By SX Meagher
"Oh, fuck me!"
Jordan Ericsson's eyes flew open, and she oriented herself enough to roll towards the sound. A pathetic creature was lying next to her, and she tucked an arm around her as best she could.
The poor woman was curled up in a ball, holding on to her head with both hands. "Jordy?" she moaned, her voice hoarse and raspy.
"You were expecting someone else?"
The soft, gentle voice miraculously eased some of the pounding that threatened to blast a hole through the side of Mia's head. "God, what did I do to myself?" the curly- haired woman asked.
"You were upset, honey, and you uhm self-medicated, a lot."
"Great. Now I'm upset and hung over." Mia swiped at her forehead, the weight of her hair too much pressure to bear. "Jesus, will I never learn? I always get a lethal hangover when I drink hard liquor-why do I do it?"
Jordan snuggled down a little and moved her lips close to Mia's ear so she could speak quietly. "I think it was worth it for you last night. You were too upset to be inside your own skin. But I can see why you don't think it was a good idea now. I'm sorry you feel so bad."
"God, I must look like crap!" Mia turned her head and breathed into her cupped hand, then made a face. "Well, at least I couldn't look any worse than I smell." She grasped her head with a great deal of pressure, compelled her feet to slide from the bed to the floor, and then ordered her body to rise. Teetering on rubbery legs, eyes tightly closed, she started to make her way to the bath. "Where the fuck are we?" she grumbled after running into an unexpected wall.
"We're in Ryan's room, babe." Jordan was immediately at her side, guiding her into the bath. "Let me help you."
"No way," the determined brunette said. "God only knows what's gonna come out of me. I don't even want you to hear me-much less see me."
"But you might hurt yourself," Jordan insisted. "I'm worried about you."
"Well, I'm worried that you'll dump me if you spend two minutes in that bathroom. Now, put on some clothes and go upstairs. I'm sure our chipper hosts are already chowing down on a big breakfast - the bastards!" With that, she grabbed the door handle, hanging onto it to gain her balance, then closed the door, the lock snapping into place with a thud.
Great! Now if she falls and splits her head open, I've got to break the door down! I guess I might as well go upstairs. Maybe Jamie knows how to cheer her up when she's hung over. I bet she's got tons of experience!
* * * * * * * * * * *
By rummaging through Ryan's closet, Jordan found some acceptable sweats and then headed upstairs. As predicted, the cheerful clan was gathered at the dining table, with neither Jamie nor Ryan looking any the worse for wear. Martin jumped up at first sight of the blonde and offered, "What'll it be, Jordan? I can make anything your heart desires."
She beamed a smile at him, then gave a shy head nod to Kevin, Conor, and Maeve. "Uhm I'll take whatever is easiest, Martin. I'm not very particular."
"Will Mia be up soon, darlin'?"
"Not if she can help it," she said, giving Jamie and Ryan a pointed look. Jordan sat down next to her friends and asked, "Do you have any remedies for a hangover? Mia's feeling very, very bad."
"I'll fix her up," Ryan said, going into the kitchen. She returned a few moments later, carrying a giant glass of diluted Gatorade, two pieces of dry toast, and three acetaminophen tablets. "Your breakfast is just about ready, bud. I'll take this down to her."
With a startled look, Jordan said, "Oh, you don't wanna do that, Ryan. She's grouchy today."
"I don't mind," Ryan said, undeterred. "You should eat while it's hot. Be right back." And with that, she took off.
Jordan gave the remaining guests a sheepish look. "I should have argued more, but I wasn't really looking forward to going back down there."
"Ryan'll fix her up," Jamie said, giving Jordan a pat. "If nothing else, she'll give her one of her famous knock-out massages, and you won't have to deal with her for a few hours."
"My flight's at 3:00, and we have some pretty important things to discuss, so I hope she's not out all day," Jordan said.
"Depending on how grouchy she is, you might prefer to spend the day looking at her while she sleeps," Jamie suggested. "She has a tendency to bite your head off when she's hung over."
Jordan gave her a surprised look. "She's never said one cross word to me."
The smaller blonde threw her head back and laughed. "God, you two are on best behavior, aren't you?"
"I thought she was just even-tempered," Jordan said, looking nervous.
