DISCLAIMER: In this story, there are scenes, bits of scenes, and dialogue taken from Season 2 and 3 of The L Word that both move the story along and explain events that unfolded. At the end of each chapter, I will identify what parts are directly from the television version. Dialogue from Season 3—particularly one entire scene, references to Seasons 1, 2, and 3.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for The L Word Seasons 2 and 3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Laid Up: Another Season 3
By Portia Richardson


Chapter Fourteen

Later that day

Bette had put Angelica down and walked down the long hall. The walls were pure white and looked stark, yet in an odd way quite welcoming. Bette recognized much of the art on the walls and the small sculpture on the hall tables. Helena had excellent taste.

"Hey," Bette said as she walked into the living room. Helena was seated in a leather chair sipping a fizzy water. She turned to look at Bette.

"Hi. Settled in, then?"

"I am," Bette said as she walked across the room. Helena stood. I poured you a Perrier. She handed it to Bette. "Would you like the tour?"

"I'd love it. I've only seen two rooms and the hall and I've fallen in love with the house."

"Come on, then." Helena led the way, taking Bette from the living room down another hall.

"You know, this house is really reminiscent of John Lautner's architectural design. Everything seems so natural and. . . I don't know, organic?"

"I know what you mean. Have you ever seen the Sheats-Goldstein house in Beverly Hills."

"Yes, exactly," Bette said with enthusiasm. "That house is spectacular, too, with its wall-to-wall windows, open spaces. God, yes. But Helena, your house really is magnificent." Architecture was Bette's second favorite academic interest and pursuit. She had taken several Architectural History classes at Yale. The architectural styles she liked were different--Bette dreamed of one day living in a Lautner home, but she also liked the neo-Expressionism of Frank Israel, the industrial sensibilities of Barton Myers and the utilitarianism of Gustav Stickley and his Craftsman homes.

"I believe that the architect who worked on this home, studied with Lautner, but she also has her own style. I found it breathtaking from the moment we walked in. And then Tina told me that you called it the quintessential California beach house."

"I did," Bette said as the walked from the living room down the spiral staircase. "Is that why you bought it? Because you knew I coveted it?" She couldn't refrain. There were just too many coincidences for it not to be true—whatever Bette wanted, Helena had to have.

Helena froze on the stairs and turned to look at Bette.

"I was kidding Helena," Bette said, but Helena knew that Bette believed that to be so.

"Right. Well, yes. You have a good eye. And perhaps, that was my original intent, but I must say, I love this house completely."

Helena faced forward again and made her way down the stairs with Bette trailing behind. Momentarily, Helena forgot to speak of the house, the staircase, the glass floor in one of the lower level rooms. Her mind was on Bette. This woman could read her like a book. It bothered her, but it was also a trait she wanted in a friend. She wanted someone who 'got her.'

The partial tour took about forty minutes. There was so much detail in the architecture and design. It was truly a beautiful home with ocean views that were awe inspiring. The ceilings were overall quite low and though contemporary, it had a feeling of opulence and splendor. There were eight bedrooms and half a dozen other rooms with specific purposes. Helena's media room held a 60 inch widescreen television and every new piece of entertainment technology on the market for a home theatre system. Bette learned that there were six fireplaces—two in the living room, one in the kitchen, one in the dining room, one in the master bedroom, and one in the media room. Bette had never seen hardwood floors that ran throughout the house in this particular exotic-looking medium brown stain. Helena explained that the Doussie wood is from Cameroon, Africa and not used much in the States, but quite popular in Europe. She had rushed to have it delivered and then installed so that the house would be serviceable and safe for the baby. Bette had looked at her and was just about to ask her to abstain from mentioning Tina and their daughter when Helena apologized. "Bette, that's foolish of me. I'm not trying to anger you. I was merely telling you my thought process about the floors. If I were you, I wouldn't want to hear my girlfriend's ex continually referencing their relationship. Please, pardon me."

Bette nodded.

They made their way from the dining room into the large butler's pantry, and finally into the kitchen which was spacious, and contained all of the latest and most coveted kitchen appliances. Bette wasn't so much envious as she was blown away by the abundance and mark of wealth at every turn from the floors to the travertine kitchen counters, to the appliances and the Venetian plaster on many of the walls.

"I was going to ask if you'd like the tour of the guesthouse, recreation, and outdoor areas, but I see you're knackered."

Bette sighed. "I'm managing. It's fine."

"No, no. Another time. Let me show you to one of the guest rooms. I've placed you close to the nursery." Again, Bette trailed Helena down the hall. "I've already put the baby monitor in your room." At the door of the guest room, Helena hesitated. "Bette, Nu Nu cares for my children when they're in town. She's in my full-time employ and I've told her that you're here with your daughter. This intercom reaches her in the Nanny's quarters just off the spiral staircase. If you need her, she'll come up."

Bette frowned.

"Ah, I trust her implicitly. I told her that you would be resting and might need some assistance from her. She's quite excited about meeting Angelica and helping in any way. Please feel free to contact her."

"All right."

"I have to leave for the rest of the afternoon and early part of the evening. I've asked Whit to come by tonight and speak with you. I hope that isn't too much of an intrusion or inconvenience if you had other plans?" Helena looked at Bette for confirmation or a veto of Helena's plan for Bette.

"Good. Thank you. I really need to talk to him. Great."

"Very good, then. I've left you a pair of pyjamas and a dressing gown. Also, I found a few clothes you might want to wear later. If there's anything you need or you can't find, Nu Nu can help you with that, too. And Bette, if you're hungry, there's almost anything you could want in the kitchen. Help yourself."

"Helena, you're being far too kind."

"Nothing can make up for how I treated you earlier this year. If this wee bit makes a dent in that, then I'm pleased, but there's much to make redress for."

"That isn't necessary. It's over. It's in the past." For the first time, Bette meant it. Bette vowed silently that she would no longer regard Helena an enemy. Bette considered the woman standing there—not a dragon, not a monster, or a cunt. Not evil. "I'm going to try to get some rest."

Bette opened the door and softly closed it behind her. She toed off her shoes and undressed. She was wearing a matching copper-colored bra and bikini panties when a soft rapping at the door was heard just before it opened. Bette grabbed the robe or dressing gown as Helena had called it and held it in front of her semi-nude body while she faced the door.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Helena said as she lowered her eyes to the floor. "Whit will arrive at 7:15 and I'm arranging for takeaway from The Chart House. Is there anything particular that you fancy?"

Bette still held the robe, but she spoke casually to Helena. "I like the Chilean Bass. I didn't know The Chart House did takeout and delivery, though."

"For some," Helena replied offhandedly. "Steamed asparagus?" Helena guessed.

"Sure. Sounds good."

"Get some rest, Bette." Helena closed the door and Bette stood frozen in place waiting for the door to re-open. After a minute, Bette finished changing and sank into bed. She was asleep in five minutes.

3a.m, the next morning

Shane was alone in the house that she shared with Carmen and once shared with Mark and Jenny. It wasn't often that she was awake, had the house entirely to herself for hours, and was free to do whatever she wanted uninterrupted. For months, there was always something going on or someone around—Jenny and her craziness at the computer, delving into her past like a miner deep in a mine shaft without a light; Mark with his videocamera in her face and later hidden cameras throughout the house, and Carmen with music going day and night. The few times she was home alone, she just slept. She had slept away the morning, the day before, went to bed early last night, and was now buzzing around the house waiting for Carmen to get home.

