(Part II Conclusion)


See Part I for Disclaimers and Copyright information.

Chapter III

Propped up on an elbow, Randi leaned over the brunette's prone form. Somehow she had gotten a still incoherent, Reese to get up and crawl into bed. The blonde had been able to wrestle her out of most of her clothes before she gave up to exhaustion and worry.

She looked at me as if I were a ghost. I wasn't expecting that, and it doesn't make any sense. Maybe she's working too hard. I'll have to talk to Ken and see if anything is going on at her job that she's not telling me about.

With soft fingertips, Randi traced her lover's eyebrows, then an aquiline nose. So beautiful, and I still can't believe she's with me. Momma would be proud. She always said I'd find a woman larger than life who would take good care of me. Look, momma, we take care of each other. After you died, I didn't think I could ever let anybody in again only to watch them leave one way or another. Randi pulled away from her lover and laid down on her back, peering up at the ceiling. Her thoughts and silent whispers strayed to those she missed most.

I still don't know how she did it. You should have heard the cheesy lines, and I swear she thought they were working. The blonde smiled in reminiscence. I guess they did. She makes me laugh momma, so hard that I forget everything. She doesn't mind my temper or my foul mouth. A breath of fresh air I think she called it.

We've been together for a whole year, and I still think I'm the only one besides Ken who is completely honest with her. I love her so much, but I think that scares her sometimes. I can see this cornered look in her eyes. I still know that she cares. She wouldn't be here otherwise.

I wish you could talk back, momma. I can't believe it's been almost three years. I swear you kept me laughing even in the end. Laughter is the best medicine. I believe you now, because I don't think you suffered that much at all, despite the cancer. I know it's been a long time since I talked to you. I guess I'm doing it now because it's Christmas, and for once, I'm not miserable.

Krystal still won't really talk to me, my own sister. Can you believe that? She still thinks all this is a phase, even after four years and two relationships. You didn't mind, I don't understand why she does. Well, I can be stubborn too. It's a Davenport trait. I miss you, momma.
A soft groan disturbed her train of thought, and Randi found herself peering at the brunette once more. "Screw her. I got better things to take care of." I need to find out what's going on with this one.

The blonde smirked as Reese began to snore slightly. It was something she only did when exhausted. "Time to get up sleepy head. You got some questions to answer, and you know I'm not the patient sort," she whispered. Randi reached over and tweaked the brunette's nose. She snorted and wrinkled her nostrils in response, but the snoring started again after a moment. The teacher rolled her eyes and tried another tactic. She pinched nostrils together and tried to contain the giggles.

Resse gasped and shot up in a sitting position. Her eyes were wide as they scanned the unfamiliar room. "What the fu. ." Pale eyes landed on the blonde, who quirked a tiny smile and waved.

The brunette squealed and tried to jump out of the bed. The sheets wrapped around her prevented it. She ended up on the floor instead, with a loud thud.

"Ow!" Exasperated, she tore at the sheets and stood up ungracefully only to feel a draft over her semi naked form, clad in bra and panties. She squealed again and tried to cover herself with two large hands. She's real, and she's looking at me! Of all people to stick me with, Clotho had to choose her?! The one person that. . .that made me. . . She refused to finish the thought. Embarrassed and irritated, she barked at the blonde, "Can't you see I'm naked? Turn around!"

Randi's lips twitched in an attempt to hide her mirth. At the last moment, she decided not to hide it at all. A full smile formed on her face, crinkling her nose and the skin around her eyes. She eyed the brunette from head to toe and raised a fair brow. "You know, I've seen those before. Naked even."

Reese's eyes widened incredulously. Same old Randi. I swear I could never rattle that women, except when I broke. . . I can't go there. "How the hell did I get like this anyway?"

Randi batted her eyes coquetishly. She is acting too weird, but I'll play along for now. She removed the sheet from her body and lay back, leaving herself deliciously exposed. "All this. . ." The blonde waved a hand down her body. "Struck you blind, and you fainted," she said in a sing-song voice. "After, I finally got you up. You begged me to undress you. Something about feeling me against you, if I remember correctly." Randi pursed her lips then allowed her smile to get bigger.

Dark brows shot up into even darker bangs. The brunette's mouth suddenly went dry as her groin twitched to life. God! Definitely same old Randi! Always keeping me on my toes.

Reese had to bite her bottom lip to keep from smiling, but she couldn't keep it out of her voice. "You nut. You're lying. I remember blacking out, but the rest is total bunk."

The blonde chuckled. "Uh huh, but it was a pretty one wasn't it?"

Reese smiled despite herself. "So are you, so I guess it goes hand in hand, huh?"

Green eyes narrowed. "It's way to early to be giving me cheese, love."

The brunette threw back her head in laughter. God, I missed you.

There's the woman I know and love. What happened to you last night.
"You okay now? You kinda had me scared last night."

Reese cleared her throat. "Last night. . last night was kinda strange, and I guess seeing you like that sort of threw me, you know?" This is some kind of cosmic/karma thing. Clotho I don't want to hurt her a second time, and I don't want to have to run a second time.

Worry scrunched the blonde's brow. "Everything okay there?"

I'm starting this whole thing off lying to her. That can't be good. How is that gonna fix anything? What the hell am I supposed to be fixing anyway? "Um, Ken told me something I thought I'd never hear out of him. He's in love."

"Oh, he told her? That's great! Gloria's quiet a woman."

Confused, Reese asked, "We know her?" Is everything different? What else did she change?

Randi frowned again. "Yeah, we do. They've been over for dinner I don't know how many times."

Oh, sweet Mary. Panic ceased her, and she finally sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. "You live. . here with me?" Reese shook her head suddenly realizing how suspicious she sounded. "Uh, I mean, how long have we lived here together?"

Okay, what the hell is going on with her. She's hiding something from me. Fear grasped her. Is she trying to tell me something? Getting a little angry, Randi retorted, " A little over a month and a half. You know all this. What the hell is going on with you? If you weren't sure about us being together like this, you shoulda said something before we bought the fucking house!"

Her sense of self-preservation kicked in overtime. This is her idea of a second chance?! Sticking me with the only woman that made me feel? And already, I'm saying and doing the wrong thing. She'll end up walking out just like everybody else before the holiday is even over. I'm no good at this! Forever running, Reese added, "Look, I don't want to talk about this right now." She stood up and jerked the sheet, wrapping it around her.

Randi felt the breath rattle in her throat as she watched the brunette leave. "Well Merry fucking Christmas to you too!" She could feel angry blood rushing to her face. The blonde covered her face with her hands and screamed into them. Please let me be overreacting. Don't do this to me, Reese, not now. You promised me I wasn't like the rest of them, and I believed you.

She sat up and grabbed a pillow, launching it across the room. I do it every time. So damn gullible. You taught me that people were good, momma. After all these strikes, you'd think my perceptions would have changed, but they haven't. First, Judy, I believed every lie that came from her mouth even the one where she said I was the only one.

