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

No Place Like It
By Janine


Part 1

2002 – Evanston, Illinois

"Oh my god," Jessie breathed out as she stepped closer to the canvas, her nose mere centimeters away from the surface. "This is amazing," she continued turning around to face Katie who was standing off to the side, bouncing about nervously.

"So it doesn't suck complete ass?" Katie asked bouncing on the balls of her feet, and tipping her head from side to side.

"It's no where near ass. It's so far away from ass that ass needs a telescope to see its outline," Jessie replied walking over to her girlfriend and wrapping her arms around her waist, squeezing reassuringly. "You should totally send it in," she continued resting her head on Katie's shoulder.

"I don't know," Katie said dropping her head down.

"I do," Jessie returned, unwrapping herself from around Katie's back so that she could move around to face her. "So just shut up and do what I tell you to," she continued before leaning forward and bringing their lips together.

"I love it when you get all authoritative," Katie replied smiling lecherously a moment later when they pulled apart. Even though what she had said was a joke, she was really the kind of girl that needed someone to keep an eye on them. Before she met Jessie, she'd always found herself in some kind of trouble or the other. Lord help her, she just didn't have that filter in her brain that told her when to be quiet or when to not do something. Jessie wasn't only her better half she was her sane and sensible half too.

"Be quiet," Jessie replied turning her attention back to Katie's painting. When Katie looked at her like that, it made her want to do things that they most definitely couldn't do in Katie's basement with her parents upstairs.

"Why? Have I been naughty?" the dirty blonde asked still wearing the same expression as before when Jessie turned back to face her.

"Yes, and if you don't shut up I'm going to have to punish you," Jessie replied waving a dangerous finger in her face.

"That could be fun," Katie said thoughtfully, wondering if Karen was out on another date so that they could 'date' a little themselves in her empty house.

"Not if it's coming to scrabble night at the Manning house," Jessie responded with a smirk.

"Right," Katie said turning her attention back to the painting in front of them. Suddenly she didn't want to be bad anymore. "So I'll add it to the portfolio then," she continued serious once more as she stared at one of the pieces of artwork that could possibly change her life.

"They'll love it," Jessie said reassuringly, sensing her girlfriend's anxiety and wanting to sooth it.

"Hmmm," Katie replied non-committedly. That was what she was afraid of.

Part 2

2014 - Chicago

"The lawyer's here," Monica said placing a hand on her new boss's shoulder as she came up behind the preoccupied woman.

"Name?" Katie asked softly, her voice semi-distracted as she continued to stare at the painting in front of her. It was an Urbane, the work of formerly new, and young, talented young artist who had recently died in a tragic rock climbing accident. He had promised the painting to her, back when he was still a nobody – before he was gone and everyone suddenly decided that he was brilliant – and now she was in a battle with the gallery that had supposedly bought all the rights to his work.

"I'm not sure," Monica replied biting her bottom lip. She really should have thought to ask.

"It doesn't matter," Katie sighed turning around to face her new assistant. "We'll find out soon enough, won't we?" she said with a smile small giving the woman a reassuring pat on the back. She was just a kid really, fresh out of college with virtually no experience doing anything, and so far she hadn't really been of any assistance, but Katie had a feeling about her.

"I'm sorry, I should have," the girl started to say.

"Don't worry about it," Katie interrupted smiling at the girl warmly. "Come on."

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------

"Sorry to have kept you waiting," Katie said breezing into the lobby of the gallery. Just up ahead of her in front of one of the exhibits she could see a blonde woman in a suit. Her posture seemed familiar, but the woman's back was too her, and all lawyers tended to blur together to her anyway. "I'm Kathryn Singer the galleries new owner," she continued, "and the first thing I'd like to officially do is thank you for coming on such…" she continued before her face halted in surprise as the woman turned around to face her. "Short notice," she finished, her voice barely a whisper as she stared at the woman in front of her. Jessie.

Jessie blinked rapidly as she tried to get her heartbeat back to non- critical levels. When she'd heard the voice talking to her from across the gallery, she'd thought that it sounded familiar and it had even called up an image in her mind of the girl that a similar voice had belonged to, but she had chalked it up to mental delusion on her part, until the woman had announced her name. Kathryn Singer, Katie Singer. And now she was standing in front of the girl, no woman, both of them now very much grown, whom she had once thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with.

"Katie," Jessie responded finally, realizing that she had been silent for far too long as the woman to Katie's left looked at her inquisitively. Her voice cracked as she uttered the word and she felt like wincing, but controlled the urge. "I didn't know you were back in town," she continued feeling the need to get her mind off of her verbal faux pas before she started to blush.

"I haven't been," Katie replied, her eyes roaming over Jessie's face. "Not for long. I only got back two weeks ago and I haven't had time to inform the grapevine," she continued, her inspection of Jessie continuing down. She looked almost exactly the same as Katie remembered her, slightly older – which only meant that her features had become sharper and more dignified – and she was wearing new, powerful clothes, but other than that, she looked to be the same old Jessie. Expressive blue eyes, just as deep and captivating as ever, same blonde hair tied back into a ponytail, same trim body – fuller than it had been when they first met, but the same size as far as she could tell from the last time they saw each other – and the same luscious, glossy lips promising to brand somebody for life.

"Grapevine moves a lot slower now anyway," Jessie replied, feeling Katie's eyes on her and shifting uncomfortably, before carrying out her own assessment of the woman in front of her. Katie's green eyes were still sparkling with the promise of mischief, and her dirty-blonde hair remained it's natural colour – which was becoming rarer and rarer -- hanging around her shoulders loosely though it was a different style, and slightly shorter than Jessie remembered. She was dressed in a tastefully retro style that oozed simplicity and cool, but without any of the odor of effort that usually accompanied such outfits.

"Only thing that is," Katie responded her eyes flickering to the small black receiver pinned to Jessie's lapel, the evolution of cell phones. "This is Monica Mason," she said finally drawing her eyes away from Jessie and turning to face her assistant who was watching them and feeling quite out of place.

"Jessie Sammler," Jessie responded automatically smiling and extending her hand to the other woman. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"You too Ms. Sammler," Monica replied grasping Jessie's hand.

"Jessie," she corrected gently. "I imagine we'll be seeing quite a bit of each other," she continued once again knowing instinctively that Katie was studying her. When they were still together, she'd developed a kind of sixth sense that allowed her to know whenever her girlfriend's eyes were on her, she could pick Katie out in a crowded room because of it. Apparently sixth senses didn't just fade with time.

"Would you like to see it?" Katie asked, drawing Jessie's attention back over to her.

"What?" Jessie asked blinking; Katie's hands had distracted her. One of them was playing distractedly with a ring she wore on her finger, a ring Jessie recognized because she had given it to her.

"The painting," Katie replied calmly, though her hands stopped fidgeting and she placed her hands behind her back, clasping them together loosely. She knew that Jessie had seen the ring, and it embarrassed her for some reason.

"Ah, yes," Jessie replied looking up into Katie's face once the woman had placed her hands behind her back, thus ending Jessie's study of them. "I think so. Yes," she continued bending over slightly to pick up her briefcase.

"This way," Katie said waving grandly in the direction that she had come from minutes before, though it now seemed like much longer than that. "I think that you'll enjoy it."

Part 3

"No, it's alright, go ahead," Katie said looking over at her assistant. "We're almost finished here anyway. Aren't we?" she said turning her attention to Jessie, who nodded and smiled over at the girl.

"Well, alright," Monica said grateful to actually be going. It had been extremely uncomfortable being around these two for the entire day. Five seconds after Katie had introduced herself, it became apparent to her that they knew each other, but they weren't acting like any old friends that she knew, which led her to believe that they'd been more than that. Which, understandably would have made it difficult for them to be working together, still it made it uncomfortable for her too and she was glad to be getting out of there. "See you tomorrow then."

Katie merely nodded and watched as she made her way out before returning her gaze to Jessie.

"I think I actually saw smoke coming off of her feet," she commented softly, her eyes on the table top as visions of cartoon characters vanishing behind clouds of smoke washed through her brain.

"She did seem … eager," Jessie agreed her eyes resting on Katie for a moment before dropping back down to the information pad in front of her.

"Usually she doesn't shut up. Even when you ask her nicely, then tersely, then threaten her pets," Katie said conversationally, unconsciously playing with her ring again. "I think we were making her uncomfortably."

"Really?" Jessie asked still staring at the screen in front of her though she couldn't actually make anything out. A blur, everything was a blur.

"Yeah," Katie answered letting out an amused sigh. "Of course. I mean we're making me nervous and I'm one of us," she continued glancing up to look at Jessie once more.

Jessie looked up at the admission, her mouth opening as if to say something, then closing before even a syllable could escape. Instead she sat there, staring back across the table at Katie looking anxious and uncomfortable.

"I probably shouldn't say this," Katie continued sighing softly, when Jessie didn't respond. "God knows it'll just make things more uncomfortable, but … it's good to see you," she said. "Really good to see you. I didn't even … I mean I knew that I missed you, but I didn't realize how much until I saw you there and everything that I had missed was back," Katie pressed on having seen Jessie open her mouth to speak and wanting to get what she was thinking out before Jessie could interrupt her. "And, I'm just … it's just … good. To see you."

Jessie remained still for a moment after Katie finished speaking, then slowly extended her hand and pressed a button on her data pad, shutting the instrument off. Her finger lingered on the button for a moment, her eyes intensely focused on the blank screen, and then she picked it up and placed it in her briefcase, which she then carefully closed.

"The case doesn't seem to difficult, we really shouldn't have any problem here as long as the information you gave me checks out," she said standing up, picking up her blazer and draping it across her arm. "Especially with the anti-conglomerate tide lately, people are actually starting to actively care about the little guy, if only because they are the little guy," she continued picking up her briefcase. "I'm going to try and track down those names that you gave me, so if you need to reach me you should leave a message with my secretary, because I check in with her every hour or so," she went on nudging the chair in. "So, I'll see you … later," she finished turning to make her way to the door.

"Jessie," Katie said softly, her chair scraping across the floor noisily as she stood up to intercept the other woman. "Jessie," she said again resting her hand on the blonde's shoulder to get her stop.

"Please don't," Jessie said softly her voice cracking perceptively as she turned her head to look at Katie's hand.

Katie immediately removed her hand from Jessie's shoulder, but remained in the position close to Jessie's body that the gesture had allowed. "There's this place down the street, great nachos and even better margaritas," Katie started. "On me."

"Katie," Jessie said turning her head away and looking at the door across the lobby longingly.

"Just to talk," Katie replied chewing on her bottom lip, her eyes looking pleadingly into Jessie's. "I swear, I won't say anything else like," and she waved her hand dismissively to indicate their previous conversation thread, "I just, I mean we were friends. It's been awhile. I wanna know, about your life," she continued softly. "We used to be able to talk for hours."

"We used to be a lot of things," Jessie replied dropping her eyes away from Katie's. A decade and those eyes could still reach inside of her and make her heart feel like it was going to melt. She'd spent a lot of time over that decade trying very hard to make sure the consistency of her heart would never be in danger again, and she'd succeeded in protecting it from future assaults. But like most, she found that she was a slave to her past. That she was a willing subject under the command of those eyes.

"Still are some of them," Katie responded stepping back to lean against the doorway.

"Like what?" Jessie asked against her will. She didn't want to be doing this. She should have left, when Katie stepped back, she should have accepted the movement as an offer to leave and been entering the outdoors.

"Tall, for one," Katie replied smirking when Jessie turned to look at her. The smirk turning into a genuine smile when Jessie reluctantly returned it before dropping her head down and breaking their gaze. "Astounded, for another," she continued softly. "All the time, every time, whenever I'm around you."

Jessie stared at her for a moment as memories of the first time she heard those words painted themselves across her mind. Her hands tentatively running up Katie's naked torso, Katie's breathing hitching, and Katie's hand on her, exploring softly, in wonder. She remembered what Katie smelled like, the exact taste of her skin, and could remember every flutter of the girl's eyelids as her eyes instinctively closed but she fought to keep them open.

"I thought you said you weren't going to say anything like that," Jessie replied finally, shaking her head faintly to dislodge the memories.

"I meant it when I said it," Katie responded ruefully. "But I've never been in complete control of myself when it comes to you."

"I bet you say that to all the girls," Jessie said looking over at Katie, her voice and eyes completely serious.

"Never could," Katie said softly holding Jessie's eyes. "Wouldn't have been true. But I didn't need to," she continued. She'd been with other women since she and Jessie had split, a fair number of them to be perfectly honest, and even though she had always wanted them to be more, they'd only served as distractions. Something in them had called to her, a movement of their hands, or a phrase, or something that seemed extraordinary about them, that seemed interesting. But they were never as interesting as that moment promised, they were never able to hold her attention, to touch her inside. She'd only ever really given herself to one person, had only ever really known, and in return been known by one person. Jessie. She was ready to be found again, and to find in return.

"I should go," Jessie said, not really wanting to consider Katie's statement. She knew, even without being told, simply because she knew Katie, that her former girlfriend wouldn't have traveled the same path as her. Katie was a people person, she needed people around her, and Jessie knew that that meant that she would have had a constant stream of lovers. Still, she didn't want to think about it, or what her jealously at hearing it confirmed meant.

"I probably shouldn't say this, but…" Katie started.

"Then don't," Jessie said turning to look at her. "Just for once in your life don't."

"I can't," Katie replied, the words already tumbling into her mouth.

"What?" Jessie asked already knowing the answer.

"Not," Katie replied. "I meant what I said before. I've missed you more than I could ever have imagined. And I know that its been a while, and that we've both changed, but I haven't changed so much that I'm still not completely in awe of you. If I'd had my way back then, we never would have broken up…"

"I…" Jessie started defensively.

"I know. We were young and life chose for us," Katie replied halting Jessie's defense. She'd long since stopped cursing herself, and the world, and Jessie and anyone else she could think of for what happened between them. "But we're not kids anymore, we can decide for ourselves now and if you'll let me, I chose to know you again."

"I can't keep doing this," Jessie said, no longer able to hold back the tears that she had been fighting all day.

"I don't want you to," Katie said reaching out for Jessie one more time, one of her hands going to her shoulder and the other underneath her chin to tilt it back up. "Just one more time. One last time."

Jessie sniffed, turning her head out of Katie's hand and took a step back putting some space between them. It went without saying that she had missed Katie too; she'd spent the majority of her entire adult life trying not to miss Katie. After they broke up, she had shut herself off from everyone, concentrating on school and on preparing for her future, and it had eased the pain somewhat, enough to allow her to enter the real world every once in a while. And she'd met men and women on those forays, been with others, but all everyone else ever made her feel was loss. She'd gotten used to the feeling, to having an empty space in her that used to be filled with Katie. It had become a familiar void, one that she had stopped noticing years ago. But now she felt it again, she felt it filling up, and it scared her. She didn't want to fall back in love with this woman.

"So," Jessie said finally glancing over at Katie who was watching her closely. "What's this nacho and margarita place called?" she asked, straightening her back. I didn't really matter what she wanted, she hadn't had a choice the first time, and she wasn't deluded enough to think that she did now. Love would have its way, and it would burn its bridges when it was done, that was the way it worked.

"Stan's," Katie replied smiling as Jessie rolled her eyes.

"Figures," Jessie responded smiling as she shook her head. "So are we going, or do you want me to message you an invitation?" she continued cheekily quirking an eyebrow at the other woman. She remembered this game, she had missed this game.

