I would like to thank Mavis for her graciousness and generosity week after week, and for hosting the Challenge. It prompted me to create my first complete fic.
My profound thanks to GSB for her encouragement and feedback, she helped make this a better story; to Dunan for funning up my days, and most importantly, for Carol, who shares my heart.
Disclaimer: It's an uber of you-know-who to help with visualisation. The story is fictional and any reference to persons or places living or dead is purely coincidental.
This is also a tribute to the bards who have entertained me for years with their writings.
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was written as part of Maviss Bday Challenge 2004 and copyright is retained by the author.
Alex blinked her eyes and drew a deep breath. The traffic was rising with the sun but it wasn't too bright yet.
As she took a few more breaths to kick-start her brain, her glance took in the sleeping visage of her best friend, Tory.
They had fallen asleep on their sides, facing each other on the "Dream Bed", a guaranteed heavenly sleep courtesy of the Westin Hotel. Alex's gaze caressed her friend's features; it was a rare opportunity to study every line and aspect of a familiar face. Only this time, Alex realised in the back of her mind, this time her heart was appreciating the most beautiful woman in her life.
The sun was rising quickly. The line of shadow across the far wall was sliding, leaving the chamber muted in golden hues. Her senses awakening to the light, Alex felt her heartbeat quicken as she strove to memorise Tory's peaceful expression, the line of her jaw, her curvaceous lips and the dusky hollow of her throat. A little lower and a thin gold necklace could be seen drooped in her cleavage.
Then, the sun chased the shadows away and pleasant warmth seeped into the room. Just as she thought Tory's face would be kept in the dark from the incoming sunrays, she shifted in her sleep with a soft, "Mmmph", onto her back to grace Alex with her profile, illuminated by the diffused golden halo beaming through the sheer curtains.
Alex ran her tongue over dry lips. Tory had never looked more beautiful and Alex was never more aware of lying in bed with her. A stray ray of sunshine snuck between the curtains and sparkled in Alex's blue eyes. Her vision was momentarily blinded and her mind took her back to another time in the bright sunshine.
"You're serious, Alex?"
Alex's viciously pulled at the grass nearest her hand, "Yeah".
They were lolling around in a field, the park at the bay was a favourite spot to relax in the evenings. They often went there to read, walk, play with other people's dogs or sunbathe when summer was high.
Tory was sitting up with her legs splayed and arms locked rigidly for balance behind her back. Alex lay on her stomach, sneaking peeks at Tory's tanned legs generously bared by her pink walking shorts. They had been chatting about their week, end of school and a million other things that only best friends could endlessly talk about. After weeks of serious thought, Alex had decided to ditch the rest of college and travel instead, so she could paint. She had expected disbelief or scorn when she revealed her budding plan to Tory, after all, what sane student would quit a business degree scholarship at Princeton to bum around painting god knows what.
Suddenly, a slim hand gently lay atop her nervous one. Alex abstractedly admired the smooth sleek lines of the appendage before she looked up at its owner.
"Alex, you know I love you but I don't know what to say. If this is your dream, and you're absolutely certain in your heart that this is what you want to do," Tory smiled wistfully, "then do it. Do it and damn anyone who tells you otherwise."
The sun broke through from the clouds and shone behind Tory's head, creating a dazzling halo through wisps of golden hair.
"So, what're you going to paint?"
You, Alex thought.
As it turned out, Alex did finish her degree. Her parents, surprisingly, did not object to her plans on the proviso that she completed college. They also gave her access to her trust fund to cushion the bumpy road ahead.
Unbeknownst to them, Alex had a sensible plan. Her first stop abroad was France, then the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, finally stopping for a good six months in Portugal. She lived and worked on the bohemian and poorer sides of each state, at first naively believing it was the best place to learn the craft and meet the art community. She knew it was also the best place to love women.
Awash with the romanticism of poetry, art and philosophy, Alex was determined to learn from masters as well as experimenting students. After months of talking, living and explaining her art, she sadly concluded that her talent was slightly less than groundbreaking. Nonetheless, if she couldn't be like Artemisia (in talent not in life), she would be the next best thing.
Utilising her education, both formal and informal, Alex started pulling in her contacts from the art underground. With support from her trust fund, she cajoled and charmed her way to encouraging little known artists to display their works. Firstly, according to themes then, as her exhibitions became more popular, she started highlighting controversial and ultimately commercially successful works.
This brought her to the attention of the haute arte world. Suddenly, she was the toast of Paris, Florence, Madrid, Prague and a ragged passport underscored her busy schedule. She worked hard and played hard. Her profile was increasingly tagged by the legendary fashion and art houses of Europe. The fruits of her labour were triumphantly displayed.
Along the climb to success, Alex had open liaisons with models, designers, artists and they in turn could not get enough of her. Her signature soft suits flattered her height and trim build. Ebony hair and flashing blue eyes had the paparazzi scrambling for magazine cover shots, along with the latest titbit of gossip.
Then at twenty-eight years old, the darling of European modern art paid a visit to Mexico while on holiday, and proceeded to charm the art community there. Before long, she was answering invitations from the Far East as they sought to bring association with her showings. Her roadshow was booked two years in advance.
Despite travelling extensively, Alex always made it home a few times a year. She bought a small farm on the other side of the state from her parents, but they were still keeping close tabs. Her apartment in the city was convenient for work and lovers.
A shiver brought on by the pre-set temperature in the hotel room made Alex grab the full-cotton sheets and lightly lay them over Tory and herself. Despite the sunrays warming the room there were pockets of coolness, which made her aware of their nakedness.
Alex remembered her last trip a couple of weeks ago. She was in her apartment after flying in from Singapore. The art festival there was dizzying in its frenzied bid to be the best in the region.
She came home to a cold, silent unit. The place was kept clean and stocked by her family. The penthouse duplex, furnished in woods and oversized furniture, tried to impart a sense of warmth and comfort. It partially succeeded. But the place did not feel like home, not when she still had memories of a dorm room, which for four years was home for her and Tory, and Tory's cottage after that.
Victoria and Alex first bumped into each other at kindergarten. Their parents were new money in an old city, but they were determined not to stick to snobby norms. Lovingly, they released their daughters into a regular pre-school where both families met.
