"About a Girl"

Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me; I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
Show: Once and Again
Pairing: Jessie/Katie
Rating: PG
Author: Janine
Synopsis: What happens to girlís after their kiss in Jessieís room?
Email:
jbslayer27@yahoo.com

| Ch 1-5 | Ch 6-10 | Ch 11-15 | Ch 16-20 | Ch 21-25 | Ch 26-End |

Part 1

Manning Manor

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"Whatís going on?" Grace asked wandering into the kitchen. Everyone was gathered around the counter not saying anything, simply starring at the table where Jessie alone seemed to be seated.

"Lilyís trying to figure out if that was really cold medication she bought for Jessie yesterday," Eli whispered, his eyes never leaving his sisters back for a second.

"Jessie thinks eggs is a funny word," ZoŽ added from somewhere beneath Graceís right elbow. "She said so, but sheís still eating them." Grace looked down at her little sister sighing internally to see that the child had that blasted placemat on her head again, only this time neither her mom or Rick seemed notoriously concerned about it.

"You donít think we should call someone do you?" Rick asked scrunching up his brow in concern.

"Oh my god," Grace laughed looking at all of them like they were insane. "Canít she just be in a good mood?" she asked shaking her head before heading for the fridge. "Hey," she greeted looking at Jessie briefly before reaching for the orange juice container.

"Hey," Jessie responding shooting her a grin before turning back around and bringing her fork down to her plate, seemingly surprised to find it empty. Now intrigued, Grace watched as her stepsister shook her head and smiled with a Ďstupid meí expression, then got up, dumping her plate in the sink and headed out of the kitchen. But not before looking at everyone like they were pod people when they moved out of her way collectively. Grace smiled again and turned her attention back to the fridge. It wasnít the medication Lily had bought that was making Jessie act that way, she was sure of it. She doubted that Jessie was actually ever feeling sick to begin with, and if she had been, sheíd certainly been fine when sheíd gone up to the attic yesterday to deliver the medication, only to find Jessie and Katie standing around self-consciously but happily looking at her like theyíd never seen her before. Then later, as sheíd gone to leave the attic sheíd looked back to find Jessie sprawled out on her bed looking up at the ceiling with a blissed out expression on her face, and she knew instinctively what must have happened between her and Katie.

"What did the warning label say?" Rick asked turning to look at Lily once Jessie had left the room.

"Oh my god," Grace grumbled again rolling her eyes as she sat down at the table. She didnít know if she could take a whole day of this.

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Hospital Parking Lot

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

Karen looked back at Eli sharing a brief smile with him as they watched Jessie bound off into the distance in search of the car. As Eli wheeled her out of the hospital, Jessie had run off saying she was going to prepare the car, because while Eli hadnít actually been raised in a barn, he lived like he had been.

"At least you didnít have to sit through her monologue on the beauty of butterflies," Eli grumbled good naturedly before tipping his motherís wheelchair back and running with it momentarily, stopping only when Karen begged him to stop. The action had earned him a slap on the arm, but also a smile, so he figured it all evened out in the end. "I swear it was like sheíd never been outdoors before," he continued watching as Jessieís head disappeared behind a van a couple yards ahead of them. "And at breakfast, she actually let that little Hobbit cut her food into the shape of a bunny rabbit!"

"Hobbit?" Karen asked turning in her chair slightly. "Whoís a Hobbit?"

"ZoŽ," Eli responded adjusting their course a bit as he spotted the car. "And before you get mad, Jessieís the one that called her that first."

"Why?" Karen asked bewildered.

"The kid used her favorite pair of socks to make a puppet," Eli responded grinning. "To this day Ö well maybe not today," he amended, "She stomps out of the room whenever Mr. Buckley Buttonpants of ZoŽís third drawer makes an appearance."

Karen smiled, soaking up this relaxing moment with her son, like it was the first day you could outside without a jacket after a long winter. Things had been so strained between them for the past little while, that it was nice to just be able to talk to him, and have him talk to her.

"Sheís in a good mood," Karen said softly a moment later, watching as Jessie threw some article of clothing out of the backseat and into the trunk.

"HEY! BE CAREFUL WITH THOSE!" Eli bellowed at the top of his lungs as Jessie began to fling some music sheets carelessly into the trunk. "Hey!" he yelled again, when she looked up at him then went back to what she had been doing.

"Eli, please," Karen said wincing as his voice reverberated in her ears.

"Sorry," he said realizing what he had been doing. "Itís just that we need those for practice tomorrow," he continued glaring at Jessie as he quickened his step.

"Did anything happen last night?" Karen asked sending him a reproachful look that caused him to slow down once again. He sighed; he was never going to be able to find the sheets he needed tomorrow.

"What do you mean?" he asked absently.

"Jessie, she seemed really upset the other day when she came by to see me," Karen responded. "ButÖshe seems better now. Better than for a long while now," she continued softly.

"Hmmm," Eli said thinking back. "I donít know Ö that hot chick sheís been hanging out with came byÖthatís about it."

"Eli," Karen said stretching out her sons name with distaste. "Katieís 16," she continued looking back at him. Eli shrugged. "Youíre sure thatís it?" Karen asked a moment later.

"Yeah," Eli responded. "After that she pretty much spent the whole night in her room listening to that CD sheís got from prohibition times, or whatever," he continued making a face.

