"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 11

Karenís House Ė Thursday Night

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Karen stood at the doorway to the living room, looking at the TV from her position just outside the door. Jessie was in there watching TV, and when she had passed by the image of a shimming half dressed woman on the screen had sucked her in. Hearing a sound behind her in the kitchen she quickly turned around.

"Whatís she watching?" Karen asked flicking her head towards the living room. Stepping to the side slightly so that he could see inside the other room Eli turned back around to face her.

"Shakira," he replied unconcerned as he pulled on his shoes.

"Whatís she doing?" Karen asked oddly captivated by the blonde womanís pelvic gyrations.

"Rain dance?" Eli suggested straightening up. "Be back later." And with that he was gone, leaving Karen back to her contemplation of Jessieís contemplation of shaking half naked women who were apparently ready whenever, wherever.

"Hey honey," Karen said finally deciding to actually enter the room instead of merely peeping.

"Hey," Jessie replied lifting her feet up so that Karen could sit down and then lowering them back down onto her lap.

"What are you up to?" Karen asked trying to keep her tone nice and light.

"Nothing," Jessie responded. "You can tell by the part where I donít do anything." Karen didnít reply, her expression still focused on something in front of her. "That was a joke, you can laugh," Jessie continued staring at her mother. "Or you can ignore me completely and stare at the wall. Mom!" Jessie said rising up her foot and wiggling it in front of Karenís face. "Hello!"

Karen caught Jessieís wiggling foot and carefully lowered it back down to her lap, apologizing, saying that the TV just distracted her for a moment.

"Could you turn that off for a minute, honey?" Karen continued a second later. "Iíd like to talk to you about something."

Jessie hesitated for a moment, looking between the television and her mother, truly torn about what she could do. While it was true that there was nothing good on at the moment, the television also Ďdidnít want to talk to her for a momentí. Jessie had a thing with the ĎI just want to talk to you for momentí cause it never ended up well. Finally, realizing that she didnít really have a choice in the matter she picked up the remote and turned the television off, turning to face her mother with a look of trepidation on her face.

"What?" she asked suspiciously.

"I just wanted to tell you, that you can tell me anything," Karen started, her tone serious but full of tenderness. "No matter what it is. If thereís anything on your mind, or anything thatís happening with you thatís important to you, you can always come and talk to me about it. Youíre my daughter and nothing, absolutely nothing in this world could ever make me stop loving you. Youíll always be my baby," Karen continued staring at Jessieís confused little angelic face trying to remain somewhat composed.

"I love you too," Jessie said slowly, eyeing her mother uncertainly. She didnít know where that had come from, and frankly it kind of creeped her out. It was like someone was dying or something.

"Is there anything you want to tell me?" Karen asked realizing that she was going to have to lead Jessie if she wanted to actually have a conversation.

"About what?" Jessie asked. She was starting to feel suspicious again.

"About anything," Karen replied, noting the slightly defensive tone in Jessieís voice.

"I donít know," Jessie responded wondering what her mother was getting at. "I guess inflation kind of sucks."

"Does Katie think inflation sucks," Karen responded.

"I donít know," Jessie said slowly, kind of thrown by her mother bringing Katie up. "I would think so. I mean doesnít everyone?"

Karen nodded her head, letting the room fall into silence for a moment as she thought about how things were going so far. Or not going as the case was. Sighing she realized that there could be no beating around the bush with this, if they were going to talk about what was happening, then she was going to have to be direct with Jessie. She was the adult after all.

"So," Karen began a moment later, one of her hands tickling Jessieís feet and making her squirm. "Is she your girlfriend?"

She felt Jessieís body go rigid the moment the question came out of her mouth, and Jessie pulled her feet away, digging them into the couch cushions away from Karenís touch.

"What do you mean?" Jessie asked now sitting with her knees tucked up against her body.

"Is she your girlfriend?" Karen asked again.

"What do you mean by girlfriend?" Jessie asked. "Itís a versatile term with many and various implications from use to use."

"Is she who you were talking about?" Karen clarified. "In the hospital?"

Jessie eyes dropped from her mothers face down into a deep study of her partially covered feet. She truly hadnít anticipated being thrust into a situation like this. Sheíd figured if, when, they talked about her and Katie itíd be because she brought it up, or someone walked in on them doing something. Never in a million years had she figured that her mother would actually figure it out for herself. Or that if she did, she would actually want to talk about it.

"Um," was what she managed to choke out a few seconds later.

Karen took a deep breath at this response from Jessie and reached out her hand placing her hand on her daughterís knee. It was true then, in some way or another they were involved romantically.

"Itís okay," Karen, said softly, her thumb moving in what she hoped was a soothing pattern on her knee, her mind racing in thought about the implications. Even though she thought that she had seen signs, even though over the past few days she had read books and felt that she was suitably prepared to deal with any eventuality, a little part of her had always assumed that it wasnít true. That she was just being paranoid as usual and Jessie would glare at her for a moment before shaking her head and telling her she was so stupid.

"Is it?" Jessie asked, her voice small as she tentatively glanced up at her mother a few seconds after Karenís gentle words. "Or are you just saying that, and really inside you want to cry, and think you did something wrong?" she continued staring at her mother intently.