Carmen had received a call the afternoon before from the manager at The Catch One, a predominantly African-American night spot on Pico. The manager was pleading with Carmen to fill in for a DJ who was sick with laryngitis. Carmen was going to take the job, but the manager sweetened the pot financially due to the short notice and Carmen had readily accepted. She loved The Catch because the energy was always high. The club catered to all tastes with karaoke night, hip-hop and R&B, live entertainment, jazz night, techno/industrial dance, and a fun cabaret section. She was going to be deejaying in the Club Ballroom—a prime location where everyone would get a taste of what she was spinning. She'd worked The Catch several times and had turned down a gig as a regular DJ there because she believed that freelancing was the way to go for her. Madonna had partied there as well as a slew of other celebrities. If the right person was at The Catch on a particular night, it could lead to bigger things—a well-paying, one or two night job that didn't tie her down and restrict her lifestyle.

Carmen had finished up a casserole dish of enchiladas while Shane loaded her car with three crates of albums that spanned from Old School like Slave to early rap like The Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight to the 2005 release of So Amazing, by 50 Cent, she had Teena Marie and Mary J. Blige, Babyface, Mariah, Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament/Funkadelics and Outkast, and Shane's back was burning from the strain.

They had kissed goodbye and Carmen had requested repeatedly that Shane join her, but Shane had begged off.

Now, Shane was wide awake and waiting for Carmen's return. She had swept the floor, cleaned the counters, removed smudges from the refrigerator, and had watched a little television with Otto, the tiny, Pitbull mix sitting in her lap. She walked to the computer that she had left opened on the kitchen table and decided to play on Google by typing in random names--women she'd slept with over the last few years, girls from her high school, other kids who grew up with her in the same foster care homes. There were so many changes in Shane's life that she wondered what had become of people she had once known, but had long forgotten. After spending an hour doing that, Shane typed in one more name. She stared at the name, hit backspace and deleted it, and then she typed it again. She dropped the screen of the laptop, stood up, and walked into the bedroom. Carrying a large manila envelope, she re-entered the kitchen a few minutes later. For the life of her, she couldn't explain why she had kept it. This had been the envelope that Mark had waved around not too long ago. The contents were papers that stated where her parents and brother lived. Shane had stated with certainty and without hesitation that she didn't care, but over the past few days, she found herself becoming more and more curious about these relatives who neglected, ignored, and then eventually abandoned her. Suddenly she wanted to know why. Why wasn't she worthy of love?

Shane pinched the two wings of the clasp together and lifted the flap of the envelope. Nervousness and heart palpitations weren't feelings she'd expected, but they were in full force. Twice she put the envelope down, her hands shaking. "Goddamn, Mark," she said aloud.

Again, Shane went to the flap. This time, she turned it up and pulled out the papers. Her mother, the report said, divided her time between Austin, Texas going in and out of rehab or Tutweiler Prison for Women in Tutweiler, Alabama where she'd been sent on four separate occasions after being apprehended crossing state lines, trafficking illegal substances. Currently, she was in Alabama doing time for cooking up and selling Meth. Shane shook her head. God, she had been traveling that same road. If Carmen hadn't come into her life, her destructive behavior would have gotten the best of her. She knew it. As sure as she was sitting at the kitchen table reading about her long lost relatives, she would have ended up in a gutter somewhere dying from a Coke overdose. Mark, though the biggest asswipe in California, had at least saved her from losing herself to drugs recently, but Shane was still on edge; there was something missing. The void was closing because of Carmen, but there was this chasm that wasn't narrowing or coming together.

It was all about the parents. One of the two people she had distanced herself from because it was the only way to stay sane, might very well be the person who could make her whole. She needed answers. The idea of going to Tutweiler was ridiculous. Her mother was a lost soul. Shane knew that the most she'd get out of the egg donor who had created her would be a series of lies and promises, a plea for money, and an assurance from Shane that once she got out, she'd have a place to crash in L.A. with her. Shane wasn't going to have that kind of drama in her life. She had enough with Carmen, Mark, Jenny, poor Tina, and being a new entrepreneur. Mama-drama just wasn't going to happen.

That left Gabriel McCutcheon, the father who was part deadbeat Dad and part Superhero in Shane's eyes. In her mother's lucid moments when she still had custody of Shane, she had told Shane fanciful stories about her father and how he could melt her with just a glance and then in her drunken or stoned periods, she'd refer to Gabe as 'that mothafuckin,' sonuvabitch, bastard who ruined my life.' These descriptions were both baffling and disconcerting.

Shane recalled days from long ago when he'd take her out for a juice or soda while he had a beer. She'd walk to the local bar with him; sit at a table in the back where nosy cops couldn't see them, and the bartender would send over an apple juice in a shot glass or ginger ale in a wine glass, while her father chain-smoked Newports and drank glass after glass of Coors on tap. Shane would help him home around four in the afternoon and when he'd awaken at 9:30 or 10 that night, he'd put on a clean, white T-shirt, a pair of tight jeans, his Fry Boots he always called shit-kickers and leave. The next morning her parents fought for hours until someone got hurt. When Gabriel finally walked out for good, Shane blamed her Mom. Her mother was mean to her father, always picked fights, always acted put upon and jealous, never let him just be himself. Shane decided then and there that marriage was out of the question for her. She would be a lone wolf, living on her own, doing what she wanted, when she wanted with no ties to anyone. As a child, she wasn't able to put that into words, but by the time she was thirteen, she was set in how she was going to live her life with no regard for others and no regrets.

She read through the information that Mark had secured. Gabriel McCutcheon lived in Oregon City, Oregon. He worked, but not always steady, in construction, at a mill, some carpentry; at gas stations and car dealerships, every now and then he'd coach little league for the local elementary school, but then he'd flake on that volunteer job. Apparently he was remarried and stable and Shane read that she had a half-brother. Something inside of her ached to connect with him, but a deeper gut feeling, something akin to intuition told her it would be a mistake. She stared at the paper with information about her father's net worth, the debt he carried, his current and previous addresses, his arrest record that was short, with a few misdemeanors that dated back to the '70s, she read that he had received an honorable discharge from the Army, that this current marriage was his fourth and her mother had been his second. Shane tossed the pages across the table, suddenly reading these intimate details about her Dad seemed like an intrusion. People shouldn't be able to just pay someone to go exploring into someone's life that way. Shane wiped away the tears that had started to fall unnoticed. Why did she have to cry about this? Why couldn't she just let it go? She sat at the table, finally putting her head down on her arms, resting and waiting for Carmen.

The Planet closed its doors at 2am as was the law in that section of West Hollywood. Tonight's entertainment had been a surprise performance by singer, Nona Hendryx. Kit had been following her career since Nona was with Labelle and the Bluebelles, but she had never met her. It was a recent call from her old friend, Slim Daddy that put Nona on the stage of The Planet. It was almost 3:30 and Nona still hung around the club to have a word with Kit who had spent the last hour and a half, pushing people out the door, organizing her clean-up staff, preparing for the morning rush at the café the next day.

Nona and Angus sat at a table, drinking coffee when Kit walked up. "Okay, y'all, I'm finally done here." As soon as she dropped into a chair, Angus scooted his chair closer, put his arm around her shoulders, and kissed her cheek.

"Hi, baby."

Kit shied, lowered her eyes, and shook her head lightly. "Angus," she nearly breathed his name and instead of it being the reprimand she had intended, it only served to make him hold her closer.

"Kit, girl. This place is fierce."

"Thanks, Nona. We've really worked hard to put together a hot place with. . ."

