DISCLAIMER: I do not own SVU, Dick Wolf, Alex, Olivia, or Law & Order. All original characters are mine, but I sincerely doubt anyone will care enough to rip me off.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is Alex/Olivia, and it is AU...sort of. This is a they-met-in-school story, but with a little bit of a twist. I realize that the characters are almost ten years apart in age, so technically this would be an impossibility, but just roll with it because you want to read smut, k? I had several sources of inspiration, among them being Annus Mirabilis by the fabulous Alethea, in the Danny/Martin oeuvre of the Without a Trace fandom, Lost and Delirious, Therese und Isabelle, and in some small way, my own experience at debate camp the summer I turned 16.
DEDICATED: This is for my friend, Wendi, who because she loves SVU fic, and Mariska Hargitay, admitted to me in a breathless whisper that she eats up this A/O fic like it's candy. So, because I'm a devoted-but-emotionally-stunted friend, and uh, a poor bastard who can't afford to buy her a *real* Christmas gift, voila! She gets smut.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: early-Season 5-ish.

No Place Called Home
By Katie Ramsey

Part Three

They were up and dressed by eight o'clock the next morning, hurrying across the black, freezing asphalt of the hospital parking lot. The hospital was almost as silent as a tomb on this Sunday morning, such a marked difference from the hustle and bustle of the night before. Without any officious family members standing around directing traffic, Olivia was free to follow Alex down the hall towards the room that Alex's mother was in.

Olivia pulled up another uncomfortable chair—purple this time—outside the door in the hallway, and promised Alex with her eyes that she would wait there as long as Alex needed her. Alex closed the door to her mother's room and Olivia pulled a paperback novel from her shoulder bag and began to read.

89 pages later, a commotion arose at the end of the hall that Olivia was finally forced to break her concentration to investigate. Two high-strung young men were hurrying down the hall at a rather frantic pace, headed directly for her. They decided to enter the room without consulting her, a little rude, Olivia felt, since it was obvious she was there as a watchdog.

Alex had them both out in the hall a few seconds later to give them hell.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded to know.

"Al, we heard your mom had a heart attack, we came as soon as we could."

Al? Olivia was sure Alex would rip him a new one about it, but before Alex had the opportunity, the second young man spoke. "Yeah, we had a game last night."

"How thoughtful," Alex retorted dryly.

The first guy stepped forward into her personal space, and put a hand on her shoulder. Olivia recognized him as the boy Alex had been dancing with the night of the St. Christopher mixer, Sam Merriweather…

He was a good looking young man, even in his preppie sweater and chinos, shiny brown loafers only missing a bright penny to make his as nerdy as possible. What was Alex supposed to see in him? His hair was dark, but receding a little already at the temples. To his advantage, he had bright blue eyes almost as striking as Alex's, and they conveyed a sincerity and trust that he probably rarely truly felt.

His friend was wearing blue Dockers and a green-and-blue argyle sweater, but with brown dress shoes and a brown belt. His hair was a sandy blonde, just a little long over his ears. A few more months without a haircut and he could be one of the wanna-be surfers that hung out on the pier and talked like they were from sunny Cali.

"Come on, don't be that way," Sam coaxed as Alex shrugged his hand away from her shoulder. Olivia's attention was drawn to the opposite end of the hall, where James Abernathy and another man were meandering slowly, as if they had all the time in the world. She missed part of the conversation, and only turned back to the arguing couple in time to hear Alex say:

"So that still doesn't explain why you came all the way down here." She was as impassive as Olivia had ever seen her.

"This is big, Al. You think I wouldn't come see my girlfriend?" Sam asked.

Olivia's head riveted around fast enough to give her whiplash, and Alex turned to her, stricken. Alex didn't say anything but Olivia read it as plain as day on Alex's face. I wasn't supposed to hear that. Since when was Alex anyone's girlfriend?

"Yeah," Argyle-Sweater added, breaking Olivia's concentration from her internal tangent. "It was all I could do to keep his head in the game last night. He wanted to drive all the way down at like, midnight."

"Sam, glad to see you here," James Abernathy approached the small group, pointedly ignoring Olivia. "Jake," he shook hands with Argyle-Sweater and then with the younger Sam Merriweather.

Olivia ascertained from the ensuing conversation that the older man with Mr. Abernathy was indeed Sam Merriweather II, and Jake-of-the-Geeky-Sweaters had one or two parents in very high places. Alex looked like she was ready to either barf or kick someone's ass, Olivia couldn't tell. For her part, she didn't know whether to think that Sam and Alex truly were dating, "boyfriend and girlfriend," going steady or whatever…or if Sam just thought they were and Alex let him believe it. With Alex, there was really no telling, though from the look she had given Olivia, Liv knew that Alex was definitely hiding something.

"Listen, I talked to the doctor a half an hour ago, and Mother is going to be fine," Alex finally blurted, impatiently. "It's an arrhythmia, they are going to treat her and release her into Mr. Abernathy's care this afternoon. Olivia and I will be leaving today around three, and talking a cab back to St. Agatha's."

"We can drive you," Jake offered immediately, but Alex shook her head.

"That's not necessary, but thank you."

"It's no trouble, Allie," Sam insisted.

"I said no thank you," Alex's tone could have frozen hell over, and Sam backed up a step with his hands up.

James Abernathy stepped forward and took Alex into his arms, and she resisted wholeheartedly, not even raising a finger to return the embrace. After a few stiff moments, he stepped back again and then breezed past her and into his wife's room. His partner followed him, leaving the four young people out in the hall once more.

"Well, it looks like everything is fine here," Sam stated. Thank you, Captain Obvious, Olivia thought unkindly.

"Yes, a fact which could have been relayed on the phone," Alex's tone was clipped.

"Al, I know this is hard for you, but you don't have to take it out on us."

"My apologies," she offered, bowing her head in silent communication of her deference. Jake had already moved off down the hall, to inspect the doctor's workstation, or perhaps a pretty nurse, and Sam sent him a concerned glance as if he was going to get into trouble looking at tongue depressors. Maybe Sam could get him a little leash, like the ones parents put on their unruly children.

"I'll call you later," Sam leaned forward, but Alex turned her face away, and his kiss landed on her cheek. He didn't try again. He walked away without another word, pulling Jake by the arm back into step.

Alex squeezed Olivia's bicep as she went back into her mother's room, and Olivia was left with only her thoughts.

The ride back to St. Agatha's had been frosty and without conversation. The girls sat as far away from one another as possible, both clinging to opposite door handles for the duration of the trip. As soon as they were back, both were taken immediately into solitary confinement for a period of seventy-two hours, as punishment. Three days in a single dorm room with nothing but a bed, a chair, and her own rampaging thoughts to keep Olivia company.

Late Sunday night they allowed Olivia to take a phone call from her mother, in which Serena relayed how angry and disappointed she was in Olivia's behavior. Olivia had to admit she was angry and disappointed herself. Mrs. Kennedy and Alice King had locked her up to punish her thinking that no magazines, no nail polish and no giggly gossiping with friends would be fitting deprivation for her "joyride" to Albany with Alex. Likewise, Alex was thrown in isolation for allowing Olivia to be her stowaway, and for not making contact with school officials to report their whereabouts.

What they failed to realize was that Olivia considered being separated from Alex a blessing, for the moment. She hadn't wanted to fight with Alex about what happened—about Sam Merriweather—until after she'd had the time and energy to collect her thoughts and compose herself. Time away was also a curse—going over and over in her mind wasn't helping, constantly worrying, letting it eat away at her heart like a cancer.

