d a m n a t i o n
For all disclaimers, refer to Part 1.
Author's Note: This part of the story has yet to be beta-ed. There will be changes made to the story if my beta says so. Read on if you don't mind grammatical/spelling errors.
This is the conclusion to A Place Called Home. Thanks to all who kept with me.
It had been months since she heard from Penny, and she was relieved and nervous when Penny asked for them to meet. They had parted on such bad terms that Flick wondered if their friendship would be able to survive it. She felt guilty for the part she had played in it, but there was nothing she could do about it. Penny could have stayed and talked things through, but she had chosen to leave. In fact, the only important person left in her life the past few months had been Jean.
Jean had been a constant presence and support for her during this period of time. University started not too long ago, but she decided to defer from her course until she sorted her emotions and life out. She had taken up a job at a cafÈ near her place and had to admit that the income helped. She had even taken up motorbike lessons and was saving up to buy her own bike. Until then, Jean had allowed her access to her bike when she was not using it; riding off on her own to clear her head on many occasions had helped greatly.
Jean and her spent a lot of time together. Even though Jean never spoke of them being together again, Flick knew from the way she acted that she was waiting for Flick to say something. Yet, as much as she wanted to, Flick knew that she would be deceiving herself and her friend if she did. She was not over Rei; in fact, every waking moment of hers was spent trying not to think about Rei. She was getting better at shutting out the memories, but that did not take the occasional pain away.
The first few weeks after the day Terror got injured were the worst. Her head told her that what she had with Rei was over, that Rei ultimately chose her daughter over her -- something that she couldn't blame her for -- but her heart would foolishly hope that the next face she saw when she turned any corner was that of Rei. Rei, with her long, wavy hair flowing behind her like a sheet of dark silk. Rei, with her arched brows and piercing eyes. Rei, with her warm smile, sexy smirk, smoky eyes. Rei. . . Just Rei.
As time passed, her hope steadily faded. Maybe one day they could be friends again. Maybe one day she could look into those eyes again and not feel the pain of her loss. She wondered if there would ever come a day where she could honestly say that she felt nothing but friendship when she thought of Rei.
"Hey," a quiet voice interrupted her thoughts.
Flick looked up and saw Penny smiling nervously beside her. "Hey. . . how've you been?"
"All right," Penny replied as she took her seat. They stared at each other uncomfortably with awkward smiles on their faces. "I've, um, been living in the hostel. . ." Flick looked up at Penny in surprise. "Yeah, I've managed to transfer to your uni. I'm doing my final year of psychology here."
"That's great, Penn." Flick felt some of the awkwardness slip away. "How are you liking it?"
"It's okay. I've been really busy. . . first with enrolment, then uni, then my clinical placement at the hospital. . ."
Flick felt rather sad that all this had been going on without her, but shrugged it aside. It wasn't as though she was all-welcoming when Penny asked about her life in the first place. "I'm really happy for you, Penn," she said instead.
"Actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. . ." Penny looked up and rolled her eyes. "Dammit, Flick! I wanted to save this for later but I'm sick of not being friends with you," she blurted. "Are we okay? I've missed you! I'm sorry I left without saying anything but I was jealous and I know it's immature but I couldn't help it. . . then I wanted you to be worried about me so I didn't call you. . . I'm sorry okay?"
Penny's apology sounded more like a demand and Flick had to chuckle at the frustrated expression on her friend's face. Penny hadn't changed a bit. She was always so impatient, wanting to be in on everything, disliking pretense and forced formality. In fact, Flick was surprised that Penny took this long before she called her out. "What are you laughing at?" Penny groused, looking perturbed.
"You!" Flick snickered, shaking her head. "Yeah, we're okay," she said softly after her chuckles subsided. "I'm sorry too. I should have told you what was going on but I was feeling kinda fucked up about everything and confused as well, so. . . I just thought that you'd understand the way that I am, and that I'd tell you eventually. . ." She hung her head.
Penny bit her lower lip. "I know. It's stupid. I was just really jealous of Jean, you know? I mean, I was ready to lose you to Rei, but to Jean too. . ."
Flick gave Penny a wry smile, wondering how her friend would react if she told her that she was going out with Jean. Deciding not to torture Penny with something that wasn't true anyway, she shrugged. "Well, you don't have to be jealous of her. I admit that we are very close. . . but you're both my friends and I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Okay." Penny sounded ashamed of herself. Suddenly, she remembered what she was about to say before her outburst and her head shot up. "Oh my God, I almost forgot what I was going to tell you."
"What?" Flick was slightly worried by the expression on Penny's face.
"Like I said, I'm doing my clinical placement at the local hospital. Guess who one of my patients was?"
"Who?" Flick's heart skipped a beat; whom did Penny know that she would know as well? Not Rei. . .? "Is it Rei? Why would she be in the hospital? Is she okay? Is she hurt?"
Penny shook her head vehemently, to Flick's relief. "No, no. It's Kezia!"