"It is," Karen replied meeting Jessieís gaze and holding it for a moment before continuing. She was lying of course, the tight feeling in the pit of her stomach and the burning in her eyes as she struggled to hold back tears, indicated to her strongly that she was in fact not okay with anything. But that was her problem to struggle with, not Jessieís, and she truly believed that given more time to adjust, she would be okay with it, and it was this belief that allowed her to continue. "Iím not going to give you the speech where I tell you that itís going to be a harder road, or that itís not what I wouldíve chosen for you," she continued, "because I think that you probably have a better idea about all of that than I do."

Jessie merely made some sound in the back of her throat that vaguely sounded like an affirmative, and then rested her head down on her knees.

"And Iím not going to ask if youíre happy," Karen continued. "Because I can see that you are Ö maybe not at this moment," she admitted, "but that you have been. And Iím not going to give you my blessing, because you have it. You always have it," she finished her voice choked but full of love.

"But," Jessie mumbled around the material of her pants blinking rapidly. She knew that there was a Ďbutí coming.

"We have to talk about some things," Karen responded stealing herself for what was about to come. After the talk theyíd had about Jessieís lack of feelings for Tad she had assumed that her daughter was just a late bloomer, and that she would be spared having to have this conversation for a few years. She was wrong. "Especially with this dance coming up," she continued knowing very well what generally went on after dances in backseats and motel rooms.

Jessie was silent for a moment, then her head shot up as she realized where this conversation was most likely going. "Oh god, weíre not going to have the sex talk are we?" she asked clearly horrified by the prospect of having to discuss anything like this with her mother. "Cause we had it already in gym class. Like three years in a row."

"You had the generic sex talk, the manual in the seat pocket talk," Karen told her blithely. "Now, now the captain is speaking."

"I donítÖ" Jessie started shaking her head as if that would ward off what was to come.

"Have a choice? Thatís right," Karen responded wishing that she could just leave it at that, but the good parent inside of her knowing that they had to talk and set down some ground rules. "Now," she said taking a deep cleansing breath. "Your father mentioned a sleepover a few weeks ago," she started really wishing that there were a paper bag around her somewhere. "Have you andÖ"

"No!" Jessie exclaimed in a mortified half sob. "Can we PLEASE not talk about this?" she went on her voice rising with distress, before she buried her face down behind her knees.

"Oh, thank god," Karen breathed out clearly relieved to a degree that she didnít have words to express, that her baby hadnít yet been deflowered. Quite frankly she wasnít certain she would have been able to handle learning that Jessie had Ö with her nerves already so frazzled. "And no."

Jessie sighed again, but at which statement Karen wasnít sure.

"First, no more sleepovers," she continued, her face an authoritative mask when Jessieís head snapped up ready to protest. However, seeing the look on her motherís face she glumly nodded waiting for Karen to continue. "At either house," Karen added as an after thought realizing the loophole she may have lain open.

"Are you going to tell dad?" Jessie asked ignoring Karenís addition to rule one.

"I wonít tell him, no," Karen responded slowly. "If he doesnít figure it out on his own, then thatís something you should tell him," she continued struggling to get the words out as it went against every fiber of her being. She wanted to tell Rick, she wanted to point and poke at him, and ask him how he couldnít know what was happening, and many other things that she could feel but not articulate. She wanted someone to share her confusion. But the books had said that this was the best way to go about handling things, and Karen figured that they knew what they were talking about. And it had to be about Jessie, it always had to be about Jessie. "However, I would suggest that you tell him, but Iím not going to force you too until youíre ready," she went on. "That being said, if you donít tell him, do not expect to be able to get away with anything over there that you canít here. Because despite what the after school specials tell you, divorced parents still DO talk to each other."

Jessie merely nodded, relieved at least to know that she wouldnít be forced into talking to her dad about it yet. "Whatís second?" she asked finally resigning herself to Karenís rules.

"Um," Karen responded not quite sure where to go from here. Even though she had planned to have this conversation with Jessie, she realized at that moment for the first time how much she had truly believed that nothing would come of her questions. She hadnít even considered what she would want to do about the situation if it was true, hadnít been able to force herself to consider it. But here it was, and she was feeling quite lost, which pretty much fit the pattern of her life as of late. "I guess that thing about your dad can be second," she continued stalling for time.

"Oh," Jessie replied, chancing a glance at her mother. Karen was sitting with her back ramrod straight and her eyes facing downwards to her lap. She was playing with the fingers of her left hand, and Jessie swore that she could see her shaking faintly. "Okay then," she continued with a sigh. Despite her words, Jessie could tell that Karen wasnít really fine with anything but was merely doing her best to make her think that she was.

She tried to curl her body tighter around itself, but she had no more room left to maneuver on that front.

"Three," Karen continued feeling a desperate need to lighten the mood in the room a bit, for her sake and for Jessieís. "Donít do anything your brother would do," she dictated with a smile even though her words were a bit shaky. Jessie lifted up her head at this, staring a Karen for a moment before tentatively grinning, then smiling full-blown she recalled all of Eliís girl problems.

"Can she still come over?" Jessie asked softly, the worry in her voice that she may not be able to spend time with Katie anymore painfully evident to Karen. She realized that Jessie must have been picking up on some of her anxiety and had to struggle to suppress the urge to sigh. She was doing a wonderful job of this.

"Of course," Karen responded trying to keep her voice light to alleviate some of her daughters concern. "But not when Iím not home."

