?"
"I teach, actually," Kelly looked bashfully at her feet.
"What subject?" Jennifer asked curiously.
Kelly blushed as she briefly caught Jennifer's eyes and looked away. She murmured, "Art."
Jennifer's laugh was bright and joyful, "Of course you do. I should have guessed." She looked fondly at her blushing companion, "It suits you. Teaching, I mean. I remember how you were. People really responded well to you."
"Thank you," Kelly said.
Jennifer looked pensively at Kelly and began to speak, "Listen, I-" a sudden ringing interrupted her and she pulled out her cell phone and checked the screen and frowned unhappily at it, "I have to go."
Kelly felt a pang of loss that their reunion would be cut so short. "Oh, alright."
"Hang on," Jennifer said, "Let's do dinner tonight. We can catch up properly then."
"You sure you want to be seen with a lowly Maggot?" Kelly grinned mischievously up at Jennifer.
Jennifer laughed, "I'm sure. Here, put your number in my phone. I'll give you a call later to make arrangements."
Kelly did as she was asked and with a quick hug Jennifer Stone disappeared out the door.
True to her word Jennifer called her on her lunch break to set up their dinner for eight o'clock at a favorite little diner of Kelly's since Jennifer was new to town and didn't yet have favorites.
At eight twenty Kelly still hadn't managed to reach the diner.
She'd left her apartment early knowing Jennifer would be on time and wouldn't like to be kept waiting, she'd hoped to impress by showing up early. It was not to be. Her car, an old thing she'd inherited from Sir when he bought a new Cadillac, had blown a tire while she was still fifteen minutes drive away and she hadn't had a spare.
She'd locked her keys in her car along with her purse, which held her money and cell phone, while looking in the boot for a tire that didn't exist.
As she was hurriedly walking down the sidewalk, attempting to still make it only a little late, her heel got caught in a grate and snapped off sending her toppling to the concrete. She'd scraped her palms and skinned her knees on the landing, but she was grateful not to have twisted her ankle. She hissed as she stood up and felt a little blood leak down her right leg. Still, she kept on.
When she was just four blocks away a man came barreling down the sidewalk chasing his large Rottweiler who'd slipped his leash. She tried to dodge out of their way but her dress caught on a small privacy fence and the dog had run right over her. When the man had caught the dog, apologized profusely, and been on his way Kelly was able to look down at herself. Her dress, a cute little blue one she'd bought just a week ago, had been torn from her knee nearly up to her hip and was covered in muddy dog prints. She knew her hair would be a mess and she was so dejected she was nearly crying. Still, she kept going.
At eight thirty, a time she knew because she still wore her watch, she stumbled through the diner's doors praying Jennifer would still be there.
Jennifer was indeed still there but just about to leave thinking she'd been stood up.
"Jennifer!" Kelly called breathlessly.
Jennifer turned, ready to deliver an upset rant, and was alarmed when she caught sight of Kelly. The young woman was limping towards her, knees and hands bloody, hair askew, dress torn and filthy...Jennifer feared she'd been mugged or worse. "Kelly! What happened to you?" Jennifer rushed over to Kelly and reached for her, catching her by the hands and squeezing gently while guiding her to a seat.
Kelly nearly started crying then and there. She miserably recounted her woeful tale of travel punctuated with sniffles and tissues, and concluded with, "I'm such a mess. I'm so sorry." Then she finally really looked at Jennifer, stunning in a purple blouse and black slacks, smiled wistfully and said, "You look gorgeous. I'm sorry I've ruined everything."
Before Jennifer had time to react Kelly was up and running out the door, her shoes abandoned under a table.
Jennifer hastily grabbed her own purse and took off after Kelly. "Kelly," she called, "Kelly, wait!"
The woman was surprisingly fast for being barefoot on the streets, and shockingly adept at dodging pedestrian traffic in her flight. Somehow Kelly managed to navigate her way to a small park without running into anything or falling down. But Jennifer was in good shoes and slacks, her sight not clouded by tears, and in great shape so she caught up to Kelly just as they were crossing a footbridge over a pond.
Jennifer reached out and caught Kelly by the arm just above her elbow. She pulled the smaller woman to a stop and turned her around, "Kelly...why'd you run?"
Kelly sniffled sadly and wouldn't meet Jennifer's eyes, "Because I messed everything up!"
"No, you didn't," Jennifer tried to reassure her, "None of what happened was your fault."
"But I made you wait around," Kelly argued, "I know you probably thought I stood you up."
"It doesn't matter," Jennifer said, "You came even after having probably the worst travel night of your life. That's what counts."
"I don't want you to see me like this," Kelly whispered, getting down to the heart of her real grief.
"See you like this?" Jennifer repeated softly. "Kelly, have you forgotten that I've seen you covered head to toe in mud and grime and looking like you'd just been hit by a truck? And I still thought you were beautiful."
Kelly's head snapped up to look into Jennifer's earnest eyes, "Really?"
"I've always thought you were beautiful, Kelly," Jennifer revealed, "And you've only gotten better with age."
Kelly blushed to the roots of her hair.
Jennifer leaned down, nearly touching their lips together, and whispered, "Is this okay?"
"Yes," Kelly breathed back before surging up, wrapping her arms around Jennifer's neck, and kissing her. Jennifer was more than happy to return that kiss.
They kissed softly for several long moments, Jennifer slipping her arms around Kelly's waist and pulling her close. When it came to a natural end they stood with their foreheads resting against one another.
"I've wanted to do that since we were teenagers," Jennifer whispered with a chuckle, leaning down and claiming several shorter kisses just because she could.
"Why didn't you?" Kelly opened her eyes to watch Jennifer's face.
Jennifer met Kelly's eyes and she blushed, "I was too afraid. By the time I'd screwed up enough courage to do it we got my dad's transfer orders and I didn't want to start anything that would hold you back."
Kelly sighed, "I wish you would have. You'd have saved me a few years of confusion and several bad relationships."
Jennifer smiled apologetically, "Sorry."
Kelly shook her head, "Don't be. We're here now and there's nothing holding us back."
"Yes," Jennifer whispered. "Let me take you home and help you get cleaned up," she offered, "We can get take-out and try this date night thing some other time."
"I have all the best take-out menus in my kitchen," Kelly said, "And a pretty impressive movie collection. You could stay over if you'd like."
"I'd like that very much," Jennifer stole another soft kiss from Kelly's willing lips before pulling away and gallantly offering her arm. "Shall we?"
Kelly smiled hugely at Jennifer, "We shall."
If it had taken less than an hour for things to go spectacularly wrong, Kelly and Jennifer spent the next several hours making everything go spectacularly right.
A/N: Please review.