Then, there was Toni. Should have known better than to get involved with a student. Surprised I still have my job. Damn, freshmen experimentation. This was supposed to be different. I love you, Reese. I know you, and I can't let you run from me. I still wanna believe you. I can't help myself. Knowing they needed to talk, Randi got up and pulled on shorts and a t-shirt before going to search for her lover.

Pale blue scanned the living room, looking for anything familiar. The cream-colored furniture, pastel carpeting, potted plants, and paintings, none of it was her. The only thing that reeked of her influence was the large entertainment center. She even studied the Christmas tree that she missed last night. The muliti-colored lights still blinked, making the bows and tassels glow. There were even presents. Warmth snuck up on her before she even had a chance to think.

For a brief second, Reese reveled in it. It was the ultimate Œwhat if.' The whole house was smaller than I thought it would be, but knowing the Randi, she wanted everything split fifty-fifty, regardless of how much I make. She wanted this then. I could see it in her eyes. Some part of me wanted to give it to her. I just couldn't, knowing that she would eventually leave. Just the thought of it hurt too much. I had to run before she did.

She made me feel . . .things that I still can't identify. Being near her, I can feel it happening already like the feelings never left. Her mind flashed back to the airport, remembering the light that died in the blonde's eyes and the tearing she felt herself. Oh God, I can't do that either.

Reese turned and went back down the hall, hoping to find an office where she could sit and think. She found what she was looking for. A big, hand carved desk complete with leather chair greeted her, along with a state of the art computer. There were various papers and books scattered about. It was a mess. She smiled, knowing it was indeed her office.

Now seated, the brunette draped the sheet around her, leaned back, and rested her legs on top of the desk. "Now, what the hell am I going to do?" She sighed and closed her eyes. Contrary to what I believed yesterday, I don't think I can just cut and run. After seeing Randi again, Idon't know if I want to. That alone scares me.

Five minutes alone with her, and I'm falling again. Can I make it last? Is this what I'm here for? To give it another go? Maybe Clotho's trying to tell me that we were meant to be. I have a chance to make this last, but I don't know what I'm doing though either way. How can I learn to be the woman she needs in a week? If I do this, will she be the one person that stays?

To start things off, I've lied to her and alienated her because of my own stupid fears, but the bottom line is that I've missed her. Is she that missing chunk in me? I didn't have that hollow spot when I was with her, but I did before and after.
Reese pulled on her bottom lip and stared into space.

Here is the whole thing in a nutshell. I'm back with the one thing that felt right in my life, and if I don't try to learn how to keep it that way, I end up with nothing. There's no other choice. I have to give this a try. I have to learn to listen to my heart. A combined frission of hope and fear lodged in her chest at the thought. She looked up at the ceiling. "I hope someone up there is willing to give me a hand because I don't know what the hell I'm doing."

Randi stood outside her lover's office door. She looked down at the present in her hand, hoping to use this one as a peace offering. I wish you would talk to me, Reese. There's so much I don't know about you. Some places you won't let me in. Why do you hide from me? I just don't want to lose you. I have to try and see if we can fix this. The blonde knocked on the door slightly then let herself in.

Reese glanced up. Her heart lurched in reaction. I don't know where to start. How do I show you what I didn't the first time? How do I open up and do that? Will it make you see or make you stay? I wanna know what it feels like to stand still for once. Maybe it will make me a different woman. Anything has to be an improvement from what I was before. She swallowed. Here goes nothing. "Uh, hi."

Hesitant green eyes met blue. Randi picked at the wrapping paper, needing something to do with nervous hands. "Hi, I, um, wanted to apologize for overreacting. It's just that sometimes I don't know. . ." The blond head hung. "Sometimes I don't know what you're thinking, and I don't know which way to go when you don't share."

I guess I've been the same old Reese even here, keeping her at arms length. I'm gonna have to skip a few steps and leap over this fear. Take the chance, Reese girl, just like you did everyday in that office. The brunette cleared her throat , and pale eyes softened. "You didn't," she replied softly.

Confused, Randi added, "Didn't what?"

"Overreact." Reese took her feet off the desk and leaned forward in the chair. "I'd say. . .you were right on the money." She reached up to scratch the top of her head in nervousness. "I imagine there's a lot of things I should know and don't."

The blonde's heart thudded. Is she apologizing? I haven't heard her say I'm sorry since forever. What's going on here? It's not like she could change overnight. I mean, is she finally seeing that it's better to hold on to what's in front of her? "Yeah." She continued to fiddle with the wrapping paper around the present.

"I-I'm sorry, Randi. I don't understand how you put up with me." Because, I didn't want anybody to. Because I knew they would always leave.

Randi sighed shakily and moved a couple of steps closer. "You still don't know by now, do you? I love you. It's as simple as that." And I'll keep telling you until it sinks into your thick head!

The brunette's heart thudded upon hearing words it had been deprived of for so long. It should have always been as simple, but it never has been for me. Reese opened her mouth to respond with feelings that she always knew were there, "I. . .I" Her mouth closed then opened as she tried again.

"It's okay, Reese. You don't have to say it. I know you care." I know I live in there somewhere.

The executive knew when she was being let off easy. "Yeah, I do." More than I can tell you right now. More than I think you ever knew. To compensate, she got up out of the chair, moving around to where the blonde stood. Reese peered down at the small wrapped box in the smaller woman's hands. I hope there's something under the tree for her. "You come bearing gifts I see."

"Yeah, it is Christmas, and I wanted it to be a peace offering."

"I just think we need talk more, you know?" Whoa, did I say that? Maybe I'm learning something after all.

"I think that I've been waiting for you to say that for a long time. I mean, we talk about everything except us." I want to know what's inside you. Can't you see that?

The dark head hung. "I know. It's just hard to do when I'm used to keeping everything to myself. I don't think anyone was ever interested before."

"I'm very interested, and I hope this shows it." Randi grasped a large hand and deposited the present there. "Merry Christmas, baby." She watched with eyes full of emotion as the brunette began to tear the paper from around the box.

Reese dispensed with the wrapping paper with child-like glee. It showed on her face and in her eyes. "It's been a long time since I had Christmas or even cared about it."

Randi smiled softly, "I know." She paused impatiently. "Now will you hurry up and open it. You're making me anxious!"

The brunette smiled goofily as she got rid of the last piece of tape to reveal a velvet jewelers box. She swallowed but without hesitation opened the box to reveal a delicate gold watch. "Oooh."

Nervous despite the reaction, Randi felt the need to explain herself. "I know you're not much for jewelry, but gold does look so good on you. Read the engraving on the back."

The executive did as she was told and turned the watch over. Her breath caught, making the words come out shaky, "My heart All the Time." Pale blue sparkled with warmth. "I'll never take it off." She held out her arm and gave the blonde the watch. "Help me."

With trembling hands, Randi procured the watch around the brunette's wrist. She looked down at it. "Beautiful."