Martin came in with Jordan's breakfast as Jamie was speaking. "No one's even tempered all of the time, love. Even my beloved Maeve can rain down fire and brimstone if the mood strikes."
His beloved wife grabbed his belt loop and pulled him close, then hauled him down by the ear and whispered.
"My mistake," he said, looking as innocent as an altar boy. "I was thinking of another."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Much sooner than Jordan expected, Ryan returned, a disheveled Mia in tow. "I tried to get her to go back to sleep, but she insisted that she has too much to do," Ryan said.
Jordan raised a questioning eyebrow while swallowing her bite of pancakes.
"I have to go home and pack," she said, giving Jordan a very perturbed look. "I was the one who got drunk, not you; you should have remembered a thing like that."
"I I I thought that was the tequila talking," Jordan stuttered. "Were you serious?"
That comment made every head rise, but only Conor had the nerve to ask, "Why are you packing?"
Narrowing her eyes, staring at her partner, Mia said, "I thought I was moving to Colorado, but maybe I'm not wanted."
Stuffing the remaining half of her last pancake into her mouth, Jordan got up and took Mia by the hand. "Let's go downstairs and talk this out, okay?"
The rest of the crowd heard a very unhappy sounding Mia say, "There's nothing to talk about, Jordan. Either you want me or you "
As her voice drifted away, Conor gave his sister an outraged look and demanded, "What in the hell's going on? Aren't you guys still in the middle of the term?"
Ryan gave him a blank look and said, "Yes, we're in the middle of the term. If you want any more information, you'll have to ask Mia or Jordan."
"Don't be a jerk, Ryan. I'm asking a simple question."
Ryan looked at her brother, surprised that he was so agitated.
"Jordan's in Colorado Springs, right?"
"Right," Ryan said.
"She's on the Olympic volleyball team, right?"
"Right," Ryan, slightly perturbed, said again. "You know this, Conor."
"I know that Jordan's supposed to be there. But why in the hell is Mia going there? Especially now! That doesn't make any sense!"
Conor's voice had risen along with his color, and Martin gave him a disapproving look. "Keep your voice down, son. This has nothing to do with you."
"The hell it doesn't!" he growled, before pushing his chair away from the table and storming up to his room.
"What's bothering him?" Martin asked, turning from Jamie to Ryan.
Jamie didn't say a word, and Ryan just shrugged her shoulders. "PMS?" she suggested ingenuously.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Mia was once again locked in the bathroom, and when Jordan knocked, the brunette curtly ordered, "Go away."
In a quiet, obviously wounded voice, Jordan said, "I hafta leave in two hours. But, if you want me to, I'll go now."
"I I thought you wanted me to be with you!" Mia cried, her sobs echoing loudly in the small, tiled room. "I gave up my family for you!"
"Mia, you're talking crazy! What have I said to make you think I don't want you? I want you more than I've ever wanted anything in my life!"
The lock turned, and soon the door opened just a crack. "You didn't even believe that I was serious last night," the brunette mumbled. "Did you think I made up the whole story?"
"Jesus, Mia, why would I think that?" Jordan pushed the door open and latched on to the T-shirt Mia was wearing, pulling her into an embrace. "Look," she murmured into the tousled curls, "I know you're hung over and that you feel like crap. I also know that you're very, very sad about what happened with your parents. But I'm on your side, sweetheart. I love you, and I want you with me more than I want air!"
Looking up at her partner with red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes, Mia's angry faηade began to crack, and soon she was crying piteously. "I love you, too," she choked out, her words hard to understand because of her tears.
Hugging her even tighter, Jordan nuzzled her face into Mia's soft brown hair. She spoke quietly, but clearly. "I love you enough to do the right thing for the future, even if it's not what we want right now."
The smaller woman froze in her lover's arms, then slowly pulled back and stared up at her. "What do you mean by that?"
"I meant just what I said." Jordan took her by the hand and led her back to the bed. Getting in first, she pulled Mia onto the mattress and settled her between her long legs. Starting to slide her fingers through the tangled curls, Jordan's soft, soprano voice soothed, "I want to make sure that we've thought this through, that's all. We're making some very big decisions here, and I want to make sure we're doing the right thing at the right time."
"So you don't want me to come," the brunette said, starting to cry again.
"No! I don't mean that at all! But it does mean that I care for you too much to have you make a decision that you'll regret."
