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.
"Well, now, how can I say no to someone who calls me 'God'?"
They had taken the bus to Coogee and walked to Gordons Bay. The sky was clear but the occasional breeze was cool so it wasn't a bad day for strolling. Kristen tried to keep up with Frances who was bounding from rock to rock as they looked for a spot to set down their bags but the woman must have been a goat in her past life. When Kristen finally made it to where Frances was standing and waiting for her, she shot her a dark look.
"What?" Frances asked innocently.
Frances chuckled and stretched out a hand to help Kristen up the last rock to where she was. "I can't help it if you're older and slower," Frances teased, earning herself another dark look. She held on to Kristen's hand for a tad longer than needed before releasing it. "Isn't this amazing?" she said softly, sweeping her arms out on either side of her.
"I would have turned back already if that wasn't the case," Kristen grumbled, but she could not keep from smiling at the awed expression on Frances' face.
"Eleanor was disappointed that I didn't manage to get her a date with you," Frances said cheekily. "I told her you're straight but she was just too pretty and you couldn't resist kissing her back."
"What!" Kristen stopped in the middle of kicking her shoes off.
"She understood," Frances carried on as though Kristen hadn't said anything. "It's hard to be hot like Eleanor. She gets straight women falling for her all the time... and then they can't deliver." Frances shook her head sadly.
"Did you really tell her that?" Kristen groused but she didn't mind it that much. It wasn't like it was completely untrue--although, personally, she would have worded it a little differently.
Frances smirked as she took her top off. "Of course I didn't. I told her you're PMT-ing and it's not the best time to hang out with you. Actually, you act like you're PMT-ing all the time so there's no good time really."
Frances squealed when Kristen poked her stomach. "Careful with the merchandise, Miss!"
"Oh yeah? Then why are you here with me?" Kristen retorted. She liked how they could banter about the silliest things.
Frances bit her lower lip as she tied her hair back into a bun. "Charity work," she quipped, then yelled when Kristen began tickling her bare sides. "Stop it!" Frances let go of her hair to swat Kristen's hands away.
"You look good with your hair down," Kristen commented when they stopped laughing.
"Only with my hair down?" Frances asked playfully as she began gathering her hair up again. "Shame."
This was a side of Frances that Kristen had only had a glimpse of the other night. Suddenly curious, she asked, "When was the last time you were with someone?"
The question surprised Frances. "When was the last time I had sex or was in a relationship?" she wanted to know.
Kristen chuckled at Frances' forthrightness. "In a relationship."
"Can't remember. Years ago," Frances said vaguely. "Come on, let's go for a dip," she said, bounding down towards the water with her snorkelling gear in one hand. Kristen sighed and followed Frances slowly.
The water was chilly but beautiful. Kristen's teeth chattered a little but she kept on swimming, knowing that her body would warm up soon enough. Frances swam past her in her flippers, mask and tube, occasionally disappearing underwater for a look. Kristen looked around her, took a deep breath, and smiled. It was a beautiful day.
She flipped over onto her back and allowed her eyes to fall shut. The sun felt warm on her skin. She thought about the night before; she had decided to go out after getting home from Taters. It had been fun getting dressed up. She had taken her time putting on make up and styling her wavy tresses, and had worn her favourite navy blue dress with a plunging neckline her Diana Ferrari heels. By then, however, her inclination to go out had dissipated but she had felt compelled not to waste her dress, shoes and make up on the television.
She had gone to a few bars but every one was like the one before. Sometimes she would get through a drink without any interruptions but more often than not, someone would come over to strike up conversation with her. Even though that had been the whole point of the night, she had found it tedious to have to think of new things to say to keep a conversation going; once or twice she even wished that she had someone that she actually liked to drink and talk with. She had gone home alone, feeling rather disappointed at how the night had turned out. There had been no one interesting enough to hold her attention.
Frances broke the water surface just beside Kristen and removed the tube from her mouth as she flailed her free arm about excitedly. "Here," she said, handing her tube to a bemused Kristen. "Put on your goggles and follow me!"
