Disclaimers and stuff in Chapter 1

Chapter 8

Unfortunately, the coffee date never came to fruition. Jill became engulfed in wedding preparations and when she wasn't working, she was helping out with last minute details and keeping Rachel from killing her future mother-in-law. That alone took up a lot of her time.

She had struck up semi-regular phone conversations with Lan during that week though, finding the tiniest reasons to call her. Lan always seemed happy to hear from her as they exchanged news on their now mutual friends and Lan kept Jill updated on the happenings of the bowling league.

When they ran out of news to report, their banter came easy and often, each seeming to find a quick familiarity with each other that, at least for Lan, was rare. It was also very welcomed.

She was finding a real friend in Jill and despite her quiet surprise that she was a lesbian, she looked forward to any encounters that she would have with her. The sergeant made her laugh a lot and her spirited personality and candor were beginning to become infectious.

"So, I guess you are going to see me in a dress, which only happens, well, at weddings." Jill commented in her usual succinct way causing Lan to giggle into the phone.

"Yeah, and tell me the color again?" Lan said just to goad her. She heard a heavy sigh over the phone.


More giggling over the phone from Lan.

Jill decided to change the subject. "How are Tina and the kids settling in? Jill asked, remembering Lan telling her about her neighbors.

Lan smiled at the mention of them. "They are doing great! Pete and I are going over there for a BBQ next week to see how far they've come on the house." She said animatedly.

"That's cool." Jill said trying not to sound as unenthused as she felt. She really had to get over this if Lan and Pete became serious.

"Hey, Lan, I gotta get going to the station. I have to pick up a few things before I take off." Jill said, a bit bummed to end the conversation.

"Right. Well, I guess I'll see you up at the lodge Saturday?" Lan asked, cheerfully.

"Oh yeah, you can't miss me. I'll be the redhead that looks like Kermit the Frog threw up on me." Jill deadpanned.

"That's quite a visual." Lan said as her laughter died down.

"That will be exactly what you think when you see what I have to wear." And with that she clicked off, chuckling a bit as well.

Lan sat up in her seat, mesmerized by the towering redwoods and wispy pines that stuck out in sharp contrast to the rapidly melting snow. Her carsickness was all but forgotten as they neared the tunnel that would take them to Yosemite Valley.

"How are you doing?" Asked Pete as he deftly maneuvered the car around the winding mountain road.

"Better. The view has taken my mind off of anything except how beautiful it is up here."

"I still can't believe you haven't ever been up here. Just wait until we stop and get a view of the valley." Pete said with a pleased smile.

Lan couldn't help but feel a bit of sadness as she watched the frost-laden tree branches go by in a slow blur. She'd heard people talk about the beauty of Yosemite and yet, here she was, 32 and only an hour and a half away and she'd never been.

Lan's contemplative state was shattered as Pete sounded the horn in the tunnel. He gave a sheepish grin when he saw Lan nearly jump out of her seat.

"Sorry, couldn't resist." He said with a boyish shrug.

A retort was on her lips as they pulled into the parking lot and Pete stopped the car. The retort died as soon as she saw the view in front of them. Without a word she pushed open the car door, grabbing her jacket from the back absently. She then stepped out of the car slowly not wanting to take the whole scene in just yet.

Pete went around the back of the car and came up behind her. "What do you think?" He said in a loud whisper.

"I now understand the term 'breathtaking." She said solemnly as she slipped on her jacket and moved closer to the low stone wall. She stood, quiet and still, listening to the ghostly echo of wind as it caressed the high walls of the magnificent valley, bringing with it a blanket of cold, crisp air. She noted the famous rock faces of Half Dome and El Capitan, looking as though they'd been sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Beyond her first sentence spoken aloud, she could think of no other words to describe the beauty before her. She noted the goose bumps that had nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with what she took in visually. There had been few things in her life that have affected her viscerally. This definitely made the short list.