She lay on the bed, rested her chin in her cupped palm and sighed. What was Alex thinking about? Sam Merriweather? His thin lips, dark peach fuzz above them that made him look young and pretentious? The thought made Olivia's stomach churn, but if Alex had been leading her on, who knew how she truly felt about Sam. Olivia longed to be able to think of something else—anything else—but her mind kept leaping back to The Kiss.

Had Alex known what she was doing, what it meant? Or was it that it didn't mean to Alex what it meant to Olivia? What if it was nothing more solace from a friend during a difficult situation?

What Olivia couldn't ignore, however, was Alex's lusty moan of pleasure, straining against Olivia for more skin, more contact. That wasn't exactly a platonic receipt of comfort. There was passion there that wasn't easily or conveniently explained away. Alex had been aroused.

Her schoolwork and assignments had been delivered that morning, but Olivia couldn't bring herself to buckle down and do it, however distracting it might prove to be. She only had six hours of her imposed confinement left, and she had to figure out what she was going to say to Alex the next time she saw her roommate-cum-lover.

Olivia coughed violently into her hand. She'd been fighting a cold for the last several days, and losing. Mrs. Kennedy has brought her some cough syrup, but thus far it had brought little relief. Mrs. K wouldn't be pleased to hear the infection was worsening, as she had already labeled Olivia as a troublemaker, and she would probably assume this was another stunt for attention.

She curled up into the fetal position to nap for a while before she was released from purgatory. Sleep came easier than she imagined it would.

Olivia awoke instantly to the sound of loud, insistent knocking. Her heart was racing from the sudden rush to consciousness, her breathing harsh and unsteady in the quiet of the room. There was a pregnant pause, and then more pounding.

Olivia tried to answer, but found she had no voice. Her skin felt clammy, but her face was burning up. Mrs. Kennedy unlocked the door and was startled to find her young charge so ill. Olivia coughed again, her throat aching and eyes watering.

Mrs. Kennedy tucked Olivia back in without a word. Olivia tried to find the strength to protest, to get out of bed, but her muscles felt weak. Mrs. Kennedy clucked, and insisted she lay back before leaving the room in a hurry.

She returned with the school nurse, Mrs. Pitcannon, who took Olivia's temperature and put a cold compress on her forehead to draw the fever out. She made Olivia swallow several aspirin, and some more cough syrup. She declared Olivia had a cold, probably from all that brutish rugby playing. If she had more energy, Olivia would have rolled her eyes. It couldn't possibly have been those two days spent in a hospital around the ailing and diseased.

Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Pitcannon both left after a few more minutes of fussing over their patient and Olivia stared at the ceiling, now wide awake. A soft knock came from the door and Alex slipped in before she got an affirmative or negative response. Coming over to the bed, she gingerly sat next to Olivia's supine body and stroked her face gently.

"I'm sorry, Liv," she whispered, uncharacteristically worried. "This is all my fault."

Olivia shook her head, unable and unwilling to speak. Alex bit her lip, as if debating with herself on whether to stay or go, and Olivia took Alex's hand in her own.

"Hagman gave us Pride and Prejudice to read, your favorite. I thought I would read some to you, if you want."

Olivia nodded. Alex smiled gratefully and pulled the novel out of the back pocket of her jeans. Faint sunlight was still visible from the window, and Alex read until it was almost too dark to see and Olivia's eyes were drooping drowsily. Alex closed her paperback and scooted in next to Olivia, curling up next to her friend on the narrow bed.

Olivia relished the body contact, though she was concerned that Alex was going to make herself sick, she couldn't protest. She wondered just before she drifted off to sleep if Mrs. Kennedy was going to catch Alex, or if Alex was going to sneak out before she was discovered. Olivia honestly wasn't sure which she preferred.

Alex woke Olivia the following morning before dawn. She felt Olivia's forehead, and prepared the compress with icy water. Olivia had the chills, and so Alex bundled her up with an extra blanket, but exposed Olivia's feet, which Alex then rubbed vigorously with her hands in an attempt to get the blood circulating again. Olivia moaned incoherently and Alex bit her lip, unwilling to leave but unable to miss another day of class without repercussions. She kissed Olivia's brow gently before promising to come back after Euro Lit.

Mrs. Kennedy came in while Alex was away, was surprised to find the compress freshly hydrated, but didn't comment on it. She made Olivia sit up and eat a couple of bites of oatmeal and some juice before giving her more cough syrup and putting her back to bed.

Olivia didn't wake up again until almost noon, and she was feeling better than she had in several days. Alex was there, her back against the mattress and bed frame, reading, and eating her lunch.

"Hey," Olivia croaked.

"Hey," Alex's face lit up in a smile so genuine Olivia couldn't help but wonder if she'd seen nothing but fakes until that moment. She held up the novel they'd been reading the night before. "Mr. Collins is about to propose to Elizabeth," her eyes shone with mischief. "And if you eat some soup, I'll tell you all about it."

"Soup?" Olivia asked, glancing at Alex's sandwich. Alex pulled a Thermos from a brown paper sack and handed it to Olivia, along with a polished spoon.

"I bribed Mrs. Kennedy in to letting me bring this to you," Alex confessed, going back to the book as Olivia popped the lid on the Thermos and began taking a few, hesitant bites.

"So we left off last night sometime around the party at Lucas Lodge…or was it Netherfield?"

Olivia couldn't remember either, but she'd already read the book several times before, so it didn't matter much. Alex picked up where she eventually ascertained she had left off, and began reading. She had finished several chapters before she realized that at some point, Olivia had nodded off again. Alex gathered up her belongings and noticed with some satisfaction that Olivia had eaten every bite.

Olivia was allowed to return to her own room the following morning, but just in case she remained in her room for the day, completing her homework assignments and sending them to her professors for review. She wondered if the other students were curious about her absence, or if they even noticed. She knew Ellen had, her coach was probably ready to kill her after missing three practices, and in all likelihood, the game the next day as well.

Alex came by after Euro Lit to give her back her graded test for the first part of Jane Austen's best novel, and handed it over with a dramatic flair rarely shown by the composed young lady.

"My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever," she quoted, pointing to Olivia's 'A'. "But you seemed to have kept it for another day," she winked, and checked Olivia's forehead with the back of her hand for a fever. Olivia reached for and took Alex's hand between her fingers before Alex could pull away.

"I was…I was ready to fight with you about Sam Merriweather on Wednesday, whenever they let us out of solitary. But now, I don't want to fight."

"He's not my boyfriend, Liv," Alex stated, uncomfortable. "At one time, we dated exclusively…well, as much as you can date at private schools where you're not really allowed to leave. But I told him last year that I wasn't ready to date anyone. He didn't get the hint."

"I wish you would have said something to him," Olivia said honestly, her voice still hoarse.

Alex winced. "Me too."

Olivia decided a change of subject was in order, so she sighed heavily, as if to shake off any remaining doubts. "I think I want to go to dinner with you tonight."

"Are you sure?" Alex asked, concerned.

"Yeah. I'm feeling better, and I think it's time I saw everyone again, or they really will think you kidnapped me."

"You're fever is down, you're not sweating and you don't have the chills. I'm sure Mrs. K will let you loose if you really feel better."

"Go ask her, will you?" Olivia grinned at her friend, and Alex looked torn, but what about, Olivia wasn't sure. She promised to come back over the lunch hour, and as she was prone to do, she left the room soundlessly.

"Well, Hell's Bells," Ellen stood up and welcomed Olivia back to their group with a fervent hug. Christy just smiled from her chair beside Ellen's while Alex pulled out a chair directly across from the couple. She knew Olivia wanted to see Ellen, explain her absence and try to work out some sort of a schedule regarding the missed practices. Ellen was just glad to see Olivia was back and ready to play, but Olivia hadn't been convinced of that until she'd sat down to talk with the overly-enthusiastic rugby captain.