An elegant hand lifted to cup the blonde's cheek. "Yeah, you are."

The teacher bit her lip and chuckled, "Corny but effective."

"Eh, I got a million of them, but I'm only gonna use them on you."

Randi patted the hand then kissed it. "Good to know."

Reese closed her eyes and concentrated on the shiver at the feel of soft lips. How does she do this to me? The only one. When eyes opened again, they were dark and shining. "Anytime," the brunette replied hoarsely. Her gaze riveted on full unpainted lips. Do you still taste the same? It's been six months. I have to find out.

The taller woman took a step closer engulfing the blonde in heat. Randi gasped at the overwhelming feeling that always seemed to take over when the brunette got too close. She let the heat envelope her. Their gazes met and sizzled, almost producing a crackle in the air.

Reese wet her lips reflexively and smiled softly as green eyes followed the action. With a thumb, she began to explore the blonde's lower lip. The softness was still there, but it wasn't until the other woman's tongue snaked out to greet the appendage that the brunette was reminded of the wet heat. She sucked in a breath and pushed inside, meeting the inferno head on. ŒOh God, just like I remembered.'

Breathing turned ragged from that act alone, and Randi found that she couldn't tear her eyes away from the face that had become suddenly flushed and animated with need. The blonde wanted to heighten those features and feelings. With the onset of a warm suction and flicking tongue, she did just that, watching the executive's lips part softly and rasp in breath.

Impatience suddenly became the brunette's best friend. The need to taste her lover had become a compulsion. "Missed this," she whispered as her head descended over finger and all. Tongues touched before lips did, making them both moan harshly at the wet, teasing contact. Reese used her finger to open the blonde's mouth wide, letting her spear deeply inside. She whimpered at the taste. ŒSo good. So sweet.' The air warmed around them then thickened with tension.

Randi wrapped her hands in dark hair and crushed her lover's mouth on her own. This was no different then the hundreds or thousands of other times they kissed or touch. She began to shake from the inside out, feeling as though the ground was quaking beneath her feet. Her heart stopped its normal sinus and beat in some errant rhythm that made her dizzy and hungry for more.

The need to breathe broke the kiss but not the proximity of the bodies. Their foreheads touched as they took advantage of the moment to breathe normally again. Randi recovered first. She brought fingertips up to trace the brunette's warm, wet lips then whimpered when she realized that she had to have them again.

Reese felt control slipping, and as a result, she panicked. ŒI can't do this now. Feels too good and I feel too much.' She grasped wrist and brought them to her lips, hoping to play her apprehension as sexual arousal. Their eyes met in silence.

Randi was the first to speak. "You're right. We're having company real soon. Would do for your mother to come over and catch us like this. I'd die of embarrassment. Ken said that he'd call from Gloria's parents' house sometime tonight."

The brunette's insides turned to ice. ŒIt can't be. That woman left me. I'll be damned before I give her a second chance at anything!' Her jaws slammed shut, causing a muscle to tick on the side. She tried to swallow down the bile and anger, but they came back up quickly. Instead, she untangled herself from the blonde and turned away. "My mother?" Her tone was low, icy.

Noticing the quick transition to anger she was more than familiar with, Randi blanched. ŒWhat the hell just happened here? It's like she's Jekyl and Hyde.' "Yeah, your mother. Reese? What's going on with you? You've been acting weird all morning, and it's starting to get to me."

Reese laughed derisively. "Even if I told you, you still wouldn't know." With her back still turned, she put a hand on a hip and stared out the window. ŒI guess everything is screwed up here. Who the hell else is gonna jump out at me?' "What about my father?"

Throwing her hands up in exasperation, Randi replied, "Your father? I don't know about your father you never talked about him. You keep things from me just like you're doing right now." Is it that hard, Reese, open up to me? Don't you trust me at all?

Reese flinched in reaction. I never told her? Have I ever told her anything about myself? About my life? How could she put up with that? Stupid! She loves me, and I shut her out. That would make anybody leave. I have to do something. There's so much going on here. I just need time to figure it all out. She turned around and met sad green. Overwhelmed and irritated, the brunette ran a hand through bed raggled hair.

"Look, I can tell you this much and be sure. I don't know where my father is. As far as everything else goes, I'm so-so sorry for being an asshole. It's hard to clean that up when since I've been one my whole life. I'm gonna rectify that though. I just gotta learn how."

Randi shook her head in confusion. "I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, but what's happened to you? You don't sound like yourself, and we've argued more this morning than we have in a long time. It's almost like everything is new to you. I don't understand. . ."

"Neither do I, but I'm gonna try to make this right. I just need some time. My head just isn't on straight for some reason." Are these all the things I have to atone for? Randi I can understand, and I even look forward to. But, my mother, I never did anything to her. She did it to me! She left me! This shit doesn't make any sense.

Concerned, Randi moved forward. "What do you mean? You feeling okay?"

The brunette held out a hand to stop her advance. "Yeah, I'm fine, and I'll let you know what's going on as soon as I get it straight. Trust me?" ŒI promise I'll do right by you this time. I'll try.'

Confused but having confidence in her lover, the blonde nodded. "Unconditionally." ŒI trust you and I love you. I don't know how to do anything else where you're concerned.'

Reese smiled softly and reached out for the blonde's hand, ignoring the sudden weight on her shoulders. "Okay." She pulled them toward the office door. "Then let's get Christmas started. I think there's some things under the tree with your name on it." The brunette winked. "We might need to get dressed too. Got people to see and food to eat. Can't wait to tear into the spread you made," she added with cheer that she didn't feel.

Giving her lover a fake pout, the blonde said, "Good cause I didn't slave all day yesterday for nothing. Now," Randi paused and smiled. "Lead me to the bedroom."

Chapter IV

Reese smoothed a sweaty hand down the front of wool slacks. It had been twenty years since she'd seen Sara Darden, and in a few more minutes, the woman was going to come walking through the front door like time hadn't passed at all. The brunette was angry, apprehensive, and wary, hoping she could keep her contempt in enough so as not to alarm the blonde.

They had decided to forego breakfast since it was late anyway and go right to the Christmas meal. They had even agreed to wait on the brunette's mother before doing presents. With relief, Reese spotted several gifts from her to her lover, and to her consternation, some for her mother as well. She listened to the clanging in the kitchen, as her thoughts went into a whirl.

How do you greet someone who abandoned you? Hi, I did fine. I didn't need your ass anyway, or how about: Hi, because of you I turned into a grade A thieving asshole. Does it matter? All I know right now is that I'm scared to death and unsure about everything, even my own sanity. I mean, is this reality and everything else was a dream? I don't know anymore. I have to admit that a small part of me is eager to see her again. I guess it's the kid she left, but the woman in me wants to hate her. I guess I'm gonna have to wait and see who wins.