"Meow," Katie said making a claw out of her hand and waving it in front of Jessie's face playfully as she grinned at the blonde. "After you," she said nodding towards the door.

"You're the one that knows where it is," Jessie replied stepping through the doorway and heading into the lobby nonetheless. "You should lead."

"You just want the muggers to get me first," Katie said joining Jessie in the lobby. Jessie looked over at her and smiled.

"Well, this is a new suit."

Part 4

"Well?" Katie asked expectantly, resting her elbows on the table and leaning forward.

"Ok, it's the best goddamn margarita I've ever tasted," Jessie responded as she set the glass back down on the table. "Are you happy now?" she asked looking down at her hands as she played with the little umbrella.

"Actually I am," Katie replied leaning against the back of the booth. "So 'Fox and Hayworth' that's pretty impressive," she continued watching as Jessie licked the side of her glass and took another sip, thinking that it was perhaps the luckiest glass in the entire history of mankind.

Jessie looked over at her and smiled. 'Fox and Hayworth' was a law firm that had been run by relative nobody's when she had graduated from high school, but was on it's way to becoming one of the most prestigious law firms in the state by the time she graduated from Law school. It still actually amazed her that she had actually been brought on with the insane competition that she had been up against, but she'd done well by the firm since being hired and she finally just accepted that one of the partners must have seen something in her that she hadn't known was there.

"Being represented by 'Fox and Hayworth' is pretty impressive," was how she responded however.

"I know Fox," Katie replied running a hand through her hair, smiling slightly at the thought.

"Dillon?" Jessie asked, wondering how Katie would've met the other woman. Dillon was owner Nathan Fox's daughter, tall, and beautiful with smooth skin that had been kissed by the sun. She'd met Dillon for the first time in the waiting room when she was waiting for her interview. The woman had been sprawled across three chairs lounging like a goddess and must have felt Jessie's eyes on her because she looked over at her and smiled. They'd talked until Jessie was called into the interview room, and since that day they'd seen each other socially on occasion, whether they were dates or not Jessie wasn't sure, and didn't really care. Still, she almost feared finding out how well Dillon and Katie knew each other, especially since she was aware that the firm was handling the case pro-bono, so it was obviously a favor.

"Yeah," Katie replied trying to decipher Jessie's expression and failing miserably. "She's a fan," she continued absently wondering if Jessie knew, as opposed to knew of, Dillon.

Jessie quirked a surprised eyebrow at her wondering what kind of description that was.

"Of my work," Katie continued seeing Jessie's look. "My art work," she clarified realizing what the other woman must have been thinking. "She was at my show in Madrid sometime last century," she went on feeling the need to assure Jessie that nothing had gone on between her and Dillon. The last thing that she needed what Jessie thinking that she'd slept with her boss's daughter. "We hung out together for a few days after she introduced herself. Somehow her dad's business had come up, so when I suddenly found myself in need of a lawyer I decided to give her a call."

"You must have made quite an impression," Jessie replied taking another sip from her drink as she watched Katie play with her empty glass. "I usually go for a minimum of $150 an hour."

"I guess so," Katie replied watching Jessie closely. "It's a good thing I'm so charming then, because I never would've been able to afford you," she went on lightly.

Jessie looked over at her suddenly and grinned. "I couldn't afford me," she muttered shaking her head amusedly. "So you had a show in Madrid?"

"Last century," Katie confirmed, causing Jessie to look at her inquisitively. "'06, seems like last century. Lucky for me Dillon's a jet setter or else we may never have had the opportunity to meet again," she went on seriously.

"What do you mean?" Jessie asked curiously. There was something behind Katie's eyes as she spoke, a story that she wanted to hear, that she had missed out on hearing years ago.

"The Madrid show was my last," Katie said leaning back, her fingers drumming on the tabletop. "You never did get to see one did you?" she asked thinking back, trying to remember if they had still been together for her first show. She didn't think they had.

"No," Jessie replied, her gaze wondering around the restaurant.

"Yeah, that's right," Katie responded as she remembered. Jessie had been her inspiration for the work that was displayed for her first show, her motivating impetus. But by the time everything had been arranged and the work was actually to be put on display, she and Jessie had became a 'was'.

"Maybe next time," Jessie offered, her eyes back on Katie watching her shadowed expression. Katie was always so beautiful when she was serious, when she was lost in thought, but it was a sad beauty and while Jessie had always loved to look at her when she was like that, she'd also wished to never see it each and every time.

Katie laughed softly, her eyes drifting up to catch Jessie's. "There's no next time. I'm a two hit wonder," she said softly. "And I learned from the pop explosion of our youth, that it's better to retire on top."

"You don't paint anymore?" Jessie asked surprised, stunned really. Next to herself, painting had been Katie's one real passion in high school, and the idea that she didn't do it anymore saddened her more than she knew how to express.

"No, not a lot," Katie admitted. "Not for show."

"Why?" Jessie pressed, knowing from Katie's brief replies that she'd rather have shifted the topic to something else, but knowing that whatever it was Katie wasn't saying was important simply because she didn't want to say it.

"I guess I ran out of things to say," Katie said flatly as she raised her arm to call the waiter over.

"I find that hard to believe," Jessie said as the waiter picked up Katie's empty glasses and headed back to the bar. "I've never met anybody with more to say … except for Grace."

Katie looked over, smirking at the mention of Jessie's stepsister. She considered answering the other part of Jessie's statement, but decided against it. This wasn't something that she wanted to get into tonight, it wasn't really something that was worth getting into at all.

"How is Grace?" she hedged, her left hand back to playing with the ring on her right.

"Extremely pregnant," Jessie replied smiling at the memory of her stepsister waddling into the room a week ago. "She was wearing red and I made the mistake of going 'hey hey Kool-Aid'. She was not amused. She was however, surprisingly spry."

"Hey, hey Kool-Aid?" Katie asked breaking out laughing as an image of the Kool-Aid man with Grace's head attached to the top of his body appeared in her head. "What were you thinking? Pregnant women are insane, it's common knowledge that the hormones induce serious psychotic tendencies in addition to glowing."

"Tell me about it," Jessie said rubbing her arm unconsciously. It was not a mistake she was going to make again.

"When Jason's wife was pregnant, I commented on her muumuu and she kicked me. It left a scar, and I'm not just talking emotionally," Katie replied shaking her head at the memory.

Jessie knew from conversations they'd had in high school that Jason was Katie's second oldest brother. She had three of them, all older than her, but Jessie hadn't gotten a chance to know them as well as Katie knew Grace, Eli and Zoë, because they had all moved out in some form another by the time they'd started going out.

"So, ah, how did that happen anyway?" Katie asked as the waiter dumped a Mexican Mudslide in front of her before scurrying off once more.

"Surely you don't need a diagram?" Jessie replied, knowing that's not what Katie was talking about, but wanting to bother her nonetheless.

"No," Katie said playing with her straw. "I may not be familiar with the specifics myself, but I have HBO," she continued smiling over at Jessie. "I meant Grace and Eli."

"Nobody knows, time?" Jessie replied shaking her head thinking about her brother and stepsisters relationship. "Before the whole Dimitri drama she'd been flirting with him, usually with me sitting in between them getting new material for therapy," Jessie added darkly. "But once Dimitri left, I didn't really notice anything going on between them anymore. Though I was distracted at the time, so maybe that's not saying much," she continued sharing a soft look with Katie before continuing. "I'm convinced it happened when they decided to live together after Grace's second year, to ah, save on costs," Jessie said winking.

"That's wild," Katie replied shaking her head. "I couldn't believe it when Tad told me. Ever the jackass, he called me up yelling 'Grace Manning is doing her brother'. I nearly passed out … of course that was because as a result of the static I heard had 'mother'," she went on raising her straw to her lips, lowering the drink to avoid choking when she started to laugh at the face Jessie made.

"Mind boggling as it may be, I think they've turned out to be good for each other," Jessie replied, choosing not to dwell on Katie's last statement. That was just not a place she wanted to go, even in jest.

"Hmmm," Katie replied thoughtfully. "Never can tell with love."

"So are you going to tell me or not," Jessie asked wanting to keep their conversation as far away from discussions of love as possible.

"Tell you what?" Katie asked thoroughly confused.

"Why you stopped painting?" Jessie replied, placing her little umbrella into her now empty glass.

"Some peoples stars are only meant to burn temporarily," Katie responded with a sigh, leaning against the back of the booth wearily. "I stopped being able to do what I had done before, and I chose to have what I had accomplished when I was able to do it remembered instead of dying a slow, critically panned death," she continued. Her first show had been hailed in Europe for the intensity of the emotion that lay behind every stroke, in conjunction with the innocence the works exuded, sometimes playful, sometimes heartbreakingly raw, and sometimes hauntingly pure. And the Madrid show had been hailed for the intensity of emotion too, only this time the critics had been impressed with the darkness and desperation of the works. The heartbreaking bitterness and desolation of it had drawn them in and captivated them with its scarred beauty. It came from a place of pure, unadulterated pain and the contrast between the two shows had given her a reputation of being complex and enigmatic, her consequent retirement only adding to it. In the art world she became pitied and revered.

"That's … perfectly reasonable," Jessie said in response, knowing that there was more to it than that, but deciding to leave Katie in peace for the moment. Whatever it was the other woman was thinking she didn't want Jessie to know, and Jessie would respect that because there were certain things she knew that she wouldn't want to tell Katie about herself yet either.

"Karen must be happy," Katie commented a few minutes later, once the silence they had lapsed into began to become oppressive. "To have her little girl following in her footsteps," she continued trailing her finger down the side of her glass restlessly.

"She says I should have become a teacher," Jessie replied smiling at the memory of her mother's reaction to the news that she wanted to go to law school. "She said she hated the thought of me becoming horribly dry and boring like everyone that she worked with."

"I miss your mom," Katie responded smiling softly at Jessie's response. She could picture Karen saying that, could almost see the teasing smile on her face.

"Is there anybody you don't miss?" Jessie asked, smiling at Katie as she asked to let the other woman know she was only joking around.

"Sarah," Katie responded seriously, earning a grin from Jessie. "And every guy on the football, basketball and baseball team who made a comment about your ass."

"I thought you were still friends with Tad," Jessie commented teasingly.

"Yes, but I accepted the fact that he was an obtuse idiot sometime in third grade, so I can't really complain about him with a clear conscious," Katie replied blinking rapidly, before bringing a hand up to rub at her eyes tiredly.

"I think that's our cue for the check," Jessie commented watching Katie and fighting back the urge to follow her lead by distracting herself with waving for the waiter. Glancing at her watch she saw that they had been there for over three hours, even though it felt as if they had just arrived.

Katie opened her mouth as if to protest, but then closed it again realizing Jessie was right. "Thank god one of us has a voice that's at least partly composed of reason," she said finally, snatching the bill away from Jessie who had reached out to look at it.

"You know I didn't come here tonight to scam free drinks," Jessie commented upon having the bill ripped out of her hands.

"Why did you come here tonight?" Katie asked curiously as she reached into her purse. She spewed out her reasons for wanting to come hours ago, but Jessie had remained quiet on the subject.

"Because I missed you too," Jessie responded simply.

Katie looked up at her and smiled. "Are you going to give me the number for your phone, or do I really have to talk to your secretary?" she asked as the waiter picked up the bill and they stood to leave.

"Thanks for the … lovely evening," Jessie said heading towards the door. "And please, drive carefully."

"I'll give you a ride, a careful ride," Katie replied, placing her feet together and touching her nose with the tip of her finger.

"Maybe some other time," Jessie responded not quiet ready to deal with having to deal with Katie at her doorstep. "I'll call you tomorrow."

And with that Katie watched Jessie disappear through the clear doorway then reached down for her keys, a lazy smile spreading across her face. The day had turned out better than she had expected, and the rest of the week wasn't looking so bad either.

Part 5

2002 – Evanston, Illinois

Katie sighed deeply, rolling her head to the side and letting it hang there limply for a few seconds before mustering up the energy to straighten her neck up again. She was still for a moment longer, and then she brought her right hand up to face and rubbed at her eyes wearily, sighing once again.

"It's not like I'm dying," she said softly turning to face Jessie. "I wouldn't have…I didn't…they're making me go," she continued dropping her head back down.

"I know," Jessie said drawing her legs up and wrapping her arms around them, squeezing them into her body protectively. "It just feels like…"

"I know," Katie interjected restlessly, uncurling her long limbs and standing up. "I know, I know, I know," she repeated touchily jumping up and down on the spot. "I know," she finished moving to sit back down beside Jessie.

Jessie looked over at her, not at all surprised by her girlfriends outburst. Katie had a tendency to just spontaneously erupt into motion whenever she was forced to stay still for too long, like the enormous amounts of energy that her body produced just had to vent a little or she'd go crazy. Usually it manifested itself, in dance moves – like that day they had waltzed through the hallways—or humorous kung fu demonstrations, and other times like just now Jessie wished she had a foam bat that she could give to her so that she could really let off some steam.

"It's just going to be different, that's all," Katie said finally, her eyes drifting over to Jessie.

"I know," Jessie murmured, her chin still resting on her knees as her eyes scanned the darkness of the Manning backyard. "Different," she continued softly, her eyes closing. She didn't want things to be different she liked things the way there were. Whenever something 'different' had ever occurred in her life, it was always a bad 'different'. It was just a more pleasant way of being told that you could kiss the things you liked goodbye.

Katie turned her head away from Jessie and tipped it up looking at the stars above, inhaling deeply. She didn't want this anymore than Jessie did. She liked things the way they were, and if she had gotten to choose she would've kept things the way they were, but she didn't get to choose. She had told her parents that she didn't want to apply to schools out of state, let alone out of the country, but it had been a family tradition to attend university in the United Kingdom. Her fathers side of the family had come from there, and been born and breed there, and her brothers had all gone, at least for their undergraduate degrees. So, once St. Andrew's had accepted her, there was no chance of her not going unless she wanted to be disowned and end up living in a box somewhere downtown.

"I'm sorry," Jessie said a moment later drawing Katie's attention back over to her.

"For what?" Katie asked curiously wondering if she had missed part of Jessie's statement.

"I know I'm being an ass about this," she replied knowing that being sullen and feeling sorry for herself wasn't helping the situation any.

"You're not being an ass," Katie said reaching over and taking her hand, squeezing it lightly. "But even if you were you wouldn't have to apologize for it," she continued dropping her eyes. "I know this sucks, I know that."

"I just," Jessie started shifting closer to Katie. "I can't imagine what it's going to be like not being able to see you everyday, or call you whenever I want, or run over to your house on 'pie night' to avoid becoming 'crinkly crust' girl," she continued resting her head on Katie's shoulder as the dirty blonde wrapped an arm around her waist.

"I know," Katie responded simply, rather at a loss as to what else she could say. She would miss seeing Jessie everyday too, and calling and being called whenever the whim hit them. She'd miss having Jessie run over to her house to escape whatever obtuse torture was being inflicted upon her at her homes, and she'd miss getting to hang out with Jessie's families since they'd become like an extension of her own. She was over at the Manning house so much that she literally had a chair with her name on it, and at Karen's house there was a cupboard that the woman had stocked with all the foods Katie liked for when she came over. This was her life, and she didn't want to leave it.

Jessie shifted in Katie's arms, moving around until she was kneeling in front of her girlfriend, and then reached down and picked up Katie's hands holding them in hers tightly.

"I need to be with you," she said softly, her eyes never leaving Katie's.