Alex remembered feeling a little overwhelmed by the new sights and sounds but soon got into the spirit of fun when she found she had lots of toys and new playmates. Her first months at kindy saw her emerge as leader to some of the kids. She met her new best friend when some bigger boys grabbed her crayons. Before she could yell and tussle for it, she felt a tug on her shirt.
Turning around, a cute blonde haired girl with the largest green-eyes was looking at her beseechingly. Temporarily distracted, she was about to yank her shirt back when the little girl shoved some crayons in her face, the tip of one marking her nose. Seeing this, the blonde girl started giggling. Alex was annoyed; she swiped the crayons from the kid and was about to chuck them when she saw that they were a pretty combination. The kid blinked at her. Alex flicked her gaze from the crayons to the kid. The girl was waiting.
"Yours?" Alex grudgingly acknowledged.
The kid nodded her head vigorously and squeaked, "I have more, we can share."
Alex sighed and took the girl's hand. They flopped onto the floor and proceeded to doodle the dickens out of the art paper. By the end of the day, Alex learned that her friend's name was Victoria but it was real hard to pronounce so they decided it should be Tory, and Tory was going to live with her forever.
Their instant bond amused their parents. That connection lasted through separate grade schools but they got into the same high school and swore they would never be apart again.
High school saw Tory bloom into a gorgeous beauty. Her blonde hair, up till then conservatively pony-tailed, was snipped into a spiky post-punk style which, coupled with her soulful green eyes and soft personality, made her irresistible to the girls. Yes, Tory decided she was gay and kept it out through high school. Alex was terrified she would be a target for gay-bashers and experimenting bi-curious girls. As the fates would have it, Tory was popular with nearly everyone. It also helped that she ran the school radio and was a wicked DJ, and the black belt in Aikido was cool, too.
Alex excelled in athletics, dated the hottest guys and stuck by Tory all through high school. Tory had so many extra-curricular activities that she hardly had time for a full-on girlfriend, more than one girl's heart was broken but Tory would always gently hold them as they cried after the break-up make out session.
When they reached university, Tory dropped her baby dyke attitude to concentrate on her studies. Volunteer work at non-profit organisations dealing with gay youth led her to choose a degree in social studies. She joined and attended women and gay issues groups, instructed self-defence courses for women on campus and fell in love with Alex.
The quiet epiphany occurred when they were sharing the couch and studying. Alex made her a cup of tea, something she did every evening. They sat on opposite ends and crossed their legs over each other's. Alex was unconsciously massaging her foot as she read. Tory looked over and realised that the easy intimacy they shared was all the sweeter because she was in love with her best friend.
Alex chose that moment to look up from her book, "Wassup?"
Embarrassed, Tory shrugged, "Nothing."
"Uh huh." Alex's eyes twinkled as she thought she had caught Tory in a dirty thought.
As easily as she scored a scholarship, Alex found college challenging and exciting. For the first time in her life, she was living away from her family and thrown into a fertile population of thousands of young adults. Her hormones were galloping and she followed. It was at early college when she met her first female lover.
Maria was a visiting student from Cuba. It was a quiet student bar where the track team was relaxing after their Thursday workout. Only a few guys and Alex were having a last round before heading back to the residence halls. The music in the bar suddenly jumped to House with a strong Latino beat. The bartender had decided to play something to liven up the closing hours of the evening, besides, it wasn't busy. A few couples took to the little dance floor and tried to samba. It was all in good fun. Alex smiled and tapped her finger to the beat.
As she watched the dancers, she noticed a shapely ass in a tight skirt effortlessly swaying on sexy hips. Further up the body was a full head of lustrous curls slightly wet with perspiration and half-lidded eyes watching her. Watching her? The dancing woman issued a challenging smirk with a raised eyebrow and pouting lips. Alex found herself moving towards her and suddenly they were grinding belly to belly, stuck from hip to thigh all the way down to their knees. Alex held her own arms still by her sides but the woman wound her arms around Alex's neck. Alex could feel the muscles under her partners skirt as the woman led the dance. They swayed in rhythm, Alex still had not touched her partner with her hands but her breath was getting hotter as she inhaled the spicy scent of the woman rubbing herself along her front. A half hour later, Alex stroked those naked dance-hardened thigh muscles with her palms while her tongue was buried in Maria's cunt. They had vigorous sex all night, Alex worked muscles she had never known and a whole new world of appreciation opened up for her.
Alex was unsure if Tory would be happy with the news. Her friend had had her share of bi-curious lovers and was ambivalent about them, so she decided to see if Maria was a one-time thing. After Maria, Yolanda, Mike, Petra and Chris, Alex knew she had to tell Tory.
On a Friday night in their shared room, Alex decided to broach the topic. They had just finished a quick dinner and were studying before hitting the scene. "How's it going with Linda?"
Tory was concentrating intently on her notes, "Shes fine," she replied non-committedly. The truth was, Tory had trained herself to block out all distraction when she was studying because the biggest distraction in her life was right in front of her, sitting cross-legged in running shorts and a tank top. She knew if she looked at Alex now, her eyes would reveal her desire.
Tory was a little stunned at Alexs confession. It felt like an episode of Sex in the City. Her best friend was gay. Well, not completely. OK. I can deal with this. After all, Alex had never made a big deal about her sexuality. Maybe shes experimenting - a tiny voice in her mind miffed that Alex hadnt chosen her - ugh.
Realising she was taking a long minute to respond, Tory came back to the present. Alex was worrying her bottom lip and plucking the bed sheet.
Do the right thing, Tory.
"How do you feel about this?"
Alex peeped up through her eyelashes, "Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
Relieved, Alex grinned and Tory proceeded to grill her on the events leading up to that night. Over the next few weeks, Tory hovered over her when they went out to gay clubs and social meetings. She drilled safety and political issues into Alexs brain until Alex smacked her with a pillow to shut her up.
"Im doing this for your own good."
"Tory, youre killing the fun here."
"Yeah, well "
Alex rolled her eyes, "I know, you have more experience blady blah but sweetie, if Im gonna learn anything I have to do stuff. Even if it sucks."