Reese jumped up from the couch at the sound of the doorbell. Her breath caught in her throat, and she swallowed the lump that accompanied it. The brunette willed her hands to stop shaking and her heart to stop thudding, but it seemed that in this world she had command of nothing.

Where the adult wanted to slow down and make the other woman wait, the kid walked briskly toward the door and pulled it open to admit her mother. They both took note of the BMW sitting in the driveway like it had never moved.

The woman that smiled back at the brunette was a head shorter, with curly hair the same color as her own speckled with gray. Her own eyes peered back at her, crinkling at the sides in a smile. Inside, the kid sobbed. Outside, the woman was complacent and emotionless.

Sara Darden patted her daughter's stomach with her free hand. "You just gonna stand there, Reesie or are you gonna let Santa in. I come bearing gifts and alcohol." She held up the bag then thrusts it into her daughter's hands.

As if on automatic pilot, Reese moved aside, letting the older woman enter. The brunette followed and dumped the bag onto the couch. She turned around and found herself engulfed in a hug. "Merry Christmas, Reesie."

Little Reese felt the warmth all the way to her toes. The older version raged at the woman's audacity. She didn't return the hug, but she didn't break it either. Her arms stayed pasted to her sides and her body remained stiff.

Sara frowned in concern. She stepped back and looked up into her daughter's face to see a pained expression. She raised her hand to touch but gasped when Reese flinched as if hit. "Reese, honey, what's wrong? Did you and Randi have a fight? Feel free to talk about it if you want."

I can't believe I'm standing here looking at the woman who took half of my heart with her when she left. I felt nothing for her for so long. I heard once that hate is the other side of love. Who ever said it was wrong. It's indifference. It's what I've felt for all these years, and now it's like a war is going on inside. Why is she trying to get out now? I cried for her when I was ten. I'm not ten anymore.

This time the child inside her shouted angrily. She wanted to put her arms around her mother. She wanted to smile, to kiss. With each shout of outrage, little Reese got stronger.

Reese clinched her hands into fists and peered down at the older woman. Her voice was low, husky. "No, mother." She spat out the words as if they were nasty. The child pummeled her from the inside. After twenty years, she wanted out. Don't do this to me. I can't forgive her so easily. But another voice whispered, a smaller one. She never left. Why are you mad? She never left. Reese bit her jaw and swallowed the coppery blood before she spoke again. Her voice softened but was just as husky. "I just woke up from a nightmare, mother. You want to hear about it?"

Sara nodded and tapped her daughter on the nose. "Yeah, I do. You used to tell me about all of them when you were little. Nothing should change now. You're still my little girl."

Reese felt the little girls relief and happiness, and it made her giddy. Still trying to hide it, with a wave of her hand, she motioned her mother to sit down on the couch.


Randi got out the China to set the dining room table. She set the plates and gravy boat on the counter and turned to set the timer for the reheating food. The blonde leaned against the counter and sighed. "My first real Christmas in three years. I still can't believe it." She smiled at the sound of the doorbell. "And here comes another woman I've grown to love." The blonde chuckled but it lacked humor as her thoughts and voice turned inward.

It doesn't seem like that long ago that it was just me, a couple of Corona's, a pizza, and freakin' Jimmy Stewart. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch that movie again. I was tired of the damn snow, tired of my damn school. Hell, I was tired of everything. I have to admit. I'm surprise I'm still at IU.

Damn fool faculty and their hang-ups. So what if I decided to expand my curriculum a little and add some gay writers. That (gasps) talk about being gay! I swear old men and their tight underwear. I think I was pissed off that mom left, pissed off at Krystal, and generally pissed off at everything and everybody. And then came those wrecks I call relationships. They pissed me off even more.

Hell, I wanted to be pissed off at the bull coming out of Reese's mouth that day, but somehow, looking at that face and those eyes, I just couldn't be.

"I have her. I know I do, and I'm happy. It just feels. . .like something's missing. A year, and she never said ŒI love you.' Shouldn't I be angry at that? I mean, I know she cares. I can feel it every time she looks at me. I just want to be inside her, all the way, and I may be stubborn enough to stay until she lets me in," Randi commented out loud. She paused and scratched her chin.

"And now she says she wants to try and start talking to me, really talking to me, and I question it because she's acting a little strange. What's wrong with me? I don't care if it's because of the season or whatever. I should be happy that Reese is even attempting to open up. Still, what did she mean by her head isn't on straight?" The ding of the timer got her attention. It was time to get dinner together.


Sara drew her brows together in worry. "You say I left you when you were ten?"

"Yeah, and at first I thought my life was going pretty good, but it really wasn't."

Sara Darden brought her hands together in her lap and looked down at them. "Can I tell you something?" Her voice was hesitant, wary.

"Yes." The little girl inside her smiled as she soaked in the tone of her mother's voice.

"I almost did leave once. Around that time too. Your father and me were having a lot of problems. I think he forgot he was married to me. Money and power was all he wanted."

Reese swallowed. Why couldn't this have been my real life? "Why didn't you?" She asked softly. She stared at her mother until blue met blue again.

"Because, I knew I'd never see you again. He wasn't going to let me have you. To him, you were his legacy. You were going to make his name bigger than it already was. He would have done anything to keep you."

Wanting so much to know what happened to her father, Reese asked but couldn't keep the trepidation out of her voice. "Have. . .have you talked to him lately?"

Sara shook her head. "No, haven't visited his grave since this summer."

Reese's stomach dropped and a tight band of emotion cinched around her chest. For a moment, she couldn't breathe. In this world, she had traded one abandonment for another. He chose money rather than a life with his family. I don't understand how he could do that. She paused remembering the power and adrenaline that gushed through her each time she made even the smallest amount of money. Yes, I can.

The brunette swallowed before speaking again. "He taught me everything I know about this business. I can be grateful for that."

Her mother smiled sadly. "Yes, I just hope his obsession didn't pass on to you. You know, there's one thing I'll never forget about him. He only told me that he loved me once, and that was before we were married. I never heard it again, even after he was forced to resign because of the money he took. Even after we went broke, I kept telling myself that he did." She turned away. "I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't be telling you this. I don't want to ruin the image you have of him."

Reese was shaken to the core, but she had to comment. "H-he never told me at all." Tears prickled behind her eyes.

Blue met again. While Reese couldn't cry, her mother did it for her. "Oh, sweetie. I didn't mean to be so weak. I should have tried harder to get us both out of there." Sara moved closer and engulfed her only child in another hug. Reese stiffened but after a few seconds, her body relaxed. For the time being, the kid had won.

Sara rocked her daughter back and forth. "You had no childhood, hardly any friends, and I am so sorry. You always seemed so alone. I'm glad you found Randi."

Reese wrapped an arm around her mother's and whispered, "Me too."

Long minutes later, Reese jumped up and ran toward the voice coming from the kitchen.

Still shaken, the brunette was able to smile at the beauty that stood before her. The blonde head turned and green eyes smiled back.

"You yelled?"