"Your parents are home," Katie said her eyes flickering towards the house momentarily before returning to Jessie's.

Jessie was silent for a moment as she considered the truth of Katie's statement, her eyes clouding over as she thought before they finally cleared as she focused on Katie once more. "You brought your car didn't you?"

"Yeah," Katie responded slowly, her mind taking a second to catch onto what Jessie was suggesting. "You're not serious?" she continued smiling as she looked at Jessie's twinkling eyes.

"Yes," Jessie responded leaning forward so that her mouth was right next to Katie's ear. "I am."

"Do you want to drive somewhere or … " Katie started to ask as Jessie stood up offering her hand to her.

"Take to long," Jessie replied simply holding onto Katie's hand and leading them over to the side of the garage where Katie had parked.

"Ok," Katie agreed smiling, more than happy to let Jessie led the way. "But I get to be Kate Winslet."

Part 6


"I need those papers," Dillon said tersely. "An hour. No, you've got an hour. You were supposed to have them last night, I don't have time for this shit Bill. I'm not a fucking humanitarian, if I'm going down I'm gonna claw viciously at you until you're bloody, broken carcass is right there beside me … and then I'm going to get mad," she continued waving briefly to Jessie as she the blonde entered her office. "Ten o'clock. I mean it. End," she finished throwing open the door to Jessie's office and plunking herself down onto on of her chairs.

"You really aren't a morning person are you?" Jessie asked having caught most of the other woman's conversation on her way in.

"I've made no secret of that," Dillon replied absently, her attention mostly focused on the cup of coffee Jessie had just placed on her desk.

"Touch it and I'll kill you," Jessie replied seeing the other woman's look and knowing without a doubt what was going through her mind.

"Fine," Dillon sighed leaning back. "How's the charity case going?"

"You didn't tell me she was a friend of yours," Jessie commented, her full attention on Dillon now that she had brought up Katie's case.

"Why would I have?" Dillon asked, "You knew it had to be a favor."

"You didn't know did you?" Jessie asked her attention focused on Dillon. The other woman had a tendency to be blasé on the cusp of flippant most of the time, which meant that you had to watch her carefully to get any sort of reading on how she actually felt about something.

"Know what?" Dillon asked looking at Jessie shrewdly.

"Why didn't you take it? If she's a friend of yours?" Jessie asked.

"Your docket was clear, and I'm on the Falk case. My dad did me favor by putting this one on tab, but he's not a saint. Falk would've chewed serious ass if I'd dedicated anything less than one hundred percent of my attention to him, so shipped it on over to you," Dillon replied leaning forward. "Why is there a problem?"

"No, it's just … we know each other," Jessie replied sighing and leaning back herself. "I was just wondering if that's why I got the case."

"You know each other," the other woman repeated to herself. "No, I didn't know that," continued her eyes back on Jessie. "That's right, she's from Evanston too," she went on. "High School?"

Jessie simply nodded wanting to get the subject off of Katie now. Dillon was starting to dig and she didn't want to talk about it. She'd seen the other woman carry out cross-examinations and wanted to avoid being on the other end of one if it was at all possible.

"You were friends," Dillon continued when Jessie didn't verbally reply. "That's obvious because you assumed that I may have given the case to you because Katie could have mentioned you. What isn't obvious is why…" she continued only to be interrupted by a beeping sound near her shoulder. "Fox," she said her eyes clouding over as she concentrated on the voice coming through the receiver. "Alright, I'll be right there. End," she said standing up. "So we'll continue the inquisition later?" she asked Jessie with a smile as she backed up towards the door.

"Not if I can manage to avoid you," Jessie replied not bothering to look over at her. "As usual."

"You say the sweetest things," Dillon murmured and then she was gone.

Jessie let out a relieved sigh and flicked her briefcase open. She needed to get to work because she wanted to be out of the office by the time Dillon finished whatever it was she had been called off to do. At least that's what she told herself even though a voice at the back of her head insisted on nagging that possibly she just wanted something legitimate to call Katie about.

Part 7

2002 – Evanston, Illinois

Katie felt the button to her jeans pop loose then Jessie's hands on her hips slipping underneath to guide the material down. She didn't know how Jessie planned to get them off or even if she planned to get them off with the position they were in, but she decided to let Jessie worry about that as she lifted her lips from where they had been attached to Jessie's neck up to her lips, kissing her as she felt Jessie struggle with the material.

"Fucking jeans," Jessie muttered bitterly as she pulled her mouth away from Katie, lowering her eyes to glare at the material in question. "Fucking backseat."

"When did you become such a potty mouth?" Katie asked playfully before raising her head up to look at Jessie's face, surprised to find tears streaming down her cheeks. "Hey," she said her smile gone now replaced with a look of concern as she reached up to wipe away the tear tracks marring Jessie's feature.

"We need to switch," Jessie said a moment later, turning her head to the side slightly to break the gaze Katie had initiated as she stroked her face.

"What?" Katie asked still looking down at Jessie concerned. She'd seen Jessie cry tears of happiness before and knew that these weren't them.

"We should switch positions," Jessie said beginning to struggle, trying to maneuver herself so that she would be propped up over Katie.

"Billie," Katie said softly, placing an ineffective hand on Jessie's shoulder to try and stop her from moving. "Jessie," she repeated when the girl continued to try and move. "I think we're just going to have to accept the fact, the movies lie and the backseat is really no place to get some loving."

Jessie sighed, falling back against the seat of the car, Katie was right of course. "Fine, let's drive somewhere," she said her eyes flickering back up to Katie's.

"Jessie," Katie started to say, the word drawn out in a protesting manner.

"I need to …" Jessie began to reply knowing where Katie was going with her statement and really, desperately not wanting to hear it.

"Jessie…" Katie started to say again, shaking her head slightly. She knew that her girlfriend was being so adamant about this because she was afraid of …

"I don't want to lose you."

"I thought we had this talk already?" Katie said focusing on Jessie once more, quirking an eyebrow at her for good measure.

"Don't," Jessie warned turning her head away from Katie. She really couldn't deal with her girlfriends inappropriate sense of humor at the moment.

"I'm sorry," Katie a moment later, her head hanging down pathetically as the words came out of her mouth. "I'm sorry," she repeated seriously. She didn't mean to make inappropriate comments at the worst possible time imaginable it just seemed to happen. Her mother said that she used humor as a defensive mechanism, and she was inclined to agree with her, the thing was that didn't want to or need to be defended from Jessie. "There's a motel ten minutes away from here."

"It's not the one your parents went to is it?" Jessie asked smiling up at Katie.

"That could never be a possibility," Katie replied. "And I should note that if you weren't so incredibly sexy that comment would have totally ruined the moment," she continued making a face.

"Billie," Jessie said softly a moment later drawing Katie's full attention back to her. "I love you," she continued once she found those sparkling green eyes on her again. And with that she leaned up bringing their lips together tenderly, another tear or two slipping free from behind her eyelids.

"And I love you," Katie replied simply once they pulled apart. "More than air," she went on dropping a quick kiss on Jessie's lips. "More than summer," she said kissing Jessie again on the cheek. "More than when daylight savings time gives us an extra hour of sleep," she continued kissing Jessie's nose this time. "More than anything in existence," she finished bringing their lips together once more.

Part 8


"Ms. … Jessie's on the phone," said Monica's voice over the intercom startling Katie out of whatever haze she had fallen into. Clicking the caterer's menu off, she opened the link to the videophone.

"Hey," she said after a running a hand through her hair. A moment later she realized she hadn't really needed to since the other side of the screen remained blank, Jessie must have been on her cell phone.

"Hey," Jessie replied sounding rather distracted. "I've been … I mean I've got some information that you might like to hear," she continued before Katie could say anything. "It's …" she said stopping to let out a weary sigh before continuing. "Listen, how do you feel about lunch?"

"We're quite comfortable with each other, despite what you may have heard," Katie replied trying not to sound as inordinately happy at hearing the invitation as she was feeling. "What time?"

"How about the Mongolian House in half an hour," Jessie suggested shaking her head at Katie's first comment. The woman had always had some comment she just had to make, it had amused her endlessly in high school, and it apparently still did because she was smiling.

"I'll be there," Katie responded immediately. "Drive safe."

"I always have," Jessie replied pointedly but teasingly. "I'll see you in half an hour then. End."

Katie leaned back in her chair staring at the still empty screen thoughtfully. She could swear that her palms were slightly damp, and her stomach was most definitely tensing. But it was in a good way. It was a good tense and sweaty. It was a Jessie tense and sweaty. She'd felt it when she gave Jessie that Billie Holiday CD in the hallway and Jessie had turned to stare at her with happily surprised shining eyes. She felt it when she told Jessie that she 'chose' her and took her hand encouraging her to listen to the rain. She'd felt it that afternoon in the attic when Jessie had whispered that she wanted to keep her letter forever. She'd felt it when Jessie whispered 'can I?' that summer afternoon in her bedroom. She'd felt it a million times with Jessie in the past and for the first time since they had broken up she felt it again. And even though the more she thought about the more scared, anxious -- scanxious if you will -- and slightly sick she began to feel, she realized that she wouldn't have had it any other way.


"…so, basically even though I'm not supposed to do this I'm going to guarantee you that we'll win," Jessie finished as she picked up glass, her eyes flickering over to Katie. "Did you hear a word I just said?" Jessie asked noticing the other woman's unfocused expression.

"You think the Yankees are going to win," Katie replied crossing her mental fingers.

"That's most defiantly not what I said," Jessie replied leaning against the back of her chair and crossing her arms. "I'm not repeating that whole conversation," she continued noting Katie's chastised expression.

"Why don't you just give me the gist of it?" Katie suggested trying not to smile at the position Jessie had taken up. She'd seen Karen take up the exact same pose dozens of times in the past and she found it amazingly charming that Jessie had unconsciously picked up the same mannerism.

"We're going to win," Jessie responded rolling her eyes and leaning forward once more her hand grasping the fork that she'd left resting in her bowl.

"Where'd you get that scar?" Katie asked her attention focused on Jessie's hand. On the back of her right hand was a pale, half moon shaped scar that she'd never seen before.

"What scar?" Jessie asked curiously, looking over at Katie who merely nodded her head towards her hand. Jessie let go of her fork, and turned her hand around so that she could see the whole thing, her eyes finally landing on the mark in question. "Humph," she exhaled her left index finger migrating over to her right hand to trace the line of the scar. "I…" she started to say uncertainly, trying to track down the memory. "Oh yeah, I was helping Grace and Eli move into their prize deathtrap, I mean 'fix her upper'," she continued rolling her eyes in memory of the suburban spread the couple had bought. "My hand caught on a nail that was sticking out of one of the walls."

Katie nodded, her eyes never leaving Jessie's.

"It's not really an interesting story," Jessie said a moment later, not really sure what to make of the fact that Katie had asked her about a barely visible scar, let alone the fact that she actually seemed interested in the answer.

"I think it is," Katie replied finally releasing Jessie from her gaze, her hand picking up her napkin and playing with it distractedly.

"Why?" Jessie asked watching Katie's movement and finding them oddly soothing.

"Because it's about you," Katie replied quietly, but more than loudly enough for Jessie to clearly make her out.

"Oh," Jessie responded, her eyes dropping to the tabletop.

"I've got a scar on my wrist," Katie said resting her arm on the table and turning it around to the underside so that Jessie could see. Just below where her thumb muscle there was a slight discolouration and crinkling of her skin.

"What happened?" Jessie asked reigning in the urge to reach over and trace Katie's scar as she had done with her own.

"Tar," Katie replied, smiling as Jessie looked up at her questioningly. "I was working on a piece that I was using hot tar for, and this mouse ran across the floor and scared the shit out of me. The ladle I'd been holding kind of jerked up and tar went flying into the air, some landed on my wrist," she explained shaking her head. "It was strange, because I let it sit there for a second before I tried to get it off of me. I remember just looking at it thinking that it should hurt and wondering why it wasn't before the painful burning sensation set in and I did my best imitation of a chicken with its head cut off."

Jessie smiled. "I'm sorry."

"No you're not," Katie replied returning the smile. "You're thinking 'what an idiot, she got exactly what she deserved'," Katie continued watching Jessie closely. "And you find the mental image my description brought up highly amusing."

Jessie's smile slowly faded at that, her expression turning thoughtful. "Pretty much," she conceded considering Katie carefully. The other woman was still able to read her like a book, and she knew from their previous meeting that she was still able to read Katie pretty well herself. It seemed strange to her that after all this time and as much as they had changed, that they should be able to still know each other. "How'd you know?" Jessie asked a moment later.

"Same way I knew I could ask you if you felt like you fit anywhere in the school," Katie responded her expression now reflective as well. "I mean, it's pretty much always been like that between us hasn't it?" she continued. Her statement may have been vague, but she knew that Jessie would know what she was talking about. Ever since they had met they had seemed to just understand things about the other, just knew how to interpret comments and gestures correctly, they were just able to read what was in each other's eyes.

"Um…knowing," Jessie responded with a soft smile.

"I, ah, have wanted to ask you something, for going on twelve years now though," Katie said watching as Jessie looked over at her.

"What?" Jessie asked curious about what Katie could have possibly kept quiet about for twelve minutes let alone twelve years. Self-restraint had never been her former-girlfriends claim to fame.

"Were you really surprised? When you read my letter?" she asked, her eyes focused on her fidgeting hands. Jessie's reaction to the letter had always confused her, especially considering what had happened later in the attic, considering the fact that she had liked her back. She felt a connection with Jessie instantly, as she had listened to her belt out that song on stage in the auditorium, and while throughout the weeks there had been looks and touches that she could have classified as meaning more, she had never wanted to because she hadn't thought that she could have taken it if she was wrong, and Jessie had turned away from her. But that day, when they had snuck out of school and escaped away to Jessie's bedroom, as they lay there on the bed Katie had undeniably felt something, a two way something. And to this day, she was certain that if Lily hadn't walked in on them she would've kissed Jessie, and that Jessie would've let her. Which was why the blonde's reaction to the letter had always confused her.

"Yeah," Jessie responded shaking her head. "Although I guess I shouldn't have been. I probably wouldn't have been in a few more weeks if Grace had just kept her mouth shut but…"

"Grace?" Katie asked. "She read the letter?" she continued thinking that she really should have folded it a couple more times or something.

"No," Jessie said shaking her head. "She … we were talking about the GSA and she was going on about how people she thought should join probably wouldn't. Like your friend, Katie, she said," Jessie continued shaking her head in embarrassment as she went along. "What, I demanded stupidly, cause you see I was shocked. 'Well she's gay,' she responded like I'd asked her to pass the salt. What, I demanded again. I was still shocked you see," Jessie went on not daring to look over at Katie. "Anyway, to make a long and embarrassing story short, I'd never considered the possibility. I mean I knew how I felt about you was different, but I really never even thought about possibly, hypothetically thinking about the possibility that it could be possible for me to maybe having classified these feelings as somewhere in the vicinity of romantic."

"I see," Katie responded quietly.

"But the more I read your letter, the more it all started to make sense," Jessie continued oblivious to Katie's quiet interjection of support. "It's just … you know I remain confident that if we'd had a few more incidences like the time Lily caught us skipping, I would have figured it out. But, yeah, I mean I was actually surprised by the letter. In a good way."

Katie smiled over at her, and then they lapsed into silence for a moment before she finally spoke. "Do you like ballet?"

"What?" Jessie asked thinking to herself that she had finally located where she had picked up the propensity to abruptly change topics with no warning whatsoever.