They had a good laugh and exchanged hugs. Tory gave her blessing and college life was certainly never dull.
It wasnt till later that they became lovers.
How did that happen? Alex thought wryly.
The soft tinkle of cutlery signalled room service setting up breakfast in the main room. It was time to get up but she snuggled deeper into Torys side, just a few minutes more. Her mind continued its drift into the past.
You know what happened, Alex chided herself. It was after the horrible break up with Paula during the sophomore year. Alex mentally shrugged. Well, Paula was certainly entertaining in bed. Still, it was a shock to find her and whatzisname in flagrante delicto.
Alex remembered storming back to her room in a foul mood. Tory was there, quietly doing her homework. Her new glasses were perched low on her nose and a glass of juice stood nearby. Alex blew into the room and slammed the door. Torys paperwork flew off her bed and she had to grab the glass from spilling.
Her roommate wasnt listening. Alex paced the room, muttering and cursing under her breath while jerkily shedding her leather jacket and kicking off her shoes, one of which hit the wall next to Torys desk.
"Alex!" Tory yelled.
"Whats going on?"
"Fuck that fucking bitch!" Alex hadnt stopped swearing.
"Whoa!" Tory took off her glasses and climbed to the other bed, "Here, cmere and tell me what happened." She patted the space next to her and held out her arms.
Alex immediately burst into tears and sobbed out the whole story in Torys arms.
After several hours of cuddling and small pep talks, Alex felt much better. They decided to grab a bite and a couple of pints of gelato for a girls night in.
The got a DVD movie and proceeded to entertain themselves on dessert and liquor toppings. The comparative tasting and sharing got progressively messier. Licking the flavoured cream off spoons and hands brought them closer, the easier to feed each other and clean spills.
Tory half-heartedly tried to wipe a large blob of chocolate and Kahlua from Alex's chest.
"Ooops! It's not coming out. Uh oh, I think I just made it worse," Tory smiled sheepishly.
Glancing down at the stain, Alex said, "Ah, don't worry about it. I had to do laundry anyway." But Tory was still rubbing at the mark. Determined to get at it, she ducked in and sucked the spot, hoping to wet it to ease the colour. She didn't realise her nose was bumping Alex's breast until she heard her gasp. In consternation, she started to move back when Alex grabbed her head with both hands and brought their lips together.
Tory responded instinctively into the kiss. Their lips were sticky sweet but they used their tongues to taste each other deeply. The wet members slid and parried over each other, the texture and smooth friction causing Alex to groan with need. Her hands urgently grasped at Tory's top. She used her body weight to push the other woman onto her back, by which time the shirt was pulled up above Tory's breasts and Alex went crazy suckling and nipping.
"Alex?" Tory heaved. She was stunned by the quick turn of events. Before her mind could protest, her body was arching into Alex's hands and mouth. Her nipples sprang to attention as she felt her sweatpants being slipped off. She wanted to tell Alex to slow down so she could catch her breath but in the next second, as Alex trailed hot breaths down her side, that wonderful mouth found her clit.
Oh god, Tory could feel the tremendous power of her climax building. It was too quick but Alex had wedged her head in snugly between her thighs. Tory clawed at Alex's shoulders and yanked her hair as her own hips lifted off the carpet to thrust harder into Alex's face. She felt an agile tongue reaching deep inside to suddenly set her off. Tory arched her neck back, her spine bowed to the intensity of her climax as she fucked Alex's face until her core exploded into shards of pleasure, suffusing her body with liquid warmth.
Alex couldn't stop tasting Tory. She was acting on primeval need; the urge to take her from that first kiss was overwhelming. She ate Tory out like she was a feast to a starving woman - the smell and taste and feel of Tory everywhere conquered her senses. The more she touched the blonde, the tighter the spiral of her desire. When Tory cried out in ecstasy, Alex eagerly drank the gushing evidence on her tongue. She grunted in surprise when she felt dizzy from her own empathic climax.
Dimly, she noted that she had never come from making love to any of her other lovers before.
Tory lay gasping under Alex, her eyes shut and her left arm flung over her forehead. Alex laid her head on Tory's belly, inhaling the scent of her passion.
Needless to say, their relationship changed after that.
After the explosive first intimate encounter, Alex avoided Tory for days. The morning after, Alex pretty much ran off to class. She even stayed away a couple of nights. Tory sadly knew then that it had been a mistake. In order to preserve their friendship, she had to allay any fears that they would lose their closeness because of a fit of passion.
They tiptoed around each other until Tory had enough. She waited for Alex to return after classes when she knew their schedules were relaxed. Alex let herself in and saw her reading on the bed, she knew it was time.
"We have to talk."
"Tory, I "
Alex stood awkwardly by the door, she didn't want to do this. "Look, I'm sorry for what happened. It I don't know what came over me " she started lamely.
Tory felt a sickening drop in the tummy. Despite the circumstances, a part of her had hoped it would turn out well, that they could finally be together as more than just friends. She ignored the pain of her dying dream.
"You could have told me that you couldn't hold your liquor." Tory injected brevity into the moment to soothe Alex - who looked like she would bolt at any second. The relief in her friend's eyes told her it was the right decision.
Alex was still fidgety, "Um, are we OK?"
Their relationship slowly settled peacefully. It was hard to stop being a best friend and Tory could ignore the incident when Alex bounced back happily to her old self. The strain on their bond was not worth losing it.
In her darker moments, usually when Alex had another date or a new girlfriend, Tory would either spend more time in the library or go for a walk. It became so that even Alex quizzed her about their lack of time together.
"Your professor must be a real taskmaster. You're always studying. Hey, you wanna come to the club with us tomorrow? Liz says that all-girl band you like will be performing."
Tory would beg off group dates and only spent time with Alex for just the necessary stuff like meals and chores. She was careful not to intrude in Alex's social life but the latter was always curious about hers. It was ironic that Tory had to hide her secret from her best friend.
Any hope of being with Alex died after she heard her remark at a group discussion about early 20th century painters.
"This guy loved women. I mean he really loved the freedom to express his art, his passion for the women in his life fed and translated into his work. He couldn't be tied down because that would have stifled his drive, I can totally relate to that. Sometimes, the more we have the more we can give."
