On Raven's Wings

by Carrie Ryan

..."I'm such a sucker for your eyes
They permanently paralyze"...

Chapter Four

Mandy woke up in a strange bed, in a strange room. She could feel Gellar, against her side, therefore she wasn't alarmed. She turned her head on the pillow and inhaled deeply. She closed her eyes to try and concentrate on where she knew this wonderful smell. A mixture of soap, shampoo and ... Drakkar.

"Mmmm... Jake." The name poured from her lips in a whisper. She closed her eyes to remember how she got here. She remembered leaving Claudia's. That was about it. She opened her eyes and waited for them to adjust to the dark. It wasn't light out yet so it must still be early.

Mandy turned her head to watch Gellar sleep. She was in a t-shirt much too large for the little girl. She reached her hand over and ran her fingers just under the waistband of Gellar's diaper. Dry. She noticed the pillows lined along the side of the bed. Jake had obviously taken much care in making sure they were comfortable and not awakened. She couldn't help the smile that crept onto her face.

She raised her hands over her head and stretched a bit, noticing just how comfortable Jake's bed was. Wait a minute... if her and Gellar were in Jake's bed, where was Jake? And just how did she manage to get all of them in the house?

Mandy noticed a piece of paper lying on the pillow next to her. She grabbed it and turned it towards the light creeping through the window blinds from the streetlamp outside. She noticed the beautiful, precise handwriting. She had to squint her eyes to read it.

Mandy,

I left a t-shirt for you in case you wake up. I hope you are comfortable. Sorry, I tried once to wake you up and when it didn't work I didn't have the heart to try again. Hope you don't mind crashing here for the night. I didn't know where you live. Gellar has been changed and her clothes are folded up on top of my dresser next to the diaper bag. If you need anything, I'll be downstairs. Otherwise, make yourself at home and I'll see you in the morning. -Jake

Mandy took off her jeans and tank top from earlier and changed into the dark colored t-shirt. She looked down at herself and had to suppress a laugh at how it swallowed her. She noticed a familiar picture on the front.

"Hmmm,... so you like Shania Twain?"

She re-situated the pillows along either side of Gellar and decided to find her way downstairs. She walked down the hall to the top of the staircase. She started down as quietly as possible. Once at the bottom, she decided to hazard a guess as to which way to go. She chose to go to the right and was not disappointed when she found the entrance to the living room. She started through and stopped dead in her tracks. There, just a few feet away, was the sexiest thing she had ever seen. She was more than a little startled at the thoughts and emotions running through her mind and body. She was trying, with little success, to ignore the pull she felt in her stomach.

There, on the couch, was Jake. Sound asleep. Only a sheet covered her lithe form. One leg was exposed and lying on top. As Mandy stood in the doorway, admiring the sight before her, Jake rolled over and onto her back, causing the sheet to fall just below her waistline past the top of her shorts.

Mandy couldn't help the gasp that escaped her lips at the sight of this woman. She started at her foot and worked her eyes up to her calf. She had never seen such powerful legs on a woman to where they still looked sexy. Boy, that was a prominent word in her vocabulary at the moment. Her eyes traveled up her thigh to be met by black silk boxers. She never knew a woman could look so good in boxers, either. She used to hate when Jason wore them.

Mandy's breathing was becoming a little bit more ragged and caught in her throat when she noticed the flat expanse of well-sculpted stomach. Jake was wearing a baby blue, sleeveless half shirt. The more Jake moved, the higher the shirt went.

Right now, at this moment, Mandy wanted nothing more than for Jake to open her eyes so she could see them in contrast to this shirt. She unconsciously ran her tongue over now parched lips and had moved toward the couch, seemingly against her will.

Jake had woke up the moment the young woman's foot hit the top step but decided that if Mandy would be interested enough to look, well then, dammit, she'd give her something interesting to look at. Her hearing told her that the young woman had started walking towards the couch. Once she was within a few feet, Jake decided to throw in one more stretch for good measure. It was a good one. Arms above her head, grabbing the arm of the couch, arching her back off the couch, exposing more of her torso to the younger woman as her exposed leg slid into a bent position. Two sleep-filled, blue eyes opened once she settled and rested on Mandy's flushed face.

"Mmmm,... Hi" Jake whispered in a voice thick with sleep.

"O.K., Mandy, Breathe!!! Close your jaw and breathe."

"Hi. Thanks for the shirt."

"No problem. Hope you don't mind staying. Been up long?" Mandy ran a hand across her eyebrow.

"No. Just a few minutes. How long was I out?" Jake let out a throaty chuckle.

"Well,... we left your mother-in-law's at about 2:00 and it's... (stretching to look at the clock)... 3:30 now. So, not long."

"Hmmm." Mandy couldn't do anything but stand and look at Jake. Jake noticed how her t-shirt made the smaller woman look like a little kid.

No little kid ever looked THAT good!"

"Is the baby o.k.?" Jake asked as she moved towards the back of the couch to allow Mandy to sit. She patted the spot on the couch next to her and kicked off the sheet as Mandy sat down. Mandy sat, facing her, with her hand resting on the back of the couch so she was, practically, leaning over Jake. She brought one leg up underneath of her, so only one rested on the floor.

"She's fine. I can't believe you went through all that trouble for us."

Jake blew off the response. "Don't worry. It was nothing. You know, speaking of the baby, she and Raven were really adorable together earlier."

Mandy grabbed Jake's arm as she replied, "Weren't they? You know, I really adore Raven. She's a very special little girl." Jake took her hand and covered Mandy's without really thinking about it first. They intertwined their fingers.

"Yeah. She's a great kid. You know,... I uhh,... I really had a good time tonight. You have an amazing voice." Mandy lowered her head and blushed to the roots of her hair at the compliment. Jake lowered her head to try and catch Mandy's eye. She grinned widely at the young woman when she noticed Mandy hide her face even more.

"You know,... You're kinda cute when you blush." Mandy raised her head to look at Jake as if in shock.

"I DON'T blush!" This caused Jake to throw back her head in laughter. Mandy tugged on their intertwined fingers and ran her thumb across Jake's palm.

"What?!" Mandy asked. "I don't." Jake laughed as her eyes met Mandy's once again.

"Oh, O.K. If you say so..."

BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next thing she knew, Jake had a lap-full of blonde as the thunder cracked outside. BODY full of blonde was more like it. As soon as the thunder started, Mandy ended up literally on top of Jake with her head buried in the beautiful woman's chest.

"Hey? It's just thunder. It started raining right after I got you guys in the house."

"I, uh... I'm sorry. I'm absolutely terrified of thunderstorms. I always have been. I,... Damn , I don't know what to say. I'm sorry." All though she was embarrassed by her reaction, she didn't want to move from the spot she was nestled in. She noticed, as she opened her eyes, her head was lying between Jake's chest and shoulder. Jake noticed too, if the hammering heartbeat under Mandy's ear was any indication. Jake slowly began to rub her hand up and down Mandy's back.

"It's O.K. I understand." Neither woman made any attempt to move until the thunder began roaring again.

"Come on. Let's get you back upstairs and I'll take you home in the morning." Each woman carefully extracted herself from the other and started back up the stairs to Jake's room.

Jake was more than happy to let Mandy go first. She was thoroughly enjoying the view from behind.

"Damn. Nice legs. God... am I actually sweating? She just looks so... ARGHHHHH!!!" Mandy felt herself being watched and turned her head slightly to unknowingly catch Jake looking at her legs. A grin found it's way onto her face as she took the next step up and added a little twitch to her stride.

"Oh Boy. I'm a dead woman, here. First the legs, now she's wiggling her rear-end mere inches from... ARGHHHHH!!!"

Once at the top of the stairs, they continued down the hall to Jake's room. Thunder sounded again and scared Mandy right up against Jake. Jake tentatively placed her arm around Mandy's shoulder to try and relax her. They walked through the bedroom door to notice Gellar hadn't budged. The child could sleep through anything.