"I've got tickets for Thursday night," Katie started shifting in her seat. "That was my subtle way of asking if you wanted to come. With me … that is," she continued mentally rolling her eyes at her stupidity. She'd asked dozens of women out on dates before and managed to remain unflustered yet, now after a decade of practice she was getting all stutter-y about it.

"Are you asking me out on a date?" Jessie asked looking over at the flustered other woman.

"Badly, but yes," Katie replied finally raising her eyes up to look at Jessie.

"Who was the other ticket for?" Jessie asked once Katie's eyes had met hers.

Katie blinked in surprise. She certainly hadn't been expecting that one.

"They were a gallery warming gift," she said finally. "I was thinking about putting an ad out for an escort, but then you came along and I figured that I'd rather just pay for dinner," she continued wincing internally as Jessie simply stared at her in response. Smooth, Singer, insinuate she slightly better than a whore, that'll win her over. "I mean the other ticket wasn't for anyone. I wasn't even going to go. But then of all the galleries, in all the world you had to walk into mine and suddenly the ballet isn't looking so bad if you're sitting next to me," she finished looking over at Jessie, her eyes pleading for forgiveness.

Jessie sighed and turned her head away. "If you break my heart I'll kill you," she said softly as she turned her head back around to look at Katie.

"If I break your heart you won't have to," the other woman replied with the utmost seriousness.

"How does one dress for the ballet?" Jessie asked breaking their gaze, feeling somewhat more at ease now that she had settled herself to the idea of exploring whatever it was that there was between them even if it left it broken and bitter with an irrational longing for more than three cats.

"Spiffily," Katie replied.

"Is that even a real word?" Jessie asked looking over at her, a small smile appearing on her face.

"It is," Katie declared proudly. "I looked it up."

"I can't believe I'm going to the ballet with someone who looked 'spiffily' up in the dictionary," Jessie responded shaking her head. Katie Singer, she thought to herself. God, she had missed this woman.

Part 9

2003 – Katie's Dorm Room

"Seriously," Katie half yelled, half laughed. "Get out of here!" she continued pushing the lump of human lying on top of her off. "Ugh!" she grunted feeling another body land on top of her. "How did you interpret 'get out of here' to mean 'come on everyone join in?'" she asked testily pushing on the bodies covering her. "Seriously, this is long distance."

"Long distance?" Bob asked his eyes popping out of his head feigning amazement. "J, did you hear that? It's long distance!"

"No," Julia gasped bringing her hand to her mouth. "Long distance?"

"Long distance," Bob confirmed seriously.

"Get out!" Katie screeched throwing her pillow at them.

"I live here," Julia pointed out.

"Which'll make it so much easier for me to get back at you if you don't leave," Katie responded smiling at her.

"Fine. We're gone, we're gone," Julia responded ushering Bob out of the room and closing the door.

"Who was that?" Jessie asked when she heard Katie exhale into the receiver.

"Bob and Julia," she responded smiling at the thought of the two of them as annoying as they were. "She's my roommate, and he's some random guy that was opening all of the girls doors trying to catch us naked, then going 'you're not Jessica' to make us think that he was actually looking for someone," she continued.

"That's…pervy," Jessie replied letting her head drop down onto her pillow. Katie sounded happy, she was glad that Katie sounded happy, even if she was happy without her.

"Pretty much, we've decided to lock the door at night, a missed kegger or two is worth keeping the place and anti-bob zone," Katie responded flipping onto her back and staring up at the ceiling happily. "It's good to hear your voice."

"You sound like you've been having a good time," Jessie commented playing with the bottom of the material of her shirt.

"It's been wild," Katie agreed. "The moment I stepped out of the van, you know from the airport, this crazy bald headed guy came running up to me yelling and pointing in like three different directions at once, and then things started to get weird. I feel like I haven't had a chance to breath," she continued shaking her head at the memory. Everything was like a blur. "And everyone's so British. Billie, we had tea. In a tearoom!" she exclaimed.

Jessie laughed, Katie's excitement drawing her in making her genuinely excited too. "Earle Grey?" she asked.

"I have no idea," Katie replied. "If it's not Red Rose, I'm totally lost," she went on shaking her head.

"What's your roommate like?" Jessie asked, picturing some tall, tanned model looking thing ready to pounce on her sweet, oblivious girlfriend. She already hated the girl.

"She seems cool enough. She's from Scotland so she sounds like a Fisherman's Friend commercial, but it's cool. She knows where all the nearby art galleries and stuff are and said she'd show me around," Katie replied staring down towards the foot of her bed. The wall of her closet was right by the foot of her bed so she'd tacked up a blown up picture of Jessie smiling on a swing set that she'd taken. "You know what she says?" Katie asked a moment later staring at the picture.

"What?" Jessie asked with a touch of trepidation, she really didn't want Katie to already be telling her what some other chick 'says'. She really didn't.

"She says you're hot," Katie related wickedly as she smiled.

"What?" Jessie asked laughing at Katie's tone.

"When she saw the gigantic, humungous, gargantuan picture of you if have tacked to my wall and she asked who the hottie was," Katie replied proudly. "She says I'm very lucky to have you. She stressed the very, a lot though. Do you think that's just how they do it in Scotland, or was she hinting at something?"

"You didn't get nervous and tell her that baby story did you?" Jessie asked knowingly.

"Maybe. So what? That's a good story," Katie replied not liking Jessie's tone.

"Sure it is," Jessie replied, thinking about the story and that Julia was right. Katie was lucky to have her; she was the only person in like the entire world who found that story amusing.

"I know what that 'sure it is' means," Katie said playfully. "I wish you could see this place Billie, it's amazing. There's this great old building on the West side of campus, and we snuck up on the roof, and the whole time we were up there, I was just thinking how perfect it would be up there at night. Me, you and Billie Holiday."

"It sounds amazing," Jessie said thinking that the most amazing thing that had happened at Sinclair in the past week was that the lockers on the bottom floor got repainted. "So have you seen Bill yet?" she asked needing to change the topic.

"No, but I'll be sure to call him that if we ever run into each other. I'm sure he'll find it charming," Katie replied laughing. "You know how you thought Evanston was small? Well you should see this place, I swear the whole town only has like 16,000 people even though everyone keeps telling me it's a 'city'," she continued shaking her head at the memories of the Scots getting their panties in a twist over it. "In like two weeks I'll probably know everyone. I swear I've been to baseball games with more people."

"I see you and hyperbole have become close friends since your move," Jessie commented, her eyes closing.

"Become?" Katie asked jokingly.

"Shut up," Jessie responded smiling though it faded almost as soon as it appeared. "It's so weird, you haven't been gone 48 hours and I feel like I haven't seen you in forever."

"Plus one," Katie joked though her tone was serious. "I know. It's like it's real now."

"Yeah," Jessie said her mind racing back to everything she had heard since she had picked up the phone. Katie talking about her flight, and the van ride, and the Inn her parents were staying at, and her new friends, and her new school. She felt like she was missing out on this huge part of Katie's life and they hadn't even been separated for a whole week. What would she be missing next week, next month? It hurt her heart to think about all the things they would be experiencing without each other, almost more than she could bear. "I miss you."

"I miss you too Jess," Katie sighed, her eyes drifting back to Jessie's picture. "I miss you too."

Part 10


Jessie glanced down at her hand, which was being firmly held by Katie's, as they made their way down the hallway to her apartment. Katie had been distracted by something in the lobby and had missed the elevator arriving and turned around just in time to grasp Jessie's hand and have the other woman pull her in. After that she hadn't let go, and Jessie hadn't said anything about it.

"Well, I suppose this is where I say goodnight and sleep tight," Katie said as they came to a stop in front of a door, regretfully letting go of Jessie's hand.

"Why don't you come in," Jessie said keying her code into the small box by the door. "For a nightcap."

"You can mix drinks too?" Katie asked, trying to hide her surprise at actually being invited in. After the first night they had met up, she hadn't even been sure if her offer to drop Jessie off at her building would've been accepted.

"I was thinking more along the lines of coffee," Jessie said with a smile as she stepped inside. "Welcome to my humble abode."

"It's certainly a nice abode," Katie said as Jessie called for the lights. "But not so much humble," she continued handing her coat to Jessie. "You've got a lovely home."

"Thanks," Jessie said, pleased that Katie was pleased. "Give me a minute to put a pot on and I'll give you the tour."

"Done," Katie said walking into the living room.

Jessie leaned forward slowly closing the distance between them before bringing their lips together, her eyes fluttering closed at the first contact of their lips. She remembered these lips, their taste, their feel, and she got a reminder in the miraculous power they had to turn her entire body into a pile of gelatinous mush as Katie leaned forward increasing the contact the between, drawing Jessie onto her lap.

Jessie moaned slightly, her hands coming to rest at the side of Katie's face, holding her head steady as she deepened the kiss, pressing forward as she felt Katie's hands come to rest on her waist.

"You should go," Jessie said when the need for oxygen finally pulled them apart.

"But you," Katie started to say looking more than a little confused.

"I know," Jessie replied slipping back onto the couch. "But still."

"Okay," Katie said looking as confused as ever but standing up to go nonetheless.

"Katie," Jessie said standing up along with her, carefully studying the other woman.

"Yes," Katie replied tentatively, having lost the grip she had on whatever was happening tonight, and not wanting to screw up any progress they may have made.

"Why do you put up with my shit?" Jessie asked her tone slightly awed.

"I'm afraid that you've lost me," Katie commented. "That wasn't Irish coffee was it?"

"With my reaction to the letter, and to going to the dance, and to Sarah, and you going overseas, and…" Jessie said rambling off incidents were her behavior had been confounding to her, and even more so for Katie, but which the other woman had just accepted in stride, most of the time not even batting an eyelash at her nonsensical reactions.

"I get it," Katie said halting the trail of words coming out of her mouth. "And the answer, cheesy as it may sound, is because you're worth it. I mean I know I have my own personality quirks," she continued, quickly adding, "and please don't take that as an opportunity to list them all. So, even though I sometimes found, find, your behavior incomprehensible," she went on smiling a bit, "I'm really okay with it."

Jessie stepped forward, her eyes holding Katie's as she closed the distance between them, and then she brought their lips together once more, gently exploring Katie's mouth, with a tender leisureliness she hadn't experienced since high school.

"I'm going," Katie said when they pulled part. "I'm going. Will I see you tomorrow?" she asked hovering by the door.

"You didn't check your mail before we left did you?" Jessie asked smiling. She was in the know about something.

"No," Katie responded wondering what Jessie was in the know about.

"Well, then whether you see me or not is entirely up to you," she replied. "Drive…"

"Safely, I know," Katie replied. "You're worse than my mother," and with that she was gone.

Jessie sighed shaking her head thinking that the situation was even more complicated than it was in high school and not knowing how that could be at all possible considering the den of complexity their relationship had been back then. Then she smiled, because she was never so happy to have absolutely no idea what was going on.

Part 11

"Late as always," Dillon greeted grasping Katie's hand and pulling her unceremoniously into the apartment. "Luckily for you, you manage to make it fashionable."

"Luck has nothing to do with it," Katie replied flinging her coat at the other woman with a wink. The apartment was filled with the sounds of voices, laughter and music. It sounded like a good party, she was almost sorry she had been late.

"Please," Dillon said rolling her eyes. "You still haven't figured out how to set your watch properly," she said motioning for Katie to follow her into the other room.

"What is properly?" Katie asked in a faux philosophical tone, smiling as Dillon batted her on the arm. "What's the party for anyway, I know it's good to have me back in Chicago but…"

"Shut up. It's not for you," Dillon replied. "It's for me. It's all about me, me, me," she continued whisking two glasses off of a nearby waiter's tray and handing one to Katie. "Paid for by … not me," she went on cheerily. "Mr. Falk is now a very rich man thanks to me, it's the least he could do."

"Any reason to throw a good party, right?" Katie asked laughing. Back in Spain Dillon had been the only person able to keep up with her, it amazed her that the other woman had seemingly been able to keep it up and hold on to her original liver.

"Ah, sarcasm, so nice to see you too, K," Dillon said leading her over to the kitchen where a congregation of people had gathered. "I'm bored of talking to you know, bug your lawyer," she finished dropping Katie off by Jessie's side and fluttering away into the crowd.

"I've never been to one of her parties before," Jessie commented watching Dillon flutter off. "It doesn't bring out the best side of her personality."

"Her personality has a best side?" Katie asked looking over at Jessie, thinking that there were no words in the English language to describe how utterly delectable the blonde looked. Dressed up, dressed down, barely dressed, whatever the occasion Jessie always looked great.

"Vicious," the man beside Jessie commented, drawing Katie's attention over to him. "I like that in a woman," he continued extending his hand.

"Bryan Winters, Kathryn Singer," Jessie introduced as Katie grasped the man's hand shaking firmly.

"Singer," he repeated before smiling. "Ah, the creator of Dillon's fetish for mangos," he said causing Katie to look over at Jessie questioningly. The blonde merely shrugged, but before Katie could ask Bryan what he meant by that he continued talking. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

Katie was about to delve into her grab bag of small talk, when a voice coming from somewhere in the apartment started calling the Bryan and he gracefully excused himself.

"So, you made it," Jessie commented popping a cherry into her mouth as she watched Bryan scurry off. She really wasn't that sad to see him go, she'd had about all the small talk she could handle for the evening.

"As if I would turn down an opportunity to spend time with you," Katie replied looking over at Jessie to see her raise her eyebrow, no doubt because of her tardiness. "I haven't figured out how to program my watch properly," she finally admitted shoving the offending object in front of Jessie.

"That's so sad," Jessie said softly looking up at her clearly meaning it. Katie glared at her. "Let me see it," Jessie continued starting to feel bad for mocking her.

"Could I borrow her for a minute?" Dillon asked sidling up beside Katie, but looking at Jessie. "We need to retire to my bedroom to make mad, passionate love."

"Dillon!" said an older, slightly graying man as he rose from where he had been crouched behind the counter, a fresh bottle of wine in his hand.

"Heh," Dillon replied blushing uncomfortably. "Hey dad. I was joking of course…cause the coats are in my room," she continued with a smile, having recovered from the initial shock of seeing her father there.

"You really have to stop saying things like that before it gets back to Bart," he responded shaking his head at her before making his way back into the crowd. He loved the girl he really did, she was the apple of his eye and all of that, but she had a couple screws loose she did.

"Who's Bart?" Katie asked smiling.

"Nobody," Dillon replied looking after her father.

"Bart Jenkins?" Jessie asked surprised. "Why would anything get back to Bart Jenkins?"

"Who's Bart Jenkins?" Katie asked again.

"Nobody," Dillon replied again picking up Katie's drink and downing it.

"He takes care of the firms investments," Jessie said looking over at Katie, knowing that the woman would keep asking the same question until she got an answer.

"Why do we care about Bart?" Katie asked looking back over at Dillon.

"Because he's my fucking finance alright," Dillon responded testily, glaring at both of them.

"Bart?!?" Jessie asked incredulously. "Bart Jenkins?"

"Yes, Bart, Bart Jenkins," Dillon replied leaning against the counter. "He's not as dull as he looks," she muttered feeling the need to defend her soon to be husband. It was one thing for her to make fun of him, but another thing entire for two women she'd once hit on to do it. Bart was a great guy, you just had to get to know him.

"Which one is he?" Katie asked surveying the room. She had to get a look at his guy.

