Author’s note: ok, I miscounted the sections <g> this is the really hot and heavy scene. Well, its almost hot and heavy <g>


Laurel knew that it would not take her an hour to get dressed. She did take care in her preparations though. She took a long shower and blew her hair dry partially dry. She brushed it back, letting her bangs fall to the sides. She even curled the ends of her hair so that the back would fall even with her collar. It was one benefit to having short hair that it did not take more than ten minutes to style it the way she wanted it.

She unfolded both pairs of pants she had bought, as well as the two shirts. She had found a store that was going out of business and had everything half priced. She had been able to get two pairs of slacks for the price of one, socks, a belt, two tank tops and four pairs of boxers all in one store. She was rather pleased that it only cost her half of what she had thought to get them.

The salesman had given her strange looks when she had shopped in a store carrying men’s clothes, but when she had told him it was for an orchestra gig he had unbent enough to help. The two shirts were from that store. They were tailored to the bassist, which is why it took half an hour for them to be ready. The shirts were also reasonably priced, which shocked Laurel. Again, it was two for the price of one. Laurel could usually find bargains anywhere.

She chose the black slacks for tonight instead of the khaki. She felt it would be more appropriate to wear the khakis tomorrow. She hung up the pair she did not wear, and tried to choose shirts. One was a solid royal blue; the other was a navy blue pinstripe. She decided on the royal blue after holding both up to her in the mirror. She added the pinstripe to the closet for brunch the next day.

The last bag contained her new boots. They were black leather, dulled some to take off the shine, and came to above her ankles. She put those on, leaving enough slack in the laces to stretch some as she walked. She remembered only too well the agony of walking too long in new shoes. Finally, she added her belt and looked in the mirror.

Well, well, don’t we look butch? She asked herself. Still, she was rather pleased at the effect. The boots made her an inch taller, and the royal blue went well with the black slacks. Not to mention the way it set off her eyes.

Breaking her gaze from the mirror, Laurel loaded her pockets for the evening. She added to the cash she had gotten from a machine in the shopping center her driver’s license, a new pack of cigarettes, her Zippo lighter and a folding pocketknife. Feeling that there was nothing left to do, she made her way downstairs to wait on her date.

She went through two cigarettes from that brand new pack before Mozart gave her warning that someone was approaching. The outside lights flickered on so Laurel moved a little into the light. She stopped dead at what she saw.

Standing in front of her, with the lights at her back was Nicole Elizabeth Herbert. Laurel’s eyes dropped with her jaw. She slowly worked them back up past the red pumps and flesh colored hose to mid thigh where the dress started. It was a tight crimson red dress that hugged her hips and accentuated her breast. The spaghetti straps disappeared behind that long neck into the loose brown hair. Nicole had curled the ends of her hair as well, and it fell gently around her face and down to the middle of her back. Laurel let her eyes slide up to the painted red lips, the diamond studded earlobes, and the nervous blue eyes. Looking into those eyes, she finally got her breath back.

"You look incredible. Gorgeous," Laurel stepped completely into the light. "I can not begin to describe how wonderfully beautiful you look."

"Thank you," It took Nicole a moment to get her breath back as well. To her, Laurel looked incredibly wonderful. "You look very nice yourself. Not that you don’t usually, but you look great tonight," Nicole was letting her nerves take over her mouth.

"Thank you. Shall we go make the rest of this town jealous?" Laurel offered Nicole her arm.


"Once everyone sees you with me, they will be green with envy," Laurel smiled as she saw Nicole blush. "Shall we?"

"Yes, dinner awaits," Nicole took the proffered arm. "We’re going to the Gumbo Shop if that is ok. Do you know where that is?"

"On St. Peter, but on this side of Bourbon, right?" Nicole nodded. Laurel held the door open for her and then made sure it locked behind them.

They walked as close together as they dared in this section of the French Quarter. Several people, tourist mostly, stopped and looked as the couple walked by. One man, much to Laurel’s amusement even spilled his drink when he saw Nicole. The rest of the population ignored them, much to their combined relief. New Orleans was a tolerant city, but it was still not safe. Laurel kept one hand in her pocket, playing with her pocketknife.

There was not a line at the restaurant when they got there. That was not unusual for a Thursday night, but it was late October and not the summer season so it should have been a little more crowded. The real tourist attractions in the winter were New Years Eve and Mardi Gras, but several people waited until after the summer to take their vacations. New Orleans always made a great weekend trip. Not to mention a great place for conventions.

