Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine. This is a 'uber' story, set in today's timeline, and some of the characters may bear a more than a slight resemblance to certain other characters we all know, but which are not owned by me. Any similarity to real people is purely coincidental. The location is Orlando, Florida. This is a character driven piece. There is no plot. There is no violence, nobody is trying to kill anybody else, nobody is chasing anybody else, nobody is ..well, you get the picture. The backdrop is a law firm, and sometimes law firms can be rather routine places to work. This story brings two people together in that environment who end up making each other's lives anything but routine.
Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext here, too. This story deals with the growing attraction and eventual deep, profound love between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic scenes here. If that is what you're looking for, you might want to read something else. This is simply a story about soulmates finding each other again.
Feedback: This is my first attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome. Let me know if there's something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by KM
Robin busied herself tidying up the house and making sure that everything was in perfect order for Jess's arrival home from Tampa later that afternoon. She placed the remainder of the presents under the Christmas tree, careful not to disturb the miniature train which circled its way around the base. Once everything was situated to her satisfaction, Robin sat down on the plush sofa and admired once again the beautifully decorated frasier fir tree. Her mind flashed back to when she and Jess had put it up, and her eyes crinkled a bit as she remembered what was now affectionately known as "the tinsel incident". She laughed gently to herself. She is so hopeless. She curled her petite body up against the length of the familiar sofa and drew the light blue afghan blanket from the top of cushions down around her, snuggling lightly. She took a deep breath and filled her lungs with the distinctive and decidedly familiar scent that lingered, strangely comforted by it.
It was true, Robin was definitely glad to finally be back at The Ranch after so many days at her apartment. Her parents' visit was surprisingly nice, but taxing just the same, and now she couldn't help the melancholy that settled over her as she thought about missing Christmas day with Jess. She mentally shook her head, slightly annoyed at herself. I need to get over it. Robin tracked her eyes up toward the angel on the treetop, thoughts of the sapphire bracelet she'd gotten Jess entering the forefront of her mind. She sighed, suddenly not quite sure the gift was at all adequate. Her goal all along had been to give Jess something that had meaning, and Robin thought she'd found that perfect gift in the bracelet. The added bonus was that Jess could wear it and not have to answer an onslaught of probing questions. For some unexplained reason, the petite woman now had doubts that her gift was enough, especially in light of the other little present she had bought and had tucked away for a later time. She frowned. That other little item would almost certainly lead to questions, probing and otherwise, and that would definitely not be a good thing. Robin tugged the blanket further around her as she pictured the other gift in her mind. Tucked away in her apartment was a simple, yet elegant, diamond cluster ring with what could only be described as a stunning eighteen carat gold setting. The piece also cost a fair amount, not that Robin minded one bit, but she was pretty sure Jess would have never agreed to its extravagance.
So, what exactly was it that made her purchase the ring in the first place? More importantly, would she ever give it to Jess? The simple truth was, Robin absolutely could not imagine her life without the older woman. The only real question was whether it would conceivably be possible for the two of them to have a life together. She pondered that some more. All the public complications aside, would sharing their lives be something Jess wanted, too? And if so, how could they possibly keep their relationship concealed. That one thought both angered and terrified Robin. A part of her resented that they should have to hide their relationship at all, and another part knew that revealing it could cost Jess, and possibly herself, their livelihoods, not to mention their family and friends. It just wouldn't work. Reluctantly, and after considered thought, the younger woman came to the conclusion that the ring was nothing more than a naïve fantasy, plain and simple. She had foolishly allowed herself to indulge in it, but it was apparent now that such a move would likely cause more problems than she ever intended. Neither she nor Jess was ready to handle the complications just yet, and that simple fact would be true even if Jess were to feel the same way as she did about a future together.
A long, unhappy sigh escaped her lips and she got up from the sofa, suddenly feeling very much alone. Her gaze found and then rested upon the onyx chess set sitting on the table in the opposite corner of the room, and her feet, quite on their own accord, stepped over toward it. She picked up one of the carved pieces and fingered its smooth surface, noticing with curiosity the strange comfort it provided. Jess was right. It was almost as if the tangible object somehow provided an unseen connection that defied any rational explanation. With the onyx chess piece clutched securely in hand, Robin walked back over to the sofa and resumed her position beneath the afghan blanket. Within minutes, her eyelids grew heavy, drawing her ever nearer to sleep's embrace, even as something in the back of her mind tried valiantly to make its way to the forefront. As she finally drifted off, whatever it was silently slipped away, although her subconscious mind was quick to supply the now elusive answer. A part of me is missing.
Jess arrived home and walked through the door leading from the garage. She stepped into the living room, immediately spying the peacefully sleeping form on the plush sofa. It was really a sweet sight, with Robin curled up on her side and the afghan blanket wrapped loosely around her waist. I missed you, sweetheart. She stepped noiselessly over to the foot of the sofa and silently watched as Robin slept, then set her package down on the solid oak coffee table. Grasping the edges of the blanket, she gently pulled it up to Robin's shoulders. It was only then, as she gingerly tucked the blanket around the younger woman, that she noticed the onyx chess piece clutched in a petite hand. Jess's mind did a double take, and her mouth slightly opened as she realized the significance of the gesture, remembering her own explanation of the chess set to Robin just a few days earlier. She sighed almost audibly. Damn. Robin, honey, I'm so sorry we had to be apart. She decided not to wake the smaller woman and instead headed back into the master bedroom to unpack her things. Completing that task in relatively short order, she proceeded down the long hallway to her home office to work a bit on a legal brief which was due after the first of the year.
About an hour or so later, Robin awoke from her nap, a bit groggy but nonetheless feeling refreshed. She glanced lazily around the room to get her bearings, idly noting that it was already late afternoon, and was about to return the chess figure she'd been holding to its proper location when something caught her eye. There, perched on the edge of the coffee table, was an adorable plush stuffed animal staring right back at her. Green eyes blinked to focus, then blinked again. Snoopy? The corners of her mouth twitched to a grin as she picked up the plush toy. Jess is home. Robin stood up, and after giving her petite frame a quick stretch, made her way down the long hallway, first checking the master bedroom, then wandering over to the other side of the house to Jess's office. The door was slightly ajar, and Robin stealthily opened it a bit more, regarding the older woman unseen for a brief moment. She silently leaned a shoulder against the wood doorframe, while clutching the Snoopy stuffed animal to her, and watched as Jess diligently worked at her computer. Suddenly, surprised blue eyes tracked over to meet her own.
"Well, someone's finally awake." Jess grinned.
"Hi." Robin smiled affectionately, then walked over to the desk. "You didn't wake me up. How long have you been home?" The younger woman knelt down in front of Jess's chair and interlaced the larger fingers with her own.
"Not long, but you looked so cute sleeping. I thought I'd let you get some rest while I got caught up on some work in here." Jess spoke very softly. "I missed you, kiddo."
Robin set the Snoopy down on the floor. "Me, too." She leaned forward and wrapped her arms tightly around the older woman, irrationally afraid that if she let go, Jess would somehow disappear again. "I'm so glad you're back."
Jess returned the hug with equal intensity, then kissed the blonde head. She released Robin and sat back, stroking a fair cheek with her finger. "So, did it help?"
Light brows furrowed in slight uncertainty. "Um ..did what help?"
Blue eyes glanced up shyly. "The chess piece." It was said with a gentle understanding.
"Oh." Robin laid her head to rest on Jess's lap. "I didn't mean for you to see that, but yes, surprisingly, it did help."
Long fingers stroked the short blonde hair. "I'm sorry we couldn't be together."
Green eyes fluttered closed. "We're together now. That's all that counts." Robin reached down and picked up the Snoopy. "Thanks for this."
A wide grin appeared. "You're welcome." Jess closed out her computer program and set the screen saver. "How about we go out by the tree?"
The younger woman nodded and stood up. "It's a deal." She held out her hand. "Come on, Snoopy. We've got some presents to open."
