I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 8: Honesty

By S X Meagher

Part Three

As soon as practice was over, Jordan announced the plan. "Okay, guys," she said to the assembled group. "Tomorrow night the seniors are treating everybody to dinner at Gypsy’s on Durant. Calzones for everybody before the season starts!"

Ryan gave her a sharp look but said not a word. As Jordan walked by she grabbed her by the arm and asked, "When did this turn into our treat?"


"Tsk, tsk, tsk," she whispered, "your cheapness is showing."


"I am NOT cheap!" Ryan groused. "I’m careful."


"Well, take the lock off that wallet, Babe. We’re gonna party!"

* * * * * * * * * * *


Ryan breezed into the house after practice, nearly colliding with her partner who was obviously headed for their bedroom, carrying a collection of shopping bags.


"Well, well, well," Ryan smirked, casting a pointed glance at the bounty. "Trying to incorporate a bunch of new stuff in with the old?" She knew that Jamie went shopping frequently, but she rarely saw the fruits of her efforts actually brought into the house. The routine had developed that her partner would be wearing something that was obviously new, but she would lightly shrug off Ryan’s question about the item's origin. Now she thought she had her, and she wasn’t going to let the opportunity for a good tease pass her by.


"I have no idea what you’re talking about, Ryan O’Flaherty. I merely picked up a few things for the woman I love."


"This is all for me?" Ryan gaped. "But I don’t need anything!"


"Of course you did. Your first road trip is next week and you desperately need a few things to travel." Giving her partner a doubtful look, Ryan began to poke around at the contents of the bags before gathering them up, placing them on the table by the sofa, and beginning a methodical inventory.


"Pajamas?" she said as she held out the first pair. "Since when do I wear pajamas?"


"Ryan, you’re sharing a room, you know. Sleeping in the buff is not going to cut it. You get too hot sleeping in your sweats, and I don’t really want you parading around in your underwear in front of your roommate."


Ryan discreetly failed to mention that Jordan would be her roommate and that she had seen her in far less than her underwear. Still she protested, "Two pair? Our trips only last two or three days. I could wear the same ones two nights in a row."


"I know, Honey, but you should have some pajamas for running around the house too. You don’t own a robe, and these are easy to slip on if you need to run downstairs. You need to remember that Mia will have guests sometimes, and I don’t want her dates following you back upstairs once they see you in your underwear. This is for your own protection!"


Smirking at Jamie’s wild exaggeration, Ryan kicked off her running shoes and shucked her jeans and underwear before slipping on the first pair of pajama bottoms. They were a very smooth brushed cotton broadcloth in a tiny gray and white check. There were four small buttons on the fly, but they were big enough to slide on without unbuttoning them at all, a feature that Ryan quite liked. A drawstring held them up and Ryan started to cinch them up at her waist, but Jamie stopped her fingers and pushed the pants down low on her hips and tied the string to hold them there. "That’s how I like them," she breathed into Ryan’s ear. "I love the curve of your hips and this shows it off." Stepping back to survey, she added, "Besides, your legs are so long that they’re way too short when you pull them all the way up. They look cool riding low."


"I’m all about cool," Ryan agreed placidly. Jamie was completely pleased with her selections after viewing them on her live model, and Ryan seemed to like them too. They were very soft and roomy enough to not be binding while she slept, and she had to admit that they would be cooler than her sweats were. She smiled down at her lover and said, "As usual, you know what’s best for me. They’re really nice. Thanks for thinking of me."


Ryan waded through several more of the little bags to find two new bras. She usually wore sports bras, but Jamie like her to dress up for bed sometimes, and one of her favorite things was to make love to her while she wore a lacy bra. And Ryan had to admit that these were terribly lacy. She also had to admit that Jamie had a perfect eye for her contours. The 36C bras fit perfectly, much to her surprise. "You should really consider working in a lingerie shop," Ryan told her. "You’ve got a great eye for size."


"With my breast fetish? The first time I did this," she indicated as she slid her hands around to gently cup both of Ryan’s breasts through the lacy black bra, "I’d be out on my butt!"


"Oh, but you’d have such a loyal clientele," Ryan whispered as her hands went to Jamie’s hips to pull her in close. After twitching her hips against her partner’s butt for a minute, Ryan turned and gave her a few kisses to thank her for her thoughtfulness.


After a few minutes of increasingly passionate kisses, Jamie reluctantly broke off to remind her, "There’s more for you here."


Ryan shot her an amused glance as she opened yet another bag. This one held a pair of her old favorites--Calvin Klein boxer shorts and a T-shirt--but in a sexy twist, both were in a nearly transparent black lace. The fabric was very stretchy and very clingy, as Jamie was delighted to notice when Ryan slipped both garments on. "Oh my," she gasped as she took in the vision. She walked around her slowly, shaking her head and muttering, "Oh wow," repeatedly. Ryan just smirked at her even though she was pleased that her lover was getting such satisfaction from staring at her.


Finally Jamie placed her hands on Ryan’s shoulders and growled, "Dinner’s going to be ready in fifteen minutes, but I have to have you right now." Without waiting for agreement she pushed her backwards onto the sofa. Ryan went along willingly, always thrilled when her partner’s libido caught her by surprise. Jamie immediately climbed on top and began to run her hands all over the lacy material. It was soft enough to feel nice and smooth against Ryan’s skin, but rough enough to provide a delightful sensation when Jamie’s hands brushed against it.


It was clear that this little encounter was going to be quick, so Ryan just relinquished control and went along for the ride. Her new T-shirt was slowly pulled from her body, but it caught on her hands and Jamie decided to leave it there. Giving the dark woman a quick glance, Jamie twisted the material around her wrists, effectively capturing them. She stretched Ryan’s arms out over her head, the posture causing her breasts to jut out in a devastatingly arousing fashion. As her mouth dropped onto one of the tantalizing breasts, the door from the kitchen opened and Mia entered the room. She paused for a moment, trying to decide if she should return to the kitchen, but she knew that she would be able to hear them making love from there, so she quickly dismissed that option.


Both heads turned in her direction and both sets of eyes widened. Mia gave them a sympathetic look and offered, "I’ll go sit in the yard until you’re done. Give me the all clear when it’s safe to come back in, ‘kay?"


It took a second for the lovers to regain their senses, but Jamie finally scampered to her feet and said, "No, really, Mia. That’s not necessary."


The curly-haired woman stopped her retreat and gazed at Jamie for a second. "Um…why not?"


"We shouldn’t be doing this in the living room anyway. The living room is for all of us. We’ll go upstairs." She extended a hand to Ryan, giving her partner an encouraging look as the mortified woman tried to extract her hands from the tangled shirt. She finally managed, and then slipped it back on, the last tatters of her dignity intact.