"But EliÖ" Jessie started to protest forgetting the supposed delicacy of her situation for a moment, the clear injustice of the statement catching the ire of her teenage indignation.

"Rule number three," Karen retorted interrupting Jessieís objection.

"Fine," Jessie mumbled shooting Karen a disgruntled look nonetheless, before continuing. "So youíre really okay with this?" she asked still not sounding at all convinced. "I mean what aboutÖ" she started say trailing off gradually lost in thought.

"What about what?" Karen asked gently.

"Your plans and stuff?" Jessie replied almost inaudibly. That fear that she would disappoint her parents somehow, that she wouldnít be good enough for them, now raring itís monstrous head once again, as every conversation sheíd ever had with her mother about weddings, and boys, and children played loudly in her head, mocking her with her failure.

"The plans havenít changed," Karen, responded softly, though her heart was heavy, desperately waiting for the day that she could truly believe that, "just the generic figure in them with you. Itís more shapely now," she went on trying not to think of how much it actually hurt her that the figure had changed, and getting mad at herself for being hurt about it.

Jessie looked over at her and smiled. "Shapely?" she asked highly amused, Karenís antiquated choice of words momentarily breaking through the dark cloud that had been hanging over her head since they had started talking.

"Shapely," Karen confirmed, realizing that she must have emitted some kind of uncool mom sound into the world, thereby causing Jessie to internally mock her. If that was the case, so be it, she had made peace with the idea.

"Can we go down to the speakeasy later to hang with all the cool cats?" Jessie asked grinning madly through the occasional sniffle.

"Thatís going to cost you," Karen said turning around to face Jessie an evil smile working itís way across her face, her cloud momentarily parting as well.

"How much?" Jessie asked with some trepidation, the tension that had been running through her body from the beginning of the conversation slowly beginning to ease now. She was glad, she hadnít realized how tense she was, she had certainly been only moments away from rupturing something.

"A tickle and three kisses," Karen said solemnly, willing to let the stress of their conversation slide away for the moment.

"Oh come on," Jessie whined as Karen reached out for her with outstretched wiggling fingers. "This is like cruel and usual punishment," she cried out as her mother tickled her.

"Where did you get your law degree?" Karen asked laughing as Jessie squealed under her fingers.

"Bought it off the internet," Jessie replied trying to roll herself off the couch so that she could make a getaway, but she soon found herself trapped and just gave into the inevitable. Sometimes it sucked being the baby of the family, but these were just the sacrifices she was destined to make.

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Part 12

Katie took Jessieís hand into hers; drawing it upwards against her face, placing a soft kiss on Jessieís palm before looking down into her big, blue, terrified eyes. "We donít have to go in," Katie said softly, her voice nonetheless carrying in the empty hallways making it almost painfully loud. "Seriously," she continued. "Itís like an Oscar, being asked is enough."

"But everyone wants to win," Jessie responded stepping closer to Katie, pressing their bodies together sighing gently as she felt Katieís arm wrap around her. "I wouldnít have asked you if I didnít want to go."

"Okay," Katie whispered, her hands moving across Jessieís back slowly. It was one of those times where she just needed to give Jessie a moment. To sort out or accept whatever it was she was feeling at the moment. She had learned, as they spent more time together how deeply everything affected Jessie, how sensitive she was to everything around her. She herself was deeply affected by things as well, her motherís depression and the stress it was causing within her family, hadnít left her as unaffected as she tried to project. But she had learned somewhere down the road how to push it aside, how to put on a brave face and march like a good little soldier. But Jessie lived in a glass house where everything visible, every wound, and every scar there for the world to see if they cared to look. She sometimes felt about as deep as a puddle around Jessie, but she loved that about her. She had learned that it sometimes meant that it took Jessie longer to settle things, that sometimes you just needed to give her time and quiet. So she held her, and waited for her to move.

"Ready?" Katie asked feeling Jessie shift in her arms and begin to move out of them, stepping back.

"Yeah," Jessie said reaching out for Katieís hand, grasping it in hers.

**

"Can I borrow her for a minute or twenty?" Katie asked coming up behind Jessie, though her gaze was focused on Grace whom her girlfriend had been talking to. "Theyíre about to play our song," she continued turning her head to face Jessie.

"We have a song?" Jessie asked smiling as Katie stepped into view.

"Youíll see," Katie responded cryptically. "I had to promise the DJ my first born, so weíve got to get out there and enjoy it."

"Sounds serious, you better go," Grace responded smiling at the display as she heard a few soft cords start up in the background. Jessie smiled back at her and then Katie took her by the hand, leading her out to the dance floor.

"Billie Holiday?" Jessie asked smiling as Katie wrapped her arms around her waist pulling her closer.

"God Bless the Child," Katie responded resting her forehead against Jessieís as a smile etched itís way across her features. "Thatís got her own, thatís got her own," Katie whispered brushing her lips across Jessieís.

Jessie smiled as they pulled apart burying her head in the crook of Katieís neck as they swayed to the soulful sounds of Billie Holiday. The room faded, the voices of the others in the room faded, the lights and everything else except the voice and the feel of Katie against her faded into the background. And Jessie took a deep breath, inhaling Katieís scent letting the sensations wash over her and carry her away to a magical place covered in gardenias where the sun shone on your face all day long. So this was love, she thought to herself as she felt Katieís cheek press against her own, so this is love.

