After the Curtain Falls

Act Four

by Beth Dragon and Kathleen Wolf

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: Any relation the characters within the following story have to other people living, dead or fictional is purely coincidental. All characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the authors.

LOVE/ GRAPHIC SEX DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Please note there are scenes of a graphic sexual nature at intervals in the story.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE WARNING/DISLAIMER: Later Acts of this story will depict scenes of sexual violence/spousal abuse and its aftermath. This type of depiction may disturb some readers and anyone who is sensitive to this particular issue may wish to read something other than this story.

ILLEGAL DRUG WARNING/DISCLAIMER: Later Acts of this story will include reference to heroin use and the horrors that it causes. If this topic disturbs you, you may wish to read something else.

FEEBACK: All comments are greatly appreciated and can be sent to:

THANKS: To Emma, for her never ending love, support and chocolate. To the Ex-Guards Village for all their feedback and expert advice.

Rae felt the tendrils of consciousness come back to her slowly. The soft feel of the shirt against her face and the even softer feel of the skin behind it made her stiffen slightly as her tired mind raced to figure out just where she was. Snapping her eyes open, the familiar sight of her basement and Mac curled up near the couch made her relax. She suddenly became aware of her own positioning. Her right arm was stuck underneath her, while the other held tight across the stomach of whoever this was she was holding onto. She knew somewhere under the thick flannel blanket one of this person's legs was firmly locked between her own. It all felt so safe and familiar that despite her instinctual need to bolt, she found herself snuggling in a bit closer as she remember exactly who it was and how she'd gotten there and how she'd gotten lucky enough to wake up in Thea's loving arms. The soft cadence of the actress' deep breathing made her close her eyes again. In an instant Rae decided this was defiantly the way she wanted to wake up every morning for the rest of her life.

Shifting slightly, she moved her head to look at the face of the sleeping beauty underneath her. She couldn't help but smile at the sight of her protector, still holding tight, despite being in a deep sleep. The soft sound of her snoring was the only real sound in the room. Rae reached up to brush away a lock of stray hair that had settled on her cheek.

Moving back to her spot against the small woman's chest, Rae slipped her free hand under the blanket and began to draw soft slow circles on the woman's stomach as she listened to the slow rhythmic heartbeat in her ear.

Still listening to Thea's heartbeat, she slipped her hand under the edge of the now untucked shirt. She loved the feel of the woman's warm skin under her fingertips.

Thea's first conscious thought was how good it felt to have someone touching her body. The soft, warm gentle fingertips made her groan with pleasure in her semi-consciousness.

The change in breathing and Thea's soft moan made Rae realize her explorations were appreciated. Moving up slightly, she placed a long wet kiss on the woman's exposed collarbone and moved her hand to stroke Thea's side softly. The actress kept her eyes closed but smiled, moving her hand to the back of Rae's head. She gently caressed the dark silky locks as she woke up fully.

"Good morning my sleeping beauty." Rae whispered the words against Thea's neck, before going back to another long kiss.

"Morning my beautiful one." Thea breathed back her voice trying to disguise the passion Rae had sparked.

Rae kissed her way over Thea's neck as her hand moved to the front of the woman's shirt, undoing the series of buttons that held it closed.

"Did you sleep okay?" She asked in a whisper in between feather kisses.

"Just fine." Thea paused to breathe as she shifted her hands to Rae's back. "How about you?"

"Can't remember when I ever slept so well." She answered honestly.

Thea smiled and moved to kiss Rae good morning. When the kiss broke, Rae turned her head to kiss her way lower as the last of the buttons came open.

"Oh no you don't!" Thea twisted suddenly out of Rae's grasp.

"Don't what?" Rae let the actress twist away. Happy that her movement only made her now unbuttoned shirt to fall open completely.

"Don't distract me." Thea replied shaking her head. She glanced down at her state of undress and looked back up at Rae, giving her a bright smile.

"Now how could I do that." Rae questioned in a soft voice as she placed a kiss on Thea's shoulder. "Come on tell me." She kissed her shoulder again. "How could I distract you?"

"Put yourself in my shoes." Thea closed her shirt up with one hand.

"Oh sorry." Rae pulled back and sat up abruptly. She ran a hand through her tangled hair.

"Rae! No wait, what I meant was..." Thea reached out a hand and tried to bring her back. "You wake up being caressed by the most beautiful woman in the world. Having spent the day before making love to her for hours. Then suddenly you remember, that you are the lead in a play that opens in..." She glanced at her watch. "Less than seven hours! Now how do you think you can distract me?" She gave Rae another stunning smile.

"Okay, I understand." The technician smiled back and moved closer to her. "I'll be good."

"Oh I know you are that!" Thea replied cheekily.

"Oh you're being helpful." She grinned at her. "So Miss. Star, what is it you need to do to get ready for this opening curtain in less than seven hours?"

"Well." Thea glanced down. "I am going to need a shower and a change of clothes."

"Have one of those." Rae nodded. "Can find some of those or I can drive you back to your hotel." She knew she'd be disappointed if Thea took the latter option but she knew the choice had to be there.

"And a kiss." Thea added with a grin.

"A kiss?" Rae smiled wickedly at her. "Let's see what we can do about that one."

She moved around to brace herself over the woman on the couch, bringing her face down slowly and letting their lips meet softly. Thea melted into the kiss, drawing her arms up and round Rae's neck and opening her lips beneath her partner's. Sensing the change in the kiss, Rae held back for a heartbeat before giving into what she needed and let her tongue pass into Thea's waiting mouth. Thea increased the strength of her grip as the kiss deepened. Her eyes closed and she inhaled deeply through her nose.

"Now who's distracting who?" Rae pulled back ever so slightly and breathed the words out onto Thea's lips before returning to the kiss.

Thea pushed her body up a little so that it touched Rae's and she thrust her tongue deeply into Rae's mouth. Feeling Thea's push up, Rae took some of the weight off her arms and let herself rest tight against the woman beneath her. She moved aggressively into the deep kiss, wanting all that Thea could give her. Thea was about to commit herself to more than just the kiss, when she remembered the facts. She broke away and coughed lightly, trying to clear the passion from her body.

"Shower." She managed to say.

"Shower." Rae repeated back with a slow deep breath. "It's upstairs let me show you." She added moving herself back up to stand and reached out her hand to help the actress up.

Thea nodded dumbly and took her hand and was pulled gently up to stand.

"I love you." Thea spoke as she steadied herself.

"I love you too." Rae impulsively picked her up into a loving hug. Her mind raced, unsure suddenly if she could ever let go of the precious woman in her arms.

'What a ridiculous situation this is.' Thea thought as held Rae close and squeezed her eyes shut. 'But it feels so right, so good.'

"I want you so badly." Thea whispered, unsure she had said it loud enough for Rae to hear.

"I want you too." Rae growled the words softly into Thea's ear to show she had heard.
"The shower is big enough for two." She added the last part in a soft loving voice.

"Now that makes me smile." Thea whispered back. "Show me."

"Yes, my love." Rae laughed happily and bent down to pick the small woman up into her arms. "To the shower!" She twirled around and walked off toward the stairs.

Thea relaxed into Rae's arms as the technician went up the stairs carefully. Rae knew there was no worry of an accident but she also knew she had to be extra careful. She moved stealthily through to the upper stairs and took the same care with them before going down the long hallway to the master bedroom. Passing through the large room quickly she headed to the master bathroom at the back.

Thea didn't even notice the stairs of the hallway, her eyes briefly took in the bed but mainly she was focused on Rae. Rae gently placed Thea down to sit on the large gray marble counter.

The spacious bathroom was decorated in light shades of gray that was highlighted by the shiny brass fixtures of the large corner Jacuzzi tub and the framing on the two enormous beveled windows that wrapped above it. The separate glass shower was off to the opposite side.

"Think it's big enough?" Rae asked with a sly smile as she stood in front of Thea.

"Wow." Thea breathed as she studied the lavish bathroom.

"That a yes?"

"I think it's great."

"Good." Rae watched Thea looking wide-eyed around the room. "We missed the upstairs tour last night." The last part came with a wink.

"We did." Thea winked back at her playfully. "So is it difficult to operate?" She looked to the shower with a grin.

