DISCLAIMER: None of these characters belong to me; I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
DEDICATED: The genius of Evan Rachel Wood and Mischa Barton who had managed to create such beautiful and layered characters, that absolutely sizzle on screen whenever they are together. Cheers, girls!
SERIES/SEQUEL: This is the third story of the series, following In The Bedroom and Breaking Up The Girl.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

About A Girl
By Janine


Part 15

Booklover's (a.k.a. Judy's bookstore)

Judy sat down across from an amazingly quiet Karen pushing an abnormally sized cup of coffee across the table to her. Karen had come in about ten minutes ago, quietly asking Judy if they could talk, but once they sat down Karen had just started staring at the tabletop, glancing up apologetically every couple of seconds. Judy had suggested that she just needed to get a little caffeine in her system, but as she sat across from the quietly sipping woman she wondered if that was true. Karen was, well she usually looked perturbed and slightly worried, like the weight of the world never left her but merely shifted, however this seemed more serious to Judy.

"You have to promise that this is going to stay, just between us," Karen said seriously looking up at Judy. Because of Judy's friendship with her, and the fact that Lily was her sister, Karen was aware that a lot of information got shared between everyone due to Judy's dual relationships. She just had to make sure that this wouldn't be one of those times.

"Yeah," Judy responded realizing that Karen meant 'don't tell Lily', "of course."

"Jessie," Karen started softly. "She went to the dance Grace planned."

"Yeah," Judy responded smiling obliviously. "Lily to told me. We all think it's really great that Jessie's supporting Grace like that. I guess they really are getting closer, I hadn't believed it but it looks like they've come along way since the play."

"Supporting Grace?" Karen asked with a touch of confusion. She wasn't exactly sure what Judy was talking about.

"Yeah. I mean it's good. That Grace has got someone to help her through this. Cause it's got to be hard, you know. But at least she's got the club to help her sort through things, and it's got to help her to know that Jessie is there for her."

Karen was quite for a moment, and then let out a bark of laughter she quickly reigned in when Judy looked up at her sharply.

"Lily," Karen started. "You … you think that Grace is gay?"

"Well she did join the club," Judy said somewhat defensively. "And she hasn't been seeing anyone, and she's really defensive about people being able to love whoever they want," she went on. "I mean, it's easy for you, your daughter's dating a fine piece of football player," Judy continued stopping only when she noticed Karen's face fall at her mention of Tad. "What?"

"I don't think that Lily has anything to worry about," Karen replied running a hand through her hair. "Grace isn't gay," Karen continued wrapping her hands around the coffee cup, soaking in the warmth. Judy opened her mouth to respond but Karen pressed on before she could speak, or she could lose her nerve. "Jessie is."

Judy's mouth opened, then closed. Then opened again, before closing once more as her eyes bugged out missing Guinness records by a pinch. "But Jessie didn't join the club," Judy got out eventually.

"I don't really think that club membership is a conclusive indicator," Karen responded wearily. "From a rant Jessie went on a while back, it seems Grace joined because of some guy she has a crush on."

"Oh," Judy responded, her mind still trying to adjust to what Karen was saying. "Oh. But, Jessie? Aren't she and Tad…"

Karen merely shook her head, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

"But how do you know?" Judy persisted surprised but intrigued but what Karen was telling her.

"I asked her," Karen admitted taking another sip of her coffee.

"And she just told you. Just like that?" Judy asked sounding rather incredulous.

"I already knew," Karen, replied staring down into the cup, talking to herself more than Judy. "I didn't want to believe it, but after I heard … and I saw that flower and …" she started trailing off remembering how she had slowly trickled towards enlightenment. "And the way that they looked at each other," she continued with a sigh, remembering lingering … longing glances that at the time she had thought to be secretively and playful.

"She's seeing someone?" Judy asked nearly having a conniption. "How? Who? When … who?"

Karen smirked at Judy's reactions wondering if she had looked like that. If she had sounded like that. She certainly knew that she had felt like that. "Think about it," Karen urged quietly. "What's every other word out of her mouth? Who's practically attached to her hip?"

Judy scrunched her brows together as her mind searched for obscure people and phrases that she may have heard Jessie use, before Occum's Razor slashed her across the wrist and the simplest answer came pouring out of her. "Katie?" Judy asked looking up and over at Karen. "Jessie…and Katie. Together? Like that?"

"Like yes," Karen replied leaning back in her chair. "Like for a while. Like they went to the dance together," she continued her eyes drifting around the store.

"Oh my god," Judy exclaimed, what Karen was saying sinking in with her for the first time. "Does Rick know?"

Karen shook her head, leaning forward once more and resting her elbows on the table.

"Well, you're going to tell him, right?" Judy asked. Karen shook her head again. "What? How can you not?"

"I promised Jessie I wouldn't," Karen replied shaking her head. "And the books said …"

"You've read books?" Judy asked surprised.

"I've read many books," Karen said looking over at her. "I read books," she admitted a moment later, hanging her head down. "I didn't know what else to do, I mean they don't really cover this in the parenting classes, and I sure as hell didn't think to ask," she continued. "I mean who plans for this? Who looks at their baby girl and starts planning for commitment ceremonies?"

"Yeah," Judy agreed. "Books would be good then," she continued nodding along. "So you're really not going to tell Rick?"

"I promised Jessie," Karen said again. "That she could … when she was ready. And she's not. If I hadn't figured it out," she went on shaking her head. "You should have seen her, she seemed so small. I," she stopped sighing tiredly. "I wish I could help her more but…"

"You're freaked?" Judy supplied.

Karen opened her mouth to protest, and then closed it. "Yeah. Pretty much," she finally responded with a derisive snort. "I thought … you know, when I heard those public service announcements, and saw 'those very special episodes' that I wouldn't be like that. That if my kid was gay, I would perfectly fine with it and be all supportive, and we could march together and wear matching t-shirts. But at the same time I never considered that I would have to be. I was in the role of the supportive friend you know, I was to be doing the patting, not be patted."

"It's normal, your reaction," Judy said comfortingly reaching across the table. "Everyone has these dreams for their kids, these hopes and expectations, and when … when you're forced to change them … well, it's alright to mourn their loss," she continued squeezing Karen's hand sympathetically.

"She thinks I'm disappointed in her," Karen replied struggling to keep her voice steady. "That it makes me love her less. But nothing could be farther from the truth," she continued. "She's my baby. I love her more than life itself, and nothing could ever change that. I just feel like she doesn't believe that, and I can't for the life of me figure out how to make her."

"You've just got to give yourself time," Judy responded, congratulating herself for having HBO and thus material to reference to comfort. "Those moms and dads that you see out there marching, and speaking at schools and wearing buttons, they were all sitting where you are now," she continued thoughtfully. "They all went through it, but they overcame it. You will too, it'll just take time. I mean it takes people years to realize they're gay," Judy went on, Karen's mind drifting to Jessie talking about how she didn't understand why she wasn't interested in dating boys. "It's only understandable that it takes parents some time to get used to the idea too. The most important thing is that you do love her. The rest will come with time."

"So I'm not a bad mother?" Karen asked looking over at her, quite relieved to hear that she wasn't some sort of hopeless bigot for not doing cartwheels upon learning of Jessie's relationship.

"No," Judy said shaking her head. "She's lucky to have you."

Part 16

"Anyway, I just don't think it's possible to do that with a gerbil. Not because some pervert wouldn't try it, but because the gerbil would probably have a problem with that. If I was the gerbil I know I would," was what Karen and Judy heard as they approached the front of the house.

Turning the corner they saw Jessie and Katie sitting on the porch with their bags resting in front of them.

"What's going on?" Judy asked looking at them strangely, not because of what Karen had told her or because of the conversation they had been having, but because it was extremely odd for them to be sitting out there.

"Forgot my keys," Jessie ground out starring up at her mother with a look that could wilt flowers. Karen looked away from her making a beeline for the door, realizing that they were out there because of rule number three and that Jessie wasn't at all happy about it.

"We'll have to get a spare made and hide it around here somewhere," Karen mumbled as she unlocked the door, still feeling Jessie's eyes burning holes into her back. Unlocking the door she quickly stepped inside. Maybe they could revisit rule three, she thought to herself as the rest of them followed her inside.

"So," Karen started carefully. "You're the one that introduced Jessie to Billie Holiday?" she continued trying to find the route to pumping Katie for information. Now that she knew the girl was dating her daughter she wanted all of the information on her that she could get.

"Yeah," Katie responded resting against the kitchen counter as Judy lounged beside her and Karen made coffee. Dr. Rosenfeld had called needing to reschedule Jessie's appoint for the week, so she had run upstairs to call her dad to arrange a new day. "She's great isn't she?" Katie went on sounding like she was going to swoon. "Most kids don't like the classic stuff, but I think it's great. You just don't hear stuff like that anymore, stuff that stays with you. I forget all the new songs like five minutes after I've heard them. But Lady Day is timeless."

Karen couldn't help but smile at that, the girl had a point. "So you're really interested in music?" she asked watching as Katie watched herself wiggle her foot. Kids were so strange.

"I like listening to it, but I have no discernable talent. I'd tried to learn how to play the piano once, but I was unbelievably bad at it. There are like Chimpanzee's out there that can play chopsticks better than me," Katie replied shaking her head dismally. "I've got scars," she continued smiling. "Jessie's great though," she continued warming to the subject. "Hearing her sing 'Bless the Child' was like out of this world … no solar system," she went on grinning. "Pluto was all like 'hey come back here!'"

Judy started laughing, mumbling to Karen how she 'loved this kid' before shaking her head. Katie grinned at Judy sensing that she would be an easier audience than Karen.

"You're easy," Katie responded settling more comfortably against the counter. "And you haven't even seen what I can do with a simple ping pong ball and candle."

"So what do you like to do?" Karen asked drawing Katie's attention back to her. She didn't know what the girl meant by that last comment but it sounded dirty.

"You mean like interests?" Katie inquired. Karen nodded finishing up with the coffee and turning around to devote her full attention to Katie. "Um, I guess I like gardening," she responded though she didn't seem too sure about that. "And drawing," she continued, confident this time as she located something that she liked that wasn't totally lame. "You know, art."

"Do you have any work with you?" Judy asked perking up after tuning out expecting a conversation about fertilizer.

"Ah, yeah," Katie said reaching down for her satchel and pulling out a small folder. Opening it up she flipped through a few pages, and then pulled out a couple loose sheets of paper. "Sketching isn't really my strong suit, I'm better with paints you know. But … well, there it is," she continued as she spread them across the counter and the two adults bent over the counter to look at the drawings. "That one's Jessie," she added a moment later pointing to the picture furthest to the left.

Karen stared at the pictures, really quite impressed by the work. Katie may not have had a gift for music but she certainly had one for art. Hearing her addition, she turned her head to where the girl was pointing and saw the picture in question. It showed Jessie sitting on a bench, laughing at something as she looked off slightly into the distance. It was a beautiful sketch, playful and wistful, but also deeply reverent.

Karen looked up at Katie after that, staring at her for a moment as the deep emotion that had to have been poured into drawing that picture struck her.

"It's beautiful," she said softly, removing her eyes when she saw Katie start to shift under her gaze.

"You can have it," Katie said a bit unnerved by Karen's gaze. "If you want. I mean you see her like every day so you probably don't need a stupid sketch of her, but …"

"Thank you," Karen interjected cutting off Katie's babble. "That's very nice of you. It really is a beautiful drawing."

"Oh, well I had a good subject," Katie replied a dreamy smile spreading across her face before she realized what she must look like and stopped, really wishing that this was one of the times she had opted for meaningful silence, as both Karen and Judy looked over at her. "I mean that bench is just gorgeous."

They were all silent for a moment, and then Judy started laughing. "I love this kid," she said repeating her earlier sentiment. "What do you think of the new DKNY line?" Judy asked a minute later drawing Katie's attention away from Karen who was still looking at her.

"Skirts could be shorter," Katie replied absently, turning her head as she heard footsteps coming down the stairs, and while simultaneously thanking the lord for soon rescuing her.

"Hey Judy, how you doing? Had a nice day? That's great," Jessie said blowing into the room and stopping next to Katie. "Dad says tomorrow at 5, new shoes mom? Let's go," she finished taking Katie's hand and dragging her – as much as she could drag her statuesque girlfriend – up the stairs.

Judy and Karen were silent as the girls took off up the stairs then turned to look at each other for a moment, and then Judy burst out laughing. "Oh my god," she said doubling over. "That was …" she continued noting that Karen couldn't help but let out a small smile too, "too cute."

"Is your mom on some new medication or something?" Katie asked wandering to the side of Jessie's room and fingering her solar system model.

"Unfortunately not," Jessie replied with a sigh. "She knows."

"Knows what?" Katie asked turning around to face her.

"About us," Jessie replied flopping back on her bed. "She's trying to act like she's cool with it, hence the weird. Next time you see her she'll probably threaten you with a shotgun, 'get away from my daughter'," she finished in an exaggerated southern accent.

"I've never been threatened with shotgun violence before," Katie said sitting on the edge of Jessie's bed. "Little Katie's all grown up now," she continued with a smile. "Besides your moms pretty cool. Stares a lot but she's pretty cool," she continued pausing for a moment before adding. "Plus she's kinda hot."

Katie turned her head to face Jessie having felt the bed shift, only to find the other girl looking at her with an absolutely aghast look on her face, which was soon replaced by a look of pure and utter evil as she stared at her girlfriend. Katie gulped, she had thought that was funny, but she was coming to realize that it really, really wasn't.