Kezia? Rei's sister-in-law? "What's she doing there? Is she okay?" Just as long as it wasn't Rei, Flick was only mildly concerned.
"She attempted suicide!" Penny exclaimed. "It seems that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy the past couple of months. She couldn't take it, though, and decided to take her own life. . . Thank God Lisha found her in time!" Penny said in a rush.
"Shit, that's awful," Flick said, feeling a rush of sympathy for the woman she met only a few times but rather liked. "Is she stable now? Was that why she needed psych consultation?"
Penny nodded. "She looked really tired and withered, you know? Her hair's fallen out and she's really skinny and pale. I think you should go see her, Flick."
The blonde scoffed. "Nah. She's got Lisha and Vince. . ." Speaking the surgeon's name left a bad taste in her mouth, but she forged on. ". . . and Rei," she continued, her voice breaking a little when she spoke her ex-partner's name. "Why would she want to see me?" She wondered briefly about how Rei was handling it all, but the thought of Vince being there with her abolished further speculation; surely Vince would be supportive and loving.
"Well, she asked about you, for one."
"Did she?" Flick was curious. "I'm sure she was just being polite," she brushed it off.
"She said she really liked you and thought that you and Rei were good together. Then she said something about understanding that you were young and wanted to see other people."
"What?" Flick was truly confused now. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Penny shrugged. "I wouldn't know. You didn't tell me anything, remember?" She couldn't help but remind Flick. At Flick's startled look, Penny sighed at herself. "Okay, okay. So I'm still a little sore about it. C'mon. Let's go see her? You can tell me about Rei along the way?" she suggested, needing Flick to say yes.
Disturbed green eyes flickered onto Penny's face briefly. She nodded.
"It's nice of Jean to loan you her bike," Penny said in an unimpressed tone. She couldn't help but feel sore at how close Flick and Jean were; it was going to take some getting used to.
"Yeah," Flick murmured as she climbed off the bike. "She's gonna be at uni the whole day."
"Is something going on between you two?" Penny had to ask. She sighed in relief when Flick shook her head. "Thank God," she mumbled, much to Flick's amusement.
"Do you dislike her so much?" she inquired as they entered the lift. She wasn't used to being coveted and it felt kind of good, actually.
"No, I. . ." Penny sighed as they exited the lift. "I'll get over it," she said wryly. "Give me time, okay?" She stuck out a tongue at Flick's amused smile. "Oops. In here." Penny pointed at a door.
Flick suddenly felt nervous and her hands felt clammy at the possibility of bumping into Rei. As much as she did not want to see Rei, she had to admit that she was secretly hoping that she would.
"Do you want me to check?" Penny rightly read her friend's mind. She smiled at Flick's nod and knocked softly on the door before putting her head in. "All clear," she said.
Sighing, Flick entered the room with mixed emotions. She started questioning why she was here in the first place. However, the slight figure on the bed took away all her doubts. Kezia looked awful.
"Hey there. What a surprise," Kezia greeted with a soft voice. Flick smiled awkwardly. "Come on over. Penny told you?"
It wasn't really a question; how else could Flick have known of Kezia's hospitalization? "Yes. Uh, I'm sorry. Do you want me to leave?" She shouldn't have come. She wondered if Kezia was offended and if Penny would get into trouble for betraying a patient's privacy.
"No, no. It's nice to see you, Flick."
Flick blew out a breath and went over to Kezia's side. "How are you feeling, Kezia?"
"I guess I'm kinda glad that I didn't die," the woman admitted. "I couldn't take going to the hospital anymore, you know? I was sick of it all -- the disease, the treatment. . . I hated the smell of the hospital. I feel like barfing every time the smell hits me."
Flick looked on sympathetically, helpless and clueless as to what to say to that. "But I'll never forget the look of anguish on Lisha's face when she found me," Kezia sniffled. "That was when I started fighting to stay alive. I never thought about their pain. . . only my own."
Flick nodded, surprised at the pain that she was feeling when Kezia said that. It brought back her own set of memories -- her pain and anguish at her parents' deaths. "If you had died, she would have never forgiven you," Flick said in conviction.
Kezia looked at her in surprise. "That was exactly what Rei said." At the mention of Rei, Flick flinched and looked away. Kezia sized up her reaction with interest. "Does talking about Rei discomfort you?"
Flick shrugged. "No," she lied. "How is she anyway?"
"All right. Getting by," Kezia said slowly.
"Yeah, she should be. With Vince by her side." Flick couldn't help but sound spiteful.
"Yes," Kezia agreed. "Vince has been very supportive."
Flick felt physically sick when she heard that. "Well, good for her. I hope she's happy." She was about to spring out of her seat and dash out of the room when she felt a feeble touch on her arm.
"Please. Stay a little longer." Flick could not bring herself to say no. She nodded and sat back down. "Rei and Vince. . ."
Flick shook her head. "I don't really care." She tried to slip on a mask of indifference but knew it was pointless. No matter how much she wanted not to care, she did care.
