part 5

by SX Meagher

Please see part 1 for all disclaimers.

Chapter Nine

On Monday evening Jamie and Ryan had dinner together, but Ryan insisted that she had to study at home. Since her bike was in the city, after a brief argument Ryan agreed to take the Boxster. Jamie kissed her goodbye and, standing on her front porch, watched her drive away until the taillights were just tiny red dots.

When Jamie went into the house, she distractedly walked up the stairs, reaching her door just as Mia was leaving her room. "Are you staying home tonight?" she asked, impetuously deciding to reveal her relationship with Ryan.

Mia regarded her friend's pink face, disordered hair and agitated demeanor and carefully said, "Yeah, why?"

"I need to talk to you, if you have time."

"Sure, I have time," she said easily. "It's too late to start studying at this point in the term."

Jamie gave her a smile and said, "Let me change, and I'll be right down."

Five minutes later Jamie came back downstairs. She had changed into an extra large yellow t-shirt and a pair of green, blue and yellow plaid flannel boxer shorts. The shorts were way too big for her so she had rolled the waistband over three times to snug up the fit. With her tousled hair, oversized clothes, and still flushed face, she looked like a young child that was wearing an older sibling's clothes. The childlike image was shattered when she said, "I need a drink. Join me?"

"Uhh…sure," Mia said, reasoning that since she wasn't going to study anyway, she might as well have fun. "Do we have any Tequiza?" she asked, naming her new favorite beer that came laced with tequila and lime juice.

Jamie poked her blonde head into the refrigerator and found a new six-pack. She pulled out two bottles and set them on the kitchen table as they each pulled out a chair.

She took a long pull on her beer and shook her head as she made a face. "You like this stuff?" she gasped, as she convulsively smacked her lips.

"Yeah, it's got a kick to it," Mia laughed.

"That it does," Jamie replied, pushing the bottle away. Without the beer she had nothing to occupy her shaking hands and she could feel Mia's eyes assess her critically. Grabbing the bottle again she took a very deep breath to gather her courage, but couldn't seem to make any words come out. She closed her eyes to try again, but she soon felt Mia's small warm hand cover hers. "Jamie," her roommate said softly, "I know."

Jamie's eyes flew open as her head jerked up abruptly. She tried to make her mouth work, but the look of total compassion and understanding on Mia's face dissolved whatever composure she still had, and she burst into tears. Her head dropped to the table and great sobs wracked her body as she shook and gasped for air. Deciding that this conversation would likely be a long one, Mia gently took one of Jamie's arms and urged her up from her seat. Firmly wrapping her arm around her, she her into the library, where she deposited her on the leather sofa. Mia sat down right beside her and pulled her sobbing friend's head against her chest. She tenderly patted Jamie's back and smoothed her hair, murmuring reassuring words the whole while. Jamie clung desperately to her friend, letting all of her pent-up feelings flow through her body unabated.

It took a long time, but she finally had enough self-control to try to express herself. She murmured into Mia's chest, "I'm so sorry."

"Jamie," Mia soothed, "You don't have anything to apologize for. If this is who you are, you need to just accept it. It'll be okay."

She shot up and stared at her friend with wide eyes. "No, God no! I'm not sorry about Ryan, I'm sorry that I lied to you."

Mia breathed a deep sigh of relief as she said, "Thank goodness! God, you frightened me there for a minute, Jamie. I thought you were unhappy that you'd fallen for her."

"No! Not at all," she replied emphatically. After a moment she gazed up at her friend and timidly asked, "So you're not mad at me?"

"About which part?"

"Well, either," she said.

"I'm definitely not mad, perplexed, put off or surprised by your being gay," she explained. "But I am a little hurt about being lied to."

"I don't blame you," Jamie said softly. "I feel worse about that than anything that's happened so far. It's not really a very good excuse, but I was so taken aback by Cassie jumping on me that night that I just didn't know what to do. When you came upstairs I knew that I should level with you, but I just couldn't, Mia. I felt so overwhelmed by her that I just couldn't open it all up right then."

Mia draped her arm around her friend's shoulders and said, "I understand that you didn't want to get into it, but it would have hurt a lot less if you had just said you didn't want to talk about it. It's the outright lie that hurts, James."

"I think I get that now," she admitted. "I think I learned a valuable lesson though. This lying stuff is a lot harder than it looks!"

"Well, I could have told you that," she laughed. "It's a skill, like anything else, James--you shouldn't try to just jump in with the pros!"

Jamie snuggled up against her friend and rested her head on her shoulder. "I really am sorry, Mia. I knew in my heart that you would be supportive, but I just chickened out. I hope you can forgive me."

"You've got to do a lot worse than tell a lie to get rid of me, Girlfriend," she said as she gave her a firm squeeze. "I want to be in your life for a long, long while, James."

"There's nothing I'd like better, Mia. I want to know your grandchildren," she said sincerely. She wrinkled up her forehead a bit as she considered Mia's first statement. "What did you mean when you said you weren't surprised about my relationship with Ryan?"

"To be honest, I started suspecting the first time you told me about her," she admitted. "You were just too interested in her for her to be just be a classmate. I've known you for a long time, James, but I swear I've never seen your eyes sparkle like they did when you spoke about her."

"But that wasn't enough to make you sure about it, was it?"

"No, but I've been pretty sure ever since I started working out with her. And that night around Thanksgiving when we went out to dinner together made it totally obvious," she said as she rolled her eyes.

"But how can that be?" Jamie cried. "I didn't even know until a little over a month ago. Ryan didn't know then, either! Right after that she started dating someone seriously."

"I don't know, James. You've just been acting like a lovesick puppy for a long while. And that night at dinner you both acted like lovers."

"But we aren't.... I mean we weren't...." she said as she blushed a deep shade of pink.

"What's going on?" Mia asked suspiciously. "Are you lovers, or not?"

"Well, yes, we are. I mean, we almost are in some ways, and we really are in others." She looked up and laughed at herself. "Wasn't that clear?"

"Crystal," agreed Mia as she playfully ruffled her hair.

"Okay, I'll give you the whole sordid story." Jamie took a breath to organize her thoughts and began, "The night in February that Jack broke up with me, I went over to her house. I was a wreck, as you might imagine," she laughed wryly. "But she held me in her arms and rocked me and sang me a lullaby to put me to sleep." She blushed again at revealing this tender intimacy, but Mia smiled reassuringly and urged her to continue. "The next day she had the woman over that she was trying to be serious with, and I was so irrationally jealous! I wanted to be her girlfriend, and I swear that's the first time I knew."

"So what did you do between February and now?" Mia asked, clearly confused.

"I immediately found a therapist. What else? This is California, after all," she laughed at the stereotype.

"Wow, I had no idea you were in therapy. You've always seemed so well adjusted."

"Well, I am in many ways. But this was really hard for me, not to mention the fact that I was having a tough time adjusting to having Jack break up with me."

"That makes sense. But I want you to hurry up and get to the good parts," she begged.

"Okay, okay. Remember that Jack popped back into the picture for a short while? Well, that was just my inability to face the facts about Ryan. After being in therapy for about two months, I started to believe that this was right for me. I mean, I'm still not sure if I would be with women other than Ryan, but I know she's the person for me," she said confidently.

"Good parts?" she reminded her.

"Okay. I knew I was going to tell her the day we went on a long bike ride to Marin. At the end of the day, we decided it was too late to come home on the ferry, so I found us a room at the Pelican Inn. We were up on the top of Mt. Tam, sitting on a big boulder, and watching the sunset. I gathered up my courage and told her that I loved her." She smiled broadly at the memory, feeling a chill chase down her spine even now. "To my amazement, she told me that she loved me too."

"So then you went to the inn, and you did it until you passed out!" Mia exclaimed.

"No. Not quite." she replied slowly.

"Why not?" she asked in shock. "She's so hot looking I know I couldn't keep my hands off of her," she said with a leer.