Angus cut in, "'We've really worked, Kit?' You've done all of this yourself—from the menus, to the art, to the furnishings, everything. It's all you."

Nona smiled at the two of them. "Girl, you've got yourself a good man who wants to tell the world he has a good woman."

"I know," Kit said and followed it with a girlish giggle.

"That's because Kit is all that. I like telling everyone. She never gives herself enough credit. Nona, have you heard Kit sing?"

"Of course I have. Back in '78," she said, turning to look at Kit, "I followed your entire East Coast tour. And I mean literally. Labelle was on tour, too, following right behind you in most cities. You performed in Miami, I was there. Charlotte, I had comp tickets. Richmond and in DC, I saw you at RFK and then I paid the cover to hear you at the more intimate, upstairs room at Mr. Henry's. You sang in New York, I was at both venues—Westbury and Madison Square Garden. . ."

"You played The Garden?" Angus' eyes enlarged. He was bowled over.

Kit waved her hand dismissively and tsked. "I was part of a Revue. Chic, Ray Parker, Jr., and Raydio, Chaka, Evelyn 'Champagne' King, Ashford and Simpson, Bobby Womack. Kool and the Gang for part of the tour."

"Kit, that's huge. Wow. I wish I had seen it."

Kit looked at him and again acknowledged their age difference. "Hmmph. You were tucked in bed before the show even started."

Angus knew what she was thinking and he shook his head. "My parents were permissive. I could stay up as long as I wanted," he retorted.

"At age six?"

"Kit," he admonished.

Nona smiled. "Kit, so what he's younger? Six and twenty-one--yeah, big difference, but thirty-five and fifty—that ain't shit. You're at your prime, he's a little past his—sexually that is." Nona extended a bright smile to Angus. "What could be more perfect? Instead of fighting your man, you need to be showing him some of that love back."

"I'll drink to that," Angus said and picked up his mug of coffee.

"Can we change the subject?"

"Uh-huh," Angus said, "But you know we'll come back to it until you see it my way."

Nona leaned in. "I'm prepared for a change the subject. Kit, like I told you, I followed you all over the East coast and for the life of me, I don't know why you're not still recording. When I talked with Slim Daddy, he said that he had tried to get something started with you, but you weren't in to it, then. I would love to produce some tracks with you. Nothing beats your sound. If you have songs, I'd love to hear 'em and see if we can make it work."

"I. . .I-I don't know."

"It would be the Kit Porter sound. I'm not trying to make you into Mariah or Ciara or Missy. This is all about who you are. So, do you have any songs?"

Kit nodded as she thought. "Yeah, I have some. Maybe forty or fifty. I never really stopped writin'."

Nona leaned back in her chair. "Are you willing to let me hear them?"

"I can back you up on guitar, Kit." Angus was definitely enthusiastic.

"When do you wanna do it?"

"I need to get some sleep now. None of us can do all night like we once did. Why don't you drop by, let's say 2 pm. I'm at the Hyatt on Sunset.

4:15 am

Carmen parked the car and tried to be as quiet as possible when she closed the Jeep door. She saw that it was dark at Bette's place which meant that Angelica was undoubtedly sleeping still. She thought that was good because there were a few nights when she had heard Angelica crying throughout the night. Bette never complained, though.

Carmen walked into the house from the back deck and was surprised to see Shane sound asleep at the kitchen table. She tiptoed in, saw the laptop and sheets of paper and the large envelope on the otherwise cleared table. When she looked closely at them, she wasn't surprised to see the information about her family. She knew that Shane would grow curious and eventually need to see the information. Carmen had expected that the need would come weeks or months from now, though. She left the papers where they were and stepped behind Shane as if she had entered from the front door. Pretending that she was going to surprise her, Carmen made much of creeping in, bumping into the bookcase, saying 'shit' and then falling into the wall as she tried to remove the Vans skateboard shoes she wore. The last act, stirred Shane who woke and turned to look at her.

"Carmen, when did you get here?"

"I just walked in. Were you trying to wait up for me?"

"Uh, yeah." Shane sat up completely and reached out for the papers and stuffed them quickly in the envelope.

"What's all that?" Carmen asked feigning ignorance about the papers.

Shane wasn't prepared for the question and stuttered and stumbled over an answer. She finally remembered the papers she had completed earlier in the week at Wave. "Oh, uh. . . this stuff? It's tax information for Wax. No big deal."

Carmen knew that Shane wouldn't own it—that she needed to hide that part of her innermost thoughts in an effort to self-protect. Carmen nodded. "Hey, I'm gonna take a shower, get all of this cigarette smoke and party funk offa me, all right?"

She started to walk away, but Shane reached out for her, grabbing her arm. "Did you have a good night?"

Carmen reached into her pockets and pulled out two handfuls of crumbled bills. "Tips," she said, tossing them on the table. "The phone numbers--I threw away."

"The women were hittin' on you?"

"I got about fifteen numbers and some chica stuck her tongue in my ear. I had a mind to punch her lights out, but I didn't want to start a brawl at the club. I will be bleaching out my ear in the shower, however." She grinned at Shane and added,

"Good idea. I don't wanna taste some other girl's spit."

"Yuck. The visual." Carmen shook her head. "Oh, wait. . . so you you're going to be doing a little ear nibbling? I'll meet you in bed."

"Sounds like a plan."

Carmen headed for the bathroom, thinking about how she could comfort Shane whose eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot from obvious crying.

Around that same time

The fact that Nona Hendryx was even considering producing Kit's music had her flying higher than any booze ever had. She carried her keyboard to the coffee table while Angus cleared away the magazines. She placed it on the table and plugged it in, and while she did this, she thought about what her life might be like if she could do her music again. She understood her alcoholism now and she wasn't going to let it grab her again. The drinking had stemmed from trying to hold on to the rush she had from performing. Being on stage began with a buzz and by the time she had reached her last song, Kit had been naturally hopped up, as stoned as anyone who had done a couple of lines of coke, or toked a joint, or shot up. Then, came the inevitable, unavoidable crash when the venue had emptied out of audience, instruments had been packed up, the cleaning crew had come in, and she was jumping back on the bus to the next gig. She had needed that high to last just a little longer and having grown up with a father who drank Manhattans, Sidecars, and Tom Collins cocktails and a mother whose drink had been Gin and Tonics, plenty of which she had downed when Melvin had left her family for Bette's mother, it was almost instinctive that she had reached for the bottle. Kit knew that she had let the drink take her, and it had been an uphill climb to fully wrest control of self from the hands of alcohol. Angus was like an anchor. He knew when she was upset, hurt, wanted to run to Carmel Liquor Store on Santa Monica Boulevard for a bottle of her own pain relief. He kept her from it and usually kept her from wanting it.

She watched Angus remove his guitar from its case and then take a seat across from her in a chair where he reached for her pages of lyrics. She saw a grin spread across his face.


"I can't help but notice the date of these lyrics."

"Yeah? So?"

"Did you write this—Mr. Surprise, about me?"

"Angus, do you wanna help me get through these songs?"


"Well, then. Let's go 'cause I need to put music to some of these lyrics."

"Mr. Surprise has music. Could you play it for me?"

Kit loved his puppy dog expression and she was finding him so irresistible at that moment. "Okay."

Kit began by pushing the piano button on the keyboard for the intro and then she pressed her fingers against the keys and played. The instrumental was romantic, but when the saxophone sound was added to the piano and she began to sing, the song moved from romantic to passionate. When she had started, her eyes were lowered, watching her fingers move over the keyboard, but now, she sang directly to Angus, looking at him, telling him in song, the things she had been feeling about him, and confirming to him finally, that she felt what he felt.