"I did not. I simply. . . talked loudly," Randi quipped.

"Unh-huh. I guess you need help with all that?" She pointed toward the ham, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes all packed neatly on the large counter, in the appropriate dish.

The blonde smirked. "Duh, you think?"

"Smart ass." Reese swiped the aforementioned body part as she breezed by. She stopped in front of the large plate that held the ham.

Unable to help herself, Randi recalled what happened a few hours earlier. She touched her lover's arm. "Hey, you doing okay with your mom and everything? You seemed kind of apprehensive."

Reese turned to the blonde and smiled wanly. "Let's just say. . .that I feel like a kid again, and a lot of bad years seemed like they never happened."

Reaching out and knowing she might get burned, Randi did it anyway. "Share with me later?"

Reese reached over and brushed back a wisp of blonde before she traced from forehead to cheek. "I'll try. Be patient with me?"

Randi nodded and turned to kiss the hand. "With you, always."

Dinner was equal in the awkwardness it generated as well as the happiness. Little Reese was out full force. She turned to her mother time and time again making sure she was still there. She memorized every line, every smile, every laugh, and every once in a while older Reese would do the same. They talked, laughed and devoured the wine as well as the food. After the table was cleaned, the trio ventured back into the living room for presents.

Still stuck knee deep in her childhood, Reese sat on the floor by the tree with her legs crossed. She looked up to see the blonde doing the same. Blue eyes peered up at her mother, and the brunette realized that for once the hollow feeling was gone. She twisted toward the tree and grabbed as many of the gifts as possible. Turning back to the blonde, she smiled. "I think it's your turn now."

Reese watched in satisfaction and relief as the blonde and Sara oohed and awed over the diamond earrings, silk blouses, cashmere sweater, and the array of other items the brunette had purchased for her lover. I want to be able to put that look on her face everyday.

She peered at her mother unobtrusively. I think I understand why you're here mother. I was blind all those years. Is that who my father really was? He loved the life so much that he traded his family in for it. I never saw my mother's pain. I never even imagined what she went through. Her own pain real or imagined was still there, but the child dampened it with her wonder and glee.

Randi opened each present with wide eyes. Each time her flush of happiness got deeper, coloring her fair features a bright red. She looked up into pale blue and found the brunette watchful and waiting. Unable to contain herself any longer, she surged forward and wrapped her arms around the executive, adding a long kiss for good measure.

They both started at the sound of a chuckle and blinked at the flash that blinded them suddenly. "I think this will look really good in my photo album," Sara replied to their wide eyed stares.

Feeling too old to sit on the floor, Sara Darden sat on the couch and opened her gifts. Her eyes filled with gratitude and warmth when she uncovered the ticket for an all expense paid trip to the Bahamas as well as money and gift certificates for a new wardrobe for the trip. Flustered, she got up and placed kisses on both their foreheads. "You two. . . I don't know what to say. I think being with both of you like this makes this the best Christmas I've ever had."

She touched gentle fingers to Randi's forehead. "Thank you for making my daughter happy. I know she can be difficult. I think all us Darden's are, but thank you for loving her and staying by her."

Randi smiled and looked from the older brunette to her lover. "No, thank you guys. It's nice to have people I love in my life again."

Reese was the last to open gifts. By the time, she got through ripping through wrapping paper the floor was covered in it. For the first time in a long while, she was unashamed of the emotion flowing through her, and she showed it freely. The brunette laughed, gasped, and smiled with each new surprise from pc games, DVD's to sweaters.

After cleaning up, they sat down and finished the other two bottles of wine that were hiding in the refrigerator. Ken called, but the trio chatted on into the day until night caught them.

Sara looked down at her watch in surprise. "Oh, it's getting late, and I know you have to work in the morning, Reesie."

"I hate it too. Wish I could have her to myself the three weeks I'm stuck at home for semester break," Randi added.

Reese pasted a smile on her face as her trepidation grew suddenly. Work. She had forgotten that she had to go. Yesterday, it meant power. It meant everything. Today, it was temptation. A temptation she may not be able to resist. It was a lure to a world she could get lost in, foregoing everything else.

Her father did, and in another world so did she. Look what I have here. It shouldn't even compare to what I have at the office. All I have to do is think about her and this, and it will keep me from getting tied up in it all. That has to be the answer. Please let it be. Otherwise, I don't know what to do. "Well, it's going to be a busy day tomorrow. Somebody has to do it," she replied with false cheer. The fear of losing it all in the face of a temptation she could never resist began to eat at her. In hopes of changing the subject, Reese asked, "Mother, why don't you stay here tonight? I would take you home, but we've all been drinking. . ."

"Yeah, I can make up one of the spare rooms for you. Take your pick," the blonde interjected.

"Only if you girls are sure. I don't want to intrude. If I do, I need to leave early. I heard the weatherman say something about an incoming snow storm that should be right on top of us tomorrow afternoon."

"You're not, and you can leave whenever you're ready."

Trying to remain stoic, Reese whispered a good night to her mother as she closed the door. The ten year old wanted to go bounce on the bed, wanted to talk, wanted to cuddle, but for the woman, old habits died hard. She fought back tooth and nail.

Why am I fighting this? This woman has done nothing to me. She showed me the truth. How can I be angry at her for that? This woman has always been here. I'm just hanging on to old pain, letting it shape me. Because pain and money is all you've been able to be sure of. You don't know anything else. Wait till tomorrow. You'll see. A voice whispered from deep inside. It chilled her because it was the truth.

The statement stayed on her mind, and it pushed her past her own bedroom in favor of the living room. Reese flopped down on the couch and leaned back. Can I resist it all tomorrow or is it just inevitable? If it is, what's the point of this? I've never been able to resist the money or the power even when I could feel myself falling for Randi the first time, and now that I know who my father really was, it should be a real deterrent. But, I have the feeling that it won't be. That makes all the stuff I told Randi bullshit. I want to be with her. I want to know my mother, but what if I want what's in that office more?

Was it right, that voice? Maybe I should be preparing myself for not seeing Randi or mother again. When I go back to my own world, can't I give the money back and still keep my job and all that goes with it? Clotho never said I couldn't. Maybe by going back, I'll be saving them both heartache. I don't want to choose them and then let them down by getting lost in my job. In my world, Randi and my mother won't be any the wiser.

Reese closed her eyes and rubbed a hand across her face. "I guess it all depends on how tomorrow goes, but maybe I need to start breaking away now for my own sake." The brunette refused to see the whole thing for what it was another type of running. Rather than take the chance at love and happiness, she sat there and convinced herself that it may be best to concentrate on the definite.

Long minutes later, Reese opened the door to her own bedroom to find the blonde already in bed. Despite the smile that waited for her, Reese looked away, missing the frown on the blonde's face.

Oh God, what's wrong now. Things were going so good today. Stay with me baby. "Reese? You okay?"

