On Raven's Wings

by Carrie Ryan

..."Into the fire... I am the spark"...

Chapter Three

Jake had dropped Raven off at Claudia Peters' house on her way into work Friday morning. She had left earlier so she would have a chance to talk to Jason's mother. Mrs. Peters invited them in and Raven wasted no time starting to play with the toys she brought along. Jake and Claudia got to know each other over a cup of coffee before Jake had to leave to go to work. Since her appointment with Raven's teacher wasn't until 2:30 that afternoon, she went into work for at least a half day. She left a little after noon and returned home to take a shower and relax a bit before going to the school.

She checked her appearance in the mirror. She had decided on a pair of black jeans and a royal blue silk shirt. The shirt seemed to make her eyes a brighter shade of blue, if that were at all possible. Since her and Jason had agreed to meet after she left the school, she decided to go ahead and dress for the evening. She had offered to help him and Steve set their equipment up after Jason got off from work.

She ran a brush through her hair once more before putting on her jacket and heading out the door.

As Jake sat outside room 142, she suddenly felt bad for the students if these were the chairs they had to sit in all day. She had been at the school for about twenty minutes and noticed that it seemed she was the last "parent" due to see this particular teacher. She was so lost in her thoughts that she almost missed her name being called from inside the room. She got up out of her seat and headed for the door.

As she walked in, she noticed the cheerful atmosphere of the classroom before looking towards the teacher's desk and setting her eyes on what she decided to be the most gorgeous sight she'd ever seen.

Jake stood about six feet away from the teacher's desk and could not seem to take her eyes off the green-eyed beauty before her. She realized that this beautiful woman had spoken to her.

"Ms. Stevens? I'm Raven's teacher, Amanda Peters." Mandy held her hand out to the woman in front of her, which Jake accepted immediately.

"Uhhh,... Hi, I'm Raven's aunt. It's very nice to meet you." Neither woman was really willing to let go but both did so after a respectable amount of time.

"Well, Jason... I have the distinct feeling that I just met Tall, Dark and Amazing" Mandy thought to herself. It seemed as if this woman now sitting across from her, had magically stepped out of her dreams.

"Yes, well it's very nice to meet you. Raven is a very bright and delightful child. She speaks very highly of you, Ms. Stevens." Mandy could not seem to break the gaze of the blue eyes looking back at her. If truth be known, she really had no desire to either.

"Well, then it would seem, that makes two of us." Jake noticed the almost instant look of confusion on the teacher's face.

"I mean... she speaks highly of you, as well. She actually seems eager to come to school now and I don't seem to have to argue with her in the mornings about getting out of bed." As Mandy laughed at her last comment, Jake decided it was one of the most melodic sounds she had ever heard.

"Well, I know where she's coming from. I'd probably be late every morning due to sleeping in but my daughter makes that idea next to impossible."

Hmmm... she has a daughter. She's probably married or has a boyfriend too. Hell, look at her! Why shouldn't she? She's gorgeous! Lucky Bastard..." Jake thought to herself as she listened to Mandy talk.

"So, you have a daughter?" Jake really wasn't good at trying to make "small talk" but, she was willing to try as long as the charming woman in front of her continued to speak.

"Yes I do. Gellar Nicole. She's two."

"Gellar? That's an original name. I don't believe I've ever heard it before."

"Sure you have. Do you ever watch TV? My ex-husband is a HUGE Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan. He absolutely adores Sarah Michelle Gellar...I finally had to give in and agree to name her Gellar. My ex actually begging is not a pretty sight, believe me. Now, let's discuss what we'll be covering in class this year" Mandy had absolutely no idea why Jake now had the most wonderful smile on her face but, she wasn't complaining.

" EX -husband... Hmmm..."

Jake now sat down at a table near the stage after helping Steve and Jason set up their equipment for the night. She had gone back to the job site once she left the school. She then proceeded to follow Jason to his mother's house so he could shower and change. It also gave her a chance to spend some time with Raven and let her know how everything went with her teacher.

Jake still had not made the connection yet between Jason and Mandy. She was too busy thinking about the honey-haired woman with the emerald-green eyes.

Jason walked over with a beer for each of them as he sat down across from her and placed his booted foot on the table.

"Thanks, Jason. How much do I owe you?"

"Not a thing. The bar pays our tab. So how did things go at the school? I didn't get a chance to ask you earlier."

"Oh my God, Jason. Raven's teacher has got to be the most beautiful creature I've ever had the pleasure of setting my eyes upon." Jason smiled at the easy banter between them. He was actually pleased that Jake was comfortable enough around him to discuss her sexuality.

"Oh really? That good, huh?" Jake took a sip of her Corona.

"God, yes! Makes me want to go back to school and get in trouble."

"Get in trouble? Why's that?"

"Simple. In the hopes that she'd make me stay after class for detention. Believe me, Jason. She was without a doubt the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen." Jason couldn't help but laugh at Jake's honest explanation.

Just then, Jake happened to be glancing around the bar and as she looked towards the door, she saw the teacher walk in. Mandy was dressed in very tight black jeans and a very nice form-fitting black tank top. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, small wisps hanging freely around her cheeks. Black boots and dark Ray ban sunglasses completed her ensemble. She looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine. Jake couldn't help the small gasp that escaped her lips.

"Oh my God! She's here! That's her!" Jason followed Jake's gaze towards the door.

"What? Whe..." He almost spit his beer out as he saw whom she was referring to. Then all he could do was laugh. Jake immediately became defensive when she thought he was laughing at her.

"Why are you laughing at me, Jason? She's gorgeous!" This only caused him to laugh harder.

"Ohh... Jake,... I'm not laughing at you. She IS gorgeous. She's also my lead singer and ex-wife." Since he was signaling to Mandy, he completely missed the look of total shock that crossed Jake's usually stoic features.

Mandy saw him and headed over towards the table, removing her sunglasses as she walked. She still had not noticed Jake sitting next to him. As she approached the table, Jason stood to greet his ex-wife, quickly followed by Jake.

Mandy leaned up and kissed him on his cheek.