"Billie Holiday," Karen corrected gently. Prohibition times, Karen thought to herself, good grief.

"Yeah, thatís what I said," Eli responded finally bringing them to a stop beside the car.

"Said about what?" Jessie asked her head popping up to look at them from across the car.

"Youíre boyfriend Taaaaaaaad," Eli responded mockingly, making kiss-y faces before pretending to swoon.

"Heís not my boyfriend," Jessie responded glaring at her brother, before ducking her head back into the car to toss the last of his crap into the trunk.

"íOh Tad, I love you and youíre gay porn sounding nameí," Eli said in response, his voice rising in a crude attempt to mimic Jessieís voice. He was bitter about the treatment she had just given his ĎSex Machineí t- shirt.

"Eli," Karen started, really not wanting to listen to two of them argue the whole way home, but before she could get anything else out, Jessieís head popped up again interrupting her.

"How would you know?" she asked, her eyebrow rising challengingly.

"Know what?" Eli asked not really liking the expression on her face. Jessie may have been younger than him, but when she wanted to she could rip anyone a new asshole. He clenched beginning to think that he should have listened to his mother.

"What his name sounds like," Jessie explained. "Been watching a lot of gay porn lately?" she asked grinning at him.

"Alright," Karen said holding up her hands, cutting Eli off before he could respond. "Thatís enough. Both of you behave." Both of them stared at her for a moment, looking like they wanted to object, then muttered that they would, and set about preparing the car for her. Karen smiled; it was good to be back.

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School

======

"No, they sucked," Katie, stated emphatically. "No. No they sucked."

"Youíre just bitter because Acoustic Soul got shot down like a cougar at the Playboy mansion," Tad responded happily as Russell slapped him on the back.

"Just because you inherited your dadís taste from like the 70s it doesnít mean all of us have light candles at the Shrine of Bono," Katie responded shooting Tad a nasty sideways look. The truth was she was bitter that Acoustic Soul got shut out. "Besides, it was soooo long. I mean what time did it end, like 2 am? In corrupt prisons across the world theyíre torturing people with Jon Stewartís striptease."

"I thought that was funny man," Russell starting to laugh. "He was allÖand then it was likeÖ" he went on almost doubling over from the effort it was taking for him to hold in his girlish giggles.

Katie rolled her eyes, and turned away from the two guys letting her eyes scan the hallways. Catching sight of a familiar face, she broke out into a huge grin, which she then rather conspicuous covered.

"Iíll catch up with you later," she called out already heading down the hall.

"Hey," Tad called out. "Are you coming tonight," he asked.

"Maybe," Katie called back almost out of earshot. Then she held up her hand making the ĎIíll call youí hand motion and disappeared down the next hallway.

"Alright, meet me outside of the gym after school and Iíll give you a lift," Grace said with a long-suffering sigh as she checked her watch.

"Thanks," Jessie responded choosing to ignore Graceís tone. Sometimes with Grace it was best to do that.

"Looks like youíve got a visitor," Grace commented a moment later, her previous sulky tone now gone.

"What?" Jessie asked looking up. "Oh," she continued seeing Katie propped up against a wall near her locker, seemingly reading a nearby poster. "Right. Okay, Iíll see you later," Jessie responded trying to subtly shoo Grace away.

"Riiiight," Grace responded. "Later," and with that she continued on down the hallway smiling. Jessie was sooo busted.

"Hey," Jessie said coming up behind Katie. "What cha looking at?"

"Intramural floor hockey," Katie responded cocking her head towards the poster and sign up sheet.

"You thinking of joining?" Jessie asked, smiling.

"No. I like my teeth in my mouth," Katie responded, her hands brushing down over her skirt shakily before she finally turned to look at Jessie. "So, the world of academia is glad to have you back," she continued as they headed towards Jessieís locker.

"The feelings mutual," Jessie responded turning her lock slowly. She seemed to be having trouble remembering her combination. "Oh, and tell academiaís mom thanks. The cookies she baked were breakfast this morning," Jessie continued knowingly.

"Busted, huh?" Katie asked, leaning against a nearby locker.

"Yes, but it was a valiant effort," Jessie responded smiling. "Itís good to see you," she continued, her voice dropping a little as she raised her eyes to meet Katieís.

"Itís good to be seen," the girl responded, smiling softly, before turning her head to watch the passing students. "So Ö you wanna do something later? I have extensive ideas about how to waste time. There may even be a flow chart but I canít remember if I got around to it," she continued glancing at Jessie. They had talked on the phone over the weekend, but hadnít actually seen each other since that afternoon in the attic. And as ecstatic as she was over what had happened in Jessieís bedroom that day, she wasnít sure where they stood exactly. She knew where she wanted to be standing, but it was up to Jessie.

"I told my mom Iíd come straight home," Jessie replied closing her locker door. "Thereís still a lot of stuff to get back in order, I mean the mail pile alone was like a weekís worth of work," she continued turning to face Katie.

"Yeah, of course," Katie responded. "Totally. I completely understand," she responded, her shoes suddenly seeming very interesting.

"You should come," Jessie said seeing Katieís expression and knowing what was probably going through her head. "She keeps asking about you anyway. Katie this and Katie that Ö I swear itís like she wants to marry you or something," she continued smiling at the memory of her mother incessantly questioning her about Katie.