"The shower?" Rae looked nowhere but at the woman in front of her. "I'll have to give you a lesson it can be a bit stubborn."

"Please be my guest." Thea breathed at her. "I am a willing student."

"Have to get out of these first." Rae gently tugged at the collar of the actress' shirt. "Do you need help?" The request came in a hopeful tone.

"Well of course I do. I am only a student at most things!" Thea grinned.

"Well then." Rae grinned back. "Already have the buttons open just need to slide this off."

Reaching up she put her hands under the material at Thea's shoulders and gently pushed it down off her arms and onto the counter. Thea closed her eyes as Rae spoke and touched her.

"Have to be careful with these." She spoke softly as she trailed her hands down to the closure on Thea's pants. With slow movements she undid the clasp and slid the zipper down.

"You are always careful." Thea whispered trying to concentrate on her breathing.

"Have to get rid of those fully when you stand up." She leaned in and moved to spread her hands
across the soft flesh of the actress' back. In response, the actress slid her arms around Rae and held onto her gently. "This is a tricky part." Rae moved her fingers under the closure of the woman's bra and undid the fastener in one sure motion.

"Tricky? I hadn't noticed the problem!" Thea laughed at her skill. Unable to stop herself she placed a few quick kisses on the exposed shoulder beneath her face. A myriad of images flashed through Thea's mind. Images of the two of them caught in each other's arms in the hotel room and in the park. She felt her temperature rise as her heart began to race.

"No problem." The tall woman whispered running her hands up to Thea's shoulders and pushed the straps off. Reaching up between them, she pulled the sheer bra out and cast it absently away. She allowed her hand linger on Thea's stomach. "Shall I keep going." She whispered the words hoarsely into Thea's ear. "Or do you want to be tested on this part of the lesson?"

"I..." Thea trembled beneath Rae's touch, surprised to hear her own voice wavering. "I think I need to finish the course before I try it." She managed finally.

"Good choice." Rae growled low as she moved her hands underneath the actress and slid her down off the counter and onto her feet. "Now for the pants." She kissed her way down soft flesh until she was eye level with her stomach.

Thea couldn't remember a time before yesterday when she had felt this giddy because of someone else's touch. As Rae brought her hands up to the actress' hips she pulled the slacks down to land in a puddle at their feet. Thea's hands instinctively moved into Rae's hair.

"Step out angel." The instruction was soft, as Rae placed kisses on the flesh just above the waistband of her panties. Without conscious thought Thea stepped out. Rae twisted one finger in the material at the sides of the last piece of clothing in her way and gently tugged them down lower. Pulling back to look up into green eyes of passion, she tugged them down completely.

Thea took a short intake of breath, as out of impulse her body moved towards Rae's touch.
She stepped out of the scant cotton item without prompting.

"All done." Rae slid herself upwards, dragging her lower lip over Thea's skin as she moved and pushed her body completely against the smaller woman when she was upright again.

"Rae!" She gasped as her body tingled with all her senses on full response.

"Yes angel?" She asked in the raspy voice of want.

"You are very good at that." Thea smirked.

"Thank you." Rae smiled back. "Are you ready to try?"

"Well I was thinking..." She looked at Rae with a provocative grin. "Perhaps I should test the teacher. Can you take your own clothes off, with distraction?"

"I think that's a very good idea." The fully dressed woman grinned back at her. "With distraction." She repeated captivated by the sight before her. "What do I get if I pass this test?" Her eyes never left Thea's body.

"Anything you desire." The actress raised an eyebrow.

"Can I have you?" The question came in a loving voice.

"You have me already." Thea grinned, intrigued that she would make that request first above all the looming possibilities.

"Hummm." Rae murmured, happy to hear the one thing she really wanted was apparently already hers. "Guess that means I can have something else too, if I pass the test."

"If you pass, yes."

"I'm sure I can think of something good to desire." She winked. "Bring on the test."

"Okay so all you have to do is undress but without acting distracted!" Thea put her hands on her hips and grinned in challenge. "I am allowed to do anything I like in an attempt to distract you. Do you agree to the rules?"

"Without acting distracted, what would qualify as distracted?" She wanted to get all the rules straight.

"Interacting with the pupil." Thea chuckled.

"Oh that's a hard rule." Rae bit her lip. "Okay I'm ready. I agree on the rules."

"Good, begin whenever you're ready." She fixed Rae with her green eyes.

"Okay." Rae moved to pull her shirt out of her jeans, holding eyes with Thea. "So far so good." She winked at the eyes locked with hers and worked at undoing her heavy leather belt and slipping it out of the loops of her jeans.

Thea licked her lips sensually and took a little step towards Rae with her eyebrows twitching. Rae kept on smiling despite her breath becoming hard in anticipation of what her pupil planned on doing to distract her. She pulled the shirt up over her head quickly, trying to break their eye contact for the shortest time possible.

"Yes, you're doing well." The instant Rae's body was revealed Thea reached out a hand and danced her finger tips on the woman's stomach. With a sharp intake of air, the technician's eyes opened wide from the electric touch.

"I guess there was no rule about you touching me." She managed to get the words out in a slow hoarse voice.

"None at all." The actress grinned.

"Very sneaky." Rae whispered and moved her hands slowly to the closure at her back as fingers tip toed up her body. Thea let them skip over the thin strap of material between the technician's breasts. Rae groaned as she undid the clasp, closing her eyes she lost herself for a minute in the sensation before remembering the bet. She opened her eyes again and moved to free herself of the bra.

Thea smirked and traced her fingertips up Rae's shoulders, moving one hand to rest on each side she leaned forward and kissed the shallow of the woman's collarbone.

"How am I doing?" Rae asked in a tight voice just as Thea's lips reached her skin and all possible answer was lost. Using every ounce of willpower she could muster, she kept her hand firmly at her sides.

A non-committal sound came in response, as the actress kissed up Rae's neck and then round to the other side to kiss her way back to her starting point. She moved her head away from Rae's body but left her hands.

The struggling technician released the breath she'd been holding and moved to undo the front of her jeans. She knew her only hope was to get out of the rest of her clothes as quickly as possible.

"You are very good at distracting." She growled as the black jeans fell down and she stepped out of them.

"I'm not really trying yet!" Thea replied as she slid her hands down Rae's almost naked body and lowered herself down to her knees.

"Aren't you?" Rae croaked as she watched the actress' movement.

Leaning forward, Thea kissed her belly button before trailing her tongue down to the top of Rae's underwear. At the same time she ran her hands over the back of Rae's thighs. Thea shook her head in answer to the question without breaking the contact of tongue on skin.

"You know..." Rae tried to keep her train of though under the onslaught of Thea's distraction but lost it just as quick as it had come.

"What?" Thea kissed the technician's stomach again and trailed her hands back up the stammering woman's thighs.

"I can't remember." The technician shivered under the wet kiss and gave the honest answer in a low voice.

"You still have clothes on." Thea prompted with a sly smile as she returned to her tongue trail. This time exploring along the waistband of the last article of clothing.

"So have I won yet?" Rae questioned with a strained moan.

"No, you are still dressed."

"Still dressed in what?" Rae asked honestly. Her skin burned all over and she was sure she was naked by now.

Thea grinned as she moved away from Rae's body and lowered herself to the cold tiled floor looking up at the dark beauty.

"Take a look at yourself and you'll see." She said staring as Rae smiled and looked down, instantly realizing what the last article of clothing was.

"Well that's easy enough." She said with a grin, locking eyes with the green orbs staring back at her. Thea gave an evil grin in reply and moved to rest back on her hands. She raised her left leg and glided it up and then down the technician's. Rae watched the every inch of the motion stunned by the feel of it as her hands stayed useless at her sides.

"Why don't I do that job for you?" She questioned.

"I was hoping you would ask." Rae raised an intrigued eyebrow.

"You will lose the challenge." Thea lowered her leg sensuously down to rest again on the floor.

"Well what is the punishment for losing?" The tall woman asked with a gleam in her eyes.

"I'm not sure. What do you think the punishment should be?" Thea pushed herself forward and stood up nodding.

"The reward was up to me." Rae shifted her weight onto one hip. "I think the punishment is up to you."

"So I get whatever I desire?" Thea questioned again.

