Disclaimers and Warnings: The characters in this story may have strong resemblance to a certain bard and warrior but that is where all the similarities end. Plagiarism is uncool.

Warnings: This is a story of alternate nature and yes, that means it involves a loving relationship between two persons of the same sex. Blanching? Exit please. If not, carry on.

Rating: So far it's PG-13 and yes there's cussing, so sue me. ;p


She lugged her backpack wearily towards the coach, her small frame dwarfed by her baggage that contained everything that she possessed at that point of time. The porter took over her tedious task when she got close enough, and she heaved a sigh of relief as she rubbed her aching shoulders.

Pulling herself up the coach, Flick dropped into a vacant seat and shut her eyes. If only leaving a state meant leaving everything that happened within it behind. If only it was so easy.

Sighing heavily, Flick could feel tears threatening to overwhelm her again. She bit her lower lip, willing herself not to cry. She was well and truly alone now, having lost everything that ever meant anything to her.

"Run, sweetie! Please run. . ." How could she? The blonde was torn between the door handle to freedom and her mother.

The older version of Flick gave her another shove towards the former when another crash came from within the room. "Honey, go! Be safe, I beg of you. I will come for you soon."

"Come with me, mum! Leave with me!" Flick pleaded, her green eyes filled with unshed tears and fear -- fear for what was going to happen to her mother, herself and the madman that was her father inside the room, threatening to break the door apart to get to them.

"I can't. I have to try and help him. . . Whatever it is, he is my husband and your father, and I love him. Please, stop arguing and go. I'll come for you, I promise!" Flick had acceded and left the house that she grew up in, running and crying all the way to her best friend, Penny's house.

"Ticket please."

Flick lost the dazed look and dug her hand into the pocket of her jeans for the wanted item. It came out, crumpled but valid, and the conductor went on to the passenger behind her. Taking the baseball cap off her head to reveal short, shaggy, blonde hair, Flick brushed a hand through the golden mass before replacing the cap, this time pulling it lower to shield her face from the dying glow of the sun. She was about to drop off to sleep when someone dropped unceremoniously onto the seat beside hers, jerking her awake.

A waft of perfume connected with her senses, something distinct but not overpowering, a scent that she did not find altogether appalling. Judging by that, her companion for the sixteen hours drive was a woman.

A slightly panting woman.

With a low, rich voice.

"Thank you for waiting. I was caught in a traffic jam on the way to the station," she husked out to the conductor. Flick could hear the smile in the voice and thought if the owner of the voice looked as good as she sounded, she would be very beautiful.

"No problem, Ma'am. Here's your ticket back. Have a nice journey." Flick snorted silently to herself as she eavesdropped unashamedly. The man sounded smitten. It made her wonder how her companion looked like, but somehow, something stopped her. She would know the truth about her companion's appearance when she opened her eyes and it might disappoint her. She would rather allocate a face to that voice -- that way it gave her something to think about. Maybe, hopefully, it would take her mind off the ugly things that have been on her mind since forever.

The engine started, and the bus pulled out of the station. Flick sighed inwardly, trying to make the aching in her heart stop and the pictures in her head disappear -- it was as successful as trying to stop bees from making honey. Finally, Flick fell into an uneasy sleep, plagued with memories and mixed emotions.

"Hey. . . ssh. . . it's okay. Ssh. . ." The brunette was at a loss when her traveling companion started whimpering in his sleep. It was a little weird to console someone when they were not even conscious to receive the consolation, but Rei did not know what else to do.

The boy had had his cap down since the moment she took her seat, and she assumed that he was sleeping. But when she heard the soft snort coming from him when the slightly flushed looking conductor beamed at her, she knew that he had been listening. Since the bill of the cap did not move an inch after the conductor left, Rei had given her perceptive companion a once over.

Rei assumed that he was a Nike fan because both the brown cap and baggy sweatshirt that her companion wore were of that brand. She speculated that the boy was about sixteen because of his small frame, and wondered why he was traveling alone. At that, Rei smirked at herself, realizing that her tendency to assume had surfaced again. She then redirected her thoughts to seeing her ten-year-old daughter and Vince, her boyfriend of five years again after a month of separation.

She was just scoffing at herself when she thought of Vince as her boyfriend for she considered herself too old to be having "boyfriends" when the sobbing started.

Initially, she was surprised at the movements from her still companion but took that to be him re-adjusting himself in his seat. Then the shuddering started, and small sobs could be heard coming from beneath the bill of the brown Nike cap. That was when Rei knew that the boy was crying. She did not think that the youngster would cry out loud like that if he were awake, and so concluded that he had indeed fallen asleep after the bus pulled out from the station.

The strangled sounds pulled at her heart. He sounded like a wounded animal and all she wanted to do was to take the pain away. She tried again, "Sshh. . . it's okay. . . it's just a dream."

Whether he heard her or not, Rei did not know, but he did move closer to her and laid his head beneath her shoulder for comfort. Feeling awkward and clumsy, and surprisingly okay with the situation otherwise, Rei put out a hand and patted her companion's arm soothingly. The sobbing soon stopped, but the head still remained on the makeshift pillow. Strangely, Rei did not mind the foreign burden and, acting as though she let strangers sleep in her arms everyday, she shut her eyes to get some sleep herself.


A pair of eyelids cracked open to reveal dazed blue eyes to the glory of dawn. Rei blinked, and in a span of a few seconds, made out where she was. Her right side was feeling numb and she itched to stand up and stretch herself. It was only half past five, eight more hours to go until they reached their destination. The body beside hers stirred as well, and a sleepy hand reached up to take off the cap to reveal more of the blonde hair that she had spied briefly last night before the sun had set.

Slender fingers brushed through the tousled hair as the half-awaken head removed itself from its pillow. Rei said a silent prayer for that allowed her to pop her neck. Startled by the sound that movement caused, Flick looked up into a strange pair of eyes and realized with a start that she had been resting her head for hours at least, on someone she had never seen before in her whole entire life.

Rei, on the other hand, was shocked to realize that it was a girl instead of a boy who was in those baggy clothes.

"I - I'm sorry," they both blurted out simultaneously, suddenly fully conscious of what had happened the night before, in the shroud of darkness.

It was all right, then, for a stranger to seek comfort in another and for a stranger to give comfort to another in the darkness. But now, in the light, it seemed awkward. Neither knew if they had crossed the other's boundary in ignorance and both did not know how to act towards the other.

