A Place Called Home


d a m n a t i o n


For all disclaimers, refer to Part 1.


"I'm going for a fag. You game?" Jean pushed the pile of books before her away with a look akin to disgust and rubbed her eyes.

Flick lifted her head from her book, a dazed look on her face. "Best friggin' idea you had the entire day, mate." She had gone to the library, knowing that she would get nothing done if she remained at home and was about to call it a day when she spied Jean walking into the library with an expression that she could only describe as panic. Her friend had seemed almost relieved to see her and had immediately launched into a very depressing tale about forgetting a take home exam.

Four hours later saw Flick's brain completely mashed up with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and snippets of their poetry. She could only hope that Jean had fared better than she did but by the looks of it. . . Yup, cigarettes were man's best invention.

Jean closed her eyes as she took a drag on her cigarette. She exhaled some of her frustration along with the smoke and felt considerably better. "How many papers do you have left?"

"This is the last one, thank God!" Flick adjusted her black beanie before stretching her arms to work out some of the kinks on her body. The weather was turning cold and the days were getting shorter. It was only six in the evening but the sky was already darkening. Flick shivered slightly and pulled her lightweight jacket closer to her body. She was planning to drop by Rei's to collect Terror from the ever so helpful dog sitter, Lisha before grabbing some take away on her way home.

"I'm going back for more mental torture," Jean said finally. Flick nodded and informed her friend that she was going off. Her head could not take in anymore information anyway and she was going to write her essay after a long hot soak in the tub. "I'll see you when I see you then, Flick." Jean gave her friend a small smile before jogging back into the library.

Flick stuffed her hands into her pockets and started her trek to Rei's. Two days before she was free from it all. Times like these, two days seem like a lifetime away.

Kezia glanced at the squealing Lisha who, at that moment, was trying to get Terror off of her. Rei stepped into the living area, took one look at the scene before her and broke out into a radiant smile. This was how she wanted to see her daughter every single day: happy and safe, without a worry in the world. She chuckled as Terror gave Lisha a thorough cleaning of her face with his tongue. "Eww! That looks really gross, Lish," Kezia exclaimed from her comfortable position on the couch.

"It's not as if you don't know that Lisha loves licking other people's faces as well, Kezia," Rei reminded her sister-in-law and got an enlightened look in return. The comment was totally disregarded by her daughter who continued playing with Terror as if no one was in the room.

When the doorbell rang a moment later, nobody in the room moved. Both Lisha and Kezia looked at Rei simultaneously. "What? Am I to be reduced to being the doorman in this family?" Blue eyes rounded as she put on the most aghast expression that she could come up with.

"Aw Mum! You're the closest to the door. . . and you're already standing. . ." Kezia nodded in agreement with her niece. Rei put on a pathetic expression and slunk over to where the door was.

The person that the door revealed sent her pulse racing and brought a big beaming smile to her face. "Hey there, stranger. How did the studying go?" Rei checked to see if they could be seen from where her daughter was and, seeing that it was safe, leaned down to give her young love a soft kiss.

"Not too bad. I'm just going to type it out tonight and hopefully get it done tomorrow," Flick reported with a tired smile. She let Rei pull her close and breathed in the familiar musky smelling perfume that Rei used. "Don't," she murmured, eliciting a surprised look from Rei. "Pull me any closer and I won't allow you to pull away and, if you've noticed, that particular act would not sit very well with the audience."

Rei gave the small blonde an indulgent smile. "Ever so thoughtful. How did I ever get so lucky?"

Flick shrugged. "You got on the right bus, I guess," she said as nonchalantly as possible, making her friend chuckle.

"Definitely the right bus, baby. Come on in."

"Thanks for the ride." Flick tried to keep the excited dog in her arms still while she fumbled with her seat belt. Terror apparently knew that they were home and was struggling to get out of the car. "Terror. . ." Flick sighed and opened the car door, letting the cocker spaniel run onto the pavement and trot immediately towards a tree. She turned back to Rei and shrugged like a helpless parent.

Rei snickered at her partner's expression and reached over to take her hand in her own. Squeezing it lightly, she gave Flick a fond grin. "So. . . how about we do something together after you hand in your paper?"

"Sounds good. Although all I can be good for after handing up my paper is sleeping," Flick warned. It had been a long time since she had a good night's rest and she feared that the dark rings beneath her eyes were going to be there permanently.

"And being on a bed with you for an extended period of time is a bad thing, how?" Rei asked innocently, knowing the reaction she would elicit and chuckled when a reddish tint crawled up the blonde's face. All mischievousness seeped out of her voice as she leaned closer to Flick and planting a soft kiss on her cheek. Flick turned slightly and caught full lips with her own. She moaned as she deepened the kiss, her tongue venturing into foreign territory.

Rei's eyes fluttered close the moment soft lips touched hers. The sensations that she experienced each time she was with Flick was overwhelming, almost as if she was in the driver's seat with no control over the steering wheel. It was thrilling to say the least, but there was nothing she could do except hang on for the ride.