Jake walked over to the bed and moved the pillows. She pulled back the covers and waited for Mandy to get into the bed. Once situated next to her daughter, Jake covered her up and tucked her in. She told Mandy "Good night" and began to walk out when Mandy grabbed her hand.

"Uhmmm,... do you think you could possibly stay with me, just until I fall asleep?" Jake looked down at the young woman in her bed.

"You're really that freaked out, aren't you?" Mandy looked down at the sheet and shyly replied with a quiet, "Yes." Nothing more needed to be said as Jake pulled the chair in her room closer to the head of the bed.

"Then, I'll be right here. Goodnight."

"Thank-you, Jake. For everything. You've been so wonderful tonight. You don't even know me." Jake sat back in the chair and placed her feet on the bed, ankles crossed.

"I have very good instincts about people and Raven adores you. She's an excellent judge of character."

"Thanks again, Jake. Goodnight." Mandy instantly felt better knowing Jake was there with her. She had no trouble with her friends who were lesbians but having the feelings she was experiencing now was new to her. She was more than a little frightened by it all but, there was just something about Jake that made it bearable. She decided she wouldn't run from it and just see what happened.

"Hell,... she probably wouldn't be interested anyway. Look at her...She could have anyone she wanted, man or woman. But, she'll be a great friend either way. Good night, Jake."

Jake sat in her chair and watched Mandy's breathing even out as a sign of sleep. She didn't quite have the desire or energy to move just yet.

"Goodnight, Mandy. I'll just close my eyes for a minute, then I'll go back downstairs."

She never made it there.




Raven opened her eyes, surprised to be in her bed. She remembered watching "The Little Mermaid" with Gellar. So, if she was lying in her bed with Pookie, that meant AJ was home. She began calling her aunt "AJ" a couple of years earlier when she decided she didn't like the sound of "Aunt Jake". She wished she could actually call her "Mom" but, she wasn't sure how Jake would react.

Jake was the only mother she had ever known. AND father, actually. She was the best of everything all rolled into one. Now she could go run into AJ's bed so they could watch their Saturday Morning Cartoons together.

Every Saturday morning, Raven would run into Jake's room and jump onto the bed. Jake would grab her and tickle her for a bit and then throw the covers over both of their heads. She would try to go back to sleep, curled within her aunt's arms. They would both open their eyes and giggle, then go downstairs and watch cartoons together for the rest of the morning.

Raven threw back the covers and got out of bed. She grabbed Pookie and started down the hall to Jake's room.

"O.K. AJ, Saturday morning. Cartoon time!!" She opened the door and stopped when she did not find Jake in her bed, but instead,... Ms. Peters? She clutched Pookie to her and walked around the bed to her aunt who was sound asleep in the chair.

Mandy was lying on her side facing the chair and had her arm thrown over Jake's leg and her hand holding on to Jake's upper thigh. Jake's head was lying on the back of the chair and her arm closest to the bed was holding onto Mandy's shoulder. Raven gently placed her hand on her aunt's shoulder. She wasn't sure how deep of a sleep she was in. Jake sighed in her sleep and relaxed into the chair more causing Mandy's hand to tighten it's grip. Raven shook her again and two very sleepy eyes opened to find a younger, matching pair looking back.

Jake started to stretch in the chair and stopped when she felt Mandy's hand. She looked down at her lap and saw just how close it was to places it shouldn't be. At least... not in front of an eight year old. A smirking eight year old at that. Jake looked into Raven's eyes and noticed that the child was definitely perfecting the art of arching her eyebrow.

"Hmmm,... Brat."

"Good morning, Squirt." Raven just stood there holding Pookie and grinning at her aunt.

"Uh-Huh. Good morning to you, too, AJ. Sleep well?"

"Slick little shit'"

"Just fine. Come on, I'll make you breakfast." Jake carefully removed Mandy's hand from her thigh and placed it on the bed, regretfully. Instantly missing it's warmth. She stood up and stretched. She walked over to the other side of the bed and covered the baby up where the covers had slipped down since earlier that morning.

She walked downstairs closely followed by her niece.

"I'm in trouble. She has that teasing look on her face."

They walked into the kitchen and Raven sat down at the table while Jake started a pot of coffee. Raven was expecting her normal breakfast of cereal and toast, so she was a little amazed when Jake walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out eggs and bacon.

"Uhmm,... AJ, you're not actually cooking breakfast are you?" Insulted, Jake turned around and looked at Raven as she placed milk, butter and biscuits on the counter by the stove.

"Of course I am! It's not like I never cook you breakfast." Raven got up from her chair and walked over near the sink. She took a step up onto her stool and grabbed two juice glasses from out of the cabinet. She walked past her aunt, bumping her with her hip. "Hip Check!" She then grabbed the orange juice from the refrigerator. She poured two glasses, placed one in front of Jake and replaced the juice.

"No. You do." Raven replied as she sat back down in her chair and took a sip from her glass. "Just normally, it's a holiday or... my birthday... OR a special occasion."

"Damn. Busted!"

"And speaking of special occasions, AJ, could you tell me why my teacher and her daughter are curled up, nice and warm in your bed?"

Jake had begun frying bacon and scrambling eggs. She turned on the oven so it could preheat for the biscuits. She turned her head, eyes wide, to look at Raven who was grinning at her, trying her best to look innocent but, the look in the child's eyes made her seem more like the cat that ate the canary.

"Yes, if you must know, Squirt, she fell asleep in the truck after we picked up you and Gellar. I didn't know where she lived so I brought them here. Satisfied?"

"Quite. Thank you." They looked at each other and smiled. They never got angry at each other and Jake meant it, from the bottom of her heart, when she had said the night before that the girl was her best friend.

Jake continued to make breakfast and talk with Raven. She was pleased to see the sun out and no rain.

"Aven!" She turned around to see a bubbly two-year old run into the room and climb up onto the chair with her niece. Mandy walked in, barefoot, right after her, still wearing the Shania shirt and no jeans. Jake thought her heart would stop as their eyes met. Seeing the woman earlier in the morning was nothing compared to seeing her in the daylight, right now. Her golden hair was tousled from sleep and it seemed perfectly natural to Jake that she was standing, practically half naked, in her kitchen.

Mandy was thinking along the same lines as she took in the muscular legs clad in nothing but black silk. Jake's shirt came down to just below the top of her ribcage. Mandy decided she had never, in her life, seen anyone look more... desirable.

"Ahem,...AJ, you might wanna flip the bacon, now"

"Huh?" She turned around and was able to turn the bacon over before it started to burn.

"Damn!" Gellar and Raven giggled at the, obviously, flustered woman. When she turned around and mock glared at Raven, they giggled harder.

"Good Morning, Ms. Peters. Nice shirt. Looks better on you than AJ."

"AJ?" Mandy asked the child as she walked over and ran her hand through Raven's hair and bid her a "Good Morning".

"Aunt Jake."

Jake walked over and placed a plate down on the table for Raven.

"Eat up, Brat." She grinned when Raven stuck her tongue out at her. She knelt down so she was eye level with Gellar.

"Hiya, Munchkin! You hungry?"

"Mmmm! Dyeah!" she tickled the baby's stomach and smiled as she stood up, cracking her back and giving Mandy a very nice shot of sculpted abdominals.

Her eyes met with Mandy's once again.

"Hi" She said warmly, smiling at the younger woman.

"Hi!" Mandy smiled back at her.

"Hungry? Jake asked as she walked back to the stove and removed the bacon from the pan.

"Yeah, Thanks." Mandy walked up behind her and tried to peer over her shoulder. "Whatcha cookin?" Jake turned her head to see Mandy just mere inches away from her face. She picked up a piece of bacon and offered it to the teacher, who captured it neatly between her teeth.

"Food."

Mandy grinned as she chewed on her bacon. When she was done, she put one hand on Jake's shoulder and slid the other around Jake's head, tangling her fingers in ebony tresses, to pull her down and whisper "smart ass" in her ear.

Jake was speechless as Mandy walked over and took a seat at the table.

"O.k. THAT'S flirting!"

Jake made a small plate for Gellar and one for Mandy. She placed them on the table in front of Mandy then walked over to pour a cup of coffee for the two of them.