She'd forgotten about Pete being by her side as he wordlessly held her camera out to her. She smiled absently at him as she took it reverently and began snapping off almost half the roll before letting the camera rest against her chest.

"Hard to believe frozen water did this, huh?" Pete rumbled into Lan's ear. She nodded mutely, still a little too overcome to speak. After a few more moments of soaking in the view, Lan turned and squeezed Pete's bicep through his jacket.

"Thanks for bringing me up here. For inviting me to the wedding." Lan said with a heartfelt smile.

"You're welcome, but I gotta admit, my intentions were a little selfish." Upon Lan's slightly puzzled look, Pete chuckled and continued. "I really enjoy your company Lan. I wanted you here with me." He said a bit more seriously.

"Oh." Was all she managed around a small shy smile. "You ready to get going?" She asked, eager to see the valley floor.

"Sure." Pete said as he made his way to Lan's door and opened it for her to get in.

"Thanks." She said politely as she slipped in, putting her camera away.

"So, the lodge is actually on the other side of the valley, but we'll take a little tour through some of the visitor spots. We still have a couple of hours before the wedding starts." Pete informed her as he started the car and began to back out of the spot.

They made their way around the campgrounds, Pete pointing out trailheads and recalling memories of his visits until they reached the Yosemite Village Center. They took some time and toured around the area, browsing the gift shops and general store, Lan scouting the souvenirs.

They arrived at the lodge a little before three o'clock and were met by Scot who was standing outside, talking with an older gentleman in a rustic plaid shirt and canvas vest.

"Hey, guys! I'm so glad you could both make it!" He said with genuine happiness. He shook Pete's hand vigorously, finally pulling him into a manly half hug. He looked to Lan and held out his arms. She laughed and went to hug him, being crushed against his chest momentarily.

"This is Pastor Keith Chesmore, the he will be performing the service." Explained Scott.

"It's nice to meet you, Pastor." Pete said politely. Lan merely nodded and shook his hand, a warm smile on her face.

"Well, Scotty, I think everything is in order. I will be seeing you in a bit!" The older man smiled widely and then took his leave after bidding everyone goodbye.

"This place is beautiful." Gushed Lan when the three of them were alone. "You couldn't have picked a more perfect place for a wedding." She said as she took in the sight of a large waterfall on the other side of the valley.

"Yeah, when we first got engaged, we went round and round on locations. Then it just hit us one day- Yosemite. It's one of our favorite places to visit. Let me tell you, we've made plenty of good memories right here in this lodge, too." He added cheekily.

"I'll bet." Lan responded with a knowing grin.

"Let's get you guys to your rooms." Scott said as he went to pick up Lan's bag. She began to protest and then thought better of it, remembering how Pete felt about chivalry being a dying practice. Instead she thanked him and followed the two men inside the beautiful redwood and glass structure that was the lodge lobby.

"I got you guys adjoining rooms, hope that is okay." Scott said as he led them through the main lobby and outside onto a stone path that had been recently cleared of snow.

"That's fine." Lan said, seeing that Pete had left it up to her to approve. When Pete had asked her to be his date for the wedding, he'd promptly told her the wedding would take place over a weekend at Yosemite. Her first reaction was pure excitement, as she'd never been to Yosemite and had always wanted to visit.

But upon realizing that meant an overnight stay, she began to hesitate in her answer until Pete said that they would get separate rooms. Technically, this would be their third date and she was nowhere near ready for the type of intimacy of sharing a room, whether something happened or not between them physically. And that was a whole other issue she'd rather not face this weekend. Still she was appreciative of Pete's never-ending respect and consideration of her.

They walked carefully through the slush, talking about their respective trips up and details about the ceremony and reception that night. As they reached a rustic but well-built building, Scott produced a keycard, letting them in. They continued to follow him until he came to the end of the hallway.

