DISCLAIMER: This is an Otalia-Uber fiction. The characters in this story portrays the physical and some personality attributes of the characters Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera from Guiding Light but they belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Blue for her great beta-ing skills!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Their short camping trip had given Kristen the time and space to look at the events of the past few months objectively. It had been a little overwhelming, what with the reappearance of Jack, having to reveal her past to the Taters crew, the disappearance of Frances and the betrayal of Benjamin. Now that she had had a chance to take a step back from it all, what she could do to deal with the situation suddenly became glaringly obvious. The irony of its simplicity did not escape her.
"Hey Russell, how's it going?" she asked her boss over the phone, smiling a little at his gruff voice. It still amazed her from time to time that, of all people, she had fallen in love with Russell's daughter.
"Good. Yeah, we won't be late tonight," she reassured him. "Actually I was just wondering if you still have Richardson's namecard? I'd like his number." She fiddled around with the pen in her hand as she waited for Russell to retrieve the requested item.
"Uh huh. Cool. Yeah. No, it's nothing you should worry about. It's all good. Mm." Kristen scribbled the numbers down on a writing pad. "Cheers. Yeah, see you tonight," she said, ending the call. She blew out a breath as she made her next call.
She had a few hours to burn before having to pick Frances up for her birthday dinner with the Taters crew tonight. Nell was invited too, but Frances was insistent that she get picked up by Kristen instead of catching a ride in with Nell. She knew that Frances was, in her own way, trying to let her know that she was special to her, and that meant a lot to Kristen.
"Richardson?" All thoughts of Frances was pushed to the back of her mind when her call was answered; she needed all her concentration for this. "It's Kristen Black. We should talk. I have a proposition that might be of interest to you."
Frances puttered around her room, trying to find a string of some sort to tie up the present she had for Kristen. She had picked up a handful of colourful pebbles while they were hanging out in the river and had found a nice cloth bag to put them in. The ringing of the doorbell made her groan. She stuffed the bag in her jeans pocket and hurried to the door.
"Hey." Frances' face broke out in a big smile when she saw Kristen, looking... amazing. She was aware that her vocabulary frequently contracted to a few words when the subject was Kristen, and its inadequacy frustrated her at times. "You look really good," she said, running her eyes down Kristen's length, taking in her highlighted hair, light make-up, and a simple shirt and jeans that really did not have any right to look that good on a person.
"So do you," Kristen said, feeling ridiculous at how self-conscious Frances could make her feel with just one look and phrase. "Ready to go?"
Frances leaned in to kiss Kristen on her lips. "Now I am," she said after she broke away.
It was definitely ridiculous how Frances could make her feel with hardly any effort, Kristen decided as they walked hand in hand to her car.
The beer garden at Taters was lit with strings of fairy lights and rows of candles. A long table stood in the middle of the garden, lined with a white table cloth; glasses, plates, cutlery and napkins were positioned beautifully along its stretch.
"Dad, this looks amazing," Frances said, feeling all choked up with emotion at the effort that her father and the crew had gone to for her.
"Happy birthday, lass," Russell said, looking decidedly awkward when Frances leaned in to try and give him a hug. They ended up in a half-hug before Russell pulled away hastily.
"I'll bring out the starters now that the birthday girl's here," Ramsey said from behind Russell. He gave Frances a big hug and a kiss before looking over at Kristen. "You wanna help, Chef?"
Kristen shrugged with a faint smile on her face. She left Frances in another hug, this time from Tammy, and went into the kitchen with Ramsey. "What'd you guys make?" she asked, feeling a little guilty that she hadn't helped in any way.
"Seafood paella and some tapas. Calamari salad, prosciutto and boccaccini salad... Russell did most of it. I had to beg before he would give me something to do," Ramsey said, shaking his head in amusement. "I have to say, I've never seen him so concerned about cooking."
Kristen chuckled. "Yeah, well, this is his only daughter's birthday, after all."
Ramsey nodded in agreement. "How was camping?"
"Great. It was beautiful and the weather was just perfect." Kristen looked over at Ramsey as she stacked a few tapas dishes on a tray. "Frances and I are thinking of going travelling in a few months," she said conversationally.