Kristen did as she was told and stuck her face into the water, trying to see what Frances wanted to show her. A few fish swam past them. The underwater view was amazing. Frances pointed excitedly at a school of weird looking fish and Kristen shook her head, trying to tell her that she didn't know what Frances was so excited about.
"Aliens!" Frances sputtered when they broke the water surface. "Don't you reckon they look like little alien fish?"
Kristen removed the tube from her mouth and rolled her eyes behind her goggles. "Is that it?" She wasn't sure what she thought she would be shown, but Frances had looked so excited she had expected something big or incredible. Certainly not little alien fishes.
"Let's go over there," Frances said, pointing to the rocks on the other side of the bay. They swam side by side for a bit before Frances disappeared again. Reappearing near a cluster of rocks, she beckoned Kristen over.
"What now?" Kristen asked when she swam to Frances' side, putting on a bored voice even though she was secretly amused.
"Touch this." Kristen put her face into the water again and touched what looked like algae on a rock. "Feels like velvet, doesn't it?" Frances said, happiness colouring her voice. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and soon enough, Kristen felt as excited as she was over every little thing.
Frances loved the water, the odd looking fish, even the algae, and Kristen couldn't remember the last time she had had this much fun.
"My medical results came in the mail," Frances announced when they were sunning on a flat rock.
Kristen was reminded that Frances was not going to be around for much longer and she was surprised that it bothered her. A little over a week ago, she hadn't even liked the woman. "All right, cough it up. Exactly how many things are wrong with you?"
Frances shot Kristen a bemused look. "I'm thinking of staying."
Her revelation surprised Kristen but she hid it behind her sarcastic humour. "That many things, huh."
Frances finally gave up trying to have a serious conversation with Kristen and smacked her lightly on her tummy. "Yeah, I gotta go have my head checked again for hanging out with you."
"Ouch." Kristen felt ridiculously pleased at Frances' comeback. Her eyes fluttered shut as she lay there on the rock, feeling quite content.
"I'm hungry, Chef. Feed me," Frances said suddenly, sitting up.
Kristen slowly opened her eyes as she turned to Frances, who was towelling her hair dry. She caught herself looking at Frances again and wondered fleetingly if Frances had given their kiss much thought. She watched as Frances felt her boardies, seemingly satisfied that they had dried up some in the sun.
"Wanna have fish and chips?" Frances asked hopefully as she looked around for her top.
Frances had her hair loose to dry in the sun and it fell haphazardly over her shoulders. Her skin was golden brown and smooth all over; her cheeks had a tinge of pink on them and her lips.... Kristen noticed that Frances liked to bite her lower lip quite often and the action would reveal a dimple--a ridiculously attractive look on her. Kristen had never given dimples much thought before.
"Hellooo..." Frances said, waving a hand in front of Kristen's face. Kristen's eyes met hers and Frances lifted her brows. "Food?"
"Yeah, sure. I'm all sunned out anyways," Kristen said, sitting up. She put her black spaghetti strap top on and retied her sarong around her waist when she stood up. She listened to Frances rattling off the places that they could eat at with a faint smile on her face.
They ended up at A Fish Called Coogee, a small establishment offering an array of fish steaks marinated in mouthwatering mixes which sent Frances into a frenzy, because she could not decide what to order and wanted to try everything. In the end, they settled for three portions of fish and several potato scallops to share.
"Oh, this is good," Kristen murmured as she chewed on a piece of sea bass marinated in lime juice and coconut.
"This is good too," Frances said, pointing her fork at the lemon, herb and garlic salmon steak she had just sampled. "What's this other one?"
"Swordfish. Some soy marinade," Kristen said, spearing a chunk of the fish and sliding it into her mouth. "Mm...." Her eyes fluttered shut as she savoured the taste and texture of the fish.
Frances swallowed the fish in her mouth, suddenly mesmerized by the sight before her. Kristen was a beautiful woman. Frances liked the way her hair framed her face, the way her eyebrows arched, the way her lips moved when she chewed on her fish....