"Here are your rooms. Pete, you are in 211 and Lan, you are in 213. Across the hall are Liz and Jill. They are around here somewhere. Probably getting into some trouble." Scott added with a grin.

"I'm sure Rachel has them running ragged." Pete laughed as he took the keycards that Scott held out.

Scott chuckled as well. "I bet you are right! I'll leave you two to get settled. Gotta go find my bride-to-be and save those poor women from her wrath." Scott said as he waved to them and headed down the hallway to find Rachel.

"You guys wanna meet at the chapel, say, about 5 o'clock? Heard there might be a weddin'!" Scott called over his shoulder gregariously, making Lan and Pete laugh.

Lan opened the door to her modest but clean room, noting immediately that she had a lovely view of the waterfall she'd seen earlier. She assumed from the map and pictures that it was Bridalveil Falls. Man, the dogs would love it here! She thought as she set her small suitcase down on the bed and went to open the sliding glass door that lead to a small patio.

The weather was noticeably warmer here than at the entrance to the valley where they had stopped. She also noted that there was still a bit of snow on the ground where the sunlight didn't get a chance to penetrate. After one last look at the falls, Lan headed back into her room to unpack, shower, then change for the evening wedding.


Wow. Jill was right. Lan thought as she stifled a giggle as Jill came up the small aisle. Like a beacon getting picked up by radar, Jill's eyes slid to Lan's immediately and out popped her tongue so quickly, Lan thought she had imagined it. She certainly caught the wink though and her face instantly bowed into a silly smile.

As the rest of the small wedding party passed by, Lan felt Pete lean into her shoulder and whisper. "The sergeant cleans up pretty nice." Before she could nod her agreement, he added, "Even in that god-awful color." It was her undoing and her small, controlled, yet audible outburst had the two pews in front of her swinging their heads around with a mixture of curiosity and admonishment.

"Sorry", she mouthed to those whose steely glare lingered. Then the first notes of the wedding march were heard and her embarrassment was lost in the ruffling of clothes and shuffling of shoes as the guests stood to witness the bride's entrance.

Lan smiled reflexively at the beautiful and obviously overjoyed bride. Her off-white floor length dress was absolutely stunning and her hair took on an ethereal beauty as it was swept up in a loose bun with ringlets framing her heart-shaped face.

She made her way down the aisle holding Scott's eyes the entire way. The look the two shared made Lan pause. To be on either end of that look must be the most incredible feeling in the world, she thought to herself.

Hearing the rhythmic clinking of glasses signaling the toasts were about to begin, Jill fiddled with the strap of her low-high heels, trying to slip them back on after taking them off during dinner. She was fortunate to be at the head table where an off-white drape hid her legs and feet from view. It was heaven to have her feet free, if only for a few minutes.

She smiled and looked on as Rachel's father cleared his throat slowly and rose his glass. "To my little girl. Well, you are not little anymore, but you'll always be mine, right here." He said in a quavering voice as he laid his hand over his heart. It was strange yet endearing to see the big hulk of a man a bit overcome and Jill felt the corners of her eyes moistening along with most of the small reception.

Jill scanned the room eyes falling where Lan and Pete sat and was momentarily caught up in watching them interact. They sat closely together, shoulders touching, watching Scott's mother conclude her toast. She idly wondered how much they had progressed. Best not to give it much thought, Cooper.

Jill felt expectant eyes on her and realized the microphone was being passed her way. It was decided on earlier that each person in the bride and groom's party would say a little something about the couple.

She stood slowly in order to compose her self and there was a momentary panic about what she was going to say. That panic died away however, when she held the mic to her and looked at the beaming couple. The three held eyes for a moment and the funny quip that came to Jill's mind died away as she was struck by the rareness of what was in front of her. As much as she teased the couple, the truth was, she was jealous of what they shared.

But she also saw hope for herself. True happiness did exist and it seemed attainable whenever she was around them.

"Scott and Rachel, you two have something I think everyone looks for but few find. At least that's what it seems like around Valentine's Day."