Jamie gave her a startled look but finally just shook her head at her friend's sexual hyperbole. "Far be it from me to argue that point, Mia," she said with a smile. "But I'm just getting comfortable with this. This is a very big change for me, you know."

"I know it is, Jamie. But don't you think you'd get comfortable faster if you just did it a whole lot?"

Jamie laughed and patted her cheek fondly. "I think you and I have different ways of dealing with things, Mia. My way is to feel comfortable first, have sex later."

"Not to slight you, but I'm amazed that she's willing to wait. I mean some of the stuff I've heard about her..."

"Hey, watch who you're talking about," Jamie said defensively. "That's the woman I love."

"I just mean that I've heard she really gets around. A lot of women at the gym talk about her, and they've said that she has a lot of sex with a lot of women. It sure sounds like she's not used to being celibate."

"Well, to be honest, she's not used to being celibate. She has a very active libido. But she loves me, Mia. She wants me to be happy and secure. I don't think you've seen that side of her."

"So…you do nothing for her? I mean, how do you decide how far to go when you're gay?"

"I do things for her," she said a little defensively. "Well…okay, to be honest I drive her crazy," she admitted with a laugh.

"So how is it for you, James?" Mia asked, returning to her favorite topic. "Do you feel more interested in sex than you did with Jack?"

"Whew!" she said as she blew out a breath that fluttered her bangs. "No comparison. She makes me hotter than I ever thought possible. It's…well; I don't have anything to compare it to. It's just more than I ever dreamed of."

The front door opened at that point, and Cassie glared across the library at them. They were sharing a single seat cushion and Mia still had her arm around Jamie, who was snuggling up against her side. "Oh great," she growled, "now both of you are turning!"

Mia looked over at her with a placid expression, but Jamie could see the impish look in her eyes. "Hey Cassie, would you do me a favor?"

When Cassie tilted her head questioningly, Mia sweetly asked, "Go fuck yourself, will you?"

Jamie's eyes nearly popped out of her head, and Cassie looked like she might storm over and pop Mia one, but the outraged woman merely threw her books to the floor with a bang and stalked off to her room.

"Mia," Jamie squealed. "Why did you do that?"

"Because she's a big pain in the ass, and I don't want any part of her," she said decisively.

"But…" Jamie began but Mia cut her off.

"I wasn't going to tell you this, but you'll find out anyway. On Saturday night she called your parents' house because she didn't believe that you went down there. Which I might add, you did not," she said as she wiggled her eyebrows.

"I was with Ryan at her family's house," Jamie meekly admitted.

"Geez! You sleep with her and still don't have sex with her! That's beyond cruel, Jamie!"

"But she likes to sleep with me," she stated rather innocently.

"Of course she does!" Mia cried. "She thinks she's gonna catch you at a weak moment and have you in the ready position."

"Mia! She's not like that! Now tell me what happened with Cassie."

"She spoke to your mom. Apparently your mom wasn't very happy with her calling the house rather than your cell phone, and that really pissed Cassie off," she said with a smirk. "But your mom said she would call you and have you call Cassie back. So what happened? Did she call you?"

"No…oh, wait, someone did call me on Saturday night, but they hung up when I answered."

"Has anyone else called you since then?"

"No, I don't think so. Why?"

"Go get your phone," she instructed. Jamie went to the entry table and fetched the device. Mia picked it up and dialed *69 and handed it back.

Seconds later Jamie said, "Hi Marta, this is Jamie, is my mother home?"

After a pause she continued, "No, that's okay, I'll call tomorrow. I just want to say goodbye before she leaves for her trip. Goodnight, Marta," she said as she clicked off. She looked at Mia rather dumbfounded and asked, "Why would she call me and hang up? That just doesn't make any sense."

"I think you need to consider that she might know more than she's letting on."

"You don't know the half of it," she grumbled as she rolled her eyes dramatically. For the next 15 minutes she explained Cassie's other little tricks and related her own lies to her mother. They weren't able to resolve much, but they both agreed that they were well rid of Cassie.

They walked back into the kitchen, and Jamie poured their now warm beers down the sink, running the water for a while to remove the sharp odor of the tequila. They went up to bed with their arms loosely draped around each other's waists, their friendship once again on solid footing.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Chapter Ten

When Jamie called her mother on Tuesday, neither woman mentioned the incident with Cassie. Catherine asked about the ride and quizzed her daughter a little bit on her preparations, but she seemed perfectly normal, and their interaction was the same as always. The incident still puzzled Jamie, but she finally chalked it up as unexplainable and got back to her studying.

When she got home from her last class, the keys to her car were lying on the floor under the mail slot. A sealed note explained that Ryan was working on an important problem for her biology class and, since she needed her computer to do some computations, they wouldn't be able to meet at all that evening.

Jamie was unreasonably depressed to not even be allowed to kiss Ryan's sweet lips and she spent more time than she should have moping in her room. At eight o'clock her phone rang and a little smile graced her face when she heard the familiar voice. "I miss you," the deep voice murmured.

"I miss you too," Jamie agreed. "It seems like forever since I've kissed you."

"It almost is forever," Ryan concurred. "It was a whole 24 hours ago."

"If you'd let me, I'd drive over to your house for a good night kiss," she offered.

Ryan paused for a long minute but finally said, "I don't think that's a good idea, as tempting as it is, Jamie. I'm really having a hard time concentrating. It worked well when you were with me on Sunday, but seeing you for a little bit and getting all worked up just isn't working for me. I don't really need to come back to Berkeley this week since my last class was today and my first test isn't until Monday. Would it be too terrible for you if we didn't see each other this week?"

Jamie was stunned that Ryan would even ask such a thing. She tried to force herself to be mature and sensitive to her lover's needs, but was wounded that she could even make the suggestion. As the silence stretched on for a while, Ryan realized that she wasn't taking well to the idea. "Jamie," she said softly. "I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings. I just don't know what else to do. I want to see you and touch you so bad my teeth ache, but after we touch for a while you're all I can think about."

"Ryan, I know things are hard for you right now, but I don't think I can concentrate if I don't see you at all. Isn't there some other way?"

"Well, you could stay over here until finals are over. We'd at least be in the same house."

"But we couldn't sleep together," she said glumly.

"No, I don't think Da would like that. Saturday was an exception, but I don't think he'd want us to continue that."

"Why don't you come sleep with me?" she asked tentatively.

"But Jamie, you know there's no way to avoid Cassie and Mia."

"I have some good news on that front," she said brightly. "I told Mia last night, and she took it really well. She wouldn't mind if you came over, and after we talked she really insulted Cassie, so I doubt that she'll come home."

Ryan was quiet for a few minutes, so quiet that Jamie finally asked, "Tell me what's going through your mind."

A deep sigh began the reply. "I…I just don't feel right sneaking into your house, Jamie," she said softly. "I mean, I guess it shouldn't bother me, since I've done it so many times before, but something about it really gets to me."

Jamie's return sigh was just as deep. "I think I know what it is," she said softly. "You told me that you never want me to feel ashamed of our love. And even though I think you know that I'm not ashamed, a little part of you is still hurt by having to hide."

"I guess you're right," Ryan agreed. "It's just such a joyous time for me that it really hurts to have to sneak around. It just seems to put a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sorry, Jamie, I really am," she sighed. "But it's really starting to get to me."

"Let me think for a minute," Jamie said, rather brusquely. "I'll call you back."

Ryan started to protest, since it was obvious that she had hurt her lover's feelings, but the phone had gone dead before she could utter a word.

Almost 15 minutes passed before the phone rang. Ryan had actually been pacing across the living room floor for 10 of those minutes, driving Conor and her father slightly mad. Both men were watching the Giants play the Dodgers, but the incessant pacing was diverting their attention. "Who says love is bliss?" Conor muttered just loudly enough for his father to hear.

All three O'Flaherty's were relieved when Jamie's happy-sounding voice came through the phone. "You have twenty minutes to pack," Jamie informed her briskly. "Bring everything you need for the week—including your computer."