"Billie?" Katie whispered softly into her air as they moved together. "Sing for me?"

**

Jessie pulled back her hand shaking her head slightly as she tried to get her hand to stop trembling. She didnít know why but she just couldnít stop tingling, it was as if every nerve ending in her body was on fire, and to her consternation she learned that that led to a loss of fine motor control. Sheíd been standing in front of the punch bowl trying to get a drink for over a minute now.

"That was quite a show," Jessie turned her head at the sound of the unfamiliar voice beside her. Her eyes focusing on the figure she soon recognized as Sarah Grasser. "Youíre a big woman on campus now arenít you?" Sarah continued when Jessie merely stared at her. "The newest thing. Katieís new hoola hoop."

"Excuse me," Jessie said moving to take a step back. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to Sarah and her lemon juice thereby blighting her otherwise perfect night.

"You donít get it do you?" Sarah asked stepping in front of her effectively blocking her path.

"Move," Jessie said softly, her eyes meeting Sarahís. "Now."

"Sheís like a three year old. Always looking for some new, shiny toy Ö that sheíll forget about three months later," Sarah continued holding Jessieís gaze and not moving so much as a centimeter. "Sheís like the sun, shining down on you, warming you until you think sheíll always be there. But she wonít, sheíll go away and leave you shivering in the dark. Itís her nature," she finished her head turning to the side, drawing Jessieís eyes with her to where a group of people who were gathered around Katie. Orbiting her.

"You donít know what youíre talking about," Jessie said looking away and back over at Sarah. "Sheís not like that."

"Let me guess," Sarah started mockingly. "What you have together is special," she continued smiling coldly. "How did she do Sammler, huh? Poetry? Love letters?" Sarah went on, seeing Jessieís eyes flicker at the mention of love letters and smiling to herself. "Katouschka," she went on noting the look of jealously that flashed in Jessieís eyes at her use of her old nickname for Katie, "is a player. She only loves one thing, Katouschka. And if you donít think that youíre going to end up being cast away into the land of misfit toys then youíre not nearly as smart as everyone says you are."

"T...thatís notÖ" Jessie started, her words catching in her mouth before she could push them out. She could feel tears beginning to well in her eyes, and fought down the sick feeling in her stomach.

"Hey, whatís going on?" Katie asked coming up behind the two, resting her hand on Jessieís shoulder as she looked between the two of them, not liking what she saw at all.

"Just chatting," Sarah responded smiling callously at Katie, her smile only growing when she saw Katieís eyes narrow with displeasure.

"Why donít you go find somebody else to talk to," Katie suggested, her voice a low grumble. She couldnít believe that this was the same girl she had been friendís with only months ago, she hardly recognized Sarah anymore, like the other girl had suddenly changed personalities one night leaving this imposter in place of her friend. It killed her that they had to fight like this, but she wasnít going to let Sarah abuse Jessie because of a mistake that she had made.

"What are you? Viceroy of Sammlerland?" Sarah asked arching an eyebrow at Katie. "She canít chose who she wants to talk to," she continued her eyes flittering over to Jessie. "Do you have to ask her permission to go tinkle too?"

"Shouldnít you be off to see the Wizard? You know about that heart problem?" Katie asked her gaze practically causing Sarahís dress to start smoking. Sarah huffed in response, giving Katie and Jessie one last contemptuous look over before raising her head and walking away.

"Are you okay?" Katie asked as soon as Sarah was out of air shot, adjusting her position so that she could see Jessieís face.

"Yeah. Fine," Jessie replied straightening her shoulders, but Katie had spent enough time around her, watching her, to know that her response was utter crap.

"Alright," she responded carefully. "Then why donít we go get some fresh air?"

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Part 13

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"What did she say?" Katie asked worriedly looking over at Jessie. The other girl had hardly said a word to her after they left the gym, and they had already lapped the field once now in complete silence.

"Were you in love with her?" Jessie said careful to keep her tone neutral. Between the way Sarah had been acting towards her from when they first met on the play and today, and Graceís statement about how she and Katie had been madly in love with each other, Jessie was beginning to wonder if there was some truth to it. She just couldnít fathom Sarah acting the way that she was if they hadnít been together, she couldnít conceive of any other reason for the pain and anger that laced the girls every word.

"With Sarah?" Katie asked, her tone indecipherable.

"Yeah," Jessie responded quietly.

"No," Katie replied a moment later, her eyes drifting around the open field before them before she continued. "But she was. With me. At least thatís what she said afterwards," she continued sighing softly. "Weíd always kinda talked, but last summer Ö I donít know, I guess we just started hanging out moreÖcommon bond or something," she went on playing with her index finger nervously. "One night, we were down in her basement listening to music or something and she kissed me, and it felt better than any kiss Iíd had before so I let her do it again. It didnít really change anything Ö as far as I was concerned. I liked her, but no more than my luggage," she said recalling a line from one of her favorite movies. "I guess it changed things for her though. She got attached, way attached. Way more than me. I guess I led her on, cause Iíd kiss her too sometimes Ö but I was just playing around. I didnít realize how serious she was until after the play started. Until after I met you.

