DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thirteenth in the Slow Burn series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Out At The Wedding
Loitering was considered a misdemeanour charge in Springfield Township, punishable by a small fine and a little slap on the wrists from a judge. No-one was likely to punish this particular offender, however, given that she was, in fact, the Mayor.
"Oh God," Doris mumbled as she paced for the tenth time past the double doors leading to the hall where all the other wedding guests were assembled. Occasionally someone would go in or out, allowing the sound of happy chatter and clinking glassware to leak out into the street where the flustered Mayor and her worried companion lingered.
"Doris," Blake said for what felt like the millionth time, reaching out to grasp her hand. Doris was tense - unutterably tense - but she didn't pull away. Blake smiled a little sadly. "Do you want to go in separately?" she asked, with a tinge of disappointment lacing her tone. Doris turned to her with a stricken expression.
"No!" she insisted, tugging on Blake's hand and pulling her a little closer. "No," she repeated, a little more softly. She brought her other hand up to caress Blake's cheek, and smiled when the other woman leaned into the touch.
"You just seem a little..."
The two women broke into nervous laughter, but Doris's face soon turned serious again. "I am," she said. "I'm scared. This," she gestured to the door and the gathered townspeople beyond it, "is scary."
Blake took one step closer. "What about this," she said softly, drawing Doris's hand up to rest over her heart. "Is this scary too?"
Doris swallowed hard. Yes, she wanted to say. But then again, no would be equally true. What was happening between them was, in many ways, the scariest thing that had ever happened to her. And yet, when she allowed herself to get lost in the shining green of Blake's eyes, she realised that she had never felt so safe, or so sure. "I'm not afraid of this," she said firmly, and was rewarded by a shy smile. "I'm just...not used to telling the truth."
"Well, you are a politician," Blake quipped.
"Oh ha ha," Doris deadpanned. She pressed her fingers more firmly against Blake's chest for a brief moment before reaching up and curling them round the back of her neck, threading into a few loose strands of hair that were whisping down from the bun. "I'm not afraid of being with you," she said, softly but firmly. "It's...everything else. But this...you and me?...this is what I want, Blake. I promise."
Blake smiled and took another step forward, moulding their curves together and tilting her head up for a kiss. "It's what I want too," she murmured, and Doris could do nothing but lean down and accept the invitation of her lips.
It was a brief kiss, neither explosive nor incendiary, but it was a step of gargantuan proportions. "All right," Doris said when it broke. "I'm ready. Let's do this thing."
Blake grinned and linked hands with her date. "Okay," she said. "Ashlee and Emma and Mr-I-shot-the-DA-and-screw-up-constantly-but-my-mom's-going-to-hell-for-falling-in-love are just inside the door. Is that okay?"
Doris took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "Okay." She squeezed Blake's hand. "Let's go."
Ashlee was busy playing with Emma when they entered and it took a few moments for her to notice them. "Hey mom," she said when Doris called her name at last, turning to face her with a smile. "Wow, that's a great dress, I like it a lot."
"Thank you sweetie," Doris replied, and then seemed to stall slightly. Blake looked between Doris and her daughter for a few awkward seconds before taking matters into her own hands.
"I like your dress, Ashlee," she said, drawing the girl's attention.
"Oh, thanks Blake - you too."
Blake waited for seven seconds - she counted - before Ashlee's gaze travelled down. Blue eyes bulged.
"I'm going to get a drink," Blake said, sending that the moment had come for her to leave mother and daughter alone. She ran her hand down Doris's bare arm, and smiled when she saw a trail of goose flesh erupt in the wake of her fingers. "Do you want anything Doris?"
Blake squeezed her date's hand one last time when she demurred, and headed over to the bar. Olivia and Natalia were there already so she smiled and greeted them warmly. When she looked over her shoulder again she was heartened by the sight of Ashlee embracing her mother while Rafe looked away with a gentle flush on his cheeks.
But then she found Ashlee's eyes and was surprised by the look of...open hostility with which she was met. Her jaw dropped slightly.
What the hell was that about?
"What's wrong?" Doris asked her when she arrived, reaching out and taking her hand. Blake shook herself.
"Nothing," she replied, and forced herself to smile. "Nothing at all."
After the ceremonies were over and the revelry had begun, Blake found herself standing alone by the bar again, nursing a glass of champagne and watching Frank dancing with her date. He'd blustered into their conversation a few minutes before, saying that the new Chief of Police ought to dance with the Mayor. Blake pursed her lips. He had seemed disturbingly oblivious to the fact that he was interrupting. Had no-one spotted Doris's quiet attempt to stick her foot out of the closet door? How disappointing would it be to try to tell the truth for once, only to have no-one notice?
Blake jumped, startled out of her thoughts by Ashlee appearing at her side. "God, you startled me," she said with a flustered smile. Ashlee didn't return the gesture.
"What are you up to?" the blonde said, without preamble. Blake frowned.
"I don't underst-"
"Don't play dumb Blake, please," Ashlee interrupted. "What are you doing with my mother?"
Blake flushed darkly. "What, do you want details?" she snapped. Ashlee's lips curled in distaste.
"I think I can live without those," she replied. The sharpness of her tone was attracting attention. She looked around briefly, then grabbed Blake by the elbow and dragged her out to relative quiet of the veranda. A chill wind suddenly made itself felt, causing the lake to ripple as if frowning. Blake pulled her wrap around her shoulders.