The Maitre D seated them quickly at a small table for two in the smoking section. The waiter came by as soon as they were comfortable and filled their water glasses. They each ordered an ice tea before looking over their menus. This restaurant offered everything from seafood to Cajun food to steaks.

"Well, there’s a lot to choose from. What do you think sounds good?" Laurel looked over the menu closely. She was glad Jay and Phil were paying for it.

"Good question. I’m tempted to just point at something," Nicole had never eaten at this restaurant before either. She had no idea what to order.

"Well, we could always order something different and share," Laurel saw several items that she thought were appealing.

"Sounds good."

The waiter came back over and took their orders. He took their menus as well. The busboy removed the salad plate from their table. They just sat back and watched the activity. Several patrons kept glancing over at them. Laurel was slightly apprehensive, but every time she glanced across the table, those feelings disappeared.

"You ok?"

"I’m absolutely wonderful," Laurel answered her companion’s question.

They sat in silence; content to enjoy one another’s company until the waiter brought their food. He set the heavy tray down on a foldable tray stand. The smells wafting from the tray caused Laurel’s mouth to water. The waiter mixed up the bowls, but managed to get the right entrée to the right person.

"Here, I think this gumbo is yours," Laurel handed the bowl over to Nicole.

"Thank you, and these must belong to you," Nicole passed the red beans and rice across the table.

The food commanded their attention. Laurel inhaled the red beans and rice while Nicole ate her gumbo only slightly slower. Laurel took her fork and separated part of her crawfish etouffee onto her bread plate. Nicole did the same with her grilled mahi-mahi over steamed vegetables. They grinned as they exchanged plates.

"This is good," Laurel took a bite of her entrée and then of Nicole’s. "They are both good. I think I’ve discovered my new favorite restaurant."

"Me too. This is defiantly on my to eat at again list," Nicole laughed.

They finished their meal slowly. It was after all, the only way to really enjoy a good meal. As the last crumbs were wiped from their plates, the waiter returned.

"Would you like to see the dessert menu?"

"No thank you, I am stuffed," Nicole wiped her mouth carefully with her napkin.

"Just the check please," Laurel leaned back and lit a cigarette. Nicole declined the offer for one.

"Here you go, ma’am," The waiter handed Laurel the check. "I’ll come back for it when you are ready."

Nicole took the money her uncles had given them from her purse. Laurel added it to the bill and waived the waiter back over. He took it and quickly came back with their change. The restaurant was starting to fill up, so Laurel deduced that he was in a hurry to have their table bussed. She added an appropriate tip when he came back with their change. They actually had money left over. Laurel pocketed the change to keep for cover charges if they went to a club.

"I guess we should go find Jessie," Nicole stood up and grabbed her purse.

"It’s not even nine o’clock yet," Laurel looked at her watch as they walked out of the building. "Care for a walk by the River?"

"Oh, I’d love one,"

The moon was not yet full, but it offered plenty of light as the two walked along the brick walkway by the Mississippi River. They passed several couples sitting on benches watching the steamboat. The boat was unloading passengers from a dinner cruise. It was a beautiful sight. All of the docking lights were on and reflected back up from the dark water. For once, Laurel wished she had talent as a photographer.

Once they got away from the steamboat, they were able to walk hand in hand. The lights were fewer away from the dock. The foot traffic was as well. Laurel was confident that she looked butch enough from a distance that no one would bother them, so she indulged herself. She led them off the path and on to a stretch of grass that made up part of the Aquarium of the America’s national walkway.

"Laurel, where are we going?" Nicole was slightly concerned. The walkway was not well lit at all. The small lights near the ground were more for decoration than illumination.

"Just right here," Laurel managed to find a bench along the path. She sat down and pulled Nicole down beside her. "I’ve been wanting to do this since you came out to the courtyard."

Laurel brushed her hand down Nicole’s cheek. There was just enough light for her to see the photographer close her eyes. Laurel let her hand trail down to the nape of her companion’s neck. She inched closer and moved her hand to the back of Nicole’s neck. They leaned closer at the same time. Their lips met and parted slightly. Nicole groaned softly.

"I love you," Laurel said it before she thought. She did not want to call the words back however. Nicole pulled her roughly to her and kissed her fiercely.

"I love you too," She pulled away and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Now I’m grateful this mascara is waterproof," Laurel laughed into her shoulder.

"Hey, what are those for anyway?" She wiped the tears away gently.