"Yeah? Where to?"
"We haven't decided yet but... I'll be resigning from Taters," Kristen said, surprised when Ramsey merely nodded. She had unconsciously been expecting a bigger reaction.
Ramsey sighed. "I'm not sure why but I kinda expected that. It's been pretty crazy around here and, well... You're really happy with her, aren't you?" They made their way out of the kitchen with their trays of food.
Kristen smiled, shooting Ramsey a sideway glance. "I am. It's... sometimes I still have trouble believing it," she said grudgingly. It was amazing how much her life had changed in the last six months, in ways that she would never have imagined.
"I'm really happy for you," Ramsey said with a sigh and a nod. "You deserve all the happiness in the world."
Kristen ducked her head, feeling a little overwhelmed by the warmth of Ramsey's well wishes. "Aw, Chef." She looked up and spotted Frances talking and laughing with Nell and Tammy. Almost as though she could feel Kristen's eyes on her, Frances turned her head and beamed at her, making her smile in response.
The dinner commenced, with soft jazzy music in the background and a lot of laughter around the table.
Somewhere between the main course and dessert, Tammy suggested that Frances opened her birthday presents. Frances tore at the wrappings of the biggest present of the lot. "Who's this from?" she asked, looking around.
"Me," Russell said, waiting for his daughter's reaction. He smiled behind his bushy beard when she gasped in surprise.
"Your vinyls and a record player! But Dad, you love these!" Frances exclaimed. Russell didn't comment, merely bringing his glass of soda to his lips. "Thank you, I love it!" Frances said, giving her father a big smile.
She loved the green summer dress from Tammy and Russell, and felt her breath rush out when she unwrapped the painting from Kristen. The colours and strokes were bold and somehow, looking at it, Frances felt a sense of familiarity.
"My tattoo!" she said when it finally clicked. She turned to Kristen in wide-eyed wonder, loving the way Kristen's eyes soften when she looked back at her, and the way her lips curved up in enjoyment at the sight of her obvious delight. "Thank you, it's beautiful and you're amazing," Frances said, moving over to give Kristen a kiss, making Kristen blush with her show of affection.
"Nell wrote a song for you," Tammy said, and all eyes swivelled to Nell, who already had her guitar sitting on her lap. Frances leaned back in her seat and linked her hands with Kristen's loosely.
"I told Kristen that I had trouble with this song when I was first writing it," Nell said wryly, exchanging a smile with Kristen. "Guess I made it in the end. So Frances, this one's for you. Happy birthday."
Nell's voice was a little too husky for the tune but it worked all right. Frances knew that if Nell's band ever used this song, they would have to get Jaz to do the vocals.
"You are, poetry in motion
You inspire, power and devotion
You are, turning all the tide under me
You are, the potential in me
You are, the first one that I wish to tell
Everything that matters
Matters because you reflect it back so well
You see understanding
wherever you are are standing
Between reason, passion, balance
You are my strongest link
You are, everything I ever wanted to be..."
The clapping and catcalls when the song wrapped up were loud. Frances went over to give her friend a big hug. "You do know that I'm not really that great, right?" Frances mumbled into Nell's hair.
Nell laughed. "Artistic license," she said when they pulled apart.
After giving Kristen a smile and seeing that she looked rather content to be talking to Ramsey, Frances sat by Nell as the dinner resumed around them. "It's beautiful, thank you."
"I'm glad you like it," Nell said, sipping at her wine. "Kristen's painting looks awesome. I dig it."
"Yeah, I really love it. You guys are all amazing," Frances murmured, looking over at Kristen, smiling when she caught Kristen chuckling at Ramsey. She returned her attention to Nell, taking a deep breath as her mind raced to form her next words. She didn't really think that Nell had meant the lyrics in the romantic sense but, just in case, she thought she would say something, especially since she had promised herself that she would take steps towards drawing clearer boundaries between Nell and herself.
"You know I love you, right? But people don't see how we work and... usually, I'd say fuck 'em but Kristen's special and... I can't not care how she feels..." Frances started awkwardly, fearing that her impromptu speech was coming out all wrong and that she might end up hurting Nell.