"Sounds good to me." Rae agreed softly.

"Okay, so you want me to get you out of those?" Thea raised an eyebrow.

"No!" Having taken the minute of breathing space, Rae found the coordination to pull the last article down and stepped out of it toward Thea in a quick motion. She reached a slow hand to rest on the actress' cheek.

"I win." She whispered and reached with her free hand for one of Thea's. Raising the small hand she put it to her lips and kissed the inside of her wrist softly. Thea shivered before pulling back suddenly and twisting free of Rae's hold.

"Yes." She stated in a distant bland voice. "You won." She turned her back on Rae and looked at the shower.

Slightly shocked by the change, Rae stayed in place and just watched as the actress turned away. She searched the last few moments in her mind trying to figure out exactly when she'd made the wrong move.

"You can name your prize after I have my shower and we get ready. It's a big day." Thea moved to open the glass door.

"Oh." Rae made the small defeated noise without moving. Still not completely sure what she'd done wrong, but knowing that things had gone downhill in a hurry. Thea heard the noise and turned back. Her eyes were drawn to the other woman's blue beauties.

"I'll get you some towels." Rae mumbled with a slight nod.

"Rae I..." Thea reached out her hand towards the retreating technician. Her movement stopped when she felt hot tears sting in her eyes. The rapid beating of her heart and flush in her body did nothing to help her keep in control.

"It's okay Thea, I understand." She tried her best to smile. "It's a very big day."

"No Rae, it's..." She tried to explain but had to let the argument die. She figured it was best to let the original excuse stand. Trying to explain her self could only make things worse.

'How could you be so stupid to push like this? Why the hell did you have to win anyway?' A thousand curses of self- hatred went through Rae's mind. 'It wasn't a real challenge or anything, you idiot!'

"I'll use the main shower." Rae added in a soft tone and bent down to pick up her clothes.

Thea looked at the tall naked beauty she shared the room with and she knew that both of them were hurting. The presence of that hurt in itself made no sense to her.

'Surely we have the right to be happy, don't we?' She questioned herself, knowing the moment of fear had been caused by something that even Thea didn't admit or think about often.

"What?" Thea heard Rae speak and blinked in her direction.

"I'll use the main shower." She repeated slowly, folding the jeans over her arm. "I don't want to crowd you."

"Please, don't go." Thea asked softly reaching her hand out to touch Rae's arm. She knew the other woman would feel her trembling.

"I won't if you want me to stay." Rae looked down at the hand on her arm and then back up into the actress' watery eyes. "Thea, I don't understand. What's wrong?" She asked in a whisper suddenly. "If it's about last night, if there's anything you want to ask me, even now you can." She let the words tumble out.

"Oh Rae, I'm sorry." She stepped forward and pressed herself into Rae's body. She slipped her arms around the taller woman's back.

"Why are you sorry?" She questioned as she let the clothes slip out of her arms and she moved to hold the small woman closer.

"I didn't mean to do that." Thea let herself sob. The tears she had fought freely slipping down her cheeks.

"Didn't mean to do what?" Rae asked the question completely confused though she held the sobbing woman tight.

"I love you and I want you so much." Thea choked on her tears.

"I love you Thea." The confused woman confirmed the one thing she was sure of and kissed her forehead softly. "And I want you too but there is no rush. I never want you to feel rushed."

"You shouldn't." Thea sobbed.

"Why shouldn't I?" Rae asked in a serious tone. "It's you who shouldn't love me Thea. You have no idea of the person I have been."

"And you don't know enough about who I am." Thea replied desperately.

"I don't need to know that to know I love you." Rae said the words with every ounce of her heart.

"Can we just take our shower and forget the last little while?" The actress asked resting her weight against Rae.

"Of course angel." Rae kissed her forehead gently again, convinced that pressing the issue would only push the woman she needed so desperately to run away.

"Rae, I need you to know this has nothing to do with you." Thea held on tighter. "Or anything you told me last night. Never think it has. Okay?"

"Okay." Rae nodded her head. She knew inside that she wasn't completely convinced.

"No love." She looked up at Rae through green tear filled eyes. "Believe me on this. Please." She raised a trembling finger close to the woman's dark red lips. "Please."

"I'll try." Rae answered the best way she could.

"Thank you." Thea pressed her finger to Rae's lips.

"No thanks." Rae kissed the finger at her lips softly. Thea blinked more tears from her eyes but managed a genuine smile. "I love you Theandra."

"Thea." She breathed, closing her eyes. "I want to always be Thea for you."

"My Thea." Rae said the words slowly. "I love you my Thea."

Thea held her breath for the longest moment before letting it go again.

"Shower." She whispered.

"Shower." Rae repeated and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "I don't want to let go of you though." She added the last words in a whisper.

"Then don't." The small blonde held tighter.

"I never will." Rae held her a bit tighter as well.

"Don't." Thea mumbled the word into her shoulder.

"Never ever." The technician bent to kiss her lightly on the mouth, letting her lips linger. Thea's breathing staggered a little as she gave into the want inside her and returned the kiss.


"I wasn't that good!" Thea tilted her head back, shook her hair out and laughed lightly. She rested her hand on the arm of the tall man who stood beside her and squeezed it gently. "I couldn't have done it alone anyway."

"But it was, it was!" He responded in a serious tone, smiling brightly at her. The actress lifted a glass of champagne from a passing tray and raised it to him

"Without your direction it would have been useless." She swallowed the drink quickly.

"Oh Estell!" Damien blushed and waved his hand in the air. "You are too kind. We all know you are the true star." He blew her a kiss. Thea beamed and blushed gently. "Though I did put my heart and soul into this." He added to a nearby reporter hanging on his every word.

"Where is my wonderful co-star?" Thea questioned taking another champagne. She looked round, her head beginning to buzz as the noise from the party increased. The chorus members were getting drunker and the mood was getting much lighter.

"Right here gorgeous." Michael turned around with a blonde on both arms. Press photographers clicked away, lighting the room with flash after flash. He waved and moved away again, being swallowed by the heaving crowd.

"They suit you." Thea joked, eyeing the blondes with a slight smile.

"The late edition is in!" A loud voice screamed as two people ran through the crowd with stacks of newspapers. They dropped the pile on a table and moved back. Thea snapped her head round and emptied her glass. Putting it down, she joined the rush to the table where they had been placed.

"Okay, okay." Damien picked up the top paper. "Vanity Fair says..." He cleared his throat and read to the now quiet room. "Estell Winters single handily brought the house down from her first moment of dialogue to the last dying note of her voice as the curtain closed."

"They are known for their exaggeration!" She said quietly looking down meekly.

"Ms. Winters, known for her success in several London plays..." Damien read on. "Has definitely found a home here in the frozen north, which is soon going to melt with the hotness of her stage presence." Damien stopped reading and looked at the young actress. "They love you!" He raised his glass to her and the whole room followed suit.

"Oh please." Thea whispered.

"Also of note...." The director continued when the crowd noise died again. "Were the male leads, played by Michael Bordman and Keith Mannering who in this critics opinion took a few lessons from Miss. Winters and held their own with the veteran despite a few miscues. The directing was flawless and once again the touch of Damien Feleash has led too more gold than Lord Midas. A definite ten and a must see for any serious theatre lover, as I'm sure the production is soon on its way south to Broadway with this depth of talent."

"Well done everyone!" Thea exclaimed happily.

"Bravo everyone! Bravo!" Damien smiled as he downed his glass of champagne the weight of his financial backers finally off his back.

"I propose a toast!" She called to the crowd. "To Damien!"

"Oh my!" The director blushed and bowed his head gracefully to her.

"To Damien!" Michael, though upset, added in.

Thea noticed her co-stars slightly downcast face. She placed a hand on his arm and mouthed. "Well done." to him as the gathered crowd took a hardy drink. Thea took another glass and raised it in Michael's direction, which made the novice actor grin.

At that moment Rae entered the loud crowded room trying to remain unnoticed. A couple of electrical problems and lighting changes had kept her away from the party so far. She searched the crowd and smiled when her eyes finally came on the woman that she wanted. She watched Thea laughing as she raised her champagne in toast.

The young actress walked over to Michael and kissed his cheek lightly.