A dark eyebrow arched. "Snoopy?"
"You're my legal beagle, aren't you?"
I did say that. "I am." Jess smiled, then allowed the younger woman to help her up.
"Good. Then, let's go, Snoopy." Robin walked out into the hall. "And if you're really, really good, I'll give you a treat."
With that, Jess's eyes lit up. "Ooooh, a treat. What kind?"
Robin arched an eyebrow of her own. "A chocolate covered treat, of course." She winked, then quickly retreated down the long hallway, leaving Jess to ponder that rather bold statement.
A hearty fire burned brightly in the fireplace, the evening dusk settling upon the city and providing precious little natural lighting inside the spacious house. The Christmas tree stood in the corner of the living room, its colorful lights illuminating the tinsel and hanging ornaments in twinkling fashion, while the angel on the treetop glowed resplendently from on high. Familiar holiday carols played softly in the background, as Jess and Robin sat on the oriental rug in front of the fireplace sipping spiked eggnog and opening the many gifts situated around the tree.
"You know, somehow when I left for Tampa, I could swear there weren't so many presents underneath this tree. Then, when I got back, I could barely walk in here." Jess shot Robin a look out of the corner of her eye. "What happened?"
Green eyes twinkled. "I guess I just got carried away." Robin gave the older woman a frank look. "So, sue me."
"You know what they say, Robin. You can sue a ham sandwich."
"Very funny." The younger woman grinned. "Now, open up your presents."
"Okay, okay." For several moments thereafter, both Jess and Robin opened their gifts. Most were clothing items and an few small trinkets each thought the other would like. Of specific note was a shrimp-shaped key chain meant for one junior partner in particular. Jess held up the item and examined it. "I must say, you have excellent taste."
"Thank you." Came the pleased reply.
A long sideways glance. "I was talking to the shrimp." Jess quipped, then tuned and pointed to the last gift under the tree. "Hey, you forgot one."
Robin stifled her giggles and picked up the medium-sized rectangular box, shaking it a bit. "What is it?"
"Just open it." The older woman smiled, her blue eyes sparkling somewhat mischievously.
"Okay." Robin quickly unwrapped the gift, then looked at the front of the box, her light eyebrows furrowing in moderate disbelief. "Um ..Jess?
A blue eye peeked beneath the dark bangs. "What?"
"It's not gonna work."
"What's not gonna work?" Jess inquired all too innocently.
"I know you. You think that by getting me these, I'll wear them instead."
Jess again feigned innocence once again. "You don't like them?"
"They're lovely. But it's still not gonna work."
Rats. The older woman attempted to salvage the situation. "I just thought that if you ever lose yours again, you'd have these as a back-up."
Robin couldn't help it. She tried, but failed, to suppress a huge grin. "As I recall, I did not lose them. You took them."
"But, I gave them back." A dark eyebrow lifted playfully. "Besides, you can't ignore the house rules, Robin."
The golden head shook. "Let me be clear. I object to that house rule, I never agreed to that house rule, and I appeal that house rule."
"Appeal denied." The junior partner smirked, sure she had gained the upper hand. She was, however, quite wrong, and an apparent stalemate ensued.
"Jess." Green eyes twinkled in defiance, a grin hinting at the very edges of Robin's lips in the process.. "I will wear my bunny slippers if I want." A full grin now appeared. "But, thank you. They're very nice, and if, and I mean if, I ever need a second pair of slippers, I will be sure to wear these."
It was the best the older woman could hope for. "Alright." She pointed toward the gift. "So, do you at least like the color?"
"Yes. Blue is my favorite color." Robin paused as a thought occurred to her. "Jess, what's your favorite color?"
"Green." Sea green.
"Oh." That required further consideration, so Robin turned her attention to the base of the tree. "Did we miss any other gifts?"
"Just one." The older woman pulled a smaller box from behind her. "I saved the best for last." She handed it to Robin.
Petite hands took the gift from Jess and unwrapped the shiny gold paper, revealing a rectangular burgundy-colored velvet case inside. The younger woman hesitated for just a second, then slowly lifted the lid. Her breath caught as she stared in awe at the elegant diamond pendant necklace inside. "Jess .."
Jess rushed to explain. "It's my heart." She had originally prepared a speech, but for some explained reason couldn't find the right words at the moment.
Robin lightly fingered the delicate diamonds along the edge of the heart-shaped pendant. "It's beautiful."
Jess moved over and sat very close to Robin. She reached down and gently grasped one of the smaller hands and brought it up to rest over her own beating heart. She took a moment to order her thoughts, then almost shyly met the sea green eyes in front of her own. "Robin, I'm giving you my heart. It's yours, only yours, and I will never, ever ask for it back. This diamond necklace is a symbol for you to know that. And when you wear it, if you want to wear it, you'll know that my heart is always with you."
The younger woman listened, quite captivated as the sincerity of the words struck her, even as she felt the insistent beating of Jess's heart beneath her hand. She knew how hard it was for Jess to trust someone with the deepest part of herself, and she knew how fragile Jess still was over the constant fear that one day Robin would leave. It was this last thought that struck Robin the most. Jess loved her so much that she was leaving herself completely and undeniably vulnerable to her greatest and deepest fear. I will not leave you. Robin set the velvet case down and immediately wrapped her arms around the older woman. She clung on tightly, as if one hug could express all she felt at that very moment. "Thank you." She whispered softly, her voice breaking. "Your heart means everything to me, Jess. I promise I will take very good care of it."
Jess pulled back and met Robin's gaze, noting in the firelight the light tears glittering from the green eyes in front of her. She wiped the tears away with her thumb, then gave Robin a delicate kiss. "I know you will, sweetheart."
Robin picked up the velvet case once again and fingered the diamonds. "Will you put it on me?"
Wordlessly, Jess removed the necklace from its case and placed it around the younger woman's neck, fastening the clasp. The pendant hung just a couple of inches below the juncture of Robin's collar bone and was quite stunning, indeed. "How's that?"
Robin nodded. "Good." She brought her hand up to rest on Jess's cheek. "You are an amazing woman."
Jess kissed the petite palm. "So are you." A very broad smile followed. "So, I take it you like it?"
Robin almost giggled. "I love it, but we have one other little matter to take care of." She pulled out a small square box that had been hiding under the tree skirt. "This is for you." She handed it to Jess, watching nearly transfixed as the older woman slowly and very methodically unwrapped the gift as she tried not to tear the wrapping paper in the process. Robin sighed with unrestrained impatience, then gently prodded. "Don't worry about the paper, Jess. Just open it."
"Okay, okay." Jess grinned, then finally unwrapped the last of the paper to uncover a square gray velvet case. She opened the case with deliberate purpose, slightly taken with the how the firelight glinted magnificently off the white and blue sapphires as the bracelet came into full view. Blue eyes regarded it for several seconds, then the older woman lifted the bracelet out of its slot. "Robin, this is .." The proper word escaped her.
"They're sapphires." Robin began rambling nervously. "I know you don't wear much jewelry, but I thought it would look nice on you if you wanted to wear it, or you don't have to wear it if you don't want to, but if you wanted to wear it, it's not too formal or anything. It's completely up to you, so .."
"Robin." Jess gently stopped her. "It's beautiful, and yes, I do want to wear it. After all, it's from you, right?" She grinned, noting Robin's rather shy smile. "Here, let me put it on so we can see how it looks." She unfastened the clasp and began to slip the bracelet over her wrist, then suddenly hesitated. The combined light of the tree lights and the fire glittered off the inside of the gold band to reveal an inscription inside. Jess held the bracelet up to the faint light, squinting her eyes slightly to make out the small engraving. It contained one word. Only one word. That was all. But that one word, to Jess, held more meaning than a thousand other words. Her hands started to shake slightly as she read what was written, and she felt herself go a bit weak as she continued to stare mutely at the inside of the bracelet.