"I just can’t believe you said that. That this is real. I’ve dreamed of this many times, but I," She looked down at her hands. Laurel reached out and took them in her own. "I guess I can’t believe this is true. That you could, that you would,"

"Love you?" Laurel brushed her cheek again. Nicole nodded slightly. "I do. I think I have since that night you asked if I needed help putting my amp in the truck. That’s why I got out of there so fast."

"I just had to see you on the stage and I was hooked," Nicole smiled fondly at the memory. Laurel did as well.

They sat like that for several minutes. Laurel wrapped her arms around Nicole and held her tightly. Both women were wondering when they would wake up and have to relive the entire day. The setting was too perfect, Laurel could not have planned it any better. However, had she planned it, she would have canceled the thunderstorm.

"We might want to think about getting back to the Warehouse," Laurel said at the first crack of thunder. "Quickly," She added when she saw the lightening flash over the bridge.

She stood up and offered her hand to Nicole. The photographer took it without shame. Laurel offered her arm when they were standing and smiled when Nicole took that as well. They walked carefully back down the pathway until they got to the trolley crossing. No trolley was in sight, so they walked across slowly to avoid slipping on the exposed track. Nicole dropped Laurel’s arm as soon as they were in a well-lit area. Laurel felt the absence immediately. She silently cursed the world for a brief moment.

They walked as fast as they could when the thunder increased in frequency. There were not many lights on at the Warehouse. Nicole had to dig through her purse to find her keys by feel. They had just made it to the inside door when the sky opened up.

"Wait here, and I’ll go get Mozart. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like to be left out in the rain," Laurel went through the game room and opened the French doors. Mozart was sitting under the patio table staring at the rain. What overhang there was extended just past the table and chairs. He cringed when the thunder struck again, and Laurel guessed he was frightened of storms. He saw the light from the open door and ran inside with his tail between his legs.

"Did you get him?" Nicole asked from by the elevator.

"Yeah, he’s right here. Least he was," Mozart had run ahead when he heard his master’s voice.

"I’ve got him. He’s scared of thunderstorms." Nicole softly reassured her dog.

"So I gathered. Can you make the stairs in those things?" Laurel indicated her pumps.

"Oh yeah, no problem," The photographer leaned against the wall and took her off her shoes.

They walked up the five flights of stairs together. Neither of them thought to tell Jessica they were back. Nicole flipped the light switch on when they entered the apartment. Jessica was waiting on their couch.

"Hey, I was waiting to tell you that we probably shouldn’t go out in this storm," She took a good look at both of them. "Tell you what, I’ll keep Mo with me tonight to give you two some privacy. Have a good night," She called the dog to her and left before they could voice their gratitude.

"I need to visit the ladies room," Laurel was grateful to Jessie for taking the dog, but upset with her bladder.

"Yeah, I do too. Go on, I’ll go when you get out."

Nicole took the time to reflect on the course her life had taken over the past few months. In August, she was a lonely music shop employee who did nothing more than hang out with her friends occasionally. One night at a concert had changed her life. Suddenly she had prospects on a new career, new friends, and a lover. She barely had time to think of anything else before Laurel returned.

"I think you set a new record," Nicole tried to use her humor to deflect her sudden case of nerves.

"Yeah," She chuckled. "Your turn."

Laurel watched as Nicole rushed into the bathroom. She waited until the door was closed before pulling the candles she had bought earlier from their hiding place. She placed several around the bed and lit them. She turned off all the lights and the unmade the bed. She did not remember making it, but decided that someone else must have done so.

Nicole decided to stay in her dress when she exited the bathroom. She did not know why, but felt better dressed than in her pajamas. She closed the bathroom door behind her and then turned to find the bassist. She saw the candles and was touched by the romantic gesture.

Laurel was waiting for her just outside the ring of light. The bassist walked up to her and gathered her in an embrace. She reached up and planted a light kiss on the base of Nicole’s throat. She traced her lips up to the photographer’s jaw line before showering it with kisses.

"Are you ready for this?" Laurel was worried that she was rushing Nicole into a physical relationship. She knew nothing could ever be perfect, but that was not going to stop her from aiming for perfection.

"Oh yeah," Nicole was more than willing for Laurel to continue.

"Ok," Laurel grinned.