"She knew, you know, that I liked you. And thatís when she started getting all pissy. Iím sure you remember," Katie continued sighing at the memory of Sarah harassing Jessie about anything she could think of whenever they were in the same room. "After one of the fittings, I took her outside to ask her what the hell she thought she was doing. I was pretty upset, Iíd wanted to make a good impression," she went on shaking her head. "She started crying and yelling at me, asking if I thought she was stupid. I had no idea what she was talking about, and just asked her why she had to try and ruin things, you know, any chance I had to get to know you. She looked like Iíd slapped her across the face or something, and thatís when I knew that sheíd been in totally different place to me on whatever it was we were doing. She walked away, and that was that," Katie finished finally gathering up the nerve to look over at Jessie.

"So you didnít get bored of her?" Jessie asked her eyes focused on the ground as it depressed under her feet.

"No," Katie said surprised. "Is that what she told you? That I used her or something?"

"She said you were a player," Jessie admitted softly. "That I was just the newest thing."

"Player?" Katie repeated incredulously, as if she didnít know whether to laugh or cry at the description. Shaking her head, she turned to glance at Jessie who was still staring at her feet as they walked along, looking no happier than when they first exited the gym. "You believed her?" Katie said softly, her stomach suddenly feeling queasy. "Youíre still wondering if itís true, if youíre just Ö convenient."

"I didnít," Jessie replied immediately hearing Katieís tone. "I donít," she continued, but her denial lacked a certain conviction and Katie picked up on it, on the hesitation, on the lack of feeling behind the words.

"Do youÖ" Katie started coming to a stop. "How could you think that this is game for me?" she asked her voice rising, the pain she was feeling at the attack on her character, her motivations, and her feelings hitting Jessie like an arrow to the heart.

"I donít," Jessie said, her voice vehement this time as she stepped towards Katie.

Katie flinched away from Jessie taking another step back, her eyes accusing as she spoke. "But you did, you did believe her," she responded.

"It wasnít that I thought you were using me," Jessie replied stepping towards Katie again only to have the other girl take another step back. "I was just scared."

"That I was using you," Katie supplied somewhat bitterly.

"Yeah," Jessie responded matter of factly. "But it didnít really have anything to do with you. I hadnít thought about rationally or decided anything. And I didnít think that Sarah was such an upstanding citizen or something, I just," Jessie said her voice cracking with emotion. "I just got really scared, like crazy scared, that I would wake up one day Ö and not be your girl," she went on struggling to hold back tears. "I didnít believe it, but it freaked me anyway, cause being with you is like the best thing thatís ever happened to me. And the thought Ö the idea of not being with you terrifies me. I mean, youíre the first thing I think about when I wake up, if I wasnít already thinking about you, and when youíre around like even silence is like good, and Ö"

"Jessie," Katie said gently taking a step forward and placing her hand on Jessieís shoulder. "Stop," she continued biting her bottom lip. "I get it. I do," she went on softly. "IÖI feel the same way. About you. Youíre like my sun. And itís like if you ever stopped shining on me I would Ö I donít know, but itíd really really, really, suck."

"Really?" Jessie asked smiling through the tears that had started to run down her face as she spoke.

"Yeah," Katie responded. "Totally," and then Jessieís lips were on hers and they were kissing. Messily, hungrily, desperately bringing their lips together as they clung to one another like life preservers.

"I donít want to go back in there," Jessie said softly when they broke apart.

"Then we wonít," Katie replied smiling as she took Jessieís hand into hers. "Come on."

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

Jessie tipped her head back, pressing her lips against the soft skin of Katieís neck and keeping them there for a minute as she felt her girlfriends low moan reverberate through her. Smiling, she turned slightly in Katieís arms and rested her head on her shoulder contentedly. After leaving the school theyíd driven out to a place Katie liked to call Ďher own little piece of nowhereí and gotten out of the car. Katie had left the radio on and theyíd settled down on the ground, somehow coming to be in the position they were currently occupying. Katie sitting with her back leaned up against a tree, and Jessie curled up warmly in her arms. And there they sat quietly together, in their own little garden.

"Hmmm," Jessie mumbled into Katieís shoulder minutes or maybe hours after they arrived.

"What?" Katie asked, her voice sounding dreamlike and far away.

"I love this song," Jessie replied happily taking Katieís hand into her own as the music swept over her.

"Some say a heart is just like a wheel
When you bend it, you can't mend it
And my love for you is like a sinking ship
And my heart is like that ship out in mid ocean
They say that death is a tragedy
It comes once and it's over
But my only wish is for that deep dark abyss
'Cause what's the use of living with no true lover
And it's only love, and it's only love
That can wreck a human being and turn him inside out
That can wreck a human being and turn him inside out"

A gentle evening breeze. Rustling leaves. "I think Iím in love with you."

A smile with closed eyes, pressing closer. "I was just thinking the same thing."

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Part 14

School Ė Monday

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

"Hey," Jessie called back smiling before turning her attention back to Grace with a somewhat uncertain expression. That was like the tenth person that she didnít know to greet her since sheíd walked into the school building that morning. "I didnít start spitting gold or something did I?" Jessie asked stepping closer to Grace unconsciously. She didnít like this newfound visibility. It was jarring.

"In a way," Grace replied watching Jessie with a touch of amusement. "Itís what you get for dating the most popular girl in school, instant celebrity and a new and lower class of poser, user friends. Congratulations."