She fixed her own plate and brought it to the table along with the biscuits. Gellar had gotten down out of Raven's chair and walked over to sit with her mother so she could eat. They sat and ate their breakfast while Raven talked about her week at school and filled them in on everything that happened outside of Mandy's class.

Once breakfast was done, Jake collected all the dishes and pans and placed them in the sink. She began to wash them as Raven and Gellar went into the living room to watch cartoons, leaving the two women alone.

"Jake, that was incredible! Thank-you so much. You'll have to let me re-pay you by making you dinner sometime."

Jake turned her head towards the table as she replied.

"Hmmm,... I dunno... can you cook?"

"Let me put it to you this way... I love to eat so if I didn't know how to cook, I'd not only be broke but fat from eating out."

Jake turned around and did not bother to hide the fact she was admiring Mandy's body.

"Mmmm... no fat there." She said as she grinned at the blushing woman.

"Nut!" Mandy laughed and threw her balled up napkin at Jake who easily deflected it with her hand to land in the trash can.

Jake went back to her task of doing the dishes.

"You know, I have an extra toothbrush upstairs. Plenty of towels if you'd like to take a shower."

"Are you insinuating I stink?" Jake laughed as she finished the last dish and placed it in the drainer. She turned off the water and dried her hands off on her shirt, then hopped up onto the counter, her long legs dangling over the edge.

"No. Of course not. Just being nice."

"Well, thank you. I appreciate that and I would love one. I can still smell the cigarette smoke from the bar last night. Are you sure it won't be any trouble? How about Gellar?" Jake hopped off the counter to show Mandy upstairs.

"It's o.k. I'll watch the munchkin. She'll be fine. Come on. I'll show you where everything's at." Mandy followed Jake upstairs. Jake grabbed a towel out of the linen closet along with a wash cloth and toothbrush.

"O.K. here you go. The bathroom is off of my room. I'll be downstairs if you need anything." Mandy smiled at the taller woman.

"Thanks. I won't be long"

"It's ok. Take your time."

Mandy grabbed her things and went into the bathroom as Jake walked downstairs and into the living room to check on the kids.

"Hey Squirt." She addressed her niece.

"Hi AJ " Raven turned around briefly to respond to her aunt.

"Don't sit so close to the TV, kiddo. Especially with Gellar down there with you. It'll hurt your eyes. Climb up here on the couch with me."

"AJ?!?!?!" Raven whined as she got off of the floor and made her way to the couch, Gellar close behind. Raven sat on the couch next to her aunt as Gellar climbed up.

"What are we watching?" Jake asked as she found herself with a lapful of Gellar.

"Gooby Doooooo!!!!" Gellar replied as she sat down hard on Jake's lap. Jake smiled at the giggling two-year old.

"Scooby Doo?"

"Dyeah!... AJ! AJ!" Gellar laughed harder at her own use of Raven's name for her aunt.

"Oh no, you too?" Jake asked as she began to tickle the baby. "Uh-oh... someone's got a tickle spot!" Gellar was giggling and squealing at top volume now.

"I tickle you!" She said determinedly as she began to reciprocate on her much larger playmate. Jake didn't have the heart to let on that she wasn't ticklish so she began laughing at the child's earnest attempts. Next thing she knew, she was laughing for real as both kids pushed her down onto the couch and began to attack her.

Mandy had finished with her shower, dressed and brushed her teeth. She grabbed the diaper bag and as she was making her way downstairs, she heard her daughter squealing. She stopped at the entrance to the living room and quietly watched the three playing.

Jake looked toward the TV and saw that the cartoon was back on.

"Hey look, Scooby's back on." Both children stopped and passed out where they were, Raven to Jake's side at the edge of the couch and Gellar on top of Jake with her head resting on a powerful shoulder as Jake kept her hand on the child's back. Raven grabbed her other arm and brought it around so her head rested on the other shoulder as Jake held her too.

Mandy watched from the door as her daughter began to suck on her thumb. The previous night, she didn't believe she would ever see a more endearing sight than the one of the two children sleeping, peacefully, on the couch together.

She was wrong.

She walked into the room dressed in her jeans from the night before and the Shania shirt.

"Whew! I feel human again!" Jake craned her neck to look at the woman who, right now, looked like a goddess to her. Mandy's hair was still damp from her shower and hung freely about her shoulders. Her eyes an impossible shade of green.

"Mmmm. I'm sure you smell better, too." Jake couldn't help teasing the younger woman as she winked playfully at her.

Raven turned around and smacked her aunt on the hip.

"AJ, be nice. I have to pass this woman's class this year!"

"That's ok, Raven. As nutty as your aunt is, I'm sure 'AJ' really stands for 'Almond Joy'." Raven exploded in laughter. Gellar soon followed by watching the older girl as Jake arched a perfect eyebrow at the teacher now sitting in the chair across from her. Mandy had a mischievous smile on her face as she taunted Jake, singing "Sometimes you feel like a nut..."

Jake rolled her eyes then looked back at her new friend and smiled.

"Cute. Tell you what. Let me grab a shower and we can head on out." Mandy tried not to let her disappointment show as she smiled and replied, "O.K."

Once Jake was done with her shower, they were on their way.




The 4Runner pulled into the driveway next to the Mustang. Jake turned off the ignition and she and Mandy climbed out. Mandy opened Raven's door as Jake took the baby out of the car seat. She placed Gellar on the ground and watched the child run around the truck to her mother. Jake opened the back and started grabbing all of Gellar's things, acquired while shopping with Grandma. Mandy walked around to the back of the truck and grabbed some bags as well.

"Thanks for everything last night and this morning, Jake. Mandy said as they walked up to the front door of the white ranch-style house.

"No problem."

Mandy unlocked the door and held it open for the taller woman and the two children. Mandy walked in and shut the door.

"You can just set those down anywhere in the living room. Can I get you some coffee?" she asked, not ready for the ebony haired woman to leave just yet.

"Please, that would be great!" Mandy smiled as she headed towards the kitchen. She noticed the message light blinking on her answering machine so she hit the "play" button on her way past.

---BEEP---

"Ms. Peters? Hi this is Simon's Roofing Company. We had an emergency call this morning after last night's storm and won't be able to make it out today. We're sorry for any inconvenience. Give us a call Monday morning and we'll re-schedule for later next week."

---Beep--- End Of Messages---

Mandy came running back in as she hit the play button again.

"Shit! Oops, Sorry." She apologized but was relieved Raven didn't seem to notice as she replayed the message. She hit the "erase" button when it was done.

"Great." Jake followed Mandy into the kitchen as Raven continued to play with Gellar. Mandy walked over and poured two cups of coffee. She fixed one for Jake and handed it to her.

"Thanks. Everything ok?" Mandy stood with her back against the counter.

"Ughhh. There's a leak in my bedroom ceiling. Actually , it's in the attic. The roofers were supposed to be here today to fix it. I'm just glad I placed a large pot up there before I left last night."

"Hmmm, can you show it to me?" Jake asked. Mandy looked a little surprised. "Uhhh,... sure if you want. Would you like to see the bedroom or the attic?"

"Bedroom" "The attic would be fine" "Down, Girl!"

"O.K. Follow me. Gellar you stay in here with Raven for Mommy, O.K.?"

"Tay!" Jake followed the woman down the hall till they reached the attic access. Mandy was getting ready to grab a chair to stand on so she could pull it free from the ceiling when Jake simply reached up and did it for her.

"Nice job, Stretch" Mandy teased as she slid the stairs into place. She started up the stairs with Jake close behind.

Once inside the attic, she pulled the string, overhead, for the light.

"O.K. My bedroom is underneath that back corner. Careful where you step." Jake followed her, carefully walking on the studs.

"Hmmm, maybe I should offer to put a solid floor up here for her."

They walked over and immediately noticed the overflowing pot of rainwater. Mandy stepped back as Jake took a closer look at the problem. Two rotten, water logged timbers. The insulation was saturated and blown.