"You blow me away," Rei whispered as they broke apart. Her eyes opened slowly as her world stopped spinning. The sight that greeted her made her wonder for the millionth time exactly why Flick would want to be with someone like her. An index finger stroked a warm cheek as one last gentle kiss was placed upon incredibly soft lips.

There was a funny ache in her chest as she sat there beside Rei looking at the way those eyes were looking at her. She gave Rei a shy grin as she combed a hand through her unruly blonde locks. Being with Rei scared her; she made her feel as if she did not need anything else. That was scary because the thought of not being with Rei or having Rei tell her one day that she did not feel the same anymore was unthinkable. "I'll. . . call you when I'm done, okay?" At Rei's nod, she let herself out of the car with a smile planted firmly on her face.

"C'mon, Terror! Terror? C'mere! Let's go, boy!" she called out to her dog, which was enjoying himself immensely, taking his time to sniff at all the interesting things by the road. She turned back just in time to see Rei give her a huge smile and a wave before the maroon car drove away. Flick waited until she could not differentiate Rei's car from the other flickering lights in the distance before turning away.

The moment Rei walked into her house, the sight of an uncomfortable-looking Kezia, a rather subdued Lisha, and a smiling Vince greeted her. Her stomach clenched and her posture stiffened slightly, annoyed that her good mood had evaporated. The red face was a telltale sign that the surgeon had been drinking.

"Mum!" Lisha padded over to her mother in her pajamas, her hair slightly tousled.

"Hey sweetie. What are you doing up at this hour? I thought you needed your ten-hour beauty sleep, huh?" Rei forced a grin onto her face as she closed the door behind her, hoping to mask her nervousness at Vince's presence.

Lisha shrugged. "Vince came over a little after you left so I came down and talked to him." She turned to the surgeon and shook her head. "But I'm going to bed now. Be nice, 'kay Mum?" At Rei's incredulous look, she shrugged again. "Well, you are the reason why he's like that." The innocent statement sure made her feel like a complete bitch. It did not help that Lisha was right.

"Hey," she greeted her sister-in-law and ex-boyfriend half-heartedly as she neared them. Kezia gave her a weak smile that did nothing to wipe off the uncomfortable look on her face. She could only wonder what Vince had said to put that expression onto Kezia's face. "Wassup, Vince?" she asked lightly, keeping in mind her daughter's words and pushing the annoyance she felt aside.

"I just. . . want to speak with you, Rei," Vince said, slurring slightly. It was evident that he had been drinking but also equally obvious that he was not drunk. He was dressed in a slightly crumpled maroon shirt over dark pants, attire that Rei recognized as one he wore to work. He must have been drinking since his shift ended.

"It's late, Vince." The last thing she wanted to do right then was to have a chat with a slightly inebriated ex-boyfriend. All she wanted was to take a long, hot shower before crawling under the covers and think about a certain adorable blonde. "Why don't I give you a call some time soon and we could have this chat, hm?" she asked softly, knowing that it would defeat her purpose if she were to sound irritated with Vince.

"No. . . it won't be long. I promise." Vince looked at her with pleading eyes as she stood there looking undecided. "Please? I promise. . . fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes and I'll go, okay?"

A quick glance at Kezia and a short sigh later, Rei nodded. Her heart wrenched at the delighted smile that grazed the surgeon's face. She reckoned the talk would be good; it would clear up some air and maybe get Vince back on his feet again. She just was not sure if he was in the right condition for the talk.

"I'll, um. . . leave you two alone then," Kezia said, her voice quivering a little. Rei looked at her, slightly concerned. Kezia gave her another weak smile. "If you need anything, just call out. I won't be sleeping too soon, okay?" she added quickly, letting Rei know that she would not be alone if Vince got to be too much of a trouble.

Rei gave her a grateful smile. "Will do. G'nite, Kezia." Kezia shot Vince a thoughtful look, as if she was assessing him, before she went back to her room.


"What did he want?" Flick asked before stuffing a handful of chips into her mouth. Munching noisily, she picked up her glass of lemonade as she waited for Rei to complete her account of Vince's visit.

Rei had picked her up from the university after her essay was handed in and they had proceeded to rent some videos and pick up a ludicrous amount of junk food before returning to Flick's apartment. Flick was into her first bag of chips as she focused on her partner while previews played on the telly.

"To tell me that I can't have a future with a girl," Rei said with a sigh. The talk had taken more than fifteen minutes and had been weighing on her mind. "And how Lish would react when she found out that my boyfriend is actually a girl. And how my career will be fucked if anyone found out." She pinched the bridge of her nose as she sighed. She had dismissed everything he said as a lame attempt to break Flick and herself up and she was not about to let Flick go just like that. It was confusing and it sure was going to be hard for Lisha to accept their relationship but Flick was worth it.

The loud munching stopped and a blue eye cracked open to see why. "Hey. . . what's going through that head of yours?" Rei asked, tapping Flick's right temple gently.