"Did I mention that I did a lot of drugs in the washroom before we left school?" Katie asked shifting uncomfortably under Jessie's stare. Damn, was it just her or was it getting hot in there. "Did you know," she continued smoothing her hands out on her pants, "that dogs snore? How crazy is that?"

Jessie merely continued to stare at her. God, Katie thought to herself, humans had to blink didn't they. Why wasn't Jessie blinking?

"Um," she said searching for conversation. "When I was a baby I used to be able to stick my whole leg in my mouth. I thought that was a bit strange, but mom says its cause the Singers come from a long line of circus people," she continued chancing a glance over at Jessie whose jaw seemed to have unclamped a bit, and who actually blinked. That's good, Katie thought to herself, keep acting like as ass. "And ah, last night I dreamt that I was eating a giant marshmallow, and when I woke up my pillow was gone."

There was a moment of silence then Jessie reached behind her picking up her pillow hitting Katie over the head with it. "Shut up, it was not!"

"Alright, that was lie. But the baby and dog things were true," Katie admitted crawling across the bed to Jessie. "I am I forgiven?" she asked lying her head down in Jessie's lap looking up at her innocently.

Before Jessie could respond however there was a knock at her door and Karen walked in, her eyes immediately going to the quaint little scene on the bed. "Ah, Judy's taking me to the grocery store, do you need anything in particular?"

"Nothing," Jessie replied staring at her mother very aware of Katie's head, which was still in her lap as the girl picked at the helm of her shirt.

"Marshmallows," Katie whispered, drawing Jessie's eyes down to her for a moment.

"Quit it," Jessie whispered back, but still loud enough that her mother could hear, as she involuntarily smiled at the comment.

"Is that a yes or a no to marshmallows?" Karen asked wearing a smile of her own. Judy was right; they really were extremely adorable together.

"A no," Jessie responded smiling back before her eyes drifted around the room wondering why Karen was still looking at them. "We're good."

"All right, try not to get into any trouble when we're gone," Karen replied starting to shut the door.

"What about rule number three?" Jessie called out while simultaneously wondering what could possibly have possessed her to ask the question.

Karen paused for a moment regarding the two of them once more before finally replying, "Gift horse. Mouth, Jessie," upon which she finished backing out of the door and closed it behind her.

"So is this when we strip naked and take pictures of each others buttocks?" Katie asked once the door closed. Jessie looked down at her sternly. "Oh, I remember this game. Okay…um, did you know that you have to water cactuses? I mean how wild is that?"

Part 17

Manning House – One week later

Jessie slowly crept down the hallway as quietly as she could, taking extra caution to be especially quiet as she passed by everyone's room on her way to the staircase. It was just past one in the morning and if she knew Katie the girl was already outside waiting for her. It had been a crazy week for both of them and they'd hardly been able to spend anytime together outside of school, and school didn't really count because they were never really alone or could never really relax. There was always someone passing by with something to say, or a class to run off to, so when Katie had suggested that they sneak out and watch the meteor shower that was predicted for that night, she had agreed almost without any hesitation. Almost, after all she was still her mother's daughter, and as such rule breaking always caused her some minor heart palpitations though they generally passed.

"Billie!" Katie whispered happily as Jessie opened the back door, flying into the kitchen and wrapping her arms around Jessie.

"Sssh," Jessie said putting her fingers on Katie's lips to quite her. "Eli," she continued having heard her brother moving around his room as she passed by the door to the garage. Katie nodded and drew two fingers across her lips making a tossing motion. Jessie smiled and leaned up kissing her quickly before grabbing her hand and leading her out the door, not stopping to look back.

Rick rubbed at his eyes tiredly barely avoiding banging into a wall as he stumbled into the kitchen. Using the counter to steady himself, he slowly made his way to the fridge, opening it up and taking out a pitcher of water. However, as he reached for a glass he felt a slight draft and turned around to look at the back door. Making his way around the counter he padded over to the door to see it slightly ajar. One of the kid's shoes, Zoë's from the size of it had caught in between the frame and door. He frowned to himself as he considered this, turning around slowly. He was the last one downstairs and he had locked the door himself before heading up to bed. Now, fully alert he reached above the stove grabbing a frying pan as he passed into the living room. Moving very carefully, he slowly checked all of the downstairs rooms then made his way upstairs.

Lowering the frying pan, he headed for the door to his bedroom. Nobody was in the house, which only meant one thing; one of the people who was suppose to be there was missing.

"You're not serious, are you?" Jessie asked rolling over, so that her arms were braced on the sides of Katie's body and she was leaning over the other girl. Rumpling the blanket they were lying on along the way, but really not caring in the least.

"I am so," Katie responded with an exaggerated importance. "I mean really, think about it, it's the perfect topic for a history paper. A hearty tribute to a natural phenomenon that has benefited mankind from the beginning of time yet is constantly taken for granted. I can't be the only person that's tired of hearing everyone go on and on about electricity, and nuclear power, and the printing press. I think it's high time that somebody gave gravity its props. Said, 'Hooray for Gravity' even. I plan to be that person."

"Hooray for Gravity?" Jessie questioned shaking her head slightly before lowering it down to rest on Katie's chest. "Why don't you just say that you're writing a commentary on consumer culture and call it 'Snap in to a Slim Jim!'?" she continued derisively. Hooray for gravity, indeed.

"Snap in to a Slim Jim," Katie repeated thoughtfully as she wrapped her arms around Jessie's waist, tracing her back with small, careless circles. "You'd have to help me with that one though, it sounds a bit complicated," she went on with a smile.

"What happened to the meteor shower?" Jessie asked choosing not to dignify Katie's comment with a response.

"What meteor shower?" Katie asked as if Jessie had just asked her if she'd seen a talking dog walk by.

"The meteor shower you said we came out here to watch," Jessie replied raising her head up and looking at Katie keenly. "Oh my god," she said a moment later fixing her with a stern look that quickly dissolved into a grin. "You brought me out here to have your way with me."

Katie smirked, looking away guiltily before turning back to look up a Jessie. "Next time I'm going to have to produce a meteorological report from a reputable news source aren't I?" she asked smiling softly.

"Two," Jessie replied seriously, before leaning down to kiss Katie softly, pulling back a moment later with a dreamy smile on her face as she lay her head back down.

"So does this mean your not going to help me snap into a Slim Jim?" Katie asked, but before she could continue Jessie's lips were on hers, and she suddenly found much better things to do with her tongue.

"The back door was open," Rick said as Lily pulled on her robe. "I know I locked it before I came up, and I checked the house and nobody was here. One of the kids has snuck out, it's the only explanation."

"Alright," Lily said her voice still blurry with sleep. "You go downstairs to see if Eli's there, and I'll check on Grace and Zoë, then we'll head up to the attic."

"Sounds good to me," Rick replied, thinking smugly that Grace was going to be in a lot of trouble when her mother found out she wasn't there.

"Hey," Katie said softly, gently shaking Jessie's shoulder. The other girl had fallen asleep on her an hour ago, but she hadn't minded, in fact she'd loved just lying there getting to hold her while she was asleep. "We've gotta get back," she continued seeing Jessie blink up at her sleepily.

"What time is it?" Jessie asked lifting her head off of Katie and rolling onto the other side of the blanket.

"Almost five," Katie replied sitting up. She's felt like kicking herself when she'd checked her watch a minute ago, they'd planned on being back way before this. "I guess we lost track of the time."

"That just leaves Jessie," Lily said meeting Rick at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the attic. She'd checked to find both Grace and Zoë sleeping soundly, and Rick had reported that Eli had actually been in his room for once, which meant that the youngest Sammler was the only one left to check on.

"Sssssshhhhhhhh," Jessie whispered loudly as she pushed the door open and Katie grabbed her around the waist laughing. "Sssssh," she said again laughing herself now as Katie bit her lip in an exaggerated attempt to look like she was trying to be quiet. Jessie smiled up at her thinking that she had never seen a more adorable face in her life and leaned up pressing their lips together.

Rick's hand twitched as he heard his daughter enter the house, telling whoever she was with to be quiet, then he lifted his hand and flicked on the lights to the kitchen half a tirade already out of his mouth.

"Where the hell have you be …" he said stopping as he got his first look at the scene in front of him. "…en?" he finished saying, his voice barely audible as he watched Jessie rip her lips off of Katie's as she twirled around to look at him and Lily.

Jessie opened her mouth to answer, still uncomfortably aware of the taste of Katie's mouth and proximity of her body, but no sound came out. Instead she merely stood there gaping at her father and Lily, her mind completely and utterly blank.

"Maybe I should just take Katie home?" Lily suggested breaking the silence that had descended upon the kitchen the moment the lights had been turned on. It had been over a minute and nobody had said a thing since Rick stopped talking.

"Go to your room," Rick said softly the moment the backdoor shut behind Lily and Katie.

"Dad," Jessie started carefully, but before she could get out anything more Rick interrupted her.

"Go. To. Your room, Jessie," Rick repeated his tone dull, but leaving no room for argument. This was not a request, it was an order and Jessie knew it. Sighing softly, Jessie dropped her head down and headed towards the stairs.

Hearing Jessie's feet dejectedly slumping up the stairs Rick took a deep breath, possibly his first since he turned on the light, and sighed running an agitated hand through his hair. He had not expected to see that. Not in a million years had he expected to see that.

Taking a few steps forward he dropped down onto the couch, bringing his hand up to his face, rubbing it over his features before allowing his hand to drop back into his lap. He had not expected to see that. Not in a million years had he expected to see that.

Part 18

Manning House – The Next Morning

Grace stomped into the living room exceeding pissed off as she checked her watch one more time. "Oh my god Jessie, I swear if you don't get your ass down here like ten minutes ago I am so outta here," she bellowed in the general direction of the stairs. She had wanted to get to class early because Mr. Dimitri had been acting strangely around her for the last couple of classes and she just had to know why. "Jessie!" she yelled again as Jessie's blonde head finally became visible at the top of the stairs as she came running down, flinging her bag around her neck as she went.

"God," Grace said getting a good look at the girl for the first time as she headed towards her. It looked like Death had visited her in the middle of the night and beat her with a big stick. "You really should lay off the drinking and the whoring," Grace said as Jessie approached her. "It's aging you," she continued waving her hand in front of Jessie's face.

"That's funny," Jessie muttered under her breath coming to a stop beside Grace. "I thought you were in a hurry?"

"Right," Grace said her mind back on track after commenting on the train wreck that was Jessie. "Come on," she said grabbing the girl by her shirt and tugging her into the kitchen.

"Jessie," Lily called out as Grace continued to drag a worryingly passive Jessie towards the door.

Jessie paused upon hearing her stepmothers voice, her body going rigid and finally resisting Grace's pull. She had been waiting for this since her father had sent her up to her room the night before. This had to be where the yelling and the head shaking came in, and she was both terrified and relieved that the moment was finally at hand. She just wanted to get this over and done with. Taking a deep breath she slowly pivoted until she came to face Lily. "Yeah?"

"Here," Lily said tossing her a brown paper bag, which Jessie just barely caught before it hit her in the face.

"Thanks?" Jessie responded uncertainly looking at Lily completely stupefied. She hadn't been expecting lunch. But before she could say anything else Grace was dragging her once more, towards and then out the door.

"I'm glad you called, I wanted to confirm that you'd pick Jessie up from school and I'd get her from the house, I'm trying to…" Karen started to say as soon as she heard her ex-husbands voice on the other end of the phone, but she was interrupted before she could continue.

"Yeah, yeah, that's fine, but that's not why I called," Rick said dismissively as he paced around his office whipping the phone cord around with him as he walked. "We need to talk about Jessie."

"Okay," Karen said slowly, leaning back in her chair. She could tell that Rick was upset about something, in his own quiet voiced, passive aggressive way. "What's wrong?"

"She …" Rick began trying to gather his scattered thoughts. "She snuck out last night ... with that girl. Right in the middle of the night, didn't get back until nearly dawn. This girl is clearly a bad influence…"

"Girl?" Karen asked interrupting his tirade. "Katie?"

"Yeah," Rick replied his voice slightly agitated. "I mean, god knows what they were doing, I have no idea how long she was gone for! What could they have been doing for that long?" he continued knowing that considering the time he had locked the door and the time they had come back in that they could've been gone for over three hours, and he didn't even want to contemplate what and where they may have been doing things.

"What did Jessie say?" Karen asked frowning slightly. She was upset herself about what Rick was telling her, but he seemed to be agitated enough for both of them leaving her as the voice of reason.

"What?" Rick asked, Karen's voice dragging him out of his thoughts – for which he was eternally grateful.

"Well, you talked to her when she came in didn't you?" Karen asked trying not to get upset about Rick's spaciness and borderline hysteria. "What did she say about it?"

"She …" Rick started to answer in a perturbed tone, "I didn't really get a chance to… I mean there were other things to consider …"

"Your daughter snuck out in the middle of the night, what other things were there to consider?" Karen asked a bit irritably.

"I don't know, maybe the fact that she was kissing her best friend?" Rick snapped back, instantly regretting it. He shouldn't have broken the news to Karen like that, he thought shaking his head, he should have taken the time to explain what happened but Karen always knew how to push his buttons. And, now he'd gone and done it, she was going to be devastated by this.

"Oh," Karen replied lightly. "Well what did she say about that?"

"Oh?" Rick asked staring at the base of the phone incredulously as if it were Karen's face. "Oh? All you have to say about it is 'oh'?"

"No," Karen replied with a sigh. "I did also ask what she said about it."

Rick paused for a second considering his ex-wife's response before continuing. "You're not the least bit … shocked by this?" he asked unable to understand how she could be taking this so calmly. He knew Karen and this was not something that she would take lightly.