As the pair climbed the stairs, Jamie asked, "The timer’s gonna go off in a second, Mia. Would you take dinner out of the oven?"


"Sure," she said, giving Ryan one last long look. "You might as well take the tags off those undies, Ryan. I don’t think you can return them now."


"Everybody’s a comic around here," the scantily clad woman grumbled, following her fully dressed lover up the stairs.


* * * * * * * * * * *


The interruption had cooled their ardor, so Ryan got into a more modest outfit and they returned to the main floor just a few minutes after they heard the timer buzz.


Mia had set the table and was just serving the meal when they came back down. "Finished so soon?" she asked,


"I just bought Ryan some new underwear and she was trying it on," Jamie said with a completely straight face. "I think it fit pretty well."


"Oh, I understand, Jamie," Mia agreed. "That’s exactly how most people try on underwear. I just hate it when I go to the store and forget to bring a 120-pound weight to straddle me while I try on clothes. It’s such a pain to get the salesclerk to do it."

Ryan smirked at her and walked over to give her a kiss on the cheek. "I hardly miss being at home with you around, Mia," she said as she ruffled her hair affectionately. "You’re just like a female Conor!"


* * * * * * * * * * * *


After dinner Ryan and Mia cleaned up while Jamie sat at the kitchen table chatting with them. When they were done, the slyly grinning blonde reminded Ryan that she had not finished opening all of her gifts. Ryan shot her a puzzled glance and asked, "Do you want Mia to watch? I think we’ve scarred her tender psyche enough for one day."


"It’s okay, Honey," Jamie assured her. "You’ve gotten to all of the R-rated stuff."


Ryan sat down and grabbed the last big bag. It was from the bookstore on campus and quite heavy. Blinking in surprise, she pulled the big white and gray box out to reveal a new PowerMac G-3 notebook computer. She stared at Jamie for a moment before she opened the box, revealing a sleek, black 500-megahertz machine.

Ryan reached up and absently scratched her head, then let her hand drop to tug on her ear a few times, a gesture Jamie correctly read as one she made when she was completely astounded. The two roommates looked at her curiously, wondering when she was going to say something.


She finally nodded her head once, placed the laptop on the table, and scooted her chair over until she could comfortably wrap her arms around her partner. "I love it. Thank you for being so generous."


Now it was Jamie’s turn to look stunned. She reached up to feel Ryan’s forehead, but it was cool to the touch. "That’s it?" she finally managed. "No arguments?"


"Nope. It will really come in handy this term, Jamie. The thought of three-day-long road trips without a computer was starting to give me hives," she admitted. "It’s going to be bad enough to be away from home, but to be stuck in a strange town and know that I’m wasting tons of down time has really been worrying me."


"Why didn’t you say something?" the blonde asked, fervently wishing that Ryan could get over her reticence about spending money.


"It didn’t occur to me," she admitted a little sheepishly. "I’ve never had any options when things like this happen, Jamie. I’d just have to grin and bear it. It’s going to take me a while to get comfortable using our money to solve problems." She gave her partner a thoughtful look. "Up until now I’ve been focusing on the problems that your money creates. I’m gonna try my best to get over that." She shrugged and added, "It’s just not productive."


"That’s very good news," Jamie sighed, nuzzling her head into Ryan’s neck for a nice cuddle.

"Hey, when you get comfortable being rich, can we stop cleaning the kitchen?" Mia asked hopefully.


"I’ll never be that comfortable, Mia," the dark woman warned. "Just put that thought out of your cute little head."


* * * * * * * * * * *

"Hey, Tiger?" Jamie asked as she walked out of the bath after brushing her teeth.

"Yes?" Ryan said absently, intently working on getting her new computer set up to her exacting specifications.

"Wanna play a game with me?"

"Uh-huh," she said, her attention divided, less than half of it directed to her partner. "Let me finish here and brush my teeth. Do I need to take a shower to play?"

"Not that kind of game," the blonde chuckled. She grasped the laptop and tucked it under her arm, saying, "I’ll give your little toy back after I have your attention for a moment."

"Speak," Ryan smiled, her blue eyes focused sharply on her lover.

"I have to develop and manage a stock portfolio for one of my classes, and I thought it would be fun to have you do it, too. Since you’re going to do your independent study on stock market fluctuations, I thought it might also be good experience. What do you say?"

"Works for me," Ryan said, extending her hands, fingers twitching to retrieve her computer. "What are the rules?"

Placing the computer behind her back, Jamie informed her, "We each can spend up to $500,000 on any combination of investment vehicles. You can put your money in a mutual fund, or buy Treasury Bills if you want. Of course, the more risky alternative is to buy individual stocks. My professor gave us a simple program for keeping track of our purchases, and he’s included a chart for determining broker’s commissions and other charges. I’ve got to keep track of my portfolio just like it was real."

Ryan nodded suspiciously. "Uh-huh, and would there be any particular reason you’d like me to participate?"

"Mmm…sure, Babe. I like to do everything with you. Don’t you know that by now?" She was batting her eyes seductively, and Ryan knew that she was being set up, but she didn’t care a bit.

"I have a feeling that I’m going to wind up doing all of the bookkeeping here, Sweetie," she decided. "I think you want me to do my own picks so I stay interested."

"Well, you can never resist a challenge," Jamie smiled, giving her partner a wink. "We’ll compete to see who makes the most by the end of the term."

"Deal," the dark-haired woman agreed. "Now give me my computer back."

Jamie handed it over, informing Ryan that, "I’ve got all of the latest financial magazines, and I’ve subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. We can share stock tips," she suggested.

"We most certainly can not!" Ryan looked horrified at the mere prospect. "If I do my own research, I’m using my knowledge strictly for my own benefit. You’re on your own!"

Rolling her eyes, Jamie climbed into bed, muttering, "What ever happened to ‘for better or worse, for richer or poorer’?"

"That’s for marriage," Ryan assured her. "This is a bet! Whole different set of rules, Babe."

* * * * * * * * * * *


On Friday morning Jamie arrived home at eleven, planning on making a good lunch for her partner. When she pulled into the drive for her unannounced visit she was puzzled to hear the heavy bass beat of music oozing from every crack and crevice in the house. What in the hell…?


She trotted up to the door with the sound growing progressively louder as she approached. Neither occupant of the home was visible when she entered, and if they had been they obviously could not have heard the door swing open due to the ear-splitting noise.


Jamie searched the first floor, finding Ryan clad in a pair of her skintight compression shorts, red in this instance. A matching red sports bra peeked out from under a large white tank top. Heavy white socks bunched over the tops of her white mid-height basketball shoes, and her red Nike cap sat atop her head--backwards of course. She was sorting a massive pile of laundry, while Mia stood at the ironing board, neatly pressing a pair of Ryan’s chinos.