The bassist let her hands fall to Nicole’s. She brought both hands to her lips and then kissed each palm. Nicole shivered with anticipation. Laurel’s grin got wider when she felt the tremors. She stepped closer, letting her hands brush Nicole’s thighs. She traced her way up the photographer’s long body with her fingertips, resting her hands on Nicole’s hips. She stretched up and found Nicole leaning down. Their lips met and parted softly. Laurel eased her hands around Nicole’s waist and joined them in the small of her back.

Nicole placed her hands on the bassist’s shoulders and gripped them tightly when she felt Laurel tenderly rub her derriere. Laurel broke the kiss and peppered Nicole’s neck and shoulders with kisses. Nicole leaned her head back to give the bassist better access. Laurel moved her left hand between them and cupped one of Nicole’s breasts. The photographer moaned again and pulled the bassist closer.

Laurel reached around and slowly unzipped that little red dress. Nicole had to reach up and untie the straps. She let the dress pool around her ankles. She had to hold on to Laurel’s shoulders as she stepped out of it. She kicked her shoes back off while she was at it. They almost stood eye to eye as a result. Laurel took advantage and kissed Nicole’s lips again. She traced the photographer’s lips with her tongue.

"What do you say to taking this to the bed?" Laurel could barely breath in her excitement. Nicole could only nod.

Laurel stepped back and appreciated the view while Nicole sat down on the bed. The normally conservative photographer was in a very revealing silk teddy. Laurel almost choked on her own tongue. Garters held up the stockings, and Laurel was in awe that Nicole could actually walk around dressed like that.

"Oh, my god,"

"What?" Nicole got more nervous.

"You are with out a doubt, the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen in my life," Laurel knelt down and unclipped the stockings from the garters. She rolled them down one by one and laid them on the nightstand.

"How many have you seen?" Probably more than my one.

"None that I want to remember or see again after meeting you," Laurel said softly. Nicole could sense that she was serious.

Laurel quickly kicked off her shoes. She took a minute to unbutton her slacks. She slowed her movements down when she saw the enraptured look on Nicole’s face. She undressed slowly, stopping when she got to her boxers and tank top. She sat down next to her companion and reached for her again. Nicole went willingly into her arms.

They fell back onto the bed and kissed deeply. Laurel lightly ran her right hand down the length of Nicole’s body. She caressed her breast, stomach and thighs. Nicole parted her thighs, and Laurel slipped a thigh between them. They managed to straighten themselves out on the bed, and continued their caresses.

Nicole was hesitant at first, haltingly rubbing Laurel’s back and shoulders. Her confidence grew quickly. As Laurel grew bolder, so did Nicole. She slowly eased her hand under Laurel’s tank top and caressed the bare skin. Laurel stopped and sat up. The photographer was concerned until she saw that Laurel was only taking off her shirt. Her mouth fell open at the sight of a bare-chested bassist. Laurel grinned and leaned down to kiss her again.

"How do I take this thing off?" Laurel was growing frustrated with the teddy. Wordlessly, Nicole rolled the other way and she saw the clasps in the back. She gingerly undid each one. She leaned down to kiss the smooth back that she had revealed. Nicole was starting to think the only thing she could do was groan. Laurel pushed the garment off the photographer’s shoulders and kissed every inch she exposed. Nicole rolled out of the constraining lingerie and faced the bassist. Laurel stopped what she was doing and just stared at her for one long moment. Finally the bassist smiled tenderly.

"Do you even know how beautiful you are?" Laurel let her eyes roam Nicole’s body. Grey eyes traveled up from the thin, crossed ankles, up the smooth, white calves, the smoother pale thighs, the red bikini underwear, the slight paunchy stomach, the creamy white breast, the half erect pink nipples, the broad shoulders, long graceful neck passed the sensuously parted red lips and finally resting on the clear blue eyes.

To her surprise, Laurel felt tears in her eyes. She leaned down beside Nicole and pulled the photographer into her arms. They held each other closely. Both were breathing raggedly.

"Are you ok?" Nicole felt it was almost inappropriate to raise her voice. This time, Laurel nodded into her shoulder.

Laurel resumed her task of kissing every inch of exposed skin she could find. She gently sucked Nicole’s earlobe. She moved further down with each kiss. Her hand became busy teasing a breast. She traced Nicole’s jaw line with her mouth, stopping to kiss her lips again. Their tongues met eagerly. Nicole pulled her closer, and once again Laurel slipped her thigh between the photographer’s own.

She pulled back and began kissing her way down slowly. She kissed the base of Nicole’s neck until she left a purple mark. Smiling at it, she moved further down. She peppered her breastbone with attention until the bassist came even with those glorious breasts. She pulled a rosy nipple into her mouth and teased it into hardness with her tongue. Nicole grasped the back of her head and pulled her closer.