When Kit finished, all Angus wanted to do was put his guitar down, walk over to her, pull her from the sofa and take her into the bedroom, but he knew how important Nona's proposition was to her, so it was just as important to him.

Shane was in bed, wearing a tank top and her tightie-whitie boy-cut shorts. Carmen walked into their bedroom with a towel wrapped around her torso. She was patting her wet hair dry with a smaller towel. Shane sat up in bed, smiled, watched her. Carmen walked over to the bed, dropped her towels, and slipped under the covers. Instantly, she pulled Shane to her, hugged her hard, and said, "This is where I wanted to be all night."

Shane didn't know what to make of Carmen. In her years on the street and her years in the sheets, no one had ever made her feel wanted. There were many times she felt desired, but just under the surface of that desire was a strong sense of her being objectified as well. Shane was a good lay, a practiced lover, someone you could count on to get you off. None of her oral sex johns up and down Santa Monica Boulevard or the many women she had bedded in the lesbian community cared if Shane was fulfilled or tended to. It was always about the sex and more to the point, it was always about that other person's orgasm. It had been a way of living for a good long time—handjobs and blowjobs on the streets of West Hollywood and good tongue lickings, finger and dildo fucks, and a lot of rubbing in bedrooms all over Los Angeles and the Valley. Now that Shane was with Carmen, she could look at things differently and she could voice, if only to herself, that she was worthy of love and happiness and fulfillment. She turned to face Carmen, kissed her, snuggled in closer. Carmen's mouth opened to receive more of Shane's kisses. Shane's body was so warm, so soft and Carmen quickly lifted Shane's tight tank to touch more of her. Her hand slipped up Shane's body, latching onto her breast, squeezing it, circling the nipple with her palm, feeling it harden beneath her hand. Shane hissed in a long breath of air and started to move on top of Carmen, but Carmen's palm pushed against her chest, holding her back, holding her in place, keeping her on her back.

"What are you doing?"

"I want to make love to you," Carmen said. She chose these words carefully. In the past, they had talked about doing each other, hitting it, taking or having the other; they had laughingly said that they were going to jump each other, bang each other, and definitely fuck one another. She couldn't remember a time either had said the words 'make love,' but this early morning, that's what Carmen wanted most. She wanted to physically show Shane the words that she had been saying to her, 'I love you;' she wanted to take away the pain of what had caused the usually bright-eyed woman to have red eyes.

Looking at Carmen, Shane heard the words and understood their implication, but it put her on edge. She joked, "How come you're trying to top me so much lately?"

"Huh, baby?" Carmen kissed her.

"A few nights ago, last night, now? I thought you were a big femme."

"It's like deejaying. I can work both sides—the turntable on the left and the one on the right."

"Ah, so it's a job-related skill?"

"Baby, it's not a skill, it's a talent." Carmen pulled the tank top off of her and bent to suck Shane's small, but perky breasts.

The back of Shane's head pressed deep into the pillow as her eyes closed and she licked her lips. "Oh, that feels good."

While her tongue slid from breast to breast and her lips moved from one nipple to the other, Carmen's hand slipped inside Shane's jockeys. Her hand gently stroked the short hairs. So tenderly she moved through the hair, her fingertips gliding and caressing her gently and not caring that Shane was waiting and wanting more. Shane's pelvis tilted up letting Carmen know what she sought. Her lover moved onto her knees, grabbed the shorts and began to pull them down, and Shane lifted her ass to help. At her ankles, Shane kicked the shorts off and grinned at Carmen. Carmen acknowledged the grin with a smile that was all warm and cozy and it made Shane shiver. Carmen, still on her knees, massaged Shane's thigh. Her hand skimmed over the delicious flesh while at the same time opening Shane up, spreading her legs, moving in front of her, bending down, dropping onto her tummy, pulling Shane's hips forward, extending her tongue, licking straight up the slit, pressing her lips onto Shane, rotating her tongue over inner lips, around her clit, against her hot hole, pushing harder against her, licking around the slick base of her clitoris, sucking it into her mouth, loving the feel of Shane's hand on her upper arm. Near the headboard, Shane moaned and sighed. "Oh, Carm." Shane's body gyrated, lifting and falling, demanding that Carmen's mouth claim her, then retreating from her mouth as if it were too much. She kept this up and Carmen stayed with her. Carmen's mouth was shiny with Shane's juices and she would have remained between her legs, but Carmen badly wanted to kiss Shane again. She moved languidly up Shane's body, touching, rubbing, caressing, and tweaking. She bruised Shane's fair skin when she bit down on her side, sucked on her shoulder, chewed on her collarbone, and when she pinched Shane's nipples, Shane cried out in pleasure. As Carmen head moved closer to Shane's, her hand moved down between Shane's legs. She lubricated her fingers with Shane's own wetness and pushed two fingers in to her. "Ohhhhh," Shane groaned. Her mouth was next to Carmen's ear. "F-feels so fuckin' good." Shane sucked Carmen's lobe into her mouth, pulled on the soft skin, and smiled when she felt goosebumps rise on Carmen's arm. Carmen moved her head, turning it so her lips could taste Shane's again. As they kissed, Carmen pushed in deep and pulled out, then pushed in again. She whispered into Shane's ear, "Me gusta estar dentro de tí. Cuando te toco así, siento que esto es lo que he esperado toda mi vida." I love being inside you. When I touch you like this, I feel like this is what I've been waiting for all my life. She pushed in so deep and she could feel Shane tightening around her fingers. "No quiero parar nunca. Tu eres todo lo que quiero. No hay nadie como tu, Shane. No hay nadie que me haga sentir tan bien cada día. Yo te protegeré." I don't ever want to stop. You're everything I want. You're all I need. There's no one like you, Shane. There's no one who makes me feel this good everyday. I'll protect you."

Shane panted heavily. She sighed breathlessly. "What are you saying?" Shane squeezed her eyes tight, tears welling up behind the closed lids

"I said I love you." Just as she said it, she coasted against the thick patch of warmth that would bring Shane to ecstasy. "I love you," she said softly.

She knew it. She could feel it. Shane lifted and climaxed on her lover's fingers.

6:30 am

Bette's mobile was set on vibrate. The sound of it on the wood table jerked her awake and it took her a few seconds to answer and then figure out where she was. She was still at Helena's house, sleeping in one of the many rooms, with her daughter asleep across the hall. The bed was beyond comfortable. Bette couldn't remember when she'd slept so well. She reached across the bed to the cell that continued to vibrate. She flipped it open. "Hullo."

"Bette, it's Whit March. I'm sorry to call so early. I wanted to catch you before your day was in full swing."

"Yes, Whit. Is there something else?" Last night, over a Chart House dinner, she had given him all the background on the Medical Power of Attorney, her relationship with Tina that included not just the love, but the warts—the complaints, failures, and the big betrayal. She had given Whit the names of their friends whom he could contact as character witnesses and who could speak to Bette's commitment to Tina.

"Bette, this morning when I got into the office, I learned that our court date has been postponed by a week."

"Why?" Bette wanted to get this over. The idea of being in limbo for seven extra days annoyed her. "What's the problem?"

"The Kennards. . ."

"Stephanie Kennard," Bette corrected.

"Stephanie Kennard has hired C. Randolph McGhee who is coming in from North Carolina. He has demanded an extension to prepare his case. I can't say that I'm surprised."