"About Jessie and Katie?" Karen replied debating about whether or not she should tell him that she already knew and deal with the inevitable blow out that would ensue, or whether she should just let things alone and let him take what he wanted from her response. "No, not really."

"Did you know about them, before this?" Rick asked slouching down into his chair rubbing at his forehead. He was getting a headache, and depending on how Karen answered he was about to blow his top.

"I had an idea, yes," Karen replied carefully. "The signs were all there."

"And, what? I just wasn't paying attention?" Rick asked heatedly sitting up straight in his chair.

"I didn't say that," Karen sighed rolling her head to the side tiredly. "Does this mean you didn't ask her where she was?"

"No, I didn't ask where she was," Rick responded rolling his eyes. "Listen," he said getting his act together. "Would you mind just coming by an hour or so later? I'd like to talk to her when she gets home."

"Alright," Karen said empathizing with what Rick was going through now having been there herself not to long ago. "That'll be fine. That's fine."

"Okay, thanks," Rick said getting ready to hang up, before Karen interrupted before he could place the receiver down.

"Rick, just…" she started to say softly, her tone almost pleading with him to be careful about this.

"I know," he said realizing where she was going and cutting her off before she could continue. Jessie was his daughter too, and he didn't intend to attack her or in any other way berate her for whatever she had with Katie. He just wanted a chance to try and understand it. "I'll see you later."

Katie let out a relieved sigh as she saw Jessie approaching her from across the schoolyard. It was almost time for class to start and when she hadn't seen the other girl she began to wonder just how much trouble she had gotten her into. "Billie," she greeted clearly relieved, "hey, I thought you'd found out where they buried Hoffa."

"Can I talk to you?" Jessie said barely glancing at the small group of people loosely gathered around her girlfriend. She really wasn't in the mood for small talk. "In private."

"Yeah," Katie said some of her enthusiasm at finally seeing Jessie disappearing now that she had gotten a good look at her. That was not a happy face. Her hangdog response was followed by a series of "ooohs" and "what's that? Burn" and various other commentaries before she shot them all disgruntled looks and walked off with Jessie.

"I'm sorry," Katie, sighed once they got out of ear shot from her friends, her head dropping down miserably. "I swear I wouldn't have taken you out if I thought we'd get caught."

"There's nothing for you to be sorry about," Jessie replied softly, taking Katie's hand into hers and squeezing it softly as she looked over at her.

"Get a room! Preferably mine," Bob Brooks yelled from a nearby bench high five-ing his buddies as he tracked the two of them lecherously. There were other out girls on campus, but none of them came close to the hotness that was Katie and her girl.

"Get a life, preferably one without a blow up hole," Katie called back irritably flipping him the bird as they walked by, which was met by his buddies laughing at him and making 'ouchy' faces turning away.

"We love you Katie!" One of them called after her to which she turned around and curtsied to graciously to before continuing on her way.

"Sorry about that," Katie said once again returning her attention to Jessie.

"You don't have to apologize for that either," Jessie said frowning at the memory of the last guy tracking Katie's ass as they had walked off.

"So, how much trouble did you get in?" Katie asked almost dreading the answer. Her ride home with Lily had been like the worst, most awkward experience ever. They hadn't said like one word to each other, the only interaction between them being Lily's sideways glances at her like every other second. She'd been convinced they were going to crash into a telephone pole or something. She loathed finding out how it must have been for Jessie.

"Don't know yet," Jessie responded softly. "I got 'go to your room' on auto repeat," she continued remembering her dad's expression. "How did your dad react?"

"He bought some riverfront property on denial and has been resting there comfortably for the last year," Katie responded with a sigh. "Mom said she always suspected cause I was a little flamer always sneaking into the change rooms in the lingerie department, but she's so vacant that…" Katie stopped not wanting to go down that road. "Anyway, dad still thinks I loved Wonder Woman cause of the great writing and set design, and that's the way he likes it," Katie continued her tone melancholy despite the humor she tried to inject into her response. The truth was that it wasn't something that was talked about in her house. Except for the initial blow out that night her parents had found her and Sarah making out, they never brought it up or referred to it. Even though she knew they knew otherwise, Jessie was still merely referred to as her 'good friend'. "Rick?" she then prompted breaking the silence. She'd made some kind of peace with her situation, now Jessie had to.

"You should've seen his face," Jessie said a moment later, unconsciously drifting closer to Katie. "It was just … it was just sad."

"And he didn't say anything to you other than 'go to your room'?" Katie asked reaching down for Jessie's hand again having felt her girlfriend shift closer to her.

"No," Jessie said. "What does that mean? That he couldn't even talk to me."

"This is going to sound strange, but I think that maybe it's a good thing," Katie replied using her thumb to rub Jessie's hand. "I mean it had to have been a shock for him … to say the least. But, you know, even though he was probably freaked as all hell he didn't lose his shit or anything," she continued thoughtfully. "Sounds to me like he just needed some time to … what's that word … yeah, ruminate. He just needs some time to ruminate over it all."

"And once he's both rummed and nated?" Jessie asked glumly.

"You're probably going to get grounded," Katie replied seriously. "Cause once he gets over the whole kissing thing, he's going to remember that we didn't get back until five. Then you're going to get grounded."

"You think?" Jessie asked hoping that that would be all there was to it. Her mom had just started being normal about everything again, even suggesting that she invite Katie over the nights she went to her book club, so she wasn't really looking forward to another awkward home experience.

"Yeah, but don't worry I'll pelt rocks at your window like in that Swedish movie so that you know that I love you. Even though you're a hooligan," Katie replied smiling over at Jessie.

"You say the sweetest things," Jessie replied rolling her eyes but grinning at Katie warmly nonetheless as her girlfriend pulled her into a quick hug. The day may not have started out so well, but at least there was some sunshine, and since it was shining directly on her that was all that she needed.

Part 19

Jessie lowered herself onto the bed shifting around uncomfortably for a moment before deciding that she was only putting off the inevitable and looking up at her father and Lily who were standing just inside the door to their bedroom.

Grace walked into the kitchen picking an apple up off of the counter as she glanced over to the side to see Zoë eating peanut butter out of the container with a spoon.

"What do you think you're doing?" Grace asked taking the spoon away from the child with a disgruntled look. "The rest of us eat that stuff too, and we don't want your cooties."

"There's no such thing as cooties," Zoë said condescendingly looking over at Grace.

"Where's mom," Grace asked not really wanting to have to police the little brat.

"Upstairs with Rick and Jessie," Zoë replied going to get another spoon. "She says they're having a serious talk and are not to be disturbed."

"What are they talking about," Grace asked intrigued at the possibility of new gossip, especially if it involved Jessie in any way, shape, or form.

"Jessie snuck out last night, and now she's in BIG trouble," Zoë responded. She'd managed to follow them for a little while before they got into the bedroom and had heard that much, but then her mom had noticed her and shooed her away.

"Really?" Grace asked turning towards the stairs. "Hmmm."

"…And what you did is completely unacceptable," Rick continued pacing around in front of the bed. "Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to be wandering around the streets at night? How worried we were that you were dead or worse?" he continued looking over at Jessie sharply.

"We were only ten minutes away," Jessie began but Rick interrupted her not wanting to hear any of that.

"It doesn't matter where you went, you shouldn't have been anywhere but in bed in the safety of our house. What you did was … was unacceptable," he repeated again getting himself all flustered and worked up. "You are not to see her…"

Jessie leapt off the bed as she heard this, her face filled with rebellious fire. "You can't stop me from seeing her!" she fired out immediately interrupting the rest of her father speech. "I don't care if you don't like it, it's not your life, it's mine. And I LOVE her! And you can tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about, cause I DO know what I'm talking about, and you can't keep me away from her," she continued blinking back tears as she mentally debated whether she should threaten them with running away and selling her ass on the street. However, before she could decide Rick cut back in finishing his previous statement.

"…see her or anyone else until further notice, because you are SO grounded," he went on, seeing Jessie pout but return to her sitting position on the bed. "As for Katie," he continued his voice lowering again to a reasonable tone, "I know I can't stop you from seeing her. I don't want to stop you from seeing her. But..."

Jessie sighed loudly and irritably at the use of the word 'but' but otherwise remained silent.

"Since you are seeing her," Rick continued ignoring Jessie's exhalation, "I'd like to get to know her a bit better. Plus, the two of us need to talk."

"You don't need to talk," Jessie said shaking her head vehemently. There were to be no more talks. "She's had the talk. She's been threatened with shovels and other blunt objects already. Mom gave her the talk, she gave it to her for like twenty minutes," Jessie continued sighing at the memory. "Katie was afraid to look at me afterwards. So you really don't need to have the talk," she finished huffily.

"Karen had the talk with her?" Rick asked surprised. Karen had led him to believe that she hadn't had any concrete knowledge of Jessie's relationship with Katie, just a suspicion. Finding out otherwise didn't please him, not only did it mean she was keeping things from him about his own daughter, but that she had taken away a father's prerogative. It was tradition that the dad threatens whatever boy was trying to get into his daughters pants by pretending in being interested in dating her. Katie was certainly not a boy, but he had a speech ready dammit, and he'd wanted to use it.

"Yes!" Jessie exclaimed. "And she had it with me too. A long talk. A long detailed talk," she continued shivering at the memory. People who loved people may have been the luckiest people in the world, but people who had to talk about the exact details of their loving other people with their mothers were doomed to have many sleepless nights. "And no we haven't. Can I go now?"

Rick nodded and Jessie gratefully jumped off of the bed heading for the door.

"Remember you're…" Rick started to call after her.

"Grounded, I know," Jessie grumbled her footsteps slowing until she was actually slumping out of the door.

Rick sat down on the bed looking slightly dazed as soon as Jessie was out of the room. Lily sat down beside him placing a hand on his shoulder causing him to jump slightly. She'd been so quiet during the talk he'd forgotten she was there.

"Who would have thought both of them would end up liking girls?" Lily asked shaking her head at the thought of the odds of both of their daughters ending up being gay.

Rick looked over at her, his expression clearly showing that he was not in the mood to be philosophical about it.

"Don't worry. You'll deal with it. In fact once you get acclimated to the idea, you'll see that same-sex love is a beautiful thing," Lily commented thinking about the journey she had undertaken when she had first become aware of Grace's gayness, and how she had come to be proud of her daughter and couldn't wait until they could hold signs together and wear matching humorous T-Shirts. She had even started taping Rosie just to lend her support to the cause. "I just wish that Grace could find a nice girl like Katie," Lily continued with a sigh.

"Katie's a hoodlum," Rick grumbled in response, not having been paying the least bit of attention to Lily until she mentioned the girl's name.

"She's not a hoodlum," Lily responded rolling her eyes. Over all the times that Katie had been over at their house, Lily had managed to talk to the girl quite a bit and she was a very nice girl. She was sweet, and funny and outgoing, and as far as Lily was concerned just the kind of girl that Jessie needed.

"She probably does drugs," Rick, continued oblivious to Lily's presence.

"She doesn't do drugs," Lily responded looking over at him incredulously.

"What do you know?" Rick asked grumpily. "You thought Jessie was heterosexual and I had nothing to worry about."

At this Lily stood up and began to head to the door to go and see if Grace had gotten home yet. There was no use talking to Rick when he got like this.

"She probably sells drugs and that's what they were doing out so late," Rick called after her, but Lily continued out the door ignoring him.

Part 20

Katie's House - Two weeks later (a.k.a. Jessie's first night of freedom)

"When are your parents coming home?" Jessie asked as she curled up against Katie's side. They were in Katie's bedroom, lying down on her bed watching Gladiator, Jessie was convinced, for no other reason other than the hotness of Connie Neilson.

"Late," Katie replied pressing a kiss to Jessie's forehead. "That new medicine they've got mom on is really making an improvement and they went to celebrate. Which mean have wild, loud sex in a classy motel … which is code for ones with specialty rooms," Katie continued. She didn't often talk about her mom's depression because she didn't really know what to say about it, other than that it really sucked and was hard, but she knew that no matter what she said around Jessie it'd be okay, because she had gone through the same thing with her mom.

"Okay, ewwww," Jessie responded making a face at the thought of anyone their parents age having sex.

"I know which is why they went to a motel, to spare me the emotional distress of hearing through the walls. And really, I thank them for that," Katie replied before getting distracted by the feel of Jessie's hand moving on her stomach, where it had been resting, and starting to slip underneath the material.

Katie took in a sharp breath as she then felt Jessie's hand begin to move on the bare skin of her stomach, taking a deep breath to try and calm her breathing which was becoming rapidly erratic. As Jessie's hand continued move across her skin, she began to feel herself flush with warmth. "Wha…what are you doing?" Katie asked her mind beginning to flood with very naughty thoughts.

Jessie's hand stilled and she looked up at Katie nervously. "Do you want me to stop?" she asked softly.

"No," Katie responded immediately. "But I have to admit, I'm not exactly thinking clearly at the moment," she continued as she felt her head start to spin.

"You're not?" Jessie asked pushing against her more tightly though she kept her hand still.

"Nnn…oo," Katie replied shivering at the feel of Jessie so close to her.

"Is that good thing or a bad thing?" Jessie asked already knowing the answer, but wanting an excuse to stay pressed up against Katie.

"It certainly feels like good thing," Katie exhaled softly smiling, the smile fading to be replaced by another gasp as Jessie started to move her hand again. This time tentatively pushing up the material of Katie's shirt to reveal her abdomen. She stared down at the pale skin, lightly moving up and down, before lowering her head so that it was bent over Katie's stomach. Then she closed the remaining distance between her lips and Katie's stomach, planting small, wet kisses all over the skin, then leaning back slightly and blowing on the skin, watching as little goose bumps appeared all over. At this Katie felt a surge of electricity shot straight through her, apparently intent on settling in her groin and promptly jumped off of the bed, pacing around agitatedly as she pulled down her shirt.