Robin watched all this closely, at first with curiosity, then with a bit of concern. "Jess?" The younger woman sensed an increasing build-up of emotion, and rushed to place both hands over Jess's larger ones, trying desperately to still them. "Jess?"
Jess said nothing for a very long moment, her unsure blue eyes tracking slowly to Robin's gentle green. She whispered the inscribed word, almost as if she needed verbal confirmation of what she'd just read. "Forever?" The reverent question hung almost palpably in the air between them, and Jess held her breath for a seeming eternity as she awaited the affirming response.
The fire's glow settled behind them, casting their profiles in dim silhouette. Robin inched her way directly in front of Jess and ducked her sea green eyes to lock fully upon the shaded blue. "Yes." She gently took the bracelet from the older woman's hands and placed it around the larger wrist, snapping the clasp closed. "Forever."
Forever. Jess could barely breathe. Robin wants forever. She was caught entirely in the emotion of the moment, desperately needing to hug the younger woman close to her. "C'mere." She opened her arms.
Robin fell into the wonderful embrace, feeling the strong arms completely envelope her. She turned her head and kissed Jess's cheek, then pulled back and searched the azure eyes now in front of her own. "Is it all right?"
Jess brought her lips to Robin's and gave her a tender kiss. "It's more than all right. It's the most beautiful gift I've ever received. Thank you."
The younger woman couldn't contain the wide smile that followed. "I really like the blue sapphires. I thought they'd look nice on you, almost as if they were meant for you." She fingered the bracelet on Jess's wrist, then looked up a bit shyly. "What I wrote inside, I .."
"I know." Jess nodded sincerely. "Me, too." She shifted her position on the oriental rug, shaking out a kink in her leg. "Let's go over to the sofa where it's more comfortable." She got up and pulled the smaller woman with her.
Robin sat down on the plush sofa, then quickly stretched out to lie lengthwise, propping her knees up over Jess's lap. "I really love the gifts you got me, Jess."
The longer body shifted and nestled up against the petite frame. "You do?" A dark eyebrow arched in a bit of a challenge. "Even the slippers?"
Green eyes narrowed playfully. "Don't push it, Jess." Robin grinned, then pursed in her lips as a thought came to her. "Except, I didn't get my car."
"Excuse me." Came the low reply.
"I thought I was quite clear on the matter. BMW, really sporty looking, room enough for the tallest person, etcetera, etcetera." Robin waved her hand in a circling motion.
A bemused expression. "I thought you were saving for that yourself."
"True, but you can't blame me for trying." A green eye peered over at Jess. "You know, my birthday's next month."
"Nothing. Just thought I'd let you know."
Jess rested her forehead against Robin's. "For your information, Robin, I already know."
A smile. "Good." Robin snuggled closer to Jess. "Can we just stay here awhile and look at the tree and listen to the music?"
A long arm wrapped itself contentedly around the smaller body. "I'd like that." Jess breathed in Robin's sweet scent, one which she could only characterize as spring rain. "So, tell me, how did it go the past few days with your folks."
"It went okay. They didn't say anything more about my going back to Detroit. I guess they're hoping I'll think about it." Robin frowned. "I don't think they're giving up, though."
Jess considered the statement. "Otherwise, no problems?"
There was a long sigh, but no answer to the question.
"Um ..there was one issue." Robin closed her eyes. "It don't really want to talk about it."
Uh oh. "Honey, please talk to me."
There was silence for several seconds as Robin contemplated what to tell Jess. "The issue was Christmas Mass. I didn't want to go, but in order to keep the peace, I went anyway. They know my feelings, but they don't accept it."
Jess took a deep breath. We shouldn't avoid this any longer. She decided to bring up the subject she'd put off for far too long. Sure, it would be difficult, but ignoring the problem wouldn't make it go away. She had to ask. The question had been circling around in her mind, niggling at her almost at every turn. Bracing for the response, Jess spoke in the gentlest of voices. "Have you completely given up God, Robin?"
Robin furrowed her brows, her attempt to dismiss the matter evident. "I don't want to talk about that."
Jess's expression was very sympathetic. "I think we should, sweetheart." She tapped her finger lightly on the side of Robin's head and whispered. "What's going on in there?"
I really don't want to get into this. The smaller woman shifted, then acquiesced to the request. "All right. To answer your question, yes, I have given up God."
Jess proceeded cautiously. "Because David died?"
Robin's features took on a hard expression. "Not entirely. I believe God abandoned me first."
Abandoned? "What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid you won't understand."
"I won't judge you."
Robin hesitated, then nodded her assent. "Okay." Soft eyelids closed tight in an as yet unresolved pain. "The night that ..it happened, I had just completed law school. David came over. He said he wanted to talk about our future. He said he had changed his mind about what he wanted, and before we went through with the engagement, he wanted to make sure we both agreed. Instead of my starting my law career, he said he realized that what he really wanted was a more traditional family life. He didn't think I should work. Ever." Robin paused and took a breath.
Jess listened quietly. Robin hadn't spoken about the details of the evening of the accident, and she was sure the younger woman had taken great efforts to avoid thinking about it. But at what cost? Surely, it was better to talk about it. Sometimes things can be put in perspective that way. Or put behind you. That's what you want, Jess. You want all of it behind her, so it won't come between you ..so you won't have to compete with it.
Robin swallowed, then continued. "I overreacted to what he said. I had just had a grueling week, and I didn't need to hear what he was saying. I couldn't understand why he had changed his mind. That wasn't at all what we had planned. I was so upset that I didn't want to listen to him anymore." She bit her bottom lip lightly. "I told him that he was selfish, and I didn't want to see him anymore if that's what he wanted. I told him to go away to never to come back." Robin started crying. "And he didn't."
Oh God. Jess held Robin tightly. "Shhh. Robin, honey, shhh." Gentle fingers wiped away the tears from the younger woman's face. "You were angry, honey. It wasn't literal. You know that."
The soft crying continued for another moment, then Robin sniffled and began again. "When his father called me to tell me that David had been in an accident, they said they were going to the hospital and for me to meet them there. As I drove the way to the hospital, I prayed that David would be all right. I prayed that I would be able tell him that I didn't mean any of the things that I said, and that my hateful words wouldn't be the last ones he heard." The tears came harder this time. "But when we got to the hospital, David had already died. God took him away, and I didn't have the chance to make it right. David never knew that I didn't mean what I said. I asked God for the chance to make it right, and He didn't listen." Robin abruptly wiped the tears from her eyes and hardened her features. "He abandoned me, and David, and I can't forgive Him."
"C'mere, sweetheart." Jess held Robin very tightly. She kissed Robin's forehead and spoke in gentle, soothing tones. "Honey, you know I love you, and you know that I will never judge you. I will tell you this, though. God knows your heart, and He knows you didn't mean what you said. I believe David, in his heart, knew that, as well."
"You don't understand."
"What don't I understand?" Jess whispered.
A petite hand reached over and traced the strong jaw. "Because I said what I said, David died. Because David died, I came to Florida." She stroked her thumb against the side of Jess's cheek. "Because I came to Florida, I met you. And because I met you, I'm happier than I deserve to be. It's a chain of events."
What's she getting at? "We can't always know what lies ahead for us."
Robin closed her eyes again, the guilt at this point almost too much to bear. "Don't you see? God knows what I did. My actions brought about everything that has happened so far. It's only because David died that I'm with you at all, and that only happened because David and I fought that night." She opened her eyes and stared at Jess with startling sadness. "By my anger, I sacrificed him to ultimately be with you."
What the ..? Sacrificed? The shock of hearing what Robin had just said surely registered on Jess's face. It was quite worrisome, indeed. The guilt had consumed Robin to the point that she couldn't see the inherent fallacy in her own logic. Jess took a breath, then spoke very firmly. "You listen to me. You did absolutely no such thing." Her tone was almost harsh., then softened a bit. "Honey, you didn't know. You had no control over what happened, and you certainly shouldn't feel that your being with me is at the expense of David. That simply is not true."