The brunette still refused to turn to her lover. She walked toward the dresser and began to get undressed. Her mind was a heap of doubts. "Today was good wasn't it?" Too good for it to be real. I don't know what is anymore. Only mon. . .

"Yeah, it was. It looked like you had a good time."

"I did. Thanks for the gifts by the way," Reese added emotionlessly.

The blonde's breath caught. Something's wrong I can hear it in her voice. What is it baby? Why can't you just be happy? "Um, you're welcome. Hurry and come to bed so I can hold you."

Reese pulled the shirt over her head without a word. I can't let you do that. I'd miss it too much. The brunette turned around and peered briefly at her lover. Her eyes implored her. She ignored them and pulled the covers back on her side of the bed. She got in and turned her back to the blonde. "Good night."

Randi stared at the broad back as pain blossomed and took root inside. She wanted to grab the executive and shake her hard, but the teacher knew that she couldn't change a thing, only Reese could do that. It didn't make the pain any less. It would keep her warm tonight. Maybe you'll try harder for me tomorrow, love. Maybe. "Goodnight, baby."

Reese arose early, slipping out of bed and out of the house before anyone else joined the ranks of the living. She denied herself breakfast and coffee to keep the sleeping occupants from being disturbed.

Decked out in the wool coat and accessories, the brunette entered the local McDonald's, ordering a couple of danish, hash browns, and a large coffee.

She drank it black and strong in an attempt to clear the fuzz from inside her head. Maybe I should have woken her, touched her or something. Instead, I ran. Why? Because that voice was right. I want to be able to love both of them, but this whole thing is just so. . .up in the air. Reese wanted to scream in frustration, but instead, she drank the coffee down letting it sting her tongue. She crushed the empty cup and began to laugh, despite the stares of the morning crowd.

Somber, Reese glanced down at her new watch. It was time to go to work. Things can't be that different there. Can they?

The elevator slid open and she made her way through the already busy front reception desk. The brunette passed assistants desks. Blue eyes scanned faces and her heart thumped in surprise. Colleagues she passed and assistants who were present were full of shy smiles and nods. Reese looked for the hostility that she had gotten used to, but there was none.

Flabbergasted, she became more so when her own assistant, Sherrie, gave her a full smile as she handed off messages. Finally in her office, the brunette closed the door and leaned heavily against it. Deep down isn't this what she always wanted respect and admiration from her peers? It flowed from them, making her feel ten feet tall. Before Reese made it to her office door, she could feel the adrenaline pumping fast and furious through her veins. She went around to her desk and threw her briefcase on top. What is this? How the hell am I supposed to balance all of this? It's too much.

She jumped at the sound of the ringing phone. Reese picked it up gingerly. "Ken on line one," Sherrie stated. "Yeah, Darden."

"Hey, was just on my way down there and wanted to make sure you were in," Ken stated. "On my way."

The brunette didn't have a chance to reply before she was met with dial tone. There was a knock on her door a minute later.

Ken let himself in, carrying two gifts under his arms. He smiled and left them on the desk before dropping into a seat. "The blue one is from me and Gloria, and the red one is from a few people in the office. They thought you would take it better coming from me."

Reese swallowed, hard. Temptation nipped at her heels. "Thanks. I, uh, forgot yours. I'll bring it tomorrow."

He waved his hand nonchalantly. "Don't worry about it. Sounded like you were really having a good time yesterday."

The brunette shrugged. "It was okay."

Ken squinted his eyes. She's not all here today. "Okay, what gives. What's up, Reesie?"

She turned caged eyes to him. "You ever wished for everything, Ken? And not know what to do with it once you have it? Part of you wants to believe it's real but the other part wants to hold onto what you know is real like this." She spread her hands to indicate the office. "The money and the power. How do you decide which to hold on to?"

Taken aback, he tried to think of the right thing to say. "Weigh both sides I guess and go from there." He sighed inwardly. Oh geez, I wish Gloria was here. She's better at the sensitive chats.

Reese turned away. "Ken, I'll talk to you later, okay. I've got work to do."

Concerned colored his features, but he said nothing as he left, feeling totally lost.

Alone again, Reese looked down at the headset on her desk. Without a second thought, she placed it over her head, switched it on, and pulled out her roller decks.

As was custom at Dodd & Dodd, she called her list of clients to inquire about their holiday. Each call was brief but consistent. They heaped praise upon her and continued to allow her full control of their funds. Her heart thudded with excitement then tripled in beat when she went to work to increase their monetary value. The Stock Market was about to open.

A cool sweat broke over her forehead and upper lip as she scanned market activity with a quick eye. The brunette smiled as each projection she made started to come true. Power surged through her, and she walked back and forth around her desk shouting orders, request, and sometimes expletives to whoever was on the other end. She soared in her element, forgetting her surroundings and concentrating soley and the money growing and changing hands.

Reese growled at the ringing of her office phone. She punched the intercom button in irritation. "Yes, Sherrie?"

"Randi on line two."

The brunette paused and looked down at the headset she had taken off. This is the one solid thing in my life. I can give the money back and change everything. No one gets hurt that way. I think I'll take the hollowness over the pain I'd cause them any day. "Take a message, and from now on take messages for all non-business calls." She hung up without waiting for a reply.

Randi peered at the cordless phone as if it were evil. "She won't even talk to me," the blonde whispered. "She won't even talk to me!" She screamed and threw the phone across the bedroom. Her breathing came out in harsh, angry gasps. She grasped the soft pillows and launched them where the phone was, letting out a growl and muted scream with each throw.

The blonde was suddenly glad that she was alone. "How could you do this to me?! I don't understand you!" Pain so intense ravaged her body, tearing sobs from her raw throat. With each sob, a little bit of fight left her despite here promise of patience.

Chapter V

The hours passed and Reese continued to work the boards and the Market. She paced back and forth behind her desk. The brunette even turned to look out the window at the large white flakes of snow that beat against her window with the help of the swirling wind.

The executive turned toward the knock on her office door. "Come in!"

Sherrie let herself in but didn't enter all the way. "The weather's getting pretty bad. I was wondering if you would mind if I go ahead home. More than likely I need to pick up my kids."

Reese waved nonchalantly. "Sure go ahead. Do something for me though. Call Randi and tell her I won't be home tonight. I'll just bed down on the couch here or something."

"Will do."

Reese blinked as she left. "Well, that went over smoothly. I guess there's no need to hide my relationship here." She laughed without humor. "There is no relationship. There's only this." She tapped on the wood of her desk. "All I have to do is keep out of everybody's way for the next few days then go back and take care of things. At least I learned not to be that stupid with money. I already have enough of it."

She turned back toward the window as it rattled the pane. You're better off without me Randi. You'll meet someone who can open up to you and love you without a second thought. She sighed. "As for you mother, at least I know the truth now. This is better for you too. In my world, you got out. I may not have you, but you don't need me. I'm more like dad than you know."


Randi was tired of crying. It seemed like it had been hours. She had never been one to sit idly by and just let things happen, but right now, she didn't feel as though she had a choice.