"I could fix this for you if you'd like." Jake pointed out, honestly. Mandy's eyes grew huge at this revelation.

"No way. Really? I don't know, I can't ask you to do all that."

"You didn't ask. I'm offering. I could have it done for you today. And it's supposed to rain again tomorrow." Mandy stood there chewing on her bottom lip. She wanted the other woman to stay awhile but not busting her ass, working on the house. Jake noticed the indecision and walked over to the smaller woman.

"I know what I'm doing. I promise."

"I know. You just shouldn't have to spend your day off fixing my roof." Jake was trying hard to reassure her.

"It's ok. I don't mind. I didn't get my run in this morning so I need the exercise. Besides, I have all the tools I'll need in the truck, along with a change of clothes. We'll just have to run by Home Depot to grab the materials for the roof and some new insulation for in here."

Mandy thought about it for another moment before giving in when she saw the determination set in Jake's jaw,

"Well, Jason is coaching softball today and will be by to take Gellar afterwards, so she won't be in the way... O.K. But we have to go by the grocery store and you have to let me make you dinner." Jake smiled at the thought of spending an entire day around the woman.

"That sounds great. Let's go!"




Jake had been up on the roof for hours after they had returned from Home Depot, removing old shingles and tarpaper and pulling up rotten boards. She had shed her t-shirt a couple of hours earlier and was now clad in a red tank top and a pair of very nicely worn Levi's. They were tight in just the right places with a couple of well-worn spots on the back. These were good for nothing other than lounging around on a Saturday afternoon. "And if you're trying to catch the eye of one extremely attractive blonde", Jake thought to herself as she removed her cap long enough to wipe the sweat off her forehead.

It was still fairly warm for October. Most people hadn't even closed their pools yet. She had noticed that Mandy's was still open. Right now it looked very inviting. She pulled her hair into a ponytail. She then replaced her Detroit Redwings cap back on her head and pulled the ponytail through the back. She readjusted her tool belt, turned up the volume on her portable CD player a few feet away and got back to work.

She could hear Gellar and Raven playing in the back yard and she climbed up to the crown of the roof, periodically, to make sure they weren't playing too close to the pool. She heard a car coming down the street but paid it no mind, as she got back to her hammering, finishing up with the last of the shingles that need replacing. She had replaced the rotten boards and put down new tarpaper. She only had a few more shingles to attach and she would be done.




Pony pulled into the driveway behind the Mustang, immediately noticing the strange truck parked right next to it.

She stepped out of the car and opened the door for her partner as their friends, Terry and Jay, climbed out of the back seat. Three of the four women were covered in dust from their softball game. Eph was the only one still presentable. At least, she was until Pony hugged her.

"Nice truck. Wonder who it belongs to?" Pony referred to the 4Runner as she shut Eph's door.

"Well, the roofers were supposed to show up today to fix that leak. Maybe it's theirs."

Pony couldn't believe her ears. "Honey, when have you ever known a contractor to drive a truck that nice to a job site to actually work?"

Eph tilted her head in thought before replying, "Good point." They could hear a Shania Twain song playing somewhere nearby. Just as they were about to go up and knock, Mandy walked out the front door, carrying a tray with two glasses of ice water and two glasses of juice. She noticed her friends and walked over.

"Hey guys! Hang on, I need to get Jake down off the roof. She's been up there working on it for hours." She greeted them, not even thinking about the information she had just supplied or how they would react.

Pony and Eph looked at each other and mouthed the name "Jake" in unison. Mandy walked over to the side of the house and looked up to see Jake, well,... dancing on the roof. If you could call wiggling your hips to "Don't Even Think About It" dancing.

"Jake! Come on down from there and take a break!" Gellar heard her mother and ran from the back yard to greet her, Raven close behind. Jake walked over to the edge of the roof with her CD player where the ladder was resting. She gently set it down so the CD wouldn't skip. She stood back up and looked down at the three of them. She noticed the look of amusement on Mandy's face.

"Are you dancing on my roof, goofball?" Mandy asked. Jake's only response was a lopsided grin as she began "dancing" again.

Pony and Eph couldn't believe what they were seeing. Terry realized that this must be the woman Pony and Eph had told her about on the way to their game that morning while Jay slept in the backseat.

"Hmmm... nice jeans. She can come work on my roof anytime !" Terry offered as Jay responded by playfully smacking her girlfriend on the shoulder. "Stop being Gay!" Terry rolled her eyes as she looked at her.

"Excuse me? Hello Pot! My name's Kettle. Nice to meet ya!" Pony looked up and giggled. Eph looked over.

"What are you laughing at?"

"Those two." She looked back at Jay. "Behave, Pisshead."

"Don't call me Pisshead, ya Bimbo!" It was now Eph's turn to laugh.

"Damn, Honey. She called you a Bimbo."

"Yeah, well, that's only because they didn't see you at the bar last night." Eph groaned at the mention of her behavior at the bar the night before. She knew she would have to do some major sucking-up to her friend to make up for it. She decided to change the subject back to Jake.

"Well you know, she does look good in those jeans."

Pony grinned as she replied, "Hell, she looks so good my tongue is hard." Everyone shared a laugh as they noticed Jake began to come down from the roof. Jay finally got a good look at her for the first time.

"Mmmm. How YOU doin?" She whispered under her breath.

"See? Told you!" Terry replied.

Jake took the last step off of the ladder. She picked up Gellar and began dancing her around in circles dramatically, to the song, blaring from the roof, causing the child to giggle. Mandy giggled under her breath as her and Raven looked on. Jake placed Gellar back on the ground and walked over to Mandy who was trying unsuccessfully to stifle her giggling. She grabbed the tray from her and handed it to Raven. Next thing Mandy knew, she was literally being swept off her feet as Jake wrapped her arms around her, picking her up and spinning her around in circles singing the song to her.

"Whatever you do...Don't even think about it... Don't go and get me started... Don't you dare drive me crazy... Don't do that to me, Baby." Mandy was laughing for real this time as Jake placed her back on her feet. Still wrapped within Jake's arms, she swatted the taller woman on her shoulder.

"You Nut! You're all sweaty!"

"Yep!"

"Are you done up there?"

"Yes, Mom." Jake teased back.

"Good, Smartass. There's a shower in the house with your name all over it. Because, YOU , my friend are RIPE !" Despite all her... "protests", Mandy had not made the first attempt to move.

"Oh yeah? I'm ripe. You're still wearing my shirt. I just picked you up and swung you around. I think you're ripe by association."

Mandy just rolled her eyes and began singing under her breath as she walked over to get Jake's water.

"What was that?"

"Oh, nothing." Mandy replied as she handed the water to her. Raven was giggling as she drank her juice. She started whistling "Sometimes you feel like a nut...". Jake mock glared at the young teacher.

"Great. See what you started?" She asked as she pointed at her niece. Mandy grabbed her finger.

"Oh please. It's not nice to point. And no, you don't really smell..." Jake nodded her head in a triumphant gesture.

"Thank you."

"...that bad." Mandy added as an after thought. Jake handed her glass of water to Raven who had decided to stay out of it as did the four adults standing in the driveway. Eph had never seen her friend quite this mischievous. Mandy was definitely playful. And was very good coaxing those she just met out of their shells but,... this? Mandy was in a constant state of flirtation around this woman.

After Jake had disposed of her glass, she wiped her hands off on her jeans.

"That's it... come here, Blondie." She started after her new friend. Mandy opened her eyes wide and backed up a few steps away from the woman playfully stalking towards her. She turned around and broke into a full force run with Jake right behind her. She ran up to her friends and decided to try and hide between the four of them.

"Don't get me involved in this!" Terry remarked as Mandy stood between her and Jay. Mandy pushed her forward so she was standing directly in front of Jake now. Jake stopped and took one look down at Terry who was easily a head shorter than her. Terry looked up at Jake, back at Mandy, back up to Jake and said, "She's all yours!" as she stepped out of the way.

"Hey! Thanks Alot, Te... YIPES!!!" Mandy's response was cut off as she suddenly found herself looking at a very well formed rear-end.

Upside down.