Grinning wickedly, Laurel shifted her thigh. Nicole’s hips bucked at the contact between warm wetness and smooth skin. Laurel chuckled as she continued to lavish attention on her companion’s breast. She moved her hand down Nicole’s side, gently stroking her.

"Oh, god, please," Nicole was straining against Laurel’s thigh. She could not decide if she wanted Laurel to end this teasing torture or continue it. Her answer came when the bassist replaced her thigh with her hand.

Laurel leaned back and watched as Nicole came closer and closer to the peak. Her eyes were closed in ecstasy and her hips were moving in the rhythm Laurel had set. She took her free hand and wiped the sweat and hair away from the photographer’s forehead. Nicole opened her eyes and looked at her lover.

"I love you,"

"I love you too," Nicole said between pants. She was spiraling higher and higher. Laurel kept increasing the pace until she suddenly stopped. Nicole could have choked her to death until she felt a warm tongue replace the skillful fingers.


"Please what?" Laurel asked. Nicole bucked her hips again as the warm air touched her deeply.

"Take me," It was all she said. It was all she had to say.

Laurel redoubled her efforts. Nicole was screaming her name seconds later. The bassist rested her head on a thigh for a brief moment before crawling back up to her pillow. She took the willing photographer into her arms and held her. She rubbed her back until Nicole’s breathing evened out.

"You ok?"

"More ok than I’ve ever been in my life," Nicole reached up and gently kissed her. She fighting and losing the battle to stay awake.

"Go on, get some sleep," Laurel slowed the motions of her hand on Nicole’s back.

"Can’t. It wouldn’t be good manners," Nicole protested weakly.

"What wouldn’t?" Laurel was slightly confused. She reached up and brushed the tears from the photographer’s face. Neither could remember when Nicole had started crying.

"Leaving you unfulfilled."

"S’ok, I’ll survive," She reassured her. Somehow. Some way. Maybe.

Laurel fell asleep soon after Nicole did. They curled up together in the middle of that enormous bed. Only Laurel’s boxers kept them from being in complete contact.

Sometime later, Laurel awoke to a feeling of warm wetness around her left breast. She felt a weight around her stomach, right at the waistband of her boxers. She was confused for a moment, until that weight snaked under her the elastic band and stroked her thigh. She opened her eyes and looked down. All she could see was a dark head bowed over her breast.

"Ugh, oh god, Nicole," She arched her back, pressing her breast further into that eager mouth. It felt so good that she did not want her lover to stop. However, part of her was protesting for some of the attention Nicole was giving.

Nicole did not stop when she realized the bassist was awake. She tried to pull the boxers off with one hand. Laurel ended up helping. Neither knew nor cared where they landed. Nicole left the breast and climbed up for a long kiss. She placed her thigh between Laurel’s this time. The bassist arched against it. They continued their kiss until Laurel had to break free for air. Nicole was pleased with the effect she was having on the bassist. She smiled down at her lover and began a steady rhythm with her thigh.

Laurel was so wound up from their previous session, that it did not take long for her to climax. She yelled out the photographer’s name as she went over the edge. Nicole collapsed on top of her, her arms giving out shortly after. Laurel pulled her over for a fierce kiss. Their tongues battled for supremacy, and they held one another tightly.

"That was more than worth waiting for," Laurel told her lover as she rubbed her back. "Now all I need is a cigarette."

"Then get one," Nicole yawned. She was still tired from giving blood.

"I didn’t think you could smoke in here."

"We’re not supposed to, but I don’t feel like walking downstairs. So, we improvise," Nicole got out of bed as carefully as she could. She was tired, sated, and slightly sore from walking in pumps. She pulled on an oversized shirt and looked at Laurel until the bassist got the hint and joined her.

"Oh, I get it," Laurel pulled on her discarded shirt. "We smoke out the window. Its kind of like a sleep over."

"I don’t know about you," Nicole laughed as she opened the large window by the fire escape on the side of the apartment. It overlooked the courtyard. "But I never did anything like this at a sleep over when I was a kid."

"Well, you have to admit, it would have been better than shaving cream balloon fights," Laurel found her pack of cigarettes in her pants pocket and pulled out two. She lit both and handed one to the photographer.

"Thank you,"

"Oh, it was my pleasure," Laurel grinned sensuously.