"They always have to say something negative. And I think that was a very good review for the play." She said gently as she reached his side. "Well done." She reached up and kissed his cheek again.

"Thanks." He blushed under the kiss.

"Why don't you come over and look at some of the other broad sheets? 'The Post' is in and 'Stage floor."

Feeling every bit the tech monkey, Rae tried to rub the grease from her hands into her jeans. She was surprised when one of the drunken chorus members handed her a glass of champagne without a word.

"I'm sure they're filled with raves about you Estell." He said in a soft voice letting her lead him. The actress did with relative ease, as everyone was treating her with marked respect. She picked up a copy of 'The Post' as Michael continued. "You deserve them though, you were flawless."

"I was not, but I know how to bluff! " Thea laughed gently as she began to flick through the theatre magazine. "You were great too." She added as she found the review's page. "Here we go." She traced down the page with her finger. "Reviews: Tragedy's Dance."

"Would you read it to me?" He whispered leaned in close to her ear.

"If you like." Thea pulled away with a slightly bemused frown.

"I would, please." Michael leaned gently back onto the table. Thea took the paper and tilted it a little to catch all available light. She coughed a little before beginning the review.

"Set to be a big hit, this drama knocked its premier audience for six. The moment the inspired lighting drew all eyes to the centre of the highly ornamental set you knew that this was going to be a show to remember. The lead, Estell Winters, took the audiences collective breath away with her interpretation of writer Tamara Hamans' character Tess. Competently supported by Michael Bordman and Keith Mannering in their roles as lover and husband. The article goes on about the stage management and props and lighting," A smile played on Thea's lips as she spoke the last word. "And then the article ends by saying... the show is initially running for six weeks, but this is something special and I think it will be a long while before this show leaves the memory. You should read the next one." Thea put the paper back onto the table and turned to Michael.

"Me? Okay." Michael picked up the paper. He flipped through to the middle. "Here it is." Michael prepared himself in a similar fashion to Thea and began reading. "The roof of the Pantages Theatre came down tonight as the opening of Tragedy's Dance left a full house begging for more of the alluring and captivating Estell Winters."

'Is this my forth or my fifth?' Thea thought as she finished the drink and took another from a waiter.

"Miss. Winters, with the help of such outstanding co-stars as Michael Bordman and Keith Mannering and the help of a superb backstage crew took the play to unseen heights of lavishness and tenderness. Get your tickets quick as this six week run is bound to sell out soon."

"No doubt about it..." A very drunk Damien suddenly appeared and leaned over Michael's paper "We are all stars now."

"All thanks to you." Thea mentally noted how she drawled the 's' a little. Perhaps the last champagne had been her fifth after all.

"Thea, would you mind if I tore Michael away for a moment." Damien said with a slur of his own.

"Go ahead." She waved her hand. Damien took the paper from the young actor and took his arm. Thea watched them both walk away and gave another little wave. She was beginning to feel hot and a little light-headed.

"Hey there." Rae came up stealthy behind the actress when she was alone.

"Rae?" She turned her head both ways before catching sight of the other woman.

"The one and only." The technician came around to her right side.

"We're a hit!" The actress hugged Rae impulsively and then stepped back grinning.

"You're a hit." Rae corrected, having heard most of the reviews from her distant spot in the room. "You were wonderful Thea." She added in a soft serious voice. "You deserve every praise."

"Nah, I just did my job as you did yours." Thea pointed at the technician's chest as she spoke. She could tell she was drunker than she had thought as the world moved a little at the edges.

"But your job sinks or floats the show." Rae wore an open grin.

"But if no one can see me I may as well be crap!" Thea laughed loudly at her own statement.

"As long as no one takes the time to say the lights were bad, it's a good show for me." Rae admitted, watching Thea closely.

"No, they loved the lighting." Thea trailed off her statement, as if unsure what she was going to say. Rae smiled at her, noticing the slight sway in her body and erratic motion of her eyes as they tracked over her chest.

"How many of those have you had?" She asked in a low tone, trying not to sound worried.

"Hummm five, I think." She paused. "Maybe six." She frowned comically and then beamed at Rae. "Haven't you got one?"

"Yes I do." Rae held up the almost full glass she'd been holding down at her side. Thea glanced at it and then looked up as if she had suddenly remembered what she was going to say moments before. The actress finished her glass of champagne and looked around for the tray.

"Look, look!" She said as she staggered a little to the table. Her eyes looking for the paper she had read moments before but she couldn't even remember which one it was.

"Careful!" Rae urged as she moved to try and keep Thea steady without looking too obvious. Thea put her hands over Rae's steady ones and looked up at her with a drunken smile.

"Thank you for saving me I could have slipped!" She slurred her words a great deal.

"My pleasure." Rae smiled. The taller woman looked around to see if there was an easy way to leave the party. She saw that most exits were covered by press or by cast and crew but then again she thought with a wry smile, after four cases of champagne she could have carried Thea out over her shoulder and no one, probably not even the reporters would have noticed. Thea seemed to pause for a moment before looking at Rae with a wink.

"You know you are looking very, very sexy." The actress drawled.

"Thea, I'm full of grease and I'm sweaty." Rae shook her head with a laugh and then she decided to say what she had wanted to for a while. "Whenever you're ready... " She started shyly, unsure how or indeed if to ask. "I was wondering if you wanted a drive home?" Thea stopped grinning and looked at Rae with a noticeable frown.

"Leave?" Thea stated. "Rae, it's a parrrrrrrty. Why would I want to leave?"

"I know." Rae added quickly, not wanting to aggravate her. "I didn't mean right away I meant whenever your ready I'd give you a ride."

"A ride?" Thea laughed grinning madly. "You're good at that!" She laughed louder still. A waitress carried a tray of champagne came close enough for the actress to take one.

"Thea, keep your voice down." Rae hissed whilst glancing up at a nearby reporter. "Mixed company has big ears." She warned gently and nodded discretely in the direction to the young reporter. Thea followed Rae's eyes and grinned at the reporter with a twinkle in her eye.

"She is!" Thea called to the reporter with a grin.

"Thea!" Rae's voice was a little sharper, and her eyes were narrowing. The reporter watched the interaction and made her way over smiling.

"And you are?" The reporter questioned her pen ready in her hand. Thea grinned and stepped forward placing her hand on the reporter's arm.

"I'm her driver." The technician jumped in without missing a beat.

"I can tell you who she is." Thea's voice was thick with cheek and charm but soon went quieter. "Who she really is." Rae rolled her eyes as Thea finished her latest champagne and set the glass down.

"And who would that be?" The reporter asked very curious. She'd known that hanging late into the night would get her a big scoop.

"The best person in the world to play with your lights!" Thea laughed loudly and hugged the reporter impulsively.

"I'm her driver." Rae repeated in a low tone at the confused reporter on Thea's arm.

"Oh yeah, she can drive too!" Thea laughed again.

"So are you saying you're romantically involved with your driver Miss. Winters?" The reporter tried to read as much into the exchange as she could.

"Am I?" Thea stopped laughing and frowned, she blinked trying to clear her head a bit. It didn't work.

"Well you seemed to be suggesting that to me." The reporter pushed for further details.

"No, I don't think I am." Thea shook her head. "I'm not having sex with a driver of any kind." Thea shocked herself when the word sex left her mouth and it caused her to blush furiously.

"Then who is your current love interest?" The reporter pushed on. "It's okay to tell me, if not the driver then who?" The reporter knew enough to know that this play was going to be a hit, and so any story about its lead would be a good one

"Love interest?" Thea tried to calm herself, aware that possibly this was getting a little out of hand. "I'm an actress love, do you think I have time for such distractions?"

"Everyone has time for distractions." The reporter quickly grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and handed it to the actress.

"Thank you." Thea's hand wavered slightly as she took it.

Rae had let the exchange go on before her, not realising she'd been backing away from the two women until the firm wood of the buffet table smacked into the back of her thighs.

"If you are trying to get me to give you an interview you could just ask." Thea looked at the young reporter with a lop-sided smile.

"I would die for an interview with you." The young reporter put the charm on thick. "Toronto knows so little about you and New York is going to be dying to know everything by tomorrow afternoon."

Thea grinned and slipped her arm through the reporter's again unable to resist such a line.