"But we are scheduled?"

"Yes. He needs to review the case, figure out his witness list. I don't think he's even had a sit-down with Tina."

"With Tina?"

"She might not be able to make all of her decisions now, but she is conscious and not so impaired that she can't tell us whom she wants as her Power of Attorney."

"If that's the case, why don't we just ask her? Why go to court?"

Whit sighed condescendingly at the layperson's view of how things should be done. "Firstly, an injunction was filed by a third party; secondly, if she is well enough, she'll certainly be called as a witness and finally, we don't know how Tina feels about the current state of. . ."

"What do you mean, we don't know? Tina is content with the way things are. We're lovers."

"Bette, even you realize that your relationship has weathered some difficult times. The cardinal rule in court is never ask a witness a question you don't already know the answer. Are you so sure about Tina?

"Yes. Absolutely." Bette stated, then added in a weaker voice, "Yes."

"Is there something that you find troublesome about her testifying? Is there something I should know?""

Bette turned to face the wall and pressed her fingers into her side. She could feel her intestines starting to act up, throbbing and tightening which they did when she felt stressed. Sighing she said to Whit, "There is nothing I can think of that I haven't told you. As ashamed as I am about some of my actions, I've put all of it on the table."

"All right, then."

"Whit before you go, I have one more question. Will we see their witness list?"

"Yes, we will. We'll have time to prepare our response. I've got this handled, Bette. McGhee is good, but I'm much better," White said confidently.

The conversation ended and Bette clicked off her Blackberry.

About fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on Bette's door. Bette had fallen asleep again in an attempt to escape from the uncertainty surrounding her. She groggily said, "Come in."

Helena, dressed in a beautiful cream top that was low cut enough to show much of the flesh of her bosom and a pair of camel-hair colored trousers entered the room carrying a wide awake and fresh-looking Angelica.

Bette sat up and then it registered that Angelica was dressed for the day and she leapt from the bed. "I am so sorry." She went to Angelica. "Hi, baby. I didn't hear you wake up. Mama's sorry."

As Helena handed her over, she explained. "Nu-nu and I were up and around and the thought of having a baby in the house was just too exciting to pass up. We nearly got into a row about who would bathe her and get her ready to meet her public.

Bette rained a dozen kisses on Angelica's head. "Still, I should have heard on the monitor. I was dead to the world." Bette held Angelica close to her chest.

"I'll let you have some quality time, then." Helena turned to go, but turned again to face Bette. "I'm preparing breakfast if you'd like to join me. It's typically English, but I can modify it to accommodate."

"That would be nice, Helena. I'll be right out."

"Then I could hold Angelica a bit longer while you ready yourself? You'll never get dressed if you're carrying her about. I remember when Wilson and Jun Ying were babies, I never wanted to put them down. You just fall in love and want to be with them all the time."

"That is so true. I'm in love with Angelica. Everything she does mystifies me and makes me smile." Bette returned Angelica to Helena.

"Have you praised her on her poo yet?"

"Oh, yeah. And, 'good burp, Angelica. Such a good burp.'" Bette laughed.

"I know. I remember." Without reservation or hesitation, Helena, kissed the baby's cheek. Bette saw how natural and maternal Helena behaved around her. Just a few weeks ago, Bette didn't want Angelica in the same room with Helena, thinking her the devil incarnate, let alone allowing her baby in Helena's arms. Today, everything was breezy and comfortable with her. Some things would forever be a mystery, this was one of them.

- - - - -

Bette entered the kitchen to find Angelica clinging to a small, soft toy while sitting in a Prima Pappa Diner infant high chair. Wearing a full apron, Helena held a skillet with two sunny-side up eggs and she was gliding across the room from the stovetop to the counter where there were two plates. "Eggs, all right?"

"Umm. Yes. I didn't know you cooked." Bette wiggled the toy bird at Angelica, making it bounce and jump on the tray of the high chair. Angelica's eyes followed the toy and her mouth opened and closed with interest.

"I love to cook. I don't get to do it enough." She slid one egg onto one plate and the other onto the second.

"Well, that's something we don't share. I re-heat a mean organic black bean burrito in the microwave and I'm usually lucky with microwave popcorn, but I have to confess, I've burned my share of bags."

Helena laughed. "Bacon? Toast?"

"Toast is good."

"Have a seat, Bette. Breakfast is an informal affair here."

Bette sat at the counter and played with Angelica while Helena finished preparing their meal, poured them both a cup of hot tea and took a seat next to Bette. Bette hadn't had a breakfast like this since she and Tina vacationed in London in 2002. It was a traditional English breakfast of fried eggs, rashers (that Bette wouldn't be eating), beans, and grilled tomatoes with toasted baguette slices and fruit preserves on the side. Bette had assumed that the English breakfast was something done just for tourists, but Helena had put it together as if it were commonplace in her home.

Helena cut the tomato and speared a chunk with her fork. "So what are your plans today?"

"I have to meet with Julia Lord, you know, the woman organizing the art show I've been helping on. Then I'll drop by the Center this morning and later this afternoon with Angelica so we can spend some time with Tina." Bette said while she chewed the perfectly fried egg.

"Bette?" Helena began, but she hesitated, surmising that she was about to overstep the invisible boundary that surrounded Bette. They had made a great deal of headway—not only being civil for Tina's sake, but both apparently enjoying each other's company; she didn't want to blow it by saying the wrong thing. She had already suffered Bette's wrath when she suggested that Bette not throw a tantrum if she ran into Stephanie. Tossing caution to the wind wasn't the plan, but she did want to be frank.

"Go ahead," Bette said, preparing for a lecture. "Just say it." She had turned in her chair to look at her.

"I was thinking that you might want to try doing something else."

"What do you mean?"

"You always sit in that room with Tina. Maybe you could go with her to a physical therapy session or help her in some way with her motor skills. Or, now that she's better and actually walking around, you could take her out for some sort of excursion."

"I don't know if that's a good idea."

"Bette, I'm not trying to pry. However, I think that if you continue to simply visit her in the Center, she will see herself as merely someone ill and needing care and she'll see you as a person performing an obligation. You need to get involved."

Bette's eyes narrowed. "And we were getting along so well." Bette took a deep breath. "What is your point? How can you sit there and tell me I'm not involved. At every step, every half step, I'm fucking involved with Tina's life." She dropped the fork onto the plate and it clinked against the fine china. She crossed her arms and shook her head with indignation. "God! God!"

"Bette?" Helena placed a hand on her arm. When Bette looked at it as if to say 'move your goddamn hand,' Helena tightened her grasp. "I'm not blind. I see all you do. I don't know anyone who'd do as much for their partner. If they had the means, most people would simply leave it up to the doctors. You've been incredible. There's no need to get all stroppy about this. What I meant to say is that I know Tina, too. One thing she complained about in her relationship with you was that you didn't spend much quality time together."

Bette disagreed. "When I wasn't working, I was with Tina."

"The two of you were with your set of mates," Helena stated. "That's hardly the same. She told me that in the beginning, you'd read the paper together or books in bed, take hikes, go to galleries and films. She took you to the Sundance festival and the two of you flew to Minneapolis for an exhibit at the Walker. That stopped. You weren't doing things as a couple. I'm suggesting that you go to the Center and instead of merely asking how she's doing, participate in her activities." She moved her hand away finally.

Bette rolled her eyes, but the pique just wasn't there. "All right."

"Good, then. So, this evening, would you like to come back to Malibu?"

"I should spend some time at home."