Flick placed the bag of chips on the floor beside her absently and adjusted herself slightly so that Rei's arms circled her loosely. "Nothing. . . well, what he said does have some truth in it." Rei sat up so suddenly that she hit Flick's head with her chin accidentally.

"Sorry, sorry. . ." she apologized, suddenly feeling big and awkward on the futon couch in Flick's studio flat. What did Flick mean by what she just said? Did she regret this? Did this mean nothing to her? Worry started eating at her. "I. . . what do you mean. . . is. . . are you. . . do you regret this? I. . . this is not some game to you, is it?"

At that, Flick turned to Rei and caught her partner's face in her hands. "No. . . no, this is not a game, Rei. Rei?" The dubious and upset look on Rei's face tugged at her heart and the aching feeling in her chest that seemed to appear so much recently arose again. "Rei? Rei, I love you. How can this be a game if I love you so much it hurts?"

Strangely, the aching subsided once those words escaped her lips. It was as though the aching was there because it hurt her physically not to express her feelings for Rei. It amazed her how hard it was for her to say those three simple words; the same words that people seem to be able to utter on the first day of meeting. How was that possible? Loving someone took so much more. . . but then again, who was she to judge? All she knew was how she felt, but hearing herself actually say those words made her feel as if something she never knew was being revealed to her.

Rei pulled Flick into a tight hug and buried her face in the crook of her neck. "I love you too," she mumbled, making Flick giggle and pull away slightly at the ticklish feeling on her neck. "You know, you have the ability to right my world in the least expected way possible," she murmured before raising her eyes to Flick's. "You're something else, Felicity Mitchell."

Flick rolled her eyes and gave Rei a self-deprecating smile. "Don't call me that. . . it sounds funny." She wrinkled her nose to further state her point.

Chuckling, Rei pulled Flick closer to her and sighed in contentment. "Oh," she exclaimed as she recalled something. "I told Lisha that um, she's gonna meet the person that I'm dating this weekend. That's tomorrow. So, how about it? You wanna?"

Flick shrugged. "I'd love to. . . but I must say I'm kinda scared." She took a long breath and shook her head. "What if she never wants to talk to me again? What if she gets pissed off with us? What if she doesn't want you to be with me and wants you to go back to Vince? What if. . ."

"I guess we'll find out, won't we?" Rei put a finger under Flick's chin to raise green eyes to her own. "Let's just see how it goes, okay? My daughter's very mature for her age. . . she'll come round. I'm sure of it." She had to have faith -- enough faith for both of them. It would work out, one way or the other. It had to. As for her career, Flick and she did not have to worry about that anymore because she had officially resigned from the university. Not having to sneak around, at the very least, was a relief.

Flick put her hand around Rei's neck and pulled herself to the dark-haired woman for a hug. Squeezing her eyes shut, she inhaled deeply and sighed. Of all the people in the world she could pick to fall in love with, she had to find someone who was nine years her senior, of the same gender, and had a daughter who happened to love her ex-boyfriend like he was her own father. But then again, there was no one else she would rather be with. She sighed wistfully and peeked at the television, her attention drifting from her life to the dialogue on the screen.

"Okay. Can we watch the video now? It's started already and my Nicole Kidman is getting mad at me for not paying attention to her," she said as she pulled away and picked her bag of chips up from the floor.

A dark brow rose and Rei leaned back, her arms crossed. "So it's your Nicole, eh? I didn't know you're so well acquainted with her."

Flick snickered. She had resumed cramming chips into her mouth as she glued her eyes to the television screen. When the chomping paused for a split second, she mumbled, "Ohhh yeah. . . isn't she just fuckin' A? She is sooo hot. Did you watch her in 'To Die For'? I swear, the title of the show was made for her. After you've been with Nicole, how can you go for Penelope Cruz?" Flick shuddered as she commented on Tom and Nicole's divorce.

Smirking, Rei turned her attention to the television as well. "I don't know, Flick. A change of flavour, maybe?"

Flick turned to her partner with horror-filled eyes. "A change of flavour? After you've tasted Nicole, how could you want to change anything? Crap. God, look at her. . ." Flick looked dreamily at the screen. "She's so unbelievably sensual! That hair. . . those eyes. . . gawd, that smile! And the way she looks at the camera. . ." She sighed audibly and Rei rolled her eyes.

Rei cupped her palm and placed it under Flick's chin. Swatting it away, Flick turned to Rei impatiently. "What?"

"So you won't have to clean your carpet later?" At Flick's confused look, she gave a dramatic, long-suffering sigh. "You're drooling all over, darlin'. I'm just doing you a favour."

Green eyes rolled as she swatted Rei's hand away playfully. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You're just jealous."


"Is that her?" Flick let her finger graze the border of a frame that was standing on Jean's table. A slim, exasperated looking woman with a haphazard smile gazed out at her. Green eyes flickered up quickly to see the curt nod and pained expression that her friend sported. "You don't really look like her," Flick commented, her eyes returning to the picture.