Jamie walked back into the living room and turned the volume down at least six notches. When she re-entered the kitchen both women looked up in surprise as Ryan said, "Hi, Honey! I didn’t expect you!"


She placed her hands on her hips and mused, "So this is what you two do when I’m at school all day, huh?"


"Yep," Ryan agreed. "We just try to have everything clean for you when you get home. We’re like a twisted version of Leave it to Beaver."


As Jamie’s gaze settled on Mia, she had to laugh at her damp face and weary expression. "How did you get recruited?" she asked.


"I’m a member of the household, Jamie," she said with a self-righteous glare. "It’s my duty to my roommates. Maria Los is very busy with the cleaning we have her do. We should be responsible for our own laundry."


"Ryan, did you brainwash this poor thing?" Jamie asked her grinning partner.


"Nope. I asked if she wanted to help and she jumped at the chance. I’ll go start some lunch for you, my princess," she added as she kissed Jamie lightly. "I assume you’re hungry, Mia?"


Jerking her head in the direction of the living room, Mia immediately flopped down on the sofa and kicked her feet up onto the coffee table. "Whew!" she said dramatically. "No wonder nobody wants to do their own laundry. It’s hard work!"


Jamie sat next to her and gave her an appraising smirk. "What was her lure?"


Mia looked a little embarrassed as she admitted, "Al Green."


"Was she dancing?"


A slight nod accompanied her flushed face.


"It’s okay, Mia. I don’t mind that you leer at her. And I agree that when she starts dancing and singing while she works around the house, no mortal could resist her charms."


"Does she do it on purpose? I mean, is it just a trap?"


"No, amazingly enough she doesn’t even know that she does it. But the fact that it’s unconscious is what makes it so appealing for me. She’s so sexy, but she doesn’t use it. That’s just how she is."


"I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. You hit the jackpot with that one, Honey!"


* * * * * * * * * * *


Ryan came running into the house that night after practice, barely stopping for a kiss on her way to the shower. "Pick out something for me to wear, will ya, Babe?" she asked.


"Happy to," Jamie called, always glad to get her partner to abandon her jeans for a change.


When Ryan had emerged from the bathroom, she surveyed the outfit that her partner had placed on the bed. Her black leather pants, a black sleeveless T-shirt, and a starched white oversized oxford-cloth shirt waited for her.


Smirking to herself, she started to get dressed, looking up when Jamie entered her room. Stopping in mid action, Ryan started shaking her head quickly, saying, "No, no, no, that will not work."


"What?" Jamie asked, looking down at her short, tight black leather dress. "Don’t I look okay?"


"You look a lot more than okay," Ryan assured her. "You look scrumptious…luscious…fantastic…" Her head continued to shake as she ordered, "Take it off."


"What?" Jamie was giving her a completely confused expression, very unhappy to have Ryan supervising her style of dress.


"I’m not worried about the restaurant," Ryan said, "but I know Jordan will want to go to a bar afterwards. School just started; this is the first weekend out for everybody. It’s going to be wild out tonight, and I guarantee you’ll be fighting guys off all night in that outfit."


Now strangely complimented by Ryan’s logic, Jamie said, "But won’t you be there to protect me?"


"Yes, I’ll always be there to protect you," Ryan assured her. "But I have a feeling that out of fourteen women one or the other of them will manage to get into some kind of trouble before the night is over. I’d like to not have to worry about you too!"


"Are you really serious, Ryan?"


"Completely," she insisted. "If I was a guy, and saw you come in with a big group of women, I’d attach myself to you before you could take a seat. You’d have to call security to get me to leave you alone."


Jamie smiled at her, thinking that she was exaggerating just a tiny bit. "Well, what should I wear?"


"How about some of my sweats?" Ryan suggested.


"Oh yeah, sweats three sizes too big. That would look nice."


"That’s about the only way to hide your gorgeous curves, Babe. Desperate times call for desperate measures."


"Funny, Buff. Very funny." She watched Ryan slip into a pair of very sexy black lace panties, then tug on her tight pants. "So I have to wear an overcoat, while you get to look as sexy as all get out?"


"Yep. Guys don’t like me," she insisted. "I thank God every day that I’m gay, ‘cause I’d be home alone every Saturday night if I was straight."


"Highly doubtful. You’re drop-dead gorgeous, and that wouldn’t change if you were straight."


"Well, we’ll never have to find out, will we?" the dark woman asked, her blue eyes twinkling.


* * * * * * * * * * *


Jamie finally found an outfit that Ryan approved of--a pair of faded jeans, a bulky beige cable-knit sweater, and her butterscotch suede jacket. It was unseasonably cold for late August, and Ryan knew that it would get worse as the evening progressed, hence her insistence on the jacket.

When they arrived at the restaurant every member of the team was there, with Jamie the only outsider. The whole team greeted her warmly and after just a few minutes, everyone seemed at ease. Ryan made it a point to sit next to Heather, who still seemed quite uncomfortable with her. Jamie, of course, was on her other side, and Ryan managed to get Ashley to sit next to Jamie, knowing that her partner could warm anyone up if she tried hard enough.


Jordan was across the big round table from Ryan, and she had snared the other two freshmen to sit on either side of her.


By the time the meal was finished, Ryan had to admit that Jordan’s idea had been a success. Even though it cost her $110, she complimented her friend on the suggestion. "Good call, Jordan. This was very helpful. Everybody seems a lot looser than they were earlier in the week."


"Yeah, the thought of playing for keeps seems to have freaked the young guys out. I think being around us in a relaxed setting really helps them feel like they’ve got support."


"I’m sorry I doubted you, Buddy. You really seem to have a sense for team dynamics."


"Hey, thanks, Ryan," she said, grinning widely. "It means a lot to me to have you say that."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


There was a frat party on campus that all of the freshmen and most of the sophomores wanted to attend, so most of them left in a group. By the time things sorted out, Jordan was pleased to see that only women over 21 were left. "Now we party," she said, a devilish gleam in her eye. "Let’s head over to Blake’s," she suggested. "They’ve got live music tonight."


It was only ten o’clock, and Ryan knew she didn’t have any reason to beg off so early, so she quietly complied. She had never been to the bar, but once inside she didn’t really care for the atmosphere. It was loud and dark and filled with young guys, and she generally made it a practice not to mingle with large groups of men when they were drinking. Someone always made a pass at someone in her group, and sometimes the guy took offense no matter how politely the offer was declined. But since everyone else seemed in favor she kept her opinion to herself.