"That too, but I was talking about the cigarette, goofy," Nicole smiled at her.

"I know," Laurel put her free arm around Nicole’s waist. "But doing anything for you is a pleasure."

"You’re too sweet," Nicole kissed the bassist’s forehead. Laurel snorted at the compliment. Nicole decided it would be best to let the matter drop.

They enjoyed the night air and each other as they finished their cigarettes. Nicole set both cigarette buts on the stoop and closed the window. They walked together back to the bed. Nicole took a moment to blow out the candles before snuggling up to Laurel. Right before they fell asleep, each woman took her shirt off. It felt pointless to be clothed now.

Nicole woke up the next morning and found herself alone in bed. Mozart was nowhere to be seen, and the bathroom door was closed. Wrapping herself in her spare robe, she walked over to the bathroom. She could hear running water through the door and deduced that Laurel was in the shower. She was turning around to go lay back in bed when she saw the white bag on the table.

Before she had gotten too close to the bag, she smelled the fresh beignets. Laurel had apparently already gone for breakfast. Opening the bag, Nicole noticed that there were two orders of beignets. The bassist had not eaten her breakfast yet.

Nicole took two plates out of the cabinet and set them on the table. She placed three beignets on each plate. She looked in the refrigerator and found the two cartons of chocolate milk. She poured each carton into a glass, threw away the trash, and only then noticed the single red rose in a cup of water.

"Morning," Laurel walked over toweling her hair dry. "I woke up early so I decided to make myself useful. Mozart is on the courtyard by the way. Jessie must have let him out early this morning. Want me to go get him?"

"If you don’t mind. I’ll brush my teeth while you’re downstairs, then we can eat breakfast."

"Sounds good," Laurel reached up and kissed the photographer’s cheek. "Be right back up."

Jessie was sitting outside at the patio table when Laurel went back downstairs. The young woman was still in her pajamas. She looked up and applauded when she saw Laurel.

"Good job last night. I’ve never heard Nicky scream like that," She grinned wickedly.

"You heard that?" Laurel was astounded. She had not realized they had gotten that loud.

"Only because I was in the elevator at that moment," Jessie admitted. "I didn’t hear a thing in my room."

"Well, I guess it was a good thing your grandmother wasn’t here last night," Laurel was slightly embarrassed.

"You know, there’s two for one drinks at this great club I know on Friday nights. Maybe we can all go tonight?" Jessie changed the subject.

"Sounds good to me, but I’ll have to ask Nicole," Laurel called Mozart to her. "I’ll ask her at breakfast."

"Ok, I’ll come up there after I eat and take a shower. Thanks," Jessie waved the bassist back inside.

"For what?" Laurel paused at the doorway confused. Mozart followed her faithfully.

"For making my cousin happy. She deserves it," Jessie ended the conversation by opening a book she had brought with her. Laurel said nothing as she went back inside.

When Laurel walked back inside the apartment with Mozart, Nicole was just coming out of the bathroom. She had a towel wrapped around her head, but she was still in her bathrobe.

"I thought you were just going to brush your teeth?" Laurel asked as she sat down at the table.

"Well, once I got started, I had to do the whole routine. Let me get dressed and I’ll join you."

"Why don’t you just stay in the robe? I’m kinda getting used to you in that thing," Laurel grinned.

Nicole sat down bashfully at the table. Both women attempted to concentrate on the meal in front of them. However, they were conscious through out the meal of one another’s lingering looks. Neither could keep her eyes off the woman in front of her. Mozart divided his attention between both in hopes of food.

"Well, I’m full," Laurel gave up the pretense of eating after finishing half her meal.

"Me too," Nicole stood up and started clearing the table. Laurel waited until the photographer bent over her to get her plate before capturing her wrist and pulling her into her lap. "What?"

"Hey," Laurel grinned and brushed her lips against Nicole’s. "I just thought I’d say a proper good morning."

"Good morning to you too," Nicole leaned down and kissed Laurel again.

The bassist ran her hand lightly up the photographer’s exposed thigh. Their kisses became more heated as Nicole gingerly returned the caresses. Laurel started working the tie that held the robe closed apart with her hand. She almost had it opened when she heard a gasp from the direction of the elevator.

"Um, Guess I really am interrupting something this time," They broke apart and started at the entrance to the apartment. A very embarrassed Jessie was standing there shifting her weight from foot to foot. Nicole flew to her feet and retied the robe. Laurel stayed in her chair and tried to keep from laughing. As it was, she knew that she would have to reassure Nicole, the photographer looked as if she were going to fall right through the floor.