"Oh," Nell said, understanding what Frances was getting at. "I guess the lyrics could be taken the wrong way. Sorry, I just didn't think... Was she upset about the other night...?" she asked, looking concerned.
Frances grimaced slightly.
"You should have gone and hung out with her," Nell said regretfully. "Sorry, darl."
"No, it's my fault. I didn't tell her why you needed my company..." Frances trailed off.
"You want me to talk to her?" Nell asked, feeling a little uncomfortable knowing that she was the cause of discord between Frances and Kristen. "You could have told her why, you know. I wouldn't have minded. You still can, if it'll make any difference."
Frances shrugged. "I handled it pretty poorly. I didn't even call her, just sent her a text." She caught the lift of brow Nell directed at her and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Lousy girlfriend."
Nell smirked. "I guess we really have to change the way we act with each other, huh." Nell rubbed the back of her neck uncomfortably. "I can see how it could be misconstrued... I'm sorry, darl. I guess I just don't think very much about how people see us."
"I'm to blame as well. I guess what I'm saying is that we, or rather I, have to be more mindful of how Kristen feels," Frances said, not really sure what she was asking of Nell--her understanding and help, perhaps.
Nell nodded. "Point taken." She thought for a while and added, "You do know that wasn't a love song, right? I just want you to be clear that I'm clear on that."
Relieved that their conversation had gone relatively well, Frances squeezed Nell's hand lightly and nodded. Then she went over to Kristen and wrapped her arms around her shoulders from behind, nuzzling her ear briefly, causing Ramsey to roll his eyes at them.
"Hey you. Having a good time?" Kristen murmured, turning her head to see Frances. She stroked one of Frances' arm absently.
"Yeah. I just spoke to Nell and she says it's okay for me to tell you so... the other night, when I cancelled on you? It was her brother's death anniversary. I'm sorry I didn't call you and explain a little more about why I piked. That was my bad..."
Kristen bit on her lower lip, suddenly feeling silly at the way she had reacted to the incident. Nevertheless, she felt glad that Frances hadn't just dismissed it and was concerned enough to address it.
"I've spoken to Nell. I'm sorry you feel like you have to be worried about Nell and I. I promise we're really just friends," Frances continued. "And I promise I'll be more aware of our behaviour but if I do slip up, maybe you could talk to me about it immediately instead of keeping it to yourself...?"
Kristen nodded. "I like Nell. But I'm also crazy about you and I guess that makes me act a little crazy sometimes," she said ruefully. "I do trust you. But sometimes I get insecure... it's something I have to work on."
Frances smiled. "I like that you're crazy about me," she said, dark eyes dancing in the amber lighting. "Everything else, we'll just... wing it, whaddaya reckon?"
Kristen smirked. "I reckon it might be true in your case that you get a little wiser with age."
Frances gave Kristen a playful smack and laughed when she was pulled into a kiss, forgetting for a moment where they were. They pulled apart when Ramsey pelted them with scrunched up serviettes, calling for them to get a room.
Kristen trailed behind Frances and Russell as they walked up the driveway, leaving them in front of Russell's house after a calling out a quick goodnight to her boss. She had just finished pouring Frances and herself some wine at the hammock when a smiling Frances appeared.
"You look pleased," Kristen commented, handing Frances a glass.
"Yeah, well, it's been that kinda day," Frances said, climbing into the hammock beside Kristen. "In fact, it's been that kinda weekend."
Kristen lifted a brow when Frances began digging around her back pocket for something, smirking when Frances gasped at almost spilling her wine. "You know, one day you might hurt yourself if you keep this up," Kristen said wryly.
Frances wrinkled her nose at Kristen. "Good thing you didn't get to see me with my ass in the air, looking like a beached whale whilst I was making my great escape then," she said lightly when she settled back down on the hammock. "Then again, it was a pretty funny sight. You'd have laughed."
Kristen studied Frances face for a long moment, swallowing the slight distaste the memory of Frances' abduction still brought up. "I love that you always manage to see the good in everything," she murmured finally.
Frances shrugged. "Sometimes there's nothing left to do but laugh or cry."
"That's the thing," Kristen said, turning her face to press her lips against Frances' temple, "you choose to laugh."