"Over there," Jessie said pointing over by the window. "With the bow tie."

"Oh my god," Katie exclaimed upon spotting the man in question. He was tall, which was good, and she had to admit rather good looking, but never in a million years would she have picked him out as the man to make Dillon settle down.

"I like the bow tie," Dillon grumbled good-naturedly smiling slightly a moment later.

"And here I thought you were saving yourself for me," Jessie replied resting her hand on Dillon's shoulder and squeezing slightly.

Katie's head whipped around at that as she eyed the quaint little scene before her. "You two dated?" she squeaked.

"We dated often," Dillon replied relaxed once more, and playful now that she was sure her father wasn't anywhere around. "Sometimes multiple times on the same night … if you know what I mean, and I think that you do," she continued winking suggestively.

Katie looked aghast upon hearing this, her attention flickering between Jessie who was biting her lip and Dillon who was looking lecherously thoughtful.

"Was that some kind of joke?" Katie asked looking back over at Jessie whose body had started to shake as she continued to bite her lip.

"Of course it was," Dillon replied looking over at Katie keenly. "Jessie knows I'm a scoundrel," she continued softly still eyeing Katie while thinking that the other woman used to have a sense of humour. "Hmmm," she exhaled a moment later. "Interesting."

"What is?" Jessie asked finally having gotten herself under control. Katie was adorable when she got agitated or upset.

"Nothing," Dillon said absently, her attention focused across the room. "I've gotta go rescue Bart, Bryan's talking to him again," she and with that she fluttered off into the crowd again.

"So," Katie continued leaning against the counter. "You two never dated then?" she went on in what she hoped was a casual tone. She knew it had probably just been one of Dillon's stupid jokes, but since the words had come out of the other woman's mouth she'd felt panicky and slightly nauseous. She could safely say that she was not enjoying the feeling. Jealousy clearly didn't suit her at all.

"I don't know," Jessie replied honestly, watching Katie closely. She could tell that the other woman was trying to appear blasé but she was failing miserably, and Jessie wondered what could have been bothering her, if what she had said about never having been with Dillon was true. Lord knew that Katie had a past, so she surely shouldn't have been getting uptight about hers – not that there was anything to get uptight about in this case.

"What do you mean you don't know?" Katie asked looking over at her incredulously. "How can you not know?"

"We've been out," Jessie replied her back straightening slightly. "Whether they were dates, or friendly outings I'm not sure. She's not the easiest person to read, you know, I mean she flirts with inanimate objects," she continued. "Not that it's really your business," she added picking up her glass.

Katie looked over at her and sighed. "You're right," she said softly, her gaze wandering around the kitchen restlessly as she tired to rein in her completely inappropriate feelings of resentment about the fact that Jessie and Dillon may have gone out. "It's just…" she started to say, and then stopped knowing that what she was about to say would have stepped over all sorts of lines. Jessie was right, it was none of her business, they'd been broken up for years, and they weren't even really together now. She had absolutely no right to be quizzing Jessie or to be laying her jealously on her, especially considering the fact that Jessie had been more than generous with not questioning her about her past. "You're right," she repeated leaving them in an uncomfortable silence.

"I fixed your watch," Jessie said a moment later pushing the object back over to Katie.

"Thanks," the dirty blonde said, looking over at Jessie and smiling softly before fixing the watch back to her wrist.

"You're welcome," Jessie responded smiling back before lowering her gaze once more.

"You look nice," Katie continued glancing at Jessie nervously though she already knew she'd been forgiven for her early transgression.

"So do you," Jessie returned.

"You wanna go riffle through Dillon's underwear drawer and raffle some off?" Katie asked her eyes focused on the countertop, looking up only when she heard Jessie started to laugh. "I was serious," she continued when Jessie continued to chuckle, shaking her head at her.

"I know," Jessie said sobering enough to speak, but still smiling. "That's why it's funny."

Part 12

2003 – Jessie's Attic

Jessie heard a loud obnoxious banging at her door, then heard some feet stomping up the stairs before she saw Zoë's head pop up over the banister and saw the girl begin to march towards her phone in hand. She really hadn't missed people bursting into her room when they were in Australia.

"I didn't say you could come in," Jessie said glaring at the kid.

"Yeah, well I wouldn't have if you'd just have picked up the phone like a normal person," Zoë said handing the offending object over the Jessie. "Some of us have work to do."

"Who is it?" Jessie asked already knowing the answer.

"It's Wednesday night, who do you think it is?" Zoë asked rolling her eyes at Jessie and heading out of the attic.

"Hello," Jessie said into the receiver her tone bored. Zoë was right, whenever the phone rang in pulses on Wednesday night they all knew who it was. Katie. Only this Wednesday night, Katie's call had come about three hours late and Jessie had decided not to pick up when her girlfriend apparently remembered her, however Zoë had other ideas.

"Try to contain your excitement, you don't want to rupture anything," Katie replied sarcastically. "I'm not interrupting anything am I?" she asked surprised at Jessie's lackluster response to her call.

"Just reading," Jessie replied in the same dull tone. She knew she was being unreasonable, and the truth was the moment she heard Katie's voice her heart skipped a beat, but she couldn't help feeling hurt that on one of the few opportunities they got to talk, Katie had put her off for whatever it was she had been doing with her new friends, in her new country, in her new best life ever.

"Must be a very good book," Katie replied slowly. "Listen I'm sorry I'm calling a bit late," she continued figuring that's what must have been getting Jessie all riled up.

"Did you forget?" Jessie asked softly unable to help herself. This was the first time it had happened and Katie had apologized and she should've been happy to leave it at that, but she just couldn't.

"No, never," Katie responded adamantly. "These calls, talking to you … it means as much to me as it means to you," she continued sighing.

"It's just that you've got this whole new, exciting life that I'm not a part of, and…"

"I was at the library doing propositional calculus," Katie interjected. "New, but not particularly exciting," she continued sighing again. "I feel like I'm missing things with you too you know. The play, the camping trip …"

"I wasn't trying to…" Jessie started to say. It hadn't been her intention to make Katie feel bad for having a life that was the last thing she'd wanted to do.

"I know. I know that. It's just … I don't know what to say when you say stuff like that," Katie said dejectedly. "I love you, I think about you all the time, I mean they've started calling me J.Lo for Jessie lover," she continued shaking her head. "I just … you know," she went on sighing. "I don't know."

"Yeah," Jessie said in a similar tone. "So what's propositional calculus?"

"It's this really retarded logic shit, where if Peter was in the shed or in the garden, P would equal S or something," Katie replied glad for the change of topic. When she talked to Jessie she hated it when they got into talking about how much it sucked to be separated because there was just nothing they could do about it. All she wanted to do was just hear Jessie's voice, and listen to her complain about Zoë, and find out what Karen was up to. She just wanted to hear her voice, just wanted to talk to her and concentrate on what they could do, what they did have, not what they'd lost. "I don't get it. This guy Keith from the class was trying to help me out, but I'm officially a dumbass."

"I think your ass is cute," Jessie replied smiling.

"Really?" Katie asked playfully. "In that case, what're you wearing?"

"Nothing," Jessie said.

"Really?" Katie asked her voice rising as her eyes popped open. She was suddenly glad she was alone in the room.

"Shorts and a tank top," Jessie replied smiling.

"Tease," Katie accused though when it was teasing like that she didn't really mind.

"I'll make it up to you," Jessie promised, referring to Katie's impending return for Christmas.

"Can you write that down, laminate it and mail it to me?" Katie asked. "I'm going to hold you to that."

Part 13

2014 – A Week Later

"You're hands are shaking," Jessie said softly bringing her own hands up to cover Katie's in an attempt to still them. The fact was Katie's body was just acting out how she was feeling, but the reaction still surprised her. It had never occurred to her that twelve years after losing her virginity, and who knew how many lovers later, that Katie's hands could still shake with uncertainty like they had all those years ago.

"Yeah," Katie breathed out looking over at Jessie. "I keep trying to make them stop, but it's not working so well," she continued her gaze dropping down, as she laughed softly. "I mean, Christ," she went on her eyes focusing on her hands, which were still twitching slightly even though cupped within Jessie's.

"Blasphemer," Jessie whispered playfully bringing her lips to Katie's softly, trapping their hands between their bodies.

"You were saying?" Katie asked softly, her hands finally still once more.

Feeling Katie's hands still, Jessie stepped back slightly, letting go of the other woman's hands letting her own fall to Katie's waist. With her hands now free Katie rested them on Jessie's shoulders, and then slowly drew them down over her arms before finally placing her hand on Jessie's chest covering her heart, her eyes slowly shutting as a soft smile spread across her face.

"How can…" Jessie started to say, studying Katie's face reverent as the other woman slowly opened her eyes revealing her sparkling green orbs to Jessie.

"How can what?" she whispered her gaze dropping down to Jessie's as she bit her bottom lip softly.

"How can you look at me like you've never done this before?" Jessie asked her eyes focused on Katie's lips too, wanting to free her lip from where it was ensnared by Katie's teeth, and kiss away any thoughts that might have been in the other woman's head.

"Because it feels like it," Katie replied simply. "I just look at you…touch you…and it's like the most amazing thing ever," she continued her hand moving from over Jessie's heart to the top button of her shirt.

"Katie," Jessie breathed out softly swallowing hard as Katie's eyes captured hers, locking their eyes together.

"Yes," Katie asked her hands deftly unbuttoning Jessie's shirt even as her eyes never for a second strayed from Jessie's.

"I want you to make love to me," Jessie said lifting her hand up to cover Katie's once more and dragging it under her now open shirt, placing it on her breast as she had done so many years ago. "Right. Now," she continued holding Katie's gaze, her need painfully evident in her shinning eyes.

Katie stared a Jessie for a moment longer, the feelings of love she felt for this woman threatening to overwhelm her with the power of it all. Then she opened her mouth, shutting it just as quickly when she realized that nothing she could say could possibly be good enough, could possibly express the depth of her emotion. So she leaned forward, touching her lips to Jessie's softly at first and then with an increasing passion, as she began to move her hand, pushing the material of Jessie's bra up impatiently and massaging her breast.

Jessie tugged at Katie's shirt, struggling to yank the material out of the waistband of her skirt as Katie began to pull her shirt off, only stopping to let Katie remove the garment once she had freed Katie's shirt and was a decent way into the process of removing it.

Katie barely had time to drop Jessie's shirt to the ground before the blonde was yanking hers over the top of her head, but she certainly wasn't complaining about it as she felt Jessie's hand slip up underneath her skirt as the blonde ran her hands up her thighs, bunching the skirt at Katie's waist. Leaning into Jessie's touch as their lips crashed against each other desperately again and again, Katie moaned into Jessie's mouth as the blondes hand came to caress the moist material of her panties at the apex of her thighs.

"Oh god," Katie groaned wrenching her lips away from Jessie's as her hands fumbled with the blonde's bra, finally unclasping it and ripping it off of her body impatiently. Then her lips returned to Jessie's as her hands made their way up Jessie's torso, and the blonde tugged her skirt down past her waist letting it fall to the ground.

Stepping out of her skirt as it had landed, Katie moved forward and continued to do so until the end of her bed halted Jessie's legs and they could move no further. Simply holding Jessie close for a moment Katie then slowly dropped to her knees, her eyes holding Jessie's as she moved down, and as she extended her tongue licking a path from the top of Jessie's pants to her belly button, dipping her tongue inside before placing a soft kiss over the now wet flesh.

Jessie looked down at the top of Katie's head, her breath coming erratically now that Katie had released her eyes. She could feel Katie's hands on her moving against her stomach and was painfully aware of the moment the button to her pants popped free. Then her breathing hitched again she saw Katie's head begin to move down as she felt her zipper lower.

"You," Jessie breathed out licentiously as Katie grinned up at her while tugging down her pants. "Get back up here," she continued gasping as Katie decided to kiss her way up, stopping along the way to lavish attention on her stomach and then to each of her breasts, before finally making her way back to her lips.

"Jessie," Katie whispered, her voice low and husky as she felt Jessie's hands slip under the waistband of her underwear. "What do you say," she continued lowering Jessie down onto the bed and draping her body over hers. "No more foreplay?"

Jessie smiled drawing her hand up behind Katie's neck and bringing the woman's lips back down to hers. "No more foreplay," she agreed before fixing it so that neither of them could say anything more.

Part 14

2004 – March

"Hey," Jessie said smiling into thin air as she leaned back against the headboard of her bed at Northwestern.

"Oh god," her roommate declared dramatically, motioning to the three other people who were lounging in her room. "It's the girlfriend," she continued forebodingly, knowing who inevitably had to be on the other end of the phone when Jessie said 'hey' like that and smiled like that.



"Call me."

The three others said upon hearing this, following Jessie's roommate Kristy out of the room.

"I hate each and every one of you with a fiery passion," Jessie called after them. Her behavior whenever Katie happened to be mentioned was a running joke on the floor.

"Everyone run away again?" Katie asked smiling at Jessie's outburst.

"Yes," Jessie replied crankily. "Bastards."

"You know you love them," Katie said laughing.

"This is a surprise," Jessie continued Katie's laugh drawing her thoughts away from her dumbass friends. "I wasn't expecting to hear from you for another couple days."

"Yeah," Katie said her tone more somber now that Jessie had brought them around to the real reason for her call. "You know that professor I told you about? The art one with Sideshow Bob hair?" she asked.

"Know of him, yeah," Jessie said remembering Katie's references to him.

"Well, I finally got around to showing him some of my stuff two weeks ago," Katie replied. "He didn't say much at the time," she continued slowly, "but it turned out that he liked what he saw."

"Of course he did," Jessie responded smiling proudly. "You're brilliant."

"Humph," Katie exhaled softly, "not quite. But he does think I show promise," she continued feeling her heart start to beat faster in chest as she approached the point of no return. "A couple days ago, he ah stopped me after class," she went on taking a deep breath. "He … he said he knows these people, and after seeing my paintings he talked to them."

"People?" Jessie asked a feeling of trepidation beginning to creep into her though she didn't know why. "Art people?"

"Yeah," Katie responded. "Every summer there's this apprenticeship program in Palermo, Italy, where each of the students that takes part gets a show to present the work they've done before hand, and then for the rest of the summer they work with the professional artists and come back a year later for another show," she said softly. "It's an amazing opportunity."

Jessie was quiet for a moment as the implications of Katie's statement began to sink in with her.

"Are you asking me, or telling me?" she asked finally, her voice revealing nothing.

"Telling you," Katie replied softly, after a moment of silence. "I'm going."

"That's what I thought," Jessie said closing her eyes. She didn't see how Katie could not go, this program, it was what she always wanted, it was a chance for her to breakthrough. At nineteen. It would have been insanity for her not to accept the offer.

"Do you not want me to go?" Katie asked, not sure what she had expected to hear from Jessie, just knowing that this wasn't it.

"I do," Jessie said softly, almost inaudibly. "I want you to be happy," she continued in an equally soft tone. "I want you to be able to do what you love."

"Then why did that sound like a eulogy?" Katie asked her voice almost as soft as Jessie's.

Jessie was quiet for a moment following Katie's question, one of her hands rubbing her eyes trying to hold back the tears stinging her eyes as the other hand held the phone. Two years, if Katie joined this program it would mean that they wouldn't see each other for any significant amount of time for two years. Seven hundred and twenty eight days, probably more.