"What? Jamie, we don't have to do this," Ryan urged. "I know you're not ready to tell…"

"I'm not telling anyone anything," she reassured her. "Now pack up and kiss your father goodbye, Ryan. I'll be there soon."

Conor poked his head out of the bedroom door to see his sister standing in the middle of the room, receiver still in her hand, dial tone echoing loudly. "Uhh, Ryan?" he said softly, trying not to startle her. "You okay?"

She shook her head to clear it and gazed at him for a minute. "I'm gonna be gone for a few days," she mumbled as she started to walk to her room.

"Where are you going?" he asked her departing form, narrowing his eyes at her normal bedtime attire of an old t-shirt and baggy sweats.

"Don't know," she replied as she shrugged her shoulders.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie was a little optimistic on her estimate; the drive actually took her 30 minutes. Ryan needed every minute--getting her clothes ready was not a problem, but she had a massive amount of books, notebooks, lab notes and floppy disks that she regularly used. She had recruited Conor to help her load everything into a big box and they were just finishing when Jamie came running down the stairs in an ebullient mood. Conor greeted her warmly and started up the stairs with the heavy box. "Be back for the computer," he called as he climbed the stairs.

"All set?" the perky blonde asked.

"I guess so," Ryan replied with a rather helpless look on her face. "Did Cassie move out or something?"

"Nope." Jamie started to carry Ryan's suitcase up the stairs but she stopped and asked, "Did you pack your swimsuit?"

"Huh? No, of course not." Putting her hands on her hips she demanded, "Jamie, what's going on?"

"All in due time, my dear. Just stuff a suit in here and let's get shaking!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Boxster was filled to capacity once Conor got everything loaded into the very petite trunk. They had to remove Jamie's suitcase in order to squeeze in Ryan's books, but they finally got the trunk closed. Conor and Martin stood on the sidewalk in front of the house. "Goodbye, Darlin'," Martin said as he kissed his youngest. "Have fun or study hard or, well, be safe," he finally decided since he had no knowledge of her itinerary.

"Oh, I'll take very good care of her, Martin. I promise to return her on Friday well fed, well rested, and ready for her exams."

"I trust you completely, Jamie," he said fondly. "I know my precious one is in good hands." He kissed the smaller woman and hugged Ryan again. Then Conor did the same to both of them.

"See you soon, I guess," Ryan said, still looking shell-shocked. Conor hoisted Jamie's suitcase over the door through the open window and Ryan spent a moment maneuvering it into a comfortable place. When she was finished, she waved at her family, a nearly dumbstruck expression on her face.

As they drove off, Conor opined, "I've never ever seen her so compliant?"

Martin laughed at that characterization but he had to admit it was accurate. "You'll be the same some day, lad," he predicted.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie drove since Ryan had no idea where they were headed. It appeared that they were headed for the Berkeley house, but she took a different turn and went towards Oakland. A few minutes after they left the freeway, they pulled into the massive grounds of The Claremont Hotel. Ryan had seen the huge white edifice many times, but had never actually been on the grounds. Looking around excitedly she asked, "Are we staying here?"

"Yep," Jamie said firmly. "We're staying here until Friday. I'm paying so don't even bother to argue. We're going to pamper ourselves outrageously," she declared.


Jamie quickly cut off Ryan's protest, "I can't stand to be around Cassie for another minute, and I can't stay at your house and not sleep with you—it just drives me crazy! So even if you don't want to join me, I decided to do this. I just want to study and have someone else take care of every need. Room service…maid service…swimming pool…Jacuzzi tub…"

"SOLD!" Ryan agreed as they pulled up in front of the valet.

Exhibiting her typical take-charge attitude, Jamie hopped out and began instructing the bellman on how to unload the car. Their luggage looked a little odd, consisting of two computer towers, two monitors, one printer and two small suitcases, but the young man took it in stride.

That attitude continued as Jamie dealt with the pleasant woman at the front desk. "We need the top floor," she instructed. "The quietest room that you have. We're working on an important project and we need privacy."

"How many beds?" the woman asked, with a completely neutral expression.

"One king bed," she replied firmly, obviously, not afraid of coming out to strangers.

"Hmm," the clerk mused as she considered her choices. "I'd say the quietest room we have is in the rear corner of the hotel, facing the hills. But that's a suite…"

"Fine," Jamie informed her briskly. "Four nights."

"Are you sure?" she asked, looking closely at the young woman in front of her, seemingly for the first time. The confident young woman met her gaze evenly. She wore a dark green fleece lined anorak, a gold turtleneck and a pair of jeans, and could have passed for a high school student. Ryan didn't help matters much, dressed as she was, in her hooded 'Cal' sweatshirt and jeans. Their luggage was on a cart right next to them and they looked like what they were--students from Berkeley trying to have a little peace during finals. To avoid potential misunderstandings, the woman printed off a sheet that showed the charge for the room and the applicable tax and parking fee and handed it to Jamie.

She cast a cursory glance, handed it back with a smile and her platinum American Express card and said, "I'll need two keys."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The bellman that escorted them chattered non-stop on the short elevator ride. He was about their age, and it was obvious that he was intensely curious about the two young women he was escorting.

He started with Ryan. "So how long are you planning on being in the Bay Area?"

She replied with her normal habit of responding only to the question she was asked. "Mmm, I suppose the rest of my life," she said thoughtfully. "You're not planning on leaving, are you, Jamie?" she asked as she turned her gaze to her partner.

"Nope. I think we're lifers," she agreed.

"Oh! You're locals?" he asked.

"Yep," Ryan replied, once again giving the barest response.

"Here for a convention?" he tried again.


His brow was furrowed in concentration and frustration as he tried to find a way to pry information out of the enigmatic raven-haired woman. As usual Jamie couldn't stand the silence and she offered, "We're students at Cal. We just need a quiet place to study for a few days."

He gave her a look that implied he had heard better stories, but he quickly put on his polite face and said, "I hope you enjoy yourselves then." He walked ahead of them down the hall, and the smaller woman could not stop herself from pinching her tall partner as they walked after him.

"Brat!" she whispered.

Ryan gave her normal 'who me?' look as the bellman opened the door and guided their things into the spacious room. "Here we are," he announced as he spent a few minutes showing them all of the amenities.

Jamie was satisfied with both the layout and the orientation of the lovely room. It faced the gently rolling Oakland hills, giving them a nice view of homes and young trees. A tragic fire had dramatically altered this view, but the homeowners had done their best to replant with varieties of trees that would not explode in a fire the way the firs and eucalyptus had done. Since the new homes were so outrageously large, the landscape would never approach its former beauty, but it was still a lovely view. "I do need a modem line," she announced. "Is there one?"

"Oh yes," he replied. The jack was conveniently located right next to the small writing desk that she had already decided would be Ryan's.

"One more thing," she said, looking around quickly. "I need another desk chair. Can you help me out?"

"I'll arrange to have one sent up," he confidently replied. "Anything else, ma'am?"

"No that's fine," she said, handing him $20.

He left with a smile and a promise to have the chair sent up. Ryan gave her a curious look and asked, "$20?"

"Yes, that seemed about right," she said thoughtfully. "He was with us for almost a half hour, the box of your books was really heavy, and he was very careful with the computer equipment. I usually give $3 a bag and I think this stuff is the equivalent of about seven bags."

"I think that's sweet," Ryan said as she gave her a squeeze and a kiss on the forehead.

"What is?"

"That you really think that out. You considered how heavy the stuff was and acknowledged that it was kind of hard to wrangle it all up here without dropping anything." She cocked her head a bit and added, "I just really like the way you treat people in the service industry. You act like they're professionals too."

"Well they are," she said easily. "You don't have to have a title to deserve respect for doing a good job."

"That's what I think is sweet," Ryan restated as she swooped her into her arms and flopped onto the bed. "You're very sweet and very tasty," she growled as she tossed her onto her back and started to nibble on her neck.

But Jamie placed her hands flat against her lover's chest and reminded her, "Study time, Tiger. Let's get organized and do a little work tonight."