The coach pulled up at a gas station for another stop along the way. Some passengers started making their way down to use the toilet, get a drink or just to stretch themselves. Rei felt the urge to relieve herself as well, but did not want to leave the coach abruptly, just in case her companion took it the wrong way.

"I hope you don't mind," she started hurriedly, "You were crying. . . then you fell asleep. . . I mean, you didn't actually wake up. . ." Rei screwed up her face in frustration when her sentences came out disjointed. What was it that happened? She could not think clearly when she had more urgent needs to settle.

"No of course not." Flick replied hurriedly, thinking to herself that her voice sounded a little funny and cleared her throat a little. So that was what happened. She did not know how she could have mistaken a stranger for her pillow and hoped that it was not her nature to go around sleeping comfortably in any old person's arms. "I'm the one who should apologize, sleeping on you like that." She looked visibly uncomfortable but knew that it was not the woman's fault.

Both women smiled at each other hesitantly. "No worries." Rei shrugged, stood up abruptly, and started moving towards the coach door. Flick got up and followed her companion.

Once out, Flick sighed as she stretched herself, straightening out all the kinks in her body. She watched the brunette walk to the toilet and took out her slightly flatten pack of cigarettes and a box of matches. Lighting one up, the blonde took a deep drag and started blowing smoke rings.

Soon, the cigarette burnt down to its butt and Flick yawned as she made her way to the toilet to wash up.

Inside, she saw the brunette drying her hands, but she did not walk over. Minding her own business, Flick started washing her face and after finishing up, drying herself up with the paper hanky in the box on the wall beside her.

"I'm Rei." Her bus companion was at her side, her eyes connecting with Flick's in the reflection.

"Flick," the blonde offered politely. That was what all her friends and family called her back home ever since she was a tot.

Shaking her head, Flick tried to clear her thoughts about home and register what Rei was saying. "I'm sorry?" she asked when she realized that Rei was waiting for an answer to her question that she had missed completely.

"I asked if you're going up north for business or pleasure," Rei repeated herself, all the while wondering if she was being overly inquisitive or if she was still safe within the limitations of being conversational.

Flick shuffled her feet uncomfortably. "Uh. . . business." That was her plan, wasn't it? To move to a place where no one knew her and start all over again, hopefully getting over what happened or at least accepting it. She just needed to know how she was going to accomplish that.

Rei could sense that Flick did not want to talk, but that revelation intrigued her more. It made her want to know what happened to her to make her look and sound so weary for her age. She was assuming again, thinking that the blonde was a teenager. Would it be rude to inquire her age, she wondered? "Where will you be staying while you're there?" she asked instead.

As they made their way back to the coach, Flick said hesitantly, "I don't know. I'll find a place." It had been a long time since she talked to someone about superficial things, and the once familiar feeling was now foreign to her. She now understood what some of the writers meant when they wrote about moments that could stretch out for eternity and years at a time that could go by in a flash. The last few months constituted an eternity, and her entire childhood was a lifetime ago.

Rei thought fast. She had just met a girl on a coach, who obviously was in some kind of trouble -- maybe drugs? She didn't look like a junkie -- had nowhere to stay and most probably no one to turn to. Immediately, she could feel her compassionate side surfacing and she offered her new friend a life to the nearest and cheapest motel once they reached their destination.

Flick stopped outside the coach and took out her cigarettes again. Rei was very kind and maybe just what she needed, but she had just met the woman and did not know if she could trust her. Looking into the questioning eyes that were waiting for her answer to a very generous offer, Flick shrugged and said yes before popping another cigarette into her mouth.

Rei grinned, pleased that the girl was accepting her help and left her to smoke her cigarette in peace as she climbed up the coach to wait for the driver to leave.


"My friend will be there to pick me up with my daughter." Rei chatted on, glad that Flick no longer had the bill of her cap pulled over her face upon the departure of the coach from the gas station. Her face lit up when she thought about seeing her daughter again. The month of separation being the longest period of time she had ever been away from her ten-year-old.

Her daughter had never gotten the chance to know her real father for he died before she was born. Rei knew that he would have been the perfect father for Lisha if he was still alive. She could still remember the worst phone call she was woken up by those years ago, informing her of the tragedy that had taken place.

Frank had fallen from the hospital building. Because there were no signs of struggle, the police ruled out foul play. She still could not bring herself to believe that her husband had committed suicide but no clues were forthcoming to indicate otherwise.

Ten years later, here she was -- missing a husband but moving on with her life. The mystery of her Frank's death would never be solved. It had taken her a long time to accept that there were no answers to her questions, and even longer to stop asking the questions, but she eventually did. No matter what the reason was, the fact remained that he was dead and she was left alone to bring their daughter up.

Vince, a long time friend of Frank had always been there as her support to give her all the help that she needed, and so when he revealed his feelings towards her those years ago, no one was greatly surprised. Rather, their friends were happy that both of them had found each other amidst all the tragedy and heartache, each revealing their predictions that the two would eventually get together.

Rei was amused. She had never thought of Vince that way before until he kissed her that night. He had always been sweet to her and Lisha, and when she found out that he cared for her as someone more than just a friend, she readily accepted the man into her life as her partner.

Flick nodded, thinking that the woman looked really young to have a ten-year-old daughter.

"I married my high school sweetheart." Rei grinned, answering the unspoken question. "He was still a medical student then. I gave birth to Lisha the year after. . ." The same year Frank died. Sadness clouded her eyes for a split second before she continued her biography in a cheery tone. "Sometimes when I get picked up by unwanted strangers, I just have to mention my ten-year-old daughter and my wish to get married again, and they would all run away without fail." Rei chuckled, making Flick smile at the mental image.

"Why don't you?" Flick blurted out suddenly. At Rei's questioning look, she explained her question. "Get married again." Marriage was always made out to be the goal of every person. Her father used to sit her on his lap, telling her how proud he was of her and how honored he was to know that he would be the one to give her away at the altar. He used to call her his little princess, his bundle of joy.

Seeing Flick wipe an invisible tear off the corner of her eye, Rei wondered again at her companion's burden but went on with her story anyway. "Well, sometimes I feel guilty -- like if I marry again, I would be betraying my late husband." She noticed the surprise in Flick's eyes, expressing the surprise that Rei would reveal such an information to her.