"I can't do this anymore," Jessie said softly, her heart constricting painfully as the words left her lips. "I can't take being with you and never seeing you. It's like a part of me is always missing whenever you're not around," she continued the words coming to her unbidden now and rushing out of her mouth. "I feel like a shadow, like an empty box. I … Katie…" she went on her voice trailing off as she got lost in thought, in feeling.

"You're…" Katie said quietly almost hollowly. "You're breaking up with me?" she asked her voice, small and exposed.

"It's not that simple," Jessie said beseechingly.

"What's not so simple?" Katie asked her voice filled with hurt. "You don't want to be with me anymore. What's not so simple about that?"

"I want to be with you," Jessie stated firmly. "I always want to be with you. I just never am," she continued her voice raising. "We're never together, and wanting you every moment of every day, and never having you with me is killing me. It's…"

"What? You think that it's easy for me? Being away from you all the time? Do you think that it's fun for me hear your voice and want nothing more than to be able to hold your hand but know that I can't because you're a billon fucking miles away?" Katie interjected, hot tears streaming down her face. She couldn't believe this was happening. "What am I supposed to do Jessie? Tell me what I'm suppose to do! My parents made me come here, but now that I am here I can't not go. I mean, do you have any idea how rare an opportunity this is?"

"No," Jessie said softly. "But I can imagine. And that's the problem exactly. I can't tell you what to do, because there's nothing that you can do. Or I can do. Or anyone can do," she continued shaking her head. "Everything is pushing us apart, and we've been clinging together until our fingers bled, but I can't do it anymore. It hurts," she went on her voice cracking as the tears escaped her eyes and streamed down her face. "Being with you hurts."

"I'll tell them no," Katie said, delirious at the idea that she and Jessie could actually be breaking up. "I'll come back for the summer."

"You can't," Jessie said sniffing and rubbing at her eyes. "My god, I couldn't ask you to," she continued thinking about the amazing opportunity Katie was being offered. "I wouldn't let you," she went on knowing without a doubt that if Katie tried anything so idiotic she'd hog tie her and send her back to Europe express mail.

"I don't want to lose you," Katie replied her voice hoarse as she struggled to control her tears.

"You already have," Jessie responded softly, her voice hollow as she stared at the ceiling unthinkingly. "You have to go, and I have to let you," she continued squeezing her eyes shut tightly as she struggled to hold on to the thin grasp she had on her emotions. "Go to Italy, paint … live," she finished, the last word coming out choked.

"I never," Katie started her voice sounding as strained as Jessie's. "I didn't … this is…"

"I know," Jessie responded beginning to lose the rest of her control.

"Billie," Katie whispered into the receiver softly.

"Don't," Jessie said screwing her eyes shut tightly, clamping down the urge to just break down that moment.

"Jessie," Katie said again, not having any idea what she would afterwards but not able to let the other girl go just yet.

"Don't," Jessie repeated again. "Please, I couldn't stand it."

"Can I see you?" Katie asked desperately, clutching onto the phone like a lifeline.

"When?" Jessie asked laughing darkly. "I mean that's the whole point isn't it?" she continued her voice somber once more.

"I guess it is," Katie agreed. "Yeah."

Part 15

2014 – Jessie's Apartment

Grace threw her bag down on Jessie's couch then turned to face her husband who was grumbling from his position behind her.

"I'm pretty sure Jessie didn't give us that key so that we could just invite ourselves over for breakfast whenever we wanted," Eli started rooted just inside the doorway. "We should…"

"We're already here, so the damage is done," Grace said sighing. "Besides it'd hardly be a surprise breakfast if we called her and had her buy groceries before hand," she continued shaking her head at him.

"I'm just saying…" Eli started knowing that Jessie wouldn't find this to be one of those fun surprises.

"Can you put the stuff in the kitchen, I'm going to go get her up," Grace said already heading down the hallway to the bedroom ignoring Eli's grumbles.

"Surprise!" Grace called smiling flinging Jessie's bedroom door open, stopping dead in her tracks the moment she stepped in the room. Jessie's sheets were strewn all over the floor, while Jessie herself stood off to the side of the room near the open bathroom door in a towel that just barely covered the essentials rubbing her hair dry, while a very naked woman laid sprawled out on her stomach on Jessie's bed, a towel thrown loosely over her waist barely covering her posterior end from Grace's view. "Oh. My. God," Grace ground out staring at Jessie wide eyed as her stepsister simply blinked at her.

"Grace," Jessie said slowly, just as surprised to see her stepsister as Grace was to have walked in on the scene she walked in on.

"I'm so sorry," Grace muttered backing out of the room. "I'll just be," she continued jerking her thumb towards the living room. "I'll just leave you two too…whatever," she went on before closing the door and heading back down the hall.

"What's going on?" Katie asked raising her head sleepily, blinking at the blurry form that was Jessie. She thought she heard voices, and really hoped that they weren't in her head.

"Grace is here," Jessie said her attention still on her now closed bedroom door.

"What?" Katie asked flipping over then drawing her legs up to cover her chest when she realized she was naked, and then yanking the towel in front of her to try and cover anything else that might have been visible.

"Oh don't bother with that," Jessie said smirking. "She's gone. And she saw you in all your glory," she continued flinging her wet hair towel at Katie.

"What…gone where…my glory…" Katie said plucking the towel off of her head and looking over at Jessie.

"You should probably put some clothes on," Jessie said ripping off the towel she had around her body as she stepped into closet. "She's waiting for us in the living room."

"…with a naked woman ON the bed. Naked," Grace said emphatically gesturing to Eli.

"Yeah," Eli responded, happy that Jessie finally seemed to be getting some. He was secure enough with himself to admit that his sister was rather foxy, and her complete lack of a love life over the years was really a disservice to humankind as far as he was concerned. "That's kind of what she does," he continued earning a hearty slap from a flustered Grace.

Eli laughed for a moment grabbing her hands and stopping her from beating him before sensing another presence in the room and turning around. Looking up, he saw his sister dressed in pair of faded jeans and a form fitting white t-shirt, and a woman with impossibly long legs in shorts and a tank top. A woman who kind of looked like…

"Katie?" Grace asked stepping forward to get a better look at the woman beside Jessie. Katie Singer? Grace thought to herself. Had they entered the Twilight zone? Oh hell, that meant she'd just seen Katie Singer naked. On Jessie's bed. When did they get back together? Geez, she had a nice tan. Jessie was so going to get the third degree hell for telling her that Katie was back in town? Were those the shorts she'd left there?

"Yeah," Katie said shifting uncomfortably under Grace's gaze, wondering what the hell the woman could have been thinking to get an expression like that on her face. "Congratulations," she continued waving at Grace's stomach. Not the most tactful approach, but she wasn't too concerned with tact at that particular moment, she just wanted to not feel completely and utterly uncomfortable.

"Yeah, to you too," Grace muttered her eyes flickering between Katie and Jessie, then back towards the bedroom before she realized what had come out of her mouth turned beet red, stepping back once more. It had been fun to tease Jessie about her love life, but not so much so now that she had actually walked in on it.

"Hey," Eli greeted feeling the need to say something, but not sure what would be appropriate under the circumstances. What did one say to the woman who had left said sister an emotional wreck and socially retarded her for years as a result of their abrupt break-up, only to emerge ten years later from that same sisters bedroom after having apparently been naked on her bed?

"Hey," Katie replied nodding and smiling at him before her eyes drifted over to Jessie helplessly. This was not how she had planned on spending her morning. Jessie, bed and possibly whipped cream was how she had planned on spending her morning. Was Grace looking at her?

Jessie eyes shifted away from Katie, not quite knowing what to say either, her gaze finally migrating over to the kitchen counter where she could make a pile of have unpacked groceries.

"You know, this really isn't what the key was for," she commented scowling over at her brother. Nothing returned her to a state of equilibrium like picking on her brother.

"I told you," Eli said triumphantly rounding to face Grace who glared him back into silence within seconds.

"Did you really see me naked?" Katie blurted out unable to stand the brief glances Grace was shooting at her.

Grace blinked then opened her mouth only to shut it and blink some more as she flashed back to the bedroom. Really, Katie had beautiful skin.

"Right," Eli said breaking the uncomfortable silence that had formed. "So, ah … we were going to make pancakes."

Part 16

2004 - Fall

Katie looked down at her nails, her features contorting into a frown as she picked at the nail of her index finger with her thumb. She'd gotten all of the paint out from underneath them hours ago, before she'd gone out, but she'd gotten so used to being covered in paint, paint chips, paint fumes and other paint accessories, that she sometimes felt phantom symptoms. For the past six months that was all she'd been doing, painting in Italy covered in sweat under large ceiling fans, painting in Scotland covered in rags with open windows, painting, painting, and painting. But for what? That was the question she didn't have an answer to any more. Before, when she painted it was like a calm came over her heart and everything made sense, it was like diving into a cool pond on a hot summer's day. It was cathartic and freeing and she loved every minute of it. That's why she did it, because she loved it because it was a beautiful part of her. But it was different now, the art still flowed into her, but it was desperate and volatile and harsh. It ripped through her, violently purging her emotions onto the canvas in relentless waves. It was exhausting, and painful, and left her with a terrible feeling of emptiness when it was done. And every time she started a new work, she talked to herself until she was convinced that the next one would be different, that this one would make it better, and the world would be full of light again, but she had finished so many 'next ones' that she had lost count. And nothing had gotten better, nothing had changed, her soul was still a void.

Katie felt a hand land on her shoulder drawing her out of her musing. Turning her head to the side she found a smiling face looking over at her. The woman was tall and bronzed with shoulder length, wavy brown hair, stunning by anyone's standards, gorgeous my most peoples. Gema. Katie dropped her hand back down to her side and plastered a smile across her face.

"What were you looking at? Gema asked curiously, wondering what could possibly have captured the other woman's attention. The intensity of Katie's look had surprised her when she'd emerged from the washroom, the seriousness of it not matching with what she had seen of the other woman before.

"Hands," Katie responded dismissively. "Let's see if we can't find a more productive use for them," she continued wiggling her eyebrows suggestively before turning a speculative eye on the woman beside her.

"Works for me," Gema replied reaching down and grasping Katie's hand, allowing the dirty blonde to begin to lead her down the hallway, though her motions were interrupted when they heard the front door of the apartment open.

"A letter came for you," Julia called out her eyes drifting over to the two women and immediately knowing what was going on. "It's from Jessie," she added in what she hoped was a blasé tone to the woman holding Katie's hand, but a pointed one to Katie.

Katie looked over at Julia for a moment, then over to the counter where she could see a letter, then over a Gema. Jessie a name that become synonymous in her mind with both heaven and hell. "I'll just be a second," she said to the beautiful brunette and then she slowly crossed the room, sharing a look with Julia before picking up the letter.

Katie closed her eyes momentarily as she finished reading the letter, and then with a shaking hand carefully put it back into the envelope. She had talked to Jessie since that day she had called to inform her girlfriend of her trip, but they hadn't talked much. At first they'd called, because they hadn't remembered how not to have the other in their life, because they hadn't wanted to learn again, but they'd soon stopped. Things had changed, they weren't really seeing each other anymore, and every time that they spoke, and their voices were distant out of the fear of getting hurt it was like losing each other over again. The thinly veiled hurt, and anger and fear creating a palpable wedge between them. So, for months Katie hadn't heard anything from Jessie, no letters, or emails, or phone calls. Nothing, and then this letter, this letter where Jessie said that she missed her, and that maybe not talking to each other wasn't the best thing to do. This letter where she said that she knows things have been weird between them, but that they could work on that, on everything. This letter where she said that she's not even sure why she's writing, or what she's feeling, or what they could even do, but that she wants to try because being away from Katie is harder than she thought it would be, and she had been expecting something on the harsher side of devastating.

Placing the letter down on the counter once more, Katie took a deep, shuddering breath, the confusion she had been feeling as she read the letter having quickly turned into anger. She'd had her heart torn out and stomped on for the past six months. She'd been totally consumed and tortured, haunted during her waking and sleeping hours by memories of Jessie, and thoughts of them possibly getting back together. And, now that she had finally started to pull her shit together, had finally decided to stop living in the past, or some fantasy world in her head, and at least attempt to move on, Jessie had to write that letter. But Katie wasn't biting this time, she couldn't afford to, because she knew that if she accepted, three months later, when they hadn't seen each other for a while and Jessie started to find it hard again, she'd break up with her again and she'd end up right where she had been at the beginning of summer. They'd gone through this at varying degrees for two years, since the day she'd left Jessie's fear and anxiety and the inevitable result of it had been looming over their heads, and she couldn't do it anymore. She was tired of her life being a blur, of having memories of times that should have been amazing covered in dark clouds. She was starting to get some sensation back and meant to hold on to it. No, she wasn't going to let Jessie plunder her heart again; she was through, no more yoyo. This pretty jellyfish had found its spine.

"Thanks," Katie said to Julia absently turning back around, composed once more.

"No problem," Julia responded watching Katie push off the counter and walk back over to the woman she had left moments ago. So that was it then, the fall of Camelot.

"Feel like finishing the tour?" Katie said as she approached Gema, her lips curving up mischievously.

Part 17


Katie shook her head smiling as she turned her head to look out of the window, biting down on her bottom lip to stop from full out laughing.

"What?" Grace asked peevishly as she came to a stop at a red light, turning around to give Katie the full force of her glare.

"It's just…" Katie started remembering Jessie's 'hey, hey Kool-Aid' story and wondering if it would be wise to continue.

"It's just what?" Grace asked having a good idea what was coming.

"You are extremely pregnant," Katie said with a touch of wonder in her voice looking over a Grace, her eyes focusing on her stomach. There was life in there, tiny human life that would one day grow up to play soccer and dent its parent's car.

"Just know," Grace started sighing, "that when it's your turn I'm going to gawk and mock you viciously, because fair is fair," she continued smiling a bit nonetheless. It still amazed her that there was an actual life growing inside of her, so she couldn't really fault other people for being in awe as well.

"I have a low threshold for pain," Katie replied glancing up at Grace as they started to move again. "Jessie's gonna to have to have the babies."

"Does Jessie know this?" Grace asked arching an eyebrow. The truth was she was kind of surprised by the comment, she hadn't figured that the two of them had gotten to a point again where they would be comfortable talking about who'd have the baby.

"Not exactly," Katie responded laughing softly. "It'll be our little secret for now, okay?" she continued winking at Grace. "So where are we going anyway? Are you going to badger me indoors? Over coffee? As we casually stroll through a boutique?"

"Badger you?" Grace asked innocently though that was exactly what she had been planning on doing since she had gotten over seeing Katie naked.

"That's why we're on the this quaint little road trip isn't it?" Katie asked her tone serious, though her words remained light and breezy. "You want to find out what my intentions towards Jessie are."

"You know I always liked that about you," Grace said, her gaze flickering to her rearview mirror before she focused in front of her again. "The word coy has absolutely no meaning for you," she continued. "You're right of course."

"Of course," Katie replied her gaze flickering back over to Grace. "So?"

"So what are you intentions towards my dear, sweet, stepsister?" Grace asked. The truth was she'd always liked Katie, even though she'd always been a bit chatty for Graces tastes she was and had always been a kind person. The truth was she still liked Katie, but she also remembered what Jessie had been like after they broke up, she remembered Jessie's eyes always looking like they were on the verge of breaking out into tears and she liked Katie a little less every time she remembered. Jessie had never really gone into detail about why they had broken up, other than saying that it had been too difficult to stay together over such a long distance, but a part of her had always blamed Katie. Jessie had told her that she shouldn't, had told all of them not to, but Jessie was family and whether it was reasonable or not you always sided with family. So Katie, whom they had all loved and taken into their hearts when she and Jessie were together, became somewhat vilified over the years, the dastardly breaker of Jessie's heart. And, even though she was trying to be impartial, Grace still carried a little bit of that around with her.