"Party pooper," Ryan grumbled as she got to her feet and pulled her partner up with her.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It took a good twenty minutes to get organized, but when they were finished they were both satisfied that they could get their work done very nicely in the comfortable room. Jamie chose to work at the table near the window, and once her desk chair was delivered, it was just perfect. Ryan took the writing table, and as soon as she was hooked up, she sat down at her chair and started working. Jamie needed a little more time to ease into studying, so she spent a little while unpacking their clothes and neatly arranging their things in the large dresser. In her rush, Ryan had not brought any toiletries and Jamie chuckled to herself that her partner would probably not even get up to shower if she wasn't there to remind her to.

After she pulled a can of Diet Coke from the mini-bar, she sat cross-legged on the bed and started to organize her notes for the paper that she had to write. The evening zoomed by; the next thing she knew, it was eleven o'clock. After a few stretches she walked over to her partner and started playing with her hair. "Hey," Ryan said absently. "Need something?"

"Yeah," she whispered into her ear. "I need you—in my bed."

That broke Ryan's concentration and after a few more keystrokes she shut down her computer and stood to stretch for a few minutes. "I could work for a couple of more hours," she mused as she checked her watch.

"I'm sure you could," Jamie replied as she reached for the hem of the dark blue sweatshirt and started to tug it over her partner's head. "But I promised your father I'd make sure you were rested. I know you'll be up by six, so I've got to put you to sleep relatively early."

Ryan stood there in her jeans and a gray ribbed knit t-shirt that Jamie had recently bought for her. "You look nice in this," the blonde murmured as her hands glided up Ryan's smooth back. "And I love it when you don't wear a bra." As her hands slid down to unbutton the snug jeans, she asked, "What color are your shorts?"

"Not wearing shorts," Ryan whispered in her ear, as her own hands buttoned back up. "I was already in my jammies when you called, so I just threw on my jeans. "I didn't think ahead to the ritual undressing," she said with one wiggling eyebrow.

"Are you gonna sleep in the nude?" Jamie asked teasingly.

"Not for another four weeks," she replied with a look of regret. "I brought underwear. But since you seem to care, you can decide on color."

"Hmm," she said appraisingly as she squinted and tried to imagine the different combinations. "Let's go with white. The gray/white combo is a bit unconventional, but so are you," she added as she slapped her partner rather hard on the butt.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan feared that they would spend half an hour wrestling with their desires and her self-control, but to her amazement, when Jamie got into bed she kissed her sweetly and whispered, "Goodnight, Ryan."

"That's it?!" the stunned woman asked. "One kiss?"

"Yep. We're here to study. I have no interest in getting all hot and bothered and spending the night frustrated. Let's just be loving rather than passionate towards each other for the next few days." Seeing the amazed look on her lover's face she teased, "Think you can control yourself?"

"Uhh yeah, I think I can," Ryan said. As she cuddled her partner against her body she whispered, "Thank you, Jamie. It means a lot to me that you take me seriously when I say I have to work. And I love how you've found a solution that's going to allow each of us to get our needs met."

"My main need is completely satisfied," she sighed as she contentedly cuddled even closer.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

6 a.m. saw Jamie's prediction come to pass as Ryan slid from her limp embrace and stretched languidly for a few minutes. Nice day, she mused as she surveyed the sun peaking out of the slim band of clouds on the horizon. A delighted little grin graced her face when she considered that she could begin her day with a nice long swim rather than her traditional run. Minutes later she was wrapped in a thick terry cloth robe that the hotel provided and padding down to the very large heated pool.

She didn't swim any longer, but it wasn't for lack of interest. She hadn't really had a pool available to her except for the one at Cal. That one she no longer used since she hated to go to class in the mornings with wet hair, and her evenings were completely occupied by a certain blonde. Swimming was a pleasant change of pace from the pounding of jogging, and she had to admit that she felt more relaxed after a nice long swim. Since her anxiety was building about finals, this seemed like a perfect morning to indulge.

The water was cool, about 80 degrees, but she really appreciated the temperature. Since she swam hard, an overly warm pool was actually unpleasant for her. A few slow laps to warm up and she switched into high gear, grinding out the laps by doing ten each of crawl, back, breast and fly. When she completed a 40-lap set she started over, churning through the water unceasingly until she had completed 200 laps. Her heart was really pumping, and she floated rather unsuccessfully for a few lazy laps of backstroke. After ten minutes in the spa to stay loose, she returned to their room, only to find her partner still sound asleep. She tugged last night's clothes on and ran across the street to Peet's, one of her all-time favorite coffee spots. A nice little bakery next door yielded some delightful pastries, and she crept back into the room a little after 7:30, laden with goodies.

As she expected, her lover's cute little nose twitched a bit as the smell of the lattés and baked goods wafted over to her. Those adorable green eyes blinked open moments after Ryan had arranged everything on the table. "You went out to buy breakfast?" she mumbled as she tried to focus.

"Have you seen these prices?" Ryan asked with wide eyes as she held up the room service menu. "I'm going to the grocery later to buy snacks. No more mini-bar Cokes for you!"

"Yes, Mom," she said contritely as she held out her hand. "Do I get coffee?"

"In bed, no less," Ryan sweetly informed her as she brought the tray over to the bed. The cardboard carrier from Peet's neatly held not only the coffee, but also two flaky pastries for the hungry woman.

"You're the best," she moaned as she gulped down a mouthful of the strongly flavored coffee. "Wow," Jamie said as the full impact of the coffee hit her. "I forget how strong Peet's is. Been out running?" she asked with a cock of her head at Ryan's sweatshirt and jeans.

"Nope. I swam for over an hour. It was bliss," she informed her with a big smile. "You know, I kinda like this lap of luxury stuff."

"It does have its rewards," Jamie had to agree. They ate their breakfast rather quickly, and by eight both were back at work, neither lifting their head until Ryan's stomach began to rumble just at noon.

"We could set our watches by 'Old Faithful' there," Jamie observed as she stared at Ryan's tummy.

"Mmm," Ryan said, completely absorbed by her studies.

"I'm ordering lunch," Jamie informed her. "Want me to chose for you?"

"Mmm," was the absent reply.

"I'll take that as a yes," she decided.

When the tray was delivered twenty minutes later, Ryan swore she had not heard any of the conversation that led to the food's arrival, but she was pleased with Jamie's selections nonetheless. She ate with one hand while she typed with the other, completely absorbed again in a matter of seconds.

This routine was also followed at dinner, but Jamie heard a sharp intake of breath at around seven as Ryan stood up to go to the bathroom.

"What's wrong?"

"Stiff. Very stiff," she added. "I should get up every hour or so but I forget. I really enjoyed my swim, but it stresses muscles in a different way. I'm paying for it now," she admitted.

"How much more work do you have to do tonight?" she asked, hatching a plan.

"Hmm, I'm actually doing great. An hour or so to finish something up and I could stop. Why?"

"Just asking…no reason," she said innocently as Ryan closed the bathroom door.

At eight o'clock on the button, she jumped up to open the door after the gentle knock pulled her from her focus. Ryan actually heard it too and she gave Jamie a very curious glance as a very large, very muscular man in a white polo shirt and white poplin slacks entered the room. "You ordered a massage?" he asked in a slight Slavic accent.

"There's the client," she informed him as she pointed at her partner.

"I'm Vlade," he said as he held out his massive hand to Ryan. She grasped it in reflex, and then shot Jamie a glare. Vlade went back to the door to pull his massage table in. As he was setting up he asked Ryan, "What type of massage do you like?"

Deciding that she was stuck and might as well enjoy it, she revealed, "I like any kind as long as it's deep."

"Excellent!" he boomed. "I like to be able to use my muscles."