"Amy Madison, two o'clock, headed this way like a torpedo," Ellen commented out of the side of her mouth.

"You shush," Christy admonished gently. "She's a sweet girl."

"Like a rabid dog," Ellen retorted.

"As if you have a leg to stand on there, Sir Black Pot. Or would you prefer to be the kettle?" Christy asked, her tone sugary.

"Livia!" Amy exclaimed profusely, throwing her arms around her recently recovered friend. "Where have you been?" she demanded.

"Sick as a dog, among other things," Olivia answered, laughing at the ebullience of her dear little friend. Caroline Cartwright also approached, albeit more shyly, and welcomed Olivia back as well. They pulled up chairs to the table to join the small group of friends. They talked about nothing in particular, patently avoiding any discussion of the "Albany Incident", as they would come to refer to it later.

Mrs. Kennedy finally kicked them all out of the dining hall at nine and made them retreat back to the dorms. Olivia looked both relieved and ready to drop over by the time Alex marched her back to their room. She tucked Olivia in despite weak protesting and went to take a shower. By the time she returned, Olivia was fast asleep.

"I swear to God, I'm gone for a week and the rugby team goes to shit," Olivia griped as her team lost another point. Alex gave her a sympathetic glance, but she understood even less about the game than most of the players.

"Maybe you should get out there and help them," Alex teased, nudging Olivia's shoulder with her own.

"Yeah, Old Lady Kennedy would loooove that. I bet I'd get suspended for another week, lorded over by Mrs. Pitcannon as punishment, discussing all the etiquette of team sports brutality, tackling do's, and don'ts…"

"Olivia, you wanna ref or what?" Ellen hollered up into the bleachers.

"No way, Alex has me benched," Olivia called back, giving them a what-can-you-do shrug. Ellen didn't argue, but jogged away to find a willing victim.

"What a cool liar you are," Alex whispered, grinning. Olivia didn't answer, but gazed at Alex's face fondly.

"That's a lovely smile you have, Miss Cabot. Why don't I see it more often?"

Alex ducked her pretty head, embarrassed to answer, Olivia guessed. She decided to alleviate Alex's distress. "So I was thinking...when I went up to Christy's room to borrow a dress, she and Ellen have painted up there. They painted an entire wall maroon."


"So my mom sent me some money for the month, and I was thinking we could go into town tomorrow and buy some paint, and do a wall in our room."

"What color?"

"Actually," Olivia reached for her shoulder bag and pulled out a sketch of a checkerboard pattern, but had labeled the squares with four different shades of blue, in a seemingly random pattern. "I was thinking about a blue mosaic. I love blue, you love blue. I think it would be perfect."

"So, navy, indigo, royal blue and sky blue," Alex pointed to Olivia's key.

"Basically, we'd need a can of each, a yard stick to measure and pencil off exact dimensions, a couple of brushes, maybe some shellac. It wouldn't take us long it we were both working on it. One or two days at the most," Olivia became more excited as she talked, waving the paper chart around avidly.

"We could paint the inside of both doors either indigo or the royal blue as contrast," Alex added.

"I was thinking about curtains for the window, too," Olivia gestured to her floor plan. "Maybe in the navy or indigo if we do the doors in the royal blue."

"That's a great…"

"Well, look who it is," a sneering voice interrupted the girls' gleeful planning. Olivia's smile faded when she saw Rachel Ramsey standing directly in front of Alex, arms akimbo. "I hear you were on the lam, Alexandra."

"Not that it's any of your business, Rachel, but I was called away to Albany. You must have heard Mrs. Abernathy collapsed."

"Yes, I heard. Sam Merriweather called me to ask about your little leech," Rachel said casually, as if it weren't the very reason she came over. Olivia was trying to think of what Rachel could possibly mean when it hit her like a ton of bricks: Rachel was talking about her. As if she wasn't even there. Olivia's blood started to boil, and she glared at Rachel.

"Oh, you mean my best friend, Olivia," Alex replied sweetly, taking Olivia's hand, in a forced gesture.

"Whatever, my mother already called Cici, and she's going to hear about what a little delinquent you're turning into. Skipping school, coming to these barbaric rugby…games, and that you're hanging around with trash," Rachel flipped her hair over her shoulder in an uppity gesture of superiority, turned on a heel and promptly fell down the steps of the bleachers.

"Golly," Christy said innocently as she climbed up to sit near Alex and Olivia. "Rachel's going to have to learn how to be more careful. People leave stuff lying around all the time out here!"

"Somehow I suspect this isn't the first arranged accident Rachel has been subjected to," Olivia said dryly. Her anger had slowed to a simmer seeing Rachel get what was coming to her, but it wasn't far from the surface. Christy shrugged, her expression righteous.

"Who is Cici?" she asked, pulling her hair up into a loose ponytail.

"Mrs. Abernathy…the girls still call her Catherine, or Cici," Alex answered shortly.

Ellen bounded up, and observed the aftermath of Rachel's fall. She turned to Christy, playfully incorrigible.

"Did Rachel trip over herself again? You know, the more cruel she gets, the clumsier she gets," Ellen noted thoughtfully. Rachel stood up, her lip bloody. She glared at Ellen and Alex from the grass.

"Don't think I don't see you, Eleanor. I'm telling our mother!" Rachel stomped off and Ellen threw back her head and laughed.

"I don't think I've even seen my mother in almost a year. As if anything she says over the phone is going to strike the fear of God into my heart."

"Don't listen to a word she says, Liv. She's just mean," Christy reached up with a finger to smooth away the worry line on Olivia's forehead.

"I'm ready to go, I think," Olivia finally said, standing. Alex reached for her, but Olivia was already halfway down the rickety steps.

"I have to go," Alex apologized hastily, bidding her friends farewell.

Olivia escaped up to their room, slamming the door behind her. Hot tears came to her eyes, and she was just grateful she hadn't let Rachel Ramsey see her cry. People like Rachel didn't deserve the satisfaction of seeing their handiwork, and Olivia certainly wasn't going to oblige her. She was against the door, as if to block the world out, when Alex came bursting through the bathroom door, breathless.

"Just go, Alex!" Olivia demanded, her voice breaking.

"No," Alex refused, firm. "Don't push me away, Liv."

"It's not that simple, Lex. Rachel's right, you know. We're from completely different worlds. We didn't even come close to having the same things growing up…I mean, you've been to cotillions and charm school, I went to neighborhood pick-up games. You've been on cruises to countries I've only seen in textbooks. You've been to fancy restaurants and bars, and you know, where I come from, eating somewhere that didn't have a drive-through was a special occasion. You've had everything in the world you've ever wanted, and I got nothing."

"I wanted my father back," Alex argued stubbornly. "I never wanted all the rest of that stuff. You've been the first honest person I've met since he died. Sometimes it feels like I have him back, the way you make me feel. Because I can tell you anything."

"I don't want to get you in trouble with your mother," Olivia said quietly, looking at her feet.

"Is that what you're worried about?" Alex scoffed. "That she'll call and have me removed? Listen, my mother may have forced me to room with you, but she can't take you away. It's more trouble to room me by myself than with you, and if I want to room with you Mrs. Kennedy certainly won't separate us."

Olivia sighed, relieved. She sank onto the end of her bed, heavily. "Good." Alex knelt in front of Olivia, taking Liv's hands into her own warm palms.

"Liv," she whispered, an endearment. Leaning forward, she captured Olivia's lips in a gentle kiss. Olivia grinned as Alex very slowly eased her back onto the bed.