Jill couldn't resist the last remark, as it was her nature to make light of pretty much any situation. She waited patiently for the chuckles to die down before continuing. "I know there are many in here that are more qualified to give you marriage advice, so I'll just give you advice from a single's perspective. Never forget how lucky you two are and never pass up an opportunity to tell each other."

With a quirky grin to the bride and groom, the microphone was passed on amid cheers and clinking glasses and Jill sat down, glad to be out of the center of attention.

As they had increasingly throughout the night, Jill's eyes fell to the table where Lan was sitting. She had only had a chance to exchange a few words with the bar manager before the reception started and had hoped to get a chance to talk with her more. A hastily made statement on how blue was a great color on her had been about all she'd had the time to say before being whisked to the head table before the bride and groom arrived.

She did however hear the soft 'thank you' from Lan as she turned to give her friend a little wave.

This time, Jill's gaze, which had grown more intense with each glass of champagne, started wandering from the bottom of the table to where she knew Lan was sitting sideways, slightly pushed out from the table. She followed a slender buff-colored hosed foot to a slender ankle, pausing at the bottom of the deep blue dress that came down to mid-calf. An unfamiliar heat invaded Jill's senses, causing her to skip her lazy perusal and looked straight up into Lan's face. Crap, caught.

She couldn't really read Lan's expression, but she didn't look offended. So she just gave her an unapologetic half-grin and slightly raised eyebrow. You know you caught me checking you out, Jill's alcohol-sensed brain audaciously supplied.

Lan held Jill's gaze and gave back a half-grin of her own until the sergeant gamely looked away. Hmmm.

The little exchange left Lan wondering what that was all about. She'd felt an awareness of the other woman throughout the night and she could have sworn she'd sensed Jill's eyes on her before she'd even turned in her direction. And the half-smile Jill gave her. She wasn't sure what to make of it. Too much alcohol, probably, thought Lan with a smile, remembering Jill's story.

Her introspection was interrupted when she heard the announcement of the couple's first dance. She settled back into her seat and watched as the first dance began with the bride and groom happily ensconced with a popular love song playing softly.

She watched the couple interact with each other. It was obvious they noticed nothing else but each other as the song played. They traded sweet kisses and whispers, words only meant for the other. It made Lan feel a bit like a voyeur, but she couldn't look away. It was simply beautiful to watch and she found herself wiping away a bit of moisture from the corner of her eye as raucous applause and whistles signaled the end of the slow song and the rest of the wedding party joined them on the floor.

She took the opportunity to watch Jill as she grabbed one of the quieter groomsmen and began showing him some simple dance steps, all the while whispering things to make him laugh and feel more at ease. She has such charisma. I wonder why she is still single? Lan wondered.

"Wanna dance?" Pete asked.

"Hmmm?" She responded, still caught in her own thoughts.

"Dance?" He asked again, gesturing to the dance floor.

"Oh, um, sure." She managed to get out before being swept away onto the dance floor. They turned to face each other and then Pete pulled Lan close, taking her hand in his and putting his other on the small of her back. They began to move in small but well synchronized steps to the beat and Lan began to really enjoy herself.

The height difference wasn't very much with heels on, but up this close, Lan had to tilt her head back slightly. "You are a very good dancer." Lan said lightly as she was ushered into a small spin.

"You ain't too shabby yourself, doll." Pete said in a bad Bogart impersonation, making Lan giggle. He is so much fun to be around.

They danced a while in silence, enjoying John Hiatt's version of "Have a Little Faith in Me" as they moved around the floor effortlessly. When the chorus came up, Pete began to lip-sync, this time doing a spot-on impression of the singer's facial expressions. It had Lan laughing outright.

"I'm so glad I met you, Pete. You are like the brother I never had." She said while catching her breath.