"I know that Frank would want me to be happy, and I am. With Lisha in my life, I don't find myself lacking of anything. She constantly reminds me of him. She has his smiley eyes and his wavy brown hair, his sweet disposition and quick mind. I guess I just don't love Vince the way I loved Frank," Rei confessed. "I guess there are times when unions are made out of necessity rather than passion. This is one of them."

Flick nodded slowly even though she didn't really understand the logic in what Rei was saying. "But if you meet someone that you love -"

Rei smiled. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I do love Vince. . . and maybe someday we would get married. Sometimes I hope that I would grow to love him more, or at least as much as he loves me." Rei looked away, a little sad. "He's a good friend and a caring lover. What more can I want?"

"True love?" Flick suggested, her eyes faraway as well. That was what her parents had -- right up till her father started drinking and became an abusive alcoholic, taking out his frustrations on her mother and herself. Even till the very end, her mother was adamant that she still loved her husband and trusted for him to change his ways and return to the loving man he was before. They had died on the same day, in each other's arms, leaving her alone and with no one -- was that what love was about? Then, she wondered, how much did they love her?

"Maybe." Rei shrugged. "But how many people are lucky enough to find it twice in a lifetime when some beg to find it once?"

Flick felt a surging admiration for the woman beside her. Now, she was a survivor. Rei had fallen silent, apparently wrestling with her own thoughts and feelings. It had been a long time since she had shared her past so freely with someone. Most of her friends were also friends of Vince and somehow she found that she could not converse freely with them.

"So, why 'Flick'? Is that really your name?" Rei tried to change the subject. She had practically told her companion all there was to know about herself when she knew nothing about her.

It was only fair to trade information, Flick reckoned. "My dad gave me that name." At the mention of her father, Flick felt her chest tightened and winced. Then her eyes took on a faraway look as she continued. "My mum told me this -- I was too young to have any recollection of it." Flick smiled wistfully as she stared unseeingly out of the window.

"I never uttered a word till I was about two. My parents were pretty worried. At one point of time, they thought that I might be mute but the doctors assured them that I was perfectly normal and that speech would come in time. That day in summer, I was in the backyard playing with Heathcliff. . . he's our cat."

Rei chuckled at that. They had named their cat after a cartoon alley cat.

"My dad started calling for me to stop hassling Heathcliff. He was all comfy on the hammock, calling 'Felicity, stop making Heathcliff whine.' I didn't listen to him and continued playing with the big orange tomcat. When he saw that I didn't bother, he didn't bother as well and started talking to me. Not that I understood him, of course. 'Felicity, Felicity, Felicity. My little princess, Felicity,' he said. 'When will you grow up and be a beautiful woman like your mum?'"

She could memorize the story word for word due to the many times her parents told it when she was growing up. It used to embarrass her, but now it just made her heart ache. "He kept saying my name over and over again like a prayer when all of a sudden he stopped when he thought he heard something."

Rei shifted her long legs to get into a comfortable position. Flick had a nice storytelling voice. Why, she could almost see the girl's parents and visualize their backyard.

"He called my mum out to the backyard and started to call my name again. This time, they were sure they heard it. I finally spoke, and the first word I ever said was a gross attempt at repeating my name. So there you have it. Most people's nick names come about when their younger siblings pronounce their name wrongly. I had to be different. I did that on my own." Flick smiled in a bittersweet manner.

"Felicity is a pretty name," Rei commented with a smile, wondering why Flick looked so alone and sad if she had such a loving family. "Did you have a quarrel with your parents?" she asked, knowing that it was too personal but still forging ahead anyway. She was stubborn, if anything, and she would persist if she really wanted something. Now, she really wanted to know the girl's problems so that she could help her.

Flick felt her walls begin to erect themselves again inside her after opening up to the stranger beside her but she stopped them. Maybe it was better to say it all to someone you did not know, like in a confession box, and then let it go. "No. They're dead."

That was so unexpected that Rei gasped. "I'm sorry. . ." Rei berated herself furiously for her stubborn streak that could sometimes be worse than her tendency to assume. "I was out of line, I shouldn't have asked."

"It's okay. I wouldn't have told you if I didn't want to." Flick eyed her companion surreptitiously. "You don't know how many people are begging to be in your position. They've been trying to get me to talk to therapists and what nots -- all those doctors with their fancy certificates and qualifications, people who claim that they could help me," she scoffed.

"Whatever works for you," Rei said lightheartedly, feeling a little proud at the bit of information.

The coach pulled up at their final destination, effectively ending their conversation. The passengers started clambering to get out of the confined space, some excited to meet their loved ones and others just plain sick of being in the coach. Flick and Rei both waited till the bustle around them quiet down before they stood up, both feeling slightly awkward. They had both shared very personal details of their lives with each other but the truth was that they barely knew each other.

"Look, you don't have to say yes if you don't want to, considering that we've just met and all, but I would really like you to come over for dinner one day at my place," Rei spoke up suddenly. Flick looked up at Rei in surprise. They had really gotten on well for two people who had never met each other before, and there was something about the woman that assured her that she could be trusted, that she was sincere.

She hesitated for a split second, then broke into a warm smile. "I would love to." Flick accepted the second offer from Rei and was rewarded with a brilliant smile that made her feel tingly and good.

"Great. Now let's go and meet my girl."


Lisha was tall for her age. Looking from her newfound friend to her daughter, Flick could see who she got the tall gene from. She herself was struggling to reach 5'6, but she wasn't complaining -- not much anyway. Vince was tall and dark, very nicely built with a very intricately shaped goatee. If Rei had not mentioned that he was a surgeon, Flick would never have guessed his occupation. He looked more like an athlete, with his height and build, or a movie star, with his slightly arrogant but charming personality.

There was something about the man that unsettled her but she shook it off. She could not expect to have instant connections with everyone she met, could she? No, it would not seem feasible, and it would belittle what she found on the coach with Rei. Shrugging slightly, she took out her cigarettes and was a little dismayed to find a lonely stick in the pack. Sighing, she took the last stick out and made a mental note to get some more of her necessary vice.

She had been introduced immediately after Rei hugged her daughter and received a peck on the cheek from Vince. The warmth in Lisha's blue-green smiley eyes reached her and she had in turn given the girl an equally warm smile. Vince had shook her hand politely and had jokingly asked why 'a small girl' like herself wasn't traveling with adults. She had, in turn, haughtily replied that she was already twenty, old enough to take care of herself, much less travel on her own. That definitely contributed to her not-so-great impression of Vince the surgeon. He was annoyingly patronizing.