Jake had grabbed her and, in one swift motion, had the smaller woman thrown over her shoulder. She walked over to Pony and Eph.

"Hi. Nice to see you again." Eph was laughing full out now as Jake began to carry on a full scale conversation with Pony about the weather as Mandy squirmed on Jake's shoulder.

"Oh, Sorry for being rude. Jake, these are our friends Terry and Jay. Guys, this is Mandy's new friend, Jake." Pony made the introductions and was amused to see Jake offer her hand to each woman as Mandy remained on her shoulder.

"Nice to meet you. Good game today?" Jake asked Terry as she hunched her shoulder a little.

"As a matter of fact we won. Very amusing. There was this one girl who..." she was cut off by Mandy.

"Excuse me? Could one of you help Stretch put me down?" Jake took one look at Mandy.

"Ahhh, Pipe down." She looked back at Terry. "I'm sorry, you were saying?" amusement shining in her bright blue eyes.

"Jake. Please? It's really hot and all the blood is rushing to my head." Jake leaned over and placed Mandy on her feet.

"Are you O.K.?" Jake asked with a hint of worry in her voice.

"Yes, Jake. I'm fine. I just... YIPES!"

"Good!" Jake replied as she returned Mandy to her previous position.

Mandy knew she had been defeated and gave up. She remained where she was, quietly listening to Jake talk with Pony, Jay and Terry. Mandy caught Eph's eye and mimicked the motion of biting Jake on the butt. Eph tried, unsuccessfully, not to laugh but Jake caught her eye and she completely lost it. Jake had no idea what had gotten into the woman but saw where her gaze had been and knew her young friend had to be responsible.

"You cutting up back there? Do you need to cool off?" Jake asked. Pony decided she liked this woman and offered her assistance.

"Well, if she does, the pool is still open around back."

"That's sounds like a good idea."

Jason had pulled up out on the street just in time to see Jake run into the back yard with his ex-wife thrown over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He got out of his truck and walked into the yard to be met by his daughter, who immediately left Raven upon seeing her father.

"Daddy! Daddy!" He picked her up and hugged her to him as he kissed the top of her head. He began walking into the back yard.

"Hey, Princess. What's Mommy done now, hmmm?" He asked his daughter as she giggled away.

"Hiya, Raven!"

"Hi, Mr. Peters!" She motioned for him to stoop down as if to whisper some big secret. "Ms. Peters told AJ that "AJ" didn't stand for "Aunt Jake" but "Almond Joy" instead because she's so nutty."

"Oh boy. Come on, kiddo. I have got to see this!" Jason made his way into the back yard with the two children just in time to see Jake standing at the edge of the pool, threatening to throw Mandy in.

"Jake, please. You wouldn't..." Jake's eyes grew wide, even though she knew the younger woman couldn't see. She knew the only "view" she had was of her backside, which, privately, suited both women just fine.

"I wouldn't?" She shifted Mandy so that she was now cradled in her arms.

"Jake? Please... it'll take forever to get these clothes dry. And I'm wearing your shirt!"

"That's O.K. I've got time. Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy..." She tossed Mandy up in the air a bit and just when Mandy thought she was going in, Jake caught her again and placed her back on her feet, laughing like the cat that ate the canary.

"Ohhh... you are SO going to pay for that, Stretch," Mandy chastised the smirking woman as she noticed her friends, her ex-husband and the kids laughing.

"Promises, promises. And, you can keep the shirt. It doesn't fit right on me." Jake supplied. "Actually, Raven was right... it DOES look better on you."

Mandy playfully smacked the other woman on her shoulder as she walked over towards Jason.

"Hi, Jase. Congrats on the win today."

"Thanks. Glad to see you two hit it off." Mandy rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, you could say we did." Jason leaned over so only she could hear.

"So, is she everything I said she would be?" Her blush was his answer but she replied anyway.

"Tall, Dark and Amazing? Yeah,... I think she is. And it has me a little thrown." She told him, truthfully.

"Ehhh... just go with it. I think you two would be good for each other. Not that I'm being nosey but, what is she doing here?" He asked, his curiosity finally getting the better of him.

"Jerks from the roofing company called and couldn't make it so she fixed my roof. I'm going to make her dinner."

"Damn, one taste of your cooking and you'll never get rid of her."

"Maybe that's the idea."

"Tell you what, kiddo. How about I take Raven with Gellar and I? Give the two of you a chance to get to know each other." Mandy began to blush again.

"Why are you blushing? That was an innocent statement!" He shifted his daughter from one hip to the other.

"I know. That's up to Jake and Raven I guess. Jake..." She called her friend over.

"Yes?"

"Jason offered to take Raven with him and Gellar. They're going to the park and to the movies... Think she'd want to go?" Jake looked to her boss who nodded his head that he did offer to take both girls.

"Daddy, Aven, come...Aven come..."

"I dunno. We could ask her. Raven, come over here, squirt." Raven ran over to her aunt.

"Ma'am?"

"Would you like to go to the movies and park with Jason and Gellar here?" Jake asked as she brushed the child's bangs out of her eyes. She was going to need a trim soon.

"Yes! Can I?" She replied enthusiastically. Jake looked towards Jason.

"Well, there's your answer." She then turned her eyes towards her niece.

"You just make sure you behave. This man signs my paycheck every week."

"Oh, yeah right, AJ. just like you've behaved yourself with the woman who signs my report card." Jason, Mandy and Jake all looked at each other and stated in unison, "Good point!", causing Jake to blush slightly.

"Jase, Gellar's diaper bag is right inside the door. Everything should be in there."

"O.K. You want to take her while I get her things?" He handed their daughter over to Mandy and then went inside to get her bag.

Mandy turned to the little girl in her arms.

"You be a good girl for Daddy, ok?"

"Kay. Mommy, Aven come?" Mandy laughed.

"Yes, Honey. Raven's coming with you. You make sure she has a good time."

"Kay. Uv you, Mommy." Mandy's heart was so full she thought it would burst.

"I love you too, baby." She hugged her daughter close to her and kissed the top of her head as Jason walked out the front door. He walked over to his two favorite blondes, diaper bag over his shoulder. He reached into his back pocket and handed something to Mandy.

"Hey, I forgot to give these to you. I bought us tickets for the hockey game next Friday. Admirals vs. Richmond." Mandy's eyes lit up.

"Cool! That'll be a good game. Should be a lot of people there." Mandy and Jason were both huge Hockey fans and went to watch Norfolk's ECHL team, the Hampton Roads Admirals , quite often. At least four times a month.

"Yeah. Steve's going to. So it'll be us three and the munchkin."

"Sounds good." Mandy replied enthusiastically.

Not too far away, Jake was at the truck with Raven.

"OK, Squirt, here's $20. Have fun o.k.?" Raven's eyes grew wide as her aunt handed her the money.

"Wow! Thanks, AJ!" She said as jumped up and hugged her aunt. Jake shifted the child so she was now riding on her back.

"OK. You got everything?" Jake asked over her shoulder.

"Yep! AJ?" Raven jumped off her aunt's back. Jake turned around to look at her and kneeled down, eye level, in front of her.

"What is it, kiddo?" Raven seemed a little embarrassed about asking but, she was curious. She had two eyes and she wasn't stupid.

"You like her don't you?"

"Oh boy!"

"You mean Ms. Peters?" She asked already knowing the answer. Raven dropped her gaze to the grass at her feet, finding it much more interesting.

"Yes." She answered, quietly.

"Well, I've never lied to her and she'd know if I was lying now."

"Uhm,... yeah, Raven. I do. She's a very nice lady. Does that bother you? That I like your teacher?" "I can't do anything to hurt her. She's all I have left."

"No. I like her too." Raven looked up at her aunt. "And I like Gellar. She's really cute. I just never remember you being so playful with anyone other than me."

"Oh, Raven... it's different, kiddo." She gently placed her hands on her niece's arms. "The way I joke around with them is completely different from when I play with you. I know you don't like to hear it but, YOU are my baby." She laughed and chucked Raven under her chin, causing the girl to giggle. "You always have been. I couldn't love you anymore than if you were actually mine. And NO one is ever going to change that. O.K.?" Raven took one look at her aunt then threw her arms around her neck.