"Really?" Katie asked looking over at Jessie.

"Yeah, apparently I talk about you a lot," Jessie, responded shaking her head self-consciously. "You donít have to, I mean itís probably not going to be a lot of fun. Sheíll probably have us stocking cupboards or dusting something, butÖ"

"Iíll come," Katie said interrupting her. "I mean, Iíd like to go with you. We can do the whole underage illegal worker thing together."

"Cool," Jessie responded smiling, as she adopted a position similar to Katieís against the locker.

"Yeah," Katie agreed a wide grin spreading across her face. "So, you tired of lounging yet?"

"Yeah," Jessie said pushing off of the lockers. "How do the jocks do it?"

"Nobody knows," Katie responded heading down the hall. "But I suspect it has something to do with the numerous blows to the head. That just canít be healthy. Also, itís not very pretty."

"The real reason floor hockey is out?" Jessie asked gamely.

"I stand by my decision," Katie responded grasping Jessieís hand momentarily, letting go as they turned the corner. "My stop," she said glancing at the classroom door.

"Lunch?" Jessie asked.

"Well, thatís right around the time I get hungry so youíre in luck," Katie replied smiling. "IÖ" she started to say, looking at Jessie seriously. "Yeah," she continued shaking her head, "Iíll see you then."

"Yeah," Jessie said holding her eyes for a second longer. Then she continued down the hall, smiling once she was out of sight. Lunch never seemed so far away.

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Part 2

Karenís House

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

"Oh my god," Katie exclaimed flinging herself on Jessieís bed as Jessie closed the door to her room. "I thought you were joking about the packing and dusting and stuff! I havenít worked that hard since dad made us help build crazy uncle Coryís cottage slash whacked out bomb shelter!"

"Bomb shelter?" Jessie asked raising an eyebrow.

"Thatís why we call him Ďcrazyí uncle Cory," Katie responded flipping around onto her back so that she could see Jessie. "He once ate nothing but baked beans for like eight months. He wasnít allowed to come over for holiday dinners during that period," she continued sitting up as Jessie walked over to the bed.

"Thatís a lovely story," Jessie said making a face coming to stop just in front of Katie. "Iím surprised that it isnít told every Christmas with people gathered around the fireplace holding hands and stuff."

"Mock him if you will," Katie responded with a pseudo sigh. "Really. Everyone else does," she continued grinning up at Jessie cheekily, her smile slowly fading away to be replaced by questioning head tilt as she realized just how close to her Jessie was standing. "Hey," she continued a moment later, swallowing heavily as her eyes traveled up Jessieís torso, settling on her lips for a moment before moving up further to her eyes, which were watching her closely.

"I wantÖ" Jessie began slowly, clearly annunciating every syllable.

"I know," Katie responded holding her gaze. "Itís okay," she continued. "Itís always okay."

And before she could say anything else, she felt Jessieís lips on hers, brushing against her own gently, then with an increasing firmness as she got swept up in the tide, pulling away only when the need for oxygen became too great to ignore.

"Itís different when Iím taller than you," Jessie commented softly as she looked down at Katieís seated figure. A wickedly delicious smile creeping across her features as the euphoria hit her. "I like being tall."

"Certainly it has its advantages," Katie responded hers lips turning upwards as well, her reply both teasing and relieved. "But thereís something to be said for the view from Midget Town too."

"Midget Town?" Jessie asked, her eyes narrowing menacingly. So she was going to start with the short jokes was she? Not a good move.

"Is Dopey coming by today, heís got my copy of ĎItís a small world after allí," Katie answered immediately, her smile growing wider at Jessieís expression. God, she was so cute, like when she did anything. All Jessie had to do was make an expression and it was like the best thing sheíd ever seen.

"You are in *so* much trouble," Jessie ground out staring a Katie for a moment, before laughing as she flung herself at Katie, causing the other girl to fall back against the bed, as Jessie landed on top of her, rolling them over, causing her laugh even harder as Katie began to tickle her.

=======================================

"What are you doing?" Jessie asked looking down as Katie picked up her hand in hers. They were sitting across from each other cross-legged on the floor. At first they had been talking, about stupid things, about anything, but then theyíd just kind of stopped and started looking at each other. For a long time. Then Katie had reached out her hand and picked up Jessieís.

"Iím not sure," Katie responded as she cradled Jessieís hand in her left one, and then began tracing the lines of Jessieís hand with one of the fingers of her right hand slowly. "Wait," Katie continued a moment later. "I know now."

"What?" Jessie asked, her breath coming out surprisingly short. She had stopped concentrating for a moment, and now it seemed as if sheíd forgotten how to breathe.

"Learning," Katie said softly, her head tilting up momentarily to gaze at Jessie. "Youíre hands are so softÖdelicate," she whispered softly, almost as if she were in a trance. "Beautiful," she continued her eyes dropping back down to Jessieís palm. "Like you."

"YouÖyou think Iím beautiful?" Jessie asked a moment later, her voice halting with uncertainty as her eyes dropped down to their joined hands.

"No," Katie responded gazing over at her without a momentís hesitation. Jessie looked up at her questioningly, confused, but Katie continued going before she could say anything. "I know it. Iím pretty sure that itís written in stone somewhere," she continued seriously. "Like Gospel. Youíre nameís in italics."