"Come on then, we are wasting time." Thea led her away. "I'll just tell my friend I will be awhile..." She stopped and turned around looking for Rae, not able to see her she turned her full attention back to the reporter.

'I'll catch up with Rae later.' She thought as guided the reporter over to the couch with a false smile.


Rae watched the two for a moment more. In an instant decision, she used every inch of her long legs to guide herself at a blinding speed out of the room. The revelry around her didn't even stop to notice as she smacked the emergency door open and went out into the alley beside the theatre.

As the safety door closed with a solid thud behind her, she took a deep breath of the cool night air.

"Go home you idiot." She chastised herself in a loud angry voice when she realised she was standing motionless looking back at the door. "She didn't even notice." Turning she drove her hands down into her pockets, happy to find the jeep key there.

"Not staying for the rest of the party O'Keefe?"

"What?" She turned around trying to find the voice in the dark. Standing at the theatre door was Sylvia.

"Going already?" Sylvia repeated, stepping down into the path of the street light.

"Yeah." She nodded finally seeing the blonde in the small light on the back door. "Not my scene."

"But why?" She asked as she came to rest directly in the beam of light. "Miss. Winters is still busy. Very busy, especially with that pretty young reporter, at least she was a minute ago."

"I imagine she is." Rae remarked annoyed. "She is the star! They are often quite busy after opening night."

"You may be best leaving after all, with a bit of pride intact as it were!" Sylvia's acidic voice was obvious as she continued on as if Rae hadn't spoke at all.

"Don't worry about my pride." Rae stayed firmly in place with her voice even and unfeeling.

"If you say not to." Sylvia turned. "But you're right I suppose." She paused walking to the door. "She is the star, you should expect such things." She stopped by the door, turning and fixing Rae with her steely gaze again. "After all, you're just a monkey, a bit of rough I guess. Such things never last." With a flourish Sylvia opened the door and slipped back inside, pleased with herself.

Silently Rae opened the jeep door and slipped inside. She pulled the vehicle out of the lot in a quick arc and raced onto the street.

"Just a monkey!" She cursed to herself as she left the driveway. Tossing the unfolded blanket that Thea had used the morning before behind her into the back seat. "Just a monkey." She said again as she sped through the empty city streets.


Sylvia hung back sipping champagne and watching the exchange between Thea and the young reporter. She waited until the two of them were near the end of all possible conversation before she approached.

"Is that okay as an exclusive?" Thea asked with a bright smile. She was feeling a lot more under control thanks to the position they had taken by the window and the stiff cold breeze coming in through it.

"That is brilliant." The reporter smiled and closed her notebook.

"Well you know where I am if you need anything padded."

"You've made my career!" The reporter nodded again. "It's going to be a huge article and I'll push the editor for pictures."

Thea offered her hand to the reporter who took it and shook it happily.

"I'll let you get back to the party." She smiled and wandered off.

"Take care won't you." Thea said warmly as she watched her walk away.

"Wasn't she the reporter from the post?" Sylvia slid herself into the empty spot next to Thea. The actress turned, slightly surprised to see chorus member beside her.

"Yes, she was." Thea replied distracted, looking around for Rae.

"You had her ear forever." Sylvia took a thick sip of her drink. "Everyone else has been feeling quite ignored."

"She had the crazy idea that people would be interested in finding about who I really am." Thea stressed the term. Sylvia did not comment on this but instead worked on her own plan.

"I think most of your suitors have gone looking elsewhere in your absence." She purred.

"Meaning?" Thea's eyes hardened.

"Well you know how everyone pairs off at these things." Sylvia smiled at her sweetly. "Then they try to forget it in the morning."

"What are you getting at?" Thea stood up and looked down at the would be actress.

"I'm not getting at anything Estell." Sylvia gave her a look of mock shock. "I was just making conversation and giving you a little friendly advice to pick your mark before it's too late." She added with a smirk. "Cause you might find her already engaged." She laughed into her champagne, looking up at Thea.

"Sylvia, I am not interested in your petty taunts or your childish rumours!" The actress retaliated. "Grow up or get out!" Thea spun on her heel and marched in the direction of her dressing room.

"Ooooo." Sylvia widened her eyes at the retreating actress, before glancing around the room to find her next victim.


Thea stormed out of the large room and down the corridor towards the dressing rooms. As she passed, she glanced out of the large windows that broke up the monotonous corridor. Seeing the night sky she suddenly felt the need to get some air and changed direction to head towards the parking lot.

The young actress opened the large wooden door that led to the back car park. She took a deep breath of cold Canadian air and glanced up to look at the various parked cars. Taking a few steps, she studied the sea of metal. It was then that the horror set in as she noticed that Rae's parking spot was empty. For a second, she just stared at the empty spot before she turned back to the door.

"Oh my God." She breathed, her mind whirring as she reached back a hand for the door.

"I'll get us some more champagne." Michael slurred as he pulled himself clumsily out of the large limousine. "Be back in a moment. Don't do anything without me!" The giggling inside was loud and only cut off when he closed the door. "Estell?" He questioned as he turned around to the doorway and saw the small woman standing near it.

The actress blinked the tears from her eyes, as she looked up surprised to find the rather drunk and dishevelled Michael. Tactfully, she turned away as her co-star mumbled and tried to fix his crumbled open shirt and stopped to do up his fly.

"Michael." Thea stated sombrely.

"What's wrong Estell?" He asked as his mind cleared a little. "What's happened? We're a hit." He walked closer to her. "What happened?"

"I... I thought I was getting a lift from someone but they appear to have left with someone else." Thea blinked several times before answering.

Michael placed a hand on the wall to keep his balance and looked at the young star. Even in his drunken state it hurt him to see her upset.

"Who? Estell, who would dare to leave you without a ride?" He asked in a slurred voice. He studied her closely trying to determine an answer to his question. "I know I'm drunk but who could be drunk enough to forget to give you a ride?" He questioned. "I can give you a lift if you need one." He glanced back at the limo and rethought his offer. "We can take a taxi."

"No, thank you." Thea gave him a weak smile. The last thing she wanted to do right now was share a taxi with a very drunk highly testosterone charged co-star. "You are having fun."

"Yeah... " He answered somewhat nervously. "I'm having fun you could say." He unconsciously glanced back to the limo. "Damien and I were interviewing some new girls for the chorus..." His voice trailed off, a little ashamed by the truth.

"I am sure that it was an impulse thing." Thea tried to make him feel better. "Michael, it's okay I now what happens after first night. Why do you think there is no show the next day? I suppose like you, my lift got a better offer."

"But look at you." Michael mumbled in a daze without any real coherent thought. "You look almost as upset as that tech monkey did when she drove off awhile ago. It's not right." He paused as his mind registered her last words. "A better offer? I doubt that."

For a second Thea's world became clearer again, as a glimmer of hope sparked in her mind.

"Michael?" She spoke slowly. "What did you say?"

"Better offer?" He looked at her puzzled.

"Not that bit Michael, what did you say before then?"

"I said the only person who looked like she was having a worse time than you was that techie who stormed out the emergency door earlier and drove off like a bat out of hell." He restated his observation.

"Oh right." Thea's voice was small as her mind worked over time again. Michael looked at his 'ideal' woman and hiccupped.

"She and Sylvia talked and she was really pissed after that." He added absently. Thea smiled and nodded thoughtfully. "I think she'll be the only one going home alone after the opening night."

Thea tried to stop the broad yet sad smile spreading across her face as Michael's words reached her mind. She looked at the limousine and then back at Michael.

"I think you should get back to your girls." Thea motioned with her head. "Or whatever you were doing."

"Oh right." He smiled. "Need more champagne." With a nod he moved passed Thea, opened the door and staggered inside. She watched him, waited for a moment looking at Rae's empty spot, before slipping back inside and going straight to her dressing room.

Once there she rummaged around the objects on her dresser and found what she was looking for. She carefully unfolded the scrap of paper and punched the number it held into the telephone. Holding the receiver to her ear loosely Thea waited for an answer.

"Hi, if you know this number, you know who you're looking for, leave a message." The very sound of Rae's voice on the answer phone made a lump come to Thea's throat and a tear to her eye.