"Thank you," Kristen said finally when her eyes opened.
Conscious that she had been perving at the poor woman while she was eating, Frances suddenly found the potato scallops very interesting. "What for?" She picked up and bit into a deep fried potato disc.
"Today. It's been awesome. All of it. Well, except the climbing bits...."
Frances smiled. "Noted. No more climbing for Kristen." Kristen gave her a funny look when she said that. "What?" she asked self-consciously.
"I don't think you've ever said my name before. Sounds a little weird," Kristen said with a shrug. Then her brows furrowed as she tried out Frances' name. "Frances."
Frances wrinkled her nose. "That sounds odd coming from you. I think I'm more used to you calling me 'Jinx' or nothing at all."
"And I'm more used to you calling me 'God' or 'Chef'--synonyms, in my case," Kristen said with a smug look.
Frances chuckled and made a show of rolling her eyes at Kristen. "Oh hail the mighty woman who cooks in a restaurant!"
"Huh. When you put it that way, it doesn't sound quite as impressive," Kristen said, her lips twitching. Then her tone turned serious. "So why are you thinking of staying? I thought you loved what you were doing."
"I do...." Frances said slowly, "But I love my Dad more."
Sometimes Frances would say or do something that would make Kristen stop and realise that her liking for the woman had grown. This was one of those moments. Frances' words made her think about her own family.
Almost as though she was afraid that Frances could hear her thoughts, Kristen quickly pushed it out of her mind and speared a chunk of sea bass instead. "Here. Try this one," she said, offering it to Frances and smiling when Frances ate it from her fork.
Kristen hadn't lied when she told Frances that she had had an awesome day. Suddenly her flat felt empty and too quiet. Kristen pottered around, collecting unwashed mugs and straightening things around the place.
Frances had gotten under her skin quite unexpectedly and she wasn't sure what to make of it.
The only person that she had gotten along this well with had been her grandmother. Growing up, Nan had been the only person who challenged her and made her think about things that she would not have considered otherwise. She missed her immensely.
She felt fortunate to have found a footing in Sydney, a job at Taters, and a place she could call home. But it was only after Frances had come into her life that she realised how much she had missed being able to connect with someone on an intellectual level. Being attracted to her, well, Kristen wasn't sure how that happened or if it would have happened if Frances wasn't gay but she didn't see the point in mulling over that. Nan had always said to work with what you had. It did not matter how she got there, only that she did.
The kiss the other night could have potentially driven a wedge of discomfort between them but instead, it only proved that Frances enjoyed spending time with her regardless. She felt respected. She felt seen. And, as much as Kristen hated to admit it, Frances' lack of reference to their kiss had been an aphrodisiac. It was all she could think about.
They had been heading home after their day at Coogee when Nell called. Frances had left her at Newtown to go meet her friend and Kristen had been appalled to find herself missing the other woman's presence shortly after.
"Crap," Kristen mumbled under her breath, wondering when everything had changed so drastically in her world. She grabbed her drawing pad, made herself some tea, put Katie Melua on her hi-fi system and sat down to sketch.
The traditional fishing boat that Russell had hired could hold up to twenty people; Frances was surprised her father had gone all out for the fishing trip. She supposed he felt the Taters crew deserved it and it gave them the chance to bond and get to know the new hires.
Everyone had made it, including Liam and Sandra, the new kitchenhand who had only done a single shift at Taters. Lunch was provided by the boat hire company and Russell had gotten all the grog. He did not, however, get any bourbon for himself. A part of him wanted to remain clear headed for as long as possible to enjoy the time with his daughter; another part of him wanted to see if he could do without the spirit for a day.
"You cast it like this, lass," Russell said, demonstrating to Frances and Tammy the right way to cast the fishing rod. "Press the line down with just one finger... it's easier to let go that way."
Tammy mimicked Russell's movement and got it immediately. Frances, on the other hand....