"Can I help you with something, Jessie?" Laurel tried to keep her frustration from her voice.

"I just wanted to let you know that we are due to meet the uncles in two hours at The Court of Two Sisters. They called my apartment this morning to let us know," Jessica looked as if she were going to join her cousin in melting into the floor below them.

"That’s that brunch thing right?"

"Yeah, they have it all week long, but it isn’t as crowded on weekdays. You’ll like it I think. Well, I guess I had better run back downstairs. I still need to get a shower and everything. Later," Jessie practically flew out of the apartment. Laurel finally gave in and laughed.

"You ok?" Laurel knew that Nicole was a private person and being caught in a compromising position by a member of her family must have been extremely embarrassing for her.

"Yeah, I just wasn’t expecting anyone to see us like that," Nicole leaned back into Laurel’s arms as the bassist put her arms around her.

"It’s ok. At least it was just Jessica," Laurel held Nicole close.

"I know," Nicole turned in her arms and looked down at her lover. "Its just that my Grandmother is not going to accept this, you, us, none of it. She already suspects, but when she finds out the truth, she is not going to take it well. Neither is Margie."

"Hey, sweetheart, look at me," Laurel lifted Nicole’s head back up in an effort to get the photographer to keep from staring at the floor. "We can handle this. All of it, it won’t be a big deal. I promise." Laurel directed Nicole back to the bed and had her sit down. She sat down on the other side and put her arm around the photographer’s shoulder.

"You don’t know what they’ll do. Hell, I don’t know what they’ll do when they find out. The only thing that kept Phil in the family was that Grandfather was still alive when he came out. Grandfather was much more open-minded, and reconfigured his will so that Phil could not get disowned."

"Sounds like he was a smart, caring man," Laurel took a deep breath. "If it will help, we can always pretend to be just friends until we get back home, or I can call Mandy and have her come get me," Laurel was reluctant to take that route, but if they needed to, she would.

"He was a very smart man. And he was very caring as well," Nicole sat up and hugged Laurel to her. "I don’t want you to go back. I need you here. Please stay."

"For as long as you need me," Laurel promised. Nicole tightened her grip, causing them to fall back onto the bed. "I won’t desert you."

Nicole wiped the tears from her eyes and leaned over to kiss the bassist. Laurel held her gently, softly rubbing her hand along the length of the photographer’s back. The bassist had not meant to let it get carried away, but soon the robe was once again undone, and Nicole was willing her to continue the caresses.

Laurel let herself be pulled on top of Nicole; one look into those blue eyes was all she needed to continue. She kissed her lover deeply, letting their tongues intertwine. She pulled herself on her arms and slid down, kissing her way to Nicole’s breast.

"Please, Laurel," Nicole whispered.

Nicole writhed beneath her touch. Laurel took as much time as she dared. She teased the photographer mercilessly before finally releasing her. Nicole screamed her name. Tears streaked her face as the photographer shuddered. Laurel held her close as Nicole caught her breath. They lay together on the bed for a long moment after.

"I should go get another shower, we don’t want to be late," Nicole kissed Laurel again before gathering her robe about her.

"Go ahead, I’ll wait here," Laurel watched as Nicole disappeared back into the bathroom. She stretched back on the bed and let herself become lost in thought. She had never seen anyone cry after sex. Out of all the women she had been with, no one had reacted to her touch the way the photographer had. She had never been able to please a woman so easily either. To her, it was as if making love to Nicole was as easy as breathing, as natural as playing the bass.

She knew it was true that she loved Nicole. What she felt for the photographer was deeper than anything she had previously known. It was not hard for her to envision a life with her, but forever was a very long time. She was only twenty-one. Commitment was not something she had been looking for until it opened those baby blues and stared her in the face.

The phone’s insistent ringing snapped Laurel from her thoughts. She debated with herself over the virtues of answering it. She reasoned that even if it were the family matriarch, it would be understandable if she answered. Grabbing the phone from its charger, she pressed the talk button.


"Laurel, is that you?" Laurel thought she recognized the voice on the other end of the line, but could not be sure.

"Yes it is. Who is this?"

"It’s Sheryl," The critic chuckled. "Is Nicole there?"

"She’s in the shower,"

"Oh. Well, how is it going down there? Have you met the Grandmasauras yet?"