"Rae..." She hesitated. "I don't know where you are but love..." She swallowed hard. "I'm sorry." Thea stopped and continued in a more controlled tone. "Tomorrow is a free day. Ring me, please. I'm sorry."

With tears streaking down her face, she put down the phone.

"Well messed up Thea." She hissed and rested her head on her hands and sobbed. She let the tears flow for a while before letting her eyes close and allowing the darkness of sleep to descend over her.


Rae forcefully punched the disarm code into the alarm system just as the echo of the last telephone ring left the house.

"Hi Mac!" She tossed the uneaten burger she'd stopped to pick up on impulse down on the ceramic tile for the dog. "You've never eaten so good girl."

She pulled off her boots and while still in the hallway pulled off her greasy jeans and socks. She tossed them on the landing to the upstairs.

"Anything important happen today Mac?" She asked the dog absently as she always did. She stopped for a minute to read the note left by her cleaning lady. The poor woman had been in quite the quandary as to what to do with the mess they'd left downstairs.

"Found these on the floor of the bathroom." It said in her familiar scrawl. "Not sure where to put them, Miss. Cassie."

Rae looked at Thea's clothes washed, ironed and hung perfectly on two wooden hangers.

"I'll have to drop those off at the theatre." She mumbled to herself as the fleeting hope she'd once had of clearing out a place for Thea's clothes in the closet and dresser ran from her head. She grabbed a can of soda from the fridge and walked to her office at the back of the house.

She turned on the computer, knowing it had been ages since she'd checked her mail. She leaned back into her soft leather office chair. Only then remembering that she'd heard the phone ring as she was coming in which probably meant there was a message for her. Picking up the phone she punched the autodial to the internal answering machine.

"You have three new messages." The automated voice greeted her as it always did.

'Busy night.' Rae thought to herself as she pushed the retrieval code.

"First new message." The automated voice droned at her.

"Hello Cassie... it's your father. I know it'll be days before you get this but I wanted to let you know I won't be able to use those tickets you got me. Susan and I have dart league that night and we just can't miss it. Let me know if I should send them back or give them away. Sorry princess... you know how it is... besides the theatre is sorta lost on a guy like me... you know?" The older man's gruff voice wavered a little. "Well then I'd better go before I get cut off... talk to you soon honey... give me a call...."

A long pause filled with a static sound almost muffled the last words.

"Love you princess."

"Love you too Dad." Rae spoke the words to herself without thinking. She pulled the receiver away from her ear long enough to erase the message and retrieve the next one.

"Second new message."

"Raven, it's Cleo." A woman's low sultry voice broke through. "Why don't you have your cell on? You know how I hate machines. Anyway, I'm on the Lear jet over ... fuck knows where I am." A laugh could be heard briefly. "But I'm on my way into T.O. so we have to get together. I get in really early so let's do a late lunch." The voice continued almost ordering. "Meet me at the office, there are some papers I need you to sign then we can decide where to eat." The woman stopped for a moment in contemplation. "It's been awhile Raven. Please tell me you've had enough space by now. I got the dailies faxed to me, congrats on the shows opening. I've got tickets for Friday's gala." The voice dropped to a softer pitch. "I miss you." The line clicked off.

Rae pulled the phone back and looked at it blankly. She pushed the button and replayed the message again to make sure she'd heard it right. She put her head down to rest on the hard top of the desk.

"First dad then Cleo." She spoke to herself in a daze. "This is turning out to be a fabulous fucking night."

Without looking she erased the message.

"Third saved message." The machine's voice came in a soft hum out of the phone as it automatically went to the last message.


Hearing Thea's voice made her scramble to get the receiver to her ear as she listened to the message carefully. The "I'm sorry." caught her off guard. With great care she hit the save button on the machine and hung up the phone.

'Call her!' A happy voice went through her head again and again, though for some reason she hesitated. Taking a deep breath she went through the papers on her desk to find the note that she'd written the hotel number on. Finding it with relative ease, Rae punched the number in quickly.

"Royal York hotel, how can I help you?" A sleepy voice came on the line.

"Can I have room 621?" Rae said nervously. There was a click and Rae listened to it ring several times and then with a second click the receptionist was back.

"I'm sorry the occupant of room 621 isn't answering." The voice asked a bit more awake. "Could I take a message for you?"

"Just tell her Raven called." Rae stated simply and hung up. "Oh you idiot." She cursed herself as she punched the message recall number back into the phone, hitting the codes to play Thea's message again she hit the key for the timestamp function.

"This call came in at 2:24 A.M." The automated voice informed her.

"She just called." Rae cursed herself again for not rushing to the phone, turning over the receiver she scrolled through the call display list. "She called from the theatre you moron." Rae said to herself with a little laugh. Hitting the speed dial to the theatre she hoped that someone would be sober enough to answer.

"Hezzzzzzzo!" Came a very drunken reply after a long number of rings.

"Hello." Rae kept her voice loud and clear. "Transfer me to the line in Thea's room."

"Zea?" The drunk replied confused. "Who? Zorry we have no Zea's here." Rae sighed heavily.

"Estell Winters." She spoke even louder. "Transfer me to her room."

"Ah." The voice seemed to suddenly clear. "Hold on."

"Don't cut me off." Rae added absently as a muffled curse and a series of clicks from the other end of the phone. "Just hit transfer 1000."

"Zorry." The drunken person hiccupped loudly. "Okay, here you go." Suddenly the phone began to ring again.

"Hello?" Thea sleepily answered.

"Thea?" Rae asked for confirmation that she'd been transferred to the right room.

"Rae!" All trace of sleepiness was gone instantly.

"Yeah it's me." She replied leaning back in the leather chair. "Did I wake you up?" She recognised the momentary sleepy tone.

"No, well yes." Thea's voice was light, though the actress was feeling rather sick from so much alcohol. Her feelings of fear and anxiety were catching up on her fast.

"I can let you go if you want to sleep, sorry." Rae looked to Mac who had trotted into the room. She started to wonder if calling had been such a good idea.

"Rae no, please." Thea rushed to answer.

"All right." She confirmed softly, not really sure how to start this conversation between them. It had been such a whirlwind day, with so many highs and low.

"Are you all right Rae?" The actress asked desperately, though trying to keep the edge from her voice.

"Yeah." She stated calmly. "I'm just not one for big loud parties."

"I know I was a fool Rae." Thea massaged her head lightly. "Please don't be nice and pretend it was the party you wanted to get away from."

"I didn't want to crowd you." She sighed. "It was your moment and all."

"IT WASN'T!" Thea objected violently. "It was about success, it was about all of us!"

"It wasn't about everyone Thea." The technician said honestly. "It was 90% about you and 20% about the other leads and the director. Trust me the lighting and sound is only mentioned if it sucks."

"That makes 110% love." Thea tried humour.

"Yeah well then scrap half of the percentage for the others, that's only them thinking it was about them and not you."

"Rae?" She swallowed hard.

"Yes?" Rae replied closing her eyes and leaning back further in the chair unable to get comfortable.

"I love you, I am so very sorry." Thea's voice was full of remorse.

"Thea, what are you sorry for?" She questioned in a small voice doubting that the actress had even remembered what she'd said and done.

"For what I said." Thea whispered.

"I don't like to be pulled into the worlds attention Thea." The technician's tone was sad, though she tried to take all the malice out of her words but needing the point to be made. "Especially not when it's the champagne and not you talking."

"Rae, I know, I know. " She could feel that lump come back to her throat as her struggle for control began. "I don't know how else to say I am sorry Rae. I..." She tried to fight the tears, but they suddenly won.

"It's okay Thea, it's over now." Rae began just before she heard the tears start on the other end. "Thea... Thea..." She pleaded in a soft voice. "It's okay, it's okay."

Thea sobbed bitterly the phone hanging limply in her hand as Rae continued.

"I know you didn't mean to hurt me. I know it wasn't on purpose. THEA?" Rae questioned as she heard the distance come on the phone. "Thea, it's okay angel." She pleaded to the open line. "I love you!" She wanted to whisper the words but knew it would never be heard that way so she spoke them in a loud voice. "Thea, I love you." She tried again. "Please pick the phone back up."

Suddenly the door opened to Thea's room and in an impulse Thea dropped the receiver into its place back in its rest.