"How can you even say that I might regret a decision to be with you? You sound like my mother!" The smaller woman was starting to get agitated again, and she struggled to get up.
"Unh-uh," Jordan said, tightening her hold around her lover. "You're gonna stay right here and listen to me."
"Do you want me in Colorado or don't you? That's all that matters!"
"Yes, I want you in Colorado, but that's not all that matters. I want you to think about this for a minute."
Mia gave up her struggle and relaxed a bit, trying her best to listen to her partner.
"Okay, here's the deal. You've got about eight weeks of class left. I know that sounds like a lot, but if you finish school now, you'll never have to worry about it again."
"I don't want to finish; I want to be with you!"
"I know that, and I want that, too, but does it make sense? We both have to finish at Cal because of the residency requirement. That means that we'll both have to spend a full semester here at some point, and my guess is that we'd want to do that at the same time."
"So, if we're both in school full-time, how will we live? We'll both have to have part-time jobs just to be able to afford rent, honey. But if you were already finished, you could work at a decent job while I finished school, and that would let us have our evenings together-rather than both of us working our butts off for minimum wage."
Mia nodded, having to admit to herself that she hadn't thought past the next few months and her desperate need to be with Jordan immediately.
"If you come to Colorado and get a job, you're gonna need your car. And if you come with me today, we're gonna have to make another trip back here just to get it."
"So, you want me to stay and finish school, then drive to Colorado, right?" Mia asked glumly.
"No," Jordan said. "I'm pointing out the downside of your coming right now." She leaned over so Mia could see her eyes. "I don't tell you what to do. I never will. I'm just telling you my thoughts, so there's no misunderstanding. We're gonna make this decision together, sweetheart, but we've gotta hurry since I have to leave for the airport by 1:30."
"You're right," Mia said, her voice sounding much more normal. "There are a lot of things to think about, and it's crazy to think we can figure everything out in a couple of hours." She turned in Jordan's embrace and kissed her on the cheek. "I'm sorry I've been such a bitch this morning." Her lower lip began to quiver, and soon tears were pouring down her cheeks again. "I'm scared, Jordy."
Smoothing the hair from Mia's eyes, Jordan looked at her with total empathy. "Tell me what scares you."
"I've never been this alone before," Mia sniffed. "I've always had my parents behind me-always! No matter what I've done, they've stuck by me. It hurts so much to have them turn their backs on me." Her whole body shuddered as she said, "To think of your leaving without me terrifies me. I was only able to be strong with them because I knew you and I would be together. But if I have to stay here " Overcome with emotion, she buried her face against Jordan's chest and cried until she began to hiccup. "Oh, fuck, this makes my headache worse."
"Let me go get you something to drink. You'll feel better if you stay hydrated."
"Don't leave me," Mia begged. "Just lie here and hold me."
Jordan did as she was asked, holding her lover until Mia calmed down. Finally, her hiccups were gone, but her headache hadn't improved, and she asked for help. "I do need something to drink. And I need a shower. That usually helps."
Jordan untangled herself from her lover and started for the stairs. Turning to give Mia a small smile, she said, "We'll work it out. I promise."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Standing under the shower revived Mia a bit, and she was starting to feel a little more like herself when the door opened. "Uhm when did you dye your hair?" she asked as she peered at her visitor through the clear shower curtain.
"It's always been black," Ryan said, leaning on the vanity.
"Why are you in the shower with me?"
"I'm not. If I were, I'd be wet," Ryan assured her in her usual, annoyingly logical style. "I'm in the bathroom with you."
"Spill it, O'Flaherty. Subtlety isn't your strong point."
"Well, Jordan gave us a synopsis of your dilemma, and we thought maybe we could help you reason this out. Jordan's getting you something to drink, Jamie's making you something to eat, and I'm well, I'm not sure why I'm here, but this is where they told me to go. I'll wait outside."
Mia turned off the water. "Nah. You can dry my back. It's not like you haven't seen me naked."
"More times than I can count," Ryan said, laughing. She took a towel and handed it to her friend, then took another and proceeded to dry the smaller woman's back. "Are you dating a woman or a leech? You've got marks all over your body."
"I like it when she bites me." Wrapping herself in her towel, she gave Ryan a half grin. "I've seen more than a few on Jamie, wise guy. And I bet I could find a couple on you after the way you two were carrying on last night."