Kezia did not heed Flick's rejection and forged on, suspecting that there might be something more to what Rei had told her about Flick being with someone else. "They're not together, you know?" The surprised look on Flick's face confirmed her suspicions. "It's true that Vince has been helping out. With me in this state and Lisha needing attention, Rei would suffer a nervous breakdown if not for Vince. But that's just the extent of their relationship."
Flick nodded, feeling much better upon knowing that Rei did not jump right back into Vince's arms after they broke up. But knowing that still did not change the fact that Rei did not want to be with her because of Lisha's inability to accept her. Seeing no change in Flick's expression, Kezia felt disappointed that she had misjudged the situation. "So, how are you and your new girlfriend?" She changed the subject.
Flick scoffed. "What new girlfriend?"
Kezia blinked in surprise. "I thought Rei said you were seeing someone. . . what's her name. . . Jane?"
Brows furrowed in confusion. "Jean," she corrected Kezia. "I've never gone out with Jean. Whatever gave Rei that idea?"
"I don't know." Kezia shrugged. Maybe now she was getting somewhere. "Maybe you should ask her," she suggested wisely.
Flick thought about that for a moment, then sighed. "Nah. What's the point? Everything's in the past. Knowing won't change anything because Lisha will never accept me." Before Kezia could say anything more, Flick got up from her seat again. "I really have to go now, Kezia. I hope you get better. I. . ." she broke off, unsure if she should continue.
She saw the look of encouragement on Kezia's face and drew a breath. "Be strong, okay? Hurting yourself is also hurting the people who care about you." With that, she let herself out of the room.
She had basically told Kezia what she couldn't tell her parents and, strangely, it felt like a closure. The knowledge made her heart feel a little lighter. So engrossed was she in her thoughts that she almost walked into someone who was standing in her path. "Sorry," she muttered under her breath and sidestepped the stranger.
Looking up in surprise at the sound of her name, Flick saw a tentative looking Lisha staring at her. "Hi," she said stupidly. She had always thought that a sighting with Lisha would bring about a rush of anger, but as she stood there returning Lisha's stare, all she could feel was regret and awkwardness.
"Hi," Lisha returned shyly. "What are you doing here?"
Scratching the back of her head in an unconscious effort to stop herself from fleeing from this awkward meeting, Flick grimaced. "Uh, Penny. . ." Where the hell was Penny anyway? "I. . . Well, I came to visit Kezia," she finally choked out. If this was the way she acted in front of Lisha, she should pray that she never meets Rei again.
"Oh. How did you know?" Flick merely shrugged, wishing that the conversation would end. Seeing that Flick did not wish to speak, Lisha mumbled an "Okay. . ." and shuffled her feet uncomfortably. "Mum misses you," she said finally, in a rush. Flick looked up at her in surprise. "I didn't tell her what you wanted me to tell her. . ." she trailed off.
Flick felt anger rising inside of her but it quickly ebbed away. It was to be expected; Lisha didn't want Rei and her to be together. Why would she relate her message to the woman that she loved?
"Maybe you should tell it to her yourself."
"Huh?" Flick was truly confused. "What's the point? It's not going to change anything."
Lisha shrugged. "I know you've got a new girlfriend now. . ."
"I do not!" Flick said vehemently, causing Lisha to step back in surprise. "Sorry," she apologized. "I don't have a new girlfriend, okay? I never did. I don't know where she got the idea. . ."
"She saw you and Jean kissing!" Lisha exclaimed.
"What?" Flick was about to laugh it off when a memory crept up on her. Jean and she had only kissed twice -- once when they were at her place, slightly trashed, and the other was also at her place. . . "When my door was busted open!" Flick thought aloud. "Oh God," she groaned. "She couldn't have seen that! It couldn't have been that coincidental!"
"Hah! So you admit it!" Lisha said, her eyes flashing. "You cheated on my mum!" All her earlier politeness flew out of the window, replaced by her loyalty to her mother.
"No I didn't!" Flick defended herself, decidedly weirded out by the events of the day. "I. . ." She shook her head. "Jean kissed me but I pushed her away. Okay?" She felt ridiculous standing there, explaining herself to Lisha, but she didn't want to be wronged.
"Really?" Lisha asked suspiciously. Flick nodded. Deciding that Flick was telling the truth, Lisha took the older girl's hand and led her away. Flick could only stupidly follow.
"Thanks, doctor," Rei rose from her seat and Vince shadowed her movements beside her.
"No problem. You're lucky to have Dr. Jackson helping you out. He's a good doctor," Kezia's doctor smiled at the brunette.
Rei smiled at her companion. "Yeah. He's been a great help," she acquiesced, succeeding in drawing a blush from Vince.
"Well then maybe you'll buy the great help lunch?" Vince teased as he opened the door for Rei to exit. He was sure that he was getting to Rei. Over the past few months, they had gotten closer; he had given her the comfort, help and support that she needed, making her see that she needed him in her life. On several occasions, he had wanted to start up something more, but told himself that the time wasn't right. He was confident, though, that they would be together again soon.