Jean snorted softly as she removed the frame from the table. Her eyes saddened as they fell upon the rather old picture of her mother. "No? Just as well."

"Just stop it. Please." Flick cast her friend an admonishing look and got a raised brow in return. Softening her voice, Flick continued, "She's your mother, Jean. And, as far as my knowledge of mothers goes, they always forgive you. Always. They can get all pissy with you for ages, but trust me when I say that eventually, they'll always forgive you if they can see that you're truly sorry."

When no reply came forth, Flick got up from the swiveling chair and rested her hand on Jean's. "You know," she said gravely, "there was once my mum caught me smoking. You wouldn't believe the shit she laid on me! I got a huge lecture on the possibility of lung cancer, throat cancer, lip cancer. . . and God knows what other cancer that smoking causes. . . and on how inconsiderate I was to put her and my father in immediate danger of being passive smokers, conveniently forgetting that my father smokes. Then," Flick rolled her eyes dramatically, "she grounded me for a month!"

Jean smirked at her friend. "So what's your point? I don't see you being repentant. You still fag like a chimney, Flick."

Flick narrowed her eyes at her friend and walked over to the stereo player and idly picked up a stack of discs. "The point, my dear Watson, is that she forgave me. I was afraid that she was never ever going to talk to me again." Her voice held a hint of sadness in it, but it was quickly dispelled as she broke out into a cheery smile. "That was probably the worst scolding that my mum ever gave me. I could see disappointment in her eyes each time she looked at me after that and I swore that I would never smoke again if that was going to be how my mum was going to act with me."

A brow rose. "Oh?" Slender fingers picked up a pack of cigarettes and waved it. "Don't tell me. You're not fagging; these are really sweets."

Flick snorted, picked out a brown colored disc from the colorful stack that she held in her hand, and slipped it into the player. Knowing the order of the songs in the particular disc, she forwarded it to track six before turning around to face Jean. Summer Rain was her mother's favorite song and, as she stood there in Jean's room listening to the familiar tune, a strong sense of nostalgia overcame her. She had not spoken about her mother like this to anyone for a long time now, not even to Rei. It felt good, in a bittersweet sort of way, for her to recall the bond that they shared.

"So. . .?"

Jean's voice broke her musings. She realized that her friend was still waiting for a retort of some sort to her statement. "So what?" she asked deliberately, hoping that her friend would take the hint and leave the topic be; no such luck.

"So you said that you swore that you'd never smoke again but evidently, you still do." The packet of cigarette dangled from Jean's fingers. "What made you break that promise?"

She shrugged. "Things change, people grow up. There comes a point in time when you're relinquished all rights to your own life." Her answer was vague, she knew, but it was still true. She had obtained all rights to her life when her parents died.

Jean took out a stick of cigarette and popped it into her mouth, mumbling something about how smokers liked to use fags as examples and how that always made her feel like fagging. Flick motioned for the pack with her hand and a slim, white box flew from one end of the room to the other. Another stick of cigarette was released from its confinements and stuck between a pair of lips. Twin sighs escaped as the duo sunk into a slightly melancholy mood that had permeated the room.

"Well, talking about mother and daughter relationships, I'm gonna meet Rei's daughter in. . ." She looked at her wristwatch. ". . . an hour's time! Shit. . . I hope I don't screw this up," she muttered to no one in particular.

"I thought you've met her kid long time ago?" Jean asked as she flicked the ash off the tip of her cigarette. She sauntered over to her stereo player and put another disc in. Madonna's Skin filled the small room and Jean started moving to the beat of the sensual song.

Do I know you from somewhere?
Why do you leave me wanting more?
Why do all the things I say
sound like the stupid things I've said before?

She walked over to Flick and started gyrating her hips in front of her friend, making the seated blonde choke on the smoke she had just inhaled. The cigarette forgotten, Flick focused all her attention on Jean.

Put your hand on my skin
Put your hand on my skin
Put your hand on my skin
Kiss me I'm dying
Put your hand on my skin
I close my eyes
I need to make the connection
I'm walking on a thin line
I close my eyes
I close my eyes

Looking at Jean stroking her own body in that sexy way made Flick feel uncomfortable but fascinated, nevertheless. Even though Jean and she had gone to discotheques together before, they had spent most of their time just drinking and fagging away. And because she herself had two left feet, she had never joined Jean at the dance floor. When the song ended, Flick had only one question for her friend. "Why are you still single, Jean?"

Shrugging, Jean pulled out another cigarette from its pack and lighted up. "Cos' I'm picky."

"Yeah right." At Jean's lifted brow, Flick quickly amended herself. "I mean, I've never seen you with anyone all this while I've known you, Jean! Nor have I heard of any interest you had in anyone. So what's with that?"

Jean shrugged again. "No one interesting around, I reckon. If you're talking about sex, I'm not lacking it in any way, I assure you." At Flick's rounded eyes, she started chuckling. "What? Yeah right, like you're gonna tell me that you've never had sex before."