"I enjoy the company. Tina's mother can join us."

"It's hard for me to connect with Theresa right now. I know this isn't her fault and I realize that Stephanie is an adult and has been a long time, but I feel that Theresa should have done something to control her."

"Stephanie's her own person--more than a bit of a wanker, but her own person. Theresa's hands are tied. Her mother won't sway her anymore than my mother has ever forced my hand."

Bette nodded. "I'm just not in the mood to deal with her."

"Then come alone."

"I don't think it would look right."

"Why?" Helena picked up a slice of the small baguette that had been toasted and she buttered it and added a dollop of marmalade.

"It would seem strange. You're Tina's ex."

"You don't usually care what others think." Helena doubted what Bette was saying. "I've been witness to that."

Bette couldn't decide what to do. She stared at her daughter who was still just as fascinated with the toy robin. Helena placed the bread on her plate without taking a bite. "Let me ask you. . .? Do you think I'm interested in you. . .romantically?" Helena had to know.

Bette's eyes flitted across the room and back. She lowered her eyes and said in a tone just slightly lower than her usual, "It's crossed my mind."

Laughing, Helena picked at her bread. She grinned at Bette. "It's crossed your mind, eh?"

"It has."

"I am interested in your friendship, but nothing more. In fact, there's someone I quite fancy and am hoping that she might take a real interest."

"Not me?"

"No, love."

"Which one of my friends? Alice?"

"No," Helena said with surprise in her voice.

"Let's see, it's not Tina. Not Leigh. Are you hooking up with Candace Jewell?"


Bette's lips pursed and her reply was small and tight. "No one."

"Well, whomever she might be, the answer is no. Her name is Dylan Moreland and . . . well, I find her quite remarkable. She's. . . I can't describe her. She's witty, fascinating, a sexy woman."

"Does she fancy you?"

Helena turned to her food--her toast, eggs, and bacon far more intriguing suddenly.


"She has a boyfriend."



Dana was up early. She and Alice had actually sat down late last night and come up with a schedule that allowed for Dana to do all she needed to do for her career and give Alice the quality time she needed in their relationship. It meant waking up exhausted, but by the time she was dressed and hydrated, she'd be ready to roll.

Dana started from Alice's place. She was beginning to think of it as her place. They had always spent more time there than at Dana's, but even more time since their reconciliation. A pair of jeans, a few pair of athletic shorts and sports bras, her running shoes, sandals, and a duplicate of every Clinique makeup product she used at her condo were now at Alice's apartment. She was slowly moving in, but Dana wasn't prepared to make that final move until she was certain that Alice had worked out her jealousy issues. She understood some of Alice's points—Dana flirted, Dana let other women flirt with her, she tended to be a bit iffy about telling people that Alice was her girlfriend, but Alice had to also understand that Dana had spent years in the closet. One doesn't just bounce out and stay out; she had grown used to hiding her dates and her feelings. It was Tonya who was so open that it was impossible for Dana to remain undercover. She was not the kind of woman who normally shouted on rooftops. Alice should have known that about her. So, if they could stay united as a couple, then Dana would probably give up her own apartment when her lease ended.

Dana tucked the key to Alice's apartment in the tiny, zippered pocket of her running shoes. She made a right on Doheny and headed up the hill. As she ran, she thought about how she wanted to infuse Alice with so much love and passion that Alice would feel secure when she had to go out on the circuit. She would be leaving in a few days and would be away for two weeks, back for less than a week, and then on to Paris. Going to Paris was going to be a problem. She thought maybe she shouldn't look up Lara while she was there, but then thought it out. Why not? Why not spend time with a friend, someone she really cared for? Dana was strong enough not to pursue a romance. Granted she hadn't been earlier in the month, but now, she thought her feelings for Alice were on solid ground. Two or three weeks from now, she and Alice should be entwined. She could handle being with and around Lara, not that she'd have much time. She had matches to play, practices to get in, interviews to do, and athletic events that she'd be required to attend. And her free time might not coincide with Lara's or Lara could tell her that she didn't want to see her. Dana bit her lip as she ran.

Before 7:15, she had arrived at the neuro-trauma center and she waved a hello to the receptionist as she jogged down the hall to Tina's room. Tina was asleep when she entered and it startled Dana. Her jog stopped dead, her mouth opened wide in fear. Tina was sleeping, but Dana was propelled back to days ago Tina was still in the coma. She looked beside the bed—no monitors, no machinery. There were no tubes hanging from a pole feeding her. Dana shook her head to get the image of the recent past out of her head. She hesitated momentarily, but finally compelled her feet to move forward to the bed to check on her.


Tina's eyes blinked awake. "Hi, Dana. How aw you?" she asked sleepily.

Dana grinned in relief. "My legs are on fire. Ran up here--awesome time if I do say so myself. I won't keep you. God, your hair rocks."

Tina stared blankly for a few seconds and Dana felt like she was intruding. "Go back to sleep."

"No," Tina said as she sat up. "I mmm up."

She was groggy and Dana still considered leaving, but she wouldn't be around much after today. She had two tournaments in southern California. The Laguna Beach Tennis Invitational was the entire weekend, then she was driving out to Palm Springs for the Proctor and Gamble tournament and finally to Cal Poly—Pomona for a two day faculty appointment as Guest Tennis Coach for the Women's Tennis team. There was also the commitment she made to her mother for the Susan G. Komen Foundation fundraiser. "I just came by to say hi."

"Is some thing wrong, Dana?" Tina felt more intuitive than ever before. Because it took her longer to communicate, she spent more time watching body language and expression. Dana seemed stressed.

"Nah," she waved her hand dismissively. "I was just thinking about everything I have to do. Work on my game, these tourneys. And of all things, I have to do this cancer thing next week. I so don't want to do it. Alice isn't very happy about it, either, but why would she be? I can't wiggle my way out of it. It has to be done. I'm just hoping it won't be too painful and it doesn't become something that just won't go away. I want to do it, get it over with, and not ever have to do it again."


"Yeah. I'm sure everything will go well, but I so don't want to do it."

"It's scary."

"I'm not scared. It's annoying."

"I had lump-ekk-toe-mee. It was nothing."

"Right I remember hearing about that. Nothing is the best news a woman could have."

"Can not even see the scah-r."

Dana nodded. "Yeah, I guess that's the good thing about all the research—people do get better. If nothing else, I'm contributing to that."

"Be positive, Dana."

Dana cocked her head. She thought she had been. "All right, Tina. I'm wearing my positive hat." Dana yanked on the imaginary derby sitting on top of her head.

"Good. I will think about you."

"Ohh-kay." Dana was confused. She wondered why Tina said this, but she saw that Tina was drifting off, so she didn't question it further. "Bye, Tina. Take care." Dana bent to kiss Tina's forehead but before she could straighten, Tina had grabbed her shoulder, worked her hand down Dana's arm and held her hand tightly.

"You take cae-ah, too. We love you."

"Ohh-kay." Dana smiled, held Tina's hand until she felt it relax, and saw that she had fallen asleep. Dana jogged out.


Boden had driven Bette from Malibu to West Hollywood after she and Helena had finished breakfast. Briefly she had spoken with Theresa who pleaded with Bette to leave Angelica with her while she visited Tina, but Bette had refused. It was important that Angelica be with her other mom as much as possible. Bette had moved quickly through the house, grabbing all of the things she thought she needed, put the baby car seat back into her car, and then she and Angelica had been on their way. She didn't go to Tina's room when she reached the Center. She walked right, down the long hall, pushed the down button at the elevator and when it arrived, she pushed Angelica in and pushed "LB" for the Lower Basement. She looked down at her daughter who actually had an expression of confusion on her face. "We'll see Mama Tee, soon. I'm excited." She bent to Angelica. "Are you excited? Yeah, I thought you were."