Jessie was quiet for a second, then half exhaled, half laughed, bowing her head down self-consciously as Katieís words washed over her like cool fresh water over pebbles on a summer day. It made her feel tingly inside, like when they kissed; only it was different at the same time. Her mother had told her that she was beautiful before, her dad too. Even Eli had acquiesced that sheíd Ďprobably be a lookerí when she grew up. But it had never really fazed her, when she heard it with them, it had just rolled off of the surface and she had never truly believed it. But coming from Katie, it was different; it began to sink into her. And she believed it for second, even if it was only in Katieís eyes.

"Hey, are you okay?" Katie asked concern filling her voice as she looked at Jessieís still bowed head. "I didnít mean to embarrass you," she continued ducking her head down to try and get a better look at Jessieís face. "Sometimes I just talk to much. I wonít be planning on saying anything, and then words just come tumbling out of my mouth, and I suddenly wish that my mom would actually buy that muzzle sheís always threatening me with."

"You donít talk to much," Jessie said softly finally looking up, her eyes still shimmering as she gazed at Katie. "I mean, I like listening to you talk," she said smirking at her own lameness.

"That works out well then, I think," Katie responded smiling self- depreciatingly seeming not to mind her lameness if there had been any. "You know, I meant it. But I wonít say it again if it makes you uncomfortable," she continued, her finger still unconsciously stroking Jessieís hand.

"Itís not that, itís justÖ" Jessie started; momentarily distracted by the feeling Katieís finger was producing in her hand, which then promptly shot through the rest of her body like electricity. "I just, you know never heard that from anyone whoís not related to me," she continued a moment later, her head dropping down once more.

"Not even from Tad?" Katie asked, a small smile etching itís way across her features.

Jessie looked up at her then contemplatively. Tad had told her something like that. And she had gotten it from strangers too she supposed, she just hadnít believed them. She hadnít believed anyone who had told her before Katie, not even a little bit. She still wasnít sure, not really, she only knew that she believed Katie meant it, and that was enough for her.

"I guess it just didnít mean anything coming from him," she said softly, her brows drawing together thoughtfully.

"But it doesÖfrom me?" Katie asked studying Jessieís face.

Jessie merely nodded, and then turned her eyes up to look into Katieís smiling face.

"We were going to Ö" Karen began opening Jessieís bedroom, pausing momentarily as she got her first good look inside. There were just sitting on the floor, Katie giving Jessie what looked like a palm reading while grinning at each other, but she felt like she was interrupting something the moment she opened the door and couldnít quite explain why. "Order a pizza, when I realized that I didnít know what Katie likes," she continued as Jessie scrambled to her feet, walking over to the door to help steady her. Eli had carried her up the stairs, and sheíd be fine with the walker for the next few minutes, but Jessie always worried.

"Oh, donít worry about me," Katie said getting to her feet as well, rubbing her hands together uncertainly. "Whateverís fine." Man, she thought to herself, did like every parent in the world have the absolute worst timing ever? Was there like a course that they got to take or something?

Karen smiled at her before looking back over at Jessie. "Pepperoni and cheese it is," she said then, turning her head slightly as Eliís voice wafted down to her from further down the hall. "Yeah, yeah, youíll get yours," she muttered under her breath, but loud enough for Jessie to hear as she was standing beside her.

"I thought we were all suppose to behave," Jessie murmured as she helped her mother maneuver out the door.

"Youíve got your fatherís sense of humor," Karen responded shaking her head, causing Jessie to laugh a little.

"I think dadís funny," she responded as Karen started down the hallway to her room.

"You would," she heard faintly followed by the soft sounds of laughter, before she lost sight of her mother as she entered her room.

"I think heís funny," Jessie said again turning around to face Katie, feeling somewhat unsteady Ė in a good way ó now that she wasnít holding her mother anymore and therefore able to use her as a distraction from the emotions that had been coursing through her before the interruption.

"I think youíre funny," Katie offered conciliatorily before flopping back down on her bed.

"Yes, Iím highly amusing," Jessie, agreed walking over to sit on the bed beside Katie.

"And beautiful," Katie added.

"Well, that goes without saying," Jessie responded seriously looking over at Katie, who watched her for a moment before they both broke out laughing, falling back down on the bed.

============================================

Jessie carefully opened the door to Karenís bedroom, scrunching up her face with intensity as she tried to make a sound. Then, having successfully opened the door she crept inside carefully closing it behind her before walking over to her motherís bed as stealthily as humanly possible. She was like a cat, she was sure of it.

"Hello," Karen said into the dark, having sensed her daughter as soon as she opened the door.

"AH!" Jessie yelled jumping back a bit. "HowÖ" she began, starting to replay her entrance in her head and knowing with absolute certainty that she hadnít made a sound.

"A mother always knows," Karen responded cryptically looking in the direction of Jessieís voice.

"Wasnít that a TV show back in the day," Jessie asked lifting up the edge of the blanket and slipping into the bed, plastering herself to her motherís side and resting her head on her shoulder.

"That was ĎFather Knows Bestí," Karen responded with a touch of amusement before kissing Jessie on the top of her head.

"Ah," Jessie said softly, almost knowledgably, before asking, "I wasnít alive then was I?"

"No," Karen responded laughing softly. "I only saw reruns."