They were all getting into the car when Vince's beeper went off.

"Great. They need me now." Flick was surprised to see that he was truly sorry to leave Rei. Her impression of him lifted a little. At least his feelings for Rei were apparent. "Just say the word and I'll stay." Vince dropped his voice so that only Rei could hear the words, but Flick caught the tone in the back seat and shuddered involuntarily. The man was sexy and he knew it.

"It's all right. Give me a call when you finish." Vince shrugged and gave Rei a crooked smile. He leant over and planted a soft kiss on the Rei 's lips, eager to turn the innocent touch into something more passionate. Rei pulled away slightly, feeling a little self-conscious in front of her daughter and her new friend. "You're gonna need the car, right?" she asked, instead.

Vince glanced at the car and then back at his lover. "It's all right. I'll take a cab. You'll need the things in your luggage. I'm not that ungentlemanly." Vince gave Flick a smile before turning to address Lisha. "I'll see you tomorrow, princess." He shook Flick's hand again. "Well, looks like it's a brief encounter for us. Good luck." With one last kiss to Rei, the surgeon left, taking his charms and sexual energy along with him.

Rei turned to Flick and flashed her a small smile before climbing to the driver's seat and starting the engine. As the vehicle pulled out of the station, Flick wondered when her journey would end.

* * *

The room that Flick was shown to was rather small. It had a double-decker bed in it and the lower bed was already occupied. Flick went over to the shelf and dumped her backpack beside it. Careful not to make too much noise lest she woke her roommate up, Flick searched through her belongings, found some clothes to change into and went out in search of the bathroom.

Under the running water, Flick shut her eyes, letting the slightly warm water wash away the invisible grime that stuck onto her during the trip. The longer she stood there, the more refreshed she felt. For a moment, she could almost make herself believe that she was home in her own bathroom, while her mother was cooking downstairs and her father in the garden, smoking in his hammock with a beer in hand.

At that, green eyes shot open to reveal anger and regret. It was that bottle of beer that caused everything. Flick sighed and finished washing up, the pleasure she previously felt depleted.

Back in her room, Flick climbed up to the upper deck and dropped her head onto the clean pillow. Rei had suggested that they went to breakfast together, but she had declined the offer. She wanted a good nap before going out later to search for a suitable rental apartment. Even though the place Rei brought her to seemed clean and rather safe, Flick had no intention of staying there for long.

The card with Rei's number and address on it was tucked safely in her wallet. Her new friend had made her promise to call her and arrange for a time Flick could go over for dinner.

Everything was going to be great. She would find a nice place that she could rent before completing her enrolment for the state university. Her letter of acceptance had arrived last week, something she would have been happy about if not for the events that had transpired prior to that.

It was a good thing that she had managed to get the scholarship that she applied for on a whim. She was going to put herself through school, and with the small sum of money her mother had saved for her over the years. . . She never got past that point. Snoring softly, the small frown lines on the young face slowly eased away.

* * *

Cigarettes. Flick stretched herself and rubbed her eyes before yawning. She had to buy some cigarettes. It was a little after lunchtime when the small blonde awoke from her nap. After pulling on some decent clothing, Flick trudged down the road to the nearest convenient store to purchase her drug.

"Well they're not really a kind of drugs, are they?" she mumbled to herself idly. A single stick of Marlboro found itself between warm lips. What gave people the right to divide legal drugs from illegal ones anyway? Whichever way, people die. What was it that she read somewhere that really made her think? Ah, yes -- we all have only one life to live, but there are so many ways to die.

Cars sped by her on her left as she wandered around , unidentified and insignificant . The sounds and colors unimportant, the numerous individuals on the street merging to become a crowd of strangers. Smoke left her lips as her uncaring eyes scanned the signs on the windows of the shops near her.

She was free. To go wherever she wanted to, whenever she felt like it, in whichever way she delighted in; no more telling her mum where she was going and what time she would be home, no more worrying if she was going to be home late.

Suddenly, she felt more lost than she had ever felt before in her life. While the world used to be laid out in clear, distinct paths before her, they now blurred into one huge mass, like a desert, without limitations. It scared her. Terrified her, really. Flick sat down by the side of a foreign road with a finishing stick of cigarette in her mouth and cried.


"Lish! Could you get the phone? I'm trying to save our dinner!" A slightly hysterical voice called out from the kitchen as a brown haired girl scampered out of her room and pounced on the couch to get to the ringing apparition.

Peeking into the kitchen, the girl snickered when she saw her mother glaring at the uncooperative chicken which was lying on the oven tray, burnt. Rei's shoulders sagged a little, knowing that nothing else could be done to their meal, and reached for the cordless phone.

She mouthed a 'thanks sweetie' to her daughter and rolled her eyes as she spoke into the receiver. Lisha walked over to the chicken with a fork and jabbed at it a couple of times. She glanced at her wristwatch and pronounced it dead at 1748 hrs. The young girl aspired to be a surgeon when she grew up, like Vince.

Rei sighed after hanging up the phone. Clicking on the 'talk' button again, she dialed for pizza.

It had been almost a month since she met Flick on the coach, and Rei was beginning to think that the blonde had forgotten about their dinner arrangement when she finally rang. Sitting down by her daughter who was munching on a slice of radish, Rei picked out a leaf of spinach and popped it into her mouth.

Truth be told, Rei was a little relieved that Flick had called. She sincerely liked the girl on the bus and wanted to know how she was getting on.

"He's not gonna be here, is he?" Lisha asked, wiping her hand on the front of her t-shirt. Rei frowned, telling her daughter to wash her hand. "Mum , next time when I'm a doctor, I promise I'll make time for you," Lisha said, ignoring her mother's comment about being clean.

Rei's frown turned into a smile as she pulled Lisha close to her and planted a kiss on her forehead, inhaling the fruity scent the shampoo her daughter used gave off. She did not need Vince to be constantly by her side unlike what the movies portrayed. Romance was way overrated on the big silver screen.

"Sweet talker you." Rei chuckled at the apple of her eye who was squirming in her embrace. "All right, off you go." Lisha put the cordless phone back to its stand and switched on the television. The doorbell rang in the background, causing Rei to yelp from the dining table, wishing that she had more time to complete her task.