"Hi Jase... Eph just dropped me off and said she and Pony would be by later and..." Her words seemed to trail off when she realized who was standing next to him. Jason watched the exchange between the two of them with a great deal of interest and a mischievous sparkle in his brown eyes.

"Well,... ummm,... hello Ms. Stevens! It's a pleasure to see you again!"

"Mandy, I believe you've already met Jake here today." He waited for the recognition of the name to set in.

"Why yes... of course! We met at the school toda... wait..." She briefly tore her eyes away from cerulean blue long enough to address her ex.

"Jason, are you telling me THIS is Jake? The Jake you were referring to last week?" Jason laughed, as she seemed to get a clue.

"The one and only!" Jason replied as Jake pulled a chair out so Mandy
could sit down.

"I assure you, Ms. Peters... whatever this clown has said about me is completely false. I'm really not such a terrible person."

"Please... call me Mandy. And, actually, it seems so far that he was absolutely correct! Six feet tall, dark hair, blue eyes..." Absolutely GORGEOUS! She admired the way Jake looked now, hours after their first meeting. All though she was still wearing the same clothes as earlier at the school, Jake seemed... different somehow. Two more buttons were casually undone on her silk shirt, which by now, was a bit more wrinkled. Mandy thought she looked positively,... Sexy?...Oh, God!

"Well, you two lovely ladies have a nice chat. I'm gonna go talk to Annie and Steve and figure out the set list for the night. Have fun!" They waved at him as he walked towards the backstage area. Mandy proceeded to take in the features of this dark woman beside her while she could observe, unnoticed.

Jake watched Jason leave to go and speak to his brother. She felt she was being watched as she turned to look into the eyes of the woman sitting next to her. It took a moment for Mandy to realize that she had been caught staring and she turned away, slightly, hoping to hide her blush. Jake couldn't help but notice how adorable the flush, slowly creeping up Mandy's neck, made the younger woman look.

"Ahh,... can I get you a drink?" Jake decided to break the silence that now lingered between them.

"If you wouldn't mind. A Corona would be nice."

"Sure! I'll be right back." Jake smiled and then walked over to the bar. She returned shortly with two beers. She suddenly felt very thirsty now that she was this close to this woman who had been invading her thoughts since their first meeting earlier in the day. She placed the beer in front of Mandy.

"Here you go. I wasn't sure if you preferred anything in it or not but, the bartender mentioned you liked limejuice. She wouldn't let me pay for it though" Mandy couldn't help but laugh as she glanced toward the bar and spotted her friend, immediately.

"Thanks. Yeah. That's KF. She owns half of the bar. She makes the best drinks in town. She owns the "corral" half of Hershe's Corral."


"Yeah... Kung Fu Luey. She takes a martial arts class three nights a week. But, for the life of me, I can't remember exactly what she takes. We just call her KF. She'd probably chop-suey our butts if we actually called her `Heather'" Jake nodded as she took in the bar. There was an old, battered couch against the wall, down from the bar and across from the stage. She noticed several photos hanging near the bar.

"What's with all the pictures?" Mandy turned around and followed Jake's gaze to the framed photos on a column behind the bar that made it seem like a deranged totem pole.

"Oh, those are photos of the regulars that come in here." Mandy
noticed the mischievous look now pointed at her. She couldn't help but smile back. "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Are you up there?" Jake asked as she took another long pull from her beer. She smiled, trying to look as innocent as possible as she waited on the teacher's answer.

"Oh my God! Is she flirting with me? I think I'm starting to like this... no, I KNOW I'm starting to like this! Hmmm... TWO ca n play at this game," Mandy thought to herself as she answered the smile with one of her own.

"Well of course I am. There's a band photo up there of all of us together" Gotcha!!

Jake just looked into her eyes and smiled what Mandy considered the warmest smile imaginable. Jake knew that she had been out-smarted by the young woman. "Well then... maybe I should go out more often."

"You might want to wait until after you've heard the band before you make up your mind on that." Mandy smiled as she got up from the table with her beer and headed towards the backstage area to get ready. She glanced back towards the table one last time and smiled at the woman sitting there.

"Oh my God... did she just wink at me?" Jake thought to herself as she nearly choked on her beer.

"Good Evening. H.C.'s... How the hell are ya?" The nearly packed bar responded enthusiastically to Mandy as the band got ready to start their set.

"We're Corduroy and right now I only want one thing from you... I want you to want me..." The bar began screaming as the familiar guitar line of the Cheap Trick song began.

Jake sat at her table near the stage as she watched and listened to the band go easily from one song to the next. She was kind of surprised that everyone in the band sang. Steve mostly sang songs by Blink 182, Van Halen and Lit. Jason did better along the lines of Eve 6, Godsmack, Smashmouth and Limp Bizcut. The band definitely had a large catalog of songs to play from just about every genre. They were sure to play something for everybody. Annie sang songs by Joan Jett, Buck Cherry and an AMAZING version of "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. Mandy supplied the vocals for Veruca Salt, Letters To Cleo, Savage Garden... there was even some Shania Twain thrown in there as well as Melissa Etheridge, Meredith Brooks and Sarah McLachlan.

Mandy had seen Pony and Eph walk in near the beginning of the first set. They had sat down at the table next to Jake's. As soon as the first set was done, Mandy walked off stage and started towards the two tables. Pony and Eph were more than a little shocked when Mandy didn't quite make it to their table. They looked at each other and then to the woman at the next table who had obviously captured their friend's eye.

"You were incredible!! You guys really did a great job" Jake said as she handed Mandy a cold Corona once she reached the table.

"Thanks. WHEW!!!... Boy is it hot up there. Hey come here... I'd like for you to meet some friends of mine." She grabbed Jake's hand and started to pull her up.

"Boy... I'm getting bold here... better lay off the Corona..." Mandy thought to herself as she watched Jake finish her beer as she got up from her chair.

"Wow!... We haven't even been on our first date and I'm meeting your friends?... Are your parents next?" Jake asked with a twinkle in her eyes as she stood up. "Oh boy... I have GOT to lay off the Corona..."