"I love you, AJ. I wish you could've been my mom." Jake choked back on the tears that threatened to fall and whispered, "Me too", so quietly, the girl in her arms couldn't even hear her. She pulled back and wiped a tear from Raven's cheek that did manage to find it's way down.

"OK, kiddo. Let's get you over there to Jason before he leaves without you." Jake said to her niece as she lifted her up onto her shoulders for the short walk to where Mandy and Jason were standing together with Gellar. Jason looked to Jake when she stopped next to them. He looked up to the child on her shoulders, then back to her.

"Nice hat, Showoff." He teased her.

"Beg pardon?"

"You've always gotta be carrying something on your shoulders. Your niece, sheetrock, beams, my ex-wife..." He received a smack on each shoulder from either woman at his side.

"Hey, watch it. I'm getting brittle as it is. O.K. kids, you ready?" Two kids jumping up and down gave him his answer.

"O.K. guys, in the truck. I'll see ya later, Red." He ducked before Mandy's hand could make contact with his shoulder again. Jake and Mandy stood in the yard watching the girls leave when Raven ran back to her aunt.

"Love you." Jake hugged her and picked her up as she did so.

"I love you, too. Have fun." Raven ran back to the truck and crawled in on Jason's side, between him and Gellar, who was secured in her car seat. He started the truck and rolled down the window to say "Goodbye".

"Don't worry, I'll tire them out for you guys." He then waved and drove off. As Mandy turned around to walk over to her friends, she noticed Pony standing with her arms crossed, tapping her foot.

"What?" Mandy asked as she stopped in front of her friend, confusion clearly written on her face.

"Finally decide to come play with us?" Pony asked.

"Talk to Stretch, here, Pony. It's all her fault." Mandy said as she backhanded Jake lightly in the stomach before walking in the house followed by her friends, leaving Jake standing in the yard.

"What'd I do?" she asked to no one in particular. She stood on the lawn for a moment until Mandy poked her head out the door.

"You coming in?" Jake started for the door.

"You don't have to ask me twice!" she thought as she shut the door.




Pony and Terry had followed Jake up into the attic. While they were replacing the old insulation, along with another surprise for Mandy, Eph and Mandy were talking in the kitchen planning dinner for that evening while Jay opted to lounge her dirty ass by the pool. The sound of multiple hammers echoed through the house.

"Look, girl,... I'm really sorry about last night. I acted like an ass." Eph apologized for her behavior the evening before.

"Yes you did." Mandy replied, winking at her friend as she did so. She refilled their water glasses and sat at the table across from her friend.

"It's O.K. Don't worry about it. Jake didn't seem too concerned and I'm not either." she reassured her friend as she began to rip apart a napkin.

"Hmmm, speaking of "Snyder" upstairs, what's the deal? And why, my friend, are you wearing her shirt?" Eph asked as she reached across and tugged on the shirt in question. Mandy did not meet her eyes right away.

"Nothing." Eph didn't look convinced. Mandy looked up at her friend.

"Really, Eph. She drove me to pick up Gellar last night when we left the bar because Claudia was watching Raven as well. I fell asleep in her truck and she didn't know where I live. I woke up this morning in her bed." Eph began to choke on her water at this little tidbit of information.

"Her (cough) bed?"

"Yes, Her bed. She was on the couch asleep. I woke up and Gellar was lying right next to me. She had been changed and had on one of Raven's old shirts." Mandy began to talk with her hands as she explained. "It was so sweet. Apparently, she carried us all in the house because all of us were asleep. She put all of us to bed and tucked us in. She even had pillows lined against the side of the bed so Gellar wouldn't roll off the bed."

"And... you woke up wearing her shirt? You mean she undressed you?" Eph was on the edge of her seat now.

"NO! She had placed it on one of the pillows next to me so I could change when I woke up. The only thing she took off of me were my shoes."

"Oh."

"I just... didn't want to give it back." She smiled shyly at her friend.

"Hey nothing wrong with that. So what are you going to make for dinner?"

Mandy scrunched her nose up in thought.

"I'm not sure. Any ideas?" Mandy asked as she grabbed her notebook with all her recipes and began to flip through it.

"Hmmm. Well, you know, anything you make is going to knock her on her ass. You're one hell of a cook." Mandy blushed at the compliment.

"Thanks. Jase said so, too."

"No prob. How about curry?"

"I don't know. Can wine go with curry?"

"Ooohh... so you're planning on liquoring her up, huh? How about... fettuccine alfredo with snow crab? Maybe... a salad? Whatcha think?" Mandy's eyes grew as Eph described the dinner menu. Alfredo she could definitely do.

"Great! Come to the store with me? Jake and I were going to go on the way back from picking everything up for the roof but, I told her not to bother." Eph got up from her seat and pushed it under the table.

"Sure, Let me go ask Pony if she needs anything."

"`Kay."

Eph walked down the hall and up the stairs to the attic.

"Pony?" She called out as she almost made it to the top, only to be stopped by her lover and Terry.

"Damn, Babe... Mandy isn't with you is she?" Pony asked, nervously.

"No. She's downstairs. What in the hell are you guys doing up here?" Eph stepped up onto the last step and entered the attic. She gasped at the sight in front of her. All around her, actually.

Jake, Pony and Terry had managed to put in a floor, throughout the entire attic as well as replace the insulation. The light was not on and the attic was illuminated by battery-operated lanterns. Jake was standing on the far wall with a pair of wire crimpers in her mouth. She stepped back, away from the wall.

"OK, Pony... flip the breaker." Pony walked over to the breaker box and flipped the breaker on. Jake flipped a switch and the attic was immediately bathed in light.

"My God! I can't believe you guys did this! Mandy's gonna shit!" Eph said.

"Man, I hope not. Actually, Jake did most of it. She already had the wood laid out. We just helped her nail it down." Terry replied as she wiped some dust off her shirt.

"But,... how did you manage to get everything up here without her knowing?"

"Easy. Mandy thought I was buying all the wood to replace the roof. I used a rope to pull the boards up, then lowered them in through the window. That's a pretty large window, you know. I figured while I was at it, I'd put in a couple of light switches instead of that damn rope."

"Yeah, and you should've seen Jake climbing out the window and up onto the roof to get her tools and radio. Damn monkey woman!" Terry playfully, and bravely, scolded the much taller woman.

Pony kissed her girlfriend on the cheek.

"Why'd you come up here anyway, Babe?"

"Oh, Mandy and I are going to the grocery store. I was checking to see if you need anything."

"No. Thanks. I think we're fine."

"Of course you are." Eph responded as she smacked her girlfriend's butt.

"How's Jay? Is she still out by the pool?" Terry asked, wanting to make sure her girlfriend was staying out of trouble.

"Yeah, she's still out there. I think she fell asleep."

"Could you roll her over once before you leave?" Everyone was sharing a laugh at Terry's wisecrack when they heard Mandy start up the stairs.

"Shit!" Eph whispered as she started down to meet her halfway before she reached the top of the stairs.

"Hey. I was just coming to get you. You ready?" Mandy asked.

"Yep. Let's go!" Mandy turned around and started back down the stairs, Eph close behind.

"Jake, do you need anything?" Mandy called up the stairs. Jake appeared at the top of the stairs and walked down a few.

"No, I'm fine, Thanks."

"OK. I'll see you in a bit." Mandy took one last look at her before heading back down the stairs. She couldn't believe how incredible Jake still managed to look as dirty and sweaty as she was.

"Heheheh,... Sweaty!" Mandy thought before mentally chastising herself.

Eph called up the stairs to her lover.

"Pony? We better go ahead and leave once Mandy and I get back. You know, so you can shower and get ready for that... thing you've gotta do."

"Oh yeah... the thing. O.K."

Mandy and Eph could be heard as they walked out the door.

"What thing does Pony have to go do?"

"I dunno... some,... thing."




Jake was just finishing up in the attic when Mandy called up to her.