"You can't. I'm mean you can't just do and…and…and…and do …THAT…and…and …and…and," Katie began in a flustered voice not able to say anything coherent, as those feeling kept shooting through her body making thought very, very difficult.

"I thought you liked it," Jessie said softly, not quite sure what to make of Katie's response, and wishing she hadn't done anything because of it.

"I did, I do," Katie said walking back over to the bed realizing that she was freaking Jessie out. "I like it a lot, too much. Definitely too much. Like I really liked it…like liked it a lot," she went on both wanting to think about how much she liked it, and fearing that thinking about liking it would get her all worked up again now that she was just starting to calm down.

"Then why did you … you know, run away?" Jessie asked wanting to believe Katie, but having insecurities jump up in her face making it harder than it should've been to actually accept what she was saying.

"Because," Katie said standing up again and pacing once more. "Because touching like that leads to stuff … naked stuff. Naked … sweaty stuff," she continued her voice lowering slowly as she spoke. "Naked sweaty stuff on the bed…"

"I get it," Jessie interrupted blushing as images of what Katie was describing came to her, making her shift suddenly feeling a bit warm.

"Yeah, so," Katie responded snapping out of it and carefully lying back down on the bed. "This way, the no stuff way … is good," she continued as her head came to rest against the pillow. Jessie nodded tentatively shifting back towards Katie, then snuggling in once more when her girlfriend made no effort to move.

"Do you not want," Jessie started a moment later, "to do stuff. With me?" she asked softly.

"Of course I do," Katie replied wondering immediately if she should've taken a moment to make sure she didn't sound like an undersexed 14-year-old boy looking at his Seven of Nine poster. "I just…I mean, I didn't know if you wanted to yet, and I didn't want to make it seem like, well you know, make you feel like just because I wanted to, you had to want to … too. Because I don't want anything…"

"That I don't want," Jessie finished for her lifting her head to look at Katie. "I wasn't trying to get you worked up," she continued a moment later. "I just … sometimes I just get this need to touch you and …"

"It's okay," Katie said interrupting her, knowing that Jessie wasn't ready to go any farther yet. It was fine with her; she probably really wasn't ready for it either, hormones were just tricky bastards. "You're not ready, that's fine."

Jessie sighed in response to Katie's statement and rolled away from her flipping onto her back on the other side of the bed. She knew that Katie was ready to move on to the next step, that sometimes when they were together Katie literally had to stop herself from touching Jessie to keep things under control. And she wanted to be ready to move on too, she'd thought about it, taking things to the next step, but she just knew that she wasn't ready to do more than think about it and that upset her because she knew that she couldn't give Katie something she wanted, maybe even needed.

"On TV everyone always says its alright, but then you always find them making out in the janitors closet with some hoochie who *will* give it up," Jessie moaned closing her eyes dejectedly, thinking that this is what you get for dating a stupid sophomore.

Katie rolled over so that she was leaning over Jessie with her arms braced on the sides of the girl's body, and looked up at her very seriously and said, "that's not going to happen. They lock the janitor's closets at our school."

Jessie looked down at her face and couldn't help but smile at the expression Katie was wearing before she turned her head away self- consciously.

"Seriously though. That's not gonna happen. I love you. And even though everyone on TV might be a lying bastard, I'm not. You're the only girl for me," Katie continued with absolute seriousness this time. Jessie looked down at Katie meeting her gaze for a few moments after this, the eye contact between them only breaking when Katie leaned up and kissed her softly.

Her girlfriend then rolled off of her on back onto her side of the bed. "So um, we probably shouldn't watch 'Bound' next."

Part 21

"So what was with the receiver off the hook last night, Singer?" Tad asked nudging Katie lecherously as he grinned over at her. He'd been fairly pissed off at her for a couple of days, and then unimpressed with her for a couple more days, but after she'd come over to his house giving him the puppy dog eyes, things had pretty much gone back to normal. In fact as he asked this, she was dismounting from his back after the piggyback ride he'd just given her through the hallways. He figured that he had no chance with Jessie so he could as well live vicariously through his friend.

"Shut up Tad," Katie responded slapping him on the shoulder, though she was smiling widely.

"Sup?" Russell asked coming up behind them wrapping his arm around Katie's neck playfully. Katie yanked off his hat and pulled it over her head, nodding at him with a slight pout on her lips, completely thugged out.

"Katie's phone was off the hook last night, while Jessie was over and her parents were out," Tad responded grinning, smiling even brighter at the look of pure venom Katie shot him as Russell 'oooooh'ed in her ear, using the opportunity to also steal his hat back.

"Hey," they heard from the side, all three of them turning to see Sarah Grasser standing beside them.

"What'd you want?" Tad asked contemptuously, standing up to his full height. He'd never liked Sarah much; she always acted like something had crawled up to ass to everyone but Katie. It had pissed him off, how she'd been able to dupe his friend for so long. Even now, Katie still isn't insisted that she wasn't always a complete bitch, but Tad knew better. Sarah was just letting Katie see it now too.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" Sarah asked ignoring Tad and looking straight at Katie.

"I don't know that we have anything to talk about," Katie replied as Russell and Tad glared at Sarah for her, allowing her to remain looking nonchalant.

"Please," Sarah said ignoring Katie's entourage. "Just for a minute," she continued her voice slightly pleading.

"Fine," Katie said not really wanting to see her grovel in the middle of the hallway. "Over here," she said nodding to a quieter place down the hall.

"Desperate's her colour don't you think?" Russell asked as they watched to two girls make their way down the hall.

"Nah, I'd go with black, to match her soul," Tad replied smiling.

"Hey Sammler, you have GOT to call me," Brian Jones called out as Jessie and Grace made their way through the halls.

"Cool, I'll pencil you in right after pigs fly," Jessie called back winking at him before pushing on.

"Nice," Grace commented, thinking that was a smoothly delivered comeback. She would have to give that one a grade of at least 9.7.

"You know what they say about practice," Jessie responded absently, shaking her head. They could at least try and come up with some original material.

"How often do you get that?" Grace asked thinking that while Jessie had always been able to hold her own in verbal sparring match, one-line zingers had never been her specialty.

"Oh, just about a million times everyday," Jessie, muttered rolling her eyes.

"Hmmm, soon you'll be able to insult in a single bound," Grace commented, pleased to see Jessie smirk at the comment, but a little disoriented when she saw her stepsister's face cloud over a second later. Turning her head to follow Jessie's Grace saw Katie and Sarah Grasser standing off in a quiet corner just down the hallway.

Jessie took a step forwards as if she were going to head over but then stopped. It was ridiculous, she had a class to get to, and Katie could talk to whomever she wanted. She wasn't going to be one of those jealous girlfriends who like video taped every move their significant other made. It was stupid.

"You're not going over there?" Grace asked having seen Jessie's move forward and then her abrupt stop.

"No," Jessie replied even though she really wanted to.

"Why? You obviously want to," Grace asked.

"Because I'm not going to give Sarah the satisfaction of knowing that she actually makes me jealous, so she can just take her conniving and suck on it REAL hard," Jessie muttered before turning down the hallway that led to her class leaving Grace alone to observe the scene. Grace shook her head in sympathy for the bitch fest that Katie was bound to be gobsmacked with later for her egregious break in dating etiquette then headed for her own class.

"What is it?" Katie asked boredly leaning against a nearby locker as Sarah stopped in front of her looking down at her shoes doing her best humility impression.

"Do you have to be so hostile?" Sarah asked quietly looking up at Katie as she spoke.

"Just following your lead," Katie replied not looking at Sarah, knowing that if she did she'd feel bad for snapping at the girl even though she deserved it and not wanting that to happen. She'd tried, when she'd realized that she'd hurt Sarah, she'd tried to talk to her, tried to make her realize that they could still be friends even if everything else had to end, but Sarah hadn't wanted to hear it, hadn't been able to hear. She'd made Katie choose and then she'd gotten mad and bitchy when Katie chose Jessie. It was Sarah's problem to deal with now, not hers. She'd tried.

"I deserve that," Sarah said with a sigh, glancing over at Katie.

"Yeah, you really do," Katie, replied, her stance loosening nonetheless now that she was fairly confident that they were about to have a civil conversation instead of the usual spitting contest.

"I'm sorry you know," Sarah said seeing Katie relax slightly. "About how I acted after … about how I acted. I was just hurt, and I know you didn't mean to," she added quickly seeing Katie tense in preparation to respond. "Really I do. It's just you know, sometimes teenage plus girl equals unimaginable bitch," she continued adding to herself that when you added love to the equation the bitch just got bigger. "I should've been happy for you, and I am. Now," she pushed on seeing Katie watching her with interest. "And you said, before that we could still be friends, and you know, if that offers still on the table I'd like to accept it this time. I miss you."

Katie looked at Sarah intensely for a moment before sighing and letting her gaze drift around the crowded hallway. After things had gone bad between them, she'd been filled with so much guilt, and she'd wished for so long that the day would come when Sarah would realize that she hadn't meant any harm and they could just go back to the way things had been before. But that had been a wish she'd long since given up on, and now that she had heard the words she'd longed to hear for so long, she just felt sad, hollow. She realized she didn't really care anymore, that while Sarah may have missed her she didn't miss Sarah all that much. But, she also remembered when things had been good between them, fun. Sarah had never touched her deep down inside like Jessie did, she never felt Sarah's presence with her even when she wasn't around like she did Jessie, and they didn't have that age old friendship that tied them together tighter than either of them realized like she did with Tad. Sarah was just fun, but fun had been really good.

"I don't know," Katie said quietly her gaze drifting back to Sarah. "It's not that I don't want to be friends, it's just that with everything that's happened it'd be really complicated."

"And by complicated you mean Jessie doesn't like me and if we start hanging out again she won't let you in the ballpark let alone near any of her bases," Sarah replied darkly, having sensed Katie on the edge of giving her a chance.

"So we're back to this are we?" Katie asked tiredly looking over at Sarah sadly. "I'd like to accept your offer, really I would. But I don't believe you, and you're not helping yourself with shit like that. Jessie's my girlfriend, and I'm not going to risk hurting her by hanging out with you if all you're gonna do is insult our relationship and piss and moan about how life done you wrong," Katie continued beginning to pick up speed. "Sometimes things don't work out the way we want them to. Deal with it. You're not special. You're problems aren't any more of a tragedy than anyone else's," she went on pushing off the locker. "So yeah, we can be friends again … when you stop taking behavioral tips from you're three year old sister," she finished starting down the hallway.

"Wait," Sarah said reaching out for her and grasping her around the arm stopping her from moving. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, you keep saying that, and yet…" Katie replied removing Sarah's hand from her arm.

"Please, just give me a chance," Sarah continued moving to stand in front of Katie looking up at her through her eyelashes as innocent as could be. "I promise, no more digs. Let's just hang out, and if it's cool then it's cool, and if you find my company unbearable than I swear I won't bug you again."

Katie looked over at Sarah's pleading face, and sad hopeful eyes and sighed. The offer sounded reasonable, and it couldn't really hurt anything. "Fine. What'd you have in mind?"

"How about a study session?" Sarah suggested trying to remain calm. She hadn't expected Katie to give in so easily, but she was delighted that she had. Maybe Katie missed her to and was just too proud to admit it. "You help me with math, I'll help you with geography and we can top off by making fun of Mauray Povich."

"Alright," Katie said brightening at the suggestion of Mauray Povich. Jessie refused to watch it with her, even though she insisted they would only watch to mock him endlessly. She had so much daytime TV hate bottled up and would now be able to release it constructively.

"Great. How about after school then?" Sarah asked. "I mean unless you already have plans," she continued uncertainly images of Jessie floating around her mind mocking her.

"After school's fine," Katie responded. Jessie had a doctor's appointment and was going out to dinner with her mom afterwards so they hadn't made any plans. "I'll drop by your locker. We can do it at my house, mom's likely to be upstairs grouting something so we won't have to worry about her."

"Cool, see you then," Sarah said backing up and turning around not wanting to stick around and give Katie a chance to change her mind.

"Yeah, later," Katie replied absently as Sarah headed off down the hallway, sighing once the girl was out of sight. She suddenly felt like someone had just strapped a medium sized planet to her back. Intellectually, she couldn't see what was wrong with trying to get along with Sarah again; lord knew her life was easier when the other girl didn't actively hate her. Yet, despite this line of reasoning, she couldn't help but feel she'd just made a serious mistake. Sighing again she shook her head, there was nothing she could do about it now; she'd given Sarah her word, and it was only one night.

Part 22

"This is a surprise," Katie commented as Jessie came up behind her, wrapping an arm around her waist lightly before leaning up against a nearby locker. "Of the chocolate variety of course."

"Chocolate variety?" Jessie asked watching as Katie loaded up her backpack with a bunch of books Jessie was quite certain she had no intention of reading.

"Scrumptious," Katie replied finally closing her locker door and looking over at Jessie. "I thought you had your appointment today?" she said remembering Jessie's dislike for the word 'therapy' being mentioned in the public sphere. That was one of the things she loved about Jessie, how real she was. Most of the kids at school thought being in therapy and riddled with neurosis's was some sort of badge of honor, mostly because they'd never had to go through anything that would make them have to go to therapy thus leaving them with the delusion that it was somehow romantic.

"I do," Jessie replied pushing off the locker. "Just thought I'd walk you out."

"That's a thought I can definitely get behind," Katie replied with a small smile following Jessie down the hall.