The somber look on Flick's face made Jean pause and stare hard at her friend. "You've. . . never had sex before?" she asked slowly, as if she wanted to be sure that Flick knew exactly what she was saying. Flick shook her head. "You're a. . . a virgin?" Jean stared at Flick incredulously, sounding as if she was saying something blasphemous.

"And what's wrong with that? You look as if I'm an alien or something," Flick mumbled as she snuffed out her cigarette.

"You are! You're a freak! How old are you now? Twenty? Twenty-one? And you're. . . oh my. . ." Looking as if she was in shock, Jean paced around her room. "And you're with Rei! What the hell are you thinking, girl? Your girlfriend is a drop dead gorgeous bombshell and you're telling me you don't wanna jump her bones?" Hell, if she was going out with someone who looked as good as the brunette, she'd hardly leave the bed at all!

Flick looked away, slightly embarrassed at the turn of the conversation. "Um. . . well, uh. . ." she stuttered, not really knowing how to answer her friend. "Believe me," she said at last, "I do think about. . . you know. . . with Rei all the time."

"But. . .?" Jean urged Flick to continue, intrigued.

Flick shrugged. "I told her I've always wanted to save. . . it. . . for marriage," she said simply.

"You're kidding." Flick shook her head. "That's unreal," Jean mumbled, shaking her head. "That's all very good but um. . . how, may I ask, are you gonna marry Rei?"

Scratching her head, Flick gave Jean a 'I've got no idea myself' look. "I just want to wait for a bit. . . see if this is going to be it, before I do anything. Makes any sense?"

Jean nodded. "So how do you know if she's really the one? And what's this thing with her kid you were talking about?"

Flick was reminded of the meeting with Lish and worry started eating at her all over again. "Rei's gonna tell her about us today." She took a deep breath and felt the urge to light another cigarette.

"Cool!" Jean exclaimed. "She sure is taking this seriously." She looked at her friend curiously. "Are you?"

Flick sighed dreamily as the image of a tall, rather shapely brunette with striking eyes and sensual smile appeared in her mind's eye. That thought was replaced by the way she felt each time Rei was near her; the warmth, the tingling feeling, the feel. . . "All I know is that I'm in love with this woman," she said finally. The other things were too confusing to think about now.

Jean looked at her friend thoughtfully. "I really hope things work out for you."

"Yeah," Flick replied wistfully, "me too."


'The Raven' was a pub-slash-discotheque that Jean usually hung out at with Corben. It was a huge, two-storey place that provided dancers with a dance floor, drinkers with a bar, and privacy for people who wanted to chat or engage in other activities. Right that moment, Jean was very much engaged in a private 'conversation' with a girl she had been dancing with not too long ago.

"So," the redhead breathed as she pulled from a long and arousing kiss, "what did you say your name was?"

Jean chuckled, knowing that it was going to be a good night for her. She could feel her lips throbbing from the kiss and it was sending a lot of signals to places down south. "Jean. My name is Jean."

"Ahh." The redhead smiled slowly as recognition seeped into her blue eyes. "The same Jean that fucked Daphne up real bad -- that Jean?" she asked in an innocent voice, causing Jean to stiffen in the couch beside her.

Scowling, the blonde pulled away slightly, her fire already dampened. "The same one," she said coolly. Leaning towards the low table in front of the couch, she reached for her drink and took a sip from the small glass. Daphne knew what she was in for when she had thrown herself at Jean; there was not going to be a relationship, much less a commitment. She was in for a night or two, not a lifetime!

"Hey, hey, I was just checking, that's all. Cos' a one-nighter is all I'm interested in. I just wanted to be sure." She adjusted herself on the couch and looked at the attractive blonde carefully, waiting to see if she had blew her chances with the infamous Jean.

Jean stared at the redhead for a moment and shrugged. Picking herself up from the couch, she stopped for a moment, looking as if she was going to say something and then changed her mind. The disappointed look on the girl's face did not escape her notice, and she wondered what Daphne had said about their brief liaison. "I'll meet you outside in half an hour, okay?" she said finally.

Blue eyes lit up and glinted in the semi-darkness. "Okay. Half hour," the girl repeated in a low tone before Jean turned away to go back into the more public area of the building.

She was going to let Corben know that she was going off first before leaving with. . . Jean frowned. What was her name? Did she actually get through introduction before they snogged? Shrugging, Jean searched the crowd for her flat mate. It was close to two in the morning already, and there were not many people left so it did not take very long before she spotted Corben. She squinted slightly when she saw a familiar figure sitting next to her flat mate, smoking. Were her eyes playing tricks on her or was that Flick?

"Jean! There you are!" Corben called out when he saw Jean approaching them. "I thought you said you were going to dance! I couldn't find you on the dance floor," he accused.

"I was," Jean answered shortly, not bothering to elaborate. "Hey. What's up?" She slid into the booth seat beside her friend and took a puff from Flick's cigarette. "How did the. . . um. . . you know. . . go?" Flick was wearing the same pair of baggy pants that she had on earlier in the day, but had changed out of her white tank top into a large, printed, Hawaiian shirt. In fact, she noticed that her friend looked rather red.