Ryan ducked into the bath to drape the pink sheet Vlade provided around her body. Moments later she was face down on the table moaning in delight as Vlade used every one of the muscles in his strong arms and hands to turn her into a quivering ball of mush.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As the first glimmer of dawn broke through the open curtains, Ryan stirred and stretched her body out, smiling at the response from her well-rested, well-massaged muscles. She was lying mostly on her stomach, an odd position for her, but the odder sensation was the sheet separating her from her clinging partner. How did we get twisted up in this sheet? she wondered for just a moment. Once she started to investigate, she determined that she was under the sheet and Jamie was on top of it. She found a crucial clue to this situation when she realized that she was as naked as the day she was born. God, I don't remember Vlade leaving, I don't remember getting into bed, and I certainly don't remember Jamie joining me, she marveled. That massage knocked me into another world!

Deciding not to repeat her swim of the previous morning, she tugged on her running gear and silently exited the room, remembering to put $20 in the pocket of her windbreaker for breakfast. When she returned to the room, Jamie was in the shower, so she stripped and dried her body with her t-shirt before slipping into her sweats from the previous day.

The morning passed in the same fashion as the day before, but this time Jamie had ordered her to set one of her watch timers for an hour. Every time the little beep sounded Ryan dutifully got up and spent five minutes stretching on the floor. The break helped keep her body limber throughout the long day, and it helped keep Jamie's motor running as she studiously watched her lover twist and grunt.

For dinner Jamie decided that she needed a Zachary's pizza; her wish became a requirement when Ryan informed her that she had never been to the place. Ryan stayed to finish up her studies for the day; when Jamie returned just after seven, she nearly grabbed the box from her hands. "I frankly don't care how good this is," she said with wide eyes as she yanked the top open. "I'm so hungry I could eat…well, I can't think of anything big enough!" she finally conceded. "But I might have met my match here," she amended as she looked carefully at the food in her hands.

The scrumptious-looking deep-dish pie was stuffed with all of Ryan's favorites: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, red peppers, and black olives. Jamie's assessment of the quality was right on, and Ryan ate with her normal litany of moans, groans, whimpers and exclamations. "This is the best pizza I think I've ever had!" she cried during one small break. "The crust is soooo good. And the sauce is just the right combination of sweet and tart. I love the big pieces of tomato on the top!"

"Told ya," she smirked. "I can't believe that you, of all people, have never had one."

"Word obviously hasn't traveled over the Bay Bridge," she mused. "But Mr. Zachary and I are going to become better acquainted in the very near future!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

To help their digestion, they went for a stroll around the grounds of the hotel. There were neat little gardens and tons of tennis courts, but Ryan noticed the fitness course they had set up. "I think I'll do this in the morning," she declared. "I've been getting bored with running."

"Well you know you're going to have to give up running soon anyway," Jamie informed her regretfully.

"What? Why do you say that?"

"Cause I'm not going to let you out of bed," she growled right into her ear, sending chills down Ryan's suddenly warm body.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie came out of the bath after preparing for bed, Ryan was sitting on the bed, a large bottle of Jamie's body lotion in her hand. "Your turn tonight," she declared.


"Yep. Wrap that pretty little body up in a bath sheet and come get it."

The smaller woman did not have to be told twice. She was jumping across the bed in a heartbeat, wrapped only in a big towel.

Ryan put on her usual professional attitude and got to work, expertly moving the towel as she labored, never leaving Jamie's body more exposed than it needed to be. Just to be prudent, Ryan avoided her buttocks and didn't go as high on her thighs as she would in a few weeks. Turning her over onto her back, she took the same precautions, staying well away from any erogenous zones. It took a lot of willpower to avoid sneaking a few peeks, but she didn't really need any more temptation. Just touching Jamie's firm, toned body in this intimate way was more than enough to cause her to throb, and throb she did. When she was finished, Jamie was limp and nearly asleep. She returned the courtesy of the previous night and pulled the sheet up to her chin, gently removing the towel as she did so. When she was ready for bed, she got between the sheet and the bedspread, finding the arrangement to be perfectly cozy if not a little sterile. As she cuddled up to her partner's warm, relaxed body, she felt all of the tensions, sexual and otherwise, leave her, and she sank into a peaceful sleep, dreaming of more intimate massages to come.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan kept her promise and ran around the little fitness layout the next morning. It was more fun than just running and she enjoyed it enough to run it three times. Once again she brought breakfast to her partner, again having to wake her to consume it.

"I hate to have you leave me in the morning, but I truly love to wake up to a Danish and a steaming hot latté," she said gratefully as she took a big sip

"Tell the truth, Sleeping Beauty," Ryan playfully chided. "You don't really know I'm gone, do you?"

"Mmm," she batted her big green eyes seductively. "Not consciously, but my body misses you."

"Mine misses you too," Ryan agreed. "It's gonna miss you tonight for sure," she added.

"I was going to bring that up," Jamie said, sitting up completely to order her thoughts. "Do you have to study all weekend?"

Ryan thought for a minute and slowly nodded her head. "I've got a good ten hours to slog through each day. Why?"

"Let's just stay here," she urged. "This is working for you, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah," Ryan agreed. "It's actually been idyllic. I don't have to make meals for myself; I don't have to exercise Duffy. I'd say it's been the most productive studying I've done all year."

"Then why not stay?" she reiterated.

She pursed her lips and considered her reasons, finding that they were purely financial. "I hate to have you spend this kind of money," she explained. "I know you say you'd do it anyway, but it still feels like you're doing it for me. I just feel like I'm taking advantage of you," she said rather shyly.

Jamie carefully placed her coffee on the nightstand, and yanked the sheet from its moorings to carefully wrap it around her bare body. She carefully scooted across the bed to climb into Ryan's lap. "Why won't you let me spoil you once in a while?" she begged as she trailed her fingers down her partner's smooth, warm cheek. "I can easily afford it; it makes me happy; and it's allowed me to study without interruption. I've almost got my big paper done, and if we stayed, I could finish up everything by Sunday."

Ryan could feel her resolve weakening, as it so often did when Jamie was astride her lap. But she felt like she needed to hold out for at least some concession. "Could we go to my house for Sunday dinner?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," she promised as she bent to kiss her grinning mouth.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie's businesslike mind could not rest until she called down to the front desk and asked to speak to the manager on duty. After a brief conversation she hung up and smirked at her partner. "He cut the room fee by 50% if we stay for another week," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "That will take us through finals for only the cost of the weekend!"

"That's amazing!" Ryan cried. "Especially since we were already here."

"I think he took a peek at how much we've spent on room service and quickly decided that he could give us the room for free and still make a profit," she teased as she patted her partner's perennially empty stomach.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The weekend was spent in rapt concentration for both women, with an intense hour-long run through the hills on Sunday as the only break. By late Sunday afternoon, they both felt good about their upcoming finals. Jamie actually only had two tests now that she had finished her final papers, but Ryan had five finals in classes that Jamie could barely pronounce, and her two hardest ones were both on Thursday. The good news was that by Thursday evening they would both be finished for the term.

They drove over to the O'Flaherty home, pleased to find that Maeve would be joining them. They related their adventure of the past few days, causing quite a few laughs when Jamie related how much they had spent on room service. Ryan, of course, got her back when she told of Jamie's negotiations with the manager.

They decided to take Duffy for a long walk in the neighborhood since he was nearly wild with excitement to finally have his mistress home. Ryan spent an extraordinarily long time letting him lick her thoroughly before they left, but it was obvious that the intelligent dog knew his fate. "He knows we're leaving again, doesn't he?" Jamie asked as they bid the family goodbye.

"Oh yeah, he can definitely tell," she agreed, looking at his sad brown eyes. "He's gonna have a tough summer," she said wistfully, anticipating their absence for the AIDS ride as well as Pebble Beach.

"He's just a love junkie like his mommy," Jamie whispered for Ryan's ears only.

"Look who's talking, Cuddle Junkie," Ryan laughed. "Let's get back to our hideout so you can get your jones."