Frances shook her head. "Not always," she corrected Kristen.
"I love you," Kristen said softly, seriously. Smiling sweetly at the non-sequitur, Frances handed a small pouch to Kristen, who took it curiously. "What's this?"
"It's for you," Frances said, then bit her lower lip. "But, uh, I'd appreciate it if you'd return my shoelace. I couldn't find anything to tie it with..."
Kristen rolled her eyes. "Really? You're asking for part of my gift back? Are you sure you wanna be that person? What would your father say?" she asked, chuckling lightly when Frances stuck her tongue out at her.
She emptied the pouch in her palm and smiled at the handful of colourful pebbles. Her lips curved slightly when she thought of their recent camping trip. "When did you pick these?" she asked, smoothing them with her finger tips.
"When a certain person of advancing years was recovering from, shall I say, more... vigorous activities?" Frances said cheekily, smirking when Kristen turned an interesting shade of red. "Aw, she's embarrassed. How cute..."
Kristen leaned in and caught Frances' lips in a quick kiss, loving the shy smile that she still managed to elicit from Frances when she got her by surprise. It made her lean forward again for a slower, deeper kiss.
When they pulled apart, they shared a quick smile before Frances glanced down at her glass of wine and took a sip from it. Then she rested her cheek against Kristen's shoulder wordlessly, loving how comfortable she felt, wrapped up in a blanket of silence with Kristen.
So many things had happened in the time that they had been together but at the end of it, they were still together, planning for some kind of future that had each other in it. Maybe some things were made to last. Frances flicked her eyes up into the night sky, then at Kristen's profile... and she wished that this was one of them.
"Good birthday?" Kristen asked suddenly. Frances nodded and lightly ran a finger down the length of Kristen's arm. Kristen swallowed her wine and inched her face forward unconsciously, her voice dropping an octave. "Bed?"
Frances gave Kristen a sideway glance from under her lashes and smiled.
Edwin Richardson adjusted his tie before stepping out of the elevator. He was a little wary of the genuineness of the offer that Kristen Cameron had made him over the phone, but he had nothing to lose by coming to the meeting. He spied Kristen seated on a chair, flipping unseeingly through a magazine, and walked over to her.
Kristen looked up when a shadow fell over her. The door to the lawyer's office opened, as though on cue, and an immaculately dressed man with graying hair greeted them. Kristen stood up and swept past Richardson. She could not wait for this day to be over, even though it had barely started.
Frances made everyone some tea and brought it over to the table in the kitchen. Russell pushed his dinner plate away from him and leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on his satisfied belly. It was nice to have Frances and Kristen over; the house frequently felt empty now that alcohol was no longer his constant companion.
"So, um, I went to the lawyer's today with Edwin Richardson, Benjamin and Jack," Kristen said abruptly, looking at Russell and Frances. "I sold Richardson the company and finalised my divorce."
Frances' brows rose. "Wow."
Kristen let out a short bark of laughter, feeling the tension leave her at Frances' remark. "Yeah, wow. Benjamin won't bother us anymore because I no longer hold any shares to the company."
Jack and Benjamin had arrived at the lawyer's office after she had signed her share of the company over to Richardson at a price he could not refuse. A part of her had enjoyed the look of distress and outrage on her brother's face when he found out what she had done, but mostly she just felt a sense of relief that she was no longer tied to any of those men any longer.
"If what Liam says is true, then he's after the company because he needs the money. What makes you so sure he won't bother you anymore now that you have money?" Russell asked, sipping at his tea.
"Because I'm going to spend most of it really soon," Kristen said with a shrug. "I'd like to buy your house, Russell." Russell stared at Kristen blankly. "I'd like to buy it back for you from the bank," she explained.
"No," Russell said immediately, his tone flat. "I appreciate what you're trying to do but I don't need charity."
Kristen shook her head. "It's not charity, Russell. C&C vandalised Taters; that's why you had to mortgage your house. Call it payback, if you will."
Frances shared a look with Kristen and glanced at her father. "Dad, Kristen's right. It's not charity. They vandalised and sabotaged Taters. Because of them, business went downhill for a long time."