Tory felt her heart breaking for the second time.
In their third year, the uncertainty about post-graduation made them decide to have the best summer before leaving home. They did everything together; swimming, camping, clubbing even shopping, something Tory endured for Alex. In return, she taught Alex a few useful skills like cooking. Summer was wild fun and it was like their early teen years.
The long days brought them closer together. One night, after returning from a club at 3a.m., they decided to do a spot of skinny-dipping. Giggling and shushing each other, they stripped naked and tumbled into the pool. It was the final weeks of summer. They had had a night on the town and carried on celebrating at a mixed club where they danced and got pissed. At one stage, Tory was dirty dancing with Alex, much to the latter's surprise, before whirling away to the delight of other clubbers. Those few minutes in Tory's arms, gyrating and sliding against her nubile body cleared the alcoholic haze from Alex's head. When Tory moved off, Alex was aware of her nipples straining against her bra and a pounding pulse between her legs. She knew the signs of arousal but her bodys instant visceral reaction caught her off-guard.
Alex decided to quit the dance floor and opt to hang around the bar. A bottle of water to quench her thirst and a Comfort OJ accompanied her unconscious voyeuring of Tory. In the middle of the floor, where the light display could pick up her blonde head and white-T, Tory danced energetically with girls and boys. It was impossibly getting warmer in the club and Tory whipped off her shirt. Alex almost choked on her drink. The crowd around Tory surged closer and the DJ notched up the beat. Alex ignored an unfamiliar pang of jealousy when she saw a couple of girls sandwich her friend between them as they swayed sensually together, but she could not ignore her reaction when one of the girls leaned in and gave Tory a hot kiss. The other one took the opportunity to taste her neck and there appeared a serious make out session on the dance floor. Tory, it seems, was an incredibly sexy woman and Alex was suddenly aware of her magnetism.
Telling herself she was only acting on concern when she caught a few leers thrown at the threesome, Alex decided to call it a night. She pushed her way to Tory and tapped her on the shoulder. The sweaty blonde had a dazed look when she saw Alex point to her watch but nodded her head. It took ten minutes to extricate herself from her fans but eventually, they left the club and grabbed a cab home.
Now in safer surroundings, the girls splashed and floated in the pool. The lights in the clear water did not diminish the starlike sparkles from the waves and ripples. Finally, they settled down. Alex leaned against the pool wall. Tory, still full of energy, did a few laps. Alex couldn't take her eyes off the rise and fall of Tory's body as it moved through the water. Where liquid fell away, golden skin was revealed. Her eyes took in the glory of Tory's superb form and her fingers twitched to touch the smooth skin.
Tory was running out of self-control. Weeks of chummy closeness doing stuff together like camping and sharing tents, sunbathing in tiny bikinis and oh god, the shopping a lesbian could only take so much of seeing her gorgeous friend try on so many outfits.
And tonight at the club, although they had danced before, Tory knew it was different. She hadn't set out to prove anything - it was just a crazy dance, one of those they did for fun. Yet, in the middle of the song all Tory could feel was the tickle of Alex's long hair as it swiped her collar, smelled her familiar perfume, felt the press of her breasts into her own and nearly came in her pants from the sudden surge of desire. The music hid her moan and it took all she had to stop herself from burying her face in Alex's enticing cleavage and sending her hands up her skirt. Luckily, an accidental bump moved her away and she lost herself in the music and touch of a couple of girls. Still, coming back to skinny-dip reinflamed her libido and she wondered if she could swim herself unconscious. That Alex was looking at her gave her no exit. She was so close she was certain the water droplets on her skin were sizzling.
Maybe she hadn't notice, Tory hoped. She slowed her strokes and floated on her back to recover her breath.
Fuck, she's gorgeous, Alex thought as her eyes roamed the body before her. Tory had unwittingly provided Alex with the best view. The pool's surface slid like mercury over Tory's bodyscape, bracketing her breasts and ribs, lapping at her concave abdomen and revealing the solid muscles of her thighs. Every now and then, the water would part to teasingly expose her mound. Alex could not tear her eyes away.
Tory turned her head and caught her breath at the look of hunger on Alex's face. Instantly, her nipples tightened in response. Alex noticed and lifted an eyebrow in surprise. The blonde swam over. Slowly, she placed her arms on either side of her taller friend who seemed entranced by the pulse beating strongly at the base of her throat. She moved closer and Alex dragged her eyes up to meet her expressive green eyes. The looked at each other in silence, each absently noting their ragged breathing and desire-darkened pupils. Alex dropped her gaze to Tory's parted lips. When their breasts touched under the water, electric arousal shot through them both and suddenly, they were kissing. Hot opened mouth kisses with active tongues and spit swapping. They were practically drooling as the force from the outlet of need made them desperate for more.
Tory was squashed up tight, pressing Alex against the wall. Alexs legs parted as Tory moved in between them. The water buoyed her as Alex felt the slight coarseness of Tory's pubic hair press against her own and almost groaned aloud as Tory started to undulate her hips, pushing into Alex's openness as her hands now held Alex's butt and controlled pulling it to meet her. Their kisses were hungry and desperate. Breasts bumped roughly as Alex ground herself urgently into her skilled lover. Blinding climax gripped her unexpectedly in a flash and Alex threw her head back as she gasped. The fury of her orgasm robbed her of oxygen. Just below, she felt Tory shudder and mouth her nipple as she came a second later.
Shocked and panting, they held each other.
[2 weeks ago]
Alex stood at her apartment window, sightlessly taking in the view. Her mind was sorting through memories and half-fantasies. Despite the late hour and jet lag, she felt restless. The Cognac could not soothe her thoughts and the darkness outside was beckoning her to savour the nightlife. It had been a while since she had let loose. Alex shook her head, she knew it was not the excitement of intimacy with strangers she sought, what she wanted was a familiar presence.
When did they last speak? Alex recalled the last time she saw Tory, at dinner a few weeks ago. It was a rare occasion and it did not end well.
Would it have been different if they had never become lovers?