Mandy turned around to look Jake in the eyes as she brought her other hand up and placed it on the taller woman's arm to respond with more than just a hint of a twinkle in her own eyes as well. "That depends... are you asking me out for a first date? Because... you know... I could subject you to my parents just to spite you..." Neither woman seemed to notice that they were still holding hands.

"Well then, maybe we'll just have to see about that."

"Well then, maybe I'd just like that." The two women stared at each other in an unspoken challenge until the clearing of a throat brought them back to reality.

"You know, Mandy... I really hate to break up your little chat but, don't you think you could at least be polite and introduce Pony and I to your... friend?" The two women pretended not to notice the blush that came over their friend's features.

"Oh, I'm sorry, guys. Ummm... Jake? These are my friends, Stephanie Carter and Pat Andrews. Or, Eph and Pony as we call them. This is my friend Jake Stevens. She's Raven's aunt." Pony was the first to offer her hand.

"Hi. Nice to meet you. I'm Raven's phys. ed. teacher." Jake let go of Mandy's hand to shake the one offered to her.

"Very nice to meet both of you. I was just gonna head to the bar for another beer. Would either of you like anything?"

"No thanks, Jake. We're fine." Eph answered. Jake turned towards Mandy and asked the same as she pulled out a chair for her at the table.

"Jake you just gave me a beer. You're not trying to get me drunk now are you?" Jake gave her her best "who me?" expression as she waited for Mandy to sit. "Of course not"

"Yeah Jake... you know, I'm sure `Ms. Thang' there would HATE to think that you might be trying to take advantage of her and her low tolerance for alcohol" Jake didn't notice the arm attached to Eph that firmly planted itself against Pony's stomach.

"Pony! I do NOT have a low tolerance for alcohol!"

"Oh yeah? I have two words for you then... Ride Me." Eph lost all control of her laughter as Mandy tried to hide the blush on her face. Jake stood by and took all of this in with great interest. She arched an eyebrow at Pony who merely gave a smirk back at her. She kneeled down next to Mandy. "So... does that mean you don't want another drink?"

Eph took one look at the expression on Mandy's face and laughed even harder as she slapped her hand against the table hard enough for Pony's beer to fall over. Pony rolled her eyes and Eph decided it would probably be better to remain quiet for a few. Mandy looked back over at Jake.

"Well, actually... could you bring me a Midori-Sour? And another beer for Pony... just tell KF it's for me. And while you're at it, tell her yours is for me too." She smiled innocently.

"Do you honestly believe that she's gonna buy that?"

"Of course she will... she'll just think I'm real thirsty and plan on getting hammered for the next set." Mandy grinned brightly at the taller woman and was pleased when she smiled back.

"Hmmm,... Nice ass!" She watched appreciatively as Jake strolled towards the bar and did not notice her friends watching her.

"So tell me about Tall, Dark and Sexy, Ms. Straight Arrow?" Eph said as she moved over closer to her friend. As Mandy began to blush, her friend had the good graces not to mention it.

"There's nothing to tell. I met her today when she came in to discuss Raven. I... I had no idea she would be here tonight. And Jason, that little shit, apparently has it set in his mind that he's going to set me up with her"

"Smart man!" Pony chimed in as she finished what was left in her bottle after Eph knocked it over.

"Oh come on, Pony. There's nothing there."

"Excuse me? Nothing but one very attractive woman whom you are obviously attracted to. You know, it's ok if you decide that you're attracted to another woman. Honestly, Eph and I won't mind a bit. I swear we won't run off screaming."

"Pony, I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry. I just meant that... well, I've only known her for a few hours and I mean,...well it's not like I'm experienced in... well, and..."

"...and you keep blushing profusely" Pony smiled at her.

"...I keep blushing profu... Hey!!!" Her two friends looked at her with a knowing smile on their faces. Pony moved over to the other side of her and placed her hand over her friend's.

"Mandy, it's o.k. Really, just calm down and go with it. It's ok for you to be attracted to her. Hell, it seems at least half the bar is attracted to her." Mandy hid her face in her hands and peeked out at Eph and Pony between her fingers.

"Oh my God!... Is it that obvious? I mean, it feels so different to be attracted to a woman. She's just so... tall and... those eyes! I mean...is this normal?"

"Is it normal for you to be attracted to someone THAT gorgeous? Hell yeah! If you're human and have an ounce of blood running through your body!" Eph answered her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Look, just calm down. It's not like you're going to end up in bed with her tonight or anything"

Pony looked at the exchange between her friend and her lover. "Pity"

Eph and Mandy both balled up napkins from the table and tossed them her way.

"Hey! Watch it you two. Come on Mandy! And as far as being "different", different how? Can you honestly give me the name of one MAN you have been attracted to?"

"Of course I can... Jason" Pony laughed at her.

"Jason? He doesn't count!"

"What do you mean he doesn't count? I was married to him for three years!"

"Yeah and you've been best friends for how long? Since you were four? Come on... this is Eph and me. Now I know that you two have known each other longer than I have but all of us around this table know that you two only got married to please your families. I mean, I guess that's ok. The two of you did what you felt was right at the time. But, he doesn't count."

Mandy sunk down into her chair and played with the condensation on the side of her beer bottle. She started picking at the painted "La Cerveza" on the side of her bottle. "I guess you're right." She laughed to herself. "I don't know why I'm acting a wreck anyway. She's probably not even interested. But, GOD is she fun to flirt with" The three friends around the table laughed together as they noticed Jake walking back over.

Eph immediately gave up her seat next to Mandy so Jake could sit down and moved across the table to sit next to her lover. Jake placed a beer a piece in front of Eph and Pony. She then handed Mandy her drink before sitting next to her. Eph was the first to break the silence.

"Thanks for the beer, Jake."

"No problem." She glanced over at Mandy. "Your friend still wouldn't let me pay for anything. So I shoved the money in her tip jar when she wasn't looking."

"At least you HOPE she wasn't looking. Believe me, if she saw you, she'll throw a fit because she didn't get her way." Eph said as she took the first swallow of her beer. "I mean, don't get me wrong, she doesn't have to have her way all the time, she just told us a long time ago that she felt guilty taking money from her friends."