"Hi." Lisha smiled at the older girl that she met briefly a while ago. Flick smiled a little uncomfortably, curbing the urge to dig her right foot into the ground she was standing on and circling it with her toes.

Rei ran over to where her daughter was and rested her hands on Lisha's shoulders whilst steering her to the side so their guest could enter. She observed that Flick's hair had grown out a little, now touching the collar of her yellow Adidas sweatshirt. Her right hand was holding out a brown package which Rei assumed to be a bottle of wine, and her left hand was stuck in the pocket of her baggy jeans.

Rei welcomed her guest with a smile before receiving the package from Flick and inviting her in. She was surprised to find two bottles in the paper bag.

"I, uh, didn't know what we were gonna have so I got both white and red," Flick explained, seeing the surprised look on her hostess' face.

Rei grinned, closing the door behind her. "Don't worry. We'll finish them both." Flick relaxed a little at the smile on Rei's face and followed her into her home.

* * *

"For the tenth time, Lish, you're way too young to drink," Rei announced flatly. The small girl pouted but brightened up immediately when Flick started talking about the new film starring her favorite actor, John Travolta.

Lisha had always liked science fiction shows, and 'Battlefield Earth' seemed like a good one to catch. "Do you wanna watch it with us?" she asked Flick.

Rei cocked her head and smiled at her daughter who was conversing with Flick. Lisha was sensible for her age and never did give her much trouble growing up. They had always been very close -- all the more so for they only had each other. Sometimes even Vince was an intruder of sorts when he joined in on their outings. She detected Flick's uncertainty in saying yes to her daughter's request.

"Yes, that would be fun. If you're free, that is." Rei hoped that it would reassure Flick that she would not be imposing or unwelcome. Green eyes connected with blue ones before crinkling up on their sides as Flick's face brightened up with a soft smile as she said yes. Taking a huge bite off her slice of pepperoni and cheese pizza, Rei continued listening to her daughter raving about Travolta.

Rei was pleased to hear that Flick had gotten a place to stay. It was a bonus to learn that the apartment was merely a couple of blocks away from her three-bedroom house. The school term had started a week ago, that being the reason why Flick had not called until the day before. Flick was accepted in the university that Rei was teaching in. Rei had jokingly asked Flick during dinner if she was stalking her, successfully eliciting a smirk and slight lift of a golden brow.

Shaking her head with a smile on her face, Rei turned off the water faucet and straightened her dark blue shirt and long dark hair before she exited the bathroom.

"Is he good looking?" She could hear Lisha's inquisitive voice floating out from the living area, punctuating the conversation with questions.

"Is who good looking?" Rei took the empty armchair that was facing the two chatting girls. Well, yes, Lisha was doing most of the talking, but it was still a conversation, nevertheless.

"Corben!" Lisha rolled her eyes at her mother for interrupting her interrogation of Flick, a perfect expression of exasperation that made Rei laugh.

Flick looked embarrassed, her face a little flushed. It was one thing to tell a ten-year-old girl about your crush and another to tell her mother about it. Rei would not have the time or interest to listen to her infatuation.

"Uh, he -- I have a crush on him, that's all. It's nothing, I hardly even know him, I mean. . ." Flick shrugged and continued, forging on to make a point that she did not even know existed. "Yeah, I don't know him, I'm just attracted to him, that's all," she concluded, blushing a little harder at the mirthful expression Rei held on her face.

Not wanting Flick to get the wrong idea that she was mocking her, Rei asked her how she got to know the boy and what he was like.

It was not too long ago, Flick related. He had dirty blonde hair and a nice smile. "Politically inclined, too." Flick grinned, twiddling a stray strand of hair between her fingers. Corben was intelligent and spoke very well. He was not aggressive like most activists, but when he spoke, people listened to his quiet voice that sounded almost frail if you did not listen carefully.

"Sounds like someone has a great impression of him." Rei chuckled, sipping at her red wine.

Flick shook her head, smiling. She hardly knew the person, she insisted. He may not even know of her existence. Rei personally wondered how she could have slipped the guy's notice if he had generated such a lasting impression on the rather striking blonde.

"Well, like the song goes. . . a crush is just a crush." Flick finished the remnant of her wine in one gulp. Rei leaned over to top up her guest's glass.

"Who knows what might happen." Rei settled back on the armchair, suddenly feeling old. When was the last time she herself felt like that for another person? The years stretched out before her, making her blink several times before she returned to the conversation in her living room.

Lisha had fallen asleep by then. Flick glanced at her watch and was surprised to note that it was already half past eleven. The entire evening had flown by with startling speed. Flick got up from the couch silently, joining Rei on the porch where they could speak without waking Lisha up before she left.

"Thanks for inviting me over. I had a great time." She needed a cigarette now. The period right after dinner had been the most torturous, but she had stopped herself from lighting up in front of Lisha.

"We had a great time too. Do you still wanna catch that Travolta movie with us?" Flick nodded, lighting up her much awaited cigarette and took a long drag.

Flick had left her number with the Conrads so that Rei would be able to contact her. Initially, she had only wanted to have that dinner that they agreed on previously, never expecting a second meeting to follow. However, she had really enjoyed herself both times she had Rei Conrad for company and it delighted her that both the college professor and her daughter liked her company as well.

"Thanks for the dinner once again. I'd better go." Flick walked down to the pavement and turned to wave goodbye to her hostess. Putting one hand into her pocket while the other navigated her cigarette, Felicity Mitchell made her way back to her studio apartment, humming all the way.


Flick yawned and reached her arms out in the cool night air on her walk back home after a day well spent in the library. She popped her neck by swinging her head left and right and sighed in pleasure. Dinner was the top priority, now that her work was done. Chinese takeaway, maybe? So absorbed she was with her own thoughts, she did not hear her name being called until the voice was right behind her.

Turning around, she saw Corben Green, the activist with his ruffled blonde hair smiling at her. Her heartbeat quickened -- he knew her name!

"You dropped your diary." Corben handed a small, transparent covered book to Flick who immediately thanked him for picking it up. That explained for him knowing her name -- he saw it on the diary cover. "I've seen you around in class." Flick nodded with a shy smile, wondering what she could say to avoid looking like a tongue- tied moron. "I'm Corben, by the way." When he saw that Flick had nothing else to say, he bade her goodbye and ran back to where his friends were, waiting for him.