Flick scowled and groaned. "I'm burnt so badly that even scowling hurts," she grumbled, taking a swig of beer before swiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She did not realize how bad it was until she was taking a bath. Thinking about the feeling of the warm water on her burnt skin made her grimace inwardly.

"Uh huh, that I can see. What about. . . you know. Did things go okay? Why are you here? I assumed you'd be spending the night with her?" Until now, Jean still felt weird calling her friend's partner by her name. They had met a couple of times after her birthday party, but they had never really sat down and chatted.

Flick snuffed out her cigarette and let out an unwomanly belch. "Oops, sorry," she said, not apologetic in the least. "Well, Eugenie Dwyson, haven't you heard of the saying 'Assumption is the mother of all fucked ups'?" She turned to see the blank look on Jean's face and shrugged. "Well, I'm telling ya' now: assumption is the mother of all fucked ups."

Jean very much wanted to shake her friend hard so that the nut that had gone loose in the mechanism that was Flick might fall back into place and allow her friend to speak coherently, rather than cryptically. She mused at her self-control. "Fine. So. . . are you gonna tell me what happened, or are you just gonna sit here and sprout more nonsensical stuff?" She glanced at her watch. "You've got fifteen minutes."

At that, Flick started balling her eyes out. Jean looked at her friend frantically, unsure as to what she had to do. "Hey I'm sorry! Uh. . . Shit! Flick, what happened? Look, you can take all the time you need. Flick?" she looked around helplessly but no one was paying them any attention. Rather, no one was sober enough to pay anything other than his or her beers any attention. "Flick?"

A small package -- Hawaiian shirt and all -- threw itself into her arms and Jean circled her friend rather awkwardly, afraid to rub against the sore skin. Stroking blonde hair gently -- at least she knew for certain that her scalp was not hurting -- Jean blew out a soft breath above Flick's head. She waited patiently until Flick calmed down somewhat, and asked if she still wanted her beer. "Looking at you cry is making me thirsty," Jean said wryly, hoping to get a small smile from her friend.

Watery green eyes lifted. "Hell yeah. Go get your own beer, cheapskate."

The slight curve of those lips, though, did not escape Jean's notice. She smirked. "So I can't have some?" she asked in a pitiful voice.

Flick studied her with narrowed eyes and sighed. "Lisha freaked out." Jean took the non sequitur in stride and let her friend continue. "Well, she didn't exactly freak out, freak out. . . more like. . . umm. . . well she didn't say a word to me after Rei told her about us. I mean, she still talked to Rei but she just refused to acknowledge what Rei told her." Sighing despondently, Flick lit another cigarette and took a long drag from it.

"Maybe she just needs a little time?" Jean provided helpfully.

"Yeah. . . I dunno. . . I don't know if it's gonna affect Rei and I. I was just thinking what I would do if my mum was totally against me seeing Rei."

"Is she?" Jean noticed that Flick brought up her mother more and more recently and knowing that a huge part of the reason why was because of their growing closeness was a good feeling.

"Huh? Is who what?" Flick asked, confused. She belatedly noticed that Jean was looking rather spunky that evening, with her almost white hair standing stylishly in the right places. Dressed in her usual leathers, Jean certainly looked every bit like the biker girl she was.

"Is your mother against you seeing Rei?" Jean repeated herself, fidgeting with a damp coaster on the table in front of them.

Oh. "Don't know." Flick shrugged. If only her mother was still around; she could ask her for advice. Then again, if her mother was still alive, she would not have moved up here and she would never have met Rei.

"So you're not out to your parents yet?" Jean prodded, oblivious. The coaster came apart in her destructive hands and she discarded the torn pieces of cardboard in the overflowing ashtray on the table. It fascinated her how much Flick could say so much to her at times without actually telling her anything about her life. Granted, Flick had never been an extremely open person, but she did have her moments.

Flick snorted. "Nooo," she drawled, almost as if she was scoffing at the idea. "Anyway, as I was saying. . . Rei said she'd talk to Lisha. . . but I feel awful. This is not going to work if Lish is gonna be against it. . . it just isn't." She felt like crying all over again. How could one person's approval mean so much? "And the thought of not having Rei with me. . . as my partner. . . it feels downright shitty. Fucked up. Everything is so fucked up! Dammit!"

Jean sighed. It was going to be a looong night. She glanced at her watch and saw that more than half an hour had definitely passed since she left the redhead sitting upstairs. Excusing herself, she made her way to the exit door so that she could cancel her 'date'. It was a bummer but it was something she would do for Flick any day.

Rei almost threw the phone across the room when no one picked up the phone on the other end. It was close to three in the morning and Flick was still out. After dropping her off at her apartment, she had driven home with Lish in complete silence. Thereafter, Lisha had gone to her room without a word. Kezia was not in, so she could not talk it out with her sister-in-law. Against her better judgment, she had knocked on her daughter's door so that she might have another talk with her.