"Hey! You will be the death of me one day!" Kristen cursed, holding a hand to her head. Frances had managed, somehow, to hit her on her head with her fishing rod.
Frances turned around with a grimace on her face. At Kristen's look of exasperation, she started chuckling. "You again? Honestly. You're just a masochist at heart, aren't you?"
"You should be apologising, not dishing out snarky comments!" Kristen huffed.
Frances snickered. "Sorry," she said unapologetically. "Now give me a wide berth because I'm gonna do this again," she said, waiting until Kristen backed away a few steps before attempting to cast the rod again. It did not go far and plopped ungracefully into the water. "Dad!" Frances whined.
Russell smiled indulgently at his daughter before taking the rod from her and reeling in the fishing line. "All right. You do this...."
Kristen observed her boss and Frances from a distance. She hadn't seen Russell drink at all today, which was good. He looked like he was enjoying himself, which was even better. Russell was a different person when he interacted with Frances, and Frances was... childlike almost when she whined for Russell. It made Kristen smile.
"Having a good time, Kristen?"
Kristen turned to Ramsey, who had come up beside her without her noticing. "Yeah. You?"
"Mm hm. Nice day. I have to say, when Russell said this was going to be a fishing trip, I really did not expect all this!" Ramey looked very relaxed in a blue and white printed Hawaiian shirt and black shorts. His cheeks and arms were slathered in sun block and his dark hair was hidden under a grey baseball cap.
"I have to agree."
"Oh hey, about the competition...."
Kristen took a sip of her pineapple juice and nodded. "What about it? I thought we decided that you should be the second chef."
"Are you sure? Cos', I don't know...."
"Yeah, I'm sure. It's not my kinda thing, really." She adjusted her sunglasses and changed the subject quickly. "Hey, do you think Tammy has a crush on Russell?" She had caught Tammy studying Russell several times when she thought no one was looking. "I don't think I've ever heard her talk about anyone special before."
"Tammy? Hm. Now that you've mentioned it...." Ramsey tapped a finger on his lips and mused. "She does always only have nice things to say about him... and we all know that there just aren't that many nice things to say about Russell...."
Kristen snorted. "Don't let him hear that."
"Hey guys!" Liam greeted them cheerfully as he came to stand next to Kristen with a drink in his hand. "What're you guys looking at?" he asked, following their line of sight.
"Nothing," Kristen said rather irritably. She did not like it when people joined in conversations taking for granted that they were welcomed. She was probably the only person who did not take to his boyish good looks and charm immediately. When she saw Russell moving away to get another rod for himself, she went over to Frances and Tammy.
"Killed anything yet?" she asked as a way of greeting. She slid her sunglasses onto her head and squinted at Frances and Tammy.
Frances wrinkled her nose at Kristen. "No... and if you don't act nice, I won't share my catch with you." Kristen lifted a brow at that and Frances, reminded of the other night’s conversation which had led up to them kissing, flushed a little. Her reaction did not go unnoticed by Kristen, who was pleased by it.
Tammy touched Frances' arm as she pointed to the tip of Frances' rod. "It's moving!" she said excitedly. "Does that mean you got something? Russell!"
Russell came over with a few fishing rods. "Something's nibbling the bait but it's only when the rod bends a fair bit that you kinda give it a yank to set the hook," he explained. "There, now," he said when the rod bent sharply. He gave it a sharp yank and the rod bent more. "Here, it's your rod, you reel it in," he said to Frances before depositing the rod in his daughter's hands.
"Oh shit!" Frances mumbled. "How the hell do I do this?" she all but yelled out. She could feel the pull at the other end of the line and she was straining her arm muscles to reel it in.
"You're doing good," Russell said encouragingly. "Okay, now relax and stop reeling for a second, then start reeling it in again," he instructed.
"Like this?" Frances asked, trying to do as she was told. She let the line go slack for a tad too long, however, and suddenly the pull was gone. "I think I lost it," Frances said, disappointed. She continued reeling it in to reset the bait.