"Jake?"

"Yeah, up here." She answered as she walked over closer to the stairs and shut off the light switch. The only light in the attic filtered in from the hallway light downstairs and the little bit of moonlight visible through the window. Pony, Eph, Terry and Jay had left a couple of hours earlier while the kids were still with Jason.

Mandy was almost to the top of the stairs now.

"Damn, Jake. It's so dark up here. How can you see?" Mandy asked as she reached for the pull-string for the light. Her hand met air and the next thing she knew, there was a warm breath against her ear, causing her to visibly shudder.

"Why don't you turn on the light switch?" Jake whispered as she grabbed Mandy's hand and placed it on the switch. Mandy flipped it to the "ON" position and was completely amazed by the sight in front of her.

Jake walked away from the younger woman and across the floor. She removed her toolbelt and placed it on the floor, next to her radio.

She turned around and looked back at Mandy, who was still standing there with her mouth open in shock. Jake provided her with a lopsided grin.

"You know, something's bound to fly into your mouth if you don't shut it. You can come on in and even jump up and down if you like. I promise, you won't fall through."

"Oh my God! How did you... When did you...?" Mandy honestly did not know what to say. Jake walked over to her and placed her hands on her shoulders.

"Look,... when you brought me up here earlier, I thought I would offer to put the floor in for you. When I noticed that your breaker box was up here in the attic, which is the absolute dumbest thing I have ever seen, I might add, that solidified my decision. Think about it. If you tripped a breaker and had to come up here to throw it back on, what would happen if you fell and went through? I don't think Gellar has grasped the whole '911' concept yet. Now, you don't have to worry about it. You're good to go!" Jake looked around the attic, quite proud of her day's accomplishments.

"So,... do you like it?" She asked, practically bouncing in her boots. Mandy walked around the attic, taking everything in. She decided that it was probably one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for her, let alone, someone she just met the day before. She was quickly learning that her new friend was full of surprises.

"Like it? Jake,... I love it! This is amazing! Thank you. I can't believe you did this! Honestly, Jake... I don't... I don't know what to say!"

Jake laughed and replied, "Well,... that sure sounded like a whole lot of something to me! And... you're welcome." She cast her eyes downward to her boots, finding them very interesting. Come to think of it, she didn't think about anything she had done that day. She just automatically reacted. Now as she thought about it, she was a little embarrassed at the affect this woman was having on her. Raven had been right. She didn't normally act like this with anyone but her. The only person who had been allowed behind the steel walls she constructed around her heart after the death of her brother, was Raven. Now, out of no where, this young woman, whom she had just met, had managed to create a crack and wiggle in a bit.

"Well, I think the least I can do is offer you a shower and inform you that dinner will be ready soon."

"Are you insinuating I stink?" Jake asked, hands on her hips.

"No. Of course not. Just being nice." Mandy replied as she walked down the stairs, mimicking their conversation from that morning in reversed order.




Jake had gotten her clothes from the truck. She always kept a clean set in a duffle bag in the back, along with a toothbrush and deodorant.

She stepped out of the shower and dried off. She turned the water on in the tub and leaned over to rinse it out. She put on a clean pair of boxers and a matching sports bra. She slid into her jeans easily, a carbon copy of the beat up ones she had been wearing earlier. She pulled on a black tank-top and tucked it into the waistband of her jeans. As soon as she was done applying deodorant and brushing her hair and teeth, she walked out of the bathroom with her duffle bag, dirty clothes inside, and the towel around her shoulders.

The smell of alfredo sauce hit her senses and she inhaled deeply. She placed her bag out of the way, by the door and continued, barefoot, into the kitchen.

She stopped and leaned against the doorway, admiring the view in front of her. Mandy was standing in front of the stove, her back to Jake, stirring the sauce in a pot. She leaned over a bit, checking the flame on the burner and turning it down to a simmer. As she checked on the bread in the oven, she was singing along with, what Jake recognized to be, Vertical Horizon. Jake watched as Mandy began the salad.

"I am everything you want... I am everything you need... I am everything inside of you that you wish you could be... I say all the right things at exactly the right time..." She didn't get to finish the line as she saw a shadow cast over her shoulder and onto the counter. She turned around and smiled shyly at the taller woman who had caught her singing.

" You ...( she started, as she pointed a cucumber at Jake) scared me for a moment."

Jake looked down at the cucumber then back up into sparkling green. She held up her hands for inspection.

"I'm not armed! Do you need any help?"

"No thanks. After all you've done for me today, I think I can handle something as simple as dinner. How was your shower?"

"Great. Thanks. It smells wonderful in here." Mandy giggled a bit. "You showered." She turned around as she heard her new friend growl.

"You know, I can still throw you over my shoulder and go dunk you in the pool." Mandy threw back her head and laughed as she walked over to Jake and handed her a glass of white wine.

"Here. Have a drink, Stretch." Jake took the glass offered to her, inwardly enjoying the brush of Mandy's fingertips against her own. She took a tentative taste of the wine in her glass as Mandy went back to the stove to stir once again.

"This is good. What is it?"

"It's called Sweet Mountain Laurel. It's a Virginia wine from Chateau Morrisette. They have it at the Wine Festival every year. I always buy a couple of bottles." Mandy took their place settings into the dining room and began to set the table.

"Wine Festival?" Jake asked as she followed her. "Matches?", she asked the smaller woman as she noticed the two candles on the table. Mandy looked up, a little surprised that Jake wanted to light them. They were mostly there just for show. After all, it would make dinner seem a bit more,... romantic.

"In the hutch drawer. Yeah, Wine Festival." Jake found the matches and lit the two candles, blowing out the match and depositing it on the side of the candle holder.

"There's a wine festival every October at Towne Pointe Park. Representatives from Virginia wineries show up. They sell and let you sample their wines. It's kind of cool. A bunch of us go every year. We take a picnic basket with cheeses and crackers and stuff and just go hang out. Get tipsy. Buy wine."

Mandy walked back into the kitchen. She turned off the oven and removed the garlic bread. She placed the pasta on a serving tray and added the alfredo sauce. She grabbed the pasta while Jake grabbed the salad and bread. They walked back into the dining room and placed everything on the table. Jake walked over and turned off the light switch.

"Sounds like a lot of fun." Jake commented as Mandy brought in her own glass of wine. Jake pulled out her chair for her then sat down across the table.

"Thank you. Yeah, it is." "Damn it, Amanda, just ask her, already!"

"As a matter of fact, it's next Saturday. Would,... you like to go with me?... I mean, us?" Jake looked across into eyes filled with worry of rejection over something as simple as an afternoon with a bunch of people. She decided to put Mandy's mind at ease.

"I would love to go with you . Thanks for the offer and Thanks for dinner. It smells wonderful."

"Heehee! Happy Mandy, Happy Mandy!"




Dinner was incredible and afterwards the two women sat in the living room, talking, just trying to get to know each other a little better. It was now almost 9:00 and Jason should be showing up with the kids at any moment.

Mandy sat at the end of her couch, her arm propped up on the back, hand supporting her head. She had one leg underneath her as the other dangled over the side. Jake was sitting the same way as they faced each other.

As Jake twisted a bit to pop her back, Mandy noticed a tattoo on the back of her right shoulder, peeking out from underneath her tank-top.

"Can I see your tattoo?" Mandy asked. Jake shrugged her shoulders.

"Sure." She turned around, her back facing the other woman, and pulled her hair over the opposite shoulder. Mandy pulled the shirt off to the side a bit as she admired it. She gently traced her fingers over the outline, noticing the shiver it seemed to set off in her friend.

"I'm sorry, did that hurt?" She asked as she let the shirt go back into place.

Jake turned back around.

"No. Skin's just a bit more sensitive there, that's all."

"Oh. So what is it? And before you decide to be a smart ass and say 'a badge', I know that, already. I mean, what is it?" Jake took a deep breath. She reached over to grab her coffee they had made after dinner and took a sip. She began what she knew would be a long tale.