Flick continued walking, her appetite vanished, all the while cursing herself for being such an idiot. She could have said something intelligent to him -- never mind intelligent, something more than a 'thank you' would have been good. She heard her name being called out again. Almost afraid to turn, Flick did it anyway and waved back at the smiling activist in his simple white shirt and a pair of khaki colored slacks. Hugging the diary to her chest, Flick grinned the whole way to the Chinese restaurant across the road.

* * *

A pair of golden brows met each other over a snub nose as their owner hunched over sheets of paper with a pen poised to write. The question here was: what to write? Flick squeezed her eyes shut and reopened them again. Tucking the pen behind her ear, the flustered looking blonde rummaged through the books before her in an attempt to search for the elusive point that she was trying to make. University was going to drive her crazy one day, she was certain.

She had spent the entire day in the library, trying to do up a draft for her English essay that was to be due in a month's time. Normally, she would have put it off till closer to the deadline, but she had a Philosophy essay due around the same time as well, and she had a feeling that the latter would take up more time.

She took the pen from behind her ear and started tapping it on the side of her head. Green eyes scanned through what she had written and looked at the question she had set for herself again, ignoring the person who sat down beside her.

Vaguely hearing a question being asked, Flick did not respond until she felt a slight tap on her arm. "Huh?" She turned to see who was addressing her.

"Um, I was asking if you'd let me zap some stuff from that book you have there? I'll be really fast, and I promise I won't run off with it," a brunette with a soft voice implored.

She looked around at the mess on her side of the table and asked her which book she was referring to. A quick glance at the clock hanging in front of her told her that it was time she left.

"The Halliday one," the girl pointed. "The others are already taken, and this is the last book available," she explained.

"You can have it. I'm pretty much through with it ," Flick said absently.

The girl took the book from Flick, offered her thanks and paused. "I'm Daphne," she introduced herself.

"Flick," Flick said politely as she started packing -- that consisted of her dumping everything that was not the property of the library into her bag. Daphne continued, saying that she had seen her around in class and handed her a bright orange leaflet.

"Do come if you're free." Daphne smiled. "It's a good place to know people. I'll see you in class." Flick smiled politely as she got up from her seat and slung her backpack over her right shoulder.

The words 'H.A.Z.A.R.D -- an experience not to be missed' were printed neatly on the top of the leaflet. Scanning through the contents, the blonde realized that some amateur bands were going to perform at some pub that Saturday evening. The orange leaflet was haphazardly folded and then stuffed into the pocket of the jeans that she was wearing. S he might just pop down for a drink or two.

A figure stopping right in front of her made her snap out of her reverie and halt before an accident between two human vessels could occur. She was about to side step the figure and go on her way when she looked up and saw a familiar pair of eyes twinkling at her.

"Hey there, short stuff, where are you off to?" Rei had a stack of books in her hand and looked like she needed to unload real soon before her elbows dropped off.

Flick laughed, tickled by the way Rei's speech and her attire contrasted. Rei was smartly dressed in a dark gray power suit and a black shirt, complete with black pumps, looking very executive. "I'm on my way home," she volunteered, her eyes twinkling back.

She offered to help Rei with her load, which Rei politely declined. "Want a lift?" Rei asked in return.

"Um. . ." Flick scratched the back of her head. "Yeah, why not?" They walked to the library together, with Rei doing most of the talking as usual, telling the blonde about the interview that she attended that day, thus explaining for the executive look. She was thinking of a change of environment, and a neighbouring university had offered her a position with very tempting benefits.

Flick grew silent at that. Beside her, Rei wondered when Flick would start feeling more at home with Lish and herself. Even though they had met up quite a bit and had stayed over at each other's places on occasions, she could not help but feel that Flick was still a little hesitant about their friendship. There was still a distinct distance between them.

"So what are you up to this weekend?" Rei asked conversationally after dropping off the books at the library, rubbing the sore muscles on her arm.

Flick told her about the essay that she was trying to finish as soon as possible and remembered the orange leaflet that the girl in the library gave her. She waited for Rei to unlock her maroon Mazda Astina before inviting Rei to go down to the bar with her if she was free. The invitation was made on an impulse and it surprised herself; she wasn't even sure if she really wanted to check the bar out.

Rei put her seatbelt on and turned on the ignition before pulling out of the parking lot. "Saturday. . . let me see. Yeah, I could do that. Lisha's going to be staying over at Sandra's anyway. They're having a sleepover." Rei looked over to her passenger with a twinkle in her blue eyes. "God, I feel old. My daughter's old enough to be talking about boys already." Rei chuckled, stifling a yawn.

Flick smiled in reply. "You're not that old. You got married early, that's all." Flick shrugged, running her eyes down the length of her friend, noticing not for the first time how well her friend kept herself in shape. Funny, Flick never felt uncomfortable that Rei was a professor in the same university she was in. She saw her as the woman she met on the coach, someone whom she got along well with and the only person she saw outside the university.

That made her stop and think how isolated she was. Hell, she did not even hang out with people her own age anymore outside classes and rare coffee breaks. And if Rei took the new job. . . they wouldn't even be on the same campus anymore.

Rei could sense that her passenger had drifted off somewhere and did not disturb her. She was certain that Flick had so many other sides to her that she had yet to reveal. There was a distinct sense of melancholy around the blonde, even when she was laughing or playing with Lisha and her. She could only try to understand her loss of her parents, although she did not know how they passed on, and hoped that one day her friend would learn to trust her more, and eventually allow her to share her pain.

"So, what time do you want me to pick you up on Saturday?" Rei asked, hoping to break the silence and the heavy mood that had transcended over them in the vehicle.

Flick thought for a while. "We could go for dinner first," she said, glancing over at the driver who was sporting a rather pleased smile. "I heard that there's a great Vietnamese restaurant near the bar." She thought for a while and added, "But I'll have to let you know. . . I want to try and finish my assignment before I go out." Her apartment was too much of a distraction even though no one was about. There was always the television, the video games, the books. . . she would have to make a trip down to the library.

Sandra's mother would be coming over to pick Lisha up at about eleven, Rei reported. Maybe she could come over and do her assignment there. "I'm in the education line," Rei said wryly when Flick threw her a sceptical look at being able to concentrate at her place, "I'll keep you working, if that's what you're worried about."