Jake crossed her left leg across her right knee as she leaned back in her chair and JUST stopped herself from placing an arm across Mandy's shoulders in the process. "Damn! What is WRONG with me tonight?"

"Well, then I guess I don't need to worry. I'm not a friend of hers."

"No, maybe not. But, you're sitting with us so, you're guilty by association." Pony replied as Eph toasted her.

"I'll drink to that!"

"Baby, you'll drink to ANYTHING!" Everyone around the table started laughing as they heard a guitar being tuned from the stage. Mandy started to get up from her seat.

"Well guys, that's my cue. I better get back to the stage before they send out a search party. I'll see you two trouble makers after this set." She smiled at her two friends as Pony saluted her with her beer. She glanced back over to Jake, with just a hint of nervousness in her voice.

"Are you staying for the second set? It's our last one."

Jake smiled warmly at Mandy.

"I wouldn't miss it!" Jake was pleased to see the grin on Mandy's face get brighter. She watched as Mandy walked back up to the stage and started talking with her drummer and didn't notice her two tablemate's knowing glances in her direction.

Claudia Peters thought of the bright young girl sitting quietly at her dinner table. Raven had just finished her dinner and brought her dinner dishes to the sink.

"Thank you Mrs. Peters. That was very good. What's that called?"

"THAT, my dear, is called Chicken Cacciatore. I'm glad you liked it. That's my son's favorite."

"You mean my aunt's boss, Mr. Peters? I met him once. He's funny."

Claudia laughed at the girl as she washed another plate and placed it in the dish drainer. She was pleasantly surprised when Raven pulled a small step stool up to the sink. She picked a towel up off the counter and began to help the older woman dry the dishes.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Peters. You don't mind if I help do you? I guess I'm used to helping my aunt."

Claudia placed an arm around the girl's shoulders and squeezed, gently.

"Of course not, Honey. Thank you for helping. And, Yes. I was referring to Jason. I kind of think it's funny. I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to him as 'Mr. Peters' before. And you are right. He is quite a character. Especially when he gets around his brother." They finished the dishes and put them away together as Claudia told the young girl of the trouble her oldest and youngest sons used to get into.

After they were done, Claudia decided they would reward themselves with a bowl of ice cream. Just as they sat at the table, a pouting two-year-old, her hair tousled, toddled into the kitchen, obviously just waking up.

"Gam-ma?" The child ran into Claudia's leg and hugged her as best as her little arms would allow. Claudia leaned over and picked up her granddaughter, placing her on her lap. She watched as the child furiously tried to rub the sleep from her little green eyes.

"How's Granma's little angel? Hmmm? How's Granma's little Gellar?" Gellar yawned until she noticed her grandmother's bowl.

"I-keem?" Claudia laughed out loud as she placed a small amount of the frozen treat on a spoon for her first grand child.

"OK, Baby. But, just a little" She fed the small amount of vanilla to the child on her lap.


"She's cute." Raven said as she watched Gellar begin to reach for Claudia's bowl.

"Yes she is. Except for her hair, she looks like her mother. Same bright green eyes."

"They're pretty. My teacher has green eyes. Ms. Peters is really nice." All of a sudden, a light bulb went off in Raven's head. Claudia watched with a knowing smirk and waited for realization to dawn on the dark-haired child sitting next to her.

"Ms. Peters is her mom, right?" Claudia laughed at the, as Jason would call it, "Duh" expression on Raven's face.

"Yes, honey. She is. Mandy and Jason used to be married. They grew up together." Claudia explained as she tried to straighten the hair on her granddaughter's head.

"Cool! I like Ms. Peters. She's my favorite teacher I ever had! She taught me how to do fractions!" Just then, deciding she didn't like being ignored, Gellar made her greatest desire known.
"Gam-ma? I-keem! More i-keem!"

"Ok, Gellar. Just a little more. Raven, do you like Disney movies? We have a bunch in the other room for Gellar. You're more than welcome to watch them if you'd like." Raven got excited just hearing the word "Disney"

"Really? Do you have "The Little Mermaid"? That's my favorite!"

Claudia stood up from her chair and placed her bowl in the sink.

"We sure do. Gellar likes that one too. You can watch it when you finish your ice cream." Before she knew what happened, Raven had finished her bowl of ice cream, took it to the sink and rinsed the bowl out for good measure. After all, this woman had "The Little Mermaid"!

"OK. All done!"

"Mrs. Peters? Who are all these people in this picture?" Raven asked as she picked up a framed photo on the end table next to the couch in the den. Claudia began to rewind the movie and went over to the couch where Raven and Gellar were sitting.

She sat down next to the older girl and looked at the photo.

"Well, that photo is a few years old." She began to point to each person in the photograph.

"There's me and my husband, Frank." Claudia paused for a moment before continuing. She took a deep breath and smiled sadly at the bright-eyed child watching her. "He passed away a couple of years ago. Not long after Sweet Pea there was born." Raven looked down at her hands, resting in her lap. She almost seemed... ashamed. She hoped she hadn't upset the older woman. She really liked Mrs. Peters.

"I,...I'm sorry. I... didn't mean to be nosey." Claudia put an arm around the dark-haired child and hugged her.

"Oh, Honey... It's all right. You weren't being nosey." Raven looked up with hopeful blue eyes as Claudia continued.

"Really, sweetie, it's OK. Here, let me show you everyone else. There's my oldest son, Steve and his wife, Kristen. There's my middle son, Mitch. And... there's Jason and Mandy."

"So, this was taken before Gellar was born?" At the mention of her name, Gellar pounced on Raven's lap causing the older girl to giggle. Claudia smiled at the sight of her granddaughter and her new friend.

"Oh, yes. We'll have to have a new picture taken soon. My son, Steve and his wife are expecting their first baby." She announced proudly as she replaced the photo back on the table.

"I met him once, too. I like him. He's the policeman, right?"

"That's right. He is." Raven thought about this and looked at the small child sitting in her lap.