"Forever," Katie replied, her eyes still focused forward.

"Excuse me," Grace asked her eyes flickering towards Katie briefly, their expression questioning.

"Forever," Katie repeated. "I'm going to be completely honest with you, because I think you'd know if I wasn't and would kick my ass for it," she went on smirking. "I love Jessie. I always have, even when we weren't together I still loved her more than I've ever loved anything in life. And back in the day, we fucked things up, I fucked things up … whatever, things got fucked and we both got screwed," she continued noting Grace roll her eyes and smiling at the action. "I can't change what happened back then, all I can do is concentrate on the future, and tell you that I want that future to be with Jessie. So my intentions, my intensions Grace are this. To make her smile, to make her so happy that when I propose in what promises to be an idiotic fashion she'll overlook it and say yes anyway. To have babies with her, to buy that ranch she wants somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and to learn to like horses. To have a porch with a swing, and to grow old sitting out there looking at the stars with her in my arms. Those are my intentions," she finished, blinking back tears, but smiling softly as she turned her head to look out the passenger side window.

"Wow," Grace exclaimed looking over at Katie once more. "I kind of want to marry you now."

Katie looked back over at her, and they held each other gaze momentarily before Grace turned her head forward once again and they both laughed softly.

"On a more serious note," Grace continued a moment later, "I like those intentions, I really do. But, if you break her heart, I promise you that I will hunt you down like a rabid dog and make you pay."

"Hmmm, a vague stipulation is nobodies friend I suppose," Katie muttered in response. "Noted," she continued. "But I promise you, you'll never have to know the horrors of plaid."

Part 18


Karen entered the kitchen clutching a folder in her hand heading towards the fridge before spotting her daughters hunched over figure at the table. Stopping halfway to her previous destination she turned her attention towards Jessie who was staring intently at one of the many books spread out before her. She sighed and turned her attention to the window, it was a beautiful summer day outside, Jessie shouldn't be cooped up in the kitchen reading by herself.

"You work too hard," Karen said softly as she walked over to the table.

"You worry about me too much," Jessie responded her lips quirking up into a smile as she recalled that they had this conversation before.

"I think that you should…" Karen started to say, but Jessie interrupted her knowing what her mother was about to say and not really wanting to hear it.

"Henry's already taken," Jessie quipped, her eyes never leaving her books.

"You're funny," Karen replied not at all amused. "Jessie…" she started again.

"Mom, I'm fine," Jessie said shortly, finally looking up from her books and turning to face her mother. "I know you worry about me but you don't have to, I really am fine," she continued sighing. "I want things alright, right now I want this," she went on waving to the books spread out in front of her. "I want to be alone," she continued her eyes meeting her mothers steadily. "I want to find out who I am, separate from being half of a couple. I don't need anyone in my life right now, so you worrying about me not having someone is an exercise in futility."

"You're at the language section aren't you?" Karen asked looking down at the books covering her table. The truth was she believed her daughter was telling the truth, last summer and for most of the school year had been rough for Jessie, had been rough for everyone who cared about her. She'd been quiet, and listless and sullen, and her eyes, which Karen had gotten used to sparkling continually, had seemed to burn out. But over the last few months, she had been getting better. She'd started talking more, and eating more – for which Karen was eternally grateful – and her eyes had begun to show some signs of life again. It was just that she just hated seeing her children less than blissful and now that Eli had seemingly gotten his act together, all of her doting could be directed at Jessie.

"Go," Jessie said finally, waving at her mother tired now of the woman looking at her with those thoughtful eyes. "You're going to be late for your appointment."

Karen looked down at her watch at this and sighed. Jessie was right, she and Henry were supposed to be meeting with the florists in ten minutes. She'd forgotten how much work planning a wedding was.

"Try and get outside for a least a few minutes won't you," Karen said standing up.

"Will do," Jessie replied saluting her.

"Alright, I'll see you later," she said, and with that she was out the door.

Jessie watched her mother disappear out the door, before bringing her hand to her head, rubbing at her eyes before allowing her gaze to drift towards the window for a moment. It was a nice day out she realized, her mom was right, she should go outside for a while. It was a nice day, she thought to herself again, her lips curving up slightly. And with that she picked up a few of the books surrounding her and headed for the door as well.

Part 19


"So … Katie?" Eli commented turning his attention away from the TV and turning to face his sister. He'd seen this episode before.

"Yep," Jessie replied watching as Ozzy worked diligently on his drawing of what looked like 'The Screaming Man' with claws. She didn't understand how Eli could have watched this show in its original run and then continually watch the rerun marathons. She wanted to hit herself in the head with a frying pan and they were only five minutes into the episode.

"How'd that happen?" Eli asked, his attention back on the screen as Ozzy begged Sharon not to let Kelly bring home any more cats. He saw his future there before him and he was actually looking forward to it.

"She's getting sued," Jessie replied watching the TV and seeing Eli's future while wondering if he was looking forward to it.

"Fun," Eli returned nodding his head.

"We're going to win," Jessie replied with a shrug. The words slam and dunk flashing neon in her mind.

"I bet what she likes most about you is your humility," Eli commented smiling at his little sisters smugness.

"I seriously doubt that's what she likes best," Jessie returned looking over to meet her brother's gaze causing them both to break out smiling.

"You happy?" Eli asked seriously a moment later.

"Very," Jessie responded.


"I'm glad you think so," Jessie replied smiling over at Eli.

"Mom know?" Eli asked feeling Jessie's head fall against his shoulder and raising his hand up to ruffle her hair.

"Nah," Jessie replied batting his hand away from her head and glaring at him. She was pretty sure she didn't have the words 'petting zoo' tattooed across her forehead. Eli's shirt on the other hand, did say 'Pit Stop' so she felt justified using him as a cushion. Eli had inherited their father's snuggly gene, he really had.

"Can I tell her? Please," Eli asked smiling teasingly, though he seriously wanted to be there when Karen found out that Jessie was back with Katie.

"Get out of my house," Jessie responded pointing to the door though she made no effort to remove her head from his shoulder.

"You have any cheese snaps?" Eli asked not even paying attention to her.

"What kind of question is that?" Jessie asked peevishly. "Of course I have cheese snaps."

"You're a good woman," Eli commented. Grace never bought cheese snaps.

"I'm going to tell Grace you said that," Jessie responded smiling. Nothing got Grace going like comments regarding typical gender stereotypes that had been enforced through centuries of patriarchal rule.

"Please don't," Eli said. He was pretty sure he was whining, and surprisingly he was okay with it.

"You are so whipped," Jessie teased, raising her hand and snapping her wrist.

"Shut up," Eli grumbled.

"When's the baby due?" Jessie asked still smiling.

"Dunno," Eli replied. "Though it's gotta pop out soon, if she gets any bigger I think she's going to explode."

"You're an idiot," Jessie replied her body racked with laughter.

Part 20


Katie closed her eyes letting the breeze from the open window rush across her face. Finally opening them once more she looked down at the small device in her hand and turned it on, scanning the words that appeared on the small screen once more. It was a development offer for a gallery in Chicago. She'd be given effective ownership of the gallery through a fifty- five percent share, in return for managing it and contributing pieces of work on a bi-annual basis for name recognition. The offer was tempting, more than tempting, it was a generous gift that she by all rights shouldn't have received, especially considering that she had publicly retired from professional painting – a decision she had constantly been debating with herself about since the moment she had made it.

Sighing she dropped her head back against the back of her couch her eyes drifting back towards the bedroom. Who was it tonight? Stephanie, that was right, the best thing about the class she had been teaching. Katie rolled her eyes and sat back up, the thought that the woman lying on her bed who she could barely talk to without wanting to boil her own head was actually the best thing about her recent position snapping her out of her malaise.

Katie looked back down at the letter in her hands and smiled. She'd accept it, why the hell not, even if it was in Chicago. Whatever it was that she was doing in her loft in London certainly wasn't what she wanted, it hadn't been what she had wanted for quite some time, so she could as well go back. Yeah, she could as well go back, why the hell not, there was certainly nothing to keep her in England, and this opportunity was just what she needed. An opportunity to paint, teach and scout for new talent, it was a dream, one she intended to catch.

Part 21


"Hello?" Jessie said distractedly into the receiver her attention focused in front of her. She'd been bothering Katie to paint something for weeks, and finally her girlfriend acquiesced, seating herself in front of the easel Jessie had picked up, muttering to herself as she picked up a brush. She'd been seated there for the past two hours completely oblivious to everything around her, and Jessie had just been watching her, never so happy to have been forgotten.

"I'm going to take it in the bedroom," Jessie said hearing her mothers voice on the other end of the phone. Katie simply nodded her eyes never leaving the canvas in front of her.

"Is someone there?" Karen asked, slightly surprised by Jessie's comment which she was sure wasn't directed at her.

"No one important," Jessie replied, laughing as Katie lifted up her hand and flipped her the bird before turning her full attention back to the easel.

"Is it that woman?" Karen asked wearily.

"It's not Dillon," Jessie replied smiling at her mother's tone as she remembered the first and only time the two of them had met. She and Dillon were suppose to attend a costume party for client they were working for and Dillon had dropped by her apartment one afternoon to try on the costumes. She'd tried to get Jessie to agree to changing together, but Jessie wasn't about to have any of that and banished her to the washroom to change. A few minutes after that the doorbell had rung and she'd rushed out to answer it, throwing her robe around her. It had been Karen arriving for a surprise visit, and before Jessie could even get out a hello, Dillon had emerged from the washroom in nothing but her underwear asking Jessie where her handcuffs were. Then upon seeing Karen had eyed her in a quite obvious fashion and commented that Jessie hadn't mentioned anything about this being a ménage. After that Dillon had become 'that woman' to her mother, and Jessie was sure she would remain that way for the rest of her days.

"Oh," Karen said. "Tell Grace hi for me," she continued trying to figure out who was over at Jessie's apartment.

"It's not Grace," Jessie responded rolling her eyes at her mother's obvious attempt to find out whom she was with. "How's Henry?" she asked deciding to let Karen sweat for a while.

"Good," Karen said her voice softening as it always did at the mention on her husband. "That's why I'm calling actually," she continued. "I was wondering if you wanted to come over for dinner on Sunday, we haven't seen you for a while."

"I'd love to," Jessie replied smiling at the mere thought of her and Henry kicking Karen's ass at scrabble. "Is it alright if I bring someone along?"

"Of course," Karen said clearly surprised. Jessie smirked; she was having too much fun with this. She should stop. Torturing your mother was not supposed to be a fun pastime. "Who?"

"You can't wait another twenty hours to find out?" Jessie asked plopping down on her bed.

"No, I really can't," Karen asked knowing that Jessie as playing with her.

"Katie," Jessie said after pausing to take a deep breath. Her mother who had once been the founder of the Katie Singer fan club had, since their breakup, become the chair of the 'Katie Singer is Eeeeeeevil guild', which had been joined by every member of her family, and she wasn't quite sure how Karen would react to hearing that Katie was back.

"Katie Singer?" Karen asked her voice dropping darkly.

"Yes, Katie Singer," Jessie responded noting her mothers tone and thinking that it wasn't the best of signs.

"Oh," Karen replied.

"We'll talk tomorrow." Jessie said knowing her that her mothers 'ohs' were just launching pads for interrogations and not really wanting to get into it at the moment.

"Say hi for me," Karen responded though her voice was strained.

"Is that all you want me to say?" Jessie asked.

"You're funny," Karen replied knowing that Jessie was fully aware that she had quite a few things she'd like to say to Ms. Kathryn Singer.

"You keep saying that, yet you never laugh," Jessie replied with a faux sigh of chagrin.

"Goodnight," Karen replied rolling her eyes at her daughter. Jessie was rarely this playful and she had to admit – even though it pained her to after years of training the ass-pole to work itself into a tizzy at the mention of Katie's name – that the other woman probably played a big part in her daughters giddy mood. "I love you."

"I wuv you too," Jessie responded smiling. "Sleep tight and give Henry a kiss for me."

Part 22

Karen took a deep cleansing breath as she came to a stop in front of the door then reached out and slowly tugged the door open, smiling widely though she only really felt like smiling semi-widely. The first thing she saw was Jessie's equally smiling face and then a blur of movement as her daughter stepped towards her drawing her into a hug and kissing her on the cheek before entering the house. Then once Jessie had moved out of the way, Karen too stepped back opening the door a bit wider so that Katie could step in.

On the porch the other girl had been covered in darkness and Karen hadn't been able to recognize her, but once she had stepped inside and looked up awkwardly offering Karen a bottle of wine a swell of memories returned to her.

"Thank you," Karen said taking the proffered bottle into her hands. "The years have been generous," she continued looking at Katie and barely able to separate the woman standing in front of her from the child that used to practically live at her house.

"I," Katie said smiling, "was just thinking exactly the same thing," she continued stepping towards Karen hesitantly. "It's nice to see you again Mrs. Higgins," she went on the words coming out slightly strange as she tried to settle herself to Karen's new moniker.

Karen too then took a step forward allowing Katie to hug her lightly. The truth was that she had always liked Katie a great deal, not simply because of the happiness she had brought Jessie, but because she was a genuinely likeable young woman, smart, funny, caring and obliviously charming. And once, the initial trepidation in regards to Jessie and Katie's relationship had worn off, Karen had formed a new and more vivid portrait of Jessie's future in her mind, one that had involved Katie, and even though she knew it had been too romantic, too idealistic she hadn't been able to deny the poignancy of their relationship, even though it was perhaps the realistic thing to do. They had helped her to believe in love again, and when they had broken up she had taken it almost as hard as Jessie. So, she wasn't quite yet able to say that it was nice to see Katie again, but she could acknowledge that she had missed the girl.

"Karen," Karen said a moment later when she and Katie pulled apart. "We are both adults now after all," she continued placing her hand on Katie's shoulder before turning to look down the hallway. "Don't you have a giant magic eight-ball to read?" Karen asked looking over at Jessie who had simply been watching them since entering the house.

"He gets agitated and makes the frown-y face when I do that," Jessie responded pouting a little as she looked longing down towards the end of the hallway where she could just make out Henry's figure puttering towards them. "He says it's not cute anymore," she went on thinking about how much fun it'd been to harass him when he and Karen were still dating. Whenever he sat down she'd walk up behind him and Eli would ask a question then she'd blow on top of his head and read an imaginary message like 'Looks Doubtful', and Karen would shake her head and tell them to sit down, while Henry would mutter 'cute' even though he obviously didn't think it was.

"You didn't?" Katie said looking over at Jessie as Karen took their coats. "You did," she said smiling when Jessie merely shrugged.

"At the time I had recently come under a corrupting influence," Jessie said by way of defense looking pointedly at Katie before feeling Henry hug her from behind and kiss the top of her head. "Tell her it's all her fault Shmoopy," Jessie continued smiling back at Henry.

"It's all your fault," Henry said looking over at Katie. He recognized her, having been over at Karen's at the same time as Katie over the summers and vacation breaks, but he hadn't been able to spend as much time with her back then as everyone else had. However, what he had seen he'd liked, at least until he saw how the breakup had affected his two favorite women. "What's your fault?" he continued stepping away from Jessie and offering his hand to Katie.