The six women found a table near the rear of the bar. There was a large stage set up for live music and as they got settled, a band came out and started to set up. The band members were in their early 20’s, and they looked pretty scruffy. The women were just starting on their first pitcher of beer when the group began to play. To Ryan’s practiced ear, they weren’t half bad. Regrettably, they only covered songs by other artists, producing nothing original. Most of the tunes they selected were relatively current and tended towards a rock/punk sensibility. The music was so loud that it was tough to have a conversation, but they managed, allowing the older team members to at least get to know Jamie a little bit.


Ryan scanned the room. She had learned the discipline in her martial arts training, and she found that she now did it automatically when there were large numbers of people around her. It wasn’t that she was paranoid, but she liked to size up the crowd and at least be aware if problems loomed.


Everything looked calm, so the tall woman began to relax and enjoy the evening. They whipped through two pitchers of beer faster than Ryan thought prudent, but Jamie offered to be the designated driver, so Ryan felt comfortable letting her guard down a little.


After their third pitcher, Jordan got up to visit the restroom. Seeing Jordan depart, Ryan decided she needed to take a trip herself. She considered asking Jamie to accompany her, but she knew that her partner would not want to do so if there was just a single stall. Rather than making her uncomfortable she leaned over and said, "I’ll be back in a few. Don’t order me any more beer, ‘kay?"


"Had enough?"


"More than enough. I’m really kinda buzzed."


Jamie looked at her carefully, seeing a faint fuzziness in the blue eyes. It was a subtle difference, and only someone who knew Ryan very well would notice it, but it caught her a little by surprise. "You okay? Need me to go with you?"


Ryan smiled at her partner’s thoughtfulness, shaking her head as she patted her cheek. "I’m fine, Love. No worries."


She took off across the crowded space, eating up ground with her long, leather-clad legs. Jamie didn’t realize she was staring, but Grace caught her and teased, "Don’t you two get enough of each other at home?"


Blushing furiously, Jamie shook her head, giving Grace a small grin. "We’re ridiculous, aren’t we?"


"Nah, I think it’s cute. I want someone to watch me like I’m the most fascinating thing in the bar."


"She is," Jamie sighed, sneaking a quick glance to see if Ryan was on her way back yet.


The other three women decided to take off, and Jamie promised they’d do the same as soon as Jordan and her partner returned from the bathroom. After goodbye hugs, Jamie settled into her seat and waited patiently.

When Ryan emerged from the restroom she cast a glance at their table, surprised that Jordan wasn’t there. Deciding to look for her, she found her by a pool table chatting with two couples. Upon second glance, Ryan wasn’t sure if they were couples, or just women the men had picked up. Both of the guys seemed very interested in Jordan, and she was flirting a little, at least more than Ryan had ever seen from her. The women both looked miffed, and when Ryan came over to try to convince Jordan to leave, they both looked like they wanted to cast a vote in favor of her departure.


"I’ll be ready in a few," Jordan said, "but if you wanna go—go ahead."


The blonde didn’t look drunk, but she was behaving in a friendlier manner than Ryan was used to, so she decided to stay and keep an eye on her pal. "We’ll wait for you for a while, but don’t be all night, huh?"


"Deal," she said, giving Ryan a broad smile.


Striding back across the floor, Ryan saw the drummer sitting at her table, chatting Jamie up. Can’t leave her alone for a minute, she smirked. I understand the allure, but it does get a little old to have guys so drawn to her. Chuckling to herself, she decided, That was one nice thing about Ally. I can’t imagine how much confidence a guy would have to have to approach her! The band had obviously taken a break, and as Ryan slid into her chair, Jamie looked up at her partner with an impish grin. "Clive here knows Rory," she said, pleased with her investigative skills.


"Oh yeah?" Ryan extended her hand and said, "I’m Rory’s sister, Ryan."


"I don’t see much resemblance," he smiled.


"Nah, not much," she agreed. "I was admiring your drumming before. Nice job."


"Hey, thanks," he said. "Not many people notice the drummer."


"I played percussion in band," Ryan informed him, to Jamie’s total shock. "Used to play in a group with some local women, too. Everybody used to hang around the lead guitar. No justice."


"Yeah. That’s the truth. Well, I’d love to hang out for a while, but we’re starting up again."


The blue eyes started dancing as Ryan leaned forward and asked, "Want me to sit in for you for a few numbers?"


"Are you as musical as your brother?" he asked, chuckling at her audacity.


"I do all right," she said, with just a touch of modesty.


"Eh, what the hell. It’ll drive the lead guitar nuts!"


"Hey, if it’ll cause any trouble…" 

"No, that’s a good thing," he assured her. "I love to drive him nuts."


He walked her over to the group, introducing her with a barely contained laugh. "CJ, Benny, this is Ryan. She’s gonna sit in for me for a couple songs."


"Again!?" CJ moaned. "Is that the only way you can score with a chick now, Clive?"


"Am I gonna score with you, Ryan?" Clive asked, his grin infectious.


"Odds are pretty slim, Clive," Ryan laughed. "I’d have to make some pretty drastic changes to be amenable to that."


"No hard feelings, Ryan," Clive assured her. "Signal me when you’re sick of these guys."


"Will do," she assured him. Turning to CJ she asked, "So, what’s up first?"


"Can you really play?" he asked suspiciously.


"Try me." She climbed up onto the drum kit, finding the seat just to her liking. Testing the action on the pedals, and running a few riffs on the snare, she pronounced herself ready.


"Know any Green Day?" CJ asked, slipping his guitar strap over his neck.




"Hold On…in three," he announced. He started to play, adding his thin, but serviceable voice as he did so. The song began with a quiet, rhythmic beat, the drum and bass silent.


Do you have the time, to listen to me whine?

About nothing and everything all at once.


I am one of those melodramatic fools

Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it.


Sometimes I give myself the creeps

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me


It all keeps adding up

I think I’m cracking up

Am I just paranoid, or am I stoned?


Jamie watched her partner sitting confidently upon the raised stage, her body relaxed but alert. The lead guitar launched into the bridge, followed by an explosion of activity from the dark woman. All at once, Ryan flew into action. Seemingly banging on every element in the drum set, all at once. A massive grin had settled onto her face, and it was clear that she was having a ball.


Considering the lyrics, Jamie had to admit that she had never heard a song so ill-suited to her lover. She considered Ryan one of the most well-adjusted people she had ever met, and whining was not in her repertoire. Nonetheless, there was an energy—a vitality--to the song that suited her temperament perfectly, and that was reflected in Ryan’s body.

As the song progressed, the dark woman started to show off a little, managing to make eye contact with Jamie while she was banging away. At a tiny pause she tossed one of her sticks in the air, somehow flinging her long left arm behind her back to catch the stick after two complete revolutions, then launch right back into the song without missing a single beat.