"My Dad was a policeman, too. So was my Aunt Jake. It was when we lived in Chicago. I was only a baby. After he died, Aunt Jake quit. I have a picture of her and my Dad in their uniforms. They looked alike. Only he was a bit taller, had short hair and a,... a,... goatee? Is that what they're called?" She looked up at the older woman who was smiling warmly at her.

"Yes Honey, that's what they're called. Ready? Here we go." She started the movie for the two girls. Gellar was so excited once she saw what was on, she was practically jumping up and down in Raven's lap.

"Basjun, Aven, Basjun!" Raven laughed at her as she quickly realized Sebastian was the small child's favorite character. This little kid was all right. She liked Sebastian and The Little Mermaid.

Claudia grabbed a book and sat down to read at a chair in the corner. The next time she looked up from her book, both girls were fast asleep to the music of "Under The Sea".

Jake carefully maneuvered her way around all the bodies that were on the dance floor now. Bumping and grinding to the music being supplied from the dj booth. She tried not to notice the obnoxious strobe and disco lights as she worked her way from the stage to the door, carrying the Peavey EVH 5150 combo amp Steve preferred.

The band had been done playing for about 20 minutes and everyone was busy trying to remove their equipment from the stage before someone could break anything in a drunken stupor. The hardest part of packing up everything, was trying to do so when people were now on the stage dancing as well. Beer and liquor was everywhere. On all of the cables and cases. Everything reeked of alcohol. How can somebody drink and dance at the same time? Obviously, they couldn't.

Jason was coming back through the door, having pulled his Blazer around to the door. He held the door open for Jake as she stepped outside, happy to be getting some much-needed fresh air. Steve was all ready outside, arranging his equipment into his truck, a teal-colored 1992 Ford Explorer. She walked over and placed his amp on the ground, then, turned around to head back into the bar.

"Hey Jake?" She turned around to see Steve hanging his head out of the back of his truck.

"Yeah?" Steve hopped out and walked over to her. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a couple of twenties. He handed them to her. Or at least attempted to.

"Here you go. Thanks for helping out tonight. We really appreciate it."

She held up her hands in protest and refused to accept the money.

"No way. I can't take your money. I enjoyed everything tonight and you guys are really good."

Dark brown eyes stared defiantly into bright, azure blue in an unspoken, friendly challenge. Jason walked out, as did Annie, to the sight of his best employee all but towering over his cop brother, neither willing to break first. It made for quite a humorous sight.

Steve was the first to crack as he smiled at the woman. Jake grinned back. More like a smirk, actually.

"Come on, Jake. At least take some gas money since you offered to help carry this shit back to my house." She shook her head at him.

"Nope. From the directions Jason gave me, it's on my way actually. Besides, your mother mentioned to me this morning that you and your wife are expecting a baby. Keep it for the kid." Steve looked a bit confused at the admission.

"My mother? How were you talking to my mother?"

"She's babysitting my niece. Nice woman. And besides, I don't need any money. I didn't have to pay for a beer all night!"

"Yeah. Speaking of which, are you ok to drive?"

"Yeah. I stopped drinking before your last set. I had four in the last six and a half hours so, I'm fine, Thanks."

They started walking back inside the bar. Steve held the door open as they entered to the sound of Christina Aguilera singing about "rubbing her the right way".

"Well, in case I forget to tell you again tonight, Thanks."

"You're welcome, Steve. But, you know, there is something you could do for me." He looked wide-eyed at her.

"Sure. What?"

"Do you think you could ask the DJ to play some better music?" They shared a laugh at this.

"Most definitely!."

Mandy stood over at the bar with her friends as she waited for KF to come back with the band's pay for the night.

"Are you sure you don't need us to give you a ride home?" Pony asked as she stood with one arm wrapped protectively around her lover. Mandy waved her friends offer away.

"Yeah, I'm sure. I can catch a ride with Jason. Besides we need to unload all of our equipment at Steve's and I need to go pick up Gellar. She spent the night with Grandma last night."

"Well, OK... if you're sure."

"Yeah, give us a call tomorrow and let us know how things go with Ms. Sexy." Eph added. She watched on, with much amusement, as her friend turned an impossible shade of crimson.

"Honey, am I gonna have to get concerned? I don't know who's fallen harder: Mandy or you!" Pony questioned. Eph couldn't help but grin at the worried expression that crossed her lover's features.

"Of course you don't have to worry, Pony. I wouldn't trade you for anyone or anything. You know that." Pony let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding as she leaned over to brush her lips across those of the woman who captured her heart four years earlier.

Mandy looked on at the tender display in front of her.

"Come on, guys. Enough with the mushy shit!" Eph hesitantly broke away from Pony as she turned to address her friend. Pony reached and grabbed her beer bottle to finish what was left.

"Mandy, Dear,... at least I know I'm gonna get some tonight!" This tiny little bit of information caused Pony to snort the remainder of her beer out her nose and turn red, herself, as Eph and Mandy exploded into laughter.

"Yeah, sure, Eph. Rub it in!" Mandy grinned.

"Speaking of getting some, here comes Mandy's new playmate!" Pony just couldn't resist getting in one last jab at her friend as Jake walked up to the bar. Mandy turned around and her eyes fell on the tall woman as she drew nearer to where they were standing. God! She's magnificent!

"Hi! Everything's all loaded up."

"Oh, OK. I was just saying goodbye to Eph and Pony."

"Yeah, Jake. We're gonna go home and scr.....Hrumphhhhhhh" Pony covered her lover's mouth before she could say another word. Man, I gotta start watching how much she drinks... at least when someone's around! Pony looked at Jake and smiled, a bit embarrassed by her girlfriend's admission. Jake took one look at Mandy and grinned.

Just then, Eph licked the palm covering her mouth, catching Pony completely off guard. When she removed her hand to wipe it on her lover's shirt, Eph picked up right where she left off.

"So,... As I was saying, Jake... what was I saying?... Oh yeah, wanna come?" Jake's reply was a very sexy, well placed, arched eyebrow, while Mandy looked like a deer caught in headlights. Pony suddenly felt it necessary to supply an answer for Jake to her extremely inebriated girlfriend.