"Well, Jess, it started when I got angry, and it ended with you. It seems pretty clear to me. I set the chain of events in motion. I made it happen."
"No, you didn't. Look at me, sweetheart." Jess tilted Robin's head up to meet her own gaze. "I'm not a trained counselor, but I do know that this guilt you have is misplaced. Please, honey, for me, call Dr. Richmond." Jess studied the green eyes in front of her and noted the blank expression on the younger woman's face. She still doesn't get it. The older woman feared she was losing the battle. Think. Jess tried another approach. "Let me tell you something. I love you, Robin, but, as much as you may want to think so, you had absolutely nothing to do with that, other than be who you are. No one made it happen. It just did. And even if you had wanted to make it happen, if I didn't already love you, no matter what you did, you could never have made it so."
The blonde head rested heavily against Jess's shoulder. Robin didn't speak for several moments as she considered all of what Jess had said. Maybe some of that was true. Maybe nothing that happened was foreseeable. Maybe it wasn't all connected after all. On the other hand, maybe it was. Finally, Robin spoke, her voice almost forlorn. "I'm afraid."
That, and the way Robin said it, nearly broke Jess's heart. "What are you afraid of, honey?"
"I'm afraid that Dr. Richmond will make me see that it's all my fault, and that I shouldn't be with you because I don't deserve to be." Robin shuddered slightly, then spoke in a barely audible voice. "I couldn't bear that."
"Honey." Jess hugged Robin to her with all her might, then smoothed the ragged bangs on Robin's forehead. "That will never, ever happen. I promise you. You, of all people, deserve as much happiness as possible. I've said this before. I'm no great prize, Robin. I know that. Sometimes, I don't know why you want to be with me. But if you're happy, that's all that really matters." Jess placed a delicate kiss on Robin's lips. "And I promise you, I promise you, that I will do everything I possibly can to make sure you are happy." She gently touched her finger to Robin's nose. "You absolutely do deserve that."
Robin clung to Jess, unwilling to let go. "Okay."
"I will see Dr. Richmond."
Jess blew out a very relieved breath, then offered a small smile. "Good."
Several moments passed as they both reflected on their conversation. Finally, green eyes looked up at Jess. "Are you sure there wouldn't have been anything I could've done?" She paused. "To make you love me, I mean."
"Nope." Jess smiled. "I loved you because you were already you. It absolutely had nothing to do with what you wanted." The smile widened. "I was already a goner."
Robin smiled back, feeling a bit better. "That's very sweet." Her brow creased a bit. "I think." She snuggled further against Jess. "Thank you for my necklace, Jess. I really love it."
"And thank you for my bracelet, sweetheart." And the inscription. "It means more than you know."
The office seemed nearly deserted. The week in-between Christmas and New Year's almost always was the slow point in the litigation department, save for one year when a labor trial was set to begin on January 2. That particular year, nearly everyone had been asked to work throughout the holidays to prepare. It was Jess's first case as second chair, and she took to the rigors of trial work like a fish to water. It had consumed her, and she found that she very much liked it that way. It had succeeded in allowing her less time to dwell on certain recent unpleasant memories ..specifically, those of James. From that very point forward, Jess made it nearly her life's mission to immerse herself completely and fully in her work, and she was very, very good at what she did.
Robin sat at her desk and waded through her in-box. Mail doesn't take much of a holiday, she mused. It just piles up. She procrastinated a bit more, then stared blankly at her telephone, her mind flashing back to the previous evening. I need to do this. She flipped through the phone book, fingering through to the appropriate page, then dialed the number she'd been putting off calling. It barely took a minute. An appointment with a certain therapist was made for the following week and the task was completed. Robin set the receiver in the cradle. Why was that so hard? She was about to return her full attention to her mail when a light knock sounded at the partially closed office door.
The tall figure stood in the doorway, a bit hesitant to intrude. "Busy?"
"Jess?" Robin whispered almost surreptitiously. What are you doing here?"
That remark was unexpected. "Um ..I work here."
Robin shook her head. "Come in and close the door." She waited for the junior partner to comply. "You know what I mean. We're supposed to be more careful, right?"
A scowl appeared. "Yes. I thought that's what we were doing." Jess sat down in the chair in front of the desk. "Are you saying that I can't come to your office anymore?" A look of absolute frustration spread across the angular features.
The young associate stood up and walked over to Jess, leaning her weight slightly against the front edge of the desk. "I don't know. She sighed. "I think we need to keep our distance at work."
The junior partner fiddled with the fabric on the arm of the chair. "Well, I don't see how we can do that totally. After all, we do work on the same cases." She flashed a wide smile. "Especially since you do all my grunt work."
Green eyes twinkled. "Ahaa. I knew it. You just want me around to do your grunt work for you." She pointed a finger playfully at Jess. "I'm on to you, now."
The junior partner's lips twitched to a grin. She is so damn cute. She wanted to slide her arms around the young associate right then and there, but the rational part of her mind realized that Robin was right. They needed to be careful. "My reason for coming over here, just so you know, is that I wanted to give you this case notebook." She handed a black binder to Robin. "Remember, you were going to help me with my trial in March?"
"Right." Light eyebrows furrowed. "So how can we be careful if we're going to see each other all the time at work?"
Jess thought about that, deciding on a course of action. "Here's the deal. We eat lunch separately, and then when we have to work together, we keep the office door open." She glanced deliberately at Robin's closed door.
The young associate's mouth fell wide open as the realization hit her. She nearly raced over to the door, opening it wide. "Okay." She situated herself back at her desk and spoke a little louder than necessary. "About that case notebook, what would you like me do?"
A blue eye winked. "Go through the pleadings and discovery responses. See if we need to depose anyone else or prepare supplemental requests for documents or another set of interrogatories. Also, see if we need to do any third party subpoenas. This is a fairly small case, so there won't be too many documents to go through." The junior partner stood up, a tiny smirk playing across her lips. "I know how much you love document reviews, Robin. I hope you're not too disappointed."
The young associate tried to keep a straight face at the last remark. Not hardly. "I'll have you know that document reviews have their benefits."
"Is that so?" Jess strode over toward the door and flipped a look back at Robin. "Then, I proclaim you document queen. Every single document review I have from now until further notice is all yours." A mischievous grin. "And I mean every single one of them, Robin. You're going to have so much fun." Another quick wink, then a prudent exit out the open office door.
Robin stared at the now vacant doorway, her green eyes narrowing at no one in particular. I swear she baited me into that one.
"Ooooh, that feels really good." Jess was spread out on the waterbed, lying on her stomach, her eyes completely closed in pure pleasure. "Where did you learn how to do that?"
"I have magic fingers." Robin grinned as she sat on top of the older woman, massaging the bare upper back and shoulders. "You do seem rather tense. What did you do today that caused this?"
"Hmmm." Jess was fading fast under the gentle assault. "Nothing. It just must be from sitting in that chair all day long and catching up on my work." A crystal blue eye opened. "I did have one unexpected surprise today."
"Really? What was that?" Robin kneaded the space between Jess's shoulder blades.
"There I was, busily working on my appellate brief, when Sam from the file room marched into my office and unceremoniously deposited a brown paper bag right on top of my desk." A hint of a grin played at the edges of the junior partner's mouth.
"Is that so?" Robin seemed unaffected.
"Yes, and when I opened the bag, much to my surprise, do you know what I found?"
Small hands worked a stubborn kink in Jess's lower back. "Can't imagine."
The taller woman snuck a peak back at Robin, noting a mischievous twinkle in the green eyes focused intently on the task at hand. "What I found, Robin, was lunch." She let go a soft, relaxed groan as Robin continued to probe her lower back. "It was very strange. I hadn't ordered lunch, and Angie hadn't ordered any lunch for me. I wonder where it came from."
"Hmmm. Well, now that is very strange." Skillful fingers pressed up and down the older woman's spine. "Didn't Sam know where it came from?"