The energy was rolling off Ryan’s rangy body as she put every ounce of her being into driving the beat along. Jamie and Clive were bouncing along in their seats, neither able to contain their enthusiasm. Jordan, however, had just returned, and she was staring at her friend, transfixed by her ability to effortlessly pull off this feat.


Ryan’s temperature was rising as she worked away, and as soon as the song was finished she tugged her shirt off, leaving her clad in her black sleeveless T-shirt and her leather pants. Seeing her partner’s glistening, pulsing biceps highlighted by the spotlights, Jamie could feel her own temperature rising, and she began to imagine the inventive ways she could make those muscles work once they were at home.


The second song immediately led to a third, most of the patrons in the bar now watching Ryan perform. Her dark hair was flying as she beat out the rhythm, her energy and enthusiasm completely contagious.


When the short set was over Ryan stood and took a quick bow, mostly ignoring the applause that she was greeted with. Her intended audience consisted of just one green-eyed woman who gazed at her with a look of wanton desire as she drew closer. Jamie got out only two words, but her statement was sufficient to make her needs known. "Home. Now!"


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Mia started down the hall the next morning and spotted a pair of panties just outside her roommates' door. Hmm, Jamie must have dropped these when she took her laundry down, she thought absently as she stooped to pick them up. As she rounded the corner, she took no more than five steps before she spotted Jamie’s jeans. That’s not like her, she mused as she also grabbed them. A pink lacy bra was halfway down the stairs with a heavy cable-knit sweater a few stairs lower. Jamie’s shoes and Ryan’s black lace panties and bra were in a pile at the landing. A pair of shiny black leather pants lay just inside the door on top of Ryan’s big Doc Martens. Hmm, all we’re missing is a shirt, she mused. She opened the front door a crack and snagged Ryan’s black T-shirt, noticing a soggy white oxford-cloth blouse at the foot of the stairs that had just been hit by the sprinklers. Boy, I don’t know where they were last night, but I’m going there tonight!


* * * * * * * * * * *

Since their first game was in just five days, Coach Placer had called a rare Saturday practice, hoping to sharpen up the team a little. Ryan had been grousing about the practice all day in a way that was very uncharacteristic for her. She spent the morning in front of the computer, working quietly and interacting very little with her quizzical partner. Jamie chalked up much of her bad mood to the fact that they would not be able to leave for home until practice was over, and Ryan never liked to be shortchanged on her family time.

Jamie answered the phone at four o’clock, fully expecting Ryan to announce that she’d be home soon. "I have no fucking idea how long we’ll be here," Ryan said sourly. "We may as well eat dinner over here, and then go home late tonight when traffic is a little lighter." Her disappointment was evident, and Jamie tried her best to soothe her.

"Don’t worry. We’ll have a little dinner, maybe a back rub. We’ll still be home tonight. Your father’s at work today anyway, Love."

"Yeah, I guess," she allowed. "I’ll see you later. Maybe you can remind me of why in the hell I wanted to do this, anyway."

"Ooh, I’ll show you when you put those cute little shorts on," Jamie teased to a dead silence.

"Okay. Later," Ryan said, completely ignoring Jamie’s attempt at humor. Oh-oh, she must have a killer case of PMS, Jamie thought. But when she did the math, that didn’t make sense. Hmm…maybe something else is bothering her.

Ryan came dragging in at 7:15, an uncharacteristic slump to her shoulders. Jamie was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on dinner when she heard the door open, and after a few moments she poked her head out to see Ryan sorting through the mail.

"Hey, no hello?" she asked, walking over to hug her partner from behind.

Ryan’s body stiffened slightly, a signal that Jamie had learned meant "hands off". She relinquished her hold and moved so that she could look at her partner more carefully. Ryan looked as tired as she had ever seen her. Tiny blue smudges had settled under her eyes, which were a flat, emotionless, steely gray. Her color was also a little odd, but Jamie couldn’t really put her finger on the difference. "Baby, what’s wrong?" she asked softly.

"Nothing," Ryan replied curtly. "I just had a long day and I’m beat. I’m going to bed as soon as we get home," she grumbled. "This day can’t end too soon for me." She gave her partner an infinitesimal smile of reassurance as she quickly changed the subject. "Did you cook?"

"Kinda. I stopped at the market and bought some roasted chicken and potatoes, and I made some broccoli and a salad. Are you ready to eat?"

"Uh-huh," she said with no enthusiasm as she continued to sort through the mail. "Any calls for me?"

"No, no one called. Were you expecting something?"

"Uh-uh," she grunted as she kept walking and veered towards the stairs to go up to her room to change. "Be back in a minute."

As Ryan stripped off her damp clothes she tried to do a mental survey of her body, failing to understand what was going on. God, I feel like crap! Maybe I’m just tired, but I feel so achy. Jesus, even my teeth ache. She gazed at herself in the mirror, very dissatisfied with the reflection that stared back. I think I can feel like this from being over-tired, she reasoned. If I go to sleep right after dinner, I’m sure I’ll be fine in the morning.

She slipped into an extra large T-shirt and a pair of her new pajama bottoms and walked back downstairs. Jamie had set the table and was filling their plates as she entered the room. Ryan’s stomach sent a signal to her brain to leave the room, but she vowed to tough it out, deciding that babying herself never did any good.

The smell of the chicken reminded her of a toxic dump, and as she sat down she tried to think of pleasant, happy thoughts while she got a bite of potatoes into her mouth. The roasted potatoes with rosemary were among her favorites, but at the first bite all she could taste was the light covering of olive oil they had been roasted in, and she had to force herself to swallow.

She fared better with the salad, eating a few bites of dry lettuce while Jamie watched her like a hawk. "Ryan," she said, "you haven’t really touched your dinner. Are you sure you’re all right?"

"Can you give me a little space here, Jamie?" she asked, much more sharply than she had intended. "I’ve been eating for years without a lot of help, and I think I can still manage." She meant this last statement as a joke, but it sounded like anything but.

The look of hurt that crossed Jamie’s face made her wish she could not only pull the jibe back but that she could bite her tongue off as well. She reached out and patted her partner’s arm, saying, "I’m sorry, Honey. I’m just not feeling like myself tonight. We had a terrible practice and Coach yelled at me." Her bottom lip was twitching as she said this, but she blinked once and added, "Just because I’m down is no reason to yell at you."

A small smile settled onto Jamie’s face as she deliberately brushed aside the curt comment and asked, "Why did you get yelled at?"

"I don’t know," Ryan said with an embarrassed look. "I just wasn’t sharp today. Coach said I wasn’t concentrating hard enough, and that really pissed me off. I was concentrating; I just couldn’t get the job done."