Rosie, one of Helena's assistants knocked on Helena's office door at Shaolin.


"Excuse Ms. Peabody, Dylan Moreland is here to see you."

Helena looked up from her papers. "Dylan? Here?" She stood. "Thank you, Rosie. You can ask her in. While she waited, Helena picked invisible lint off her pant leg, then she brushed her hand over her blouse and pants to straighten any wrinkles from having been seated. Helena breathed in deep. She was nervous, her hands shook, so she slipped them behind her back clenching them, fingers entwined. That looked to commanding she thought, so she held her arms at her side. She thought that looked stiff, but it was too late to do anything about it, Dylan was standing at the door. It was inconceivable that she would want to laugh at this moment, but she was about to break out in fits of giggle. Helena could feel her nostrils flaring because she was so close to hyperventilating; she knew she was licking her lips nervously; and was well aware that she was standing before Dylan with her mouth hanging open with a vacuous expression. She knew how she looked and she wanted to laugh at herself. Instead, Helena looked at Dylan and gave her a breathy welcome, "Hi."

Dylan faced Helena, closed the door, and then leaned against it for a moment. She straightened and said, "Thanks for seeing me Helena. I don't know why I keep coming back over here. You're torturing me."

Helena walked over to Dylan. They stood face-to-face, close, heat radiating from both. "Me? How so?"

"It's not even ten in the morning and. . . and I drove out here to see you. Just to see you, and if I hadn't been able to see you, I would do with just being where you'd been."

Helena smiled softly. "Did you tell Danny?"

"He knows I have errands to run this morning."

"Am I an errand?"

"No, not at all."

"Did you tell him you were coming here to see me?"


"I-I can't see you. I honestly wish I could, but I can't." Helena turned her shoulder, the first part of the act of stepping away and returning to the safety of a position behind her desk, but Dylan grabbed her arm, jerked her into her arms, and as she did, Dylan leaned against the door.

"I can't not see you." Dylan kissed Helena. Kissed her hard and long and Helena's knees turned liquid. When she started to slip out of the embrace, Dylan grabbed Helena's ass and pushed her into her.

"God," Helena said. Even through clothes, through those tight, black Levis that Dylan wore, Helena could feel the muscular thigh, the warmth of her body. Dylan kissed her neck, then her lips. She pushed her tongue against the obstacle of Helena's closed lips had presented, pushed hard and entered, took control, demanded the mouth that she had craved since she opened her eyes that morning. Dylan's other hand held onto Helena's shoulder, keeping her right there, in place, unable to move. Helena wanted to resist, to stand firm against the need she felt for this woman who lived with a man.

"I-I. . ."

"Ssh, Helena. Be quiet," Dylan's mouth had moved only a centimeter away from Helena's to simply say this, then she was back, kissing, licking, reveling in the softness of Helena's tongue.

"Dylan? Dylan?" Helena's arm came up, held Dylan by the waist, fearful of both letting go and staying where she was. She knew that Dylan could feel her full breasts pressing against her chest; could possibly feel the nipples that were hardening under the thin camisole under the blouse.

Dylan's hand remained on Helena's butt, squeezing it, pushing her against her leg. Helena's center pressed against Dylan's jeans-clothed thigh.

Helena suddenly noticed how she was moving against and then back from Dylan's thigh; she saw that she was nearly straddling that thigh as they stood against the door. She backed off. She had to back off. Helena backed away, all the way to her desk and she leaned against it while Dylan leaned her back on the door.

Dylan felt it, too. She wanted Helena. She truly wanted her, but this was too much—too much tension, too much need, too much of a mistake. "This is fucking insane."

Helena's need filled the room. She couldn't hold on to the discretion she knew she should display. "Come here. I'll show you how fucking insane it is."


Dylan moved forward and at her very first step, she watched Helena unbutton the single button of her pants and slip her hand inside her panties. She saw Helena's eyes close at her own touch, then open again to stare at Dylan. Dylan was drawn to Helena--that hand, to those pants, what was inside of them. Her mouth watered with this new desire. Dylan was close now and Helena took her hand, pushed it inside her pants where her hand had remained. "Do you feel that?"

Dylan's eyes closed. Of course she felt it. Helena was slippery and she could smell the musky scent of her excitement. Dylan opened her eyes to watch Helena when Helena removed her hand and Dylan, on her own, was given permission to move her fingers through the slickness. She felt Helena' inner lips and heard Helena's quick sighs of pleasure when Dylan's fingers made a small upside-down 'V,' holding Helena's clit between them. Her clitoris was big and rock hard. Both women's eyes closed again. Helena sighed and panted and breathed out the statement, "Nobody makes me wet like that. You're the first person who's ever done that to me." It felt wonderful, but Helena didn't want to have an orgasm standing up in her office, fully clothed, and climaxing in hushed tones so that the administrative staff didn't hear. In the past, she would have said that the peons could all just bugger off. She had fucked in many offices and public spaces and places—her psychiatrist's office, when Winnie was teaching a theatre class before the students arrived, Helena had entered Winnie stage left. She had been very close to giving it to Tina in front of the daft realtor who showed them house after house while name-dropping throughout Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, and Malibu. There was something different about Dylan. Helena wanted the romance of their first time to be with music, candles, and a big bed. She wanted it to be in a place where they could explore at will, as loudly as the passion commanded. She wanted her in her bed on Broad Beach in Malibu.

Grabbing Dylan's wrist, Helena stopped her. "I-I. . . Not here."

"Yes." Dylan was able to keep stroking her despite the impediment of Helena's hand around her wrist.

"No, Dylan. I can't." Helena stepped back. Dylan's hand fell out of Helena's pants and she rested it on her jeans-clad thigh. "I want something more than this," Helena continued, waving her hand around her office.

"This is what I can give you." Dylan was pleading with her. They had gone this far and she had to have the rest.

"But I want more."

"I'm not able. . .I don't think I'm ready. . . to really give you. . . what you want--at least not as much as you want. I can give you this."

"I need more."

Dylan lowered her eyes. "What if I told you that he doesn't care what I do? He doesn't know where I am most of the time. We don't have that kind of relationship."

Helena could feel her fluids pooling over her vulva. She was physically uncomfortable and emotionally confused. "If he doesn't care, then why don't you just tell him? Tell him that you want to be with me, that you're going to leave him."

"Leave him? Helena, I'm definitely not ready for that move. I promise you, I'll tell him, but I don't see myself just walking away from him."

"Helena pushed her butt off the desk and stood tall. "If you can't walk away, then I'll have to. Obviously, I'd love to be with you, but not like this. I'm sorry."

Dylan stared at her, disappointment was in her eyes. She felt scolded and rejected and it wasn't sitting well. "Then I'll leave. I won't disturb you again."


Bette watched from the corner of the natatorium as Tina slowly walked into the room. Stan, one of the physical therapists helped Tina down the three steps into the water. Tina was wearing a one-piece black bathing suit and to Bette's eyes, she looked stunningly beautiful. She was all muscle and lean, except for the enormous breasts. The suit fit her perfectly and she looked like a racing swimmer in the tight, black silicone swim cap she wore on her head to protect her healing wounds from the chlorine. Tina seemed happy to be in the pool. Stan was in the water with Tina and once Tina moved a bit in front of him, he waved to Bette who held Angelica in her arms. Bette had changed into her burgundy and white two-piece swimming suit and Angelica was naked, both waiting to make their move.