"What the hell is this about, Ashlee?" she demanded.
Ashlee rounded on her. "You know what this is about," she hissed. "What do you think you're doing?"
Blake stepped back defensively. "I think I'm on a date," she replied. "What do you think you're doing?"
Ashlee shook her head. "And since when were you dating my mother?" She crossed her arms across her chest.
Blake grimaced. "What does it matter?"
Ashlee threw her hands in the air. "Oh, nothing I suppose. I'd just like to know exactly how long you've been going around behind my back-"
"Behind your back!" Blake barked out a laugh. "How histrionic can you get?"
"That night you came to my apartment," Ashlee challenged, as if Blake hadn't spoken. "Was this," she gestured vaguely between them, as if Blake and Doris's relationship was a solid object lying between them, "going on then?"
Blake shook her head. "No," she admitted. "Not then." Not exactly. She shook her head to clear the traitorous thought and went right back on the offensive. "What the hell is your problem anyway?" she demanded. "It's OK if your mom's gay as long as she doesn't have a girlfriend?"
Ashlee pulled a face. "Don't be ridiculous."
"Well, that's how it looks from here." Blake set her jaw and crossed her arms. Ashlee turned away and began to pace.
"Maybe I'd just prefer if my mom was seeing someone...appropriate."
Blake's eyebrows shot into her hairline. "What does that mean?"
Ashlee stopped moving and turned to her. "You're not gay," she said, as if talking to an exceptionally stupid child. "So what is this - an experiment? A little research from some book you're writing?" Blake let out an outraged yelp, but Ashlee ignored it. "She's not some project you can pick up and put down. My mom is sensitive."
"I know," Blake replied immediately. "Believe me, I of all people know that. I'm the one who comforted her when you walked away from her last week, remember?"
Ashlee raised herself up to her full height. She had a good four inches on Blake at the best of times, and in heels she towered over the older woman. "And I'll be there to comfort her when you've got whatever it is you want from her," she snapped.
"I don't want anything from her!" Blake retorted, flushing darkly. "Except-"
Blake turned away, staring out across the lake before closing her eyes. She thought of all the little moments that had characterised her friendship with Doris - listening to her singing to the babies in Company; sitting in companionable silence on the grass by Ross's grave; making dinner in her kitchen with her daughter upstairs; even looking out over this very lake, accepting comfort and companionship offered freely. She swallowed hard. "Her," she murmured at last. "I just want her." She opened her eyes and caught Ashlee's gaze, holding it as she spoke. "I love her, Ashlee."
A soft gasp made them both spin round. Doris was standing in the arch leading from the main hall to the veranda and there were tears glittering unshed in her eyes. Blake couldn't look away. Ashlee glanced between them, sensing the currents flowing between them and unsure quite what to make of them. "If you hurt her," she began uncertainly, but Blake interrupted.
"I'm not going to hurt her." She hadn't torn her eyes from Doris's, and the promise seemed to be as much for the Mayor as her daughter.
Ashlee coughed, a little embarrassed by her tirade, and a lot embarrassed by being a part of what was so obviously a private moment. "Right. Okay, well...sorry if I was a little...anyway, I have to go to Company. Rafe's leaving soon. Uhm...I'll talk to you both later."
She brushed past Doris, who barely seemed to acknowledge her departure. Her eyes were riveted on Blake. "You..." She took a step forward, then stopped, hesitant. Blake's eyes drifted down to the pulse visibly thundering in her throat. "You...love me?"
Blake nodded once, then erased the space between them in three strides. She wrapped her arms round Doris's shoulders and pulled her close. "I love you," she whispered in her ear, and followed it up with a sprinkle of kisses on her cheek. Doris trembled in her arms, so Blake pulled back and cupped her face, forcing her to meet her eyes. "I love you," she said again, brushing away the two tears that had dripped from the other woman's eyelashes.
"Blake..." Doris whispered. "I...I..."
"Sssh," Blake soothed, pulling her back into a gentle embrace. "It's okay, sweetie. It's all right."
They stood holding each other for what could just as easily have been minutes or hours. When Blake became aware of the outside world again she noticed that the band inside was playing a slow song. Her lips curved up in a smile. "Wanna dance?"
Doris shook her head. "Not here," she murmured.
Blake tried not to let her disappointment show in her voice. It was asking a little much, perhaps. After all, they were in public, even if there was no one around on the veranda right at that moment. Baby steps and all that. "Okay," she said.
Doris pulled back so she could look into Blake's eyes. "Not here," she said again, holding out her hand. She threw a nod in the direction of the main reception where all the other couples were already dancing. "In there."
Blake blinked once, then twice. "You...you want..."
Doris silenced her with a kiss. "I want to dance," she murmured gently, "with the woman I love." She kissed her again. "On a dance floor. Just like everyone else." She tugged on Blake's hand. "Come on."
Blake hesitated. "You're sure? You can't go back after this. This is...a statement."
Doris threaded their fingers together and squeezed gently. She caught Blake's eyes and smiled. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life," she said seriously. "I want to dance with you. In there. In front of everyone. If..." she hesitated a little, "...if you want to."
A slow smile spread over Blake's face. "You're amazing," she whispered. "You know that, right?" Doris blushed, and Blake's smile widened into a grin. "Come on," she said, leaning forward and kissing her soundly.
"Let's make the evening news..."
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