"Everyone has off days. Even you," she added with a gentle smile as she rubbed her arm.

Ryan looked at her reflectively for a moment. "Sometimes I feel like I’m never supposed to have a bad day. I feel like if I’m just a little off, everyone notices it and wants an explanation. Ken Nakajima was waiting for me in front of the locker room, and he gave me the third degree about why I screwed up. Jordan was all over me, too," she added, working herself into a frenzy. "They acted like I was a total fuckup just because I wasn’t sharp! I have feelings too, ya know!"

"Oh, Honey, I can’t imagine they were giving you that hard a time. Maybe you’re overreacting just a little bit, huh?"

A cold, steely-eyed stare was her answer as Ryan pulled her arm back and picked at her dinner for another moment. Without warning, she slammed her fork down and left the room, leaving Jamie to stare at her vacated seat in openmouthed astonishment.

Moments later she was back in the kitchen, wearing a pair of jeans and her running shoes. "I need some time alone," she said coolly as she turned and crossed back into the living room. As she grabbed her keys and wallet Jamie tried to get her voice to work, but she didn’t have a clue what to say as Ryan shoved the wallet into her back pocket and stalked out the door.

Crossing over to the window, Jamie watched her stride down the street, relieved that she didn’t take the car. The ringing phone jarred her from her musings, and she was surprised to hear Coach Placer identify himself and ask for her partner. "Hi, Coach, this is Jamie. Ryan’s not at home right now."

"Hi, Jamie. Um…can I ask you a question?"

"Sure. Anything."

"Is Ryan all right? She was acting very strangely at practice today, and I want to check on her."

Jamie wasn’t sure if she would be breaching a confidence, so she revealed only the bare outlines of what Ryan had told her. "She was home and she said that practice went very poorly. I will agree that she’s not herself today. Did anything happen to set her off?"

"I told her to get her head in the game, and she looked like she was going to slam a ball right down my throat," he admitted. "I’ve criticized her plenty of times and she’s always taken it just like I mean it, as a reminder or a suggestion. But today she looked like I’d insulted her. I was actually calling to apologize to her. I try to understand each of my players and never talk to them in a way that insults them, but either I have Ryan figured wrong or something else is bothering her."

"I’m sure it’s something else, Coach. She didn’t want to eat tonight, and she got angry with me over nothing. She just stalked out of the house a minute before you called. I think she might be coming down with something."

"Oh God, I hope she’s not coming down with the flu! It’s been racing through the campus all week. Keep an eye on her, Jamie. And if she is sick, do whatever you have to do to keep her home. I can’t afford to have the rest of the team get sick."

"Okay, Coach. But I might need some assistance to keep her at home. She’s looking forward to her first game so much that it’s amazing."

"If she’s sick, you just call me, and I’ll bar her from returning without a doctor’s note."

"It’s a deal," she agreed, knowing that stopping Ryan from playing would be the fight of her life.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan sulked around Cody’s Books idly looking at magazines and new releases, but nothing held her interest. She knew that she was acting like a big baby, but she didn’t feel able to control herself. The words that had flown out of her mouth earlier felt like they had been spoken by a complete stranger, but she couldn’t stop the tape that kept playing in her head. Everybody expects so much from me! Damn it! I get tired, just like everybody else does. I let my concentration wander at practice, just like everyone else. Nobody else gets yelled at. Just me!

She flopped down into a chair in the café and surveyed her options. She really wanted to be at home, but now she was afraid to face Jamie since she had been so irritable with her.

Feeling lost and alone and more depressed than she could ever remember, she ordered a hot cocoa and settled into a comfortable chair, hoping that time and distance would allow Jamie to forgive her.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As soon as Jamie hung up from her conversation with the coach, Jordan called. "Hey, Jamie, it’s Jordan. Is grumpy home yet?"

"She was, but I made her mad and she stormed out of here about five minutes ago. Do you have any idea what’s going on with her?"

"Not really," she admitted. "She seemed out of sorts as soon as she got to practice, and Coach really pissed her off when he told her to pay attention. I waited for her by the locker room but one of the assistants grabbed her and asked if she was okay. You should have seen the look he got! Whew!"

"I got the same look at dinner," Jamie conceded. "Did anything else happen?"

"No, nothing. I was going to try to talk to her, but she took one look at me and turned on her heel and stalked out of the gym. She didn’t take a shower or anything."

"I was wondering why she came home in her wet clothes. My only guess is that she’s getting sick, Jordan. She’s the worst patient in the world, so I hope I’m wrong, but it’s the only thing that makes sense."

"If that’s how she gets, you have my sympathies. She was a real bear."

"Yeah, but she’s my little bear, and I love her no matter how grouchy she is," Jamie insisted.

"She’s lucky to have you," Jordan said quietly.

"I’m the lucky one," Jamie corrected her. "A few days of grouchiness don’t put a dent in all the gifts she brings to me."

After she hung up she began to clean the kitchen, musing about Ryan as she did. When she was sick on the AIDS Ride she tried to make me stay away, but then she felt abandoned when I did. So I think I need to stay close even when she tries to push me away. She doesn’t make that easy, but I’m gonna try my best. She put the remnants of dinner in some foil and cleared the table as she recalled how Martin had treated Ryan when she had cramps. He treated her just like she was a small child. Maybe that’s the only way she can let anyone in. I’ll just have to try different things. I think I’ll start with babying her.

She knew Martin was on duty so she checked the number and called him at the station. "Hi, Martin, it’s Jamie," she announced when he answered.

"Jamie," he said with trepidation. "What’s wrong?"

"Not much. Ryan’s acting funny and I think she might be getting sick."

"What’s wrong with her?" he asked, immediately concerned.

"I’m not sure. She’s really grouchy and has no appetite. Do you have any advice?"

He laughed a little and said, "For your sake I’d recommend dropping her off at home and getting as far away as possible!"

"Oh, Martin, she can’t be that bad!"

"Oh, yes she can be, Darlin’. It can be a trial to figure out what she needs. I suppose my advice is to treat her about like you would Caitlin. She needs comfort and attention, but she won’t tell you that. As a matter of fact, she generally rejects all of your attempts. But if you hang in there and refuse to let her bully you into leaving, you can generally get past her defenses. Once you do, you find the scared little girl who wants to be held and loved."

"Martin, I swear you are the best father in the world. I don’t know many men who would be so aware of what their daughter needed."

"Believe me, Jamie, it’s not due to some gift on my part. It’s pure trial and error. I had to be mother and father to Siobhán and it took me a long, long time to get there."

"Is there anything I can make her as a little treat?"