"Okay, Tina," Stan began while he reached for the kickboard resting beside the pool on the tiles. "We're going to work a little bit with the kickboard. I think your legs are strong enough that you don't need it, but we'll start with it. Do you think we can work our way up to not using the board today?"

"Yes. I can do it."

Bette was so proud of her.

Stan handed the kickboard to Tina, making sure that Tina's hands were firmly in the hand-holes at the front of the board. "All right, let's move out." Tina floated, kicking out her legs behind her while Stan swam several strokes away. "Come to me."

Tina did this easily.

"Now back." Stan moved to the other side and Tina followed. "Let me really see those legs working, Tina." Tina picked up the pace.

They had done this for about five minutes when Stan said, "Do you want to try it without the board. We're in about three feet of water, you won't drown, I'm right here near you. Can I see you float on your stomach?" Tina removed her hands from the hand-holes and pushed the board away. Bette watched. Tina was a fish. This would be simple for her. Tina floated to Stan and floated back. The next time she moved toward the physical therapist, she had added her arms and was easily doing the breast stroke as she moved from the side and swam several feet beyond Stan. Tina swam back, stood up, wiped her face with her hand and grinned. "Whu do you think?"

"Were you an Olympian?"

"No," Tina answered seriously.

"You're good. Got anymore in ya?"

"Oh. . . yeah-ah." Tina swam toward the therapist and as soon as she pushed off the wall, Bette stepped into the pool and quickly moved closer to where Tina would finish.

Tina reached the wall again and stood, wiped her hand down her face and watched Stan for her next direction.

"Tina, you have visitors in the pool today."

Tina turned and saw Bette and her daughter in the pool beside her. She gasped. "Whu?" The grin that was already so lively and bright positively beamed at them. "Beh-ette, whu are you doo ing heah?"

Bette tried to play off the thrill of being there with Tina. "Oh, you know. It's hot; we were just looking for a nice place to cool off." Her eyes penetrated Tina's and Tina blinked from the intensity. Bette did a bounce-walk over to her and kissed her cheek and then her lips.

"Whu are you doo ing heah? Rrreally?"

"I wanted to swim with you like we do at home. Angelica was complaining that her closest swimming companion hadn't been at our pool in a while and she insisted that we locate her elsewhere. Swimming at home just hasn't been the same." Bette hesitated and then said softly, "Nothing's been the same." She moved in again and kissed Tina and handed Angelica to her. "Can you hold her?"

"Yeah-ah." Tina held her high, then dipped her toes in the water, lifted her again and dropped her toes back in. "Weeeeeeeee. Weeeeeeeee, Angie. So fun."

"Thanks for inviting us to your pool." Bette laughed. "It's a lot bigger than ours."

Stan smiled at the family and then said, "Bette, Tina has to finish up her session, but I think the whole family can participate. If you and Angie could go over to that side..." He pointed to the other side of the pool. Bette took Angelica from Tina and started to bounce across the water. "Tina and I will start here." He pulled Tina back to the opposite wall. "Okay, ready, set, go, Tina." Tina took off and Stan yelled across the pool, "Let's hear some cheering from the other side. Give her some encouragement."

"C'mon, Tee. Hurry. You're almost there. You got it. You got it, baby." Bette held the baby tightly with one arm and pumped her arm in the air with the other as Tina moved closer. "Two seconds. One second. Tina!" Tina came out of the water, stood in front of Bette and Angelica, wiped her hand down her face again, clearing it of droplets of water, and grinned. Bette's other arm was around her, holding her close to her, and whispering in her ear. "Beautiful. Amazing. That was great."

Bette wouldn't let go. The family was held tight in this small circle of love. Bette moved her head back to look at Tina. They held each other's gaze for several seconds, neither woman looking away.

"Well, it looks like we're not going to get much done today. I'll tell you what. . . We all need to change it up now and then. Do you two know the game Marco Polo?"

"Of course," Bette answered quickly.

"I love Mah-co Polo."

"If you don't mind me holding onto Angelica, I think the game might be great exercise for Tina. Really move her around in the shallow end, Bette." Stan swam over to Bette and held out his arms for Angelica. "It's all right. I teach Parent and Me swimming classes for infants at the Hyatt in Century City and at the West LA pool. You should come some time."

Bette smiled. "We will. Definitely. We're looking for classes for her. Right, Tee?"

Bette sounded so normal; she didn't have that anxiety-ridden tone that had filtered into Tina sub-conscious hearing while she had been in the coma and then the first few days after. Bette was talking to her like one parent to another. "Yeah-ah. Angie takes singalong all-rrready.

Bette handed Angelica to Stan. "It's okay. Angelica likes to be around men." Bette was thinking that if Roberta Colley was still going to be on her ass about men in the baby's life she could possibly add Stan Kingston to the list of male role models along with Angus. Stan moved off to the corner of the pool and walked to the top step that led out of the water. He sat down with Angelica and watched the women.

"Who's 'it'?"

"I will be 'it.' I mmm closing my eyes now. Counting to fifteen."

Tina turned around and closed her eyes while Bette ran to the far side of the shallow water. "RRready or not." Tina hopped through the water shouting, "Maahco," and Bette answered "Polo."

They played for twenty minutes and Bette sensed Tina beginning to tire. She looked over at Stan and held up one finger to let him know that this was the final game of hide and seek that they'd play. Tina turned her head, closed her eyes and began to count up to fifteen.

"Eleven, twelf, thuhteen fohteen, fifteen. Rrready or not." She turned around and with eyes closed took a step forward and shouted, "Maahco!" Bette covered her own ears with her hands to drown out the yelling from Tina and then she whispered in Tina's ears, "Polo." Tina didn't open her eyes right away. Instead she let the sensation of Bette's warm, sweet breath linger on her ear, against her cheek, and near her hair. She whispered in kind, "Maahco." She reached out for Bette and Bette moved between Tina's outstretched arms and hugged her. "Polo," she said softly.

Bette took Tina's hand in hers, brought it to her lips, kissed it, and held it there. The women stared at each other and when Bette brought their hands down, she didn't let go of the connection. What she did was to rub her long fingers over the top of Tina's hand, then move them around until her fingers were against Tina's palm. She lightly caressed the skin and smiled at her. "Tee," was all she could say as she pulled Tina's other hand into her free hand.

For Tina, the most amazing thing about Bette, the thing that knocked her socks off, and made her heart flutter was the way Bette touched her with those long, tapered fingers. In all of their years together there was only one time when Bette hadn't been gentle. Everything about that night had been wrong, like they were living in some alternate timeline. Tina could put that night of betrayal and violence out of her mind when she thought of the hundreds and hundreds of nights where Bette's tender caresses brought her bliss. Tina thought of her conversation with her mother. Theresa was right. She felt Bette's love as she and Bette stood in three feet of water looking at each other and holding hands with no barriers between them. She had to hold on to this.


From Season 3

a) Kit and Angus planning to record with Nona Hendryx (Season 3, Episode 8)
b) Dylan and Helena's encounter "…wet like that." (Season 3, Episode 8)
c) Bette tells Tina that she and Angelica came over to swim in their pool; Bette tells Stan that Angelica likes men (Season 3, Episode 9—Tina meets Henry in the PORTER-Kennard pool and says things like Angelica likes men—to piss me off)

Part 15

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