"Nope. Just that it was left at the front desk for me." Jess let out another low groan. "God, that feels so good." She nearly drifted off, then remembered that she was in the middle of an interrogation. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
The associate placed a small kiss on the junior partner's left shoulder blade. "About what?"
"Um .." Jess had trouble thinking. "About my mysterious lunch."
Robin moved over to the right shoulder blade and repeated the process. "Oh, that." Soft lips trailed up to Jess's neck and continued the assault. "Since we decided not to have lunch together anymore, and I knew you probably wouldn't eat, I happened to order some lunch for you when I ordered mine." Those same lips traveled to a nearby earlobe and nibbled happily. "Do you object?"
Jess swallowed, lost in the delicious sensation, then croaked out. "What was the question?"
Warm, moist breath caressed the ear below as the associate spoke again. "Do you object?"
With surprising alertness, Jess turned herself and flipped Robin over in one fluid motion, landing fully on top of her. "I absolutely, positively do not object, Robin. I have a voracious appetite, remember?" She peered down into sea green eyes, then hungrily devoured the sweet lips in front of her. After a moment, Jess came up for air, murmuring softly. "You drive me absolutely crazy."
That's the idea. "Just because I bought you lunch?" Robin brushed her fingers back and forth against Jess's bare chest.
"Yes." Large hands deftly slid underneath Robin's flannel nightshirt and stroked the smooth skin. "My stomach is quite happy, thank you. Now, how about yours?" She lifted the nightshirt and placed several delicate kisses across the stomach in question. "Is it happy?"
Robin closed her eyes, thoroughly enjoying the light, sensual touches. "Um ..yes, it's very happy." She laced her fingers through the dark hair and guided Jess to other areas. "All of me is quite happy right now, Jess."
"Good." Long arms pulled the nightshirt up and over Robin's head. "I aim to please." Jess resumed her position on top of the younger woman, and trailed her fingertips teasingly all the way from Robin's shoulders to her toes, stopping to linger at certain areas to explore them more fully. "Am I doing okay?"
"Yes." Robin gasped at the touch, then aided in removing Jess's Calvin boxers. She began kissing every inch of exposed flesh, finally making her way up to capture the soft lips once again. Green eyes fixed on blue. "I'm buying you lunch every day." Velvet lips kissed Jess's jaw, then ran back down her neck.
"And I'll see that you're stomach is happy every day." Jess began rocking her hips. "Deal?"
Robin's breathing became labored. "Deal." And as she spiraled slowly and uncontrollably toward release, it occurred to her that their entire conversation had, in fact, been in a sort of code. The deal of happy stomachs and lunch every day was in reality a disguised reference to something much, much deeper. She closed her eyes and allowed the impending waves cascade over her, while the translation rang out clearly in her conscious mind.
What Robin didn't know was that Jess, as she followed the younger woman over that now familiar precipice, had the entirely same translated thought.
Later, Jess curled around Robin's petite form and breathed in deeply, Robin's sweet scent filling her lungs. It was very quiet in the darkened room, save for Robin's gentle breathing. Having studied the younger woman's sleeping patterns for several months now, Jess knew that Robin was still awake.
"How are you?" Jess stroked a pale eyebrow.
"Good." A large hand fumbled for a moment, then grasped the loose flannel nightshirt at the foot of the waterbed. "Here." Jess watched as Robin took the nightshirt from her and put it on. "Are you sure everything's okay?" The taller woman located and put on her own Calvin sleep shirt and boxers.
Robin cuddled against Jess, snuggling within the warm embrace. "Yes."
Something's going on. "You remember our deal, right?"
The blonde head tilted upward, eyes narrowing slightly. "Which one?"
That brought a genuine smile which then turned serious. "The one where we agreed to tell each other if something makes us uncomfortable. If something makes either one of us uncomfortable, we're not going to do it. Remember?"
"I remember." The answer was short.
Jess asked the question again. "So, is everything okay?"
Robin burrowed her head further into Jess's chest. "Yes. I just surprised myself."
"How so?" Jess ran her fingers through Robin's soft hair.
The younger woman wasn't sure she could explain it properly. "Every time I think I have everything figured out, something happens and I realize something else." She furrowed her brows unseen, finally deciding to make the admission once and for all. "Jess, I think I'm addicted to you."
A low chuckle rumbled from Jess's chest.
"You're laughing." Robin couldn't help letting go a muffled laugh herself. "Cut it out." Her light giggles continued. "I'm serious here."
"Okay." Jess put on a straight face. "You're serious. You're addicted to me."
A very wide grin. "I'll have you know, Robin, that I've been addicted to you for a very long time."
Robin propped herself up on one elbow. "Really?"
"Yes. It's quite hopeless."
Robin grinned. "See, I had you pegged all along." She ducked her head and gave Jess a tender kiss. "You are very hopeless.
"Damn right." Jess drew Robin tightly to her. "So, tell me, is it a bad thing being addicted to each other?"
"I don't think so." Robin pillowed her head on Jess's shoulder. "It just surprised me, and maybe scared me a little, to realize I that was so emotionally dependent on someone. I knew that I loved you, and that I felt very close to you, but I didn't associate that with actually needing you." Her fingers idly played with the hem of the Calvin sleep shirt. "I guess it actually hit me over Christmas, but I didn't recognize it then. When we were apart, even though it was only for a few days, I felt like a part of me was missing. Now that we're together, I feel so .."
The younger woman reflected on that. "Yeah, I feel whole again. I know it seems weird." Small fingers continued to fiddle with the hem of the sleep shirt.
Robin didn't see it, but Jess discreetly reached up and brushed a bit of moisture from the corner of her eye, then swallowed back the lump which had unsuspectingly formed in her throat. "No, it's not weird. I feel it too, sweetheart." She quickly gathered her composure, then brought up something which had been on her mind. "Do you still want to go to Tampa with me on New Year's?" There was a slight hesitancy in her voice.
Green eyes peered up, a bit confused. "Of course I do, unless you think there might be a problem."
"No. No problem. My mom would love to meet you." Now was as good a time as any to confess. "I ..um ..told her about us."
Robin abruptly stilled her fingers on the sleep shirt hem, then spoke softly. "What did she say?"
"She wants me to be happy, and she can't wait to meet you." A small, reflective smile played at the edges of Jess's mouth. "I have to say, though, that I was a little nervous about telling her. I should have known that she'd understand." Robin was very quiet. Too quiet. "Does it bother you that I told her?"
A very long sigh. "Well, I would never tell you not to tell your mom anything you wanted to tell her. It's just that I'm not real comfortable with anyone knowing. I certainly don't know when or if I'll tell my parents." I seem to be very good at avoiding things. Another long sigh. "I guess I just wish we had discussed it first."
The older woman mentally kicked herself. Damn. You're an idiot, Jess. You're not the only one in this relationship. "I'm sorry, honey. It was wrong of me not to talk to you first." Jess rubbed Robin's back soothingly. "To tell you the truth, I didn't know until right beforehand that I was going to tell her. It just came out. I shouldn't have done that, though."
Robin shook her head against the broad shoulder. "No, it's okay. You should be able to talk to your mom about whatever you want. I'm just being silly." A small finger traced indistinct patterns on the Calvin covered stomach, a bit of insecurity now making its presence known. "What if your mom doesn't like me?"
That earned her a soft chuckle and a very strong hug. "She will love you. I guarantee it." Jess kissed the golden head. "And I love you. So don't you worry, okay?"
A muffled acknowledgment was the only reply, the sleepy green eyes now fully closed.
Jess watched for several moments as Robin's breathing evened out in slumber, then reflected on their light pillow talk. Addicted to each other. How about that? She wondered if it was really possible for them to have a life together forever. Her own eyelids grew heavy, and she began to drift off as one last thought meandered its way in an almost casual fashion throughout her consciousness.
I feel whole again.