Once they were settled back onto the mattress, their eyes met in an intense stare. Alex licked her lips apprehensively.

"Now that we're here, I'm a little nervous," she whispered honestly.

Olivia nodded in agreement, her eyes wide.

"Have you ever done this before?" Alex asked, dreading the answer.

"Done what? Been with a girl?" It was Olivia's turn to blush shyly. Surely unapproachable, forbidding Alex Cabot didn't have more experience than she did… She shook her head. "I've never kissed another girl…I mean, besides you. I've never been with anyone."

"Oh," Alex breathed, looking relieved.

"What about you?"

"I'm…I've never slept with anyone. I've kissed Sam a few times, it was nothing special. And once, Katie wanted to practice French kissing and I tried it with her."

Olivia gaped. "Katie Fitzpatrick?"

Alex bit her lip and nodded, suppressing a giggle. "She was really bad at it, too. Not like you." She leaned in again, met Olivia's lips softly, sweetly.

Alex pulled back abruptly. "I have an idea."

Olivia looked at her expectantly, her head still against her pillow. Alex's hair was haloed around Olivia's face, making a golden curtain over her cheeks.

"Let's go into town tonight," Alex proposed, sitting up. "Let's go out, and have dinner, and maybe go to a movie. And on the way home, we'll stop and buy that paint. We can work on it all day tomorrow. But tonight let's just go out and have fun."

"Like a date?" Olivia asked, sitting up also.

"Well, of course to everyone else it will just be two friends out. I mean, plausible deniability and all that. But yeah, like a date."

"And we won't get in trouble?"

Alex snorted. "St. Aggie's girls are always meeting boys in town for dates…or whatever. I'm more concerned about sneaking the paint cans in."

"When's curfew?"

"Midnight," Alex patted Olivia's denim-clad thigh in an almost-motherly gesture. "You change and I'll find a newspaper, for movie listings."

"Alex Cabot, ladies and gentlemen. Home decorator and evil mastermind, let's give her a hand," Olivia rose to bow comically, and Alex shoved her lightly, grinning. Alex then ducked in for a quick kiss, catching Olivia off-guard. Nonetheless, Olivia returned the offering with equal ardor, and after only a moment, she had Alex pinned against the closet door, squirming.

"Sorry," Olivia tore her mouth away, gasping. The lower half of her body was still flush against Alex, grinding slowly.

"I'm not," Alex wrapped a hand around Olivia's nape and pulled her back in, their mouths tangling erotically.

A sharp knock on the door reigned in their passion like water dousing a lit match.

"Oh, for Pete's sake!" Olivia sighed in frustration, backing away from her cornered prey. Alex straightened her blouse, breathing heavily.

"Come in," she called, her voice unsteady.

"Alex, dear," Mrs. Beasley poked her head in the door. "Your mother is on the phone down in my office. She would like to speak with you, she says it's important."

"Oh I'm sure it is," Alex rolled her eyes and shot Olivia a disappointed glance before slipping out behind Mrs. Beasley. Olivia changed into a long-sleeved black blouse with a gauzy collar, on loan from Christy in anticipation of "getting a little action," as Ellen so eloquently phrased it. She rifled through Alex's side of the closet until she found a shell pink wool skirt that was long enough to still be decent on Olivia, since she was almost half-a-head taller than Alex.

Alex reentered the room, grimacing. "That was Mrs. Abernathy."

"Bad news?"

Alex looked guilty. "Not bad, exactly. Just a little change in plans."

"How little?"

"Okay, huge. But we're still going out tonight."

"Okaaaaaay," Olivia played along. "Spill it, Cabot."

"Well, Mrs. Abernathy apparently accepted an invitation on my behalf to have dinner with Sam and the partners of Mr. Abernathy's firm tonight. I'm not sure when she was planning on delivering this glorious news, but she was calling to see if I could invite one of my 'girlfriends' along because Ben Baxter…you know, Isabel's brother, is going to be down from Yale, and he doesn't have a date."

"Oh, God…I'm his date, aren't I?"

"Oh, please, Liv, I would owe you big time. Please, please go with me. I don't want to take anyone but you."

Olivia grumbled. "Fine, but I'm ordering dessert."

Alex smiled ethereally and gave Olivia a grateful hug and a peck on the lips. "You won't regret it…Actually, you probably will. But don't let that scare you."

Olivia moaned pitifully and flopped backwards onto her mattress. Alex left for the bathroom, but didn't shut the door behind her. "Do I at least look okay?" Olivia called to her, defeated. Alex poked her head back into the room.

"You look great," she swore, waggling her eyebrows. Her head disappeared.

"What are you going to wear?"

"I don't know…it's chilly out. Probably the black dress…the one with the see-through sleeves?"

"Wear the blue," Olivia said, inspecting the ceiling. Alex was running water in the bathroom, probably brushing her teeth.

"What?" she asked when she emerged again.

"I said, if you wear the blue, I'll be your love slave."

Alex stopped dead in her tracks. "Really?"

"Well, no, that would be way too time-consuming. But I promise to think you look sexy in it," Olivia grinned, feral. She propped herself onto one elbow.

"Well, the blue is a little too formal for tonight," Alex mused. She pulled out a silky cerulean sleeveless top and held it up for Olivia's inspection. "This? With the black skirt?"

"Oooh, yes, please," Olivia teased.

Olivia watched Alex dress, then flit about the room, dancing through a spray of the going-out perfume, putting on make-up, twisting her lovely hair into a severe twist. She secured it with bobby pins, and then tugged until it fell softly around her face. Without saying a word, she came over to where Olivia was still loafing on the bed, and straddled her carefully.

"Stay still," she commanded. She used her blusher brush to give Olivia's cheeks a light sheen of mauve, then closed her eyes gently to apply a darker rose to her eyelids. She finished with a little powder, then a little lip-gloss.

"Thanks, Mom," Olivia snarked when Alex had removed herself.

"Well, you weren't making any headway just laying there," Alex volleyed, ignoring Olivia in favor of inspecting herself in the closet mirror.

"When are we leaving?"

"Just a few minutes, I told her we would meet them in town."

Alex twirled away from her reflection. "That reminds me, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?"

"I'm not sure," Olivia faltered. "My mother wants me to come home, but…"

"But?" Alex stepped forward.

Olivia's chin rose proudly. "But I'm not sure I want to."

Alex worried her bottom lip with her teeth. "Will you think about coming home with me, instead?"

"To Albany?" Olivia asked, surprised.

"Yes. Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy will be touring the Mediterranean on a yacht. You can come down, we'll spend the whole weekend together."

"I'll talk to my mother," Olivia agreed, nodding. Spending a whole week alone with Alex? Sounded like heaven, especially since their relationship had taken such an intimate turn.

Another knock, this time Millie Kennedy was at the door.

"Alex, Sam Merriweather says he's here to pick you up for a date," she reported.

Alex looked at Olivia, angry. "If she hadn't called…"

"Let's just get this over with," Olivia said, standing. She slipped on a pair of shoes and followed Alex out into the corridor.

"You look nice," Millie said primly. "You, too, Alex."

"Thank you," the lovers replied in unison, sharing a secret smile. Olivia loped down the stairs, waiting for Alex at the bottom. Olivia was surprised to find a BMW in the front drive of the cathedral, engine idling.

Sam Merriweather was in the driver's seat, and Olivia could only assume that Ben Baxter was his passenger. She slipped into the back after Alex and smiled thinly as Alex made the introductions. Sam didn't bother to hide his disdain, and Olivia could see that Ben was taken aback by the animosity, unsure of how to respond.