"So, what'd you do last night?" Jessie asked trying to sound blasé.

Katie sighed shaking her head slightly before responding. "Sarah came by. She stopped me at school yesterday and was all, blah, blah, blah, regretcakes saying she was sorry about everything."

"And you believed her?" Jessie asked trying fight back the urge to grab Katie by the shoulders and shake some sense into her.

"Well, she'd certainly eaten her Bitch Flakes with frosting that morning, but she did seem sorry … and she just looked so pathetic. I just couldn't tell her to get lost, it would've been like kicking a puppy," Katie tried to explain knowing from Jessie's tone that she was upset, and not really blaming her for being so.

"Well, how was it?" Jessie asked somehow managing not to comment that Sarah always seemed more like a crazy, rabies infected dog than a cute little puppy. She certainly wouldn't have had a problem kicking her; she probably would've liked it.

"It was alright I guess," Katie responded in a bored tone. "I mean it was kinda weird at first, cause I could tell that she was making a serious effort not to snap at me. But once we started working it was okay. I mean she's so retarded, asking how angles could be obtuse," Katie continued her voice a little more animated know. "I'd forgotten what a knob she could be. And then when she went on about how every episode of Mauray is the same, it was so funny cause it's like totally true. It's always either boot camp or children with sad defects, and…" Katie went on until they exited the building and Jessie had to go meet her mother.

"Alright, see ya later," Katie said as Jessie opened the door to Karen's car. "Hi, Ms. Sammler," she added waving at Karen who smiled and waved back at her.

"Yeah," Jessie responded smiling weakly, then ducking into the car. If she'd been assaulted by one more verse of Katie's ode to Sarah she didn't know what she would've done. God, she loathed that girl.

Two Weeks Later

"Do I look like Gumby?" Jessie bitched at Grace from across the kitchen table. "Does my arm look like it's made out of some incredible stretching material that can zoom across the kitchen and pick up a bagel so that you don't have to get off your lazy ass?" she continued crankily swishing her cereal around in the bowl.

"What the hell is your problem?" Grace asked shooting Jessie a look just as hostile as the other girl's tone.

"Your face," Jessie muttered not even bothering to look up from the milk in her bowl.

"My face?" Grace asked indignantly. "My face!?! What are you still in kindergarten? What's next a 'yo mamma' joke?" she continued standing up and moving away from the table. "No wonder Katie's hanging out with Sarah again," she said sensing an opportunity to get back at Jessie and snapping at it like a hungry Panda. "I'd hardly want to be around you either," she finished walking out of the kitchen, not needing to look back to know that her statements had hit their mark. Her face indeed.

Jessie glanced up watching Grace exit the kitchen with a frown marring her fine features, before sighing and going back to her contemplation of her Corn Pops, Grace's closing words echoing in her mind. She'd been obsessing over Sarah and her reemergence into Katie's life ever since the afternoon Katie couldn't shut up about her. She knew without a doubt that Sarah was trying to worm her way back into Katie's good graces so that she could try and get her away from Jessie, but Katie for all of her wonderful qualities seemed completely oblivious to what the other girl was after. In her defense, the way Katie treated her hadn't changed in the least, she was still as doting and attentive as ever, and didn't really seem inclined to mention Sarah at all unless Jessie herself brought her up. But still, there was a little voice nagging Jessie at the back of her head asking her if Katie was really as oblivious to what Sarah was doing as she acted. Making her wonder if Sarah actually had a chance because she would do anything to get Katie back, while she herself wasn't willing to do anything to keep her.

Before that night a week ago, they had never actually discussed being physically intimate. Like a lot of other things in their relationship the answer had seemed to be already known to them so they hadn't needed to talk about it, just like how at the beginning they hadn't needed to talk about how much affection they would display in public, they just seemed to understand what the other would be comfortable with. But now that they had talked about it, and Jessie knew for a fact that Katie was ready and was only waiting on her, she began to be consumed by thoughts of it. About whether she was being fair to Katie and their relationship by holding out, about why she felt the need to hold out even though she often had to fight herself for control when they got into heavy make-out sessions, and when the very idea of it made her all tingly inside. And now that Sarah had reemerged with her dirty girlfriend stealing hands pawing wantonly at Katie, who seemed content to just ignore them instead of patting them off of her, Jessie had begun to think about it more. She began to think about taking away the only advantage Sarah could possibly have over her, and making Katie hers completely.

Part 23

School – Two days later

"What can I say?" Katie asked shrugging playful as she and Jessie backed away from Tad and a few other assembled people. "Where goes Jessie, so goes my nation," she continued which was met by a chorus of whipping sounds being made.

"They're such punks," Katie commented once they were out of earshot of the others.

"You know you love them," Jessie replied smiling as Katie mock glared at the memory. Katie shrugged conceding Jessie's point.

"So, for what did I just get myself labeled P-whipped?" Katie asked as they continued down the hall. They'd all just been lounging around when Jessie had whispered to her that she wanted to talk to her alone, and now she found herself intensely curious as to what was on her girlfriends mind.

"P-whipped?" Jessie asked ignoring Katie's question for a moment.

"Yep. As far as everyone is concerned I am now officially the bottom in this relationship," Katie replied. "So this better be worth it."

"My moms leaving for some conference this afternoon and is gonna be gone all weekend," Jessie began willing her hands to stop shaking. "So, I'll basically have the place all to myself," she went on. "I was thinking that you should come over."

"Yeah," Katie agreed instantly, thinking that some quality time ALONE with Jessie couldn't be anything but of the good, already planning for sappy movies and multiple snuggles. "Sounds like good times."

"Okay," Jessie said realizing that she had made the right decision as soon as Katie responded positively the moment she had finished talking. Katie had said that she'd been fine with waiting, but that response had proven that she really didn't want to, because everyone knew that when you got invited over to your significant others empty house for the weekend it was equivalent to saying 'let's have sex'. "How about seven-ish?" Jessie continued.

"I'll be there," Katie replied smiling at her seeing 'Beaches' in their future. "Cause I simply refuse to be square."

"Oh that's not going to be a problem," Jessie muttered to herself, as the weight of planning for this evening began to settle across her shoulders.

"What?" Katie asked not quite being able to make out what Jessie had said.

"Nothing," Jessie replied. "What do you have next?"

Karen's House – That Night

Katie flipped through Karen's cd collection with quite a bit of interest as Jessie shuffled between running upstairs and downstairs. She'd tried asking Jessie what she was doing and if she wanted any help, but Jessie had repeatedly told her to just relax and she'd see soon enough. So, after a final finger wagging Katie had acquiesced and began looking at Karen's cd's, which were actually quite impressive as far as she was concerned.

"You're mom's got some great taste in music," Katie commented sensing Jessie as she walked into the living room.

"You think?" Jessie asked not really in the mood to make small talk. "She'll be happy to hear that," she continued steering the conversation away from anything that had to do with her mother. "Why don't you come upstairs, I want to show you something."

"Oh, field trip," Katie replied grinning at Jessie as she turned away from the cd rack.

Katie looked around the room in something close to awe. There were no lights on, but the room was softly lit by a dozen or so candles strategically placed around the room, and in the background she could hear the strings to some soft music playing, Sade or something like that. The room looked absolutely amazing, completely drenched in atmosphere. "Wow," she breathed out as Jessie slowly walked up to her. "This is incredib…" was all she managed to get out however, because Jessie's lips soon came to cover hers swallowing whatever she may have wanted to say, though truthfully the moment Jessie's lips touched hers she hadn't wanted to say anything anymore.

Katie arched into Jessie's touch as she felt her girlfriends hands begin to sneak under her shirt and she brought their lips together again. The feelings that were cursing through her body were almost overwhelming, everything that Jessie was doing to her just felt so good that she almost couldn't stand it. But there was something wrong, even though everything in her body seemed to be feeling right for like the first time ever, there was this shadow at the back of her mind telling her that something wasn't right. So finally, wishing that she could kick her own ass for stopping what they were doing, she pulled back from Jessie's lips stepping away from her to put a little space between them.

"What's…what's going on here?" she said her voice coming out in short gasps as she looked at Jessie, who's face was undetectable at the moment, making her think that she was definitely right to stop things.

"I would think that's fairly obvious," Jessie replied stepping towards Katie again.

"Yeah," Katie responded watching Jessie closely. "Everything's right out of 'Seduction 101'. What isn't obvious is why you're doing this when you clearly don't want to be," she continued still staring at Jessie. Jessie had been going through the motions, she'd been going through them really well, but there had been no passion behind them. She'd felt more raw affection from her girlfriend months ago when they'd just sat at the foot of Jessie's bed staring at each other, than she had moments ago.

"I don't see how anything I've done could be interpreted as not wanting to," Jessie replied stepping closer, taking Katie's hands into hers. "This was my idea after all."

"What changed?" Katie asked still uncertain. She wanted nothing more than to pick up where they'd left off, if Jessie truly wanted to, but she didn't think that Jessie wanted to, and she couldn't, she wouldn't go through with anything if that were the case. She just couldn't understand why Jessie would go to all of this trouble and then be so vacant.

"Listen," Jessie said her voice rising a little as she realized that Katie wasn't just going to let her get on with it. "If you don't want to sleep with me, just say so!"

"That's not it," Katie said reaching out for Jessie who'd pulled away from her, not knowing how Jessie could possibly believe that that could be anything that approached the truth. "You're just … you're not here with me," Katie continued. "You say you want to, but it's like your mind is somewhere else, like you're being forced into something, and I don't understand why you should feel like that. I mean did I do something to make you think you had to do this, even if you didn't want to?" Katie asked the mere implication that she may have made Jessie feel pressured into sleeping with her before she was ready cutting into her like a knife.

"I thought you wanted this?" Jessie asked closing her eyes and making them sting as she tried to contain her tears behind them. "Do you not need it anymore?"

"What?" Katie asked now completely lost. "I don't understand," she continued trying to draw Jessie into a hug, but stopping when her girlfriend resisted her pull. "What are you saying?"

"Nothing," Jessie muttered finally opening her eyes and moving around Katie to turn on the lights, humiliation settling over her uncomfortably, closely followed by extreme vulnerability.

"It's obviously not nothing," Katie said following Jessie to the door, and touching her on the arm lightly. "It's something, and I want to know what."

Jessie let out a small humorless grunt of laughter and shrugged out of Katie's grasp, her feelings of vulnerability putting her on the defensive. "You've been spending a lot of time with Sarah," she said softly moving back towards the center of the room.

"Sarah?" Katie asked completely befuddled. "What does Sarah have to do with any …" she began to say before pausing as a thought struck her. "You think she's trying to steal me away from you," Katie said softly, her eyes beginning to tear up as she glanced at Jessie whose wandering eyes indirectly confirmed what she had said. "By putting out," she continued her voice rising incredulously.

"God Jessie!" she exclaimed a moment later as she realized what the girl must have thinking, what was really going on. "I'm not sleeping with Sarah, I don't want to sleep with Sarah, and I never have," she continued, her nostrils flaring slightly as she tried to keep control of her temper, not wanting to say something she'd regret later. "If she was the last person on the earth, I'd rather dedicate my life to the study of seashells than sleep with her," she went on. "How can you not know this?" she asked with more than a touch of exasperation in her voice. "How can you still not know that you're absolutely the only person I ever think about? I mean is it me? Am I not telling you how I feel enough so that you actually think you have to whore yourself to me to get me to stay?" she asked running a head through her hair and thus missing Jessie's wince at her accurate but painful description of what she'd been trying to do.

"How many times do I have to tell you I don't care about the sex, I care about you. I want you, what's up here," Katie said touching her head blinking away some tears that were stinging her eyes, "and in here," she continued softly placing her hand over her heart. "Not," she continued a moment later, "what's in your pants," she finished bluntly shaking her head, as she wondered what it said about her, about Jessie, about their relationship that they were even having this conversation. From that day in the attic, she'd given Jessie all of the control and she'd continued by that prerogative always letting Jessie be the first to start things, to kiss her, to tell her mother about them, to ask her to the dance, to touch her in public for the first time at school, and anything and everything else. It just boggled her mind that Jessie still didn't understand this, didn't see that she had willingly given herself to her, that she couldn't understand that she really loved her as much as she said she did.

"I'm sorry," Jessie said reaching out for Katie only to have Katie remove her hand from Jessie's. "I wasn't thinking," she continued starting to panic as she saw Katie begin to retreat into herself. "I was just so scared, that I might lose you … I wasn't, I didn't…" Jessie finished trailing off lamely as she watched Katie watch her. She'd screwed up royally, she was aware of that fact now. All of her fears and her concerns, they were just that, HER fears and concerns. Nothing that she had worried about had even entered Katie's mind, and her implication that they may have were now hurting Katie which was something that she had never wanted to do. She just couldn't have fathomed that whatever she gave to Katie would've been enough, but she was realizing that whether she could fathom it or not, it was the truth.

Katie pressed the ball of her hand to the bridge of her nose wearily, finally breaking the eye contact between her and Jessie. She believed her girlfriend when she said she was scared, and she could clearly see that she was both upset and sorry, but she was also upset, and confused and wondering how the hell all of this could have happened.

"I know," Katie breathed out softly, finally dragging her hand away from her face. "But I have to go," she continued heading for the door. She needed some time alone, she had to think about things, and try and sort out the jumbled mess of thoughts filling her head.

"Don't, don't go," Jessie said reaching out for her again, her voice cracking as more tears slid down her face. "Please."

Katie carefully placed her hand over top of Jessie's squeezing it slightly before removing it from her arm. "I think we both need some time alone," she responded, wanting nothing more than to take Jessie into her arms but knowing that she wouldn't be able to stand it if she did. "I'll call you tomorrow," and with that she walked out of the bedroom door and headed for stairs, not once stopping to turn back knowing that if she did it would break whatever was left of her heart.