New Year's Eve arrived. Several people from the office had planned a few parties, but neither Jess nor Robin felt inclined to make an appearance, opting instead for a quiet evening at The Ranch. Robin had picked up some ribs and was in the process of preparing dinner when Jess arrived home. Robin's not so secret rib recipe called for boiling the ribs in beer prior to barbecuing. This required, of course, that she drink the extra beer while awaiting the completion of the boiling process.
The dark haired woman strode into the kitchen, her nose twitching at the enticing aroma. "Whatcha fixing?"
Robin twirled around, beer can in hand. "Oh good, you're home. Could you start the grill? We're having ribs tonight." She finished the near-empty can of beer.
An expressive eyebrow arched. "I see you've started the New Year's Eve celebration without me."
Green eyes squinted in concentration. "You mean this?" She held up the now empty beer can. "I'll have you know that I was just finishing the leftover beer from the ribs."
"Right." A blue eye winked. "That's your story and you're sticking to it."
"Goofball." Robin grinned playfully. "Want one?" She handed Jess a beer, then went back to her cooking.
"Thanks." Jess popped the top and took a sip. "Are you sure you don't want to go anywhere tonight?"
"Nope." Petite arms ushered the older woman out of the kitchen. "Now, go get the grill going or we'll never eat." Robin watched as the retreating form exited onto the patio, then checked on the status of the side dishes. A few moments later, she heard Jess come up behind her. "Is the grill ready?"
"Yep." The older woman wrapped her arms around Robin from behind and softly began humming, then singing, the words to an old familiar holiday favorite.
Maybe it's much too early in the game
Ah, but I thought I'd ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?
Robin closed her eyes and rested her hands on top of the strong arms wrapped snuggly around her.
I wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it's exactly twelve o'clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year, New Year's Eve.
They both started swaying to the imaginary music.
Maybe I'm crazy to suppose
I'd ever be the one you chose
Out of a thousand invitations
Jess spun Robin around in her arms, blue eyes locking steadily onto green.
Ah, but in case I'd stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance
What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?
Robin leaned in a gave Jess a sweet kiss. "You're very romantic." She grinned contently. "You sing well, too."
"Thank you." Jess gave Robin another light kiss, then raised a hopeful eyebrow. "So?"
"So, what are you doing New Year's Eve?"
"Oh." A chuckle. "Spending it with you, silly." Robin turned around and carefully placed the beer-cooked ribs on a plate. "I was thinking that we'd stay up late, have a little popcorn, and watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV. What do you say?"
"An absolutely fantastic idea. Can I be in charge of the champagne?"
A giggle. "Hmmm. Popcorn and champagne. That's an interesting combination." The smaller woman pushed the plate of ribs and some barbecue sauce into Jess's hands. "I suppose it would be okay. That is, of course, if you know how to open the champagne without spraying it all over the place."
Jess started to turn around, but stopped as a snappy retort came to mind. "Are you asking me if I know how to pop the cork?"
Robin's mouth opened as the phrase registered. I can't believe she got me again. The smaller woman turned Jess fully around and pushed her out of the kitchen for the second time that night. "You're incorrigible. Now, go on and put those ribs on the grill."
Jess chuckled on her way out the door. That was too easy.
After a tasty dinner, Robin and Jess retired to the living room with their coffee to watch a few old-time reruns before the New Year's Eve festivities on TV began. As midnight drew near, Robin got up from the sofa and put some popcorn in the microwave while Jess took the chilled champagne from the refrigerator.
"Need help?" Robin watched as Jess started to twist off the wire from the lid.
"How about if I put a dish towel over the top in case it sprays?"
"How about if you stand over the sink just to be safe." Robin backed away from both Jess and the champagne, not trusting the situation for one minute.
"Are you sure?"
The older woman gave Robin a frank look and began to ease the cork from the bottle. "I'm in charge of the champagne, remember? You go tend to your popcorn."
"Fine." Robin grabbed a bowl for the popcorn. "But don't say I didn't warn you."
"And point it in that direction, will ya?" Robin indicated the pass-through opening on the opposite side of the kitchen. Just then, she heard a vacuum pop as the cork sailed through the pass-through and into the dining room. The younger woman turned around and gave the older woman an "I told you so" look.
Jess rushed to the sink, then glanced at Robin, both eyebrows raised innocently. "What?"
"So, how much of it spilled?"
A sheepish grin. "Hardly anything. For your information, Robin, I have everything perfectly under control."
"Right." Robin smirked. "We'll be looking for that cork for days."
Jess opened the cabinet and pulled down two champagne glasses. "I have a snappy remark to that, but I think I'll save it."
The smaller woman shuffled out of the kitchen, patting Jess's stomach in the process. "That would be very wise."
Upon preparation of all necessary popcorn and champagne, Jess and Robin situated themselves back on the plush sofa in the living room, popcorn bowl placed neatly in between them and champagne glasses sufficiently filled. They flipped the television to the correct station and awaited the final New Year's Eve countdown.
"It's starting." Robin's eyes lit up as the count began. "You know, they change that ball every year."
"Really? I hadn't noticed." Jess munched her popcorn. "It looks really cold up there."
"And it's only cool, here. Right, Jess?
That earned Robin a piece of popcorn to the head. Then another.
"Hey." A petite finger pointed at Jess. "Be good. I'm trying to listen to this." Another piece of popcorn flew by. "I'll pretend I didn't see that. It's ten seconds, Jess." More popcorn sailed. "It's five, four, three, two .." Robin was completely cut off as non-stop popcorn rained down from on high. She stared at the older woman dumbfounded, then shook the excess popcorn from her head. "Was that necessary?"
"Yes." Jess grinned happily. "It's my popcorn confetti." She dropped another piece of popcorn on top of Robin to make her point. "Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year, goofy." Robin leaned over and gave the older woman a lingering kiss, then picked up the champagne glasses from the coffee table and handed one to Jess. "A toast." She held up her glass. "To our new year together."
A very warm smile. "To our new year together." Jess clinked her glass against Robin's, then took a sip of champagne. "The first of many?"
Sea green eyes locked intently onto crystal blue. "Yes." Robin finished her champagne, then set both glasses back down on the coffee table. "The first of very many, Jess."
"Good." Jess whispered, then pulled Robin in for an achingly tender kiss, one which held a hint of a promise mere words simply could not express. She pulled away, the devotion evident on her face. "Happy New Year, sweetheart."
Robin rested her head against Jess's forehead. "Happy New Year, Jess."
"So fill me in on the who's who of your family." Robin sat back in the passenger seat of the silver Mercedes as they headed down the stretch of Interstate 4 to Tampa.
"Okay, first, there's my mother, Elaine. Then, there's my older brother, Peter, his wife, Peggy, and their kids, Jeremy and Michael." Jess kept one hand on the steering wheel as she fetched her wallet from her purse. "Here. I have some pictures in there."
Robin took the proffered wallet and opened it to view the referenced photographs. "Who's the little one?"
"Michael. He's two. Jeremy is four."
"They're adorable." Green eyes studied the recent snapshots. "I can see the family resemblance."
Robin flipped to a family photo. "Yes."
"Then following your logic, I take it you mean I'm adorable, too." Jess gave Robin a sideways glance.
Robin looked at the older woman in near disbelief. "My, we do have a high opinion of ourselves, don't we?"
"Just repeating your own words, Robin." The cross-examination began. "Did you or did you not say that my nephews were adorable? Yes or no."
I'll play. "Yes."
"And did you or did you not then state that you could see the family resemblance?"
The dark head shook. "Just yes or no, please."
An aggrieved sigh. "Yes."
"There you have it, ladies and gentlemen." A triumphant look. "I'm ready to rule on the matter, now, Robin. The opinion of the Court is clear and unambiguous. I am adorable."
"You are hopeless." The associate muttered under her breath.
"Did you say something?" Jess inquired. "You're my star witness, Robin. If you have something you want the Court to consider, speak up."
"I said you're hopeless."
"Immaterial. I can be hopeless and still be adorable." The junior partner smiled confidently. "So, then what you're really saying is that I'm hopelessly adorable."