To his credit, he behaved like a perfect gentleman, shaking Olivia's hand and squeezing Alex's arm in a brotherly fashion.

"How's that pitching arm?" He asked, smiling broadly.

"Oh, Ben, it's been years since I've played," Alex shook him off, almost bashfully.

"You're still the best player I've ever seen. For a girl," he amended when Sam gave him a dirty look. Silence descended upon the spacious vehicle, Olivia fidgeted nervously. Alex stilled Olivia with a warm touch.

"Relax," she whispered silkily.

"Easier said than done," Olivia retorted in a murmur.

"They smell fear like sharks smell blood in the water," Alex warned quietly, still smiling.

"So, Olivia," Ben turned in his seat to better regard his date for the evening. "How long have you been at St. Agatha's?"

"About three months," Olivia replied, glad to focus on something other than her erstwhile lunch, which was currently dancing a tango through her stomach.

"Have you applied to any universities?"

"Not yet, but I'm thinking about Bryn Mawr," she answered politely.

"That's a great school, my sister Jane wants to go there, I think. Of course, she's only thirteen, so it will probably change ten times or more before she finally applies."

"How many siblings do you have?"

"Just two sisters, Bella and Janie, both younger than me, of course."

"Ahh, to have a sister," Alex sighed. "I'm an only child, as you know. I longed for a sister growing up."

"Feel free to take one of mine," Ben joked. Sam remained quiet beside him, staring fixedly out the window.

"When is Bella going to marry Frank Harland?" Alex asked, leaning forward in her seat.

Olivia nearly choked. Butch Isabel Baxter was getting married to someone? A man? The notion would have been laughable if Alex wasn't dead serious.

"Well, Frank graduates from Princeton in a year and a half, I think. So probably either next year or the year following," Ben advised, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "What about your family? Any of the Ramsey girls getting married?"

"Were you at Grace's wedding last year?" Alex asked, then plowed on without waiting for an answer. "She's the oldest, had been engaged to Ethan Van Martin forever."

"I know Ethan," Ben said.

"Grace got married, Rachel is a senior at St. Agatha's, but I don't think Russ has proposed or anything."

Ben laughed heartily. "Russ Downing? God help us all if they breed."

Olivia snickered, and saw Sam glaring at her in the rearview mirror. She resisted the temptation to stick her tongue out at him.

"I know, it would be like a crazy game show to see how much smug pretension could fit into one room," Alex laughed. Olivia was struck by how comfortable Alex seemed to be, among her people. She wondered curiously if it was a façade, or if Alex truly was happier to be with those that were of her caliber.

"They have another sister though, right?" Ben asked.

"Yes, Ellen. Liv and I are good friends with her, she's in our class."

"Has she got anyone special?"

"Perhaps," Alex replied, evasive.

"Hmm," Ben mumbled, clearly loving the mystery. "Now what about Katie? Is she still single?"

"No, she and John Beckwith have been dating since last term. He's s real tool," Alex replied bitterly. Olivia wondered what dear Mr. Beckwith had done to deserve such backlash.

"Ahhh, well," Ben sighed and turned to Olivia once more. "Where is your family from, Olivia?"

"New York City," Olivia ducked her head, and Alex found it absolutely kittenish.

"Bright lights, big city," Ben commented vacantly, righting himself in the leather seat.

"Something like that," Olivia replied under her breath. Alex gave her hand a squeeze, and the four of them remained quiet for the rest of the short journey.

The Newport Country Club was the pinnacle of class in the small town, and therefore the Abernathys were holding court there as if it met their high standards. Which it didn't, Alex noted to her companion. Mrs. Abernathy was a fine looking woman still, in her fifties. Her ash blonde hair had been flawlessly coifed into a tasteful pageboy, and her eyes were a very light shade of blue, like the sky.

It was clear she had never smoked, because her skin was still fresh and pink, and Olivia found it entirely possible that Mrs. Abernathy had had some work done, for she had far fewer wrinkles and laugh lines than Olivia's mother, and Serena Benson didn't laugh much.

Catherine Abernathy stood taller than Alex; she towered over even statuesque Olivia in her spiked heels, upon which she was swaying precariously as a result of too many highballs. James Abernathy looked handsome enough, Olivia supposed, but he just radiated a slimy sort of arrogance, as if he couldn't look the waitress in the face, but he wouldn't mind screwing her. His suit was impeccably pressed, his maroon tie gleaming in the dim light from the low-hanging chandeliers.

Both Abernathys gave Alex disapproving looks when they saw Olivia tagging along behind the blonde, but had the good grace not to voice their opinions.

Olivia sat reticently as the party around her carried on gaily enough. Sam Merriweather shot her frequent supercilious glances, as if he couldn't stand not to rub it in that Olivia was somewhere that she didn't belong. Alex took every opportunity to slip a hand under the table to give Olivia's knee a reassuring caress, but it wasn't helping much.

Catherine Abernathy rounded the dinner she had only picked at with another martini, and Olivia wanted to order one herself, and then escape to the ladies room to gulp it down in peace.

"What plans do you young people have tonight?" Senator Baxter asked, lighting a cigar. His wife also turned to the two couples, swirling her port around in the sherry glass. They were a distinguished looking couple, athletic and svelte, Olivia could see where Ben got his good looks.

"We were planning on taking the girls anywhere they wanted to go," Ben advised warmly, smiling at Olivia.

"Actually, we're tired," Alex piped up, and Olivia sighed gratefully.

"Come on now," Sam wheedled, incensed. "It's been months since I've really gotten to see you. What will the guys at St. Chris's think when I don't even take my girlfriend out on dates?"

"They will probably think I'm not your girlfriend," Alex replied seriously, adjusting her glasses on her nose. The Abernathys and the Merriweathers both looked startled for a moment, and then they burst out laughing, at an almost-inappropriate volume. Olivia wondered what was so funny.

"Don't be silly, darling," Mrs. Abernathy tittered, very sauced. "Everyone knows that you and Sam are a charming little couple."

"Might we be hearing some wedding bells one day?" the elder Mr. Merriweather asked with a raised eyebrow. He reached for Senator Baxter's cigar lighter and proceeded to light his own Cuban.

"If Alex is lucky," Sam winked, amusing himself, at least. Ben Baxter looked decidedly uncomfortable by this line of conversation, only slightly less so than Alex herself. Olivia was blushing furiously, ready to take Alex and hide under the table. The waiter had whisked her plate away several minutes before, also barely touched, and was now replacing it with some sort of a delicate layered dessert.

Olivia managed to taste it, and it was decadent, but it was also too much on her weak stomach. She excused herself; a little flattered when all the gentlemen at the table stood when she rose from her chair. She escaped to the bathroom and promptly threw up.

She felt much better afterwards, and she was at the sink tidying up when Alex came in.

"Hey," Alex said, wrapping her arms around Olivia from behind. "I thought maybe you made a run for it."

"Don't tempt me," Olivia retorted dryly.

"Are you totally miserable?" Alex's breath tickled Olivia's ear, and Olivia fought the urge to press Alex against the ugly floral wallpaper and ravish her.

"Not suicidally so," Olivia grinned, turning away from the mirror to face her captor. "Though your mother is totally strange. Why don't they just pimp you out in the Child-Brides-R-Us Christmas catalog?"

"Don't get me started," Alex rolled her eyes and pulled Olivia by the hand back towards the door. "Another fifteen minutes and with any luck, we'll be out of here."

"And if there's no luck to be had?" Olivia postulated.

"Well, then I'll fake a seizure."

"You go on, I want to fix my lipstick," Olivia pulled her hand out of Alex's, and turned back towards the mirror.