Jessie watched Katie's form disappear from sight, her eyes still watering as she stood there in something close to shock. She couldn't quite comprehend what I had just happened, except to know that somehow she had managed to screw things up to epic proportions. They were supposed to have gotten closer tonight, as close as possible, but instead she felt farther away from her girlfriend than she had ever since they'd met.

Stumbling back to her bed she sat down, just barely catching the edge of it and placed her head in her hands. God, what had she done?

Part 24

Manning House – Brunch, the next day

"Where's the bacon?" Zoë asked frantically looking around the table for her crispy goodness. "What?" she asked as she saw her mom and sister, and Eli start to snicker. "What?" she asked again. "Come on, where's the bacon?" she asked again as Rick stood up to answer the ringing phone.

"Just a second," he said into the receiver before placing it on his shoulder. "Jessie, Katie's on the phone," he said preparing to jump out of the way when she pounced towards him to grab the phone, as was usually the case. He had been a casualty of young love, and didn't want it to happen again.

"Can you just tell her that I'm not feeling well and I'll call her later?" Jessie responded dully pushing the food on her plate around absently, and thus missing the astonished looks from everyone gathered around the table, including Zoë who had for the moment forgotten about the bacon.

"Jessie," Rick started slowly not sure what was going on, but knowing that having him lie to Katie for her couldn't possibly be the best solution. "I'm not going to lie to her for you, you're obviously feeling fine, so if you have something that you'd like to discuss or not discuss with Katie then…"

"Fine!" Jessie in an alarmingly loud, but relatively calm voice as she stood up from the table. "Tell her the truth, tell her I'm not here," and with that she headed towards the door, opening it and escaping into the afternoon sunlight before anyone could stop her or say anything to her. She just couldn't talk to Katie, not after what she'd done the night before. She'd made complete ass out of herself, she couldn't even understand what had been going through her head to make her act that way. All she knew was that the humiliation she felt knew no bounds, and that she absolutely couldn't talk to Katie.

"I'm sorry Katie," Rick said still watching the door in amazement. "She's not here right now, can I take a message?"

School - Monday

"You've gotta be shittin me!" Katie exclaimed looking at Andrea like she had just sprouted antennae. "This is like the most ridiculous assignment I've had the intense displeasure of having to not do," she continued as everyone around her laughed and Tad slung his arm around her shoulder, muttering 'there's our girl' to a response of 'here, here's'. There wasn't an assignment known to man, that Katie couldn't blow off with the nonchalance of a true professional.

"I wonder what your old lady's gonna have to say to that?" Russell asked as he spotted Jessie just across the schoolyard.

Katie looked up just in time to catch Jessie's eyes as she glanced over at them, and as always was lost for a moment looking at her. Then she remembered, she remembered being ditched all weekend long, and she remembered being pissed at being treated like the bad guy for not wanting to take advantage of the girl she was in love with. She remembered to look away, and that's just what she did, turning her head slightly to side, leaving Jessie staring at the side of her face.

"Whoa, is it just me or did it suddenly just get chilly?" Tad asked mock shivering as Jessie continued on her way towards the school after Katie totally turned her back on her.

"Don't," Katie responded darkly turning to face him. "Just don't."

Manning House – Two days later

Jessie stared down at her plate before closing her eyes and sighing deeply, then digging at her eyes tiredly. "Can I be excused?" she asked finally not able to take any more sitting around.

"You've barely touched you food," Rick commented upon hearing Jessie's request. He didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but he had noticed that she hadn't been eating much lately, and knew that with her history it was a big deal. He'd underestimated things the first time around and he wasn't going to make the same mistake this time.

Jessie glanced over at her dad then back down at her plate which she hadn't touched. "I'm not hungry."

"You should try and eat a little," Rick said not backing down, making a mental note to call Karen and see if Jessie was acting the same way at her house. If she was falling back into old patterns they were going to have to talk about what to do. "It's good."

Jessie was quite for a moment, acutely aware of the silence of the room, and of the feel of everyone's eyes on her. Painfully aware of the fact that everyone at the table was watching her, and knowing what they must be thinking, that she was relapsing, and their consequent pitying. "If you like it so much, why don't you eat it?" she said finally shoving the plate away from her and jostling the rest of the dishes on the table.

"Jessie," Lily began feeling the need to mediate before things got out of hand. "I could fix you something else if…"

"I don't want anything else," Jessie replied crankily. "I'm NOT hungry! What? I'm not allowed to not be hungry like one day of the goddamn year?" she continued flinging herself against the back of her chair and crossing her arms, indignation her halo.

"That's right," Rick responded. He'd had about enough of her attitude, she'd been almost unbearable to live with for the last few days, constantly snipping and complaining and throwing a temper tantrum at the slightest provocation. He'd say it was like living with a three year old, only she'd been an absolute angel when she was three.

"What are you gonna do, force-feed me?" Jessie asked snottily looking over at him with a look that said 'deal with it'. Then when he didn't respond, she stood up and huffed out of the kitchen, flouncing up the stairs leaving a very uncomfortable family at the dinner table.

Karen's House

Jessie scratched at her notebook as her mind drifted back to school, and the memory of Katie and Sarah standing together in the hallway laughing away together merry as could be, then looked back down at her page scratching carelessly some more. She'd been trying to find Katie to apologize, to try and make up, cause she was absolutely miserable without the other girl around. But when she'd seen that, that irrational part of her brain that seemed to be controlling her more and more lately, took over and got all offended making her huff away bitterly.

"Is Katie coming over?" Karen asked wandering into the living room and seeing Jessie working alone. On Thursday nights, Katie was usual over there with her working away on whatever it was they were working on. It had become somewhat of a routine for them, one Karen actually enjoyed. It was nice to have the house filled with sounds, and laughter and life.

"No," Jessie responded curtly not bothering to look up.

"Why not?" Karen asked thinking that Jessie hadn't been filling the house with anything other than snideness and dark clouds lately.

"Because we broke up," Jessie responded as if she was discussing the weather, still not looking up.

Karen looked at her in surprise; she certainly hadn't expected that one. Moving further into the room she sat down on the couch. "Why?" she asked gently. She had actually gotten quite attached to the idea of the two of them together. Katie was genuinely a nice girl, and Jessie was so happy when they were together that Karen couldn't help but see the beauty in their relationship, even if she still worried for what it would mean to her daughters future.

"Because," Jessie replied peevishly as memories of her disastrous seduction came back to her.

"That's not much of an answer," Karen pointed out wondering what could possibly have happened between them. "Is it?" she continued trying to coax some more information out of her daughter.

"Fine," Jessie said turning around for the first time since her mother started talking. "The real reason we broke up is that she asked too many questions," she said looking at her mother pointedly.

Karen stared at her for a moment, her expression clearly showing that she wasn't impressed by her daughter's response, and then she got up and moved into the other room as Jessie turned back to her paper ripping it out of her notebook and throwing it to the side.

"She still got that bee up her ass?" Eli asked his mother as she came into the kitchen.

"A whole nest from the looks of it," Karen replied shaking her head.

Part 25

Grace winced as Katie snapped at Miriam Crow, effectively cutting the girl a new asshole for making the serious mistake of trying to talk to her. Poor Miriam, Grace thought to herself. She was renowned around school for her cluelessness and it had now come to bite her in the ass. While Katie had always been known around the school for her relative friendliness – thus separating herself in a good way from the majority of the popular crowd – everyone had realized days ago that: one, it was best to stay out of Katie's way now and two, dark bags were not a good look on the dirty blonde. Everyone that was except for poor, oblivious Miriam.

"So what are some of the causes of world hunger?" Mrs. Simpson asked the class, her attention focusing on Katie who was slouched over in her chair looking barely conscious. "Ms. Singer?" she asked causing Katie to look up at her grouchily.

"I don't know," Katie replied softly without even attempting to look like she had considered the question before hanging her head back down and beginning to zone out again when Mrs. Simpson interrupted her again.

"Surely you must have at least a suggestion," Mrs. Simpson replied. She didn't understand what was going on with Katie recently, even though the girl had never really been big on handing in her homework, she was one of the best students in the class. However, lately she had been off of her game, so far off of her game that her game was like a dot to her.

"I don't know," Katie said wearily closing her eyes and wishing the woman would leave her alone. "How about your fat ass?" she continued barely aware of the gasps from the students sitting around her.

Grace shook her head as she watched Katie slouch out of the classroom, her first class ticket to the principles office firmly grasped in her hand. Grace sighed and turned away from the door as Katie's figure disappeared, her eyes returning to her notebook as she wondered what could possibly have gone so wrong between her and Jessie. The two of them had been like the perfect couple, almost sickeningly in love. To have gone from 'I see forever in your eyes' to whatever kick it was the two of them were on now just didn't make any sense to Grace, and she figured that that was the problem because it probably wasn't making any sense to them either.

Katie's House – Three days later

"You're mom let me in," Sarah said into the darkness of Katie's bedroom. She could hear Billie Holiday playing softly in the background and could just make out Katie's figure sprawled listlessly across the bed.

"Great, then she can let you out too," Katie muttered into the darkness, not moving an inch. Movement might have indicated some sort of interest on her part in whatever it was that had brought Sarah over, and she absolutely didn't want that to happen.

"You don't mean that," Sarah said softly, reaching over to turn on a nearby lamp. "The last thing you really want is to be alone," she continued now able to see Katie, instead of merely a mass on the bed.

"Thanks for the analysis Dr. Freud," Katie mumbled sarcastically in response as she shied away from the light Sarah just turned on. She was like a miner who'd been underground for too long suddenly exiting the shaft, and Sarah wondered how long she'd been lying there in the dark.

"Now get outta here," Katie continued oblivious to the look on concern covering the other girls face. "Go on, Am Scray," she continued impatiently, just wanting to be left alone. She missed Jessie so much that it was like even breathing took up to much effort now that her girlfriend wasn't around anymore. The first couple of days after the weekend, when she'd started giving Jessie the silent treatment, had been fine. She'd had righteous indignation to hold onto and had truly believed that things would blow over, but now it'd been a week, and it was like she was dying. She didn't want to eat, or talk or do anything. She was just sad.

Sarah walked over to the bed, the idea of actually leaving Katie alone not even occurring to her, and sat down on the edge of it watching Katie sadly. She looked like shit, just like she had for day upon days. This wasn't like Katie she'd never seen the other girl so upset, it seemed wrong somehow, like it was against nature. Katie was a person naturally acclimated to the light; the darkness didn't suit her at all in Sarah's eyes. She wanted Katie to smile again, and she wanted to be the one to cause it. She would bring back the light.

"You can act as tough as you want, but I'm not leaving," Sarah said softly.

"Suit yourself," Katie muttered covering her head with a pillow so that she wouldn't have to listen to Sarah's pseudo-psychology new age-y bullshit anymore. All she wanted to do was sleep, and brood, and wallow in self- pity while cursing herself, and she could do all of that just was well with Sarah there as she could alone.

Katie licked the skin beneath her lips, moaning as she felt a hand begin to slip under her shirt, tracing her skin lightly. "Jessie," she mumbled against the salty skin of the neck her lips were attached to, pressing soft kisses along it as she felt the hand under her shirt begin to slip further up. Jessie, Jessie, Jessie her mind sung deliriously.

"Jessie," she said again, gasping this time as the hand cupped her breast massaging it lightly. "I love you so much," she whispered reverently pressing herself into the hand that had stopped moving.

The hand began to move again a second later, but the slight hesitation was enough for the haze surrounding Katie to begin to lift and for the first time since the touching started she began to become aware of her surrounding, and the more she did, the more she knew that something was seriously amiss. Jessie?

The scent of the body above her was wrong, the hands pressed against her body weren't nearly delicate enough, the body itself felt larger, and the hair was too long … and dark. Then it all started to come back to her, Sarah showing up uninvited and sitting on the bed, her ignoring her and trying to go to sleep completely exhausted from all of the weeks emotional stress, and a dream of Jessie where they hadn't been fighting and everything was perfect and Jessie was kissing her.

Katie bucked up violently, dislodging the body on top of her and rolled off of her bed, standing up and turning around to stare down at Sarah like she'd never seen her before. She wanted to start brushing off her body, or jump into a lake. Dirty, she felt dirty.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing!?!" Katie whispered harshly, anger settling in over her now that the shock of the situation had worn off.

"I didn't do anything," Sarah responded as Katie stalked toward her and yanked her off the bed. Ripping her hand out of Katie's grasp she continued to speak, her voice high and defensive. "You started it. I was just sitting there waiting for you to wake up when you wrapped yourself around me and started to kiss me," she went on looking at Katie as she blinked back tears.

"Don't give me that," Kate responded acerbically glaring over that the other girl. "You knew I was thinking about her, not you," she continued accusingly remembering very well what she had said when Sarah's hand had paused, and that it had paused before she'd tried to keep on going. She distinctly remembered saying Jessie's name, so Sarah had to have heard and decided that it didn't matter that she was half unconscious and thinking about someone else.

"Come on, Kate," Sarah said realizing that she was in a very precarious position. She hadn't intended to start anything with Katie, at least not like that, and she had tried to resist when Katie had started to kiss her, she'd really meant to stop it. But, Katie had been so tender and passionate, so loving that she couldn't help but give in. Nothing she and Katie had shared in the summer and for those few months in the fall had been anything like what had just happened, the past had been like a shadow, a whisper in the wind. She'd been swept up in the magic of it all, the beauty of it, the purity of emotion, ecstatic at the thought she was sharing this with Katie. And then she'd heard Jessie's name fall adoringly from Katie's lips. That's when she had realized that Katie didn't even know who she was with, but by then it had stopped mattering to her because everything that she had dreamed since that first day Katie had smiled at her was finally coming true, and even though it wasn't exactly what she had hoped for it was enough. It was good enough and she couldn't stop herself from taking it. "It wasn't so bad," she continued imploringly. "Didn't it feel good?"