"Maybe later." Eph looked at Pony. Then to Mandy. To Jake. Back to Mandy.

"WooHoo! You go girl!" Mandy wondered at that exact moment if murder were still illegal. Jake merely grinned at the entire situation. After all, she'd been drunk before.

"I'm sorry, Jake. I guess she's had a bit too much to drink tonight. I better get her home" Jake smiled at Pony to let her know everything was all right.

"That's quite OK. It was very nice meeting the two of you." She reached out a hand to shake first Pony's then Eph's. Pony actually looked...relieved.

"Thanks. It was nice meeting you, too. Take Care and maybe we'll see you around."

"Yeah, maybe!"

Pony leaned over and kissed her friend on the cheek. She gave Mandy a hug and whispered into her ear, "Sorry. Call us tomorrow. I'm sure she'll be groveling for forgiveness." Mandy smiled and hugged her friend back.

"It's OK. I'll just come over and talk REAL loud while she's hungover!" She said with a mischievous glint in her green eyes. The evil smirk in Pony's eyes gave her her answer.

"You're on. See ya!"
"Bye" Pony walked herself and Eph out the door as they each turned around and waved at the two women who were now, standing by themselves at the bar.

Jake stood in front of Mandy, admiring her, as she waved to her friends. Mandy could feel herself being watched. She just barely managed to suppress the blush she could feel beginning, under the gaze of the taller woman. She slowly turned around until emerald green met sapphire blue. Neither woman could be sure how long they stood there, openly admiring each other.

KF had returned in the meantime and watched on with great interest. Was Mandy finally going to admit her attraction to women? Because if the little staring match taking place was any clue, then this ebony-haired woman standing with her friend was really going to get it. Lucky Bitch...

"Ahem..." KF, reluctantly, broke in. "Here's your pay for the night. Good job, girl."

"Thanks." Mandy blushed a bit at the praise she received from her friend. "Can I have one more Midori-sour, please?" KF leaned over as if to whisper a secret to her friend.

"Darlin', after seeing you on stage tonight, you can have any damn thing you want!"

Really?...Anything?... Hmmm, how about one tall, gorgeous, blue-eyed...

"A Midori-Sour would be great, KF. Thank-You. Jake, would you like anything?"

Oh yeah, if you only knew...

"No thanks. I'm done drinking for the night. I told Steve I'd help you guys unload everything. Then, I have to pick Raven up from Mrs. Peters' house." Mandy's eyes widened and she, unconsciously, reached her hand out and touched Jake on her arm.

"Mom is watching Raven? Cool! Then she's met my daughter. She stayed at Claudia's last night. I have to go pick her up, too." Jake couldn't believe her good luck. Maybe she could give Mandy a ride... Uhh,...better not go there... Been a while...Oh yeah, what year is this? Oh Hell, just ASK her! KF returned with Mandy's drink.

"Really? Well, I overheard you say earlier that your friends had dropped you off here. I could give you a ride if you'd like."

Oh yeah, I'd like but,...

"That's very sweet of you, Jake. But, I'd still need to get home once I left Claudia's." Jake smiled warmly at her.

"That's OK. I don't mind." Mandy waited only a beat before answering.

"Great. I appreciate it."

"OK, how about, we go to Steve's and unload everything and then we can go get our kids... I mean not our kids but..." Mandy couldn't help but chuckle at the, apparently, flustered woman standing in front of her. Oh my God,... is she actually nervous? How CUTE!!!

"That's OK, I know what you meant and it sounds great! Let's go!"

Jake and Mandy had driven to Steve's to unload everything. They talked the entire way there. They had gotten so lost in conversation, they didn't even notice that they were parked in Steve's driveway until Jason knocked on the window of Jake's truck to get their attention. They got out of the truck and unloaded everything into Steve's garage, trying not to wake up Steve's sleeping wife. Everybody said goodbye to one another and Jake and Mandy were on their way.

They stopped out in front of Claudia's. Before Mandy could open her door, Jake had come around to the side and opened it for her.

"Thank-you, Jake." Mandy smiled at the taller woman.

"You are very welcome." Jake offered a smile of her own.

They walked up to the front door and Mandy knocked on it quietly. A moment later, they heard someone approaching the door. A curtain was pulled back from the window at the top and they could see Claudia's brown eyes peeking out at them. She opened the door quietly and let them in.

"Hi! Come on in but let's go in the kitchen. The kids are sleeping." Claudia whispered as she shut the door behind Mandy and Jake.

They followed the older woman into the kitchen.

"Hi, Mom. I hope we didn't wake you." Mandy said as she sat down at the kitchen table, motioning for Jake to do the same.

"Not at all, Sweet-Pea. I was just up reading a book and the girls passed out hours ago. Jake, I want you to know that Raven is the most delightful child. She is such a doll!"

"Thank you, Mrs. Peters. I'm very proud of Raven and thanks for watching her. It was very kind of you."

"No trouble at all and you can call me 'Claudia', Dear. Would you two like some coffee? I just made a pot." Jake looked at Mandy and noticed Mandy's nod of approval.

"Yes, please. That would be great."

"Mom, why don't you sit down? I'll take care of the coffee. Knowing you, you've been on your feet all day." Mandy got up from her chair and urged her former mother-in-law to sit down. She walked over near the coffee pot and grabbed three coffee mugs out of the cabinet over the top. She poured the steaming liquid into the cups and prepared Claudia's as she liked it.

"Here you go, Mom" she said as she placed the steaming mug on the table.

"Thanks, Sweet Pea." Mandy looked over to Jake. "How do you take your coffee, Jake?"

"Uhm,... Cream, no sugar."

" You've got it!" A couple of moments later, Mandy brought over a cup for herself and Jake. She was pleased that Claudia chose to sit down and join them. Actually , she was pleased that Claudia chose to sit in her chair. The only chairs left were those to either side of her new friend.