"Must have been a long time ago," Jessie mumbled her response, her fingers running along the hard outer shell of the cast on her mothers arm.

"I suppose it would seem like that to you," Karen replied looking down at the top of Jessieís head. "Are you settling down?" she asked a moment later feeling her daughterís breaths coming less and less frequently.

"Uh huh," Jessie replied, not seeming notoriously concerned.

"So I guess you figured out what you wanted then," Karen commented taking in Jessieís relaxed bearing. It wasnít often that she saw her like that, totally calm. She realized that she herself had a tendency to worry, and fret over things, and to her chagrin she had noticed the same tendency in Jessie. It caused them both to be rather high strung most of the time, so it was rare and very pleasant to see Jessie this way, and to feel similarly herself.

"What?" Jessie asked looking up at her mother even though she could barely make out her features in the dark. Had she fallen asleep or something?

"What we were talking about the other day at the hospital," Karen answered, feeling Jessieís head drop back down onto her shoulder a moment later.

"Yeah," Jessie replied, fully awake again. "Kind of," she continued not really sure that she wanted to talk about at the moment, or ever.

"What did you decide?" Karen asked bringing her hand up to brush some hair off of Jessieís face, but then stopping. She actually like how it looked, it was as if Jessie had her own personal halo or something.

Her question was followed by a deep sigh, and Jessie wriggling about like she had ants in her pants for a few seconds, before she finally began to speak. "I guess I didnít really decide anything," she started slowly. "I just knew Ö I guess. Already," she finished awkwardly.

"So?" Karen prompted leadingly, "What did you realize?" She continued earning another deep sigh and more shifting from Jessie.

"Mom," the girl whined, stretching the words out for as long as humanly possible, before burying her head in the crook of Karenís shoulder as if she was trying hide or find buried treasure.

"I badger because I care," Karen said with a sigh of her own, knowing that she wasnít going to get anything else out of Jessie for the moment. Sheíd used that exact same tone with her mother more than once and she knew what it meant. Quit embarrassing me and leave me alone. It was a very adaptable whine.

"I know," Jessie replied softly. "Can we go to sleep now, or do you want to keep me up even later on a school night, so that I canít concentrate in class, flunk out and end up selling pencils on street corners for a living?"

"Goodnight, honey," was Karenís simple response.

"Night," Jessie mumbled.

"I love you," Karen added dragging the blanket up so that it covered Jessieís shoulders.

"Mom," Jessie said again, the pitch of her voice even higher than before.

"Alright, alright," Karen replied smiling but trying not to sound like she was.

==============================================

Part 3

A week later Ė School

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

Jessie flung her math text into the locker, dragging out an even bigger biology text shoving it into her backpack. Then, dropping the now obscenely heavy bag to the floor she reached back and closed her locker, bending down to pick up her bag when she caught sight of a familiar figure in the distance. Leaving the backpack where it was she leaned back against her locker and stared down the hallway.

She could just make out Katieís face in between the bodies of the people who were surrounding her. Katie was shaking her head emphatically about something and poking at one of the people standing in front of her rhythmically. Jessie smiled as she watched the scene, thinking that she wouldnít have wanted to be the person Katie was jabbing at. But mostly, she just watched her friend and let the feelings that she had now come to associate with Katie wash over her. She knew that she was attracted to Katie; there was no denying that after what happened in her room. In fact, after what happened in her room she hadnít wanted to deny it anymore because it had just felt so good, so right. It was like as soon as their lips had touched this huge weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. It was like coming home after a really long drive.

And as she stood there, she let her eyes wander around the hall, looking at the various students as they passed her. Sheíd been doing that a lot since the day at the attic, looking at other people, trying to figure it out. What she was? What wanting to be with Katie made her? But she couldnít, because while she looked, while she thought some people were more attractive than others, and that some guys were attractive and some girls were attractive, it didnít really mean anything. She didnít really feel anything. Because whether she meant to or not, her mind always compared them to Katie and that meant that there was no comparison. Because nobody came close, nobody stood a chance next to Katie.

"You know, the law has a word for what youíre doing," Grace whispered sidling up behind Jessie. "Itís called stalking."

"What?" Jessie asked turning around to face her stepsister, her head almost knocking into her still open locker door as she turned around. Where had she come from? Jessie wondered carefully shutting the door before she could hurt herself.

"You know with the intensity you do that it could be an Olympic sport," Grace continued remembering the concentrated look Jessie had had on her face as she stared down the hall at Katie. "Barring that it could at least make it onto ESPN."

"I donít know what youíre talking about," Jessie responded turning her head away as she felt herself start to blush.

Grace leaned toward Jessie after that comment, her voice lowering secretively. "Iím talking about your love connection with Claire Standish over there," knowing that Jessie knew that she knew what was going on between her and Katie. After that afternoon in the attic, when she had turned to see Jessie staring up at the ceiling all Ďsunshine, lollipops and rainbows everythingí, there hadnít been doubt in her mind as to what had happened.

"What?" Jessie asked turning around to face Grace again. "With who?"

"God, you are so young," Grace responded shaking her head at Jessieís ignorance of everything John Hughes. "You and Katie," Grace clarified smiling lecherously.

"Right, well. I gotta get to class," Jessie responded shooting Grace one last glare before heading off down the hall.

"If itís any consolation, I thought it was cute," Grace called after her still smiling. This was going to be great, sheíd have material for months.