"Mmm, I might be a junkie, but I can only get my fix from you," she purred.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Chapter Eleven

On Thursday morning they checked out of Chez Cram, as they had nicknamed their hideout. Since Ryan's first test was at eight a.m., they left much earlier than Jamie would have preferred, but Ryan made it up to her by delivering coffee and Danish one last time. Jamie's last exam was from 12:30 to 3:30, and since she had an easier time than she had expected, she was ebullient when she returned home at four p.m. Ryan had to work at the gym that night, since she had been forced to move a lot of her private clients around to accommodate the study period and her exams. It had been more than a little difficult for Jamie to hold her tongue at Ryan's decision to work that afternoon, but she realized that Ryan followed her own muse on such matters. It just seemed masochistic to Jamie for her partner to have two tough exams in subjects too obscure to pronounce and then squeeze a couple of hours of work in. But Ryan had an iron will when it came to her obligations, and Jamie knew that she had to give her friend support rather than advice. Even though she was sorely tempted to go to the gym just to watch her work, she thought better of it. Give her a minute's peace, Jamie. Remember life before Ryan? You actually had other friends.

She was a bit surprised, but pleased, to find Mia at home when she arrived. She felt very guilty about her lack of time with her old friend. People who gave up their friendships when they got into a new relationship had always annoyed her, and she decided that she had to stop being one of those people immediately.

She jogged up the stairs and poked her head into Mia's chronically messy room. The curly haired woman was lying on her bed in her underwear reading a magazine, and she gave Jamie a big smile when she saw her. "Hey girlfriend! Long time no see! How did your week at the Claremont go?"

"Absolutely perfect," Jamie beamed. "Are you all finished with exams?"

"Yep. I had my last one this morning. How about you?"

"I'm done too. Do you want to go out tonight to celebrate?" Mia sat up abruptly and tried to see around Jamie's shoulder. "What are you looking for?" Jamie asked as she turned around to determine what her friend was searching for.

She laughed as she replied, "I was looking for Ryan. I haven't seen you two apart for months," she said pointedly.

"I know, I know," Jamie replied guiltily. "I was just thinking about how much I miss spending time with you. I promise I'll be better next year."

"It's okay, Sweetie. I want you to be happy, I just wish you'd save a little time for me. But I know what it's like to fall in love, so I've cut you some slack for this year."

"Well it's either love, or I've turned into a stalker," she groused. "I've never been this way about another human being, Mia. Sometimes it actually scares me," she admitted. "I used to pride myself on my independence. I really liked the fact that Jack lived almost an hour away, and I had my week to myself."

"And it's not that way with tall, dark and gorgeous, is it?" she asked knowingly.

"I swear I'd switch to MCB as a major if I had any idea what the hell she talks about when she tells me about her classes! I'm so hopelessly stuck on her it's pathetic."

"I still don't understand how anybody could major in molecular and cell biology," Mia said with her faced scrunched up into a grimace. "Did somebody make her do that?"

"No, silly, she just likes it. And just to make you sicker, she's a double major in math and MCB."

"That's not human," Mia said, sitting up carefully. "Have you ever seen her bleed? Or sleep? I think she must be an alien of some sort."

"No…well, now that you mention it…" Jamie mused, playing along for a while. "She does breathe under water…"

"Ah ha! Just as I thought!" Mia cried. "I saw a creature just like that on the X-Files!"

"I don't care if she is an alien," Jamie said dreamily. "I'd follow her to any planet in the universe."

"Is she as goofy about you?" Mia asked, fervently hoping that Ryan was.

"In a way she is, but in another way she's so mature that I think she can turn it off easier than I can. Still, sometimes when we're studying together I see her just staring at me like a lovesick sixteen-year-old. It's soooo adorable," she gushed.

"You've definitely got it bad, girlfriend."

"Let's go to dinner and then go have a few drinks so I can bore you to death talking about her," she said with a chuckle.

"Sounds great to me. We can go anywhere you want, since you're buying," she informed her with a laugh.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A few hours later, the roommates were sitting outside in the surprisingly warm night air, sipping rather potent martinis as they talked about the just-completed school year and their plans for the summer. Although Jamie did her very best not to talk about Ryan the whole time, Mia realized that she was intentionally not talking about her and after a while suggested, "Why don't you ask your beloved to come join us when she's off work?"

Jamie's eyes lit up immediately, but she said, "Are you certain you don't mind?"

"No, I like Ryan, and if we're all going to live together next year, I might as well get used to seeing you two together constantly."

"When did I say we were going to live together next year?"

"Well, aren't you?"

"Yeah, but I didn't say it," she laughed. "Ryan and I haven't even discussed it yet, but that sweet little thing is going to be in my bed next year, no matter what!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At 9:15 Ryan roared up on her Harley, which she had brought over to the East Bay on Sunday night. She circled the bar three times before she reminded herself that there was no parking whatsoever at any time of day in Berkeley. Ryan had often thought that the cars in front of every meter were really just an elaborate art installation, even insisting to Jamie that they were all papier mâché. Eventually, she gave up and wedged her bike into the tail end of a space occupied by a new lime green Volkswagen. Boy, the artist did a nice job on that one, she smirked as she walked away. Very realistic. She was just beginning to cross the street in front of the bar when she heard a rather loud whistle coming from the outdoor dining area. She ignored the sound, but as she was about halfway across she heard it again. This time it was followed by a loud, "Hey, baby," in a familiar, but strange-sounding voice. She followed the voice and came upon two very drunk roommates, both ogling her. She stood with her hands on her hips and an amused smirk on her face. "What have you two been up to?" she asked sternly.

"We were celebrating!" Jamie slurred. "School's out for a whole summer!" She finally seemed to focus on Ryan as she added, "C'mere and give me a big wet kiss, you gorgeous hunk of woman."

Ryan just shook her head and gracefully leapt over the small wrought iron fence that separated the diners from pedestrians. She pulled up a chair and picked up Jamie's glass, making a face as she sniffed it, then patiently asked, "How many of these little beauties did you girls have?"

"Four, I think," Jamie said. "Those nice men over there bought this last one for us." She turned in her chair to wave at three frat boys. "Thanks again, fellas!"

Jamie turned again to Ryan and leaned in close as she asked, "Where's my kiss?"

"Yeah," Mia chimed in. "Give her a big one, Ryan."

"Come on, Ryan, don't you love me anymore?" she asked pathetically.

"Of course I love you," Ryan soothed. "But won't your new boyfriends get jealous if I kiss you?"

Jamie looked at her with a completely puzzled expression. "Boyfriends? We don't have no stinking boyfriends." She howled with laughter at this statement, for reasons that escaped Ryan completely.

"Then why did you let those boys buy you drinks?" Ryan asked logically.

"I don't know," she said slowly. "Was that a bad thing to do?"

"Well most of the time when you buy a woman a drink, you expect her to at least spend some time getting to know you. I assume they think you're cute, which you are, and they want to go out with you."

Jamie turned around immediately to straighten out the matter. "Hey, boys! We don't want to be your girlfriends. We're lesbians!" she said the last word in a loud stage whisper. "Well, she's not," she pointed at Mia. "But this one and me are," she said as she helpfully indicated Ryan.

Ryan took this opportunity to find the check and quickly settle the large bill. She guided both of them to their feet and tried to wrangle them out of the restaurant. "Did you drive or walk?" she inquired.

"Drove!" Mia stated confidently. "Walked," Jamie declared, just as confidently.

"Well, whichever one it is, we're walking home," Ryan said decisively.

She walked as best she could, standing between the tottering roommates. She had a strong hand around each woman's waist and was constantly grabbing one or the other of them by the waistband of their jeans to keep them on the path.

After an interminable time, they finally reached the house. She was relieved to find the Boxster still in the drive, but seeing Cassie's car caused her to roll her eyes heavenward in supplication.

She had to perform a thorough pat down on Jamie to find the house keys, a procedure that was made more difficult by her intense ticklishness. She giggled and yelped and fought to keep Ryan from her pockets. Ryan persisted even when she was caught in the eye by a flying elbow.