Caught up with his thoughts, Vince didn't realize that Rei had stopped walking and stepped on the heel of her shoe. "Rei?" He looked up, saw the frozen look of surprise on Rei's face, then to whatever she was looking at. Oh fuck, he swore when he saw Flick standing there with Lisha. "What the hell is she doing here? Hasn't she caused you enough anguish?" he said self-righteously. "I'll get rid of her," he offered, anxious to do just that.
He took Rei's silence to mean consent, and he quickly walked over to where Flick was. "What do you want?" His glance flickered to Lisha. "Honey, why don't you go over to where your mum is and let me settle this?"
"Flick wants to talk to mum." Lisha looked from Vince to Flick and wondered, not for the first time, if he was the reason why Flick left her place almost in tears that day.
"But your mum doesn't want to talk to Flick." Lisha looked to where her mother was standing and saw that Rei's back was, indeed, facing them. She gazed apologetically at Flick. "Go on. I'll be a second," Vince murmured to Lisha and smiled when the girl did as she was told. He ushered a despondent looking Flick out of the hospital.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, furious at how close he had come to losing Rei again. "Didn't I tell you to get lost? Rei doesn't want to see you! We're going to get married soon, so just leave us alone!" he almost shouted.
Marriage? But Kezia said. . . Flick narrowed her eyes. "You're lying!" she shouted. "You're not even with Rei!" Her eyes rounded. "You've been lying from the start, haven't you? Telling me that she doesn't want to be with me, that she doesn't want to see me?"
The surprise on Vince face told her everything. She broke loose from his grip and sprinted back into the hospital but she couldn't see Rei or Lisha anywhere. Instead, she saw Penny coming towards her. "Rei?" The urgency in her voice told Penny all she needed to know.
"I saw her going off. I think she went to the car park." Flick nodded gratefully and ran off in the same direction with Penny trailing close behind her.
Ignoring the insistent tapping on her shoulder, Flick sped through the traffic. Not really comfortable with carrying a pillion, however, she was annoyed that she wasn't going as quickly as she hoped she would be. She pulled over at the side of the road and motioned for Penny to get off. "I'll see you at Rei's," she said before speeding off again.
She hoped that was where Rei would be. Even if she wasn't there, Flick was determined to wait for her until she came home. She just needed to see Rei so badly, to talk to her. Maybe there was still hope? Maybe it was all a misunderstanding? She was hoping against hope that Rei still felt for her as she did for Rei. How could Rei think that she would cheat on her with Jean? Then again, if she had seen Vince and Rei kissing. . . She quickly shook her head in attempt to dislodge that image.
So preoccupied with her thoughts, Flick reacted a little too slowly when the driver on her right tried to cut his car into her lane without checking his blind spot. She squeezed the brakes hurriedly, but his bumper still hit the front wheel of her bike, causing her to lose control of the vehicle. Swerving precariously, Flick thought that was it for her.
The next thing she knew, she was on the ground, and Jean's bike was lying beside her. A few passers-by started crowding around her. "Are you all right? Someone call the ambulance!"
"No, no," she mumbled as she tried to push herself up. She was in shock and her head was spinning slightly. "No," she repeated herself firmly. "I'm okay. I. . ." She fumbled with the catch on the helmet and took it off.
"But you're bleeding!"
She looked down dazedly at herself and saw that her right arm and leg were scraped and the wounds were bleeding through her clothing. "I'm okay," she insisted. "Please, I just need to get going." She thought for a second, bent down, pulled out the keys to Jean's bike, said a mental apology to her friend, and went off in the direction of Rei's home.
"Mum, you okay?" Lisha eyed her mother suspiciously. She did not trust the smile Rei gave her. "Why didn't you want to talk to Flick?" she pried. She had come to accept that her mother did not care for Vince the way she cared for Flick. After being certain that Vince would not be cut out of their lives as she thought he would be, she wanted her mother to be happy. And, if being with Flick made her happy, then. . .
"I don't see the need."
Lisha found it hard to believe that her mother was telling the truth. Rather than calling her mother a liar, however, she went over and gave her a hug -- one that Rei returned with surprise.
When she pulled away, Lisha twiddled her fingers and contemplated how to phrase her words. "She, um, she came over, you know? Once. . ." she started awkwardly.
"Flick?" Rei asked uncertainly and squeezed her eyes shut. Seeing Flick today had been a shock to her system. She had expected bumping into her in the park or at the few places they had been to together, but no matter how often she looked out for the familiar figure, Flick and she never crossed paths. The hospital was the last place she had expected to see the girl at.
"Yeah," Lisha continued hesitantly. "It was the day we found out that Aunt Kezia was sick?" she said helpfully. Rei thought for a while and nodded. Vince had come over that day and had driven them down to the hospital.
"Vince went out to get us some food when we got back. . ." Lisha saw her mother nod and continued. "I wanted to ask him to get me a cheeseburger so I went after him. He was talking to Flick. She, um, she looked as though she had been crying."