Katie paced back away from her towards the back of the room, running an agitated hand through her hair, before finally turning around to face Sarah again, to face her for the last time. "Go. Now," she ground out softly, but viscerally, trying valiantly to stop herself from walking across the room and throttling Sarah were she stood. "And don't come back, and don't talk to me. Ever. Again," she finished dropping her head down and turning her back to Sarah.

Part 26

Karen's House - Outside

Katie paced nervously up and down the walkway leading up to Ms. Sammler's door. It was just past four in the afternoon and she was certain that Jessie was in there having seen her mother pick her up from school an hour earlier. After the incident with Sarah she'd spent the rest of the night deep in thought finally realizing how screwed up she'd gotten since she and Jessie had stopped talking. From swearing at teachers and snapping at her friends, to actually being so out of things that she'd let Sarah get so close to her, it just had to stop, she knew that she had to talk to Jessie. She had to see her, and resolve things one way or the other, because she just couldn't do this anymore, it was tearing her apart.

The problem was she scared, absolutely terrified at the prospect of actually seeing Jessie only to have the other girl tell her to get lost. The thought that her misplaced pride might have ended up costing her the most important person in her life, causing her to continue pacing, just as she had for the past half hour.

Finally, after nearly wearing a hole in her shoes, Katie stopped pacing and pushed forward stepping up onto the porch. Bouncing up on the balls of her feet and letting out a anxious exhalation of air, she sucked in a deep breath and extended her hand until her finger was resting on the smooth white plastic of Karen's doorbell. Then clenching her other hand tightly, she closed her eyes and quickly jabbed at the bell.

Jessie yanked the door open fully preparing to give whoever was at the door a piece of her mind - especially if it was those stupid survey people again. However, she stopped abruptly, her body jerking to a stop as if she'd run into an invisible wall when she saw that it was Katie who was standing there. She suddenly found herself at a loss for words as she blinked at the sight of her girlfriend. Katie. Katie was standing at her door. Katie. She couldn't believe that she was actually there, that she had come to see her. Katie.

Before Katie could even mumble a lame 'hello' she found herself hurrying to wrap her arms around Jessie who after a momentary bout of silence and confused blinking had rushed out of the door at her and into her arms.

"Oh my god, I'm so happy to see you," Jessie mumbled into Katie's shoulder, not even really certain of the words that were coming out of her mouth. "I've missed you so much, and I thought that I'd totally messed things up, and I should have returned your calls, I just wanted to apologize to you so much, but every time, I could just never do it, and I thought that you would never talk to me again," she continued to mumble as Katie maneuvered them into the house and closed the door, which she then leaned against bringing Jessie with her.

"I could never stop loving you, not in a million years," Katie told Jessie softly as she stroked her back, blinking rapidly to try and contain the tears that had been forming in her eyes from the moment Jessie touched her. "I shouldn't have taken everything so personally, I was so stupid, I didn't even see, she totally didn't change, and I hurt you and that was the last thing I ever wanted to do," she continued her voice choking in her throat, intense feelings of self-loathing coursing through her body as she remembered how very, very wrong she'd been.

Pulling back out of Katie's arms, Jessie looked at her girlfriend, really looked at her for the first time since recognizing the figure at the door as her, and literally had to fight the urge to gasp in shock. She was alarming pale as if she had been locked in a room for days, and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot. Her tall frame was hunched over tiredly and her face was tightly drawn like she had forgotten how to relax since the last time they spoke. It broke Jessie heart because she knew that she was the one that had done this to her, she'd taken this amazing person so full of life and energy and love, and twisted her into a shell of that former self because she was too scared and insecure to see the truth, or to believe it when she saw it.

"I'm so sorry I put you through all of this," Jessie managed to choke out as she reached up to stroke Katie's face, absolutely devastated by Katie's broken appearance.

"You shouldn't be," Katie said shaking her head knowing that Jessie was blaming herself for whatever had happened, and that that wasn't the truth. She had helped the dig the hole, and she had willingly wallowed in it. "There's no reason, I mean I did stupid stuff too," she continued tears beginning to escape from her eyes. "Really stupid things," she went on turning away from Jessie to hide her face.

"What is it?" Jessie asked placing her hand on Katie's arm encouraging her to turn back around, sensing that whatever was bothering her was important. She wasn't just going to let things slide anymore, she wasn't not going to ask questions anymore because she was scared of the answer or of what the reaction to them might be. She'd kept her fears locked away inside, and her concerns to herself shutting Katie out of part of her life to disastrous affects. She wasn't going to do that again, she didn't think she could stand it if that happened again. No, she wasn't going to allow that to happen again.

"I thought," Katie started fully crying now, "I swear that I thought it was you," she continued slumping against the wall. She hadn't intended to say anything about what had happened with Sarah, she hadn't wanted to think about it since it gave her the full body creeps, but she knew that she had to tell Jessie, her conscience wouldn't let her not tell Jessie. It would be a lead ball chained to her leg, weighing her down for all eternity if she didn't tell her, their reunion founded on a lie and their relationship tainted. If they were going to fix things, then they had to be honest, painful as it may have been she had to place her heart on her sleeve.

"I don't understand," Jessie said wanting to do something to calm Katie, but not knowing how. In her dreams, this reunion had had a lot more kissing and a lot less tears.

"She came over. Sarah," Katie said trying to get a reign in on her emotions. "I was asleep, and I thought that she was you, I was thinking about you, and then it was like you were there, and I thought that it was you … and …" Katie continued, her babbling slowly trailing off when she realized that Jessie's body had stiffened acutely as she spoke and that she didn't seem to actually be breathing.

"Did you…" Jessie started to ask softly, her hand falling away from Katie's shoulder and down to her side limply as all of her fears and nightmares came tumbling through her brain once more.

"No," Katie said quickly, wanting to reach out for Jessie but not knowing if the gesture would be appreciated. "God no," she continued vehemently shaking her head. "She kissed me that's all, then I snapped out of it and kicked her the hell out. I was just so messed up," she continued her voice cracking with emotion. "It just took me a minute, I really thought it was you. I swear to God I thought it was you," she went on softly, her eyes lowering to the ground as her body started to shiver lightly.

Jessie watched Katie for a moment, torn between her own hurt at hearing Katie admit that she had kissed Sarah, and knowing without a doubt from Katie's bearing that it had really been an accident and that she was probably beating herself up over it more than Jessie could ever hope to. She wanted to kill Sarah, she wanted to rip her limbs from her body and then beat her about the head with them and then maybe feed them to some wild alligators or something. She wanted to run out into the middle of the street and drop to her knees in an overly dramatic way screaming at the top of her lungs. She wanted to, she just wanted to do something to make these ugly feelings that had been brewing inside of her go away. She didn't want to be in pain anymore, she didn't want to be angry anymore. She just wanted Katie. She wanted Katie.

"It's okay," Jessie replied a moment later sensing Katie start to pull away from her, no doubt agitated by her lengthy silence. "That wasn't like on my top list of things to hear before graduation," she continued ruefully, shaking her head a bit before taking Katie's hand into her own, "but it's alright." And though her heart was filled with a myriad of emotions, from irrational jealously over what had happened, to an almost insane anger, righteous indignation for what Sarah had done to Katie, and extreme guilt that she'd played a part in allowing it to happen, the love she felt for Katie was stronger. And it washed over her, soothing her other emotions allowing her to breath, deeply and refreshingly for the first time in weeks.

Katie sighed with relief upon hearing Jessie's words, believing them and letting them wash over her like holy water, absolving her of her sin. When Jessie hadn't said anything for so long, she'd been about ready to bolt, ready to take her silence as the rightful condemnation of her actions. But she wasn't a masochist and when Jessie offered her forgiveness, even though she doubted she actually deserved it, she took it. She reached out for it and clutched it to her chest until her knuckles were white, because she needed this; she needed Jessie, because the blonde was elemental. She made the flowers grow and birds sing.

So, finally she looked over at her girlfriend, really seeing her for the first time since the door opened. She gazed into those blue eyes that were watching her so carefully, lovingly, shinning with unshed tears and exuding concern, and she felt like she was home. She felt a peace deep within her that made her close her eyes and breathe in deeply to try and absorb the splendor of it all.

"You're beautiful," Katie finally exhaled absolutely astounded by the magnificence that was Jessie.

"No I'm not," Jessie said glancing down at her ratty clothes, and knowing from previous days experience that her skin was probably blotchy and pale, and she probably had bags under eyes and looked like she hadn't slept in days.

"You're breathtaking," Katie said a warm smile spreading across her face.

Jessie smiled at the expression on Katie's face and ducked her head down self-consciously not knowing how anyone could look at her with such adoration, but loving it at the same time. "If you keep this up, I'm never going to wear anything but track pants again," Jessie commented shyly looking up at Katie. She remembered this feeling, this excitement, it was happiness and she spelled it K-a-t-i -e.

"That's fine," Katie replied thinking that Jessie would look ravishing in a burlap sack or large paper bag.

"Even if they're the ones with the racing stripe down the side, and pictures of the Ninja Turtles on them?" Jessie asked playfully as she found herself unconsciously migrating towards the warmth of Katie's body. She hadn't even realized how much she'd missed the feeling of Katie's arms wrapped around her until she was almost in them again.

Katie looked at her in mock horror upon hearing that and shook her head. "You're right," she said. "We can't have that. You look absolutely horrible! Street urchin is definitely not the look for you."

Jessie smiled throwing herself into Katie's arms sighing as her girlfriend encased her in a tight embrace. "I've got some blonde jokes too," Katie mumbled into the top of Jessie's head, inhaling the scent of her hair as Jessie snuggled in closer. "And I could force myself into talking about your momma," she continued smiling as she felt Jessie's lips press against the skin of her neck. She sighed to herself contentedly, Hallmark had lied you absolutely didn't need to say it like them.

Part 27

Manning House – Later that Week

Lily sighed as she walked in the front door, happy to finally be home after a long day. Then just as she finished hanging up her jacket, she heard a loud bang in the kitchen and looked over questioningly. Things were quiet for a moment, and then she heard another sound and pinched the bridge of her nose wondering what was going on before finally heading towards the source of the disturbance.

Lily stopped dead in her tracks as she got her first good look at the kitchen. It looked like bomb had gone off, causing everything that had been in the cupboards and fridge to explode outwards covering the kitchen in heaps of everything.

"We're making dinner." Lily looked up, the sound of Jessie's voice snapping her out of her haze. Following the sound of her voice she saw Jessie grinning at her, while Katie nodded along gamely beside her.

"It's a bit more complicated that 'BAM!' though," Katie, added a moment later shaking her head thoughtfully, before looking over at Jessie, who promptly looked over at her, causing the two of them to look at each other for a few seconds before breaking out laughing.

"That's nice," Lily, responded trying not to hyperventilate as she surveyed the damage and tried to ignore the giggling girls. "What're you making?" she asked trying to accentuate the positive. Jessie was smiling, Katie was smiling, they were smiling, and smiling was definitely preferable to glaring and temper tantrums.



Jessie and Katie then turned to look at each other in surprise, staring hard at each other for a moment before turning back to Lily.

"Chicken pizza," they said simultaneously nodding at her as if to indicate that they had it all under control.

Lily smiled and wandered out of the kitchen wondering if Zoë still had her paper bag from lunch.

Part 28

Manning House – Three weeks later

Jessie watched from her peeping spot just inside the kitchen door, Katie shift around on the couch uncomfortably before finally coming to a stop upon which she dubiously looked over to her side where Rick was seated. "I really don't know much about…" she started to say, trying to subtly worm her out of spending quality time with him, but before she could finish she was interrupted.

"That's alright," Rick responded with a friendly smile. "Just think, this is the last time you're going to be able to say that," he continued as the sportscasters began to speak and the golfers took to the green.

Katie slumped back against the back of the couch, resigned to an evening of bonding with Mr. Sammler. For weeks before she had Jessie had split he'd been trying to corner her and bond with her, and she'd managed to avoid him but he caught her this evening. Oh well, such was the price of love.

"You have to make him stop," Jessie said with authority marching up to Lily as she walked away from the door. Lily, Grace and Zoë were puttering around fixing dessert which was all well and good, but Lily really had more important things to be doing, like getting her dad to stop torturing her girlfriend.

"Stop what?" Lily asked looking over at Jessie, wondering what had the child so agitated this time.

"He's trying to tell her about 5 irons," Jessie responded clutching at Lily's arm. "She doesn't care about 5 irons. NOBODY cares about 5 irons," she went on her arms waving wildly. "You have to make him stop," she finished pleadingly, doe like eyes gazing up at Lily imploringly.

"He's trying to bond with her," Lily replied smiling down at Jessie. "He's taking an interest. That's sweet, isn't it?" she asked wishing that her parents had tried to get along with the boys she'd dated, instead of merely threatening them and then peeping through the curtains to make sure no funny stuff was going on. What Rick was trying to do was much healthier.

"I think it's sweet," Grace piped in from over by the sink simply because she knew it would piss Jessie off. Because despite their friendlier status, pissing off Jessie was still like one of the best ways to spend her quality time, especially if she could get the girl to gape. Her guppy face was just priceless.