Flick grinned. "All right. I'll come over at about one. Are you sure. . .?" She trailed off uncertainly, wanting to give Rei another chance to back out if she wanted . Rei reassured her that it would be fine. She needed to go through some tutorial papers as well, and maybe they could motivate each other to work before going out and getting drunk that night.

"Who said anything about getting drunk?" Flick smirked, freeing the seatbelt as they have reached her place. Rei laughed softly and gave a small shrug. "I'll see you then," Flick said, getting out of the vehicle, "Thanks for the ride and um. . . I'll give you a buzz before I come over."

"That would be good. See you then." Rei smiled and drove off.


"Do too."

"Do not," came the adamant reply.

"Do too," the equally obstinate counter.

"Not." If anyone was going to back down, it was not going to be Flick. Rei and her were talking about the texts that she had to read for her English course and were arguing whether James Joyce made any sense in his book, Dubliners. Flick had thought that the slim book would be a breeze to get through but that was before she started reading it. The short stories did not make any sense! Critics call his works 'moments of epiphanies' but Flick just found them to be a load of crap. What would a glimpse into a specific moment of a person's life tell you anything?

Rei on the other hand was trying to fight on the behalf of the deceased Joyce, saying that the novel does have a point to it. What about the underlying contempt for the class systems of Dublin, she asked, and the political viewpoint that Joyce gave through his characters?

Green eyes rolled, her mouth full of rice and braised pork. Rei smirked, feeling exhilarated by their discussion. They had been at it the entire day, ever since she asked Flick what her essay was about. They had talked about Woolf, Mansfield, Forster, and now Joyce. Flick argued her points well, and it was one of the rare times that she talked as much as Rei did, the fire in her eyes evident as she refused to let the professor talk her over.

Rei found Flick to be a very intelligent student who had a flair for words; pity she did not use them much, not verbally anyhow. She had probed a little more, thanks to her relentlessly stubborn nature, and had discovered that Flick had always loved to write and even submitted one of her works to a publishing house before.

"If you hate Joyce so much, you'd better not read Ulysses, his other book," Rei warned, wiping her lips with the napkin. Flick assured her that she would never read any of Joyce's works again, especially one named after the so-called Greek hero that she disliked. If anyone took the time to read Homer's Iliad, they would see how much Odysseus, or his Roman counterpart, Ulysses deserved what he got. In Flick's opinion, Penelope should have re-married instead of being a faithful wife that she was. Love was more than blind -- it made you stupid.

* * *

"Hey, isn't that a professor from uni?" A young man in a tan shirt with a nicely kept moustache nudged his friends beside him. They turned to observe the woman coming into the club and started murmuring amongst themselves, wondering who the blonde standing near her was.

Daphne and her friends were laughing at a joke that someone was telling when the brunette spotted Flick, the girl she invited down to the bar coming in. Her eyes rounded when she saw her with Professor Conrad. She had taken her class the previous semester.

"They look pretty chummy," a blonde beside her, Faye, commented. "Looks like we were right. Conrad's a closet lesbian. More hearts are going to be broken now if she's already taken."

The group chuckled. They had been speculating about the professor's preferences ever since she started teaching the year before. Some of the girls even had crushes on the statuesque brunette with the striking blue eyes, joining the already existent non-official Conrad fan club. However, they had found out at a carnival that she had a daughter and a hunky boyfriend. Some went away with broken hearts, and others were adamant that she was just covering up her true sexuality.

Daphne, on the other hand, had noticed Flick for some time now, but never had the chance to talk to her. That day in the library, it was a stroke of luck that she saw her there, and she had plucked up her courage to ask her out -- indirectly of course -- hoping that she could get to know her better. Now, she was sure that she would not stand a chance against the older woman. She saw the professor walking towards the bar, leaving Flick alone at an empty booth that they had found, and decided to go over and say hi.

* * *

Rei ordered drinks for herself and Flick after teasing her friend, saying that she would get lost in the crowd if Rei let her get their drinks. Flick had swatted at her playfully, attracting many gaping stares that she was oblivious to.

She had noticed that there were some familiar faces around, many of which had been her students some time or other. When she had reached the bar, the group of girls she was standing behind had caught sight of her and had gasped. She had responded with a lift of the eyebrow -- never saw a professor at a bar before? -- and they immediately turned their backs to her whilst waiting for their drinks, sneaking glances at her.

It was amusing, she thought, cutting across the crowd to where Flick was with two bottles of beer in her hands. She spotted a familiar looking brunette at the table with her friend. If she remembered correctly, the girl's name was Daphne.

"Hi," Rei greeted as she slipped into the booth beside Flick, handing her the bottle of beer. Flick had already lighted up a cigarette and smiled gratefully for the accompaniment.

Daphne looked a little unsure if she should stay at the booth now that the professor was back. She had never talked to her on personal basis before, but from what she heard, Rei Conrad was a rather outgoing teacher. "H-hello, Professor Conrad. I didn't know that you came to places like this." She groaned inwardly when the words left her mouth. They came out sounding all wrong! "Um, what I meant was that I've never seen you around here before," she corrected hastily.

Rei grinned, throwing her companion a look. "She's the bad influence." Rei tilted her head in Flick's direction as she took a swig of her beer. Flick rolled her eyes. "By the way, just call me Rei." She smiled at Daphne before taking a sip of her beer. "You're Daphne, right? I remember you. . . you wrote on Wuthering Heights for your essay in my class last semester, didn'tcha?"

Daphne nodded in surprise.

"Oh no, are we going to talk about literature again?" Flick groaned, looking first at Rei and then at Daphne. "Please, kill me. Put me out of my misery. I have had enough of literature for today, thank you."

The professor chuckled, telling the confused looking brunette seated across her that they have been talking about that the entire day, from her house to the restaurant and now, in the bar. Daphne gave her a pained smile. Her fears were confirmed, they were going out. Why else would Flick be at the professor's place? She excused herself politely, saying that she had to get back to her friends and that she would see Flick later.

"Close friends?" Rei asked noncommittally, sipping at her beer now that Daphne was gone. Flick shook her head and told her how they met.

Rei glanced at Daphne who was across the room with her friends, her face holding a forlorn expression as she related something to her friends. The girls standing around her kept looking over in their direction, making Rei wonder what was transpiring there.

"I'm not sure if you've noticed, but this is a gay bar," Rei said wryly. The crowd was a dead giveaway. And those looks that they were giving her. Probably thought that she and Flick. . . Blue eyes rounded. "Oh God," she mumbled, shaking her head.