"Thea, please pick up the phone." Rae could feel herself starting to panic just as the click and dial tone was almost deafening to her as she sat looking at the phone in shock.

Thea brushed at the tears in her eyes before looking up at the door. One of the theatre cleaners stood looking at the young actress.

"Just checking the rooms, which I can clean." She explained apologetically.

"I shouldn't be long..." Thea stammered and nodded.

"I'll come back then." The cleaner nodded and closed the door.

Thea was still watching the door as the phone next to her rang again. She looked at it blankly and listened to it ring and ring, and ring. She reached out trembling hand to the receiver as it kept ringing.

"Pick up Thea, pick up." Rae shouted to the empty office around her. Mac sat looking at her confused in the corner. "Pick up Thea." She let the phone hit and pass the twentieth ring.

"I'm sorry Rae, I can't." Thea whispered to the phone as she fled the room once again in tears. The cleaner, who had reached three doors down, turned and watched the actress leave with a slight shrug as she retraced her steps to the actress' room. She picked up the ringing phone.

"Hello?" She inquired only to be greeted with a dial tone. With a second shrug the older woman shuffled out of the room to continue her job elsewhere.


A stream of inaudible curses left the technician's lips as she threw the phone at the nearest wall and watched it smash into a hundred pieces. Mac scampered out of the room afraid, whining in a low howl.

"I'm done Mac!" Her tone was sad as she walked towards the stairs. "I can't do this tonight. A hot shower is what I need." She made the order to herself and walked up the stairs.

Without thought she walked into the shower in the master bedroom. With the first step onto the cold marble of the bathroom floor, the memories of the morning slapped her hard against the face. Even with the awkwardness and distance that had come between them at one point, the memory reminded her heart of a better time.

"Get a grip O'Keefe." She turned out of the room trying to drive the visions of Thea's naked form out of her head and went instead to the shower in the other bathroom.


Thea looked down at herself and at the stars above her busy head. She cursed gently and then breathed hard. In a sudden sure decision, she walked back in to the theatre's reception area. She made a brief call for a taxi and rushed back to her dressing room to grab the coat she'd worn in that afternoon. A pain ran trough her heart as her hand touched the soft felt of Rae's jacket. Trying to keep her emotions in check she ran back outside to wait for the cab.

It was as Thea closed the theatre door behind herself that the rain started. It came heavy and fast. She considered going back inside to wait, but she didn't want to risk missing the cab and the rain made her feel a little better. Lifting her head gently, she let the cold water splash onto her face chilling her deeply. As the rain fell down onto her cheeks and into her eyes, the yellow car pulled up slow and honked its horn.

"Looks like we're in for one hell of a storm." The elderly cab driver commented looking at the actress as she got into the car.

"Yes." Thea said simply.

"Where can I take you young lady?" He asked giving her a warm smile as he turned the windshield wipers up another notch. Thea leaned forward and whispered her destination gently to him before sitting back and closing her eyes against the motion of the car. She tried to think of anything other than the movement in her body and in her head. She felt sicker by the second.


Thea turned up the collar on the jacket and shivered as the rain began to drench her once more. She reached into her pocket and handed the driver his fee and watched as he quickly pulled away. She turned from the road and made the short walk up the path to the door. With a controlled breath and a silent prayer, she stood directly in front of it. Images of the last time she had been here flooded her: the gentle warnings about the dog, the surprise at the size of the house and the instant feelings of warmth and belonging.

It felt so different right now, and yet just the same. Thea took a second deep breath before she pressed the doorbell once with a trembling finger.

It was the shake as Mac lunged off the bed that woke Rae up more than the door chimes sounding off. She undid herself from the tangled sheets and ran a hand through her still wet hair as she went downstairs. A gentle curse escaped her as she realised she'd forgotten a robe. She pulled the T-shirt she was wearing down hoping it would do for whoever was at the door.

"Probably a courier." She thought to herself as she punched the alarm off. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she parted one rib of the blinds to look out.

Outside Thea shivered again and fought a sneeze. The wind was picking up and was chilling her to the core.

'What are you doing here? Why on earth would Rae want to see you after all you said?' She questioned herself as she looked up at the door and then to her feet again. The move let the rain drip from her hair onto her canvass shoes.

Rae couldn't believe her eyes when she looked through the glass and saw the small drenched actress. The sight of her shaking and sneezing on the doorstep nearly broke the technician's heart. With unsure hands she undid the bolt on the door and pulled it open.

"Thea." She said the woman's name not knowing what else to say. Mac, having heard the door open, had joined her mistress there. Seeing the outline of her new friend and smelling the now familiar scent of the young English woman, the dog pushed past Rae's legs and snuggled up to the small actress' damp leg.

Automatically Thea's hand went to the dog's head and patted it. She slowly turned her head up to look at Rae. Tears filled the young actress' eyes as she met Rae's blue stare.

"Come in before you catch a chill." The technician mumbled when she found her voice.

"Are you sure?"

"Come in." Rae nodded and reached out her hand. "Please." She added the last part in a soft voice.

Thea reached out a drenched hand and took hold of Rae's. The older woman was instantly shocked at how cold the pale hand in her own was. She pulled on it lightly.

"You're freezing." Rae remarked her voice filled with concern. Thea just let herself be led inside and Rae closed the door to the cold outside air. "Come into the living room there's a blanket in there." She led the younger woman through the hall into the lounge. Leading her straight over to the large couch that faced out to the backyard and ravine beyond. Thea sat down without speaking.

"This should help." The technician moved to take a blanket from the cupboard nearby. She brought it over and placed it around Thea's shoulders and sat down beside her.

"Thank you." Thea whispered unable to think of anything else to say.

"Do you want a tea or something?" Rae asked scared by the woman's paleness and lack of temperature.

"Maybe." Thea closed her eyes momentarily. The car journey had made her sickness return and she was feeling less and less in control as the seconds sped by. She felt her vision begin to blur as a strange numbness crawled into the edge of her brain. "Rae, I think..." She managed to whisper as the darkness pressed harder.

"What's wrong love?" Rae forgot all the awkwardness and question between them and moved close. The actress looked up at her somewhat blindly. The last thing she registered was two concerned blue eyes looking at her, before the black claimed her.

"Thea?" Rae watched as the pupils of the actress' eyes dilated fully before she went limp and fell forward against her. "Oh shit!" She cursed under her breath petrified as she moved the unconscious woman down to lie on the couch. She put Thea's feet up on the armrest, before turning her gently on her side. Rae knew that the alcohol might be the cause of this but wasn't entirely sure that this was the root cause. Her normally calm and calculated mind seized as she looked down at the pale, soaked frozen form of her lover. 'Come on, come on!' She called in her own mind trying to will it to work again.

"Thea? Thea?" She rubbed the younger woman's pale cheek softly, searching for any sign of life in her. "Thea, please wake up!" Her voice was more panicked than controlled.

In her darkness Thea could hear her lover's voice calling to her. She fought to focus her mind against the violent spinning of her head and stomach. Unsure whether or not she could speak

"Rae." With enormous effort she forced her eyes open.

"I'm right here Thea." The technician moved to hold the actress' hand and kept stroking her cheek.

"Rae I'm s..." She had every intention of apologising before she lost her voice. The nausea began to fight back overwhelmingly hard and she lurched forward a little clutching at her stomach. Rae moved back a little and to the side, shifting her hand from Thea's cheek to the woman's back

"It's okay love, its just carpet." Rae smiled softly. Thea took a shallow breath before emptying the pitiful contents of her stomach onto the living room floor. "There you go." She continued to gently rub Thea's back lightly.

Thea retched violently for a while, trying to control her breathing. She hugged her stomach tightly.

"Do you want some water?" Rae asked in a soft voice when a reprieve came. Thea nodded weakly, unable to find her voice. "Coming right up." She dashed into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water, a bucket from under the sink and wet a cloth.

"Here we go." She laughed to herself as she put the bucket upside down over the ruined area of carpet and untwisted the cap from the bottle of water. She placed the edge of the bottle to Thea's lips. "Get some of this down." She added softly. "Even if it comes back up again it's better than dry heaving."

"Thank you." The actress whispered taking a few sips and felling it soothe her aggravated throat.