Clutching the placket on her shirt, Ryan wrinkled up her nose and said, "You'll never know." Then she leaned over and kissed Mia's wet head. "It'll be okay, buddy. It'll all be okay."
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Ryan emerged from the steamy bathroom, Jamie was sitting on the bed, one eyebrow raised to dangerous heights. "Uhm I was just showing her where the hair dryer was," Ryan said, giving her partner a charming grin.
"Likely story," Jamie sniffed, but her smile betrayed her. "Good thing I'm not the jealous type."
"I thank God for that every day," Ryan said, getting onto the bed and lying next to her partner. "I have a tendency to get myself into some pretty incriminating positions."
"I'd like to get you into a certain position right now," Jamie said, dropping a section of orange into her lover's mouth. "You revved my motor so high last night that it's still in the red zone."
"Mmm mine, too," Ryan purred. "Let's help these two figure this out and head right back to bed. I hated having to be quiet last night so that Conor didn't hear us."
"Better us than Mia and Jordan. If he'd heard them howling like they usually do, he might have stabbed them!"
"He's outta control," Ryan agreed. "I've got to have another talk with the boy. He seems quite delusional."
Jamie tweaked her lover's nose. "I think he's just like his sister. He's so unfamiliar with rejection that he doesn't know how to react."
"Hey, I had a pretty serious rejection, babe. Don't forget Sara."
"Oh, I didn't. How many since?" Jamie asked, eyes twinkling.
"I'm sure I would have had a few if I'd kept going," Ryan said. "He's four years older than I am. I would have had one by the time I was twenty-nine-thirty-nine. Somewhere around there." She grinned and hoisted herself up to place a soft, moist kiss on Jamie's lips. "Luckily, the only woman who ever mattered didn't reject me. I would have been a hundred times worse than Conor is. Hell, I was worse than he is when you were seeing Jack again. The boys were afraid to come downstairs."
"Well, that'll never happen again. We're stuck together like green and grass."
"Hey, that's my expression!"
"What's yours is mine," Jamie said, leaning over once more to claim the lips that were hers alone, even though they were to be found on her partner's lovely face. As she pulled away, she asked, "Mia okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. I don't think she's gonna be with us long, though. I can't see her staying 'til the end of the term.
"You never know. Jordan might be able to work on her this week."
"Uh-huh. And I might be able to change into a couch potato this week-but I doubt it."
* * * * * * * * * * *
When the foursome was all present, Jordan laid out the situation. "What would you guys do if it were you?"
"I'd quit school and fly to Colorado this afternoon," Jamie said. "But Ryan would stay in school and finish her degree. By the time she came to Colorado, she'd have a list of places to interview, and she'd have a job by the end of first afternoon. While she was in Berkeley, she'd have me looking for an apartment for us, and she'd expect it to be ready by the time she got there. Oh, and she'd drive the car, rather than fly."
"Must be a jock thing," Jordan said, giving her former teammate a wry look. "That's just what I think we should do."
"Am I that transparent?" Ryan asked.
"Yes," all three women answered.
"Fine," Ryan said huffily. "But that doesn't mean that's what you two should do."
"No, but maybe there's a middle ground." Jordan looked at Mia. "Why don't you do a little investigating and see if you can explain the situation to your professors? They might let you skip classes if you showed up for the final. I know it'd suck to try to finish from Colorado, but wouldn't it be better than wasting half of the term?"
"Yeah, I guess," the brunette grudgingly agreed.
"Then you'll at least be making a more informed decision," Jordan said. "If your professors won't cooperate, then you can look at the whole picture and decide what to do."
"If I can't get 'em to work with me, I'm leaving," Mia said, a determined look in her eyes.
Jordan held her hands up in surrender. "That's fine. You can drive your car and be there for the weekend."
"This coming weekend?" Mia asked, her mood brightening.
"Yeah, this coming weekend." Jordan leaned forward, resting on her hands and knees on the bed. She kissed Mia tenderly, then murmured, "I'd love to have you in my bed by next weekend."
"It's a deal," Mia said. "I'll see if I can work my magic on my profs. But one way or the other, I'm gonna be in Colorado Springs by Friday night. You'd better rest up, girlfriend."
* * * * * * * * * * *
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