Alex nodded and straightened her own dress in the mirror before leaving the washroom. Olivia gave her mouth a cursory swipe with the lipstick, and then blotted before appraising her reflection.

She tossed the paper towel and opened the door to the bathroom, steadying herself on the doorframe as she crossed the threshold from cold marble tile onto plush carpeting. The way back to the bathroom had been a maze of short hallways, and Olivia hoped she could find her way back, regretting that she hadn't asked Alex to wait for her. As she approached an adjoining hallway, she heard soft arguing, as so she pressed her back against the gilded wallpaper and crept down the hall to avoid detection.

She hadn't meant to eavesdrop, only to slip past and not embarrass the people fighting, but as she got closer, she couldn't help but recognize the familiar voices.

"Don't start, Mother," Alex said quietly.

"I told you not to bring that girl, Alexandra. You deliberately defied me and I will not tolerate it."

"What are you going to do? Cut me out of your will?" Alex popped off, cocky. Olivia closed her eyes and silently begged her girlfriend to control herself.

"You should be ashamed of your behavior, Alexandra. You are a debutante, and you have a reputation, and an obligation to fill the role your father left for you…"

"Bringing my father into this is low, even for you, Mrs. Abernathy."

"That girl is trash! Why you insist on befriending her and shaming us all is beyond me."

"And you know Daddy loved everybody—he's the last person on Earth that ever would have been a snob," Alex snapped.

"He knew his place, regardless. And you should, too!"

"You don't know anything about her. You've never bothered to speak to her to find out how intelligent she is, or how funny. You've never bothered to ask how I feel about her," Alex sounded perilously close to tears.

"And why should I? Now, clean yourself up and come back to the table before the Merriweathers think that you've run off without Sam." Olivia could hear the rustling of heavy fabric, and made the assumption that they'd both returned to the party. She took a moment to compose herself and indulged in a deep, cleansing breath. She was halfway around the corner when she realized that Alex hadn't followed her mother back to the dining room. Alex was standing with her back against the wall, an unwitting mimic of Olivia's position only moments before, lost in a private moment, her eyes filled with tears.

She looked up at Olivia, stricken. "Did you?…"

Olivia nodded, and lowered her eyes. Alex flew into Olivia's arms, crushing the brunette to her bosom with impressive strength.

"I'm sorry, Liv. I'm so sorry about her. They're so shallow and petty."

"Don't apologize for them," Olivia said quietly, her cheeks still stinging with shame. She felt thoroughly put in her place.

Bravely, Alex brought her sultry mouth to Olivia's for one brief moment before pulling away, high on her own recklessness and bitter resentment. She pulled Olivia by the hand back towards the ballroom, but had let go by the time they crossed under the arched doorway.

When they got back to the table, Sam Merriweather asked Alex for a dance, and out of polite obligation, Ben Baxter echoed the invitation to Olivia. Mrs. Abernathy looked thoroughly perturbed by that development, but she didn't openly protest.

Ben took Olivia into an easy hold, leading her around the floor in a carefree manner that told her he was perfectly accustomed to such ordeals. She tried to keep up with forced, practiced movements, focusing too hard to avoid seeing Alex in the arms of that weasel Sam Merriweather. She also definitely didn't want to bring attention to herself through a humiliating display of clumsiness.

"Relax, and it will be more fluid," Ben urged, sensing her plight.

That was easier said than done, Olivia thought as continued to waltz stiffly, knowing that Mrs. Abernathy and everyone else at the table was watching her like a hawk. She caught Alex's eye as they sailed past each other, and Olivia was privately amused that they both looked as if they were dancing away to their own executions. Ben ended their dance with a small flourish, and Olivia wanted to kick him for not warning her.

She stifled an irritated sigh when Sam asked Alex for another dance, and begged off with Ben. He went out onto the terrace for a cigarette, and Olivia returned to the table to sit and pray that the night would end soon.

"Thank you for dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy, it was wonderful," Olivia shook hands with Alex's family, then with the Merriweathers, and finally the Baxters. Catherine Abernathy almost hugged her daughter, but then thought better of it, and remained under the valet station as rain began to lazily slap the pavement.

"It was our pleasure, Olivia," Mrs. Abernathy slurred. "We adore helping underprivileged children."

The Merriweathers looked embarrassed, the Baxters unobservant, and Alex positively mortified by the display Catherine Abernathy was putting on. Olivia wanted to crawl in the back of Sam Merriweather's beamer and die.

The four teenagers loaded up, leaving the six adults waving goodbye a little sadly.

"Money certainly doesn't buy manners," Ben Baxter commented as they left the parking lot. "Sorry, Alex."

"You won't find anyone who agrees with you more, Ben," Alex fumed.

"Where are we going?" Sam asked hopefully.

"Back to the school," Alex's tone brooked no arguments.

They sat quietly for a moment, before Ben began a conversation about mutual funds that only Sam seemed to be interested in.

"We could have Sam swing by the store, get that paint," Olivia murmured across the back seat.

The look Alex gave Olivia could only be described as hungry.

"Do you really want to go back to the dorm and paint?" She asked sardonically.

Before she could ask Alex to elaborate, Alex's warm hand brushed across her thigh.

Olivia's thought derailed like a train. This was a little too brazen, even for Olivia, who had none of the reservations of the upper class elite.

"Alex, that's your boyfriend," Olivia reminded her quietly. Whether Alex considered him so or not, he certainly felt he was, and he would certainly object to his girlfriend fondling another girl in his back seat.

. "I think we both know he's the last one on my mind," Alex smirked. Her eyes got that brave, devil-may-care look, the one Olivia always saw before Alex smarted off to Professor Hagman or Mrs. Kennedy. There would be no holding back tonight.

"Please stop teasing me," Olivia barely began her soft protest before Alex cut her off. This couldn't be happening, not here.

"I see the way you've been watching me tonight…longing for me. I think you're the one who's been doing all the teasing," Alexandra's hand brushed the most tender skin of Olivia's inner thighs, her breath hot against Olivia's ear. Olivia's head was spinning. "Would you like to know what I've been thinking about you?" The blonde's fingers rubbed against Olivia's panties, caressing her through the fabric. Olivia gasped.

"What are you girls talking about back there?" Ben asked, momentarily distracted. Sam caught Olivia's eye in the rearview mirror, but it was too dark in the shadowy interior of the car to see what Alex was doing.

"Kissing," Alex answered coyly, her hand still up Olivia's skirt. Olivia's hand joined hers and purposefully pushed Alex's hand back into her own space. Once there, she grasped Olivia's fingers and wouldn't let go. The rain, now coming down in torrential sheets, slammed against the roof of the car noisily.

In the meantime, Ben had turned around in his seat and gave her a teasing leer. Olivia smiled weakly in return. He turned back around. Olivia's breathing hitched when she realized Alex was tracing patterns on the top of Olivia's hand with her thumb.

"Are you out of your mind?" Olivia hissed.

"No more so than you," Alex answered, almost offhandedly. Olivia glanced up and saw that their dates were busily comparing notes on stock options. Looking back towards Alex, she watched Alex carefully let out a strap on her top and pull Olivia's trembling hand towards her now-bare breast. Alex let go as Olivia gave in to temptation and softly began to feel her. Her head fell back as Olivia pleased her straining nipples with the flick of nimble fingers. A soft moan escaped her lips, and Olivia worried that at any moment her date would turn around and get a good look at what the two girls were doing.

Undaunted, Alex inched her way closer to Olivia, pressing her knees against Liv's legs. "I want you, Liv. As soon as possible."

"Me too," Olivia croaked dryly.