"My brother's badge. Ryan. Raven's father. He was a Chicago Police Officer who was killed in the line of duty when Raven was two." Mandy placed her hand over Jake's in a comforting motion.

"I'm sorry. You don't have to talk about this. I shouldn't have mentioned it." Mandy was mentally kicking herself.

Jake turned her hand a bit and squeezed the one covering her own.

"No. It's o.k. You didn't know. It was an innocent question. We grew up in Mayport, Florida. He was seven years older. Our mother died when I was only four. She had too many complications while giving birth. Lost the baby too." Mandy closed her eyes in sympathy.

"Oh God."

"I was almost sixteen when Ryan moved to Chicago. He was already an officer in Florida but, he wanted a change so,... he left. I started saving my money the day after. I knew I'd follow him there, once I was old enough. The day after my eighteenth birthday, I split. Dad wasn't too thrilled at first but, he calmed down a couple of months later after I had joined the police academy. He knew Ryan would keep an eye on his 'little girl'."

"When I got to Chicago, I got a little surprise from my brother. He had met this woman, Britney, and they had gotten married a year earlier. I don't know what I was more pissed about: the fact that he wasn't all mine anymore, or the fact that he had gotten married and didn't tell me. A year later, Raven was born."

"So,... what happened to her mother?" Jake blew out a deep breath.

"She was involved in some pretty bad shit before she met Ryan. As a matter of fact, that's how they met. He told me that's why he didn't want to tell me about the wedding because he didn't want me to pass judgment on her or some shit. Anyway, she was picked up on a possession charge, her and her sister, Tracy, and he was the arresting officer. Kind of ironic, huh?"

Mandy's smile was her reply. Neither woman seemed disturbed by the fact they were still holding hands.

"Tracy's boyfriend, Antony, was their supplier. We never could seem to get anything solid on him. Ryan got Britney to clean up her act and they got married. She wasn't a bad person, really. Tracy was still messing around with the stuff though- Coke, Heroin. She didn't want to clean up. Brit asked her to but she couldn't stay away from her sister even after she refused. Other than Ryan, Tracy was all she had left of her family. A year after Raven was born, Brit was found at Tracy's. The autopsy toxicology report stated a drug overdose as the cause of death."

"Tracy hadn't even been home when it happened. Antony was though. His prints were found on the needle at her side. Brit's weren't. He became the number one suspect in what was now considered a homicide case. No body saw him after that. A year later, I responded to an "Officer Down" call. I recognized the neighborhood. I knew it was Ryan. He had responded to a domestic violence call... at Tracy's. I showed up and... I was right. He'd been shot in the chest. We lost him on the way to the hospital. He told me he waited for me."

Jake turned her head a bit so Mandy wouldn't see the tears forming in her eyes. She never got a chance to talk about it too much with anyone. Raven was too young. Now and when it happened. She didn't think the child needed to know every little detail about her father's death. If she wanted to know in a few years when she was older, Jake would tell her but, not now.

"Jake, isn't it standard procedure to wear a bullet proof vest?" Mandy asked her new friend as she motioned for her to turn around. Jake did so and Mandy crawled over a bit on her knees and began massaging her shoulders. Jake's head dropped immediately.

"Mmmm. That feels... so good! Eea... yeah. He had one. He had given it to Tracy when he found her. He wanted to make sure she was safe. Kept her safe that day. Lost her about three months later. Oh yeah, right there!" Mandy began to work on the knotted muscle at the lower part of Jake's back. Jake was really enjoying this impromptu massage.

"Is that when you left? The police force I mean?" If truth be known, Mandy was enjoying the fact that she could run her hands over the body before her. Well,... at least the back. The broad shoulders were well defined, and the back was strong... very strong.

"Yeah. I figured Raven was all I had left. I was all she had left."

"What about your Dad?"

"Dad? Well, he's career Navy. At least, he was then. I think he's retired now. The last time I saw him was Ryan's funeral. The only time he's ever seen his granddaughter. I don't think I remember him being that upset when Mom died. Maybe he was and I was just too young to notice. Anyway, he completely fell apart. Going on about how it wasn't right and parents shouldn't outlive their children and he had done so with two. Actually, I think he was stationed here just before he retired. I haven't really had the time to look for him, yet. God! You are really good at that. I think you went into the wrong line of work." Mandy laughed. When she did, Jake felt it go all the way down her body.

"Oh yeah? Should've been a masseuse?" Jake felt the corner of her mouth curl up.

"Yeah. One of those come to your house deals, you know?" "Ugh... better watch what I say here. I'm starting to lose control of my tong...er, mouth... damn! Senses! Yeah, that's it!"

"Oh, O.K. I'll have to keep that in mind."

"Yeah. A masseuse that comes to your house and cooks dinner." Jake laughed a bit and was rewarded with a small poke to her shoulder.

"There is nothing wrong with your cooking. But, I'm glad you liked it."

"Liked it? It was incredible! I loved it!" Mandy had no idea where it came from but, the next thing she knew, she had been so bold as to wrap her arms around the taller woman and hug her.

"Flattery... will get you everywhere!" Mandy said as she went a step further as to kiss Jake on her cheek. Inside, Jake's heart was pounding but outside, she reacted like it was the most natural thing in the world. And it happened everyday like they'd known each other forever.

"Ooh. Yuck! Teacher Cooties!" The two women erupted in a fit of giggles as headlights filled the front window. Jason was home and their evening was coming to a close. Jake turned around so she could see Mandy.

"I had a lot of fun tonight, Mandy." Mandy closed her eyes briefly at the sound of her name being spoken by that voice. Those lips... "Mmmm... say my name again, Jake..."

"Me too. We'll have to do it again sometime."

"I thought we were, next Saturday?" Mandy's face grew brighter as she recalled Jake telling her "yes" earlier in the evening.

"Yeah. We are. I can't wait!"

"Me too. And... thanks for listening. I don't get to talk about Ryan nearly as much as I should." Mandy looked down at their fingers, which seemed to lace themselves together.

"Anytime. I mean that. Thanks for fixing the roof. And my attic."

"My pleasure." They heard Jason open the front door. He walked in with a passed out munchkin over each shoulder. Mandy and Jake got up and met him as he walked in the door. Jake took Raven and Mandy took Gellar.

"Whew... Thank you!" Jason whispered. "They zonked out in the truck."

"What'd you guys do?" Mandy asked as she undressed her daughter for bed, trying not to wake her.

"We went to the park, had ice cream. Went to McDonald's for dinner. You know how you're daughter loves those Happy Meals."

"Jase, she gets the Happy Meal thing from you!"

"Yeah, yeah. Then we went to the Commodore. They were showing those two Looney Tune movies. I know one was Fantastic Island. You know, the one where they find the wishing well and turn it into some kind of "Fantasy Island" deal. I don't remember the name of the other one. It was fun. Not only did I tire them out, I think I tired myself out in the process. OK, look, Hun, I'm outta here." He leaned down and kissed his ex on her cheek. Then pretended as if he were going to do the same to Jake.

"I'll deck you." Jake replied as Jason laughed.

"I know better." He said as he winked at her. He decided she could live with a pat on the shoulder.

"I'll see you guys later." He walked out and then came right back in to kiss his daughter on top of her head.

"Good Night, Princess. Daddy loves you", he whispered to her then to Mandy and Jake, "See ya!"

They watched him leave and Jake watched Mandy put Gellar to bed. Raven was sound asleep on her shoulder. Mandy walked back out. Jake leaned over and grabbed her duffle bag by the door, throwing her arm through the strap.

"I guess I better get this one home. I'll see you next weekend."

"O.K." Mandy put her hands in her pockets, suddenly not trusting them. Jake noticed a pen and piece of paper lying on the table near the door. She wrote down her phone number for Mandy.

"Call me if you have any trouble with the roof."

"I'm sure it's fine, Jake."

"Or... if you just want to talk. I'm usually up pretty late." Mandy smiled.

"O.K. I'll do that. I'll call you and give you the plans for next weekend."

"O.K. I'll see you then. Goodnight, Mandy."

"Mmmm"

"Goodnight, Jake."






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