================================================

A few weeks later Ė Karenís House

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

Katie drew her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on top of her knees and tilted her head slightly to watch Jessie as the other girl read off a sheet of paper. She was suppose to be listening so that she could give Jessie her opinion on it, but the truth was she was having trouble concentrating. Her mind kept drifting, shifting to contemplate the girl sitting in front of her and what exactly their relationship was. She knew how she felt about Jessie, sheíd known for a while that she was seriously falling for the girl, and if she hadnít already fallen, then she was sure she was only like days from it. The problem was she didnít know where Jessie was with them, with anything. She knew that Jessie liked her, was attracted to her, but she didnít know what that meant to Jessie or how it changed their relationship to her, beyond the obvious advantage of getting to make out. Which was a considerable advantage, but still not conclusive.

She wanted to ask, to say something, to have a conversation. Sheíd practiced how to start things off a million times pacing around her room, or talking in the shower. She even worked out a whole system of contingency conversations and branch patterns of inquisition. But every time she went to say something, she just couldnít do it. Sheíd look at Jessie, and the girl would smile at her, or say something, and then she just couldnít get the words past her lips. She was afraid, afraid that if she pushed sheíd end up pushing Jessie away and she just couldnít risk that. But she wanted to know. She wanted to know so badly. It was like trying to scratch an itch through a snowsuit.

"It sounds great," Katie said softly lifting her head up. "Of course I didnít understand half of it," she continued smiling.

"You had this class last year," Jessie responded smiling at her teasingly.

"Yes, but I had Mrs. Franklin. Mrs. Franklin," Katie responded emphasizing the teacherís name. She was notorious around the school for being the absolute worst teacher ever in the history of man. "And if that isnít bad enough, Maureen Adams sat next to me and we used to spend the whole class discussing Frankieís latest fashion disaster," she continued shaking her head. "We were such bitches."

"Iím sure you werenít," Jessie replied gently, swiveling in her chair to get a better look at Katie whose head was back resting on her knees.

"Thatís sweet," Katie responded cocking an eyebrow up at her. "But we were. However," she continued some life returning to her voice. "I did learn enough to know that your essay is great. There are fourth years that canít use existentialist in a sentence. Hell, Mrs. Peters probably doesnít know how to use it in a sentence. Youíre so going to kill," she finished smiling at Jessie proudly.

Jessie held Katieís gaze for a moment then looked down at her paper, and back at Katie again, a tentative smile working itís way across her face as she let out a relieved sigh. Turning her head to the side she followed Katie as the girl crawled across the floor until she was kneeling in front of Jessieís chair. Jessie looked down at her as Katie gazed up at her, noting Katieís serious expression with a touch of concern.

"You know IÖ" Katie began slowly before trailing off, her eyes losing focus as her attention turned inside for a moment. Jessie watched as a myriad of expressions flowed across her fine features, her eyes crinkling at the sides as she frowned momentarily before focusing on Jessie again with a deflated sigh. "Itís just Ö my mom always says that when we feel something strongly we should share it," she said starting up again though her eyes still seemed to be looking at something beyond Jessie. "Which is ironic since sharing my strong feeling on how she looked like a brothel worker the night of her Christmas party got me grounded for a week," she continued her lips curving up momentarily before thinning out again. "But, I mean, what I really wanted to say, is just that Ö just how much you, our friendship means to me. Cause youíre like the best thing thatís happened to me since walking, and thatís only cause I needed walking to be able to get over to you," she went on dropping her head down as she felt tears begin to well up in her eyes. For some reason she just didnít want Jessie to see her cry tonight.

"Katie?" Jessie asked softly her hand reaching out to touch the other girlís cheek. She was amazingly touched by the words Katie had just spoken to her, and surprised yet happy by the intensity with which they were spoken, but at the same time Katieís demeanor was beginning to worry her.

"Itís nothing," Katie said looking up at Jessie, flashing her a quick smile. "Really. I just wanted you to know," she continued her eyes drifting off to the side.

Jessie continued to watch her for a moment after that, thinking about what she could do since there was obviously something bothering Katie, but before she could open her mouth to begin, Katieís eyes had returned to her, and she was leaning up bringing their lips together.

The kiss was slow, and tender and beautiful, and Jessie leaned forward prolonging the contact between them, absorbing the emotions pouring into her through Katieís lips. And then it was gone; Katie had pulled back and was standing up.

"Iíve gotta go," Katie said softly when Jessieís eyes finally opened and turned to look up at her. "Itís late."

Jessie turned her head to the side to glance at the clock beside her bed, and noticed somewhat sadly that it was late. She didnít want Katie to leave, especially now that she was sure that something was bothering her, but Katie was right, she had to be going home.

"Yeah," Jessie replied, not quite able to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "Iíll walk you out," she continued grasping Katieís hand. Katie glanced down at their joined hands and smiled at her, and then they headed for the door.

=============================================

Part 4

Manning House

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

Grace walked into the living room hurriedly looking behind to make sure that she had successfully ditched ZoŽ. She loved her little sister, she really did, but she was tired of hearing out the damn holes in the ozone. Satisfied that she was safe in a ZoŽ free zone, she looked around the room spotting Jessie lying on the couch starring at the TV.