It was fairly simple; she loved Lisha and she loved Flick. All she wanted was for them to be happy together. Was that so wrong? Why did someone's gender have to play such a big part in everything? Well, almost everything.

She found Lisha reading -- or at least pretending to -- in her bed when she let herself into the room. The talk that ensued was not very productive, considering that she was the one doing all the talking, and she backed off accordingly. Maybe Lisha just needed more time. She was not going to give up just like that.

It was then that she started calling Flick. She just needed to hear her partner's voice, to know that everything was okay between them. It worried her that Flick might have changed her mind about them because of Lisha's reaction to the news, or worse still, thought that she herself had changed her mind.

Now, she was getting frustrated at the damn ringing tone of the phone with no Flick attached to the end of it. Picking herself up from the couch, she decided to take a bath and clear her head before thinking about what she was going to do about the situation. Just as she was about to go up to her room, the doorbell rang. She rushed to the door with the absurd hope of seeing her partner on the other side.

"Sorry about this. . . I know it's late," Kezia apologized when the door opened. Rei's face fell. "I went out in a hurry and forgot my keys," her sister-in-law explained. Rei gave her a weak smile. She was about to tell her about Lisha and the situation when she noticed how tired and preoccupied Kezia looked. Not wanting to bother Kezia with her own problem, she decided to talk to her about it another time.

"Busy day?" she asked, instead.

"You can say that, yeah," Kezia replied before she yawned loudly. "Oh God, I'm sorry. I've just been. . . going everywhere today."

"Meeting with clients?" Rei asked, knowing that Kezia was trying to expand her catering business. She noticed that Kezia had been going out more recently and was glad that things were working out for her sister-in-law after the move.

"Huh?" Kezia looked confused for a moment. "Yeah. . . and you know how that is. You've got to please the clients." She stifled a yawn and grinned sheepishly at Rei. "Well, I'm going to bed now. Have a goodnight, Rei."

Rei nodded. "Yeah. Goodnight." Maybe Flick would be home now. It must have been at least ten minutes since the last time she rang. As she passed Lisha's room, she glanced sadly at the door. Then she let herself into her room and shut it softly behind her.

"Jesus, Flick! You could have chosen anywhere to puke on but you had to puke on my shirt!" Jean complained as she helped her friend down the corridor to her apartment. "Damn, it stinks to high heavens!" It did not bother Jean that it was quite early in the morning for her to speak so loudly in the complex; she was irked and the smell of her friend's puke on her shirt was definitely not helping any.

"I'm soooo sooowwy," Flick slurred as she tried to stand upright and find her keys. "I dint mean to do dat. . ." A loud belch followed her apology and Jean grimaced.

"Okay, okay. . . I know," Jean sighed. "Now could you please just concentrate on looking for those keys of yours and let us into your place? I know I need a bath." How they had gotten to Flick's place without Flick falling off her bike was a conundrum that she would puzzle over in the days to come. Right now, she was just glad that there was some form of higher power looking over her very drunk friend.

"Hewwo?" Flick slurred into the noisy apparition before staring at it with half open eyes -- how she managed staring with half-open eyes she did not know, but that she did. "Hewwo?" she repeated herself, puzzling over why the damn thing was still ringing.

Jean stalked over to Flick's bed and pulled the alarm clock from the blonde before pushing the button down and effectively cutting the ringing off. She was feeling much better now, after a long, hot shower and dressed in a fresh set of clothes that she had dug out from Flick's wardrobe. "Go to sleep," she muttered unnecessarily to her lightly snoring friend.

Terror was busy licking her slightly damp toes and she stepped back from the dog, giggling softly. Jean nudged her friend aside to make some space on the bed for herself and climbed in, anxious to get some sleep. Flick was going to have a helluva headache when she woke up, and Jean wanted to be wide awake to gloat over it.


The insistent knocking on the door awoke her from her restless slumber. A disheveled looking head appeared from beneath a pillow and peeked at the clock next to her bed. The door opened and a face peeked in. "Mum?"

That single word chased away all the cobwebs in her head. Rei sat up straight in her bed and attempted to make herself presentable by combing her hands through her long, dark locks. "Lish?" Duh! Who else calls you mum? She ignored the smart-ass voice in her head as she waited for her daughter to speak.

"Yeah. Can I come in?"

Okay. . . she's being polite. That's a good sign. What the hell are you talking about, Rei? She's talking to you. That by itself is a bloody good sign. "Of course! Since when do you ask for permission anyway?" she said lightly, trying to dispel some of the tension that hung between them.

Lisha smiled weakly and entered. The first thing she thought of that morning when she woke up were the events that transpired the night before. It wasn't as if her mother had deliberately chosen to fall in love with Flick, she had reasoned. Such things happened, didn't they? The more she thought about it and the way her mother had looked the night before when she tried to talk to her, the worse she felt about the way she acted.