"Vince was speaking to Flick?" Rei had to ask. Lisha nodded. "Outside? Here?" She was incredulous. Why didn't anyone say anything to her? Another nod. "Why didn't you tell me?" She knew why Vince would want to keep it from her, but Lisha. . .?
Lisha hung her head. "I was confused. I thought that you would disappear with her again and not bother about Aunt Kezia and me again. I didn't want you to. . ."
Rei's expression softened and she looked as though she was going to cry. "Lisha. . . I'm sorry. . . I know it was really selfish of me to not tell you about Flick in the beginning and go off without you. But I was afraid too. I. . . I was falling for her so quickly and I was afraid that you wouldn't accept her and. . . I'm so sorry honey."
Lisha sniffled. "I know. And I'm sorry too. I should have told you. She wanted me to tell you that. . ." A loud knocking on the door interrupted her sentence. "Maybe it's her!" Lisha jumped up, excited. She got Rei excited too. "Go talk to her, mum!"
Rei looked uncertainly at Lisha for a moment before a brilliant smile split across her face. She went to the door and flung it open without looking to see who it was. Her smile faltered when she saw Vince standing outside her home with an anxious expression on his face. "What are you doing here?" Her animosity for him returned tenfold after learning of his meeting with Flick. Somehow she had a feeling that he had said something to Flick that day and lent a helping hand to the unfolding of the events.
"Rei. . ." he started, glancing about her anxiously and was slightly relieved to see that Flick was nowhere in sight. "I love you," he stated firmly. "Please, come back to me. She wasn't here when you needed somebody. . . I was. And I'll never leave you. Not like her. I'll never betray you. I love only you. Please, Rei. Please come back to me?"
Her expression softened. She was about to speak when she caught sight of someone coming down the street. Her breath caught and her heart skipped a beat when she recognized it to be Flick. "I can't," she said in a sorrowful voice. "There's only one person I care about that way, and she's coming up right behind you."
Vince turned and saw a disheveled looking Flick coming down the walkway with a yellow helmet in one hand, reminiscent of the day he turned her away at Rei's door step. He turned back to Rei, saw the look in her eyes, and knew that he had lost her. "What can she give you that I can't?" He had to try; she was his very existence. Without her, he was nothing.
The answer came from behind him and he whirled around in rage. "Everything? You have nothing!" he cried out.
"You're wrong. With her, I have everything," Flick said with conviction, her gaze fixed on Rei. She was answering Vince but her words were for Rei. "I was wrong to believe what you said. I didn't have enough trust in what we had. . . I was scared." She snorted. Her arm was throbbing but she pushed the discomfort aside. She hoped she wasn't making a big fool of herself with what she was saying.
"I thought I was weak for letting someone in. I couldn't afford losing her, so I stupidly tried to give her up. Everyone else left me -- why should she be any different?" She saw Rei trying to say something but she stopped her with a subtle shake of her head.
"But losing Rei only taught me how much I needed her in my life. I thought she chose you over me -- if that had brought her happiness, I would have understood. But she didn't. You lied." Her gaze flickered to Vince's enraged face. "How can you claim that you love her if you have to lie to get her?"
The words seemed to have a physical impact on the man. He staggered slightly and the rage on his face ebbed away. "I did it all out of my love for you, Rei. . ." He turned to Rei, broken and torn.
"Loving someone is wishing for their happiness. Not your own." Rei looked at Flick in surprise, a flood of warmth washing over her at what Flick was saying. She had yet spoken a word, but did not feel the need to. Flick was expressing exactly what she felt.
"Vince, I'm sorry," Rei said finally. "I know you love me. But I can't return that love. I treasure the times that we had but. . ." She knew she should at least feel angry about what Vince did but all she felt for him then was pity and sadness.
Vince raised a hand and nodded. "I understand." He brushed by Flick, got into his car, gave Rei one last look, and drove off.
Not sure what to say now that they were alone, Flick just stood there staring at Rei. Just being in her vicinity caused Flick's heart to work triple time. Would Rei listen to what she had to say? Would Rei believe her when she told her everything was just a misunderstanding? Was she dreaming or was Rei really coming towards her instead of slamming the door in her face?
"What happened?" Rei was looking at the blood on Flick's clothes, concern etched all over her features.
Flick hardly spared her wounds any attention. "Fell off the bike," she said in a distracted voice, not really bothered about the minor scratches. "Rei?" I miss you so much. . .
"Yeah?" Rei couldn't help noticing how much longer Flick's hair had grown and the healthy tan she was sporting. Did her senses deceive her, or did Flick really say what she said when Vince was there earlier? More importantly, did she mean what she said? She waited for Flick to say something, but nothing came forth from the soundless working of the blonde's jaw. They really shouldn't be having a conversation right now; Flick was bleeding and needed medical attention! But she couldn't seem to make herself tear away from the hold of Flick's hypnotic gaze.
"I'm so sorry," said Flick finally, her voice barely above a whisper. At that, Rei let out a soft sob that she herself didn't know she was holding in. "And if you'll still have me. . ."