"Shouldnít it be more like the cause a major social backspace?" Jessie asked not quite able to wrap her mind around how on the planet earth dating a girl could increase her popularity. It boggled the mind. "Shouldnít I be spray painting over slurs on my locker or something?" she asked, having truly anticipated a less than enthusiastic response upon returning to school after the dance. She didnít think that there was going to be like major violence or something, but sheíd expected snide comments and sideways look at least.

"Inevitably, thereís going to be some asshole thatís going to think itís funny or something to bother you about, but I wouldnít expect much of that. Everybodyís already thought that Katie was gay for like a year and nobody gave or is likely to give a shit. Itís 2002 and queer or not someone like Katie Ö"

"What do you mean someone like Katie?" Jessie asked not quite sure what to make of Graceís statement or tone.

"Someone beautiful and personable, with just the right touch of mystery to make everyone go Ďoooh ahhhhí," Grace replied shortly. "Adoration is like in her DNA or something, when the doctor let her mother hold her for the first time he probably told her to start preparing for house partyís, and when she got dumped in the room with the other babies she got like invited to a kegger like as soon as the nurse left," she continued. "Plus, itís a universally known fact that dating cool makes you cool. So as long as the golden girl, is your girl you better get used to the celebrity," Grace finished wishing that she had to adjust to problems like Jessieís. Oh, my significant other is breathtakingly beautiful and popular, and would crawl fifty miles over broken glass to sweat in my shadow, and everybody loves me and I just won a million dollars and discovered a cure for cancer. Woe is me, Grace thought to herself sullenly.

"But I havenít changed," Jessie pointed out in what could be argued to be a whine if one cared to argue about such things.

"But you have. Over the weekend you became like ninety percent more interesting. Because as far as everyoneís concerned if Katie sees something in you, then there must be something worth seeing," Grace replied running out of steam to pep talk Jessie into liking popularity. "Youíre in. Enjoy it," she finished trying not to sound as bitter as she was starting to fell. "Later," and with that she took off down the hall to find her class, or a big hole, whichever she came across first.

**

"How could you do this to me?" Tad whispered harshly flinging Katieís hand off of his shoulder and backing them up underneath the stairs away from prying eyes. "Everyone knows," he continued whispering. "Iím a fucking joke!"

"I didnít DO anything," Katie responded defensively, taken back by his response. "You had your chance, she didnít like you," she went on in a like tone. "You had every opportunity. Hell, I helped set you up!"

Tad sighed in acknowledgement of the fact that Katie really couldnít be blamed for Jessie not wanting to date him, after all it wasnít like he was going to consider major surgery for her or anything. But that didnít mean she was off the hook. "You could have told me at least," he said running an agitated hand through his hair. "I still thought I had a chanceÖIÖ Russellís been harassing me ever since the dance. I mean do you have any idea what itís like for the entire school to know some chick stole your girlfriend?" he said getting worked up again.

"Oh my god," Katie exclaimed. "I didnít steal anything. Sheís not a fucking VCR!"

"You donít even get it do you?" Tad asked pissed off by Katieís attempt at comedy. "Iím on the football team!"

"What?" Katie whispered back at him totally confused. "The football team? Oh, hi, left field, nice to see you too. What are you talking about?" she continued peevishly.

"Iím Ö" Tad started agitatedly, heís eyes scanning the hallways. "IÖ" he said, stopping abruptly, his eyes focused behind Katie.

"Youíre what?" Katie asked turning around to see what had distracted him and spotting Jessie moving towards them.

"Iím going," he muttered shooting her one last contemptible look before pushing past both girls.

"Hey," Jessie said softly, resting her hand on Katieís waist as she studied her girlfriends clouded features. "Is everything alright?" she asked leaning into her slightly.

Katie sighed as she felt Jessieís body against her, the tension flowing out of her body like the tide as Jessieís voice reached her ears. "Yeah," she breathed out a moment later, wondering at the effect Jessie was able to have on her. "But only because I have like the best girlfriend in the history of the universe."

"Thatís a lot of history," Jessie commented pulling back slightly to observe Katieís face.

"Iím aware of that," Katie responded with a small smile making no attempt to alter her statement any.

"You sure everythingís okay?" Jessie asked, still clearly able to see worry etched over Katieís features.

"Yeah. I mean, Tadís just pissed off because I didnít tell him about us, and his friends are harassing him cause you ditched him for a chick," Katie replied sounding rather lost. She really hadnít anticipated him getting upset, though thinking about she realized she probably should have. She was just too busy thinking about Jessie all the time to realize that he had still been thinking about her too.

"I didnít ditch him for you," Jessie responded truthfully. "I ditched him cause heís a lunk," she continued causing Katie to laugh momentarily before quieting down again.

"He doesnít see it that way," Katie replied. "What is with the people at this school?" she asked tiredly. "Everyone like seriously over-estimates the power of my charms."

"I donít know about that," Jessie replied thinking that she liked Katieís charms over-estimated or not. "You did get the girl," she continued with a smile. "Donít worry, Iím sure heíll be over it by lunch."

"You think?" Katie asked hopefully. While it was true that Tad was nothing to write home about, he was *her* nothing to write home about Ė in a manner of speaking. Theyíd been friends since Power Rangers was cool, and sheíd kind of gotten used to having him around, annoying as he may be.

"Yeah," Jessie responded though she seriously had no idea. Tad didnít strike her as the sort with a long enough attention span to hold a grudge for too long, but the truth was there was no way she could know how long heíd be angry. The only thing she knew was that there was no sense worrying about it cause there was nothing they could do to change it.