The car jostled as they entered the school grounds, and Alex hurriedly fixed her blouse, before shooting Olivia a saucy grin. As they pulled up to the dorm, Alex barely said goodbye before jumping out of the car and pulling Olivia out behind her. They sprinted for the door to avoid getting wetter than was absolutely necessary, and to their backs, a huge bolt of lightening lit up the night sky.

Olivia was reminded of Christy Cameron's romantic story of first love, and she wondered if this thing with Alex would end as happily. She wasn't sure it would.

They hastened up the stairs towards their room, and closed and locked the door behind them before attempting further conversation.

"What on Earth possessed you, Lex?" Olivia started to ask. Alex however, was not in the mood to talk. Embracing Olivia, backing up towards the bed, she was kissing Olivia passionately, desperately. Their clothes were soaked and dripping on the old carpet, but Alex wasn't to be deterred.

Their mouths met in a fiery frenzy, Alex was nipping impatiently at Olivia's lips, reaching for the zipper on Olivia's skirt. "Let's push the beds together," she murmured, her mouth trailing hotly against Olivia's throat.

"Oh, Alex," Olivia moaned when she felt Alex's hand against her breast, teasing.

Alex tore her swollen, supple lips away from Olivia's, leading Olivia over to their beds. She stepped away to push the end table out of the way, then she and Olivia got on opposite sides of the twin beds and pushed them together.

Outside, the rain was crashing against the windowpane violently, and thunder shook the entire building with a loud rumble.

"Get undressed," Alex demanded, and Olivia complied, pulling the gossamer blouse up over her head, and then finishing the job with the skirt. Alex too was disrobing, fumbling to unclasp the straps on her top with nervous excitement. Olivia chortled watching her struggle.

Finally, she was down to a virginal white cotton bra and matching panties, no frills or fuss. Olivia stared with rapt appreciation at Alex's fine, toned body, the result of many years of swimming and horseback riding. Alex's tummy was flat and lean; her arms and legs a faded golden hue, well rounded with hard muscles deceivingly hidden. She crossed her arms over her torso shyly when she looked up to see Olivia gazing at her so affectionately. Olivia reached for the light switch to comfort Alex with the darkness, and Alex followed suit before crawling across the bed to meet Olivia in the middle, reaching for Olivia's bra with trembling fingers.

The room was dark and warm, and only the occasional flash of lightening lit the room appreciably. Olivia reveled in the sounds of the storm, the perfect backdrop for their tempestuous passion.

Alex's fingertips grazed Olivia's ribcage, sending tingles of anticipation and desire down Olivia's spine. She threw her head back in want. Alex had removed her bra, and was investigating Olivia's breasts, so different from her own. Alex kissed her way across Olivia's collarbone and down her chest to a ripe, turgid nipple. Her teeth scraped across the pebbly texture, making Olivia crazy with need. Olivia clutched at her lover's shoulders, in part to steady herself and in part to touch the burning skin, to make contact.

Alex was alternating nipples, laving each with the same painstaking attention; then trailing kisses between them and down Olivia's tummy at regular intervals.

Olivia finally lost the strength to remain kneeling, and eased back onto the bed, pulling Alex with her. Alex settled herself between the hot cradle of Olivia's legs, spreading herself across the taut olive skin of Olivia's thigh.

"I want to feel you," Olivia insisted, reaching for Alex's bra. Alex obliged her by sitting up, removing the offending garment, and tossing it to the floor. She smiled wolfishly at her captive audience.

"Panties too," Olivia managed to say, her breath caught in her throat. Alex bashfully reached for the hem of her underwear, and Olivia reached out to help her push them down over her hips. Olivia held Alex's hips in her palms, helping Alex roll slowly across Olivia's flesh, arousing her.

Alex resumed her lazy exploration of Olivia's throat and shoulders with her tongue, while Olivia ached with her desire.

"Alex, please," she begged, her throat constricting. Alex parted Olivia's thighs with a gentle touch and began the slow build of arousal.

There was no more teasing, no more games, only now the tenderly insistent motion of Alex's hand as she pressed into Olivia's liquid warmth, two fingers slowly creating a rhythm as she explored soft folds, pressing deeper with each downstroke.

Olivia muffled her cries with her arm, biting into the flesh as she arched her back to meet each thrust. Alex, too, was feeling unbearably hot, and she began to rhythmically press herself into Olivia's thigh to relieve that pressure. Olivia was clinging to her shoulders, swallowing moans of pleasure, bucking as the sensations that were singing through her body became more intense. Faster and faster they both moved, until they were both thrusting erratically, all sense of time and patience gone as they fought for orgasm.

Alex could hear the blood rushing in her brain as both girls rocked against each other, each so close to climax it was torturous. Alex curled her thumb to stroke Olivia's clit with firm motions and this sent Olivia rocketing towards fruition. She tensed beneath Alex, her face contorting with ecstasy as she yearned to cry out. In the end, it was just a low groan of satisfaction, but it was enough to send Alex crashing for the edge.

Olivia was abandoning herself, turning herself over, giving herself so completely to Alex that Alex felt an ache in her chest at the intimacy of the gesture, of what it meant. Olivia's fingers found her clit, unexpectedly, and Alex spread her legs a little wider to allow her lover entrance. She leaned backwards, supporting herself with her palms flat against the bed; her head tilted backwards, her hair falling in a tawny cascade down her back.

Alex was already so far-gone that it only took a few sloppy thrusts before she was careening into oblivion, repressing her own moans of joy. She collapsed back against Olivia, taking shuddering gulps of air, trying to restore the necessary oxygen to her lungs.

"I'm yours," she whispered. She lay there almost a full minute, gasping for air, arching her back as the last spasms ebbed from her body slowly. Finally, Olivia pulled Alex's limp body up to the head of the bed, placing delicate kisses across her face, murmuring endearments with each touch of her lips. Alex held her close, reveling in this new adoration.

Kisses drew out, longer, more indolent as all sense of urgency was sapped. Time stretched on, without boundary, without hesitation, breathless. The lightening and the thunder rolled on, and eventually the rain stopped too, but sleep didn't come to the lovers until far into the night.

A week had passed since the night Olivia and Alex has consummated their burgeoning relationship, and Liv was still floating on air. She loved sleeping close with Alex, having someone else curled around her, and so the beds were pushed together every evening at twilight and cleaved apart every morning at dawn.

They had managed a trip into town to buy the paint, and had started their project, but had underestimated the time necessary to measure the wall into perfectly even squares. Being that their arm and back muscles were unaccustomed to such maneuvering, it didn't take long for them to regret the undertaking. Moreover, because both were so busy with their extracurricular activities and studying, it hadn't taken much longer for both girls to start procrastinating. Both would try to bribe the other into working on it solo, which was never successful, though it amused the hell out of Christy and Ellen, at least.

And almost as if they sensed the rite of passage that Alex and Olivia had just completed, Christy and Ellen had become their confidantes and closest friends. All four girls made a point of meeting in one of the rooms most every night for at least a half an hour of idle chatter about their day. It was fast-becoming a familiar and welcome ritual, though Olivia couldn't ignore the hurt looks from Amy that somehow she was being forgotten in favor of these more world-wise sophisticated friends. Caro took the change in stride, as she did everything, keeping a little closer to Amy, as if to comfort her.

Olivia whistled on her way back to the dorm from the rugby game, feeling refreshed and invigorated from an afternoon of healthy exercise. She was also intensely curious, as Alex had slipped away from the bleachers sometime toward the end of the game without catching Olivia's attention. She wondered what her little vixen was up to.

She didn't have to wait long. As she came in the door to their room, she kicked off her shoes and shrugged out of her coat. She stopped short when she saw Alex already had the beds pushed together, and was curled under a blanket.