"Her delinquent tendencies," Katie responded shaking his hand. "Although I maintain I was simply the catalyst not the creator," she continued earning fond glare from Jessie.

"I think," Karen said, taking a deep breath and preparing herself to let bygones be bygones. "This is when I should say, 'dinner is served'."

"Saved by my mother," Jessie responded smiling at Karen having seen her defensive posture loosen slightly.

"Wasn't Tori Spelling in that?" Katie asked looking over at Jessie as the blonde took her hand. "A tale of a skanky co-ed and a date that went horribly, horribly wrong that becomes a moving story of triumph over evil and love when the mother breaks down the door with an axe."

"Do you have any idea what she's talking about?" Henry whispered in Jessie's ear as they headed to the living.

"Not usually, no," Jessie responded winking at him.

Part 23

Katie brushed her lips against the soft skin of Jessie bare shoulder, wrapping her arms around her girlfriends waist more firmly, pressing up against her back, needing to be as close to her as humanly possible. "How's the case going?" she asked her eyes flickering to the television screen that they were watching before she got distracted.

Feeling Jessie shift in her arms until they were face to face Katie looked down to see Jessie looking at her incredulously, shaking her head in dismay.

"What?" Katie asked.

"We wrapped that last week," Jessie responded.

"You didn't tell me that," Katie responded as she desperately searched her memory, though she was fairly confident that Jessie hadn't told her – though that kind of made no sense whatsoever because this was precisely the type of thing that Jessie would have told her. But she couldn't remember so she obviously hadn't. Jessie was fallible too after all.

"Yes, I did," Jessie replied, perfectly aware of exactly when she had told Katie.

"When?" Katie asked skeptically painfully aware of the fact that Jessie sounded much more confident that she had told her than she did that she hadn't told her.

"On Friday. Why do you think we used the whirlpool jets in the tub and were drinking champagne?" Jessie asked watching as Katie's eyes clouded over.

At the mention of Friday Katie's mind became overcome with memories of Jessie slowly stripping in front of her, lowering herself into the tub like a goddess. And memories of Jessie's hands roaming over of bare wet skin working scented oils into her muscles. And memories of Jessie tipping glasses of bubbly champagne for her to consume, before bringing their lips together for long, deep kisses. At no point whatsoever, did Katie flash back to Jessie telling her about the case.

"You told me about it with your naked body pressed up against mine, as you feed me champagne by the bottle and rubbed me with scented oils and you expected me to remember?" Katie asked incredulously, looking at Jessie like she was insane. "All I remember about Friday is … mmm," she continued biting her bottom lips as more memories flooded into her mind.

"You know," Jessie said playfully, placing her hand and Katie's hip, stroking the skin lightly with her thumb. "I think you're hornier now than in high school."

"That's not true," Katie grumbled in response, Jessie's voice bringing her back to the present. Jessie merely looked at her unconvinced. "I was just better hiding it back then," Katie continued when Jessie didn't respond.

"How is that at all possible?" Jessie asked thinking that teenagers weren't exactly renowned for their self-control.

"It's quite simple really," Katie began a scholarly tone. "You see, back then I was in a state of perpetual horniness, a lusty haze as it were, like most teenagers are. And because this condition was so prevalent after the initial outbreak it retreated to the recesses of my mind becoming like a shadow, and thus manageable," she continued trying not to laugh at Jessie expression. "Now, after years and years, you've reintroduced the perpetual state of horniness into the equation catching me completely unaware," she concluded with a long-suffering sigh.

"You amaze me," Jessie said smiling. "It's completely insane how you can say the most inappropriate, borderline offense things, but no matter comes out of your mouth, I always find it cute and charming, and…" Jessie continued before being interrupted.

"And it makes you want to ravage me," Katie interjected winking at Jessie.

"See," Jessie said pointing at her. "Why is that endearing?"

Katie made a great effort to look like she was considering this question, and then with the utmost seriousness returned her gaze to Jessie, and said, "It'd probably help if you ravaged me."

Jessie smirked at this response, and pushed against Katie's shoulders gently until the other woman was lying on her back then shifted so that she was straddling Katie's waist. Placing her hands on both sides of Katie's body, Jessie then began to slowly run them up and down, looking down at her girlfriend with a wicked grin on her face.

Katie smiled back up at Jessie, her breathing already increasing as Jessie continued her slow caress, the thought of an immediate future of loving causing her to shiver.

"Maybe later," Jessie responded feeling a tremble run through Katie's body. Then she rolled off of the other woman so that they were both lying on their backs.

"Th…a…" was all Katie managed to choke out as she lay there staring at the ceiling.

"Aw," Jessie cooed flipping onto her side so that she could see Katie. "You're so cute when you're sexually frustrated."

"I am not," Katie mumbled pouting slightly as she shot a harassed look Jessie's way. "Besides," she continued huffily. "I don't' need you."

"Really?" Jessie asked in an intrigued tone.

"That's not what I meant," Katie said shooting Jessie a look as the blonde grinned at her.

"I can't believe it," Jessie said laughing as Katie stewed beside her. "All that time I was worrying about Sarah, when I really should've been jealous of your right hand."

"Pipe down," Katie replied blushing, shooting Jessie another look.

"It's alright," Jessie said adopting a scholarly tone like Katie had used minutes before. "Studies say that everyone does it. It's a perfectly normal, and healthy biological function."

"Really?" Katie asked finally turning to meet Jessie's gaze. "Is that what took you so long in the shower the morning after Lily made me sleepover? A normal, and healthy biological function?" she asked grinning as Jessie's smile slowly faded from her face.

"Watch the movie," Jessie mumbled dropping her head onto Katie's shoulder.

"Oh my god," Katie breathed out looking down at the top of Jessie's head. She'd just been kidding, she hadn't actually thought that that was what had really kept Jessie so long that morning, but now it looked like she was right, and really the thought delighted her.

"Shut up," Jessie responded blushing. It wasn't her fault, Katie had kept her word and tossed and turned onto her in the middle of the night. And once she had wrapped herself around her she'd proceeded to shift and rub up against her for the entire night. It was torture of the best variety. "Hey," Jessie continued when Katie continued to chuckle. "If you don't stop you're going have plenty of time to get to know yourself."

Katie promptly stopped laughing, and Jessie smiled. This was much better.

Part 24


Jessie smiled softly to herself as she leaned up against one of the walls that made up a small, dark corner of the gallery. She raised her glass slowly to her lips as her eyes were focused towards the center of the room. Katie was standing in the middle of a circle of people, smiling and gesturing emphatically basically charming the pants (and skirts) off of everyone around her if their laughter and smiles were any indication. Jessie smiled again at seeing her girlfriend so happy, it made her happy to see Katie happy, however unlike Katie she could only take so much happiness with people milling about her asking her if she was happy before she had to sound the claxons and call for a retreat.

It had been a whirlwind of a year for them. At first Katie was slow to get to work, dawdling about muttering about finding her motivation and having more pressing matters on her mind than finger-painting, such as finding them a house and getting funding for the gallery and all sorts of other rot that would have been perfectly reasonable if they weren't coming from Katie. However, once she had gotten back to work Jessie had come home every evening to smell of paint, oil and the sounds of the Rolling Stones.

It was one of the most beautiful experiences in the entire world, and she got to have it everyday. Lucky girl, that's what she was. She was one lucky girl.

A hand on her shoulder drew Jessie out of her thoughts. Surprised, not having thought anyone saw her slip away, but not alarmed Jessie tipped her head to the side smiling when she saw her mother standing beside her.

"A raging success," Karen said softly her eyes roaming around the room.

"A raging success," Jessie agreed turning to smile at her mother as Karen squeezed her shoulder.

"You're going to have to make her take out the trash so her head doesn't swell," Karen offered conversationally as she watched Katie bow and smile rakishly to the people gathered around her. It had taken awhile, but she and Katie were friends again now, which meant that she got to start making fun of her once more.

"I make her take out the garbage anyways," Jessie replied, her eyes once again focused on Katie though her attention was devoted to her conversation with her mother.

"That's my girl," Karen said proudly her eyes scanning the crowd for Henry.

"It's the ass-pole gene," Jessie mumbled taking a sip of her champagne. Sammler women were the ones with the whips that was just the way it worked and if they had their way – which they always did – it was the way it would always work.

"The what?" Karen asked turning to look at Jessie sharply.

"Nothing," Jessie hastily responded. The ass-pole was a family joke that had NOT been shared with Karen.

"It sounded like you said something about an ass-pole gene," Karen said quirking a questioning eyebrow at her daughter.

"What's an ass-pole?" Jessie inquired, her face and tone as innocent as could be. 'That's it Jess,' she thought to herself, 'play dumb'.

"You tell me," Karen responded, the very ass-pole in question working itself into a tizzy.

"How can I tell you about something when I don't even know what it is?" Jessie asked, her ass-pole senses tingling.

It was going to be a long night.


Katie stood in the doorway of the cabin quietly watching the serene scene displayed in front of her. Jessie was sitting on the porch swing, wrapped in a huge afghan blanket watching the way the light of the setting sun danced over the rippling water of the lakes surface.

Three mornings ago they had escaped city and settled into a quiet little cabin tucked away in the woods for a much talked about vacation. Katie had procured the little property only weeks before, having haggled and bartered for it, wanting a pit stop of sorts for Jessie on the way procuring that quaint little ranch she had talked about so many years ago.

Walking over to Jessie, Katie looked down at her thoughtfully for a moment as Jessie peered up at her blithely, then she reached down and unceremoniously ripped the blanket off of her girlfriend before folding herself around Jessie's body and smoothing settling the blanket back around them both.

"You," Jessie said smiling as she felt Katie's arm snake around her waist, "are extremely odd."

""Everybody says that like it's a revelation, like people haven't tried to stamp it onto my ass before," Katie replied placing a soft kiss on Jessie's shoulder feeling the blonde's body shake as she laughed. "Now before you can ruin this precious moment," she continued ignoring the look Jessie shot back at her, "I was thinking."

"Oh god," Jessie mumbled mock shivering.

"None of that," Katie said craning her head around to give Jessie a playfully warning look. "You'll like this," she assured the blonde who was looking at her with a confused yet intrigued expression, despite her earlier exclamation. "I was thinking, an intimate beach service in Hawaii," she continued her eyes drifting off as she spoke.

"What?" Jessie asked charmed by Katie's cute faraway expression, but having absolutely no idea whatsoever what she was talking about.

"For the wedding," Katie replied simply. "My immediate family, your immediate family … which should bring the total to around 30 …" she added smirking. "And a good photographer."

"Wedding?" Jessie asked softly, shifting in the sway seat so that she could look at Katie's face without craning her neck.

"Uh huh," Katie responded her eyes locked with Jessie's. "This is me proposing to you."

Jessie felt her heart quicken and her mind slow as the last of Katie's words drifted to her ears. Her body was torn between wanting to jump up and run down the shoreline screaming and pumping her fists and wanting to faint and maybe twitch a little. Katie was proposing to her, they were going to get married and spend the rest of the their lives together. She was looking at forever with the only person she had ever loved. So, she did the only thing she could. She sat there staring at Katie with a stupefied expression on her face.

"Look," Katie said digging around underneath the blanket for a moment before pulling out a small black box. "Shiny," she continued flipping it open to show Jessie the ring. She really hoped that the ring would encourage the blonde to make an expression. She was beginning to think she really should have done the whole knee thing, but no, she had to prove herself right and actually propose in the most asinine fashion ever.

"This is me," Katie began again taking the ring out of the box and picking up Jessie's hand. "Asking you to marry me," she went on holding the ring just over Jessie's index finger.

It may have been unusual proposal, but such was her way.

Jessie slowly moved her hand so that it covered Katie's and with her eyes trained on their joined hands she moved Katie's and pushed the ring fully onto the index finger of her other hand. Then, after pausing for a moment to look at the ring on her finger as Katie's hand gently held her own, she raised her eyes and leaned forward bringing their lips together, in a soft, tender kiss.

"I'm," Katie said, her voice quivering slightly as they separated, "going to take that as a yes and use this opportunity to call no take backs," she continued realizing that her voice wasn't the only thing that was shaky. "So Hawaii, what do you…" But before she could continue Jessie had captured her lips once more, her hands coming to the sides of Katie's face holding her in place as she kissed her over and over and over again, tears of happiness streaking down her cheeks.

"In the evening, just before sunset," Jessie whispered placing her head on Katie's shoulder and turning her still watering eyes back towards the lake.

"That's exactly what I was thinking," Katie replied smiling.

2019 - Epilogue

"Gracias," Katie said, a soft smile touching her lips as she looked up at the man standing next to her as she passed the small postcard back to him.

However, though her eyes were on him, her attention was focused on a slight tugging sensation on her other arm. The hand of which was attached firmly to the back of a small, struggling boys stylish jumper.

"Caleb," she finally said in a harassed tone as the man walked away autograph in hand. "Caleb stop," she continued, as he looked back at her for a moment then started right back up again pointing through the window of the restaurant.

"Oh alright," Katie said looking out the window and spotting the object of his agitation.

"I scream," the boy said excitedly just incase she hadn't caught his drift. "I scream, I scream," he continued surging forward only to be restrained by Katie's hold. "I scream," he added for good measure once he had caught his breath from his previous exertions.

"Ice cream," Katie agreed smiling down at the top of his shaggy head before glancing across the table.

"The perfect after breakfast snack," Jessie replied, a lazy smile spreading across her face as she watched Katie's body jerk to the side as Caleb's eighth wind came to him and took her with him as he surged forward.

"I'm gonna remember you said that," Katie replied grinning at her wife as she stood up finally letting go of the boys jumper and watching as he flew forward a few steps then stood facing the door bouncing up and down on his feet breathlessly. "Is he too young to put on medication?" Katie continued turning her head to face Jessie as they headed for the exit. "Hey, ouch," was what followed the question as she rubbed her shoulder.

"So you finally got to see a show in Madrid," Katie commented as they crossed the square, watching as Jessie gazed around them with that same glazed expression she'd been wearing since they had gotten off of the plane. "Was it worth the wait?"

"Every year," Jessie replied smiling. "Now how long till I get to see one in Palermo?"

"Oh at least another ten years," Katie replied breezily. "Somebody keeps stealing my paints," she added pointedly looking down with a mock glare. "I wonder who it could be?" she continued as the small figure walking between them peered up at her ingenuously. Caleb then turned his head to look at Jessie and pointed.

"Mum," he said nodding at Katie seriously before focusing on the ice cream truck once more.

"Has somebody got some 'splaining to do?" Katie asked looking over at Jessie who merely shook her head while thinking to herself 'oh god there's two of them now'.

But as they reached the vender a broad smile spread across her face before she bent down to pick up Caleb so that he could pick what he wanted. And as his stream of consciousness selection debate drifted to her ears, her gaze flickered over to look at her wife who had her bottom lip firmly ensnared by her teeth as she looked intently at the menu, tilting her head to the side with interest occasionally before shaking her head and going back to study the menu some more.

"Uh," Caleb said pointing to a selection, drawing Jessie out of her pleasant haze.

"What was that?" Jessie asked raising an eyebrow at him. If she'd told him once, she'd told him a thousand times, civilized people don't grunt.

"Uh, por favor?" Caleb responded hopefully, looking over at Jessie with an expression that said 'did I get it?'

"That's better," Jessie said smiling before leaning slightly to the side to place a brief kiss to his forehead turning to order.

The End

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