Oh brother. "Pull over."
Jess 's mouth fell open. "How come?"
"Because I'm convinced you've been sipping at the left-over champagne."
"For your information, Robin, there was no left-over champagne. You finished it last night right before you started crawling around underneath the dining room table."
"I was looking for the cork that practically sailed into the next county after somebody, who shall remain nameless but who is very hopeless, attempted to open said champagne in a correct manner but obviously failed to do so." A small smirk. "If this particular person, who purportedly was in charge of the champagne, had listened to the person who was in charge of the popcorn, then perhaps the person in charge of the popcorn wouldn't have had to crawl underneath that table to begin with."
A quick roll of the driver's blue eyes, but otherwise no comment.
"And another thing, if the person in charge of the champagne had listened to the person in charge of the popcorn, maybe some of said champagne would not have spilled onto the kitchen floor."
A very bored look. "Are you finished, now?"
"Good, because number one, Robin, I cleaned up the two drops of champagne that spilled on the kitchen floor. Number two, we will eventually find the cork. And number three, and most importantly, we still did not get all that popcorn out of the sofa."
Robin was indignant. "Wait a minute, Bucko. I was not the one who decided to use the popcorn as confetti."
"Oh. Right." The junior partner contemplated her rebuttal. "It still doesn't matter, Robin, because the person who was in charge of the popcorn still had the ultimate responsibility for everything pertaining to said popcorn. Don't blame me for your failure to adequately perform your responsibilities in the popcorn department." The older woman was quite satisfied with her argument.
Green eyes narrowed considerably. "You're impossible."
"I'm hopeless." Jess corrected.
"Finally." Robin gestured with her hands. "Something we agree on."
"Right. Hopeless." A blue eye peered over at the younger woman. "And adorable?"
That absolutely did it for Robin. She broke down in uncontrollable giggles, then reached over and took Jess's hand in her own, rubbing her thumb lightly over the knuckles. "Yes, Jess, you're hopelessly adorable."
Jess gave the smaller hand a gentle squeeze, then beamed in total victory. "See, I knew you'd see it my way."
The younger woman stared at Jess for a moment as the realization hit her, then shook her head. It's a amazing how she got me to admit that. "You planned that very well. I'm quite impressed."
"Thank you." The junior partner grinned proudly. "It just takes a little practice. Do I get any points for my effort?"
Robin chuckled, then pondered the question carefully. "You certainly have excellent powers of persuasion, I'll give you that, especially since the subject doesn't know you're persuading him or her until it's too late." She considered the matter further. "Since I'm the judge of all things point-related, and I was very impressed with your persuasive skills, as opposed to your so-called champagne opening skills, I say yes, you definitely get points for your efforts."
"Good. Let me know when I have enough." Jess focused on the road.
"Oh." A blonde eyebrow arched. "Don't worry, Jess. You'll know."
I'm counting on that.
The silver Mercedes pulled into the driveway of the modern townhouse well before noon and well before its scheduled arrival time. Robin slid out the passenger seat and joined Jess for the walk up the sidewalk to the front door. All was very quiet, and Jess used her house key to enter the residence. Inside, the blue spruce Christmas tree was lit beautifully with colored lights, while an attractive fire glowed softly in the living room fireplace. Several stockings were hung on the mantel bearing the names of all members of the Harrison family.
Robin took in the scene with interest, the warmth of the family gathering room evident from just a moment's presence inside. She mused to herself that it was somehow reminiscent of a seasonal postcard setting, and all that was truly missing was the view of snow-covered trees and hillsides outside. To complete the setting, green garland, together with evenly spaced mauve colored bows, adorned the banister. Robin's nose twitched as she detected a faint cinnamon scent permeating its way throughout the house. It was entirely comfortable, and to be honest, Robin had never experienced this type of feeling before. Her own holidays from years past were very nice, but rather formal in nature. Her mother had a way of making everything very precise and proper, but not terribly original. She walked further into the room and admired the fireplace, examining with amused green eyes the stockings still hung at the mantel. She stifled a small giggle.
Blue eyes shifted in her direction, then an accompanying dark eyebrow shot up. "Something you find funny?"
Robin pointed to one stocking in particular. "Would that one be yours?"
Jess hesitated, then drawled. "Yes."
"It's very nice ..Jessie." Another louder giggle.
A long finger wagged playfully. "It's a family nickname, Robin, and I don't want to hear another word about it." Blue eyes narrowed in mock threat. "You got that?"
Robin made an exaggerated show of zipping her lips shut, then turned to admire the Christmas tree. "Your mother did a great job of decorating the house. Its no wonder you get your tree fill every year here. I love the old fashioned ornaments."
Just then, an older woman stepped out from the kitchen, dusting her hands on her apron in front of her. "Oh, Jessie, you're here. I wasn't expecting you for another hour." She walked over to where Robin and Jess were standing.
"All part of my plan, Mom. See? You didn't worry, and we had plenty of time in case we hit traffic." It really was a terrific plan, Jess had to admit. She gave her mother a hug then introduced Robin. "Mom, I'd like you to meet Robin." Jess practically beamed as she said made the introduction.
"Robin, how nice to meet you. Jessie has spoken so wonderfully of you." Elaine Harrison grasped Robin's hand warmly. "I'm so happy you could join us today."
Green eyes lit up. Robin liked Jess's mother already. I don't know why I was worried. "Mrs. Harrison, it's nice to meet you, too. Thank you for inviting me."
"Come on, girls, let's sit down." Elaine led them over to the sofa and took a seat in the opposite chair. "Jessie, how was your week?"
Jess caught Robin's amused glance and leaned over to whisper something in her mother's ear, then sat back. "Slow week, really, but everything's great."
"That's good, Jess." Elaine annunciated the last word quite deliberately, enjoying Robin's not too subtle grin as she did so. "So, Robin, tell me how you're finding Florida."
"Other than missing the change of seasons, I really like it. I'll have to wait, though, until I experience the summer months before I give my full opinion."
"Most of the year is summer, Robin." Jess quipped.
The younger woman gave a Jess frank look. "As I recall, we had a few cold days not too long ago."
"Cool days." Jess corrected.
A playful smirk. "Right."
Elaine watched the gentle teasing with an interested eye, thinking how comfortable her daughter seemed to be in the presence of Robin. Her daughter did indeed appear happy, the relaxed demeanor a cue to how the younger woman had effectively washed away an underlying pain that Jess seemed to always carry with her. "Well girls, Peter and the boys will be over shortly so I need to get going with dinner. We'll be eating early so you girls won't have to drive back to Orlando in the dark." She got up and made her way toward the kitchen. "We're having ham today."
"Hey, Mom, are you making ..?"
"Of course." Elaine smiled warmly and stepped into the next room.
Golden eyebrows furrowed. "Is she making what?"
"Nothing." Jess nonchalantly dismissed the question.
"You know I'm gonna find out. Just tell me."
The dark haired woman seemed almost embarrassed. "She makes me a special side dish."
Robin's eyes twinkled and her nose crinkled up in a very cute fashion. "The main ingredient in that side dish wouldn't happen to be ..say ..shrimp, would it?"
Robin chuckled a bit uncontrollably. "You are so hopeless."
"I thought we already decided that I was hopelessly adorable." A blue eye winked.
"Right." Robin contemplated the current situation, her green eyes holding a bit of mirth. "This is quite serious, you know. Even I hadn't realized the extent of your shrimp fetish until now."
"It is not a fetish." Jess insisted.
Robin patted Jess's arm indulgently. "Whatever you say."
The front door opened and two small, rambunctious rugrats raced inside, followed by two more subdued adults.
"Jessie!" Jeremy ran over to the sofa, with his brother in tow.
"Hey there, kiddos." Jess gave both boys a huge hug, wrapping an arm around each, then glanced up as Peter and Peggy entered the room. Peggy was a slightly taller than average woman with light blonde hair, and at the moment, a very frazzled demeanor. "Hi, Peter, Peg. Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year." Peggy crashed on the nearby loveseat.