The blonde wiped her eyes and whispered out loud, "I wish you were here tonight, momma. I don't have anyone else." After the words left her mouth, epiphany struck, and she dragged herself from the bed to retrieve the phone to punch in familiar numbers.

It rang twice before it was answered.


"S-sara? It's Randi. I need to talk to you."

"Randi? What's wrong?" The older woman couldn't hide the alarm in her voice. "Is Reese okay? Are you okay?"

The blonde brought the back of her hand to her mouth in an attempt to suppress the sobs. "No, nothing is okay. It's Reese. I think she's lost to me now. She's been acting strange for the past two days. I-I should have known something was wrong then, but last night when she came to bed. It was like she wasn't there at all. She wouldn't take my phone calls, and she won't come home. I don't know what to do. I can't fight for her anymore if she doesn't want me."

The older woman sat up in her bed and gripped the bridge of her nose. "No, no listen. Promise me you won't give up? Wait till you talk to her and see what's going on."

Hearing what she needed to hear, Randi said hesitantly, "They're clearing the roads right now. I could go over there. It's only a fifteen minute drive right off the highway. I do have a Cherokee so that should help make the drive safer."

"I don't know. It's pretty rough out there."

"It'll be okay. I'm used to driving in this weather."

"Okay, but you have to promise to call me as soon as you get there."

"I can do that."


Reese pulled the thin blanked over her still clothed form and growled at the ringing phone. She knew sleep wasn't going to come, but she was at least going to try. The brunette ignored the shrill sound, turning her back to it, but the ringing didn't stop.

The executive counted twenty rings before she untangled herself from the blanket. She peered at the phone in disgust as it rang the twenty-first then twenty-second time. The brunette jerked the receiver toward her ear in vehemence causing the base to fall on the floor with the unexpected momentum.

"What!" She barked.

"Now isn't the time for me to tell you how stupid you're acting. Right now, you need to be here."

"Where the hell is here, mother."

"It's my fault. I should have tried to make her stay home. She was supposed to call when she got there, and when she didn't, I got worried and called all the local hospitals."

Impatient but suddenly apprehensive, Reese asked huskily, "What's going on?"

The older woman paused, and when her voice returned it was full of tears. "Randi was coming to see you. There was an accident. . .involving five cars. She was part of it. You have to come to Cook County General right now. I-it's not looking good."

Reese let the phone fall from her grasp. The room began to spin and tip at odd angles. Blood roared in her ears and her chest heaved as all breath left her. She held onto the desk for support. "Oh God, I did this. I hurt her either way." Panic ceased her as she searched the office for her shoes and coat. She let it come, making her hands shake and her vision more blurry. The brunette moved about the room in animated fashion. Hoping around as she pulled on a shoe and leaned as she grabbed for her keys. With one arm into her coat, she headed out the office door.

Despite it being late night, traffic was at a crawl. Reese wanted to get out and walk, despite the hard blowing snow. She wanted to run, fly or crawl, whichever would get her there faster. Her insides twisted and she swallowed down bile for the umpteenth time. The brunette leaned on the horn, knowing it was futile. "She won't die, " she whispered. "She can't leave me. It'll just prove that she's like the others. I won't let her go! Don't let her die. I'll do anything," Reese cried out imploring anyone to listen.

An eternity later, Reese ran through the automatic doors of the ER, bumping into passer bys as she made a mad dash for the reception desk. Suddenly, the brunette heard her name being called but it sounded like it was coming from a tin drum. Barely anything couldn't penetrate the roaring and beating in her ears. She heard it again and turned toward it to see her mother moving toward her.

Reveling in her desperation and growing madness she grabbed Sara Darden by the shoulders. Her grip was bruising, but it seemed welcome to them both. "Where is she?! Is she okay?!" Pale blue were frantic and wild with emotion, and she peered into blue that reflected the same.

Sara tried to embrace her daughter but couldn't break from her grip. "I don't know. She's still in surgery."

Impatience welled in the brunette. She let go of her mother and turned toward the desk. Reese opened her mouth to speak but what happened next angered her beyond belief. The tall, round, balding clerk held up a finger signifying for her to wait as he finished his call. He laughed and continued to do so.

A rumble started deep in her chest and bubbled forth as a roar. With one sweep, almost everything on top of the desk flew to the floor. Reese smacked her hands against the wood, making those around jump at the sound. "You'll help me now you insensitive ass!"

The older man's eyes widened, but he replied with confidence he obviously didn't feel. "Ma'am, I'll have to call security if you don't calm down."

"You'll do what you have to do." Her gaze was murderous. "But you will give me the information I need. What is Randi Davenport's prognosis. She was in the five car pile up!" Reese felt her mother's hands at her back but refused to be comforted.

The man looked around nervously and began to shuffle through papers and charts that lay at the lower part of the desk. "Uh. . . are you a relative?"

Reese snarled at him. "What do you think?"

"Uhm, right. She's in trauma two." He flipped through some papers. "Massive head and chest injuries." He looked from the tall woman's stricken face to the shorter woman beside her. "N-now, I'm going to have to ask you ladies to take a seat. A doctor will be out to consult with you as soon as possible."

Whatever air was left in the executive's lungs came out in a whoosh, leaving her dizzy. Reese turned blindly toward her mother. This time, she needed an anchor and latched on to the arm the other woman offered as they made their way back to the waiting area.

Reese allowed the cold numbness to take over. It was the only thing that protected her from the pain that rested just on the other side. I'm a selfish bitch. It's been about my pain, my loss, and my fear. I was too stupid to see anyone else's. Now it could be too fucking late! Her thoughts screamed. They sat there for what seemed like forever. Reese with a blank look plastered on her face and her mother wearing an expression of concern for her daughter and her lover.

They both stood up when a tall, well built black man called out Randi's name. His blue scrubs were covered in blood. Sara was the first to speak.

"Yes, we're here for Randi. Is she okay?"

Brown eyes that seemed blank before, softened. "I'm sorry. There was just too much damage. We couldn't get back any brain activity. I know this is hard to think about right now, but you might want to look into organ donation."

Pain that lurked just on the other side took over. A harsh sob escaped Reese's lips. "No!" She flopped back down in the chair ungracefully, covering her face in her hands. The brunette allowed the slimmer arms of her mother to engulf her. Sara's own silent tears added to the sad symphony.

The doctor turned to go. Reese refused to accept his words. She jumped up again and grabbed his arm. "Can I see her? I need to see her."

He nodded knowingly. "I'll take you back, and you can stay as long as you want."

Reese turned back to her mother. "It's okay, Reesie. Go on." With a nod the brunette followed the doctor.

He left her in the abnormally quiet room. It smelled of chemicals, disinfectant, and blood. Wild, fearful blue eyes peered down at the bloody sheet. With a shaky hand, she peeled it back. Bile mixed with the contents of her stomach rushed up. She swallowed it down with difficulty. "Oh God."