She got the key in the door and pushed both of her charges through, spying Cassie in the kitchen as she did so. Swallowing her ire, she forced herself to be as pleasant as possible and asked, "Cassie, could you come here for a minute?"

With a scowl, Cassie strode into the room, staring at the sight before her. Jamie was draped around the right side of Ryan's body and Mia held onto her just as tenaciously on the left. "Um, they got a little drunk, and I don't think I can get both of them upstairs. Will you take Mia?"

Cassie just shook her head in disgust at the three of them. She started to remove Mia from Ryan's control, but Mia looked at Ryan with big brown bloodshot eyes and begged, "Can I have a kiss?"

Ryan was mortified, but she knew that Mia would persist. So she leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek.

"C'mon," she urged as she remained in her kissing pose. "You can do better than that! I've heard that you can…"

Ryan stopped her story the only way that she knew how. She leaned over and really let her have the kiss she sought. Cassie stared at her in horror, but Ryan figured that Cassie's opinion of her could not go much lower, so she didn't have much to lose on that front. She was afraid that Mia might start blabbing about her and Jamie, though, and that's why it was important to her to keep Mia's mouth occupied. If the kiss shocked Mia, she did an admirable job of hiding her feelings. Ryan was just about ready to release her when she felt Mia's tongue dart into her mouth and start exploring. Ryan couldn't pull away at that point and let Cassie and Jamie see Mia's tongue hanging out, so she stayed right where she was and let Mia investigate to her heart's content.

With a sexy little moan Mia returned her tongue to its home, and Ryan quickly straightened up. Mia, however, stayed exactly where she was. Her lips were still puckered up and her eyes were tightly closed. She was swaying back a forth just a bit and she clearly looked like she wanted more. Ryan stood her up and handed her over to Cassie, who fumed, "I will never, ever, understand the hold you have on women!"

Ryan smirked at her departing form and then focused her attention on Jamie, who had a look of abject sorrow on her face. "Why did you kiss her but you won't kiss me?" she asked as she began to wail plaintively.

Ryan just stooped and picked her up gracefully, carrying her up the stairs and into her room. She performed her all-too-familiar ritual of undressing the relatively helpless woman, averting her eyes as much as possible.

Once she'd dressed Jamie in a long t-shirt, she guided her into the bathroom to brush her teeth. She got the toothbrush ready, but the blonde was not up to the task and, sitting on the edge of the tub, just opened her mouth and let Ryan perform the duty for her.

Then Ryan squatted down beside her and asked, "Do you have to pee?" Jamie just nodded her head. "Do you want me to help you?" A shake that almost knocked her off the tub was the answer. "Okay, can you do it yourself?" Another violent shake. "Then I'll have to help you," was the logical reply.

"Nooooo!" Jamie protested vehemently. "I don't like anybody to watch. It's private!"

"How about if I sit you down and then leave. Is that okay?"

"You won't watch?"

"I promise I won't watch," Ryan said as she crossed her heart.

"Okay," she replied warily. "But don't watch, 'kay?"

Ryan lowered her panties and got her situated. "I'll be right outside. Call me when you're done, okay?"

"Okay," she replied sweetly. "I love you, honey bunch," she said as she blew her a big kiss.

Ryan blew a kiss back as she went outside and closed the door. She ran to the bedside table and quickly called home to tell Conor that she was staying over. Then she dashed back to wait by the door. Long quiet minutes passed before she finally knocked. "Jamie?" No answer. "Jamie," louder this time, but still no answer. She opened the door to find her lover leaning against the back wall, sound asleep. Once again she stooped to pick her up, grunting with the effort. When she got her on the bed, she removed her panties to avoid the struggle of getting them back into place and slipped her under the covers.

She went to the dresser and found the new underwear that Jamie had purchased for her, changed into them and got into bed behind her friend. Moments passed as she tried to relax when she was startled by a very insistent, very annoying snore.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Just before dawn Ryan woke from a deep sleep to the sound of a soft, low moan. She struggled to get her bearings, finding herself alone in bed. She got up and, following the sound, discovered that the bathroom door was open. She poked her head in to find Jamie sitting on the edge of the tub, holding her head in both hands. She walked over and sat down next to her, bending her head down to closely observe her face. "Don't feel so good, huh?" she asked softly.

The tousled blond head slowly lifted, revealing a pasty white complexion and red-streaked green eyes. "Very observant," was the surly reply.

Ryan was a little taken aback by this attitude, but she maintained her compassion. "Can I do anything to help?"

"If you don't have a revolver you may as well go back to bed," she replied petulantly.

"I definitely don't want to shoot you, but I could get you some Tylenol and something to drink to help hydrate you," she offered.

"I don't think anything will help," she grumbled.

"Let's try anyway. I'll be right back." Ryan ran downstairs and found two bottles of ginger ale in the refrigerator. She filled two glasses with ice and brought them both back upstairs. Then she went into the bathroom and found a bottle of Tylenol. Quickly removing four tablets, she gave Jamie two as she filled the glass with the soda. "Shhh!" her friend warned. "That's too loud!"

As Jamie struggled to swallow the pills, Ryan filled the other glass and snuck into Mia's room. She placed the soda and the pills on her bedside table and crept back out without disturbing her.

When she returned, Jamie was sitting on the bed, looking absolutely miserable. "I think you need some more sleep," Ryan observed.

"You're just full of insight, aren't you?" she replied with a grimace, grasping her head in pain from the mere effort of speaking.

"Jamie, I love you even when you're cranky. But please don't be so sarcastic. I'm just trying to help you."

Ryan could actually see her teeth clench, realizing with a smile that the poor woman was really trying to control her sharp tongue, albeit with only partial success. "I'm sorry, Ryan. I just want to go back to bed, but this headache is honestly about to kill me! I'll be nicer if I can get some sleep, I promise."

"I think I can help with that," Ryan replied confidently as she slid in behind her friend. She began to apply pressure to various points on Jamie's head and neck. At first the pain-wracked woman fought the rather intense pressure, but after a few minutes she began to relax and allow Ryan to work. After a while she started to sigh deeply as her body grew heavy and sagged against her partner.

Sliding out from behind her and placing her on her stomach, Ryan started to slowly and firmly knead the muscles in her shoulders and neck. Contented grunts and small moans now greeted her ministrations. After a long while she leaned over and kissed her head as she got out of bed. She got dressed in the previous evening's clothes and went back downstairs, feeling just a little regret that she wouldn't be able to spend the day with Jamie. Walking over to Telegraph in the early morning light, she fetched her bike, removed the ticket that one of Berkeley's ever-thoughtful meter-maids had left for her, and headed home.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan decided that she needed to blow off some steam, and her father gladly acquiesced to the loan of his truck; after securing a promise that it would be washed and vacuumed upon her return. She loaded Duffy and his bag of floating toys in the vehicle and took the wildly enthusiastic dog on a spirited run on the beach. After the run, and a half hour of retrieving his toys from the cold water, Duffy's exercise needs were taken care of for the day, and his mistress was in a much better mood. When the car was once again spotless, she took a long shower and then decided to clean her room, having noticed quite a layer of dust gathering on her photos and books. After a good two hours, everything was in order and she was just putting her cleaning tools away when her pager went off.

She smiled at the familiar number as she went to dial the phone. "Hi," she said simply, wanting to test the waters before she said too much.

"Do you still love me?" was the shy plea.

"Of course I love you," she said warmly. "It's going to take more than a little grumpiness to get rid of me. Are you feeling any better?"

"Yeah, I feel a lot better actually. Thanks for taking care of me last night and today." After a pause she added, "We must have been a mess."

"Nah, you were actually kind of entertaining. I honestly didn't mind at all, Jamie. But I do think you should give some thought to how you deal with alcohol. You don't seem to tolerate it very well," she offered.

"That's an understatement," she agreed. "I think one is my new limit. And since I will never drink another martini, I don't have to worry about them."

"So, do you want to rest today, or would you like to see me?"

"I always want to see you, Ryan. You're the best part of every day for me."