Whatever else Flick was going to say remained a mystery as Rei crushed the shorter woman in her arms, dipped her head, and tried to express her heartache, longing and love through a deep and heated kiss. For the first time in months, everything fell into place. For the first time in months, everything felt right.
"Ow! Are you sure you're qualified for this?" Flick groused at her friend and flinched when another alcohol swab came her way.
"Stop being such a baby!" Penny huffed, enjoying every single squeal she got out of Flick. Rei's hand on Flick's uninjured one gave her cause to smile. "There, all done!" At Flick's sigh of relief, Penny rubbed her hands together evilly. "Now for your leg."
"Oh gawd." Flick rolled her eyes and looked to Rei helplessly.
"The name's Rei. But you can call me God if you like," Rei teased Flick with an indulgent smile on her face.
Flick didn't know how to respond to that. She feared that this was all a dream and she would wake up to find out that she was alone and Rei was happily married to Vin. . . "Ow!" She jumped, scowling at the beaming Penny who held a swab to her leg. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?" she groused, quietly thankful that her friend had interrupted her thoughts.
Rei shook her head. "Penny, why don't I take over and you go take a look at what Lisha is up to in the kitchen?" Taking pity on her friend and understanding their need for privacy, Penny nodded and got up from her squatting position.
Penny had arrived shortly after Vince left to find her friend and Rei lip-locked in a kiss that made Penny feel as though she was intruding in something very private.
Left alone with Rei, Flick felt the noose of fear tightening around her chest again and she breathed deeply in attempt to get rid of the tightness. "You all right? Are you sure you don't want to see the doctor?" Rei asked worriedly.
Seeing Rei kneeling before her with a concerned expression on her face made her feel warm and fuzzy inside. She was feeling a little dizzy, but she didn't know if it was due to her injuries or Rei. If she could hazard a guess, it would be the latter. "I'm sure. I'm fine. It's Jean's bike I'm worried about."
At the mention of Jean, Rei stiffened. "How is she?" she asked in a tight voice as she bent her head. She cleaned Flick's wounds gently, her heart constricting at the thought of losing Flick again. She reminded herself that Flick just told her she loved her, but that did not take the painful pounding in her chest away. Was it possible to be with Flick again? Did the separation change anything?
"Rei, we need to talk." The dreaded four words. Rei stopped her actions and waited with a sense of impending doom. When Flick did not proceed, she raised her head and assumed the worst. "Lisha told me what you saw," Flick said seriously. "I wish to God you didn't see that but what's done's done." That was it. Flick was with Jean and she wanted to let her down easy. Rei started to get up from the floor but Flick's hand cupping her face stopped her.
"It didn't mean anything, Rei. I didn't feel anything. I didn't kiss her back. I love you, Rei. Only you." Flick tried to choke back the multitude of emotions threatening to overcome her. "I hate being without you. Can we be together again?"
The happiness that coursed through her when she heard those words surpassed even the happiness one might feel when they learnt that they had just won the sixteen million dollar lottery. She wondered at how one person could make her want to give up everything that she owned just to see her happy. It was clichÈ and annoyingly mushy -- something that she had once viewed with much scepticism -- but it was how she truly felt.
"I never left, Flick." Rei pulled Flick to her and felt the softness of Flick's lips with her own. Unlike the passionate kiss they shared earlier at her doorway, this kiss was gentle and accepting, almost fragile in quality.
When Rei tasted saltiness in her lips, she wasn't sure if it was Flick's tears or her own that she was tasting, but it made her deepen the kiss. She explored the once familiar territory slowly and teasingly, quickening her pace only when she heard a moan. Flick could make her feel like she had everything and nothing, an eternity and a moment; she could only wish that she could communicate her sense of longing to Flick.
When they finally broke apart, both of them were slightly gasping for breath but smiling crazily at each other. "You were always here," said Rei, pointing to her head, "and here," she continued, pointing to her chest. "Even when I thought you had left me. Even when I thought you stopped loving me."
Flick tilted her head and gave Rei a lopsided grin, her eyes starting to feel damp again. "Ditto," she said in a cheerful tone, not wanting to cry anymore. She touched her forehead to Rei and they started grinning.
"I'm sorry about the bike, Jean. I'll pay for the damages," Flick said nervously. In truth, that was the least of her worries right now -- she was still trying to figure out a way of telling her friend about Rei without affecting the close bond they shared.
"It's cool. I'm covered. Are you sure you're all right? Did you go see the doc?" In spite of the dressing on her arm, Flick was in the best mood that she had seen her in for a long time.
"Nah, it's just a couple of scratches, no biggie." Flick shrug and ran a hand through her hair. "I met Rei," she blurted out the non sequitur. When Jean remained silent, Flick peered at her friend's face, unsure as to what she would see there.
Jean removed the cigarette from her mouth and exhaled loudly. "I see." She blinked a few times, trying to make sense of the growing ache in her chest.
"Jean?" Jean raised her head with an air of indifference even though her insides were twisting up into an awful knot. Flick tentatively held her friend's hand in her own, half-afraid that Jean would pull away and thankful when the hand relaxed in hers. "I don't want to lose you," she said in a shaky voice.