"Donít tell me you speak fluid French too," Grace began crossing the room to sit on the free couch. "Because I would literally have to throw myself off a bridge."

"What?" Jessie asked blinking at Grace in confusion. She hadnít even seen her come into the room, just heard a kind of far off rumbling and turned to see Grace sitting there with her mouth flapping. "What are you talking about?"

Grace studied for a moment only then realizing how out of it Jessie had to have been. She nodded towards the TV.

"Oh, no," Jessie responded, her mind finally putting together what it was Grace had said. "I Ö no," she continued picking up the remote and flipping the channel. "I canít."

"Are you alright?" Grace asked staring at Jessie. She was the one that was forever complaining about how everyone fawned over Jessie like she was a newborn puppy or something, and had sworn that she would never join the Ďprotection of precious widdle Jessieí fan club, but seeing the girl sitting there obviously out of it, she just couldnít help herself.

"Oh. Yeah. Fine," Jessie responded, her reply coming a second to late to be even remotely believable.

"You want to talk about it?" Grace asked a moment later contemplating whether she really cared enough to try dragging information out of Jessie, then realizing she had nothing better to do.

Jessie hesitated for a moment, debating internally whether or not she should talk about what was bothering her with Grace. "I donít really know that thereís anything to talk about," she said finally. The truth was that she kind of wanted some advice and Grace was the only person who knew what was really happening between her and Katie to any degree, so she didnít really have a choice in the matter.

"What do you mean?" Grace asked.

"Itís just," Jessie began shaking her head. "I donít know. Katie was acting kind of strange last night. Upset I guess. But I donít Ö I caní t figure out why," she finished with a sigh looking over at her stepsister.

"Thatís easy," Grace replied immediately. "Itís because women are insane. Thatíll be five hundred dollars."

Jessie looked over at Grace once she finished talking, holding her gaze for a moment before muttering, "thanks so much for your help."

Grace grinned at her, and she smiled back, silence covering the room once more before Grace finally broke it.

"What were you talking about before she got all weird?"

"Itís private," Jessie muttered in response, her head dropping down to stare at her lap as she felt her cheeks start to colour, a sensation that only increased when she heard Grace snicker in the background.

"I donít need a blow by blow account," Grace said finally even though she kind of would liked one after seeing Jessieís expression. "Just sum it up or something."

Jessie took a deep breath, readying herself as if she were about to face a firing squad, and then began to speak. "We were just talking, and then she Ö she just told me that I was like important to her and stuff," she continued her voice dropping as she remembered the conversation they had had.

"Well, how did you respond?" Grace asked impatiently wondering if conversation was truly a lost art. Nobody she knew seemed to be able to carry on a halfway decent narrative. It was extremely vexing.

"I donít know," Jessie responded shooting Grace a rather biting look. "I mean I guess I didnít."

Graceís face fell and her eyes narrowed upon hearing this, her head turning to look at Jessie with an expression that clearly showed that she thought Jessie was dumber than a chimp.

"What?" Jessie asked a bit self-consciously.

"Well, thatís obviously it," Grace replied as if what she was saying were common knowledge. "Have you ever told her? How you feel?" Grace asked looking around to make sure no one was around before she continued. "Sheís probably all insecure about whatever is going on between you two. I mean how could she not be after the way you acted?"

"What do you mean Ďafter the way I actedí?" Jessie asked grumpily. "I didnít do anything."

"Nothing except stop talking to her, fake sick to avoid her, and then turn it all around on her like 180 degrees in a five minute period of time," Grace replied giving Jessie a hostile little look as she remembered Katie coming up to her in class, all big watery eyes and shaky concern over how Jessie had responded to her letter. "Basically you fed her a horse sized anxiety pill and now sheís foaming."

Jessie was silent for a moment after that, looking almost contemplative, and then she looked back over at Grace with a look of utter confusion on her face. She obviously had no clue what Grace was talking about.

Grace sighed deeply. "She doesnít know how you feel about her and whatís happening between you two. For all she knows youíre using her to practice until Tad asks you out again," she explained slowly.

"Iím notÖ" Jessie protested emphatically, shooting Grace an offended look.

"Thatís not the point," Grace explained. "Iím talking about what she knows, and she doesnít know that thatís not what youíre doing because youíve never talked to her about it," she went on. "Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe she just had a headache, or indigestion or something. But either way you should probably talk to her. It never hurt anyone to hear that the person they like likes them back."

"ButÖ" Jessie started, but she was interrupted before she could finish.

"But what?" Grace asked her. "You make-out with her so she should be able to tell?" she continued, smiling as Jessie shot her a look of pure venom. "Trust me Jess, it doesnít work that way."

Jessie sighed as she thought over what it was Grace had told her. "What if I donít know what to tell her?"

"You obviously know something," Grace responded certain that Jessie had to have some idea what she was feeling if she had been semi-dating Katie for almost a month now. "So tell her what you do know."

"I donít know," Jessie responded uncertainly, leaning back against the couch wearily.

"Then maybe sheís right to be concerned," Grace responded frankly leaning back as well.

Jessie turned to look at Grace upon hearing that, a denial already upon her tongue when she heard the front door open and heard Lily and Judyís voiceís as they trudged into the house. Hearing the noise get closer and realizing they were coming into the room Jessie turned away from Grace and started flipping through the channels once again.

"Hey girls," Lily said walking into the room smiling at them. "How were your days?"