Alex drew in a deep breath. She was undecided, a state unusual for her. In the past few years, Alex never had time for a long term or monogamous relationship. She was content to live for her work and reap the benefits. That's not to say she did not have any close friends, she wished though that Tory had come round more often in truth, she wanted to show off a little for Tory and to also show her off. But her friend only attended a couple of exhibitions, and never saw her apartment. When it was convenient for Alex, they would meet for dinner or coffee but Tory never imposed. In fact, it was frequently the other way round - Alex who rang, Alex who stayed over on short visits, Alex who said she was not into commitment and couldn't stay.
Patrol car sirens shook her out of her reverie. Glancing at the reflection of a tableside clock, Alex noted the time.
Eleven. Tory might still be awake. Once, Tory had tried to deepen their relationship but Alex was content to enjoy their arrangement, then. It was the same sleeping arrangement the latter had had everywhere.
It had been a year since they slept together. It was always glorifying to be able to spend time alone with Tory. Alex quietly admitted to herself that she eagerly sought out her friend every time she came home.
That last evening a year ago, Alex was stroking Tory's back as she lay beside her in bed.
"When will you be back next?"
"About six weeks, then a couple of parties in D.C. and um , hang on, I'll check my PDA." Alex started to rise off the bed, the sheet falling from her body as she reached for her bag.
Tory was lying on her front, facing away from Alex. Her eyes were red with contained emotion.
"Don't worry about it, Alex. It's ok."
She didn't know why but Alex felt as if she was being asked to leave.
"You know I'll ring you ''
A quiet sniffle, "Yeah, sure."
"Is everything ok?"
"Fine, everything's fine."
"I'll be here for a week to launch the Revolutions exhibit. I'll send an invitation and the limo." Alex pressed, "My parents would love to see you, they're always asking about you."
"I'll be busy then, Alex."
"Ok. Well, if you change your mind, ring my PA?"
A silent nod from her bedmate.
As Alex let herself out from the cottage, she turned and took a good look at the house. After working with demoralised urban communities, Tory loved coming home to her little two-bedder surrounded by a garden she built from scratch. From her frustration at work and a need for distraction, she channelled her energy into creating a garden that reflected her moods. She even took it upon herself to DIY some home renovations. Over the years, the cottage added a dismantleable greenhouse and a half-covered solarium, and the garden changed styles every year. Tory would engage Alex in her projects. She said it was good for her to get her hands dirty. That house had seen them share many days and nights together.
Alex had not been back since. She still left standing instructions for invitations to be sent to Tory for her shows but Tory never took them up.
A half dozen times in the past year. After twenty-five years of being best friends, they only talked a few times in the past year, and most of those occasions were on the phone. Alex took a large swallow from the glass in her hand; her ghostly image in the window was replaced by her minds projection.
I wonder how the garden is looking this summer, Alex thought. Then bitterly, I wonder if she's showing it to whatzername.
When Tory's presence diminished from her life, Alex asked her parents if she had taken on more work. Her parents had looked at her strangely and said as far as they knew, it was business as usual for Tory. The last couple of phone calls seemed to have caught her in the middle of an activity. She was breathless when she answered the telephone only to be interrupted by a woman several times. Alex surmised Tory had a new girlfriend, a woman Tory introduced when they met for dinner last month.
Her name was Donna, and she was certainly holding on tight to Tory throughout the whole evening. Not that Alex's date was any less obvious, another centimetre and she would have been in Alex's lap. Thankfully, their dates had kept the conversation flowing over dinner. Alex could only toy with her meal and she noticed Tory kept her eyes firmly on her plate and rearranged her food at every course.
After dessert, Tory excused herself to freshen up. Alex mumbled something about the bill and followed her blonde friend.
That last evening at the cottage, in a moment of weakness, Tory had slept with Alex. Hell, Alex was her weakness. In the weeks leading up to it, Tory had accepted the fact that Alex was never going to settle down, with her. Alex was doing what she was meant to do. Her life was too exciting; she was on the crest of her wave. And now, Tory had to do what was best for her own heart, and that was to end the affair. They would still remain friends - Tory could never stop that - but for her own sake they could not continue to be lovers. She didn't tell Alex of her decision because she would never understand, and Tory could not justify her decision lest she reveal too much of her own feelings. Alex had made her position clear when it came to relationships.
So Tory chose a clean break. It was many months before Alex realised that they had lost close contact. When she tried to ring, she could only speak to Tory's answering service. Her returned calls always seemed to catch Alex when she was travelling. Then in the last few weeks, Alex had cornered her for coffee and a dinner date, the latter being tonight.
In the washroom, Tory locked herself in a stall and rubbed her forehead. The double date wasn't her idea and she regretted agreeing to it. The predatoriness of Alex's companion sat on her last nerves, she had to leave and soon. Tory smoothed her clothes and exited the stall, straight into Alex's arms.
Alex turned at the sound of the latch opening and intentionally stood close to the stall door. When Tory walked out without looking, she was waiting.
"Oh! Excuse "
Strong arms clad in black velour wrapped around the blonde, holding her close to the lean body in front. Her hands were trapped between their bodies and Tory could feel the familiar chest muscles and the small breasts under her palms. She looked up into a determined gaze. A look she had seen many times when Alex had her where she wanted her.
"You don't want to spend time with me anymore, Tory? We hardly talk, meeting up with you is like pulling teeth. What's going on?"
"Um, Alex your date "
"Is not going anywhere. Besides, she's not the one I want in my arms tonight." Alex said with a rakish grin.
Tory stilled. She couldn't look at Alex, her need to cry was burning inside her chest. "I'm sorry. You know how work is like and as the papers are reporting, you're busy too."
The grin slipped off Alex's face. She was looking at Tory's lips as she spoke. She wanted so much to touch her but something wasn't right, and a restaurant bathroom was certainly not the right place.
In her indecision, Tory slipped from her grasp, "I'll see you at the table."
But after Alex settled the bill, her date said Donna and Tory had left, as Tory was not feeling well.
An quick apology followed the next day and that was it.
Now, a month down the line and Alex was waiting in her apartment, desperately wondering where it had all gone and why. Only this time, she was going to get some answers.