"So, tell me a little about yourself, Jake, since we didn't really have a chance to chat this morning." Claudia said as she took a sip of her coffee. Jake did the same and sat back in her chair. She thought for a moment before replying.

"There's really not too much to tell. We just moved here from Chicago a little over a month ago and I work for your son. That's about it really." She didn't think the older woman would let her explanation fly and Claudia did not disappoint her.

"Oh, come now,... Attractive young woman like you? There must be something you could tell us about yourself." Oh boy... I'm in trouble here.

"Not really. There really isn't too much to tell. I've been doing construction and carpentry work for about five or six years now. I go home and take care of my niece. She's... really all I have and she means the world to me." Jake laughed a little at herself. "She's my best friend." Mandy was absolutely speechless. She looked at the woman sitting next to her and couldn't believe the heartfelt remarks pouring from the lips of her new friend. Her admiration for Jake jumped about ten notches as she listened to her talk about her beloved niece. Mandy was so lost in her thoughts, she didn't hear Claudia speaking to her. She also didn't notice Jake looking at her.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" Claudia shook her head and smiled at the embarrassed woman. After all, she might be old but, she wasn't naïve OR narrow-minded. I'm going to have to have a nice little chat with Amanda one of these days...

"I just asked if you would like another cup of coffee, Dear?" Mandy looked over sheepishly at Jake and then at her hands resting in her lap.

"No thanks, Mom. I'm fine. It's getting kind of late so I better get Gellar home while she's still sleeping." She started to get up when she realized Jake had pulled out her chair and offered a hand to help her stand. She took the offered hand, reveling in the feel of it wrapped around hers, even if just for a brief moment. None of this went unnoticed by Claudia, who turned to place their coffee cups in the sink.

"OK, Sweet Pea... We went shopping yesterday so, she has a couple of things to go home with."

"Mom? Knowing you, and your shopping trips with my daughter, Jake and I will be lucky if we can still find room to fit in her truck after we load everything!"

Claudia looked offended but Mandy knew it was just an act.

"Well, Mandy? What good does it do anyone to have a grandchild if you can't spoil them rotten? I'm a Grandmother. That's my job and I'm good at it! You wait till you're a grandmother and get YOUR Grandma Guide. You'll see..."

"OK, Mom... in about thirty-eight years, when Gellar is forty and I'll consider allowing her to date and get married, I'll think back to this moment and remember about the Grandma Guide." Mandy wisecracked to her former mother-in law. Claudia merely rolled her eyes at the giggling, younger woman.

The three women made their way from the kitchen to the den, where the two younger girls were sleeping. The sight that awaited them was, to say the least, heartwarming. The older of the two was sound asleep with the younger girl held tight against her to keep her from falling off the couch. Gellar was asleep, half on the couch, half on Raven with her head resting on the older girl's shoulder. Her tiny hand curled into a small fist with her thumb held firmly between her lips. Mandy stood in the doorway, her hand over her mouth, as Jake walked up behind her. Jake couldn't help but smile at the picture the two girls made. Dark and Light. A smaller version of herself and the woman in front of her.

She felt herself being watched and looked down to notice that, sometime during her musings, she had placed her right hand upon Mandy's right shoulder. She also noticed that Mandy was now holding her hand. Blue eyes traveled up to be embraced by emerald green. What should have been a slightly embarrassing moment actually felt comfortable and... right, as the two women smiled warmly at each other.

None of this went unnoticed by Claudia as she cleared her throat to get their attention.

"I'll tell you what, Ladies...How about the two of you grab your girls and I'll grab Gellar's things."

Mandy walked over and gently picked up her sleeping daughter while Jake helped Mrs. Peters pack all of Gellar's things into the truck. Jake walked back into the house for another load and when she returned to her truck, Claudia had Gellar's car seat secured safely in the back seat.

"I have a couple of these, so you can take this one for the baby." Claudia said, referring to the car seat. "There's no rush to get it back so you can keep it for as long as you like."

"Well,... umm... thank you but, I think Raven has surpassed the car seat stage." Jake replied with a grin on her face as Claudia smiled a knowing smile.

"Hmmm,... you never know when it'll come in handy." Jake decided that it would be pointless to argue with the charming, older woman. The two walked back into the house. Jake stopped Claudia before she could enter the kitchen and placed some bills into the woman's hands.

"Thank you SO much for watching Raven today. I really appreciate it." Claudia realized what was in her hands and placed it back into Jake's shirt pocket.

"Nonsense! You keep that. I enjoyed every moment of it. I'm getting to be an old woman; I'm supposed to love watching after children." Jake closed her eyes, smiled and shook her head as she realized which parent Steve inherited his stubborn streak from.

"Come on, it's 1:30 in the morning and you've been watching Raven since 6:00 yesterday morning. I can't let you do that for free." Claudia grabbed Jake's hands in her own and looked up into blue eyes.

"I'll tell you what, you keep that and we'll discuss it next time." Claudia let go and turned around to walk into the kitchen. Both of Jake's eyebrows rose into her hairline as she asked, "Next time?" Turning at the doorway, Claudia replied with a smirk, "Next time." then continued through the kitchen door without another word.

Jake walked into the den and found Mandy sitting in the corner chair, cradling her daughter in her arms. She walked over closer to the chair and knelt down, sitting on her heels, in front of Mandy.

"She's a beautiful child." Mandy took a Kleenex and wiped a slightly runny nose then brushed the hair out of her daughter's eyes.

"Thank you. She's my baby." Sleepy little green eyes opened and attempted to focus on the matching pair directly above.


"Hi, Sweetie!" Gellar smiled and then glanced over at Jake. She looked back up at Mandy as she pointed at Jake.

"Who 'dat?" Mandy smiled at her daughter as she pulled her hand back down and held it in her own.

"That's Jake, Honey. Can you say `Hi' to Jake?" Gellar looked over to Jake once again and smiled a toothy grin.

"Hi Dake!!" Her "J" sounding like a cross between a "J", a "D" and a "Z".

"Hey Munchkin!" Jake smiled at the child. Gellar yawned, brought her thumb back to her mouth and said "Nite-Nite". Jake grinned and ran her hand gently through the little girl's hair. She glanced up into Mandy's eyes.