"What?" Flick was lighting up another cigarette, determined to smoke up a storm.

"This is a gay bar, Flick," Rei repeated herself. Flick gave a shrug to mean 'so?' "The girl who invited you down is looking really sad after walking away from our booth, and after she told her story to her friends, they keep on looking over. . . I think they think that you and I are. . . together," Rei finished her spot on analysis of the situation.

Flick choked on her beer, spurting a little of the liquid on the fitting black T-shirt that Rei was wearing. "Hey, watch it!" Rei jested, wiping her shirt.

"I. . ." Cough. "You. . ." Choke.

"Take it easy," Rei laughed, her eyes sparkling. She enjoyed being with Flick, and going down to a gay bar with her was not going to change anything. Moreover, there was nothing going on between the two of them.

"I'm sorry," Flick apologized, her face a little red after choking on her drink. She looked around at the crowd and observed for the first time that her friend was right -- this was a gay bar. "I'm sorry, I didn't know. . . Shit, there are people from the uni here, aren't there?" Green eyes met blue ones worriedly. "Will this get you into trouble?"

Rei shook her head, amused and touched by her friend's immediate concern for her. "Nah, I don't think there's a rule that says that professors can't go to gay bars," her eyes twinkled and then took on a mischievous glint, "unless of course you feel insulted that people think that you might want to go out with an old, ugly professor."

"Oh come on. You're gorgeous!" Flick exclaimed before she could stop herself and, after realizing what she just said, started blushing. This was the first time that Flick had made a blatant admittance that she found her friend attractive. So what? Girls found girls attractive too, didn't they? That did not amount up to anything other than frank assessment of a friend.

Rei did not expect that answer from the blonde at all, and was feeling surprisingly heady at the compliment. She blamed the feeling on the alcohol even though she did not have that much yet and chuckled lightly. "You're not too bad yourself," she returned, causing the blush on the blonde's face to deepen. She was wearing her favorite yellow Adidas sweatshirt again that evening, and it contrasted perfectly with the reddish tint on her face.

"They're looking again," Rei sighed, getting a little self-conscious at the attention that they were receiving. The plucking of guitar strings could be heard on the other side of the room and, to Rei's relief, some heads turned to see what it was about.

The next band was getting ready to start playing after the half hour break between them and the previous performers. "We could go," Flick offered, sure that she had upset Rei.

"It's fine, really," Rei reassured, putting a hand on the blonde's. "It'll look as though we're guilty if we leave now. We'll go after this performance."

Flick cocked her head as she considered the logic in her statement and smiled. Indeed. The band started, but the hand that rested on Flick's did not move.


"Hello?" A sleepy voice answered the phone. Vince frowned as he glanced at his watch. It was ten to eleven, and Rei was supposed to get Lisha from her friend's place before going over to his place. By the sound of it, she was going to be late.

"Honey? Aren't you supposed to get Lish at eleven?" Vince asked, trying not to let his annoyance show.

Rustling of the covers, he assumed, could be heard before a very loud, "Shit!". Vince winced as the word pierced his ear, making him pull the receiver away. "Vince? Is that you?" Not waiting for him to answer, Rei continued, "I'll call you back," and hung up.

Vince looked grimly at the receiver in his hand before replacing it on the phone. Their relationship was almost non-existent, and he sorely missed having Rei and Lisha around. Padding up and down his apartment, the surgeon thought of what he could do to make their relationship what it used to be.

* * *

"Heya, chipmunk!" Vince greeted Lisha by gathering her into his arms for a big hug, to which she responded with giggles. "How have you been? Gosh, I haven't seen you for weeks, and you've grown into a beauty, like your mother!" Vince teased the girl in his arms.

Rei smiled at the sight of Vince and Lisha twirling round in the living room, all the while wondering when she can sneak away to get a couple of aspirin for her headache.

"And how have you been?" Vince walked over to her with a charming smile and placed a chaste kiss on her lips. "I have something for you," he said mysteriously, taking her hand in his and led her to his bedroom.

Rei saw that Lisha had settled herself on the couch, watching her favorite cartoon, 'Tintin', and allowed herself to be pulled behind Vince.

The sight that met her eyes overwhelmed her. The room was covered with roses -- vases and vases of roses. The smell that reached her was wonderful. "I. . ." she did not know what to say. Was it a special occasion? She carefully went through all the important dates in her head and did not find a match. Maybe it was something that she had forgotten.

"You like?" Vince asked, pleased by the expression that Rei wore. It had been such a long time since he did something this romantic for her, and he was glad that she liked it. He needed to work on it more. Their relationship was precious to him and he did not want to risk losing her.

Rei nodded mutely, walking over to the vase nearest to her and pulled a rose out. She winced as a thorn pricked her finger, drawing blood in the process.

"You all right?" Vince grabbed her hand and put her injured finger to his lips, sucking the wound gently. Rei nodded again, feeling a little funny that she was standing in a room full of roses with her finger in a man's mouth. Not just any man, she thought, it was Vince, and she should not be feeling funny because her lover is sucking her finger. It had been ages since the last time they were this close. Maybe that was the reason why she felt weird. Their relationship had become more like a friendship to her, she realized with a start.

Rei assured Vince that she was all right. "Let's go and watch the telly with Lisha, okay?" Vince acquiesced, a little let down that his efforts were not very appreciated. Sensing his mood change, Rei turned and gave him a peck on his cheek. "Thanks for the flowers, I love it," she smiled, brushing away the earlier discomfort that she had and eliciting a grudging look from her dark lover.

"Rei, I have something to ask you," Vince started hesitantly. By the look on his face, Rei knew that it was going to be either one of two questions -- both of which she didn't want to answer right now. "Will you consider us moving in together?" Rei groaned inwardly. "It's just that. . . you know how much I love you and Lisha, and how much I want to be a part of your lives. I want us to live together. Be a family together."

Rei wondered how much longer she could put this off. They have been together for a long time, and it seemed odd that she did not want to move in with Vince. Initially, she had used Lisha as an excuse; what would happen if things did not work out or if Lisha did not like Vince? But now, it was evident that Lisha and Vince adored each other. What other reasons could she give? Why did she need any reasons in the first place?

"Okay," she said finally. "I'll think about it."

Continued in part 2

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