The simple phrase robbed Jean of her nonchalance and she sighed. "I guess I always knew. . ." She looked at Flick regretfully for a long moment and faked a smile to rid herself of the urge to cry. Flick mirrored her pained smile, knowing the reason behind it. "Don't worry," Jean said finally, "you won't lose me."
Flick released Jean's hand and took her into a tight embrace. In that moment, Jean finally saw the reason why Flick walked into her life; she taught her to love unconditionally again. "I do love you, mate," Flick whispered hoarsely before they pulled apart.
"Yeah, yeah," Jean rolled her eyes in the attempt to lighten the atmosphere. "Get in line, baby," she drawled, smiling when Flick threw her a playful punch. If this was what her friend wanted, she would stand by her like she did all of the other times. She was right with her early assessment of Flick; there was something about the girl that got to her like no one else did.
"Penny says I'm fat," Flick announced in a sober tone.
Rei looked up from her salad, stopped chewing, and gave Flick an amused look. A soft smile played around her lips as she took in the form of her lunch companion from waist up. Nothing she could fault, really. Flick had just given herself a haircut with the help of Jean and the semi-Meg Ryan hairdo framed her face rather nicely. The black sweatshirt that she had on made her look almost shapeless, but Rei had felt the soft, warm curves of the body underneath when they hugged earlier and she had absolutely no complaints whatsoever with the size of anything on Flick's body.
She no longer felt threatened by Jean's and Flick's friendship. Rei accepted the bond that Flick and Jean shared and knew that it was something that was theirs alone. Jean and she may never truly become friends, but she felt comforted knowing that Flick had at least one person other than herself who would do anything for her.
"I'm fat." Flick stared at an invisible spot on the white tablecloth, quite visibly distressed. Rei's attention riveted back to her Flick, an amused smile playing on her lips.
Strong jaws resumed their chewing of a rather unhealthy grilled chicken Caesar salad with extra dressing and greasy bacon bits. It was safer to keep her mouth full, Rei decided as she chomped on her salad enthusiastically.
Flick trained her eyes on her companion and Rei knew by the look in those eyes. . . just knew what was coming. "Do you think I'm fat?" Flick asked with what Rei considered an adorably despondent expression on her face.
Trying to choke back a laugh whilst having a mouth full of leaves was not the easiest thing to accomplish, Rei could testify to that. She sputtered slightly and coughed into her napkin, careful not to look at the concerned Flick for fear that her act might slip.
"Are you okay? Do you want some water? Here. Have some water. . ." Flick was halfway out of her seat when Rei recovered herself.
She cleared her throat. "I'm fine. I just. . . must be the damn bacon," she accused the innocent morsel without a single shred of remorse. Taking a chance, she made a show of glancing at her wristwatch and exclaimed at how late it was getting. "Lisha will kill me if I don't pick her up on time," she said as she waited to see if Flick had bought her act.
Glancing at her bulky sports watch, Flick nodded. "We'd better go then. I'll get the check?" At Rei's answering nod, she motioned for the waiter, completely missing the relieved look that passed the brunette's face.
Minutes later, they made their way out of the cafÈ and onto the cool, windy streets. "So," Flick said as they walked down a street with leaves scattered everywhere, "do you think I'm fat?"
Hoboy. . . and I thought I got away with it. Rei frowned slightly, throwing a glance at the girl beside her to see Flick occupied with staring at the golden brown leaves that carpeted the ground they were walking on. If she denied it, Flick would say that she was being biased and even worse, untruthful. If she affirmed it. . . God help her if she affirmed it. Knowing that either answer she gave would come back and bite her in the arse anyway, she decided to go for the lesser of the two evils. "Nope," she said simply, hoping that Flick would just leave it at that.
She pulled Flick closer to her as the wind picked up slightly, her arm resting comfortably on Flick's shoulders. The breeze picked some of the leaves around them up and the sidewalk seemed to come to life. Who knew walking down a stretch of road could be so enjoyable when it was done with the right person? She was waiting for another bout of whinging when she felt a warm pressure on her cool cheek. She looked down in surprise.
An impish looking face looked back at her. "Okay," Flick said happily as she wrapped her arm around Rei's waist, effectively pulling their bodies closer than they were before.
A chuckle escaped a surprised Rei. That, she had not expected. Hoped for, yes. Expected, no. A kiss and a simple 'okay' was all? That would teach her to assume. The action warmed her considerably for no particular reason and in reaction, she planted a long, hard kiss on Flick's head and smiled at the upturned face.
"What's that for?" Flick asked in amusement.
"That's to tell you that I love you," Rei answered, watching fondly as Flick looked shyly away. "So. How's Penny settling into her new place?" she asked, changing the subject as they neared Lisha's school.
Penny had moved out of the hostel and into a shared household not too long ago. According to Flick, she was going through the guys in her course like the weeding process: target, acquire, abandon. She could hear Flick's voice beside her but she was appreciating its timbre rather than what Flick was actually saying.