"That's okay, lass. That was really good for your first attempt. Next time you'll get something," he promised. The hook and sinker on Frances' line was gone. The fish was due for an uncomfortable time before the hook disintegrated. "You just have to be patient. Soon enough you'll know how to read the signs and know when to relax and when to pull. You know, once, this bloke I was fishing with spent almost eight hours reeling in a fish."
"Eight hours? Was it a big fish?" Tammy asked. She looked rather comely that day, with her red hair loose around her face. She was wearing a white summer dress and just the barest hint of make up. Frances had never seen her out of Taters' uniform of black top and pants before.
"Yup. He wasn't interested in catching it. He was in for the sport of it. It takes a lot of control and skill to battle with a fish for that long," Russell said as he rummaged around for a sinker and a new hook.
Frances frowned. "That's just cruel, isn't it? Imagine how awful the fish must be feeling, fighting for its life all those hours." Kristen, Russell and Tammy looked at her but no one said anything. "What? Don't you think so?" she demanded, feeling sorry for the poor creature. "Don't you ever do that, Dad," she said hotly.
"Not in front of you, I won't," Russell rumbled, much to Kristen's amusement. Russell, in fear of someone who was almost half his size.... Who would have thought?
"What! No! You won't ever do something like that! Promise!" She stuck out her little pinkie for a deal.
Russell paled, as though he had just seen a ghost. He stared at Frances' finger for a long moment and Kristen feared to witness moisture leaking from his eyes. She exchanged a look with Tammy and went over to her side to give Russell and Frances some privacy.
"Promise," he said finally, hooking his pinkie with hers briefly. It brought back bittersweet memories of his Marie striking deals with both himself and their daughter. Once you hooked your pinkies, according to Marie, the deal was sealed. His mind opened to the many promises that he had made to his late wife and he felt engulfed in shame. What was he doing other than drinking his life away?
"Dad?" Frances called softly, sensing the change and knowing that her father was thinking about Mum. She wanted to tell him that she was sorry for not being around all this time but the words just would not come.
"Yeah. Okay. Ready for more?" Russell said gruffly, pulling his hand away to resume tying the hook onto the line.
Frances nodded with a small smile as she took the rod from him. This time, she managed to cast it properly and she gave her Dad a brilliant smile.
"So, you're gonna be the second chef in the competition, huh," Liam said conversationally to Ramsey. "Have you discussed what you're gonna be making on the day?"
Ramsey shook his head. "It's not a big thing, really. It's just some friendly competition to get to know each other."
"Fair enough." Liam grinned, stretching out his hand to clink his beer bottle against Ramsey's. "Cheers!" Ramsey took a swig from his bottle.
"Is, uh, Kristen always this unfriendly?" Liam asked. He caught the look that Ramsey gave him and shrugged, giving Ramsey a sheepish look back. "She is very beautiful...."
Another one's fallen, Ramsey thought. "She is," he said.
Liam gazed in Kristen's direction as he took another swig of beer. "How long has she been working at Taters?"
Ramsey shrugged. "Almost a year?"
A squeal from Tammy grabbed Ramsey's attention and he chuckled at her frantic attempts to reel in a catch. Liam joined in, laughing and cheering. Russell was on her side, as was Frances and Kristen. Even Missy and the new kitchenhand had their heads turned towards Tammy, sharing a laugh. Everyone looked like they were having fun.
"I think the fishing talent skipped a generation," Frances sighed to Kristen. She had yet to catch a fish. Tammy, on the other hand, was reeling in her second catch of the day.
Kristen chuckled. Frances had an uncanny way of making her laugh. "Come on, let's get a beer."
Frances nodded. "Dad? Dad, I'm taking a break. Do you want anything to drink?" At Russell's shake of head, Frances trailed after an amused Kristen.
"Don't look so sad," Kristen said mirthfully.
Frances smiled. "I'm actually having a good time. Except I think I might be getting a little burnt. All this sun, yesterday and today...." Frances shook her head with a heavy sigh. "What a hard life I lead," she deadpanned.