"Me too," Zoë agreed for no other reason than the fact that when she agreed with Grace for no reason it bothered her sister immensely, and that was always good for at least five or ten minutes of entertainment.

Jessie responded by glaring at both of them for a good ten seconds – so that they realized that she was truly unimpressed with their improve routine – and then returned her attention to Lily intending to begin pleading again. However, her glaring had apparently given Grace enough time to find two more cents that she just simply had to share with them all.

"I mean it's not like they can talk about clothes and make-up," Grace said smiling over at Jessie, crossing her mental fingers as she waited for the guppy face, her smile fading into a shrug when Jessie simply glared at her once more.

"Eli!" Jessie exclaimed happily, finally breaking eye contact with Grace and flinging herself at her brother when he walked in the door. "You've gotta take dad somewhere," she continued disentangling herself from around his neck. "Shot hoops with him or something. You've gotta get him out of the living room, Eli," she continued grasping his hand and attempting to drag him into the living room.

"He's in there with Katie isn't he?" Eli asked looking at the rest of the people assembled in the room, not budging despite Jessie's best efforts. They all nodded. "Golf?" he asked. Once again, a series of solemn nods followed. "Poor girl," he replied. "I'll be in my room."

"Eli!" Jessie whined.

"It's his way," Eli responded turning around. "Jennifer had to watch Monday night football with him, and Carla got the XFL. This is what it means to be a Sammler and have a girlfriend. Deal with it," he continued a smile spreading across his face as he finished. He still found it highly amusing that Jessie was dating a girl, a hot girl, a hot older girl no less. Then he turned back around and continued merrily on his way.

Jessie glared at his back for a good twenty seconds, and then turned back around and glared at the rest of the occupants of the room for good measure, before finally returning to her peeping spot to see how things were progressing in the other room.

"So the lower your number is, the better," Rick said pointing to the spread at the bottom of the screen.

"Alright," Katie said in response, it was a simple enough concept to grasp. "But what's with the buggies?"

"They're not buggies," Rick replied looking over at the girl.

"They look like go-carts for senior citizens," Katie insisted meeting his gaze, interested in the conversation for the first time since she'd sat down. She wasn't sure, but it looked like his eyes were twitching. It was kind of gross but also rather compelling.

"They're golf carts. Not buggies, not go-carts. Golf carts. For golfing," Rick replied straightening his back authoritatively while trying to resist the urge to shake his finger at her to drive his point home.

"Alright," Katie agreed once more. "But what's the point of them? I thought this was a sport," she continued sarcastically.

"It is a sport," Rick replied gaping at her, astonished that she would even imply that it wasn't. It was lunacy, pure and simple. Jessie was obviously dating a head case.

"Not much of a sport," Katie mumbled leaning back against the back of the couch folding her arms across her chest. "Basketball's a sport," she continued. "Tennis is a sport. Golf is like Sport's drunk cousin that needs to be propped up to go to the bathroom," she finished.

"Golf," Rick responded, "requires a great deal of skill and precision," he continued defensively as he leaned back as well trying to seem relaxed, but not at all succeeding.

"So does model building," Katie replied absently. "It's not a sport."

"Well model building isn't on the sports network is it?" Rick asked pointedly nodding at the screen.

"They play Magnum P.I. on A&E and that can't be considered either art or entertainment," Katie responded while silently cursing the eighties for its advocation of short-shorts for all.

"Golf is a sport," Rick replied somewhat militantly. He liked Magnum P.I.

"If you say so Mr. Sammler," Katie said conciliatorily. She hated it when old people got sulky. It was just sad.

"I do," he responded, still not pleased that she seemed to be humoring him instead of having actually seen the light.

"Alright," Katie said again, causing Rick to tense. He was beginning to dread the word 'alright' when it came out of this girl's mouth. "What's with the eunuch?

"Eunuch?" Rick asked, wondering if he had been right about her being on drugs.

"Yeah, you know the guy carrying the bag," Katie explained waving her hand in the general direction of the screen.

"They're caddies, not eunuchs," Rick replied shooting her a disgruntled look. Katie smirked, so that's where Jessie got it from.

"Not much of a difference from where I'm sitting," she replied.

"They're a vital part of the game, invaluable to the golfers really," Rick tried to explain.

"Like the buggies?" Katie asked looking over at him. Rick sighed, he should have just let Zoë take her upstairs for a riveting game of Zoo Tycoon, he really should have.

Jessie smiled and turned to head back into the kitchen. She was actually beginning to feel somewhat sorry for her dad. He was obviously way out of his league.

Part 29

Karen's House – A Lazy Mid-Summer Afternoon

"You're quiet," Jessie said as they walked into her room. They had been hanging out at Booklovers torturing Judy and scamming free caffeine, but that had gotten boring – alright they'd gotten kicked out – so they'd been forced to find something more productive to do with their time. Which meant hanging out a Jessie's house, and most likely watching Jenny Jones. Yes, summer vacation had arrived and it was good.

"I guess I am," Katie agreed a moment later after pausing to consider Jessie's statement for a moment. "Hmmm. Apparently I am capable of being serious, every now and then," she continued unperturbed.

"What's to be serious about?" Jessie asked hovering by her lamp debating whether or not to turn it on before finally deciding not to. There was enough light streaming into the room through the curtains that they could see each other, and she kind of liked the romantic mood the darkened surroundings created.

"I don't know," Katie said turning towards her looking somewhat confused. "It just feels like a serious time I suppose. Not a bad serious," she continued calmly as Jessie moved towards her, looking at her keenly. "Just like an attitude of respect is required or something."

"That's okay," Jessie breathed out softly, "I like serious on you," she continued raising her hand to stroke Katie's check lightly. "You look so calm. It's beautiful."

"Hmph," Katie exhaled softly, her lips curving up in a little smile as she tilted her head down slightly.

"Have I finally embarrassed you?" Jessie asked happily, a smile spreading across her features too as she looked at her girlfriend.

"Not embarrassed," Katie replied tilting her head back up to look at Jessie, her eyes sparkling.

"Then what?" Jessie asked softly as Katie continued to stare at her thoughtfully yet blissfully.

"More like astounded," Katie breathed out finally, her lips twitching slightly. "All the time, every time, whenever I'm around you," she continued now smiling as she regarded Jessie.

"Why?" Jessie asked unable to tear her eyes away from Katie's starkly intimate gaze.

"Because I love you," Katie responded her eyes holding Jessie's for a moment, and it was really as simple as that. "And that's a very astounding thing."

Jessie regarded her for a minute after that, taking in the blissful look on her girlfriend's flawless face, and smiled herself. Then slowly yet without hesitation leaned forward and brought her lips to Katie's, pressing their bodies together as her hands came to rest on the side of her face. And then she ran her tongue along Katie's lips tracing and tasting them, before moving to kiss her way along Katie's jaw-line and then down to her neck where her tongue snuck out and licked a path up to lips that she never, ever wanted to stop kissing.

Katie watched as Jessie stepped back, her girlfriend's hands falling to her waist and resting there as she watched her. "It's quiet in here," she said softly, as if she had just suddenly become aware of the silence in the house.

"We're the only ones here," Jessie replied still watching her, her hands slowly slipping underneath the material of Katie's tank top, her thumbs brushing against the smooth, warm skin she found underneath, teasing it with soft, gentle strokes.

"I knew that," Katie replied, acutely aware of the feel of Jessie's hands on her stomach but nonetheless keeping her eyes on her girlfriends face, studying her, instead of looking down. "I was just saying."

Jessie nodded absently, then began to push the material of Katie's tank top up, leisurely, revealing more and more of her girlfriend's skin, her eyes trained intently on the now exposed flesh.

"Can I?" she asked softly a moment later, her eyebrow quirking up slightly as she looked up at Katie. She had pushed the material up to the point where the only thing left to do was take the top off.

Katie regarded her for a second, then simply nodded before lifting up her arms to allow Jessie to pull the top up and off of her, leaving her standing there in only her bra and cream capri pants.

As she stood there she became highly aware of the rise and fall of her chest that accompanied her every breath, and she could sense Jessie's eyes on her in the very marrow of her bones as the blonde stood there watching her breathe, raking her eyes over her. And, she was extremely aware of the way the air was caressing her skin and the pleasant chills it caused to ripple throughout her body.

And then Jessie's lips were on hers once more, and her own hands enthusiastically trailed their way up Jessie's sides, brushing across the front of her chest, before slipping around to her back and coming to rest on the blonde's hips as they broke apart, their breathing ragged and uneven. She fingered the thin material of Jessie's shirt meditatively, and then wrapped her arms around Jessie's waist dragging the girl back into her. With that taken care of she then returned her lips Jessie's, kissing her ardently as Jessie moved her hand to cover Katie's drawing both of their hands under her shirt and upwards.

With Jessie's hand over hers, keeping it firmly in place Katie brushed her thumb across the material of Jessie's bra, her breath hitching in her throat as she saw Jessie's mouth open and heard a soft moan escape from the blonde's slightly parted lips. Swaying closer, intoxicated by Jessie, she rested her head against her girlfriend's forehead and moved her thumb again, inhaling sharply as Jessie attached her lips to her neck, sucking and licking at the skin of her neck desperately as she pressed forward into Katie's hand.

Pulling back slightly when Katie's hand stilled, Jessie looked up at her, her eyes stormy but focused. "Come on," she said quietly, her fingers hooking into the tabs of Katie's pants as she began to drag her towards the bed.

"You're quiet," Jessie whispered her eyes focused on her finger as she trailed it down along Katie's naked torso, carelessly drawing shapes on Katie's damp skin as she listened to her girlfriend's now rhythmic breathing.

"Uh," followed by a deep breath was Katie's response. Jessie smiled and turned her head up to look at Katie's face. She was staring at the ceiling, and hadn't formed a full word in over five minutes.

Jessie shifted upwards, and rested her head on Katie's shoulder, drawing the sheet up around them before draping her arm across her girlfriend's body. There were no words to describe what she was feeling, she hadn't even been aware previously that there were feelings comparable to what she was feeling. She felt so real, like she was aware of every atom in her body, every electron and proton and shooting about, like for the first time she was truly aware of her body, of herself. And at the same time she felt like she was in a dream, painted with watercolours that were dripping warmly around her covering her in their dreamy colours, like this world was too perfect to actually exist.

"Billie," Katie said softly, her voice bringing Jessie out of her reflections. "I think I've gone stupid," she continued, not sounding terribly concerned about it, as she felt Jessie shift to look up at her.

"What're you talking about?" Jessie asked looking over at Katie as she blinked up at the ceiling.

"I can't," Katie started. "My mind just won't …work. It's like when I broke my arm and the doctor put me on morphine only he gave me too much. I feel like that, only better. And…more tingly," she continued, highly and pleasantly aware of the feel of Jessie's bare skin pressed against the side of her body and the excited feeling it caused inside of her.

"Are you saying I'm like a drug?" Jessie asked leaning over and pressing a chaste kiss to Katie's cheek, completely in awe of Katie's reaction to what they had just shared.

"No," Katie breathed out softly, looking up into Jessie's eyes. "Drugs should like be totally jealous of you. There's some Columbian cocaine huddled in the corner of a bathroom crying it's eyes out right now," she continued, her eyes closing as a smile spread across her face.

"Shut up," Jessie mumbled in response before burying her head in the crook of Katie's neck and drawing her arms around the other girl even tighter. "I love you," she continued feeling Katie kiss to top of her head.

"I love you too," Katie, replied her eyes drifting back to the ceiling dreamily. "I love you times infinity," she declared.

"I love you times infinity plus one," Jessie whispered softly kissing Katie's collarbone.

"Dammit," Katie exclaimed, a smile spreading across her face. She always forgot about the plus one, Jessie always beat her with the plus one.

"You're funny," Jessie mumbled, her hand tracing the side of Katie's torso absently, marveling at the feel of her skin.

"You think so huh?" Katie replied looking down at the top of Jessie's head. "You wanna know what's really funny?"

"What?" Jessie asked knowing that Katie was going to say something completely stupid and that she was going to find it highly amusing anyway, cause that was just the way things worked.

"The Sandra Bernhard Experience," Katie replied. "Why'd they cancel that?"

"You know," Jessie replied, trying not to laugh. "I think I liked it better when you were speechless," she continued laying her head back down on Katie's shoulder blissfully.

Part 30 - Epilogue

"Goodnight Tad," Katie said with a touch of exasperation as she removed her head from where he had been holding it under his arm. "And," she said rushing down the steps, trying to smooth her hair back down before he could grab her again, "as for the … ah, stain. Try baking soda," she continued grinning up at him before Jessie grasped her hand leading her away from the house before he could respond.

Despite the late hour it remained pleasantly warm outside as they made their way through the darkened streets towards the Singer residence, the faint voices of the other kids exiting Tad's house the only sound around them as they walked the peaceful suburban streets.

"So," Katie started, her head tipping up to observe the stars above them. "What do you think is going to happen tomorrow?"

Jessie looked over at her, smiling softly before tilting her head up as well. "I have absolutely no idea," she breathed out, closing her eyes as a warm breeze rushed past her.

"I know one thing," Katie said dropping her gaze down and turning her head to look at Jessie. "We," she continued, halting her movement and spinning around so that she was standing just in front of Jessie. "Will be together," she went on softly, pirouetting Jessie and then wrapping her arms around her waist.

"Then I know something too," Jessie replied, smiling as Katie pressed a kiss into the crook of her neck, hugging them together in the process.

"What's that?" Katie asked moving back beside Jessie so they could continue their walk.

"Tomorrow's going to be a good day," Jessie replied glancing down at their joined hands before looking back up at the road ahead of them, a great smile settling across her features as she anxiously awaited dawn.

The End

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