The BMWs tyres crunched on the roadside gravel before sliding onto the grass outside Tory's cottage. Alex saw the kitchen light go out as she pulled up. There were no other vehicles around. She got out of the car into crisp, cool night air and the sound of crickets.
The stars gave enough light to see the gate. It was unlocked. Alex let herself in and walked up to the house. She detected the faint scents of jasmine, patchouli and other flowers and herbs. At the door, she hesitated. When she drove here, her aim was to answer some lingering questions. Now that she was at her destination, she paused - what would Tory say, and did she want to hear it.
Tory heard a soft thud, thinking it was just night sounds she ignored it. Then it was repeated. Frowning, she headed for the front door and heard the knocks a little louder.
The porch light came on as the door was opened. Alex took in the confused looking woman before her. Tory was in her purple cloud jammies and she wore fluffy house slippers on her feet. Her hair was mussed on one side and she looked very sleepy.
"Alex, what're you doing here? I didn't know you were back in town." Tory was surprised into wakefulness. "Are you ok, is everything alright? Oh my god, did something happen to your parents? Come in, please."
While Tory was rambling, Alex took a moment to look at her best friend. Undeniable style and beauty surrounded her in her profession but at this moment in time, watching her ex-lover pottering in the kitchen while listening to her chatter nineteen to the dozen clad in ridiculous pajamas, Alex knew why she was here. She knew what Tory wanted and she realised why she always came back.
Tory was nervous and worried. She was unused to late night visitors but more so because Alex had turned up on her doorstep without preamble and she still hadn't said a word. After the disastrous dinner, her call went unanswered and she was secretly relieved at avoiding Alex's query. Tory kept her back to Alex on the pretext of busying herself.
"Here, honey. I've made some tea. Why don't you grab a seat and I'll be right there." She said over her shoulder. Seizing a couple of mugs and preparing the pot, she made her way to the salon. She knew Alex was not a patient person.
She was surprised to see her sitting quietly on the sofa, with her head bowed and hands clasped between her knees.
Concerned, Tory asked, "Alex, are you alright?" Moving to sit next to her, "Is there anything I can do? I'll do anything to help, if you need me." More silence from her guest. "You know, if I didn't know you better you would be scaring me now," Tory smiled.
Slowly, Alex lifted her head, "Why have you been avoiding me?" She turned brilliant blue eyes on her friend, eyes swimming with tears.
Tory was disconcerted, "I haven't been avoiding you. We were just busy lately, that's all." She jumped to her feet as the kettle clicked off but Alex held her with a firm grip on her arm. "Stop it, Tory."
"But the tea I'll be right back."
"No, not this time." Alex moved closer, almost trapping her with her body.
Casting her eyes wildly around the room, Tory backed up as far as possible, "Alex, uh look we don't have to do this."
"Why didn't you ever tell me? I thought we were best friends, that we could talk about everything. We are were lovers, dammit!"
Tory stopped fidgeting and looked fully at Alex, "You were also lovers with other people." She said quietly.
And the truth of her statement hit Alex.
"I " Deflated, Alex sank back into the sofa. "You're right."
The ticking of the grandmother clock filled the silence.
"I'm sorry about that night, at the restaurant. I wanted so badly to talk to you."
"You can always talk to me, anytime."
"Yeah, except when it's about you," came the quiet reply.
Tory sighed. It was time to come clean.
"Alex, I'm going to tell you something I swore would never come between us but it has, and a part of me really wants you to know." Tory summoned her courage to continue.
"I love you. I've loved you for the longest time. It's a feeling so much a part of me that I don't think I'm ever unaware of it. And that's all it was, I swear until college, and you had to become interested in girls." A mirthless chuckle followed. "You never knew this but I was secretly jealous of all your women. I could have handled anything but that. Even then, as long as we were living together I could hold on to our special relationship."
"We were special, Tory, above anyone else. You still are." Alex earnestly vowed.
Raising her sad eyes, Tory explained woefully, "I know I was your best friend. Just not your best lover."
"No, that's not true! I never told you "
"Please don't. It's been too long." Tory looked away to discretely brush a tear, "I've been waiting a long time and, you're right, I have been avoiding you. If you still love me as your friend, you'll let me be for a while."
"Tory, please. You don't mean that. I want you to know that "
"I need this, Alex!" The plea came out harsher than expected. They both flinched at the tone. "I'm sorry but I need some time alone. I'm sure you've got other people to do in the meantime." The slip went unnoticed.
"You know, when I came here tonight I was looking for some answers. I got mine when I walked through the door. I never thought yours would be harder to take." Alex rose to her feet. Tory was looking at the fireplace, seemingly unhearing. "This isn't the end of us, Tory."
The door closed quietly as Alex left. Unconsciously, Tory's ears listened all the way till the car was out of earshot. Then her face crumpled and harsh sobs wracked her body. Tory wailed her heartache into the cushions and cried deep into the night as each breath brought a whiff of Alex's perfume to remind her of a love forsaken.
Alex drove home gritting her jaw. Her eyesight, blurred by tears, didn't slow her speed. Gasping breaths made her giddy even as she ignored the wind whipping through the open window. She blasted the radio all the way back. When she reached her apartment building, she knew what she had to do.
Over the next ten days, Alex and her team performed a miracle of event management. She pitched her idea to the Mayor the next day and he approved a public exhibition/auction to be held just before the next council elections. It would be a showing of outdoor artwork by residents of local communities that would include murals, sculpture, paintings, song any medium which could be contained for viewing 24/7. The auction would raise funds for a community art initiative and the Mayor pledged an unused council building to house the centre. Alex lobbied her patrons and they agreed to meet the final auction figure.
Alex worked herself to the bone; publicising, fundraising, networking the idea to raise awareness. She mined her charisma and exchanged favours for support, but the buzz was about the unveiling of one of her private works. It would be donated for auction and already bidding notes started to pour into the office.
At the launch, the press was there in droves. Glamour and money made the event unmissable. It was the talk of the town. Alex arrived with her parents and the whole shebang went as orchestrated. All items were up for sale with a silent auction for her piece. Alex ensured each display received equal airtime. Her painting was unveiled last and the auction lasted only an hour. By the end of the evening, Alex had her centre funded for the first year.