Rae smiled as she moved her free hand she brushed Thea's dripping hair off her face and wiped her cheeks with the damp cloth.

"No need angel." She wiped around the rest of Thea's face. She dropped the cloth on top of the bucket and sat back a little.

"This isn't how I planned this." Thea stated rather lamely.

"I know." Rae's voice was gentle. "But I'm glad you weren't alone for this."

"So am I." Thea admitted, as she scrunched herself up a little in a ball and started to tremble. It was always the same when she was ill. Being cold and wet just made the situation worse.

"We have to get you out of those wet clothes angel." Rae's tone was soft and commanding. "Do you think you feel good enough for me to carry you upstairs?"

"I should walk." Thea stretched out her body a little and made a move to swing her legs onto the floor.

"Are you sure?" Rae asked concerned. "I don't want you getting dizzy again and have you fall over."

"I think it'll be all right." She tried to give her a brave smile. "I might wobble a little."

"Okay, if you're sure." Rae smiled back. "But I'm right here if you need me."

Somewhat gingerly the young actress placed her feet on the carpet and eased herself off the couch. She swayed gently when she got herself upright. Rae mirrored her movements, ready to support her. Mac watched from her place near the large window.

"Made it to my feet." Thea laughed lightly. Rae nodded in agreement and encouragement. "I am so sorry about the carpet." Her words were almost as hesitant as her footsteps towards the door.

"No worries." Rae shook her head and smiled. "I will just have to give my cleaning woman a great tip." She carefully watched her beloved's progress while coming up slowly behind her. The technician turned and patted her leg gently. Mac responded instantly by getting up and coming to her mistress' side, as Thea made it out of the lounge to the hall. Rae pointed for Mac to go into the kitchen to bed. Without hesitation the large dog followed the order.

"I think that I should have eaten more. " Thea commented as she reached the bottom step.

<"Always a good idea if you are going to demolish a few bottles of top quality champagne." Rae agreed light-heartedly as she gently placed a hand on Thea's back. The actress placed her foot on the first step, Rae felt a slight sway in the slim body she supported and added a little strength to her hand. "But there's no point worrying about that now." She added softly trying not to sound judgmental. After all, she had been here more than once. Though usually it was after a bottle of Jack and a few tequila shooters.

Thea placed her hands on both walls and stopped while her head spun. She breathed deeply fearing silently that she would be sick again. Rae leaned forward instantly attentive.

"I... I..." Thea stammered

"It's okay angel." Rae moved up closer to hold her tightly, trying to take as much weight off Thea's shaking legs as she could.

"I don't think the stairs and I are going to get along." Thea whispered honestly, closing her eyes as the world shifted in her vision.

"I've got you." Rae moved her arms to encompass the smaller woman completely. "Here." She encouraged as she moved one of Thea's hands up to her neck. "Why don't you just hang on, and I'll carry you up."

"Of course not, I'll take it really slow." Rae's voice was low and caring. "Just hold on as best you can." She instructed in a soft loving tone. Thea complied willingly as Rae slipped one arm around the actress' waist and with the other arm reached under her knees. Slowly, trying not to jostle her, she gathered the woman into her arms off the ground. "How's that?" She asked in a quiet voice.

"Good." Thea replied, resting her head against Rae's chest.

"Ready for the stairs?" Rae's voice was still quiet and Thea merely nodded. "Here we go." Rae added softly as she took the first step and then the rest at a slow steady pace. Rae carefully tensed her legs, trying to absorb all the motion whilst keeping her charge as still as possible. She was rewarded with Thea relaxing into her arms.

Rae continued through the house, all the way to the master bedroom without even thinking. With her foot she pushed open the door and carried Thea straight over to the bed. Softly she released the slight body onto the mattress, sliding her arms out when Thea was safely down.

"Now we have to get you out of those wet things." She stepped back to allow Thea the space to remove her wet clothes. The actress nodded and reached for her blouse buttons. Her fingers trembled and her teeth chattered.

"I'll get you some dry things." Rae retreated to the wardrobe without taking her eyes of Thea for a moment. She watched as the actress fumbled eventually unfastening the lowest button. "Angel, do you want me to do that?" She offered helpfully. "No funny stuff I promise." She added as she remembered the morning's episode. With a grateful smile Thea let her hands fall back as her lover moved forward to continue the job.

Rae quickly unfastened the shirt and slipped it from Thea's shoulders, then she eased the rest of the clothes off her small body. She wasn't at all happy with Thea's body temperature and the woman was truly soaked to the bone. Wrapping the bed sheet around Thea's trembling body, Rae hurried to the drawers and grabbed a fleece top and pants. She slipped the top over Thea's head and helped her put her arms in the right place.

"How's that?" Rae asked as Thea managed to pull on the pants and then crawl beneath the duvet.

"Good." She admitted with a small shiver. Rae watched her with a slight frown, concerned that she might be getting a chill.

"How's the stomach?" The technician asked concerned.

"Not good." Thea admitted.

"Can I get you anything? Tea?" Rae tried to think of anything that might help. "More water or something to eat."

"You?" Thea suggested with a little smile.

"Oh." Rae couldn't stop the small noise that escaped her lips. "I wasn't sure you would want me anywhere near." She added honestly in a very quiet voice.

"Love, I don't beg well. I am cold and don't think I will ever thaw out! I feel terrible and I need your strength, I need your warmth." Thea looked up at Rae with watery tired eyes and paused. "I need your love."

Rae hesitated, her heart not able to truly believe Thea words.

"Yesterday I met this wonderful woman who made me feel the most incredible things. Tonight thanks to my thoughtless words I nearly lost her. Now I am laid in her bed, having just ruined her carpet and I cannot believe my luck." She stopped and looked at Rae giving her the brightest smile she could manage. "Make my dream complete and join me, please."

Rae listened speechless.

"I'm not asking for anything other than to be held." The actress stressed her intentions, not wanting Rae to feel pressured in any way.

"I love you." Rae's words came almost silently.

"As I do you." She admitted, blinking as she looked at her lover and her lips trembled as she verged on tears.

"Nothing would please me more than to hold you." Rae climbed into bed beside the shivering actress. Carefully she wrapped her arms around her. Thea curled into Rae's body and let out a shuddering breath. "I thought I had lost you too." She whispered ever so softly.

"I'm sorry Rae." Thea whispered as she closed her eyes

"So am I angel." Rae kissed the wet red-blonde hair gently. "So am I."

"Forgive me?" Thea opened her eyes and looked up at Rae.

"If you will forgive me." She met the actress' gaze. "I shouldn't have bolted, it's an old habit."

Thea turned and raised her cold hand to place it on Rae's cheek. She kissed the dark haired woman's lips softly.

"There is not a thing in the world you could do that I would not forgive you for." She moved her head back before the technician moved to kiss her briefly in return.

"I missed you." Rae held her a bit tighter.

"I missed you too." Thea agreed, turning back sideways and closing her eyes. She breathed in deeply and her mind stilled as her senses registered the smell they had already labeled 'Rae'. "So much."

Rae kissed into Thea's wet hair once more and briefly closed her own eyes before opening them and looking at the window, hearing the distant rumble of thunder.

"Before I fall asleep." A small voice added as the sky went momentarily quiet.

"Yes love." Rae asked.

"Promise me something." The actress kept her eyes closed and her body nestled against the tall woman.

"Anything." Rae answered openly, holding her and looking up as a flash of lighting filled the night sky.

"Promise me that tomorrow we will not spend a moment apart." She made her request known quietly.

"Of course angel." Rae dropped another kiss on a now slightly warmer forehead. "I wouldn't want it any other way." She admitted honestly.

'You can wait Cleo.' The technician thought to herself. 'For once in your life, you can wait.'

"Watch over me until I fall asleep." Thea asked, her voice young and wanting.

"I will my angel." Rae promised, holding her close. She smiled as she felt Thea snuggle in closer, and listened as her breathing became more even and measured. "Until you sleep and forever more." Rae added when she knew the woman in her arms was asleep. "I love you." She added as another rumble of thunder echoed across the sky. Content to watch over her lover until the morning dawn broke through the storm and would bring with it the freshness of a new morning.

Continued in Act Five...

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