Randi's usually blonde hair was a mass of gore. A myriad of deep gashes littered her head. Pale eyes traveled to her torso where a gaping wound, where it looked as though something was wedged, started at a fragile collarbone and ended below her breastbone. Reese felt her knees weaken. "Oh God, please no!" She cried louder.

Blunt nails dug into her hands, and she used tight fists to pummel her thighs in an attempt to bring lurking pain to the surface. "I have to be able to do something." Not knowing what else to do, Reese closed her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs, "Clotho!"


"Clotho please! I need this to be over!" Her voice dripped with anguish.

Still nothing.

Suddenly, the room began to grow warm and before the executive's eyes the area of space in front of her turned itself inside out in a shimmer of sparks. The beautiful redhead appeared among them along with two other women. One held a loom, one had scissors, and the other peered into the loom as if she saw forever.

Clotho's voice was a whisper, but somehow her voice carried. "It is already over, Reese. My sisters agree." The scissors closed around a single string.

"No! It can't be." She took a step forward toward the trio. "I haven't made my decision!"

"Didn't you? We hear your thoughts. I am positive that you chose your job, power, and money above all else."

"No! I thought that they would be better off without me! I don't want anyone to die, especially her. Randi doesn't deserve this."

The women conferred with a series of whispers. Clotho turned back to the brunette. "She didn't deserve what you gave her six months ago either."

"You're talking in circles! I don't have time for this. It was different then, and you know it! I was stupid and scared!"

"What is your excuse now?" Is it not the same? You have seemingly learned nothing, and you have squandered the chance we've given you."

The blue gaze found the floor. Exasperated, confused, pained, and scared, Reese did the only other thing she knew how to do. "Please?!"

They were silent.

The brunette sobbed and looked down at the remains of her lover. "But, I love her," she whispered.

There were more whispers. "Do you? What else have you learned?"

Shaken, Reese pooled together the experiences of the last couple days and let her thoughts flow freely from her mouth. "I made my life the way it was. It wasn't my mother leaving. I-I allowed myself to become who I was. I used it all as an excuse. I could have beaten it, gotten over it. The world owed me nothing. No one did. I had no right to take what I did˜the money and the women. I was a coward, and I'd give anything to make this right again. You have to believe me!"

Clotho nodded. "We know what's in your heart is true, but you had to know it too. You have learned well, Reese, and you have also chosen well. The temptation you wrestle with will always be there, but you know have the tools to combat it. You have real love."

For the first time, Reese Darden allowed unchecked happiness to flow through her. It changed her from a beautiful woman to an stunningly beautiful one. Her smile was big, bright. "You mean. . ."

"Yes, leave this hospital and talk to no one. Go back home. Your day will be waiting for you the way it started."

Reese stared at them hopefully. "Randi? My mother and father?"

"Your father has made his choice. We can not undo it. Go now."

They disappeared in the same manner in which they appeared. Reese peered at the empty space before giddiness galvanized her into action. She burst through the trauma room doors and ran down the halls toward the entrance with lightening speed. The brunette knocked over the rude clerk without apology and ignored the calls from Sara.

She exited the revolving doors with a whoosh. The cold night met her, but Reese slid into her BMW without a problem. There was no snow, no wind, and no storm. The executive breezed through the light traffic as if she were gliding on the wings of Mercury.

The brunette up to the driveway with a sliding screech, stopping dangerously close to the lowered garage door that housed the blonde's jeep. She ran briskly toward the house and fumbled with the keys before finding the right one.

Reese stood in the dim living room and wrestled out of her coat just as she did the night before. A husky voice greeted her, "Merry Christmas, baby." The brunette's eyes traveled to the chair, knowing it was where her lover sat.

Reese walked over to the blonde wrapped in the red bow. Without saying a word, she removed her shoes and got down on her knees in front of the other woman. Large hands traced the outside of thighs from hips to knees, loving the way muscle twitched in reaction. She bent down further, laying her head on the blonde's lower thigh. The brunette turned and placed a kiss there before replying, "Merry Christmas. I love you."

Reese looked up in time to see a hand about to descend into her hair. It stopped upon her confession, but the sob that escaped the blonde's mouth didn't. "I-I've been waiting to hear. . ."

"I know. I've been stupid, but I'm not anymore. If I haven't shown you before, I'm telling you now. You mean everything to me, and I won't run from it anymore. I'm tired, and I want to stay with you for as long as you want me."

Randi chuckled through her tears. "That'll be a long time."

"Good." Because I'm going to spend everyday thanking you for saving me, for loving me, for making me see, and for giving me another chance.

The blonde reached over and pulled the cloth off the lamp, illuminating the room more. Blue met green and for the first time Randi could see the brunette's soul laid bare. Bristling with happiness, with a single finger she traced from nose to lips before pushing small hands into thick, dark hair. "Can you say it again?"

Reese smiled toothily. "As many times as you want me to. I love you."

Randi's eyes closed. She wallowed in the moment. See momma? I can be happy again. I didn't think I could be not after losing you. Maybe I'll even call Krystal. Regardless of how she feels, she is part of my family. Feeling another wet kiss on her thigh, the blonde opened her eyes and peered down at her lover. She tugged on the bow. "You ready to open your first present?"

Reese chuckled, "Oh yeah."


The Fates appeared in front of Zeus' gigantic throne. The still handsome man raised an eyebrow in inquiry.

"It is done."

"Good. Thank you for the favor. Now maybe I can stop Dite from going on strike."

With a shimmer of pink light the Goddess of Love appeared. She did a quick check of her hair and adjusted the bust of her gown with a shrug of creamy shoulders. Placing hands on her hips, Aphrodite began to tap her foot in irritation. "How are they supposed to be the Fates if they don't see everything?! Ares opened his big mouth and played with her head!"

There was another display of fireworks. This one more profound than the last. Guitars strummed a righteous cord as the drums hiked up the base. Ares appeared with a dark smirk and stroking his goatee. "Oh yeah, gotta love those drums." Five sets of eyes riveted on him. "What?!" He brushed imaginary lint off his leather vest and looked up again. "Did I hear somebody say my name?" He asked innocently.

"Ares! Did you?" Zeus boomed.

The God of War rolled his eyes. "I don't see what the big deal is. She won anyway!" He spat the words out and pointed at his sister accusingly. "What is with you and that shrimp anyway? Is it a blonde thing?"

"Duh! It wasn't a contest shithead. They belong together, and for your information they both have my favor!"

"No way! She's mine. Always has been! Tell her, Dad!"

Dite snorted. "Who are you trying to convince me or yourself?"

"That is enough! The matter is settled! I will not tolerate anymore of this bickering!"

The siblings glared at each other like playground children. Dite chuckled and stuck out her tongue. With a wave of her hand, she was gone.

Irritated, Ares crossed his arms over his chest. "Laugh now sis. She'll be mine again."

The End

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