"Yeah," Katie repeated more for her own benefit than any other reason. She knew what Jessie was trying to do, and she was willing to accept it. "So," she continued deciding to move on to greener pastures. "How about I officially walk you to class?"

"I officially like that idea," Jessie agreed smiling as Katie reached down for her hand.

**

"Hey," Katie said stopping Jill Mason as they passed her in the hallway. "Donít forget about ĎSebastianísí tonight."

"Yeah, yeah your worship, I know," Jill replied grinning as her gaze shifted over to Jessie and then down to their loosely joined hands. "Hey," she said addressing Jessie who merely nodded not quite sure what etiquette demanded out of her. She would make a horrible trophy wife, she was certain of that now. "Anyway," Jill continued her attention back on Katie, "you should make sure to remind Phil. He lost his pad of post-its and now heís completely hopeless."

"Alright, Iíll track him down," Katie responded frowning slightly at the mention of Phil and his stupid post-it notes. He was such a jackass.

"Sweet. Later," Jill called glancing at Jessie once more before whacking Katie on the back playfully and taking off down the hall, Jessieís eyes following her as she went.

"Whatís wrong?" Katie asked noticing Jessie staring off down the hall after Jill.

"She talked to me," Jessie replied as if it was comparable to finding a bar of solid gold up her ass.

"So?" Katie responded. "I talk to you all the time, and you only occasionally look at me like that," she continued receiving a slap on the arm for her trouble.

"I mean, Iíve been getting that all day. Strange people that Iíve never even seen before, are like waving and saying hi to me and stuff," Jessie responded. "Grace says itís because Iím your girlfriend."

"Is that what Grace says?" Katie asked not quite sure were Jessie was going with this.

"Yeah," Jessie replied with a small frown. "Which is weird, people being all nice because of something so periphery."

"First you stare at someone elseís ass and now Iím periphery," Katie grumbled teasingly. "Iím beginning to wonder if this official class walking thing was such a good idea."

"Will focus for like five seconds?" Jessie asked smiling to show she was only kidding. "Iím waxing philosophy here."

"Sorry," Katie replied properly whipped, wondering if the garbage needed to be taken out. "How do you feel about it?"

"Weird," Jessie replied smiling a bit.

"Yeah, I caught that," Katie responded rolling her eyes.

"How do you do it?" Jessie asked. "How do you deal with not knowing whether someoneís talking to you because they really like you, or if theyíre just doing it to get close to who you are or who youíre with?"

"You just get used to it," Katie replied seriously. "Most times I donít even think the people that are doing it know whether they like you or just the image of you. Which makes it a real bitch for anyone else to figure out. After a while you just kind of learn to sense the really fake ones Ö if youíre lucky, and everyone else gets the surface material."

"That sucks," Jessie replied softly a moment later, wondering how Katie managed to deal with it day in and out.

"Sometimes," Katie admitted remembering how alone she had felt, keeping everything that she was feeling to herself because she didnít know which of her Ďfriendsí actually cared enough for her to tell them anything. "And sometimes not so much," she continued smiling down at Jessie adoringly, also remembering what a revelation it had been to be really able to talk to Jessie, to find someone who was interested in more than the surface material.

"Stop it," Jessie said laughing as Katie continued to stare at her, her expression now humorously doting.

"Stop what?" Katie asked batting her eyes and sighing dreamily.

"Stop that!" Jessie exclaimed still smiling as they continued through the halls.

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

Part 15

Bookloverís (a.k.a. Judyís bookstore)

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

Judy sat down across from an amazingly quiet Karen pushing an abnormally sized cup of coffee across the table to her. Karen had come in about ten minutes ago, quietly asking Judy if they could talk, but once they sat down Karen had just started staring at the tabletop, glancing up apologetically every couple of seconds. Judy had suggested that she just needed to get a little caffeine in her system, but as she sat across from the quietly sipping woman she wondered if that was true. Karen was, well she usually looked perturbed and slightly worried, like the weight of the world never left her but merely shifted, however this seemed more serious to Judy.

"You have to promise that this is going to stay, just between us," Karen said seriously looking up at Judy. Because of Judyís friendship with her, and the fact that Lily was her sister, Karen was aware that a lot of information got shared between everyone due to Judyís dual relationships. She just had to make sure that this wouldnít be one of those times.

"Yeah," Judy responded realizing that Karen meant Ďdonít tell Lilyí, "of course."

"Jessie," Karen started softly. "She went to the dance Grace planned."

"Yeah," Judy responded smiling obliviously. "Lily to told me. We all think itís really great that Jessieís supporting Grace like that. I guess they really are getting closer, I hadnít believed it but it looks like theyíve come along way since the play."

"Supporting Grace?" Karen asked with a touch of confusion. She wasnít exactly sure what Judy was talking about.

"Yeah. I mean itís good. That Grace has got someone to help her through this. Cause itís got to be hard, you know. But at least sheís got the club to help her sort through things, and itís got to help her to know that Jessie is there for her."

Karen was quite for a moment, and then let out a bark of laughter she quickly reigned in when Judy looked up at her sharply.

"Lily," Karen started. "You Ö you think that Grace is gay?"