"Ok," they replied simultaneously before slumping even further down into the cushions.

Lily glanced over at Judy upon seeing this watching as her sister smirked at her, shrugging her shoulders as if to say Ďteenagers, canít live with them are legally contracted to take care of themí. Lily frowned, it was hard being mother, it really was.

==============================================

Part 5

Manning House - Dinner

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

"Whatís that youíre working on?" Lily asked looking over at Grace who was vigorously scratching something onto a piece of paper. Almost from the moment they had sat down for dinner Grace had been scribbling on that sheet of paper.

"Just some paper work for the GSA dance," Grace responded barely looking up from her sheet of paper, and as such missing the look her mother sent her husband. "Itís coming up in a couple of weeks," Grace continued looking up, her attention focused on Jessie who was sitting opposite her. "Itíll be a great opportunity for people to freely express how they feel about each other in a healthy, positive way."

"Ouch!" Rick gasped a moment later reaching down under the table to rub his leg.

"Sorry," Jessie said wincing as she realized sheíd kicked the wrong person. "Muscle cramp."

Rick looked up at her upon hearing this, his expression both surprised and proud. "Thatís quite a leg youíve got there." But Jessie had ceased paying attention to him so that she could concentrate on giving Grace the stink eye.

"Will you be attending the dance?" Lily asked trying to keep her voice nonchalant.

"Well, I did plan it. Itís kind of my duty," Grace responded as if that was the stupidest question sheíd ever heard.

"Do you know whoíll be attending yet?" Lily asked trying to calm her breathing.

"No, but thereís a couple people Iíd like to see there," Grace replied pointedly.

"Oh," Lily responded not quite sure what to make of that.

"Is Jessie gonna go?" ZoŽ asked feeling as though it was time that she contribute to the conversation. Lily looked over at Jessie after hearing ZoŽís question never having considered whether Jessie would be attending or not.

"What?!" ZoŽ screeched a moment later. Jessie had muttered something under her breath but she hadnít been able to make it out.

"I said Ďmaybeí," Jessie ground out glancing at ZoŽ before returning her attention to playing with her mashed potatoes.

"Itís nice of you to think about supporting Grace like that," Lily responded with a smile upon hearing Jessieís answer, causing her to miss the peevish look Grace sent her.

Jessie considered Lilyís comment, and Graceís answering look for a moment, then gave a small smile and nodded before quickly shoving some food in her mouth so that she wouldnít have to talk anymore.

"What?" Lily asked finally sensing Grace staring at her. Grace simply turned away from her and began to write on her piece of paper some more. "What?" she asked again, but it was futile.

"Are girls allowed to play football now?" Rick asked looking at Jessie appraisingly having finally stopped rubbing at his leg.

"Iím not playing football," Jessie responded around a mouthful of potato.

"Iím just saying, that with a leg like that you should be kicking something regularly," Rick responded diplomatically. Jessie stared at him then turned away back to her food covering the room in an oppressive silence.

"So, how was your day?" Lily asked turning to look at her youngest daughter. Grace and Jessie sighed, they just knew they were going to have to listen to a speech about bacon and global warming until ZoŽ got bored and decided to go watch cartoons. It was going to be a fun meal.

==============================================

Karenís House

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

Jessie paused outside of her brotherís room, debating the wisdom of talking to him about something that was even mildly important to her before finally knocking.

Entering the room, she headed straight for his bed and plopped down. "What cha doing?"

Eli looked down at the guitar in his hands, then over at the sheet music in front of him and then back at his sister. "Playing soccer," he responded dryly.

Jessie sighed heavily and rolled over on her side not at all impressed by his attempt at humor. "Whatís wrong with you?" he asked taking in her rather petulant expression.

"Nothing," Jessie responded glumly thinking that she shouldnít have bothered with him.

"Somethingís wrong, you never come in here and lie down with the pouty face unless somethingís wrong," Eli replied really paying attention for the first time. This wasnít like one of Jessieís (or any girl for that matter) normal mood swings. Something was really getting to her.

"Nothingís wrong," Jessie repeated picking at his comforter militantly.

"Fine" Eli responded starting to strum again. He wasnít going to argue with her when she got like this. If she came to his room, she obviously wanted to talk and would get around to it sooner or later. In the meantime he was perfectly happy to go on about his business.

Jessie glanced over at him a minute later seeing him happily plucking away and frowned. "Thereís this person," she started interrupting him.

"Yeah," Eli prompted putting his pick down and turning to face her.

"Well, what if thereís this person that likes you, and you like them only they know that you like them but they donít know that you like them as much as they like you, and you want to tell them how much you like them but youíre also not sure what it means that you like them as much as you do," Jessie asked sitting up slowly as she began to talk before looking at him expectantly.

"Iím not even sure whether that was a question or not," Eli finally responded his brows coming together in confusion.

Jessie sighed at his ignorance and flopped back down on the bed, clearly finding him to be no help at all.

"But I did understand about a third of it," he continued ignoring his sisters melodramatics, "and if this person likes you and you like them, you should just tell them. Carpe diem Scout, you gotta hold on to the important stuff when you still have it."

"Carpe diem," Jessie responded thoughtfully, rolling her eyes up to the ceiling contemplatively. Carpe diem.

====================================================

Continue to Chapters 6-10

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