Peter followed. "Hi, Sis. Happy New Year."
Jess began her second round of introductions. "Peter, Peg, I'd like you to meet my friend, Robin. She works with me at the firm."
Peggy extended her hand. "Hello, Robin. Good to meet you." She heard one of her children making a bit too much noise in the other room and turned to her husband. "Honey, could you check on the boys? I'm afraid they're bothering your mother in there."
"Sure." Peter stood up. "Nice to meet you, Robin." He turned and left the room, leaving the three women alone.
Jess watched as her brother retreated into the kitchen. "Kids a bit much today, Peg?"
A soft laugh escaped Peggy's lips. "You could say that. It's barely noon and I feel like I've run a marathon."
Jess thought for a moment, then shifted slightly. It occurred to her that her posture may appear a bit too cozy near Robin. After all, she hadn't disclosed their relationship to her brother, and thereby, his wife. Peggy was a very nice person, very friendly and easy to talk with. Still, Jess wasn't sure how her sister-in-law would react to the revelation. As a matter of fact, Peggy was a religious person and made sure the family attended Mass every week. She had even made arrangements to have her children attend the parochial school when they were old enough, a spot for each of them already reserved on future school rolls. As for Peter, to be honest, Jess wasn't sure what her brother would think about her relationship with Robin. That brought up another whole aspect to the situation. Would their relationship become a religious issue? Although Jess didn't often attend Mass, she did still believe many of the things she'd learned in Catholic school, even if she no longer practiced all aspects of the faith. She was brought from her momentary musing by a light tap on her forearm.
"Jess, do you think your Mom needs any help?" Green eyes studied the now pensive features.
"Let me go check." Jess made a hasty retreat and entered the kitchen, finding her mother preparing the glaze for the ham. "Hi. Where are the boys? I thought they'd be in here."
"Oh, they're out back with Peter running off some of that energy." Elaine turned the spice rack several times until she found the dry mustard. "I wonder what's got them so wound up today." She pulled the brown sugar down from the cupboard. "Is everything going all right out there with Robin and Peg?"
"Yeah." Jess hesitated for just a second, then finally spit it out. "Listen, Mom, I was wondering if we could keep my relationship with Robin quiet just for now?"
Elaine stopped, sensing a certain anxiety from her daughter. "Honey, of course. It's up to you when and how much you want to tell anyone." She picked up a small knife and began neatly scoring the ham, then offered a simple, yet sincere, comment. "She's lovely."
Jess visibly melted. "She is, isn't she?" A small, self-deprecating chuckle followed. "Sometimes, I can't imagine why she'd want to be with me."
Elaine added the cloves. "She loves you." There was really no further explanation needed.
Jess nodded. She loves me. It was indeed amazing. A small smile graced her lips as she pondered that statement a moment more. Amazing. "Here, Mom, let me start the sweet potatoes while you finish with the ham."
Finally, the meal preparations were completed and later that afternoon dinner was served. The boys ate most of their dinners and behaved well enough, save for one minor crying spell over the almond string beans. For Robin's part, she absolutely soaked it all up. The family atmosphere and warmth infused her spirit, something which until this very day she hadn't known she was missing. It was a beautiful family, loving and caring and accepting. Robin considered that thought a bit more. Elaine knew about her relationship with Jess, but not once did she appear awkward or uncomfortable. In fact, she seemed as if everything was perfectly normal. She even seemed ..pleased, if that was the right word. It was an incredible feeling, and amazing at the same time. In just one small visit, Robin felt as though she belonged, and that, itself, felt very, very good.
After dinner, the adults gathered in the living room while the children went out into the backyard to play. The boys kicked the soccer ball around a little, and although Michael was barely two years old, he attempted an admirable job. Robin watched through the sliding glass doors with amusement, finally giving in to the urge to join them at their game. The boys did, after all, need a goalie.
As the younger woman ran and played with the boys, Jess watched from inside with considerable interest. She's very good with them. She watched further as Robin picked up Michael and gave him a big hug before lining up the ball for him to kick. Does she want children? Blue eyes focused on the younger woman's gentle manner. She'd be a good mother. Robin next lined up the ball for Jeremy and pretended to guard the imaginary goal. She'd be a great mother. A light touch on the shoulder brought Jess from her thoughts.
"Go on outside and play with them, Jessie. I'm sure the boys are running Robin ragged by now." Elaine winked inconspicuously.
"I suppose I should try to rescue her from being overrun." Jess grinned, then joined Robin in the backyard just in time to see both boys pounce on the younger woman in fits of laughter.
Inside, Peggy kept a watchful eye on her children, mainly to make sure the little ones didn't overwhelm Jess's guest. It was in this context that she picked up on the unmistakable affection between her sister-in-law and Robin. Although she couldn't pinpoint anything in particular, Peggy got the sense that there was more going on than appeared at first glance. She had to admit that Jess's friend had quite a way with her kids, who definitely would have driven anyone crazy by now. That certainly was a very good thing and earned Robin high marks as far as Peggy was concerned.
After an eventful day, Jess and Robin reluctantly decided that it was time to head back to Orlando. If they left right away, they wouldn't have to make the hour and a half trip primarily in the dark. It was Elaine who worried the most about the trip back and forth from Orlando, especially when traveling alone at night. The two women bid their good-byes, then set off for home.
Jess slid into the driver's seat and buckled her seatbelt. "Ready, kiddo?"
Robin smiled. "Yeah." A very thoughtful sigh followed.
"Something on your mind?" The older woman backed out of the driveway and headed out past the security guardhouse.
"It's funny, but I miss them already. Your family, I mean."
Jess smiled fondly. "Me, too, kiddo. But, we'll come back and visit again soon."
"I absolutely promise." Long fingers reached over to grasp Robin's. "You can count on that."
"Hey, Jess?" Robin cuddled up tight against the older woman's chest. The still and dark of the late night surrounded them in lazy comfort.
"Yeah?" Jess wrapped her arms snuggly around the petite form.
"I had a wonderful time today. Thank you for inviting me." Robin felt a soft kiss against her forehead. "I really love your family."
"See, there was nothing to worry about." Jess traced tiny patterns with her finger on Robin's back. "And I know for a fact that they loved you."
"Yes." A low whisper. "My mom told me so."
"Really?" A small finger brushed the satin of Jess's pajama top, feeling its silky smooth surface.
"Yes. And I always believe what my mother tells me." Large hands rubbed back and forth in assurance against the cotton flannel nightshirt Robin wore. "You know what they say." Jess grinned in the dark. "Mother knows best."
A small giggle, then a contented sigh. "I love you."
"And I love you, more than I could ever say." Jess stroked the side of Robin's cheek tenderly. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me and the best thing in my life. I'm very much looking forward to spending the new year with you."
Robin swallowed, then whispered. "I'm looking forward to that, too." There was a hint of uncertainty as she spoke her next words. "I'm also looking forward to spending many new years with you, Jess, if you still want that."
Yes. Azure eyes fluttered closed. "Yes." Jess ducked her head and kissed Robin lips ever so lightly. "That sounds very good to me." She hugged the smaller woman close.
"So, it's a deal, then?
Jess smiled unseen. "Yes. It's a deal."
"Good." Robin interlaced her fingers with Jess's larger ones.
"Good." Jess drew their joined hands up and underneath her chin.
Peaceful sleep's embrace came quickly that evening as the two slumbering forms nestled snuggly against each other in quiet contentment, the dark and gentle stillness of the night surrounding them with a promise for the future both dearly hoped for and neither could live without.
© Copyright 12/18/2000
Author's Note and acknowledgment: Thanks to all of you who've had the patience, and the endurance, to read this story (especially since there's been no plot). Thanks also to all of you who've provided feedback and encouragement throughout this journey. Please stay tuned for the upcoming sequel "Considerable Appeal" which will be posted at a web site near you in short order. As always, all comments and feedback are welcome and greatly appreciated.
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