"I,... uhh... guess we should be going."

She stood up and raised her hands above her head to stretch. There was an audible "pop" as she did so. She then walked over to the couch and very gently picked up Raven, cradling her in her arms so as not to awaken her. She looked over to Mandy and whispered, "Ready to go?" Mandy nodded as she rose up from her chair and followed Jake out the door.

Claudia followed them out, as well, and opened up the backseat truck doors for each of them. Jake gently sat Raven in the truck with her head resting against a jacket on the back seat. She fastened the child's seatbelt and quietly shut the door.

Mandy had put Gellar in her car seat and made sure she was safely situated. As Mandy walked around the truck, Jake opened the door for her.

"Will you excuse me for a moment? I left Raven's bag. I'll be right back." Mandy sat in her seat and watched Jake as she ran back into the house. She turned to look at Gellar, sleeping peacefully behind the driver's seat. She was startled when Claudia spoke to her through the window.

"Sorry for scaring you, Honey. Got everything?"
"Yes Ma'am, But, Jake had to run back in for Raven's things."

"Ahh..., she seems like a nice woman." Mandy smiled.

"Yeah. She seems to be. I've only known her for a few hours so, who knows? But Raven absolutely praises her. And from what I've seen, she's done a marvelous job raising her." Claudia decided it might be time to add her two-cents worth. "And she's very attractive. Seems to me, she'd be a,... oh,... what do you call it? A keeper?" Mandy's eyes grew huge as she slowly turned her head, shock evident on her face, towards her former mother-in-law.

"Mom?" she asked calmly, "Are you fishing for something here?" Just as Claudia was about to reply, Jake opened the driver's side door and climbed in the truck. She placed Raven's bag in the floorboard behind the seat.

"O.K. All set", Jake said as she fastened her seatbelt. They said "Goodbye" to Claudia and were on their way.

Claudia watched them leave and went back into the house. She locked the door and turned offthe front porch light. Now that the kids were gone, she could go to bed herself. She went through the house, shutting off all the lights and making sure all of the windows were locked. She walked into the den and stopped in her tracks. There, on the end table, in front of the photograph of her family, sat a nice little stack, consisting of five brand new twenty-dollar bills. There was a small note next to the money with a simple "Thank-you", written in nice, neat handwriting.

As Claudia shook her head, she realized she had finally met someone just as stubborn as her oldest son. She also realized that if she had her way, Mandy would definitely have her hands full with one, tall, attractive brunette. Only one word came to mind as she continued down the hall to her bedroom... "Brat".

They drove out of Claudia's neighborhood and Jake headed back towards the boulevard. Once they had reached the first light, Jake looked over towards Mandy to ask for directions to her house only to find the young teacher sound asleep. She gently placed her hand on Mandy's shoulder to try and awaken her, but to no avail. Mandy just seemed to curl into the seat more. A quick glance to the light found it still red so Jake grabbed Mandy's jacket and covered her.
Jake was at a loss. Two passed out children in the back seat and her niece's teacher, a beautiful woman she was quickly becoming seriously attracted to, sound asleep in the front seat right next to her. She had no idea where the woman lived. She figured she could call Jason and ask him for directions but his number was at the house.

She got on the interstate towards the house. She really had no other choice. Fifteen minutes later, she pulled the 4Runner into her driveway. She quietly got out and walked around to the back of the truck. She opened the door and found Gellar's diaper bag, amongst all the packages. She shouldered the bag and shut the door. She quickly walked to the front door and unlocked it to make her next task easier.

After leaving the diaper bag on the inside of the door, she walked back to the truck and carefully removed the baby from her car seat. As Gellar snuggled into her shoulder, she walked around the truck and opened Raven's door. Without disturbing the child sleeping peacefully against her, she managed to undo Raven's seatbelt and maneuver the child onto her other side. She shut the door with her hip and carried the two children into the house and up to her room. She placed Raven on the bed and then Gellar right next to her. She walked over to the other side of the bed and turned the covers down. She moved Gellar so she was underneath the sheet with a pillow against her side so she wouldn't fall.

She ran back down the stairs and out the door. She quietly opened the teacher's door and lifted the young woman into her arms, surprised a bit at just how well she fit there. How well they seemed to fit together. Out of instinct, Mandy circled her arms around the taller woman's neck.

She carried the young woman into the house and up to her room as well, just barely making it inside before the rain started to fall. Once inside, she walked over to the bed and moved the pillow from next to the child. She placed one knee on the bed and gently laid Mandy next to her sleeping daughter, instantly missing the feel of the woman in her arms but very much enjoying the feel of her hands sliding down from around her neck.

Afterwards, she took Raven and put her in her own bed after undressing the child and putting her pajamas on. She grabbed Raven's favorite teddy bear, Pookie, from off the child's nightstand and placed it, lovingly, in the child's arms. She kissed the dark head, grabbed a t-shirt from out of the girl's dresser and walked out of the room.

Jake went downstairs and made sure the house and truck were secure. She grabbed the diaper bag and headed back up the stairs. She noticed, upon re-entering the bedroom, that Gellar was still sound asleep, sucking her thumb. She took off the child's clothes and changed her diaper then dressed her Raven's old shirt. She pulled back the covers on the other side of the bed. After replacing the child in the bed comfortably, she grabbed some extra pillows out of the closet to place along the side of the bed. Even though Gellar was safely tucked away in the center of the bed, Jake didn't want to take any chances with the adorable, little girl.

Respecting the young mother's privacy, the only things Jake removed from Mandy were her black boots and socks. She made sure mother and child were warmly tucked in before leaving a note, along with a t-shirt to sleep in, should Mandy awaken.

With one last glance back, Jake felt a new ache in her heart. She retrieved a sheet and pillow from the closet so she could head downstairs for a peaceful night's sleep... on the couch. She was positive the golden haired woman, sleeping peacefully in her bed, would invade her dreams. She settled onto the couch and cast her eyes toward the ceiling.

"Good Night, Mandy."

And all was quiet.

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