She was pulled to a standstill as Pete had stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at her for what seemed like forever with a slightly cocked head and then they began dancing again more slowly. "When you say brother, you mean it in the Arkansas way, right?" He said half-jokingly. She caught the trepidation in his voice and it made her realize what she had just said.

"Because if you are thinking of me like that…" He continued, leaving the sentence unfinished with a nervous laugh.

Geez, Lan, why the hell did you go and open your stupid mouth. "Oh, no Pete. I just meant…" What did I mean?

By this time the song had ended and they had moved slowly to their seats, relinquishing the dance floor to the disco music revelers as the sounds of K.C. and the Sunshine band began to permeate the room.

Pete sat, turning his attention to Lan expectantly, with a warm but cautious smile on his face.

She really didn't want to have this conversation here, at the wedding reception of his friends. Thinking quickly and wanting to be on somewhat 'neutral territory', she suggested that they go for a walk. He agreed and went to tell a few people they'd be back in a while.

After a few minutes, they were outside walking along in a strange silence until they both realized it was way too cold for a walk. They both laughed quietly as they heard each other's teeth chatter.

"Let's head back to the lodge." Lan suggested. Pete readily agreed and they made quick work of the walk back. With unspoken agreement, Lan let them into her room and each of them sat wordlessly, thighs barely touching at the foot of her bed.

Lan felt the stillness settle in Pete's posture. She was sure he had an idea of what was coming. Lan decided not to prolong it.

"Pete." She started. "First, I want to tell you that I really enjoy being with you. We have a lot of fun. You listen to me, I feel safe with you." She said in a rush, grabbing his hand and squeezing, turning slightly to look into his eyes.

"Like you would with a brother?" He probed, fear evident in his voice. They looked at each other for a long moment. Lan knew what she needed to say to rectify this, to take it back and allay his fear.

But his fear was justified wasn't it? She knew what he wanted. He wanted more. But they'd been dating for the better part of a month and she felt nothing beyond friendship for him. Saying anything else would be a lie and it would not be fair-to either of them.

She wanted to believe she was confused in her feelings for Pete and that perhaps she just needed more time. But the fact was, she did know. She liked Pete. Just not in an 'I want more' way.

That's how Tina had described what it was like with her first husband when they had begun dating. Since their first date, Lan had been asking herself if she indeed wanted more with Pete. Each time the answer was tellingly non-committal.

Her internal dialogue slowed her response enough to give Pete all the answer he needed too. He set his jaw and pulled his hand away from Lan's gently, slowly.

Her hand instantly felt cold, more from guilt than the loss of warmth. She looked plaintively at Pete wishing she could say something, anything to erase the hurt look on his face. But she knew there was nothing she really could say.

"Look, Lan, I like you. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for more. Are you sure? I mean, couldn't we give it some more time?" He asked reasonably.

Lan closed her eyes for a few seconds, thinking about how to verbalize what she'd been thinking the last few weeks. "I thought about that, have been thinking about that all weekend, even before this weekend. I just… It's like…" Lan really didn't know how to continue without bruising the man's ego. I'm not physically attracted to you? Whatever it is you are supposed to be doing for me, you ain't 'doing it' for me? I can't imagine anything more than a friendship with you?

Pete watched her struggle to explain. Not wanting to put her on the spot any longer, he grabbed her hand again and gave her a small, sweet smile. "It is alright Lan. You feel what you feel. You don't owe me an explanation. It isn't like we are 5 years into a marriage with six kids or anything." She raised her eyebrow at the six kid thing but then quickly returned his smile with a relieved one of her own.

"I'm sorry, Pete. You are a great guy. You deserve someone who can give you all that you want and need. I just don't think it is me." She said softly.

With that he nodded, lips in a grim smile. "Well, I know this is usually the women's line, especially in this instance, but I'm going to be the one to ask. Can we still be friends?"

Lan let out a relieved chuckle. "Absolutely. I was hoping that wouldn't change." Lan said warmly.

"It won't." Pete said with confidence.

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