"Rei? Are you listening to me?" Flick pinched the Rei's waist and snickered when Rei jumped away from the ticklish touch instinctively.
"Hey! What'd ya do that for?" Rei had already forgotten what her question was, much less be concerned with Flick's answer. Flick ignored her plaintive cry and wriggled her fingers again, making the taller woman jump and push the offending digits away from her ticklish spots.
Rei narrowed her eyes when Flick stuck her tongue out at her and gave the blonde her best sneer. Flick saw the look and started running with Rei hot on her heels. Flick was anticipating the feel of Rei's arms around her, and when she eventually caught up with her, she leaned into the embrace. It was a beautiful day, she thought breathlessly, and there was no one else she would rather be with in the whole wide world. She cringed inwardly at the sappy sentiment.
"C'mon," Rei whispered in her ear, her breath warming the side of her face, "Kezia's waiting for us at home. She already volunteered to stay in with Lisha tonight after dinner. . ." she trailed off suggestively. Kezia was feeling much stronger as the effects of the chemo treatment wore off. She no longer entertained thoughts of ending her life after realizing that there was still so much to live for.
Rei also found that Flick was not as elusive as she was before their separation, and it warmed her to know that Flick was slowly getting over her parents' death instead of trying to forget it. She would talk about her parents a lot more, and her pensiveness would appear a lot less. Rei knew that Kezia had played a big part in that change and she was grateful to her sister-in-law for that.
"So?" Flick asked innocently, enjoying the thrill of anticipation that ran down her side at Rei's words.
"So that leaves me to baby-sit you!" Rei laughed when Flick squirmed in her embrace.
Fully expecting Flick to pull away, Rei was pleasantly surprised when Flick turned around in the circle of her arms to face her. Ignoring the curious looks attributed to them by the passers-by, Rei waited breathlessly as Flick leaned towards her and started a toe-warming kiss. She pulled them off the footpath and behind a stout tree, hiding them from the prying eyes of strangers as she sampled the sweetness that was Flick.
Rei cradled Flick's slightly flushed face in her hands and sighed happily at the reflection of love in those eyes. The golden brown leaves falling around them painted a magical backdrop that was fitting for the moment.
Their lives were not perfect; they still had to work out their future and whatever problems that came with it. Vince and she had to work out a system that would please them both and Lisha, and she had to make sure that she did not neglect Lisha and Kezia like she did before. But at the very least, Rei was secured by the knowledge that Flick and she were going to work at it together, and that was the main thing. She was lucky enough to find love twice in a lifetime when some beg to find it once, and she would never let it go again without a fight.
"By the way, Lisha said that you left her message to tell me that day you came by. . ." At Flick's confused glance, Rei elaborated, "The day Vince told you to leave?"
Recognition dawned upon Flick and she nodded. "Yeah?" The memory no longer hurt her now that Rei and she were together again, but she would much rather not think about the sad times.
"What was it?" Rei was curious; Lisha never did tell her the message.
"Does it matter now?" Flick grinned as she lowered her eyes.
"Yes. . . Of course it does. If you left me a message, I want to hear it," Rei insisted. She lifted Flick's chin and mirrored her partner's grin. "Did it consist of you singing my praises and saying how god-like I was?" she teased.
Flick snickered and shook her head. "Nah, I told her to tell you to kiss my arse," she said in a droll tone.
"Ooh, were you into that already? I thought you only ha-mmph!" Rei's lips moved behind Flick's hand, blue eyes flashing wickedly at the blush that was crawling up Flick's face. Rei pulled the offending hand away and chuckled. "Have I told you how much I love seeing you blush?"
Green eyes rolled. "Only about a million times," she said in a mock exasperated tone. Her eyes widened when she realized that Rei had caught her other hand as well and pulled both her arms behind her. The action caused their bodies to move closer together, and she found themselves in a much too intimate position for a public place. "Um, Rei. . ."
"Tell me," the taller woman urged, her breath warm on Flick's face. The expression on Rei's face caused a bolt of emotion to shoot through her, and the tone of Rei's voice made her own catch.
"I just wanted her to tell you that I love you." Flick gazed openly into Rei's eyes, marveling at how someone like Rei could fall in love with someone like her. "That's all."
Rei lowered her face until her lips were a breath away from Flick's before she spoke. "That's not all, Flick. That's everything." Her lips finished their journey and Flick's hands freed themselves to snake up her body and around her neck. There they stood in the middle of the falling leaves, showing each other how they felt in actions that spoke louder than any words ever could.
End Notes: As they say, "that's it, folks!" I just wanted to say how sorry I am that this took such a long time to eventuate and thank those of you out there who have sent me words of encouragement and support throughout the wait.
For those who have requested a love scene, well. . . I didn't want to insert one just for the sake of having one, so I reckon it'll have to wait till the sequel before it happens, if I set my mind to write a sequel.
Jan 2001 ~ 07 July 2002, revised 05 September 2002