"Flick's really nice," she started, looking everywhere but at her mother. She wanted to say that she was sorry for the way she ignored her the night before but the words just couldn't come.

Rei nodded, not really knowing where her daughter was going to take the conversation but allowing her to steer it anyway. "Yeah, you guys get along really well, right?" Was it going to change? Why must it change? She hoped it wouldn't change.

"It's weird, Mum," Lisha said finally.

"Honey. . ." Rei climbed out from under her covers and knelt down before her daughter. Tucking a stray hair behind her ear, Rei stroke Lisha's cheek lightly. "I know it's weird; it would be weird too, even if it was someone else, wouldn't it? Think about it. . . if I had introduced some strange man to you, you'd feel weird too. Cos' you've never known me to be with anyone but Vince."

Lisha thought for a while and nodded. "Yeah, I guess. Why can't you be with Vince, Mummy? He loves you so much. And, he's a doctor and he's sweet and funny. . . I like Flick. She's nice too. But I like Vince better." Lisha finally looked at her mother and the look in her eyes tore at Rei.

How is she supposed to explain this? "I know you love Vince, sweetie. I do too, but only as a friend. Somehow, what I feel for him has changed. It's changed into a different kind of love. I still care about him but the person that I want to be with is Flick, not Vince." Would all this make sense to an eleven-year-old? She truly hoped it did.

Rei waited for a long moment for her daughter to say something, anything. Finally, Lisha spoke. "Okay. . . I think I understand. I'll try, okay?" Tears welled up in her eyes for no reason and Rei broke into a watery smile. What Lisha just said meant the world to her.

"Okay, baby. Thank you. You know I love you, right?" She pulled Lisha into a warm hug that the girl returned.

"I know. I love you too, Mum. I'm sorry for ignoring you yesterday," Lisha murmured in a small voice, relieved that she got the apology out.

"It's okay. . . everything's going to be okay." Rei sighed into long brown hair, thanking whatever deity above that made this possible.

"Hello?" Jean mumbled into the handset as she rubbed her eyes. "No, I'm not Flick. Hang on please." She nudged her friend who was somewhere under those covers. "Flick. Wake up." More nudging. "Flick. . . someone's on the phone for you." No response. Sighing loudly, Jean pulled the covers away and spoke near where she thought Flick's ear might be. "If you don't get up, I'll sic Terror on you. I'll make him lick you all over your face, in your ears and in your mouth. . ."

At that, Flick opened her eyes and stared at Jean in disgust. "Gross. Give that to me," she grumbled, snatching the phone from Jean. "Hello? Hey, Penny." She turned away from Jean and buried herself under the covers again.

Picking herself up from the bed, Jean walked towards the bathroom but was ambushed by Terror. "What do you want?" she asked, not in a particularly good mood. She was sub-human until she got her shot of caffeine. The expectant look on the cocker's face and the wagging of the tail soon dispelled any notions she had of murdering the poor animal.

"I think he needs to pee!" came a shout from the bed. "Could you let him out into the balcony, please?"

Scratching her head, Jean deterred from her course and let the dog out into the balcony. "What am I, your housekeeper? Then again, a housekeeper wouldn't do half the things I've done for you last night!" Jean complained. When she came out from the toilet, she looked at her rather cheerful friend queerly. "And why the hell are you so chirpy? You were drunk last night!"

"So?" Flick puttered around the place, making her bed and collecting the dirty clothes from the floor before dumping the pile into the laundry bag. She was determined not to think about Rei or anything that had transpired the day before.

She did not even get the chance to gloat at a hung over Flick! Life was too unfair! "Don't you feel slightly woozy. . . nauseous, maybe?" Flick shook her head as she yawned. "Headache?" Jean provided helpfully. Another negative shake of head. "Shit! You're not human!" Jean exclaimed rather despondently.

Flick looked over to her friend. "And you're not happy about that because. . .?" Green eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You want me to feel like crap so you can make fun of me!" she realized. Taking her friend's silence as consent, she continued smugly, "Ha! Too bad! I told you before. I don't get hangovers. Hey, put some pants on. My friend's gonna be here in an hour's time. And make yourself useful! Go. . . dust a shelf or something."

What the hell? "Hey, I take care of you for a night and now I'm your bloody cleaner? You gotta be fuckin' me." Jean stared at her friend with her hands on her hips. The cheeky smile that Flick threw her way made her laugh. "Bitch," she mumbled as she went over to brew some coffee.

Flick came from behind her after a while. She was still rummaging through the cabinets, looking for the elusive coffee powder. "I don't drink coffee," came the soft whisper beside her ear. Jean groaned. "And you were calling someone a bitch. . .?" Flick asked innocently.

Jean whipped her head around, mock fury and genuine intent shining on her face. She wriggled her fingers menacingly before her, causing Flick's eyes to widen. "Uh oh," Flick mumbled under her breath before she took off running and shrieking.

When Penny arrived an hour later, the apartment was in a worse mess than before.

Part 6

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