"Well she did join the club," Judy said somewhat defensively. "And she hasnít been seeing anyone, and sheís really defensive about people being able to love whoever they want," she went on. "I mean, itís easy for you, your daughterís dating a fine piece of football player," Judy continued stopping only when she noticed Karenís face fall at her mention of Tad. "What?"

"I donít think that Lily has anything to worry about," Karen replied running a hand through her hair. "Grace isnít gay," Karen continued wrapping her hands around the coffee cup, soaking in the warmth. Judy opened her mouth to respond but Karen pressed on before she could speak, or she could lose her nerve. "Jessie is."

Judyís mouth opened, then closed. Then opened again, before closing once more as her eyes bugged out missing Guinness records by a pinch. "But Jessie didnít join the club," Judy got out eventually.

"I donít really think that club membership is a conclusive indicator," Karen responded wearily. "From a rant Jessie went on a while back, it seems Grace joined because of some guy she has a crush on."

"Oh," Judy responded, her mind still trying to adjust to what Karen was saying. "Oh. But, Jessie? Arenít she and TadÖ"

Karen merely shook her head, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

"But how do you know?" Judy persisted surprised but intrigued but what Karen was telling her.

"I asked her," Karen admitted taking another sip of her coffee.

"And she just told you. Just like that?" Judy asked sounding rather incredulous.

"I already knew," Karen, replied staring down into the cup, talking to herself more than Judy. "I didnít want to believe it, but after I heard Ö and I saw that flower and Ö" she started trailing off remembering how she had slowly trickled towards enlightenment. "And the way that they looked at each other," she continued with a sigh, remembering lingering Ö longing glances that at the time she had thought to be secretively and playful.

"Sheís seeing someone?" Judy asked nearly having a conniption. "How? Who? When Ö who?"

Karen smirked at Judyís reactions wondering if she had looked like that. If she had sounded like that. She certainly knew that she had felt like that. "Think about it," Karen urged quietly. "Whatís every other word out of her mouth? Whoís practically attached to her hip?"

Judy scrunched her brows together as her mind searched for obscure people and phrases that she may have heard Jessie use, before Occumís Razor slashed her across the wrist and the simplest answer came pouring out of her. "Katie?" Judy asked looking up and over at Karen. "JessieÖand Katie. Together? Like that?"

"Like yes," Karen replied leaning back in her chair. "Like for a while. Like they went to the dance together," she continued her eyes drifting around the store.

"Oh my god," Judy exclaimed, what Karen was saying sinking in with her for the first time. "Does Rick know?"

Karen shook her head, leaning forward once more and resting her elbows on the table.

"Well, youíre going to tell him, right?" Judy asked. Karen shook her head again. "What? How can you not?"

"I promised Jessie I wouldnít," Karen replied shaking her head. "And the books said Ö"

"Youíve read books?" Judy asked surprised.

"Iíve read many books," Karen said looking over at her. "I read books," she admitted a moment later, hanging her head down. "I didnít know what else to do, I mean they donít really cover this in the parenting classes, and I sure as hell didnít think to ask," she continued. "I mean who plans for this? Who looks at their baby girl and starts planning for commitment ceremonies?"

"Yeah," Judy agreed. "Books would be good then," she continued nodding along. "So youíre really not going to tell Rick?"

"I promised Jessie," Karen said again. "That she could Ö when she was ready. And sheís not. If I hadnít figured it out," she went on shaking her head. "You should have seen her, she seemed so small. I," she stopped sighing tiredly. "I wish I could help her more butÖ"

"Youíre freaked?" Judy supplied.

Karen opened her mouth to protest, and then closed it. "Yeah. Pretty much," she finally responded with a derisive snort. "I thought Ö you know, when I heard those public service announcements, and saw Ďthose very special episodesí that I wouldnít be like that. That if my kid was gay, I would perfectly fine with it and be all supportive, and we could march together and wear matching t-shirts. But at the same time I never considered that I would have to be. I was in the role of the supportive friend you know, I was to be doing the patting, not be patted."

"Itís normal, your reaction," Judy said comfortingly reaching across the table. "Everyone has these dreams for their kids, these hopes and expectations, and when Ö when youíre forced to change them Ö well, itís alright to mourn their loss," she continued squeezing Karenís hand sympathetically.

"She thinks Iím disappointed in her," Karen replied struggling to keep her voice steady. "That it makes me love her less. But nothing could be farther from the truth," she continued. "Sheís my baby. I love her more than life itself, and nothing could ever change that. I just feel like she doesnít believe that, and I canít for the life of me figure out how to make her."

"Youíve just got to give yourself time," Judy responded, congratulating herself for having HBO and thus material to reference to comfort. "Those moms and dads that you see out there marching, and speaking at schools and wearing buttons, they were all sitting where you are now," she continued thoughtfully. "They all went through it, but they overcame it. You will too, it'll just take time. I mean it takes people years to realize theyíre gay," Judy went on, Karenís mind drifting to Jessie talking about how she didnít understand why she wasnít interested in dating boys. "Itís only understandable that it takes parents some time to get used to the idea too. The most important thing is that you do love her. The rest will come with time."

"So Iím not a bad mother?" Karen asked looking over at her, quite relieved to hear that she wasnít some sort of hopeless bigot for not doing cartwheels upon learning of Jessieís relationship.

"No," Judy said shaking her head. "Sheís lucky to have you."

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

Continue to Chapters 16-20

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