Kristen laughed and found herself thinking how carefree she felt when she was in Frances' company.
"You have a nice laugh," Frances commented when they each got themselves a beer.
Kristen lifted a brow, her lips still curved up. "Among other things."
Frances slapped Kristen on her arm playfully. "Stop using that flirtatious tone with me. I might get the wrong idea, you know?"
"And what idea would that be?" Kristen asked, enjoying herself immensely.
"You know," Frances said, flushing a little, wondering why she had set herself up for this.
"No, I don't."
Frances narrowed her eyes at Kristen, who was giving her an innocent look. "You're doing it again. Stop flirting with me!"
They found a shady spot to sit in, away from the rest of the crew. Sea gulls dotted the blue sky and the breeze blew hair into both their faces when they sat next to each other. Frances drank her beverage greedily, relishing the coolness of it as it slid down her throat.
She was feeling a little nervous around Kristen but she could not think of anyone else she would rather be next to that very moment. Kristen was like the forbidden fruit--there, but not for the picking. It did not help that they were so in tune with each other either. Conversation flowed so easily between them; insults were traded in such a quick and witty manner that sometimes it made Frances' head spin.
The single word broke her reverie and Frances frowned at Kristen. "Why what?"
"Why do you want me to stop flirting with you?"
Frances considered evading the question but decided not to. "Cos' I might fall for you." Her stomach did a funny lurch when she said that and suddenly she found the beer tab very interesting. She picked at it, half hoping and half fearing that Kristen would change the topic.
"And that would be a bad thing because?"
Frances stared at Kristen, who was looking too smug for her own good. "Last time I checked, you weren't interested in women."
"No..." Kristen corrected slowly, "Last time you checked, I wasn't interested in Eleanor."
"Oh." Frances' mouth felt dry. Her eyes darted all over Kristen's face, trying to get a hint of where this conversation was going.
Kristen leaned closer and her voice dropped to the octave that sent shivers through Frances' body. "You're a much better kisser than Eleanor."
"Oh." She blushed.
"You know, if I had known that it would be so easy to reduce your vocabulary to one word and make you so much more agreeable, I would have done this sooner," Kristen said, smirking. She wasn't sure where she was going with this but it felt right and comfortable, emotions that she was starting to associate with Frances.
Frances did not know what to say. Kristen had succeeded in making her head spin once again. So she did the only thing she knew to do. She closed the space between their faces and took Kristen's lips in hers.
Kristen's gasp of surprise died in her throat and her eyes fluttered shut. She had unconsciously been looking forward to this and now that Frances' lips were on hers again, she wanted to savour it. A part of her was also curious as to whether the memory of their first kiss was embellished.
Frances lifted a hand to slide into Kristen's dark blonde locks, thrilling at being allowed to do so. She kissed Kristen's lips thoroughly before Kristen deepened their connection, sliding her tongue into Frances' mouth. Frances pulled Kristen's face closer as she lost herself in the kiss. When Kristen's tongue stroked the roof of her mouth, Frances let out a low moan in the back of her throat.
The sound from Frances sent a faint tingle through Kristen's body. Her hand snaked around Frances' waist, finding purchase in the small of her back. She tried to pull Frances closer and gasped when Frances nipped her lower lip. Her eyes flew open as she smiled against Frances' lips. "I like that you do that," she murmured, her voice sounding thick and foreign to her own ears. Frances was making her feel a little hot and bothered and she did not want the kiss to end just yet.
Frances, on the other hand, was feeling quite breathless. She remembered thinking to herself that she did not want anything complicated but here she was, kissing her father's straight--or previously straight, at least--employee slash tenant! But one look at Kristen's smoky gaze was her undoing. She traced Kristen's slightly swollen lips with a finger until they quirked into a smile, which she mirrored.
"I think I might have given you lesbian germs after all," Frances said finally, unable to keep the smugness from her voice.
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