Russell fell silent, so Frances trudged on. "Mum loved this house. Are you sure you want to sell it?" she asked.
"I think maybe it's time to let the past go," Russell said in a soft voice, much to Frances' surprise.
"Let Mum go?" Frances asked in disbelief, outraged that her father would suggest something like that.
Russell shook his head. "That's impossible, lass. But the house... the house, I can let go. It's too big for me anyway. And after you and Kristen leave, it's only going to get bigger and emptier."
Kristen nodded slowly. "Well then, let me give you a cheque, Russell. You can buy your next home with the money, put it aside for Frances, anything," she said, looking earnestly at her boss.
Russell thought for a long moment. "Fine," he said finally, to Kristen's delight. He cleared his throat and changed the subject. "Tammy's going to advertise for your position tomorrow. You're in charge of picking and training your successor."
Kristen grimaced at that. "Huh."
Russell lifted his brows. "Did you think I was gonna do your dirty work?"
Kristen shook her head hastily. "Of course not." Frances chuckled at the fearful look on Kristen's face.
"You know you're not leaving till you find someone good enough for me, right?" Russell said gruffly. Kristen looked a little worried until she saw the gleam in Russell's eyes. Even though she had worked with and for this man for almost a year now, she still wasn't sure when he was joking.
Frances rolled her eyes at Russell. "Then Kristen'll never be able to leave, Dad," she whined playfully.
"You'll have to go on your own then, lass, wontcha?" Russell asked with a faint smile. He let out a bark of laughter at the look on his daughter's face and shook his head. It was good to see her happy and settled in her own way with Kristen.
Kristen's brows jumped into her hairline at Russell's short burst of laughter; she rarely, if ever, got to see this side of her boss and it surprised her just how much younger he looked when he laughed.
"You've got your hands full with this one, Kristen. You know that, right?" Russell said, breaking Kristen's reverie.
Kristen smirked and looked across the table at Frances, who was looking every bit like a defiant teenager bent on staring her father down. "Oh yeah," she said, loving how Frances was trying but failing to keep the smile from her face. "Poor me," she murmured, chuckling lightly at the rather seductive lift of a dark brow at that. "Poor me."
They stood in the middle of Kristen's flat with their arms around each other. Frances inhaled Kristen's scent and sighed contentedly as she pulled away. "How's it feel to be a free woman?" she asked.
Kristen shrugged. "I don't feel any different. I haven't been married to Jack for a long time now, so..." she trailed off, going over to the cushions on the floor and sat herself down. She reached out a hand for Frances to join her.
"Thank you for trying to help Dad out," Frances said awkwardly. She lingered at the kitchen bench.
Kristen let her hand fall beside her on the cushion. "It's not really -"
"It is. You're not obliged to give him any of the money you got from selling your shares," Frances interrupted Kristen before she could finish her sentence. "It's a nice, decent thing to do."
Kristen ducked her head but didn't reply. Frances made her way over to Kristen and sat down facing her, positioning her legs on either side of Kristen. "Thank you," she said softly, peering up at Kristen.
"No worries," Kristen said with a faint smile. "It's such a relief to not be tied to Benjamin or Jack anymore, I have to say. Benjamin wasn't a happy camper." Her brother had been furious when the information had sunk in. He wasn't required to be present at the lawyer's office but Kristen wanted to be sure that everyone involved knew exactly what was going on.
Frances chewed on her lower lip, nodding. She didn't know what to say about Benjamin. She had liked the man and his actions had surprised and appalled her. But even now, she wasn't sure how she felt about his predicament.
"It's good to have some money to put towards our adventure," Kristen said, running her hands up and down Frances' legs, enjoying their closeness. It still surprised her from time to time how much she liked being with Frances, regardless of what they did.
"Oh, true!" Frances said, her face lighting up. "Well lucky you. I'll have to catch up."
Kristen lifted a brow. "Or I could be your sugar mummy," she said, in a soft, teasing tone.
Frances rolled her eyes. "You couldn't possibly afford my rates. I'd have to end up loaning you money to keep me!"