"Well, I've got to work from two until five and then I'm free. Do you want to see me during the day or in the evening?"

"Yes," was the forceful reply.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie showed up a little after 11, looking much better, although still a touch pale. Ryan greeted her warmly, trying to give her the clear message that she wasn't angry with her. They stood in a warm embrace for a long while, with Jamie uttering a deep sigh occasionally. "I'm sorry I was so rude to you today," she said as she looked up with sad eyes.

"It's okay, Jamie. Bad headaches can do that to anyone," she reassured her.

"Have you ever had a hangover?" she asked.

"I've had my share," Ryan admitted. "I have a pretty big capacity for alcohol, but as you know, I rarely drink anymore. When I was in my 'acting out' phase, I drank more than I should have, mostly to appear older and more experienced." She laughed a little at the memory. "I decided fairly quickly that hangovers were not for me."

"I couldn't agree with you more," Jamie agreed with a wry grin.

Ryan went downstairs to change as Jamie went to get a glass of water. She was still dehydrated, and Ryan had assured her that she would feel better if she got a lot of fluid down. The day was warm and Jamie wore cuffed khaki shorts and a salmon polo shirt. Several moments later her mouth went dry when Ryan came back up wearing one of the outfits from Jamie's fantasies. When they had recently visited the Berkeley Patagonia store, Ryan had purchased some of their baggy print shorts for Caitlin. Jamie had liked them so much that she had gone back and bought several pair for Ryan. Today she had on a pair in sky blue, deep blue and salmon. She wore a tank top in the same deep blue; the colors making her eyes look an even darker blue than normal.

Jamie stood back and gazed at her partner lovingly. Her hair was back in a high ponytail and showed off the strong planes of her face. The tank top revealed her tanned broad shoulders and muscular biceps. The shorts fit closely around her trim waist, but were quite roomy in the short legs. Jamie came up next to her and wrapped her arms around her. "Thank you," she whispered into Ryan's ear.

"What for?" was the reply.

"Fulfilling another fantasy," she replied as she nibbled the pink ear. "But you can't wear your normal underwear with these. What do you have on under there?" she asked with a seductive tone.

"Why don't you find out for yourself?" was the taunting reply.

Jamie proceeded to do just that as she ran her hands down the sides and around the back of the shorts. She let her fingers tease the strong legs as they slid up and under the fabric. She was rewarded by the feel of a very tiny pair of bikinis that failed to cover all of the strong firm flesh. As she ran her hands over the surface again and again Ryan dropped her head for a series of gentle kisses. She consciously kept the tough light, knowing Jamie's tendencies. When her partner's hands rose to pull her head down more firmly, she smiled through the kissing and shook her head as she murmured, "Uh, uh, Jamie. I don't want your blood pressure to rise and make your headache worse."

Jamie released her head as she pushed her face into the broad chest and moaned, "Why do you do this to me?"

"Do what?" Ryan asked innocently.

"Look like this!" she groaned.

Ryan just patted her on the back soothingly. "In three weeks you can handle the merchandise at will," she whispered seductively.

"I don't think I can wait three minutes. How can I wait three weeks!"

"If we start doing all the things I want to do to you, I guarantee you will not want to sit on a bike seat for 500 miles," she said with a smile that belied her seriousness.

Jamie just gulped noticeably as she squeezed Ryan again in frustration.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After unloading all of her things from the Porsche, they spent a little while getting the computer up and running again. That done, they decided to go steal Caitlin and take her over to the Marina district to play in the park and watch the boats. The baby was with Maeve today, and Ryan was anxious to see the little sprite after her self-imposed exile in Oakland.

When she greeted them at the door, Caitlin had on her own little pair of baggy shorts in greens and yellows and a little yellow t-shirt. They laughed at her antics as she slapped the glass of the storm door, turning her head repeatedly to look for her grandmother while she waited for the barrier to her favorite playmates to be removed.

Maeve finally arrived and unlocked the door, laughing at the glee on the baby's face. Caitlin launched herself at Ryan's knees, and then raised her arms demanding, "Uh, Uh."

Ryan looked at her aunt in wonder as she lifted the joyous infant in her arms. "When did she learn that?" she asked.

"Today, I guess," she replied as she shook her head. "I can't keep up with her, Ryan. She learns a new way to express herself every day."

Caitlin leaned over precariously in Ryan's arms to offer a hug and a kiss to Jamie. She smiled sweetly at her second favorite playmate as she patted Jamie's face with her tiny hand. Jamie reached out and snatched her from Ryan as Caitlin giggled at the tussle. The baby threw her arms around Jamie's neck as she squeezed her firmly; she was terribly happy to be together with her pals once again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They had a marvelous time at the Marina. The weather was quite a bit cooler, but still warm enough that they were all comfortable. They all took off their shoes and played in the grass, along with the dozens of others soaking up the sun. Ryan had brought a kite, and she ran around wildly trying to control it in the stiff breeze. Jamie sat on their blanket with Caitlin on her lap and watched with a contented smile on her face. At one point she watched with alarm as Ryan was seemingly headed right for a large trash can. Ryan spotted it at the last minute, put on a burst of speed and jumped right over it. She slowed down then and trotted back over to the laughing pair. "Pretty cool, huh?" she asked proudly.

"You never cease to amaze me," Jamie replied fondly as she leaned over for a kiss. Caitlin wanted in on the fun too so she leaned over in the same way and puckered up. Ryan placed a sweet kiss on each set of lips, smiling broadly as she pulled back.

They let the baby practice walking, taking turns as her guide. She walked quite well so long as she held on to a pair of hands, and both women enjoyed helping her accomplish such an important milestone. After a while Ryan ran a few blocks to buy sandwiches for them. When she returned, Jamie was feeding the baby some strange tan concoction. Ryan sat and watched them for a while with a fond smile on her face, finally commenting, "I can't wait until we have a baby of our own."

"Yow!" the small woman said with a shocked look. "You don't mean that, do you?"

Ryan's eyes grew wide as she stuttered, "I…I…I…thought…you wanted…"

"Oh, Honey, of course I want to have children with you. I was just shocked at the thought that you can't wait to do it. I don't think I'm ready for that yet."

"Whew!" Ryan cried, as she dramatically wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. "I thought that you meant you didn't want kids at all."

"Oh, no, Ryan. I still remember the discussion we had at your birthday party. I know how you feel about kids, and I'm sure we'll have them, one way or the other."

"Thank the goddess," Ryan said as she breathed a heavy sigh of relief. "It would be hard for me to give up that dream."

Jamie looked at the open, trusting look on her beautiful face. "This is really it for you, isn't it? I mean you believe we'll be together for life, don't you?"

"Yeah, don't you?" she asked, as her eyes once again grew wide with alarm.

"Yes, I do," she replied reassuringly, gently rubbing Ryan's thigh. "It's just surprising to me that you've never even had a girlfriend, and yet you slipped into this lifetime commitment so easily."

Ryan was leaning back against her locked arms, and she dropped her head back and let the warm sun caress her face as she considered her response to that point. "I've got to admit that part of the reason I've never had a girlfriend is that I wasn't looking for one," she finally offered. "I really didn't want the complication that a relationship would bring. But the other reason is that I didn't see the point of being in a relationship that I wasn't sure about." She placed her hand on Jamie's knee as she stared deeply into her eyes. "I've known what I wanted in a lover for a long time, Jamie. I had just never met anyone who fulfilled all of my requirements until you."

"You are such a romantic, Ryan. I can't believe how often you just take my breath away," she said as she maintained the connection.

"I love you, Jamie. And I want to be with you for the rest of my life," she declared solemnly.

"I feel exactly the same way about you. And I can't wait to have a baby with you either." After a pause she added, "But I'd like to have a good long time with you alone, to just be selfish and enjoy you without any competition," she said with a smile.

"Agreed. Besides, I've got enough brothers and cousins to keep us stocked with babies for a long time, if they'll just get busy," she said with a laugh.

Continue to part 6

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