Tory was amazed. She had quietly attended every one of Alex's exhibitions in the state by herself, without fanfare or special treatment. This collection though, was simply outstanding. She gasped at the talent on display and stood in awe at the contribution from Alex. It was one of her doodles from pre-school. Only Alex could get away with passing off a child's enthusiasm as modern art. Tory smiled at the irony. When there was a clear space near the picture, she moved closer to read the inscription.
'For T, who opened my eyes and my heart.'
Tory gasped in surprise. Oh, Alex. Tears came unbidden to her eyes. Tory opened her purse to search for a tissue when a handkerchief was thrust into her view. Without thinking, she took it, only to breathe in the heady scent of Alex's perfume and feel her warmth standing behind her.
They stood like that for ages, quietly admiring the picture and the bond it represented. Their surroundings faded to mute as they were only aware of each other.
Alex did not look down upon Tory's blonde head, it was enough that she was here. She had prayed this would work. Her senses soaked in the closeness of Tory within inches of her body.
Tory herself was so hyper-aware of Alex she felt every drawn breath and whisper of silk. Her craving for Alex reeled her mind and she positively vibrated with want.
Finally, when the silence between them almost became unbearable Alex lifted her hand and trailed her fingers slowly down Tory's arm to link with hers.
"Thank you. It means a lot to me."
Tory drew a deep breath and turned round. Alex tightened her hand and pulled her friend in slightly. They stared into each other's eyes, searching for the final answer.
Tory licked her lips, the glistening aftereffect hypnotised Alex's gaze. Feeling her breath shortening, Alex quickly said, "Will you stay a while, please? I have to take care of a few things then we can leave."
Tory started to shake her head, "I ."
"Please, Tory, I beg you. Don't leave." me, was left unsaid.
"I'll be back shortly." Alex took a few steps away then hastened back to pin Tory in a hard kiss. "I mean it."
Bemused and aroused, Tory wandered off to feign interest in the other exhibits. Twenty minutes later, a rather frantic Alex finally found her. Without a word, she guided Tory by her elbow towards the lifts. The Westin, one of the sponsors and host venue, had provided a suite for the evening.
Upstairs, the floor was eerily quiet. They entered the suite and Alex promptly discarded her jacket. She lifted Tory's wrap from her shoulders and smoothly laid it over a chair. Without the cover, Tory looked beautiful in her simple black dress. Her blonde hair was streaked with highlights and her figure did justice to the designer's vision.
While Alex was appreciating her guest, Tory was having warring feelings about being in the same room. Her Alex was looking at her hungrily and that silk shirt brought attention to her breasts. Tory desperately tried to ignore her own rising desire. Get a grip, Victoria. That is not going to happen.
"Alex, I think I should leave. The show was wonderful and I'm very happy the centre will be viable soon but it's getting late and "
The object of her craving was now up close, practically nose to nose with her. They were nuzzling. Oh!
Alex swooped in to kiss Tory. She poured all her need and unspoken willingness into the kiss and Tory returned it with passionate fervour. They barely noticed their hands were sliding across every bit of upper body and when the kiss broke, one's shirt was half undone and the other's dress straps were down.
Alex grabbed a quick breath before diving in to explore Tory's neck as the stronger pheromones drove her on. The expert appreciation of her neck had Tory gasping and weak kneed. Alex knew how to touch her so well.
Bit by bit, Alex guided them into the bedroom. Various pieces of apparel were strewn in their wake. When they hit the bed, Alex made sure they were both naked and wet. Their lovemaking ranged from intense and hungry to slow light touches and back again. Alex kept her lover flying on the edge with pleasure. It was after many orgasms before Tory got her way and Alex was at her mercy, only to be sneak attacked in return.
Alex was determined not to let anything mar their night together. She was intent on driving all doubt from her lover's mind and loving her into submission if she had to. Alex knew that Tory would never have agreed to come tonight if she thought a big seduction was planned to change her mind. What she hadn't counted on was Alex laying her world at her feet to show her commitment. Tonight was Alex's attempt to convey her intentions.
Throughout the night, they loved and memorised every swell and ridge on the other's body, the smell of their kisses, the passion over flowing between them.
Tory loved the slight ropiness of Alex's muscles. She used her hands to trace her mind's memory, feeling her way in the dark and using her mouth to taste where hands were not enough. She grasped those muscles tightly as she ground their pussies together, she pressed them as Alex rode her and grunted her pleasure in her ear. She tasted every inch of her beautiful lover that night as she was taken in turn to new heights.
Alex felt like an animal desperate for Tory's love. She could literally devour her and did at every chance. She wanted to take it slow at the start but the ardour burned bright between them and Alex just had to have her again and again to feed the craving, which grew deeper as the hours grew later. Alex could never get enough of Tory, and she knew Tory would never leave her now. Their bond was too strong and Alex would prove her love was just as worthy.
She clenched and nipped and plunged into Tory. Her woman's gasps were fuel for her own desire as she called upon her skills as a lover to pursue Tory into bliss. She revelled in the texture of her hair, the taste of her cum, the rough smoothness of her skin in patches. If she could, Alex would have torn her own skin to be closer to Tory.
Their coming together was wild, sweet and loving. Each giving and receiving as much as they could.
No words were spoken that night, they said it all with their bodies.
The soft click of the door penetrated her sleep. Tory opened her eyes to an unfamiliar ceiling. A second later, memories of the night rushed to the fore. A soft gasp escaped before she could stop herself.
Oh god, was it a mistake? Last night was not supposed to happen. Damn you, Alex. Tory was close to tears in her confusion, last night was a revelation. She knew they were inextricably linked now and it would kill her if this was just a game.
She turned her head to look at her lover. Alex was sleeping peacefully and she looked beautiful. Tory didn't know what to do. Should she leave would they talk what would they do? Her thoughts swirled madly and her misery threatened emotional overload.
Quietly, she slipped from the bed and quickly dressed. The evidence of their lovemaking was all over the suite. As she stumbled out the door, Alex smiled at a happy ending for them in her dream. Her hand swept the bed and the cooling sheets jarred her awake.