"Huh. You're very sure of yourself," Kristen said, smirking. She mirrored Frances' posture so that her legs crossed over Frances' thighs, effectively bringing them closer to each other. Frances shifted slightly and rested her hands on Kristen's shoulders. A smug smile was playing on her lips. Kristen lifted a hand to trace a dimple.
"I know what I'm good at. It's called self-awareness," Frances said, nodding sagely.
Kristen smirked. "Is that another way of saying you're good at masturbating?" she teased, earning herself a light scratch on her nape.
"You're hanging around me too much. Stop being a smart ass," Frances said, sounding aggrieved. "But if you must know, I'm really good at that particular art."
Kristen laughed. "Oh, I don't doubt that."
"Would you like a demonstration?" Frances asked, trailing her hands down the front of Kristen's shirt, up her legs, and hooked her fingers under her own shirt to peel it off. Kristen cleared her throat at the sudden change of atmosphere. "I'm sorry, was that a yes...?" Frances asked, halting her movements.
Kristen swallowed. "Yes." Her eyes darkened when Frances removed her bra and threw it over her shoulder. She watched as Frances eased herself out of the rest of her clothes and she had to swallow again when Frances parted her legs and exposed all of herself to her.
Hers. This fascinating, smart mouthing, compassionate, intelligent, infuriating tease of a woman was hers.
Then Frances began stroking herself and all coherent thoughts flew out of Kristen's mind. A rush of heat and wetness went through her body in reaction to Frances' soft, breathy moans, making her squirm uncomfortably. She could see and smell Frances' arousal and that heightened her own. "Fuck," she mumbled hoarsely, in slight disbelief at what was happening before her eyes.
Frances slipped two fingers into herself, only half aware of Kristen's response to her impromptu show. She brought her fingers to her lips, smiling rakishly when she noticed Kristen licking her lower lip unconsciously. "You like?" she asked, her voice husky.
Kristen nodded dumbly. Every fibre of her being was screaming for her to slid her body against Frances', slip her fingers into dark wetness and take her over the edge. But she remained frozen on the cushion, her heart pounding hard in her chest even though she hadn't moved for the past God knows how long.
Frances touched her fingers to the spot she knew all too well and began circling it, slowly, more firmly, then more quickly. Her body arched and she threw her head back as pleasurable waves began to crash through her frame. She bit down hard on her lower lip as she struggled to halt the movement of her hand, not wanting it to end just yet.
"Frances..." Kristen's eyes were fully dilated with passion. The sight, scent and sound of Frances touching herself was titillating. She hummed low in her throat when Frances threw her a breathless smile as her hand resumed its ministrations. Her lips parted when Frances' body arched and grew taut again.
Frances tried to keep herself in that pleasurable, mindless moment for as long as she could, feeling intense tingles flow through her limbs and body. Then when she couldn't hold on anymore, she opened her eyes to search out Kristen's as shudders tore through her body. She fell back onto the floor and gasped.
Kristen crawled on all fours over to Frances and stretched herself out beside her, resting her head on one hand and cradling Frances softly with the other.
Frances' breathing calmed down and she buried her face in the crook of Kristen's neck, inhaling deeply. "Mm."
"You are..." Kristen racked her brain for the right word but couldn't come up with anything fitting. "I love..." she tried again, then stopped. Even that seemed inadequate. Frances had reduced her into a stuttering fool. A hand snaked around her neck to bring her face lower.
Just before their lips touched, Frances smiled, making Kristen's heart flip. "I'm good, aren't I?" she murmured huskily. Her dimples deepened when Kristen's lips curved into a sensous smile.
"What am I gonna do with you?" Kristen asked, shaking her head lightly. She crashed their lips together in a bruising kiss; they were way past foreplay. Frances circled Kristen's wrist and brought it to her centre. Low moans were torn from their throats when contact was made.
Frances cradled Kristen's face in her hands as Kristen moved in and out of her. She was panting again and her lids felt heavy. The heat that the friction caused was driving her crazy. She brushed her lips against Kristen's before burying her face in Kristen's hair as she crested again.
A fleeting thought went through her head at that moment: words to her mother, ashes falling into a lake. Now she knew that a home wasn't a place, but a person; and in this instance, 'I love you' was a gift.
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