"She loves tapioca and butterscotch pudding. And if her stomach is upset, she likes flat 7-up. Chicken soup is a big favorite, but you have to use the wide egg noodles or you’ve wasted your time."

"I assume you’ve tried other types of noodles?" she said slowly.

"I once made the grievous mistake of putting in rice instead of noodles, and I almost wore the darn soup!"

"How old was she when this happened?" Jamie asked, hoping that her partner was young enough to be forgiven for such an irrational act.

"Oh my, I’d say she was no more than three. To be honest, Jamie, she hasn’t been ill since she was a toddler. Lord knows she’s been injured more than ten girls her age, but never ill. The only times I’ve had to baby her have been when she’s had cramps."

"I think I get the picture," she said slowly. "It sounds a little bit like nursing a sick cat."

"Perfect analogy, Jamie. Just watch out for the claws!"

"I think we’ll probably stay over here tonight, Martin. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know how she’s doing."

"Best of luck, Jamie. There but for the grace of God, go I!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was 10:30 when Ryan slogged back up the front stairs. Jamie met her at the door and wrapped her arms around her before she had even crossed the threshold. "I missed you, Baby," she whispered as she hugged her fiercely. Ryan’s body was tense and unyielding and she did not return the hug, but as Jamie pulled back she got a good look at her face and she saw just a glimpse of the little girl behind the stoic façade. Ryan’s face was drawn and tired and even though her cheeks were flushed, the rest of her skin was quite pale and looked a little clammy. Pulling her into the room, Jamie saw a light brown stain that covered her partner’s shirt from her breasts to the hem. Leaning forward, she smelled chocolate, and looked up at Ryan with an unformed question on her lips.

"I spilled my cocoa," she muttered glumly as she pulled at the still-soggy shirt, unwilling to reveal that she had fallen asleep as soon as she sat down with the steaming mug.

"Come on, Honey, it’s time for bed," Jamie urged as she tried to guide her upstairs.

"I wanna go home!" She was in full pout, and Jamie could tell she was spoiling for a fight.

""I’m too tired, Ryan," she lied, knowing that her partner would never push her to do something she wasn’t in favor of.

Looking like she wanted to argue, but not able to bring herself to do so, Ryan said, "I’m hungry," and tried to get past Jamie to head for the kitchen.

"Let’s get ready for bed, and then I’ll bring you a little something. You look like you’re too tired to stand."

Jamie felt a little of the starch leave Ryan’s sails as she allowed herself to be led up the stairs, with Jamie taking her hand. She pushed her down onto the bed, unlaced her shoes and removed them. As she pulled off her T-shirt she was surprised to find that she had gone out without a bra. She unzipped the jeans and saw that the pajama bottoms were still on, bunched up in a way that had to be uncomfortable. Boy, she couldn’t wait to get out of here. Ryan put her hands on Jamie’s shoulders as instructed, and the smaller woman pulled her to her feet to remove her jeans.

As she pushed her back down onto the bed, Ryan looked up at her and Jamie saw another brief flash of her youthful persona. She looked so fragile and guileless that the blonde’s heart just melted and she was unable to resist cradling Ryan’s head to her chest. She was dismayed to feel the heat radiating from her back as she stroked the smooth surface, but she decided to withhold comment for the time being. Ryan gave in to the hug and leaned limply against her. They remained in that position for a long while as Jamie continued to stroke the overly warm body and run her fingers through lank hair. Finally she pulled away as she asked, "Bathroom?"

A small nod was her answer, and Jamie lifted her as best she could and guided her into the bath. "I’m gonna go get you something to eat. Will you be okay?"

A smirk and a nod were all she got, but it was enough. Before Jamie left the room, she turned down the covers and tossed the soiled clothes into the hamper. Five minutes later she was back, carrying a tray laden with a big mug of tea with honey, a bowl of tapioca pudding, and half a dozen vanilla wafers. Ryan took one look at her little snack and broke into tears, sobbing uncontrollably as Jamie put the tray down and climbed up on the bed next to her. Again, Ryan fought the comfort but Jamie held firm and would not allow her partner's reticence to dissuade her.

She grasped her firmly and rocked her slowly back and forth, finally murmuring, "You feel sick, don’t you, Baby?" Through her sobs Ryan nodded weakly. "It’ll be okay. I’ll take care of you, I promise." After a while, Ryan quieted down and Jamie brought the tray over.

"How did you know?" her weak little five-year-old voice asked.

"I called your father and asked him what you liked to eat when you were sick," she explained, hoping that wouldn’t set her off again. Ryan seemed pleased that Jamie had gone out of her way to figure out a way to comfort her, and she gave her a very grateful, completely endearing smile.

"How did you know I was sick?"

"Well," she began, knowing she had to tread carefully. "You just looked a little sick. You didn’t have any appetite and your color was bad. I could just tell," she explained, leaving out the grouchy parts.

Ryan nodded, seemingly satisfied with this explanation. She dug into the tapioca and closed her eyes in pleasure. "This is so good," she enthused. "Just like my Mama…" she started to explain, but was cut off by her own sobs as she collapsed once more.

As Jamie pulled the tray away, she was struck with the answer to her lover’s plight. She must need to be comforted just like her mother comforted her. Obviously that’s the issue! That must be why the soup has to be a certain way, and why she likes tapioca and butterscotch. I’ve never seen her eat either of those things when she’s healthy. Her mother must have made them especially for her when she was ill. It must make her miss her terribly, and being sick on top of it makes it worse.

Ryan cried for a long time, and Jamie could feel her fever rising precipitously. The poor woman was burning up by the time she quieted down, so Jamie went into the bath and came back with a cool cloth that she used to wash her face and neck. Ryan’s skin was blotchy and flushed, and Jamie noticed a little rash on her chest and sides. God, don’t tell me she’s got the measles!

She got her into a sitting position and managed to get the cooled tea down her to replenish some of her fluids. "Can you eat a little more tapioca to have something in your tummy?" she asked gently. Ryan looked doubtful but she allowed Jamie to push a few spoonfuls into her mouth. "Did you eat lunch today?"

Pursed lips and a short shake of the head confirmed her suspicions. "Try to take a few more bites, Baby. You need some calories to help you fight this."

"What’s wrong with me?" she wailed plaintively.

"I think you might have the flu," Jamie ventured. "It’s going around school, you know."

Ryan shot up and stared at her in terror. "I don’t have the flu! I don’t! I just have a cold or some little virus! I’ll be fine by tomorrow!"

"Okay, Baby," she soothed her. "I’m sure you’re right. Let’s just get you all better by tomorrow, okay?"

Ryan looked at her very suspiciously but allowed herself to be lowered to the bed. Jamie said, "I’m going downstairs to get you some ice chips to suck on to help keep you cool. Will you be okay for a few minutes?"