"Tory?" Alex asked the empty room. She got up and checked the whole suite. If it weren't for the crumpled sheets and Tory's scent on her skin, Alex would have thought it was a fantasy. A slight twinge of her muscles and Alex caught her image in the mirror - there were red marks and scratches all over her body. She then spied the pashmina Tory wore last night. Cursing, Alex sprang into action.
She threw her clothes on and grabbed her keys and the shawl. The lifts were slow due to the breakfast crowd and management stopped her for a few congratulatory words. She raced to her car and sped all the way to the cottage.
Tory moved like a zombie. She came home to a warm shower and automatically made herself a cup of tea. She sat in her back garden, gazing into nothingness as the drink got cold. She knew she should process the reversal of her resolution but she couldn't think. Her mind was numb and hazy as her heart ached at leaving Alex. It was a dream and a nightmare at the same time. Tears slid down her face but Tory was oblivious to the cold trail.
When Alex appeared before her, Tory was not surprised. Her mind was conjuring her up in every scenario. She barely felt the light scrape of fingers against her cheeks, wiping her tears. The image leaned in closer and kissed her. Tory closed her eyes to relish the contact but they flew open when she felt the warm breath on her face. She pulled back in shock.
"Yes, and I'm not going away, my love." Alex cradled Tory's face gently between her hands. She held fast as Tory tried to move away. "Don't. No more running, Tory. This isn't you."
"I've changed. You just haven't seen it."
"I know, I didn't want to. I couldnt bear it if your feelings for me had changed." Alex's hands were trembling as she asked, "Have they?"
"Does it matter?" Tory replied dully. "You know I'll always love you, I just can't do this anymore."
Stricken with desperation at the dreariness in Tory's eyes, Alex growled, "What about me? You're denying us a chance because you can't handle being with me?"
"God, Alex! Don't you see, I can't handle being without you. I thought I could understand your life and your needs, I thought I could be happy being " Tory shook her head in despair.
"You're not my mistress."
"Then what am I, Alex?" Tory harshly countered, "A convenient fuck when you're in town? An undemanding sympathetic body for your needs?"
"Why are you doing this? You know there's a hell of a lot more between us." Alex was nearly shouting in fear of the gulf tearing them apart. "I thought I meant more to you than just a friend and lover. I love you, Tory. Don't you know that by now? I fucking Love you." Her voice was hoarse with emotion, "and I'll just die if you don't feel the same anymore."
Tory was stunned. Alex's outburst broke through her thoughts and suddenly she realised where they were. Alex was on her knees in her garden as she held her tight around the waist. Seeing the dark head bent before her, Tory knew it was always them together. She was tired of hiding her feelings and she needed Alex badly.
"Alex, sweetheart," she lifted her head and Tory gazed intently into teary blue eyes, "I love you, I swear I've never stopped."
"Good", Alex stated fiercely before claiming her lips in a demanding kiss, "because I'm not letting you go, and so help me if you even think of leaving me again." She smiled in anxious jest.
Tory burst out laughing - the relief and acceptance of their destiny was dissipating her fears and long withheld happiness bubbled out. Alex revelled in the sound as her heart soared.
They kissed and kissed and embraced each other. Together, they rejoiced in the comfort of familiarity and the surety of a lifelong dream.
"Flight EY 302 is open for boarding at gate 43."
A steaming cup appeared in front of her. "Here's your tea." Alex said
"Thanks, sweetie." Tory took an appreciative sip of the brew, "mmmm, lovely."
Alex settled into the seat next to her. They were at the airport in Mumbai waiting for a connecting flight home. After that promising day, Alex showed Tory her seriousness in rekindling their relationship on the right foot. She spent more time at the cottage and they had a small honeymoon of sorts, talking and exploring new aspects of their life together while making love at every opportunity. Tory was in heaven and Alex was finally assured that she would not disappear from her life.
When an invitation from Oxfam arrived, Tory was keen to undertake the four-week field training in India. She was surprised when Alex offered to accompany her on the trip. The month long excursion was hard work but very satisfying. Tory kept busy as Alex toured each area and tentatively forged an arrangement to incorporate traditional art in future exhibitions.
They were on the last leg home. Tory slept on the plane, her head frequently resting on Alex's shoulder. When they reached the cottage, Alex practically carried her inside. She managed to rouse her for a shower and they both fell asleep immediately after. The next day was spent taking care of domestic chores.
A week later, on a Sunday morning, Alex came wide awake at dawn. Sometimes she would open her eyes to find Tory lying on her chest, their legs entwined. If they woke together, a session of slow sex would start the day deliciously. On weekends, it was impossible to get out of bed before noon. Alex was deliriously sated with their life and she could not imagine it otherwise.
Secure in their relationship, Tory had become more adventurous in their lovemaking. She drove Alex mad with flirtation during the day or when they went out. If she was in an aggressive mood, there was no chance of Alex being anything but willing. Her body still tingled from the paces it was put through last night. Paybacks would be delightful, she thought. She would have to bring over her bag of toys soon.
"What are you smiling at?" Tory sleepily demanded. "It's too early for those kinds of thoughts."
Alex snorted with laughter, "You are getting too good at that."
Giving her lover's nipple a kiss, Tory raised herself on her elbows to smirk, "Uh huh. So, whatcha gonna do about it, babe?"
Alex contemplated her smug girlfriend. This was a regular morning in bed, just like any morning lately - loving, warm, playful, sexy, spontaneous she wanted it like that always.
"Marry me." Alex blurted out.
The grin on Tory's face slowly crossed to a stunned look.
"Please if you'll have me." Alex hastily added. Now that it was out, her pulse rate started climbing in apprehension.
Under the hand, Tory could feel the wild thump of Alex's heart. Even if she hadn't felt it, the dilated pupils and hard breathing was a huge clue as to her anxious state.
"Alex, we don't have to. Shhh, it's alright." She started to hug the woman trembling beneath her.
Gripping her upper arms, Alex brought her to a stop. "No, this is not a joke. I'm not playing around." She was dead serious. "Tory, I want you, for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?"
"Oh, Alex!" Tory cried, "Yes, oh yes." She sobbed as they kissed frantically.
"I love you, it's always been you." Alex promised as she rolled them over to show her lover just how much.
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