"So this is why you left the game early," Olivia smiled wolfishly.

"I was actually planning to wait for you naked, but I got cold," Alex shivered, grinning.

"I'm going to shower," Liv was already shedding clothing. "Five minutes."

Three minutes and thirty sex seconds later, a slightly wet and totally exuberant Olivia jumped into the bed and dove under the covers, tickling her girlfriend playfully. Alex squealed and scooted away, but it wasn't long before Olivia had Alex trapped underneath her lithe, athletic body. Olivia's dark head emerged from the quilt, already locked in a rapidly-heating kiss with Alex, both girls feeling each other desperately. Olivia moaned into Alex's mouth, reaching for Alex's hips to pull her in even closer.

Just as the lovemaking was becoming intense, a muffled throat-clearing from the door startled both girls out of their intimate moment. Caroline Cartwright was at the door, her face as crimson as her flaming red hair.

"I'm sorry, I knocked," she gestured futilely at the bathroom door where she'd just entered their sanctuary. "Obviously not loudly enough. Sorry," she ducked her head and escaped back through the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Olivia was still posed above Alex in the bed, her jaw open in shock. Alex poked her, bringing her back to reality. Olivia practically fell out of the bed trying to extricate herself in order to follow Caroline. She and the tangle of covers were teetering helplessly on the edge of the mattress until Alex pulled backwards forcefully to steady her frantic lover. Alex began to unravel the twisted sheets Olivia was still trapped in, and as soon as she had done so, Olivia was out of the bed like a shot, throwing on clothes.

"I've got to talk to her before she tells someone," Olivia gasped as she yanked up her sweatpants.

"Should I come?" Alex asked, covering her chest modestly with the sheets that had been so recently intertwined around their bodies.

Olivia almost dropped her t-shirt. "That's probably not a good idea. I'll be right back." She dashed through their suite-style bathroom, clanging the door shut behind her. Several minutes had already elapsed, and she wondered what she would do if Caroline weren't in her room. How appropriate would it be to go chasing after her in hardly more than pajamas?

But to her relief, she found Caroline sitting in the wide windowsill in her own room, her left arm pressed against the glass pane, her right arm pulling her knees into her chest protectively. She was looking out onto the gently rolling hills of the campus, the same view that Alex and Olivia's window afforded. A fine mist had settled over the land, and dusk was falling.

"Caroline," Olivia stopped short at the door, a little surprised that her friend was so composed. "Hey." She tentatively stepped closer to where Caroline was sitting, still practically ignoring her guest. "I know that you must be upset."

"Upset is not the word I would chose," Caro answered carefully.

"What you saw back there…wow," Olivia pinched the bridge of her nose, searching for the words. "You know…it was just…it was just…"

"Sex?" Caroline provided, almost bitterly. Olivia looked up sharply, and then sighed heavily, sagging against the end of the nearest twin bed—Amy's, she noted.

"It was love, Caro. Alex and I are…" She swallowed, desperately trying to gather her thoughts into some semblance of order. "If you…tell anyone…what you saw today," she gulped. "It would be really, really bad," she promised seriously. "We might both get kicked out, but I suspect it would be just me. And if Alex did stay, she would be ostracized, ridiculed." She looked up to Caroline's impassive expression. "I don't want that to ever happen to her."

"Liv," Caroline's normally soft voice was firm, commanding. "You know…that Amy and I are…friends. She's about as simple-hearted and sweet as they come. She loves God, and she loves this school, and I'm her best friend, and that's enough for her. It would never occur to her that I wanted more," Caroline looked up, tears glistening in her emerald eyes.

"What you have with Alex, I want with Amy, only I know I'll never get it. I'm not sure if that makes me pathetic or just lonely. But I would never begrudge you happiness," she vowed earnestly, wiping tears from her cheeks futilely. Olivia's heart went out to the dear girl, and she came to sit opposite Caro on the windowsill. She reached for Caroline's hand, scooting closer.

"It's not pathetic, Caroline, to have hope. That's what we all do, we hope until we get it. And if we don't get it, we cry and move on."

"How would you know? You got yours already…" Caroline bit back a sob, not even bothering with her tears.

"I have a secret, too. I didn't make it here on my own. You know that story I told back on the night of the dance?"

"The one about your friend Elliot and the girl with the pot?" Caroline asked, sniffling.

"That's the one. You remember I told you that she and Derwood took off when the fire got out of hand?"


"Well, I left out that they left the pot there. And when the cops showed up, I …I told them it was mine, and that Elliot didn't know anything about it. That's why I got sent here."

"I don't follow. How did marijuana get you into Catholic prep school?"

Olivia sighed, knowing she would have to elaborate. "My mom…she's a single parent. See, about seventeen years ago, she was coming home after drinking one night, and this guy, he uh, he attacked her. And when she got home, she reported it to the police, but her best friend Sally didn't believe her."

"Why not?"

"Because she was an alcoholic," Olivia admitted candidly. "She had been drinking, that night, and Sally knew it, and she thought that my mom had dreamed it, or something."

"What happened?"

"Well, when my mom …had me, Sally realized that she'd made a terrible mistake, and she spent years trying to make it up to Mom, even though Mom never asked her for anything. Then when I was caught with the pot, my mom gave her a call. Even though Sally and my mother had been best friends all through school, Sally's family was very wealthy, and my mom wasn't. Sally had gotten married to this rich guy, and he put her on the Board of Directors here at the school."

"She still feels guilty about not believing your mom?" Caroline questioned gently.

"I had to apply, and everything, but Mrs. Bellows helped the scholarship go through. The court agreed to let me slip by on the possession charge, when I explained what really happened and that I was willing to correct the situation by coming here. The drug test helped, I wouldn't touch the stuff, so I came back clean."

"Wow," Caroline said softly.

"There's more," Olivia took a deep breath. "The girl, I didn't rat her out. She'd been in my classes since I was in junior high, and she was pretty and popular, and I had a total crush on her. She ignored me until she caught me behind the library one day smoking a regular old cigarette. She had come out to smoke a joint, and just…thought it was cool that I was there, too, I guess."

"And you never got her," Caroline finally said, nodding in comprehension.

"But see, it was better that I didn't. If I had kissed Becky, even once, I'd still be hung up on her. I would have come here, dismissed Alex immediately, and then spent the semester miserable, pining over Becky back in the City. And now, I'm so happy. I see that there are some things that happen for a reason, and I may not know what it is right then, but there is definitely a reason."

"And here I thought you slept through Mass," Caroline giggled lightly through her drying tears, and Olivia leaned forward to embrace her.

"Thank you for keeping my confidence," she whispered.

"Thank you for keeping mine," Caroline parroted.

"It'll happen for you, too, Caro…maybe just not with Amy," Olivia stroked the red hair gently.

Caroline pulled back from the hug and tried to smile. "Go back to Alex. I'll be fine for now," she affirmed.

"Alright," Olivia agreed. She stood and gave one last backward glance to her friend before leaving. Caroline was turned back to the window once more, biting back tears.

"What'd she say?" Alex asked hesitantly when Olivia returned.

"She won't tell anyone," Olivia declared resolutely.

"We're sure?" Alex gave Olivia a dubious look.

"She'll take it to the grave," Olivia swore, sitting down on the edge of the mattress. Alex had gotten dressed, though she had returned to the bed to wait for Olivia. Olivia slid her pants down her hips before swinging her legs back under the blanket. She spooned Alex from behind, holding her close.

She kissed Alex behind the ear, lightly. "I'm so glad I have you."

Alex squeezed the forearms that were crossed over her chest possessively. "Me too."

Part 4

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