A sad little nod combined with a pouty lower lip responded to her query.

As soon as she got downstairs, she hit ‘redial’ on the phone. "Martin," she said softly, in case Ryan got up and eavesdropped, "she’s covered with a red, splotchy rash. Has she had measles?"

"Don’t worry about the rash, Jamie. She always gets that from fever. Make a little paste of baking soda and water and put that on so she doesn’t scratch it."

"Okay, I can do that. I think she might have the flu, Martin. Should I take her to the doctor?"

"She should be fine, Jamie. She’ll run a fever and probably develop a bad cough, but you shouldn’t worry unless her fever gets too high. If it goes over 103, call me and I’ll come help you get her to the doctor, okay? Just make sure she drinks fluids and keep her in bed. I know that’s easier said than done, but if she really has the flu, she won’t want to get up."

"Will do, Martin. Will you let everyone know that there’s a good chance she won’t be able to play in Wednesday’s game?"

"Ahh, I forgot that her first game is Wednesday! The poor little thing will be heartbroken if she can’t be there."

"That’s for sure," she agreed. "It’s gonna get ugly." She shivered in anticipation of the fight that Ryan would put up, but she knew that she would have to stand up to the determined woman for her own good. "Thanks for everything, Martin. It’s really reassuring to be able to call you and get advice."

"Thank you, Jamie. If not for you, I’d be in charge!" he laughed, a little too giddily for Jamie’s taste.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A few minutes later Jamie entered the sick room with a big glass of ice chips covered with a small bit of cherry syrup. She also carried a paste of baking soda and water that Ryan eyed suspiciously. "You have a little rash on your chest," she reassured her. "No big deal. Lots of people get a little heat rash from fever."

The rash was painfully evident since Ryan was stark naked on top of the covers. Her skin glowed with a light sheen of perspiration as her body tried in vain to cool itself. Jamie sat down on the bed and scooped some of the paste onto her fingers, gently dabbing it onto Ryan’s blotchy skin, covering all of the spots in a few minutes. Next she went into the bath to fetch her thermometer and coerced her lover into keeping it under her tongue for the required time. She gazed at Ryan and brushed the hair from her forehead while she waited for the instrument to register. Ryan’s face was a mask of caution and doubt. There was no trace of the child that Jamie had spotted earlier, and she knew this was not a good sign. I hope she doesn’t shut me out again. I know this will be easier for her if she’s not spending her energies fighting me.

As she removed the thermometer she stepped into the bath to read it. Damn! 102 already. Definitely the flu.

When she went back out with another cool cloth Ryan gazed at her with half closed eyes. "Well?" she asked calmly.

"It’s a little high," Jamie replied as she placed the cool cloth on her forehead. "I want you to take some aspirin to help bring it down. Can you take aspirin?"

"I guess so," she said with a hint of hesitation. "But I don’t think I’ve had one in years. I take ibuprofen for cramps, but that’s about it."

"Ibuprofen works for fever too. Since you know you tolerate that, let’s stick with it, okay?"

"No, I really don’t want to, Jamie. Fever can help the body fight off infection. Let’s wait and see what happens, okay? Maybe I can burn this out by tomorrow," she said with a remarkable display of optimism.

Against her better judgment, Jamie agreed to the plan, returning to the bath to refresh the cool cloth. She propped Ryan up across her lap and began making long swipes down the overheated body with the cloth, removing the sheen that continued to form.

After a while Ryan began to chill, and within seconds she was shivering from head to toe. Jamie went to her room and pulled out some favorite sweats and helped her struggle into them, but even with the sweats and the light blanket she still shivered so hard that her teeth chattered. She looked up at Jamie with a mixture of fear and confusion in her baby blues. "It’s okay, Baby. This is perfectly natural when you have a fever. Your body is just trying to regulate itself, but it’s working a little too hard. I’ll get you another blanket."

She tucked her in tightly, but still she shivered. After a few minutes Jamie got into bed with her and wrapped her tightly in her arms. "Don’t," Ryan complained weakly as she tried to struggle out of the embrace. "I don’t want you to get this."

"Honey, if I’m going to get this I’ve already been exposed. Don’t worry about that."

"I d…d...d…do worry about that," she chattered. " I c...c...c...c...can’t relax if I’m w…w...worried about you."

"Ryan, I’m not going to leave you. You’re sick and you need to be taken care of, even if you don’t think so. Please don’t fight me like this."

"I need to get some r...r...rest, Jamie. I can’t sleep with you hovering over me like th...this."

With a sigh, Jamie climbed out of bed. "Fine," she finally relented. "I’m too tired to argue with you tonight. I’ll sleep in your room until you want some company. Promise you’ll call me if you need anything?"

"Yes, I promise," she said meekly.

Jamie leaned over to kiss her, but Ryan quickly dropped her chin so that only the crown of her head was available. She took what was offered and kissed her head, softly smoothing her hair from her chilled face. "I love you, Ryan."

"I love you too, Jamie. I’m sorry I’m such a jerk," she added with a face full of chagrin.

"You’ve never been a jerk in your life, Sweetheart. You’re just sick and out of sorts. But you’ll be better soon. I promise."

After washing her hands and face carefully, Jamie brushed her teeth and went into Ryan’s room. She left both bathroom doors open so she could hear her and turned off the overhead lights, then shucked her clothes and fell into bed. Try as she might, however, she could not will her mind to relax. Every sound from their room caused her to jerk to attention until finally she was certain that a noise was emanating from the room. Getting up to investigate, she stuck her head in the bedroom and could see that Ryan was curled up in a tight little ball and was crying softly. I don’t care if she wants me here or not. I’m not leaving her again!

She quietly slid into bed behind her lover. "What are you doing here?" Ryan asked with a sad little voice.

"I’m staying with you, Ryan. I can’t sleep without you," she said, stretching the truth only slightly.

"Aren’t you afraid you’ll get sick?" she asked with another intense pout.

Aha! So if I agree to be apart from her she takes that as rejection, even though she insisted upon it. I’m gonna crack this code, no matter how long it takes! she vowed. "Honey, I don’t care if you have the Ebola virus! I’m sticking with you. If I get sick, we’ll stay in bed and shiver together!"

Ryan’s body relaxed noticeably as she shuffled her butt over to nestle into her lover’s lap. As Jamie wrapped her arms around her shivering body she croaked out, "My throat hurts."

"I know, Honey, but if you won’t take any pain reliever there’s not much we can do. Just try to relax now. Come on, Baby, just relax." She continued to murmur into her ear, stroking her belly softly, and eventually Ryan quieted down and fell into a fitful slumber.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part Four

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