"Yeah, I met her Wednesday at the hospital. She doesn’t seem to like me much, but everything else is going well." Laurel laughed at Sheryl’s nickname for Nicole’s grandmother.

"And just how well is well?" The critic’s voice was full of innuendo. "Have you two gotten closer?"

"We’ve done a lot of talking and stuff," Laurel knew that sounded lame. She could not justify telling the critic when she did not know how Nicole would react to that.

"I just bet," Sheryl had a deep, rich chuckle. "Anyway, I was calling to tell Hotshot that Danny and I are coming home for the weekend. Would you two like to meet us at the Oz around ten tonight?"

"Um, I’ll go ahead and say yes, but we were supposed to go out with Jessie,"

"Woohoo, Jessie is home? The more the merrier. See ya there. And Laurel?"


"Take care of her or I’ll kill ya," Sheryl laughed and disconnected the line. Laurel did not find the threat funny. She had a feeling the critic just might do something like that.

"Who was that?" Nicole called from the bathroom. She had the door open and Laurel could just see that the photographer was brushing her hair through the opening.

"Sheryl," Laurel walked over and leaned in the doorway. "She is bringing Danny with her, and they want to meet us at the Oz tonight at ten. But, Jessie wants to go out with us too."

"Jessie will probably want to go to the Oz, so that’s not a problem," Nicole looked at her through the mirror. "The question is do you want to go out with them?"

"Yeah, we can do that. It could be fun," Laurel had liked Sheryl and Danny. She was actually looking forward to their evening out, as long as it did not cause Nicole any stress. She remembered all too well how tense the photographer had been last Tuesday at the coffee shop.

"She say anything else?" Nicole was curious about this sudden homecoming.

"Well, she threatened to kill me if I hurt you," Laurel grinned. "But other than that she didn’t say too much else."

"Sheryl threatened to kill you?" Nicole was slightly stunned. She could easily envision the feisty critic doing just that, but it was still a shock. "Why?"

"Oh, it was just one of those best friend things. Something I am sure Mandy will do to you later, you know the routine."

"Yeah," She laughed. "Hurt her and I’ll kill you?"

"That would be the one. Are you almost ready?" Laurel was getting somewhat impatient to see what the brunch was like.

"Yeah, just about," Nicole opened the bathroom door wider. "Can you please hand me that green shirt on the back of the loveseat?"

"Sure," Laurel snatched the shirt and handed it to Nicole.

"Thank you," Nicole eased into the shirt and joined Laurel in the living area. "Have you seen my shoes?" She asked as she reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of socks.

"No, not since you took them off yesterday," Laurel paused in her search by the couch. "Wait a minute, didn’t you change in Margie’s apartment last night?"

"Why yes I did," Nicole laughed. "Guess that’s were they are then. I’ll get them in a minute." She stopped searching around the bed for her shoes and sat down on the loveseat. She pulled her socks on then straightened her pants legs. "Wanna come see what my sister’s apartment looks like?"

"Sure," Laurel was ready to be moving. She got bored just sitting around a place.

Nicole led the way out of the apartment. They took the stairs down two flights, although Mozart had to retrace his steps. He had run all the way down to the bottom before realizing his humans had not followed him.

The inside of Margie’s apartment was pretty bare. Aside from a lonely black futon, there was not much else in the apartment. It was clear to Laurel that no one ever used this apartment for anything. Apparently, not even guest stayed here. It was however, surprisingly clean and free of dust.

"Wow, there’s really not much here is there?"

"Nope, like I said, Margie pretty much hocked everything she had. No one has ever gotten around to replacing anything yet." She shrugged. "Course she really hasn’t been home long enough for that either."

"This really bothers you a lot doesn’t it?"

"What does?" Nicole bent over the arm of the futon and pulled up her sneakers. "Found them."

"This thing with Margie," Laurel sat down next to her on the futon.

"Yeah I guess it does. I’ve just lived with it so long that it varies in intensity from a baseline I barely notice to a deep throbbing ache." She did not notice that she was clenching her teeth as she explained it.

"Well, I think most families are like that. At least mine is," Laurel started rubbing her companion’s lower back. "Now, come on, let’s go have a good time at lunch with your uncles and cousins."

"We’re here," Stan stood at the doorway leaning casually against the doorpost.

"And in full agreement. We’re behind you completely in this Nicky. Now, Laurel is right. Let’s go forget about life for a while." Jessie peeked out from around her brother.

"Strength in numbers?" Nicole asked quietly. "All right, lets go have some fun."

part 8

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